Thursday, March 26, 2009

Prognosis ~ Free CD with 1st issue of “Prog”

The CD that comes with the first issue of Classic Rock presents Prog Magazine is one of the best freebies I have come across. Quite a few bands I have never heard of and the samples presented are on the whole highly impressive. Here’s a rundown.

Panic Room ~ Elektra City
An edited version of the opening track from the bands excellently varied debut album.

Whimwise ~ Scurry Flurries
Very much in the vein of The Enid which is no surprise as Nick May from that band is on this. Also reminded me of Zappa’s synclavier excursions like “Jazz from Hell”.

Godsticks ~ Only When Provoked
This is a bit fusionesque. Think of Finneus Gauge or early Thieves Kitchen.

Mystery ~ Beneath the Veil of Winter’s Face
Fronted by new Yes man Benoit David. This is excellent stuff in a retro 70’s prog way. Very colourful and highly melodic.

The Reasoning ~ Dark Angel
From the bands second album. I like it, but this band hasn’t quite completely gelled with me yet.

Blood Ceremony ~ Hop Toad
This was a big surprise. Somehow I was expecting something death metal. The blurb says a mix of Sabbath and Tull. I see that, but I am also reminded of 70’s Swedish prog and these guys are not a million miles away from Anekdoten either. Very enjoyable.

The Treat ~ Citizen of the World
A good acoustic intro which gives way into a heavy section that is a bit in the Kashmir, eastern style. Very good indeed.

Diagonal ~ Semi Permeable Men-Brain
I am very familiar with this. It’s quite sensational. An amazing 10 minutes of out there prog. This Brighton band are going to be big.

Of The I ~ Cathexis
This starts off deceptively pedestrian in a typical prog metal way, but moves into a great instrumental workout. Another very promising band.

Spaced Out ~ Biomechanic II
Heavy fusion stuff a la Planet X. Great musicianship.

So for me the standouts are Diagonal, Mystery, Blood Ceremony and Of The I. But there is nothing here that is really less than interesting across the 61 minutes of this CD.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Classic Rock Presents Prog - Out!!

I just picked up the first issue of Classic Rock's Prog magazine. First impressions are extremely good. There is lots to enjoy here. Not just about the usual suspects, but more importantly the new talent that is out there. The included CD reflects that. I haven't heard a lot of these acts so there will be much to explore.

More on this when I properly explore the contents. It also looks like its going to be a bi-monthy publication.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Playlist ~ 23rd March 2009

Satellite ~ Nostalgia
Fourth album from one of Poland’s finest. Maybe working within the more neo-prog arena, the contemporary production makes this a class above most other releases in this genre. The songwriting is strong and memorable, highly melodic. This is really drummers Wojtek Szadkowski’s project and his work here is highly impressive. This is infectious stuff!

Agents Of Mercy ~ The Fading Ghosts of Twilight
That man Stolt is back with another new project which he fits in between those epic Flower King masterworks. The album is centred around Unifaun’s Nad Sylvan who has one of those voices you love or hate. It is very much in the theatrical Fish/Gabriel vein and works here very well. This album is much stronger than I expected and is one for those liking mid-period Genesis, but actually offers a whole lot more.

King Crimson ~ Lizard
With the news that Steven Wilson’s surround mixes of Crimson’s back catalogue is nearing fruition, starting with the release of “Lizard” and “Red”, I took the opportunity to give the last remastering release a spin. I have always considered “Lizard” to be very unfairly maligned, even by Fripp himself. Even now the odd jazz arrangements make this the one of the most distinctive albums in the Crimson canon. In particular the trio of songs which start the album are some of the best stuff that Fripp and Sinfield penned together. This is skewed, surrealist fantasy songwriting like no other. I don’t think an album cover has so perfectly represented the music therein as has Gini Barris’s strikingly ornate artwork for “Lizard”.

Steven Wilson ~ Insurgentes
The retail release for Steven Wilson (yes, him again) after last years limited edition deluxe hardback edition shows the album to be even better second time round. I have to say the attention to detail in the arrangements and production is exquisite. This is the perfect culmination of what Wilson has been striving for within Porcupine Tree, No-Man and Blackfield. The man’s unstoppable!

Wetton & Downes ~ Icon 3
The songwriting team of John Wetton and Geoff Downes are on a bit of a high at the moment as evidenced by last years return to form for Asia with “Phoenix”. This third instalment in the Icon trilogy of albums is as strong as the others. This is melodic rock at its very best. Wetton is in wonderful voice and it’s so good to see him coming away from his period of health problems with such a positive and strong statement as this album is.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Prog Magazine Cover

Here's the cover shot for the first issue of Classic Rock's Prog magazine, due to hit the streets on March 25th.

Wobbler ~ Afterglow

For those who were looking for a replacement for the legendary Swedish band Anglagard, Wobbler fitted the bill to a tee. Although Norwegian, they were geographically and sonically close enough to carry on the template set out by Anglagard over their two classic albums. Their debut “Hinterland” was released back in 2005. Since then silence. Now we have a new album. Well sort of! This shortish album (around 35 minutes) is actually made up of material written in 1999 and recorded during 2007/2008. The bulk of the album is centred around re-recordings of two demos “Imperial Winter White Dwarf” and “Leprechaun Behind the Door” which were only available for a short while on their web site. For many these demos were better than the album itself! These tracks are now titled more sensibly “Imperial Winter White” and “In Taberna”. Well worth getting for these excellent compositions, now sounding better than ever. Recommended for those into their analogue keyboards and basses of a Rickenbacker variety. That will be me then! The CD can be ordered directly via the bands own label, Termo Records.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

"Classic Rock Presents Prog" Magazine

Unbelievably, Classic Rock magazine are publishing a new quarterly magazine devoted exclusively to prog rock! Has prog rock become popular and no one told me about it!! I wonder what prompted the decision that this was a viable proposition. It does seem that prog is no longer the dirty word it once used to be. In fact it does seem to be hip to have your music described as “prog”.

With the success of bands like Muse, Radiohead and The Mars Volta maybe there is a market for a publication devoted to more risk taking rock music. The tide does seem to have turned and rock music is becoming more progressive. Both looking to the future and the past. Take the Brighton band Diagonal for example. They look and sound old school prog. Lots of Crimsonising going on, but they add their own slant and take things off in different directions. Pure Reason Revolution are about to release a new album which by all accounts is as much electronic/dance orientated as it is prog.

I think this is an exciting time for rock music at the moment. Bands do seem to be taking risks again and that a mainstream music publication reflects that in producing a new magazine is timely indeed. It looks like they are going to cover the traditional prog bands like Yes, Genesis and ELP as well as newer acts like The Reasoning, Demians and Frost*. I really hope this is a success as the music I love deserves this type of coverage. Out of the closet at last!!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Playlist ~ 2nd March 2009

Magma ~ Studio Zund
Magma along with Henry Cow and Univers Zero produced some of the most uncompromising rock music to come out of the 70’s. This 12 disc box set comprises all of the bands studio albums plus a 2 CD set which includes various archive recordings. No remastering has been carried out, but the sound is pretty good anyway. Each digipacked album comes with its own booklet which includes archival photographs and notes, some of which is actually in English of a kind! You can get this box for around £50 which is a real bargain for anyone wanting a quick way into the world of Zeuhl.

Richard Pinhas and Merzbow ~ Keio Line
Pinhas seems to be going through quite a fertile period at the moment. His last 2 CD set “Metatron” included some of his best work since the golden days of Heldon. This time around he has teamed up with noise pioneer Merzbow to produce something more sedate. It may be termed dark ambient and utilises Pinhas’s own variant of Frippertronics but the results are taught and electrically tense.

Ultravox ~ Quartet
The second batch of EMI remasters includes this, the third Midge Ure fronted album with the band. I think a lot of people will be surprised how non-poppy this album is and how good a guitarist Midge is.

Dr Strangely Strange ~ Kip of the Senses
I new about this strange, obscure band via Mark Powells Island box set which was named after a song from this album. They seem to be mentioned in the same breadth as the Incredible String Band and do travel a similar acid folk path. I recently read an account of the release of this album in the latest Record Collector mag and was intrigued to search out this excellent re-issue on Hux records. This is another superb example of how to properly re-issue long out of print recordings. The amount of love and attention given to the remastering and packaging is highly impressive. Hux have also levelled the same attention to detail on recently released archival collections by Dr Strangely Strange and the Incredible String Band. The latter got me on to a recent acid folk kick. But that’s another story!
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