Remembrance (2015, digipack) is the third album for Maiden uniteD, an all-star project whose charter is to rearrange and perform Iron Maiden songs using mainly acoustic instrumentation. (Are they counting Hammond organ as an acoustic instrument? Because there’s a lot of Hammond.) Forget about that, this is symphonic prog. This is not some sort of unplugged, small, mellow music. There are bass and drums, and this is often big, dramatic, bombastic, and symphonic. You absolutely do not need to be an Iron Maiden fan to appreciate this. The 13 musicians include founder Joey Bruers, Damian Wilson as primary vocalist, Ruud Jolie and Mike Coolen (Within Temptation), Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion), Paul Di’Anno and Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden), and other established musicians. Watch the album trailer and all will become clear, also listen to Still Life ’15, which features violin from Marcela Bovio, and Aces High.
The best orchestra in the world, recorded in the best studio in the world (Abbey Road), playing some of the best songs in the world. Guests include Thijs Van Leer (Focus), Richard Harvey (Gryphon), Patrick Moraz, Ian Bairnson (The Alan Parsons Project), Gavin Harrison, Guthrie Govan (Steven Wilson band), and the late Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboardist of Three Dog Night). The tracks: ELP Suite: Tarkus / From the Beginning / Tarkus (reprise), Comfortably Numb, Thick as a Brick, 21st Century Schizoid Man, Focus II, Nights in White Satin, Think of Me With Kindness, Roundabout, Watcher of the Skies, Red Barchetta. If your favorite song did not make the cut, lobby hard for a Volume 2. Watch the educational/motivational video.
Circa: is the band assembled by Yes alumni Billy Sherwood (bass, vocals), Tony Kaye (keyboards), and Alan White (drums, vocals), with Jimmy Haun (formerly of Lodgic) on guitars & vocals. The Circa: albums can be filed alongside the Squire/Sherwood Conspiracy albums and the 1990s Yes albums that Sherwood played on. These are the 2013 reissues on Cleopatra’s Purple Pyramid label, which feature new artwork. The self-titled album is their 2007 debut; it comes with a DVD that appears to be the 2008 Circa: Live DVD. The DVD contains the entire album performed live plus a great 40-minute instrumental journey through three decades of Yes entitled Chronological Journey. Extras include behind the scenes footage.
HQ (2009) is their second, with Jay Schellen taking Alan White’s drum stool.
The double-CD And So On / Overflow reissues the little-known third Circa: album And So On (2011) plus the rarities collection Overflow, the first time on CD for the latter. Sherwood and Kaye remained for And So On, with Johnny Bruhns taking over on guitars and Scott Connor on drums. Listen to excerpts.
The appearance of William Shatner on the recent The Prog Collective - Epilogue CD was just a taster for this album, based on a concept written by Shatner and featuring his spoken word poetry. Ponder the Mystery (2013, digipack) is another Prog Collective type project, organized by Billy Sherwood and featuring an all-star lineup, in this instance Rick Wakeman, Simon House, Edgar Froese, Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, Edgar Winter, George Duke, Nik Turner, and several more. Shatner says he’s a prog fan, though to paraphrase Billy Sherwood: “well, he probably doesn’t have Gentle Giant on his iPod.” Read the Rolling Stone interview and Billboard article. Shatner did perform the album live with Circa: as his band.
These CDs are all-star projects organized by Billy Sherwood. The Prog Collective is being touted as the biggest prog all-star project ever. The self-titled 2012 first Prog Collective CD features performances by John Wetton, Tony Levin, Jerry Goodman, Geoff Downes, Alan Parsons, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Gary Green, Annie Haslam, Steve Hillage, John Wesley, Tony Kaye, and more.
The second Prog Collective CD Epilogue (2013, digipack) includes most of the same musicians plus Steve Morse, Jim Cuomo (Fireballet), Larry Fast, Patrick Moraz, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Mel Collins, Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Roye Albrighton (Nektar), Nik Turner (Hawkwind), the final appearance of the late Peter Banks, prog superstar William Shatner, and more. Listen to the track Shining Diamonds.
The Fusion Syndicate (2012) features Rick Wakeman, Jerry Goodman, Nik Turner, Jordan Rudess, Mel Collins, Billy Cobham, Billy Sheehan, Gavin Harrison, David Sancious, Larry Coryell, Derek Sherinian, Chester Thompson, Steve Morse, Percy Jones, John Etheridge, Tony Kaye, Chad Wackerman, Steve Hillage, Theo Travis, and many others. Read the Something Else! review.
Trail Records is a label specialized in music that falls somewhere on the spectrum between psychedelic and progressive rock, and while we’ve stocked their proggier releases such as Barrett Elmore, In the Labyrinth, and Siddhartha, the titles here represent their more psychedelic, spacey, and trancey CDs. Sky Cries Mary are a Seattle-based trance rock band that have been around since the late 1980s. Beyond-o-Matic are a San Francisco-based space rock band that began in the early 1990s. Click the mp3 icons above not only for audio samples but for the label’s description of each CD and links to reviews. Also read the Exposé review of Beyond-o-Matic’s Relations...
Tripwave is subtitled A Retrospective Collection of Russian Psychedelic Progressive Music, and features bands you may have heard of such as Vespero, Decadence, or Disen Gage, and others probably unknown to you. Psychedelic World Music likewise features bands that aren’t exactly household names, this time from around the globe including even Belarus, Armenia, and China, so Trail Records have done their homework. Tripwave and Time to Get Up come in jewel cases, the others are digipacks.
Cosmos Inside (digipack) is the first release of 2014 for Trail Records. “Polska Radio One is a group from the cold and gloomy Ural city of Yekaterinburg that in just a year and a half has made its way from beginner garage combo to one of Eastern Europe’s most interesting and promising psychedelic bands.” Read the Mr. Atavist review.
In the preceding few years, The Pineapple Thief had to some extent begun to drift away from progressive rock and toward indie rock. On Your Wilderness (2016, mini-LP sleeve), bandleader Bruce Soord says he returned to the band’s progressive roots for inspiration. Assisting in this change of direction is Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson), who plays drums throughout and clearly elevates the material. Guests include John Helliwell (Supertramp) on clarinet, Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) providing a string quartet, Darran Charles (Godsticks) on guitar, and a four-piece choir. “On this album, the band seem to have regained focus and direction, overtaking their recent output, and whilst I look back to the grand canyons they have journeyed before, I am more than happy to take a ride with them and see what lies ahead.” Read the full Progradar review, also the Heavy Blog Is Heavy review. Watch the videos for In Exile and No Man’s Land.
The Pineapple Thief is the band led by Bruce Soord, a very creative musician who was the guitarist in Vulgar Unicorn. The Pineapple Thief (TPT) combine 1970s progressive styles and sounds (Mellotron, Rhodes, analog synths, orchestral instruments) with a mélange of modern pop/rock styles, recommended to fans of Radiohead (though TPT are much proggier), Oceansize, and especially Porcupine Tree. Throughout most of their career, TPT have had more in common with the bittersweet, song-oriented side of Porcupine Tree, with a similar spacious sound and that sensual melancholy.
After a half dozen CDs on the indie prog label Cyclops, TPT signed with the Kscope label, a perfect fit. Tightly Unwound (2008, 2CD mediabook) has much in common with the previous album What We Have Sown, as both albums were written during the same sessions. The foundation of TPT’s sound here is strummed acoustic guitar mixed with electric leads, while the keyboards are generally Mellotron strings and synths used as pads. Much of the material is in atypical time signatures, frequently seven, but TPT pull it off without drawing attention to it, adding a layer of complexity without sounding contrived. This 2CD is the 2013 reissue that comes in a hardcover mediabook, has been remixed and remastered, and adds a second disc containing eight more tracks taken from the Dawn Raids EPs and an acoustic version of Shoot First. The mediabook was replaced with a digipack in 2016, so grab the mediabook before it vanishes.
Someone Here Is Missing is TPT’s 2010 studio CD, which comes in a super jewel box + slipcase. Read the detailed Philadelphia Rock Music Examiner review. Watch Kscope’s album montage video.
All the Wars (2012) includes a 22-piece string orchestra and a choir. TPT are heavier now than in their early years, and the first two tracks on this album are just heavy alt-guitar-rock. If those tracks are progressive rock, then everything is progressive rock. But from the third track (which introduces the orchestra) through the epic than concludes the album, it is progressive and is an evolution of what TPT have been doing all along.
Magnolia is The Pineapple Thief’s 2014 studio album. We initially offered the 2CD mediabook edition, but Kscope’s limited editions get deleted pretty quickly these days, and this one was no exception. So the current edition is a single CD in jewel box + slipcase. Watch this official video, containing an instrumental edit of the title track. Read the Echoes and Dust review.
In 2009, Kscope began the process of reissuing remixed/remastered/repackaged versions of TPT’s Cyclops label CDs. When What We Have Sown was released in 2007, it was arguably the band’s most progressive and perhaps aggressive album to date. Like many contemporary bands, The Pineapple Thief may be reluctant to come right out and admit they play prog for fear of alienating some, but with violin on one track and Mellotron strings just about everywhere else, there’s little doubt. The mostly-instrumental 27-minute tour de force What Have We Sown? is one of the band’s most impressive tracks ever. It shows them in their more adventurous mode, with similarities to Godspeed You Black Emperor in the sound palette and the way the intensity builds. But whereas Godspeed... tend to increase intensity monotonically, P.Thief do it more artfully. This 2013 Kscope edition has been remixed and remastered and adds two previously unavailable bonus tracks.
Little Man, the fifth TPT CD, was originally released in 2006. Relative to the previous albums, Little Man is darker and more deeply personal, featuring some thicker electric guitar textures and a guest violinist. This is the 2009 Kscope edition.
10 Stories Down is the fourth The Pineapple Thief album, originally released in 2005. This 2011 2CD edition on Kscope is presented in the same way as the original limited edition 2CD, with the 8 Days Later album (never released separately) as the second disc. This Kscope edition has been remixed and remastered and adds a slipcase. As Cyclops described it: “This stunning set of songs is easily the best produced by the band to date. Lush arrangements sit alongside the traditional sonic canvas of guitars, bass, drum, vocals, and keyboards (Mellotron, Hammond, Prophet 5, Fender Rhodes). Pieces here consist mostly of song-based material of a melancholy nature with more than a little alternative influence. Bruce Soord’s tell-tale guitar work has never been so cutting, with some soaring soloing amongst the memorable songs, especially on the 15-minute ending epic.” On completing the 10 Stories Down recording, the group had eight days of studio time left and used each day to compose and record a track from scratch. The result is the extra album 8 Days Later. Like the 8 Days album available in the 2CD version of Variations on a Dream, this material is way too good for a limited CD. It is much more instrumental than the 10 Stories Down disc, showcasing another side of the band. The atmosphere and mood this band can create on demand is remarkable.
This is Kscope’s 2011 remixed and remastered 2CD edition of The Pineapple Thief’s Variations on a Dream, which includes the 8 Days bonus CD. Note Kscope replaced this edition in 2016 with a single CD edition that omits 8 Days, so grab this 2CD now or forever be tormented with regret. When it was first released, Bruce Soord said: “Recorded throughout 2003, this is a more somber work than previous releases and is certainly not 137, Part 2. More emphasis was made on orchestral arrangements, the best of which can be found on We Subside, Part Zero, and Remember Us. The studio has been through a major upgrade and this is reflected in the sonic qualities of the album. I would say this album is part Abducting the Unicorn, part 137… The 8 Days bonus CD includes many great songs which in retrospect are too good for a limited CD! The whole point of the 8 Days project was that I was never to stray beyond the parameters - this was an experiment.” 8 Days was written, performed, recorded and mixed over eight days during early November 2002 by Bruce. One track was started and completed each day, with two tracks finished on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Each track is linked using ambient sounds from outside the studio on each specific day.
Kscope’s 2013 reissue of the second Pineapple Thief album One Three Seven (written “137” on its initial release in 2001) has been remixed and remastered and features new artwork. The older albums tend to benefit more from the reworking because of improved studio technology and the artist’s increased experience, and that is certainly the case with One Three Seven. We have a fondness for the early Pineapple Thief albums (when there was no definite article in the band name), and Bruce Soord is still quite proud of his older work, and as he says: “The sound is infinitely better and it has revealed a really strong album lurking beneath.” Now mathematicians may argue that for the sound to be infinitely better, there had to have been no sound at all on the first edition, but we vaguely recall there was some great melancholy prog on it. Check our British page for the related Persona Non Grata 2CD.
This is the 2015 (2016 in the U.S.) debut CD (digipack) from the main man behind The Pineapple Thief. All the tracks were written and performed by Bruce Soord with Darran Charles of Godsticks playing additional guitar. Here Soord focuses on the more introspective and dreamier side of his songwriting. As the Crash and Ride Music review implies, this album relates to The Pineapple Thief in the same way Lunatic Soul relates to Riverside. Listen to the album teaser, Willow Tree, and Familiar Patterns on YouTube. Read the Music from the Other Side of the Room review.
This 2013 release is a collaboration between Bruce Soord, leader of The Pineapple Thief, and Jonas Renkse, lead vocalist of Katatonia. Soord wrote the songs with Renkse’s voice in mind. This is the jewel box edition; the limited edition mediabook is out-of-print. See Kscope’s mini-site for audio, videos, and more info. “It is a stunning album in both depth and range of emotion and music. It captures so many genres and yet defies labels. Part rock, part electronic, it’s all blended together to create and album that lifts you up, makes you think and most importantly makes you feel. There is a hypnotic use of space and dynamics from the frailest, most intimate ambience to bombastic guitar-driven sections that lift your spirits. It is everything you can want from an album and more.” Read the full Echoes and Dust review.
This group of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong CDs are the 2013 editions on Gonzo Multimedia. Breakthrough (1986) and Second Wind (1988) are from a distinct period in the history of the band, five years having passed since the previous album Leave It Open. In 1985, Moerlen joined Swedish prog band Tribute and stayed on for three years. The Pierre Moerlen’s Gong that recorded Breakthrough features almost all of the Tribute members and is different from all the other PMG albums, much closer to being a Tribute album, a companion to Tribute’s Breaking Barriers album released the same year (if the similar names weren’t enough to clue you in). Since we like Tribute a lot, we like Breakthrough a lot, but of course the album gets badmouthed by those expecting it to sound the same as the earlier PMG albums. There’s only one Tribute member on Second Wind, which sees the return of Benoît Moerlen and is mostly a return to PMG’s fusion style or at least a late-80s update on it.
Full Circle Live 1988 wasn’t initially released until ten years later. It’s an excellent live album, the songs from Second Wind done with more energy and less studio slickness. It also features a good selection of tracks going back as far as Expresso II.
This group are the 2010-2011 editions on Esoteric, remastered from the original analog master tapes and with fully restored original album artwork. By the time percussionist Pierre Moerlen was running Gong in the late 1970s, they were a completely different band than the Gong with Daevid Allen. The big line-up change came after the album You. 1976’s Shamal was the first with Moerlen in charge, though the band was still called simply “Gong” at that time, and they had become a superb fusion band. Downwind and Time Is the Key were both released in 1979. These albums are favorites of ours, even if there are some duff tracks. Some of the music is close to the music of Mike Oldfield. OK, that isn’t so insightful once you realize that Oldfield actually appears on Downwind, and the album was partially recorded in Oldfield’s studio. But beyond that, Pierre, his brother Benoit, and Hansford Rowe were also employed by Mr. Oldfield around this time for both studio sessions and touring. The way in which mallet percussion is used as a melodic instrument here is nearly unique. As the liner notes point out, melody and rhythm become almost interchangeable. Downwind also features Didier Lockwood, Didier Malherbe, Steve Winwood, Mick Taylor, and Terry Oldfield. Time Is the Key features Bon Lozaga, Allan Holdsworth, and Darryl Way, among others.
The Live album was released in 1980. Hansford Rowe was on bass and Bon Lozaga on guitar, with contributions from Didier Malherbe (sax, flute) and special guest Mike Oldfield.
Leave It Open (1981) was always the hardest one to find in North America, and some fans may have missed it entirely. In addition to Rowe and Lozaga, Francois Causse plays mallet percussion, and Charlie Mariano plays sax on several tracks. It’s on this album that the similarities between Moerlen’s compositions and those of minimalists such as Steve Reich are perhaps most apparent, in the repetitive, hypnotic patterns of the mallet percussion. But of course Moerlen’s music has rock/fusion dynamics, groove, and bombast. Rowe and Lozaga would carry on without Moerlen in Gongzilla.
The way Gong fans react to these albums is similar to the way Soft Machine fans react to the later albums with Karl Jenkins in charge. Forget the name, in both cases they are different bands. Don’t judge the Pierre Moerlen’s Gong albums as Gong albums, and don’t judge them purely as fusion albums, for they are really a unique style.
Pierre Moerlen, the drummer/percussionist from Strasbourg, passed away in 2005. The posthumously-released studio album Pentanine was recorded in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2002 with Moerlen’s band consisting of Russian musicians on electric guitar, bass, and keyboards. Most progressive fans know how Moerlen took over Gong and transformed it from a psychedelic band into a very melodic instrumental jazz-rock band with a unique style. That style had a lot to do with Moerlen’s vibraphone driving the songs but also the influence of Moerlen’s time spent in Mike Oldfield’s band. The thirteen instrumental pieces on Pentanine (61-minutes) are full of the trademark groove, power, and sophistication of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, with a few more hypnotic or peaceful moments interspersed. The final chapter in the career of this very creative musician is another excellent album.
Subtitled Music Inspired By and In Tribute to Gentle Giant, Giant for an Hour (2006, 79-minutes), A Reflection (2008, 77-minutes), Think of Us With Kindness (2009), and Paint the Peel (2011, 79-minutes) are part of a series of albums that began in 2004. (Others in the series are currently out-of-print.) Musicians from around the globe, all members of the On Reflection Gentle Giant mailing list, created original music inspired by Gentle Giant. The degree of GG influence varies, and the music does extend beyond the GG universe, but GG were nothing if not eclectic. It all remains within the progressive rock universe though, it’s all quite professional, and the amount of creativity and talent showcased here exceeds all expectations. These aren’t just for Gentle Giant fans then but for most prog rock fans, three excellent prog albums that stand on their own. All were professionally mastered. Alan Kinsman, who wrote liner notes for some of the Gentle Giant CDs, wrote the liner notes for A Reflection. “It is not very hard for good musicians to copy others, but to learn from them, then convert this knowledge and experience to create something as unique and innovative as this work, that’s a different story.”
Check our DVDs page for Blackmore’s Night DVDs. For those few yet unaware, this is what guitar hero Ritchie Blackmore has been doing since 1997 and with great success. His wife Candice Night provides the beautiful vocals. Blackmore’s Night do a renaissance faire or medieval minstrel style of symphonic rock, electric but using early music instruments and a lot of other acoustic textures. There are influences of renaissance music, Celtic and East European folk. Blackmore himself concentrates more on acoustic guitar than electric, playing in the style of Gordon Giltrap. This is the most complex progressive music that Blackmore has ever played, and not at all what a Deep Purple or Rainbow fan would expect. These are the 2010 reissues on the band’s own Minstrel Hall Music label of the first and third Blackmore’s Night CDs: Shadow of the Moon (1998, 65-minutes) and Fires at Midnight (2001, 68-minutes).
Check our DVDs page for Iona and related DVDs. Iona are the British band who marry symphonic progressive and Celtic music more convincingly than anyone. They gradually reacquired the rights to their CDs and have remastered and reissued them on their own label -- everything here is the latest edition.
After reaching the pinnacle of their career with 2006’s The Circling Hour, Troy Donockley, who had become one of the most important members along with Dave Bainbridge, left the band. Troy was replaced by pipes/whistle player Martin Nolan, but Iona changed direction. You might say they were born again. This was very evident on their 2010 tour, as their set completely ignored The Circling Hour, which was at the time their most recent album! In fact they ignored all their most progressive pieces in favor of earlier material. Even at NEARfest, in front of hardcore prog fans, it was no different. The 2011 double-CD Another Realm (digisleeve) represents a return to the style of Iona’s first several albums, the original vision if you will. The lyrical content has become more overtly Christian (and knowing Troy is a devout atheist, you can see the conflict). So that’s where Iona are now. If their previous two studio CDs (and Dave Bainbridge’s 2004 solo CD) weren’t so amazing, you wouldn’t sense any disappointment at all here. Another Realm is about a third instrumental, and the music throughout is still very accomplished -- the current Iona style is still very compelling and uplifting. Once your expectations are recalibrated, you may find this to be one of the best albums of 2011. Read the Sea of Tranquility reviews.
Edge of the World: Live in Europe (2014, 2CD, digisleeve) is Iona’s first full-length live recording in nine years. It was recorded at various venues in the UK and The Netherlands during their 2012 Another Realm tour. There are 20 tracks yet nothing from The Circling Hour. The focus instead is on Another Realm and the albums up through Open Sky, in other words, everything except their best album. Read the Musical Discoveries review.
The Circling Hour (2006, 65-minutes) was Iona’s first studio album in over five years, and it is absolutely brilliant. Those who’d been tracking Iona’s trajectory through Dave Bainbridge’s 2004 Veil of Gossamer album might have anticipated that this would be their most progressive and fully-realized album, and it is. It is progressive rock from start to finish, still with Joanne Hogg’s lovely vocals, and strong Celtic elements particularly from Troy Donockley’s Uilleann pipes and whistles. Emotions range from the most sensitive to the most majestic and high-energy. The mix is notable, and the textural detail has reached a new level. The rhythm section of Frank van Essen (drums) and Phil Barker (bass) is exceptional, and van Essen also plays violin! Dave Bainbridge handles both guitars and keyboards masterfully and remains the main creative force in the band. Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) has a brief guest appearance. There is no other band that makes music like this, and no band that can call themselves Celtic operating at this level of sophistication.
Open Sky (2000) is for most prog fans the band’s best studio album to that point. This album has more epic symphonic progressive instrumentals than their previous studio CDs, balanced as always by the sensitive tracks with the beautiful vocals of Joanne Hogg. Read the All Music review.
Woven Cord is credited to Iona with The All Souls Orchestra. Recorded at Iona’s 10th anniversary concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1999, the band is accompanied by the All Souls Orchestra (a symphony orchestra with several recordings of their own). At over 78-minutes, this is a massive CD with perfect sound, featuring new arrangements of pieces from Iona’s prior studio albums plus two new tracks. The title track is ecstasy, the instrumental that would open the next studio album Open Sky, here with the orchestra and the live energy just unbelievably powerful.
Heaven’s Bright Sun dates from 1997 and was the band’s first live album. This two disc set captures Iona’s live set of that time, drawing from the band’s previous studio albums: Iona, Book of Kells, Beyond These Shores, and Journey Into the Morn.
Journey Into the Morn (78-minutes), Iona’s fourth album, was first released in 1995. This is the 2009 reissue with new artwork. This was the first Iona album with Troy Donockley as a full member, though his role would increase later. Guesting on this album are Maire Brennan (Clannad) and Robert Fripp.
Iona (1990), The Book of Kells (1992), and Beyond These Shores (1994) are Iona’s first, second and third albums. These are the latest editions on the band’s Open Sky label, which feature new artwork and were remastered. The major difference between the early Iona albums and the current Iona sound is the presence of founding member David Fitzgerald on the first two albums playing saxes, flutes, and various ethnic wind instruments, while Troy Donockley appears only in a guest role.
Dave Bainbridge is the main creative force in the band Iona. Bainbridge’s Veil of Gossamer (2004, 64-minutes) is stunning, as good as any prior Iona release and better in some respects. While Iona singer Joanne Hogg sings on every track except for the instrumentals, Bainbridge also employs two more incredible female voices: Rachel Jones (Karnataka) and Scottish singer Mae McKenna (at least three albums of her own). Jones and McKenna are used extensively; usually all three vocalists are present on the same track, with McKenna handling the Scottish Gaelic vocals. Also playing on most tracks are Iona bandmates Troy Donockley and Frank van Essen, as well as Tim Harries, Nick Beggs, and others. The album strikes the perfect balance between vocals and instrumental work, ranging from soaring progressive rock to orchestral splendor to that plaintive, yearning beauty that characterizes the best Celtic music.
If you’ve been following Iona or at least read what we wrote in the Iona section above, you know that after reaching their peak in prog rock terms on 2006’s The Circling Hour and the subsequent departure of Troy Donockley, Iona returned to their early sound and de-emphasized the progressive rock aspect of their style to some extent. Well, energy cannot be destroyed and must go somewhere, and now it’s crystal clear where Dave Bainbridge’s progressive energies have gone. Celestial Fire (2014, digisleeve) is absolutely incredible, a masterpiece and an album Dave says he’s always wanted to make. Dave explains: “It’s an album which really draws upon the excitement and exhilaration I first felt, listening to many of my early musical heroes: Yes, Gentle Giant, David Sancious and Tone, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Curved Air, Hatfield and The North, Deep Purple, Clannad, Mike Oldfield, The Enid, Keith Emerson, Allan Holdsworth, Alan Stivell, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, to name but a few! It was listening to all these great musicians and composers that first inspired me to become a musician and composer.” The album showcases some amazing playing from Dave on both guitar and keyboards, and though the music is heavily instrumental, there are vocals from numerous singers including Damian Wilson, Joanne Hogg, and Sally Minnear (daughter of Kerry). Dave is assisted by Troy Donockley, his Iona bandmates, Randy George (Ajalon), and many more. For all the details, read the Musical Discoveries review. They chose Celestial Fire as their best album of 2014, and the only reason it won’t make your top ten is if you don’t hear it before you have to hand your list in. Also read the Spiritual Prog and Sea of Tranquility reviews. Listen to For Such a Time as This on YouTube.
Troy Donockley and Dave Bainbridge are members of the band Iona (at the time of this CD anyway). When Worlds Collide (2005, 59-minutes) features five tracks recorded live in November 2003 plus five newly-recorded studio tracks, a mix of traditional tunes and new versions of tracks from Iona’s and Troy’s albums. It isn’t all relaxing music, as some of the playing is spirited and some of the tunes reach majestic heights. The duo plays acoustic guitars, electric guitars, E Bow, keyboards, percussion, Uilleann pipes and low whistle, and Troy sings on many of the tracks. It’s a mix of traditional folk and progressive rock, but the way these guys arrange trad folk is unlike anyone else. What may surprise some is how good a singer Troy is, and how good an instrumentalist Dave is. We knew he could play guitar, but his piano playing on the track Unconscious is stunning. Too much talent in these two guys.
Troy Donockley may be best known to progressive rock fans for his time in Iona, though he is also in Maddy Prior’s trio, has played on albums by Mostly Autumn, Magenta, Mermaid Kiss, The Enid, Alan Stivell, Maire Brennan, Karnataka, Jennifer Cutting, and many others, toured with Midge Ure,... the list goes on. He is a multi-instrumentalist capable of playing just about anything stringed or blown, but his main instruments are Uillean pipes and low whistle; he also sings quite respectably.
This is the 2006 remastered edition of Troy’s first solo album The Unseen Stream (1998). A large number of musicians assist, among them Terl Bryant (percussion), Joanne Hogg (voice), Tim Harries (bass), and The Emperor String Quartet. The music is instrumental with occasional wordless vocals, propelled by percussion rather than a rock drum kit but showing a rock pedigree. This is gorgeous stuff that should be used in films. Not to imply that this is background music that doesn’t stand on its own -- far from it -- but it is so evocative and cinematic.
The Pursuit of Illusion (2003) is his second solo album. The album’s guest performers include Peter Knight (violin, from Steeleye Span), The Emperor String Quartet, The York Cantores Choir, Iona friends Joanne Hogg (vocals), Terl Bryant (drums & percussion), and Nick Beggs (Chapman Stick), plus several others. It’s a gorgeous album and a mammoth production, very orchestral, atmospheric, and evocative, with Anglo-Celtic flavoring throughout. At its most atmospheric, it is reminiscent of some of Danny Elfman’s scores. Troy has been influenced as much by classical music as by rock and traditional folk, especially by English composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams. In fact, Troy has a piece on a various artists orchestral music CD entitled Celtic Classics and has the distinction of being the only composer on it not dead.
Troy’s third solo CD The Madness of Crowds (2009) comes in a fat digipack plus slipcase, but it folds out into an 18-panel piece of art that must have cost a fortune to manufacture. The cast includes Joanne Hogg (Iona), Nick Holland (Maddy Prior’s band), Brad Lang, Frank van Essen (Iona), Rosie Biss, Barbara Dickson, Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn), as well as a quintet of harp, oboe, clarinet, flute, and bassoon. This is again cinematic Celtic progressive rock: atmospheric, majestic, sublime, and nearly unique. In some ways, this is an extension of what Clannad had begun circa 1983, taken into more classical and progressive realms. “If any modern music can shake off the ravages of fashion and hark back to a time when music was created and listened to as Art rather than as commodity and accessory, then by definition this does precisely that... the essence of that ‘lost world’.” Read reviews.
Joanne Hogg is Iona’s singer (she also plays keyboards and acoustic guitar), while Frank van Essen is Iona’s drummer and violinist/violist. Raphael’s Journey (2010) was initially available only as a download prior to this CD, which comes in a simple printed sleeve (counts as only one-half CD for shipping). Clannad’s Moya Brennan sings on five tracks, while the other musicians include the rest of the Iona lineup of that period: Dave Bainbridge, Troy Donockley, and Phil Barker, plus guests on cello, electric guitar, and vocals.
Uncountable Stars (2014, digipack) sees Joanne working with producer/guitarist Tre Sheppard, with many musicians assisting including Frank van Essen. It’s a collection of songs of depth and quality, varying from upbeat to mystical/magical; songs such as Mountain of Debris reach peaks that are quite intense. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Note the version sold by amazon.com is an on-demand CD-R; we have the real thing.
This 3CD + Blu-ray set is King Crimson live in 2015. This lineup is Robert Fripp, Mel Collins, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk, Tony Levin, and Bill Rieflin. In addition to the full concert video and extras, the Blu-ray offers a picture-off option of pure lossless high-res stereo and 5.1 surround audio. The three themed CDs feature a complete King Crimson setlist mixed as individual ‘virtual studio albums’ with no audible audience. The physical package is two mini-LP style gatefold sleeves in an outer slipcase with a 20-page booklet. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
With the exception of USA, the 40th Anniversary titles are new hi-res surround versions of the King Crimson albums, mixed by Steven Wilson up through Discipline, after which Jakko Jakszyk and Robert Fripp took over. All are 2-disc digipacks. For those who didn’t grasp the fundamental reason for the release of the Genesis boxsets, we’ll state it as plainly as possible: The primary reason for the existence of this series of King Crimson reissues is the surround mixes. That said, the new stereo mixes and the extras are important to many Crimso fans, especially the hi-res stereo on the DVDs. Each of these sets includes the original stereo mix (from the 30th Anniversary remasters), while all except Red also feature a new stereo mix. Thankfully (with the exception of USA) these are DVD-Audio discs (NTSC, all-region), meaning the surround mix is lossless hi-res audio. Those wretched souls who don’t own a DVD-Audio capable player can still listen to the DTS 5.1 audio on a DVD-Video player. DTS is a lossy compressed format, analogous to a multi-channel mp3. The DVD-As also contains the stereo mixes in 24/96. The difference between the CD and hi-res stereo will be subtle, whereas the difference between stereo and surround (played back on five full-range, sonically-matched speakers plus subwoofer) can be breathtaking. Steven Wilson has been a champion of hi-res surround audio and was actually the one responsible for making these surround DVD-As happen. Robert Fripp wasn’t initially interested in surround... until Wilson remixed one album in surround for him. Fripp was sold after hearing only one song, and now he’s a complete convert.
In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) is often considered to be the first album in the fully-mature progressive rock style, distinct from the psychedelic style from which it evolved. But you already knew that. The In the Court of the Crimson King CD contains five alternate-version bonus tracks. The DVD-Audio disc contains a video of 21st Century Schizoid Man from the 1969 Hyde Park concert, available for the first time with the original audio (mono) from the actual performance. The DVD-A also includes ten alternate-version bonus tracks in 24/96 stereo.
The In the Wake of Poseidon (1970) CD includes an almost completely new stereo mix by Wilson and Fripp. As tape for the track The Devil’s Triangle could not be located, the original stereo is included to maintain the original running order. The CD also includes a new mix of Groon, a newly mixed alternate take of Peace: An End, and the first CD appearance of Greg Lake’s guide vocal take of Cadence and Cascade. The DVD-A features the lossless hi-res 5.1 mix by Steven Wilson with Devil’s Triangle up-mixed to 5.1 by Simon Heyworth, hi-res stereo versions of both the 30th anniversary stereo master and 2010 album mixes, and ten hi-res stereo bonus tracks including the original single A & B sides Cat Food/Groon, the bonus tracks from the CD, and a number of other session takes, rehearsals and mixes.
Lizard was King Crimson’s third studio album and their second recording of 1970, also the first for which Robert Fripp provided all the music. The Lizard CD contains three bonus tracks: two previously-unreleased alternate takes and Bolero from 1991’s Frame by Frame. The DVD-Audio disc contains the same bonus tracks in 24/96 stereo.
The Islands (1971) CD includes a complete stereo remix by Wilson & Fripp alongside a group of additional tracks representing a near complete alternate album of studio takes, run-throughs and mixes. The DVD-A contains the 5.1 surround mix by Steven Wilson, the 2010 mix in hi-res stereo, a hi-res stereo version of the original album mix taken from the 30th anniversary master, and almost 90 minutes of additional material, the vast majority of it previously unreleased including many studio takes mixed from the original recording sessions specifically for this release. The material covers everything from early rehearsals of Pictures of a City (one of the final new songs performed by the 1969 lineup) to the previously-unheard A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls (showcasing early ideas and elements that would appear in fully-realized form on later KC albums), a fragment of Fripp playing the tune of Islands on a Mellotron, a blistering live Sailor’s Tale from the Zoom Club, and more.
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (1973) is one of Crimso’s best, the studio debut of their third live lineup. It ushered in a new era for the band and can be considered the first part of a trilogy of albums that culminated with Red. The DVD-Audio disc features the 5.1 surround mix by Steven Wilson (hi-res lossless and DTS), the 30th anniversary stereo mix in 24/48, a new 2012 stereo mix in 24/96, and an album’s worth of alternate takes and mixes in 24/48 stereo. The DVD-A also features over 30 minutes of rare, previously unseen video footage of the band (dual-mono audio). The CD features the 2012 stereo mix and three new alternate mixes.
Starless and Bible Black (1974) was the last from the Cross/Fripp/Wetton/Bruford lineup. It saw the band using material sourced from live gigs as the basis for some of the studio recordings on this album. Bonuses include the full The Law of Maximum Distress parts 1 & 2 improvs with The Mincer in their original unedited form and running order; Lament, The Night Watch, and Fracture from the same Zurich concert (completing the show presented in part on The Great Deceiver box set); a 1973 live recording of the concert favorite Dr. Diamond; and an audio-restored bootleg recording of the played-once-only Guts on my Side. The DVD-A also features live video footage from New York’s Central Park in 1973 of Easy Money and the improv Fragged Dusty Wall Carpet, the track that formed the basis of Guts on my Side.
Red (1974), King Crimson’s final album of the 1970s, was one of the decade’s masterpieces. When one of today’s alt-rock bands cites a progressive rock influence, they’re often talking about this album and no other. Too bad none of those bands have produced anything close to tracks like Starless or Red. The Red CD contains four bonus tracks: two alternate versions and two tracks taken from The Great Deceiver. The DVD-Audio disc also contains four video tracks from a 1974 performance for French TV, plus 5.1 surround versions of three of the four CD bonus tracks.
The live album USA was recorded on King Crimson’s final U.S. tour in June 1974 and issued as an epitaph for the band in the spring of 1975. As with the 30th Anniversary edition, this 2013 40th Anniversary edition adds Fracture and Starless to the original vinyl version. This is the only album in this series not presented in surround (and not mixed by Steven Wilson). The CD contains a 2013 remix done by Robert Fripp, Tony Arnold, and David Singleton. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) contains high resolution LPCM stereo versions of four different album mixes: the 2013 remix (24/96), the 2005 mix (24/48), the 30th Anniversary remaster (24/48), and a transfer from the original UK vinyl (24/96).
Discipline (1981) was the first King Crimson album since Red. Either Robert Fripp had reinvented King Crimson for the 1980s, or some would say borrowed the name to apply to a new band whose style was pretty different from the original. But it established King Crimson as one of the most important and influential bands of the 1980s, with the creativity of its members undiminished. Bonuses include a rough mix of the album presented in its first intended running order, video footage of three songs from The Old Grey Whistle Test TV show, and some alternate mixes.
Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld studios, Thrak was originally released in 1995. It was the first full-length album with the double-trio format, with newcomers Trey Gunn (Stick and Warr guitar) and Pat Mastelotto (drums and percussion) joining Fripp, Belew, Levin, and Bruford. “The newly mixed stereo of Thrak was described as ‘transformative’ by Robert Fripp. It’s also no exaggeration to state that this band can’t be fully appreciated and understood until you hear the roar of Thrak emerging from six speakers.”
Live at the Orpheum (2015, digipack) was recorded September 30 and October 1, 2014 at The Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles, during King Crimson’s sold-out US tour featuring the new seven-piece line-up. This set includes a CD and a DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region), the latter containing 24/96 hi-res stereo (but no surround). The DVD is playable on all NTSC DVD players. The track list: Walk On: Monk Morph Chamber Music, One More Red Nightmare, Banshee Legs Bell Hassle, The ConstruKction of Light, The Letters, Sailor’s Tale, Starless.
A note to reviewers. If you won’t listen to the surround audio, you at least need to be aware that the surround is the reason these exist and state that clearly. Then state why you are going to review it anyway. We acknowledge that there are those interested in a new stereo mix alone, and the hi-res stereo on these DVD-As is most welcome. But don’t just publish a review now of the artistic merit of the King Crimson albums or spend most of your review on the extras. You will have completely missed the point as so many reviewers of the Genesis boxsets did. These releases are not just an excuse to revisit the albums. Again. The labels need to market these to a general audience because there aren’t enough people up-to-speed on surround. But those who know little about surround music then don’t understand what these releases are. Read the superb reviews of these King Crimson reissues in the December 2009 and February-March 2011 issues of Sound+Vision magazine so you at least understand what a review is supposed to address. We’ve seen reviews of these King Crimson sets by people who have obviously never heard surround music in their life and don’t seem to know what it is. It’s analogous to reviewing a 3D Blu-ray by watching it on a standard-definition 2D television (having never seen anything else), then telling people that it’s not worth buying the 3D Blu-ray because it has the same extras as the DVD.
The live album Earthbound may have been the first “official bootleg” (so called because of the audio quality or lack thereof). It consists of highlights from Crimson’s 1972 U.S. tour: one track each from their first and fourth albums, a single B-side, and two lengthy improvisations. 21st Century Schizoid Man is particularly manic.
This is the 2007 re-edition of The ConstruKction of Light (2000), an album which followed the series of “projeKcts” in which members of the six-piece Thrak lineup got together in various permutations for what Fripp deemed “research and development”. The ConstruKction of Light lineup is Belew, Fripp, Gunn and Mastelotto.
This is the 2008 re-edition of The Power to Believe (2003). “The group’s second studio album as a quartet in the wake of old hands Tony Levin and Bill Bruford’s departure fits fully into the ever-shifting but consistently regenerative Crimson continuum. Level Five and the multi-part title track are pounding, counterpoint-filled tunes that hark back to Crimson’s oft-revisited touchstone Larks Tongues in Aspic. Along the way, Fripp, Adrian Belew and company also manage to venture more fully than ever into the Balinese Gamelan sound they first began exploring on 1981’s Discipline, and drummer Pat Mastelloto throws in some electronic flavors that nod to drum-and-bass and garage beats. The dark, intense angularity that is a Crimson trademark is offset by a couple of ethereal, ambient electronic soundscapes... And naturally, there’s plenty of intricate musical invention for the longtime fans who expect nothing less.” [Muze]
Check our DVDs page for some of King Crimson’s DVDs.
Robert Fripp says: “A Scarcity of Miracles is one of my favouritist albums, of those where I am a determining element.” This 2011 release from almost-but-not-quite-King Crimson features Fripp (guitars), Mel Collins (saxes, flute), Jakko M Jakszyk (guitars, vocals, keys), Tony Levin (bass, Chapman Stick), and Gavin Harrison (drums). It relates more to Jakszyk’s last solo album than to the last King Crimson album, but then the latter was 2003. The CD-only version comes in a jewel box, while the CD+DVD-Audio edition comes in a fat digipack + slipcase. The DVD-Audio disc (NTSC, all-region) contains 24/96 lossless surround for the elite listeners, DTS surround for those who willingly throw bits away, 24/48 PCM stereo for those with only two speakers, while some will make do with the CD. The DVD-A has some bonus material as well: alternate mixes of five album tracks in hi-res stereo, a video of the title track, and two Jakszyk/Fripp improvs.
“This album simply is fantastic. It is unbelievable how the musicians play through the songs in such a seemingly simple manner but actually the songs are very complex. It might not be King Crimson as usual but so many elements are present. This music really is something special and another huge development in the Crimson history but it is even more: here we have a new aspect of progressive rock, something which hasn’t been heard before at all.” Read the full review at Alternative Matter.
“A Scarcity of Miracles returns Fripp to a nearly all-English lineup for the first time since the ’70s, and while impossible to define why, possesses the most decidedly British feel of any group project in which Fripp has participated since his 1990s work with David Sylvian. It may lack the sharp corners, jagged-edged and harder surfaces of latter-day Crimson, and there’s none of the overt symphonic prog of early Crim, but Jakszyk’s refined vocals, soft-spoken playing and haunting songwriting, Fripp’s searing lines and orchestral soundscaping, and Collins’ soaring melodies make for the best group record, Crimson or no, to come from the Fripp camp in nearly 30 years.” Read the full review at All About Jazz.
Out of the King Crimson camp and Discipline Global Mobile comes this enigmatic new artist. We don’t know who The Vicar is, but the other musicians on the album have names, and they include Tony Levin, Theo Travis, and Jakko Jakszyk among many others. Songbook #1 (2013, digipack) is an unexpected album. There are a variety of singers, but no drummers or electric bassists were invited. The music consists of very English sounding songs with acoustic instrumentation and string quartet/chamber music arrangements, like Giles Giles & Fripp and early King Crimson teaming with Penguin Cafe Orchestra, with assistance from 10cc, Stackridge, and Queen. (There is a Wolfman Jack voice introducing the songs. Unfortunately.) The Beatles did something like this; The Vicar takes it in a much more progressive direction. The music is so unlike anything else, you’ll just have to listen for yourself -- click the mp3 icon above to audition the entire album. This edition has a CD (standard res stereo) plus a DVD-Audio with hi-res stereo and lossless hi-res surround (and DTS and Dolby Digital if you must). The DVD-A also features the complete 38 episode videobook of The Vicar Chronicles - “The Mysterious Case of Billy’s G-String” as well as a video for the song Count Your Blessings.
This is the 2009 digipack edition of The Bruised Romantic Glee Club (2006) by Jakko M. Jakszyk (21st Century Schizoid Band, The Tangent, The Lodge, Level 42, Stewart/Gaskin, to name a few). The first CD in this 2CD set contains Jakko’s compositions, while the second CD contains cover versions of songs by Henry Cow, King Crimson and Soft Machine. The guest musicians include Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Ian Wallace, Dave Stewart, Mel Collins, Gavin Harrison, Hugh Hopper, John Giblin, Danny Thompson (Pentangle, many others), Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett, Iona), Clive Brooks (Egg), Caroline Lavelle, Gary Barnacle (Level 42, many sessions), Mark King (Level 42), and Pandit Dinesh (Dizrhythmia). Read reviews at Bill’s Prog Blog and All About Jazz.
Robert Fripp’s solo debut Exposure was originally released in 1979, following work Fripp had done on Peter Gabriel’s second album and Daryl Hall’s Sacred Songs. Gabriel and Hall both appear on Exposure, along with Phil Collins, Peter Hammill, Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, Brian Eno, and others. This 2CD edition includes the original 1979 version of Exposure on disc one and the 1983 remix of Exposure on disc two. Disc two also contains five alternate mix bonus tracks, three of which have previously unreleased Daryl Hall vocals. Everything has been remastered from the original master tapes by Simon Heyworth with Fripp’s approval.
The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp (1968) is where it all began for King Crimson. Robert Fripp and Mike Giles went on to form King Crimson the next year, and Peter Giles resurfaced there later. This album is a brilliant example of late 60s psychedelic pop and proto-prog, sometimes recalling Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd or The Moody Blues, but with its own style and a very English sense of humor. Fripp’s guitar work is already in top form. This is the remastered reissue on Eclectic/Esoteric. It sounds great and adds six bonus tracks that take the total time up to 59-minutes, with an enhanced booklet including extensive liner notes.
The Brondesbury Tapes (72-minutes) is a set of 21 songs, demo recordings made in 1968 that had languished for decades in a private collection. It ranges from alternate versions of the Cheerful Insanity songs to songs that form the bridge to King Crimson. On the latter, Ian McDonald and Judy Dyble appear as guests, and Pete Sinfield makes his first appearance. The music is mono but the audio quality is much better than you’d expect. Peter Giles wrote the detailed sleeve notes.
21st Century Schizoid Band was formed in 2002 by a group of mostly ex-King Crimson musicians from the early lineups, initially Michael Giles, Peter Giles, Ian McDonald, Mel Collins, and Jakko M Jakszyk. Michael left, replaced by Ian Wallace (who passed away in 2007). The initial aim was to play live the music from the King Crimson catalog that no longer featured in King Crimson’s live performances. Their repertoire also includes a few tracks from the members’ solo/duo albums and the odd new track.
The Live in Italy CD was recorded in March 2003 and includes the tracks Schizoid Intro, A Man A City, Let There Be Light, Court of the Crimson King, Ladies of the Road, Improv - Sailors Tale, Birdman, Epitaph, Catley’s Ashes (studio version).
Live in Japan was recorded in Tokyo in November 2002 and includes the tracks Schizoid Intro, A Man A City, Catfood, Let There Be Light, Progress, In the Court of the Crimson King, Formentera Lady, Ladies of the Road, I Talk to the Wind, Epitaph, Birdman, 21st Century Schizoid Man. Check our DVDs page for 21st Century Schizoid Band’s Live in Japan DVD.
Steven Wilson - 4½ Blu-ray ($12.99)
No-Man - Schoolyard Ghosts DVD-A+CD ($16.99)
See our DVDs page for the Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson DVDs and Blu-ray videos. If you are one of the two or three people as yet unfamiliar with Porcupine Tree, suffice to say they are one of the most important and popular progressive bands to emerge during the 1990s. Octane Twisted (slipcased 2CD, 2012) features The Incident in its entirety recorded live in Chicago, plus a few older songs, highlights from the band’s big show at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
The 2009 Porcupine Tree studio album The Incident is a double-CD with disc 1 containing the 55-minute title track, divided into 14 segments, and four more sensible-length tracks on disc 2.
Fear of a Blank Planet is Porcupine Tree’s 2007 album, which features guest spots for Alex Lifeson, Robert Fripp, and John Wesley. This is the 2012 digibook reissue on Kscope, which features a 24-page booklet.
Nil Recurring is a half-hour mini-album consisting of four songs written during the Fear of a Blank Planet sessions. They aren’t leftovers but rather songs intended for a separate release because the band felt they didn’t fit with the rest of Fear. Robert Fripp guests on the title track. This is the 2010 Kscope edition, which comes in a super jewel box and lowers the price a bit.
The 2008 special edition of Porcupine Tree’s classic 2000 album Lightbulb Sun contains both a CD and a DVD-Audio disc. The CD contains a new stereo remix and remastering of the original by Steven Wilson. The DVD-A contains a 5.1 surround mix in both DVD-Audio (hi-res linear PCM) and DTS (compressed) versions, the latter for those without a DVD-Audio capable DVD player, as well as a 24-bit version of the stereo mix. Wilson is getting rather good at this surround mixing. The DVD-A also includes 5.1 surround mixes of bonus tracks Disappear, Buying New Soul, and Cure for Optimism, as well as the original 2000 stereo mix/master, so you can give away your old CD and lose nothing. The artwork has been completely revamped. The set currently comes in the hardcover digibook format. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping. “...the focus is on Wilson’s high-resolution, 6-channel mix -- and as we’ve come to expect from him by now, it’s state of the art. Thing is, he keeps advancing that state; here, the sound is often so seamless and all-surrounding that you may think your speakers have dissolved.” [Sound & Vision]
This is the 2-disc special edition CD+DVD-Audio of Porcupine Tree’s classic 1999 album Stupid Dream, containing a new Steven Wilson remix/remaster of the original stereo album and a DVD-A containing the album remixed into 5.1 surround sound (in DVD-Audio and DTS versions), as well as a 24-bit high-resolution version of the stereo mix. The DTS version will play on just about any DVD player. Also included are 5.1 mixes of bonus tracks Ambulance Chasing and the full 14-minute version of Even Less, the promo video for Piano Lessons, and a photo gallery. The artwork has also been completely revamped with exceptional new images and package design. This is the definitive version of one of the essential albums in the P.Tree catalog. As Sound & Vision magazine says: “Think current progressive-rockers don’t care for surround? Think again. Meet Mr. Wilson, who, among artists, is the field’s de facto caretaker.” This digibook edition counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Recordings was originally released as a limited edition in 2001 and had been out-of-print for several years. This 2010 edition on Kscope is in the hardcover digibook format. Recordings contains 9 tracks from the Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream sessions, and if these tracks are leftovers, they could be anyone else’s regular album. There are several long tracks where Porcupine Tree take the listener on a voyage.
The double-CD Stars Die is subtitled The Delerium Years 1991-1997. First released in 2002, it’s a compilation taken from Porcupine Tree’s five albums and various singles recorded for their first label Delerium Records. Stars Die includes rare tracks such as the legendary Men of Wood as well as Signify II, Phantoms, the full 8-minute version of Synesthesia, and other assorted gems. The audio on both the digipack and super jewel box editions here was remastered and recompiled by Steven Wilson in 2005, substituting some of the original masters with the new masters/versions that have subsequently appeared, notably the new mixes of the Up the Downstair tracks that replaced the sampled drums with real drums.
Kscope’s 2CD reissue of Porcupine Tree’s 1997 live album Coma Divine comes in deluxe digibook (hardcover) packaging and adds four tracks not included on the original release. The music was recorded during three nights in Rome on the Signify tour. The audio has been remastered. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Kscope’s 2CD reissue of Porcupine Tree’s 1996 studio album Signify comes in deluxe digibook (hardcover) packaging. The second CD in this set is a revised and remastered edition of Insignificance, an album that was only available to subscribers of the PT information service Transmission in 1997 as a cassette. Insignificance is a selection of Steven Wilson’s demos that includes several tracks that didn’t make it onto the Signify album, as well as formative versions of some that did. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
This is the 2006 digipack reissue of Metanoia on the Snapper label. It contains studio improvisations recorded 1995-96 during the sessions for Signify and originally issued as a limited edition double 10" vinyl in 1998. There are two additional tracks recorded during the same sessions that were originally included on the Insignificance cassette. This is the Floydian space jam side of Porcupine Tree.
This is the 2CD digibook (hardcover) edition of The Sky Moves Sideways on the Kscope label, originally released in 1995 as a single CD, remastered and expanded to a 2CD in 2004, then repackaged in this edition several years later. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
The Voyage 34 CD is the 2007 Kscope super jewel box edition. The audio was remixed and remastered in 2004. Originally recorded 1992-1993, this is not the first time this has been remixed. It contains Phase 1 through Phase IV, total time 63-minutes.
Kscope’s 2CD reissue of Up the Downstair comes in deluxe digibook (hardcover) packaging. Aside from the packaging upgrade, this edition is the same as the Snapper edition. Disc One is the 2004 version of Up the Downstair, which was originally released in 1993. The original album was completely remixed and partially re-recorded in 2004, replacing the drum samples with real drums performed by Gavin Harrison. Disc Two contains the remastered mini-album Staircase Infinities, comprised of material left over from the original Up the Downstair sessions. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
On the Sunday of Life was originally released in early 1992 as a 2LP, mostly compiled from 1989 and 1990 cassette releases. It was remastered in 1997. This is the 2004 digipack edition.
Grace for Drowning (2011) is the second solo album for Steven Wilson. It’s available as a double-CD in jewel box + slipcase, the UK edition double-CD in deluxe mediabook (hardcover) packaging (counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping), and the version Steven wants you to hear: Blu-ray (all-region). Wilson has realized what should be obvious to more people, that Blu-ray is the perfect audio format, capable of more channels of high-resolution audio than even the 5.1 and stereo Wilson uses here. It makes DVD-Audio and arguably SACD obsolete. So don’t get too focused on the Blu-ray’s extras, which include five films by Lasse Hoile, two bonus tracks and six work-in-progress demo versions, plus new Bass Communion music during the menus. The Blu-ray is about hearing the music the way the artist intended, in hi-res surround, and Wilson is the man championing that against a sea of indifference. The Blu-ray features DTS-HD Master Audio and 96/24 LPCM (both are lossless formats). Be sure to read Steven Wilson Owns the Future. Among the other musicians on Grace for Drowning are Jordan Rudess, Steve Hackett, Nick Beggs, Theo Travis, Tony Levin, Pat Mastellotto, Trey Gunn, and Markus Reuter, with some string and choir arrangements by Dave Stewart. Wilson’s work mixing the King Crimson albums in surround led to the participation of some of these musicians. Wilson says that, without being retro, this album is his homage to the spirit of the golden period of rock, that time from the late 1960s through the early 1970s “when the album became the primary means of artistic expression, when musicians liberated themselves from the 3 minute pop song format and started to draw on jazz and classical music especially, combining it with the spirit of psychedelia to create ‘journeys in sound’.”
“Grace for Drowning is billed as ‘the first-ever new rock album released primarily as a Blu-ray disc’... What about Wilson’s own 5.1 mix of the album, coming from an artist who has proven himself multiple times in the multi-channel music arena? It’s another unqualified success... As when Kate Bush, having guested on the third Peter Gabriel, made her astonishing album The Dreaming, so Steven Wilson, having remixed the bulk of the King Crimson catalog in surround for DVD-Audio, has taken elements of that band, merged them with his own artistry, and come up with the extraordinary Grace for Drowning.” [Sound & Vision Oct 2011]
The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) is Steven Wilson’s third solo album. It was recorded in Los Angeles in September 2012 with his current band: Guthrie Govan (lead guitar), Nick Beggs (bass), Marco Minnemann (drums), Adam Holzman (keys), Theo Travis (sax, flute), and engineered by none other than Alan Parsons. We think Wilson figured out some time ago that Porcupine Tree is the cash cow and needs to reach a broader audience, so his solo work and side projects are where his more progressive energies go. The Blu-ray edition features lossless 96k/24bit 5.1 surround audio, 96/24 stereo, and 96/24 stereo instrumental versions of the songs, plus studio documentary, photo galleries, and 40 page booklet. “After numerous spins, I can unequivocally say that the 5.1 Blu-ray Audio mix has wiped the surround slate clean and set the benchmark anew. It’s that bloody good... The breadth and scope of Raven represent Steven Wilson at the height of his creative powers, where surround sound music and mixing has reached a heretofore unheard aural apex.” [Sound & Vision] Watch the promo video. Read The Guardian review.
Steven Wilson’s 2015 fourth studio album Hand. Cannot. Erase. is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, and for good reason. Wilson’s band is the same one that recorded The Raven... and toured in 2013-2014, but Wilson demonstrates again that he isn’t going to make the same solo album twice. The standard CD edition comes in a digipack. The Blu-ray has lossless hi-res surround (96/24 5.1 LPCM and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) and 96/24 LPCM stereo versions of all the album tracks. It has a studio documentary filmed and edited by Lasse Hoile, and a photo gallery. It also adds instrumental versions of all the album tracks in 96/24 stereo LPCM, seven alternative version bonus tracks, and lastly, the Blu-ray comes with a download code for FLAC and mp3 versions of the album, which means the Blu-ray has you covered. Listen to First Regret / 3 Years Older on SoundCloud. Watch the video for Perfect Life. (Three chords, five or six words, and you’re probably singing along first time through.) “Hand.Cannot.Erase, while available in a variety of formats, is best experienced in 96/24 on Blu-ray... Could there be an artist under more pressure to put forth brilliant, original music in surround sound than Steven Wilson? For all intents and purposes, Wilson is the poster boy for the 5.1 audio universe -- in fact, no one else comes close.” [soundandvision.com]
4½ (2016) is Steven Wilson’s interim release between Hand. Cannot. Erase. and the next studio album. Of the six tracks, four originated during the sessions for Hand. Cannot. Erase. and one from the The Raven That Refused to Sing sessions. The last track is a version of Don’t Hate Me, a song originally recorded by Porcupine Tree in 1998, and is based on a live recording made on the recent European tour with additional recording done later in the studio. The vocals on this new version are sung as a duet between Steven and Ninet Tayeb. Also appearing on the album are current and former members of Steven’s band: Adam Holzman, Nick Beggs, Guthrie Govan, Dave Kilminster, Craig Blundell, Marco Minnemann, Chad Wackerman, and Theo Travis. The Blu-ray features DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 96/24 5.1 LPCM, and 96/24 stereo LPCM audio, plus six bonus instrumentals and alternate mixes including a 5.1 mix of the 2015 version of Lazarus. The Blu-ray includes mp3 and FLAC download codes, so you are covered. Listen to the album trailer (all 15 seconds of it) on YouTube.
No-Man is one of Porcupine Tree leader Steven Wilson’s many side projects, a duo with Tim Bowness (Henry Fool) on vocals plus guest musicians. No-Man is like the ambient side of Porcupine Tree, a unique fusion of dream-pop, art-rock and moody minimalism. Schoolyard Ghosts (2008) is No-Man’s sixth official studio album and their first since 2003 (but it’s not as if Wilson hasn’t kept busy). On this album, Wilson and Bowness collaborate with Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson), pedal steel ace Bruce Kaphan, Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Theo Travis (The Tangent), and Dave Stewart (the Canterbury demi-god, not the Eurythmics guy) arranging The London Session Orchestra. This is a 2-disc digipack with a CD containing the stereo mix and a DVD-Audio disc containing a high-resolution 5.1 surround mix, a hi-res stereo mix, and three videos. Read the DPRP special on No-Man that reviews all their albums.
Together We’re Stranger was recorded between 2001-2003, beautiful in that melancholy way, quiet yet emotionally powerful, mixing epic orchestral textures, Frippertronics, and all the sonic experimentation that makes Porcupine Tree albums the textural masterpieces they are. This 2007 two-disc CD+DVD-Audio deluxe edition comes in a Super Jewel Box. The CD contains the stereo mix of the album. The DVD-Audio disc contains the high-resolution 5.1 surround mix done by Steven Wilson, a high-res 24-bit stereo mix, the two bonus tracks from the sessions that appeared on the vinyl special edition, the video for Things I Want to Tell You, and a photo gallery.
Wild Opera was originally released in 1996. This 2010 remastered 2CD edition on Kscope comes in a Super Jewel Box and also includes the entire 1997 Dry Cleaning Ray album (9 tracks), plus 6 bonus tracks of B-sides, alternate versions, and radio sessions. Dry Cleaning Ray consists of additional tracks recorded during the Wild Opera sessions, two remixes, and a song previously released only on a rare single. Note this edition is now out-of-print, replaced by the same content in an ordinary (cheaper) jewel case.
Flowermouth was originally recorded in 1993 with five tracks remixed in 1999. This 2005 remastered edition features improved artwork and adds two bonus tracks totaling 21-minutes: Angeldust and Born Simple. These are remixes from the deleted Flowermix album. Guests on this album include Robert Fripp, Lisa Gerard (Dead Can Dance), Mel Collins, Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri, and more. Don’t imagine that No-Man is all quiet stuff. To quote from the liner notes, the music is “…grand but not grandiose, as monumental as the loftiest prog album, but rejecting showboating in favour of an introverted songwriter intimacy.” Certainly there are times when the intensity builds to as high a level as Porcupine Tree is capable. The current packaging is super jewel box.
Speak dates from 1989, back when Steven Wilson says they had “no record deal, audience or idea where we were going”. New vocal takes and a remix were done in 1999 and the whole thing remastered in 2004 for this reissue, which includes one bonus track. The current packaging is super jewel box.
This 2012 album is a collaboration between Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. Fans of Opeth’s metal output or Porcupine Tree’s for that matter will be disappointed if they expect more of that. This music is an unsettling dream: sparse, dark, and melancholy. Read reviews at AllMusic, Sputnik Music, The Widening Eye, and The Guardian.
Blackfield is a collaboration between Israeli star Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree begun in 2001. This is the Israeli edition of Blackfield’s 2007 second album II, with a slipcase for the jewel box.
Welcome to My DNA (2011) is the third studio album for Blackfield. This is the deluxe edition, which comes in the digibook (hardcover) format and has already been deleted, so last copies. Read reviews.
This is the limited 2-disc edition of Blackfield IV (2013), which adds a DVD-Audio disc featuring the 5.1 surround (MLP Lossless and DTS 96/24) and 24-bit stereo mixes and comes in a digibook (hardcover). Blackfield of late has become more Geffen’s vehicle as Wilson has enough on his plate now, so while Geffen did the writing, Wilson added guitar and vocal parts and did both the surround and stereo mixes. Watch the videos for the songs Pills, Jupiter, and Firefly.
Blackfield is fleshed out by three other musicians for live performances. The Live in New York City DVD (NTSC, all-region) captures Blackfield live at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on 16 March 2007, performing 18 songs. The DVD also includes three music videos: Hello, Pain, and Blackfield. Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround audio. Originally a DVD-only release, KScope later repackaged it, adding the audio CD and lowering the price, then repackaged it again, now a digipack.
Nosound is a Roman ambient/prog band headed by Giancarlo Erra. He and his bandmates were once a Porcupine Tree cover band, so it’s not surprising Nosound have ended up on the same label as Porcupine Tree and No-Man. Tim Bowness (No-Man, Henry Fool) said “Out of all the Porcupine Tree and No-Man influenced work we’ve received at Burning Shed, Giancarlo Erra’s Nosound project is very probably the best.” Also, the resemblance of Nosound to No-Man is not simply alphabetical. Nosound is very much in the style of No-Man, softer Pink Floyd, and early Porcupine Tree but even more melancholy, if that’s possible. Erra sings in English, sometimes in a voice that sounds disconnected from reality. Mellotron strings and choir add a unique touch to this style: languid, richly-textured, intimate, relaxing and beautiful in that melancholy way.
In 2010, the Kscope label reissued Nosound’s 2005 debut Sol29 in this CD+DVD set packaged in a super jewel box + slipcase. The CD contains the remastered version of Sol29 plus three bonus tracks (also remastered), 78-minutes total. The DVD contains the original 2005 mixes of Sol29 plus four videos. One is a new 10-minute video, the others are the three ambient/experimental audio/video tracks included on The World Is Outside DVD. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Lightdark (2008) is Nosound’s second album, more of a band project whereas Sol29 was mostly the work of Erra. Tim Bowness sings on one song, and a cellist plays on three tracks, a nice addition to the sound palette. The double-CD (digipack) is the original edition with the second CD containing four more tracks totaling 27:20 and a 4:48 video for the title track. The CD+DVD edition is the 2013 reissue, which comes in a hardcover digibook and has been remastered. It contains all the audio tracks from the original 2CD (the track Clouds appears on the DVD only.) The DVD contains 24bit/48kHz stereo and 5.1 surround (DTS and Dolby) mixes, plus video extras. The packaging features reworked artwork, new photos, and new liner notes. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Both editions count as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
A Sense of Loss (2009) is Nosound’s third album. This 2-disc digipack includes a DVD-Video (PAL, all-region) containing the 5.1 surround mixes in both Dolby Digital and DTS, plus the PCM 24-bit/48kHz stereo mixes, video footage and a photo gallery. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Nosound’s fourth studio album Afterthoughts (2013, mediabook) features a new lineup that includes former Porcupine Tree and Blackfield drummer Chris Maitland. His powerful and inventive drumming adds a new dimension. “This is a dreamy, surf riding wave album full of emotional undercurrents. Maitland’s addition to the band has brought more highs and a more powerful drum delivery. The clarity which reins supreme on the mix of this new album points the compass in a new direction. The waves of guitar and keys fill the air, and Erra’s vocals are clearer and more emotional than on past albums.” Read the full Sea of Tranquility review as well as the Proggnosis review. This mediabook edition features the standard res stereo mix of the album on CD plus a DVD-Audio (NTSC, all-region) with 24/96 stereo and lossless hi-res surround mixes (and DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 for those still unequipped for DVD-A). Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Though Nosound began as the solo studio project of Giancarlo Erra, they grew into five piece live band. In the summer of 2014, Nosound were invited to perform at an extraordinary festival: the Starmus Festival at the Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands). It was here that Nosound recorded Teide 2390 (2015, mediabook with 24-page booklet), featuring songs from their entire career. (The ‘2390’ in the title is the altitude of the location in meters.) In addition to a 70-minute CD, this set includes a DVD-Audio disc. DVD-Audio players will play the 5.1 surround 24/96 MLP lossless mix of the album. DVD-Video players can play the DTS 24/96 or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround versions. The DVD also contains the stereo mix in 24/48 LPCM. In addition, there is a video featurette that includes the performances of several songs plus behind-the-scenes footage. Watch the video for I Miss the Ground. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Scintilla (mediabook) is Nosound’s 2016 studio album. Kscope is being magnanimous here, as the Scintilla CD not only comes in the hardcover mediabook format (with 24-page booklet), it includes a Blu-ray disc yet virtually no increase in price. The Blu-ray includes the album in 24bit/96kHz LPCM stereo and 5.1 surround, plus bonus video content. It’s laudable that Kscope considers HD and surround audio to be standard, not something you should pay twice the price for. Acclaimed Italian singer Andrea Chimenti cowrote and sings on the serene Sogno e Incendio, while Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh lends his distinctive vocals to two of the album’s tracks. Bandleader Giancarlo Erra considers Scintilla the beginning of the second phase of Nosound’s career, utilizing a more organic and acoustic sound palette. Watch several videos from this album. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
IQ’s magnificent 1983 debut LP Tales from the Lush Attic is a landmark progressive rock album. Producer Mike Holmes: “When we did the 25th anniversary edition of The Wake, we took the finished stereo mix and remastered it. It made a big difference to the overall sound, but we weren’t able to give it a complete remix because the multi-track tapes had been lost in the mists of time. However with Tales we could go right back to the beginning, using the original 24-track tapes to build the mix from scratch. It was great to finally give this album the mix it deserved. I’ve spent years avoiding the studio release of Tales, just because I knew it could be so much better. It is now.” This 30th anniversary special edition of Tales from the Lush Attic is a double disc hardcover 32-page book with lots of extras, including the complete remix of the album and a DVD (PAL, all-region) featuring live video footage of material from Tales along with a host of mp3 files, original mixes, audio commentary, and previously unreleased writing/rehearsal/demo material. See the full list of contents. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
Click here for IQ’s DVDs. Always our favorite of the second-generation prog bands, IQ stayed the progressive course when Marillion somewhat abandoned it. When the spirit of Genesis left its first host, it may have ended up in IQ. Frequency is IQ’s well-regarded 2009 album. The standard edition contains just the CD in a jewel case. The Special Edition comes in a digipack and adds a full-length DVD (NTSC, all-region, stereo, 16:9) of IQ performing live in Holland in 2007.
Dark Matter (2004) is one of IQ’s strongest albums. It consists of just five tracks spanning 52 minutes, including the epic Harvest of Souls (24:29). Notably, Martin Orford uses more vintage keyboard sounds than ever. The Seventh House is IQ’s 2001 CD, a solid album but lacking the spark of their best work.
Subterranea (1997) is a 2CD concept album and a milestone for IQ. More so than their other albums, this one may require several listens before it clicks into place and its brilliance becomes apparent.
Ever was the 1993 album that saw singer Peter Nicholls return to the fold and the consensus is that this is one of IQ’s top three albums. The double-CD Forever Live is a recording of the 1993 showcase concert IQ performed to coincide with the release of Ever.
Nomzamo (1987) and Are You Sitting Comfortably? (1989) were the two albums IQ recorded with Paul Menel as the singer. Partly due to Menel’s voice and partly due to external factors, the two albums with Menel are more pop-oriented than the rest, but there are still many excellent songs here. This edition of Are You Sitting Comfortably? contains a bonus track, a live version of Nothing At All, while Nomzamo includes three bonus tracks: the studio track Colourflow, a piano & vocal version of the album track No Love Lost, and a live rendition of Common Ground.
Living Proof is a live album recorded in 1985, featuring nearly all of The Wake plus Awake and Nervous from Tales..., It All Stops Here from Seven Stories into Eight, and the non-LP track Just Changing Hands.
As all IQ fans ought to know, The Lens was the predecessor to IQ. Today The Lens is an occasional project under the command and control of IQ guitarist/producer Mike Holmes. Regeneration (2010) contains all new instrumental material, with Holmes assisted by IQ drummer Paul Cook, original The Lens drummer Niall Hayden, and sax player Tony Wright (who appeared on IQ’s Subterranea and The Seventh House). In addition to the familiar IQ style, there is some wonderful Camel-like stuff, some Pink Floyd, and ‘chilled-out progressive trance’ a la Ash Ra or mellow Ozric Tentacles. Hell, there’s even symphonic techno. It’s just about a perfect instrumental album. Watch the video for To the Power of Five.
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