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.
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.
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.
This is one of several all-star projects organized by Billy Sherwood. 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.
This is the 2013 edition 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). 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.
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.
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.
Subtitled Yet More Music Inspired By and In Tribute to Gentle Giant, A Reflection (2008, 77-minutes) is part of a series of albums that began in 2004. 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).
Iona are the British band who marry symphonic prog and Celtic music more convincingly than anyone. They gradually reacquired the rights to their CDs and remastered and reissued them on their own Open Sky label -- everything here is the latest edition.
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.
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.
Check our DVDs page for the Bainbridge/Fitzgerald DVD The Eye of the Eagle.
Dave Bainbridge was the main creative force in the band Iona. 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. His 2014 studio album Celestial Fire 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). For all the details, read the Musical Discoveries review. They chose Celestial Fire as their best album of 2014, and so did we.
Dave Bainbridge formed a band to perform the complex and demanding music from his Celestial Fire album live, and naturally that band got named Celestial Fire. The band was also tasked with playing music from Dave’s first solo release Veil of Gossamer as well as anything from the vast Iona back catalog, along with Dave’s occasional unique twist on a traditional British folk tune. Dave enlisted Iona cohort Frank van Essen (probably unique in the world as an incredible drummer & percussionist as well as an amazing improviser on the violin), singer and multi-instrumentalist Sally Minnear, guitar virtuoso and composer Dave Brons (Top 10 Guitar Idol 2014), and bass & Chapman Stick genius Simon Fitzpatrick (Carl Palmer’s Legacy). In early 2017, Iona decided to call it quits as a touring and recording band. In many ways, Celestial Fire is the new Iona but is significantly proggier than where Iona left off. The Live in the UK DVD+2CD (2017, digisleeve) was recorded on Celestial Fire’s first concert tour and is their first release. It features a mix of Iona music (some rarely played live), music from Dave’s solo albums, even a Yes cover or two. The DVD (NTSC, all-region) and double-CD both feature the entire concert, filmed with multiple cameras by a television production company. The DVD also includes rehearsal footage and photos. Watch the promo video. Read the Musical Discoveries review.
Troy Donockley and Dave Bainbridge are members of the band Iona (at the time of this CD anyway). When Worlds Collide (2005) 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 has also been in Maddy Prior’s trio, 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. 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.
Check our DVDs page for some of King Crimson’s DVDs.
The 40th Anniversary titles (what we have left of them) are hi-res surround versions of the King Crimson albums, the ones above mixed by Steven Wilson. All are 2-disc digipacks on Discipline Global Mobile. For those who didn’t grasp the fundamental reason for the release of the Genesis box sets, 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 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 either 24/48 or 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.
Red (1974), King Crimson’s final album of the 1970s, was one of the decade’s masterpieces. For a period of time, when one of the alt-rock bands cited a progressive rock influence, they were often talking about this album and no other. Too bad none of those bands 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.
Three of a Perfect Pair, released in April 1984, was King Crimson’s final album of the 1980s. The album proper is clearly divided into an accessible side and an experimental side, with the album’s closer Larks’ Tongues in Aspic III being the only reference to the 1970s incarnations of the band. The CD in the Three of a Perfect Pair set contains a new 2016 stereo mix by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson. Six newly-mixed extra tracks have been added. The DVD-Audio contains the original album remixed by Steven Wilson in MLP (lossless) and DTS 5.1 surround, the 30th anniversary edition album mix plus bonus tracks and alternate takes in 24/48 stereo, and the 2016 stereo mix in 24/48. Three of a Perfect Pair contains the promotional video for Sleepless. It comes in a slipcased digipack and includes new sleeve notes by King Crimson biographer Sid Smith along with rare photos and archive material.
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.
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.
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.
No-Man is one of 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. This edition is out-of-print; no other edition has surround. Read the DPRP special on No-Man that reviews all their albums.
Wild Opera was originally released in 1996. This 2010 remastered 2CD edition on Kscope was first released as a hardcover mediabook, later replaced with this Super Jewel Box version. Both of these editions are now out-of-print, replaced by the same content in a standard jewel case. It 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.
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.
Blackfield is a collaboration between Israeli star Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree begun in 2001. This is the original Israeli edition on Helicon Records of Blackfield’s 2007 second album II, in a slipcased jewel box.
Welcome to My DNA (2011) is the third studio album for Blackfield. This is the deluxe digibook (hardcover) edition that has been deleted for years, so last copies. Read reviews.
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