The new Steven Wilson out today

STEVEN WILSON HAND. CANNOT. ERASE. AVAILABLE TODAY

Steven Wilson’s conceptual masterpiece, Hand. Cannot. Erase. (Kscope), released today to critical acclaim – the groundbreaking songwriter, four-time Grammy-nominated artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer, has long been celebrated by an elite audience of audiophiles and tastemakers, with the new release eclipsing all expectation.

The critics so far:

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is an album rooted in sonic and spiritual modernity, largely eschewing early prog tropes in favour of an inventive blend of lbealk and brooding industrial soundscapes and rugged muscular ensemble performances from Wilson’s virtuoso henchmen…” Score: 5/5  – The Guardian

“…Wilson set out to capture Vincen’ts life as only he can – through sprawling, dense, challenging and often strikingly beautiful music.  The result is Hand. Cannot. Erase….” – Buffalo News

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is nothing short of an epic tale of modern-day isolation.” – Huffington Post

“It’s beautiful and haunting.  As with many great prog records, there’s no shortage of musical layers, instruments and themes.” – Huffington Post

“What’s striking about Hand. Cannot. Erase. is its vast spectrum of musical colors and the life-affirming vitality of its hummable melodies.  Wilson’s best album to date…” – Under The Radar

“…produced and mixed by Wilson, the album is sonically rich and detailed. It’s an immense, imaginative landscape that melds classic album rock, sophisticated ’80s pop, metal, prog, and electronica in expertly crafted songs.” – All Music

“Bucking virtually every convention in today’s music business, Wilson’s career and exponential rise to fame has, quite simply, been extraordinary.” – All About Jazz

“It’s this ability to combine narrative and music in brave and adventurous ways during a time when the very longevity of the album-as-cohesive-statement is constantly being questioned that makes Wilson one of the most compelling musicians of his era. His music seeks to connect on a deeply human level, and stands in contrast to a popular music culture obsessed with disposability. This makes him a rare and precious commodity.” – Buffalo News

“If Neil Young is the “Godfather of Grunge,” then Wilson has likewise (and rightfully) earned his place as the “Patriarch of Prog.”” – Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Musically, it’s a full-course sound-and-genre menu that runs the gamut from epic prog-rock to industrial textures and rhythms to pastoral acoustic pop.” – Music Radar

“..a rich musical journey with numerous moments of vivid melodic simplicity…” Score: 5/5  – The Guardian

“If there is any such a thing as a renaissance man left in popular music, then Steven Wilson is surely it.” – Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“…there is a cohesive and strong narrative to the album, there are enough music twists throughout the 11 tracks to keep you on the journey right to the very end.” – fdrmx

“…rather than being a Progressive Rock album with a capital “P,” this is a progressive album in the dictionary sense of the word; an album that represents progression for Wilson and, with its unintended but undeniable crossover appeal, an album that moves music forward in a way that’s detailed under the hood but immediately accessible throughout.” – All About Jazz

“This troubling but deeply moving record is a metaphorical treatise on societal alienation, loneliness, and urban dislocation, offered without pretension. It is aesthetically attractive while being emotionally and intellectually resonant; pop music can hope for no more.” – All Music

“Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a crystal clear indicator of just what can be achieved with a little thought, some finely-honed talent, a quality team, and plenty of hard work. Box-negating, limit-ignoring, and utterly fantastic.” – The Music Melting Pot

“Steven Wilson has once again achieved a perfect mix. It is delicate and dynamic, and it has a lot of space for everything to breathe.” – The Monolith

“…Steven Wilson’s new album, Hand. Cannot. Erase., is simply The Thing That Shouldn’t Be: Eleven tracks clocking in at over 65 minutes, it the genuine concept record article, built more for sustained, top-to-bottom listening experiences rather than short-bite consumption.” – Music Radar

“As someone capable of delivering accessible music that is, at the same time, compositionally and lyrically deep—detailed and, at times, unapologetically complex—Wilson makes absolutely no compromises in doing what he does. And yet, almost in spite of it all, his star continues on an increasingly rapid upward trajectory.” – All About Jazz

Hand. Cannot. Erase. grabs your full attention from the beginning to the very final note…the sign of a great album.” – fdrmx

“Wilson’s refined skill as a songwriter and studio guru combine to fashion songs that deserve a much wider audience than one that views his work as a modern equivalent of Pink Floyd and Genesis.” Score: 5/5  – The Guardian

“Steven Wilson’s new album is that perfect hybrid of edgy pop and progressive rock” – Power of Pop

Co-produced by the four-time Grammy-nominated artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Hand. Cannot. Erase. is available at retailers nationwide and digitally with a limited deluxe edition for pre-order via Kscope (http://bit.ly/1DhHN6c). Steven Wilson and his band will embark on a tour through the UK and Europe in March and April 2015, then head to North America dedicating much of the summer beginning on May 21 in Albany – itinerary below.

Best known as founder and front man of British rock act Porcupine Tree, Wilson has produced and collaborated with diverse acts as Opeth, Blackfield, Yes, Roxy Music, and XTC. His prolific engineering work can be heard on his mixes of classic releases from King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and most recently the 5.1 surround sound version of Tears For Fears’ classic Songs From The Big Chair reissue, released in November 2014. Porcupine Tree’s last album went top 30 in both the UK and USA, and the tour climaxed with sold out shows at Royal Albert Hall in London and Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Following the release of his critically acclaimed 2012 release, The Raven That Refused to Sing, Wilson set out on a world tour, having assembled a virtuoso band – Marco Minnemann (drums), Nick Beggs (bass), Theo Travis (flute and sax), Adam Holzman (keys) and Guthrie Govan (guitar).  His latest studio creation completed, the cinematic Hand. Cannot. Erase. features dynamic performances by Wilson, his touring ensemble, and vocal accompaniment from
Ninet Tayeb.

# # #

www.stevenwilsonhq.com

North American Tour dates:

May 21                   The Egg                                     Albany

May  22        Berklee Performance Center                    Boston

May 23                   The Whitaker Center                     Harrisburg

May 26                   930 Club                                    Washington, DC

May 28                   Keswick Theatre                          Glenside, PA

May 29                   Best Buy Theater                         New York City

May 30                   Best Buy Theater                         New York City

May 31                   The Grand                                  Wilmington, Delaware

Jun 02           The Palace Theatre                      Pittsburgh

Jun  04          Park West                                  Chicago, Illinois

Jun 05           Park West                                  Chicago, Illinois

Jun 06           Barrymore Theater                       Madison

Jun 09           Boulder Theater                           Boulder, CO

Jun 11           Mesa Arts Center                         Mesa, Arizona

Jun 12           The Grove                                  Anaheim

Jun 13           The Wiltern                                 Los Angeles

Jun 14           The Warfield                               San Francisco

Jun 16           Aladdin Theater                           Portland

Jun 17           Neptune Theater                          Seattle

Jun 20           Vogue Theatre                                      Vancouver

Jun 22           Myer Horowitz Theatre                 Edmonton

Jun 23           Theatre Junction Grand(Flanagan)   Calgary

Jun 26           The Danforth Music Hall                Toronto

Jun 27           Montreal Jazz Festival                            Montreal

Jun 28           Montreal Jazz Festival                   Montreal

Jun  29          Impérial                                     Quebec City

An Excellent Interview with Steven Wilson by Stephen Humphries

A friend of mine, Stephen Humphries, just interviewed Steven Wilson.  Well worth reading.  Humphries is a natural.

My story began to spin off other things that I wanted to talk about: nostalgia for childhood, regret, and isolation and alienation,” says Wilson. “When most people say ‘concept album,’ they think of fantasy. But for me, the quintessential concept albums are things like TommyQuadropheniaThe WallOK Computer. These albums are actually about very similar things. They are about a fear of the modern age, they are about alienation from technology and alienation from society. They are also albums about individuals becoming isolated from the rest of the world. I think there is a lineage that this album appears to be a part of.

To read the entire interview (and you should!), please click here.

Terrible News: The Reasoning Are No More

I was terribly sorry to wake up to the news that The Reasoning have disbanded.  They’ve been a major part of my life–the soundtrack of so many articles, books, and trips–over the last decade.  Matt, we love you, and we wish you nothing but the best–Brad.

A very good afternoon to you one and all, I hope you are well? I promise to keep what we are about to say very short, sweet and to the point. It is with a very heavy heart that we impart the following bit of news – The Reasoning have decided to call it day. We part in the knowledge that we have achieved many wonderful and great things as a band and as individuals but, the time has come to be honest and realise that as a musical group, we have explored as much as we can. Though we have enjoyed our journey with you immensely, we have also had occasions where it seemed so tough to carry on and as we approach the 3rd anniversary of the disappearance of our dear friend Owain, this seems like the right time to gently put the band to bed.

We want to thank all the bands, press and fans for the amazing loyalty, support and love. We have done many incredible things, been to many amazing places and played to so many amazing people. Our music lives on with you and in our hearts. This is not the last you will hear of us as musicians but I’m afraid, it is the last you will hear from us as a band. We are all parting on good terms and with firm friendships established. This is a decision we all feel is the best thing for the band and its musical legacy.

Thank you all once again, you will never know how much we truly love you all. Be well, take care and we’ll all see you on the road sometime soon. “The View From Where I Stand Begins To Change, Something Is Happening To Me…….”

The Reasoning xxxxx

PS The main website will remain online until the domain name expires so, please feel free to pop over. Please be aware, this will be our last announcement xx

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 11.16.19 AM (2)

Painful. Fare ye well, Matt. We’re eager to see what you do next!

Malignant Narcissism

“You mean you’ve got a hold full of frozen hairdressers?” he said.

“Oh yes,” said the Captain, “Millions of them. Hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, management consultants, you name them. We’re going to colonize another planet…”

“..Yes, so anyway,” he resumed, “the idea was that into the first ship, the ‘A’ ship, would go all the brilliant leaders, the scientists, the great artists, you know, all the achievers; and into the third, or ‘C’ ship, would go all the people who did the actual work, who made things and did things, and then into the `B’ ship – that’s us – would go everyone else, the middlemen you see.”

Douglas Adams

You find me listening to the new Steven Wilson record, which I like a great deal. There will be other people who like it, too. And others who don’t.

There can’t be many these days who don’t listen to an album, in whole or in part, before they hand over their hard-earned cash. And I’m talking about listening to it legally, on any one of a host of download and/or streaming platforms.

When I first started buying albums reviews were all you had – primarily for me in ‘Sounds’ and ‘NME’, and later in ‘Kerrang’. Some bands I would invest in regardless, mind. Many Blue Oyster Cult, Rush, Yes, Genesis, Marillion, and other albums were purchased unheard. But in the digital age now if I want to decide whether I’ll like a record I just head on over to Bandcamp, YouTube, SoundCloud or the band’s website. 

Growing up things seemed so much easier in hindsight. I made up my own mind, formed my own opinions. Fashioned my own world view. Now, thanks to social media I am assailed by the opinions of others, many of whom I have never met. Constantly. Incessantly. On everything from music, politics, art, food, religion, television and film. Back in the day I would have conversations with close friends and would find out their views on such subjects occasionally. I might not agree with them but I would respect their right to hold them. But now it is everywhere. Everyone, it seems, is a critic. Merely by virtue of them possessing opposable thumbs.

So in the era of streaming and downloads I have to wonder as to the point of a review. As I have mentioned, I like the new Steven Wilson album, Hand.Cannot.Erase. A dear friend, who I love dearly, does not. Now even if I wrote a thousand words extolling my perceived virtues of the piece he would not buy it, having already had a listen. I can absolutely see his point and he is equally valid in his opinion as I am in mine. Writing about this record after it is released seems to be, I think, a futile exercise at best as most folks who are that way inclined will already own it. And those who aren’t won’t. Nor will they ever. 

As I’ve mentioned there have been, and are still, bands whose work I would buy without an advance listen. This year I have invested in records by Grand Tour, Neal Morse Band, Steve Hackett and Beardfish as well as the Steven Wilson  to name but a few without needing to listen ahead of time and without anyone else advising me to do so. But in the digital age I find myself utilising the advance listen facility frequently, without reading a word and I have discovered some enjoyable albums this way. I am particularly taken with the Animals album by Bend Sinister. And have just purchased Ampledeed’s 2013 debut ‘A is for Ampledeed’ having first listened to a few streaming tracks.

Cliff Pearson has, for example, played material by Bryan Scary and Snarky Puppy amongst others on his radio show and both have been added to cart based on these initial listens.

I once read a press release for a band whose CD I had been sent to review for a well-respected bona fide website that said ‘the album sounds as good as anything you’ll hear this year’. Now this wasn’t quoting a review or any other objective source but was just a throw away line by some PR person, or friend of the band, who had written the press release. It went on to tell me the music was ‘exhilarating’ and ‘delightfully original’. This annoyed me somewhat. Suffice to say I thought the album was dreadful. And went on to say this in the review. I did, though, suggest people go and have a listen and make their own minds up.

So much new music is released nowadays. Some of it as good if not better I think than that made by the ‘classic’ bands. I shall, for example, be buying the new albums by echolyn, Izz and Glass Hammer without having heard a note. And I have just this second pledged to buy the new Bryan Scary record ‘Birds’. I most certainly do not need to read what anyone else thinks to assist me with these purchasing decisions. For I am all grown up now.

But I cannot remember in recent memory having read a ‘bad’, i.e. critical amateur review. Of course many had a pop at the new Yes album but distance from the band and its organisation insulated the writers from any comeback. Much of what passed for informed comment was akin to trolling if I’m being brutally frank and I am starting to see a little bit of that with the new Steven Wilson album. 

Oh, and by the way, I quite liked the new Yes album. Not that you should be bothered in the slightest what I think. Go and have a listen to it, and make up your own mind. If you haven’t already. But whatever you do, and in the name of all that is holy, please don’t write a review.

FROST* Milliontown (A “throw-back” review)

Originally posted on The (n)EVERLAND of PROG:

This album might well have slipped between the cracks and never have been heard were it not for John Mitchell’s blindingly good new CD, Please Come Home just released from his latest project LONELY ROBOT. Yes, of course I’ve probably heard a track or two from his other projects over the years (no doubt on the Dividing Line Broadcast website) or seen an ad for one of them in the pages of Uncut or Mojo, or one of the other glossies before the advent of PROG magazine, but those brief encounters just didn’t stick in my memory bank. So, thanks now to Wikipedia and YouTube I am aware, familiar, and in love with Mitchell’s other two stellar projects KINO (R.I.P.) and FROST*

With no further adieu, a “throw-back” review.

 FROSTMilliontown_cover

Milliontown is a well crafted and crisply produced affair. The mixing is clean and upfront with superb…

View original 366 more words

Stolt with Hackett

Roine Stolt, the master of the modern Edda, just posted this on Facebook.  Great news.

I’d like to officially extend my gratitude to the magnificent Steve Hackett for inviting me to join his Autumn Tour – We’ll be covering a lot of his amazing debut solo album “Voyage of The Acolyte” – some from his new excellent “Wolflight” album plus other Hackett staples – and of course carry on revisiting yet with some classic Genesis. It will be an amazing show – his band is great and so is crew – lights and all – I will cover the bassparts, some 12string, and other guitars, possibly help with vocals too. It’ll be a lot to learn but knowing most of the songs it’ll help me understand what is needed. Tour details will follow on the Hackettsongs website: http://www.hackettsongs.com/news/newsLive74.html Did I mention that I’m thrilled !!

hackett with stolt

An Afterthought: Eric Gillette

Gillette's first album.

Gillette’s first album.

In 2013, Eric Gillette, best known as the lead guitarist of the Neal Morse Band, released his first solo album.  At the time, it arrived as a review copy just when Progarchy was getting off the ground.  And, due to the graciousness of a number of record labels who immediately supported us (thank you!), a couple of releases got, more or less, lost in the deluge of prog wonder.  One of these albums was Gillette’s.  I don’t have time for a full review at the moment, as I’m heading off to CU to teach for the day.  But, having been rather blown away by Gillette on Saturday night in Denver, I decided to pull the first album out again.  Oh boy, it’s good.  Really, really, really good.  I shouldn’t have let this one fly by without notice.  A full review or two is coming your way.

In the meantime, trust me.  This is one very talented young man, and he is the future of prog.  Purchase this album.

Salander’s THE FRAGILITY OF INNOCENCE, March 3, 2015

Just received this from the two Daves of Salander.  Last year’s two releases from the band certainly made my top 10 of the year, and I have no doubt this will album equal or surpass the first two.–Brad
Front Cover
Hi
We are pleased to announce that a new Salander album will be released on March 3rd on Bandcamp   www.salander.bandcamp.com.  It is called The Fragility of Innocence and is a concept album about an 8 year old girl living in Iceland called Silja.
Dave Curnow has written the story and this will come packaged with the album.
We thank you for your support this past year and thank you in advance for your interest in this new album. We really hope you enjoy it as it probably will be our last.
Dave and Dave from Salander
salanderuk@aol.com

Radiant Records News

Radiant Records

Greetings from the Radiant Team!

It’s time for our Weekly Featured Product! This week, our featured item, is Songs From November, the latest solo album from Neal Morse! This week ONLY, you can get Songs From November for just $9.99 (regular price – $13.99).  As one reviewer put it, “Songs From November may be [Neal’s] bravest outing to date. Musically, creatively, and production-wise, it’s like nothing he’s ever done. The final 11 songs are among the best that Neal has ever composed.”  Get it today for only $9.99!

Neal Morse

Songs From November

 $9.99 this week only!

Other Items We’re Loving Right Now

 
March ’15 Inner Circle Release,
More Songs From November, 
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Transatlantic
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3 Disc SE Digipak
$27.99

Stay tuned for more Featured Products coming every Monday!

Musings from the “Prog Pub” – January/February, 2015

To go along with the music that was the soundtrack to my youth, there’s been a lot of music that I’ve treasured over the last 15 years, both in new releases and in “Boy, was I late to the party” finds: Most of the Neal Morse-led Spock’s Beard albums, several Dream Theater releases (including the last two), the first couple Transatlantic efforts, Frost*’s “Milliontown,” Kino’s “Picture,” the recent work by the incredible Big Big Train, and It Bites’ “The Tall Ships,” a beautiful blend of rock, prog and pop that may very well be my favorite album since the century turned.

On the pop/rock side during that span, I’ve also come to love much of what Kevin Gilbert recorded, the brilliant “Everybody Loves A Happy Ending” by Tears For Fears, most of the work of Crowded House and Talk Talk, the post-“Skylarking” releases from XTC, and probably several more that don’t come to mind at the moment.

In talking about the dedication of fans catching many shows on the same tour, Professor Peart noted that concerts are a repeatable experience, and music is, of course, no less so. I’m sure I’ll catch grief for this, but as I get older, the amount of music I truly adore has reached a point where it can easily fill the time that a lot of great new releases might otherwise occupy. While I hope to have as many days in front of me as there are behind me, I often feel that I already have lifetime’s worth of wonderful music to enjoy again and again, making it hard for new music to find its way to my ears. So, while many hailed 2014 as one of the best years in prog, I was content to stay on the sidelines while fellow Progarchists wrote about what really moved them.

However, recent exchanges between fellow Progarchists about a few “glory years” of music, combined with what I’ve been listening to of late, suggests that perhaps there’s an opportunity to share some thoughts on what I’ve been spinning, no matter how new or old(er), prog or not. My hope is that I can add to the chorus for new releases and, in writing a bit about older albums, perhaps readers might be inclined to seek out said release or dust off that album and give it another go.

prog-iq

IQ – “The Road Of Bones”

My best friend has been trying hard to turn me on to IQ for years now, going on about “Subterranea” and seeing that I’m furnished with every new release in the hopes that something they do will find favor with me. Well, he again tried with “The Road Of Bones,” so I took it along on a commute and damn near jerked the car over to the side of the freeway when the title track came on.

Oh my.

There is a “denseness” to many neo-prog releases – much of it heavy rock/metal with a lot of musicians occupying the same space – and while I heard some of that that in “From The Outside In,” the first track from “The Road Of Bones,” the title track that followed was something altogether different.  It’s atmospheric, moody, haunting…I hear echoes of “Famous Last Words” by Tears For Fears,” some percussive keyboard patches that call to mind “City Of Love” and “Hearts” from “90125,” and I even heard some synth swells that call to mind the droning chants from, of all things, Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.”  There’s SO much tension built into this track. I’ve enjoyed the rest of the album and look forward to repeated listens, but I keep coming back to the title track, my favorite prog moment of 2014.

Welcome_to_the_Real_World_CD_cover
Mr. Mister – “Welcome To The Real World,” ‘Go On…” & “Pull”

There’s probably an article to be written about how Los Angeles was the Holy Land for eclectic pop and rock in the late 80’s. Bands such as Toy Matinee and the Trevor Rabin-led Yes were packing plenty of playing and production into radio-friendly tracks with mostly successful results (as were other bands, I’m sure).

Mr. Mister certainly belongs in this conversation. This group of studio guns came out of the gate in 1984 with a highly-synthesized debut, “I Wear The Face,” which while reflective of the time, didn’t really stand out among other 80’s pop albums of its kind.

Not so with their second album, “Welcome To The Real World.”

I was given a taped copy of WTTRW on cassette shortly after its release, and being the teenage know-it-all I (thought I) was, I knew plenty about the latest and greatest in 80’s pop and rock, but hadn’t heard of Mr. Mister. I listened to and enjoyed “Welcome To The Real World” thinking I was in on a secret not too many knew about.

Of course, that changed in a hurry when “Broken Wings” shot to #1 on the U.S. Billboard charts, followed by the amazing “Kyrie” (also #1) and a third Top 10 single, “Is It Love.” Anyone tuned to radio or MTV in 1986 simply couldn’t miss them. While still employing its fair share of synths and drum loops, “Welcome To The Real World” boasted a more aggressive sound that its predecessor, thanks to the guitar work of Steve Farris and the drumming of Pat Mastelotto…yes, you heard that right – King Crimson’s long-time drummer.

“Welcome To The Real World” got everything right – production, killer songwriting, playing, and a fine balance between instruments.  There simply isn’t a bad track on this album and it’s well worth your time, despite it having nothing to do with prog.

Mr_Mister_Go_On

Most of us who are/were turned on to Talk Talk saw a progression of increasingly artistic efforts with each successive release, and while the Misters’ progression wasn’t nearly as radical, they managed to catch many fans (and likely their record company brass) off guard with their follow-up album, 1987’s “Go On….”

Although the first single, “Something Real (Inside Me/Inside You),” was very much produced in the vein of their previous album and garnered Billboard Top 40 status, a listen to the majority of “Go On…”  revealed increasingly personal lyrics and a raw production effort that waved goodbye to overly glossy techniques, leaving little doubt that the band was determined to use their success to make a more artistic statement. Bassist/singer Richard Page remains one of the best singers out there – Google his recent performances with Ringo’s All-Starr Band – and you’ll no doubt be taken by the sheer emotion in which he delivers the heartfelt lyrics on tracks such as “Dust,” “The Border” and “Power Over Me.”  Sadly, “Go On…” fell out of print within a couple years of release, but the album survives through online retailers.

Mr._Mister_Pull_2010_Album_Cover

The band was served the ultimate insult by their record company with “Pull,” their fourth album, in that an even more daring effort was met with enough disdain from the record company that the album was shelved around 1990. Shelved!  No release at all!

With the advent of the World Wide Web, rumors of the Misters’ unreleased album – recorded with session guitarists such as Trevor Rabin (!) and Buzz Feiten as Steve Farris as no longer in the group – began to circulate among a more interconnected, online community, and bootleg tracks later surfaced. While quite poor in quality and likely unfinished, the bootlegged tracks showed that Mr. Mister had made a fine album, which only intensified the calls for a proper release of “Pull.”

Finally, in 2010 – a full 20 years after its creation – fans got their wish when “Pull,” the rights to which had been wrested from the record company, was finally released by the the remaining members (Page, Mastelotto and keyboardist Steve George) with proper production and mastering.

“Pull” features what would have been a bonafide hit in “Waiting In My Dreams,” which according to Page was considered by director Cameron Crowe for inclusion in the John Cusack-led “Say Anything.” Prog fans will gravitate towards the tracks with Rabin’s contribution (he would have been a most-worthy replacement had Mr. Mister continued), will appreciate Mastelotto’s drumming throughout the album and may even catch the 11/8 feel of “Surrender.” It was worth the wait!

dayfornight

Spock’s Beard, “Day For Night” & “V”

My introduction to the Beard was likely the same for me as for many: The highly-influential Mike Portnoy couldn’t stop talking abut them.

As the 90’s ended, I seemed to be moving away from prog and gravitating towards groups such as the Dave Matthews Band, no doubt appreciating that aside from the bass, here was an acoustic band playing out of their minds, but in a easily-digestble format.  But with Portnoy going on about Spock’s Beard, I found the band’s website and got a listen to some low-quality mp3’s from their then-latest album, “Day For Night,” and I thought enough of what I heard to snap up a CD from a local record store.

“Day For Night” turned out to be the perfect album for me at that time – here was a band that made prog sound wildly interesting, with chops in abundance, yet made sure their playing never overshadowed the song. There were obvious nods to 70’s prog with Mellotrons, organs, Rickenbackers and Moogs, but they were creating modern-sounding music.

The title track is a perfect example of everything that’s great about them, plus we’re treated to gems such as “The Distance To The Sun,” “Gibberish” and “Crack The Big Sky.”  The album ends with the incredible “The Healing Colors Of Sound,” which blends the accessible with the epic – a Spock’s Beard specialty. I dare you not to find utter joy – a celebration of all that’s wonderful about music and our favorite genre – in that one track.

Of course, this all was my first introduction to Neal Morse’s playing, singing and formidable songwriting, and while in the process of wearing out D4N, I was off to a larger CD retailer to find anything I could by them, which led to my getting their previous three releases as well as “From The Vaults” and “The Beard Is Out There.” Needless to say, I was a hardcore fan, my faith in prog restored!

sbv

“V” became the first SB album that I was anticipating, and the emotional, pastoral opening to “At The End Of The Day” instantly drew me in. It’s an absolutely brilliant track with a gorgeous highlight in the middle when the band harmonizes harmonize a quiet section that reads,

It begins, it believes and it sees for all time
She’s coming down my way
It is here, as it breathes and it sees for the blind
She’s holding me finally

An goosebump moment, to be sure.

For as good as all the tracks on “V” are, this album is noteworthy for its “bookend” epic tracks – the aforementioned ATEOTD and “The Great Nothing,” a track that simply leaves you spent by its big, anthemic reprise of the “One note, timeless” section. Heck, a look at the “Making of ‘V'” video shows Neal breaking into tears while trying to get through that section. My best friend and I had the fortune to see the Beard on the V Tour in San Francisco, and it was easily one of the most joyful concerts I ever saw. No prog band I ever saw had more fun on stage than the mighty Beard.

This represents most of what’s getting played in the proverbial “prog pub” (oh, to actually own such a place). It goes without saying that I heartily recommend all of these albums and hope that one or more of these may become an recording that you treasure as well.

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