Friday 30 December 2022

Universal (Anathema, 2010)

 Arguably one of my favourite tracks by Anathema, "Universal" has a very atmospheric mood, a beautiful musical theme, a dreaming guitar, some splendid keyboards and even a shoegaze-like section. No doubt, when it comes to slow paced and majestic sounds this Liverpool band is among the best you can find over there. Not only they know how to write and perform good music, but they also have sort of a Mida's touch and they totally deserve their success. 

"We're Here..." was Anathema's eighth studio album

Take this track (from "We're Here Because We're Here" album), for example: it flows away like springy water and cleverly skips redunancy thanks to a series of slight and effective changes, consistent and surprising at the same time. Building up a song is never easy, but Anathema know how to handle this and how to mix prog rock and mainstreap pop. Brilliant!

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Bet On Zero (The Aaron Clift Experiment, 2023)

Here's an unusual way to conceive rock, an open-minded, border-free, well thought out way. In a word, the most prog approach to music. The Austin-based Aaron Clift Experiment (you'll find more reviews about them in my blog) are an eclectic and creative ensemble formed by Mr. Clift himself, always attracted to experimentation, but never hermetic or puzzling. They like good music and they like to communicate their emotions via their songs, something I highly appreciate. Last but not least, they're very skilled performers, which one shouldn't take for granted.

Fumihito Sugawara is responsible for this beauticul cover art.

This track is taken by their (forthcoming, when I write this review) 2023 "The Age of Misinformation" album and features the Big Wy's Brass Band, a wonderful addition to the band's line up. It's a jazzy, even soul prog rock, displaying a well written main theme and a beautiful instrumental bridge, including a sax solo followed by an enthralling jazz rock instrumental section, and ending with an excellent drum tour de force. The swinging finale is another highlight of "Bet on Zero" and I bet you'll like the whole song (and the whole album, as a matter of fact).

Monday 31 October 2022

Vertigo (The Flower Kings, 2019)

The Flower Kings' Waiting for Miracles is one of my favourite albums by Roine Stolt's band and this for its good taste and musical balance. Never too showy, never too trivial, this 2019 release includes some well structured and even better composed songs. Intricated as only prog can be, but also full of melodies and lively rythmic lines.

One of the best cover arts by The Flower Kings, IMHO.

Vertigo is one of those pearls: it features not only a catchy and majestic main theme, but also a very long and charming musical section, where Roine Stolt performs one of his best guitar solos ever. And that's saying something. While the rest of the band weaves a colourful tapestry of sounds, our Swedish guitarist makes us fly on his magical broomstick swinging between stingy accents and pure poetry. Flesh and spirit all at once. 

Friday 30 September 2022

Reyes en guerra (Redd, 1978)

Redd were from Tucumán,  Argentina, and they were strongly influenced by King Crtimson and other early English prog bands. That said, they had their own way to approach prog rock, with a beautiful mix of electric and acoustic instruments, calm and evocative sung sections, impressive and sensitive percussions and some dreamy, liquid guitars. During their career they released just one album titled "Tristes noticias del imperio" (Sad news from the Empire), even if a second LP was recorded in 1979 but only released twenty years later by a Brazilian label. 

A black and white, essential cover... but there a colours inside!

This track, "Reyes en guerra" (Kings at war), opens their debut album and perfectly represents their style, epecially their mellow side. When I listen to such bands as Redd I wonder how many hidden treasures prog will uncover to my ears in due time... 

Tuesday 30 August 2022

In My World (The Moody Blues, 1981)

 Justin Hayword wrote this song for Moody's too underrated album "Long Distance Voyager", a proud progressive flag (with some eighties additions) in the genre's darkest years. This ballad is a pefect blend of a folk rooted theme and brilliant arrangements, a rather long ballad with bluesy and country echoes and an extended, beautiful and fully progressive instrumental coda. Old school music, yes, but also state of the art sounds, never boring solutions and that Moody's magic touch! 

...Always been in love with this cover drawing!

Even if the main theme is always there, you never get tired as the band re-work it through an ever changing sound palette. It's a dreamy experience, a fluid, transparent, refreshig stream getting more and more addictive and reaching its emotional peak during the final instrumental section. Another fine example of what a love song can turn into when Moody Blues are concerned.

Sunday 31 July 2022

Odisseia para Sirius (Ultranova, 2022)

This track, released in 2022 as a download single, confirms the Brazilian act Ultranova among the finest representatives of instrumental prog in the 21st Century. Their debut album Orion (2019) was a promising effort, but they seem to improve day to day. This "Odyssey to Sirius" is an epic and enjoyable piece of music, full of keybooard / guitar interplays, well found changes and liquid solos. 

A mythical journey, as this beautiful cover art...

Ultranova have their own style, but you'll find some Camel, Jade Warrior and Jethro Tull hints here, and a surprising melting pot including folk jeegs, electronic atmosphere and cinematic moments. Full of colours like their Country, rich in sense of wonder like their favourite music and tasty like their instrumantal skills, Ultranova's sound is the living proof that good prog rock will never die.

Thursday 30 June 2022

Up to Me (Jethro Tull, 1971)

 When I think of a perfect prog ballad, full of true emotions and a wonderful melody, one of my first choices surely is "Up to Me", the closing track of the first side of Jethro Tull's "Aqualung". Even if the musical theme has a mellow and somehow folk flavour, there's an underlying tension all through the song, provided by Ian Anderson's powerful vocals and Martin Barre's guitar. 

Jethro Tull in the early Seventies.

Mostly acoustic as it is, "Up to Me" is a powerful, biting song, also graced by a beutiful flute riff. If you can put so many things in a three minute song... well, you're great. And of course that's what Jethro Tull are.

Tuesday 31 May 2022

Space Cowboy (Gazpacho, 2020)

Gazpacho refined their own kind of prog all along their career, mixing atmospheric mood, some majestic arrangements and bits of heavy rock from time to time. They're always enjoyable and highly professional, but you need more to set up a beautiful song. And when they find these bonus ingredients they really are perfect to me. The "bonus" are, of course, good melodies. You'll find at least two in this suite titled Space Cowboy and coming from the 2020 album Fireworker. And that's not all. 

Another beautiful cover art by Antonio Seijas. 

The band master here some interesting (and sometimes dangerous) elements like a powerful choir and a strong diversity between the track's different parts. Both these peculiarities demand a solid sense of proportion, but Gazpacho have the experience and the right taste to succeed in such a task. That's why this suite flows like a beautiful river passing through many different landscapes and growing more and more stimulating each time you listen to it. The lyrics about the hidden animal insinct inside men (the concept of the whole album) and the way this human trait goes through eras and generations adds some more food for thought. What else should we ask?

Monday 4 April 2022

Standing Still as Stony Trees (Watcher of The Trees, 2017)

The Watcher of The Trees is the brainchild of Italian composer and multi-instrumentalist Dario Marconcini. Based on the banks of Garda Lake, Marconcini was inspired by the spiritual and ancestral beauty of the surrounding forests and after several experiences in local bands (namely The Electric Shields and Moonshiners), he decided to go solo with a new moniker and released "Fireflies in The Wood", an album where the woods - and mostly the trees - act as main charachters along the passing of the seasons. 

Four seasons and four colours in this beautiful cover art.

I especially liked "Standing Still as Stony Trees" not only because I find here so many and welcome prog hints, but especially for its majestic crescendo and the perfect balance of peaceful and up-tempo moments. Unlike many similar projects and despite his patent performing skills, Marconcini's music focuses on emotions and you'll find here all the wonder and the thrill of an inner discovery: instruments, melodies, words and arrangements merge to move the listener. And frankly I'm moved. 

Thursday 31 March 2022

Friends I + II (Turdetans, 2020)

 Turdetans are a Spanish prog band from Alcalá de Guadaíra, in the Seville area, a very important prog province, I daresay, home of Triana, Guadalquivir, Smash and many more. And after all their name comes from the ancient  inhabitants of their region. This time, don't expect a resurgence of rock andaluz: these musicians like to blend with skill all the faces of prog rock to create a fascinating sound, rich and diversified. Acoustic blue skies, fluid and captivating, are suddenly perturbed by electric and even metal storms, folk rains or symphonic winds. 

The album's cover beautifully refers to the work's main topic of dreams.

A treat, as this little suite called "Friends" will easily prove. You'll be surprised to discover how Turdetans set up a consistent and well balanced track in spite of all the changes in time, volume, mood and instrumentation they play out. Such an achievement comes from the perfect fusion of excellent melodies and genuine energy. "Suite of Dreams" in their only album to date, but we can only hope it will soon be followed by more releases

Monday 28 February 2022

Il vento cambia strada (Garybaldi, 2016)

 I'm usually wary when it comes to resuscitate old bands and old musical styles, so I must confess that I put off the purchase of Garybaldi's "Storie di un'altra città" ("Other Towns' Stories") album. And I was wrong. Not only it proved to be a very good work tro my ears, but I appreciated the variety and liveliness of these songs, the humour and the cleverness of the band, mostly based on new and skillful members. You'll find here all the different facets of '70s Italian Prog: jazzy moods, the acoustic feelings, mellow moments and of course rock edges. All in. 

A beautiful cover art by painter Pietro Spica.

I chose for my blog the closing track, a fully melodic ballad reminding me Le Orme or some of the sweetest PFM's songs, but with a slightly acid bonus touch. There are many instruments, including a guest string duo, melancholy keyboards and both acoustic and electric guitars. The bass lines are provided by Angelo Traverso, not exactly a guest musician, being a member of pre-Garybaldi band Gleemen. For sure, "Il vento cambia strada" (meaning "The Wind changes direction") is a magical trip. And this is not vintage.... this is evergreen music!

Monday 31 January 2022

Pavilion (Glaswegians, 2022)

Here you are a very unconventianal approach to prog, something that will intrigue, I'm sure, my open minded friends reading this blog. Glaswegians is Michael Elder's brainchild and as far as I know it's a Canadian project, so don't ask me where's its link with Glasgow... maybe Michael himself will explain this. "Pavilion" comes from the 2022 album Quaternary ( Glaswegians' fourth studio release, still to be released when I'm writing this) and is a fascinating instrumental suite, switching between twirling, compulsing electronic sounds and acoustic, melodic interludes. 

"Quaternary" includes four tracks and is the fourth album by Glaswegians.

There's an awesome number of musical instruments here and even more tempo and mood changes... so prepare yourself to a rich and unusual blend. It's almost Brian Eno meets Ant Phillips... and if you think that's an impossible match, well, listen to this and you'll change your mind. It's a profound, uncanny track, even distressing at times, but when such an experience is over you'll find yourself somewhat different, like someone coming home after a trip in a far, exotic land. Only, this land is inside yourself. Well done, Michael!