Anticipating a Lordly Tangent

Last year’s masterpiece. A masterpiece not just of the year, but of Third Wave prog.

As I posted yesterday at progarchy, Andy Tillison has announced his agreement with Insideout (ongoing, of course) to release the new The Tangent album in 2015.

Inside Out MusicConsidering the sheer gravitas that surrounds every single thing Andy Tillison, this is vitally important news to those of us who love and cherish prog.  For all intents and purposes, Andy is the embodiment of Third Wave prog.  He is at the very least A Mr. Prog if not THE Mr. Prog.  Given Andy’s own political sympathies (though not cultural and artistic ones!) with egalitarianism, I won’t offend him by labeling him Lord Prog.  But, political views aside, why not?  His title is one of merit, not birth.  By birth, he’s the product of the dissidence of dissent.  Amen.  By merit, though: Lord Prog fits.

I’m one of the very fortunate human beings who served as a “beta tester” during the writing of this most current album.  I’m not worthy, but I’m deeply honored.  When I told my wife with all the enthusiasm that any good bubble-gum chewing Kansas boy naturally possesses (Gee, whiz!  Golly!), she just knowingly smiled and said, “See?”

Yes, I’m admittedly rather proud to be a part of the process, no matter how small or unworthy.  After all, how many persons in history have been allowed to participate—no matter how marginally or, God forbid, tangentially (sorry—couldn’t resist!)—with the art created by their personal heroes?  After all, who among us would give much to have sat in C.S. Lewis’s rooms on a Thursday night in 1946, listening to Tolkien read his latest chapter of The Lord of the Rings and meditating upon all that is mythic in this rather fallen world?

This is how I felt when Andy asked me?  I just, more or less, walked around with a stupid grin.

By agreement with Andy—standard for beta-testers in all things—I don’t want to give too much away.  But, I did receive a note from him on Monday letting me know that I was now ok to mention that I’d heard the earliest demo version of the album.  So, I’ll offer a few thoughts, generally spoiler free.  Also, please note: these are merely my observations.  I don’t know if Andy would agree or not.  So, these are my words—right or wrong—not Andy’s.  And, of course, I only heard the demo version, not something even close to the final version recorded with band and in studio.  Still, for those of you who love The Tangent as I have for 11 years now, you know that Andy is incapable of pursuing imperfection.  Even his “demos” have all the meaning and purpose and sense of completion that most artists only achieve in the absolute final moments of a major project, after a 100 people have perfected the thing.  Andy is a Century of Artists possessing one body and one soul.

Here are the notes (somewhat edited—to take out track titles, etc.) from my first listens.

This is brilliant, all the way around.  What I especially like is how much the new album—that is, the songs I’ve heard—contrasts with as well as completes last year’s album.

Last year, Andy produced an album that offered serious social criticism by looking from a fixed point (the actual, physical church—sorry I can’t remember the name right now).  Every thing passed by Andy, and he observed it all.  Then, he went into Google Earth and saw it all from the bird’s eye view.  But, even there, he looked down on the same fixed point, all organized chaos swirling around the church, all clockwork.  And, of course, he tied everything back to the modernism of 1913, noting the good and the bad of modernity.  In the end, next to the criticism, Andy offered a stoic resignation.

With this album (title yet?), he has done something very different.  Rather than looking from a fixed point, Andy’s allowed himself to wonder the globe, to explore, and to experience, even if only in imagination (which, after listening to The Tangent faithfully for 11 years, I know to be rather fertile!).  Though there’s cultural criticism (all good, especially against superficiality and conformity) on this album, there’s also an abundance of hope and playfulness.

Not surprisingly, Andy throws in a lot of jazzy moments—some jazz from the 1920s, some from the 1950s, and some from the early 1970s.  As to the songs, musically and lyrically, I used the following descriptives: sultry, epiphanic, triumphal, gracious, hopeful, joyous.

So much cooler than Nieztsche.  Andy, a god among gods.
So much cooler than Nieztsche. Andy, a god among gods.

So, from my perspective, the genius has revealed his talent yet again.  I, for one, am thrilled not just because I got to play the smallest of roles in its creation, but, far more importantly, because Andy’s talent continues to humble me.  And, especially, he continues to remind me that excellence, brilliance, and–dare I say it?–love can change the world.


If you’re interested in joining the official discussion regarding the new The Tangent album, Andy has created a forum here:


Progarchy has looked at Andy’s work a number of times.


The Music That Died Alone

A Moveable Feast

Snow Goose is No Turkey

The Big Big Tangent

The Genius Rages

3 thoughts on “Anticipating a Lordly Tangent

  1. Zybin

    I’m sorry but I have I understood this post correctly? I’m a fan of The Tangent for many years and this post makes me wonder about a thing or two. Is Andy sending demos to you? Why is that? Is it just to let you know what he’s been up to, or is it for your approval?

    “I’m one of the very fortunate human beings who served as a “beta tester” during the writing of this most current album.”
    “I, for one, am thrilled not just because I got to play the smallest of roles in its creation”

    To me it seems that you have a hand in the creation of Andy’s next album. And this is to me extremely worrisome. I, too, love Andy’s music but I would in no way like to play a role when he creates his music. I think Andy’s music should be entirely up to him. Only he should decide where his muse takes him. I think it is wrong for anyone musician to cater to the tastes of fans before their work is published, because the minute opinions are sought, the art is contaminated and not a true representation of the artist’s original intent.

    I find this very saddening. How will I now approach the next Tangent album in 2015? If social criticism is held back compared to earlier albums – is that because of Beta Testers who didn’t agree? Or is it because Andy isn’t passionate anymore? If social critique does run as a theme, how much of that critique is held back due to the sensitivites of Beta Testers? What was OK’d and what was denied?

    For instance, Andy is an atheist and it is not far-fetched to think that he has something not very positive to say about religion. But if that particular muse inspires him to voice those opinions, will there then be a little winged Progarchangel sitting on his right shoulder telling him, “no, that has to go”? (I must admit I have been hoping that he would touch upon this subject ever since he proposed to Neal Morse that they make an album based on their different view.)

    What if Andy has in him a concept album describing his journey from a good Anglican godfearing boy to a person who has freed himself of the mind-forged manacles of religion? A Pilgrim’s Regress maybe? But would he even ponder that concept knowing that Beta Testers would be offended?

    No, I must say this whole Beta Tester is a bad idea. The minute somebody points out something that they find unconvincing, offensive, bad or sucking, an idea has been sown in the artists head and he’ll change his art accordingly, whether consciously or subconsciously and his art is contaminated.

    I love Andy Tillison and I hate the idea that he is somehow constrained in his art by people who are so far removed from his mind and thought. I want my Andy Tillison to be unfettered and unshackled.


    1. Zyborg, thanks for this. Please forgive a quick response–but I really don’t think you have anything to worry about. I have absolutely no idea how to answer this except to state: 1) the tag “beta tester” was a joke; 2) art is relational, not individual (but, I’m a T.S. Eliot guy–so take this for what it’s worth); 3) I can’t imagine Andy ever backing down on his principles in any way, shape, or form; and 4) he was once a good Congregationalist boy–heir to the Roundheads. Thanks. Yours, Brad


  2. Zybin

    Thank you Brad for allowing my post. Two points: (2) Even though the tern “beta tester” was a joke it still holds that Andy runs his ideas past a selected few. The term is irrelevant, I think. (3) I, on the other hand, CAN imagine Andy backing down on his principles, just like any normal person would do if there is enough push-back on any stated idea. That’s the problem for me. “Andy, that lyric in trach 2 is not good.” “OK, I’ll change it then”.

    What is the reason for getting input from friends and fans if not to change the product into something with a greater general appeal?

    But ultimately, what do I know? If this is how bands go about it these days, so be it. I had this romatic notion that a Tangent album was 100 per cent Diskddrive, true to his ideals and intentions. Thanks again for the reply, I won’t press this issue further.



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