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Seas of Change (2018, digipack) is the follow-up to 2017’s Quiet Storms. As the band says, whereas Quiet Storms contains 15 short-ish tracks and is a much more mellow affair, Seas of Change is the polar opposite. It consists of just one 43-minute track that twists and turns creating “a full-on, no holds barred prog/rock rollercoaster of an album”. Seas of Change is kind of a hybrid in style, featuring more traditional, occasionally pastoral elements reminiscent of the older Galahad sound while also incorporating the heavier guitar and more modern keyboard sounds of the last few studio albums. Seas of Change is also the first album to feature Lee Abraham on all guitars following his rejoining the band in spring 2017. Lee had been Galahad’s bass player from 2005-2009. Seas of Change is also Tim Ashton’s first appearance on a Galahad album containing all new material since he appeared on Nothing Is Written back in 1990. Karl Groom mixed and mastered. To pad out the CD, there are two extended edits of sections of the main piece, adding 13 minutes. This is now the highest rated Galahad album on Prog Archives. “That it is a masterpiece is not in doubt, that it will be viewed as album of the year by many is also a shoe-in, while the understanding that in many ways this is the most important release of their career should be taken as read.” [Kev Rowland] Read The Progressive Aspect review. See our British page for the rest of the Galahad CDs.
The full name of the live double-CD is Live at ProgFarm 2006 & Northern Prog Festival 2015 (2017, digipack), with the 2006 concert on disc 1 and the 2015 concert on disc 2. Between 1997 and 2011, Flamborough Head organized 15 editions of ProgFarm, a progressive rock festival staged in The Netherlands. At the 10th anniversary edition in 2006, their sound engineer recorded their gig but the band didn’t release these recordings at that time. A few months later their show in Budapest, Hungary was recorded and they decided to use those recordings instead for the first Flamborough Head live album. Twenty years after the first edition of ProgFarm, these live recordings are released, with the band’s concert at The Northern Prog Festival 2015 included.
Shreds of Evidence (2017, digipack) is a collection of Flamborough Head rarities. Most of the tracks originally appeared on various artists projects including Mellow Records’ The Moody Blues tribute, Musea’s The Flower Kings tribute, Cyclops sampler CDs, Progwereld’s Prog NL CD, and the Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso projects. None of these tracks are simple alternate mixes or edits. One is a reworked and extended version, otherwise the tracks do not appear on other Flamborough Head CDs. There are also some obscure unreleased live tracks. See the full track list specifying the origin of each track.
See our Dutch page for more Flamborough Head CDs along with lots more info.
Dreamcatcher (2015, digipack) is the first solo CD for Eddie Mulder, guitarist of Flamborough Head, Leap Day, and Trion. The album is pensive, peaceful, and largely acoustic guitar oriented, with accents from keyboards, flute, and electric guitar. Assisting are some of Eddie’s bandmates: Edo Spanninga (keyboards, production), Margriet Boomsma (flute), Gert van Engelenburg (keys), and Derk Evert Waalkens (keys). Watch the album sampler video.
Mulder’s second CD Horizons (2016, digipack) contains 12 new tracks plus five live bonus tracks. His bandmates Edo Spanninga and Margriet Boomsma again contribute keyboards and flute, respectively, alongside a guest violinist. The live tracks are performed by a five-person band.
Mulder’s third CD In a Lifetime (2017, digipack) again includes some of his bandmates from Flamborough Head, Leap Day, and Pink Floyd Project. Centered on the 17-minute title track, this one is more band and rock oriented, so newcomers start here. Watch the album trailer.
Norwegian band Sonic Sight is Finn Arild Aasheim (vocals, guitars ,bass, keyboards), who released two earlier albums under the name Finn Arild, and longtime friend Reidar Viik (keyboards, drums). This is a symphonic prog concept album generally in a Genesis vein, with neo-prog appeal as well, and the best yet for Finn Arild. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Another prog band name that just rolls off the tongue. Chronicles from Imaginary Places (2017, digipack, 60-minutes) is the fifth album for this Italian prog band who sing in English and are more focused on British prog styles of the 1970s and 1980s while still incorporating the typical Italian romanticism.
Ryan Parmenter was the leader of the band Eyestrings and is the nephew of Matthew Parmenter of Discipline. Clearly they share a lot of prog DNA as well as talent. One can hear songwriting chops and a melodic sense underlying Eyestrings’ dark, brooding progressive rock that is absent in many prog bands, and on The Noble Knave (2007), Parmenter makes that songwriting ability abundantly clear. The Noble Knave is a wonderful progressive pop album, a collection of songs written by Parmenter over the previous ten years. There is a strong Beatles influence, songs reminiscent of City Boy, some Beach Boys-level vocal harmonies, and much more. It is lively, fun, and very English. How a guy from Michigan can make such English-sounding music is a mystery. It’s all very clever and carried off with an obvious progressive sensibility, and the album is not as self-consciously retro nor as derivative as some other modern attempts at bringing the spirit of The Beatles forward. Read the Sea of Tranquility reviews.
While The Noble Knave is best referred to as prog-pop, One of a Different Color (2018, digipack, 59-minutes) is very much in the progressive rock vein of Eyestrings. The guitar work of David Dawkins features on half of the tracks, and Matthew Parmenter makes a cameo on violin on the title track. The album seems to have been intentionally organized into a side 1 and side 2, with the bitter, more dissonant songs on side 1. Side 2 does a 180, containing hopeful, joyous, majestic symphonic prog, arguably the best music Parmenter has produced under any name. And what we’re calling side 2 is actually close to 60% of the album.
Burdened Hands (2004, 66-minutes) is the debut by a Michigan-based quartet led by vocalist/keyboardist/composer Ryan Parmenter. If that last name looks familiar, Ryan is the nephew of Matthew Parmenter, and Eyestrings’ bassist and drummer have both been members of Discipline. This is an impressive debut, as the band have taken influences from the Beatles to the prog rock giants (Genesis, King Crimson, Yes) through to Tears for Fears and Radiohead and made it all their own. There is a great deal of variety here, yet the band pulls off the difficult trick of making it all sound cohesive. And it is all prog. Probably the closest reference is Echolyn with a little Discipline blended in (and more explicit Genesis references), especially in the way the band can be simultaneously retro and modern, and in the level of chops on display. Read the Progressor and Sea of Tranquility reviews.
This 2017 CD (digisleeve) is the first for German collective Atlantropa Project, made up of eight experienced musicians. Bandleader Heinz Kühne and two others were members of the band Waniyetula, who formed in 1969. Perhaps not a household prog name, but Waniyetula’s 1978 album Nature’s Clear Well was released under the band name Galaxy (which may have been the label’s doing), so only their 1983 album A Dream Within a Dream was released under the name Waniyetula. The concept of the Atlantropa Project album revolves around engineer Herrmann Sörgel, who beginning in the 1920s fought for his idea to build a massive dam between Gibraltar and Africa to drain the Mediterranean sea and create new land. It’s an excellent symphonic prog concept album with wide appeal. Watch the promo video.
Part of the British progressive revival, Welsh prog band Multi Story released their first LP East/West in 1985. We must’ve liked it because it became the second CD released on the Kinesis label (or whatever we were calling the label in 1992). The key members of the quintet are writing partners Rob Wilsher (keyboards) and Paul Ford (vocals). There was a second Multi-Story LP (there used to be a hyphen in their name), 1987’s Through Your Eyes, with a different singer, but don’t fret too much if you’ve never heard it as it’s a fairly tepid AOR affair. More recently, Wilsher and Ford got the creative juices flowing again and started working on new material as a duo. The material was nearing completion when Rob met brothers Jordan and Aedan Neale on another music project, which sparked the idea of reworking the material to accommodate a full band and fire up the Multi Story machine again. Bassist Kyle Jones completed the new lineup, and the band began gearing up for live dates. With the key original members in charge, Crimson Stone (2016) resembles East/West except that while the latter contained mostly short songs, Crimson Stone has mostly long tracks, only one under five minutes. If you’re not familiar with East/West (it’s out-of-print), the music was closer to Yes than to Genesis/Marillion, which set Multi-Story apart from the other neo-prog bands. The Yes influence may be more imagined than real though, the similarity between Paul Ford’s and Jon Anderson’s voices having much to do with the perception. To rerun an old quote from CD Services: “The band actually sound similar to Yes but not in the clone way that Starcastle did, more like imagining that if Yes existed in a parallel universe, this might be the musical direction they could have taken. This is how they might sound, only with a bit more variation and less intensity, but still with a sound full of rich textures and excellent compositions plus good vocals from Paul Ford. This UK band had the potential to be big during the second phase of prog rock in the 1980s, but like many other excellent bands, it never quite happened.”
Live at Acapela (2017) is a double-CD recorded at Cardiff’s Acapela Studios as a finale to Multi Story’s 2016 tour. The album features tracks from all three Multi Story albums: East/West, Through Your Eyes, and Crimson Stone. Meanwhile, the band is working on material for their next studio album (apparently taking this notion of 21st century prog seriously).
The Los Angeles prog band Moth Vellum may have only made one album back in 2008, but its offspring are combining to give us more quality prog than might have existed had Moth Vellum continued. Mancunian Candidate is another branch off the Moth Vellum family tree, after Perfect Beings and Johannes Luley’s solo albums. Mancunian Candidate is based in San Francisco and is led by Matthew Swindells, who was drummer and vocalist with Moth Vellum. Swindells also plays keyboards on the self-titled debut (2017, digipack), which also features (among others) Matthew Charles Heulitt (Moetar) on guitar and a stellar cast of bass players including Matt Bissonette (Elton John, Joe Satriani) and Neil Fairclough (Queen). The music retains the Yes vibe of Moth Vellum, is of the same high quality, and will certainly appeal to the same fans. To understand the band name, you need to know that Swindells is an English expat from Manchester. Then if you don’t know that Manchester residents are known as Mancunians, you’ll need to know that too. (It’s a Latin thing.) Watch videos.
Breton Alan Simon has been making Celtic-flavored progressive rock operas for many years now, not only writing and recording the albums, but staging the large scale productions as well. He has always had the support of legendary international musicians. Excalibur is his best known work, the first part of which was released in 1999. Excalibur IV: The Dark Age of the Dragon (2017, digipack) features Alan Stivell, Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), John Helliwell (Supertramp), Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Michael Sadler (Saga), Moya Brennan (Clannad), Bernie Shaw (Uriah Heep), Jesse Siebenberg (Supertramp) and more, most appearing on multiple tracks. Watch the album trailer and the longer album overview.
RTfact is a Russian/American band and one of the biggest new names to burst onto the prog scene in recent years. Michael Caplan, the man who snuck Echolyn and October Project onto Sony back in the 1990s when he was head of A&R there, is handling PR for RTfact in his current consulting business. The band is led by Yuri Volodarsky, who had a prog band in Russia back in 1979. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1991 with his family and now calls San Francisco home. The RTfact debut Life Is Good (2017) is symphonic prog with heavy nods to Gentle Giant, ELP, Spock’s Beard, and Alan Parsons. Guests include Nad Sylvan, Jeff Soto, Oz Noy, and others. Watch the album teaser video. Read The Prog Mind review.
Icon was the collaborative band of the late John Wetton and keyboardist Geoff Downes. Zero (digipack) is the 2017 remastered edition of the 2002 album titled simply Wetton/Downes, which featured a different cover. It predates the first Icon album, so it has been rebranded as Icon - Zero to bring it into this ongoing series of Icon reissues fully sanctioned by Downes and the estate of Wetton. A couple bonus tracks have been added, one demo and one alternate version. Francis Dunnery (It Bites) and Agnetha Fältskog (ABBA) are among the guests.
Deluge Grander sprang from the ashes of Baltimore progressive band Cerebus Effect. It was the addition of keyboardist Dan Britton that made the final Cerebus Effect CD their most symphonic, and on their debut August in the Urals (2006, out-of-print), Deluge Grander continued in that direction, more symphonic and, well, grander. Britton is the primary composer, and he is a tremendous keyboardist. August in the Urals is complex symphonic prog in a 1970s style, with some vocals but no attempts at songs per se, as instrumental content clearly dominates. There are many possible reference points, including Änglagård, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Fireballet, Genesis, and Yes, but the music rarely suggests any one band for long.
Birds and Buildings is Dan Britton’s other band and is fairly similar. The two bands also share a bass player. The major difference between Bantam to Behemoth (2008, out-of-print) and the first Deluge Grander is the presence of a woodwinds (sax, flute, clarinet) player. The flute tends to be used in the gentler, pastoral passages, while the sax is used in the more energetic passages. The sax style is similar to David Jackson or Mel Collins, ranging from melodic to frenzied. The presence of sax leads to comparisons with King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, and Gong, and there is more of a Canterbury influence than in Deluge Grander. There are still gobs of Mellotron strings and choir, and highly-skilled ensemble playing.
Bantam to Behemoth was recorded between the first two Deluge Grander CDs, and the second Deluge Grander CD The Form of the Good (2009) seems to have more in common with Bantam to Behemoth than August in the Urals, perhaps not surprising given that B&B’s woodwind player guests here. The Form of the Good is entirely instrumental and has more of the sonic maelstrom approach of the French band Clearlight. Here the core quartet of keys/guitar/bass/drums in augmented by a large number of guests contributing clarinet, flute, sax, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, and oboe. Clearlight had Didier Malherbe’s woodwinds and either David Cross’s or Didier Lockwood’s violin, so Deluge Grander usually have a sonic counterpart to those in the mix here. As with B&B, this is blended with a more symphonic style highlighted by Mellotron.
2013 and it’s Birds and Buildings’ turn again, with Multipurpose Trap. The lineup has changed but the instrumentation still includes violin, sax, flute, and clarinet. In the band’s words, B&B “play a mixture of intense jazz-rock (often bordering on Zeuhl), complex symphonic music, and occasional avant-garde heaviness”. The band says that every song has up to six people singing, but only for a minute or less on most songs, mainly to confound ‘instrumental’ versus ‘vocal’ classification. Read the Exposé reviews.
2017 and naturally it’s Deluge Grander’s turn with Oceanarium (digipack, 79-minutes). The album is instrumental symphonic prog, densely and meticulously orchestrated, with guests adding trumpet, trombone, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, sax, violin, and cello. It’s time to add more bands to the reference list, and Dan Britton acknowledges Kenso, Maneige, and Kotebel.
See also the related band All Over Everywhere.
Glass Hammer celebrate their 25th anniversary with Untold Tales (2017), a 74-minute collection of rare and previously unreleased recordings from 1993-2017. There is one 2017 live track: No Man’s Land. There are previously unreleased covers of Argent’s Hold Your Head Up and The Beatles’ It’s All Too Much. The rest are previously unreleased studio recordings spanning the life of the band, including a couple epic length tracks. Untold Tales features vocalists Walter Moore, Carl Groves, Susie Bogdanowicz, and Jon Davison. Current bandmembers Fred Schendel, Steve Babb, Kamran Alan Shikoh, and Aaron Raulston are all present as are many GH alumni. The 16-page booklet contains lyrics and extensive liner notes. See our U.S. page for more Glass Hammer titles.
Leftoverture Live & Beyond (2CD, 2017, digipack) features the 1976 Leftoverture album performed start to finish by the new Kansas lineup, plus several songs from 2016’s The Prelude Implicit as well as numerous tracks from the band’s 1970s heyday. Leftoverture Live & Beyond was recorded in 12 different U.S. cities on the band’s Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour; the best version of each of the 19 tracks was selected. This live album was produced by Jeff Glixman, who produced Leftoverture all those many years ago. Read the TeamRock review.
Kaipa was the top first-generation Swedish prog band. Keyboardist Hans Lundin reformed Kaipa circa 2002, and the new band’s style has been faithful to the original apart from switching to English lyrics. Children of the Sounds (2017, digipack) continues with the same lineup that has been in place since Angling Feelings, and the same essential style. “What truly makes Kaipa stand out here, as always, is the way in which they create celebratory sonic worlds filled with a childlike sense of wonder, hope, and possibility. Rather than aim for soulless virtuosity (as a fair amount of their peers do), they make each technical moment serve the central goal of enveloping the listener in an aural fairytale of colorful, life-affirming compositions. Children of the Sounds is as fine an example of that as any other Kaipa record, or any other modern genre LP for that matter, and it should be cherished as such by as many people as possible.” [The Prog Report] Also read the Get Ready to Rock, Dangerdog, and The Progressive Aspect reviews. Watch the videos for What’s Behind the Fields and the title track.
See our Scandinavian page for more Kaipa CDs.
For those not familiar with Duncan Browne, he was a gifted songwriter, singer, and guitarist who sadly passed away in 1993 from cancer. He was a musical chameleon, recording the post-psych chamber pop classic Give Me, Take You album in 1968, then re-emerging four years later as an introspective singer/songwriter. By the mid-1970s, he had signed to the Transatlantic label as a member of Euro art rock sophisticates Metro. The Metro album is quite respectable, but it’s after Browne left Metro that it gets really interesting for prog fans. Browne’s two best albums are The Wild Places (1978) and Streets of Fire (1979). These two prog/pop albums not only feature outstanding songs but a lot of first-rate progressive rock, as Browne had assembled a stellar cast of British session musicians in keyboardist Tony Hymas (Jeff Beck), bassist John Giblin (Brand X, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel,...), and drummer Simon Phillips (801, Mike Oldfield, Jon Anderson,...) for both albums. (Giblin and Phillips were already in place on the Metro album.) These albums also demonstrated that Browne was a really good electric as well as acoustic guitarist. The title track of The Wild Places remains a classic, a great song with lots of dynamics followed by an all-out sympho-prog instrumental outro, Mellotron choir and all. The track American Heartbeat on Streets of Fire is another classic song, while instrumentals such as the title track from Streets of Fire showcase the prog and fusion credentials of the musicians. These albums are of such a class that it’s a crime Duncan Browne isn’t better known. This anthology contains both The Wild Places and Streets of Fire in their entirety, the complete Metro album, and some rarities including the long lost 1979 song China Girl (no relation to the Bowie song, though paradoxically Bowie did cover one Metro song), its first release in any format.
John Hackett is of course Steve’s younger brother and longtime sideman, known best as a flute player but he also plays guitar, bass, bass pedals, and keyboards. Another Life (2015, digipack) is John’s second rock album, the follow-up to 2005’s Checking Out of London, with most of the same people involved. Nick Clabburn again provides lyrics, and John is again joined by brother Steve on lead guitar, while Anthony Phillips guests. The whole project was produced and mixed by Nick Magnus, who again takes care of keyboards, drums, and programming.
John Hackett’s newly-formed band features classical guitar specialist Nick Fletcher, Jeremy Richardson (bass, vocals, acoustic & 12-string guitars), and Duncan Parsons (drums). They debut with the studio album We Are Not Alone (2017, 2CD, digipack). Steve Hackett makes a token appearance. This interview contains some previews of the music. This is the deluxe 2CD edition. The second disc is titled Another Live, recorded at the Classic Rock Society in 2016 featuring live performances of 19 songs from Checking Out of London and Another Life.
Moonspinner (2011) is one of John Hackett’s acoustic albums, on which he plays flute and guitar. Andy Gray from ReGenesis guests. As with similar albums by Ian Anderson and Thijs van Leer, Moonspinner bridges the classical and prog genres. Gorgeous stuff. Read the Background Magazine review.
The UK band Drifting Sun began in the early 1990s when bandleader Pat Sanders left his native France for England. They released an eponymous first CD in 1996, followed by On the Rebound in 1998. Then nothing was heard from Drifting Sun until 2015 and their third album Trip the Life Fantastic, featuring a new lineup. It is the more bombastic modern take on early Marillion (in a broad rather than copyist sense), with of course several other prog influences, featuring excellent dramatic vocals and a good guitars/keys balance.
This is the limited edition of Safe Asylum (2016), which contains two additional instrumental tracks (that first appeared several months earlier on the download-only Alice EP). Safe Asylum is darker, more complex and serious sounding than Trip the Life Fantastic. The mostly long tracks are quite involved, though the music remains melodic to be sure. The keyboardist is the bandleader, so the guitar/keys balance is enforced. At this point, Fugazi-era Marillion is only a distant ancestor, as Drifting Sun have ambitiously taken their music into other realms. Read the Progradar and Progarchives reviews.
Twilight (2017, digipack) is arguably the band’s best work to date, striking a balance between the darkness of Safe Asylum and the light of Trip the Life Fantastic. “Drifting Sun have made another leap forward with their latest album, Twilight. With their last two albums both reviewed favorably here at Progarchy, that is no light praise.” Read the full Progarchy review, also The Progressive Aspect review.
Jet Black Sea is a project of Adrian Jones, leader of Nine Stones Close, joined by Michel Simons. Absorption Lines (2017, digisleeve) is again the core duo of Jones and Simons, with assistance from Brendan Eyre and Tony Patterson (who you may know from their 2014 album Northlands), Adrian O’Shaughnessy and Pieter van Hoorn from Nine Stones Close, and Paul van Zeeland. “With the release of Absorption Lines, Jet Black Sea have made a significant leap forward in their sound, the album only revealing its full trove of treasures with multiple listens. While maintaining the innovative, inventive qualities that made The Path of Least Existence such a success, Simons and Jones have pushed themselves to the limit once more... Mysterious yet charismatic, ambient yet powerful, alluring yet secretive - Jet Black Sea deserve your attention. Read the full Prog Archives review, also the Real Gone and Progradar reviews. Watch the album preview video.
Excavations of the Mind (2010) is the debut for Sky Architect, a quintet of relatively young Dutch musicians including three from a Rotterdam conservatory. They come right out and state that they are interested in reviving the symphonic progressive style of the 1970s. Sky Architect are a bit hard-edged, dark, quirky, and technical. Beyond a vague sense of King Crimson or Gentle Giant, they don’t really call to mind specific bands. There are lots of vintage keys including Mellotron. It would have been nice to hear some suggestion of Focus, Kayak, Supersister, Trace, Finch, or any other Dutch 70s progressive rock instead of only British influences, but it’s not uncommon today to find young European prog musicians unaware of their own heritage. Nevertheless, this is a very promising debut by a band who’ve gone back far enough in their listening to find the real, undiluted prog. Mark Wilkinson created the CD artwork.
Probably just coincidence, but Sky Architect’s 2011 follow-up A Dying Man’s Hymn does at times sound like the great Dutch prog band Finch! And how many later bands have ever been compared to Finch? A Dying Man’s Hymn is quite an extraordinary album, more mature than their debut. It is more instrumental than vocal, not without some contemporary aspects but primarily classic prog with a dark, Van der Graaf Generator vibe. The band relocated to the woods of Sweden to record this album, woods known to be full of prog magic.
A Billion Years of Solitude (2013) is Sky Architect’s third, which they describe as “heavier, more daring and inventive”. They say the result is “a stunning outburst of creativity featuring surprising changes, crazy rhythmic devices, polyphonic arrangements, and complex song structures”. Read the Sea of Tranquility review. Watch the official video for Tides.
Sky Architect’s fourth album Nomad (2017, digisleeve) sees the band integrating their classic prog influences into a contemporary heavy prog style, likewise balancing complexity and chops with memorable melodies and stunning song climaxes. Read reviews of all the Sky Architect CDs at Prog Archives.
Cosmograf is one of the ascendant stars of the British prog scene, a project led by multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong, who cites Steven Wilson, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour as some of his inspirations. The third Cosmograf album The Man Left in Space (2013) features performances from Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train), Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard), Matt Stevens (The Fierce and the Dead), Greg Spawton (Big Big Train), Simon Rogers, Steve Dunn, Lee Abraham, Luke Machin (The Tangent), and Dave Ware. It’s another concept album, often with a wonderful spacey/surreal atmosphere, blending Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, and neo-prog, with a smidgeon of heavy guitar. Part of it even sounds like a modern, proggy take on David Bowie’s Space Oddity, probably a deliberate allusion. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Robin says the sixth Cosmograf album The Hay-Man Dreams (2017) harks back to the sound and feel of the classic prog era. “To complement the vintage theme, I wanted a warm retrospective sound. I’m making no apologies for this and I’m relinquishing any claims on being progressive with a small ‘p’. I’m largely fed up with the argument and I’m pretty tired of the notion that everything has to be new and original to be good. I like old stuff…The best music was made in 1970s. It’s a sound I’m familiar with and one I fell in love with when I was 15. Classic rock-inspired guitar, bass and drums, with some vintage keyboards. In fact you won’t find a single instrument on the album that wasn’t available in 1973, albeit a lot of the keyboard parts are very modern simulations of the real thing of course.” Guests include Rachael Hawnt (The Beautiful Secret), Kyle Fenton (These Septic Stars), Matt Stevens, Rachel Hall (Big Big Train), and former BBC voiceover artist David Allan. Watch the album teaser, album sampler, and the video for Cut the Corn.
Discipline have rightly been hailed as the American Van der Graaf Generator and one of the top U.S. prog bands ever. Their new studio CD Captives of the Wine Dark Sea (2017, digipack) will be the U.S. prog album to beat in 2017. Watch the album teaser and the video for Life Imitates Art. See our U.S. page for more Discipline and related CDs.
English band Big Big Train began in the early 1990s as a soft neo-prog band, but steadily improving with each album, they have grown into one of the top progressive rock bands in the world, and one that is breaking new ground. The band that had already added drummer Nick D’Virgilio, former XTC and Peter Gabriel guitarist Dave Gregory, and best-singer-in-prog David Longdon, has now added Beardfish mastermind Rikard Sjöblom! Who doesn’t want to board Big Big Train now?
Big Big Train’s 10th album Grimspound (2017, digisleeve) follows swiftly after Folklore as the band found themselves with a wealth of new material and writing input from their newer members. They probably also realize that they’re at both a creative and popularity peak and are not taking the future for granted. Bassist Greg Spawton says: “There is some complex music on this album, with extended instrumental sections alongside vocal passages. We had a lot of fun making the album and have pushed ourselves as progressive rock bands should.” Judy Dyble adds vocals to “a song concerning the reported sightings of a ghostly apparition beside the cemetery gates in a quiet English village.” Nick and Rachel sing some lead parts on this album, further expanding the sonic palette. Watch the videos for As the Crow Flies and Experimental Gentlemen. Read the Progradar, The Progressive Aspect, and The Prog Report reviews.
And The Second Brightest Star (2017, digisleeve) follows just a couple months after Grimspound (which in May hit number one in the UK Official Rock Album Chart!), as The Second Brightest Star is considered a companion album. It features over 40 minutes of new songs and instrumentals plus 30 minutes of bonus music from the Folklore and Grimspound albums presented in extended formats. Listen to the title track. Read The Prog Report review.
Bent Knee was formed in 2009 at Berklee College of Music in Boston. For their fourth album Land Animal (2017), the band have moved to the InsideOut label, which seems like an odd fit. For Bent Knee are an unusual prog/art-rock band that probably fall in the love-’em-or-hate-’em category. Newcomers are required to watch the videos for the title track and Terror Bird and read The Prog Report review. Brace yourself! This is the U.S. jewel case edition.
The Dutch band Plackband formed in the mid-1970s and were most influenced by Genesis. They took an 18-year holiday, reuniting in 2000. After 30 years, Plackband rebooted as PBII with three of the original members and the desire for a more modern sound. Plastic Soup (2010, digisleeve, 69-minutes) includes guests John Mitchell and John Jowitt, two guys who never met a neo-prog band they didn’t want to play with, and singer Heidi Jo Hines. It’s not a radical change from Plackband, as the old Genesis influence is still present most of the time. PBII’s desire for a more modern approach has more to do with the use of modern sounds, modern production, and the sound of the mix than a change in musical style. In addition to a standard CD, this Dutch edition of Plastic Soup includes a DVD (PAL, all-region) containing a 5.1 surround mix of the entire album, plus two videos. (There was a U.S. edition that lacked the DVD.) Read the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews.
The PBII@Boerderij.org DVD (2011, PAL, all-region) contains the launch concert for Plastic Soup. PBII perform the entire album plus additional songs that include covers of Here Comes the Flood and Have a Cigar. The concert features performances by John Mitchell, John Jowitt, and Heidi Jo Hines. It was shot by six HD cameras. The band says: “You will enjoy this concert in High Definition picture and sound”, and of course you won’t because this is a DVD, which is standard-definition picture and sound. (There is no Blu-ray.) Extras include behind the scenes material. 104 minutes, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio.
1000 Wishes is PBII’s most ambitious project to date. The CD (2013, digipack) features The Hague Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Steve Hackett guests. The story is about the fight of a young boy against cancer and more generally about cancer in children. This is certainly PBII’s best music so far, symphonic neo-prog that is often reminiscent of Yes due in part to the singer’s voice, while you may also flash back on Grobschnitt’s Rockpommels Land on occasion. Watch the promo video and the video for Evil Weed. Read the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews.
PBII have performed 1000 Wishes as part of a rock opera with the orchestra and a theater group (actors and dancers). The performances of 30-31 March 2013 were captured on the 1000 Wishes DVD (PAL, all-region, digipack). While the lyrics are in English, the play portion is in Dutch, so you have been warned, but it is a unique spectacle. Watch the DVD trailer.
Rocket (2017, digisleeve) is subtitled The Dreams of Wubbo Ockels. Ockels was the first Dutchman to go into space, and the Background Magazine and DPRP reviews will fill you in on the story behind this album. The band is assisted by three violinists and a cellist, while Nad Sylvan sings lead on one song. Singer Ruud Slakhorst sounds a lot like Jon Anderson, and this is an elegant Yes-influenced work that soars. Watch the teaser video and the video for Rocket Part II.
Rob Reed is of course Magenta’s keyboardist and leader and one of those musicians who requires multiple outlets for his creativity (e.g., Kompendium, Kiama). His series of Sanctuary albums begun in 2014 are rather amazing, in essence alternate-universe Mike Oldfield works. If Reed’s abilities on instruments other than keyboards hadn’t been apparent before, they are now, as he plays everything by hand, apart from the nonsense-syllable vocals. Reed was inspired to become a musician and composer at the age of seven after discovering Tubular Bells. So inspired was he by the album that he learned to play not just one but all the instruments featured on that album. We always thought Rob Reed had his head and heart in the right place musically, and this seals it.
Sanctuary Live (2017) was recorded in October 2016 at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios by a 13-piece band, including fellow Magenta members Christina Booth, Chris Fry, Jiffy Griffiths, and Dan Nelson, plus vocalist Angharad Morgan (Kompendium). Reed’s ensemble performed a selection of music from his highly successful Sanctuary 1 and Sanctuary 2 albums as well as Willow’s Song. Both the DVD and CD feature the entire show; the DVD adds a documentary. Watch the promo video.
Variations on Themes by David Bedford (2017) is a CD-EP of Reed’s reinterpretations of three Bedford compositions. David Bedford was a renowned classical composer and Mike Oldfield collaborator who passed away in 2011. He would have been 80 in August 2017, and this EP is part of a celebration of his work. Alongside Reed, the EP features Terry Oldfield, Les Penning (Ommadawn), Angharad Brinn, and Tubular Bells producer Tom Newman who also mixed the album. The EP contains Rio Grande from Bedford’s album The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, King Aeolus from The Odyssey, and the title track from Nurses Song With Elephants. These pieces are then repeated once or twice in alternate mixes. Watch the videos for King Aeolus and Rio Grande. Those unfamiliar with Bedford would do well to listen to Reed explain things, or head to Prog Archives.
The CD Karma (2017, digisleeve) is the seventh for Swedish prog band Brother Ape, containing eight songs culled from a series of three digital EPs that began in 2015. The intent was to eventually pick the favorite songs from those and release them as this album, with additional songs added. The first EP Worlds Waiting was released in autumn 2015, followed by Mandrill Anthem and Other Tales in spring 2016 and First Class in autumn 2016. All the songs from First Class made the cut, while the other two contributed only one each; two more songs make their first appearance. See our Scandinavian page for the rest of the Brother Ape CDs still in print plus info on the band.
Signed to IQ’s Giant Electric Pea label, Damanek is led by Guy Manning, whose previous band Manning is responsible for a large catalog of high quality prog. Following an impressive first show at the 2016 Summer’s End festival, On Track (2017) is Damanek’s debut album. The band is Guy (lead & backing vocals, keyboards, acoustic instruments, guitars, EBow, percussion), Dan Mash (bass), Marek Arnold (saxes, clarinet, keyboards, Seaboard), and Sean Timms (keyboards, banjo, backing vocals). Sean Timms (Southern Empire, Unitopia) put his Mister Class and Quality stamp on the production. Damanek could be seen as an alter ego of United Progressive Fraternity since Guy, Dan Mash, and Marek Arnold are all UPF members, and Sean Timms was in UPF’s parent band. (Marek Arnold now is in so many prog bands that we’ve stopped trying to list them.) The album also features a host of guest musicians including Brody Thomas Green (Southern Empire), Luke Machin (Maschine/Kiama/The Tangent), Tim Irrgang (UPF), Nick Magnus, Phideaux Xavier, and more. Listen to the track Long Time, Shadow Falls. Read this review on Progressive Ears.
Nad Sylvan first appeared on the prog scene as singer in the Genesis-inspired Swedish duo Unifaun before joining Roine Stolt in Agents of Mercy. More recently, Nad has been Steve Hackett’s singer. Nad’s first solo album Courting the Widow (2015, 70-minutes) features an impressive cast of guests including Steve Hackett, Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic), Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson, Lifesigns,...), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard), Gary O’Toole and Rob Townsend (Steve Hackett), Doane Perry (Jethro Tull), Annbjørg Lien, and others. Rooted in classic prog, Nad considers Courting the Widow “very much a symphonic album... I feel that I have delivered an album that’s true to myself and my values in life. It’s heartfelt, passionate, emotional, and full of dramatic passages.” Read The Prog Mind review. Listen to the album teaser.
Nad’s follow-up The Bride Said No (2017) features guests Roine Stolt, Steve Hackett, Guthrie Govan, Tony Levin, Jonas Reingold, Nick D’Virgilio, Doane Perry, and more. Watch the video for When the Music Dies. Read the DPRP reviews.
Having completed the massive Dante’s The Divine Comedy project, Finnish progressive rock association Colossus continues its excellent series of various artists progressive rock concept CDs, digging deeper into Italian literature of the Renaissance with another classic: Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. Each participating band created a new piece of music, generally in a vintage style and often lengthy. Musea released the 4CD Part I in 2011 and the 4CD Part II in 2014. The Seacrest label took over the franchise beginning with Part III (4CD, 2016), a logical fit as not only is Seacrest a Finnish label, they’re also home to The Samurai of Prog, featuring some of the same musicians and also focused on vintage prog. Just some of the bands on Part III: Latte e Miele, United Progressive Fraternity, Robert Webb, Ageness, Ellesmere, JPL, Willowglass, Trion, Nexus, Elephants of Scotland, Jinetes Negros, Interpose+, Court, Il Tempio delle Clessidre, Rebel Wheel, Taproban, D’accord, Phoenix Again, Castle Canyon, Il Castello di Atlante, Faveravola, Cirrus Bay. Artwork for the album and its 64-page booklet is by Ed Unitsky. So much good prog here at only pennies per minute! Watch the 10-minute album overview video (where you’ll also find the full band/track list) and the teaser video for United Progressive Fraternity’s Mercenaries. Counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
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