Album review: MARK KELLY – Marathon

Mark Kelly's Marathon

earMUSIC [Release date 27.11.20]

Thirty years in the making… well, ok, thirty years in the planning, Marillion’s much sought after keyboard player, Mark Kelly at last releases his “solo” album, the appropriately titled “Marathon”.

He’s enlisted the help of a number of ace musicians… guitarists Pete Woods and John Cordy; drummer Henry Rogers, and nephew Conal Kelly on bass. The inspired decision was bringing in Oliver M Smith on vocals. He treats each song’s lyrics (written by the band’s Keith Reid equivalent, Guy Vickers) with real respect, subtly changing his voice’s tone and timbre to suit the mood. It’s very impressive.

Together, they assembled the constituent parts in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio.

The disappearance of world famous pilot Amelia Erhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, in 1927, is one of the album’s focal points. ‘Amelia’ is a song in 3 parts. Part 1, ‘Shoreline’, an instrumental, gives us a sense of place. Part 2, ‘Whistling at The Sea’ Kelly goes on to ponder the tenuous hold we have on life, and in Part 3, the focus moves forward, to the speculation that a find of buried bones, on a small Pacific island, had given up the brave adventurer’s last resting place.

This opening suite, despite being something less than epic, celebrates the power of grown up rock music, and grown up themes. It’s sharply observant, full of humanity, illuminated by insights on life in general. And yes, it has some excellent tunes.

And the subject matter, knitted together by eloquent musicianship and beautifully blended arrangements, is compelling… a natural union of words and music, giving birth to some plangent progressive rock.

Like his parent band, Kelly doesn’t neglect to provide accessible entry points, ‘When I Fell’ is a graceful, elegantly structured ballad, leaning gently but firmly into a more commercial sound. ‘Puppets’ again strikes that balance between artistry and accessibility. The song’s subtle collision of pop’s and prog’s musical values provides some of Kelly’s most interesting material.

The futuristic, twenty minute, 4 part suite, ‘Twenty Fifty One’ closes the album. Kelly switches his keyboards into Space Odyssey mode, and everybody else follows suit.

The instrumental passages are a treat. And again, Oliver M Smith’s expressive voice (inhabited by the ghost of Peter Gabriel) acts as our guide, carefully capturing the sense of wonder that sparks our imagination, as humanity reluctantly beats a path to the stars. ****

Review by Brian McGowan


The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 February, 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 7 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.

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Featured Albums w/c 22 February 2021 (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 RADAR Lost In The Atlantic (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 DURBIN The Beast Awakens (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN – The Darkest Days Are The Brightest (InsideOut Music)

Power Plays w/c 22 February 2021 (Mon-Fri)

ALESTI Voices
DEAD REYNOLDS Bright Lights

ALLY VENABLE Road To Nowhere
JASON SWEENEY She’s A Fighter



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