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!