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PROTO-PROG

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Proto-Prog definition

The denomination Proto Prog comes from the combination of two words, Proto from the Greek The earliest,. and Prog which as we know is a short term for Progressive Rock, so as it's name clearly indicates, refers to the earliest form of Progressive Rock or Progressive Rock in embryonary state.

These bands normally were formed and released albums before Progressive Rock had completely developed (there are some rare Proto Prog bands from the early 70's, because the genre didn't expanded to all the Continents simultaneously

The common elements in all these bands is that they developed one or more elements of Prog, and even when not completely defined as part of the genre, they are without any doubt, an important stage in the evolution of Progressive Rock.

Generally, Proto Prog bands are the direct link between Psyche and Prog and for that reason the Psychedelic components are present in the vast majority of them, but being that Progressive Rock was born from the blending of different genres, we have broadened the definition to cover any band that combined some elements of Progressive Rock with other genres prior to 1970.

Some of these bands evolved and turned into 100% Prog, while others simply choose another path, but their importance and contribution in the formative period of Prog can't be denied, for that reason no Prog site can ignore them.

Iván Melgar - Morey

Proto-Prog Top Albums


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

4.47 | 950 ratings
ABBEY ROAD
Beatles, The
4.50 | 556 ratings
QUADROPHENIA
Who, The
4.34 | 1129 ratings
DEEP PURPLE IN ROCK
Deep Purple
4.37 | 872 ratings
REVOLVER
Beatles, The
4.32 | 1140 ratings
MACHINE HEAD
Deep Purple
4.33 | 986 ratings
SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
Beatles, The
4.40 | 545 ratings
WHO'S NEXT
Who, The
4.31 | 631 ratings
THE DOORS
Doors, The
4.18 | 765 ratings
THE BEATLES [AKA: THE WHITE ALBUM]
Beatles, The
4.25 | 479 ratings
STRANGE DAYS
Doors, The
4.27 | 423 ratings
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE: ARE YOU EXPERIENCED
Hendrix, Jimi
4.14 | 696 ratings
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR
Beatles, The
4.03 | 447 ratings
L.A. WOMAN
Doors, The
3.92 | 678 ratings
RUBBER SOUL
Beatles, The
3.95 | 524 ratings
TOMMY
Who, The
3.97 | 370 ratings
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE: ELECTRIC LADYLAND
Hendrix, Jimi
4.01 | 287 ratings
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE: AXIS - BOLD AS LOVE
Hendrix, Jimi
4.13 | 171 ratings
TWELVE DREAMS OF DR. SARDONICUS
Spirit
3.84 | 769 ratings
BURN
Deep Purple
3.92 | 313 ratings
NOW WHAT?!
Deep Purple

Latest Proto-Prog Music Reviews


 Revolver by BEATLES, THE album cover Studio Album, 1966
4.37 | 872 ratings

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Revolver
The Beatles Proto-Prog

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

4 stars The seventh album "Revolver" is one of my favourite creations by The BEATLES, both as for the content and as for the sleeve, but simultaneously I guess every Beatlemania might have got bewildered with such a political, introspective, and depressive, and especially innovative soundscape. In 1966, they decided to quit gigging upon stage and to exert much concentration upon studio-based recording. Using tape loops or reverses frequently, they (especially John) would have dug more and more psychic, psychedelic inner world out. Aside from a sweet love song "Here There And Everywhere" or a funky relaxing stuff "Yellow Submarine" (this stuff is flooded with effective sounds or noises quite novelly though), every single track in this album is thoughtful, and tough to digest linearly. And their novelty upon melodic, rhythmic, and directly auditory presentation would have completely ignored the audience's mind (the audience completely followed the bizarre combo, nonetheless!).

The first attack "Taxman" is one of George's masterpieces featuring his loud, powerful, exciting guitar grandeur. Quite dry melody and sound along with political, cynical lyrics is kinda difficulty, we could not often listen to in those days. On the other hand, the following "Eleanor Rigby" composed mainly Paul is crazy introspective and complex, against loneliness around life and death. We can feel such a severity in the life via his simple composition, complicated lyrics, and instrumental set / formation. This severity itself can be heard in another gem "For No One" by Paul. Both tracks feature instrumental simpleness indeed. "Got To Get You Into My Life", covered by Earth Wind And Fire later, is characterized with bombastic brass sounds and Paul's intensive shouts. John launches splendid psychedelia through "She Said, She Said" that notifies us of serious life and death, and "Tomorrow Never Knows" under starry, meditative condition produced by hallucinogenic agents maybe. Even if these songs only are in, this album is worth purchasing and listening to, let me say.

Anyway my fave upon this lp is a superb salubrious, danceable one "And Your Bird Can Sing" honest to say. ;)

 Brainbox by BRAINBOX album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.34 | 38 ratings

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Brainbox
Brainbox Proto-Prog

Review by GruvanDahlman
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

3 stars Brainbox is mainly known for being the embryo out of which Focus was born. Akkerman took himself to a whole other level with Focus but this is a document that holds both interest and worth. It is basically a rock/pop album with a psychedelic flavor but there is also that wonderful element of progressive tendencies in it's very beginning.

Three out of seven tracks are primarily hard rock with "Dark rose" really hitting the mark with the flute, intensity and wonderful instrumentation, not least due to Akkerman's blistering guitar work. A really great and intense song. "Baby, what you want me to do?" is an old blues song made famous by Jimmy Reed and later also covered by Elvis Presley. Alright but progressive? No, not in the least. "Sinner's prayer" opens up with a great, heavy riff but it all goes unremarkable when the song gets going. Just another blues song. That isn't bad but nothing to brag about.

"Reason to Believe" is a cover of Tim Hardin and it differs not much from the original. Quite unimpressive rendition.

Four of the seven tracks are covers. Two of them ("Baby, what you want me to do?" and "Reason to belive") adds little to the development of progressive rock. However, "Scarborough Fair" does. I've heard several versions by other bands doing this particular track and it is well suited for a progressive treatment. It is very atmospheric with flute, great acoustic guitar, restrained drums and vibes that gives the track a spacey and warm feel. Elongated and embellished this version is one of my favorites. It is a treat.

The second cover worth mentioning is "Summertime" that gets the Heavy or progressive treatment aswell. Again the result is great. and the proto-prog elements are there and in abundance. Nice organ too.

The "Epic" of the album is "Sea of delight" with it's 17 minutes worth of playing time. It is not like any Epic of later years with a whole lot of sections and pieces. It is more of a jam than anything else. It starts with a great melodic vocal part that soon heads into a frantic session where each of the instruments gets it's fair share of room. It's an interesting and really good piece of progressive jamming shrouded in late 60's psychedelia. I like it alot and it does not get boring at any time.

So, is the first album by Brainbox anything to spend time on? Yes, I Think so. If you peel away the uninteresting tracks. you're left with some prog made in it's infancy that is really enjoyable. This album is not only interesting due to the presence of Akkerman, it is interesting as a time piece and holds some really great and interesting ideas. Had they done something more interesting with, say, "Reason to Believe" for instance the rating would have earned them an extra star but as it stands I'll give it Three. But do check it out. It's worth it.

 Parts by BRAINBOX album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.64 | 12 ratings

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Parts
Brainbox Proto-Prog

Review by GruvanDahlman
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

3 stars This, their second and final album, is often marketed as "the progressive 2nd album" and that statement holds some thruth. The music on "Parts" is a big improvement, as far as the amount of real progressive rock is concerned, from their first album.

The opening track "A face" is a really nice number recalling early Yes with the singer adopting a somewhat Jon Anderson-like voice, while the instrumentation resembles the band with odd time signature and prominent bass guitar. It is the best track on the album. Focused, tight and with an obvious progressive direction. "You're used to be warmer" follows in the progressive direction but this time with a more jazzy approach. Really nice tune aswell.

After those two great openers follows a slightly less progressive quartet of songs. While they do have hints of progressive rock it does not reach the levels of the first two tracks. A bit more in a psychedelic pop-mode.

Then it goes piano-progressive with "Another part". That song could have been developed into a longer piece with the piano opening up the whole thing. Too bad it stops after Three minutes of playing the piano. On the other side they enter the realm of progressive stricken hard rock on "Dilemma", which is quite a nice tune but not much to write home about. The mouth harp ruins the progressive feel somewhat.

"Drum and thunder suite" is progressive enough in a jazz rock way. Heavy on the drums (as expected) with nice jazzy flashes of instrumentation it is quite interesting and shows some prominse Before the final song hits you. "When I was poor" opens with the sound of an audience cheering at the band. I doubt it is an authentic live recording but that doesn't matter much. The song itself is a ballad with a certain degree of energy to it. Call it rock feel. Not the best of tracks but not bad either.

Brainbox seems to have struggled with what approach or direction to take. Should they head on down the pop road or take to the skies in the spaceballoon of prog? Judging by the first track (though not entirely unique in any way) they had the means and capability to actually write seriously progressive rock as it sounded back in the early 1970's. But then it seems that they did not want to lose the pop audience or the opportunity to hit the charts, so they filled the album with almost equal amounts of pop songs and progressively constructed pieces. The result is an album that lands in no man's land. It is neither a prog album, nor a fully fledged pop record. Is that a bad thing? Well, yes and no. The balance is wrong. It's like having the dessert and the main meal served on the same plate at the same time. It's all good but not at the same time. The flow is disrupted.

If you're looking for serious progressive rock you need not go to any great lengths to acquire this album but if you (like me) enjoys early prog rock that is, so to speak, in the making you might enjoy pieces of the album. I really like the first two tracks. The remainder is really throwaways in the grand scheme of things. When I add things up the rating lands on 2,66 stars, so I'll round things up and reward it Three.

 Who's Next by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.40 | 545 ratings

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Who's Next
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Warning: This review might upset some people.

Honestly, I wasn't going to review this album, because 1) it's been done so many times before, 2) most everybody already knows this album, and 3) I'm not a huge The Who fan. I definitely think Pete Townsend is amazing, but I can't stand Roger Daltry's singing or personality. I know that's a sad reason to not like a band, but at least I recognize the fact that this album, along with it's predecessor "Tommy", and the follow-up "Quadrophenia" are all essential albums, and I do love all three of them. But I can't stomach the rest of the albums.

Anyway, "Who's Next" is the second masterpiece in the trifecta of The Who's masterpiece albums. The other two are rock operas. The fact is, that this one was originally supposed to be a rock opera also called "Lifehouse", and most of the songs on this album are remnants of that project. The band was convinced by Kit Lambert, their manager, to release this as a regular album because the project was too complex. What we are left with are some amazing songs.

Even Roger's vocals and personality work for these songs (and for these three albums for that matter). But he does overemphasize his input to this band, Pete Townsend is really the creative force behind the band, but he was usually overshadowed by Daltry's personality. Thank goodness it all worked out for this album. I am sorry if I have offended anyone by my opinion about the band, but it is something I have always felt strongly about in reference to the band. Yes I know I have loved other bands even with when they have personnel in the band with overactive personalities, but Daltry has always rubbed me the wrong way.

Nevertheless, this album and "Quadrophenia" are both perfect albums meriting 6 stars in my own rating system, where 6 equals perfection. "Tommy" comes close to that, but doesn't quite reach the pinnacle, but I still consider it an excellent album. All the rest of their albums can only reach a maximum of 3 stars. I know this review didn't say much about the specific album, but if you haven't heard this album, then you shouldn't be reading about it anyway, you should be listening to it because you have some catching up to do. 5 stars.....Essential masterpiece.

 Trilogy for the Masses  by FORD THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.09 | 4 ratings

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Trilogy for the Masses
Ford Theatre Proto-Prog

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

4 stars In many ways FORD THEATRE was a typical psychedelic rock band from the late 60s that co-existed with an infinite number of similar bands. The band was active between 1966 and 1971 and was formed from the ashes of another band called The Continentals where Jimmy Altieri (bass), John Mazzarelli (keyboards), Robert Tamagni (drums), and Butch Webster (lead guitar) played and after they recruited Harry Palmer (guitar) and lead vocalist Joey Scott, changed their name to FORD THEATRE. The band released only two albums in their short career and TRILOGY FOR THE MASSES was the debut.

Although heavily steeped in what was called the Boston sound, the band always eschewed the comparisons and rightly so because FORD THEATRE was a little more forward thinking than the average psych band of the era. FORD THEATRE engaged in a far more Gothic and classically influenced style than the more pop oriented acts of the day. The band found enough popularity to be signed to ABC Records but failed to catch on to a larger audience and was dropped after the second album "Time Changes."

The name alone explains a lot. FORD THEATRE was the venue where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and they chose their name because it correlates to the music they wanted to create which represented a 1968 USAmerica in total chaos and entropy. The album is steeped in detachment, disillusionment and uncertainty and offers one of the most genuine and fearless musical expressions of the era.

By creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere based on a West Coast style of jangly acid guitar and a heavily drenched organ prominence, FORD THEATRE sounds like they were spawned from the period they did with obvious influences that range from The Kingsmen, The Beatles, The Byrds and even at times in the more sophisticated parts The Doors (particularly on the lengthy and ferocious keyboard attacks on the 18 minute "The Race" which has gained the band a clear foothold in the proto-prog camp.)

While FORD THEATRE would be relegated to the footnotes of history, they definitely deserve to be heard even in a modern day context for aficionados of psychedelic rock of the 60s. There are many unique aspects of this album. For example, the lyrics are in the second person and addressed to the listener. If you like the idea of a jangly band like The Byrds playing with a more symphonic version of The Doors with some West Coast Jefferson Airplane along for the ride, then FORD THEATRE is definitely a band you should investigate and for proggers who are interested in all the prerequisites to the genre, then this is a must.

 Vanilla Fudge [Aka:You Keep Me Hanging On] by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.63 | 98 ratings

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Vanilla Fudge [Aka:You Keep Me Hanging On]
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars "The most overlooked legendary prog band"

Back to 1967, a magical year in rock music. The UK is flooded by very exciting and adventurous albums, from The Nice, Pink Floyd and The Beatles to Procol Harum and The Moody Blues. These bands are scouting the boundaries of a wide range of styles, with the emphasis on rock, folk and classical, the press labels it as progressive rock. In the USA there is also an interesting progressive movement, but more focussed on blending styles with the emphasis on blues and psychedelia. The most famous bands are The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane and Santana. Another interesting band in the USA in 1967 is four piece formation Vanilla Fudge, in that magical year their eponymous debut LP reaches # 6 in the Billboard Album Top 100. Soon Vanilla Fudge is embraced by the young music fans in the USA and within a few years the band becomes the headliner during concerts with Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Deep Purple and Canned Heat. Later legandary bands like Yes, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple point at Vanilla Fudge as an important source of inspiration. But despite these facts Vanilla Fudge is the most overlooked progressive band, in a world where Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and ELP are hailed as 'the gods of prog'. So how about Vanilla Fudge their music, and the 'prog factor'?

The story of Vanilla Fudge started in the New York-area when Mark Stein (organ and lead vocals) and Tim Bogert (bass guitar) played in a band called Rick Martin & The Showmen. When Mark and Tim listened to the popular band The Rascals they were so impressed by the hot R&B covers with floods of Hammond B3 organ that they decided to form their own band, named The Pigeons. Together with Rick Martin's drummer Joey Brennan and new guitarist Vinnie Martell they started rehearsing and playing but Brennan was replaced by Carmine Appice. He played one night at the same place as The Pigeons and he was simply asked to join The Pigeons. At about the same time The Pigeons decided to change their name into Vanilla Fudge, after the nickname of the female singer of The Unspoken Word (she liked ice cream very much). And also a bidding war started to contract them because the band was very promising. Eventually in July 1967 Vanilla Fudge signed with Atco Records, a division of the famous Atlantic label. They released the single You Keep Me Hangin'On and then their first album Vanilla Fudge, soon Vanilla Fudge became the darlings of the underground, like Pink Floyd in the UK. The second album The Beat Goes On was the over-ambitious project of producer Shadow Morton to tell the entire history of contemporary music , from Mozart to Elvis Presley. Unfortunately it all sounded too weird and then Atco decided to re-release their first single You Keep Me Hangin' On, in order to stop the possible demise of the band. Atco hoped for the best, and indeed, the single became a small hit and soon they released their third album Renaissance that consisted primarily of original material. February '69 their fourth album Near The Beginning came out and in september '69 their fifth and final album called Rock & Roll was released. After these five LP's Vanilla Fudge decided to split up and to look for other musical challenges. During the years they reunited several times, and for me a dream came true when I attended a very inspired and exciting Vanilla Fudge gig in 2015 (see my avatar).

This review is about Vanilla Fudge their eponymous debut LP featuring only covers. How ironical, the creative way Vanilla Fudge re-arranged the covers showcase their unique and pivotal sound. Their trademark has two elements: on one hand the soul and gospel inspired vocals (with different lead singers) and vocal harmonies and on the other hand a pioneering Hammond-harder edged guitar combination.

Ticket To Ride (The Beatles) : The sound of the Hammond organ and the bluesy atmosphere creates a very special climate, fuelled by a dynamic rhythm-section (acknowledged by Jeff Beck who later founded Beck, Bogert and Appice). On this first track Vanilla Fudge also introduced thei trademark blend of soul and gospel inspired vocals. And the fiery guitar is a perfect counterpart to the powerful and omnipresent Hammond organ.

People Get Ready (The Impressions, written by Curtis Mayfield) : A slow rhythm and compelling work on the Hammond, and again fiery guitar runs and gospel/soul vocals.

She's Not There (The Zombies): The lush Hammond and raw electric guitar sound awesome, topped with strong vocals, this is trademark Vanilla Fudge.

Bang Bang (Cher, and Nancy Sinatra, written by Sonny Bono) : An omnipresent Hammond, pleasant vocal harmonies, a psychedelic touch and a strong final part with heavy guitar and Hammond outbursts.

Illusions ? The 3 parts are short psychedelic sonic impressions.

You Keep Me Hangin' On (The Supremes) : This is the single that got Vanilla Fudge on the map and for me the highlight on this album. Vanilla Fudge presents a captivating and dynamic blend of rock, blues and gospel with exciting Hammond waves, powerful electric guitar, distinctive vocal harmonies and excellent lead vocals, an extra dimension on this cover.

Take Me For A Little While (Jackie Ross) : A slow rhythm with soul inspired vocals and vocal harmonies, the Hammond gives a special flavour.

Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles): In the original version of The Beatles they don't play instruments, Paul MaCartney did the double-tracked lead vocals and Harrison and Lennon the vocal harmonies, George Martin arranged the string quartet. Vanilla Fudge replaced the strings by Hammond and electric guitar, creating a huge tension between the slow and bluesy parts and the bombastic outbursts, topped by strong vocals and a propulsive rhythm-section. To me this sounds as a very good rendition (superior to The Beatles but that is personal, I am more a Stones fan). And it showcased the inventive composing and exciting musical potential of Vanilla Fudge.

A band to discover, if you are up to the soul and gospel inspired vocals, that will not be everybody's cup of tea. But the work on the Hammond B3 is a Big Plus for the Hammond aficionados!

 Local Anaesthetic  by NIRVANA album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.52 | 26 ratings

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Local Anaesthetic
Nirvana Proto-Prog

Review by GruvanDahlman
Collaborator Heavy Prog Team

4 stars So, here it is. A review concerning the infamous "Local aenesthetic" by Nirvana. It seems most people are put off by the fact or notion that it doesn't sound like Nirvana used to. Well, that may be true. I am really not too familiar with Nirvana, merely a casual listener of yesteryear. Nice enough but that's it. Anyway, since I have an interest in albums generally regarded as inferior I always feel the urge to examine it, discover it's secrets and lay bare a plethora of hidden gems and artefacts. In some cases it all comes out in glory and I hear angelic bursts of trumpets but sometimes (quite often) I find the same barren wasteland as others already have done. In the case of Nirvana I dare say I have struck gold and I am truly happy for it.

I will not go into detail regarding the line-up on this album or why things are that way. I will simply draw a conclusion, based on my own wild imagination, that Campbell-Lyons listened to and picked up the wind of progressive rock and let his ship fill it's sail with that wind and enter a new realm of musical plenty. 1971 was a year when alot of progressive plants already had been planted, so I assume he had been listening to the likes of King Crimson and Genesis. Now I am not saying that the music on "Local aenesthetic" is anything like the albums by just now mentioned counterparts but it belongs to the same species, and that is progressive music. When reading about the album one gets the feeling of a man collapsing under the weight of his own lofty ambitions and musical legacy, only to crash to the ground like a burning aeroplane. I do, actually, beg to differ and here is why.

Consisting of only two long tracks the album stretches out for 35 minutes and it is 35 wonderful minutes. The music is not at all as sophisticated, as elegant or as tightly arranged as the music of Genesis or Gentle Giant and not nearly as complex. It holds a much more raw, rough edged and loosely played quality. The two tracks, or suites, are based around more or less simple melodies tied together into a whole.

"Modus operandi" opens up with something truly unique for this album, a cacophony of sounds and screams that are quite avantgarde. Soon follows a boogie section (which I by now grown accustomed to) but soon settles into a more enjoyable blues-rock fashion. The whole things develop into a hard rocking affair where the tension is mounting. It is a wonderful composition that holds a jamming sensation where improvisation takes the center stage, though contained inside a delightful groove. There's a psychedelic section aswell, which only proves a well known point: the ingredients of prog are many and diverse.

"Home", the second track, starts off with bass and percussion before a beautiful melody enters and soft, trembling vocals comes in. To me it's irresistable. Simply gorgeous. The sound is somewhat Kinks-ish, only slightly rougher. The track is yet again a builder with denser and denser instrumentation. It really rocks quite hard and intensively. It ends, after more melodious and beutiful melodies, with blues-rock and a slight return to the initial melody. Fantastic track.

I suppose that if you're into the meticulous arrangements and delicate harmonies of Nirvana pre-"Local aenesthetic" you may be in for quite a shock. The music bears little resemblance to those albums prior to this one. What you get is a raw, rough sounding piece of early progressive rock where psych, blues, hard rock, jazz and (a slight presence of) avant-garde. I.e. everything you might expect from progressive rock during the very early formative years of existence. I just love it. Sure, it consists of fairly simple melodies and the intricacy of other more complex bands is not there but what you get is really a blueprint for progressive rock where a visionary approach to music breaks the chains and heads into unknown territory. I feel very little for Nirvana as a whole but in this instance I cannot do anything else than to bow down and stick both thumbs up in the air in awe and admiration. A terrific album from start to finish that might need a couple of spins to really appreciate but then again, isn't that the true nature of prog?

4 stars from me.

 The Family That Plays Together by SPIRIT album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.79 | 67 ratings

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The Family That Plays Together
Spirit Proto-Prog

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

4 stars Los Angeles based SPIRIT were riding high after their eponymous debut album found some success and even hit the Billboard album chart's top 40. While they just released that album in January of 1968, after the entire group and their families having moved into a big yellow house in Topanga Canyon, north of LA in the countryside, they all resided together for the tail end of the 60s. The musicians in SPIRIT had the luxury to work together in a relatively serene and relaxed environment and diligently crafted a second album that came out the same year in December. The title THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER not only refers to the fact that drummer Ed Cassidy, a forty-something year old ex-jazz percussionist having been the step-father of the teenaged guitarist Randy Craig Wolfe or better known by his stage name of Randy California, but more due to the fact that the entire band along with significant others, children, pets, vices and idiosyncratic irritations were all shacked up together on a musical compound where they could practice their own 60s version of peace and love and take their music to new places hitherto unheard. And that's exactly what they did.

SPIRIT's sophomore album shows a more mature band sound that took the psychedelic rock, contemporary folk, classical and jazz- fusion elements of the debut and found them woven together in a tight musical tapestry with that off-kilter 60s psychedelia basted in a strong steady backbeat. One again Marty Paich made a reprise with his unique stamp with arrangements for string and horns which added the proper symphonic backing that with the jazz-tinged rock pieces created a veritable progressive rock template for 70s symphonic bands to expand upon. While SPIRIT never cranked out the hit singles, the opener "I Got A Line On You" was the exception as it was the band's only top 40 hit of their existence and the one track that everyone has surely heard if they have delved into 60s music at all. While that single and the closer "Aren't You Glad" add heavier aspects of rock complemented by Randy California's use of double guitar tracks, for the most part THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER is a more subdued mellow affair with the emphasis on exquisitely designed compositions that are cruising on California West Coast chill mode than anything close to the heavier Cream and Hendrix sounds of the day.

Part of SPIRIT's eclectic inspiration stemmed from the fact that Barry Hansen, who would become the kind of parody as Dr. Demento who specialized in novelty songs and comedy, had a huge collection of music in the same house that he was sharing which allowed the band to peruse the vaults for musical inspiration. And that is exactly what SPIRIT sounds like to me. There are so many tiny snippets of sounds that remind me of both past and future acts that one could rightfully write quite a lengthy thesis on the matter. The music on THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER is generally characterized by a strong groovy bass line that anchors the melodic development. The guitars and keyboards provide unique and progressive counterpoints with Cassidy's jazzified drumming style adding yet another eclectic layer. The band had mastered the art of harmonic vocal interaction much like The Beach Boys or The Mamas and the Papas but were more sophisticated than the average pop band of the era despite having cleverly crafted pop hooks that took more labyrinthine liberties.

During the year 1969, SPIRIT were at their popular (if not creative) peak with two hit albums and a top 40 single under their belt. While the band never hit the big time, during this brief moment in history, it was THEY who were the headliners while bands like Led Zeppelin, Chicago and Traffic were opening for them. While at the Atlanta Pop Festival, they performed to over 100,000 music fans in the audience and Randy California rekindled his friendship with Jimi Hendrix, with whom who briefly played in Jimmy James & The Blue Flames. THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER is an excellent sophomore release from SPIRIT. While the debut may have had a few more flashy jazz-fusion moments, this one has a more cohesive band sound which shows a clear dedication to finding the ultimate band chemistry at play. Laced with subtly addictive hooks and sophisticated progressive undercurrents, THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER is actually a little more accessible on first listen although it's slightly more angular than the average pop rock band of the era but still a testament to SPIRIT's unique musical vision.

 Spirit by SPIRIT album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.53 | 92 ratings

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Spirit
Spirit Proto-Prog

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

4 stars Rising out of the ashes of a prior band called The Rising Sons centered around The Ash Grove venue in mid-1960s Los Angeles, a new band emerged from many bands that frequented that same establishment. The members included percussionist Ed Cassidy, lead vocalist Jay Ferguson, bassist Mark Andes and guitarist Rnady California. The like minded musical misfits started a folk rock band called Red Roosters where they managed to score the odd high school dances and small venues around L.A. but after taking a hiatus and a cross-country trip to New York City Randy California had the chance to briefly play with Jimi Hendrix in Jimmy James and the Blue Flames but ultimately was denied moving with the band to London by his parents due to his tender young age of 15. Slightly dismayed he had to head back to California to reform his prior band and with the addition of keyboardist John Locke, he and the other Red Roosters team opted to change their name to Spirits Rebellious and that's when the true magic started to gel.

Joining in on the "Summer Of Love" hippie scene after a trip to Griffith Park, the members of the band rented an entire house in Topanga Canyon and lived together with significant others, children, pets and pretty much everything else. This is the time where the inspiration for SPIRIT's eponymously titled debut album came from. After truncating their name to simply SPIRIT, the band started to make waves by having an utterly unique sound that took the disparate styles of 60s folk and psychedelic rock and married them with the more progressive jazz-fusion styles that were emerging. The band hit upon the right sound and found success with their debut which hit #31 on the Billboard chart and found a significant amount of FM radio play as well. Likewise they were successful on the touring circuit because of not only their unique sound but their oddball appearance due to drummer Ed Cassidy's skinhead look which set him apart from the long-haired hippie scene of the era.

While SPIRIT's debut is probably better known 50 years later as the album that Jimmy Page stole the beginning riffs of "Stairway To Heavena," the irony is that in their humble beginnings, Led Zeppelin actually opened up for SPIRIT and it has been determined that Page also was inspired in many other ways as well including using the theremin mounted to his amplifier as well as some of the progressive out-of-the-box ideas that SPIRIT deftly utilized. Unfortunately despite the similarities of "Stairway To Heaven's" opening arpeggiated riff with that of SPIRIT's "Taurus," a copyright infringement suit was unsuccessful in a legal sense but in retrospect has gained SPIRIT some sort of publicity albeit in a roundabout way which is better than nothing i suppose. The court of public opinion seems to have sided the other way around however it has also been claimed that the riff originated in 1659 in a classical composition called "Sonata di Chittara, e Violino, con il duo Basso Continuo" by Italian composer Giovanni Battista Granata.

Listening to SPIRIT's debut album and thinking of them touring with Zeppelin seems like an odd match. While Zeppelin rocked the house with ballsy bluesy bravado, SPIRIT is much more subdued with an earthy folk and even psychedelic rock feel that gentle flows with a more sophisticated jazz-rock compositional approach sort of like a proto-style of Steely Dan if you will. While the tracks are diverse, they pretty much follow a strange yet pleasant path down a mellow folk tinged vocal style where Ferguson does his best Byrds impersonation while Locke on keyboards and Cassidy provide a more jazzified rhythmic groove. California's guitar straddles somewhere in between folky blues and jazz. While most tracks side on the folk rock aspects, the final near eleven minute track displays some of the most progressive oriented rock of 1968 with the closer "Elijah" which unleashes the full on jazz-fusion and time signature freak outs. This track has been a staple in live settings where the band would take turns improvising solos. There are parts in this one that make me think Golden Earring developed "Radar Love" from this one as well.

SPIRIT was an amazing band that didn't really get their just dessert. While achieving minor success during their heyday, it seems that they were more successful in inspiring other artists than actually achieving greatness themselves. Their debut was really ahead of its time and despite the critics lauding words of praise, they failed to attract the masses in droves to their musical cause. SPIRIT delivers a subtle but powerful sort of sound. It never really rocks the house but rather wriggles around a strange jazzy lounge lizard labyrinth of chord progressions with idiosyncratic intricacies and therefore isn't one of those albums that is instantly catchy but rather demands a little time to let it sink in unless the listener is well-steeped in progressive rock and jazz-fusion constructs. Personally i find SPIRIT to be an unsung hero of the 60s as i hear all kinds of juicy tidbits that seem to have inspired future artists in the 70s who took them to the next level. While SPIRIT's future releases would get more adventurous, the debut is a nice gentle mix of a classic 60s feel with subtle complexities. A very nice mix indeed.

 Looking On by MOVE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.09 | 50 ratings

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Looking On
The Move Proto-Prog

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

4 stars The year 1970 was a busy one for THE MOVE who released not only one but two albums however in between their progressively tinged "Shazam" and their third album LOOKING ON, great changes had occurred that would take the band in completely new directions. Firstly, singer Carl Wayne departed (off to cabaret and soap opera glory) and in to take his place was none other than Jeff Lynne who contributed the much desired role as a second songwriter, a collaborative effort that Roy Wood had been seeking from THE MOVE's formation. Another major change was the band's move to Fly Records which found the band starting a new chapter of their existence. While THE MOVE had been one of Britain's prime hitmakers during the 60s, they never quite managed to strike it big outside their homeland's shores but with Jeff Lynne as co-pilot, the team was hoping to cast a wider net musically speaking and eventually expand their appeal. While cover songs had been a staple on the previous albums, because of Lynne's prolific songwriting nature, LOOKING ON is the first THE MOVE album of all originals.

Ironically as it turned out, Jeff Lynne was actually Wood's replacement in Nightriders after Wood jumped ship to form THE MOVE, so in a way Lynne already had a feel for Wood's style and fit into the band perfectly as the two shared many musical ambitions. Truth be known was the fact that Wood actually wanted to end THE MOVE and start a new band with Lynne right away that would expand the horizons of pop music and move it closer to orchestrated classical sophistication but due to record contract obligations, the two conjured up the material to keep THE MOVE floating along for another couple albums before they could finally be released from their contractual shackles and begin The Electric Light Orchestra. However, despite existing as THE MOVE, the arrival of Lynne showcases LOOKING ON as a sort of proto-ELO collection of tunes that exists in some strange limbo between the 60s move sound and snippets of ideas that would fully gestate into the later ELO projects. Much ELO material was actually written and held back during this period.

LOOKING ON is quite the diverse album and while not as epic as the prior "Shazam," still churned out seven cranking tunes that upped the hard rock aspects but also found nascent early ELO elements such as the medieval classical sounds of a cello, oboe and sax residing next to 60s psychedelic pop leftovers such as the sitar. Quite the eclectic album indeed. While the title track kicks off in heavy rock form which showcases the band's attunement with the new 70s trends, the track oddly morphs into a bizarre Indo-raga tune towards the end. Jeff Lynne's love of 50s rock and roll shines through like a beam of sunshine on tracks "When Alice Comes Back To The Farm" which has a rather Rolling Stones bluesy rock feel as well as their hit single "Brontosaurus" which utilized a clever mix of heavy rock'n'roll, slide guitar and honky tonk piano.

The peculiarly titled "Turkish Tram Conductor Blues" which channeled their best Eric Clapton led Cream exhibited healthy doses of a strangely incongruous sitar and sultry sax solo whereas "What?" sounds a lot like the proto-makings of the following year's "Mr Radio" which would appear on the debut ELO album. Strewn all throughout LOOKING ON are tinklings of "Roll Over Beethoven" rock'n'roll riffs threaten to break in but never quite gestate completely. "Open Up Said The World At The Door" carries on where "Shazam" left off with an intricately designed mix of clever melodies, creative counterpoints and beautiful vocal harmonies that proved Lynne was the ultimate collaborator for Wood's similar musical visions and a veritable vocalist in his own right. Also on the work table, Lynne and Wood would create the much loved "10538 Overture" but held it back to be included on the future ELO project.

The ending track utilizes a rather Clapton-esque "I Shot The Sheriff" guitar riff but with a funky soul type of vocal style accompanied by a stomping groovy beat. After a few verses and choruses the track drifts off into a serious jam with guitar soloing with soulful Jackson Five type vocals and finally ends after eight minutes with a few breaks. One morphs into a Beach Boys styled barbershop choir that kinda sounds like "Barbara Ann" and then finally shifts into a piano roll with some British bloke blathering on about something or rather. While THE MOVE only released a mere four albums in their career, each one is completely different and LOOKING ON has its own distinct personality as well. Due to Lynne's contributions the album really sounds a million miles away from the "Shazam" album that was released only months prior. Somehow i acquired a taste for this band and each album stands up on its own merit. LOOKING ON is no exception to this for it is yet another strong batch of progressive pop tracks that provides also provides an interesting context to ELO's early history as well as just being a really creatively cool album in its own right.

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Proto-Prog bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
ANDROMEDA United Kingdom
APPALOOSA United States
BAKERLOO United Kingdom
THE BEATLES United Kingdom
BRAINBOX Netherlands
THE ARTHUR BROWN BAND United Kingdom
THE COLLECTORS Canada
COVEN United States
THE CROME SYRCUS United States
DEEP PURPLE United Kingdom
THE DOORS United States
EARTH OPERA United States
FLAMING YOUTH United Kingdom
FORD THEATRE United States
GATTCH Slovakia
GILES GILES & FRIPP United Kingdom
THE GODS United Kingdom
GUN United Kingdom
H.P. LOVECRAFT United States
HANSSON & KARLSSON Sweden
HAPSHASH AND THE COLOURED COAT United Kingdom
JIMI HENDRIX United States
IRON BUTTERFLY United States
IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY United States
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE United States
KALEIDOSCOPE United Kingdom
MÁQUINA! Spain
THE MASTERS APPRENTICES Australia
THE MOVE United Kingdom
NIRVANA United Kingdom
PAN & REGALIZ Spain
PÄRSON SOUND Sweden
THE PRETTY THINGS United Kingdom
QUIET WORLD United Kingdom
SALAMANDER United Kingdom
THE SHIVER Switzerland
SILVER APPLES United States
SPIRIT United States
SPOOKY TOOTH United Kingdom
SWEETWATER United States
TOMORROW United Kingdom
TOUCH United States
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA United States
VANILLA FUDGE United States
THE WHO United Kingdom

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