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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 | 3811 ratings
CLOSE TO THE EDGE
Yes
4.63 | 3536 ratings
SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND
Genesis
4.60 | 3065 ratings
FOXTROT
Genesis
4.45 | 2978 ratings
FRAGILE
Yes
4.41 | 2671 ratings
NURSERY CRYME
Genesis
4.39 | 2208 ratings
MIRAGE
Camel
4.38 | 1897 ratings
MOONMADNESS
Camel
4.39 | 1459 ratings
HYBRIS
Änglagård
4.36 | 2575 ratings
RELAYER
Yes
4.35 | 1078 ratings
SI ON AVAIT BESOIN D'UNE CINQUIÈME SAISON
Harmonium
4.29 | 2500 ratings
THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY
Genesis
4.29 | 2409 ratings
THE YES ALBUM
Yes
4.28 | 1927 ratings
THE SNOW GOOSE
Camel
4.27 | 2169 ratings
A TRICK OF THE TAIL
Genesis
4.31 | 980 ratings
SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER STORIES
Renaissance
4.32 | 734 ratings
DEPOIS DO FIM
Bacamarte
4.24 | 1746 ratings
EMERSON LAKE & PALMER
Emerson Lake & Palmer
4.25 | 903 ratings
VILJANS ÖGA
Änglagård
4.25 | 850 ratings
HAMBURGER CONCERTO
Focus
4.22 | 890 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

TALES FROM AN ISLAND - IMPRESSIONS FROM RAPA NUI
Blank Manuskript
ENTANGLED
Leitmotiv
SKRYVANIA
Skryvania
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DAY
Exodus

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Latest Symphonic Prog Music Reviews


 Invention of Knowledge by ANDERSON/STOLT album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.84 | 137 ratings

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Invention of Knowledge
Anderson/Stolt Symphonic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars The prolific Jon Anderson has been quite a busy man lately, having recovered from illness with a new found energy and passion, a trait that disproves the long held misconception that rock music is the governance of the young and only the young. Beyond 71 years of age, he continues to voyage into unfamiliar territories such as his long delayed cooperation with Jean-Luc Ponty, a thoroughly successful venture that yielded the aptly named 'Better Late than Never' album and subsequent well-applauded tour. Here, he has teamed up with Swedish mastermind Roine Stolt of the Flower Kings and Transatlantic fame, to create a very Yes-like opus that proves only that the creative juices that inspired him in the glory days of progressive rock, still has a resonating voice and audience today. Sadly, the judgmental universe that we now live in will give way to some unfair and foolish criticism from shameless detractors who need to fuel their pill-fed apathy (to stay awake at the keyboard at the very least) by puncturing this symphonic opus with brazen detritus. Well, like they say at the hardware store: screw them! If you no like, move the hell on!

Gathering a rather stellar crew of familiar faces from both the FK, such as bassist extraordinaire Jonas Reingold, drummer Felix Lehrmann and former FK bassman Michael Stolt) and from the Yes side, Tom Brislin, whilst including the supremely talented Swedish keyboardist Lalle Larsson, the two protagonists certainly have aimed precisely at what they wanted to achieve, a classic sounding Progressive Rock album. Both Anderson and Stolt have never sounded better and more confident, and truth be said, you can hear the enthusiasm displayed throughout. Let us be honest first of all, this collaboration has more musical width and breath than anything spewed by Yes since , my goodness' since Relayer!

That being said, the nine tracks do flow into one another rather seamlessly, a very linear sounding series of arrangements within each piece that get busy one moment and quite atmospheric the next, as on the end of 'Knowledge', where the swirling effects really take hold. As with the Ponty collaboration, the music is totally uplifting, spirited if not necessarily overtly spiritual, spiced by occasional bursts of energetic gusto and dazzling playing by all instrumentalists. Roine can carve with the best of them, a talented guitarist who can infuse a variety of styles that span the gamut of influences, from Howe, Hackett and Gilmour to more oblique talents such as Allan Holdsworth. He can play fast, controlled and delirious when prompted. While Squire has always been a giant, Reingold is one hell of a player, seeing him live seals the deal. A monster.

I also cannot help noticing that three songs contain the sound NO (as opposed to'Yes) in Know, Knowledge and Knowing. Coincidence? Nah, must be my meds. Yeah, I know (no). In fact, all the titles have a positive spin and message. Eat that Steve Wilson!

The glorious track 'Knowing' is an 11 minute celestial epic that reeks the most of 'Close to the Edge', owner of a skilled melody and some complex orchestrations, Lalle's divine grand piano, screeching synth swirls and a fully determined vocal performance that is easily among the very best ever captured by a microphone. The two follow up pieces 'Chase & Harmony' and 'Everybody Heals' are equally masterful expressions of musical craftsmanship and passionate delivery. Shorter ditties offer hope and salvation, 'Better by Far' and 'Golden Light', a lovely diversion that goes straight to the owner of lonely Heartstrings and pulls on them delicately. The jazzy, windswept and airy 'Know' is an 11 minute tropical paradise of topographic ocean breezes, Jon's voice a warm zephyr that soothes the soul and medicates the mind, a beach with grandiose piano, shuffling bass, brushed cymbals and a laid back, laissez-faire attitude. 'An answer to a promise that delivered you' as Roine swirls his guitar like Carlos Santana. Totally delicious.

I enjoyed the whole enchilada, an album that will need made more listens and new details to discover, so dense this is. I was expecting something a bit lamer I guess and I was wrong. The cover artwork, booklet and inlay are truly first-class and worth the eye candy.

4.5 Devices of Awareness

 Dust And Dreams by CAMEL album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.66 | 433 ratings

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Dust And Dreams
Camel Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

4 stars Review Nº 86

"Dust And Dreams" is the eleventh studio album of Camel and was released in 1991. After the release of their second live album "Pressure Points" in the late of 1984, the band disappeared from the media without ads. For a few years Andrew Latimer was fighting with lawyers to get some due royalties and to resolve the problems with their former manager. Both, Latimer and Decca, amicably agreed to put an end to their contract, which was made on April 10th, 1985. After the end of the contract with Decca, Latimer wasn't interested in other record labels. To avoid more waste of time and energy, Latimer and his wife Susan Hoover decided to sell his London's house and moved from England to California. So, Camel was able to create their own record label, which was called Camel Productions. He used the money from the sales of his house to build a small studio where "Dust And Dreams" was recorded and produced.

The line up of the album is Andrew Latimer (vocals, guitar, flute and keyboards), Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards), Colin Bass (bass) and Paul Burgess (drums). The album has also the participation of some other musicians: David Paton (vocals), Mae McKenna (vocals), Don Harriss (keyboards), Christopher Bock (drums), Neil Panton (oboe), John Burton (French horn) and Kim Venaas (harmonica and timpani).

So, after seven years of a hiatus of time, Latimer revived Camel and recorded this conceptual album "Dust And Dreams", an evocation of "The Grapes Of Wrath", the great literary oeuvre of the famous American writer John Steinbeck. For those who aren't familiarized with the book, it's important to write few lines about it. "The Grapes Of Wrath" is a novel which was published in 1939 and was awarded with the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize in 1962. The oeuvre was also immortalized by the beautiful movie, with the same name, directed by John Ford in 1940 and starring the great American actor Henry Fonda. This American classic comes to the effects of the Great Depression of small family farms of the American West. It tells us the story of a poor family in the state of Oklahoma, who during the Great Depression of 1929 was forced to abandon the lands occupied by them for decades, on a sharecropper regime, due to the arrival of the progress and including the purchase of tractors and machinery for the owners of those lands, and the born of a new property regime of lands. This factor has made obsolete the manual labour of plowing and planting the land and forced them to head toward the false Eden, called California, in search of a better way of life.

"Dust And Dreams" is another very emotional album with excellent compositions and nice melodies. With this album, we are brought back to the early Camel's sound and to their great quality musical level. As happened with "Nude", "Dust And Dreams" initially divides its time between songs and instrumentals before ceding halfway, through purely instrumental music. The music is largely kept very quiet, and there are only four vocal tracks. As a conceptual album, the eighteen tracks are all interconnected as if it's only a single theme. "Dust And Dreams" can most likely be regarded as a mixture of elements of two previous Camel's albums, "The Snow Goose" and "Nude". Not in the sense that the old ideas are new warmed up, but the stylistic elements are somehow similar. Most on the album are keyboards in the foreground, not bombastic, but always attentive and appropriate to the original novel, mostly of the melancholy kind. There are many beautiful songs here, all of them with instrumental pieces in between. In fact, the album finishes with several fine instrumental sequences. Again Latimer, as a producer, a composer, a guitarist, a keyboardist and a singer, did a fine job. His guitar playing always brings joy to the listener, sometimes invoking the goose bumps and others a big smile on our face. It's a very beautiful album with music for our sense, soul and heart. This is really a fine working.

Conclusion: "Dust And Dreams" represents an amazing and surprising return of Camel to their most progressive routes, after a long period of silence and less good albums. Camel has their best and most symphonic musical period in the 70's, with their four first studio albums, "Camel", "Mirage", "The Snow Goose" and "Moonmadness", which correspond to their golden era. These four albums are absolutely fantastic. After that, they released some good albums, some of them are really very good, such as, "Rain Dances" and "Nude", or even "Breathless" and "Stationary Traveller" are also very good. But they also released two weak albums, "I Can See Your House From Here" and especially "The Single" Factor". So, it's with great pleasure that we can see, finally, another great album of Camel. So, somehow we can say that "Dust And Dreams" is the beginning of a new era in Camel's music. It's without any doubt one of their best musical works and represents also the start of a new golden musical era to the group. It looks to me that it represents a different version of Camel, perhaps a more modern version. Camel will be always a great band.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Live in the US by KARMAKANIC album cover Live, 2014
4.26 | 20 ratings

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Live in the US
Karmakanic Symphonic Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars Aye, over there in Gettysburg, KARMAKANIC have sent a message from the heart indeed. Due to a quite appealing first impression, I already had this album on my checklist for a while ... and fortunately came back to it in time. Considered with enough care and concentration now, this one finally appears to be a flabbergasting affair. I'm thinking of the instrumental finesse first of all, the top-notch compositions, this paired with playfullness par excellence. And it is superb how they are blending different rock music styles with ease.

Recorded in 2012 during the Rites Of Spring Festival here we have a set of songs taken into account from their previously produced albums, except the debut however. 'Live In The US' is quasi embraced by the composition When The World Is Caving In, presented in two incarnations, the reprise initiated by a Genesis cover. Reprise and surprise. For example you will be faced with rather odd impressions on this album. Just take Do U Tango where they are freaking out a lot, a drum solo inclusively. Appears to be close to avant respectively zeuhl somehow, yes!

Partially there's a rather strong jazzy attitude to state. By way of example I want to emphasize Where Earth Meets The Sky, which makes my day especially. The song bears an intriguing instrumental part of about six minutes, decorated with a fine piano solo by Lalle Larsson and Krister Jonsson's soaring space guitar later on. Grandezza! I love this! Turn It Up is a MUST to sing along with, in the same way 1969 which shows reminiscences to Yes. When listening to Eternally sooner or later you'll know what dramaturgy in music means.

This is all directed by Jonas Reingold's bass, fretless for the most part, charming and virtuoso at once. Fans of bands like Syzygy, The Flower Kings, and surprisingly Karmakanic, are welcome here! Swedish prog rock live on stage in Gettysburg, a complex setting, rich on styles. They are leaving nothing to be desired. And this applies to Göran Edman's vocal presence as well. In German I would use the adjective 'Herrlich!'. An almost perfect performance - 4.5 stars!

 Threephonic by PABLO EL ENTERRADOR album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Threephonic
Pablo El Enterrador Symphonic Prog

Review by zetamoog

4 stars This is my first review, I've been a regular visitor of this site, but from now on, a new member. Here we got the third recording of Pablo el Enterrador, the mitic Argentinean prog band. Threephonic consists in 9 songs from the last period of the band, as trio format. The recordings dates are between 2004 to 2006, till the death of Jorge Antún, keyboardist and band composer. The first track , Marcha del regreso, is the only song that have a different style from the rest of the album, is in a strong ELP format. Always been a success at live shows, in the old times, but never recorded till now. The rest of the album have the early 80's Genesis style, with strong keyboards presence, plus some rhythm machines and real drums played by Marcelo Sali, and guitars solos and accurate vocals by José Maria Blanc. Best tracks: Marcha del regreso; Pasión, with fantastic lyrics and an epic finale; Caída Libre, instrumental, a dynamic and very well played tune, remind me Do the neurotic, a Genesis B side from mid 80's; and Encontraré un Lugar, a beautifull song, probably the best track, with strong lyrics and changing tempos, perhaps in a Genesis ? Duke style. As a closing era, this third album is a brillant effort. Here in Rosario, Pablo el enterrador origin, we know how they worked for this to see the light. Congratulation for the musicians, is a great album, 4 stars without doubt. Sorry for my english!
 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.96 | 9 ratings

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Valkyrie
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

5 stars Once they hit their first stride early in the mid Nineties with `Perelandra', American progressive rock band Glass Hammer have delivered a consistently strong series of symphonic-prog albums, earning the well-deserved reputation as one of the premier modern bands playing in that style along the way. Two of their albums in particular, first 2002's `Lex Rex' and the epic double-set `The Inconsolable Secret' three years later are often considered modern symphonic classics (and fans of the group will happily argue back and forth amongst each-other about which of their numerous other releases over the years can join those two!), but 2016 finally brings not only the undisputed next album to join that duo, but one that is likely to become the defining Glass Hammer album of their entire career to date.

`Valkyrie', a lyrically rich concept work telling the tale of a loving couple separated by war and a soldier's eventual emotional and mental struggle upon returning home is ripe for a lyrically and musically dramatic interpretation, and the group completely convey the trauma and turmoil with great sincerity and empathy - certainly a grounded story a world away from the fantastical elements so often found on progressive rock albums! But while fans and progressive music listeners only aware of the type of style Glass Hammer play in would be right to expect another grand symphonic work to match the story, what will likely surprise everyone is just how modern sounding this `retro prog' band is throughout the disc. It's still instantly recognisable as the Glass Hammer their fans know and love, but this is hardly some mere vintage prog re-enactment. `Valkyrie' sees the band experimenting with little traces of elegant cinematic grandness, Post Rock, jazz-fusion, psych-pop, electronica and even hints of heavier rock, making for a work with a rejuvenating, eclectic and contemporary edge that has all the musicians sounding completely refreshed and determined to impress.

With previous singer Carl Groves away from the group again for now, the time is perfect for three of the most important contributors to the Glass Hammer sound to reclaim their throne. Taking the well-deserved leading lady spotlight once again and delivering a career best performance is Susie Bogdanowicz, and far from being just a lovely singer with a pretty vocal, as always she brings true spirit, powerful conviction and a dramatic heart that puts most of her fellow contemporary prog ladies in check. It's also a delight to discover GH founding members, bass player Steve Babb and keyboardist Fred Schendel, taking equally as many of the lead vocals again too (especially the latter). They might not quite have the bigger vocal ranges that past singers such as Groves, Jon Davison and others had, but they've been singing on Glass Hammer discs since the beginning, and their voices have always been full of personality and character, making this something of a `homecoming' vocally for them, and a real joy to hear for long-time Glass Hammer fans. The two other players are now long established in the group and must be well on the way to be part of what can be considered the `definitive' Glass Hammer line-up - Aaron Raulston's drums rumble with such variety, depth and purpose, solidifying him as the best and most complex drummer to ever be a part of the band, and gifted guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh once again finds way to delivering equally ravishing and subdued performances, reaching in some surprising directions here we've never heard of on previous Hammer discs.

Launching right from the start into delirious proggy excess balls-and-all (or as politely as prog can do `balls-and-all!'), `The Fields We Know' bombards the listener with plenty of what Glass Hammer do so well - up-tempo and lively colourful instrumental flashes racing in all directions alongside catchy vocal passages with the perfect mix of whimsy, warmth and drama. It makes for an energetic opener that instantly calls to mind their `Lex Rex' album, with moments of dreaminess and little playful call-outs to Genesis, all backed to Steve's rumbling bass leaping about loud and proud - is there seriously a better bass player active today performing this type of prog music who always sounds this good?! Next up, `Golden Days' is sprightly and warm to match the wistful lyric, full of Fred's always sublime zippy keyboard solos and embracing Susie and Fred vocals with glorious multi-part group harmonies, but a Pink Floyd-flavoured electric-piano come-down and grinding brooding guitars to end on hint of approaching darkness. `No Man's Land' is mostly comprised of several lengthy instrumental passages, including a booming synth introduction, manic jazz-fusion twists, loopy percussion twitches and seamless bursts up and down in tempo, an unsettling edge to an eerie droning spoken-word-like interlude and a distortion-heavy stormy climax the final destination.

But even when the band isn't charging headfirst into a dozen different proggy directions there's still wonderful things to discover. Instrumental `Nexus Girl' bristles with slinking electronics, programmed beats and Post Rock-flavoured chiming guitars behind the whirring synths, and the simpler Steve-sung title track `Valkyrie' is dreamy and drowsy psychedelic pop that eventually rises in power. Alan's chugging heavier guitars and Steve's mud-thick menacing bass make `Fog of War' rumble with a toughness, and the track holds one of the most joyful and unashamedly poppy choruses the band have ever delivered with a strong crossover appeal (well, if the rest of the track wasn't Prog dialled up to 11!).

`Dead and Gone' effortlessly moves between melancholic, hopeful and mischievous! Sad piano and a treated haunting vocal from Susie cry ethereally from beyond throughout, but creaky Mellotron-slices, humming organ and life-affirming guitars lift the track in hope and victory, but still with a looming tension. It's a nice showcase for Kamran too, who's guitars offer everything from weeping strains, infernal snarling bites and cutting jazz-fusion fire all in under ten minutes - and just dig that darkly grooving finale from the fellas!

The pristine `Eucatastrophe' is a heart-breaking Susie-led ballad, the chiming classical guitars throughout reminding of the final moments of Genesis' `Dancing with the Moonlit Knight', and it's one of the most precious and sobering moments on the disc before the piece dashes into tougher E.L.P-flavoured keyboard flare. The opening acoustic guitar reflection and pin-drop still piano of final track `Rapturo' show just how well the band deliver quieter, sedate moments, the rest of the carefully focused piece going on to soar with Anathema-like reaching guitar shimmers and a dignified powerful vocal send-off from Susie that makes for an album closer unlike any to appear on a Glass Hammer before.

A widescreen masterclass example of current progressive music that perfectly fuses vintage and modern sounds with an equally on-point balance of subtlety and bombast, Glass Hammer have completely set the symphonic-prog standard of the year with `Valkyrie', their most ambitious, mature, grandiose, vocally exquisite and instrumentally rich work to date. Long-time fans will absolutely adore it but also likely be very surprised as well, and newcomers to the group could not pick a better place to start exploring their wondrous music. Crackling with warmth, variety, inspiration and overall progressive music excellence, it is very possibly the greatest musical statement of Glass Hammer's near 25-year career so far, but indisputably one of the finest and most essential prog discs of 2016.

Five stars.

(Please note - This review was made available to various GH street team members for advance reviews ahead of the 27th September 2016 release date , no dodgy download here, thank you very much!)

 The Prelude Implicit by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.23 | 55 ratings

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The Prelude Implicit
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by YagKosha

5 stars I'll be honest, when I first heard that the guys from Kansas were making their first record in 16 years, I predicted that every song would be a slow-paced bore. But thankfully I was wrong; the gents from the heartland have prepared for us an album to remember.

"The Prelude Implicit" is, in my opinion, their best album since "Point of Know Return." Here, as one should generally expect from Kansas, every member is at the top of their game; the musicianship and the instrumentation of this band has not lost its touch in 40 years. The vocalist sings tremendously, the guitar work is amazing - everything from the riffs to the solos shine brightly throughout, the drums are powerful and full of energy, the violin work is probably the best I've heard from a Kansas record, and the piano/keyboards are exquisitely utilized with beautiful melodies. The production of this album sounds very clean, powerful, and huge.

I'm listening to, what I believe, is the most impressive - and definitely the most progressive - track on the album as I write this review: "The Voyage of Eight Eighteen." Honestly, this song sounds like one of those gems that would've been released by Kansas c. 1975. It's full of complex and beautiful melodies, incredibly technical guitar work, awesome interplay between instruments (specifically violin and keyboards), and so on. It's really a song to be heard. Some of my other favorites are the opener "With This Heart," the heavy experimental rocker "Rhythm of the Spirit," and the excellently fast-paced, chorus-driven "Summer." One song that I had to replay after first listening to was "Refugee." It is a haunting acoustic driven track assisted by a violin with a great chorus. That description may sound familiar, especially with Kansas, but don't worry, the band didn't plagiarize themselves with a carbon copy of "Dust in the Wind." "Refugee" very much has its own unique and viable identity.

 Genesis by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.76 | 1053 ratings

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Genesis
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Let us relive our lives in what we tell you"

Looking over many of the scathing reviews by our fine den of distinguished progressive music sages, it was John Mellotron Storm's review that resonated with me. So I'm going to briefly wax nostalgic as well. As with John this largely loathed collection by Genesis zaps me instantly back to the fall of 1983, wandering the institutional hallways of the brick fortress where they tried to fill my head with academic tripe. For the most part it was social survival, clock watching, D and D, and trying to balance days of great fun with hours of frightening anxieties. The security of home life was quickly giving way to a world I didn't really want to enter and one that I find more appalling every day. But back then there were many cute girls, few of them interested in my social circle naturally, and yet so much laughter. Despite our social fears, despite being bullied before "bullying" was a thing, we had the last laugh in terms of our friendships and our time. We caught the very tail end of the world when it was still pretty cool and made the most of it.

Anyway, as mentioned by the Doctor, unless you were in a coma that fall you were hearing "That's All" on the radio. The album never much appealed to me at the time as I was mostly into hard rock then. It's been decades since I've heard the album with any regularity and I find now it is a joy to hear again. While we ridiculed it then, though not to the level of being a parking-lot album, I now love the strong pop melodies throughout and find them nicely shaded with Genesis art rock window dressing. I think it is one of the stronger 80s releases to come from the 70s prog biggies. Consistent, colorful, and with some standout tracks. Side one is really good and side two is good enough, my personal fave being the beautifully detailed "Home by the Sea" duo. Listen to the moving lyrics about the end of life, the urgency to pass on something, reflection. Obviously the dated percussion can ruffle "prog" feathers but I enjoy this as much as than anything they did post "Wind and Wuthering". "Mama" kills as well with great atmospherics by Tony and a biting guitar solo which fades much too soon.

I think what made this release is that they were writing as a group again rather than coming in with finished songs. This approach in this case led to an album that overall feels "fresh" while achieving the new kind of success they were chasing. Every song is engaging and pleasing despite the fact we are all required to take a pledge to hate 80s Genesis while activating membership at PA. There's a sense of optimism in the Shapes album and it feels like an earnest effort. The cover art is perfect for the album as well, attention to detail throughout. It's easy to be cynical about 80s Genesis but this album goes down much easier all these years later, an easy listen, quality pop craftsmanship, and for me stoking hazy memories of suburban kids in a Mr. S's history class. I can judge pop albums pretty easily by how I feel when I contemplate playing them--some I know will bore me to tears, some I get excited to hear again. This one falls into the latter camp. It's not quite 4 stars straight up but its better than 3, and like John I feel compelled to round up on this one.

 Second Sound by DRUCKFARBEN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.92 | 118 ratings

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Second Sound
Druckfarben Symphonic Prog

Review by Kingsnake

4 stars One of those excellent bands that fall through the mazes.

This band blends the musical power of Yes, Saga, Spock's Beard, It Bites and UK and creates an energetic and almost unique result.

There's very much going on. Tempochanges, synth and guitarsolo's abound. A lot of the instrumental passages and battles between keys and guitar remind of the old days of UK, Saga and Yes. The guitarsolo's have this fusion-kinda feel (like It Bites, Holdsworth, etc.), the vocals are a ballsy version of Jon Anderson.

The drums are very good and remind a bit of Spock's Beard, the bass is heavy and remind of that british bass-sound (Chris Squire, Greg lake, etc.)

Te result is energetic, unique, powerful, melodic, difficult but catchy, progressive poprock, that only young people can make. Move over, oldies, here are Druckfarben. Let's just hope they release more albums.

 Like It Is - Yes at the Mesa Arts Centre by YES album cover Live, 2015
3.45 | 41 ratings

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Like It Is - Yes at the Mesa Arts Centre
Yes Symphonic Prog

Review by tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Welp, here it is, the latest-dated Yes material to feature Chris Squire (who died in 2015 from cancer, R.I.P.). After the release of Heaven and Earth, Yes did some token promotion of it in their concerts, but the main attraction was clearly the band's decision (after the success of the 2013 "Three Album Tour") to play both Close to the Edge and Fragile in their entirety. As before, Howe and Squire mostly sound fine, White sounds sluggish, Davison sounds anonymous, and Downes sounds passable but fairly generic. As before, this album is somewhat redundant and unnecessary, but it also features two of my favorite albums (and this time ups the ante by including two of my favorite 25 albums or so rather than two of my favorite 100 albums or so), so I ultimately end up enjoying it at a gut level even if I roll my eyes a little at an intellectual level.

The inclusion of a full performance of Close to the Edge (presented in original order even if, in concert, they did it backwards) is not especially noteworthy, seeing as most of their live albums since 1972 had included at least one of the three tracks (and in some cases all three). The performance of "And You and I" is extraordinary, an emotional assault that probably would have left me breathless if I had seen it in person, but both "Close to the Edge" and "Siberian Khatru," while perfectly fine (if a bit slow as had become customary), sound as if the band had long passed its prime in terms of playing them (which it kinda had). Now the Fragile material, well, this is where a bunch of novelty lies, for good and for bad. True to advertisement, they actually perform both "Cans and Brahms" and "Five Percent for Nothing," and while I think both are great tracks in the context of the original album, they sound kinda silly here. As for the other material, it's generally fine; the opening to "Roundabout" is tweaked in a curious way that I don't think is for the better, but I'll never get sick of hearing live "South Side of the Sky" versions (I don't care how many live versions have been put out in the 21st century, it was the great lost Yes gem for 30 years and is forever immune to any complaints about overexposure), and "Heart of the Sunrise" sounds especially crisp here (I'm kinda bummed that they didn't go full out and include the "We Have Heaven" reprise at the end, though). I do kinda wish that "The Fish" had been more stretched out in a more typical way rather than condensed to more closely mimic the studio version, but again, they were going for a specific performance vibe, so I don't especially mind it.

Frankly, I believe that a Yes fan should either get both this and its predecessor or get neither; even if the two albums are from two different tours, they serve identical purposes, and I feel nearly the exact same way about them. In a perfect world, neither of these albums would exist (Yes would have disbanded in 2004), but they're enjoyable enough and worth hearing a couple of times.

 Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome by YES album cover Live, 2014
2.93 | 44 ratings

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Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome
Yes Symphonic Prog

Review by tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer

3 stars In 2013, some time after Benoit David had left and Jon Davison had joined, but before the band recorded Heaven and Earth, Yes found itself in need of a gimmick for its next round of live touring. The solution they fell upon was somewhat simple and yet somewhat genius; they decided that, on a nightly basis, they would play three of their 70s albums in full, with a short encore (generally "Roundabout") at the end. Dubbed "The Three Album Tour" (haha), a typical show would feature the entirety of Close to the Edge, followed by the entirety of Going for the One, followed by the entirety of The Yes Album, and it would end with the encore. This live album does not capture an entire typical set; instead, it presents the performances of Going for the One and The Yes Album from a show the band did in Bristol (the band clearly knew at the time that it would do Close to the Edge in full in a subsequent tour and could release that portion in a separate live album, which they eventually did).

Quite honestly, I still can't figure out if this album and its successor are interesting curiosities or completely pointless cash-grabs, and while I slot them both in a general "pretty good-ish I guess" range, I can't really figure out when I'd want to go out of my way to listen to either of these as opposed to other live Yes albums. Just as on In the Present, Howe and Squire are generally in good form, while White does his best to keep the overall sound from dragging too much but sounds like he'll really need a warm bath to sooth his aching limbs when he's done. Regarding Davison, I initially found myself much more irritated at listening to him sing classic Yes material than I did at hearing David, but I quickly got used to him; I still find it a little unsettling to hear him work his way through "Turn of the Century," a song that clearly meant so much to Anderson when he helped write it way back when, but other than that I generally barely notice him. Downes, then, is a curious case when it comes to this material; he's fully competent with the material, and he manages to put his own spin on small details in the parts that make it so he's not just aping Kaye and Wakeman, but "his own spin" tends to involve streamlining some parts in a way that makes them blander and more milquetoast than in their original incarnations. His playing of older material is a good way away from the punchy, energetic playing that characterized his performances on the bootleg I have of one of their 1980 shows for instance; I get that he's more than 30 years older at this point at all that, but it's still a little disappointing.

With all of these quibbles noted, this live set is still a presentation of two of my 100 favorite albums or so, and thus there's a floor on how low I can reasonably regard it when listening to it. Plus, it's not like the set is without its own interesting quirks, especially in the portion covering The Yes Album. For this tour, the band made the decision to alter its live performances to more closely match the original studio versions than they'd typically attempt, and this leads to some interesting deviations from established patterns of live performance. A couple of examples: the mid-section of "Yours is No Disgrace" is significantly shorter and more restrained than had always been the norm for live performance, and the ending portion of "I've Seen All Good People," rather than crashing into the end after a build into a prog-boogie frenzy, instead quietly ratchets down in the mantra-ish manner of the original. Plus, this album features "A Venture," never performed live before this tour, and Downes clearly has a blast in taking ownership of it.

Nobody really needs this album or its successor, but "unnecessary" need not mean "unenjoyable," and if your tolerance for inessential late-period live albums is high (and boy howdy mine is apparently unhealthily high), you could still get this without feeling regret. Whether you would later feel a need to sell it or give it to Goodwill is another matter entirely, of course.

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Bands/Artists Country
21. PERON Turkey
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7 OCEAN Belarus
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ACCENT Romania
ACHE Denmark
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AIRLORD New Zealand
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ANCIENT VISION United States
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ANGE France
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ATOLL France
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ED BERNARD Canada
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CLAY GREEN'S POLYSORBATE MASQUERADE BAND United States
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