The Big 2019 Fall Prog (Plus) Preview!

What new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe or super-deluxe) and tours are heading our way between now and All Hallows Eve?  Check out the exhaustive (and potentially exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with other personal priorities — below.  Click on the titles for pre-order links — whenever possible, you’ll wind up at the online store that gets as much money as possible directly to the musicians.

 

  • August:
    • Dave Kerzner, Static Live Extended Edition: recorded at the 2017 Progstock festival.  Kerzner’s complete Static album in concert, plus selected live highlights & new studio tracks.  Pre-orders ship in late August.
  • August 30:
    • Sons of Apollo, Live with the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony: recorded at Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s Roman amphitheatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (the site of previous live efforts from Anathema and Devin Townsend).  Available in Blu-Ray, 3 CD + Blu-Ray, and 3 CD + DVD + Blu Ray versions.
    • Tool, Fear Inoculum: Tool’s first album in 13 years.  Available via digital download, as well as “a deluxe, limited-edition CD version (which) features a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, 2 watt speaker, a 36-page booklet and a digital download card.”  Really. 

Continue reading “The Big 2019 Fall Prog (Plus) Preview!”

Going All the Way Back With @bigbigtrain

The title of this post is more dramatic than it should be, but I randomly decided to listen to Big Big Train’s first album, Goodbye to the Age of Steam, this afternoon. Early Big Big Train gets very little press these days, yet this album is quite good. There are obvious differences between the Big Big Train of the early 1990s and the Big Big Train of 2019, yet there are still similarities. Spawton’s writing style is instantly familiar, with his lyrics as good as they’ve ever been. The gentle piano moments certainly remain in today’s version of the band, and the guitar work has similarities, even with different musicians. Yes, this album is a bit more synth heavy in places, but that seems to be more of a Neo-prog influence from the 1980s than anything else. The vocal harmonies on “Blow the House Down” are exceptional, reminding me very much of Moon Safari. I’d love it if the band incorporated more of that.

This album is as old as I am, and while I can act like a grumpy old man at times, this album still sounds remarkably fresh. The current iteration of the band has toyed with live re-workings of pre-Longdon songs, such as “Wind Distorted Pioneers” on Stone and Steel and “Summer’s Lease” (off of The Difference Machine) on 2018’s Swan Hunter EP. It was interesting to hear the current version of the band put their own spin on the music, as opposed to creating a verbatim recreation. And so in 2019, the 25th year since the release of Goodbye to the Age of Steam, I would be interested in hearing the band re-visit some of these songs, perhaps in a live setting or a live-in-studio setting.

These are good songs, and they sound great on the original album. Since the band is firing on all cylinders these days, it would be a treat to hear them interpret this music, especially since only one member remains from the 1994 line-up. Imagine what Rachel Hall could add with her violin and her beautiful voice. Think of the brilliant guitar solos Dave Gregory could bring to the table. David Longdon could bring an entirely different sound to these pieces, allowing us to hear them in a whole new light.

Do I think the band will actually do this? Not really. They have so much material from the current version of the band, and they and the fans are much more familiar with those songs. It may not make financial sense for them to spend the time and money to re-visit these early songs, but maybe we will get a couple more re-recorded and re-interpreted over the next few years. Whether the band chooses to celebrate the anniversary of this release or not, it is definitely worth listening to again. Even if it isn’t quite as good as their output over the last decade, it is still a solid album by any prog standards.

In Concert: Jon Anderson’s State of Independence

Jon Anderson, 1000 Hands Tour — 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, August 8, 2019.

The crowd was surprisingly sparse — was every other music fan in town at Sarah MacLachan’s orchestral show?   Regardless, Jon Anderson lit up 20 Monroe Live Thursday night.  Backed by a blazing new band from around the world — four young guns plus four experienced veterans  — Anderson shone brightly throughout an evening of the expected Yes classics, solo career tasters and highlights from his new 1000 Hands, radiating joy and nailing every high note. A former governor of Michigan used to blab on and on about “relentless positive action”; this was two hours of the real thing.

After all, it takes serious confidence to kick off a show with your single biggest hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”.   It takes even more guts to go beyond recreating past glories — as Steve Howe’s version of Yes did so effectively in the same venue a year ago — launch your best-known music off in head-snapping new directions, and keep a crowd of die-hard fans on your side throughout.  But that’s exactly what Anderson and his merry band pulled off.

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Review: Drummond – In Sand

In Sand

Bedroom composing and producing has been on the rise in recent years. Drummond, a young songwriter from NewYork, has just launched his second EP “In Sand” in June.

There’s a real sense of movement in each of the three tracks here. “Submerge” feeds the ear a lovely set of liquid guitar chords, tasty synths and irregular rhythms, while “Root” laces its main melody and harmonies with bustling, positive energy.

The closing title track features extensive lead guitar that complement a busy drum kit and the tracks build confidently rather than hurtling towards their crescendos.

It’s tough to ignore the incredible versatility, technical prowess and emotion in the lead guitar’s phrasings. Talented musicians often overload their music with impressive, yet characterless fretboard acrobatics. Thankfully, Drum does not subject his audience to the same ordeal. The solos are wholesome yet light, devastating yet controlled. His sound is smooth, well-rounded, and, at its core, brimming with delightful energy. The record puts listeners into motion—they can soar and eventually reach a celestial landscape, sweating from the trip and anticipating the next step in this young guitarist’s growth.

For more info about Drummond visit his website.

Richard Henshall Interview: The Progarchy Podcast @RichHaken

Richard Henshall by Anne-Marie Forker-2237

Listen above to the Progarchy Podcast interview with Richard Henshall of Haken.

Henshall takes us track-by-track through his forthcoming solo album The Cocoon.

You will love listening to his inside perspective on the musicians he worked with and all the musical themes and influences on the album.

Look for The Cocoon at the beginning of August. It’s full of thrilling musical explorations that connaisseurs of prog will not want to miss.

The Band
Matt Lynch – Drums
Conner Green – Bass
Richard Henshall – Guitar, keyboards and vocals

Guest Musicians
Ben Levin – Guest vocals on ‘Lunar Room’
Jessica Kion – Guest vocals on ‘Lunar Room’
Ross Jennings – Guest vocals on ‘Twisted Shadows’
Jordan Rudess – Guest keyboard solo on ‘Twisted Shadows’
Marco Sfogli – Guest guitar solo on ‘Lunar Room’
David Maxim Micic – Guest guitar solo on ‘Silken Chains’
Chris Baum – Guest strings on ‘Afterglow’
Adam Carrillo – Guest saxophone on ‘Cocoon’

Music by Richard Henshall
Lyrics by Richard Henshall with the exception of ‘ Lunar Room’ by Ben Levin
Additional drum arrangement by Matt Lynch
Additional bass arrangements by Conner Green
Additional string arrangements by Chris Baum on ‘Afterglow’
Co-produced, reamped, mixed and mastered by Simon Grove at Nerve Studios Additional drum editing by Joe Hamilton
Produced by Richard Henshall
Artwork by Sevcan Yuksel Henshall Portrait painting by Anthony Rondinone

*Correction: Haken L-1VE was actually released in 2018. I mistakenly assumed that because it came before Vector (2018) that it was released in 2017. In fact, they were both released in the same year.

COCOON-COVER

In Concert: Olé ELO!

Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids Michigan, July 23, 2019.

Parsing this band’s name closely pays off.  This isn’t an Electric Light Orchestra reunion by any means; rather, it’s reclusive ELO main man Jeff Lynne, touring North America with the music that made his bones for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Armed with fistfuls of Top 20 hits and key album tracks, Live Nation’s deep pockets, a dozen top-notch hired guns — including progressive rock role players Milton McDonald (Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe) on guitar and Lee Pomeroy (Anderson Rabin & Wakeman, Steve Hackett, It Bites, Headspace) on bass — and visual production rivaling Pink Floyd, Lynne delivered the goods to a pumped-up, near-capacity crowd Tuesday night.  Sure, the show was polished and manicured (and doubtless click-tracked and auto-tuned) within inches of its life — but it was also irresistible to the ears and dazzling to the eyes, an unalloyed pleasure from start to finish.

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Pink Floyd — “Moonhead”

The Moon Landing Inspired Pink Floyd’s Most Overlooked Song

A bluesy, atmospheric piece that the band improvised live on the air during the Apollo 11 mission deserves to be more than a footnote of musical history.

Over the decades, “Moonhead” has remained one of the most overlooked entries in the band’s canon, despite its historic status. Pink Floyd was commissioned by the BBC to perform instrumental music live on the air as the Apollo 11 crew’s video and audio signals came streaming in across the emptiness of space, beating the Soviets at the race that had been spurred on by John F. Kennedy’s rousing moonshot speech in 1962.

Pink Floyd was uniquely qualified for the task.