Brief Encounter


Sanctuary Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back in April, you may remember we took a look at Reel To Real, the first live EP from Brit prog-rockers Marillion. Around that time, I made the promise that we would look at Brief Encounter, a second mini-album released to capitalize on the sudden fame the band found in America - and I had the record sitting next to the stereo, ready to be reviewed.

Little did I know that Brief Encounter, packaged with Reel To Real, was re-issued by Sanctuary, the same label responsible for the Marillion re-issues we've been talking about here all year. (Thanks to Mark for the disc; now that was a pleasant surprise!)

This, however, brings me to a new challenge: how should this be reviewed? Do I take a second look at Reel To Real, ignoring the fact we just talked about it seven months ago? The answer is actually simple: I stand by what I gave Reel To Real back in April, and we'll focus on the five songs that make up Brief Encounter today. Maybe I'll try to give a combined rating, if you're still on the fence about whether or not to buy this.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Actually, if you've been investing in the re-issues up to Misplaced Childhood, you already own two-fifths of Brief Encounter. The two singles, "Lady Nina" and "Freaks," were included on Misplaced Childhood's bonus disc. That said, they are pleasant enough songs which just don't seem like they would have fit the storyline that Fish and company were trying to lay out on Misplaced Childhood. Still, it's hard just to toss away a good song, and if Brief Encounter was the vehicle to get them out to their fans, all the better.

The remaining tracks again put Fish and company onstage - a position they would share for a third time just two albums later on The Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra), which would be Fish's farewell to the band... but we're getting a bit ahead of the story, now. (Side note: If you count the CD that came with the video of Live From Loreley, then we'd have four live outings from Marillion.)

You can't help but be awestruck at the live rendition of "Kayleigh", still quite possibly the prettiest track this band has ever recorded. Hearing the audience sing along with part of the chorus with the power that they do might catch you off-guard, but it definitely shows the impact the band made just three albums into their career. It's a heartwarming moment, and it translates well to the stage.

The remaining two tracks - title tracks from Fugazi and Script For A Jester's Tear - probably were meant to lure new fans in 1986 into picking up Marillion's backcatalog. But for some reason, "Fugazi" doesn't deliver the goods nearly as well as "Script For A Jester's Tear," though both sound good when compared to their studio brethren. And you really can't fault the selection of these tracks; it might have been suicide to fall back on "Assassing" and "Market Square Heroes" so quickly. Maybe they could have selected "She Chameleon" instead, or thrown it on as an additional bonus.

Is Brief Encounter required owning? Honestly, no - but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable to listen to. This was a release that was meant to both tide the fans over as well as win new attention to their earlier releases. Even today, I'd probably call this one a "for the fans" release - but if you happened to come across an old vinyl copy for a buck or so, and you had never heard Marillion before, it would be worth your money to pick it up. Paired up with Reel To Real, you have the ultimate Fish-era "for the fans" pack - and a definite "B" effort all around, if you add in the first live EP. Brief Encounter is still enjoyable, but a shade weaker.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary Records, and is used for informational purposes only.