This year I have decided to unveil my year-end top 10 lists by following the order of my most frequent listens.
Usually I have preferred not to rank in any order (since being in a top 10 list is arguably enough of a distinction) or to attend to my more subjective emotional and intellectual responses to various features of musical excellence.
But this year (since the times they are a changin’), let’s try something new, and so I have decided to use the simpler and more objective criterion of the sheer quantity of listens.
I was surprised to discover that puts Southern Empire’s Civilisation at the top of the Top 10 Prog list for me. It took awhile for me to be won over fully to this album, but after diligently repeated listens I achieved this, and then continued to return to it again and again, because its four formidable tracks are just so gosh darn good.
“Goliath’s Moon” (9:12) has superb prog music, but the lyrics have always annoyed me as being ridiculously flimsy. I thought that, instead of singing about his stupid “diamond,” the space pirate should rather have been singing about an “angel” that he had been, against his will, compelled to sell into slavery — an action that he, lovesick for her, eternally regrets. In any case, the music is so good, I came to ignore this just complaint of mine, and to simply imagine my own better, more tragic lyrics while listening to it instead.
“Cries for the Lonely” is for me the supreme track. The first few minutes of the track are entirely instrumental, with some of the most thrilling prog of the year. And the excellence continues. Everything is dazzlingly perfect in this 19:13 epic.
“The Crossroads” (29:15) is even more epic and musically diverse. It took me awhile to know and love every bar of it, but there you have it. I listened to it enough times to acknowledge this track for what it is: a tour de force.
“Innocence and Fortune” (10:22) is a very unique song that midway veers off into some pleasingly familiar Genesis territory, in a surprising and delightful turn of events. But, most thrilling of all, is the wild finale, where we get some Dixie Dregs virtuosity, to close out the album, in its very final minutes, with uplifting and transcendent musicality.
Well, I do think I like this new rating system that I am trying out for 2018. And I am most pleased to recommend Southern Empire’s Civilisation to you as my top Top 10 Prog pick of the year. More anon.