Marillion - Tales from the Engine Room

Album cover

  1. Estonia (11:43)
  2. The Memory Of Water (9:36)
  3. This Strange Engine (20:38)
  4. One Fine Day (8:20)
  5. Face 1004 (8:28)
  6. 80 Days (8:46)

Racket, 1998

also by Marillion:

see also... Fish, H, Wishing Tree, Genesis, Pendragon, Porcupine Tree, Arena

This limited release is a set of remixes of tracks from "This Strange Engine" by Positive Light, aka Marc Mitchell and Mark Daghorn. It coincided with Marillion's determination to disperse their crusty image and appear contemporary and vital at the close of the 90s. Which they have always been, I should add. "This Strange Engine" was one of Marillion's more eclectic albums, if not their most consistent, and the remixers wisely omit the plainer rocker "Accidental Man" and the silly calypso piece "Hope for the Future".

The dignified musing on grief "Estonia" is one of the album's strongest tunes, and they don't mess about with it too much. If anything it's been liberated from the traditional (Seasons End-era) chiming Marillion sound. The remixers smooth out its edges and retain most of the song's space and dynamic. The most inspired and absorbing reworking here is definitely "Memory of Water". Originally this was a brief surreal vignette backed only by a quiet keyboard. They ingeniously stretch it to fit to a pulsing dance beat, with some lovely hands-in-the-air harmonies from the trad-house piano and strings.

The original album's showpiece, "This Strange Engine" itself, is given a surprising twenty-minute workover in a spaced-out ambient style. It's reminiscent of those anonymous Pink Floyd bootleg trance remixes. Maybe this interpretation was intended to evoke a set of hazy dream-like recollections of Steve Hogarth's childhood. An interesting idea if so, but the dramatic narrative of the original song has far more power.

"One Fine Day", as one of the drippier tracks from "This Strange Engine", doesn't benefit that much from a half-hearted dancification, but this remix gets more interesting towards the end with big orchestra swells. The relatively plain techno "Face 1004" has hardly anything to do with "Man of a Thousand Faces". "80 Days" is given a relaxed treatment and a sunny world feel by its subtle African samples.

Although it's not completely successfully executed, it's an interesting and affectionate take on one of Marillion's oft-ignored albums.

December 27, 2004

6 out of 10

see also...

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written and maintained by Christopher Jackson