Neil Peart and the 1,500 Year Old Romanian Tree

This is a fascinating interview with Neil Peart about his new drum kit for the upcoming R40 tour.  The drum makers built the entire kit from a 1,500-year old piece of Romanian wood.

Thanks to Eric Hansen and Power Windows for first sharing this.

BillyNews: Jon Anderson’s MYSTERIES OF MUSIC

This from the always excellent folks at Glass Onyon:

Jon Anderson.

Jon Anderson.

Legendary Singer/Songwriter Jon Anderson’s “Mysteries Of Music” Special Now On Soundcloud!

Asheville, NC – Legendary singer/songwriter Jon Anderson’s “Mysteries Of Music” special is now on Soundcloud! In this 40-minute special, Jon talks about his own musical development as well as his appreciation for World Music and the sounds of nature. The soundtrack includes many examples of these topics, as well as the YES masterpiece “Awaken”.

To listen go to: https://soundcloud.com/jon-anderson-online/jon-anderson-mysteries-of-music-special

In other news….

Anderson Ponty photo 4Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty have announced the formation of a new ensemble – The AndersonPonty Band! YES’s original singer/songwriter for 35 years, Jon Anderson has had a successful solo career, which includes working with such notable music artists as Vangelis, Kitaro, and Milton Nascimento. International jazz superstar Jean-Luc Ponty is a pioneer and undisputed master of violin in the arena of jazz and rock. He is widely regarded as an innovator who has applied his unique visionary spin that has expanded the vocabulary of modern music. Together these two music icons form a musical synergy that is unparalleled! This past September the APB band gave a special live performance at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado. The show was filmed and recorded and is scheduled for release on CD/DVD this coming spring! Tour plans for the AndersonPonty Band are also currently in the works.

Check out the official AndersonPonty Band Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/andersonpontyband1

Says Jon, “I am very excited listening to the live show we did in Aspen, the mix’s and video are coming along great, so you wonderful peeps out there will have something new to listen to this spring time.”

Jon Anderson Family Circle coverGONZO Multimedia recently released of a new charity single “The Family Circle” by Jon Anderson and former Counting Crows bassist Matt Malley. The money received from the single will go to the following charities: Flutie Foundation – http://www.flutiefoundation.org (Jon Anderson), Sahaja Yoga Meditation – http://www.sahajayoga.org (Matt Malley) and National Autistic Society (Rob Ayling, GONZO Multimedia president).

Listen to a sample of the track here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hATdN-XMBSQ

To purchase Jon Anderson & Matt Malley’s “Family Circle”: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/famil … d911786898

For more information:

Jon Anderson’s official website: www.JonAnderson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheJonAnderson?ref=br_tf

Press inquiries: Glass Onyon PR, PH: 828-350-8158, glassonyonpr@gmail.com

Most Anticipated Album Releases of 2015

Originally posted on The Blog of Much Metal:

Welcome to 2015! Or, to be more exact, welcome to week three of 2015, as I’m a little behind the times at the moment. Nevertheless, it is still early enough in the year to take a look at the coming twelve months to identify those releases that we’re most excited about. As is always the case with the Blog Of Much Metal, my focus is on those bands that might not be in the mainstream eye or, if they are, those bands that are particularly special to me.
 
As such, in this post, you’ll hear no further mention of the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden or those of a like size, popularity-wise. These albums will be written about ad nauseum elsewhere and I’m happier to leave it that way. Of course I hope that Metallica will release something equally as good as ‘Ride The Lightning’ or that Iron Maiden…

View original 1,043 more words

RIP Demis Roussos

ac

Although Greek progressive rock bands are perhaps not as well known as some of their northern European counterparts, Aphrodite’s Child enjoyed a successful, albeit brief, stint as Greece’s foremost prog rock group in the late 1960s. Roussos (bass/vocals), along with Vangelis (keys), Lucas Sideras (drums), and “Silver” Koulouris (guitars), produced one of the finest early progressive rock albums: 666, an album based upon the Book of Revelation.

Roussos, who enjoyed a successful solo career after the end of Aphrodite’s Child, was 68 years old.

http://prog.teamrock.com/news/2015-01-26/demis-roussos-aphrodites-child-dies-at-68

Matt Stevens Solo and TFATD Gigs

A few things! I’m trying to start a “tour fund” to pay for flights etc to get Europe to play – if anyone wants to buy something from:

https://mattstevens.bandcamp.com/

It’s greatly appreciated. Im actively pursuing gigs at the moment and this’ll be this year’s project alongside writing new music.

Divine guitarist.

Divine guitarist.

Some really good UK gigs coming up, especially looking forward to getting back to play our first gig in Manchester in three years and playing with Jon Gomm and Slayer legend Dave Lombardo:

Solo shows:

31st Jan w/ Solstice – Crauford Arms, Milton Keynes

7th March w/The Quireboys – Athletic Club, Rushden

18th of March w/ Jon Gomm at the Jazz Cafe, London 

With The Fierce And The Dead:

1st February Ruby Lounge Manchester w/ Cleft, Trojan Horse etc

9th Match Camden Underworld w/Philm featuring Dave Lombardo (Slayer)  

Your support is very much appreciated. 

Thanks loads

Matt Stevens

http://www.mattstevensguitar.com

Glass Hammer: The Breaking of the World (Trailer)

Oh. . . this looks great!

Glass Hammer’s 17th studio album, “The Breaking Of The World” to be released March 31st 2015 with pre-ordering of autographed copies starting March 1st. Featuring Babb, Schendel, Groves, Shikoh, Bogdanowicz and Raulston. Nine new tracks with audiophile mastering by Bob Katz of Digital Domain and art by Michal Xaay Loranc.

The Masterpiece ‘Awaken’ with Full Orchestral Treatment

This is an absolutely brilliant version of the Yes classic, Awaken, by Todmobile (whom I’ve never heard of until this) with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and Jon Anderson on vocals.  I have never needed any convincing that this piece is incredible, but seeing this performance has only strengthened that conviction.  Enjoy.

Roine Stolt in the World of Adventures: The Birth of Third-Wave Prog

The Flower Kings, BACK IN THE WORLD OF ADVENTURES
1995 Foxtrot Music/Insideout Music

71 minutes; 10 tracks: Back in the World of Adventures; The Prince/Kaleidoscope; Go West Judas; Train to Nowhere; Oblivion Road; Theme for a Hero; Temple of the Snakes; My Comic Lover; The Wonder Wheel; Big Puzzle.

All lyrics and music by Roine Stolt (b. 1956).

The first official Flower Kings album.

The first official Flower Kings album.

In 1994, famed (justly so) Swedish guitarist, Roine Stolt, released a solo album under the title of the FLOWER KING. Less than a year later, he formed—around himself and the band he’d used for the FLOWER KING—the Flower Kings. It’s never quite clear who the FLOWER KING exactly is, but he seems be the embodiment of Jesus. Or, at the very least, a very peace loving Johannine hippie Jesus, and his betrayer is Judas Iscariot. In the opening song of the 1994 album, with the same name as the album, Stolt sings:

We believe in the light we believe in love, every precious little thing
We believe you can still surrender, you can serve the Flower King

And, in the grand song, “Humanizzimo,” Stolt becomes even more blatant:

Did someone pray for the long lost souls
or the tired ones who lost their goal
When the seventh angel rise his sword
Can you hear the one voice of the Lord
With the blood of Jesus on the nail
we turn the balance on a scale
In pain and fearless suffering
lies a message from the King of Kings

I don’t know if Stolt has any particular religious leanings, but he’s obviously very, very pro Jesus. At times I’ve wondered if he’s Roman Catholic, as he possesses a truly sacramental view of the world, but he might also—logically, given the Swedish background—be Lutheran. Again, I’m not sure labeling the song writer with any particular denomination totally matters. Stolt clearly loves what is humane, true, good, and beautiful, and his religious views are more poetic and mythic than “in your face.”

States of Being.

States of Being.

It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of the album to what we love as our current and overwhelming deluge of progressive rock. In 1990, prog looked pretty much dead as a genre. Sure, there were plenty of rock, pop, and so-called alternative bands—Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Phish, and Smashing Pumpkins were the most obvious–employing aspects of prog, but almost no one admitted to the label.

Then, 1994 hit.

Marillion’s BRAVE and Roine Stolt’s THE FLOWER KING emerged as though from the gods themselves. How could these albums not be prog? They were as prog as prog could be. Unapologetically, blatantly, and deliriously prog. As our beloved progarchist friend, Andy Tillison, would later explain, this was the beginning of third-wave prog, a wave that has lasted for at least 19, maybe 20, years.

In many ways, though, 1994 would prove a trial run, a glimpse, merely, of what was coming. It was 1995 that witnessed the full arrival and onslaught of third-wave prog. Consider the releases: THE LIGHT by Spock’s Beard; AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT by Marillion; and THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS by Porcupine Tree.

And, of course, there was the first official Flower Kings’ album, BACK IN THE WORLD OF ADVENTURES. The title couldn’t be more perfect, and we might as well refer to it as the opening statement of third-wave prog. Stolt, indeed, was joyously leading us back to the adventure that had seemed to have fallen so undramatically in 1980 or so.

The first Flower Kings’ album begins with the title song, an upbeat psychedelic excursion. “Welcome back. . . welcome back to the world.” One of the nicest things about Stolt’s writing is his uncanny and ingenious ability to mix taste and class with exploration. Though his writings fits so nicely in the genre of rock, its playfulness has much in common with jazz fusion. And, Stolt is eminently smart and inquisitive.

Soaring vocal harmonies (rather complex at times), jazz-like runs, and humane and gorgeous lyrics help define almost all of Stolt’s music. In recent years, he’s revealed a darker, more critical side in and with his lyrics, but this has been well earned. On Desolation Rose, the latest album by the Flower Kings, Stolt’s observations are wise and sad rather than bitter and distraught.

Interesting sound effects and atmospherics emerge unexpectedly around every corner of the first album. Whistles, trains, dings, scratches, bells, Latin rhythms, woodwinds, references to Hitchcock movies, and a general state of contentment pervade the entire work. Some songs don’t even reach the two-minute mark, while the opening and final tracks exceed 13 minutes each.

Roine Stolt.  The Pale Rider.

Roine Stolt. The Pale Rider and a Flower King.

Interestingly enough, BACK TO THE WORLD OF ADVENTURES is roughly divided between instrumental numbers and vocal numbers—but the album is merely a shadow of what is and was to come. Mystery had beckoned and Stolt consented. Don’t get me wrong. BACK is an outstanding album in every way, but it really is only a beginning of a majestic journey that continues to this day. Reviewers and admirers almost always point out how “prolific” Stolt is. What an understatement. Not only would 11 more studio albums from the band follow—with Stolt leading all—but there were still solo albums, the Tangent albums, Transatlantic albums, Kaipa albums, Agents of Mercy albums, and . . . the list continues. Looking at Stolt’s complete discography is simply mind boggling. Never a moment of dullness in the Swede’s life. I envy his biographer.

Twenty years old. Happy birthday, Flower Kings. Sadly, I didn’t meet you until your fifth birthday. Still, it’s been a brilliant decade and a half ride with you.

Led Zeppelin: A Progressive Rock Band?

ledzeppelin2

John Paul Jones would answer, “Yes.” I have been contemplating this question for some time now: is Led Zeppelin worthy of being labeled a “progressive rock” band? Although best remembered for the being the premier hard rock band of the 70s, Led Zeppelin could easily fit into the category of progressive rock-at least to some extent. For a band that never released a single, never performed on “Top of the Pops” (or any other television program), and was able to get away with leaving their name off their album covers, the Zep certainly achieved a level of success unmatched by any other band during the “progressive” era. Please bear with me as I detail the history of Led Zeppelin’s gradual transition from blues-based rockers to true “progressive” artists.

The history of Led Zeppelin’s music demonstrates that they are indeed worthy of the “prog” label. Bursting on to the scene with Led Zeppelin I in 1969, the band’s early repertoire was dominated by blues-inspired songs, but early on they were showing signs of being something more than just a hard rock band. Dazed and Confused, which featured the eerie effects produced by caressing guitar strings with a violin bow, demonstrated just how willing these virtuosos were willing to go to break the mold, one step at a time. Was the album truly “progressive” in the traditional sense? Perhaps not, but it was a step in the right direction.

Led Zeppelin II was not a significant departure from the first album, many of the themes remaining the same (namely, women and sex), and most of the songs still bluesy in their origins. II, however, did introduce the rock n’ roll world to Tolkien and his masterpiece The Lord of the Rings in the excellent folk-rock piece Ramble On. And so began the marriage of Tolkien and the (progressive) rock world, thanks to Robert Plant’s fascination with Middle Earth. An odd match, perhaps, but it was a wonderful union indeed, one that would inspire generations of future progressive rock artists. (Also, observe the uncanny resemblance between Robert Plant and Theoden. Coincidence? I think not).

J R R Tolkientheoden

Led Zeppelin III demonstrated again the willingness of the band to experiment with various styles. An eclectic album, the boys shift from metal (Immigrant Song) to blues (Since I’ve Been Loving You) to traditional folk (Gallows Pole, That’s The Way, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp) rather seamlessly. Although their decision to include more folk and traditional music was not as well received, III has grown in popularity and respect over the years. It was not until the next album, however, that Zeppelin placed themselves firmly on the progressive rock mantle.

By 1971 the band was so popular they were able to remove their name from the album cover. Led Zeppelin IV, their most successful album, is also their first “pure” progressive album. Although Black Dog and Rock and Roll may belziv considered (to some extent) standard rock fare, the rest of the album is undoubtably unique in its composition. The Battle of Evermore (possibly my favorite song) was an explicit homage to Middle Earth, and Misty Mountain Hop also makes reference to Plant’s favorite literary land. Going to California is a pleasant yet intricate folk song dedicated to Joni Mitchell, the Canadian singer who supposedly captured the hearts of both Page and Plant. Four Sticks may be the first “math rock” song ever composed, a song so complex that it was only performed by the band once in concert. When the Levee Breaks features explosive drums from John Bonham and fine harmonica work from Plant. Finally, there is Stairway to Heaven, an eight minute long epic with enigmatic lyrics that starts off slowly and builds up to one of the most impressive guitar solos in rock history. If that does not fit the “progressive” mold, then I don’t know what does.

Zeppelin’s repertoire only became more progressive after the immense success of IV. Houses of the Holy featured two more Tolkien-inspired songs: the folk-rock Over the Hills and Far Away, and the haunting No Quarter (my second favorite song). Physical Graffiti not only featured their longest song (In My Time of Dying, eleven minutes), but also perhaps their greatest one: Kashmir, one of the finest progressive rock songs ever composed. Backed by an orchestra, Plant, Page, Bonham, and Jones unleashed in this full scale epic of a far off land, a theme examined by progressive rock groups past and present. Their next album, Presence, although perhaps their weakest, nevertheless featured the powerful (and progressive) opener Achilles Last Stand, as well as the catchy rocker Nobody’s Fault But Mine. Zeppelin’s next and final album (although they did not know it at the time) was perhaps their most progressive. In Through the Out Door is dominated by John Paul Jones’ synthesizers and keyboards, and he is more than a competent keyboardist. His work prior to this album (Trampled Under Foot, No Quarter, The Rain Song) was impressive, but he truly shines on Zeppelin’s last album. In the Evening and Fool in the Rain prove he is no second-rajpjkeyste keyboardist, but it is his frenetic yet dexterous playing on the lengthy and cryptic Carouselambra that helped Jones cement his place as one of the best progressive rock keyboardists of the 1970s. This claim may be a stretch to some, as most associate Jones with the bass guitar, but I would urge the reader to listen to these songs mentioned above in order to appreciate his work on the keys.

After John Bonham’s untimely death in 1980, the band split up, each man going his own direction. Jimmy Page, one of the most versatile guitarists to ever grace the stage, actually teamed up with Chris Squire and Alan White of Yes to form XYZ (X-Yes and Zeppelin). Although the project was aborted after a short time, it nevertheless demonstrated Page’s willingness to work in what could have been a truly “progressive” super-group.

I hope this piece did not drag on too much, but I felt it necessary to delve deep into and explore the fascinating world of Led Zeppelin. Many consider this group to be among the best, if not the best, in rock n’ roll history, but to me they are more than a standard rock n’ roll band. In my book, they were also one of the finest progressive rock bands of all time.

Atropos Project – Equator (2013)

 

Equator“Dead String Scrolls. Bring your own lyrics.” This is how New York musician John Quarles describes his creation, Atropos Project. While purely instrumental “prog,” John draws upon a variety of influences and experiences for his album, Equator. The beauty of this album is that it cannot be pigeonholed into one specific genre or sub-genre of rock. Musically, Atropos Project explores many different aspects of progressive rock.

John began his musical journey when he was in high school, playing drums for a variety of local metal bands. As he grew older, he began trying out different instruments, eventually settling on the guitar as his weapon of choice. Over the course of the last decade or so, through collaborating with other musicians, John began to pick up other instruments as well, including the keyboards. Equator is the product of those experiences. John cites bands such as Rush, Queen, Boston, and Kiss as his early influences, and he cites Opeth, Porcupine Tree, and Radiohead as his more recent influences.

The album itself is strictly instrumental, with all instrumentation performed by John. There have been several good instrumental prog albums the last few years, including Antoine Fafard’s Occultus Tramitis (2013) and The Fierce and the Dead’s Spooky Action (2013). Equator belongs right up there with those two excellent albums. I guess 2013 was the year for great instrumental music.

Across the album, I can hear many different influences, especially, to my ears, Rush. Specifically, more recent Rush. Alex Lifeson has adopted a much heavier style of playing on their last three albums, and much of the guitar work on Equator is reminiscent of that. However, the music shifts stylistically a lot over the album, so it is hard to generalize the album. There are hints of traditional jazz, classic prog, and even new age throughout the album. The beginning of the fifth song on the album, “A Curious Trip,” reminded me instantly of some of the piano work from Mannheim Steamroller’s Fresh Aire I, which is my favorite instrumental album. The seventh song, “Suspiria,” reminded me of the song “Faithless” from Rush’s Snakes and Arrows. The guitar riff is very similar, but you have to “bring your own lyrics.”

If it seems like I’m being rather random in my review of the actual music, it’s because I am. The brilliance of Atropos Project is the music jumps around stylistically, which leaves the listener wondering what is next, eliminating the threat of boredom that can often come with strictly instrumental music. One second you are listening to what approaches metal, and the next second you are in a completely different genre, one that explores acoustics and keyboards. I found the eeriness of the keyboards overplayed with a heavier, steady rock beat in the fourth song on the album, “Spiraling,” to be exceptionally enchanting. Atropos Project does a great job of creating a repeating rhythm, and then completely changing the time signature and style of music right in the middle of the song. It doesn’t get much more prog than that. The overall effect is one that keeps the listener interested and curious about what comes next in the album.

For music that was created entirely by one man, Atropos Project offers an astounding array of styles and influences. Furthermore, John Quarles is an extremely talented musician with every instrument that he plays. Fans of everything from jazz, to Mannheim Steamroller, to Rush should find Equator an excellent album to relax to. If you are a fan of Antoine Fafard’s latest album or The Fierce and the Dead, then definitely add Atropos Project to your listening list.

I had the opportunity to contact John the other day, and he told me that recording is underway for his next album, which is tentatively due out sometime this year. He says that, sonically, it will be a darker album than Equator. I read that as heavier, but I could be completely off on that. Either way, I’m sure it will be good, and I look forward to listening to it.

Check out Atropos Project on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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