Friday, 31 July 2015

Anyway (Genesis, 1974)

Who says an excellent prog song must be long? Well, if necessary, "Anyway" shows you can be prog in the deepest sense in three minutes or so. "The Lamb Lies down on Broadway" is a special album in many ways, being so unpredictable and diversified, so this song seems one of the most traditional ones in such a pioneering work. But if you keenly listen to this, you'll think better. True, the main theme of "Anyway" comes from the very early era of the band, but the piano-driven arrangement can't hide a deal of awesome ideas: the sound has a sharp edge, I daresay there's an evil backtaste in it and Gabriel's vocals  go down the same way.

...Many years later...

All along this track the listener is somehow overwhelmed by the strong contrast he perrceives between the delicate arpeggio on the piano amd a definite sense of violence. And after all the lyrics are about Death. The instrumental bridge is also surprising, with its bombastic piano plus sampled guitar and, of course, the rythm section's neat work. In two words: pure emotion.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

En aio paeta (Wigwam, 1969)

No doubt Procol Harum played a central role in defining what we call today proto-prog. And they influenced so many bands all around the planet. Finnish Wigwam also started their huge career including two or three Procol-shaped songs in their debut album. This "En aio paeta" ("I'm not going to escape", more or less) is a good example of their proto-prog period and also a good song. The finnish lyrics add an exotic mood to the track and the piano plus organ arrangement is essential and effective.

Wigwam's first studio album was called "Hard n' Horny"...
A vague folk inspiration and the well released vocal harmonies underline the pastoral atmosphere and I especially like Matts Huldén's bass line, so warm and neat. Some say those old songs are just archaeological curiosities, but when I listen to this plain and short composition I wonder how many glorified current bands could give me as strong emotions as "En aio paeta" does in its three minutes or so of old, charming poetry.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Kaleidoscope (Transatlantic, 2014)

I know Transatlantic epics may be too long and too intricate, even for prog ears. But I actually like this "Kaleidoscope", despite its huge duration time. It's a seven part suite, a real one, not a random rhapsody, nor a collection of songs without pauses. Not only the melodies are good and the players among the best ones in the worldwide prog scene, but there is a strong structure, a beautiful architecture supporting this song. The different moods, tempos and themes are lined up following a pleasant scheme and the returning riffs and lines punctuate this composition giving a variated and coherent shape.

"Kaleidoscope" was the fourth studio album by Transatlantic.

The first half of "Kaleidoscope" (lest's say parts 1, 2 and 3) are strongly influenced by Roine Stolt, while the second half seems less "Flower Kings-oriented" and each musician and author adds his own recognizable musical world to the big picture: Neal Morse's prog ballads, Mike Portnoy's energetic crescendos and Pete Trewavas' unpredictable changes. Different souls and different stories are just like one here, and the bonus gift is... emotion!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Virtual Reality (The Skys, 1999)

The Skys (sic) released their first full-length album only in 2004, but I decided to introduce here this fascinating "Virtual Reality" coming from a short cassette recorded in 1999 and rightfully titled "Dreams". These Lithuanian musicians like unusual arrangements and suspended moods, so this track is exactly what you need to enter their musical world. Please note this is not ambient nor post-rock: I think we could describe it as a highly descriptive and inner kind of prog, where everything is done to show the listener into a secret and somehow disquieting dimension.

The original cassette cover art.

All the imstruments are employed in a rarefied and arcane way, even the vocal theme is half-sung and half-said. The acoustic guitar and the sax add a warm touch to the song and the discreet, sliding keyboards back a heartbreaking piano. Emotions come out of this apparently bare musical box and directly reach my soul. Is it me or these Skys should deserve more attention outside their Country?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sasquatch (Camel, 1982)

"The Single Factor" isn't my favourite album by Camel and it is unlikely to be yours, as far as I can see. But there are excellent tracks in it, especially the instrumental ones, like this "Sasquatch", a true prog gem. Its lively and changing rythm, the intricate interplays and the usual camel-esque warm melodies are but three of the good reasons to listen to it. Let's see some other ones.

"The Single Factor" was the ninth studio album by Camel.

The simultaneous presence of 12-string and electric guitars creates a sparkling and enjoyable mood, so that the tempo and theme changes can count on a constant and never too invasive background. Latimer's guitar is another highlight of "Sasquatch", but then I'm saying nothing new: Andrew's original touch has a brilliant and cheerful nuance in this track, rather on the sunny side of Camel. That said, my dear progfriends, I'll leave you the pleasure to start this enthralling musical journey.

Friday, 24 July 2015

La Magna Carta (Drama, 1998)

When French band Drama released their album called "Flying over The 21st Century", some reviewers found it a little incoherent, being full of disparate ethnic references. I can't deny it's actually weird to fly over the entire planet in a single CD, but there are many beautiful moments in this record. Among my favourite ones is the opening song, "La Magna Carta", lining up in an enthralling succession Scottish bigpipes, Peruvian flutes, Spanish guitars, Genesisian quotes, Oldfield lanscapes and Floydian breaks.

This album was the second studio work by Drama.

Despite such a composite lot (and, alas, the programmed drums), the electric guitars and the rythm section succeed in their desperate effort to draw a coherent pattern in which each moment finds its place. It's a foolish rhapsody, maybe, but I like its liveliness and the sincere love for prog rock it reveals. Not for the purist ears, but highly recommended if you're searching for a sunny and easy piece of music.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Fenris (Ragnarok, 1975)

Kiwi prog scene probably is the least known among the progressive scenes of English speaking Countries. That said, Ragnarok have their worldwide cult fandom and I think they deserve far more than this. They had an original style, somewhere between space rock, mainstream rock and prog. They created a special sound, full of good melodies and strong constrasts. See how they mix acid riffs and celestial keys un this "Fenris", listen to Lea Maalfrid's beautiful voice, a female version of Geddy Lee's (or a male version of Jon Anderson's? lol...).

This track comes from Ragnarock's self titled debut album.

What I actually like here is the sense of proportion: never too rock, never too electronic, an excellent mix of guitars and keys, rythmic background and melodic lines, finally a perfect balance between sung and instrumental sections. P.S.: Not to be confused with a bunch of other bands bearing the same name. Probably our friends from Auckland started a trend and they did it without knowing.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Keyboard Waltz (Culpeper's Orchard)

Please let me introduce some tracks from the folk side of prog, from time to time. This is the case with this delicious song by Danish band Culpeper's Orchard, coming from their second studio album, titled "Second Sight". The early '70s were full of folkish bands and songs, but this one has its own taste, based on a mid-tempo background and evolving with some gentle slide guitars and a very, very rich percussive carpet.

This Danish band had a British singer: Mr. Cy Nicklin.

Now and then the song changes and opens new horizons, carefully unfolding its musical curtains. The warm and acoustic feeling of the hippy era meets an electric and slightly acid sound, so that "Keyboard Waltz" has a comfortable mood, but a less homely approach than many other tracks from that period. All in all, a track I still like to put in my playlist after so many years.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Freudiana (Eric Woolfson / Alan Parsons, 1990)

A song, this time. An apparently plain one, in fact, but - as usual with prog-related artists - there is more than meets the... ear! "Freudiana" is the title song of what should have been The Alan Parsons Project's eleventh studio work and actually is credited to no one (but Eric Woolfson's name appears in the stage cast version). It must be considered, however, as the last brainchild by both Eric and Alan. When Woolfson and Parsons parted their ways, a new album was more or less finished, then Woolfson decided to release it with a more rock opera arrangement, partly done by artistic director Brian Brolly.

The original version of the album features a white cover.

Even so, this song is quintessential APP and is sung by Eric on a very Parsonian electronic background. All the sounds are deep and arcane, luckily more than they ever were in the previous discography of the two artists. The melody is strong and effective with a gentle verse and a rather bombastic chorus, while the final guitar solo by Ian Bairnson provides that little rock 'n' roll that we all like to hear now and then in a song by the Project. The lyrics offer a revealing intro to the album, a concept about life and works of Sigmund Freud that also debuted on stage. An excellent song, unfortunately one of the last ones by one of the most successful musical duos ever.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Lehaim To N.E.P. (Disen Gage, 2008)

Nothing would be stranger than a mix of King Crimson, Debussy, Gentle Giant and Weather Report and of course I couldn't imagine that such a thing existed. Not before listening to Disen Gage, a Russian band I came across some years ago via the Internet. As you probably know, I don't like hard core experimental prog, but I'm rather lured by something like that when I also find in it some "real" music and an attempt to communicate.

This album was the third Disen Gage's studio work.

Well, this track, coming from the album "...The Reverse May Be True" is exactly what I'm searching for in the dark universe of crossover prog: these musicians like to explore different and unusual paths, but they also like to play good music. The vague gipsy mood of this instrumental and the way it goes in and out of melody, never too easy and never too tricky, surely please my ears. The band seem to have a great time when playing and their state of mind reaches the listener's soul. So this is music, this is prog. A weird one, maybe, but I like it.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bhula Do Unhey (Coshish, 2013)

Indian prog rock is growing fast. Coshish are one of the most interesting bands there, gathering many different musical worlds into one well recognizable modern version of progressive rock. This "Bhula Do Unhey" comes from the concept album "Firdous" and is a highly diversified track. It starts slowly with an atmospheric and captivating acoustic guitar, it goes on as a mid-tempo ballad and then here you are a devilish electric guitar accompanying the chorus and finally performing solo.

Coshish finally got a major's production for their "Firdous".

Really, this is an eclectic and convincing way to build up a catchy but never trivial song. "Bhula Do Unhey" can be read as both a wannabe chart single and a musical exploration along old and new progressive paths. A pinch of Tool, half a teaspoon of Porcupine Tree and lots of good ideas, of course. Easy? Not so...

Friday, 17 July 2015

Thank you all... for the 700th time!

Yes, once again I take the opportunity to say thank you to all the visitors of my little blog. The previous song was number 700, and I'm more and more surprised to discover how many proggers come here from time to time. The meaning of such a growing interest is clear to me: this page will disappear in a few years,, but prog will go on for centuries. I'm sure.

Four Moments (Sebastian Hardie, 1975)

I think this suite is not only one of the highlights from the same titled album by Australian band Sebastian Hardie, but it's one of the best moments of mid-70s progressive rock. The track is divided into four parts ("Glories Shall Be Released", "Dawn of Our Sun", "Journey Through Our Dreams" and "Everything is Real") and has about 20 minutes of total running time. As usual, the four movements are mainly melodic and present a flushing arrangement, both rich in keyboard effects and guitar solos. The vocal harmonies are also excellent and the tempo changes are cleverly lined up to create a pleasant and variated listening experience.

The back cover of the original LP.
Most of the music and lyrics were written by guitarist Mario Millo, the actual leader of Sebastian Hardie, but keyboardist Toivo Pilt's contribution is essential, IMHO, to the special mood of this suite. It's surprising how mature, effective and coherent this track is when it comes from the band's debut album. Last but not least, please enjoy Mario Millo's vocal performance: it seems to me he sings his inner feelings.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Invincible (Muse, 2006)

A great song by Muse. Even more: a great prog song. An atmospheric melody, a keen and lushing arrangement, a splendid vocal performance by Matthew Bellamy, a vibrating guitar solo and, of course, an old fashioned and still so modern arrangement. I must confess that when I found this song leading the whole planet charts I was impressed and moved. It seemed to me that the music I used to love in my youngest years was back again. And once more successful.

"Black Holes & Revelations" was the fourth studio work by Muse.

Of course, this is a 21st Century song, with all the newest technical solutions and matching with the contemporary musical scene and icons. Still, how many hints from the past I found here! No, I won't even try to write down a list of quotations: that would be useless and unfair. This is a song that clearly shows how evergreen can be that special point of view on music we call prog in want of a proper word. I'm so happy Muse are here to scream their inside world out and to keep on searching new ways for rock.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Voyage (Osiris, 1984)

We all know progressive rock is full of surprises, and we also know it's a worldwide spread movement. Even so, a neo.prog band from Bahrain isn't a common subject in prog fandom's chats. Osiris were born in the late '70s and released three studio albums in the first part of their career, between 1981 and 1990. They came back in 2007, but that's a different story. This "Voyage" is a captivating track from their "Myths And Legends" album.

"Myths And Legends" was the second studio work by Osiris.

The main influence here (and not only here) is Camel and surely Mohamed Al-Sadeqi's melodic and dreamy electric guitar is the prominent feature of this instrumental track. The other musicians are also good, and I'll just mention here keyboardist Abdul Razak-Aryan. I like the way the band depict a wide open landscape. Their music is simple and likely some keyboard effects are a little dated today, still I perceive a genuine emotion in "Voyage" and emotions actually are all I'm looking for when I listen to music. Let alone when I listen to prog...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Cuando la música era espiritual y no física o el Adivino del último periodo de paz (Iconoclasta, 1987)

No doubt this is one of the longest titles a prog song ever had. You could translate this with "When the music was spiritual, not physical or the Seer of the last period of peace", so that you can easily guess this is not a love song. It's the opening track of the "Soliloquio" album by Mexican band Iconoclasta and surely is an unusual one. This doesn't mean that "Cuando..." is a weird and experimental song, just for the connoisseurs. Not at all, in fact.

If you think this song title is weird, what about the album art?

There is a fully enjoyable melody and a beautiful arrangement, more peaceful than usual for Iconoclasta. Being an instrumental intro, the band leaves to the listeners any further interpretations, even if such a sunny, catchy theme clearly depicts the utopian "last period of peace" the title suggests and the visions of that mysterious Seer. All in all, I like the song and the gentle but never obvious way it flows away, just like a childish tune or a village fair... but with a strange twist. Sometimes this is the kind of music you need to think over the gravest subjects. Incredible, maybe, but true.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Tanz und Tod (Anyone's Daughter, 1982)

Anyone's Daughter are one of my favourite german bands ever. I think this "Tanz und Tod" (something like "Dance And Death" in English) should explain why I'm fond of them. It's a three-part suite coming from the album "In Blau", and it also should prove how the '80s sounds could go along very well with prog rock (they rarely did, I know...). And with native language lyrics, that's always a plus to me.

"In Blau" was the fourth album by Anyone's Daughter.

The three sections of this track are really diversified, ranging from pop-prog to piano solo and from spoken lines to a full-bodied symphonic finale. Of course, other attractions are there to please the prog ear: guitar solos (the last and longest one is good as gold, IMHO), jazzy passages and so on. Energetic and dynamic, yes, but also romantic and melodic, this composition doesn't bind me to choose between heaven and hell... it's an all-inclusive set. I take it.

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Enemy Smacks (IQ, 1983)

One of the founding songs of the neo-prog movement, this track comes from the album "Tales from The Lush Attic" and is  full of energy and sensibility. The intro attack is a powerful image of what I call progressive rock, and Peter Nicholls' leading vocal performance is even stronger than usual. The following instrumental section has a dark mood, based on Tim Esau's and Paul Cook's rythm section. Then the music gets lighter and lighter to show a superb keyboard / guitar interplay. Next stop: the strongest contrast you can imagine, as a slow-tempo, atmospheric sung section is immediately followed by the heaviest part of the song.

IQ in 1983: a good bunch of proggers.

In short, the track goes on through different tempos and well found sounds, lining up a series of inventions and some excellent quotations (a bit of Gilmour, a bit of Wakeman...), but the moving finale seems to me the ultimate reason to love "The Enemy Smacks". Here Nicholls simply wears his inside out, then the whole band offers a full-bodied wall of sound and a perfect example of symphonic rock outro. Definitely, that's enough for me.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Immensa distesa (Le Orme, 1975)

This sweet, dreamy ballad taken by their "Smogmagica" album is unlikely to be the proggest song by Le Orme, but surely is one of their best melodies... and that's saying something! Not only the sung theme is well written, but the arrangement is simply perfect with a pinch of West Coast and Italian mandolin inside.

Le Orme in L.A. recording "Smogmagica".

The vocal performance is like silk, the keyboards and the guitar are suspended in a misty and mysterious sunset, a warm and golden soundscape, full of nostalgy and sweetness. Michi Dei Rossi's drumming is a pulsing whisper, and the lyrics are also very good, dealing with the eternal search for balance in human life. When I need a rest, "Immensa distesa" is exactly what I need.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Island (The Decemberists, 2006)

From time to time, The Decemberists go epic and this is the case with "The Island", a three part suite included in their "The Crane Wife" album, released in 2006. Moreover, this track is one of the proggest compositions in their whole career, both for its unpredictable architecture and its vintage sounds. A slight acid vein, some good and warm riffs and the usual Colin Meloy's perfect vocal performance are likely to be the first things a prog mind will pick up in the first section, but a further exploration reveals more good reasons to love "The Island".

Another excellent cover art by Carson Ellis, Colin Meloy's wife.

Take the discreet and effective chorus and its vocal harmonies and the oh so seventies keyboard arpeggios plus acoustic guitar touches of the second section: what's that? A "Nursery Cryme" outtake? For sure, it's the greatest tribute The Decemberists ever payed to the Golden era of prog. The third and last part comes back to the folk mood and a relaxed, fresh, old fashioned ballad fills the air. The final viola touch has a medieval scent and enriches such a bare and touchy melody. Believe me, this really is a great song!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Ici, Maintenant (Nemo, 2006)

This song by Nemo comes from their "Si - Part 1" album and is one of the best examples one could find of their lively, diversified and rather aggressive kind of prog. I like this track very much, expecially because of its everchanging moods. The piano and the effective sung theme open "Ici, Maintenant" ("Here, Now" in English), then a bombastic wall of sound breaks the atmosphere and empowers the melody.

This edition included both installments of the "Si" concept.

The following steps are lined up in a very clever way: heavy prog, electronic effects, delicate piano touches, rythmic crescendos and, of course, the main theme reprises. It's a little musical jewel combining rock and melody, just the way prog should be. I can't say I love Nemo's whole production, but songs like this one, well... I adore!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Not of This World (Pendragon, 2001)

Here you are a three part suite by Pendragon, that's also the title track of their 2001 album. The first part is full of energy, an awesome instrumental intro one could put on the first page of a progressive rock handbook. Then the sung part comes in, a well found and lively melody, a hearty crescendo with an atmospheric interlude leading to the Ridi pagliaccio quotation. Clive Nolan does a great work on keyboards in the subsequent bridge, then the listener enjoys a typical Pendragon largo.

"Not of This World" was Pendragon's sixth official studio work.

The third part opens on a suspended mood and a new, calm and moody melody fills the air. Nick Barrett knows how to exploit those dreamy moments to put some feeling into his songs and, of course, to launch the final guitar solo, here doubled by vocals. That's Pendragon: you like them or you hate them, you loose yourself in their silky music or you throw away the CD. Guess what I do!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Sukuba (Jeseter, 2007)

A surprising piece of prog, if you believe me. This Czech band apparently began their career as a Yes-inspired act, but their first album surely was something else. ''Slavnost Pro Jednoho'' (meaning "Celebration for One") is a collection of crossover prog songs, somehow inspired by some East-European experimental bands, and still keeping many canons from the Golden Era Symphonic rock.

Jeseter came back with their sophomore work in 2012.

This "Sukuba" ("Succubus") is based on a syncopated rythm (IQ would have liked that one), then goes on through unpredictable paths, including a passionate vocal performance, a jazzy vintage section , a lysergic guitar / keyboards interplay, a pinch Church organ, a scary vocal part  and even a folkish ballad section. The '70s mood is everywhere, but you couldn't define a prevailing influence here. Jeseter have all the virtues a good prog band should have to go on. I really hope they will.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Hope (Dracma, 1996)

Dracma are a Spanish band whose second album, titled "A Fine Stormy Weather" is worth my prog friends' attention. This track, in particular, deserves some notes I'm proud to put down here. It's a fresh, rather catchy and surely diversified song. Its first section is a lively instrumental intro, then a pastoral mood comes in, with a strong (and welcome) Genesis touch. Some seconds later, here you are a delicate sung theme, a melodic and well found one. A beautiful electric guitar / keyboards interplay leading to a guitar solo finishes this gentle section.

Is it me or this tree has a familiar shape?

The following one is once again sparkling and based on a slightly jazzy mood, where a well played piano rules. Some good keyboards lead on the track and close it in the proggiest way I can imagine. Nothing unheard by human ears, of course, but everything is so pleasant and so well arranged that I usually restart the song for one more musical treat. Will you also do so? Let me know...