The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Thirteen): Samurai

Originally known as Web, Samurai were another one of those unfortunate What if? bands that were lost in the shuffle of the early days of progressive rock.

Web released three albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including the well-received but commercially unsuccessful I Spider (which is on my list of future reviews). By 1971, however, band leader and keyboardist Dave Lawson (later of Greenslade fame) changed the name to Samurai, hoping, perhaps, that the change of name might result in a change of fortune. Alas, that was not to be. Yet we do have their sole eponymous album as a result of that name change, and it’s a true hidden gem. Samurai features the talents of Lawson on vocals and keyboards, Don Fay and Tony Roberts on winds, Lennie Wright and Kenny Beveridge on percussion, Tony Edwards on guitars, and John Eaton on bass. Part of the Canterbury/jazz-fusion movement of the early ’70s, Samurai relied on drums and woodwinds to drive their unique sound, although the keys and guitars are given their chances to shine. Here are a few of the highlights from the album:

“Saving It Up For So Long,” the first track, could have made a good single. It opens with a jazzy guitar riff and drum beat, making it as close to radio-friendly as a progressive band was likely to get. The saxes, courtesy of Fay and Roberts, are also a nice touch.

Edwards is given another chance to showcase his talents on the fifth track, “Give a Little Love.” His riff is both catchy and distorted, giving the song an early King Crimson feel (think Lizard-era).

Lawson, whose nimble fingers on the keys anchor the sound of every song on the album, really shines forth on the last and longest track, “As I Dried the Tears Away.” His Hammond organ solo in the middle is especially satisfying to the ear.

If you are the type of fellow who enjoys a daily or weekly pilgrimage to the Canterbury sound, in particular to Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt era in particular), early King Crimson, or Caravan, this album will be a pleasant surprise for your wandering ears. Even those less inclined to walk that path will nevertheless appreciate the top-notch musicianship of this solid but under-appreciated album.

Stay tuned for number fourteen!

Album Review: Frame 42 — “Undercroft” (EP)

Frame 42 proves it’s always a good life choice to cut class and jam with your band. Send us to detention? Nay, we shall be avenged sevenfold! Verily, here’s our seven-track EP…

Every now and then we get an album submission over here at Progarchy that blows our minds. This month it is the hot new EP from Frame 42.

When Bryan told me to check this disc out, I was skeptical. I looked at the promo photos as I loaded the audio files onto my computer. These cats looked so young! I was prepared for some kind of amateur-hour, cringeworthy poseur nonsense. But was I ever wrong!

Frame 42 has a very cool and unique sound. I don’t know how to describe it, because it’s a wild blend of hard rock heaviness and often country radio-style vocal harmonies.

Ava Morris and Arianna Smith lead the pack with a dual female vocal assault that has to be heard to be believed. So much raw power, it’s a real thrill to hear them! I get why people compare this band to early Heart or Fleetwood Mac. These two are such a killer duo.

Michael Farmer has a really sweet guitar tone that totally stands out on his lead guitar work. I’m always in search of bands that unleash the full power of the electric guitar, and trust me it’s hard to find satisfaction these days. But Frame 42 satisfies, because Ben Delgleish adds his rhythm guitar work to perfectly complement Michael’s work. Just as the doubling-up of female vocalists gives the band an up-front unique sound, Michael and Ben leave their stereo stamp on the band’s unique wall-of-power sound with rockin’ riffs that inspire instant air guitar play-alongs.

Brock Morris on bass and Lucas Jacobs on drums add to the huge heavy rocking vibe of this band by laying a solid foundation that grooves with unexpected energy. Everything on this album goes beyond tasteful and restrained and competent into the rare realm of upper echelon hard rock madness. You gotta love it!

It’s hard to pick a favorite track because there are seven songs on this EP, and it’s over in 26 minutes, leaving you wanting to play it again. This debut rocks so hard and strong, it truly makes me happy to be part of this Web site where we continually get exposed to amazing new talent. Frame 42 has been playing together for four years, and it shows. We’re so happy to finally meet them. They play so tight and awesome, we look forward to whatever they do next. But get this EP now, because it rips apart the room and slays!

Big Big Train Release Instrumental Track Off Upcoming Album

Ah, this is more like it. Great stuff from the mighty Big Big Train:

https://youtu.be/88HHhbD1vFE

Press release:

Big Big Train Apollo“Apollo” is the second track to be taken from Big Big Train’s forthcoming album ‘Common Ground’ due out on July 30th, 2021 on English Electric Recordings. The new album, recorded during the worldwide pandemic, sees the band continue their tradition of dramatic narratives but also tackles issues much closer to home, such as the Covid lockdowns, the separation of loved ones, the passage of time, deaths of people close to the band and the hope that springs from a new love.

“Apollo” is a seven-minute plus instrumental written by Big Big Train drummer Nick D’Virgilio and will be an undoubted highlight when the band tour in 2022.

When the time came to start coming up with ideas for the next BBT album, I felt very strongly that we should include a quintessential instrumental track. I wanted to write the band’s version of Genesis’s Los Endos and to make a track that really showed off the talent of all the amazing musicians in this band. I knew that the team could totally play anything I threw at them, and boy, did they prove me right! I thought about the unique instrumentation of BBT. We have so many wonderful ‘voices’ to play with and I wanted every one of them in this song. In the big end bit, I can totally envisage the crowd with their hands in the air going back n forth, all of the lights and haze on the stage, the band just absolutely slamming, the crowd singing along with the melody the BBT brass ensemble is playing, until we reach a glorious end.

Watch the video for “Apollo” here:
https://youtu.be/88HHhbD1vFE

Tracklisting:

1. The Strangest Times
2. All The Love We Can Give
3. Black With Ink
4. Dandelion Clock
5. Headwaters
6. Apollo
7. Common Ground
8. Atlantic Cable
9. Endnotes

‘Common Ground’ is available for pre-order now as Double Vinyl, CD, and Bandcamp Download at these sites:
https://burningshed.com/store/bigbigtrain
https://bigbigtrain.bandcamp.com

‘Common Ground’ sees the band taking in wider musical and lyrical inspiration from artists such as Elbow, Pete Townshend, Tears For Fears, Elton John and XTC, as well as acknowledging their more progressive roots. As ever, Big Big Train will take listeners on a journey, be it waiting for the UK 5pm pandemic press conferences (’The Strangest Times’) to the library of Alexandria (‘Black With Ink’) to the bottom of the ocean (‘Atlantic Cable’).

For the ‘Common Ground’ tour, which will be their most extensive to date and which will culminate in the UK with a show at the prestigious London Palladium, Greg Spawton (bass), David Longdon (lead vocals, flute), Nick D’Virgilio (drums, vocals) and Rikard Sjöblom (guitars, keyboards, vocals) will be joined by Carly Bryant (keyboards, guitars, vocals), who contributes vocals to ‘Common Ground’, Dave Foster (guitars), who plays on two tracks on the new album, Clare Lindley (violin, vocals) and by a five piece brass ensemble. The band expect to announce North American tour dates shortly.

BIG BIG TRAIN UK TOUR 2022

TUE, MARCH 15TH – YORK, BARBICAN
WED, MARCH 16TH – CAMBRIDGE, CORN EXCHANGE
FRI, MARCH 18TH – BIRMINGHAM, SYMPHONY HALL
SAT, MARCH 19TH – BATH, FORUM
MON, MARCH 21ST – GLASGOW, ROYAL CONCERT HALL
TUE, MARCH 22ND – MANCHESTER, BRIDGEWATER HALL
WED, MARCH 23RD – LONDON, PALLADIUM

TICKETS ON SALE HERE:
https://myticket.co.uk/artists/big-big-train

A Review On The Front Page Review

Front Page Review is the type of hidden gem that perfectly illustrates the vibrancy of ‘60s rock. They were a psychedelic, indie rock band that was part of the “Bosstown Sound.” The “Bosstown Sound” was a term used for New England bands that emerged from the San Francisco music scene. These bands were not taken seriously because they were perceived as only concerned with money and fame. The band never really gained popularity and their only album ever recorded, Mystic Soldiers, was not released until 30 years later. Steve Cataldo is the man behind this excellent album; he is the lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Each song is an audible display of Cataldo’s talent and hard work. He seemed to perfectly capture his own psychedelic and dreamy sound of the time. Every song off the album takes you on a musical quest, which makes the album so special.

Despite their lack of recognition and discography, Front Page Review’s Mystic Soldiers is worth hearing. This exquisite album is a must listen for all fans of ‘60s psychedelic rock. It will get you dancing and feeling groovy.

I first came across Front Page Review randomly. My Apple Music subscription offers a radio station that caters to the type of music I frequently listen to. My love for all types of ‘60s rock made it only sensible for Front Page Review to be recommended to me. The song titled Prophecies/Morning Blue was the first song I ever heard by the band. It was love at first listen. I knew that through the rough mix of the distorted sounds added to that first song off the album, I had found something worth listening to. Prophecies/Morning Blue opens up with some manipulated sounds of children playing in the background and ends with a swooping and loud swirl of pure, psychedelic goodness. Not to mention the smooth and clever change of rhythm in the middle of the song, which leads up to the peak: an illustrious organ playing done by Joseph Santangelo. Listening to that brief organ solo is a moment I could stay in forever— it gives me chills every time!

As I went through the album, I noticed how every song made me want to stop everything I was doing and just start dancing! The overall catchiness of the instrumentals in all of the songs took me by surprise—I was not used to hearing that consistently in one album.

I will briefly note three other songs off the album. The first song is titled Silver Children. This song is truly a ‘60s dream through Santangelo’s organ playing. It creates a sort of dazed and peaceful atmosphere, allowing the listener to get lost in it. This song feels like the warmth of the sun beaming down on your face on a spring day; all it can do is make you smile.

The next song is called Valley of Eyes. There is so much intensity in this song that it leaves you thinking about what exactly Steve is writing about. The obvious political undertones of this song are conjoined with powerful guitar playing and simple lyrics. When I hear this song it feels as though I am on a journey and I have reached an important part of it that can not be ignored. Valley of Eyes is an epically told quest to find answers because there is far too much violence in the world. The narrater is losing hope, but hopefully someone will listen.

I have saved my absolute favorite song for last. For the Best Offer is personally one of my favorite songs of all time. Cataldo’ s vocals on this song are beautiful! Not to mention the instrumental portion of the chorus. All of the instruments coming together in this song work together wonderfully to create this mysterious and, for lack of a better word, groovy tune. It hits the listener out of nowhere, a sudden burst of energy driven by a frenetic guitar. This song may first seem playful and trivial, but as it goes on, it puts its foot down and demands respect. This song has the best offer for your ears.

The short lived music endeavors from the Front Page Review will continue to live on for ‘60s music lovers. This album is such a treat that can not be resisted. I’d like to give a huge thank you to all the musicians involved in the making of it. It’s truly a lost treasure from the past.

Steve Cataldo: Singer/Songwriter, Guitar

Richard Bartlett: Guitar

David Weber: Drums

David Christiansen: Guitar

Thomas Belliveau: Bass

Joseph Santangelo: Organ, Piano

Continue reading “A Review On The Front Page Review”

The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Twelve): Fruupp

Well, perhaps you actually have heard of these chaps. Although they never made much of a name for themselves, Fruupp opened up for some of the biggest names in progressive rock, including Genesis, Queen, and King Crimson, in the early 1970s.

Founded in 1971 by Irish guitarist Vincent McClusker, Fruupp included classically trained Stephen Houston on keyboards and oboe; Peter Farrelly on lead vocals, bass guitar, and flute; and Martin Foye on drums. They recorded four albums in their five year tenure, but the sudden departure of Houston in 1975 (he became a clergyman) and poor record sales eventually forced the band to call it a day.

Fruupp’s third album, The Prince of Heaven’s Eyes, is considered their masterpiece. A concept album (based on a short story by Paul Charles), it tells the tale of a lad named Mud Flanagan, who, after the death of his parents, traverses the Irish countryside looking for the end of the rainbow. The influence of Genesis, especially in the songwriting, vocals, and keyboards, is evident throughout the album, but Fruupp are not mere copycats.

The album opens with a beautiful symphonic piece titled “It’s All Up Now”: Flanagan has made the decision to leave home and journey out into the wilds of the Emerald Isle. But shortly after his departure, “The Prince of Darkness” – a song that would fit nicely into the sinister world of Nursery Cryme – interrupts young Mud’s pleasant travels. Thankfully, our hero manages to avoid the road to hell and continues on his way, encountering a beautiful woman and experiencing several strange visions before reaching his journey’s end in the lengthy but uplifting “The Perfect Wish.”

Houston’s keyboards steal the show on this album, although McClusker and Foye are able to showcase their talents on guitar and drums, respectively, on the heavier “Annie Austere” and “Crystal Brook” (the latter also features some gorgeous flute courtesy of Farrelly).

It’s a shame Fruupp never enjoyed the success that other symphonic bands did, as this album certainly offers hints of bigger things that might have been. The Prince of Heaven’s Eyes may not reach the heights of Foxtrot or Selling England By the Pound, but it is certainly a worthy addition to the traditional symphonic prog canon.

Stay tuned for obscure prog band number thirteen!

King Crimson’s Music Is Our Friend USA Tour

It’s been a long, long, loooong wait for King Crimson to reschedule their pandemic-postponed tour, originally planned for last summer. But as of today, there’s rejoicing in the air at Discipline Global Mobile:

We are pleased to announce the dates for the re-scheduled 2021 King Crimson tour of the USA. This is also a good moment to publicly thank all those who have worked so hard to make this tour possible. The dates have changed on an almost daily basis over the last six months as rules and restrictions have changed.

The California Guitar Trio will be appearing as a special guest for the first leg of the tour. King Crimson will be accompanied by the Zappa Band for the whole of the second leg of the tour from 22nd August – 11th September, and also for the concerts in Concord and Los Angeles on 5th and 6th August.

There are currently Royal Package places available at all these concerts. The Royal Package gives priority seating at the front of the venue, early access, special merchandise, and personal insights and answers from David Singleton and one of the band members. Anyone with an existing place reserved last year, who now needs to move to a different venue or apply for a refund, should contact iona@dgmhq.com.

Crimson manager David Singleton has much, much more on the headaches involved at his DGM diary. And Crimson founder/mainman/guitarist Robert Fripp has also reacted in characteristic fashion:

The Crimson Beast Of Terror has woken from its enforced slumbering and is venturing out to stomp flat the psyches of innocents not yet experienced in the hammering onslaught of King Crimson’s uncompromising pounding – bish! bish! bish! – before turning on a beat to jellify hearts with gut-wrenching passion and soul-squeezing epic unfoldings to remind us that we are all mere subjects in the unfolding drama of the universe’s unfathomable mysteries while simultaneously rocking out and having a great time bopping about with Tony and Bobby and Gavin and Jakko and Mel and Pat and Jezza too.

Tour dates are listed below; Royal Packages are available by clicking the appropriate link, and regular seats will go on sale soon. I look forward to entering the Court of the Crimson King for the 10th time on August 18 at Meadow Brook Amphitheater!

July 22, 2021 – Clearwater, FL – Ruth Eckerd Hall

July 23, 2021 – Delray Beach, FL – Old School Square

July 24, 2021 – St. Augustine, FL – St Augustine Ampitheater

July 26, 2021 – Orlando, FL – Dr. Phillips Walt Disney Theater

July 27, 2021 – Atlanta, GA – The Fox

July 28, 2021 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium

July 30, 2021 – Fort Worth, TX – Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium

July 31, 2021 – Cedar Park, TX – H-E-B Center

August 2, 2021 – Greenwood Village, CO – Fiddlers Green Amiptheater

August 3, 2021 – Sandy, UT – Sandy Ampitheater

August 5, 2021- Concord, CA – Concord Pavilion

August 6, 2021 – Los Angeles – The Greek

August 7, 2021 – Scottsdale, AZ – Talking Stick Ballroom

August 23, 2021 – Saratoga Springs, NY – SPAC

August 24, 2021 – Northampton, MA – The Pines Theater

August 26, 2021 – Canandaigua, NY – CMAC

August 27, 2021 – Lewiston, NY – Artpark Ampitheater

August 28, 2021 – Rochester Hills, MI – Meadow Brook Ampitheater

August 29, 2021 – Highland Park, IL – Ravinia

August 31, 2021 – Milwaukee, WI – Miller High Life Theatre

September 1, 2021 – Cleveland, OH – Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica

September 2, 2021 – Huber Heights, OH – Rose Music Center @ The Heights

September 4, 2021 – Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center

September 5, 2021 – New Haven, CT – Westville Music Bowl

September 7, 2021 – Philadelphia, PA – The Mann Center

September 9, 2021 – Forest Hills, NYC – Forest Hills Stadium

September 10, 2021 – Boston, MA – Leader Bank Pavilion

September 11, 2021 – Washington, DC – The Anthem

— Rick Krueger

Metal Mondays: Iran’s Artamene Give Protest Rock a Whole New Meaning

Artamene_ZigguratArtamene, Ziggurat, 2021
Tracks: Infinite Escape (5:27), Fear of Darkness (4:11), Heavy Motion (3:55), Mayhem (3:51), Shining Black (5:24), Inshushinak (6:01), Rain of Paradise (2:56), Petrichor (5:39)

Persecution is still disgustingly widespread in the world today. There are millions of people in countries across the globe who face imprisonment, torture, and death for their religious beliefs, their ethnicity, political beliefs… the list could go on. Iran is one such country. America has experienced childish backlash against heavy metal (Tipper Gore and her Parents Music Resource Center in the 1980s as one example) in the past, but American musicians have never feared imprisonment just for making and performing metal music. This threat is real for Iranian metal musicians, and Artamene wants the rest of the world to know that awful truth. 

Artamene was formed in Iran in 2017 by brothers Pedram (lead guitar) and Pooya Shitrah (drums) along with Soheil Avakh (vocals) and Ali Karimi (rhythm guitar). Their album, Ziggurat, also features Yahya Rahmani on bass. Pedram and Pooya grew up listening to and playing metal with each other, and they decided to form Artamene. The problem is the Iranian government thinks metal is inherently Satanic, and they have thrown bands in jail for making metal. Members of the bands Confess and Arsames have been sentenced to prison on charges of “Satanism,” although thankfully the musicians were able to escape the country. 

I don’t hear anything Satanic on Artamene’s Ziggurat, so hopefully the band will be safe from those accusations. They are allowed to play live concerts, although the behavior of the audience is strictly regulated by the government. They actually get 200-500 people at their concerts.  

Artamene_Live

The music itself is quite good. There are a lot of thrash metal elements, but there are also some more atmospheric metal moments and certainly progressive flares. Thrash metal in general often has a lot of progressive metal elements, minus the keyboards usually. On Ziggurat there are heavy distorted guitars, clean solos, and clean rhythm sections. The bass is clear, heavy, and distinct throughout. It shines in the mix. The drums are intricate and pounding with a prominent double kick, reminding me of the brilliant Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Testament). 

The vocals are heavy and distorted, but they’re not black metal vocals. Thrash tends to have its own sort of yelled distorted vocals, along with cleans. Avakh’s vocals follow that trend, and his voice works very well with the music. It helps that the lyrics are in English. At times Avakh’s voice reminds me of M. Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold. 

https://youtu.be/YqT2DnTQi0A

Continue reading “Metal Mondays: Iran’s Artamene Give Protest Rock a Whole New Meaning”

Screaming Down the Highway

The other day we received a couple singles composed by Attilla Papp, and they’re a nice progressive take on shorter rock songs. The first, “Screaming Down the Highway,” was released a little over a year ago, and it’s a perfect song for a smoking hot day like much of the American Midwest has been experiencing this afternoon. The songs lyrics were written by Michael Ryan, the vocals sung by Scott Foster Harris, and the track produced by Matthew Williams. Unlike most shorter rock songs that typically might end with the final lyric, the music plays on for a few more riffs, which is a nice touch. 

https://youtu.be/vtYkcD_yOnM

Papp sent us a second track that was released back in December: “In the Paradise.” Somewhere I’m sure we all want to be rather than in this world which seems to suck more with each passing day. “In the Paradise” has some synth overtones, and the lyrics and music have a bit more of a contemporary progressive feel. This song also has an instrumental closing that really shines. Even though it’s a short track, it goes through multiple musical shifts. Papp composed this track as well, and Scott Foster Harris wrote and sings the lyrics. Produced again by Matthew Williams.

https://youtu.be/o1qw_lqHrEw

The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Eleven): Alloy Now

I began this series when I first joined Progarchy back in 2013, and my last post concerning these obscure prog bands dates back to June 8, 2014 – almost seven years ago exactly! At the time I told myself I was going to cover only ten of these bands – it’s a tidy number, and, considering how many obscure prog bands were and are currently out there, I wanted to keep the list manageable. Furthermore, after graduating from college in 2016, my taste in prog remained almost exclusively centered on the heavy hitters of the “classic” era: Yes, Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, and King Crimson.

But then yesterday I changed my mind. My interest in these unheralded bands was rekindled only very recently, thanks to fellow Progarchist Reyna McCain. There are far too many under-appreciated progressive rock musicians out there – so why stop at ten? I compiled a list of some thirty bands (yes, I know that is not an exhaustive number; I will probably add more), and my goal is to cover all of them. My other goal is to keep these reviews fairly brief – after all, it’s the listening that matters most. So, without further ado, let’s begin at eleven:

Alloy Now is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist David Noel, who began his prog career with the Plastic Overlords, a Georgia-based psychedelic trio. Shortly after Plastic Overlords released their eponymous album, Noel started Alloy Now, a solo project (although he does feature some guest musicians on bass guitar and drums). Despite his Southern roots, Noel sounds like a mix of David Gilmour, Dave Brock, and Peter Hamill (at his more restrained): the acid-space-psychedelic influences are clear throughout this album.

Twin Sister of the Milky Way was released in the year 2000, but sounds like it could have been made in the early 1970s. That being said, it is not a simple homage to its influences, which range from Pink Floyd to Van der Graaf Generator to Hawkwind. Particular highlights include the opening number, “The Butterscotch Star,” which features a rich bass guitar (think Chris Squire), trippy vocals, and gorgeous keyboard-driven melodies. The instrumental “Shoulder of Orion” opens with ominous keyboards and percussion, but gradually transforms into something like a cosmic march through the stars. “Ghostly Superhero” could have been written by a Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie – think “Starman” or “Moonage Daydream.” Finally, the title track may be the strongest on the album: Noel’s spaced-out, symphonic guitar and keys play over wordless vocals, taking you on a trip through the Milky Way galaxy.

In my humble opinion, there is not a weak song on this album. If you are inclined towards symphonic prog or the acid and space rock sound of Hawkwind and Pink Floyd, then Twin Sister of the Milky Way belongs in your galaxy.

Stay tuned for obscure prog band number twelve!