Monday 31 August 2015

Houdini (Kate Bush, 1982)

Kate Bush is one of the most influential artists in the world since her debut in 1978 and surely is considered as a prog related singer and songwriter. We don't need to search for long and tricky compositions to find the avant-garde habits and the musical research that are the essential elements of prog rock. Take this "Houdini", coming from such a beautiful album as "The Dreaming".

"The Dreaming" was one of the most creative albums by Kate.

All the tempo changes, the passionate vocals, the orchestral touches and, of course, the keen work on sounds make of this song a pure jewel. The chorus is heartbreaking and Kate is perfect when she digs very deep in the human soul as she does in this song. Is this progressive rock? I think so.

Sunday 30 August 2015

Ilusões (Tésis Ársis, 2002)

A one-man band from Brasil, this Tésis Ársis in the brainchild of Anderson Rodrigues and offers long instrumental tracks, like this "Ilusões", a rather atmospheric epic lasting some 12 minutes and based on ethereal keyboards and well played electric guitars. Sure, this is not a musical revolution, but it's full of real emotions, something I'd like to find in all prog rock tracks.

The debut album by Tésis Ársis includes five long tracks.

The leading guitar has a beautiful, sad touch, something between Hackett and Gilmour, I'd say. Anderson plays all instruments and is also responsible for the drum programming. The main theme is well exploited and the atmospheric bridges are also pleasant. If you like dreaming guitar-driven prog, this is definitely for you.

Saturday 29 August 2015

Contrasts (Discus, 1999)

Sometimes the title says it all. That's the case with this track, coming from the debut album of the Indonesian band Discus and closing it. This is a stunning - but never unpleasant - series of musical contrasts, actually. Some gentle flute-driven landscapes, jazzy breaks, electronic and experimental passages... you name it, you have them all (or almost all...). 

Discus debuted in 1999 for the Italian label Mellow Records.

The melodies - when there are melodies - are beautiful, the instruments are absolutely well played (especially the flute, the electric guitar and the keys), the rythmic section is highly creative... in short, this is I track I love. Of course, such an ordeal is not for all listeners, I mean you must like unusual things in order to fully appreciate this instrumental, but if you are into avant-garde prog, please, don't miss this pearl"

Friday 28 August 2015

El viaje (Supay, 2007)

An andean prog folk rock track from Peru. Supay mix the local  colours, some r'n'r instruments and a modern rythmic section very well and they also try to gradually change the mood of this instrumental, adding here and there a good tasted keyboards touch and even a slightly west coast electric guitar. I think they deserve more attention, especially in their proggest moments.

"El viaje" was the second studio work by Supay.

They really offer something new, these musicians, and this is not common today. Unfortunately, I daresay. Listen to this song and when the final aggressive guitar bursts out, please don't forget the andean pipes: they're two different faces of the same band... and I'm sure you'll appreciate this "viaje"... oh yes, that means "trip", as you surely know.

Thursday 27 August 2015

The Love in Your Eye (Caravan, 1972)

Coming from the "Waterloo Lily" album, this song has both an orchestral and jazzy mood, being a diversified suite in four movements: "To Catch Me A Brother", "Subsultus", "Debouchement" and "Tibury Kecks". As always with Canterbury bands, you couldn't find one prominent style here: you got them all. Sure, there are some passages I better like: the flute solo in "Subsultus", for example, but all the details cooperate to the big picture, a tricky and colourful one, I daresay.

"Waterloo Lily" was the fourth studio album by Caravan.

All the instruments find their way to the foreground sooner or later and all the tempos come in in time. The sung parts are like islands in a fluid, unpredictable, instrumental river. Nonetheless, this track is pleasant and fully enjoyable to all listeners (well, almost all). The jazzy taste is always supported by a very British sense of humour and it seems to me like Uncle Sam and Queen Victoria going on very well. A strange but peaceful coexistence... that's what we need nowadays, isn't it?

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Vie (Angipatch, 1981)

This instrumental title track of "Vie" ("Life" in English) has a very special taste, suspended between the '70s and the '80s and immediately captures the listener's attention with its rythmic pattern, an unusual one for prog rock. Then, little by little, the other instruments come in and bring back a more (but never too much) traditional progressive texture. The track shows how eclectic Angipatch were and how unique their sound was in the French prog rock scene of the late '70s and the early '80s.

Angipatch debuted with this interesting concept album,

They tried to give a fresher face to our genre and surely they weren't the only ones there, but their solutions actually are interesting still today and even if some key sounds seem a little dated nowadays. This convincing (my opinion, of course) fusion of symphonic rock, electronic music and mainstream pop-rock is worth another listening and an addiction to my blog.

Monday 24 August 2015

A Gadarai Megszállott (After Crying, 1992)

If ever you like experimental and classically-conceived prog, After Crying could be your band and surely you'll like this epic track, opening the 1992 album "Megalázottak És Megszomorítottak". It's an uncompromising suite, starting with a slow, long and acoustic crescendo, an instrumental, atmospheric section providing the background and the mood for the entire song. The cello and the piano drive this part, with the support of a delicate drumming. An obscure landscape rises around the listener and dark shadows seem to surround the music. No other bands sound like this. After more than 7 minutes, the vocals (in Hungarian) come in drawing a gentle and beautiful melody, with a violin underlining Péter Pejtsik's voice... something original, but not too far from Hammill's way, if you ask me.

I think this cover art is perfect for After Crying dark prog.

I really like this section, but after this, a deep, sad experimental one gets the listener's attention: it's a slow, diversified and atmospheric section, lining up sung and instrumental moments, with a cello on the foreground. It gradually changes in a somehow more dynamic section, including a rythmic piano and the oboe. Well, this is heartbreaking, IMHO. A female reciting voice introduces a strange and short bridge, where wild sounds and atmospheric chords follow one another. The final section is announced by a trumpet and has a joyful rythm for a change.... then the birds come in and the track is over. Should I say more?

Sunday 23 August 2015

Ícaro (Albatros, 2011)

This is a very well written and played progressive rock, IMHO. Albatros come from Igualada, near Barcelona and their style became more and more original during the years. Sure, there are many influences you could recognize in this "Ícaro" (Riverside, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree among them), but also a very personal way to melt them into a unique sound, fluid and dense, rocky and melodic. The Spanish lyrics add a latin touch that Javi Fernandez knows how to emphasize and the tempo changes are also a specialty of Albatros.

Albatros are a five-piece band, the most traditional line-up of 
Progressive bands... that doesn't mean they have a predictable sound!
Take the long and liquid instrumental part filling most of the second half of this song: it's one of the finest jazz/space rock contaminations I've heard from a contemporary band (IMHO, once again). Good taste and a mature inspiration can do miracles, believe me. No, better than that: try Albatros yourself!

Friday 21 August 2015

Fallen Angel (King Crimson, 1974)

Another KC pearl, this "Fallen Angel" comes from "Red", the last album by the band during the '70s. It's a diversified and rather melodic track including many weird passages that still please me today. Of course, John Wetton's vocals are perfect like some statues from Ancient Greece, but all the rest is an awesome collection of musical ideas, thick riffs, heartbreaking changes, electronic treats... should I say more?

The stunning trio: Bruford, Fripp & Wetton.

Oh yes, just this: no apocalyptic scenes or medieval princes here: the lyrics are about a boy convincing his younger Brother to join in the Hells Angelswith him and watching him dying in a subsequent fight. It sounds like a juvenile crime story, but it is more like poetry. Good poetry, I daresay.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Brennisteinn (Sigur Rós, 2013)

The opening track of the album "Kveikur" seems to me like metal rock compared with the average volume and tempo of most Sigur Rós songs. I like very much its inner tension, something between math-rock and a horror film soundtrack. And it also has an ejoyable sung line... well, not exactly what I happen to sing in my bathroom, but surely well written and well sung. It's a highly creative piece of music, including electronic and acoustic sounds so perfectly mixed that you couldn't tell a violin from a synth.

A suggestive frame from the official video of "Brennsteinn".

And the dark, aggressive mood of "Brennisteinn" strikes me, as I find here both sides of the band: the ethereal, spacey one and the upsetting, experimental one. More than this: I could listen to this song one hundred times and still each time I'd find something new, a hidden sound, an underlying line, a secret passage. Last but not least, I think Andrew Huang's official video perfectly captures the atmosphere of the track. Pure post-prog pleasure for your eyes and ears.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Criaturas da noite (O Terço, 1975)

O Terço recorded the album "Criaturas da Noite" in 1975 and this still can be considered their best LP. It was one of those enlightened pop albums where melodies and discreet prog elements coexisted with the special grace and the simple arrangements that single out many South-American bands. The title track is a slow, delicate ballad enriched by an orchestral bridge and effective vocal harmonies.

Of course, if you're into tricky or experimental music, please choose another post (or even another blog: I'm not a jealous guy!), but if ever you like - from time to time - an easy and not trivial song, a caressing theme and a nocturnal mood, this is the song for you. Enjoy, then.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

On The Seashore (Little Tragedies, 2006)

If you read my blog now and then, you probably already know I like this Russian band (Маленькие Трагедии is their original name) and their flamboyant kind of progressive rock. This time, however, you'll find a softer side of Little Tragedies, a melodic and pleasant track taken from the album "The Sixth Sense" (originally titled "Шестое чувство") and with a touch of baroque music too. The electric guitar and harpsichord interplay has something magic.

This is the International release of the CD, labelled by Muséa.

Then, of course, the mood changes and a very modern and original rythmic work creates a well found contrast, until the previous mood comes back. Two special mentions, if you please: to the theatrical singing (it's  like Ange sung in Russian instead of French...) and to the howling guitar, a sound that actually digs into my soul. That said, my friend, "On The Seashore" is there for you!

Sunday 16 August 2015

Heat of The Moment (Asia, 1982)

A commercial, catchy, plain song. Still, a very good one. When Asia released their debut record in 1982 I confess I was somewhat disappointed, as I was expecting something more elaborate than that, but after a while I saw that this was exactly what the band wanted to do. A pop side of prog that still works and didn't get older at all. The opening riff is a good classic today and John Wetton's vocals are neat and strong.

Four '80s boys... well, more or less.

The rest is provided by the likes of Howe, Downes and Palmer. That's to say: you can write the simplest of songs, but when it comes to the players, well, you can make the difference! I still listen to "Heat of The Moment" with pleasure and I can see how difficult it is to be successful and original nonetheless.

Saturday 15 August 2015

The Apocalypse (Eloy, 1979)

One of the most spacey tracks in the huge production of Eloy surely is this "The Apocalypse", coming from the album "Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes". The Floydian influence is very strong here, nonetheless the song has its own special flavour. Electronic sounds and electric guitars guide the listener through the three parts of this suite, titled "Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes", "The Vision - Burning" and "Force Majeure". The sci-fi atmosphere and an underlying tension give to "The Apocalypse" an epic mood, while the changes rivet the listener's attention.

This album was the seventh studio album by Eloy.

The sounds are chosen with a sure taste and keenly mixed, and also the sung parts are very well written, so that the track has a solid melodic structure. Here and there, a touch of vintage keyboards and a beautiful female voice à la The Great Gig in The Sky create a pleasant contrast with the up-to-date background. I really like the alien landscapes Eloy can conjure up, something that many neo-prog bands were going to imitate. A good song for the dreaming part of any prog lover.

Friday 14 August 2015

Delad verklighet (Bo Hansson, 1972)

Taken from the "Magician's Hat" album ("Ur Trollkarlens Hatt" in Swedish Language), this instrumental track (titled "Divided Reality" in the international release) is somewhat different from most of Hansson's songs. Not only it includes a wider instrumentation surrounding Bo's keyboards, but it also develops its theme over different moods and tempos... in short, it's progger than ever. It sounds like a band's brainchild, and in fact many musicians are involved, especially guitarist Kenny Håkansson and Sten Bergman's flute.

This album was released in both Swedish and English editions.

The folk inspiration, a trademark of Bo Hansson, is gently mixed with a vaguely rock background and even the melodies are less ethereal than usual, so that it seems to me this track has a real pumping heart, something I couldn't say for the entire album. Try it and let this music carry you along strange and enchanted paths.

Thursday 13 August 2015

En el hospicio (Pastoral, 1975)

This title track, taken from the second studio work of Argentinian duo Pastoral, is a very good example of simple and effective folk rock with many and welcome elements of prog rock. The plain ballad forming the essential part of the song is enriched by electric guitar bridges, well done vocal harmonies, a touch of keys and a coherent, discreet drumming. The track starts with a bare acoustic guitar plus vocals intro, then the other instruments come in and here you are a soft and rather easy version of progressive rock.

Pastoral were Alejandro De Michele and Miguel Angel Erausquin.

Even if the song is a very short one, I can tell some strong points, like the guitar solo (a very good one, believe me), the organ underlining the chorus and - of course - the final reprise of the acoustic intro. If you read or speak Spanish, you'll also find interesting lyrics, in the vein of protest songs, a popular genre during the '70s. If you don't, then enjoy the music... it should be enough to re-listen "En el hospicio" very soon.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Siberian Khatru (Yes, 1972)

Just think this 8 minutes and more song is the shortest one from "Close to The Edge" album! Its opening guitar riff is legend and so are the following intricate bass line and vocal harmonies. Of course, you'll also find here two solos (not too long, to say the truth): one for Steve Howe's guitar and one for Rick Wakeman's keyboards. All is perfectly "yes": the alternate themes, the vocal largos, the thick and irregular rythms, the tempo changes, the circular structure with the outro resuming the intro, and so on.

That's what I call a Dream Team!

Did you notice I didn't mention Jon Anderson? Well, that's because any reader of my little blog knows too well how much I like his voice, so... I take him for granted! And after all, "Siberian Khatru" is one of the great classics from the Golden Era of prog rock: I just couldn't forget to add such a masterpiece to my collection! Listen to it one more time... I'm doing so right now.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Vent du Midi (Bellaphon, 1987)

This long instrumental track by Japanese band Bellaphon, coming from their album "Firefly" has a very special mood and an even better structure. Based on a keyboard theme, "Vent du Midi" ("Southern Wind", more or less) also has a beautiful guitar work and a very diversified rythmic structure. Sure, you'll find some immediately recognizable '80s sounds, but the general effect is so good that you'll certainly forgive such a lesser fault.

Ther album tracklist reveals a French inspiration.

I really like the central break, giving a classical twist to the song and introducing a more lively part and a series of further changes. Those musical turning stages are IMHO the strongest point of the track, but I think this is one of those prog songs you just have to follow with your eyes closed and your heart open wide. Try and let me know...

Monday 10 August 2015

Introspect (Cathedral, 1978)

The entire "Stained Glass Stories" album by Cathedral is a prog gem and this "Introspect" will prove my point. Deep and diversified, full of charming atmospheres and sharp changes, this song could be adopted as a progressive rock manifesto. The vocals are delicate and inspired, while all the instruments play original, unpredictable partitions. Take the bass guitar and its winding lines, the Crimson-esque keyboard or the wide spectrum drums à la Phil Collins. And what about the acoustic coda?

The boys behind this beautiful music in the CD edition of the album.

No commercial compromise here, still not a single note of "Introspect" is too difficult or too experimental to be fully enjoyable. An universe of emotions and secret landscapes flows gently before the listener's ears and gets into his soul. Too bad they disbanded so soon: Cathedral could have strongly shaped the prog rock canons. But then, this album surely did so.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Mediterraneo (Pooh, 1975)

This instrumental track comes from "Un po' del nostro tempo migliore", luckily the best and proggest album by Italian pop band Pooh, one of the most popular Italian acts ever. Dodi Battaglia's guitars are (as usual with Pooh) the main feature of "Mediterraneo" and they actually draw a Mediterranean sketch, full of sweetness and strong colours. The other instruments come in discreetely and a background choir finishes the picture.

A Victorian drawing room for Pooh.

You couldn't imagine anything more Italian, nonetheless the tubular bells plus the mandolin provide a clear reference to Mike Oldfield's debuit work and the original LP package has a Victorian taste. It's a distressing and delicate pattern, a highly evocative and descriptive track I still like after so many listening sessions...