Friday, 27 February 2015

Thoma (Fromage, 1988)

Don't be fooled by this band's name: they don't come from the French prog scene, they're one of the first Japanese acts and most of Fromage's member were going to play a prominent role in their Country as founders of more recent and equally important bands. This charming track comes from the group's second (and last) studio album, called "Ophelia"and sung in Japanese Language, a choice I usually appreciate.

Japanese bands seldom choose poetic cover arts that I happen to like.

A keyboard background, a high-pitched voice and an excellent bass guitar work are the main features of Thoma, but I also recommend the sensitive drumming, the ethereal flute and the well found melodies. As the song is rather long (some 9 minutes, in fact), another winning point here is its diversified and coherent architecture, where atmospheric passages and up tempo breaks are set to please any prog lover. And if you liked this one, please try the whole album, that's worth your attention, IMHO.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Only Time Will Tell (Asia, 1982)

When a group of famous prog artists decide to write down a bunch of plain songs, the final result is seldom exciting and, of course, successful. This is exacly the case with Asia's debut album, and this is one of my favourite tracks in it. All is done to please the listener here, and this is both the strongest and the weakest point of "Only Time Will Tell".

This song was the second successful single from "Asia" LP.

No adventurous musical patterns, no brand new solutions, but many enthralling moments and a lot of energy and good melodies. That said, Asia strongly contributed to the creation of what we call today Arena Rock and  their heroic sound is never too pomp or bombastic, as the good taste is part of those musicians' DNA. Useless to say, they all play their instruments the way we perfectly know. "Only Time Will Tell" is one of those songs that wind me up. What about you?

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Aegian Sea (Aphrodite's Child, 1972)

"666" is a prog legend among albums, likely the best known and most appreciated one by Aphrodite's Child. This highly descriptive track is a perfect depiction of the sea, as it is based on the wave breath and is graced by Vangelis' inspired keyboards. This man, whose real name was Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou (Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου, in Greek alphabet) surely is one of the best reasons to the band's celebrity, but I won't forget Demis Roussos' high-pitched voice, something you won't find in this song.

The band split up during the sessions of this album.

By the way, you'll appreciate here one of the most fascinating and ethereal guitar solos by Anargyros Koulouris, aka Silver. The emphatic tone of the album - inspired by the Bible's Revelation book - is less important in this track, featuring an atmospheric mood that actually announces some of Vangelis' future releases.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Mílanó (Sigur Rós, 2005)

This is a musical jewel by the most known Icelandic band ever, coming from their album "Takk...". As any other Sigur's songs, this is a slow series of crescendos, an intense, deep reflection on life. We can only imagine the song is somehow linked to Milan, as the lyrics are in the band's own invented language, called hopelandic. For sure, you'll find here all the Northern, dusk-inspired magic that singles out those musicians.

The band, the snow... what else?

The keyboards are like a snowy landscape, while the electric piano and the bass guitar draw doodles in the air, moving and persistent doodles, as a matter of fact. Vocals are just one more instrument, flowing up and down all through the song and shifting from quiet contemplation to undefined sorrow. Maybe Sigur Rós have a limited range of emotions to communicate, but oh... how perfectly they pass them to the listener's soul!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Bois de Boulogne (Tangerine Dream, 1985)

I know the real TD's hardcore fans won't agree with me, but this is a track I simply adore... and I even like the whole "Le Parc" album. Sure, the band's best releases belong to the '70s, but this concept about City Parks around the World is an enjoyable one, melting good electronic music and commercial requirements. In particular, this opening track, describing the Boulogne Forest in Paris, is a perfect example of '80s electronic sound, but with a special twist only a great band from the Golden Prog Era can add to the melting pot.

 The band's lineup in this album is: Froese / Franke / Schmoelling.

The track grows up little by little and the final section is an enthralling and clever piece of prog, just like it used to be with Tangerine Dream. I added "Bois de Boulogne" to my blog because one sometimes needs some pleasant and not too tricky music, a track that just sweeps away the daily troubles or the Monday blues... well, this is exactly what one's searching for!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Looking for Someone (Genesis, 1970)

Here's the first track from the first "fully Genesis" album. So, in a way, this is how early fans got aware a new band was born. The a cappella intro is a classic, something Peter Gabriel did again three years later in "Dancing with The Moonlit Knight", another album leading track. The rest is pure fantasy and unpredictable music. The tempo changes, the sung melody reprises, the liquid, misty mood are too well known to be introduced here.

That's how Paul Whitehead's pencil graced the album lyrics. 

Better write about Gabriel's performance, ranging from the lower, hoarse tone to a sharp, alarming pitch. Another strong point is Ant Phillip's guitar, both sweet and sorrowful, and perfectly supported by Tony Banks' organ, providing the hard stuff for the song and rousing the rhythm section. What's more, "Looking for Someone" is full of emotion and it digs in the listener's soul the way only the greatest band can do.

Friday, 20 February 2015

La Bête du Gévaudan (Sens, 1999)

First of all, Sens and Saens are the same group, as this French band added an "e" to their name after their first release, the one this track comes from. That CD, "Les regrets d'Isidore D." ("Isidore D.'s Regrets", that's to say) is also the only one sung in French. "La Bête du Gévaudan" actually is the longest and more adventurous track from Sens' debut album, a progressive tour-de-force featuring a series of surprising contrasts. Intense, up tempo passages and deep, nocturnal parts, tricky rhythmic patterns and a rather theatrical voice are but a few of the things you'll find in this epic.

Sens / Saens are one of the most original French bands of their era.

Saens (I beg your pardon... Sens) surely aren't afraid to explore different genres and unexpected solutions, so this is an ever changing piece of music, even if it's also a fully enjoyable one. About the lyrics, now. The Gévaudan's Beast was a mysterious wild animal - most likely a very big wolf - that haunted the Southern France Region of Gévaudan between 1764 and 1767, causing one of the greatest colective huntings ever. A very good topic for a prog song, isn't it? Saens will find other ways in the following albums, but this song, IMHO, is a milestone in their career.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

23 Minutes of Tragedy (Izz, 2009)

A perfect atmospheric song, rather dark but with a warm feeling inside. This is how I could describe this track, coming from the album "The Darkened Room". And no, don't you worry, this doesn't last 23 minutes... just 7 or so. And I think you won't regret to spend 7 minutes of your precious time listening to this song. It features great keyboard effects, a bright guitar solo, a very good vocal performace and many other prog favourites. 

"The Darkened Room" was the fifth studio album by Izz.

Even if you will easily find here all the main neo-prog standards - IQ's ones, mostly - these New York guys have their own way to hand them in. I especially recommend their rythmic kaleidoscope and their excellent melodies, two virtues you won't always find in the same song or even in the same band. That's why "23 Minutes of Tragedy" (and many more tracks by Izz) is unlikely to bore a prog fan.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Dances on Gobelins (X Religion, 2003)

I enjoyed this track very much, as I like weird, pseudo-gothic things, especially when a good deal of irony is involved. If you ask me, this could be a perfect soundtrack for a Tim Burton's film: there's that same kind of childhood's magic and the right amount of fantasy too. This is a band from Uzbekistan - yeah, Uzbekistan, not Greater London - and before this "Dances on Gobelins" they had released some harder kind of prog with a different name.

I think this is a good example of electronic-oriented prog.
X Religion like electronic devices: Albert 'Al-Bird' Khalmurzayev plays up-to-date keyboards and here you'll also find an excellent bass work (via Digitech) by Vitaly 'Progressor' Menshikov. The third member is Valery 'Ptero' Vorobjov, whose electronic drumming tops the band's electro-pie in such a coherent way that I'll forgive them the lack of a "true" drum set. And also their nicknames. Furthermore, I must admit that in this instrumental track electronics go on well with a clearly classical inspiration and the final effect is a very pleasant one.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Nothing at All (Gentle Giant, 1970)

This is exactly what I call a prog song. A gentle ballad, featuring a well found melody, with a good deal of vocal harmonies too. Then, a series of isnstrumental parts, ranging from the most structured ones to apparent improvisations.  In their first album, Gentle Giant were already fit for the great prog game, as this song proves too well. Guitar strong riffs, heavy rock vocals, drum solos, fully melodic themes, classical music quotations, free jazz passages go side by side in a single track.

Gentle Giant's first album was a real prog Landmark.

Unpredictable is the word to describe such an ever changing song... nine minutes of musical adventures! If the Giant's name is so popular today among all prog fans, whatever their favourite sub-genres are, is for this fantasy-driven kind of compositions. Many bands tried to re-create a song like "Nothing at All", some actually succeeded, but no one did it better than the Giant, believe me.

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Study of Madness (Bolus, 2013)

This Canadian powerful trio made some good album during the last ten years and some excellent songs, like this "The Study of Madness". No musical revolutions here, no weird experiments, just a plain and modern song, fresh like a spring rain. The sounds are all well found and even better set in a clever architecture, kind of an enhanced ballad. Marillion and Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree and Rush go on very well in this track, including both sweet, atmospheric melodies and a bit of distorted guitars and furious drumming.

"Triangulate" is the third studio album by Bolus.

The final effect is like a refreshing wind, a journey back to the basics, something I surely need now and then. If you like such a genre, the whole  "Tiangulate" album should interest you, as the band give a series of rather short and smart tracks, never too tricky and never too simple. Measure is a great gift, after all.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Windowpane (Opeth, 2003)

This is the opening track of Opeth's first truly progressive album, titled "Damnation". And this is for those loving gloomy, morn atmospheres, sad themes and mournful sounds. But this is also a beautiful song, full of poetry and packed with Mellotron-driven nostalgy, a song that captures all the subtle charms of a rainy day seen through a windowpane and all the grey, elegant visions of such a narrow landscape.

"Damnation" is a morn and beautiful work, IMHO.

The track begins like a Scandinavian post-prog one, with a pulsing, constant rythm supporting a slow and claustrophobic keyboard work, but the songs goes on in a rather surprising way. A splendid finale including a dreaming guitar and a Keys-bass guitar interplay widens the perspective and brings back a pure progressive sound. Steven Wilson's production does all the rest.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

And The Stone Said: "If I Could Speak" (Beardfish, 2011)

Great epic, this one, taken from the album "Mammoth". Vintage instruments, as usual with Beardfish, but also a fresh air and a free inspiration, something you won't always find in contemporary prog bands. Johan Holm's guest saxophone adds a Crimsonian or even VDGG edge to this track, in which an old prog lover can find many other golden era influences. The final result, however, is a coherent and original rough sound, with all the tempo changes that a long track needs to keep the listener's attention truly awake.

"Mammoth" was the sixth studio album by Beardfish. 

The sung sections have a strong melodic line, and Rikard Sjöblom's voice is very, very good. The instrumental passages are full of interplays, so you'll also find an impressive wall of sound circa minute 11:00 and even an almost metal moment towards the end of the song. All in all, I like each and every moment of this song, one of my favourite ones by these Swedish musicians. Hope you'll like it too.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Nova Lepidoptera (Barclay James Harvest, 1978)

Labelled as "Science Fiction" - and with a synth intro justifying such a tag - this is one of my favourite BJH's songs (the album "XII" has a good bunch of them) and even one of my favourite melodic prog tracks ever. Calm and Majestic, the sung theme is rich and winding, while the arrangement is an atmospheric one, ethereal and spacey.Of course, the instrumental sections are worth a note, particularly the electric guitar solo by John Lees.

This album features many of the best BJH's melodic songs.

Also Les Holroyd's effective bass lines and Woolly Wolstenholme's assorted key effects are among the highlights of this song. Back to SF, the song begins with a Morse code message spelling U.F.O. and the lyrics are about interstellar trips and alien encounters... so the way the band merged those Sci-Fi themes with the most romantic music is simply stunning, reminding me some Ray Bradbury's novels.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Look What I've Done (Think, 1976)

Think were a short lived band from Auckland, New Zealand, and their only album, called "We'll Give You A Buzz" brings back in 1976 the proto-prog sounds, providing a fresh, melodic art-rock. This song, for example, is full of nice passages, featuring a very good sung melody and a charming keyboard solo, plus a well conceived architecture. The vocal harmonies are pleasant too and very well found, while the electric guitar adds a slightly acid taste to the song.

I highly recommend the whole album to my prog friends.

Beyond the hippy flavours and Ritchie Pickett's excellent vocals, this track suggests a calm - still never too relaxed - mood, something like a liquid sound, a placid and powerful river. Maybe I should dig a little more into less known prog scenes. At the moment, I'll listen to this beautiful song once more. Will you?

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Piccola rapsodia dell'ape (Le Orme, 1980)

This is the title track of Le Orme's acoustic perdiod second and last album. It's a rich and diversified instrumental, mostly influenced by baroque music, in its most sparkling and gentle wing. How effective the vibraphone is in this song! It seems to me like bluebells chatting in time with the piano. And the string instruments - violin and cello - come in to complete this stunning musical description of a bee's flight, as the song title means "A Bee's Little Rhapsody".

This was Le Orme's eleventh studio album.

If the rest of the album isn't always as good as the previous ones, this track really is a little, bright gem, both unpredictable and enthralling, dancing on the borderland between prog, experimental and classical music. A long and scarcely interesting pop hiatus was on its way, but this music still had all the best Le Orme's charms.

Friday, 6 February 2015

White Ships And Icebergs (Tibet, 1979)

There is a curious story behind this song, this album and its re-issue in 1994 by Musea label. This German band was almost completely forgotten after its only rerlease in 1979, a good symphonic rock work, something very different from the original idea of setting up a Far Eastern ethnic rock group. Tibet disbanded in 1980 after a nartional tour. When Musea came up with this good addiction to its catalogue, some said the original record was lost and this one was a new recording, a disputed statement that somewhat increased the interest towards Tibet.

An edition of "Tibet" for the Japanese market.

Actually, this really was a good album and the instrumental gem called "White Ships And Icebergs" will prove it. You'll find here all the Mellotron melodies, the Hammond waves and the acoustic interludes you probably love, and also a good amount of tempo changes, a fully progressive feature. I'm sure the intro will remind you a certain British band, by the way. I wonder how many other hidden gems the '70s vaults will reveal in due time.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Wonderous Stories (Yes, 1977)

Here you are one of my favourite progressive short songs. It's one of those tracks that don't need any introductions, but it's useful to remember that such a melodic, ethereal song leaded its album ("Going for The One") through the 1977 punk wave up to the top of UK charts. It's a Jon Anderson's composition and Jon's vocals surely are the most impressive feature of "Wonderous Stories", so sweet and pure.

Here's the German cover of the 7" release.

That said, Rick Wakeman's keyboards have an essential role too in building up a fairy atmosphere and after all, despite the shortness of this song, we enjoy both keyboard and guitar solos. This little jewel was also released as a single and got a good reception, even on some of the most anti-prog radio shows. When I'm feeling down or tired, that's one of my favourite remedies, so I dare recommend it to anyone else.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

God Has His Reasons (Empty Yard Experiment, 2014)

I was pleasantly surprised when listening to this Emirates band's debut album in 2011, but their second work "Kallisti" in 2014 was even better than the previous one. Full of post-prog slow motions, but also brilliant in its rock moments, this GHHR (or "God Has His Reasons") is a splendid, modern example of unpredictable music. Not only this is not a mere reproduction of the band's models, but it also includes many original variations on them.

"Kallisti" features 14 charming songs.

The electric guitar rules the tempos and the moods and changes from the Porcupine Tree's reflections to a full metal prog sound, while the measured and clever keyboards provide the essential background and - more than this - a claustrophobic atmosphere on which the official video builds up a fascinating modern fairy tale. Hope to see and listen to more of that... don't you?

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Abismo Próximo (Canarios, 1974)

This "Segunda Transmigración" ("Second Transmigration") from the album "Ciclos" is another pearl by Canarios (or Los Canarios, as they were credited elsewhere). The four compositions in this double LP re-write in a very eclectic way Vivaldi's Four Seasons (you'll find more in my blog). Opera, rock, improvisation, poetry... you'll find almost everything here. The suite is divided into seven movements, each one adding a different, special mood to the track. Vivaldi's themes are split and re-arranged along with original compositions and clever variations.

On vinyl, four suites filled each side of "Ciclos" double album.

The opera-inspired harmonies and the flushing keyboard works come interspersed by acoustic bridges and even by some Spanish folk hints. There are so many faces to this song I'm afraid I'll never be able to describe it, so you'll have to listen to that if you really want to make up your mind about such a suite. I hope you won't regret the time you'll spend there.

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Doorway (Spock's Beard, 1996)

Actually, a pearl in the brilliant US prog ocean, this one! Coming from the album "Beware of Darkness", this track is the perfect fusion or rock, folk and classical inspirations, something most of us old prog lovers like very much. All the instruments play as one, while the tempo continually changes and the mood too, including warm country passages along with full symphonic rock riffs. And what about the acoustic guitar solo bridges, the piano intro or the surprising finale? Wow...

"Beware of Darkness" was SB's second studio album.

I also think this is one of the best Neal Morse's vocal performances, and that's saying something! IMHO, this song captures the early, purely prog spirit of Spock's Beard, before any internal struggles and theological lyrics. They were ready to go on their own musical and spiritual path, but I adore the way they were back then, so full of energy and ideas.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

It Is Just Me (OVNI, 2004)

It rarely occurred to me to find such a diversified song, including so many different styles and moods. I don't know if all the bands coming from El Salvador are as flushing in their music as OVNI are... in this case, that would be kind of a prog paradise! Back to the song, "It Is Just Me" comes from the album "Humanos pero no terrestres", whose title ("Humans But Not Terrestrials") insists on the alien topic we also find in the band's name, as OVNI means UFO in most latin languages.  After all, the track is sub-titled The Visitor Meets The Terrestrials, and almost all OVNI's discography is about close encounters with alien races.

This was the band's third studio album.

As I said before, this track is like a prog encyclopedia, including symphonic, jazz, melodic, neo-prog and even folk passages. That's why the band actually did a miracle building up a coherent song, a well set up 12 minutes track, exploring all those different worlds still keeping one definite musical direction. OVNI exploit each genre's rythm and mood to fit them in their own big picture. If you don't believe me, well, just listen to this.