Fantastic New Music from Independent Artist Dimitri Toonen

Just some first impressions of Dimitri Toonen’s new solo album, Leave My Mind Sometimes. This is some seriously good music. The instruments, vocals, and lyrics feed the emotion in the music to wonderful effect. There is relative simplicity at the individual instrument level, but joined together it is quite beautiful. The music has its quiet and heavy moments. The electric guitar is smooth and calculated without being formulaic, and the acoustic guitar sets the calm moments nicely. I look forward to digging into this some more. In the meantime, check out the music video for “Not Home Today,” and check out the rest of the album for yourself. Full review hopefully forthcoming in the near future.

https://www.dimitritoonen.com

https://www.dimitritoonen.com/leave-my-mind-sometimes/

https://dimitritoonen.bandcamp.com/releases

Steve Hackett Releases a Magnificent Single From Upcoming Acoustic Album

A few days ago Steve Hackett released a music video for his track “Andalusian Heart” off his upcoming acoustic album, Under A Mediterranean Sky. The track is absolutely stunning. For just under six minutes I was able to slow down and be transported to another world. It’s so hard to slow down these days and be present with something. There’s always something that needs to be done, something to worry about, or one more email or twitter feed to scroll through.

The symphonic overtones set the scene, but Hackett’s calm Spanish-influenced guitar is obviously the main attraction. The visuals for the video are quite stunning as well. Well done, Mr. Hackett. Well done. I can hardly wait to hear the rest of the album.

Teenage Head: “Picture My Face”

Check out this brand new, really great Canadian rockumentary about an obscure but classic band. Review snipped below:

The same week Biden was elected, Canada’s TVOntario premiered another excellent documentary via YouTube.

Picture My Face: The Story of Teenage Head looks back at a Canadian garage rock band that achieved gold record success in Canada.

They were on the verge of breaking out in the U.S. market in 1980. But a tragic accident suddenly interrupted their trajectory towards mega-stardom.

Guitarist and songwriter Gord Lewis suffered serious injuries. Although he later returned to the band, they spent the next four decades playing small gigs cross Canada.

In 2008, lead singer Frankie Venom died at 52 from throat cancer, leaving the band reeling in the wake of tragedy yet again.

The documentary begins with a stark juxtaposition. It shows the band in concert at the height of their success, and then in the present day with the band taking a limo ride to visit Frankie’s grave site.

They gaze at the words on Frankie’s tombstone: “Picture My Face.” It’s the name of the band’s smash hit first single, which appeared on their first album in Canada.

But in the documentary the phrase takes on a new meaning. Exploring the impact of death and suffering upon the lives of the band members, it expresses a loving remembrance.

Gord Lewis, still reeling from Frankie’s death and his own automobile accident, is shown struggling with severe depression. The band supplements Gord’s medical treatments with efforts to get Gord to record a new album with them and play live shows.

The documentary chronicles much of this real-life pain and struggle as it happens. We root for the band as Gord plays a triumphant live show again with them at the movie’s end.

The film’s central message is supplied by Gord’s brother, Father David Lewis, interviewed at his parish, St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church.

“I believe in Gord’s calling and I believe in my own,” says Father Lewis. As he listens to Teenage Head’s music on camera, he exclaims, “I love it! Love it. It’s of God! God is part of this.”

Father Lewis explains how he believes rock music “just gives strength.” He also reveals: “Gord and I have lost our parents, so we feel like orphans. And I think Gord felt like that when Frank died.”

The importance of this type of music? “Suffering. It’s about suffering,” announces Father Lewis. “I think that’s what produces rock and roll. You learn how to suffer.”

It’s an impromptu homily on the film’s central theme. “The blues and rock and roll are about suffering and expressing it with hope,” he says.

Eminently worth watching, this documentary will lead you to reflect on the presence of suffering and loss in your own life. Perhaps you’ll even start listening to old records from the 1980s.

https://bccatholic.ca/voices/c-s-morrissey/from-eagle-s-wings-to-garage-rock-music-infuses-suffering-with-hope

Neil Young’s Archives II: The Fourth Dimension

Previous installments in our thrilling saga:

Neil Young tries to sort out the shambles his Archives Volume II pre-order process became one more time, at the NYA Times-Contrarian:

A DELUXE edition with subtle art differences is coming for those who couldn’t get the limited first one because of the demand and shortage. Those who got the first limited one will get a letter of authenticity sent to them. The Deluxe set is coming March 5 2021. I really hope you all enjoy the music as much as we did making it back then.

Love and be well, Neil and NYA

Links to pre-order the Deluxe Edition (which features the “II” in red, for the same price as the sold-out Limited Deluxe Edition) and the Retail Edition (smaller box, smaller book, $90 less) from Young’s online store The Greedy Hand are now active.

So what have we learned from all this?

  • If you’re Neil Young, you’ve learned that these days it takes a minimum of four months for a second pressing of a box set, no matter how loudly you complain to your record company;
  • If you’re Warner Reprise, you’ve learned that Neil Young will never, ever let go of a bright idea unless he does so on his own — so for pity’s sake, don’t tell him something can’t be done;
  • If you’re a Neil Young fanatic, you’ve learned never to pay $3000 for a Limited Deluxe Edition on eBay — you never know what might happen;
  • If you’re me — well, at least I’ve learned I don’t have to wait four months for my copy. Just don’t expect me to frame my Certificate of Authenticity!

— Rick Krueger

Transatlantic Announce New Album: “The Absolute Universe”

This is probably old news to you by now, but Transatlantic announced their latest album, The Absolute Universe, is coming out in February on an abridged version and an extended version. I’m sure we’ll have more to say about that once we get a chance to hear both versions, but for now check out the press release:

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on February 5th, 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD,” adds Trewavas. “What’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that contains a 5.1 surround sound mix with visuals & a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have unique artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard. The full list of formats is below, and pre-orders start on the 20thNovember:‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’Special Edition CD DigipakGatefold 2LP+CDDigital Album‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’Special Edition 2CD Digipak3LP+2CD BoxsetDigital Album‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster
Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”“What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.”This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?“I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album  (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards.
TRANSATLANTIC online:
https://www.transatlanticweb.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TransatlanticMusic/
www.instagram.com/transatlanticofficial
www.twitter.com/transatlantic99

A Life of Miracles: Kerry Livgren and the Art of Storytelling

Mircales Out of Somewhere book coverKerry Livgren has long been one of my favorite guitarists and lyricists. Next to Rush, Kansas was one of the first prog bands I ever heard. I think my first prog concert may have been Kansas (minus Livgren). I was so fascinated by Livgren and his conversion-to-Christianity-story that I wrote a paper about him for Dr. Brad Birzer’s Christian Humanism course in college in the fall of 2015. Besides Livgren’s magnificent lyrics, I also drew heavily from his autobiography, Seeds of Change, for that paper.

Back in August of this year, Livgren self-published, via his Numavox label, a new book entitled Miracles Out of Somewhere. It isn’t a typical memoir or autobiography. It does not follow a chronological structure. Rather it is a collection of 40+ short personal stories that demonstrate examples of miraculous events in Livgren’s life. Most chapters are dedicated to one story, but there are some that contain multiple brief stories centered around one theme.

Stories range from what might be considered coincidences all the way to full-blown “only God could have done this” miracles. I had known about Livgren’s 2009 stroke, but I never knew how serious it was. The doctors told him it was as bad a stroke as a human could have. The initial brain scans after the stroke showed that half his brain tissue died. Brain scans taken two years later showed the majority of that tissue was alive and perfectly healthy. Even the doctor didn’t believe the medical explanation he came up with to explain it to fellow medical professionals. Livgren still struggles with some issues related to the stroke (he had to find a new way to play “Dust in the Wind” for an appearance with Kansas last year), but for the most part he made a miraculous recovery.

The book ends with excerpts from the last few years of his journal entries as his wife dealt with an equally serious health crisis: breast cancer and heart failure caused by the cancer treatment. The surgeries and treatments worked for the cancer, but her heart was initially left in very poor shape. But, just eleven months ago they found out her heart is now completely normal after she almost needed a heart transplant eight months earlier.

Stories range to the more lighthearted as well, such as Kerry’s first time driving the Kansas tour bus after he joined the band in their early days. The steering barely worked, and the brakes were almost non-existent. After cresting a hill they found themselves hurtling towards a freight train, forcing Kerry to stand on the brake pedal with all his weight. The bus stopped a mere three feet from the tracks. Robby Steinhardt caught the whole thing on audio recording, but sadly that tape is gone.

The story about Livgren being reunited with his “Dust in the Wind” guitar a few years back, after selling it decades ago, is also a fun story, as is the one about Kansas’ first LA party with industry bigwigs. Dave Hope decided to jokingly mock a girl with a Farrah Fawcett hairdo, so he shouted “Hey Farrah.” The girl turned around, and she turned out to be Farrah Fawcett.

Miracles out of Somewhere is hard to put down. Livgren’s writing is so inviting. I felt like I was having a conversation with him. Since the stories are arranged in no particular order, the book jumps around a lot. As such it helps to have a basic knowledge of Livgren’s life and the history of Kansas. Even so that isn’t required to make this an enjoyable read. The storytelling is so good that the reader is quickly drawn in and taken back in time.

Livgren’s faith is intimately embedded in these stories, but I wouldn’t call this a religious book. He’s just telling the stories from his perspective, and his faith is inseparable from that perspective. As a Christian myself I can’t help but appreciate that aspect of the stories, but even if you’re not a Christian, don’t let that stop you from reading this book. If you’re a fan of Kansas and Livgren, you’ll enjoy it.

The book itself is just a simple paperback, likely printed by a print shop near Livgren’s home in Kansas (it’s also available as an ebook). Perhaps it lacks from some grammatical editing that a publisher’s editor could’ve added, but we’re talking about a periodic missing apostrophe and a run-on sentence here and there. As it is, the book has the charm of someone writing these stories out as-is and sending them to you. In a way it made Livgren feel closer than if the book was highly polished by a big-name publisher.

For less than $15 (a little more if you live outside the US – for international shipping) this book is a bargain. It’s only $4 for the ebook. With everything going on I found it to be a welcome escape to a seemingly simpler time (no era is ever as simple as it can seem in hindsight). Some of the stories are heavy, but the miracles God has worked in Kerry’s life bring a smile to my face and peace to my heart. If you’re sick of the negativity and want rest for your soul… well, Kerry would be the first one to tell you to turn to Jesus. But after you’ve done that, give Miracles Out of Somewhere a go. It’s a must-read for Kansas fans, and it’ll brighten your day.

Buy a physical copy from Numavox: https://www.numavox.com/cd.htm

Ebook from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Miracles-Out-Somewhere-Kerry-Livgren-ebook/dp/B08HL9Y9M8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Kerry+Livgren&qid=1604263632&sr=8-1

A Quick Progarchy Update

Good evening everyone. This is just a quick update to announce that Rick Krueger is now an editor here at Progarchy, joining myself and C. S. Morrissey. Rick will now be running our Facebook account, since he’s the only one of the three of us brave enough to enter that lion’s den. Thanks, Rick!

We’ve also changed our Contact page. Instead of having a separate email address that you’d have to type into your browser, we’ve added a contact form you can fill out directly on the page. We’re hoping this streamlines things and makes it easier for artists and labels to contact us. If you already have a direct email contact with us that you consistently use, then keep communicating with us that way.

We also turned our “Choice Cuts” page into a more general “About” page, moving some info from the old Contact page to this page. We still have a list of our favorite posts that we think welcomes newcomers to our site to help them understand what we’re all about here.

We’ve been up and running for eight years this month, and we’re so happy to have you as our readers. We love this music, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to tell people about it. Prog on!

Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to Us

“Is it a letter to your younger self?” I ask. “Is it to your children? Your wife? Your fans? To me?” Springsteen chuckles at the question: “It’s to you! It’s a letter to you! Whoever is listening. And, yeah, it is a summing up of what I’ve tried to do over the course of my 45, 50 years now, working.”

— Bruce Springsteen, interviewed by the American Association of Retired Persons magazine

Scoff if you will at the idea of Bruce Springsteen talking to AARP – but he is 71 now. And as I get closer to 60 than to 50, I’ve started to resonate, ever so gradually, with the ideas of summing up and finishing strong. Between my childhood love of the Beatles and my late adolescent discovery of prog rock, Born to Run was an early personal milestone: an album with operatic musical ambition, a formidable grasp of rock history, and a yearning to explore the ins and outs of freedom and community, their costs and their consolations. (It’s also the first album I remember wanting after I read about it, in Newsweek’s infamous cover story; thinking about it, that might be when my itch to write about music started.)

As Springsteen’s career flared, climbed, peaked, then settled into the after-life of a legacy rock star, he’s never really stopped exploring those core concerns, whether his immediate subject matter was escape, desperation, love, abandonment, friendship, loss, grief or jubilation. The good news is that Letter to You dives into all this and more, remembering friends now dead, reviving songs once abandoned, and — the best part — rocking out with a rejuvenated E Street Band.

The death of lifelong friend George Theiss left Springsteen as the last living member of his first band, The Castiles. That and the gift of an acoustic guitar from a fan inspired a weeklong burst of writing, followed by five days of live-on-the studio-floor recording. These new songs are urgent, forward looking yet haunted by the past; but they also revel in gratitude for the moment and for the memories of those no longer around. The performances range from hushed to full-out, crossing the boundaries of folk, country, blues, the British Invasion and more; a mix of old and new bandmates are at the ready with guitars that chime and growl, churchy keyboard work ranging from Gothic to gospel, rhythm section grooves spanning the subtle and the bombastic, and much, much more.

The E Streeters are in full flight throughout, no matter the dynamic and the mood, smoothly gliding behind Springsteen on the folky opener “One Minute You’re Here” and the R&B-inflected love song “The Power of Prayer,” then soaring in a magnificent meld of The Byrds’ jangle and the Band’s grit on the cowboy gallop “Burning Train” and the transcendent rocker “Ghosts.” The early Springsteen songs “Janey Needs A Shooter,” “If I Was the Priest” and “Song for Orphans” show that the man’s surreal wordplay earned his early “new Dylan” hype, and the band backs him with full-on psychedelic blues rock, the “wild mercury sound” the actual Dylan talked about back in his heyday.

And through all of this, Springsteen — looking back on a world-conquering career, 30 years of marriage, the raising of three now-grown children, and looking toward what comes next — grounds himself where he always has: on the power of music to connect with others and tell their stories back to them, with each side of the conversation reflecting the other . . .

Rock of ages lift me somehow / Somewhere high and hard and loud / Somewhere deep into the heart of the crowd / I’m the last man standing now

“Last Man Standing”

. . . on music’s vast potential to create, support and sustain community, even if it’s a community of lost souls, brought together for one night only . . .

Here the bitter and the bored / Wake in search of the lost chord / That’ll band us together as long as there’s stars / Here in the house of a thousand guitars

“House of A Thousand Guitars”

. . . on rich, unsparing empathy for the faces in the crowd, even the ones who’ve made bad bets, or trusted the wrong people.

They come for the smile, the firm handshake / They come for the raw chance of a fair shake / Some come to make damn sure, my friend / This mean season’s got nothing to do with them / They come ’cause they can’t stand the pain / Of another long hot day of no rain / ‘Cause they don’t care or understand / What it really takes for the sky to open up the land

“Rainmaker”

But there’s also something fresh here, and it’s what lifts Letter to You above standard-issue Bruce. In both “Ghosts” and the album’s moving finale, Springsteen sings to the ones who’ve died while pondering his own horizon, facing the homestretch of his life with a hope that disavows denial or facile optimism. (Possibly one rooted in his Catholic background?) It’s a hope that points toward life after death, but also asserts that the dead still live on, here and now, in the memories of those they loved:

I’ll see you in my dreams / When all our summers have come to an end / I’ll see you in my dreams / We’ll meet and live and laugh again / I’ll see you in my dreams / Up around the riverbend / For death is not the end / I’ll see you in my dreams

“I’ll See You in My Dreams”

And while the album was done and dusted before coronavirus reshaped the landscape, there’s another promise implicit in it all:

“All I can tell you is, when this experience is over, I am going to throw the wildest party you’ve ever seen. And you, my friends, are all invited.”

Bruce talking to the AARP

Consider Letter to You Bruce Springsteen’s reminder to save the date for that party, as well as one of his finest efforts — in my mind, ranking up there with Born to Run, Tunnel of Love, The Rising and Working On A Dream. When the man has something big to write about, he can cut straight to your heart, even from a secluded home studio in deepest New Jersey, and he’s done it again here. With the E Street Band on fire behind him, Letter to You could be the basis of a tour to top them all for Springsteen; but even if that never comes to pass, this album is something special, a hard-rocking reminder that yes, our days on this earth are numbered — but also that love is strong as death.

Listen to Letter to You on Spotify.

(This review is dedicated to the memory of my parents Carl & Carol Krueger, who bought me Born to Run for my 14th birthday.)

— Rick Krueger