I Robot (1977) by The Alan Parsons Project

Categories: 1977 and Music.

When I was young and obsessed with prog rock, people used to make fun of me. They would learn I loved prog and they would be bemused or even a little shocked/outraged. And I was confused because I really liked the stuff. Eventually, I realized that those who made fun of my tastes were often talking about different prog. One day my friend just started ripping on Supertramp and then apologized to me and I finally realized that what my friends thought was prog and what I was listening to were two different types of prog. Based on this record, Read More

The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (1974) by Peter Hammill

Categories: 1974 and Music.

This is a weird combination of what sounds like super eccentric singer-songwriter solo stuff and music that is basically Van Der Graaf Generator. It’s an odd mix that I would find less appealing if I didn’t like Hammill or VDGG so much. It’s great that Hammill wrote so much so that even when the band was on hiatus he just had so much material. But one of the things I struggle with while listening to solo albums from the frontmen or songwriters of bands is when their solo music sounds too much like their band. That’s a weird problem to Read More

Camembert Electrique (1971) by Gong

Categories: 1971 and Music.

This is the first proper Gong album I’ve heard, because, for some reason, I’ve only heard their jazz rock spinoff to date. It seems pretty obvious to me that Allen was once in Soft Machine because this sure sounds to me like the kind of music The Softs were making early in their career. And maybe that’s why I find the record a little underwhelming. It is wacky, out there, fun, and ridiculous, as well as well-played, but I sort of feel like I’ve heard music like this from The Softs back in the 60s. I guess what I’m trying Read More

The Grass is Greener (1970) by Colosseum

Categories: 1970 and Music.

I didn’t realize this was a weird, US-only hybrid album when I bought it. I somehow convinced myself it was their most recommended album (I guess I was listening to some US critics…). Anyway… The influence of Cream is particularly heavy here, on the opening track and the Bruce cover (even though it wasn’t a cream song). It’s kind of shocking but it also acts as the missing link between Cream and so much jazz and prog rock. The album is a hybrid of things not usually found together: jazz rock and prog rock. At their most jazzy, they don’t Read More

Interview (1976) by Gentle Giant

Categories: 1976 and Music.

The idea that this is the first weak Gentle Giant album just doesn’t match what I’m hearing. Yes, I’m not sure the concept holds up all that well (this is a musical “interview” or something…), but the band is still quite capable of making their nutty, extremely inaccessible prog. The songs feel like maybe their lacking strong enough melodies. And it sure is short. But I can’t say I dislike it anyway, as it’s still very much GG doing their thing, something I think I’ll always appreciate. 7/10 Read More

In the Land of Grey and Pink (1971) by Caravan

Categories: 1971 and Music.

When I first listened to this I didn’t like it at all, and I’m not sure why. I didn’t like it to the extent that I removed it from our next podcast, telling my cohost that it “wasn’t one of their best.” I guess maybe it was the lack of Hastings songs – his are a little more immediate, I think. Anyway, now that I’ve had some time to digest, it’s pretty great. It’s very Caravan, but that’s not a bad thin – the weird and whimsical lyrics and the keyboard solos (and occasional winds and reeds). I don’t like Read More

The Yes Album (1971)

Categories: 1971 and Music.

For most of my prog-rock listening life, I have not fully gotten Yes. I don’t know what it is about them, but of the Big 6 they were long my least favourite. This has changed as I got older, as I have come to find ELP extremely inconsistent and Tull to be more than a little repetitive, but I still don’t love Yes. And I still can’t understand why. I should love them, as I love aspects of what they do, but I don’t. This record is the earliest of theirs I’ve heard so far, but it actually sort of Read More

Still Life (1976) by Van der Graaf Generator

Categories: 1976 and Music.

This is the cleanest produced VDGG album I’ve heard so far (it’s the fourth I’ve heard), and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. On the positive, Hammill’s voice has never been so front and centre, and you can really hear how incredible a singer he is – if an album like this doesn’t convince you he was one of the best male rock singers of the ’70s, there’s no saving you. On the other hand, the appealing murk of earlier albums – ‘is that an organ, a guitar or an electric saxophone I am hearing right now?’ Read More

Tarkus (1971) by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Categories: 1971 and Music.

I think if anyone had any doubt back in 1971 that Emerson was the greatest rock keyboardist ever, the title track probably proved them wrong. It’s too bad that it doesn’t really have the same coherence and oomph of the best side-long prog epics. But it is still the highlight of an album that I guess set ELP on their path of trying to be eclectic – or trying to please different demographics of their fans, not really sure which – which set them up to have such uneven studio albums. I mean the first side is a true prog Read More

Trilogy (1972) by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Categories: 1972 and Music.

Having just suffered through some of their late ’70s crap, it’s nice to hear them back in the day when they were still making interesting music. Always over the top, at least this stuff is also provocative. “The Endless Enigma” is almost a classic. It’s too bad the vocal sections are so weak compared to the rest of the composition. And “From the Beginning” is a Lake song I actually don’t hate, so that’s another big positive. On the whole there is a lot to like here with their characteristic unevenness – there seem to me to be very few Read More

Works Volume 2 (1977) by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Categories: 1977 and Music.

Years ago, when I was still young enough to maintain that ELP was a truly great band, I gave this a listen or three and rated 6/10. I think I wanted to believe the common idea that this is better than Volume 1 because at least here the bands sometimes sounds like ELP. Well, there’re a bunch of problems with that. The idea that this album is related to Volume One is, in itself, a bit of a foolish idea. Volume One was, after all, a way for all three band members to record on their own while still putting Read More

RIP: Jon Lord

Categories: Music and RIP.

Jon Lord was one of the earliest rock keyboardists – along with people like Keith Emerson – to attempt to fuse so-called “classical” music (actually it was usually romantic) with rock. He convinced his band, Deep Purple, to cover Richard Strauss, among others, to include his string and wind arrangements, and to eventually perform his “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” (certainly one of the inspirations for Metallica’s experiment with a symphony). All of this occurred before Deep Purple decided to try out (the early version of) heavy metal instead. After this change in direction, Lord was certainly one of the Read More

Frances the Mute by the Mars Volta (2005 GSL)

Categories: 2005 and Music.

The more I listen to the Mars Volta the more I become convinced that they are pretty much the only mainstream band keeping the spirit – if not the sound – of progressive rock alive. They manage to combine relatively adventurous ideas – whereas early prog rock usually borrowed from Romantic music or mainstream jazz, they borrow from free jazz and funk – with the volume that only a few select prog rock bands from back in the day actually managed. Too many of the revivalist neo-prog bands don’t are about the “rock” part of progressive rock but these guys Read More