Sound — 10
If I was to mention that an album of progressive rock beauty capable of rivaling anything written by Pink Floyd or Genesis was released recently, I'd expect a few different, yet essentially similar responses. No doubt, I'd be met with sneers about the dead-and-gone, ancient styles of seventies psychedelia, let alone the fact that progressive rock in general has faded from the public eye since the mid-Nineties. But if one would ignore the erosion on musical sensibilities and stylistic appreciation over eras, one would see the underlying beauty in Marillion's "Marbles." True to prog. ethics, it carries on in epic form with several songs spanning over 7 minutes. Yet many more are shorter that 3 minutes, giving the album a loose, more genuinely "rock" feel. The "coldness" many complain about in prog is avoided by catchy jazz-based drum leads, warm guitar washes reminiscent of David Gilmore or Steve Hackett, and singer Steve Hogarth's honestly impassioned voice-far gone from the clich operatic excesses of post-70s prog vocalists. The album is a tour through emotions and soundscapes that shape scenes and pictures not dissimilar from Genesis' "Selling England by the Pound." It's a trip really, creating dreamy ambience and beauty beyond not just prog music, but modern music is capable of. It's an album for "purists," but its pop melodies save it from being indecipherably challenging. Yet another example of albums the public so desperately needs to hear, but probably never will.
Lyrics — 10
When thinking about Hogarth's lyrics, the first word that comes to my mind is "enigmatic." Sure, psychedelia often takes cues from abstract thought and scenery, so it's only fitting that the words here would be a little on the challenging side. Hogarth narrates stories of desperation and redemption, hope and hopelessness with such obtuse metaphors that it can be difficult to understand the world surrounding his characters. But trying to figure it out is part of the fun. But rest assured, this isn't a Mars Volta record. Some songs have moderately straightforward messages, others seem to connect into each other forming episodes and sagas; perhaps this is a concept album in disguise...I'm still trying to figure it out, and I'm loving every minute of it.
Overall Impression — 10
I'm sure that by placing "Marbles" on similar terms as Radiohead's "OK Computer" and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" I'm begging for an onslaught of opposition based on the lack of musical influence. True, "Marbles" hasn't influenced musical movements or even any artists singularly that I'm aware of. But for the sake of my opinion, I'd like to blame time as the killing factor. I whole heartedly believe that "Marbles" would stand tall with the aforementioned albums if the were released in a more convenient time. And besides, since when does influence indicate good music? To call this a hidden gem or a sleeper album is an understatement. I'd recommend this album to anyone. I'll repeat and clarify: I'd recommend it to ANYONE-except for fundamentalist listeners who aren't open to something outside boundaries of what is truly "musical" or what truly "rocks"; whatever the hell that really means. It's a shame that its lack of commercial appeal will undoubtedly prevent "Marbles" from leaving its mark on the annals of history; a true loss to future generations.