Archive for March, 2015

ARGOS: A Seasonal Affair (a brilliant album…but only if you like Genesis, Marillion, Camel, and Big Big Train)

March 30, 2015

Argos

ARGOS: A Seasonal Affair (2015: MUSEA, Progressive Promotions Records)

ARGOS is:

argosBAND

Thomas Klarmann/ Bass, Flute, Keyboards, Guitars, Lead Vocals

Robert Gozon/ Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars

Ulf Jacobs/ Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Rico Florczak/ Electric Guitars

Guest Musicians:

Andy Tillison, Marek Arnold, Thila Brauss

 

This album (their fourth) is so good I guarantee it will be on many “best of” lists for 2015…or it would be if people knew of ARGOS and actually purchased/heard their new musical offering: A Seasonal Affair. Counting two bonus tracks it’s an 11 track disc that serves up a feast of not neo-prog, but classic goodness ala 1973/4.

Track 1, ‘Vanishing,’ starts with fantasy lyrics and real Porcupine Tree vibe but by the time that Hammond and synths arrive in Track 2 one is hearing echoes of Triumvirat. Track 3, ‘Silent Corner,’ though too starting with a Steven Wilson feel, morphs into a sound dialogue between trance-like meditation and jazzy instrumental fusion. This song is so perfectly constructed that it should be a Classic Prog standby tune!

Track 4, ‘Silver And Gold,’ keeps up the jazz/rock rhythms but adds some neat Gentle Giant like vocals. This complex syncopated style of choppy vocals makes another pleasant appearance on bonus track 11, ‘Black Cat.’ Track 5, ‘Lifeboats,’ may be my favorite song and all by itself it worth buying the album for. The song hearkens back to the great classics of Gabriel era Genesis or even Fish era Marillion. The squiggly Mellotron and synth keys put an actual smile on my face.

Thinking then that ARGOS had peaked; they delivered their magnum opus in the 12:32 multi-layered and multi-part epic ‘Not In This Picture.’ The interplay between synth strings, keys, and Hammond produce more Genesis brilliance with a touch of both Pink Floyd and, surprisingly, Big Big Train. There is a rural English countryside appeal to much of the vocal delivery. These Germans sound like a classic undiscovered Canterbury band.

This respectful nod to the Canterbury scene continues with Track 7, ‘A Seasonal Affair,’ as the beautiful melody and gorgeous piano hearkens back to Pete Bardens and Camel.

This is simply a groove laden album with handsome low-key vocals swathed in meditative and achingly beautiful washes of color and fragrance. It’s like Passport meets Yes with an extra dose of both Genesis and Steve Rothery guitar runs.

ARGOS, formed in 2005, and hailing from Mainz and Greifswold Germany needs to be put on a much larger stage as this album is Prog magic which should be part of every Prog aficionado’s collection.

A telling sign of how good it is (how good it MUST be) is that mega-genius and musical polymath Andy Tillison is one of the guest musicians (along with Marek Arnold on Soprano Sax and Thila Brauss on keyboards). This album truly bears that distinguished mark of excellence that is Tillison!

Progressive Promotions Records deserves to placed on the permanent radar of all Prog fans, and this album needs to sell. It is available for around $20.00 at Amazon.com, while ARGOS’ 2012 album, CRUEL SYMMETRY is available at CD Baby for a reasonable price.

ARGOS info at:

http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=4316

https://www.facebook.com/pages/ARGOS/7061742082

http://www.progressive-promotion.de/

 

Mellotron set to 11

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The Elephant In The Room: Eclectic Taste -or- Ears Filled With Wax?

March 28, 2015

If you like everything you don’t like anything. This is a paraphrase of something Jane Font (“Daisy Jane” Font, former co-host of the internet radio program PROG’OPOLIS) said back around 2005. This comment and the view it expresses was not at all new to her but was something I had either never heard before, of if so, never given any thought to. It has bounced around in my head ever since. Jane Font was criticizing music listeners who had no discernment whatsoever and simply liked whatever was playing at the moment. Was or am I one of them? Is my musical taste all in my mouth?  My recent qualified-semi-positive review of parts of ELP’s LOVE BEACH have helped me sketch out these demi-thoughts.

Almost everyone I know likes to flatter themselves with the statement “I have very eclectic musical tastes.” Well sure…everyone simply likes what they like. But the question is can you like too much? Can one be too catholic, too accepting, and too receptive?

I love Prog. When I say prog I mean not just the traditional “old school” progenitors such as ELP, King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, and Jethro Tull, but also second wave bands such as Marillion, Arena, Flower Kings, and Spock’s Beard. I also love the newer and current crop.  (okay, here comes the list)

But I also love British new-wave/new romantic, and synth 80s bands (Thompson Twins, Flock of Seagulls, OMD, Tears for Fears, Spandau Ballet, ABC, etc. etc.) as well as: NWOBHM (Saxon, Priest, Tygers of Pan Tang), Retro space-age pop (Bob Thompson, Esquivel, Martin Denny, The Three Suns, Les Baxter); Traditional Country & Western (Cash, Waylon, Willie, Buck Owens, Marty Robins); Swing Jazz (Artie Shaw, Duke, Count, Goodman); classic pop-rock (Abba, Bee Gees, Raspberries, Three Dog Night); Space/Sludge/Psychedelic (Sabbath, Hawkwind, Motorhead); Classical (Bach, Mozart, Mahler, Vaughn-Williams); Surf-Rock (Ventures, Madeira, Insect Surfers); Jazz-Rock Fusion (Miles, Return to Forever, Weather Report); R&B/Funk (James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Parliament); Celtic (Clannad, Silly Wizard, Bothy Band); whew………

And while some may take this (not even scratching the surface) list of music that I like as mere scattershot “name-dropping” or boasting it’s anything but.

I love good music (“cue” Duke Ellington’s line about the two types of music). My Dad would play his monster stereo console (big as desk) all the time when I was a kid. I heard everything from the Harmonicats, Sinatra, Strauss, and Jim Reeves, to Polynesian instro and Al Hirt.

And then in my late teens I became a record buyer. Though I came to rock music a little later than my peers that type of music took preeminence!   Other kids bought fast food, pop, beer, and clothes while I bought stereo LPs.

Music has affects. Music may not be an aural SSR or a sonic tryptophan but it truly impacts ones brain and emotional centers. Ray Bradbury once wrote that old photos are time machines, but so too is music. When I hear a Moody Blues tune or (fill-in-the-blank) I am many times transported back to the first time I heard the song including the people, scenery, and feelings that were there. I can’t hear King Harvest’s ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ and not be transported to the car of Mike & Greg driving around Fort Wayne, IN after a Senior High Friday night Football game, or ELO’s ‘Do Ya’ which takes me to a dark, melancholic “lost-love” imbroglio.

Music is powerful stuff. Good music is not only entertaining (dancing, parties, and road trips) and fun but also ennobling, uplifting and at times nearly transformative.

So, while Jane Font is probably correct that if you actually do like EVERYTHING (not hyperbolic but quantitatively and literally EVERYTHING) than you’ve got some problems. But if you are blessed (thanks Dad) to have an appreciation for tons, and gobs, and mountains of musical genres, types, styles, and kinds…especially when Prog holds a prominent position (c’mon: Pink Floyd’s Animals, Genesis’ Selling England by the Pound, and Big Big Train’s Full Electric) than all is well in your search for Lost Chords. You have found or are destined to soon find your own (n)EVERLAND.

Mellotron set to 11 

p.s. Thanks to my son I even like some DMX and Eminem

No S.A.D. Here: Warmed By The DRIFTING SUN

March 21, 2015

driftingSUN2

DRIFTING SUN/ Trip The Life Fantastic

released 20 January 2015 Peter Falconer – Vocals Dan Storey – Guitars/Bass Andrew Howard – Guitars Pat Sanders – Keyboards Will Jones – Drums Music: Pat Sanders Lyrics: Peter Falconer

Buy this album!

One expects Big Big Train, The Tangent, and Glass Hammer to be good and to always deliver top-notch music when they record. One expects the moon in the sky at night. But when the rare comet is seen it is a cause for the hairs on the back of the neck to stand and the smile to appear. Out of seemingly nowhere (though the genesis of this internet studio collaborative goes back to 1994) DRIFTING SUN has appeared with a simply KILLER album of beauty and emotion.

I’ve got a couple of pages of hand-written notes so that I can regale you with a track by track analysis…but naah…just

Buy this album!

At around 53 minutes the disc never drags. The crystal clear recording, mixing, and singing are top notch. The way the production brings out the sound makes it a perfect blend of soft melodies and virtuoso playing.

The alternating of the longer songs with shorter instrumental pieces, though a bit of a trope, works well. I actually have zero complaints or any constructive criticisms of this little gem, save, the truly ugly cover art of the album.  A hard to read and ugly band logo coupled with a sketched picture of the band (which looks like it was drawn by someone’s 6th grade kid sister) COULD be improved on. But a diamond in a burlap sack is still a diamond!

Buy this album!

Tasteful Hammond, swirling synths, and some technically adept and beautifully romantic piano runs mark project founder Pat Sanders as a true compositional genius and wizard of the keys! A shout out also is due to some blistering leads by guitarist Andrew Howard and gorgeous vocals by Peter Falconer. Falconer’s ability to reach the higher registers without going falsetto is impressive.

This album has everything from Spanish-tinged (Andalusian nights) acoustic guitar to synth and drum melds that image Larry Fast meets Morricone.  The frist 45 seconds of Tormented even gets the fists pumping with a Judas Priest cum Kamelot drive!

The whole is greater than the sum of its wonderful parts. The listener will at times hearken back to Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, and even IN ROCK Deep Purple in the classic rock/pop-prog sounds. But with plenty of swirling keys arranged in blended harmonies with the rhythm section the European power metal vibes are balanced with the slower and softer melodies to produce a cinematic and reflective hour of gorgeous classical pop-prog.

This band should be a household staple.  I look for this album to appear on my BEST OF 2015 list!

http://www.driftingsun-music.com/the-band/

http://driftingsun.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/driftingsunonline

 

so, yeah, Buy this album!

 

Mellotron set to 11

Taking One For The Team: I Listen to ELP’s “LOVE BEACH”

March 20, 2015

love beach

I submit that with a different album jacket, say, just their initials “ELP” and a battered Union Jack over a Veterans cemetery (near Dunkirk?), along with excluding the first three songs…ESPECIALLY the feculent, fetid, and foul (other f words come to mind for other reviewers no doubt) Taste My Love (track 3), and this album is passable. Of course than it would be more of an EP unless replacement music was inserted. I certainly endorse side B (on the old vinyl) with the 20 minute story-song epic Memoirs Of An Officer And A Gentleman.

Music buyers who don’t have any qualms with cherry-picking their music (i.e. 99.99% of the buying public) would do well do download Memoirs as it is filled with a weighty “Britishness” as Greg Lake sings a multipart story of a young Englishman who matriculates through Sandhurst, visits the USA in the late 1930s, is commissioned, married, deployed, widowed, and endures in characteristic British indomitableness. The song has hints of ELP’s iconic Jerusalem and both Emerson’s piano and Lake’s voice are in fine form. The song is a worthwhile prog epic.

Track 6, Canario, is an instrumental “cover” of a Joaquin Rodrigo composition and as interpreted by Keith Emerson is a pleasant and melodic meeting of Wendy Carlos and Hot Butter. I think track 5, For You, is fairly catchy and would have made a decent James Bond movie theme. And finally, on the “plus” side, track 4 The Gambler has some nice funky drums and groovin’ synth work. This too might have worked well at the cinema—only maybe in a Burt Reynolds’ Smokey flick.

BUT…

The opening three songs are just dreadful. The keys and synths are cheesy and all treble and alto-centric (I have no idea what that means but wanted to say it). Carl Palmer’s drums are okay, and yes, Lake’s voice is still good, but the lyrics are embarrassing and the third song is downright frighteningly bad: “get on my stallion and we’ll ride,” “climb on my rocket and we’ll fly,” and “I want to dynamite your mind with love tonight.” Gene Simmons looks like Puccini when compared to Taste My Love.

The album isn’t as bad as I had been lead to believe by both the execrable cover photo of the boys looking like refugees from a loser’s disco, and the savage press the recording has received by just about everyone. But, for side two, I would purchase this disc as a cut-out…$3.99 maybe, but no higher. Just because this is no Tarkus or Trilogy, but probably a bit of a “throw-away” by the band itself to satisfy a recording contract, there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Thank goodness for YouTube.

 

Mellotron set to 11

Marillion–My Mature Musical Meal

March 18, 2015

Sometimes no matter how hard you urge, cajole, and pester your friends and loved ones…they just don’t like the music you like. Regardless of your persuasive techniques and glowing reviews they don’t like the band, the album, or the genre.

I lived my entire adult life trying to convince every friend I’ve ever had to give DOCTOR WHO a try with absolutely no takers (my wife won’t even watch an episode with me). I also had zero success in trying to advance Celtic music.

Prog too is a strange category of musical simmerings that seem to resist popularization with many, if not most, of average listeners. I will write more on the idiocracy (thank you Mike Judge) of American music listeners at a later date.

But without casting any more stones at my friends and family I likewise can turn the same criticism upon myself. Subject, thy name is MARILLION.

For the longest time I just didn’t get this band of Brits. Why? I think I just plain wasn’t ready for their sound, sophistication, and true progressivity.

I was initially attracted to them when I first encountered their name around 2000 on either Amazon.com or some internet prog station. As a Tolkien lover their name had an immediate draw. Around 2004 I discovered that they were sending out free sampler discs of their music to anyone who e-mailed a request and signed up for their online list. Within a matter of several weeks I had in my mailbox their free CD compilation: CRASH COURSE—An Introduction to Marillion. This freebie (which reminded me so much of the “loss-leaders” that one could send away for in the mid/late 1970s) had 8 tracks and clocked in at 61:13. Their generosity and love for their fans would also be “lost” on me for years.

I think I listened to it once and then put it aside for close to a decade. I just didn’t “get it” though their song Man of a Thousand Faces did strike my cortex as catchy and worth a re-listen. Why didn’t I appreciate their brilliance? Upon reflection, I think it’s because it wasn’t what I was looking for at that moment in my sonic odyssey and my preconceived prog filters were looking for a sound that was more classic (1st wave) Genesis/Yes/Floyd than the cross-pollinated “H” and company were laying down. Marillion were too complex and “outside the lines” of what my limited prog senses could accept.

But now years later and thanks to the recommendations of two PhDs (Birzer & Woods) I have become enthralled and entranced by Marillion. I am well on my way to completing (at least) the post-Fish discography and have been having the time of my life catching up on treasures that were there all the time just waiting for me. CRASH COURSE is in my auto CD player more times than not as I cruise around town and I now count Marillion as my favorite band of current bands (i.e. groups still actively writing & recording new music/albums, touring, and playing festivals). Steve Rothery is my favorite active guitarist (reminding me so much of my all time axe hero Andrew Latimer) and the English Elf of the 4-string, Pete Trewavas, is the finest Bass player in rock today. From Seasons End to Sounds That Can’t Be Made, I love it all.

Marillion are not a cookie-cutter, by the numbers, prog band that simply patch together epic fantasy lyrics, killer guitar riffs, and noodling keyboard synths. Marillion produces human music of great depth, beauty, pathos, emotion, and complexity. The songs are not always immediately accessible a like bright and sparkling champagne but rather roll around on the palate like a deep, earthy, and multi-faceted 40 year old Scotch whisky. Some music is likable and accessible like tasty chicken noodle soup with its clear salty broth. Marillion is a thick and rich clam chowder which not all children will or can instantly savor. A decade wasted for me because I was looking for something as symphonic and melodic as Kansas or Barclay James Harvest. But I am grateful to be late to such a source of sonic nourishment than to never have arrived again.

Mellotron set to 11

Foundations: Current Great Does Not Negate Past Good

March 16, 2015

Many times a famous band has an original vocalist who remains beloved, famous, and well remembered even after only a brief partnership and many years of passing. Deep Purple, for me and many, will always conjure up the singing of Ian Gillian (Smoke on the Water, Highway Star, Woman from Tokyo) and to a lesser extent David Coverdale (Burn, Soldier of Fortune). But who can forget the original vocalist Rod Evans? Evan had a great “set of pipes” and His Kentucky Woman cover along with the iconic Hush remain enshrined in Rock’s Hall of Fame by alumni of the late 60s and early 70s.

And for all fellow prog-heads one only need say GENESIS or MARILLION to kick-start heated arguments and scathing “put downs” Vis-a-vis vocalists. I love Phil Collins but in my estimation Peter Gabriel, whose voice is simply better, will always be the voice of the band. Conversely, though original singer Fish is viewed by many as “the” voice of MARILLION, I have come to appreciate and love the style, emotions, and sound of “H” even more!

This long way around the barn brings me to a very brief observation.

The voice and performance of vocalist Martin Read on BIG BIG TRAIN’S, English Boy Wonders is simply wonderful! I will no doubt be reviewing this somewhat neglected masterpiece at a later date. To be sure, I think Read’s successor Sean Filkins was an even better fit in the band and had a more appealing voice, Read was sooo good! And current vocalist of BBTDavid Longdon, though HE has probably the best voice in prog today (he sings like a Seraph), Read was sooo good!

Part of the prog ethos which separates it from the ephemera of pop music is that it cares deeply about its musical heritage, patronage, and origins. So concluding this long-winded “shout-out,” I can only heartily recommend English Boy Wonders for all of the current reasons any “thinking man” should love BIG BIG TRAIN; but ALSO for the soothing, feeling, heartfelt, and bravura vocals of Martin Read—you sir are not forgotten!

Mellotron set to 11

THE MIGHTY BARD: Blue God And Other Stories

March 14, 2015

  Bard1

   What a delightful find! Sometimes the serendipitous and highly subjective art appreciation of the consumer leads to buried treasure. I would not have listened to this album but for the cool “cartoon/comic-book” style spaceman artwork on the album jacket. The cover art, along with the fact that the band was generous enough to allow the whole disc to be listened to for free on Bandcamp, well, got me to listen to it.

I’m buying this album and I’m giving it a big “thumbs up” to anyone who enjoys softer melodic keyboard driven compositions. Most of the tunes hearken back to 1st generation prog styles and themes—AND THAT’S A GOOD THING! “Nihil sub sole novum.” THE MIGHTY BARD is a tight functioning group of excellent musicians that fire up pleasurable listening memories of Al Stewart, Styx, and Starcastle (maybe even some early Ambrosia). But amongst contemporary prog geniuses I would have to say that if one enjoys Kino, Frost*, It Bites (i.e. John Mitchell) as well as Cosmograf (Robin Armstrong) I guarantee a very enjoyable encounter with THE MIGHTY BARD.

The nine tracks are essentially 7 longish compositions bookended by tracks Before and After, a pair of sound-effect laden synth heavy ambient vibrations and some back-masking/tracking on the outro (track 9). But the main core of this album is a rich stew of early 80-ish synth keyboards (Neil Cockle) and emotive electric guitar (Dave Clarke). We’re not talking Wakeman and Latimer here, but still the C&C synthesis along with some tasty Bass by Mark Cadman (especially his funky run on Bird) deliver harmonious blends and some breathtaking beauty.

From the folk-prog of Maybe (track 3) to my two favorites Bird (track 5) and Blue God (track 2) the listener is surrounded by Floydian instrumental runs and Barclay James Harvest pastoral vibes.

Had I heard this album last calendar year it would have made my 2014 “Honorable Mention” list—I like it that much. Listen to it on Bandcamp: http://themightybard.bandcamp.com/album/blue-god-and-other-stories or at Progstreaming: http://www.progstreaming.com/_wb/index.php

Bard2

I can’t wait for their next offering. These 6 blokes are Bards indeed; and they’re mighty!

Mellotron On!

Alternatives When the Album Ain’t There

March 12, 2015

And so, what do we all do when we’re not listening to a prog album on CD? I am a physical media “old guy” so if it’s not a CD or vinyl than I’m thinking on-line prog (podcast or YouTube).

Well I don’t know what “we” do but I have my favorites which I’d like to share with you.

My first preference is the aforementioned YouTube if I can listen to a complete album that way; even searching it out track by track. I also have come to really appreciate Bandcamp and Progstreaming http://www.progstreaming.com/_wb/index.php for complete album appreciation. The “goodwill” that a band engenders from letting their music be heard in its entirety greatly motivates me to purchase the disc if I am at all interested. A “B” album on Bandcamp will be purchased by me more quickly than a disc tightly guarded and kept “under wraps” that may be of “A” or “A+” quality. It’s much like back in the day (circa 1979-1980) when Paul’s Records & Tapes in Topeka, Kansas, would let a shopper sit down and listen to a whole album on turntable and headphones. Good karma loosens the billfold.   Terrestrial radio? Forget about it. I’ve heard More Than a Feeling and (Don’t Fear) the Reaper (both of which I still like) more than enough times now.

I’m also not a big Pandora guy because since I refuse upgrades ($) I’ve got to be more responsive with my interacting than I can be at times. Not enough “thumbs up/down” and your station freezes.

So enough prattle… I recommend the following internet prog programs:

THE ANCIENT ONE: A weekly podcast by “The Ancient One,” (Jim Lawson, Isle of Skye) found at www.moremusicradio.uk/   Jim’s show plays a nice mix of classic prog as well as 2nd wave and modern stuff. He is an affable and likeable host.

LIVE FROM PROGZILLA TOWERS: Also a weekly podcast by Cliff Pearson. Cliff’s whole new internet radio network, PROGZILLA, looks to be the new nirvana for online listening. Check it out at http://www.progzilla.com/

THE DIVIDING LINE BROADCAST NETWORK: This long standing internet provider has been around since 2000 when Shawn Bishop started it up as primarily a Genesis listening vehicle. I have listened off & on since around 2004 and have seen many great prog programs and DJs come and go. The station has shrunk drastically and is but a shell of its former self. Still, several shows are high quality and deserve a check. I like Experiments in Mass Appeal with host A.J. “Gonzo” Giordano, The European Perspective with host David Elliot, and a long-time favorite, Underdog Prog with host Mary “Girl” Campbell (one of the sultriest voices online). http://www.thedividingline.com/schedule.html

One can also find lots of prog on Live365 but many of the stations are now V.I.P. only, which requires a monthly fee. My favorite free station is DJ Steve’s:  Koolkat’s Odd Sky http://www.live365.com/index.live#stations/koolkat2

These are all pretty nifty alternatives when you don’t have the CD at hand but are still Jonesin’ for some top notch prog.

Mellotron On!

ABEL GANZ: Shooting Albatross (throw-back review)

March 10, 2015

ABEL GANZ, Shooting Albatross, 2008, Abel Records (66:08)

shooting

Track Listing:

  1. Looking for a Platform (15:06)
  2. So Far (23:31)
  3. Sheepish (12:55)
  4. Ventura (8:40)

Bonus/hidden track (4:20)

Had I been rating prog albums five years ago this album would have been in contention for best album of 2008. These Scottish lads wrote and recorded a masterpiece!

The opening track, Looking for a Platform, clocks in at 15:06 but flies by. This “Genesis-tinged YES” epic with its multiple tempo changes and tight musicianship sets the overall theme for a melodic and lush soundscape, or seascape, as this opening song is framed by waves breaking on the shore; a motif that leads into track two as well.

The second song is the truly epic 23 minute standout track, So Far. The first four minutes of this Horslips vibed and Celtic tinged tune are a mix of low trembling bass, synth keys and more D Whistle (though it still sounds like the Uilleann Pipes to me) Some delicious 12-string and a mournful electric lead solo make the instrumental passages deeply evocative. The haunting vocal chorus is breath taking but the song has an optimistic and hopeful ending. Sheepish, track three, has a great arrangement and is the most catchy and rhythmic song. A Gilmouresqe electric solo and some sweet bouzouki are complimented by Denis Smith’s keyboard solo. The last track, Ventura, is again, an uplifting, upbeat and song of promise. This is a song to have on when sailing to the Grey Havens at the close of the Third Age. There is such a strong ‘feel-good’ wave of completion that one is almost disappointed that a hidden track at 10:17 gives the listener another four minute song. The bonus track with its cello and ambient backwash of synth and guitar also rate an “A+” rating.

A well-constructed digi-pack with some nice heraldic art (nautical/mythological; Mermaids) make this a complete winner all around. My only small quibble is that I wish the vocal mix could have been a little more up-front on track 1. Hugh Carter’s voice is a little thin at times but the harmonies flesh out the delivery. His lead on track three is much better. Kudos also are awarded to guest vocalist Alan Reed on So Far.

The band has had some personnel changes in the last few years but this iteration was a tight cohesive prog sound that delivered a near concept sounding album that has an electric folk instro “sound” that morphs into a neo-classical Annie Haslam Renaissance flavored hour of classic bliss.

In a more perfect world this album would have made ABEL GANZ breakout stars in 2008. Sadly it is not a more just and appreciative world, but lovers of beautiful and moving music can still search out this disc and buy it. I easily give this album my A+ rating as it lurches towards “desert island” status.

Mellotron On!

What is Prog? er……

March 6, 2015

calm

And what do I want to review and write about on this blog? The one word answer is Prog; to be more specific, prog rock music.

And just what is prog? You can ask the experts, the bands themselves, or just Wikipedia the answer I suppose. I’m not a musician, musicologist, or professional music reviewer (cue Frank Zappa’s infamous quote about “rock journalists”) so my opinion is just mine, extending to this blog and no further.

But I won’t take a “pass” at the answer or give a Potter Stewart quip (“I can’t define obscenity but I know it when I see it”). I’ll take a swing.

I think prog music is a very inclusive pool—a large tent, and not at all a constricting and narrow “club.” I think it can, and maybe should, try to actually “progress” music and take it into new and different sonic terrains—some of the time. Something always moving head, and too fast, is hard to grab on to and actually hear. Prog is not restricted to any one genre, time, or set of instruments. Charlie Christian’s guitar was progressive in the late 1930s and the axe work of Les Paul, Dick Dale and Link Wray was progressive in the 1950s…Jimi Hendrix in ’68, etc. Progarchy, (Carl E. Olson) persuasively argued that Frank Sinatra himself was progressive when he was cutting some of the albums for Capitol in the late 50s. http://progarchy.com/?s=Frank+Sinatra

Prog is an aesthetic and a vibe but it has characteristics which I think set it apart from mainstream popular music. Prog songs eschew being strait-jacketed into a radio friendly 3 minute duration. Prog albums lend themselves to thematic sides or entire whole concept discs. One will hear everything (hopefully not all at once) from dark dystopian instrumental soundtracks and scores to experimental music, loops, electronic noises, virtuoso playing, intricate compositional writing, and instrumentation that goes beyond the “three-piece” of guitar and rhythm section. Prog welcomes a heavy dose of keyboards from the Grand Piano, Mellotron, Hammond B-3, and Moog, all the way to digital synths and the most modern computer generated sounds. A good saxophone fits prog almost as much as Jazz. And speaking of Jazz, prog also appreciates improvisational jamming and riffing.

Popular music and Top Forty bands can either be prog or have legitimate prog elements in their music. Ambrosia, Styx, and Supertramp can be as welcome in the prog camp as the so-called “Big 5” (Jethro Tull, Yes, Genesis, ELP, and King Crimson). Prog can be acoustic, metal, Celtic, folk, Jazz-fusion, and of course Rock in its many shapes and flavors.

Prog can embrace symphonic and orchestral sounds and structure (ELO, Renaissance, Barclay James Harvest, and Cailyn) as well as individual virtuoso solo-projects.

Prog can be popular but many times, maybe most times, it’s not. While no artist, musician, or band seeks intentionally to make music that no one will like (not Captain Beefheart, not the Residents, not Sun Ra), what makes Prog, Prog, is that the chief concern is not sales, market share, and air-play, but the integrity and vision of the music itself. Prog is art. It will sell if we buy it!

Okay, I guess this definition doesn’t really define much…but, oh well, “I know prog when I hear it.”

 

Mellotron On!


The (n)EVERLAND of PROG

Searching For Lost Chords

Stormfields

Christian Humanism in a Post-Modern World

Progarchy

Pointing toward Proghalla