Blog Archives

RUSH and the Western Tradition

Freedman's book on the meaning of Rush.  I've loving this book--BB

Freedman’s book on the meaning of Rush. I’m loving this book–BB

Rush’s lyrics over the decades put its point of view firmly in the great Western intellectual tradition of Aristotle, John Locke, and Adam Smith. So when you listen to the band’s 165 original compositions, you’re hearing the same ideas that animated Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson—only a lot louder.


Billy Reeves Strikes Again!

Kscope, Podcast 56, and Billy Reeves.

Kscope, Podcast 56, and Billy Reeves.

I must happily admit, every month I really look forward to iTunes informing me that a new Billy Reeves/Kscope Podcast has arrived in my podcast box (“area”? I have no idea what it’s called–something in iTunes).  This month’s–no. 56–is especially good.

Make sure you check it out.  It features music and news from Lunatic Soul, NAO, Iamthemorning, Anathema, and Steven Wilson.

Steve Babb’s Lay of Lirazel

The Lay of Lirazel by Steve Babb.

The Lay of Lirazel by Steve Babb.

Steve Babb’s rather stunning Lay of Lirazel (closely related to the story as told in Glass Hammer’s Inconsolable Secret) is now available as an ebook.  Only $2.99 at amazon.  Well worth it!  It’s a gorgeous story.

Pledge for Lifesigns

Dear progarchists,

I received a very kind (every note from John is kind!) note from John Young yesterday.  He and his band, Lifesigns, have decided to raise money for their forthcoming CD/DVD.  I can’t encourage this enough.  Why?

1.  These are great, great guys, and their music is equally great.  Melodic prog–gorgeous compositions and equally gorgeous vocals.  Viva, Lifesigns!

2.  Every one of us knows how quickly the music market is changing and has been over the past two decades.  The explosion of the internet has undermined record companies.  This, to my mind, is ultimately a good.  Good riddance to corporatizing music.  But, it also means that we as fans and consumers must support the music we love in every way possible.  I will go as far as to claim we have a duty to make the new world work and work well.

3.  Forgive me for being a historian, but I can’t help but note that the greatest art of western civilization prior to the 19th century was through a patron.  Sculpture, painting, and music all came from a charitable aristocrat.  That world has long gone.  As the western world democratized–prior to being corporatized in the early 20th century–art came from subscription.  The corporate may rule much of the western world (blech!), but it most certainly does NOT have to rule us.

4.  progarchy has proudly thrown whatever influence it has toward supporting the present and future of metal, Leah McHenry, and she was able to raise $50,000 for your forthcoming album.  We’ve done much the same for Andy Tillison, though he is, thankfully backed by a good label.  Again, very proudly.

5.  I would like us to do the same for John and co.  Lifesigns is more than worth supporting.  So, please go to the link below, click it, and give what you can.


Brad Birzer

P.S.  To make all of this even more glorious, Lifesigns will donate a portion of what they raise to “Save the Children.”  Win, win.

The first album was nothing short of glorious.  Let's help make the next release equally so.

The first album was nothing short of glorious. Let’s help make the next release equally so.


John Young

here from Lifesigns, please excuse the generic letter but we need your help.

We hope you enjoyed our first album, and we are pleased to announce that we are looking at further writing and recording in the months to come.

We decided the best way forward is crowdfunding. As such YOU become our record company and give us the freedom to make the music we believe in, unhindered by industry opinions and trends.  To this end it is vital that we work with the friends and fans who appreciate our efforts.

You can pre-order anything from the download to the DVD/CD. Should you wish you can even become an executive producer the choice is yours.

It should be quite a ride:-)

To pre-order/pledge for our new DVD please feel free to join us


kindest wishes

John Young, Frosty Beedle, Steve Rispin, Jon Poole and Niko Tsonev.

You are no. 6.

You are no. 6.

The Highlands are Alive with the Sound of NAO


A review of North Atlantic Oscillation, The Third Day (Kscope; October 2014).

Tracks: Great Plains II; Elsewhere; August; A Nice Little Place; Penrose; Do Something Useful; Wires; Pines of Eden; Dust; and When to Stop.

NAO: Sam Healy (lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards; Ben Martin (drums); and Chris Howard (bass).  The Third Day mixed by Sam Healy.  Artwork by Ross Macrae and Brendan McCarthy.

Highest recommendation.


What do you do with a problem like Sam Healy? Queue image of an Irishman-turned-Scotsman dancing around a high mountain top. Oh, and did I mention, he’s really, really smart? That is, really, really smart. Or, did I mention this already?

Of the many joys of editing progarchy for the past two years, one of the greatest has been getting to know a whole slew of truly creative, interesting, serious, perfectionist artists. Of those who reside at the very top of the top—at least in this editor’s not so humble opinion—sits Healy, dressed as an Austrian nun or not. His correspondence reveals that Sam always has that twinkle, that spark in his eye and soul. Though, he doesn’t believe in the latter, it’s there in abundance.

When I received a review copy of The Third Day, North Atlantic Oscillation’s latest aural ecstasy, I scratched my head, a little confused. This isn’t the first time I’ve been a bit perplexed by NAO’s music. When I first received a copy of the band’s second album, Fog Electric, I set it aside for a while as I just didn’t understand what it was trying to accomplish. When I picked it up again, months after its release, I realized how brilliant it was. It hit me over the head, truly a Eureka! moment. For some reason, it just took some time and several listens “to get it.” Now that “I get it,” I regard it as one of the finest albums I’ve heard in my almost four decades of listening to rock music.

This wasn’t the case, for whatever reason, when I first listened to NAO’s Grappling Hooks. That first album by the band grabbed me from the opening moments. I found it as enticing as possibly imaginable. What attracted me most to Grappling Hooks was the way in which Healy’s voice matched the music—and the music, Healy’s voice—so perfectly. The vocals sound like some of the best of early rock—the rock of my mom’s generation, the late 1950s—but mixed with the complicated and layered sonic delights made possible only by the most modern production and engineering. And, certainly, the unique quality of Sam’s ear. Well, the two of them.

Of course, there’s always the flow of the music as well. This matters for any band and any album, but none more so than for NAO. The secret to each of the band’s albums is figuring out the flow of the thing. Why did the band place this song next to this song? Or that song next to that song? Sometimes—in fact, quite often—NAO loves throwing in a curve ball, especially when the music pretends to change tracks. When you look at the chronometer, though, you quickly realize what you thought to be a track change was merely (and, by merely, I mean with genius) a shift in time signature or in the mood of a single piece. How often has it happened that I’ve looked down to see what the “new track” is called only to see the track information indicating there is still two or three minutes left of the piece you had thought had already flown by.

As evidence for the deep mystery and flow of each NAO album, simply check out the album cover of the forthcoming The Third Day.

NAO, The Third Day (Kscope, 2014).

NAO, The Third Day (Kscope, 2014).

What’s going on here? Pagan, zodiac, Plotinian, and Christian symbols intermixed (intermixing?) on some kind of biotechnology. Layers, of course, but with the infinite loop pointing us toward . . . well, whatever is beyond infinity. Only Buzz Lightyear and William Shatner really know. Under the DaVinci-esque biotech sundial doobob is a flat, Jonathan Ive type computer chip. Add in Hugh Syme-like characters and fonts from the previous two Rush albums, and you might—just maybe—start to understand the convoluted riddle that is a NAO album. I’m getting a bit dizzy just looking at the image.

Steady, Birzer, steady.

Well, I must admit, I was even more perplexed by The Third Day than by Fog Electric. I wanted so badly to like it when the review copy landed in my inbox. After all, I really like NAO and Sam. But, my reaction was somewhat muted. What was going on? It all sounded a bit “samey” to me (I’m having a hard time writing this now, as I’m laughing that it ever sounded “samey”; and, by the way is “samey” even a word?). As with Fog Electric, The Third Day took about a month and a number of listens for me to absorb. Now, though, I think I “get it.” In fact, it’s mind-bogglingly good.

Far from the neoterist “samey” the album is complex, musically as well as lyrically. It is brilliant, stunning, and glowing. While I like the entire album, tracks 6 through 10 are especially good. Far more than on the first two albums, NAO wears its influences a bit more openly on this album and especially with these last five songs. Elements of Radiohead and the Beatles emerge without trepidation. Whereas I thought Anathema almost mimicked Radiohead on their latest release, NAO honors them on The Third Day. If anything, the homage paid to Radiohead and the Beatles only increases my respect for the complete honesty of Healy and co.

Well, I’ve gone on long enough. My summary—buy the album as soon as you possibly can. NAO is, unquestionably, one of the most important and most interesting bands on the current scene. Sam Healy and co. are the future of our beloved genre.

North Atlantic Oscillation: AUGUST

nao cover THE THIRD DAY

Praise of Caesar or the month or both?  I’m not sure.  Regardless, an incredible track from an equally inspiring album and always thoughtful and masterful band.  Enjoy track three from the forthcoming THE THIRD DAY.

The Mighty Handful!

A huge thanks to Gary Mackenzie for the incredibly nice and thoughtful note and for the first installment of STILL SITTING IN DANNY’S CAR.

It just arrived safely and somewhat wondrously at progarchy’s AllThing in Longmont, Colorado.  Eager to listen. . . .

The Mighty Handful.  Of what, I'm not sure.  But, I'm excited to find out.

The Mighty Handful. Of what, I’m not sure. But, I’m excited to find out.

Big Big Train Go Live

BBT live

You may have heard the news already. . . in fact, I’m guessing almost no one in the prog world has NOT heard the news. . . . but tickets for Big Big Train live, King’s Place, August 14-15, 2015, have gone on sale.  To purchase your tickets, go here:

As most of you probably know, started, in very large part, as an unofficial fan site for BBT, so we’re especially proud of the band and their desire to explore their music in a live setting.

[My own desire was for them to come to the U.S., but I'm happy to have them play live anywhere.  I worry a bit that I might have played a role in their deciding to play in the U.K. rather than the U.S.  Several years ago, I made Greg Spawton promise that if they played live in the U.S., they would do so sporting ZZTop beards as well as offering a performance of a double-length BBT blow out version of 2112.  It's quite possible that my then-forced promises are coming back to haunt me.--ed.]

Seriously, what wonderful news.  Passengers (that is, the name of BBT fans on Facebook) have flooded Greg Spawton’s announcement of the sale, which he posted 20 hours ago.  Considering that BBT represents the highest and best not only of the prog tradition, but of the rock and bardic traditions, the outpouring of enthusiasm from the prog world is quite understandable.

War Sucks

rush wind blows the wayAs an editor of, I have absolutely no right to publish this.  In fact, when the four founders of progarchy created the thing–almost exactly 2 years ago–we decided to avoid as much as possible the topics of politics and religion.  Each of us is a writer, and we spend way too much of our professional lives “talking” politics and religion to let either seep into our leisure activities.

But, here I am, breaking a cardinal rule.

I’m so, so sick of war.  I just recently turned 47, and almost all of my adulthood has seen my own country involved in some kind of war–here, there, everywhere.

My home country, the grand republic of the United States of America?  Well, we create and sell nearly 70% of the arms that exist in the world, and we have troops stationed (at various levels) in 150 out of nearly 200 countries.  What began as a noble experiment has been corrupted, abused, and destroyed from our own so-called leaders.  Bastards all.

In particular, I offer the nastiest gesture I can think of to the last four presidential administrations.

Neal Morse News

Hello all,

Greetings from Neal! I’d like to invite you to join me in a LIVE Q&A SESSION, TOMORROW (9/26/14), 10am (CST). I’ll be here: on Radiant Record’s Facebook page eagerly waiting to hear all of your questions about Morsefest! And hopefully, will be able to provide you with some answers as well. Get your questions ready! I look forward to chatting with you about this exciting event!

For the first time ever, you can join Neal in his home town for a two-day music festival! Special guests, like Mike Portnoy, will be joining Neal in performances of the entire “One” and “Testimony 1″ albums. Hear the music in the very place it was inspired! This weekend will be full of legendary status events such as:

  • an exclusive, free INNER CIRCLE ONLY acoustic set
  • VIP Meet and Greet with Neal and special guests
  • VIP contest of “Name that Tune” – PROG style with Mike Portnoy
  • special prizes… and so much more!

This is sure to be a once in a lifetime event that you do not want to miss! Make your travel plans to Nashville now for November 14-15!


Tickets on sale now at Radiant

(details here)

God bless,

Neal Morse


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