Stephen Humphries on Marillion’s BRAVE

I recently had the chance to ask my friend, Stephen Humphries (Boston Globe, Prog, Christian Science Monitor), about his thoughts on Marillion’s BRAVE.  He graciously responded with this beautiful reply.  Enjoy.

brave cover
Arguably the first album of third-wave prog.

***

I was a sophomore at Hillsdale college the first time I heard Marillion’s Brave. I’d been aware of the band since its 1985 breakthrough album, Misplaced Childhood, because I’d heard the hits on the radio. But I only became an ardent fan following the release of the band’s landmark release, Season’s End, with new vocalist Steve Hogarth in 1989. (Perhaps the only time in rock history that a replacement singer has bettered his excellent predecessor.)

On the day of its release, I walked to a small record store in town to buy the CD and walked home admiring the cover illustration of a face ghosting behind a shroud of illegible words. From the artwork, it was apparent that this was no Holidays in Eden, the band’s previous album, an unsuccessful attempt at a crossover pop album.

Yet, on first listen to Brave, I was disappointed. ‘Where’s all the tunes?’ I complained to a friend. But then this is a band that boasts that each album is a reaction to the one before it.  Brave lacks Marillion’s usual knack for accessible melodies (though it certainly includes a few glorious choruses, including “Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury.”) Brave demands far more from the listener. Repeat immersions in the album – for that is what it requires, a full commitment of ear, mind, and soul – reveals that Brave is a profound journey.

On one level, Brave is a story about a girl found wandering naked and alone on a bridge (inspired by an actual incident).  But Hogarth, an uncommonly emotionally honest singer, turns one person’s search for connection, meaning, and redemption into something that is universal to the listener. I often tell people that Marillion reaches emotional and musical planes that most other bands don’t know exist.  Brave exemplifies those qualities.

The beauty of Steven Wilson’s remix is how it creates even greater clarity and space in the instruments so that Steve Hogarth’s voice can seep through to the listener’s soul.

–Stephen Humphries

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