Friday 31 May 2024

Earth Hymn (Manfred Mann's Earth Band, 1974)

Manfred Mann and his Earth Band are among the most underrated acts in rock (and prog rock) history. Nevertheless, they released awesome albums and evergreen tracks, like this "Earth Hymn", part of "The Good Earth" album (1974). This is a Chris Slade and Manfred Mann's song, a majestic ballad including some stunning guitar solos and beautiful lyrics about the musical and spiritual sound of our planet. 

Did you know the first copies of this album entitled the purchasers
over one square foot or real earth in Wales?

The ecological inspiration of the album grows into a metaphysical approach in "Earth Hymn", even if nothing here sounds like tricky of sophisticated. On the contrary, you'll find a fluid, natural hymn suspended between psychedelia and prog, peace and strength. Even if the sung theme is simple and catchy, the arrangement is an ever changing one, full of beautiful surprises. In a word, a highly original and enjoyable piece of (progressive) music.

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Between Air And Water (Sykofant, 2024)

"Sykofant" is the self titled debut album of a Norwergian band I immediately appreciated for their perfect balance between classic and innovative prog rock. "Between Air And Water" is their leading single and also a beautiful way to get into their musical world. On first listen, one falls in love with Emil Moen's and Per Semb's guitars, undoubtedly two skilled and sensitive performers reminding me the early Pink Floyd's mood and Wishbone Ash's double guitar work, all with a modern, eclectic twist. 

Sycofant's debut album cover art.

Then a more careful listening unfolds the stunning work provided by the rythm section, namely drummer Melvin Treider and bass player Sindre Haugen. Not only they supply an accurate but never repetitive background, but they also prepare the amazing tempo changes giving to the track an even more progressive texture. Please note that prog rock acts without keyboards are not so common and it's always a daring job, but Sykofant perfectly worked it out!

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Where Oppisites Meet (Sky, 1979)

Each time I listen to a Sky's track, their rich melting pot comes to me like a surprise. Pop, rock, funk, classical music... everything's there, including that unmistakeble warm atmosphere from the late '70s. Of course, John William's guitars are a treat for everyone and all the musicians here are so skilled, but in this 20 minutes (or so) epic written by keyboardist Francis Monkman there's more. First of all, an awesome collection of good musical themes, a well found series of mood changes and a polished, brilliant sound.

As Sky was their name... 

The somewhat esoteric inspiration the song title implies perfeclty fits in the light, measured and nonetheless surprising plot of this track. We breathe the end of the prog era and the beginning of the lighter '80s scene through the classical hints and the electric, dynamic, even essential rythmic carpet of the suite. All in all, this is a highly enjoyable piece of music I'm glad to add to my blog.

Friday 22 March 2024

Spoon (Can, 1972)

 Can are one of the most important bands coming from the manifold early '70s German rock scene, something we label today as krautrock, even if don't like this word. Can were a highly experimental band, dealing with psychedelic loops, electronic sounds and jazz contamination. This song is one of their most accessible compositions and it played a special role in the band's history. Being a German top 10, also because it became the opening theme of a German TV show, it allowed Can to improve the production of their new album "Ege Bamyasi", in which Spoon was included, and to launch their career.

Ege Bamyasi means "Aegean Okra" in Turkish. 

Despite its short duration time and its rather plain structure, this track features many of Can's signature traits: creative percussions, repetitive riffs, ethnic passages and acid vocal harmonies. The whole outcome is an addicting, spicy, psychedelic song, where many different influences contribute to a unique, surprising musical blend. It surely take the listener back to the '70s, but it also sounds perfectly modern.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

North Star (Pendragon, 2023)

Pendragon's EPs are always worth a keen listening and this "North Star" is no exception. I'll focus my attention on the title track, a suite divided into three movements (I. A Boy And His Dog, II. As Dead As A Dodo and III. Phoenician Skies), whose atmospheric, pastoral and folk-oriented sounds are a coherent follow-up to the band's 2021 full length album "Love Over Fear". Past the late 2000s and  early 2010s rougher era, Pendragon are back to their signature gorgeous melodic prog. 

...And what a beautiful cover art by Liz Saddington!

I like that, and I like this suite, where dreamy themes, instrumental sketches ans a perfect blend of electric and acoustic instruments (including a guest violin provided byJohanna Stroud) build up 18 minutes of bucolic and varied music. Nick Barrett is obviously in the foreground not only with the beautiful electric guitar final solo, but also with a wide choice of acoustic guitars and his well known, distinctive voice. The whole track is permeated by the almost spiritual colour palette of the Cornish country, something... out of this world!

Wednesday 31 January 2024

Sign of The Times (Pallas, 2023)

Pallas are like good wine: they improve with each passing year. Their December 2023 album titled "The Messenger" is a very fine piece of prog, full of energy, creativity and, last but not least, beautiful musical themes. "Sign of The Times" is the opening track and it includes all the essential features of the album: majestic riffs, tight progressions, unpredictable changes, atmospheric passages, impeccable performances, an underlying strain and a challenging plot. 

Such a beautiful cover art!

The harsh lyrics are well written and perfectly sung by Alan Reed, a singer I adore. How can I describe his voice? Last time I tried to he desagreed, but he seems to me he's like a modern Janus with two faces: an angel and a devil. And I like both. The rest of the band, of course, is also awesome and our friends from Aberdeen are a perfect clockwork, a treat for the pickiest ears. Just listen to this song and you'll be aboard the most exciting roller coaster... don't stop the ride!

Friday 29 December 2023

Rytter av dommedag (Lars Fredrik Frøislie, 2023)

 As many of you surely know, Lars Fredrik Frøislie is the keyboard man from Norwegian band Wobbler (see elsewhere in this blog) and a proud exponent of symphonic prog revival. This 16 minutes song comes from his 2023 album titled "Fire Fortellinger", meaning "Four Tales" and aptly consisting of four tracks. I chose this Rytter av dommedag (meaning "The Rider of Judgement Day") as a good specimen of Frøislie's vintage but never derivative music. 

Four tales, four images... it all falls into place!

It is, of course, an outstanding display of keyboard-based music with a helping hand from Nikolai Hængsle's bass guitar, while Frøislie also plays drums. It sure is in the wake of classical masterpieces from the '70s, but it has its own atmosphere, well balanced between classical music, folk hints, mildly jazz passages and rock flares. As everything goes through relentless changes, you can't possibly get tired by this musical whirlwind and by the beautiful themes Mr. Frøislie creates. Fairy, suspended passages introduce unexpected storms, devilish solos open on beautiful, peaceful melodies. In one word, this is prog!