The Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra)


Capitol Records, 1988

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Some people might have found themselves saying at the release of Marillion's The Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra), "Not another live release." Although this was the first full-length live effort from Fish and crew, it was the third such commercial release since the band's debut.

Little did some people know that this would end up being the last appearance of Fish with Marillion - and at least he goes out with a nice effort which occasionally feels a bit overblown.

I can understand why a live album would be the point of order for the band at this time. On one side, they were about to undergo a major lineup change, and a live album could help bridge the gap. On the other side, Marillion had scored two successful albums in America with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws, and the time to strike was now, while the iron was hot.

The track selection for The Thieving Magpie is actually well thought out, covering all bases from their four albums to that point. There's enough to keep the newer fans happy ("Sugar Mice," "White Russian"), and plenty of material from the two pre-hit era for those who had followed the band from the beginning ("Punch & Judy," "He Knows You Know," "Fugazi").

If anything is interesting about this arrangement, it's that all the material sounds good when it's thrown together like this. It's nearly seamless, and played to note-perfect precision by the group. Yet occasionally it feels like Marillion is grasping to keep things interesting - as much as I can appreciate their inclusion, it might not have been the best of ideas to put two long songs ("Fugazi," "Script For A Jester's Tear") back to back. That said, the live version of "Script" does inject some new life into the track.

Another interesting choice is their decision to perform the entire Misplaced Childhood album on the second disc. Admittedly, they do an admirable job on it, proving that this marvel of the studio could be translated onto the concert stage. The only question is: was it absolutely necessary? In this case, it feels like it's included to prove the band could indeed do it - and I know I wasn't questioning their musical ability in concert.

The Thieving Magpie is presently out of print in America (though there is an import version available on CDNOW), and it wasn't included in the recent re-masters of Marillion's discs. Why this is, I don't know - but The Thieving Magpie is the best choice of all the live work featuring Fish.

Rating: B

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© 2001 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 Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.