When Marillion released its third studio album, “Misplaced Childhood,” they gained worldwide notoriety pushing progressive rock back into the main strem. Decades later, it still remains the British quintet’s most commercially successful release, containing the two top five hits, “Kayleigh” and “Lavender.” In July of 2017 Parlaphone released a multi-CD & Blu-Ray set that includes the original album containing an all-new 5.1 surround remix by acclaimed producer Steven Wilson, along with high resolution 24bit / 96k original stereo mixes. Also included is a previously unreleased concert from Holland that contain the band performing Misplaced Childhood in its entirety, along with demos and rarities all remastered exclusively for this set, plus the B-side to “Kayleigh.” Rounding out the disc are Wilson’s surround sound and stereo remixes of “Lady Nina” plus a couple of videos.
Presented in a case-bound book with a 60-page booklet containing liner notes written by rock writer Dave Everley, CD 1 features the complete remastered album, and CD 2 and 3 include a live concert recorded Live at the Muziekcentrum Vredenburg in the city of Utrecht in October 1985. CD 4 contains bonus material, including alternate takes. The fifth disc is the Blu-ray which includes the new surround remix and original stereo transfer, and also contains promo videos and a making of documentary, but I am certain you are getting it for the high-resolution transfers and 5.1 Surround Sound mixes of the album!
Original singer Fish (Derek Dick), guitarist Steve Rothery, along with keyboardist Mark Kelly, plus bassist Pete Trewavas and percussionist Ian Mosley went to Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin to record Misplaced Childhood, Germany at the start of spring in 1985. Written as two continuous pieces of music, the concept album cycles through songs that explored themes of lost love, lost childhood, and more. Hitting the streets just a few weeks later in June 1985, the album was an immediate success, topping the U.K. album chart and earning platinum status. The super great news is all eight early albums are scheduled to receive this kind of deluxe set treatment, so start saving now.
For analog collectors, a 180-gram 4-LP vinyl box set of Misplaced Childhood is available featuring the newly remastered version of the original album and the entire concert from Holland.
It is important to note that the first 1000 copies sold through the bands official store, (Racket) are signed by Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas, Ian Mosley and Mark Kelly.
Now on to the surround mix which I find to be one of Steven Wilson’s best 5.1 remixes to date. Not only does Wilson hold extremely true to the original mix, but he has done so in a way that has significantly improved the sound quality. I found no appreciable differences between the DTS HD Master Audio and LCPM 5.1 versions, but these mixes do enhance the low end from earlier stereo versions that I have heard. However, I am still not keen on the drums which lack a dynamic punch and I must assume that these were compressed during the recording process onto the original multi-tracks. While the snare shines, cymbals don’t appear to have an edge, plus for me the kick drum is way too snappy.
Barring my issue with the drums, I find the guitars and keyboard parts to be very clear, full and filled with dynamic sparkle. Vocals are spectacular, and bass nicely holds down the bottom. As Misplaced Childhood opens, Wilson makes wonderful use of the surround speakers, placing guitar in the back right, and allowing the keyboard melody to extend from the front left to back channel. Vocals are placed as expected, up front in the center channel, and bass comfortably falls underneath between the front channels.
This kind of masterful use of the 5.1 space is representative throughout the album, with stronger weight typically given to elements in the front channels. “Kayleigh” pulls primary guitars to the front, and a most interesting placement of the rim hits can be heard from the left channel. Guitar riffs soar across the soundstage, and as we move into “Bitter Suite” synths swell up all around, with drums rolling around from the front right to the rear left channels. Parts have been placed into plenty of wetness that shimmers across the room, creating a pleasurable immersion into the aural scape.
Both “Waterhole” and the following track “Lords of the Backstage” give heavier weight to the rear channels with keyboard and guitar parts adding depth to the mix. Vocal and snare hits reverberate off the back wall giving size to the space as songs flow seamlessly from one to the next.
I have always been a fan of movement within a mix, and “Blind Curve” offers a smidgen of this mixing style when lead vocalist Fish speaks the words “My Childhood,” first from the left channel, then moving to the right, and deep into the center and falling off in the back rear. There is plenty more ear candy throughout this track from Rothery’s lovely guitar section that floats across the room to effects that tingle around the sweet spot.
As this classic release nears its end, I am delighted that it has been added to the canon of 5.1 mixes, “Childhoods End” still remains one of my personal favorite tracks, and it has really been opened up in the surround scape. I have read plenty of comments from fans about hearing elements that were masked on stereo mixes, and like other discrete surround mixes, Misplaced Childhood provides a fantastic level of clarity allowing listeners to hear each part distinctly.
With all this greatness, there is one critical flaw to this deluxe box set which has upset numerous fans. None of the five discs contain a stereo remix by Steven Wilson. Instead we get a 24bit / 96k LPCM remastered version of the original mix, which is an improvement, but the lack of a stereo remix from Wilson is somewhat surprising. Of course the value in this package is the surround mix for most collectors like myself, but I would be remiss in not mentioning the 3 CD’s which contain a well recorded concert from Holland and bonus material including several interesting alternate mixes. The packaging is very nice, and discs are easy to handle. The menu on the Blu-ray is straight forward, and I like the collage of images that change slowly as the disc plays.
I am excited to know that more anniversary box sets are planned, but at a cost of $40 - $50 each, fans may have to pick and choose over time. I consider Misplaced Childhood to be a must have release, and this set is imperative for surround sound enthusiasts. If for some reason you are not familiar with Marillion’s early work and you are a lover of progressive rock, then you will certainly want to get this. Just don’t misplace it, childhood is very precious.