Friday 29 April 2016

Lento juego de luces (Espiritu, 1982)

Coming from "Espiritu III", maybe not Espiritu's best effort, this is an uncommon and fascinating track. It is a rather long one (more than 7 minutes) and includes a remarkable sung melody, supported by spacey instrumentals (and a long finale) maily driven by the piano, the bass guitar and assorted keyboards. The sound of the '80s is there, but the well built architecture of "Lento juego de luces" ("Slow light effects" in English) strongly belongs to the previous decade.

"Espiritu III" was, of course, the third studio album by the band.
These Argentinian musicians know how to write and arrange good songs and always try to skip trivial solutions, even if their music never goes experimental. That's what you'll fine here: an enjoyable track suspended between prog, pop and electronic easy listening, a song that can dig its way inside the listener's soul. That's all I can expect of a prog song.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

R.I.P. (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1972)

No doubt this is one of the finest Italian progressive rock tracks ever and also one of the most known and inspiring ones. Useless to say, Francesco Di Giacomo's vocals are the first feature of this song striking the listener with their force and passionate tone.The title (to be read as a plural: "Requescant In Pacem") and the lyrics conjure up a gloomy and bloody war aftermath atmosphere and the powerful keyboards add an epic colour to such a sad picture.

The debut album of BMS still stands as a prog monument.

Among the countless songs dealing with war and death, IMHO this is one of the deepest and most moving ones. Lyrics, rock music and melodic inspiration are so perfectly melt here to describe the grievous side of human nature that each time I listen to "R.I.P." I feel uneasy and somehow sorry. And when the piano comes in, I'm nearly ashamed to belong to the human race.

Monday 25 April 2016

Pictures of Ages (Utopian Fields, 1990)

This track comes from Norway and was released by a rather obscure band called Utopian Fields, active between the late '80s and the early '90s. They were strongly influenced by Pink Floyd, nonetheless they mixed the Floydian spacey moods with other prog canons, setting up an enjoyable and vintage sound this "Picture of Ages" represents very well. It opens the album "White Pigeon, You Clean..." and lasts some ten minutes.

This was Utipian Field's second album. They disbanded around 1992.

The changes in tempo and instruments are excellent and the six musicians never try to rule the composition, so that it's a well balanced and richly arranged one. The dreamy atmosphere is broken here and there by stingy and acid passages, while the ballad-like sung themes are airy and sweet. I really like Utopian Fields' way of being traditional and creative, melodic and dynamic. Constrast is the key to good prog, after all!

Saturday 23 April 2016

Holy Lamb [Song for Harmonic Convergence] (Yes, 1987)

I couldn't say "Big Generator" is among my favourite albums by Yes, but I was simply fascinated by its closing track, "Holy Lamb". It's one of those songs that remind me how unique Jon Anderson's voice is and how inspiring Yes can be. This track was written by Anderson for Harmonic Convergence, a big New Age convention that took place in Sedona, Arizona, USA. 

"Big Generator" was the twelfth studio album by Yes.

Maybe that's why "Holy Lamb" has such an ethereal and spiritual texture, set up in a moving crescendo and enhanced by lyrics full of hope and inner lights. The melody is beautiful, airy and enthralling, while the band support Anderson's performance in a discreet and effective way. Utopian as it may be, this song is a further and mighty proof of Yes' prominence in rock history.

Friday 22 April 2016

Chronologie Part 1 (Jean-Michel Jarre, 1993)

IMHO, this is one of the best and most diversified tracks by Jean-Michel Jarre. The 10 minutes opener of "Chronologie", the concept album based on Stepen Hawking's book "A Brief History of Time", is a flushing specimen of electronic & symphonic music. 

 "Chronologie" was the tenth studio album by Jarre.

The tempo changes and the intricated keyboard interplays are among the best features of this instrumental, and Jarre also offers one of his best melodic works ever. Each theme is well exploited and well entwined with the rest of the composition. Last but not least, the fusion between rock instruments and electronic devices is perfect and gives a deeper soul to this track. Epic. In all senses.

This little place reached 900 songs!

Next post will add the 900th song to "Prog Rock Little Place". As usual, this is time to thank you all for your attention and your enduring kindness. Progressive rock is a musical goldmine and we'll go on digging into the mother lode.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Les Porches de Notre-Dame (Maneige, 1975)

What a beautiful suite this is! Maneige were no doubt one of the best band from Québec, and also one of the most open-minded ones, with their eclectic musical blend and their rich instrumentation. "Les Porches de Notre-Dame" ("Notre Dame Archways") are a 19 minutes long suite divided into six movements, full of acoustic instruments and mainly instrumental. The sacred-sounding "Ouverture" immediately inspires a spiritual tension and a quiet, visionary mood. The entire track displays this supernatural and nonetheless humble atmosphere, where traditional instruments bring back the Middle Ages and a wind-driven chamber music ensemble.

This suite opens "Les Porches", the second studio work by Maneige.

Grace and delicacy rule this composition, but you'll also find stingy, unquiet moments in it, especially when the piano comes in. The last and longest section also includes the only sung part of "Les Porches de Notre-Dame" and the listener is overwhelmed by Raoul Duguay's singular voice and by his trombone, not the most usual instrument in modern music. Finally, this is an unforgettable musical experience, if you believe me.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Beginning to End (Overhead, 2002)

"Beginning to End" is a 20 minutes suite by Overhead, a Finnish band that - at least in their early years - cleverly assimilated and readapted the progressive canons of the Golden Era into a new, flushing and fascinating shape. Sure, this is a somehow naive track, packed with classic influences and easily recognizable sounds, but the band also added original solutions and a good deal of passion. 

"Zumanthum" was Overhead's debut album.

The composition is divided into five parts, building up an excellent epic track, higly diversified and coherent too, mainly instrumental and with a deep emotional strength. This music can be traditional in a way, still it seems to me fresh and unaffected, bright and flowing. Be ready to live an enjoyable, all-inclusive travel to the land of Good Ol' Prog!

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Nimrodel / The Procession / The White Rider (Camel, 1974)

No doubt "Mirage" by Camel is one of the best prog albums ever and you'll find many songs from it in my blog. This suite of three songs is one of the highlights of such a masterpiece and also another prog song inspired by Tolkien's world. There is magic in this track, but also beautiful changes, dreamy guitars, a good deal of keyboards and well found melodies.

Camel line-up in 1974. A stunning foursome...

Military marches, folk ballads and instrumental passages follow each other, lining up mellow and lively sections, with clever arrangements and pleasant reprises. This is simply a great prog rock composition, where four brilliant musicians shine and take the time of their lives. The same can be said of their listeners... and especially for me!

Monday 18 April 2016

Stars Fell On Fertile Lands (Holy Lamb, 2002)

Holy Lamb are likely the best known Latvian prog band and, among their studio albums, "Beneath The Skin" still stands as their most original work. It's more a rock opera than a concept album, as it dramatizes a tricky Gods' and Demi-God's story from different points of view, each one acted by a guest vocalist. Nonetheless, I better like to introduce here an instrumental song, a mellow, poetic bridge that I simply love. The way the band creates a sweet but never sweetish world around the listener's head is perfect.

I must admit this cover art isn't the album's best thing. But...

All the instruments come in and add their own recognizable touch, especially the acoustic guitars, drawing their embroideries on a discreet keyboard background. There's a hint of Camel, an echo of King Crimson and a reminiscence of early Genesis, but the track has a strong character of its own. I hope this short sketch will encourage some of you to discover the entire CD and the rest of Holy Lamb's discography. For sure, you won't waste your time...

Sunday 17 April 2016

This Cold Heart of Mine (Wolverine, 2006)

Wolverine represent the melancholy side of prog metal, a rather popular approach in Sweden since the end of the 20th Century. The fusion of distorted guitar riffs, atmospheric interludes and energetic walls of sound is an interesting solution, but, of course, just a few bands know how to create such a daring mix without redundant lines nor useless show offs. That's the case with Wolverine, whose sense of balance is especially strong in this song, "This Cold Heart of Mine", taken from the album "Still".

"Still" was the third studio album by Wolverine.

Well, still is not the right word to describe this track, that's highly dynamic and displays a beautiful series of changes, including metal, darkness, melody and modern prog rock. I'm not into metal, as you may have known reading my posts, but I actually like Wolverine and the other bands trying to play energetic and unpredictable music.

Friday 15 April 2016

L'enfer des poupées (Pageant, 1987)

Pageant are a really original band. Born during the flushing Japanese prog era of the '80s, they set up a mix of prog, electronic pop and symphonic rock that still inspires many musicians in and out the Rising Sun Empire. "L'enfer des poupées" ("Dolls' Hell") opens the "Abysmal Masquerade" album and is a good specimen of Pageant's idea of music: synth-pop flashes, neo-prog riffs, a high-pitched female voice and a lot of irregular rythms.

"Abysmal Masquerade" was the second studio album by Pageant.

The dark side of the track (well, a hell will always be a hell, won't it?) gets along with a lighter, even childish side: nursery songs and a distorted guitars background... wow! Pageant like catchy tunes very much, but they also like unpredictable and abrupt changes, so this is a song you can listen to in both your rocky and mellow states of mind. Weird. Good.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Fanfare for The Broken Hearted (Comedy of Errors, 2013)

There are many neo-prog bands in the UK, as you can imagine, but some of them are so good that I can't stop listening to them. Comedy of Errors have that special lure I like in prog bands and this track, the opener of "Fanfare & Fantasy" album, is a good specimen of their approach. Not only tempo changes, solos and tons of keyboards: these musicians also know the emotional side of music and they never try to show off their skills and electronic devices.

Comedy of Errors are a Glasgow-based band.

In the wake of Marillion, they succeed in matching their music with the lyrics they write and every note is there to communicate. Perhaps this "Fanfare" is not an experimental track, and maybe we have all listened to something like that, but this is just one more reason to be glad when you discover how convincing and passionate this song is all the same. I'll always welcome those playing the music they like. Especially when it happens I also like it.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Völuspá (Tirill, 2013)

Tirill Mohn (or simply Tirill) was part of Norwegian band White Willow, then went solo and recorded some highly evocative albums. This "Völuspá" (the title is the same of an ancient poem from the Poetic Edda) opens the album "Um himinjǫður" and is a sweet, charming trip in a fairy world. The acoustic background, the folk roots, the beautiful double vocals... everything here builds up a moment of musical perfection, a three minutes jewel.

"Um himinjǫður" was Tirill's third solo album.
Songs like this one are completely out of time and when they also have a strong and effective melody, then the listener is in heaven. I also appreciate the way Tirill mixed Norse legends and instruments coming from different Countries and cultures, conjuring up a world of her own and a magic we all need from time to time.

Monday 11 April 2016

Oameni și fapte (Progresiv TM, 1979)

This Romanian band created a highly diversified and fully enjoyable kind of rock that in many ways can be considered as progressive, not only because of the name they chose for themselves. The first interesting features in this opening track of Progresiv TH's second album "Puterea Muzicii" ("The Power of Music" in English) are the ever changing tempo and the pleasant succession of rock, pop and properly prog parts.

This album is rather popular among the '70s record collectors.

The electric guitars do a strong, even heavy work here and there, while the acoustic instruments, the organ and the piano provide a sweeter touch to this 8 minutes song. The native tongue lyrics of "Oameni și fapte" (meaning "People and Facts") are welcome to me, and so are the beautiful sung theme and the guitar / piano interplays. Perhaps the 70s Romania wasn't the easiest place to go prog, but these musicians went their own way and songs like this one didn't loose their naive and delicate charms.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Kalasasaya (Sikus, 2011)

Bolivia has an ancient and well known folk music Heritage and many local musicians try to keep it alive. Just a few of them mix such a beautiful tradition with rock and electric instruments. Sikus are among the latter and they actually created a kind of progressive rock based on Andian atmospheres and modern arrangements. Thistrack, coming from the album "E.C.L.I.P.S.E.", is a good specimen of their experiment: it starts like an ambient Inca-like track, then the rock instruments come in.

"E.C.L.I.P.S.E." was the second studio work by Sikus.

They never cancel nor trivialize the folk roots, they just add their own full-bodied character to them, even they show another face of Bolivian soul. Those musicians know how to play both acoustic and electric instruments and how to put them in a well set up track. Just give them a chance... I did and I never repented!

Saturday 9 April 2016

Can You Understand (Renaissance, 1973)

This 10 minutes opener of "Ashes Are Burning" is a favourite of mine since I first listened to it. Mighty and sensitive, classical and easy flowing, everchanging and colourful, "Can You Understand" perfectly represents the kind of Music Renaissance are famous for. Strong melodic fountations, highly creative arrangements, airy instrumental parts and - last but not least - Annie Haslam's unique voice. 

 A press photo of the band circa 1973. The way they were...

As usual with Renaissance, the piano plays a central role in this song, connecting its different sections and launching Annie's highlights. Another special mention goes here to bassist Jon Camp, whose work is simply superb, while the symmetrical and daring structure of this composition still amazes me. Definitely one of the best epics by Renaissance, an unsurpassed canon.

Friday 8 April 2016

Autobahn (Kraftwerk, 1974)

This long track of more than 22 minutes is no doubt one of the best achievements in Kraftwerk's career. The electronic rythms and many keyboard effects re-create the sounds of a car travelling along a motorway (that's the meaning of the German word "Autobahn") and the monotone vocals add a hypnotic touch to the song. But you can also come across acoustic instruments like flute and guitar, almost indistinct in that electronic hammering, and depicting the loser human side of high tech world.

There are several different cover arts for "Autobahn". I like this one.

This dark, overpowering side of the industrial civilisation is also evident in the compulsive lyrics Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn ("We drive, drive, drive on the motorway"), something like a pointless, foolish worry we all share in modern life. In spite of this rather depressing side, Autobahn charms me each time I listen to it, and I think I'll go on travelling on that musical motorway of theirs the rest of my life.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Lugu (Mess, 1995)

First things first: Mess is just the name Sven Grünberg, a talented Estonian composer and performer, chose to release in 1995 a selection of his old recordings, actually dating fron the late '70s. So, the title of tis post is twice misleading, but I hope you'll forgive me. I love this track, called "Lugu" (that's to say "Story") and almost all the other tracks in the above mentioned compilation album, "Sven Grünberg's Proge Rock Group Mess".

An excellent album and a precious document for prog history.

It's an acid, even sharp instrumental, somewhere between space rock and prog. It takes me away, so far away from the mundane life, in a tridimensional, shining world, both relaxing and exciting. Please don't forget such a track was created in the Soviet Union cold war era, not exactly the most hospitable place and time for experimental rock. Another good reason to listen and appreciate this brilliant piece of music and to discover its author.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

The Sunset Gate (Glass Hammer, 2012)

Glass Hammer are one of the most coherent and enduring bands out there. This song comes from their "Perilous" album, kind of a long suite divided into 13 tracks, each one also can be considered as a stand alone piece. "The Sunset Gate" opens the concept, based on a perilous journey beyond the cemetery gates. It is interesting to say that the song titles, when read in sequence, form a charming poem, complying with metrics and rhyme rules. "The Sunset Gates" is a very good track, featuring a long and atmospheric instrumental intro, starting with an acoustic set, soon improved by the electric instruments.

"Perilous" was the thinteenth studio album by Glass Hammer.

When Jon Davison's vocals come in, the magic is perfect (and after all it isn't so easy to become a member of Yes, is it?) and the melodies are so well found and performed that I completely forget the slight lack of originality many listeners impute to Glass Hammer. Dark and charming, this track lines up majestic moments and confidential passages with the right amount of good taste such a deed involves.

Monday 4 April 2016

3 Years Older (Steven Wilson, 2015)

"Hand. Cannot. Erase" by Steven Wilson was a great sensation in 2015, maybe the greatest one in recent years when it comes to progressive rock releases. And this album actually is a masterpiece and IMHO it will become a classic. "3 Years Older" is a diversified and open minded composition, including many traditional prog elements like tempo changes, sweet melodies, a Mellotron and even a Hammond. But there is a new approach to our favourite genre that we could call the Wilson way: sad vocals, piano touches, acoustic instruments along with cold distorted guitars and, of course, an up-to-date sound.

"Hand. Cannot. Erase" was Steven Wilson's fourth studio work.

This song develops the central part of the album concept, based on a real life story about a young woman dead in her bed and only found three years later. Some lines are simply moving:

You make a list of all your big regrets
And share with people that you've never met
You slowly move towards the medicine chest
You're 3 years older and you'll always be now.
Useless to say, the words and the music perfectly match and set up a sharp and poetic piece of music, another pearl in Wilson's musical treasure.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Aeroplane (Pancake, 1975)

Charming, that's the word. Pancake were a German band based on two guitars, two bass guitars and no keyboards at all. Nonetheless, their sound is a well recognizable '70s prog rock, with slight folk (or even country) roots and a tasty acid smell. This "Aeroplane" comes from the band's debut album "Roxy Elephant", most likely their best work. It's so pleasant a track that I was surprised, after listening to it for the first time, to discover that it was more than 13 minutes long!

After this debut LP, Pancake released two more albums.

The matter is that it flows away so naturally, displaying its rythmic changes, vocal harmonies, psychedelic effects and sweet guitars, that I bet you'll like it the way I did and do. I still haven't decided if I better like the electric solos or the acoustic moods, the Gilmour-esque side or the Phillips-ian one of this track. Does it really matter?

Friday 1 April 2016

Tsuki-otoko To Stick (Black Page, 1986)

Even if this Japanese band took their name by a Frank Zappa's song, they actually played a traditional progressive rock. But as you may  remember, that song by Zappa was a particularly tricky and difficult one, so that the intricate and virtuosic style of these musicians is somehow related to their name. "Tsuki-otoko To Stick" ("The Stick And The Moon Man") is a highly dynamic instrumental, kind of an explosive display of technical skills and elaborate composition.

Oneof the most elegant cover arts I can imagine for a prog album.

That said, this track is no way cold or affected: it has a good deal of passion inside, and a muscular, rocky side, especially thanks to the rythm section. Bunmei Ogawa is a Wakeman-inspired keyboardist, but his bombastic style is perfectly supported and empowered by the rest of the band, so that the final effect isn't that of a solo project: there's a real, effective interaction between all the instruments. Another good reason to regret the very short life of Black Page.