A Partridge & Some Monkees…in a Prog Tree??

Good Times! (The Monkees) (Front Cover).jpg  Image may contain: 1 person, sunglasses

As December 31st draws closer and the days to add my own “Top Ten” or “Favorites of 2016” dwindle…it’s time for something completely different (well, not totally, as our hero Dr. B routinely extols, and properly so, the merits of Tears for Fears, XTC, and other notable artists on the “fringe” of prog).

I don’t know about most of you but I still listen to CDs the majority of the time and love having a disc in my car as I drive around–especially summer.  I routinely have my one “Summer Album” that is on constant drive-time rotation.  And though the album is usually prog, this past summer of 2016 my cherished moving music was the splendid album GOOD TIMES.  I highly recommend this work for its pure fun.  Those who were pre-teens when the Monkees hit their peak know what I mean.  The reason for this particular post on Progarchy is to make a tie-in to Brad’s love of the great Andy Partridge.  Mr. Partridge pens the albums second track “You Bring the Summer.”  Micky sings and it’s 1966 all over again.  And check out this wonderful video.  Not prog, sure…but c’mon.

Mellotron set to 11

An Interview with 3rDegree

The band members, 3RDegree

In a perfect world I would just travel to New Jersey and buy the guys numerous “rounds” of their favorite adult beverages as we talk music.  I want everyone not just talking about this band but buying their current album, back catalog, and next release.  Full disclosure dictates that I confess: I love this band and named their 2015 album “Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1” as my favorite prog album of the year.  In that perfect world I would interview Robert & company face to face.  But second best (e-mail/cyber interview) with 3rDegree is still first degree cool!  My “fan-boy” questions (I’m JW for Jay Watson) were graciously answered by most of the band: RJP (Robert James Pashman), PK (Patrick Kliesch), GD (George Dobbs), EP (Eric Pseja), Bryan Zeigler (BZ).

By the way, every true-blue East Coast prog fan needs to know that 3rDegree is playing live in 2016:

May 5: 10th Street Live, Kenilworth, New Jersey (with Circuline and Ryche Chlanda)

May 6: Aspire Hotel, Gettysburg, PA, (RoSfest)

May 19: Drom, New York, NY (with District 97, IZZ, and Tiles)

Continue reading “An Interview with 3rDegree”

One More “Best of 2015” List

I love lists (top 10s, 20s, 100s whatnot) and “best-of” compilations. I think no source has given us a better view of the progressive gems of 2015 than Progarchy. My own opinions are just that—mine. While my “best of” judgment calls are ultimately just my favorite albums from the past year, I think I’ll stick with “best of” rather than “Watson’s Faves.”   The music that you might think should be listed, but doesn’t appear here, more than likely means I just didn’t get a chance to listen to it. Dave Kerzner’s brilliant album is not listed because I view it (and first listened to it) as a 2014 release. I’ll skip posting album jacket photos and links. While the list is for “PROG” I also include a few other categories. It was a great year and this is how I saw it: [counting down in reverse order for greater surprise effect]


  1. Beardfish/ +4626 COMFORTZONE

This band rarely disappoints. The music is riveting only trumped by some profound lyrics.


Morse has the ‘gold-standard’ for constantly producing beautiful and poignant music that emotionally engages the listener. In a less stellar year would be rated higher.

  1. Glass Hammer/ A BREAKING OF THE WORLD

Ditto my comments on Morse. Every GH album should be purchased as they’re incapable of making anything less than a jewel.

  1. The Gentle Storm/ DIARY

This is a great concept-story which was executed brilliantly in two versions (hard and soft). I’m a sucker for melody and when Anneke sings I hear hints of one of my favorite song-birds, Annie Haslam. A gorgeous and moving listen.

  1. Native Construct/ QUIET WORLD

A blend of heavier progressive rock and progressive metal with enough hooks and stunning harmonizations to make one say “who are these guys?” One my “finds” of the year.

  1. Steven Wilson/ HAND. CANNOT. ERASE

This was in my top three most of the year. What else can I add to what the known universe has been saying about Wilson’s magnum opus? Serious, sublime, reflective, and permanent in its impact. 10/10.

  1. The Dear Hunter/ ACT IV: REBIRTH IN REPRISE

The best reason not to come out with a “best of” list until the last day of the year is so that albums like this don’t slip by in the rush. I only just heard this concept disc (a couple days ago) and it has been listened to almost a dozen times now. This is a fulsome blend of Muse and maybe Coheed & Cambria. I must explore their back discography as their fusion of orchestra rock and classic prog, with a hint of art-rock/jazz, hit me so hard that they vaulted over even Steven Wilson. Along with Native Construct, this is a discovery that makes 2015 so epic.

  1. The Tangent/ A SPARK IN THE AETHER.

Andy and company turn out their best album yet (such an artist that every new release is their best one yet). Andy’s love of music and the progressive genre radiates out in warm love and celebratory life. This is a feel-good album that is returned to time and time again. Was in contention for #1.

  1. Lonely Robot/ PLEASE COME HOME

John Mitchell’s album is near perfect. The infectious melodies, lyrical themes, and exquisite musicianship had this loosely-based concept album of alienation and humanity neck and neck with the following winner.



  1. 3RDegree/ ONES AND ZEROS: Vol. 1

If you are a fan of progressive masterpieces (Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and Rush) you will quickly realize that 3RDegree’s ONES AND ZEROS will be talked about with the same enduring awe as the aforementioned masters of this art. The album is deep and disturbing with a libretto worthy of the best dystopian science-fiction legendary authors. The musicianship is tight and the album’s production and mixing is crisp. If I could have listened to only one album this past year (and a gander at my list makes clear what a bumper year it has been) it would have this one. I’m listening to it right now as I type. Go buy it. Buy copies for your friends…Christmas 2016 is only 12 months away…you’ll probably not find an album this good in those coming 12 months.

And now, to round out my TOP 20:

  1. Gazpacho/ Molok
  3. Tiger Moth Tales/ STORY TELLERS PART ONE
  5. Barock Project/SKYLINE
  8. Grand Tour/ HEAVY ON THE BEACH
  9. Steve Hackett/ WOLFLIGHT
  10. Subterranean Masquerade/ THE GREAT BAZAAR



Sylvan/ HOME



Toto/ XIV



Joe Jackson/Fast Forward





Iron Maiden/ BOOK OF SOULS

Baroness/ PURPLE



Motorhead/ BAD MAGIC (Lemmy R.I.P)




Whitey Morgan and the 78’s/ SONIC RANCH



Choir of Ancestors/ Gazpacho

First Comes The Night/Chris Isaak

Hand Cannot Erase/ Steven Wilson

A Night on the Town/ The Dear Hunter

Waves/ The Dear Hunter

Till the End/ Motorhead

Collaborations Don’t Work/ FFS

Fast Forward/ Joe Jackson

The Celluloid Road/ The Tangent

The Boy in the Radio/ Lonely Robot

Bennett Built A Time Machine/ Spock’s Beard

Sacrifice/ Amorphis





3RDegree: The Proggiest Temperature for the Summer of 2015

3RDegree: Ones & Zeros Volume 1

10t Records; Release Date August 18th 2015

Produced by: Dobbs, Kliesch & Pashman


3RDegree is:

Patrick Kliesch/ Electric Guitar, acoustic 6-string, synth programming, backing vocals

George Dobbs/ Lead vocals, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals

Robert James Pashman/ Bass, additional keyboards, backing vocals

Aaron Nobel/ Drums, percussion

Eric Pseja/ Electric Guitar, acoustic 12-string, backing vocals

Bryan Zeigler/ Electric Guitar, backing vocals


It’s hard for a band to follow a good to near great album (The Long Division, 2012) with an even more superior outing, but 3RDegree has done just that. Ones & Zeros is simply a great piece of progressive music. It is to The Long Division as Close to the Edge was to Fragile and Moving Pictures was to Permanent Waves.

Ones & Zeros is 3RDegree’s 5th and latest studio album. The ten track album is a concept piece that submerges the listener into both the current high-tech, omni-present surveillance state (the panopticon social media saturated society) as well as a dehumanized and dystopic near future where the eternal questions of life, death, and meaning intersect with hubris, power, and control.

I refrain from a detailed track by track analysis as each song builds on its predecessor in weaving a themed arc. In a general way the music inhabits a near-future world where the protagonist (and the listener) is confronted by the ubiquitous Valhalla Biotech Corporation and its death-defying, age-enhancing science of perpetual longevity—at, and for, a price…the price of freedom, dignity, and humanity.

From the 17 second electronic “sci-fi” voice introduction to the final track’s synthetic “fade out” the big smile on my face and the bobbing of my head hardly dissipated.  This is an inspiring, ambitious, intelligent and tight work of musical story-telling. The lyrics are deep and clever, worthy of a Roger Waters, if Waters was encouraging and hopeful in assisting and guiding broken and subjugated victims of technology’s amoral metastasis. While somewhat reminiscent of the best of IQ’s social commentary, the libretto of this disc hearkens to Orwell and Heinlein in these current days of Edward Snowden, but trapped in the amber of corporate and soulless medical archiving of bodies and lives. You just know the music is deep when as you’re listening to it you reminisce about the discovery of reading the best of Philip K. Dick or even Vonnegut.

The music in some ways is a perfect throw-back to the classic ‘70s era. When George Dobbs starts to sing “These are extraordinary times…” on track 2, one is almost reminded of Jon Anderson on some long lost YES classic. But 3RDegree is no Starcastle/YES clone. And while at times they make me think of Ambrosia meets Glass Hammer (i.e. stunning studio musicianship filtered through an uplifted human decency) they have their own sound—and it’s a poetic and tight swirl of cautious optimism. Though I may have been a bit underwhelmed by George Dobbs on The Long Division, here he ‘notches’ it up and shows what a remarkable set of pipes he has—clear, strong, and suitably emotive; I’m impressed!

I wish I had had a printed sheet of lyrics while listening (though, this will joyfully cause me to re-listen multiple times) as the many clever lines bear fruit upon reflection, to-wit: “every gadget’s an extension of my motives and my ego. And now that I’m totally integrated I’d be foolish not to upgrade” and “try keeping a secret in the age of a diode” and again “we’ve come so far, from Saturn devouring his own son.”

If modern and contemporary radio were sane, Track 3, This Is the Future would be a popular “single” with its catchy and infectious drive. Track 4 with its almost lullaby like opening is a delicate love song to life with a desperation of sorrow beautifully realized by Dobbs. The drumming of Aaron Noble is muscularly aggressive and he really shines on Track 5, The Best & Brightest, as well as Track 6, Circuit Court. The 8:49 epic Track 7, Life At Any Cost may be the most brilliant composition with a stunning instrumental break around the 3 minute mark where drums, killer guitar riffing, and then keys, coalesce into melodic prog greatness! Robert Pashman also turns in some really fine lumbering Bass work—a brontosaurus ninja with precisely crushing weight!

Mirroring a line in the second song, this entire album is a very PRESENT “singularity” of what the band itself calls its music: “song-centric” progressive rock. Indeed.

This is not just another futuristic, sci-fi derivative, or empty piece of generic “concept” bandwagoning. 3RDegree has constructed a compelling symphony of energetic songs with truly meaningful lyrics that take the listener on a journey. And no, it isn’t Valhalla Biotech that we thank for delivering its predatory singular relationships with ersatz and faux fragmentation, stasis quarantine, and finally deletion from the human family of love and joy, but rather the six artists from Bergen County, New Jersey who have given us hope for, if not a “better” future, than at least one with a glimmer of a transcendent day.

A++, 10 of 10, “must-buy” rating.

I’m hoping fellow Progarchy “archivists” also weigh in on this disc with additional reviews. I really love this album. It’s being added to my “best of” for 2015…with a “bullet” and I expect it will be on many other best of year lists as well.  Special mention should be made of the colorful and impressionistic artwork that adorns this disc.  A swirling of yellow and reds (that’s probably NOT Elvis) that evokes the legendary Moodies.  The 10t web-site indicates this “Vol 1” of One & Zeros will be followed by a Vol. 2 next year.  2016 can’t get here soon enough!

I really love this album.


3RDegree Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/3RDegree?fref=ts

3RDegree 10t web site: http://www.3rdegreeonline.com/3RDegree/Home.html (some great photos and bio’s of the guys)

3RDegree Bandcamp: http://3rdegree.bandcamp.com

The Sun Shines on Brilliant Italian Prog


La Coscienza Di Zeno: La Notte Anche Di Giorno

Fading Records, 2015

 La Notte Anche Di Giorno

Alessio Calandriello: Vocals

Luca Scherani: All keyboards

Gabriele Guidi Colombi: Bass

Andrea Orlando: Drums & Percussion

Davide Serpico: Guitars

Stefano Agnini: Mini Moog, Organ

La Coscienza Di Zeno (The Consciousness of Zeno) is an Italian progressive band from Milan, Italy. Their January 2015 release, La Notte Anche Di Giorno (The Night in the Daytime, or The Sun Also Shines At Night) is a tour de force of melodic beauty.

Italian is such a beautiful language that is so suited to this type of cinematic key driven love music that I wish I understood it. But the language barrier notwithstanding the emotions of joy, longing, and hope still resonate and saturate the listener.

All ten tracks are buoyant and expectant. This is serious music with gravitas but also with sunshine and smiles infused throughout. Not only is this a disc that would make an excellent soundtrack but it is music to create to. That’s not to say this is inconsequential background noise (I DO like Brian Eno’s ambient stuff that is meant to be palliative sonic wallpaper) but simply a wash that one could paint, write, read, and dream to. Each track segues into the next giving this disc a Pete Barden/Camel Snow Goose vibe—and that’s GOOD!

With an album that is so heavily keyboard and synth driven, think Morricone meets the ultimate Italian Genesis cover band by way of Nektar, Triumvirat and a dash of European power metal balladry (maybe Rhapsody of Fire).

While the rhythm section and electric guitar serve the songs it is the incredible keyboards (Grand Piano, Hammond, Moog, and Mellotron) of Luca Scherani along with the gorgeous tenor of Alessio Calandriello that make this disc so compelling.

Calandriello’s voice is crystal clear, emotive, uplifting and warm. Again, think of Howard Shores great scores mixed with the aching beauty of the best of Riz Ortolani or Stelvio Cipriani. This is orchestral adult contemporary tone-poem rock prog at its finest. I don’t have a favorite track because the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts. All right, my favorite song is track 6, Lenta Discesa all’Averno (Slow Descent to Avereno?) with the beautiful backing vocals of soprano Simona Angioloni. Top notch accompaniment by flutist Joanne Roan, violinist, Domencio Ingenito, and cellist, Melissa Del Lucchese add an ethereal depth to this serious music that does not diminish the melancholy joy.

Do yourself a favor and become acquainted with this young band. They deserve to become a household name amongst prog lovers.

La Cosciena




Apotheosis of the Prog of Place: Big Big Train (a different kind of review)


Music is powerful. C.S. Lewis wrote: “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” [The Weight of Glory]

Music is transcendent and truly exists only among man (whales, wolves, and birds notwithstanding.) who use music to imitate and re-create the ontological, above and beyond the emotions of pain, loss, or even temporary contentment.

As much as I/we may like and enjoy rock and pop music (I do love the Ramones, Beach Boys, and Abba. to name but a few) the true worth of progressive rock music, “prog,” is that it not only frustrates the mere commercial designs of FM station managers and music directors (3-minute bites and bottom line revenues $) but that its subject matter soars above cars, girls, booze, and rebellion.

The greatest prog bands and performers have always opened the listener to challenging vistas of speculative fiction, socio-economic dynamics, and the very heart of man itself—sin and redemption; self-sacrifice and self-reflection; and grace. Whether it’s RUSH with 2112, DREAM THEATRE with Scenes from a Memory, or MARILLION’s Brave, the best of progressive lyrics and engaging musical composition, always enrich, and makes one more human than just about any other genre of current musical fare.

And as much as I love science fiction concept albums or cosmic themed instrumental tone-pieces, there is one theme that touches something very deep inside all of us—the stories of our homes, families, neighborhoods, towns and shires. The idea of place is both nominal and real. We all come from some place and we all want to go back to those special places of the heart—our past and our future—that bring reunion and safe haven.

There are some seminal bands that have addressed these topics of land and earth, i.e. PLACE, and its inextricable connection, at least hitherto, with the wandering and prodigal pilgrims of the age of impermanence. JETHRO TULL gave us the criminally underrated Heavy Horses (and other classics on most of their discography) and Ray Davies & The KINKS produced the greatest of the 1960s musical manifestos to agrarian worth and the encroachments of modernity for modernity’s sake with The Kinks Are The Village Preservation Society. Some of early GENESIS also taps into the vanishing pastoral Britain (parts of Selling England & Wind and Wuthering might be examples). BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST also explored these themes in their 1970s and 80s recordings. John Lees specifically addresses his own background of growing up in Manchester in his 2013 album North.

It doesn’t matter whether one grew up in East London, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Glasgow (Al Stewart’s 45 year career is sprinkled with nods to not just his love for “general” history but to his own roots), Dublin (Horslips) or Topeka, Kansas (Kerry Livgren’s career with and without KANSAS bespeaks a loving and nostalgic nod to his home town and state).

All of the above is my way of saying that progressive music has found its penultimate, if not ultimate, purveyor of music of “place” with BIG BIG TRAIN.

I just listened to my copy of Wassail (which finally arrived from amazon.com) and in a heightened state of “enthused” tranquility wanted to pen a review that wasn’t a review. Nobody can say it any better than Brad Birzer did in his own superb review a few days ago right here ( https://progarchy.com/2015/06/05/a-good-little-truth-bbts-wassail/ ) but I wanted to share just WHY BBT touches so many of us.

   The best music, like the best literature, art, and food is not abstract, ethereal, and free-floating in the aether. BIG BIG TRAIN grounds their brilliant songs in their own mother Muse of England; not England of the silver-screen or modern television, but England of the docks, quarries, factories, row houses, back alleys, family tables, and gravesides. BIG BIG TRAIN is the soundtrack to contemplating the “higher things.” Though Wassail is only a four song ep it continues their passage through the seas of brilliance to the Grey Havens of musical Proghalla.

And as much as I love hearing Joey singing “Beat on the Brat,” BIG BIG TRAIN elevates us all in ways that Southern Agrarians, British dock workers, West Virginia coal miners, and families of faith not only understand, but believe in their souls. While BBT writes the truth that the hymnist penned in the words “change and decay in all around I see…” they also place us at the family table of peace and community.