Friday 30 December 2016

Mad Man's Worries (Mother's Love, 1967)

Lost somewhere in the dark land between proto-prog, blues, beat and psychedelic rock, Mother's Love were a challenging Dutch band whose music had acid edges and sweet acoustic parts. This track comes from their only album "Take One" and shows how eclectic their inspiration could be. The flute meets a liquid bass line and good vocal harmonies, while the song pattern includes some changes and an unusually shuffling sung theme.

How many musical treasures are the Sixties still hiding?

Floris Kolvenbach's vocals are among the highlights of "Mad Man's Worries", full of passionate and crazy-like passages and finally merging into the chaotic finale. One again, this is not exactly what we call prog rock, but it includes all that open minded approach that subsequently would provide the perfect culture medium for the new genre.

Thursday 29 December 2016

Starless (King Crimson, 1974)

Heartbreaking and double-faced. These are the only adjectives I can suggest right now to describe this song. Robert Fripp's guitar pierces the listener's heart with its bittersweet intro, soon reinforced by John Wetton's neat and warm vocals and, of course, by Mel Collins's guest sax. The beautiful melody flows like a majestic river, an emotional landslide.
...and if you badly like "Red", there is this 24-disc box set called
"The Road to Red" that could ineterest you (guitar not included).
Then the song changes and goes through an underground instrumental second part, dark and haunting, a challenging crescendo graced by Carl Palmer's creative percussions. A lancinating guitar and a jazzy section finish this long section and bring back the main theme twice: first in an acid (even pre-punk) version, then in fully symphonic garments. A feast to the ears and to the hearts, "Starless" is an outstanding way to close "Red", one of my favourite KC's albums ever and still stands up like a milestone in prog history.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Travelling Man (M-Opus, 2015)

If Yes were born in Ireland and in the 2010s, they'd be called M-Opus. "Travelling Man" opens the long and diversified album "1975 Triptych", released in 2015 by this Dublin-based prog duo. The highly dynamic impact of this song, both in speed and incessant changes, is the first feature that litterally runs over the listener. The Yes inspiration is also patent, but not always and not too much: the vocal harmonies surely come from their famous model and so are the keyboard - bass guitar interplays, but there are more original solutions too, especially when it comes to electronic devices and rythm guitar riffs.

M-Opus are Jonathan Casey and Colin Sullivan.

This rather rough side of prog is perfectly mixed with more traditional progressions and the final result is that of a surprisingly new idea of classic prog, where the respect for the masters and the search for contemporary sounds get along very well. Just a final note: the 1975 in the album title means this CD music is inspired by that year's progressive releases. Mmm... I'm sure you'll be tempted to listen the whole album. Just do it, you won't be disappointed...

Tuesday 27 December 2016

The Silence of Our Wake (Barock Project, 2015)

This Italian band constantly improved since their first album in 2007 and I think their 2015 album, called "Skyline", actually represents a modern masterpiece on the jaunty side of prog. Take this "The Silence of Our Wake", for example, and see how they variate and mix all the traditional prog features into something captivating and new. Their love for classical measures remembers me of ELO, Superttramp and even Sebastian Hardie, but then you'll also find the band's rock side, the jazzy variations and - why not? - the pop temptations.

To top the cake, Paul Whitehead signed this inviting cover!

Sliding down a solid melody, these musicians surprise the listener with an unfailing set of inventions. This track is more coherent and even essential compared with some of the band's previous releases and if it confirms the fanciful and eclectic approach of Barock Project (well, they are barock, after all!), it shows a more careful balance, so that Luca Zabbini and his friends tame their wildest musical ideas and focus on the big picture instead. A very beautiful picture, I daresay.

Sunday 25 December 2016

The Light (Kansas, 2001)

Released as a digital single and also sdded as a bonus track to the Christmas album "Sounds Like Christmas" by The December People(see elsewhere in this blog), this song has a seasonal flavour, even if in a discreet way. It's a very good track, IMHO,  exploiting all the traditional features of Kansas, from Steve Walsh's powerful vocals to the melodic rock texture.

This single came one year after the reunion album
"Somewhere to Elsewhere"

This catchy and bombastic ballad has a warming and strong arrangement, including symphonic interludes and arena rock solutions. The lyrics about the search of the light is inspired to the three kings' journey, but fits very well into any spiritual quest. A different and proggy way to Christmas, and another living proof of this band's energy and inspiration.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Stagnation (Genesis, 1970)

"Trespass" surely is one of the most underrated albums in the history of prog. Rough and not especially well produced as it is, this pastoral beauty includes all the main features of the so called Genesis sound. "Stagnation", in particular, has the delicate and folky taste of Ant Phillips-inspired works and the diversified and eclectic structure of a true progressive masterpiece, set up by all the members of the band. The dark tones of this song match with the lyrics about a rich man (called Thomas S. Eidelberg) who decided to bury himself in an underground refuge and turned up as the only human survivor after an atomic catastrophe.

Inside the gatefold album cover... a musical Wonderland.

The song has a slightly crescendo structure, with  an acoustic and mellow first part and a more symphonic and lively second section. As a matter of fact, the successful mix of instruments is one of the highlights of "Stagnation", including flute, 12-string guitar, acoustic and electric guitar, a good choice of keyboards and some beautiful vocal harmonies. And - last but not least - this track also spreads a wondrous scent of old...

Sunday 18 December 2016

Höstsejd (Änglagård, 1994)

It sounds incredible for such a mixed and struggling fandom, but Änglagård are one of the rare bands every prog fan likes and many of them adore. That could be because of their undeniable links with the Golden Era prog rock, or maybe for their morn, heartbreaking atmospheres. Be as it may, this "Höstsejd" ("Autumn Rites") is one of their longest and most interesting songs, taken from the album "Epilog".

This was the band's second CD... their third work came 18 years later!

The ruling mood is that of nostalgy and quiet contemplation, the kind of nature-based atmosphere Swedish bands know how to conjure up and master so well. But there are also many beautiful changes both in volume and in tempo, taking advantage of the band's abundant choice of acoustic and electric instruments. A guest string trio adds the mellow touch an autumnal song surely needs. In short, another masterpiece from one of the most prominent contemporary prog bands.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Édentől keletre / East of Eden (Android, 2009)

Even if Hungarian band Android released their debut album in 2009, they have a long history and strong musical roots in the Seventies. The band's two keyboardists (Sándor Milesz and József Tőzsér) drive this title track, but likely the electric guitar solo by János Dudás is the highlight of "Édentől keletre" and gives a special, spiced taste to this maje instrumental work.

Essential and inspiring. A good cover art, IMHO.

That said, there are many other good moments during this 5:30 minutes song: the opening piano arpeggio, the following acid guitar work, the inspiring drums and - last but not least - the basic and effective theme. Anyway, the main reason why this track is worth our attention is the mix of sweetness and toughness it displays, exploiting both the smooth sound of neo-prog and the sharp touch of psych-prog era.