This suite strikes me for many reasons. Released in 1997 as the title track of the first Marillion's album for an indy label, "This Strange Engine" is an emotional journey in Steve Hogarth's past, focusing on his father. This man abandoned a militar career to work in a coal mine and live with his family. Like flashes, we see pictures of the singer's childhood, somewhat softened by the years and the strange engine we call heart. But there wouldn't be magic without music and what a music we have here!
I like this cover art very much. And the music inside as well.
Four different themes follow one another in a fluid and warm composition, both classically prog and modern. Hogarth's voice depicts all the nuances of human affection, while some beautiful guitar / keyboards plots enrich the whole lot. The final crescendo tops it all and this track stands up like one of the most beautiful prog suites of the '90s... IMHO, of course. Finally, please listen to one of the many live recordings of this song: it's even more moving.
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