Saturday, 30 May 2015

Mother (Pink Floyd, 1979)

This song belongs to the darkest side of Roger Water's soul, as most of "The Wall" does, in fact. It's a rather interesting song on the line-up side, 'cause Jeff Porcaro is the guest drummer and producer Bob Ezrin plays the piano and the organ. The song starts on a gloomy mood, then abruptly changes its sombreness into anger and turns out to be one of the most aggressive songs in Pink Floyd's career.

What a mother... what a mother!

Those changes and the deep sorrow inspiring the lyrics always touch me and I feel deeply concerned in Pink's fury and in his utter inadequacy. This is a song I recommend to all those thinking Pink Floyd are cold as ice. That said, the sung theme - Gilmour and Waters both sing it - is excellent, a sweet ballad getting angry and even cruel. The final guitar solo is... simply Gilmour-esque. And that's saying something!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Åtabal-Yémal (Témpano, 1979)

Témpano have a long and successful story in Venezuela and are pretty known and appreciated abroad. They lived many musical lives during their career, exploring different genres, but progressive rock was their first love, as the title song of their debut album proves very well. More than this, their kind of prog was a highly eclectic one, mixing electronic devices, symphonic arrangements and beautiful melodies. It's difficult to label an instrumental piece of music like "Åtabal-Yémal", a lushing series of moods and ideas.

...And my congratulations for your shirts!
It surely includes some pleasant synth-pop moments, but it would be unfair to file such a song on the 80s pop music shelf. Too many surprises, unpredictable changes and original sounds enrich this rather long track and single it out as a true progressive fruit. Sure, the period marks are strong, but I daresay "Åtabal-Yémal" keeps today all its charming and dynamic qualities, so that I can recommend it to you as one of the best relics of early Southern American prog.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Dissimmetrie (La Torre dell'Alchimista, 2007)

One of the most interesting Italian prog bands born in the late '90s, La Torre dell'Alchimista knows how to write and play good music, obviously inspired by the great classics of their Country, but with a special and modern twist of their own. This "Dissimmetrie", taken from the album "Neo" will prove how dynamic and unpredictable their tracks are, despite the vintage mood it spreads all around. Like this band's  many other songs, this opening track is a short suite and it's divided into two parts.

"Neo" was the second studio album by this band, based in the North of Italy.

Don't expect two clearly divided moments, though, and we'd rather describe this composition as an ever changing one, lining up a slightly dissonant recurring main theme and a series of well found melodies, intricate interplays and - last but not least - an atmospheric finale. Definitely, you can pay respect to prog tradition and be fully creative as well. Thanks for reminding me of  that, alchemist guys!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Apocalipsis (Caja de Pandora, 1991)

This is one of the most joyful and dynamic album opening tracks I've ever listened to. A rythm-based instrumental from Mexico, by a one-CD only band called "Caja de Pandora" that really sounds like opening up a Pandora's musical box! Basically, the track goes through five different phases, despite its scarcely 4 minutes of length: a classical intro, a lively dance, a hypnotic rythm,a guitar solo and finally the first theme reprise.

It took a long time to release this album. The sessions began in 1981,
the CD was issued only in 1991, then in 1997 with bonus tracks.

Nothing completely new, maybe, but surely a well assorted display of latin prog rock, not so far from Spanish and Italian models, even if this one is likely to be a more essential and less intricate piece of music. But you hear the potential in it, the inner energy coming out and running down your spine like a colourful tsunami. This is the sunny side of prog. So Welcome to Mexico, my friends!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles, 1967)

Of course, this isn't a prog song, it simply couldn't be. That said, "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is one of the most quoted and listed pre-prog albums. This song, in particular, features a lot of elements that perfectly fit into the proto-progressive mood. First of all, it's one of the more complex and colourful songs by The Beatles, packed with organ sounds, overdubbings, tape loops and assorted weirdness. This need for intricacy and the crossover nature of the track are the breeding ground on which our favourite genre will rise.

A seminal album. And not only for prog pre-history...

The lyrics confirm such a reading, being inspired by a XIXth Century circus poster and including a good deal of double entendres and allusions, in a vein that many prog bands will exploit some years later. Last but not least, this is a beautiful song, concealing a well written melody into a tricky package. And that doesn't sound new in this blog. So, not prog, you're right, but not so far from that...

Monday, 25 May 2015

Le Corridor (Harmonium, 1976)

Harmonium are mostly known for their second album, "Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison" and you'll find many songs from that Canadian masterpiece in my blog. Nonetheless, there are some more excellent songs in the rest of their discography. The concept double album "L'Heptade", for example, includes this "Le Corridor", featuring the guest vocalist Monique Fauteux, also responsible for many back vocals and harmonies in this album. Her gentle voice perfectly fits with the delicate sound of Harmonium and gives even more sensibility to such a good composition.

"L'Heptade"was the third and final Harmonium's studio work.

The instrumental section is like evening passing clouds, so ethereal and so atmospheric that the listener simply flies away on a magic carpet. Of course, this is not for the solid rock fans, but I think this track - and the whole album at that - are as modern today as they were in 1976, and maybe more. The orchestral coda is light and unobtrusive, fading out with grace and leaving behind a nostalgy aftertaste. In short, if you could do with eight minutes of inner pleasure, this track's for you.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Relic of The Modern World (Presto Ballet, 2012)

I like this American band very much. Born as guitarist Kurt Vanderhoof's tribute to prog rock Golden Era, this act soon became popular and a prog people's beloved pet. If you'd like to know why, just listen to this suite, the title track of their 2012 album. You'll surely find a rather heavy rock overture (well, Kurt's mother band was called Metal Church, after all...), then here you are an astonishing journey through Progressive Wonderland, including soft and colourful drops of Genesis, full-bodied harmonies à la Yes and open wide melodies reminiscent of Kansas.

"Relic of The Modern World" was PB's fourth official studio album.

Even so, nothing is trivial here and you'll likely be surprised at each turning point. This epic also has its own coherence, assured by returning themes and well found variations. I can't tell my favourite jewels in such a shining crown, but I surely die for the piano & voice section starting around minute 13:00 and the original mix of Supertramp and Spock's Beard it brings into the suite. And what about the following ballad-like part? A treat. Useless to go on putting music in words: you'd better listen to this and let me know...

Friday, 22 May 2015

The Girl And The Moonman (Moongarden, 1994)

Yes, the Moon rules here: the Moonman, the band called Moongarden and even the album this track comes from, that's titled "Moonsadness". That said, this is a very good suite also when the sun shines, divided into eight parts and displaying both traditional prog and new ideas. The main mood is calm and pensive, but not necessarily sad, as the title would suggest. Cristiano Roversi is one of the best known Italian keyboardlords (and he's also responsible for both the music and the lyrics of this epic), so there's a wide range of keys in this track, as you can easily guess, including vintage and modern sounds.

"Moonsadness" was the band's debut album and the cover art
was inspired by the suite's lyrics teeling a rather strange love story.
But all the musicians are great and you'll find here devilish bass lines, dreamy guitar solos by David Cremoni, the other hardcore member of the band, jazzy drumming, an excellent flute work and - last but not least - a passionate and pleasant voice. I especially appreciate the band's three-sided kind of prog: the melodic sections, the jazzy improvisations and the heavier rock moments. It's an always changing musical landscape I don't always find in Italian bands from the '90s and the 2000s. And this is, of course, one of the best reasons why I'm recommending "The Girl And The Moonman" to your kind attention.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Over The Hill (Van Der Graaf Generator, 2008)

This song, taken from the album "Trisector", was a pleasant surprise to me and still is one of the recurring tracks in my playlists. A genuine, fully developed, essentially prog VDGG's  song, at last! Not that I don't like their experiments, their wide open minded attitude, their unpredictable paths, but... well, when they come back to good ol' prog, to enjoyable melodies and longer, flushing track, I'm simply happy.

"Trisector" was the band's tenth studio album and their second
work after the new century reunion. 

Not only this is a beautiful song, featuring a deep and even catchy theme, but its arrangement is kind of an interplay festival, where all the instruments co-operate in order to create a rather dark and inner musical world, something the entire progressive world tried and imitate, while the band kept on searching new ways. Please listen to Hammill's performance, enjoy the bass lines, taste the vintage keyboards, appeciate the delicate drumming... all is worth a first class rate! When the master comes back home, the whole family celebrates!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Les Chants Magnétiques Part 1 (Jean-Michel Jarre, 1981)

This rather long epic (some 17 minutes) fills the A side of Jarre's album "Les Chants Magnétiques", also released as "Magnetic Fields" for the International markets. Actually, the French title includes an untranslatable double meaning based on the same French pronunciation of "Les Champs Magnétiques" (that's to say "Magnetic Fields") and "Les Chants Magnétiques" (meaning "Magnetic Songs"). 

Those "Magnetic Fields/Songs" are Jarre's fifth studio work.

This is a very Jarre-sque track, if I can say so, full of electronic devices and also packed with musical intuitions, unusual atmospheres and strong emotions. In addiction to this, the composition is a classically conceived one, with effective themes and clever variations, tempo changes based on the concerto schemes and a profusion of gace notes. In spite of such a big deal of ideas, the music is light and almost transcendent, as an arcane message from another world. As usual, this artist walks on the narrow dividing line between baroque shows and inner musical experience. And he keeps his balance so well...

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Nostradamus (Mikromidas, 2001)

This is a band from Norway, and a very good one, IMHO. Sure, it's another case of vintage prog revival, but when such a task is accomplished with care and good taste it can lead to superb outfits, like the song I'm introducing here. The track itself comes from the album "Brennende Drømmer" ("Burning Dream" in English) and lines up a series of stunning "good old prog" solutions all along its 10 minutes or so. First of all, the Mellotron and assorted keys are great, opening the song and assuring its coherence until the very last second. A very well done work, Mr. Øystein Larsen!

It was the debut album for this Stavanger based band.

Then Halvard Jakobsen's and Ståle Leirtrø's guitars, gracing some of the best passages of the track, always keen and neat. The rest of the band also deserves the listener's attention and a special mention goes to Leirtrø's vocals, ranging from soft tones to high pitches and providing the right amount of emotions in both cases. In short, "Nostradamus" is another excellent choice for old progfans as myself.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Ashes of The Time (Vermillion Sands, 1981)

A very original way to neo-prog, this "Ashes of The Time" is. Waving rythms, peaceful largos, asensitrive female voice and a good deal of acoustic instruments, especially 12-string guitars. Somewhere between Ant Phillips and Renaissance, this Japanese act find their own trademark. I really like their taste for good melodies and long, rich instrumental passages. I also think they know how to add true emotions into their aesthetic and smooth music. This peaceful song comes from the album "Water Blue", their debut work.

The cover art and the music inside surely are in tune!

Listen to the slow time sung section towards the end of this song: it's like the enchanted gateway to an inner world. And then a xylophone duets with acoustic guitars... and that's magic! And what about the mandolin closing section? Delicate and moving: what a plain and tasty recipe!The band came back recently with a second album and I hope they'll go on progging.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Return of The Giant Hogweed (Genesis, 1971)

One of the weirdest songs by Genesis and one of the most fascinating ones too, IMHO. Being a "big classic" of prog rock, I won't produce here a detailed description (well, I couldn't anyway), but I can't avoid some personal observations. The entire song is full of pure prog energy, packed of a special kind of sparkling, juvenile, dynamic fury. The sci-fi theme (a rather scary strory about a killer plant, reminiscent I think of John Wyndh'am triffids) creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, increased by a series of crescendos and quick tempos.

This is the invading species of "Heracleum" that inspired the song.

The only break in such a rush is when the electric piano comes in or when it comes to a musical depiction of the most British country gentleman, but even then you'll feel a sharp tension, an impending-danger mood that rules the music. Useless to say, the themes, the solos and the interplays are very well found, maybe a little rough, but that's exactly what you need to describe a deadly struggle. I heard many people say that a song like this explains why Genesis are a world apart in the progressive universe. I bet they're right.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Axis (Alice, 1970)

There are just a few tracks featuring the essence of the '70s as strongly as this one. "Axis" is the leading track from Alice's self titled debut album, back in 1970. It's a flushing, diversified, warming kind of prog instrumental, with a profusion of organs, guitars and acoustic instruments, including the sax and the flute, a period must, I daresay. The vaguely arabic main riff is catchy and fits into the hippy generation's fancies, while the bass lines are simply exciting.

A funny patchwork cover, isn't it?

A creative drumming and some well found tempo changes finish one of the best French early prog tracks I've ever listened to. Last but not least, enjoy the fake finale followed by a delicate acoustic coda. Really, one couldn't imagine such a great deal of musical tricks in a single 5 minute track! That's the Prog rock, baby!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Terra Hidria (Hidria Spacefolk, 2002)

Those Finnish musicians are among the few space-rockers an old progfan like me can fall in love with. Their instrumental tracks aren't only full of arcane, intricate soundscapes - like Ozric Tentacles, for example - but they also happen to mix acoustic and electronic instruments in an almost perfect way. Different cultures, different moods and different tempos are set up in this "Terra Hidria", the opening track of their "Symbiosis" album, to take the shape of an unpredictable and still fully enjoyable piece of music.

"Symbiosis" was Hidria Spacefolk's debut album.

Strange, yes, but never weird. Tricky, yes, but never Beyond the listener's comprehension. The solos and the interplays aren't mere atmospheres, but they build up a true melody before your very ears, a delicate and well structured castle made of dreamy stuff... wait, I think it was the stuff the dreams are made of, wasn't it? Forget all I wrote, guys, and go straight to the music. Simpler that way.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Tell (Landberk, 1994)

One of the best Swedish bands of the '90s, Landberk were deliciously dark and melancholy. This song comes from the album "One Man Tell's Another" and features all the most remarkable qualities of the act. The keyboard (mostly Mellotron) backgrounds, the sharp and sometimes piercing guitars, the slow motion melodies, the long intro and - last but not least - the pensive vocals and the pulsing and rich bass lines.

This was Landberk's third studio album.

In addiction to all that, this track also includes a well found, catchy, hypnotic recurring theme that goes through a series of vocal and instrumental variations and tends to remain impressed in one's mind. Of course, there is a King Crimson's taste here as usual with Landberk, but their unique, half-progressive half-psychedelic sound can't be underrated nor confused with anything else. You simply can't miss this one, my prog friends!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Shadowplay (Fish, 1991)

This is the opening track of Fish's second solo album, "Internal Exile". It seems to me it features the old days energy of Mr. Derek Dick, a tough performance by the band and also an excellent melody. The keyboards by Simmonds remind me here of Marillion's Mark Kelly, but there's a sharper guitar to top the arrangement. The tempo changes and the atmospheric sections also enrich a song that still stands among my favoutite solo tracks by Fish.

Beautiful cover, isn't it? Scottish pride & Mr. Wilkinson...

The arcane and hypnotic musical loops in the middle section gradually lead to one of the best vocal crescendos Fish performed in his entire career. That's exacly the heartbreaking, moving, inside-out kind of magic he used to set up in his best moments, something he picks up again from time to time and I always expect from his songs. Pure prog energy, pure musical emotions...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Changeling (Aragon, 1992)

Please don't ask me why, but Aragon are one of those those bands that progfans strongly like or dislike. I think they're among the most interesting Australian bands and some of their songs are really, really good. This is the case with "The Changeling", coming from the album "The Meeting". Strongly influenced by Fish-era Marillion, this track has a higly dynamic and intense structure, based on sharp guitars and baroque keyboards, a contrast I especially appreciate.

"The Meeting" was Aragon's second studio album.

Les Dougan's vocals are excellent, as he alternates strong and delicate moods in a convincing way. The melodies are full-bodied, and sometimes catchy. I also like some original touches: a slide guitar, some unusual electronic effects, very well found bass lines and so on. In short, this is an ever changing song, featuring unpredictable passages and - most of all - there's an emotional hardcore in "The Changeling" that gives a special, inner sense to the big picture. So, like it or not, this is prog rock at its best.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Sunrise (Apple Pie, 2007)

Here you are a Russian band sounding like Spock's Beard but with their own special mood. Apple Pie's debut album "Crossroads" includes this track, called "Sunrise". I like very much. I know many of you don't like melodic neo-prog, but here you'll find an unusually warm sound, with a good deal of acoustic guitars, a friendly voice and good vocal harmonies too. The electric guitar is likely the best feature of this song, so pleasant and so well played, performing a series of diversified solos. The main theme is also  very good, with a creascendo setting and a well found chorus.

This album features ten fully enjoyable songs. 

The rythm section supports the singer and the guitarist with conviction and without any excess. When the keyboards come in, they add the final touch to the song, starting a delicious interplay with some slightly distorted guitars. I appreciate this song for its pattern too, lining up sweet and aggressive sections, acoustic and electric instruments, so that the listener never gets bored. Well done, actually.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Neonlicht / Neon Lights (Kraftwerk, 1978)

Another melancholy post-industrial track by Kraftwerk I'm adding to this blog. I love the decadent mood of this song, its winding slow time and its passionless, almost indolent vocals. The instrumental section is excellent and perfectly fits into the crepuscular atmosphere of the lyrics iterating: "Neon Lights / Shimmering neon lights / And at the fall of night / This city's made of light".

The original vinyl 12" single was whitish in daylight...

...and phosphorescent green in the dark.

The hypnotic sung theme is supported by a slowly pulsing electronic background, until the synth solo comes in. This song was also released as a single b-side (with "The Model") and lately as a stand alone 12" single. And, of course, a luminous vinyl was employed. If you like retro moods and stylish electronics, well, this is for you.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Farm on The Freeway (Jethro Tull, 1987)

Another good reason to love Jethro Tull's "Crest of A Knave" album surely is this song. It starts like a Jethro's classic, then goes on even better than you can imagine, with a full r'n'b soul, a pinch of baroque'n'roll and some hevier riffs now and then. A good song, IMHO, with a devilish Anderson's flute and Martin Barre at his heights. The lyrics are about the declining rural habits in USA and the invasion of the modern freeways criss-crossing the American landscape, kind of a "Heavy Horses" topic put on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

A good bootleg CD was named after this song, from a Philadelphia
concert featuring some members of Fairport Convention. It was in 1987.

The highlights of "Farm on The Freeway" probably are the country music intro, the first Barre's break and the following duet with Anderson's flute. But the sung melody is also excellent and the whole song should be more appreciated even by the band's fans. Be as it may, I like it very much and I recommend it to all my progfriends.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Várni kell (East, 1982)

Hungarian neo-prog heroes East released their second album, called "Hüség" ("Faith") in 1982 and this is likely my favourite song from it. It is titled " Várni kell" ("You Must Wait") and is a very good example of easy progressive pop/rock, including a catchy sung theme and a series of keyboard-driven instrumental parts. The guitar adds its distinctive touch to the big picture and the rest of the band cooperates to build up a very pleasant song.

I also happen to like this cover art very much...

Sure, this isn't for my most adventurous readers, but I'll ever be partial to the groups carrying on more or less prog choices in a difficult era and what's more I don't think such musical efforts were encouraged by the Hungarian political establishment. That said, this song is also well played and well sung by Miklós Zareczky and more than this, there's a well found mix of electronic effects and acoustic instruments. Well done,our Hungarian friends, well done!

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Story of Mysterious Forest (Ain Soph, 1980)

Nothing like Japan, when it comes to the '80s! Ain Soph are an excellent example of this flushing era of the Rising Sun progressive rock. This is the title track from their debut album: an intricate, fascinating suite featuring 10 sections, all full of descriptive music, suspended atmospheres and magic themes. Jazzy sections follow symphonic parts, the electronic effects add a special touch to the acoustic percussions and to the highly dynamic bass lines.

Ain Soph released four studio albums between 1980 and 1992. 

You won't recognize here a single model: Ain Soph created their own musical world, so delicate and so heartbreaking that you'll be immediately lead away by their soft and deep melodies. Nothing is trivial, nothing is foregone and if Yozox Yamamoto's electric guitar sounds midway between Gilmour and Latimer, it surely  spread its wings to a completely different breeze. Some passages are like crystal gems, and other ones are red velvet flowers. Rhythmic fantasy and melodic skills... that's enough for me.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Traveller (LiR, 1993)

You'd have many problems if ever you tried to label this Irish band. LiR actually are progressive in their own way, as they collect different musical ingredients and they stir them into a tasty pot. This intro to their debut album is a fascinating down tempo instrumental, starting with an original blurred mix, then getting dreamy and piano driven. There's a strong, intimate mood here, with an excellent choice of keyboard effects, even if the final result is an essential sound, a very intense one at that.

Before this album, the band had released an EP in 1992.
The sudden and unexpected pop-rock coda isn't an absent-minded youtuber's mistake: the band actually added this section there, like a final, surprising trick. That's exactly why they fit into a prog rock blog, IMHO: they never settle for the easiest solution. That's what we progfans do as well... so, welcome home, LiR!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Funny Ways (Gentle Giant, 1970)

The very roots of progressive rock are in a bunch of songs released between 1969 and 1970. This one definitely belongs to such a noble club. "Funny Ways" comes from the Giant's first album and explores both the folk and jazzy moods, two essential elements in prog. It also features an electric guitar solo, so that we can't forget progressive rock is rock, after all.

A very early press photograph of the band.
The vocal harmonies, the creative drumming and the beautiful melody are other good reasons to listen and re-listen this track. The abundance of acoustic and electric instruments and their perfect mix are Gentle Giant's trademark: violin, trumpet, cello, sax, a collection of drums, guitars and keyboards... all is there for the listener's pleasure. So, why are you wasting your time reading my silly introduction? Go and enjoy "Funny Ways"!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Of A Lifetime (Journey, 1975)

As you probably know, Journey started their career with a pair of good prog rock albums, including some jazzy elements and cleverly made architectures. This "Of A Lifetime"comes from the band's self-titled debut album, surely their proggest work, and is one of my favourite songs of theirs. It's a lysergic, winding rock ballad, featuring a slow guitar riff I adore, a Hammond background and an excellent guitar solo to top the tasty cake.

This album includes some more very good prog songs.
Sure, the band didn't get the success they were searching for and had to change their musical direction, but hopefully such a song found its way to the hearts of good music lovers. I'm not a purist (see my posts for that) and I also like Journey's pop-rock era, but I do think their first approach to rock had a special energy, a deeper and more original mood. That's why "Of A Lifetime" is here in my blog.