Prog Playlists From My Personal Exploration

Kurt's selections

January 22, 2008 - Kurt joins the fray!

Here's more amazing music to enjoy.  The permanent link will always be at the top.

January 21, 2008 - Bacamarte - Depois Do Fim

A great all around record.  This is described as 'Symphonic Prog' by the experts.  My only complaint is that the electric guitar is too thin in the mix.  I want something a bit more soaring, a bit more (wait for it) Hackett-esque.  That complaint is, however, a small thing compared to how wonderful this record is.  Starr has requested the whole thing, so here it is.  Just another quick note:  Starr tried to get me into prog internationale some time ago and, foolishly, did not listen.  When I finally figured out that the music I had been listening to was really just the beginning, this was the record that started that portion of the journey.  So here it is, straight from Brazil, circa 1983.  Despite that year, this ain't exactly a Marillion album.  This sounds more like 1973.  Enjoy!

1. UFO (6:26)
2. Smog Alado (4:11)
3. Miragem (4:54)
4. Pássaro De Luz (2:28)
5. Caño (1:59)
6. Último Entardecer (9:29)
7. Controvérsia (1:57)
8. Depois Do Fim (6:31)
9. Mirante Das Estrelas (6:11)

January 19, 2008 - Headhunters - Paris 3/13/07

Is it prog?  No.  Does it kill?  Absolutely.  At the age of 60, Mike Clark is still extremely strong and dedicated.  This recording from the New Morning Club in Paris is extremely effective, in both quality and performance.  In addition to Clark on drums, the band also includes percussionist Bill Summers, bassist TM Stevens, Donald Harrison on sax and Jerry Z (?) on keyboard.  Ever since I got this recording I've had in mind to copy it for Kurt.  I may still have to do that.  In th meantime, I'll update this if anyone can tell me song titles.  I'm not entirely sure that the first jam is Chameleon, although that's the information that came with the show.  If so, it's a very different version.


January 12, 2008 - Neal Morse '?-Live'

This one is specifically for cousin Steven.  The funny thing is that I don't know if he's got the tech to download and play .mp3 files.  Steve, let me know if you need help with this.

Anyway, Neal Morse is one of the great connundrums of prog.  He co-founded and fronted Spock's Beard; is an American with an outstanding prog/pop sensibility who can also write 20-30 minute songs without even breaking a sweat; believes deeply in Christianity; left the successful band to pursue a solo career in which he has focused his lyrics on his religious beliefs; and still produces some of the most emotional and powerful prog rock anthems anywhere today.  He is a bit of the mad genius, but the music is so good, it doesn't matter.  He seems truly happy with the current direction of his career.

'?' was released in 2005, and its brilliant.  If you don't already have it, go buy the studio version now.  With Mike Portnoy on drums and a guest spot by Steve Hackett, it is a 'must-have'.  My cousin Steven played a huge role in getting me to love prog, and when I loaned him '?' he loved it.  I felt like a small measure of the favor had been repaid.  This live version does not have the star-power, but it's always great to hear Neal the showman, as well as musician and songwriter.  There is also a second disc (not uploaded) that has more of Neal's earlier solo material and a Spock's Beard medley.

Finally, Neal released and even more outrageous record last year called Sola Scriptura, about Martin Luther.  It is a monstrous epic that continues the extraordinary ambition of this gifted artist.

January 6, 2008 - The First Entries

This is the first playlist.  It represents an extensive, but by no means exhaustive venture into international prog (not U.S. and not U.K).  This lead back to a few old favorites in order to listen to these newly discovered bits from Sweeden, Poland, Brazil and others in some context.  I've tried to provide concise observations to go with each selection.  I'll leave it to you to get more information, but a great resource is ProgArchives, which is well-run and broad in its scope of coverage.

I make no apology that most of the commentary proceeds from my deep and abaiding love of Gabriel/Hackett-era Genesis. If this exploration has shown me anything, it's the extrodinary influence that band had outside the United States.

The idea for this project came from having reconnected with a few old friends who want to know what I've been listening to lately.  I'm eager to share.  The links are "album - band - song".

  • Criaturas da Noite - O Terço - Jogo das Pedras - According to something I read on ProgArchives, this was THE record that established a Brazilian prog scene.  This band made money doing this music.  This is from 1974 and is just a short little thing that illustrates the feel of the whole record.  There are longer songs that fit the 'symphonic prog' profile, but I find this really easy to listen to, short and long songs alike.
  • Moonmadness - Camel - Aristillus - Camel, as with most of this playlist, is a new flavor, even though they were pretty successful in the UK, made lots of records and used stong keys to build drama with simple melodies.  The problem is, some of it is a bit boring.  I really think this kind of music needs a STRONG front man.  Despite the fact that Camel never had it, I still really like this song - sort of a brief intro to the record.
  • Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh - Magma - Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanïk - Magma is challenging, but not as tough as I thought.  I just go with it and enjoy the subtle turns within the rigid Zeuhl structure.  Great drums and production on everything I've heard from Magma so far (which is really way too little).
  • Memento z banalnym tryptykiem - SBB - Moja ziemio wyśniona - One person described this particular track as incorporating old Genesis with Steely Dan.  I think that's exactly right.  Great drums on everything I've heard from this Polish band.  This is from 1980, right before they broke up for a while.  There's less Mahavishnu and atmospheric improve (although you can still hear traces).  This is more of a fusion-romp, almost like Collins-era Brand X, with strong prog elements in arrangement, vocal and melody.  Powerful stuff from a prolific band.
  • Sleeping In Traffic  Part One - Beardfish - And Never Know - My friend Chris recently mentioned that I might like this young band from Sweeden.  They certainly don't sound like Sweedish stalwart proggers The Flower Kings.  Almost no detectible Yes influence.  Instead, there is a strong Zappa vibe in that it is highly composed and arranged.  I'm very impressed with this group and can't wait to hear more.  I wish the drums were a little louder in the mix.  It would go nicely with the outrageous arrangements.  But even with the quiet drums, this still rocks a-plenty.  It even has some of the take-no-prisoners insanity of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.  See below.
  • Depois Do Fim - Bacamarte - UFO - Bacamarte kinda started this binge.  This was a very highly rated Brazilian prog record from 1983 that I found easily when I realized I wanted to hear something from down there.  The same Chris (see above) had played me some Brazilian music long ago, and it was shocking to hear something so right-up-my-alley.  Unfortunately, I never followed up to get any, until now.  This is just a great mix.  The nylon-string guitar gives you a Latin flavor, but the busy bass (Rickenbacker?) and the strong keyboard melodies, which you might think would be incongruous, are actually irresistible.
  • les cinq saisons - HARMONIUM - depuis l'automne - This was also one of the earlier finds.  This French-Canadian band really captures that beautiful pastoral feel of Nursery Cryme with this 1975 release.  It doesn't exactly rock like the Genesis record, but has it's own drama and delicate emotion.  Although this is in the 10-minute-epic range, the record contains shorter compositions as well.
  • Defector (2005 Release) - Steve Hackett - Time To Get Out - This classic just seemed to fit here. 
  • The Beginning of the Enz - Split Enz - Spellbound - This record contains recordings from before the first official release from this band in 1975.  That means this music is being composed and recorded at the same time as people are starting to listen to Dark SIde of the Moon, Selling England by the Pound and Larks Tounges in Aspic.  Although Split Enz would go on to create pop masterpieces, this little number, and all the music of their first 2-3 records is unabashedly prog.  It's also quite good.
  • Farol Da Liberdade - Sagrado Coracao Da Terra - Solidariedade - I'm not sure what to think of this band yet.  The albums are proving a bit difficult to get my hands on.  My sister grabbed this one for me and it's pretty good, but a bit light.  Like Camel, too much prog and not enough ROCK.  Still, its amazing that Brazillions in 1991 were making something like this.  I especially like the Banks-style arpeggios that make up the general structure.  So pleasing to the ear.  Is this easy listening music?
  • Omar Rodriguez - Omar Rodriguez - Spookrijden Op Het Fietspad - If Sagrado is easy listening (see above), then Omar Rodriguez is the cure.  This is the avant garde with a heaping portion of attitude.  Omar's guitar is tortured and his brother's drumming is relentless.  I could never get past the vocals in Mars Volta, Omar's popular band.  His solo material, especially this jazz-prog madness, solves the problem by going instrumental, emphasis on mental.
  • Pamięć - SBB - W kołysce dłoni twych (Ojcu) - Here's SBB again.  This 1975 track is slighltly longer format and incorporates that Mahavishnu/atmospheric improv that is absent on the other SBB track in this list.  But after setting the scene with some Sancuary-esque musings, we then a get a highly composed prog journey that delivers strong melody and drama in all ther right places.  This is a bit more challenging than some of the other selections on this playlist, but SBB really rewards close listening.
  • Pawn Hearts - Van der Graaf Generator - Man-Erg - This band was so famous and had such a tremendous influence and I knew nothing about them.  This record is my first foray and I'm not disappointed.  It's challenging, but, again, rewarding.  I hear the strong Crimson influence in this track, but it's not as flashy.  Maybe that's why the vocal style had such a strong influence on Fish.
  • Per Un Amico - Premiata Forneria Marconi - Per Un Amico - Beloved Italian proggers, PFM.  They're not trying to hurt anyone, so it doesn't have the gravity of Beardfish or SBB.  It's more like that delicate flower in the vase.  As beautiful now as it was upon release in 1972.
  • The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life (Disc 1) (1993 Master) - Frank Zappa - Florentine Pogen - The Beardfish got me thinking of Frank.  I wanted to see if it all fit together.  I don't know how, but it does.
  • Second Life Syndrome - Riverside - Volte-Face - A guilty pleasure.  There's probably a few dozen bands out there that do the heavy/prog/metal/depressed/occasional-demon-voice thing, but I happen to like this band.  I have a soft spot for things that come form Poland.  This is so different from SBB, but it's all prog and it's all good.
  • Stand Up - Jethro Tull - We Used to Know - Did this band originate the heavy prog sound?  With that persistent flute, and equally persistent rock guitar, Tull just bring it, year after year.  This is 1968.
  • Free Mars - Lusk - Free Mars - This is from 1997, the same year OK Computer came out.  I got both brand new and always thought there was some strong relation between the two albums, but I liked this one better.  I still do.  It didn't hurt that, before ever hearing Lusk, I read a review comparing it to Selling England By The Pound.  More than ten years later, I still can't understand what that reviewer was talking about.
  • Sleeping In Traffic  Part One - Beardfish - Roulette - This is the longest song from the new Beardfish record.  I haven't really even digested the whole thing yet, but this band could be something extra-special.  This is HYPER composed, with 'solos' carried by multiple instruments at times, including voice.  Some of the keyboard breaks seem to feature Tony Banks' ARP Pro-Soloist, fresh from the Cinema Show solo.  And then there's the accordian solo.
  • Communion - Fish - Raw Meat - I remember many years ago, my friend Dave had gotten 'Suits' and was singing this song with the funny title.  I was a Fish fan for many years before I realized how great this song is.  This version comes from an 'acoustic night' live recording, and his vocal will make me cry about every time.  "I'll always have the strength to carry on."