Saturday, 30 July 2016

Sleepers (Galahad, 1995)

No doubt, this is an excellent example of British neo-progressive rock and one of the best songs by Galahad. It has all the features a fan of this band and this genre would like to find: syncopated rythms, tempo changes, melodic (even classical) interludes, lively progressions... just name it yourself. The sung sections are pleasant too, and all the musicians here know how to play, avoiding any show off temptations. The sound is surprisingly modern and still reminiscent of the long tradition of prog.

"Sleepers" was the third official CD by Galahad.

Many bands divide their production into two different streams: a series of tricky, long and intricated tracks - that's for the progfans, of course - and some easier, poppish songs for the rest of humanity. Well, also Galahad can do so, but this is a "one size fits all" song, rather easy to catch and still featuring an elaborate stucture. That's exactly what neo-prog should be: not for the masses, nor for the intellectual elite. Galahad know how to keep the musical middle road...

Friday, 29 July 2016

Pinturas y expresiones (Agnus, 1980)

This Argentinian band was born in the early '70s, during the Golden Era of prog, but they released their sole album in 1980, shortly before the end of their musical adventure. The title track of their work is a long, rather surprising and mostly instrumental suite, lining up three movements and featuring jazzy rythms, latin sounds, flute-driven improvisations, dreamy sketches, pastoral melodies and some very good vocal harmonies.

A finely drawn artwork, matching with the band's musical mood.

As many other bands from Argentina, some of their musical solutions aren't too far from the Italian prog bands, but Agnus surely had a more experimantal way, a free inspiration and an eclectic approach I hardly remember in their contemporary scene and maybe remind me of Dutch band Focus. They liked everything new and most of all they were able to build up a rythm-based song like this one, with beautiful and delicate melodic interludes. Too bad they called it a day after "Pinturas y expresiones"...

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Quarantine (Bader Nana, 2011)

Bader Nana is a musician for Kuwait, both a good composer and a skilled multi-instrumentalist IMHO.  This track comes from his album titled "Wormwood" and has the epic, heavy-oriented mysterious and diversified style you'll find in most of Bader Nana's works. He surely knows how to arrange a rich and enjoyable pot of different tempos, moods and instruments. I think you'll like the electric guitar in this song, so strong, fast and warm, not so far from Hackett's way in its melodic moments.

"Warmwood" was the first proper solo cd by Bader Nana.
Bader Nana also played drums in some bands, so you'll enjoy here true percussions instead of electronic features as in many other one-man bands. And good ones they are. There is a deep and inspired soul throughout "Quarantine", a genuine passion for music and for emotions, something I always appreciate and this is why I recommend it to you.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

პროლოგი / Prologue (სინათლის წელიწადი / The Light Years, 2004)

I was simply fascinated when I came to listen to this band (their original name shold be pronounced Sinatlis Tselitsadi) from Georgia (the European Georgia, not the USA State) and especially to their debut album called " გზა ცისკენ " (pronounced Gza Tsisken and meaning "Sky Way"). At that time of their career those musicians were far into Symphonic rock and I reckon the entire album is worth your attention, so I put its Prologue here, as it announces all their best features.

The Light Years were a sextet in this album.
You'll surely appreciate a captivating recurring riff, some spacey keyboards, a syncopated bridge à la Kate Bush and a heartbreaking string section formed by two violins and one cello. The changes are all well found and even better done, and this opening track creates an electric expectation mood, surely the best viaticum for the following songs. I really like this intro and the whole album... too bad the band decided to get into some major sound changes in recent years! Well, artist must choose freely their own way... I certainly will listen to their future works.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Small Beginnings (Flash, 1972)

The story of Flash isn't a long one, still it's worth to be remembered. The band was born in 1971 by former Yes guitarist Peter Banks anh vocalist Colin Carter. They were soon joined in by bassist Ray Bennet and drummer Muke Hough. That's not all: for their debut self-named album (also including this track) they also hired Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye, and they released three studio albums between 1972 and 1973, let alone a re-union as a duo in 2013. That should switch on your interest. In fact, "Small Beginnings" also was sort of a hit in USA, thanks to its inclusion in a movie soundtrack.

No, Flash didn't choose a Roger Dean's cover. Some won't complain about this.

Be as it may, this is a very good song, full of hippie sounds and tempo changes, not so far from early Yes mood. The riffs and the sung melody are excellent, and so are the everchanging arrangements and the vocal harmonies. Of course, poor Peter Banks' guitar is the most beautiful thing here, but the entire song has an intense and colourful smell, strongly rooted into the Seventies and still enjoyable today. IMHO, of course.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Red Barchetta (Rush, 1981)

"Moving Pictures" is an excellent album by Rush, IMHO, full of thick and coherent compositions, among which I introduce today "Red Barchetta", a live favourite of the Canadian powerful trio (and of their fans of course). There are many changes and different themes in this song, full of stingy sounds and irregular rythms. The short electric guitar solo is rightly famous, but I highly recommend Geddy Lee's bass lines throughout the track... well my mention is likely useless, as we all know how great Lee is.

Imagine this song, a convertible car and the wind in your hair...

Maybe the moment I better like is the final reprise of the opening chords, that's when the tempo goes down announcing the end of the song and the volume slowly fades away, leaving a persistent memory in the listener's ears and the will to restart the player. This is another song by Rush featuring an original pattern, a good melody, brilliant sounds and a series of smart variations. That's why they belong here.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Portrait of A Boy / портрет мальчика (Horizont / горизонт, 1989)

Back to one of the best Russian acts ever, this suite in three movements fills the A-side of the original LP released in 1989 and bearing the same title. It's an interesting, uncompromising piece of music including contemporary classical elements, avant-garde electronic passages, tricky improvisations and, of course, a symphonic rock structure. The King Crimson inspiration is expecially strong during the first movement, but these musicians have their own musical point of view, based on fluid keyboards, stingy guitars and a highly creative rythm section.

"The Portrait of A Boy" was the second and final album by Horizont.

Even if they follow a rather experimental path, they never neglect the melodic side of their work and this suite features a good deal of well found themes and beautiful riffs during the first movement. The most stunning moments here are provided by Igor Pokrovsky's guitar interplays with Sergey Kornilov's and Andrey Krivilev's keyboards, but some of you (the most adventurous listeners, I daresay) will love the fully experimental second movement and its mysterious, spacey effects or the devilish improvised-like final section. I do think the entire track is still daring and original today as it was in the late'80s.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Abschied (Novalis, 1983)

You'll find in this blog long, tricky and pastoral songs by German band Novalis, but here I'd like to introduce a short ballad called "Abschied" ("Farewell")  and coming from the album "Sterntaucher" (that's "Star diver", more or less). I do think this is a highly moving song, apparently plain and essential, but actually full of emotions and musical strength.

"Sterntaucher" was the ninth studio album by Novalis.

It is a welcome example of how a skilled composer can write a prog song lasting three minutes or so. As always, the emotional side of music is more important than rules and habits. Of course, you need a good vocalist and the right amount of instrumental skills. Fred Mühlböck Novalis had this and even more than this, ça va de soi...

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Louse Is Not A Home (Peter Hammill, 1974)

One of the greatest vocal performances ever, IMHO, at least when it comes to prog music. And there's more than this: "A Louse Is Not A Home" (from "The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage" album) is a greatly written song, including instrumental passages as good as the sung melodies and so many and unpredictable changes. Medieval hints, heavy riffs, piano touches, sax echoes, impressive progressions, dissonant improvisations, delicate themes... and most of all the uncompromising, moving Hammill's way.

Everything goes changelling with Hammill... even the cover arts!

Pain and anger, but also a weird and evil kind of joy fill each moment of this song, so that feelings are more important that any skills or conceptual inventions (they also exist, of course!). This is what I'd call emotional prog rock, a refined specialty of Mr. Hammill. The dark angel is simply perfect here, and of course the listener has to listen and re-listen to this in order to uncover all the secret delights of "A Louse Is Not A Home". So I did with pleasure and hope you'll do once more.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Proletarian / Inspired Machine (Wigwam, 1974)

Wigwam are the most represented Finnish band in my blog and I think they deserve it. This two strictly connected tracks open one of their best albums, "Being", and they feature all the open-minded and unpredictable mood of such a seminal work. Written by Jukka Gustavson, they're keyboard based and lively ballads mostly exploiting the same theme but with different tempos.

I'm also fond of Wigwam's peculiar taste when it comes to covers.
I appreciate the brave choice of unusual chords and melodies, floating on a musical seesaw, swaying between slightly dissonant harmonies and more traditional prog folk paths. There's a stunning balance in this mini-suite, that's never too experimental and never too mainstream, leading the listener through mixed moods and colourful landscapes. I guess that's why I come back to it from time to time and each time I'm as pleased as I was in the first place.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Pastorale (Jean-Philippe Goude, 1994)

Goude is what I call an eclectic artist and - even more than this - a musician with no bounderies. A member of Magma, a founder of prog rock bands (namely Madame Bertrand), a jazz pianist, a contemporary classical music composer, a successful producer (those of you speaking French will certainly remember Renaud), a prolific soundtrack and TV music composer, a skilled explorer of electronic sounds, a visual artist... just name it!

"Ainsi de nous" gathered twelve short and intense compositions.

What I'm introducing in my blog today is an example of my favourite Goude's side: his sensitive and melancholic tracks. This "Pastorale" has of course a classical inspiration and a contemporary taste, but it is above all a moving composition, opening the secret gateways of soul. Funny to say, this was the theme of a TV book review show titled "Un livre, des livres" ("A book, some books"), but it surely survived its original aim and still offers three minutes of pleasure and reflection. Enjoy.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Sorry (Daymoon, 2011)

"Sorry" is perhaps the best way into Daymoon's musical world. This band is the brainchild of Portuguese old running prog musician Fred Lessing, that after so many years of honoured service in a series of wannabe prog bands, finally found the right line-up for a well established act. As you'll discover in this composition, taken from the album "All Tomorrows", Daymoon's music is trongly influenced by Gilmour-era Pink Floyd, with an apparently strange addition: the flute and some other wind instruments, mainly played here and there by Lessing himself.

The Moon, of course, but not its Dark Side, this time...

A more cospicuous electronic background is also patent, but of course Lessing's guitar is one of the highlights of this song (and of the other ones too). I appreciate the changing moods of "Sorry", some of them being as strong as in a proper suite... and after all the returning themes and the balanced architecture of the song also work like in a composite track. All in all, this is an enjoyable and modern piece of prog, with roots plunging into the past and branches pointing at the future.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Hermit (Steve Hackett, 1975)

This highly atmospheric song, based on acoustic instruments and on a misty, fairy inspiration, perfectly illustrates Steve Hackett's magical side. Like in an ancient and forgotten English garden, the listener follows a moisty path through the wild, guided by a far away lantern. There he'll find the hermit and, of course, Steve himself playing some folkish tune with his elven friends. The melancholic mood of the instrumental final section is so deeply heartbreaking and John Hackett's flute has such a mysterious call that I'm always compelled to start the song once again and enjoy its charms one more time.

The Hermit as seen on the album, drawn by Kim Poor.

IMHO, "The Hermit" is a perfect example of progressive ballad and somehow it announces the forthcoming "intermediate" Genesis era. And it also proves how much Steve influenced the band's musical choices in a trying passage of their career. When listening to this song, I finally see how precociously mature Steve's talent got...

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Cold Heart (Chris, 2013)

I'm frequently deceived by one-man bands' albums, but this wasn't the case with this one. Chris is the brand Dutch multi-intrumentalist Christiaan Bruin chose for his most known musical adventure, started in 2008 and still gouing on. It's difficult to desctribe this song, taken from the album "Days of Summer Gone", as it zigzags from symphonic rock to Beatles-like well found melodies. To enhance such a diverse track, Mr. Bruin called in a little chamber orchestra of six elements, including strings and wnds.

"Days of Summer Gone" is the fifth studio album  by Chris.

And very well he did, because the pleasant contrast between guitars and percussions (provided by Christiaan himself) and the classically trained sextet is one of the highlights of "Cold Heart", that despite its title has a warm sound. Another plus are the unpredictable changes through which the track goes, the twisted and very different moods it gets. Epic and ironic, easy and tricky, you've got everything in just one package and still each note perfectly matches with the big picture. Smart, I daresay.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Alberich (Klaus Shulze, 2008)

Klaus Shulze's manifold musical career also includes the live album "Rheingold", entirely made of previously unreleased tracks performed in Lereley during the "Night of The Prog III" festival, with guest singer Lisa Gerrald of Dead Can Dance fame. The very location of this concert is related to the heroes of the epic poem usually called "The Song of The Nibelungs" (or "Nibelungenlied"). This long track, for example, is dedicated to Alberich, the dwarf guardian of the Nibelung's treasure. Instead of his well known obsessive sequenced keyboards, here Shulze prefers (at least in the first section) a dark and spacey atmosphere where Gerrard's extraordinary voice draws striking landscapes and arcane vocalisms.

This breathtaking concert was released as a double CD and as a duble DVD.

As always with Mr. Shulze, this is not an easily enjoyable track, it's an absorbing trip through the weirdest and most charming musical worlds, the same lands Richard Wagner explored in his romantic days.. And if you come across a god or a dwarf or even Siegfried and his dragon, well, don't be surprised: this is another Klaus Shulze's trick!

Friday, 8 July 2016

La porta chiusa (Le Orme, 1972)

"La porta chiusa" is one of my favourite tracks by Le Orme and comes from their album "Uomo di pezza". After a keyboard-driven intro, a delicate verse gives the perfect "Orme touch" to the song, while the instrumental interplays involving bass guitar, drums and keyboards (mainly Hammond) remind me of this Italian band's main source of inspiration, that's to say ELP.

Ciao 2001, the most influential Italian rock magazine
during the '70s, featuring Le Orme circa 1974.

But of course Le Orme have their own style and even the most devilish progression must come back to a plain and dreamy melody, so that after some minutes of up tempo symphonic prog, here you are a first mellow break, then even a Church organ version of the main theme. Diversified and pleasant, sweet and unpredictable, this song goes on up to the end lining up powerful trio quasi-improvised storms and placid, nocturnal sketches. That's Le Orme, folks!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Harvest of Souls (IQ, 2004)

Taken from the album "Dark Matter", this long suite is another IQ's track I listen to from time to time and I like each time more. First of all, there are excellent melodies sung by Peter Nicholls with his peculiar and sensitive voice, then the instrumental sections are all enjoyable and each one adds a different point of view to a manifold and touching picture. This suite is divided into six sections, rather diverse in tempo and in mood. The first one, First of The Last, has an early Genesis, liquid background on which it flows with grace.

"Dark Matter" surely is among my favourite albums by IQ.

The following sections liven up the song or take it back a fairy mood, but always change something and enrich the song. The large amount of vintage instruments is another special feature of "Harvest of Souls", but - as I said before - the best thing here is the unpredictable (and still so natural) series of conflicting moods lined up all along the track: nostalgy, anger, sweetness, fear... I feel them all running down my spine!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Journey to A Nightmare (Shamall, 1989)

Norbert Krueler, the German musician and DJ behind Shamall label, signed this mini-suite divided into six parts and chose it as the title track of the debut album of his project. As Smamall went on a long way, releasing a dozen of studio albums to date, it seems to me this is the right moment to look back at the very roots of this musical adventure. Since then, Kruel went through different genres and many experiments with Shamall, but this track will prove how strong his ambient, spacey and electronic inspiration was in the first place.

Shamall's long and prolific adventure began in 1989.

"Journey to A Nightmare" combines Floydian elements with krautrock sources and even with electro-pop (we're in the '80s, after all!). A rich choice of effects and some good, simple melodies are the highlights of the suite, but please don't forget Krueler's skills as a player. Plain and even naive as it is, this song has a powerful evocative strength I'll always appreciate. A long, fluid sketch, a quiet and tense journey toward a far, arcane star!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Charade (Drifting Sun, 1998)

This band was founded by a couple of French musicians, then built up in the UK with Brtitish and American members... a real multi-national act! Their neo-prog songs are keyboard-driven, but many instruments play an important role, also some welcome acoustic ones. Pat Sanders and his friends like catchy tunes, tempo changes and nocturnal interludes. It happens I also like that. Fish-era Marillion and IQ are their most patent sources of inspiration, and surely Drifting Sun didn't change progressive rock history. 

"The Charade" is the opening track of "On The Rebound" CD.

That said, they cleverly exploited the genre's main features, adding a special taste for acoustic guitar and synth interludes, a fresh and pleasant combination, like in this song. Chris Martini's vocals perfectly match with the band's musical recipe. Last but not least, all the musicians know how to play their instruments, something we don't always find out there. So, if you need thirteen minutes of good old neo-progressive music, take this Charade and enjoy it.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Vagão 1 - Réquiem da louca (Trem do futuro, 1995)

I know this track by Brazilian band Trem do futuro won't meet my most adventurous friends' expectations, but I like some vintage and even derivative tracks now and then. In this case, I actually appreciate the dynamic texture of the music and the good changes in tempo and instruments. For example, what can I say of the flute and the electric guitar? Both are so well nestled into the electronic background and so naturally exploited!

"Trem do futuro" was the debut album by this interesting band.

The vocals also come in at the right time, singing a very well found theme and taking advantage of the double voice (masculine and feminine) line up. A lively and easy kind of prog with that special sunny touch I often find in Southern American groups. Just a final ramark: a better production should have been useful to this song and to the entire self-titled album. That said, this is a joyful and passionate way to keep on proggin'...