"So here I am once more, in the playground of the broken hearts."
So let it be written, the first words on the first full length album by the singer Fish and the band Marillion. Indeed, early Marillion is so heavily associated with their original singer that it is futile to try to separate them. Early Marillion, meaning the first four crucial albums, are revered for their lyrics as much or more than their music. Layers upon layers of meanings, unusual words, symbols galore, it's all here for the poetry lover in you. I especially like Fish's use of homophones for that extra touch of wonder.
Musically, early Marillion were very much in Genesis worship mode, even if they don't like to talk about it. "Grendel" (appearing here in an awesome alternate take) is essentially "Supper's Ready". Many people have confused Fish's voice for Peter Gabriel's and even Phil Collins' from time to time. This is progressive rock for rockers. Do you like 8 minute songs with time changes, and ample keyboard & guitar solos? Marillion is the band for you.
Highlights on this album include the broken-hearted and angry title track, and of course the drug-induced "He Knows You Know". Part of the appeal of Fish's lyrics is how he alternately caresses them and then spits them out at appropriate moments. "He Knows You Know" is a great example of this. From high pitched emphasis to mid-range melody, Fish knew how he wanted to express his words.
"Garden Party" is, of course, a wry stab at the English class system. These lyrics could only have come from the man known as Fish, and this is one of his most sarcastic and humourous achievments. It is also one of Marillion's bounciest songs, one that still causes euphoria in audiences today.
The bonus disc here is loaded with greatness. Their first single "Market Square Heroes" is present in alternate versions. One of which is the "Battle Priest" version. Fish was forced to change the lyrics from "I am your antichrist," to "I am your battle priest" and that version is available here. Fear not, collectors, as the original is availble on the singles box set and other compilations as well. "Grendel", all 20 minutes of it, is also present in an alternate take. It is simply stunning that an alternate take of a 20 minute song even exists. Again, the original is available on the box set as well as the album B'Sides Ourselves. The original take of "Three Boats Down From The Candy" is here, slightly different from the version that would turn up later. Here there is a reggae vibe in the final verses. Fill out the bonus disc with some well fleshed out demos, and you have a very solid listening experience.
Liner notes, by Fish and others, are of course essential, brilliant, and engrossing. Ample photos and artwork from Mark Wilkinson are also included.
Script For a Jester's Tear is an essential Marillion album, but it is not for beginners. Beginners may find such progressive fare as "Forgotten Sons" or "Chelsea Monday" to be a bit inpenetrable on first listen. They would be advised to pick up the magnum opus Misplaced Childhood first. Once you are addicted to that music, come back here and feast of the bones of "Grendel".
5 stars. A near-masterpiece for this band.
on January 8, 2004
Ah, Marillion's first album! It's been over 20 years since this record came out, and it hasn't lost any of its musical greatness. The band, originally formed as an instrumental group but later adding singer/lyricist/stage personality Fish, rounded a fine group of pieces for their first outing (other than the Market Square Heroes stand alone single released a few months earlier).
Very much in the vein of Genesis' greatest symphonic years, A script for a jester's tear is a finely written, performed and produced set of music. Starting off with the title track, a lament of mental illness and depression, followed by the paranoia driven He knows you knows, this album has some of the greatest symphonic prog rock of the 80's (and then some). The record continues with The Web, followed by the lighthearted Garden party, a parody of the british high society reunions. Then comes the dark Chelsea monday about a female suicide. And perhaps leaving the best to last, the album closes with the almost epic (not quite 10 minutes long) Forgotten sons, the anti-war anthem of the band. This record is theatrically dark.
This remastered version, as well as sounding much better than the previous release, includes a second CD containing the bands singles from that era, including two versions of the afore mentioned Market Square Heroes, as well as the truly epic (not only in length!) Grendel. A perfect companion and a great complement for the original CD (although all this tracks can be found in slightly different versions in the B'sides themselves album, along with the live version of Margaret and a few other tracks).
As a side note, this is the only record of the band that doesn't feature Ian Mosley on drums, instead having Mick Pointer on skins.
on February 16, 2004
This could be the best album of the 80's. However, it happens that "The Final Cut" by Pink Floyd was released in the same year - 1983 - a magical year because of this two albums.
Anyway, this is one of the best debut albums I have ever heard, comparable to Tindersticks' first album, dEUS' "Worst Case Scenario" or Puressence's debut.
When this album was released, Marillion had a relative success in the UK, due to the single "Market Square Heroes" (which can be briefly spotted during the radio station tuning in the introduction of the last track - "Forgotten Sons").
The magic starts with the cover - a marvellous painting of a jester's trying to play "Yesterday" (The Beatles) in a violin. Like most progressive rock bands, the cover served as an introduction to the band's own world and took advantage of the vynil format (the back cover and the front cover form a single image).
The start is tremendous. For me, "Script For A Jester's Tear" is still Marillion's best song. The begginning of the song recalls "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" from the Genesis album "Selling England By The Pound" with the first phrase sung without music (the music starts immediately after the first phrase). The song is divided into four parts. The first is mysterious and mellodramatic and ends with "...the game is over". The second section is very rythmical and the lyrical content is just the repetition of phrases sung in the first part. The third part starts with "I act the role in a classic style" and returns a soft and mysterious mood. The beautiful and unforgettable fourth part is very grandiloquent and starts with "the fool escaped from paradise...". The end is "can you still say you love me?" sung several times, recalling, in a certain way, the ending of another Genesis song: "The Musical Box" (from the album "Nursery Cryme") when Gabriel sings/begs "why don't you touch me?" lots of times.
"He Knows, You Knows" is also a great song. It was the first single of this album and is a shorter and balanced track, more suitable for radio listeners (if all the songs on the radio sounded so good...).
"The Web" is the longest theme and it is also fascinant with lots of different parts and great keyboards by Mark Kelly.
"Garden Party" was the second single. This is Marillion, particulary Fish, showing their sense of humour. It's a joyful melody, very different from most Marillion songs.
"Chelsea Monday" is the album's second best song. The bass (played by Peter Trewavas) is remarkable. It's a slow and subtle song.
"Forgotten Sons" is my least favourite although highly considered by the fans. Nevertheless, it has the Marillion's unique sound.
If you like the "Peter Gabiel Genesis era" you will surely love this album. Yet, Marillion have their personality and are something more than a Genesis copy. Trust me: hear it several times and feel addicted.
on November 2, 2003
The songs on Script for a Jester's Tear (a fantastic album title, by the way) grapple with tried-and-true themes like substance abuse ("He Knows You Know") and relationships gone wrong (the masterful title cut). Even if those were the only themes tackled, these songs completely satisfy as lead singer Fish's poetic and introspective lyrics require repeat listening to completely absorb. Fish always has something to say and is never at a loss for a clever way to do so. He lashes out at the cultural elite in "Garden Party" with phrases like "smiles polluted with false charm" and "social climbers polish ladders, wayward sons again have fathers." In the phenomenal album closer "Forgotten Sons," Fish attacks warmongers "who order desecration, mutilation, verbal masturbation in their guarded bureaucratic wombs."
Musically, it sounds like the rest of the band shuffled through instrumental bits and pieces until they found suitable background noise to accommodate whatever Fish retrieved from what one guesses is a vast collection of journals and diaries. That isn't to say that the music doesn't adequately complement the lyrics (the title track exemplifies how the music can enhance the drama of the vocals), just that neither appears to have been crafted with the other in mind.
With a proclivity for complicated imagery and dramatic flair, it's no wonder that Fish and the boys drew frequent comparisons to the Peter-Gabriel-fronted-Genesis years. Still, while the style and sound may be similar, Marillion still deserves credit for launching a European progressive rock band in the early-'80s that crafted a voice for itself that can't be compared to anyone else.
on September 12, 2003
In the genre of prog rock, one of the norms is that debut albums tend to be rougher in terms of their sound, with more "edges" in a sense. Granted that Marillion came out with very clear influences (a musical advantage, so to speak) stemming from Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and even King Crimson, this, their debut album sounded very polished, serving as an exquisite musical framework to Fish's very particular lyrics and voice.
Though the band in their Fish period has been almost inextricably tied to the Scottsman (so much, that when he departed in 88, most people deemed them doomed to breaking up), the strength of the band beyond Fish has been present in their music since day one, giving enough room for each member to contribute to his fullest. An example of this are the guitar solos Steve Rothery delivers for the opening track and "Chelsea Monday," Mark Kelly's upbeat keyboards in "Garden Party," Pete Trewavas' characteristic bass line all through "Chelsea Monday" hand in hand with Rothery's mourning guitar and even the drum work of short-lived Marillion member Mick Pointer (he would only be a part of the band until the recording of this album).
The way I see it, this album, along with their "single" prior to it ("Grendel," which fortunately is part of the Disc 2 on this remastered edition of the original 1983 album) constitute the band's formal tribute to their predecessors, serving as a musical platform for what the band would later show to the world, peaking in 1986 with the genius of the concept album 'Misplaced Childhood,' which introduced most of the bands fan base to them, thanks to the more radio-oriented single "Kayleigh." In a sense, after 'Script...' the comparisons between them and the groups that influenced them more directly would become more subtle, making room in the fans' ears and hearts for what would become the Marillion sound.
on June 19, 2003
It would be so easy to write an essay on Script for a Jester's Tear - as there is so much depth to it.
For now, I'll cut to the chase - the music. Here we have a band launching themselves into the "progressive" arena, but there's something odd about them compared to the others. Sure, there are similarities with Genesis - the godfathers of progressive - but so there are with most progressive bands to some extent. Often, it is the likenesses with Genesis that make them progressive.
Marillion, though, courted other audiences. The intricate web of sounds created by the 1982 lineup of Mark Kelly's delicate, haunting and original (if simplistic) keyboard style, Pete Trewavas' solid, mesmerising and melodic bass lines and Steve Rothery's wide pallette of rhythm, lead and fill chords created a sound that belongs purely to Marillion.
In their music, you can hear scorching guitar solos - not Eddie Van Halen speed, but Dave Gilmor gorgeous, popular music styles - there's funk, reggae and everything else that was boiling around the charts back in the early '80s - without giving in to the cliched '80s sound. In fact, the music is perenially fresh and timeless.
Fish's lyrics add a newer dimension - as a lyricist he has yet to be surpassed, even on this early outing. Forget that his vocal style leans heavily towards Gabriel, that doesn't matter. It is merely the vehicle for the words, which are intricately mixed with the music in a narcotic fusion.
It wasn't until Mick Pointer was replaced by Ian Mosley in 1984, in time for the Fugazi album, that the drums really became an integral part of the music, but Pointer manages to keep everything together extremely well. In fact, there are several details which go "beyond the call" - but not in the fluent style of Mosley.
As an album, Script is just as much as a concept as any that followed it. The opening "So here I am once more...", sung quietly and a capella, followed by a single piano chord, is genius - and ironically appropriate for a debut album. This song, incidentally, sets the mood for all the albums (and other songs!) that follow, so it could be considered that Marillion's output with Fish is one entire concept in itself.
He Knows, You Know was a chart hit for the band, and provides an angry contrast to Script. It is a pity in a way that this was a single, because over-familiarity can ruin its place in the concept of this album, if you let it.
The Web returns to the opening sentiments. The music of this piece is stunning in its simplicity, structured effects and self-contradictory complexities. Long words, maybe, but I've already used the word genius.
The following 3 tracks were all that comprised the original album, and are structured similarly, so that if you had the vinyl LP, you would get the perfect balance. In CD form, it still works - Chelsea Monday contains one of the best guitar solos I've ever heard, and has structure to die for - Garden Party is whimsical, by Marillion's standards, and was a chart hit for the band. It complements "Chelsea Monday" perfectly, being its antithesis. And what better way to follow it than with Forgotten Sons - a marvel of musical engineering. It positively drips structure, yet feels improvised. This is part of the point of prog, and Marillion knew it well, even at this point in their careers.
I act the role in classic style Of a martyr carved with twisted smile
To bleed the lyric for this song To write the rites to right my wrongs
Slash wrist, scarlet fever, crawled under your bathroom door
Pumping arteries ooze the problem, through the gap that the razor tore
Catalogue princess, apprentice seductress Hiding in her cellophane world in glitter town
Awaiting the prince in his white Capri Dynamic young Tarzan courts the bedsit queen
I realise I hold the key to freedom Oh I cannot let my life be ruled by threads
The time has come to make decisions The changes have to be made
Smiles polluted with false charm Locking on to Royal arms
Society columns now ensured Returns to mingle with the crowds
Minister, Minister care for your children
Order them not into damnation
To eliminate those who would trespass against you
For whose is the kingdom, the power, the glory for ever and ever
This is a fine album that should be in the collection of everyone that really enjoys music. It's not an album for all occasions, but if you happen to play it at just that point in time when your mood and Fish's when he wrote the words cross, it will totally knock you out.
I could say that about all Marillion's albums from the Fish era, of course.
ESSENTIAL LISTENING - BUY IT.
on June 7, 2003
Let me start the review by writing that I don't agree with those who criticize this fantastic work by saying that it suffers a lot from Genesis influence. I'm comfortable on doing so because Genesis (with Peter Gabriel) is my other big favorite band. For a first original record from a band back in the early 80's, Script For A Jester's Tear has already that unique sounding Marillion would then continue to produce.
The lyrics and vocals from the charismatic lead singer Fish are probably the main reasons for the very own identity of this album, together with a very gifted guitar player - Steve Rothery, and some wonderful moments on the keyboards by Mark Kelly.
High quality music throughout the entire album, starting with the title track - a song with a very special place on the heart of every Marillion aficionado. "He Knows You Know" has strong lyrics, "The Web" has great changes of tempo, "Garden Party" is one of my favorite Marillion songs (the video is definitely my favorite), "Chelsea Monday" combines in perfection Fish touching lyrics together with Steve's guitar. As for "Forgotten Sons", try to listen it with headphones (this recommendation applies to the entire album, very well produced): Fish's duet with the newsreader works perfectly, and the final section with the children's chorus is tremendous.
The 2CD edition is highly recommended in this case: the EPIC "Grendel" or the lovely "Three Boats Down From The Candy" will tell you why...
Finally, one last word for the cover work by Mark Wilkinson. It has a significant part on what made of this album such a progressive rock reference of the 80s.
on May 15, 2002
While Marillion were always dogged by the Genesis Clone label, they really were an excellent band in their own right. The quality of the songwriting and musicianship is particularly strong on this, their magical debut.
The first thing to grab you about Marillion is the haunting cover art of the superb Mark Wilkinson, who continued to work with fellow genius, Fish, after the big fella left Marillion. (Their lavishly illustrated book Masque is an absolutely essential purchase.)
Script is one of those rare albums where every single track is a classic. Yet this double CD version is most definitely the one to go for, as Disc 2 contains further indispensible classics, such as Market Square Heroes (2 versions), the breathtaking Three Boats Down From The Candy (which perhaps more than any other track truly encapsulates the very core of Fish-Marillion's magic) and the epic Grendel, which has been described as their Supper's Ready.
Just as Genesis carried on in name only when Peter Gabriel left, so too Marillion continued to (legitimately) use the name after Fish moved on. However, in each case, however well the remaining band members rallied and put out solid albums, a large part of the original magic left with the lead singers.
If you only ever buy one Marillion album, let this be it... but... why stop at only one?
I agree with reviewer Jorge that it is sad there had been no previous reviews of such a fine and defining album. It would be a tragedy if the original band and this magical album should be forgotten.
on December 19, 2001
It's sad to find no reviews on this album, considering it as the peak on the evolution of this group, wich was suddenly and sadly interrupted when Fish decided to leave Marillion. Having other excellent albums, like 'Misplaced Childhood' or 'Fugazi', Clutching at straws shows the total engagement between all members in the band. Fish and his deep and emotional lyrics, and the finesse of all the members as well, shows us the great moment they were through.
If you buy this CD (buy the one with the bonus CD), you will listen what the next album was going to sound like, and you can compare it with 'Seasons End', which has some of the same tracks, but arranged to be played with the new vocalist.
This is my personal favorite album from this outstanding band.
You should get it !!!!
on March 3, 2003
On first listening it may sound rough and unfocused . BUT , when you acquired its taste , it is an EXCELLENT collage of pieces .
surprising how anytime you listen you discover new layers and corners .
Marillion was always suspected to imitate Genesis ( they are aware and strongly deny ) But it is unimportant . the originality , authenticity and unnique , different taste makes this a perfect piece .
The guitar , keyb's and singing is impeccable .
there is a strong sense of POWER , despite the somewhat melancholic tunes .
It is a real charmer , and an eternal record .