Wednesday 31 December 2014

The River (Like Wendy, 1999)

So many prog artists were - and still are - fascinated by streaming waters. Like Wendy are no exception, and one of their best tracks is actually about a river. These two Dutch musicians, Bert Heinen and Marien, were dedicated followers of Marillion, Pendragon and, of course, Genesis. They released a few good albums between the late '90s and the early 2000s. This song is from "Rainchild", their second studio work and I really like its bright sound and the lead dreaming guitar, so full of body. Even moving, I daresay, floating in a mist of keyboards.

Like Wendy released six studio albums between 1998 and 2005.

You don't need to be original to create a good song and an old prog lover as I am. sometimes just needs a warm, familiar arrangement, some well played instruments and a good melody to restore his brain and body. This is exactly what Like Wendy and "The River" have in store for us. So, if you feel like opening the gates of a well known and cherished garden, please come in, close your eyes, and...

Monday 29 December 2014

An Island in The Darkness (Strictly Inc., 1995)

Strictly Inc. is a one album project by Genesis founder member Tony Banks, also featuring among others vocalist Jack Hues and long-standing Genesis live member Daryl Stuermer. It's one of the few long epics written by Banks for his solo albums (around 17 minutes) and, IMHO, likely his best one. There's an original mix of piano driven sections and mostly pop sung parts. Even if I don't especially like the drum machine, "An Island in The Darkness" includes a great melody, some beautiful instrumental sections and a wide range of compositional gimmicks.

Even if the album is credited to Strictly Inc., actually this 
can be considered as Tony Banks' seventh studio album.

As usual, Tony excels in painting obscure and melancholy atmospheres, misty and crepuscular landscapes. I'm deeply touched by his minor key chords and the longest instrumental passage of this song is simply outstanding. I'm pleased to mention some other strong points of the track: Daryl Stuermer's guitar solo, the piano intro and the sensitive Jack Hues' vocal performance, to name just a few of them. Definitely a highlight in Banks' career.

Sunday 28 December 2014

El útimo sueño de Paganini (Galie, 1981)

Mexico has a special place in prog rock history: not only this Country gave birth to many good bands and musicians during the years, but this blossoming was more flushing in the '80s, while the rest of the world was (prematurely) pronouncing dead our favourite genre. Galie are among this backbeat generation of proggers, keeping the good old music alive. Their songs are plain, melodic and enthralling instrumental pieces, mixing melancholy and symphonic moods.

This was the first of a series of four self-titled albums.

This one, for example, has a strong classical inspiration (its title means "Last Paganini's Dream") and is reminiscent of some Italian prog songs from the '70s and  of Wakeman's touch. And I think there is a scent of Focus too. It features a beautiful theme and a sparkling series of variations in a naive but convincing succession of crescendos and largos. Probably a simple way to go progging, and IMHO a charming one.

Saturday 27 December 2014

And I'll Recite An Old Myth from... (Providence, 1989)

These Japanese musicians released their debut album, including the long track I'm introducing here, in 1989, followed by a  second work eight years later. Then unfortunately they disbanded in the early 2000s. I didn't write "unfortunately" without any reasons, as this track should prove. It's a 20 minute epic, practically a well organized suite, including dreaming, sweet passages, guitar + mellotron explosions, a jazzy piano interlude and - of course - some bombastic, symphonic rock sections.

This abum includes four long, epic tracks.

The five members of Providence play as one, with no hedonistic tendencies, so that each note has its good reason to be there. Anyway, a special mention goes to Yoko Kubota's beautiful voice, both sensitive and aggressive. Last but not least, the melodies are well found and even better exploited in a variety of arrangements and variations. This ever changing song didn't change the History of prog, but certainly was an excellent addition to it.

Friday 26 December 2014

The American Metaphysical Circus (The United States of America, 1968)

When it comes to proto-prog era, some American bands played an essential role in opening new musical paths and in exploring weird, psychedelic and/or electronic sounds. That's exactly the case with The United States of America, a band who released one album only in 1968, giving us one of the most complete reviews of late '60s musical state of the art. You'll find almost everything in this album and especially in this song: psychedelic, acid sounds, electronic keyboards, dissonant chords, eclectic cultural references.... in a word, all the rough materials prog rock is made of.

This is the 2004 CD version of the album, including some outtakes.
There was no guitar in this band, so they exploited every new and weird devices to replace it. There's a beautiful melodic line in this opening track, and some pleasant vocal harmonies too, but the musicians surround it with such an unusual deal of effects and sounds that the singers seem to be lost in an alien world, between the outer space and Disneyland. It reminds me of Zappa, of course, but I bet you'll find here some tasty prog previews too...

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Memento z banalnym tryptykiem (SBB, 1981)

I think this is one of the best prog tracks of the '80s and it comes from Poland. It's a 21 minute suite by SBB, one of the most important Eastern Europe bands ever. I like this suite for its mix of spacey, acoustic, folk and rock moments. And then the player are all so skilled and elegant that you couldn't skip one single second of the song. "Memento with a banal tryptych" (that's the English tranlation of the title) actually is a succession of beautiful melodies and well found atmospheres, an original blend of delicate fragrances having the flowery smell of the '70s, but also announcing something new and exciting.

"Memento" was the ninth SBB's studio album.

If you like pleasant and still challenging music, you surely know how difficult is to find those two features in a single composition. But here you'll enjoy an experimental mood well set into an agreeable pattern. And with a great voice and a symphonic twist, to top it all!

Monday 22 December 2014

Hunting Girl (Jethro Tull, 1977)

Well, this is exactly what you expect on a Jethro Tull's song. Folk roots, baroque'n'roll interplays, catching sung melody, warm and rather aggressive vocals, good old keys with rather heavier guitars. Everything Jethro is here. It is difficult to resist: the rythm is enthralling and the mood changes come unexpected, ranging from rock'n'roll to medieval music. Energy everywhere, of course, but under control. So that each instrument has got its own right place, just like the low class boy coming across the hunting lady in Ian Anderson's lyrics.

Caught in the act!

And when the flute comes in to stress the socially uneven encounter, it seems to me that those lines perfectly describe old Ian's character:

I'm not inclined to acts refined, if thats how it goes.
Oh, high born hunting girl,
I'm just a normal low born so and so.

Low born, maybe. But let us judge about the refinement of your musical acts, Mr. Anderson!

Sunday 21 December 2014

Dance of The Demons (Etcetera, 1998)

I was pleasantly surprised when I first listened to this suite. I didn't know the Danish band behind it, nor their self titled debut album, but I listened to this track three times in a row. I like the way it develops each theme, exploiting its different features in both melodic and rythmic aspects. The track is divided into three parts (well, two parts and an interlude called In Medias Res), spanning over 21 minutes of good old symphonic rock with an original twist. All is well done here: the creative drumming background, the usual abundance of keyboards, the lively and eclectic guitars, even the saxophone coming in from time to time.

All Etcetera's albums feature this shortened Etc logo.

There are roughly three moods in this "Dance": a melodic one, a classically rock one and a slightly jazzy one. They're so well set in the big picture that you scarcely could be bored by it: tempos and instruments always change and the final effect is almost visual, with dark and bright moments following one another. If you ask me, listening to this is one of the best things you could spend your next 20 minute spare time.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Index II (Index, 2004)

Index are a very interesting Symphonic rock band from Brazil, as this suite, coming from the album "Identidade", likely will prove. Leaded by guitarist Jones Junior of Quaterna Réquiem fame, and keyboardist Otaviano Kury, those musicians like a vintage prog full of Hammond and Mellotron, but also dreamy guitar solos, flutes and a very good rythm section. All this track - split into four parts -  is equally divided between this lovefor the past heroes and a genuine quest for intricate plots and inner landscapes.

"Identidade" is the band's third studio album. 

Some passages are actually excellent, like the bass guitar solo starting around minute 9:10 or the following wall of sound graciously introduced by the flute. Everything is as it used to be, but there's that special freshness coming from Youth conviction and that bright taste springing out of the pleasure they enjoy by playing their music. A good trip into a past era we all love.

Friday 19 December 2014

Untidal (WhyOceans, 2011)

This is what I call an intense, moving track. There are prog roots in it, but also many elements we'd call post-rock. It comes from "At Land", the debut album of a very interesting Chinese band called WhyOceans. The excellent fusion between keyboards and guitars, the delicate drumming work, the mood changes and the visionary impact of this music are indeniable.

Quite an interesting band, I even like this cover art.

For those into prog history, there are many links to some Scandinavian modern bands, but also a vague King Crimson taste and a Brian Eno distant echo. For sure, like for most of the Chinese contemporary prog acts, you'll find here the sense of wonder, an aerial dimension, even a spiritual quest. Nothing too intricated or Tricky, still some ten minutes of unusual and beautiful soundscapes.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Am I Very Wrong? (Genesis, 1969)

Their debut album "From Genesis to Revelation" isn't the best reason to love Genesis, as we all know. That doesn't mean this record hasn't any good music inside. Actually, "Am I Very Wrong?" features one of  my favourite melodies ever and even if the song is apparently plain in its structure - quite a piano and guitar driven ballad - it always charms me and is worth some consideration.

Surely not one of the most elaborate album covers...

To explain the fascination this track turns on, its good melody wouldn't be enough. There are also a very good choice of chords, an original 12 string guitar background, and - last but not least - a sensitive vocal performance by Peter Gabriel. The vocal harmonies of the chorus are another pleasant surprise, making an unusual contrast with the verses, and introducing a bright tambourine too. The instrumental intro (mostly a Jonathan King's addiction) is one of the best ones in the album, featuring two pianos, one of which was handcrafted to imitate  the tone of a harpsichord. All is well done and announces more to come. So much more...

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Horsemen to Symphinity (Windchase, 1977)

You'll find one album, just the one called "Symphinity", in this Australian band from the '70s, but in fact they were kind of a reincarnation of Sebastian Hardie, likely the most celebrated prog band in their Country (and also represented in this little blog). This track shows how much those musicians were influenced by contemporary UK bands, especially Camel, I daresay.

Pyramids, UFOs, ancient warriors... what else?
But you'll also find many original features, especially when Mario Millo's guitar comes in. There's a long and beautiful electric guitar solo in this song I can only admire. And the final part of this performance has a bonus gem: the bass / guitar interplay. Actually this is a perfect example of creative, free, enjoyable progressive rock, coming from the years where it was really difficult to get noticed... but those guys surely did so and they still stand among the most beautiful pearls of the Southern Emisphere.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

La tour haute (Minimum Vital, 1987)

This lively, beautiful track comes from Minimum Vital's debut album, called "Les saisons marines". The title (meaning "The Tall Tower") immediately suggests the Medieval and folk mood of the song, but there is more than this in this 10 minute instrumental. Firstly, there is the splendid fusion of the traditional instruments and the synth, imitating ancestral sounds and adding a special flavour to the track. It isn't so common to find acoustic guitar and synth interplays, after all.

Since their first album, this band foud its peculiar way to prog.

And what could I say of the ever changing drumming? In a way, Christophe Godet enlightens and enhances the music, stressing all the passages with essential but never trivial rythmic solutions. As always with this French band, there's a Mediterranean mood, a blue and green shade, maybe the Sea Seasons the album title conjures up. If ever there is a dancing way to prog, you'll find it here.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Valley of The Shadows (Cairo, 1998)

Taken from Cairo's "Conflict And Dreams" album, this track perfectly illustrates the highly dynamic kind of prog these American musicians released in their three studio album, between 1994 and 2001. The sung sections and vocal harmonies are obviously reminiscent of Yes, but this "Valley of Shadows" has an original up tempo,intricate and enthralling structure I really like. Bret Douglas surely is a good singer, as he mixes very well power and sensibility in his performance and the backing voices are also very good.

"Conflict And Dreams" was Cairo's second studio album.

Mark Robertson's keyboards rule the track, but the band act as one, especially when they open the listener's view over wide horizons and distant landscapes. I daresay Cairo found a perfect balance between vintage sounds - mostly Keys - and up to date solutions, that's to say between symphonic rock and neo-prog. For sure, if you like fast fingers and virtuoso interplays, devilish piano and flushing arrangements, you won't be  disappointed by this.

Friday 12 December 2014

Bitter Suite (Marillion, 1985)

One of my favourite (neo-)prog songs ever, this "Heart of Lothian" is the symbol of Marillion's sensitive, romantic and somehow aggressive style. A thrilling pathos rules the entire track, supporting the autobiographical lyrics by Fish, whose vocals are both deep and biting... even his narrating intro, probably the only prog spoken section I adore. And the J'entends ton coeur passage is one of the most touching and sincere anthems of the '80s prog rock, IMHO, a bleeding heart's cry. Then, what about Steve Rothery's solo? Or of the intro of the last section?

An early Marillion press photo: the way they were...

Being a short suite inside an album that's kind of a suite itself, this song is actually divided into three parts: I. Brief Encounter, II. Lost Weekend, III. Blue Angel. It is difficult for me to select one of these as the best one, as they're all so enthralling and melodically rich that I'll never be tired to listen to them. And to say it all, I'll never be tired to listen to the whole "Misplaced Chilhood" album. Will you?

Thursday 11 December 2014

Good at The Art of Surviving (Notturno Concertante, 1993)

Lucio Lazzaruolo and Raffaele Villanova, the core duo behind the Italian act "Notturno Concertante", surely are among the most coherent and interesting musicians of their generation. "Good at The Art of Survival" comes from their debut album "Erewhon" and it features many of the band's trademark features. Firstly, you'll appreciate here the keen piano and guitar work, kind of a special touch , giving a nocturnal mood to many songs of theirs. Then, listen to the tempo changes, always coming in the right time, but never too sharp. Last but not least, see how Lucio's lyrics describe, with no indulgence at all, the criminal and narrow minded outlook of mafia's adepts.

"Erewhon" features Riccardo Mannelli's effective artwork.

I really like the way Notturno deal with some strong concepts in their albums, keeping such a delicate musical approach. This song flows gently through its different moods, respectively ruled by classic guitar, guest Betty Iandolo's voice and keyboards, so that the track's last note is just like a dream's last image. Don't loose this trip, my prog friends!

Monday 8 December 2014

Septagone (No Name, 1995)

Listening to some easy going neo-prog is something that chills me out. And when this music is well written and well played, I daresay it's kind of a cure to me. No Name come from Luxembourg and all their records pay loving respects to Fish era Marillion's music, even if their most recent albums are a little more synth-oriented. This isn't necessarily a reason to reject them, as No Name have their own intense and passionate way to make prog. This "Septagone" is a good way to discover tha band's approach, with all its keys progressing and its very good tempo changes.

A Victorian cover art... just "la Belle Époque"!

The track comes from the album "The Secret Garden" and I like the way the band exploits both acoustic and electric instruments to build up a dreamy rock song with good interplays and solos. The Victorian mood of the album shows itself then and now, especially in the atmospheric bridges and Patrick Kiefer's voice has a good balance between sweet and agressive tones. All in all, some pleasant 6 minutes of music, IMHO. That doesn't always happen, nowadays.

Sunday 7 December 2014

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Iron Butterfly, 1968)

Progressive rock didn't come out of the blue in the late '60s. The role played by seminal bands like Iron Butterfly is essential, IMHO, to correctly set this new genre in the big picture of its era. Coming from San Diego, these musicians, leaded by vocalist and keyboardist Doug Ingle, released a fantastic 17 minute title track in their second and still highly appreciated album. The song occupies the whole B side of the LP and its title is a mispronunciation of "In The Garden of Life", including a Spanish contamination of the last word. A very short version of this suite will be also released as a successful single.

It's a most psychedelic cover art, isn't it?

You'll find everything late '60s here, I mean it. From the captivating opening riff to the long drum solo and from spacey organ atmospheres to intricate bass / guitar / keyboard interplays.The circular pattern of the song, opening and closing with two similar sections, was also going to be a typical prog feature.  Doug's vocals are rather on the heavy side, and this makes a pleasant contrast with the slow tempo passages. A psychedelic monument announcing both prog and hard rock, something all music lovers should know, if you ask me.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Limites (AlexL, 2004)

The Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and composer Alexandre Loureiro released his only solo album "Triz" with a crowd of other musicians in 2004 and it seems to me this record still represents an original and eclectic approach to progressive rock. Take this track, called "Limites" ("Limits" in English), for example. It starts like a Genesis' Trespass-era song, including pleasant vocals in Portuguese, then an instrumental bridge reminds me of Robert Fripp's most dreaming moments.

"Triz" includes 12 sketches exploring many sides of prog.

When vocals come back, the harmonies sound a little like Gentle Giant, then the delicate folkish touch comes in once again to end up the song like a fairytale. Many influences, but a strong, definite personality re-interpretating the whole prog history in a modern and essential way. I actually recommend this song - and the album too - to all my most open-minded friends.

Friday 5 December 2014

The Emperor in His War Room (Van Der Graaf Generator, 1970)

One of my favourite prog songs ever. And that's saying something. The first sung lines are irresistible to me, with their sad and almost liturgical taste, then Peter Hammill goes through the first section (that's called The Emperor) running up and down his vocal extension and the listener's spine. The vocal harmonies, the keyboard backgrounds, the instrumental bridge between this part and the second one (The Room), well, all is highly emotional and bloody well done.

A wonderful season for VDGG... and for us all!

And when the first theme comes back, I'm actually KO... it's pure progressive juice to my lips, a fatal succession of dark and lights, whispers and cries, stops and progressions. No, I don't need to say more: when good melodies, skilled performances and emotions meet in a single song, that is my song. And something tells me it isn't only mine... but I'm not a jealous guy, after all!

Thursday 4 December 2014

Révolution Industrielle (Jean-Michel Jarre, 1988)

Jean-Michel Jarre signed so many electronic suites that I couldn't easily choose my favourite. But this one surely is a strong contender in such a competition. Coming from the album "Révolutions", this track - also known with the international title of "Industrial Revolution" -  is divided into four parts, the Ouverture, followed by Parts 1, 2 and 3, for a total running time of 16:49 minutes.

This was Jarre's ninth studio album, if you include the
mysterious "Music for Supermarkets".

All the main features of Jarre's style are there, including the lushing effects and the visual sound, but here you'll find a little more up tempo passages and a strong, articulated architecture we can easily label as symphonic. The different parts build up a  powerful, still also sensitive track, ruled by the Roland D-50 synthesizer and by many excellent melodic inventions. If you like Jarre and his colourful world, this is definitely for you.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Hallelujah (Little Tragedies, 2011)

Another excellent proof by Russian band Little Tragedies, something full of old good prog rock, but also reminiscent of Eastern European folk music. This is taken from the album called "Obsessed" and it actually became an obsession to me since the first time I listened to it. The joyful theme on which the track is based is elegant and enthralling. It includes some original variations on both popular and cultivated sides, involving all the instruments.

"Obsessed" was Little Tragedies' ninth studio album.
 It's a hymn to life, a real Hallelujah sung to the world using all the progressive tools. Even the rather short duration time is perfectly fit to the final effect, as unnecessary repetions or incongruous interludes are simply cut off. That's why this instrumental goes directly to the listener's heart. For a band accostumed to long and intricated suites, this is aperfect way to remember how beautiful prog can be in its shortest sketches when a good melody and a bunch of good players are involved.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Forse le lucciole non si amano più (Locanda delle Fate, 1977)

The title track of "Forse le lucciole non si amano più" (something like "Perhaps the fireflies don't love themselves anymore" in English) is one of the most romantic and atmospheric tracks in the entire Italian prog discography, IMHO. Leonardo Sasso's strong voice shines over the mellow musical background and some dreaming instrumental interludes enrich the song. The piano and the flute kind of draw the fireflies' aerial paths in a nocturnal sky, while the rest of the band set up some fluid tempo changes and more picturesque sketches.

The band came back in 1999 after more than 20 years of silence. 
But their debut album still stands as an Italian prog masterpiece.

Really, this is a song carrying the listener into a nostalgy dimension, a fairy world outside time and space. Such a pity this beautiful album had no success in its era. The prog world discovered it some twenty years later. Well, never too late, I suppose.

Monday 1 December 2014

Starship Trooper (Yes, 1971)

Taken from "The Yes Album", this song has everything - and more - to be considered as an all time prog rock classic. Set up like a suite in three movements (Life Seeker, Disillusion and Würm), the song is inspired by a Robert Heinlein's SF novel published in 1959 that also won the Hugo award. Mainly written by Jon Anderson and Chris Squire, this actually is a collective song, graced by the skills and the ideas of the whole band. The rock background is enthralling, strong, even whimsical, following the band's habits. I daresay the best feature in this track is the ever changing tempo, something we also see in mood and style.

The "Life Seeker" section of this suitealso was released
as the B-side of "I've Seen All Good People" 7" single.

Nonetheless, the listener perceives (well, at least I perceive) kind of a crescendo, leading to the last, bombastic section. I also think this is one of the best examples of interaction between lyrics and music, both concurring to the final, deliciously intricated effect. And in the middle of this whirling sounds, there you are some of the most beautiful and homesick Anderson's lines:

Speak to me of summer, long winters longer than time can remember,
Setting up of other roads, travel on in old accustomed ways.
I still remember the talks by the water, the proud sons and daughters that,
In the knowledge of the land, spoke to me in sweet accustomed ways.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Sümfoonia Seitsmele Esitajale (In Spe, 1983)

During the '80s, just a few bands wrote uncompromising and beautiful symphonic rock like this Estonian banddid with "Sümfoonia Seitsmele Esitajale". Its leader Erkki-Sven Tüür abandoned his own musical creature after the release of its first self titled album to start a new career as a classical composer. This opening suite in three movements (Ostium, Illuminatio and Mare Vitreum) surely is his most important addition to prog rock history. Its title means "Symphony for Seven Performers" and the whole track actually sounds as chamber rock, featuring three different moods.

After E.S.Tüür's abandon, "In Spe" also released a second LP.

The first one is based on electronic keyboards - played by E.S. Tüür himself - and is the most experimental one. Illuminatio flows quieter on the classical side, mixing traditional instruments and some discreet synths. The final section probably is my favourite one. It includes both rock and classical sounds, ranging from delicate interplays to majestic musical waves, with a pinch of folk inside. Many changes, many sounds and many instruments grace this suite, along with well found melodies. That's why I hope my prog friend will appreciate this composition as much as I did.

Friday 28 November 2014

La Roca del Diablo (Cai, 1980)

Cai's album "Noche abierta" ("Open Night" in English) is rightly considered as one of the best flowers in Spanish progressive garden and this track, "La Roca del Diablo" (meaning "Devil's Rock") is one of my favourites. The elegant keyboard effects, the melodic and mysterious atmosphere and the changing tempos are but some of the strong points of this instrumental. You'll also find some vague folk passages and a very good choice of interplays and even a slight jazzy orientation.

"Noche abierta" was the second studio album by Cai.

All is done with passion and a great deal of good taste, mixing the classic prog features and the Spanish colour. Listening to this is a good way to spend some 8 minutes and opens a gate to a less known progressive rock coming from early '80s, even before the neo-prog season. A quiet but not peaceful musical trip I surely recommend to you all.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

The Boat Song (Agam, 2012)

If you never listened to Agam, this song will be kind of surprising for you. This Indian band from Bangalore mixed the traditional Carnatic music with old good progressive rock and the final effect actually strikes me. The vocal performance has a strong ethnic taste, while the vocal harmonies, the rythmic background and the instrumental interplays sound like prog heroes from the past.

"The Inner Self Awakens" is Agam's debut album.

There's an incredible electric guitar solo by Praveen Kumar in the second half of "The Boat Song" I simply adore and the rythm section has the right beat to support Harish Sivaramakrishnan's passionate voice. The final result is an enthralling piece of music, something you hardly can label, full of Eastern and Western influences, but no doubt original and intriguing as only prog can be.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

The Company (Fish, 1990)

When "Vigil in A Wilderness of Mirrors" was released, back in 1990, this rather short song immediately captured my attention because of its catchy melody and its vaguely medieval arrangement. But I soon realised that there were another reason why I listened to this one more and more: it was full of energy, the same energy I appreciated in early Marillion songs. All was done in order to support the overflowing strength of the singer, his dynamic way to communicate feelings and to narrate stories. Fish wrote the lyrics of this track, while the music is by keyboardist Mickey Simmonds, involved in many other prog releases (Mike Oldfield, Renaissance, Camel...).

"The Company" was released as a single for the German market.
The folk mood of this song is assured not only by the melody, circular and enthralling like some popular dances, but also by Phil Cunningham's, Gavyn Wright's and Aly Bain's acoustic instruments: accordion, violin, whistles and even the Irish drum called bodhrán. The irresistible drumming is by the well known Portuguese session man Luís Jardim, whose collaborations include the like of Yes, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Asia, David Bowie and Elton John. The final result is, IMHO, one of the most enjoyable fast tempo prog songs I've ever listened to.

Monday 24 November 2014

Sea of Delight (Brainbox, 1969)

As some posts in this blog prove very well, proto-prog songs and albums weren't an exclusive British feature. These Brainbox, for example, came from The Netherlands and in 1969 cleverly mixed R'n'B, psychedelic sounds and plain melodies in a new, unpredictable style we could easily call prog rock. I think this long suite "Sea of Delight" is the best way to approach their music. Jan Akkerman plays here his acid guitar some years before founding Focus, the legendary Dutch prog band (see elsewhere in this blog).

This was the cover art for Brainbox self titled debut album.

But you'll also find here Pierre van der Linden's creative drumming and solos - he'll also join Focus later - and the "talking" bass guitar played by Andre Reynen. Both musicians succeed in drawing a collection of weird, synchopated rythms. A final special mention goes to the Polish singer Kaz Lux, whose sensual vocals grace the sung sections of this track... and his hums, woos and assorted whispers  are among the most puzzling sounds of the whole proto-prog era, IMHO. Really, this is a very interesting and unusual track, that's why I sometimes listen to it and always appreciate those pioneering guys.

Saturday 22 November 2014

The Crawler (Saens, 2002)

I really like the way Saend take neo-prog standards and enrich them with a series of original ideas, eclectic sources and variated moods. This "The Crawler", taken from the album "Escaping from The Hands of God", is a good specimen of such a musical attitude. It includes some Marillion-like melodic lines, but those are mixed with many other things, including a jazzy intro, some unpredictable piano chords, a warm voice and a collection of tempo changes.

This was the second studio album by Saens.

All the instruments are well exploited, even if the piano does play a central role and the guitars are especially good. No, youcan't be bored by such a song, reminding me a turning stage, always leading to something new. Almost 14 minutes of excellent prog rock, if you ask me.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Light Elements (Patrick Moraz, 1987)

Here's a synth-prog track by Patrick Moraz, the Swiss keyboardist and one-man band, also famous for his short lived collaboration with Yes. This instrumental opens his album called "Human Interface" and is a very good specimen of symphonic keyboard driven music. It's a perfect depiction of light, like a summer dawn or a distant star approaching, one of those spacey tracks suggesting interstellar trips.

This was the seventh  studio album by Patrick Moraz.

The almost orchestral drums and the effective double lined melody are full of the sense of wonder I appreciate in good electronic music. The little but effective variations are very well found and that's why, even if there's just one melodic loop during the whole song, I'm never bored by it and I seldom re-start my CD reader and take another go to "Light Elements". Moraz really knows how to exploit flushing effects and devilish devices keeping a human soul in his music. Not so easy.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

San Jacinto (Peter Gabriel, 1982)

This is one of my favourite Peter Gabriel's tracks, it has always been, since its release in the album "Peter Gabriel IV", also known as "Security" LP. There's a tense vibration in this song, a mysterious mood and a deal of weird, fascinating sounds. The lyrics are about a Native American initiation ritual, a painful one, and the short lines are like a wheezy breathing. Useless to say, Gabriel's vocal performance is perfect: deep and intimate, suggestive and moving.

This was the last album Peter Gabriel titled simply by his name.

The electronic effects are like ancestral instruments, and Jerry Marotta's drumming adds a syncopated heart to the track. When the chorus come in and Peter's voice rises up like a scream, I see flashes and colours from an unknown desert bursting out. I do think this song is more like an emotional trip than a mere musical experience.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

The Truth Will Set You Free (The Flower Kings, 2002)

The quintessential Flower Kings, I'd say. A long - very long: more than 30 minutes - and highly variated suite, including melodies and rythmic sections, long instrumental passages and well written sung sections, electronic effects and acoustic corners, fast tempo progressions and calm interludes. There's all an average prog fan is fond of, with some slightly soul vibrations, as usual with Roine Stolt's band. Most of all, IMHO, this is a collection of well found themes, set up in a pleasant and unpredictable frame, where all the parts perfectlt fit in.

This suite opens the double CD "Unfold The Future".

Some of the passages are really original (especially some guitar solos), some other are reminiscent of past prog heroes (ah... those vocal harmonies!), but the entire track has a strong character, a well defined structure, so that one can immediately recognise it. A special mention goes to Hasse Bruniusson's creative percussions: if this huge track's never boring, it's also thanks to him, IMHO.

Monday 17 November 2014

Esinti (Gevende, 2011)

What an original, even weird music this Turkish band builds up! It seems to me there's a bit of King Crimson and VDGG inside, but all here is actually  unpredictable and modern. This "Esinti" (meaning "Breeze"), taken from the album "Sen balık değilsin ki", is a collection of evanescent emotions, pulsing soundscapes and changing moods. Serkan Emre Çiftçi's trumpet is the trademark of the band, but the rythmic background and the delicate guitar are excellent too. The first section of the song is a dreamy water colour leading to an almost spoken sung performance.

This is the second studio album by Gevende.

The change around minute 4:10 is stunning: we fly from a Crimsonian atmosphere to a Mid-Eastern sung section, ruled by a viola, starting with a pizzicato and soon going into an experimental but never unpleasant melody. And when the main theme comes back, it's via a tough wall of sound including follk and rock instruments. Really, if prog rock means trying new ways, well, this is the proggest thing I can figure out.

Sunday 16 November 2014

The Cult of Birdman (Blank Manuskript, 2009)

Blank Manuskript come from Austria and their debut album was inspired by the mysteries of Easter Island and titled "Tales from an Island - Impressions from Rapa Nui". This track, in particular, is about the Birdman, so often engraved on Rapa Nui's ancient monuments. I actually like this one, because of its diversity. You'll find melodic passages, jazzy impovisations, atmospheric sections and effective riffs. The concept of the album comes to the foreground during the spoken section, which is part of a longer narrative.

Many guest musicians grace the eight tracks of this album.

Just after this section you'll appreciate an excellent guitar solo, but there are many pleasant moments during this 12 minute song. In particular, I like the piano work and the main riff reprises, matching so well with the rest of the track. The abundance of instruments and their neat sound are also among the strongest points of "The Cult of Birdman". A very good discovery I made with Blank Manuskript, and I do hope you'll like them too.

Saturday 15 November 2014

The Three Fates (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1970)

The ELP's debut album is a real gold mine, full of precious musical lodes. "The Three Fates" surely is one of them. The track is divided into three parts, each one describing one of the three Greek goddesses running human destinies: Clotho, Lachesis and Athropos. The first movement is a majestic one, with Emerson's organ at its best and an almost liturgical mood. Then, our keyboard man goes to the piano for the second fate and creates a refined embroidery.

Luckily the most famous "powerful trio" in prog rock history.

Finally, he's joined by a Carl Palmer's splendid drum work during the final section. In this closing segment, moreover, there's a spectacular piano overdubbing enriching the sound. The whole mini-suite is based on a classical frame, but the rythmic pace and some technical solutions are as original as a prog track can be... and that's saying something!

Friday 14 November 2014

Las colinas y el maestro / Epilogo: Sudamérica (Arco Iris, 1972)

Arco Iris, a seminal band from Argentina, wrote their most celebrated opera in two LPs and 26 songs "Sudamérica o el Regreso de la Aurora" (meaning "South America or The Coming back to Dawn") in 1972, and still today this final track is one of their best compositions. Short and apparently plain, the song is actually a little gem when it comes to vocal harmonies and acoustic / electric instruments blend.

"Sudamerica" was the  band's fourth studio album.

It's actually a track belonging to two different worlds: the South American folk and the European Prog and Jazz rock. Of course there are more complex and longer songs in this double LP, but I can't help loving this one, so full of life an colours, so deeply infused in the '70s spicy waters and with such a catchy melody. Also the spiritual concept of the album, written by vocalist and guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla, is coherent with its era. A full immersion into an everlasting musical dream.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

The Ruins of A Glass Fortress (Gerard, 2000)

Taken from the same titled album, this mini-suite is another proof of Gerard's skills. Not only these Japanese guys are great composers, but they also offer lavish performances. Take Toshio Egawa's keyboards in this song: they're so different, original and well mixed that one could imagine a whole orchestra is involved. And also the structure of this two-part suite is a treat, with its changes, and the main theme reprises both in instrumental and sung sections.

This was the eighth studio album by Gerard.

Here I can't omit a special mention to the guest singer Jean-Luc F.Nazaki, whose suggestive voice adds an arcane mood to the track and to the trio line-up of Gerard. Of course, when the keys go on fast arpeggios in the second half of part 2, well, my prog ears celebrate... yes, the celebrate for real!

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Suite per il Sig. K (Jumbo, 1972)

Here's a beautiful and somehow  unusual specimen of Italian prog suite from the '70s, taken from the album "DNA". This "Suite per il Sig. K" ("Suite for Mr.K", in English) in divided into three parts, titled "Sta accadendo qualcosa dentro me" ("Something is happening inside me"), "Ed ora corri" ("Run, now") and "Dio è" ("God Is"). The music is alternatively sweet and rough, with many traditional prog features like the rock flute solos, but also with many original ideas.

"DNA"was the second studio album by Jumbo.

One of these surely is the bluesy and passionate vocal performance, and another one is the country smell of some sung sections. But I also recommend the acoustic interludes, the free and almost acid electric guitar, the jazzy organ and the clever transitions between the different moods involved in the suite. Nothing too elaborate, but each moment in this song is intense and effective. Probably a less known side of Italian prog, but a very interesting one.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Thick As A Brick Part One (Jethro Tull, 1972)

This is no doubt one of the greatest classic suites in prog rock history, so no long presentations will be necessary. That said, this Jethro Tull's epic deserves some reflections. Firstly, I like the humour - a very British one - this song features, from the story of the schoolboy Gerald Bostock (also known as "Little Milton") winning a poetry competition and being ignominiously disqualified, to the album package reproducing a local newspaper full of convinging still unlikely news more or less related to the band.

The funniest newspaper I've ever read...

But the music is the strongest point here, with one of the best blends of folk and rock I've ever listened to, especially in the first part of the masterpiece. The tempo changes, the returning themes, the enthralling rythms...all was made to build up a memorable piece of music. Ian Anderson and his bandmates succeeded in a very difficult task, as they welded epic and irony, melody and rythm, refinement and satire. I'm very grateful to them.

Saturday 8 November 2014

El galope del asturcón (Asturcón, 1981)

Asturcón only released one album in 1981 (recorded in 1980), but the record is probably better known and surely more appreciated today than in its release days. Victor Carrizo, the man behind this project, managed to set up an original collection of pure progressive music with distinctive elements in it. This "El galope del asturcón" (the asturcón is an Asturian pony) is a good example of the strength and even the weirdness of his compositions.

The original LP included six tracks, all very good, IMHO.
Mainly instrumental, the track descibes the animal in its natural environment and finally exalts the beauty and the pride of the asturcón and of the Asturian landscape in a few spoken lines. Naive as it is, this track is a pleasant trip through a colourful land and its abrupt tempo changes give the listeners a delightful surprise. It's a refreshing sip of prog in a rough rock oriented period, not the best way a musician had to get rich... something I always appreciate.

Friday 7 November 2014

3 Lights (RPWL, 2005)

RPWL are currently one of the most creative bands in Germany, and this track shows how much - and how wll - they can mix different inspirations in order to set up a coherent and well structured track. The first part of "3Lights", taken from the album "World through My Eyes", has a strong Genesis influence, something like Ant Phillips era. It's n acoustic ballad, featuring a good melody and airy, gentle sounds.

This album also includes the single "Roses", sung by Ray Wilson.

Then something changes and we move towards a slow tempo instrumental, based on an almost folk mood, but getting soon a modern and electronic background, until the Floydian electric guitar comes in and a dreamy solo opens the soundscape and draws a brighter atmosphere. The finale is made of sound effects, a psychedelic way to link this song to the following one. As you can see, there are many faces to this "3 Lights", but not even a second in it is dull or useless and everything seems to happen in the very moment we need it. Good guys...

Thursday 6 November 2014

Le cerf volant (Atoll, 1977)

Among the many good tracks released by this French band, I decided tointroduce in my blog this instrumental and relaxing one, taken from the album "Tertio", a rather accessible LP, compared with its precedessors. The first and most important reason of my choice is the spacey, atmosferic and hypnotic mood of the song, bravely exploring all the arcane features of a genre that, back in1977, seemed to belong to history.

The title says it all: "Tertio" was Atoll's third album.

But Atoll still had so much to say and to play, as this magic essay proves very well. Electronic keyboards and an elegant electric guitar are the main features of "Le cerf volant", but I also like André Balzer's delicate and variated drumming. The whole song perfectly depicts the flight of a kite (that's the meaning of the song title in English) high in a blue sky, and the sense of freedom it always suggests. More than a song, this is a vivid, persistent kind of dream.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

I Talk to The Wind (King Crimson, 1969)

This blog is full of tracks coming from King Crimson's debut album, but I think such a masterpiece deserves even more than this. "I Talk to The Wind" is a long slow tempo, pastoral, hypnotic ballad I don't need to describe this one, as any prog fan knows it well. I'd like to say instead why I keep on listening to this song, 'cause there are several good reasons for that.

A press photograph for King Crimson's debut album.

First of all, Greg Lake's vocals, so imperturbable and out of this material world, then the woodwind coming in and out the song, just like the real wind Sinfield's lyrics are about. How could I describe the stillness, the ethereal mood of this track? And how could anyone explain the neatness and disarming beauty of the melody? Last but not least, a special mention to Michael Giles' drumming, so soft and effective. In short, I better like to listen once more to this track than to go on talking about it. All in all, I'd talk to the wind...

Tuesday 4 November 2014

E mi viene da pensare (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1979)

This is a short song, but surely one of the most moving ones I came across during my listener's career. Taken from the album "Canto di Primavera" - an underrated one, IMHO - it's a slow tempo ballad based on a delicate and deep parallel between creativity and Spring. Such a song proves how a prog song can be plain and effective, sensitive and essential. 

 "Canto di Primavera" was the eigth Banco's studio album.

Of course, there is a beautiful instrumental section and the whole arrangement is elegant and neat, but the strongest point in this track is no doubt the melody - so airy and original - along with the vocal performance. The lyrics are also a jewel: "And I happen to think about the enthusiam grown along the road, it was almost a duty to show all my cards and I felt as smart as an idea you can't stop...". Smart, yes, that's the right word!

Monday 3 November 2014

500 songs... celebrate on Facebook too!

Two announcements today: firstly, next song will be number 500 on this blog. Thank you all for being so patient.

And - secondly - Prog Rock Little Place can now celebrate this goal on Facebook too!

Yes, for those of you provided with a Facebook profile will find PRLP here:

Of course, you can also search Facebook for "Prog Rock Little Place" and you'll find me. Once again, thank you for all your kindness and interest.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Kanaan (Amon Düül II, 1969)

I immediately confess that I'm not into krautrock, especially that kind of krautrock that freely explore the outer limits of the musical Galaxy. But then, as anyone else, I appreciate many tracks from those open minded and uncompromising artists. Amon Düül II are among the best flowers of krautrock golden season. "Kanaan", taken from their debut album "Phallus Dei" (not a politically correct title, I'm afraid), is one of my favourite tracks of theirs. It has an enthralling rythm and begins with a highly creative drumming, then here comes in the sitar giving the right ethnic flavour to the song.

"Kanaan" is the opening track of "Phallus Dei".

The short sung passage is almost a spoken one, but please don't miss the final section, ruled by the electric guitar and ending up with freaky electronic devices in crescendo. That's simply amazing. In four minutes or so, the whole Flower Power world is condensed (the band came out of a hippy commune, after all), with a bonus European point of view. This is also the track I usually recommend for those needing a starting point to a trip into the '70s German rock. An excellent appetizer, I daresay.

Saturday 1 November 2014

No Sanctuary (Queensrÿche, 1984)

I'm not particularly fond of the hardest incarnations of prog, but I sometimes come across tracks like this one and say: "Well, that's great... and prog!". "No Sanctuary", taken from the album "The Warning", is basically a so-called powerful ballad (who on Earth invented this label?) and still it has all the main features of my favourite genre: tempo changes, skillful playing, beautiful melodies, and also a rather complex arrangement. Then, I must admit, Geoff Tate's voice is perfect, being strong and sensitive in the same time, so well supported here by the rest of the band's vocal harmonies.

This was the band's first proper album, after a self-titled EP.

The mood is somewhat suspended out of time, and it seems to me a gate is opening to another dimension, especially during the quietest instrumental interlude. There are so many different colours in the soundscape of this track, so many emotions, so many fires we see from a distance. In short, I recommend it to my open minded prog friends out there. And to the non-prog ones, too.

Friday 31 October 2014

Nine Feet Underground (Caravan, 1971)

If I had to single out one track as the most representative one of the so called Canterbury Sound, I'd likely choose this one, taken from the masterpiece album "In The Land of Grey And Pink". Mind you, this isn't just because it is a long eight-part suitre (and anyone knows I like suites), no, it's the lush, eclectic, warming and brilliant architecture of this song that always captures my attention. Take those gentle and slightly jazz keyboards, for example. They seem to come from a distance, maybe from nine feet underground, and still they are so neat and strong that each time I listen to them, I'd ask for more.

Caravan during the early '70s. Canterbury rules.

The rare sung sections are somewhat linked to the beat-blues era and the choral harmonies always come in to add a '70s smell to these vocal flowers. And the guitars are rich ,nd flushing. Now a special mention for the tempo changes. These ones are particularly dynamic during the central sections, including some supernatural effects - the scary "Make it 76" - and an assortment of keyboard and guitar solos. I don't need to recommend such a famous track, of course, perhaps I can suggest one more listening... just in case.