While progressive rock had gone underground and the the progressive rock icons of the 1960s and 1970s had taken other musical directions, British Marillion
were among those who kept progressive music alive 1980s, and carried on its high brow concepts, complex songwriting and, with Fish
as the front man, its theatricality.
"Script for a Jester's" tear was both Marillion
's debut album (they'd previously release a maxi single) and their breakthrough, and it is a release which is generally held in high esteem and considered an important milestone in the history of progressive rock. While I can certainly understand why "Script for a Jester's Tear
" has received so much acclaim as it has, it does not really rock my boat as much as many other progressive rock releases do. That being said, "Script for a Jester's Tear
" is a very good release, I think, with nothing but high quality progressive music on it.
All the songs on the album are quite long, ranging from around five minutes to around 8 minutes. And, being progressive music, they are not just long, but also complex with lots of parts, changes and some alternative takes on the 4/4 meter. That being said, the music is actually not overly technical, and only rarely do Marillion
make use of odd time signatures and other things that are "exotic" to Western ears.
One of the reasons why "Script for a Jester's Tear
" does not turn me that much on is the lack of guitar prominence (I am more of a guitar guy; and there are some very nice lead guitar parts on this album, which I totally appreciate), but placing the guitar more in the background allows for the listener to focus on other instruments, and on this release, while the keyboards are dominant, the bass is very audible and almost central, and the drums have this big fat reverb-ladden 80s sound, which works really well with Marillion
's epic music (and it makes the drum fills sound incredibly big). Fish
, of course, has a very expressive and dramatic voice, and his vocal style, sharing some qualities with Peter Gabriel
and Geoff Tate (without ever being as acrobatic as Tate), is very theatrical.
My personal favorites on this album are "Garden Party
" with its strange, yet captivating, rhythm figures and flowing keyboards, and the more hardrocking and dramatic "Forgotten Sons" with its engaging drive and dynamic structure (the last one is a true progressive rock masterpiece in my book). Both of these songs have benefited considerably from the audibility and centrality of the bass.
Despite my not being extremely enthusiastic about this release, I acknowledge that it contains some very good music, and "Script for a Jester's Tear
" is an album that I enjoy listening to. I am sure that it will appeal to fans of progressive rock and to rock fans who like more sophisticated rock music. So I'd actually recommend that such music lovers invest in this album.