Monday 30 March 2015

Pod powieką (Quidam, 1998)

No doubt among the dozens of neo-prog bands born in Poland, Quidam deserve a special place. As this "Pod powieką" (meaning "Behind The Eyes") will easily prove, their music is a rich, flowing stream, leaded by Emilia Derkowska's voice, full of good melodies and dreamy instrumental passages. This song is taken from the band's second album, ""Sny Aniolów", that's to say "Angel's Dream".

This album came two years after the band's acclaimed debut CD.

Never too sweet, but always pleasant, this song includes some well found arrangements, where the acoustic and electric instruments are cleverly mixed. Jacek Zasada's flute is a bonus reason to listen to "Pod powieką", as it perfectly fits into the fairy background. This isn't a band for fully intellectual listeners, but if you like a sensible mix of brains and heart, well, this song's for you and you could also take a go with the rest of Quidam's discography. Enjoy your trip!

Sunday 29 March 2015

Selfishness Part I (Different Strings, 2011)

Taken from the album "The Sounds of Silence- Part I: The Counterparts",this is a very interesting piece of music, coming from Malta. "Different Strings" actually are the multi-instrumentalist Chris Mallia's project, including guest musicians and vocalists. Yes, there are many, many different moods and changes in this song, but I also find in it a firm musical point of view, featuring arcane backgrounds and strong, even heavy guitar and keyboard solos in the foreground.

Chris Mallia's band released the 2d part of this concept in 2015.
You might recognise here and there some Golden Era models, but the final result surely is original and pleasant. The track is set up with care, lining up a series of themes and a good mix of classic rock instruments and electronic devices. The listener goes through heaven and hell, ethereal landscapes and full bodied rock 'n' roll sections. Erroll Cutajar's warm and somehow calm vocals probably aren't what you'd expect from a band named after a Rush' song, but I like them anyway. So, welcome to my blog, Different Strings!

Friday 27 March 2015

Mad Cucumber - Part 1 / Бешеный огурец - часть 1 (Sepsis / Сепсис, 1991)

An uncompromising keyboard-free suite by a rather obscure Russian trio, this is the track I'm presenting today. Coming from an act founded by guitarist Alexis Romanov, and from their only album called "Литургия Безумия" (meaning "A Liturgy of Madness"), this could be kind of a good surprise for many of you. Filling the first side of the original LP (the B side featuring a part 2, it goes without saying), this epic is divided into five parts for a total running time of more than 22 minutes.

This is the original cover of the rare Sepsis' LP.

Not an easy listening music, if you believe me, but a unique line up of instrumental themes, all very well developed and played. The general mood is that of an acid and apparently rough prog. Actually, all listeners will find how keenly and cleverly set up this song is, and how many different, colourful landscapes such a music suggests. I was really pleased to listen to this Mad Cucumber thing some years ago (I think it was released on CD in 2000). Hope you'll be too.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Innuendo (Queen, 1991)

Steve Howe's cameo in the central section of this song isn't the only reason why it perfectly fits in a prog rock blog (IMHO, of course). I admire the way Queen set up this title track, including heavy rock riffs, wide open melodies and the rightly famous flamenco section. As usual with them, the band stuffed their song with a great deal of manifold ideas, but this is a very coherent composition, in spite of all the different colours it displays.

This was the last album Queen released before Mercury's death.

Brian May's guitar is on the foreground, but the entire band's sound is thick and well balanced, while Freddie Mercury's voice fly high. I read somewhere Taylor's lyrics were inspired by Led Zeppelin's Kashmir... be as it may, I especially like it as a hymn to freedom and life, one of the best I've ever listened to. We'll just keep on trying till the end of time. A good motto, my prog friends.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Twin Sunrise (Dogma, 1995)

What a beautiful track, this "Twin Sunrise" is! Just my opinion, of course, but please listen to the dynamic intro and I bet you'll decide to go on. Good idea, as this song is one of the best achievements of Brazilian act Dogma, that's responsible for two very good albums released during the '90s. The tempo changes are one of the most known features of these musicians, and so are the electronic effects, something between Jean-Michel Jarre and Rick Wright.

I like both Dogma's studio works. Unfortunately this was the last one.

All the sounds are highly suggestive and "Twin Sunrise" includes some sampled Peruvian flutes, a Gilmour-esque electric guitar, an effective drumming, a brilliant piano and so on. Most of all, this instrumental track is full of musical landscapes, but it never goes ambient, firmly keeping its prog rock mood. Even if the song lasts some 12 minutes, I hardly realize it's a long one... on the contrary, I do think it ends up too soon. Will it be the same with you?

Sunday 22 March 2015

Beyond The Clear Air (Midas, 1988)

I'm in love with Midas' debut album, a Japanese prog pearl, from which I introduce here the epic title track. It's a rather long suite (some 18 minutes) starting with a slow, evocative intro played by keys and electric violin, both essential instruments in Midas' music. The following sung section goes on the same melancholy vein, with a hint of celtic atmosphere in it. Then the giga comes in and Eigo Utoh's violin gets fast and furious. All this section is high tempo with keyboardist Eishyo Lynn on the forefront. He also rules next atmospheric long bridge, something midway between space rock and pastoral folk.

This album was re-released by Musea  in 2009 with a bonus track.

Actually these musicians made up their own kind of prog, winding and arcane, just like some old Japanese paintings. The finale includes a sweet sung passage - I also like the piano here - and a fully symphonic wall of sound, plus a coda reprise of the intro. I bet you won't regret the minutes you'll spend listening to this. Maybe you'll try the whole album then. Good idea.

Friday 20 March 2015

A Suite for Everyman (Echolyn, 1992)

When it comes to diversity and fantasy, this US band can't be forgotten. And if you had to choose just one track to get into Echolyn's world, "A Suite for Everyman" should be your best choice. Taken from the album "Suffocating The Bloom", this epic is divided into eleven parts, each one with a mood of its own, still so well lined up that the global effect is that of a complex and coherent tapestry. There are so many good ideas in this song, so many original sounds... full melodies, ethnic rythms, dissonant harmonies, effective guitar solos, brass illuminations, synth progressions and so on.

"Suffocating The Bloom" was Echolyn's second studio album.

Sure, all that stuff could baffle some listeners, but Echolyn have the right amount of good taste and a strong sense of proportion, two essential gifts for such an eclectic band. Finally, this suite will convince you that those clever musicians aren't mere Gentle Giant's followers... well, that wouldn't be a shame, of course!

Thursday 19 March 2015

That Time of The Night [The Short Straw] (Marillion, 1987)

When Marillion decide to approach a rather traditionally set up song, they do it their way. Luckily. This is exactly the case with "That Time of The Night", sub-titled The Short Straw, and taken from the last Fish era album, "Clutching at Straws". Not only the verse / chorus structure is cleverly enriched and revised by the band, but also the rythmic solutions are very original, providing a suspended and nervous atmosphere, like the darkness before a storm.

A beautiful Picture disc edition of "Clutching at Straws".
I actually like the contrasts between the stretched verses and the wider chorus and between the syncopated bass lines and the ethereal keys. Some six minutes of deep emotions, that's what this song is to me. And a very good way for Fish to say goodbye to the band's fans.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Soldat (Direction, 2008)

Direction is a Canadian act whose discography ranges between neo-prog and mainstream rock, including many Golden Era quotations and also a very good composition work. Take this "Soldat" ("Soldier", in English), coming from their album "Est" (meaning "East", of course). There's an excellent theme, growing up measure by measure and incorporating some beautiful instrumental bridges. It's like an expanded ballad, based on a rather martial drumming and a good vocal performance, until a wall of sound instrumental part comes in to enrich the big picture.

"Est" was Direction's fourth studio album.

The final section gets heavier and all the instruments reach their volume peak, introducing a discreet but effective guitar solo. The actual finale is a beautiful series of effects, including bells and vaudeville sounds. A plain neo-prog song, but I don't know why I like it, and I feel at home when listening to it. Thanks, my Canadian friends... better: merci!

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Prodigy (Lord Flimnap, 1989)

Can prog be a children's play? Not exactly, but not far from that. Take Lord Flimnap's only album, "Point of View", released in 1989 and luckily re-issued in 2004. All very, very young, those three Israeli musicians met in USA and decided to put down in songs their longing for good ol' prog rock times. Songs like this "Prodigy" sound like naive outtakes from "Trespass", but actually they're full of faith and genuine enthusiasm.

The Israeli label "The Third Ear" re-issued this album in 2004.

Listen to the opening 12 string guitar, enjoy the organ, appreciate the rythm variations and the guitar riffs... and be young, very young for a few minutes. The instrumental passage ruling the centre of "Prodigy" isn't a brand new idea, but it's a prodigy of gentleness and fairy fantasy. No, those boys didn't change the musical world, but I'm sure that prog still exists today thanks to them and to all the people like them, keenly preserving a dream and passing it on.

Monday 16 March 2015

Az átutazó (Tabula Smaragdina, 2010)

We can condider these musicians as a Hungarian act, even if one of their fouders, multi-instrumentalist   Akos Bogáti-Bokor, actually belongs to the Hungarian minority living in Romania. Their prog rock is a very pleasant one, firmly rooted into the synphonic ground and based on very good melodies. The vocals in Hungarian language are gentle and sensitive, while the acoustic instruments - especially the guitar - cleverly add their warm sound to the electronic keyboards.

The title of this album means "Beyond Words".

The title of this song - taken from the album "A Szavakon Túl" - means "The Passenger" and I do see a long distance feeling in it. The Yes-like intro is followed by many different moods and the whole track has a diversified and never boring architecture. Surely the bass lines - also played by Bokor - liven the song and so Zsigó László's percussions do. An interesting, somewhat unexpected way to go synphonic... and a magic gate to modern Eastern European prog.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Continuum (Govea, 2009)

A powerful trio from Mexico, Govea are graced by keyboardist Salvador Govea's classically inspired compositions. This "Continuun" is taken from the band's first album ("Danza urbana") and perfectly shows how Govea successfully tried to merge classical measures and jazzy improvisations. The final result is not far from the Italian prog style, and well framed into the symphonic rock and vintage '70s wave. "Continuum" is an instrumental track, based on a brilliant theme and going through some original rythmic variations.

"Danza urbana" was Govea's debut album.

That's why I think you won't be surprised to know that the drummer of this trio is Victor Baldovinos, a member of the jazz-prog act Iconoclasta. The third musician, bassist Luis Arturo Guerrero, works very hard to add some more agitation to the big picture. The only word I found to describe such a process is shaken melody. But music is more important than words...

Friday 13 March 2015

Comatose (Pendragon, 2008)

Pendragon's "Pure" album gathered a good deal of positive reviews both on electronic and on printed music magazines, and this "Comatose" clears up the reasons of such a good reception. It's a suite divided into three parts (I. View from The Seashore, II. Space Cadet, III. Home And Dry) and very, very diversified in its moods. Almost metal moments and highly sensitive sections, up tempo riffs and romantic melodies follow one another during the track, providing nearly 20 minutes of real, deep emotions.

"Pure" was Pendragon's eighth studio album.

Old Pendragon gentle atmospheres are there, but a darker vein runs through this epic, so that the whole composition is a succession of bright and obscure passages, and all the transitions are  brilliant, something I especially appeciate in a prog suite. Two final special mentions go to Nick Barrett's solos (and that's rather obvious) and to Scott Higham's drumming, a most dynamic and creative one... let alone Mr. Nolan's skills. The lyrics are also worth the listener's attention, dealing with violence and human weakness.

Thursday 12 March 2015

En el lago (Triana, 1975)

Triana's debut album, properly titled "Triana", but usually called "El patio" actually is one of the best prog rock releases ever. You'll find other entries from it browsing my little blog, of course. Time has come for me to put into my collection "En el lago" ("Into The Lake"), a song suspended between romantic visions and lysergic trips. Its soft intro leads to an almost psychedelic keyboards plus guitars interplay and then, following De La Rosa's warm voice, the track grows up to reach a fully (prog) rock finale.

"En el lago" was also released as a 7" single, b/w "Diálogo".

As usual with Triana, you'll find beautiful melodies, different moods and some contemplative sketches, even if in this case there are less flamenco references. The final result is a diversified but never too tricky song pattern and the listener is keenly guided through the inner landscapes Triana line up. Be confident and steam away...

600 songs right now!

Yes, next song will be the 600th entry of my blog. Once again, the biggest thank you to all the prog fans that spend some minutes of their time to read my posts. Music is forever... especially Prog!

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Thousand Stories (Egdon Heath, 1993)

Egdon Heath are one of those bands from the '80s and the 90s we tend to forget nowadays and to file under the "average neo-prog" label of our minds. But there's more than this in Egdon Heath's musical productions. Take this "Thousand Stories", for example. It comes from the album "Him, The Snake And I", released by the late SI Music label. These Dutch musicians succeed in setting up a complex, highly diversified composition, including three different moods in a row.

This was Egdon Heath's third studio album.

Starting like an atmospheric track, the song goes through an almost mainstream rock phase and ends up with an intense, powerful prog ballad, enriched by Maurits Kalsbeek's brilliant vocals. The band also find Despite such a composite appearance, the track achieves its emitional goal and I still listen to it and still enjoy its dramatic edge.

Sunday 8 March 2015

El llarg revolt (L'Herba d'Hamelí, 2009)

Here you are a fascinating, rather original mix of classic prog, Catalan folk and good melodies. This band comes from Barcelona and the song I'm introducing here is part of their album "Inversa Visual". You'll find in it almost all the old progfan's favourite features: tempo changes, eclectic interplays, strong '70s influences, very good performances, a sensitive lead voice... plus, the lyrics in Catalan language, something that's not so usual, after all.

"Inversa Visual" was the band's fourth studio work.

How many excellent instrumental passages! Some of them also include acoustic instruments, so that these musicians are also reminiscent of Mediterranean bands like Premiata Forneria Marconi, Triana or Minimum Vital. That said, the final effect is absolutely original and enthralling. More than 17 minutes of pure progressive joy, one of the best thing I've ever heard from Spain... excuse me, from Catalunya!

Saturday 7 March 2015

Candle of Life (The Moody Blues, 1969)

One of my favourite songs by The Moody Blues. It comes from the album called "To Our Children's Children's Children", once again one of my favs. This is exactly the kind of gentle, pastoral, deeply emotional prog that only the first gereration of prog rock bands knew how to create. Not only this song swings and flows like pure water, but it also has a mysterious, fascinating, almost dark Mellotron-driven background.

This beautiful album was the TMB's fifth studio work.

And what about the piano? Its touches add kind of a dramatic, biting side to the track, especially to the spacey instrumental bridges that grace "Candle of Life". Maybe the lyrics sound a bit too "love, peace and friendship" in our days, but they're perfectly in tune with the melody, so... who cares? Definitely a classic song for the keenest proggers out there.

Friday 6 March 2015

Sparkles in The Dark (Shakary, 2002)

Here you are a Swiss band from the early 2000s, and this is taken from their second album, called "The Last Summer". I know there's nothing really new here, but the combination between traditional neo-prog and a strong melodic vein is always pleasant to me. The singer, Michael Branzino, has a warm tone and a keen, sensitive approach. I also like the alternate piano / synth background and, of course, the dreamy guitar solo by Mario Krag.

"The Last Summer" came after a double CD debut album.

I also recommend the vocal harmonies and the succulent finale, including pipes (or more likely their sampled sound). It's a relaxing song, based on an excellent theme and very well arranged. That's why Paolo Scandella, aka "Scandy", the man behind Shakary, has many good reasons to be proud of his creature, if you ask me.

Thursday 5 March 2015

La Nef Elfique (Naos, 1992)

Naos belong to the French "second generation" of proggers, those active during the '80s and the '90s. They surely liked neo-prog British bands - Stéphane Prévost's dynamic bass lines prove that - but they also revived their National traditions, especially Ange's heritage. "La Nef Elfique" (meaning "The Elven Ship") opens the album called "Naïf le rêveur" ("Naïf The Dreamer"), likely their best one, IMHO.

This was the second studio album by Naos.

Once again, no musical revolutions here, but a fresher way to follow some well known and beloved paths through the Prog Forest. Philippe Motté is a good singer, as each note he sings is full of emotion, and he also knows how to write lyrics about overworked topics with a new and special twist. This track is a pleasant and rather energetic one, especially conceived for prog friends looking for a cosy corner in a busy day.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Turn It up (Karmakanic, 2011)

A lively, catchy prog song. Taken from Karmakanic's "In A Perfect World" album, this is exactly what I'm looking for when it comes to less complex and still not trivial songs. Karmakanic could be considered another side project by bassist  Jonas Reingold of  Flower Kings fame, but the band slowly grew up and reached a stand alone status, powered by very good albums and many excellent songs.

"In A Perfect World" was Karmakanic's fourth studio album.

This one isn't among their most adventurous ones, but it has an original arrangement and a somewhat unpredictable pattern that I actually like. Each time "Turn It up" seems to fit into the rules of a traditional song, something unforeseeable comes in, changing and enriching the big picture. It's a fresh and enjoyable way to mix prog and mainstream rock, a pleasant surprise for many prog lovers, I reckon.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Judas Unrepentant (Big Big Train, 2012)

A beautiful track by Big Big Train, taken from their "English Electric - Part One" album. Full of good musical themes and original arrangements, this "Judas Unrepentant" strikes me for its joyous overture, the melodious largos and the vaguely folk inspiration. As usual, David Longdon's vocal performance is nearly perfect and some special features add a special charm. Let's see a few of them.

The complete edition of "English Electric" was released in 2013.

First of all, the acoustic section, featuring Rachel Hall's violin along with Longdon's flute. Splendid, IMHO, full of the Old England smell I likeso much. Then, here you are Andy Tillison ravaging his organ before the final chorus reprise. Sounds like Golden Era keyboardmen are back. And what about Danny Manners and his plain but effective piano? Or Nick D'Virgilio's drumming? The egg of Columbus, if you ask me, because all things that work seem so obvious that you barely notice them. Probably that's why I'm still listening to this song. Over and over.

Monday 2 March 2015

Encadenado al ánima (Invisible, 1975)

Invisible were one of the best Argentinian prog bands during the '70s Golden era and this long epic opens their second album, called "Durazno sangrando" and released in 1976. Sung in Spanish, this is a very, very interesting composition, full of different moods and unpredictable changes. Excellent melodies, slightly jazz passages, R'n'B echoes, enjoyable instrumental parts... everything here is well done and well set in its place.

"Durazno sangrando" was Invisible's second studio album.

The vaguely acid guitars stress the original and deep vocal performance, and when the tempo rises up, we also appreciate the rythm section and especially Carlos Rufino's bass guitar. I also like the way the band had to get somewhat liquid and to put bluesy largos into the liveliest moments. I know it sounds incredible, but this is just like Hendrix meets Italian prog. And if you don't believe me, please go and listen for yourself.

Sunday 1 March 2015

A cena, per esempio... (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1976)

This is the opening track from the album “Come in un’ultima cena”, also relesed in English as “At Supper, for Example” (the whole album was translated with “As in A Last Supper” for Manticore label release).  Strongly based on Francesco Di Giacomo’s sensitive vocals, kind of the lead instrument here, the rich melodic lines are like the spires of a musical serpent, drawing Majestic spirals in and out the synth and piano background.

Leonardo's "Last Supper" inside the gatefold LP.

The lyrics depict the internal struggle of Jesus Christ during the Bible episode inspirating the title for the song. Mind, there are no religious themes here, just a deeply human pain. The ancient instruments the synth imitates add a mysterious, epic charm to the track, that really moves me each time I put it on my player. Prog emotions, I daresay…