Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Blues (Collage, 1994)

I do think "Moonshine" is a neo-prog masterpiece and you'll find more than one song from this album in my blog. Collage were at their best during the composition and recording process of this work. Some of the songs are no doubt prog pearls and "The Blues" certainly is. Its rich, flushing texture and its excellent melodies are there to please the prog ears. I also like all those tempo and volume changes, ranging between a sparkling and lively rock and atmospheric, graceful passages.

The 20th anniversary of "Moonshine"... a good reason to celebrate!
Robert Amirian's voice is simply perfect, so full of energy and also sensible and delicate when it comes to that. And at minute 4:20 begins what is likely to be my favourite moment: a sudden stop, then a long and enthralling instrumental passage, including some keen guitar / keyboard interplays and solos. A treat, if you ask me. Well, that's enough with descriptions: listen to it, then let me know what you think of it.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Safe [Canon Song] (Chris Squire, 1975)

"Fish out of Water", the first Chris Squire's solo album, was never fully appreciated, IMHO, and this song, the last and longest one, should prove my view. The symphonic structure of "Safe", its somewhat hieratic themes (well, the sub-title Canon Song is there for some reason, I daresay) and the perfect balance between Squire's unavoidable performance and the rest of the band's contribution seem to me the highlights of this track.

"Fish out of water" was a treat for many Yes and prog fans.

Chris's voice isn't exactly Jon Anderson's, but I like it very much both here and in Yes songs. More than this, the quiet, acoustic contributions by Jimmy Hastings (flute), Mel Collins (sax) and the orchestra are so well mixed with the electric instruments that I can hardly tell the ones from the others. It's a majestic and deep piece of music, with no useless and baroque fillers: each moment is there to give an emotion and this is exactly what I call prog rock.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Conquest of Paradise (Vangelis, 1992)

It was difficult for me to choose just one song among the huge discography of Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου, or Vangelis, as we all know him. A great composer, far from any musical label, but certainly not too far from prog rock (and you'll find some of his joint ventures in this blog). I finally decided to present here the title track of his 1992 original soundtrack for "Conquest of Paradise", celebrating Columbus and his explorations.

Vangelis is the author of a dozen beautiful original soundtracks.

A majestic theme, some airy keyboards, a bombastic orchestration, a magniloquent choir performance, but also a sensitive piano and well found rythmic solutions. Strangely enough, this track didn't get so popular at the film release time, but it surely did later, when it proved to be perfect for advertising spots, event openings and award ceremonies. This is also true for many other tracks by Vangelis and I do think he's the best one when it comes to rouse and excite people. That's why I listen to his music when I need some extra energy.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Heretics (Dream The Electric Sleep, 2014)

"Heretics" will luckily be considered the consecration CD for this Kentucky based band. And I do think they're mature enough to leave the wannabe status and enter the modern prog bands inner circle. As this title track can easily prove, they play a rather rough and keenly assembled kind of prog, definitely XXIst Century branded, but also reminiscent of the glorious past (especially of King Crimson, I daresay).

"Heretics" is the band's second studio album.

The saturated electric mood of this song is charming. The bass and the rythm guitar underline a discreet, effective background work (no keys, but a ton of beautiful guitar effects) and some crying solos. From the leading wall of sound to the final suspended landscapes, all is essential and perfectly in tune. These guys work and re-work their materials until they find that sound, that bridge, that distorsion. They're never trivial and never predictable. This and their taste for good melodies are enough for me. But then, I know, I'm just a simple progfan.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Wartime Chronicles (Andrew Roussak, 2008)

Born in Russia, but especially active in the German prog scene, Andrew Roussak is a talented keyboardist, a very good composer and also a spectacular performer, IMHO. He played with some prog bands  and also won the online competition launched by The Tangent to play in their album COMM. (And that's how I came across his name). This track comes from his solo album "No Trespassing" and perfectly represents Roussak's eclectic and bombastic idea of prog, something between Rick Wakeman and neo-prog bands.

"No Trespassing" was Roussak's debut solo album.
"Wartime Chronicles" is full of changes, strong guitar riffs (by guest guitarist Oliver Weisloger) , quick scales, classical refeerences and it's also graced by the clever drumming of Hendrik Plachtzik, let alone Andrew's grand piano. I really like the turning points of this instrumental, some of which are unpredictable and very well found. If you like enthralling and majestic music, try this track!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

To France (Mike Oldfield, 1984)

I must admit this song is one of my favourite short songs by Mike Oldfield. Its remarkable balance between pop elements, folk roots and progressive visions gives birth to a delicate and well arranged track. Maggie Reilly's voice is a winning point here, and so are some old fashioned sounds, coming from Oldfield's huge collection.

This song also was a successful single release.

The lyrics about the Queen of Scots Mary's exile in France are also well written, but the sung melody is the actual pearl of "To France", IMHO. Rich and delicate, this theme is like a musical embroidery, a light and bright acoustic drawing. The acoustic instruments are wisely mixed to the electric ones, so that a full-bodied Fender Stratocaster's solo empowers this gentle tapestry. Sure, it's just a song... but oh my, what a song!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Skellig (Mr. Gil, 2010)

Ex-members of Polish band Collage definitely have a busy life. Guitarist Mirek Gil, for example, founded both Believe (see in this blog) and Mr. Gil, two very different bands, as the first ones bring on a traditional neo-prog music, while the latter released some unpredictable albums. "Skellig" is the title song of Mr. Gil's second studio work and is a keyboard-free album. Here Mirek's guitars are the leading instruments, especially his deaming electric guitar, mixing Hackett's and Gilmour's ways... not to mention Rothery's!

Each album by Mr.Gil has its own taste... that's why I like them!

The rythm section is also very good: in this song both drummer Wojtek Szadkowski and bassist Przemas Zawadzki contribute to the big picture with their neat and discreet work. Finally, the warm vocals by Karol Wroblewski match with the sensitive and emotional melodies. I also appreciate that the lyrics here are in the band's native language: this stresses the confidential mood of the track and adds a natural, inner side to this beautiful prog ballad.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Song of Wire (Wallenstein, 1973)

Coming from the Golden Era of prog, Wallenstein are among the most interesting German bands ever. This rather floydian song illustrates their peculiar way to symphonic rock with both classical and space-rock sides. "Song of Wire" is taken from their "Cosmic Century" album and starts with a piano intro. The following moods range between spacey landscapes, relaxed chords and electric guitar / piano interplays, the latter being their most recognizable trademark.

"Cosmic Century" was Wallenstein's third studio album.

The sung parts are on the melodic ballad side, and flow into bombastic walls of sound, like Pink Floyd meet early King Crimson. There is in fact a pastoral atmosphere all along this track, a pensive mood that perfectly matches with some electric and arcane passages. I also perceive an emotional charge in this music, preventing Wallenstein from being a mere derivative band. A cup of '70s nectar I highly recommend. With or without milk, depending on your taste!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Two Souls Dancing (Wasaya, 2014)

Wasaya is the name multi-instrumentalist Tarek Shehabi chose to release his 2014 album called "Garden of Doubts". This track, "Two Souls Dancing", is an energetic and up tempo instrumental in which I appreciate Tarek's skills, epecially when it comes to electric guitars. Some keyboards are very good too. This Syrian musician also knows how to change the rythm and to enchain different themes in order to enrich and diversify the song.

Michael Al Asmar created this effectve cover art.
The music flows ahead like a rising tide and it communicates the strongest vitality with no volume surfeits. And after all, wasaya means "wills" in English... something I feel in this dense and tight music. As it was written and recorded in Damascus during the long civil war that ravages Syria, I also read a message of hope in this song.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Rambling on (Procol Harum, 1969)

Taken from their "Shine on Brightly" album, this is one of the best melodies by Procol Harum, very representative of their style and their composition habits. The sung part isn't too different from their previous and following hits, but it has a wider breath and a richer texture, while the instrumental passage and the final solo add some rock elements into the song.

Procol Harum and the piano: true love...

There are, as usual, several interesting tricks, like the false final fading out or the original empowered piano intro. The piano itself is the leading instrument, but the rythmic guitar and the diversified drums are essential to the song mood. Some say Procol's main virtue is their composition skills. Well, I think this song proves how right they are, and also illustrates the taste for eclectic arrangements and keen musical research the band had. A prog taste, if you allow me to say so.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Rock Opus 7 (Wurtemberg, 1980)

This is a beautiful, airy and classically influenced instrumental. It comes from Wurtemberg's debut album called "Rock Fantasia Opus 9". Wurtemberg are the brainchild of Alain Carbonaire, a French multi-instrumentalist fond of a big variety of ancient instruments, some of which you'll find in this track. That said, the piano rules "Rock Opus 7", providing the dynamic and sometimes syncopated pattern on which the other instruments - mainly acoustic ones - add their different voices, building up a symphonic and vaguely medieval sound.

Unexpectedly enough, the band came back in 2008 with
"Rock Fantasia Opus 10", their second studio work.
The musical themes spring up and intertwine with both delicacy and liveliness. A special mention goes to Gilles Michault-Bonnet's flute and to Bernard Maitre's xylophone, but everything is in tune and the perfect balance is probably the greatest merit of this track. It actually gives me a little bit of happiness, this song. What else could I expect?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Avbury Circle (Lethe, 1981)

Strangely enough, the Dutch prog scene in the 1980s seems to be packed with one-album-only bands and - what's even stranger - many of those unique works are very good ones. Lethe released their self-named LP in 1981 and this "Avbury Circle" is one of the four instrumental tracks included in it. It's a completely original kind of music, where classical references and jazzy passages follow one another.

This is an album that's worth a wider diffusion, IMHO.

Thuur Feyen's piano surely is one of the strongest points of this interesting piece of prog, giving a special dynamic touch to the music, then here you are a spendid choice of acoustic instruments, including a pleasant xylophone and a mysterious cor anglais. That said, the electric guitar and the bass are also present and very well played, so that the final picture is a diversified, deep and sometime devilish one, something you don't easily find elsewhere. I do hope such a pearl won't be forgotten by my progloving friends.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Icarus (Rael, 1992)

Oh yes, we all know who Rael is, so you won't be surprised to know that Rael were a Genesis and other prog icons tribute band from Argentina since 1985. Finally, they also released an album of original songs in 1992 called "Máscaras Urbanas " (that's "Urban Masks" in English). As you can easily imagine, their sound is tsrongly influenced by the Charterhouse pupils, but these tracks are pleasant and packed with emotions. The lead singer (and drummer!) Ignácio Rodríguez has a voice that's somewhere between Peter Gabriel and Fish and a passionate style I appreciate very much, especially in this song, "Icarus".

Genesis fans will surely appreciate all the songs in this album.
Sung in English (the album included both Spanish and English lyrics), this is a melancholy song, with a well found melody and some charming instrumental bridges. It's more neo-prog inspired than the rest of the album, and I also think it has a fresh and easy-going touch in it, just like Marillion used to have. Unfortunately, Rael disbanded some months after the release of their album, but the French label Muséa re-released it in 1997 for the international prog fandom. If you're searching for warm and familiar prog, this is for you.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Berlin (Barclay James Harvest, 1978)

Probably because I'm not from UK, I'm fond of all things related to Old Britain. BJH are quintessential English pop-rock (even when they sing Berlin) and their prog vein runs behind the musical lines of well found melodies and dreamy arrangements. I like this song very much. This pearl comes from "XII", one of my favourite albums of theirs, but it's likely well known as part of the "Concert for the People" the band performed in 1982, actually in West Berlin.

"Berlin" is one of my favourite live albums ever.

What really strikes me - here and in so many other BJH's songs - is the fluid composition and the way those musicians had to be sweet and never sweetish. Of course, a tough progger wouldn't even accept to listen the first chord of "Berlin", but I'm not in that company and I like the pop side of prog as well. Only, I can only love this kind of songs as long as they move me. And this is exacly what "Berlin" does.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

By-Tor And The Snow Dog (Rush, 1975)

This mini-suite by Rush is often quoted as a band's early progressive effort and a model for following and longer compositions. Also the main character of this epic, By-Tor, will come back in a later song, but I don't think we should label such a rich and diversified song as a sketch for succeeding masterpieces. In fact, the four movements of "By-Tor And The Snow Dog" (that's to say: I. At the Tobes of Hades; II. Across the Styx; III. Of the Battle; IV. Epilogue) are accomplished examples of heavy prog and - despite their tricky and mythologic concept - are a solid, neat and coherent set.

The lyrics as they appeared in the original LP.

Hard riffs, wide open melodies, atmospheric passages and graceful links follow one another to describe the fierce battle between two powerful and fantastic enemies. This is a kind of prog that simply didn't exist in 1975, a clever mix of toughness and refinement, simplicity and complexity. Something bound to become a classic. And yes, one of the Rush-est Rush tracks!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

C'è un paese al mondo (Maxophone, 1975)

The only album by Italian act Maxophone still stands as one of the masterpieces of prog during the classic era. Rich and highly original, still perfectly recognizable in its genre, this work is opened by the track I'm introducing here. It's a diversified song, featuring an elegant piano intro, then the band comes in in all its dynamic and full-bodied sound. The wind section also joins this musical feast, adding a distinctive and warm colour to the big picture. The tempos and the moods keep on changing, incorporating a slight jazzy section and the beautiful and theatrical vocals by Alberto Ravasini.

Colours and sadness: this cover art is as constrasting as the music inside.

The Italian lyrics perfectly fit into such an enthralling and ever changing music, describing an utopian country growing up on the roots of truth and where freedom dances. This enchanted carousel of contrasts and good melodies actually illustrates the '70s soul, even if the band came too late to the music market to enjoy the commercial succes they would have deserved.

Monday, 8 June 2015

When I Meet God (Marillion, 2001)

Here's one of those songs I listen to very often and I like each time more. "Anoraknophobia" included two long tracks of this kind and they still are among my favs. The lyrics about human weakness and the slow, winding rythm  are luckily the first features the listener pick up from the song. Then the beautiful melody comes in... and I'm in a musical heaven.

Anoraknophobia deals with "Anoraks", meaning Marillion's fans

The verse, the chorus and the bridge are all so well written and the tempo change is so well set up that the whole track seems shorter than it actually is. Mark Kelly signs one of his best keyboard arrangements ever, full of what I'd call sense of wonder and of course the rest of the band are at their heigths too. The whole track is packed with original tricks and nonetheless is a fully enjoyable and catchy song. Another miracle by Marillion, I daresay.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Starborne (Happy The Man, 1977)

When it comes to creative ways to get into prog rock, Happy The Man's debut album is an excellent choice. In their own slightly dissonant and always surprising way, these American musicians gathered a collection of crossover songs that still remains as an unavoidable reference to the open minded proggers. This leading track is one of the most charming pearls in the LP, based on a spacey mood I could die for, on which all the instruments draw abstract themes.

This album lines up a stunning series of unpredictable tracks.

Kit Watkin's minimoog is of course the main character in the play, but I also love the way drummer Mike Beck and bassist Rick Kennell give a stronger texture to the track... they seem to unveil a wide landscape to the listener, conjuring up new details and unseen skies. A great way to open an album, IMHO, and also a perfect sample of what I call reflection music.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Psychodrama (Numen, 1998)

I know, I know... so many neo-prog bands fill the virtual shelves of my blog. Nonetheless, these Spanish boys deserve, IMHO, their own space here and this song will help me to explain why. Not only Numen are pretty good when it comes to writing melodies, but they also like changes. Good changes, I mean. Listen to the way they shift from rythmic sections to sweet acoustic ones and vice-versa in "Psychodrama", especially around the acoustic guitar part. I also happen to like César Alcaraz passionate vocals, somewhere between IQ and Ange.

"Samsara" was the band's debut work and their only one until 2014.

And then, I love the way the piano gets in at minute 6:41and starts a rather jazzy and unusual section, seconds before the Marillion echoes come back with the main sung theme. Contrasts are the very hard core of progressive rock, so I welcome catchy lines and pop ballad verses as long as they're mixed with some less predictable moments. That's exactly what Numen seem to master very well in their best songs. And that's why I'm glad to have them in my blog.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Vulcano (Index, 2004)

Do you like vintage sounds and dynamic prog instrumentals? If you do, here you are the opening track of the album "Identitade". This is by an excellent Brazilian band called Index and actually this music brings me back to the good ol' prog days. Nonetheless, there are many original touches in "Vulcano" I'd like to stress here. 

With "Identitade", Index released their third studio work.

The symphonic parts are cleverly mixed with some jazzy influences and in the melodic sections it seems to me like Genesis met Camel somehow, somewhere. These four musicians are excellent: the guitar and keyboard solos can't hide the puzzling rythm section work. No time for useless embroideries: all passages, even the richest ones, are aimed to a coherent and enjoyable plot, an exciting and never self-indulgent architecture. Try it, my prog friends, I'm sure you'll like it.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Voyage (The Moody Blues, 1969)

Here you are a magnificent early prog track coming from "On The Treshold of A Dream", one of the most interesting albums by The Moody Blues. This one actually is a brave track, and that for many reasons. Not only it is a fully instrumental track, something rather unusual in 1969, but it is also based on a wide range of keyboards, including a heartbreaking, and lines up an unpredictable series of musical sketches, more like a soundtrack than like a song.

This work was the fourth studio album by The Moody Blues.

Last but not least, "The Voyage" is somewhat part of a little suite, being the central section of a trilogy including the two parts of "Have You Heard". This gem actually is a voyage, a trip through strange galaxies or, more likely, through hidden soul corners. Finally, "The Voyage" is one of the best reasons I found to love The Moody Blues. Is that enough for you? It surely is for me.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Perelandra (Eden, 1980)

Prog rock is a very articulated musical universe. Among all the constellations it includes, Christian prog is one of the less known by the general fandom, apart from some international stars as Neal Morse, for example, or dedicated projects by the likes of Rick Wakeman ("The Gospels", to name one of his best efforts in this field). The main risk with the great number of "minor" Christian bands is, of course, a diminished importance of music to the advantage of lyrics and their religious message. This is not the case with Eden. This German band released an excellent album titled "Perelandra" and based on the famous SF novel by C.S. Lewis, luckily better known for his "The Chronicles of Narnia" series.

"Perelandra" is how the Martians call the Earth according to C.S. Lewis.

This is the title song of the album and it is an excellent example of the lushing sound of Eden. You are immedately taken by the huge variety of instruments (the pesonnel of the band sums up to 10 musicians in this record) and the well done vocal harmonies. But there's more than this: the keyboard and guitar solos, the acoustic passages and the excellent themes are also to be considered. Last but not least, I highly recommend Annette Schmalenbach's pure lead vocals: it's difficult to find a sweeter version of German language...

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Luminosity (SimpleXity, 2011)

This is a very good single release from the Egyptian band SimpleXity. They released an interesting debut EP called "Click to Start", including of course this track. It begins like a pop and catchy tune, then the electric guitar and the keyboards come in and the mood gets heavier and definitely progger. It's a fresh and lively way to approach the easy side of prog rock, but when the keyboard solo starts, followed by a rythm-driven instrumental bridge and finally a dreaming guitar solo, well, no doubt, this is progressive rock. And a good one, at that.

Hope to listen more from you... good luck, SimpleXity!

A final mention goes to Omar El-Deeb sentitive vocals and I also recommend to you all to browse the net and listen more tracks by the band. I really don't know how many acts like this one exist in the land of Pharaohs, but I'm sure there is more than meet the... ears. Anyway, these guys are worth the prog community attention, as sure as their Country is worth our respect and gratitude. Prog on, guys, prog on!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Kali - Demolition And Massacre (Ars Nova, 1996)

This Japanese powerful trio is the female version of ELP and surely was mostly inspired by the British authors of "Tarkus". This track comes from the album "The Goddess of Darkness", a concept based on female divinities all around the world and the eras. This song, of course, is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali and is full of drama and rythmic inventions. The spectacular keyboards played by Kaiko Kumagai - also responsible for all compositions - are perfectly empowered by the rythm section (Kyoko Kanazawa on bass guitar and drummer Akiko Takahashi).

"The Goddess of Darkness" was Ars Nova's third studio album.

If you like highly dynamic prog, fast progressions and irregular rythms, this is for you. Demolition and Massacre are quoted in the sub-title of this instrumental and you'll definitely find them in this series of dark and devilish themes. So this is a piece of advice for you all: don't listen to this if you're faint hearted!