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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 01/01/2015

Iván Melgar Morey (Iván_Melgar_M)
Scott Tuffnell (AtomicCrimsonRush)
Anton Fritz (SouthSideoftheSky)
H.T. Riekels (bhikkhu)

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 | 3468 ratings
CLOSE TO THE EDGE
Yes
4.63 | 3199 ratings
SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND
Genesis
4.61 | 2763 ratings
FOXTROT
Genesis
4.43 | 2689 ratings
FRAGILE
Yes
4.42 | 2403 ratings
NURSERY CRYME
Genesis
4.38 | 1987 ratings
MIRAGE
Camel
4.40 | 1335 ratings
HYBRIS
Änglagård
4.38 | 1715 ratings
MOONMADNESS
Camel
4.36 | 2334 ratings
RELAYER
Yes
4.36 | 991 ratings
SI ON AVAIT BESOIN D'UNE CINQUIÈME SAISON
Harmonium
4.29 | 2159 ratings
THE YES ALBUM
Yes
4.28 | 2250 ratings
THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY
Genesis
4.28 | 1736 ratings
THE SNOW GOOSE
Camel
4.27 | 1958 ratings
A TRICK OF THE TAIL
Genesis
4.34 | 664 ratings
DEPOIS DO FIM
Bacamarte
4.30 | 879 ratings
SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER STORIES
Renaissance
4.24 | 1550 ratings
EMERSON LAKE & PALMER
Emerson Lake & Palmer
4.25 | 808 ratings
VILJANS ÖGA
Änglagård
4.24 | 771 ratings
HAMBURGER CONCERTO
Focus
4.17 | 1773 ratings
TRESPASS
Genesis

Symphonic Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DAY
Exodus
SÈVE QUI PEUT
Ange
WELCOME TO THE FREAKROOM
Shadow Circus
BOOK OF HOURS
Willowglass

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Latest Symphonic Prog Music Reviews


 Upon Darkened Stains by ANIMA MORTE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.54 | 24 ratings

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Upon Darkened Stains
Anima Morte Symphonic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I picked this up some time ago based on the guest list as well as this band being described as being greatly influenced by Horror movie soundtracks, in particular Enio Morricone and GOBLIN are mentioned by the band. Well expectations can really put a damper on things can't they? This is rightly listed under Symphonic but the modern sounding guitar, synths along with the outbursts of power didn't do much for me. On the other hand the mellotron kills on this album and it's on every track. We get 12 short songs and oh yeah the guests include Mattias Olsson(ANGLAGARD), David Lundberg(GOSTA BERLINGS SAGA), Ketil Einarsen(KAUKASUS) and two other guests. As much as I enjoy this album except for some of the reasons listed above, quite a few songs seem to be extended just for the sake of extending them in my opinion.

"Blessing Of The Dead" opens with piano as mellotron, church bells, strings and drums join in. This builds and falls throughout. "Illusion Is The Catalyst" opens with piano and synths but it turns dramatic very quickly before settling in with synths and piano out front. Sudden outbursts come and go before it turns powerful. We get mellotron and strings as well as themes start to get repeated. Not a fan of the first two songs. "Ephemeris" is a top three though and it opens with flute, cymbals and atmosphere before the drums and more arrive. I like the sound of this one a lot. Some nice drum and bass work too. Gotta love the flute on this track as well. "Fear Will Pass Over Your Mind" starts with an eerie mood as drums, atmosphere and intricate sounds lead the way. It picks up before a minute and I really dig the mellotron choirs after 3 minutes. "Wakeless" is another top three for me. Picked guitar as the drums and bass join in then mellotron. The guitar starts to solo then the piano leads. The mellotron is back in full force. Nice. Then the guitar returns soloing and it's quite emotional a minute later. "Interruption" has some slicing violin before a minute and mellotron as well. I like the low end sound here.

"The Darkest Pattern" opens with intricate sounds and synths as the drums join in. Synths lead after a minute and some nice bass 1 1/2 minutes in. The guitar leads before 3 minutes then back to the synths. The guitar is back late. "The Carrion Crow" opens with picked guitar as drums and bass join in. Piano and more follow. A catchy beat here and the organ helps out as well. Mellotron 2 minutes in then piano and violin late. "Echoing The Red" picks up quickly with beats and pulses as the organ, mellotron arrive then the strings and guitar play over top. "Isomorphia" turns quite powerful with the guitar out front fairly quickly and the guitar is expressive here. "First Snow On The Last Ashes" is more like it as it's more relaxed, especially the mellotron a minute in and it will come and go. "Halls Of Death" is my final top three. Atmosphere to open as intricate sounds play over top. It picks up and there's an orchestral vibe because of the strings slicing away. It settles down with flute then picks up again.

I can see myself revisiting this album in a few years from now and wondering why I didn't give this 4 stars. Well, right now it's about expectations and it falls a little short. 3.5 stars.

 The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.28 | 2250 ratings

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The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by AndyJ

4 stars Genesis's 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' is an album which can divide opinion and create debate like no other...Everyone who listens to progressive music probably has their own opinions regarding 'The Lamb', its impossible not to. Judging from the reviews on Prog Archives there are definitely a lot of strong opinions about this particular Genesis album, and I'd expect no less! Unlike 'Selling England' or 'Foxtrot', which are easily identified as masterpieces of prog, with 'The Lamb' it isn't so clear-cut. Is this album a masterpiece? Perhaps...

There have been times in my own life when I have held up 'The Lamb' to be the single greatest piece of music in all of recorded human history. But equally there have been times when I've been far more sceptical about the record and regarded it with only a passing interest. The truth, like so many things, probably lies somewhere in-between these two extremes. In my opinion 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' is the perfect example of the flawed masterpiece.

But in sitting down and writing my review for this oh-so mysterious album I can already feel it tugging at me, calling to me, wanting to be listened to once again. One thing is certain, 'The Lamb' has never been far from my thoughts at any given time. I still get excited when I listen to it - it's intoxicating, not least of all because I still haven't got the slightest clue what its all about! It's almost like a puzzle or a mathematical equation which demands to be solved. The lyrics are clearly a metaphor for something - I've just never figured out what! I've tried reading other people's thoughts on the matter, spent hours digesting notes on the Internet of interpretations and theories, but nothing seems to feel right to me. In a way it doesn't really matter. The biggest joke might be if Peter Gabriel doesn't even know what it means, and the words were just chosen because they made good lyrics and fitted together well...!

But what perplexes me more is why has this album taken up so much of my time, after-all, the previous Gabriel-era Genesis albums are far superior to this one, right?... 'The Lamb' doesn't have the long and highly enjoyable progressive instrumental passages from previous albums, it isn't as experimental or I might argue as progressive as the bands previous records. In many ways its a bit more straight-forward than the previous Genesis records.

In 'The Lamb' all attention is on Peter Gabriel and his vocals, with little room for musical freedom from the rest of the band. Now there are a few songs on the album which buck the trend and allow for a bit more musical exploration, like the track 'In The Cage' or 'Riding The Scree', but those songs are few and far between. What I find even more perplexing, however, is that a good 25% of the album is more-or-less filler, especially on the second disc. In fact I sometimes even find myself skipping the odd track in the second half when I sit down and listen to this. How can this be a masterpiece then? Well as I said its a flawed masterpiece...

...but I wouldn't change a second of it!

I initially set out to write a 3-star review for this album, but how can I? There may be a a good chunk of filler on here, but there are also some absolutely fantastic Genesis songs which deserve, even to this day, to be listened to by everyone. The good on this album more than does enough to wash away the bad. Is this the greatest record in human history? A few years ago I might have said yes, but really its not 'the greatest'... I'm not even sure I'd put it in my top 10, but regardless it is still absolutely essential for any prog fan though... But you all already know that, right? Reviewing this album isn't anything ground-breaking, in-fact I doubt anyone is going to read yet another review for this already over-reviewed album. I'm not going to change any opinions with my review of this album, I just felt like I wanted to add my own voice to the mix regarding this album.

'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' gets a very solid 4-stars from me, as its probably the fairest rating I can think of... Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to listen to 'The Lamb', maybe more than once!...

 Four Pieces by LLOYD, CAILYN album cover Studio Album, 2012
2.71 | 3 ratings

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Four Pieces
Cailyn Lloyd Symphonic Prog

Review by docall27

4 stars I only like about six classical music pieces and three of them are on this CD. I saw a review of this album in Progression, and being a fan classical-rock adaptations like Pictures at an Exhibition, I had to have a copy. Cailyn is a very talented lady and pulls off a very impressive effort. The opening track, Fantasia is an adaption of Fantasia on a Theme by Vaughan Williams and the best track on the album IMO. This track sounds faithful to the original in an almost reverent way with some tasty overlaid guitar. The bass and drums are solid and punchy and surprisingly effective. Somewhat lost in the mix is some very nice piano working behind the guitars.

Largo is from the Dvorak New World and is a loud (almost too much) remake of the quiet movement. This track has some great guitar work, with the exception of the beginning where the guitar fails to capture the mysterious atmosphere of the original. After that however, Largo has some cool blues moments that lead to a rocking climax and a return to the opening music. This track will take a couple of listens unless you are familiar with the original.

Adagio is powerful and reverent take on Adagio for Strings by Barber. There is a great video for this track on her Youtube page. The final track, Nocturne, was written by Cailyn is a mostly quiet bluesy piece that reminded me of Andy Latimer and Camel. Some lovely licks and guitar work. A perfect late-night chill out song. Not essential but an excellent addition to any collection so 4 stars.

 Day For Night  by SPOCK'S BEARD album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.24 | 338 ratings

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Day For Night
Spock's Beard Symphonic Prog

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Don't you just love prog rock?

Every single band that makes headwaves in the genre stirs up the critiques and praise of everyone who puts their ears to their latest tracks, and since band styles change as much as the genre itself, each album sounds distinctly unique. Even if you played this album on a nice sunny day on a Tuesday afternoon, and 3 seconds later a friend walks in, he in effect is listening to a different "performance" of the album that you're listening to. It's a theory proposed by composer and musician Andrew Durkin, the idea that every time you press play, it's a different performance, not necessarily song, every single time. It's the same thing, just... slightly different.

And that phrase perfectly describes some of the styles of the best bands in the genres, with Spock's Beard one of the top on the list. It's a distinctly synth-driven sound, but it seems to slightly morph from album to album.

As I might have mentioned on reviews of earlier albums (or not, I don't remember), the Morse-era Beard seemed to progress from dated sound quality and absolute extremity in terms of prog, length and showmanship, with just a dash or two of radio-quality music, and as the band progressed from album to album, the sound began to shift slightly towards that radio-friendly sound while still maintaining a significant keyboard presence, thus that traditional sound is still intact, just more diluted than normal.

Which leads us to "Day For Night", perhaps the radio-friendliest of all the Morse-era records. And yet, it still quite isn't. There's something about Morse's voice that truly prevents it from being radio-friendly in my mind. Still, this is most certainly from a progressive standpoint the weakest output to date from the group. The title track isn't really much of an opener, and "Gibberish" and "Skin" don't really fit the bill (although "Skin" is a bit catchy). "The Distance To The Sun" is probably one of the best efforts off the disc, a truly honest acoustic ballad, with just enough of a saving grace to continue on in this album.

"Crack The Big Sky" sounds off to a good start, it's a catchy opening with accompanying hand claps, and is structured a bit more like Spock's more elaborate tracks. It's not a bad track at all, it still sounds like SB, and it's also catchy. So at this point, you can spot the trend, and not have to continue on to realize the rest of the album is like this.

But then "The Gypsy" plays, and it's a little bit of a shock. The weird ambient opening breaks the trend of the album, and even in the chorus, it's not very catchy at all. It's very much a groove oriented piece, but yet I'm struggling to even groove to the song until the more instrumental features kick in. Very proggy indeed, but also very out of place on this album.

And it especially sounds out of place when "Can't Get It Wrong" comes in right after, which sounds exactly like a Gungfly track. It almost sounds like Morse was trying too hard to channel his inner John Lennon or something. It's a track that completely turns me off, but for all the wrong reasons. And frankly, it's unexplainable.

So now we enter the broken up elephant in the room, "The Healing Colors Of Sound". The intro is distinctly Spocky. The rock organ driven synths lead into the guitar licks and instrumental showcases in a typical jam rock fashion the Beard does very well. It even ends with an quick but outstanding little solo by Alan, "the other Morse". But then it transitions into "My Shoes", which sounds like Neal transmitting his inner Elton John. It sounds lovely, but it has almost no connection to the intro which (presumably) spawned it.

By the time "Mommy Comes Back" starts, it's clear this isn't a traditional prog epic, and that these songs really just should've been edited as stand-alone tracks, which they are. This song starts off with this album's signature weird staggered sounds that sound akin to "Gibberish" and "Skin". The song itself is quite groovy though, and the added special effects and voicebox provide some color and uniqueness to it.

"Lay It Down" sounds more bluesy, or maybe it's just the chorus. It's another fine tune, but still lackluster on its own, and the same goes to Pt. 2. There's no connectivity between any of these tracks. Of course, that'd be ok if these songs could stand on their own as individual tracks, but apart from "Mommy Comes Back", none of them are really stand alone tracks. All of them feel like they're missing concluding choruses, or a bridge or quick instrumental lick sections or something. It starts off so promising, and then little by little, it just repeats itself like a broken record. It's incredibly lackluster and disappointing.

But perhaps that's not so surprising. A year later Spock's Beard put out "V", one of their best albums, with "Snow" coming out two years later, probably the best of the Morse-era Beard. So even though this is a lackluster disc, "Day For Night" is the culmination of a serious problem that the band has had, balancing progressive jams with catchy tunes. Obviously, it's not so easy, but it's a sound the band has constantly taken a crack at with each of their releases (with "V's 'All On A Sunday'" being my personal favorite).

Perhaps that's why the post-Morse Beard has gotten such a bad rap at the beginning. Neals' voice just doesn't always fit the bill of a catchy radio-friendly tune, and the continued attempt to balance that has been a constant struggle in the early post-Morse years, where (in my opinion) they got back on track with heir self-titled release (e.g. "Wherever You Stand"). But now that the band is really starting to master the balance between "prog and catch" (that's a phrase I just made up), their latest album now is quite a hype-generator, especially since "Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep" is being hailed as a return to form the group (it's one of my favorites as well).

So with that in mind, perhaps it's worth a gander back in time to this disc and see, not necessarily where it all went wrong, but perhaps where it finally reached the extreme end of "sell-out mode" after years of build-up ("Beware Of Darkness", "The Kindness Of Strangers"), and how it's defined the band's sound ever since. It's an interesting history lesson that everyone can learn from.

Don't you just love prog rock?

 Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison by HARMONIUM album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.36 | 991 ratings

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Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison
Harmonium Symphonic Prog

Review by AndyJ

3 stars Harmonium's 'Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison' is my first journey into the music of this Canadian prog-folk band, and I've been left struggling for words to describe this one. I've only had this disc in my collection for a few weeks now, picking it up after looking through the prog-archives database for "something new". I'm really open to hearing any new music, so to see an album with many excellent ratings that I hadn't heard before I thought was certainly worth checking out.

At first I didn't really know what to think when listening to it. There are no drums, no electric guitar, none of the more 'traditional' elements of prog music that I'm so familiar with. I wasn't even sure if this was particularly progressive, to my ears it just sounded like beautiful French-Canadian folk music. But I kept listening, and enjoying what I was hearing. And then I reached the final track, 'Histoires Sans Paroles', and I was absolutely floored. Wow - where has this piece of music been all of my life! Such incredibly beautiful progressive music. It didn't need the electric guitar, or drums, or blazing fast keyboard solos which are so typical of the prog style I admire so much.

This is a progressive album which does things on its own terms. The musicality here is delightful, there is a wonderful interplay between the instruments. And its just so beautiful and happy (or hippy perhaps?). This record has been getting at least one play a day since I bought it and I'm discovering more and more with each listen. But here is my problem in assigning a rating to this album. I appreciate and enjoy the first 4 tracks, but in no way do they compare to the final track, the 17 minute epic 'Histories Sans Paroles'. I can't give this album 5-stars, and I'm not even sure that 4-stars would be a suitable rating. Really, this is somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, and I'll probably be a little bit cautious and give this one 3-stars, but this might change as I give this album more plays.

 The Waiting Soldier by BLANK MANUSKRIPT album cover Studio Album, 2015
5.00 | 1 ratings

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The Waiting Soldier
Blank Manuskript Symphonic Prog

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Specialist

— First review of this album —
5 stars Each time I receive an album from my good friend Alfons Wohlmuth I ask myself how different would be the story of BLANK MANUSKRIPT if they had been born in the UK instead of Austria, because each and every one of their previous releases has been impeccable and brilliant, but never got the attention that many inferior British bands receive.

Their debut Tales from an Island - Impressions from Rapa Nui was excellent A Profound Path was too short but better musically , now I received the conceptual The Waiting Soldier, which is as good as all the previous but on a full length LP Format, so there's not a weak moment on their career.

My first positive impression was when I saw the cover, a beautiful presentation in LP format that made me remember my youth, after opening it read the lyrics and found an interesting concept in the form of a diary of a guy who wants to be called a soldier, but really isn't one neither too brilliant.

Now to the music: The Waiting Soldier is opened by Induction, a track that starts with the sound of marching boots and almost immediately leads to a guitar solo enhanced by the band that morphs into a jazzy flute section. But from them , we can expect almost anything, the band performs frenetic passages interrupted by soft melodic passages where the keyboard and vocals remind me of PINK FLOYD but with an aggressive side.

Public Enemy is a delightful heavy Prog song with s a strong melody and radical changes that go from oneiric and atmospheric moments to powerful explosions of sounds. The radical changes are delightful and the vocals remind me again of Pink Floyd. . Kites to Sky is a beautiful tune with the charming voice of Nora Sigl who creates a naive atmosphere that fuses perfectly with the dramatic guitar solo and the nostalgic feeling that the band provides. Tender song in contrast with the frenetic end experimental Doubts that brings ALAN PARSONS PROJECT to my mind, but only for a moment, because the operatic section (with a tenor's voice) and the vibrant flute finale blew my mind. Really exiting.

The Night is the longest track of the album and BLANK MANUSKRIPT explore places they never visited before, too hard to describe and words can only ruin the experience of guitar solos, lush keyboard passages and vibrant rhythm section with dramatic changes..:Better to listen it without having a hint of what's coming,

The album ends with Conclusion and Cloud, the first one, my favorite song, because somehow comprises all the story in one song that again has a bit of everything for the pleasure of Prog geeks like me. Cloud on the other hand is a collection of sound effects that in my opinion shows the chaotic state of mind of the "Waiting Soldier"

No problem with the rating, The Waiting Soldier is at least as good as A Profound Path, which received 5 stars from me, so have to go with the same rating.

 Tarkus by EMERSON LAKE & PALMER album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.04 | 1371 ratings

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Tarkus
Emerson Lake & Palmer Symphonic Prog

Review by AndyJ

3 stars ELP's 'Tarkus' is a real love/hate affair for me. I absolutely love the epic song 'Tarkus', and absolutely hate the rest of the drivel that exists on this album. I'll duck and cover while I wait for the hail of abuse I'm likely to get for spouting such blasphemy against an acknowledged great prog album!

Here's my take on this very mixed album. ELP put all of their eggs solely in one basket, the song 'Tarkus'. They composed and played their hearts out, and in the process created something truly wonderful. A real prog aficionado's dream of a song. 'Tarkus' ticks everyone of my progressive boxes - it has amazing keyboard work from Keith Emerson, brilliant strings and vocals from Greg Lake and the drumming from Carl Palmer is out of this world at times. 'Tarkus' is so full of depth and complexity that it holds you attention throughout the 20 minutes.

But ELP had only composed 20 minutes of music with the album opener, not enough for a long play record. So the second half, at least to my ears, is pure filler. They might have been better off leaving the second half of the vinyl blank, or reciting the shipping forecast. Or perhaps postponing the release of the album until they had better compositions to put on there. I find very little in the second half of the album even slightly worthy of my attention. So much so that if this whole album had been like the second half then I would suspect this album would be rated as one of the worst 1970's albums ever.

When I listen to this album I stop after the first track. And that's pretty sad. I have tried to listen to the remaining songs on the album, but compared to what came before I find them utterly unworthy of my attention, and frankly I find songs like 'Jeremy Bender' and 'Are You Ready Eddy?' really quite trite and tiresome.

For the opening epic I give this album 5 stars, and for the remaining 6 songs I give this album a pitiful 1 star. By my reckoning that's a solid 3-star rating, but personally I'd only buy this album for the opening track. 'Tarkus' the progressive 20 minute suite deserves to be listened to by everyone, the rest of the album may or may not be your cup of tea!

 Selling England By The Pound by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.63 | 3199 ratings

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Selling England By The Pound
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by AndyJ

5 stars Genesis's 'Selling England By The Pound' is, in my humble opinion, the finest piece of progressive rock ever crafted, and possibly one of the finest records from any genre of music. It has stood the test of time remarkably well and become the yardstick by which all other progressive works are to be measured. If ever there was a record to begin a journey into progressive rock with it is this one.

It was entirely by chance I discovered 'Selling England By The Pound', and I owe it all to a friend of mine at university who was obsessed with Gabriel era Genesis and would play Genesis at all hours of the day! Through him I discovered this classic, as well as the other early Genesis albums. It was this record which turned me from a heavy metal listener into a classic 70's prog-rock fan, and I'm not sure anything else would have succeeded in doing that. I was mesmerized and entranced by the music on here, and to this day I still hold it in the highest respect.

In this album we find Genesis at their absolute peak both creatively and musically. Everyone is in superb form throughout; it is truly majestic to behold and listen to these utterly timeless songs. Simply put this album has some absolutely gorgeous musical compositions and hugely memorable moments, both vocally and instrumentally, throughout the entire running. The mood shifts around from song to song, from the upbeat opener 'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight' through to the reflective 'Firth Of Fifth' and onto the melancholic 'The Cinema Show'. Over the fifty minute running you are taken through an emotional journey.

Everyone is given plenty of room to shine on this record. Peter Gabriel leaves enough space for everyone to play their part, something which was sorely missing on their follow-up. Here we find Peter Gabriel in phenomenal form, perhaps the finest vocals he has ever laid down. Steve Hackett delights us with his beautiful and soaring guitar lines. Tony Banks is perfect in here, restrained when needed and bombastic at the right moments. Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins are equally important to this music, driving the songs forward with powerful bass and drums. I've often thought Phil Collins doesn't get the respect he deserves in regards to his drumming capabilities. Sure he may have divided opinion when he stepped up to replace Gabriel at the microphone, but behind the drum-kit he is an absolute powerhouse and so creative.

I consider 'Selling England By The Pound' to have the two greatest Genesis songs ever written, 'Firth Of Fifth' and 'The Cinema Show' (with the third being the legendary 'Suppers Ready' from 'Foxtrot'). With all that said there is no other rating possible other than 5-stars. A perfect album for any lover of music, progressive or otherwise! This is an absolute essential album that deserves a place in any music collection.

 Drama by YES album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.76 | 1276 ratings

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Drama
Yes Symphonic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars After the ho-hum response that divided YES fans on "Tormato," the pressures of being one of the biggest prog bands of the 70s had clearly taken its toll. The music was becoming more of a chore in keeping up with the current trends instead of making the music that inspired the band in the early 70s, so exit stage left both Jon Anderson AND Rick Wakeman (again). Ironically it was Anderson and Wakeman who were the most enthusiastic about making a new album after "Tormato" but when the creative juices failed to gel they split leaving the continuation of the band in question. I mean really. YES without Jon Anderson? Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White were having none of the band breaking up business and set out to figure out a way to keep it going. The ushering in of the 80s couldn't have been more different than a mere ten years earlier when progressive rock was just beginning to blossom. By this time heavy metal, disco and pop were in and even country was having a comeback.

As the YES destiny would have it, the remaining YES members serendipitously were recording in an adjacent studio of The Buggles members Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. The Buggles had become the cutting edge band in the new world of music of new wave and MTV and their famous track "Video Killed The Radio Star" was not only the very first video to ever appear on MTV but also hit #1 in the UK. Chris Squire happened to own their album, they all hit it off and the next thing everyone knew was a totally unforeseen new incarnation of YES. Ironically after two albums that eschewed the artistic album cover talents of Roger Dean, the new wave YES actually solicited his return to create an album cover for DRAMA, their 10th studio album. So Trevor Horn took up duties on vocals, a tall order indeed but despite not reaching the heights of the mighty Jon Anderson does a veritable mimicry that keeps the vocal ties to the past while allowing the music to go places no YES fan had ever anticipated.

Wow. What a trippy album this is. No, not trippy like whoa! this is so lysergic man! but trippy like whoa! this sounds like YES but it also sounds like lots of other things. This is one of those YES albums that really divides the fans. Some love it and some hate it. I happen to love it however i wholeheartedly concede that this does not come close to their streak of early 70s masterpieces which progressively rocked the world and changed the very fabric of space-time. This is different in every way. This is a one-shot exploration into a monstrous hybrid of old YES and contemporary influences with a healthy dose of 70s kickbacks as well. YES was humble in that it realized it needed to evolve into some new beast to be relevant. I totally admire this about them. For better or for worse, they were having none of the stuck-in-the-early-70s syndrome and found a new way to let their talents stand out.

The first track "Machine Messiah" actually reminds me of a slightly new wave version of Pink Floyd's "Welcome To The Machine." It has acoustic guitars and lyrics that totally bring that classic to mind, however Geoff Downes keyboards take it to a new level. A great way to start the album. After a 10:27 intro track the contrast slaps you in the face with the 1:21 "White Car," which is a strange little interlude of synth and vocals. "Does It Really Happen" has some classic Squire bass lines going on with some new wave guitar of Steve Howe. While Steve does his best to be modern on the guitar duties, it's actually his excellent lead guitar fills that keep this grounded to the classic YES sound since they are ever so unique and unequivocally YES sounding. This track has a "Blue Collar Man" feel from Styx on the keyboards. "Into The Lens" is another lengthy track that could rightfully qualify as progressive new wave. Nice bass line and staccato backups. For the longest time i only remembered this song under my own invented titled "I Am A Camera." Great instrumentation here and one of my favorite tracks on the album. "Run Through The Light" sounds to me like a Yes meets The Police track. Doesn't quite sound like Sting and company but very much drifts into their territory of the day. "Tempus Fugit" is a Latin phrase that means "time flies." My next favorite track. I love the bass line, the guitar and the lyrics which includes the band's name as an integral part of the chorus.

Another testament to the brilliant members of YES comes alive on DRAMA. While the album cover is a little weak compared to their others, i really dig the music on this one. I get an excellent musical enjoyment experience out of it but because of the fact that they are trying so hard to copy other sounds rather than creating them, it does not deserve the highest of honors that their earlier material does. DRAMA displays a band which was searching for new avenues in musical exploration and despite not taking the lead in coming up with new musical ideas, YES does an EXCELLENT interpretation of current trends while adding just enough classic touches to please the open-minded fan of their glory days. This may not be better than the output from 1970-74 but this is actually better than "Tormato" and almost anything that came out from the 90s on. In short, DRAMA is a delight that will please anyone who loves both YES at its progressive rock heyday and the better prog pop phase of the band.

 The Six Wives of Henry VIII by WAKEMAN, RICK album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.07 | 621 ratings

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The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Rick Wakeman Symphonic Prog

Review by AndyJ

4 stars Rick Wakeman's 'The Six Wives Of Henry VIII' sounds very much like the love child between Yes and ELP. And let me tell you something - this album is so much fun! I can't think of a single progressive rock fan who wouldn't have a blast listening to this album, there is just so much to explore here. At first the music can be a little overwhelming, there is a lot going on, and a lot of disparate musical themes to work through. But there is structure here and enough hooks to pull you in. There is melody and harmony, interplay between the different instruments and a strong direction within the music. The album isn't just a rambling 40 minute keyboard solo - far from it. The more you listen to this album the more you pick up and admire from the music.

Musically Rick Wakeman covers it all here, from sublime progressive rock to honky-tonk bar music, classical music, to ambient elevator music through to a more free form jazzy improvisational style - its all here, contained within this six musical pieces. Obviously the stand-out performance is from Rick Wakeman himself, who plays a huge variety of keyboard instruments on this album from the mighty mini-moog synthesiser, to mellotrons, hammond organs and traditional acoustic piano. The man is indeed a legend on his instrument, and a master composer.

But its not just the keys which are superb. The drums, gutiar and bass are all fantastic as well, but with a line-up which includes (amongst others) Chris Squire, Alan White, Bill Bruford and Steve Howe, you would expect no less. Some of the drumming in particular is simply brilliant - very creative and it really helps to drive the music forward with each beat and add structure to the music.

As for the theme of the album surrounding Henry VIII's wives I have to say the music doesn't really match in my opinion. Frankly Wakeman could have called this album 'The Six Beers In A Six Pack' and just labelled each track 'Beer 1', 'Beer 2', etc... I don't really get a feeling for Jane Seymour when I listen to track 4, or Catherine Parr when I hear the album closer. But it doesn't matter. There are no lyrics here, and the only story is one of musical journey. And the journey contained in this album is superb and well worth travelling down!

This album is a very definite 4-star prog rock epic, and something which all lovers of progressive rock should have in their album collection.

Highly recommended.

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Symphonic Prog bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
21. PERON Turkey
5BRIDGES Netherlands
7 OCEAN Belarus
ABBHAMA Indonesia
ABSTRACTION LAYER Brazil
ACCENT Romania
ACHE Denmark
ACUITY United States
ADVENTURE Norway
AETHER Brazil
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ANDERSON BRUFORD WAKEMAN HOWE United Kingdom
ANGE France
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ESPIRITU Argentina
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OTA PETRINA Czech Republic
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POLLEN Canada
PRE United States
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RICK WAKEMAN United Kingdom
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WALLY United Kingdom
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WELCOME Switzerland
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X RELIGION Uzbekistan
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YES United Kingdom
YESTERDAYS Romania
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ZEBULON Germany
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ZYCLOPE Spain

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