Thursday 30 June 2016

One Wish (Circuline, 2015)

Recently, I read a lot of reviews about this American band and especially about a bunch of songs  taken from their album "Return". Some said they're great, some said they're just trash. Better go and listen. I did so and I found out a very original, deplacing mix: dissonant chords, easy melodies, vintage arrangements and strong contrasts. Take this "One Wish", likely my favourite one. The double singer idea is brilliant, IMHO, adding a plus to the band, especially on stage.

"Return" was the debut album by Circuline.

You surely need some time to set up your mind , as it features so many different elements, ranging from melodic themes to distorted guitar riffs. The fact is you love or hate Circuline: you can find them excessive or pompous, but you can't deny they know how to organize an impressive series of ideas and conjure up a lushing, still coherent song. Open minded, I daresay.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

The Sorceror (Cyan, 1993)

Derivative music can be an exquisite kind of art if those inspiring themselves never forget to add their own touch to the songs they're composing and playing. Robert Reed actually is a master in this peculiar field. All his projects are linked to the glorious past of prog, but if you listen to them with care you'll recognize the author's own personality. This track opens the album "For King And Country"" and was credited to Cyan, one of the earliest brainchilden of Reed. Its main source of inspiration is Genesis, but you'll also find other references.

"For King And Country" was the debut album by Cyan.

This is exactly what makes Robert Reed a good composer: he never tries to imitate a single track or a single band: he loves the Seventies and he works hard to redo the magic sounds and the mood of the Golden decade of prog. He's a symphonic prog addicted (is he the only one?) and his passionate journey into the world of the old Masters is as lively and moving as rock can be. "The Sorceror" is a pulsing gateway into this colourful time machine.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Mon axiome bleu indigo (Gens de la lune, 2014)

Francis Décamps of Ange fame founded his new band Gens de la lune in order to follow his prog-folk path adding some new elements to the old and beloved musical recipe. As this song will easily prove, a more commercial side of Ange world is possible and it can go on very well with symphonic rock passages and flashes from the Seventies. The first part of "Mon axiome bleu indigo" sounds like a neo-prog song (Marillion, or maybe Gazpacho could do), then goes through major changes and offers a theatrical spoken bridge and a true, majestic symphonic finale.

"Epitaphe" is a real rock opera and feature a lavish illustrated booklet.

Creativity still is the guiding light of Francis Décamps, and if he let some modern arrangements come into his composition, he also keeps in touch with his past glory. And after all, this track closes the manifold concept album called "Epitaphe", following the habits of the Golden Era. The magic atmosphere of old lingers on and the entire band plays with strength and passion. They definitely prog on.

Saturday 25 June 2016

Linden (Ünder Linden, 2007)

Ünder Linden, despite their Berlin-retated name, are an Argentinian band playing a dreamy kind of prog with a very beautiful violin too. This track, coming from Ünder Linden's self titled album, is one of their best achievements, IMHO, including an arcane intro, some beautiful keyboard effects and, of course, the band trademarks: Roberto Medina's violin and Ignacio Scarsella's electric guitar.

"Ünder Linden" was the debut album of this Argentinian band.

Even if the up tempo section of the track has some pop-rock flavours, it combines the two main instruments in a very original way, so that the listener is pleasantly surprised and willingly follows the joyous and enthralling interplays. The guitar and violin solos are supported by a lively rythm section and a discreet and effective keyboards background. No doubt: this is the perfect piece of music for a dull day!

Friday 24 June 2016

Höstbris (Autumn Breeze, 1979)

Even if this Swedish band's sound got more elaborated and intriguing after their 21st Century comeback, I still love the pastoral and plain songs from their debut album "Höstbris". The right word for it (and especially for its opening title-track) is "pleasant". The music seems to come out of a fairy tale, still it never goes sweetish or childish. Mellotron waves gently rise and fall, guitar riffs and drum cavalcades liven up the tempo, and finally a liquid guitar finishes up the musical trip.

This gently sketched cover matches with the music inside.

If several keyboard effects sound dated or derivative to the modern listener, the final effect is charming in its own way. Autumn Breeze didn't like spectacular walls of sound, nor devilish gigas, but their approach to prog, quiet and delicate, conjures up a sweet, caressing wind as light as a smile.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Ocean Cloud (Marillion, 2004)

One of the most moving Marillion songs ever, this long epic comes from the album "Marbles" and deals with the personality of Don Allum, the first man to row the Atlantic in both directions. Including dreamy and rarefied instrumental sections, this track also features hearty vocals by Steve Hogarth and a manifold collection of keyboard effects. Of course, Steve Rothery's solos are among the highlights of "Ocean Cloud" and I won't forget to mention here some beautiful tempo changes and, last but not least, the heartbreaking lyrics, where Don Allum's sensations seem to be directly taken from his heart.

Strangely enough, Don Allum never was worthily recognised
for his double achievement. Jist this plaque and a song...

Even if this man payed his stunning achievent with his own life (he died from a stroke following the deprivations he suffered during his rows) the track is never pathetic and depicts the close relationship this man created with the sea and the natural elements. That's why the music constantly changes: it follows the everchanging and unpredictable sea...

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Moving Universe (Cast, 1999)

No doubt Cast are one of the best progressive rock acts from outside Europe (and even more than this). This song comes from the album "Imaginary Window" and begins with a gentle still lively intro, soon evolving into a Jethro Tull-like giga. The flute plays a central role in this song, even if, as usual with the band, all the instruments play as one and build up a full-bodied kind of sound.

"Imaginary Window" is  another pearl from the huge discography of Cast.
In fact, the rythm, the tempo and the leading instrument of "Moving Universe" constantly change, perfectly matching with the title. Francisco Hernandez and his electric guitar are brilliant, and so is the rythm section. The keyboards and flute interplays are among the highlights of this instrumental, so that I actually couldn't find a weak moment all along the song. This is prog rock at its best, a symphonic vertigo I recommend to you all.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Angel's Hidden Plan (Moonrise, 2009)

When it comes to atmospheric and keyboard-driven neo-prog, Polish bands are second to no one. Moonrise is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Kamil Konieczniak, who gathers a different crew for each album of his project. This track comes from the album "Soul's Inner Pendulum", released in 2009 and is a very good example of Moonrise's melodic and dreamy music. The sung theme "Angel's Hidden Plan" is excellent and sung by Łukasz Gall in a very light and serene tone.

"Soul's Inner Pendulum" was the second album by Moonrise.

Keyboards provide the background mood, but other instruments get the foreground, including Darek Rybka's sax and, most of all, Marcin Kruczek's guitar. The dreamy solos remind me of Steve Rothery's touch, and after all the entire song has a Marillion-like atmosphere and also some Pendragon inspiration. Derivative elements don't worry me if there are a solid composition and a coherent architecture. I do think this is the case with Moonrise and especially with "Angel's Hidden Plan".

Sunday 19 June 2016

Okusosola Mukuleke (Birigwa, 1972)

African prog rock albums (and musicians) aren't common at all, unfortunately, but here you are one of those rare pearls. "Okusosola Mukuleke" is a song by Ugandan artist Birigwa, released during his stay in USA, where he attended the New England Conservatory lessons. It is frankly impossible to enumerate all the different genres that Birigwa combined in his record and especially in this ballad: jazz, rock, ethno, and, of course, a pastoral kind of prog you wouldn't imagine from an African artist.

An essential and beautiful cover art, IMHO.

Actually, the sweet and spicy atmosphere of "Okusosola Mukuleke" perfectly describes the wide savannas and the flute - not so different from Italian prog standards - combined with the ethnic percussions draws an idyllic sketch reminding me a sub-saharian sunset (well, at least the idea I have of it). I also like Birigwa's voice, moving from melody to jazzy variations... in short, I recommend this song to all my prog friends out there!

Friday 17 June 2016

Paintbox (Pendragon, 1996)

Another fairy song, one of those floating clouds that made Pendragon what they are, that's to say one of the most popular prog bands of the neo-prog era. "Paintbox" comes from the album "The Masquerade Overture" and is kind of a manifesto of Nick Barrett's guitar. Dreamy and liquid, this instrument is perfectly enhanced by all the other musicians and especially by Clive Nolan, displaying magical keyboards everywhere, and Peter Gee, whose bass guitar flows like a mountain stream through the Enchanted Forest.

Thank you, Mr. Barrett and... go on proggin'!
The sung theme is simply perfect, catchy but never trivial, and the instrumental sections are sweet and a hundred feet above the ground. I know that some of the most sophisticated proggers out there will consider this song too commercial and mellow for their tastes, but I'm a simple man and "Paintbox" makes me dream and makes me shiver so deep inside my soul. Will you forgive me?

Thursday 16 June 2016

The Darkest Hour (Crystal Palace, 2010)

Crystal Palace are a German band ranging between electronic prog and neo-progressive rock, specialised in arcane moods, guitar riffs and very good melodies. "The Darkest Hour" (not to be confused with the IQ's song bearing the same title, also featured in this blog) is one of the best ways into this group's sound. The electronic intro is followed by a well found sung theme, enriched by mysterious keyboards and strong guitars. The subsequent instrumental bridge is based on distorted guitars, then a wide open chorus shows how good Crystal Palace are when it comes to mix melodies with heavy rock.

"Reset" was the fifth studio album by Crystal Palace.

This energetic and diversified track also includes a spacey interlude, introducing an acoustic guitar-driven ballad, that sounds even more beautiful there, and is followed by an excellent final section, displaying a dreaming guitar (getting more and more Gilmour-esque), a relaxing set of keyboard chords and very good vocals. Crystal Palace may not be the most original act out there, but they forged out their own approach to prog.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Promesas (Módulos, 1972)

One of the earliest prog bands in Spain, Módulos knew how to mix their fresh and catchy Sixties style with more complex solutions coming from the British prog rock masters. This track comes from the album "Plenitud" and is a rather long song, including an instrumental first half,  where different moments build up a lively and melodic piece of music, dreamy and colourful like a pop song, but also everchanging and unpredictable like a progressive track.

"Plenitud" was the third studio album by Módulos.

The final "Beatles-like" section, for example, comes in unexpectedly and acts like a cameo into such a diversified plot. But likely the main feature of "Promesas" is IMHO the sense of joy it conveys: the musicians actually enjoy their music and seem to celebrate their fully progressive search for a different horizon. Naive or not, this song is still fizzy and unaffected today as it was in 1972.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Chapter II: Crowd on Sale (Ken's Novel, 2004)

This is a highly dynamic track by Belgian band Ken's Novel, taken from the album "Domain of Oblivion". Full of solos, devilish interplays, energetic guitars, dreamy interludes and earthy vocals, this track can be considered as a modern approach to progressive rock, both up tempo and melodic, not so far from the rockiest side of neo-prog. I also see a crossover and electronic sound in this track, based on irregular rythms and passionate themes, so that this is the less boring track I can imagine. 

"Domain of Oblivion" is the third album by Ken's Novel.

"Crowd on Sale" has an enthralling allure and such a beautiful, a manifold texture, a bright mood and a polite orchestration, along with a skillful performance by the entire band. If you like progressive rock the way it chould be, this song is for you.

Saturday 11 June 2016

Beware The Ides of March (Colosseum, 1969)

Johann Sebastian Bach is rightly considered as the proggest classical composer by far. In particular, his "Toccata And Fugue in D minor" inspired not only Procol Harum's outstanding debut single, but also this beautiful track taken from the first album by Colosseum, "Those Who Are about to Die Salute You - Morituri Te Salutant". Dave Greensdale & friends started their instrumental with a soft and bluesy version of Bach's standard, which title refers to the album concept: the Latin statement (and, of course, its English translation) is supposedly the hail that Roman soldiers addressed to Caesar before the battle.

This is how Colosseum's career began...

The central section of the Toccata also displays James Litherman's electric guitar, soon involved in a devilish jazzy interplay with Dick Heckstall Smith's sax. Such a musical contamination may seem usual to the modern listener, but proved surprising and inspiring in 1969. For sure, "Beware The Ides of March" still is fresh and enthralling today.

Friday 10 June 2016

L'Araignée-mal (Atoll, 1975)

One of the most surprising, unpredictable fruits of the lushing French Prog garden from the Seventies, this song is the title-track of the sophomore work by Atoll, the well known Metz-based crossover band. The gloomy and obsessive bass line of this song, along with the dramatic and theatrical vocals, create an original mood, mid-way between Ange and Magma, or between symphonic rock and RIO.

Atoll's line-up as seen on "L'Araignée-mal" back cover.

The lyrics and the music deal with madness and seclusion, but also with a distant, persistent hope, underlined by a dreaming guitar solo and some Mellotron chords in the final section of the track. The inner anguish and the struggle for a brighter perspective turn music into emotion and sounds into a lifelike experience. That's why, even if Atoll wrote more effective and more pleasant melodies during their career, I couldn't leave "L'araigné-mal" out of this humble blog.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Dancer (Rainbow Theatre, 1976)

Here you are an Australian band from the '70s packed with 14 musicians, including rock and classical instruments and playing an amazing mix of melody, jazz, musical and prog rock à la King Crimson. This is one of the two suites included in their second album, titled "Fantasy of Horses". It's somehow puzzling and also funny how Rainbow Theatre swing from opera to pop rock and from fusion to prog. 

A weird and enjoyable melting pot... that's Rainbow Theatre!

This epic is divided into five parts, each one adding its own distinctive touch to the big picture, until the last one bring us all back to the Court of the Crimson King. Keith Hoban's tenor voice is a strong point here, with a lushing orchestration and a dramatic mood, even if the concision of each movement give a lighter and lively plot to the entire song. Such a pity this band is virtually unknown outside Australia.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

L'extrême (Éternité, 1977)

Back to Québec, here you are an interesting track from the album "Les chants de l'éternité" ("Eternity Chants"), released by Éternité, basically a twosome formed by Claude Péloquin and Michel LeFrançois, two eclectic exponents of French Canadian prog scene all along the Seventies. This is a diverse and surprising song, also featuring a couple of beautiful female voices and drummer Gilles Schetagne of Maneige fame. Both acid and symphonic, "L'extrême" offers a charming musical rendition of Péloquin's mystical lyrics, fluctuating between folk elements and jazzy passages, Crimsonian guitars and Woodstock temptations.

The only album by Éternité should be discovered by prog fans.
The way the band revives proto-prog moods and hippy colours in the declining progressive era is sweet and even moving, an audio postcard from the past I simply cherish. Rock will soon leave the ethereal spheres and the existential themes, but these musicians prolonged the dream a little further. I'm so grateful to them...

Sunday 5 June 2016

Cross-Eyed Mary (JethroTull, 1971)

One of the most iconic prog songs ever, "Cross-Eyed Mary", stands as a big favourite of all Jethro Tull fans. From the misty intro, down through the rocky main theme, the electric guitar solo and until the theatrical finale, this is quintessential Jethro sound. Energetic and diversified in both rythm and tempo, this is a perfect example of lively, enthralling and earthy progressive rock, the way Ian Anderson & friends know too well. The syncopated bridge between the intro and the first verse is simply perfect, ans so is the short and effective double solo (flute, then guitar).

Ian, Aqualung and Mary. Three of a perfect pair....

I won't forget the piano touches here and there, sharp and precise. Just a couple of words about the lyrics, describing a young and somehow liberal London prostitute granting her graces to beggars and poor men, including our old friend Aqualung. This Robin Hood of Highgate is another amazing character from Ian Anderson's manifold sketchbook.

Friday 3 June 2016

Shooting Star (Anekdoten, 2015)

Here you are an excellent example of modern heavy prog rock. Powerful and dynamic, but never too hard, this song opens the album "Until All The Ghosts Are Gone" and adds another pearl to this Swedish band's treasure. Anekdoten never try to mix metal and prog, as they perfectly know how strong and overwhelming prog can be, even without tons of distorted guitars. King Crimson surely are an important source of inspiration for those musicians, but their sound adds the flavour and the twist of our era to the classic sounds of the Seventies.

How I'd like to explore a mansion like this one!
Well, probably that's exactly what I do when listening to this CD.

The electric guitar solo of "Shhoting Star" or its old-fashioned organ could belong to an oldie (and goldie) LP from our youth, but the fast rythm and the sung sections are strictly linked to the most recent developments of progressive and mainstream rock music. Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson side by side, a bit of Floyd and a bit of Radiohead... in short, pure Anekdoten sound!

Thursday 2 June 2016

Beyond The Ridge of Time - The Suite (Moma, 2016)

I wonder how many proggers live in Sweden... apparemtly there are more prog rock musicians than inhabitants in that lucky Country.  Please add to their growing list Moma (or Music Of Modern Artists), an original mix of classic influences and modern temptations. This track - the longest one in their Soundcloud selection - seems to me the best gate into such a diversified world. The suite is divided into five sections spanning over some 16 minutes of duration. Beginning with a melodic, almost neo-prog atmosphere, "Beyond The Ridge of Time" goes through many major changes, including electro-pop, experimental post-rock, spacey Floyd and so on.

Moma's melodies are always well found, also in shorter tracks.

Too many disparate things, maybe? Not at all: Moma manage to keep a strong control on their materials and the architecture of the suite has a pleasant, recurring and well balanced pattern. Those guys would please Pendragon and Procupine Tree fans in a row... a stunning achievement, if you please! The warm vocals also provide a guiding light during a musical journey I appreciated very much and I recommend to all my progressive friends. I bet we'll hear more of Moma.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Lying Here (New Trolls, 1972)

In 1972, New Trolls released  a double album - the first Italian rock double LP - featuring this suite on the last side. It's a brave, uncompromising and moving piece of prog, still standing as one of the band's best works. The choral intro, the flute passages, the Church organ chords, the heavy rock riffs, the jazzy variations, the psych hallucinations... everything you'll listen here will add a further touch to this rich and unpredictable track. All the main inspiration sources that make up a progressive sound are in "Lying Here" and no one seems to rule the game.

No doubt, one of the best Italian prog rock albums ever.

On the contrary, each mood, each genre, each note opens a different  window on the same, beautiful and wild garden. I really can't single out my favourite sections, as this song has the force and the unity of water and can be a gentle stream or a power waterfall exploiting the same element. Even the fake audience effects play their own role in such a nanifold scheme, so... enjoy!