Most fans of the current Marillion line up have probably never heard the albums Steve Hogarth made before he replaced Fish in 1989. The bands The Europeans and How We Live had too little success to be remembered in the history of popular music and to be honest I'd never heard the only release by How We Live as well. But I guess I was lucky when Esoteric Recordings released a newly re-mastered and expanded edition of the 1987 album Dry Land. This new expanded edition has been newly re-mastered from the original Portrait masters and includes the bonus tracks English Summer and the 12-inch remix of All the Time In The World, both originally issued as 12-inch singles in 1987.
But before we go deeper into Dry Land a bit of a history lesson might be useful. You have to know that keyboard player and singer Steve Hogarth was together with other How We Live member and guitarist Colin Woore in The Europeans as well, a band which released two studio albums and one live album. In 1985 they left the band to form How We Live. The duo were signed to Columbia Records. In 1987, following record company changes, How We Live's debut album Dry Land was unsuccessful. Hogarth considered leaving the music industry and becoming a milkman or postman. However, a meeting with his publishers arranged by friend, Darryl Way, former member of Curved Air, persuaded him to send a tape to Marillion, who were recruiting for a new lead vocalist following the departure of Fish in late 1988.
Marillion heard the tape and were interested enough to ask for a meeting with the singer. Later accounts of this first meeting record that Hogarth turned up at band member Pete Trewavas' house with his demo tapes contained in a red plastic fire bucket - the audition taking place in Trewavas' garage, due to the presence in the house of cats to which Hogarth is allergic to. The band were immediately impressed by his vocal prowess. Hogarth himself, however, took a little longer to make up his mind, holding as he did at the time a potentially lucrative offer to tour the U.S. on keyboards with The The. Because he had a choice "between the most hip band in the world, and the least...". In the end he accepted the position with Marillion, won over as the band wanted an equal partner and were offering a potentially permanent arrangement.
The question of course arises if Hogarth did give a copy of Dry Land to the band or had he recorded special demos for them to listen to. Well if they heard the album they must have noticed that the first two tracks Working Girl and All The Time In The World sound like Michael McDonald back in the eighties. The song that followed is a well known piece, a piece which of course at the time was unfamiliar to most people. It is the title track which we of course all know Marillion covered for their Holidays In Eden (1991) album. If you compare both versions you can tell that not much has changed in the composition music wise. Still the guitar solo is present. After this piece of music you can enjoy lots of songs which could have been taken from any Marillion album released by them the last decade. Just listen to songs such as Games In Germany, India, Working Town and Lost At Sea and it is as if you are listening to the music which Marillion releases nowadays. Of course bands that inspired them at the time can be heard as well. The typical symphonic pop music of the second half of the eighties comes to the surface throughout the entire album and reminded me of acts such as Tears For Fears, The Blue Nile, TalkTalk, Nik Kershaw, Simple Minds and The The.
Most people do not know that Peter Gabriel can be heard on Dry Land. If you listen carefully you can hear his characteristic (background) vocals on The Rainbow Room. It seems he even lent his digital multi-track recorder for some of the recordings. The album above all shows us what a great singer Hogarth is and blessed with a wide vocal range and a formidable timbre. And therefore the power of Dry Land in particular is the voice of Hogarth; who comes to this album for the first time to full maturity although we should not forget the beautiful guitar parts and song contributions from Colin Woore. Furthermore I'll have to mention the often leading parts of Andrew Milnes on saxophone and sparkling production of David Lord.
The question of course also occurs what if Darryl Way didn't tell Hogarth about the vacancy job in the vocal department in Marillion. Maybe Marillion would have sounded today more like in their early days. And whatever became of Colin Woore, his partner in crime? Well he had been working with Joan Armatrading and he did a world tour. After that, he went to New York and started writing with Curt Smith of Tears For Fears and Robert Bell of the Blue Nile. Followed by more session work later on.
People who bought the albums which Marillion released the last decade can buy the only album ever released by How We Live as well. That's a simple fact! But don't expect real progressive rock as you could hear on the albums the band made in their early days or on the first two with Hogarth. I'll guess you will have to decide for yourself if this album is good enough for you to have in your album collection. As for those who buy everything on which Hogarth can be heard I can only be positive. It is well spent money because I had positive feelings after listening to this release.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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