Wednesday 23 January 2013

Histoires sans paroles (Harmonium, 1975)

What? Didn't I introduce this song yet? Forgive me: it's one of the sweetest and most enjoyable suites in the prog universe, IMHO. Harmonium is just one of so many good Québec's proggers from the '70s, but "Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison" is undoubtedly the most popular album of the lot... and "Histoires sans paroles" is the brightest pearl in it. With a touch of folk, a brush stroke of pop and a hatful of good melodies, this track retains after so many years the mgic power of switching on the sun in a dully day. I always find here the smell of spring, the kindness of a good memory and the colours of the impressionist era.

How could I forget this cover?

Some say the beauty of such songs rely on teenage memories. Well, not for me: I didn't know this song, I just discovered it ten years ago and halas I wasn't a child then... no way, this is a beautiful song, a timeless masterpiece with the flavour of an era. Don't you miss it.

Anne Boleyn (Rick Wakeman, 1973)

This track taken from Wakeman's "Six Wives of Henry VIII" album is one of my favs ever. Firstly, it contains two very good themes and so many variations on them; secondly, it's a well balanced composition and Heaven knows this is not always the case with Rick's production; thirdly (of course) there's a remarkable performance on keyboards, half a dozen of them. The track includes  Bill Bruford's drum and an additional theme from the classical piece "The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended" written by the victorian hymn writer John Ellerton.

Anne Boleyn's protrait.
It's amazing: even with so much ideas and materials in it, this song is as light and bright as a butterfly. I do think Rick succeeded in painting Anne Boleyn's romantic and delicate soul. Well, I hope she was that...

Sunday 6 January 2013

The Darkest Hour (IQ, 1993)

I adore "Ever", this track's album, I must confess prior to any further notes. I know many IQ's old fans bettere like the '80s albums, but IMHO "Ever" and "Subterranea" keep the same quality standard than "Tales from The Lush Attic" or "The Wake". "The Darkest Hour" is the opening song, an epic and powerful one, including the typical syncopated rhythm that's an IQ's trademark. Peter Nicholls' voice is a little screechy, that's true, but so heartfelt you'll forgive him anything.

IQ in their "Ever" lineup.

As usual John Jowitt's bass guitar works very hard and all is in tune with the mysterious athmosphere the song's title announces, but the tempo changes and the themes weaving prevent any humdrum and draw in many solar glimpses. The lyrics The track's final perfectly introduces the next one, another one of my favs, bat this is another story...

Il giardino del mago (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1972)

One of the most influencial prog tracks ever, not only in Italy I mean. This 18 minute suite surely deserves its reputation of visionary work. From the beginning, with its first arpeggio variations, Vittorio Nocenzi's music and Francesco Di Giacomo's lyrics and stentorian performing style, Il giardino reveal itself as a long and unpredictable journey through different and colorful music landscapes. I'll always be astonished by this track's tempo changes and its abundance of keyboard stunts.

The Banco in a '70s photo.

But effects and surprising arrangements are but a garnish to the main course, that's the melodies themselves. How many good ideas, gentle compositions and - above all - that strong and airy main theme! What else? If you never did, please listen to that and let me know...

Les noces (Ange, 1975)

We all know there's no more international rock genre than prog. Let's see some of the best fruits around the world. Being Italian, better start with a French one! This track perfectly illustrates Ange's theatrical and unpredictable style: folk-oriented lyrics, a vocal performance somewhere between singing and acting, long instrumental passages, a bit of Middle Ages and a good balance of acoustic and electric intruments.

"Emile Jacotey" album's cover.

This song is taken from a fascinating concept album, Émile Jacotey, inspired by an old farmer's traditional tales, so you'll find there fairies, princes, soil festivities, humble men and women, animals and freaks. Ange are a world apart, a strange place to explore, but even so they're the prog itself.