Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Moonshine (Collage, 1994)

"Moonshine" is the title track of Collage's work released in 1994 and it's also a very good way to discover why this Polish band is so higly rated by many prog fans. This track is extremely dynamic, driven by aerial keyboard effects and a crystal wall of sound. But you'll also find some quiet and atmospheric passages, announcing the subsequent rushes and rythmic progressions. The main melodies are well found, catchy but never trivial, and the instrumental passages aren't mere bridges between two verses, as they disassemble and reassemble each theme, magnifying the symphonic pattern of the song.

Collage played a lead role in the '90s Polish prog renaissance.

That's why I like each second of these 12:30 minutes of progressive rock, and I often come back to this song. The fact is that such a magniloquent clockwork never sounds artificial or redondant and the music flows naturally from the band to the very heart of the listener. Probably it's only me, but I see bright stars in the sky at midday when "Moonshine" is there.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen, 1975)

Queen aren't exactly prog rock knights, are they? Even so, they were strongly influenced by prog and one of their most known and loved songs, "Bohemian Rhapsody", bears all the marks of our genre. Deliciously varied and complicated, plainly classical and still so deeply rock, this is a song to fall in love with. And so many fell that it sold millions as a single and definitely improved the commercial success of the album "A Night at The Opera". Being a rhapsody, the track includes several disparate sections, suach as a piano and voice intro, an Opera section, a hard rock passage, an impressive wall of sound and also a famous electric guitar solo by Brian May. The choral arrangements are one of the finest features of "Bohemian Rhapsody", with the strong Freddy Mercury's voice supported by the rest of the band performing in a falsetto register.

This was the original UK single cover of the song.

Mercury is also the credited author of both music and lyrics and also his words are a collection of literary and musical quotes: you'll find the likes of Scaramouche, Galileo, and even the devil Beelzebub from the Bible and the first word from the Qur'an. Is such a mess, some critics find deep meanings about life in general and Freddy's childhood in particular. I think most of the words are there just for their evocative sound, and anyway the author never explained his song. What really matters to me is the devastating emotion I get each time I listen to this track.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Tesla (Unitopia, 2010)

Unitopia come from Australia and they play a good, both traditional and unpredictable progressive rock. This "Tesla", taken from the album "Artificial" is a perfect starter for Unitopia's music with its 13 minutes or so of duration time. You'll find a thousand different influences here, from Golden Era bands to neo-prog heroes, so that the mood, the rythm and the tempo constantly change. The listener is engaged in a furious trip across the progressive universe and more: electronics, fusion, melody, ethnic flashes, classical piano, traditional rock... kind of a musical roundabout!

"Artificial" was the third studio album of the band.

Still, all those elements are so pleasantly linked and so well played that they seem to come to us naturally. Unitopia follow the widespread path of bands like Flower Kings and Spock's Beard, but their speedy and lush composition way only belongs to them. There are solid melodies, well found arangements and a clever architecture in "Tesla" that Nikola Tesla himself would find... electrifying! Sure, Unitopia pick up things we all know too well, but they do so in style, I daresay, and they constantly improve. A good omen.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Buscando sombras (Chaneton, 2010)

"Buscando Sombras" ("Searching for Shadows" in English) comes from "Sombras distantes" ("Distant Shadows"), the third studio album of a very interesting prog band from Argentina, called Chaneton, that's their founder and guitarist's last name. This musician is also known for being a member of Mandragora, an internationally praised local band. You'll immediatly recognize the Genesis, Fish era Marillion and also Pendragon inspirations in this song (not only here, to be honest), but also its strong emotional content.

This band debuted in 2000 and also released a Genesis tribute CD.

Not so many neo-prog musicians know how to move the listener and how to avoid useless technicalities and a cold display of spacey atmospheres. Chaneton fill their songs with something I'd like to call the human touch and they succeed in communicating inner feelings and warm sensations. Of course, Alex Chaneton's guitar solos are their best feature, but the rest of the band isn't a mere filler: they all play well and earnestly. That will be more than enough for me.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Al otro lado (Asfalto, 1978)

A classic, enthralling keyboard driven prog track by one of the most important and prolific Spanish bands ever. "Al otro lado" ("To The Other Side", in English) is a '70s up tempo song, coming from the album bearing the same title. If Jorge Walter García Banegas and his keyboards play the lead role here, all the musicians do their best to create a lively and diversified piece of music. All the long intro is an instrumental track of its own, then a short and melodic sung section comes in, adding an atmospheric moment to the track.

"Al otro lado" was the second studio proof of this seminal band.

The up tempo prog comes back soon after with a jazzier vein and another pulsing sung theme. This is a Yes-oriented passage, with a very good bass guitar, IMHO. The instrumental finale takes the shape of a powerful wall of sound and also includes some excellent elevctric guitar flashes by Julio Castejón. As you may imagine, the final result is a sparkling kaleidoscope of sounds and moods, one of the richest (and proggest) arrangements in the whole Spanish rock scene of the Golden Era.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Möbius Slip (Sound of Contact, 2013)

I must admit I waited longer than originally planned before posting this intro to Sound of Contact's suite taken from their debut album "Dimensionaut". I had two good reasons for that: firstly, the rest of the album was definitely pop oriented, though not bad at all; secondly, Simon Collins (Phil's son) is the leader of this band and I could be suspected of partiality. So I listened to this track many times and I'm now sure it deserves your attention. These boys really found a good balance between old and new prog, enriching the current post-prog vein with sounds pertaining to the history of our favourite genre. "Dimensionaut" is a concept album based on parallel Worlds and dimensional shifts, but I'm not enough good in physics to understand, let alone to explain this.

"Dimensionaut" also features this beautiful art by Taavi Torim.

I better like music and this is great music, IMHO. Not only the melodies are excellents and the arrangements are varied and rather unexpected, but the musicians play their instruments very well. And yes, drumming is particularly good. The suite is divided into four parts and the passages from each of them to the following one are actually among the best features of the song. Other ones are the alternate use of thick and ethereal atmospheres and the acoustic guitars touch here and there. The wall of sound is solid and still crystalline, while some key effects are suspended and highly suggestive. Last but not least, Collins' voice is... Collins' voice.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

First Distraction (Kaipa, 2012)

When Kaipa came back with their new "Vittjar" album, I was pleased by their somewhat surprising new songs. They were getting back to folk roots and on to new, harder sounds. This strangely titled song perfectly illustrates both directions. It begins with an acoustic section, featuring Aleena Gibson's beautiful voice, then the electric guitars come in and the rythm rises up for a few moments. A third mid-tempo section features two sung verses divided by a guitar driven instrumental part and ends up with an enthralling violin solo by guest musician Elin Rubinsztein.

"Vittjar" was the 11th studio album by Kaipa
and the sixth one after their reunion in 2002.

The following violin - electric guitar interplay is one of the best moments of the track and the abrupt reprise of the first theme is also excellent and closes such a multi-coloured song. A bit of this and a bit of that, but also a clever pattern, increasing the main theme value and its unpredictable variations. Javisst!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Suite (Omega, 1974)

Useless to say, Omega are the most known and successful Hungarian prog band ever. Their 1974 "Suite" (or "Szvyt", in their own language) from the album "200 Years after The Last War" is probably the most traditionally prog composition of Omega. Nonetheless, it is a very original mix of moods and styles and a beautiful example of eclectic use of keyboards. You'll find two key players raging on Hammond, Mellotron and Moog and a very good, constant interplay between them and the guitars. Drumming is essential but very effective, so that all the suite's sections sound fresh and natural, with a bit of everything inside.

In this period, Omega used to release their albums
both in Hungarian and English versions.

Free jazz, heavy rock, space rock, atmospheric melodies, electronics and even a pinch of American slide guitars! A pretty mess, no doubt, but János Kobor's voice and the special touch the band has when lining up acid and sweet passages provide the coherence and the unity the track needed. The '70s in all their variety and splendour, I daresay.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Les larmes du Dalaï Lama (Ange, 1992)

Among the abundant production of Ange during the '90s, 2000s and 2010s decades, this is one of my favourite songs. And its strength could easily raise it to the inner circle of the band's best moments. Christian Descamps' performance is full of energy and pathos, and both the sung melody and the instrumental sections have something magic. Jean-Michel Bresovar's electric guitar displays all the colours of epic, perfectly backed by the rythm section and especially by the two percussion men Jean-Pierre Guichard and Eruc Toury, sounding like drums of war.

This was the 15th studio album of Ange.

That's why the delicate passages of "Les larmes du Dalaï Lama" (that's "Dalaï Lama's teardrops", in English) seem more ethereal and almost unreal. After some years  of strange, not always successful musical adventures, and the reunion of the original lineup for the previous (and good) album, this song opens the album announcing to the world that Ange definitely were back home. Finally and luckily. For me, at least.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Horizons (Genesis, 1972)

One of the shortest prog songs of this blog and also, I daresay, one of the finest ones. It's a Steve Hackett's solo performance on acoustic guitar opening the B side of the original Foxtrot LP, also including the huge suite "Supper's Ready" (taht's on this blog as well, of course). It's loosely inspired by Bach's Prelude to the First Cello Suite, but the final result sounds very different from its source. Strangely, this delicious instrumental wasn't specially conceived for inclusion in a Genesis album. In fact, producer Bob Potter asked Steve to perform something good on his guitar and he fell in love with the guitarist's track.

Steve proudly shows the Genesis albums he graced with his talents.

When the album producer changed, luckily the recording remained in in the tracklist and proved to be the best possible intro to the following monster suite. I can only describe it like this: a dream made music. And the fans reaction to it was so strong and emotional that the whole Hackett's career was influenced by this little gem. He's obliged to perform "Horizons" each time he stands on a stage,  even for public debates or book presentations, as I can personally testify. And each time the same magic fills the air.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Massive Illusion (Gazpacho, 2011)

When Gazpacho abandoned their previous attempt to reach pop mainstream and came back to longer and more complex songs, they produced sad and beautiful songs like this "Massive Illusion". As the whole "Night" album, the general mood is similar to what some would call post-prog style, but this kind of nocturnal, down tempo, atmospheric songwriting has always be a central part of the Scandinavian progressive rock. The song is both charming and variated, lining up electric and acoustic moments, all rather dark but never too monotone.

One of the finest records by Gazpacho, IMHO.

It's a perfect track for those who like to explore their own inner gardens guided by the music and actually this "Massive Illusion" seems to dig inside my soul each time I listen to it. Guitars,keyboards and the lonely violin of the longest instrumental section are like windows open wide onto an obscure world. Apparently peaceful and discreet, this composition is also disquieting and stingy, so that I can't keep it in the background and I regularly find myself somewhat affected by it. Thanks God, I'd say.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Last Requiem (Amenophis, 1983)

A fully symphonic suite of about 24 minutes of duration isn't exactly what you could expect from a 1983 album. But it's exactly what you have here, coming from the self titled debut album of an almost forgotten German band. The three parts of this epic, titled "Looking for Refuge", "The Prince" and "Armageddon", surely look like Camel here anf there, but the delicate atmospheres of the track and its clever architecture deserve a keen listening.

Amenophis released a second studio album in 1988 and they
reunited in 2014 also releasing a third interesting work.

In particular, the long instrumental passages include many beautiful soundscapes. The bass and the electric guitar draw suggestive paintings and sometimes converse with the keyboards in a very refined and effective way. Other musical quotations come from Yes and Genesis but, well, I couldn't judge such an emulation as a deadly sin. So, this is a very interesting composition, a pleasant way to spend your next 24 minutes, if you believe me.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

La Magie des sons (Aquarelle, 1978)

A delicious album opening song by Canadian band Aquarelle. Those guys only released one studio album and one live LP between 1978 and 1979, and their music deserves more consideration. Based on keyboardist Pierre Lescaut's and violin player Pierre Bourmaki's talents, they managed to compose and release such tracks as this "La Magie des sons", aka "Magic of Sounds", where classical and jazz influences merge to create a plesant and suspended atmmosphere.

This album is also known as "Aquarelle".

This instrumental gem comes from the album "Sous un arbre", and proves once more how rich and skilled was the Québec prog scene between 1974 and 1979. The sadness and the joy live together in this track: up tempo movements and down tempo pauses follow one another in an enthralling diversity I really appreciate. Just sparkling like fire and flowing water side by side, I daresay.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Ars Longa Vita Brevis (The Nice, 1968)

This suite is one of the first fully progressive rock tracks in music history. The titles of its five movements (Prelude, then 1st to 4th Movement) announce the classical inspiration of the song, but the listener searching for pompous, baroque or symphonic and romantic compositions would be immediatele deceived. This is modern, XXth Century inspired music, full of experimental and even chaotic passages, where Emerson, Jackson, Davison and O' List reinvent rock music and open a new path for the forthcoming prog.

This was the second studio album for The Nice.

"Ars Longa Vita Brevis" actually is rock 'n' roll, but so well disguised and enriched, so fully transfigurated, so largely imbibed of jazz and contemporary classical experiments, that the listener couldn't even put a label on such a record. The display of different sources and instrumental skills in this suite don't hide the sense of strenght and the inner energy lying under each note. Was it only rock 'n' roll?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Waiting for The Axe to Fall (Phideaux, 2010)

No doubt Phideaux Xavier is one of the most surpising and somewhat puzzling prog artists out there. This "Waiting for The Axe to Fall" suite, from the 2009 album "Number Seven" is an example of the eclectic and rich kind of music he makes. Please note this suite only exists in the 2010 remastered edition of the album, while in the original release you only had it as four self standing songs, following the opening theme of the concept CD. Classic prog, electronic pop, piano soul... how many moods and genres in just one song! And still, how clever Phideaux is in keeping the whole lot under control and in assuring a perfect coherence to the track...

Well... even the cover art is puzzling, isnt'it?

All those inspirations, all those musical worlds seem to flow naturally, as they were all born in the same era and from the same father. Unpredictable? Yes. Chaotic? Not at all. Each time I listen to this song I like it more. It seems to me Phideaux has so many feelings inside his soul and he likes to share them all with the listener, kind of a moving side of prog. Look at the piano work in "Waiting for The Axe to Fall": poetry, pure modern poetry. IMHO, of course.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Non mi rompete (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1973)

Taken from BMS' album "Io sono nato libero" this song is a perfect example of what Francesco Di Giacomo was capable of with his highly original voice. And it also features a beautiful melody, an unpredictable arrangement, charming lyrics about sleeping and dreaming, and a series of delicate, mostly acoustic sounds. The final instrumental section includes a pleasant keyboard solo by Vittorio Nocenzi, who also signs the music, leaving the lyrics composition to Di Giacomo, as usual.

This song was also released as a 7" single, b/w "La città sottile".
This is exactly what I call a prog song, exploring the deepest corners of human soul and abandoning any traditional pattern to find a new, stimulating path. Nonetheless, you can still enjoy this track both as a plain song or as a challenging musical trip. I suppose that's why BMS played such an important role in Italian prog rock and, later, even in pop music.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Riddle Princess (Dragonfly, 1982)

Too sad this Swiss band, born in the late '70s, just released one album. This epic will explain how good and well conceived their music was. They knew how to line up different moods and they liked to employ both acoustic and electric instruments, in the wake of such masters as Gentle Giant, Genesis and, most of all, Yes. The sound still seems good to me today, and the finest moments probably are the Moog and acoustic guitar interplays, drawing dreaming sequences and fairy atmospheres.

This album includes all the best features of classic Symphonic
Rock and that wasn't a commercial winning choice in 1982...

René Bühler, the singer, has a sensitive voice, clearly inspired by Jon Anderson, but with a personal note. This suite has a special charm, suspended between the highest aerial regions, and the pulsing rythm section, cleverly enriching the instrumental passages with intricated needleworks. When the tempo rises up, Marcel Ege's electric guitar also comes in and adds its stingy notes to the big picture. Really, a good way to spend your next 17 minutes of spare time.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Celestial Elixir (Haken, 2010)

In 2013, "The Mountain" CD by Haken surely was a sensation in the small but widespread prog community. But the band already had its own history and fans, as this suite, coming from their first album "Aquarius", can easily prove. This song is one of the best ones in that debut collection, featuring sweet and hard moments, a band's trademark. Unlike many other productions of the years 2010s, "Celestian Elixir" collects many different inspirations and lines up a succession of different moods.

It's a pretty disquieting cover art, isn't it?
More than this: Haken show unusual instrumental skills (see the guitar around minute 10), an excellent taste for unusual arrangements and the old, good wall of sound. Their metal elements are never too pervasive: here, for example, you'll find a traditional progressive rock, vaguely influenced by Dream Theater and maybe some scandinavian bands, and a good fusion between acoustic and electric moments... and even some funny vaudeville touches. They developed a more personal style in the following releases, those guys, but this one still remains as one of their more amazing songs.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Day (Styx, 1972)

Many progfans I know, usually listen to this band's music, but they rarely admit they do. Styx are between prog (or art) rock and plain pop, nonetheless they wrote many excellent songs I could easily put in my blog. That's the case with this "A Day", full of soul and bluesy influences, but also featuring a clever architecture, including starting with beautiful instrumental passages and a lot of liquid sounds in the first, down tempo part. Then, the mood changes and the tempo rises up, with an excellent electric guitar solo well supported by the rythm section.

"Styx II" is probably one of the "proggest" albums by Styx.

Some keyboards take the foreground scene at minute 5:49 and show up a brief, devilish progression. The sung theme reprise with a little more pop rock arrangement ends up a track that's definitely worth a progger's attention. That said, I also like the easier side of the band, but songs like "A Day" officially label them as a prog related band. IMHO, of course.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Seasons of Change (Blackfeather, 1971)

If you feel like redescovering the proto-prog thick, naive and powerful taste, this song is for you. It comes from the Australian band Blackfeather, more precisely from their first album titled "At The Mountains of Madness". This track was a good hit in their native Country and also has a rather strange story: The band wrote it during the album sessions, then passed it out to a friend band called Fraternity, under the agreement Blackfeather wouldn't released it in their turn.

Blackfeather only released two studio albums in their career.

But Fraternity's version of the song proved to be a huge hit and our band broke their promise, quickly recorded the track for the album and even released it as a single that overran Fraternity's version. The reason of this double success probably rests on the catchy melody, but also on the vaguely folk rock arrangement Fraternity suggested and Blackfeather fully adopted. A plunge in a gone but not forgotten sound that's like a sparkling morning breeze to me.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Vert (Harmonium, 1975)

If you're a regular reader of this blog (then you're a brave one too) you probablyknow how much I like Harmonium's album "Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison".This is the opening track of the original LP and clearly shows how important folk roots were for this Québec based band. The first half of the song is in fact a traditional ballad, sweet and well arranged, following the style of the hippy era and the group's own taste for smooth and liquid sounds.

Serge Fiori and LouisValois of Harmonium in 2009.

The second and final part is a swingy instrumental one, suspended between jazz and dixieland, including a funny choral section and displaying all the pleasant fantasy these musicians were capable of. I simply love the apparent artlessness of this track, the discreet way it has to gradually pervade my mind and to fill my soul of a bittersweet, out of the blue melancholy.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

We Are What We Are (RPWL, 2012)

With such a title, one couldn't decide whether RPWL are assuming or modest, but their "Beyond Man And Time" CD is so beautiful an album (search in this blog for more) that I'm ready to accept both solutions. This song, in particular, is a brilliant example of  what I'd call a modern progressive rock style, with its pulsing rythms à la Peter Gabriel and the splendid guitar work gracing the long instrumental section.

Maybe their best album to date...

The melody is catchy and original - not a very common combination, I daresay - and the whole band act as one, with the precise gear of a Swiss clock, even if those guys are German! Another very good omen: this is a rather long track (more than 9 minutes), but apparently you reach its end in the blink of an eye. It suggests the cheering consideration that prog rock is always ready to absorb the music buzzing around and nonetheless to keep on its old, recognizable way. Good luck, RPWL!