Monday, 29 September 2014

Toutes ces images (Arachnoïd, 1979)

One of the most original French prog bands ever, Arachnoïd just released one self titled album in 1979, where a prog fan can find so many different and good music. This "Toutes ces images" ("All Those Images") is a good specimen of the flushing musical world of Arachnoïd: soft, acoustic passages and dark, electric ones follow one another. Childish melodies and psychedelia, folk rythms and free drumming... in short, the entire prog universe of the '70s is there.

One of the weirdest releases from the French '70s prog scene.
There are so many different sources and such an original way to merge them in an unique sound that you barely recognize - here and there - King Crimson and Le Orme, Ange and Magma. All is like melting lava, a fluid sort of rock that flows Majestic from the band to the listener's ears. Great, pure adventure. In a word: progressive rock.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Rain on The Moon (Dawn, 2007)

This is a fascinating, classically progressive song by Dawn, a very interesting Swiss band. These musicians like vintage sounds, but they also know how to update them and seldom try some new paths. René Degoumois has a beautiful, pure voice, and also plays wery well his electric guitar. In this "Rain on The Moon", the second track from the debut album "Loneliness", for example, his dreaming solo is reminiscent of past masters, but has its own distinctive sound.

Dawn come from Montreux, on the Lake Geneva.

Another strong point is the free and clever architecture of the band's longest tracks - this one is more than 7 minutes long - where the different themes fluidly follow one another, with some pleasant surprises and well placed reprises. So, Dawn are both traditional and innovative, the way a prog band should be, IMHO. A good mix of familiar solutions and challenging breaks, that's exactly what I'm usually looking for...

Friday, 26 September 2014

Firefly (Bellaphon, 1987)

Here you are a Japanese band from the '80s, one of my favourite acts from Far East. Their sound is surely reminiscent of the contemporary British bands (and of Camel, too), but there's something unpredictable in some of their musical patterns and sounds. Take this "Firefly", for example, the title track of Bellaphon debut CD. You'll immediately observe the flushing collection of keyboard sounds, ranging from the vintage Hammond to the most unusual samples. And what about Taiqui Tomiie's drums? How many rythmic solutions, and how gentle his touch can be!

One of the best istrumental albums of the '80s, IMHO.

There are so many changes in this instrumental epic and so many different moods... but each one is graced by a different solo by Toshihiro Tanaka's electric guitar. Here, of course, you'll recognize the influence of some of the greatest instrument masters, but Bellaphon are perfect when it comes to choose the right effect for each passage and each interplay. Yes, this is maybe their greatest virtue: a very good taste. And this is not common, is it?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Turn of A Friendly Card (The Alan Parsons Project, 1980)

This is the only actual suite in APP's discography, a 16 minute title track, divided into five movements, most of which could easily be considered as stand alone songs: "The Turn of A Friendly Card (Part One)", "Snake Eyes" (also released as a single in the USA), "The Ace of Swords", "Nothing Left to Lose" and finally "The Turn of A Friendly Card (Part Two)". It's a bombastic, diversified epic, whose sections easily follow one another, pleasantly changing the tempos and the moods. As you surely know, the lyrics are about compulsive gambling, also tracing a parallel between life and card games.

I  like each and every note from this album!

The main theme - featuring in the first and last parts - is one of the best melodies by Parsons/Woolfson, a majestic and airy one. "Snake Eyes" is a rock song with an evil twist, while the electronic instrumental third section is in the traditional APP's style. The fourth movement, "Nothing Left to Lose", sung by Eric Woolfson himself, is a stunning acoustic ballad, an intimate interlude I particularly appreciate, just before the final crescendo. This suite proves that pop and prog can get along very well as far as great composers are involved.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Last Sunrise (Xanadu, 2011)

These Polish musicians produce an effective prog rock, melting both heavy and melodic elements in a thick, enthralling way. I like their good taste for a not so common guitar driven progressive rock: just think that keyboards in this song are played by a guest musician, while two guitarists are members of the band. "The Last Sunrise" is the title song of their debut album and it is full of a powerful nostalgy that's very modern and still reminiscent of great bands (well, the goup's name reminds me someone from the other side of the Ocean...).

"The Last Sunrise" is a diversified, interesting debut album.

And of course the middle section of the track isn't so far from post-rock sounds. But this isn't ambient music, as Xanadu love full bodied themes and double guitar solos... and I like them too. Another peculiar way to Polish prog, another musical facet of a Country that never seems to run out of interesting bands.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Le porte del silenzio (Malibran, 1993)

When it comes to Italian progressive rock, we usually go back to the '70s, a Golden Era for the Worldwide musical movement and probably a Platinum Era for Italian prog. But I can remember many great albums during the following dacades. This "Le porte del silenzio" ("The Gates of Silence" in English) is a good specimen of what I'm saying. Malibran began their discography in 1990 and always tried to merge the Italian prog features and the neo-prog experience.

This was the second album by Malibran, released in 1993.

This long suite (some 27 minutes, in fact) includes some very good moments, especially when Jerry Litrico's guitar or Benny Torrisi's piano (and assorted keys) are involved. The main theme is very good and I also like the flute sections, provided by Giancarlo Cutulli. Sure, there are some naive passages, but then, this is one of the most known features of the Italian way to prog. The rythm changes are welcome and some of them are pleasant and unexpected. In short, this is a beautiful way to spend your next half hour spare time!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Nonchalant (Druckfarben, 2011)

Oh, how graceful this song is! Canadian Druckfarben surely listened carefully to all Yes albums, but they translated Chris Squire's band world in their own musical language, adding some folk elements and some other influences to create a diversified, colourful prog rock. In this case, they probably were reminiscent of Genesis and Kansas too, and the resulting sound is sweet - never sweetish - and highly evocative.

This self named album was Druckfarben's debut CD in 2011.

Many acoustic instruments contribute to the dreaming atmosphere of "Nonchalant", and so the vocals do, with their vintage arrangements. Be as it may, I love this song and I appreciate the delicate and keenly studied embroideries that grace it. Am I too soft-hearted? Probably I am, but please, listen to this song before my final conviction into the mellowest circle of Hell!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Mestre (Petrus Castrus, 1973)

I think it wasn't so easy to be a prog band during the '70s in Portugal, under a dictatorship restricting most of international relations and informations. Nonetheless, a few bands like Petrus Castrus (Pedro Castro was one their founder members) did produce excellent prog, perfectly in line with the contemporary trends. This "Mestre" (that's "Master" in English) also proves how original and eclectic the band's sound was, with its cultivated influences and its rather dark, arcane mood.

The original version of "Mestre". A 2-CD reissue also exists,
featuring an entire previously unreleased album.

These musicians had a strong melodic approach to prog rock, but also liked long, free instrumental sections, ranging over heavy prog, fusion and folk. This is what you'll find here, in the leading song of their debut album, a very good specimen of Petrus Castrus' music, a pleasant, coherent but diversified excursion through the band's land of sound. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Homeworld (The Ladder) (Yes, 1999)

When Yes released "The Ladder" album in 1999, just a few of their fans really believed they could come back to their prog roots and offer as good a CD as this one proved to be. In fact, the opening track "Homeworld (The Ladder)" was like tumbling back the years and Jon Anderson's pure voice sounded better than ever. This song is a flowing stream of great prog rock, including time changes, instrumental interplays, choral passages, intricate rythms and good melodies.

One of my Roger Dean's favourite paintings ever.

Chris Squire's bass guitar doesn't need any comment, but Igor Khoroshev's keyboards were a big surprise for me: full bodied and creative, they're never too intrusive and so far better than in the previous "Open Your Eyes" album, where he played as a session man on three tracks. Also Billy Sherwood does very well here, both on electric and acoustic guitars. It was going to be a short-lasting lineup, but this is an everlasting song, IMHO.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Beautiful Seven (Osibisa, 1971)

Osibisa is probably the only worldwide famous prog band from Central Africa. Their clever fusion of jazz, african rythm, psychedelia and art rock is brilliant and in this song, taken from their second album "Woyaya", you'll also appreciate their choral arrangements. It's a twisted kind of ethnic rock, with so many influuences and still perfectly African in its moods.

...And with a logo and a cover art by Roger Dean, too!
Sure, the flute sections and the rythmic changes are linked to the European '70s era, and the wonderful piano touches are pure fusion to me, but there are so many special features coming from the band's culture and their Country that you are magically transported over the green rain forests and the yellow savannahs. This is particularly true when Osibisa's unpredictable drumming comes in, with all the fantasy and the bright colours you can imagine. A splendid trip... so sad there aren't many bands like this one out there!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Quest for The Last Virtue (Unifaun, 2008)

Among the huge number of Genesis influenced albums, Unifaun's self named CD still is one of my favourite ones. And in particular, this epic, the longest track in the collection, gathers in its 15 minutes or so of duration many features I love: acoustic and electric instruments merged in a liquid sound, beautiful melodies, instrumental bridges and effective, sensitive vocals.

The Swedish duo Unifaun. I wonder who their tailor is...

These are provided by Nad Sylvan, the singer that Steve Hackett hired for his long series of Genesis revival shows. But the man behind this project actually is Don Bonamici, the composer and keyboard player whose keen love for Genesis shines in this track in all its glory. His "Entangled-like" solo sounds like a clone and still is beautiful, while the subsequent "Earl of Mar-like" chords are another kick inside my stomach. OK, that isn't new, but these musicians really enjoy what they're playing. And so do I.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Нам нужен мир (Автограф, 1986)

The Soviet Union didn't stop prog rock and Автограф (Autograph, in latin transcription) are a living proof of that. After years of clandestine concerts, the band finally released their first self-titled album in 1986. Autograph were the perfect '80s neo-prog and almost new wave band, not so far from the likes of Twelfth Night or It Bites. This track, whose title means in English "We Need Peace", is a plain prog-pop song, an anthem actually similar to many Western synth and easy-prog tracks, well written and also well performed, simple but not trivial at all.

Autograph released three studio albums between 1986 and 1991. 

The essential double keyboard effects, the dramatic vocals and the bombastic chorus melody are the strongest points of "We Need Peace", but please don't forget the lyrics, written when peace seemed more a dream than a reality, some years before the end of the cold war (if ever there was an end to that). A document from an era we shouldn't forget.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Mocking Bird (Barclay James Harvest, 1971)

A mellow song, if ever there was one. And one of the most beautiful pastoral tracks I've listened to. Due to its huge popularity I don't need to describe "Mocking Bird" in details (and I couldn't as I'm not into musical composition), but I have to say how much this song affects my inner feelings. It seems to me that BJH found a perfect balance between intimate and majestic sounds and perfectly mastered the choral arrangements, creating a half-light atmosphere, full of connections to the natural world and to the emotional side.

This song comes from BJH's second album "Once Again".

The orchestral addictions aren't too invasive and the band's instruments stay in the foreground, except for the final instrumental section. Of course, this song is pure melody and if you're looking for art rock or avant-garde music, this isn't your cup of tea. Let the tender hearts come in and sip this nectar directly from its flower. After all, BJH's symbol is a butterfly, if I remember well...

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Mindstreet (Motherjane, 2008)

The first time I listened to this song I was fascinated by the mix of Western and Eastern sounds in it: rock riffs, and atmospheric, vaguely ethnic passages. Also the sung theme reminded me of ancient gods and Asian markets in a prog rock sauce. Then I learned that these musicians were from India and all was clear to me. Actually there are many different worlds in this song and many different influences, as different as Marillion and Ravi Shankar can be.

"Maktub" was the second Motherjane's studio album.

It's an interesting neo-prog style seen through Indian lenses, kind of a familiar music includic some alien, intriguing elements. The electric guitar solos are very good and the rythm accelerations are also well played. There's a genuine creative mood in this song, a regenerating energy and a variated palette of musical solutions. In short, it's worth a keen listening. More than one, IMHO.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Beginnings (Kenso, 1985)

I love this instrumental track by Kenso very much. It's the closing one from "Kenso III" album, a miracle of balance between prog rock, jazzy influences and melody. These Japanese musicians really are a surprising and uncompromising band, and their "Beginnings" proves what I'm saying by its various and liquid beauty.

Kenso released 10 studio albums from 1980 and 2014.
You'll find here a mix of basic sounds framed in a composite pattern, full of grace and colours, far from any useless display of virtuosity and aimed to an emotional impact instead. A palette of feelings draw an Eastern, inner skyline, a moving picture and an everchanging soul. So many instruments cooperate to trace a single path going down to each listener's secret garden. An almost spiritual trip I highly recommend.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Snowtorch Part One (Phideaux, 2011)

You'll find somewhere else in this blog my opinion about Phideaux Xavier, so I just say here I think he's one of the most interesting musicians in the current progressive rock scene. This suite, opening the same titled CD released in 2011, is a brilliant proof of that. This epic is divided into four movements ("Star of Light", "Retrograde", "Fox on The Rocks" and "Celestine") and framed into a longer concept based on the unusual parallelism between biology and sentiment.

Phideaux released nine studio albums from 1992 to 2011.

Full of vintage keyboards and modern sounds altogether, this long track is a mine of details and musical tricks, as always with Phideaux, and I'm glad to say that the sung sections are specially strong, something that non always occurred in this artist's previous works. In short, "Snowtorch - Part One" is a progressive treat, a bittersweet musical jewel I'm sure you'll enjoy if you didn't before.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Retorno (Equilibrio Vital, 2010)

Prog from Venezuela and a good prog too. Equilibrio Vital is a triple life band, with two good albums during the '80s, then a reunion in 2003, and another one in 2010, the year of this track, the title song of their fourth studio album. There's a deep melodic soul in "Retorno" ("Coming back", in English, a title that perfectly matches with the band's history), but the main feature seems to be the atmospheric and surprising changes between acoustic and electric moments, framed in a clever musical pattern.

This cover art was even more intricated than the music inside.

I really like the alternate 12 string guitars and keyboards, but when they also add a flute somewhere in the song, well, I definitely give up and love this track. In that very moment I thank the guys from Muséa label that gave new life to Equilibrio Vital, so that they could go on along their colourful and pleasant path. Try their music, my friends, they're actually worth your attention.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Careful with That Axe, Eugene (Pink Floyd, 1968)

This track surfaces many times in Pink Floyd's discography: released as a B-side in 1968, it is also part of  the live LP of "Ummagumma" (1969) then, in an alternate version re-titled Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up, it also graces the soundtrack album Zabriskie Point (1970) and, of course, it's one of the strongest moments of the live film Pink Floyd at Pompeii (1972).

This track was firstly released as "Point Me to The Sy" B-side.

It's one of the darkest, most arcane songs by Pink Floyd, including long atmospheric sections and a central "horror" part where the listener comes across the famous spoken part with a final, dreadful scream. The whole track is suspended and stretched like as a violin string, full of spacey echoes and nocturnal effects. I can't really decide if I like this track... let's say I'm hypnotized by it. And this is exactly what they wanted to do, I suppose.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Le Quatrième (Shylock, 1977)

Taken from the album "Gialorgues", this "Le Quatrième" ("The Fourth", in English), as its title doesn't suggest, is the first track from this French band's debut LP. As the rest of Shylock's production, this is an instrumental track trying to draw inner, visionary and rarefied landscapes. And it surely succeed in such a goal, via a majestic and somewhat disturbing slow tempo, swinging from pastoral prog to psychedelia.

Shylock only released two albums (in 1977 and 1978).

Despite its mostly regular rythm, "Le Quatrième" isn't boring at all, as all the instruments provide an ever changing point of view over the musical trip the band is setting up. Some accelerations and some abrupt stops contribute to this, and so the guitar / keyboard arpeggios and the creative drumming do. This is a great opening for a beautiful album and some of the ideas of this track will undergo under further developments during the following songs. Highly recommended to all my prog friends.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Pantanal (Sagrado Coraçao da Terra, 1991)

Many Brazilian prog bands love to mix as many different musical approaches as they know about in their style. And this is particularly true for Sagrado Coraçao da Terra, also called Sagrado, set up by ex Saecula Saeculorum member Marcus Viana. Take this "Pantanal", taken from the "Farol da liberdade" album.

This was the third studio album by Sagrado.

This song was very popular in Brazil as it was part of the soundtrack of the soap opera called "Kananga do Japão" and includes folk roots, romantic melodies, sweet instrumental and rather symphonic interludes, a rock passage and then, of course, very Brazilian lyrics describing the Pantanal region with loving accents. A mostly slow, liquid, never boring track featuring a warm atmosphere and all the deep feelings of its author.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Canto di Primavera (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1979)

A plain, beautiful song by BMS I Always listen to with pleasure. Vaguely Medieval and full of grace, this "Canto di Primavera" (Springsong in English) is really like a Spring fresh and vital breeze, spreading a gentle light all around. Francesco Di Giacomo sings it with his poetic and almost magic voice and the band draws a classically inspired mood, reminiscent of gypsies and ballad singers.

This song, taken from BMS' 9th studio album, was also released
as a 7" single, featuring this tender cover photo.

The short instrumental interludes increase the bucolic atmosphere and confirm if necessary how vast the musical culture of the band was. It seems to me this "Canto di Primavera" is kind of the swan song of an era: all was going to change for the band, but not before a last, nostalgic look to their melodic and progressive roots.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Red (King Crimson, 1974)

When it comes to a guitar driven progressive track, "Red" is my first choice. Not only this song is a thick, coherent, enthralling piece of music, but it also surprises me every time I listen to it. The abrupt change of time after the harsh intro, for instance, is simply stunning to me, as it is the bass guitar line supporting Robert Fripp's excellent riffs. This is the way a "hard prog" should be: intense and inticated, black and red.

For their seventh studio work, KC were a wonderful trio.

It never occured to me, in so many years and listenings, to stop this instrumental pearl before its natural end. I don't think it never will, as I enjoy each moment of "Red", from its guitar effects to its higly creative drumming (a certain Bill Bruford is responsible for that), from the sudden intro to the hidden bass cello droning around. In short, I adore "Red". And maybe I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Escalator Shrine (Riverside, 2013)

Riverside are more than a promising band: they're one of the most innovative and mature acts among the 21st Century prog acts. This "Escalator Shrine", a 12 minutes song from the album "Shrine of New Generation Slaves" is a perfect example of their modern and evocative music. A deep sung theme, a series of instrumental embroideries, a slightly acid atmosphere are but three of the main features of the track. I'll also remember here a Gilmour-like electric guitar, a pulsing instrumental section mixing "The Wall" and ELP, a variated and rich drumming and - last but not least - plenty of keyboard progressions and thick guitar riffs.

This is Riverside's fifth studio album, one of their best ones, IMHO.

The distorted guitars are also there, but they're employed with measure and even discretion. And how wonderful is the second instrumental section with its piercing guitar and the Hammond effect introducing the second sung theme, even better than the opening one. A real shrine of musical ideas, all perfectly in tune with the cold and almost psychedelic mood of the song. Congratulation, my Polish friends!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Las Moiras (Láquesis, 2013)

If you feel like going back to symphonic rock roots, back to the good old prog days, this Argentinian band fits you very well. They play the way we used to like with a more eclectic approach and create both bombastic walls of sound and gentle acoustic interludes. More than this: they dare to put down in music the Ancient Greek myth of "Las Moiras" (yes, the Fates) in a beautiful, unpredictable, progressive suite. This is divided into four movements: "Láquesis", "Cloto", "Átropos" and "Requiem", retracing the Fates' job and their fatal output.

Hope to listen more by this Argentinian fivesome... 

They were brave, those guys from Rosario, as the theme isn't new in the progressive world, but they face challenging comparisons with all the fire of their enthusiasm and with their excellent skills both in writing and playing. I like all the sections of this epic, especially the energetic intro and the atmospheric passages. I'm happy to know there are still musicians into symphonic rock out there and I'm glad to see how original they can be, despite all the music that's flown along the river Prog.