Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Classic Rock Presents Prog Issue 2

The second issue of Classic Rocks Prog mag is out next week. Here's the cover. Interesting to note that the cover mounted CD will contain a track from the new Dream Theater album.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Esoteric Label Re-Releases Canterbury Classics

In the next couple of weeks the excellent re-issue label releases four classic recordings from the so-called Canterbury Scene. The important ones for me are the two National Health albums. These were in effect Dave Stewart’s swansong recordings from this type of music and were a culmination of what had gone before with Egg and Hatfield and the North.

The debut album featured the duel keyboards of Stewart and the late great Alan Gowen, who also features on the other two releases by Gilgamesh and Soft Heap and the characteristic “valvey” guitar of Phil Miller. Though the music of National Health was considered complex and it is, it’s never less than hugely melodic. Just listen to the beautiful “Tenemos Roads” with the gorgeous vocals of Amanda Parsons. By “Of Queues and Cures” the band had become a much tighter unit with Henry Cow’s John Greaves on bass and vocals, taking over from Neil Murray who left to join Whitesnake! The material on this second album was more “rocky” if that is the right phrase and for me is one of my favourite Canterbury albums. Highlights are undoubtedly the epic “Squarer for Maud” and “The Bryden 2-Step”.

The band only recorded one more studio album made up of material written by Alan Gowen and released in tribute to him after his death in 1981. Shame Pip Pyle insisted on using an electronic drum kit for the sessions.

Knowing the quality of Esoteric releases in the past these re-releases should sound and look very good indeed. These recordings have long been hard to find on CD so its about time they were made more readily available. I believe Esoteric are also readying the two Hatfield and the North studio albums for re-release later in the year.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rewiring Genesis ~ A Tribute To The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Unifaun ~ Unifaun
Two takes on doing a Genesis. The first is a project partly instigated by Spock’s Beard Nick D’Virgilio. Completely re-recording Genesis’s epic double album concept might seem a tad pointless, but D’Virglio and cohort Mark Hornsby have made enough of a difference in the arrangements to warrant this recording. Using brass, strings and even an accordian this is a fresh and inspired re-working. Vocals and drums are by Virgilio who is excellent throughout. If anything I would have gone even further in making the arrangements even more radical, but this is a highly enjoyable treatment.

Unifaun take there name from a lyric on “Selling England by the Pound”. This band are Nad Sylvan (from the recent excellent Agents of Mercy album) and someone called Bonamici. They basically set out to write the Genesis songs, Genesis never did! It actually works. This sounds to me the album the band should have made after “Wind and Wuthering” if Hackett had stayed in the band. The songwriting is very much in the Genesis style, but it’s very strong and doesn’t feel like just mere copying. There is something very much the bands own working throughout. I like this a lot!

Hawkwind ~ Quark, Strangeness and Charm/PXR5 (remasters)
These two for me constitute the highlight of Hawkwinds time on the Charisma label. Robert Calvert is the star here. His vocals and lyrics are excellent and really should have secured Calvert’s status as a true rock visionary on a par with say Peter Gabriel or even Roger Waters. Outstanding re-releases by Esoteric.

Patrick Moraz ~ Change Of Space
Amazingly, almost back to the standard of “Story Of I”. Lots and lots and lots of wild frentetic synths. But that’s how we like it.

Camel ~ Moonmadness (Deluxe Edition)
Considered by many as Camel’s finest, this was actually remastered a number of years back. But the original analogue masters have been newly digitally transferred by Ben Wiseman, remastered by Pascal Byrne and sound sensational. Now extended with lots of live material into a 2CD affair, this is the ultimate version of this recording. A very nice digipack layout only slightly let down by the oversight of not printing the musician credits. Why do Mark Powell projects tend to do this! Apart from that highly recommended.

Also released and remastered for the first time is “Raindance” the album that featured Richard Sinclair. This has a more mellow almost AOR feel about it. But still lots to enjoy. They have also released “The Snow Goose” as a 2CD deluxe edition.

By the way, just read that Transatlantic (Roine Stolt, Pete Trewavas, Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse) are back together to record a third album!!

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.
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