Author Archives: bradbirzer

Prog for Dummies–Podcast

My Glass Hammer collection, pre-ODE TO ECHO.

My Glass Hammer collection, pre-ODE TO ECHO.

Well, ok, not just newcomers–my interview with James Newcomb, OUT OF THE MUSIC BOX.  An introduction to prog with an emphasis on Big Big Train, The Tangent, Glass Hammer, Neal Morse, and a few others.  A huge thanks to James for being such a gracious host.

Prog for Dummies

The Art of Rush by Hugh Syme: On Sale tomorrowush,

Art-of-Rush-slipcaseSheesh, this looks gorgeous.  And, to make it even better, the narrative is written by one of the best music journalists anywhere, Stephen Humphries.

The Art of Rush is a 272 page coffee table book that delves into the 40 year relationship with Rush and their longtime artist and illustrator Hugh Syme. The stunning book begins with a foreword penned by Neil Peart, and contains original illustrations, paintings, photography, and the incredible stories behind each album that he has designed with the band since 1975.

New World Man: Dave Kerzner

New World Deluxe by Dave Kerzner

By Alan Dawes. Rating 10/10

Kerzner's debut solo album, NEW WORLD (deluxe).

Kerzner’s debut solo album, NEW WORLD (deluxe).

The standard version of New World was released last December, even though it was released so last in the year it had enough impact to finish in the top 10 albums for 2014 in Prog magazine readers poll. 

The deluxe version of this incredible album has just been released and I truly believe it should top the readers poll this year.  It would be an amazing achievement as it faces tough competition from Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett and David Gilmour.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr Kerzner and this project, here is a brief history lesson.

Dave Kerzner first came to peoples notice as a member of Thud and then Giraffe which were both projects by the late, great Kevin Gilbert.  After Kevin’s untimely death, Dave continued to write songs but mainly spent his time working at his Sonic Reality company recording sound samples for keyboard software so if you want Nick Mason, Neil Peart, Keith Emerson and many others playing on your own material it is possible with SR  software.

A meeting with Simon Collins led the pair working together and eventually to the formation of Sound of Contact with Kelly Nordstrom and Matt Dorsey.  The band recorded Dimensionaut , which was released to critical acclaim  and the band went on to receive the best newcomer at last years prog awards.   Upon returning home after The Night Of The Prog festival in Germany, Dave set about writing new material.  It didn’t really come as a major surprise when it was revealed that he had left SoC.

After spending a few months writing and recording demo’s it was time to put a band together and set about creating his debut solo album.  A kickstarter campaign was created on 27th June to try any raise $17.000 to fund the album by 6th August.  The backers responded and nearly double the required amount was raised in the required time.

Dave recruited his old Thud bandmate Nick D’Virgilio on Drums and another friend Fernando “The Fretmeister”Perdomo on guitars.  They were soon joined by several guest artists.  

New World is a concept album that follows the story of “The Traveller” a man stranded in a vast desert after his ship has crashed and his journey to safety. I won’t go into the full details of how this journey progresses.  I think if you gave the story outline to a dozen sci-fi authors, you would end up with twelve completely different books. So listen to the music, look at the artwork and write your own story.

So why should I buy the deluxe version instead of the standard?  Well unlike most deluxe versions of albums this isn’t just the basic album with an extra cd thrown in with a few out takes and rough demos.

The deluxe version is an extension of the standard, the original 11 tracks are spread across the 2 CDs and another 12 tracks were added.  As a follower of the kickstarter campaign I know that 3 of these tracks were originally meant to be on the standard release. The extra tracks have enhanced what was already a superb album.

I think to get the best from this album, put on some headphones, crank the volume and enjoy this incredible cinematic masterpiece.

New World opens with an extended version of Stranded a five part epic that sets the scene for the album.  If this was a movie it would be shown as a series of flashbacks as The Traveller makes his way to safety. This track features A brilliant guitar solo from Steve Hackett and has backing vocals from Ana Cristina, Durga McBroom from Pink Floyd and Jason Scheff from Chicago.  I must mention part five The Darkness,  the vocal work on this part is amazing.

The recording sessions were still in progress when Dave was contacted by Keith Emerson to say that he was doing a radio show in the UK and that he wanted to play something from New World.  As Stranded was the song closest to being finished, Dave did a quick mix and the whole song was played on Planet Rock Radio.  After Dave’s initial mix he then took Stranded to Tom Lord-Alge to be re-mixed for the single release.

Next up is Into The Sun, once again extended from the standard release.  Colin Edwin plays fretless bass on this track and the wonderful Heather Findlay provides backing vocals.  The track builds in intensity throughout its nine minutes until Fernando Perdomo takes centre stage and unleashes a killer combination of solo and bass line.  The original plan was to finish with a keyboard solo, but the guitar work was just too good to ignore.  

The Lie is the first track on the album that I think could appeal to mainstream radio. At just over five minutes and with a really catchy chorus it isn’t too long.  This song features the core band of Kerzner, Perdomo and D’Vigilio

The Traveller is the first of the new tracks and features Dave on keyboards while Heather recites some lines from Into The Sun.

The Secret was originally pencilled in for the standard release.  It must have been an extremely hard decision to leave this out.  Songs this beautiful are a rarity.  Once again the song starts out calmly and builds in power throughout.  The slide guitar on this is stunning.

Reflection is another short piece which could compete with any chill out album you care to mention. Really nice orchestration on this track which leads into Under Control which is very powerful. Both of these tracks are just Dave on his own playing all the instruments. This one is perfect for all the paranoid people out there.

Premonition Suite is mainly instrumental.  The five parts link different parts of the album.  Dave shares the writing credits on this track with Francis Dunnery who provides killer guitar on part two Resilience 1.  It’s Dave’s turn for a solo on part four Altered State, sheer brilliance.

In The Garden is another work of art, beautifully written and performed.  I love the acoustic guitar on this track and the vocals from Durga McBroom are superb.  

The same can be said for the last two tracks on CD1, The Way Out and Recurring Dream are both excellent and could quite easily have been chosen for the standard release.  The vocal work on the last track is incredible.

CD2 opens with Biodome which is a short into track with David Longdon reciting part of New World.  This leads straight into the instrumental masterpiece Crossing Of Fates.

When Dave was recording Keith Emerson’s modular Moog for Sonic Reality, Keith played a solo part which Dave built this piece around.  This is keyboard heaven as Dave and Keith take turns to show their skills.  The rhythm section on this track is a change from the rest of the album.  Billy Sherwood was recruited on bass and drums are provided by Simon Phillips.

Theta is another instrumental with backing vocals by Durga and Maryam Tollar who has an amazing voice.  Also on board for this track is another musician from the days of Thud.  Satnam Ramgotra plays tabla which gives the track it’s mystical feel.  This leads into My Old Friend which is dedicated to Kevin Gilbert.  Once again Maryam provides stunning vocals.  Russ Parrish from Steel Panther sheds his Satchel persona to reunite with his Thud band mates and provide a blistering solo.

Ocean Of Stars wasn’t originally meant to be on the standard album but it couldn’t not be.  Everything about this track is perfect.  If the Grammy’s or Brits handed out awards for songwriting instead of just being a popularity contest between record companies, this would take some beating.

Solitude is vocal heaven.  They are provided by the beautiful songbirds from Aussie Floyd. Lorelei McBroom, Lara Smiles and Emily Lynn join the band for this chilled track. Drums are by Nick Mason via Sonic Reality.

Nothing is another song that could be played on mainstream radio.  Co-written with Fernando this has an ELO feel to it and I think it could be a big hit.  It features great solo’s from Dave and Fernando.

Erased is a short cinematic instrumental which leads into Realign.  Both this and the following instrumental Nexus were originally meant to be on the standard release.

The next track is New World and this is another contender for the songwriting awards.  The lyrics are sheer bloody poetry.  Francis Dunnery plays lead guitar and David Longdon does an excellent job with the backing vocals.

The album closes with Redemption (Stranded parts 6-10) another five part epic clocking in at over twenty minutes. Francis plays lead guitar and gets co-writer credit for Resilience 2 and Steve Hackett plays on the last two sections Mirage Of The Machines and To The Light.  The album closes with  Hackett solo which is a great way to finish any album.

I must mention part eight. High On The Dunes is destined to become a concert highlight on par with Dave Gilmour on top of the wall or Genesis playing Afterglow, the section is spine tingling.  It is so powerful that it is bought back as a secret track at the end of the album.

I asked the question, why should I buy this instead of the standard. Simply put you would be mad not to.

This is different to a lot of recent releases from progressive groups,  we don’t get fifteen time changes within the first two minutes, strange off tempo drumming that sounds like he’s completely forgotten what song he’s playing or solo’s that seem to be nothing more than someone trying to tune their new 37 string bass guitar.

What you do get is a collection of well crafted music.  Every track plays it’s part in the story, there is nothing that can be regarded as filler.  The musicianship is first class as is the production and packaging.

The brilliant artwork was done by Christine Leakey, who also provides vocals on Ocean Of Stars and Premonition Suite and this is a good reason you should buy the CD instead of download.

Albums this good are as rare as hens teeth. For me this is the best album I’ve heard in a very long time.  I know when it comes to handing out the awards at the end on the year, Steven Wilson will sweep the boards but in my opinion there is not a single track on Hand.Cannot.Erase that is anywhere near as good as anything on New World.

Neal Morse T-Shirt On Sale: This Weekend Only

Radiant Records

Hello Inner Circle,

   Greetings from Radiant Records! Don’t miss out on this weekend flash sale on the Inner Circle t-shirt! Now through Sunday, get the exclusive Inner Circle t-shirt for just $10.00 (regular price, $25.00)! With this crazy low price, NOW is the time to get yours!

Exclusively designed for the Neal Morse Inner Circle

*Sale ends Sunday at 11:59 PM (CST)*

God bless,

Megan Batista

Radiant Records

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Marillion–My Mature Musical Meal

Originally posted on The (n)EVERLAND of PROG:

Sometimes no matter how hard you urge, cajole, and pester your friends and loved ones…they just don’t like the music you like. Regardless of your persuasive techniques and glowing reviews they don’t like the band, the album, or the genre.

I lived my entire adult life trying to convince every friend I’ve ever had to give DOCTOR WHO a try with absolutely no takers (my wife won’t even watch an episode with me). I also had zero success in trying to advance Celtic music.

Prog too is a strange category of musical simmerings that seem to resist popularization with many, if not most, of average listeners. I will write more on the idiocracy (thank you Mike Judge) of American music listeners at a later date.

But without casting any more stones at my friends and family I likewise can turn the same criticism upon myself. Subject, thy name is MARILLION.

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Throwing Copper: 20 Years Later

Originally posted on Stormfields:

LivecopperI suppose when Live first emerged on the rock scene, they were categorized as Christian grunge?  Of course, I’m not exactly sure if they were Christian or not.

Pain lies on the riverside
And Pain will never say goodbye
Pain Lies on the Riverside
So put you feet in the water
Put your head in the water
Put your soul in the water
And join me for a swim tonight

I have forever, always tried
To stay clean and constantly baptized
I am aware that the river’s banks are dry
And to wait for a flood
Is to wait for life

I assume these are somewhat confessional, evangelical lyrics.  But, maybe the members of Live were just taking a point of view?  Certainly, the language on their albums is R-rated and, at times, rather sophomoric: “She’s a bitch, but I don’t care–everybody deserves some change”.  So, who knows?  Not that Christians can’t…

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Introducing CIRCULINE (cinematic progressive rock band from Brighton, NY)

Video for “One Wish” taken from the debut album out now

What do you get when you take two theatrical lead vocalists, a keyboard player from Juilliard, a musical savant playing guitar, and a drummer with progressive rock in his DNA? The new modern Prog Rock band Circuline.

Performing original and classic progressive rock, Circuline was founded in 2014 when former progressive rock tribute band Downing Grey members Andrew Colyer (keyboards, vocals), Bill Shannon (guitars, vocals), and Darin Brannon (drums, percussion) had a burning desire to write original material. Lead vocalists Billy Spillane and Natalie Brown were up for the challenge, having performed in countless venues as singers, actors, dancers, and rock musicians.

Circuline‘s debut album called “Return” is set to be released on April 24th, 2015, and will feature guest appearances from Matt Dorsey (Sound of Contact) on bass, Randy McStine (Lo­Fi Resistance) as a songwriter and vocalist, and Joe Deninzon (Stratospheerius) on electric violin. Paul Ranieri (Shadow Eden) is currently the touring bassist with the band.

Even though they are a relatively new band, Circuline has already opened for recent RoSfest headliner Elephants of Scotland, and Top 10 CMJ charting power rock trio, Shadow Eden. Besides performing modern Prog Rock original tunes, you will also hear classic progressive rock music from Yes, Genesis, Rush, Sound of Contact, and Pink Floyd. The band will be opening for 20-year, 16-album progressive rock veterans Glass Hammer for three shows in the Northeastern U.S. from April 24th to April 26th, 2015.

Circuline is:

Andrew Colyer – keyboards, vocals

Bill Shannon – lead guitars, vocals

Billy Spillane – lead vocals

Darin Brannon – drums, percussion

Natalie Brown – lead vocals


A University Lecture on Prog: Big Big Train


This coming Tuesday evening, I will have the great pleasure of giving an academic lecture on the meaning of progressive music as best expressed in the work of Big Big Train.  Unfortunately, this lecture will not be open to the public.  I will, however, make an audio recording–should any progarchists be interested.

For the same event, I’ll also be giving two lectures on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and one on the same of G.K. Chesterton.

So excited about this!

Remember 1992? The Cure or Dream Theater as the Future of Prog?

For me, the only great thing to come out of the Mike Portnoy/NHS controversy (which doesn’t seem like it should have been a controversy, at least to this American) was that it re-awakened my interest in Portnoy’s time in Dream Theater. I’ve followed him almost religiously in his non-DT efforts (Transatlantic, Neal Morse Band, Flying Colors), and I think the world of him—as a person and as a drummer. Yeah, he’s got a bit of a temper—but he seems to let it run wild only when life calls for it to run wild. I can’t really blame him. Plus, the guy is so outstanding in what he does, I can’t help but admire him. I would give a lot to have his restraint, frankly.

dt images words

The first prog metal album, IMAGES AND WORDS.

But, my point in this post is not about that “controversy.” Instead, that moment in England caused me to pull out all of my Portnoy-era Dream Theater, 1992. I’m not what you’d call an intense fan of Dream Theater, but I have purchased every single album (studio, live, ep) as it’s has come out since IMAGES AND WORDS.

When I first got IMAGES AND WORDS, I was impressed with it. I listened to it with fervor, but, even then, I really loved side two and I really didn’t love side one.

Remember 1992?

1992 was a great year for music, but it was an uncertain year for prog.

cure wish

Half prog (in a Traffic kind of way), half wacky pop. WISH.

At the time, The Cure’s WISH seemed as likely a candidate for inheriting the mantle of prog as did Dream Theater’s IMAGES AND WORDS. In hindsight, it’s easy to give the award to Dream Theater, but not so easy in 1992. Go back and listen to “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” but also listen to “Open,” “Cut,” “To Wish Impossible Things,” and “End.” There’s a LOT of prog on that Cure album. Plus, I would consider DISINTEGRATION a prog album. My point: if you listened to Dream Theater (metal prog) and The Cure (pop prog), it was impossible to determine who was more prog.  At least in 1992.

Add the albums from Phish, Pearl Jam, and U2 that year.

A lot could’ve happened.

Well, here we are 23 years later. Thanks, Mike. You paved the way then and you continue to do so.

Foundations: Current Great Does Not Negate Past Good

Originally posted on The (n)EVERLAND of PROG:

Many times a famous band has an original vocalist who remains beloved, famous, and well remembered even after only a brief partnership and many years of passing. Deep Purple, for me and many, will always conjure up the singing of Ian Gillian (Smoke on the Water, Highway Star, Woman from Tokyo) and to a lesser extent David Coverdale (Burn, Soldier of Fortune). But who can forget the original vocalist Rod Evans? Evan had a great “set of pipes” and His Kentucky Woman cover along with the iconic Hush remain enshrined in Rock’s Hall of Fame by alumni of the late 60s and early 70s.

And for all fellow prog-heads one only need say GENESIS or MARILLION to kick-start heated arguments and scathing “put downs”Vis-a-vis vocalists. I love Phil Collins but in my estimation Peter Gabriel, whose voice is simply…

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