Monday 30 January 2017

Mind over Matter (Us, 2006)

Prog rock ballads are quite rare, so I'm happy to add this "Mind over Matter" to my blog. It's the opening track from the album "The Young and Restless" and has the mellow, pastoral taste of some Golden Era bands (a "Trespass" feeling, if you ask me). The sung melody is simple and effective, while the instrumental breaks are light and redolent. Sure, this is not a musical revolution, but I sometimes indulge to plain and delicate flavours, especially when the musicians know how to write and play their music.

"The Young And Restless" was the fourth studio album by Us.

After all, the Dutch band Us is an experienced one, lining up a rich discography and an indisputable skill when it comes to melodic prog. See how guitars and keyboards melt into a coherent sound in this song and how the vocal harmonies are well found. Six minutes of peace... not a negligible gift nowadays!

Friday 20 January 2017

Gusliar / Гусляр (Pesniary / Песняры, 1979)

This is the only track included in Pesniary's album bearing the same title and released in 1979. This Byelorussian band is responsible for several long suites based on local legends and poems and featuring music by contemporary composers from the Soviet Union. This track is divided into twelve sections and has a strong folk flavour, but also a recognizable symphonic plot.

The 1979  LP release on Melodiya label. You'll also find a
2000 CD re-release by Boheme Music.
The tempos follow one another with the most enjoyable variety and the vocal harmonies (a Pesniary's well known trademark) are simply impressive. Of course, the classical infuence is everywhere, but "Gusliar" is never too grandiloquent and has many intimate passages. If you like an unclassifiable kind of music and the orchestra / band interplays, this one is for you.

Monday 16 January 2017

Estonia (Marillion, 1997)

What a sad and beautiful song! And the story behind it is also interesting: it's about the sinking of the passenger ferry Estonia in 1994 in the Baltic Sea, the worst European shipwreck since WWII. 852 people died and 138 were rescued alive, including Paul Barney, one of the two British passengers on the ship and the only survivor. Marillion's singer Steve Hogarth met him on an aeroplane and got the inspiration for the lyrics .

MS Estonia gave rise to a great disaster and, also, to a great song.

The music was also strongly influenced by the disaster and the morn, spritual mood of the song - especially of the dreamy instrumental part - is a heartbreaking depiction of death experience and after-death expectations. "Estonia" starts with Barney's story, but is more about the loss of loved ones than the actual sinking of the Estonia ferry. As a matter of fact, Hogarth's firts lines are still linked to the disaster's physical circumstances, then the focus moves to the unwordly side of such a painful occurrence. Moving and inspiring, IMHO.

Friday 13 January 2017

Intoxicatingly Lost / 沉醉不知處 (Zhaoze / 沼澤, 2016)

Zhaoze (Chinese for "marsh") finally produced in 2016 a CD aimed to the International market and this is its title track, a 12 minutes instrumental. The blend of traditional and rock instruments set in a post-rock frame is fascinating and the beautiful variations bring a rather progressive mood into the song, a mood that is also invigorated by a dreaming electric guitar.  The creative drumming and the firm bass lines also beong to the rock side of Zhaoze, so that one couldn't label this instrumental as a mere atmospheric song.

This beautiful cover art reminds me of Eastern watercolors.

And after all the plot of "Intoxicatingly Lost" is a strongly structureted one, lining up crescendos and calandos, still interludes, interesting interplays and sweet passages. The final flute section  surely is one of my personal highlights from this track, featuring a perfect specimen of melodic deconstruction without any useless tangles. In short, this song is worth our attention and will encourage further explorations on Zhaoze planet.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Path of Your Dream (Aunt Mary, 1973)

Aunt Mary are one of the oldest (and most interesting) Norwegian prog rock bands and this track comes from their third studio album "Janus", released in 1973, during their fully progressive phase. The lively intro with its keyboards / guitars interplay states the symphonic nature of the track and of the entire album. The melodic sung section also has a folkish taste in the wake of the best Scandinavian traditions, but I'm especially impressed by the finalrumental part, a real treat for any classic prog lover.

It's an impressive cover art, isn't it?

And if you decide to listen to the whole album, the following Beatles-like song is simpy perfect after such a pièce de rèsistance! Aunt Mary should have known a wider recognition for their work, but they actually had too many contenders back in the early Seventies. But they're back now and they deserve our attention, IMHO.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Shadow of The Lake (Mystery, 1998)

Here you are some well conceived and well performed neoprogressive rock. "Shadow of The Lake" is a 15 minutes track by Canadian band Mystery from their album "Destiny?". Like all the best examples of this sub-genre, you'll find here references to some of the classic bands from the Seventies and also a good deal of passion and emotion. In addition to this, the sung parts are very good, with a ballad-like flavour that Mystery know how to mix with the symphonic side of their music.

This is the original cover art of "Destinhy?". It also exists a 2009
10th anniversary edition with a different cover.

Some strong electric guitars and a series of beautiful changes provide more charming moments and enliven the track. Michel St-Père - the mind behind the band - plays both guitars and keyboards, and builds up a rather complex plot for this song, probably the first full-progressive one in Mystery's discography. I surely enjoyed it.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Free Hand (Gentle Giant, 1975)

Luckily one of the most devilish prog rock songs ever, based on jazzy (and also folkish) keys and a fast tempo ballad, but also including an amazing series of changes, interludes, musical instruments and variations on the main theme. It is almost impossible to label such a song (and any GG's song, as to that), but "Free Hand" has what I call a touch of magic, with all those luna park sounds and syncopated rythms.

"Free Hand" was the seventh studio album by Gentle Giant.

The unifying sung theme dances between the incredible list of instruments required by this track, things like clavinet, synth, electric piano, woodbklock, cowbell... simply anything they could get their hands on! This is Gentle Giant, my friends: nothing is predictable or usual, still such a challenging music is never unpleasant. As they say: Now my hands are free from the ties!

Monday 2 January 2017

18400 TL (21.Peron, 1975)

First of all, 1975 can be only considered as an approximate recording year for this track. 21.Peron were no doubt one of the best Turkish rock bands of their era, but they never released an official album during their active years, so that their 1975-77 songs were only made available on a physical support in 2003. This song is simply perfect to me: sweet and melodic, but also experimental and acid.... that's what I call prog rock!
Arkaplan label released this compitation including 12 songs.
The bass lines are the unifying frame of "18400 TL" (by the way, TL stands for Türk Lirası, the national currency unit), but I higly recommend Andreas Wildermann's organ too, so warm and so... Seventies! Here and there you'll recognize Turkish folk elements (mainly provided by Alp Gültekin's viola), bluesy measures, heavy rock riffs and psychedelic memories, but the whole pattern is solidly symphonic. When I listen to such short lived bands, I wonder how many good albums never saw the  light...

Sunday 1 January 2017

Someday (Laghonia, 1971)

Here you are a proto-prog Peruvian band from the very early Seventies, a politically and musically difficult time for their Country.This "Someday" beautifully opens their second and last studio work, titled "Etcetera". A Hammond intro is followed by a lively rythm guitar and a catchy melody. Some well found changes and a series of instrumental bridges enrich this song's texture, so that a three minutes track actually features a whole changing world, ranging from the hippy generation to the search for new artistic dimensions.

Colourful I said... and colourful they actually were...

A colourful palette Laghonia know how to exploit and generously sprnkle all over their canvas. It's wonderful to see how widely the new musical deal circulated between the late Sixties and the early Seventies and how many different forms it took following the cultural scenes and the local traditions. Such a pity this band released both their albums in 1971 then called it a day...