Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Neo Prog, It's Birth and Early Album Representatives

At the end of the "classic" period of "Progressive Rock" there rose a few brave and committed young artists who were so inspired by the sounds and styles generated by their adventurous "forefathers" that they chose to dedicate their own time and talents to creating their own romanticized versions of "prog." Thus, after the 1975-77 "fall" from favor that long-playing album-oriented music experienced (at least, in the world of Western European and American music critics), a new so-called "Neo Prog" sub-genre of progressive rock music began to emerge. The albums released by these reverentially imitative bands arrived with little or no fanfare as they rode far beneath the dominant currents of mainstream music. Though often experimenting with the same newly available instruments that spawned the New Wave and techno generations of music, they chose to stay within the fold of their exalted inspirators.  
     In the late 1960s and early 1970s many bands had jumped on a bandwagon of experimentalism; a steady stream of amazing technological advances in sound making was gushing into the world of music as was an adventurous spirit of "crossing over": infusing rock and roll with new sounds and energy as the instruments, styles, and forms of classical, folk, and jazz musics were being fully integrated into old bands as well as instigating and inspiring the formations of many new ones. Thus, "progressive rock" or "art rock" and "album rock" was borne of a melting pot of music. Later this assimilation of foreign textures and sounds was taken even further with the arrival of  the "world music" movement as many, many ethnic musical traditions and musicians from all over the world became heard, studied, admired, and promoted into the Anglo-Western world creating its own subgenre of music. Another couple of fringe branches of music that came out of progressive rockers' experimentation with classical music's "minimalist" movement were the new "ambient" or "New Age" movement as well as the forms known as electronic music or "electronica." 
     While many progressive rock bands shifted back to radio-friendly music forms and formats in the late 1970s (while still experimenting with new technologies)--because that was where the money was--a few refused, either disbanding or entrenching themselves further into "alternative" or "oppositional" musical offerings (e.g. Henry Cow>>Art Bears>>News from Babel, Frank Zappa, Univers Zero, Present, Art Zoyd). There were, however, several bands who stubbornly stayed the course--mostly because they could afford to; Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and, to a lesser extent, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Jethro Tull. They could afford to go against popular trends as they had successfully created loyal fan bases that were solid enough to sustain them despite loss of critical (and sometimes record label) support. Sell-out stadium-filling concerts continued to support the musical trajectories of these "top tier" bands. Most of the other bands that had been dedicated to the progressive rock movement either broke up and went their separate ways (many individuals into exciting and successful new projects like Asia, Peter Gabriel, Art of Noise). However, I would feel remiss if I were not to mention the fact that there was a delayed yet significant arrival of prog and proggy albums coming from bands in other lands distant or remote from the Anglo-base base of Western music such as many that lived behind the Iron Curtain. After 1975 it was the Punk movement and then, in the 1980s, technopop, World, Smooth Jazz, Glam and Goth, and Heavy Metal that earned popular (in the form of concert attendance and album sales) and critical support.
     A new generation of youth growing up in the 70s, adulting at the end of the classic prog era, found themselves more inspired by the prog experimentalism and lush soundscapes and fantastical song subject matters of the 60s and 70s than they were by the new styles of popular music that had supplanted their prog heroes. These are the artists who pushed out into the world in an effort to express themselves in the ways of their prog heroes. The sounds and stylings of the "Big Four" (Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, and King Crimson) and other "top tier" bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull, Camel, Van Der Graaf Generator, Renaissance, Gentle Giant, and Focus were the ones most typically chosen by this younger generation for imitation, though "second tier" bands like Frank Zappa, The Moody Blues, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Tangerine Dream, Can, and the original bands from the Caravan Scene (Soft Machine, Caravan, Egg, and Gong) were quite influential as well. The artists of this new generation often created music so similar to that of the Top Tier as to sound like clones or tribute bands. (Many of them had, in fact, began their careers as tribute bands to one or more of their prog heroes before attempting to produce their own compositions). It is these "simulant" bands of the end of the 1970s and 1980s--very few in number--the ones that sound so strikingly similar to their predecessors from whom they derived their inspiration--that have been retroactively labeled and lumped into the Neo Prog category and the albums that announced their arrival onto the prog scene. 

      In the never-ending debate to define the origins of the Neo Prog there are many critics and historians who have gone so far as to attribute the rise of this new imitative sub-genre of progressive rock music to two particular albums. Released in 1976 by the band Genesis, A Trick of The Tale (released in February of 1976) and Wind and Wuthering (released December 17 of the same year) announced the arrival of a noted shift from the more technically-oriented instrumentalism of previous progressive rock to that which produced more lush, saccharine sonic landscapes with shorter length songs and more pop-oriented lyrics--all of which proved more radio-friendly. Thanks to the many new advances in computer-generated technologies that ushered in a flood of new and affordable instruments in the form of synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines, MIDI and sampling technologies, many young artists were suddenly given access to creating their own multi-instrumental, multi-level music. Thus, it is supportable that the simplified lush keyboard sounds employed by Tony Banks, Richard Wright, and Peter Gabriel led to the arrival of the likes of these bands with their new "Neo Prog" sounds--especially from artists still dedicated to the principles and philosophies of their beloved "prog" music. Here are a few

Locanda Delle Fate (Italia)
Machiavel (Belgium) 
Babylon (USA)
Neuschwanstein (Germany)
Anyone's Daughter (Germany) 
Trilogy (Germany)
Ivory (Germany)
Saga (USA) 
Atlas (Sweden)
Asia Minor (France / Turkey)
Gizmo (UK)
Osiris (Bahrain)
Tideline (Belgium)
East (Hungary) 
Twelfth Night (UK) 
Quasar (UK) 
IQ (UK) 
Pable El Enterrador (Argentina) 
Marillion (UK)
Pallas (UK) 
Sentinel (UK) 
Pendragon (UK) 
Multi-Story (UK)
Mr. Sirius (Japan) 
Midas (UK) 
Aragon (UK) 
Galadriel (UK) 
Asturius (Japan)
Pozzo Fanfano di Musica (Japan)

Hecenia (France)
Collage (Poland)
Clepsydra (Switzerland)

Here are some of my reviews of some of those earliest Neo Prog releases:


GENESIS Wind and Wuthering (December 17, 1976)

W & W is aurally such a beautiful album, but I understand and appreciate the other reviewers who proclaim the "negative" evolution of Progressive Rock music into a "neo-progressive" era with this album and its predecessor, A Trick of the Tail. There can be no disputing the fact that the sound and styles of these two albums usher in something new. Along with a rather drastic change in personnel (the low of flamboyant front man PETER GABRIEL, one of the band's founders who decided to leave the band after the tour for their 1974 magnum opus, the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway--a loss that many feared would be insurmountable and would portend the end of the band), there is a change in temperament. It was as if the band made conscious choice to seek a larger, more commercial audience. Did they water down the music? Simplify it for easier access to the masses? It can be argued that the caliber of musicianship is just as high as their previous outputs, yet it might also be argued that the wisdom gained by the musicians' experience and age helped them to come to a mature realization that it wasn't necessarily the flash and complexity that people wanted to hear, that the adage that sometimes "less is more" might have some truth to it. Even the king noodlers of all-time--musicians like Herbie Hancock and Cick Corea, Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin, Tony Wiliams and Billy Cobham, Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Lier, Stanley Clarke and Al Di Meola--eventually realized that passion and emotion do not always have to be expressed through speed and technique.
     With the Trick of the Tail era, Phil Collins-led Genesis became more concerned with the audience connection than before. With Peter Gabriel in the lead it was as if all theatric development was as if by accident and surprise. (Even the other band members were often taken aback by some of Peter's costumes, stylistic choices, and, of course, his bizarre and often macabre extemporaneous space-filling stories. Heck! The most famous story of all revolves around the creation of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album.
     Peter had become a hot commodity, the "face" of Genesis, and was being courted by other ventures--including Hollywood. As the band was back home in England creating all of the music for their next album--the release to follow their most successful album to date, Selling England by The Pound--Peter was otherwise occupied in New York City. (Working with Exorcist director Peter Friedkin.) When Peter finally found time for the Genesis commitments, he took the music and wrote the libretto of story and lyrics over the course of two weeks time. The band was shocked and a little put off that Peter had done all this without them--even distorting some of the music in ways that they didn't necessarily agree with. And yet, The Lamb was released--under record label pressure--and a tour begun--a tour which had Peter running around on stage as the front man, acting out his libretto, relegating the rest of the band to kind of background or support roles.)
     The Lamb and its tour were quite successful--especially in America--but exhausting. Especially to Peter. The reluctant star--who was far more naturally reserved and shy than his stage persona might suggest--could take no more. On August 15, 1975, Genesis' record label officially announced that Peter Gabriel had left Genesis--to concentrate on "other literary and experimental interests outside of music."
     With no more Peter Gabriel, the band continued to practice, continued to come up with new music. While Tony tended to his new duties as a father, the other band members collaborated with guitarist Steve Hackett to help render his debut solo album, released under the title, Voyage of the Acolyte. This gave the four further confidence to go on without Mr. Gabriel.
     A few ad hoc attempts to fill Peter's vocal shoes helped the band realize that they could still play all of their old music--and that they could create anew. Natural showman Phil Collins (who'd had quite a glittering resumé in stage theater productions in his youth) was an unexpectedly good stand in as Peter. The problem was with filling the stage presence--something a drummer could not do. Thus was born the idea of hiring a second drummer--one that could fill Phil's shoes when Phil chose to be up front as the standup man. Thus, the great drummer, Bill Bruford, was lured into the fold for the Trick of the Tail tour and born was the now-iconic stage setup with two drummersone right handed, the other left, placed on stage risers behind and high above the rest of the band. Genesis concerts, with their vast stage and industry-leading laser light display, became more of a "show" and less the sacred, mystical, intimate "experience" that the small-venued Gabriel-era concerts had conveyed (which some fans lamented and still lament to this day). Thus the band became a stadium-filling headliner like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, and Jethro Tull.
     The band was known. With the Trick of the Tail album, sales were up, for the tour even moreso concert ticket sales, too. The feature of two duelling drummers was a big hit, as was the ground-breaking light show. The band was almost on the verge of becoming a household name. All they needed was an AM-friendly American hit record. With Wind and Wuthering's "Your Own Special Way" they finally achieved that. What I think the band achieved on Wind and Wuthering that launched a new era of progressive rock music was to combine their usual penchant for mythic storytelling (something Mr. Gabriel had started and had very much excelled at) with highly memorable melodies over lush, romantic soundscapes while remaining steadfastly committed to their usual standards of superb musicianship. (One might consider Mssrs. Banks, Hackett, and Collins as virtuosi of their respective instruments, i.e. keyboards, guitars, and batterie.)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Phil Collins / vocals, drums, percussion, cymbals
- Steve Hackett / electric, nylon classical & 12-string guitars, kalimba, auto-harp
- Tony Banks / Steinway grand piano, synthesizers (Roland String, ARP 2600 & Pro-Soloist), Hammond organ, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes
- Mike Rutherford / 4-, 6- & 8-string basses, bass pedals, electric & 12-string acoustic guitars

1. "Eleventh Earl Of Mar" (7:41) one of the greatest openings of any song ever! But then things get marred by the odd, muddled lyrics. The two passages in the song's middle section are also noteworthy for their timeless classic Genesis-worthy beauty, but then amping back up to the story's end sours the mix. How difficult it is to create a perfect classic! How nit-picky we prog lovers become when faced with flaw and less than super-human heights from our gods! (13.5/15) (Such a difficult song to rate.)

2. "One For The Vine" (10:00) a great story sung to perfection by Phil--perhaps his best Genesis vocal ever for the uncharacteristic delicacy in his voice (a characteristic that Peter possessed in spades). Wonderful keyboard and bass play by Tony and Mike, the guitars and drums remain restrained throughout the vocal sections, but come to life, of course, during the instrumental sections. (18.5/20)

3. "Your Own Special Way" (6:18) a guitar-based song that anyone among the masses could learn and play solo. A song that every young person could scream-sing to the chorus and sing to their special loved one. Some very romantic moments. (8.25/10)

4. "Wot Gorilla?" (3:19) a Phil-credited instrumental that could have come out of a BRAND X session. Tony is great, Phil not as great as one might expect, Mike's 12-string sadly drowned out (but bass-pedals strong), and Steve somehow mixed behind everybody else. (8.25/10)

5. "All In A Mouse's Night" (6:37) opens with a decent sound palette and great bass and drumming and some great singing, but then all falls apart with the soft percussion-&-circus section and the lyrics that follow. Some sad little tricks used to bridge sections. The buildup to and the actual dénouement are so cringeworthy and embarrassing; saddening and disappointing, then followed by one of the lamest fadeout endings Genesis ever did. (8.5/10)

6. "Blood On The Rooftops" (5:27) opening with some of Steve's best classical guitar work ever the song evolves only positively as it goes on, with another of Phil's finest vocals and some of Genesis' finest lyrics. Pure prog perfection (and listen to those synth washes and gorgeous keyboard arpeggi Tony bathes certain sections in). (10/10)

7. "Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers..." (2:23) almost orchestral in its arrangement and rendering with both MIke and Steve's rapid guitar arpeggi and Phil's timpani work providing more than enough backdrop for Tony's haunting synth soloing above. The only flaw would be that that synth sound could have been better. (4.5/5)

8. ...In That Quiet Earth (4:49) really a continuation of the previous song (I feel as if I always considered them one), jumps in with great drumming and great band cohesion with some truly dynamic play--all the while supporting Steve's melodic and then experimental electric guitar soloing. Tony gets a few chances to play with Steve's melody and then interplay with Steve, but it's the bass and drums that delight for me during the first two minutes. Then "the switch" happens. A habit that Steve continued and has not been able to get over of shifting power and beauty in which the two elicit quite drastically different responses from the listener: utter bliss alternated with shock and revulsion. Still, amazing drumming throughout this one. (9/10)
9. Afterglow (4:12) a saccharine simpleton born as a seeming companion to Side One's "Special Way." (8/10)

Total Time: 50:46

     There is good music here, very good. "One for the Vine," "Blood on the Rooftops," and even "Eleventh Earl of Mar" [10/10 musically, 3/10 lyrically] achieve the same heights as some of the earlier Genesis "classic." As for the other songs, more often than not the sound draws one in but then some element puts one off:  poor lyrics, over simplified song structures, or silly idiosynchrosies, etc. For example, "Eleventh Earl of Mar" opens the LP with such promise--and musically continues to do so--but those lyrics! Ridiculous! Same with "All in a Mouse's Night" [9/10 musically, 2/10 lyrically]. Phil Collins' simple stories for the simple man are no match for the macabre Grimms-worthiness or ambiguous, even absurd Carroll-ingian tales social-commentary tales of Peter Gabriel! The rest of the album is too much "trying too hard" to impress (Steve Hackett on "'Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers/In that Quiet Earth," Phil's on "Wot Gorilla") or to get a pop hit ("Your Own Special Way" and "Afterglow"). 
     Again, an amazingly warm, lush sound (grace à the strings-drenched synth washes) with the usual high Genesis musicianship but the song composition has met with an impasse: the lyrical content and commercial desire are not served so well by the old song constructs. Tensions are running high as the decision has to be made: will it be a new Genesis for the masses or the old parochial music reaching its fewer more cerebral listeners. Mr. Hackett let us know his choice: He left the band to pursue the continued exploration of his own highly experimental creative juices. And then there were three . . . .

88.5 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of neo-romantic progressive rock music; the birth of a new sound. 

THE IMITATORS (in chronological order):

LOCANDA DELLE FATE Forse le lucciole non si amano più (released on June 7, 1977). 

A very polished piano-based progressive rock album with a combined RENAISSANCE-GENESIS Foxtrot/SEbtP-era sound and feel to it.

Line-up / Musicians: 
- Leonardo Sasso / lead vocals 
- Alberto Gaviglio / electric guitar, 12-string guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals 
- Ezio Vevy / electric guitar, 12-string guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals, flute 
- Michele Conta / piano, electric Piano, synthesizer (Polymoog), harpsichord, clarinet 
- Oscar Mazzoglio / Hammond organ, Fender electric piano, synthesizers (Moog, Polymoog) 
- Luciano Boero / bass, Hammond organ 
- Giorgio Gardino / drums, vibraphone 

1. "A volte un istante di quiete" (6:31) opens as an up tempo, piano-based rock song sounding quite a bit like a peak-era Jon TOUT-led RENAISSANCE song. The band plays quite nicely together--tight band. The synth lines in the fourth minute are almost straight out of the finale of GENESIS' "Supper's Ready" and the guitar sound that joins in later is also quite Steve Hackett-esque. The fast-paced jazzier section that takes over at the 4:40 mark returns the band more to a RENAISSANCE/ "MacArthur's Park" sound. (9.5/10)

2. "Forse le lucciole non si amano più" (9:48) opens with a piano and vibes duet, establishing melody that the vocalist soon uses. By the end of the first minute the full band has joined in, establishing a fairly slow, methodical pace and sound. The instruments amp up into a little harsher ground at the 1:40 mark before falling back into support for the husky-voice male singer (Leonardo Sasso). Chunky bass (think John Camp) with well-integrated drums lead into an instrumental section with electric guitar 'power' chords and harpsichord in the lead. The more aggressive, jazzier section in the sixth minute feels a little discombobulated from the multiple vocal lines--very theatric--but it's working in a dramatic way. (17/20)

3. "Profumo di colla Bianca" (8:25) opens with a collection of sounds and riffs that make it sound like it comes straight off a YES album--Relayer or later. When things calm down for the vocal to enter at the one minute mark it feels all Italia(--all Banco). The next sections--instrumental and vocal--magically blend themes and sounds from the early years of both GENESIS (Gabriel era) and KING CRIMSON (ItCotCK). A more piano-based section returns to the beautiful realm of Italian melodrama--which is then carried forward and enhanced by an interesting section that feels like a blend of THE ALLMAN BROTHERS and STARCASTLE. Then a passage in the middle seems to come straight out of the GENTLE GIANT songbook: Free Hand. Very interesting and deftly crafted song. (19/20)   

4. "Cercando un nuovo confine" (6:41) opens delicately, beautifully, like the "play me a song" part of Genesis' "The Musical Box." In the second minute, piano, mellotron and background singers are added to the foundational acoustic guitar and electric guitar arpeggi. Then the song bursts into full rock dynamics in an almost ELTON JOHN way but then quickly settle back into more Genesis-Renaissance domains. An new theme is introduced at the three-minute mark that is piano-led, enriching the dimensionality of the song in a Tony Banks kind of way. The vocalist becomes more forceful but it sounds strained and makes the song suffer (in my opinion). And then the song quiets down, moving more toward the opening in its delicacy--though the piano continues tinkling away for a bit. The vocal harmonies in the final minute are nice. (12.75/15)

5. "Sogno di Estunno" (4:41) opens with flute and piano playing melody line in unison while bass and drums build in support. When Leonardo's vocals are introduced, the mood becomes more assertive, even aggressive. But then a delicate Genesis-like section ensues before it, too, is absorbed in the aggression of the next vocal-lead section (verse 2). The instrumental section that follows is peppered with soli from Arp synth and piano before Leonardo returns. It is my opinion that his voice is just to gruff for these beautiful instrumental weaves. I also believe that the piano is too dominant. One can see how these songs were created (and could be performed solo) by the piano, but it should have been mixed down a bit in the final mixes--to allow the weave of instruments to seem more even keeled. (8.5/10)

6. "Non chiudere a chiave le stelle" (3:34) opens with a pretty multiple guitar- and all-arpeggi-based weave which is soon joined by the gentle voice of a different male singer than the previous songs. Nice, gentle background harmony vocals used as well. Thought the song never really 'goes' anywhere, it is nice--and probably would mean much more to me if I knew what he was singing about. (8.5/10)

7. "Vendesi saggezza (9:37) is another piano and chunky Jon Camp-led song with Leonardo's gruff, aged-sounding voice in the lead vocal spot. The instrumental section in the third minute is quite nice--even powerful--and helps the next singing section by bringing in quite a sophisticated weave with it--or could it be that Leonardo's voice is mixed a bit further back in the soundscape? Whatever, this is the first time on the album that the instrumental dynamics has felt perfectly mixed!

     The GENTLE GIANT-like section that opens at the 6:20 mark is a nice twist--and then the next section at 7:10 is pure GENESIS perfection. (19/20)

89.76 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

In terms of its Neo Prog fit, there is much derived here from previous RPI releases (like BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO and LE ORME), but the debts to GENESIS and ELP are undeniable--as are a few to JETHRO TULL, GENTLE GIANT, and others. 

This one is "Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

MACHIAVEL Jester (released in 1977)

I include this album despite the fact that it is not this band's debut, thus, it exemplifies the way bands were being affected as they developed. Belgian band Machiavel had debuted exhibiting influences of many, many bands including Supertramp, Nektar, The Eloy, Thin Lizzy, and David Bowie, to name just a few, but within the songs and instrumental sound choices of this album, Jester, can be heard the new sounds and styles used by Tony Banks and Steve Hackett on the GENESIS albums A Trick of The Tale and Wind and Wuthering, illustrating just how quickly these sounds and styles were affecting the music of other bands. The opener, "Wisdom," "Moments," Sparkling Jaw," and the ten-minute epic, "Rock, Sea and Tree" all show the mark Genesis had made.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mario Guccio / vocals, flute, sax, clarinet
- Jean-Paul Devaux / electric guitar, 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, vocals
- Albert Letecheur / pianos (acoustic, electric & honky tonk), harpsichord, String Ensemble, Mellotron, synthesizer, tubular bells, glockenspiel
- Roland De Greef / bass, cellobass, 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, carillon, bells, whistle, comb, tape effects, vocals
- Marc Ysaye / drums, vocals, tambourine, maracas, percussions (gong, wood blocks, glass blocks, broken glass, bells tree, sleigh bells, flextone, nutcracker)

1. "Wisdom" (6:00) if Robert Plant sang for VDGG. (9/10)

2. "Sparkling Jaw" (7:00) some Pink Floydishness here before the Eurobeats begin. Finishes with a second half of the bouncy keyboardiness of a SUPERTRAMP song ("Lady" or "Long Way Home"). (8.75/15)

3. "Moments" (3:17) 12-strings and passionate multi-voiced MARTIN COCKERHAM (SPIROGYRA)-like vocals give this one a pastoral Prog Folk sound and feel. (9/10)

4. "In The Reign Of Queen Pollution" (6:56) thicker chords and another impassioned vo
cal give the first half of this song a kin of Uriah Heep or Nektar sound and feel, then it goes Camel and Supertramp with more Roye Albrighton-like singing. (12.75/15)

5. "The Jester" (5:20) venturing into the realm of jazz-pop before going full on DAVID BOWIE Ziggy Stardust. Yet another fall back into a SUPERTRAMP-like electric piano stutter-step though it sounds a lot more like ELTON JOHN's "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting" before a very early-GENESIS-like instrumental passage. (9/10)

6. "Mister Street Fair" (7:55) sounds a lot like QUEEN's "Killer Queen" until the "do you hear?" vocal rondo after which it becomes its own dramatic delivery mechanism. The speed up at the end of the fourth minute is a diversion for the multi-thread carnivalesque weave that follows in the fifth. I hear so many sounds from other songs in this weave--all so disparate yet making it so interesting--the Fender Rhodes keyboard is playing a variant of the arpeggio base of KING HARVEST's "Dancing in the Moonlight" before turning into SUPERTRAMP, the guitar and vocalist are playing melody lines from The MARSHALL TUCKER BAND's "Can't You See," and then it all goes into SUPERTRAMP "Dreamer" extended outro. Intersting mélange. (12.75/15)

7. "Rock, Sea, And Tree" (9:52) opens with a vocal sounding like GREG LAKE being supported by gently played Fender Rhodes and mosquito synth flying around in the soundscape. The vocalist changes and we get into more early DAVID BOWIE territory--though some NEKTAR Recycled can also be heard. The piano player likes that constant bounce so much he should have been a showtune accompanist. I love the bluesy fifth and sixth minutes (after the bouncy piano leaves). At the end of the seventh minute things turn GENESIS--very "Get 'em Out by Friday"-ish. (17/20)

Total time 46:20

The band has effectively incorprated a lot of stolen sounds into a grand and surprisingly sophisticated potpourri of art-rock, bubble gum prog.

88.68 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-maasterpiece of eclectic progressive art rock music.

"Luke Warm" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

BABYLON Babylon (released in January of 1978)

Hailing from Florida, (I believe Fort Lauderdale is where this album was recorded), this short-lived band has been a wonderful find for me, thanks to ProgArchives. Though definitely a band that gets its inspiration and chops from VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and GENESIS, they did an amazing job of making songs for this album that are fresh, interesting, and memorable--even hauntingly so. The extraordinary lead singer, styling himself as "Doroccus," had conveys a theatrical creativity in his vocal performances that is rare in music. Though I have never seen footage of him performing live, his vocal performances as captured here on this album lead me to imagine that his stage present would have been costumed and theatrically nuanced as those of 1970s Peter Gabriel with Genesis or Matthew Parmenter's with his band Discipline. A truly exceptional talent that leads one to that proverbial question, "Whatever happened...?" 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Rick Leonard / bass, voice, bass pedals
- Doroccus / lead voice, synthesizers, electric piano, Orchestron, Omni
- Rodney Best / drums, percussives
- J. David Boyko / guitars, muted variations thereof
- G.W. Chambers / synthesizers, acoustic and electric piano, orchestron, Omni, voice

1. "The Mote in God's Eye" (7:01) sounds like VDGG with Peter HAMMILL's theatric voice but with a GENESIS "Cinema Show" like structure and instrumental sound--especially in the instrumental sections. Lead singer "Dorrocus" is an extraordinary force of theatrics--carved much in the same mold as perhaps the greatest prog epic storyteller of all, Peter GABRIEL. His voice and styling is almost an exact copy of Matthew PARMENTER. Awesome song, though it cuts out as if it was originally much longer. (14.5/15)

2. "Before the Fall" (10:56) puts DOROCCUS and the band in total Gabriel-era GENESIS land. The arpeggiated guitar chords in foundation, the drum sound and style, the keyboard leads are so GENESIS 1973! Even the volume pedal controlled guitar leads are pure Steve HACKETT. And the more delicate vocal approach is so different from the previous song--illustrative of what a talent this man was! The song's shift at 4:23 is also right out of the GENESIS playbook--even if the fast-flanged guitar is less Hackett. Again, at 5:45 there is another shift that is so GENESIS! And yet this remains fresh and so enjoyable! Much better than listening to any of FISH-era MARILLION's stuff. If there is a flaw with this song--and the album as a whole--it is the quiet, almost muddy mix of the sound. (Which is, I guess, the consequence of a lack of compression--so I should be thankful!) (18.5/20)

3. "Dreamfish" (9:15) is another song emulating Peter GABRIEL-era GENESIS--though some of it feels as if it could be later--Wind and Wuthering or even And Then There Were Three. DOROCCUS' vocal performance is closer to Peter HAMMILL or even RUSH's Geddy LEE this time round. If this were a GENESIS song it would have been one of the songs cut from public viewing as it just doesn't muster enough cohesiveness or flow--it feels unfinished or rushed. This despite the fact that the lyrics and story are interesting. (17/20)

4. "Cathedral of the Mary Ruin" (7:40) is actually my favorite song on the album because of its originality. Though a Matthew PARMENTER-like voice and vocal performance comes from Dorrocus, the song's fast, staccato piano-based nature and the way the tempo is imitated/matched by Dorrocus' vocal are mesmerizing. The band sounds so tight, so virtuosic on this one. And so original. It ends a little weakly, but, man those first three minutes are incredible! (14.5/15)

Total Time: 34:44

92.14 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars. Though this is a rather short album, it packs quite a punch. Also, the complexity of its compositions and high quality of its musicianship, as well as the amazing theatric talent of lead singer Dorroccus make this album to my mind a pure masterpiece. It's too bad that we heard no more from this talented band after this lone release. Definitely one of those gems long hidden in obscurity that I believe deserves broad exposure and recognition.

"Smokin' Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

SAGA Saga (released on April 8, 1978)

Not as proggy as I was led to believe, there is more HALL & OATES, AMBROSIA, or SNIFF'N'THE TEARS here than classic prog rock. I'm guessing that it's the PETER BARDENS/LOVERBOY keys that have people including them in Prog World.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Michael Sadler / lead vocals, Moog, keyboards
- Ian Crichton / guitars
- Peter Rochon / keyboards, Moog, synthesizer programming, vocals
- Jim Crichton / bass, Moog bass
- Steve Negus / drums, percussion, Moog drums

1. "How Long" (4:01) opens with a computer rhtyhm track sounding like "The Safety Dance" before rhythm & bass guitars and drums set up a CHIC-like disco beat. Singer Michael Sadler enters sounding like a pretentious pseudo Freddie Mercury. With b vox from Peter Rochon, they almost pull it off. Interesting. (8/10)

2. Humble Stance (5:50) (8.75/10)
3. Climbing the Ladder (4:45) electric guitar based, sounding CAMEL-esque before kicking into the four-chord form of the singing verses. Nice keyboard work. (8/10)
4. Will It Be You? (Chapter Four) (7:13) (13/15)
5. Perfectionist (5:46) (8.5/10)
6. Give 'Em the Money (4:25) the APP disco beat is not a great start. (8/10)
7. Ice Nice (6:55) Supertramp? Ambrosia? a combo of the two. Nice keyboard work. (13/15)
8. Tired World (Chapter Six) (7:06) (12.5/15)

Total Time: 44:51

83.95 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an adequate addition to any prog lover's music collection.

"Tepid" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

NEUSCHWANSTEIN Battlement (Recorded in October of 1978, re-mixed and released in January of 1979.)

With lead vocalist Frédéric Joos doing a pretty amazing Genesis-era PETER GABRIEL impersonation, the band has the makings of a GENESIS clone, but they are not. The music is lush and often Genesis-like (due to the bias that Joos's performances create), but there are many intricacies and that are creatively their own or else derived from influences of many other classic prog bands.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Frédéric Joos / lead vocals, acoustic guitars
- Roger Weiler / guitars
- Thomas Neuroth / keyboards
- Klaus Mayer / flutes, synthesizers
- Rainer Zimmer / bass, backing vocals (5)
- Hans-Peter Schwarz / drums
- Hermann Rarebell / drums (1)

1. "Loafer Jack" (4:42) add GRYPHON to the early lineup of GENESIS and this is what you might get: some great prog with layers of acoustic and electric instruments woven together as if melding old traditions with the new technological advances in electronic gear. Then, of course, put PETER GABRIEL up front to tell his mythologic folk tales and you have this. (9/10)

2. "Ice With Dwale" (6:21) same solid layers of ancient folk instrumentation with the modern keys and guitars and Gabriel story telling and you have another wonderful Trespass-like composition--only better: more mature, sophisticated, and polished. (9.25/10)

3. "Intruders And The Punishment" (7:34) opens with a little more bombast than the previous two and then quickly settles into a very GENESIS-familiar pulsing rhythm and groove. The instrumental composition of this song is noticeably different from the previous two, as well, with far less use and prominence to acoustic instruments and much heavier reliance on layers of keys and other electronic gear. When Joos begins singing in the third minute he seems to be channeling Lord GABRIEL--but then, so are the drummer and keyboard player. It's new enough--not a pure ripoff of any single GENESIS song--but the number of instances of pure familiarity are a bit excessive. (13/15)

4. "Beyond The Bugle" (7:31) flanged guitar with picked 12-string woven into a kind of slow drumless "Entangled" run for a full two minutes before Frédéric joins in. At the three minute mark drums, bass, and more electronic keys join in. The whiplash up-and-down bass play is prominent. At 4:00 a new MOODY BLUES-like acoustic guitar strum signals the start of a whole new section--very wild circus ride-like with uptempo pacing and theatric voice. AT 5:00 there is another shift (how mathematically oriented these guys are!) The heavily treated/doubled singing in the second half of the sixth minute sound a bit like one of PETER GABRIEL's dramatic theatric song finishes--but the song still has a minute left. (All instrumental.) Weird disjointed song. (13/15)

5. "Battlement" (7:05) opens with a TANGERINE DREAM weave while ordinance explosions occur all over the soundscape. New bass line emerges at the end of the second minute to usher in some new instruments (Arp synth, percussives, pizzicato bass, organ) as a more metronomic KRAFTWERK-like section plays. Fuzz guitar solo in the third minute just before very regal instrumental chorus. Then it's back to the KW fuzz guitar motif and another chorus. At 4:15 all instruments save for a Fender Rhodes leave while Frédéric sings in a very delicate, quiet voice. Other keyboard instruments flit in and out as the singing continues until a new full band instrumental section unfolds in the sixth minute. Lots of synth solo and layering on display here. (12.75/15)

6. "Midsummer Day" (7:42) * a song added to the 1992 MUSEA Records CD re-release. The music is not quite as GENESIS-imitative more in the ELOY ball park--which makes me question the veracity of the decision to include this song as part of an album of music that should be representative of this band's 1978 compositions and output. The acoustic guitar work to launch the middle section is good, bass player sounds poorer, drumming is a little off, flute is awesome, and singing is the least GABRIEL-esque of any song on the original album.

7. "Zärtlicher Abschied" (5:42) opens with harpsichord-sounding acoustic guitars, deep bass thrum and then flutes before morphing into a kind of CAMELish PINK FLOYD "Hey, You" (or, better, HARMONIUM, CELESTE, or MAXOPHONE). Fast guitar strumming at the end of the first minute serve notice of the TONY BANKS keyboard-loaded section to ensue. At 3:45 we downshift a bit, allowing room for an electric guitar solo before amping back up into the flute-and-Moog solo work. Very nice instrumental. (9.25/10)

* Absent from LP release

Total Time: 46:37

88.33 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of neo progressive rock music displaying influences from a wide swath of the classic prog bands. One of the finest displays of sound engineering that you will find from this era.

"Molten Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

ASIA MINOR Crossing The Line (released in April of 1979)

An album of twisting and turning motifs and styles that can often be compared to the work of CAMEL while also containing many displays of jazz-fusion and prog folk over which band leader Setrak Bakirel lends his pleasant and often stylized vocals.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Setrak Bakirel / lead vocals, guitars, bass
- Eril Tekeli / flute, guitars, bass
- Lionel Beltrami / drums, percussion
- Nick Vicente / keyboards

1. Preface (4:18) flute accompanied by exotic percussion sounds for the first minute before MAHAVISHNU-like bass, drums, and arpeggiated electric guitar establishes the form of the body of this slow but aggressively jazzy song. A shift into a smoother sound base at 2:25 allows the introduction of English the plaintive yet pleasant singing voice of Setrak Bakirel. After his verse, the band revs up into a more aggressive sound for some soloing--of which the electric guitar is especially noteworthy. (9/10) 
2. "Mahzun Gözler" (8:13) lush, emotional prog with Arabian percussives! The weave is slowly established, layered, added to, and developed, while flute joins in as the lead melody maker. At 2:45 there is a sudden shift in pace, more aggressive and fast, though this is supplanted less than 30 seconds later by a flute and electric guitar dual of more Middle Eastern feeling melodies. A downshift a minute later before moving into a GENESIS-like section for the rest of the fifth minute over which Setrak sings for the first time. Another musical shift--even beneath the singing! Interesting and gutsy! Overall, a kind of CAMEL feel to this intricate and serpentine song. (13.75/15)
3. "Mystic Dance" (1:45) beautiful electric guitar play while flute flies recklessly above. Gorgeous. (5/5)
4. "Misfortune" (4:30) opens with vibrating hum of factory machinery before very aggressive flute-led jazz rock music enters and runs. Great melodies from all the instruments, especially the flute and bass! Slows down at 1:40 to support vocal section. Interesting effect on the electric guitar here. Return to aggression after the (only) singing verse--cool chord progression by rhythm section. (8.75/10)

5. "Landscape" (3:50) arpeggiated electric guitar opens this before drums, bass, and electric guitars jump in with some rapid and syncopated hits. Voice enters around the one minute mark, shushing and calming the instrumentalists back into opening form. Not a great vocal. At 2:35 electric piano leads into a uptempo instrumental section over which fuzzed lead guitar solos melodically to the end. (8/10)

6. "Visions" (5:35) bass and cymbols open this one before another JEAN-LUC PONTY-like jazz tapestry is established. Despite impressive drumming, this all goes horribly wrong even as the electric guitar tries to stop the hemhorraging with some flashy guitar solo. At 1:20 the band slows down and pushes reset, establishing a very nice OMD-like fabric over which Setrak sings one of his better lyrics with rather impressive emotion. Things strip down even further in the fourth minute as Setrak lowers his register an octave. Nice. A more steadily-paced BABYLON-like GENESIS section launches around the 3:50 mark, and plays out to the end with Setrak finishing his story. (9.25/10)
7. "Without Stir" (1:50) nice little exercise of guitar harmonics while second 12-string strums. Setrak sings over the middle. (4.5/5)
8. "Hayal Dolu Günler İçin" (4:38) return to heavier sound, though this time of the JETHRO TULL type. At the end of the first minute the music calms as Setrak enters singing in an Arabian language. Drummer's tom work helps to muffle the preponderant Mellotron strains before there is a return to the opening motif. AT 2:40 there is a shift and we're speeding along in a more jazzy before severall other shifts into previously explored motifs. Setrak's second round of singing begins in the second half of the fourth minute as the previous motifs and riffs continue to shift beneath (as if in disregard of each other). (8.5/10)
9. "Postface" (2:00) organ. And then flute with organ. (4/5)

Total time 36:39

88.43 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and another instance where the Neo Prog umbrella feels a little far-fetched. To my ears, the music of this album as well as this band's approach stand well enough on their own. Yes, they borrow from those that had gone before but there is no blatant imitation of any one band, style, or sound. 

"A Warm Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

GIZMO Just Like Master Bates (released somewhere in 1979)

Another British band caught between its love of proggy art rock and the punk/techno trends of contemporary pop music. Somewhere along the way this band was errantly assigned to the Canterbury Scene by many reviewers while I hear absolutely no commonality to those psych-jazz experimentalists of the first half of the decade.

Line-up / Musicians:
David Radford -- Vocals, Electric Guitar [Fender Telecaster], Twelve-String Guitar [Acoustic] and vocals
Steve Wise -- Drums, Percussion (3) Engineer -- Graeme Quinton-Jones Brian Gould -- Keyboards, Synthesizer [Minimoog], Organ [Farfisa], Clavinet
Maurice Memmott -- Organ [Farfisa], Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Violin

1. "Gravity Brings You Down" (4:32) innocuous 60s PINK FLOYD-influenced techno pop proto prog. More like ABC than Genesis. (8.25/10)
2. "Long Gone Song" More ABC. Or 10CC. Not proggy at all though nice jazzy Fender Rhodes keyboard play. The violin section at the end is quite nice. (8/10)
3. "Storyteller" opens with some emotionally potent soft jazz sounds over which David Radford sings. A winning chordal and melodic structure. Slightly proggy after the first chorus in a CAMEL/STRAWBS way. (8.75/10)
4. "Those Lying Eyes" acoustic guitars (12-string!) set up this EAGLES-like sound until the tempo shifts and we are in poppy GLEN CAMPBELL or NENA terrain. Some quirky instrumental and structural sounds used but, otherwise, not really proggy. Could've been a hit from one of the 1960s West Coast psych bands. (8.5/10)

5. "Kismet / 
Hour Glass / Not That Far To Go" presents a more dramatic side of the band, at least for the opening and first verse, more in the realm of FAMILY and early GENESIS, before the odd SAGA-like chorus. The C section in the third minute could be from Peter Gabriel's debut solo album ("Moribund the Burgermeister") or The Lamb. The more artsy, creative side of the band as expressed in a multi-song suite. (13.125/15)
6. "Come The Day" violin backed by strummed acoustic 12-string guitar opens before vocals supplant violin and keys eventually join in. Nice violin and keyboard work in the instrumental sections between the vocals. Nice vocals and lyrics. Solid song. (9/10)
9. "Dance Of The Emmets" a discofied instrumental that could come from an ALAN PARSONS, STYX, or CAMEL album. (8.5/10)
10. "One And One Is Two" reminds me of the mid-1970s band PILOT (members of which later became studio musicians for 
Kate Bush [David Paton, Andrew Powell, Ian Bairnson], Alan Parsons [Ian Bairnson, Stuart Tosh, David Paton],  and 10cc [Stuart Tosh].) (7.75/10)

I chose not to review or rate the two bonus songs included in the 2007 CD reissue as they don't really fit, to my mind, with the original music. 

Total time (with two bonus songs): 48:20

84.56 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition of proto-NeoProg to the lexicon of Progressive Rock music.

"Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

ANYONE'S DAUGHTER Adonis (released some time in 1979)

Anyone's Daughter is a band I've heard about since I first joined Prog Archives in 2008 but hadn't quite found the time to get to know until now. Wow! I have been missing something important! If this album is any indication, this German band may be deserving of front line/top tier consideration for all German bands ever!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Harald Bareth / lead vocals, Fender bass
- Uwe Karpa / 6- & 12-string electric guitars
- Matthias Ulmer / grand piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Hammond organ, ARP Omni & MiniMoog synths, vocals
- Kono Konopik / drums

1. "Adonis" (24:09)  (47.5/50)
- Part I: Come Away - opens with a distinctly GENESIS sound, both with guitars, keys, and vocal harmonizing. Even when drums and bass kick in, it's totally GENESIS I'm hearing. Such rich, gorgeous soundscapes in those fifth and sixth minutes! This is amazing! Guitar solo previewing the sound and stylings of MARILLION's Steve Rothery. (15/15)
- Part II: The Disguise - opens with classically influenced synth play--something I find quite common among German proggers like TRIUMVIRAT, NEUSCHWANSTEIN, NEKTAR, ELOY, PATRICK MORAZ,  and even the accomplished musicians from the original NINA HAGEN BAND (8.5/10)
- Part III: Adonis - opens differently--in a prog folk kind of way; reminds me of STRAWBS or ELOY, as well as both Gabriel- and post-Gabriel-eras of GENESIS and soon to arrive MARILLION and 1990s COLLAGE. Brilliant work from all instrumentalists! Most excellent prog! (15/15)
- Part IV: The Epitaph - complex solo piano opens this section before multiple voices join in singing. Full band joins in after the first minute just before the song lapses into a brief guitar-led instrumental section. Piano and multiple voice vocals continue throughout the song with guitar solos leading the instrumental interludes. (9/10) 

2. "Blue House" (7:20) opens with some very elaborate classically influenced keyboard soloing but instead of using a piano or organ its a ARP Omni and MiniMoog! Two minutes into it there's a switch to solo electric bass guitar arpeggi with background guitar and synth lines slowly woven in. In the third minute the full band congeals to support the bluesy lead guitar as he solos in a gorgeous RAY GOMEZ sound and style. Gorgeous and fully engaging. (14/15)
3. "Sally" (4:20) piano based in a kind of saloon way with amazing rips from the RAY GOMEZ lead guitar of Uwe Karpa. The vocals of Harald Bareth and Mattias Ulmer are kind of innocuous and forgettable--which detracts from my enjoyment of this music as they are quite central to the song. (8.75/10)
4. "Anyone's Daughter" (9:10) what a guitarist! (17.5/20)

Total Time: 45:19

92.36 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music. I understand and do not disagree with the Neo Prog assignation that many give to this band and particularly to this album, but I'm not sure it's completely accurate: the music stands on its own without seeking its possible influences or derivatives very well. I almost feel guilty not giving these remarkable musicians full credit for their sound and style, but then . . . there are familiarities/similarities.

"Smokin' Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

TRILOGY Here It Is (recorded in 1979; released January 1, 1980)

Instrumental symphonic prog from Germany with two keyboard players dominating. We include it under Neo Prog for the use of very familiar ELP-, CAMEL-, and GENESIS-like structures and sounds the band uses.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jochen Kirsten / keyboards
- Guido Harding / keyboards
- Detlef Deeken / guitars
- Ludger Samson / bass
- Martin Breuer / drums 

1. "Venice" (4:31) a mix of FOCUS and GENESIS before turning ELP at the 2:00 mark. High quality sound and musicianship. (9/10)
2. "Breakthrough" (6:04) despite the very Mike Rutherford-sounding bass play, this song draws from other bands as well as the band's own originality. Could be American band HAPPY THE MAN. (9/10)
3. "Changing Scene" (9:17) opens with some GENESIS- but more CAMEL-sounding music; it's as if one keyboard player is trying to be TONY BANKS while the other PETER BARDENS or KIT WATKINS as the bass player does his MIKE RUTHERFORD thing. A nice song with pleasant melodies and challenging time and chord shifts but, in the end, it feels like an exercise in imitation--of Genesis and Camel. (18/20)
4. "Andy" (6:10) organ, cymbals, and synths open this before it turns neo-classical in a CAMEL/NEKTAR kind of way. The Hammond turns out to be the lead instrument in this ELP-like classically-influenced weave though a clavinet also plays an important roll. Some riffs and motifs are almost exact duplicates of ELP passages. The drumming sounds very much like Camel's Andy Ward. All in all this song feels more like a study of ELP. (8.75/10)
5. "Crowed" (12:42) a very CAMEL-like instrumental epic, with lots of sudden ELP-like shifts and passages with occasional TONY BANKS isms. (22.5/25)
6. "Encore" (0:33) high-energy RUSH-like outro. (4.5/5)

Total Time: 45:06

I really appreciate the wonderful clarity and distinctiveness of the sound engineering of this album.

89.6875 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music; an excellent album that probably deserves more credit for its outright symphonic composition instead of its influences and inspirations.

"Smokin' Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

ATLAS Blå Vardag (recorded and released in 1979)

Prog from Sweden from 1979 in the style of CAMEL, FOCUS or early GENESIS but without the virtuosic guitar work of a Jan Akkerman or Steve Hackett. It's well recorded--clear and well mixed. The songs are thoughtfully composed in a symphonic at-times bordering on jazz fusion style with no shortage of complexity and dynamic variation. The songs are all sensitively performed with all instrumentalists contributing equally. The keyboard players (there are two!) are to my ears the most impressive performers, though the bass and drums are very tight and quite talented. It might be said that the guitarist is the weak link--though he's by no means poor. For example: There's a nice foray into the realm of STEVE HACKETT in the middle of the Nursery Cryme/Moving Waves-like "På Gata" (over some awesome organ work) before he loses his patience and tries to shred with a fuzz sound in a blues-rock style that, to my ears, kind of ruins it. A better comparison would be he's really like Mike Rutherford: a decent rhythmatist and ensemble player but not a stunner as a lead.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Janne Persson / guitar, congas, cymbal, flute & Mellotron (6)
- Björn Ekborn / organ, piano, synth, clavinet, Mellotron, Rhodes
- Erik Björn Nielsen / synth, Mellotron, Rhodes, organ, piano
- Uffe Hedlund / bass, bass pedals, guitar
- Micke Pinotti / drums

1. "Elisabiten" (7:12) like something out of a CAMEL album including a Focus-like blues-rock section toward the end. Quite competent jazz- and classically-oriented musicianship. (14/15)
2. "På Gata" (14:10) sounds quite FOCUS-ish with its opening. Turns into quite a diverse epic, containing moments that sound like YES/RICK WAKEMAN, GILGAMESH, and NATIONAL HEALTH and another slower, more sensitive blues-based movement toward the end. (17.5/20)

3. "Blå Vardag" (6:56) the syrupy CAMEL-like title song opens with single Moog displaying a simple Broadway-like melody, alone, for over a minute. Bass, guitars, Fender Rhodes, and full drum kit finally join in just before the 90 second mark, setting up a very simple, saccharine song--which does little to change until the final minute. (12/15)
4. "Gånglåt" (2:52) a jazzy little DAVE STEWART-like song. (4/5)
5. "Den Vita Tranans Väg" (7:18) keyboard-dominated, FOCUS-like, with nice chordal and melodic hooks. (13/15)

Total Time: 38:28

Bonus songs:
6. "Björnstorp" (6:18) more fusion-oriented with its tasteful drum solo and ending electric guitars' duel. (8/10)
7. "Hemifrån" (7:51) very FOCUS-like with the best HACKETT-like work and piano playing on the album. (9/15)
8. "Sebastian" (4:31) the classically oriented finale (Bach?) (9/10)

Definitely a solid contribution to prog world and one of Sweden's earliest. Consistent with interesting, mature symphonic compositions performed at a high level like CAMEL, FOCUS, or NATIONAL HEALTH.

87.5 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music that, while sounding a lot like bands that had preceded it, establish a sound and songs very much their own. On the fringe of Neo Prog, probably more straight Symphonic with Jazz-Fusion or even Canterbury leanings.

"A Warm Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

TIDELINE The Crowded Room (released some time in 1979)

Neo Prog Psych Folk from Belgium! With a lead vocalist that sounds like DEPECHE MODE's Dave Gahan (a year before there was a Depeche Mode)!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Hadi Al Gammal / lead vocals, 12 string acoustic guitar
- Christian Gilbert / drums
- Didier De Roos / keyboards, acoustic guitar, background vocals
- Sam Mackinney / bass

1. "Seasons" (4:52) 12-string guitar and Hadi Al Gammal's vocal open the song and sing a verse before the full band joins in during the first chorus. Nice, pleasant music with an overall uplifting feel to it. The melodies feel familiar from smooth jazz pop songs. (8.25/10)

2. "Presence" (3:20) a slightly more operatic singing style with piano accompaniment opens this one before heavily treated bass, drums join in. It could almost be Michael Bublé or Andy Tillison (and with special similarities to Andy's music as The Tangent). (8.5/10)

3. "The crowded room" (4:32) 12-string guitar with multi-layered Morrissey/Dave Gahan-like vocals singing folk-like harmonies is soon joined by bass and drums and later interspersed with sections of piano soli and reversed piano chords. There is a nice, melodic bass solo in the third minute then a Moogie solo over bouncy Fender Rhodes in the fourth. Nice song. (9/10)

4. "Behind an open door" (3:10) finger picking acoustic guitar as Hadi sings solo over the top. Very folk-like--quite similar to the sound and sensibilities of Harmonium founder Serge Fiori as well as Scotsman Roddy Frame (Aztec Camera), though the bongos and acoustic guitar solo to finish are more like AMERICA. (9/10)

5. "Fields" (2:41) solo piano with Hadi singing over the top. This sounds so much like Peter Gabriel with a smoother voice like the that of the late great Robbie Wilson, lead singer of Autumn Chorus. (4.5/5)

6. "Dusty rehearsals" (3:40) piano jazz like ANDY TILLISON, BILLY JOEL, or TOM POWERS. Gorgeous song though not really proggy. (9/10)

7. "Painting your story" (5:53) wistful piano jazz is soon joined by acoustic guitar, bass and drums. Hadi's powerful, dulcet voice doesn't enter until 90 seconds in. Again Morrissey and Andy Tillison come to mind. It feels very much like an AL STEWART song. (8.75/10)

8. "As usual" (4:00) intricate AL STEWART-like acoustic guitar work with full band support and, later, excellent harmonizing background vocals create this nice STRAWBS-STEELY DAN-feeling song. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

9. The club (4:18) piano and 12-string in equal measures open this one before drums and chunky bass join in. A beautifully melodic soundscape is produced every which way this band turns. Synth "recorder" solos over the top in the second minute. At 1:45 a chordal structure is set up for Hadi to sing in his emotionally gorgeous voice. This is like the best psych folk rock of the 1960s--The Association or Love or Strawberry Alarm Clock or My other favorite song on this increasingly impressive album! (10/10)

10. Locked (3:19) a far more electrified, acid-rock side of the band--definitely harkening straight back to the psychedelia of the late 1960s. This song is so different from everything that has come so far that I'm quite taken back--but, at the same time, fully impressed! The band definitely pulls it off--with flying colors! (9/10)

11. Portsmouth (3:17) acoustic nylon string guitar is quickly joined by 12-string in this medieval display of folk finger picking. Recorder (sounds real to me) appears to ply a melody before the band launches into a Celtic folk-sounding tune. Man! Is there anything these guys can't do? (9/10)

Total Time: 43:02

The songwriting, lyrics, musicianship, and sound reproduction are all top notch. I love the keys, the guitars, the drums, but most of all, the bass playing and, of course, vocals.

90.48 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of eclectic prog folk with a tinge of psychedelia; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection and a fine display of folk-like acoustic guitar work with outstanding vocals from leader/chief songwriter Hadi Al Hammal. If only for the voice (though the music is great, too) check out this band to hear the sadly unknown treasure that is Hadi Al Hammal. 

I'm not sure I should include this in a history of Neo Prog page--especially since they do not fit the bill of imitating the "old masters" of prog--first or second tier. 

"Tepid" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

IVORY Sad Cypress (released in Germany in 1979)

A German prog band, late comers to the scene in 1979, founded by father and son Ulrich and Thomas Sommerlatte, the former of which was, at the time, 65 years old with 43 years conducting orchestras in the classical music scene before discovering the progressive rock scene. The "romanticization" of the "classic" prog music bands and albums was being born and launched nowhere with so much vigor as here, in Germany, by bands like Eloy, Neuschwanstein, and Anyone's Daughter, but there may have been no artist so eminently capable to sponsor this trend--both compositionally as well as through reputation previously earned--as Ulrich Sommerlatte; though imitative of bands like Genesis, The Strawbs, ELP, and even England, the maturity and sophistication in these compositions, their instrumental arrangements, and their sound engineering are most likely far beyond what you will hear from any other debut album.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Ulrich Sommerlatte / keyboards
- Thomas Sommerlatte / keyboards
- Christian Mayer / lead vocals, acoustic & electric guitars
- Goddie Daum / acoustic & electric guitars
- Charly Stechl / bass, flute
- Fredrik Rittmüller / drums
guest musician:
- Antonio Ognissanti / latin vocals

1. "At This Very Moment" (3:57) GENESIS styled with a Peter Gabriel like vocal, this is a gorgeously constructed and textured song with equally stunning sound engineering. (And the vocals are not as bad as other reviewers are saying!) (9/10)
2. "In Hora Ultima" (7:12) with lyrics sung in Latin! Impeccable sound and arrangement. Could be Hogarth-era MARILLION! (13.25/15)
3. "Sad Cypress" (8:34) this instrumental opens like a classical composition that has been transposed for rock/prog instrumentation. There is a drastic shift at the end of the third minute which leads to a Gabriel-era GENESIS song. (17/20)

4. "Time Traveller" (4:15) jumps out straight into the S-bahn with clavinet, organ, and Moog supplying the feature instruments with the (now) usual stellar sound engineering. A slower section takes over in the second minute in which "Stagnation"/"Entangled"-like synth is in the lead. Interestingly, the supporting instruments shift and trade for a bit before a tempo shift leads to an ALLMAN BROTHERS-like theme. (9.25/10)
5. "My Brother" (13:52) A Foxtrot-era GENESIS epic complete with Gabriel-esque theatrics. Good but it feels as if its's been done before. (26/30)

BONUS TRACKS (from the 1992 CD release)
6. "The Great Tower" (9:44) opens with an excellent church organ intro section. Vocal sounds more like STRAWBS' Dave Cousins. As a matter of fact, the entire song has a much more STRAWBS-like sound and feel to it than the pre-established Genesis influence. (19/20)
7. "Incantation" (4:42) the most bouncy poppy prog song on the album. Again, this is so much more STRAWBS-like than Genesis. (I even hear a little ENGLAND in there!) (8.25/10)
8. "Construction N° 2" (2:29)  an organ étude employing "pan pipes," "accordeon," and "nylon string guitar" sounds before finishing with a SynthAxe-like sound in the lead. (4.5/5)
9. "Barbara" (13:45) opens as a piano and flute duet until 0"49 when "strings" and voice enters. Similar to SUPERTRAMP's "Fool's Overture." At 1:38 shift to a still, slow and spacious section until 3:50 when bass pedals thrum into the soundscape.  At 6:15 a "zither"-supported "flute" solo. At 7:00 the music intensifies. The Dave Cousins vocal sound is so strong! The music softens again in the ninth minute before an instrumental section with church organ takes the lead. At 10:35 everything falls away with an electric piano filling the space as if it's doing a classical concerto! Very cool!
     This is such a powerfully emotional song (sad and nostalgic)! The writer/composer obviously loved this person very deeply. (28/30)

Total Time: 68:30

It is my typical habit of reviewing an album that was originally released on vinyl based upon its original track number, but there are the rare occasions, such as this, in which I have deemed the "bonus" material to be appropriate to include. The four bonus songs here have the unexpected distinction of being both obviously contemporary to the original tracks and being perhaps superior to the ones included in the original edit.

89.5 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of neo-progressive rock music and an album not to be missed for it's finely crafted, richly textured, well-produced songs.

"Smokin' Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

ASIA MINOR Between Flesh and Divine (released in 1980)

Other reviewers have remarked on the sound and feel of this album being like a combination of early 70s GENESIS and CAMEL and I couldn't agree more. This is beautiful and often sophisticated music very close in feel and mastery to the models it seems to wish to emulate or perpetuate. The drumming is often worthy of superlatives while the keyboard player shows excellent instincts in playing mostly in a support role (but a very important support role, á la TONY BANKS).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Setrak Bakirel / lead vocals, guitars, bass
- Eril Tekeli / guitars, flute
- Robert Kempler / keyboards, bass
- Lionel Beltrami / drums, percussion

1. "Nightwind" (6:31) opens instrumentally feeling much like an early 80s pop song (PAYOLAS "Eyes of a Stranger") before turning into a fairly sophisticated 'lost Genesis' song. Great drumming in an odd time signature with excellent support synths, moving bass, and flute lead. New section begins at 1:48--a vocal section that is quite reminiscent of 70s CAMEL. Beautiful and versatile flute playing. 5:20 keyboard entrance end section is very reminiscent of TONY BANKS/GENESIS. (8.75/10) 

2. "Northern Lights" (7:51) The first 2:06 are quite calm and pastoral. Then all GENESIS/CAMEL breaks loose with a very up-tempo section. At 3:45 all sound drops out to be replaced by a new section of delicate electric guitar picking and electric keyboard. At 4:38 a foreign-accented male voice enters to sing in English as the tempo picks up a bit (drums and bass join in). Fuzz guitar solo. Return of vocal. Voice is like ELOY's FRANK BORNEMANN's singing with BRYAN FERRY's phrasing--the way he down-slides the endnotes of a phrase or word. (13/15)

3. "Boundless" (3:13) is a three-minute gentle ballad--singing from the start, ending with a drawn out, easy, repetitive electric guitar solo. Very nice construct. (8.5/10)

4. "Dedicace" (6:14) begins with the bass sound more familiar from RENAISSANCE over which a breathy flute is dancing. At 1:20 there is a very CAMEL-esque shift to a mid-tempo 'controlled jazz' section. At 2:15 acoustic guitar strums beneath fuzzy electric guitar and keyboard organ while bass and drums join in at a fairly quick pace as singer comes in singing in higher register than previous songs. Very "Lady Fantasy" feeling. 3:25 totally shifts to bucolic GENESIS section. Classic GENESIS transition stuff. Return to vocal with half the freneticism of the former section (sans acoustic guitar strumming). Another repeat of the slow instrumental transition to the fast strumming acoustic guitar section with singing to a rather abrupt end. (8.5/10)

5. "Lost In A Dream Yell" (7:46) begins with rain sounds, a few single random notes from treated guitar with vocal being most prominent feature--the bareness of which really makes obvious the awkward foreign accent. So ELOY! Rain and piano with electric guitar arpeggios interplay irregularly behind vocal until 2:40 when guitar arpeggios are left alone for half a minute while rain fall sounds gradually fade and synth strings and mellow flute join in. Slowly from far in the background, military drumming patterns begin to emerge and move to foreground. All the while flute continues to lead with beautiful melody. Really awesome drumming to tune into--four minutes of it! Song ends with same pattern playing out. (13.5/15)

6. "Dreadful Memories" (2:45) begins with an odd, almost spy-theme music led on a DICK DALE-like bass line over which haunting synth chords are washing in and out. The song ends with a weird cut out and echoed synth fade. (7.5/10)

Total Time: 34:01

85.36 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice listen that would definitely be an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. There are some sound engineering issues and several occasions in which the band members seem to fall out of the pocket but, otherwise, a solid four star album. The performances of the flute and drums are alone worth the listen. 

"Nearly Boiling" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

ARKUS 1914 (released in 1981)

Nice Neo Prog from Utrecht.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Frans Smits / vocals, guitars
- Ron Willems / guitars
- Jan-Henk Wiggelinkhuizen / strings, organ, synthesizers
- John Bouwman / bass, vocals
- Erik van Duin / drums, percussion, vocals

1. "Ouverture" (4:09) opens with slow build temple-like cymbal crescendo before relaxed 4/4 blues rock groove is established for synths and melodic fuzzy guitar to lead over. I'm strongly reminded of the sounds and a particular melody that TRION used in "Frank." Nice but nothing extraordinary.(8/10)

2. "Life" (7:34) opens with a slow guitar melody that gets double-timed as the full band joins in at the 0:30 mark jumping into a full rock band mode. Lead electric guitar enters and solos melodically until 1:20 when vocals join in. The guitar solos through the fourth minute, before a break allows someone to do the dishes before a reset button starts the song over and everything starts over, slow to fast, before slowing down for the final section over which the guitar solos. (12.33/15) 

3. "Scared" (6:38) opens with picked acoustic guitar (12 string?). This guitar remains--more prominent than on any other song on the album. Despite the same voice and vocals, same synth washes and the same melodic noodling of the same electric guitar sound, this is a nice song. (8.5/10)

4. "No Chance" (8:19) slow electric guitar arpeggi opens this one while a different (effect?) singer sings. The song literally starts over, music and lyric, at the 4:15 mark, slow and sparse, slowly building. The seventh minute is nice but the fast-speed finish from the eighth minute is predictable. (16.5/20)

5. "Adorable Woman" (6:06) boring. Except the bass play. (8.25/10)

6. "1914" (5:40) opens as a simple, almost Folk Rock song sung in English until at 2:48 a proggy soundscape establishes itself. It's the opening song, "Overture"! Exactly! Same nice melody riff from the same sounding lead guitar. It's Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane"! Chords and melody! (8.5/10)

Total time 38:26

My biggest complaint with this album is that the band relies heavily on synth washes to provide background for every moment of every song and on one particular sound for its constantly soloing lead guitar--which results in there being very little variety in the album's sound palette from song to song. They're nice sounds--definitely derived from the 1976 post-Peter Gabriel GENESIS sound palette, but there needs to be more. Plus, the singing is rather lackluster and the lyrics rather banal.

82.77 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; a pleasant enough sounding album that, in the end, is too simple and . . . just too simple.

"Tepid" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

EAST Játékok (released in 1981)

Line-up / Musicians:
- István Király drums, percussion
- Péter Móczán / bass
- Géza Pálvólgyi / keyboards
- János Varga / guitar
- Miklós Zareczky / lead vocals

1. "Nyitány ~ Overture" (3:25) opens with fading in drums (sounding like the intro to "The Court of the Crimson King") before band enters with two separate progressions of synth chords accompanied by a "Run Like Hell" bass line. Synth solos melodically, repeating itself and its melody, over the next few rounds of the two separate chord progressions before being joined by a second synth before sea sounds and seagulls bridge to the next song. Kind of ELOY-ish. (8.5/10)

2. "Messze a felhõkkel ~ Far away with the clouds" (5:43) synth-based song with straight time drums and excellent fretless bass work back a pleasant vocal. I like the use of little instrumental bridges between each verse of the vocals. Nice electric guitar lead in the third and fourth minutes--kind of a cross between David Gilmour and Ray Gomez--ending just before the 4:00 mark when the music takes a radical left turn into Euro-disco electronica--a bit like TANGERINE DREAM at first, then as the two soloists--synth and electric guitar--start duelling it sounds more like JAN HAMMER and DARYL STUERMER. (9/10)

3. "Szállj most fel ~ Fly up now" (5:30) opens like a more recent BLUE ÖYSTER CULT song before backing down for some spacious time keeping from the drummer. Piano chord progressioin establishes a bare bones key for the vocalist to enter and sing over. at the 1:30 mark there is a shift as the rest of the band joins in for the vocal chorus. Interesting reversion to the BÖC motif for the extended space between verses. The chorus sections are definitely the best part of the song--though it is quite an interesting song if only for its unusualness. Cool laid back yet-emotional instrumental section with spacious piano solo, background vocalese, and bird-like synth solo. (9/10)

4. "Kék-fekete látomás ~ Blue-black vision" (2:16) opens with what sounds like a Berlin School sequence with which intermittent bass notes, synth flourishes, and disco-like cymbals play. Like soundtrack filler until a fiery electric guitar riff is thrown in near the end. Weird and yet kind of cool. (4.25/5)

5. "Gyémántmadár ~ Diamond bird" (4:00) opens with flanged electric guitar arpeggi as scaled down weave mixes in from other band members. Singing uses long drawn out notes to fit within the weave before lead synth steps in for the vocals. Sounds like DEMETRIO STRATOS singing--as a matter of fact, this could be an AREA song! (9/10)

6. "Lélegzet ~ Breath" (3:10) TONY BANKS "Fly on a Windshield"-like "vocal" synth over low keyboard bass note opens this song. Guitar arpeggi and fast synth riffs flit in and out of the spacious soundscape as fretless bass solos slowly in an almost EBERHARD WEBER way. This atmospheric song is obviously another cinematic interlude filler as was #4 
"Kék-fekete látomás," bleeding directly into the next song. (4.5/5)

7. "Nézz rám ~ Look at me" (4:08) multiple synth washes, driving bass line with atmospheric muted electric guitar chords thrown in as Miklós sings in an ELOY kind of way. Nice flashy guitar solo in the third minute. There is also a bit of a Euro-pop sound and feel to this one--and it still feels cinematic like its prelude. (8.75/10)

8. "Üzenet ~ Message" (4:18) floating synth note with bass piano chords and bass and drum hits open this one before the music settles into a smoother pace as the singing joins in. At the 1:20 mark there is a deeper and more complex bridge before we return to the second verse. Continually rising synth in the sky accompanies singing for this one. Cool effect! The second time through the heavy "bridge" Miklós sings, in a much more powerful, DEMETRIO STRATOS way till the song finishes. (9/10)

9. "Epilóg ~ Epilogue" (2:28) an organ recapitulation of some of the chords and themes of the previous song before Miklós and Richard Wright-like synth sing over the organ. Again, cinematic storytelling is the feeling that I come away with from listening to this--GOBLIN-like. (4.25/5)

10. "Remény ~ Expectation" (4:33) speaking of GOBLIN, this instrumental song really does have that ominuous Euro-cinema feel to it as deep chords are alternated with spacious pauses while bass and drums plug away. Electric guitar begins to solo aggressively in the second minute and only proceeds to light it up as it plays. At the 2:30 mark the guitar stops and the syncopated chord progression from the opening takes over on its own. Then there is an unexpected turn of the corner as the song turns left, moving into a majestic chord sequence before ending with a distant-sounding synth and cymbal outro. Very interesting. (8.75/10)

Total Time: 39:31

While EAST's followup album, Hüség sounds and feels as if the band has integrated a variety of elements from other European prog rock bands, this album, to my ears, sounds more like a KLAUS SCHULZE-, ELOY-, and GOBLIN-influenced Euro-rock album. The second half (Side Two) is especially reminiscent of the cinematic music created by Italian jazz-rock fusion artists GOBLIN. While it's good, and I like it, this album is not as mature or sophisticated as Hüség.
88.23 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of cinematic Euro-progressive rock music.

"Like a Warm Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.


OSIRIS Osiris (recorded and released in 1982)

Prog from Bahrain?!!! Obviously inspired by the prog giants of the 1970s, this full, keyboard- and guitar-led band of young Middle Easterners launched full on into Prog World with a skilled and highly texturized Arabian-influenced rock sound.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mohamed Al-Sadeqi / lead & acoustic guitars, vocals
- Mohammed Amin Kooheji / rhythm guitar, bass (1), percussion (2)
- Abdul Razzak Arian / organ, MicorMoog, polyphonic synth, Korg keyboards
- Sami Al-Jamea / Fender Rhodes, piano, MiniMoog
- Mohammed Amin Shafii / bass, vocals, keyboards (8)
- Nabil Al-Sadeqi / drums, percussion
- Isa Jahani / vibes, percussion, vocals
- Sabah Al-Sadeqi / lead vocals & guitar (8)
- Khalid Almutawa / bass (8)
- Nader Rafii / congas

1. "Fantasy" (6:00) opens with synth and electric guitar establishing a fast paced weave before drums and bass join in. Bridge and shift after the one minute mark into a bluesier section with bouncy organ for reverbed voice to enter and sing--somewhat ELOY-like (the singing, that is). Instrumental returns to the opening weave alternate with singing sections until the music holds fast for a two-guitar solo in the fourth minute, which then slows down and turns into a solid one-guitar solo before sliding back into the fuller version for the dynamic closing section and synth solo (90 seconds!) (9.25/10)
2. "Sailor On The Seas Of Fate" (11:46) seagulls, TD bass synth and Hammond open this slow tempo song before Arabian percussion instruments join in. At 2:25 electric guitar takes the lead, at first as if reluctantly, then with confidence. It's like I'm listening to an Arabian Santana!
      There is a break at 3:33 for Fender Rhodes foundation for effected vocal. TOTO-like rock theme introduced at 4:15 in lieu of a chorus. This back-and-forth goes around for two cycles until 6:50 when a flanged acoustic guitar starts doing arpeggi with wave-like cymbal play and a Fender Rhodes piano. This continues in a pretty theme until 9:30 when a nice MiniMoog solo begins to play over the vibes for the final two minutes. (21/25)
3. "Struggle To Survive" (5:01) a purely CAMEL song, even the vocals, as if it came straight off of Mirage or Moonmadness. Nice drumming. (8.5/10)

4. "Atmun" (5:11) this instrumental opens as a basic, simple classic rock song until 2:00 when a nice new motif begins. There is a weird shift at 2:45--a bridge--leading to a passage with nice guitar and keys in the fourth minute. Cool final minute. (8.5/10)
5. "Embers Of A Flame" (5:00) after a brief rock opening a Fender Rhodes plays alone beneath gentle vocals. The rock-gentle sections cycle around twice before an uptempo jam section features a soloing electric guitar in the third minute. Great solos! From the guitar, MiniMoog, and then Hammond organ! (8.5/10)
6. "A Story Of Love" (6:15) opens with a full CAMEL/Latimer feel and sound. The chorus sounds like something straight off of LOS JAIVAS' Alturas de Macchu Picchu album! At 3:35 a more aggressive instrumental section begins in which the soloing electric guitar is in the lead. There is some pretty flashy lead guitar and MiniMoog exchanges before the music returns to the rock/Los Jaivas rotation for the final vocal section. (8.25/10)
7. "Paradox In A Major" (4:06) using either a different lead vocalist or different effects on the vocalist this song incorporates a fairly simple chordal structure to present a CAMEL sound palette. It's a very tight weave, almost classical in its structure, between the vocal verses. There is a very interesting two-channel (chorus?) effect being used on the electric bass over which a SANTANA-like guitar solo is being nicely performed. (9/10)

Total time 43:19

My favorite song elements are the Arabian percussion, eclectic electric guitar and keyboard voices, and the strong bass and drums. Everybody is competent and skilled, holding together the music flawlessly. Though the chordal structures are often quite simplistic, the transitions and shifts are usually quite dynamic and unexpected.

85.88 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid contribution to early 80s progressive rock music--from Bahrain!!! 

"A Warm Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

EAST Hüség (released in 1982)

In 1982 most people consider Prog to be dead . . . but not in the East. Hungarian Neo Prog; some say that his may be the greatest prog album to come from behind the Iron Curtain. Same lineup as their debut from the previous year, Játékok.

Line-up / Musicians:
- István Király / drums, percussion
- Péter Móczán / bass
- Géza Pálvölgyi / keyboards
- János Varga / guitar
- Miklós Zareczky / lead vocals

1. "Hüség ~ Faith" (3:43) opens like a BABYLON song before a fairly regular pattern is established over which guitars and keys duel and duplicate each other with instrumental melodies. It's as if JAN HAMMER were the main soloist in one of JEAN-LUC PONTY's premier album lineups. Great Jazz-Rock Fusion song with fairly good sound engineering. (9.25/10)

2. "Keresd õnmagad ~ Search yourself" (4:23) sounds like highly predictable, rather basic song from a mediocre 1970s classic rock band which happens to feature a great guitar solo and some excellent synthesizer work and a great finale. The vocal is good but suffers from a poor sound effect choice. (8.5/10)

3. "Mágikus eró ~ Magical power" (2:55) continues from the previous song but shifts from the opening into something more powerful, more engaging before speeding up to become quite an exciting instrumental jam with synth and electric guitar trading leads over the hard-driving rhythm section. (9/10)

4. "Én voltam ~ It was me" (5:56) slow guitar arpeggi in two channels as Miklós sings. Nice vocal. He sounds like the lead singer to Polish band LIZARD. The rest of the band joins in during the second minute but the pace or structure do not change. Same with the instrumental section in the third minute--which has some awesome organ-supported choir "ahhs." Soft and delicate again for the next verse, though Miklós does begin to get more forceful with his delivery. Repeat the choir "ahhs" (the chorus?) a couple rounds before a spacious passage is created at the end of the fifth minute to prelude a melodramatic slow instrumental finale. Great song until the finale. (9/10)

5. "A végtelen tér öröme ~ The happiness of the endless space" (1:38) a latter-period MAHAVISHNU-like jazz-rock fusion interlude (i.e. melodic). (5/5)

6. "Üjjászületés ~ Born again" (3:40) opens with some spacey synths and bird song tweeting around before the song jumps into a nice, simple, slow weave for a brief lyric before a really cool stringed instrument solos. The vocal is okay until the awesome piano-emphasized chorus, which is then followed by a surprisingly simple instrumental section with dull synth solo. (8.75/10)

7. "Ablakok ~ Windows" (5:44) muted guitar arpeggi with panning space synth flourishes gives a cool opening sound. Around 40 seconds in the full band enters with a steady TD-like drum beat and fast-thumping single-note bass line while Miklós sings in a matter-of-fact way in one of his lower registers. Nice bridge to the wonderful chorus. Love the slushy FIXX-like guitar chords. Back to the driving Berlin School-like rhythm section for the next vocal verse before another nice bridge and awesome chorus. Love the upper register bass work here! A little "Eminence Front"-like feel to this part. (9.75/10)

8. "Vesztesek ~ Losers" (3:44) opens with a little SUPERTRAMP-like keyboard that is quickly blended with other instruments before supporting another LIZARD-like vocal. Great multi-voiced chorus. Miklós' vocal is quite impassioned. Impressive! Second chorus leads into a slow-to-build but powerful electric guitar solo that plays through a full cycle of the verse-chorus section before the song ends. Awesome! (9.5/10)

9. "Felhókón sétálva ~ Walkin' on the clouds" (4:22) oepns with some really cool smooth jazzy Fender Rhodes play (think HUBERT LAWS or JOE SAMPLE) with rhythm set by percussive muted guitar arpeggi. Synths play little leads over the top for about 90 seconds before the song shifts, jumping into a full rock band 80s jazz-rock fusion style and sound. Even the synth choices and solos shout out, "1980s!" It's nice but so dated! (8.75/10)

10. "Várni kell ~ You must wait" (5:56) nice electric piano soloing that is eventually joined by electrified classical guitar and vocals before the song switches to a synth strings and bass pedal foundation. It quickly turns instrumental with a VANGELIS-like electronic sound palette for a minute or so until everything slows down and changes palette and texture for another vocal section.  (9.25/10)

11. "Merengés ~ Meditation (2:14) soft chorus electric guitar chords arpeggiated with fretless bass accompanying while Miklós sings in his most breathy, delicate voice. Very nice. Nice ending to a wonderful album. (4.75/5)

Total Time: 44:17

Okay, I'll accept the Neo Prog assignation but to my ears there is far less imitation of Anglo prog here than of European artists and trends--especially ELOY, the Berlin School, some of the more jazz-oriented French and Rock Progressivo Italiano trends.

91.5 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and a most excellent contribution from behind the Iron Curtain. Because of its vocals and song structures, this one might even surpass the 1970s releases of SBB, FERMATA, MODRY EFEKT, and CZESŁAW

"Like a Warm Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

TWELFTH NIGHT Fact and Fiction (released in December of 1982)

An album that, to my ears, bears a striking resemblance to the sounds and stylings of American band BABYLON--especially in the DOROCCUS-like theatric vocal sound and performances of poet and reluctant lead singer, Geoff Mann.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Geoff Mann / vocals, tape effects
- Andy Revell / electric & acoustic guitars
- Clive Mitten / bass, keyboards, Classical guitar
- Brian Devoil / drums, percussion
- Jane Mann / vocals (4,5)

1. "We Are Sane" (10:27) opens with synth strings, background noises of television, children, and adult arguing before singer Geoff Mann enters in an opera-like falsetto. At the one minute mark Geoff switches into a deep bass range. Around 2:00 electric guitar and synth strings arpeggi back a mid-range vocal as well as the continued background speeches. There's a real BABYLON theatricity to this. Around 3:20 the song suddenly switches to an almost punk/early XTC sound and style: complete with 80s techno-punk synths, guitar, rhythm, pace, and singing. In the sixth minute it returns to a more DOROCCUS/BABYLON theatricity and musical palette. By the end of the seventh minute there is another musical switch just before a foray into a BOWIE-like robotic section of the museum and its followup. The final two minutes sees a return to the CARDIACS/XTC-like sound and style. Quite a song! What a story and presentation! Not the greatest musically but Mr. Mann definitely has something special. (18.5/20)

2. "Human Being" (7:50) opens like BILLY BRAGG singing over someone playing in the bath water until 0:45 when lush synths take over and a STEVE HACKETT-like electric guitar solos. At 2:00 a Spectral Mornings-like section speeds it up a little while Geoff sings. Great guitar solo in the uptempo sixth minute instrumental section. (13.125/15)

3. "This City" (4:01) a JIM MORRISON/MATTHEW PARMENTER-like performance by Geoff Mann. (8.25/10)

4. "World Without End" (1:55) synths, low bass, fast electric guitar arpeggi, and cymbal play instrumental. (4.25/5)

5. "Fact And Fiction" (3:59) pure New Wave music. (8.5/10)

6. "The Poet Sniffs A Flower" (3:51) presents odd styled classic rock instrumental sounding like BOSTON with 1980s synths that switches at 2:00 to a thicker soundscape with bass and guitar power chords. (8.667/10)

7. "Creepshow" (11:57) an epic combining PINK FLOYD with VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. (21.667/25)

8. Love Song (5:39) a Prog Folk opening that turns into a synth-driven New Wave JOY DIVISION-like song. (8.5/10)

Total Time: 49:37

87.125 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of lyric and singer-driven neo-progressive rock music and a highly recommended listening experience to any lover of progressive rock music.

"Nearly Boiling" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

QUASAR Fire in The Sky (released some time in 1982, not 1984)

To prepare yourself for the sounds you will hear on this album one might listen to the 1974 pop hit "Magic" by future prog sessions musicians PILOT. This album sounds just like it, voice, etc.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Paul Vigrass / lead vocals
- Cyrus Khajavi / guitar synthesizer
- Dillon Tonkin / organ, synthesizers
- Keith Turner / bass, Moog bass pedals, 12-string guitar, composer & producer
- David Cairns / drums
- Pete Ware / MiniMoog
- Steen Doosing / drums
- Peter Strade / vibes, keyboards

1. "Fanfare" (0:42) breakneck speed synths on display. (4/5)
2. "Seeing Stars" (3:48) opens with a little CAMEL and VANGELIS mixture before drums drop in to signal full band foundation for backing delicate singing of Paul Vigrass. Spacious keyboard based rock music behind this Bobby Vinton-like voice. After Paul's two verses and choruses the synths take over to close. (8.25/10)
3. "Mission 14" (13:21) a great prog groove established from stealing the music beneath GENESIS' "take a little trip with Father Tiresias" from "Cinema Show" the get-go over which some nice impassioned vocals and instrumental soli are delivered. A nice instrumental section begins in the fourth minute to include a nice Prophet 5 and electric guitar solo. Just enough gear and directional shifts to keep it interesting and never let it get boring, though it is a little too reliant on the Cinema Show sound and structures. (26.5/30)

4. "U.F.O.": (17:57) : (28.4375/35)
- a) "U.F.O." (5:52) the vocals work better as the musical backdrop thickens and fills. (Bad choice for whatever effects they're running Paul's voice through.) Sounds like a blend of PILOT and SUPERTRAMP for the first half, then GENESIS-lite (Wind and Wuthering era). (8.25/10)
- b) "Flying" (2:51) sounds quite a bit like a passage from PATRICK MORAZ's Story of I or a CAMEL/GENESIS "Naminanu." Constant with no changes start to finish. (8.25/10)
- c) "Fire in The Sky" (5:15) PILOT + BUGGLES and/or Ambrosia. (8/10)
- d) "Moon" (3:59) opens with an engaging foundational riff before Paul adds some unusually relaxed and unassuming vocals. This is nice! Then there is a more bombastic bass-infused finale. (8/10)

Total Time: 35:48

83.82 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a solid and interesting contribution to the early neo-progressive genre which suffers from a little simplicity but is definitely worthy of a listen for your self. Too bad about the poor sound engineering of Paul Vigrass' vocals.

"Like a Warm Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

MARILLION Script for A Jester's Tear (released on March 13, 1983)

The debut album release from the most recognized Neo Prog artist in the world. Released unto the British public on March 13 of 1983, the single "He Knows You Know" was released on the last day of January. Mark Wilkinson's distinctive artwork would grace all of the band's first eight albums.
     I'll never forget the reverence with which my musical friend held this album in--it was as if the Second Coming (of PG-era GENESIS) had just happened!  

Line-up / Musicians:
- Fish / vocals
- Steve Rothery / acoustic & electric guitars
- Mark Kelly / piano, harpsichord, Korg CX3 organ, synths (Mini-Moog, Roland Jupiter 8, PPG Wave, Sequential Pro One, Yamaha CS15)
- Pete Trewavas / Rickenbacker bass & Fender fretless bass
- Mick Pointer / drums, percussion
- Pete James (Abbey Road) / sound effects
- Peter Cockburn / newscaster's voice (6)
- The Marquee Club parents association Children's Choir / backing vocals (6)

1. "Script For A Jester's Tear" (8:39) our initial introduction to "the new Genesis." The styling imitation is unmistakable but sound choices, engineering, and subtleties in Fish's voice make this not quite as close to the masters as one would try to have us believe. Still, an admirable construction and even higher praiseworthy performance from the lead singer. Organ and guitar are weak, drums and bass worthy. (17/20)

2. "He Knows You Know" (5:22) BABYLON-sounding electric guitar intro precedes sparse and simple foundation over which Fish's highly-theatric Peter-Gabriel-like voice tells his story. I find it hard to believe that this was well-received as a charting single in both the UK and USA. There must have been a lot of Old Genesis-starved consumers out there at the time. Gabe was never as demonstrative as Fish was. This must be where DISCIPLINE's Matthew Parmenter learned his chops. (8.75/10) 

3. "The Web" (8:48) descending blues-rock chord progression (think the ending of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven") supports opening vocal until things soften drastically in the second half of the opening minute for a more delicate story-telling section. This 100-second heavy-delicate pattern cycles through thrice before Steve Rothery is given the first instrumental solo at the four minute mark. He does show some nice chops despite his thin, mixed into the back sound. Nothing very new or exciting here. (Once again, I may be handicapped by my inability to hear/process lyrics.) There are definitely some issues with the isolation with which each track is beholden to; the music never seems to blend. (16/20)

4. "Garden Party" (7:15) sounds so much like one of GENESIS's earlier more staccato songs (think Nursery Cryme). Yes there are a few unique flourishes here and there, and, of course, a new libretto, but the song could otherwise have been stolen from the Trident Studio cutting room where Nursery Cryme was edited. Fish here displays his usual exceptional theatric story-telling acumen but shows flaws in his actual singing voice (pitch and sustain). (12.5/15)

5. "Chelsea Monday" (8:16) though the music opens sounding a little more New Wave-ish (Esp. treated drums) but the vocal and even lyric sound like they were nearly directly lifted from a Peter Gabriel Genesis performance. AT 2:10 things kick into full force with a classic blues-rock Neo Prog vengeance. Steve Rothery's guitar seers in a solo of over 90 seconds (though he cheats a bit with the addition of a second track to reinforce and harmonize some of his notes). A soft tinkling synth and picked guitar passage ensues as Fish sings. Sustained and wah-ed lead guitar notes accompany Fish's transition back into full force voice and then Rothery really begins to soar and seer despite Fish's persistent vocals and shouts of "Chelsea Monday." Pretty good song; great performance from Fish and Rothery. (17.5/20)

6. "Forgotten Sons" (8:21) surfing through televisions stations is superseded by another pseudo-New Wave passage until 0:50 when synth and staccato power chords signal a shift. The guitar solo that follows sounds as if Rothery is trying to mimic the guitar sound of Flock of Seagulls' PAUL REYNOLDS. An annoying metallic rhythm guitar remains persistent throughout, even when the music style and sounds shift in the third minute. At 4:10 there is a pause and then another shift as increasingly numerous voices read a kind of prayer or declaration of grievances and power. At 5:48 a door opens into a completely lush GENESIS soundscape over which Rothery and Fish perform with notable confidence and restraint. This final section is almost enough to salvage this otherwise forgettable son(g). Nice way to end an album--leaving the listener with a positive impression. (17/20)

Total time 46:41

To my ears, the sound production on this album was always too quiet, too compressed. With all of the subtleties that were occurring on multiple layers at any given time, I felt as if I'm always straining to hear the music. I believe that much of the power concealed in this music has been trapped within this constrained, closeted effect.

84.52 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to prog world but by no means the Second Coming.

"Smokin' Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

PABLO EL ENTERRADOR Pablo "El Enterrador" (released on July 29, 1983)

This 1983 release from Argentinian band PABLO has a pop-GENESIS sound and feel to it--due primarily to the Tony Banks-like keyboard sounds and styles used by the two keyboard players. As a matter of fact, this album could very well be treated as a companion to the Brits' 1980 release, Duke. The album's weakness comes in its poor quality of sound.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jorge Antun / Oberheim OBX synth, Hammond organ
- Marcelo Sali / drums
- Jose Maria Blanc / electric & acoustic guitar, bass, vocals
- Omar Lopez / Yamaha CP 70 electric piano, ARP pro synth, Minimoog synth

1. "Carrousell de La Vieja Idiotez" (5:40) solo electric piano opens this one before the rest of the band joins in and José begins to sing. A pleasant song with a feel like something that could have been on GENESIS' And Then There Were Three or Duke. The various soli of guitar and synths are where this band distinguish themselves from their British heroes. (8.5/10)

2. "Elefantes de Papel" (5:06) opens with strumming electric guitar and cymbol play while José sings a plaintive tune. By the time the chorus comes, the rest of the band have joined in at full volume. How like Tony Banks is the sound and play of this Yamaha CP 70 electric piano! The lyrics sound as if they could be powerful but the song never really gets too complex or dramatic in support. (8/10)

3. "Quien Gira y Quien Sueña" (5:45) a sedate, fairly quiet ballad sung in a higher male register with masterful sensitivity and emotion. (9/10)

4. "Ilusion En Siete Octavos" (4:51) an instrumental with a rather straightforward rhtyhmic structure over which some truly wonderful soling occur from the guitars and keys. Nice way to end Side One. (8.5/10)

5. "Accionista" (3:17) opens Side Two with the theatricity and sounds of Duke. Too bad for that murky sound-- especially for the drums. The vocal here is more similar to those of BANCO DEL MUTUO SUCCORSO's frontman, Francesco di Giacomo but I don't like it so well as the previous song's approaches. (8/10)

6. "Dentro del Corral" (6:03) this song has trouble engaging me. From the opening strains the business of the instrumental layers feels too busy, more than is truly necessary. Plus, the murkiness of the sound is really getting to me on this one. The band is trying to be powerful and dynamic, I can tell the instrumental performances are strong, but the sound is . . . really bad! (7.5/10)

7. "Espiritu Esfumado" (3:53) more Duke-like sound and structure, this song would fit right in next to "Duchess" or "Duke's Travels." Nice work, great instrumental performances and cohesiveness. (Too bad about that sound!) (9/10)

8. "La Herencia de Pablo" (7:17) organ, synth, cymbol play, and MiniMoog bass open this one. Great intricacies and weaves of difficult multiple instrumental passages--including bandoneon! Very impressive and upbeat end to very nice album. (13.5/15)

Great songwriting in the Genesis/Tony Banks tradition with top notch performances from all musicians but THE SOUND is TERRIBLE! I find it quite difficult to separate this fact when rating these songs. Were they clear and crisp it might be a different listening experience.

84.71 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an album of positive contributions to the musical lexicon of preogressive rock music whose engineering and production could have been better.

"Smokin' Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

IQ Tales from The Lush Attic (recorded in August and September of 1983; released in late 1983)

The debut album release from these Neo Prog stalwarts, their signature sound and style are still forming, the band still groping for evenness and consistency. Still, there are some very nice songs here--definitely nothing "poor" or too disappointing--and even an epic ("The Enemy Smacks") reaching the heights necessary to crack the halls of Prog Valhalla (it may be even better than some of the soggy epics they've released in the 21st Century!).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Peter Nicholls / vocals
- Mike Holmes / guitars (acoustic, electric & 12-string ?)
- Martin Orford / keyboards (Mellotron, synths ?)
- Tim Esau / bass
- Paul Cook / drums, percussion

1. "The Last Human Gateway" (19:57) (31/40)

2. "Through The Corridors" (2:35) a faster paced song driven by some serious ALEX LIFESON/STEVE HACKETT-like guitar. (4.5/5)

3. "Awake And Nervous" (7:45) opens sounding like an organ and Arp Christmas ditty before the band joins in with some intricately woven drum, bass and guitar work. It threatens to sink into an ABACAB abyss before switching directions into a bit of a blatant Gabriel-era GENESIS imitation. Nice drumming. Peter Nicholls as a Peter Gabriel imitator? Who knew? (12.75/15)

4. "My Baby Treats Me Right ´Cos I´m A Hard Lovin´ Man All Night Long" (1:45) electric piano solo by Martin Orford. Kind of classical. Trying to go super fast. (4/5)

5. "The Enemy Smacks" (13:49) 
a solid multi-movement epic more bombastic but perhaps more infused with YES than the Marillion stuff coming out near the same time. Martin Orford was really good!  (27.5/30)

Total time: 45:51

83.95 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid album and nice welcome to the prog world for this long steadfast contributor of high quality Neo Prog. 

"Smokin' Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

PALLAS The Sentinel (released in February of 1984) 

An album of pleasant if mostly simple songs that are in obvious disarray (due to record company decision-making) and which have been lackluster production (Eddie Offord got tired/bored) and, if truth be known, by musicians whose instrumental and compositional skills are both on the immature side.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Euan Lowson / lead & backing vocals
- Niall Matthewson / lead guitar, Roland synth guitar, e-bow, backing vocals (3)
- Ronnie Brown / grand piano, synthesizers (Roland JP4, Oberheim OBXA, Synclavier II, Korg Sigma), Mellotron, backing vocals
- Graeme Murray / bass, Taurus bass pedals, 12-string guitar (3), 2nd voice & backing vocals
- Derek Forman / drums, Simmons el. drums (1,4), timpani, timbales, bells, rototoms, backing vocals

The album I had the privilege of listening to:
1. "Rise and Fall, Part 1" (6:07) (8.5/10)
2. "Eastwest" (5:01) Pink Floyd-ish--especially the electric guitar solo. (8/10)
3. "March on Atlantis" (5:19) Duke "Duchess"-like opening with heavy middle section with great Mellotron. Nice buildup and guitar in the second half. (9/10)
4. "Rise and Fall, Part 2" (4:05) ELOY-esque. (8.8/10)
5. "Heart Attack" (8:18) YES-lite for the first 3:30 with some nice drumming; all instrumental after that. (16/20)
6. "Atlantis" (8:03) a GENEIS (music)-YES (vocals and Rickenbacker bass) meld. (13/15)
7. "Ark of Infinity" (7:07) like Firth of Fifth and other Selling England by the Pound themes. Instrumental until 4:25. (13/15)
8. "Arrive Alive" (4:08) New Wave RE-FLEX/THE FIXX/Trevor Horn YES. It's obvious that this song represents material that pre-dated this album. (8.25/10)
9. "Shock Treatment" (4:20) hardriving rock á la LOVERBOY, 707 and YES's Drama. (8/10)
10. "Cut and Run" (5:02) with vocals that sound like OMD and music that sounds like it came from YES's Drama we get a sound that's like . . . THE FIXX? (8/10)

The album data as it is entered on Prog Archives (which is not the album the band wanted):
1. "Eyes In The Night (Arrive Alive)" (4:08) sounding more techno pop than Neo Prog. (Bands like THE FIXX, THE RE-FLEX, ICEHOUSE, and LOVERBOY come to mind as I listen to this.) Production is only fair. (7.75/10)
2. Cut And Run (5:02)
3. Rise And Fall (10:16)
4. Shock Treatment (4:29)
5. Ark Of Infinity (7:05)
6. Atlantis (8:00)

Total time 39:00

83.79 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a respectable entry into the neo-progressive aspect of Prog World.

"Nearly Boiling" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

SOLSTICE Silent Dance (released February 1, 1984)

A group of Brits that came together in 1980 in Milton Keynes, the band members had all polished their chops within the Folk and Folk Rock circles before experimenting with some of the sounds and styles that progressive rockers had been exploring. Leader Andy Glass is an extraordinary guitarist and composer of complex, mutli-layered song weaves (from the folk traditions?) while multiple female singers performed much of the singing duties up front, the multi-part vocal harmonies are part of the charm and distinction that make this band so endearing and admirable.
     The first thing that stands out upon listening to this album is how strikingly different this debut album is from all other debut "neo prog" or "romanticized" progressive rock albums are from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Though the crystalline voice of lead vocalist Sandy Leigh is not pitch-perfect nor as consistent as that of either Annie Haslam or Jon Anderson (the two artists to which she is most compared--I tend to think her voice more similar to that of Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan,  Magenta's Christina Booth, or even Janis Joplin), the chunky YES-like bass, 12-string guitars, multiple guitar tracks, virtuosic violin, and bass pedals lead to a sophistication and maturity that is so much beyond other debut prog albums by the likes of IQ, Pallas, Quasar, Twelfth Night, Gizmo, and Saga.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Sandy Leigh / lead vocals
- Andy Glass / guitar, backing vocals
- Marc Elton / violin, keyboards, backing vocals
- Mark Hawkins / bass, bass pedals
- Martin Wright / drums, percussion
- Margaret Phillips / Fender Rhodes (2,7)
- Sue Robinson / vocals (bonus 5,6,8)
- Shelley Patt / vocals (bonus 9)

1. "Peace" (6:30) female vocals! And layers of background singers! With bass-dripping, YES-like prog music. Nice! And an excellent lead guitarist. (Top notch solos!) Great melodies and harmonic structures. And violin. If the sound production were better this might be deserving of full marks! (9/10)
2. "Earthsong" (6:38) opens with very cool, very intimate acoustic guitar. Joined by keys and then laid-back drums and very nice fretless bass. Nice groove set up. The lyric is so prescient of today's environmental ills and their effects. Just such a nice floating experience! (9.5/10)
3. "Sunrise" (4:07) multiple female vocals with heavy Prog Folk accompaniment over an acoustic bluesy Led Zeppelin chord structure. Great HUGH MARSH (Bruce Cockburn)-like electric violin solo. Another song that might be rated higher if the sound engineering/production had been better. (9/10)
4. "Return of Spring" (4:53) violin and acoustic guitars launch full on with bass and drums in support. The violin work on this one is stunning, given the lead for most of the song with intermittent breaks for acoustic guitars and multi-voice "la-la-las." (9/10)

5. "Cheyenne" (5:59) opens with an awesome multi-voiced vocals with spacey acoustic guitars sounding like John Martyn's echoplex guitar. Great sound with amazing vocal arrangements. Very spacious throughout. (9/10)
6. "Brave New World" (8:46) a RUSH-y opening before folk vocals with keys lead to a sound that could have come straight off of MAGENTA's Seven album with its YES-RENAISSANCE hybridization. Awesome song! (19/20)
7. "Find Yourself" (6:03) a simple pop-like song sounding very much like Nicolette Larson's "Lotta Love." Pretty with inspiring lyrics. (8.5/10)
8. "Whyte Lady" (5:46) (8.5/10)

Total Time: 48:42

90.55 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of relatively early neo-progressive rock music and one of the finest sounding debut albums in the Neo Prog lexicon. 

"Nearly Boiling" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

PENDRAGON The Jewel (released in August of 1985)

Another prominent British band that has remained fairly true to its Neo Prog roots (over a career spanning nearly 40 years and eleven studio albums), this is one of the bands whose sound has, in my opinion, improved with age--especially since 2004 when they chose a heavier sound (which is oddly out of character for me)--though most critics have acclaimed the decade of 1991 to 2001 as their "masterpiece" era. The Jewel was the album that started it all.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Nick Barrett / vocals, guitars
- Rik Carter / keyboards
- Peter Gee / bass, guitar, bass pedals
- Nigel Harris / drums, percussion
- Clive Nolan / keyboards (10,11)
- Fudge Smith / drums (10,11)

1. "Higher Circles" (3:29) organ intro is joined by the others by the end of 30 seconds. Nick Barrett's PAUL WELLER/JOE STRUMMER-like "protest singing" voice starts off this anthemic song before being joined by the others in the chorus. Sounds like such a teen tough boy song! Maybe this is a remnant from where the band started; it is no indication of where they are about to take me. (7.75/10)

2. "The Pleasure Of Hope" (3:43) jumps full into power jam like a STARCASTLE opening before shifting to a MARK JOHNSON/THE THE-like song. The sound of the multiple voices singing the "Welcome home" shouts is awesome! Matter of fact, the multi-layered vocal approach throughout this song is very cool! A nice change. I like this! (9.5/10)

3. "Leviathan" (6:13) opens with a kind of RUSH/STARCASTLE/YES weave before vocals enter to give it it's own shape and sound. I don't think I've heard a "neo prog" band with a non-imitative singer before. The music is definitely in the neo prog realm but that singer is not! Nick Barrett sounds more like a 1975 East End punk rocker! I like it! And he can play a pretty cool guitar, too! Wow! I am impressed far more than I expected to be. (This is literally my very first ever listen to a Pendragon song!) The music begins to sound a little too derivative in the second half (Genesis), otherwise this might be a 10-10 song! (9.5/10)

4. "Alaska" (8:39) (18.5/20)
- a) At Home With The Earth - a gentle, romantic synth and electric guitar picking opening until 0:55 when a very nice GENESISian weave is launched. Love the fretless bass! The high flute-like synth dancing in front as Nick begins to sing is a little distracting (and disappointing). The vocal is mixed strangely "out" of the soundscape and Nick's vocal has pitch issues. The chorus is a step back in the right direction, though the vocals are still pitchy. The instrumental section which follows is okay, best for the whole-band cohesiveness. (I just don't like that synth soloing.) (8.5/10)
- b) Snowfall - picked 12'string guitar with very dynamic fretless bass starts off this section. Thirty seconds in it takes on a JEAN-LUC PONTY feel, sound, and pace (think of some of the cooler uptempo jams in either Cosmic Messenger or A Taste for Passion). Awesome CAMEL-esque synth soloing over this instrumental jam! (10/10)

5. "Circus" (6:34) guitar arpeggi, drums, and bass are soon joined by APP Usher keyboard arpeggio before the song shifts into third gear as a kind of CLASH/PAUL WELLER jam. The lyric is powerful and I like it's monotone shout delivery. The song then speeds off into an extraordinary instrumental jam with great driving bass and drums while Nick and Rick Carter take turns soloing and supporting each other. In the fourth minute odd upper-register major seventh chord strums sound like harps as Nick sings. The chord progressions are heavenly throughout this song, with every musician locked in on full power and tightly united throughout. GREAT song! My favorite from this album--and that's saying a lot cuz there are a lot of fine songs here! (10/10)

6. "Oh Divineo" (6:51) opens with Nick's plaintive guitar soloing, as if in a distance, as organ lays a romantic fabric beneath. The full band joins in at the end of the first minute with a swinging rhythm base as Nick continues soloing melodically over the top of a GENESIS-like "Misunderstanding" structure. When things finally break down at 2:28 to allow for a nice vocal, the lyric is surprisingly political, not romantic. The "where does the fire burn" lyric and following section are nice though quite derivative of earlier GENESIS themes. (13/15)

7. "The Black Knight" (9:57) the (by now) usual guitar arpeggi with lone synth intro with singer Nick Barrett joining in after half a minute. Nick's vocals here are better, the melodies more engaging. Full band kicks in with some power around the two minute mark. After a second verse of vocals time and key structure shift ushers in a new more insistent vocal approach. Nice earworms from the lead guitar in the instrumental section. (17/20)

Total time 45:26

Nick Barrett's guitar playing--especially his lead soloing--is sublime; it is amazing to me how he can continually create new and always pleasing, adrenaline pumping guitar solos year after year, song after song, even multiple times within one song (even here on their debut album)! His voice, however, is an acquired taste.

89.74 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a surprisingly eclectic albeit derivative collection of Neo Prog songs. Great debut album! 

"Like a Hot Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

MULTI-STORY East West (1985)

Neo Prog from Wales.

Line-up / Musicians:
Paul Ford / Vocals and Guitar
Rob Wilsher / Keyboards
Andy Carney / Guitars
Roger Nasey / Bass
Steve Byrne / Drums

1. "East West" (3:18) opens like a cross between a song by LOVERBOY and ALAN PARSONS PROJECT. A Peter Gabriel-like vocal enters over the portentous music at 0:45, story-singing in a MARILLION-like way until the brief "eyes to America" chorus first arrives at 1:40. Two cycles of this and its done. (8.25/10)
2. "Breaking Ground" (3:23) "Life in a Northern Town"? No, it's trying to be a Duke-era GENESIS pop song. The drumming, keys, lyrics, and vocal performance are all way too cheesy. (7/10)
3. "Traveller" (5:40) opens with tapage of a manned-space launch (Apollo 11 lift off) before an electric piano and finger-picked electric guitar-based ballad begins. Singer Paul Ford presents a plaintive voice, not unlike a Peter Nicholls performance, even when the music beneath him kicks into full ASIA-Duke mode at the end of the third minute. Nice, confident electric guitar solo in the fifth minute before Paul returns to singing the final verse. (8/10)   

4. "Ahead of Your Time" (7:55) opens with a full GENESIS sound palette with an Arpy synth playing an odd nursery rhyme-like melody. Around the one minute mark the song kicks into full body in a kind of JON ANDERSON-led ASIA-like song. The effects used on the drums and voice and the cheap (dated) keyboard and lead guitar sounds are all rather repellent. A piano-based slow-down section is rather unexpected and, in my opinion, misfit, but when things go back to full pace at 4:45 it makes more sense. At 5:30 we return to the opening palette and slow down as a synth solos, followed by electric guitar. I really like the bass guitar sound and play in this area. (Is it a ChapmanStick?) Actually, a pretty nice guitar solo. (13/15)

5. "Carrie" (4:16) sustained high synth note and cool fretless bass riff open this before Paul Ford enters with his FIXX-like guitar and JON ANDERSON-like voice. The song develops like a marching ASIA song until a nice quiet passage in the third minute. Once again, the bass is the most interesting part to me and the dated keys are overplayed. (7.75/10)
6. "Come Alive" (3:44) opnes with a deep droning synth as other keyboard sounds emerge. From there the band is very quick to jump in, driving forward at full speed with drums and bass, bouncy key chords and electric guitar power chords propelling it relentlessly while Paul sings over the top. Paul's voice is mixed surprisingly back, allowing the music to almost drown him out. No matter, the vocal performance is not very exciting or engaging (perhaps because of the odious music pushing me awary). (7/10)
7. "The Wire" (5:55) gently strummed 12-string opens this song before full-on GENESIS …And Then There Were Three… power bursts forth. Sounds a lot like ART IN AMERICA until 2:15 when a smooth, more sedate keyboard wash takes over with chunky bass picking away within the weave (with bass pedals, too!). Vocals in this section are quite different--very much like IQ's PETER NICHOLLS. The song builds up tempo as an instrumental section opens up but just when things are peaking, everything drops off to allow for the gentle 12-string strumming to finish the song with some support from synth strings and a long fadeout. Not a bad song! (8.75/10)
8. "Heroes" (5:09) opens with another rather simplistic display of prog-wannabe-ishness with a vocal stylized after MARILLION-FISH. Brief flashes of guitar and drum magic, otherwise nothing to write home about. (Sorry: The lush instrumental passage in the third and fourth minutes is very nice with some nice synth soloing.) (8/10)

79.71 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; a good first attempt at polished Neo Prog but showing need for growth and improvement.

"Like a Warm Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

MR. SIRIUS Barren Dream (1987)

WARNING: This is NOT a Canterbury Scene album. Nor is it facsimile of Canterbury style music. It is a representation of an eclectic array of many styles that were explored in Progressive Rock music between 1966 and 1986, including (in fairly equal proportions) Symphonic, Jazz-Rock Fusion, Canterbury, and Neo Prog. This is the remarkable and, in fact, quite extraordinary debut album from Japanese artist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Kazuhiro Miyatake. He is joined by brilliant recruits, Lisa Ohki, a mezzo soprano vocalist and classically-trained pianist, and drummer Chihiro Fujioka.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lisa Ohki (Hiroko Nagai) / vocals, grand piano (3,5)
- Kazuhiro Miyatake (Mr. Sirius) / flute, guitars (electric, synth, 12-string, Classical & acoustic), keyboards, piano, Mellotron, Hammond, synth, sampler, bass, accordion
- Chihiro Fujioka / drums, tambourine (6)
- Fumiaki Ogawa / grand piano (5), Mini-Moog (8)
- Raven Ohtani / lead guitar and solo (5)
- Yoshihisa Shimizu / lead guitar (7)

1. "All the fallen people" (11:57) a gorgeous suite that opens fully representative of all things Canterbury before sliding deftly into GENESIS/ANT PHILLIPS-like Neo Prog. (28.5/30)
.. I. Overture - the opening movement is full of both Canterbury and Neo Prog sounds and nuances. (4.75/5)
.. II. Madrigal - The second movement 
includes the wonderful AMANDA-PARSONS-like voice and piano stylings of Lisa Ohki (Hiroko Nagai singing in Japanese) in a gorgeous pastoral kind of Anthony Phillips story telling passage. (10/10)
.. III. Rhapsody - drums and circus-like noises denote the shift into this section, which becomes a Neo Prog feast of sound: active, chunky bass, AMANDA-PARSONS-like vocalese, a variety of TONY BANKSian keyboard synths, and a very GENESIS-like chord and melody structure with Lisa singing in English "all must be done" over a very GENESIS-like sound palette. (9.25/10)
.. IV. Fantasy - with the signature marker of a classical guitar, a mystical journey of synths and piano is unveiled to play out softly, beautifully, to the end. (4.5/5)

2. "Sweet revenge" (1:44) using a Hammond organ and flute, the full band puts forth a very DAVE STEWART-like fast-paced instrumental ditty. (4.75/5)

3. "Step into Easter" (7:47) opens with a chorus of Lisa Ohki voices singing something only it's been reversed. Classical guitar, flute, and accordion give this a very STEVE HACKETT-like sound over the next two minutes. Flute and accordion take turns exposing the melody over the classical guitar play as if in a conversation before male and female voices enter singing in English in a very archaic GENTLE GIANT-like style and melody. The classical guitar takes over the sole musical carpet in the fourth minute before Lisa returns, this time singing in Japanese. The music here still feels like a combination of the delicate sides of STEVE HACKETT and GENTLE GIANT. The elegant guitar playing is exquisite as is this masterful, almost-classical song. (15/15) 

4. Intermezzo (5:18)

5. "Eternal jealousy" (8:14) (20/20)
.. I. Prelude - solo piano plays delicately in a soft jazz KEITH JARRETT way. (5/5)
.. II. Intake - turns on the synth strings with a series of orchestra-like chords before full band enters like JAN AKKERMAN and his FOCUS gang in all their glorious precision and technical perfection. A jazzy piano solo ensues to fill the foreground over the high-powered jazzy bass and drums before the AKKERMAN-like guitar shredding continues. (5/5)
.. III. Stillglow - notes a shift into full Canterbury regalia with PHIL MILLER-like guitar (which later turns more Mike Oldfield/Alan Holdsworth) and organ and intermittent vocalese from Lisa. (5/5)
.. IV. Return - a return to a FOCUS-like sound and theme in which 
Electric guitar, flute, piano, and synth all take turns up front. (5/5)

6. "Lagrima" (4:11) harpsichord and picked and strummed 12-string guitar provide the simple-yet-full musical fabric over which Lisa Ohki sings her extraordinary classically trained voice in Italian, French,  Japanese, and English in a very European aria style. Ends with a very ANT PHILLIPS-like flourish. (9.5/10)

7. "Barren dream" (13:28) (28.5/30)
.. Act I - synth strings open this before solo piano takes over at 0:22. At 0:47 the full band enters in jazz mode with two flute tracks sharing the exposition of the melody. At 1:20 the rock side takes over with electric guitar taking over for the flutes. At 1:45 there is a shift back to more classical sound with classical guitar. This interplay of classical/acoustic alternating with full rock/electronic instrumentation repeats a couple of times 
(9.5/10) before a soft synth strings chord sequence bridges us to 
.. Act II - a wonderfully dreamy strings synth-and-piano-turning-to-solo piano passage over which Lisa Ohki sings in her operatic best beginning at the end of the sixth minute. Flutes, piano, synths, and secondary vocals interplay with Lisa's voice in this extraordinary nostalgic section. What crystal clarity Lisa's voice has! At the end of the eight minute a flute and synth flute duet weaves about before strings synth take over for Lisa's next operatic section. I am here so reminded of the amazing vocal work of CAROLINA PRIETO on the early KOTEBEL albums. (14.5/15)
.. Act III - a jazzy bass with sensitive drum rhythm open this section at the beginning of the twelfth minute before the pace picks up and returns us to the more aggressive Jazz-Rock sounds and styles of the opening Act. The section ends with a very pensive piano outro. Wow! (4.5/5)

Total Time: 56:29

A wonderful display of compositional virtuosity with some amazing instrumental and melodic contributions throughout. The heavier, more intricate sections of the compositions sound much like country mates KENSO and AIN SOPH, while the more pastoral passages feel close to the stylings of ex-GENESIS soloists, ANT PHILLIPS and STEVE HACKETT, while the vocal passages feel forceful and dramatic enough to fit on the stages of Broadway or London's West End. The complexity of vocal symphonic passages are quite reminiscent of Keith EMERSON as well as jazz musicians like MANHATTAN TRANSFER and today's MOETAR.

96.59 on the Fishscales = A+/five stars; an unquestioned masterpiece of progressive rock music and as fine of an album you'll find in all of Prog World, old or new.

"Like a Hot Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

MIDAS Beyond The Clear Air (1988)

The debut album by a Japanese quartet who were obviously inspired and informed by GENESIS but moreso it would seem, by the short-lived progressive rock scene in Italia in the 1970s. (What was it about the late 1980s that caused several Japanese artists to lock into the Italian rock progressivo sound and styles?)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Eigo Utoh / vocals, 5-string electric violin
- Eishyo Lynn / piano, synthesizers (Roland S-50, D-50, SH-3A, JUNO-6, KORG Mono/Poly, M1, AKAI S-900, Sequential Six-Tracks, CASIO CZ-3000)
- Katsuaki Mishima / bass
- Kazuo Katayama / acoustic & electronic drums, percussion

1. "Sham Noctiluca" (8:07) a rather long intro in which synths, cymbals and violin make their presences quite known. Once the song is finally settled into a rhythmic flow in the third minute the flaws in sound quality, instrumental simplicity, and singer's lack of melodic connection become too obvious. The singer can sing, and the violinist and bass player can definitely play, but the construction is lacking in sophistication and/or originality (or something). (12/15)

2. "The Slough Of Despond" (15:33) opening with a New Age Celtic weave, it could be something from a CLANNAD soundtrack album. After 90 seconds there is a musical shift into a faster, more rock passage with some fiery violin riffs but then there is an odd and unexpected shift for the arrival of the vocals. Nice bass and drum play. The thickly instrument-supported vocal melody line beginning in the fifth minute is quite reminiscent of some modern RPI bands like UNREAL CITY, INGRANAGGI DELLA VALLE or LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO. This similarity holds true for the entirety of the rest of the song: this could easily have been lifted to create the La notte anche di giorno album that came out in 2015--27 years later! Impressive song. (27/30)

3. "Mortuary" (4:46) synth and violin go back and forth, sometimes doubling up on the melody line for the first movement and then an accordion joins in on the action in the second movement! Very impressive musicianship! The vocal enters well into the second minute, almost squeezing into the complex weave of instruments as if not wanting to disturb them! My favorite song on the album and the one deserving of the most praise. (9.25/10)

4. "Beyond The Clean Air" (18:45) slow Genesis/Tony Banks-like pseudo-classical intro which is joined by nice violin play before the music spreads out to allow space for Eigo Utoh's impassioned vocal. Except for the fine violin play, the music sounds like it comes right off of the BABYLON album: twists and tempo turns allowing for different displays of the leader's prowess as both vocalist and violinist. And the instrumental passage in the second half is way to drawn out and single-minded. (34/40)

Total time 47:11

I'm sorry but, despite the fine musicianship and artistry of Eigo Utoh and company, adequately complex song compositions, and fairly clean sound reproduction, the music on this album sounds too dated and too imitative of others that have come before. Those late 1980s keyboards are embarrassingly cheap and outdated! The bass playing is excellent, the drumming very good but so rotely Neo Prog.

86.58 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a fine first album of Neo Prog for these accomplished musicians. Tune in to their next albums: they get even better!  

Like a "Hot Summer's Day" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

ARAGON Don't Bring The Rain (1988)

A Marillion-inspired band of multi-nationals that formed and recorded in Australia that shows tremendous potential--greatly due to the wonderfully passionate vocal performances of lead singer Les Dougan.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Les Dougan / vocals
- John Poloyannis / guitars, mandolin, drum programming
- Tom Behrsing / keyboards, bass programming
- Tony Italia / drums
- Rob Bacon / bass

1. "For Your Eyes" (4:44) opens with harpsichord-sounding guitar picking before a pulsing bass-and-drum structure is established for the singing to join in. The vocalist is dramatic, theatric, but not very impressive or winning--kind of like a weak GEDDY LEE trying to sing with the power and emotion of AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson. The music during the choruses is too standard rock, it's the down time subtleties that are interesting and engaging. (8.25/10)

2. "Company Of Wolves" (9:22) (16.5/20)

- a) Under the Hunters' Moon (3:30) babeling brook water sounds are soon joined by keys and percussives giving the soundscape a very fairy-like feeling. Barking and then heavy bass tom play enter providing quite a contrast to the delicate fairy sounds. (8/10)
- b) In the Company of Wolves (5:51) more background sounds from the fairy world before a cheap keyboard begins adding a pattern of chords. At 1:25 heavy, pounding drums re-enter before singer Les Dougan enters with a FISH- or OZZIE OSBORN-like vocal performance. The vocal dominates despite the tinny music's attempt to thicken and become more complex. Fairly impressive vocal performance. (8.5/10)

3. "The Cradle" (5:32) gentle prog start with pretty late-80s heavily chorused guitar strums over which the odd voice and stylings of Les Dougan sings. He gives it quite an impassioned try and it almost works. The background "harmony" vocals are pitiful. (8.25/10)

4. "Solstice" (3:40) opens with a fairly flagrant attempt to recreate a classic GENESIS. The metal voicings of Les Dougan soon arrive and not long thereafter the lead guitar (sounding more like BABYLON's David Boyko or MIREK GIL than Steve Hackett). Decent BABYLON-like song. (8.25/10)

5. "Cry Out" (5:33) An interesting mélange of sound as each and every musician here seems to be drawing from different eras and styles of GENESIS or classic rock sounds, riffs, and styles. Les Dougan's singing gives it its own unique stamp (though there he uses a very familiar "St. Elmo's Fire" melody). (7.75/10)

6. "Gabrielle" (3:30) pure FISH theatrics in this vocal over acoustic guitar finger picking. Easily the best song on the album. (10/10)

7. "The Crucifixion" (15:39) (27.5/30)
- a) Part 1 (7:38) 
synth strings and pregnant New Wave-like bass line with straight time drum beat provide the sole backdrop for the first four minutes of Les's impassioned vocal. It works. Then there is a major softening--with only guitar and Les's whispering voice--before a burst forth into a speedy swinging pseudo-Rocky Horror-like section. At 5:50 there occurs another stop and slow down, this time for a low keyboard bass note over which spacey flanged synth strings slowly twist and snake their way to the end of this Part. (13/15)
- b) Part 2 (8:11) again the FISH and MARILLION comparisons are unavoidable. Les opens with singing over synth washes--which continue for a few minutes while eventually being joined by simple electric guitar "solo" arpeggi, bass, and drums. Les rejoins in the fourth minute to deliver an amazingly passionate "I'm still waiting" vocal before the band rises up to the album's first truly proggy instrumental passage, complete with multiple keyboard sounds and searing electric guitar soloing all at the same time. Impressive! Why they didn't do more like this I don't know. (14.5/15)

8. "For Your Eyes (Reprise)" (1:14) interesting outro. (4.5/5)

Total Time: 49:14

Odd that there are so few instrumental solos, that the songs are so reliant on a single theme and singer Les Dougan's impassioned vocals. The instrumentalists here are competent and do an admirable job of creating cohesive song constructs but their proficiency on their respective instruments seems to be under-confident and, perhaps, "under progress." Still, thanks to the stellar second half, this is an album that introduces to the world a band with tremendous potential.

86.67 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent debut for this multi-national Neo Prog band.  

"Nearly Boiling" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

GALADRIEL Mutterred Promises from An Ageless Pond (1988)

An extraordinary album of reverence and nearly-religious respect coming out of Spain, an uncommon combination of the pastoral sides of both YES (especially Wakeman and acoustic Howe) and GENESIS (all of the extraordinary diverse skills and sounds of Mssrs. Phillips, Hackett, and Rutherford) fronted by a most unique vocal talent in Señor Jesús Filardi.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jesús Filardi / lead vocals, percussion (5,8)
- Manolo Macia / electric & acoustic guitars
- Manolo Pancorbo / electric, acoustic (5) & Classical (2,5) guitars, bass (1,4), percussion (5)
- David Aladro / Yamaha organ, Korg MS20/Poly 800, Akai S900, Ensoniq Mirage, Roland JX-8P, Yamaha CS80, piano (3,7)
- Alcides "Cidon" Trindade / drums (5,7), percussion (3-5,7)
- Alfredo Garcia / violin (1)
- Pablo Molina / bass (5-8)
- Angel Romero / backing vocals & percussion (5)
- Ernest Filardi / spoken voice (5)

- The Day Before The Harvest :
1. "Lágada" (8:59) Prog Folk?! Not what I was expecting, but very delicate, pastoral soundscapes open this song and proceed to kind of lazily meander across the countrysides, first with vocal and later with electric guitar lead. At 2:15 the music switches to more of a YES pattern with fast-strummed acoustic guitar with Moog-like synthesizer, organ, and electric guitar working their way within and between vocal sections. Odd staccato vocal "da-da-da"s in the fourth minute before a Moog-like solo. Hackett-like guitar and Wakeman-sounding keyboard work with English choirboy-like vocal textures. Interesting! Then violin and wonderful multiple voice harmonies in the eighth minute. This Jesús Filardi is quite a vocal find! (19.5/20)   

2. "Virginal" (2:26) pure Hackett-era multi-guitar Genesis bliss! (5/5)

3. "To Die In Avalon" (10:00) opens with weird sound and weird vocals over classically-oriented piano flourishes but leads into a sparsely populated middle section with some cool piano versus Robert Fripp-like electric guitar interplay. This turns into a little more pensive time keeping in the fifth minute. Then piano takes it solo for a jazz-and-classical styled solo for the sixth minute. Peter Hammill meets Doroccus and Keith Emerson to form an early version of After Crying. Interesting and unexpected. (18.5/20)

- The Year of The Dream :
4. "Limiar (Winter's Request)" (1:26) two arpeggiated electric guitar chords are soon joined by drums and bass and keys, all performing a kind of polyrhythmic weave for the song's duration. (5/5)

5. "Landahl's Cross" (20:04) an early-GENESIS-styled epic with quite the strong BABYLON-like sound palette. The creative instrumental inputs are quite inventive and unique--like no one else in prog. How can one deny the extraordinary freshness of these compositions? Not a perfect or always fully-engaging song, but a definite piece of quality. (36/40)

Total time 42:26

The vocalist, Jesús Filardi, with his English Choir sound and style, is truly an exceptional and noteworthy talent--one who's style and sound is, in fact, unlike anything I've ever heard in progressive rock music except for the Scottish singer Matthew Corry of the 2018-debuting band EMPEROR NORTON from York. The music is highly sophisticated and complex, with extraordinary musicianship and quite confident and highly creative compositional skills. 

92.22 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; despite the poor sound engineering I consider this a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music as well as a truly unique and masterful debut album. I have to say that I would absolutely consider this an "essential" album for prog lovers to hear--a listening experience that absolutely represents all of the experimental eclecticism imagined by the original "prog rock" artists of the 1960s and early 1970s.

I can only surmise that these musicians were both classically trained and highly skilled before forming this band and that they worked long and hard honing these very unusually complex songs before trying to set them to vinyl. It is unfortunate that the sound recording and engineering is not up to the levels of high quality set by the musicians and to which they deserved. Still, I feel so blessed, as if I've just entered a sacred monastery in which progressive rock music is the highest form of devotional homage. 

"Near Boiling" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

ASTURIAS Circle in The Forest (1988)

A group of obviously-classically-trained Japanese musicians gather under the leadership of Yoh Ohyama to create some smooth jazz lite using keyboard sounds and computer technologies common to the 1980s New Wave and Neo Prog scene.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Yoh Ohyama / computer programming, synthesiszer, acoustic & electric guitars, bass, percussion, composer
- Haruhiko Tsuda / guitar
- Akira Hanamoto / keyboards
- Kazumi Sakurai / drums, percussion
- Yoko Ueno / voice
- Hiroshi Ochiai / guitar
- Hiroko Tsuda / piano

1. "Ryu-Hyo" (4:59) classically influenced beautiful music which is a little too busy for New Age relaxation music. Gorgeous melodies from Yoh Ohyama's violin are met with amazing piano play from Hiroko Tsuda. The buildup and crescendo near the end definitely disqualify this for the New Age category. So, then, what do we call it? "Prog Lite"? (9.25/10)

2. "Clairvoyance" (5:20) synth bass line at the opening gives this song a 80s R&B feel, like a Michael Jackson "Smooth Criminal" sound and feel. The drum line that soon enters does nothing to diminish this effect. But then some other instruments enter presenting a kind of Celtic ABC "Poison Arrow" sound and feel. The smooth atmospheric passage in the third minute is pretty awesome, but then we jump back into the 80s barrage of gumball synth lines. In terms of progressive rock, this one is kind of embarrassing--despite the high quality of engineering and musicianship that it takes to render it. (7.75/10)

3. "Angel Tree" (4:53) descending "arpeggio" of synth chords prefaces a sickly sweet classical guitar solo. Synth strings join in support, enriching the syrup a notch or two. Nice display of guitar play. (8.25/10)

4. "Tightrope" (6:55) a whole-band weave that once again postures itself more in the realm of smooth jazz with world music flair. The keyboard-led melody is rather ridiculous in its simplistic familiarity. In the third minute there is a slowdown and two-chord acoustic guitar arpeggio base over which Zamfir-like keyboard "piccolo" solos. Piano and bass rejoin, which is actually pretty cool, and then, in the fifth minute, drums and electric guitar, bringing the sound for the first time into a prog relam. Pretty great electric guitar solo and jazz bass play. (13/15)

5. "Circle in the Forest" (22:21) Several New Age-y synth sounds weave a gentle if simple and over-repeated melodic section for the first four minutes. A shift occurs at the end of the fourth minute in which one of the lead synth sounds ("harp") changes chords and melody of its arpeggi and is joined in a new weave by a lute-like sound. At the 5:00 mark a full band joins in with chunky bass and Lord of the Dance-like Celtic drums beating away to create a heavy section. This is then cycled around for the next four minutes with a softer, stripped down theme until the eighth minute when some NORTHETTES-like vocalese joins in. Around the 8:00 mark a different movement is initiated with a single bass note repeated around 110 beats per minute as classical celestina/12-string sounding chords progress with the drums playing off the established melody. It's a nice sound palette if a little "MacArthur's Park" like, simple, and Mike Oldfield-repetitive. Also, the drums' toms are a little early Simmons-like. Just after the 12:00 mark a fast-strumming acoustic guitar enters to guide a bridge to the next stripped down, piano and synth-based sentimental weave. Once again, some of the synth sounds used in this section are so New Age dated. (think of the brothers Steve & David Gordon's albums of the 1980s.) fifteen and a half minutes in and there is a single arpeggio to signal the shift to the next movement--this one softer but just as engaging. The new weave gets enhanced into a Incantations-era MIKE OLDFIELD-meets-UNITOPIA section for a rousing multi-instrumental weave of sophisticated complexity--perhaps the best passage of the album in both complexity and raw engagement (even if it is so very MIKE OLDFIELD-like). (41/45)

Total Time 44:28

88.06 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

"Tepid" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer. More in the realm of New Age/World Music than Neo Prog but there are connections.

PAZZO FANFANO DI MUSICA Pazzo Fanfano di Musica (1989)

I've finally been able to hear this amazing album for the first time and I am BLOWN AWAY! The medieval/Renaissance-influenced music I have been craving! It doesn't get better than this, folks. It is all the best of 70s RPI (especially BANCO, LE ORME and even PFM) combined with the pastoral sounds of STEVE and JOHN HACKETT a la Voyage of The Acolyte ("Suspiri del fiore"), and the most emotive of classical composers ("La dolce follia," "Agilmente" and "Affettuoso")--the Italians, of course. There are lots of strings, flutes, organ, Mellotron, classical guitar ("Intermezzo I" and "II") and even harpsichord. The vocals from female singer Megumi Tokuhisa are wonderful if quirky (especially because of the lyrics being in Japanese.) And the shocker of all is that this music is all composed and performed by an all-star band of Japanese musicians! "Fragoroso" is much jazzier, pure prog, with an uptempo, piano- and drums-driven sound, but otherwise the album is replete with nostalgiac references to the musics of Renaissance and Italian composers. The piano and violin duet that is "Ondine" is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I've ever heard--reminding me of the music of Taiwan's lovely CICADA or the world's RYUICHI SAKAMOTO.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Megumi Tokuhisa / vocals
- Takashi Aramaki / guitars
- Katsuhiko Hayashi / organ, Mellotron, harpsichord, producer
- Motoi Sakuraba / piano
- Kyoko Sugimoto / piano, harpsichord
- Tomoki Ueno / organ, Mellotron
- Takashi Kawaguchi / violin
- Kazuhiro Miyatake / flute
- Tadashi Sugimoto / bass, double bass, cello
- Nobuyuki Sakurai / drums

1. Preludio (0:50)
2. Fiori per Algernon (7:58)
3. Sospiri del fiore (3:32)
4. La dolce follia (5:11)
5. Agilmente (1:37)
6. Intermezzo I (1:32)
7. Affettuoso (5:54)
8. Fragoroso (4:34)
9. Intermezzo II (1:20)
10. Onde (6:12)
11. Anniversario (10:35) (18/20)

Total Time: 49:30

on the Fishscales =

Folks, this is a masterpiece of timeless music--one for the ages--a collection of songs that will represent our crazy modern world far better than 99.99% of the stuff that's been put out for the past 100 years.

"Nearly Boiling" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

HECENIA Legendes (1989)

A late comer to the "classic" prog scene, I have decided to include this French band on this list as it could be construed as one of the early Neo Prog bands due to their sound being so clearly imitative of GENESIS. Leader/keyboardist Thierry Brandet's sound and style is pure TONY BANKS  while the bass, acoustic guitars, and drumming are quite reminiscent of the palette of the other Genesis corps (though I also hear elements sounding like BABYLON, ELOY, NEUSCHWANSTEIN, and even NEKTAR--the former three of which I would include in the initial "club" of Neo Proggers).  The sound here is wonderful--sure to engage any lovers of TONY BANKS/GENESIS music; where I have issues are with the development choices, length, and ability to keep me engaged.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Thierry Brandet / Korg Polysix, Korg Poly-61, Mini-moog, Ensoniq Mirage, drum programming
- Pierre-Yves Chiron / bass, solo guitar on 2, acoustic guitar on 1 & 4
- Daniel Trutet / lead guitar on 1, 3, 4
- Jean-Paul Trutet / lead & backing vocals

1. Hecenia (10:44) (17.5/20)
2. Le Passage (12:46) (20.75/25)
3. Le Grimoire (10:00) (17.75/20)
4. La Vieille Femme Et La Chandelle (12:43) (23/25)

87.78 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

"Smokin' Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

COLLAGE Baśnie (1990)

The debut album from the first Polish Neo Prog masters--and what a debut it is! Can a band of young artists create a masterpiece right from the get go? Apparently many of these songs had been floating around since the mid-1980s, so the band obviously had time to practice, perform, and re-work much of the content that ended up on this album.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Tomek Rozycki / vocals
- Mirek Gil / guitars
- Przemek Zawadzki / bass guitar
- Wojtek Szadkowski / drums, percussion
- Jacek Korzeniowski / keyboards

1. "Jeszcze jeden dzien (One More Day)" (4:10) opens with a tight full force guitar wailing sound. Yep! This is Collage! Singer Tomek Rozycki joins in before the end of the first minute singing in Polish, sounding like FALCO. The guitar's counter-punch power chords offsetting Tomek's "yesh dai em" vocals are very cool, otherwise the vocal is rather lame and unengaging. One can't help but listen to the powerful wailing of Mirek Gil's guitar going on with increasing frequency and increasing fire throughout the song. Also, the drumming is quite good. (8.5/10)
2. "Ja i ty (Me and You)" (3:20) has a bit of a folk sound to both its structure and its melodies. The vocal is a bit weak but the song is refreshing. (8/10)

3. "Kołysanka '87 (Lullaby)" (4:50) (fragment) Despite being a supposed fragment from an 1987 tape called "Change," this song has all of the sounds, stylings, and positive attributes of the best of Collage's 1990s output. The background wash of the keys, the reverbed vocal, the catchy melodic hooks and the adventurous, emotional playing of a young, fiery Mirek Gil. (8.75/10) 

4. "Baśnie (Fairy Tales)" (10:00) Though the title song and, thus, a centrally focused feature of the album, this may be one of the weaker songs on the album. It opens nicely, with some very pleasant key and gtr sounds playing arpeggi of two very pretty chords, and then it jumps into hyper drive around the one minute mark while retaining its pleasing sounds and melodies (thanks to the keys), but the vocal is a little strained and feels a little mismatched to the music. While the music continues to feel lively over the two chord structure (especially the drumming), there is little surprise or flair in the first four minutes. Then there is a slowed down, strumming guitar section through the fifth minute in which the singer returns, telling his story. The instrumentalists pick it up at the 5:00 mark followed by a nice Mirek Gil solo, but the vocal sections just fail to attain the same heights of interest or engagement. At 6:45 there is another stop gap before the music takes a right turn into a different key and chord progression but neither the vocal nor the instruments (other than awesomely chunky bass playing) fail to excite. Then, at 8:20, the chills begin as a single note from the oh-so familiar and oh-so revered Mirek Gil guitar sound peels forth from the lower registers of the A string. It's as if the floor is cleared on the basketball court to let Michael, Kobe or LeBron show us some of one-on-one their magic. Though the solo doesn't achieve mind-blowing heights--and is cut off by a much-to-early finish to the song--it does give us that shot of excitement and reminder of all that is to come from this guitar maestro. (17.5/20)

5. "Dalej, dalej (Farther and Farther)" (7:00) opens with electric guitar arpeggio and multiple layers of fairy-like synth sounds. Mirek switches to strumming just before the singer enters at 0:50. The music still hasn't quite gelled but the vocal is good, the music finally filling in fully at the 1:40 mark--just before a brief passage for a guitar solo. When Tomek returns to sing his voice is much more delicate, almost whispery. Nice melodies--especially the one dueted by Mirek and Tomek at the end of the third minute. Awesome guitar and synth solos in the fourth minute! Wow! Stunning peak! Lull and then everybody's back with Tomek singing before another wild though brief passage of synth and guitar solos. The section that follows is very pretty (guitar chord progression) and then we're into another Tomek-Mirek dual melody making before the final "tin whistle" synth solo before the Tomek-Mirek finish. Awesome, amazing, powerful song! (15/15)

6. "Stare ściezki (Same Old Paths)" (6:45) triangle and horn-synth open this one with a lush synth wash backdrop before Tomek enters around the 45 second mark. Drums and bass join in the middle of second minute and then Mirek Gil after the first verse with a different Pat Metheny-horn-like sound. Mirek and Tomek trade bursts of vocals and lead guitar, respectively, until a big switch in palette and pacing occurs at 2:30. From here the vocals are more constant while Mirek moves to more support with arpeggi and 
Jacek Korzeniowski's keyboards take over the role of adding bursts of synth riffs between phrases. At 3:52 the music moves back to the slightly slower base for an awesome instrumental passage with Mirek leading the way but bass and drums also embellishing a lot. At the end of the fifth minute Tomek returns in softer vocal style. In the sixth minute drums and bass drop out while synth wash, guitar arpeggi, and vocalese offer a very pretty soundscape which l=plays out to the end fadeout. Very nice song. (13/15)

7. "Fragmenty (Fragments)" (4:28) opens with strummed electric guitar before drums enter with flair and panache. Chunky bass, synth background, and wailing lead guitar then join in for a spell before alternating turns with Tomek's impassioned vocal. Mirek and Jacek really get to shine here, taking turns soloing between every moment of Tomek's singing. At 2:45 there is a prolonged bridge of power chords before Jacek switches keys and Mirek takes another turn at duelling melodic riffs before Tomek re-enters. The turn-taking continues through to the end. Powerful song on the line of "Heroes Cry" except with something lost because I don't know what Tomek is singing about due to my lack of translation of his Polish. (9/10)

8. "Rozmowa (Conversation)" (4:45) a song from their long-time stage play in which the drums and vocals play the most noteworthy roles though Mirek's captivating screaming guitar is strongly present throughout. I've had the privilege of hearing the band's 1986 studio recording of this song and I must say I like it very much:  the delicate instrumental work in the middle (piano and electric guitar) is quite remarkable. Wish they'd stuck with piano, powerful drumming, and variety of guitar sounds. (8.75/10)

Total Time: 47:28

The album has such a polished feel to it despite its use of dated keyboards from the late 1980s; yo can tell the band had had a lot of time to rework and polish their repertoire to end up with such a mature-sounding sound and album. Still, after hearing some of the earlier versions of these songs I wish they had retained some of the styles and dynamics from their earlier days.

87.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog rocker's album collection and a truly remarkable Neo Prog debut. 

"Molten Hot" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

CLEPSYDRA Hologram (1991)

Prog from Switzerland! Who knew!? The miraculous thing about this album, these musicians, is that they purposely chose progressive rock! In 1991!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aluisio Maggini / lead & backing vocals
- Gabriele Hofmann / guitars, keyboards
- Philip Hubert / keyboards
- Andy Thommen / bass
- Pietro Duca / drums
- Marco Zappa / lead guitar (13)

1. "Sunrise" (1:20) the opening of a bookend pair with the finale, "Sunset," church bells chime as bass, distant drums, single plucked guitar chord and keys rise and kick into full gear before seering electric guitar ends the song. (4.25/5)

2. "New Day (Part 1)" (5:11) piano opens before Aluisio joins in singing in a relaxed, as if tired, voice. The second verse is joined by synth strings as Aluisio perks up, switching up an octave, singing with much more force and clarity. Drums and bass join in for the "time pass me by" chorus before launching into the guitar-led instrumental section. Keys do a very reserved solo as drums play beneath until sax-like guitar returns at the 3:00 mark to signal time to slow down again for Aluisio to sing, starting low and tired before quickly jumping into his more urgent pleading voice. Another melodic guitar solo finishes it off. Nice song. (8.75/10)

3. "4107" (5:12) typing on an old manual typewriter as typist recites that which he is typing. Low bass note, glockenspiel synth arpeggio and drums form spacious support to Aluisio's plaintive vocal. Electric guitar takes the lead at the end of the second minute and into the third before slowing to play arpeggiated chords. Then the music shifts for keyboard play before Gabriele takes the lead again at 3:00. Nice horn-like METHENY-ish guitar tone (in the upper registers). (8.5/10)
4. "Fleeting Moments" (3:13) opens softly, sounding like Steve Hogarth on Marillion's Marbles. Aluisio's sensitive voice in the second minute is so heart-breakingly fragile and vulnerable! What a vocalist! (9/10)

5. "Fading Clouds of Time" (3:50) opens with slow emotional electric guitar lead over synth strings until 0:54 when piano, bass and drums kick into gear. Vocals join in with a STARSHIP, JOURNEY or even BON JOVI type of sound. Song alternates soft spacious sections with full, uptempo, power chord sections while ending with a slower section for an electric guitar solo. (7.75/10)

6. "Poem For a Rainy Day" (2:11) stairway footsteps and child's voice preempt this electrified acoustic guitar lullaby. Some synth support and the addition of a classical guitar in the second minute. Nice. (There are no words to this "poem.") (4.5/5)

7. "New Day (part 2)" (6:13) up and down, as the previous version, from soft and spacious to loud and bombastic. Still, Aluisio's voice can almost win me over no matter what else is going on around or beneath him--and this is one of his finest performances on the album. Also one of the best chord progressions and electric guitar solos. (9.25/10)

8. "Sandfow" (3:17) general train station restaurant conversation, dishes noises, and PA announcements lead into a cymbal and synth supported electric guitar solo. The chorus-delayed sound of the guitar is cool. At 1:35 drums kick in and band amps up to announce their presence for a few seconds before backing down to leave a really cool, almost eerie spacious soundscape. Electric guitar eventually steps into the void with a melodic bluesy solo to the end. (5/5)

9. "For Her Eyes" (4:41) CURE-like electric guitar and electric piano open this one until Aluisio enters around the half-minute mark. The song becomes standard rock ballad support, still sounding like THE CURE though also WHITESNAKE and other 1980s hairbands. (8.5/10)

10. "Steve and Jane" (5:19) synth wash, electric piano and Aluisio open this one. Despite indications that it's going to get loud and heavy, the boys show restraint and stay quiet for the first 90 seconds. Then there is shift as a fast-picked guitar arpeggio chord sequence triggers some latent power from the keys (orchestra hits). When Aluisio returns, the music beneath is still defining itself. The keys definitely get much more prominence on this one that the rest of the album. (8.5/10)

11. "New Day (Part 3)" (2:01) opens sounding like airport/spaceport music before electric piano enters. At 1:00 synth strings form support for electric guitar to solo over. Nice brief emotional melodic solo. (4.75/5)

12. "Hologram" (7:40) Aluisio singing over amplified classical guitar turns proggy after the first minute with the arrival of drums, bass and keys. What a voice. He makes it sound so effortless! A shift at 2:45 leads to more theatric storytelling approach from Aluisio before the band kicks in and jumps forward. What sounded like they were going full SCORPIONS turns instead to something more spacious like COLLAGE. The instrumental jam we thought was coming several times before starts, in part, at 5:45 as Gabriele solos over the churchy organ and gated drums--into a long, slow fade out. (13/15)

13. Sunset (1:21) reprise of the opening song with full band engaged from opening and electric guitar doing an aggressive rock solo from the start, then ending with church bells. (4.25/5)

Total Time: 51:29

87.27 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection and recommended for anyone interested in hearing a truly gifted male vocalist.

I have to report that I do prefer the original sound over the "remaster." I've never been a fan of gated or compressed drums--one of the biggest mistakes Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins ever made. It's also too bad that the 1990s had to deal with such poor, cheap sounding keyboard sounds from the plethora of everybody-can-afford cheap keyboards coming out at the time. We're still paying for it to this day with some bands that refuse to let go of those cheap old things. Overall, there is just a lot of music here that sounds as much "Prog-Wannabe" or "Near Prog" as Neo Prog.

"Luke Warm" on the Neo Prog Truth Thermometer.

MONTEFELTRO Il Tempo di Far la Fantasia (1992)

1970s-sounding Neo Prog produced in the 1990s from Italy imitating (lifting?) those Genesis sounds beautifully but nearly too closely. Think BABYLON's 1980 album Babylon and you'd have hit the nail on the head.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Piergiorgio Ambrosi / keyboards 
- Attilio Virgilio / lead vocals, guitar 
+ Giampiero D'Andria / bass 
- Pierpaolo Ferroni / drums 

1. "Canto No. 1 (lettera ad un amico del 1400)" (22:12) so much (too much?) like the BABYLON sound palette and recording engineering reinterpretion (recapitulation?) of Peter Gabriel-era GENESIS (mostly Foxtrot). It's done extremely well--with great instrumental and compositional quality; it's just so frickin' close to the original! The only instruments that shine through as being different are the ancient pre-piano sounding keyboards (clavichord? psaltry? celeste? Celtic harp?) and fretless bass as well as a couple of the effects used on the guitars. The ethereal vocals (heavily reverbed to sound as if they're coming from inside the cavernous marble walls of a large cathedral--like EMERALD DAWN does for Tree Stewart's voice). 
     A lot of this song reminds me of the sound and style of Spanish band GALADRIEL's Muttered Promises from an Ageless Pond from 1988 as well as those of Canadian band HECENIA's 1989 album, Légendes. Despite its clone-like feel, this is an excellent and beautiful symphonic suite, beautifully--one might say "lovingly"--composed. (41/45):
I) musicis instrumentis sonans humanos affectus 
II) Siarade serale 
III) La corsa contro il tempo 
IV) Pioggia di stelle 
V) La tua immagine 
VI) Il walzer dei ricordi (per anatre e vecchi balocchi) 
VII) Sciarada notturna (al lume di candela col temporale oltre la finistra) 
VIII) Prendi la foglia 
IX) Il duello 
X) In quel sole interiore, la nave a l'artificio
2. "Il prescetto" (6:28) Wow! So BABYLON--right out of the starting blocks! The quick and frequent changes in time signatures over the opening minute are a bit much. The theatric Italian singing that starts in the second minute sound like a German Kommandant barking orders. but then it goes slow and soft as the annoying 1980s computer synth horns fill the soundscape. And then I hear the sound of horses on cobblestones and think, "This is about some mediæval thing!" hich makes me even more curious and engaged. The ensuing high energy insrumental weave is so Phil Collins-era GENESIS that I get goosebumps. Then there is a jazzy vocal section with super-funk bass plucking alternating with majesterial mediæval motifs leading down into a pastoral finish. Wow! Great theatric song! If one can get past the sound (and "Dreamfish" familiarity) one would things this a 10/10 song! (9.5/10):
I) Nella sala del trono 
II) Dopo la pioggia 
III) Con il viso controvento 

3. "Cielo di carta" (2:44) complex 12-string strumming within cheap synth washes over which gentle voice sings lead. (4.5/5)

4. "La collana riffletente" (5:31) sounds very much like an early solo career Steve HACKETT or Mike OLDFIELD song (only, in the demo form--or live--due to the poor sound quality). Great, compositionally, and as a demonstration of collective performance skill, and the Robert Wyatt-like voice is enjoyable (as opposed to so many of the bombastic operatic types)--giving it a quality similar to the more delicate moments of early PFM--while the music prove to be very much something from the melodic/syrupy side of Tony Banks and Steve Hackett (with parts that seem as if they were lifted directly off of the BABYLON album). (8.75/10)

5. "Nel labirinto (il regreto del sole)" (8:23) this mostly-instrumental song feels like the soundtrack to a museum exhibit or YouTube picture montage depicting some period of history. The music is good, definitely proggy, but more in the jam/unfinished category. (15.5/20) :
I) La casa di Asterione 
II) Un addio in silenzio

Total Time: 45:11

It is beautifully and quite competently done. I can't think of much true prog coming out of Italy in the 1980s or 1990s--unless you count the Italian-sounding work of Japanese bands Pazzo Fanfano di Musica, Mr. Sirius, or Asturias--so this album is impressive as well for this fact. Again, were the sound production on this better, we would hold this set of impressive and sincere compositions higher in our esteem. 

88.05 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's collection--this despite the muddy sound production. (Oh, what could/could have been!) 

PÄR LINH PROJECT Gothic Impressions (1994)

The debut album from Pär Lindh and his co-conspirators, their brand of Neo Prog is quite refreshing in that their aim is definitely to recreate a kind of ecclesiastical epoch of music with their church organs and choir banks of voices. The participation of three of the Änglagård crew (Anna, Johan, and Mattias) make this more interesting.

1. "Dresden Lamentation" (2:06) a fitting tribute to the victims of the 1945 firebombing. (4.5/5)
2. "The Iconoclast" (7:04) I like the beginning and chamber/choral end of this but not so much the middle (don't really like the lead male singer's sound or style). (12.5/15)
3. "Green Meadow Lands" (7:24) flute and harpsichord open this. Quite lovely. Nice male vocal with tubular bells and rock ensemble. In fact, the Änglagård trio have quite a big presence on this one. A litttle nod to King Crimson in the fifth and sixth minutes despite the Mike Oldfield-like lead guitar. (14/15)
4. "The Cathedral" (19:33) one of my favorite long-playing epics of the 1990s. (38/40)
5. "Gunnlev's Round" (2:50)  a delightful little pastoral piece done in a baroque style. (5/5)
6. "Night on Bare Mountain" (13:50) never a big fan of this piece by Mussorgsky, this version is performed stylishly but does nothing for me. (26/30)

90.91 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music. Quite an impressive debut

PÄR LINDH PROJECT Mundus Incompertus (1997)

Three years after the debut, a whole new lineup offers some fresh, exciting, and highly polished "gothic prog."

1. "Baroque Impression No. 1" (9:13) more rockin' than Pär Lindh's previous music (except for the heavy parts of "The Iconoclast" and "Green Meadow Lands") it feels as if GRYPHON had chosen to become more rock-oriented. (19/20)

2. "The Crimson Shield (6:38) one of the most gorgeous pastoral prog pieces since Anthony Phillips' "The Geese and The Ghost." Harpsichord and soprano female vocalist Magdalena Hagberg make this sound like something much older than the 20th Century. (10/10)

3. "Mundus Incompertus" (26:43) in my Top 15 favorite long-playing epics of the 1990s. (45.5/50)

Total Time: 42:34

93.125 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.