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Thread: Progressive Rock

  1. #1
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    Progressive Rock

    In hopes of continuing the momentum from the previous thread, I thought I'd start this one with an A/V history lesson.

    What better way to start off with the momentous climax to what was the most ambitious rock album of it's time, The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper Lonely Heart's Club Band. The album marked the cultural beginning of the summer of love. It (along with Frank Zappa's work with the Mothers Of Invention and what Brian Wilson did with Pet Sounds) also was an early indicator of experimentation creeping into the recording process, going as far as making the studio an instrument itself. The kaleidoscopic instrumentation, imaginative lyrics and striking artwork are crucial elements to progressive rock to this day.


    Also from 1967, this song provided a key ingredient that would be later integral to the 70's progressive sound, a clear classical influence.


    Continuing in the classical/symphonic vein, the entire Days Of Future Passed album provides a solid argument about the Moody's legacy of grandfathering the symphonic rock movement. The album also made extensive use of the mellotron, utilizing the string, voice and brass features as a counterpoint to the huge orchestral textures.


    Pink Floyd are considered one of the cornerstones of the genre, not just for the music that sometimes transcended those labels ("Echoes", Dark Side Of The Moon & Wish You Were Here specifically), but as a starting point as well, being the first purely English psychedelic band. The Beatles' and Moody Blues songs were still very rooted in pop music at this time, where the Floyd were more given to very long-form jams (like in the video presented) and odd lyrical motifs miles away from "boy meets girl". Consider if you will, that their first single was about a cross-dresser's exploits.


    Pre-dating his time in Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Keith Emerson first made his name with The Nice. They fused classical with film scores, and even mashing up Bob Dylan with Bach. Here is a cover of Leonard Bernstein's "America" from West Side Story, a single that Keith called the first ever "instrumental protest song". He (along with people like Jon Lord of Deep Purple) gave the Hammond organ some balls, exploring a heavier range of the instrument and also giving people like Hendrix and Townshend a run for their money with showmanship.


    The music on the first King Crimson album In The Court Of The Crimson King, like the Velvet Underground before them, and Black Sabbath not that much later on, represented the decaying reality of the peace movement. No song better represents this than it's opening track "21st Century Schizoid Man", with it's lyrical imagery of death and destruction and frantic musical passages that rivals any jazz or classical music. It's place in progressive rock history is as unique and game-changing, and it's influence is felt in more heavy and avant-garde rock music. And thanks to Kanye, even hip-hop now.


    Genesis had a more mature approach, eschewing overt psychedelia and covering other people's material. Instead, the music had a more pastoral approach with lyrics steeped in English whimsy and sci-fi/fantasy influences. The album Nursery Cryme were the first to feature Phil Collins and Steve Hackett, both of whom had musical prowess that propelled their sound into more broad and epic soundscapes. This video features that line-up and was recorded I believe for Italian television. The subsequent albums Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway along with their eye-popping live performances, provided the perfect balance between adventurous musical journeys and a striking visual element (provided by Peter Gabriel's insistence on props and costumes to help with the storytelling process).


    Yes' Close To The Edge is a watershed moment in their career and the burgeoning popularity of progressive rock in the early 70's. That it was such a huge selling album with only 3 songs is a good indication of this. The title track (presented here) is a show-stopper in concert and to me is one of their real masterpieces. It's also notable for being the crossroads between the highly-acclaimed Fragile (which produced their first hit single "Roundabout") and the controversial Tales From Topographic Oceans, an album that divided their audience and lead to Rick Wakeman's (first) departure.


    For anyone curious about the embryonic stages of the genre, I highly recommend looking up "Prog Rock Britannia" on YouTube. It features interviews with members of Procol Harum, King Crimson, Genesis, Yes and bands not cited here like Caravan, Egg, Soft Machine, Jethro Tull and ELP.

    Pretentious as it may seem (and in this thread, why not), I hope to include two more lessons to show where the genre has gone since then. But for now, I hope you enjoy this and that this inspires some healthy discussion.
    Last edited by onthewall2983; 12-04-2017 at 11:53 AM.

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    Does count?

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    I think we have to include this, too:


    and this:

    Whoa! What happened to Greg Lake???
    Last edited by Cat Mom; 12-11-2011 at 01:11 AM.

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    Absolutely. By no means are the lessons a definitive guide, nor am I an expert on the entire genre, because there are sub-genres and bands I'm still learning about.

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    I really thought I could never get into progressive rock until an online friend started sending me links to Marillion songs. I adore them, and so my narrow band of music taste finally expanded a little.

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    I really like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It's pretty heavy-handed with its narrative, which I normally find kind of cheesy, but I can't help liking some of the songs on there.

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    As the 70's dragged on, the established progressive bands became more out of touch with their audiences, and the social climate. Especially in England where the punk movement was destined to kill off the old guard of English Rock. Some of the bands fell by the wayside but for the most part, the giants remained. Genesis were the least affected by this, having gone through the transition from Peter Gabriel to Phil Collins as front-man, the band's output by the end of the decade was becoming more commercial though still retaining some of their roots. What's often forgotten is that they were still doing longer material in the 80's, songs like "Domino" and "Home By The Sea" were stadium favorites (as well as the requisite medley of Gabriel material), as much as their radio hits. Yes became an AOR hit factory with 90125 and didn't survive as easily, due to tensions that have always seemed to have been there (even to this day, with Jon Anderson no longer in the fold). Pink Floyd survived because they were always able to rise above the "prog" label (some would even say above rock music itself), and became giants of another level, with The Beatles, Stones, Who and Zeppelin.

    Robert Fripp saw the writing on the wall for what progressive music had become in 1975 by splitting up King Crimson after the release of the seminal Red. He spent the next 5 years as a sideman (and a co-collaborator with Brian Eno on a series of ambient albums), most famously on David Bowie's "Heroes". In 1981, he formed the band Discipline, featuring former KC drummer Bill Bruford with bassist Tony Levin (who Fripp first worked with on Peter Gabriel's first solo album) and singer-guitarist Adrian Belew (who like Robert, played with both Bowie and Talking Heads). By the end of the year, it was decided this new band was the new King Crimson. With the release of Discipline, it ushered a new sound incorporating New Wave influences and more modern instrumentation (guitar synthesizers, electronic drum kits and the Chapman Stick). Just as before in '69, the band was once again at the forefront of the genre, proving an old dog can still learn new tricks.


    Canadians Rush started out as a power trio well-versed in English hard rock. Their progressive roots started with the discovery that new drummer Neil Peart was well-versed in literature and gave him a crack at writing the lyrics. This hit a peak in 1976 with the album 2112, the title track a 20-minute suite about a dystopian future, inspired by the writings of Ayn Rand. But by the early 80's, they too saw the signs of change in the air and developed a sound which introduced New Wave and reggae influences, and excised longer pieces while still keeping the musical chemistry of the three players intact. A shift in the song-writing also happened, moving away from sci-fi and more to prescient and universal problems. Nowhere is this more evident during this period than in their 1982 hit "Subdivisions", which deals with teenage isolation.


    At the dawn of the 90's, Progressive Metal had become a popular genre, part of the metal boom that engulfed and epitomized the big 80's. There's always been a mutual appreciation society in some respects between prog and metal. Rick Wakeman playing with Black Sabbath (later on some of Ozzy's solo albums) and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden openly acknowledges his Genesis influence come to mind. One of the first bands tagged with this label was Queensr˙che, and in 1991 they had a Top Ten hit with "Silent Lucidity", which one will never fail to hear comparisons to Floyd but I personally think it owes more to "Nights In White Satin" or "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" with it's symphonic leanings (it even references Brahms at the end), but only with a heavier sound.


    Dream Theater has a more evolved sound and the scales of both metal and progressive weigh even, at their very best. In 1992, their album Images And Words gave them their first national success when the single "Pull Me Under" got heavy rotation on radio and on MTV. Due to the shift towards grunge and alternative rock, the band wasn't able to last as a mainstream act but retained a heavy live following. At the end of the decade, with the release of Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory (the sequel to the song in this video), they had gained enough of a following to rid them of any record company interference.


    Also from the 90's, Spock's Beard combined the influence of bands like Genesis and Gentle Giant with more pop and rock. Harmonies straight from the Lennon/McCartney playbook, mind-blowing arrangements and an energetic live performance (as such in the video linked).
    Last edited by onthewall2983; 12-04-2017 at 12:01 PM.

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    At the dawn of the new millenium, modern rock music had become clogged with mediocrity. Nu Metal, rap rock and the rotting carcass of Grunge were filling the airwaves. Punk had come full circle, going pop and becoming fashionable by throwaway record-company drones. If you were looking for any sense of mystery and adventure on your radio dial, between this and the pop music being pushed out, you were stuck between a rock and a hard place. But fortunately beneath all that were groups and artists that maintained a stubborn sense of integrity that avoided falling into these traps (Radiohead and NIN being the big two that come to mind). But even beneath that was a movement of progressive rock that embodies those traits, and to me no artist better symbolizes this than Steven Wilson.

    Of his many projects, Porcupine Tree has been the most influential to the genre. Formed as a joke with a friend around the same time his main band No-Man was just beginning, it slowly gained traction as the tapes he was recording were sent to various members of the fringe UK musical press. The first three records are essentially Steven on his own, gradually with help from bassist Colin Edwin and Richard Barbieri. Richard and drummer Chris Maitland had played with Steven in No-Man's live band, and as that group eventually retired from performing they gravitated to Porcupine Tree's first live performances with Edwin at the end of 1993. In 1996, the quartet recorded and released the first Porcupine Tree album recorded as a band, Signify.

    By the time 2000 came, they had shifted to a more song-orientated sound, away from the psychedelic trappings of earlier material. Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun was more accessible, while retaining some new and refreshing elements (utilizing saxophonist/reed man Theo Travis on the former's "Don't Hate Me" and a string orchestra on both albums). In 2002, they signed with Lava (at the time associated with Atlantic), and gained the services of drummer Gavin Harrison. They also added a more metal influence, no doubt inspired by Steven's work with Opeth, starting with the release of In Absentia in 2002. With the release of Deadwing in 2005, the band hit (arguably) a peak in this new approach, combined with vestiges from their past. This is exemplified with the track that got the ball rolling with them for me, "Lazarus".


    In the 80's, the neo-progressive emerged, a combination of technical prowess and dramatic recitation. Personally what I've heard from it (with one primary exception that I'll cover later), it didn't impress me as it didn't have any of the musical diversity of the bands of the previous generation. In stark contrast, what's now called "new prog" or "post-prog" has undoubtedly breathed new life in the genre, gaining audiences through gateway bands like Muse (or even Radiohead, who's been called a forefather to the genre). The sound is a nucleus of experimental/alternative bands adding elements of progressive rock to their sound, such as the case with a band like Pure Reason Revolution. Melding both male and female vocals, overt electronic influences, and spacey jams that rely more on ambiance then gymnastics.


    Progressive metal was arguably re-defined when Opeth released their 2001 album Blackwater Park, named after an obscure German band who released one album thirty years earlier. Before, it was largely encapsulated with bands who copied Dream Theater, Queensr˙che and the neo-prog movement (Tool is a notable exception, proudly waving their prog influence by touring with King Crimson). Retaining their death metal roots, but expanding into more folksy and progressive territories, they paved the way for an interesting and engaging body of work since then.


    The post-rock genre has shown it's influence in this recent wave of bands as well. Steven Wilson (and his No-Man collaborator Tim Bowness) cite Sigur Ros' () as an influential work, and there is a clear shoegazing influence on his first solo album, Insurgentes. It was released in 2009 by Kscope Records, a home for bands who are, according to their press release "re-establishing a desire to experiment with eclectic musical sources and state of the art widescreen sonic possibilities". One such band is Italian group Nosound, and with their 2009 album A Sense Of Loss, explored a more organic approach, utilizing a string quartet and old-school electronics to enhance a sound that owes as much to Arvo Pärt and Brian Eno as it does to Pink Floyd.


    Marillion started as one of the pioneering neo-progressive bands, who had a UK hit (and a small U.S. hit, their only one) with "Kayleigh" from their Misplaced Childhood album in 1985. Their follow-up album Clutching At Straws garnered another hit "Incommunicado". This proved to be their last work with singer Fish who left due to business conflicts with the other members of the band. In 1989, Steve Hogarth joined the group, and released Seasons End (a personal favorite). Their subsequent identity was in some ways a contrast to the bombastic work with Fish, a move which accomodates Hogarth's more personal vocal and song-writing style. The 90's proved difficult for them to attain any of the success from the previous decade, and their work was mostly enjoyed by a dedicated fan base. It was this fan base that helped them score their first UK Top Ten hit in nearly 20 years with "You're Gone" from 2004's Marbles. It's closing track "Neverland" is a post-modern take of bands using fantasy literature for inspiration, but brought down to a very human and emotional level.


    I can't think of a better way to end this last A/V crash course as it were with a King Crimson side project (or more appropriately, "ProjeKct") featuring Robert Fripp, Crimson alums Mel Collins and Tony Levin, with singer-guitarist-keyboardist Jakko Jakszyk (who was the front-man for a KC alumnus group, the 21st Century Schizoid Band) and drummer Gavin Harrison who played with the band on their last tour in 2008. A Scarcity Of Miracles is a melting pot of Crimson's and indeed Robert's own past and present, utilizing the jazzier elements of early albums like Lizard and Islands and his ambient work on his own and in collaboration with Brian Eno. It also may be a nod to the current climate of the genre using more minimalist and abstract influences.
    Last edited by onthewall2983; 12-04-2017 at 12:09 PM.

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    This thread is missing some Canterbury.
    Caravan



    Soft Machine


    National Health


    and Nektar (I love! Nektar)
    Last edited by PooPooMeowChow; 12-14-2011 at 12:15 PM.

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    Camel
    A medley from one of my favorite instrumental albums ever, The Snow Goose.

    A performance of my favorite piece of theirs, "Ice".
    Last edited by onthewall2983; 12-23-2011 at 12:48 PM.

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    I love The Snow Goose with all my heart and I've never seen that Old Grey Whistle Test performance, thanks!

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    Mirage, Snow Goose & Moon Madness are all great albums by Camel.

    Gentle Giant



    Van Der Graaf Generator AKA the best prog band ever.
    Love the horn effect @ 3:50 SooEPIC
    Last edited by PooPooMeowChow; 12-22-2011 at 01:11 PM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arch Stanton View Post
    I love The Snow Goose with all my heart and I've never seen that Old Grey Whistle Test performance, thanks!
    You should check out (if you haven't already) the live performance of the album with a full orchestra on A Live Album.

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    My mate has a ProgRock band (DEEEXPUS) check them out below.



    He's the guy responsible for getting me into Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson

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    Edited rant.
    Last edited by aggroculture; 12-22-2011 at 04:43 PM.

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    Edited response.
    Last edited by onthewall2983; 01-04-2012 at 08:04 AM.

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    A newer band I really like is Sweden's Paatos. It's part of the wave of bands I mentioned earlier bringing new influences to the genre, in this case bands like Massive Attack and Portishead. Their latest record Breathing is one of my favorites from this year, a bit more rocking than earlier work but it is no less captivating and dreamy for it.










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    Probably should have prefaced that post by mentioning Renaissance, the first progressive band I know of to feature a female singer.


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    this thread totally got me back into Van Der Graaf Generator
    Here's Killer, one of their best songs.


    I love Renaissance, their albums "Scheherazade and Other Stories" & "Ashes Are Burning" are great.

    The only other early Prog band I can think of with a female singer is "Hatfield and The North" and she doesn't even sing the much.
    Heres the first side of their first album.


    and from their second album, much more upbeat.

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    This looks incredible.

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    The funniest live album I've ever heard

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    Maybe I'm just close-minded but I don't agree with a lot of these "progressive" suggestions, however I consider King Crimson probably the greatest progressive rock bands of all-time. I would definitely put Gentle Giant, Yes, Deep Purple and Parliament up there as well.

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    Prog is a really loose genre with it's own sub-genres.


    another classic


    EDIT for part 2
    Last edited by PooPooMeowChow; 01-30-2012 at 04:32 PM.

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    This week's episode of VH1 Classic's Metal Evolution focuses on progressive metal. Here is a clip from the show, airing Saturday night.

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    Ian Anderson is releasing a sequel to the 1972 Jethro Tull classic Thick As A Brick in April. Steven Wilson is mixing the project, following up on the successful Aqualung re-release. He talked about it in a recent interview, and it segued into his thoughts on the recent resurgence in popularity of the original Prog Rockers..

    We’re living in a time when a lot of bands are looking around and seeing that the climate has changed so much over the last 20 years. Many feel the right thing to do is perhaps go back and revisit what made their reputation. Yes famously did a return to that last year. For 20-30 years, classic progressive music was incredibly unpopular and unfashionable. I was talking to Steve Hackett about this. He feels for the first time that people actually appreciate the work he did in the ‘70s. He feels it’s only in the last three or four years that he’s begun to feel people value that work as his greatest achievement. For 30 years, he was told it was shit, that he was a dinosaur, and that the music was worthless and no-one was ever going to want to listen to that hippie stuff again. I cannot underestimate how these guys were brainwashed. Robert Fripp and Ian Anderson feel the same. They were brainwashed by the media into thinking everything they did in the ‘70s was worthless junk. It’s almost like abused child syndrome. It took a great amount of reassurance for them to begin to believe that people love that stuff and that it’s the work that their reputation will ultimately rest on.

    I experienced that with Robert when we worked on the remix of King Crimson’s Lizard. He said “Why do you want to do this Steven? No-one likes the record. Everyone hates it, including me.” I said “I’m going to change people’s minds.” I’m so proud to say that happened. One of the greatest moments of my life is when that album was reissued and received astonishing reviews. David Fricke in Rolling Stone said “Lizard is revealed to be the greatest King Crimson album of all.” Mojo gave it five out of five stars. Robert was astonished. And I was vindicated because I really believed all those records that had been ignored and sidelined for years, mainly by the media, but also by fans, were really coming of age. In a sense, they were so far ahead of their time, and now is their time. They sound extraordinary. This is really key for me.

    Going back to Thick as a Brick 2, now is the time for Ian to go back and do this project. He never would have considered this in a million years even five years ago, and that goes to show you how the mood and climate has changed towards this music. So, finally people like Ian, Robert and Steve feel “You know what? People do really love that work. They really appreciate it. That was my best work and my most creative period. I can still do that music and people still want to hear it.” There’s now an incredible sense of enthusiasm with regards to Thick as a Brick 2. People have told me they haven’t seen Ian this enthusiastic about a new record for a very, very long time..

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    The original is a great, great album. I'm kind of wary about this sequel, but I don't bother passing judgement until I hear the finished product. I know Ian's voice isn't that strong anymore, the overall musicianship should be solid. I want to hear it.

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    To be honest, I've never been a huge Tull fan but am getting mildly curious about their more epic works now.

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    Not sure whether this is the thread to ask, but I'm looking for more bands with a Damnation-esque Opeth sound. Any recommendations?

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    I'd try Anathema's stuff from around 10 years ago. Their latest stuff is too optimistic for a proper comparison, however. Riverside is a band I've heard a little of that might be of interest as well.
    Last edited by onthewall2983; 03-16-2012 at 09:15 AM.

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