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Fish - Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors CD (album) cover





3.82 | 322 ratings

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3 stars Marillion had burned themselves out at the end of the 1980's, and Fish left in a rather bitter exchange with his old pals. They effectively reformed with Steve Hogarth, formerly of The Europeans, and released a blinding LP in Season's End and would go on to release some of the most essential progressive rock of all time (yes, I am biased!).

However, in 1990, I awaited Mr Dick's initial solo outing with a great deal of anticipation, and, looking at the cover today reminds me of how I stared in wonder at the incredible artwork by Mark Wilkinson when I first purchased it on the release date. This, I thought, is going to be great.

I actually don't think that this album represents a huge shift from Fish away from Clutching At Straws, his last effort with his old band. There is a big sense of the commercial mixed with knowing nods to his progressive roots. There are also some bitter political messages, a feature of his writing from the off, most especially here in Big Wedge, the hit single that pokes a fat index finger at the USA style of capitalism.

He also pokes two fingers at his old comrades in The Company, also, at the same time, making further reference to his drinking issues. A catchy, bitter, and symphonic piece, it is a highlight of the album.

The longest track is the opener and title track. Vigil clocks in at over 8.5 minutes, and it is a marvellous way to open a solo career. Atmospheric, proudly Celtic with its pipes, when I first heard this I thought that Fish would become about the biggest rock star on the planet. The perfect fusion of catchy rock and progressive rock, something many other acts were struggling to perfect at the time.

I also love the beautiful ballad A Gentleman's Excuse Me. Set against a background of orchestration and gentle piano, Fish sings at his most delicately powerful and emotional. A stunning track which was a deserved hit single for him.

Not all of it is great. The Voyeur (I Like To Watch) seems to me to be an attempt to recreate the hilarious Incubus from Fugazi, but with a catchier and more commercial feel. It fails on all counts. It is not particularly clever or subtle (whereas Incubus was both), and not, in my opinion, very well performed.

Family Business is a catchy tune, but no more than that, really.

The two closers, View From The Hill and Cliche bring matters back on track. The former shows again just how effective Fish was singing in a delicate manner, with feeling, with superb and thoughtful musical backing. In other words, just as he was at his best with Marillion. It is also a fantastic political polemic. The latter is just a hugely effective and enjoyable slab of neo prog, with poetical lyrics, beautifully sung and brilliantly performed by the band, with exceptional guitars and keyboards adding a huge sound to back Fish.

How to rate this? I actually think that Fishs' best days were way in front of him. He has made a series of excellent albums starting with Raingods With Zippos, and I regard all of them as being artistically superior to this album, and I rate them all as at least four stars.

This is an essential album for those who want to have the complete Marillion related collection. It is also for those who wish to understand and hear where one of the neo prog giants (literally!) went on to form his own career.

For everyone else, this is a very good album, where the pluses outweigh the minuses by far.

Three stars. Recommended.

lazland | 3/5 |


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