Tag Archives: Progressive Rock

Art Bears – Upon a wheel a cockerel crows

Art Bears became a member of the Rock in Opposition movement in December 1978 where the RIO members met in Sunrise Studio Kirchberg.

The band was formed by members of now disbanded Henry Cow

The debut was released May 1978, containing 9 tracks recorded by Henry Cow in January and 5 tracks by Art Bears in March 1978.

The album can be seen as a “last”  Henry Cow, but with more “song” orientated material than previous albums, as the instrumental recordings would mainly appear on Henry Cow’s Western Culture (1979).

Art bears: Hopes and Fears – “In Two Minds” (recorded by Henry Cow)

 

Art Bears first “true” album with songs intended for and preformed only by Art Bears came soon after, “Winter Songs” recorded in late 1978 and released in 1979.

This is my favorite Art Bears album, within its own genre a relative accessible piece of art, the band is now a trio with Fred Frith playing all instruments, Chris Cutler Drums & Percussion, topped with a stunning vocal by Dagmar Krause.

Upon a – wheel a – cockerel crows the – crimson dawn

There is a medival theme to the record, sending thoughts in direction of early 70’s masters like Jethro Tull or Gentle Gaint, underlined by some supreme violin from Frith.

 

Art Bears made a last album “The World as It Is Today” in late summer 1980 released in 1981, the radical political ambitions of the band is now even more evident with track like “”The Song of Investment Capital Overseas”.

I empty villages – I burn their houses down – I set up factories

The music also seems more inspired by “industrialism” with more repetitive themes that may reflect the machinery and work processes of modern day.

In my opinion a less inspired effort compared to Winter Songs but not bad at all, absolutely worth a listen or rather many listens, this is not music you can expect to digest or comprehend investing 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Steve Lacy – Bop, Free Jazz and Avant Garde Prog

Steven Norman Lackritz was born in New York City back in 1934. He is best known to be the first to specialize on soprano saxophone in modern Jazz, but he was also a very diverse saxophonist, from interpreting the classics masters especially Thelonious Monk, to free Jazz, avant-garde and even progressive jazz rock.

Steve Lacy playing Monk’s “Played Twice”

Starting his career playing Dixieland with various musicians from 1952-55, by the 2nd half of the 50’s he moved into more modern styles and playing with giants like free Jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor , Gil Evans, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.

From Steve Lacy Sortie 1966, this was Steve Lacy’s sixth album, the first based only on his own compositions and his first take on free jazz as a band leader.

 

Steve Lacy appears on Italian band Area’s fourth studio album maledetti, the album is a mystic journey of styles and moods in the more avant-garde division of progressive rock, but also inspired by free/experimental Jazz.

Lacy on Area’s “maledetti” (1976)

 

 

I can’t get out !

In my series off ”Classic” 70’s masterpieces I could not, and wouldn’t dream of forgetting the mighty Tull, the main creator and dominating factor in the world of (Progressive) Folk Rock. It would be obvious to pick “Thick as a Brick” or “Aqualung” which is undeniably brilliant albums, but personally my favorite has always been “Minstrel in the Gallery” may not be that “early” 70’s but….

The opener functions as a great sum-up of what is to come later, with the mix of an acoustic opening and the harder rock finish, great melodic song parts and long instrumentals sections.

The next two tracks on side one includes a very evident and gracefully use of strings conducted by David Palmer, “Cold Wind to Valhalla” has already been covered here, on “Black Satin Dancer” the combo of Rock and Classic instrument is even more evident and brilliantly used to its full potential.

The first side of the album is perfectly rounded off with a completely low down acoustic. In my opinion one of the best quiet Jethro songs “Requiem”

All that was just amazing, but what lifts “Minstrel in the Gallery” sky high is the 16+ minutes “Baker St. Muse” epic, taking up most of side 2, a long track like that will make or break an album, and this one just makes my day every time I listen to it, and after more than 40 year that still happens very frequently.

The combination of Hard Rock, melodic song writing, acoustic passages and the strings is beautifully woven together into perfection.

 

 

Contributions by Robert (part IV)

In 1992 Fripp contributed to David Cunningham’s “Water” on a single track “Stars” – the saxophone player is Peter (Laurence) Gordon.

Fripp had already been involved with contributions to Cunningham’s group “The Flying Lizard” back in 1981. This time the music was more ambient and minimalistic.

 

Also in 1992 Fripp contributes on English electronic group The Grid’s album 456. Fripp’s plays on 3 tracks, Ice Machine, Aquarium and Fire Engine Red.

While Fripp is very evident on all the tracks, Ice Machine stands out as the most hilarious and at the same time brilliant. A must know track for any Fripp devotee. Vocals performed by Dieter Meier from Swiss band Yello.

And then, as python said, to something completely different.

 

In 1993 Fripp played on a track from Lawrence Gowan “…but you can call me Larry” sorry to say so, but to me this is very forgettable.

Anyway here it is, it might be that others will think it is great:

Lawrence Henry Gowan is a Scottish-born Canadian pianist and singer, since 1999 Gowan has been a member of legendary American rock band Styx

An Italian Masterpiece

Not only is Italian Band “Il Balletto Di Bronzo” second album “Ys” from 1972, one of the forgotten rarities of Italian 70’s Rock, but it is also of a musically quality and skill , right up there with the very best progressive band of the period, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes and Genesis ect. ect.
“Ys”, however is a demanding album, and definitely not the easiest album, out of the Italian Progressive Scene, it is somewhat dissonant here and there, and it’s musically equilibrium forces you to follow closely.

Il Balletto di Bronzo was formed in Naples in the late sixties, by vocalist/guitarist Marco Cecioni, bassist Miky Cupaiolo, drummer Gianchi Stinga, and guitarist Lino Aiello. In 1971 Cecioni and Cupaiolo left the band and was replaced by bassist Vito Manzari and classically trained keyboardist/Vocalist Gianni Leone, formerly of Citta Frontale. On Ys spiced with female vocalist Daina Dini.

Ys is a very special album, complex, dark and scary, but also very beautiful at times, an Italian classic masterpiece of 70’s Progressive Rock, filled with stunning keyboards and mellotron parts and haunting guitar, on a solid rhythm section. The vocal language is Italian, just adding to its weirdness (unless of course you understand Italian)

Skymind

Todays post is about Taal’s 2003 album “Skymind”, a band that I actually know little about. Beside the fact that they are French, and that they combine “Rock” instruments, Bass, Drums, Electric Guitar, Keyboards, with more “Classic” instruments, Cello, Flute, Viola, Violin Saxophone and Trombone, into a mind blowing progressive Rock.

To my knowledge Taal have only done 2 albums, “Mister Green” from 2000, and “Skymind” from 2003, both wonderful, with incredible musicianship, obscure in the most positive way.
Not really more to say, just hope you will enjoy the music.

Remedy Lane

Pain of Salvation, is a band from Eskilstuna, Sweden. Even though it would be fair to say Pain of Salvation is a Progressive Metal band, with their ever changing approach to music, they land pretty far for the genre stereotype. From the more metal oriented albums, to the extreme complex “BE” about the concept of GOD/Universe ect. , including a 9 piece classical orchestra, to the latest albums duo, Road Salt I and Road Salt II, where they explore a more blues rooted rock, and a bit of gospel, combined with some Prog Rock elements, but not a lot of metal.

All of Pain of Salvation albums are concept albums, although more or less obvious. This also goes for the albums in question here, Remedy Lane from 2005, center around bandleader Daniel Gildenlow more or less autobiographical lyrics. Daniel Gildenlow vocal is very passionate and strong, sometimes reminding a little bit of Mike Patton.

Remedy Lane is a clear highpoint in Pain of Salvation production, an atypical Prog Metal album, with the weight, on emotions and strong songwriting, rather than on showing of technical abilities.
Pain of Salvation is definitely worth digging into, whether as a representative of today’s very developed Swedish Prog Rock scene, or as an alternative to more traditional (Prog) Metal.

Nursery Cryme

At their second album Trespass, Genesis found their style, the album was a lot better than their debut, but sort of inconsistent. On their 3.rd album “Nursery Cryme”, they made their first genuine masterpiece, the first in a series of great Genesis albums to come.

Up to the recording of Nursery Cryme, The band grew creatively, hiring Phil Collins who was looking for an active band, and Genesis definitely could use this supreme drummer who also was a great backup singer for Peter Gabriel. They was also hiring the imaginative and talented, very classic inspires guitarist Steve Hackett. Together with founding members Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford, this lineup was to become the legendary Genesis progressive flagship up to the departure of Peter Gabriel in 1975.

Genesis bought King Crimsons Mellotron prior to the recording of Nursery Cryme, which would come to full use on the album. Creating a fully “symphonic” sound, combined with the surreal lyrics.
Delicate and beautiful in the details, but also heavy and even scary at moments, Nursery Cryme was a brilliant album, and with this album Genesis marks their position as one of the top Progressive Rock band of the early 70’s.

Jackie Perez Gratz

She is a mother of a young daughter , she has got a full time job developing video games at Electronic Arts. But more importantly in this context, she is a crafted cellist, playing with Metal bands like Neurosis, OM, Today is the Day and others. She was involved in Amber Asylum, and she is currently a founding member of Grayceon, and also a member of Giant Squid, founded by her partner, guitarist AJ Gregory.

jackieperezgratz

Grayceon were formed in 2005, Jackie on electric cello/vocals, Max Doyle on guitar/vocals, and Zack Farwell on drums. It’s definitely (progressive) metal but with a twist, Jackie vocals and emotional almost melancholy cello playing, ensure that there is something very rare about Grayceon.

Giant Squid is a post-metal band formed in 2002. Jackie Perez Gratz joined Giant Squid in January 2007 as both vocalist and cellist. The band plays a dark and mysterious heavy, reaching in a multitude of directions, sometimes with a distinctly Middle-eastern sound.

Amber Asylum is a San Francisco based music group that serves as a platform for composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Kris Force, creating a classical inspired music, dark ambient with classical instruments like violin and cello dominant.

Gryphon – Mushrumps from the past

Midnight Mushrumps (1974) is a lesser known but highly impressive masterpiece of 70’s progressive Rock music.

Other band bands like Jethro Tull and Gentle Gaint flirted with a combination of Progressive Rock, Traditional Folk and elements from Classical Music. Gryphon what doing the same thing to the extreme, where the Rock elements was toned down, and the music was clearly sending you to a time long gone, blended from many different periods, instruments, structures, all mixed together from Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque; Classical and Folk with a touch of modern rhythmic music.

Gryphon’s self-titled debut, released the previous year, was more clearly relying on European folk, with several song based tracks played on traditional instruments, on this their second album however, only one of these track are left, “The Ploughboy’s Dream”, the only “song” on the album.

Gryphon wrote and recorded music for a National Theatre performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the music inspired the almost 19 min title track for the Midnight Mushrumps album. The track is one of those brilliant 70’s progressive rock “ Epics, very unique in style, very complex, and timeless in its beauty. Taking up a full A side of the album, back in vinyl days.

After “Midnight Mushrumps”, Gryphon released another highlight with “Red Queen to Gryphon Three” later in 1974, a step even more in direction of the British Progressive Rock scene of the time, but I prefer the instrumentation and sound of “Midnight Mushrumps”, which I find to be more authentic and unique than their later albums. That said “Red Queen to Gryphon Three” is combined of excellent composition and great musicianship, and can only be recommended to anyone interested in Prog Rock inspired by the music of the past.