Saturday 30 August 2014

Naü Ektila (Magma, 1970)

Magma did almost everything when it comes to creative and eclectic prog and I'm not saying I like the whole lot. For sure, this is my favourite track from their debut album. It has many faces, this song, based on pastoral, sweet sounds and including free jazz, rock'n'roll, improvisation-like jams, creative percussions and so on.

This challenging double LP set up Magma's long story.

It's a strange and puzzling trip through different moods and landscapes along a delicate flute and 12 string guitars fil rouge not so far from early King Crimson. But, of course, all the other elements in the track are totally unpredictable. Still, when they surface they're never unpleasant and the listener tends to accept them the way a child grabs a new toy before coming back to his favourite one. Curiosity and imagination, these are the key words.

Friday 29 August 2014

I Can't Look Away (Trevor Rabin, 1989)

Mostly famous for being a member of Yes between 1981 and 1995, Trevor Rabin has a long and brilliant career both as a solo artist and as a producer, and he also wrote many successful original soundtracks major films, like "Armageddon" or "American Outlaws". But he's responsible for many good prog rock songs too, such as this "I Can't Look Away", taken from the album "Can't Look Away".

This was Trevor Rabin's fourth studio album.

As you can easily imagine, it's a guitar driven, mostly instrumental epic, well balancing majestic solos and delicate interludes. Rabin managed to merge some '80s electronic devices and a classic prog rock texture, not so far from Hackett's and Howe's solo projects from the same era. But the thing I especially like here (and also elsewhere in Rabin's albums) is the emotional side of the track, full of passion and intimate sadness. Trevor's technical skills do the rest, of course.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Nights in White Satin (The Moody Blues, 1967)

Do The Moody Blues really belong to the prog rock movement? For sure, they anticipated many of the fundamental features of the genre, as their "Night in White Satin" hit easily proves: a well arranged fusion of classical music and pop rock, instrumental interludes (in the album version, at least), mood changes and, of course, the inclusion in a concept album, the band's second one, titled "Days of Future Passed". The concept was about the different times of a day, so that "Nights in White Satin" represents - of course - the night and closes the album.

This song was released as a single in 1967, 1972 and 1979,
always charting, and had of course many different cover arts.

The orchestra plays a central role in the long version of the song and it does so without any sharp contrast with the band: each moment has its own space and role, even the spoken comment during the final part of the song, a section that also had an originally unlisted title of its own, "Late Lament". The famous and beautiful sung melody fills the first part of the track and goes through different arrangements, so that each verse of this airy ballad seems to add something new and different. Prog or not, this band (and this track) strongy contributed to the building of a new musical era.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

In Haze of Time (Trespass, 2002)

When I first read this band's name I imagined a Genesis inspired act, surely not the first one. But when I listened to their debut album and to the title track I'm introducing here, I changed my mind. There's a vintage prog mood, sure, but as varied and eclectic as possible, with many changes, inspirations and good surprises. Old good '70s keyboards, yes, but also jazzy moments, choral arrangements, folk passages and proto-prog scents.

Trespass is a powerful trio... you'd say they're more than three!
A funny, rich, pleasant mix from one of the best Israeli prog bands I know of. In addiction to this, a catchy but not trivial sung theme... something I never dislike when it comes with such a colourful instrumental abundance. So, if you want to tumble back the years and also you like to discover something new, this is your cup of tea.

Monday 25 August 2014

The Water (Light, 1972)

These Dutch musicians went out with their first album in 1972, with a concept about Moses story and they managed to release just this good album based on glorious keyboards sound. In particular, this opening track we can roughly divide into three different parts is pleasant and full of good ideas. Nothing really new under the sun, of course, but all very well written, arranged and played. The first section is a pastoral instrumental, then you'll find a spoken intro to the short sung section and a finale where keys finally introduce a jazzy electric guitar  and a closing hippy-era choir.

A not so well known example of early Dutch prog.

You'll appreciate a succession of good themes and a slightly acid electric guitar floating on a sea of keyboards. Mostly instrumental and melodic, this song also includes some rythmic accellerations,  good largos. If you like that kind of liquid prog that flows down between enchanted landscapes, well, this track will certainly suit you. Just a final note: this band is not to be confused with another and more recent Dutch act bearing the same name.

Friday 22 August 2014

Já nejsem já (Ota Petřina, 1978)

A rather vast production of prog or prog related rock sprung up in Eastern Europe between 1973 and the early '80s.  Ota Petřina is one of the finest authors of that wave and he released the album "Super-Robot", probably his best one, in 1978 under a label band bearing his own name. This track, "Já nejsem já" (something like "I'm not myself"in English), opens the LP.

Ota Petřina also released an extended 2-CD version of this album in 2009.

It's a mellow and spacey epic, very well written and played, somewhat reminiscent of the most known British prog heroes, but with a special, introspective and pulsing sound of its own. Also the lyrics in Czech contribute to that, and even more do so the delicate acoustic interludes, breaking the ruling keyboard / bass guitar interplays. I really enjoy this song each time I listen to it and so I hope yo'll do.

Thursday 21 August 2014

The Hour Candle (A Song for My Father) (Camel, 1996)

This long track (9 minutes of good music and 14 more of gull and sea effects) comes from Camel's "Harbour of Tears" album, a concept based on Irish emigration to America. The sweet, sad, bluesy Latimer's electric guitar solo is the most magic moment of the song, but I like every bit of it (well, maybe not so the final gulls and waves...), as the main theme is simply magnificent and all the variations are worth Camel's long and glorious history.

"Harbour of Tears" is my favourite album by Camel after the '70s.

The a cappella reprise of the traditionsl Irish Air opening the album is also very good and acts as a bridge between the proper song and the sea sounds coming after a minute or so of silence. Camel succeed IMHO in describing the sadness of leaving one's home country and breaking maybe forever all family and friendship links. Heartbreaking, that's the word.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Introduzione (Il Balletto di Bronzo, 1972)

This Italian band really made an excellent album back in 1972 called "Ys" and this is its opening suite. Arcane and complex, including many different rythms, tempos and moods, this 15 minutes composition features all the strong points of this concept album, based on a SF plot and vaguely inspired by Celtic legends. The sung melodies are never easy and seldom are on the verge of recitative singing, while the intricate interplays emphasize all the musicians' skills and especially the spectacular sound of Gianni Leone's multiple keyboards.

With this album BDB fully embraced progressive rock.

You'll certainly appreciate the choral arrangements, rather on the classical and experimental side, I'd say. The central instrumental passage also includes a wild guitar solo by Lino Ajello and the passage from this section to the next sung theme is one of my favourite moments of the track. In conclusion, this isn't at all a mellow Italian prog song and you'd better prepare your ears to a challenging listening.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Breaking The Spell (Pendragon, 1993)

If you ask Pendragon fans to choose the most representative Pendragon's song, many of them will likely say "Breaking The Spell", from 1993 "Windows of Life" album. In fact, this song has in it all the main musical features of Nick Barrett's band: a beautiful melody, before all the rest, well written and well arranged.

Nick Barrett in a 2009 concert. Photo from "Background Magazine".

Then, in no particular order: airy and majestic guitar solos, philosophical lyrics about human life and its meaning, spacey keyboards provided by Mr. Clive Nolan and, last but not least, a good deal of emotions. The changes are pleasant and sweep away any boredom risks, something Barrett's last solo would have prevented in any case. Pendragon at their best, I certify that.

Monday 18 August 2014

In The Wake of The Moon (Galleon, 2010)

Galleon like to change and even if their music always keeps its more or less traditional neo-prog path, they know how to diversify the moods, the tempos and the sounds too. Here, in this 2010 album title track, they choose a melodic, slow, rather melancholy way, making the most of a beautiful theme and following a lunar inspiration both in music and lyrics.

This is the ninth studio album by Galleon.
Nostalgy and sweet sadness rule the song and I rarely listened to a more beutiful track into such a dark mood. A million light years from the bombastic prog rock of Galleon's first CDs and even so a fully Galleon song, with all the intense and keen keyboards / guitars interplays they are famous for. Please listen to this at night, in a cosy room, looking out from the window at a starry sky. If you don't have the cosy room nor the starry sky, well, close your eyes...

Sunday 17 August 2014

The Prism (Stratospheerius, 2012)

Stratospheerius was born by the eclectic genius of American (and Russian born) Joe Deninzon, ranging from jazz to classical music and from rock to experimental sounds. This is taken from the album "The Next World" and is an enthralling electric violin driven song (that's Deninzon's favourite instrument, of course) I could put somewhere in between Frank Zappa and Kansas, but with a pinch of Curved Air. There are a catchy riff and a good sung melody, but also cultivated and dance refererences.

This is the first album Deninzon credited to the band. Previuosly,
 he released three works as Joe Deninzon or J.D & Stratospheerius.

You're probably thinking this is a bit of a mess and you're not completely wrong... proggish music with a DJ at the turntables! Nonetheless, "The Prism" - like other good songs from the same CD - really rocks and also Deninzon's voice is warm and good, while also the band show up their talents. If you're into eclectic, litterally crossover prog, and if you also like sing-along tunes, this is definitely for you.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Find The Mistake (Machiavel, 2011)

Machiavel are one of those bands that constantly surprise their fans. Each of their albums, maybe each of their songs has something new and unexpected in it. This is certainly the case with "Find The Mistake", taken from the album "Eleven". It's so modern and musically up to date that you could figure out this comes from one of the XXIth Century post prog bands.

This 2011 album is the 11th Machiavel's studio work and it also
features 11 tracks. Its title is a matter of coherence, isn't it?

Not at all: it's just another face of the unpredictable Machiavel's sound. And there's more than a gloomy melody: just listen to the arcane intro or to the long and beautiful electric guitar solo towards the end of the song, spectacular and original, I daresay. That's how an experienced and creative band can merge the old and the new to make a good and emotional song. Well done, my old Belgian friends!

Thursday 14 August 2014

No Son of Mine (Genesis, 1991)

This has Always been a special song to me. Firstly because I saw it on its 12" vinyl single form in my usual record shop and it was such big a pleasure to read the name "Genesis" once again on a new record. I would have that same joy some days later with "We Can't Dance" album, of course. Then, when I immediately bought it and took it home, I was frankly surprised by the emotional strength of the song. Phil Collins sings this one with all his heart and soul and the lyrics are about an abused child (or maybe the child of an abused mother) running away, coming back home and being shut out by his father this time.

I always liked this cover art, maybe even more than the album one.

A sad story depicted in a very good video and going with a highly innovative music. The metronome intro, the harsh drumming, the famous "elephantus"sound (actually a twisted sample of Mike Ruterford's guitar) are but a taster of the song, full of good ideas, featuring a strong melodic base and a very original arrangement. Prog or not, songs like this one always catch up my attention and my feelings.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Another Day (Mystery, 2012)

The Canadian Mystery are also known for their vocalist, Benoît David, who sang with Yes from 2008 to 2012 and faced the very difficult task to replace Jon Anderson. David was also a member of Mystery between 1999 and 2014. But this beautiful suite clearly shows that these Canadian musicians deserve some more attention and actually do an excellent progressive rock. "Another Day" comes from the album "The World Is A Game"and, while credited as a long single track, it features different moments and varied sections, and also some recurring themes.

"The World Is A Game" is the fifth studio album by Mystery. 

David sings it very well, kind of an answer to some criticisms he received during his Yes experience. Another special mention naturally goes to Michel St-Père, the man behind Mystery, who wrote the song and played both keyboards and guitars. He balanced very well hard and mellow sections and also managed to enrich the sound with guest musicians like Marilène Provencher-Leduc whose sweet flute graces the most atmospheric moods of this suite or the drummer Nick D'Virgilio of Beard Fish and Big Big Train fame. A very good listening, if you believe me.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Encuentro fugaz (Triana, 1980)

Many prog fans know very well the beautiful debut album of this Spanish band, but they almost ignore the rest of their production. Such a shame, as Triana made many excellent records, including the song I'm introducing here. It comes from their fourth album, titled "Un encuentro" and it immediately proves to be one of the most creative tracks of  Jesús de la Rosa  & friends.

This album also features "Tu frialdad", the only real hit of Triana.

It's a dark, meditative song about love and its unpredictable turns, based on piano and spanish guitar, and of course feturing the splendid voice of de la Rosa. If some other tracks of the album seem more pop than the usual Triana's standard, this isn't a plain song at all, with its morn instrumental passages and its half spoken melody. A nocturnal, intense, rich song that digs very deep in human soul, in short: a real prog song.

Monday 11 August 2014

Halloween part II (Pulsar, 1977)

The second part of this wonderful suite (for part 1 introduction, please search this blog) of French band Pulsar features as good and varied music as the previous installment. This B-side suite is divided into five movements: a) Lone Fantasy, b) Dawn Over Darkness, c) Misty Garden Of Passion, d) Fear Of Frost, and e) Time, for a total duration time of 18:40 minutes. This composition surely deserves an in-depth description.

The first section is mellow and mostly acoustic, full of mysterious and almost spacey sounds, while the second one is a perfect specimen of symphonic rock, also including some good vocals, and this same fully progressive mood goes on during the third section. The following passage is more varied as it includes some harsh sounds and the rythm rises at places, generating a pleasant constrast with the most peaceful moments of the track. The finale brings back an arcane and suspended atmosphere, probably the band's trademark. Once again, this is very, very good prog.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Lucky Man (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1970)

This is the first single released by Emerson, Lake & Palmer and obviously comes from their self titled debut album. It's the archetype of all the band's ballads, featuring the guitar and the warm vocal interpretation of Greg Lake, a rich drum work by Carl Palmer and  keyboard variation by you know who. The most extreme prog band had in fact a special taste for plain and sweet ballads like this one, usually written by Lake.

One of the many different art covers of the 7" single.

And "Lucky Man" has also its own peculiar story and some related legends. The singer composed this track when he was just a kid and this has been confirmed many times by the author himself. Emerson wasn't fond of such a folk song and only accepted to put it into the album when he was allowed to add the final synth solo, but Keith declared that he wanted to record it more carefully, and that the released version was just a first try. Maybe because of these quarrels, the choice of this track as a single was made by the band's manager without asking the musicians' advice(another legend?). Well, I do think he did very well.

Friday 8 August 2014

Jeanne d'Arc (Eloy, 1992)

I can remember several songs inspired by Jeanne d'Arc, but this one, taken from Eloy's album "Destination" is probably the one I listen to with the greatest pleasure. Not only the track is pleasant and features a good melody, but the sounds - with their vague medieval reference - perfectly depict the contents of the lyrics. "Jeanne d'Arc" is the closing and best composition of an album I don't especially like, but it's so well arranged and so beautifully sung that it was to me a good enough reason to purchase the CD.

Well, I don't think this lady on "Destination" cover is Jeanne...

The epic and historical subject surely gives to the track a dignified aura, but the band keeps the song well planted on the ground and no bombastic effects, nor instrumental excesses are to be found here. "Jeanne d'Arc" is just a progressive ballad, infused of real emotions and featuring some very good keyboards and choral arrangements. Is it enough for you, my prog friends out there?

Jurassic Spark (Grand Stand, 2002)

Grand Stand are a Finnish act lovingly caring their Genesis origins and I can't blame them for this. The problem is that their first album was mostly a derivativeone, too much similar to their model (well, more or less, I mean). But their second CD, called "Tricks of Time", is far better. Sure, the Charterhouse band is still there at their side, but many other influences, and a new rhythmic fantasy as well, enrich Grand Stand's musical horizon.

This band also contributed to "Kalevala", a very
good AAVV 3CD concept based on Finnish sagas.

The track is rather long (more than 11 minutes), but features so many changes and moods that you could even ask for more. Olov Andersson's voice is good and strong, but the sung parts are less original than the instrumental ones. These are really  unpredictable and charming moments, with a special mention to Michael Jensen's guitar. A good track for traditional prog fans and maybe for all prog fans.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Lamplight Symphony (Kansas, 1975)

What a beautiful prog track this is, my dear friends! Full of epic, sung by one of the best male voices ever, based on a delicate and airy symphony and, of course, arranged with fantasy and good taste. I think it's like an emotional Arrow and it always reaches my heart. All the instruments do their best to enrich the song: full-bodied keys, rocky guitars, assorted drums... what could a poor prog fan ask for more?

An old promo image of the band.

Just one thing:  a sad violin-driven instrumental bridge. Well, you'll also find this festure... and some piano tasty touches too, as an extra treat. The lyrics are about a widower praying on his wife's grave and being reached and spoken to by her ghost. A sad story, one of the best from "Song for America" album. But let me spend some final words for Steve Walsh: not only his vocals are heartbreaking, but he's also responsibe for the piano work here. Chapeau.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Moths (Jethro Tull, 1978)

This song comes from Jethro's "Heavy Horses" album, so it belongs to the band's most folk-oriented period. It's a rather short song, but it includes many of Ian Anderson's creature beloved features. First of all, it is popular in the positive meaning of the word: catchy and brilliant, rythmically sustained, perfectly arranged. Then, it is prog in the widest sense: for its flute solos, for its original pattern and for its unpredictable bridges.

"Moths" was also released as a single,b/w "Life Is A Long Song".

Another not so common aspect for a prog track, this is a love song, but not an usual one. Ian Anderson figures out the clever trick of suggesting the lovers' actions through the moths' dance around a candle, so that the brief and suicidal life of the animals also represents the ardour of love. Tricky, yes, but this is prog, my friends.

Monday 4 August 2014

Verità nascoste (Le Orme, 1976)

One of the most delicate and beautiful prog ballads ever, IMHO. Its classical accents, its acoustic arrangement and especially its sweet melody are simply heatbreaking. Le Orme's discography surely includes many other and more adventurous tracks, but I'll always like this simple song and also the way the band suggests an old, almost fairy world. The lyrics add some more magic to this track: the singer tries to renew his love story, to relive the emotions he proved, even if time changes everything.

"Verità nascoste" was the 8th Le Orme's studio album.

The instrumental sections are committed to a little string orchestra and this choice improves the natural grace of "Verità nascoste" (that's "Hidden Truths" in English or also "Secret Truths", the title the band gave to the never released English version of the track and its album), and also anticipates the "chamber music" period of Le Orme between 1979 and 1980.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Prima (Aviva, 2007)

Aviva is the name of pianist Dimitri Loukianenko's prog project. As you will immediatly understand, this Russian man is a fan of ELP and he plays keys and piano very, very well (could it be otherwise?). This "Prima", sub-titled "Blessed Paul's Phantoms", is just like musical lava. Like his beloved model, Loukianenko puts a virtuoso fury in his instrumental track and quotes a deal of classical genres. The Whole "Rokus Tonalis" album is based on Paul Hindemith's polyphonic piano cycle "Ludus Tonalis" and it isn't easy to catch when you first listen to it. 

He even looks like Emerson, I think...

But this musician also likes to add some modern touches in his work and to mess up his models, so electronic devices back the piano, while unpredictable soud effects come in at nearly every corner. It's a lively and challenging kind of prog and I'm sure many of you will like to go on discovering Loukianenko's work... in this case, don't worry: you'll find "Secunda", "Tertia" and many other pearls on this album, let alone in the rest of his production. Enjoy.

Friday 1 August 2014

Frank (Trion, 2007)

This Dutch progressive trio was founded in 2003 by keyboard player Edo Spanninga of Flamborough Head fame. This track is in fact a bonus suite included in the band's second album "Pilgrim", but IMHO is the best reason to buy the whole record. Not only the different movements include several good melodies, but the atmospheric and evocative mood of the track really moves me. The Mellotron and the piano are no doubt the leading instruments here, but I also like the way Eddie Mulder (another Flamborough Head member) enrich the sound with his guitars, especially the 12 strings one, but also the heartbreaking electric solo towards the end of the song.

Trion seem to like Yes-inspired arts for their album covers.

The third member of the band, Memno Boomsma, comes from another Dutch neo-prog act, Odyssice, and his percussions are sensitive and coherent with the big picture. This suite was produced as a tester some months before the album and the version included in the CD is a re-recorded and improved one. Just some words about the title, as the track is purely instrumental: the song was inspired by a character (played by Henry Fonda) of the well known Spaghetti-western film "Once Upon A Time in The West", directed by Sergio Leone. Didn't you like it? Well, it doesn't matter: try the song all the same!