Thursday 31 December 2020

Real (Ephrat, 2008)

Ephrat are a very interesting Israeli band, also known for their opening act to Dream Theater's 2009 show in Israel, and they play a dinamic and varied prog rock, melting classic prog, well found melodies, electronic music and hard rock elements. They take their name from their leader Omer Ephrat's surname, but they're more than Omer's brainchild. This song, taken fron their debut album "No One's Words", is a 18 minutes epic, full of changes in both mood and tempo. You'll find in it all,the above elements and much more. 

This album was released by InsideOut label and featured guest musicians as
 Petronella Nettermalm (Paatos) and Daniel Gildenglow (Pain of Salvation).

Ephrat's eclectic approach to prog is highly enjoyable as composition is always the central part of the band's musical blend. "Real" includes welcome references to the sound of such iconic bands as Pink Floyd and Beatles, but also a touch of world music and even horns. Rich as it can be, this song keeps its own coherence and each musician knows how to enrich the plot and never get too showy. Last but not least, Steven Wilson's mix adds a special brilliance to the sound I surely appreciate.

Monday 30 November 2020

Merry Macabre (Wobbler, 2020)

Wobbler surely are one of the most interesting bands worldwide when it comes to classic prog and vintage sounds. Their 2020 release titled "Dwellers of The Deep" is worth its promising title and includes this 19 minutes song, an amazing journey through different progressive references and styles. Not only this track is full of good musical themes, mood changes and irregular tempos, but it's also a technical tour de force, thanks to the band's instrumental skills and the song's daring architecture. 

                                                        As usual, a wonderful cover!

Even if Wobbler follow well known musical tracks, they mix them up in their own original way and - what's more - seem to enjoy what they're doing. That's why the listener is fully involved in their devilish rythms, intricate vocal harmonies and atmospheric breaks. I especially like the piano driven sections, actng as respite and launching the following sections. Wobbler really dwell in the deepest rooms of music and there's a yellow brick road leading to their beautiful house somewhere in the centre of Progtown. 

Saturday 31 October 2020

Syracuse The Elephant (Stackridge, 1972)

Stackridge are such a perfectly British-sounding band that their name and music are always been next to a National secret for UK prog lovers. This band came from the west England (around Bristol and Bath) and developed a beautiful folk-rooted kind of prog with a Beatles hint and a good deal of humour. This track comes from the band's second album titled "Friendliness" and is a splendid example of their musical approach to prog. A beautiful sung theme, some acoustic solos, mainly violin and flute flowing on a Mellotron and piano carpet ar but a few of its charms.

"Friendliness" was re-issued in 2006 with four bonus tracks.

The somewhat surprising tempo and mood changes are another essential feature of "Syracuse The Elephant", ranging from English folk to exotic dances. These disparate musical elements are strictly linked to the Beatles-oriented sung sections about a homesick elephant captured and dressed to perform in live shows and movies. We follow his successful career from Bristol to Hollywood and are reminded of the animal's nostalgy for his homeland's veldt. A real jewel, IMHO.

Wednesday 30 September 2020

Utopia (Todd Rundgren's Utopia, 1974)

Todd Rundgren is a highly underrated composer, IMHO. His eclectic approach to music surely didn't help him, but allowed his songs to keep their charm intact during many decades. This track - a virtual three movements suite - is the most known piece de resistance of Utopia, the band Rundgren founded in 1973 to empower a pop oriented solo career he had begun in 1970. However essential for the band's history, "Utopia" (also known as "Utopia Theme") was never recorded in studio and its live version - at the Fox Theater in Atlant, November 8th 1973 - filled the first side of Utopia's debut album. 

...And I even like this puzzling cover art!

As I said before, we can (very) roughly divide this epic into three parts, the first one offering a highly dynamic jazzy prog, the second one exploring the operatic and pompous side of pop-rock with a beautiful, catching sung theme and finally the third one stromgly rooted into the symphonic rock ground. Manifold and unpredictable as it it, "Utopia" still is a coherent piece of music, as if the same scene was described from three different points of view. I know many critics dislike this track and label it as pretentious and showy, but I hope you'll forgive me if I say I'm always moved by it. And all in all, this is why I like prog.

Monday 31 August 2020

The Guide (Ken's Novel, 1999)

Here you are a Belgian band dealing with neo-prog sounds with a highly dynamic twist. "The Guide" is the title track of Ken's Novel's debut abulm and also its opener (or Chapter 1, following the literary presentation of this CD's tracks). There are good themes, simple and effective melodies in an upbeat main structure that some beautiful atmosferic passages enrich on the emotional side. Bernard Piette's keyboards provide a perfect background  and also some thrilling energy throughout the song. 

Denis Bulon is responsible for this imposing artwork.

Eric Vanderbemden's  guitar graces this song with lively and sometimes heavy riffs, while Patrick Muermans not only sings it very well, but also sets up a creative drumming interwined to Geoffrey Leontiev's drizzling bass. I do like the rich mixture of sounds and words in "The Guide" and its good balance between polished neo-prog and good old progressive rock.

Friday 31 July 2020

Sepia And White (Abel Ganz, 2020)

The readers of my blog already know I like Abel Ganz very much. The first reason of this is that these Scottish musicians always improve and their music sounds richer and more interesting each time they release a new album. 2020's "The Life Of The Honey Bee and Other Moments Of Clarity" is another turning point in such a progress. This song, the longest one from the album (virtually a suite), is possibly the brightest gem of a brilliant collection. It displays charming arrangements, many time changes and beautiful melodies. 

A splendid cover art, isn't it?

The (electric) piano adds here and there a moving touch, while David King offers a beautiful guitar solo, Mick MacFarlane sings putting all his soul in each and every word from beautiful lyrics about passing time and new horizons. Of course, the keyboards duo provide the usual amount of magic and the rythm section keeps it up. This is exactly that kind of song I recommend to those who distrust neo-prog bands. They usually change their mind.

Tuesday 30 June 2020

Eins (Polis, 2011)

What a magical atmosphere! German band Polis has a very rich mood palette ranging from heavy rock to romantic tracks. This is a good example of the latter. Mostly instrumental, the song explores the most spiritual quiet realms, then offers an unpredictable finale where Christian Roscher's vocals and Sascha Bormann's drums come in to give their biting touch. As usual with them, Polis like vintage instruments and are inspired both by English prog masters and by German krautrockers, so that each song of theirs has its own flavour, even if they keep a recognizable dark and deep approach to songwriting. 

"Eins" was Polis debut album in 2011.

Then I always like bands singing in their native tongue, something reminding me how universal good music and good prog rock are. Finally, the band's eclectic attitude and the way they dig into the darkest side of life could make of them the latest incarnation of the most original bands from the past, the likes of Uriah Heep or Popol Vuh. Well, at least, let's hope so!

Sunday 31 May 2020

Tears And Pavan (Strawbs, 1973)

Strawbs were surely underrated during their early career, but Dave Cousins' band reached stunning creative peaks since their very first works and they never lost it. This track comes from "Bursting at The Seams", Strawbs' sixth album and it's the deepest and maybe most interesting one in this 1973 LP. The band's folk roots perfectly meet  progressive and classic elements following their wide, unpredictable arrangement concept. In fact, "Tears And Pavan" is divided into two parts (namely "Tears" and "Pavan") and it starts like a folk ballad, earthly sung by Cousins with the usual acoustic background. 

One of my favourite LPs by Strawbs, not one of my favourite cover arts...

But just when you think that's all the track has to say, here come the instrumental part and a Greek flavour you'd never expected there, followed by a Medieval touch. A good keyboard work (mellotron and harpsichord) graces this mini-suite and of course the melody is gorgeous and so well sung that even if you could find the arrangement a little too baroque, this track always keeps a high emotional power. Each time I listen to it, I feel like a traveler going across time, space and inner realms.

Thursday 30 April 2020

Isolation (Jonny Ong, 2020)

It is a pleasure I'll never give up to put into this blog not only straight-prog songs but also open minded tracks like this one coming from Singapore born and London based multi-instrumentalist Jonny Ong. Sometimes such an unusual approach to music is quintessentially prog as Jonny Ong knows no boundaries when it comes to musical genres and moods. "Isolation" includes sad and claustrophobic passages and also sudden melodic openings, suggesting other worlds and brighter skies. Released durng the Covid-19 virus lockdown, those moods were even more widely shared, but they surely belong to every human's wealth of experience.

"Isolation" was released via Sound Portal Studios.

It is a fascinating, spiritual journey where Eastern and Western influences walk side by side, exalting each other. The clever choice of instruments our musician makes is another highlight of "Isolation" and I especially like the handpan, whose celestial sound is simply perfect in this track, setting up a beautiful contrast with the acid bakground. That's why I dare say (relying on Mr. Ong's kind understanding) that where emotions spring from music, there will certainly be prog.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

Out of The Woods (Airlord, 1977)

Airlord are one of those Oceanian bands mixing with indisputable skills symphonic rock, pastoral moods and good old pop. Just like Sebastian Hardie (see in this blog) did in Australia and during the same years, Airlord imported prog in New Zealand (and then in Australia, where their career actually grew) and set up an enthralling, alternating style, including mellotron work, sudden rythmic changes, beautiful guitar solos, bluesy echoes and a good deal of vocal harmonies.

This artwork reminds me of Moody Blues...

This lushing list is all here, in this six minutes song coming from the only LP the band released in their career, back in 1977, titled "Clockwork Revenge". You'll find an everchanging plot, with some beautiful highlights like the heartwarming guitar solo, some liquid bass lines and of course the folkish opening vocals. There's a bit of early Genesis, a pinch of Moody Blues and even a touch of Canterbury scene, all that presented in a song-oriented package. I do think Airlord are worth a careful listening.

Friday 28 February 2020

Flooded by Sun Light (Ain Soph, 1991)

Ain Soph are among the most inetersting Japanese bands ever (please find more by them in this blog). Even if "Marine Messagerie" CD was recorded in 1991, then re-released in 2005, these tracks were born in the late '70s, the first creative wave of Yozok (guitars), Mashiro Torigaki (bass),Taiqui (drums) and Kikuo Fujikawa (keyboards). "Flooded by The Sun" belongs to the melodic and Camel-esque vein of Ain Soph, and starts with a delicate mood, then gets more upbeat and intricate.

The 2005 reissue was co-labelled by Poseidon and Musea.

The whole song  (an instrumental, as usual with Ain Soph) is enjoyable and higly dynamic, so that all instruments are cleverly interwined to build up a brilliant, charming sound. Yozok's guitar solo is one of the highlights of "Flooded by Sun Light", and so is Taiqui's creative drumming. That's what I really like in this song: the way it combines lightness and sophistication. The Rising Sun touch, maybe.

Friday 31 January 2020

Stifinner (Jordsjø, 2019)

Norway is home to a good deal of symphonic rock bands. Jordsjø's core line-up is a duo, namely Håkon Oftung (vocals and keyboard) and Kristian Frøland (drums), backed in their 2019 album titled Nattfiolen (the  lesser butterfly-orchid depicted on the CD the cover art) by five more musicians... including two keyboardists! "Stifinner" (meaning "pathfinder") is a pastoral-oriented song with louder Mellotron riffs and a lot of acoustic passages including beautiful flutes and acoustic guitars.

I also happen to like this beautiful cover art...
As usual with Jordsjø, the Seventies smell is strong and enticing, flowing through folk roots and symphonic arrangements. I like the melodies and the mood changes, and the Norwegian lyrics add a Nordic atmosphere to such a beautiful mix. Last but not least, even if there are several quiet and dreamy passages, you'llfind here a dynamic and creative drumming, an uncommon feature in pastoral tracks.