Holidays In Eden was Marillion’s ‘difficult second album’ all over again. The honeymoon period following new singer Steve Hogarth’s first album with them, 1989’s Seasons End, was over.
Strained writing sessions and a label that wanted these erstwhile prog standard-bearers to become the new Mike + The Mechanics resulted in an album that skewed closer to pop than they ever had before or would again, alienating older fans yet not bringing in enough newer fans to replace them. This buffed and polished reissue doesn’t re-frame the album as a lost classic, but it has aged well.
The MOR pop-rock of Dry Land and No One Can sound less like the work of a band chasing chart positions and more that of musicians trying to carve out a new place in the world, while dramatic moodpiece opener Splintering Heart and closing triptych This Town/The Rake’s Progress/100 Nights bridge what Marillion used to be and what they would become.
Three of the box set’s four CDs are taken up with an impressive show from Hammersmith Odeon, with Hogarth in particular on confident form. “Shut up,” he says after just one song, slapping down a heckler. That definitely wouldn’t have happened with Mike + The Mechanics.