Raingods With Zippos


Roadrunner Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When it comes to talking about the Scottish singer Fish, there are a couple of schools of approach. Number one is the fan who has followed his work from the days he spent fronting Marillion in the '80s; they might have a harder time separating his solo efforts from the work he did with Marillion. Then, there's my school: someone who heard precious little of Fish's work until getting his latest solo release, Raingods With Zippos.

Now, I immediately realize that I'm put at a disadvantage in that I can't compare his work to either his days with Marillion or any of his other solo albums. However, letting this disc be my maiden voyage allows me to ignore all the words written about him, and approach the disc with unbiased ears. And, taking the disc via this manner, it proves to be reminiscent of Genesis in many ways, but is both original and entertaining.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The gentle piano strains that open "Tumbledown" help to lure the listener into a false sense of security; before you know it, Fish and his backing band whip things into an electric frenzy, and take this tune into areas previously thought untouchable. Some of the chord progressions on this one are a bit uncomfortable, though, and this might not have been the best way to kick things off.

After a decent but uninspiring performance on "Mission Statement," Fish really gets things cooking (no pun intended) with the next group of songs. "Incomplete" is carried to new levels thanks to the duet between Fish and Elisabeth Antwi; it really does help to hammer the point of the song home. Likewise, "Tilted Cross" is a song that is both haunting and beautiful, and is one that will captivate the listener.

There are two high points to Raingods With Zippos. The first is Fish's leaning towards the "hit single" with "Faithhealer," a track that sounds a lot like vintage Peter Gabriel without sounding like he was trying to mimic Gabriel's sound and style. I vaguely remember some stations in Chicago around 1985 giving some airplay to Marillion's Misplaced Childhood album - one of the albums featuring Fish. It would be nice to see things come full circle and have radio give "Faithhealer" a chance.

And then, there is the six-part "Plague Of Ghosts" that dares to push the musical envelope. There are a few songs in this suite that I easily could have plucked out as potential singles, but Fish has written the music so that the songs both relate to and overlap each other. And, in the end, I think that this was the right decision; the interplay between "Digging Deep" and "Chocolate Frogs" or "Waving At Stars" and "Raingod's Dancing" is quite important to the success of this whole piece.

One would think that you would need some patience in order to really be able to appreciate Fish's style of rock (somehow, I don't feel right calling it progressive). However, Raingods With Zippos is an album that you can appreciate almost right out of the starting gate, despite the brief stumble at the beginning of the album. If anything, this is the type of album that should get the listener interested in the rest of Fish's backcatalog.

Raingods With Zippos is an album that hopefully will start catching fire soon - even if it has to build a real head of steam with word-of-mouth.

Rating: B

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© 1999 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 Roadrunner Records, and is used for informational purposes only.