Saturday, 23 September 2017

The New Kings (Marillion, 2016)

"The New Kings" was a Marillion fans' favourite from the very start and for many good reasons, IMHO. Firstly, the leading melodies are excellent, enjoyable and far from trivial. Secondly, the plot of this suite, divided into four movements, is coherent and diversified. Thirdly, the instrumentation is rich and intriguing, including a string quartet, a hammered dulcimer (played by Hogarth) and some beautiful backing vocals.

"The New Kings" was the F.E.A.R. album leading single.

Last but not least, the lyrics about the illegal gain underworld are topical like never before. The warm and well mixed acoustic / electric sounds are fascinating and richly arranged, full of sharp changes and liquid solos, the way Marillion have to be both classic and modern. After all, the F.E.A.R. album is likely the band's proggest work in twenty years... excellent news, no doubt.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

King of Hearts (Drifting Sun, 2016)

A little neo-prog today. Drifting Sun are an International band including French, British and American members and based in the UK. I happen to like their rather eclectic approach to a sub-genre usually considered as an immutable canon. Listening to this song, taken from these musicians' "Safe Asylum" album, you'll find some Fish-era Marillion and IQ hints, but also a sprinkling of metal riffs and some Asia-like epic sounds. 

"Safe Asylum" was Drifting Sun's fourth studio album.

The melodies are well found and the ever changing arrangements add a less predictable side to this band's music. Peter Falconer's vocals perfectly match with the music and its contrast-based pattern, while the rest of the band plays as one, even if some very good solos  and even better duos enrich the track. In short, if ever you're into enjoyable, creative and inspiring (neo-)prog, this song and this band were made for you. Anyway, they surely were for me. 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Lady of Shalott (Atmosphera, 1977)

Back to the Seventies, here you are a long epic by Israeli band Atmosphera, taken from their only album, released in 1977 and re-released in 2002 with an entire bonus CD. Efrayim Barak's voice sounds much like Jon Anderson's, but Atmosphera aren't just another Yes clone: their music ranges from Procol Harum to Camel, including glimpses of Genesis, Pink Floyd and - of course - Yes. Rather easy and melodic, this composition also features more tricky passages, some interesting keyboard and guitar solos (Moti Fonseca has an excellent touch, IMHO), and I especially like Yuval Rivlin's piano and Alon Nadel's intriguing bass lines. 

The 2 CDs version  also includes a videoclip of Lady of Shalott.

This suite (well, it is virtually a suite, even if an undivided one) has a solid and coherent pattern and isn't a mere period piece, being as enjoyable as it was in 1977. Some tempo changes actually strike me, and each passage seems to me well conceived and even better performed. In short, if you're searching for neglected jewels from the Golden Era of prog rock, this one's for you.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Outlines (The Chant, 2012)

The Chant are a Finnish band born during the 1990s, but their debut album was only released in 2008. This track, "Outlines", features some of their best qualities: it begins like many other post-rock compositions, then it unfolds a succession of diversified and fascinating atmospheres. Being a 7 members band, The Chant can put into their melting pot a good deal of instruments, encouraging an open-minded approach and a well assembled songwriting.

"A Healing Place" was the third studio album by The Chant.

I like the way they alternate full-bodied, thick passages and almost bare vocal-piano or vocal-guitar breaks. Sure, some of their moods aren't brand new and follow the contemporary post-rock trend, but The Chant are more than this, and a warm and definitely prog soul springs up when you don't expect it.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Pareidolia (Haken,2013)

"Pareidolia" is one of the two long epic tracks included in "The Mountain" album and also one of the most interesting songs by Haken, IMHO. I like the way the band mix different moods into a highly coherent composition: hard rock, eclectic prog, Eastern scales, introspective breaks and devilish solos are all gathered here. The atmospheric passages and the high tempo riffs follow each other and create a dynamic and riveting musical plot, where each idea seems to pop up at the right moment.

"The Mountain" was the third studio album by Haken.
 
The lyrics are about the human effort to find the meaning of life beyond the surrounding chaos and fragility. Pareidolia is the well known phenomenon in which we recognize familiar images where they don't exist, such as the man in the moon or animal shapes among the clouds. Such a challenging subject is very well supported by the band's music, summoning ancient civilizations and suggesting a rather pessimistic mood evolving in a majestic and even dreadful crescendo. A very special song, if you believe me.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Le fantôme de Galashiels (Mona Lisa, 1974)

Mona Lisa surely are one of the best French bands from the Progressive rock golden era and IMHO they deserve prog fans' attention (and gratitude). This track comes from "L'escapade", the band's first album, released in 1974 and features all the best known and most loved elements of their music. The theatrical vocals (in the wake of Ange, but with more acid accents) are there, and also the tempo changes and the well performed union of acoustic and electric instruments, including some psych passages here and there. 

This is the original artwork of Mona Lisa's debut album.

If Dominique Le Guennec's lead vocals immediately attract the listener's attention, a keener listening will show a skilled and well organized group. A special mention goes to Jean-Luc Martin's bass guitar, whose plain and effective lines strongly characterize Mona Lisa's sound. And there's more than sounds in this track, as "Le fantôme de Galashiels" has a strong emotional side, lining up sombre moods and dreamy flashes in a rich and unpredictable pattern that still amazes me. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Mystic Queen (Camel, 1973)

Something in this song reminds me of the Hippy festivals and of proto-prog sounds. I know we're in 1973, the very heart of the progressive rock Golden Era, but there is a scent of Woodstock and Summer of Love mixed with proper prog here. Even the song title goes back to the upper class girls wearing long coats and necklaces and searching for another world. That said, "Mystic Queen" is a great ballad, featuring one the best sung themes in Camel's career along with heartwarming instrumental sections.

"Mystic Queen" comes from Camel's self-titled debut album

Bardens actually wrote a masterpiece and the rest of the band added that unique smooth flavour Camel are famous for. Last but not least, it's incredible how this track - bearing all the traits of the early '70s - aged so well... I like it today even more than fourty years ago and I'm delighted to say that I know many millennials that are fond of it.