Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sümfoonia Seitsmele Esitajale (In Spe, 1983)

During the '80s, just a few bands wrote uncompromising and beautiful symphonic rock like this Estonian banddid with "Sümfoonia Seitsmele Esitajale". Its leader Erkki-Sven Tüür abandoned his own musical creature after the release of its first self titled album to start a new career as a classical composer. This opening suite in three movements (Ostium, Illuminatio and Mare Vitreum) surely is his most important addition to prog rock history. Its title means "Symphony for Seven Performers" and the whole track actually sounds as chamber rock, featuring three different moods.

After E.S.Tüür's abandon, "In Spe" also released a second LP.

The first one is based on electronic keyboards - played by E.S. Tüür himself - and is the most experimental one. Illuminatio flows quieter on the classical side, mixing traditional instruments and some discreet synths. The final section probably is my favourite one. It includes both rock and classical sounds, ranging from delicate interplays to majestic musical waves, with a pinch of folk inside. Many changes, many sounds and many instruments grace this suite, along with well found melodies. That's why I hope my prog friend will appreciate this composition as much as I did.

Friday, 28 November 2014

La Roca del Diablo (Cai, 1980)

Cai's album "Noche abierta" ("Open Night" in English) is rightly considered as one of the best flowers in Spanish progressive garden and this track, "La Roca del Diablo" (meaning "Devil's Rock") is one of my favourites. The elegant keyboard effects, the melodic and mysterious atmosphere and the changing tempos are but some of the strong points of this instrumental. You'll also find some vague folk passages and a very good choice of interplays and even a slight jazzy orientation.

"Noche abierta" was the second studio album by Cai.

All is done with passion and a great deal of good taste, mixing the classic prog features and the Spanish colour. Listening to this is a good way to spend some 8 minutes and opens a gate to a less known progressive rock coming from early '80s, even before the neo-prog season. A quiet but not peaceful musical trip I surely recommend to you all.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Boat Song (Agam, 2012)

If you never listened to Agam, this song will be kind of surprising for you. This Indian band from Bangalore mixed the traditional Carnatic music with old good progressive rock and the final effect actually strikes me. The vocal performance has a strong ethnic taste, while the vocal harmonies, the rythmic background and the instrumental interplays sound like prog heroes from the past.

"The Inner Self Awakens" is Agam's debut album.

There's an incredible electric guitar solo by Praveen Kumar in the second half of "The Boat Song" I simply adore and the rythm section has the right beat to support Harish Sivaramakrishnan's passionate voice. The final result is an enthralling piece of music, something you hardly can label, full of Eastern and Western influences, but no doubt original and intriguing as only prog can be.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Company (Fish, 1990)

When "Vigil in A Wilderness of Mirrors" was released, back in 1990, this rather short song immediately captured my attention because of its catchy melody and its vaguely medieval arrangement. But I soon realised that there were another reason why I listened to this one more and more: it was full of energy, the same energy I appreciated in early Marillion songs. All was done in order to support the overflowing strength of the singer, his dynamic way to communicate feelings and to narrate stories. Fish wrote the lyrics of this track, while the music is by keyboardist Mickey Simmonds, involved in many other prog releases (Mike Oldfield, Renaissance, Camel...).

"The Company" was released as a single for the German market.
The folk mood of this song is assured not only by the melody, circular and enthralling like some popular dances, but also by Phil Cunningham's, Gavyn Wright's and Aly Bain's acoustic instruments: accordion, violin, whistles and even the Irish drum called bodhrán. The irresistible drumming is by the well known Portuguese session man Luís Jardim, whose collaborations include the like of Yes, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Asia, David Bowie and Elton John. The final result is, IMHO, one of the most enjoyable fast tempo prog songs I've ever listened to.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Sea of Delight (Brainbox, 1969)

As some posts in this blog prove very well, proto-prog songs and albums weren't an exclusive British feature. These Brainbox, for example, came from The Netherlands and in 1969 cleverly mixed R'n'B, psychedelic sounds and plain melodies in a new, unpredictable style we could easily call prog rock. I think this long suite "Sea of Delight" is the best way to approach their music. Jan Akkerman plays here his acid guitar some years before founding Focus, the legendary Dutch prog band (see elsewhere in this blog).

This was the cover art for Brainbox self titled debut album.

But you'll also find here Pierre van der Linden's creative drumming and solos - he'll also join Focus later - and the "talking" bass guitar played by Andre Reynen. Both musicians succeed in drawing a collection of weird, synchopated rythms. A final special mention goes to the Polish singer Kaz Lux, whose sensual vocals grace the sung sections of this track... and his hums, woos and assorted whispers  are among the most puzzling sounds of the whole proto-prog era, IMHO. Really, this is a very interesting and unusual track, that's why I sometimes listen to it and always appreciate those pioneering guys.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Crawler (Saens, 2002)

I really like the way Saend take neo-prog standards and enrich them with a series of original ideas, eclectic sources and variated moods. This "The Crawler", taken from the album "Escaping from The Hands of God", is a good specimen of such a musical attitude. It includes some Marillion-like melodic lines, but those are mixed with many other things, including a jazzy intro, some unpredictable piano chords, a warm voice and a collection of tempo changes.

This was the second studio album by Saens.

All the instruments are well exploited, even if the piano does play a central role and the guitars are especially good. No, youcan't be bored by such a song, reminding me a turning stage, always leading to something new. Almost 14 minutes of excellent prog rock, if you ask me.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Light Elements (Patrick Moraz, 1987)

Here's a synth-prog track by Patrick Moraz, the Swiss keyboardist and one-man band, also famous for his short lived collaboration with Yes. This instrumental opens his album called "Human Interface" and is a very good specimen of symphonic keyboard driven music. It's a perfect depiction of light, like a summer dawn or a distant star approaching, one of those spacey tracks suggesting interstellar trips.

This was the seventh  studio album by Patrick Moraz.

The almost orchestral drums and the effective double lined melody are full of the sense of wonder I appreciate in good electronic music. The little but effective variations are very well found and that's why, even if there's just one melodic loop during the whole song, I'm never bored by it and I seldom re-start my CD reader and take another go to "Light Elements". Moraz really knows how to exploit flushing effects and devilish devices keeping a human soul in his music. Not so easy.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

San Jacinto (Peter Gabriel, 1982)

This is one of my favourite Peter Gabriel's tracks, it has always been, since its release in the album "Peter Gabriel IV", also known as "Security" LP. There's a tense vibration in this song, a mysterious mood and a deal of weird, fascinating sounds. The lyrics are about a Native American initiation ritual, a painful one, and the short lines are like a wheezy breathing. Useless to say, Gabriel's vocal performance is perfect: deep and intimate, suggestive and moving.

This was the last album Peter Gabriel titled simply by his name.

The electronic effects are like ancestral instruments, and Jerry Marotta's drumming adds a syncopated heart to the track. When the chorus come in and Peter's voice rises up like a scream, I see flashes and colours from an unknown desert bursting out. I do think this song is more like an emotional trip than a mere musical experience.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Truth Will Set You Free (The Flower Kings, 2002)

The quintessential Flower Kings, I'd say. A long - very long: more than 30 minutes - and highly variated suite, including melodies and rythmic sections, long instrumental passages and well written sung sections, electronic effects and acoustic corners, fast tempo progressions and calm interludes. There's all an average prog fan is fond of, with some slightly soul vibrations, as usual with Roine Stolt's band. Most of all, IMHO, this is a collection of well found themes, set up in a pleasant and unpredictable frame, where all the parts perfectlt fit in.

This suite opens the double CD "Unfold The Future".

Some of the passages are really original (especially some guitar solos), some other are reminiscent of past prog heroes (ah... those vocal harmonies!), but the entire track has a strong character, a well defined structure, so that one can immediately recognise it. A special mention goes to Hasse Bruniusson's creative percussions: if this huge track's never boring, it's also thanks to him, IMHO.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Esinti (Gevende, 2011)

What an original, even weird music this Turkish band builds up! It seems to me there's a bit of King Crimson and VDGG inside, but all here is actually  unpredictable and modern. This "Esinti" (meaning "Breeze"), taken from the album "Sen balık değilsin ki", is a collection of evanescent emotions, pulsing soundscapes and changing moods. Serkan Emre Çiftçi's trumpet is the trademark of the band, but the rythmic background and the delicate guitar are excellent too. The first section of the song is a dreamy water colour leading to an almost spoken sung performance.

This is the second studio album by Gevende.

The change around minute 4:10 is stunning: we fly from a Crimsonian atmosphere to a Mid-Eastern sung section, ruled by a viola, starting with a pizzicato and soon going into an experimental but never unpleasant melody. And when the main theme comes back, it's via a tough wall of sound including follk and rock instruments. Really, if prog rock means trying new ways, well, this is the proggest thing I can figure out.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Cult of Birdman (Blank Manuskript, 2009)

Blank Manuskript come from Austria and their debut album was inspired by the mysteries of Easter Island and titled "Tales from an Island - Impressions from Rapa Nui". This track, in particular, is about the Birdman, so often engraved on Rapa Nui's ancient monuments. I actually like this one, because of its diversity. You'll find melodic passages, jazzy impovisations, atmospheric sections and effective riffs. The concept of the album comes to the foreground during the spoken section, which is part of a longer narrative.

Many guest musicians grace the eight tracks of this album.

Just after this section you'll appreciate an excellent guitar solo, but there are many pleasant moments during this 12 minute song. In particular, I like the piano work and the main riff reprises, matching so well with the rest of the track. The abundance of instruments and their neat sound are also among the strongest points of "The Cult of Birdman". A very good discovery I made with Blank Manuskript, and I do hope you'll like them too.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Three Fates (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1970)

The ELP's debut album is a real gold mine, full of precious musical lodes. "The Three Fates" surely is one of them. The track is divided into three parts, each one describing one of the three Greek goddesses running human destinies: Clotho, Lachesis and Athropos. The first movement is a majestic one, with Emerson's organ at its best and an almost liturgical mood. Then, our keyboard man goes to the piano for the second fate and creates a refined embroidery.

Luckily the most famous "powerful trio" in prog rock history.

Finally, he's joined by a Carl Palmer's splendid drum work during the final section. In this closing segment, moreover, there's a spectacular piano overdubbing enriching the sound. The whole mini-suite is based on a classical frame, but the rythmic pace and some technical solutions are as original as a prog track can be... and that's saying something!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Las colinas y el maestro / Epilogo: Sudamérica (Arco Iris, 1972)

Arco Iris, a seminal band from Argentina, wrote their most celebrated opera in two LPs and 26 songs "Sudamérica o el Regreso de la Aurora" (meaning "South America or The Coming back to Dawn") in 1972, and still today this final track is one of their best compositions. Short and apparently plain, the song is actually a little gem when it comes to vocal harmonies and acoustic / electric instruments blend.

"Sudamerica" was the  band's fourth studio album.

It's actually a track belonging to two different worlds: the South American folk and the European Prog and Jazz rock. Of course there are more complex and longer songs in this double LP, but I can't help loving this one, so full of life an colours, so deeply infused in the '70s spicy waters and with such a catchy melody. Also the spiritual concept of the album, written by vocalist and guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla, is coherent with its era. A full immersion into an everlasting musical dream.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Ruins of A Glass Fortress (Gerard, 2000)

Taken from the same titled album, this mini-suite is another proof of Gerard's skills. Not only these Japanese guys are great composers, but they also offer lavish performances. Take Toshio Egawa's keyboards in this song: they're so different, original and well mixed that one could imagine a whole orchestra is involved. And also the structure of this two-part suite is a treat, with its changes, and the main theme reprises both in instrumental and sung sections.

This was the eighth studio album by Gerard.

Here I can't omit a special mention to the guest singer Jean-Luc F.Nazaki, whose suggestive voice adds an arcane mood to the track and to the trio line-up of Gerard. Of course, when the keys go on fast arpeggios in the second half of part 2, well, my prog ears celebrate... yes, the celebrate for real!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Suite per il Sig. K (Jumbo, 1972)

Here's a beautiful and somehow  unusual specimen of Italian prog suite from the '70s, taken from the album "DNA". This "Suite per il Sig. K" ("Suite for Mr.K", in English) in divided into three parts, titled "Sta accadendo qualcosa dentro me" ("Something is happening inside me"), "Ed ora corri" ("Run, now") and "Dio è" ("God Is"). The music is alternatively sweet and rough, with many traditional prog features like the rock flute solos, but also with many original ideas.

"DNA"was the second studio album by Jumbo.

One of these surely is the bluesy and passionate vocal performance, and another one is the country smell of some sung sections. But I also recommend the acoustic interludes, the free and almost acid electric guitar, the jazzy organ and the clever transitions between the different moods involved in the suite. Nothing too elaborate, but each moment in this song is intense and effective. Probably a less known side of Italian prog, but a very interesting one.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Thick As A Brick Part One (Jethro Tull, 1972)

This is no doubt one of the greatest classic suites in prog rock history, so no long presentations will be necessary. That said, this Jethro Tull's epic deserves some reflections. Firstly, I like the humour - a very British one - this song features, from the story of the schoolboy Gerald Bostock (also known as "Little Milton") winning a poetry competition and being ignominiously disqualified, to the album package reproducing a local newspaper full of convinging still unlikely news more or less related to the band.

The funniest newspaper I've ever read...

But the music is the strongest point here, with one of the best blends of folk and rock I've ever listened to, especially in the first part of the masterpiece. The tempo changes, the returning themes, the enthralling rythms...all was made to build up a memorable piece of music. Ian Anderson and his bandmates succeeded in a very difficult task, as they welded epic and irony, melody and rythm, refinement and satire. I'm very grateful to them.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

El galope del asturcón (Asturcón, 1981)

Asturcón only released one album in 1981 (recorded in 1980), but the record is probably better known and surely more appreciated today than in its release days. Victor Carrizo, the man behind this project, managed to set up an original collection of pure progressive music with distinctive elements in it. This "El galope del asturcón" (the asturcón is an Asturian pony) is a good example of the strength and even the weirdness of his compositions.

The original LP included six tracks, all very good, IMHO.
Mainly instrumental, the track descibes the animal in its natural environment and finally exalts the beauty and the pride of the asturcón and of the Asturian landscape in a few spoken lines. Naive as it is, this track is a pleasant trip through a colourful land and its abrupt tempo changes give the listeners a delightful surprise. It's a refreshing sip of prog in a rough rock oriented period, not the best way a musician had to get rich... something I always appreciate.

Friday, 7 November 2014

3 Lights (RPWL, 2005)

RPWL are currently one of the most creative bands in Germany, and this track shows how much - and how wll - they can mix different inspirations in order to set up a coherent and well structured track. The first part of "3Lights", taken from the album "World through My Eyes", has a strong Genesis influence, something like Ant Phillips era. It's n acoustic ballad, featuring a good melody and airy, gentle sounds.

This album also includes the single "Roses", sung by Ray Wilson.

Then something changes and we move towards a slow tempo instrumental, based on an almost folk mood, but getting soon a modern and electronic background, until the Floydian electric guitar comes in and a dreamy solo opens the soundscape and draws a brighter atmosphere. The finale is made of sound effects, a psychedelic way to link this song to the following one. As you can see, there are many faces to this "3 Lights", but not even a second in it is dull or useless and everything seems to happen in the very moment we need it. Good guys...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Le cerf volant (Atoll, 1977)

Among the many good tracks released by this French band, I decided tointroduce in my blog this instrumental and relaxing one, taken from the album "Tertio", a rather accessible LP, compared with its precedessors. The first and most important reason of my choice is the spacey, atmosferic and hypnotic mood of the song, bravely exploring all the arcane features of a genre that, back in1977, seemed to belong to history.

The title says it all: "Tertio" was Atoll's third album.

But Atoll still had so much to say and to play, as this magic essay proves very well. Electronic keyboards and an elegant electric guitar are the main features of "Le cerf volant", but I also like André Balzer's delicate and variated drumming. The whole song perfectly depicts the flight of a kite (that's the meaning of the song title in English) high in a blue sky, and the sense of freedom it always suggests. More than a song, this is a vivid, persistent kind of dream.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

I Talk to The Wind (King Crimson, 1969)

This blog is full of tracks coming from King Crimson's debut album, but I think such a masterpiece deserves even more than this. "I Talk to The Wind" is a long slow tempo, pastoral, hypnotic ballad I don't need to describe this one, as any prog fan knows it well. I'd like to say instead why I keep on listening to this song, 'cause there are several good reasons for that.

A press photograph for King Crimson's debut album.

First of all, Greg Lake's vocals, so imperturbable and out of this material world, then the woodwind coming in and out the song, just like the real wind Sinfield's lyrics are about. How could I describe the stillness, the ethereal mood of this track? And how could anyone explain the neatness and disarming beauty of the melody? Last but not least, a special mention to Michael Giles' drumming, so soft and effective. In short, I better like to listen once more to this track than to go on talking about it. All in all, I'd talk to the wind...

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

E mi viene da pensare (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, 1979)

This is a short song, but surely one of the most moving ones I came across during my listener's career. Taken from the album "Canto di Primavera" - an underrated one, IMHO - it's a slow tempo ballad based on a delicate and deep parallel between creativity and Spring. Such a song proves how a prog song can be plain and effective, sensitive and essential. 

 "Canto di Primavera" was the eigth Banco's studio album.

Of course, there is a beautiful instrumental section and the whole arrangement is elegant and neat, but the strongest point in this track is no doubt the melody - so airy and original - along with the vocal performance. The lyrics are also a jewel: "And I happen to think about the enthusiam grown along the road, it was almost a duty to show all my cards and I felt as smart as an idea you can't stop...". Smart, yes, that's the right word!

Monday, 3 November 2014

500 songs... celebrate on Facebook too!

Two announcements today: firstly, next song will be number 500 on this blog. Thank you all for being so patient.

And - secondly - Prog Rock Little Place can now celebrate this goal on Facebook too!

Yes, for those of you provided with a Facebook profile will find PRLP here:

Of course, you can also search Facebook for "Prog Rock Little Place" and you'll find me. Once again, thank you for all your kindness and interest.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Kanaan (Amon Düül II, 1969)

I immediately confess that I'm not into krautrock, especially that kind of krautrock that freely explore the outer limits of the musical Galaxy. But then, as anyone else, I appreciate many tracks from those open minded and uncompromising artists. Amon Düül II are among the best flowers of krautrock golden season. "Kanaan", taken from their debut album "Phallus Dei" (not a politically correct title, I'm afraid), is one of my favourite tracks of theirs. It has an enthralling rythm and begins with a highly creative drumming, then here comes in the sitar giving the right ethnic flavour to the song.

"Kanaan" is the opening track of "Phallus Dei".

The short sung passage is almost a spoken one, but please don't miss the final section, ruled by the electric guitar and ending up with freaky electronic devices in crescendo. That's simply amazing. In four minutes or so, the whole Flower Power world is condensed (the band came out of a hippy commune, after all), with a bonus European point of view. This is also the track I usually recommend for those needing a starting point to a trip into the '70s German rock. An excellent appetizer, I daresay.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

No Sanctuary (Queensrÿche, 1984)

I'm not particularly fond of the hardest incarnations of prog, but I sometimes come across tracks like this one and say: "Well, that's great... and prog!". "No Sanctuary", taken from the album "The Warning", is basically a so-called powerful ballad (who on Earth invented this label?) and still it has all the main features of my favourite genre: tempo changes, skillful playing, beautiful melodies, and also a rather complex arrangement. Then, I must admit, Geoff Tate's voice is perfect, being strong and sensitive in the same time, so well supported here by the rest of the band's vocal harmonies.

This was the band's first proper album, after a self-titled EP.

The mood is somewhat suspended out of time, and it seems to me a gate is opening to another dimension, especially during the quietest instrumental interlude. There are so many different colours in the soundscape of this track, so many emotions, so many fires we see from a distance. In short, I recommend it to my open minded prog friends out there. And to the non-prog ones, too.