Monday 31 December 2018

Bortglömda Gårdar (All Traps on Earth, 2018)

All Traps on Earth are the new musical cresture of bassist Johan Brand from Änglagård, one of the most popular Swedish prog bands ever (see elsewhere in this blog). This side project also includes other members or former members of Änglagård, namely keyboardist Thomas Johnson and drummer Erik Hammarström, along with vocalist Miranda Brand (not featured in this song),a number of guest musicians and even a foursome wind ensemble.

Like for Änglagård, a Nature-based dreamy cover art.

As you'll find listening to this song, All Traps on Earth share some essential points with Änglagård's musical approach: you'll hear the same creative and everchanging sound, and also that special, sensitive sound we all like. But you'll also observe a more experimental taste, midway between King Crimson and early Kaipa. Jazzy moments and melodic passages build up this Bortglömda Gårdar (meaning "forgotten farms") like an enchanted garden, full of delicate flowers and strong trees. A treat.

Friday 30 November 2018

Zombieroch (Hands, 1977)

Hands are an American band with two dfferent lives. Founded in the mid-seventies, they released an amateur album that was not successful, so that Hands - after an intense touring season - disbanded and were almost forgotten. The re-release of their album in 1996 changed somewhat their destiny and a renewed interest among the progfans community brought these musicians to revive Hands with a slightly different line up and to release some new albums. 

The 1996 reissue of Hand's debut album plus early songs.

This track, however, is the instrumental opener of their reissued early works and features some of the band's highlights: a lively folk rock taste, a recognizable Jethro Tull and Kansas influence, a creative use of many acoustic and electric instruments and - last but not least - an uncommon ironic side. Even if their original production wasn't perfect, the re-release of this track (and of the album, together with more early materials) souds pretty good and brings back to our ears all the colours of its era.  

Monday 29 October 2018

July Morning (Uriah Heep, 1971)

Uriah Heep surely are one of the most eclectic bands ever, spanning over a wide range of genres and sounds. That's why I can easily put one of their best songs in this prog blog. "July Morning" is a 10 minutes jewel from "Look at Yourself" album, featuring all the musical highlights of Huriah Heep. Let's see: a magical organ, a sweet ballad-like verse, a vocally perfect chorus, the legendary  keyboards / guitar final interplay, a lot of instrumental sections and beautiful changes. 

"Look at Yourself" came with a peculiar mirror cover...

The rock essence of "July Morning" keeps pace with its lyrical, dreamy inspiration, just the way a good prog song should do. Useless to say, all the members of the band are at their best and Manfred Mann appears as a guest adding his minimoog to such a rich palette. This song is just another reason to say how influential and even underrated Huriah Heep are.

Sunday 30 September 2018

Druga strana mene (Tako, 1978)

By the late '70s just a few prog bands existed in Eastern Europe and Tako were part of this short list. This Belgrade-based band had an eclectic approach to symphonic rock, an original sound and a Jethro Tull flavour too, thanks to keyboardist Đorđe Ilijin's flute incursions. Their first self-named album included this 16 minutes track "Druga strana mene" (meaning "The Other Side of Me"), where atmospheric moments, liquid guitar solos, rock riffs and flute passages follow each other setting up a riveting instrumental prog, full of fantasy and well found melodies.

This album was re-issued on CD in 1993.

I especially like the way Slobodan Felekatović's drums gently stress the keyboard rising themes, and also Miroslav Dukić's dreaming guitar and - most of all - the way these musicians link different musical worlds into a strong and coherent frame. Time has come, IMHO, to re-discover this band, whose short discography (two albums, no more than this) offers a bunch of real treats to the prog ears.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Entering The Gallery / The Man on The Hill (Huis, 2016)

All progfans know the flourishing Québec prog-scene during the '70s, but that land still offers tasty treats to our appetites (see Mystery, for example). This is the case with Huis, a Montréal-based band founded by keyboardist Pascal Lapierre and bassist Michel Joncas in 2009. As this mini-suite (taken from the album "Neither in Heaven") will prove, Huis mix good melodies and a dynamic sound to conjure up a captivating, everchanging kind of prog, where full-bodied rock passages and acoustic melodies build up emotionally enthralling songs. 

"Neither in Heaven" is the second album by Huis.

This double sided track displays - among other good things -  the usual amount of keyboards, an energetic guitar and a brilliant vocal performance by Sylvain Descôteaux. I'm also sure my progfriends will like the peculiar way the band have to launch their rockiest moments taking advantage of piano accelerations. In conclusion, a well written, well arranged and perfectly balanced music.

Monday 30 July 2018

Breathe (Silhouette, 2012)

Silhouette come from The Netherlands and their prog rock music has the right amount of strength, melody and changes I like. Take this "Breathe", an eleven minutes song from the album "Across The Rubicon", released in 2012. You'll find powerful guitar riffs, atnospheric passages, a lot of keyboards, an effective rythm section, enthralling solos and - last but not least - well written themes. Sure, this is largely inspired by some British early '80s bands, but good roots make a solid tree, and this one seems to me a fresh and beautiful one.

"Across The Rubicon" is the third studio album by Silhouette.

Keyboardist Erik Laan provides the lead vocals for this track (there are at least three main vocalists in this band) and his voice perfectly matches with the track's texture. Some of the tempo changes are simply perfect and I think this is one of the most welcome features of Silhouette's songs and especially of the longest ones, than never go boring or predictable. In short, if you like very good and highly dynamic neo-prog, this one's for you.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

To Be Over (Yes, 1974)

Another masterpiece signed by Yes, coming from the album "Relayer". With Patrick Moraz jazzy style and a beautiful melody by Steve Howe born during a guitarist's boat ride on The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park. Anderson added his signature spiritual lyrics focusing on the liquid element (We go sailing down the calming streams / Drifting endlessly by the bridge / To be over) and flying high, as usual. 

Yes lineup for "Relayer". It didn't last long, but worked well.

To enhance the spiritual side of "To Be Over", Howe also plays the sitar here, topping the rich arrangement with an Eastern touch. I also like the classical sounding solo by Moraz, so perfectly matching with the rythm section... and it's a White / Squire section, that's to say something! What a beautiful song, my dear progfriends! 

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Absent Lovers (The Aaron Clift Experiment, 2018)

The Aaron Clift Experiment is a highly skilled trio based in Austin, Texas and leaded by Mr Clift with an open wided and eclectic approach to prog. Their records include many of my favourite features: tempo changes, unpredictable passages, acoustic/electric mix and, last but not least, an enviable balance of old glorious sounds and up-to-date solutions. That said, "Absent Lovers" comes from the band's 2018 album "If All Goes Wrong" and deliciously swings between dreaming moods and vigorous progressions. 

"If All Goes Wrong" is the third studio album by the band.

As usual, Aaron's voice is strong and tense, while the guest string trio (violin, viola and cello) and Fred Springer's classical guitar add a special charm to the composition. You'll find some welcome King Crimson  and early Genesis hints here and there, but also a remarkable coherence of such a rich musical plot. "Abesent Lovers" is divided into three acts, kind of a mini-suite following the sea scented lyrics, based on the hero's return, an emotional rendering of the Odyssey I really appreciate. Here I point up another highlight of Aaron & friends: despite their literary references and their lushing instrumentation, they never go showy and their music has the grace and the soundness we expect on good prog rock. 

Monday 30 April 2018

Time Travellers (Riverside, 2015)

Riverside go on changing and exploring, that's why I like them. This song, taken from the album "Love, Fear And The Time Machine", is a dreamy ballad, and it also includes beautiful mellow instrumental passages, never too sweet and never too long. The lyrics are beautiful too, about life's recurring times and chances. Mariusz has a beautiful voice, both srong and soft and this is a brilliant performance.

...And what about this misty cover art?

The moody way the band has to build up transparent, fluid atmospheres easing deep meditations is slways surprising and the more their song gets plain, the more they reach the listener's soul. This is exactly what "Time Travellers" does, so it doesn't need a longer ntroduction.

Saturday 31 March 2018

Falling to Pieces (Nine Stones Close, 2010)

A very intense and intimate song from Nine Stones Close, a project leaded by Dutch multi-instrumentalist Adrian Jones. It comes from their second album titled "Traces" and includes some of the band's highlights, namely beautiful melodies and great guitar dreaming solos by Mister Jones. But there's more than this. I especially like Mark Atkinson's vocals, full of inner emotions and perfectly balanced between delicate and tense moments.

Nine Stone Close already have a considerable discography.

A prog ballad isn't an easy thing to do, believe me: Jones and his friends have to mix plain sung sections and instrumental breaks keeping the coherence of their song and they surely succeed there. "Falling to Pieces" has a melancholy, even pessimistic mood, but it also features a strong spiritual perspective, building up a sentimental trip through sorrow and hope, a strong emotional experience that only good prog can add to an apparently simple track.

Monday 26 February 2018

Pequeño animal (Dry River, 2011)

This Spanish band released their first album titled "El Circo de la Tierra" in 2011 and were a pleasant surprise to me. Sure, some of their tracks are too much on the metal prog side for my mellower tastes, but many songs are plain and very good progressive rock in a vital and colourful mood I like very much. " Pequeño animal" is one of them, full of bombastic and melodic lines, and also featuring well found changes in both rythm and tempo.

This cover art perfectly matches with the band's music, IMHO.

The background keyboard work by Carlos Álvarez Prades is brilliant, and all the musicians know how to play their instruments. Maybe a special mention goes to Ángel Belinchón Calleja's powerful vocals (and after all, Dry River used to perform Queen's covers in their early days...), adding a somewhat operatic pop-rock touch to the great picture, a welcome and original twist. And I also highly recommend to your attention their following albums...

Wednesday 31 January 2018

The World Is Yours (Caravan, 1972)

Taken from "Waterloo Lily" album, this is undoubtely one of the best prog ballads ever and a blooming flower into Canterbury musical garden. Caravan mix the acoustic set with a soft vocal performance, conjuring up a spring smelling track, a true love song, including all the I love yous one can imagine.

Caravan: all is so Seventies in this picture!

Still, the original way the band wrap up their gift and the never too sweet sound we enjoy is true Canterbury prog, full of warm guitars and also featuring a misty mix and a folk inspiration. True, this is a catchy song, not so far from the best pop songs from the early Seventies, but if all of them were as good as this one, well, I'd listen pop music 24 hours a day!

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Know Your Time (Gazpacho, 2015)

Since the early 2010s Gazpacho evolved from a mellow and captivating mix of pop and prog to a darker and somehow spiced post-progressive sound, including moments of ethereal beauty and a rich, even ethnic choice of instruments. This song, taken from the album "Molok" is a good example of this phase of the band's career. Arcane sounds and solid guitars surround the vocals by Jan-Henrik Ohme, much in the style of Marillion's Steve Hogarth.

Another fascinating cover. I really like the colours here.

The mood changes are very well done, especially when a tight line gets a wider breath, or when an acoustic passage follows electric ones. That's why I like "Know Your Time" and its unpredictable stream of creative music. I won't even try to explain the tricky theories about God and ancient religions behind this track and the whole album, but I confess I love the way Gazpacho approach such a challenging concept keeping their feet well on the ground.