Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Behind The Lines (Genesis, 1980)

When Genesis decided to open their 2007 Turn It on Again tour with this track (or more exactly with its intro) some were disappointed. I didn't think so: "Behind The Lines" was indeed one of the best album openings ever and surely is one of the most energetic and fully progressive tracks from the '80s. The keyboard intro has a very special strength, while the sung section displays an unusual r 'n' b side of the band, something Phil Collins will explore during his solo career. The instrumental passages are based on mighty chords but never include proper solos, so that the entire track celebrates the unity and the force of the band far more than the skills of its members.

An edited version of this song was released as the B-side of
"Turn It on Again" 7" single.

That said, we can't underrate Mike Rutherford's excellent work: his bass guitar drives the entire song through broken rythms and syncopated beats, creating a unique sound that will inspire some of the forthcoming neo-prog heroes. A special mention goes to the final link to the following track (that's "Duchess"), where the pyrotechnical energy of "Behind the lines" is gently broken up and keenly softened the way a fire goes down to embers.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Războieni (Bucium, 2008)

Violin and distorted guitar aren't an usual combination, but they perfectly open this track, taken from the album "Voievozii" by Romanian band Bucium. It's a folk-prog-rock enthralling epic, also including dramatic vocals, devilish gigas and some beautiful tempo changes. The Balkanian folk side of Războieni  (a little town that also was the battlefield of a major struggle between Moldavian and Ottoman armies) is very well mixed with a solid melody and a rock background.

This is unfortunately the only album by Bucium to date.

I also like the suspended, atmospheric instrumental bridge marking the central section of the song, soon enriched by Andy Dumitrescu's voice. The contrast between the baritone singer and the high-pitched violin is one of the trademarks of this track (and of other Bucium's songs too). A modern and fascinating way to relive progfolk music, IMHO.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Journey of The Shaman Part 1 (Nemrud, 2010)

This is the first part and opening track of the concept "Journey of The Shaman", released by Turkish band Nemrud. It is both part of a longest suite and a suite itself, divided into four parts (In The World of Dreams, Beginning of Divine Inspiration, Revival and A Stone in The Ocean). I actually like the crossover approach to prog these musicians show and develop with keen coherence. Heavy guitars, floydian atmospheres, changing rythms and moods, experimental passages and psychedelic riffs... everything here is suspended between tradition and innovation.

The musical coherence of this album is surprising for a debut work.

The creative ratio of such a track is important and the listener will be susrpised at each turn of the musical corner, so that the mythical, almost religious concept is never too aethereal or merely spiritual. There are flesh and bones here, a solid ground on which the inspiration of Nemrud builds up a fantastic castle. Beautiful, that's the simplest word for it.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Pereskesije (Portman, 2009)

A very modern and lively track this "Pereskesije" is. Taken from the same titled album by Croatian band Portman, it perfectly illustrates their music, richly arranged, treble edged and nonetheless featuring some traditional prog sides. Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Hogarth-era Marillion could be some of the sources of Portman's inspiration, but you'll find this song mostly original and innovative.

"Pereskesije" was the debut album by Portman.
A tricky guitars interplay, some beautiful dreamy keboards and a little distorted guitars are the trademarks of "Pereskesije", and I also like the rythmic crescendo of this song, specially driven by a splendid bass guitar. There is a constant tension and an underlying sense of wonder that impress me and I'm sure you'll appreciate too. A very unusual and post-everything way to go prog.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Metamorphosis (Magenta, 2008)

This suite is the title track of Magenta's fourth studio album, released in 2008, probably their darkest and heaviest one. This track is particularly rich and diversified, including high volume passages, tricky interplays and quiet, even acoustic moments. Christina Booth's voice is constantly in the foreground, with his steady and crystalline timbre, reminding me of Annie Haslam's. Rob Reed's keyboards and inventions make the difference with the average prog records, while Chris Fry's guitars add colourful and streaked tones.

Tim Robinson provides a first rate drumming to this album.
As usual with these Welsh musicians, there are many references to the likes of Pink Floyd (Reed's beloved Masters), Genesis and Yes, but the pattern of this suite is so well set up and so beautifully accomplished that the listener never gets bored or jaded. An everchanging choice of sounds, tempos and moods draw a coherent, solid fresco that tick away 23 minutes of progressive glory.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Kings And Knights (Aether, 1999)

This Camel-inspired Brazilian band is worth our attention because of their melodic work and their excellent taste for tempo changes. This short instrumental comes from their debut album "Visiones", a concept based on German castles and also featuring a long suite that I don't put here because I found it rather erratic in both structure and inspiration. The shorter tracks, however, are very good and this one is full of visual descriptions and passionate guitars.

As this cover art will prove, Aether like atmospheric moods.
Andrew Latimer would be proud of Vinicius Brazil's work, but there is more than this. The way these musicians change the rythms preserving the fairy atmosphere of the song is also a highlight of "Kings And Knights" and of other tracks from the album as well. If you won't find many innovative choices here, you'll surely appreciate the warm and coherent mood of the track. A good reason to listen to Aether's music, IMHO.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Light in The Doorway (Atom Orr, 2016)

I immediately liked the opening song of Atom Orr's EP "Light in The Doorway", but listening to the following tracks I liked them too, so I took my time and finally decided to come back to my first coup de coeur. So here you are the EP's title track to begin with. Christopher Hoffee, the man behind this project, actually set up a little jewel, a modern way to progressive rock  that also pays respect to some of the past Masters.

This interesting EP includes four long and diversified songs.
Take the intro: a heartbreaking syncopated rythm, something between Yes and IQ, that suddenly leaves its place to a more relaxed and ethnic-flavoured passage that reminds me of Gong and George Harrison. And then... the first theme comes back, with an added dose of energy and an electronic coda. A coherent song, featuring a very well balanced mix of old and new, and also a hearty, sensitive vocal performance. This is what prog will need to go on: an open-minded approach with a feeling.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Easy to Forget (Equinox, 1998)

Good and solid (neo-) prog bands live and play everywhere. This group, called Equinox, come from Panama and is worth a bit of our attention. The aerial and melodic "Easy to Forget" is an excellent example of their music. Nothing experimental or crossover, but a great deal of passion and some interesting themes.

This was thedebut album by Equinox.

I'm not fond of their lead vocalist, but I must admit they succesfully mix neo-prog atmospheres, short heavy passages and very good guitar solos. Some changes will surprise the listener, while the keyboards add some light and pleasant touches here and there and also provide the right background for this kind of song. The band released two albums between 1998 and 2000. Such a pity we couldn't hear more of them...

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Abbey Road Medley (The Beatles, 1969)

Even if this famous medley from the "Abbey Road" album skips all labels and includes many and so different short songs, it surely influenced the rising progressive rock and was influenced by it. First of all, this lushing collection of musical themes proves how abundant and diversified was the band's inspiration and how accomplished were their creative skills. And I shouldn't forget George Martin's contribution, he probably provided the "symphonic" side to the big picture. A picture with no title, O must say, so I shold've called this post You Never Give Me Your Money/Sun King/Mean Mr Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came In Through the Bathroom Window/Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End. Too much...

Not simply a cover: an immortal rock icon.

This kaleidoscope of musical sketches and the way The Beatles lined up full band arrangements, vocal harmonies and solo performances will become a standard in all forthcoming prog suites. They also chose with care the running order of the songs, so that some of them act like bridges or links between two strong and catchy tunes. 16 minutes of colourful, everchanging and riveting music. And if you don't want to call it prog, you'll have to find a new word for it!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Salmon Song (Madder Lake, 1973)

Here you are a peculiar and almost instrumental song from Australian band Madder Lake, released in 1973 as the opening track of the album "Stillpoint". It is a weird mix of psychedelia, mainstream rock , blues and proper prog, including a series of changes and a very well balanced sound. All the instruments play an important role, so that I daresay this is a solid example of a band acting the way a band should do.

This album was the debut work for Madder Lake.

The only vocals come toward the end of the song, during the most bluesy and even spacey section of the the composition. As a matter of fact, the rest of the album is mostly blues-rock oriented, but this 8 minutes opening really deserves the attention of my prog friends, as it is a tricky and somehow visual track, as it actually depicts salmons climbing up a river, one of the greatest scenes provided by Nature. I'm sure this one will be a pleasant discovery for many readers of this blog as it was for me.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Book Of Prophecies suite (Solaris, 1999)

Solaris are usually known as the band of "Marsbéli krónikák" (or "The Martian Chronicles"), but these Hungarian musicians also wrote and released other excellent albums, among which I recommend "Nostradamus - Book of Prophecies" or, in Hungarian, "Nostradamus – A próféciák könyve". It features the "Book Of Prophecies suite, divided into three parts (Foreword, Birth of Visions and At the Gate of Eternity). The melodic structure of this 20 minutes track is rather plain, based on a main theme and a manifold series of variations.

"Nostradamus" was the third studio album by Solaris.

The general plot is that of a crescendo in both volume and complexity. The ethereal mood of the first movement develops into an almost symphonic arrangement. New musical elements  come in step by step and bring the track to a lush and even experimental finale. This avant-garde and tricky edge is another good reason to treasure "Book of Prophecies suite".

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Destiny (Journey, 1980)

After their prog debut album, Journey decided for a more commercial approach, but when in 1980 they were asked to compose the soundtrack of a Japanese film, they felt free to set up more complex and unpredictable songs. The resulting album titled "Dream, After Dream" included this opening track, a rather long one (9 minutes, more or less) featuring a very good and atmospheric sung theme and an abundant choice of instrumental passages, both slow and fast tempo.

...And I also like this cover art. Don't you?

The contrasts are strong: the melancholic intro, then a rocky, heavy section, followed by a dreamy guitar solo (how good this one is...) and finally a brief, weird electronic coda. I really like this song (and also some more from the album), showing what Journey could have done had they chosen a progger way. True, this coming back to their roots will be a short-lived one, but good music is there to stay, and I'll always listen to "Destiny" with the greatest pleasure.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Where but for Caravan Would I? (Caravan, 1968)

Listening today the first album by Caravan can be highly instructive, as we litterally see the Canterbury sound coming to light and gradually acquire its recognizable features. No doubt, the closing song "Where but for Caravan Would I?" is the most accomplished effort hitherward. It's not just the expanded duration time (some 9 minutes... not bad for a 1968 song!), more than this, the song has very interesting instrumental parts driven by the organ and pleasant vocal lines.

The beginning of an extraordinary career... 

Roughly divided into three sections, this song in an early attempt  Jazzy and even dissonant passages forecast some of the most known Caravan's features to come. The tempo and mood variations can be slightly naive, but they always come in the right place. The dawn of prog...

Monday, 9 May 2016

Delirium (Crónico, 2007)

What a pleasure to introduce this Mexican band to my readers! "Delirium" is the almost title track of Cronico's only album to date "Delirium Room", and maybe the most interesting one. The lyrics are in Spanish (some songs from this CD are in English) and Lizbeth Mendizabal actually has a very original voice. The mood and tempo change many times during the song, including many instrumental interplays involving Daniel Koppen's keyboards and Gabriel Eguiluz's guitars.

IMHO, one of the best prog albums from Mexico in the new Century.

The sound is specially rich, as Lizbeth plays additional Keys to enhance it. The traditional progressive features are all there, but the band add some arcane vocal harmonies and a perfect mix of acoustic and electric instruments to the big picture. There is an abiding tension in "Delirium" that matches with the title and never let the song get trivial or redundant. A pleasure to my ears, and I hope to yours too.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

J'ai trové ta faille (Lazuli, 2014)

Lazuli is one of the most inetersting French bands from the years 2000s. This "J'ai trouvé ta faille" (that's to say "I found your weak point") comes from the album "Tant que l'herbe est grasse" ("Until the grass is puffy") and is a charming track, IMHO. Featuring a beautiful melody and a good mix of folk, neo-prog and electronic devices, this song has a discreet and growing strength, even before guest vocalist Fish comes in for the last verse in English.

"Tant que l'herbe est grasse" was the sixth studio album by Lazuli.

The emotional crescendo  of the track is exciting, but these musicians never show off and look after every details of their music, with a keen and subtle craft that's not at all common nowadays. I suppose that's why they constantly progressed from their early records to the latest ones. And that's why this is an accomplished song I highly recommend.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

A Beira Do Fim (Tantra, 1977)

Gone through a series of changes, breaks and reunions, Tantra are all the same one of the most interesting prog bands of the Portuguese scene. "Misterios e Maravilhas" (that's to say "Mysteries and Wonders") surely is one of their most solid albums and the opening track "A Beira do Fim" ("End's Edge") is by far the best piece of music from this LP. It's a highly diversified track, featuring many tempo changes and a good deal of interplays, mostly involving Armando Gama's keyboards and Manuel "Frodo" Cardoso's guitars. 

This excellent debut album was re-released on CD in 2007.

Of course, you'll recognize here the strong - and unavoidable, IMHO - influence of the great British bands from the '70s (Tantra also certify their gratitude and admiration in the liner notes), but there is an original approach to prog you'll also appreciate, leading to some nearly experimental passages. Finally, special mentions go to the hearty vocal performance by Cardoso and to the coherent musical architecture. Do not miss this track!

Friday, 6 May 2016

In Search of England (Barclay James Harvest, 1978)

When it comes to BJH, we often forget how important Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme's contribution has been during so many years. This song, however, perfectly illustrates his symphonic, nostalgic and catchy approach to prog music. As usual with the greatest songs by this band, the emotional side of "In Search of England" is prominent although never too intrusive.

I'll always love this lullaby's music...

This is a well balanced melodic song, featuring all the discreet and misty atmosphere such a fully British track requires. The lyrics are also good, mounting a dialogue between a boy and an old man about moral duties and productive sacrifices. Once more, BJH show here how great songwriters they are...

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Mother Universe (Wallenstein, 1972)

This is the title song of German band Wallenstein's album released in 1972 and it keeps today all the charms it had originally, plus the vintage glaze that time gives to old (and good) music. Both pastoral and acid, this piano-driven ballad features a hearty vocal performance and a rather gilmour-esque electric guitar, reminding me of early British bands like Quatermass, but with a more melodic taste. 

I really like this album, the second one by Wallenstein.

Some symphonic touches enrich the central section of "Mother Universe", followed by organ and vocal harmonies not too far from Procol Harum's style. The power of the Golden Era of prog is everywhere, while a special Mittel-Europa sound adds an original twist to the big picture. I really like the intense, even dramatic mood of this song and I higly recommend it to you all.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Oriental journey / The Least You Could Do Is Send Me Some Flowers (Alquin, 1972)

A delightful, colourful, unpredictable mini-suite consisting of two tracks, the opening ones of the 1972 album called "Marks". Alquin are one of the brightest prog pearls from the Netherlands during the Golden Era of our favourite genre. This is a very peculiar instrumental, whose first part is a peaceful, pastoral and flute-driven section, a very enjoyable, dreaming piece of music. 

"Marks" was Alquin's debut album.

The rest of the suite is completely different, including a manifold and lively series of changes and involving a good deal of winds. It features several moods, ranging from vaudeville to Beatles-like chords. This kaleidoscope of moods and an assorted choice of sound effects build up an original, even humorous double-sided track I highly recommend to your attention.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Presto (Rush, 1989)

This is the title track of an album released by Rush in 1989 and playing a special role in the band's musical evolution: the strong presence of synths characterizing their '80s production gets more discreet and the typically rock instruments are once again in the foreground, even if the trio don't come back to their early heavy sound. The resulting mix is however a very interesting one, as this song will prove: fresh rythm guitars, airy and light keyboard backgrounds, strong a neat vocals. 

"Presto" is the thirteenth studio album by Rush.

But what I especially like in "Presto" (mainly the song, but also the entire album) is the ever changing and unpredictable plot: when you're sure the tempo will raise up, it actually goes down and when you're expecting a melody, here comes a rock riff. This is exactly what a prog song should be, so... enjoy "Presto" and let the music vivify your lives!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

My Song (The Moody Blues, 1971)

Taken from the album "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" (an usual reminder for EGBDF musical scale) this song starts like an average MB's ballad, then it takes a different turn, featuring a charming orchestra-like instrumental part, both magic and epic. When the vocals come back, they perfectly match with the fairy mood of the song that slowly fades away.

I think this cover art is perfect for "My Song".

Mini-moog, Mellotron, acoustic guitar and flute together aren't an usual solution, but then Moody Blues always skip trivial arrangements and explore new ways. A beautiful attempt to reach visions through music, an epic and peaceful little world into one song... this is "My Song"! And it's also a way into this band's unique and so British atmosphere. That's why you'll find more about them in my blog.