Wednesday 30 December 2015

In principio (Logos, 2014)

So rich is the Italian prog scene of the Seventies that one could neglect more recent additions to our genre coming from the "Bel Paese". That would be sad, as many good bands carry on the progressive verb in Italy and among them I recommend today Logos and especially this song, coming from the album titled "L'enigma della vita". It's a rather long track going through many changes and including both traditional and new sounds. 

It's a beautiful cover art, isn't it?

The acoustic intro and the dreaming electric guitar solo surely are classic features, but the ethereal, spacey mood of some keyboard backgrounds, the jazzy piano and the folk flavour of several guitar touches enrich the big picture. Some more strong points: beautiful  and fully exploited melodies, pleasant vocals and rythmic changes. I do think you'll find even more listening to this song and you'll probably try the entire CD. Something tells me yo won't be deceived.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Acrostichon (Isopoda, 1978)

This is a very good example of European symphonic rock from the late Seventies. These Belgian musicians surely liked Genesis, Camel & Co., but they had their own style and created a pair of excellent albums where the classical plots went along a free, almost Canterburian vision. This is the title track from their debut LP and it surely is an enjoyable song, featuring a long instrumental intro and a sung section full of delicacy and intensity.

Isopoda were a foursome plus some very good guest musicians.
Some of the singer's passages aren't too far from Ian Anderson's tone and there's a constant interplay involving all the instruments, with a folky touch. Most of all, the electric guitar has an original sound, somewhere between Hackett and Gilmour. If you like classic prog with a special twist, Isopoda is for you.

Monday 28 December 2015

Death Room (Gazpacho, 2014)

As I might have written somewhere in this blog, Gazpacho are a constantly improving band and "Demon" surely is one of my favourite 2014 albums. It was difficult to choose the first song from it to put here, but "Death Room" is a three part suite and I'm partial to suites, as you may remember. As the rest of the CD, this is a diversified song, including rock, folk, melodic and pop elements. 

"Demon" was the eighth studio album by Gazpacho.

It's a rather dark song (well, there's a "Demon" concept, after all...) lining up soft and hard moods and a very rich rythmic texture with bass guitar and percussions at their best. Melodies are very good and the band knows how to exploit their themes, going in and out them and building up a coherent and riveting plot. More than this, "Death Room" creates an entire magic world and its good and bad characters through a stunning series of musical details and conflicting sounds. Last but not least, Jan Henrik Ohme's vocals are simply perfect. Well done, boys!

Saturday 26 December 2015

After The Day (Barclay James Harvest, 1971)

One of the best songs by BJH from one of their most celebrated albums. "Barclay James Harvest ...And Other Short Stories" has a strong progressive flavour and - as always with this band - an excellent melodic texture. This "After The Day", written by John Lees, is a pastoral ballad with a dreamy instrumental coda, the kind of track BJH is famous for... and a perfect closing song for the album. 

"...And Other Short Stories" was the third studio album by BJH.

Its intro sounds like an early King Crimson track, while the sung section keeps a Seventies atmosphere, somewhere between The Beatles and The Kinks. But, of course, this is just fully BJH-styled music, graced by a slightly acid guitar and powerful apocalyptic lyrics. Even if the band were going to become far more popular during the following years, this was their most creative and unpredictable era, IMHO.

Thursday 24 December 2015

The Little Drummer Boy (The December People, 2001)

What on Earth "The Little Drummer Boy" is doing here? First things first: "The December People" are a project by Robert Berry, the American guitarist once involved with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in the short lived band called "3". He decided to set up a band of his own playing Christmas songs and carols in the style of the most celebrated classic rock bands. So, in their records you'll come across a "Silent Night" version sounding like "The Great Gig in The Sky", a "What Child Is This?" performance reminiscent of "The Lamb Lies down on Broadway" and even a "Stairway to Heaven"-ish reddition of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas"!

This record has both Christmas and prog rock charms.

The band's still touring and recording this way and their best CD is, in my humble opinion, the debut album "Sounds Like Christmas", including all the above songs and gathering important guests like John Wetton and Steve Walsh. This version of "The Little Drummer Boy" in the wake of ELP is simply stunning. It's a real prog-ification of the innocent carol we all know, featuring all the explosive style of the powerful trio. Weird? Impossible? Mundane? Just listen to it and let me know...

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Песен / Song (ФСБ / FSB, 1979)

ФСБ (or FSB in Latin alphabet) stands for Формация Студио Балкантон (Formation Studio Balkanton) and is the name of a very interesting Bulgarian band born during the Seventies and recently reunited. Their prog is a manifold one, ranging from calm and Camel-esque atmospheres (it's the case with this "Song") to jazzy and experimental tracks.

The 1979 line-up: R. Boyadzhiev, K. Tzekov and A. Baharov.

As you'll immediately discover, those musicians knew how to play their instruments and as a matter of fact they were all classically trained. The track I'm introducing here, coming from the album "FSB II", has a good deal of magic and sense of wonder in it, along with plenty of electronic keyboards... well, the band have two keyboardists ouf of three members! So, please, close your eyes and press your "play" button...

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Négy évszak (Panta Rhei, 1980)

This four part suite was released by Hungarian band Panta Rhei in 1980 as the longest track of their self-titled album and mixes the two prominent inspirations of those musicians: electronic rock and, of course, prog. Its title (meaning "Four Seasons") reveals that this was another composition based on the frequently exploited theme of the different parts of the year. Even so, this song is an interesting and original achievement. The '80s pop sounds are there, especially in the first section (inspired by Winter) and here and there throughout the suite, but a symphonic and fully progressive plot is also important.

This was Panta Rhei's first official LP, even if a previous album
was recorded in 1977 and only released many years later.
Catchy themes and unusual sound solutions follow one another. The band had previously recorded more uncompromising music following the steps of ELP, but I also like the way they tried to be more commercial and never trivial in this track (and in the rest of the album, that's to say). Dated? Maybe, but pleasantly written and strangely hybridated. Curious and intriguing, I'd say,

Monday 21 December 2015

Isn't It Quiet And Cold? (Gentle Giant, 1970)

You'll find many tracks from Gentle Giant's debut album in my blog and this happens for very good reasons. First of all, this self-titled LP features all the diversified and unexpected souls of the band, then it also includes some of their most memorable melodies. This is the case with "Isn't It Quiet And Cold?", belonging to the acoustic and almost medieval side of the Giant.

In the hands of the Giant...
The delicate vocals, the rich choice of acoustic instruments and the hironic lyrics are but three of the many virtues of this short and effective track. I also recommend the string intro, the pizzicato accompaniement and the vaguely Beatles-like main theme. That said, I'm sure you don't need any encouragement to listen to this. You know its trademark, so...

Saturday 19 December 2015

Conte en vert (Terpandre, 1981)

Before its release on CD (in 1988), the sole album by French prog act Terpandre was a rare object and a forgotten testimony of late '70s European progressive music, as its recording sessions dated back to 1978. Too bad would have been if we had lost such a good example of melodic, early King Crimson inspired LP. This track is among my favourite songs from the transitional years between 1978 and 1982, too late for Golden Era and too early for neo-prog revival.

A perfect cover art for the music you're listening inside.

"Conte en vert" ("Green Tale" in English) has the bittersweet mood of the first KC's album, but also some brighter touches here and there opening blue skies and ethereal atmospheres. The band knew how to revive classic sounds in a fresher and maybe simpler version. "Conte en vert" is a quiet and moving musical ghost, and I'm sure it'll give to some of you the will to listem more from those French boys.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Lost in Time (Flamborough Head, 2013)

Back to Dutch neo-proggers Flamborough Head. This 2013 release surely was an excellent addition to their career and the title track is a perfect specimen of their kind of music. It's based on a rather rich and well known recipe, including all the main features of a neo-prog song: a catchy main theme, an acoustic intro, dreamy electric guitar solos, thick keyboards, some rocky parts and lots of melodic passages.

"Lost in Time" was the seventh studio album by FH.

Sure, this is something we all listened to hundreds of times, still it is so well build up and so pleasantly performed that I like it very much. Flamborough Head know how to alternate the moods and the rythms, when to change the tempo and the right moment to introduce the flute or the spanish guitar. I've been eating pizza most of my life, but I still like it. Why should it be different with music?

Tuesday 15 December 2015

The Central Sun of The Universe (Sagrado Coração da Terra, 1991)

This is the only song with English lyrics from the album "Farol da liberdade", one of the finest achievements by Sagrado Coração da Terra, violinist and composer Marcus Viana's band. It's a rather long piece of music, lasting more than 11 minutes, featuring a good deal of themes and several mood changes. As usual with Viana, melodies play the leading role and they're set into the plot with good taste and pleasant variety.

Marcus Viana (with his violin) and his "Sagrado" friends.

Another winning point of this song is the stunning series of vocal harmonies, adding a pastoral touch to the big picture, along with the flute solo. Of course, the violin also comes in and it lightens somehow the atmosphere, that's a warm and comfortable one, while the piano provides a delicate (but never too much) accompaniment. A Latin, (better: Brazialian) approach to prog rock that I always appreciate and hope you'll listen with pleasure too.

Friday 11 December 2015

Merlin The Magician (Rick Wakeman, 1975)

If you need a further proof of Rick Wakeman's capacity to melt epic and ironic tones, "Merlin The Magician" is perfect for you. Not only it is a stunning piece of prog music and (useless to say) full of keyboards, but it also features rather humorous lyrics about Merlin, described as both a magic and laughable character. That said, what I really like in "Merlin The Magician" is the manifold and shimmering instrumental section, a very long one, along with the beautiful sung themes Rick wrote.

This must be Merlin... or maybe Rick The Magician. Same thing.

The entire "The Myths And Legends of King Arthur And The Knights of The Round Table" album is one of my favourite works by Wakeman, but surely this song in one of its brightest highlights. I see Merlin himself coming out of Rick's synths and cheerfully smiling to the listener. It's a kind of magic. Prog magic, I daresay. 

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Where The River Meets The Sea (Black Bonzo, 2004)

Black Bonzo know how to revive old prog sounds and how to give them an evergreen aura. This track, "Where The River Meets The Sea", coming from the album "Lady of The Light", is a very good example of such a virtue. Acid guitars, ethereal vocal harmonies and vintage keyboards build up a suspended atmosphere not too far from early King Crimson's songs. The guitar, however, is different from Fripp's model, and the keyboards have a greatest variety too.

"Lady of The Light" was Black Bonzo's debut album.

That's why I can't label this track as a musical clone and I actually think it's one of the best and most original reinterpretations of the Masters canon. Surely Magnus Lindgren's calm and dreamy voice plays a central role in such an effort, but the warm and fluid texture of the track is also important and for sure it is one of the most fascinating features of Black Bonzo's prog rock. I hope these notes will suffice to arise your progressive attention.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Hombres de Maíz (Alux Nahual, 1981)

Alex Nahual are likely to be the most famous and interesting rock band from Guatemala.This 7 minutes track comes from their self-named debut album. There are so many different influences in this song, from prog to mainstream rock and from latin folk to rock Andaluz. Still, it's a coherent composition, lining up a catchy chorus, rock riffs and a very good atmospheric section too.

The name of this band means, in Mayan Language, Goblin's Spirit.

Álvaro Aguilar's vocal performance is strong and warm, going through all these different moods and also preparing the listener to the instrumental coda, reminiscent maybe of Kansas. The rythm is the strongest element in this song, in the wake of their tradition, then the melodic themes are also a winning point. Just try it and let me know...

Monday 7 December 2015

El gran senser (Le Orme, 1979)

Here is the closing instrumental track of Le Orme's acoustic album called "Florian". As the entire LP, this track only includes instruments from the classical tradition, closer to the Chamber Orchestra mood than to the symphonic heritage. I like this delicate and well structured composition and especially the rythmic work in it, based on marimba, vibraphone, cymbals and double bass.

The album was named after the beautiful Caffè Florian in Venice.

The long atmospheric section also reminds me of early King Crimson, while the main theme has a special, almost military cadence, a pleasant contrast to the fairy and vaguely Eastern sounds of this song. Last but not least, "El gran senser" is a fully progressive song, despite the unusual choice of instruments and maybe thanks to its Venitian and out of time atmosphere.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Empires Never Last (Galahad, 2007)

This is the title track of a rather average album by Galahad, but the song itself is among the best things the band recorded ever, IMHO. The muscular intro mixing symphonic rock and heavy prog is a remarkable start, so that when abruptly the mood changes and the song goes melodic the listener gets a pleasant surprise. The following "arena rock" chorus is catchy and welcome. Sure, some distorted guitars come in here and there, but the main feature in this central section is (once again) Stuart Nicholson's strong and sensitive vocal performance.

"Empires Never Last" was the eighth studio work by Galahad.

Thanks to him and to the ever changing arrangements, "Empires Never Last" is a strong and never pomp song. The final part brings in an excellent guitar solo that adds some further quality to the track. Yes, Galahad will keep their place in my playlists until they will be able to build up songs like this one.

Friday 4 December 2015

No One Together (Kansas, 1980)

This is another specimen of pure Kansas-style song. Taken from 1980 album "Audio-Visions", it features all the best elements that builded up the legend of this American band. You name it: The devilish gigas, the catchy chorus, the abrupt volume changes, Steve Walsh' splendid voice, the double keyboard interplays, the guitar solos and the piano sharp chords... all in one package!

"Audio-Visions" was the seventh studio album by Kansas.

More than this, "No One Together" proves how great Kansas are when it comes to mix acoustic and electric instruments in such a coherent pot that you hardly perceive them individually. This symphonic track also includes country and vaudeville elements, adding a brighter tone to the big picture. That's why if I admit "Audio-Visions" isn't the best Kansas album by far, this song surely stand among their best rated releases.

Thursday 3 December 2015

À la poursuite du Nord (Cano, 1977)

I'm back to the French Canadian prog rock (from North Ontario this time, not from Québec) with one of the most beautiful and atmospheric songs from that Country: "À la poursuite du Nord" (that's to say "Going after the North"), taken from the album "Au Nord de notre vie" ("North of Our Life"). Cano, by the way, is the acronym of Cooperative des Artistes du Nouvel Ontario. Likely the first thing you'll notice will be Rachel Paiement's beautiful, pure voice, then the song structure and the delicate arrangements will charm you, especially if you're into melodic prog and Renaisance.
This excellent work was the second album by Cano.

This hymn to the Great North and the spirit of Canada is rightly credited as a suite and is also full of good vocal harmonies, delicious piano touches and pleasant changes of themes, tempos and moods. The rich texture of this song also depends from the band being an octet, including many acoustic and electric instruments. Something tells me some of you will listen more by Cano...

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Unbound (Phenom, 2004)

It seems that the neo-progressive verb also conquered India. At least, it fascinated and inspired this Bangalore based band. "Unbound" is the title track of their debut album (their only one to date) and proves how joyful and eclectic their music can be. These musicians know how to alternate in their songs different moods and rythms and also how to write catchy themes and interesting variations.

Young people loving and playing prog. A future for our genre.

Sure, there are no musical revolutions here, but this song has a strong and sparkling energy, the power of youth. I see here new blood for progressive rock and we must accept hints of pop and easy rock as a part of our beloved and manifold genre. I actually welcome those adding a new perspective to prog and still paying their tribute to the Masters. That's what Phenom do.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Inner Garden Part I + Part II (King Crimson, 1995)

"Inner Garden" is the title of two very short songs King Crimson included in the album "Thrak". As I couldn't decide which one to post here, and as they are strictly linked, I put both in my collection. Many reviewers wrote that this (double) song proves how you can create a prog pearl having a very short duration time. Likely this is not the only evidence of that, but this music has got the special magic of King Crimson's dreamy songs, just like a "Starless" concentrate or an "Islands" abstract.

"Thrak" was the eleventh studio album by King Crimson.

Fripp's fairy sounds and Belew's suspended, almost immaterial vocals are a true emotional experience, an addicting one, I daresay. Adrian is also responsible for the lyrics describing a deep and reasonless sadness, reminding me of some morn and beautiful poems by Paul Verlaine. Fascinating, that's the word.

How many songs to date? 800!

Next post will introduce in my blog its 800th prog song.

As usual, I'm not celebrating...just saying THANK YOU to you all, dear visitors of this little place.

You're the second best reason to go on... the first one being prog rock, of course!

Monday 30 November 2015

Origins / Under The Wheel / Mechanical Landscape I (Códice, 1999)

I won't say once again how many just-one-album bands I discovered and apreciated during the years, as you'll find most of them in my blog. Better spend my space here talking of Códice and their beautiful symphonic double CD titled "Alba y Ocaso" ("Dawn and Dusk" in English). It's a remarkable example of classically driven prog rock from Mexico, a Country featuring so many good and underrated bands.

"Alba y Ocaso" spans over some 2 hours of music.

Not only this track has got three titles, but it also belongs to a longer suite called Iconos that isn't listed ont the original CD. Actually, this triple-titled song is Heaven for any progfan: tempo changes, beautiful acoustic sections between electric ones, interesting plots and so on. Last but not least, these musicians know how to play very well. That's why I recommend to your attention the entire album.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Umbría / Bajo la sombra y el sueño (Alameda, 1983)

The lushing "Rock Andaluz" had so many good bands and artists on the foreground that even a dedicated prog fan could neglect a good deal of excellent musicians. I'll try to skip such a risk with this very good song by Alameda, taken from the album "Noche Andaluza"(that's "Andalusian Night"). It's a two-song sequence including a dreamy spanish guitar intro (played by Paco de Lucia, one of the finest guitarists ever) and followed by a classic, epic example of symphonic "Andaluz"rock song.

"Noche andaluza" was the fourth studio album by Alameda.

This one is so well arranged and organised in its different parts that I'm always moved when I listen to it. José Roca sings it with his usual pathos and a clever keyboards / guitar plot turns the track into an actual progressive piece of music. That's why you don't need to be into Spanish traditional folk to appreciate this song.

Friday 27 November 2015

Muscarin Madness (In The Labyrinth, 2002)

Multi-instrumentalist Peter Lindahl is the brain behind In The Labyrinth, a Swedish folk-prog oriented project that releases fairy and pleasant musical sketches like this "Muscarin Madness", coming from the album "Dryad". So perfectly Swedish, this song also has strong Eastern hints and - as usual with Lindahl - a good deal of different suggestions.

I also like the cover arts of this project's albums.

The sung part is a perfect folk ballad, preceded and enriched here and there by delicate and well played instrumental parts. It sounds like Bo Hansson or like some fairy songs by Jethro Tull, but featuring a perfectly up-to-date sound. This song proves that you can be inspired by ancient and fairy tales and release plain and songs with just a bonus magical atmosphere added. This is In The Labyrinth's secret, I think: sweet but never sweetish, prog but never pomp.

Thursday 26 November 2015

The Hanging Tree (Arena, 1998)

"The Visitor" by Arena is an album I like very much and this song, "The Hanging Tree", perfectly represents its richly flavoured mood. It starts like an atmospheric ballad, then a thick and epic wall of sounds comes in like an approaching storm. Soon after a theatrical vocal passage, here you are a Floydian guitar solo, a pleasant return of the first sung theme, another wall of sound and a bombastic chorus, followed by the final guitar solo.

The 1998 line-up: Wrightson, Mitchell, Nolan, Jowitt & Pointer.

This flushing material is so well organised, so beautifully composed and arranged and so coherent that I used to listen compulsively to this song back in the late '90s and I still put it on from time to time. Probably because of its airy main theme, or maybe because of its dynamic pattern, I think this is one of the best achievements of a band that surely left (and still leaves) a deep mark in the story of neo-progressive genre. And I can but thank them for that.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Elsbereth [Lonely Queen] (Will-O-The-Wisp, 1999)

Will-O-The-Wisp come from Greece, but they sound so celtic, fairy and even proto-prog that you'd imagine them from Dublin or Edimburgh. Well, not at all: from the very heart of Mediterranean Sea, here you are magic and old fashioned keyboards, flutes and dreamy guitars. And also legendary queens, elves and all the little people court. This song comes from the self-titled debut album of the band and reminds me of old British bands like Cressida or Spring, with a thicker and more intricated sound to be honest.

All was made to charm, even the cover art of the album...

This song sounds coherent and sincere in both its inspiration and its arrangement, flowing fluid and sparkling like a mountain stream. Let's say that having listened to them, I understand why they chose to be called after the will o' the wisp. Don't you agree they're bright and unseizable like an ignis fatuus?

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Inter vivos (Quantum, 1983)

Back to Brazilian prog, I recommend you this instrumental track coming from Quantum's also instrumental self-titled debut album, released in 1983. It's a Camel-inspired work with the grace and the melodic charge of its model, but also with an original taste for rich and warm atmospheres. I'm grateful to Road Runner label for their re-issue of such a rare LP, virtually impossible to find outside Brazil.

The LP cover art. The band came back in 1994with !Quantum II".

These musicians surely knew how to change tempo and rythm as you'll see in the central section of "Inter vivos", when a lively giga comes in, adding a Genesis-like touch to the big picture. But likely the most interesting feature of this track is the constant and ever-changing interplay between Fernando Costa's keys and Reynaldo Rana Jr's guitars... that's what I call prog!

Monday 23 November 2015

My Brother (Ivory, 1980)

Ivory debuted on LP in 1980 with the album "Sad Cypress", a deeply symphonic-oriented work, including this excellent "My Brother". Some passages have a strong Genesis influence, but the sound of the song has its own taste, made of sweet touches and strong contrasts. Suspended between pure prog and a mild experimental trend, between electric waves and acoustic whispers, "My Brother" is worth the attention of all prog fans, like this entire debut LP.

Ivory came back in 1996 with different line-up and style.

You'll find some original instrumental parts, Gabiel-like vocals and of course a lot of keyboards (there were two keyboardists in Ivory's line-up) and tempo changes. This song and this record also are a precious testimony of the very difficult and delicate transition from the classic era of prog rock and the forthcoming neo-progressive renaissance. Another good reason to listen to Ivory, but surely not the only one.

Sunday 22 November 2015

The Shadow (Pendragon, 1996)

The first thing I thought when I first listened to this track was: "Wow... what a melody!". And there is actually a splendid theme here, one of those you're obliged to sing along. Then, I appreciated all the rest: the beautiful arrangement, the bridges, the instrumental parts and so on. This song is an excellent specimen of what some reviewers call neo-prog, whatever this word means.

"The Shadow" comes from "The Masquerade Overture" album.

For sure, I like the way Nick Barrett & friends mix easy and even catchy themes with guitar and keyboard solos, tempo changes and other traditionally progressive features. If you know how to manage such a blend, you can do miracles and that's exactly what Pendragon did with "The Shadow"... a musical dream, a colourful trip and a surprisingly modern, almost essential sound. So thank you for the music, my Gloucherstershire friends!

Saturday 21 November 2015

The Pope Is Wrong (Paternoster, 1972)

Arcane and solemn, this Austrian band's music has its own characteristics. This track in particular has a krautrock taste, a space rock atmosphere that still interests me. Paternoster released a sole self-named album in their career, full of weird-sounding songs, between pure progressive and experimental electronic rock. "The Pope Is Wrong" features an excellent drumming work and a manifold collection of electronic effects, but also a series of acid sounds that remind me the psychedelia and certain proto-prog bands.

Paternoster released this album as a fivesome.

Something tells me the band could have heavily progressed, but unfortunatelty we just can enjoy their first essay. A last mention goes to the Church organ Franz Wippel played very well (after all, the pope himself is involved in the song title!) and to Heimo Wisser's effective bass lines.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Ricochet Part One (Tangerine Dream, 1975)

Following the example of other prog giants of the '70s, Tangerine Dream performed and recorded live an entire LP of unreleased music. That was a two part composition called "Ricochet" and continuing the band's complex, atmospheric and electronic exploration, but with a more intense rythmic work. The first part of the album evolves from a beautiful and somehow arabic theme that provides the returning element of the track and a basic sequence undergoing a stunning series of variations, edits, dismantlements and re-creations.

Ricochet was recorded during August-October 1975 European tour.

Froese, Baumann and Franke offer an exciting and arcane piece of music, criss-crossing irregular rythms, space effects, inner visions and acid touches in such a fascinating song that Ricochet still stands today as a real monument of what someone calls krautrock or quite simply of electronic music. And for once in this blog, I don't need to add IMHO.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

La Bataille du sucre [inclus La Colère des Dieux] (Ange, 1974)

Among the pearls included in the album "Au-delà du delire", this is one of the brightest ones. There's a strong early Crimsonian influence here and even the song title ("The sugar battle" - including "Gods' Anger") refers to the KC's first album tracklist. But, of course, this is Ange and the band's strong personality is everywhere. Let's see: first of all, there are the theatrical, emphatic and everchanging vocals, then the Medieval, traditional French elements in both music and lyrics, and finally the strong contrasts in volume, rythm and mood.

The back cover art is even better than the front one.

The entire song seems to baffle all genre, period and pattern boundaries, going in and out a great deal of clichés, lining up irony, stateliness and intimacy. The lyrics themselves are a weird blend of comic and tragic tones, relating an unlikely lack of sugar and salt in the year 2015. Last but not least, you'll find here a few first-rate melodies and tons of original arrangements. In a word: this is Ang at their best.

Monday 16 November 2015

A Saucerful of Secrets (Pink Floyd, 1968)

This instrumental is the title track of Pink Floyd's second album and also features on the live LP from "Ummagumma" and on "Pink Floyd at Pompeii" film. That's to say this actually is one of the most important tracks in the band's early live tracklists. It is interesting to note that this song was split in four parts on "Ummagumma", each one bearing its own title (Something Else, Syncopated Pandemonium, Storm Signal, Celestial Voices). 

I think this cover art actually depicts the title song.

Roger Waters explained in an interview that the track was a musical description of a battle and its gruesome aftermath, so that the first part describes the start of the conflict, the second section is the battle itself, then we have the deadly aftermath and the subsequent mourning. For sure, this is a very deep and lysergic track, full of dark atmospheres and unpredictable contrasts, an experimental piece of music that's one of the most tricky, obscure and intriguing songs by Pink Floyd.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Lady of Dreams (Kitarō 喜多郎, 1992)

I confess this is a song I die for. And fon many reasons. First of all, Kitaro found a sweet, effective melody and on this theme he built up a glorious prog song of 8 minutes featuring all I like: excellent sung sections, long and atmospheric instrumental passages, unpredictable changes. Then he put in such a promising plot Jon Anderson's voice and Kitarō was rewarded with one of the best performances ever by Mr. Yes. Pure magic, IMHO.

This is definitely one of the most prog-influenced albums by Kitaro.

So this is heaven for me: pleasant music, original arrangements, dreamy moods and a good deal of different colours. Not exacly a new age song, as I see it. A special mention goes to Jimmy Hahn's electric guitar adding a further charm to such an enchanting track. Domo arigatou, Mr. Kitaro!

Friday 13 November 2015

Primavera de una esquina (Aucán, 1980)

Aucán were a rather short lived band from Argentina. This track, "Primavera de una esquina" (meaning "Spring from A Corner"), comes from the album "Brotes del alba" ("Outbreaks of Dawn") and represents very well their kind of prog. It's a poetic, delicate music, including some acoustic instruments and a good electric guitar, somehow inspired by Mr, Latimer of Camel fame. As this song can prove, the band could also be compared with the mellow side of Italian prog in both musical and litterary sides.

"Brotes del alba" was the second and final LP by Aucán.

You'll also find that such a lyrical piece of music never goes sweetish nor boring: there's an airy and bright mood all along the track preventing any affectation. This perfect mix of sweetness and neatness actually charms me and such a song hardly looks dated today. That's why  I hope you'll enjoy another Argentinian pearl of progressive rock.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Strayed Again (Gargamel, 2006)

One of the most original ways to the 2000s prog bears the name of Gargamel, a Norwegian band mixing with care old sounds and dark atmospheres. This "Strayed Again" comes from their debut album titled "Watch for The Umbles" and is full of obscure singings à la Peter Hammill, brilliant rythms, claustrophobic passages, urban moods, experimental interplays and - last but not least - a good deal of acoustic instruments.

This debut album featured only five long songs.

Flute and cello,in particular, create intricate and unusual plots and when the track goes free jazz, here come sensitive drums and well played keyboards. So, "Strayed Again" lines up tricky instrumental sections and easier rocky riffs, quiet descriptive music and glorious walls of sound. And even Gentle Giant inspired intro and outro. Uncompromising, that's the word.

Monday 9 November 2015

Kings And Queens (Renaissance, 1969)

Even before their most known line-up, even before Annie Haslam's splendid voice, Renaissance were an excellent band, trying to play a music beyond all the barriers of genre and public. "Kings And Queens", from their debut self-named album, is a perfect example of that. The eclectic approach, the piano central role, the catchy but also rocky tunes and the tempo changes draw a musical world of its own.

This is the original UK release cover art of the album.

The intense and arcane slow section is one of the most exciting breaks I've ever listened to, so full of hidden energy... The returning Spanish colour of "Kings And Queens" also contribute to the manifold atmosphere of this song, and the simple and effective vocal harmonies also do. A highly dynamic and colourful musical carpet... then, of course, Annie came in.

Sunday 8 November 2015

The Mountaneer (Aleph, 1977)

There's a bunch of good bands from the Australian prog scene of the '70s that are rarely found in the sites and books concerning our genre. That could be because of their strongly melodic accents... you know how many intellectual and tricky reviewers love our genre (alas!). Well, as I like good melodies and well played pianos, I also like Aleph, a Sidney-based sixsome that really knew how to write great songs and how to give them an epic and sunny twist.

Unfortunately, the band split up soon after this sole album.

"The Mountaneer" is the 14 minute suite you'll find in the album called "Surface Tension", one of the brightest stars in Oceanian prog sky (IMHO) and the band's only studio work. Not only the different themes are excellent, but they're very well framed in a convincing pattern lining up spacey and prog moments, all as enjoyable as a progfan can desire. Guitars and keyboards come and go, while Joe Walmsey's falsetto voice is simply perfect in this big picture. Try and let me know...

Saturday 7 November 2015

Mei (Echolyn, 2002)

More than a concept album, "Mei" is a concept song, as it only includes this very long and undivided suite lasting some 50 minutes. It would be useless to try a description in a few lines, so I better like to express some of the feelings this musical river inspires me. First of all, the seven piece chamber orchestra joining the band in the studio give a classical-but-never-too-much taste to these abundant materials and also empower the arrangements choices, so that this record is even more eclectic than usual (and that's saying something with Echolyn!).

"Mei" was the Sixth full-lenght studio album by Echolyn.

No doubt, the beautiful melodies are another strong point of "Mei" and so are the careful and tasteful changes in tempo and mood, but please don't forget the lyrics. The whole epic is kind of a road song, dealing with a both real and imaginary trip, an everlasting journey on everchanging roads. Something like a surrealistic Kerouac or a realistic Lamb Lies down on Broadway. Well, the inspirations aren't essential: all that matters here is the beauty of such a progressive masterpiece.

Friday 6 November 2015

Calatorul prin Nouri (Sfinx, 1978)

"Zalmoxe" by Sfinx is often considered as the best prog album from Romania and actually it's a fascinating and original work. "Calatorul prin Nouri" ("Journey through The Clouds" in English) is the longest track of the LP and features pactically all of the band's trademarks: the good vocal harmonies, an extensive use of electronic keyboards and a pinch of electric guitars. These and a clever songwriting are good enough reasons to discover and enjoy Sfinx.

"Zalmoxe" was the second album by Sfinx out of three.

I also recommend in this track the pulsing background and a decent drum work. Sure, sometimes all those effects are too invasive, but these musicians know when it's time to land on the solid ground of melody. It wasn't so easy, I think, to go proggin' in Romania during the '70s, but Sfinx did it and did it well. Definitely, prog seeds germinate everywhere...

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Spiral (Jethro Tull, 1999)

"J-Tull Dot Com" is unlikely to be among JT's best albums, but I surely like its opening track. "Spiral" is a rich and thick song (as a brick, I'd say...), based on a well found guitar riff, a rocky sung theme and a winding flute work. And I also like the slow tempo and somehow mysterious central section, one of the proggest passages of the 90s production of the band. It's a highly dynamic song, a mixture of energy and poetry that I can only call quintessential Jethro Tull.

This album was number 20 in Jethro Tull's studio discography.

And even if Ian Anderson's voice was less aggressive than in his best years, his flute and his songwriting were as good in 1999 as they were in 1971. The lyrics also contribute to the breathtaking final effect with their hurricane of sounds and colours. Nothing new, maybe, but still a beautiful song after more than 30 years of prog. Chapeau, Mr. Anderson & friends.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Ennustus (Nimbus, 1973)

With their sole album "Obus" those Finnish musicians created an arcane and fascinating kind of prog rock, where the keyboards and some acoustic instruments (mostly a violin) mix up spacey and psych atmospheres and strong folk roots. This track in particular, called "Ennustus"(meaning "Omen"), is a good example of the deep, dark, liquid and unpredictable music Nimbus used to play.

This album also exists on CD with live bonus tracks.

Strangely speech-like vocals, keyboard and guitar solos, a soft background and a stunning series of tempo changes give a strong, intricated personality to the song, so that you couldn't compare it to any other band's work. I wonder what a bunch of musicians like this one could do nowadays... but of course they came out in such a flushing musical era that they only lasted a couple of years. Too bad, IMHO.

Monday 2 November 2015

Feel The Cold (North Star, 1985)

I read many negative  reviews on North Star's records before listening to them. When I finally did it, I found actually unfair most of those low rates. True, these American boys love Genesis and seldom try to reproduce some of the British masters' sounds. But they also have many original solutions, especially when the drums come in. More than this: they write good melodies and perform them well and with the right amount of passion. 

Line-up: brothers Glenn and Kevin Leonard and Joe Newman.

Songs like this "Feel The Cold", the opener of the band's second album,  is full of real emotions and the '70s aren't a mere standard here: they're more like a Wonderland these three boys explore and their sense of wonder is so deep and sincere that it strucks me each time I listen to them. They love the same music I love and they know how to keep it alive. So why should I complain?

Sunday 1 November 2015

Magic Flower (Triode, 1971)

"On n'a pas fini d'avoir tout vu" (something like "We're still going to be surprised" in English) is a colourful album in the wake of the psych and proto-prog bands of the early '70s. But Triode also had a strong jazzy and bluesy soul, so that the final mix is a very original one, as this opening track proves well. It's an instrumental based on the rythm section and the flute and exploiting a simple and effective  bass guitar arpeggio on which Michel Edelin plays his flute on both the angelic and devilish tones.

Luckily, Mellow Records released a CD version of this album.

"Magic Flower" is a perfect example of what a good band can do when creating free variations and apparent improvisations on a well performed rythmic idea. Especially when they also know how to add on some good and nostalgic moments. Unfortunately, this foursome Parisian group disbanded soon after their debut studio work. But of course, their music's still alive.

Saturday 31 October 2015

Home by The Sea / Second Home by The Sea (Genesis, 1983)

I can't say I'm fond of "Genesis" album, but I must admit that some of the songs it features are excellent. This is the case with the mini-suite "Home by The Sea / Second Home by The Sea", a ghost story the band wrote down and performed winding between scary sounds and funny twists. For sure, the main melody is great and the long instrumental passages are worth a listening also by the Gabriel era fans. 

"Home by The Sea" was released as a single in October 1983, while
an edited version of "Second Home by The Sea" was included 
in the "Congo" Enhanced CD, released in September 1997.

The '80s plastic effects are employed with the best taste and the drum machine is never too invasive, so that Tony Banks' keyboards swirl on the foreground perfectly supported by the bass guitar. Eleven minutes of well mixed pop and prog, on the edge between old Genesis and new sounds that each time fascinates me and carries me away in a weird and inconsequent world. Just like a good Genesis song should always do.

Friday 30 October 2015

A Room with A View (Anubis, 2014)

This song by Australian band Anubis comes from the album "Hitchhiking to Byzantium" and is a long and mostly dreamy epic, featuring a lot of good musical themes with very well found changes throughout. Anubis come from strict Floydian worship, but they're getting more and more original. "A Room with A View" still feature Gilmour-esque guitars, but also pleasant piano touches, catchy country verses and flute zigzags à la Ian Anderson.
Being the follow-up of a very successful album, this work was
a serious challenge for our Aussie proggers...
The final picture is rather diversified but never incoherent, with a bonus Brit-pop smell now and then, a melodic trend I definitely like. Each theme is well exploited and cleverly linked to the following by by wide open instrumental passages and especially guitar solos. A sunny side of prog, a catchy and also smart way to write and perform our favourite genre today. IMHO, that's to say.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Movin' on (Circus, 1977)

There are just a few suites that I can compare with this "Movin' on" by Swiss band Circus. It's the title track of their second album and surely is one of the most intricated, uncompromising tracks from the  Continental Europe prog scene of the '70s. Not only this band didn't include a keyboardist, they even didn't had a guitarist! Still, this song proves how diversified and interesting prog can be without the two most iconic rock instruments. King Crimson somehow influenced this music, especially when the winds come in, but there are some vocal harmonies you could easily credit to Gentle Giant and a talking bass guitar that seems Yes-oriented.

Circus released three studio albums between 1976 and 1980. 

The truth is that Circus were just Circus and their "Movin' on" is a stunning display of melodic fantasy and rythmic invention. And it's simply impossible to get bored when listening to such a series of musical tricks and treats. Some atmospheric moments break the rythm and a few sung verses give a definite idea of the band's songwriting potential. In want of a better description, please listen to this. 

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Este é o lugar (Terreno Baldio, 1976)

What if Gentle Giant were born in Brazil? Strange question, maybe, but we can try a good answer thanks to this Brazilian band. "Este é o lugar" ("This Is The Place") comes from their debut self named album and has the strong, unpredictable, jazzy and symphonic flavour of the Giant. Even the vocal harmonies could be compared with those of the British prog masters. But, of course, if you like such a complex, eccentric and diversified music, you can't really be considered as a derivative band.

This debut album was re-recorded in English in 1993.

Terreno Baldio, as a matter of fact, have all the fantasy and all the colourful creativity they need to be a world apart in the South-American prog scene. Their interplays are fascinating and highly dynamic, their sung themes are suspended and effective and they even know how to include in this song - and in many other ones - a good pinch of Brazialian music. That's why I can state here that listening to this track was a special and brand new experience to me. Just do it you too.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

The Sky Moves Sideways Phase 1 (Porcupine Tree, 1995)

This four-parts suite belongs to the early and more Floydian PT's production and opens their third album in a spacey and atmospheric way I definitely like. The influence of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" is patent, still there is a more electronic approach and a very eclectic architecture. The intro, titled "The Colour of Air", is a synth-based section building up a deep, introspective atmosphere à la Rick Wright. When the guitar comes in, the Foydian painting shines in all its glory. But the following parts enrich this background with flushing and diversified touches, ranging from acoustic ballads to energic rock and getting more original.

There are three different CD releases of this album, the last one 
(2004) includimg some interesting bonus tracks. 

This is also one of the best vocal performances by Steven Wilson, deep and effective, a good collection of evocative chords  and - last but not least - a brilliant essay of well assorted soft and loud moments. There is also a second part of this suite at the end of the album, but I think this one is the strongest one by far and can also be considered as a stand alone track. Probably "The Sky Moves Sideways" is where Porcupine Tree's legend was born.

Monday 26 October 2015

Going Blind (The Old Man & The Sea, 1972)

What about another one-shot band? From Denmark, this time, and from the early '70s. The Old Man & The Sea based their music on a warm Hammond organ and a slightly acid guitar, not to mention the Tull-like flute. This is the closing song of the album and the longest one, so that this tune and its beautiful variations pleasantly linger on into the listener's mind. The 10 minutes of duration of "Going Blind" allow the band to put in guitar solos and assorted riffs, especially with Benny Stanley's electric guitar and Tommy Hansen's keyboards.

This LP was released on CD along with an outtake album.

That said, Knud Lindhard's bass is also worth a mention... and he's also responsible for the vocals instead of lead singer Ole Wedel. The acid and heavy guitar solo ruling the central section of the song is likely the most famous passage of this pearl, but I also like the bright and melodic following section, where I appreciate a sung section, then the acoustic guitar introducing a devilish Hammond solo. Hot stuff, baby.