Sunsets on Empire
Released: May 19, 1997
Peak: -- US, 42 UK
Sales (in millions): --
Genre: neo-progressive rock
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Total Running Time: 61:04
3.085 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
“The album is quite a change from the Suits” ES album Fish released three years prior to this. “After toying with wild plans like a complete album of dance songs (thank God that never happened) [Fish] decided to go for a combination of rock music with dance influences and the ‘grooves’ he had experimented with on earlier albums. Fish was an admirer of Steve Wilson’s bands Porcupine Tree and No Man. Steve in his turn had been a Marillion fan in the eighties so it didn’t take much to get these two together. Sunsets on Empire was arranged, produced and co-written (6 out of 11 songs) by Steve. You can definitely tell on certain tracks.” ES
“Steve Wilson brought in lots of new (daring) arrangements and the album features new instruments like violin, percussion and Hammong Organ.” ES “Steve also played a lot of the music on the album: lead guitar on two songs, rhythm guitar on four, slide guitar on one and keyboard on all songs except ‘Worm in a Bottle.’ He also took care of the samples and loops for some songs.” ES
“Tim Bowness, Wilson’s partner in No-Man, has additional writing credits on one track. Two permanent members of Fish’s line-up, keyboardist Foster Paterson and guitarist Robin Boult co-wrote one and two tracks, respectively.” WK “The rest of the band consisted of…Ewan Vernal on bass, [and] Dave ‘Sqeaky’ Stewart (drums)…Frank Usher is also present on most songs, but far less prominent than in the past; he only plays lead guitar on 4 songs” ES so “his typical howling guitar which has dominated Fish’s work since the beginning of his solo carreer is never obviously present on this album.” ES
“Besides these familiar names, there are another bunch of other musicians playing percussion, cello, violins, french horn, harmonica and doing backing vocals on the album, turning it into a very versatile recording.” ES
Best of all, “Fish is angry at the world around him again! And that’s the mood which has always created the best material.” ES
The Perception of Johnny Pointer is “one of the best songs Fish has made since the Vigil album” ES that kicked off his solo career. It “starts with a guitar riff which forms the basis for the whole track. After a lyrically daring opening the rest of the band kicks in to perform one of those venemous tracks Fish is (in)famous for. In the middle there’s an intermezzo where the music quiets down and Fish tells a story about his experiences in Bosnia. The track also features good female backing vocals and a roaring guitar solo by Steve Wilson. A great change from the normal howling Usher solo’s! At the end the electrical violence dies down and the song ends with cello and violin.” ES
“Goldfish and Clowns is another wonderful track which starts very quietly with a single repeated piano note and guitars. When the rhythm section joins, another powerful song with emotional vocals follows.” ES
“Change of Heart is a simple (semi-)acoustic track. Not one of the highlights but a very nice tune nevertheless.” ES
“What Colour is God? is a track in which Fish builds further on the ‘groove’ he experimented with on Suits. It features percussion with an Eastern feel, samples of religious speakers, drum loops and a pumping bass line. There’s even a bit where Fish goes into a rap! It’s still got a lot of anger and power though.” ES
Tara is “a sentimental song about Fish’s daughter. Nothing wrong with that if they would have turned it into a ballad like ‘Gentleman’s Excuse Me.’ Instead they made this song so sweet and soft with a jazzy feel (Foss co-wrote it), female backing vocals and violins that it is completely out of place on the album. It also has Fish trying to go for vocal altitudes he no longer is able to reach.” ES
“Jungle Ride is a track which lots of acoustic guitars, percussion and mainly spoken lyrics. It’s a fantastic song” ES except for “the duet with the female backing vocalist in the refrain.” ES The live version from Tales from the Bus “has more anger in the vocals, the album version sounds more mysterious. The track also features violin and harmonica.” ES
“Worm in a Bottle is another ‘groove’ song with a simple but effective bass and drum line and a slightly minimalistic feel. The guitar effects and Hammond Organ add to the atmosphere of the song which gives you the feeling of being in a seedy bar. Great stuff!” ES
“Brother 52 is a song in which Fish finally succeeds in combining dance rhythms with rock music. It features a fine bass line, Hammond, ripping guitar and energetic violin solos and the voice of a friend over the telephone, telling the tragical story of ‘Brother 52’. It might sound a bit strange for a Fish song, but isn’t that far from tunes like ‘Big Wedge.’” ES
“The title track of the album, Sunsets on Empire, is track which would not have been out of place on a Roger Waters (ballad with piano) or older Pink Floyd album. The track slowly builds to a climax with a female vocalist trying to create a new ‘Great Gig in the Sky.’ There’s no real guitar solo but lots of rhythm and slide guitar. The song ends rather strangely with a menacing piano melody.” ES
“Say it with Flowers is a simple track with just vocals, (acoustic) guitar and keyboards. Lots of people don't like this song…Certainly it’s not a highlight, but it’s not as bad as some people think either…After all, the strength of this song is in the lyrics, not in the music.” ES
“Unfortunately, the album and tour were flops and lost Fish hundreds of pounds, which meant he had to fold his Dick Brothers label. Roadrunner and Chocolate Frog/Snapper would reissue the album in future.” WK “In contrast with the other remasters, this one does not feature liner notes, which is a shame because there’s probably a lot of interesting stories to tell…The album does of course contain all the pictures and lyrics of the original version.” ES
Notes: “Do Not Walk Outside This Area,” a B-side for “Brother 52,” was added to a reissue.
Resources and Related Links:
Last updated 6/13/2021.