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PROG FOLK

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Prog Folk definition

In the wake of the 60's, a Folk revival started on both sides of the Atlantic, and got quickly linked with a protest movement, not always, but often linked to more left-wing tendencies, which did not sit well with the authorities. BOB DYLAN, JOAN BAEZ, WOODY GUTHRIE, JOHN DENVER, BUFFY STE-MARIE, but also the FARINA couple Richard and Mimi for the US and SHIRLEY COLLINS and EWAN McCOLL (mentor of BERT JANSCH, JOHN RENBOURN ) for the UK and HUGUES AUFRAY in France. In Quebec, there was the "Chansoniers" phenomenon among which CLAUDE LEVEILLE and FELIX LECLERC were the most popular, waking up the sleepy "Belle Province" and stand up for itself from the English rule. The English part of Canada also brought up JONI MITCHELL, LEONARD COHEN (although he was from Montreal) and NEIL YOUNG.

As DYLAN turned electric with his Highway 61 Revisited album, much to the dislike of purists who yelled for treason, Folk Rock was born, opening the floodgates for younger artists to turn on the electricity. As DYLAN soon abandoned to style to create Country Rock with his next album, his British equivalent Scotsman DONOVAN stayed true to Folk Rock. In the US, THE BYRDS were the main promoters of the style by now, culminating with the superb "Eight Miles High" track with a lengthy (for the times) guitar solo of almost one minute. But countless other bands on the west coast, such as LOVE, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE (and later its spin-off HOT TUNA), GRATEFUL DEAD, QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, and TIM BUCKLEY all started in the folk rock realm. Even San Fran's SANTANA with its Latino traditional music and, on the east coast, NY's THE LOVING SPOONFUL had folk roots. Notwithstanding the immense popularity of SIMON & GARFUNKEL and their delicious harmonies, Folk Rock was appealing only to the rock public as the older generations turned their backs in folkies.

In the UK, following on their countrymen DONOVAN, many Scotsmen were very influent in exploring new grounds for folk rock: INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (led by Scots Palmer and Williamson) with their two highly influential albums "5000 Layers Or The Spirit Of The Onion" & "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" and THE PENTANGLE (led by other Scots Renbourn, Jansch and McShee and their superb bassist Danny Thompson) and its incredible fusion of folk, blues and jazz style were very instrumental in developing the style to the same extent as FAIRPORT CONVENTION and THE STRAWBS who by that time were still more conventional US "west-coast folk rock". The single artistes in folk rock became known as Folk Troubadours were also numerous and often presented a more progressive side of folk: AL STEWART, NICK DRAKE, ROY HARPER, TYRANOSAURUS REX (actually a duo of Steven Took and Marc Bolan) , JOHN MARTYN etc.

However, the real angular album that will lead to further change of Folk Rock is FAIRPORT CONVENTION's "Liege & Lief" album, that proved to be highly influential for another generation of groups: this album concentrated into electrifying seminal English traditional folk and retained that quaint Englishness taste. It is interesting to see that both leaders of FAIRPORT quit the band after this success to go their respective way: Sandy Denny to a solo folk songwriting career and Ashley Hutchings to a very traditional folk rock. By this time, most connoisseur were talking of Acid Folk, Psych Folk, and Progressive Folk, all having limited differences and no particularly drawn-out limits or boundaries, but all relying on experimental or groundbreaking adventures and good musicianship but not necessarily of an acoustic nature.

Groups like THE THIRD EAR BAND and QUINTESSENCE relied on eastern Indian music influences and, sometimes, medieval tones. Other groups like the weird COMUS, THE TREES, SPIROGYRA, FOREST, the superb JAN DUKES DE GREY (all listed in the ProgArchives) but also TRADER HORNE, TUDOR LODGE, FOTHERINGAY, MAGNA CARTA, TIR NA NOG (all of whom could also be in the ProgArchives) were out to break new ground but with less commercial success as their predecessor. By 1972, all of the glorious precursors bands were selling fewer records and had problems renewing themselves and a newer generation of groups was relying in a more Celtic jigs or really traditional sounds. Such as HORSLIPS, DANDO SHAFT, STEELEYE SPAN, AMAZING BLONDEL, ALBION DANCE BAND and SPRIGUNS OF TOLGUS. Although JETHRO TULL had some definitive folk roots right from the start, their only albums that can be regarded as Prog Folk are 77's Songs From The Woods and 78's Heavy Horses. Ian Anderson (another Scots) was very keen in acoustical traditional songs. Some Folk Troubadours such as TIM BUCKLEY and JOHN MARTYN started turning records more and more axed towards fusing jazz and folk (a bit in what THE PENTANGLE were doing) , others became more and more electric and they started to be referred to as Singer Songwriters especially those with country rock influences.

In Germany, HOELDERLIN (and their fantastic debut album), EMTIDI, OUGENWEIDE, CAROL OF HARVEST, WITTHEUSER & WESTRUPP were exploring German folk while KALACAKRA , SILOAH and EMBRYO were indulging with Indian music. In South America, most notably in Chile, LOS JAIVAS (very bent upon Andean Indian music) and EL CONGRESSO (more Spanish-Latino folklore) were using folk in their rock, so much that some press talked about them referring it with the hateful term Inca Rock. In Quebec, the progressive movement exploded with the cultural identity and the Chansoniers tradition and this was carried out with LES SEGUIN and HARMONIUM and so many more. In France, many groups were out for folk rock such as RIBEIRO ALPS, TANGERINE, and ASGARD. In Spain, Flamenco playing a dominant role as well as Basque folk, TRIANA, ITOIZ and HAIZEA were the head of the movement once the Franco regime fell apart after his death.


There is also a very important medieval music influences dimension in some groups as the term Medieval Folk was also mentioned for a while but apparently dropped by musicologists. Among the UK groups are obviously GRYPHON, GENTLE GIANT and THIRD EAR BAND, in France: MALICORNE and RIPAILLE and in Scandinavia: ALGARNAS TRADGARD and FOLQUE.


Hugues Chantraine

Current Team as of January 1, 2015

Bob Moore aka ClemofNazareth
Ken Levine aka Kenethlevine
Sean Trane

Prog Folk Top Albums


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

4.64 | 2442 ratings
THICK AS A BRICK
Jethro Tull
4.32 | 1874 ratings
AQUALUNG
Jethro Tull
4.17 | 1014 ratings
SONGS FROM THE WOOD
Jethro Tull
4.17 | 237 ratings
ALTURAS DE MACCHU PICCHU
Jaivas, Los
4.21 | 140 ratings
ST. RADIGUNDS
Spirogyra
4.13 | 453 ratings
RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE
Gryphon
4.13 | 405 ratings
FIRST UTTERANCE
Comus
4.15 | 237 ratings
GRAVE NEW WORLD
Strawbs
4.14 | 224 ratings
HERO AND HEROINE
Strawbs
4.14 | 163 ratings
MICE AND RATS IN THE LOFT
Jan Dukes De Grey
4.11 | 242 ratings
THE HAZARDS OF LOVE
Decemberists, The
4.31 | 52 ratings
ERWARTUNG
Eden
4.04 | 890 ratings
STAND UP
Jethro Tull
4.16 | 91 ratings
EZEKIEL
Itoiz
4.01 | 1064 ratings
A PASSION PLAY
Jethro Tull
4.13 | 96 ratings
BELLS, BOOTS AND SHAMBLES
Spirogyra
4.00 | 832 ratings
HEAVY HORSES
Jethro Tull
4.10 | 109 ratings
HÖLDERLINS TRAUM
Hoelderlin
4.21 | 57 ratings
THE COURAGE OF OTHERS
Midlake
3.99 | 840 ratings
MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY
Jethro Tull

Prog Folk overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

AMETSAREN BIDEA
Errobi
VALHEISTA KAUNEIN
Scarlet Thread
TALES OF THE RIVERBANK
Dancer
THROUGH THE GATES OF DEEPER SLUMBER
Smell of Incense

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Latest Prog Folk Music Reviews


 What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World by DECEMBERISTS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
2.80 | 13 ratings

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What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
The Decemberists Prog Folk

Review by FunkyM

3 stars Ah, The Decemberists. A few years ago they were darlings of the progressive folk genre, having released the very good The Crane Wife and the utterly fantastic The Hazards of Love. However, many were unhappy with their move towards the Americana pop/rock style on The King is Dead.

Now, in 2015, the band returns with a new release sporting the lengthy title What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World and they seem to be aware of the discontent from some over changing up their sound. The opening number, "The Singer Addresses His Audience" is a very plain statement from the band to those fans who have become critical of them that the change was necessary. That the band couldn't remain musically stagnant is understandable and admirable. Bands should not aspire to become creative stagnant, after all.

However, the band's response is somewhat betrayed by the fact that, on the whole, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is a bit of a retreat in terms of The Decemberists' musical direction. The album moves the band towards their pre-Crane Wife sound mixed with a bit of The King is Dead whilst going for a slightly more "polished" (read: commercially viable) indie rock direction.

That is not meant to slag the band or this release off. I think What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is a terrific album just as I also thought The King is Dead was a terrific album.

However, I must be honest - this is not a "prog" album. Many songs, like "Cavalry Captain" and the first single, "Make You Better", are enjoyably melodic pop/rock tracks and the band is very talented at making this kind of music. If you are looking for progressive folk/rock though, you will not find it here.

That said, I do think that this album will appeal to both fans of the band and to some fans of progressive rock because the songwriting remains clever with a strong emphasis on melody.

So I do recommend the album, despite the change in direction with the band's sound. Some may be disappointed because it's not a prog album, but despite that, believe it or not, the music is still good.

Highlights: "Cavalry Captain", "Make You Better", "Till The Water's All Gone", "Carolina Low", "A Beginning Song"

 For All We Shared by MOSTLY AUTUMN album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.53 | 98 ratings

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For All We Shared
Mostly Autumn Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Singer and guitarist Bryan Josh and others from Mostly Autumn came from a band that covered Pink Floyd songs called "One Stoned Snowman", so it's not much of a surprise that his vocals and guitar style reflects those of David Gilmore. The sound is very close. The band itself is a British band that utilizes a lot of celtic-rock influence in several of their songs. There is some use of traditional instruments and modern rock instruments, so you get a nice combination of the folk/rock fusion which is very evident in some of their songs.

Their debut album starts out with some decent songs, but they are somewhat straightforward and help to establish a sound. The celtic influence is not very obvious in these two tracks, but you can hear both lead vocalists (male and female) singing with Bryan being the most obvious and with Heather Findley mostly serving as support. You also notice the use of the violin which is a great addition to the sound, and there are several excellent violin solos throughout the album along with great guitar solos, but the guitar solos are somewhat minimal in these first two tracks. Tracks 3 and 4, "The Last Climb" and "Heroes Never Die" are longer tracks in which you can really hear the PF influence strongly. Both tracks are highlights of the album, are mid tempo (like the previous two) and are absolutely stunning. Vocals are somewhat vulnerable sounding, but in my opinion add to the beauty and impact of both tracks. These are both masterpieces, but are similar in sound. While they are playing, you don't notice this much because the songs are so great, but when "Folklore" starts, the fact that it is a traditional Irish song almost gets missed because the album begins to sound to much the same. The listener begins to wish for a change of sound.

"Folklore" starts out with a traditional sound with one instrument playing the melody and the background provides a drone based on chords. Suddenly, the music takes a sharp turn and becomes a straight out jig, and after the constant mid-tempo of the album to this point, this becomes a welcome and exciting change. The last quarter of the song gets more intense as the entire band joins in turning this into a Jethro Tull sounding rock/folk fusion and remains an instrumental throughout. This change of pace is prevalent in the next track "Boundless Ocean" which also has a nice Celtic flavor. This one features vocals again and also an excellent violin solo. After that, the Celtic inspired music continues with another traditional instrumental, this time being very upbeat throughout the song. Now the listener is starting to tire of the Celtic sound by the end of this track and that sound is wearing out. Part of the "wearing out" factor is that the passages in some of the songs carries on a little too long for similar tracks to be arranged together like they are.

The next track is "Steal Away" and is pretty much a typical medium rock song with Heather on vocals alone for the first time on the album. That part is a nice change, but the song itself is pretty mediocre. The next track segues from this and is called "Out of the Inn". It starts with a spoken word style rendering based upon The Lord of the Rings, and again it carries on a little too long. Then the traditional Celtic sounds return, and this pattern is beginning to get old. But this time, the rock instruments join in earlier and you get that JT feeling again. The last track is another epic in the PF tradition with the usual excellent guitar solo, but since it follows the same pattern as tracks 3 and 4, it is nothing surprising. It tends to get lost among the songs, even though it is still a nice song.

All in all, the album is impressive for a debut album under the Mostly Autumn name. The passages are sometimes too long for the type of album it is though. The repeated use of mid-tempo PF inspired rock combined with Celtic inspired folk rock tends to get old because of the long passages in the songs. I usually don't condone trimming songs because of the artistry, but in this case, a little editing in the right places would have been helpful.

Really, the best reason to locate this album is for tracks 3 and 4 more than anything. These are masterpieces even if they are based heavily on David Gilmour's sound. The sound is well done and these tracks are masterpieces. However, the pattern of the album gets old because of extensive passages and tends to lose the impact of the originality that is present. Still, it is an excellent album, especially for a debut, and things would get better with time and several line-up changes through the years. 3.5 stars that I can easily round up to 4 because of the essential tracks that are contained on the album

 Circus by FLAIRCK album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.45 | 18 ratings

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Circus
Flairck Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars In 1980 Flairck released their classic live album ''Live in Amsterdam'', a show that meant to be among the last contributions of Peter Weekers to the band.When he left, his place was taken by Annet Visser, while the new line-up became complete with the addition of Ted de Jong, the man could play various percussions, the xylophone, the sitar, the vibraphone and several other traditional instruments.The new formation of Flairck returned in 1981 with the album ''Circus''.

You should forget about the deep dives of the band into Chamber Folk and Classical Music, because this third album sounds more like World Music mixed with Ethno Prog, borrowing elements from nearly every possible corner of this mighty planet.Four lengthy tracks, all of them clock at over 10 minutes, exhibiting a wide range of acoustic instruments and several traditional musical styles as well as the standard interplays heard in Flairck's musicianship.At this point they sound like a less-focused MANEIGE, they shared the same taste for an affair between Folk Music and Fusion, creating emphatic instrumental interactions with lack of a vocal content and producing rich, all-acoustic soundscapes.On the other hand the material here contains so many national sounds and sights, that becomes a bit directionless at moments, while the music becomes hard to follow due to a very academic approach.These lovely symphonic interludes have been significantly reduced and instead you get a multi-ethnic proposal, which has its own charm, but leaves much to be desired.Echoes of Eastern, Andean, Balkan, Mediterrenean, Country and Spanish Music can be heard at specific moments during this Folk/Fusion orgasm of different colors, but I guess I am among the few people considering that this ends up to be rather messy.The performances are trully virtuosic and flawless, no doubt about it, and Flairck had to be one hell of an all-acoustic mini orchestra back at the time, but ''Circus'' fails to deliver the great feelings of the previous albums.

So, some strange situation here.I think the instrumental execution belongs among the very best ever to be displayed by the Hollanders.I just believe the result is rather chaotic, unfocused and ultra-professional for casual listeners.At least the title of the album was really succesful and the cover art is among the best you can find around.Recommended for lovers of Ethnic Music and Acoustic Prog...2.5 stars.

 The Tain by DECEMBERISTS, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2004
3.76 | 18 ratings

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The Tain
The Decemberists Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Next to "The Hazards of Love", this 19-minute EP is the most overtly Progressive item in the entire Decemberists catalogue, presenting a continuous, five-part suite loosely based on the same ancient Irish legends that had previously inspired the popular (and more authentic) 1973 HORSLIPS album of the same name.

This new version was recorded in 2004, in between the more traditional Decemberist indie-folk albums "Her Majesty" and "Picaresque", but sounding unlike either of them. What's immediately apparent at first exposure is the heightened level of musical aggression, revealing an unexpected iron fist inside Colin Meloy's usual wrap of "gingham, taffeta, cotton and silk". The band's quirky leader was still singing wistfully of thistledown beds in forest and fen, but for the first time on a Decemberist album the electric guitars were louder than the ubiquitous accordions and dulcimers.

The EP as a result rocks harder than anything the group had ever attempted, but without sacrificing that unique, theatrical Decemberist flair. There are moments (in Parts II and V) when a shrieking heavy metal headbanger would not have sounded out of place, instead of Meloy's typically fey, adenoidal tenor.

And yet the dramatic ebb and flow of the music itself is closer to the quintessential sound of old-school Progressive Rock. The arrangements and production are entirely modern, but the spirit is pure 1970's, evoked in the anachronistic vibrato of Jenny Colin's electric piano and the blazing grind of her Hammond organ. Further stylistic color is provided by the additional cellos, occasional acoustic bass, and massed female backing vocals heard in Part III.

Anyone looking for a compact, comprehensive entry into the mind of Colin Meloy will find "The Tain" an ideal beginner's sampler. And for longtime fans it's the perfect companion to the later "Hazards" album.

 Melimelum by MELIMELUM album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.51 | 3 ratings

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Melimelum
Melimelum Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

2 stars Short-lived Argentinian Folk Rock band with guitarist/singer Jorge Durietz being the main composer.Durietz was already known as half of the duo Pedro y Pablo (the other members was Miguel Cantilo), with this project he had a relatively succesful stint between 1969-72.In the 76' formed Melimelum he joined forces with bassist/pianist/guitarist Daniel Russo, drummer Micky Mitchell, flutist Fernando Gonzalez and guitarist/singer Eduardo Figueroa.They released a self-titled album the same year on CBS.

With PASTORAL having sucked the major success of the period national Folk Rock movement, there was little room for Melimelum to become widely recognized.They played practically music in the same vein as PASTORAL, their album was a gentle attempt on Folk Rock with light electric guitars, plenty of acoustic themes, bucolic flute lines and neverending sentimental vocals in Spanish.They created a nice, rural atmosphere, but failed to deliver any true progressive content or trully memorable melodies.The endless vocal- and musical harmonies, the extremely soft folky arrangements and the lack of thematic and sound changes are preventing factors for a full enjoyment, even if the album is too short (just over 30 minutes long) to become tiring, because you have the feeling you listen to the same piece all the time, consisting of discreet flute/guitar interplays and emotional vocals.''Terrores primales, liberiola III'' is the only rockin' piece on the album, featuring a dominant electric sound and working as a nice bridge between the acoustic tracks, while ''Dame, dame la mano vida, liberiola I'' eventually unleashes the progressive spirit of the group, this one sounds a lot like early YES or FLASH with very good guitar moves and complex exercises, having also a slight jazzy touch.

Melimelum apparently disbanded due to lack of success not long after their debut.In early-80's Durietz rejoined forces with Miguel Cantilo in a similar project as Pedro y Pablo, now named Cantilo-Durietz for a short time, then switching it to the original name, but this reformation also failed, leading to the 85' dissolution of the duo.

Largely acoustic Folk Rock with some electric sensibilities and a good number of flute themes.More in a Psych/Folk than Prog Folk vein, the prog content is pretty limited, so the ones to appreciate the album will be certainly fans of the earlier style.

 Creation by WERWOLF (WEREWOLF ART ROCK) album cover Studio Album, 1982
2.98 | 21 ratings

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Creation
Werwolf (Werewolf Art Rock) Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Werwolf were named actually after the famous band Steppenwolf, which drummer Peter Besting liked a lot at the time (around 1970).Original crew included also Hartwig Kugoth on guitar and Peter Lorenz on bass.The band hailed from Olpe and was rehearsing regularly at Besting's newly built house in Wenden since 1972.Around mid-70's they were joined by Jurgen Goeckler on keyboards, Michael Schlimm on saxophone/flute and Ellen Wiederstein on lead vocals, this formation minus Lorenz recorded a 3-track promotional demo, but no label showed particular interest in Werwolf.Apparently this led to the dissolution of this formation with Besting gathering new members to save the band, Gerd Heuel on guitar, Burkhard Huckestein on bass, Wolfgang Unthan on keyboards and Gitta Loewenstein as lead vocals.Finally, in 1982, the band privately pressed about 1000 copies of their debut ''Creation''.

Werwolf played an elaborate and polished Symphonic Rock with strong CAMEL and RENAISSANCE influences, as many German bands did at the time, when facing the new era of New Wave and Synth Music, but refused to betray their progressive roots.They sound similar to EDEN, REBEKKA, SIRIUS and so many other groups of the late-70's/early-80's, they did use the synthesizers at a normal rate, but they still sinked into the organ sounds and the beautiful, melancholic guitar moves of the Teutonic Prog wave.Lengthy tracks with shifting climates, ethereal female vocals, some beautiful guitar soli, great keyboard themes and a certain symphonic background, propelled by the electroacoustic changes, the synth-based monster layers, the pounding grooves on guitar and organ and the smooth lyricism.I can't say the material trully belongs among the best of the era, but the arrangements are well-crafted with clever use of the organ in both rhythmic and symphonic lines (the latter remind strongly of GENESIS) and the unmistakable and dominant spacious keyboards of German Sympho Kraut Rock.All texts are sung in English and the 10-min. ''Der achte tag'' shines through as an excellent piece of CAMEL-esque Symphonic Retro Prog.

With the original vinyl hitting triple-digit bucks at auctions and being rather rare, several issues have popped out throughout time, some of them contain the three pieces recorded from the 79' line-up.All three are excellent 70's Symphonic Rock, even more diverse and convincing than the tracks of the original album, highlighted by the occasional addition of flute and sax.The band sounded a bit folkier, but their music was highly symphonic with impressive thematic variations and some superb interactions between the instruments.GENESIS, CAMEL, NOVALIS and Swiss ISLAND are good reference points for this material.

Refined German Symphonic Rock from the 80's with strong Camel overtones.Add an extra half star for the bonus tracks' reissues with the three beeautiful mini-suites.Warmly recommended.

 The Crane Wife by DECEMBERISTS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.97 | 130 ratings

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The Crane Wife
The Decemberists Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Decemberists' first album for a major label raised their game (and their profile) to a higher level, for better and, at the same time, for worse. The longer compositions were bolder and more ambitious than ever, including "The Island" suite and the likewise three-part title track, the latter oddly but appropriately re-sequenced so that the album actually opens with Part Three...musically, it just worked better that way.

Meanwhile the shorter songs, designed to earn the band as much radio air time as possible, were even more obviously commercial. But at least they were all grouped together in the middle of the album, from the catchy "Yankee Bayonet" through the Dire Straits sound-alike single "The Perfect Crime #2". Part One of the latter song was, perversely, not included on the album, although it deserves to be heard: an atypically macho rocker with a long, bluesy mid-section, in total lasting more than fifteen minutes, further evidence of singer/writer Colin Meloy's expanding musical horizons.

Elsewhere on the album Meloy's quaint, Anglophilic narratives were likewise extended to new territories: Leningrad in 1942 ("When the War Came"); Shakespeare's Tempest (vaguely referenced in "The Island"); and the Japanese folk tale of the title song. And yet the flavor throughout, as illustrated in the CD booklet designed by longtime Decemberist collaborator Carson Ellis, is closer to post-Civil War America. The lovely acoustic ballad "Shankill Butchers" (an album highlight) may have been inspired by an actual mob of (literal) cutthroats in 1970's Ireland, but the antique melody recalls something Bill Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis, in the film "Gangs of New York") might have sung while strolling the mean streets of 1860's Manhattan.

In retrospect it's a transitional effort, poised on an unsteady fulcrum between eccentricity and complacency, with the many bright spots far outshining the weaker moments. The band was now a bona fide success story, but in which direction would Meloy turn next? Back to Victorian London, or toward modern pop radio purgatory? Or, just maybe, to somewhere altogether different and unexpected..? You only have to sneak a peek at the ProgArchives ratings to learn the answer...

 Pierrot Lunaire by PIERROT LUNAIRE album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.40 | 49 ratings

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Pierrot Lunaire
Pierrot Lunaire Prog Folk

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

4 stars An eclectic mix of adventurous folk music, classical sophistication and avant-garde daring, the debut self-titled album from 1974 by Italian act Pierrot Lunaire is a unique little treasure in a sub-genre filled with so many daring and thrilling works. The three musicians on this album present an evocative and unpredictable collection of sounds and styles that head in endless different directions, a true case of musical multiple personalities. Classical piano meets with sitar, Hammond organ serenades mandolin and acoustic guitar dances with flute for a range of both vocal and instrumental pieces that also frequently blend medieval, psychedelic and rock music in a subtle and distinctive fashion, with a constant shadow hanging over the music to bring just a hint of unease and edge.

The opening `Ouverture XV' is a softly stirring fanfare of organ, gentle acoustic guitar strums and murmuring bass slinking along the backdrop, with beautiful cascading spectral piano throughout a real highlight. `Raipure' is a rollicking but tasteful folk tune with instrumental breaks that pair sprightly piano over subtle little soloing bass eruptions, almost like they're duelling together. Tracks like `Invasore' are `Narciso' are psychedelic acid-folk ballads with groaning raga-rock sitar drones, drowsy wasted vocals and drifting synths. Ghostly classical piano, pursuing bass and spectral synth veils permeate the beautiful instrumental interlude `Lady Ligeia' (but what a shame about the abrupt cut-off ending!), and `Ganzheit' is a quietly melancholic instrumental acoustic lament to close the first side.

Acoustic interlude `Verso il Lago' opens the second side with some welcome romantic flavours that also carry on into the mandolin and recorder folk ballad `Il re di Rapure'. The seven minute `Sotto I Ponti' is one of the best pieces on the album, where the extended length allows the group to really stretch out. What starts as a shimmering 12 string acoustic ballad with a weary vocal lurches to life and beautifully transitions into a warm sunny mellow pop-rocker, where some fiery drumming, thick upfront bass and frazzled quick guitar brings an added punch to the second half. `Arlecchinata' alternates between dark moody male narrated passages and ethereal wordless female wisps that dance between around mischievous piano runs. Medieval flavours emerge through the emotional piano and acoustic guitar pirouettes of `La Saga...', and `Mandragola's strangled maniacal electric guitar soloing over booming pounding piano and a stomping intimidating beat closes the album in a dramatic manner!

While it would have been nice to hear more of the pieces extended and developed even further, Pierrot Lunaire's singular, unique mix of folk, classical, psych and experimental music is fascinating to discover. This album is less bombastic and symphonic that what many of the other Italian acts playing challenging progressive music from the time were presenting, but it's absolutely no less ambitious or inspired. Best enjoyed with a good pair of headphones to ensure you pick up all the most careful and tiniest of subtle details, `Pierrot Lunaire is endlessly captivating and utterly essential.

Four and a half stars.

 Thick As A Brick Live In Iceland by ANDERSON, IAN album cover Live, 2014
3.17 | 15 ratings

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Thick As A Brick Live In Iceland
Ian Anderson Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

2 stars By now an old pro like Ian Anderson can probably perform the whole of his (second) most famous album (after "Aqualung", arguably) in his sleep. Which is precisely what happened in Reykjavik in June of 2012, where the former Jethro Tull figurehead and his new band presented the unabridged "Thick as a Brick", Parts One and Two together in mismatched tandem (with intermission).

It's hard not to think of the album as an attempt by Anderson to legitimize an inferior sequel by hitching it in concert alongside the classic 1972 original. But playing them back-to-back only reinforces the shortcomings of the latter Brick, while undermining the legacy of the former. Instead of a dynamic update of a timeless Progressive Rock masterpiece, Anderson offers only an awkward karaoke rendering, with supporting music literally phone in (via Skype) from North London, and with extensive pre-recorded overdubs killing any sense of a genuine live performance.

Worse yet, he seems to regard the use of taped music (including the famous opening flute motif, impossible to play if you're also singing) as an acceptable part of the concert experience. "Thick as a Brick: Semi-Live in Iceland" would have been a more honest title, but he wasn't going to sell too many albums that way.

And, after being lured into hearing the much-thinner Second Brick by the dangled carrot of its more esteemed forefather on the same set-list, older fans might find themselves missing not only Jethro Tull, but all-too often Anderson himself. The new arrangements of the older music were adapted to ease the obvious strain on his aging vocal chords, with a sound-alike ringer (Ryan O'Donnell, credited with "additional vocals, dance, and mime") brought in to hit the higher notes. I applaud Anderson's willing spirit to mount a show when his flesh is no longer cooperating. But it's sad to hear a once-vigorous performer reduced to playing occasional flute in his own cover band, and hoarsely speaking his lyrics instead of singing them.

In his seventh decade Anderson clearly isn't ready to admit he's finally Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll. But poking fun at his own infirmities only calls attention to them, and needlessly fractures the otherwise seamless original Brick with silly vaudeville interruptions: a mock weather report; a psychiatric appointment for the album's fictional author, Gerald Bostock; a pre-rehearsed (or pre- recorded) telephone call to cue the Skype relay with violinist Anna Phoebe. And, at the nadir of the evening's entertainment: an onstage prostate examination for a lucky volunteer from the audience (I'd much rather hear a drum solo, thank you very much...)

Brick II on the second CD actually works a little better, maybe because the music itself is ideally suited to the hired skills of Anderson's B-team Tull backing band. But it's still a 56-minute anticlimax, and always will be when juxtaposed like this against the 1972 opus.

Quoting the man himself: Really don't mind if I sit this one out...

 Picaresque by DECEMBERISTS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.62 | 59 ratings

BUY
Picaresque
The Decemberists Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "I was meant for the stage", sang Colin Meloy at the end of his band's previous album ("Her Majesty", 2003): a true enough statement, but offered without much conviction at the time. It was on this next effort that he finally unleashed the full range of that instinctive theatricality, dragging his bandmates willingly behind him into the glare of the footlights.

The new album cover was even framed in a proscenium arch, around a portrait of the band taking a curtain call in amateur community theatre costumes and make-up (guitarist Chris Funk's portrayal of a tamarack tree merits a special ovation). The album itself was assembled in a former Baptist church, rented by the group and transformed into a grassroots recording studio, surrounded by an odd assortment of flotsam not typically found in a house of worship (outside Portland, Oregon at any rate): scattered toys, stuffed animals, life-size mannequin parts, even a swing suspended from the transept.

Hardly your typical recording environment, to say the least. In effect it was more stage than studio, with the music taking shape accordingly, invigorated by some equally offbeat instrumentation: hurdy-gurdys; dulcimers; banjos; even a (!!) shofar. Meloy's fertile Anglophile imagination was meanwhile more than ever pre-occupied with fictions lifted from 19th century penny-dreadfuls, never more effectively than in the haunting acoustic guitar and accordion balladry of "Eli, the Barrel Boy" and "My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)", two English folk tragedies Charles Dickens might have enjoyed humming along with.

Even the more contemporary songs live up to the album's colorful title. "The Sporting Life" should strike a nerve in any half-pint athletic failure; "16 Military Wives" is a lively satire of geopolitical hubris and media distortion; and "The Bagman's Gambit" marked a narrative departure for Meloy: an ambitious but overlong Cold War melodrama, sadly undermined by its lack of momentum. Only the R.E.M. rip-off "We Both Go Down Together" (a.k.a. "Losing My Religion, Again") sounds out of place: an obvious bid for mainstream radio airplay.

And then there's "The Mariner's Revenge Song": nine definitive minutes of Decemberist whimsy, in retrospect the quintessential Colin Meloy song-story, only later devolving into an obligatory ritual on their concert playlists. The tale itself, relating an orphan's lifelong quest for vengeance against the rake who drove his mother to an early grave, is a lot of fun (for at least the first dozen replays). Better yet, it was recorded completely live in their makeshift mission studio, brought to vivid acoustic life in a single take.

After two warm-up albums, this was where The Decemberists finally realized their potential and resolved their contradictions: part Indie Pop complacency; part Folk Rock pastiche; part Music Hall burlesque?with a very, very small kernel of Prog buried deep in the mix. Not bad, for a third act dénouement.

Data cached

Prog Folk bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
0.720 ALEACION Mexico
3 DAFT MONKEYS United Kingdom
A PRESENÇA DAS FORMIGAS Portugal
AALTO Finland
RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Lebanon
ACCOLADE United Kingdom
ADARO Germany
AFFORESTED United Kingdom
AFION Croatia
AGAPE Canada
AGINCOURT United Kingdom
AIGUES VIVES Germany
AKTUALA Italy
NICU ALIFANTIS Romania
ALMÔNDEGAS Brazil
AMANITA Italy
AMAROK Spain
AMAZING BLONDEL United Kingdom
AMBER United Kingdom
AN DRO Germany
ANACRUSA Argentina
IAN ANDERSON United Kingdom
THE ANGELS OF LIGHT United States
ANNAMY Sweden
APARECIDOS Multi-National
AQUAPLAN Finland
AQUARIUM Russia
DAN AR BRAZ France
MARCO ANTONIO ARAUJO Brazil
DAN ARBORISE United Kingdom
THE ARBORISTS Canada
ARIA PALEA Italy
ARMY OF BRIARS United Kingdom
ARTSRUNI Armenia
ASGARD France
ASHADA Japan
ASHTAR Brazil
ASI SOMOS Puerto Rico
ATMAN Poland
AUCAN Argentina
AVALANCHE Netherlands
AVE SANGRIA Brazil
AZAHAR Spain
BABADAG Poland
BABY WHALE Multi-National
BAMBIR / THE BAMBIR Armenia
BANDA DO CASACO Portugal
A BARCA DO SOL Brazil
BARR Sweden
TOMAS BATISTA Argentina
BAYON Germany
BEAT CIRCUS United States
BEDEDEUM Italy
BERNARD BENOIT France
BLACKMORE'S NIGHT United Kingdom
BLOPS Chile
BLUEHORSES United Kingdom
BOULE DE SON Canada
BRAN (BRÂN) United Kingdom
BREAD LOVE AND DREAMS United Kingdom
BRECHE Canada
PAUL BRETT United Kingdom
BRÖSELMASCHINE Germany
BUCIUM Romania
TIM BUCKLEY United States
VASHTI BUNYAN United Kingdom
C.O.B. United Kingdom
CAEDMON United Kingdom
CALIBAN United States
CÁLIX Brazil
CAMELIAS GARDEN Italy
CAN AM DES PUIG Multi-National
CANDIDATE United Kingdom
CANO Canada
CANZONIERE DEL LAZIO Italy
MARCELLO CAPRA Italy
CARMEN United Kingdom
CARNASCIALIA Italy
CAROL OF HARVEST Germany
GIAN CASTELLO Italy
PHILIPPE CAUVIN France
CHAC MOOL Mexico
CHALIBAUDE France
CHERCHE-LUNE France
CHIMERA Netherlands
CHRYSALIDE France
CIRCULUS United Kingdom
CLOGS Multi-National
COMUS United Kingdom
CONGREGACION Chile
CONGRESO Chile
CONNIVENCE Canada
CONTRALUZ Argentina
CONVENTUM Canada
CORDE OBLIQUE Italy
DAVE COUSINS United Kingdom
CREMATORIUM Russia
CRYSTAL PHOENIX Italy
CRYSTAL THOUGHTS Greece
CURRENT 93 United Kingdom
DAEMONIA NYMPHE Greece
DANCER United Kingdom
DARNAKES Greece
DAWNWIND United Kingdom
DEAD CAN DANCE Australia
DECAMERON United Kingdom
THE DECEMBERISTS United States
DEMI-HEURE Canada
DETEKTIVBYRĹN Sweden
DIEGO DE MORON Spain
DODSON AND FOGG United Kingdom
DR. STRANGELY STRANGE Ireland
DULCIMER United Kingdom
DUN AENGHUS Multi-National
DUNWICH Italy
JUDY DYBLE United Kingdom
EDEN Germany
ELANE Germany
ELFONIA Mexico
EMERAUDE France
EMTIDI Germany
ENBOR Spain
ENGEL (MIGUEL ANGEL DE LA LLAVE JIMENEZ) Spain
L' ENGOULEVENT Canada
ROBERT ERDESZ Hungary
ERGO SUM Chile
ERROBI Spain
ESPERS United States
ETERNIDAD Argentina
LA FAMIGLIA DEGLI ORTEGA Italy
FARAWAY FOLK United Kingdom
FARPOINT United States
FAUN Germany
FAUN FABLES United States
FAUNS Germany
FAVERAVOLA Italy
FEATHERS United States
FERN KNIGHT United States
FIABA Italy
FIORI-SÉGUIN Canada
FLAIRCK Netherlands
FLIBBERTIGIBBET South Africa
FLOR DE LOTO Peru
I FOLLI DI DIO Italy
FOLQUE Norway
FORENINGEN TIL LIVETS BESKYTTELSE Denmark
FOREST United Kingdom
FORSETI Germany
FRACTAL (CHILE) Chile
FRAGUA Spain
FRED United States
FRESH MAGGOTS United Kingdom
FUCHSIA United Kingdom
FUREKĹBEN Denmark
GAIA CONSORT United States
GALADRIEL Australia
GALAHAD Germany
GALLERY United Kingdom
GARMARNA Sweden
GAROLOU Canada
THE GENTLE SOUL United States
THE GHOST United Kingdom
GJALLARHORN Finland
GLAZ France
GORGO Ukraine
GRAAL France
LARKIN GRIMM United States
GROVJOBB Sweden
GROWING DREAM Canada
GRYPHON United Kingdom
GUALBERTO Spain
GURNEMANZ Germany
GWERZ France
HAIZEA Spain
ROY HARPER United Kingdom
HAWK South Africa
HAZARI Yugoslavia
L' HERBA D'HAMELÍ Spain
HEXVESSEL Finland
HOELDERLIN Germany
HORIZONTE Argentina
HORSLIPS Ireland
IBIO Spain
ILOUS & DECUYPER France
BRIAN IMIG United States
IN THE LABYRINTH Sweden
THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND United Kingdom
INDACO Italy
IONA United Kingdom
IRAKLIS Greece
ITHACA United Kingdom
ITOIZ Spain
ITZIAR Spain
IZUKAITZ Spain
JACK O' THE CLOCK United States
LOS JAIVAS Chile
JAN DUKES DE GREY United Kingdom
BERT JANSCH United Kingdom
JESTER United Kingdom
THE JESTERDAYS Greece
JETHRO TULL United Kingdom
NIGEL MAZLYN JONES United Kingdom
JOX France
JUSTINE Multi-National
KAAMOS Finland
KADWALADYR France
KARNATAKA United Kingdom
CHRIS KARRER Germany
KATALENA Slovenia
KEBNEKAISE Sweden
KERRS PINK Norway
KING FISH CROW United States
KLADIVO KONJ IN VODA Slovenia
KOLINDA Hungary
ATTILA KOLLAR Hungary
KONTRABURGER Poland
KORMORÁN Hungary
KOSMOS Finland
BRUCE LAMONT United States
JÉROME LANGLOIS Canada
LAURELIE Belgium
LEAFBLADE United Kingdom
PERRY LEOPOLD United States
BENITO LERTXUNDI Spain
LI TROUBAIRES DE COUMBOSCURO Italy
LISA O PIU Sweden
LISKER Spain
LONG LIVE DEATH United States
LOT LORIEN Bulgaria
LOUDEST WHISPER Ireland
CLARE LOUISE France
LUMSK Norway
MADDEN AND HARRIS Australia
MAGDALENA Spain
MAGMA Argentina
MAJA DE RADO & PORODICNA MANUFAKTURA CRNOG HLEBA Yugoslavia
MALICORNE France
BRIAN MALONE United States
MARLBORO MAN Hungary
JUAN MARTIN Spain
JOHN MARTYN United Kingdom
MARY JANE United Kingdom
MASHMAKHAN Canada
LE MATCH Canada
SHELAGH MCDONALD United Kingdom
ME AND MY KITES Sweden
MELIMELUM Argentina
MELLOW CANDLE Ireland
THE MERLIN BIRD Australia
MESSENGER United Kingdom
MIDLAKE United States
MIDWINTER United Kingdom
MIRANDA SEX GARDEN United Kingdom
DRAGO MLINAREC Yugoslavia
MOĞOLLAR Turkey
COLIN MOLD United Kingdom
MONSEIGNEUR Switzerland
MONTREAL Canada
MORMOS United States
THE MORRIGAN United Kingdom
MOSTLY AUTUMN United Kingdom
MOTIS France
MOURNING PHASE United Kingdom
MOVING HEARTS Ireland
MR. BROWN Sweden
MR. TOAD Israel
MUNDI DOMINI Canada
MUSHROOM Ireland
NANCY ELIZABETH United Kingdom
NIRGAL VALLIS Mexico
THE NOCTURNES United States
NOMADS OF HOPE Sweden
MICHEL NORMANDEAU Canada
NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA United Kingdom
THE NOVA PROJECT United States
NUEVO MEXICO Mexico
NUIT CALINE A LA VILLA MON REVE Belgium
NYA LJUDBOLAGET Sweden
GAVIN O'LOGHLEN & COTTERS BEQUEST Australia
O.W.L. United States
OBERON United Kingdom
OCTOBER PROJECT United States
OLOFERNE Italy
OMNI Spain
OPEN EYE BAND Finland
ORFANADO Italy
ORPHEUS GHOSTSONG United Kingdom
ORYZHEIN Canada
OUGENWEIDE Germany
P. G. SIX United States
PAN-RA Germany
PARADOX Poland
EMMANUELLE PARRENIN France
PARZIVAL Germany
PASTORAL Argentina
PATANGA Germany
JEAN LUC PAYSSAN France
PEARLS BEFORE SWINE / TOM RAPP United States
THE PENTANGLE United Kingdom
PERERIN United Kingdom
LINDA PERHACS United States
PESNIARY (PESNYARY) Belarus
PHOENIX Romania
PIERROT LUNAIRE Italy
PIIRPAUKE Finland
PLANKTON WAT United States
POSITIVE WAVE Finland
PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE United Kingdom
PROVIDENCE United States
PRUDENCE Norway
PTARMIGAN Canada
THE PUDDLE JUMPERS United States
QUICKSAND United Kingdom
QUINTAL DE CLOROFILA Brazil
QUINTETO ARMORIAL Brazil
RABBIT RABBIT (CARLA KIHLSTEDT & MATTHIAS BOSSI) United States
RADA & TERNOVNIK (THE BLACKTHORN) Russia
RAGNARÖK Sweden
RAMASES United Kingdom
RASPUTINA United States
REBEKKA Germany
RED JASPER United Kingdom
REIFROCK Germany
REVERIE Italy
RIPAILLE France
RITMIA Italy
ROGER RODIER Canada
KARI RUESLATTEN Norway
RUJA Estonia
S VREMENA NA VREME Yugoslavia
SAD MINSTREL Italy
SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK France
SAINT JUST Italy
SAKRE Spain
THE SALLYANGIE United Kingdom
SCAPA FLOW Finland
SCARLET THREAD Finland
SECRET GREEN United Kingdom
SEDMINA Yugoslavia
GILLES SERVAT France
SHANNON France
SHAVE THE MONKEY United Kingdom
SHIDE & ACORN United Kingdom
SHINE DION Norway
SILMARIL United States
SINDELFINGEN United Kingdom
SINTESIS Cuba
JIMI SLEVIN Ireland
SMELL OF INCENSE Norway
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS United Kingdom
SORNE United States
SPARIFANKAL Germany
SPIRES THAT IN THE SUNSET RISE United States
SPIROGYRA United Kingdom
SPRIGUNS (OF TOLGUS) United Kingdom
STACKRIDGE United Kingdom
VLATKO STEFANOVSKI Macedonia
ALAN STIVELL France
STONE ANGEL United Kingdom
STÓRSVEIT NIX NOLTES Iceland
STRANGE DAYS United Kingdom
STRAWBS United Kingdom
PEKKA STRENG Finland
STRING CHEESE United States
STRING DRIVEN THING United Kingdom
SUBURBANO Spain
SUBWAY Multi-National
SÜNDENFALL II Germany
SUPAY Peru
SUR PACIFICO Chile
SUSSITA Israel
SYNANTHESIA United Kingdom
TALAMASCA United States
TALITHA QUMI Romania
TAMALONE Netherlands
TAMARUGO Chile
TANGERINE France
TARENTULE France
TARUJEN SAARI Finland
LOU MAXWELL TAYLOR United States
TEA AND SYMPHONY United Kingdom
TEMPEST United States
TENHI Finland
TERRA MYSTICA Slovenia
BOB THEIL United Kingdom
THE THIRD ESTATE United States
THISTLETOWN United Kingdom
THOBY LOTH Finland
THORK France
THURSAFLOKKURINN Iceland
TIR NA NOG Ireland
TIRILL Norway
TORNAOD France
TRADER HORNE United Kingdom
TREES United Kingdom
THE TREES COMMUNITY United States
TREMBLING BELLS United Kingdom
TRI YANN France
TRIO DAG Yugoslavia
TROCARN Switzerland
TROISIČME RIVE France
TROISSOEUR Belgium
TUATHA DE DANANN Brazil
TUDOR LODGE United Kingdom
TUIMA Finland
TUNEFISH Germany
TURQUOISE Poland
TUSMŘRKE Norway
TYRANNOSAURUS REX (NOT T. REX) United Kingdom
U I BLUE United States
UDRAYA France
UNCLE DIRTYTOES United States
UNGAVA Canada
UNITED BIBLE STUDIES Ireland
STEVE UNRUH United States
UQBAR Argentina
US AND THEM Sweden
VEGA Spain
VIIMA Finland
VOICE OF THE SEVEN WOODS United Kingdom
JUNE WALLACK Canada
WATER INTO WINE BAND United Kingdom
WATERTOUCH Sweden
THE WAY WE LIVE United Kingdom
LEAH WAYBRIGHT United States
WERWOLF (WEREWOLF ART ROCK) Germany
ROBIN WILLIAMSON United Kingdom
WITTHUSER AND WESTRUPP Germany
WOVEN HAND United States
WURTEMBERG France
WYRDGENES United Kingdom
GABRIEL YACOUB France
YAVANNA Germany
YGGDRASIL Germany
YOKE SHIRE United States
YOU AND I Hungary
ZAGUAN Spain
ZARTONG Armenia
ZAUBER Italy
ZEIT Italy
ZLYE KUKLY Israel
ZRNI Czech Republic
ZYWIOLAK Poland

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