Clutching At Straws (Deluxe Edition – Marillion
Marillion’s 4th studio album Clutching At Straws gets the Deluxe Edition treatment and this is the 2nd of their albums from the era when Fish was with the band to be re-issued in the same packaging as the Jethro Tull re-releases in these book editions that come with an array of discs plus an informative book. Clutching At Straws may not have had the success of their previous album Misplaced Childhood but nevertheless it still had quite a bit of commercial success reaching number 2 in the UK album charts. It was the bands 2nd best highest charted album and it also produced 3 top 40 singles. So it was not that far away from the popularity of their previous album and personally I felt it was a better album overall.
The band were at the height of their success back in 1987 and like many bands it can be also familiar for a band member to leave and go off to do something else at the pivotal point of their career, and this was to be the last straw for the bands front man Fish who bowed out a year later in 1988 after the band done a successful tour of the album. I also bowed out from the band myself and went on to follow him rather than the band, though Marillion still went on to make many more albums with their new front man Steve Hogarth and are still doing well and are going strong still even today.
Fish went onto have quite a successful solo career of his own just like Peter Gabriel did when he left Genesis back in 1975 and since they both departed from the success they had in their previous bands, many fans were hoping that one day they would return back to the fold. Unfortunately it was never to be and it’s way to late now for it ever to happen, even if it did I personally do not think they could never recapture what they had back in their heyday with their former bands.
The only way you really can go back to those magical times, is really by getting these type of new reissues to rekindle the old flame, and ignite the old spark to relive it all again. And I have to say that these type of box sets can really do that and the way they have presented them in packages like this, really does give the album the type of respect it deserves. So let’s now take a look at the packaging and artwork.
The Packaging & Artwork…
As with all these Book Editions they are superbly constructed out of thick cardboard with plastic trays to hold the discs firmly in place and look like a quality hardback book. The fact that they are also the same size of a DVD makes them so easy to store too. To be honest the way these packages have been constructed is even better than most box sets that cost over £100. I personally think the way they have been designed, they are by far the best designed package you can get especially for a packaged box set that comes with CD’s/DVD’s and Blu Rays.
The artwork was done by Mark Wilkinson who also done all the artwork for the other Marillion albums during the Fish era of the band. He also done many of Fish’s solo album covers too and covers for other rock bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The setting for the artwork on Clutching At Straws was a picture taken at a British pub in Colchester called the Bakers Arms.
Fish wanted some of his heroes in the picture who had inspired the lyrics for the songs on the album, and amongst the crowd in the bar on the front of the album are Robert Burns, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote and Lenny Bruce. On the back cover it had John Lennon, James Dean and Jack Kerouac.
Wilkinson expressed his disappointment with the artwork, and it was down to the fact that the record company had brought the release date of the album forward, that he was rushed to get it done which did not give him the time to add some more characters he wanted to include and put more detail in the overall picture.
Clutching At Straws Deluxe Released Editions…
The Deluxe Editions come in 3 formats the cheapest of them being the Digital Download which contains all the new mixes, demos and a live concert that are on the 4 CD’s and is currently priced on Amazon at £11.99. That’s quite value for money considering you are getting 4 albums worth of material here, especially when you consider that most single albums are generally around £7.99 for the MP3 digital download.
The 4 CD + 1 Blu Ray Book Edition Box Set is currently priced on Amazon at £35.90 though some places right now you can get for around £30 if you shop around a bit. This is the edition I opted for and got it for £22.73 by pre-ordering straight away on the 7th September from Amazon. It does pay to pre-order things before the release date and I saved a good £13.17 by doing so on this occasion. The vinyl release is the most expensive and you get 5 LP’s that come in a box for around £60.
The Album In Review…
Marillion’s 4th studio album Clutching At Straws was originally released on the 22nd June 1987. The album contained 11 tracks and had an overall playing time of 52 minutes, 14 seconds. Due to vinyl restrictions the vinyl release did not contain “Going Under” although they did release “Going Under” on the B-Side of the single vinyl release of “Incommunicado“. It was also the first Marillion album to be released on CD too.
Just like the bands previous album Misplaced Childhood it was Chris Kimsey who was again behind the production for Clutching At Straws and the album was recorded at Westside Studios in London which is now very much defunct and has been for quite awhile. To be honest this studio is so defunct that it’s practically impossible to find out any history of the place even though many artists recorded their albums there when it functioned as a recording studio.
The success that their previous album had brought the band meant that they was now more busier than ever with an heavy schedule of gigs booked up all over the world to play, they also had the pressure of coming up with another album to live up to the more commercial success that Misplaced Childhood had brought them. It was only the success of that album where the band made any real money to which all the band members could actually now go out and buy their own house at last.
The bands first two albums brought them nothing more than a heavy debt with the record company to pay off, and they had to play more live shows and release a live album just to pay it off. Being well off and more famous all of a sudden can bring all sorts of problems, and it’s not all like a bed of roses and easy to cope with for some people. It was during this period that Fish started to isolate himself more from the other members of the band and his addiction of drugs and alcohol did not really help him or his family out either.
Fame can be a struggle and too much to handle at times, and when you are the front man of the band you are always going to be the centre of attention for the press to get their teeth into. The only way to follow up success is to come up with something that was more of less a carbon copy of the album that brought in that success, and the band decided to try and do that by making a follow up to Misplaced Childhood.
They even wrote and recorded a few songs to try and do that, but soon found out they was not working out and they may have been trying too hard. So they scrapped that idea and those few demos they wrote can be heard on the 4th CD in this box set. So let’s now take a closer look at the package contents you get here.
The Package Contents…
With any package or box set like this it’s bound to come with an array of bonus material and extras in relation to just having the album on CD. Even the book that comes with it could be seen as a very good extra and good thing to have. Though the one thing I will point out is that the ones that come with these Marillion packages are nowhere as good as the ones you get in the Jethro Tull packages, and are nowhere near as informative.
For example you do get a 60 page book, but most of it is filled with pictures, the production notes and lyrics, and it contains very little informative information about the time the album was recorded. As a matter of a fact what little informative information you do get in this book is quite disappointing, and you get no more in reality than you would in a booklet that comes with a CD. I would even say you could read it in the time it would take you to have a dump on the toilet :))))).
The other difference between the Jethro Tull packages and Marillion’s is that we get a Blu Ray instead of a couple of DVD’s. To be honest apart from the documentary they include I cannot see any other real reason to use a Blu Ray disc, and effectively a DVD would of been just as suffice. They also give you 4 CD’s in relation to the Tull packages were they will give you 2 or 3 depending on the album and the bonus material they had around that time. Whereas it appears that Marillion are sticking to a format of giving you 4 CD’s and a Blu Ray by the looks of things. So let’s now take a look at the contents starting with the CD’s.
The first disc contains the new mixes of the original album and as Steve Wilson was not available like he was with their previous re-issue of Misplaced Childhood they have brought in both Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh to do the new stereo and 5.1 mixes of the album. To be honest I have never heard of any of them before, but apparently they are known for mixing albums for well known pop artists such as Anastacia, Robbie Williams, Howard Jones and many others.
Hardly the right qualifications to mix a Marillion album I would of thought, but I have to say they have done a very good job on the new stereo mixes, they so sound fresh and it revitalises a bit of life back into the original recordings, something they may have needed too to stop them from being too outdated. Overall I am quite impressed with these new mixes and they are ticking all the right boxes here and have not gone over the top at all. I would even say they present you with a new feel in relation to the original album and it works very well for it.
You do not get any bonus tracks on this disc either, and you only get the original album tracks to which I like. In total you get 11 tracks spread over the original playing time of the original CD which makes the album weigh in at 52 minutes, 14 seconds.
CD’s 2 & 3.
The next 2 discs contain the whole of the concert the band performed live at the Edinburgh Playhouse on the 19th December 1987. In total you get 19 tracks spread over the 2 discs. The concert was mixed by Michael Hunter and it’s never been released before in its entirety, although 4 of the tracks from this same concert “Slàinte Mhath“. “Sugar Mice“. “Incommunicado” and “White Russian” was put on the double live album The Thieving Magpie that was released back in 1988.
This live concert is without doubt the best bonus material you get in this package and it really is a GREAT” live show they put on at the Edinburgh Playhouse. The 2nd disc contains 10 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 62 minutes, 9 seconds. Disc 3 contains 9 tracks with an overall playing time of 52 minutes, 14 seconds making the whole concert 1 hour 54 minutes, 23 seconds long.
It may also be worth noting that this CD Box Set also contains an incomplete recording of the last song they played at the concert which was “Market Square Heroes” to which the band also played “My Generation”. “Margaret” and “Let’s Twist Again” during it, though it does get cut off after 10 minutes, 9 seconds and I guess they must of run out of tape. But this track is not included on the vinyl Box Set.
The 4th disc contains a load of demo tracks and you get 13 in total and the disc comes with an overall playing time of 68 minutes, 14 seconds. The first 9 demos were previously released on the 1999 remastered edition of the album. The other 4 demos are all previously unreleased and the first of them is “Hotel Hobbies/ Warm Wet Circles” that are the original Mosaic Demos. The other 3 demos are of “Just for the Record“. “Torch Song” and “Slàinte Mhath“.
To be honest I never had any of these demos before and it’s quite interesting to hear their original ideas for the album, before they scraped a majority of them, and how the songs that made it on the album were developing. Some of these recordings are quite good too, though not all of them I will stress. Some of the music from these demos got uses on Marillion’s 5th album Seasons End to which John Helmer penned new lyrics for Steve Hogarth to sing them. Fish also used some of his lyrics from some of the demos on some of is solo albums.
The Blu Ray.
The Blu Ray contains the 5.1 mix of the album and a few other bonus features that were not included on the CD’s. The main menu is simple enough to navigate and get around and I like how by clicking on some of the featured options it simply displays them, rather than having to load up to another screen. For example by clicking on the “Track Select” option at the top, it displays the tracks that have been given the 5.1 treatment as seen on the next snapshot I took with my phone.
As you can see by the tracks it’s only the album tracks that have had a 5.1 mix done on them, and everything else on the Blu Ray is in stereo only. You may also notice on this screen that it’s also hidden the other bonus features and it looks as if it has loaded up another screen to get here. But it’s not the case at all and it simply just hid the other options. Next up we have the “Audio Select” which is only for the 5.1 mix of the album.
All the audio for the 5.1 and stereo mixes in this section are in 48/24 and by default it’s set to Stereo. It comes with 2 choices for the 5.1 surround sound the first being my preferred option of the DTS-HD Master Audio and a Dolby Digital mix.
As you can see from the picture above they have also included the original 3 videos that were made for the 3 singles that got released from the album. These have not been enhanced in anyway and not even the fact that your Blu Ray Player can upscale the picture is not really gonna exactly do any favours by doing so either. Even the audio on these things is not that good in particular either, and they are only really good for a bit of nostalgia more than anything else.
The Blu Ray also includes the original 1987 flat transfer mix of the album and also contains the other 3 bonus tracks that was included on the 1999 remastered release of the album. They come with an audio quality of 48/16. The only remaining bonus feature is the documentary to which I will discuss in a bit.
During the playback of the audio only album and bonus tracks it also plays a slide show of pictures and displays the title of the track you are currently playing. This is always good to have rather than one still picture that could potentially burn out your pixels or backlight and flat panel TV’s.
Just like the Deluxe Box Set Edition of Misplaced Childhood you also get 1 hour documentary that features the original line up of the band being interviewed this time by Mick Wall. Here they discuss the making of the album and the events that happened around that time, and even how most of the members of the band went out and brought a house from the success of their previous album Misplaced Childhood. Mick Wall also interviews them in one room all together and also individually in some parts throughout the course of the interview.
To be honest just like the interview of Misplaced Childhood I reviewed last year, I was not that overall impressed by this interview either. There was some interesting points such as how Steve Rothery wrote about 90% of the music for the album and how Fish was left to do all the interviews with all the radio stations and magazines on his own all the time. How the band were busy gigging with them being on the road, and how they did not have much time to write any the new material for the album. It even touches on Fish’s addiction problems and why he decided to leave.
I have watched it a couple of times and I do like the fact that they all appeared to get along with each other as well, despite the fact that they were all interviewed separately on their own as well.
The 5.1 Surround Mix.
Both Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh have done the 5.1 surround mix and sometimes or you would think that two heads are better than one. Here I am pretty sure it was not the case at all and this is not a mix to write home about and neither of these two really have the right head on their shoulders to do 5.1 mixes, and they are without a doubt missing Steve Wilson’s expertise this time around.
To be honest because the album does tend to have a lot of atmospheres throughout a lot of its music, it can make it quite a challenge and very difficult to do a 5.1 mix. It may not be the type of album that is really suited to 5.1 simply because of the way the atmospheres can reflect quite heavily in the first place in the mix, and this particular 5.1 mix they have done, does give you the impression that mostly they are bleeding reflections from the front into the rear channels too often, rather than focusing on the right elements of instrumentation to take out of the front and place in the back.
I personally felt the pair of them did a much better job with the new stereo mixes and were not really the right engineers to be put in charge of a 5.1 mix. This 5.1 mix is not very impressive at all and lacks quite a bit of focus and imagination when it comes to placement and the placement of the right instrumentation in particular you need to move around to make it work in a 5.1 mix.
I think overall they managed to do the mix without really going overboard and taking away the original way and feel the album should sound and project itself to you. But the 5.1 mix does somehow sound more bland in relation to the new stereo mix, and it does not quite grab me as much or really do anything to bring out any better dynamics or clarity. Overall it’s not bad but could of been better and it’s way off giving you a more of a spectacular way of listening to the album that really good 5.1 mixes can do.
Musicians & Credits…
Produced by Chris Kimsey. All music written and arranged by Marillion. Recorded at Westside Studios London 1987. Recording Engineer Nick Davis. Assistant Engineer Richard Sullivan. Mixed at Advision Studios London by David Jacob. Assisted by Avril Macintosh. Sleeve Concept by Fish. Illustrations & Design by Mark Wilkinson. Photography by Janus Van Helfteren. 2018 Credits Mick Wall Linear Notes. Photography by Steve Rothery. Fish. Stuart James & David Plastik.
Steve Rothery: Guitars.
Pete Trewavas: Bass & Vocals.
Mark Kelly: Keyboards.
Ian Mosley: Drums & Percussion.
Tessa Niles: Backing Vocals (“That Time of the Night” and “The Last Straw”)
Chris Kimsey: Backing Vocals (“Incommunicado”)
John Cavanaugh: Dr Finlay Voice (“Torch Song”)
The Album Tracks In Review…
The album Clutching At Straws contains a set of songs that’s lyrics are basically a concept around Fish’s own struggles with handling success and the problems that came with it, such has his divorce from his wife, his abuse of alcohol and drugs and even down to the pressures put on the band by the record company to some extent. You could say that Fish carries the “Torch” for the character he portrays in the story who has all these problems including writers block and the character Torch evolved from the “Jester” from an earlier album cover of theirs. The album even starts off like a concept album with its opening 3 tracks which are very much joined together in the way of a suite, and all the other individual tracks are related to it all.
Clutching At Straws was very well received by the critics and for many of the bands fans it was their favourite album. Even today without Fish many of its songs are still being played live and feature strongly in a Marillion live set. No doubt it’s an album that fleshes out some of Steve Rothery’s finest guitar solos and it oozes and wreaks of them. For me personally as with all 4 studio albums the band made with Fish. it is he himself that puts the balls and grit into the bands music, and that was certainly something that was lost when he quit the band.
For me he is very much a singer that has dynamic aggression in his voice that can raise the game when it needs to be lifted up. Without him the band just never said the same thing to me afterwards despite having some really GREAT! musicians. Just like all 4 of the album he made with the band, they all contain some truly GREAT! classic songs. So let’s mow take a deeper look at the albums tracks.
Tracks 1. Hotel Hobbies.
The first part of a 3 part suite, and collectively the opening 3 tracks on the album over its 14 minutes have always been amongst my personal favourite tracks on the album along with the 9th track on the album “Slàinte Mhath“. Though no doubt this album does have a few other classics along its route over the course of the album too. “Hotel Hobbies” is the shortest of the 3 pieces than make up the suite and it kicks off with some excellent vibes from Mark Kelly’s keyboards to which he does use quite a lot on this album.
Another strong feature on this album is not just the bass guitar from Pete Trewavas but also the use of the bass pedals he uses, and they are put to good use here along with Steve Rothery’s guitar that features a lot throughout this opening track and lift it up along with the pace of Ian Mosley‘s drums. This song has quite a powerful build up that allows Rothery to let rip with his guitar and this part and the 3rd part of the suite do have more of a pace about them.
Fish has always had the ability of writing such brilliant lyrics, and the fact his voice can change in an instant from a more ballad-ESC style to something with a lot more grit and aggression, allows him to express his own words superbly and raise the game and turn up the heat so to speak. Effectively when you look at the lyrics and the character of Torch that Fish portrays here, you could quite easily make a comparison with the lyrics that Peter Gabriel wrote for the character Rael and story he portrayed for the Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. They are both stories about being off the rails so to speak. “Hotel Hobbies” very much sets the opening scene and gets the album off to a flying start.
Track 2. Warm Wet Circles.
I suppose you could call this the come down section of the suite, though it does build it’s was up very well to lead into the more powerful section and final part at the end. It also contains a very tasty guitar solo from Rothery that very much has the same tone that Steve Hackett had on his guitar on “Spectral Mornings“. It’s perhaps my favourite part of the 3 tracks that make up this suite, though they are all extremely very well crafted pieces and fit perfectly together. “Warm Wet Circles” was the 3rd and final single to be released from the album and it was released on the 26th October 1987 and broke into the UK Top 30 and reached number 22.
The lyrics are pertaining to the character of Torch thinking back to his old haunts and seeing how his life used to be scares him, the warm wet circles are how most alcoholics will sit in a pub and run their fingers around the rim of their glasses, I suppose those with spirits in them like brandy and whiskey could be seen as a warm drink in that it can warm up the cockles of your heart or something like that:))))).
Track 3. That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw).
The atmosphere of how the final section of the suite opens up cinematically depicts the nights time with its presence. Both the bass line and drums are ticking over the hours and the delay and reverb on Rothery‘s guitar blend in very well with the keyboards and provide the perfect ambience. It’s the longest section of the suite at its 6 minutes and builds up to a more chaotic and melodramatic finish. The chorus of previous track “Warm Wet Circles” is reprised towards the end with Tessa Niles singing out the last few words of the song.
Fish describes the lyrics of the song as being a sort of resignation statement with how they relate to the arguments and sorting out all the problems for the band both existent and non-existent, into the early hours of the morning. He would often lay awake in bed staring at the ceiling considering his options of where he wanted to go with his life, He was tired of the touring and felt trapped. It ends off the 14 minute suite very well indeed.
Track 4. Going Under.
The opening 3 songs on the album that make up the suite are not the only part of the albums concept story based around the character of Torch, and “Going Under” and the rest of the albums tracks are still very much part of the whole concept. Though the only way you got the full story was with the CD release only and this track was left off the vinyl release due to time restrictions. Although it did get put on the B-Side of single release of “Incommunicado“.
The lyrics describe Torch’s concerns about his drinking habit though as with many alcoholics they can often think about how stupid it is with what they are doing, but do nothing to stop it. I have known a good few over the years and trust me giving them advice is like going in one ear and out the other. Trying to knock some sense into them is like fighting a losing battle yourself and many of my friends have gone under, and are literally 6ft under as well.
The lyrics in this song were also improvised and Fish sung them from the top of his head, and because they did not want to change the vocal line they left the as they were. It’s another atmospheric dreamy song and contains some fine guitar work from Steve Rothery though like many of the songs on this album, the lyrics pertain to the same subject more than being an actual story, and effectively most of the tracks on this album can stand up on their own with how they have been written. So even though this track was omitted from the vinyl release its not as if you are losing anything from the story.
Track 5. Just For The Record.
One of the more happy up-tempo tracks on the album that really pertains to having a good time at the bar knocking drinks back with your mates and forgetting all about your problems, and nothing else matters when this happens either, and sometimes you even forget you have a wife and kids at home and they are miles away. I know I have been there a few times myself in the past :)))). This is also a song that features some terrific keyboard work from Mark Kelly and it does sound quite a bit different from the other songs on the album this one.
To be honest the way I myself have always seen the more up-tempo side of this song and the way it projects itself, is that it sounds more like the pop side of Genesis with Phil Collins on vocals. The sort of thing they was doing in the 80’s with the songs “Another Record” and “Who Dunnit” from their 1981 album Abacab. I have always seen Marillion being more like what Genesis would of sounded like in the 80’s had Peter Gabriel had not of left the band with most of their songs, particularly on their first 2 albums and when they first started out. Here they are more like the 80’s side of the band but I do quite like this song and how it leaps and springs its way into the action.
Track 6. White Russian.
No doubt when it comes to spending your time drinking away in a bar, politics will always crop up in most conversations and all the shit in the world that is happening will come along with it. White Russian is very much a drink or cocktail made with vodka, coffee liqueur and cream or most often milk served on the rocks with ice, and no doubt after a few of these things you will be racing and chasing the clouds home :))))))).
The song itself is very much a Marillion classic and has it all with really GREAT! guitar and keyboard work along with all the grit, edge and aggression in Fish’s voice which is perhaps expected as the subject matter of the lyrics deals with the rise of neo-Nazism and violence in Europe during the 1980s. Fish got his inspiration for the lyrics from an encounter he had with a Jewish American DJ who was working in Austria whilst the band were tour there in 1986. It was an election year and the DJ was troubled by what he saw as anti-Semitism in the campaigning of some parties and was ordered not to voice his thoughts on the air about it which led him to resign. The President of Austria elected that year would later be revealed as a former Nazi and accused of war crimes.
White Russian is both a cocktail and a term for Russian anti-communists of the early 20th century. Ultimately the song is less about political ideology and more about personal conviction and courage. At this point in the story Torch is dismayed by what he sees and feels strongly that something must be done, but he lacks the will to do anything about it himself being in the mess he is in with his own addiction, and jumps on a plane and races the clouds home so to speak.
Track 7. Incommunicado.
The first of the 3 singles to be released from the album and it was actually released before the album in the UK on the 11th May 1987. It also broke into the Top 10 of the UK singles charts and reached number 6. The song is heavily keyboard based with it’s main riff played at a fast pace by Mark Kelly in the same kind of style they wrote “Market Square Heroes” much earlier. It’s also said that Kelly got his inspiration from Adam Wakeman whilst Fish may have been inspired by The Who with the lyrics.
“Incommunicado” could be seen as a status of prisoners not being allowed to communicate with the outer world. But in a more verbal sense it can also refer to somebody (as Torch) not being able or not willing to communicate with people. Torch really wants to be famous but he doesn’t want the responsibilities that go with fame. ‘Incommunicado’ is another word for ‘pissed’ is how Fish would put it himself. It’s another of the many classic songs on this GREAT! album and features the producer Chris Kimsey on backing vocals.
Track 8. Torch Song.
Another really GREAT! song with atmosphere and one that portrays perhaps the romantic side of fixation to drink in the way that you are not really bothered if it kills you. It features the voice of John Cavanaugh playing the part of Dr. Finlay from the Scottish TV program Dr. Finlay’s Casebook that ran from 1962 – 1971. The coughing noises you hear are for real as Fish had a heavy night the night before :))))).
Track 9. Slàinte Mhath.
The title in Gaelic and means “Good health” and often used when someone buys you a drink in Scotland. It’s at this point that Torch reflects on the down and out stories one would hear in a bar, and as to where they are now in life. It also takes in some of the history where Fish grew up such as the Bilston Glen area in Lothian were several large coal mines which were closed by the Thatcher government in the 1980’s. The “‘Firing Line” refers both to Flanders and Bilston Glen\ Clydeside in the First World War.
In the more recent context, it refers to the lines of men waiting to see whether they would keep their jobs in the heavy industries, the implication being that the men of the 80’s unemployment lines were no more or less fucked than their grandparents standing in front of the guns. This is very much another superb classic song from the album that lifts up the album and the band rock it out.
Track 10. Sugar Mice.
The 3rd and final single release from the album once again broke into the top 30 singles charts in the UK and peaked at number 22. Fish wrote the lyrics whilst he was on tour in the US and in the very town that is mentioned in the song Milwaukee. They very much relate to the time spent away from his family being on tour with the band that led to his divorce from his wife. The fact that unemployment was also at an all time high in Europe is also mentioned in the song and he even dedicated the song to all the unemployed people in Europe when they play live at Loreley in 1987.
In an interview back in 1987 he quoted “Torch has run away from everything and everybody and gone in search of a dream that doesn’t exist!”. He also quoted “I ended up in some shit hotel, imagining what it would be like if somebody left their wife and kids in Scotland or whatever, and went half way across the world and ended up in a horrible hotel with a disgustingly sad bar downstairs. We checked in on a Sunday, and all you saw out the window was the dealers standing out on the corner, and that’s kind of what the song was about”. It’s another excellent bit of songwriting and really GREAT! ballad of a song.
Track 11. The Last Straw / Happy Ending.
The final song on the album is where the character Torch has gone that far down that the only way he can go now is back up, and he starts writing again and is back in the bar drinking again. I suppose you could say he’s back to square one with his own observations and look of life and realises he is no martyr and there is no point in trying to be like one, as deep down everyone at some point has a bit of Torch in them and ate some point we can all be clutching at straws so to speak.
The second part “Happy Ending” is just Fish yelling the word “No” followed by some muffled laughter fading off into silence, and Fish said himself that he does not like happy endings and there is not one here either, and it ends off a really GREAT! album and sadly it was to be the final straw for Fish with Marillion.
To sum up the latest Deluxe Edition of Clutching At Straws by Marillion. I can only say that it’s another really splendid package that’s well worth getting, and the way it’s been presented with all 5 discs fitting neatly into a 60 page hardback book that will sit proudly along with your DVD’s on the shelf, will even make a GREAT! Christmas present for someone special at this time of the year. With all you get here it does offer extremely GREAT! value for the money.
The new stereo mixes done by Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh are very good, and the fact that they have also included the original mix of the album on the Blu Ray is good to have too. So effectively you could sell or pass on your old CD simply because you have everything and more besides than what all the previous issues will give you. The bonus material is very good and it’s GREAT! that they have included the live concert they performed at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Which is personally my favourite bonus feature you get here. The demos are quite interesting too.
Although both Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh have done a really GREAT job on the new stereo mixes, I cannot say that I am that impressed by their work on the 5.1 mix and things could of been a lot better had Steve Wilson been available to do it that’s for sure. To be honest the 5.1 mix is my main reason for buying a release like this in the first place and this 5.1 mix does not really impress me enough to say it’s any better than the new stereo mixes they done. But overall I am quite happy enough with the bonus material you get here, so I am not too disappointed.
To conclude my review of Marillion’s Deluxe Edition of Clutching At Straws there can be no doubt that the bands 4th album is a truly GREAT! album, and even though it is done in the way of a concept album, it presents itself more like a collection of individual songs that are related to the same subject matter, rather than it being a continuous story and it works very well for it. For me personally this is an album that merits a 10 out of 10 score just like the bands first 2 albums Script For A Jesters Tear and Fugazi and is very much another solid album with all the material they wrote for it.
Personally for me I do not think a lot of truly GREAT! music came out of the 80’s, and around the time Marillion came out in the 80’s with Fish they was without doubt the nearest band you could get to early Genesis. These days there are several bands that try and emulate what Genesis did back in their heyday with Peter Gabriel. They was one of the very few bands that kept prog rock alive in the 80’s more so than what Genesis did themselves or Yes did for that matter.
Marillion were very much a force when they had Fish with them in the 80’s and the material they wrote back then even allowed both Steve Rothery and Mark Kelly to shine with their solos. Something that I felt went out of the window by trying to work around a totally different singer they got in to replace Fish with. I am not saying Steve Hogarth is a bad singer, but he was a bad choice and does not have the aggression and balls Fish had in his voice for the rest of the band to work in the same way it carried on.
They just totally mellowed themselves out of the game for my liking. You might just as well well buy a Porcupine Tree album, or an album filled with constant ballads and no balls. That is truly what Marillion are today I am afraid, and that is why they no longer speak to me at all, and why I went on to follow Fish rather than stick with the band. My highlights from the Clutching At Straws album are very much the first 3 tracks on the album along with “White Russian“. “Incommunicado“. “Slàinte Mhath” and “Sugar Mice“. Alternatively just simply stick the whole album on, it does not disappoint.
So If You Want My Address It’s Number One At The End Of The Bar…
The CD track listing is as follows: