Saturday 29 October 2016

Abstract Malady (Ajalon, 2009)

Ajalon are a very good American trio, playing glorious powerful prog with Christian lyrics and a Seventies mood. Listening to this "Abstract Malady", taken from the album "This Good Place", you'll be no surprised to know that Ajalon started their career signing with Rick Wakeman's label and set up collaborations with Neal Morse. Their flushing kind of music, full of changes and colourful interplays reminds me of Rick's and Neal's passionate compositions and surely include all the main features of the old good progmasters.

"The Good Place" was the third studio album by Ajalon.

A special mention goes to keyboardist and guitarist Randy George, equally at his ease when it comes to devilish solos or to relaxed, dreamy parts. This instrumental should describe  an inner malaise, a spiritual mal de vivre and I think it actually does so, lining up harsh and melancholic sections in a well built pattern. A beautiful specimen of prog, IMHO.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

1000... and more.

Yes, yesterday I posted the 1000th song on this little blog! I wanted to stop here, and after all 1000 is the perfect number to take a good rest. But there's too much prog out there and too much good songs are worth a presentation in my humble place. So I decided to go on and I hope you'll excuse my stubbornness. Of course, I'll slow down a little and I'll post on a less regular basis. You see, I'm old now, and I need some ease. All in all, thank you so much for being there, for listening to good ol' prog and for visiting this little place from time to time!

Monday 24 October 2016

Indonesia (Abbhama, 1978)

As this track clearly states, Abbhama come from Indonesia, and they were active during the late Seventies. They released just one album (originally on cassette format) called "Alam Raya" (meaning "The Universe"), then split up. Unfortunately, I daresay, because their sole work is one of the best Asian symphonic rock album, IMHO, with a slight folk taste and an excellent piano classically played by the band's leader and composer Iwan Madjid.

The CD release kept the original cassette artwork. Good idea.

This atmospheric song was conceived as an ode to the band's homeland, but it's no way popmpous, as it flows slowly on a dreamy and nostalgic tone. The winds (flute and oboe) and the native tongue lyrics add a recognizable and sweet accent to "Indonesia", while the background arrangements could be campared to Camel. A beautiful song from a well balanced album, finally released on CD in 2014 (better late than never!).

Saturday 22 October 2016

Pigs [Three Different Ones] (Pink Floyd, 1977)

"Pigs" still is a great favourite of Pink Floyd's fans all over the world. And I reckon they're right: not only this song has a special and immediately recognizable rythm, but the lyrics are among the most interesting ones by Roger Waters. As the sub-title says, the three stanzas of Pigs present three different powerful individuals, whose identities remain a matter of speculation, even if the third one is clearly identified as the English hyper-conservative  activist Mary Whitehouse.

The pig flying over Battersea power station...

Back to the  musical side, the main theme is catchty and well found, while the beautiful arrangements exploit some less usual devices in PF's typical instrumentation, such as a fretless bass guitar and a talk box. Two bass solos and a guitar solo also grace this track, and it's worth nothing that its live performances were usually longer than the album version, reaching some 18-20 minutes of duration. A true classic, always welcome in my playlist.

Sunday 16 October 2016

The Moon Hangs High / 月梦 (Tang Dynasty / 唐朝, 1992)

Tang Dynasty are rather on the metal side of Chinese rock, but they surely were influenced by progressive rock and never forget how melody and atmosphere are important when it comes to writing good songs. This one, for example, comes from the album "A Dream Return to Tang Dynasty" (well, the title itself seems interesting to me...) and belongs to their softer side. I like the way they take advantage of the classic song formula enriching it with instrumental bridges and a vocal emotional crescendo.

"A Dream Return..." was the debut album by Tang Dynasty.

Most of all, the themes are very well found and the Chinese lyrics add a special, unusual (for us) sound to the big picture. Kaiser Kuo's guitars and Ding Wu's vocals are the first contributions the listener appreciates in this track, but the entire band knows how to play without uselessly showing off their skills. After all, a beautiful song doesn't need too much tinsels...

Saturday 15 October 2016

Baghdad I, II & III (Ilvcia, 2013)

Spanish folk, oriental mood and symphonic patterns... can you imagine such a mix? Well, it actually exists and you'll listen to it on the album "In The Nature of Reason", released by Spanish band Ilvcia. "Baghdad", in particular, is a suite of three tracks spanning over some 18 minutes and lining up a first acoustic part called The Gates, a more progressive and lively central section titled The Market and a liquid, pulsing finale (The Suburbs).

"In The Nature of Reason" was the first album by Ilvcia.

This three part piece of music is difficult to label, but this is exactly what I expect in a progressive song. Sure, you'll recognize here many traditional prog elements, namely the guitar / keyboard interplays and the atmospheric passages, but there are also so many folk, pop, space rock and even psych ingredients in this spiced kind of music that make me feel strangely happy when I listen to it. A good omen, no doubt.

Friday 14 October 2016

Génesis (Vox Dei, 1971)

"Génesis" is the opening track of Vox Dei's first and likely best known album, titled "La Biblia" ("The Bible"), considered as the first Argentinian concept album ever. This band was founded in 1967 and started its discography in 1970, showing an eclectic approach to rock, a very prog attitude, I daresay. Multi-instrumentalist Ricardo Soulé is responsible for the lyrics and he was able to abridge the main books of the Bible into brief and effective stanzas, while the music - composed by the entire band - has a warm and melodic taste with some rocky moments.

"La Biblia" was the second studio album by Vox Dei.

"Génesis", in particular, features a beautiful bass guitar work and provides a soft and dense intro to the concept. Useless to say, the whole album deserves the progfans' attention, but "Génesis" is a very good way to get into Vox Dei's colourful and unpredictable world.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Four Horsemen (Aphrodite's Child, 1972)

A stunning track, this one is! It is taken from the album "666", a concept about the Book of Revelation released in 1972, when the band had actually already disbanded. Its structure is based on the strong contrast between quiet and loud passages and culminates with the final guitar solo (a very good one, IMHO), backed with Demis Roussos's fa-fa-fa vocal harmonies. As usual with this band, the song includes many diffferent - and even disparate - musical elements, but they all fit very well into a clever pattern.

The Four Horsemen as depicted by Viktor Vasnetsov in 1887.

This mix-matching skills probably are the best reason why Aphrodite's Child are so dear to the progfans worldwide. In addition to this, "Four Horsemen" displays a well found melody and a smart although close lyrical adaptation of the sixth chapter of its Biblical reference book. Useless to say, the Revelation will inspire other prog musicians, but this song and this album have a genuine flavour I still like.

Friday 7 October 2016

The Count of Tuscany (Dream Theater, 2009)

This is a magnificent example of Dream Theater's fully progressive songs and comes from the album "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". True, some distorted guitars and high volume passages are there, but never too intrusive and perfectly mixed with the underlying melodic lines. How beautiful this long track is! The vocal harmonies, the guitars, the unpredictable changes... everything is perfect!

"Black Clouds & Silver Linings" was DT's tenth studio work.

Most of all, this is the brainchild of a well organized band, where each member has its own place and no one uselessly shows off his skills. I like the devilish interplays, the heartbreaking openings on wider horizons and, of course, the atmospheric passages. In short, this is prog rock at its best and even the eccentric lyrics about the Count and his brother are fit into the big picture. Enjoy.

Thursday 6 October 2016

Metamorfosi (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1972)

One of the most intricated songs from the Golden Era of Italian prog, a true classic. This track comes from Banco del Mutuo Soccorso's debut album and spans over ten minutes of classical, jazz and rock variations, including melodic passsages and experimental ones.

Original artwork, remix artwork and an early '70s BMS's line-up.

The magic fusion of catchy pastoral tunes, devilish improvisation-like passages, symphonic interludes and abrupt changes makes of "Metamorfosi" one of the proggest tracks ever. The title says it all: this song is a long and enchanting musical metamorphosis, where the main theme goes through a series of reincarnations, culminating with the sung section and the bombastic finale. What else could a poor progfan looking for?

Tuesday 4 October 2016

You (Tony Banks, 1979)

Tony Banks's solo career somehow disappointed the musician himself, who surely deserved more. That said, Banks released some great songs as a solo artist and this "You", taken from his debut album "A Curious Feeling", is one of his best compositions ever, IMHO. The melody is simply beautiful, so sweet and sad, and the arrangement - liquid and suspended between pop tempations and prog roots - magnifies it.

"A Curious Feeling" was remixed and re-released in 2008.

The keyboard solo is obviously a highlight of "You" (and there's a 7/8 passage too!), but the entire track has a magic and impalpable mood I admire each time I listen to it. Another strong point here is the voice of the late Kim Beacon of String Driven Thing fame, so  warm and with the right folkish mood in it. This song is just another good reason to rediscover and rightly value a musician to which we owe so much.