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

Strange New Flesh (1976) by Colosseum II

Categories: 1976 and Music.

Note: I have never listened to the original Colosseum… “Dark Side of the Moog” gets things off to a great start, despite its title, with some typically bonkers (“mathy” is probably the word we would use now) European jazz rock. I used to eat this stuff up when I was younger, and still have a deep appreciation for people who can play like this. But things take a turn – quite a turn – when that damn vocalist starts singing. I mean…where did they find this guy? It’s like the band decided that this crazy jazz rock stuff was just 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

Amon Duul II: Phallus Dei (1969)

Categories: 1969 and Music.

What initially feels like a series of nearly formless psychedelic jams with everyone doing their own thing soon reveals itself to be one of the fundamental early documents of Krautrock (the earliest?) and a huge, huge influence on later musicians, particularly post punk bands (The Fall, for example) and indie rock bands (Stereolab). What’s perhaps even more shocking is that the music that was left off the record is just as path-breaking, perhaps even more so (though obviously nobody got to hear it, unless they did those tracks live). Basically, they take the concept of a “freak out” and add Read More

RIP Chris Squire

Categories: Music and RIP.

Among the “Big 6” prog bands, Yes was long my least favourite (though, as I age, ELP has taken their place very handily) – I have always found their discography rather immense and, well, kind of repetitive (though I have not given it the time I have given King Crimson’s, for example). So, maybe how I feel about Squire will change once I get around to giving Yes’ discography the full attention it likely deserves, but who knows. For the moment: Read More

In the Wake of Poseidon (1970) by King Crimson

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Full disclosure: King crimsion is one of the bands that “changed my life” on a musical level and they remain among my favourites. I have trouble being objective about them. I’m trying, but it’s probably not possible.We should remember that this album was made by a band that wasn’t really a band at all: Michael Giles and Lake were essentially getting pay checks, as was Peter Giles, Collins and Tippett were only seemy involved; almost all of this is Fripp (and Sinfield), and Fripp before he abandonned his tendency for shitty ballads.The decision to split up the ballads from the Read More

Noctourniquet (2012) by the Mars Volta

Categories: 2012 and Music.

If it’s possible for a group as progressive as the Mars Volta to record a pop album well, this is it. There are significantly more ballads (at least I think there are) and they, for the most part, less difficult than in the past (or they are mixed differently so the weirdness is subservient to the hook). And the rock songs often contain hooks that one might find in contemporary indie rock (for example the lead-off track has a hook that feels stolen from electro clash or something). And this is a refreshing change of direction, even if it’s a 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

For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (1973) by Caravan

Categories: 1973 and Music.

I really enjoyed the first Caravan album I heard (that would be their second), despite a few glaring drawbacks, and I looked forward to listening to a later one. But this just doesn’t do it for me. For one thing, it’s pretty glaring how conventional these guys were compared to so many other prog bands. And this album, released in prog’s big year of 1973 – when seemingly every major progressive rock band released a classic record – just doesn’t sound particularly forward thinking compared to most of the other major prog rock bands. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s 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

Trojan Jazz Festival (2010) by theHEAD

Categories: 2010 and Music.

This album gets off to a weird note when the opening of the first track sounds straight out of early ’70s Roxy Music. But things definitely pick up after that. The set is apparently totally improvised, and the interaction between the players is pretty solid. This band has managed to find a relatively unique niche where they integrate a lot of should-be-cheesy synthesizers into music that is definitely not cheesy and which stays interesting even when it seems like things should be getting boring. 8/10 Read More

The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other (1970) by Van Der Graaf Generator

Categories: 1970 and Music.

The first proper VDGG album (2nd official) is about as loud as prog rock got in 1970, which is a good thing, but likely doesn’t give us a good hint of what they actually sounded on stage. The songs aren’t quite there yet – though they are considerably better than some other prog bands’ – and the whole thing feels a little unfinished (both a blessing and a curse). Hammill is captivating as usual, but sometimes the arrangements around him are not quite there. On the whole it’s pretty strong, and a good indication of where they were heading. 8/10 Read More

Deja Vroom (1999, DGM) by King Crimson

Categories: 1999 and Music.

On the one hand, we get to see King Crimson, one of my favourite bands of all time: the musicianship is absolutely impeccable (at one point Fripp pulls off some of the fastest guitar playing I think I have ever seen) and it’s pretty neat to see the Warr guitars, Chapman Stick, and the crazy effects (that make the guitars sound like anything but). On the other hand, the mix is a little off at times (you rarely seem to be able to hear Gunn), the lighting really doesn’t translate well, the majority of the songs are from Thrak (also 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