Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best Re-Releases of 2007

Here are my list of what have been my favourite re-releases of the year. Not in any order, but if I was to pick a top spot it would probably go to Chris Squire’s “Fish Out Of Water”. Mainly for the packaging and the excellent interview on the DVD disc.

Steve Hillage ~ Fish Rising
A very welcome complete catalogue re-issue, though his debut still remains a highly regarded classic of the Canterbury genre.

ELO ~ Out Of The Blue
The mini book type packaging is very well done. You can even build a cardboard spaceship! At their pop best on this double album.

Alan Parsons Project ~ I Robot
This is a text book example of how to re-issue your back catalogue. Good remastered sound, lots of sleeve notes and worthy bonus tracks. Shame the second batch is taking so long to sort out.

The Moody Blues ~ Seventh Sojourn
My personal favourite Moody Blues album and the last form their classic period. A nice digipack with an excellent bonus track.

Hugh Hopper ~ Hoppertunity Box
Well done to Cuneiform for re-releasing this classic album form the ex Soft Machine bassist. Excellent sound and nice packaging.

Genesis ~ Box Set 1976 – 1982
Of course the real treasure will be the next box set documenting the years up to 1975, but the music on these was when Genesis became very popular and still doing prog! I am not completely convinced by the remastering and the packaging though better than the definitive editions could still have done better justice to the original album artwork.

Chris Squire ~ Fish Out Of Water
An all round excellent package. The interview on the DVD disc is informal, informative and humorously anecdotal. I wish more artists would do this sort of thing!

Steve Hackett ~ Highly Strung
The best from the last batch of remasters of his Charisma solo albums.

Peter Hammill ~ Sitting Targets
This, along with “Skin” are long forgotten classic Hammill works.

Laurie Anderson ~ Big Science
A classic of the New York art rock scene of the 80’s. Though I think “Mister Heartbreak” is better.

Egg ~ The Civil Surface
From the new Esoteric label and the final studio work by Dave Stewart and mates. Another great example of the eccentric Canterbury style.

Led Zeppelin ~ The Song Remains The Same
Expanded version with great sound and a very nice gatefold sleeve package.

Joy Division ~ Closer
Beautifully packaged and remastered. Martin Hannett’s gorgeously glacial production has never sounded better.

U2 ~ The Joshua Tree
This is a box set of such an impressively high standard and how re-issues should be done. The album sounds fresh and invigorating. The bonus tracks are a must and the DVD is packed full with a full concert, documentary and videos. There are even prints and a hard back book!!!

Here are some other bits and pieces from throughout the year.

Odds & Sods (live albums, compilations etc.)

Fripp & Eno ~ Beyond Even
A nice collection of odds and sods. Look out for remastered versions of “No Pussyfooting” and “Evening Star” next year!

Miles Davis ~ The Complete On The Corner Sessions
The pinnacle of Miles’s electric period captured in all its glory in this lavish box set.

Pentangle ~ The Time Has Come: 1967 – 1973
Excellent 4Cd box set with a highly informative and well presented booklet.

The Flower Kings ~ The Road Back Home
A wonderful 2CD compilation of the shorter songs from Swedish prog band.

Jonesy ~ Masquerade
Another Esoteric label release. This 2 CD set includes everything recorded by this unfairly ignored prog outfit.

Trio Of Doom ~ Trio Of Doom
A lost jazz/rock gem. McLaughlin, Pastorius and Williams deliver the goods.

The Tangent ~ Going Of On One
Shows that the band can admirably reproduce their complex pieces in a live setting with lots of loose jamming.

Various Artists ~ Cyclops 6
Another excellent low price 2 CD compilation from GFT. Not just a taster for the label but a wonderful collection in its own right.

Jordan Rudess ~ The Road Home
Dream Theater keyboard maestro brings some classic prog tracks bang up to date with some juicy arrangements.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer ~ From the Beginning
Excellent 6 disc box set produced by Mark Powell and his team. This has some of the best remastered versions from their catalogue and lots of unreleased live stuff. The booklet is fairly nifty too!!

Egg ~ The Metronomical Society
Like the Hatfield and the North compilations, these are a treasure trove of brilliant early Canterbury style prog. Worth it just for the sleeve notes alone, which along with the “Copious Notes” booklet make up for a fascinating glimpse into a long gone time when music was pioneering.

Uriel ~ Arzachel Collectors Edition
Ditto above.

Monday, December 17, 2007

2007 Prog Albums of the Year ~ Part 6 (5 - 1)

Ok, so here it is the Top 5.

5. Saga ~ 10,000 Days
A more than fitting finale to Michael Sadler’s career with Saga. The band are all playing to their max and it all sounds so fresh.

4. Riverside ~ Rapid Eye Movement
The third album from this ever impressive Polish band. On a par with the previous instalments in this trilogy, it will be interesting to see where they go from here.

3. Porcupine Tree ~ Fear Of A Blank Planet
It always surprises me how Steven Wilson outdoes himself on each new release. This, along with the “Nil Recurring” EP are the work of one of the best British rock bands full stop! They should be massive!

2. Caprtree ~ Insekt
This takes the haunting, otherworldly feel of “Man Made Machine” to new levels! This is an incredibly affecting album, each song arranged, performed and produced to their absolute peak of perfection. I cannot recommend this album highly enough.

1. Manning ~ Songs From The Bilston House
Guy Manning is without doubt one our best songwriters and that is within any genre. His storytelling abilities are second to none and he sets his lyrics within some beautifully realised music. This time around he co-produced the album with old mate Andy Tillison and you can tell they really had some fun on this. The arrangements are meticulously thought out and all involved play their part wonderfully, with some really inspired solos weaving in and out of Guy’s words. Simply, this is the best!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 Prog Albums of the Year ~ Part 5 (10 - 6)

10. Lana Lane ~ Red Planet Boulevard
The first woman of American symphonic rock has returned with a real winner here. Back to a more stripped down heavy rock style, with guitarist Peer Verschuren shining throughout.

9. Dream Theater ~ Systematic Chaos
Maybe not as prog as “Octavarium”, but the band are as technically impressive as ever and still stretching themselves.

8. Ritual ~ The Hemulic Voluntary Band
Another Swedish band (been a good year for them) brings this unusual album. Quite acoustic and quite Gentle Giant, but this is one of the more individual albums of the year.

7. Beardfish ~ Sleeping In Traffic: Part One
More structured and focussed than their earlier two albums, this band have a rough and ready sound which is quite retro in a proto prog sort of way! The overall result is a very exciting album.

6. Big Big Train ~ The Difference Machine
This is simply magnificent. Beautifully structured and arranged, the attention to detail in all aspects of this recording is very impressive making for a highly individual and thoroughly modern prog album. Can’t wait for the next, to be called “English Electric”.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2007 Prog Albums of the Year ~ Part 4 (15 - 11)

15. Satellite ~ Into The Night
Third outing for this excellent Polish band. A bit heavier than their last, “Evening Games”, but the ever impressive guitar work and drumming are as scintillating as ever.

14. Anekdoten ~ A Time Of Day
Beautifully melancholic Swedish prog. The usual glacial mellotron sound is this time augmented with some synth lines. Achingly nostalgic and sad and I love it!

13. The Flower Kings ~ The Sum Of No Evil
Their most fully consistent album in many years. No filler at all, just the band on top form and Stolt’s writing controlled and flamboyant.

12. Magic Pie ~ Circus Of Life
Second album from this Swedish band. Not sure why this band is so good. The instrumentation is fairly standard, but the writing and arrangements are really strong.

11. Phideaux ~ Doomsday Afternoon
An unusual one this. Phideaux’s past albums haven’t really been prog at all, more US alt rock. But this one has plenty of great instrumental passages throughout.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

2007 Prog Albums of the Year ~ Part 3 (20 - 16)

20. La Torre Dell Alchemista ~ Neo
Classical symphonic prog as only the Italians know how to do. Lots of tasty keyboard work, especially Hammond and piano.

19. Threshold ~ Dead Reckoning

On a new label, but the same high quality prog metal. Maybe more harder edged than on recent albums, but the epic “Pilot In The Sky Of Dream” is a career highlight.

18. Cathedral ~ The Bridge
A return after a 30 year absence! This US band were highly influential on Anglagard and you can hear why as “The Bridge” takes off where the classic “Stained Glass Stories” left off. Maybe more contemporary with some new twists, but the same angular style is intact!

17. Glass Hammer ~ Culture Of Ascent
A fitting follow up to the mighty double album, “The Inconsolable Secret”. Beautifully realised symphonic prog sees a leaner Fred Schendel with Steve Babb keeping up the quality of their previous efforts. Always a joy to hear the voice of Susie Bogdanowicz.

16. Rush ~ Snakes and Arrows
A very welcome return to form. To me their best since “Moving Pictures”. After the disaster production and mastering job on “Vapor Trails”, this one thankfully sounds good!

Friday, December 07, 2007

2007 Prog Albums of the Year ~ Part 2 (25 - 21)

25. Trion ~ Pilgrim
Second album from this instrumental outfit which includes members of Flamborough Head and Odyssice. Lots of great mellotron playing as was evident on “Tortoise”. This time the sleeve is in the tradition of Hipgnosis.

24. Kaipa ~ Angling Feelings
No Roine Stolt this time, but the sound is still very much Kaipa. The keyboard work of Hans Lundin is expressive and has now plenty of room to breath. Another consistent effort.

23. Alan Morse ~ 4 O’Clock Hysteria
Solo effort from Spock’s Beard keyboardist really showcases what an exceptional player he really is. Some very nice fusion style playing, with guest musicians including ex Mahavishnu’s Jerry Goodman . Melodically very strong throughout!

22. Thought Chamber ~ Angular Perceptions
Complex, technical prog metal of the highest order on this impressive debut album. Beautifully played and produced and features the excellent vocals of Enchant’s Ted Leonard.

21. Therion ~ Gothic Kabbalah
Epic, 2 disc symphonic metal. This shouldn’t work but it does. Bold and huge sounding and beautifully produced.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

2007 Prog Albums of the Year ~ Part 1 (30 – 26)

I am presenting my favourite prog albums of the year in 6 parts, in the best countdown style. This is because it has been a very strong year for new music and could only pick a top 30 and nothing here is really below par. The difficulty has been putting them in order!!! And there are a few I still haven’t heard yet (Satellite and Lana Lane) which I know will be somewhere in the lower reaches. So here goes part one.

30. The Reasoning ~ Awakening
Includes the wonderful voice of Rachel Jones (ex Karantaka). Somewhere between Mostly Autumn and Magenta.

29. Neal Morse ~ Sola Scriptura
Another sprawling, ambitious album from ex Spock’s Beard leader. This may be his darkest effort yet!

28. Mostly Autumn ~ Heart Full Of Sky
Now on their own label, this new album sees the band getting back to their prog-folk roots with some of their most ambitious songs for quite a while!!

27. Pineapple Thief ~ What We Have Sown

Not so much a full-blown new album as more of a stop gap. But still, no filler on this set!

26. Oceansize ~ Frames
Maybe a bit indie-prog for some tastes, but this third album is their strongest yet. The songs are focussed and the arrangements are ambitious. They do sound as if they want to stretch themselves as far as possible. This is big, bold rock in the tradition of The God Machine and Ultrasound!
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