"13th Star" (Chocolate Frog; 2008)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Fish, who received world-wide attention as the vocalist for Marillion back in the ‘80s, has had a long and successful solo career. I personally have only heard the two Marillion records the band is most well known for – “Misplaced Childhood” and “Clutching at Straws” – both being considered classics in the progressive rock oeuvre. And I’ve never heard any of Fish’s solo efforts.

It’s amazing to think that Fish’s output as a solo artist more than doubles his output during his tenure with Marillion. Although I’ve not had a chance to hear Fish’s solo work all these years I was excited at the prospect of hearing more progressive excellence. Additionally, given the numerous references critics have made as regarding Fish’s work as being closest to Genesis’ early work I pretty much I surmised I was in for a treat.

“13th Star” features Fish creating a songwriting tandem with Steve Vantsis. Vantsis counts Porcupine Tree as one of his major influences and you can hear Steve Wilson’s style in the songs without venturing into sheer mimicry. The guitars ring loud and true without resorting to overtly metallic riffs. 

The lyrics of “13th Star” cover the subject of trying to find a “one true love” and mourning over those relationships that didn’t quite make it.  Yet it’s not as dour as it sounds. I think all of us are searching for something whether it be a one true love, meaningful work, and lasting friendships. And that’s what I hear in the words and meaning of these lyrics.

The music and the lyrics combine effectively for a moving story – an almost archetypal story. When an artist can make a common experience into a compelling near-universal statement you’ve got something special.  “Circle Line” and “Openwater” are two of my favorite tracks. “Arc of the Curve” is the designated single and it has classic vocal melodies and a pensive backing track.

Although I am unable to compare “13th Star” to any of Fish’s prior solo works I can say that it is stands proudly on its own merits as a solidly performed gem of progressive rock.

“13th Star” was produced by Calum Malcolm. The album bears a rich sonic palette with all instruments in balance.

Fish is joined by Steve Vantsis on bass, upright bass, drum loops, programming, samples, keyboards, clavinet, and guitar; Frank Usher on guitars; Foss Patterson on piano and keyboards; Gavin Griffiths on drums; Chris Johnson on guitars; Lorna Bannon on backing vocals; and Dave Haswell on drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 13 May 2024 14:45:22 -0400.