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NEO-PROG

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Neo-Prog definition

Neo-Progressive rock (more commonly "Neo-Prog") is a subgenre of Progressive Rock that originally was used to describe artists strongly influenced by the classic symphonic prog bands that flourished during the 1970s. At the beginning of the neo-prog movement, the primary influence was early to mid-70's Genesis. Debate over when Neo-Prog actually came into being often takes place, with some asserting it began with Marillion's Script for a Jester's Tear in 1983. Others contend it began with Twelfth Night at the dawn of the 80s, while some even suggest the popular symphonic prog band Genesis gave rise to Neo-Prog with their 1976 album, A Trick of the Tail.

If one analyses the progressive movement just before 1980, then some albums which heavily influenced the Neo-Prog movement easily come to mind: Steve Hackett - Spectral Mornings, Genesis - Wind & Wuthering, Genesis - And Then There Were Three, Genesis - Seconds Out, Saga - Saga, all the Camel albums between Breathless and The Single Factor included, and some Eloy's albums, especially Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes.

This new form of progressive rock originated in the UK, and is most strongly associated with bands such as Marillion, Pendragon and IQ; and while theatrical stage antics were a part of the live performances of many artists exploring this subset of the progressive rock genre it's the musical elements that are key to the genre; typified by the use of atmospheric guitar and synth soloing with symphonic leanings, with a tendency towards floating synth layers and dreamy soloing. An additional trait is the use of modern synths rather than vintage analogue synths and keyboards. The main reasons for Neo-Progressive artists to be separated from the ones exploring Symphonic Prog in the first place are the above, as well as a heavier emphasis on song-form and melody than some of their earlier symphonic counterparts.

As time went by other artists appeared that also deviated from the norms created by the classic wave of progressive rock artists in the 70's. The late 70's had given the world punk music; the 80's gave the world new wave; and the 90's grunge. These, as well as other forms, had a tremendous amount of influence outside of the progressive rock realm. The advent of the modern synth also inspired artists like Tomita, Vangelis and Kitaro to explore dreamier musical works.

These and other forms of more or less newly made musical genres influenced artists exploring progressive rock as well. Although many artists did so within the framework of 70's progressive rock, more and more artists developed a sound and style so heavily influenced by these more recent musical developments that categorizing them within the existing subgenres of progressive rock became increasingly difficult.

While the Neo-Progressive genre initially consisted of artists exploring a modernized version of Symphonic Prog, these days artists coined as Neo-Progressive cover a multitude of musical expressions, where the common denominator is the inclusion - within a progressive rock framework - of musical elements developed just prior to and after 1980. The Neo-Progressive genre in it's refined form thus covers a vast musical territory, to some extent covering all existing subsets of progressive rock and also searching out towards genres as different as new age on one side and punk and metal on the other.

Opening paragraphs written by Stonebeard, Cygnus X-2, Greenback

Revised, edited and refined April 2009 by windhawk, The Doctor and E-Dub



The neo-prog team has also decided on 5 representative albums of neo-prog that encapsulate the essence of the genre. They are as follows:


Marillion-Script for a Jester's Tear
Collage-Moonshine
Satellite-A Street Between Sunrise and Sunset
Sylvan-Posthumous Silence
Frost-Milliontown


Current Neo-Prog Team members
as at 10/07/2016

Roger (Roj)
Keishiro (DamoXt7942)
Cristi
Tony (Hercules)

Neo-Prog Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Neo-Prog | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.24 | 2024 ratings
MISPLACED CHILDHOOD
Marillion
4.25 | 1133 ratings
THE ROAD OF BONES
IQ
4.23 | 1914 ratings
SCRIPT FOR A JESTER'S TEAR
Marillion
4.16 | 1257 ratings
CLUTCHING AT STRAWS
Marillion
4.14 | 622 ratings
CONTAGION
Arena
4.15 | 455 ratings
POSTHUMOUS SILENCE
Sylvan
4.10 | 867 ratings
FREQUENCY
IQ
4.09 | 1036 ratings
MARBLES
Marillion
4.12 | 458 ratings
A TOWER OF SILENCE
Anubis
4.09 | 403 ratings
EMPIRES NEVER LAST
Galahad
4.04 | 880 ratings
DARK MATTER
IQ
4.05 | 620 ratings
EVER
IQ
4.04 | 659 ratings
THE VISITOR
Arena
4.05 | 483 ratings
FANFARE & FANTASY
Comedy Of Errors
4.09 | 316 ratings
SEVEN
Magenta
4.03 | 464 ratings
ALL RIGHTS REMOVED
Airbag
4.00 | 625 ratings
THE SEVENTH HOUSE
IQ
4.09 | 226 ratings
SEAS OF CHANGE
Galahad
3.97 | 1278 ratings
FUGAZI
Marillion
4.03 | 334 ratings
MOONSHINE
Collage

Neo-Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Neo-Prog experts team

THE ART OF MADNESS
Psychedelic Ensemble, The
NEW LIFE
Solstice
TIMANFAYA
Healing Road, The
TRAVELLER
Magus / The Winter Tree

Latest Neo-Prog Music Reviews


 Ship by YUKA & CHRONOSHIP album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.96 | 56 ratings

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Ship
Yuka & Chronoship Neo-Prog

Review by Corcoranw687

4 stars This is one where I had to write a review as soon as I could! Before the opening Argo suite of 7 tracks had finished I knew this was a permanent addition to the rotation, and I must hit the back catalogue soon. Yuka is a skilled keyboard player who is throwing a new melody at you every chance she has, although the music reminds me of Camel or Yes, her solos are very Tony Banks style. The band is obviously influenced by Yes, the art on their debut album even appears to be a copy of the current 'Yes font'. Although there are English and Japanese vocals, the majority of the music is instrumental and full of keyboard and guitar solos. The strong melodies are the real highlight, I find these songs stuck in my head all day sometimes. Listen to Old Ship on the Grass and I promise, it will come back. The guitar playing is also incredible throughout, with some cool riffs (Landing) and really fantastic leads (Did You Find A Star? and the solo in Golden Fleece stand out), this player is quite busy while always making sure the focus is back on Yuka by the end.

Absolutely worth hearing if you haven't yet. One of the best 2018 releases I've heard. 4.25 stars,

 Rengoku Gakudan by KADATH album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Rengoku Gakudan
Kadath Neo-Prog

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams

4 stars "Rengoku Gakudan" ("Purgatory Band" in English) veiled in a horrible, weird sleeve, has seen the light as the second (currently the newest) album by a Japanese rock quartet KADATH. They have gigged mainly around Yamaguchi (upon the west side of Hiroshima) for about a decade (so they cannot be called as a young combo) and released two full-length albums. All of the four talented members, apparently inspired by 70s British symphonic scene and especially Japanese symphonic progressive rock vanguards, discharge authentic, dramatic Neo-symphonic heatre. Sounds like their sound texture cannot be related to such a dark sleeve pic. And their melodic appearance or musical method is so delightful and acceptable enough not to be clearly distinguished from lots of similar units all over the world. Anyway I've attended their gig recently and got immersed in their highly qualified live performance. Hiromi's guitar play is crazy brilliant, and the rhythm section by Taiji (bass) and Hatasu (drums) launches solid steady sound basis. And let me say, actually David's keyboard should define their soundscape itself, with his crystallized play. The strict formation and technique can be heard also in this opus.

The first track "Rengoku" is the highlight of this theatrical creation. Regardless of the title, beautiful melody lines based upon deep, heavy rhythmic turf catch your heart. Speedy guitar versatility and clear keyboard full of comfort are vivacious really. The following "Kitsune" sounds pretty so heavy, metallic just like King Crimson (Wetton / Bradford / Fripp Era) enough to drive you crazy. "Shinigami" means death or reaper but is too lively and glorious to remind you of death itself ' guess they all would play with full motivation and enthusiasm ' it tells so. "Tsuki No Uragawa" is one of the most melodic and gentle songs in this album. David's saxophone sounds are superb bluesy, inorganic. Taiji's voices of passion are impressive in the epilogue "Kawakiyuku Tabibito". The Anthem for mystic incarnations goes up beautifully and powerfully.

In conclusion, their skillful play and elaborate composition, workmanship are splendid indeed. And I'm sure they will produce more and more innovative material from now on. A promising gemstone.

 Tales From The Lush Attic by IQ album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.84 | 452 ratings

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Tales From The Lush Attic
IQ Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After their debut in cassette demo with Seven Stories into Eight, IQ released their first official LP named Tales From the Lush Attic!

And they made history with this release because along with Script for a Jester's Tear, it is considered one of the first true neo-prog albums. But unlike the Marillion's debut, the sound of this self-produced album is not so great, especially in terms of vocals. In this album Peter Nichols does not sings in the refined, sharp and elegant style of more recent albums. Let's be honest, he sounds like a lousy iteration of Peter Gabriel.

That's a pity, because the quality of the album is otherwise excellent. The epic The Last Human Gateway is awesome and should be rewarded as one of the best neo-prog songs of the 80's. The rest of the record is a bit more irregular, especially the shorter tracks and this fact along with the aforementioned weak production is the reason that this album does not achieve a higher rating.

Best Tracks: The Last Human Gateway, Awake and Nervous and The Enemy Smacks.

Conclusion: despite the bad production, Tales From the Lush Attic is an obligated record to understand the birth of the neo-prog sub-genre.

My rating: ***

 Different Stories by ANUBIS album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.61 | 51 ratings

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Different Stories
Anubis Neo-Prog

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

3 stars Australian neo-proggers ANUBIS go unplugged for this little foray away from the usual album release as they re-record several tracks off their first four albums and add the extra caveat of one brand spankin' new song completely in an almost all acoustic format. These novel new musical arrangements of what are considered the greatest hits collection by the fanbase has been mellowed out and stripped down to create a more intimate listening experience that drops the production rich and keyboard drenched leanings of the studio albums and instead focuses on the sole strength of the melodies and vocal performances. While the entire sextet is back on all their respective instruments, the sound is warmer and less pompous than the usual prog outpouring from one of Australia's more symphonic dominated bands.

While keyboards are still present they are used sparingly with none providing atmospheric backdrops but rather serve more as piano and organ runs. The acoustic guitar adds a whole new dimension however a few scant electric guitar licks are inserted here and there. As a whole the new stripped down style sounds like an entirely new band covering ANUBIS songs! In fact Robert James Moulding's vocals remind me of Thom Yorke from Radiohead for the much of the time. While hardcore proggers may not be into this, surely diehard fans will at least appreciate the effort the band undertook to make this sound warm and inviting. The production is perfectly mixed as to allow all the instruments to melt into a potpourri of acoustic love as the band parades down familiar territory but changes tempos and rhythmic developments as to adapt them to the acoustic realms.

While the individual tracks are all performed exquisitely, one issue stems from the album's continuity as ANUBIS is a band that strives to make their music a full album experience and in the process the various tracks from four separate albums don't always work together as harmoniously as they would in their original context but if taken as a unique form of releasing a greatest hits album then it's not really that bad actually, just don't expect the overall effect to match the real enchiladas. The album starts off great with the band's anthemic "The Passing Bell" which struts its proggy stuff through its 13 minute run without losing any of its mojo by having been stripped down but by the time the album reaches the middle "Dead Trees" the stripped down sound begins to sound a little hollow as ANUBIS are all about a superb keyboard rich production since the keys are a major source of their diverse sound approach.

The only new track "Technicolour Afterlife" doesn't deviate from the formula but indeed is an acoustic rock track however with less prog influences and almost as mainstream as some of Supertramp's late 70s acoustic guitar songs (only not as good). Overall DIFFERENT STORIES is a decent slab of acoustic reinterpretations from one of my favorite neo-prog bands of the new millennium but in the end this is a rather supplemental feeling release as opposed to the high quality output of their first four albums and the one and only unreleased track isn't really that great, i can't in my right mind recommend this as an essential offering for ANUBIS fans but is by no means a bad album if the stylistic approach presented is something that sounds appealing. This would be perfect for MTV's Prog Unplugged hour if such a show existed!

From 250503: The Deepest Wound, Leaving Here Tonight From A TOWER OF SILENCE: The Passing Bell, The Holy Innocent From HITCHHIKING TO BYZANTUM: Title track, Dead Trees From THE SECOND HAND: Fool's Gold Previously unreleased track: Tehnicolour Afterlife

3.5 rounded down

 Nocturne by EMERALD DAWN, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.98 | 5 ratings

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Nocturne
The Emerald Dawn Neo-Prog

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

4 stars THE EMERALD DAWN was formed in 2011 as a trio in St. Ives which is located in the Cornwall region of southwest England and began as a trio that consisted of Tree Stewart (keyboards, vocals), Ally Carter (guitars, tenor sax, keyboards) and Tom Jackson (drums.) While there was no bass player on their 2014 debut "Searching For The Lost Key," for their 2017 sophomore release "Visions," Jayjay Quick, became the band's official bassist but also brought along the extra talents of electric violin and cello. Quick would quickly disband after one album and for the band's latest release NOCTURNE, David Greenaway picks up the bass duties.

While generally classified as neo-prog, THE EMERALD DAWN develops a more eclectic sort of prog that not only takes cues from the bigwigs King Crimson and Pink Floyd but also adds some aspects of classic Moody Blues and even McDonald & Giles. Add to that a complex mix of classical music inspired by the great works of third stream artist Jan Garbarek, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Jean Sibelius as well as the jazz world heard especially in Tom Jackson's stellar drumming style and the occasional squawk of the sax.

NOCTURNE is a vague concept album that as the title insinuates deals with all things that come out at night but i'm not talking about barn owls and zombies, i speak more of an emotional manner and the overall gist of the album is how things appear different than what they actually are with the nighttime as the main focal point such as when your imagination plays tricks on you in the darkness of the moonlit nocturnal hours. All of this is expressed in the four lengthy tracks (the opener is just a quick thirty second narrated intro.) While the tracks the first three lengthy tracks range from eight and a half minutes to nearly eleven with the grand finale "The Child Within" clocking in close to the 21 minute mark.

For the most part NOCTURNE is an instrumental ride into the sunless hours that creep into the early morning but occasional vocals find their way into the mix offering a break from the mostly keyboard driven melodic developments that create haunting atmospheres and complex and unusual harmonic structures that depict images about this musical journey taking the listener from nightfall until the first rays of the sun usher in a whole new day. Despite the brilliant mix of free flowing rhythms, David Gilmour inspired guitar wails and classical motifs that offer interesting compositional fortitude, NOCTURNE never flaunts the complexities intertwined within and retains an easily accessible beauty that drifts by chiefly in mid-tempo but occasional bursts into heavier sections.

NOCTURNE is a major step up from the band's previous works as it incorporates more varying time signatures and musical styles that are spotlighted throughout as well as the entire band sharing the songwriting duties this time around which give the album a more democratically inspired infusion of ideas which implement unusual musical scales and even less common juxtapositions of classical, jazz and rock elements. Just like the cover art depicts, NOCTURNE is a sonic journey through the darkened woodlands where while navigating through, stimulates a fertile imagination of all the possibilities of what lurks behind ever corner as the journey progresses.

After the brief "Prologue" narrates in a regal English poetic prose, "As Darkness Falls" begins the mind trip of runaway concepts with heavy rock guitar riffs, sweltering atmospheric keyboard counterpoints and Jackson's percussive drive. Greenaway also dishes out some stellar fretless bass lines, a winning feature of NOCTURNE. "As Darkness Falls" provides an interesting building up of tension that allows "Moonlight" to scale back the intensity and evokes more of a mythological representation of the night. "In The Dead Of The Night" is the first track to contain vocals which includes both Stewart and Carter finding roles in the vocal accoutrements. The addition of a jazzy lounge beat and soulful sax squawks create a completely different sounding track than the previous two.

A significant portion of the album is decided to the near 21 minute closer "The Child Within," which is a psychological exploration of the darkened night of the inner soul and how a brief moment of realization can release the subconscious from a lifetime of fear and pent up trauma. This one features Tree Stewart on vocals and thick atmospheric density that finds bluesy guitar solos erupting from the brume. The track builds up the intensity as the tempo slowly ratchets up and Stewart's ethereal wordless vocals evoke heavier layers of synthesized ambience and guitar heft. This by far is the spookiest track on the album and one that warrants its lengthy playing time as it shape shifts into varying segments that segue effortlessly from one dark keyboard soaked passage to the next.

THE EMERALD DAWN has diversified the stylistic approach quite broadly with a brilliant mix of the aforementioned influences and musical elements. The mythological connotations of the darkened NOCTURNE nights narrated throughout sound utterly brilliant and the compositions are brilliantly unique in the neo-prog world with the infusion of various classical composers influences as well as the jazzy touches which put the band in a world of their own. NOCTURNE is a must for all lovers of keyboard fueled atmospheric prog that exists in the dark and offers stellar rock guitar, bass and drum performances with jazzy extra touches within classically structured motifs that breeze along like a zephyr at the witching hour with satisfying rock orient crescendoes.

 Live & Life  by ARENA album cover Live, 2004
4.36 | 75 ratings

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Live & Life
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Arena - Live & Life (2004)

I've been picking up some new Arena live records and was quite blown away by this one. I've been listening with goosebumps to the Contagion album since age fourteen (delivering papers after school hours!) and I still frequent this magical album.

On the first disc of this double live set they play the album almost in its entirety. Though some of the original's abstract magic is lost, this powerful rock star rendition recorded has a charm of its own! Rob Sowden shines throughout with vocals that mach the atmosphere of the original, whilst opening up registers of vocal strength on some major powerful moments. The guitars sound thicker and grittier, the keyboards are a bit more to the background the rythm section is playing in a higher gear throughout. The total mix sound fuller and more intense then the Contagion album itself. Surely this is one of the best neo-prog live album recordings I know of. If the genre lacks one thing, it's the feel of really rockin' out.

On the second disc we get an overall 'best of' from the debut, Visitor and Immortal. Standout song like Solomon, The Butterfly Man and The Hanging Tree are glorious, whilst 'Chosen' seems to be the only song that doesn't benefit from this spiced up version of Arena. On songs from the first three Arena albums Rob Sowden again stands out as the best vocalist the band ever had.

I will give five stars for this most entertaining and uplifting live record.

 Clutching At Straws by MARILLION album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2018
4.96 | 7 ratings

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Clutching At Straws
Marillion Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars As well as providing more or less everything that the previous 2CD remaster of Clutching At Straws offered, plus a Blu- Ray of extras, this lavish boxed set also includes a real treat: a two-disc recording (complete bar for the end of the closing Market Square Heroes medley) of the band's 19th December 1987 gig at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Extracts from this visit to Fish's native Scotland on the Clutching At Straws tour had appeared on The Thieving Magpie, but here the concert gets a new mix and you get all the songs in their original context, complete with Fish's between-songs banter.

Perhaps it's just that Christmas is coming up and they're feeling cheerful, but the band are performing well here, with no signs of the behind-the-scenes tensions which would eventually put an end to the Fish-era lineup by the time the Clutching At Straws tour wrapped. Marillion fans are well-served for live releases from the Clutching At Straws era - what with it also being represented by Live At Loreley and a show each from the Early Stages and Curtain Call boxed sets - but honestly, when the band sounded so good and when their set was so loaded with classics, that's no surprise, and it's lovely to have another gig from that era in the collection.

 Ship by YUKA & CHRONOSHIP album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.96 | 56 ratings

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Ship
Yuka & Chronoship Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Very well-recorded and produced heavy Neo Prog with a symphonic flair from Japanese prog keyboard player Yuka Funakoshi and her posse.

The "ARGO" Suite: - 1. "Tears Of Figurehead" (1:55) Sonja Kristina sounds old. (4/5) - 2. "Ship Argos" (6:30) tightly performed Neo Prog with a crisp, heavy edge. The electric guitars are well played if stereotypic for the modern Heavy/Metal prog sound. Yuka's keys and wordless vocals are the highlight of this song for me. (8/10) - 3. "Landing" (5:49) standard heavy Neo Prog with some really great keyboard and rhythm guitar work and some really loud, in your ear kick drum work. Quite a little common ground with Lalo Huber's NEXUS band. (8.5/10) - 4. "Golden Fleece" (5:04) nice set up--reminiscent of URIAH HEEP or even PROCUL HARUM and FOCUS only heavier. Nice organ and lead guitar work. (8.75/10) - 5. "A Dragon That Never Sleeps" (7:09) opens with chunky bass, soon joined by fast pacing drums (in straight time). Nice bass playing and lead guitar work. Best diversity and instrumental displays of the suite. (9/10) - 6. "Islands In The Stream" (3:54) opening with nice acoustic guitar play, bass, drums and vocalise soon join in. Great feel, great mix, great melodies. (9.5/10) - 7. "Return" (2:04) has all of the bombast of a rock opera intro/outro. Nice endpoint. (5/5)

8. "Air Ship Of Jean Giraud" (6:17) a mild tempoed song that tells a story instrumentally, even broken up into "chapters" with shifting themes and dynamics. Quite nice. A show piece for guitarist Takashi Miyazawa fine work. (9/10)

9. "Visible Light" (8:02) Lyrics! Yuka singing! In Japanese! It's good! The "Mellotron" is a bit dated within this mix but it's a good song! Very nice work from drummer Ikko Tanaka and the rhythm guitarist. (8.75/10)

10. "Old Ship On The Grass" (5:01) acoustic guitars (ukelele?) and a bit of a down-home rhythm section over which Yuka's organ plays an almost-polka sound. Kind of hokey but Yuka's piano and scatting in the second half make up for it. (8.25/10)

11. "Did You Find A Star" (9:06) opens with piano and "flute" in a slow, somber pastoral set up. Vocalist Hiroyuki Izuda opens up the singing showing quite some talent and aplomb. Flute gets the next verse before Hiroyuki joins in again. They lose a little momentum during the chorus as Hiroyuki has to resort to "na-na-nas" to complete the space in the melody. A long, soft interlude breaks the song up halfway through before picking up and continuing Sonja Kristina is supposed to be present somewhere here but I can't hear her. (8.75/10)

The Argo suite has the feel of seven songs sequenced together instead of one prog epic. The instrumental work is excellent--especially the keyboards and guitars--but the composition and engineering are a little too much like Arjen Lucassen's prog-by-the-numbers. Also, I can't decide if this is Heavy Prog, Neo Prog, or Symphonic Prog. I think the music suffers from always being played in such straightforward rock time signatures.

Four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

 Nocturne by EMERALD DAWN, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.98 | 5 ratings

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Nocturne
The Emerald Dawn Neo-Prog

Review by M27Barney

4 stars This band was only introduced to me this week, so I listened to this release with open ears and an open mind. I think that it's a very accomplished effort - some very nice keys work especially. As everybody knows I am not a fan of the Saxophone (The Flower Kings and The Tangent are the only exceptions to this as they seem to have sax solos that appeal to my ears) - so the sax solo leaves me a bit cold - and would be better served by a Hammond organ solo or whatever. What genre is this? Neo Prog? - Never been a fan of that label - I sort of hear influences from many of the classic bands - I even hear a bit of "The Enid" in one track! However - I will be buying this CD and probably the two earlier efforts (If I can source them) - It's solid prog - and I like the Epic in particular (all long songs float my boat usually) - I think "Heavy Symphonic" would be a better label - with a nod to the guitar at the metal end of the style. I like to support English prog - and this definitely reminds me of some of the bands in the early eighties like "As Above, So below" who produced sublime prog - I'm hoping that somebody will pick up the vibe and produce the bombastic prog that was performed (By Pallas (amongst others) - but then was ruined by commercial pressure) - So this is a 4 star release for me - I think that possibly the best is yet to come?
 Happiness Is The Road by MARILLION album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.33 | 548 ratings

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Happiness Is The Road
Marillion Neo-Prog

Review by SteveG

3 stars Happiness Is The Road is an album review that I have sat on for quite a few years as I felt that I could not expound on the music offered up on this double CD album. In order to clean out the files, I have decided to focus on the message that's behind the music and it's author in an effort to shed some light on this somewhat unusual album. Marillion vocalist Steve Hogarth, or just "H" as he's known, is someone that's quite concerned with the mental and spiritual well being of both himself and Marillion's audience. Hogarth finds that a wonderful lyrical topic from time to time and it's these musings that make up the entire first CD that is subtitled "Essence". The music on these vignettes are the type of quiet atmospheric offerings that we have come to know from Marillion up this point. There is absolutely no standard verse, chorus, verse and chorus structures in these songs and they are incredibly draggy. "H" is quite determined to tell us that one's happiness is a state of mind, the glass is half full kind of thinking, which I suppose has merits if one is not in some kind of dire straits like living in a war zone or in a country struck down by famine. The punch line is the lyrics to the album's title track "Happiness Is The Road" where "H" tells us that it's not what's at the end of the road that brings us happiness but traveling on the road itself. The old wisdom tale that the journey is actually the destination, or sentiments to that effect. All nice, I suppose, but far from exciting prog.

CD 2, subtitled " The Hard Shoulder", dispenses with "H"s preaching and serves up a wonderful group of nine Marillion prog rock songs with wonderful keyboard textures, emotional and witty guitar solos and excellent bass playing that makes each song quite a wonderful listen while trying to anticipate what turns the band will take next. Indeed, Hogath's vocals are quite stellar on both of these discs and the music found on disc 2 is certainly a precursor to the excellent Sounds That Can't Be Made album that was shortly to follow. All of the songs on the second disc are entertaining with "Whatever Is Wrong With You" being a missed opportunity at the band having a hit single so late in their career. Very unfortunate.

If the music on this double CD album had been issued separately, I would have no qualms with awarding disc 1 with 2 stars as it's quite forgettable. But disc 2 is worthy of 4 so that puts us at an average of 3 stars for Happiness Is The Road. And that's enough to make one a bit sad, unfortunately.

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Neo-Prog bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
25 YARD SCREAMER United Kingdom
ABACAB France
ABEL GANZ United Kingdom
ABRAXAS Poland
ACCEPT Japan
AD INFINITUM United States
ADN France
AELIAN Italy
AETHELLIS United States
AFTERGLOW France
AGENESS Finland
AGENTS OF MERCY Sweden
AHMSHERE Netherlands
AIRBAG Norway
AIRBRIDGE United Kingdom
AISLES Chile
ALBION Poland
ALKOZAUR France
ALMA SIDERIS Italy
ALSO EDEN United Kingdom
ALTAVIA Italy
AMANDA Belgium
AMON RA Germany
ANAMOR Poland
ANANKE Poland
ANDROID Hungary
ANIMATOR United States
ANNALIST Poland
ANUBIS Australia
APPLE PIE Russia
ARAGON Australia
THE ARC LIGHT SESSIONS Canada
ARCADELT Italy
ARCANSIEL Italy
ARCHANGEL Italy
ARENA United Kingdom
ARENAL Chile
ARGOS Germany
FINN ARILD Norway
ARK United Kingdom
ARKUS Netherlands
ARLEKIN Ukraine
ARLON Poland
ARRAKEEN France
ARVE Germany
ASGARD Italy
ASSAL Poland
ASTRALIS Chile
ASTURIAS Japan
ATEMPO Argentina
ATRIA France
ATRIUM Portugal
AUDITE Germany
AUFKLARUNG Italy
AVALON USA United States
SIMON AYRES United Kingdom
BACKYARDS France
BALLOON ASTRONOMY United States
BAROCK PROJECT Italy
NICK BARRETT & CLIVE NOLAN United Kingdom
KEVIN BARTLETT United States
SAULO BATTESINI Brazil
BEING & TIME Japan
BEL AIR Germany
BELIEVE Poland
STEWART BELL United Kingdom
BELLAPHON Japan
BEYOND THE BLUE Germany
BIG PICTURE United States
BIJOU Spain
BLACK PAGE Japan
BLIND EGO Germany
BLIND OWL United States
BLUE MAMMOTH Brazil
BOLUS Canada
FABRICE BONY France
XAVIER BOSCHER France
BRAIN CONNECT Poland
BRASSÉ Netherlands
BREEZE Germany
DEC BURKE United Kingdom
TIM BURNESS United Kingdom
CAAMORA United Kingdom
CARPTREE Sweden
ALAN CASE Netherlands
RICH CASEY United States
CASINO United Kingdom
CASTANARC United Kingdom
CATAFALCHI DEL CYBER Italy
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