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Album Spotlight: Marillion - Happiness is the Road

My interest in Marillion began about ten years ago, and they very quickly became one of my favourite bands. But as much as I love them, I have to admit that I haven't actually kept up with them lately: the last album I actually purchased was the special edition of 2001's Anoraknophobia, and while I have heard the bulk of their recent material, it hasn't yet found a place in my CD collection. Part of the reason for that is the fact that it been very difficult, if not impossible, to find their albums where I have lived, leaving rather expensive special orders as the only option for obtaining them.

Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when I learned of the innovative way in which Marillion have made their latest album available. The official release date for Happiness is the Road is October 20, 2008, but a digital copy of the album has been available for free from for the last nearly a month now; all that is required to obtain the tracks is an email address. Marillion have essentially leaked the album themselves, but in a manner that gives them much more control than they would have over a normal leak - videos and messages embedded within the files themselves let the listener know about the hard work that went into making this music, direct them to the band's website, and urge them to support the band in any way they can. For a band that has become known for making bold moves (for example, being one of the first bands to utilize the power of the Internet to communicate directly with their fans, and funding the recording of their last few albums from fan pre-orders), this one seems to be exceptionally bold indeed, and it will take some time before its impact will be fully known. At the very least, it has allowed new Marillion music to find itself in heavy rotation in my playlists for the first time in years, and I am doing my part to let others know about it as well.

So, how about the music? I think that anyone familiar with at least some of Marillion's music will feel quite comfortable listening to Happiness is the Road, and anyone who hasn't heard them before may find themselves pleasantly surprised by it. Of the two discs, I have found the first (titled Volume 1: Essence) to be more immediately accessible than the second (titled Volume 2: The Hard Shoulder), although the latter has been growing on me after repeated listens. Some of my favourite songs from Essence are "This Train Is My Life", which has a classic mini-epic sound reminiscent of past Marillion songs like "Afraid of Sunlight"; "Woke Up", which has a beautiful, slow, dreamy sound with gorgeous layered vocals; "Liquidity", a short but very pretty piano-based instrumental; and "Wrapped Up in Time", which has a beautiful, chilled out feel to it. The Hard Shoulder has a pair of excellent pop songs in "Half the World" and the first single, "Whatever is Wrong with You" and an excellent, epic outro in "Real Tears for Sale".

Overall, I am very pleased with Happiness is the Road. It's wonderful to hear some new music from one of my favourite bands, and it's exciting to see that the band is trying new things in order to reach new fans and reconnect with old fans. I can't recommend this album highly enough, so if you're still reading this, I would urge you to head on over to and begin downloading, as it will take some time to obtain all of the tracks. If you like what you hear, then please support the band in any way that you can, whether that means buying a physical copy of the album, buying a concert ticket, helping them to reach more potential fans, or whatever else you can do. Please leave a comment here if you feel so inclined, as I would love to know what people think of this music.

Happy listening!


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