Returning from a long sleep – the best of 2014 in Prog

2014 was a great year for Progressive Rock –  FACT!

There is already a sentiment around and about that last year was in many ways better on the Prog scene than this one. A statement that is bound to cause some interesting discussion around the social networks and in the many, many top ten blogs that fill our lives at this time of year. I have many great reasons why I dispute that statement and it is pleasing to report at the end of another year, Prog is in fact in even better health than ever and keeps gaining in strength.

Working on another well known Dutch page for reviews in 2014 along with Progarchy has given me a great deal of music to review and compare so these albums have been exceptional in their ability to rise to the top of a very large pile of music this year.

So without much ado, here are just the best three albums that have had some heavy rotation this year.

Number Three:

Robert Reed: Sanctuary
Robert Reed - Oldfield at its Best
Without doubt one of the most beautiful crafted albums that has come along for years. Sanctuary makes no excuses for its heritage and openly embraces the fact that it is a dedication or homage to the great ‘Tubular Bells’. Many of its rhythms and much of its structure harks closely to Oldfield’s classic album and at first it is easy to dismiss this release as nothing more than a clever pastiche. However the level of musicianship and writing on this album belies that opinion and demonstrates a real commitment to a bold idea. This is no nod towards a great album in the way so many artists channel Floyd or Genesis…this is a good as anything Oldfield could ever produce. The great thing is that this album has legs and will keep on opening up its beauty over many listens. The challenge will always be for Reed to maintain this standard, above and beyond his love of Oldfield.

Number Two:  

Brimstone: Mannsverk

Brimstone, previously known as The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band have producBrimstone - mannsverked an exceptional album of flair and vitality which criminally seems to have largely gone unnoticed for the most part. Full of weirdness and wonderful vibe this is a psychedelic marvel that is packed with originality and marvellously catchy tunes.
At its best there is the fantastically titled – ‘Flapping Lips at Ankle Height’ – an upbeat tune which chugs with a similar pace and feel to Emerson Lake and Palmer’s, ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’ largely thanks to some amazing rhythmic bass which provides a powerful backdrop for a psychedelic wall of sound.
It would seem that with the likes of Ossicles and Brimstone, Norway has much to offer musically and may also be the most over looked country when it comes to output. This is heartily recommended and was my top album of the year until the release of the album to come….

Number One:

Abel Ganz: Abel Ganz

Some things in life are worth waiting for, even if the wait seems to last for an eternity. Ab
Six years is a long time in music, and with the departure of two founders members it seemed that Abel Ganz may have finally run its course after their last release ‘Shooting Albatross’ . Yet the core essence of the band remained and with a solid 70 minutes of gorgeously crafted songs written and an equally impressive production, Abel Ganz have produced the album of their career.

Full of epic multi-part prog goodness and fused with gentle folk and country and more than a little slice of their Scottish homeland, there is the overriding conclusion that this is something quite special. This collection of songs is not only a winner from start to finish, it is sumptuously packaged and expertly produced and as close to a modern day classic as you are ever likely to get. It is the best release of the year hands down.

As ever, these are struggling artists who make this music because they love to do it, not for financial gain or fortune. All of these bands have gone in with the eyes and their wallets open in the hope of delivering something special. To keep this alive, if you can, please visit their sites and check out their music and take a chance on it.

Happy Christmas and here’s to another great year of Prog rock – 2015!

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