Friday 31 December 2021

And I Stood Transfixed (The Emerald Dawn, 2021)

The first time I read something about this Scottish band (now based in Cornwall, I think) they were introduced as an average neo-prog band, so I virtually noted their name somewhere in my mind and said to myself I had to listen to their music sooner or later. Then I found this song surfing the prog net and I realized it was far more than just another derivative act. Please listen to "And I Stood Transfixed" and see what's inside this 15 minute piece of music. 

"To Touch The Sky" is the fourth studio album from The Emerald Dawn.

Obscure atmospheres, spacey keyboards, a crying sax, a pulsing fretless bass, a sensitive drumming, a wonderful guitar solo... and of course beautiful melodies embedded in a smart pattern. These musicians have their own way to take the listener in another dimension and they have a warm, creative approach to prog rock. It's one of the best instrumental tracks from the early 2020s, IMHO. The whole "To Touch The Sky" album is worth your attention, and I do believe we'll hear more of this band in the near future.

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Ice with Dwale (Neuschwanstein, 1979)

This band has never known an international recognition and still is a hidden gem from German Golden Era of Prog. "Ice with Dwale" is taken from the band's debut album "Battlement" (even if a promo cassette of previous songs was released on CD by Muséa label in 2008). Packed with acoustic passages (flute and guitars), but also gaced by a beautiful electric guitar, "Ice with Dwale" is a remarkable period piece, influenced by the likes of Genesis and Camel and featuring well found melodies.

A less known and very good side of German prog rock.

Keyboardist Thomas Neuroth and singer Frederic Joos do their best to run through the Charterhouse boys' early days and main features, but even so they are fresh and natural like a mountain spring. I really like the keys / flute interplays, something I rearely listened to and I surely recommend this song (and the whole album as to that) to all pastoral rock lovers. 

Saturday 30 October 2021

Concerto For Group And Orchestra (Deep Purple, 1969)

This famous Concerto was the best way to musically end up the Sixties when released back in December 1969. Deep Purple (and especially their late keyboardist, Jon Lord) concurred in their own way to the proto-prog era and this live recording is an essential part of those seething, hectic years. It's a very long suite in the shape of a classical concerto, divided into three movements: 1. Moderato - Allegro, 2. Andante, 3. Vivace - Presto. Entirely composed by Jon Lord, it starts (First Movement) with a sharp fight between the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra and the band, each of them playing the same tunes and trying to overcome their musical "opponent". 

The concert at the Royal Albert Hall took place on September  24th.

The second Movement moves to more peaceful quarters and we can also appreciate Ian Gillian's voice and lyrics laid on a beautiful ballad theme. Here the orchestra and the group begin to merge, but it's only in the final and shortest Movement that all barriers fall down and the two ensembles act as one, building up a lively and even frenzied finale. Well known as it is, this ambitious, challenging and everchanging piece of music, maybe ahead of its time, is surely worth another go on our playlist.

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Los Delirios del Mariscal (Crucis, 1976)

Crucis are one of the most influential bands from Argentina, despite the exiguity of their discography, no more than two studio albums and some live recordings. This is the title track from their second LP, meaning "The Marshal's Deliriums", released in 1976, just some months before they disbanded. Crucis were a rather eclectic act: their symphonic style included heavy and delicate moments and this track belongs to the latter. It's a 10 minute instrumental piece (all songs but one have no lyrics in this album) where Kerpel's calm and elegant keyboards perfectly match with Marrone's guitar solos. 

Juan Gatti is responsible for this beautiful art cover.

The well found recurring main theme guides the listener through an impressive and liquid crescendo beginning with an ethereal, spacey atmosphere and leading to the majestic finaale, something reminding me of Camel's best moments. No intricacy here, no sudden changes, no showy passages: just pure emotion and instrumental skills well spent for the big picture. In short, beautiful and clever!

Tuesday 31 August 2021

Wilderness (Nine Skies, 2021)

 When it comes to blending acoustic and electric instruments in a rich, fascinating and rather vintage way, French band Nine Skies is worth a special mention among the most recent acts. Their 2021 album titled "5.20" is a very good example of such a product and this "Wilderness" is one of its best tracks, IMHO, includiong a dreamy guitar solo by Steve Hackett.  

Michael Cheval painted this beautiful cover art for 5.20.

Nine Skies like to explore different musical worlds and in this case they seem to dive into early Genesis mood, with a 12 string guitar intro, a sad and melodic vocal theme and the above mentioned airy solo. There's a beautifully set transition from darkness to brightness, underlined by piano and bass guitar in a clever, liquid and apparently natural sound flow. The final result is a refreshing experience, a trip into a moving and colourful world.

Saturday 17 July 2021

YYZ (Rush, 1981)

 This is one of my favourite instrumental tracks ever. It comes from Rush's eighth studio album Moving Pictures. The title is just the identification code of Toronto Pearson International Airport, the one the band reached when leaving their homes and where apparently Alex Lifeson was inspired for the song's rythm by the morse code translation of YYZ (that's - . - - / - . - - / - - . .  and that's the opening sound of the track). This is a highly dynamic piece of music, incorporating both groove and melody, full of changes and pauses the stop and go way that Yes liked so much. 

This track is a real flight, IMHO...

The main theme comes in at well studied intervals and - as usual with Rush - the rythm section provides a rich palette of bridges, progressions and variations. The song's pattern is so unpredictable and sought after that you hardly believe it can be confined in a track of just over 4 minutes. Enthralling and ever changing, YYZ is a manifesto of this band's idea of progressive rock, an idea I like very much... and I daresay I'm not the only one!

Wednesday 30 June 2021

Ascending Forth (Black Midi, 2021)

 One of prog rock's strongest points surely is its amazing diversity and unpredictable evolution. Still, the more it changes, the more it remains itself. Black Midi are a beautiful example of such a statement. This young and open minded band carry out their own musical research through contaminations and keen composition patterns, just like the masters used to do, but with renewed energies and up to date visions. This is the closing track of their 2021 Cavalcade album, a magic cauldron in which Black Midi mix a good deal of different inspirations, instrumental solutions and emotional passages. How many landscapes in this 10 minute song, how many changes, how many old and new sounds! 

Order and chaos: a good depiction of Black Midi's music.

The moving vocals are likely the first thing you pick up listening to "Ascending Forth" and surely the way they flow through a stunning series of ups and downs ensures a deep, introspective mood to this song.  But then the brilliant framework in which all instruments and each musical change are pefrectly embedded unfolds all the attractions of the song. There's a scent of King Crimson, a hint of Tools and VDGG and even a Genesis breeze here, but above all the skills of these musicians we hope to meet again very soon on the trails of new prog journeys.

Monday 31 May 2021

Overture / Reaching for The Sky (Transatlantic, 2021)

Once you've find your path through the different versions of Transatlantic's "The Absolute Universe" album, you'll find, I'm sure, one of the best prog releases of the 2020s. This couple of tracks make up one of the official videos by the band and this is how the Abridged version (also titled The Breath of Life) begins... and it's a great way to start! The instrumental overture includes both recurring themes of the album and a rich palette of variations and digressions, among which I must single out a stunning electric guitar solo and a highly creative bass line, not to mention the extraordinary skills of all members, never too showy and always at the service of the great picture. 

The cover arts alone would be a good enough reason to buy all the album's versions...

The following "Reaching for The Sky" develops the same highly dynamic pattern of the Overture, adding vocal contributions by all the band's members - Morse's one is perhaps my favourite one - on a new captivating theme and a (simply perfect) final guitar solo by Roine Stolt. I'm also fond of the rythm section's work on both tracks, but the likes of  Portnoy and Trewavas need no introduction. No doubt: this is true, quintessential, good old prog!

Friday 30 April 2021

Solens Sirkulære Sang (Jordsjø, 2019)

Jordsjø are another fine example of symphonic prog made in Norway and with a folky twist... the way Scadinavians know so well. Håkon Oftung, the mind behind this band, is a skilled multi-instrumentalist and a talented songwriter, the latter being a quality not to be underestimated, if you ask me. This "Solens Sirkulære Sang" (meaning "The Sun's Circular Song"), taken from the band's fifth studio album "Nattfiolen" ("The Night Violin"), fully represents the colourful and varied palette of Jordsjø's musical world. 

This beautiful artwork is by Sindre Foss Skanke.

Tempo changes, loosely folk roots, a pastoral sound provided by Hammond, Mellotron and flute, beautiful guitars and a stunning grand finale too! The perfect blend of soft and dynamic moments in this song shows an accurate search for unexpected solutions and brilliant atmospheres and a special taste for unusual song patterns. The vintage sounds are never artificial, on the contrary they are so fresh and genuine that they add the final flavour to such a tasty delicacy.

Wednesday 31 March 2021

Lies in The Sand (Raven Sad, 2011)

 Another Italian good band, but not what one usually labals as "Italan Prog". Raven Sad are an eclectic act, mostly into atmospheric sounds with beautiful guitar and keyboard solos. Space-rock, Psych Rock, yes, but with a strong emotional twist. They like down tempo songs, but they know how to rivet their listeners, even in long songs like this one, taken from their third album "Layers of Stratosphere". 

You won't find a more spacey cover art!

Raven Sad master mood changes, something they usually achieve by alternating the  foreground instruments, especially Samuele Santanna's guitars and Fabrizio Trinci's keyboards. Each musical shift opens new perspectives and deeper landscapes, like turning stages. It's kind of discovering new worlds and the sci-fi inspiration of "Lies in The Sand" adds a space-opera dimension to the big picture. 

Sunday 28 February 2021

Control (Butler's Experiment, 2021)

Even for a little prog rock blog like this one, it is essential to keep an eye to new bands and young musicians around the net. Butler's Experiment are e Scottish act from Glasgow and I do like their original musical mix of neo-prog, 80s new wave and evergreen pop-rock. After their debut album titled "Torchlight Splinters", here you are a new single, "Control", corroborating the skills and good tastes of these musicians. 

Please find Butler's Experiment on their Soundcloud page:

You'll find a cleverly built track, a sparkling mood and even a welcome rough side (à la Rush, I daresay), matching with their modern and eclectic approach to prog rock. These five proggers also have the clear, captivating sounds and the unaffected songwriting I often appreciate in Scottish  musicians... they're somewhere between Abel Ganz's refinement and Belle & Sebastian's introspection. I'm sure this promising band will soon be back on my blog and - above all - on my playlist. 

Sunday 31 January 2021

L'ultimo viaggio del Principe (Celeste, 2021)

This 24 minute suite is a perfect treat for any Italian prog fan. More than this, it's one of the most beautiful tracks ever written and performed by Celeste's creative mind Ciro Perrino. If the band's 2021 album titled "Il Principe del Regno Perduto" (meaning "Lost Kingdom's Prince") explores many different ways and styles considerably expanding Celeste's musical world, this epic surely refers to the band's core mood and traditional inspiration. And they never did it so well. How many beautiful changes, fairy atmospheres and magical landscapes you'll find here! 

Larry Camarda is responsible for this celestial cover art.

Perrino knows how to blend  Vero's acoustic and electric guitars,his own  keyboards (including, of course, piano and Mellotron), Moro's wind instruments and Caputo's violin in a shiny, relieving musical pot. Bertone (bass guitar) and Cioffi (drums) farly provide a discreet and breezy rythmic background to Celeste's graceful tale. Last but not least, "L'ultimo viaggio del Principe" includes some of the best musical themes Perrino ever penned for his progressive act. Sensitive and dainty, these melodies also have a nearly spiritual aftertaste reverberating on the fanciful  lyrics of this track, sung by three different and well assorted voices. A prog gem I highly recommend to you all, an emotional trip on a higher dimension or maybe inside yourself.

With the kind permission of the band, please find here an e-mail for any infos on how to purchase their CDs: