Bryan’s Best of 2018

Earlier this year, I questioned whether or not 2018 was going to be a poor year for prog. It seemed like the the progressive rock community took a few months to stop and take a collective breath… but that was only the breath before the plunge. The second half of the year saw many excellent new releases. The following are some of my favorites from 2018, in no particular order (my top two at the bottom of this list are tied for first place).

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With Apologies to Arjen!

Yesterday, I posted an editorial about 2018 being a moment of prog “selah”–as we all take a collective breath.  If anything, 2018 thus far has been defined not by its studio albums, but by its live albums.  I listed three: Glass Hammer’s Mostly Live in Italy; Marillion’s All One Tonight, and Big Big Train’s Merchants of Light.  Very stupidly–and quite by oversight–I forgot to mention a critical fourth live release, Ayreon Universe.

Here’s my review of Ayreon Universe: https://progarchy.com/2018/07/01/ayreon-opera-prog-totally-and-utterly-over-the-top/

With all of my apologies, Arjen!  As I noted in the previous review, you are THE MASTER!

Ayreon, Opera, Prog: Totally and Utterly Over the Top.

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Masterful.

Ayreon Universe: The Best of Ayreon Live (Mascot, 2018).  In various forms-including CD, DVD, and/or Blu-Ray. Whichever version you purchase, you’ll get 30 tracks.

The stage is massive. The number of musicians is massive. The visuals are massive.  The sound is massive.  Some might even state—without exaggeration—that this whole thing is over the top.  But, then, what do you expect?  It’s part opera, which is always over the top.  It’s part prog, which is always over the top.  How could prog opera not be doubly over the top?

Then, of course, it’s all written by Arjen Anthony Lucassen, who is always over the top.  Now, it must be at least triply over the top, right?

No, you’d be wrong.

Continue reading “Ayreon, Opera, Prog: Totally and Utterly Over the Top.”

Streaming Music (Editorial)

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Prog art at its finest–Jim Trainer’s Winchester Diver for Big Big Train.

A great DJ is just a step below a great producer and sound engineer.

From time to time, I’ve considered joining a streaming service permanently.  I’ve toyed around with Spotify, Pandora, and iTUNES.

I just can’t understand the attraction.

There was a time in my life, I really loved radio.  From the years between late grade school and the end of high school (class of 1986), I listened faithfully to Wichita’s KICT-95.  The station introduced me–rather gloriously–to album rock radio, back when radio actually played entire sides of albums.  I got to know the DJs, the music, and their various programs.  I knew when to expect a full album side, and when to expect the latest news in the rock world.  I knew when T-95 broadcast concerts, and I knew when the radio station sponsored bands to play live in Wichita.  It was a golden age of rock.  I was always far more taken with prog than I was with acid or hard rock, but T-95 presented all as a rather cohesive whole, thanks to the quality of the DJs.

But, streaming?  I just don’t get it.  It’s bland.  It’s tapioca.  There’s no personality, no matter how great the music is.

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Second Spring #5: “One Small Step” by Ayreon

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Lego Ayreon

As much as I love all things Arjen Lucassen, nothing of his has hit me quite as hard as Universal Migrator Part I.  I’m sure it has to do with the fact, in large part, that Ayreon takes the overall story of the blind minstrel from Arthur’s court from high fantasy to high science fiction with this album.  It serves as a wonderful transitional album, essentially moving Lucassen as well as us from Ayreon 1.0 to Ayreon 2.0.

(For what it’s worth, I think we’re living in Ayreon 4.0, but that’s a post for a different time.)

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Ayreon Universe Now Available

This, today, from the master of prog opera, Arjen Lucassen.

I also want to take this moment (and opportunity) to thank as publicly as possible, Jon Bleicher of the U.S. office of Mascot, for being so gracious and generous.

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Dear Ayreonauts and other prog-loving people,

It’s finally here! 6 months after Ayreon Universe was performed in the 013 venue in Tilburg, the Netherlands, the show is available on CD, vinyl, bluray, DVD and digital (more on that later).

ITEMS AND FEATURES
Here’s a list of all the items:

  • Earbook – 2CD/2DVD/Blu-ray (album + full show + bonus material on DVD and blu-ray)
  • Blu-ray
  • 2DVD
  • 2CD
  • Triple Black Vinyl

The DVD and blu-ray will have an extensive making of documentary, including interviews with the entire cast, and highlights from the try-out show performed a few weeks earlier.

The triple vinyl is currently out of stock in our European store, so get out the door and pick it up at your local record store instead. A repress has been scheduled, but it could take some time before we have it back in stock.

SIGNED BY ARJEN
We still have a few signed items in stock, but it’s subject to availability.

MERCH
A few Ayreon Universe merch items are still available in the EU store, like the worker shirt and some longsleeves (very handy for the upcoming summer!). An inventory of other items is in the works, and we’ll add them back to the store in the coming weeks.

DIGITAL
Many people asked if the Ayreon Universe show is available digitally, because they don’t own a DVD- or Blu-ray player. We’ve looked into it, and found a way! Visit https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ayreonuniverse to rent or buy Ayreon Universe digitally.

All the best,
The Ayreon Team

Bryan’s Best of 2017

Here we are again, folks. We find ourselves at the end of another great year for prog. Sadly, we’ve had to say goodbye to some amazing artists this year, including John Wetton, but we at least have their music by which to remember them.

I know I’ve been a bit quiet here at Progarchy lately due to beginning graduate school this fall. Hopefully things settle down going forward, and I’ll be able to contribute more. For now, here are my favorite albums from 2017 in vaguely ascending order.

Continue reading “Bryan’s Best of 2017”