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Time Machine (2013) is the first new Nektar album in over four years. Roye Albrighton says it is “by far the best album we have ever made”. (But then he would say that.) Billy Sherwood produced. “This time out Nektar have done it right. The songs are well thought out, complex and just as freaky-deaky as any good prog should be. However, they have achieved that odd prog rock counterbalance where the music, despite being complex, is easily accessible. The band, while retaining their classic sound, also give a nod to early Genesis on the title track. Nektar really open it up on Tranquility and Diamond Eyes. Destiny is a musical and emotional tune while Talk to Me may be one of the best they have ever written. Opening number A Better Way is breathtakingly good. Time Machine lives up to its name, as it really is like stepping back to the prog heyday of the early 1970s, yet the songs still sound fresh and impressive in 2013.” [Classic Rock Revisited] Listen to the tracks Juggernaut and A Better Way. See our British page for more Nektar CDs including the latest reissues of nearly the entire back catalog (a few more are to come) and their covers album A Spoonful of Time. Check below for the related Grand Alliance CD.
Hawkwind’s 1975 magnum opus gets the royal Steven Wilson surround treatment in this 2CD+DVD box set. The first CD contains the remastered original mix, the first CD ever of Warrior on the Edge of Time mastered from the original master tapes. It has eight bonus tracks (five previously unreleased). The second CD contains a new stereo mix by Steven Wilson from the multi-track masters, plus five bonus tracks (two previously unreleased). And most importantly, the DVD, which contains a 5.1 surround mix by the master of surround himself. Note this is a DVD-Video disc (NTSC, all-region), not DVD-Audio, which is boneheaded, particularly for Esoteric who you think would know better. So the surround mix is DTS 96/24 and Dolby Digital (the latter was never intended for music, so play the DTS). The DVD also includes Wilson’s new stereo mix in 24-bit/96kHz LPCM, and a flat transfer of the original stereo master in 24/96. So aside from the bonus tracks and ignoring portability concerns, you don’t actually need the CDs unless you prefer the lower resolution audio. The 16-page booklet features photos, memorabilia, and an essay. Don’t know this album? Read reviews at Prog Archives. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
These are two late 2012 CDs from the Hawkwind family, now being distributed in the U.S. Stellar Variations is the debut album for Hawkwind Light Orchestra, featuring Hawkwind founding member Dave Brock and current Hawkwind members Richard Chadwick and Niall Hone. Looking for Love... is a studio album of space rock, ambient, and psychedelic styles from Brock recorded over a five year period, featuring appearances by Hawkwind drummer Richard Chadwick and the late Jason Stuart. Read the Freq review of both CDs. See our British page for more Hawkwind CDs.
As heard on Progstreaming.com! The Garden of Delights (2013, digisleeve) is the debut for Finnish artist Rikk Eccent, and if that’s supposed to be a person’s name, it’s a made-up one. Most of the album is a hybrid of 1970s progressive and melodic hard rock and should have similar appeal to fellow Finns Five Fifteen, Crazy World, and Von Hertzen Brothers, though Rikk Eccent is darker and more Floydian. And several tracks are pure prog, showing little of the classic hard rock style, especially the 8:30 finale Nexus. There is plenty of keyboards to balance the electric guitar, and acoustic guitar is not forgotten. (It often is these days). A grower.
This 2013 release is a collaboration between Bruce Soord, leader of The Pineapple Thief, and Jonas Renkse, lead vocalist of Katatonia. Soord wrote the songs with Renkse’s voice in mind. This is the mediabook (hardcover) edition. See Kscope’s mini-site for videos and more info. “It is a stunning album in both depth and range of emotion and music. It captures so many genres and yet defies labels. Part rock, part electronic, it’s all blended together to create and album that lifts you up, makes you think and most importantly makes you feel. There is a hypnotic use of space and dynamics from the frailest, most intimate ambience to bombastic guitar-driven sections that lift your spirits. It is everything you can want from an album and more.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review.
Finally distributed in the U.S. is this 2005 collaboration between Strawbs’ Dave Cousins and veteran German composer/prog rocker Conny Conrad. Rick Wakeman guests. The Strawbs site says High Seas “contains some of the best new songs from Dave for a while, and some heavier than usual progressive, almost orchestral, instrumentation taking the listener back to the orchestral splendour of Down By the Sea.” “This collaboration seemed to have brought out the most original genuine new material from Cousins in quite some time. The songs and production bear all the hallmarks of his Strawbs work: serious, stately observations on matters romantic, celestial, and earthly, with touches of both the urgent folk troubadour and the slightly bombastic prog rock adventurer.” [allmusic] See our British page for the Strawbs and Dave Cousins CDs.
Circa: is the band assembled by Yes alumni Billy Sherwood (bass, vocals), Tony Kaye (keyboards), and Alan White (drums, vocals), with Jimmy Haun (formerly of Lodgic) on guitars & vocals. The self-titled album is their 2007 debut, while HQ (2009) is their second. These are the 2013 reissues on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label, which feature new artwork. The first album comes with a DVD that appears to be the 2008 Circa: Live DVD originally available only through the band’s website. The DVD contains the entire album performed live plus a great 40-minute instrumental journey through three decades of Yes entitled Chronological Journey. Extras include behind the scenes footage. The Circa: albums can be filed alongside the Squire/Sherwood Conspiracy albums and the 1990s Yes albums that Sherwood played on.
Bulbs is the new band of English composer, virtuoso guitarist (classical and electric), and multi-instrumentalist Neil Campbell. Their debut On (2013, digipack) may be the best instrumental prog album you hear this year. Most of the music has a flowing nature a la Ozric Tentacles, but while there is some spaciness and frequent electronic textures, Bulbs is much more of a progressive rock band as opposed to space-rock band, the music structured and composed. Both Campbell’s electric and classical guitar are at the forefront, with synths in support, but this is miles from a guitarist solo album. As Neil says, the music is quite complex (using time signature changes and cyclical structures) but extremely melodic, groovy and accessible. It varies from high energy tracks with modern aggression (with electric guitar obviously) to seductive pieces reliant on classical guitar. There is some influence of 1970s King Crimson and Summers/Fripp, and use of speech samples, all the while pushing instrumental prog in new directions. Bulbs are very much a live band too. Note Campbell has been collaborating with Jon Anderson on a series of large scale choral works; hopefully we’ll see the result of that before long. Read the Seba Rashii Culture Zine review.
Particle Theory (2008) is by Neil Campbell’s earlier band, which includes some of the best musicians in Liverpool on vocals, drums, bass, cello, horns, and Celtic harp, while Campbell himself plays all manner of guitars, keyboards, and more. The music is predominantly instrumental, with some male lead vocals and occasional ethereal female vocals, but is not song-oriented. The first thing that is apparent is that these are musicians with classical training. At times the NCC sound like a chamber orchestra playing rock, more rock-oriented than Karda Estra, more melodic and warm than Univers Zero. While they don’t strongly resemble any of the 1970s progressive bands, the NCC share the same true progressive ethos and the same desire to incorporate several centuries of western musical development into rock.
The label’s description: Founded in 2010, German band Cyril started as a project combining melodic rock and progressive rock elements. Keyboardist and sax player Marek Arnold has already released numerous albums with his bands Toxic Smile, Seven Steps to the Green Door, and Flaming Row. Cyril also features the voice of Larry B. (Toxic Smile) and the unique guitar playing of Ralf Dietsch. Bassist Denis Strassburg and drummer Clemens Litschko complete the band. Their first album Gone Through Years (2013, digipack) is thematically based on the book The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Musically, the album offers great melodies and vocal arrangements. While there are progressive time signatures and harmonic structures, it is focused on the songs. (Our description to be added.)
Elora are a prog band from Marseille (France) along the lines of Nemo, with blended female and male vocals in French (thankfully), which gives the music that special character. The label says they have influences ranging from 1970s prog such as Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Magma, to modern acts such as Porcupine Tree, Lazuli, and Riverside, and that their rock is strong and melodic, deep and melancholic. Crash (2013, digipack) is their debut, and Elora already have invitations to four renowned European prog festivals. Watch the album trailer.
Citizen Cain are a neo-prog band whose founding members come from the same Lothian region in Scotland that gave rise to Fish, though the band formed in London in 1982. Their music sounds heavily influenced by 1970s Genesis, though on the first album that influence is second-hand by way of early Marillion, becoming a more direct influence by the time of the second album, and on later albums, Citizen Cain establish a more distinct identity. The band’s sound is based around the vocals and lyrical tales of Cyrus, whose voice is a blend of Gabriel timbre and Fish delivery, over complex arrangements featuring Stuart Bell’s multi-keyboards, highlighted by guitar and flute solos.
These are the 2013 remastered editions of the first five Citizen Cain CDs on the Festival Music label: Serpents in Camouflage (1993), Somewhere But Yesterday (1994), Ghost Dance (1996), Raising the Stones (1997), and Playing Dead (2002). The band’s back catalog had been unavailable for many years, and the later CDs were pressed in very small numbers. The band say they were never very happy with the original sound and that on these remastered CDs, it’s nice to hear the music as it was intended to sound. Serpents in Camouflage is now a double-CD, with a bonus disc featuring the four tracks from Citizen Cain’s 1991 demo tape. It’s the first time on CD for these tracks, all remastered of course.
Skies Darken (2012) is their sixth album and first in ten years. Read the Progulator and DPRP reviews.
British prog band Mr. So & So was formed in 1989 by Dave Foster and Shaun McGowan, who shared a passion for Yes, Genesis, The Who, and The Beatles. They remain the band’s principal songwriters. They recruited the rest of the band and released three CDs during the 1990s, then went dormant until Dave and Shaun recruited new members and released their comeback album Sugarstealer in 2009. In the current Mr. So & So, vocal duties are divided between McGowan and Charlotte Evans. This band has been flying way too far under the radar given their talents. There has been a Yes influence in Mr. So & So’s music from the start, but many other influences as well. They supported Marillion on one tour, and Steve Rothery guested on 1998’s The Overlap and released it on his label. Read the Musical Discoveries, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives reviews of Sugarstealer.
Truths, Lies & Half Lies (2013, digipack) is their new one. Mr. So & So have the British songwriting DNA, a knack for infectious melodies that now seems to belong to an earlier era, given the trend toward cheerless, pseudo-serious dirge-prog. The music in this incarnation of Mr. So & So is more mature and polished, all class and quality, and instantly likeable.
Rick Miller has been composing, producing, performing and recording since the early 1980s, gaining a great deal of production experience while working at Sound Design Studios in Toronto and later in his own studio in Lakefield, Ontario, all the while honing his skills as a singer and songwriter. Early this century, Miller turned his attention to progressive rock, the music he grew up listening to. Rick lists his influences succinctly as The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett, and Gabriel-era Genesis, but it’s the first two that dominate, such that much of his music can easily be described as a cross between The Moodies and Floyd. Miller sings and plays guitar and keyboards (lots of Mellotron), assisted by other musicians (varying from album to album) on flute, cello, guitar, violin, and drums. This is old-school melancholy, and those David Gilmour-style guitar leads are just what is needed to shift The Moody Blues out of the late 1960s into the 1970s progressive rock era.
Immortal Remains (2013) still features Rick’s trademark soft, dark and melancholy prog style, but Rick says it is “rather angry and even darker than my previous ones”. See our Canadian page for many more Rick Miller CDs.
Lazuli’s Six Frenchmen in Amsterdam: Live at the Paradiso DVD (NTSC, all-region, digipack) was recorded in December 2008 by and for Fabchannel, a Dutch company that produced and streamed concert video of lesser-known bands. That company folded in March 2009, so in order not to waste the footage, Lazuli released it on DVD. The Paradiso in Amsterdam is a converted 19th-century church that is one of the temples of rock, having hosted many famous bands. Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio, 58-minutes.
The main part of the Live @ l’Abeille Rôde DVD (PAL, all-region, digipack) is a live performance at l’Abeille rôde studio in France in November 2012, comprising 16 songs, with a string sextet on one and a brass ensemble on another. This is followed by four songs recorded at the Loreley Night of the Prog Festival in Germany in July 2012, and one song from the 2 Days Prog Festival in Italy in August 2012. Finally there are acoustic sessions from November 2012 and February 2013, bringing the total length to 145 minutes. See our French page for Lazuli’s CDs and more info.
Sula Bassana is the pseudonym used by German musician Dave Schmidt, a veteran Krautrocker Kosmonaut who has numerous other side projects. The Sula Bassana material consists of long, mostly-instrumental psychedelic space-rock excursions dominated by heavily-fuzzed guitar, with synths and Mellotron strings in support. Schmidt also handles bass and drums, with occasional help from other musicians on drums and vocals. Dark Days (2012) is the latest and was mastered by Eroc (Grobschnitt). Read the Aural Innovations review and many more reviews on the Sula Bassana site.
Invicta (2013, digipack) is the second album for The Enid: The Next Generation, the second part of a planned trilogy that began with Journey’s End. It fully utilizes the talents of the new members including new lead singer Joe Payne. The Enid finally have a singer of a talent level that matches their instrumental and compositional abilities. At a time when bands with metal guitarists, no true keyboardist, and little understanding of classical music pass for progressive rock, the music world needs The Enid more than ever. See our British page for lots more The Enid CDs and more info.
Available for the first time on CD, this is the only album from the short-lived side project of Nektar’s leader Roye Albrighton, guitarist/bassist Derek Holt of Climax Blues Band, and drummer Brendan Day. The LP was released in 1983 and was the last thing heard from Albrighton until The Follies of Rupert Treacle at the end of the 1990s and the Nektar reboot that followed. This CD reissue adds one bonus track, House on Fire, which was the B side of a UK single and which can be heard on YouTube. This is a limited hand-numbered edition of 500.
These are the U.S. editions, which tend to lag the releases on Tangerine Dream’s own label by two years. The Island of the Fay (2011) is the first installment in the Sonic Poem Series, in which Edgar Froese (with the help of Thorsten Quaeschning) will probably compose one album for every book or poem he has ever read. The Island of the Fay is based upon the short 1841 work by Edgar Allan Poe, which is reprinted in the booklet. Read the Synths & Sequences and Sonic Music Review reviews.
Finnegans Wake (2011) is based on the James Joyce book. The booklet includes a long essay by Froese about the book and its author. Consider that it’s a hell of a lot easier to listen to this CD than to read the book, which is like 700 pages long and which Joyce spent 17 years writing. Joyce just couldn’t knock ’em out like Tangerine Dream can. From customer comments on amazon and elsewhere, it seems this series is some of T. Dream’s strongest work of the modern era.
Tangerine Dream’s Sonic Poem Series continues with The Angel of the West Window (2011), based on the 1927 novel by Gustav Meyrink (original German title: “Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster”). The novel is steeped in alchemical, hermetic, occult, and mystical imagery and ideas. Amuse yourself with videos for the tracks Hoël Dhat the Alchemist, The Mysterious Gift to Mankind, and The Strange Idol of Baphomet.
This is the 2013 U.S. edition of The Gate of Saturn: Live at the Lowry Manchester 2011, which is fairly self-explanatory, a 3CD set with nearly three hours of live Tangerine Dream. Click the mp3 icon above to view the track list. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping. See our Electronic Music page for more Tangerine Dream CDs.
Little Atlas are a Miami-based progressive rock band. On their first couple albums, their lineage is Genesis, Yes, or Kansas, but they aren’t retro. Their songs on these early albums seemingly are built up around a core of piano and voice, giving the music that organic, natural sound of the 1970s prog bands. Songcraft is one of Little Atlas’s strong points. Surface Serene (2003) is an engaging musical journey that harkens back to those classic progressive songs, but with lots of new twists and energy. Wanderlust (2005) represents a more adventurous and mature work than Surface Serene, which was already quite a good prog CD. All the songs on Wanderlust were fully co-written by the four band members, the compositions filled with vocal-driven melodic passages punctuated by thrilling instrumental flights. If Surface Serene led some to dub Little Atlas as “Spock’s Beard Jr.”, then Wanderlust puts the two bands on an equal footing. Frogg Cafe’s Bill Ayasse contributes violin to the final track.
Hollow (2007) was Little Atlas’s breakthrough album. Their sound has evolved significantly. While the music still resembles Spock’s Beard or Echolyn at times, here it is more intense and moody. And yet the dark passages are in perfect balance with the uplifting passages, and the contemporary prog style is balanced by classic prog stylings and vintage keyboard sounds. An exceptional record.
Automatic Day (2013) is their fourth, the music having gone almost completely over to the dark side. The music has evolved tremendously from Little Atlas’s beginning ten years previous, now closer to Porcupine Tree and classic Anekdoten, and having little to do with Spock’s Beard or Kansas. Yet there is still some classic prog grandeur that sets Little Atlas apart from other modern-style prog bands. As for other references, King Crimson deserve a mention, there are lots of passages featuring acoustic guitar that evoke a more pensive Genesis, and other songs with Yes elements, but again darker. Mellotron strings or choir are blended with dark, moody, more aggressive prog to great effect, and the production quality has improved with each CD. All told, this is Little Atlas’s masterpiece. Watch the official videos for the tracks Automatic Day, Oort, and Apathy.
Carptree keyboardist Carl Westholm goes the Ayreon route with his Jupiter Society project, creating epic space operas using different vocalists and musicians on different tracks. Most of the musicians have a metal background, and to some extent the music sounds like a heavier, more metallic Carptree. While Jupiter Society tends to stay more grounded in symphonic rock than similar prog-metal projects, the metal aesthetic still dominates in the doomy melodies, the invariant plodding tempo, and the generally ponderous feel. First Contact Last Warning is from 2008, Terraform from 2009. Read the Jerry Lucky reviews of First Contact... and of Terraform. (These two CDs are the U.S. editions.)
Released by the band, From Endangered to Extinct (2013, digipack) is the latest, most apocalyptic Jupiter Society CD, as Earth apparently loses this quarrel. Read the Proggnosis and Dangerdog reviews. (Don’t expect this one to ever be priced like the first two.) See our Scandinavian page for the Carptree CDs.
Out of the King Crimson camp and Discipline Global Mobile comes this enigmatic new artist. We don’t know who The Vicar is, but the other musicians on the album have names, and they include Tony Levin, Theo Travis, and Jakko Jakszyk among many others. Songbook #1 (2013, digipack) is an unexpected album. There are a variety of singers, but no drummers or electric bassists were invited. The music consists of very English sounding songs with acoustic instrumentation and string quartet/chamber music arrangements, like Giles Giles & Fripp and early King Crimson teaming with Penguin Cafe Orchestra, with assistance from 10cc, Stackridge, and Queen. (There is a Wolfman Jack voice introducing the songs. Unfortunately.) The Beatles did something like this; The Vicar takes it in a much more progressive direction. The music is so unlike anything else, you’ll just have to listen for yourself -- click the mp3 icon above to audition the entire album. This edition has a CD (standard res stereo) plus a DVD-Audio with hi-res stereo and lossless hi-res surround (and DTS and Dolby Digital if you must). The DVD-A also features the complete 38 episode videobook of The Vicar Chronicles - “The Mysterious Case of Billy’s G-String” as well as a video for the song Count Your Blessings.
Nosound is a Roman ambient/prog band headed by Giancarlo Erra. Tim Bowness (No-Man, Henry Fool) said “Out of all the Porcupine Tree and No-Man influenced work we’ve received at Burning Shed, Giancarlo Erra’s Nosound project is very probably the best.” Nosound’s fourth studio album Afterthoughts (2013, mediabook) features a new lineup that includes former Porcupine Tree and Blackfield drummer Chris Maitland. His powerful and inventive drumming adds a new dimension. “This is a dreamy, surf riding wave album full of emotional undercurrents. Maitland’s addition to the band has brought more highs and a more powerful drum delivery. The clarity which reins supreme on the mix of this new album points the compass in a new direction. The waves of guitar and keys fill the air, and Erra’s vocals are clearer and more emotional than on past albums.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review as well as the Proggnosis review. This mediabook edition features the standard res stereo mix of the album on CD plus a DVD-Audio (NTSC, all-region) with 24/96 stereo and lossless hi-res surround mixes (and DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 for those still unequipped for DVD-A). See Page 2 for more Nosound CDs and more info.
Flash was the post-Yes band of the late Peter Banks, who continued the early Yes style. The band reformed this millennium without Banks, headed up by original members Ray Bennett and Colin Carter. We remember watching the current Flash at Progday 2010, at which they promised a new CD soon, so it’s been a bit of a wait for Flash featuring Ray Bennett & Colin Carter (2013, 59-minutes), but worth it. Joined by three more musicians including a keyboardist, this new Flash pick up where they left off 40 years ago, with a few new tricks up their collective sleeve. And that is very good news for prog fans. The keyboardist is critical, because the original Flash tried to make do without keys after Tony Kaye left, and the second and third albums suffered because of that. Flash are back to full strength now. See our British page for the earlier Flash CDs.
Poor Genetic Material are a German symphonic prog band with an exceptional lead singer from the UK in Philip Griffiths, whose father Martin was the singer for Beggars Opera. PGM’s eighth album A Day in June (2013) strikes us as their best and most complete work. If their previous album Island Noises (a 2CD) takes a long time to digest, A Day in June grabs the listener immediately with the band’s best writing. The album brings together Phil and Martin Griffiths as lead singers on one album. Martin shares the vocals with Phil on three songs, while each sings lead on two others, the two voices sometimes resembling each other and at other times covering entirely different parts of the vocal spectrum. Together they give PGM some of the strongest vocals in modern prog. A Day in June is based on James Joyce’s Ulysses. The entire very long novel is set on 16 June 1904, thus the title of this CD. The Mellotron strings and the flute of Pia Darmstaedter (now promoted to full member) add elegance, and there are some of the sophisticated ambiences PGM first explored on the album Free to Random, used here in support of symphonic rock rather than as an end in itself. Listen to the song Oxen of the Sun. See our German page for the rest of the PGM CDs.
The Colour of Happiness (2013) is the work of five musicians from different fields of music: Jutta Brandl – renowned jazz-singer who has worked with some of the most respected German jazz musicians; Pia Darmstaedter – classical flutist who is busy working with different orchestras and touring and recording with her own band Autumnal Blossom; Rabin Dasgupta – best known from his time with Germany’s big alt-prog hope The Amber Light; and Philipp Jaehne and Stefan Glomb, the creative core of Poor Genetic Material. The idea for this collaboration came during the sessions for the Poor Genetic Material album Island Noises, which Brandl and Darmstaedter guested on. Jaehne and Glomb had a lot of material that didn’t quite fit into the context of PGM but which would be realized by Coarbegh. Secluding themselves in a remote cottage on Valentia Island off the Irish coast, they recorded these ten songs, an intriguing trip into new territory. This is much more than a simple combination of styles. It is beautiful, melancholy and atmospheric, contemporary music with lovely female vocals that we’re calling art-pop with elements of prog and electronica.
Autumnal Blossom is the band of classical flutist Pia Darmstaedter who, after playing in different orchestras, now works as a freelance musician. Due to her work with German prog band Poor Genetic Material, she now also feels at home in prog and art-rock. PGM’s Stefan Glomb (guitars, bass) and Philipp Jaehne (keyboards) guest on Against the Fear of Death (2013) and helped produce it. Darmstaedter also sings and plays piano. On this album these different music worlds merge: old acoustic instruments (flutes, cello, contrabass) are contrasted with electronic sounds. Songs with a chamber music approach alternate with tracks with a full band line-up. It’s a fascinating blend of prog, classical, and folk that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the lyrics, which are based on British and American poems written between 1600-1900.
Willowglass is an English act that is actually the work of one Andrew Marshall on electric & acoustic guitars, 12-string guitar, classical guitar, bass, keyboards, flute, recorders and drums, with the assistance of a drummer. The ten instrumental pieces on Willowglass’ 2005 debut are pure English 1970s-style progressive rock, with the main influences being Genesis, Camel, Anthony Phillips, and Pink Floyd, in that order. There is plenty of Mellotron strings, plenty of Hackett or Latimer-style electric guitar work, and plenty of the pastoral feeling missing from most modern progressive rock.
Book of Hours (2008) is again instrumental and continues in the same general style while expanding it slightly. In addition to Camel, Genesis, and Anthony Phillips, there are touches of Gryphon and Rick Wakeman. This music has an elegance and a sensitivity that contrasts sharply with the overblown and demonstrative style of so many current prog bands, and is a breath of fresh air after all the metal-dressed-up-as-prog being churned out today.
The Dream Harbour (2013) is also all-instrumental, the ‘Willowglass sound’ with a slightly heavier/darker sound in some places, still full of organ, synths, Mellotron, and 12 string guitars, plus the added talents of Steve Unruh (Resistor) on violin/flute/guitar and Hans Jörg Schmitz (King of Agogik) on drums/percussion. The beautiful artwork for the CD booklets is by Lee Gaskins. The artwork alone may tell you everything you need to know about these exceptional albums.
This Toronto-based prog band should be enormously popular once enough people hear them, at least people who like prog with pop songwriting skills in evidence, vocals front and center, and infectious energy. Bolus seem able to crank out catchy songs in much the same way 1980s Rush did, and Rush is certainly a major influence. But Bolus also remind us of early IZZ, when IZZ were more playful and less serious-sounding, also early Ambrosia and Genesis. Genesis get mentioned because Bolus like to add Mellotron strings and other proggy keyboards, and Mellotron strings can change the character of any music. While the Rush similarity is obvious on some tracks, especially in the upbeat energy, Bolus are a lot stronger in the keyboard department, since when Rush did use keys, Geddy Lee played pretty basic parts. Bolus also have harmony vocals that Rush lack. Watch Your Step was originally released in 2005 but was re-recorded and rereleased in late 2011 in this digipack edition. Delayed Reaction (2010, digipack) is their second. Triangulate (2013, digisleeve) is their new one, released just in time for Bolus’ appearance at Rosfest 2013. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Ian Boddy is arguably the premier synthesist in the UK. In autumn 2012, Ian Boddy played two concerts on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The first was his fourth solo appearance at The Gatherings, hosted by Chuck van Zyl in Philadelphia. Four weeks later he played at the Capstone Theatre in Liverpool. Boddy played the same set at each, and both performances were multi-track recorded. Back in his studio, Boddy edited the audio down to single CD length and merged the two shows to create a composite concert using the best sections from each. The result is Liverdelphia (2013, 75-minutes, digipack). In electronic music, few musicians perform live, but Boddy has played more than 150 concerts to date, and the effortless way he manipulates his music in a live setting is a testament to this experience. See our Electronic Music page for more Ian Boddy CDs.
Ken Hensley is best known for his work with Uriah Heep during the 1970s, but his solo career has been ongoing since 1973. Live Tales is one of Hensley’s solo shows recorded live in Alicante, Spain in August 2012, including songs from his Uriah Heep days as well as his solo career. It’s 61 minutes of Hensley on stage armed only with his acoustic guitars, piano, and book of songs.
Love & Other Mysteries (2012) is a full-band album that includes a string quartet, guests on cornet and classical guitar, and several guest vocalists including Glenn Hughes. Read the Grande Rock review.
Annalist are a Polish neo-prog quartet formed in 1992 in Warsaw who were active through the rest of that decade. Probably most influenced by Collage, Annalist are darker, with some King Crimson influence. The later albums introduce more pop elements, with suggestions of Simple Minds, U2, and Peter Gabriel. Two Annalist members, Robert Srzednicki and Artur Szolc, are responsible for the Delate, Music Inspired by Zodiac, and Music Inspired by Tarot CDs. This 6CD boxset contains remastered versions of all the Annalist albums: Memories (1993), Artemis (1995), Eon (1997), and Trial (2000). The band reconvened in 2012 to record six new tracks, resulting in the 27-minute mini-album Syrinx, also included. And that sure beats a disc full of demos and outtakes that you’d expect in such a collection. These sets are all numbered copies of a run of only 300. Nominally a 5CD set, supposedly only the first 100 copies include a 6th CD titled Singles. (It looks to us as though the material on this 6th disc also appears on the other discs.) All our copies have a number under 100, so without checking each one (not that we have very many), we’re going to venture they all include the 6th disc. On their 20th anniversary, Annalist want to remind us that they played a role in the development of the current Polish prog scene, and the styles heard here will be familiar to fans of the newer Polish prog bands. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
White Rock Experience is the 2013 debut by a Polish prog band on the Lynx label singing in English, following a couple EPs/demos. Some of that older material was incorporated into this album. For many young prog bands today, their strongest (sometimes only) connection to classic prog is to Pink Floyd, and State Urge are no exception in that their songs are all either dark, melancholy, or both. But keyboards are more prominent here than is typical for young bands. State Urge’s keyboardist often favors organ, and at those times, the music is close to either Pink Floyd or to 1970s hard-rock-with organ. The final track All I Need is close to early Eloy and, to some extent, early Nektar. At other times, the keyboardist plays piano or synths, as on the superb, mostly-instrumental Illusion, which is spacey, featuring lyrical guitar leads over synth pads, the purest (classic) prog track on the CD. The more modern-sounding tracks are not far from Riverside. Read the Metal Storm review.
Daymoon is a Portuguese symphonic prog band that on All Tomorrows (2011, 65-minutes) includes multinational guests Andy Tillison (The Tangent), Mats Johansson and Thomas Olsson (Isildurs Bane), Hugo Flores (Sonic Pulsar, Project Creation, Factory of Dreams), and many others from Portugal, the USA, Sweden, and Italy. Tillison produced and mixed the album. Daymoon have an early-1970s progressive sound, and while you can say that about numerous current bands, Daymoon’s retro sound is relatively rare. Much of it has the softer, more mysterious and slightly psychedelic sound that is part Trespass-era Genesis, part Moody Blues, part early Van der Graaf Generator, part Giles Giles & Fripp, and part early Pink Floyd. Along the way there are suggestions of Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson. Daymoon use flute extensively to get that particular period sound. A surprising release then, and one with great appeal to those fond of that early sound and style. Read reviews.
Fabric of Space Divine (2013, digipack) had been a work in progress since before All Tomorrows. It recounts the history of the universe in a little over an hour, with each track flowing seamlessly into the next. Flores is again among the guests. This is an impressive symphonic rock album that can’t be easily compared to one or two prog bands, but the names we tossed out there for the debut are still applicable, along with Mike Oldfield and Flores’ own bands (Sonic Pulsar, Project Creation) minus the metal. Daymoon weave in subtle ethnic touches on some tracks, adding to the richness of the music. The variation in style is one of the album’s strong points, as we’ve all heard bands with a homogeneous sound repeat it for 70 minutes and then wonder why listeners pine for the days of 35-minute albums. Elaborate, rich, and more consistent than its predecessor, Fabric of Space Divine is a significant step forward for this unique band.
The name of this Romanian band is a misnomer for two reasons. One, this is 1970s-style symphonic prog, pure and simple, so have no fear of an atonal headache. The band does date to the 1970s, so the name made more sense then. Two, there are only four band members on Atlantis (2012, digipack). They originally had a flute player as the fifth member, but as he couldn’t be located today, the flute parts on this album were played on a keyboard, though it isn’t obvious. Given that they’re now a quartet, the band sometimes use the shortened name Experimental Q. They did record material during the 70s but never released an LP. Atlantis is a new album but contains re-recorded material written during the 70s. Three of the musicians are original members, with a new young drummer. The music is almost entirely instrumental, with both keyboards and guitar sharing center stage. The keyboardist favors organ, so the organ-prog bands of the 70s come to mind, sometimes ELP, though less flashy, while instrumental Greenslade is sometimes a better reference. But Experimental Quintet have a guitarist who sometimes plays angular leads, then the music is something different. And when both flute and guitar are present, the music leans toward Solaris. The recording is faithful to 1970s sounds such that it not only sounds like a lost album from the classic era, it probably would have pushed Phoenix and Progresiv TM off the top spots in Romanian prog had it been released back then. Listen to the long track Quintet no. 2 on YouTube.
This 2013 collaboration with Oliver Wakeman represents Gordon Giltrap’s return to rock, after 30 years away. Which means the UK’s leading acoustic guitarist has plugged in his electric again. Giltrap has worked with Rick Wakeman on several occasions, so the collaboration with Oliver is a natural. On Ravens and Lullabies, the two are joined by singer Paul Manzi (Arena), bassist Steve Amadeo, and drummer Johanne James (Threshold), while Threshold’s Karl Groom recorded and mixed the album. The album also features a special vocal appearance by Benoit David (Mystery, Yes). This is the limited edition digipack, which adds a second CD containing five live tracks from Giltrap and Wakeman’s acoustic duo tour, and three new studio recordings. Click the mp3 icon above for all the info on the album plus several reviews. More reviews at amazon. Now if you fancy yourself a progressive rock fan and don’t yet have Giltrap’s rock albums (1976-1982), there is still time to salvage your reputation -- head to our British page, where you’ll find much more info.
The Windmill are an excellent Norwegian symphonic prog band formed in 2001, but To Be Continued... (2010) is their debut. They use flute and occasional sax in addition to the usual keys/guitar/bass/drums lineup. There are three instrumentals on this CD, but the bulk of the album is song-oriented melodic prog, including the album’s centerpiece, the 21-minute suite A Day in a Hero’s Life. Perhaps a good band to file The Windmill next to is Unitopia, for both are strongly melodic with good vocals, while sonically oriented to the 1970s and 80s. And as with Unitopia, you can call it neo-prog if you want, but we’re so far down the road now that the ‘neo’ tag (coined to apply to the 1980s UK prog bands) has become fairly meaningless.
The promise of a second album was inherent in the title of their debut, and The Continuation (2013, digipack) does pick up where the first CD left off but is the stronger album. This is the flowing, atmospheric Scandinavian symphonic prog style married to catchy melodies and uplifting themes. Watch the official video for the song Not Alone. Read reviews at Prog Archives, MLWZ, and Grande Rock.
Resistor is Steve Unruh’s electric band, a quartet of guitar, bass, drums, and Unruh on guitar, lead vocals, violin, and flute. This is 79-minutes of Resistor live at the 2012 Rites of Spring prog festival, with excellent sound. Listen to the 3:46 audio trailer for the CD. See Page 2 for the Resistor and Steve Unruh studio CDs and more info.
The self-titled album is the 2007 debut CD (56-minutes, digipack) by Days Between Stations, a Los Angeles band formed by guitarist Sepand Samzadeh and keyboardist Oscar Fuentes, with a large number of other musicians assisting. The music on the first CD is instrumental (with some wordless vocals), certainly influenced by mid-period Pink Floyd but more surreal, ambient, and cinematic. Some of the material could be compared to post rock bands such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, and there are many other progressive elements as well. The lush soundscapes and rich sonic detail reveal an uncommon talent. Read the Proggnosis and Sea of Tranquility reviews, or just see this compilation of reviews.
In Extremis (2013, 70-minutes, digipack) includes contributions from the late Peter Banks (Yes), the estimable Tony Levin, Colin Moulding (XTC), Billy Sherwood, and Rick Wakeman. The artwork is by Paul Whitehead (Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, etc.). There are some vocals on this one courtesy of Sherwood and Moulding, and it is altogether a superior, more stirring and less somber album, more symphonic, varied, and energetic. The band’s expectations have been raised in the intervening years, as they employ a full orchestra on the opening overture and a string quartet on another track, while veteran engineers were hired for both recording and mastering. This could be called the new American classic prog (meaning no metal or alternative for miles around), with some help from the Brits. Watch the short video trailer. Read the Something Else! review.
White Clouds is the 2008 debut CD by British prog band Vienna Circle. On this first album, they operate in Pendragon and Marillion territory, but the band they really remind us of is Castanarc, the soothing lead vocals having much to do with that. Vienna Circle tend to be more atmospheric than those bands and are more serious and profound-sounding than Castanarc, without getting bogged down in it as some modern bands do. That is, the music remains uplifting, with a spiritual quality. So this is what Castanarc would and should sound like in 2008 in an ideal world. Read the DPRP review.
With Silhouette Moon (2013, 8-panel digipack), it’s time for Vienna Circle to emerge as the next star in the UK prog scene. On this concept album, they build on the strengths of White Clouds, with greater ambition in both music and production. They are no longer very reminiscent of Castanarc or confined to neo-prog. There is more of a Pink Floyd or 1990s Porcupine Tree feel, but the breadth of style and level of originality makes it difficult to assign references. However, it should all sound comfortable and familiar to symphonic prog fans. What we’re trying to say is that a lot of people are going to like this. As Prog Magazine said: “Vienna Circle are one of the most ingenious and compelling bands our homegrown scene has to offer.” The DVD (PAL, all-region, 70-minutes) includes the feature length “Making of Silhouette Moon” plus bonus footage. Watch the album trailer. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Just in time for their appearance at Rosfest 2013, The Warmest Sun in Winter (2013, digipack) is Believe’s fifth studio CD, again with the sextet lineup that includes both keyboards and violin. Watch the official video for the song Unborn / Turn Around. See our East European page for the rest of the Believe catalog.
Before you get too excited, this digipack is not a new Unifaun album but a 2013 re-release of their first with new artwork by Canadian artist Claude Martin. The audio is the same as the previous jewel box edition; it’s just new packaging. Unifaun is the band where Roine Stolt found singer Nad Sylvan for his Agents of Mercy project. As the Progress label says, Unifaun’s 2008 CD is the stunning 76-minute debut from a Swedish band whose goal is to “make the songs that Genesis never did.”ť And they do it with great love and lots of talent. Other Genesis clones may mimic the sonic details perfectly but fall so far short of Genesis in songwriting terms that little of their music is memorable. Unifaun however have a knack for melodic hooks and understand that there was always a song (sometimes several) at the core of a Genesis track. This might have been our best seller of 2008 if we actually kept track of such things. Read reviews.
Henry Fool is an eclectic British band whose eponymous debut CD was released in 2001 on the Cyclops label (and has been out-of-print for a long time). The primary force behind Henry Fool is Tim Bowness, best known as the half of No-Man that isn’t Steven Wilson. That debut album was a distinctive combination of 1970s progressive influences (King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine), contemporary textural experiments, and hard-hitting group improvisations. It took until 2013 for the second Henry Fool CD Men Singing (gatefold mini-LP sleeve), which despite the title is entirely instrumental. The lineup is almost the same, with the drummer now Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum), the addition of a second keyboardist, a guest violinist, and none other than Phil Manzanera guesting on guitar. The music is a blend of progressive rock, Soft Machine style jazz-rock, and post-rock, ranging from symphonic to atmospheric to psychedelic and spacey. Their debut never received the recognition it deserved, but this impressive second album will. Read reviews.
Echo Street (2013, 61-minutes) is the fourth album for Manchester’s Amplifier, but their first for the Kscope label. Originally a trio, Echo Street is their first with their new four-man lineup. They have often been compared to Oceansize, and in fact new member Steve Durose was in Oceansize. The band says that the new lineup “has delivered a subtle shift in style, allowing them to mix their epic space-rock jams with accessible pieces boasting three-part vocal harmonies”. This is the mediabook (hardcover) edition, with 28 page booklet. Watch the official video for the song Matmos.
Rabbit in the Vestibule (2008, 63-minutes) is the debut by Toronto’s Half Past Four, an excellent, eclectic prog band that could be grouped loosely with Echolyn and IZZ in that they have a modern, energetic sound that is nevertheless respectful of the classic progressive rock bands, with some nimble playing and complex arrangements. Likewise, Half Past Four have a true keyboardist (who favors piano), the essential element missing from too many modern so-called prog bands, so the balance between keys and guitar is what it should be for a prog band. Half Past Four’s songs are centered around their talented female vocalist Kyree Vibrant (which is a pretty good surname). The music is often arty and quirky, skirting Squonk Opera territory, simultaneously innovative and catchy. Read reviews here and especially the DPRP review for more in-depth descriptions.
Good Things (2013, digisleeve) is Half Past Four’s second CD, showcasing songwriting and playing that has matured over the past five years. Be sure to watch this video advertising the CD. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Alchemy (2CD, 2013, digipack) is the studio recording of Clive Nolan’s (Pendragon, Arena,...) new prog rock musical, the successor to his Caamora project. The album features Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq, Strangers on a Train), Andy Sears (Twelfth Night), Paul Manzi (Arena), Damian Wilson, Paul Menel (ex-IQ), David Clifford (Red Jasper), Mark Westwood (Neo), Scott Higham (Pendragon), Claudio Momberg (SETI), and more. The musical is set in 1842 (in case the year affects your buying decision). Move over, Andrew Lloyd Webber. See the Alchemy website for more info. Watch the promo video. Listen to the song Anzeray Speaks.
Inner Odyssey are a young prog-metal quintet from Quebec who released their debut CD Have a Seat in 2011. It was later picked up by Unicorn Digital and reissued in this digipack edition in 2013 to provide greater exposure. There are influences of Riverside, Porcupine Tree, and (what a surprise) Dream Theater. As one Prog Archives reviewer says, it’s never too heavy nor too far removed from progressive rock. Read the Background Magazine review.
Jack O’ The Clock are a band from Oakland, California who, like many of the Bay Area bands, are adventurous and outside the mainstream. Like most truly inventive bands, Jack O’ The Clock are difficult to describe, but there is something special going on here. Nominally this is artsy-prog-folk, and though it could be called avant or experimental, there is none of the cacophony that suggests. Jack O’ The Clock are pushing their music in new directions, but they remain dedicated to songcraft, and their music has warmth. They “take us on a journey away from the three minute pop song to a nirvana of freeform yet relaxed musical complexity.” [Bluesbunny, Glasgow] Their sound has elicited comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Henry Cow/Art Bears, Gentle Giant, and Frank Zappa. We’re sometimes reminded of However’s gentler songs, or even an American counterpart to Stormy Six circa L’Apprendista. The thirteen pieces on their third album All My Friends (2013) showcase the band’s core of voices, violin, guitar, hammer dulcimer, bassoon, bass, and drums, plus an expanded woodwind/brass section (eight guest musicians) and found objects such as wine glasses, corrugated pipes, heating grates, and more. “There’s an amazing amount of originality, and those looking for some intrepid, barrier-breaking music would do well to start here.” [Exposé]. “Jack O’ The Clock are an unbelievably great band, Damon Waitkus is an extraordinarily courageous composer... some of the freshest and most surprising music I’ve heard.” [Fred Frith] “The perfect album for the discerning listener looking for something different yet not alienating.” [Prognaut] Note Jack O’ The Clock’s first album is currently unavailable, and their second has thus far only been available as a CD-R, but the band promise to replicate a proper CD once the CD-R runs out, which we’ll wait for.
Final Conflict are an English neo-prog band formed in 1985. They released their first CD Redress the Balance in 1991, though there were a couple cassette releases even earlier. While they’ve been a second-tier neo-prog band most of their career, Return of the Artisan (2012, 56-minutes) changes that. Here they are in their fourth decade and they’ve gone and made their best album. (Just like Galahad.) A couple tracks are very Floydian, while the rest is comparable to Arena circa The Visitor. No prog album is universally appealing, but Artisan is one of those albums that classic prog fans can respect while neo-prog fans devour it. Listen to Hopes and Dreams and Babylon on YouTube.
This is the 2010 remastered digipack reissue of Final Conflict’s third CD Stand Up (1997). Two bonus tracks take the playing time to 79-minutes. One is a new 2010 version of Moment in Time; the second is previously unreleased. Stand Up is comparable to Marillion, Egdon Heath, Iluvatar, Arena, etc.
Simple (2006, 56-minutes) is their fifth CD, Quest (1992, 61-minutes) their second. Read reviews of all at Prog Archives. Check our DVDs page for Final Conflict’s Another Moment in Time DVD.
Glasgow’s Comedy of Errors had been known (if they were known at all) as the other Scottish neo-prog band, after Pallas and Abel Ganz. Though the band formed in 1984, their time had not yet come. Now their triumphant comeback continues with Fanfare & Fantasy (2013, digipack), a CD that every self-respecting fan of neo-prog will need. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the Fanfare & Fantasy montage.
Comedy of Errors are calling Disobey (2011, digipack) their debut, but the band released a vinyl mini-album in 1986 that compiled their demos to that point. These tracks were later combined with 1987 demos to form the eponymous CD released in 1988 by the French UGUM/MSI label. (Good luck finding that now.) The 2011 reformed Comedy of Errors features the three core members from those days, a new drummer, and a bit of assistance from Hew Montgomery (ex-Abel Ganz). Rob Aubrey did the final mixing and mastering for both CDs, almost a requirement for a UK neo-prog CD. If you’re a fan of UK neo-prog and didn’t know of Comedy of Errors before, you are in for a treat. And if you do know Comedy of Errors, you are in for a treat. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Listen to the Disobey montage.
Sanguine Hum is the continuation of the band Antique Seeking Nuns, with the exact same lineup but a slight change in direction. Their debut Diving Bell was first released on CD in 2011 on the band’s own label, later reissued in this Esoteric Antenna label edition with three bonus tracks added. If you listen to the ASN CDs in chronological order, then the transition to Sanguine Hum appears relatively smooth. It’s the same singer and a similar sound palette. ASN’s Canterbury pedigree can be heard, but the music feels more modern. Now often there is a pejorative context to ‘modern’ in front of ‘prog’, but not here. There is no metal, this isn’t glorified alt-rock, and Sanguine Hum can hold a candle to the classic bands. While probably widening their appeal to the Radiohead and Muse crowd, Sanguine Hum restore some of the essential elements of progressive rock often missing from modern prog. They leave out the most angular and demanding instrumentals of ASN, and in their place is a sensuous, even soothing style of prog that retains the intricacies and stellar ensemble work but moves them slightly out of the foreground. The result is that the listener may not notice the odd time signatures and sophisticated arrangements because the music is so melodic and captivating. The music does what prog is supposed to do -- transport the listener somewhere that transcends everyday life. Read reviews, plus the Prognaut review which may not yet be on that first list of reviews.
The Weight of the World (2013) is Sanguine Hum’s second, with Andrew Booker from No Man taking over on drums. The limited edition (LE) comes in a digipack and adds a DVD (NTSC, all-region) which contains The Making of ‘The Weight of the World’. The standard edition is just the CD and comes in jewel box + slipcase. The band says: “The Weight of the World sees Sanguine Hum expand their musical horizons on all fronts with a seven-track collection of diverse compositions – technically challenging and exciting yet always melodic and direct. Songs such as From the Ground Up and System for Solution pursue the Porcupine Tree meets Radiohead approach of Diving Bell, with powerful yet intricate riffs propelling the songwriting that continues to make ever more inventive use of surprising twists and turns in the arrangement. Surprises are to be found as well in the instrumentation, as the band open up the sound and more explicitly reference a love of electronica and the music of artists such as Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin, best heard in the song Day of Release as synthetic percussion and rumbling synths give way to chiming acoustic guitar and a soaring vocal melody. Perhaps even more exciting for a band that perhaps held some of their prog influences in check on their debut album is the 15-minute title track that manages the task of combining effective and emotional songwriting with thrilling musical developments that push the band to the limit.”
These are all the newly remastered 2013 Esoteric editions, the first time on CD for all except Black Noise. If you don’t have Black Noise yet, stop what you’re doing. Black Noise (1977) is the debut by a Canadian trio who never again reached these heights (excluding Direct to Disc from the discussion for the moment), but this one album is for our money better than any Rush or Saga album and should represent English-speaking Canada at whatever award ceremony occurs at the end of time. FM had their own sound, partly because their instrumentation was keyboards, electric violin & mandolin, and drums. The violin and mandolin fill the guitar role, and most of the bass is done on pedals, yielding a synth-heavy symphonic progressive sound, with science fiction based lyrics and multi-part vocal arrangements. You might think of a high-tech version of Yes adapted to the UK Danger Money format, but FM were unique. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Direct to Disc is the album not all FM fans are aware of. It was recorded in 1977 shortly after Black Noise and released on a small label. On one of the LP editions, it was titled Head Room. The lineup was Cameron Hawkins (keyboards), Martin Deller (drums), and Ben Mink (electric violin, electric mandolin), the latter replacing founding member Nash the Slash. The album was in fact recorded direct to disc, a process that bypasses tape, and so there is no multitracking, no overdubs, and the mix is done live. The band had to play each LP side live without stopping, about 15-minutes each. Direct to disc recordings were usually recorded simultaneously to two-track tape, which is presumably what Esoteric had to work with. The result is a mostly-instrumental recording showcasing a more adventurous, somewhat fusion-y side of FM, and their second best record (for some, their best). Read reviews at Prog Archives.
FM’s output decayed linearly in quality from there, with each new album a noticeable drop-off from the preceding, until by 1987’s Tonight you wondered if it was the same band. Surveillance is still very good, almost essential, and the song Seventh Heaven (in 7/8 of course) one of their very best. That song and two other excellent songs were in FM’s live set at NEARfest 2006, the others being Shapes of Things, their arrangement of the Yardbirds song, and the instrumental Sofa Back. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
And then City of Fear (1980), and you can safely stop there. Still a worthwhile album, just the same old story of a 1970s prog band who tried to continue into the 1980s, and you know how that decade went. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
This is Esoteric’s reissue of First Meeting (1971), originally released on the Dawn label. It was the only album for Trifle, a British proto-prog / jazz-rock band in the same vein as Colosseum, with sax and trumpet in the lineup. Rod Coombes was the drummer; he eventually went on to Strawbs. Read the allmusic review. This edition was remastered from the original master tapes and adds two bonus tracks, one non-LP, one a single version.
These are the remastered editions on the Tempus Fugit label, which add bonus material and unseen photographs. For melodic, Genesis-style symphonic rock, Anyone’s Daughter were Germany’s best. They sang their first two albums in English, then switched to German for the last three (of the original lineup). Why this band isn’t much better known among prog fans is a mystery as there are few newer bands producing music on this level.
Adonis (1979) is Anyone’s Daughter’s first, an excellent album in a symphonic rock style close to Grobschnitt circa Rockpommel’s Land and Merry-Go-Round, though Anyone’s Daughter would develop a more distinctive and personal style on their German-language albums. This edition comes in jewel box + slipcase with a booklet that includes new liner notes and adds two long live non-LP bonus tracks plus a video track, about 27 minutes in all.
The self-titled album is their second, from 1980. This remastered edition adds three bonus live tracks from AD’s 1980 tour. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Piktors Verwandlungen (1981) is their third, based on the Herman Hesse fairy tale. It was their first German language album, though on this album it is primarily spoken word, and the album is heavily instrumental. It was recorded live but sounds like a studio album. It’s common to take longer to get into this Anyone’s Daughter album as it’s not song-based like their others, but it is the favorite of many. It is widely considered a masterpiece of German progressive rock, packed with grandiose atmospheric music and magical passages. This edition comes in jewel box + slipcase and has a 27-minute bonus track, a 1977/78 demo version of what would become the Piktors album.
For us, In Blau (1982) is Anyone’s Daughter’s best album, and the long, three-part track Tanz und Tod (15:12) their masterpiece. That track’s going to the proverbial desert island. This remastered edition adds two live bonus tracks from AD’s 1982 tour, 17:29 total.
While Neue Sterne (1983) has a couple of Anyone’s Daughter’s most commercial-sounding songs (the 1980s were well under way), it also contains some fantastic progressive tracks as well, with several instrumentals. Anyone’s Daughter were able to make a more mainstream album without sacrificing integrity, something very few prog bands succeeded at. This remastered edition adds three bonus live tracks from AD’s 1983 tour.
Anyone’s Daughter’s 1984 live album was originally a 2LP. The first CD edition was a single-CD, but this 2013 remastered edition is expanded to a double-CD. Not only is this great live album an excellent overview, but at least three songs don’t appear on any studio CD. Here you’ll find both English and German vocals. The bonus tracks are four videos of AD live in Magstadt 1983.
The full artist name for the Calw Live 2CD is Anyone’s Daughter mit (with) Heinz Rudolf Kunze. With more than 30,000 copies sold, Piktors Verwandlungen is Anyone’s Daughter’s most successful release and an unforgotten classic. In the summer of 2002, on the 125th anniversary of Herman Hesse’s birth, Anyone’s Daughter performed Piktors Verwandlungen in Hesse’s birth town of Calw in the Black Forest region. They performed the entire concept album, framed by three older songs and a few tracks from their latest release Danger World. German master poet Heinz Rudolf Kunze, himself a fan of Hesse and with his charismatic timbre destined to recite Hesse’s text, joined the band for this concert. A rapt audience of over 9000 witnessed this historic spectacle on the market square of Calw. Kunze spoke Hesse’s words which had been fluidly woven into the piece. The unforgettable concert reached its finale with the John Lennon song Imagine. This 2011 double-CD contains the entire concert.
The 2CD Requested Document Live Vol. 1 features live material from Anyone’s Daughter’s heyday. The sound is superb, the band sounds better live than in the studio, and the long playing time allows inclusion of just about every important track the band recorded, including their tour-de-force Tanz und Tod, played at a noticeably faster tempo than the studio version, yet at 16:23 manages to be longer.
Requested Document Live 1980-1983 Vol. 2 is a CD plus a DVD. The CD includes 13 live tracks from Anyone’s Daughter’s heyday, four of which are previously-unreleased. One of those is a cover of UK’s In the Dead of Night translated into German! The DVD is of the band preforming in Frankfurt in 1981, over two hours long. It’s not the best quality, but the material is priceless, including a complete 40-minute Piktors Verwandlungen, 28-minute Adonis I-IV, Moria, an early version of Tanz und Tod, and much more.
This Chris is Dutch multi-instrumentalist and singer Christiaan Bruin, who is also a member of the band Sky Architect. His 2009 debut A Glimpse Inside on Musea is nearly as good as Kayak (who Christiaan admits he’d never heard!), the gold standard for Dutch progressive rock with a strong pop element. Bruin has created excellent multi-tracked vocal arrangements, sometimes with Beach Boys type harmonies. He loves to use Mellotron strings and choir, lending a Genesis or IQ feel as well. A bouncy song or two reminds one of early Queen, but the piano and melodic lead guitar keep bringing back thoughts of Kayak. Bruin has since assembled a live band.
Making Sense (2010, 70-minutes, digipack) sees Chris moving to the Swedish Progress label, who liken the album to IQ, The Beatles, Yes, and Klaatu, all of which can be heard at different times. The Kayak style is still present, but on balance there has been a shift toward the style of IQ or Carptree, the music somewhat darker and more intense. Christiaan is correct in saying that “the symphonic arrangements and typical vocal layers of the debut are still there, yet further developed into a richer, more versatile sound”. Here is an mp3 of the entire 9:28 track Eve of Destiny, which will make that very evident. (The same song is available on YouTube, in case Progress correct the spelling of the mp3 filename and thus change the link.) There aren’t many one-man projects of this caliber, and if you allow yourself to just fall under the spell of the music, you’ll forget one man is responsible for it all. Read reviews.
For City of Light (2012, digipack), Chris says he took a different approach and that this CD sounds more modern, energetic, and youthful. It’s not a huge departure -- it’s still symphonic prog. To his established style, Chris has added some elements that don’t fit with classic prog, namely the sound of the drums, processing on the vocals, occasional samples and whatnot, generally things that add an edgier sound and pull the music closer to Porcupine Tree. Listen to the songs Colours Come to Life and Blessings and Goodbyes on YouTube.
Snow Stories (digipack) is a winter-themed album that the Dutch FREIA label managed to release in time for Christmas 2012. (And if DHL Mail could have gotten our shipment across the Atlantic in under two months, its inclusion here would be more timely.) The lineup includes a cellist and a violinist, while two lead guitarists guest. But this isn’t what most would consider a Christmas album. It’s a symphonic prog album with some quirky pop that will sound just as good in July. The prog is in a Yes/Genesis/Kayak vein, the quirky pop ŕ la early Queen. The sonic allusions to winter are by way of orchestral textures and motifs that everyone associates with the season due to numerous soundtracks. In some ways, this is a return to the style of the first Chris album, and it makes it clear that Mr. Bruin is quite a talent.
Against all odds, a new Focus album appeared in 2002. The original Focus disbanded at the end of the 1970s with the departure of their famous guitarist Jan Akkerman. The story of this incarnation of Focus begins with three young musicians who decided to pay tribute to their idol and form a Focus tribute band called (naturally) Hocus Pocus. After perfecting their cover versions, they invited keyboardist/flutist/madman Thijs Van Leer to a jam session. Thijs was not prepared for such devotion to the original group’s spirit, nor this high a quality level. The combined band was so good that Thijs jumped on the opportunity to reform Focus with fresh blood. And that’s exactly what Focus 8 is about. This is vintage Focus, played with enthusiasm, renewed vigor, and Van Leer’s unique sense of humor. And yodeling.
Drummer Pierre van der Linden, who first joined Focus in 1970, rejoined in 2004 and remains on the stool for Focus X (2012), so Thijs isn’t the only old guy. This is the 2013 U.S. edition. Read the Dangerdog and Dante’s Prog Blog Inferno reviews. Roger Dean provided the cover art.
Shadowlands (2013, digipack) is Klaus Schulze’s first solo studio album in six years. This is the limited edition, which in addition to the 75-minute first CD includes a second CD with another 73 minutes of music. Yes, Klaus just lets the sequencers run until the disc is maxed out. Violinist Thomas Kagermann accompanies Schulze on this album for the first time since 2000’s Contemporary Works. See our Electronic Music page for more Klaus Schulze CDs.
Tusmřrke are a Norwegian quartet with ties to Wobbler playing vintage-prog with elements of psych and Norwegian folk, singing in both English and Norwegian. This is their 2012 debut. Tusmřrke use a lot of flute, keyboards, bass, drums, and no guitar. Jethro Tull is one band that comes to mind often, also Caravan, The Moody Blues, early King Crimson, Genesis, and others. Read the Prog Sphere and Progulator reviews. Watch the album montage video.
Barclay James Harvest are a British band who released their first album in 1970. They are known for creating a unique brand of soft symphonic pop. These are the 2013 Esoteric digipack reissues of Eyes of the Universe (1979) and Turn of the Tide (1981), newly remastered from the original master tapes, with booklets that fully restore all original album artwork with a new essay by BJH experts Keith and Monika Domone. Eyes of the Universe includes four bonus tracks, all single edits. Turn of the Tide includes two bonus tracks.
This is Esoteric’s edition of BJH’s 1987 live album Glasnost (digipack). It has been expanded to a double-CD that includes the complete concert (adding five previously-unreleased tracks) in the original set running order and has been newly remastered from the original master tapes. It features a booklet that fully restores all original album artwork, with a new essay. Glasnost was recorded at Treptower Park, East Berlin on 14 July 1987. The concert was one of the first by a Western rock band in East Germany and was a major event, with the band playing to a staggering 175,000 people. (It wasn’t easy to count them either.) Did Barclay James Harvest set off a chain of events leading to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, changing the course of history? (Answer: no)
Check our DVDs page for Barclay James Harvest’s Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios.
This is the 2013 Esoteric edition of this oft-issued CD, newly remastered with a booklet that fully restores the original album artwork and includes a new essay. Pavlov’s Dog is an American band from St. Louis that released two classic albums of Mellotron-drenched, song-oriented progressive rock: Pampered Menial (1975) and At the Sound of the Bell (1976), plus several later albums of lesser interest. Principal songwriter and singer David Surkamp surely has one of the most unique voices ever to grace a rock record, somewhere between Geddy Lee and Tiny Tim, with a wide vibrato on the high notes. Pampered Menial is usually considered Pavlov’s Dog best album, with Of Once and Future Kings, the mini-epic that closes the album, maybe the best thing they ever recorded. The seven-man lineup included a violinist and a flute/Mellotron player, and the first two albums are musts for Mellotron fanatics. See Page 2 for the full Pavlov’s Dog catalog.
Lost World was formed in 1996 by three Moscow Conservatory students. Their first album was released in 2003 on a Russian label. The band have since taken matters into their own hands, and band leader Andy Didorenko at least has been living in New York City for years. They followed with two studio CDs and a live CD on Musea. Lost World play symphonic prog with a strong classical element, using flute and violin in addition to the standard prog rock instrumentation. Moods range from dark and frenetic to gentle, romantic and pastoral.
Following two all-instrumental albums, Solar Power (2013, digipack) returns to using vocals (in English), though instrumental content dominates. The violin seems more prominent on this album, and this is some of the best violin-prog around. At times the music shows similarities to symphonic Kansas, King Crimson with David Cross, Atoll’s L’Araignee-Mal lineup, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and KBB. But much of the music defies easy comparisons, and as this is their fourth studio album, it’s time to acknowledge this as Lost World’s style. See our East European page for the rest of the Lost World CDs and more info.
English Electric Part One (2012, digipack, 60-minutes) continues Big Big Train’s meteoric rise to prog fame, as EE1 goes beyond even The Underfall Yard. Andy Tillison (The Tangent) guests. “Fragrant, mellifluous and, quite frankly, awe-inspiring.” [Classic Rock] “EE1 is a thing of absolute and intense beauty, truth, and goodness. It comes as close to reaching the Platonic ideal of the forms as any album can. It’s intense, hurried, lingering, pastoral, necessary, longing, bouncy, pleading, satisfying, answering, punctuated, loud, quiet, meaningful, and, over and above all, harmonious... BBT’s music transcends our day-to-day lives in ways that surpass words.” [The Imaginative Conservative] Watch the promo video.
With English Electric Part Two (2013, digipack, 58-minutes), “Big Big Train continues its journey across the English landscape with an album of seven new songs which tell further tales of the men and women who work on and under the land. Along the way, stories are told of the shipbuilders in Neptune’s Yard, of a machine that burned its legend across the pages of the history books, of a keeper of abbeys and a curator of butterflies, and of a second chance at love.” See our British page for the rest of the Big Big Train CDs and much more info.
Landmarq are a British neo-prog band who came to prominence during the 1990s. Entertaining Angels (2012, digipack) is Landmarq’s comeback album, with Tracy Hitchings still the singer. UK critics call this the strongest album of Landmarq’s career. Cellist Hugh McDowell (ELO) guests. This is the special edition, which to the 72-minute first disc adds a second disc with over 28 additional minutes of music, allowing the band to sidestep the painful decision of which songs to cut. Some songs are new studio recordings of songs that first appeared on Landmarq’s Turbulence DVD. Read the DPRP review.
Moth Vellum’s debut CD (2008, digipack) introduces a Los Angeles-based symphonic prog quartet heavily influenced by Yes and committed to classic 1970s progressive aesthetics, albeit with modern production. They resemble Yes both vocally and instrumentally, often using similar guitar and bass tones as Howe and Squire, and generally staying near the Wakeman keyboard style, Mellotron washes included. There’s enough room in the Yes universe to fit several bands heavily influenced by Yes that sound little like each other, as for example no one will confuse Moth Vellum with Starcastle. There’s also a little Genesis in Moth Vellum’s style.
Moth Vellum disbanded, but bandleader Johannes Luley released his first solo CD Tales from Sheepfather’s Grove (digipack) in 2013. As you might guess from the cover art, the Yes influence is dominant. Because Luley uses a lot of acoustic instruments and a vast array of hand percussion in lieu of drum kit, Sheepfather’s is suggestive of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow, with a similar tribal/spiritual/enchanting vibe. The keyboard sounds are vintage, and the album is meant to be heard as a continuous piece of music, or at least a Side 1 and Side 2 of a continuous piece of music. But the occasional electric guitar sounds like Steve Howe, so you’ll have to conflate Olias and Beginnings in your mind. Read reviews.
Force Majeure (2013, digipack) is the sixth album for Brother Ape, now one of the most important Swedish prog bands. Watch the album trailer video. See our Scandinavian page for all the Brother Ape CDs and much more info.
The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) is Steven Wilson’s third solo album. It was recorded in Los Angeles in September 2012 with his current band: Guthrie Govan (lead guitar), Nick Beggs (bass), Marco Minnemann (drums), Adam Holzman (keys), Theo Travis (sax, flute), and engineered by none other than Alan Parsons. We think Wilson figured out some time ago that Porcupine Tree is the cash cow and needs to reach a broader audience, so his solo work and side projects are where his more progressive energies go. The mediabook edition adds a DVD-Video disc with DTS 5.1 surround mix, 96k/24bit stereo, studio documentary, photo galleries, and 40 page booklet. The Blu-ray edition has all that but with lossless 96/24 surround audio, and it also includes 96/24 stereo instrumental versions of the songs. We won’t think less of you if you buy just the CD, but if you buy the Blu-ray, we’ll move you to a special section of our customer database reserved for awesome people. “After numerous spins, I can unequivocally say that the 5.1 Blu-ray Audio mix has wiped the surround slate clean and set the benchmark anew. It’s that bloody good... The breadth and scope of Raven represent Steven Wilson at the height of his creative powers, where surround sound music and mixing has reached a heretofore unheard aural apex.” [Sound & Vision] Watch the promo video. Read The Guardian review. The Mediabook counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See Page 2 for the rest of the Steven Wilson catalog.
Tompox is the new band of Solaris bassist Tamás Pócs; Hungarian Eclectic is their 2012 debut. Tompox began playing Solaris songs exclusively, but as time went on, they wrote more and more songs, leading to this CD of mostly original material. (There is one King Crimson cover and a short homage to Solaris.) Tamás says that the band aims to recreate the atmosphere that characterized the golden age of progressive rock, bearing in mind that we are well into the 21st century. The music is quite similar to Solaris and will appeal to the same fans, who by now are probably starving for more. And yes, there is flute.
Android was formed back in 1980 at a Hungarian university, but their first CD East of Eden was not released until 2009, shortly after the band reunited. That music actually dated to 1995. According to the band: “The music of Android is rather unique. It combines classic progressive rock with new age, jazz, and folkloric song motifs. It is predominantly for those who have grown up on the music of SBB, Fermata, Yes, Pink Floyd, ELP, Mike Oldfield, Tomita, and Kitaro and who like complex rock music.” While East of Eden was instrumental, Midnight Ball (2011) has vocals and spoken word from several singers. Watch the official video. Read reviews at Prog Archives and Progwereld.
Majestic is the project of American multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel. The mini-LP editions of Ataraxia (2010, 78-minutes) and Arrival (2009, 77-minutes) are released on the Moscow-based MALS label under license. They come in heavyweight cardboard sleeves, gatefold for Ataraxia. The discs in the jewel box editions of Ataraxia and Arrival are pro CD-Rs; these are released by the band. Whereas the previous Majestic CD Descension suffered from weak vocals courtesy of Hamel himself, he brought in singer Jessica Rasche for Arrival, which is part of the reason Arrival is a huge improvement. The Sea of Tranquility reviews will tell you what you need to know, in particular “Arrival does not feel like a one man band in the slightest. The sound is so rich and full it is hard to believe this is the work of one man.” OK, the drums sound like samples and the production is project studio quality, but those are the only clues. There isn’t just a single prog style here. With the slight metal influence, the overall feel is of a modern progressive rock album, and the Majestic press kit does mention Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Dream Theater, and Ayreon (Stream of Passion should also be tossed in there). But the classic prog content is also impressive, with a lot of Pink Floyd, a little Genesis and Yes, even Tangerine Dream style electronics are employed. Here is an mp3 of excerpts from Arrival.
As for Ataraxia, “This is easily one of the best albums of 2010... Last time round I suggested that the sound of Majestic sat somewhere between Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, but with Ataraxia, I would suggest that Majestic have moved further into the classic era of prog, with the whole album having a more seventies feel, but somehow this is all done without sounding in any way retro... With Arrival, Majestic suggested that they were a band destined for great things, and here, only one album down the line and they’ve only gone and bloody well proved it! Absolutely stunning!” [Sea of Tranquility] “Ataraxia is a whole new thing in a whole new quality level when compared to [Majestic’s] previous works.” [Proggnosis] Read the full Sea of Tranquility and Proggnosis reviews.
V.O.Z. (2012) is the breakthrough album for Majestic, an ambitious double-CD on which Hamel employs four vocalists, both male and female, though the album is heavily instrumental. Mike Kosacek handles drums, and as usual, Hamel handles guitars and keys. Majestic have not changed style -- there are still elements of hard/heavy rock present -- but the attention to detail and atmosphere has been taken to the next level. Majestic have taken a significant stride forward with each album, but this one is going to hard to top. Read the Sea of Tranquility reviews. See the related band Proximal Distance on Page 2.
If you asked us to name the most under-recognized artists in progressive rock, Yacobs would be near the top of the list. Yacobs is the side project of Argos’ drummer Ulf Jacobs, so now that Argos are finally getting some of the attention they deserve, hopefully that carries over to Yacobs. Time Machine (2011) is the fourth Yacobs album. Jacobs sings (in English) and takes care of drums and keys, while other musicians play bass, flute, acoustic and electric guitars. The music is lush, melodic, Genesis-derived symphonic rock with understated vocals. Along with the Mellotron, Taurus bass pedals, and other vintage keyboard sounds, this belongs in the classic prog genre. On a couple tracks, Jacobs includes an analog sequencer playing a simple ostinato that will remind you of the German band P’cock (unless you’ve never heard P’cock, in which case it won’t.) Watch the official album montage video. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Clouds (2012) is the fifth Yacobs album. The songwriting chops here are not common in prog today. While Clouds doesn’t sound overtly like either, one can’t help but think of Peter Gabriel and of Genesis. The music is instantly likeable and yet quite inventive. Listen to Cinderella on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
This French instrumental band has existed since 1977 and contributed to the 1989 Musea album Enchantement. They were initially influenced by King Crimson, Robert Fripp, and Brian Eno but have since found a musical identity closer to Edhels or A Triggering Myth. Their first album was In Strum Mental (2002), followed by Le Repli des Ombres (54-minutes) in 2005 and Timeless Island (64-minutes) in 2012. Sombre Reptile play their own brand of instrumental progressive rock, melodic and structured, with hypnotic atmospheres, an original rhythmic base, ethnic flavors, and inspired, fluid dialogues between the Dedieu brothers on guitars and keyboards. It’s really the dreamlike atmospheres behind the lead instruments that elevates Sombre Reptile above the norm. Read the allmusic review of Le Repli des Ombres. Listen to Out of the Jungle from Timeless Island on YouTube.
This French band has existed since 1996, but Mirage (2006) is their debut. The band includes two guitarists (both playing electric & acoustic), a flute player, bassist and drummer, with all five members contributing vocals. It’s a 1970s style progressive rock, with only the heaviest passages suggesting something more modern. The French lyrics invariably make one think of Ange, and there is some Pink Floyd influence as well, but also some heavier passages. Six songs and three instrumentals comprise the album, with beautiful flute parts and contrasts between heavy and calm sections.
Instinct (2012, 65-minutes) is similar but more instrumental and has more of the flute-led heavy prog style. Listen to the track La longue route on YouTube, which encapsulates all of the styles present on Instinct.
This is the second album from the collaboration of composer/multi-instrumentalist Rémi Orts and female singer Zara Angel, whose angelic voice (lyrics in English) is front and center. Orts’ previous work is apparently in the new age vein. State of Souls (2012, 63-minutes) is more rock-oriented, generally melodic symphonic rock with new age flavoring. You have to let this one get three songs deep before passing judgment, because the softest and lamest songs are up front. Then surprisingly, the fourth song borders on prog-metal, and the album continues to chart a more progressive course (excluding the radio edit tacked on the end). It’s sometimes similar to Gandalf & Galadriel (if anyone remembers their 1989 album The Shining), though there is heavier material, and there are brief passages that borrow from the Enya book of tricks. Then there are high energy songs such as The Trident of Poseidon (watch the video), and electric guitar is usually featured to keep things from getting too mellow. Also watch the album trailer and the video for the song Twinkling Stars.
Apogee is one of two German bands led by Arne Schäfer, the other being Versus X. Finally given an official release on the MALS label in 2012, the double-CD Die Gläserne Wand & Schleifen contains two 1989 works that had previously been available only on cassette and later CD-R. The music (sung in German) predates both the other Apogee albums and Versus X. Read the Progressor review. Here is an mp3 excerpt from the First Movement of Die Gläserne Wand.
Waiting for the Challenge (2012) is Apogee’s latest. Listen to The Hidden Path on YouTube. See our German page for more Apogee CDs and more info.
Baraka are a Japanese guitar/bass/drums trio playing fusion-flavored progressive hard rock, generally melodic, with the primary influences seemingly Rush, Allan Holdsworth (circa Metal Fatigue), and King Crimson. The musicians are technically skilled and constantly vary things to keep it more interesting than your average power trio. Lush synth pads are used at times to broaden the sound palette. Trinity (2012) is their tenth album. Listen to the track 19-16 on YouTube. Check our Japanese page for more Baraka CDs.
Taika are an excellent Japanese symphonic jazz-prog band, somewhat Canterbury-ish, with female vocals (lyrics in Japanese). Pulsate (2012) is their first full-length album. Their members are Tae (ex-Ashada) on vocals and accordion, Dani on bass (also bassist of KBB), Zaiya Takahashi on piano, and Tomoyoku Tanimoto on drums. As has come to be expected from Japanese prog bands, the musicianship is first-rate. Given the many modern so-called prog bands who lack a true keyboardist, it’s really refreshing to hear a pianist like Takahashi at work. Next time, even more accordion please! Listen to the album montage.
This trio (keyboards/bass/drums), formed in the early 1980s, is the oldest Japanese prog band still active. Gerard have often sounded like ELP playing hard rock, combining bombastic keyboards (sometimes employing an electric guitar sound), powerful bass occasionally used for lead lines, and a high-energy drummer. Ring of Eternity is from 2010. Listen to the title track on YouTube.
Visionary Dream is from 2011. Listen to the title track on YouTube. Check our Japanese page for more Gerard CDs.
Magnesis are a French progressive band formed in 1987, in the style of Ange and Mona Lisa, with some influence of Genesis and early Marillion. In addition to the French-language vocals, the band has two keyboard players, a guitarist, bassist and drummer. While Magnesis can be considered to have followed in the footsteps of Ange, they have long since stepped out of Ange’s shadow, as there is much to their style that is distinct from Ange. Faits d’hiver… is a live CD released in 2012. Listen to the track Les Voyages de Mikado on YouTube. Check our French page for some of Magnesis’ studio CDs.
Jean Philippe Rykiel is a French keyboardist/composer (blind from birth) who released his first solo album in 1982 and whose many credits include albums by Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, and Jon & Vangelis. Inner Spaces (2012) compiles various tracks recorded throughout his career, covering a range of styles. The best tracks are in a spacey progressive vein. They all are instrumental save the track Close to You, which features Jon Anderson on vocals.
This is the limited 2CD mediabook edition of Riverside’s latest album Shrine of New Generation Slaves (2013), which comes in a hardback format with expanded, bound-in booklet. It adds a second disc containing two long instrumental tracks (22:17 total). (Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.) Watch the album trailer video. Read the Sea of Tranquility, Sputnik Music, and Stereoboard.com reviews. See our East European page for more Riverside CDs.
The Pineapple Thief is the band led by Bruce Soord, a very creative musician who was the guitarist in Vulgar Unicorn. The Pineapple Thief (TPT) combine 1970s progressive styles and sounds (Mellotron, Rhodes, analog synths, orchestral instruments) with a mélange of modern pop/rock styles, recommended to fans of Radiohead (though TPT are much proggier), Oceansize, and especially Porcupine Tree. Throughout most of their career, TPT have had more in common with the bittersweet, song-oriented side of Porcupine Tree, with a similar spacious sound and that sensual melancholy.
After a half dozen CDs on the indie prog label Cyclops, TPT signed with the Kscope label, a perfect fit. Tightly Unwound (2008, 60-minutes, super jewel box) has much in common with the previous album What We Have Sown, as both albums were written during the same session. The foundation of TPT’s sound here is strummed acoustic guitar mixed with electric leads, while the keyboards are generally Mellotron strings and synths used as pads. Much of the material is in atypical time signatures, frequently seven, but TPT pull it off without drawing attention to it, adding a layer of complexity without sounding contrived. Tightly Unwound can only add to the reputation of this remarkable band.
Someone Here Is Missing is TPT’s 2010 studio CD, which comes in a super jewel box + slipcase. Read the detailed Philadelphia Rock Music Examiner review. Watch Kscope’s album montage video.
All the Wars (2012) includes a 22-piece string orchestra and a choir. TPT are heavier now than in their early years, and the first two tracks on this album are just heavy alt-guitar-rock. If those tracks are progressive rock, then everything is progressive rock. But from the third track (which introduces the orchestra) through the epic than concludes the album, it is progressive and is an evolution of what TPT have been doing all along. Read the review at The NewReview.
In 2009, Kscope began the process of reissuing remixed/remastered/repackaged versions of TPT’s Cyclops label CDs. When What We Have Sown was released in 2007, it was arguably the band’s most progressive and perhaps aggressive album to date. Like many contemporary bands, The Pineapple Thief may be reluctant to come right out and admit they play prog rock for fear of alienating some, but with violin on one track and Mellotron strings just about everywhere else, there’s little doubt. The mostly-instrumental 27-minute tour de force What Have We Sown? is one of the band’s most impressive tracks ever. It shows them in their more adventurous mode, with similarities to Godspeed You Black Emperor in the sound palette and the way the intensity builds. But whereas Godspeed... tend to increase intensity monotonically, P.Thief do it more artfully. This 2013 Kscope edition has been remixed and remastered and adds two previously unavailable bonus tracks.
Little Man, the fifth TPT CD, was originally released in 2006. Relative to the previous albums, Little Man is darker and more deeply personal, featuring some thicker electric guitar textures and a guest violinist. This is the 2009 Kscope edition.
10 Stories Down is the fourth The Pineapple Thief album, originally released in 2005. This 2011 2CD edition on Kscope is presented in the same way as the original limited edition 2CD, with the 8 Days Later album (never released separately) as the second disc. This Kscope edition has been remixed and remastered and adds a slipcase. As Cyclops described it: “This stunning set of songs is easily the best produced by the band to date. Lush arrangements sit alongside the traditional sonic canvas of guitars, bass, drum, vocals, and keyboards (Mellotron, Hammond, Prophet 5, Fender Rhodes). Pieces here consist mostly of song-based material of a melancholy nature with more than a little alternative influence. Bruce Soord’s tell-tale guitar work has never been so cutting, with some soaring soloing amongst the memorable songs, especially on the 15-minute ending epic.” On completing the 10 Stories Down recording, the group had eight days of studio time left and used each day to compose and record a track from scratch. The result is the extra album 8 Days Later. Like the 8 Days album available in the 2CD version of Variations on a Dream, this material is way too good for a limited CD. It is much more instrumental than the 10 Stories Down disc, showcasing another side of the band. The atmosphere and mood this band can create on demand is remarkable.
This is Kscope’s 2011 remixed and remastered 2CD edition of The Pineapple Thief’s Variations on a Dream, which includes the 8 Days bonus CD. When it was first released, Bruce Soord said: “Recorded throughout 2003, this is a more somber work than previous releases and is certainly not 137, Part 2. More emphasis was made on orchestral arrangements, the best of which can be found on We Subside, Part Zero, and Remember Us. The studio has been through a major upgrade and this is reflected in the sonic qualities of the album. I would say this album is part Abducting the Unicorn, part 137… The 8 Days bonus CD includes many great songs which in retrospect are too good for a limited CD! The whole point of the 8 Days project was that I was never to stray beyond the parameters - this was an experiment.” 8 Days was written, performed, recorded and mixed over eight days during early November 2002 by Bruce. One track was started and completed each day, with two tracks finished on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Each track is linked using ambient sounds from outside the studio on each specific day. Check our British page for the related Persona Non Grata 2CD.
This band from Sardinia began under the name Eclisse with the privately-released Mercury and Sulfurus (2000), sounding close to Genesis and Marillion with a Gabriel-style vocalist singing in both English and Italian. The band then changed their name to the unpronounceable Yleclipse and released Prime Substance (2002, 49-minutes) on the Mellow label. The style is similar, with the eight tracks evenly divided between English and Italian lyrics. We prefer the Italian-language tracks, which are reminiscent of bands such as Aton’s who have aspects of both 1970s Italian prog and neo-prog in their sound, with the lyrical vocals tying the two together.
Yleclipse then decided to go English-only beginning with Opus (2006, 59-minutes) and continuing on Trails of Ambergris (2008, 75-minutes), and Genesis remains their primary influence. The Watch are the best comparison, but Yleclipse are not the complete Genesis clones that The Watch have been to this point. Both bands have a ways to go before they become the tunesmiths that Genesis are. Sonically Yleclipse are sometimes closer to early Marillion, probably less a direct influence than simply having the the same Genesis starting point and ending up in the same general area. In any event, Yleclipse have polished this style by now, so these CDs are easily recommended to fans of The Watch and Mangala Vallis. This is the MALS label edition of Opus.
Songs from the Crackling Atanor is Yleclipse’s 2012 album. Since your first question is likely to be “What is an atanor, and why is it crackling?”, we found this definition: Atanor - In medieval alchemy, the oven where natural, mystic and spiritual transformation takes place.
This is Mellow Records’ 2012 reissue of the 1977 album by Belgian keyboardist Luc Henrion. In addition to piano, organ, harpsichord, and Polymoog, Henrion also plays guitar, zither, bass, and drums on this instrumental album. “Luc Henrion’s Galerie LP blends contemporary piano music and progressive instrumental rock through clever arrangements and mix down. Despite the cover art, Galerie is not a solo piano record, and most tracks are based on elaborate compositions for harpsichord, guitar, and organ, among other instruments. In its structure and inspiration, the LP draws from Mussorgski’s Pictures at an Exhibition, 1874, a series of piano preludes each after an artwork by Russian architect Viktor Hartmann. Track titles in Galerie all refer to an art movement or specific technique, and the entire album is conceived as a museum visit. The prominent use of piano on most tracks complete the analogy with Pictures at an Exhibition.”
t is the moniker used by Thomas Thielen, formerly singer/guitarist of the band Scythe. Voices (2006, 73-minutes) is the second t album, a seriously under-recognized work of modern symphonic prog. Thielen’s voice has similarities to Steve Hogarth and Peter Gabriel, and the music has similarities to Brave and other later Marillion, to Gabriel, and to bands such as No-Man and Product. The predominant mood is dark, atmospheric, surreal, dramatic and profound. There are lots of richly-textured, detailed, dense instrumental arrangements that often include Mellotron and strings. These tracks supposedly deal with the voices we hear in our head in various life situations, and Thielen’s voice has a distant quality that evokes that. This is the MALS label edition, which is identical to the Galileo edition apart from label boilerplate.
Four years in the making, Anti-Matter Poetry (2010, 65-minutes) is stunning. What we said about Voices is just as applicable here, but everything has been perfected. Some bands in the ‘modern progressive’ category are not capable of playing convincing classic symphonic prog, but parts of Anti-Matter Poetry are exactly that, with the largest debt owed to Pink Floyd (as is also the case with Porcupine Tree and many of the other modern prog bands). And some bands are in the modern prog category mainly because they’ve diluted and dumbed down the music with metal, grunge, etc, but that’s not the case with t. What does put t in the modern prog category is the prevailing mood of melancholy and alienation, the skillful use of samples and loops to augment but not form the basis of the music, and the finely-detailed atmospheres. It is majesty without bombast.
Psychoanorexia (2013, digipack) is t’s fourth. Only four tracks span 66-minutes; three are multi-part suites running about 20-minutes each. While there is still that atmosphere similar to Hogarth-era Marillion, Psychoanorexia is darker, more symphonic and more intense. This is pretty amazing stuff, not only in the way it bridges the gap between symphonic neo-prog and modern prog, but t takes the listener into an alternate musical reality, and after the album concludes, you may need to pause and take several deep breaths before returning to waking reality.
Veteran prog reviewer Jurriaan Hage had this to say about Naive, the first t CD from 2002, and t has only gotten better since then: “This extremely intimate and seemingly very personal catharsis is one of the most original and, I feel, timeless albums to grace progressive rock in some time. I have to admit this may not be everyone’s cup of tea; that is simply a question of what you expect in music. Main references are Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, Hogarth’s Marillion (Brave era) and No-Man. The quality and expressiveness is apparent throughout with maybe a bit of experimentation, but never without purpose. Do yourself, the label and the artist a favor and let the emotions and melodies that haunt me now haunt you too.”
Kayak are our favorite Dutch band, based on their first five albums: See See the Sun (1973), Kayak (1974), Royal Bed Bouncer (1975), The Last Encore (1976), and Starlight Dancer (1977). Granted Starlight Dancer was a transitional album, but after that things got really dodgy. Singer Max Werner retreated to the drum stool, and Edward Reekers, who has a more conventional pop voice, took over lead vocals. The next two albums Phantom of the Night (1979) and Periscope Life (1980) were more commercial and sold well. Half of Merlin (1981) was a return to prog rock, though it’s not on the same level as Kayak’s early work. The band then took the rest of the millennium off.
The Esoteric label, known for their superb remastering jobs, reissued the first three Kayak albums in 2012, remastered from the original master tapes, with booklets that fully restore all original album artwork with a new essay. See See the Sun contains one bonus track: Try to Write a Book, a single B side. The eponymous CD contains two bonus tracks: We Are Not Amused and Give it a Name, A & B sides of a single. While the first two albums are the most overtly proggy, Royal Bed Bouncer is probably our favorite, quirky and more song-based though it is. Because at this time, Kayak had emerged with a completely unique style, having honed their writing skills and melodic sense to the point they were producing songs unlike anyone else. Newcomers might want to start with the eponymous album to be safe. If your personal favorite is any one of the first four albums, we’re not going to argue.
The reformed, post-2000 Kayak is not the equal of the first incarnation of the band, nor are they anywhere near as unique, but we’re fortunate Kayak is going at all, still adding new fans who hopefully work their way back to the early albums. Letters from Utopia (2009, 2CD in super jewel box) was the final album with founding member Pim Koopman, who unexpectedly passed away shortly after.
Keyboardist Ton Scherpenzeel is the only original member remaining on Anywhere But Here (2011), and these are mostly his compositions. Kayak’s second vocalist Edward Reekers is still the singer here. YouTube has a promo video for this album and the songs Life Is Good and Behind the Scenes.
These two classics are the 2013 Esoteric label reissues, newly remastered from the original Decca master tapes and including booklets that fully restore all original album artwork. Spriguns are among the most progressive of the first generation British folk-rock bands. Originally known as Spriguns of Tolgus, under that name they recorded mainly updated arrangements of traditional British folk tunes, similar to Steeleye Span. With the two albums here, they shortened their name, became more of a rock band, and focused on originals with traditional sounding melodies, moving from the Steeleye camp toward the company of Spirogyra, Mellow Candle, and Trees. The band was led by singer Mandy Morton, who has a Maddy Prior type voice, while the instrumentation includes electric & acoustic guitar, keyboards, electric violin, bass and drums. Time Will Pass has three songs with orchestrations by Robert Kirby, known for his work with Strawbs, and Spriguns should have crossover appeal to Strawbs fans as well as Renaissance/Illusion. The only problem for Spriguns was that it was late in the game for electric folk. Revel Weird and Wild was released in 1976, Time Will Pass in 1977, the height of punk in the UK. Revel is the more trad sounding of the two. The uninitiated prog fan should start with Time, but Revel is really charming too, with much more violin.
This is the 2012 digipack reissue on Sireena Records of the 1984 debut by Swedish symphonic prog band Tribute. This is an album we’re very fond of, and though the band may have been forgotten in the past three decades, this album sold well upon its release, and the band toured western Europe. It was during their 1985 tour in Germany that their drummer bailed and Tribute managed to find a replacement in Pierre Moerlen, who became a member for three years. The music on New Views is instrumental with beautiful wordless female vocals. Even though Moerlen had not yet joined, there is a very strong influence of instrumental Mike Oldfield (Moerlen’s employer at the time) of the Incantations through Crises period. There are also elements of Camel, Genesis, instrumental Alan Parsons Project, and (in one track) Tangerine Dream. The 22-minute epic title track is the highlight of an album that is supremely melodic with just the right amount of grandeur. If this album is new to you and you’re a fan of Oldfield and the other artists mentioned, rejoice that there is still undiscovered music like this.
The Reasoning are a Cardiff-based prog band formed by ex-Magenta and ex-Erasmus bassist Matthew Cohen and featuring former Karnataka singer Rachel Cohen (née Jones). In addition to Cohen, the band have (on the early albums) excellent male vocalists. Their 2006 CD Awakening is a great debut with strong songs. It was mixed by Dave Meegan (U2, Marillion), while Steve Rothery (Marillion) guests. Dark Angel (2008) fulfills the promise heard on their debut, with the band sounding more confident, and the songwriting and production both taking a step up. All those vocalists The Reasoning have stockpiled are paying dividends in the form of some of the best vocals and vocal interplay in progdom. New guitarist Owain Roberts adds more metal stylings. It works well enough, as the band can also be as lush, delicate, warm and melodic as Karnataka and Magenta, something few prog-metal bands could claim.
For their third CD Adverse Camber (2010), The Reasoning have a new drummer and a second female vocalist in Maria Owen. The band says it best: “This album has been the most relaxed, most enjoyable, most fun and most creative experience we have been through since the band’s inception, and this really shows when you listen to the songs. Adverse Camber is definitely the most cohesive, mature sounding record we have created to date. Everything you expect from The Reasoning is there -- big, lush, multi-layered vocals; catchy choruses; driving, rocking riffs; beautiful acoustic sections -- you name it, it’s there plus a whole lot more.” On the gentler songs, Rachel’s voice may remind you of Mary Fahl (October Project). The Reasoning are easily recommended to fans of Karnataka and Magenta, the progenitors of the current south Wales progressive bands, but their appeal extends beyond that as well.
Adventures in Neverland (2012, 56-minutes) is The Reasoning’s fourth. The music is somewhat heavier and the prevailing mood darker than before, which may have something to do with what the band had been going through with the disappearance of guitarist Owain Roberts. The contrast between that mood and the relative fragility of Rachel Jones’ vocals is a defining characteristic of this album. Listen to the track Otherworld on YouTube. Read The Midlands Rocks review.
At the beginning of this millennium, the Welsh band Karnataka were one of the most popular new progressive bands in the UK. In 2004, when they seemed destined to break through to greater success, they disbanded. The original band splintered into at least three new bands: one using the name Karnataka lead by founder Ian Jones, The Reasoning (who nabbed lead singer Rachel Jones), and Panic Room. Four-fifths of Panic Room (everyone but the bassist) are former Karnataka members. Visionary Position (2008, 65-minutes) is the band’s debut album and is not far removed from Karnataka. As before, the focus lies as much with singer Anne-Marie Helder’s powerful but controlled voice as with Jonathan Edwards’ symphonic keyboard parts. Visionary Position does sound like it is further developing the style of the original Karnataka, and is arguably more progressive. Anne-Marie is a wonderful singer (also multi-instrumentalist), and the electric violin from guest Liz Prendergast is a great touch. Now the dissolution of Karnataka no longer feels like a loss, as not only is this a tremendous album, Karnataka have seeded half the melodic prog bands in Britain.
Satellite (2010, 59-minutes) is their second studio CD. The Where Worlds Collide review provides insight into the essential difference between Visionary Position and Satellite. The former was composed in the studio, but the songs proved a challenge to recreate live. The songs on Satellite were road-tested first, recorded in the studio second. That’s probably one reason why there is no violin on this one. The result is an album of polished shorter songs of symphonic/progressive-flavored melodic rock. Which is pretty much what most of the current generation of British prog bands play. It’s remarkable how Anne-Marie Helder has progressed from someone brought in to sing backing vocals in Karnataka to as good a female singer as you’ll find in rock today (and not a bad lyricist either). The band must recognize this, as her vocals are the centerpiece of every song. There are similarities to the band Breathing Space, who are also responsible for transforming a female backing singer from another band into a stellar lead vocalist, not to mention Magenta, Mostly Autumn, Karnataka, The Reasoning, and Touchstone. Also read the Eurorock, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives reviews.
Skin (2012, 64-minutes), Panic Room’s third, is darker, moodier, and harder-edged than Satellite, though just as melodic and beguiling. It features a string quartet adding another sonic layer. Read the Rocktopia, Background Magazine, and DPRP reviews.
Norwegian band Gazpacho originally allied themselves closely with Marillion. One can assume they took their name from the Marillion song and not from a love of cold soup, and the title of their first full-length album Bravo is only a vowel shift away from a well-known Marillion album. Certainly their style shares a lot with Marillion from Brave on. Their music is in the serious-sounding, deliberately-paced modern progressive style that emphasizes atmosphere, texture and melody over demonstrative playing. Other bands frequently mentioned as reference points are Porcupine Tree and Radiohead.
Gazpacho made incremental improvements with each of their first three albums, but their fourth album Night (2007) was their breakthrough album that introduced the band to a larger audience. It is clearly their best album to that point and may still be their best album. The guest violinist of the previous three albums was promoted to full member, while another guest musician adds several acoustic instruments, further broadening Gazpacho’s sound. This is the 2012 2CD remastered digibook edition on Kscope, which adds a second CD of bonus live versions of some of the album tracks. There had always been a few small issues with aspects of the sound that bugged the band and other features of the songs that emerged through playing them live over the following five years. This new edition allowed the band to address these issues while still remaining faithful to the original. The band explains: “We re-recorded the drums and some of the vocals that were distorted in the original recording session. We also added some of the tracks that were left off the original version to add further depth to the sound. We also remixed and remastered it at Cutting Room Studios in Stockholm.” Read reviews at Prog Archives and DPRP. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. See our Scandinavian page for more Gazpacho CDs.
Lover’s End Pt. III: Skellefteĺ Serenade (2012) contains a single splendiferous new Moon Safari track with a duration of 24:21 that completes the story begun on the Lover’s End CD. It was written at the same time but would have required Lover’s End to be expanded to a double CD. “As far as I’m concerned, Moon Safari is the best, or in any case currently belongs to the best Swedish bands. With this new mini-album they proved it again and therefore I have to rate it with the maximum of five stars. It’s well-deserved indeed!” Read the full Background Magazine review and the Prog Archives reviews. The CD comes in a cardboard sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping. See our Scandinavian page for the rest of the Moon Safari catalog and much more info.
IQ’s magnificent 1983 debut LP Tales from the Lush Attic is a landmark progressive rock album. Producer Mike Holmes: “When we did the 25th anniversary edition of The Wake, we took the finished stereo mix and remastered it. It made a big difference to the overall sound, but we weren’t able to give it a complete remix because the multi-track tapes had been lost in the mists of time. However with Tales we could go right back to the beginning, using the original 24-track tapes to build the mix from scratch. It was great to finally give this album the mix it deserved. I’ve spent years avoiding the studio release of Tales, just because I knew it could be so much better. It is now.” This 30th anniversary special edition of Tales from the Lush Attic is a double disc hardcover 32-page book with lots of extras, including the complete remix of the album and a DVD (PAL, all-region) featuring live video footage of material from Tales along with a host of mp3 files, original mixes, audio commentary, and previously unreleased writing/rehearsal/demo material. See the full list of contents. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
Along with Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood and Clutching at Straws, IQ’s The Wake (1985) is the best album to come out of the 1980s progressive revival in the UK. The 2010 25th Anniversary boxset includes three CDs and a DVD (PAL, all-region). The first CD contains the 2010 remaster of The Wake. The second and third CDs are chock full of bonus tracks, including demo versions, outtakes, rough and alternate mixes, a BBC Friday Rock Show session, and a live track. The DVD contains a 47-minutes live show from 1984, the oldest existing footage of IQ; album commentary from Paul Cook, Peter Nicholls and Mike Holmes recorded in April 2010; multi-track files for Corners for remixers; and another 2.5 hours worth of mp3 files of writing sessions, unused ideas, demos, and contemporary interviews. The 60-page full-color booklet features an in-depth account of the making of the album, illustrated with rare photographs and contributions from all band members. There is also a double-sided poster featuring the album artwork and memorabilia. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
IQ’s 2010 tour included the performance of the entire The Wake album. The Wake Live at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Holland, June 19 2010 was recorded at one of the highlight concerts of that tour. Even by the high standards IQ have set over the last years, this visualization of The Wake was unique. The show in Holland was filmed and recorded by the same crew that shot the highly-acclaimed bonus live DVD packaged with IQ’s last studio album Frequency. Both the CD and DVD in this set contain the entire The Wake live, while the DVD (PAL, all-region) also contains the encores Infernal Chorus, The Darkest Hour, and Failsafe, plus a photo gallery featuring a 2010 remix of Corners. See Page 2 for the rest of the IQ CDs. See our DVDs page for the IQ DVDs still in print, with prices greatly reduced on Stage and Forever Live.
Head (2000) is the debut by British prog band Thieves’ Kitchen, who on this CD sound vocally very much like Jadis. Instrumentally it’s a bit more diverse than that, with lots of proggy things going on throughout five long tracks spanning 63-minutes. The final 20-minute track T.A.N.U.S. is worth the price of admission alone, as they add a National Health or Bruford feel to their otherwise more neo-prog style, foreshadowing the direction they would head (pun unavoidable) in.
On Argot (2001), Thieves’ Kitchen continue with the style established on T.A.N.U.S., with four extremely long tracks totaling 65-minutes. There is little if anything neo-progressive on this CD. Keyboardist Wolfgang Kindl favors organ, often with the sound and style of Dave Stewart/National Health, while guitarist Phil Mercy, like Phil Miller, plays in an angular style. Overall the music is more rock-oriented and less jazz-influenced than National Health (and it almost goes without saying that there is no writer in the band on the level of Dave Stewart). Despite the neo-prog background of some of the members, T.K. de-emphasize melody, as the complexity of the music leaves little room for melodic vocal lines. Echolyn offshoot Finneus Gauge is a good reference point.
Shibboleth (2003) is their third CD and it trumps the previous two. The band now take their cues more from Hatfield and the North and National Health than from the symphonic bands. Since their previous album, Thieves’ Kitchen swapped their male singer for Amy Darby, and her voice fits the music better. While organ is still his main keyboard, Wolfgang Kindl plays some Mellotron on this album, in case you wondered what a Canterbury band would sound like with Mellotron. So here is a current British prog band carving out their own identity, creating music to satisfy cravings for complex arrangements and instrumental interplay, and finally getting everything right.
For The Water Road (2008, 73-minutes), Thieves’ Kitchen’ have a new keyboardist: Thomas Johnson, formerly of Änglagĺrd. The rest of the lineup remains the same, but there are guest musicians. Änglagĺrd alumnus Anna Holmgren contributes numerous flute passages, original TK bassist Paul Beecham plays sax and oboe, and cello makes an appearance courtesy of Stina Pettersson. Furthermore, vocalist Amy Darby also plays recorders, clarinet, harp, and Theremin. The album was recorded at Rob Aubrey’s studio, with the keyboards recorded at Mattias Olsson’s studio in Stockholm. Johnson was very much involved in the writing, and for the first 25 minutes or so, the Änglagĺrd style is dominant. After that, Thieves’ Kitchen’s Canterbury style reasserts itself, with guitarist Phil Mercy still responsible for much of the writing. This is the best-sounding TK CD so far, and with the blend of the Änglagĺrd and Canterbury styles, the best TK CD to date period.
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy (2013, digisleeve, 57-minutes) is well worth the long wait. The core of Thieves’ Kitchen remains singer Amy Darby, guitarist Phil Mercy, and keyboardist Thomas Johnson. Flutist Anna Holmgren returns, while the rhythm section on this album is Sanguine Hum’s: Paul Mallyon (drums) and Brad Waissman (bass). Other guests include cellist Tove Törngren and trumpeter Paul Marks. TK’s well-established jazzy Canterbury style dominates (Bill Bruford’s Feels Good to Me is another good reference), with the Mellotron and secondary instruments adding important extra dimensions. Darby’s vocals remind us of Squonk Opera. The busy Rob Aubrey again engineered. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
British neo-prog band Galahad have been at it for a while, with their debut CD being released in 1991 and, prior to that, cassettes dating back to 1985. With Year Zero (2002), Galahad made their best album to that point, as they expanded in new directions, blending traditional progressive rock with modern elements. With the band in control of engineering and production for the first time, they finally achieved the album they wanted to achieve. Year Zero is a loose concept album performed as one continuous piece of music and is the most instrumentally-oriented album Galahad has recorded. John Wetton guests on lead vocals. This 2012 expanded and remastered 10th Anniversary edition comes in a digipack and includes a second CD of Galahad performing Year Zero live almost in its entirety in 2003, a rare performance as the album was played live only about a half dozen times. The live recording was taken directly from the mixing desk.
Beyond the Realms of Euphoria (56-minutes, digipack) is Galahad’s second new album of 2012, recorded at the same time as Battle Scars. The cover art is intended to symbolize “hope, good times and a bright future” to contrast the feel of Battle Scars. As a bonus track, the CD includes a new version of Richelieu’s Prayer, which originally appeared over 20 years earlier on Nothing Is Written. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Check our British page for many more Galahad CDs.
Primitive Instinct are a British band who began in the late 1980s and whose 1994 debut CD Floating Tangibility was one of the first releases on the Cyclops label. That was a mediocre album, but like many of the bands that got their start on Cyclops, their later albums are significantly stronger. Primitive Instinct are typical of the UK neo-prog bands that came of age during the 1990s in that they really have one foot in melodic pop/rock and one foot in prog, have quality lead vocals, and the music is free of metal. Reference points are Jadis, It Bites, Final Conflict, and 1990s Pendragon. Belief is from 2000. Read the DPRP review. Listen to the song Break On Through on YouTube.
One Man’s Refuge (2012) is their best, their sound more polished, the songwriting more accomplished. The eight-minute track Regrets that closes the album is a highlight. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
L’Estate di San Martino was formed back in 1975 to provide the musical background to a theatrical production. In the following years, the lineup was expanded to enrich the sound, with new musicians on keyboards, electric guitar and drums, and the group had intense live activity with shows featuring long tracks with extended instrumental sections. After the success of Alder, the CD of their 1983 concert in Perugia (now out-of-print), L’Estate di San Martino decided to reunite with the original lineup and compose a new work. Febo (2007) is simply outstanding, a concept album in the best tradition of Italian melodic progressive rock, highlighted by superb production with complex yet beautiful atmospheres and skillful musicianship. The music is a blend of Wind & Wuthering-era Genesis and classic Italian progressive, like a collaboration between Banco, Locanda delle Fate, and Genesis. But it is not self-consciously retro like some other prog bands who limit all instrumentation and effects to those available in 1972. Febo is the tale of a young boy who discovers progressive rock and decides to move away from downloading piracy, rediscovering the taste of buying a record and enjoying both music and artwork. Heavyweight mini-LP gatefold sleeve with 12-page bilingual booklet.
Talsete di Marsantino (2012) is L’Estate di San Martino’s second studio album, and it is tremendous. Though mostly instrumental, both Francesco di Giacomo (Banco) and Bernardo Lanzetti (PFM) guest on vocals, while Steve Hackett guests on electric guitar. Heavyweight mini-LP gatefold sleeve with 20-page booklet. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The self-titled Alphataurus album is a 1973 Italian progressive rock classic, with ELP-like keys plus a harder guitar sound. This 2011 mini-LP edition reproduces the triple gatefold jacket of the LP and has been remastered from the original master tapes.
Amazingly, Alphataurus reformed in 2010 and played a memorable gig in November of that year, professionally captured on the Live in Bloom CD (2012, 67-minutes, gatefold mini-LP sleeve). This is one of the greatest live comebacks in the history of Italian progressive rock. The CD contains the whole concert, which in addition to the performance of Alphataurus’ entire 1973 album also features some fantastic unreleased tracks played that night.
After a nearly 40 year respite, Alphataurus returned in 2012 with their second studio album Attosecondo, with the guitarist and keyboardist/composer surviving from the original lineup. Attosecondo is as good as their debut, which means it is one of the best Italian prog albums this millennium. Heavyweight mini-LP gatefold sleeve with 12-page booklet. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Ukrainian band Karfagen is the first and more instrumental band of Antony Kalugin, the rather busy man also in charge of day-to-day operations at Sunchild, Hoggwash, and AKKO. Aleatorica (2013, 62-minutes, digipack) again has a large number of musicians on a wide range of instruments. Two of the 14 tracks have lyrics; the bulk of the album is instrumental. This is another astounding work, and as with the preceding album Lost Symphony, it is one of the great rock symphonies. Kalugin is not standing still, as the style here has evolved a great deal from the early Karfagen albums. Aleatorica has more acoustic textures and ethnic/folk melodies, as the accordion, flute, and other acoustic instruments are used heavily, and there is often a decidedly playful feel. The end result sounds a bit like a Ukrainian Jethro Tull, a bit like an electric Flairck, a bit like Gryphon meet Pekka Pohjola on a pirate ship sailing off the edge of the world, and other references that make even less sense. Mostly it sounds like an original style. We’re always going to heap praise on bands that sound like they’re from somewhere rather than aping a generic Anglo-American sound, bands who understand that progressive rock is not Rush and Dream Theater, bands who have absorbed what has gone before but produce something new. This album is a perfect example, we just hope listeners with more mainstream tastes can keep up with where Kalugin is going. See our East European page for the rest of the Karfagen catalog.
AKKO stands for Antony Kalugin’s Kinematics Orchestra. AKKO 1 (2013, 71-minutes, digipack) features Kalugin on keys, programming, voice; Max Velichko on guitars; Misha Sidorenko on alto sax; and Jacky Cat on violin and voice. AKKO is Kalugin’s vehicle for a more relaxing style of instrumental music than his other projects. If everything that uses a lot of electronic keyboards and samples, leisurely tempos, and not a lot of rock drums is new age, then this is new age-y. But it does feature quite a bit of electric guitar, and it does have low-key drums/percussion. The problem with the new age genre is that musicianship has often been lacking, and many of the artists lacked a rock background or experience in a band that might have given their music more depth. That’s not the case with Kalugin, so AKKO is more relaxed than his other work but never insipid, perfect for when the mood calls for something mellow that can still be listened to with full concentration.
Sunchild is Antony Kalugin’s other main band. Kalugin has half the musicians in the Ukraine on the Sunchild albums, which place more emphasis on vocals (in English) than Karfagen. This is melodic symphonic prog that draws from all eras of progressive rock and establishes Kalugin as one of the top contemporary composers in the genre. Sunchild is no longer a studio project, as the band toured Europe in support of Isolation (2012, digipack), the fifth Sunchild CD, which is highlighted by the lengthy four-part title suite. Here are mp3s of the complete Isolation part 4 and a 13:43 medley covering the entire CD. Read the Rocktopia and Background Magazine reviews. The rest of the Sunchild CDs are on our East European page, along with more info.
The Esoteric team have newly remastered the first two Happy the Man albums on these 2012 editions which feature booklets with fully restored original album artwork and a new essay. In our estimable estimation, Happy the Man is the finest band the United States has produced, and Crafty Hands the finest album. Their self-titled debut is from 1977, Crafty Hands 1978. Though one can hear Genesis influence in archival recordings that predate the first album, by the time of their first studio album Happy the Man had achieved a level of originality that seems almost impossible today. If you don’t know the Happy the Man story, you could do worse than read this (old) article.
Cleveland, Ohio-based Witsend released their outstanding debut Cosmos and Chaos in 1993, one of the classiest American prog rock albums. This is the remastered second edition. These guys have chops on the same level as Spock’s Beard, but their mostly-instrumental music lacks the Beatles/pop influences of the Beard. Probably influenced most by Yes and ELP, maybe early Ambrosia with a bit of Steve Hackett thrown in, this is nevertheless quite contemporary in sound and execution.
Syzygy is the same band after taking time out to raise families, and 2003’s The Allegory of Light (63-minutes) vaulted them right back near the top of the American prog rock heap. This is complex, clever, heavily-instrumental prog rock played by top-notch musicians, mixing the old and the new. Influences and reference points include ELP, UK, Yes, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Transatlantic,... you get the picture.
Realms of Eternity (2009) was originally going to be a double-CD but was released as a no-filler 77-minute single CD. Syzygy expanded to a quartet with the promotion of bassist & backing vocalist Al Rolik to full-time status, and brought in veteran session singer Mark Boals as guest lead vocalist, as there is a greater emphasis on lyrics on this album. The vocals, so often the shortcoming of indie prog bands, are completely professional, and yet instrumental content still dominates. There are loads of leave-you-speechless instrumental fireworks, but also acoustic, pastoral passages worthy of Tull and Genesis. Syzygy sound more British than ever (and to be quite frank, none of the current generation of British bands appear capable of a work like this). With excellent production, this is not only Syzygy’s best and most ambitious album, it may be the prog album of 2009. Steve Hackett said: “It’s beautifully written and recorded and easily the best I’d ever been given to listen to... I usually hope for a masterpiece every time I play an unknown quantity (to me), but this is the the only time the dream has been fully delivered.”
A Glorious Disturbance (2012, digipack) is the live extravaganza Syzygy have been promising for some time. More than a live DVD, it is a historical perspective of the band to this point. The set contains two DVDs (NTSC, all-region) and a CD. The first DVD contains two concerts in 5.1 surround, nearly two hours from the 2009 3RP festival and 2010 Day of Prog, with covers of UK’s In the Dead of Night and Deep Purple’s Burn as encores. The CD omits the encores and one other track due to the shorter playing time of a CD. The second DVD runs 1 hour 35 minutes and contains interviews and a featurette The Writing of Realms. The interviews contain lots of footage dating as far back as 30 years. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Hidden Lands is essentially the continuation of the band Violent Silence, who disbanded in 2008. Main composer Hannes Ljunghall focused on raising a family but eventually started writing songs again with the vague notion of releasing a solo album. Meanwhile, former VS bass player Phillip Bastin had been working with drummer Gustav Nyberg in a couple other bands. Bastin convinced Ljunghall to provide songs and play keyboards in a new group, and as for a singer, former VS member Bruno Edling was their first choice and he happily accepted. Later keyboardist Björn Westén, the fourth former VS member, was approached to complete the lineup. So Hidden Lands is the same band as Violent Silence with only a change in drummer. The reason for the name change is that Violent Silence’s drummer Johan Hedman had been working on the songs that the band had written and started to record before disbanding. Those songs are being finished with a new vocalist and should be released soon.
The main influence on In Our Nature is Genesis, but the level of originality is high enough that Hidden Lands don’t sound like any other Genesis-influenced band. The keyboards here are, um, key. Listen to enough nu-prog (sometimes referred to around here as ‘no-prog’) before listening to Hidden Lands, and the difference a classically-trained keyboardist makes is obvious. In fact, the definition of new-prog may as well be the absence of or greatly diminished role of a classically-trained keyboardist. In symphonic prog, it’s a requirement, and it’s rewarding to be reminded of that by Hidden Lands. Watch the videos for the songs The Road to Halych and L’Ancien Régime. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Adam Baruch reviews.
Sintrinity (2012, digipack) is the debut CD by a Swedish band who describe their style as progressive/alternative rock. The Progress label says: “We find a great sense for combining the kind of almost catchy melodies found with bands such as Muse with more complex, heavier elements in the ‘near prog-metal style’ represented by Riverside or latter day Porcupine Tree.” Read the Progplanet review.
Stolen Thoughts (2008) is the first full-length album for the Polish band Retrospective, released on the Polish Lynx label. It is dark, despairing modern prog sung in English, like a more depressed Riverside. While there is only a little actual metal, the aesthetic seems closer to the modern metal aesthetic, though there is some Pink Floyd and a little 1970s King Crimson influence.
Four years later and Lost in Perception (2012, digipack) is released on the German Progressive Promotion label. The model for Retrospective may still be Riverside, but this is a more self-assured effort, with the band playing more to their own strengths. Now female vocals from the keyboardist complement the male lead vocals. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Visit Retrospective’s website for more info.
El Arte de Seguir Vivos (2008, digipack) is the debut CD by a symphonic prog band from Peru. To date, Peruvian progressive rock has consisted of the first album by Frágil and the albums by Flor de Loto and Supay. Kharmina Buranna are likely to be the most popular of all these, as they play all-purpose 1970s-style progressive rock that, apart from the Spanish-language vocals, sounds like vintage British or Italian prog. Kharmina Buranna sound European, lacking the Andean or Latin American flavors of their peers. There are aspects of many different 70s prog bands, not dwelling on any one band’s style long enough to sound derivative. Guests on El Arte de Seguir Vivos include the flute player from Frágil and a Japanese violinist. Read Cesar Inca’s review at Prog Archives for greater detail.
Kharmina Buranna’s second CD Seres Humanos (2012, 53-minutes, digipack) continues in a similar vein, a bit more classically-influenced than their first album. Read the Under the Radar CDs review.
The self-titled CD is from 2007 and should be considered the first for Senogul, a Spanish instrumental band from Asturias playing refined, melodic 1970s-style progressive rock. They released a 37-minute CD in 2005, but the 70-minute self-titled CD contains re-recorded versions of all the tracks on that earlier CD. Senogul have diverse influences, with elements of Camel, Caravan, King Crimson, classical, jazz-rock, tango, flamenco, and more. The mainstays of their sound are classical piano married to tasteful guitar work, with exemplary interplay between the instruments. Guest musicians add flute and sax to some tracks. The music is flowing and intricate rather than bombastic or dramatic, but is not lacking for energy. Asturias was also home to Crack and Asturcon, and Senogul is a very worthy successor.
III (2011) is their third. The music here is eclectic and inventive. Senogul are carrying the mantle of the first generation of Spanish progressive bands who as a group were unique. With too few exceptions, today’s prog bands try not to sound like they’re from anywhere and are more likely to know the same small set of international prog bands than the first generation prog bands from their own country. For those tired of the resultant sameness, the freshness of Senogul will be very attractive. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Damn if it isn’t another great symphonic prog band from Sweden. Tales from the Maze (2006, 62-minutes) is the first full-length album for Stockholm-based Maze of Time, and it’s full of strong melodies and that know-it-when-you-hear-it Scandinavian quality. There are influences of Genesis, Camel, Yes, Pink Floyd, Kaipa, some neo-prog and a bit of heavy rock. Like The Flower Kings, actually. Overall the style is more soothing than jarring, a lot of that having to do with the softer vocal style and the rich, luxuriant textures.
Lullaby for Heroes (2008, 64-minutes, digipack) is their second CD. It seems Maze of Time have made a conscious effort to make their music more accessible, but that no longer means bringing it closer to pop. Today in Europe, it means adding metal. Fortunately Maze of Time stopped well short of damaging the essential progressive character of their music, as there is only a modicum of metal guitar. Overall this is an excellent follow-up, and hopefully we’re not the only ones to hear a slight similarity to Grobschnitt circa Rockpommels Land in spots.
Masquerade Show (2012) is Maze of Time’s third CD. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
This is the debut CD (2012, 66-minutes) for Swedish quintet Tucana, who describe themselves as “a baroque prog band who mix progressive rock with classical orchestral arrangements, a bit rock opera-ish and sometimes on the heavy side.” It may come as news then to the band that this is prog-metal, not progressive rock. The vocals are of the overwrought, faux-operatic metal style, and the music is ponderous and never goes more than a minute without metal guitar. On the plus side, there are string arrangements. For a more balanced opinion, read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Welcome to the Freakroom is the debut by a New York City band who go for a classic 1970s progressive rock sound (Yes, Rush, Kansas, Pink Floyd, Led Zep) with a somewhat more contemporary guitar style and energy. Vocalist David Bobick has a degree in musical theater and brings some of that feel to these songs. The first five tracks are more vocal-heavy, but the album culminates with the 12-minute Journey of Everyman suite, which is the progressive tour de force and is loaded with instrumental fireworks. There is something similar in Shadow Circus’s approach to that of Puppet Show, the way both bands have absorbed mostly British 70s progressive influences but add a contemporary energy and American flavor. Other modern reference points might be Transatlantic and The Tangent. This album was first released on CD by the band in February 2007, but this second edition on ProgRock Records has been remixed and is a significant sonic upgrade.
Whispers and Screams (2009, 61-minutes) is even better. It begins with the 33-minute Project Blue suite, a roller-coaster ride of classic rock and progressive rock influences, always keeping the listener guessing what comes next. There is a greater American flavor to parts of this CD. The best is saved for the last three tracks (two of which are long ones), which are full of classic symphonic prog with Yes and Kansas as likely influences, and a guest cellist making important contributions. The final track could almost be The Enid. Keyboards and guitar share the spotlight throughout the album, something that is becoming less and less common in what passes for progressive rock, as quality keyboardists seem to be an endangered species. Fortunately, Shadow Circus understand the importance of symphonic tone colors. Read the DPRP review.
On a Dark and Stormy Night (2012, 58-minutes) is their third and best, as Shadow Circus continue to take huge strides forward with each CD. Read reviews at Prog Sphere and Prog Archives.
This is the latest in the 40th Anniversary series of hi-res surround versions of the King Crimson albums, mixed by Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson. See Page 2 for more detail on this series and the rest of the King Crimson catalog. Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (1973) is one of Crimso’s best, the studio debut of their third live lineup. It ushered in a new era for the band and can be considered the first part of a trilogy of albums that culminated with Red. The DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) features the 5.1 surround mix by Steven Wilson in hi-res lossless and DTS, the 30th anniversary stereo mix in 24/48, a new 2012 stereo mix in 24/96, and an album’s worth of alternate takes and mixes in 24/48 stereo. The DVD-A also features over 30 minutes of rare, previously unseen video footage of the band (dual-mono audio). The CD features the 2012 stereo mix and three new alternate mixes.
Polish band Albion began as a neo-prog five-piece with a female vocalist who sounds like Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq), playing music full of Marillion-isms and somewhat similar to Collage and early Quidam. Remake is a double-CD that combines 2006 remastered versions of Albion’s first two albums Survival Games (1994) and Albion (1995) with five previously-unreleased bonus tracks from 1995-97. These two albums are sung almost entirely in English. The bonus tracks are sung in Polish and are as good as the albums proper.
Albion re-emerged in 2005 with a new female vocalist and the CD Wabiąc cienie, which is sung in Polish. The music here is more compelling than the earlier albums, very close to Collage and, by extension, early Marillion, but with a more feminine, delicate character. With the beautiful female vocals, this also helps fill the void left when Quidam lost their female singer. Albion favor somber-but-beautiful, deliberately-paced tracks. There is a good balance of vocal and instrumental passages, and the vocals are lovely, so anglophone prog fans who still shy away from non-English vocals should give this one a chance. Why miss all these lyrical guitar leads over something as silly as a language barrier?
Albion continued with almost the same lineup on Broken Hopes (2007), but this one is sung in English. If Wabiąc cienie displayed Albion’s feminine side, Broken Hopes shows their masculine side. Not that there aren’t any delicate passages, but this album is noticeably more dynamic, with a greater variety of moods, tempos, and energy levels. It continues in the Collage/Satellite and early Marillion veins while adding a little Pink Floyd. This is Albion’s best album to date and almost a sure thing for neo-prog fans.
The Indefinite State of Matter (2012) continues with English vocals and neo-prog equally influenced by Marillion and Pink Floyd. The music is very atmospheric, the songs often starting mellow and gradually building in intensity. Ryszard Kramarski of Millenium engineered and produced, and what are Millenium’s two biggest influences? Marillion and Pink Floyd. So Kramarski may well have had some effect on Albion’s sound, and fans of Millenium should be equally smitten by this album.
Ananke is the new incarnation of Abraxas, as Ananke includes three former members of Abraxas. Malachity (2010) and Shangri-La (2012, digipack) contain dark, atmospheric modern prog with some Pink Floyd influence. This is the music of Abraxas extrapolated to the present, a darker version of the band that during the 1990s was one of the top neo-prog bands in Poland, taking a back seat only to Collage and Quidam. Vocals in Polish. Listen to the songs Obietnice and Sara from Shangri-La on Soundcloud.
Logic Mess is the band formerly known as Crystal Lake with a new singer and new drummer. Element of the Grid (2012, 72-minutes) is typical Polish prog-metal (Riverside and their ilk), a definite improvement on the Crystal Lake CD.
Solar Wind - The Inner Circle (2012, 80-minutes, digipack) is the debut full-length album by Moscow-based Batisfera (‘Bathysphere’ is our guess). Batisfera play complex symphonic prog in the classic style featuring keyboards, flute, and electric & 12-string guitars. The music is an amalgam of Yes (especially Topographic Oceans), Genesis, Camel, Grobschnitt, and a dozen other prog bands. It is sophisticated, constantly changing and evolving. Occasionally it’s heavier than the bands mentioned but remains in a 1970s style. It’s fortunate the album is as instrumental as it is, as the vocals (which are in English) have yet to catch up to the skill level of the instrumentalists. Still, the album is so full of symphonic goodies, it’ll keep your brain releasing endorphins for a good while. The album is a conceptual work, supported by a beautiful 28-page booklet in English. Read the Progplanet review.
Oblivion Sun is the continuation of Frank Wyatt and Stan Whitaker’s Pedal Giant Animals project. Wyatt and Whitaker of course were the core of Happy the Man. On Oblivion Sun’s 2007 self-titled debut CD, the band is headed up by Wyatt (keys, sax) and Whitaker (guitar, vocals), with Chris Mack (Iluvatar, Puppet Show) on drums, bassist Dave DeMarco and keyboardist Bill Plummer. On their second CD The High Places (2013), the band is a quartet with a new bassist and drummer. The music on both CDs is close enough to Happy the Man that they could have slapped “HTM” on the cover, and only the other Happy the Man members would have complained. The title track of The High Places is a 22-minute multi-part suite that Wyatt had been working on for many years.
Lo-Fi Resistance is the project of guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Randy McStine, with Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard) playing drums on the vast majority of the 2010 debut CD A Deep Breath. Nick also mixed the album and sings on one track. Guests include Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard) on bass, Dug Pinnick (King’s X) on vocals, Rob Weinberger on flute and sax, and Lloyd Landesman on synths and B3. McStine was a child prodigy guitarist and is still quite young, so perhaps the maturity of this work should be surprising. This is a superb album straddling progressive and modern melodic rock, with the guitar work always in service of the song. In terms of the prog/melodic rock balance if not the actual sound, this is comparable to most of the current British bands, including Marillion, It Bites, Frost, The Reasoning, and on and on. The style is definitely contemporary, with more than a little Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson influence. But McStine adds a bit of Ozric Tentacles here, King Crimson and ELP there, plenty of lush, proggy stylings throughout. Great songwriting is in evidence, supported by stellar guitar work, layered sounds and harmony vocals.
Chalk Lines (2012, 51-minutes) features Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison throughout, plus contributions from Colin Edwin and John Wesley (Porcupine Tree), Dug Pinnick (King’s X), and John Giblin (Brand X, Kate Bush, many others). Dave Kerzner (Kevin Gilbert, Steve Hackett) co-produced, co-wrote, and split keyboard duties with McStine. McStine is a fantastic singer, and the production is excellent. Chalk Lines is a significant step forward from the first album, maybe even the most powerful statement in the modern prog genre (the one headed up by Porcupine Tree) to come out of the U.S. Just spend two minutes listening to the album teaser (mp3 icon above). Read the Examiner.com and Northern England Art Rock Society reviews.
This is the Huge Giant Prog Release of 2012. As the promotional materials say: “Remember when the latest album we bought was more than just a click of a mouse? Remember when music meant something - the excitement and anticipation as the needle came down, not knowing what we were about to hear? Nothing else mattered at that moment. Our undivided attention was given to the music, music that would become the soundtrack of our lives.” The Kompendium project was organized by Restless Rob Reed of Magenta, who comments: “The genesis of the album was a conversation with a contemporary of mine over a glass of wine. We were talking about all the epic albums we loved from the 70s like Tubular Bells and War of the Worlds, and how nobody seems to make music like that anymore. He came up with a sort of ‘gentleman’s challenge’ to go ahead and make one, and like a fool, I said yes! Three years later, I now realise why they don’t make them anymore. I went back to my favourite albums and made a wish list of players from the 70s and a few contemporary artists as well that I wanted for the project. What I really love are albums that mix styles, so with all these great musicians, I was able to blend Celtic music with rock and classical to produce something which, although it was a huge undertaking, I really hope is unique.”
The impressive list of participants includes Steve Balsamo (Jesus Christ Superstar, ChimpanA), Steve Hackett - nylon guitar; Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) - drums; Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett Band) - stick; Troy Donockley (ex-Iona) - Uilleann Pipes, whistles; Nick Barrett (Pendragon) - guitar, Neil Taylor (Tears for Fears, Robbie Williams) - guitar; Jakko Jackzyk (20th Century Schizoid Band) - guitar; Francis Dunnery (ex-It Bites) - guitar, John Mitchell (It Bites) - guitar, Mel Collins (King Crimson, Camel) - sax, BJ Cole (Elton John, David Gilmour) - pedal steel guitar, Chris Fry (Magenta) - guitar, Christina Booth (Magenta) - backing vocals, and introducing the vocal talents of Angharad Bryn in the role of Lily. Adding to the epic quality of the album are celebrated vocal ensemble Synergy, The English Chamber Choir conducted by Guy Protheroe, the London Session Orchestra conducted by Dave Stewart, and renowned opera singers Rhys Meirion and Shan Cothi.
This gorgeous set includes a CD plus a DVD (NTSC, all-region) in a 7" gatefold sleeve with a 20-page large-format booklet bound in. The DVD contains a DTS 24/96 5.1 surround mix of the album (also Dolby Digital), music videos for three songs, and several ‘making of’ videos. Read the Prog Magazine feature article: Page 1 • Page 2 (These are scans; you may need to zoom in.) Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
This is Madfish’s 2012 reissue of Kowtow (1988), which adds three bonus tracks not on previous editions under the heading The Millstream Sessions, which includes Time for a Change, The Mask, and I Walk the Rope. Kowtow is Pendragon’s most commercial album, recorded when they were flirting with a record deal from EMI, though it does have three long tracks. It was Clive Nolan’s first record with Pendragon. See our British page for the rest of the Pendragon catalog.
The Park, the 2003 solo album from Cristiano Roversi, keyboardist of Moongarden and Submarine Silence, is completely different from his debut. It evokes the typical Genesis mood with particular reference to the works of Tony Banks and Anthony Phillips. It is influenced most by Tony Banks circa A Curious Feeling and songs such as Evidence of Autumn and others during that timeframe. But The Park is a symphonic album and is not song-oriented aside from the final track, which is the only one with vocals. Roversi also adds some symphonic electronics ala Vangelis or Michael Stearns. He employs vintage keys: electric piano with that characteristic Banks sound, Mellotron, Polymoog, ARPs, and more. In a way, this is the solo album Tony Banks should have made, rather than trying desperately to have a hit single.
Since The Park, Roversi has been busy -- in addition to his work with Moongarden, he is a member of CCLR and Mangala Vallis and has collaborated with numerous other Italian and British artists. Antiqua (2012, 51-minutes) is an enchanting album that features Bernardo Lanzetti (ex-PFM, Magala Vallis) singing in English on one track and Aldo Tagliapietra (ex-Le Orme) singing in Italian on another. Aldo also plays acoustic guitar on that track which, not surprisingly, sounds like Le Orme. There is one more track with vocals (in English), by a woman named Leonora, while the bulk of the album is instrumental. Roversi has the assistance of a number of guitarists (electric & acoustic) including David Cremoni from Moongarden, guests on hurdy-gurdy and fretless bass, and drummer Gigi Cavalli-Cocchi. However, drums are used sparingly, as Roversi’s main influences on the instrumental tracks would have to be early Anthony Phillips, early Mike Oldfield, and pastoral Genesis. This is Roversi doing the music he really wants to do, free of external pressures. It is music from an alternate reality where time flows at its own pace, music strongly connected to the early 1970s, perhaps an ‘antique’ in that beauty and harmony seem to have gone out of favor now, but possessing a magic that modern music cannot touch.
Artist Paul Whitehead has spent his life creating unforgettable images for progressive rock bands (Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, many others). His lifelong interest in science fiction led to the creation of the Borg Symphony, a collective of musicians assimilated from various countries, primary among them Italian keyboardist Alex Carpani, who is also credited with composing the album. Ode to Hero Tixe (56-minutes) first appeared in 2006 as a CD-R, but this December 2012 edition, which comes in a cardboard sleeve, is the first replicated CD edition and is considered the first official release. It is primarily a symphonic and rhythmic electronic music work with aspects of progressive rock, an other-worldly feel and sparse narration. There are industrial sounds, grinding guitars, and neoclassical musicians (flute, violin, bowed cymbal and Theremin), creating music with the feel of a sci-fi movie. Read the Music Street Journal review. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Pitts / Minnemann Project is a collaboration between Jimmy Pitts, keyboard virtuoso of The Fractured Dimension, and drummer extraordinaire Marco Minnemann. This is the MALS label edition of their debut CD 2L82B Normal (2012, 52-minutes), on which the duo are assisted by five different bassists and five different guitarists, with a violinist on one track and sax player on another. The music is instrumental chops-fest fusion-prog in a similar style to The Fractured Dimension, as well as Allan Holdsworth and Liquid Tension Experiment.
Toward the Mysterium (2008, 60-minutes) is the debut by The Fractured Dimension, an American band of musical mad scientists, playing intricate instrumental progressive rock and symphonic fusion on the avant-garde side. The musicianship is high caliber, with synths and piano to the fore, giving the band a symphonic sound. It’s not only the playing that is dazzling in its complexity, but the compositions themselves, which are highly structured and influenced by contemporary classical. As the band describe themselves: “not technical for the sake of being technical, but extremely musical for the sake of transcending normality”. Frank Zappa would be impressed. Note there may have once been a CD-R version of this, but this is a replicated CD. Read the Proggnosis review.
From Saint Petersburg, Russia, Roz Vitalis has existed since 2001 as a studio project and since 2008 as a full-fledged instrumental progressive rock band led by keyboardist/composer Ivan Rozmainsky. On Compassionizer (2007), approximately Rozmainsky’s eighth album, he is joined by a guitarist and a clarinet player. Rozmainsky is very influenced by 20th century classical music, so though the music here has passages of beauty, overall it is dark, dissonant and complex avant-prog in the vein of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd. Because the drums are used to provide counterpoint and never simply to keep a beat, Rozmainsky is able to use high-quality samples and lose nothing. Read the Prog Archives and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
On Revelator (2011), Roz Vitalis is a five-piece band with electric & acoustic guitars, flutes, bass and drums in addition to Rozmainsky’s grand piano, Hammond and other keyboards. There are also guests on cello, viola, bassoon, trumpet and flugelhorn, giving this album a more acoustic and organic sound, still in an unclassifiable, offbeat area of avant-sympho-prog dominated by keyboards.
Patience of Hope (2012) is arguably Roz Vitalis’ best work, showing that the band is still growing. The music is again instrumental and at the intersection of several genres, primarily progressive rock and chamber music, also jazz and European folk. This album is less keyboard-heavy. There are more acoustic textures, as concert grand piano, flute, cello, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophone, accordion, metallophone, and harpsichord augment the rock instruments. Start here. Read the Prog Archives and Progplanet reviews.
First Light (2012, 56-minutes) is the debut by this Finnish prog band formed by two Kataya members. Liquid Wolf were initially inspired by Opeth but have expanded beyond that, the music no longer strongly resembling Opeth. The music is a mix of instrumental and English vocals tracks, mostly dark retro-sounding prog with some modern low distorted (metal) guitar, sometimes quite delicate and beautiful (not during the bits with metal guitar, obviously). In addition to vocals, guitars, keys, bass and drums, a guest adds flute and tenor & soprano sax to some songs. Liquid Wolf are at their best when they’re in Camel territory, that classic Scandinavian prog style one hears in the music of Atlas, Kaipa, Tabula Rasa, Kerrs Pink, etc.
This is the InsideOut release of Timeloss, the 2002 first album by this Swedish band formed by the founders of Landberk and picking up where Landberk left off, though Paatos have a female singer with a beautiful voice who also plays cello. This edition has a new booklet, extended from 8 to 16 pages, plus a bonus video featuring the album track Hypnotique as a QuickTime file.
Breathing (2011, digipack) is Paatos’ fourth studio album, following a 2008 live CD released only in Japan. This is Paatos’ most sophisticated album to date. They have integrated the more progressive aspects of their early work with the beautiful, song-oriented approach of the previous studio album Silence of Another Kind. There is some post-rock flavor, but the angelic vocals of Petronella Nettermalm now sound closer to Annie Haslam than to Bjork. That Scandinavian Mellotronic melancholy has never sounded so sensuous as here.
Paatos’ fifth studio CD V (2012, digipack) contains eight songs, four of which are brand new. Two (Tea, In Time) are older songs that have been completely re-recorded using only acoustic instruments, and two (Precious, Your Misery) are remixed older songs that have gone through major changes. These four hardly sound like the old tracks and show Paatos’ desire to grow and add new dimensions (acoustic, electronic) to their style. Watch the album teaser and Tea unplugged videos.
Finnish prog band Pax Romana share keyboardist Matti Kervinen with the band Kataya. The band began in 1973 when everyone was considerably younger, but no albums came of that first incarnation. The members got back together in 2002. They have a 1970s/1980s sound, back when it was permissible to leave space in a mix. On And the Dance Begins Again (2010, mini-LP sleeve), their sound is a blend of Camel, Pink Floyd, later Wigwam, Trettioĺriga Kriget, and... American southern rock. Yes, Pax Romana throw prog dogs off the scent by tossing in a bit of Allman Brothers style rock, and Pax Romana’s world-weary vocals actually fit OK with that style. (Pax Romana have two singers, both named Matti; one is not so weary.) Guest musicians add violin on one track, sax on another, hurdy gurdy and sitar on yet another.
Trace of Light (2005) doesn’t have the American southern rock, though there is a bit of something resembling Dire Straits filling the same role. There are more keyboards on this one, yielding a lusher, more symphonic sound that is closer to a pure Camel/Floyd hybrid, though still with unique aspects. Guests add violin, cello, flute, soprano sax, and more.
Let All Men Know This Is Sacred Ground (2012, digipack) is again primarily a blend of Stationary Traveller-era Camel, later Wigwam, and Dire Straits. The woodwind player who guested on the first two albums has been promoted to full member, making Pax Romana a sextet. Read reviews.
With or Without (2007) is Canadian Steve Cochrane’s fourth album, here joined by Ken Baird on keyboards (Cochrane in turn has played on several of Baird’s CDs), two drummers splitting the workload, and backing vocalists. Cochrane altered his approach on this CD relative to his first three CDs. Not only is it more band-oriented, but there is a lot more acoustic guitar. It exceeds Cochrane’s previous work by a wide margin. The two contemporary comparisons that spring to mind are (Guy) Manning and Steve Unruh, that is, progressive troubadours who frame folky singer-songwriter songs in rich symphonic prog arrangements. With Cochrane, there is more influence of Renaissance (piano-based classical-rock arrangements) and some of the pastoral nature of early Genesis, Anthony Phillips, or Gordon Giltrap. The electric guitar provides melodic leads in a progressive (e.g., Steve Hackett) style that balance the acoustic guitar perfectly. Read Jerry Lucky’s review.
La La La: Variations on a Happy Song (2012, 57-minutes, digipack) is Steve Cochrane’s magnum opus, and his previous albums cannot prepare one for how progressive and how good this is. (The title won’t prepare you either.) Cochrane has amped up the Genesis / Steve Hackett side of his style while retaining all the other elements mentioned above. This album is more instrumental, more epic and powerful, more adventurous. It plays as a continuous suite with all the parts thematically connected. We know some of you have deep, abiding misgivings about albums released under an individual’s name (unless said individual used to play guitar in Genesis), so we’re asking you to trust us on this one. Or read the Jerry Lucky and Progplanet reviews and trust them.
Psychic for Radio is the project of Shawn Gordon, fearless leader of ProgRock Records, with primary collaborator Henning Pauly (Chain, Frameshift, Roswell Six) and lots of guests, including Martin Orford (ex-IQ), Pater Matuchniak (Evolve IV, Gekko Projekt), Carl Westholm (Carptree), Randy George (Ajalon, Neal Morse band), Bill Berends (Mastermind), Marek Arnold (Seven Steps to the Green Door), Todd Plant (Cryptic Vision), and several others. Shawn says you’ll find influences from OSI, Genesis, Howard Jones, Spyro Gyra, Alan Parsons Project, and the unidentifiable. Read the Silhobbit review.
This is one of the more self-explanatory CD titles. The RPO was conducted by Richard Harvey (Gryphon) and recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, nearly 60 musicians plus a 30 voice choir. The songs: 2112 Overture, The Spirit of Radio, Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, Subdivisions, Fly By Night, Closer to the Heart, Limelight, Working Man. Steve Rothery guests on Working Man. Listen to 2112 Overture.
Live and Let Live is a classic British neo-prog live album, the document of Twelfth Night’s final gig with singer Geoff Mann, recorded over two nights at London’s Marquee Club in November 1983. When originally released on vinyl, only 6 of the 15 songs performed were recorded to multi-track and included. This double-CD ‘definitive edition’ is the first time the entire concert has been released. The complete set has been reconstructed, in the actual running order, using the best available sources from those two nights. Five of the songs are taken directly from the original release: The Ceiling Speaks, We Are Sane, Fact and Fiction, The Poet Sniffs a Flower, and Sequences. The End of the Endless Majority has been remixed from the original 24-track master tapes. Also present on the multi-track tape and now included is a recording of Deep in the Heartland. The encores were recorded directly onto 2-track tape by the Marquee team as a gift for the band. Three of these were included on the Cyclops CD reissue (Creepshow, East of Eden, and Love Song), and the remaining two (Art and Illusion and Aspidentropy) were edited together for the Geoff Mann CD Recorded Delivery, and later on the Voices in the Night CD. These five songs have been newly remastered from the original 2-track tape and are now released for the first time complete and in the correct order. Both shows were recorded to video; this source provides the audio for Human Being and Afghan Red. The Collector comes from a show a few days earlier since it was a far better recording. See our British page for the rest of the Twelfth Night catalog and more info.
A great find for the White Knight label (co-owned by Magenta’s Rob Reed), who are now expanding their range with Materya’s Case (2012, digipack). Materya are Italians Andrea Stagni (piano/keyboards, guitars, bass, vocals) and Betty Copeta (vocals), with the assistance of drummers Claudio Trotta (Deus ex Machina) and Marcello Bellina. (There are drums on 7 of 12 tracks.) Stagni, Copeta, and Bellina are all members of Italian prog band AltaVia. Materya is to AltaVia as Aries is to La Maschera di Cera. Betty has a gorgeous, crystalline voice, delivering lyrics in both English and Italian. Stagni also sings, and as a keyboardist sounds influenced by Tony Banks / Genesis. It’s mandatory to mention Renaissance in all cases of prog with pure female vocals, and we comply, but references to Magenta and Karnataka are also apt. This is the most beautiful album we’ve heard this year, with Materya’s version of Stella Splendens one highlight. Stella Splendens is a late medieval song that appeared in a manuscript from 1399 or thereabouts. The song has been recorded by just about every band doing medieval music, including Adaro, Blackmore’s Night, and Companyia Elčctrica Dharma, but Materya’s arrangement is the best we’ve heard, with a slab of Genesis sympho-prog inserted. OK, just listen to it.
Genesis Revisited II (2CD, 2012, digipack) is Steve Hackett’s second album of Genesis covers, what Hackett himself calls “a project of Wagnerian proportions. For the most part I’ve followed the arrangements we had first time around. But each vocalist has added their own character.” Among the vocalists are Steven Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt, Simon Collins (Phil Collins’ son), Francis Dunnery, Neal Morse, John Wetton, Nad Sylvan (Agents of Mercy), Jakko Jakszyk, and Nik Kershaw. There are also two guitarists apart from Hackett, namely Steve Rothery (Marillion) and Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), around 35 guests in all. “What I’m doing is celebrating music without prejudice, which was what Genesis stood for back then. We really had no limits, everything was possible. You could have short songs, long songs, loud bits, quiet moments, pantomime, humour, big band sounds, jazz, classical music… there was no barrier to what we were doing. This time around, I’ve tried to satisfy what everyone wants, including myself. Initially, I was thinking of just going for the best songs not featured on the first Revisited album. But then people thought I should do those tracks where the guitar was emphasized. So, I’ve done both. I’ve also included four songs which have Genesis connections, where the song was written originally for the band or rehearsed by them.” Hackett discusses the project in this video, which features excerpts of the music. You can find the track list, track-by-track lineup, and Steve’s comments in the Genesis-News.com review. See our British page for more Steve Hackett CDs.
Follow (2012, digipack) is the third CD collaboration between woodwind player Theo Travis and guitarist Robert Fripp. Follow is more aggressive, dynamic, and accessible than Thread or Live at Coventry Cathedral. The first disc is a CD of the album, while the second is a DVD-Audio which contains a 5.1 surround mix of the album in hi-res lossless and DTS, plus the hi-res (24 bit/48k) version of the stereo mix. The DVD also contains three bonus audio tracks in both surround and stereo, and 30 minutes of video of Travis & Fripp live in concert in two beautiful churches in Cornwall in 2010. This live concert footage is the only official video of Travis & Fripp currently in existence; its audio was recorded in multitrack and mixed in superb stereo CD quality. The album was mixed and mastered by Mr. Surround, Steven Wilson. Travis says that the album was largely conceived in surround. “So for example on Hear Our Voices, the four-part flute choir with the lead soprano sax voice is mixed with one flute in each corner and the soprano sax front middle. Open Land has different woodwind textures around the 360 degree listening space, and some movement too, e.g. the pair of clarinets which slowly move behind the listener. Return to Saturn has the cascading clarinet chords and they are voiced so that each part of each chord is placed separately around the 360 degree listening space and each chord completes one full circle. On the track 1979, I recorded my parts on top of some archive 1979 Frippertronics recordings recorded in New York City. I do not think there has been any previous release of Robert Fripp’s Frippertronics in 5.1 surround sound, so this in itself is very exciting. Robert’s guitars generally are all recorded in full quadrophonic sound, so mixing in 5.1 was a natural development of this. Personally, I think the album sounds absolutely amazing in surround and I hope you will too!” Watch the album trailer video.
This double-CD on Friday Music’s Relayer label reissues the first two Ambrosia albums, recently remastered from the original 20th Century Fox Records tapes. Ambrosia are a band from the Los Angeles area whose 1975 self-titled debut is not only their classic, but one of the great American prog albums. Alan Parsons, who mixed the first album, was producer and engineer on Ambrosia’s second album Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled (1976), which features some orchestrations, and while it’s a bit uneven compared to their debut, it’s still an excellent album. It seems that Parsons decided his own ‘Project’ should sound like Ambrosia, and in fact the Ambrosia members played on APP’s debut Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Ambrosia signed to Warner for their third album, leading to a string of chart hits in the sanitized soft-rock style associated with Los Angeles in the late 70s and early 80s, songs easily mistaken for the work of Air Supply. But Ambrosia returned to their roots on their final album Road Island. More recently, Ambrosia have been active as a live band, having played Rosfest 2008, and they are focused purely on their progressive side again. How many times have you seen a band with a catalog of Top 40 hits perform live and play none of them? (OK, they did play the Floydian Holdin’ On to Yesterday, a fine song from the first album that happened to chart.)
KingBathmat are a British prog or alt-prog band that began with a cassette release in 1998 but have maintained a low profile on the prog scene. Yet they are a band that might restore one’s faith in the future of British progressive rock. Truth Button (2012) is something like their seventh album, not counting the cassettes. At present, the two titles here are the only ones available on CD, though that should change in 2013 with a new distribution deal. KingBathmat are a modern prog band in that (on Truth Button at least) they rely a lot on grungy guitar, yet the vocals often feel like they’re from a much earlier era. The music is psychedelic in an early Porcupine Tree way, there are lush keyboards and gentle passages when KingBathmat want them, the arrangements are complex, and there is that quirkiness that many of the great UK prog bands have. Read the DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, and adequacy.net reviews. There’s an album montage on YouTube.
In contrast to Truth Button, which features long tracks, most of the songs on Fantastic Freak Show Carnival (2005) are relatively short. It begins with the songs that are more alt than prog, then a noticeable shift occurs with the track Sweet Iris, which has almost a pastoral Genesis feel. The rest of the CD is really proggy and really good, culminating in the fantastic 11:27 Soul Searching Song. Fantastic Freak Show Carnival is not nearly as heavy as Truth Button, the grungy guitar much less prevalent. Read the Sea of Tranquility and DPRP reviews.
These are the 2012 remastered digipack reissues on Metal Mind. One of Clive Nolan and Karl Groom’s projects (Shadowland being another), Strangers on a Train made two albums of a theatrical/cinematic sort of symphonic neo-prog, dominated by Nolan who wrote all the music and lyrics. On The Prophecy (1990, 64-minutes), the band is Tracy Hitchings (Quasar, Landmarq) on vocals, Nolan (Pendragon, Arena) on keys, and Groom (Threshold) on guitars and bass. The Labyrinth (1993, 72-minutes) adds singer Alan Reed (Pallas) to the lineup. The Labyrinth improves on the first CD, more heavily orchestrated, with Reed’s vocals complementing Hitchings’. Metal Mind are touting the use of tube electronics in the remastering -- the early 1990s was still a time when digital audio often lacked warmth, so hopefully the remastering has remedied that. Read the Musical Discoveries reviews. Listen to the track Darkworld on YouTube; you can find other tracks nearby.
Magenta’s 2012 live double-CD Live: On Our Way to Who Knows Where was recorded over several concerts and features songs from every Magenta album, including four from Chameleon. It also includes a bonus studio recording of When We Were Young, which is available on CD for the first time. See our British page for the rest of the Magenta catalog.
Both of these 2012 CDs are all-star projects organized by Billy Sherwood. The Prog Collective is being touted as the biggest prog all-star project ever, featuring performances by John Wetton, Tony Levin, Jerry Goodman, Geoff Downes, Alan Parsons, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Gary Green, Annie Haslam, Steve Hillage, John Wesley, Tony Kaye, and more.
The Fusion Syndicate features Rick Wakeman, Jerry Goodman, Nik Turner, Jordan Rudess, Mel Collins, Billy Cobham, Billy Sheehan, Gavin Harrison, David Sancious, Larry Coryell, Derek Sherinian, Chester Thompson, Steve Morse, Percy Jones, John Etheridge, Tony Kaye, Chad Wackerman, Steve Hillage, Theo Travis, and many others. Read the Something Else! review.
Presto Ballet is led by Kurdt Vanderhoof, formerly the guitarist of Metal Church, which we’re going to guess is a metal band. But Peace Among the Ruins (2005) is old-school progressive rock, with only a wee bit of metal influence poking through, manifesting more as a touch of stadium rock rather than metal. The band has consciously gone for the classic 1970s feel, as the album is full of analog synths, Hammond organ, Mellotron, tasteful guitar, and rich harmony vocals. And it is an analog recording. Presto Ballet’s main influences are probably Kansas and Yes, plus a little ELP or Deep Purple. Vanderhoof summarizes his new band as “a modern 70s progressive/rock band”. Sounds about right.
After their very successful debut, Kurdt Vanderhoof and Presto Ballet returned in 2008 with their second CD, full of the same analog synths and everything else as the first album. The Lost Art of Time Travel is an even stronger album though, most influenced by Yes, but with an American approach that naturally suggests Kansas. There are again touches of ELP and Deep Purple, and this time a little pastoral Genesis. If the time travel referred to by the album title is back to the 1970s, then the lost art may be lush-sounding symphonic prog such as this. Read the DPRP review. Unavailable for some time, the band plan a new pressing soon.
Presto Ballet’s third CD Invisible Places (2011) features a new line-up, but you’ll hardly notice as this is another album of high-quality, 1970s-style sympho-prog. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Kurdt may be calling Love What You’ve Done With the Place (2011, digipack) an EP, but the playing time is 40:42. Given how utterly convincing this is as a classic 1970s album and the fact a whole lot of classic albums come in under 40 minutes, there’s no way we’re calling this an EP. Just the same, Kurdt’s giving a break on the price. This one has some 1970s hard rock, in particular a cover of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s The Faith Healer (listed as a ‘bonus’ track). The CD is mostly a continuation of the symphonic prog of Invisible Places, and Presto Ballet are doing that better than ever. The music sounds completely British now, with Yes the dominant influence, also Genesis and other 70s prog bands, plus the aforementioned 70s hard rock. Love what they’ve done with this CD.
Relic of the Modern World is Presto Ballet’s 2012 studio CD. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Part of the ever-expanding Mostly Autumn family tree, Stolen Earth evolved out of the band Breathing Space after Iain Jennings and Olivia Sparnenn made Mostly Autumn their full-time jobs. Stolen Earth’s lead singer is Heidi Widdop, who was the original Mostly Autumn singer but left shortly before MA’s first album was recorded. A Far Cry From Home (2012, 62-minutes) does not disappoint -- it sounds a lot like Mostly Autumn and is stronger than any of the Breathing Space albums. Like Mostly Autumn, Stolen Earth’s lead vocals are female with some male supporting vocals, there is a strong Pink Floyd influence, and the use of low whistle adds some Celtic flavor (though not as much as early Mostly Autumn). Fans of the current female-fronted UK prog bands are sure to love this album, as will a lot of Floyd fans. Read the Where Worlds Collide, Get Ready to Rock, and Progmeister reviews.
Ampulla Magnifying (2009, 66-minutes) is the debut for a French quintet singing in English (apart from one song in Spanish). The Daedalus Spirit Orchestra play an eclectic, slightly off the beaten path progressive rock somewhat in the vein of The Mars Volta and King Crimson, balancing complexity and accessibility. In addition to guitars, keys, bass and drums, the fifth member plays flute (and vibraphone, but mostly flute), which adds a welcome extra dimension. Read the Music Street Journal and DPRP reviews.
Tabula Rasa (2012, 61-minutes) is their second.
Mogador are an Italian prog band from Como with one English expat, drummer/singer/lyricist Richard Allen. They were a quartet on their self-titled 2009 debut (now deleted), continuing as a trio (handling the same instruments) on All I Am Is of My Own Making (2010). Mogador matured a great deal on AIAIOMOM, the music more elegant, eclectic and multi-faceted. There is a strong Yes influence, but overall the music feels closer to Glass Hammer (who are also very Yes influenced), with a good balance between electric and acoustic guitars, alongside mostly vintage keyboard sounds. Read the Classic Rock Presents Prog review.
Absinthe Tales of Romantic Visions (2012, 63-minutes) shows an evolution in style, sounding like it came straight out of the early 1970s, not Italy but Britain. This album features four international guest singers including Jon Davison (Yes, Glass Hammer) and two female singers. Absinthe... has a lot of hard-edged guitar, but still a 70s guitar tone. While one could mention Crimson, Gentle Giant, Tull, Van der Graaf, Yes, and Genesis, the music reminds us more of first generation American prog bands such as Netherworld, Mirthrandir, etc., who likewise absorbed the styles of those British bands and created albums of great quality. Listen to the album preview on YouTube, or the short song The Sick Rose.
The full artist name is Strandberg Project with Michael Manring & Friends. Jan-Olof Strandberg is one of Finland’s top bass-players, his career having begun in the 1970s playing with such names as Jukka Tolonen and Esa Kotilainen. Since then Strandberg has played on numerous albums and toured the world both solo and with Strandberg Project. Strandberg was also a member of The Fusion Project, who had a 2006 CD on Musea (check our French page). He is also a member of Paidarion. Made in Finland (2012) is Strandberg’s seventh album, the lineup including Michael Manring on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (Mist Season, Paidarion, The Samurai of Prog), two guitarists, a keyboardist, and sax player. The music is typically classy Scandinavian fusion: instrumental, balanced between energetic numbers with drums and airy, languid tracks without. The DVD (PAL, all-region) contains in-studio live performances of six songs that are not on the CD (about 41-minutes total). The first three are performed by a quartet that includes Jukka Gustavson (Wigwam) on keyboards, while the last three are just Strandberg and drummer. There is also a 39-minute documentary that includes live footage. Watch the album montage video. Read the Background Magazine review.
Hail (2012, digipack) is a 4-track, 27-minute CD-EP by a very promising young Welsh prog band, released on Will Mackie and Rob Reed’s White Knight label. Rob Reed, Magenta’s keyboardist and leader, plays on two of the tracks. (Keyboards are used on the other two tracks too.) This EP is mostly instrumental; what vocals there are are low and distant in the mix. There’s a minute of metal that opens the album, but the next 26 minutes are excellent: spacey and actually proggier than a lot of the current UK prog bands, who as a group lean toward melodic rock. Bet you hit repeat after the first play.
Argos’ self-titled 2008 debut CD and 2010 follow-up Circles may be the most British-sounding progressive rock records to come out of Germany. The music is keyboard-dominated and 1970s-styled, with vocals in English from a singer who sounds sort of like a cross between Peter Gabriel and Pye Hastings. The music displays influences of Genesis, Camel, Caravan, Hatfield and the North, and Stackridge. Argos’ MySpace page lists other influences as well, of which Fruupp and England are also good references. When Argos do Peter Hammill, there’s no mistaking it -- it’s almost better than the real thing. One of the characteristics of much classic British prog is whimsy, which Argos have understood. To some extent, you could call Argos the German equivalent of The Tangent, in that it’s all about classic British progressive rock done extremely well. If your first love is 1970s British prog, this music provides that magical feeling -- you can’t say exactly what it is, but you know it when you hear it. Part of it is emotional warmth, an accusation rarely leveled at modern-style prog. Unfortunately, Musea let both of these CDs go out-of-print after about two years.
Cruel Symmetry (2012, digipack, 55-minutes) is another fantastic album for Argos, often emphasizing their Canterbury side. The 20:43 title track is the centerpiece. Read reviews at Prog Archives and Background Magazine.
The Scandinavian prog scene shows no signs of letting up, as the Finnish band Half Apple are another impressive new entry. Hands That Held Up the Sky (2012, digipack) is their first full-length CD. On the majority of tracks, Brother Ape may be the band Half Apple are most similar to, in that most of the tracks are up-tempo and high energy, relatively relaxed vocals meshing with a driving rhythm section. Well, the Half Apple members are young enough that they can keep up this pace on stage. As with many of the other current Scandinavian prog bands, Yes appears to be a strong influence, and the music is similarly uplifting and positive. The final track has a Beatles thing going on. But those bands are just influences, not templates, and Half Apple’s approach is contemporary.
Magna Fabulis (2012) compiles the long pieces Nexus contributed to Colossus/Musea’s various artist concept albums. The track Odisea, El Regreso (27:52) appears on Odyssey: The Greatest Tale, La Aventura en el Mar (23:23) appears on Treasure Island, El Segundo Reino (9:21) appears on Dante’s Paradiso: The Divine Comedy Part III, and The Scheme Goes On (8:22) appears on Dante’s Purgatorio: The Divine Comedy Part II. If you don’t have those albums, then this is a new Nexus album to you, and one of their best. See our South American page for all the Nexus CDs and much more info, also the related bands Alma and Subliminal.
Real Life Is Meeting (2012, digipack) is the first solo album by IZZ leader John Galgano, here assisted by IZZ members Laura Meade (vocals) and Paul Bremner (electric guitar solos) plus six other musicians, while John handles bass, vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, and keyboards. John has been one of IZZ’s primary songwriters, and Real Life Is Meeting is every bit as proggy as IZZ, but with a more personal feel, more warmth and heart energy. Hard to imagine an IZZ fan that wouldn’t cherish this album too, since it seems to be the soul of IZZ that is on display. We wouldn’t change a thing about it. Listen to the songs Bigger on the Inside and Lucky for Me. See Page 2 for the IZZ CDs.
Mahogany Frog’s DO5 (2008, digipack) is the fifth full-length release from this Winnipeg-based instrumental outfit. The music relies both on electric guitar and an array of vintage keyboards (Farfisa organ, MicroMoog, ARP string ensemble, Korg MS2000, electric & acoustic piano, and others), plus bass, drums and occasional trumpet. The music is melodic, even stately at times, and sometimes close to instrumental Caravan. But Mahogany Frog’s sound is more psychedelic, as they often saturate the sonic space with feedback, grungy distortion, and odd electronic effects, beats and noises. The reason for the sound of this album is that everything was run through a collection of vintage tube amplifiers -- keyboards, guitars, electronic beats and acoustic percussion -- hot enough to get the pleasing distortion tube amps are known for. The themes progress quickly, and the instruments change roles often. The music is only challenging to one’s preconceptions, not a challenge to listen to as it remains grounded in melody and form. Read the DPRP review.
Their sixth Senna (2012, digisleeve) is a progression from DO5. These crazy Canadians still like fuzz, so that some tracks are a joyous noise. It is exuberant instrumental prog that is on one hand unorthodox and complex, and on the other hand quite melodic and playful, still with a Canterbury sound. Read the Progulator review. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
On Blue (2005, papersleeve) and Vs Mabus (2004) are the harder-to-find earlier Mahogany Frog CDs, the only ones still in print. Vs Mabus is actually the most conventionally progressive of all these CDs. It was the first time the band were able to really make use of the studio to get a complex, layered sound; they also featured keyboards more than they had previously. The music is pure early-1970s style prog with vintage keys and guitar tones, and even though the band members are too young to have been there, it sounds like it’s second nature to them. The tracks are almost all long, the music is often spacey, sometimes fusion-y, sometimes symphonic, sometimes in the realm of heavy-prog-with-organ. Influences seem to vary from Canterbury to Gentle Giant to early Pink Floyd to early Nektar to Krautrock and more.
As the band says: On Blue takes influence from the sounds and textures of Vs Mabus, but the songs are faster, shorter and more concentrated. The album’s intensity reflects the method in which it was recorded: explosive feedback-ridden guitars indicate sheer volume, driving sporadic drumming suggests a sense of urgency. While Vs Mabus explores composition and orchestration, On Blue puts forward a challenging array of sounds and melodies, all projected with a raw, forceful energy. Read reviews at Prog Archives of all their CDs.
This amazing Pittsburgh ensemble have created a unique and contemporary progressive rock style. Even more impressive are their big-budget, highly-imaginative stage shows, perhaps the best fusion of art-rock and performance art there is. Many reviewers have tried in vain to describe Squonk Opera’s music. One of our early attempts was ‘a collision between However, Clearlight, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Kate Bush, and Laurie Anderson’. They feature piano, synth and accordion; wind synth, flute and sax; female vocals; electric & double bass; drums & percussion; and electric & acoustic guitar. The music is full of odd meters and a frequently dark ambience, with Jackie Dempsey’s classical piano usually at the center of things. The woodwinds sometimes play Celtic flavored melodies, while the female voice is often used as another instrument. There is a sense of humor at play that is more obvious in their shows but does come through subtly on their CDs.
Go (2012, digipack) is the studio CD to accompany Squonk Opera’s Go Roadshow and to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Squonk Opera go through singers like Spinal Tap went through drummers, so you have to get used to a different female voice on each album. If you’ve followed Squonk Opera for a long time, it’s noticeable how their musicianship and ensemble playing continues to advance. It sounds effortless on this album, which has a higher energy level than past albums, serious chops balanced by serious wackiness.
On Mayhem and Majesty (2010, digipack), Squonk Opera shift effortlessly from adventurous to majestic to quirky to serenely beautiful, in a style all their own. Have a look on YouTube.
You Are Here (2006, digipack) is the soundtrack to both touring series (put your hometown’s name here): The Opera and You Are Here. The same lineup that recorded Rodeo Smackdown is augmented by a guitarist (electric & acoustic), further broadening their sound. You Are Here improves even on Rodeo Smackdown, with a grand symphonic feel to some of the music. Watch video clips.
Inferno (2002) is the music from an earlier production that applies Danté’s Inferno to the coal town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, where a mine fire simmers underground to this day. Watch video clips.
Check our DVDs page for Squonk Opera’s Astro-rama DVD.
The Ghost Moon Orchestra (2012) is Mostly Autumn’s second studio album with Olivia Sparnenn as lead singer. This is the single-disc retail edition. While keyboardist Iain Jennings rejoined Mostly Autumn in time to play on the previous album, being present from the beginning of this album means his contributions are more significant. His contributions to the early albums may have been overlooked, and his departure in 2005 did hurt the band, so it’s good to have him back in the fold. Read the Trebuchet Magazine review. YouTube has the songs Wild Eyed Skies and This Ragged Heart. See our British page for more Mostly Autumn CDs and much more info. See our DVDs page for Mostly Autumn’s DVDs.
Beardfish are an outstanding Swedish progressive band now with seven CDs to their credit. The Void (2012, 76-minutes) sees the band adding some heavier material to their characteristic blend of mostly 1970s prog styles, a trend that began on Mammoth and is more pronounced here. “An album that mixes the old traditions of prog with gently controlled doses of modern heavy metal, The Void is not far from being extraordinary.” [MetalTalk.net] Read the About.com, Sputnik Music, and Sea of Tranquility reviews. See our Scandinavian page for the entire Beardfish catalog and more info.
Tim Morse wrote the Yes biography Yesstories and the book Classic Rock Stories, and also plays keyboards in the northern California Yes tribute band Parallels. While Morse’s first album Transformation was in more of a Spock’s Beard vein, on Faithscience (2012, 63-minutes), he pulls out all the progressive stops. Faithscience has a classic symphonic prog style. It’s not so retro that it sounds like it was recorded in another era, but it has that early-1970s quality, sounds, and influences of Yes, Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, ELP, 70s fusion, and more. Many other musicians participate, including David Ragsdale (Kansas) on violin. Probably the biggest surprise of the year, and highly recommended to fans of classic prog.
Tim Morse recorded his first album Transformation (2005, 64-minutes) with multi-instrumentalist Mark Dean (guitars, bass, drums, backing vocals), with lead vocals shared between Morse and Richie Zeller. There are also several guest musicians. Given Morse’s background, one might assume this album would be very Yes-influenced, and while there is some Yes influence, it isn’t dominant. In fact, there is more ELP influence. Transformation is a more modern prog album though, and as such veers close to Magellan, Robert Berry, Spock’s Beard, and Jadis, and ranks with the output of any of those artists. This is an excellent symphonic prog album with superb production. Read reviews of both CDs, with several former Yes members weighing in.
I and Thou is the project of Jason Hart, who is currently one of the two keyboardists in Renaissance. Assisting Hart on Speak (2012, digisleeve) are John Galgano (IZZ), Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright), Jack Petruzzelli (the Fab Faux, Patti Smith), and guests Steve Hogarth (Marillion), Keren Ann, and Laura Meade. IZZ guitarist Paul Bremner contributes a couple of soaring guitar solos. The cover painting is by Annie Haslam. There is some Renaissance influence but even more Genesis/Tony Banks, while Hart’s vocals are soft and understated. This is an album Tony Banks should have made, as apart from his classical work, it is less pop-influenced than any of Banks’ solo albums. It is beautiful symphonic prog emphasizing mood and atmosphere, four epic tracks plus a Rufus Wainwright cover, the latter the song Hogarth sings on. “Fans of Genesis, IZZ, or Hogarth are going to be in seventh heaven. And for me? Well, yet another American prog CD has made it into my top ten (it’s too good a year to just have a top 5). It truly is a great time to be a fan of progressive rock music, don’t you think?” Read the full DPRP review. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
The Samurai of Prog is a project put together by Marco Bernard, the editor of Colossus magazine and the guy who organized all those various artists conceptual albums published by Musea. Bernard is an Italian who before moving to Finland was a member of the Italian band Elektroshock at the end of the 1970s. The core of The Samurai of Prog is Bernard on bass, drummer Kimmo Pörsti (leader of Mist Season), and American Steve Unruh (vocals, violin, flute, acoustic guitar). There are numerous guest musicians, including Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), David Myers (The Musical Box), Alfio Costa (Tilion, Prowlers, Daal), Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl), and Michael Manring. Undercover (2011) includes covers of some prog rock chestnuts: The Lamia (Genesis), Starship Trooper (Yes), World of Adventures (The Flower Kings), Assassing (Marillion), Gravita 9.81 (Arti+Mestieri), Dogs (Pink Floyd), and Jerusalem (based on the ELP arrangement). There is one original song written by Kimmo Pörsti and another by David Myers. The album concludes with four Elektroshock compositions, performed here by Steve Unruh’s band Resistor, Alfio Costa & Guglielmo Mariotti (Italy), Roz Vitalis (Russia), and Contrarian (USA).
Anna (2012, 78-minutes) is a concept album, the debut by Puzzle King, a progressive rock project headed by Frenchman François Puzenat. In Puzenat’s words, it is progressive rock that plunges its roots in the 1970s and spreads its foliage in the third millennium. Anna is sung in French, but there is also an English-language version titled Anna’s Revolution. Only the French version exists on CD, but the CD booklet contains a password to download the English-language version from the Puzzle King website in 320kbps mp3 format. You’ll also find the English lyrics on the site. So while we prefer French bands who sing in French, Anglophones won’t miss out on the story, which is set at the beginning of the 20th century during the Russian Revolution. The obvious comparison here is Ange. Fans of Nemo will probably love Puzzle King as well, though Nemo is more modern sounding, Puzzle King more classic sounding, more emotional and poetic. This type of prog demands a powerful, charismatic singer, and Puzenat is up to the task. Anna is one of the very best examples in recent years of what is usually considered the central style of French prog.
Squackett is the long-awaited collaboration between Chris Squire and Steve Hackett, over four years in the making. “It was very much about a bunch of pals swapping notes and anecdotes,” says Hackett. Squire adds “There is some clever prog rock stuff in there, some jazzy bits but there are parts that have vocal harmonies like Crosby, Stills and Nash.” Read reviews.
The deluxe edition comes in a hardcover digibook and adds a DVD (NTSC, all-region) that includes a DTS 5.1 surround mix of the album (also Dolby Digital). There is no reason this couldn’t be a DVD-Audio with lossless audio rather than a DVD-Video disc; shame on Esoteric who ought to know better. “After spending a score of days immersed in the sea of 5.1, I can honestly say that I’m just not interested in hearing A Life Within a Day in stereo -- ever.” [Sound+Vision]
Echolyn’s 1991 first CD was self-titled, but this isn’t that. This is their 2012 studio work, a double CD (digipack) for a single CD price. Though seven years have passed since The End Is Beautiful, the band lineup remains the same, here augmented by a string quartet, sax player, and backing vocalist. The most significant change in Echolyn’s style was with Cowboy Poems Free (which came after another long break), and Echolyn 2012 does fit the style of the second half of their career. But it may be the definitive example of the class, integrity, and know-it-when-you-hear-it quality that has always characterized this band. Read the DPRP reviews. See Page 2 for the rest of the Echolyn catalog.
The Winter Tree is the return of Magus under a new name, owing to the fact there are too many other bands with ‘Magus’ in their name, but there is also a shift in style. The name ‘The Winter Tree’ is taken from the Renaissance song. The self-titled CD (2011, digipack) is the debut, and it shows that Andrew Laitres’ songwriting skills have matured a lot in the past nine years. (Andrew Laitres and Andrew Robinson are the same person, all names being subject to change with this band.) The Steve Hillage-like space-rock style that was a major component of the Magus sound is present here in one of the instrumental tracks but is otherwise used more as coloration. This is lush, understated, song-oriented symphonic prog with an affinity for the likes of later Camel and Colin Bass, Ken Baird, Maestoso, Mandalaband, and the Alan Parsons Project. Read the Sea of Tranquility and ProgressiveWorld reviews. Note the audio clips at the mp3 icon above might all auto-play at once (it may only occur in Chrome), so if necessary, pause all but one of them.
Guardians (2012, digipack) is proggier than the first CD, but we’ll keep the list of reference bands mostly the same, just throw Genesis and Pink Floyd in there now. The Winter Tree have their own style, but it’s clear that Laitres’ loves are the first-generation British melodic prog bands, tending toward the softer side of the genre. Guardians is a beautiful prog album that doesn’t sound retro, but on the other hand ignores the direction taken by what is usually considered the modern prog movement, a direction that generally runs counter to the bands mentioned here. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. See Page 2 for the Magus CDs, now at reduced prices.
New Jersey prog band 3rdegree first appeared with a 1993 cassette release, followed by their first CD in 1996. They disbanded in 1997 but reformed more recently. The Long Division (2012, digisleeve) is 3rdegree’s best album. This isn’t neo-prog; the music has nothing to do with Marillion, Pendragon, Pallas, et al. The music is drawn from 1970s influences such as City Boy, Genesis, Crack the Sky, Greenslade, and Utopia. It does bear some similarity to early Echolyn, and there are touches of jazz here and there as was common during the 70s. 3rdegree really honed their vocal arrangements, which include those high-pitched harmony vocals that were outlawed after the 70s. On top of that, the recording and arrangements follow the 70s aesthetic of leaving space in the mix such that listening to the music is actually pleasurable rather than fatiguing. (So many modern bands, particularly those with metal guitarists, try to fill every frequency bin with energy, then wonder why their record sounds like a dazzling, highly-polished turd.) Well, the mastering engineer was the guy who also mastered Rush’s Chronicles.
Narrow-Caster (2008, digisleeve) is a contemporary-sounding prog rock record, with some similarities to Echolyn or IZZ. While lead singer George Dobbs has a voice that reminds us of Dave Lawson of Greenslade (though Dobbs is a better singer), 3rdegree’s greatest strength may be their Yes-like harmony vocals. The result is sometimes similar to the band Ring of Myth -- 3rdegree use more keyboards and are more melodic but lack the Howe-like guitar. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping. Read reviews at DPRP, Sea of Tranquility, The Prog Files, USA Progressive Music, and Rock Report.
Human Interest Story (1996, 72-minutes) is also an excellent album of Ameri-prog, sounding like a cross between Rush and Echolyn.
Live at Progday 2009 (digisleeve) is available as either a DVD or Blu-ray. The discs are professional DVD-Rs and BD-Rs. The 90-minute concert was recorded at the annual outdoor festival in North Carolina and includes two songs destined for The Long Division plus a cover of Genesis’ Me and Sarah Jane. Bonuses include an additional song from a show in Brooklyn and The Making of Narrow-Caster featurette. Either format counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
3rdegree played their first live shows in over ten years at the NJ Proghouse in 2007. The Reunion Concerts (digisleeve) is available as either a double DVD (NTSC, all-region) or double Blu-ray and contains 3rdegree’s traditional electric show plus an unplugged show. The show was recorded in 1080i HD (downres’d for the DVD) and 24-bit audio, 16:9 widescreen. The discs are professional DVD-Rs and BD-Rs. Included are five songs that do not appear on any other CD or DVD plus covers of Gentle Giant’s Peel the Paint and Sarah McLachlan’s Elsewhere. Bonuses include behind-the-scenes and interview footage. The Blu-ray edition adds the entire 50-minute April 2009 Among Friends acoustic concert in HD, formerly sold separately as a DVD.
Times Up are a band from South Wales (the land of Magenta and Karnataka, whether or not the inhabitants are aware of that) who play a brand of progressive rock that also owes a debt to classic rock. They have a quality singer who is up to the task. Snow Queen (2012) is their second album, a track from which is featured on Prognosis 6, the CD that accompanies Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine, whose review states: “Their second release is a resplendent, pensive affair steeped in fragments from progressive rock’s formative years, but it still seems relevant to the modern prog-rock movement. The melodies which permeate the album will kindle memories of innovators such as Yes and Genesis, but still capture the distinctly modern direction the genre has taken in recent years.”
Despite the French name (which refers to New Orleans’ French Quarter), this is an Italian quintet from Umbria. They released their debut CD Glispiriti Icorpi Elementi independently in 2008. Vieux Carré play in the classic Italian symphonic prog style of PFM, Le Orme, and Banco. One must also mention Genesis, because three of the songs are sung in English, and singer Marco Rambaldi reflexively switches to a Peter Gabriel style on those songs. (Or maybe it’s a Bernardo Lanzetti style.) The band’s first demo (when they were known as Chiaroscuro) contained covers of Firth of Fifth and The Musical Box, so the Genesis influence is not imagined. There is also some jazz influence, which the best first-generation Italian bands had as well. It’s mostly the songs sung in Italian that have that old magic; lovers of vintage Italian prog will understand.
Their second CD Eteronimie (2012) improves upon their first, with all songs sung in Italian. It’s all in the classic Italian romantic prog style, with excellent musicianship, but it doesn’t sound particularly retro. Not that there are any concessions to modern trends, it just doesn’t sound like it was made in 1972. At their most upbeat, Vieux Carré sound similar to Atons, but the mood varies more. The Genesis influence heard on their first CD is not really noticeable here. There is a little Yes flavor, some Emerson in the piano, but PFM is still a much better reference.
This Belgian band’s name results from a typo on their first demo and the decision that it was simpler to change the band name than to correct the demo. Quantum Fantay are a space rock band that have people as excited as when they first heard Ozric Tentacles. If these Quantum Fantay CDs don’t make you jump around the room, well then you’re probably not prone to jumping around rooms. But if you’re a fan of Ozric Tentacles, then it’s a good bet these CDs will excite you like no Ozrics CD has in many years. Maybe ever. Give the Ozrics credit for doing it first, and they are a huge influence, but Quantum Fantay are more melodic and include elements of symphonic prog which takes this style to a new level. Their sequential electronics are outstanding. They breathe new life and energy into a genre that many thought had exhausted its possibilities. Believe every superlative you read about this band; they are the current progressive space rock kings.
Agapanthusterra (2005), Ugisiunsi (2007), Kaleidothrope (2009), and Bridges of Kukuriku (2010) are their first four studio CDs. This is the special edition of Kaleidothrope, which adds a DVD (NTSC, all-region) recorded at the Fonnefeesten festival during summer 2008 using five cameras. In addition to the concert, there are two featurettes of behind-the-scenes footage, one in the studio, one on tour. Here is the DVD trailer.
From Herzberg to Living Room delivers bang-for-your-buck, a double live CD recorded in front of 7000 people at the 2007 Burg Herzberg festival in Germany. It includes much of the material from their two studio albums plus two new compositions. Read the ProgressiveWorld.net review of Ugisiunsi.
Bridges of the Old Fishingmine contains 78-minutes of Quantum live madness from the Belgian Fonnefeesten on 1 August 2011, heavy on songs from Bridges of Kukuriku. Watch the album trailer video.
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