Marillion’s 1983 U.K. top-ten debut, Script For A Jester’s Tear, is the fourth album to receive new stereo & 5.1 mixes as part of an ongoing reissue campaign intended to cover all eight albums the band released while signed to EMI Records.
Despite showcasing a somewhat-unfashionable and theatrical progressive rock style reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s Genesis, Script became an unlikely success in the U.K. and spawned two hit singles: “He Knows You Know” and “Garden Party.” Marillion’s original lineup, led by charismatic frontman Fish, would go on to achieve further success with follow-up albums Fugazi (1984), Misplaced Childhood (1985), and Clutching At Straws (1987) before going their separate ways in 1988.
Though both Fish and the second iteration of Marillion, fronted by Steve Hogarth, continued releasing new albums into the 1990s and beyond, they never achieved the same degree of success while apart as they did together in the mid-to-late ‘80s.
Nearly forty years later, Fish and the band have reunited to supervise the remixing of the album in both stereo & 5.1 surround. I found the remixes to be a considerable departure from the original 1983 production, in terms of both instrument balance and tonality. Right from the opening bars of the title track, it’s immediately clear that Fish’s vocals have been given greater prominence.This is particularly apparent in the 5.1 surround mix, where his voice is almost completely isolated in the center speaker.
The drum kit and bass guitar also come off as significantly more powerful as well, particularly in the busier passages of “The Web.” Pete Trewavas’ bass parts, reminiscent of Yes’ Chris Squire and Rush’ Geddy Lee, clearly stand out in a way that simply wasn’t the case in the original 1983 stereo mix.
I was initially quite disappointed to find that the 5.1 surround mix doesn’t provide a ‘center-of-the-band’ perspective, but repeat listens revealed subtle and rather effective use of the rear speakers by Bradfied & Mackintosh. In addition to the cavernous drum reverb, the rear speakers generally feature isolated vocal overdubs, pre-recorded sound effects, and the odd keyboard line or rhythm guitar.
The final track, "Forgotten Sons", gets a bit more adventurous with Fish’s voice moving to the rear speakers at a key moment and the rhythm guitars clearly emanating from behind the listener during the final section.
Fans accustomed to Steven Wilson’s more experimental use of the rear speakers may consider the 5.1 remix a missed opportunity to create a more immersive experience, but there’s far more happening in the rear soundstage than just ‘in-the-room’ ambience. I even experimented with playing back the new stereo mix through my AVR’s various stereo-to-surround processing modes (Dolby Pro-Logic II, DTS Neo:6, etc) and couldn’t achieve the same effect as the genuine 5.1 remix.
While I’m impressed by the newfound clarity and low-end ‘punch’ in the remixes, I’m less enamored with the loss of dynamic range. Certain transitions or crescendos that were explosive on the original 1983 mix, such as the entrance of the drums in “Chelsea Monday,” appear significantly toned-down on the remixes, somewhat robbing the album of the dramatic flair that makes it such an entertaining listen.
My other big gripe with the deluxe edition is that the 1982 Market Square Heroes EP and Rectial Of The Script concert video only received stereo remixes. It would have been amazing to hear the fan-favorite epic “Grendel” in 5.1 surround. It’s also disappointing to see that, unlike the 2019 Clutching At Straws deluxe edition, a high-resolution transfer of the original stereo mix isn’t included.
Though the 5.1 mix of Script doesn’t feature the overt front-to-rear channel separation that I typically prefer in immersive music mixes, it’s revelatory enough to become my go-to version of the album. Add in all the stereo-only extras (96-khz/24-bit Market Square Heroes EP and Rectical Of The Script live audio) at under $50 and you’ve got a worthwhile package. That being said, I’d recommend purchasing the Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws deluxe editions first as the 5.1 remixes are far more impressive.