Prog fans – perhaps understandably – are not generally known for their benevolence when a favourite band undergoes a personnel change.
Steve Howe has talked publicly about the poor reception Trevor Horn received when the latter made his debut as Yes’s new vocalist during their North American tour of 1980.
Phil Collins still believes some Genesis fans were convinced he was scheming to take Peter Gabriel’s place as the band’s singer.
But Marillion fans seem a far more amiable bunch. When Steve Hogarth was installed as their new frontman in 1989, he seems to have been welcomed pretty much with open arms (if this superb televised gig from only his second UK tour is anything to go by).
Seasons End, (no apostrophe?), released 30 years ago this week, was a weirdly assured debut from Hogarth and easily this writer’s favourite Marillion album (1989 was a bit of a Year Zero for me in terms of the band, the Fish era barely appearing on my radar).
Hogarth’s melodies are fresh and exciting and his vocals always strong. It helped of course that he was a triple threat, a proven singer/songwriter with mid-’80s bands The Europeans and How We Live (though he was apparently eyeing a job as a milkman when the latter wound down in early 1988) and possessing some decent keyboard chops.
His natural magnetism as a frontman didn’t hurt too, and he even brought a few gimmicks to the party, like the magic gloves and musical cricket bat (a tribute to Ian Faith? Ed.).
So how does Seasons End stack up these days? Pretty well. The singles ‘Easter’ (UK #34), ‘The Uninvited Guest’ (UK #53) and ‘Hooks In You’ (UK #30) were distinctive, well-arranged and featured soaring guitar playing from Steve Rothery.
Ian Mosley is that rare rock drummer, solid but expressive, and capable of great subtlety. Keyboardist Mark Kelly had become a superb texturalist too, as demonstrated on the Steve Reich-esque second half of the title track, plus ‘Holloway Girl’ and ‘The Space’.
Marillion, Genesis and It Bites were flying the UK prog/pop flag at this point, and their late-’80s careers make for interesting comparison. As for Seasons End, it did very nicely, touching down at #7 in the UK album chart and ensuring a long, fruitful career for the band’s new line-up.
Good guys, good record.