Monday, 29 August 2016

Equatorial Rain (Ache, 1971)

Taken from the band's second album "Green Man", this "Equatorial Rain" combines Hammond-driven early prog and electronic effects in an arcane, rather dark song. The intro is based on rain effects and keyboards, while Torsten Olafsson's voice draws nocturnal landscapes. Then the tempo rises up and a Hammond plus drumming break comes in, introducing a lively, even joyous section à la The Nice. 

"Green Man" also exists on CD, including Ache's debut album.

Then, "Equatorial Rain" features some beautiful electric guitar / keboard interplays, just before the final reprise of the opening mysterious atmosphere. Seven minutes of beautiful progressive rock, IMHO, cleverly structured on a four movements pattern, a coherent and diversified architecture showing once again how great Ache were. They're surely worth a wider attention from my progressive friends over there.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

In The Name of God (Aragon, 2004)

I do think Aragon are an underrated band. These Australian musicians (all born in different European countries) surely like traditional neo-prog atmospheres and melodic songs, but they also know how to write and perform excellent songs, like this "In The Name of God", taken from their 2004 album "The Angels Tear". The acoustic first half is a beautiful and peaceful moment, based on warm and charming chords. The keyboards rise up slowly and the song gets deeper and depper, until the guitars come in for the "rock break".

"The Angels Tear" was the sixth album by Aragon.

The final section is more diversified, but still is down tempo and melodic, with an acid twist here and there. Really, I find  here some 9 minutes of musical pleasure, crowned with the sax solo between minute 7.30 and 8.00... so good! And what about the final gilmour-esque guitar/sax interplay? Well, it tells me: "quick, play this once more!" I'll surely obey.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Melancholy Man (The Moody Blues, 1970)

Another Mike Pinder's melancholy (yes, yes, it's in the title) and inner song. This one comes from "A Question of Balance" album, likely one of the rockiest works by The Moody Blues, still I couldn't imagine a dreamier and more atmospheric track. The melody is simply perfect, and the rich arrangements never go too sweet, opening a distant horizon to the listener's ears. Asusual with The MB, there's a good deal of overdubbing and assorted effects, but such an elaborated studio work never spoils the magic the band build up in a few more than five minutes.

The Moody Blues liket to explore cosmic paths, as you can see here.

"Melancholy Man" also has a beautiful set of lyrics, an awesome depiction of man's situation between the solid ground and the infinite sky. There's a sense of loneliness balanced (yes, the allbum's title, this time...) by the wonder inspired by the cosmic architecture. Ten out of ten, I daresay.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Sparkling / 花火 (Fragile, 2010)

Chinese rock scene specialises more and more in post-rock acts, and some of them show many interesting progressive sides. This is the case with Fragile (well, the name isn't necessarily inspired by the Yes album...), a band that surely knows how to create delicate atmospheres, unpredictable changes and slow, majestic crescendos. "Sparkling" comes from the debut EP of Fragile, called "White Shadows" and is a charming instrumental, based on a well found series of chords and including some delicious breaks and a mandolin-like electric guitar à la Steven Wilson.

As many other young bands, Fragile debuted via Bandcamp site.

This kind of music is somehow dangerous as it can easily slip into a mere ambient sound, but Fragile are clever enough to skip such a risk, thanks to a good deal of musical diversions along the usual post-rock path. They like coherent tracks, but they know that coherence doesn't mean boredom. Hope to listen more from these Hong Kong musicians.

Friday, 19 August 2016

El Hijo del Sol (El Polen, 1973)

When it comes to acoustic folk-rock with proggy elements, it is difficult to find a better band than El Polen. These Peruvian musicians had a suprisingly large choice of arrangements and a wide range of instruments, mostly coming from their National tradition, but also from other, unexpected cultures. In spite of their strong Andean roots and of their acoustic set, El Polen also are a proper rock band, and exploit in a very clever way some of the main features of prog: tempo changes, instrument interplays and enthralling solos.

"Fuera de la ciudad" was the second album by El Polen.

Sure, all these solutions also exist in traditional music throughout the planet, but their combination in a single everchanging (and rather long) song is a Seventies innovation. So, "El Hijo del Sol" is a kind of suite, lining up different themes and different traditions, especially the South-American and the Far-Eastern ones. Not a common mix, believe me.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Египтянин / Egiptyanin (Пикник / Picnic, 2001)

Picnic (in Russian, Пикник) surely are one of the most eccentric and crossover bands from Eastern Europe. Their sound ranges between space rock and folk, including synth rock and many traditionally prog features.This is the title track from their eleventh studio album, obviously dedicated to the Ancient Egypt, one of the band's favourite topics.

This cover art reveals the ironic side of Picnic's songs.

The song has a rather traditional structure, a dreamy, catchy slow tempo ballad with a Floydian finale, where Edmund Shklyarskiy's guitar flies high above the listener. He even creates for this song a new instrument he calls novoegyptian to add a bit of visual show to the live performances. What I especially like in Picnic is the way they mix different elements to build up an evocative, arcane sound that also includes the right dose of irony. A theatrical way to (prog) rock Picnic never gave up during their long and everchanging career.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Into The Lens [I Am A Camera] (Yes, 1980)

As you might have read in other posts from my blog, "Drama" is an album I like very much, in spite of its weird Buggles  + Yes line up. More than this, "Into The Lens" actually was a fully-Buggles song (the duo also was working on it when they joined their new band and also released it in 1981 as "I Am A Camera"). To transform a synthpop tune in a progressive rock track was a challenge Yes accepted and won. The song has a an epic flavour, even if its "plastic" and 80s side isn't completely abandoned. Chris Squire provides the backbone for this version and a series of interplays, changes and vocal harmonies are spread throughout the song.

A short-lived line up, still responsible for an excellent album. 

Of course, the melody was a good one in the first place and the tricky arrangement only enhances it and gives to it the special symphonic rock touch that we all know and love. I also like the pleasant contrast between the tight and rythm-based verse and the wide open, full-bodied chorus, something that Downes had in common with the Yes tradition. Still an excellent track this one, and always worth one more listening.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Equinoxe Part 3 (Jean-Michel Jarre, 1978)

Following the planetary success of the album "Oxygène", Jarre released "Equinoxe" two years later and also gained a huge international acclaim. This LP described a day in the life of the industrial world based humans and the two sides of the original vinyl had the same duration time, so that the chosen day had to be an equinox (we still don't know if it is a spring or an autumn one...).

As for "Oxygène", Michel Granger signed the album cover art.
That said, this third part of Jarre's work should describe the busy morning, and it actually has a fast tempo and hypnotic rythm. When the main theme comes in, it sounds like a hundred typing machines or a downtown bus queue, still it is so well found and so well placed that one loves even the rush hour. Then here you are a hard electronic passage, kind of a robot dance, followed by the theme reprise. An exciting track, IMHO, full of daily echoes and memorable sounds. Enjoy.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Coming Around (The Third Ending, 2006)

Here you are another clever band, a Tasmanian one, playing what the papers call "modern prog", whatever that means. I better like to call it prog, as our genre hates barriers and labels. The Third Ending  surely mix some old and beloved sounds and many contemporary ones, as this melodic song will prove. "Coming Around", taken from the band's self-titled debut album, sounds like a soft rock piece, but with a deeper, introspective twist.

I also like the cover art The Third Ending chose for their first CD.

The theme is well found and well performed (Nick Storr is what I call a gifted singer), and the background sounds are  rich, full-bodied but never pompous, and a fine guitar solo by Andrew Curtis also graces the song. Even if the track is catchy and rather traditional in its pattern, you'll find many smart gimmicks, and even some welcome references to the past glory of rock and prog rock. In short, a pleasant and beautifully packed song, something I'll always ask for. Go on, my Aussie friends!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Negru Vodă (Transsylvania Phoenix, 1972)

Transsylvania Phoenix (or simply Phoenix) were a stunning crossover band born in Romania during the early '60s and always ready to explore new musical paths. This long track titled "Negru Vodă" (a legendary Romanian king) has some hard rock solos, a symphonic architecture, many folk references, a strong bluesy foundation and a lot of other good things in it. It comes from "Cei ce ne-au dat nume" ("Those who have given us names", more or less), the first full-length LP by the band, folllowing a long series of singles and EPs.

This album also included a suite dealing with the four seasons.
Highly recommended too.

The track filled the third side of the original double album. The folkish violin (then guitar) riff is a catchy one, but the variations and the sung melodies are also worth our attention and so are the vocal improvisations. When I come across such interesting and beautiful songs coming from all the Countries that usually have a reduced impact on the international rock scene, I wonder how many other masterpieces we didn't even hear of...

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Poor Man's Moody Blues (Barclay James Harvest, 1977)

There's a funny story behind this beautiful melodic song by Barclay James Harvest. The specialised press never loved the band, as you may know, and a journalist went as far as to describe BJH "poor man's Moody Blues". Guitarist John Lees was vexed and wrote this song, arranging it as a Moody Blues' track, and even naming it after the reviewer's comparison. His reply is more convincing because of the beauty of the track.

"Gone to Earth" was the eighth studio album by BJH.

The pastoral melody is calm and deep, the arrangements quote MB's "Nights in White Satin" (also in this blog) with good taste and the instrumental sections are the proggest thing BJH made in "Gone to Earth" album. The symphonic finale is pleasant and slightly ironic. For sure, the entire song is a patent and proud display of what BJH were worth, beyond any high-brow prejudices. Useless to say, we still listen to this song while we forgot the arrogant reviewer's name.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Movement for The Common Man (Styx, 1972)

ELP were not the only band fascinated by Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for The Common Man", a brass and percussion piece of music written in 1942. Also Styx included in their debut album a four sections mini-suite, including Copland's composition as the third movement. Styx created a rather strange and highly interesting song, based on a composite pattern and lining up four very different moments, apparently ill-matched, but actually forming a pleasant and coherent musical fresco

The "Movement" suite opens beautifully this album.

The mainstream rock elements are set up as the core of a broad and brave exploration of so many faces of musical culture as it was established in the early Seventies. You'll find the classical side, the folk tempations, the USA Southern rock influence, the pop canons and so on. Such a manifold recipe is wisely cooked by Styx, balancing rock riffs, dreamy melodies and mid-tempo ballads... so enjoy your meal... pardon, I meant your music!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Wood of Tales (Malibran, 1990)

This is exactly what you'd expect from an Italian prog band's track: fairy tales, acoustic instruments, mellow melodies, piano touches and, of course, a good mix of Mediterranean sunsets and Celtic mists. Please don't think I'm trying to underrate Malibran, 'cause I love their music. I sometimes need some labels to start an introduction, that's all. "The Wood of Tales" is a perfect mix of unpredictable changes and familiar sounds, an excellent instrumental full of magic and emotions.

The artwork says it all... doesn't it?

All the instruments add their special touch to the big picture, and especially the dreamy electric guitars (yes, there are two guitarists!) and the flute. The vintage mood is obviously strong, and so are the Golden Era references, but there are many modern settings I appreciate more and more each time I listen to this track. And each time I do so, I wonder how a debuting band could be so mature and well-balanced.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Filium ex machina (Enfant, 2012)

This heavy prog band from Bolivia was basically a trio when they released this track (Horus Set, Luis Aranda and Bernardo Paz), but with a good deal of guest musicians to set up a rich and diversified sound. This song is the title track of the band's debut album called "Filium.Ex.Machina" and provides a strong wall of sound with lighter interludes and a lot of good arrangements.

The album also includes an acoustic version of this song.
The lyrics in Spanish add a colourful flavour to the big picture, and so do the vague references to King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. It's a coherent and thick kind of prog rock, full of passionate vocals and experimental twists, but always aware of the importance of communicating visions and emotions to the listeners. The open line-up of Enfant could be a bonus resource for the band or maybe an Achille's heel, depending on their future choices. Let's hope for the best.