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 Kansas by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.00 | 641 ratings

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Kansas
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Formed in Topeka, Kansas, in 1970, under the name of White Clover they had been the shoulder to one of the last concerts of the Doors, in New Orleans, and that already speaks volumes. Thanks to a trip to England by drummer Phil Ehart, where he got to know the bombast of Genesis and ELP, the early style is immediately transformed into a delightful fusion of rock, folk and classical music. After numerous line-up changes the band takes the name Kansas and stabilizes in a sextet formed as well as by the aforementioned Ehart, by guitarists Kerry Livgren and Richard Williams, by bassist Dave Hope, by singer and keyboardist Steve Walsh and above all by ' important figure of classically trained violinist and singer Robby Steinhardt. The drafting of the album of the same name in 1974 is characterized by the production of Don Kirshner, discoverer of the Monkees. The style explicitly refers to the English prog of the early '70s, with boogie and hard-rock tints, and it is immediately a success: they fill stadiums and arenas, establishing themselves as the greatest American prog-band, even if initially the sales are not exceptional.

The production of the American group begins with a very lively and amused, almost joking style. Perfect for a festival of acrobats and trapeze artists, under a circus tent. A new and fresh sound, of which in those years we find very few similarities with the contemporary world of music. The folk rhythms combined with the synthesizers and the novelty of the violin work, with a damn winning alchemy. The differences with the Italian and British world of the time are clear and the refrains that we could define as pop have that something extra. We should immerse ourselves in the reality of the early 1970s, imagine being in the American state of the same name and having purchased a copy of the vinyl, on the cover of which we find war images, start the music and enjoy the show. Impossible not to think of the reaction of the very first listeners: "Oh my God!". As mentioned previously, the mix of prog, folk and blues works, a mix that interpenetrates gives life to something better than genres taken individually and giving a touch of never heard before. The guitar riff accompanied by the violin is memorable, with a cantabile and catchy refrain that does the rest, to permanently impress everything in history. The first half of the disc is characterized by these short and rapid songs, such as Bringing It Back, the daughter technique of the progressive genre is all in the tight exchanges of keyboards, organ, violin and guitar enclosed in three minutes or so. The initial wonder leaves room for a more classic ballad with nostalgic tones, Lonely Wind, on which there is no need to spend too much thought. What about Belexes, with the scratchy guitar typical of hard rock that further embellishes a sound already rich in characterizing elements that close with a short drum solo, the kind usually offered at the end of the concert. Journey From Mariabronn is the song that closes the A side of the vinyl, the first two minutes are dominated by the keyboards while the iconic voice of Steve Walsh gradually takes the chair. The second half of the song is a masterpiece, Dave Hope's bass dictates the timing for a change of register and we start with a riot of prog. The Pilgrimage opens the B side of the LP in an unpretentious and at times even light-hearted way, having fun while having fun. But we prog lovers don't like to have fun, we like to listen to long and technical suites. If we look at our continent and above all at the British production, defining a song of just nine minutes as a suite could be an offense, but here we are in the United States and we can expect a clear difference. Apercu leaves a lot of space for the violinist Robbie Steinhardt who draws sound textures in freedom, followed closely by keyboards, synthesizer, guitars, bass and so on and so forth, we are facing the highest moment, the climax of the record. Here we find the manual for every band that will approach neo progressive from the 90s onwards, that is practically all of Neal Morse's projects, if you want to joke about it. For the same speech made above, it is difficult to consider a nine- minute song in those years suite, even less one of not even eight, but this is how Kansas themselves define their Death Of Mother Nature. A grand closing of a band aware of having just built something new, a difficult-to-define genre that starts from blues, enriches itself with folk, passing through hard rock to get to the real final goal, progressive rock.

The final consideration is that in a certain hard-prog arena, along with Canadians Rush, Kansas have far excelled over any other European band. With the next four albums they will reach full maturity and become one of the most beautiful and original and, if desired, underrated bands in history.

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 Precambrian by OCEAN, THE album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.10 | 98 ratings

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Precambrian
The Ocean Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Gorgut Muncher

5 stars One of the best Post-Metal albums I've ever heard. The first CD is ok but the second CD is where it all really shines. Heavy riff sections, death metal vocals, trancelike keyboards, all packed into one. Precambrian is a double-CD album that features The Ocean showcasing all the skills (which are many) that they're good at.

Hadean/Archaean is the first CD and features very straightforward progressive metal. It's forty minutes shorter than the second CD. The second CD features more atmospheric, sludge-metal-ish music and it works even better. Highly recommended to all Post-Metal fans. Very solid, very well performed. Five stars for me.

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 In A Silent Way by DAVIS, MILES album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.26 | 785 ratings

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In A Silent Way
Miles Davis Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Grumpyprogfan

2 stars "In a Silent Way" has an incredible lineup of young musicians and the album might have set the world on fire in 1969, but I just don't get it. Sure, the musicians are doing something new that has never been done, i.e., infusing electronic instruments with jazz, but it sounds like nothing more than a long-tired jam. The first track "Shhh/Peaceful" is a repetitive ditty that revolves around one chord. Yeah, you read that right. One chord. Miles makes his appearance around 1'45" into the song, the bass guitar keeps repeating the same few notes through the entire song. The entire song! My god, the patience that Dave Holland must endure. The band keeps flailing along trying to make something special out of this one chord song, but it doesn't happen. I can't take much more, and by ten minutes into the eighteen-minute most repetitive song ever - I'm done. Please make it stop!! There is nothing earth shattering about this, except maybe the jokes on you for listening to a song this long that flounders endlessly.

The title track is next. Oh no! For four minutes it seems to be another one note song. The same note even? It does move a bit after four minutes, but then the same note is played over and over by Dave until 8'20". What did Dave do to deserve this? Ugh! So, there are a couple more notes thrown in for about 40 seconds - back to one note riffage - then back to the previous riff. At 11'40" the bass changes some, and then at 12'40" we go back to the same riff we heard at 8'20". Miles' solos are good but not good enough to drawn my focus away from the three riffs that make up this song. At 15'38" a guitar part is introduced that is totally removed from anything played before, and Dave, once again, is playing his one note - being faithful to that one note - hanging on to that one note - forever just one note. And "In a Silent Way" ends.

Ok, so I don't understand what the fuss is over this and why this is hailed as a masterpiece. This isn't essential to anyone's record collection. If I heard this when it was released, I don't think my reaction would be any different. For me this is a very repetitious record and if that's your gig it's in abundance here. Me, I like music that evolves, that is unpredictable, and I don't find any of that here.

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 Rare Bird [Aka: Sympathy] by RARE BIRD album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.79 | 114 ratings

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Rare Bird [Aka: Sympathy]
Rare Bird Crossover Prog

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

3 stars Today I review the album that has spawned my name and been quite influential on me as an artist, Rare Bird. I know this album like the back of my hand, having heard it many times yet as can't give this album higher than three stars. Albums are a collection of songs, should even one falter the album is stricken from god tier 5*. Rare Bird has many beautiful songs that are unfortunately counteracted by equally terrible songs.

Iceberg opens the album, the longest track and one of the best. It opens with energetic keyboard chords and possesses effulgence vocal lines delivered by Steve Gould (Fantastic singer). Great song.

Times follows and is just awful 2* filler material. Cheesy vocals and annoying drums propel this song to cringe inducing territory. Fortunately a distorted key solo saves the song from 1*.

You went away is quite sublime, a pretty ballad lamenting the going away of another.

Melanie is a song with an absolutely horrific head. Downright agitating, bad enough I'm considering removing the bridge from it. Speaking of the bridge it is great, jazzy, chill and intoxicating.

Beautiful Scarlet, my namesake is a song that just resonates with me. Memorable.

Sympathy was a hit in Europe back in 1969, it's ok.

Natures fruit is not bad, worse then some of the better tracks while similar enough to not be needed on the album.

Bird On A Wing is the same as Nature's fruit.

God Of War is an epic closing track with a dark edge the song proves to be a haunting coda to Rare Bird

Overall this album is 3/5, however I do recommend listening to some of the tracks, specifically; Iceberg, Beautiful Scarlet and God Of War.

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 Birds Contending by ZHAOZE album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Birds Contending
Zhaoze Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

— First review of this album —
3 stars One 40 minute long song, Birds Contending, makes up the album. It is composed of bass drums guitar and guxin with some violin. It is also very dull. The music does not go anywhere and could be a soundtrack for a film. Not something to listen to alone as it not engaging music. Noticeable aspects of the music are probably the drums which at times provide a tribal beat and the frequent mood changes (guitar chugging along then some guxin chill stuff then some harder stuff then soft again and again and again.

Overall this album is at best background music that goes nowhere and drags on and on.

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 Mysoginia by SYNDONE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.04 | 159 ratings

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Mysoginia
Syndone Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by alainPP

4 stars SYNDONE or the Italian progressive rock of good quality, or the prog rock that is desired! SYNDONE, which with its 5 albums (in fact 7!), Had since 1992 and its "Spleen" set the tone with music filled with very cold style, very bewitching too! SYNDONE, with Nick and Riccardo at the helm for a style of music oscillating between avant-garde jazz, convoluted symphonism, energetic and electric prog rock straight from? Italy; we go to Peter HAMMILL, ELP and AREKNAMES for the dark and romantic side, but also and this is where it gets interesting towards RAINBOW for the voice and towards QUEEN, yes QUEEN for the voice and the musical textures. SYNDONE quite simply a group apart in the progressive world.

Question titles, an instrumental intro to lay the foundations of the following compositions with a little of everything, flirting towards symphonic jazz but not only, and which allows to get a good idea of ​​the SYNDONE sound, that is reassuring from the start! "Red shoes" with his voice a la D. WILSON or a J. TURNER sublime voice and a bluffing air passing to different genres, including the typical AYREONnesque organ. "Caterina" with a station wagon straight out of the first steps of PINK FLOYD. "12 minuti" and his snub to "The Millionnaire Waltz" of the legendary QUEEN with its almost intimate ending, cozy and theatrical atmosphere. "Evelyn" always on F. MERCURY in jazzy hard rock opera and progressive mode at will, and her vocal convolutions leading to a charleston aria! "Mysoginia" sends us to orchestral symphonic jazz with a second aerial instrumental on the first part followed by a sequence taken from a BOF. "Women" draws frankly on notes of the 2nd generation GENESIS (no, not "Abacab" but almost !!), and on the musical games of an ELP of the great era; it is for me the tube of the album! "No Sin" with his minimalist piano and his tortured, frail voice, accompanied by a plaintive violin, then assisted by a fruity synth and later by a highly energetic guitar solo, all this on a masterfully orchestrated crescendo ; to note here again a grandiloquent final evolution with symphonic notes. "Amalia" ends this CD on a ballad one could say, on a simple piano arpeggio once again on the 1st part of the title and then on a musical hymn, on a soft voice-synth melody where thousands of violins mingle: again and again a theme used for film soundtracks. The last minute resumes al dente, uh a capella the air on the piano alone.

In short, this album is confusing, far from the prog of the 70's, and yet throughout it, notes, airs, tunes, hymns, melodies come and go and avoid leaving a messy atmosphere detected at the 1st listening; the different breaks between each title or even within the same title finally give the signature of this "mysoginia" invaded by musical contrasts, film music tunes, fruity tones where each instrument goes at one time or another take the front to better bring the place to another; a real jazz-prog progression! It is obvious that this album needs several listening to be able to let pass the emotion which simmers in it.

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 Alive by KLONE album cover Live, 2021
4.50 | 2 ratings

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Alive
Klone Heavy Prog

Review by alainPP

4 stars Klone is the group from Poitou which started to live in 2003 and had fun finding their style of music between Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Paradise Lost and Tool for heaviness. Snatches of Riverside, Pink Floyd or Anathema will gradually integrate into the sound already well supplied with ethereal musical lines, in crescendo and with an intensity coming from Yann's strong voice.

Their latest opus '' Le Grand Voyage '' as well as the penultimate '' Here Comes The Sun '' are greatly represented on this live of more than 80 minutes (a live when the pandemic recedes, when the theaters will reopen ), '' Yonder '' and the always floydien '' Breach '' very captivating, '' The Last Experience '' for a diabolical crescendo hold the string; two tracks from "The Dreamer's Hideaway" as well as three from "Black Days" including a Bjork cover finish filling the "Alive" set-list. Specifically, the start is on the last one released in the studio and you may feel like you are just recording; cold, intense, bewitching, ethereal, metallic, explosive, enjoyable atmosphere, just that. The titles invite you to travel, to contemplate, a captivating moment between shadow and light; a great snub to covid which has prevented many festivities and which will hopefully come to an end; for the record it was Klone that I saw in concert just before the sudden end of the demonstrations last year, it is with this "Alive" that the venues reopen and that I tell you to go see them.

Klone makes atmo rock on a heavy prog trend at the border of genres and does it well, Klone releases this live for those who still fear gatherings, Klone makes travel so go with them to stay in the musical layers.

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 Gavin Harrison & Antoine Fafard: Chemical Reactions by FAFARD, ANTOINE album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.52 | 14 ratings

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Gavin Harrison & Antoine Fafard: Chemical Reactions
Antoine Fafard Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Grumpyprogfan

3 stars If you love the drumming of Gavin Harrison, this release is for you. Antoine has changed up the format of his previous fusion albums and showcased a string ensemble. Maria Grig (violins and viola) and Jonathan Gerstner (cello), appear on the first five tracks. It is pleasant listen, but every song seems to blend into the next and they begin to sound the same. As I mentioned, this release really is a showcase of Gavin's drumming. He shows off his skills with syncopated fills and fancy footwork, more shredding than anything I've heard from him. So, if you're a fan of Gavin this is a must listen. The last two tracks have a full orchestra and are nice but nothing mind blowing. And that is why I can't give this more than three stars. A different shade of Antoine, but not one I'll spin as much as his others.

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 Voyage of the Acolyte by HACKETT, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.25 | 1470 ratings

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Voyage of the Acolyte
Steve Hackett Eclectic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars The delicate balances that have animated the history of Genesis go through a decidedly turbulent period in 1975: the abandonment of Peter Gabriel slowly changes the roles within the formation and the personalities of the other musicians adapt to them. In the same year, Steve Hackett, despite being still in the group, devoted himself to the production of the first solo album. In fact, we are talking about the wonderful Voyage of the Acolyte, a debut with a bang for a guitarist of pure class. The platter considered today, however, is not a simple display of musical poetry, but is the result of a long work and a rather particular psychological condition. The historic guitarist began the first drafts of some compositions already in the period of Foxtrot (1972) and with the passing of the years - especially in the crucial 1975 - the brilliance of a deeply intimate work was consolidated. In recent times within Genesis, many of Hackett's ideas were discarded or sidelined, as the group was taking a different path from the one that made them famous. This situation led the English guitarist to accumulate a lot of material for his own solo repertoire, in addition to the ever more pressing desire to be able to give space to his "voice". The light emanating from this title, as well as its strength, comes precisely from the sense of freedom felt and from the conditions that were consumed for a long period of time before its release. Voyage of the Acolyte is also enriched by the presence of the Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford: it is no coincidence that the only one who did not participate in the project was keyboardist Tony Banks, who took the reins of Genesis after Gabriel's departure and had various stylistic disagreements with Hackett.

"Ace of wands" opens the disc imperiously, without warning, with a furious introduction to drums by Phil Collins (here in a state of grace). The piece goes through various mood swings (all naturally marked by the guitarist's non- ordinary technique), finally approaching a certain form of Jazz-prog dear to the Camels. John Hackett immediately proves to be more gifted than Gabriel on the flute, his forays will therefore be present throughout the concept. "Hands of the priestess" is a delicate instrumental divided into two parts, where the acoustic guitars and the flute duet amiably, creating a magical and fascinating background, yet mysterious at the same time. However, there is no lack of darker atmospheres, and the subsequent "A tower struck down" is the proof of this. The lion's share is played by Mike Rutherford's aggressive bass, but Collins and Hackett are no less (finally free from the rigid structures of the Genesis brand), creating an unusual, powerful, in its own way schizoid composition. The march of war is then suddenly broken by an ambiguous and mysterious chorus. The effect is unexpected and alienating.

"The Hermit" (sung by Steve himself) and "Star of Sirius" (sung by Phil Collins) return to more purely progressive themes. The first is a wonderful ballad for acoustic guitar, to which the flute is added later. Steve's voice here isn't at its best yet, but the dreamy aura the music paints makes us immediately immerse in the spirit of the song. "Star of Sirus" (perhaps due to Phil Collins' voice) is a forerunner of that fairy-tale and dreamy streak that we will hear on "A trick of the tail" the following year. The start is delicate, once again entrusted to the voice and the 12 strings. The second part is instead more lively, with tempo changes and incisive solos on the electric guitar of the London musician. "The lovers" is the usual acoustic sketch that serves as an introduction to the longest and most complex track on the album: "Shadow of the Hierophant". The song in question is among the most famous of Hackett (if not the most famous) and is certainly not inferior to more celebrated episodes, such as "Firth of fifth" or "The fountain of Salamacis". The first few minutes are entrusted to the wonderful voice of Sally Oldfield (sister of the much more famous Mike) who leads us by the hand in a world populated by ladies and knights, where "honor counted much more than a man's life". However, the structure of the suite (almost 12 minutes long) foresees a decisive change, following a slow ticking that sounds hypnotic and premonitory. The instruments then are heard at first distant, almost timid, and then increase in power and skill, creating a powerful and distressing gait (the King Crimson do not appear very distant). Hackett is as usual brilliant and vaguely Frippian, while Collins seems to take on another identity, in his changing register and infusing that jazzy rhythm into the composition.

Voyage of the Acolyte is a structured and complex platter, which, even though it fished out the typical sound of Genesis, does not remain a slave to it. Although it is the guitarist who leads the pieces, there is never a form of self- centeredness, indeed Hackett's ability to manage an extremely varied and complex songwriting is highlighted. The musicians who accompany him offer performances of incredible quality, from Phil Collins on drums to his brother John Hackett on the flute, who is one of the protagonists of the disc. In the heyday of progressive, Voyage of the Acolyte is another fundamental and brilliant spark of pure poetry and music, and is the mirror of that flicker that will then fail in Genesis two years later. Forty years later, with hindsight, it seems that Hackett's initiatory journey is not yet over: we just have to rejoice, hoping that this will happen as late as possible, because incredibly despite the passage of time, the acolyte continues to have things to say and discover.

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 Seven Colours by AIN SOPH album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.61 | 13 ratings

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Seven Colours
Ain Soph Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

3 stars This is definitely their best album to date.Still, it fails to break out of the three star range, just like all of their other efforts.

The first side is better than the second, more inspired organ runs, very brief vocal scatting and (too brief). Very relaxing music, would be great with a cup of tea by a fireplace on a chilly winter day or in a lounge in the midst of a great mountain pass offering temporary respite from the drudgery of driving.

Overall this is the same general jazz fusion/Canterbury Scene music Ain Soph has made for fourth years, never abrasive always chill music.

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 Gappa by WAPPA GAPPA album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.48 | 17 ratings

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Gappa
Wappa Gappa Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

3 stars Very mediocre.

The songs all sound the same, airy female Japanese vocals repeating the same thing over and over while jazz fusion happens below. Absolutely no character to the songs. This album is also quite bloated at over an hour of music, which is not a positive when the music has nothing new to say after the first song. I'd review on a song by song basis but nothing stands out, I can't tell the music apart and never found anything memorable. Now, don't get me wrong there is also nothing bad on this album, the vocals do sound pleasant, as do the instruments.

Overall this album fails to go above or beyond average. The album stays in a safe sound for 68 minutes, ergo 3/5.

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 Le Grand Voyage by KLONE album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.47 | 30 ratings

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Le Grand Voyage
Klone Heavy Prog

Review by alainPP

5 stars 7th album of the French KLONE with an unplugged in their discography which begins to grow. KLONE or the psyche-hard-ambient-alternative group; KLONE or the group which manages to skillfully mix post- rock with metal-prog, dark-pop also at times! A little Steve WILSON, a little ANATHEMA, a little catchy new wave and you have all the ingredients to travel far.

Yann has a bewitching and captivating voice, Aldrick and Guillaume combine perfectly to give a heavy, unhealthy and catchy atmosphere; the basic rhythm allows the different tracks to give the best of themselves. Some titles are particularly striking, namely the first 4 including "Yonder", "Breach", "Sealed" with hellish rhythm that makes you go very far and prevent you from coming back to earth; Matthieu with his synths is also for many, giving a depressive, tragic, monolithic sound. After the following titles have a little taste of coming back to it, of already heard, a lack of intensity somewhere, but it's good, heavier, more depressive, darker, more bewitching; it is with the "Silver Gate" that all the intensity of the departure returns with a bang, giving the end of this album a dramatic sound; heavy, heavy, KLONE which will remain as one of the most beautiful slaps of the year.

The French group to follow, which stands out over the listening of the great ANATHEMA, PARADISE LOST, hovering dark prog of good quality.

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 May Blitz by MAY BLITZ album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.81 | 76 ratings

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May Blitz
May Blitz Heavy Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars It is 1970, Black Sabbath give birth to their first and self-titled album, Deep Purple release In Rock, Led Zeppelin III, it is therefore normal that excellent works like May Blitz remain set aside and forgotten in the presence of such great musical and creative fervidity.

The group was founded in the late 60's by Tony Newman, a rather illustrious drummer who was also part of the Jeff Beck Group, it contacted two other musicians James Black and Reid Hudson and in a short time they assumed the nomenclature of May Blitz and signer in 1970 a contract for the record company Vertigo. It is paradoxical to think that their first album is also the penultimate, in fact after a fleeting listening to the work one is positively amazed by the instrumental and compositional skills collected, in sounds, sometimes extremely bluesy, other times harder and more marked that is Hard-Rock . The first track "Smoking The Day Away" is evident, corroded by the use of long guitar jams, in some cases distorted and praising Blues, in others more nostalgic, reflective, accompanied almost equally by Voice and Drums, a song comes out multifaceted, epic, full of inspiration, exuded in the solos of the central part but above all in the sung sections. A piece that, in my opinion, should have remained in the annals, but as I previously pointed out, the historical period did not allow its diffusion to the general public.

It continues on these tracks also in track 2 "I Don't Know" initially, you can enjoy two minutes of authentic Rock- Blues followed by long instrumental rides in which the excellent skills of Tony Newman and Guitarist James are highlighted. Black who is also one of the two vocalists of the band. In the last minute the jams switch off to give light to the voices. The judgment for this piece is almost similar to the previous one, the instrumental parts are flawless, and the involving voice / melody combination. For "Dreaming" I will make a separate speech as, stylistically it differs from the rest of the work. The beginning is in fact dreamy, sweet, whispered, rhythmic, but the background is restless and unstable, just like a dream disturbed by the ghosts of the mind ready to turn into a nightmare. Suddenly the sounds become confused, noisy, fast, the drums get on fire, but, the factor that makes the change more is the very hard voice, which flows into terrifying screams that seem to herald the anger of a generation to come ... Then sleep becomes peaceful and apart from a few jolts, morpheus will welcome us definitively into his sweet arms. Songs of this magnitude can only be heard, perceived with the ears and with the mind to fully recognize their caliber. Black and Hudson's voices are extraordinary. Piece number 4 "Squeet" is easily simplified into wild and phantasmagoric guitar solos, and into sung parts, bluesy, but restless and torn by continuous vocal changes. Pause, you still dream. "Tomorrow May Come" is supported on a feeble and light voice, supported at times by the drums but above all by the hypnotic vibrophone of Tony Newman. And the latter is the protagonist of "Fire Queen" author in the initial part of an intriguing tribal segment, but on the shields throughout the song thanks to sudden, rapid and rhythmic performances, the track nevertheless reaches its zenith in the shouted sections, broken down, by the Black / Hudson duo topped by the guitar incision in the final Refrain. Fast, demon-possessed, and very tight sound, massive riffs, all ingredients that lead to Hard Rock, and in fact in my view it is the composition that comes closest to this style. It closes with "Virgin Waters" and is still ecstatic. Opened by the sound of the waves of the sea, the song is conducted by Newman in the central part, whispered and soft, and is concluded again by the poetic rustle of the sea.

"May Blitz" offers hardly any symphonic-progressive or distinctly differentiated sound paintings, but a very refreshing and spontaneous, perfectly played, varied psych-hard prog rock, which should be of particular interest to those prog listeners who are interested in the early British protoprog and Heavy prog .

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 Clear Blue Sky by CLEAR BLUE SKY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.36 | 52 ratings

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Clear Blue Sky
Clear Blue Sky Heavy Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars The first and for a long time only album by Clear Blue Sky is considered a progressive masterpiece in certain circles, as one of the key albums of the genre, e.g. The basis for the Spacerock ā la Hawkwind and for the Progmetal. The fact that the album featured one of the first fantasy covers by Roger Dean and the fact that the Vertigo LP original is quite rare also contributed to the occasionally quite euphoric assessment of this record.

I can't quite understand the classic status of this disc, at least from a progressive rock point of view. Clear Blue Sky make an edgy, blues-inspired progressive hard rock, which is based on the specifications of e.g. Hendrix and Cream, but doesn't add as much to the same and also doesn't offer very much different fare than various colleagues working at the same time (e.g. T2, Stray, May Blitz and The Human Beast). But don't get me wrong this album presents a fantastic heavy prog ride, and is definitely very important for the further flow of a bit more intense (heavy) prog music. Certain progressive ingredients can be found on "Clear Blue Sky". The band is usually quite complex at rocking, there are a lot of tempo changes, some classically-inspired interludes on the acoustic guitar provide variety, and Simms plays quite impressively, often with a hearty twist on his electric guitar. Occasionally a piano can be heard or bubbling and howling electronic sounds (in "The Rocket Ride" for example). In "Tool of my Trade" (which has clearly jazzy features) an organ can also be heard, and in the last piece even a brisk flute. However, the cast details do not reveal who contributed these additional sounds. For the year of publication, the music is pretty heavy, in places almost radical.

Apart from that, the sound is quite hearty hard rock over long stretches, which comes out of the speakers quite refreshingly, but in the long run it seems a bit monotonous whether the small line-up is a bit monotonous. A few more interludes on the above-mentioned instruments would have provided even more variety and transported the disc into really classically progressive realms. It's hardly spacy here, so the pioneering role for Hawkwind is probably limited to the excessively howling guitar playing.

A thoroughly entertaining proto-progressive early 70s hard rock, sometimes with slightly jazzy tints, is offered on "Clear Blue Sky", which not only looks good in every program collection because of the great cover, but also you have excellent presentation of a strong / powerful sound. Maybe the album will be of interest to Progmetallers too. Probably the roots of the genre are in albums like "Clear Blue Sky".

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 First Base by BABE RUTH album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.72 | 149 ratings

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First Base
Babe Ruth Heavy Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Babe Ruth was a great baseball player of the thirties, unsurpassed myth of the sport in the United States. The great cover designer Roger Dean seizes the opportunity by illustrating this first work of the group with an unlikely and spectacular "Inning" in full sidereal emptiness. Apart from the suggestive "hook" constituted by the cover, this quintet also draws strength, quality and thrust, like many other bands, from the classic combination singer / guitarist, the one absolute focal point of attention. The line-up included Alan Shacklock (guitar, vocals, organ and percussion), Janita "Jenny" Haan (vocals), Dave Hewitt (bass), Dick Powell (drums and percussion) and Dave Punshon (piano and electric piano). Janita Haan is capable of generating a voice of a dynamite power, maneuvered with temperament and determination.

Allan Shacklock instead is that type of guitarist with a lot of technique derived from in-depth classical studies, sent to ramengo in favor of the fire of rock but always useful to impart quality and competence to his compositions and performances. An expert musician, composer, arranger and producer, for sure the undisputed leader. Six or seven works have been recorded in the name Babe Ruth during the seventies, with continuous changes within the group until the disappearance of each of the original five members but after a long oblivion, the relaunch was attempted, with four fifths of the line-up.

"First Base" remains recognized as the apex of their career above all because it contains the most famous and brilliant song, entitled "The Mexican" and all to be described: an incipit of Spanish classical guitar is immediately swallowed by the progressive fulfillment of an enthralling groove of bass and drums, compact and unchanged for the whole duration of the piece so as to make it very hypnotic and danceable. On this irresistible rhythm drive, guitar and electric piano harmonize on a vaguely Mexican theme, and then make way for Janita's resolute and aggressive timbre who spreads her verse and then explodes with power in the chorus, with an unprecedented chorus, violent sonority.

The central instrumental portion then sees the guitar, soon dubbed again by the electric piano, intoning the immortal Morriconian theme whistled in the soundtrack of "For a few dollars more" (and here regularly cited in the compositional credits) and developing it for a long time, before return to the main theme of this song which represents an undoubted rock classic, with its own personality and atmosphere. At the opening of the disc we find "Well's Fargo", a dynamic rockblues dominated by a dry zeppelin riff with bass and guitar in unison, above which Jennie Haan's scream sometimes goes out of speed, youthfully inaccurate and shrill but overflowing with temperament. Notable is the guitar solo almost in be-bop style, fluid and full of scale outputs, but the solo instrument in continuous evidence throughout the song is a saxophone, in the hands of a guest musician. "The Runaway" is instead a poignant ballad, perhaps compromised by a concession to Schaklock's self-indulgence who conceives a long orchestral coda with an excessive and cloying effect. Before being put aside by strings and woods, the very young singer manages to unleash her more moderate and collected tones, softening her voice and bringing it very close to her colleague Annie Haslam of Renaissance, a folk / progressive band at that time quite in vogue. In position n ° 3 there is a surprise cover of Frank Zappa's instrumental "King Kong". The famous theme of the mustachioed American genius is rearranged by Schaclock by re-harmonizing his Gibson with his partner Dave Punshon's Wurlitzer electric piano, for a devout and respectful version, this time beautiful "dry" and less orchestral than the original. The longest track on the record is another cover titled "Black Dog" (not that of Zeppelin, practically contemporary with this record, but one of the many dark ballads of the American singer- songwriter Jesse Winchester) on which Schaclock once again lingers with a long instrumental coda ( we are in 1972, the progressive cravings peppered the music of a bit of all genres) this time however well done, much more effective and lyrical than that of "Runaway". "The Jocker" ends the classic. It is based on a riff that repeats itself almost until the end, working on the frequency of the bass and the simplistic drumbeat. What saves the monotony is the second guitar and the vocals, so I think it's the least important act in First Base.

Babe Ruth is a decent job, made remarkable by Jennie's unique vocal potential and by the presence of the little gem "The Mexican", a song to know and own in playlists.

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 Seven Is a Jolly Good Time by EGG album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1969
4.00 | 15 ratings

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Seven Is a Jolly Good Time
Egg Canterbury Scene

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

2 stars What a coincidence, Eggs two worst songs are the A Side/B Side of their sole single release in 1969. One of my favourite bands, their first two albums have lacklustre songs like Clean Innocent Fun (Arzachel) and The Song Of? (Egg) yet manage to avoid being bad by having beautiful songs like Queen St. Gang (Arzachel) and I Will Be Absorbed (Egg). This single is the concentrated terribleness of Eggs worse distilled in two songs, Seven Is A Jolly Good Time and You Are All Princes.

Seven Is A Jolly Good Time has many very annoying vocal lines that are simply not captivating. Sounds like carnival music or old timey minstrel stuff when Mont Campbell sings the refrain, Seven Is A Jolly Good Time. The only not bad part of the song is the "Really doesn't matter".

You Are All Princes has nothing of merit, it is woefully forgettable. It's presence fails to bring this album out of the bad territory.

Overall this single is a solid 2/5, would not recommend, definitely listen to an Egg/Arzachel album instead.

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 The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.31 | 3093 ratings

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The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by SeeHatfield

5 stars "If you think that it's pretentious, you've been taken for a ride..."

Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a sprawling double album, recounts the fitful odyssey of Rael, a Nuyorican punk, through a sort of surreal underworld. Narratively, it's a bit of a shaggy dog; to say that it does not hang together would be an understatement. The closest thing I can think of among rock albums would be The Who's Tommy, but that fabled "rock opera" boasts more characters and points of view and a real apotheosis (despite its fractured plot, it benefits from having songs sung by Tommy, about Tommy, and to Tommy). Tommy may not make much sense, but its glorious end feels right, a sort of resolution in the heart (if not exactly plot-wise). The Lamb, on the other hand, comes across as a series of fantastical setpieces that are not quite unified by the constant that is Rael, whose first-person voice carries most of the numbers. The story drags through the second half, losing steam despite moments of bizarre inventiveness (such as the scatological satire of wounded masculinity that is the "Colony of Slippermen"). The climax is severely attenuated on what would have been, in the age of vinyl, the album's fourth side. Rael's big moment of self-realization -- rescuing his brother John from the rapids -- is dragged out across three tracks, which on the plus side means a lot of cool instrumental work, but on the other hand means a diffuse, dithering ending, too diluted to justify the hour and half of musical drama that comes before. You can practically hear the air seeping from the tire. Peter Gabriel's lyrics and elaborate program notes (the whole story apparently was his idea) don't focus to a point. The album's final song, "it," offers not an apotheosis but only a teasing reminder of how willfully odd the whole story has been, as well as, perhaps, a nose-thumbing rejoinder to the band's critics. For an album filled with passion and fireworks, the Lamb ends on a feckless, self-amused note, taunting listeners with hints of profundity that may just be playful nonsense. Imagine The Odyssey ending with a rousing rendition of "Glass Onion" and you've got the right idea. This is meta-prog, archly self-aware, with a bit of defiant [%*!#]-you built into its final fade.

Musically, though, the Lamb labors mightily to pull everything together -- and is gobsmackingly brilliant, the result of five young players shooting the moon. The music lends the story atmosphere and some kind of wholeness, and great bits are everywhere. Genesis never sounded tougher than on thundering tracks like "Fly on a Windshield," "Back in N.Y.C.," and "Counting Out Time" (they wouldn't get that tough again until the noise-gated cacophony of Abacab). A certain rhythmic pattern recurs across several tracks, starting with the "Broadway Melody of 1974": pounding heartbeats from Mike Rutherford's Taurus bass pedals (one-two, one-two) and heavy, Bonham-worthy drumming by Phil Collins. This vamping, lub-dub rhythm becomes a sort of transitional device and also provides the pulse of "In the Cage" and the opening of "Back in N.Y.C." Melodic recaps across the album are few and subtle; most obviously, the title song gets reworked in the climactic "The Light Dies Down on Broadway," which echoes part of "The Lamia" as well. But the Lamb is mostly notable for fresh invention from start to finish, as the music bounces from spoken-word (that "Broadway Melody") to cluttered art song ("The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging") to mock-pop ("Counting Out Time") to near-musique concrčte (okay, maybe not, but "The Waiting Room" sure sounds concrčte to me) to Eno-esque ambience ("Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats") to, yes, a few moments of old-school melodic prog ("The Lamia" could almost have come from Nursery Cryme). Extended instrumental workouts ā la Selling England by the Pound are few, or rather are scattered here and there without a standalone epic to frame them (there's no "Cinema Show" here). But the band is constantly changing tack. This is a dynamic album, a feast of writing and playing -- and the sound is, blessedly, more muscular than on previously Genesis records.

I sense a sort of tug-of-war here, musically. There's a fair amount of classically-tinged, keyboard-driven prog: dig "Anyway," with its arpeggiated piano punctuated by crashing power chords, or, again, "The Lamia" -- more moody piano, a wash of mellotron too, and then a fade that mixes spooky organ, Steve Hackett's melodic guitar (a great solo), and one of the album's few instances of Gabriel playing flute. Then again, there are spiky pop miniatures here that seem more purely Gabriel-esque (once more, "Counting Out Time" is a good example) and foreshadow the witty subversions of hard rock on his first two solo albums. In any case, the music and lyrics don't interrelate simply. Gabriel's arch humor is everywhere, with associative wordplay, labored punning, internal rhymes, and, again and again, throwaway cleverness. Despite the overall weirdness and occasional sense of spiritual hunger (as in the hypnotic "Carpet Crawlers"), the lyrics push against Genesis's early reputation for Romantic airiness and fantasy. There's a determined worldliness about the whole thing.

More than anything, the Lamb's narrative and lyrics reflect a twenty-something British genius's obsession with the idea of America. This is most obvious in the nominal NYC setting and the "Broadway Melody," with its dated references to Lenny Bruce and Caryl Chessman, etc. Yet it's also implied in the record's references to other pop music: The Drifters' "On Broadway," of course, but also Del Shannon's "Runaway" and plenty more, from "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" to "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll" (more Americanized British stuff!). It seems clear that Gabriel wanted the Lamb to be cosmopolitan and in dialogue with other rock and pop, not something to be filed away as a monument to British schoolboy eccentricity.

Ironically, American audiences didn't have a chance to get to know the music before the band embarked on its Lamb tour, an ambitious and costly marathon that shattered the group's camaraderie and left Genesis in debt. In a nutshell, the Lamb was the great divider, the project that wrecked the band's collaborative ethos and drove Gabriel away. You can hear Gabriel and the band pulling apart on the album -- or at least I imagine I can, informed by what I know about ensuing events. The members of Genesis have never quite been able to own this project in retrospect, due to the terrible stresses and wounded friendships it caused. In its time, then, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was a mad, glorious failure. The story, again, is a mess, but that's okay with me -- I like art that aims high, even when it falls down. In any case, the album sounds great, and despite its longueurs as a piece of storytelling, it's one of the indispensable prog records, a musical treasure trove, and the supreme test of what Gabriel and Genesis could do together. Genesis would never be this weird again.

(I suppose I should rate this as 4/5 rather than 5 stars, due to its fizzling story and lack of payoff, but the music is so damn good and the album so historic that only 5 will do...)

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 A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof by DJAM KARET album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.94 | 44 ratings

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A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof
Djam Karet Eclectic Prog

Review by moshkito

5 stars A Sky Full Of Stars For A Roof

I remember one time, in an email with Gayle that we talked about music or something related to chord and changes. He said it was different for them, since they could start on A and end up on Z.

Not a whole lot needed to be said about their music after that. If you listen to almost anything they do, just when you expect something or other, it is not there, and something else lights up the visions and cinematic sights that the music offers. It will still have, on occasion, a few signs of the hard and heavy rock band, but the nice thing is that they are not "stuck" on the solo or the moment, and it helps propel the music to another visual segment that ... sometimes defies description, and this is the greatest part of the attraction for their music.

Be it, using an incredible load of instruments from everywhere except Mars and Pluto (I think!!!), the collages are incredible and really neat, and show the incredible feast of sumptuous sounds and continuity to make some very different images.

It would be too easy, to say that there are a lot of influences, and the two most obvious are the original guitar romping along and taking the music to a different place, not your usual formatted song that you listen to each and every day ... and then it's ... a sitar like sound instead of the guitar? Some say that a lot here sounds like this or that, but the continuity of it all is nothing but Djam Karet at its best and so far out, that it leaves a lot of music feeling not as strong as it can be or should be. It's hard to come out of listening to Djam Karet and feeling that something is missing. More often than not you wonder what next since you know that the next bit is not the same thing!

Adding to this, are the electronics, both electronic and digital that infuse the complete sound of the band, into a myriad of feelings, probably too difficult to describe ... what was that and wow?

"Beyond the Frontier" starts the album and right off the bat you get a feeling of the early Djam Karet and its start from sounds and strangeness. Immediately you get the feeling that you are about to have a lot of guitar driven material, only for it to develop into something else totally different and it is not the guitar that does the "solo" at the top! Gotta love it when non-conventional methods and sounds are what this is all about, instead of a song format.

There is slight discussion that is likely more confusing to many of us than helpful but we have to take the word for it. Chuck Oken says that this something that comes out of a dual process of things that are mixed live and improvised, and some things work and end up kept.

Chuck states: "In 2017/2018, Gayle reviewed a whole bunch of electronic pieces I had sent him and he lived with them over time and took x amount of them and combined and edited them into 7 tracks. These electronic pieces were composed of everything but the kitchen sink as I use a large array of both analog and digital keyboards and modular with a healthy dose of looping and processing. Those 7 tracks became the 1st layer of this project and are accurately reflected in Beyond The Long Twilight."

"Long Ride to Eden" is one special piece, that at times has me thinking that this is what someone like Tangerine Dream could have done with its loud sequencers and additives over it. But DK is not just about that, and instead set about making it quite an experience in the listening. Take the title away, and you are really hard pressed into thinking what it is that you feel and see. It is a really special trip on its own, and many times, more often than not, I want more and more. It is just that far out.

"West Coast"

Starting with the feeling and idea of shooting stars on a clear night, it starts as a really soft piece of music, I suppose that you could say that melodies drive this piece all the way through it, and it stands out as a part of the "shooting stars" in between it all. A very pretty piece of music, that is soft and gentle, and you kinda want to dance to it, the type of feeling you want to have when you want something far out to last all night. Special, and non-stop!

" A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof" I may be nuts, but if there is something I always look forward to, is the any long piece of music that this band offers so many times. They are always unique and drive your mind to many places and are always very satisfying.

This piece, is the special one, and I will use Chuck Oken's words. " ... The release is a combination of the 2 layers. You could start the 2 CD's (Layer 1 & 2) on 2 separate players and Tracks 1 - 7 should line up to be the release. This was discovered during some very long artistic discussions between Gayle and myself about this project. One thing led to another and then we were doing a mix of the release without the electronics and then we did a mix of the release with just the electronics and by doing that the entire scope and vision of this project appeared. Two layer worlds combine in A Night Full Of Stars For A Roof bringing two very distinct pieces of music together."

I can only say that this piece is already slated for my night under the stars in a special place! It has a slight feeling of the early material that the band did, with the guitar sound in the background, a sort of scream from somewhere in nowhere land. But, in the end, this mix is a really special treat and experience. And you want to sit through it the whole time, and when it ends ... I want more ... not sure about you! From the electric guitar to the acoustic guitar to the electronic feeling in between that hardly feels like it, this is what this band is capable of. A special sound that defies description, because it is not one thing or the other. It is BOTH. And the musicianship is, to my ear, really well thought out and special. It's like there is nothing wrong or out of place. The stars are all there. You hear the birds here and there, and then a frog way out there somewhere, or a loud car/truck drives by, but in the end, it is a non- stop image and trip along the specter of life. Totally special and so well put together, that it is difficult to think of this as "music". For me, it feels like the inner sound of a part of my world that has way too many things in it, but somehow many of them come up and shine now and then. This piece, even without its title, is that for me.

"Dust In the Sun" "On The Third Day Arrived the Crow" "Specter of Twilight" "Night Falls"

Unlike the previous 4 pieces that start the album, these feel a bit more like a small song that was left over from some of the materials and their dual recording techniques as mentioned above. They are very melodic and pretty, and for my tastes not as "trippy", but no less attractive than the other pieces, and the special kudos goes to the last piece in the album, a wonderful close to this incredible experiment and experience that we know as Djam Karet.

A very special feeling.

A very special band.

Gayle Ellett Henry J. Osborne Mike Henderson Chuck Oken Jr

With guests: Shannon Michael Terry Todd Montgomery Mike Murray Micah Nelson Mark Cook

Note: Statements from Chuck Oken, Jr. were taken from their website.

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 Triana (El Patio) by TRIANA album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.25 | 224 ratings

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Triana (El Patio)
Triana Symphonic Prog

Review by koresea

5 stars So here we have what you call a masterpiece.

Triana's debut album is the classic symphonic prog type, that you are used to listen in Yes and Camel. With a minor tweak, the heavy influences of spanish tango.

This element are inserted in two ways, first there is a acoustic guitar which are present in the songs, it's always used in a creative form and help to give the feeling of the music, sometimes with fast-paced rhythms and other times in a more slow, focused and beaultiful manner. The other tango element is the vocals, they are all singed in spanish in a very emotive way, the singer can hit high notes and have a excelent voice.

These ingredients make the music feel diferrent for it's other counterparts at the time and give kinda a "national touch" to the opus, remebering us of his origin country but never crossing the borders and becoming folk. The progressive aspect of the band is perfect too, they transit between the epic and emotional and all tracks are just incredible pieces.

The eletric guitar is used in a sophisticated way, always gaining the highlight in the right moment and playing crazy dope solos. The keyboard are inserted sometimes as a atmospheric instrument, playing in the background to help us feel the music, or it takes the lead and show us equally great solos.

The drums and bass are utilized more like support intruments (as usual in rock). The drummer uses his parts to create a epic feel to the tracks, with loud and strong sections before the others members of the band receive the highlight, it have certains segments of fast-paced drumming where is show a great skill of the musician. The bass is naturally a more "modest" instrument and are just used to keep the beat of the song and tie everything together, but even with their simple lines it still inserted in an very effective way.

To summarize, we have a awesome vocalist, a perfect instrumentation with delightful songrwritting. "El Patio" is a masterpiece of prog-rock music and must be listened by every fan of genre. 5 Stars.

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 Straight Between the Eyes by RAINBOW album cover Studio Album, 1982
2.64 | 164 ratings

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Straight Between the Eyes
Rainbow Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Two albums in after the departure of original lead vocalist Ronnie James Dio, the legendary RAINBOW led by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had found a winner with newbie Joe Lynn Turner who helped reinvent the classic heavy metal RAINBOW into a more commercial hard rock version of the band which allowed the band to capture that Foreigner vibe which led to a slicker crossover appeal and mainstream success. While the first album with Turner, "Difficult To Cure" scored a top 5 hit with the Russ Ballard cover "I Surrender," the album was a bit clunky as the tracks were a bit inconsistent in both quality and stylistic approach. All of that was corrected with the sixth overall studio album STRAIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES which came out the following year in 1982.

The album perfectly captured the hard rock and AOR early 80s sound and fit in perfectly with contemporary acts like Whitesnake, Journey, Toto, Styx and the aforementioned Foreigner but offered more interesting musical performances with top notch musicians including Blackmore unleashing more impressive guitar solos than on the previous two albums. STRAIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES was the closest thing to the same lineup from a previous album with only keyboardist Don Airy being replaced by newbie David Rosenthal. While the album didn't perform as successfully in terms of pop hits and commercial success, STRAIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES showcased nine excellent tracks that mixed the heavier aspects of rock with the AOR leaning elements of ballads. While the lyrics were still far from the Dio led world swords and sorcery, the album hit its stride as a hard rock band that offered instantly catchy hooks with emotive high range vocal performances.

The first two opening tracks were both released as singles with videos. The first "Death Alley Driver" showcased the new reinvented RAINBOW in full fury with that hard rock machismo, quickened tempos all in full decibelage and the closest thing to metal music on the album. The following "Stone Cold" has been a staple on classic rock radio ever since it hit the airwaves and is perhaps one of the best tracks of the post-Dio era. The track was perfect in how it allowed Joe Lyn Turner to display his impressive vocal range and teased the strong melodies to commingle with sophisticated dynamics, instrumental interplay and the use of that by then idiosyncratic atmospheric style that RAINBOW had made all their own. While the rest of the tracks may not be as instantly accessible or addictive as the first combo effect, after a few spins also resonate quite high as the band perfectly nailed a sound that sounded something like Foreigner's "4" album along with classic Deep Purple keyboard led hard rock.

The track "MISS Mistreated" was a dig at David Coverdale's song "Mistreated" that appeared all the way back on Deep Purple's "Burn" album. Every track on this one is fairly strong and some feature extra heft as on "Rock Fever" which offered oscillating keyboard songs and that classic boogie guitar heft. The closing track "Eyes Of Fire" is also a standout as it featured some of the most sophisticated arrangements that including a heavy driving bass groove and the return of some of those symphonically fueled Middle Eastern music scales that made some of the Dio era tracks so classic sounding. Overall this wasn't an album that won me over in the beginning as i only wanted to hear the first two songs but after giving it a fair shake i actually grew to love the entire album. Yeah, if you are totally turned off by Turner's vocal style then this clearly isn't for you but if you fancy 80s hard rock with AOR crossover appeal then you can't do better than what RAINBOW was cranking out back in those days. This one has become a regular staple for yours truly.

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 Uneven by SIEGES EVEN album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.77 | 65 ratings

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Uneven
Sieges Even Progressive Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Uneven" is the 5th full-length studio album by German progressive metal act Sieges Even. The album was released through Under Siege Records in 1997. It´s the successor to "Sophisticated" from 1995 and adds keyboard player Börk Keller to the lineup. Other than the addition of Keller, the lineup remins the same as on "Sophisticated (1995)".

The stable lineup has resulted in a stable sound and style too, because the material on "Uneven" is a natural continuation of the music style on "Sophisticated (1995)". Highly energetic, funk/jazz/fusion infused technical/progressive metal with loads of melodic themes, and a distinct sounding lead vocalist in Jogi Kaiser, who sometimes sound like he is the singer in a funk band and other times like he is singing on a Broadway musical. He´s got a great range, a powerful and distinct sounding voice, but his delivery is pretty surely an aquired taste.

The technical playing is through the roof on "Uneven" and the skillful and varied playing is one of the great assets of the album. The Holzwarth brothers Oliver (bass) and Alexander (drums) play some extremely challenging rhythms and bass lines, while guitarist Wolfgang Zenk constantly shows virtuosic playing and his great knowledge in many different musical styles. He can play neo-classical influenced power metal riffs and melodies one minute and the next rhythmically challenging funk riffs, and then the next moment intriguing melodic guitar solos and progressive metal complexities. That man is a genius on a guitar. As far as I know the two Sieges Even albums are unfortunately the only metal oriented releases he appears on.

"Uneven" is an album for the adventurous and open minded progressive metal listeners. It would be the last Sieges Even album featuring this lineup and this style before the band split-up in 1997. Upon their return in 2003 the lineup was different and the music style changed with the new members (one of them a returning Markus Steffen on guitars). Both "Sophisticated (1995)" and "Uneven" are quite unique sounding technical/progressive metal releases and while Sieges Even have certainly made other great albums, that´s the period in the band´s career, they released their most distinct sounding and unique material. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

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 The Dark Presence by BLACKSMITH TALES album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.15 | 35 ratings

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The Dark Presence
Blacksmith Tales Neo-Prog

Review by alainPP

4 stars Warning!, concept album or almost that hides real pearls! An album out of nowhere that mixes neo-prog, yes, yes, quite stunning medieval folk and symphonic in the background. David Del Fabro does almost everything and does it very well, he who has spent many years reflecting on the dinosaur bands that are PINK FLOYD, GENESIS, on the prog metal bands of the 80's before the appearance of progressive metal; neo that is not from the RPI:

"The Dark Presence" for the enjoyable start with a mixture of solos on a rather slow rhythm, which explodes the meter of emotion; old keyboards which flirt with an angry guitar and you have a bomb. "Golgotha ​​' 'impressed me for this musical crescendo where old sounds intersect with some female voices, all sprinkled with a good guitar riff; bombastic and worked. Other titles pass one after the other with ballads, sequencing, more or less relaxing musical interludes, where the folkloric side gives a certain freshness. '' Possessed By Time '' is inserted by offering a mega title of more than 17 minutes with an alternation of neo and folk rhythms, even classical ones; a bit of MARILLION at times for the lyrical and instrumental flights, a bit of heavy atmospheres, others soaring, relaxing, post before a more nervous restart, a title that asks only to be listened to again. ''. Book of Coming Forth by Day '' and this final which will alternate soft and strong, tender and nervous, melodic classic with heavy metal for guitars, delicate and grandiloquent symbiosis, accomplished and perfectionist yes.

BLACKSMITH TALES is thus releasing a fantastic album on a common ground by allowing itself to mix pleasantly various progressive sounds and to release a sound apart, between all. The spirited trendy story adds to the depth of the music, the voice of Beatrice gives more openness to the sound while Michele narrates more than he sings and intensifies the notion of the concept album. To immerse yourself in the long term to remove all the musical nuances.

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 Live in Italy by RENBOURN, JOHN album cover Live, 1998
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Live in Italy
John Renbourn Prog Related

Review by SteveG

— First review of this album —
4 stars This live solo outing of Renbourn is noteworthy as it's one of the rare documents of John in his later acoustic guitar virtuoso and elder statesman persona. In what started off life as probably a bootleg before John claimed it as his own and licensed it off in an official release, John himself guesses that this 46 minute concert recording dates sometime from the 80s. If John was still living I'd formally disagree. After securing a music degree in composition and arranging from Dartmouth College in the late 80s, while improving his playing skills to superhuman levels, this is definitely the John Renbourn of the 90s and beyond.

The former Pentangle member re-interprets his old standbys like "Great Dream From Heaven" and "Sweet Potato" with subtle changes in arrangement while interjecting jaw dropping finger picked leads that would have impressed greats like Davy Graham and Django Reinhardt. John's confident demeaner shines through in his playing. He knows he's one of the greats by this juncture and he's happy to flaunt it, much to the delight of his audience. John's vocals are also more confident, deeper and commanding at this point, which makes the rare appearance of "Lord Franklin" from Pentangle's "Cruel Sister" album all the more poignant and touching. Live In Italy is an important document in the development and growth of John Renbourn, which at this point, looked like it had no end. 4 stars for the content and excellent sound quality.

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 Grandi Incontri by ORME, LE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1990
2.17 | 6 ratings

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Grandi Incontri
Le Orme Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Prog123

2 stars I wasn't expecting to see this compilation in PA, especially as I consider it more of an "object" for Le Orme devotees. I try to explain: in the "Quintet" phase Le Orme are simply an Italian Beat/ Psychedelic band that engages something progressive but only to try to differentiate from the other bands that were operating in Italy at the time. Many of the ideas that are exposed in music have aged too badly and are tied too much to a period of the late 60's where I listened to better things even between bands of their own subgenre. What strikes me positively, however, is the quest to stand out despite having no real idea where the music was heading. As is known, in fact, it was only with the trip to the "Isle of Wight Festival" in 1970 that the band realized what the international scene was proposing and what their new verb will be. In their first two albums ("Ad Gloriam" and "L'aurora delle Orme") there is only the germ of what Le Orme will be later on. Which is fundamental for the birth of the Italian progressive. But which, in a more international sense, is not memorable.

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 Best Of Aphrodite's Child by APHRODITE'S CHILD album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1975
2.68 | 23 ratings

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Best Of Aphrodite's Child
Aphrodite's Child Symphonic Prog

Review by Prog123

3 stars Hmmm ... Ok, only with "666" we can define them Progressive. But here I can't say I listen to bad music. If you like bands like The Move, ELO, The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, 10CC or I Dik Dik, Aphrodite's Child will surely please you. I could finish the review here. But, correctly ... Correctly you will not find Progressives here but a POP that is not very far from the music of the bands I mentioned above. What comes to the ears is, in fact, excellent music, excellently written and played. The production is honest and the sound is clear and well balanced. So we can't help but notice that it is the typical transition POP band from POP/ Beat to Progressive Rock, with all the strengths and weaknesses we know, in relation to these bands. However, compared to other similar bands, the songs have aged very well and some are real anthems of that period. Well ... It will also be POP. But the quality is such that it will satisfy even the most demanding ears.

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 Difficult to Cure by RAINBOW album cover Studio Album, 1981
2.95 | 166 ratings

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Difficult to Cure
Rainbow Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Ritchie Blackmore has long been known as a difficult personality to work with and when one looks back at his band RAINBOW and its ever rotating cast of team members, it all reads like one of those horrible 1980s soap operas but yet somehow he sallied forth and released eight albums. After three albums with Ronnie James Dio as lead vocalist, RAINBOW earned its heavy metal creds as one of the leading pioneers of the power metal genre with excellent songwriting, tight-knit instrumental interplay and fantasy fueled themes that reverberate into the modern world of metal music however mainstream success eschewed the band and Blackmore was getting a little weary of the cashless notoriety and therefore steered the band into a more commercial sound.

The decision caused Ronnie James Dio to jump ship who was replaced by ex-The Marbles singer Graham Bonnet. "Down To Earth" did a fine job streamlining the RAINBOW sound into the zeitgeist of the late 70s hard rock scene without sacrificing the powerful drive that the first three albums had. It proved to send RAINBOW onto the album charts but still wasn't good enough for Blackmore who wanted to be the next Boston i guess. Despite Bonnet doing a stellar job of belting out all those boogie fueled hard rock tunes, his forte was in the world of R&B so he felt like a fish out of water and jumped ship leaving Blackmore with the position of replacing the vocalist one more time. In the meantime Blackmore had zeroed in as Foreigner as the band that he wanted to emulate and in Bonnet's stead arrived the newbie singer from New Jersey named Joe Lynn Turner who indeed sounded a lot like Lou Gramm.

Turner proved to be the lead singer RAINBOW needed to take the band's sound into the commercial arenas of AOR infused hard rock and he would record three albums with the band before Blackmore scrapped it all and rejoined Deep Purple. DIFFICULT TO CURE was the first Turner album which came out in early 1981 and showcased an even more commercialized sound for RAINBOW. The former Argent guitar and singer Russ Ballard vaults were raided again after the success of "Since You've Been Gone" and the lead singer "I Surrender" quickly raced up the charts and hit the #3 position on the UK charts but the big time success Blackmore was shooting for in the US still eluded him. Being a bit cheesier filled with those tinny 80s keyboards and high register vocals, DOWN TO EARTH indeed sounded like a long lost Foreigner album, well, at least some of the time. Another interesting fact is that the album cover was originally supposed to appear on Black Sabbath's 1978 album "Never Say Die!"

Truth be told, DIFFICULT TO CURE was a shaky start for Turner who performed his vocal duties well but the album was riddled with inconsistencies. While some tracks like "No Release" and "Can't Happen Here" evoked the past with bluesy heavy and Deep Purple infused keyboards, other tracks were just plain silly including the hit single. "Spotlight Kid" although an OK track with the same boogie rock swagger featured a very strange sort of keyboard wizardry hoedown towards the end. "Magic" was anything but with an insufferable mix and sounds like a reject from one of those 80s Survivor albums. The AOR aspects were clearly a desperate attempt to cash in on the band's by then legendary status. Nothing against AOR pop rock ballads but as with every musical genre, it requires the right elements in the right places in order to work and at this point RAINBOW sounds a bit lost.

Other tracks like "Freedom Fighter" and "Midtown Tunnel Vision" also skate in between the bluesy rock of the past and the more commercial sounds of the present but ultimately come off as Bad Company rejects. The cream of the crop for those who missed the Dio days was the closing instrumental title track with was in fact a modern interpretation of Ludwig van Beehthoven's "Ninth" which sort of sounded like an old version of Deep Purple trying to emulate 1960s The Nice by rockin' the classics. The track is probably the best on this one. As far as i'm concerned and speaking as someone who actually loves the AOR 80s version of RAINBOW, DIFFICULT TO CURE is the weakest album of RAINBOW's eight album run. Not only is the material mostly mediocre but Blackmore was clearly indecisive as to exactly move the band with some tracks emulating Foreigner, others sounding like Whitesnake and yet others latching onto RAINBOW's own Dio years. While not a horrible album by any means, this is my personal least favorite of this band's existence.

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 Heavy Yoke by AZUSA album cover Studio Album, 2018
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Heavy Yoke
Azusa Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Neo-Romantic

— First review of this album —
5 stars Challenging. Intriguing. Beautiful.

The first two adjectives can easily pair together, but throw the third one into the mix, and you have a fairly unorthodox mixture. Indeed the first time I heard this album, I wouldn't have thought that my eventual judgment of it would be as such, but the material is as emotionally compelling as it is intellectually stimulating.

I bought this album on a whim while I was looking for some more experimental metal to diversify my collection. And I certainly got what I was hoping for. Up to this point I hadn't heard anything comparable to this band's material. And I certainly hadn't heard anything so challenging, so demanding of repeated listens before "getting it" since Viljans Oga by Anglagard. But this certainly isn't symphonic prog with long form pieces. This is a brisk, dense, ripshod run through eleven engaging tracks of unapologetically extreme progressive thrash metal.

At first I wasn't sure if I'd like an album that was so short (only 34:10); with track so short and plentiful, I wasn't sure if the musicians would have enough time to develop their ideas. Usually techniques like motovic transformation require longer run times or bringing certain previously-heard themes back in later tracks. But instead of doing this, Azusa chose to juxtapose several unique, memorable ideas within the same song, connecting them in logical ways. The material itself is also very dense, and these transitions happen at such a fast pace that it makes the songs feel much longer than they actually are (in a good way). This material is played by top- caliber musicians whose chemistry is evidenced by the tight synchronicity they exhibit as they fluently play these challenging yet enjoyable passages.

When speaking about these musicians, it is important to mention the vocals. Eleni Zafiriadou is the first female vocalist I had heard perform in an extreme metal band, but her performance was truly captivating. I was very impressed by her versatility in utilizing so many vocal styles. Whether it was yelling, singing, speaking, or singing electronically-treated vocal passages, each passage was convincingly and masterfully executed. It was a pleasure to hear her, and my impression is that the band was thrilled to have the opportunity to feature her unique talents. The vocals are a prominent feature of pieces, but the instrumentalists themselves (who sport pedigrees from Extol and The Dillinger Escape Plan) contribute with engaging performances of exciting and varied material. It is a very cohesive album which demonstrates a group of musicians who seem to genuinely enjoy collaborating, in my opinion.

Lyrically speaking, this album is also compelling, exploring themes of struggle, stress, and Christian spirituality. The evocative texts are replete with imagery and expressivity which appropriately compliment the heavy and varied character of the music. Zafiriadou's versatile vocalizations match the individual lyrical lines, thus adding an element of "text painting" to the songs. This type of attention to detail augments the emotional authenticity and artistic depth of the songs.

Heavy Yoke is an album I consider essential to a well-rounded progressive rock collection, in spite of the polarizing nature of extreme metal. These songs combine memorable melodies, wildly shifting rhythmic patterns, contrasting sonic textures, unique harmonies, and moving vocals and lyrics to create a highly expressive, diverse album packed into an air-tight parcel. The album does require patience, as it is very challenging to digest all of its layers in one or two listens, but like many great progressive albums, it rewards repeated listens and committed investment. I give it 5 well-earned stars.

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 Lost Humanity by ELISEEV PROJECT  (D.E.P.), DANIEL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.77 | 7 ratings

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Lost Humanity
Daniel Eliseev Project (D.E.P.) Heavy Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars In search of the truth yet again. When Daniel Eliseev is promising something new (music-wise), you implicitly should pay attention. There's always a surprise bag awaiting, assured. To start with, he's an acclaimed session guitarist, at least when it comes to his homeland Bulgaria. I was very impressed by the collaborations with Kalin Tonev for example, and so much the more the previous project album 'Night Shadow'. This one now comes after a three-year gap. Well, there was no need to laze around. He has taken enough time to collect impressions, bringing inspirations into shape and developing new drafts of songs. No vocals on this occasion. Musically this is turning towards an eclectic direction a bit. Just to highlight the excellent Curved Path for example, distinctly provided in the vein of Gentle Giant respectively King Crimson.

According to the band name and being responsible for compositions and production, of course it's his project, also confirmed by the fact that the guitars are totally prominent. Thus 'Lost Humanity' is very much focussed on his skills again. The mix provides Daniel's preferred instrument multi-layered, multi-tracked. Aside from that he also offers some keyboard duties, but this clearly has a minor role on this occasion, just for having some ambient layers in charge for example. Regarding the approach to deliver compelling rock music the other basics are successfully embedded by three additional bassists and two drummers. Overall the result is a mixture of styles he himself qualifies as Progressive Rock Ambient.

As it is in most cases, in opposite to the pop culture, prog music needs time to take affect, yep. Just take the comfortable option to reserve full presence on his bandcamp page and listen to the new songs in the first instance. After all the album's flow comes across completely homogeneous. Now here you go, let it rrrrrock! - leading into the album Beyond The Night immediately makes pace. As for the counterpart, like on Autumn Mood - nice percussion added by Pepe Rodriguez by the way - and Hidden Land, some fine melancholy is interspersed from time to time. Furthermore a slight Fusion touch is available on Shambhala and Mirror World. This time deliberately focussed on a diversified electric guitar appearance the overall delivery is entertaining once more during those round about 50 minutes playing time. My summary: undoubtedly a beautiful experience.

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 Mirage by SCHULZE, KLAUS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.27 | 331 ratings

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Mirage
Klaus Schulze Progressive Electronic

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars The 1970s were certainly a period of great creativity for Klaus Schulze: after the masterpieces "Irrlicht" (1972) and "Cyborg" (1973), which fully consecrated him as the undisputed master of Cosmic Music, a genre practically invented by him, the German musician then continued his career by releasing records characterized by easier but no less valid electronics. The gothic and grandiloquent "Blackdance" (1973) - and the meditative "Picture Music" (1975), with the rhythms of the classic "Totem", clearly showed the path that would be taken shortly thereafter. The "Wagnerian" masterpiece "Timewind" (1975) was a confirmation of his great moment of inspiration. In the meantime Schulze was beginning to be known and appreciated in Europe, in particular in France he enjoyed a lot of respect and credit. But it is with the publication of "Moondawn" (1976) that what the Schulze-sound will be from that moment on is clearly outlined. The music actually becomes more impactful, dominated by sequencers, as Tangerine Dream of the Virgin period was already doing, but it always remains of great value.

With "Mirage" (1977), on the other hand, Schulze publishes a different disc of music. "Mirage" is an album that evokes winter scenarios, sad and cold. It was composed in a particularly difficult period in Klaus Schulze's life as his brother was dying and about to die. Contains 2 long tracks titled "Velvet Voyage" and "Crystal Lake". The easy rhythms of "Moondawn" disappear in favor of leaden atmospheres created by Moog synthesizers. "Velvet Voyage" immediately envelops us in an endless twilight of the soul. The first Tangerine Dream come to mind but the music is if possible more dramatic: it seems the soundtrack of a landscape of infinite expanses of eternal ice. "Crystal Lake" is instead a small piece of work and one of the best pieces of his production: the structure of the music is based on slow and circular sound stratifications that create an epic symphony of infinite cosmic sadness. It is like living within a dream that puts us in contact with a sense of impending death, making us understand the transience of human life and the sense of dismay in the face of the eternal beauty of nature. We are faced with deep and crepuscular music, which shows all the sensitivity of Klaus Schulze.

"The record should reflect topics like ice age, winter, stagnation and death. The basic idea was to create an electronic winter landscape. "- KLAUS SCHULZE stated this unequivocally about his 1977 Winter work "Mirage"and makes it sound as atmospheric as snowflakes that slowly and unnoticed fall to the ground in a nocturnal landscape and gradually cover the dark ground with a white surface until a few distant stars glisten on it. An indispensable album from KLAUS SCHULZE!

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 Timewind by SCHULZE, KLAUS album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.22 | 308 ratings

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Timewind
Klaus Schulze Progressive Electronic

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars The ride of the Valkyries diluted and slowed down in the absence of gravity, like a ghostly dance in infinite space- time. The twilight of the Gods celebrated in a long sidereal journey around the rings of Saturn. It is a daring bet, the one that Klaus Schulze decides to face in 1975, after having given birth to 4 solo LPs following his separation from the spaceships of Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel. Hunched between his keyboards-cyborg, in an inextricable tangle of cables and LEDs, the Berlin composer gives birth to a concept-album about his idol Richard Wagner. As if to reiterate once more how German electronic music had roots firmly planted in the noble classical traditions of that country. Only two suites of about half an hour each, to consecrate himself godfather of kosmische musik and all its evolutions over the centuries.

Apex of the work is the colossal opening suite "Bayreuth Return", which mentions the Bavarian city where the Leipzig composer chose to live. A ghostly cosmic wind sweeps the song from the beginning, creeping like fine dust between the liquid sounds of synths. Then, around the third minute, one of Schulze's classic twists starts. The sequencers begin to brush celestial melodic phrases, which overlap in various tones, radiating into the cosmic void, in an increasingly hypnotic and enveloping spiral, in which the listener ends up literally swallowed up, like a spaceship sucked into a black hole. In this hazy magma of synthesized hisses and strings, of synthetic modulations and pulsations, where one rhythm gains momentum and the other fades to the lapping of the keyboards, the wonderful main melody makes its way, as in a progressive ascent towards a remote galaxy , perhaps unattainable. This panic terror of space, this sense of loss of all sensory control - as in an Indian raga projected into the cosmos - permeates the piece, giving it a truly Wagnerian sense of drama. And the rhythmic patterns of the sequencers, changing speed and chasing each other endlessly, like a sort of cosmic frequency, give a trance effect of extraordinary modernity for the time. The visionary fury of "Irrlicht" has not diminished, but has become less alien and abstract, more musical and harmonious, gaining a sense of romantic grandeur but always remaining inserted in a dramatic psychological dimension. A real electronic nirvana.

The second movement, "Wahnfried 1883", takes its name from Wagner's residence in Bayreuth, combining the words wahn (illusion) and fried (peace), while 1883 is the year of the death of the composer from Leipzig. Slower and more meditative, with no more pulsations and reverberations, in a decided course towards ambient music, the song is all played on organ drones that float in the immense solitude of the cosmic darkness, pierced by the electrical discharges of the synths and surrounded by melodies as static as contrite and solemn, as in a sort of stellar requiem for a celestial body. Another electronic wall of sound for another monumental suite, on which there will be those - such as the Orbs - who will build almost an entire career.

For a long time Schulze's only album released in the United States, "Timewind" is in fact the perfect starting point to approach the Berlin master's endless discography, as well as one of his most cinematic works (almost an ideal soundtrack of a film by Andrei Tarkovsky). In 2016 it was masterfully remastered with the addition of a second CD containing three bonus tracks. The first two are outtakes from the original 1975 sessions: "Echoes Of Time" is in fact an alternative and extended version (39 minutes) of "Bayreuth Return", also taken from the shorter "Solar Wind", which recovers the chords by purifying them rhythmic scans of the sequencer. The concluding "Windy Times" is instead a sort of Schulze's self-homage to the entire album: a rare track composed in 2000, with sequencer beats in line with those of the Bayreuth suite but updated to contemporary sounds and with a midtempo beat. techno-style, almost as if to underline the birthright of that musical season.

If "Irrlicht" is "the highest peak from which music has ever looked at the stars", "Timewind" is just another, unmissable, stage of the journey. A space odyssey, that of Klaus Schulze, which would continue until today, with results that were not always so brilliant, but with an eye always tirelessly looking to the future.

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 Future Days by CAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.11 | 623 ratings

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Future Days
Can Krautrock

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars It's not easy to talk about an album like Can's Future Days. In addition to being the fifth work of Holger Czucay & associates, Future Days is a pure concentrate of genius and experimentation, for a result that is simply unthinkable for any record of any band. At least in 1973. In short, whether they are Terminators sent back in time or simply incredible precursors, Can manage to produce a stratospheric and absolutely perfect album, at least thirty years ahead of any work of that period, and still a source of inspiration today ( and "looting") for numerous artists of the contemporary music scene.

Four tracks for thirty-four minutes of total duration, the Can recipe, apparently, seems disengaged and within everyone's reach, but a thorough analysis of their music is enough to discourage such a simplistic approach to everything. Just listen to the long initial title track, in fact, to get carried away by its explosive nine minutes, based on dance and obsessive funk rhythms, hypnotic percussion and infinite progressions with a vague jazz-fusion flavor, for which the simple definition of "rock free-form "seems to be tighter than ever. The following and short "Spray" and "Moonshake" are two pearls of rare splendor, the first characterized by a jazz-percussive delirium, the second by sonic minimalism, frenetic rhythms and by the usual engaging guitar by Michael Karoli, which almost acts as a background , a futuristic electro-funk at the service of the almost whispered voice of Damo Suzuki. From applause. But the best is yet to come, and we find it in the final and interminable "Bel Air", crazy twenty-minute suite, in which the cosmic rock of Can reaches perfection, thanks above all to the incredible performances to the skins of the superlative Jaki Liebezeit.

And so we come to the end, between supersmooth guitars, crazy rhythms and birds chirping (yes, you got it right !!), with the desire to listen to this absolute masterpiece over and over again, to discover all its nuances, even the most hidden ones. , and to try to understand what was going on in the mind of Czukay & company in the early '70s. A monumental work, in short, this Future Days, a direct development of the sonic evolutions already proposed to us with the previous Ege Bamyasi and, above all, the definitive consecration of Can in the legend, their definitive access into that history of music which, at times, it does not pay proper homage to psychotics of this caliber. Essential.

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 Hosianna Mantra by POPOL VUH album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.18 | 328 ratings

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Hosianna Mantra
Popol Vuh Krautrock

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars "Hosianna Mantra" was a mystical hymn imbued with "cosmic" purity that admirably united Christian and Oriental religiosity and that resonated at the time of its release in the minds of all "initiates": Fricke had decided to renounce all electronic instruments and composed what remains unquestionably his masterpiece. The religious suggestions and the "spiritual" path of Fricke are probably at the origin of this return to the uncontaminated "purity" of acoustic instruments such as piano, harpsichord, violin and oboe which he gave to the avant-garde of the era a "pearl" Mantrica, a timeless and innovative music that, from here on, will act as a watershed in its musical conception. Fricke worked on simple but not sparse arrangements, preferring an acoustic instrumentation largely of a "cultured" mold (piano, harpsichord, oboe, violin), with rock components in the guitars, plus the touch of exoticism of the tamboura (an Indian stringed instrument ideal for producing drones). His refined supporting actors were the guitarist Conny Veit of Amon Duul II, the Korean soprano Djong Yun (The contribution of Djong Yun is extremely precious: her mystical voice seems to come from otherworldly dimensions and contributes decisively to the magic of the disc together with the chisel work of Conny Veit's guitar that embellishes with his psychedelic embroideries the mystical aura that emanates from the grooves) , the violinist Fritz Sonnleitner, Robert Eliscu on the oboe and Klaus Wiese on the tamboura.

The disc is divided into two parts: "Hosianna Mantra" and "Das V Buch Mose". The opening is entrusted to "Ah!", Which begins with a romantic and minimal piano sonata on which floating notes of guitar and tamboura rest. The finale features a dizzying fugue for piano and electric guitar. The second piece is the Kyrie, a Christian litany that is part of the sung mass, which extends over a Bachian aria for violin, piano and soprano. The symbol of the religious poetics of the Popol Vuh is, however, the title track, the Hosianna-Mantra. It is in this long metaphysical jam that two types of distant rituals are condensed perfectly: the hymn to Christ (the Hosanna) and the Hindu liturgy consisting of the continuous repetition of the same formula or word (the mantra). A dreamy piano and a psychedelic guitar make up the harmonic texture that supports the baroque echoes of the oboe and Djong Yun's psalmody.

Side B opens with "Abschied", a piece embellished with a luminous oboe and continues with "Segnung" in which the radiant voice of Djoung Yun recites texts taken from the Bible: this piece seems to have been recorded in a remote monastery, only the Popol Vuh knew prey to what visions of purity and innocence they had immersed themselves. Another of the gems of this epochal work is "Nich hoch im Himmel", this piece still shows Fricke's genius in composition, the atmosphere reveals itself is among the most intense and dark throughout the album.

At the end of listening you are stunned, it is impossible to remain indifferent if you manage to "enter" the pancultural mysticism of this record: it is evident that Fricke's superfine European musical culture has managed to combine with oriental "mantric" structures perfect combination that no one will be able to repeat in the future at these levels.

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 The Decca Years 1975-1978 by KAIPA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2005
4.67 | 40 ratings

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The Decca Years 1975-1978
Kaipa Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars Thirty years of activity are celebrated since the debut CD was released in 1975, what better occasion to remaster the first works and come out with a deluxe box set to the delight of old and new fans. The work contains the first three albums: Kaipa (1975), Inget Nytt Under Solen (1976) and Solo (1978); the unreleased live Kaipa Live with period recordings and a fifth cd containing demo, unreleased and curiosity material entitled 1974 Unedited Master Demo Recording. A marathon that allows us to deepen the evolution of one of the most important Swedish prog bands. To accompany everything there is a very well-finished booklet of 56 pages with many photos and long texts, truly comprehensive. For the record, Kaipa will release two more albums Hander (1980) and Nattdjurstid (1982) and then disappear until the re-foundation in 2002 with the publication of Notes From the Past which was followed by the excellent Keyholders (2003) and Mindrevolutions (2005). Afterwards, the band released five more albums, the last of which was released in 2017 under the title "Children Of The Sounds"

The first CD of the same name is a little prog gem with long and airy songs owed by Yes, but also capable of offering new solutions thanks to a mix of Swedish folk elements and solid prog rock, very well represented in songs like "Skogspromenad". But there is no shortage of refinements and jazzy moments as in "Forlorad i Istanbul" demonstrating that the group moves with wisdom and great agility in very different territories. Two short bonus tracks are added to the lineup, the first of which is experimental and a little crazy, while the second is a ballad with a pastoral flavor, which then unexpectedly changes into a folk tour with an unexpected flavor.

The second album is already more pretentious and opens with an excellent suite vaguely space rock, as you can also guess from the cover of the album with the astronauts. The sounds become more dreamy and dilated and you feel that the group has grown, even if it is perhaps a little less original than in the debut. Pink Floyd is also added to the influences already mentioned, but the overall result is of great stylistic elegance, while not lacking a certain expressive force. Four rather pleasant and interesting bonuses are added to the original album, such as the poetic "The Gate of Day" and are the first tracks where the band abandoned the difficult national language for the more familiar English. This is the most beautiful and complete work expressed in this period by the band.

The growth of the group continues to be felt even with the fabulous "Solo", a record that does not add new elements to the already very intriguing sound of Kaipa, but which shows a group in continuous growth, eager to continue to hold up a tradition, of prog, which in those years was undergoing an inexorable decline. Despite this, however, the disc is lighter and weaker than its predecessor, Kaipa's research shifts to the sounds and internal cohesion of the group, the result is enjoyable, but we could also expect a more robust music from them. However, 1978 was a terrible time for prog and this record is superior to many competing products and still offers various interesting insights as in the beautiful "Respektera Min Varld". Beautiful cover that introduces us to the fairytale universe of the group.

The live is very well recorded and is an important document to know more in detail the characteristics of this group, in particular the first seven tracks which were professionally recorded. The recordings therefore date back to different periods and allow us to listen to more moments in the life of the group. The collection of demos and unreleased tracks is the album that most of all is intended for fans of the group, the material is interesting, but it is not comparable to that proposed in the previous discs, therefore it remains more a curiosity or a useful compendium for those who want to deepen in detail the sound of the group of Hans Lundin and Roine Stolt. Kaipa, as we have already said at the beginning, are back in a great way and are publishing some excellent works, in particular the last two, so I think it is important and pleasant to take a good dive into the origins of this band that has been able to resurrect and recur with a lot of passion.

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 Typhareth by ZAO album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.65 | 33 ratings

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Typhareth
Zao Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

3 stars After Kawana, the trio that stood out most (Seffer, Truong, Lockwood) departed, leaving just Cahen and Prevost from that lineup. Replacing the sax talents of Seffer and the drumming of Truong is nigh on impossible, but they did it as best they could by drifting further into a standard Jazz style than ever before. The Zeuhl influence is completely gone really (although it might not be out of place on Magma's debut album).

It feels a little bit "safe" and so probably doesn't either wow or offend fans of Zeuhl and/or Jazz. But the highlight is definitely the opener 'Merci Jacky'. The 12 minute title track is slow and atmospheric and to be honest I found it a bit boring. They probably knew some people would think that as Troupeau De Bisons Sous Un Crane is a short happy clappy bit of classic funky jazz music. Binah is back to more atmospheric, a nice track but little more than that, and Les Temps Changent is a synth heavy lounge track.

It was encouraging after the first track, then I got a bit bored and it never quite picked up again. A shame for a group that to me delivered a few great tracks but surrounded by filler.

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 Chaptersend by MOGADOR album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.61 | 19 ratings

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Chaptersend
Mogador Crossover Prog

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "Chaptersend" is the fourth studio album by Mogador, an interesting prog band from Como, Lombardy. It was released in 2017 with a renewed line up featuring Richard George Allen (drums, vocals, percussion), Luca Briccola (guitars, keyboards, bass, flute, backing vocals), Salvatore Battello (bass, guitars, backing vocals), Samuele Dotti (keyboards, backing vocals) and Marco Terzaghi (vocals) plus some guests such as Jon Davison (vocals), Ida Di Vita (violin) and Elisa Salvaterra (flute). According to the liner notes in the booklet, this work represents "a sort of end and beginning at the same time". The band evolved from a simple studio project to a real band playing live on stage and took the chance to refresh their early repertoire reshaping in an effective way same old pieces...

The lively opener 'Summer Sun' is a celebration of the sun and of its sparkling force in a summer day. The music every now and again could recall PFM while the lyrics are taken from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson of the same title included in the 1885 collection 'A Children's Garden of Verses'.

Next comes the powerful 'The Escapologist', a beautiful piece inspired by the life and death of Harry Houdini (1874-1926), a world-wide famous Hungarian-born American escape artist, illusionist and stunt performer. For a trick of the fate, the death-defying man of mystery who performed at least three variations on a buried alive stunt during his career eventually ends up in a box from where there's no way to come out... His coffin!

'Deep Blue Steps' is beautiful track that tells of a suggestive descent into the subconscious and of desires you can't control. It's linked to the following 'Still Alone', a new interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe's poem 'Alone', where the poet describes the tragedy of not being part of the crowd. This new version is very different from the one from their previous album "Absinthe Tales Of Romantic Visions", more complex and refined...

'Josephine's Regrets' features the backing vocals of the guest Jon Davison and is a lovely emotional portrait in music and words of Napoleon's wife Joséphine de Beauharnais, a patron of arts whose Chateau de Malmaison was best known for its rose garden, which she supervised closely...

'Breaking Day' is a colourful musical tableau where the music and words depict a hill landscape before the storm. It leads to the dramatic 'Gentleman John', a piece dedicated to the memory of Anthony John Morgan (1959-2000), an English writer and expert on etiquette best remembered for his column in London based daily newspaper The Times...

The new version of 'Tell Me Smiling Child', a folksy ballad with lyrics taken from a poem by Emily Bronte, introduces the long, complex 'Fundamental Elements Suite', divided into five parts: The Tide's Undertow, The Salamander, Floating In The Void, Mammon's Greed: Eternity's Gift and Mammon's Greed: Infinity's Price. The band here deconstructed and rebuilt some pieces from their 2009 debut eponymous album giving them a more coherent, convincing form. The music and lyrics deal with environmental issues, passions, fears, greediness, freedom, respect for Mother Nature... A great finale!

On the whole, an accomplished and mature work from a band that deserve credit!

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 Ghost Reveries by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.24 | 1669 ratings

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Ghost Reveries
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Gorgut Muncher

3 stars Ghost Reveries kinda feels like a more diverse, less heavy Blackwater Park, and I blame that on the keyboards which make the whole album sound alot more cheesy. This album also sounds a lot like Dream Theater (a band I'm personally not very attracted to, most of the time) with its pompous riffs and keyboard solos. Surprisingly, even though the album isn't too unpredictable, there's still some amazing tracks in it.

The opener Ghost Of Perdition is probably the best song the band has ever made. It perfectly synthesizes what the album and Opeth are all about. Heavy riffs, mellow sections, Growl vocals, soft vocals, dark lyrics, all in one song. The Baying Of The Hounds and Harlequin Forest are very solid and diverse tracks, with the latter having a great acoustic section in the middle. Beneath The Mire and Grand Conjuration are good metal tracks, but they're on the worse side of the album, the latter being very repetitive and uninteresting. Hours Of Wealth and Isolation Years are great mellow ballads. Atonement is the worst from the album and honestly really bad.

I would still recommend it if you like growls, but I don't think this is one of Opeth's best releases.

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 Blackwater Park by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.24 | 1786 ratings

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Blackwater Park
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Gorgut Muncher

4 stars One of my favorite Opeth releases. A truly ass-breaking experience that caught me off-guard when I first listened it. As always, Opeth utilizes its musical knowledge to make songs very different from each other, while also being dynamic. The three +10 minute tracks in the album are the three best songs in my opinion, with the title track being their second best song to date. Bleak is a very catchy and brutal track that works very well and Harvest works as a great ballad. Dirge For November and The Funeral Potrait are tracks that feature mellow and heavy sections, the main riff in Funeral Potrait is great! Influences in this album include Porcupine Tree And Dream Theater.

Works very well when doing full listens, I recommend you this album if you don't find growls to be annoying.

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 Obras De Violeta Parra by JAIVAS, LOS album cover Studio Album, 1984
4.09 | 107 ratings

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Obras De Violeta Parra
Los Jaivas Prog Folk

Review by koresea

4 stars Here we have a nice record. as much people pointed out this album is sort of an tribute to the works of Violeta Parra, using her music as base to insert a progressive feel and create something unique of theirs and at the same time paying their respect to the composer. I should note that I not familiar with the "source" matterial of the album and I will try to review the work only by what is stated by it.

And what I must mention of this work? Well is pretty good, the songs are in majority large and epic compositions with long instrumental sections. I believe that the general sounding of the album can be split in 2 focal points, at one side you have the "folk" aspect of the band, that I must say is a VERY strong trait and can be a down side to some people, but once you get youself confortable with it will perceive this is very nicely done.

In the other side is the prog-rock, which is more oriented to classic prog, with piano and guitar solos and all that stuff (think in early progressive comon records).

I know that normaly these two aspects will be in every "prog-folk" band, but here I feel we are in front of an more Folk then Prog album, in oppositionof other bands of the sub-genre like Jehtro Tull, which is most a Hard Rock band with some elements of Folk.

Anyway, both the two aspects of the band are used in a very solid way, there is some pieces which are more oriented to one or other side but most of the time are a nice mixture of the two. For example the album opener "Arauco Tiene una Pena" starts full progressive untill the middle where the claps starts and the song become folk oriented. "El Guillatún", the follow-up is almost entirely folk. In the middle of the album we have "Un rio de sangre", most oriented to progressive and experimentation.

The musicians here show that are good songwriters most of the time and can compose tracks with variations but maintaining the overrall idea, most of the time...

One of the problems that I have had with this record it is duration, it have 77 minutes and I feel very tired after the middle of it, even if they had plenty of material I think is very hard to mantain a work of this extension consistent, something that the band fails in my opinion.

This could be easily fixed by removing songs or at least reducing the duration of some. "Rio de sangre" have 13 minutes with only intruments, and become very tiring near the end, some tracks after some time start to sound repetive and made me feel the desire to skip it.

In sumary I considerer this to be a great record who could have been a legendary one with some simplification, it is still something that you should listen if want to dig more into prog-folk and hear something who truly makes use of the traditional music of his origin country. 4 Stars

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 Live in Europe by TRANSATLANTIC album cover Live, 2003
4.46 | 207 ratings

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Live in Europe
Transatlantic Symphonic Prog

Review by sgtpepper

5 stars Transatlantic playing the best of their first two albums and in absence of enough of original material, add in some cover ingredients by one of the best Beatles pieces - the Abbey Road "Suite" which is almost complete (except Sun King)". Since Translantic was a hobby group, they could play whenever they had fun and you can see that they enjoy every minute of it. Morse doing magic on two pieces of keyboards only with synths/Hammond/piano/moog etc. You may complete that the sound is a bit artificial but it's modern and simpler to play. Guitar is less prominent and one would wish for more by Mr. Stolt. Drums and bass are well distinsguishable in the mix. Drumming is very proficient but you can hear that Portnoy is first and foremost, a metal drummer - his technique represens how much you can play in 1 sec and does not contains little feeling.

This concert should be preferred over "Live in America" which contained more covers. This is one of the reference live progressive rock concerts of 2000' so 4.5 or 5 stars can be granted. See them live and you will remember my words.

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 World Record by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.83 | 814 ratings

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World Record
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars To fully grasp the vigorous and suffered potential of the group we still think that we must look back to their past, "World Record", the seventh work of the Van der Graaf Generator, and the penultimate product of their classical formation if we calculate that the, double, "Present", has been accused of lacking that nonsoché vandergraaffico; others, on the other hand, have observed, conversely, that it is free from self-indulgence and that it is so direct that it lends itself to listening on several occasions.

The truth is - as often happens - in the middle: the disc is from 1976 like the previous "Still life", and evidently the songwriter Peter Hammill, obscure investigator of his own and others' tortuosity, was ready for a slightly different writing, more fluid, but not in a manner, because it does not imitate itself but rather thins its expressive veins giving it greater - listen, hear - catchiness, so much so that it can serve, for the uninitiated, as an introductory work to the production of the British group, also for the sound dynamics of the recording, closer to current standards than their first classics and further improved in the Virgin remaster.

The raucous and pompous grit that vocally commands the center of the stage is always in its place, the lyrics continue to be existential and tense, without easy consoling exits, and the group follows the leader following him with his characteristic timbres halfway between the psychodramatic outburst and the acid parable as a sermon in the deconsecrated cathedral, see the organ by Hugh Banton and the sax by David Jackson, here free to improvise more than usual in spaces where the soul melts and recomposes itself in lava streams. The line-up, with relative instrumentation, is as follows: Guy Evans (drum kit and percussion); Hugh Banton (Hammond organ; synthesizers; acoustic piano; bass and bass guitar pedals); Peter Hammill (vocals; electric and piano guitar) and David Jackson (alto, tenor, and soprano saxophones (acoustic and electric) plus flute). But the most explosive ideas seem to have been stored for the two previous albums, and, in my opinion, for the next one, in which, despite separating from Banton and Jackson (also for financial reasons), the sound is both electrifying and moving, thanks to the inclusion of the violin of the expert Graham Smith instead of the sax. But let's now pass to a reconnaissance of the songs that make up this album, "Disco-Mondo" whose artwork is proposed as the highly iconic illustration of the dark energy with which discs like this seem to burst from the very belly of a disturbed world that lets it be torn apart by the centrifugal force of certain painful musical confessions about the materiality of survival in a vulgar present, marking a sort of "World Record" of lyrical self-harm.

Those who already know VDGG, listening to songs like "When She Comes" or "A Place To Survive", cannot fail to notice that something in their style has changed: the compositional approach of the four is somehow more spontaneous, almost jazzy. A very important role is played by Guy Evans' drums, whose regular rhythms are followed by quite catchy organ riffs, sometimes voiced by the sax. On this sound plot, decidedly unusual for a band that in the past had so loved to create dark and gothic atmospheres, stands the unmistakable voice of Hammill, who, now "speaking" now singing, punctuates every syllable of his always perfect lyrics. The vocalist, however, unlike what happens in "Still Life", leaves great space for the solo rides of his companions, especially Dave Jackson, who has the opportunity to express his talent in long solos. The next "Masks": after a sweet opening, dominated by a sax that leaves you breathless, the song proceeds calmly, and then decisively picks up the rhythm in the central part, led by the electric guitar. Finally he takes up the initial theme and ends with an infinite and painful cry from Hammill. The singer, in particular, provides here one of his best vocal performances ever. Evidently the enigmatic story he talks about (a man, who hid all his feelings and emotions behind a mask, when he took it off, discovered that he no longer had a face) must have been very dear to him.

However, at least in my opinion, it is the 20 minutes of "MeurglysIII" that alone is worth the price of the record. Meurglys is the name of Hammill's guitar, and it is to her that the song is dedicated: the multi-instrumental leader talks about it as his best friend, the only one he can believe in, the only one capable of understanding him and helping him to go through the difficult moments of her existence simply by playing and composing new songs with her. A truly heartfelt and profound text that of this piece, which cannot help but strike all of us little composers who try to write songs with our acoustic guitar or with our piano, and then take refuge in the world created by our pseudo-texts ...

Oh well, I wanted to focus on his lyrics, but it should be emphasized that "MeurglysIII", from an instrumental point of view, is perhaps the most successful test of the VDGG. Banton's organ no longer plays "riffettini", but builds again the sonorous cathedrals of the old albums, supported by the strong foundations of Evans, who manages to keep really impossible times. The suite doesn't have as many different parts as "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" (from Pawn Hearts), but it still manages to alternate schizophrenic moments dominated by Jackson and his bloody sax, with calmer parts, decorated by the voice. But the absolute protagonist of the song is her, "MeurglysIII". This time Hammill does not just use it to accompany himself, but launches into complicated phrasing and sudden interventions worthy of the best Robert Fripp. The last 5 minutes of the suite host a superb dialogue between Meurglys and Jackson's sax, which seem to compete for who can find the most absurd sounds. Exciting.

Wondering, a soft ballad in the tradition of pieces like "Refugees" or "House with no door", benefits from the warm tones of a synthesizer that supports the framework of a crepuscular and disturbing hymn, but is the height of the poignant, for music and Thematic: in the text one wonders ("Won-dering ...") if everything one has tried, experienced, thought during one's life was only a dream, and the impression is that whoever asks for it has gone through the thresholds of being and is now in another dimension overlooking the river Lethe.

To conclude, my opinion on this "World Record" is more than positive. However, although moments of pure musical ecstasy are touched in the suite, the album has several weak points, and this does not allow me to give it full marks. An object that, however, cannot be missing on the shelf of those who love this great band.

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 Echoes by CAMEL album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1993
3.43 | 64 ratings

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Echoes
Camel Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nē 440

"Echoes" is a compilation album of Camel and was released in 1993. It was made to cover all the musical career of the group until that moment. It's comprehensively two discs set that include many of their musical work all over the years and lays it out over an hour and an half. The tracks spanning twenty years of a great musical career and all the eleven studio albums released by Camel till that moment are represented. So, obviously it includes some of their best tracks.

"Echoes" has twenty-six tracks. "Never Let Go" is from "Camel". It's a wonderful piece with Bardens on vocals. He made an amazing keyboard work, accompanied by a marvellous Latimer's flute work. "Freefall" and "Lady Fantasy" are from "Mirage". "Freefall" is almost an instrumental track with nice moments. It's influenced by several styles, with an excellent melody. "Lady Fantasy" is the most celebrated track on that album, is one of the most famous Camel's tracks and is also one of the most progressive tracks of them. "Rhayader" and "Rhayader Goes To Town" are from "The Snow Goose". "Rhayader" has a powerful melody combining flute, guitar and organ. It has a memorable flute melody supported by an organ solo. "Rhayader Goes To Town" brings the music into a faster tempo, with great combination of guitar and organ with energetic beats. "Song Within A Song", "Air Born" and "Lunar Sea" are from "Moonmadness". "Song Within A Song" is a beautiful and melancholic track with a nice and relaxing guitar and flute works. It's a typical Camel's track. "Air Born" is an excellent developed track. It begins with flute and piano, which suddenly explodes with all instruments and vocals. "Lunar Sea" is an instrumental track. It's a track with great individual and collective performances. The melody changes and evolves all over the theme. "Unevensong", "Tell Me", "Elke" and "Skylines" are from "Rain Dances". "Unevensong" is a track with great variations. It has a lot of breaks and tempo changes and has also great Latimer's guitar solos. "Tell Me" is a calm, delicate and beautiful ballad with a fine Latimer's flute working. It's a very dreaming track. "Elke" features an excellent electronic experimentation by Brian Eno. It's a nice, peaceful and atmospheric instrumental track. "Skylines" is an instrumental track with great jazz influences. It's a good number well performed by all band's members. "Breathless", "Echoes" and "The Sleeper" are from "Breathless". "Breathless" is a beautiful and melodic track with a touch of pop. It's an excellent example how a prog band can make a good pop song. "Echoes" is a typical Camel's track and one of the most progressive songs on that album. It has a great Latimer's guitar work. "The Sleeper" is an instrumental track. It's a typical Camel's track with a slight jazzy touch. "Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine", "Hymn To Her" and "Ice" are from "I Can See Your House From Here". "Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine" is a melodic track with a pop style. It has nice vocal harmonies in the wave of the commercial hits. "Hymn To Her" is a song with a traditional Camel's sound. It's a beautiful ballad with a good instrumental section. "Ice" is a classic Camel's instrumental track, the only progressive on that album and that shows Latimer at his best. "Drafted" and "Lies" are from "Nude". "Drafted" is a track with great melodies and guitar themes in Camel's style. It shows the band was back at their best and pure roots on that album. "Lies" is a strong vocal track. It delivered a Mackay's organ solo proving he could understand the kind of keyboards that a prog band should use in the 80's. "Sasquatch" and "You Are The One" are from "The Single Factor". "Sasquatch" is an interesting instrumental track. It's the only track on that album that features the presence of their former keyboardist, Peter Bardens. "You Are The One" is a commercial track, well structured. It's a good track that keeps the good quality on that album. "Refugee" and "West Berlin" are from "Stationary Traveller". "Refugee" is a solid track with a modern sound. The final result is a well balanced track. "West Berlin" is a good track with a nice rhythm and good musical passages. It's influenced by the new wave style, with fine textures and well produced. "Mother Road" and "Whispers In The Rain" are from "Dust And Dreams". "Mother Road" is a nice Camel rocker that starts innocently but develops well along the way. The harmonies are created through guitar, keyboards and vocals. "Whispers In The Rain" is a very short and a nice instrumental track.

Conclusion: "Echoes" is a good compilation, really. It appeals to me because it has the ingredients that a compilation must have. It's a good overview of Camel's work of those years. It revisits the entire career of Camel, at the time, and it has some of the best tracks of Camel. It has good sound and a nice booklet too. As all big Camel's fans like me know, the musical style of Camel changed a bit all over the years. As many of us know, Camel has two great musical periods, the 70's and the 90's. Like most of the progressive rock bands of the classic era, and Camel wasn't an exception, they lived in the 80's a terrible period for them, a terrible period for all progressive rock music. Concluding, I sincerely think that "Echoes" is, in general, a good compilation that represents very well the musical career of a great band, until that moment, and represents a great introduction for those who are newbies with Camel. So, I'm going to give it 3 stars.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Dead End Solution by MANTICORA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1997
2.41 | 4 ratings

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Dead End Solution
Manticora Progressive Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Dead End Solution" is an EP release by Danish power metal act Manticora. The EP was independently released in October 1997. Manticora formed in 1996 under the Manticore monicker but changed name to the current one in 1997. "Dead End Solution" was originally released under the Manticore monicker, but it is seen as the first release by Manticora and subsequent re-issues of the EP have been under the Manticora monicker.

Stylistically the material on the 5 track, 24:38 minutes long EP is energetic, powerful, and melodic power/heavy metal with a predominantly mid-range lead vocalist in front. He can sing in higher pitches but honestly he sounds a little strained when he does. The instrumental part of the music is very well played, but the vocals aren't that great in this release. It has something to do with the vocal production too, so it's not necessarily because lead vocalist/guitarist Lars Larsen isn't a skilled singer, but on this release the vocals are definitely the weak link.

While "Dead End Solution" is a power metal release, it's in the harder edged end of the scale with influences from both traditional heavy metal and even occasionally thrash and speed metal. As mentioned above the vocal production isn't that well sounding, but other than that, "Dead End Solution" is a fairly well produced release. A little rough around the edges, but decent enough in terms of production values. Upon conclusion it's a promising start to a career, but I'm not blown away by what I hear on this EP. Still a 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating isn't all wrong.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

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 Open (with Julie Driscoll) by AUGER, BRIAN album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.47 | 21 ratings

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Open (with Julie Driscoll)
Brian Auger Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Artik

4 stars This is very fine album and for 1967 it is superb. It's important link in the evolution of jazz rock. I'm not an expert but there were not many bands pushing the rock part so upfront while not loosing their jazz credentials at the time.They even throw some psychedelic percussion/flute improvisations for a good measure. Graham Bond Organisation comes to mind as another example. There were many brass rock bands created soon enough but Auger/Driscoll album predates almost all of them and surely is not worst. Brass section is excellent as is the rest. Other important parts of the sound are piano/hammond and the expressive vocals by Driscoll and Auger himself. Driscoll voice often brings comparisions with Janis, and quite rightly but it reminds me Maggie Bell from Stone The Crows even more. This album is a bit dated at times but still highly enjoyable and it remains one of the crucial moments in brass/jazz rock history. Four stars.

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 Getting to This by BLODWYN PIG album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.04 | 27 ratings

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Getting to This
Blodwyn Pig Prog Related

Review by Artik

4 stars Wow, I'm surprised how little reviews and ratings this band has gathered so far. I assumed their Jethro Tull connection would help to promote Blodwyn Pig a bit more. Their second album is very fine example of early stages of rock music when many things were trown into one big melting pot. Blodwyn Pig speciality is a catchy mixture of rock, blues, jazz (with brass) showing band's musicality. There are occasinal guitar noodlings which could be shortened and the longest piece isn't cohesive at all (but still contains some great passages). The music is very energetic and with flute parts here and there it would fit nicely in one of early Jethro Tull albums. Very enjoyable stuff. Three and a half star rounded up to four to help upgrade overall grading which is currently below three which is to harsh.

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 Il Pozzo Dei Giganti by CHERRY FIVE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.78 | 43 ratings

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Il Pozzo Dei Giganti
Cherry Five Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars CHERRY FIVE are probably most known for being the band that GOBLIN came out of. The guitarist, bass player and keyboardist would make a lasting mark in Italian music with their Horror soundtracks. The singer and drummer interestingly enough had more pedigree than the other three with the vocalist previously being in one of my favourite RPI bands called L'UOVA DI COLOMBO. The drummer was in RUSTICHELLI & BORDINI prior to CHERRY FIVE. Anyway the drummer and vocalist have resurrected this band to surprisingly great results some 40 years after the debut. They've gone to Italian vocals instead of the English featured on their debut plus no YES flavour here at all only a strong RPI sound that is often quite powerful. I'm leaning to this one over the debut even though this is far from perfect.

Highlight is the almost 25 minute opener. Yeah lets make an impression. They did! Bass and sparse sounds as the organ rises out of this and drums join in. Soon the organ is pulsating and the vocals join in. So good. Powerful vocals 5 minutes in as we get some great sounding bass, guitar and drums before the synths arrive. Not a favourite sound here but it's mostly all organ on this album from the keyboardist. Pulsating organ once again after 7 1/2 minutes. It turns powerful once again before 9 minutes as the vocals step aside. Piano only a minute later. Vocals are back around 11 minutes in. It's building until the guitar is ripping it up 14 minutes in. Gotta like the vocals and mellotron after 19 minutes in. A guitar solo then a calm before 20 1/2 minutes. Check out the depth of the sound. Organ then leads to the end.

The second track is energetic with vocals. The next one "Il Tempo Del Destino" is a favourite of mine. Love the contrasts between the mellow passages and powerful sections. This and the next track along with that long opener are my top three. Not big on the ballad-like section to start "Un Mondotra Noi Due" or the lightweight start on the closer but both end well.

A very solid album here and 4 stars in my book. Ahhh it's good to listen to some RPI again.

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 Down to Earth by RAINBOW album cover Studio Album, 1979
2.79 | 191 ratings

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Down to Earth
Rainbow Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars It's amazing to think how quickly things moved in the 1970s in comparison to the first two decades of the 21st century. It's nothing for bands to wait five years between albums these days but back then things were set to jet speed. Ritchie Blackmore started the 1970s with Deep Purple rising to the top and then going through several changes in the band before going solo with RAINBOW in 1975 but even with his own band never managed to keep the same lineup for any album. Luckily his prize vocalist Ronnie James Dio stuck around for the first three albums but then one day Blackmore decided to drop the swords and sorcery themes and steer the band into a more commercial arena and Dio jumped ship.

While a true blow to the band's overall sound, Blackmore was accustomed to auditioning new members and it seems in retrospect that half of RAINBOW's time was spent recruiting new members rather than actually playing! Before Dio split, both bassist Bob Daisley and keyboardist David Stone were fired and replaced by Clive Chaman and Don Airey but soon after Chaman didn't workout and former Deep Purple bandmate, bassist and producer of the previous albums finally stepped up to fill in as an actual musician. The task of replacing Dio was met sensibly by finding somebody would fit in with the band's new slicker hard rock style that was more akin to bands like Styx, Foreigner and Whitesnake. Graham Bonnet formerly of The Marbles was chosen to fit the bill and while he did a remarkable job on the band's fourth album DOWN TO EARTH, he wouldn't last long. This was also the last album to feature drummer Cozy Powell.

DOWN TO EARTH is very much a product of the late 1970s timeline when fantasy infused prog had all but surrendered to more immediate hard rock with more DOWN TO EARTH themes and less subterfuge in interpretation. While heavy metal would soon regain all those dark fantasy and occult themes, this speed bump in history favored songs about love, life and other banalities that resulted in partying and having a great time with your friends. For the hardcore Dio fans, this move was a slap in the face and RAINBOW lost much of its devoted fanbase but where one door closes another opens and DOWN TO EARTH did indeed to prove to be the ticket to more radio airplay and charting singles which led to the expected uptick in sales. The group's popularity was also boosted by RAINBOW headlining the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in England.

Stylisitcally, DOWN TO EARTH fit right in with the nascent New Wave of British Heavy Metal with catchy bass grooves, infectious guitar riffs and melodic sing-along lyrics. The opening track and single "All Night Long" sounded somewhat like KISS meets Bad Company with a more pounding bass and drum drive but addictively composed with lots of catchy twists and turns. Bonnet's vocal style proved to be the perfect answer to this new pop infused heavy rock. The other single was a cover of Russ Ballard's "Since You've Been Gone" and proved to be one of RAINBOW's biggest hits hitting the top 10 in England. Same with "All Night Long." While no other singles were released, DOWN TO EARTH doesn't really have any bad tracks. The diverse tracks includes a reprise of the dramatic keyboard symphonic opening on "Eyes Of The World" which also is quality single material as well as the familiar boogie shuffle on "No Time To Lose" although without Dio sounding a bit more like AC/DC or Foreigner.

"Makin' Love" also featured exotic music scales in the vein of earlier songs like "Gates Of Babylon" only eschewing the arcane subject matter. The final three tracks are also of equal caliber thus making DOWN TO EARTH a really good specimen of heavy bluesy rock with classical crossover elements. Yeah Dio was gone but so what. Those first three albums were already about 85% the same as what is presented here only without dungeons and dragons themes and more focused on blue collar worker subject matter. Whatever the case i'm in it for the music not the poetry recitals and DOWN TO EARTH delivers the goods in the vein of many of the contemporary hard rock bands from Aerosmith and Thin Lizzy to Uriah Heep and the Scorpions only with the extra touches of keyboards. While RAINBOW may not have been reinventing the wheel in any way, Blackmore sure knew how to craft a competent collection of hard rockers that ticked off all of the boxes that made hard rock so popular during this era and while many may disagree, i really like Graham Bonnet's vocal contributions. This is one of those i find under-appreciated by the majority.

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 Genesis by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.79 | 1307 ratings

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Genesis
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by SeeHatfield

2 stars This is the album that drove me away. How good or bad is it, really?

I'm listening, I mean really listening, to Genesis (the band's eponymous yellow album of 1983) for the first time. Back in the day, it was the album I didn't buy, the first one I let get away from me.

See, I became a Genesis fan because of Duke, then bought and devotedly listened to Abacab and Three Sides Live. I was hooked. But I jumped ship when the yellow Genesis album came out. I've never owned a copy of the yellow album (or its successors) and until now have not listened to it closely.

By the time the yellow album came out late in 1983, I knew a good bit of early Genesis as well as Phil Collins' first two solo albums (the first terrific, the second less so). I had just gone to college and was in the habit of nerding out on serious, often obscure, prog. I certainly was aware of the yellow album, and I bet I thought about buying it, but somehow it didn't seem for me. I mistrusted the band's poppy new direction, and recognized the album's eponymous title as a bid for reinvention. That's when I gave up on new Genesis -- it was as if the band was giving me a convenient jumping-off point. (When subsequent Genesis albums came out, I wasn't even aware of them.)

Of course, I could count on hearing songs from the yellow album on the radio back in 1983, and even now I hear songs from it at, say, the supermarket. So, listening to it now is not quite a new experience. "That's All," "Taking It All Too Hard," and "Just a Job to Do" still get plenty of airplay. In fact, I think I've heard most of the tracks on this album over and over. It's just that I've never bothered to listen to the album as such. It's interesting to go back (via Apple Music) now and listen to an album I rejected by a band I once followed religiously.

So, what do I think of this album that I spurned so long ago? Well, honestly, I don't think I missed very much, but I've tried to give it a fair listen. My take: this is an ingratiating pop album with some bright moments, the work of gifted, self-aware musicians, consummate professionals working at the top of their craft. It turns out that their results of their work are not that interesting. I will say that the yellow album beats out a lot of tired prog from the early eighties (the genre was limping along then IMO), but that's hardly praise.

A good part of the album is musically insipid. Shockingly, long stretches of it are rhythmically unexciting -- an odd thing for Collins. His famous gated drum sound (with the huge reverb) is mostly gone, replaced by Linn drum machines and quiet, fluid drumming, some of it on a Simmons electric kit (the SDS-5). This album offers some of Collins' least surprising, most discreet and self-effacing playing. More than any Genesis or Collins album before it, it seems determined to showcase Phil the singer, not Phil the drummer -- certainly not the inventive prog or fusion drummer. There are grooves aplenty, of course, from the rubbery swing of "That's All" to the hyped-up funk of "Just a Job to Do." Much of the record is danceable, if not exactly infectious, but the drumwork does not startle or delight. For me, that's a big letdown -- not just by Genesis standards, but in comparison to previous Collins numbers like "It Don't Matter to Me" or his version of "Behind the Lines," which are enlivened by terrific drumming.

Sadly, the album's would-be epic, consisting of "Home by the Sea" and the mostly instrumental sequel "Second Home by the Sea," is a damp squib. The long instrumental section is tuneless, lacking the inventiveness of Genesis's earlier instrumental workouts and, most damningly, any variation in the drumming. Against a sparse and unyielding Simmons drum pattern by Collins and some chanking by Rutherford, Banks and Rutherford take turns noodling on top of the groove. At about the minute-and-a-half mark, Banks brings on a fanfaric synth theme, the highlight, which recurs around 3:40; then, just after the four-minute mark, Rutherford starts playing harder, dirtier guitar that (around 4:30) gathers into a short, piercing solo. The background is grungy and discordant, fattened up with what sounds like a pick-scraping noise (maybe reproduced on Banks' digital Emulator?). The groove is dull, until Collins launches into a vocal recap and conclusion. As with the album's opening track, "Mama," Collins seems determined to lay back here and keep the drumming spare, and the track suffers from a lack of dynamism.

"Second Home by the Sea" reminds me a bit of the second half of the earlier song "Abacab" (from about the 3:30 mark), where the singing stops and the band shifts into minimal, airy soloing against a forceful 4/4 rock groove. There too the tuneful or hooky moments are just that: brief moments, like floor-sweepings, scraps. But I like the astringent minimalism of "Abacab"; it's punchy, caustic, and exhilarating, with a big gated sound -- so the scraps, as they weave in and out, are gripping and easy to remember. Plus, "Abacab" has great drumming, full of chokes and accents and little touches despite the driving 4/4. Not so here, where the groove just grinds along serviceably. I'd say that "Second Home by the Sea," unfortunately, foreshadows the tunelessness of later Genesis epics like "Driving the Last Spike": unhummable slow epics that are damned hard to remember (I have to admit, I think the later Genesis is actually better at concise, four-minute pop songs than epics).

Now, there is some good songwriting on this album, and even wimpy tracks like "That's All" are full of surprising chords. Dig the bridge on that song, a good example of what Tony Banks has called "tak[ing] the chords places where they weren't supposed to go." Speaking of which, I quite like "Taking It All Too Hard," because the song's chord shape (again, from Banks?) appeals to me. Few pop songs are as quirky while seeming so emotionally straightforward.

The other songs are a mixed bag. "Mama," the moody opener, is a slow-burn study in obsession: a creepy persona song comparable to Collins' "Through These Walls" or Peter Gabriel's "Intruder," all tense and theatrical. Musically, it's a matter of dark atmospherics floating over a ticking rhythm track, punctuated by Collins' notorious mad laugh. I suppose I should be grateful that the song doesn't explode into a gated drum fill at the three-minute mark, along the lines of "In the Air Tonight." On the other hand, I kind of wish there were more musical explosions in the song. While the music builds, and Collins' vocal certainly does, the track doesn't so much bust out as slowly boil over (eventually, yes, there are booming, gated drums, against the familiar sound of Collins screaming into a wash of echo). Basically, "Mama" signals the groove-oriented nature of the whole album -- it's a fair warning that there won't be any tricky shifts in meter or sudden dynamic lunges, just a lot of simmering. Me, I prefer the tricky stuff.

"Illegal Alien," oi, is a persona song gone wrong: a misguided exercise in racial ventriloquism. This one, which belongs in the "what were they thinking?" category, is one of the few Genesis numbers I'd erase from memory (though naturally, it's catchy). "Just a Job to Do," with its frantic chanking and bubbling bass, is better, one of the album's few rhythmically thrilling tracks. I don't dig the lyrics (it's a bit "Danger Money," isn't it?) but it cooks musically. Subliminally, it channels "Get Ready" by the Temptations (where Eddie Kendricks sings, "fee-fi-fo-fum," Collins sings "bang, bang, bang" -- yes?). And is there not an echo of Spirit's "I Got a Line on You" as well? I'm always hearing other people's music through Phil Collins -- he's a sort of nonstop human jukebox.

In sum, musically, Genesis is a jumble, and not in an exciting way. One thing is clear: it's not a Phil Collins solo album in disguise. Sure, Collins' solo stardom triggered the band's turn toward pop. But the sound of Genesis is the sound of three skilled players who had worked out a unique way of workshopping songs among themselves, based on jamming together but also building up tracks piecemeal by overdubbing on the resulting grooves. Take for example the inescapable earworm "That's All": reportedly, that one came about when Banks sampled a guitar lick by Rutherford, then slowed down and tweaked it, after which Collins laid down in a Ringo-esque shuffle on the drums, taking things in an unexpected direction. Banks, Collins, and Rutherford got used to working this way, to the point that, I gather, they would rule out bringing any prewritten solo material into their Genesis sessions. Sometimes the results were remarkable ("Taking It All Too Hard" is quite a song to have discovered through such an odd process), and then again sometimes the results were flat. But the popification of Genesis was willed by all three members. I gather they enjoyed workshopping together, fiddling around in their studio/lab.

In the end, I do think I made the right choice when I passed on this album almost forty years ago. Mind you, it's not a terrible pop album, and I try not to fall into the cliched role of the aggrieved prog fan who mourns the moment when their favorite band "sold out" -- could there be anything more cliched? The righteous fury of the ex- fan who imagines that things were somehow pure before the big sellout; the sense of betrayal because a beloved cult act decided that they wanted bigger crowds to dance and hum along to and enjoy their music -- those are such well-worn complaints. But I have to admit that, for me, Genesis becomes less interesting musically from this point forward. There just isn't as much to engage me. The craft is there, but the horizons are small, the music more ordinary. I sense, from interviews, that Banks, Collins, and Rutherford, all of them, were tired of playing esoteric music and wanted to reach the mainstream, and I detect a sense of pride in their craftsmanship when they finally did reach that multi-platinum audience. My guess is that they took sales as affirmation of their ability to connect with more people. In any case, all three members were bound and determined to produce more streamlined and accessible pop, both on their own and with Genesis. They did it smartly. Of course they did; they were gifted writers and players. To me, though, Genesis seemed to succumb to formula, and the Banks/Collins/Rutherford workshop approach became a bit chummy and self-satisfied. That's why I bailed.

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 Keys to Ascension 2 by YES album cover Live, 1997
3.95 | 513 ratings

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Keys to Ascension 2
Yes Symphonic Prog

Review by Prog Zone

4 stars Review - #34 (Yes - Keys to Ascension 2)

Keys to Ascension 2 is a continuation of the live concert performed on the first Keys to Ascension album while encompassing new studio material. After guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Rick Wakeman returned to the band in 1995, they relocated to San Luis Obispo, California where they began to write new material while preparing for three additional live concerts with the lineup. The band also included Jon Anderson on vocals, Chris Squire on bass, and Alan White on drums. Keys to Ascension 2 is the fifth live and sixteenth studio album by the band being released in November of 1997. Rick Wakeman has said that he was "heavily against" the album's title since he believed the studio tracks deserved a separate release rather than simply being tagged to a live album. When compared to the first Keys to Ascension album there is certainly more studio material to digest which Rick Wakeman felt was more mature than what was found on its predecessor. Despite some tracks soaring above, others don't seem to hit the mark. This makes the studio material somewhat uneven when compared to the overall excellence found on its shorter predecessor. The same issue is also found on the live portion of the album, there are moments of overall excellence but the live renditions don't tend to live up to the various incredible renditons found on the first Keys to Ascension album.

The album begins with a live rendition of I've Seen All Good People which has become somewhat of a live staple for the band. Since this is just a continuation of live tracks left off the first Keys to Ascension album, it unfortunately misses the iconic opening Firebird Suite which launches most Yes concerts. While not providing anything mind-blowingly new, this is a solid track that creates an ultimately faithful live rendition with wonderful musicianship found throughout. The next live track, Going for the One, begins with driving guitar in addition to interesting raspy vocals coming from Jon Anderson sung at a lower pitch than usual. Alan White delivers especially compelling drums in combination with Chris Squire's terrific bass performance to create a solid rhythm section. While this track doesn't ascend beyond the live rendition of Going for The One heard on Yesshows it still offers a generally powerful performance of this classic Yes tune. Time and a Word is absolutely stunning, it has become my go-to rendition of this track. Rick Wakeman's keyboard contributions are definitely felt in addition to Steve Howe's beautiful acoustic guitar instrumentation found all through the track. A special mention also goes to Jon Anderson's spectacular vocal performance as well, he hasn't aged a bit since the seventies! After this softer ballad, the band transitions to perform the masterpiece of Close to the Edge which is as great as ever. This isn't an easy track to conquer by any means, which makes it increasingly impressive to see a band perform such a complicated piece so late in their career while still sounding terrific. Just listen to the newest rendition of Close to the Edge found on Yes 50, it is generally solid, but lacking when compared to previous live performances such as this. The biggest complaint I have about this live rendition is the extremely underwhelming organ section found at around the thirteen-minute mark. It isn't performed poorly per-say, but the keyboard sound chosen boggles me. Rick Wakeman didn't have any other sounds to choose from? Nevertheless, the song continues with an excellent keyboard solo just after the sixteen-minute mark that eventually goes into a powerful reprise of the chorus. Before concluding, the track commences an incredibly uplifting chant of "I get up, I get down" which ends the piece stunningly. Similar to Time and a Word, Turn of the Century is yet another softer piece that isn't commonly heard in a live setting. The track features beautiful guitar from Steve Howe which is the true highlight of the piece. Unfortunately, while the track is generally wonderful it doesn't hit the same high points as the studio version. Something just feels off, I believe this is a piece the band could have rehearsed a bit more. Still, I am glad to hear the band perform this often-overlooked track in a live setting. The last live performance on Keys to Ascension 2 is And You And I which is a ideal way to end a live album. This live rendition is displays Jon Anderson's stunning vocals better then any other track, especially at the four minute and fifty second mark. Rick Wakeman also receives a wonderful solo at the seven minute and fifty-four second mark which is complimented by an excellent rhythm guitar riff performed by Steve Howe. Overall, the live material found on this album is unquestionably solid, but unfortunately has moments that could have been enhanced if the band had more time to rehearse.

Now this is what most listeners are waiting for, the new studio tracks. The album begins with the suite entitled Mind Drive clocking in at over eighteen minutes. This is unquestionably the best track found on both the Keys to Ascension albums, I would actually go as far as to say it's one of the band's best tracks to date. Mind Drive was originally rehearsed by the proposed supergroup XYZ featuring Chris Squire, Alan White, and guitarist Jimmy Page. After XYZ never came into fruition, Chris Squire and Alan White decided to use various pieces of the unused track while working with other Yes members to create the epic found on this album. Mind Drive contains various moments of incredible instrumentation from each band member with a special mention going to Rick Wakeman who provides excellent keyboard melodies, lines, and even solos. Mind Drive moves from softer more tranquil moments to moments of increased intensity and power while continuing to feel as one cohesive piece. Conclusively, this is a late-career masterpiece from Yes which deserves more attention than it gets. Unfortunately, the rest of the tracks do not grasp the same level of mastery as Mind Drive but still contain enjoyable moments throughout. The next track entitled Foot Prints starts with Jon Anderson and Chris Squire singing the chorus before the rest of the band are introduced. The first two minutes of the track are somewhat unexceptional until we reach the two minute and seven second mark where a captivating vocal melody is introduced in combination with wonderful bass work coming from Chris Squire. The rest of the track just continues this greatness with superb solos coming from both Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman during various points. Foot Prints eventually concludes with a rather strange folk-like instrumental which isn't necessarily bad but doesn't fit with the music that came before it. The next track, Bring Me To The Power, is somewhat uneven encompassing various high and low points. When it reaches the one minute and thirty second mark the music truly ascends. Jon Anderson's vocal performance is breathtaking with the band being sparse yet compelling behind him. The track then enters a somewhat strange guitar dominated section at the three minute and five second mark with odd percussion choices from the band that I cannot decide works or not. There is then a reprise of the main chorus with Rick Wakeman adding notable keyboards. It then ends with a minute long instrumental in which Chris Squire provides an impressive bass foundation to compliment the other instruments as they get a solo. Children Of Light is up next and is a two-part track that is split up between the main theme, Children of Light, and the ending guitar led instrumental section entitled Lifeline. Children of Light was initially written by Jon and Vangelis in 1986 under the name Distant Thunder. Later on, a demo version of the track was recorded with Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe which was ultimately not released on their first and only album. However, it was added as a hidden track on the 2011 reissue of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. The first section, Children of Light, is solid enough but ultimately does not go anywhere as it transitions between its two choruses. Jon Anderson provides wonderful vocals during the chorus in which he sings "Children of light" while the rest of the band provide a good instrumental backing. The next section, Lifeline, is a dreamy guitar-led outro that is surprisingly captivating. The last track, Sign Language, is a Howe/Wakeman instrumental duet that is a somewhat strange addition to the album. It comes across as being overall pleasant but not all that eventful. When looking over the studio tracks included on the album, I noticed that as the album went on each track began to get shorter and shorter. In addition, as the album went on each track became less and less impressive.

Keys to Ascension 2 is a noteworthy continuation of the band's first Keys to Ascension album while containing various moments of brilliance within its live and studio material. Ultimately, the album doesn't reach the heights of its predecessor, but is still able to leave its mark as an excellent addition within the band's long and diverse catalogue of music. Furthermore, Keys to Ascension 2 includes the late-career masterpiece Mind Drive which makes this album worthy of a listen if not for anything else. The rest of the studio material is varied while still containing terrific moments throughout. This album remains to be an excellent addition to any prog collection despite some of the flaws it holds. If they don't give us the keys how are we supposed to get ready, if they don't give us the keys how are we to survive?

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 Milliontown by FROST* album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.83 | 436 ratings

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Milliontown
Frost* Neo-Prog

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Frost has been a very important band for me, because it was one of the first few bands I discovered once I was baptized in the world of modern prog thanks to Dream Theater's "Octivarium". This album, along with Mars Volta's "De-Loused in the Comatorium" I considered to be original holy trinity, three albums that not only didn't sound like pop or classic rock or anything you'd hear on the radio, but three albums that didn't even sound like each other, in any aspect.

Even now, Frost* (apparently that asterisk is part of the name) is one of the freshest outfits out there and one of the next big things in the ever influential world of British rock and progressive music. Even their debut here "Milliontown" sounds fresh and new even 15 years after its release. One of my biggest plus points is prog bands that manage to stay the course while incorporating a catchy pop aesthetic to draw any listener in and keep them coming back again and again, and this has been one of Frost's biggest accomplishments. Composer and bandleader Jem Godfrey does a good job incorporating instrumental sections and riffs with significant lyrics and catchy choruses.

The album begins with a lovely piano-led instrumental "Hyperventilate" followed by the gripping and driving "No Me No You". The machine gun verse that bookends the song are almost hypnotic as they lead into the big bombastic chorus before the piano fades out. I understand why Godfrey refers to himself as a composer, these songs to seem to be classically structured, yet there's also a good attention to detail in songwriting, lyricism and attractiveness to casual listeners.

"Snowman" is a classic example. It's a soft and beautiful ballad that find a perfect home as a backing track to an emotional scene in a drama or action movie. The depth of the electronics, the softness of the guitars and keys and the soothing presence of the backing vocals on the back end of the track just send chills up my spine every time. It's as almost if someone asked Mason Bates to write a pop song arrangement of a Depeche Mode song but in the style of an old school music box. One of my absolute favorites.

From the sublime to the hardcore comes "The Other Me", which sounds like the beginning of an older Fast and Furious movie. This song has a hard rock, "punch you in the face" kind of mentality, unique from the rest of the songs on the album, and yet there are softer interludes and Nine Inch Nails-esque electronic freakouts that pepper the song with depth and life before the bombastic chorus fills the room before it all fades out to the buzzing of bugs in your ears. Even a simple catchy 5 minute song like this has enough depth to be more interesting than some bands whole albums.

But then, Godfrey decides to go big or go home by ending the album with two epics. The first of which, "Black Light Machine", immediately catches the ear with a nice happy and perky synth line with a happy chorus to boot. After a few minutes it fades out to bring in a nice David Gilmour-esque solo spot by the guitars before that fades into another atmospheric verse before the band kicks it into overdrive and finished on a technical high note.

"Milliontown" is the big epic. It has everything, soft atmospheric interludes, catchy choruses, fast technical sections, big bombastic finishes and intelligent songwriting and lyricisim. It may not be as memorable as, say "Octivarium", but it's still an impressive piece of music to digest if you have the time to sit down and listen to all 26-and-a-half minutes of it, but if you don't, that's fine, because even though I'm a sucker for long songs, Frost's biggest weapon is it's shorter, catchier (and still proggy) songs which are much harder to pull off.

It's not the best album I've ever heard, the epics (especially" Milliontown") can be a bit convoluted at times, but the rest of the album is superb. It's a different take than Porcupine Tree did when the emerged from the 80's New Wave craze as a psychedellic Pink Floyd-ian Beatles-esque band in the early 90's before evolving into a streamlined, heavier, grungier form (a la Tool) but still focused on songwriting and lyrics. It's a modern take on popular music and progressive rock, as well as a sign of the times. Jem Grodfrey has established himself as a brilliant songwriter, musician and composer with this album and each album this band puts out is always on my radar.

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 Secos & Molhados (II) by SECOS & MOLHADOS album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.32 | 28 ratings

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Secos & Molhados (II)
Secos & Molhados Prog Folk

Review by koresea

4 stars Secos & molhados second album is a perfect example of how to combine a a large set of alusions to other genres in a reasonable way without sounding pretentious or boring.

The first thing which got my attention is how short the songs are, the most long song here is "Flores Astrais" with only 3:51 minutes (strangely is one of the songs that had less effect on me), the album itself have only 30 minutes of duration. This approach is in fact pretty benefical for the band because it have gived to them the oportunity to try different styles and constantly present us with something new.

The list of influences here is kinda a long one, first you have the brazilian folk music, there is too a spirit of MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) intricanted inside the record but not enough to negate the rock genre to it, who drinks from the roots of classic rock, glam rock and early psychdelic. Besides this we have tango, mambo and some sections with piano who resembles "saloon/cabaret" style.

The instrumentation is pretty good, the acoustic guitars are very harmonical and the eletric ones always throws the listener in a crazy trip that never lasts too long, I find myself pretty impressed by the bass in some sections and there are nice piano segments where the instrument is played in a very energetic way. I dont't think they are virtuosos in any way and most of the songs uses recognizables forms of their genres, for example: The tango parts are the most common way of tango you could think, but this is always provided to us in incredible shape so is not a big deal. I should mention the vocals too, Ney Matogrosso is such a perfect singer and always embelish the music with his voice, that is at the same time beautiful and original (don't just imitating other greater singers, he have it's own distinctive sonority).

But this is not a perfect album in the sense that some songs are pretty simple and almost tiresome, a example of this is "Flores astrais" and "Vôo", both just have one chorus and the melody is not great thing. Due to the short duration of each song they never crosses the line to become boring and have not urged me to skip any track in any of the times that I have sat to listen to it.

Secos & Molhados II are a great example of brazilian rock, it's difficulty to characterize they in just one sub-genre of prog-rock because this album drags with him a huge ammount of stuff of other places without losing it's identity, the work have it's minor flaws that impede him of become a masterpiece but this should not put him away from you radar. Is a good recomendation to any fan of prog rock, especially from early progressive. 4 Stars.

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