Friday, 30 November 2018

Zombieroch (Hands, 1977)

Hands are an American band with two dfferent lives. Founded in the mid-seventies, they released an amateur album that was not successful, so that Hands - after an intense touring season - disbanded and were almost forgotten. The re-release of their album in 1996 changed somewhat their destiny and a renewed interest among the progfans community brought these musicians to revive Hands with a slightly different line up and to release some new albums. 

The 1996 reissue of Hand's debut album plus early songs.

This track, however, is the instrumental opener of their reissued early works and features some of the band's highlights: a lively folk rock taste, a recognizable Jethro Tull and Kansas influence, a creative use of many acoustic and electric instruments and - last but not least - an uncommon ironic side. Even if their original production wasn't perfect, the re-release of this track (and of the album, together with more early materials) souds pretty good and brings back to our ears all the colours of its era.  

Monday, 29 October 2018

July Morning (Uriah Heep, 1971)

Uriah Heep surely are one of the most eclectic bands ever, spanning over a wide range of genres and sounds. That's why I can easily put one of their best songs in this prog blog. "July Morning" is a 10 minutes jewel from "Look at Yourself" album, featuring all the musical highlights of Huriah Heep. Let's see: a magical organ, a sweet ballad-like verse, a vocally perfect chorus, the legendary  keyboards / guitar final interplay, a lot of instrumental sections and beautiful changes. 

"Look at Yourself" came with a peculiar mirror cover...

The rock essence of "July Morning" keeps pace with its lyrical, dreamy inspiration, just the way a good prog song should do. Useless to say, all the members of the band are at their best and Manfred Mann appears as a guest adding his minimoog to such a rich palette. This song is just another reason to say how influential and even underrated Huriah Heep are.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Druga strana mene (Tako, 1978)

By the late '70s just a few prog bands existed in Eastern Europe and Tako were part of this short list. This Belgrade-based band had an eclectic approach to symphonic rock, an original sound and a Jethro Tull flavour too, thanks to keyboardist Đorđe Ilijin's flute incursions. Their first self-named album included this 16 minutes track "Druga strana mene" (meaning "The Other Side of Me"), where atmospheric moments, liquid guitar solos, rock riffs and flute passages follow each other setting up a riveting instrumental prog, full of fantasy and well found melodies.

This album was re-issued on CD in 1993.

I especially like the way Slobodan Felekatović's drums gently stress the keyboard rising themes, and also Miroslav Dukić's dreaming guitar and - most of all - the way these musicians link different musical worlds into a strong and coherent frame. Time has come, IMHO, to re-discover this band, whose short discography (two albums, no more than this) offers a bunch of real treats to the prog ears.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Entering The Gallery / The Man on The Hill (Huis, 2016)

All progfans know the flourishing Québec prog-scene during the '70s, but that land still offers tasty treats to our appetites (see Mystery, for example). This is the case with Huis, a Montréal-based band founded by keyboardist Pascal Lapierre and bassist Michel Joncas in 2009. As this mini-suite (taken from the album "Neither in Heaven") will prove, Huis mix good melodies and a dynamic sound to conjure up a captivating, everchanging kind of prog, where full-bodied rock passages and acoustic melodies build up emotionally enthralling songs. 

"Neither in Heaven" is the second album by Huis.

This double sided track displays - among other good things -  the usual amount of keyboards, an energetic guitar and a brilliant vocal performance by Sylvain Descôteaux. I'm also sure my progfriends will like the peculiar way the band have to launch their rockiest moments taking advantage of piano accelerations. In conclusion, a well written, well arranged and perfectly balanced music.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Breathe (Silhouette, 2012)

Silhouette come from The Netherlands and their prog rock music has the right amount of strength, melody and changes I like. Take this "Breathe", an eleven minutes song from the album "Across The Rubicon", released in 2012. You'll find powerful guitar riffs, atnospheric passages, a lot of keyboards, an effective rythm section, enthralling solos and - last but not least - well written themes. Sure, this is largely inspired by some British early '80s bands, but good roots make a solid tree, and this one seems to me a fresh and beautiful one.

"Across The Rubicon" is the third studio album by Silhouette.

Keyboardist Erik Laan provides the lead vocals for this track (there are at least three main vocalists in this band) and his voice perfectly matches with the track's texture. Some of the tempo changes are simply perfect and I think this is one of the most welcome features of Silhouette's songs and especially of the longest ones, than never go boring or predictable. In short, if you like very good and highly dynamic neo-prog, this one's for you.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

To Be Over (Yes, 1974)

Another masterpiece signed by Yes, coming from the album "Relayer". With Patrick Moraz jazzy style and a beautiful melody by Steve Howe born during a guitarist's boat ride on The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park. Anderson added his signature spiritual lyrics focusing on the liquid element (We go sailing down the calming streams / Drifting endlessly by the bridge / To be over) and flying high, as usual. 

Yes lineup for "Relayer". It didn't last long, but worked well.

To enhance the spiritual side of "To Be Over", Howe also plays the sitar here, topping the rich arrangement with an Eastern touch. I also like the classical sounding solo by Moraz, so perfectly matching with the rythm section... and it's a White / Squire section, that's to say something! What a beautiful song, my dear progfriends! 

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Absent Lovers (The Aaron Clift Experiment, 2018)

The Aaron Clift Experiment is a highly skilled trio based in Austin, Texas and leaded by Mr Clift with an open wided and eclectic approach to prog. Their records include many of my favourite features: tempo changes, unpredictable passages, acoustic/electric mix and, last but not least, an enviable balance of old glorious sounds and up-to-date solutions. That said, "Absent Lovers" comes from the band's 2018 album "If All Goes Wrong" and deliciously swings between dreaming moods and vigorous progressions. 

"If All Goes Wrong" is the third studio album by the band.

As usual, Aaron's voice is strong and tense, while the guest string trio (violin, viola and cello) and Fred Springer's classical guitar add a special charm to the composition. You'll find some welcome King Crimson  and early Genesis hints here and there, but also a remarkable coherence of such a rich musical plot. "Abesent Lovers" is divided into three acts, kind of a mini-suite following the sea scented lyrics, based on the hero's return, an emotional rendering of the Odyssey I really appreciate. Here I point up another highlight of Aaron & friends: despite their literary references and their lushing instrumentation, they never go showy and their music has the grace and the soundness we expect on good prog rock.