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5 stars Better than all marillion post Fish albums together. The first track (Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors ) and the fourth (the company) are riched by Scottish Folk Music. "A Gentleman excuseme" is one of the best ballads I've ever heard.
Report this review (#24937)
Posted Thursday, November 20, 2003 | Review Permalink
4 stars probably the best Fish solo album, Gentleman's Excuse me is one of the most beautiful ballads I've ever heard, Big Wedge brings me feeling of Peter Gabriel's stuff. Echoes of Marillion are heard in many songs but there's lack of Steve Rothery's specific guitar sound.
Report this review (#24944)
Posted Saturday, February 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A great start for a debut solo album for one's career, along with some classic songs, that some people have forgot to mention in there reviews. For one thing how can people not mention the best track on the album CLICHE. And the lovely aggression of I LIKE TO WATCH, which is by far the most punchiest number on the album. When fish left marillion, so did I, because marillion were a band of aggression and they totally lack it without fish. That is not to take anything away from the musicians left behind who are superb, but i think they would have done better if they left the vocals to pete trewas, than get in a ballad singer. This album is a great step in direction for fish, and to me the guy just got better, up until Fellini days.
Report this review (#24932)
Posted Wednesday, March 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The only track that fails here for me Is Big wedge which sounds like an advertising jingle for cheese. Its probably supposed to be taken with irony as the lyrics suggest but the irony is overplayed in the music making it sound like a blatent commercial statement. The rest is of mixed styles but on the whole successful, the opener sounding like a less restrained Marillion especially demonstrated in the use of delay on the guitar which is reminiscent of Rothery. The Company is a fabulous folk tinged tune and other highlights include Gentlemans Excuse Me which is how ballads should be done and View from a Hill is a hard rocking song about Fish's disillusionment with fame. Great debut, hights he wouldn't really scale again for a few years.
Report this review (#24933)
Posted Thursday, March 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars VIGIL (despite a few Collins/Gabriel tempation aka Big Wedge and State of MInd) is the best Marillion album since Marillion broke up with his lead singer... Very classy album, just the perfect follow up to CLUTCHING AT STRAWS... NOTE : on the initial album cover Mark Kelly (Marillion keyboardist) & Marillion manager at the time were paintet as beggars around a firecamp... Mark did not like the joke at all...
Report this review (#24934)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars After FISH and MARILLION parted ways, FISH released "Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors" which was a triumph in so many ways. Musically this would mark the new direction for FISH, deviating away from the jester montages and taking a fresh new and yet still very progressive avenue. I remember buying this CD and playing the crap out of it for months on end. "Vigil..." really covers a lot of ground from the MARILLION'esque "Vigi...l" to the sensitive and soul stirring track "Cliche". Instrumentally this is a great album and the musicanship as you would expect is very high. For me this album became a very special part of my life and it was an album I experienced thru years of my life. To this day I reserve a special spot in my collection for "Vigil..." and recommend this album to all fans of MARILLION and FISH.
Report this review (#24935)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
The Prognaut
5 stars Let's just forget about FISH once was part of MARILLION and let's focus on what he's become and on what he's projected with this first solo career album, because I truly believe that at this point of life and despite the controversies surrounding his departure from MARILLION, it's completely unnecessary to rely on comparisons to prove he's a huge musician. I'm aware that most of FISH's fans got to know him in the first place through MARILLION and then started following his footsteps within his solo career, but still, that's no justification to distrust on what he's been doing ever since he left the band.

Now, what he was able to prove though, more than exposing himself as a recycled part from a former band; is that he accomplished all those dreams and satisfied not only his, but the fans expectations as well. "Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors" shows no lack of creativeness or composure, it ain't some sort of vindicative posture for the public, au contraire, it's a provocative enticing material, it's the return of FISH to his Scottish roots, it's the self-commitment, it's the passion and the feeling of success. This album reveals us all the growth and the maturation of FISH during the years, this is the result of the constant struggle and dedication in order to win that inner revolution he always fought against but specially, he wanted to show it to us, to the fans. Romantic, devoted and passionate, that's the FISH I know, that's the FISH WE know; there's no song I like better over the others this album contains, each one of them is the preface to the next to come. Just brilliant.

Report this review (#24936)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars UUUggghh . having reviewed all Marillion Fish era studio albums, I think it's time for me to give a shot on Fish solo. Let me first tell you: the ultimate and best music was only produced when Fish with Marillion - it's all masterpiece albums! And this is Fish' first solo that I consider excellent but not a masterpiece. Why? Not all of tracks are excellent musically and lyric-wise. Fish demonstrates his capability as songwriter and singer (as with Marillion he contributed mostly as lyricist). He's done excellent job with his debut album. Well, later I realized when I read the "Separated Out" book on Marillion, actually some songs in this album was proposed by Fish to the rest of Marillion members during their tour activities. I've seen there is a photographed of a whiteboard where "Family Business" and "The Company" were written at the board. Reaction from the rest of the band: rejected. Uuughh!!! What a lousy decision it was as later I realized that these two are masterpiece tracks!!

The album is opened with an album title track: "Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors" which brilliantly located as an opening track to set the overall mood of the album. For me, the first lyric of this track reminds me to the occasion when I first listened to "So here I am once more .!!" of Marillion's debut album "Script for a Jester's Tear". This time, Fish sigh voice says like this "Listen to me / Just hear me out / If I could have your attention .." Uuughhhh .. what a great opening!! (having been so longing for Fish voice after La Gazza Ladra live album release of Marillion). Yeah .. this track really BLEW me mannnnn!!! This track is a ballad music but with interesting high and low tones. It's thematic though as I can feel it when the voice is "I don't know the score anymore / It's not clear anymore / I can't tell right from wrong anymore / I just don't understand". After that there are elements of Marillion as well as P Floyd (The Wall album). Fish' vocal quality is excellent, it's exactly like the way he sung with Marillion. The interesting part of this track is the interlude (minute 4:3) with keyboard solo that sounds like a middle east music. Tasty and memorable melody!

"Big Wedge" is not my cup of tea. I dunno why, just don't really get it. It fails to shoot my heart, it's just a flat upbeat music with some brass section. It sounds like Phil Collins solo album or Genesis with brass section. Some Fish fans like this song; but it's not the case for me. It's boring. "State of Mind" is Fish's yell on social life. It's opened with great bass line in the vein of JACO Pastorius (of Weather Report) and some howling guitar sound at background. The acoustic guitar is also interesting.

One of my favorites is "The Company". It has a very unique composition, blending the country music with traditional (Scott?) and rock/pop. One thing that shot me the first time I listened to this song was the lyrics. This song is suitable for those who work to someone or we simply call it "worker". Observe this lyric: "You buy me a drink then you think that you've got the right / To crawl in my head and rifle my soul / You tell me I'm free then you want me to compromise / To sell out my dreams you say you'll make it worthwhile" what a nice piece of lyric and music segment!!!! And, most importantly about this track are: melodious and fascinating! It's a masterpiece. "The company I choose is solidly singular / Totally trustworthy, straight and sincere / Polished, experienced, witty and charming / So why don't you push off, this company's my own".

"A Gentleman's Excuse Me" is a drum-less track with touchy melody and great lyrics. The piano play and orchestration is really nice. Most people like this track. "The Voyeur (I Like to Watch)" is an upbeat music with good guitar and bass. I don't really enjoy this song - it sounds boring to me even though Fish vocal is clear and the musicianship is also good. But the next track "Family Business" really BLEW my mind! This is a kind of fabulous music that I've ever heard - it has great melody since opening till the end of the track. The music is relatively simple with some touch of early Marillion music. It's a great regret that the rest of Marillion members declined this track when Fish proposed for next Marillion album (that never happened). Through this song I realized that Fish can create such Marillionish music!!! I like the ambient kind of music created throughout this track combined with Hackett-like guitar playing. "How long do we keep it family business ..?" Uuughh .. What a great closing!

Another track that blew my mind is "Cliché". It's a cliché love story but it's packaged in such a way that this is not a typical pop song music. The strong point is in its melody and songwriting. Wonderfully crafted!!! It's opened with melodious keyboard sound with some soft guitar fills; followed by short piano sound to welcome Fish voice "I've got a reputation of being a man with a gift of words ." - really cool man!! When the music enters into its main body, it flows smoothly and melodiously especially with the inclusion of electric guitar that howls in the vein of Hackett style. Don't miss the piano touch that occur in some segments, it accentuates the song, really! "It's not that I'm embarrassed or shy, well, you know me too well ..." .... nice shot, Fish!

Overall, it's an excellent album. The songwriting and musicianship are great. In addition, almost all lyrics are excellent. RECOMMENDED! Don't miss this album! Rating: 4.25 / 5. Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Report this review (#24948)
Posted Saturday, August 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars A fish out of water?

Fish's first solo album, released in 1990 is in many ways a predictable affair. The big man sings his heart out, offering little space to his selected fellow musicians as he offers his often acerbic views on subjects close to his heart. The album would perhaps have benefited from more and lengthier instrumental passages, to provide a counterpoint for Fish's singing. This in itself however presents a quandary for Fish, as had he done so, he would of course have been accused of making another Marillion album. The atmospheric start to the opening track "Vigil" suggests this may be a clone of "Misplaced childhood" but the pace soon increases with Fish allowing only a bagpipe (like?) sound to interrupt his dominant vocal.

Fish's cynicism is always to the fore, with lyrics such as "We sell our souls for the Big Wedge", ("Big Wedge"), and "I didn't trust the government" ("State of mind"). The "Vigil in a wilderness of mirrors" line is also repeated on the latter. Personally, I find the lyrics to be something of a distraction at times, such is their power, which is a pity as the album has many fine moments. Some of the themes covered by the album are quite disturbing, especially tracks such as "Family business", which deals with wife beating. While the lyrics here are extremely moving, the song as a song is dull. Fish is perhaps guilty at times of placing too much emphasis on the message, and too little on the overall product. At times here he appears to be preaching.

Musically, the melodies are often strong. "A gentleman's excuse me" for example is a soft orchestrated ballad, and "Cliché" has some excellent, if all too brief, Rothery- esque guitar. Had Fish stayed with Marillion, and the song been developed by the band, they could well have had one of their finest albums to date. That said, most of the songs here are co-written by Fish and others, and I would not wish to belittle the contribution of Fish's fellow writers.

Overall, an enjoyable album which suffers from a common problem with solo albums by lead singers, they don't know when to shut up!

Report this review (#24949)
Posted Tuesday, January 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars With this album, it is more clear to me that it was impossible to keep FISH as a member of MARILLION. As he explains in MARILLION`s official website (in a section on which he tells his view about the history of the band), by 1987-88 he was having different ideas with the rest of the band. One of the things were his political ideas, as his Scottish nationalism started to be more important to him. Another thing was that his ego was bigger and stronger, as he said (this is more reflected in his last album with MARILLION, "Clutching at Straws", with lyrics written by him more related to his personal life). He also had different musical ideas which can be heard on this album. Also, he was tired of the endless working schedule in MARILLION. He wanted a new Manager for the band, but the rest of the band didn`t agree with him. He also had at that time more serious problems with the use of some substances.He argued a lot with the rest of the band. He was recently married, and he wanted to spend more time with his new wife as he didn`t want to "sacrifice" this relationship as other relationships he had at the start of the band. So, after some rehearsals, concerts, and the recording of new demos for a new album, he finally left the band in September 1988, in not very good terms. MARILLION`s next album, "Seasons End", has music which was composed during FISH`S last days with the band. The same is for some of the lyrics used in his first album which were originally used in some demos with MARILLION. This is a very good album, but a bit different to MARILLION`s music in some ways. For the first time, he uses orchestral arrangements. Some of the songs have (I think so) Scottish Folk music arrangements. Other songs have critics about politics ("State of Mind"). He also used horn arrangements in one song ("Big Wedge"). Also the guitar arrangements sound different, nearly like some Heavy Metal guitars. For this album, he co-wrote all the songs (except "View from a Hill") with keyboard player Mickey Simmonds (who years later played with CAMEL). Other collaborators in songwriting were guitarists Hal Lindes (in three songs) and Janick Gers (in "View from a Hill"). The keyboard arrangements are a bit different than with MARILLION, but for me, when FISH left the band, it was a very important loss for the band. It seems to me that FISH influenced a lot the sound of the band, and with his departure, the band changed a lot after the "Seasons End" album, an album which still sounds for me with some influence by FISH. He contributed a lot of the "Feeling" for the band`s original sound, IMO. Unfortunately, MARILLION didn`t have a "Phil Collins" in the band to continue contributing to the original sound of the band.With the addition of a new singer, MARILLION changed a lot. His first solo album shows how important was FISH for MARILLION, IMO. He took with himself a lot from that band.
Report this review (#24952)
Posted Sunday, March 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have to say in advance, I used to love Marillion's early records when I was young. I'm not sure if it would work the same nowadays, I've to admit I did not listen to them since a while. But I listened more to Genesis' early records recently and IMHO I prefer these much more to those of Marillion, anyway they were just a nice substitute at that time because Genesis decayed in quality. I stumbled just recently over Fish's solo outputs and I listened to several ones of them starting from "Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors" to "Field Of Crows" and I've to say there are only few albums that are able to convince me, actually mainly "Sunset on Empire" and to a certain extent "Raingods with Zippos". At least to my ears the majority of his stuff sounds too much in the popular vein if concentrating on the music, what I usually do. Certainly he's got good lyrics and an expressive voice as well, but for me that's not enough to call it an excellent progrock. It's just quite good and very nice and easy listenable prog, more or less in a pop-ish vein, like the stuff, Marillion is doing as well nowadays. This album has very fine moments, but it contains as well a considerable amount of songs that remind me more to COLLINS rather than to GABRIEL, two names FISH always had and will have to compete with, since the music he's been doing is a derivative one. That's why I can't rate his stuff higher than 3 stars.But still a quite enjoyable "easy-listening" album!
Report this review (#24953)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was 17 when Fish left Marillion and I was very upset about that. I remember I was listening to their albums the whole week and crying (I was a quite sentimental teenager). Then after one year the Season's end appeared and I was agian dissaponted. I recognized it was the band after a few tones played in the Polish radio, that was one of a few free islands in the Eastern Europe Radio brodcastings ( I am from Slovakia). However, after several rounds of listenings I started to like it, especially the tracks Berlin, Easter and the title one. One can still smell the atmosphere of the former Marillion and one can soon get used to the voice of Steve H. Then, the next year it appeared the first solo album of Fish, and I liked it from the beginning very much. I found it very strong, especially the tracks Gentleman's excuse me and cliche. However, after several rounds of listenings I started to miss something in it. So to summarize it, I think that both albums are nice and good, but lacking something. SE lacks a strong, straight and pressing expression which was the case in the Fish era. VIAWOM needs more expressive style of playing. The band does not have its own style, one can hear here the echoes of former Marillion but not played with the former mastership. I remember, the one of polish radio editors, Tomek B., expressed it nicely: new marillion is like a sea without a fish and solo Fish is like a fish out of water. Still, they both found their styles later and all their achievements are worthy listening. But I cannot tell the same what I can about Gabriel and Genesis, ie. it was better for the music that he left the band. To conclude, both albums are good through inertia.
Report this review (#24954)
Posted Monday, March 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Phenomenal debut album by Fish, definitely his best solo effort yet. None of the songs are subpar, but ones that particularly stand out are Vigil and Cliche. For me, Vigil was the real highlight of the album. The song is incredible, complete with an awesome and extremely catchy chorus.
Report this review (#24955)
Posted Friday, April 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first solo album from the former Marillion singer is actually his best. Even though I recall him saying he hadn't the intention of continuing in the progressive music style, this is one of his most progressive efforts. Even though it does contain several influences from other musical styles, the progressive influence still is the dominant one and the other elements only enrich the sound.

"State of mind" was the first music he released on his own in the autumn of 1989. It sounds quite surprising different from the last studio Marillion recording but hardly defines the sound of Vigil in a . State is a pop track with an excitable rhythm section full of fabulous bass lines and great percussion. You can easily detect elements from funk and Peter Gabriel. Even though it has a great, catchy chorus, the lyric clearly is more important than the music. Fish focuses on observations of post modern society matters. His lyrics may be less poetic than they used to be, he writes more directly. Although I do not agree on some of his opinions, it least, it holds some interesting idea's.

b-side of the single also appears in the cd-version of this album. The voyeur has a haunting atmosphere which illustrates the paranoia in the subject of the lyrics perfectly. It use to remind me on the third Gabriel album and there's some similarities with the eastern sounding intro of "Assassing" as well. When I first heard this track I noticed this would sound great when performing live and actually it did. Fish used it for opening his European tour to support this album.

In the early beginning of 1990 this album finally was released. The title track which opens the album is one of the most ambitious pieces of music this artist has ever created in his whole career. One of the few moments on a rock album the lyrics and music form a perfect unit. I still treasure these lyrical ideas for looking at the world we're living in today. The music seems to add something to the message. On a more human level this track is about adolescence and the changing of one's view of the world and the uncertainty this feeling brings along. I still remember Fish opening his live shows being seated in the middle of the crowd when the wonderful opening tones were starting to sound in the venue. Musically the vocal lines seem to drive this track through majestic moments with traditional Irish folk elements. It starts with an atmospheric intro which is quite long. The melody of the chorus is unforgettable and the arrangements is highly symphonic, the bridge between several choruses or majestic interludes is reminiscent to the chords of The Wall from Pink Floyd. After all those years, this tracks still moves me.

In some countries Big wedge was a minor hit, not surprising if you hear the commercial approach. Fish use to defend his commercial tendencies by explaining he needed hits to ensure his musical future in the music business. Off course we know better now... With its horrible blazer section Big wedge is sounding like a hit single from one the eighties albums of Genesis or even Phil Collins. It must not be a coincidence Genesis used the same lyrical idea for the lyrics for "Jesus he knows me". Fortunately on the live performances this track was more enjoyable especially in the enlarged opening section where the tension is building up.

The Company is another highlight. This is one of the tracks which were intended for winning a bet between Fish and Bob Ezrin. Fish was to proof he was able to write a proper folk song. Ezrin was one of the first to be contacted to produce the next Marillion album in 1988 when Fish was still in the band. Obviously the lyrical subject of this song is about the hangover Fish had after leaving Marillion but one could easily interpret it for social issues as well. The atmosphere in this wonderful song does have some similarities with the arrangements of a Kate Bush album. This shouldn't be a surprise knowing producer Jon Kelly had produced Bush in the past. The folky elements are there but the song clearly improves by using a real orchestra. I suppose the influence of Mickey Simmonds who contributed a lot of great music for this album is heavily felt. For years Simmonds played in the backing band of Mike Oldfield and this is most noticeable in the piano part and the symphonic melodies of this song. Never again Fish was able to top the quality of this track. This song has been a concert favourite till the end. As quoted by Fish this is the drinking song of the album.

View from a hill is another lyric about Fish personal feelings on the departure from his former band. Janick Gers from Iron Maiden is the guest guitarist here and shows his talents in this guitar driven track. You can hear the musical theme from the opening chords on. The middle section of this epic is supposed to be wild but the power lacks a bit due to a production which isn't capable of getting the best out of heavy songs. Anyway there's some strong melodies in this wonderful powerful track.

Fish is dealing with the subject of family violence in the lyric of "Family business". The music on this great track is fine but this time the words seem to dominate the track a bit too much. Fortunately there's another important role for the piano and the great guitar lines of guitarist Frank Usher. He used to be a member of one of Fish' first bands before joining Marillion in 1981. Again the arrangements seem to remind me on Kate Bush.

"On a gentleman's excuse me" is a soft piano ballad with only the voice on some wonderful orchestrations. The lyric is some kind of a resignation to a love affair with a very romantic lady. The work of J.RR Tolkien always was a big influences in the work of many progressive artists. Fish uses just one of Tolkiens images as a part of the lyrical background. This is one of the points in the albums where the pathos is heavily spread but strange enough it works !

I can't imagine a song to be more of a ballad than Cliché. This is another example of the romantic side of prog. Sure it's cheesy but I don't believe anyone can stay indifferent when hearing this. Just listen to that guitar solo. What a wonderful way to finish an album.

One of my favourite songs on this reissue is Jack and Jill, originally on the flip side of big wedge. Today the keyboards sound hopelessly outdated but I do still enjoy the melody of this Marillion-like song a lot. To the end the guitar parts and the vocals get to sound more raw and violent. This is the Fish I like the most. A more rockier and emotional version of Marillion.

One could hardly call "Vigil in a ." a perfect example of progressive rock. It's clearly a transitional album between the progressive sound of Marillion and Fish'later solo works. This stuff is very melodic and highly accessible, the arrangements are more diverse than they have ever been during the Marillion years and Fish' voice is in excellent shape. Compared to the Marillion music of 87, it sounds fresh and new and the choice to start a solo carrier seems a logical one at this point in time. Fish should have moved on in this direction on his next releases.

Report this review (#24956)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Stunning album with stunning lyrics. The title track Vigil remains one of my favourite Fish tracks of all time. The Company is a great song, very bitter and I have yet to find a better lyric than "the company I choose, is solidly singular, totally trustworthy, straight and sincere, polished, experienced, witty and charming, so why don't you **** off, this company's my own" - ah what a put down! If you haven't listened to Fish before, this is a great album to start with.
Report this review (#24957)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
2 stars When Fish left Marillion I decided to follow my 'neo-progrock-messiah' because Marillion and Steve Hogarth were not my cup of tea, a matter of taste, I won't discuss their quality! So I bought this album and witnessed several gigs. It was quite emotional to see how Fish was supported by all those Marillion freaks, what a party! The music on his first solo-album is not really in the vein of early Marillion but, like Peter Gabriel on his first, a mix of rock and prog with some very good songs like the compelling titletrack, the swinging "Big Wedge" and the intricate "Family business" but also a lot of tracks that doesn't appeal to me. In fact I have played this CD very few times, simply because there was so much more rock and prog to explore that sounded better than Fish solo did.
Report this review (#39459)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This classy album marked the launch of Fish's solo career in some style. Opener Vigil is the most-Marillionesque track on here and then the trademark sounds of his old band are gradually left behind as he explores different musical styles. 'The Company' is a fine drinking anthem and ' A Gentleman's Excuse Me' a beautiful ballad,with strings section re-emphasising the classy approach- I actually prefer this track stripped down to vocal with piano accompaniment as on the bonus track.

If the album lacks something I think it is pace, with only 'View from a Hill' truly rocking out. The best track on here for me 'though is closer 'Cliche', with wonderful lyric and fine guitar work.

The bonus tracks of 'Jack & Jill' , 'Whiplash' and 'Internal Exile' add to the whole, with the latter two in particular further examples of Fish's exploration of new-found musical freedom.

For many Fish fans this album is his best but I actually prefer 'Sunsets on Empire' and 'Field of Crows' as they both have more bite.

Report this review (#48308)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Fish's debut album is one of those records that has slipped rapidly down in my estimation. I think when Fish left Marillion, I was inclined to give him a little more leeway as the band's most obvious talent, but now that the blood has long dried, I don't think this album is as strong as Seasons End (as the first Marillion album featured Steve Hogarth it is a way, Vigil's direct competitor). In fact it's probably telling that after hearing how both sides did after the great schism, I lost interest in what either had to offer. Even though this is a solo album, Fish basically worked with a solid group comprising keyboardist Mickey Simmonds, ex-Dire Straits guitarist Hal Lindes, his old friend Frank Usher (also on guitars) and former Big Country drummer Mark Brsezicki. These guys are all solid players, but I don't hear as much personality or song writing talent as I did from Marillion's Mark Kelly and Steve Rothery. There are of course, some strong songs on here. There's the sprawling emotion-laden title track, State Of Mind which flirts with world music in a way that (ahem) Peter Gabriel was doing to greater effect at the same time) and the excellent folky drinking song The Company (which does a superb joy of expressing the sentimal, fatalistic, euphoric outlook of the hopeless drunk). Unfortunately all this is more than countered by mediocre tracks that bear more than a passing resemblance to what The Simple Minds were doing at this time ... the straight-forward radio-friendly Big Wedge (big chorus atop a big production) is a real nadir, but it's the lack of conviction in the slower moving A Gentleman's Excuse Me and View From A Hill and even the ambitious but overly-familiar Cliche that really seal this record's fate. I once stole this album from the record company that distributed it ... I was irate to find that it was sitting unloved in a forgotten pile ... and after sneaking it out through my briefcase, I rushed home excitedly only to find that the CD inside was missing! T'was only many years afterwards that I got hold of the expanded version with 5 bonus tracks ... in a bargain bin no less! But now I think about it, I'm not really sure it was worth the effort. ... 42% on the MPV scale EDIT: Max
Report this review (#73792)
Posted Saturday, April 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars For me FISH without MARILLION never had this power he had with MARILLION, during MARILLION developed very good without FISH. For me this is his best solo album. VIGIL, FAMILY BUSINESS and CLICHE are good Neo-Prog songs and they sound like MARILLION with FISH. VIEW FROM A HILL sounds like MARILLION with a Hard-Rock touch. BIG WEDGE, STATE OF MIND, A GENTLEMANS EXCUSE ME sound more like PHIL COLLINS or MIKE & THE MECHANICS. THE COMPANY has a nice Folk touch. THE VOYEUR sounds like ... I don´t know. All in all this album is good music, but it never reached the MARILLION- Level. The lyrics on this album are great!
Report this review (#81440)
Posted Sunday, June 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fish's first solo venture after his sudden departure from Marillion in '88 stylistically showed that Fish was trying to stray away from the classic Marillion sound, but still you can hear some influence of his old group in the music. If that wasn't enough, some of the lyrics provided on this album were actually brought up before Marillion before Fish left the group itself. Regardless of that, though I thoroughly enjoy this album because it's somewhat of a cry from Fish that he doesn't need Marillion to carry on. The musicianship is also very strong on this album, Mickey Simmonds is a terrific keyboardist providing many interesting progressions and chords (he also helped Fish write many of the songs on the album). Fish's old friend Frank Usher steps in on guitar here and offers many great moments on the album, and the rhythm unit is also superb and keep the groove going throughout.

The album opens with Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors, it brings to me this feeling of Script for a Jester's Tear for some reason. Maybe because it's a vocal led tune that has strong chord progressions and features some very celtic influenced instruments, whatever it is, I love this song. It has all the elements of an old Marillion song but it has enough style to categorize it as pure Fish. The Big Wedge has this great big band feel to it because of the augmentation of a great horn arrangement, if that weren't enough, the song has an incredibly catchy chorus that can hook anyone in. State of Mind begins with some interesting and dynamic bass work from John Giblin. Another strong chorus and some hammering guitar round out this song, which probably is the best track bass wise on this album, a bit uninteresting at points, though, if you ask me. The Company continues the trend of strong and catchy chorus, this song having a title that would soon become Fish's official website's name. Anywho, this drinking song (as the chorus involves words like drink to me now) has some strong celtic influenced intrumentation and is another killer song.

A Gentleman's Excuse Me has some heartfelt piano and strings underneath an emotional and convincing vocal from Fish. This song matches emotionally nearly anything Fish had done with Marillion, in my opinion. The Voyeur (I like to Watch) is probably the most sexually suggestive thing Fish ever wrote next to Three Boats Down From the Candy back in 1983 on Market Square Heroes. Even though the song is mostly about politicians, he makes a nice metaphor to all things dirty. The biting riff and the solid musicianship is brought to a head perfectly with a brilliant chorus from Fish. This album seems to have brilliant choruses throughout each song. Family Business and View From the Hill are a couple of throwaway numbers to round out the album. The first having an interesting bass line, but not really much besides that. The second has a more Marillion feel to it (maybe because this is one of the songs Fish presented to Marillion before he left the group). It's a bit more interesting than Family Business, but it's nothing special, in my opinion. Cliche closes the album with some pretty piano from Simmonds and some heartfelt vocals from Fish. Frank Usher is a star on this track, giving a great solo performance. It ends the album very well, to say the least.

In the end, Fish's debut is more a less a message to everyone that he didn't need Marillion to create captivating music. This album may be one of his best solo albums, and it rivals much of the music that Marillion did with Steve Hogarth. For fans of Fish era Marillion, this album is a must. But if you're looking for some high-quality neo prog, this album is not a bad starting point. Despite a few uninteresting and overly long pieces, I still recommend this album to most people. 4/5.

Report this review (#82063)
Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is truly a masterpiece of an album, as the majority of reviewers have already stated. Regardless of whether you like or dislike Fish's work with Marillion, you will love this album. The atmospheric "Vigil" opens with a chilling lyric and is eventually launched into a bagpipe- led march, accompanied with shouts by the great Scot. It's a soaring track, and a great introduction to this solo debut.

"Big Wedge" is a dramatic departure from the opening track, and the weakest song on the album - mostly because it has a different feel than the rest. Any doubts are immediately thrown aside with "State Of Mind", a lyrically dazzling cry against corrupt government. The song kicks off the first of three great songs at the heart of the album. The second is "The Company", a folk-influenced ballad/drinking-song to friends. Some of the Scot nationalist tones more apparent in later albums are present in the song. The third is "A Gentlemen's Excuse Me", a beautiful ballad, soaked with strings and an excellent vocal performance from Fish.

Another standout track on the album is "Family Business" (originally set to the music of "Berlin" - check out the second disc of 'Clutching At Straws'). It's a lyrical and musically viscious account of abuse, with a terrifyingly powerful vocal. The album marks a new era for Fish, and he delivers.

Report this review (#100539)
Posted Sunday, November 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I really can't find a single mistake on this album. Great music, fine lyrics, and this voice we all love. Title track, The Company, View From A Hill, Family Business and Internal Exile (this one is a bonus track) are the highlights of this album. This is the first solo album of Fish, and it's far more good than the last that he did with Marillion. As far as i know, Fish is coming in autumn this year to Poland, and I hope I get a chance to see him live. Thank you Fish, for this great album. A truly masterpiece of music.
Report this review (#111352)
Posted Friday, February 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
5 stars After they parted ways, Fish and Marillion recorded albums around the same time. Marillion released the quite disappointing Seasons End (well, it WAS VERY disappointing at the time. Remember, it is the studio album that comes after the Clutching At Strawas masterpiece). So I was quite suspicious of what Fish´s first solo efford would sound like. Specially after a friend of mine told me he probably would turn out a kind of Phil Collins kind of LP, since he read the credits and it included a horn section.Anyway, I took my chances and bought the album as soon as it was out.

What a masterpiece of prog music it proved to be! In fact, it sounded a lot more like Marillion then Marillion on Seasons End, and it was not just for Fish´s familiar voice! While Marillion recorded a mostly AOR/alternative kind of CD, Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors is prog rock, no less. Fish found a fitting partner in Mickey Simmonds and the musicians are all top notch. Everything works on this album and it became one of my favourite albums of that time (and after that too). Highlight are many, but I still think the title track is one fo Fish´s greatest moments (solo or with Marillion). The Wedge, Family Business and View From The HIll (his snide comment about Marillion, albeit a cryptic one) are all memorable tunes with some of his best lyrics.

I still have the vinyl LP, but I could not resist buying the remastered version on CD, not only for the sound quality, but also for the extra six tracks (four from singles b sides, not as good as the LP tracks but still worth having them). It was one of the best albums in 1990, if not the best. A masterpiece. highly recommended!

Report this review (#118304)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fish's solo debut came at the time my Marillionism was fading. Seasons End by Marillion with the new singer was a lame experience, and also the earlier Marillion albums were losing their grip (only Clutching at Straws always remained as one of my most played LP's). From Fish I wasn't expecting very progressive material, knowing that he's a strong lyricist, not a composer, and as a singer he wants to dominate the music. A lot would depend on his collaborators. The key character here is the keyboardist Mickey Simmonds to whom most of the composition credits go. He and the chemistry of the whole group - including musicians who had played in Dire Straits (Hal Lindes) and Simple Minds - proved to be very succesful. Vigil was like a breath of fresh air, a nice combination of pop and lite-prog, and it still sounds better than many of its followers in Fish discography.

I concentrate on the 8-track original LP version ('The Voyeur' wasn't included). First, none of the tracks is weak. My least favourite is the catchy, big-sounded 'Big Wedge' which is nevertheless pretty effective in its (hit) genre. The long title track has the proggiest musical drama, starting and ending quietly and bursting into full steam in between. 'State of Mind' was another single; relatively simple song with nice bass playing. Also very tender 'Gentleman's Excuse Me' was released as a single. It's nearly *too* sweet. 'Family Business' about domestic violence is very powerful song emotionally and includes excellent lead guitar. 'The Company' has an effective interlude of Scottish folk with fiddle and tin whistle. (And 'Vigil' has Uillean pipes.) The album ends with one of my favourite love songs, 'The Cliché'. In fact it sort of became an anthem of my first love (she shared my proggy music taste).

If I should find something negative, I could say the album is a bit poppy, pathetic and over-produced, but it's actually another way of saying it's a strong work and easily enjoyed. I believe that to many fans this remains dearer than other Fish albums.

Report this review (#126299)
Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
2 stars As a dedicated Marillion (and Fish) fan, I openly challenge any who say that they would like this album if it was recorded by anyone OTHER than Fish. "Wilderness" may have a classy production and contain some genuine musical gems... but it is the most bland and unexciting thing Fish has ever recorded.

First the good-- Fish's voice sounds mature and controlled, much more so than his early days with Marillion. He shows some great range, emotion (as always) and personality, one can even pick out his Scottish accent! His lyrics are a mixed bag, but definitely lean towards the good side of things; he presents common themes in an uncommon way, which is the mark of his skill as a songwriter.

But... the album permeates a radio-friendly sound with its ultra-cheesy instrumental sound, which in my opinion sabotages a lot of what Fish is doing behind the mic. The rhythm section is straight-forward and uninspired, while the keys spend way too much of their time playing synthesized strings, horn, and bagpipe (!) hits (a sign of the times, I guess?). The guitar has a few nice moments, but smarty stays the hell out of the way of Fish's melodies, which is the sole source of energy and excitement in this one. As far as songwriting goes, Fish is at best singing about sociological issues (a la "I Like to Watch", "Family Business"), rather than bleeding- heart political ones. Moreover, his poetic monologues and/or spoken word moments are absent here.

As a whole, I can imagine "Vigil" only appealing to Fish fans, but despite its flaws provides enough great vocal moments to please; it's fun for an occasional listen, but made me wanted to listen to "Misplaced Childhood".

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 2 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Report this review (#127808)
Posted Saturday, July 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great debut album by Fish. This album confirm that Fish is a perfect mix between Gabriel and Collins and a perfect Genesi's vocalist. In merit of "Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors" some songs plays like a Phil Collins solo career songs but more Prog. Others like a Genesis' songs... Other like Marillion's songs. But in general is a good album. The higherst pick is represented by "A Gentlemen's Excuse me" with an amazing orchestra. But also the other ballad "Family Business" is good. Oh, well... The Funky Jazz (and Collian's song) "Big Wedge is good with the horn section and the good rhythm. But "The Voyeur (I Like To Watch)" a too poor song and ruin the album. For tis reason I rating this album 4 stars and not 5... But Fish is always fish and this album is a been lacking masterpiece.
Report this review (#132584)
Posted Friday, August 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A must.

Unfortunetaly, Fish's solo career started amazingly well with this album really got nowhere fast. Aah, too bad because this album is a huge slap in the face to the Marillion's evil clan, proving that Fish is performing and writing as good as before (and sometimes better).

Fish's world from Clutching at Straws is following him (lyrics and comedy act), althought with a bit less tragedy and tad more celtic textures. And frankly, the whole 'drunken scottish' folk-rock is fitting well in the whole scene (Vigil, Internal Exile and the Company). This is where, to me, the album sets up high score: the simple chorus that becomes an anthem to shout out loud with a tall mug of McEwan's. Let's not forget THE voice of Fish, still on top of the hill and the orchestration making many songs much richer than the traditionnal Marillion line-up.

Fish got angry and decided to show what he's capable of: superb melodies, catchy choruses wrapped in a tangible musical depth.

Hurray for any fan of Marillion who discovers this; they will see no difference in quality or's a promise!

Report this review (#145981)
Posted Friday, October 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you have read some of my "Marillion" reviews, you have already noticed that I praised the Fish era very much, while the non-genuine part of their discography was very average IMHHO.

I was logically very interested to discover the work of the great man. And as soon as I heard the title track, I was transported with joy. As if nothing had changed, or so little. Ambient part, powerful vocals, nice melody. As if it was a natural follow-up to "Clutching".

I came back on earth while "Big Wedge" started. These brass are definitely not my cup of tea. But Fish quickly reverts to a very good and inspired "State Of Mind". Again, the late "Marillion" heritage is obvious (it starts already with the cover work of this album by the way).

Maybe that this album holds more ambient parts, but globally the sound is close to his earlier work (Clutching I mean). For the best, I have to say. A kind of relief because at times, solo artists want to change from musical style too much in order to break with their previous career.

And "The Company" is no different. A good but simple song. This is maybe a characteristic that will disappoint some progheads. The complexity of the early "Marillion" ("Script") is not on the rendez-vous but a song as "A Gentleman's Excuse Me" is a wonderful and peaceful ballad during which the big man can fully express his high pitched and subtle voice. Even if some orchestrations stress the mellow side a bit too much. Another good track anyway.

I guess that there is nothing wrong if here and there, a weaker track appears in this set list ("The Voyeur"). Still, the lyrics which save this track are well polished and unequivocal : "I like to watch implausible pledges of polite politicians. I like to watch them even more than my video nasties" or "I like to watch disasters in replay and rerun in slo mo."

Another good (though commercial) is "Family Business" of course. A live favourite. The last three songs of the original album are just a confirmation of what could already be heard so far : an excellent follow- up of the "Marillion" days with a plus for the excellent "Cliché".

This album is very good and deserves four star in my scale. An excellent surprise and a confirmation of the talent of this great man.

Report this review (#162525)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Some people say that it's a shame Fish left Marillion. However, with this solo career, we now have two great neo-prog bands/artists. Vigil is a great example of that. The line up is much wider than with Marillion, but in this first album the music is very close to Marillion, though a bit more conventionally.

Fish's touch on the songs is still great. The melodies are very catchy and the lyrics, as always, remain at least as brilliant as the music.

Vigil, the opening track is one of the best on the album. It's melodic and powerful. the story is nice, and I gives the album a good direction to go. At this point his former band had taken a different approach, so this was more than welcome to those who live in the past.

Big Wedge is much less progressive. It's got those horrendous 80s drumsounds they still used in the early 90s. and the rythm is pretty pop. Especially the chorus. Fish has obviously no intention on keeping the music prog. The whole song is pretty happy, which is very strange for Fish. A nice pop song with horns, but nothing special really.

State of Mind has a pretty groovy intro which leads to a nice, slow song again. These slow rock songs are Fish's most usual way to go. The lyrics are against corrupt politics, so there's something for people who are into that. Well, the groovy bassline carries through the song, but other than that and the story-lyrics, the song is a bit boring.

The Company on the other hand is a brilliant song. It starts with a touch of a folk drinking tune, and the verse is really something similar. This would suit perfectly to a bar night at an Irish pub. Personally I like to drink to it. On the second chorus the song really gets on and it turns really beautiful. Beautiful is really the ultimate work I'd give to this one. Cheers mates, bottoms up!

A Gentleman's Excuse Me is a slow and nice song, with a piano and strings. It's a nice ballad, but that's as far as it gets. Not really a song I'd listen to after The Company, unless of course it's right next to it on the cd. Something that makes you sentimental, yes, but nothing more.

The Voyeur (I Like To watch) is again a pop song, very close to Big Wedge though without the bigband feeling of horns. Not my personal favourite.

I don't really know what to say fo Family Business. It's a nice and atmospheric song, close to old Marillion too, but again, not prog, just a nice rock song.

View from the Hill is about again corrupt policies, though not as direct. The verse is a slow and atmospheric again, and the chorus gets on, guitar driven like a common rock song.

Cliché is the second of the prog songs, along with Vigil, and it's also one of the best songs on the album. It's still a love song, which has always been his cup of tea. The best way, is with an old cliché. I love you. A nice story and a good ending. Again, when Fish does something more progressive, it tends to sound like old Marillion. There's a nice guitar in the beginning, and the song is really slow and quiet. then it goes up on a climatic burst. The most catchy part on this song is the guitar melody, though simple, still very good.

The problem about reviewing an artist like this is, that it's almost impossible not to compare them to their old bands. Of course, we must acknowledge, that it wasn't Fish who composed most, but he did write the songs and the lyrics. However, those, who have listened to Marillion will be both pleased and disappointed. There are some great songs that I would add to the grand cathegory, and then there are some, that separate him from his band. the album in itself is not the best possible, but still recommended to anyone, who listens to Marillion. It's like Steve Hackett's solo to those who like old Genesis. But to people unfamiliar to Fish's old merits, this album is most probably just an album like any other. 3 stars.

Report this review (#178334)
Posted Monday, July 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Vigil in A Wilderness of Mirrors is the debut album by former Marillion vocalist Fish. Fish and Marillion parted ways in 1988 after making four of my personal favorite albums. EMI had the rights to Fish solo recordings because of a leaving members clause but Vigil in A Wilderness of Mirrors would be the only album Fish released on EMI as he would leave the label after a lengthy legal dispute in 1991. Most songs on the album are co-written by keyboard player Mickey Simmonds ( who would also tour with Fish on the following tour for the album), but Janick Gers ( Iron Maiden) and Hal Lindes ( Dire Straits) would also contribute to the writing of a few songs on the album.

The music ranges from slightly progressive rock and ballads to pop/ rock. My favorites on the album are the opening title track which is probably the song on the album which sounds mostly like Fish-era Marillion and the heavily orchestrated A Gentleman's Excuse Me. The Company and Family Business also comes of as sounding quite succesful to my ears. The rest is rather forgettable though and not really something that impresses me. Big Wedge with its brass arrangement and female backing choir even annoys me a bit. Most of the songs are lacking in the instrumental department though and that also counts for the better songs on the album. This album is clearly a solo album by a vocalist. Fish shines as ever and his lyrics are as usual of high quality but I wish he would have concentrated more on making interesting music as well.

The musicianship is good, but the performance of the musicians come of as a bit anonymous simply because the song arrangements are too generic. The performance needs bite and it´s really only Fish who sounds like he means it.

The production is good, but again there´s too much emphasis on the vocals and too little emphasis on the music as a whole.

It´s safe to say that I had big expectations to both Fish solo albums and Marillion´s post-Fish ditto. None of them have delivered what I would call better than average rock albums since they parted ways and I must admit to be one of those who cry myself asleep every night because of the split. Fish-era Marillion simply had a wonderful magic that neither the band nor Fish have been able to create since. Vigil in A Wilderness of Mirrors is overall a pretty good album from the singer though and deserves a 3 star rating.

Report this review (#203649)
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars An uneven kettle of Fish

The opening title track of this debut solo album by Fish is in my opinion a lyrical and musical masterpiece and my favourite song bar none with Fish on vocals! It is simply a sublime piece of reflective progressive Rock, with a grippingly existential lyric and haunting vocal. Sadly, the album's second track is utterly horrible both lyrically and musically! Talk about a sharp contrast. The rest of the album ranges between very good and decent, but it never again reaches the high of the title track or for that matter the low of Big Wedge. Some tracks have subtle but delightful Celtic/folky nuances.

Like I said in my review of Fish's second solo album, Internal Exile, he could easily have created a really strong album had he taken the best couple of songs from that album and used them to replace the worst couple of tracks from this album. But as is stands, the present one is a still a good album overall.

Recommended, but primarily for the excellent title track

Report this review (#223261)
Posted Friday, June 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Solid 4 stars, if not 4.5

Is it a cliché to say "Great album"? Fish's solo debut after his departure from Marillion was a strong, strong start and yet the first step into a story that did not unfold as many would have hoped.

As most purists of progressive music agree, the divorce between Fish and Marillion is something that should have never happened, and is quite as tragic as Peter Gabriel's departure from Genesis. Together, Marillion and Fish had a unique chemistry from which emerged a musical ambiance of gloomy sentimentality and poetic melancholy that is forever lost and that I still long for after all these years.

Still, after this tragic divorce, both Fish and Marillion, now with frontman Steve Hoggart, produced excellent debut albums, the former with Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors and the later with the excellent Season's End. Both parties would keep producing good pieces here and there but never quite reached the same level of musical creativity on a continuous basis like in the good old days of those four early albums.

This being said, and my apologies for this long intro, Vigil exceeded most if not all expectations as a debut album for Fish solo. First, Vigil marked a major shift of musical and lyrical color for Fish, who chose to work, à la Gabriel, with happier themes and ambiances (still not rosy though).

The title track (my favourite) opens with a slow but powerful progression from soft keyboards to electric guitar and then full throttle, and off we go into an album that never really disappoints for its full lenght.

Big Wedge is the radio hit attempt and has little relevance to the progressive world, but somehow fits nicely into the album.

Then follows State of Mind and Company, two songs with interesting musical arrangements and lyrics. The accordion section on The Company is particularly moving.

The ballad A Gentlemen's Excuse Me can hardly leave anyone indifferent. Simple on the structure and arrangements, but featuring a nice lyrical progression and musical movements, with the violin addition in the last section. Makes a strong impression.

Voyeur is, perhaps, my least favourite song, but it adds a harder rock element at a point of the album where it is welcome.

The last tracks, Family Business, View from the Hill and especially Cliché, are three more testaments to Fish's creativity and emotional appeal, combined with nicely done musical compositions. Cliché, perhaps the track with the most progressive elements next to Vigil, ends this great album with a powerful and poignant song, vocally, lyrically and musically, and features one of the nicest lyrical twists I can think of.

Unfortunately, the following albums from Fish were not to match this one.

NB : The bonus disc on the remastered edition of Marillion's Clutching at Straws contains materials that were being worked on by the band at the moment of Fish's departure. Some were kept by the band and integrated into Season's End, while some others were kept by Fish and integrated into Vigil, such as Sunset Hill and Voice in the Crowd...

Report this review (#233067)
Posted Thursday, August 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Just like Marillion, Fish managed to make a great first album on his own. Although I don't find his solo direction as interesting as Marillion's Seasons End the music here is quite enjoyable. Unfortunately this wouldn't hold on for too long since Fish's creativity started to slip on the later releases.

On this debut album he manages to craft an enjoyable set of tracks starting with a complete masterpiece performance on the first track, Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors, which almost made me forget that he ever left Marillion! But just as this debut offers some of the best material that Fish has ever recorded as a solo artist it also gives us few quiet uninspired offerings. I really wish that the quite dull song The Voyeur (I Like To Watch) wasn't on this album and although View From A Hill is not as uninspired I feel that the track goes all over the place and the end result offer me very little pleasure.

After all these mixed reactions and comments I still consider this album to be an excellent release that all fans of the early Marillion albums and Neo-Prog genre will definitely find interesting.

***** star songs: Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors (8:46) The Company (4:07) A Gentleman's Excuse Me (4:20)

**** star songs: Big Wedge (5:25) State Of Mind (4:45) Family Business (5:22) Cliche (7:06)

*** star songs: The Voyeur (I Like To Watch) (4:45) View From A Hill (6:39)

Report this review (#258630)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars The first solo album from Fish might please most of the Fish-era Marillion fans. Some of the tunes here are reworked versions of Marillion demos from the Clutching At Straws-era, but the focus has shifted to the lyrics and vocals. The music suffers from it and follows common balladry song structures and rather bland instrumentation. There little room for the band to shine.

A long track like Vigil is at heart a basic verse-chorus pop song that is crammed inbetween a soft intro and outro. It's only because it has so many words that it ended up so long really, but it's an enjoyable tune nevertheless. The Big Wedge and State of Mind however are a certain proof that Fish can't have left Marillion for musical differences. This is material of the same pop level as Marillion was churning out back then. Also The Company and Gentleman's Excuse Me aren't much to get excited about, but for ballads, they are ok. Still, this is very old-school rock music with unimaginative arrangements that hasn't aged really well.

The second half of the album contains some more inspired moments. The lyrics-fuelled energy and conviction of Voyeur and Family Business compensates for the ordinary music. Cliché persuades me most of all, it's a sweeping ballad with some fair melodic guitar leads that builds up to quite a pathetic climax.

There are two reasons why I got me the first 3 Fish albums around 1995. The first being my hope that Fish would have carried on the Marillion flag more convincingly then Marrillion themselves, the second because I didn't know what else to buy... Yes, men can have a shopping compulsion as well! Both reasons proved to be very bad ones. The album is ok in its niche but nowhere near Marillion, if I would have come across this album now instead of 15 years ago, 2 stars would be my verdict.

Report this review (#265524)
Posted Thursday, February 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars As a big fan of the original Marillion, I have never been able to get into the "new" Marillion or any Fish solo works. I don't know why, but there it is. I find Fish's (Fishes?) voice to get annoying after awhile here, especially on the more poppier tunes such as "Big Wedge", which I just can't listen to. Why did his voice not bother me when he was with Marillion???? No idea. Maybe it's just a sort of "mental block" for me, not liking his stuff post-Marillion. Some good ballads here with "Gentleman's Excuse Me" and "The Company", and the title track is good, but the rest of the album I just find dull. And I have really made an effort to appreciate this music, but it's a "no-go". Good, but not really essential. 3 stars. Very close to being only 2.
Report this review (#283589)
Posted Wednesday, May 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This was Fish's first album released in 1990 after leaving MARILLION in 1988. Considering he was the vocalist for MARILLION for all those years i'm surprised that this album doesn't remind me more of MARILLION than it does. He purposely changed direction, in fact towards the end of his time with MARILLION he was trying to turn the band in a different direction which was rejected thankfully. In fact many of these songs on this album were rejected by the band who didn't want them on a MARILLION album. Again i'm glad the band stood their ground. I have a hard time getting into most of these tracks. I'm also surprised with all the musicians on this album that i've only heard of one, and that is IRON MAIDEN's Janick Gers who guests on one track.

"Vigil" is the longest track closing in on 9 minutes. Lots of atmosphere to open as the reserved vocals join in before a minute.The song starts to kick into gear before 3 minutes as it builds. We even get some pipes and whistles on this one around 5 minutes. "Big Wedge" is uptempo with horns to start before it settles and Fish goes off in his anti-religous rant. Man I don't like the horns on this one or the song for that matter. "State Of Mind" opens with some funky bass as vocals come in in a reserved manner. Some female backing vocals that i'm not into but the mood of the song is laid back and relaxed.

"The Company" is folky with some violin and accordion. "A Gentleman's Excuse Me" is ballad-like with vocals and piano leading. Some strings too. "The Voyeur (I Like To Watch)" is catchy with guitar reminding me of Beck and a good beat. "Family Business" is one of two songs that remind me of MARILLION. It's laid back with Fish singing softer. I like it until it gets fuller. Contrasts continue though. "View From A Hill" is the one with Janick Gers playing guitar. It's mellow with gentle guitar and vocals to start. It does kick in though although contrasts continue. I like it. "Cliche" is melancholic and is the only other track to recall MARILLION. It's laid back with some tasteful guitar that cries out before 3 minutes and later to end it.

Barely 3 stars and not the best of starts to Fish's solo career.

Report this review (#304159)
Posted Thursday, October 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#324354)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors" is the first solo album by Fish, released in 1990 following his departure from Marillion in the late 1980's.

The album cover has artwork by Mark Wilkinson who was also responsible for the Fish-era Marillion covers. Unfortunately, a lot of the complex detail is lost at the CD scale.

There is no lyric sheet provided but the album information show that Fish and keyboardist Mickey Simmonds co-wrote most of the songs. In general, the songs do have an early Marillion feel but clearly moving in a different direction. I do feel that some of the songs could have been developed a bit more but the quality of the writing does suggest that Fish was contributing more to Marillion than lyrics .

A few of the tracks do not belong to Marillion, for example the crooner-song "A Gentleman's Excuse Me" which is a highlight but more MOR than prog,

This album can be compared to Gabriel's first after leaving Genesis. There are some strong tracks that could belong to the old band band but there are also some tracks which show a different direction. Fish also has a departing song "The Company" for his former Marillion band mates, but unlike Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill", he appears a bit more negative towards them.

Highlights are Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors (8:46), The Company (4:07) and A Gentleman's Excuse Me (4:20)

This is a must have for Fish-era Marillion fans, for others it is a worthwhile purchase but not essential.

3 stars.

Report this review (#362081)
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars I was very disappointed when Fish left Marillion. Clutching At Straws was actually one of my favourite albums and I was sure that his leaving would have caused the end for both. I was wrong, and even if Fish didn't have a very brilliant solo career, things went a bit better for his former band.

On his debut album Fish is joined by his old mate Frank Usher who writes almost all the music and what he did is unexpectedly good.

The opener and title track starts in a very Marillion style, with just a subtle keyboard which gives Derek's voice the possibility to show his skill as interpreter. The song has different sections, in a Genesis (or Marillion) style and even if not at the level of the best Marillion's songs, isn't bad.

"The Wedge" was the album's single and the one with a video-clip on the air. It's rocky and has a brass section that I don't think fits well with Fish. It's effectively one of the two songs that I don't like very much.

Then, after "State of Mind" that's an average good slow song, it starts a great sequence:

"The Company", with the celtic interlude of violins closed by a great guitar solo is the first of the serie. I've just a bit disappointed when during a live Frank actioned a commercial tape recorder to play that part... The second act is "A Gentleman's Excuse Me". A piano based love song with an impressive melodic line. Good to improve the birth rate... I still don't know anything of "The Voyeur". I heard that song only once at the live I was mentioning before. It wasn't on the vinyl edition so it doesn't exist for me. I was surprised to hear the people around me singing it with Fish, while I was thinking to know every sngle note of that album. The sequence is closed by one of the most intense and moving songs that I know. "Family Business" is for me a masterpiece and together with Company and Gentleman makes a fantastic trio of songs.

After this "View From A Hill" sounds just like a filler. and "Cliche'" is quite poor. I'm used to skip that song and I find that also the lirycs are a bit trivial.

If all the album was at the level of these three songs I wouldn't have hesitated in rating it with the maximum. My rating is lowered by Big Wedge and Cliche, but it's a 4 stars in any case. The three songs in the middle can't be missed.

Report this review (#434116)
Posted Friday, April 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Famously, Fish left Marillion after they'd already made some headway on putting together ideas for the new album - so whilst the band's musical ideas ended up taking shape on Seasons' End, Fish took the lyrical concepts he'd been working on, got new musical backing, and presented them on Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors.

Unfortunately, those who might hope for a more purely neo-prog direction from Fish's solo career compared to the direction Marillion were taking with Steve Hogarth were in for a disappointment with this one. Whilst the title track is a good album opener, it's also quite clearly less complex and more mainstream-inclined than any of the Fish-era Marillion albums, and it's clear that for the rest of the album Fish was intent on taking an accessible and commercialised art-pop course for this phase of his career.

The album isn't flat-out horrible if you like that sort of thing, but it's not a brilliant example of that style either. The songs are too repetitive, with Fish drawing out his ideas far longer than they can sustain, and some of the AORish touches added to them are pretty dire - the worst song in the collection is probably lead single Big Wedge, which has a horrendously cheesy brass section needlessly applied to it. Of course, Fish might have been deliberately trying to apply a big brash Hollywood-style sheen to the number because it's a protest song against the cultural influence of American capitalism, in which case he succeeds admirably at creating a nasty plastic commercial product, but not at creating something I actually want to listen to.

I guess the high regard this debut is held in by Fish fans is a consequence of two things. First, there's the natural relief that the great man's first solo album wasn't a complete disaster (and again, I stress that it really wasn't, it's just not up to the standards we've been led to expect of him over the years). Secondly, there's the poor reception of the following albums - which didn't follow a radically different direction from this one, but did so much less convincingly - which naturally prompted people to look back on this one favourable compared with them.

Overall, I think this album was as good as it needed to be at the time, but no better. Fish didn't absolutely need to bring out a masterpiece at this point in time - though it would have been nice - all he needed to do was demonstrate to the public that he had the potential to make it as a solo artist. Vigil shows flashes of this potential without ever actually realising it. To be honest, I've always thought Fish's solo career didn't really get interesting until Sunsets on Empire, so I wasn't surprised recently to read an old Classic Rock interview in which the man himself said his solo career didn't really get onto an even keel until that point. Whilst I think both Marillion and Fish both ended up having excellent post-split careers in the long term, I find it hard to deny that at least at the beginning Marillion were clearly in the lead; certainly, I find myself turning to Seasons' End much more than I do to Vigil.

Report this review (#593698)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Fish breaks out of Marillion and want to get his own identity by not releasing Clutching At Straws # 2. Which is pretty understandable.

If not wanting to release Clutching At Straws # 2, where to turn next ? To the radio friendly pop/rock market. Fish voice and in particular; name, should guarantee a hit record. The music is a blend of epic uptempo tracks and epic ballads. Bagpipes gives this album authenticity and flavour....... the marketing men said.

In 1990, that may be the case. 2011, the music here sounds dated and dull. The lack of any good songs is also a problem here. No hit songs and not much else either. This is a decent album, but not more than that. The best thing is Fish vocals. The rest is best forgotten.

2 stars

Report this review (#600513)
Posted Saturday, December 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I do prefer this album to all albums that Fish has made with Marillion, and, at least for a short time, both of them had "won" from his departure. The songs are very strong, be it "Big Wedge" ( a minor hit here in Germany ), "Family Business", the gorgeous "Gentleman's excuse me" or the heart-moving "Cliché" ( how true these words ! ), to name but my favourites. His backing band ( including Hal Lindes who had been a short-time member of the Dire Straits during their "Love over Gold"-period ) is excellent, his voice in good shape. It was a very strong beginning to a solo-career that unfortunately did not work out too well and saw the big man battling against record-companies and bankruptcy, battling for his voice, battling private wars... logically, his creative output was to suffer from all those battles later on, but here, for once, he really proved that he was able to go it alone and succeed in "climbing the hill", setting a landmark he ( imo ) could not live up to anymore afterwards. Four stars "only" here cause, to make it sure, it's far more a singer/songwriter's effort than a "prog"-album, but this record is still a "must-have" for lovers of Marillion, very strong, very confident, highly recommended.
Report this review (#610439)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the first albums I owned in my life.

I was 12 or 13 at the time. I was totally not into the music, that my children my age were into: house, rap, grunge. Instead I jumped the progbandwagon. Starting out with Simple Minds, Saga, Marillion, Queen, Phil Collins; you know, the simple stuff.

There was no internet and I never listened to the radio. So all I knew was from the OOR's music encyclopedia. There was a chapter called symphonic rock, and that's where I drew my inspiration.

Vigil I owned on musiccasette and I played it a lot, A LOT. While doing my paperroute or any othet job I had at the time. Fish and this album really helped me to enjoy life and not being lonely all the time.

In that light; this album means more to me, than to others. I don't know if this album is a progrock-masterpiece. But it's a masterpiece for me. The musicianship is sublime, the songwriting is great and there are lots of dynamics, epic songs, great soloiing, lush arrangments, powerful lyrics.

Maybe this not progrock like Yes or King Crimson, but more proggy pop like Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears and Talk Talk. I cannot honestly rate this one lower than 5*

Report this review (#907033)
Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars After releasing four neo-progressive rock classics with Marillion in the eighties', Fish parted ways with the band in 1988 due to internal struggles and creative differences. Marillion went on to release the excellent Seasons End with new vocalist Steve Hogarth in 1989, and Fish released his debut, Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors, the following year; though the album was finished being recorded in mid-1989, it was delayed until early 1990 in order to avoid conflict with Marillion's new record. Whilst neither Seasons End nor Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors quite managed to match the magnificence of Marillion's early masterpieces, both were tremendous releases that proved that fans of the band had no reason to lose sleep because of Fish's departure.

Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors features nine songs, all of which are composed by Fish with assistance from Mickey Simmonds (who would later collaborate with Camel and Renaissance), Janick Gers (of Iron Maiden fame), or Hal Lindes (best known for his work with Dire Straits) depending on the track. An impressive cast of songwriters for sure, and it definitely shows in the music; although this may be a solo album from a singer, the instruments don't feel like they've taken a backseat to the vocals at all. The music is melodic neo-progressive rock in the vein of early Marillion, but there are a few notable differences. For one, Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors comes across as a bit more pop-oriented, especially in a track like "Big Wedge" with its Phil Collins-esque horn arrangements. It's not something I particularly care for, but it's still a decent track. There are also touches of Scottish folk music in "The Company" - something that would be even more prominent on Fish's next record - and a heavily orchestrated ballad in the form of "A Gentleman's Excuse". A truly beautiful song with Fish's trademarked lyrical prowess, this one is a fine example of a sappy ballad done right.

There are also a few more standard sounding neo prog songs like "Vigil" and "Family Business", the latter of which deals with the horrors of domestic violence using some of Fish's most powerful lyrics ever penned. I also love John Giblin's bass guitar contributions to this track - his melodic and soloistic style of playing really adds another dimension to the music. "Cliche" is another big highlight, with its beautiful melodies and excellent lead guitar work making it one of the album's most memorable tracks.

Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors might not have too much appeal to Marillion naysayers or newbies to neo-progressive rock, but any fan of the genre is likely to find a lot to enjoy here. With great songwriting, professional musicianship, and tremendous lyrics all delivered through a crystal-clear production, it's tough to not recommend this to any early Marillion fan. Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors is a great start to Fish's career as a solo artist and an essential purchase for fans of the man's voice.

Report this review (#922906)
Posted Sunday, March 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here on the hill halfway up halfway down

Derek Dick cycle in Marillion was finished, something natural and logical. The work between Fish and his former teammates was impossible, the relationship was unsustainable, personally and musically. It was never the same after that fight between Fish and Rothery in preparing Clutching, in which the rest reasonably sided with the magnificent guitarist.

Finally, with great effort the singer met a good group of musicians who helped him put musical notes to his excellent words, and then execute them. In particular, Simmonds, Lindes (Dire Straits Alchemy) and Brzezicki / Giblin on drums and bass guitar, respectively, providing a strong and accurate basis . Added to that, some specific celtic touches, produced a play with identity and style.

The lyrics are largely autobiographical, masterfully expressed. The Company, Cliché, View from a Hill (with references to his previous band) and Internal Exile, are exemplary. Family Business relates to domestic violence against women, something very common and often hidden. And the title track is great.

Simmonds works great on keyboards in the whole work, and Lindes guitars with his technical style participates rightly, as in Cliché, The Company, State of Mind, among others. Internal Exile's version is better than the self-titled album. The Voyeur and Big Wedge are no big deal, right. And the record is not perfect, but it contains undeniable classics of this transcendent singer and lyricist....

Report this review (#993726)
Posted Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
4 stars After Fish left Marillion, he started a solo career. What I find funny about that is the fact that many people who've never heard of Marillion (or even Prog) have heard of Fish. I'm not sure why that is. A co-worker of mine even recommended Fish to me after I showed him Big Big Train, though the connection there is a little hazy.

Anyways, this first solo album from Fish is downright enjoyable to hear. The music is neo- prog-ish, but I think plenty of symphonic elements make their way into the music. The choruses are usually very upbeat and catchy, and you almost get a big band feeling once in a while. There is some great saxophone which I really appreciated, some soothing synth, and (most of all) the amazingly smooth vocals from Fish. Indeed, there is definitely a jazz influence on the entire album. I say this album is enjoyable because that seems to be the best description: It pleasing to the ears, somewhat thought-provoking, and also very relaxing to hear. In other words, there are no hard rock moments here. This is an album you pop in the cd player, and then just sit back and enjoy. No headbanging necessary.

The theme is pretty standard, I must admit. We get to hear about the evils of TV, spousal abuse, war, etc. It seems to be covering all these different cages in which we as humans put ourselves. It is a little scary, especially "The Family Business". Spousal abuse is no joke. No real man would ever hit a woman. While the theme is pretty serious, I do find the lyrics somewhat cheesy. I mean, it would definitely be really difficult to write a non-cheesy song about TV. I understand that. But sometimes Fish just goes for it all regardless of the Velveeta.

"Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors" is a great album that I enjoy very much. The music is sublime as are the vox and thematic content. There just happens to be a sprinkling of cheese on top that keeps this strong 4-star album from obtaining a 5-star rating from me.

Report this review (#1016182)
Posted Sunday, August 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors begins promisingly, seemingly starting where Fish-era Marillion left off with the haunting and dramatic title track that effectively combines personal and political lyrical themes set against some lovely melodic motifs. The other highlight is The Company, an upbeat, anthemic rocker with a sharp edge of melancholy. For me, these two songs are the album highlights, while the reminder seems to occupy fairly standard late-80s AOR territory.

While much of the music seems to lack the sophistication that Fish found with Marillion, similarly the lyrics often seem to lack the nuance and complexity of previous Fish recordings; to say that wealth is corrupting doesn't seem particularly original or insightful.

Overall, I think Vigil is a good addition to any prog collection, but fear it falls short of the heights of Fish's best work.

Report this review (#1090921)
Posted Monday, December 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I remember entering in a cd shop, and being shocked by the music which was sounding. I didn't know about Fish was left Marillion, and I asked to the guy behind the counter what is this?, and he said "Fish", and I said to me Wow! Was Vigil, and this song is just.... incredible great. And this album is just perfect, the best work of Fish, and one of the best solo works of the prog rock heroes. After that, as an album, Fish neverelse could reach this level. The opening track is the absolute highlight of the album, an epic of high quality, evertytime I listen it, I feel this tickle typical of the emotional moments. The album includes the mini hit Big Wedge, yes a pop track, with winds a la Collins, but just stunning. The chorus is catchy and great. When I saw Fish here in my country, he opened with this track, and was a big moment. The highlights IMO included the closing Cliche, an intimate song which mutates from soft parts to others very powerfull, and with great instrumental sections, or the track State of mind and the ballad A gentleman´s excuse me, an acoustic piano based track. The rest is very good too, like View from the hill or The company with this sctoland folk instrumental passage. The voyeur is more in a hard rock piece, and Family business is maybe the one not so good, Not Marillion, but yes the Marillion's Fish, with his own seal, a superb debut. Easily for 5 stars.
Report this review (#1092269)
Posted Thursday, December 19, 2013 | Review Permalink

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