Titles are arranged alphabetically with recent additions highlighted in yellow.
A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-T | U-Z
On Further Out (2009), Ontario songwriter/composer Ken Baird leads his band (guitar, bass, drums) through nine tracks while playing predominantly keyboards and singing, with Sue Fraser and others adding backing vocals. Even though it’s been a while since Martin Road, the music seems to be a logical extension of that style, with a stronger individual identity and greater maturity. Production-wise it’s a big step up too. It’s another very strong album for Baird, and in particular, the 10-minute title track is a tour-de-force.
Martin Road (2004) continues Ken Baird’s remarkable career arc, from instrumental Mike Oldfield-influenced solo works to more ensemble-oriented Renaissance/Genesis-inspired songs with confident vocals. Baird’s warm vocals are now to the point where he could get a gig solely as a singer, and Sue Fraser again contributes her lovely backing vocals. Multi-instrumentalist Baird, primarily a keyboardist, gets help from several other musicians on drums, bass, and guitars (one of whom, Steve Cochrane, is a fine recording artist in his own right). Both the folky side as well as the symphonic side of Renaissance are suggested here, and the Genesis/Tony Banks influence first heard on Fields continues, but Baird’s songs are more personal and intimate than either of those references would imply.
Orion is Ken Baird’s third album, not only a quantum leap forward for this artist, but one of the best symphonic rock albums of 2000. Orion features a greater role for singer Sue Fraser; she and Ken share vocal duties and when they sing together, the harmonies are sublime. While the Mike Oldfield and Genesis influences are still present, the music now feels closest to Renaissance, with some Rick Wakeman-like synth leads.
The music on Fields (1998) is situated between Mike Oldfield and Genesis/Tony Banks, closer to the latter in fact, a very warm vocal symphonic rock album with touches of folk, both Celtic and otherwise. The emphasis is on melody, arrangement, and texture. Ken’s voice is pleasant and intimate, and Sue Fraser’s backing vocals are most welcome when they appear. She sings lead on the album’s centerpiece, the 11-minute Into Night, and her voice is exquisite. Ken is an accomplished keyboardist and also plays recorder, whistle, guitar, bass, trumpet, and percussion. Other musicians assist on drums and guitar.
August (1996) is Baird’s first album. It is more strictly in the early-Oldfield style, less rock-oriented, instrumental save one track. Consider it Baird’s Ommadawn. These albums exude such analog warmth - they just don’t make them like this any more.
See below for Ken Baird’s new band Monarch Trail.
French-Canadian Robert Beriau debuted in 2005 with the instrumental work Falling Back to Where I Began, playing piano, synths, acoustic & electric guitar, bass, and drums/percussion. That album was somewhat similar to the first Clearlight album, spacey and classically-influenced, with biting electric guitar leads, generally ponderous and serious-sounding. Beriau adds vocals and uses two other musicians to handle the drums on Selfishness: Source of War & Violence (2008, 65-minutes). Here Beriau’s admiration of Peter Hammill is readily apparent, and his vocals are in the Hammill style, though there is still a lot of instrumental content. The music is dark progressive rock that, in addition to the Hammill influence, has a degree of Floydian spaciness and those same biting guitar leads found on his debut. Read reviews.
Ed Bernard is the guitarist of Toronto prog band Druckfarben, in which he also plays violin and mandolin and contributes backing vocals. On his first solo album Polydactyl (2015, digipack), Bernard also takes care of keyboards, bass, and vocals, while two drummers split drum duties. Polydactyl is every bit as proggy as Druckfarben and on the same high level. The album features guest vocalists Cameron Hawkins of FM and Druckfarben bandmate Phil Naro. William Hare (Druckfarben keyboardist) plays piano on one song, while two other musicians guest on piano and bass. Maybe the band we’re most frequently reminded of is Kansas, but the album also contains a lot of high-energy rock-fusion as well as influences of Genesis, Yes, and others. Like Druckfarben, this is classic progressive rock surpassed by few today. The virtuosity is obvious but never obscures the melodies and songs. And the acoustic instruments are not forgotten. Read the Progressive Music Planet review.
ProgQuebec says: “Quebecois guitarist Jacques Blais released this mostly-instrumental album back in 1975. It features most of the members of Contraction at the time of their second album. More specifically, it’s produced by Yves Laferrière and features him on bass, Lachapelle on keys, Perrotte on drums, and Christiane Robichaud on vocals on various tracks. Jacques Blais sings and plays guitar. The material has some similarities to Contraction, but Blais is a more prominent presence than Robert Stanley was on the Contraction albums, and there aren’t really any pop influences, just a slightly funky but mostly ethereal atmospheric progressive rock. Reissued for the first time on CD, remastered from the original tapes.” There is some Yes influence present, primarily in the guitar, and a little Pink Floyd, but as with most of the Quebec progressive rock of the 1970s, it is a unique style.
This Toronto-based prog band should be enormously popular once enough people hear them, at least people who like prog with pop songwriting skills in evidence, vocals front and center, and infectious energy. Bolus seem able to crank out catchy songs in much the same way 1980s Rush did, and Rush is certainly a major influence. But Bolus also remind us of early IZZ, when IZZ were more playful and less serious-sounding, also early Ambrosia and Genesis. Genesis get mentioned because Bolus like to add Mellotron strings and other proggy keyboards, and Mellotron strings can change the character of any music. While the Rush similarity is obvious on some tracks, especially in the upbeat energy, Bolus are a lot stronger in the keyboard department, since when Rush did use keys, Geddy Lee played pretty basic parts. Bolus also have harmony vocals that Rush lack. Watch Your Step was originally released in 2005 but was re-recorded and rereleased in late 2011 in this digipack edition. Delayed Reaction (2010, digipack) is their second, Triangulate (2013, digisleeve) is their third. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
In the early 1970s, well before joining keyboard/percussion duo Dionne-Brégent, keyboardist Michel-Georges Brégent fronted the group Brégent with brother Jacques on vocals. Following the dissolution of Dionne-Brégent, Brégent reformed to produce a second album, 1979’s Partir Pour Ailleurs. The poetry of Verlaine, Léo Ferré and Felix Leclerc are given dramatic treatment by Jacques and set to an adventurous symphonic and electronic rock music, resulting in an album that was ahead of its time. Or maybe from a different time stream altogether. The dramatic/poetic French-language vocals may remind some listeners of Ange, though there are times when they sound more like a French David Byrne. The music is progressive rock with an avant-garde edge, not in the sense of dissonant and unlistenable, but more in a Zappa sense of taking chances and constantly surprising the listener. This reissue on the ProgQuébec label comes with eight unreleased bonus tracks recorded live in concert in 1977.
This is the 2007 edition on Unicorn Digital of a CD released independently in 2006. Capharnaüm is an instrumental progressive rock quartet from Montreal featuring two guitarists, bass and drums. Their sound is centered on the interplay of their two guitarists, who are brothers with distinct but complementary styles. The music is intricate but always melodic, with the variety of guitar tones giving the band a full sound. There is some heavy guitar, but more often they use cleaner, ringing tones. It’s a fresh sound that is not overly technical but rather full of atmosphere as well as energy.
With or Without (2007) is Steve Cochrane’s fourth album, here joined by Ken Baird on keyboards (Cochrane in turn has played on several of Baird’s CDs), two drummers splitting the workload, and backing vocalists. Cochrane altered his approach on this CD relative to his first three CDs. Not only is it more band-oriented, but there is a lot more acoustic guitar. It exceeds Cochrane’s previous work by a wide margin. The two contemporary comparisons that spring to mind are (Guy) Manning and Steve Unruh, that is, progressive troubadours who frame folky singer-songwriter songs in rich symphonic prog arrangements. With Cochrane, there is more influence of Renaissance (piano-based classical-rock arrangements) and some of the pastoral nature of early Genesis, Anthony Phillips, or Gordon Giltrap. The electric guitar provides melodic leads in a progressive (e.g., Steve Hackett) style that balance the acoustic guitar perfectly. Read Jerry Lucky’s review.
La La La: Variations on a Happy Song (2012, 57-minutes, digipack) is Steve Cochrane’s magnum opus, and his previous albums cannot prepare one for how progressive and how good this is. (The title won’t prepare you either.) Cochrane has amped up the Genesis / Steve Hackett side of his style while retaining all the other elements mentioned above. This album is more instrumental, more epic and powerful, more adventurous. It plays as a continuous suite with all the parts thematically connected. We know some of you have deep, abiding misgivings about albums released under an individual’s name (unless said individual used to play guitar in Genesis), so we’re asking you to trust us on this one. Or read the Jerry Lucky and Progplanet reviews and trust them.
Contraction’s self-titled debut (1972) captures the beauty, originality, and adventurous nature of a group recognized as one of Quebec’s greatest progressive rock bands. One long thread permeates the entire album, blending beautiful songs and instrumentals. There was an English version of this album, but this is the French version. Contraction’s second album La Bourse ou la Vie (1974) features another long cycle of progressive songs highlighted by the 18-minute title track, which has a bit of a King Crimson influence. Contraction is fairly representative of Quebec’s 1970s progressive scene, with beautiful female vocals in French (and sometimes wordless), a very organic 1970s sound bordering on fusion at times, merging complex rock with delicate, folk-tinged passages emphasizing acoustic instruments, plus touches of funk and blues.
The performance captured on Live 1974 was originally broadcast over the radio in February 1974, a month before the La Bourse ou la Vie sessions. It has not been previously released. The audio has been remastered from the original 1/4" tapes, and the performance and recording quality are both excellent. The set list is a mix of material from the first album, including some English versions, material that would later appear on the second album, and three previously unreleased tracks.
These are the 2006 reissues on the ProgQuébec label. Conventum was formed in 1973 by several of Quebec’s best self-taught, counter-cultural musicians. On their first album À l’affût d’un complot (1977), guitarist and singer-songwriter André Duchesne is joined by guitarist extraordinaire René Lussier, violinist Bernard Cormier, bassist Jacques Laurin, and guests such as Louise Forestier and Charles Kaczynski. There are seven live bonus tracks, and this edition includes a 16-page booklet. Their second, Le Bureau central des utopies (1979), has two bonus tracks (one live) totaling 16-minutes. The music of Conventum blends acoustic chamber music with rock as well as traditional folk and early music, all masterfully played. It is full of delicate passages and an enticing classical-folk fusion, so while one can label it avant-folk-prog or something like that, the music is not inaccessible. That is, except for the live bonus tracks, which are much weirder and may be of no value to non-French speakers what with all the dramatic, theatrical speech.
As Far as We Get (2001) is the second CD for French-Canadian band Dagmähr, a modern day Van der Graaf Generator record with a few forays into Gabriel-era Genesis territory. This is a great album, and the faithful 1970s sound makes it a sure bet for fans of classic prog.
This 2012 CD on ProgQuebec is the first time on CD for this classic 1972 album by a band led by keyboardist Franck Dervieux, who was battling cancer and did not survive long after finishing this LP. The rest of the band comprised Yves Laferrière (bass), Christiane Robichaud (vocals), Michel Robidoux (guitar), and Christian Saint-Roch (drums) who would all go on to form Contraction. Also present during sessions was Michel Séguin (percussion), who later formed Toubabou, and violinist Terry King. All these musicians apart from Dervieux and King would also become an important part of Ville Emard Blues Band (VEBB). Dervieux’s spirit lived on well into the decade, providing much inspiration for Quebec’s unique style of progressive rock. The importance of this album cannot be understated, as it spawned many other great progressive works melding different styles. Dimension M is mainly a keyboard-led instrumental record, with a breezy feel to it, and some vocalizing by Robichaud as she warms up her voice for future performances in Contraction and VEBB. The album is a masterpiece of jazz and classically-influenced progressive music, and is really the precursor to Contraction, who reprised many musical themes from Dimension M on their own albums. The music stays anchored in rock by the acid-drenched tone employed by Robidoux. [Thanks to ProgQuebec for most of the above.] For Anglo references, there are some similarities to Curved Air and Van der Graaf Generator. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
This is the first release on the new Timeless Momentum label, run by Antoine Fafard (Spaced Out). And it’s the best fusion release we’ve heard in a long time, an album that may remind fusion fans why they fell in love with fusion in the first place. Unless you live in Montreal, you may not have heard of Canadian guitarist and composer Jerry De Villiers Jr, a unique player with incredible tone and highly melodic phrasing. Jerry was heavily active in the Montreal jazz scene in the 1990s and was also busy composing, recording, and performing his own music under the project name Turning Point. Due to various circumstances, none of the music he recorded in the studio with Turning Point was ever released on CD. The music on The Turning Point Archives (2014, 76-minutes) consists of seven 1995 studio tracks plus seven pieces recorded live in 1994, basically an LP worth of each. The sound throughout couldn’t be better. On the live tracks, Jerry is supported by a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer. The studio tracks include various collaborators, with Jerry playing some keys in addition to guitar. There is a brass section on two of the studio tracks, sax on three. Half the tracks are in a fusion-tinged, symphonic rock style centered on soaring lead guitar, while half the tracks (more so the live ones) are in a straight fusion style. But it is fusion of the highest caliber, the kind of stuff that energizes fusion aficionados like nothing else can. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
This 2CD set reissues the complete works of Dionne-Brégent, the Québécois duo of Vincent Dionne (drums/percussion) and Michel-Georges Brégent (keyboards). Their two instrumental albums Et le Troisième Jour (1976) and Deux (1977) are actually quite different from each other. The first is an electronic music work that begins symphonic and spacey, with some influence of Terry Riley, but much of it is abstract and menacing a la the earliest Tangerine Dream. Deux is a beautiful progressive rock album, though there are still touches of electronic music such as sequencers incorporated into a driving rock piece. It has a much fuller sound, with the addition of a string quartet, harp, and brass. In addition to remastered versions of both of these albums, there are two bonus tracks. One is a performance of a Karlheinz Stockhausen piece by Vincent Dionne, the other a lost Dionne-Brégent soundtrack that never appeared on LP. A lavish 20-page booklet completes another essential reissue from the ProgQuébec label.
This 2006 CD reissues two of Vincent Dionne’s solo albums on one 70-minute CD: Destinations (1998) and Parade (1991). Both these albums have aspects of sequencer-driven electronic music, symphonic jazz, progressive rock, and you may as well throw world music and new age in there as well. Destinations is mostly a trio work with Dionne on drums/percussion/synth, Paul McCandless of Oregon on woodwinds, and Roxanne Turcotte on keyboards. Parade is Vincent aided by five or six musicians on different tracks with similar instrumentation plus bass and tabla. None of that preceding description conveys how good this music is, the way so many diverse influences are fused into something original, remaining melodic and energetic. Dionne is influenced by Steve Reich, and one can hear that in this music, but it is not minimalist, repetitive, or boring. Here are audio samples from Destinations and Parade.
A compilation from this pioneering French-Canadian progressive rock band, believed to be the first rock band in Quebec to have a repertoire entirely in French. (This CD has one song in English.) It appears these are re-recorded versions of their songs, because despite the date range in the album title, the latest tracks are from 1978. Dionysos have a powerful vocalist, and with the French lyrics, English-speakers at least will probably be reminded of Ange, though the music is not the same. Naturally, the earliest material is the more blues-based early progressive style, and with the songs sequenced chronologically, you can hear their music evolve through the 1970s.
Direction are a Québec City band with strong vocals in French, playing progressive rock along the lines of Morse Code. A cross between later Ange and classic Rush is a fair approximation of much of their music. The Rush influence is easier to spot during the instrumental passages, as once the French vocals enter, the character of the music is changed considerably. Ère is the reissue of their 2002 first album which was originally titled simply “R”, completely remixed and remastered for this 2009 edition on Unicorn Digital.
For Est (2008), Direction joined the Unicorn Digital label and cranked the Genesis influence up to 11 on the first two tracks. For the remainder of the album, the Genesis influence is present to varying degrees, along with some Yes. The Rush influence is there but less prevalent, so perhaps the significance of the title is that instead of looking west to Ontario for direction, Direction are looking east (est) to England on this album. And of course to France, since the French-language vocals give the music a special character and invite the inevitable Ange comparison. This is Direction’s best and most symphonic album to date.
Direction’s sixth release (the band considers this their sixth & seventh albums) is the two-hour double-CD Va (2011). It goes beyond even the wonderful Est. The Rush influence still crops up once in a while but Genesis is the dominant influence now, with the soothing French-language vocals bringing Mona Lisa and Ange to mind. There is an original story told by this album, and if we had any idea what it was about, we’d tell you. Between each song is a short theatrical ‘scene’, dialog performed by a total of 23 actors, with ambient background music. It’s that distinctive French flavor that makes this special; we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The D Project is a band led by Stéphane Desbiens, who was the guitarist and principal composer in Sense, the primary musician in Mélia, and has been a member of Qwaarn, Ère G, Red Sand, and Jupiter9. Desbiens sings (in English) and plays acoustic and electric guitars (including a designer guitar) and keyboards. On Shimmering Lights (2006), several other musicians assist, including some familiar international names. Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) plays keyboards on two songs, Fred Schendel (Glass Hammer) plays keys on one song, and Martin Orford (IQ) plays keys on one song. The music is the high grade symphonic progressive we’ve come to expect from Desbiens, marred only by one track of tuneless metal. Genesis is the primary influence, one track is pure Pink Floyd, and there’s a bit of Yes and King Crimson, but by and large it is original and creative. The mini-LP editions are the 2009 limited editions released by the MALS label under license, which come in heavyweight gatefold cardboard sleeves.
On The Sagarmatha Dilemma (2008), Desbiens is assisted by Mathieu Gosselin (Sense, Jupiter9, Red Sand) on bass, Chapman Stick, and backing vocals; Jean Gosselin on drums; and other musicians on violin, cello, and backing vocals. Guests include Stu Nicholson (Galahad), Derek Sherinian (Planet X), Brett Kull (Echolyn), and John Green (Singularity). It’s another stellar symphonic prog album with influences from Pink Floyd and Genesis through to more modern prog styles such as Sherinian’s. Desbiens is representative of a generation of talented musicians who’ve assimilated the styles of a number of earlier progressive bands and are able to vary the dominant influence on a track by track basis and still produce a cohesive album. “This is a very impressive CD, somewhat like a modern take on classic Pink Floyd and Genesis, as well as some IQ and Pendragon influences, with D’s searing, linear guitar lines permeating the mix along with plenty of symphonic keyboards, violin, cello, Chapman Stick, and drums. ...With this kind of talent, there’s no reason to believe that D Project can’t compete with the big names of prog and show the world what they have. To top it all off, Desbiens is one hell of a guitar player, and with this talented cast around him, there’s no telling how far he can take this.” [Sea of Tranquility] Read the full review.
The third D Project CD Big Face (2011) includes contributions from guests Tony Levin (bass), Quidam’s lead singer Bartek Kossowicz, keyboard virtuoso Lalle Larsson, keyboardist/singer Claire Vezina, and others on sax, violin and cello. The album was mastered by Andy Jackson, famous for his work with Pink Floyd. Some tracks show D Project at their most modern, and by ‘modern prog’ we mean essentially alt-rock done up in proggy arrangements, guitar-dominated with keyboards and other instruments in a secondary role. Other tracks show a modern King Crimson influence, still others Pink Floyd, and there are still a few Yes and Genesis-isms present. Claire Vezina sings the album’s final song, the only one sung in French, and it’s the most beautiful as well as arguably the most proggy (it’s also the track Larsson appears on), so can we have more like that? Read the Sea of Tranquility and Prognaut reviews.
On D Project’s fourth CD Making Sense (2014, digisleeve), Desbiens and the two Gosselins receive assistance from Sean Filkins on vocals, Claude Leonetti (Lazuli) on his custom instrument the Léode, Guillaume Fontaine (Nemo) on keyboards, and other musicians on sax, violin, cello, flute, and backing vocals. The title of the album seems to be a deliberate reference to Desbiens’ previous band Sense. The album was again mastered by Andy Jackson, and while Pink Floyd is a definite influence (no more so than on the title track), it is far from the only one. With the expansion of the instrumentation, this is the most original and arguably the best D Project album to date. Listen to the title track on YouTube. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
The self-titled CD is the 2011 debut CD (digipack) for Toronto’s Druckfarben, a superb band of accomplished musicians including American singer Phil Naro (who sounds like Jon Anderson) who’ve bonded over their mutual love of classic progressive rock. Their major influence is Yes (all periods), also ELP, Bruford, and others. Not to be too cynical, but it’s nice in this decade to hear a new band who can really play, who have songs, who have a real keyboardist, who don’t allow metal anywhere near their music, who aren’t terminally depressing, you know, the sorts of things that define progressive rock. Read reviews at Proggnosis, Sea of Tranquility, and Prog Archives.
Second Sound (2014, digipack) is Druckfarben’s second studio CD, highlighted by the 19-minute title track that closes the album. Druckfarben sound even more self-assured here. Read the T-Mak World and Background Magazine reviews.
Check above for the solo CD by Ed Bernard.
L’Engoulevent was formed by guitarist Michel McLean and keyboardist Pierre Moreau, with the core band fleshed out by violin and cello. They were aided by a number of musicians from Conventum on their first album L’Île où vivent les loups (1977). It’s a magical music, graced by McLean’s French-language vocals and occasionally a choir. There are few comparisons for this style of music, which blends classical, traditional-style folk, and rock. There are some drums and some percussion, but often the rhythmic drive comes from the acoustic guitar. The album is about half instrumental. Moreau sticks mainly to piano and McLean to acoustic guitar, so the music is primarily acoustic, but immensely rich, beautiful, and sophisticated. This CD also includes the entire second L’Engoulevent album Étoifilan (1979), composed by Moreau and McLean and played by the entire group, accompanied by many guest musicians. The second album is closer to progressive rock as conventionally defined, higher-energy with drums on most tracks, some brass, and female vocals supporting McLean’s. Étoifilan is rare on vinyl and little-known, so it will be a very pleasant surprise for many. This CD is another gem from the Quebec 1970s progressive scene, the likes of which we will probably not see again.
Ère G’s 2002 debut CD is the best French-Canadian progressive album in ages, one that sounds like the great Quebecois prog bands of the 1970s such as Harmonium. Influences of 1970s Genesis and Yes are combined with the characteristic French-Canadian 70s style. Beautiful French harmony vocals, loads of Mellotron, flute and 12-string guitar remind one of Harmonium’s Les Cinq Saisons, as well as early Genesis. There is also electric guitar, Rickenbacker and fretless bass, and drums. All told, a beautiful, delicate and refined progressive album full of melody and atmosphere.
One of the missing bands from Quebec’s progressive rock history is Incubus, who were part of the early Quebec prog scene along with Necessite, Contraction, and Maneige. They played out quite a bit between 1970 and 1974 but broke up while in France recording what would have been their first album. Four of the recordings survived and make up the first half of Mémoires Incubusiennes. The second half was finished in 2008 by three of the four original members plus two other musicians. The music is a mix of instrumentals and songs sung in English, early-70s style symphonic rock that reminds one of bands such as Van der Graaf Generator, Le Orme, Trace, Ange, Goblin, and Pollen. The group is now called ExCubus to avoid confusion with the California-based band.
Lagauchetière (2011) is the second release of 1970s-era compositions from Incubus/ExCubus. ProgQuebec say that this second CD is even better. Lagauchetière shows ExCubus broadening their compositional palette and sound. While the album includes compositions dating back to the group’s first lineup, it also showcases pieces written by band members during their participation in subsequent progressive bands such as Coenobium, Igor, and Polygone. The result is an excellent album of broader compositional styles melding into a cohesive whole, demonstrating these musicians’ continued evolution on Quebec’s progressive scene.
Transformation (2015) is the new and very long awaited studio album from FM, the Canadian progressive rock legends. The Esoteric label says: “With its roots firmly planted in late seventies progressive rock -- complex rhythms, driving bass lines, soaring melodies -- the music on Transformation is symphonic in scope with not one but two violinists on board.” FM co-founder/keyboardist Cameron Hawkins is joined by drummer Paul DeLong (Roger Hodgson), viola/mandolinist Edward Bernard on loan from Druckfarben, and violin virtuoso Aaron Solomon. Terry Brown (Rush) did the mixing.
It took until 2014, but here finally is the audio and video record of FM’s performance at NEARfest 2006. This CD+DVD (NTSC, all-region) set comes in a digipack. The 12 tracks include six from Black Noise, three from Surveillance (all the best ones), one from City of Fear, and two new compositions. FM reformed and rehearsed for months for this show, and it showed as they were tight and polished.
These are all the newly remastered 2013 Esoteric editions, the first time on CD for all except Black Noise. If you don’t have Black Noise yet, stop what you’re doing. Black Noise (1977) is the debut by a Canadian trio who never again reached these heights (excluding Direct to Disc from the discussion for the moment), but this one album is for our money better than any Rush or Saga album and should represent English-speaking Canada at whatever award ceremony occurs at the end of time. FM had their own sound, partly because their instrumentation was keyboards, electric violin & mandolin, and drums. The violin and mandolin fill the guitar role, and most of the bass is done on pedals, yielding a synth-heavy symphonic progressive sound, with science fiction based lyrics and multi-part vocal arrangements. You might think of a high-tech version of Yes adapted to the UK Danger Money format, but FM were unique. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Direct to Disc is the album not all FM fans are aware of. It was recorded in 1977 shortly after Black Noise and released on a small label. On one of the LP editions, it was titled Head Room. The lineup was Cameron Hawkins (keyboards), Martin Deller (drums), and Ben Mink (electric violin, electric mandolin), the latter replacing founding member Nash the Slash. The album was in fact recorded direct to disc, a process that bypasses tape, and so there is no multitracking, no overdubs, and the mix is done live. The band had to play each LP side live without stopping, about 15-minutes each. Direct to disc recordings were usually recorded simultaneously to two-track tape, which is presumably what Esoteric had to work with. The result is a mostly-instrumental recording showcasing a more adventurous, somewhat fusion-y side of FM, and their second best record (for some, their best). Read reviews at Prog Archives.
FM’s output decayed linearly in quality from there, with each new album a noticeable drop-off from the preceding, until by 1987’s Tonight you wondered if it was the same band. Surveillance is still very good, almost essential, and the song Seventh Heaven (in 7/8 of course) one of their very best. That song and two other excellent songs were in FM’s live set at NEARfest 2006, the others being Shapes of Things, their arrangement of the Yardbirds song, and the instrumental Sofa Back. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
And then City of Fear (1980), and you can safely stop there. Still a worthwhile album, just the same old story of a 1970s prog band who tried to continue into the 1980s, and you know how that decade went. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
The Wish (2008, 58-minutes, digipack) is the third album for Daniel Gauthier, who was once the bassist and singer for a Yes tribute band. Gauthier does everything here and does an admirable job sounding like a full band. Yes is the dominant influence; in particular, Gauthier’s bass playing is close to Chris Squire’s. Gauthier sings in English and his voice can sound a bit like Jon Anderson, if Jon Anderson’s first language was French. The Wish doesn’t reach the heights that Yes do, but then how many bands do? The Yes styling is blended with a Pink Floyd influence and a typical symphonic prog approach for which early Machiavel might be one reference point -- the slight French accent in the English-language vocals contributes to the association, but there are musical similarities as well. Read the Jerry Lucky review.
Greylevel are a Canadian (British Columbia) outfit who debuted in 2007 with Opus One. Hypostatic Union (2011, 68-minutes) is their second, the band having added two more members to become a quintet. The music is modern prog in the melancholy Porcupine Tree vein. Read the Prog Archives and Background Magazine reviews.
Rabbit in the Vestibule (2008) is the debut by Toronto’s Half Past Four, an excellent, eclectic prog band that with this album could be grouped loosely with Echolyn and IZZ in that they have a modern, energetic sound that is nevertheless respectful of the classic progressive rock bands, with some nimble playing and complex arrangements. Likewise, Half Past Four have a true keyboardist (who favors piano), the essential element missing from too many modern so-called prog bands, so the balance between keys and guitar is what it should be for a prog band. Half Past Four’s songs are centered around talented female vocalist Kyree Vibrant (which is a pretty good name). The music is often arty and quirky, skirting Squonk Opera territory, simultaneously innovative and catchy. Read the DPRP review.
Good Things (2013, digisleeve) is Half Past Four’s second CD, showcasing songwriting and playing that has matured over the previous five years. “Three Russian emigrants to Canada join with two native Canadians to form one of the most unclassifiable bands to come along in some time. Half Past Four fuse aspects of The Police, Primus, Yes, King Crimson, Heart, and Kate Bush with Zappa-esque quirk and humor, the jazzy chording of Allan Holdsworth, and the sludge-heavy guitars of Porcupine Tree, sometimes all within the same song! Especially noteworthy is singer Kyree Vibrant... Good Things is a remarkable concoction of excellent musicianship and wildly inventive arrangements.” [Progression] Also read the Sea of Tranquility review. Be sure to watch this video advertising the CD, also the video for the title track featuring Goblin’s Maurizio Guarini as ‘the gardener’.
Land of the Blind (2016) contains five wildly-varying, eccentric, and intricate new songs totaling 26 minutes, so call it a mini-album. The songs Mood Elevator and Toronto Tontos (a Max Webster cover) are heavier, sometimes fusion-y, and Zappa-esque. They’re quite good, while the other three may be the best things Half Past Four have yet created, indicating that this band may still not have peaked. “As this absolutely jubilant and refreshing record comes to a close I just cannot help but smile. These are virtuoso musicians without a trace of smugness or superiority, they just play and sing for the love of the music and it shows, in spades. A joyous expression of love, hope, and humour all rolled into an incredible package that you just can’t resist.” Read the full Progradar review, also The Progressive Aspect review. The CD comes in a simple printed sleeve.
Conservation of Mass (2000) is the debut by this Montreal band and is one of the freshest and most exciting albums of mainstream symphonic prog we’d heard in some time. Powerful and often heavy, the first half of the album sometimes flirts with prog-metal but never dwells there long enough to warrant that tag. As the album progresses, the Yes influence gets stronger and stronger and the music closer to 1970s prog. Three tracks hover around the 10-minute mark and they are the highlights. Vintage keys (Mellotron, Hammond, Mini-Moog) tie the music to classic prog, while the approach and production are modern.
Lead singer Jocelyn Beaulieu left in 2002, so Hamadryad’s second CD Safe in Conformity (2005) has bass player Jean-Francois Desilets singing lead; he sang lead on one song on Conservation of Mass. Desilets’ voice is more Gabriel-esque, but he isn’t as strong a singer as Beaulieu. So there are pluses and minuses with this second CD. On the plus side, if you discount the two tracks of tuneless prog-metal, the band has moved their sound much closer to 1970s Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator. As is almost always the case with modern Genesis-influenced bands, the songwriting skills are nowhere near those of Genesis, so there are no hooks, and truly memorable moments are infrequent, whereas with Genesis pretty much everything was memorable. That said, the Genesis and Van der Graaf sound and style are here, and the musicians are excellent players. Unlike the first CD, it appears that everything on the second CD was recorded in Hamadryad’s own studio and was self-produced and self-engineered, yielding a CD that sounds inferior to their first CD. It doesn’t sound terrible, but these dense arrangements demand more clarity throughout the midrange, where pretty much all the instruments are playing all at once.
The Live in France 2006 CD is a 77-minute live CD recorded at the Crescendo Festival, which by now you may have guessed took place in France in 2006. The 12 tracks are drawn from both of their studio albums. What is significant is that the tracks from Safe in Conformity sound much better here. One can really appreciate those early Genesis-style tracks for the first time. (Fans of The Watch take note.)
Despite Guardian Angels (2014, 73-minutes, digipack) is the debut by Montreal prog band Huis, composed of veterans of the Montreal music scene. Though not a founding member, Mystery bandleader/guitarist Michel St-Père joined Huis more recently, and Mystery is not a bad reference point. “Despite Guardian Angels incorporates all of the staples of a great prog rock album, including lush instrumentation, odd time signatures, sharp tempo changes, well balanced, omnipresent keyboards with Hammond, Moog and Mellotron tones, mesmerizing compositions impeccably interpreted, highly cohesive, never going overboard on the symphonic side, and with Michel St-Père’s elegant and tasteful guitar work throughout. The album as a whole flows incredibly well between the vocal and instrumental components.” [ProgMontréal] Read the Lady Obscure and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Neither in Heaven (2016, 68-minutes, digipack) is the follow-up. Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area) guests on keyboards, while other musicians guest on keyboards and flute. Arena might be the best comparison now. Watch the album teaser video.
Inner Odyssey are a young band from Quebec whose 2011 debut CD Have a Seat was in the prog-metal vein. (Don’t stop reading now because the story gets much better). It displayed influences of Riverside, Porcupine Tree, and (what a surprise) Dream Theater. Inner Odyssey made a tremendous leap with their second CD Ascension (2015, digipack). The metal aspects of the first album are greatly downplayed, as this is modern symphonic prog with occasional aggressive guitar, full of intricacy and subtlety. They also have a new singer. “Ascension is as good an album of refreshingly contemporary progressive rock as you will hear – it never sits still, never flags, never disappoints, and despite its occasional forays into the dark recesses of the mind is positively life-affirming.” Read the full Get Ready to ROCK! review and the Jerry Lucky review. Listen to Losing Your Mind, Retrospection, and A World of My Own on YouTube.
This is the most exciting new band to come out of Québec since the golden age of the 1970s. Montreal’s Jelly Fiche debuted with Tout ce que j’ai rêvé (2008), a concept album that takes some inspiration from the great 70s Québec prog bands such as Maneige and Harmonium, but could just as easily have come out of France. The other influences are diverse, but it is all classic 70s-style progressive. One can hear Pink Floyd, Yes, touches of early-70s hard rock and, during the few occasions when the keyboardist switches to sax, Van der Graaf Generator or Clearlight may come to mind. These are eight beautiful tracks of pure progressive rock and French poetry, with stellar vocal melodies and harmonies. If these songs were sung in English, the vocals would lose most of their beauty and grace. C’est magnifique! Listen to the title track and Dans La Peau D'un Autre I.
Their second CD Symbiose (2011, digipack) is slightly heavier, not metal at all, but there is a 70s King Crimson influence in spots. It shows Jelly Fiche expanding their range and cements their position as one of the best French-language bands of this generation.
This is the 2005 debut of Jupiter9, the band of bass player Mathieu Gosselin (Sense), here responsible for bass, Chapman Stick, keyboards, acoustic guitar, E-Bow, and loops. Joining him are Sense bandmates Danny Robertson (drums) and Stéphane Desbiens (guitar). The music lies between instrumental progressive rock and jazz-rock, generally atmospheric and highly textured. Sylvain Laberge plays flute on two tracks, one of which blends Celtic and bluegrass with the rock.
Lumière de la nuit is another much-needed CD reissue of a collector’s item from the Quebec 1970s progressive scene, courtesy of the ProgQuébec label. Classically-trained violinist Charles Kaczynski first appeared on record as a guest with Conventum in 1977. On the epic Lumière de la nuit (1979, digipack), Kaczynski plays over 20 instruments himself as well as singing in French. It’s a beautiful work of symphonic and chamber music with some folk touches, multi-layered and rich in instrumentation. Even if drums are used only sparingly, it is a rock album in that it would never pass for classical, and it is something that could only have come out of the progressive rock era. Read the Gnosis 2000 review.
5 Sens was recorded live at Oscar Peterson Concert Hall in Montreal in 2002 and features Kaczynski on violin and voice with Dawood Khar on tablas. It is a world music album.
Canadian prog band Kaos Moon trace their roots to the early 1980s but didn’t release their first album until 1994’s After the Storm. It took more than another ten years to release their second, but The Circle of Madness is well worth the wait. The label (Unicorn Digital) has suggested this is for Marillion fans, but this really has nothing to do with neo-prog or the British 1980s bands other than that it is melodic and has songs. It reminds us of the first Ambrosia album or (for the two or three of you familiar with them) Canadian band True Myth. A large number of musicians complement the four core members, and the playing is top notch. The keyboardist favors vintage sounds, and the violin on two tracks is a great addition. This album will remind you that great prog rock songs continue in your memory after the disc has finished spinning.
Karcius are a quartet (guitar/keys/bass/drums) from Montréal who started out playing complex instrumental progressive rock on Sphere (2004, 67-minutes), remastered and reissued on Unicorn Digital in 2006. The music here is in the vein of Liquid Tension Experiment or Planet X, a mix of progressive rock and fusion with some heavy passages. Their second CD Kaleidoscope (2006, 57-minutes, digipack) demonstrates a good deal of growth in two years, with a level of originality that makes it difficult to simply compare them to other bands.
Episodes (2008) shows even more growth, with only vestiges of their original heavy style remaining. Keyboards (grand piano, Rhodes, Hammond, synths) play a big role now, and much of the album has a Floydian feel. Karcius again vary things quite a bit, including relaxed space jams, pieces dominated by classical piano, jazzy bits, pieces with string arrangements, heavy fusion, symphonic rock and more. Read the DPRP review of Episodes, which contains links to their reviews of the earlier CDs.
The First Day (2012, digipack) is the first Karcius album with vocals (in English), and their singer is very good. Karcius have come a long way since their debut, their music now having much more of a soul and more originality. The vocal sections often belong to the Peter Gabriel and modern King Crimson camp, instrumentally not so much because Karcius have a true keyboardist, that is, a trained pianist who is not there just to add textures. Additional musicians add violin, viola, cello, backing vocals, and percussion. The music does rely more on guitars and belongs to modern rather than classic prog, but the keyboards help it bridge the two.
This is the 2015 40th Anniversary edition of Klaatu’s debut album, which is fully remastered and comes in a digisleeve with a full-color booklet including lyrics, in-depth liner notes, and interview. We believe the mastering is the same as the 2011 edition released by Klaatu on their own label but not widely distributed. The 1976 LP was simply titled Klaatu in the U.S., but the Canadian LP was titled 3:47 E.S.T. after the exact time the alien Klaatu landed in the 1951 classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Most of you, or at least those in North America, should be familiar with this prog-pop album engineered and produced by Terry Brown, which is bookended by the two best songs. The 7:18 opener Calling Occupants (of Interplanetary Craft) was famously covered by The Carpenters, and much later by Unitopia on their Covered Mirror album. The 8:18 Little Neutrino that closes the album is the other highlight. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Former leader of the group Contraction, Yves Laferrière released his first solo album in 1978. This impressive and tasteful album includes several compositions that had been destined for a third Contraction album. Yves is accompanied by a who’s who of Quebec musicians from the 1970s, hailing from Harmonium, Beau Dommage, Conventum, and L’Orchestre Sympathique. This edition adds a bonus track that includes several pieces from the soundtrack of the film La Cuisine Rouge. Yves’s work on that soundtrack is from the same era as this album but remained unreleased in audio form until now. The music is in the characteristic jazz-tinged Quebec 1970s progressive style, featuring one song with lyrics and the rest instrumental with some wordless female vocals. Don’t overlook this album because it’s under an individual’s name (and because the original label didn’t spend much on the LP cover art). This album is on a par with most of the better-known albums from that very rich scene.
Molignak (2005) is the first non-reissue by the ProgQuébec label, and it’s easy to see that this was too good to pass on. Molignak is the first new release in 20 years by Jérôme Langlois, co-founder of Maneige. Featuring members of Maneige, Conventum, Octobre, and others, it is an exciting and fresh musical exploration informed by progressive rock, jazz, chamber music, contemporary classical, and film scores. The same musical ambition and inspiration that resulted in the classic Maneige albums Maneige and Les Porches is alive and well in Molignak, a beautiful, exotic, and adventurous musical suite arranged for piano, clarinets, guitar, violin, cello, bass, and drums. Conventum is also an excellent reference point. Though released under an individual’s name, this can stand with any of the Maneige or Conventum albums. It’s one of the best albums to come out of Quebec since the golden age of the 1970s.
The first disc of the double-CD contains a live performance by Langlois at the first Festival des Musiques Progressives de Montréal (FMPM). Langlois was joined onstage by a veritable who’s who of Quebec’s 1970s progressive scene: Gilles Schetagne (Maneige), Paul Picard (Maneige), Mario Légaré (Octobre), François Richard (L’Orchestre Sympathique), and Bernard Cormier (Conventum), as well as his daughter Romie de Guise-Langlois on clarinet. Langlois chose the occasion to revisit all major facets of his career: Lasting Weep, Maneige, Le Spectacle de l’Albatros, and his solo work leading up to his most recent release, Molignak, as well as one previously-unreleased track. The second disc of the set is the first CD reissue of Langlois’ 1984 Thèmes album, which is a solo piano album. In addition there are two previously-unreleased 1976 bonus tracks totaling 18 minutes, recorded just after Langlois had left Maneige. All the recordings on Disc 2 are accompanied by new notes from the composer himself.
Lasting Weep were a seminal French-Canadian band. Two of their members went on to form Maneige in 1972, a third ended up in Conventum and L’Orchestre Sympathique, and the fourth played with Bregent and formed the band Zak. 1969-1971 (75-minutes) compiles their best tracks, eight studio and two live. The music is instrumental, jazzy proto-prog with psychedelic touches and some flute and sax. Lasting Weep began integrating flute before knowing of Jethro Tull; later they performed some of Tull’s early songs. The early Maneige sound can be heard emerging in some of these tracks.
Le Spectacle de l’Albatros (71-minutes) was recorded live in 1976 and features all the members of Lasting Weep and Maneige, plus Raoul Duguay, members of Conventum, L’Orchestre Sympathique, L’Engoulevent, and more. Jerome Langlois began writing this epic in 1970 while with Lasting Weep, finished it in 1976 after leaving Maneige, and it was performed live several times that year. A progression from their early days, Le Spectacle de l’Albatros was Jerome’s magnum opus in Lasting Weep, and marries progressive rock, jazz, and classical music. There are some French-language vocals, but the music is heavily instrumental.
After a few years of inactivity, the ProgQuébec label returns in 2016 with a holy grail of 1970s Québec progressive rock. Unreleased and virtually unknown until now, Maelstrom recorded a full album in 1976, at the height of Quebec’s golden age of progressive rock. The band performed live and toured until 1978, notably opening for PFM, Van der Graaf Generator, and Strawbs. After failing to land a record contract, the master tapes were forgotten... for over 40 years! This is not an album of interest only to collectors, this is a masterpiece, among the top prog albums from Québec. That an album like this can be unearthed in 2016 is astounding. As the label says: “Melding unbridled virtuosity and exceptional creativity, the music and lyrics of the album Maelstrom will catapult you into a vortex of sounds and allegories that almost makes you spin as you get the feeling of being swept far away from everything. From the opening notes, the listener is immersed in a musical universe reminiscent of that of groups such as Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis, but with a sound signature uniquely and truly Québécois... Comparable Québec peers include Et Cetera, Opus 5, Le Match, Maneige, and Harmonium. The six francophone pieces stretch out through long instrumental segments, permitting a demonstration of the band members’ talents.”
Mahogany Frog’s DO5 (2008, digipack) is the fifth full-length release from this Winnipeg-based instrumental outfit. The music relies both on electric guitar and an array of vintage keyboards (Farfisa organ, MicroMoog, ARP string ensemble, Korg MS2000, electric & acoustic piano, and others), plus bass, drums and occasional trumpet. The music is melodic, even stately at times, and sometimes close to instrumental Caravan. But Mahogany Frog’s sound is more psychedelic, as they often saturate the sonic space with feedback, grungy distortion, and odd electronic effects, beats and noises. The reason for the sound of this album is that everything was run through a collection of vintage tube amplifiers -- keyboards, guitars, electronic beats and acoustic percussion -- hot enough to get the pleasing distortion tube amps are known for. The themes progress quickly, and the instruments change roles often. The music is only challenging to one’s preconceptions, not a challenge to listen to as it remains grounded in melody and form. Read the DPRP review.
On Blue (2005, papersleeve) and Vs Mabus (2004) are the harder-to-find earlier Mahogany Frog CDs, the only ones still in print. Vs Mabus is actually the most conventionally progressive of all these CDs. It was the first time the band were able to really make use of the studio to get a complex, layered sound; they also featured keyboards more than they had previously. The music is pure early-1970s style prog with vintage keys and guitar tones, and even though the band members are too young to have been there, it sounds like it’s second nature to them. The tracks are almost all long, the music is often spacey, sometimes fusion-y, sometimes symphonic, sometimes in the realm of heavy-prog-with-organ. Influences seem to vary from Canterbury to Gentle Giant to early Pink Floyd to early Nektar to Krautrock and more.
As the band says: On Blue takes influence from the sounds and textures of Vs Mabus, but the songs are faster, shorter and more concentrated. The album’s intensity reflects the method in which it was recorded: explosive feedback-ridden guitars indicate sheer volume, driving sporadic drumming suggests a sense of urgency. While Vs Mabus explores composition and orchestration, On Blue puts forward a challenging array of sounds and melodies, all projected with a raw, forceful energy. Read reviews at Prog Archives of all their CDs.
Maneige was one of the best-known French-Canadian progressive bands, an instrumental band whose first album appeared in 1975, with the band continuing into the early 1980s while shifting towards jazz-rock. The CDs here are all the ProgQuébec editions. Maneige and Les Porches are the band’s highly sought-after first two albums, both released in 1975. Co-founder Jérôme Langlois was a member for only these two albums, and they remain Maneige’s most ambitious, featuring sprawling compositions with a variety of instrumentation dominated by piano and flute, classically-influenced with elements of jazz and folk. The first album contains two live bonus tracks, one a previously-unreleased track and the other a live version of one of the album tracks.
Following the departure of Langlois, Maneige launched their second era with 1977’s Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle, considered by many to be their best album. The band gravitates towards more concise compositions, melding classical, jazz, and rock influences. One can detect a little Gentle Giant influence here. This 2006 edition on the ProgQuébec label contains the 10 original tracks, which were recently remastered, plus four bonus live tracks from the 1979 album Composite, as well as a 12-page booklet full of photos.
1978’s Libre Service - Self-Service shifts the style of Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle a bit more towards fusion. This 2006 edition on the ProgQuébec label contains the 10 original tracks, which were recently remastered, plus three bonus live tracks from the 1979 album Composite, as well as a 12-page booklet full of photos. Between the Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle and Libre Service - Self-Service CDs, you get the entire Composite album except for one track.
There was an archival Maneige release in the late 1990s called Live Montreal 1974/1975, from the time of their first two albums. Live a L’Évêché (2005, 78-minutes) includes the three long tracks from that CD and adds four more from the same two performances, including the early composition Manège, which has never before appeared in recorded form.
Les Porches Live contains a recently rediscovered concert from 1974 or 1975. (The band isn’t sure either.) The concert includes a live rendition of all of Maneige’s 1975 second album Les Porches plus two tracks from their debut album. It also includes a previously-unreleased composition: the 16-minute masterpiece Chou-fleur. Read the AllMusic review.
Rick Miller has been composing, producing, performing and recording since the early 1980s, gaining a great deal of production experience while working at Sound Design Studios in Toronto and later in his own studio in Lakefield, Ontario, all the while honing his skills as a singer and songwriter. Early this century, Miller turned his attention to progressive rock, the music he grew up listening to. Rick has listed his influences as The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett, and Gabriel-era Genesis, but it’s the first two that dominate, such that much of his music can be described as a cross between The Moodies and Floyd. Miller sings and plays guitar and keyboards (usually lots of Mellotron), assisted by other musicians (varying from album to album) on flute, cello, guitar, violin, and drums. This is old-school melancholy, and those David Gilmour-style guitar leads are just what is needed to shift The Moody Blues out of the late 1960s into the 1970s progressive rock era.
This is the Unicorn Digital jewel case edition of Falling Through Rainbows (2009). The Russian MALS label reissued several of the earlier Rick Miller CDs in mini-LP (heavyweight cardboard) sleeves. Read the DPRP, Proggnosis, and Prognaut reviews of Angel of My Soul (2008). The End of Days is from 2006. Read the Sea of Tranquility review of Dreamtigers (2004).
In the Shadows (2011) continues Rick’s trademark soft, dark and melancholy prog style with an expanded lineup, including violin, cello, flute, a drummer and additional guitarists (one acoustic, one electric). Camel must now be mentioned as an influence on some tracks. Read the Proggnosis and Progressor reviews.
Dark Dreams (2012) features most of the same musicians on guitars, violin, cello, flute, and drums. Read the Progressor review.
Rick says Immortal Remains (2013) “is rather angry and even darker than my previous ones”. Read the Progressor review.
Read reviews of Rick’s 2014 release Heart of Darkness at Prog Archives.
Breaking Point was first released by Rick in 2015 as a download only. The MALS label released this mini-LP sleeve edition in 2016. Rick has never altered his style greatly from one album to the next, but one can hear a gradual increase in sophistication over time. Read The Prog Mind review where you can listen to the full 10-minute track Tears of Blood.
Old-school hard rock band with Phil Naro (Druckfarben) on vocals. Lacrimosa (2015, digipack) is their debut. The band references Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Rainbow.
MMCircle is the other band of Spaced Out’s drummer Martin Maheux. Requiem pour un Vivant (2008) is the third MMCircle album. Initially a jazz quartet accompanied by a violinist on the first album, MMCircle enlarged to an octet on their second album, combining a jazz quartet with a string quartet. This third MMCircle album was created for string quartet, piano, and drums, Maheux of course being the drummer. Requiem pour un Vivant is the most contemporary classical of the MMCircle CDs, the combination of string quartet and intricate drumming making it quite unique as well.
This CD grabbed us from the get go, simply one of the most aurally attractive albums we’ve heard in a while. From Toronto, Mœbius Cat’s second album End of Time was released as a digital download in 2010, then as this CD on the MALS label in 2012. Mœbius Cat feature beautiful female vocals on some of the songs, male vocals on others. (There are two male vocalists; one sounds like David Bowie.) The songs with female vocals are our favorites. The music here is modern in the best sense: richly-textured and detailed while still leaving space in the mix, often with that seductive, cinematic, ambient feel that Lebowski and Frequency Drift also have. Some songs (It’s Over, for instance) would work on an Iona or October Project album, others on an Afro-Celt Sound System or Peter Gabriel album. Accordion, violin, and flute play important roles in addition to the usual guitars, keys, bass and drums. The music is melodic, emotional, and just far enough out of the current prog mainstream to capture the ears of the jaded prog fan. You can preview the entire 57-minute album (mp3 icon above), but at least listen to the title track -- its chorus will lodge in your cranium until you displace it with something else.
Monarch Trail is the new band assembled by Ken Baird after five albums under his own name, and the natural evolution of Baird’s music. After Baird had written some music that required more collaborative arrangements than usual, he asked drummer Chris Lamont and bassist Dino Verginella to be a part of Monarch Trail. Lamont played on Baird’s previous three albums and Verginella on the previous two. Three guitarists split the guitar duties on each album, one of whom is Steve Cochrane, who also mastered both. Those familiar with Baird’s albums will feel right at home, but the band dynamic has taken the music to a new level, and Skye (2014, digipack) is one of the finest neo-Genesis style albums in a long time. Not in the sense of aping Genesis but rather sharing an aesthetic, one that has otherwise been supplanted. Skye consists of just four tracks, the longest exceeding 20 minutes. Plenty of prog bands these days attempt long tracks, most of which are simply fatiguing, not the case here as the music evolves and builds effortlessly and logically. (We’ve all heard long tracks with alternating loud and soft bits that could be rearranged in any order and the track stopped at any point, and it would make no difference.) Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Sand (2017, digipack) picks up where Skye left off. Listen to Station Theme and Missing. Incidentally, Ken tells us that the first Monarch Trail CD outsold the five Ken Baird CDs combined, which is a good gauge of how biased prog fans are against albums released under an individual’s name as opposed to a band name. But there is a steady, gradual evolution from the first Ken Baird album through the Monarch Trail albums, so be sure to check out the Ken Baird albums above as all are close to going out-of-print.
These are the three classic albums from one of the top Quebec symphonic progressive rock bands, issued on CD for the first time in 2007 by the ProgQuébec label. File these next to Pollen and Opus 5. Morse Code began as a psychedelic rock band singing in English, under the name Morse Code Transmission. They shortened the name and initiated their progressive phase with La Marche des Hommes (1974), also switching to French lyrics. This album shows influences of Genesis and Ange and the characteristic Québecois magic. The CD contains two bonus tracks: Qu’est-ce que t’as compris? (single version) and Cocktail (disco mix), the latter an instrumental featuring Mellotron, flute, and funky clavinet, second only to Mike Oldfield’s Guilty for Best Disco Song Ever.
Procréation followed in 1976, highlighted by the 26-minute title track. In addition to the Genesis/Ange hybrid style, a Yes influence can also be heard. This CD adds two bonus tracks: Punch and Image. Capitol sent the band to England to record Je Suis le Temps (1977), which resulted in a more polished and streamlined prog sound, and of course the times were changing, Morse Code with them. Still an excellent album. All three CDs are fairly indispensable, but if you have to pick only one, go with Procréation.
Second Home is Mystery’s first live DVD (NTSC, all-region), filmed and recorded live in April 2016 headlining the ProgDreams V festival in the Netherlands. Extras include backstage video. The companion double-CD has three additional tracks recorded at the Boerderij in 2015. Watch A Song for You.
With Destiny? (1998), this Québec band took the most progressive elements of Rush and Saga and married them with a more symphonic and ambitious approach to produce this gem of a concept album. To their credit, Mystery use delicate passages for contrast, something Rush and Saga never spent much effort on. This 10th Anniversary Edition of Destiny? features an entirely new mix that sounds much better than the original, a new cover, and one new track.
The previous album, Theatre of the Mind (1996, revamped in 1998), leans slightly more to the melodic rock side. The vocals really remind one of Journey, though the music is more elaborate than that.
At the Dawn of a New Millennium is a 71-minute compilation CD drawn from Theatre of the Mind and Destiny? plus the rare 1992 self-titled first Mystery album that no one has ever seen. This is the remastered digipack edition.
Beneath the Veil of Winter’s Face (2007, digipack) features a new singer in Benoit David, who participated in the recording of Mystery’s tracks on the Pink Floyd tribute album Signs of Time and the Moody Blues tribute album Higher and Higher. David used to sing for a Yes tribute band called Close to the Edge, and as Yes fans know, he later took Jon Anderson’s place in Yes for a time. This is the best, most symphonic Mystery album to date. It seems to lie at the midpoint between Saga and Genesis, still with touches of Rush, pomp rock, and AOR, but solidly progressive. Read the DPRP review.
On One Among the Living (2010, digipack), Mystery are joined by guests Daryl Stuermer (Genesis, Phil Collins), John Jowitt (most British neo-prog bands), Oliver Wakeman, Antoine Fafard (Spaced Out), Claire Vezina, and Richard Lanthier. Again with Jon Anderson stand-in Benoit David on vocals, Mystery go for their biggest, most bombastic sound yet, a bit heavier than before but also more symphonic, and not neglecting the delicate passages. While the 22-minute suite Through Different Eyes is the epic, the Yes-like Sailing on a Wing that closes this album could be the most memorable song Mystery have produced to date. Read the DPRP review.
The World Is a Game (2012, digipack) features a new studio lineup of Michel St-Père on guitars and keyboards, Benoit David (back from touring and recording with Yes) on vocals, Antoine Fafard from Spaced Out on bass and additional acoustic guitars, and drummer Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard). YouTube has an album sampler video and part one of the song Pride. Read the DPRP reviews.
The double-CD Tales from the Netherlands is the first live album for Mystery. Recorded live at De Boerderij in The Netherlands in May 2013, Tales from the Netherlands (digisleeve) features a selection of songs from The World Is a Game as well as favorites from Mystery’s back catalog. It is the only live recording with former lead singer Benoit David. Watch the album montage video.
Mystery’s 2015 studio album Delusion Rain (digipack) is the first with new singer Jean Pageau. The rest of the line-up now is Benoit Dupuis on keyboards, François Fournier on bass, Sylvain Moineau on guitar, Jean-Sébastien Goyette on drums, and bandleader Michel St-Père on guitars, plus guests Antoine Michaud of Monochrome Seasons (also touring guitarist for Mystery) and Sylvain Descoteaux (Huis). Listen to teaser 1, teaser 2, and the title track.
Note Mystery bandleader/guitarist Michel St-Père is also a member of the band Huis; check above for their CD.
Nash the Slash was the alias of the late Canadian musician Jeff Plewman. Not only did Plewman use the pseudonym, beginning in 1979 he performed with his face covered in surgical bandages, making for one enigmatic artist. Nash the Slash may be best known to prog fans as the original electric violinist and electric mandolinist in FM. He didn’t stick around long after Black Noise but did rejoin FM for the forgettable Con-test (1985) and Tonight (1987) albums. The first recorded output of his solo career was the 1978 Bedside Companion EP, followed by Dreams & Nightmares (1979) and Children of the Night (1981), continuing to release studio albums through 2008. Bedside Companion and Dreams & Nightmares are instrumental, while Children of the Night was the first to feature vocals.
This 2016 2CD reissue of Dreams & Nightmares comes in a DVD-size tall digipack with booklet (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping). The second CD in the set is Bedside Companion, which Nash claimed was the first EP that could be played at two speeds (45 and 33-1/3). Both speeds are included on this CD. (Really it was a 45 rpm record, but a radio DJ mistakenly played the whole thing at 33-1/3 when it was first released.) Children of the Night was Nash’s most popular full-length album. This 2016 reissue comes in a 6-panel digipack and adds six bonus tracks: three live, one previously unreleased, and two alternate versions. All the audio on both titles has been remastered and the artwork restored to the best possible quality. Nash combined synth music with his signature electric violin and mandolin, the results being generally eerie and dark on Dreams & Nightmares, more accessible on Children of the Night. Among his acknowledged influences are classical music, Hawkwind, and lots of Krautrock pioneers: Neu, Michael Rother, Ash Ra Temple, Amon Duul, and Kraftwerk, which should give you a good idea where his music is coming from.
Nathan Mahl - Heretik Vol. I: Body of Accusations ($12.99) out-of-stock
Formed at the end of 1981, Nathan Mahl (a totally fabricated name) were one of the longest-lived and most accomplished Canadian progressive rock bands. Parallel Eccentricities is the reissue of their 1982 LP, remastered in 1997. The CD audio portion is short, running only about a half-hour, but the disc includes an interactive CD-ROM portion (Mac & PC). The music is top-notch 1970s-style vocal prog rock; in fact the first track runs through Yes, Genesis, and Camel styles within the first minute-and-a-half, and these are the styles that dominate the album, with some slightly harder stuff later on. Organ sounds prevail.
Shadows Unbound (2003) is intended to replace the now out-of-print The Clever Use of Shadows, but is pretty much a different album. This is the way it was originally intended by Guy LeBlanc, with four of the original tunes re-recorded plus four new ones and the original band lineup. This is a return to Nathan Mahl’s fusion-tinged, (mostly) instrumental prog rock style with lots of solos from keys and guitar.
The Heretik trilogy is Nathan Mahl’s crowning achievement, drawing very much on classic 1970s progressive styles, and incorporating more influences than ever before. Some of the fusion style of LeBlanc’s Subversia album has carried over to these works. Heretik Vol. III: The Sentence (2002) plays as one monumental 54-minute piece of instrumental music (with a few wordless female vocals), the creative vision of keyboardist Guy LeBlanc, now also a member of Camel. This time out, Nathan Mahl’s fusion-tinged prog rock seems to mix National Health, Camel, Gentle Giant, and a little ELP. For all its complexity and its epic length, the music flows effortlessly, leaving the listener feeling inspired rather than tired. While Vol. III is instrumental, there are some vocals on Heretik Vol. I: Body of Accusations (2000) and Heretik Vol. II: The Trial (2001), with LeBlanc’s warm vocals sounding a bit similar to Andy Latimer, except for occasions where he does a credible Peter Hammill. As Progression magazine says: “dazzling in terms of sheer instrumental prowess, ensemble interplay and clever arranging... these are long tracks, mind you, but there’s so much going on you barely have time to catch your breath”.
After a long wait, Nathan Mahl released a new studio album in 2008: Exodus (59-minutes). According to the press release, it is inspired by events depicted in the second book of the Old Testament (and Torah). Exodus focuses on the emotional and physical struggles of those who wish to escape the bonds of slavery. Musically, the band have approached the subject as a rock opera, having as central characters Moses, Pharaoh, and God, and further expanding their symphonic/fusion/Canterbury style to include some harder-edged elements. A guest violinist adds a welcome new dimension. Nathan Mahl are too much of an instrumental band for Exodus to sound all that much like a rock opera, which often means too many theatrical vocals getting in the way of the music. No, this is an excellent progressive rock album including all the styles the band and Guy LeBlanc have worked in over the years, but it also sounds distinct from their past albums, as if Nathan Mahl are opening a new chapter in the history of one of Canada’s finest bands.
In terms of Nathan Mahl’s back catalog, Justify (2014, digipack) comes closest to Shadows Unbound. The lineup here is Guy LeBlanc, Tristan Vaillancourt, Don Prince, David Campbell, and special guest Andrew Latimer (Camel). Listen to the tracks Spirit and Tantrik Kobbler.
The late Guy LeBlanc was Nathan Mahl’s leader and keyboardist, and on Subversia (1999), the first album under his own name, he is joined by guitarist extraordinaire Scott McGill and three other musicians. Subversia is much more of a fusion album than the Nathan Mahl albums. In fact, it’s probably safe to say Subversia is the closest any album has come to the classic Bruford albums. Since Scott McGill’s playing is very much in the Allan Holdsworth style, the integration of McGill into LeBlanc’s more structured approach is quite similar to Holdsworth’s role in Bruford. The album is mostly instrumental, but there are some quality vocals from LeBlanc. Highly recommended to fans of Bruford and Holdsworth.
LeBlanc’s All the Rage (2004, 71-minutes) has little to do musically with Subversia. It appears more than anything else that Guy’s tenure as Camel’s keyboardist rubbed off on him, as All the Rage is musically and vocally closer to Camel than anything he had done before with Nathan Mahl or solo. There is even some Genesis influence present. We’ll go out on a limb here and say that this is our favorite of all the Nathan Mahl and Guy LeBlanc albums to date. It is the most carefully composed, and it shows a maturity in songwriting that may have come from playing Andy Latimer’s songs. There is more subtlety here and a greater depth of emotion, a composer’s album rather than a player’s album like Shadows Unbound, just an excellent symphonic prog album from a tremendous talent.
The People Wish to Be Deceived is a 144-page book by American writer Michael McCormack subtitled Guy LeBlanc and The Making of Heretik Volume II The Trial. Much more than a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one album, the book is more generally about creating and recording progressive rock in the present climate and the philosophies underlying the Heretik trilogy. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Canadian metal band. Finding Nine (2013, digipack) was released by Unicorn Digital (Mystery’s label).
ProgQuebec’s descriptions: “Offenbach was one of Québec’s best-known bands in the 1970s. They were known primarily as a hard rock band, though their early material, featuring two organists, tends to be more experimental than their later commercial output. Saint-Chrone de Néant was their biggest cult album, a recording of the Mass of the Dead sung in Latin. Due to the instrumentation and the language, this is reminiscent of the Italian proto-progressive/psych scene. This remaster contains about 20 minutes of bonus material that was never released, as it restores the entire mass including some rites performed by the priest, and their original encore as the mass was ending”.
“Bulldozer was a soundtrack to a 1974 film by Pierre Harel, who was the organist and band co-leader at the time. It includes a number of instrumental tracks and rearranged versions of some of the band’s early hits. The style ranges from bluesy hard rock to more experimental conceptual tracks. No one is going to confuse this with Morse Code, but these guys have some muscle to their music and it has been compared to Uriah Heep or Atomic Rooster.”
Tabarnac (2011, gatefold digisleeve) is a double-CD that reissues Offenbach’s 1975 live double-LP plus five unreleased live tracks representing 36 minutes of additional music, over two hours total. “Recorded in 1974 while the band toured France and Holland, the original double album heralded a group who unleash their musical thunder onstage. Original versions of classics such as Promenade sur Mars, Québec Rock, Ma Patrie est à terre, Habitant d'chien blanc, and Hymne à l’amour rock alongside inspired jams and some of the band’s most progressive tracks ever, such as Éther, Maryline, and Quoi quoi.”
L’Orchestre Sympathique was a progressive jazz-rock quartet founded in 1976 by classically-trained vibraphonist/percussionnist Jean Vanasse, flutist/pianist François Richard, and drummer Mathieu Léger. They were joined by various bass players through the years. From 1981 to 1986, L’Orchestre Sympathique was based mainly in Paris and toured Europe extensively with several different drummers and bass players. They released no studio albums but did release three live albums between 1979-1981, of which En Concert à la Grande Passe is the first. This album is of particular interest to progressive music lovers, sounding very much like early Maneige, with flute and mallet percussion providing their signature sound. It may as well be a studio album, as the audio quality is flawless and there is no crowd noise until after each song.
Osmosaïc is a Québec male/female duo of multi-instrumentalist/singers playing acoustic and electric guitar, keys, bass, and some programmed drums. The vocals are split between English and French. Un (2004) is their debut. This is lovely folky progressive with symphonic textures, close to the style that Harmonium made famous. The French-Canadians do this style better than anyone. Short CD at 35-minutes, but nearly perfect.
This is the excellent 2012 debut by a Québec prog quintet singing in English, their music a mix of classic symphonic (Genesis, Floyd) and more modern (Porcupine Tree) prog styles. While the band keep reasonably busy playing live near home, they’ve been a well-kept secret outside the province. Hopefully their inclusion here begins to remedy that, and in time Piezo should reach the same level of popularity that Red Sand enjoy. Watch the promo video.
This 1976 album from a Québec band is one of the finest progressive rock albums to come out of North America. It was issued on CD in 1994 but did not remain available long as the label folded. This is the 2005 reissue on the ProgQuébec label, which has been remastered from the master tapes and features an expanded booklet. Pollen sounds most like a French-Canadian version of early PFM, with a stronger vocalist (singing in French). There are a few touches of Gentle Giant (Pollen toured Québec with them in 1974), but for the most part, this adheres to the Italian progressive style while including elements typical of the 1970s Québécois progressive bands.
Progzy is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Alain Bergeron, who spent five years as the drummer of Nathan Mahl, recording two albums with the band. On Men Were Brave (2004), Bergeron handles everything aside from a little rhythm guitar from Guy Leblanc: vocals, keyboards, electric guitar, bass, drums and percussion. The music is a respectable progressive rock blend that doesn’t strongly resemble any one band. As with many such solo projects, it would have benefitted from a professional singer. Bergeron is a passable vocalist, but his French-Canadian accent does show through in spots. Instrumentally though this is a fine debut.
Quartik are a jazz-rock band from Québec City; Hecho a Mano is their 2005 debut. The instrumentation is guitar, bass, drums and vibes. The use of vibes naturally invites comparisons to Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, but Quartik lack the melodic richness of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, so Gongzilla is a better comparison.
On their debut The Word of Qwaarn (2004, 55-minutes), this Québec prog band features some familiar names in the Quebec scene: Mathieu Lessard (Dagmähr, Red Sand) on vocals and Stéphane D. (Red Sand, Sense, Ère G) on bass, but the core of the band is the other three musicians on guitars, keys and drums. The cover artwork on their debut CD is by Paul Whitehead, and that alone gives you a pretty good clue what the music is like. It’s a Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator inspired concept album sung in English, based around an original story about, er, a guy named Qwaarn. Their inspiration is from the 1970s but Qwaarn have not set out to sound as retro as possible. So even though they do use a lot of vintage sounds, the music is stamped with their own identity.
After some lineup changes including a new singer, Qwaarn returned in 2007 with their second concept CD. Aberrations (59-minutes) continues the story of Qwaarn begun on The Word of Qwaarn. The lyrics are again in English, but the musical style has evolved since their debut, less overtly Genesis-influenced, more (for lack of a better word) unusual. The music is a rich symphonic prog, not retro but often dramatic and bombastic in the 1970s tradition, with frequent Mellotron. There is a slight Marillion feel, and there are also more contemporary elements. In fact there is such a wealth of ideas here that it’s difficult to get the sense of it in just a couple listens. No songs really stand out individually; the album is best appreciated as a whole. Read the review at JerryLucky.com.
Episode 3 of the story of Qwaarn is called My Achievements (2012, 59-minutes). There are other elements to the music, but Genesis is far and away the dominant influence. The music here generally lacks the lighthearted, playful aspects of Genesis, sticking with serious-sounding, ponderous, and not-at-all-catchy songs befitting a story of this gravity. Which we haven’t read.
Ottawa’s The Rebel Wheel expand to a quintet for their second full-length CD Diagramma (2007, 60-minutes, digipack). Their brand of progressive rock is more instrumental than vocal and favors dark ambiances -- dark but not despairing or ugly. Though nothing sounds unfamiliar, the level of originality is high; The Rebel Wheel don’t sound quite like any other band. Ultimately one has to call their sound contemporary. There is a lot of classic symphonic prog here as well as a little fusion, but they mix that up with modern sonics and current technologies. It is atmospheric, cinematic, dense, and complex, yet also melodic and emotive. Read reviews.
We Are in the Time of Evil Clocks (2010, 60-minutes) sees some personnel changes. Here the Red-era King Crimson influence is more apparent. In fact, this may be the most powerful statement in that style since the original, and the blistering Wetton-style bass will rip your fool head off if you aren’t careful. But that isn’t all there is to it (we’ve all probably heard enough Crimson copyists by now); there is much more going on here. The Rebel Wheel still use female vocals, albeit sparingly, and switch easily from dissonance to consonance, from sinister to soothing. There is some jazz-rock in the blend, sometimes sounding like one of the early British jazz-influenced prog bands, Raw Material perhaps. If Diagramma was unjustly overlooked, this one should get everyone’s attention. Guy Leblanc (Nathan Mahl) guests. Read reviews.
Mirror of Insanity (2004) is the debut by French-Canadian band Red Sand. The main force behind the band is guitarist Simon Caron, who wrote all the music and lyrics (which are in English). The music is fairly obviously modeled on Fish-era Marillion, but there hasn’t been much of that style coming out of Québec before, so there is a slightly unique flavor to it, and it is almost all very well done. (This is the original edition.)
After some personnel changes, Red Sand reappeared in 2005 with Gentry. Here they’ve pushed their sound more toward 1970s Genesis, with lots of Mellotron and some 12-string guitar. There is an 18-minute track and a 19-minute track. The end result still falls closer to early Marillion than to Genesis but is going to scratch the itch of a lot of progressive rock fans. After a limited initial release in a mini-LP sleeve, the band remastered Gentry in 2008, added an instrumental bonus track, and reissued it in this jewel case edition.
Human Trafficking followed in 2007, currently out-of-print. Music for Sharks (2009) is Red Sand’s fourth studio CD. Here they add quite a bit of later Pink Floyd influence, and the vocals are more powerful, as the subject matter is bitter. Add that to the Mellotron, the Marillion/Genesis influence, and the lyrical guitar leads, and you have what is, if not their best album to date, then at least the album where Red Sand establish a more original style and become more than just a Québécois Marillion.
The Live: Au Cabaret du Liquor Store DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains a 2007 concert by Red Sand including tracks from their first three albums. As a bonus, there is a three track acoustic set from 2006. It’s a professionally-edited, multi-camera shoot and the physical package is fully-professional (replicated DVD, offset-printed sleeve, professional menus), though the audio/video quality itself is of course not on the same level as a big-budget DVD.
Behind the Mask (2012, gatefold mini-LP sleeve) stays in Fish-era Marillion territory, powerful symphonic neo-prog. This CD has more in common with Mirror of Insanity and Gentry than Human Trafficking or Music for Sharks. Read the Background Magazine review.
Cinéma du Vieux Cartier (2013, gatefold mini-LP sleeve) is, like its predecessor, in the Fish-era Marillion style of Red Sands’ first two albums, still sung in English despite the French title. Two of the five tracks are instrumentals.
Red Sands’ seventh album 1759 (mini-LP sleeve) was released in the last days of 2016. Bandleader Simon Caron says it’s the best Red Sand album yet, and that may not be hyperbole. In the beginning, Red Sand were very influenced by Fish-era Marillion. They went through a period of incorporating other prog styles before reverting to their pure Marillion style for a couple albums. Not that 1759 doesn’t sound a lot like early Marillion much of the time, but there is more diversity here, with elements more reminiscent of classic prog. Kind of what Red Sand did on Gentry only with a different result. About the album title, in Québec City the city’s history is all around you, and 1759 was the year of the pivotal battle between British and French forces. While the British victory would shape eastern Canada, Québec City remains the center of Francophone culture in North America.
This is a reissue that connoisseurs of the Québec 1970s progressive scene had been craving for years, and another example of the unique style that flourished during the golden age of prog in Québec but that is in danger of being lost. Jacques Tom Rivest was singer and multi-instrumentalist in the quintessential Québec progressive rock band Pollen. He regrouped the first Pollen line-up plus bassist Daniel Mathieu (Solstice) for his 1979 first solo record. It blends progressive rock with Harmonium-style folk and pop and French-language vocals for a melodic album considered to be the continuation of Pollen, though with more acoustic timbres. This CD also includes a bonus track, a single released just prior to the album.
Out-of-print 2001 debut CD from this RIO-style chamber rock band from Montreal. “The maturity found in this music is simply staggering... Complex yet light and engaging, Rouge Ciel comes as an avant-prog revelation.” Read the full AllMusic review, also the Prog Archives reviews.
Recorded during Saga’s 30th anniversary tour, Contact: Live In Munich (2009) also documents the end of an era. This was the farewell show for singer and co-founder Michael Sadler, who left the band to spend more time with his family and newborn son. This is one reason the sold-out show in Munich turned into an emotional musical highlight for both band and audience. Saga performed most of the best songs of their career, combined with material from their then-recent studio album 10,000 Days. The 2DVD (NTSC, all-region) comes in a standard Amaray case, while the Limited Edition combines the 2DVD with the audio 2CD and comes in deluxe packaging. The second DVD disc contains a documentary, photo gallery, and six tracks from the live show in Mannheim recorded by Underground TV. Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio on the DVDs. The Limited Edition counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
Saga is the best known Canadian progressive rock band after Rush. Their sound is more streamlined and song-oriented than the classic prog bands, but Saga began in the late 1970s, when the first-generation prog bands weren’t doing any better themselves. Saga’s first five albums are their classics: Saga (1978), Images at Twilight (1979), Silent Knight (1980), Worlds Apart (1981), and In Transit (1982). Saga made steady progress on their first albums, peaking on Silent Knight and Worlds Apart. In Transit is a live album that covers their first four studio albums. They later went through a period during which they became less progressive and lost key members, but their popularity continued to grow, more in Europe than at home. These are the remastered editions with new booklets and liner notes, with bonus video tracks on Images at Twilight and Worlds Apart.
Saga’s 2009 studio album The Human Condition (digipack) features then-new singer Rob Moratti. No worries, Moratti is a good singer, and The Human Condition picks up where Saga left off on 10,000 Days. The final track You Look Good to Me is very catchy. Read the Sea of Tranquility reviews.
This special edition of Saga’s 2006 studio album Trust comes with a bonus DVD (NTSC, all-region) entitled The Making of Trust and is housed in a tri-fold digipack with 20-page booklet. Following their strong showing with 2004’s Network album, Trust may be the best Saga album since the 1980s. You can go home again, sort of. Here are a couple reviews: Review 1 • Review 2.
This is the Special Edition of Saga’s 2004 album Network. In addition to the CD, this edition adds a DVD (NTSC, all-regions) containing a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix of the entire album. This actually sounds like the same band that made Silent Knight and Worlds Apart, which could not be said of many of the Saga albums in the intervening 23 years.
Those familiar with Saga know that most of their studio albums have had tracks subtitled Chapter x, where x is an integer between 1 and 16. The chapters were not released in order, so the story behind them was not the easiest to discern. On the live double-CD The Chapters Live, all 16 chapters are performed in order for the first time, and the whole story begins to make sense. Check our DVDs page for Saga’s DVDs.
Seismic Cry is a unique progressive project, primarily the work of Philippe Gaudet, now residing in Montreal. The Hopeless Flare (2004) sounds like two different half-albums. The first half is taken up by the four-part Saint Laurent suite, a progressive instrumental with some French narration. It blends progressive rock and classical into something fanciful, theatrical, and bittersweet, like a collaboration between Karda Estra and Mike Oldfield. The second half of the album is more rock-oriented and features female vocals in English. Gaudet handles guitars, synth, glockenspiel, and voice, while other musicians contribute drums, recorder, French horn, trumpet, and vocals (including a choir trio). Read the Prognaut and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Reverence (2006) is a conceptual work regarding the gold rush to Alaska and the Canadian northwest that makes use of poems by Robert W. Service. It features male and female vocals (in English) throughout. Gaudet again handles most of the instruments with the assistance of a drummer, the other vocalists, and a guest on accordion. It’s difficult to compare this to anyone else. The music occasionally breaks out into rock but is usually gentler, melancholy, evocative and surreal, with a slight folkiness but also an almost Genesis-like pastoral flavor. The music is as poetic as the lyrics, and some of the Karda Estra feel of the first album has carried over. Read the Prognaut and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Fleeting (2011, 63-minutes, digisleeve) features an expanded line-up that includes sax and flute. The music is again surreal and deliberately-paced, but whereas Reverence has an open, clear sound, Fleeting has a dense sound, atmospheric and somewhat psychedelic, with the vocals further back in the mix. There is a post-rock flavor, that combination of lush string sounds and the repetitive guitar style that traces back to Neu! and Harmonia.
Madness, the 2002 debut CD from this Québec City prog band, is very good 1970s-style progressive rock, closest to Yes (especially the Rickenbacker bass) but far from being derivative, and with modern-sounding production. The prominent acoustic guitar immediately sets them apart from most current prog bands, bringing to mind Harmonium and the other great 1970s French-Canadian bands. The English-language vocals are up front in the mix, and the harmony vocals can sound like those of Starcastle, America, or Barclay James Harvest, adding a slight folk/pop element. Guests on Irish flute, recorder, and violin add distinctiveness to the band’s style.
Out of Range (2004) features guest spots for Brett Kull (Echolyn) and Fred Schendel (Glass Hammer) and continues to develop the style established on their debut, with a couple heavier spots and one track of more overtly Celtic material. The French-Canadian progressive style was defined in the 70s by a unique combination of folk and acoustic elements and the British progressive rock style. Sense do it differently than Harmonium and the rest of those bands, singing in English for one, but they are one of only a small number of bands continuing this tradition in the new millennium.
Going Home (2007) is another good one and the most Yes-influenced of the Sense CDs. Andrew Marshall of Willowglass guests on Mellotron and other keys. This mini-LP edition is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Ipso Facto, which comes in a heavyweight gatefold cardboard sleeve. Check above for the related band D Project.
Signs of One are a Québec City prog band whose second CD Innerlands (2007) was released on Unicorn Digital. This is elaborate Yes/Genesis style symphonic prog with aspects of Queen and Rush, and enough prog-metal added to let you know they’re a contemporary band. There are 14 tracks, but for all intents and purposes, this is a single 71-minute piece of music. The vocals are in English and have that sound that a fair number of continental European prog bands manage, Clepsydra for one.
At last, two of the most requested CD reissues from the Québec progressive scene appear on the ProgQuebec label in 2009, remastered from the original master tapes. J’un Oeil was released in 1975; Stadaconé followed the next year. “Sloche is one of those incredible bands from the Quebec progressive explosion of the mid-70s that sadly only managed two albums. They sound like a cross between Mahavishnu Orchestra, a bit of Gentle Giant, but mostly like their compatriots the incredible Maneige or the emotional Opus 5. Both their albums are absolutely successful, the former being slightly more symphonic, the second being more fusion. If you like the above-mentioned groups and are not afraid of a little adventure, this is highly recommended.” [Hugues Chantraine, Belgium] Read a band biography. Lots of reviews at Prog Archives of J’un Oeil and Stadaconé.
Sébastien Lépine is an accomplished young cellist from Québec with a solid reputation in the classical music world. But in SLP (Sébastien Lépine Project), he’s swapped his Stradivarius for an electric cello and is backed by Martin Carbonneau (guitar), Ian Peterson (bass), and Denis Marchand (drums, keyboard). On Perception (2011, 65-minutes), this electric ensemble performs Lépine’s instrumental jazz-infused progressive rock compositions, the result coming closest to King Crimson if David Cross was in charge. You’ve heard cello used in a support role in a handful of prog bands, but never showcased like this, from Crimson-style sonic assault to more reflective numbers, favoring the high-energy stuff.
Spaced Out are a Montreal-based instrumental progressive fusion quartet (keys, guitar, bass, drums) whose 2000 self-titled CD is a very impressive 54-minute debut in the Allan Holdsworth, Bruford, and Brand X styles. Eponymus II (2001), their second, is a monster progressive fusion album, moving closer to the highly-arranged style of Bruford, but also sounding a bit like Keith Emerson-joins-Magma. While Spaced Out may lack the strong melodies of Bruford, their music is higher intensity, always shifting, with a particularly hyperactive bass player in Antoine Fafard, who is also the primary composer.
Their third, Slow Gin (2003), shows the band is not standing still. There is a shift toward rock and away from jazz, the music is heavy at times, and more room is allowed for Fafard’s amazing bass playing. Spaced Out are down to a trio for 2006’s Unstable Matter. While that may affect their live performance, the keyboards generally had more of a supporting role on past efforts, adding symphonic textures but usually not taking the lead. So there are keyboards overdubbed on Unstable Matter that play much the same role, if a slightly reduced one. The shift toward rock and away from jazz continues with this album, and Antoine Fafard continues to impress as one of the most nimble and inventive bass players out there. There are moments of metal riffing, lots of odd time signatures and controlled chaos, yet there is still a degree of melody and warmth to it. Evolution (2008) continues the trio format with guests providing keyboard solos. Musically Spaced Out continue to get more metallic and technical, jettisoning melody and warmth along the way as unnecessary encumbrances.
Spaced Out’s first live CD Live at the Crescendo Festival was recorded in 2006 at the Crescendo Festival in France, their first concert in Europe during the Unstable Matter tour. It’s an enhanced CD that includes two videos: the music video of Antimatter and a live video of Art Attack Part 2. Check our DVDs page for Spaced Out’s DVDs.
Melodic old-school metal band from Québec City. Death Might Be Late (2013, digipack) was released by Unicorn Digital (Mystery’s label).
The first Symphonic Slam CD is the reissue of a 1976 Canadian progressive rock LP. Timo Laine is a native born Finn who led this trio. He pioneered the use of the guitar synthesizer, and this album features it heavily. Timo also plays standard guitar and sings, while the other musicians add keys and drums. The album has a few moments of a slightly commercial, dated 1970s rock sound, but overall this is a fine symphonic rock album that hopefully a few of you remember from its vinyl incarnation.
There was a second album by the group, SSII (1978). Less renowned but deserving of a better fate, this second album still highlights the instrument dear to Timo Laine, the guitar-synth. The band personnel varies on a track-by-track basis, featuring several musicians such as the famous bassist Jimmy Haslip (Allan Holdsworth, The Yellowjackets) on three tracks. Mostly instrumental, the CD adds four bonus tracks.
Talisma are a Québec band that date to 1993. It’s unclear whether all their previous releases were merely demos; in any event, Corpus (2003) is the first release in their trio format. Instrumental aside from two tracks with some wordless or scat-style female vocals, this perhaps comes closest to Edhels, albeit a bit heavier in spots. The Steve Hackett and King Crimson influences that shaped Edhels are here also, though that only partially describes Talisma. There’s a bit of Rush in here too, but also touches of jazz, ethnic, space, and more lyrical and delicate passages befitting a Québec band. Both the guitarist and bassist add synth or guitar synth, and both play 12-string at times.
Chromium (2005) is completely instrumental and takes Talisma’s innovative brand of progressive rock even further. Their musical tapestry weaves many styles together fluidly, and there isn’t anyone that they really sound like. The pieces sound structured but they evolved out of studio jams and were recorded the same day, giving the music a great energy.
For Quelque Part (2008), Talisma have expanded to six musicians plus one guest, and while it is again mostly instrumental, there are beautiful vocals from Florence Bélanger on two tracks. The first track hits the listener like a blast of vintage Steve Hackett, but even more intense. The second track features nimble playing that sounds like a prog rock circus on speed, the third track is Crimsonoid, and it continues with each track distinct. There is some more acoustic, Genesis-like material to offset the intensity. At their best, Talisma feature searing electric guitar leads at the mid-point between Hackett and Fripp over a rich symphonic backbone. Hopefully this CD gets Talisma the attention they deserve, as they are now one of the best (mostly-)instrumental prog bands working.
This ProgQuébec label double-CD reissues the complete works of Toubabou, a Montreal-based prog band from the 1970s. Their two albums, Le Blé et le Mil (1974) and Attente (1975), are included in their entirety with original artwork, plus a bonus multimedia section containing archival film footage of the group performing several songs including a previously unreleased track. The group was led by percussionist Michel Séguin and featured several other VEBB members. They were joined by African musicians on Le Blé et le Mil, a live album. Two members of Toubabou went on to join Harmonium. Much of the music is a unique style of progressive funk-rock with African percussion. There are also more beautiful and lyrical compositions featuring female vocals, sometimes in French, sometimes wordless in that unique Québécois style.
Trioxyde was founded in 1990 in Montreal by guitarist/composer Jean-François Girard, initially as a power trio. They added a sax player in 1995 and released their first EP Fantôme in 1996, leading to larger tours in Québec and France. In 2003, the sax was replaced with electric piano, resulting in a new repertoire and a 2007 self-titled CD. Their second full-length CD Hey Carlos (2010, digipack) in part pays tribute to Carlos Santana. The music is instrumental jazz-rock, some in a Santana style, some closer to the Canterbury style, basically though it’s a high-quality, retro-style jazz rock album. Both the electric piano and guitar tones are vintage, so that the album sounds like it could have come out of the early-to-mid 1970s. “This is certainly one of the better jazz-rock records I’ve heard in the last few years, and any fan of the genre is recommended to give this effort from Trioxyde a spin.” [Sea of Tranquility] Read the full review.
This is a very good 2004 debut CD from a Québécois prog band. The album is progressive rock through and through, but goes through a couple changes before settling into the dominant style, which is close to the best French symphonic prog, with a serious and somewhat dark feel and a slight Pink Floyd influence. The album opens though sounding like Peter Gabriel singing in French, almost to the point of plagiarism. (You’ll hear Biko during track 1.) Next the album moves into Genesis and Yes territory. Then all that is pretty much abandoned for the much more original style that covers most of the album’s 67 minutes. The tracks are very long but never feel drawn out, and the French-language vocals are superb, as we’ve come to expect from the Québec prog bands (those that sing in French anyway).
In the Haze That Surrounds Us is the 2015 debut by this Québec prog band in the Haken vein, singing in English.
Upright is a jazz band with progressive touches from Montreal, with a lineup of guitar, keyboards, saxes, bass and drums. Opinion is from 2004.
This is the 2009 debut of a prog band from Québec. Vecteur K play a style similar to the band Direction but slightly harder edged. It’s a combination of the lyrical, entrancing Québécois prog style descended from Harmonium, Octobre, Pollen, Morse Code, et al., and Rush-like guitar and hard rock energy. French lyrics are essential to this music, as is the balance between acoustic and electric guitar.
Cyber Neptune is a 2008 release on the Unicorn Digital label from Quebec’s Claire Vezina, her fourth album. From what we can gather, Vezina is a singer/songwriter who has been making increasingly progressive albums each time out, expanding well beyond the singer/songwriter universe with the assistance of other musicians and a co-writer. She is also a keyboardist, especially fond of Rhodes, also using piano, organ and Mellotron. When it comes to progressive music in Canada, the French-speaking areas have long been nearly the only areas that matter, both in terms of producing and buying it. This is reflected in the music of Cyber Neptune, which is very progressive-flavored, with full electric rock instrumentation on many tracks, impeccably performed and full of magical atmospheres. Vezina has a beautiful voice to deliver the lyrics, in French of course, essential to the feel of her music. Claire Vezina joins Emily Bezar and Kate Bush in the aristocracy of female progressive artists. Read the reviews at Proggnosis and JerryLucky.com.
Unicorn Digital followed in 2009 by reissuing Claire’s 2003 third album Alambic, which is nearly as good as Cyber Neptune. Here Claire collaborates with Jeff Grenier (co-producer, musician), Marc-André Dubé (cowriter, bass) and Olivier Couture (drums).
Complete 1973-1975 is the first release on the ProgQuébec label, whose mission is to reissue 1970s Québec progressive albums on CD. This was one of the richest scenes in progressive rock, and many LPs remain to be reissued on CD. This 146-minute 2CD set reissues the complete works of the seminal Ville Emard Blues Band (VEBB). It includes the double LP Live à Montreal (1974) and Ville Emard (1975), plus three bonus tracks. Despite their name, the band actually played a mix of progressive rock, jazz-rock, and funk. At least half the material is instrumental, while the remainder features male and female vocals in English and French. The tracks with female vocals tend to be more delicate and lyrical, reminiscent of Harmonium, while the other tracks often fall between a 1970s jamming style and a more progressive take on Chicago or Santana.
VEBB today includes a second generation of musicians, led by the son of the original VEBB leader. Live au FMPM 2007 contains the VEBB set from the 2007 edition of the FMPM festival in Montreal, containing the more progressive and jazzy aspects of their repertoire, including songs by Contraction and Toubabou. Mixed by the original VEBB engineer, the energetic performance is presented with the production quality it deserves.
Visible Wind were one of the better Canadian progressive bands of their era. They have a strong singer who sounds a lot like John Wetton, with a touch of Roine Stolt. In fact, The Flower Kings is not a bad comparison for their terrific fifth album Barb-à-Baal-a-Loo (2000), and Roine is thanked in the liner notes. Most of the lyrics are in English, but a few songs are sung in French, and we wouldn’t have minded a few more. The album opens with accordion that leads directly into majestic Mellotron chords, and you know you’re in for a treat.
Narcissus Goes to the Moon (1997) is their fourth album. Some might call this neo-prog, but there is also a substantial 1970s flavor, and more of a King Crimson feel than just the singer’s voice. Emergence (1994) is their third album, A Moment Beyond Time (1991) their second, now with two bonus tracks and a new booklet. Catharsis (1988) is their first.
La Dæmentia Romantica is 65-minutes of Visible Wind live at Baja Prog 2002. Since Visible Wind’s last studio album is from 2000 and the current status of the band is unknown, this live album serves to remind prog fans what an excellent band Visible Wind is or was. Their sound at this stage was characterized by powerful Hammond B-3 and flute, and nothing that can sensibly be called neo-prog. Original guitarist/vocalist Philippe Woolgar was back in the lineup. This is arguably the single best Visible Wind CD, so newcomers can easily start here.
Quality progressive rock LPs are still making their first appearence on CD in 2011, in this case the 1971 sole album by Québec’s Vos Voisins. The album was originally titled Holocauste à Montréal and had a different cover, but it was pulled from the market (lawsuits) and issued with the more attractive cover shown here. The CD booklet features both covers. Some of the music is organ-driven, hard progressive rock typical of the era, early Uriah Heep or Deep Purple for an Anglo reference; Dionysos is a better reference for those familiar with the Québec scene. But there are instrumentals and ballads with greater panache and classical influence that place the music closer to early Italian and French prog. Le 3 4 de l archeveque for instance is regal. Shortly after this album, it would become unnecessary to reference bands from other countries as Québec prog blossomed into a unique scene. The CD includes two 1970 bonus tracks.