Friday, June 26, 2020

Top Albums of the Year 1981: Masterpieces and More

Though Prog Is Alive and Well in the 21st Century, I have decided to go back and "fill in" the years upon which the 21st Century is built, and not just the "classic" years of 1967-76. Each year will be given its own page, containing reviews of the albums I determine are worthy of recognition (both positive and negative). As usual, these pages will be works in progress, to which I'll be adding information as it comes my way.



Five Star Masterpieces 
(Ratings of 100 to 93.34) 



1. ESKATON 4 Visions 

I was only introduced to Zeuhl a few years ago (Thanks, ProgArchives!) through the mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, uplifiting, and mesmerizing experience of hearing Magma's Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh. Such is my reverence and awe of MDK (which I consider one of the three greatest albums ever made) that I was almost afraid to try any other Zeuhl albums, much less try any other groups, listed under the Zeuhl sub-genre.
      After  KöhntarköszËmëhntëhtt-Ré, and K.A. I have finally 'risked it.' And I am SO glad I did! ESKATON, XING SA, JANNICK TOP, BONDAGE FRUIT, DÜN, UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA, GUAPO and  KOENJI HYAKKEI are all wonderful. While I have yet to hear an album with the energy and impact of MDK, I am so glad to discover that there is diversity within the sub-genre.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Paule Kleynnaert / vocals, synth
- Amara Tahir / vocals
- Alain Blésing / guitar (1-4)
- Gilles Rozenberg / organ, synth
- Marc Rozenberg / Fender electric piano, synth
- Eric Guillaume / Fender electric piano (1-4)
- André Bernardi / bass
- Gérard Konig / drums, flute (7)

This album, 4 Visions, from way back in 1981, is probably my second favorite of the Zeuhl albums I've heard. (Clue: I keep choosing to play it over everything else in my collection right now.) I love the bass, French vocals, drums, and more extensive use of electronics than I've heard elsewhere within the sub-genre (yet). Plus, the album's finale, "Le cri" (9:02) (20/20) is amazing--among my  favorite Zeuhl 'songs;' perhaps second only to "Da Zeuhl Wortz Mëkanïk." Great listen start to finish. And I love that I can make out and understand the lyrics. Plus it has an awesome album cover!

Best songs:  1. "Eskaton" (10:24) (21/25); the space-funky 2. "Attente" (10:12) with its lyrics being sung by an awesome female choir (19/20); 3. "Ecoute" (12:54) (29/30); 4. "Pitié" (8:46) with its nearly liturgical feel (19.5/20), and, of course; 5. "le cri."

97.27 on the Fishscales = 5 stars, A; Without a doubt a 5 star masterpiece of progressive music.




2. KING CRIMSON Discipline

Though I now realize that Robert Fripp and company were really inventing nothing new here, this was my first exposure to what I call "controlled chaos," to disciplined, demanding, highly intricate playing by multi-instrumentalists in polyrhythmic forms. To my senses, the song "Discipline" is the foundation piece of many, many future rock groups--even the Post Rock/Math Rock sub-genre. I know this is the album that got me to purchase a second generation (composite fretboard) Chapman Stick, the album that convinced my brother to add computerized drums to his already-rather-elaborate Ludwig kit, the album that convinced another brother to treat amplifier feedback as his "friend." And then of course, there are the live concerts we caught after this and the each of the next two albums came out: Mind-blowing! Stupefying! Though I'd seen Tony Levin before several times with Peter Gabriel's tours, these were the concerts at which I came into full awareness and understanding of what a genius and virtuoso he is. And, then, of course, there's my hero, Batterie Bill: living every beat as if it were his soul's expression. "Elephant Talk" is still a masterpiece of sonic and lyrical presentation (10/10). "Frame by Frame" has incredible musicianship with a pretty nice vocal melody (8/10). "Mate Kudasai" is gorgeous beyond belief (9/10). "Indiscipline" never fails to make me laugh?though it represents, for me, 'controlled chaos' at its must wild and untamed. Scary! (10/10). "Thela Hun Ginjeet" tells an incredibly engaging story through the medium of a Sony digital recorder! This one rocks! Just watch the mosh pit! (9/10) "Sheltering Sky" is an all-time favorite for its incredible melodies, the touching and expressive guitar weave and dialogue between Fripp and Belew (Fripp actually got up off his stool one time while playing this one live!) Plus it's got Bruford's incredible 'dancing marimba' rhythm. (10/10) "Discipline." The crown jewel. The song that signaled a revolution: Music with a brain. A beacon of human potential. A testament to man's highest intellectual creative potential. (10/10)
     Four geniuses, each leaders, innovators and virtuosi at their respective instruments, collaborating (right, Robert?) to create music that this avid music listener had never heard (in that way) before. And then they were brave enough to take it on the road. For several years! Forget the stale experimental splurge that came out of King Crimson's earlier incarnation in the 60s and early 70s, this is the music for which KC should be remembered as their "peak."

     Five stars, a masterpieces and one of the greatest contributions to progressive rock ever.

(Added later without the memory of having written the above review:)

Not only did Discipline began a new era of King Crimson, it introduced the world to a new kind of music. The front line of new technologies were being explored here by Messrs. Bruford (Simmons electronic drums), Levin (Chapman Stick envelope pusher), Belew (fretboard, feedback, taping, rhythm and looping experimentalist), and Fripp (guitar synth sounds and odd tempo rhythms) but more, the forms and formats of song presentation were also being tested as well as the polyrhythmic elements of world ethnic musics.

1. "Elephant Talk" (4:45) is highlighted by so many layers of jaw-dropping individual performances but also by Adrian Belew's erudite lists of words associated with "talk", each verse organized by alphabetic order, A through E, and by Belew's incredible guitar-produced "elephant" noises. (9.5/10)

2. "Frame by Frame" (5:13) is distinguished by some incredible polyrhythmic, multi-tempo play and gorgeous vocals by Adrian (lead) and Tony (b vox). Though the song is a bit repetitive in its ABACAB form, it remains a fascinating display of instrumental discipline to me. (9/10)

3. "Matte Kudasai" (3:49) is, seriously, IMHO, one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Between Adrian's heart-wrenching bottleneck work and his gorgeous vocal telling the tale of a sad Japanese "kept woman" living in America waiting for her lover. Great little solo from Señor Fripp as well. (10/10)

4. "Indicscipline" (4:36) is, of course, highlighted by the crazed, crazy yet very disciplined drumming by M. Bruford and the frenzied, on-the-edge soloing by Fripp, as well as the humorous narration by Belew. And the quote, "I repeat myself when under stress! I repeat myself when under stress! I repeat myself when under stress! . . ." (9.5/10)

5. "Thela Hun Ginjeet" (6:28) is another incredibly creative journey into the intensely focused mind and soul of wildman Adrian Belew. Built around a recording he made on a Sony digital micro-recorder while walking the streets of Manhattan, it revolves around hard driving rather straightforward rhythm and melody lines while displaying the awesome power and, again, (I have to use the word:) discipline of these four musical virtuosos. Next come my favorite two songs. (9.75/10)

6. "The Sheltering Sky" (8:26) is an incredibly beautiful showcase of the disparate and yet complementary talents and styles of King Crimson, Version 2's two lead guitarists--all built around a hypnotic rhythm created by maestro Bill Bruford on a hand-held marimba. (Hand-held so Hyper-Bill could walk/dance around the stage/studio while playing.) (20/20)

7. "Discipline" (5:03) is, to my mind, the single most important musical "song" of the 1980s. In it you can hear, see, experience and re-live the most concentrated, focused, disciplined, magically entwined and interwoven multiple melody and rhythm lines ever put to tape. Too bad Sir Robert never had enough trust in his own inner sense of time nor that of Maestro Bruford to let the track go without his metronomic click track, but, so be it. Belew and Fripp make it look like they're working their asses off on this one while the B.L.U.E. rhythmatists make it seem effortless. Amazing! (10/10)

97.19 on the Fishscales = A+/five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music and a major step forward in the evolution of prog. What people really fail to appreciate about this masterpiece of music creativity is the subtle yet complex and multi-layered contributions Tony Levin on his Chapman Stick made to each and every song. Every time I've seen this band perform it is always, ALWAYS Tony Levin that leaves me with the greatest feelings of respect and admiration. He is the glue to so many albums that I own, and yet no one really appreciates how much he contributes. By far and away the greatest "bass" player I've ever seen or heard.






3. PAT METHENY & LYLE MAYS As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls

Wow! What a ride is the title song "As Falls..." (40/40) is! Truly one of the great prog epics of all-time and, according to my own system of metrics, the greatest of the 1980s. Naná Vasconcelos, Lyle and Pat take you on a journey into the planetary ethernet before the WWW was even conceived! Then there is Side 2! The joyful "Ozark" (9/10); the emotional and beautiful tribute to then-recently deceased jazz giant, Bill Evans, "September Fifteenth" (15/15), and; the also-so-joyful "It's for You (New Chautauqua, Pt. 2)" (19/20). I was and still am so blown away by this album. The shock and awe is as powerful as it was the first time I heard it in 1981. A masterpiece of progressive music by one of the most creative, eclectic and prolific music artists of this or any generation.

1. "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls" (20:46) my number one favorite LP prog epic from the 1980s! (40/40)

96.67 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; an unquestionable masterpiece of progressive rock music and a milestone in the evolution of jazz-rock fusion.




4. ANTHONY PHILLIPS 1984

This is an album that shocked me when I bought it having never heard it. A big fan of all-things Anthony Phillips, I had never really given his keyboard work much credit until this album (though I had the Camel, Mike Rutherford albums to which he had contributed keyboards). To me he was the God of the 12-string, a guitarist of serious artistry. But, with 1984, from the opening sound of the drum machine to the soon ensuing layers of keyboard synthesizers (with guitars skulking in the background!) Not a lyric or vocal to be found. (Ant's only weakness may be in those laryngeal chords God gave him.) I was blown away! The series of melodic movements Ant carries one through during the 41:23 monster 'song' that he created in honor of the passing of the year that writer George Orwell had made so iconic is incredible. I remember playing this album for weeks with joy and amazement, fully entranced by the journey. It was like Mike Oldfield great epics and Todd Rundgren's "Treatise on Cosmic Fire"--which I adored--but this was somehow better. How could computer drums, keyboard bass, and layers of synthesizer take the place of real rock instruments. I mean, I has heard songs like this but never a whole instrumental album delivered so seemless, so beautifully, so convincingly. (As I listen to it as I write I am reminded of the effect it always has of drawing me into an alternate world--making me feel as if I am floating within the liquid of the musical soundscape. No wonder Ant has found such success in scoring for BBC projects.) The variations of themes with and within each "Movement" is masterful--each revealing a new melodic theme that continues to steer the listener's journey of mystery, of tension and release, tension and release. All while stringing us along on that rather cheezy drum machine (a Roland CR-78)--though the great Morris Pert is along for the ride--providing background percussives. Amazing! And amazing is this album--certainly a long lost masterpiece that has too long flown under the radar and been ignored or dismissed. This is definitely an awesome listen. As good if not better than any electronic album before or of its time (and yes that includes Kitaro, Tomita, Larry Fast, Klaus and TD).

"1984, Part 1" (18:41) (38.5/40) = 9.625
"1984, Part 2" - ANTHONY PHILLIPS (27/30) = 9.0

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





The "Minor" Masterpieces
(Ratings of 93.33 to 90.0)



5. UNIVERS ZERO Ceux du dehors

The exploration of blending classical chamber forms with rock instrumentation and elements continues. This, Uzed's third album release, is, in my opinion, so far, the band's most diverse and accessible album. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Andy Kirk / piano, harmonium, organ, Saint-Jacques Church organ (2), Mellotron (1,4), vocals (2,7), glockenspiel & Yamaha CP70 (6)
- Patrick Hanappier / viola, violin, vocals (2)
- Michel Berckmans / bassoon, oboe, English horn (1), vocals (2)
- Guy Segers / bass, clarinet (7), vocals (2,7)
- Daniel Denis / drums, percussion, vocals (2,7), cymbals (6), harmonium & violin (7)
With:
- Ilona Chale / vocals (4)
- Jean-Luc Aimé / violin (3)
- Thierry Zaboitzeff / cello (6)
- Jean Debefve / hurdy-gurdy (2)

1. "Dense" (12:26) definitely constructed to be danceable, the pacing and spacing conjure up a whole stage of pitter-patting and flitting ballet dancers. Full rock complement of drums and bass does nothing to hurt this music. In fact, it would be impossible to establish the baseline insistently frenetic pace without them. And, most surprising, is the overall Moulin Rouge feel to the music: none of the dark, somber sound and mood here. Even the slow accordion-driven section in the fifth minute retains some element of human positivity (like "rest"). The cor anglais work in the sixth minute is my favorite: I can see the solo ballerina dancing her ever-increasing expenditure of radiating energy as the instrument proceeds, with other dancers slowly rejoining on stage as the horn gives way to the rest of the returning band members. At 8:45 there is a sudden build and cut, leaving a dark, quiet, passage of ambivalent tension. This carries on for two minutes before horns and strings rejoin with a repetition of upward-climbing spirals of chords and melody notes--all occurring over the still-insistent pulsing bass lines.  (22.75/25)

2. "La Corne du Bois des Pendus" (8:42) opens with an ancient feeling with hurdy gurdy/harmonium and woodwinds before monastic like wordless choir vocals join in. Reset and harmonium and reeds take another round. Round and round these two motifs go until around 3:30 strings get a pop--in the absence of the rhythm tracks. Reeds join in and then back off for solo choir "ahhs" before recorded crowd noises fill the foundational space for harmonium and strings to play some very discordant, disturbing music. At the six-minute mark church organ sweeps everything else away for a solo shot. It is then joined by oboe and viola and then bass as the music builds and peaks at the very end of the eighth minute--and stays there for the rest of the song!
     I am such a sucker for replications of "ancient" pre-classical musics that I find myself totally immersed in this beautiful, nostalgic song. It's like taking a walking journey through the 15th century section of Rennes or the like. (19/20)

3. "Bonjour Chez Vous" (3:52) listening to this from the year 2023 I can honestly say how little the band has changed in 30 years as this song could very easily have come off of the band's 2010 masterpiece, Clivages. (I know they went through their phase of experimenting with electronic instruments with 2042's Implosion but you know what I mean.) Here they are more upbeat than is typical of the band. The use of classically-established chamber music forms and motifs feels like a direct link to the music of 21st Century genius, Olga Podgaiskaja (Rational Diet, Five-Storey Ensemble). (8.75/10)

4. "Combat" (12:53) militaristic drums are paired up with electric bass over which reeds and strings create their unbridled chromatic chord progressions. At the one-minute mark there is suddenly a stoppage, a quiet before the impending storm, which is slowly filled by a slow-build return of the militaristic elements and accompanying idiosyncratic groups and individuals. Fascinating! In the fourth minute one can feel the coagulating esprit de corps   (23.5/25)

5. "La Musique d'Erich Zann" (3:29) like a soundtrack to a particularly frightening scene in a F.W. Murnau film. Strings alone--and principally one violin. Very effective. (9/10)

6. "La Tete du Corbeau" (3:11) now hear is the macabre sound that I'd come to expect from Uzed! Coming from a low end ascending scale, repeated over and over, measure after measure, contrasted with another group of instruments playing minor descending melodies. Almost like a mathematical study! (9/10)

7. "Triomphe des Mouches" (5:36) tension from a sustained harmonium chord is toyed with by treated piano notes and before "Jaws"-like riff enters at the very end of the second minute. Harmonium, piano, and violins create a syncopated rhythmic fabric of music over the top of the pulsing bass instruments' notes. Interesting if different. Exaggerated breathing/groaning voices join in before a percussive bridge to more frenetic harmonium (at least two harmonia!) and piano play reach new heights of tension. The flies win! How terrifying! (8.75/10)

Total Time: 50:09

After two albums, the UZed sound and prevailing dark mood no longer come as such a shock. For some reason, I find the songs of Ceux du dehors to be the most accessible and enjoyable collection of the band's discography.

91.59 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a masterpiece of Avant Garde/RIO music but also a continued reminder to all prog rockers of the potentialities of their genre of music. In my opinion, Univers Zero is essential listening for all musicians proclaiming a desire to carry the torch of true progression in modern music.



6. LOS JAIVAS Alturas de Machu Picchu

I own both the film that was made in the slopes, stones, and ruins of Machu Picchu for this music as well as the album and love both. The 1970s costuming is a bit dated (and slightly embarrassing), but the rock blend of classical and Andean folk musical traditions that these men pulled together to accompany the words of revered poet Pablo Neruda is ingenious not to mention brave and courageous. Each of the musicians is quite adept at their instruments (including singing!) though there are a few awkward moments where the transition and blending of electronic rock instruments with Spanish or Andean folk instruments (which are, obviously, acoustic) take some adjusting for we, the listener. The music, I'm sure, would have far more impact on me if Spanish were a language I command, but even without, this is it is highly engaging and often quite emotional. I love the pacing of the album's first two songs--slow, methodical, building both mood and power. Some of the melodies are foreign and a bit grating to my own sensibilities (like the opening to the third song, "Amor Americano"), but I can accept, appreciate, and respect them for the regional and ethnic traditions that they represent. Also, the sound engineering could have been better in places but it serves. All in all, I cannot argue that this is in fact a masterpiece of progressive rock music--a shining example of one of the highest achievements of what our artistic genre can accomplish. is the seventh release of these Chilean Prog Folk masters but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest of their output for two reasons: 1) it is a concept album based around the poems that Pablo Naruda did of the same name, and 2) a movie version of the album was filmed on site among the ruins of the ancient Incan capitol city of Macchu Picchu. The film gives the music a much fuller impact. Check it out if you can, it's breathtaking for the scenery (if a bit comical for the period clothing and hair styles).

LOS JAIVAS is exceptional for the extraodinarily effective way in which they were able to blend traditional Andean and Hispanic folk instrumentation with the European and electrical rock instruments and effects--and Alturas de Macchu Picchu is a brilliant representation of this fact. Pan flutes, ceramic pipes and flutes, big mountain drums and horns mixed into the same weave with piano, electric bass, synthesizers, expanded drum kit and acoustic and electric guitars--with neither backing off to the other, each holding their own in the mix, in the weave--it's amazing to hear! 

The first fourteen minutes of the studio album--consisting of 1. "Del aire al aire" (2:14) (5/5) and 2. "La poderosa del muerta" (11:08) (20/20) are absolutely flawless. It is only with the festive drinking song, 3. "Amor americana" (5:26) that the choice of song styling gets a little out of my comfort zone (though many native Latin Americans would probably love and appreciate it). (7/10)

Luckily, the music gets back on track with the gorgeous multi-instrument weave of 4. "Aguila sideral" (5:19) in which bass and piano are as important as native flutes and voices. (10/10)

5. "Antigua America" (5:37) opens with a kind of multi-instrumental Native American Jethro Tull riff before solo flute and solo classical grand piano preparing us for the build and blend into the powerfully paced and dynamic themes of the body. I can't help but hear a kind of Asian influence in the melody--I don't know if this is intentional as representational of the anthropologic evidence of the arrival of Native American population from Asia via the former Bering Straits land bridge or not, but it could be. (9/10)

6. "Sube a nacer conmigo hermano" (4:47) brings us back into the realm of local, traditional Latin/Andean musical styles and rhythms. Very dynamic with the choral call-and-response sections that seems so pervasive in Latin American musical traditions. I would like to mention here how pianist Claudio Parra shines throughout this album. He is extraordinary. (8/10)

7. "Final" (2:33) is a gentle weave of multiple voices singing over a sea of ever shifting chords of rapid piano arpeggi. (9/10)

Total time 37:04

90.67 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; though not quite the equal of the video movie presentation, this music does stand on its own quite well; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and definitely a masterpiece of progressive folk rock music.



4.5 Stars; Excellent Additions to Prog World
(Ratings 89.99 to 86.67)



7.  EAST Játékok

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.




8. RUSH Moving Pictures

I've resisted listening to this album in one sitting. Ever. Remember, I owned their first albums (through the first live album) and, by the time they hit their "prog era" I had moved into serious prog, away from power cords. But today, June 25, 2020, I'm going to give it a go. Wish me luck!
      I've never liked the sound engineering of this album, the instruments seem to exist each in their own universe, they aren't well blended. Plus, I have never liked that Oberheim sound. And the songs just aren't ... my cup of tea. Are these drums really that impressive?

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alex Lifeson / 6- & 12-strings electric and acoustic guitars, Taurus bass pedals
- Geddy Lee / basses, bass pedals, synthesizers (Oberheim polyphonic, OB-X, Mini-Moog), vocals
- Neil Peart / drums, timbales, orchestra bells, glockenspiel, wind chimes, crotales, percussions
With:
- Hugh Syme / synthesizers (6)
- Terry Brown / co-arranger & co-producer

1. "Tom Sawyer" (4:34) never did much for me. I always find myself bothered by any lack of cohesion or flow. (8.67/10)

2. "Red Barchetta" (6:08) starts out okay, instrumentally, (though sounding very 80s-ish) before singing and SKA and Jimmy Page guitar licks ensue. Maybe the lyrics are supposed to mean something to me. The shift in the middle shows promise but then never delivers. Interesting violin-sounding guitar solo. (8.67/10)

3. "YYZ" (4:24) the much lauded and revered instrumental. Anticipation. Nice instrumental teamwork but, come on people, have you ever heard of Mahavishnu Orchestra? Return to Forever?  (8.5/10)

4. "Limelight" (4:21) one of the more accessible and melodic songs on the album (though sounding a LOT like "Fly by Night"). The drums are more enjoyable when they're singled out. (8.75/10)

5. "The Camera Eye" (10:57) opens like a late-70s jazz-rock fusion song before beefing up and then taking a sharp left in the third minute. Silly synth noises and two-chord strings with unusual power chord progressions. I like the more laid-back vocal style here (like that used in "Limelight"). Nice use of space between power chords. When Geddy's voice becomes more insistent, raising an octave, it works. Then another ninety-degree turn. About half way through I can see that a rotation of themes is becoming apparent. Again, maybe these would be better if I heard the words--if I cared about the verbal message being conveyed. For me, the voice is just another instrument. Okay. I made it through that one. Interesting. But I've heard better. So many better. (17.25/20) 

6. "Witch Hunt (Part III of Fear)" (4:44) Blurry power chord progressions dominate the soundscape while Geddy sings and syncopated percussives are randomly thrown in. With fuzzy synth chords, the song congeals and tension builds. Some nice chord shifts here and there. For me, this has been the best musical journey of the album. (9/10)

7. "Vital Signs" (4:47) more POLICE-like SKA with CARS-like synth-bass. Musically, this is a very accessible, engaging song. Depending on what Geddy's singing about, I don't know one didn't get radio play. I especially like that there is an anthemic phrase repeated over and over at the end, "Everybody got deviate/elevate/escalate from the norm." My favorite song on the album. (9.33/10)

Total Time: 39:55

For being such a well-loved and famous album, I'm very surprised that there was so much of it that I had never heard before:  pretty much all of Side Two.

87.39 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice contribution to Prog World.




9. EIDER STELLAIRE 

Founded by OFFERING drummer Michel Le Bars. (What a distinction and honor it must be to have been chosen by drummer extraordinaire Christian Vander to be his drummer!).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Véronique Perrault / vocals
- Jean-Claude Delachat / guitar
- Pierre Gerard-Hirne / pianos, organ
- Marie-Anne Boda / flute, vocals
- Patrick Singery / bass
- Michel Le Bars / drums
With:
- Michel Moindron / tenor saxophone (4)

1. "Onde" (8:35) solid Zeuhl fare with differing keyboard sounds but still using chunky bass and drums to propel the music ever onward. Very nice guitar work from Jean-Claude Delachat. Well performed overall but lacking a little of the "raptured soul" of Vander's stuff. (18/20)

2. "Arctis 6.ème Éphéméride" (7:04) chunky fretless bass á la JACO PASTORIUS, the song has a very nice progression with imperceptibly smooth transitions. Though I'm not a fan of the fuzzed up Mahavishnu John McLaughlin sound employed by the guitarist, I laud the work--his play with the bass player and off of the female choir. I also enjoy the subtle presence of the flute. (13.5/15)

3. "Légende" (5:37) more JACO bass, bouncy Fender Rhodes, quieter drums, to support the lead guitarist's work--and it is extraordinary, I must say. I'd say this one is less Zeuhlish, more jazz fusion. But it's really good! (9.5/10) 

4. "Tétra" (6:32) slow, then fast, based in Latin rhythms, then Mahavishnu-like driving speed with Jean-Claude again the feature instrumentalist (which is not really in the true spirit of Zeuhl), this song shows good musicianship and emotional CORRADO RUSTICI-like guitar skills and stylings, but the funky bass, and tempo shifts don't always work. Sax in the latter half is a welcome addition. (8.5/10)

5. "Nihil" (7:26) opening like a Vander composition, letting whole band and voices slow-build into the main body of the song, it's good, it follows the Magma forms and examples, but, in the end, it's not quite Magma. It's the bass and singular female voice that detract. And though the drums start out very strong, they don't remain one of the driving forces of the song as Christian does--it's the simple bass and key chords that do a better job of that. Something about the way the drums are mixed into the soundscape weaken them, I think. (12/15)

Total Time: 35:14

87.14 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a wonderful contribution to the Zeuhl jazz fusion world--here fusing the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA sound and style with Le Bars MAGMA training.




Other Very Good Albums
(Ratings of 86.67 to 85.0)



10. ELOY Planets

Line-up / Musicians:
- Frank Bornemann / lead vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, co-producer
- Hannes Arkona / acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards
- Hannes Folberth / keyboards
- Klaus-Peter Matziol / basses, backing vocals
- Jim McGillivray / drums, percussion
With:
- Wolfgang Dyhr / strings arranger & conductor

1. Introduction (1:58)
2. On The Verge Of Darkening Lights (5:37)
3. Point Of No Return (5:45)
4. Mysterious Monolith (7:40)
5. Queen Of The Night (5:22)
6. At The Gates Of Dawn (4:17)
7. Sphinx (6:50)
8. Carried By Cosmic Winds (4:32)

Total Time: 42:01





11. OSIRIS Osiris (1981)

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
With:
- Sabah Al-Sadeqi / lead vocals & guitar (8)
- Khalid Almutawa / bass (8)
- Nader Rafii / congas

SIDE 1
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)

SIDE 2
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!!! 




12. CAMEL Nude

 I used to play this one a lot in the early eighties. Along with ANTHONY PHILLIPS' 1984, I think it one of the under-appreciated gems of the early 80s. Lots of catchy melodies, pretty song structures founded in some traditional Japanese music, the album has a really nice flow of songs to tell the concept album's story (based on a true life event) about a Japanese soldier from World War II who has been living alone on a small Pacific Island for thirty years without knowing that the war is over--thinking that he is still fighting for his emperor and country. Found and brought back to Japan, Hiroo Onoda has to come to grips with the extraordinary changes in the world, his country, and his family.

The album's weaknesses are its New Age keyboard sounds and the horrible play and recording of the drums. (Was this really Andy WARD--THE Andy Ward?!?!) There are several really nice vintage CAMEL instrumental passages/songs. "Beached" [3:32] [9/10] was always a highlight for me on Side One and "Reflections" [2:45] "The Birthday Cake"[4:05] and "Nude's Return" [3:42] on Side Two. Still, the music is often a bit simplistic and corny, which is why I can't give this one more than three stars.




THIS HEAT Deceit

An historically important album that received virtually no notice or attention at the time of its release, this post-punk classic found musicians Charles Hayward and Charles Bullen collaborating with friend (and non-musician) Gareth Williams to create this album in the confines of their own former-manufacturing plant-converted-to-recording studio. The musicians say that at the time they were making this album they had a firm belief that they were going to die. The tired, angry, angst-filled "post-punk" spirit informs each and every one of these cynical, disconsolate creations. Very critical of social political forms, trends, and events of the time. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Charles Bullen / guitar, clarinet, drums, tapes, vocals
- Gareth Williams / keyboards, bass, tapes, vocals
- Charles Hayward / drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, tapes, vocals

1. Sleep (2:15)
2. Paper Hats (6:03)
3. Triumph (2:56)
4. SPQR (3:29)
5. Cenotaph (4:40)
6. Shrink Wrap (1:41)
7. Radio Prague (2:22)
8. Makeshift Swahili (4:05)
9. Independence (3:43)
10. A New Kind Of Water (4:58)
11. Hi Baku Shyo (Suffer Bomb Disease) (4:04)

Total Time: 40:16

An album that sounds totally like another Brian Eno project--maybe with his own musician friends or with members of Talking Heads' expanded format (e.g. Adrian Belew). very oriented to rhythm and lyric not necessarily melody (though chant is a modality often used herein). I really liked this listening experience: the creators have very similar complaints and worries that I've had over the course of my lifetime. Plus, I really appreciate the passionate forms of expression the trio use to make their pleas known. A very powerful, haunting experience. (I haven't been able to get the moods and ideas out of my head since hearing it.) Though musically this may not be a collection of truly masterful songs, as a piece of art expression the truest emotions of the human experience this is spectacular and much appreciated.




Not As Good As Advertized


 

DUN - Eros (1980) This is a jazzier, more up-beat expression of Zeuhl (if in fact, it is Zeuhl. I mean: how does one become 'Zeuhl'? Call up Christian Vander and ask approval? I've heard some groups assigned the 'Zeuhl' sub-genre moniker are disappointed [XING SA] and others who so obviously should fall in this category based upon their musical style aren't [GUAPO]. But then again, bands change and, unfortunately, this site hasn't seemed to figure out how to let individual albums receive their own individual assignations, instead of a band once and forever being labeled 'Symphonic' [GENESIS] or 'Crossover' [BIG BIG TRAIN] or 'Black Metal' [ULVER]  [really, 'Post Rock/Math Rock'] or 'Experimental/Post Metal' [THE GATHERING] when the whole of their catalogues hardly express the sub-genre of music to which they were originally assigned. Somehow they've managed it on the new JMA (JAZZMUSICARCHIVES.COM) that Max et al. have created.)

1.  "L'épice" (9:25) is, to my mind, a mix of some of the more dissonant musics of CHICK COREA/RETURN TO FOREVER and the Avant Garde stylings of YUGEN or UNIVERS ZÉRO (with, of course, the variation on HENRY MANCINI's "Peter Gunn" bass line). Kudos to the searing jazz rock guitar and warbled bass sound in the first section. More KOTEBEL-like flute in the second section. (I know I'm terribly guilty of assigning similarities between two different group's sounds even when one far predates the one I'm comparing it to. Je m'excuse.) (12/20)

2. "Arrakis" (9:36) is, to my mind, the most nearly true Zeuhl song on the album, yet still more jazz-sounding and uplifting than most MAGMA work. It's very similar to the sound EUMIR DEODATO created on his two studio albums from the early 70s, Prelude and Deodato 2. The first 4 minutes and 15 seconds are quite enjoyable. The up-tempo middle section (4:15-6:50) is a bit tedious (mostly for the straightforward time signature held by the metronomic drumming), but the last sections are again quite fun (even the drum solo--at times flanged; a very cool effect, IMO).

3. "Bitonio" (7:09) begins like a staccato all-band percussion jam from the PAT METHENY GROUP song. Then piano arpeggios take the song into a different  direction?one of flow and linearity. The next switch into the distorted/treated bass and decaying synth notes is interesting, but then it just as suddenly ends, to be replaced by a very spacious and suspenseful movie soundtrack scene:

(Now he's there, in front of you! He's chasing you!)

(Run!)

(A hiding place! Stop! Don't breath! Be invisible! )

(Is he coming? Should I check and see? No. Yes.)

(There he is! Run!) 

4. "Eros" (10:17) takes one on quite a diverse journey. Because of the wonderful flute work in the rather pretty first section, I am reminded of several of the songs on EUMIR DEODATO's 1973 classic, Prelude. The second more avant garde section reminds me of KOTEBEL as well as Andean pipe musics. I like the ingenius effect as the weave of the guitar, bass and drums tightens and comes forward to overcome and then take over for the flute before settling in to support a funky synth solo. This is followed around the eight minute mark by a return to more avante jazz sounds and structures. An unusual crash and lull-to-fade completes the song.  Overall this album provides the listener with an experience more similar to that of UNIVERS ZERO than MAGMA, IMO.

73.33 on the Fishscales = C-/three stars; a fair album. Great composition and performance but lacking in accessibility and pleasure. Recommended for the experience--and for "Arrakis."







Albums on the Fringe of Prog World


THE POLICE Ghost in the Machine

If ever there was a pop album by a renowned indie pop band that deserves consideration for being a "prog" album, this may be it. The alternative rock radio station in Fort Pierce, Florida, would freely and liberally play each and every song from this album when it came out and through 1982, making it, to my mind, an automatic association to the "album rock" bands like Yes, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, AC/DC, and Pink Floyd.

Lineup / Musicians:
Sting - bass, lead vocals
Andy Summers - guitars, synthesizers
Stewart Copeland - drums & percussion

1. "Spirits In The Material World" (2:58) (10/10)
2. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" (4:20) (9.75/10)
3. "Invisible Sun" (3:43) (9.5/10)
4. "Hungry For You (J'Aurais Toujours Faim De Toi)" (2:52) (/10)
5. "Demolition Man" (5:54) (8.75/10)
6. "Too Much Information" (3:42) (/10)
7. "Rehumanize Yourself" (3:10) (/10)
8. "One World (Not Three)" (4:45) (/10)
9. "Ωmegaman" (2:47) (9.5/10)
10. "Secret Journey" (3:32) (10/10)
11. "Darkness" (3:11) (9.5/10)




PHIL COLLINS Face Value

The debut solo album from Genesis drummer-turned-lead vocalist Phil Collins. On this album, Phil still makes the listener very aware of his skills and foundation in la batterie yet also definitely makes his case that he has the songwriting and singing skills to become a pop star. The opener, "In the Air Tonight" has taken a firm place as one of the four or five greatest "classic rock" songs of all-time and "I Missed Again" introduced us to his future "Earth, Wind & Fire" sound that would make him an award-winning pop superstar.


Lineup / Musicians:
Phil Collins - Vocals, drums, percussion, keyboards, programming

1. "In The Air Tonight" (5:27) (10/10)
2. "This Must Be Love" (3:55) (/10)
3. "Behind The Lines" (3:54) (/10)
4. "The Roof Is Leaking" (3:15) (/10)
5. "Droned" (2:49) (5/5)
6. "Hand In Hand" (5:20) (/10)
7. "I Missed Again" (3:40) (8.75/10)
8. "You Know What I Mean" (2:33) (/5)
9. "Thunder And Lightning" (4:11) (/10)
10. "I'm Not Moving" (2:30) (/5)
11. "If Leaving Me Is Easy" (4:54) (/10)
12. "Tomorrow Never Knows" (4:18) (9.5/10)
13. "Over The Rainbow" (




GENESIS ABACAB

     Welcome to the new world: thanks to Phil's work on Peter Gabriel's third eponymous album, we have THE GATED DRUM! (Which I hate. But history is history.) The songs of ABACAB seem much simpler. (More use of the A-B-A-C-A-B song form.) The band uses much less complex chord structures and much less subtleties or surprises within these songs than previous albums. I'm not sure I feel confident continuing to categorize their music as "progressive rock"--and I most definitely can no longer consider this the same kind of music the band was producing in the 1971 to 1977 time span.

Favorite songs: "Dodo/Lurker" (7:32) (12.75/15); "ABACAB" (6:58) (13/15); "Man on the Corner" (4:27) (8.5/10) (perhaps my favorite theatric Phil Collins vocal of all-time--he really hits it hard and powerfully, even if it is a bit over the top), and the chorus of "Keep It Dark" (4:32) (8.5/10)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Phil Collins / vocals, drums
- Mike Rutherford / guitars, basses
- Tony Banks / keyboards (Prophet synth)
With:
- The EWF Horns / horns (2)
- Thomas "Tom Tom 84" Washington / horns arrangements (2)

1. Abacab (7:01) (13/15)
2. No Reply At All (4:40) (8.25/10)
3. Me And Sarah Jane (5:59) (8.25/10)
4. Keep It Dark (4:31) 
(8.5/10)
5. Dodo / Lurker (7:28) 
(12.75/15)
6. Who Dunnit? (3:22) (7.75/10)
7. Man On The Corner (4:26) 
(8.5/10)
8. Like It Or Not (4:57) (7.5/10)
9. Another Record (4:28) (8/10)

Total Time: 46:52

Another very good album from the three remaining Genesis members, Tony BANKS, Mike RUTHERFORD and Phil COLLINS. This one a shorter collection of totally unrelated songs (as opposed to the band's previous effort, the Broadway musical, Duke). I liked this album pretty well, and even went to see the band on their American tour supporting it.

I don't like the three-chord rock, the use of pseudo-Reggae rhythms/riffs, the use of Phil's friends' horns, and, of course, the gated drums. Otherwise this is an okay record.

81.5 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; a fair contribution to music though less and less proggy.





VAN HALEN Fair Warning

Never a huge Van Halen fan, I was always intrigued by the innovative musicianship and sound created by guitarist Eddie Van Halen. For me, this album felt like a breakout, "solo" album by Eddie as there were a lot of songs that seemed to show no desire for pop/radio listenership, were intended only to satisfy some personal artistic urges. The results, however, are sonically, creatively, among the most interesting the band (and Eddie) ever created.

"Mean Street"(4:55)
"'Dirty Movies'"(4:06)
"Sinner's Swing!"(3:08)
"Hear About It Later"(4:33)
"Unchained"(3:27)
"Push Comes To Shove"(3:48)
"So This Is Love?"(3:05)
"Sunday Afternoon In The Park"(2:00)
"One Foot Out The Door"(1:56)




BRUCE COCKBURN Inner City Front

I only discovered the music of Bruce Cockburn with his 1983 release, The Trouble with Normal, but was so won over that I immediately started backtracking into his discography--which led me to the discovery of this masterpiece--most definitely my favorite pre-TTwN release of his (other than, perhaps, his 1977 live album, Circles in the Stream).

The hit opener, "You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance" has been a concert fan favorite ever since it came out and "Wanna Go Walking," "And We Dance," "Broken Wheel," and "Justice" creep in and out of his concert repertoire from time to time but it is the insistent, soul-screaming "Loner" that has been and remains one of my favorite Bruce Cockburn prog epics of all-time. Not only for it's amazing vocal performance of some seriously powerful and personal lyrics, but the guitar and violin soloing throughout. It's amazing!




TOM TOM CLUB Tom Tom Club

Who could not like-even-love this happy go lucky jaunt through quirky poppy land? Every song on this album offers ear-worm aural candy and brain-worm catchy lyrics. And did we forget that Tom Tom Club is none other than the husband-wife rhythm section of Talking Heads without leader David Byrne or guitarist Jerry Harrison? Then there's the presence of guitar genius Adrian Belew, in the prime of his "outburst" into public recognition, pouring out sounds, rhythms, and riffs for the ages. No wonder this music is so fun!

1. "Wordy Rappington" (6:27)
2. "Genius of Love" (5:34) (10/10)
3. "Tom Tom Theme" (1:25)
4. "L'Éléphant" (4:50) (9.5/10)
5. "As Above, So Below" (5:23)
6. "Lorelei" (5:05)
7. "On, On, On, On..." (3:33)
8. "Booming and Zooming" (4:32)





SPECIAL MENTION:


TANGERINE DREAM Thief Original Soundtrack Music

Despite knowing that the film's AMAZING finale, "Confrontation," was NOT a TD composition--that it was cobbled together by Craig Safan while TD was out on tour--this was THE album (and film going experience) that sucked me into the TD fold; up to this point I was only a luke-warm dilettante/fan of their music.

If any music fit a movie soundtrack perfectly, this was it!

Friday, June 19, 2020

"Prog Homage"

The human mind has a natural tendency, some say even a need, to try to accommodate incoming sensory data within compartments or categories. Data that has some degree of familiarity is easier to interpret and accept. There has long been a tendency for musicians to learn their craft by imitating the musics and musicians that they like and admire. Some of these musicians may even form or join bands that initially gel by practicing other people's songs. These bands may even get the courage up to try to perform live--often as a "cover band"--playing only songs that are familiar and therefore enjoyable and/or danceable to their audiences. Often these cover bands, if they are successful and inspired enough, may try to inject some of their own burgeoning ideas into their music--either within their interpretations of pre-existing songs that they are covering or in the form of "original" music, i.e. their own compositions. With some bands or individuals within bands this drive to create their own songs may be so strong that they either propel their fellow band members into doing more of this, eventually even doing only original music. In many cases, the drive to create new will meet with resistance from those content with playing other people's music or the desire to perform and record original songs may lead to a rift in the band between those with grander aspirations (like "fame") and those members who are more content with their involvement with music being local, part-time, and less consuming of their life.
     There has long been a tendency in progressive rock music to imitate, emulate, or be inspired by the work of other musician/artists that have preceded or are even concurrent with one's own existence. The imitative bands can go to such extremes as trying to play only one band's music, even performing as tribute bands. This group most often includes out-right replicators of the "Big Four," Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson, such as, Fragile, Off The Wall and Pink Floyd Legend, ReGenesis and The Musical Box, Schizoid King and 21st Century Schizoid Band, respectively. Others may be more likely to explore reproduction of a particular sound or style from the past.
     There can often be seen in progressive rock music a kind of evolution within a band's formation and evolution in which there is a leap from imitator to emulator to and sometimes, to innovator. 
In Prog World a term has been devised to try to compartmentalize artists whose work imitates or emulates the work of one or even a fusion of one or more bands from the past. We call this Neo Prog. There has grown a proclivity to create totally new music using a sound or style that is familiar to the listener that we can easily accommodate this music into a direct comparison to the old music of one particular band. I am choosing to call this music "Prog Homage." The music coming from these bands is so carefully and blatantly culled from a predecessor as to make the listener think that this could be music or songs that were "lost" or kept from publication by the originator of this sound or style. These are the kinds of albums or bands that have mystified or confused critics and reviewers, that have received high commendations for the quality of their contributions to the music world--even made us pine for the loss or lack of content from the originals. We're talking bands like KLAATU, DUKES OF STRATOSPHEAR, MR. SIRIUS, THE FLOWER KINGS, CITIZEN CAIN, THE WATCH, WOBBLER, AIRBAG/J RIIS, and even ANEKDOTEN, CICCADA, ROB READ/MAGENTA, TONY PATTERSON, and NAD SYLVAN.
     This has been bugging me for some time. Every time I hear an album or song that is so clearly created in a particular style and sound of another "Classic" era band--especially when the song is so flawlessly composed, recorded by virtuosic performers, as to make one think of what song or era of the predecessor's discography it may have come from. The amazing albums produced by Norwegian bands WOBBLER and AIRBAG in this past decade has really spurred this on. The devotion to sound and production detail in their wholly original compositions is simply mind-boggling. In some cases I find myself thinking that these new, modern songs might even be superior to the songs that informed and inspired them. 
     Welcome to a new sub-genre of progressive rock music: Prog Homage.

Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your own feelings and/or terminologies and means for categorizing these master mantle-usurpers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Comparing ProgArchives' Top Albums from the 1960s & 1970s

Here is the list of the Top 30 Progressive Rock Albums from the 1960s and 1970s--including the "classic era" of prog--according to the ratings system of the world's leading database on progressive rock music, ProgArchives.com:


The 60s & 70s:
1. Yes – Close to the Edge
2. Genesis – Selling England by the Pound
3. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
4. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
5. Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick
6. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
7. Genesis - Foxtrot
8. King Crimson - Red
9. Pink Floyd - Animals
10. Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff
11. Yes - Fragile
12. Genesis – Nursery Cryme
13. Van Der Graaf Generator – Pawn Hearts
14. King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues in Aspic
15. Camel - MIrage
16. Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) – Per un amico
17. Camel - Moonmadness
18. Yes - Relayer
19. Rush – Hemispheres
20. Jethro Tull - Aqualung
21. Banco del Mutuo Soccorso - Darwin!
22. Gentle Giant - In a Glass House
23. Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – Io sono nato libero
24. Harmonium – Si on avait besoin d’une cinquième saison
25. Frank Zappa – Hot Rats
26. Rush - A Farewell to Kings
27. Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) – Storia di un minuto
28. Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
29. Pink Floyd - Meddle
30. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue *

* a slight aberration here as Kind of Blue was released in 1959--well before the consensually agreed upon date of the "birth" of progressive rock music. However, once a band is admitted into the database at ProgArchives, each and every album release by that artist is automatically included within the database and, accordingly, is open to receive ratings and reviews. While a GREAT and seminal jazz album, Kind of Blue is NOT a prog album. However, it has managed to earn its way onto the PA Top Albums lists due to Miles' discography dating back into the 1950s.


My own list would have to include the following albums:

1. Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
2. Magma - Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh
3. Yes - Relayer
4. Il Balletto di Bronzo - Ys
5. Anthony Phillips - The Geese and The Ghost
6. AREA - Crac!
7. Todd Rundgren’s Utopia - Adventures in Utopia
8. Gentle Giant - Free Hand
9. Harmonium - Si on avait besoin d’une cinquième saison
10. Supertramp - Crime of the Century
11. Yes - Close to the Edge
12. UK—UK
13. Flairck - Gevecht met de engel
14. Egg - The Polite Force
15. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of The Moon
16. King Crimson - The Court of The Crimson King
17. Premiata Forneria Marconi - Per un amico
18. AREA - Arbeit Macht Frei
19. Steely Dan - Aja
20. Pink Floyd - Animals

21. Return to Forever - Romantic Warrior
22. Picchio dal Pozzo––Picchio dal Pozzo 
23. Alan Stivell - Renaissance of The Celtic Harp
24. Yes - Fragile
25. Flairck - Variaties Op Een Dame
26. Arti E Mestieri - Tilt - Immagini per un orecchio
27. Klaus Schulze - X 
28. Genesis - Selling England By the Pound
29. Island - Pictures
30. Spirogyra - St. Radigunds

31. Laurent Thibault - Mais on ne peut pas rêver tout le temps
32. Mike Oldfield - Hergest Ridge
33. The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed
34. The Who - Quadrophenia
35. Genesis - A Trick of The Tail
36. Van Der Graaf Generator - H to He, Who Am The Only One
37. Renaissance - Turn of the Cards
38. Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Io sono nato libero 
39. Gentle Giant - In a Glass House
40. Ptarmigan - Ptarmigan

41. Emerson Lake & Palmer - Emerson Lake & Palmer
42. Gentle Giant - Octopus
43. Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts
44. Focus - Hamburger Concerto
45. Santana - Caravanserai
46. Agitation Free - Malesch
47. Renaissance - Novella
48. Harold Budd & Brian Eno - Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror 
49. Focus - Moving Waves
50. Genesis - Foxtrot

51. Mike Oldfield - Incantations
52. Herbie Hancock - Crossings
53. Cos - Postaeolian Train Robbery
54. Ash Ra Tempel - Ash Ra Tempel
55. Caravan - For Girls Who Plump in the Night
56. SBB - Pamiec
57. Soft Machine - Bundles
58. Deodato - Prelude
59. Nektar - A Tab in The Ocean
60. Babylon - Babylon

61. Cos - Viva Boma
62. Chris Squire - Fish Out of Water
63. Soft Machine - Third
64. Rocky's Filj - Storie di uomini e non
65. Nucleus - We'll Talk About It Later
66. Weather Report - Heavy Weather
67. Lenny White - Venusian Summer
68. Khan - Space Shanty
69. Renaissance - Scheherazade and Other Stories
70. Cervello - Melos

71. Khan - Space Shanty
72. Eberhard Weber - The Following Morning
73. Harold Budd - The Pavillion of Dreams
74. Caravan - In The Land of Grey and Pink
75. Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (1)
76. Focus - III
77. Franco Battiato - Sulla Corde de Aries
78. Eden - Erwartung
79. Maxophone - Maxophone
80. Nektar - Remember The Future

81. Mother Gong - Fairy Tales
82. Chicago - Chicago Transit Authority
83. Alan Parsons Project - Tales of Mystery & Imagination
84. Il Rovescio Della Medaglia - Contaminazione
85. Anyone's Daughter - Adonis
86. Miles Davis - On the Corner
87. Il Paese Dei Balocchi - Il Paese dei Balocchi
88. King Crimson - Red
89. Pollen - Pollen
90. Herbie Hancock - Mwandishi

91. Shakti - Natural Elements
92. Todd Rundgren - Initiation
93. Atoll - L'araigné-mal
94. Steve Hackett - Voyage of the Acolyte
95. Egg - Egg
96. Pulsar - Halloween
97. Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick
98. Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire
99. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
100. Comus - First Utterance



Also Considered:

Santana - Abraxas
Uriah Heep - Demons and Wizards 
Soft Machine - Two
Celeste - Principia de un giorno
Genesis - Trespass
Hatfield and the North - Hatfield and the North
National Health - National Health
Premiata Forneria Marconi - L’isola di niente 
Hoelderlin - Hoelderlin's Traum
National Health - Of Queues and Cures
Atila - Reviure 
Caravan - If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
Maneige - Maneige
Al DiMeola - Elegant Gypsy
Bruford - One of a Kind
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Banco del Mutuo Soccorso
Alphataurus - Alphataurus
Gryphon - Midnight Mushrumps
Can - Future Days
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour
Tangerine Dream - Phaedra
Tangerine Dream - Rubycon
Klaus Schulze - Mirage
Klaus Schulze - Timewind
John Martyn - Solid Air
Yes - Going for the One
Todd Rundgren - Todd
Jean-Luc Ponty - Cosmic Messenger 
Strawbs - Ghosts
Los Jaivas - Alturas de Machu Picchu
Cherry Five - Cherry Five
England - Garden Shed
Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
Fermata - Huascaran
Strawbs - A Grave New World
Supertramp - Even in The Quietest Moments
Camel - Moonmadness
Genesis - Wind and Wuthering
Nektar - Recycled
Ahora Mazda - Ahora Mazda 
Finch - Beyond Expression