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Trollheart's Journey through Prog Rock history

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    Posted: November 17 2016 at 14:39
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2016 at 14:54
Although most people who know me would label me a proghead, and they'd be right, the first part of the title above is very appropriate to me: I do know what I like, and I often tend not to venture too far past that. There are a lot of prog rock bands I have never heard, heard of, or refuse to try. I've never heard a Camel album, nothing from Caravan, I know virtually nothing about the Canterbury Scene, have an abiding hatred for ELP and am not crazy about early Yes, though I've heard little. I doubt I've ever heard any Krautrock and King Crimson remain a mystery to me.

These are not good things to admit when you're a proghead, and so I've decided to try to do something about it. The plan here is for me to go chronologically through the development of progressive rock, from its origins (though not too far back: I know some people talk about the Beatles having progressive albums, and Miles Davis, and others; these I won't be touching on, only those who have become or emerged as true progressive rock bands) through its heyday in the seventies to its death and then rebirth in the eighties, bringing in the evolution of progressive metal, and on to the present day, where it continues to enjoy a resurgence and constantly changes and evolves as its name implies.

Although I'm fifty-three this year (oh no!) I only got into what I would class as “my own music” when I was about 15, so that would be 1978, and once I found artistes I liked I tended to stick with them, buying all their albums and occasionally branching out a little, but I was not one who wanted to explore a genre. I found what I liked and I was happy with that. As a result, I could not in any way be said to have a comprehensive knowledge of progressive rock, certainly not a personal one, so for the most part I will have to rely on the recollections of others in order to trace the history of this oft-maligned and misunderstood subgenre of rock. To help me, I will be using mostly two books I have purchased recently, shown below. Why those? Well, to be perfectly honest, I bought my sister a Kindle for Christmas, and then thought of getting one myself I was so impressed with it. But on discovering I could download an app for my phone which would allow me to read Kindle books, a lot of expense was spared and I am now able to read e-books. So rather than wait for books to arrive in the post, I can now just download them and read them right away. Certainly saves time, and often money.



The two shown above, and one other, shown below, are the only real authoritative records I could find on progressive rock, and so I've decided to let them guide my feet on the steps of this journey I'm undertaking. I may look into some online sources too, but only for reference: I do not in any way want to plagiarise anyone's work or rob from their writings, and the books I mention are there for my own information and to allow me fill in the details I don't have or am not aware of. Wikipedia will of course play its part, as it always does in my research. Generally the way I'm going to do it is this:


Going chronologically (what other way would I go, after all?) I'll be looking at the beginnings of the subgenre, noting any important albums along the way and mini-reviewing them. Again, as this is a pretty big undertaking I won't be doing in-depth reviews, but may do a sort of bite-size format or something similar. Any albums I'm aware of, have heard or know will be noted and spoken about, and here I will bring to bear any personal knowledge or insights or memories that are appropriate. I will try to do it as a kind of book, labelling chapters in important eras, as well as year-by-year. If I can.

 I invite any progheads, or anyone interested or who has stories, information, corrections or advice to assist me: this is certainly one of the biggest undertakings I have ever attempted, so any help is certainly appreciated. Do remember though, if you intend to contribute, to keep strictly within the guidelines for chronology. In other words, don't start posting about an album released in 1972 when we're only in 1968, and so on. Which is not to say that we can't discuss same, but I'd like to try to keep the conversation pertinent to the year or era being covered at the time.

 If an album or artiste I feature here does not tally with your view of prog rock, bear in mind that I'm being guided by these authors, and while I won't slavishly follow their recommendations and advice, they obviously know more about the subject than me and I will have to mostly defer to their expertise. However, if you feel there's an artiste I'm not covering, or I'm covering someone I shouldn't be in this context, feel free to let me know.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2016 at 16:22

After reading several, quite boring and arty-farty chapters of the first book I mentioned I've come to the conclusion that it is - how can I say this without giving offence? - total crap. Well, that's not fair, but I had hoped it would give me something of a timeline - who was first, what elements make up a prog album, and so on, a starting point if you will. But it's been jumping back and forth from Duke Ellington to The Who, The Nice to Floyd and I'm still as confused as I was before I began reading. Attempts to answer this question - which was the first prog album - have yielded almost flame wars in forums and websites, and everyone has their own idea but there is no clear answer it would seem. Therefore, for the moment (and given that the other book is on Prog Metal which did not really get going till much later) I will discount these authors' opinions and fall back on my good friend Wiki, as I almost always do.

While they do not list a definitive starting point for prog rock - and it is really hard, given that so much of psychedelia, blues and other forms had nascent elements of prog within their structure - there is a basic agreed “ground zero” point of 1967 as being the accepted year that progressive rock as a whole more or less came into being. There are albums from the previous year that seem to figure too, though, and so what my plan is here (right or wrong) is to look briefly at albums that are considered allied to the progressive rock movement but not actually part of it - albums that have, or started, certain principles that became the founding logic of prog rock - and more deeply into ones which were composed by bands who became important to the movement and influenced other bands later on.  I will therefore grade albums on their importance and relevance to the genre.

One which are considered intrinsic to Progressive Rock, founding fathers if you will, will be graded as Type A. Ones which had an effect on Prog Rock, but are not specifically that genre, will be Type B and ones which are decidedly not (in my opinion) Progressive Rock albums will be type C. These grades will appear in the reviews. The reviews themselves may be quite short, a simple look at the album, or they may be reasonably in-depth, but given how much I have to get through here, I don't envision a note-for-note/quote-every-lyric/track-by-track deep review. I will be trying to achieve three things with this blog:

  1. Get a deeper understanding of the history and legacy of this music

  2. Finally listen to albums and bands I have not, for whatever reason

  3. Introduce anyone who wishes to this subgenre as best I can and

  4. Afford those who deserve it their place in the history of Progressive Rock

I will be trying to achieve four things with this blog... Wink

With all that in mind, the current running order is now going to be this:

1966:


Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys - Type B


Freak out! - The Mothers of Invention - Type B


The Fifth DimensionThe Byrds - Type C


1967


The Velvet Underground and Nico The Velvet Underground - Type C


A Whiter Shade of PaleProcul Harum - Type B


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandThe Beatles - Type B


The Piper at the Gates of Dawn Pink Floyd - Type A


Safe as MilkCaptain Beefheart and his Magic Band - Type B


Days of Future Passed - The Moody Blues - Type A


The Thoughts of Emerlist DavjackThe Nice - Type A

There are a few others in 1967 that should be noted, but I can't review or look at every album released each year, so the above are the ones I've chosen to allow me to get, and give, an overall flavour of, if you like, the birth of progressive rock, or certainly its conception at any rate. Other albums that were considered but decided against include Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys), Absolutely Free (The Mothers of Invention) and Procul Harum (Procul Harum). These are all, as I say, merely taken from a list shown on Wiki, but as I could continue going back and forth, checking site after site and comparing like to like, or unlike, and this would never get started, I have decided to trust Wiki as it has never let me down. Also, I want to get moving on this.

So that's the list for the first two years of what seem to be universally accepted as the ones in which prog rock began its first faint mewling cries, and therefore that is where we start our exploration of the subgenre. If anyone has other suggestions I will consider them, but I really think this list is almost set in stone now. If you think I've left out an important album though, let me know. Also, if you believe I am mis-grading (is that a word? It is now!) any of the above say so, as I am only going on what I know of the albums and artistes involved, and indeed, after having listened to them and given the matter some more thought I may even change an album's grade. But for now, this is how they stand.

So my next entry will contain a brief introduction to the emergence of progressive rock and reviews of the first few albums. Comment, discussion and debate is always welcomed.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote EddieRUKiddingVarese Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2016 at 17:42
Out of those my favs would be

 Freak out! - The Mothers of Invention (no surprised there)

& The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack - The Nice 
"Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes"
and I need the knits, the double knits!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2016 at 19:14
Originally posted by EddieRUKiddingVarese EddieRUKiddingVarese wrote:

Out of those my favs would be

 Freak out! - The Mothers of Invention (no surprised there)

& The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack - The Nice 

Hey, thanks for being the first to reply!
Unfortunately, you'll find I'm no fan of the Big Z, but I give him a fair hearing (sort of). Stay tuned for more, and welcome aboard! 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2016 at 19:28
Chapter I: Into the mystic; the Courtship of Progressive Rock


Even for those of us who weren't there, or old enough to appreciate being there at the time if we were, the sixties is acknowledged as one of the pivotal decades of the twentieth century. Long held conventions were being challenged, youth was on the rise and the old order was slowly crumbling. In art, poetry, literature and a rising trend towards what would become known as “mind-expanding” drugs, in sexual relationships and in man (and woman)'s relationship with the Earth, in fashion and fad, in cinemas and theatres, in schools and universities, the entire world was on a collision course. Old stood firm against the tide of young, but knew in its heart it would not be able to hold: age is the downfall of the more mature, and youth's exuberance can push it to undreamed-of heights. So, in the student riots and sit-ins and protests of the sixties, the names of new heroes and heroines coming through - Mary Quant, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan - the old guard saw its eventual and inevitable fall, but refused to go down just yet.

Attitudes towards youth by the elders became entrenched in opposition and such buzzwords of the time as “beatniks”, “acid heads” and of course “hippies”. Later, words like “draft-dodgers” would make their way into the vocabulary of both sides, a matter of shame and disgrace for the elders, who had after all done their bit in World War II, so that these idle layabouts could waste their formative years smoking pot and listening to the wrong influences and taking a stand against authority. On the other side of the fence, “draft-dodgers” and “peaceniks” became badges of honour for the young; they hadn't asked for a war in southeast Asia, they had nothing against the Viet Cong: why should they fight and die in another man's war? Their parents may have held fast to certain principles, but that didn't mean they had to. The old guys didn't get it: this was a new era, an age of love and brotherhood and understanding, and war was not on the agenda.

It stood to reason, then, that these “bright young things”, the rising force of youth and the hope for the future would not be content to listen to their parents' music, no more than they shared their outmoded values. They wanted something different, something happening, something now. And if it wasn't available, why then they would create it. How hard could it be? In a kind of reverse echo of the punk movement of the late seventies, everyone suddenly began joining or forming bands, or “groups” as they often preferred to be known. This can be seen in the formation of acts like The Animals, The Birds, Pink Floyd, The Nice, The Moody Blues, Soft Machine, Van der Graaf Generator ... the list goes on. And these bands would speak with their own voice, not that of the establishment. They would challenge the old order, they would bring it down. Not like with punk rock, using anger and aggression and a sense of disenchantment, but with love, understanding, new perceptions and new ideas. These bands would open their minds to the endless possibilities that existed, both in music and the world at large, possibilities their “square” parents (ask your parents. Or grandparents) had closed themselves off from, ignored, refused to see. They would, to quote Jim Morrison, open the doors to perception, and if they needed some help getting there via LSD, marijuana and such, then as the Beatles once wrote, let it be.

But some bands of the sixties were content to play what we would term “normal” rock or pop, with a structured verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus pattern, and to only sing about things like love and girls and maybe cars, and fair play to them. Many of them became huge writing this sort of music and being appreciated for it. But other bands were not happy to be placed in a box, even one of their own devising, and looking at their music notation, or down at their musical instruments, they asked the question that has presaged all great discoveries in science, maths and all other disciplines: what if?

And so they began experimenting with unconventional song structures. Who says a song can only be three or four minutes long? Here: this one's seventeen! Take that, Government! I don't want to sing about girls and dates: this song's about a dragon's journey of self-awareness, achieved through the use of drugs. In your face, establishment! Guitar, bass, drums? Nah! Let's try a clarinet! A saxophone! A violin! In fact, what are those new machines you invented called again, Mr. Moog? A synth-esiser, eh? I'll have one of them: see what we can do with that! What do you think of me now, family values?

This experimentation of course was not always received with open arms by the audiences, many of whom just “didn't get it”, being too steeped in the traditions of rock and roll or pop music to be able to break through the barrier and reach beyond the boundaries. They probably thought such music only fit for college intelligentsia, dropouts and hippies. And to a degree they were right. Coming from the twin influences of jazz and folk music, via straightahead rock and roll, there was, or would be, a lot to what would become progressive rock music, and it would not be for everyone. Few prog rock bands had hit singles initially (though of course later they would, but still not anywhere as many as the more conventional rock or pop bands) and they didn't really care, concentrating more on developing their themes and ideas into often album-long tracks, sometimes so long they had to be broken up into sections, becoming suites of songs. To a great degree, in form and structure prog rock would mirror classical music, which was often long and convoluted, and went through many changes over the span of the length of a concerto or symphony. Because of this, as well as other factors, prog rock would come to be seen as an elitist form of music, a snobby form only practiced by what we would call today t**sers. Real bands didn't play prog rock, that was just w**king around, an accusation Rotten and his army of slavering punks would level at the subgenre ten years later and which, at that point, would be quite true.

But in 1966 and 1967, the dream was being born. Bands such as those already mentioned, to say nothing of a crazed genius called Zappa, a nascent Genesis and Procol Harum were all about to stop dancing to the standard music of the day and begin writing sheet music for a whole new kind of waltz, one which would take its dancers to strange new places, open their minds and allow their spirits to soar, give birth to the idea of the concept album - and album listening in general, where people had more or less just picked tracks from them before, or bought singles - nod back to the progenitors of music and point the way forward to the next progression (!) of the form. It would be a wild and crazy, often drug-fuelled ride, but if you had the imagination, the sense of adventure and the idea that the current music was stale and boring, and the desire to look beyond the obvious, break the rules and write new ones, you were going to find yourself in a wonderful new place.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2016 at 19:40
Generally accepted as the first progressive rock album, or at least the first to point the way, I always find it odd that a surf rock band like The Beach Boys get such credit, but I guess up until then nobody had really thought of messing with reverb, voice tracks and trying out strange new instruments. The use of the theremin would become part of the signature sound of these California boys, and lead to others adopting it, as well as weirder, more unconventional instruments, into their sound. Impressed with The Beatles' Rubber Soul, composer Brian Wilson was amazed that t he album sounded like, well, an album, not just a collection of hit singles destined for the charts, surrounded by a bunch of other sub-standard songs, which was generally how albums were recorded up to that point. Utilising the latest recording techniques in vocal harmonies and instrumentation, Wilson set out to produce a rival to the English band's masterpiece, enthusing to his wife that he was about to write “the greatest rock album ever made”.


The general consensus is that he did just that.


Album title: Pet Sounds

Artiste: The Beach Boys

Nationality: American

Label: CBS Columbia

Year: 1966

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: I have heard this album before, but only listened to it briefly. Like everyone else, I've heard (and pretty much loathed) their hit singles.

Landmark value*: Seen as one of, if not the first progressive rock albums, the first to really embrace the multi-layered sound and dive into and explore the then-cutting edge recording techniques, and the first US album to be written as other than a collection of singles and filler tracks. Influenced bands from Pink Floyd to Paul McCartney (the latter of which is ironic, given that Wilson was spurred to make this album after listening to a Beatles record) and from Sonic Youth to Fleet Foxes.

Track Listing: Wouldn't it be nice/You still believe in me/That's not me/Don't talk (Put your head on my shoulder)/I'm waiting for the day/Let's go away for a while/Sloop John B/God only knows/I know there's an answer/Here today/I just wasn't made for these times/Pet sounds/Caroline, no

Comments: You certainly have to give them points for the most instruments used on an album. Prior to Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells this has to be in the running: I count over thirty separate instruments! Despite that though, there's often not the “wall of sound” you might expect. I've never been able to justify this album's position in the pantheon of progressive rock luminaries, although in fairness I've only listened to it twice now, but people better qualified than me to make that judgement have made it, so who am I to disagree? Still, to me it's just a pop/rock album with a lot of interesting sounds and vocal harmonies, but nothing more than that. I don't see my stance on this ever changing.

Favourite track(s): Wouldn't it be nice, Don't talk (Put your head on my shoulder), I'm waiting for the day, Let's go away for awhile, Sloop John B, God only knows

Least favourite track(s): Not really any; anything that's not quoted above I just thought was ok.

Overall impression: Don't get me wrong: I don't hate this album. In fact I'm starting to quite enjoy it. I just don't see it as being a precursor to progressive rock. Sorry, can't see it. Decent album, ground breaking maybe but not the grand-daddy of prog, not for me. Probably doesn't help that I don't like the Beachies.

(A word on Rating: as I may not particularly like an album but it may be deserving of a higher rating due to its place in prog rock history, I will rate albums both on a Personal and a Legacy Rating, then use the average of those two to get a Final Rating).

Personal Rating: 

Legacy Rating:

 

Final Rating: 


  • (Landmark Value is exactly what it says it is: how critical, formative or important was this album -despite my liking it or hating it, or even being ambivalent towards it - to the development of progressive rock, and how much did it have an influence on, or drive the subgenre?)


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2016 at 19:48
If the Beach Boys were not really the sort of band you would generally expect to see associated with the term progressive rock, Frank Zappa certainly is. A unique, often inscrutable personality, Zappa began his career with The Mothers of Invention, and in one of those pieces of irony fate loves throwing at us, he was asked to take over the already-formed band due to a fight between two band members, one of whom left. Once he was established as band leader, Zappa took total control of the Mothers, insisting they play his own original work and not covers, and becoming more of a control freak than Roger Waters and Brian Wilson put together. But it worked. Previously unknown, the Mothers (then called The Soul Giants) were discovered and soon began to make their presence felt on the underground music scene in LA, and went on to release their debut album, only the second double album in rock history and the first real concept album.



Album title: Freak Out!

Artiste: The Mothers of Invention

Nationality: American

Label: Verve

Year: 1966

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: I've heard one track which I did not like, and I believe is on this album. I am not anticipating liking this but it must be experienced due to its importance in the overall development of prog rock.

Landmark value: The first real concept album, so that has to count for something. Also one of the first from a new band to allow the artiste almost total creative freedom and provide him with a virtually unlimited budget with which to realise his vision. One of the first, I think, to take direct aim at the established American way of life and to lampoon it in music.

Track Listing: Hungry freaks, daddy/ I ain't got no heart/ Who are the brain police?/Go cry on somebody else's shoulder/ Motherly love/ How could I be such a fool/ Wowie zowie/ You didn't try to call me/ Any way the wind blows/ I'm not satisfied/ You're probably wondering why I'm here/ Trouble every day/ Help I'm a rock ((i) Okay to tap dance (ii) In memoriam, Edgard Varese (iii) It can't happen here)/ The return of the son of monster magnet ((i) Ritual dance of the child-killer (ii) Nullis pretii (No commercial potential))

Comments: Well initially I'm surprised at how straight rock-and-roll this is, though no doubt it'll get more out there later. But I really did expect something like ten men standing on hills a mile apart and banging dustbin lids while farting. That's probably his third album. Pleasant surprise, very sixties rock with a dash of psychedelia, some great lyrics which he would of course become known and even infamous for. Who are the brain police? is that one Zappa track I mentioned that I have heard, and I can appreciate it more in the context of the album but I still don't like it. In fact, a little way in I find myself getting bored. Help, I'm a rock is where it really starts to get freaky and psychedelic, and by the end it's more or less where I expected it would be. I suppose his music goes on in this weird, experimental (heavy on the mental!) vein. Bah.

Favourite track(s): Hungry freaks, daddy, I ain't got no heart, Go cry on somebody else's shoulder, Trouble every day

Least favourite track(s):Who are the brain police?, You're probably wondering why I'm here, I'm not satisfied, Help I'm a rock, The return of the son of the monster magnet

Overall impression: Started well but fell apart about halfway. Not that I did not expect this, but by the time we were onto the third side I had lost interest and was totally bored. Did not help that it was a double album.

Personal Rating: 


Legacy Rating: 


Final Rating: 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote EddieRUKiddingVarese Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 17 2016 at 20:09

For me this is where Prog starts
Personal Rating:

"Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes"
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 08:39
Although many bands who would go on to impact on the progressive rock scene were formed in or before 1966 - Soft Machine, Barclay James Harvest, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues - none had any released material until at least 1967, with the exception of The Moody Blues, who released their first album in 1965. This, however, was primarily a rhythm'n'blues album and seems to have no connection whatever to progressive rock, and their second album is regarded as the first of theirs to embrace or influence that subgenre. So that leaves us with very little to work with in 1966, but to complete the year I am, as I said, going to take a quick spin through the only other album deemed to have had any effect on prog rock, even though it seems like an odd choice, to me at any rate. But as I've said so often before, and it's as true today as it was when I first uttered the words, what do I know?


Album title: Fifth dimension

Artiste: The Byrds

Nationality: American

Label: Columbia

Year: 1966

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: “Mister Tambourine man”, “Turn, turn, turn”

Landmark value: It's said to have been the album that almost created the subgenre of psychedelic rock. How true that is I don't know, but if so then psychedelia had a real effect on the birth of progressive rock, so it's got to have a decent value.

Track Listing: 5D (Fifth dimension)/ Wild mountain thyme/ Mr. Spaceman/ I see you/ What's happening?/ I come and stand at every door/ Eight miles high/ Hey Joe/ Captain Soul/ John Riley/ 2-4-2 Foxtrot

Comments: Nice organ work on the opening track, but it sounds quite Country to me and it's followed by a folk traditional song, then I guess Mr. Spaceman can claim to be psychedelic in part, referring as it does to aliens and extraterrestrials, which (maybe) had not been a subject pursued much if at all by bands or singers. It's played in a sort of bluegrass tone though, which I feel robs it of a little of its desired impact. I come and stand at every door, while a cover, sounds like a minstrel's lay or something.

They do a version of Hey Joe and though it's not his song, I think we all identify it with Hendrix by now. This version just sounds wrong to me. Generally I'm becoming less impressed as the album goes on. The harmonica instrumental Captain Soul is pretty good though.

Favourite track(s): Wild mountain thyme, Mr. Spaceman, Captain Soul

Least favourite track(s): Hey Joe, 2-4-2 Foxtrot

Overall impression: Yeah. Don't see it. There's little about this album that says nascent prog rock to me, or even psychedelia, though I'm not that familiar with that sort of music yet. I see it as a folk/rock album and that's pretty much it. Can't argue with history though. Anyway I wasn't impressed personally.

Personal Rating: 


Legacy Rating: 


Final Rating: 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 09:20
So that's 1966 done. Before I head on to the following year I think it's perhaps incumbent upon me to take a short trip back to note the bands formed in the two or three years prior, who would later rise to prominence within or contribute to the growth of progressive rock. Although none released any albums - at least, prog-worthy - until at least 1967, the mere event of their forming should really be marked, and a short piece perhaps written on who they were/are and what their general effect on and input to the progressive rock movement was.

Before the storm...

This is by no means meant to be a definitive biography of any of the bands formed before the proper onset of the progressive rock scene in the late sixties and early seventies. This is merely a few lines pointing to those bands and to how they would later influence the sub-genre. When we get to where they released albums, I will of course go into them in a little more depth.


The Moody Blues (1964 -)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Clint Warwick, Denny Laine

First relevant album: Days of Future Passed, 1967


Impact on the progressive rock scene (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7


Formed in 1964, their band name was not, as I had originally thought, anything to do with the Elvis song, but was both a reference to M&B Breweries, with whom they had hoped to win a sponsorship contract (they didn't) and the Duke Ellington song, “Mood indigo.” When they formed the Moody Blues were much different to the band we have come to know, and who contributed so much to the progressive rock arena. Justin Hayward was not on board at this time, nor was John Lodge. Their first album, The Magnificent Moodies, would bear no resemblance to what would end up being their first real progressive rock album, and one which would bring them to the notice of the general public, Days of Future Passed. The debut was more an r'n'b effort, and it flopped, though it would later spawn a hit in “Go now” which, ironically, was a cover version of an earlier song.

The Wilde Flowers (1964 – 1967)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Hugh Hopper, Brian Hopper, Robert Wyatt, Richard Sinclair, Kevin Ayers

First relevant album: n/a

Impact: 6

Linked to: Caravan, Soft Machine

Another band forming in 1964, oddly The Wilde Flowers never released any albums, but were one of the first bands active in what would become known as the Canterbury Scene. They are however notable for the bands their former members ended up in, two of the biggest bands in that scene, Soft Machine and Caravan.

Pink Floyd (1965 – 2014)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Richard Wright

First relevant album: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1967


Impact: 9

Originally The Pink Floyd, one of the most influential bands in progressive rock music as well as psychedelia, Floyd would redefine how music was created, and performed, and perceived. Mainstay of the band David Gilmour was not part of the early lineup who recorded their first album, and would only be brought in to replace bandleader Syd Barrett, when increasing problems with drink drugs and personality issues made it impossible for Barrett to continue in the band. Under the lineup of Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, Pink Floyd would go on to become a worldwide phenomenon and a true star of the prog rock scene.

The Syn (1965-1967, then 2004-)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Steve Nardelli, Chris Squire, Andrew Pryce Jackman, Matrin Adelman, John Painter

First relevant album: Original Syn, 2004

Linked with: Yes

Impact: 4

Seen as a precursor to prog rock giants Yes, they lasted from 1965 to 1967, then came back in 2004 as a proper progressive rock band. They are notable for including later Yes bassist Chris Squire in their lineup.

Barclay James Harvest (1966- )

Nationality: British

Original lineup: John Lees, Les Holroyd, Stuart Wolsthenholme, Mel Pritchard

First relevant album: Barclay James Harvest, 1970


Linked to: The Enid

Impact: 5

Formed in 1965, they originally included Robert John Godfrey in their lineup, he later leaving to form The Enid. They were successful throughout the seventies but dogged by comparisons to The Moody Blues, leading to their being perhaps unkindly described by critics as “The Poor Man's Moody Blues.”

Soft Machine (1966-1984)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledge

First relevant album: The Soft Machine, 1968


Linked to: The Wilde Flowers, Caravan

Impact: 7

Another band who later dropped the “the” from their name, they were also a big Canterbury band, and included among others Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers in their lineup. Like many Canterbury (and many progressive bands) they are feted for their contribution to the genre but achieved little in the way of commercial success.

Stormy Six (1966-1983 (first incarnation), 1990-2010 (second incarnation)

Nationality: Italian

Original lineup: Giovanni Fabbri, Maurizio Masla, Franco Fabbri, Luca Piscicelli, Fausto Martinetti, Alberto Santagostino, Antonio Zanuso

First relevant album: Guarda Giù dalla Pianura, 1974

Impact: 4

Linked to: Henry Cow

One of the first Italian prog rock bands, Stormy Six also became involved with, indeed created the idea of Rock In Opposition, (RIO) however they did not really become a true progressive rock band until the middle of the 1970s.

Genesis (1967-1997 (?))

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Peter Gabriel, John Silver, Mike Rutherford, Anthony Phillips

First relevant album: Trespass, 1970


Linked to: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins solo careers, Mike and the Mechanics

Impact: 10

What can I write about Genesis that has not been already written? One of the founding members and drivers of the progressive rock movement through the seventies, Genesis eventually fell prey to the bright lights of chart success and turned from their prog rock roots to become just another rock, and then rock/pop band. They disbanded after one album following Phil Collins' departure, but like Yes and ELP were leading lights of the development of progressive rock. Rumours about a possible revival persist to this day...

Gong (1967 – 1976) (first incarnation) 1991-2001 (second incarnation) 2003-2004 (third incarnation) 2006 – (fourth incarnation)

Nationality: French

Original lineup: Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Ziska Baum, Loren Standlee

First relevant album: Magick Brother, 1970


Linked to: Soft Machine, The Wilde Flowers

Impact: 8

One of the first French progressive rock acts, Gong began as more a psychedelic band and were kind of a forced situation originally, when Daevid Allen, playing with Soft Machine in France, was unable to get a visa to allow him entry into the UK. He thereafter formed Gong, but had to flee France in '68 during the student riots and went to Majorca, where he found his future saxophonist living in a cave. It says here. Trippy, man! Trippy!

Jethro Tull (1967 – 2011)

Nationality: British

Original members: Ian Anderson, Mick Abrahams, Glenn Cornick, Clive Bunker

First relevant album: Benefit, 1970


Linked to: Fairport Convention

Impact: 8

Very much a folk-based band, with bandleader Ian Anderson proficient on the flute, and lyrics mostly about agriculture and mythology. They went on to become a very famous and successful band, selling over sixty million albums, despite their strange eccentricities, and even scoring hit singles.

The Nice (1967 – 1970)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson, Davy O'List, Ian Hague

First relevant album: The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, 1967


Linked to: Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP)

Impact: 7

With their caustic rendition of Leonard Bernstein's “America” and keyboardist Keith Emerson's antics with his keyboard, which would carry through into his association with ELP, The Nice have been credited often with recording the first ever progressive rock album, their debut, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack. This has however been disputed. Whatever the case, what is not disputed is that The Nice was a training ground for one of the world's greatest, and most pompous and arrogant keyboard players, before he joined Carl Palmer and Greg Lake in the immortal prog rock power trio some years later.

Organisation (or, Organisation zur Verwirklichung gemeinsamer Musikkonzepte ) (1969 – 1970)

Nationality: German

Original lineup: Basil Hammoudi, Butch Hauf, Ralf Hütter, Alfred Monics, Florian Schenider-Esleben

First relevant album: Tone float, 1969


Impact: 3

With just the one album to their credit, the only real relevance Organisation (I'm not going to write it all out again, but it stands for “organisation for the realisation of common music projects”) have to the progressive rock scene is that they were a Krautrock band which split in 1970 to allow two of the members to form Kraftwerk.

Procol Harum (1967-1977) (first incarnation) 1991 – (second incarnation)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Gary Brooker, Keith Reid, Matthew Fisher, Ray Royer, David Knights

First relevant album: Procol Harum, 1967


Impact: 7

Best known of course for their smash hit single “A whiter shade of pale” , Procol Harum were therefore one of the few progressive rock bands who managed to have a big hit first time out. Unfortunately, though they remained active through the seventies, they were never again to repeat this success.

Van der Graaf Generator (1967 – 1972) (first incarnation) 1975-1978 (second incarnation) 2005 – (third incarnation)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Peter Hammill, Chris Judge Smith

First relevant album: The Aerosol Grey Machine, 1969


Linked to: Peter Hammill solo career

Impact: 8

One of the most influential early progressive rock bands, Van der Graaf Generator would have a huge influence on Genesis vocalist Peter Gabriel, as well as much later, Marillion's Fish, as both tried to emulate Peter Hammill's style and vocal delivery. VDGG would be another prog rock band though who never troubled the charts, and never strayed from their prog roots, using jazz and blues as part of their musical pallette. They would set the mould for much of what was to follow.

So those are, basically, what I guess you could call the parents or grandparents of progressive rock. They would have many children, some of whom would spread their message far and wide across the world, but at this point even these venerable elders of Prog Rock had yet to even record their first albums, and make their impression on the world of rock music. Some would not even make that impression with their debut, but might take another two or three before they hit the magic formula that put them forever on a course to glory and immortality. But even with all that to come, in a very real sense, the birth of progressive rock began here!


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 14:33
And so we boldly forge ahead into 1967. I can't remember if I intended to do those albums I selected from this year in the order in which I laid them out initially or not, but as it's the easiest way to approach this, I will. That means we kick off with this.


But before we do, it is of course incumbent upon me to talk a little about this trendsetting band and the impact they would have on progressive rock. Like Pink Floyd, who were starting at around the same time, The Velvet Underground were very much into experimental music, with both Lou Reed and John Cale wishing to push the boundaries, one via the lyrical matter, the other via the musical instruments and recording techniques. Having come together at the end of 1965 the band, managed by sixties superstar, icon and svengali Andy Warhol, brought German singer Christa Päffgen, known by her stage name of Nico, to record the first Velvet Underground album.

The album cover is now one of the most iconic of all time, and one of those few which contains just one object, but like Pink Floy's Dark Side of the Moon or Led Zeppelin's IV, is instantly recognisable. Those of us who knew nothing about this album thought that the name of it was “Andy Warhol”, which might seem stupid, but his signature is prominently displayed on the album sleeve, so, you know, cut us some slack. The album itself sold poorly but has gone on to be described as one of the most important in rock history and is cited as a major influence by more rock bands than you could shake a stick at, should you wish to do such a thing.

As far as experimental music goes, you would have to concede that the Velvet Underground contributed to what would eventually emerge as progressive rock, and certainly in terms of influence on the future stars of prog rock, I guess there are probably few if any who have not heard the album, and on whom it has not taken an effect and helped shape the music they wrote. But it's certainly not what I would term a pure progressive rock record, which is why I categorise it as I do below. Not wishing to downplay its significance by any means, but if someone asked to hear a prog rock record this is not the first album I'd be reaching for.

Album title: The Velvet Underground and Nico

Artiste: The Velvet Underground and Nico

Nationality: American

Label: Verve

Year: 1967

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: “Venus in furs”, that's about it. And some Lou Reed solo material.

Landmark value: Well as I say above it has a very high landmark value, given the contribution it made to the subgenre, but again I feel it's more on the psychedelic side of things than the progressive. Can't be denied it broke down many boundaries though.

Track Listing: Sunday morning/ I'm waiting for the man/ Femme fatale/ Venus in furs/ Run run run/ All tomorrow's parties/ Heroin/ There she goes again/ I'll be your mirror/ The black angel's death song/ European son

Comments: First track's a bit tame, given what I had expected: bit dreamy, sixties pop really. Things pick up a little with "I'm waiting for the man" as Lou Reed takes over vocals solo and the sound crystallises a bit more, harder guitar, edgier lyrics. Beginning to see it now. Distorted, manic piano at the end really adds to the song. Hmm, but then we're back to that dreamy sound again for "Femme fatale". Very laidback and seems a little empty. I mentioned I knew "Venus in furs", so no surprises here, though it would definitely have ruffled some establishment feathers with its graphic lyric dealing with bondage and sado-masochism, surely making this one of the albums the "Moral Majority" would have wanted to ban, then we're on to "Run run run", the first uptempo song on the album. Kind of like a fast blues with a bit of southern boogie, pretty infectious rhythm really. "All tomorrow's parties" slows down the tempo again, and it's Nico at the mike again, with a dark psychedelic sort of feel. Sounds like sitar there. Is it? No, it isn't.

As if they haven't made it plain enough that they're singing about drugs on the album, the next one is called "Heroin", so there can be no doubt. Another kind of laidback, relaxed sort of song with some nice guitar. It speeds up but then drops back again. Great vocal from Reed, really more like speaking poetry than singing. Lots of feedback guitar; at one point it totally drowns out Reed's voice, which I assume is intended to make a statement. Almost the longest track on the album, just beaten out of that place by the closer. This is balanced out by the three tracks in-between being no more than three minutes long each.

Don't see anything terribly great about "There she goes" - standard sixties rock song, could hear The Kinks or The Animals singing this. Nothing special. Back to dreamy pop then for "I'll be your mirror" with Nico back on vocals. "Black angel's death song" is good though: sort of a bluegrass idea in it, screeching viola from Cale as well as hissing into the microphone all creates a rather unsettling atmosphere. The final track then is "European son" with a really nice bassline and again it's reasonably uptempo compared to most of the rest of the album. It's also, as mentioned, the longest track, just shy of eight minutes. There are more sound effects here, like things rolling on the floor, barrels maybe, and crashing breaking glass. Actually no: I read now that it's Cale hitting a stack of plates with a metal chair that made the sounds. Of course it is.

Well, it's a weird end to a much less weird album than I had thought it would be. Good enough, but somehow not the powerhouse gamechanger I had expected to hear. I guess, as they say, you had to be there.

Favourite track(s): I'm waiting for the man, Venus in furs, Run run run, Black angel's death song

Least favourite track(s): There she goes

Overall impression: Not what I was expecting at all. I thought it would be wilder, sort of punkish, more experimental. Pretty pleasant really, all things considered.

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Up to now, though I’ve tried not to be too dismissive of nor ignore bands who are cited as being influential on the birth of prog rock, I’ve yet to hear anything approaching what I would consider to be the sound of the subgenre. My understanding of what makes progressive rock may be simplistic and basic, but for me, prog rock music has at its heart long and/or complicated keyboard passages, introspective guitar, other instruments like sax, violin, cello or flute, has long songs that are often broken into suites and deals with fantasy or mythological, or at least other than mundane lyrical content. Obviously, that’s not true of every prog band nor indeed every prog song, but I’ve not yet recognised anything that puts me in mind of, say, “A plague of lighthouse keepers”, “2112” or even “Tarkus”. The bands and albums I’ve listened to so far do not, to me, speak of a new subgenre straining to be born, and though some of them did experiment with sounds and ideas, most seem rooted in blues or jazz tropes, and show no sign or stepping much beyond that. Perhaps that will change as I investigate our next band, jumping off at the next stop along my extremely long journey.


Formed initially as The Paramounts, and having one hit single but getting no further, Gary Brooker and Robin Trower formed Procol Harum and began recording their first, self-titled album in 1967, from which they had their biggest hit single, “A whiter shade of pale”. Oddly enough, this was not on the UK version of the album, though it does appear on the US one. I guess you can only assume the label were trying to push sales of the single further by not allowing those who bought the album to have access to it that way, but it’s a strange thing to do: most people who bought singles would probably then go and get the album if they liked what they heard.


The success of the hit single assured Procol Harum of a place in musical history, and could very well point to them as being one of the first true progressive rock bands, but it did encumber them with the “first hit single syndrome”, and they never really repeated the worldwide success of that song, which is still the one they are associated with, even by those who have never heard a single album of theirs. Like me.



Album title: Procol Harum

Artiste: Procol Harum

Nationality: British

Label: Regal Zonophone

Year: 1967

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: “A whiter shade of pale”

Landmark value: With a worldwide smash hit single on it (at least, the US version) this album could be said to have brought the fledgling progressive rock to the mainstream.

Track Listing: Conquistador/ She wandered through the garden fence/ Something following me/ Mabel/ Cerdes (Outside the gates of)/ A Christmas camel/ Kaleidoscope/ Salad days (are here again)/ Good Captain Clack/ Repent Walpurgis


Comments: Well, I finally hear the organs, Hammonds and keyboard runs that would become part and parcel of prog rock here in songs like the opener and the second track particularly, so perhaps Matthew Fisher can be said to be the first prog rock keyboardist? Meh, probably not, but he’s the first I’ve heard to date that embraces and embodies that style that would be identified with this subgenre. The music definitely seems more keyboard-driven than guitar-centric, which I believe is important. Some nice bluesy piano on "Something following me", which has a really nice country feel to it too. Next one’s annoying though: too “Yellow submarine” Beatles for me. "Cerdes (Outside the gates of)" brings back the progressive rock though, with some fine guitar from Robin Trower.


This version then has that smash single, and there’s little I can say about it that hasn’t been already, so on we go and I have to say I pretty much love most of what I’m hearing here. Like I say, the main thing for me, the thing that differentiates this from the other albums I’ve listened to up to now is the dominance of keyboard; Fisher really holds court over the album and brings it all together, which is not to ignore the other members of PH, but his keyboard soundscapes form the background for the music here, and the album would not be the same without it. The closer is just perfect. Love it.


Favourite track(s): She wandered through the garden fence, Something following me, Cerdes (Outside the gates of), A whiter shade of pale, Salad days (are here again), Repent Walpurgis

Least favourite track(s): Mabel, Good Captain Clack

Overall impression: Think I really love this album, and I can finally say that, as far as I’m concerned anyway, and going only on what I’ve listened to up to this point, this, for me, is the first true example of an album that would lead to the subgenre of progressive rock. Superb,

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 14:59

As with The Byrds, the first name that drops from my lips when I speak of progressive rock is not the fab four. Although I’m no fan and have heard little of their music beyond the singles, and I know they did a lot of experimental work later in their career, their contribution to the evolution of progressive rock has always been a bone of contention to me. I can’t deny that, like Pet Sounds - and on which much of this was based - their concept album did open doors that others had not really tried, but really I see it more as a case of the Beatles opening the door but allowing others to rush through, taking the bones of what they had started and putting a lot more flesh on it, to create what was generally accepted by at least 1970 as the format of progressive rock.


As an aside, I must point out that the Wiki entry on this album goes into almost tortuous detail about every song, dissecting it until the various commentators have almost wrung every drop of soul or enjoyment out of it. It’s something like watching a dispassionate autopsy being conducted. I have never quite in my life read so much psychobabble written about music. Like Freud himself once observed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar guys!


Nevertheless, this album has its place in history, and we would be remiss to exclude it, as it is hailed as one of the first proper concept albums, though to be honest I fail to see any common thread or plot running through it. To me, it’s more a collection of songs, though the idea of it being performed by a fictional band made up by the Beatles is interesting and certainly was, at the time, pretty ground-breaking. But was it progressive rock? Um...


Album title: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Artiste: The Beatles

Nationality: British

Label: Parlophone

Year: 1967

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Who hasn’t heard something by the Beatles??.

Landmark value: Seen as not only very important in the evolution of progressive rock (though I would not call it a prog rock album by any stretch), but also in the identity of albums opposed to singles and one of the first real concept albums, this set the standard for future recording techniques and was one of the new albums that was essentially recorded as a band other than the one the artistes were known for.

Track Listing: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band/ With a little help from my friends/ Lucy in the sky with diamonds/ Getting better/ Fixing a hole/ She’s leaving home/ Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!, Within you without you, When I’m sixty-four, Lovely Rita, Good morning good morning, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise), A day in the life


Comments: We've all heard this album - or at least, some of it, so I’ll skip the first few tracks which I, and everyone else, knows, and jump to "Getting better", which seems to keep some of the basic idea from "With a little help from my friends", straightahead rock tune really. "Fixing a hole" has more of a twenties feel about it, sort of music-hall idea there, and "She’s leaving home" slows it all down to a moody dirge with some beautiful violin and cello. I’ve heard this of course before, and I like the way it’s seen from both sides, the runaway and the parents, each giving their reaction.


"Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!" has the sort of melody that would be very much at home on a Tom Waits album, and I guess you can see the influence of this album in his later work, lot of carnival sounds and effects, seems to be an instrumental, then Harrison’s sitar introduces "Within you without you" with some suitably Indian percussion (congas?) and a sort of droning, chanted vocal; I’ve heard part of this melody in a much later Marillion song. It’s the only one with Harrison on lead vocals, and almost the longest on the album: whereas most of the other tracks, bar the closer, are around the 2 or 3 minute mark, this runs for just over five. I think we all know "When I’m sixty-four", which bumps along nicely on tuba and horns, with "Lovely Rita" coming back to the main theme of the title track, bopping along. Interesting that they use the description meter maid, when they were an English band and on this side of the Atlantic we call them all traffic wardens, male or female. Still, I guess “meter maid” rhymes better with “Rita”. Sort of.


I’m not too impressed with "Good morning good morning", bit ordinary, though it has some nice guitar in it. There’s a reprise then of the title track, then if anything is progressive rock on this album - and little is really - I’d have to mark the closer, "A day in the life" as an indicator of the direction the subgenre was going to go over the next few years. I like the way it changes time signatures, tempos and particularly the crescendos that provide the real power behind the song.


Favourite track(s): With a little help from my friends, Lucy in the sky with diamonds, She’s leaving home, Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!

Least favourite track(s): Good morning good morning

Overall impression: Given that I know so much of this album already, not the biggest surprise, but I’d still have to say the jury is out, as far as I’m concerned, as to how much of a role this album has to play in the genesis (sorry) of Progressive Rock. It’s certainly an important album, but though I can see some of the processes and thoughts here being used in future prog rock albums, I’m not sure I don’t see it as more of  a psychedelic album than a progressive rock one.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 17:55

Although I came to their work relatively late, by way of The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, there can be little argument against Pink Floyd having been one of the prime movers behind the rise of progressive rock. Their music on the albums mentioned, and continuing on into Wish You Were Here, and on the second side of Meddle, to say nothing of Animals, typifies that refusal of the subgenre to conform to the norms of rock music at the time: singles must be such-a-length, albums must yield hit singles, the setup is guitar-vocals-bass-drums, and so on. Through the pioneering efforts of their seventies output, Floyd blazed a trail for others to follow, and could not more exemplify the term “experimental music” if they were all wearing white coats and working in a lab.


But their first few albums were not quite so progressive as psychedelic rock, though I’m beginning to realise that the two are, or were at that time, quite closely linked, if not inextricably tied together. In ways, what psychedelic rock began progressive rock either expanded on, absorbed into its own music or improved upon. In fact, for the next five or six years the two terms could almost be described as interchangeable, as bands like Tangerine Dream, Gong, Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention tried out new sounds, tested the ground ahead and, even if it gave way and they fell through, always climbed out, nodding and taking notes. It’s not an overstatement, I believe, to say that had we not had psychedelic rock we would in all likelihood never have had progressive rock.


And many bands, as mentioned, began in a sort of psychedelic direction but later changed to a more structured approach as they became more in the way of progressive rock bands. Pink Floyd were one case in point, and a vitally important one. At the time they started playing the local clubs there was literally nothing else like them on Earth; they were the only show in town and the one you had to see if you wanted to “get your mind blown.” Even in my long-vanished youth, when our school shelled out for a rare trip to London and we were taken to the Planetarium, it was the music of Pink Floyd that accompanied the stars streaking across the sky, the visits to alien worlds and the whole voyage through the cosmos. Their music was almost tailor-made for such excursions, both of the eye and, I am reliably informed, of the mind.


But Floyd started off with a drag factor which was to lead to perhaps one of the earliest changes in a band’s history that I know of. Bright as a burning star himself, and commemorated in the almost-album-long “Shine on you crazy diamond” six years later, Syd Barrett was the founder of the band, then called The Pink Floyd Sound, though they quickly dropped the last word and fairly soon afterwards the first too, becoming ever after known as Pink Floyd. Barrett was a great musician and songsmith, but his battle with addictions would have tragic and detrimental consequences on his career, and lead to his being fired from the band he had created, to allow the others to shine as brightly. It was a tough decision for Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright, but not taken lightly and done because there really was nothing else they could do.


Before he left them though, Barrett was the creative genius and visionary who wrote their entire debut album, music and lyrics, and sung on almost every song. He also came up with the striking and memorable title, taken from a chapter of the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows.



Album title: The piper at the gates of dawn

Artiste: Pink Floyd

Nationality: British

Label: EMI

Year: 1967

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Pretty much everything after Dark Side of the Moon, including Roger Waters’s solo material.

Landmark value: Heralding the arrival of Pink Floyd on to the scene, the value of this album really can’t be overestimated. Floyd brought things like lightshows, taped effects, feedback, video and special effects to their stageshows, and were probably the first British band to create what is today termed a “full multimedia experience”. I never got to see them live, ever, which I regret, but I’m told it was an experience you never forgot. Although there was a hit single for Floyd at this time, it was not from this album and they helped usher in an era where albums were more important than singles, and you didn’t have to have a hit single for an album to sell well. This, and its followup, would of course lead in time to the genre-defining classic that is Dark Side of the Moon, which would have such an influence and effect on musicians as well as fans that it is still the standard today.

Track Listing: Astronomy domine/ Lucifer Sam/ Matilda mother/ Flaming/ Pow R Toc. h/ Take up thy stethoscope and walk/ Interstellar overdrive/ The gnome/ Chapter 24/ The scarecrow/ Bike

Comments: “Astronomy domine” is a great start, with really atmospheric, spacey effects, not to mention one of the coolest song titles ever, and shows the sort of direction Floyd would begin to move in, while “Lucifer Sam” is kind of more straightahead rock, though you can get an idea of Waters’s prowess on the basslines here. “Matilda mother” is very psychedelic, sort of reminds me of those winged chaps I reviewed a while back. Nice kind of eastern tinges to the melody from Wright on the keys, and a sort of hissing, pumping sound that would later make its way into “Welcome to the machine”.


The psych elements continue into “Flaming”, and it’s clear by now that though Barrett was a competent singer, there’s something missing from his delivery here. Maybe it’s the bitterness or anger Waters put into his singing, or the more mellifluous tones of David Gilmour, when he joined later and occasionally got behind the mike. I can see why there was concern over Syd being too quiet to be heard; at times here the music just overpowers his voice. The first of two instrumentals on the album, “Pow R. Toc. H” presages some of the music from later album Animals, and gives both Wright and Mason their chance to really shine. It’s quite uptempo and all a bit mad, but good fun, with some crazy effects that would become trademarks of this unique band.


Roger Waters’s only vocal then comes in “Take up thy stethoscope and walk”, and even here you can see the difference in styles; Waters is more forceful, more in-your-face, louder than the mostly gentle Barrett. Wright also goes wild on the organ here as the song rushes along at a much more frenetic pace that any of the previous tracks. It is, to be fair, not as great as some of the rest of the album. Where Floyd really hit their stride though is with the nine-minute-plus “Interstellar overdrive”, which marries space rock, psych and the emerging progressive rock tropes really well. The echoes, the feedback, the effects. Hard to believe that a band starting out could put a nine-minute instrumental on their debut album, but Floyd from the beginning weren’t interested in kow-towing to the charts. And they were right. As they set their own course and people bought into what they were selling, this would become a future classic.


“The gnome” then is just silly, there’s no way around that. I like the Beatlesesque sound of “Chapter 24”, it’s quite slow and dreamy with some nice keys effects, “The scarecrow” is nice too, very laidback and pastoral, but I don’t like “Bike”, which closes the album. Seems totally out of place to me. Crazy lyric, I guess reflects Barrett’s personality at the time. Actually, f**k it, I’ve changed my mind. This is a fun song and I suddenly like it. Yeah, I can change my mind like that: it’s my goddamn blog! Hey, totally weird-out ending!


Favourite track(s): Astronomy domine, Lucifer Sam, Pow R toc H, Interstellar overdrive, Chapter 24, The scarecrow, Bike

Least favourite track(s):Flaming, Take up thy stethoscope and walk, The gnome

Overall impression: Not so much the World Tree of Progressive Rock as one of the major seeds that germinated and then spread across the music world, pollinating everything they touched, this album is a nod towards where Floyd were headed, a roadsign if you will on the journey they were about to undertake. While for pure progressive rock it’s still not as much an early example as the Procol Harum album, the impact Floyd would have on prog rock far outweighs that of the other band, and for that reason alone this album needs to be heralded as one of the progenitors of the movement.


Not as simple rock as I had been led to believe, there are two seriously prog instrumentals on it and some lyrics that would be at home on any Yes or Camel album. Possibly. But the important point is that Floyd were pushing, changing, evolving from this album on, transforming the face of rock into something that had really never been seen before, and which would birth some giants of the era. Progression: it’s what drove Floyd for many years, and by association, many other bands who were to come.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Icarium Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 06:05
Where would you put Cream if you were to describe their impact on progressive music, and how would you describe Disraely Gears gompared to other releses in 1967?

Edited by Icarium - November 19 2016 at 06:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 08:18
Originally posted by Icarium Icarium wrote:

Where would you put Cream if you were to describe their impact on progressive music, and how would you describe Disraely Gears gompared to other releses in 1967?
I don't know anything much about Cream, but in my research they've never been linked in any way with prog rock. They seem to have been a blues rock band and while there are many fringe outfits who could be said to have been on the periphery and to have contributed, however minimally, to the development of progressive rock, if I were to start counting them all I'd be here forever.

So basically, I don't see Cream as being part of the movement.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 09:33
In 1965 a young contemporary of Frank Zappa called Don Van Vliet decided his own name wasn’t interesting or psychedelic enough, and changed it to Captain Beefheart, a name that would ring down through the annals of progressive, experimental and psychedelic music for decades, and reverberate in even the work of many musicians later to come, including the venerated Tom Waits. Beefheart’s music could probably only be rivalled by the gleeful madness of Zappa, and I certainly found at least one of his albums totally inaccessible to me, leaving me with some trepidation in covering him here. But he is or was a massive influence on so many artistes and on the subgenre in general that I could not afford to leave him out.

Like some progressive rock progenitors, Beefheart’s music seldom if ever troubled the charts, though his albums have gone on to appear in “best of” lists all over the spectrum, and he is revered and referred to by many a musician. A volatile, enigmatic personality, it seems Beefheart had something of a dictatorial approach to his work and his band, best reflected in this quote from drummer John French, taken from Wiki:


”If Van Vliet built a house like he wrote music, the methodology would go something like this... The house is sketched on the back of a Denny's placemat in such an odd fashion that when he presents it to the contractor without plans or research, the contractor says "This structure is going to be hard to build, it's going to be tough to make it safe and stable because it is so unique in design." Van Vliet then yells at the contractor and intimidates him into doing the job anyway. The contractor builds the home, figuring out all the intricacies involved in structural integrity himself because whenever he approaches Van Vliet, he finds that he seems completely unable to comprehend technical problems and just yells, "Quit asking me about this stuff and build the damned house."... When the house is finished no one gets paid, and Van Vliet has a housewarming party, invites none of the builders and tells the guests he built the whole thing himself.”


Not the nicest of people then, and certainly when I listened to - well, suffered bravely through - Trout Mask Replica I just got the feeling of someone having a laugh, imagining people listening to this and calling it music. I certainly didn’t enjoy it.  I’m told though by people who know far more about him than I that his debut album was a lot more conventional than Trout Mask Replica, and if so, it’s something I’ll be thankful for, because I do not fancy going though that again. But this was his first release under his band’s name, one of thirteen in total he would release up until his retirement from music in 1982.


Album title: Safe as milk

Artiste: Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

Nationality: American

Label: Buddah

Year: 1967

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Trout Mask Replica (Shudder!)

Landmark value: As detailed above, Beefheart had a massive influence on progressive rock, but what effect this particular album had is debatable, so I would say not that much really.

Track Listing: Sure ‘nuff ‘n yes I do/ Zig-zag wanderer/ Call on me/ Dropout boogie/ I’m glad/  Electricity/ Yellow brick road/ Abba zaba/ Plastic factory/ Where there’s woman/ Grown so ugly/ Autumn’s child

Comments: It’s pretty straightahead Delta blues here, which is a relief for me but nothing terribly progressive yet. It’s pretty basic up until “I’m glad” which has a nice Motown soul feel to it, then the weirdness that would become Beefheart’s trademark (it says here) starts to leak in as “Electricity” hits and he assumes a sort of moaning, warbling voice which I can see Waits adopted from about 1983 onwards. Country jamboree then on “Yellow brick road”, a few years before Elton snagged it, and I find “Abba zaba” very annoying.


If this is seen as the easy way into Beefheart, then while it doesn’t give me nightmares in the same way TMR did, I really don’t see myself being a fan of him ever. This I just find pretty generic with a side of weirdness tacked on and it’s not for me. I also don’t see anything particularly progressive about it, not here anyway. It’s a good blues album, but there are so many of them I couldn’t say this is any better than any of them, or indeed any worse. The only real interest in this for me is hearing where Waits learned to develop his voice, and I can hear echoes of him in “Where there’s woman”. Other than that I’m just bored.


Favourite track(s): Sure ‘nuff ‘n yes I do, I’m glad, Yellow brick road, Where there’s woman

Least favourite track(s): Electricity, Dropout boogie, Abba zaba

Overall impression: Decent album, no shock to the system like TMR but nothing that special.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 09:41
Another band who would go on to shape, lead and influence the progressive rock movement began in the south of England when five young lads decided to ditch their overly blues/r&b influences from their first album and looked more towards a fusion of classical, blues and more symphonic music that would result in their second album, which would go on to be one of the most important records of the era. With new boys John Lodge and Justin Hayward in tow, the Moody Blues were ready to take on the world.


Album title: Days of future passed

Artiste: The Moody Blues

Nationality: British

Label: Deram Records

Year: 1967

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Sur la Mer, In Search of the Lost Chord, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and the singles

Landmark value: One of the true progenitors of the progressive rock movement, The Moody Blues tend to get a little forgotten about and left behind, with only their hit single “Nights in white satin” to mark their passing, but they really were one of the original bands to push their music towards what would become known as progressive rock. This being their second album, first real prog rock one and a concept album, all adds up to make this a very important recording. It also marks the first real use of the mellotron, one of the keyboard instruments which would go on to become a true staple of the subgenre.

Track Listing: The day begins / Dawn:  Dawn is a feeling / The Morning: Another morning/ Lunch break: Peak Hour/ The Afternoon: Tuesday afternoon/ Evening (The sunset/ Twilight time)/ The Night: Nights in white satin

Comments: Right away you’re into a whole different kind of music here. It’s full, it’s dramatic, it’s, well, classical. It’s the sort of thing the likes of Jeff Lynne would pick up on in a few years’ time and make his trademark, but here it’s something totally new, initially like listening to a symphony. The album charts, to quote the Beatles, a day in the life, and goes from dawn to night, with little interludes and intros for each piece. There’s a full orchestra here, and it’s not really that surprising, as although this kind of sound could possibly be reproduced today with a few banks of synthesisers, back then they were much in their infancy and you would need the full orchestra to do this music justice. Mike Pinder’s mellotron however does hold court here, and you can hear its influence all through the album.


I like the way “The day begins” opens with the theme for what will become the main melody of their most famous and successful single, “Nights in white satin”, and it’s a lovely sweeping majestic tune which then gives way to spoken poetry against much lighter, airier music, almost ethereal. “Dawn is a feeling” is the first real vocal track, slow and grandiose, and again I can hear melodies and progressions here that would form the backbone of many an ELO tune in the next decade. A lot of flute here too, something that had not really been used on rock albums up to that point much, if at all. “Another morning” is much more uptempo, sort of Beatles in form, some really nice acoustic guitar from new boy Justin Hayward and some peppy flute from Ray Thomas.


A big orchestral intro then for “Lunch break” and then it hits into that rush-rush pumping sort of tune that always seems to depict the big city, people hurrying to and fro, going to appointments and meetings, catching buses and taxis; you know the kind of thing. “Peak hour” then breaks in with a real rock tune driven on electric guitar and bass, the percussion hard and heavy and the vocal a little wild. I know “Tuesday afternoon”, with its gentle boppy feel, again the acoustic guitar and this time the voice of Hayward, and a really sumptuous orchestral passage leading into a kind of folky campfire ending.


“Evening” doesn’t do too much for me I’m afraid. The semi-tribal opening of “Sun set” is a little jarring, even given the classical sweep that follows it, and even though there’s some nice bass work from John Lodge and some more lovely flute from Ray Thomas, it just doesn’t sit right somehow. The mix of orchestral and rock and roll on “Twilight time” is much better; the vocal harmonies work really well and the whole thing just hangs together better. Of course I know “Nights in white satin”, an extended version of which closes the album in fine style, a song which would not only become one of their biggest hits but a staple on love compilation albums for decades to come. Pinder really comes into his own here on the mellotron, and there’s a powerful spoken piece by him before the orchestra brings everything to a triumphant close.


Favourite track(s): Dawn is a feeling, Tuesday afternoon, Twilight time, Nights in white satin

Least favourite track(s): Sun set, Peak hour

Overall impression: A very impressive and ambitious album, and one which would certainly point the way for progressive rock bands that were to come. The first time a rock band had really married symphonic orchestral music and rock together and come up with something that was greater than the sum of its parts.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 09:53
I’ve never had that much time for Keith Emerson, but it can’t be denied that in the same way as Mike Pinder brought the mellotron into progressive rock music, Emerson ensured that keyboards took centre stage. Almost literally. He’s more known, in some ways, for the abuse he practiced on his keyboards - dragging them around the stage, attacking them with knives etc - than he is for his prowess on the instrument, but there’s no getting away from the fact that he knew how to play. He may have pushed showmanship to the fore in preference to musical ability, but he had both in spades.

The band he started out in, more or less, is the feature of our next article. With a name that typically sounded acceptable and normal, but actually referred to drug-taking, The Nice were big on the scene from 1967 to about 1970, and in that time they popularised the idea of marrying jazz, classical and other influences into their music. They would also be feted as the first real supergroup, although for me the term has a different meaning: you have to have been in a big, successful band and then joined others who have done the same, in the way Asia, Box of Frogs and The Travelling Wilburys did. But that’s just my opinion.


With arrogance that would become one of his worse traits, Emerson made sure his name was first when the band released their debut album, and it was his somewhat dictatorial approach to his bandmates and his desire for more and more of the spotlight that would eventually lead to their breaking up in 1971. Before that though, they released four major albums, one of which is said to have been one of the cornerstones of the progressive rock movement.



Album title: The thoughts of Emerlist Davjack

Artiste: The Nice

Nationality: British

Label: Immediate

Year: 1967

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero; I saw them playing “America” live on some prog history show, but that’s about it.

Landmark value: Bringing together both the idea of interpreting classical music for a new generation and pushing the keyboard towards the front of the band, whereas before it has been more of a backup instrument, The Nice certainly laid many of the foundations for what would become prog rock, and of course Emerson went on to found ELP, one of the biggest and most successful prog rock bands in history, and ironically, one against whom the backlash of punk rock was aimed and which spelled, for a while, the end of the subgenre.

Track Listing: Flower king of flies/ The thoughts of Emerlist Davjack/ Bonny K/ Rondo/ War and Peace/ Tantalising Maggie/ Dawn/ The cry of Eugene

Comments: A brief rant at Spotify, though I probably shouldn’t; they provide me with so much music I would otherwise have to pay for. But still: they have The Nice on their books but not this, supposedly their most important album! Why? I had to go Groovesharkin’ to find it. But to the album: there’s a lot of psychedelic rock here, decent enough song to open, and you can certainly hear Emerson’s organ (ooer!) taking the lead in just about every song. He does prove he’s a master of it though. The title track has a nice sort of early prog feel about it with some classical mixed in, and I sort of hear early Moody Blues here too. Good marching rhythm, very upbeat, I really like this.


“Bonny K” is more a rock-and-roll track, with the guitar getting in some fine licks and Emerson almost pushed to the background for a little, but he’s back with a bang for “Rondo”, based on Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, which is pretty damn excellent. The “Tocatta and fugue” extract, almost in the background is tremendous, like the past calling “Don’t forget me!” Must say, I really love this. “War and peace” is another instrumental, this time with a real blues/boogie flair, and again I must admit it’s totally bitchin’. The keyboard arpeggios and runs are amazing.


Not so impressed with “Tantalising Maggie” though; bit kind of folky with elements of rock, doesn’t really work for me. Stupid ending too, with some sort of taped laughter? Yeah, definitely my least favourite so far, almost the only one I don’t like. “Dawn” has a great creeping menace about it, reminds me of later Waits at times, the dark whisper works really well. Like this one too. Gets a little indulgent towards the end, bit freeform; you can see where he was going to go later with ELP. It recovers well though and it’s still a great track. Which leaves us with only one song proper to go. I say proper because although it wasn’t included on the original release, how could I not mention their rendition of Bernstein’s “America” from West Side Story?


But before that we have “The cry of Eugene”, with a Beatles-like psychedelia and some really nice violin it sounds like, though I see none credited. Can’t be synthesised as at this point even analogue synthesisers had to make their presence felt. Maybe a guitar effect? Good anyway. It’s not, to be fair, the greatest closer (“Dawn” would have been much better) but it’s a decent song and I have little bad to say about it, or indeed this album.


But then, technically that’s not it is it? Although excluded from the original release as I said, their most famous/infamous song is their pastiche of Leonard Bernstein’s “America”. What Jimi did for “The Star-Spangled Banner” Emerson and co. do here, ripping the piss unmercifully out of the nationalistic anthem for West Side Story, and it’s probably one of the first real protest songs without words. Maybe the only one. Great stuff, and again proof that, despite my dislike for him, Emerson was a true keyboard wizard.


Favourite track(s): The thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, Rondo, War and peace, Dawn

Least favourite track(s): Tantalising Maggie

Overall impression: Brilliant album. Keyboard-heavy of course, and a real pointer to the way prog rock would develop, thrive and grow. I may not like ELP but I certainly love this.

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