Artist: Saracen 
   Title: Marilyn
   Label: Escape Music
 

Everyone loves the image of Marilyn Monroe, don't they?  An icon even in the short time as THE Hollywood star, people are still mesmerized by her, writing books and songs that keep her alive in our minds.

Saracen have now, come up with their concept album 'Marilyn', based on her life from orphan all the way through to her mystery - riddled demise, and of course her much loved moments in between.

Boating guest appearances by vocalists Steve Overland, ISSA and Robin Beck, each leave their mark on some quite extraordinary songs, and not to be outdone, saxophone genius Snake Davis adds his golden touch too.  Opening on the instrumental 'Norma Jean', the sound of children playing give way to an ostentatious combination of keyboards and sax, making you wonder where the album will go from here.

The gritty riff that blows its way through 'whither The Wind Blows' settles any misgivings you may have, though it's all delivered with its pomp and ceremony via some erm ... rather exuberant harmonies.  You could say the scene has been set for something a little different from what you're used to!

'Hold On' has Norwegian star ISSA taking the reins, showing exactly why she's the name on most lips at the moment. This ballad about Norma Jean and her dreams of stardom must have been written with ISSA in mind, as her emotive vocals do the song justice.

Not to be outdone, Robin Beck throttles the life out of 'Make This Body Work', along with a heavy hook.  She's well at home here, showing why there's a reborn interest in her.

Dueting with Overland on 'Who Am I', she just manages to steal the show on this ballad-come-rocker, which has hints of Mike Reno and Ann Wilson's 'Almost Paradise' seeping in now and then.

'Love Like A Razorblade' could easily be mistaken for a Pink Floyd track if it wasn't for the vocals.  It's laid back solos, drumming and keyboards are a carbon copy of what Gilmour & Co. do so well.  It's just a pity the song ends up a "nowt nor something" affair, saved only by the blues / rock solos that smatter it.

What's this? Iron Maiden??  The duelling guitars that open up 'Break The Spell' throw you for a moment, and as the vocals kick in, yes it does remind you of a young Bruce Dickinson.  The tale of a tormented Marilyn, so sad to hear, can't be disguised no matter how rocked up you do it.

Beck tackles three more songs before the end, the acoustic ballad 'Not For Sure', with its lush orchestration playing a part in forming a candid, heart felt song brought to life by her glorious voice, 'Like Going Home' and 'Marilyn', only confirming that this woman has one of the best female voices in rock today.

'Unfinished Life' begins with a speech made by J.F.K. before launching into a frenzy of guitar and drums.  we all know what happened to both Marilyn and Kennedy in the long run, but the hostile way its told matches the musical attitude throughout.  Enough said!

'Marilyn' isn't one of those albums people will take to straight away, the word "concept" can sometimes be off-putting, but the storyline is worth a listen, even if it's just to hear Robin Beck and that fantastic voice of hers.  Worth the money alone.

Review by: Bob Baldwin

 Tracklisting:

1. Norma Jean
2. Whither The Wind Blows
3. Hold On
4. Make This Body Work
5. Who Am I
6. Love Like A Razorblade
7. Break The Spell
8. Not For Sure
9. Like Going Home
10. Unfinished Life
11. Marilyn
 

                  

 

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