Have a Very Merry Prog Christmas

I’d like to strike the next person who says “Christmas this year will look a bit different.” Well it doesn’t have to sound different. If you find yourself alone this Christmas Eve/Christmas (like me), there’s plenty of Christmas-related prog to keep you entertained.

Devin Townsend’s Christmas livestream
A couple hours ago Devin Townsend released a Christmas-themed live stream. If you’ve ever wanted to see the mad genius imitate a crooner, you’re in luck. Mostly he plays his own music spanning his career, and his whole demeanor is incredibly calming. It’s an acoustic set and a one-man show, so if you’re not as big a fan of the extreme side of his career, then this is the show for you. Ok it’s Devin so there are a few screams, which are almost comical considering he’s playing an acoustic guitar. The acoustic version of Strapping Young Lad’s “Love” is pure gold in that regard. The man has a golden voice no matter how he’s using it.

Dream Theater’s “The Holiday Spirit Carries On”
The mighty Dream Theater released a Christmas medley track a couple weeks ago to raise money for their live crew. It’s $2.99, and all the proceeds go to their crew. If you’ve ever wanted to hear James LaBrie sing “Fa-la-la-la-la la la-la la, then you had better buy the track soon because it’s only available during the month of December: https://dreamtheaterofficial.bandcamp.com. Here’s a brief sample:

Neal Morse’s “Last Minute Christmas Album”
Neal Morse decided to write a Christmas album over the last couple weeks, and it is available for download over at his label, Radiant Records. It’s his singer-songwriter side of things rather than his prog side, but it’s still Neal Morse. https://www.nealmorse.com/2020/12/19/download-now-neal-morse-last-minute-christmas-album/

Big Big Train’s “Merry Christmas” and “Snowfalls”
Big Big Train released the single “Merry Christmas” along with the even-better B-side “Snowfalls” back in 2017. They’ve become two of my favorite tracks of the season, and I would love to hear a whole album of original Christmas music from them, along with their take on some classic Christmas carols.

Jethro Tull’s Christmas Album
“The Jethro Tull Christmas Album” has been a favorite of mine for several years now. I listen to it every Christmas season.

LEAH’s “Ancient Winter”
It’s been a while since we’ve heaped praises upon the head of Canadian Leah McHenry. Last year she released “Ancient Winter,” a wonderful album celebrating the winter season. This album leans more into her Celtic influences than her metal influences, which fits the season. Definitely worth a listen or two.

There’s other Christmas prog out there, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. May you have a blessed holiday in spite of everything going on in the world. Christmas is a time when we remember that God humbled Himself to be born as one of us so that He could live like us before sacrificing His very life so that we might live forever if we follow Him. His burden is light when compared to the weight of our sin, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we’d all be better off bearing that burden than the weight of the world. There’s always hope in the world, no matter what’s going on. This music is just a little glimpse of the goodness available to us even in the darkest moments.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas Eve: It’s Time for YES, 90125

90125, released November 1983.

Well, this fits perfectly.  Earlier today, our grand master of the sound stream, Craig “Yes, I’m a Folklorist” Breaden, posted about Steve Howe.

Now, as I type this, St. Nicholas and his entourage are screaming across the world, spreading love and joy, and the angels are getting ready to announce the birth of the messiah (not quite in this order, but I’m doing my best to take a trans-temporal position here).

For whatever reason–and, frankly, I’m really not sure why–I’ve listened to Yes’s 90125 every Christmas Eve since Christmas 1983.

Here I am, 34 years later, sitting in my home office, getting last minute Christmas gifts together and, sure enough, listening to 90125.

There’s absolutely nothing about 90125 that should be Christmas-y, but it is and always will be a Christmas album to me.

Drowning in stylistic audacity. . . when we reach, we believe in eternity. . .

Thank you Jon, Chris, Trevor, Tony, Alan, and Trevor.  34 years later, still Holding On.

The Albums That Changed My Life: #9, Lutheran Mass for Christmas Morning by Michael Praetorius

by Rick Krueger

By the mid-1990s, more classical music was being recorded and released worldwide than ever before.  Sony’s purchase of CBS Records had triggered a spending frenzy, both by the new Sony Classical and its competitors Polygram, EMI, RCA and Warner.  Occasional crossover chart smashes like The Three Tenors, Henryk Gorecki’s meditative Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, or the odd compilation of Gregorian chant had a glut of major and minor orchestras, choirs and ensembles chasing the next fluke hit — usually with A&R men breathing down their necks to justify the expense.

It was a mind-boggling time to be a classical collector.  Bookstores like Barnes & Noble and appliance shops like Best Buy opened in smaller and smaller towns, with deeper and deeper stocks of CDs.  Mall chains like Discount Records followed suit, and free-standing superstores like Tower Records went even deeper.  Detroit’s local chain Harmony House had a dedicated all-classical store; nearby Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, had at least two or three at any given time.  Whether hitting 28th Street on my day off in Grand Rapids, or driving east to visit family, I knew there would be something great to find no matter where I went — I just didn’t know what.


Continue reading “The Albums That Changed My Life: #9, Lutheran Mass for Christmas Morning by Michael Praetorius”

Big Big Train Christmas Single

While we’ve not heard anything officially from the band, it looks as though they will be releasing a Christmas single on December 8 of this year.  Here’s the writeup that appeared on Amazon’s UK page:

A beautifully festive cover.  I presume it’s by Sarah Ewing.

Three times Progressive Music Award winning band, Big Big Train, will be releasing their first Christmas single on December 8th.

The single is called Merry Christmas and the vinyl and CD versions of the release will feature a b side called Snowfalls.

A donation to the Night Stop homelessness charity will be made for every copy sold.

Big Big Train vocalist David Longdon says: Merry Christmas is a song about rediscovering our childlike belief in the magic of Christmas, despite living in an over commercial and sometimes cynical world. After all, what wouldn’t you give to believe again, like you believed back then?

Bass player Greg Spawton: We wanted Merry Christmas to be a proper Christmas song, so it features the Big Big Train brass band, The Chapel Choir Choristers of Jesus College, Cambridge and, of course, sleigh bells.

The promotional film for Merry Christmas will premiere on 1st December and stars actor Mark Benton who says: When Big Big Train asked me to get involved with the video for Merry Christmas, I didn’t need much convincing. I’m a big fan of the band and love the way they tell stories through their beautifully crafted songs. This song is a real Christmas song with everything you need from choirs to sleigh bells. The video was great fun to shoot and hopefully really conveys the Christmas message. Let’s make it number one in the charts, the money’s going to a great cause. I’m playing triangle and kazoo on the next album but don’t tell the band because they don’t know it yet.

Merry Christmas will be released on 8th December on 7 inch snow white vinyl (with a gatefold cover), digipack CD, hi-res and standard-res download and streaming.

An Arjen Christmas

Hi Ayreonauts!

2017 is shaping up to be a very exciting year… three sold out live Ayreon Universe shows and of course a brand new Ayreon album!

It is almost Christmas, and we just wrapped up the Guess The Artist games for the new album. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! Thanks so much for your amazing participation and support, I was looking forward to reading your inspiring comments every time.

I have to say I’ve a very good feeling about this album myself, everything is somehow falling into place. Please stay tuned, we’ll have more news for you in January!

Warm Christmas wishes to you all from Lori, Hoshi and me at the Electric Castle!


Copyright © 2016 Ayreon, All rights reserved.

Donate to Jerry Ewing and PROG/Merry Christmas


Dear Progarchists,

One of the only (well, probably the ONLY!) good things about PROG being shut down is seeing the amount of support being shown for our beloved friends.  On Facebook, everyone from Greg Spawton to Matt Cohen to Mike Portnoy and beyond has offered great words for Jerry and everyone at Prog.

Mike Morton of The Gift has taken this to the next level.  He’s set up a link to help donate to all of those who just lost their jobs.  Remember, they had no idea this was coming at work.  Not only were they let go this afternoon, they were denied pay for the previous three weeks as well.

Continue reading “Donate to Jerry Ewing and PROG/Merry Christmas”

IZZ, Christmas, and Charity


One of my favorite bands, IZZ, just announced two new songs–Christmas songs–with the profits going for charity to help the Philippines.  Truly worthy of our support.

IZZ is pleased to offer original arrangements of two traditional Christmas carols, featuring the inspiring vocals of Anmarie Byrnes on “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and Laura Meade on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  In the spirit of the Season of Giving, all proceeds will be donated to assist in the relief efforts for the Philippine victims of Super Typhoon, Haiyan. All proceeds will be donated directly to Save the Children. Save The Children is targeting relief efforts at families and children directly affected by Typhoon Haiyan.  Thank you for your generous support for the Philippine people in the wake of this devastating storm.

To order, click here.

BillyNews: Psychedelic Santa!

Cleopatra Records Taps Modern Psych-Space Bands
For A Psychedelic Themed Christmas Album
Featuring Psychic Ills, Dead Meadow, The Vacant Lots, Sleepy Sun,
Dark Horses, Elephant Stone, Sons Of Hippies, and more!
Los Angeles, CA – The 2013 holiday season is about to get a whole lot trippier with the release of Cleopatra Record’s Psych-Out Christmas, a brand new compilation of spaced out, psychedelic interpretations of Christmas classics and new holiday favorites performed by a team of current psych-space rock bands from around the globe! The compilation is available now on both CD & vinyl at all fine music retailers as well as for download at iTunes and other digital music retailers.
Canadian indie rockers Elephant Stone kick things off with a sitar-infused version of the beloved Beatles’ holiday singalong “Christmas Time (Is Here Again),” followed by Sweden’s own Dark Horses turning in an original piece composed specifically for this compilation, the wintry, ethereal ballad “Jul Song.” Another Swedish band, The Movements, whose new album was released earlier this year by Cleopatra, offer a uniquely drumless take on “Little Drummer Boy” that swirls with fuzzy guitars and dreamy synths to create a headswimming sugar plum hum.
The vibrant psychedelic rock scene blooming on American shores is well represented here by the likes of Sleepy Sun, who thoroughly deconstruct the 19th century carol “What Child Is This?” and The Vacant Lots, who bring a Spiritualized twist to a long buried holiday treasure written by the band Suicide called “No More Christmas Blues.” The band explained their selection, “After spending many hours overdosing on the more familiar Christmas tunes, we gravitated towards the obscure Ze Christmas album track by Suicide.  As big fans of the band, ‘No More Christmas Blues’ seemed the perfect choice. The song also deals with the sadder side of the holidays, which we could relate to. It was a lot of fun to reinterpret the song in a new light and be part of a record with many other great bands.”
Florida-based trio Sons Of Hippies chose the unconventional yet wholly appropriate cover of The Zombies’ “Time Of the Season,” for what is Christmas if not “the season of loving”? Singer Katherine Kelly explains, “‘Time Of The Season’ was fun to cover. We replaced the organ parts on the original Zombies version with layers of distorted guitar leads and gave the drums an eerie, echoed intro. The Psych-Out Christmas compilation is unique and spooky and we wanted to be a part of that vibe.”
New York band Psychic Ills, currently on tour with Mazzy Star, got their Christmas wish when they were given the opportunity to record a version of Chuck Berry’s rollicking “Run Rudolph Run.” Guitarist/vocalist Tres Warren proclaims, “I always liked ‘Run Rudolph Run’ because it was a song that I’d actually want to listen to regardless of what time of year it is, and Chuck Berry is as mythical as Santa Clause in my mind.”
Alongside these newcomers, a few veterans join in the mix, including long time garage rock heroes The Fuzztones, and the original wild man himself Iggy Pop! Fans of these great artists, as well as anyone looking for a break from the traditional ho-hum Christmas album, is sure to find stocking full of surprises on this great release!
1. Christmas Monster Party (Intro) – Len Maxwell
2. Christmas Time (Is Here Again) – Elephant Stone
3. It’s Christmas Day – Cosmonauts
4. Silent Night – Quintron & Miss Pussycat
5. Jul Song – Dark Horses
6. What Child Is This? – Sleepy Sun
7. No More Christmas Blues – The Vacant Lots
8. Time of the Season – Sons of Hippies
9. Santa Claus – The Fuzztones
10. Christmas Tears – Eli Cook
11. Little Drummer Boy – The Movements
12. Jingle Bell Rock – Quintron & Miss Pussycat
13. Frosty The Snowman – The Candy Store
14. Run Rudolph Run – Psychic Ills
15. Mele Kalikimaka – Dead Meadow
16. Jingle Bells – He 5
17. White Christmas (Guitar Stooge Version) – Iggy Pop
Purchase the CD at Amazon: http://georiot.co/2ceI
Download the album at iTunes: http://georiot.co/1a7a
Press inquiries:
Glass Onyon PR
Billy James
11041 Santa Monica Blvd #703
Los Angeles CA 90025


A Little More Seasonal Joy: Mike Kershaw’s WINTER

kershaw winterAs I mentioned in the previous post, there are lots of new musical offerings this Christmas season.  Of course, what a tradition!  Some of the great seasonal recording of the not so distant past: Jethro Tull, Sarah McLachlan, George Winston (remember him!).

In addition to the excellent releases by The Reasoning, Neal Morse, Leah, and Kevin McCormick, the intrepid goth progger, Mike Kershaw, has just released WINTER.  As he describes it:

This is a seasonal EP with 4 quite different songs. I decided to record this whilst writing for my next album ‘Ice Age’ as there was a track that didn’t fit exactly with the feel of the album and along with a couple of songs that referenced Xmas which I could never have put on a normal album release. Land of Gloom is a short, fun, upbeat track that at face value is Christmas standard but the lyrics suggest something else Silent, Silent Night is an altogether more serious track and the lyrics speak for themselves really Reason to Believe was the title track of my 2011 album and I thought it would fit nicely alongside these other songs. However rather than just including it in its original form I have re-recorded a good deal of it and given it a new sound. A song of hope. Snowman was a track specifically written for ‘Ice Age’ that on reflection didn’t fit with the mood of the album but was too good to discard. Basically a love song with Mellotrons!! Hope you enjoy listening.

Much enjoyment, indeed, at progarchy central.  Thanks, Mike!  Get yours at: http://mikekershaw.bandcamp.com/