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SYMPHONIC PROG

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Symphonic Prog definition

Symphonic is without doubt the sub-genre that includes the most bands in Progressive Rock because for many people it's almost synonymous classic Prog, something easy to understand being that most of the classic and/or  pioneer bands released music that could be included in this sub-genre, except JETHRO TULL and PINK FLOYD (who still blended some symphonic elements), even KING CRIMSON who very soon expanded their horizons to more experimental music, made their debut with a Symphonic album, "In the Court of the Crimson King" which is a cornerstone in the development of the genre.

The main characteristics of Symphonic are the ones that defined all Progressive Rock: (There's nothing 100% new under the sun) which among others are:
  • Mixture of elements from different genres.
  • Complex time signatures.
  • Lush keyboards.
  • Explorative and intelligent lyrics, in some cases close to fantasy literature, Sci Fi and even political issues.
  • Non commercial approach
  • Longer format of songs

In this specific case the main characteristic is the influence of Classical music (understood as Orchestral works created from the late Gothic to Modern Classical) using normally more complex structure than other related sub-genres like Neo Progressive (That's why sometimes the borderline that divides Symphonic from Neo is so unclear being that is based mostly in a degree of complexity rather than in an evident structural difference)..It is easy to find long keyboard solos reminiscent of Johan Sebastian Bach or melodic works that could have been written by Handel.

As in any other genre, different Symphonic bands had different approaches to Classical music, for example YES and GENESIS are mainly influenced by the Baroque and Classical periods, while EMERSON LAKE & PALMER has a predilection for post Romantic and modern authors like Mussorgsky, Rimsky Korsakov, Bartok or Ginastera, being that their sound is less melodic and more aggressive.

The peak of the genre starts in 1969 and lasts until the mid/late 70's  (more precisely until the release of A Trick of the Tail), when the genre begins to  blend more mainstream influences that took to the birth of Neo Progressive (a new approach for a new decade).


It is important to remember that even though the creative peak of Symphonic Progressive ended before the 80's, we can find a second birth in the 90's coming from the Scandinavian countries (specially Sweden with ANGLAGARD or PAR LINDH PROJECT) and even bands that still in the 21st Century recreate music from this period like SPOCK'S BEARD or ECHOLYN.

Before ending this short description I feel necessary to say (In order to be strictly accurate) that the term Symphonic is not 100% exact, because these bands very rarely played symphonies and was probably used because the music that influenced the genre was performed by Symphony Orchestras, but it is so widely accepted by the Progressive Rock community that would be absurd and futile for anybody to attempt a change after so much time.

Iván Melgar Morey, Peru 2006



Symphonic Team

Current Team as at 06/02/16

Iván Melgar Morey (Iván_Melgar_M)
Anton Fritz (SouthSideoftheSky)
RdtProg (Louis)

Symphonic Prog Top Albums


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

4.65 | 3862 ratings
CLOSE TO THE EDGE
Yes
4.63 | 3576 ratings
SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND
Genesis
4.60 | 3095 ratings
FOXTROT
Genesis
4.44 | 3018 ratings
FRAGILE
Yes
4.41 | 2698 ratings
NURSERY CRYME
Genesis
4.39 | 2237 ratings
MIRAGE
Camel
4.38 | 1922 ratings
MOONMADNESS
Camel
4.39 | 1474 ratings
HYBRIS
Änglagård
4.35 | 2601 ratings
RELAYER
Yes
4.35 | 1098 ratings
SI ON AVAIT BESOIN D'UNE CINQUIÈME SAISON
Harmonium
4.29 | 2531 ratings
THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY
Genesis
4.29 | 2437 ratings
THE YES ALBUM
Yes
4.28 | 1951 ratings
THE SNOW GOOSE
Camel
4.27 | 2191 ratings
A TRICK OF THE TAIL
Genesis
4.31 | 993 ratings
SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER STORIES
Renaissance
4.32 | 743 ratings
DEPOIS DO FIM
Bacamarte
4.24 | 1767 ratings
EMERSON LAKE & PALMER
Emerson Lake & Palmer
4.26 | 911 ratings
VILJANS ÖGA
Änglagård
4.24 | 864 ratings
HAMBURGER CONCERTO
Focus
4.22 | 915 ratings
LEFTOVERTURE
Kansas

Symphonic Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

HIJOS DEL AGOBIO
Triana
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DAY
Exodus
LA MARCHE DES HOMMES
Morse Code
TALES FROM AN ISLAND - IMPRESSIONS FROM RAPA NUI
Blank Manuskript

Latest Symphonic Prog Music Reviews


 Close To The Edge by YES album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.65 | 3862 ratings

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Close To The Edge
Yes Symphonic Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

5 stars What is there to say about CLOSE TO THE EDGE that hasn't been spoken yet? What man would prefer my review over others, or better, what man would read reviews rather than follow the consensual intuition that calls this YES masterpiece as the epitome of progressiveness? If you're said man, then I shall do my duty to bring you my review.

My output for this is simple: CLOSE TO THE EDGE is the best progressive rock album I have heard thus far. Some may gift this title to the unsinful IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING, others might do so - although rather awkwardly - to PINK FLOYD's, some even to SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND. But the reason CLOSE is the top among my list so far is because it demarks everything that, for me, prog is supposed to represent: inventiveness, classical revival, "technical wankery" (what a derogatory yet fitting term), ethereal themes and musical performances that leave the listener thunderstruck. The use of several music genres and styles is something to be noted.

If I had to summarize each song, CLOSE TO THE EDGE would be "inventively chaotic"; AND YOU AND I "acoustically magnificent and gentle"; and SIBERIAN KHATRU "jazzy, funky and guitar-oriented".

The title track, CLOSE TO THE EDGE, begins with calm nature sounds: birds chirping, and a river flowing. Suddenly, your ears are blown by a staggering, chaotic, seemingly anarchical & cacophonical introduction composed of violent quick drums, an eerie background guitar playing and a poorly (purposedly) sounding distorted guitar, accompanied by soft keyboards. My first listen to it rendered me awed, "What the hell is this?". For as strange, it was pleasant. I had to admit, even though I had no clue what I was listening to, it was truly creative. Especially intelligent to bring a serene intro followed by an explosion of sounds. Eventually, the insanity ends with a mellow guitar riff, that develops into the main section - the verses. An... ukulele? So it seems. 6/8? Yes. Bass and drums are connected, as every loud drum beat happens along a bass note. Overall, it sounds a little amusing.

Particularly speaking, JON ANDERSON's vocals are great. His voice is very matching with the overall theme of the song. Lyrics speak about... I don't know, somewhere? Somewhere interesting, beautiful. The ukulele really brings us the tranquility of the ambient the lyrics speak about, yet the drums & bass' odd connection keep us aware this is a progressive track. Eventually, calmness intensifies on a much more tender - and rather melancholic - piece, and the song ultimately oozes to my favourite part: the organs. A very, VERY imponent organ playing begins on a solo piece, followed by spatial keyboards which refer, once again, to the outlandishness of the track's theme. It is followed by a drums and keyboard duet. The keyboard plains, once again, the "mellow riff" on its very own insane manner. While the keyboard itself is already upbeat, the ridiculously technical and speedy performance of BRUFORD increases the section by a notch. WAKEMAN then proceeds to play a very rapid solo, and after he's over, ANDERSON returns to finish the song with the final verses & repetition of the chorus. After this majestic insanity we've been subjected to, we're left with the same birds and river to perform the outro.

NOW, NOW. What makes CLOSE TO THE EDGE a spectacular progressive track is its absolute creativity; vast array of instruments, techniques, and sounds employed; the amount of tempo, time signatures, and melody changes; and a successful mixture of psychedelia with jazz and rock elements. It is, however, the type of song you should listen more than once to successfully absorb: the first listen leaves you flabbergasted; the second, impressed; and the third, inspired.

Then, we're presented to AND YOU AND I. A love song, progressive style. There's no direct reference to love, but the companionship the persona desires is undoubtfully fulfilled by a significant other. It's not the "I love you" song, but the "I want to spend my life with you" type. Besides, there's even this obvious love hint: "All completed in the sight of seeds of life with you". It initiates with a nice 12-string-guitar riff, timely keyboard riffs, and ANDERSON's vocals that evoke an undoubtful loveliness. It evolves to a more slow and symphonic piece which could easily be confused for the outro. But fool! This is progressive rock! After the "outro", the song returns with a softer form of the previous section. ANDERSON and HOWE are much more cheerful. Eventually, all instruments return, and the AND YOU AND I definitive version kicks in. Once again, by its ending, WAKEMAN plays a keyboard outro. ANDERSON swiftly returns to an even more sweet version of the song, a short sung outro, to finally end the song.

Alright fella, here it comes the weird-but-cool member of the CLOSE TO THE EDGE album family: SIBERIAN KHATRU! I don't think there's any cooler name than that. Just like I read on Rolling Stones' progressive album list, "is Khatru even a word"? Well, does it matter? Certainly not.

A very jazzy and Siberian (okay, not THAT much Siberian) intro, to get you all shaking and funky. HOWE's guitar is superb on this track. I can't say anything BUT this track being his shining moment. There's only one word for Khatru: FUNKY. The main riff is very jazzy, and the chorus, even more. HOWE, as aforementioned, is omnipresent in this track: every note he plays is perceived. Eventually, YES brings us a new section where several guitar solos tackle in. The steel-string solo is perhaps one of my favourite ever. It's less than thirty seconds long, but awesome nonetheless. Lastly, it ends, followed by - you guessed it - a (short) gentler piece. Only two minutes away from its ending, the song - and album - outro arrives. It is powerful, and it is implicit it's not the ending just for KHATRU but for CLOSE TO THE EDGE as a whole. Even CHRIS SQUIRE, whose bass has been the background hero, jumps in the protagonism with an interesting - and obviously equally funky - solo accompanied by HOWE, who kicks in a great solo. Our KHATRU ends with the same feeling it has begun, and as no sound is yet to be heard, we're confirmed CLOSE TO THE EDGE is officially over.

YES' attempt to invent, to create, to astonish and to inspire is triumphant. CLOSE TO THE EDGE is a historical name. One of RUSH's members agreed with me, publically. (Or better, I agreed with him. Or well, pretty much almost everyone else) YES brought the best frontman to the progressive genre. This album represents everything progressive is supposed to represent, and it does majestically. BRUFORD thought so, and he even left Yes because he felt he couldn't topple this. Well, not really, but it's fun to think that's the reason. RELAYER would be there to show YES could bring another album as genial as CLOSE TO THE EDGE. OWNER OF A LONELY HEART showed YES died. But that's not important.

What's important is that if you're reading reviews for this album rather than listening to it, well, just do it. You won't regret: there's no way you would.

 Selling England By The Pound by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.63 | 3576 ratings

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Selling England By The Pound
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

5 stars SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND is perhaps my favorite progressive rock album, and thusly, deserving of the highly-sought "five stars" rating. What matters here is that there's quality both emotionally and rationally here, or better, both on lyrics, melodies & what they make you feel and the structural quality of the album.

Needless to say, Peter Gabriel is a terrific songwriter and vocalist. Anyone who has listened to a few Genesis songs is able to notice that, as Gabriel manages to make lyrics that verges - or pretty much fits in - poetry.

Peter Collins, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett & Michael Rutherford are all accomplished musicians that deliver a superb performance on this album. I claim so because it's the type of album of which, uncommonly, all instruments are highlighted - every song has a section which one instrument or another awes you - and actively present in every song they're participating. If there's guitar, you will notice to details such as the strumming; if there's drumming, you will be awed at the complexity Collins plays to accompany the song.

Aside from Aisle of Plenty, each track is individually unique, which is an important factor to take note of. The songs are fresh, creative, and unconnected to each other, but with an unconscious connection among all of them (maybe its symphonic feel). That being said, the album is coherent.

Now to each individual song:

DANCING OUT WITH THE MOONLIT KNIGHT starts slow, calm, emotional, with a medievalesque feeling. Slowly, it builds up, and by the chorus, you already take note of the harmony among the instruments. Afterwards, Hackett's individual performance comes in with a rather lenghty solo. Now, what makes this solo particularly impressive is its creativity and uncanny playstyle and techniques employed, bringing a variety of inventive sounds and making it very enjoyable to sit through. Collins' speedy drumming is also noticeable, for as much as it is technical it is FITTING. The chorus kicks back in, followed by the second part of the solo, which now has a much, MUCH more jazzy feeling to it. I can easily portrait it as those "relaxed/laid-back yet still fast-paced jazz songs", with fast tempo but slow notes. Lastly, the song ends with a two-minutes long ambient outro, that personally reminds me of nature above everything else. The musician which is mostly highlighted here is, naturally, HACKETT.

TO SUMMARIZE, the song BEGINS and ENDS with medieval melodies, but all in-between is much "modern", fast-paced and inventive, especially for the guitar solo.

I KNOW WHAT I LIKE (IN YOUR WARDROBE) is a relaxed tale of a... I honestly don't know. A lawnmower, as he presents himself in the end? Regardless of the lyrical value, the song is quite enjoyable, not much progressive but still delightful. Gabriel's British accent is very noticeable here, especially by the first and last verses. The song ends with a flute solo, well-fit for the song. I think GABRIEL (both for his vocals & flute solo) is deserving to be the highlighted man.

FIFTH OF FIRTH is terrific. Banks' intro is equally complex and beautiful. The song continues with a lyrical part, which is slow but still interesting to listen to. Here, once again, Gabriel's vocals are in a tone and style that is standard for many other songs of the album. After the lyrical part, a whopping four-minutes-long solo arrives - Banks returns with his intro arrangement, this time on the organ/keyboards (personally, I prefer the piano version over the aforementioned). Afterward, Banks arrives with a slow, melodic and acute solo that is smooth and emotional enough to soothe anyone's mind but still being thoroughly enjoyable. Thereafter, Gabriel returns to close the song. Undeniably, TONY BANKS is the highlighted musician in this song. His keyboard-ing is too awing.

TO SUMMARIZE, the keyboards are omnipresent in this song. An impressive and slow solo awaits for your listening.

MORE FOOL ME, as stated in Rolling Stones' 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time, is "a taste of poppier things to come" by Genesis. Certainly, a quality track when you're evaluating from a pop-ish standpoint, slow paced, with high octaves and a melancholic yet warm melody. I don't think there's someone else to be more highlighted than COLLINS here.

BATTLE OF EPPING FOREST. Oh, Battle O' Epping Forest. Honestly, I don't know the consensus among Genesis' fans regarding this song, but from my perspective, it is an amusing song. It initiates with a military march, rapidly followed by the first main section - "Along the forest roads, there's hundreds of cars - luxury cars!" which introduces the tale of a clash between gangs over a "gangland boundary". I'm no lyrics man, but this song catches my attention like no other. Not only because the riffs are interesting to listen to, but because so are the lyrics. Gabriel is very sarcastic here, and his vocal style is HEAVILY accented and detailed with grimaces and impersonations. There are four main sections - the first two very resembling and dynamic, speedy but more much cheerful than a battle report would feel; the third being acoustic, as if it's a storyteller telling his story accompanied by a guitar; and the fourth being a Hackett-Banks outro. As said thus far, the lyricism here is amazingly poetic. Cheerfully sarcastic, and deceivingly complex - a casual listen will deem this song as simple, although it is anything BUT simple. Also, I must note the spacerockish solo Banks plays every time Gabriel announces "Here comes the cavalry!". GABRIEL's lyrical and vocals skills deems him as the highlighted mate of this song.

TO SUMMARIZE, it is a cheerful, quick, long, cynic "report" on a battle, that ends up parodying many British things.

AFTER THE ORDEAL is an instrumental piece. It has quality, but it never called my attention or fondness. Since I don't give many listens to it, I don't think I have enough information to say my opinion about it. It's not INHERENTLY uninteresting - just personally.

THE CINEMA SHOW is an epic piece that starts slow and a little unhopeful but proceeds to sound more cheerful and lovely after every verse. Lastly, the main melodic composition arrives and it's delightful to listen to. Gabriel showcases his skills again. "Once a man, like the sea I raged. Once a woman, like the earth I gave". Thereafter, Banks returns with a very distorted, very jazzy and very interesting solo; not akin, sonorously, to any other solos in the album. It has a fast tempo, it is set in 7/8 - as evidenced by the drums -, but it is generally slow played, with few notes, and accompanied inwardly by Collins. It goes building up, building up, building up... until eventually it morphs into a melody that is continued by the next track. BANKS is the highlighted man, although COLLINS also deserves an honorable mention.

AISLE OF PLENTY is the album outro. It returns to the first track's initial feeling, albeit a little more acoustic. The album begins and ends likewise, which in my opinion was a brilliant idea.

In general, those are my views on Selling England. I might have not expressed myself as well as I hoped to, but needlessly I have expressed myself sufficiently.

 Blomljud by MOON SAFARI album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.11 | 439 ratings

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Blomljud
Moon Safari Symphonic Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Modern prog has it's fair share of 'cheesemongers', yet there are few as who are as relentlessly upbeat as Moon Safari.

Hailing from Northern Sweden, this youthful symphonic six-piece first appeared in 2005 with debut album 'A Doorway to Summer', which was produced, mix and mastered by one of the band's own icons, Tomas Bodin of The Flower Kings.

Issued through their own label, the album quickly caught the attention of the prog world, and following several mini-tours and festival appearances the group returned to the studio in 2008, almost three years later, to record this follow-up.

Titled 'Blomljud'(also, incidentally, the name of the band's label), this was considered one of the top prog album's of 2008 by a number of publications and, eleven years and four studio albums later, remains in many people's eyes their definitive work.

Some say they are essentially 'Flower-Kings-lite' - think Druid to the mighty Yes - yet others revel in their unashamedly symphonic glow.

And it's that sort of of record, warm, shiny, all yearning solo's and multiple harmonies, and exactly the kind of prog Roine Stolt has been producing since the 1970's.

But despite a perceived lack of originality, one must give Moon Safari their dues.

'Blomljud' features a rich, multi-layered sound, chiming vocal harmonies and an unshakeable happiness, and exudes the same kind of rose-tinted ambience found in the sun-dappled sixties pop of the Bee Gees and The Beach Boys.

The album's key piece is 'Other Half of the Sky', which the band describe as their first 'true' epic, and at over thirty minutes it certainly is epic.

Split into five different chapters, 'Other Half of the Sky' is both overlong and grandiose, yet it features some wonderful instrumental passages, and even allows the band to rock out with some harder edged guitars and booming percussion. However, much of the half-hour piece is taken up by achingly earnest vocals and gloopy synthesized melodies, and the overall sound isn't helped by a surprisingly thin-sounding production.

The album features two more sizeable epics - the fifteen-minute 'Methuselah's Children' and the near-twelve minute 'Bluebells' - alongside further eight tracks, most of which follow the strong symphonic blueprint.

The major problem, bar the length, is the lack of tone and shade, and the neverending, one-note optimism; the music is rarely anything but positive and shiny, and the lack of counter moods begins to detract from the technical expertise of the band. What made Yes so thrilling was the constant shifting from dark-to-light, and what makes the Flower Kings so are the surprising shifts in mood and tempo.

Both are in short supply on 'Blomljud'.

But there is still much to admire.

Technically, the band are excellent, and despite wrapping everything in a glutinous symphonic sheen, the relentless optimism does shine through. At it's best, like on the epic 'Other Half of the Sky', the music is genuinely inspiring.

A complex and lovingly-crafted slice of keyboard-dominated prog with strong pop-rock and AOR elements, those who have the time, and the stamina, may well adore 'Blomljud', and fans of The Flower Kings, Karmakanic, Yes and Starcastle should seek them out.

The Swedes have excelled at making this kind of prog for a long while now, and despite their flaws one, once again, does give Moon Safari their dues: sickly sweet they my be, but they do it damn well.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2016

 3 by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.76 | 411 ratings

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3
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by Progfan97402

4 stars Back in 1993 I started buying Focus albums. Moving Waves was the first Focus album I ever heard, I won't forget hearing "Hocus Pocus" in 1989 as a teenager (right smack in the era of New Kids on the Block) and being blown away by this song (to be honest, I remembered hearing this song as a small kid, so it wasn't new to me, just that in 1989 it really caught my attention). I often wondered why I never heard any other Focus songs on the radio. When I finally heard Moving Waves, that album blew me away, not just "Hocus Pocus", but the side-length "Eruption". OK, so I now understand, it's mostly instrumental, which radio stations tended to stay away, and the best cut, other than "Hocus Pocus" was too long and maybe not the most radio friendly. I then bought Focus 3, the US pressing on Sire with the die-cut cover (but without the rainbow "Focus 3" effect, it's just simply a rainbow "Focus 3" logo) and I didn't quite liked it as much. This album really proved to me why you never heard any other Focus songs on the albums, but through the years, I can see why I was a bit hard on the album. Perhaps a bit excessive at times, but then it dawned on me, Cream likely did similar things live, but they'd do it in a blues-based manner, which Focus would never do. "Round Goes the Gossip" is the only song with singing, in fact the little bit of Latin is the only singing (other than the phrase "Round Goes the Gossip" being repeated over and over). "Love Remembered", Jan Akkerman's piece is a pretty sappy piece, with acoustic guitar and Thijs van Leer's flute, with something like a Theremin or an Ondes Martenot. "Sylvia" was a minor hit in the States, but apparently a major one in Europe, I have absolutely no recollections of this song on the radio, so obviously it didn't have an impact on FM radio the way of "Hocus Pocus" here in the States. Regardless this song is much more typical Focus than "Hocus Pocus", so while you might want to play "Hocus Pocus" to jog people's memories, "Sylvia" is a song to direct the uninitiated (that is if their reaction was "I remembered Hocus Pocus"). "Carnival Fugue" (I now also own a French pressing on the Az label that amusingly titled it "Carnival Fudge" on the label, but still titled "Carnival Fugue on the cover). starts off with classical piano and jazzy guitar, before going into a rhythm that reminds me of the Beatles' "Do You Wanna Know a Secret". "Focus III" also demonstrates all the best quality of Focus, I really love Jan Akkerman's lead guitar playing and the organ playing. I remembered hearing Petula Clark's "Don't Sleep in the Subway", and I noticed that Focus borrowed from this song! "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" gets more lengthy, with lots of guitar and organ jams, plus a slow organ-dominated piece. But it was the next song that really stuck a craw with me, and that's "Anonymous II". At times I can easily dismiss it as nothing but a wankfest, demonstrated the '70s at its most excess, other times I considered it a great and ingenious jam where each member gets their chance to solo. I really like the Bert Ruiter bass solo that starts off slowly before eventually the rest of the band starts back in and then the whole band jams. It's the Pierre van der Linden drum solo that can seem a bit excessive, but then I'm sure he's getting ideas from Ginger Baker's Cream drum solo on "Toad". Then it dawned on me: I am certain Cream did similar stuff live. Of course, with them the music would be much more blues-based, Ginger Baker would do a drum solo like on "Toad", playing drums like he rides a bicycle (Baker's drumming was influenced by his biking), and I seriously doubt Jack Bruce would dive into a bass solo (he probably knew better), the closest I can think of is Blind Faith's "Do What You Like" (which was basically Cream minus Jack Bruce, and instead Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech, formerly of Family). Of course, "Anonymous II" was a sequel to the original off In & Out of Focus (Focus Plays Focus), drawn out nearly three times longer. "Elsbeth of Nottingham" is clearly Jan Akkerman's piece, totally medieval influenced, with lute and recorders. Although "House of the King" has been featured on some pressings of In & Out of Focus (and only released as a single in Holland), it makes a reappearance here on album because some countries didn't have that song on In & Out of Focus. When I first bought Focus 3, I often wondered why "House of the King" seemed so out of place on the album. It's an earlier recording, with Hans Cleuver and Martijn Dresden instead of Bert Ruiter and Pierre van der Linden. Regardless, this is truly a classic, in the Jethro Tull vein, and one of the finest songs of Focus, too bad that didn't get picked up for American FM radio airplay.

So I'm still a bit torn over this album, it's agreed perhaps a bit of baggage could have easily been removed, but make no doubt the amount of great brilliant material included.

 Chronometree by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.31 | 136 ratings

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Chronometree
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by nandprogger

4 stars When I hear something of GL, I think: is more a prog tribute to classics of progrock. In this case is the same, but is more fantastic tribute. As a big fan of Elp I love this album, not only for this. A grand advantage of a lot of albuns of Gl is a mix of other elements that make sounds different. The sounds involving psychedelic elements of spacial/alien history. This psychedelic voices in ballads and the bass sounds create a immersion into history. In other had, I think if you are a big fan of ELP albuns but there are albuns that don't like, hear this. The theme "chronommetree" is in a whole of album inspired in the sounds of hammonds. Is right the criticism of variety of sounds of GL sounds only a tribute for 70's prog rock bands, but is don't take away the merit of a lot of GL albuns. For me is more a ELP album don't done for ELP as TRIUMVIRAT. 4 stars for fantastic ELP inspired album and immersion history
 The Inconsolable Secret by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.40 | 176 ratings

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The Inconsolable Secret
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by csglinux

5 stars I left a pretty scathing review of Valkyrie on progarchives a few weeks ago, which prompted a response questioning where my positive reviews of my favorite Glass Hammer albums were. Whoops. My bad. I do seem to have more of a tendency to complain than praise and I realized I don't have any positive reviews of GH on this site. So let me try and make amends, starting with my favorite GH album, The Inconsolable Secret.

The Inconsolable Secret doesn't seem to be well-known enough to garner the reputation it deserves. Curiously, it's not had much attention on Progarchives, but it's currently rated 4.5 stars on Amazon. I consider this a masterpiece and one of my all-time favorite albums. The effort that went into producing TIS is evident from the Tolkien-like backstory by Babb (available as a separate CD/book - 'The Lay of Lirazel'), Roger Dean album artwork, packaging - and then re- packaging with updated re-recordings featuring Davison/Shikoh. The original version of TIS comes as a double album (13 tracks) and runs over 95 minutes of music. I'm usually wary of double albums, as they tend to get diluted or stretched a bit thin (The Wall?, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway? Tales from Topographic Oceans?). That's not the case here. Almost every track is a classic - and each forms part of the story, which is quite epic in its own right. (I've always felt TIS would make a great movie!) One small point of confusion for me is that the tracks appear to be, chronologically, slightly out of order. For example, the album opens with "A Maker of Crowns", but it's really "Long and Long Ago" that sets the scene. I presume tracks were re-ordered to fit more easily on the LPs/CDs? In any case, the structure is that disc 1 contains the two longest tracks, "A Maker of Crowns" and "The Knight of the North". These are both prog masterpieces. A Maker of Crowns starts out with piano, but Fred switches up his keyboard sounds throughout, so they never sound dull or repetitive. I love the tone of the synth keyboard solo at 10:00. Schendel's keyboards are second to none. He has the technical virtuosity of the likes of Rick Wakeman or Lyle Mays, but is also able to play in a way that touches your soul. There's an emotion in his playing that I've never heard that consistently in any other keyboard player. Next up, "The Knight of the North" starts with perhaps a slightly unconventional sound of bass playing over a string section. This is one of the finest moments of symphonic rock I've ever heard. It's not terribly complex musically, but it just works. The same track also finishes with a pretty loop of all instruments covered by choral vocals - one of the most epic-sounding pieces since Yes' Awaken.

"Long and Long Ago" introduces the main theme which eventually gets reprised at the end of the album. One of the best tracks on the album with great instrumental solos and outstanding vocals, particularly from Flo Paris. (BTW, try to name the Yes track at 7:00!) "The Morning She Woke" is a shorter track that picks up the narrative of the story, with Susie taking the role of the King's daughter. "Lirazel" is another shorter track that expands on that main keyboard theme, before Susie picks up more of the narrative. "The High Place" has some of the most beautiful, gentle instrumentation and choral work. Very atmospheric. "Morrigan's Song" has a slightly Celtic sound. I think Fred would call this an interstitial piece, but it's very cute in its own right. "Walking Towards Doom" is an atmospheric instrumental with some spooky choral work which sets a scene of foreboding. You know something bad is going to happen... Mog Ruith picks up the tempo with some up-beat keyboards, which is a bit ironic, because from my recollection of the story, Mog Ruith is where our heroine meets her nemesis. "Through a Glass Darkly" seems to be a fan favorite, and rightly so. It's one of the prettiest pieces on the album with gorgeous harp, strings and vocals from Susie. (Without ruining the story for you, things aren't going too well for the heroine at this point.) "The Lady Waits" is a tasteful string piece that continues the slightly sombre mood, but with some really pretty classical music in the middle. This leads to "The Mirror Cracks" - a brass/harp/string choral lead in to some very tense, doom-laden, dramatic-sounding music which is basically a prelude to the (eventual) happier ending of "Having Caught a Glimpse". This final track is the highlight of the album for me. The build-up and vocals are stunning and the keyboard re-cap of the melody from "Long and Long Ago" with the added choral vocals is just stunning. One of the best endings to one of the best albums I've ever heard. An easy 5 stars.

--

P.S. TIS is now available in a deluxe version which has re-recordings of Long and Long Ago, The Morning She Woke, A Maker of Crowns, The Knight of the North and Having Caught a Glimpse. These are all great new recordings with additions from Kamran Alan Shikoh and Jon Davison - totally worth having, but I still prefer the originals. As good as JD is, Walter Moore's and particularly Flo Paris' original vocals are some of the most haunting I've ever heard. Thankfully, with the deluxe version, you get both versions :-)

 The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.53 | 134 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by tomprog

5 stars Well, well, well. Once in a while a band makes a statement, a definitive album that people will label ''the one'' you have to own from whatever particular band. For Neal Morse / The Neal Morse Band, this album is that ''one''. I must admit, that I am an obsessive Neal Morse fan, so some may find my judgement towards Neal's work biast, however I must argue that although Neal Morse is my favourite songwriter of all time, I am able to critique his work, finding particular efforts of his (Day for Night by Spock's or his own Lifeline) rather uninspired. It's a rare thing when one makes their definitive masterwork so late into their careers, with certain sections of the progressive world acussing Neal's work of been 'repetitive' and 'safe'. In argument to that I must say that his formula is a winning one, and I for one find plenty of variation throughout all of his albums.

Largely I pay little attention to lyrics and the concept. Although aware of the narrative, it's not something I find myself judging an albums success on. The Similitude of a Dream has a solid concept, and solid lyrics to accompany. Some criticism is levelled at Neal's born again Christian beliefs and how he spells it out in his music. He does not do that in this album for those worried (as he hasn't done since Testimony 2!). The lyrics are spiritual but not preachy (personally I'd much rather listen to something positive and uplifting and find my own happiness in Neal's faith and his proclamation of that faith). Now to the music.

The album begins with a small, beautiful string section, playing the opening theme leading into a soft Neal led piece, 'Long Day'. Although short, the addition of the acoustic guitar midway through this song moves the song forward. 'Overture' follows in all it's progressive instrumental glory. In this instrumental, everything you'd expect from a fantastic overture is there. The main themes / melody ideas are introduced and moves at a swift pace. It is truly epic in every sense of the world. This is mainly thanks to Eric Gillette's singing lead towards the end, gliding effortlessly over the accompaniment to end the overture. 'The Dream' follows, a dreamy (as the name would suggest) acoustic guitar interlude with a beautiful melody in the chorus. Neal's voice is full of passion as his warm tone resonates through the mix. Lyrically, the scene is set.

Without warning, 'City of Destruction', the first single of the album, demands attention. Although this is not my ''favourite'' song, I find the middle 8 / bridge section after the final chorus to be sublime, complete with the 'ahhh' backing vocals. Goosebumps. 'We Have Got To Go', an early highlight, follows. A short acoustic melody is followed by a Neal Morse synth instrumental. It really does just put a smile across my face. In 'Makes No Sense', the catchy hook of ''makes no sense to me'' proves to be a recurring theme. In the final chorus where the chorus modulates as each vocalist takes over the phrase is splendid. Abruptly, the rockin' riff from 'Draw The Line' comes from nowhere. With Portnoy handling lot's of the vocals (sounding better than he has previously I must add) the song switches from heavy to jazzy and laid back.

 The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.53 | 134 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by AlanB

5 stars The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, an allegorical tale of a man who flees a doomed city to journey towards a better place, meeting various characters and situations along the way. Surely an obvious choice for a prog rock concept album. The British band After The Fire, before they changed into a New Wave band, recorded a song called Pilgrim in which they covered the whole book in less than eleven minutes. That effort was reasonable for its time, but if you need the proper prog treatment then who better than Neal Morse? Morse's album in fact takes 106 minutes to cover just the first part of Bunyan's story, so he 's certainly expanded on After The Fire's effort.

Musically The Similitude Of A Dream is closer to the sound of Spock's Beard than anything Neal Morse has put out as a solo artist. So if you like Morse-era Beard (and in particular Snow) then you should love this. There are also similarities in style to Sola Scriptura and Question Mark, which happen to be my two favourite Morse albums. I would go so far as to say this is the first time Neal has matched the quality of those two albums since then. Some parts of Similitude verge on heavy metal, which isn't really my cup of tea, but because of the quality and the mixture of other styles, I really like even the heavier parts. In fact, The Man In The Iron Cage, which pays an obvious homage to Led Zeppelin, is one of my favourite tracks. The only song I really can't stand is Slave To Your Mind, which opens the second CD. It's what my parents (bless them) would have described as "a racket." I wish it had been left off the album, or written as a more melodic piece.

As mentioned before, there is a lot of variety of styles here, from acoustic pieces right through to heavy metal, and the whole album flows nicely. It really should be listened to as a whole rather than individual songs, but having said that I have to pick out a few favourites - The Ways Of A Fool, Freedom Song, Shortcut To Salvation (nice sax solo here), The Man In The Iron Cage, and also the closing tracks on each CD which have the typical Morse emotional feel and grandiose endings. Neal Morse has put together an excellent band of musicians and produced one of his best albums. I will have to give it 5 stars as fractions of stars aren't allowed. In reality I would knock it down to 4.75 for Slave To Your Mind, but that's just me being picky.

As a final comment, only part of the book is covered on this album. I would love them to go on and do Vanity Fair, Doubting Castle, the Celestial City etc. But if not, Broken Sky does give the story a satisfactory ending.

 Pictures At An Exhibition by EMERSON LAKE & PALMER album cover Live, 1971
3.85 | 842 ratings

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Pictures At An Exhibition
Emerson Lake & Palmer Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

4 stars Review Nº 97

"Pictures At An Exhibition" is the debut live album of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and was released in 1972. It was a huge contribution to the popularity of the band. The album was recorded at Newcastle City Hall in North East, England. It was the band's third official release, despite it has been made after their eponymous debut album. Due to management conflicts, the album wasn't released until after "Tarkus", their second album. Their record label didn't want to release this album as a rock album, because they thought that it must be released on their classical music label, instead on their rock label. Thinking that it would lead to poor sales, the group decided not to release it in that moment, waiting for a better chance. However, after the success of "Tarkus", the record label agreed to release it, but as a live album.

"Pictures At An Exhibition" is one of the seminal documents of the golden progressive rock era of the 70's, an album that made its way into the musical collections of high-school kids, like me, who never heard anything about the classical composer Modest Mussorgsky, and also knew nothing about the Russian nationalist artist Victor Hartman, whose work was the real inspiration for this Mussorgsky classical composition.

"Pictures At An Exhibition" was a suite written for piano by Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. When Mussorgsky was going to an exhibition of paintings at a gallery of art in St. Petersburg of Viktor Hartmann an architect and painter and a great friend of him who had recently died in 1873, he had an idea after visiting it, and soon he decided to pay a tribute and homage to his great friend. So, he chosen ten pictures of his friend, among all exposed, and then he decided to compose a song for each one, uniting by a common theme "Promenade", the various parts of the musical piece.

This band's version of Mussorgsky's beautiful work remains as one of the best examples of a rock version of a classical piece. This wasn't their first treatment of a classical piece. Emerson, had made several previous versions of some other classical pieces with The Nice. But it was the first time he reached a mass audience or get heavy radio play, at least some excerpts. It introduced the notion of "classical rock" to millions of listeners, making the classical music seen from another point of view, becoming to be considered less pretentious and more popular into the public.

With this version of "Pictures At An Exhibition", the band stayed true to the original themes, but played them with the energy, rawness and loudness of rock. However, they also added some self written pieces, like "The Sage" and the energetic jam "Blues Variation". The piece was one of the band's favourites on stage. So, the album was naturally also recorded live. This is the live album that best demonstrates what a tight and powerful unit, Emerson, Lake & Plamer, was on stage. It was also their most moog dominated album, to that point, and Emerson experiments with any sound possible on the instrument. But his organ playing was still the main focus in the music, and especially on the side two, delivering the whole band some of their most raw and energetic playing ever. The album also featured a rather cheesy version of "Nutrocker" which was released as a single. "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a wonderful and captivating album that proves the progressive rock still has many interesting boundaries of the 70's that can be explored today.

For many, the Emerson, Lake & Palmer's performance of "Pictures At An Exhibition", in this period of time, will no doubt show the band at the peak of their powers. It's not hard to see why. This progressive rock super group at this stage in their career were about to prove to the world that they were the real musical deal. Playing, they certainly could, as their skills were perfectly on display throughout this set, as each part of Mussorgsky's composition contained lengthy solos, especially from Emerson, whose array of Hammond organ, moog synthesizer, piano and clavinet never fails to deeply impress a real listener watchful. We really can say that the man is truly a great gifted artist.

Conclusion: "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a very uncommon and special live album. It's a new album where all the songs are original and which was never initially released as a studio album. "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a great album and is also a very special album because it brought many people to the pleasure of the classical music world. So, personally I have no problem with it and I applaud the pioneering and the audacity of this musical adaptation. We may say that "Pictures At An Exhibition" is probably their most accessible musical work and it's probably also the less prestigious album, of which are in general considered their six most important and indispensable musical works. Those works are their first six albums, four studio albums and two live albums. So, "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a difficult album to digest if you aren't used to with the sound of the group or with the classical music. However, believe me. This live album, even after all these years, still remains as a magnum opus of the classic progressive rock era.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.53 | 134 ratings

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The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude Of A Dream
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by javajeff

5 stars This is an incredible album. It is flawless in every way and deserves to be in the conversation with the best concept albums ever made. This is actually my very first Neal Morse solo album, so I cannot compare it to anything else other than Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, or Flying Colors. I think I have been avoiding his solo stuff due to the religious nature. I have been warming up to it more, so I will explore his back catalog. What I can say about The Similitude Of A Dream, is that it is loaded with variety of styles, but keeps a signature Neal Morse feel. One thing that really stuck out is that there are many vocalists on this album, and I especially liked Mike Portnoy's vocals. He has a voice that is perfect for playing a part on concept albums. The variance in the vocals really added depth by bringing extra excitement to the theme. There are times when I listen to The Similitude Of A Dream where I feel it sounds more like Dream Theater than Spock's Beard. I believe the musicianship is just perfect, and the drumming by Mike is superb as always. The compositions are excellent, and the songwriting is stellar as expected by Neal Morse. It is up there with all of his best albums, and I believe it even surpasses the masterpiece Snow. I cannot find any negatives after many listens, and I am sure that The Similitude Of A Dream will be in my rotation for a long time. I highly recommend this to anyone that loves progressive rock or concept albums.
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21. PERON Turkey
5BRIDGES Netherlands
7 OCEAN Belarus
ABBHAMA Indonesia
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ACCENT Romania
ACHE Denmark
ACUITY United States
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AETHER Brazil
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AIRLORD New Zealand
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AMENOPHIS Germany
AMOS KEY Germany
ANABIS Germany
ANCIENT VISION United States
ANDERSON BRUFORD WAKEMAN HOWE United Kingdom
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ANGE France
ANGIPATCH France
ÄNGLAGÅRD Sweden
ANIMA Argentina
ANIMA DOMINUM Brazil
ANIMA MORTE Sweden
ANIMA MUNDI Cuba
ANOXIE France
ANTARES Germany
ANYONE'S DAUGHTER Germany
APHÉLANDRA France
APHRODITE'S CHILD Greece
APOCALYPSE Brazil
AQUAPLANAGE United Kingdom
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ARACHNOID France
ARCABUZ Spain
ARION Brazil
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ART IN AMERICA United States
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ASIA MINOR Turkey
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ASTURCON Spain
ATILA Spain
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ATLAS Sweden
ATMOSPHERA Israel
ATOLL France
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AVIVA (AVIVA OMNIBUS) Russia
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ROBERT BERIAU Canada
ED BERNARD Canada
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BOX OF SHAMANS United States
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BUSKER Canada
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CAST Mexico
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CITIZEN CAIN United Kingdom
CLAY GREEN'S POLYSORBATE MASQUERADE BAND United States
CLEARLIGHT France
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COLLEGIUM MUSICUM Slovakia
COTO EN PEL Spain
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CRACK Spain
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EDEN Canada
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FLAGSHIP Sweden
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INDEX Brazil
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IZZ United States
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