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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Wondrous Stories CD (album) cover

WONDROUS STORIES

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

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3 stars A good introduction into the world of prog rock!

Not the best selection of tracks that could have been chosen (eg Genesis is represented by a track from their first and most obscure album) but all the important artists of the 70s prog-rock movement are represented. I get the feeling that this album was published partly to do with the popularity of Focus' Hocus Pocus due to its use in the Nike Football ad. In fact, the Cd cover comes with a sticker proclaiming 'Features Focus 'Hocus Pocus' as used in the Nike Football ad'. Maybe the guys at universal studios thought it was a good time to bring out a new prog compilation. The version of Hocus Pocus is actually half the length of the original and is slightly rearranged, I think it is actually better than the original! The title track by Yes has an upbeat, feel-good kind of vibe about it and is really a wonderful way to start. Both Cds seem to start with the more well known bands (Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull, Supertramp, Genesis, the aforementioned Focus) and gradually get more and more obscure (Edgar Winter Group, Mountain etc) which is good because it perhaps will inspire you to seek out more stuff written by those obscurer bands. Best track for me: Gypsy by uriah heep! But i dont see why Andrew Lloyd Webber is tagged on at the end, completely out of place!

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Send comments to Tull Freak 94 (BETA) | Report this review (#291999)
Posted Monday, July 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is the prog equivilant of those countless "driving compilations" that start with Blue Oyster Cult and end with Meatloaf......

A surprisingly commercial output (there was even a TV ad for it) which combines the giants of prog with the bands only progheads know about (but nothing from the REALLY obscure category; no Zheul, Metal, and very few songs that are post- 70s). Consider it a "classic" prog compilation. There are a few painfully obvious ommissions that the record company apparently couldn't get the rights to, but other than these everything is covered.

Yes opens and I wouldn't want it any other way (although they could have at least chosen a proggier song- this issue is true of many of the bands here actually; take a look at the track listings yourself) and the rest of disc 1 combines giants with lessers in a predictable fashion, growing less famous as the cd spins on. Disc 2 is a similar story with the same balance. This is a great way to introduce a beginner or semi-enthusiast to new styles and bands, but my main complaint is that longer tracks are shortened, considerably in the case of Iron Butterfly and Mr Oldfield. This is meant to be a prog album, but the people who released this still seem to think that it requires some commerciality, if not to increase sales then at least to increase the number of songs they can fit on each disc. Perhaps the more catchy-inclined selections are a strategy for luring oblivious classic rock fans into buying prog albums, but ultimately, these consumers will be shocked when they purchase their copies of 'Brain Salad Surgery' and hate everything they hear. This compilation is misleading, to say the least. But I'll still give it four stars because of the material itself.

Buy this for your dad if, like mine, he remembers 'Kayleigh' but has never heard of Caravan...

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Send comments to thehallway (BETA) | Report this review (#292008)
Posted Monday, July 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Prog for the masses... as seen on TV!

An obvious cash in on the popularity of Focus' Hocus Pocus used on the World Cup's Nike Ad and why not, it's a great song and deserves recognition. This is a very commerocal prog compilation but then again most comps are, yet it features some of the greatest prog on the planet that will hopefully draw newbies to more material from these incredible artists.

All these tracks are well known among the prog community and you would expect to see artists such as Yes - Wondrous Stories; Jethro Tull - Living In The Past; Rush - The Spirit of Radio; Camel - Rhayader; Hawkwind - Silver Machine; Gong - Perfect Mystery; Focus - Hocus Pocus; Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill; Genesis - The Serpent; ELP - Fanfare for the Common Man (long version); Marillion - Kayleigh; and Caravan - In The Land of Gray and Pink. The real surprise here is the same as occurs on all these type of compilations; the addition of prog related or even non prog artists. It makes one wonder who puts these compilations together. Why is Edgar Winter Group and Mountain here? Nice music but not prog! Then we have a criminally butchered Iron Butterfly classic - In a gadda da Vida mutilated to a paltry 2:52. The same applies with the heavily edited Tubular Bells which is not worth including.

Interesting additions are Crime of the Century by Supertramp and Kansas with Dust In The Wind which are less progressive than others that could have been included.

I always thought The Kettle by Colosseum was among their best so good choice. And another positive is the delightful riff heavy Gypsy by Uriah Heep. These are the choices for me that should go on any compilation. Also Argent are here with their classic song Hold Your Head Up. Traffic are here with Paper Sun, though I think there are better choices such as 40,000 Headmen.

Mocking Bird by Barclay James Harvest makes a typical appearance and Sympathy by Rare Bird, both found on countless compilations, as is Radar Love by Golden Earring and Question a perennial fave from The Moody Blues.

Catherine of Aragon by RIck Wakeman is a weird choice though very popular and we have an edited version, and I loved the addition of ELOs best with 10538 Overture. Roxy Music are at their prog best with Virginia Plain and its always great to see Wishbone Ash gain some exposure, here with Jailbait, not a track from Argus funnily enough. I have no idea why the compilation ends with Paganini: Theme and Variations 1-4 by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but anyway here it is.

Overall the comp is not the worst I have heard, not the best, but for newbies it does introduce you to some very important works and thats never a bad thing. I can award it 3 stars for its 2 CDs packed with prog.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#292485)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010 | Review Permalink

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