Posts Tagged ‘Prog magazine’

Great Prog Music from Prog Magazine (the writing ain’t bad either)

May 11, 2015



Issue # 55 April 2015 (cover: Andrew Latimer)

Various artists


Notwithstanding how good the actual magazine is, these bonus/extra CDs that are included every issue are alone worth the price of the subscription.


Track 1: The Tangent/A Spark in the Aether (4:14)

I have already written on this track & album in a full review (  ) but must reiterate that this song is a prog classic. On the “gem” Andy’s keys simply soar into the stratosphere of joy while Agren’s drums drive this anthem like a charger (a horse) along a pristine beach. The chorus is infectious and the overall feel-good buoyancy suggest we may have the “song of the year” for 2015


Track 2: Gong/Tried So Hard (4:33)

If you don’t know Gong you don’t know prog. Go buy their back catalog. This tune starts off part psychedelia Beatles and CSN&Y before fully embracing Syd Barrett style Floyd. This is a mellow mood inducer that’ll have you smelling patchouli and weed. Put on your bell bottoms and granny glasses and thank the Lords of Prog for Gong. R.I.P. Daevid Allen, you will be missed.


Track 3: M-Opus/Different Skies (Excerpt) Every Day The Orbit (5:18)

What’s not to like with the opening lush wash of layered sounds mutating into a huge middle section of mid & far Eastern rhythms and sounds. With the sitars and tablas one conjures up the mysterious beauty of back-street markets and sub-Saharan sand-dunes. With the vocals mixed very low only the vocoder space-like spoken ending intrudes on some fine Eastern Prog cum soundtrack worthy instrumental art.


Track 4: Gavin Harrison/Hatesong-Halo (8:11)

Take the best jazz-rock fusion sounds of Chicago I, or Blood, Sweat & Tears (Al Kooper Mk 1 version), mix in some deft synth reeds (bassoon?) and concerto like complexity and you have Gavin Harrison’s delightful all instro mini-epic. Jazzy and symphonic with an almost Return To Forever flavor this is one of my favorite tracks on the sampler.


Track 5: Von Hertzen Brothers/ Love Burns (4:37)

Possibly my favorite track on the disc! This band, a relative new discovery—and fairly new group—explodes like a fireball or comet of Prog brilliance! Great vocals and great singing, are melded into a grand and melodic symphony of power-metal/prog metal that builds to a crescendo of sonorous bliss. The track makes one seek out the Von Hertzen Brothers album for another “fix” of this aural drug!


Track 6: Sanguine Hum/Out of Mind (5:48)

With the outer-space “bleeps” and “burps” coupled with the oscillating electronic gurgles the introduction slides into a gorgeous slow tempo number. The liquidy Mellotron sounds make me smile. “Buttered cats” anyone?


Track 7: Rian Adkinson/Pianoburn (3:35)

I like the heavy reverb in the drum opening. What starts off with a bit of an indie rock vibe goes “hard” at the 2:28 mark to produce an almost post-rock heavier ending. Not bad at all.


Track 8: The Gentle Storm/Shores of India (6:37)

Now THIS is my favorite track on the album! The Dutch musical project/collaboration between composer/guitarist/keyboard wizard Arjen Lucassen and vocal goddess Anneke van Gierbergen has given the world of prog one of the best albums of 2015. This particular tune opens with 45 seconds of flute only to be subsumed in a whirlwind of tablas and sitars. At 1:23 the guitars come in with Anneke’s vocals kissing the production at 1:38. Anneke has a marvelous instrument with her wide-ranging, octave spanning voice which alternates between a mesmerizing almost narcotic gothic delivery and a higher-range pure crystalline soprano so beautiful it cuts glass. Lucassen’s complex composition tethered to Anneke’s delivery, which at times is so warm and nostalgic to hearken back to Annie Haslam (Renaissance) at her peak, turns this symphonic track into “The” show-stopper. This can’t be recommended highly enough. I’m buying the album.


Track 9: Special Providence/ Kiss From A Glacier (4:36)

This in an all-instrumental piece that has touches of the brilliance of both Tangerine Dream and even Radiohead’s “Kid A.” The solid drumming and stellar guitar work morph into some nice jazz fusion in the middle section before rocking out with an almost Dream Theatre level of jamming at the conclusion.


Track 10: The Last Embrace/On My Own (7:33)

Another gothic Angelo Badalamenti-esque opening that is drenched in sultry and smoky vocals. The bleeding guitar and emotional lyric delivery had me thinking both Long Patrol (a great, great indie band) and David Lynch soundtracks. This is like Evanescence with substance and far greater musicianship. This beautiful tone-poem builds in intensity and transports the listener to a Stan Ridgway desert highway populated with sleazy dives, neon signs, and starry vistas.


You can’t buy this album sampler but you can and you should subscribe to Prog magazine today. Editor Jerry Ewing and his crack staff turn out a lavish product that does ALL of music proud.  And, it was a double bonus “coup” for me as Andrew Latimer (Camel) is the cover story.  Camel is my favorite band of all-time.  I am very happy.


Mellotron set to 11


PROG magazine issue # 54 CD review

April 8, 2015

I could hardly be happier. My latest issue of PROG magazine just arrived—the one with the Marillion cover (and a great article about the neo-prog bands of the early 80s).


But as fun as the magazine is, I submit it’s worth the price of subscription just to get the CD sampler. I am of the generation that has been (is) fighting (within my own brain) the battle for physical, “hard copy” media and thus I don’t download. Being too cheap to have satellite radio in the auto, I love CD samplers. PROG’s latest collection, “LORDS OF THE BACKSTAGE” is a corker; maybe the best one I’ve heard.


With 10 tracks clocking in at about an hour I only found one song that gets a less than an “A” rating.


Track 1: “The Storm” from Arjen Lucassen and Anneke van Giersbergen’s latest magnum opus THE GENTLE STORM kicks of the disc in epic fashion. This driving and rhythmic guitar and drum driven song starts off in almost a NWOBHM/power metal way but when Anneke starts to sing (accompanied by chorus) it morphs into a symphonic metal masterpiece that sounds like a gutsier Annie Haslam singing with Nightwish.

Track 2: MARILLION deliver big-time with a 7:30 live version of “Sounds That Can’t Be Made.” I can’t really be objective right now with this band—as it’s my favorite. I feel myself starting to go “fan-boy” in my adulation. Pete and Ian are simply the “tightest” rhythm section in rock. Mark Kelly as the king of both sampling and digital programming also lays down some lush and lyrical “story-telling” cinematic score-worthy keys. Rothery stays mostly “behind the scenes” with his axe, ever so gently guiding the melody till he cuts loose a bit at the 5:40 mark. And Steve Hogarth…just “wow.” “h” is raw, visceral, melodic, and moving…as always. MARILLION remains the one band that always sounds as good, if not better, in their live performances.

Track 3: AISLES, a Chilean band, delivers a slower love-song with some great harmonies and a beautiful soft acoustic guitar opening.

Track 4: One of the treats on a sampler is when one encounters an unexpected surprise. LUNA ROSA delivers a 4:58 song filled with smoky flute, deep rumbling bass & synths, an almost prog-lounge (but in a good way) key board theme, and the strong, dark, yet mellow vocals of song bird Anne-Marie Helder. This is a band I will explore!

Track 5: HAWKLORDS with their short and “to-the-point” (3:01) “Sonic Seven Kiss” gives the listener exactly what a fan of the Hawkwind/Hawklords genre of music expects—SPACE MUSIC LIVING AND ORGONE ACCUMULATING!  When the music starts you’re instantly blasting to Neptune with punk-tinged vocals smashing into noisy crunchy guitars. There’s all the mud, vocal distortions, head-banging, and electronic noises to cause your space-suited glove to register a big “thumbs up.”

Track 6: This 4:50 song “Frozen Processions” by BARREN EARTH is the only “meh” tune for me. My lower rating is not due to any sonic deficiencies or lack of stellar musicianship, but simply due to my lessening interest in melodic Death Metal. There’s some great shredding, nice double-kick drumming, and requisite growling vocals, but it just didn’t “do it” for me. Sorry guys.

Track 7: Another real treat with “Traveling Man” by M-OPUS. This 5:30 song has tons of Hammond organ and synths, but it’s the outer-space sounds/mojo and the rich & varied melodies that conjure up images that run the gamut from Nektar (Down To Earth) to the neo-prog crop of UK bands in the early 1980s. M-OPUS is also now on my radar for future purchase!

Track 8: I’ve already enthusiastically praised THE MIGHTY BARD and their “must-buy” album “Blue God and Other Stories” in a prior post. The song “I Know” is a pure gem of (9:15) melancholy grandeur and sad and mournful battle-weary beauty. This is an “A++” track that hearkens back to the more pop-Prog/cross-over genius of early Procol Harum and Uriah Heep. Put down whatever you’re doing and buy the album!

Track 9: RA RISING and their song “Again” instantly puts a smile on my face whenever I listen to the first 43 seconds of its lilting Canterbury folk-prog meadow jauntery. This track is such a feel good Ray Davies (or maybe Donovan) meets Barclay James Harvest, that one can’t but help be transported into rural England and the proverbial “village green.”

Track 10: MAGIC BUS gives us the final song on the disc with the 5:10 track “Ballad of Lord Sogmore.” Slow flute, psychedelic droning Mellotron, Hammond organ, and early King Crimson-ish vocals, produce a pleasing swirling conclusion to a wonderful hour of Prog.

The song selectors have really outdone themselves with this edition.

If you’re not a subscriber, I heartily recommend picking this issue up on the newsstands (Hastings, Barnes & Noble) if you can. Astounding Sounds and Amazing Music, indeed!

Mellotron set to 11

ALBUM REVIEW: PROG magazine’s The Start Of Something Beautiful

February 27, 2015



Track Listing:

  1. IF THESE TREES COULD TALK/ They Speak With Knives
  2. GOLDRAY/ Outloud
  4. LONELY ROBOT/ Construct/Obstruct
  5. KARNATAKA/ Road to Cairo
  6. BRAINTICKET/ Singularity
  7. MIKE KERSHAW/ Farewell
  8. WARMRAIN/ Fading Star
  9. ENSLAVED/ Thurisaz Dreaming (edit)
  10. SUBVERSION/ Novation
  11. JU AND KJETIL MOSTER/ Hassassin

From the plastic alien figurine inside the 1960s cereal box to the cheap whistle in a box of Cracker Jack, who doesn’t enjoy getting an added bonus freebie? One reason to purchase each issue of PROG magazine is the marvelous CD enclosed each—usually running close to a solid 60 minutes. Okay, it’s not really free but is included in the price of the magazine, but still…   🙂

Prog Sampler 31: THE START OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL is a real keeper due to a powerful middle section of tunes. This is the disc which is included in the Steven Wilson cover issue (# 53, February 2015).

A review of a collection is by necessity a review of each song as a stand-alone. So:

  1. The opening track They Speak With Knives by the band IF THESE TREES COULD TALK is a great lead off song. It starts off with a tight, well produced, rhythmic, and driving beat instrumental opening which leads into several nice tempo changes. This is a very nice post-rock sounding piece but with very clean guitar and no distortion. Rather than the sturm und drang of a band like EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, this tune stays melodic for the full 5:39 and surges along even keeled rather than that normal shoe-gaze build-up and crash model. I give it an “A” and would gladly hear the album.
  2. GOLDRAY is next up with their song Outloud. The song starts off stoner/sludge-like with some heavy riffs but is soon joined by the vocals of Leah Rasmussen. The backing heaving groove and the vocals swirl the listener around into classic psychedelic rock. There’s a nice fuzz-distorted middle section before Leah’s vocals come back in at 6:05. Just when the listener thinks this sweet tune is over there’s a final coda of 50 seconds or so of tinkling and droning synths that leave a real “Eastern” tinged vibe. A sold “B-/B” effort.
  3. This short 3:43 track makes the entire disc a must keep! THE NEAL MORSE BAND with Agenda scores an “A+” and definitely means I’ll be buying his new album. Portnoy’s crisp and snappy drumming, Morse’s lyricism and always convincing voice, an overall catchy foot-stomping melody, coupled with a beautiful chorus makes the listener want to just hit repeat and forget about the next 8 tracks.
  4. LONELY ROBOT, the new project from John Mitchell, brings in the fourth track, Construct/Obstruct with a quick syncopated and sustained synth theme that has the listener at first thinking “1980s”…but in a pretty good way. The shift at around 3:20 and the melding of great lead guitar with the otherwise heavy drums & keys driven song, completes this highly rated “A” song. I will be exploring this album further.
  5. KARNATAKA follows with Road to Cairo and also scores my high rating of “A.” A nice serious 30 second orchestral synth opening is joined in by singer Rachel Jones and this orchestra/symphonic prog tune begins to soar. Jones has a nice set of pipes and the song reminds one somewhat of Annie Haslam and Renaissance. Jones’ vocals literally jump out at around the 3:30 mark due to mixing them right up front and dropping away the otherwise too heavy wall-of-sound mix. The overall muddy sonic feel lowers what might have been an “A+” down to a still superlative “A.”
  6. BRAINTICKET delivers a nice Hawkwind-lite sounding Sci-fi themed song, Singularity. This is a mostly instrumental track with a smattering of female vocalise that is a jazzy wash of synths and rhythms. The electronic bloops and bleeps and the brief science-fiction dialog make it an addictive 5:00 of solid “B+”
  7. Along with Neal Morse, this track, Farewell, by MIKE KERSHAW is the other standout on the disc. I will be henceforth buying Mr. Kershaw’s new album. Within the first 14 seconds of the song a smile appears on ones face and stays for the entire 4 minutes plus. The fetching melody, the warm likeability of Kershaw’s voice, and the catchy toe-tapping folk/rock Prog (cum Celtic) is pure infectious joy! Even without that beautiful instrumental middle section the song would still garner an “A+” A must buy!
  8. WARMRAIN follows with their selection Fading Star. Clocking in at 8:17 this would be the “epic” of the disc. And it is, in quality as much as quantity. This song actually reminds me of Robin Armstrong and his Capacitor album; a higher compliment I cannot give. What starts off as a lonely and somber instrumental piece goes through numerous changes to include emotive vocals, a background radio sample, tightly harmonic guitars, drums, and synths, and a beautiful sitar-sounding string conclusion. Another “A+” and another resolution to search out WARMRAIN’s album.
  9. If you’re not prepared for track 9, I wasn’t, the opening few seconds will knock you off your chair as you yell “what the deuce?” I have no excuse since I know how to read and do actually own an album by ENSLAVED. Nonetheless the orc-like growls of this Black Metal institution do take the listener out of the beautiful prog-mojo-cloud trance from the previous 8 tracks J I was about to thunder “THIS AIN’T PROG” until I actually gave the song a chance. Sure, I don’t like the guttural gargoyle growling but the tune actually morphs into a very cool jazz-rock, and proggy, head—nodding affair. Some very clean and normal vocals at the 1:30 mark mix in well with the melodic galloping theme. And though the rough vocals do reappear, the overall heavy and ominous under beat sustains the song with swirling and pulsing tones. This kind of reminds me of earlier Opeth. That’s a good thing.   I would listen to the album. I give this track a surprising “A” rating.
  10. The band SUBVERSION brings the disc way down. I rate their contribution, Novation, a lowly “C-” What starts off as merely annoying mediocre prog-metal, quickly turns into what I call emo-screamo non-melodic music. To be fair, these guys are accomplished musicians and there’s nothing technically wrong with their presentation. A nice theme for about 45 seconds, at the 1:20 mark, gave me a glimmer of hope, but no, it concludes as simply a generic euro-death metalish tune with no gravitas.
  11. And then sadly, the disc ends with another low rated “C” selection, Hassassin, by a group known as JU AND KJETIL MOSTER. Your mileage may vary on this one. I find it to be dry and distant jazz-fusion prog rock…and not the good kind. This is 8:41 of drum, drone, and distant screeching saxophone (or synth sax). Only in the last 20 seconds is there an interesting snippet of an intelligent theme. I’d rather go and listen to Miles.

Tracks 1, but especially 3 through 9 (most especially Neal Morse and Mike Kershaw) make this a delightful compilation disc and one that will be returning to my CD changer many more times.

Overall rating: “B+/A-

But you know, for what it costs to buy a copy of PROG magazine and get these nifty bonus discs…one could just buy the new NEAL MORSE BAND album.


Mellotron On!


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