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Unaka Prong biography
From North Carolina, this band of 6 musicians displays a wide range of music styles from Jazz, blues,funk, rock and pop and keep some space for improvised jams which play a major role in their live shows. It's keyboard player Chris POPE who is mixing those styles of music in something harmonious. He is joined by John HARGETT (drums, vocals), Mike WELSH (guitars), Nic PRESSLEY (trumpets, vocals), Daniel STEVENSON (Guitar, vocals) and Jonathon SALE (Bass, Voclas). The band released their debut album "Margot" in 2016. The band influences can go from PHISH to STEELY DAN.

Bio by rdtprog

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UNAKA PRONG top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.93 | 9 ratings
3.86 | 10 ratings
Adult Contemporary
4.95 | 3 ratings
Salinity Now!
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Kudzu by UNAKA PRONG album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.00 | 1 ratings

Unaka Prong Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars With their fifth full-length studio album--all since 2015--the enigmatic, hard-to-pigeonhole band of boys from North Carolina continue to stretch themselves out in multiple directions while, as usual, never taking themselves too seriously (despite the customary incredibly tight, sophisticated song constructs). I have to say that with this album the band touches most closely and most consistently with that quirky intelligence of the first three Steely Dan albums of the 1970s--which is amazing since NOBODY has even come close to capturing the true, unadulterated spirit of those albums since. 1. "Kudzu" (1:53) a funny, cute, tongue-in-cheek introductory narration parodying doomer sci-fi. (4.5/5)

2. "On My Own" (4:16) sounds like a kind of collection of rambling notations from a particularly long and boring stretch of somebody's road trip. Funny in it's over-the-top exaggeration and self-deprecating lampoon--but, damn! can these guys create beautiful music! (9/10)

3. "Birdsongs" (5:35) a classic Unaka Prong, nature-inspired, impressionist piece in which the lyrics and vocal delivery are mysteriously emotionally gripping. I, too, like to pick apart birdsongs. Cool to hear guitarists Mike Welsh and Dan Stephenson experimenting with new sounds--and to hear keyboardist Chris Pope up front and loud in the mix. I don't know how these guys always seem to manage to create chord progressions that seem to pierce my soul, but that little section between 1:41 and 2:05 has done it again! Perhaps my favorite vocal ever from Dan Stephenson. And Chris is definitely channeling Zazu-era Donald Fagen here! (9.5/10)

4. "Sam the Inventor" (6:08) opens with a neat exercise in proggy time discipline before the song turns into something that sounds as if it came from Steely Dan circa 1973-74. Astounding! Even the vocal, despite not being anything like the voice of Donald Fagen, has a Donald Fagen-like quirkiness to its delivery. Then the instrumental parts are like a jam with the ghosts of Denny Diaz and Skunk Baxter (who are both still alive) duelling it out with Mr. Fagen. (8/10)

5. "Lake Jam #6" (5:30) the best of the Lake Jams (so far)! Chris Pope continues to shine though everybody is super clear, super involved, and super good on this one. Love the two guitarists' completely different sounds and styles-- playing off each other magically. A kind of Larry Carlton and Donald Fagen smooth jazz classic. (9.5/10)

6. "Fishing Report" (4:18) Adrian Belew-King Crimson meets Steely Dan. Musically, lyrically great. (8.75/10)

7. "The Ocho (Lake Jam #8)" (4:48) feels like a continuation of the excellent music behind the fishing report before going more Larry Carlton/The Jazz Crusaders jazz-fusion instrumental jam on us. Incredibly tight band play with John, Jonathon, and Chris's stellar play beneath those amazing guitar rhythmists. (8.75/10)

8. "Suspend Your Disbelief" (4:11) more well-composed and tightly performed, albeit countrified music (as the Dan were also known to do) with an innocuous vocal. Appreciated but not my favorite. (7.75/10)

9. "Phenobarbitol" (7:01) the first half is a little too much like "Come on Back" from Salinity Now! for my ears, and then it oddly, and inexplicably, shifts into a four-chord country rocker. As I am not a lyrics guy, and the second half of this is totally lyrics-driven, this is just not my cup of tea. There are some redeeming parts (these musicians are too talented to phone in a whole song), like the nice Ozark Mountain Daredevil-like guitar work at the 5:30 mark and then an awesome keyboard arpeggiated passage to lead into the guitar outro. (12/15)

10. "Such a Blur" (4:18) sounds like a cross between an example of the early style of The WHO, The ANIMALS, and something by BOB DYLAN--until 2:36 when a guitar and cymbal coda leads into another section of the 1960s blues- rock chord progression that is the song's foundation. (Maybe a little Nirvana in there as well??) Cute. (8.25/10)

11. "B.C. Budz" (5:13) a great little funky, jazz instrumental on which Chris is again allowed to really shine. Such great sound! (9/10)

12. "Shifty" (2:50) the musical companion to a hilarious video. What I'll call "lazy punk" or "too-late-at-night punk jam" or "we're all out of beer" music. Nice work on that axe, crazy man Mike! (8.75/10)

I was worried after the first couple songs that this was going to turn out to be an example of a sloppy "publish or perish" / do anything to try to stay in the public eye, but I was wrong! As usual, the band step and provide incredible studio engineering and production, as well as top notch play. You can tell that these are five musicians who continue to want and work to grow and explore. The lyrics are perhaps a little more humorous and loose than is typical over a whole album for these boys, but there is still heartfelt meaning and expression here. While I feel that each and all of the individual band members were allowed to experiment, express, and grow within this album, I do feel that Chris Pope's extraordinary keyboard prowess was finally allowed to really shine throughout the course of most of this album. Yeah! Whereas John Hargett's drumming was the real kicker for me on Salinity Now!, it's time to give the gold medal to Chris for this one.

B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collections: there are gems among the weeds.

 Salinity Now! by UNAKA PRONG album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.95 | 3 ratings

Salinity Now!
Unaka Prong Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Man! these guys are tight! Man! is the production on this album amazing! Man! have these guys gotten better! Man! is this a confident band of young musicians, or what? Man! Is this one of the best collections of entertaining, interesting, deeply layered, masterfully crafted and performed, and perfectly mastered songs ever created?!!! YES!

1. "You Want Me to Do What Now?" (5:38) high energy mania with amazing stop-and-start complexity and perfect cohesion and timing! And the sound is so good! Perfect mixes of the instrumental tracks! Jazz-rock at its funkiest best. One of those songs that simply must be heard to be believed! The drum-led section in the third and fourth minutes is awesome! The guitar solo (which is really a synth trying to sound like a trumpet) in the fifth minute reminds me of old Jeff "Skunk" Baxter back on the early Steely Dan albums. (9.5/10)

2. "Misinterpretive Clues" (2:45) is a second spirited and amazingly intricate song construct built on some incredible drumming but this one has singing! Great phrasing and delivery of the witty lyrics by bassist Jonathon Sale! (9.5/10)

3. "Slow Dance" (6:02) starts out a little bland with it's thin, bluesy, organ-base, but Daniel Stephenson's singing and lyrics are fun and the excellent chorus and following instrumental bridges make this one super special. Great slide work from guitarist Mike Welsh. Nobody in prog world is playing the Hammond like Chris Pope--and always with such amazing sense of melody! (9/10)

4. "Aibohphobia" (7:05) bouncy bass and organ open this instrumental with a nice little cantor before wah-ed electric guitar-sounding synth and other synth sounds start alternating melodic soli over the top. Great chord and key progressions! The tempo shift at the two minute mark is a great trick. More volume pedal-controlled guitar in the background while synth solos over the top, then back to the first section's themes and pacing. Such a fun song! Definitely evokes memories of some of STEELY DAN's early instrumental work. Man, are all those keyboard sounds being performed by one man? Such fluidity and confidence! (10/10)

5. "Come on Back" (5:47) a little gentle PAUL WELLER-like guitar play sets up this incredibly emotional, poetic, and engaging song. One of the best lyrics I've heard in years--beautifully performed by guitarist Daniel Stephenson as lead singer and composer; beautifully, sensitively supported by the band. (9.5/10)

6. "Fine Leather Shoes" (5:17) clever, witty, DONALD FAGEN-like lyrics with an awesome BLUE NILE-like singing style as performed by drummer John Hargett over some complex jazzy rock. (10/10)

7. "Blue Mountain" (6:30) full on STEELY DAN--only no L.A. studio musicians, these young men are all doing it themselves. Daniel Stephenson's vocal delivery (and lyrics) have this refreshing jazzy style to them that is very reminiscent of the great MICHAEL FRANKS. Amazing drumming from John Hargett. And the instruments are so well balanced in the mix! Again, I have to repeat, the engineering on this album is superlative! One of the best sounding albums since . . . Aja! Fun percussive guitar antics in the fourth and fifth while Chris and John play off each other. And HERBIE HANCOCK would be proud of Chris's work with the Fender Rhodes sound. (10/10)

8. "Fluvial Landscapes" (7:30) a great instrumental that opens with some Latin-infused percussives from the drums, the bass and guitars soon join in giving it an early STEELY DAN sound--but the compositional complexity is far beyond anything the Dan were doing in their early days. Again, drummer John Hargett really shines on this one. Man! these guys have grown! They are SO tight! Amazing Hammond work beneath the rhythm section throughout the fourth and fifth minutes. And I'm so glad to be able to hear Jonathon Sale's deep bass thrombosis up front and center (he's often mixed a little too deeply into the sound for my tastes). Cool note play with the lead guitar solo in the final minute. Man this instrumental has it all! And these guys definitely have the chops! Early 70s SANTANA: Eat your heart out! (10/10)

9. "Lake Jam #3" (5:25) a vocalized Lake Jam? Well, will wonders never cease? Jonathon Sale's doubled up vocals work, even with these long, drawn out words and syncopated pronunciations. And this chorus! It's so infectious! I love the guitar and keyboard support for the vocal melody! (9.5/10)

10. "All Aglow in the Golden Hour" (4:24) a song with a little more country feel, but it really comes off more closely to one of The Amazing's (without the vocal reverb). An unusual singer has taken the lead vocal (and lyric writing duties?) on this one (Drummer John Hargett). It's fun, catchy, upbeat, danceable, happy, and still consistent with the western North Carolina feelings and themes that the other band members gravitate to. Also weird to have a UP song that is so guitar dominated, in which Chris's keyboard work is so far in the background. What versatility these guys have! (9/10)

11. "Colossus" (5:08) a slow, bluesy rock song with a simple instrumental support for lead singer Daniel Stephenson's verses, but then the Hammond rises and the chorus (with female vocal background support!) just sucks us in and transports us back to some very emotional family roots: "Take me back to a time when friends felt like family..." Beautiful! (9.5/10)

12. "Irma" (7:57) the one true "prog" song on the album. (Was this song written for me? Is this the "Run Out" of 2018?) Every sound, every hook, turn and riff, seems straight out of some classic progressive rock band. And this is beautifully constructed, slow to build and shift, expertly fabricated and performed. Great chord progressions, surprising shifts, unexpected singing and melody choices. Again, I am dumbfounded: Is there anything these guys can't do? While John's drumming is awesome, there's something weird that I don't like about the way the toms are recorded/treated on this one (reminds me of Steve Gadd on "Aja"). Again, it's nice to hear the guitars venturing off into improvisational work--very much like REINE FISKE! (The highest praise I can offer!) (10/10)

I have loved every album these boys from Boone have ever done (three, so far) but never have they put out an album that has this consistency and such amazing, amazing sound production. There is not a song on this album that I will ever skip over--they're all going to give me years of joy and surprises--from the nuances in the music as well as from the intricate collaboration of the collective members. Though I really miss the magical dimension that Nic Pressley's trumpet adds to the UNAKA PRONG sound--and I hope he comes back when grad school is over--it becomes obvious with Salinity Now! that this band can make it as quintet. I hope the hard work pays off for these boys, that prosperity follows, cuz they sure deserve it!

If you want to hear some of the finest music and musicianship happening on the planet right now, you needn't go further than Appalachia! They're UNAKA PRONG and they will not be denied!

Five stars; an undeniable masterpiece of eclectic progressive rock music and, in my opinion, one of the shining lights of the present and future of rock music!

 Adult Contemporary by UNAKA PRONG album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.86 | 10 ratings

Adult Contemporary
Unaka Prong Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Another fantastic smorgasborg of music from Boone, North Carolina's gift to the music world, this album has me feeling so nostalgic and yet it's all new, fresh, and completely Unaka Prong!

1. "Gadnuk (Breaker of Worlds)" (5:22) a bluesy instrumental very familiar to those who've heard the Margot album. Nice keys and horns; tight drums and bass. (8.5/10)

2. "Fruit Fly" (6:24) silly folk fun that makes me think I'm sitting on a porch on a sweltering hot day in the South. Once the music kicks in, it's more danceable jazz with a kind of Dr. John vocal and a tight musical merengue-like weave. (8.5/10)

3. "Alchemy" (4:26) opens with a bluesy-reggae feel to it before the loose, almost comical "late night drunk" vocal takes the lead. Wonderful organ work on this one! Awesome key changes at 2:45 and 3:20. (8.5/10)

4. "Déjà Vu (0:44) is a gorgeous little piano "étude" in a Joni Mitchell/Bill Evans vein. (10/10)

5. "Run Out (5:05) my immediate and continued favorite song on the album (of course! it has a very odd time signature!) Just hypnotic and gorgeous! Prog perfection--with trumpet! Probably my favorite song of the year! (10/10)

6. "Late July (5:10) a blues-jazzy musical base for a visually descriptive vocal. Again, early STEELY DAN comes up for me ("St. Louis Toodle-oo")--though the playfulness of HAIRCUT ONE HUNDRED also comes to mind. These guys are surely having so much fun! Just listen to that fourth minute! And then there's that trumpet, that wonderful trumpet... (8.5/10)

7. "Lurks (6:07) another unpredictable string of themes and styles rendered to perfection as only Unaka Prong can. Though not necessarily needed, the guest vocal of a female is welcomed--and lovely. Do you think John Hargett has fun playing this one! (Bang, bang, bang!) And the rap appearance, again, is always welcome--especially the way these guys do it. Great keyboard work, Chris Pope! (9/10)

8. "Heartburn (6:11) Up taking me out into the realms of the Stones, Radiohead, and even Dave Matthews Band. (8.5/10)

9. "Lake Jam #1 (5:41) pure jazz pop like a Larry Carlton/Joe Sample/The Crusaders tune with the ever clever and happy UP shifts, bridges, and touches. These guys are so creative! Nice guitar rant in that fifth minute, Daniel! (9/10)

10. "Maeng Da (Lake Jam #4) (3:25) opens as a pretty little piano suite before the rhythm'n'blues-backers join in and make it special. Beautiful song. Love the slide guitar and muted trumpet. (10/10)

11. "Narcese (4:27) upbeat, hard-drivin' blues-rock in the Southern bluesy vein. Proficient but not my cup of tea. (8/10)

12. "Fairweather Friend (1:41) a real odd duck--a late night drinking dirge--cute but standing out for it's difference. (7/10)

13. "Highway Drivin' (3:37) U2 did it, Elvis Costello and Mark Knopfler, too, so why not Unaka Prong? Again, I get it, appreciate it, but, it's just not my cup of tea. (6.5/10)

14. "Too Far Gone (5:23) one of those songs that you can loop to replay over and over--especially on a nice summer day on the dock. Gorgeous and maybe as perfect as perfect can get (especially in that it's lyrics/singing are waxing rhapsodic over a girl. Ahh! The joys of life!) (10/10)

15. "As we Agreed (6:58) nothing extraordinary or particularly innovative (despite the Hackett-esque guitar and trumpet effects used in the fifth minute). (8/10)

A solid, excellent offering of diverse somewhat proggy music.

 Margot by UNAKA PRONG album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.93 | 9 ratings

Unaka Prong Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars A fascinating journey through funky, bluesy, jazzy, yet progressive rock music from Boone, North Carolina. Trumpeter Nic Pressley is so fun to listen to! And I love how the rest of the instruments are recorded to sound as if you are among them, on stage. Awesome! Chris Pope's vintage keyboards are gorgeous and always up front and center. The vocals are awesome and hilarious in a kind of Robert Wyatt way. The dual guitars of Mike Welsh and Daniel Stevenson are so nicely constructed--as if Paul Weller was playing with Radiohead or . . . Paul Weller! The drums are recorded so warmly that you might as well be sitting in drummer John Hargett's lap.

Favorite tracks: 4. "Crunch Berries" (6:16) (10/10); 2. "Clifford" (4:54) (9/10); 7. "Hella (for Coleman Christopher)" (6:15) with its rap (9/10); the jazzy instrumental opener, 1. "PTB" (4:52) (9/10); the hilarious and memorable ALLMAN BROTHERS-like "Road Rash Blues" (4:50) (8/10); the awesome Canterbury styled epic, 8. "Little Animal" (11:14) (10/10); the STYLE COUNCIL-like jazz funk of the instrumental 9. "The Truffle Shuffle (featuring Cameron Cook)" (7:35) (8/10); 5. "Anxious Summer" (3:45) (8/10).

A very solid 4.5 star effort for this group of newbies; a near-masterpiece of eclectic/crossover progressive rock music. One of the great things about this album is that it's a real grower: it gets fresher and more fun with each and every listen. I can't wait to hear how what direction(s) they choose to develop.

Thanks to rdtprog for the artist addition.

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