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.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Vent du Midi (Brèche, 1979)

Another pearl from Québec, "la Belle Province", another one-shot band winding between symphonic and folk rock. Their sole studio work was titled "Carapace et chair tendre" (meaning "Shell And Tender Flesh"), and this "Vent du Midi" ("South Wind") is one of the longest tracks in it and likely my favourite one. A flushing choice of acoustic instruments, a good rythmic work, a pleasant series of tempo changes and a bunch of well found themes are but some of the winning points of this instrumental.

This beautiful album still awaits a CD release so far.
The violin and the winds alternate on a a piano and acoustic guitar carpet building up a joyous atmosphere and more intimate passages, both full of positive and sunny flavours. It's not a common feature in prog rock and related genres, so I consider this as a welcome bonus. I like each and every moment of "Vent du Midi"... hope you'll like it a little at least.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Brilliant Streams (Asturias, 1990)

Asturias' name could fool many listeners, so let's immediately say that this is not a Spanish band. In fact, Japanese multi-instrumentalist and composer Yoh Ohyama chose this label to release his works with the helping hand of some guest musicians. This is the title track from the second album credited to Asturias and actually is an undivided suite of more than 22 minutes, a delicate and classically arranged trip into a fairy world, with a gentle touch of Eastern sounds. Just a touch.

Abstract and full of details. The cover art announces the music.

The themes are pleasant and the whole composition could be described as Mike Oldfield meets Ant Phillips. I really like the way Yoh and his friends alternate slow tempo, ethereal passages and folkish dances, but also the fluid appearance of this music, that actually flows like a brilliant stream and offers an almost visual sequence of sketches that remind me a Japanese garden. Excellent music, IMHO.

Friday 23 October 2015

Slow Dance - Part Two (Anthony Phillips, 1990)

Like in this long suite first part (see the post in this blog), "Slow Dance Part Two" is a beautiful, calm and classically arranged succession of good themes and colourful variations, one of the best achievements of Ant Phillips' solo career. The acoustic guitars, the winds, the harp and even the drum machine all cooperate to an elegant and relaxing tapestry ruled by the keyboards.

Ant Phillips seems to live in a pleasant world of his own.

This part spans over more than 26 minutes, but don't expect a challenging listening experience, as the track is so pleasant and so well organised that time flows rapidly and each musical sketch has its own charm. I rarely listened to such a delightful piece of music, that's got the power to infuse wellness into the listener's soul. Not a neglectable virtue, I'm sure you agree.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Fatal Illusions (Eloy, 1994)

"Fatal Illusions" comes from the album "The Tides Return Forever" and has a Floydian taste, a pop flavour and an electronic touch. The guitars seem to flow on a pulsing musical ocean, while the mellow intro, some lively sung parts, a melodic theme and a rocky final section follow one another. True, some of these features didn't get old very well and some rythmic sections are too plastic-made for the 21st Century tastes, but the song has strong melodic foundations and very well found changes in both mood and tempo.

With this album Eloy signed their sixteenth studio work.

More than this, there is a balanced mix of catchy tunes and original solutions, spacey atmospheres and solid rock 'n' roll passages. As usual, Eloy put in their music all the musical worlds they visited and enjoyed and keep the song architecture under control. That's why I like them.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Josephine Baker (Premiata Forneria Marconi, 1987)

"Josephine Baker" is IMHO one of the finest prog songs from Italy during the '80s. Nevertheless, it is a greatly underrated track, probably because of the somewhat deceiving "Miss Baker" album it comes from or even because the band had lost in those years their progressive fandom. For sure, everything is moving and well done in "Josephine Baker", from the opening guitar to the closing violin. And in between there are a beautiful sung theme, a classy arrangement and a nostalgic set of lyrics about an African  beauty, the very icon of the Parisian dance halls, the famous Afro-American dancer quoted in the title, or - more probably - only her poster on the wall of a lonely room.

"Miss Baker" was the twelfth studio album by PFM.

The atmosphere of this song is full of melancholy but not necessarily sad, as I breathe a warm mood all along the track, combining Old Europe, Africa and some smoky cafés of a long forgotten Parisian Street. Such a pity this had to remain the last PFM's prog song until their coming back many years later...

Sunday 18 October 2015

The Light (Spock's Beard, 1995)

This suite is the title track from the first album by Spock's Beard and still is, IMHO, one of their best songs. Divided into eight parts, "The Light" is a succession of good ideas, great performances, catchy themes and effective riffs. After the atmospheric intro, the track lines up rock moments and melodic passages, keeping a strong and spicy flavour. There are lots of rythmic changes in this suite, and a great deal of vocal harmonies.

This debut album included two suites and two stand-alone tracks.

I especially like the way the band link very different passages between them, surprising the listener with such a manifold and still coherent stream of music. Even if you can find in this song some references to the '70s Prog Masters (specially Yes, I daresay), Spock's Beard are original from their very beginnings, displaying their unique mix of bright melodies and biting riffs, vaudeville relics and country echoes, spanish guitars and up-to-date keyboards. This is prog, baby!

Friday 16 October 2015

Elephant Talk (King Crimson, 1981)

Like it or not, this is a remarkable song in many ways. First of all, it's a keenly arranged song, based on Tony Levin's Chapman Stick and including the famous trumpeting elephant effect on Fripp's guitar on which the song was titled. It's an impressive (and mainly electronic) display of wall of sound, filled with pulsing energy and irregular rythms.The sung parts are almost yelled, adding more confusion to the puzzling big picture.

This song was also released as a 7" single b/w "Matte Kudasai".
A 12" single also exist including a third track, "Thela Hun Ginjeet".
The lyrics are actually relevant, being a collection of words naming linguistic interactions. Those are in alphabetical order, so that the first stanza only includes words beginning by A and so on until the fifth and final stanza, displaying words by E, like Elephant. The lyrics and the music both point up the redundacy and superficiality of verbal communication. Talk, talk, talk, it's only talk!

Thursday 15 October 2015

Back in The Sun (Jupiter Sunset, 1970)

As you may know by reading my previous posts, I like very much digging in the proto-prog era in search of long forgotten songs bearing the smell and the sounds of a naive and sparkling time. This band, called Jupiter Sunset, wasn't an obscure one, as this debut single in particular was a huge success in Belgium and also entered the French charts. They were definitely inspired by the likes of Moody Blues and Procol Harum, still they were fresh and original, and they were able to mix melody and energy in a bunch of dense and pleasant songs.

Soon after this single, the band released an album, also called
"Back in The Sun". Another good specimen of early prog era.

Their singer has the full-bodied voice the public loved in those days and surely they wrote a very good theme for their first single. Jupiter Sunset also released a few more hits in French speaking Countries, then they came back some years later as Jupiter Sunset Disco Band. On the dance floors, this time. C'est la vie, my friends...

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Water Spark (Oaksenham, 2007)

Oaksenham are from Armenia, not exactly the most common place to start a prog rock band. But they did it and, if you ask me, they did it very well. This "Water Spark" comes from their "Conquest of The Pacific" album and is an exciting mix of old and new. A folk-oriented flute, a diversified rythmic background, a very good vintage keyboard work and even an echo of distorted guitars. That's how those musicians blend their classical training with a modern taste.

Oaksenham is a six-piece act founded in 2001.

It's definitely enough stuff to rise up a progger's attention and when you discover the way they handle tempo and mood changes, you have to listen to this one more times. I did so and I decided to put this song here: it takes me by surprise, then it carries me into a kaleidoscope of folk, classical, rock and even pop colours... that's exactly what I call prog.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Canzona [There Will Be Time] (Osanna, 1972)

The Italian band Osanna met the composer and orchestra director Luis Enrique Bacalov in 1972 in order to provide the original soundtrack for the film Milano Calibro 9, an action movie directed by Fernando Di Leo. All the materials were included in the album "Preludio, Tema, Variazioni e Canzona", released in 1972 and including a prelude and a theme written by Bacalov, plus a series of variations by the band and the song I'm introducing here. The only sung track are "My Mind Flies" and "Canzona", also known as "There Will Be Time". 

"Canzona" was written by Baldazzi, Bacalov and Bardotti.

It's a beautiful, melodic song, apparently belonging to the Italian easy listening tradition, but actually charged with special and deep prog roots. To begin with, a Canzona is a XVIth Century composition based on a theme and some variations on it, including tempo and mood changes. That's exactly what Lino Vairetti's band do here, with their usual acoomplished taste. The way Vairetti sings it is highly emotional and the instrumental sketches enrich and empower the big picture. A song is just a song, but...

Monday 12 October 2015

Blood of Eden (Peter Gabriel, 1992)

When Peter Gabriel successfully combines good melodies, original arrangements and a first rate vocal performance... well, Paradise reveals itself to the well educated ears. And such a perfect mix is not rare in Peter's discography. "Blood of Eden" definitely is one of those songs, with its ethereal and even catchy sung theme, its intricate and syncopated rythm and, of course, Peter's deep and sensitive voice. Plus two fantastic guest singers: Sinéad O' Connor and Daniel Lanois!

Probably not the best Peter Gabriel's cover art. But who cares?

Of all these features, as you can imagine, I better like the music Peter wrote and the way he found to create a special, somewhat ancestral atmosphere. In this pure magic the singers enact the double game of feminine and masculine worlds and their need of union. Like all great songs, this "Blood of Eden" carries me away far, so far from the daily passions and worries... and yet, just into life, into the core of life. 

Sunday 11 October 2015

Только ты / Only You - Диалог / Dialog (1985)

Sometimes I need a very, very melodic prog song to reset my mind. And Dialog (Диалог) provide many sweet, drreamy songs I can listen to when I'm in such a mood. This song, "Только ты" (that's to say "Only You") comes from their debut album "Просто" (or "Just So") and has a strong Floydian taste. Recorded during the Soviet era, it is another good example of Russian hard-to-die and clandestine progressive movement.

Dialogue were a seven piece band when they recorded this album. 

This track was written by keyboardist and lead singer Kim Breitburg and reveals his talent as a songwriter and also his good tasted way to mix neo-prog vein and classic prog sounds. The sung theme is catchy and ethereal, the keyboard background is pleasant and, of course, the guitars add that special, Gilmour-esque touch I never despise. So, if you feel like spending some minutes in another world, please close your eyes and give Dialog a chance.

Friday 9 October 2015

African Day (Hawk, 1971)

This long epic is a treat for my ears. Coming from South Africa, it's the most important track by Hawk, one of the many bands that didn't reach a well deserved international recognition becouse of the long period of isolation their Country went through. "African Day" is the title track and the opening song of the band's debut work and is the musical depiction of a day in the Black Continent,drawing a series of vivid scenes.

After this debut album, Hawk released a second work then disbanded.

It's a fine example of what some reviewers used to call afro-rock, or more simply folk-prog. How many good harmonies, what a beautiful flute... not to mention the ethnic rythms! This epic transforms the sun, the trees, the animals, the human beings in musical sketches, changing tempos and pleasant melodies. And what's even more surprising, the band melted a great deal of different genres and moods to create a coherent and convincing suite. Too bad they didn't have a longer career!

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Le fond du ciel (La Tulipe Noire, 2002)

Despite their name and the title of this track, La Tulipe Noire isn't a French or a French speaking band. In fact, they come from Greece and they have a rather long history made of good neo-prog inspired music. This track comes from the album "Faded Leaves" and shows the band's well known ethereal keyboards and the beautiful vocals by Ima. More than this, you'll also enjoy good and vibrant guitars and many pleasant rhytmic tapestries.

"Faded Leaves" was the fourth studio album by La Tulipe Noire.

The sung theme is also good, sharp and neat as in some early IQ songs. The changes always come in due time and cleverly alternate fast and slow moments. If you're into melodic prog rock this band will definitely interest you and this song, in particular, will offer to all listeners an electric extra charge useful in a dull day and active against depressive moods.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

The Tide Is Turning (Roger Waters, 1987)

Also known with its official title "The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)", this is one of my favourite tracks by Roger Waters. It has a splendid melody and an atmospheric arrangement flowing and growing like a majestic river. The complete title includes a reference to the Live Aid concerts, even if Waters' participation was turned down by the organisation.
"Radio KAOS" was the fourth studio album by Wayters,
including two original soundtracks.
This song closes the album "Radio K.A.O.S." with a somehow optimistic note, as the rest of the concept was a bleak one, originally ending with the song "Four Minutes", staging a nuclear war. Thus, "The Tide Is Turning" has a brighter mood, a sort of anthem of hope for the human race. This song was also popular as it was the final track of the celebrated "The Wall Live" performance in Berlin. The studio version is also interesting for its discreet and effective electronic effects and for its first class vocal harmonies.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Hem (Alter Echo, 1979)

There are so many one-shot bands in all Countries... and most of them left no enduring trace. But sometimes I happen to listen to a good album or a good song and then  I find out that was from a very short lived band. That's exactly the case with the Swedish act Alter Echo, whose sole self-named work has a special and refreshing grace IMHO. Take this song called "Hem" (that's to say "Home" in English). As all the songs in the album, it was released on a cassette tape in 1979, then re-recorded in 1997 for Muséa label.

This is, of course, the 1997 re-release cover art.

It's a very pleasant song, lining up acoustic moments, effective vocal harmonies and electric guitar touches. It was definitely a good idea to ask those four musicians to come back and play once more their music: their delicate and bright sound deserved a second chance! Of course, this song is so strongly rooted into the '70s ground that I retained the original cassette date instead of the CD release year. I'm sure you'll agree with me.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Sobre los rieles (Subterra, 2001)

A very good and original way to neo-prog, this one. Subterra come from Chile (and their name from IQ?) and this "Sobre los rielos" (that's to say "On The Rails"), from the album "Sombras de invierno" ("Winter Shadows"), is a good and variated song. It starts with a long, atmospheric and rather dark intro, where the theatrical vocals of Max Sanchez go on very well with the keyboards background, then the rythm rises up and an instrumental section shows how good the musicians are, lining up alternate key and guitar solos.

"Sombras de inviero" was the first official album by Subterra.

A Marillion-like bass line rules the following sung section, a dense and dynamic one, moments before the heaviest section begins with a very well done wall of sound and a beautiful largo. The final part adds the sense of wonder a prog epic needs, and once again we appreciate the singer's skills. All in all, this is no revolution, but is a very pleasant way to render the (neo) prog lesson, Midway between Ange and IQ. Good idea.

Friday 2 October 2015

Mox (Prelude, 1979)

Prelude were a Belgian band that released a sole album titled "Voyage" in 1979, one of the most difficult years in the history of our beloved genre. That's likely why they didn't last so much and disbanded soon after this release. Guitarist Vincent Fis, however, founded a neo-prog band called Now some years later (and you'll find something by them in my blog). Back to Prelude and their opening track "Mox", I'm sure you'll perceive the naive but convincing mood of this song, musically situated between classic symphonic rock and the impending neo-prog wave.

A vintage album with a very pleasant old fashioned sound.

It's a rather long composition featuring a fluid, warm keyboard-driven sound and a good architecture. The sung themes and the instrumental parts follow one another with ease and good taste, mixing the French school (Ange and Atoll, especially) and the British one, namely Wakeman's solo albums, IMHO. A good guitar solo enriches the finale of "Mox" and also the rythm section is fully enjoyable. If you like old and forgotten albums, I bet you'll listen to this with pleasure.