Wednesday 30 March 2016

Debka דבקה / (Sheshet / ששת , year 1977)

Among the many flute driven prog groups from the '70s, Israeli band Sheshet ( ששת ) surely weren't the most famous one, but they created a delicate and rather eclectic self-titled album, from which I'm introducing a song called Debka or  דבקה , the name of a Near Eastern dance, an excellent way into Sheshet's musical world. The listener finds, of course, a well played flute à la Ian Anderson, but also beautiful vocal harmonies somehow inspired by Gentle Giant, some ethnic rythms and jazzy instrumental passages.

Such a pity this was going to be their only album...

A good deal of solutions, as you can see, so that the final effect is that of an original and pleasant mix of different moods gathered in a coherent frame. Not an easy task, but the band succeeded in such a daring melting pot and - what's surely more surprising - their music is even more enjoyable today than it was in 1977. Try it and let me know...

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Anesthetize (Porcupine Tree, 2007)

This "Anestethize", coming from the album "Fear of A Blank Planet", could be considered a suite, as the lyrics in the booklet were neatly divided into three sections, and anyway  its more than 17 minutes of duration time and the changes in mood, tempo and arrangement also justify this. The song is highly representative of the 2000s production of Wilson & friends, lining up atmospheric and rather sad moments, ballad-like themes and cold distorted guitars in the rockiest passages.

"Anestetize" also was the title of PT's 2010 live release.

For sure, this weird mixture has a mysterious emotional appeal, and it compels the listener to dig inside his or her soul, where the deepest fears and worries hid themselves. The last section, in particular, moves me each time I listen to this epic, but all its moments are there to outline a dark journey that has the power to nerve my spirit in a shrewd and keen way.

Monday 28 March 2016

Stardust We Are (Flower Kings, 1997)

The title song of "Stardust We Are" by Flower Kings is a manifold suite full of changes and charming interplays, as usual with this band. If I choose this one for my post, however, it's because I feel more emotion in this epic than I usually feel listening to Flower Kings. The fusion between acoustic and electric instruments is perfect, and this surely adds a warmer touch to the big picture. On the other hand, the melodies are well found and the arrangements forbid any boredom and redundancy.

It also exists a 3LP+2CD deluxe set of this album... did you know?

I especially like the down tempo passages, full of misty guitars not too far from early Genesis. There's a strong coherence in this suite, also because it is divided in only three parts, even if it lasts more than 25 minutes! The three sections plot, IMHO, allows a more fluid and easy exploitation of each theme and a good deal of variations on them. In short, "Stardust We Are" is a song I always listen to with pleasure and surprise.

Sunday 27 March 2016

И светлый же этот день (Argo / Арго, 1981)

This band was the brain child of Lithuanian composer Giedrius Kuprevicius and their music always switched from electronic disco-pop and relaxing melodic instrumentals,like this one. "И светлый же этот день" (meaning "Bright Like The Day"), coming from the album "Šviesa" (in English, "The Light") actually reminds me of an ambient song, but its melodic structure is far better developed and far lesser intricated.

"Šviesa" was the second studio album by Argo.
This song could also be compared with early '70s space rock, but, of course, if we had to find rock elements here, that could only be on the its (very) soft side. Be as it may, I think this song has its own charm and a dreamy, visionary texture I like very much. Apart from Kuprevicius' keyboards, the bass guitars and the electric guitar create an inner world and a vaguely lysergic mood that I rarely found in a 1980 release.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Inquinamento (Libra, 1975)

Libra are usually considered as an Italian prog band from the '70s, even if just a few of their thacks actually has prog elements in it. This is the case with this long song titled"Inquinamento" ("Pollution" in English) and coming from their debut album "Musica e parole". This music has a fluid structure, with many musical changes and a spoken set of lyrics in romanesco, the local language of Rome and its Region. These lyrics are about pollution, of course, and about the illegal exploitation of Nature.

Libra were from Rome and also liked jazz rock.
The music describes such a corruption in an effective way, gathering sweet sounds and dissonant effects in a surprising but never unpleasant series of sketches. I really like the guitars here, so sharp and so... Seventies! Not surprisingly, their kind of prog will prove itself suitable for movie soundtracks and theatrical productions.

Friday 25 March 2016

Playing The Game (Gentle Giant, 1974)

"The Power And The Glory" comes from Gentle Giant's intermediate era, between the unpredictable early albums and the more mainstream rock late ones. Maybe that's why songs like this "Playing The Game" still have an everchanging structure, including tempo changes, enjoyable sounds, jazz-rock switches and melodic passages, but also are fully enjoyable by all publics. The sung theme is pleasant and original, while the long instrumental passages include progressive interplays and improvisation-like moments.

"The Power And The Glory" was the sixth studio album by GG.

The main theme comes back here and there, and so does the starting riff, giving a well structured plot to the track. As usual with the Giant, the rythm is irregular and the drums include many innovative solutions. The lyrics show the political side of the band, via the character of the King and a coherent metaphor comparing social life to a card play, a concept you'll also find elsewhere in the album. In short, these are Gentle Giant in all their power and glory!

Thursday 24 March 2016

Movement IV (Clearlight, 2003)

You'll find more about Cyrille Verdeaux and his musical creature Clearlight elsewhere in my blog. Suffice to say here that this talented keyboardist and composer came back in 2003 with another spiritual and symphonic work full of magic and involving a dozen musicians. I know I should consider the whole album as a single suite divided into six movements, but I think some of them are stand alone tracks, especially this fourth one.

"Infinite Symphony" was the eighth studio album by Clearlight.

The concept of "Infinite Symphony" is based on Indian religions and links this work to other compositions by Verdeaux. But don't worry: "Movement IV" isn't a new age track, just inteded for relaxation and spiritual isolation. This is a solid progressive composition, where a variety of instruments and themes build up an epic mood where the piano, the winds and the electric violin (played by Trevor Lloyd) play a leading role. I feel an inner energy in this music and I appreciate the open minded arrangements of such a flushing instrumental. Definitely, Clearlight are hard to die.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Nueve ejemplares... no tan raros (Sintesis, 1979)

This is the 8 minutes opening track of the debut album by Sintesis ("En busca de una nueva flor", that's to say "Searching for a new flower"), one of the most interesting and eclectic bands from Cuba. During their long career these musicians went through a great deal of styles, moods and genres and this song is a perfect example of such a diversified approach. 

This band released many albums during their long career.

There are many acoustic parts, reminding me of Italian progressive rock (especially PFM), and a big choice of vocal harmonies, exploiting both male and female voices. Relaxing keyboards, folk guitars and jazzy piano touches are among this band's highlights, but you'll also find lively passages, some unpredictable changes and even a majestic finale. I think this is a lesser known prog pearl my friends out there will appreciate.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Tapwala (Alms, 2016)

Alms are a one-man band, created and animated by Spanish multi-instrumentalist Aitor Lucena. As Alms, he released the album "Beyond" in 2013, while the song I'm introducing today comes from his sophomore work titled "An Irosmic Tragedy". "Tapwala" is - as usual with Alms - a flushing and increasing collection of acoustic and electric sounds, a colourful fresco, starting with a Dante's quuotation and going through many changes and even more moods. When you put so many ideas in one song, it's easy to lose control and to create an unsettled series of musical sketches.

"An Irosmic Tragedy" was released on January 2016.
Well, Airton is able enough to wrap up a well conceived and well organized epic, where each moment starts at the proper time and each theme is fully exploited and cleverly fitted into the great picture. And this with an unusual, ironic taste, lining up symphonic crescendos and horror movie soundtracks. More than this: each instrument represents a different perspective over the same musical landscape, so that "Tapwala" is a musical kaleidoscope, a precious casket full of surprises. Try it, my prog friends: it's... irosmic!

Saturday 19 March 2016

Grendel (Marillion, 1982)

I wondered about including "Grendel" in my blog for years, and I finally came to a positive decision. This is kind of an orphan song, as Marillion themselves never perform it live nowadays and they even seem ashamed of it. Nonetheless, this is a seminal song in their career, one of their earliest compositions and one the bravest ones. Bravest, yes, because it wasn't easy at all to write amnd perform a prog rock suite in 1982, let alone the mythological lyrics . By the way, those lyrics weren't directly inspired by the Beowulf, as Fish put down in poetry a novel by John Gardner, so that the song deals more with intolerance than with monsters. 

Grendel was released as part of "Market Square Heroes" single.

That said, I actually love this epic, so powerfully emotional and so rich in changes and - of course - in musical quotations. I think this is the perfect manifesto of the resurgence of prog in the '80s and also a brilliant example of how moving prog rock can be when Fish and Marillion come into play. I apologise with the band and the intellectual reviewers, but I'm still in love with Grendel (I mean the song, not the monster...).

Friday 18 March 2016

In Doga Gamee (Andreas Vollenweider, 1991)

Vollenweider's "Book of Roses" album was the most elaborate work of this Swiss artist, usually considered as one of the best new age musicians ever. That's why I put in my little blog this song, titled "In Doga Gamee" and featuring many progressive elements. First of all, there are sweet and airy melodies, then a very rich choice of sounds and clever arrangements, including vocal harmonies and a great deal of instruments. 

"Book of Roses" was the eighth studio album by Vollenweider.

Dozens of musicians were involved in the making of this album, building up kind of a flexible orchestra with a rich wind section and some ethnic instruments beautifully employed by Vollenweider. In this track I also appreciate the rythm solutions and, of course, Andreas' arp, the most known trademark of this eclectic artist. That's why this is definitely more than new age...

Monday 14 March 2016

Rockin' Edward (Iron Duke, 1974)

Here you are a Danish prog act from the Golden Era of our genre, playing a keyboard-driven progressive rock, full of classical echoes and tempo changes. This suite, titled "Rockin' Edward", comes from their debut album "First Salvo" and includes all their trademark features. Like ELP, they decide to re-arrange, expand and loosely adapt a classical standard, Grieg's "Peer Gynt" suite, based on a drama by Ibsen. Compared with ELP, Iron Duke are softer and more on the melodic side of rock, but this is a dynamic and diversified track all the same, let alone a well performed one.

Iron Duke also released a second album titled "Gammel Dansk".

I like very much the vintage but never too dated sounds of this epic, and also the military mood surfacing here and there during the track. Some guitars  also grace "Rockin' Edward", adding the right amount of roughness to the big picture, that never goes too affected nor too smooth. In short, this song perfectly represents its period and still delights my ears. What about yours?

Sunday 13 March 2016

Fairy Tales of Truth (Q65, 1969)

Q65's "Fairy Tales of Truth" is an interesting example of proto-rock song from The Netherlands. The band released some very good albums during their early years and this track comes from "Revival", their second studio work, and it also exists a longer version by another Dutch band called Circus. I actually like the dark bass lines, the acid guitars and the airy melodies rising up here and there in a rather tricky plot.

I don't know if I like this wrinkled effect, but all the same...

This unusual architecture is the proggest element in the song, with the dreamy background Mellotron and the space-like electric guitar ruling the final part of the track. The instrumental sections are packed with atmospheric, suspended moods, and I also appreciate the diversified drumming, colouring these delicious fairy tales.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Honky Tonk Train Blues (Keith Emerson, 1976)

I know "Honky Tonk Train Blues" isn't properly a prog rock track, being a boogie-woogie classic by Meade Lux Lewis from the roaring Twenties, but, you know, Mr. Emerson could turn everything into progressive music. His version of this piano standard is simply stunning, full of energy and musical colours. Released as a single in 1976, and later included in ELP's "Works - Volume 2", this devilish performance got very popular, especially in Italy where it was adopted as the theme song of a TV show.

This 7" single also included "Barrelhouse Shake-Down".

Sweat and enthusiasm: those are the keywords not only for this sparkling cover, but for the whole career of Keith, one of the most charismatic musicians ever. Back to "Honky Tonk", it proves how diversified and unpredictable can be the sources feeding a progressive rock keyboardist and how joyful and eclectic Keith Emerson's talents were. That's why changed in a way the musical world.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Monumentum Valley (Tompox, 2012)

Hungarian band Tompox have a peculiar career: founded by ex bass player of Solaris Tamás Pócs as a live act intended to play Omega repertoire, they gradually found their own way and released new materials. This suite, coming from their debut album "Hungarian Eclectic" perfectly represents the keyboard-based kind of prog those musicians like. Relaxing themes and atmospheric passages rule this epic (and most of Tompox songs) creating a fluid and enjoyable stream of music well supported by a lively rythm section and enriched by a rough electric guitar.

Tompox were born around 2008 and released this album in 2012.

The suite is divided into two parts and I especially like it when Ádám Tasi's flute draws delicate and airy soundscapes and, of course, when Pócs' bass guitar comes in, breaking or enhancing the synth melodies. All in all, the track is never boring nor redundant and it provides a diversified and joyful way to spend 18 minutes or so.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Ommadawn part 1 (Mike Oldfield, 1975)

Useless to say, Mike Oldfield is one of the best composers when it comes to long and folky suites and I think it's a shame that most of the reviewers out there limit themselves to his first and most celebrated album. Ommadawn part 1 is a 19 minute, deep and dreamy composition lining up a series of heartbreaking themes and fascinating moods. This time Mr. Oldfield didn't play all the instruments, on the contrary there are many guest musicians and a well assorted group of vocalists, including Sally Oldfield. 

"Ommadawn" was the third studio album by Mike Oldfield.

Among those contributions the listener appreciates many acoustic and traditional instruments like Pan flute, uillean pipes and cello. Oldfield himself focuses on guitars and keyboards and for sure his acoustic and electric guitars and his trademark mandolins add the usual sweet, airy and intense touch to the suite. Once more, this is high emotional music, flowing like inner waves, but thanks to the well written melodies and the flushing arrangements, it never goes merely ambient. In a word: that's Mike Oldfield, folks!

Monday 7 March 2016

The Sideways Saga (Spectrum, 1971)

This early progressive suite by Australian-based (but with a NZ frontman) band Spectrum is taken from the album "Milesago" and is worth a short introduction. The track is divided into four parts, each one with its own title: The Question, The Answer, Do The Crab and Everybody's Walking Sideways. The first one is a Beatles-like sung section, while the second and third ones are keyboard-driven instrumentals also feturing interesting interplays with an acid electric guitar. The final part resumes the opening theme, but this time it sounds like a Procol Harum ballad.

"Milesago" was released on CD by Aztec Music label in 2008.

The whole track has the smoky flavour of the proto-prog era and also the salty taste of a new musical adventure, as it surely was in the Australian rock scene of 1971. Actually, the whole album is kind of an experiment: not only it's the first double album in Aussie rock discography, but it also features a series of technical new devices (for Oceania at least), like new recording soundboards and extensive distortions. All in all, "The Sideways Saga" will prove how powerful and creative Spedtrum were at the beginning of their career.

Sunday 6 March 2016

Premise of Life (Covenant, 1992)

David (Dave) Cryder is no doubt a skilled drummer and he played (and still plays) in many US bands, in as different genres as blues-rock and death metal. When he decided to go solo, he created this one-man band and explored our favourite genre, that's to say progressive rock, most precisely its symphonic side. Playing all the instruments, Cryder creates three tracks (two long epics and a song) to build up Covenant's  sole work to date, titled "Nature's Divine Reflection", actually the proggest name you could find for a CD.

Such a pity Cryder abandoned the Covenant project so soon.

"Premise of Life" is the opening suite, a kaleidoscope of devilish keyboards, highly dynamic drums and - that's probably why I chose this particular song - very good bass lines ang a guitar solo, all played by guest musician Bill Pohl. This added instruments give a more balanced sound to a composition packed with good ideas and well found changes. Obviously, the vast choice of keyboards is one of the highlights of "Premise of Life", but I do think the tempo variations and the enthralling progressions also are worth the listener's attention. If you like vintage heavy prog, don't miss this one.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Blind Man's Mirror (Second Movement, 1976)

One of the most underrated German bands ever, IMHO, Second Movement released their first album in 1976 and this is its title track. The smell of the Seventies is very strong, especially when the keyboards come in, while the acid electric guitar and the bitig vocals add the right dose of lysergic sounds to the big picture. It's a fascinating mix of krautrock, symphonic prog and psychedelia, with just a pinch of space rock. I like the melodies too, so well found and richly diversified with vocal bridges and instrumental parts.

I highly recommend all the tracks of this album.

The keyboards and the guitars alternate with grace and fantasy, while the rythm section provide a lively and fluid stream supporting the manifold musical solutions of the track. Another living proof of how lushing was the German prog scene during the mid-Seventies and another example of the hundreds of hidden prog pearls we must shouldn't forget.

Friday 4 March 2016

The Trial (Pink Floyd, 1979)

I love this theatrical track from "The Wall" and not only for its live performances (both by Waters and Pink Floyd) featuring giant puppets and assorted special effects. The song is built up like a rock opera and also like an actual trial, based on Roger Water's eclectic vocal performance. The rock elements are also well found, especially when it comes to Gilmour's guitar. After all, "The Trial" represents the climax of the album concept, when the main character Pink draws conclusions about his life and his mental health. 

Some of the characters involved in the trial by cartoonist G. Scarfe.

The judge, the prosecutor, the schoolmaster, the mother and the wife add their depositions in an emotional crescendo until the final and choral breakdown. I also appreciate Gerald Scarfe's cartoon reddition of this track as seen in "The Wall" film, let alone the live version in 1990 Berlin concert featuring the likes of Ute Lemper and Marianne Faithfull. A visionary experience, a musical kaleidoscope.

Thursday 3 March 2016

Permanent Vacation (Galleon, 1994)

Taken from the album "Heritage And Visions", this epic is one of the longest and most diversified tracks by Swedish band Galleon. Even if some of its passages seem to me uselessly long, I must admit there are so many good melodies and so many beautiful changes that I couldn't miss this track in my blog. Relaxing pianos and fast keyboards, strong vocals and ethnic glimpses, shocking contrasts and irregular rythms... what else should I ask for?

"Heritage and Visions" was the second studio work by Galleon.

Last but not least, the listener will admire some difficult guitar solos and even a hard-like riff. But what I die for are the themes the band wrote and I daresay this is a trademark of Galleon. In short, if you're searching for adventurous and experimental music skip this one, but if you like highly dynamic and passionate prog rock, get a try to this one.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Ever Since You Killed Me (Knight Area, 2011)

Year after year and album after album, this Dutch band found a foreground place on the neo-progressive stage. This song opens the album "Nine Paths" (featuring nine tracks, of course) and has a highly dynamic profile. The guitar solos and interplays with keyboards are a winning point, but I also like some unpredictable changes and the usual melodic vein of Kinight Area. Of course, those musicians have very strong contenders in their own Country, but I daresay they deserve a special attention for the emotional side of their music, something many neo-prog heroes too often forget.

"Nine Paths" was the fourth studio album by Knight Area.

How beautiful to see how Mark Vermeule's guitar switches from dreaming accents to devilish solos and back again! And how pleasant to enjoy Gerben Klazinga's keys driving both up and down tempo sections of this epic! It's a deep, passionate and vital kind of prog I actually like and re-listen to with great pleasure.