1. Norma Jeane
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

Steve Bettney (vocals)
Paul Bradder (keyboards)
Richard Bendelow (bass, vocals)
Paul Gibson (drums)
Rob Bendelow (guitar)
Snake Davis (Saxophone)

Heroes, Saints & Fools (1981)
Change of Heart (1984)
Metal City (Split 1987)
Red Sky (2003)
Red Sky - Heroes, Saints and Fools (Box 2006)
Vox In Excelso (2006)

Issa (vocals on 3)
Robin Beck (vocals on 4,5, 8, 9 & 11)
Steve Overland (vocals on 5)


Released 23/9-2011
Reviewed 12/11-2011

escape music

The existence of Marilyn Monroe couldn’t have slipped the attention of many people. This super icon lived between 1926 and 1962 featured in 33 movies, several music numbers, theatre plays and musical theatre as well as fashion appearances and so on.. The gigantic footprint she has left behind within popular culture is so big that probably no one will ever match it and here, 39 years after her death, comes Saracen with their portrait of this movie star, sex symbol and God knows everything she’s put her nose in with an album called ‘Marilyn’.

I guess (or not) that inspired by the review of her solo album by Daniel, Saracen has let Norwegian Issa do the vocals on one of the tracks and the album is also guested by Robin Beck (whom in many places is seen as one of the best female vocalists on earth) as well as the rougher Steve Overland that I reviewed myself this summer on his Shadowman album. Beck is lending her voice to five tracks while Overland does as Issa and only feature on one songs. The other songs are either instrumental or sung by Steve Bettney and Richard Bendelow. In total, this band has made 11 songs portraying Marilyn Monroe from her birth to her death in just under 53 minutes. From the birth as Norma Jean Baker until her sudden death at 36.

The first tune that hits us seems to be taken straight out of a Marilyn Monroe movie, striking us with bombastic movie thematic tones mainly played with guitars, keyboards and of course the saxomophone after a ten seconds long intro with children playing. This is a beaty, rocky intro tune which, however, feel somewhat unfinished without any vocals but I still think it raises big expectations for the future. As we move on to the second song we’re presented to the dreams of Mariyn and her hopes for the future to get out in to the world and become something. A nice rock song with female choirs filling up behind Steve Bettneys grand voice. And then we’re reintroduced to the saxophone, which in the third song fills up behind the beautiful voice of Issa as she whisper ”Norma Jean, hold on to your dreams – you will be a star someday”. This is a ballad, just like the duet Who Am I, two songs later where Robin Beck sings and she introduce herself in the fourth song as the character voice of Marilyn Monroe. Make This Body Work is portraying the thoughts of Monroe as she realise she can use her body to reach the success. Beside Beck, Steve Overland is doing the vocals in the duet Who Am I, but this is in my opinion probably the least interesting song of the album. The vocals are too high mixed and half way through it completely change character going up in both tempo and heaviness to something I think is close to being a gospel. A pretty stupid change as it goes back to being that calm duet it started as in the last minute of the song and I just feel the middle part is completely unmotivated and wrecks the whole song!

The sixth song, called Love Like A Razorblade, is also that a calmer song, coming to us with a mood reminding me of Twin Peaks and is dominated by the Hammond as well as solo guitars with only a few lyric lines that goes something like ”your smile is like the mid-day sun” as well as ”your eyes are like the freeway signs”. It’s dark and mysterious like a dark night in the forests on the countryside. As we move on to Break The Spell we get something of a more classic rock song, a bit AOR actually and it reminds me of the Styx songs that Tommy Shaw sung on in the 70’s and 80’s. Somewhat raw and somewhat impudent. As we move on through another ballad in Not For Sure and yet another in Feel Like Going Home Robin Beck returns and lends her voice to both of these songs. The first is somewhat heavier and almost rocky like a power ballad while the later is more bluesy and really show-off Becks fantastic voice as it’s being used to full capacity. I guess it’s a song you play for people you love (probably).

The finish comes in the main character-named title track prequeled by Unfinished Life, which is a song that’s built around some sound clips from news reports and such related to the assassin of John F. Kennedy, the president that was shot to death in 1963 (about a year after Marilyn had died). Now, it’s more or less a fact that Kennedy and Monroe had an affair but I fail to see how his death has anything to do with Marilyn considering she was already dead when it happened. So on this point the thematic of the album is a bit unclear to me. However, the track as a song is a pretty trashy rock song built around these news reports. The last song of the album continues where the first song left us. Or actually, it’s pretty much the same song as the first but this time without the saxophone which has been replaced by the gorgeous voice of Robin Beck. I think it sounds SO much better with vocals!

As a whole, I think Marilyn is an interesting work of music. Somewhat diaphanous in where it’s going and sprawling a bit all over the place but overall quite exciting and interesting to play. It’s almost as ambitious and informative as a Hallowed music review – there are good people behind the album both production-wise and music-wise and there’s just not much to complain at. But at the same time there’s neither too much that’s 100% exciting to hear on the album. Simply put, an interesting hour about an interesting person, but seeing it purely as a music piece the album goes good but not great. AOR for the cultivated in popular culture.


Label: Escape Music/Connecting Music
Three similar bands: Styx/Coronatus/Shadowman
Rating: HHHHHHH (5/7)
Reviewer: Caj Källmalm

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