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Topic ClosedHow Important are lyrics to you in Prog music

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PrognosticMind View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 02 2014 at 12:01
Some very interesting perspectives here, for sure!

For myself personally, lyrics are like the icing on the cake. This of course means that the cake has to be good in the first place; with no substance, it's just an overly-sweet, sugary mess Wink. In truth, it's really going to depend on the band/album.

Look at something like Trout Mask Replica; the lyrics here serve a very important purpose (IMHO) to those pieces as a whole. It's going to be highly subjective to each listener, though. You could argue it's the melody and delivery of the vocals themselves. If that's the case, you really could be saying just about anything, so long as it "wraps around and fits" the song accordingly. As someone who writes, my ears tend to gravitate towards and pay attention to what's being said - not just how it's being said.

With THAT being said, I'm a huge fan of Zappa-esque lyrical wackiness that may or may not have any deeper meaning at all LOL.


Edited by PrognosticMind - August 02 2014 at 12:02
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 02 2014 at 12:04
lyrics are like pepperoni on a pizza. They are extremely important... Unless you don't want a pepperoni pizza. If you want a pizza with mushrooms, sausage and peppers, then they are completely non essential. The entire pizza is ruined when the lyrics try to be the cheese.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2014 at 07:12
I will chime in here and say that lyrics are not that important to me in my prog.  However, bad lyrics can ruin an album for me.  All I need is a good theme with average lyrics.  So as long as the lyrics are not silly and stand out, I am happy.  However, lyrics are important when I am in the mood to listen to singer songwriter stuff since that is the focus of the song.  Something catchy that I can sing along to is something I crave once in a while.

Edited by javajeff - August 04 2014 at 07:12
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2014 at 08:16
Originally posted by moshkito moshkito wrote:

Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:

Originally posted by Bérghem Bérghem wrote:

I can listen to a good music with (not too) stupid lyrics, but I definitely cannot listen to bad music with good lyrics. Having said that, god bless Sinfield for re-writing the lyrics for Photos of Ghosts...
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The Italian version is way better all around. They can flow their meanings and singing a lot better than try to make sure their accent in English is understood by us, which does not make it better.

The problem is that you need a meaning to flow your meanings and Appena un po' has no meaning, just rhymes... the topic is about lyrics, so I prefer the words Sinfield wrote. Should I prefer good lyrics and bad english or bad lyrics and good italian? It's a loose – loose situation Smile
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2014 at 12:40
Good lyrics can definitely enhance and add a dimension to a song, but is IMHO secondary to the music. That is, I can appreciate good music and strong songs, that have crappy lyrics. On the other hand I'm almost never interested in listening to songs that just have strong lyrics, but where the music is crappy..
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2014 at 13:12
Not that important at all, really. While I do appreciate a good set of lyrics (like the songs John Myung has written for Dream Theater), I still think the musical composition is more important.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2014 at 13:31
Originally posted by Tapfret Tapfret wrote:

lyrics are like pepperoni on a pizza. They are extremely important... Unless you don't want a pepperoni pizza. If you want a pizza with mushrooms, sausage and peppers, then they are completely non essential. The entire pizza is ruined when the lyrics try to be the cheese.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 05 2014 at 20:46
For the music and groups I really love--I think the lyrics are part of the equation in the fact that I love them---but for all the rest---I can get by on less than perfect lyrics.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 05 2014 at 21:28
for EBIL0505:

Hey man, I LOVE your avatar and the image at the bottom of your posts......

Listen, maybe you can answer a question for me.......

Why were there NOT MORE Bruford Yes-songs ON "Yessongs"?

Seriously, if Atlantic were to give us "Perpetual Change", "Long Distance/Fish"........WHY NOT MORE with Bill?

Do you know the answer to this?

WAIT!  I just realized....the introduction of White-ness!  ha!

But WHY NOT in the re-mastered series, we DON'T get a "Yessongs" w/Bruford minus the "CTTE" tracks?

The late 1971- early1972 concerts were recorded, right?     Where are these tapes, dammit?

ha!

Well, what is your opinion of "The Word is Live"?.....is THAT what I'm looking for?   is it worth shelling out the big bucks for on E-bay, since that stupid thing is "out-of-print"?






Edited by Crimson_King - August 05 2014 at 21:30
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 05 2014 at 21:33
I can enjoy a good lyric but overall they're not nearly as important to me.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 05 2014 at 23:18
Originally posted by twosteves twosteves wrote:

For the music and groups I really love--I think the lyrics are part of the equation in the fact that I love them---but for all the rest---I can get by on less than perfect lyrics.
 
That sums it up nicely for how I feel.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 21:29
Lyrics in music aren't important to me at all, really, except insofar as I associate the words with the music.

At the same time, lyrics are important insofar as they effect the way vocal melodies are sung and performed. 

Edited by coffeeintheface - August 06 2014 at 21:31
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2014 at 00:44
lyrics are completely secondary for me personally. Each to his own. If i can understand what the singer is saying them odds are i'll pay a little attention. For example on Pink Floyd's animals i think i got the lyrical jist of it just by listening. 

But take another favorite band of mine, like Opeth, I can't understand sh*t he's saying so i have no idea what his albums are about.  

Thats just me though, lyrical understanding  doesn't really enhance my musical experience.

SO basically, not really
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2014 at 00:45
In some cases its really cool though. like Fish marillion years the lyrics are just flat out fantastic and poetic.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 08 2014 at 13:09
The instrumentals are the body of the song, the lyrics are the brain. Many good songs are bottle-necked by terrible lyrics which can make the song feel depressingly pointless. It's like watching a movie that has a incredible, moving soundtrack but has a nonsensical plot, terrible acting and horrible CGI. It's a waste of good music.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2014 at 09:29
Originally posted by Wheelspawn Wheelspawn wrote:

The instrumentals are the body of the song, the lyrics are the brain. Many good songs are bottle-necked by terrible lyrics which can make the song feel depressingly pointless. It's like watching a movie that has a incredible, moving soundtrack but has a nonsensical plot, terrible acting and horrible CGI. <span style="line-height: 1.2;">It's a waste of good music.</span>


Very well said. This is accurate in most cases with music in general.
Like the mind/body connection.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2014 at 13:02
I still find it a bit strange that so many here seem not to be interested in lyrics in their prog songs yet the artists still keep writing them (and in some cases concept albums even) and have from the beginning of prog. If they aren't that important why haven't the musicians caught onto this and stopped writing them and switched to more instrumental forms?
 Personally I like reading and listening to well written lyrics and many of my favorite groups would be less interesting to me without them if they were only instrumental.
I would like to read an interview by some well known prog musicians on how they feel about the lyrics they and others write. Does anyone know of any interviews where known proggers talk about the lyrical aspects of their songs?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2014 at 20:50
Originally posted by dr wu23 dr wu23 wrote:

I still find it a bit strange that so many here seem not to be interested in lyrics in their prog songs yet the artists still keep writing them (and in some cases concept albums even) and have from the beginning of prog. If they aren't that important why haven't the musicians caught onto this and stopped writing them and switched to more instrumental forms?
It is my contention that Progressive Rock is a more instrumental form of popular music.

But first I think we really do need to differentiate between the lyrics and the vocals.

Lyrics are a form of poetry and in the usage we are employing here means the words to a song.
Vocals are the part of a piece of music that is sung.


So ... simply put (and solely for the purposes of this post): lyrics are words and vocals are music.

Vocals are important to a song. That is a given, no one will try and take it away, it's yours to keep forever. A song with no vocals is not a song, it's an instrumental. However you can have a vocalised song without lyrics and you can have an instrumental that uses the human voice. Either way, vocals give the singer something to do when they're not rattling their tambourines.
[insert pic of Jon Anderson here] 
[Note: this is something to be avoided whenever possible]

Lyrics are less important to the song (though not unimportant), they are obviously important to the lyricist because without lyrics he/she wouldn't be a lyricist. It is also important that these lyrics are sung or they'd just be another angsty beat poem:
[Lyrics without music circa 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 2015 (delete as applicable) Note: this is also something to be avoided whenever possible] 

However, the most important part of all this is the vocalist. The guy at the front with the microphone is the centre of attention and the whole show revolves around him; and we hang on their every word (or not). As a backing-band Genesis has its Peter Gabriel fans and its Phil Collins fans and somewhere out there its Ray Wilson fans - they all may sing the same vocals to the same songs with the same lyrics but they ain't the same. This is also true of Fish & Hogarth and of Anderson & Horn & Rabin & Benoît & Davison. We all have our favourites and we love to hear them sing, we love how they sing our favourite songs and sometimes we love to sing along because we all know the words to those lyrics, even the bad ones.

Whether we like, understand, listen to or read the lyric or not, we do like our pieces of music to have vocals, and we really like them to be sung by vocalists we really really like. If we state that we don't think the lyrics are important it does not mean that we also do not think the vocals are important or that they can be dispensed with entirely. 

Moreover, just because someone does manage to string together some rhyming couplets that a singer can force-fit to a melody it does not mean they have produced good poetry or that it has any extrinsic value. Just because a lyricist can write a lyric that a vocalist can sing it does not mean that we should regard those words as anything other than a pleasurable sound. No one can force a listener to attach any importance to the meaning of a lyric.

On the subject of concepts - how important is the lyric to the concept if the "libretto" is non-narrative. With something like Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes From A Memory or The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway the narrative is self-contained and as long as we listen to (and/or read) the lyrics we can get the gist of the story, (Lamb probably does need the sleeve-note story to help the listener along, but some degree of linear narrative can be drawn from the lyrics). 

But what of something like Tarkus - can we glean anything of the concept by hearing and/or reading Lake and Sinfield's lyrics? [clue: Greg Lake can't: 'He has also complimented "Stones of Years" as one of his favourite parts of "Tarkus", though he admits is not entirely sure about what it means, but says it is about, "listening, understanding, hearing".'] What weight then do we give the three lyrics in Tarkus compared to the four instrumental sections of the piece? Are they important to the concept or are they augmentation/ornamentation to it?

As I have pointed out in t'other thread, Prog has many artists and bands that are predominately instrumental, and one or two Prog subgenres consist of predominately instrumental bands. Also as a genre, Prog is more instrumental than any other form of popular music. One of its defining characteristics is that instrumentals are a common, as are extended instrumental sections within a vocal song - Prog is already a more instrumental form and always has been.



Edited by Dean - August 09 2014 at 20:53
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2014 at 23:31
Originally posted by dr wu23 dr wu23 wrote:

I still find it a bit strange that so many here seem not to be interested in lyrics in their prog songs yet the artists still keep writing them (and in some cases concept albums even) and have from the beginning of prog. If they aren't that important why haven't the musicians caught onto this and stopped writing them and switched to more instrumental forms?
 Personally I like reading and listening to well written lyrics and many of my favorite groups would be less interesting to me without them if they were only instrumental.
I would like to read an interview by some well known prog musicians on how they feel about the lyrics they and others write. Does anyone know of any interviews where known proggers talk about the lyrical aspects of their songs?

I gave you a comparison with the things that musicians put into a record that people don't notice or care about.  You haven't responded to that.  But therein lies the answer.  There are too many things happening on an album of music, far more than people give credit for and hence people zero in, subconsciously, on the things that really attract their attention.  And it is not even a rigid set of factors.  It is just a question of what stands out in a track.  

I don't think the point needs to be belaboured any further that lyrics stand out a lot less, if at all they do, in a prog epic than in a short rock song by a songwriter known for his/her lyrics (except in the case of particularly lyric centric bands like Marillion but they are NOT the norm).  That is the most plausible explanation for something that you seem to find strange - it is very easy to filter out something that only happens for a couple of minutes or so in a long track.  This is all the more so because a lot of prog rock singers aren't that spectacular to begin with; the Supersister guy for instance sounds just like a carbon copy of Sinclair and doesn't really add a whole lot that is interesting to their music.  I'd cite Derek Shulman as an example of a vocalist who is not by himself particularly fascinating; it's the intricate vocal arrangements (i.e. voice used as an instrument) that are fascinating in that band's music.  

If you feel you'd lose some of the attachment you have to your favourite prog rock groups if they went all instrumental, then perhaps there aren't that many instrumental bands altogether that you are fond of?  There's a lot of Canterbury that's either completely or predominantly instrumental and I love Canterbury.  So it may be that you find the indifference to lyrics on this board strange because your own tastes are a little different from that of a lot of prog rock fans.  For I find it hard to imagine that a hard core prog rock fan would not like all instrumental music of any kind.  
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2014 at 23:39
^ Just to help out, dr., in case if you missed it or can't find it: page 5, where Rog and I talk about our preference of certain aspects of singing over lyrics.

Edited by Dayvenkirq - August 09 2014 at 23:39
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