Saturday 19 November 2016

Swan Song (Rebekka, 1982)

Most of the progfans having listened to "Phoenix", Rebekka's first and best album, compare this band to Renaissance, especially because of their melodic taste and Marion Weldert's voice, not too different from Annie Haslam's. Bute there is an original touch in Rebekka we shouldn't underrate: they mixed soft atmospheres with European folk themes, acid touches and electronic devices.

After this one, the band released a second studio work in 1984.

As this opening song will prove, Rebekka's sound appeal is founded on this clever and pleasant blend of flavours, all well arranged in their symphonic frame. Useless to say, the elegant piano played by Peter Laubmeier provides a classical mood to "Swan Song" as its title requires, after all. Just another hidden pearl in the inexhaustible treasury of prog.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Aloft (Van Der Graaf Generator, 2016)

When listening to old progressive heroes in their most recent incarnations we often tend to underestimate their newest songs, comparing them to their classic records (and - alas! - to our memories of youth). That would be unfair with this song, the opening track of "Do Not Disturb" album, released by VDGG in 2016. Not only the melodies are beautiful, but they're cleverly arranged and (useless to say) sung with all Peter Hammill's sensibility and deepness. 

"Do Not Disturb" is the thirteenth studio album by VDGG.

The instrumental parts are interestingly diversified, exploiting a good deal of sound effects and passing through many tempo changes. As usual with this band, there are no ornamental passages and all is strictly functional to another inner, emotional journey by this stunning trio. And if it sounds like the Seventies are back... well, that's even better!

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Siberia of Snow (Cinderella Search, 1993)

There's a melancholic and foggy vein streaming through Japanese prog since the late Seventies and still active today. Cinderella Search are among the most interesting examples of this mood. Their name - a reference to a Fish-era Marillion song - doesn't mean these musicians are a musical clone, as their music is definitely original, even if there is a general neo-prog and Scandinavian Progg atmosphere in it.

 Cinderella Search love Northern and misty moods...

This is the opening track of their debut self-named album, released in 1993 and perfectly illustrates the band's essential features: post-rock moods mixed with neo-prog arrangements, a beautiful violin (by Junko Minobe), a good deal of acoustic guitars backed with electric instruments and - last but not least - a taste for good melodies. I surely appreciate Cinderella Search for their open minded attitude, their delicate and never sweetish touch and their deep respect for the great history of prog rock.

Sunday 13 November 2016

La Messe en Ré (Wapassou, 1976)

Originally split on the two sides of the LP "Messe en ré mineur", this Mass in Dm is a real treat for any prog fan. First of all, this French band (from Strasbourg, I think) featured a highly creative keyboardist, Freddy Brua, one of the best forerunners of electronic progressive music, then Jacques Lichti's folkish violin adds a very special touch to the spacey background provided by Brua. I won't forget the rest of the band, of course, especially the acoustic guitar touches by Karin Nickerl and the surprisingly effective voice of Eurydice.

...And if you think this music's tricky, what about its cover art?

Eastern suggestions, krautrock beats, liturgical organs, dissonant chords, fully prog interplays, well it's not easy at all to put a label on such a magmatic music! For sure, its hypnotic flow take me far away from the daily life around me and creates colourful waves in my mind,opening windows on a bunch of parallel worlds. That's exactly what a prog composition should do, IMHO.

Friday 11 November 2016

L'evoluzione (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1972)

This is no doubt one of the most important tracks from the Italian prog Golden Era and opens the second Banco's album, a concept based on Darwin's theories. As the title says it, this long song is about Evolution and it actually evolves from a dense and liquid intro to a bombastic, almost explosive central part introducing a melodic, highly structurate finale. Its 14 minutes or so of duration are full of warm touches, clever interplays, accelerations, slowdowns and assorted surprises.

"Darwin!" in a recent deluxe re-mastered edition.

The concept recurs in the lyrics spanning over the long pre-human era (thank you Mr. Di Giacomo!) and also in in the music, coming in a somewhat archaic flavour, based on the bass guitar irregular beat and on well found keyboard effects. Las but not least, this is one of those rare songs successfully combining instrumental skills and emotional power.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Catherine of Aragon (Rick Wakeman, 1973)

This is the opening track of "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" and one of the musical pillars of Wakeman's solo career. The resolute intro, the elaborated scales and the surprising melodic parts are some of the highlights of this instrumental, and not the only ones. The artistic depiction of Catherine's joyous and also spiritual temper is perfect: a living portrait come out from each note and each tempo change.

Catherine of Aragon was Henry's firts wife.

The impressive amount of keyboards employed by Rick is never too pompous and the other instruments (guitar, drums and a beautiful choir) add a slight and welcome "band-like" flavour. Lively and everchanging, "Catherine of Aragon" is one of the most beautiful keyboard-driven tracks ever (IMHO, of course) and rightly appears on most of Wakeman's live tracklists. Luckily.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Garden of Frenzied Cortinas (Ariel, 1973)

Ariel were active between 1973 and 1977 and icluded Mike Rudd and Bill Putt, both of Spectrum fame (please read somehting about them elsewhere in this blog), and two of the best known musicians of the Australian scene, even if Rudd was actually born in New Zealand.  Among this track's best features you'll find an excellent bass line by Putt, two beautiful guitar solos by Tim Gaze - former a member of Tamam Shud - and a stunning vocal performance by Rudd.

"A Strange Fantastic Dream" was Ariel's debut album.

The track also includes a well found main theme and a series of tempo changes I appreciate very much, along with that peculiar mix of traditional melody and rock arrangements marking the entire Australian prog during the Seventies. "Garden of Frenzied Cortinas" is the longest track from the album "A Strange Fantastic Dream" and also the best one, IMHO, showing the great potential of Ariel, a potential barely exploited during their career.