News from Coralspin: The Graphic Side

As Coralspin prepares the followup to their excellent first release, Honey and Lava, the band’s mastermind, Blake McQueen, shares the new visuals.  Quite fetching.


It wasn’t easy deciding who to go with as there are a lot of great graphic designers out there with impressive artwork, but Sam’s work just had something about it that seemed right for us. Even though he mostly does artwork for angry and gloomy bands I thought he would have a good feel for something that was a bit more classic rock, and thankfully I was right. It gets the balance between old and modern right, it doesn’t look dated now and it won’t look dated in 10 years (I think — and please forgive me for gushing about our own logo, but it is a great experience to work with a talented collaborator who produces the right stuff for you — and I think Sam will eventually be recognized as one of the great rock graphic designers).–Blake McQueen

For the full article, click here.

The Best 15 Albums of 2012, The Greatest Year in Prog. Ever.

IMG_3725by Brad Birzer, Progarchy editor

One of my greatest pleasures of 2012–and there have been many–has been listening to massive quantities of progressive rock, mostly for pleasure.

Being a literary and humanities guy, I’d contemplated rejecting the entire numerical ranking scheme.  Rather, I thought about labeling each of my best albums with various qualities of myth.  These albums achieved the level of Virgil; these of Dante; these of Tolkien, etc.  But, I finally decided this was way too pretentious . . . even for me.

Below are my rankings for the year.  Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by any of these choices.  I’m not exactly subtle in what I like and dislike.  Before listing them, though, I must state three things.

First, I loved all of these albums, or I wouldn’t be listing them here.  That is, once you’ve made it to Valhalla or Olympus, why bother with too many distinctions.  The differences between my appreciation of number 8 and number 2, for example, are marginal at best.

Second, I am intentionally leaving a couple of releases out of the rankings: releases from Echolyn, The Enid, Minstrel’s Ghost, Galahad, and Kompendium, in particular, as I simply did not have time to digest them.  Though, from what I’ve heard, I like each very much.

Third, I think that 2012 has proven to be the single greatest year in prog history.  DPRP’s Brian Watson has argued that we’re in the “third wave of prog.”  He might very well be right.  But, I don’t think we’ve ever surpassed the sheer quality of albums released this year.  This is not to belittle anything that has come before.  Quite the contrary.  I am, after all, a historian by profession and training.  The past is always prologue.  Close to the Edge, Selling England by the Pound, and  Spirit of Eden will always be the great markers of the past.

Ok, be quiet, Brad.  On with the rankings.

Continue reading “The Best 15 Albums of 2012, The Greatest Year in Prog. Ever.”

Songs from the Hedgerow: Preliminary Awards, 2012

146BBT1by Brad Birzer, Progarchist Editor

Though Progarchy is only two months old, I’m absolutely thrilled with its successes.  A thanks, first, to all of you out in the world (it’s a blast to look at the google map of who checks us out daily) who read us.  I hope you keep coming back to us.

Second, though, an immense thanks to all of the Progarchist writers.  Everything written here is purely voluntary.  We each have full-time jobs and families, but we do this because we love it.

We’re certainly not the biggest music website, but I believe that–in terms of sheer literary quality–no other website matches us.  I would hold any one of our writers (individually or collectively) against any other group of writers in the blogosphere.  If this sounds cocky, I apologize.  But, as editor, I find it quite humbling.  We really like each other, but we also believe that the importance of the music demands that we write and try to match with our utmost abilities.  On this, I think we’ve succeeded.

Additionally, though the site is based in the western Great Lakes of North America, we also have writers from the U.K., Brazil, and New Zealand.  We’re hoping to have someone from Antarctica soon—Penguin Prog?—but, it’s been more difficult than one might first imagine.

As 2012 comes to its necessary and inescapable end, each of the Progarchists has been asked—as time permits—to rank her or his favorite albums of the past year.

I’ll be ranking my top fifteen albums as well, and I’m sure my number one pick of the year, which I think is the best album of the last twenty-four years, will probably come as no surprise to anyone.

Continue reading “Songs from the Hedgerow: Preliminary Awards, 2012”

Our Progarchist Week

GlassHammerPerilous2012borders_001Just in case you missed any of this, we had yet another brilliant week at Progarchy.  Dr. Nick and Alison Henderson reviewed the new Steve Hackett album, Genesis Revisited II (Insideout).  Tad Wert posted about guitarist Michael Hedges.  Chris Morrissey reviewed (briefly) one of his favorite albums of the year, the debut album from Flying Colors, and he posted about the excellence of Mike Portnoy.  I had the great privilege of interviewing Blake McQueen of Coralspin.  Ian Greatorex (doesn’t everyone want an ubercool last name such as Greatorex?) looked at the past of Beardfish.  Roger O’Donnell remembered his time recording Disintegration with The Cure.  Jazz legend, Dave Brubeck, passed away, the day before turning 92.  Carl Olson offered a nice review of his career.  Finally, our Englishman, turned-Kiwi, Russell Clarke, explained why Big Big Train allows him to remember, fondly, his homeland.

Forthcoming, more reviews of Steve Hackett (at least one more, maybe two) as well as a review of the forthcoming King Bathmat.  Several (if not all!) Progarchists will also be explaining our “best of 2012.”  Lots and lots to come before 2012 is done.

On a personal note, I’ve spent much of my free time this week, going back through the myriad interviews with the various members of American prog demi-gods, Glass Hammer.  There’s plenty of quotable material from these guys.  My favorite, though, comes from a 2002 interview with one of my oldest friends, Amy Sturgis.  In response to one of her questions, Steve Babb stated: “We were attempting to repackage progressive rock (which we though had long since vanished) as fantasy rock.”

Continue reading “Our Progarchist Week”

Coralspin Interview

One of my favorite CDs to make an appearance this year comes from a band with a big Trevor Rabin or Trevor Horn kind of feel to it: Coralspin’s Honey and Lava.  Very graciously, band leader Blake McQueen allowed me to take up his valuable time to interview him.  This is the first of what I hope will be many such interviews at Progarchy.  Here’s my review of Honey and Lava.

On to the interview.

1350332246_Coralspin_web1-Oct2012Progarchy: Blake, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.  I’m sure you’re incredibly busy.  So, again, thank you.  As you know, I’m a huge fan of your first CD, and I think while you guys have already gotten a lot of notice, there’s much, much more to come.  Would you mind telling our readers a bit about yourself–especially our North and Latin American readers who aren’t as familiar with the U.K. prog scene. 

Blake: We come from the melodic, more song-orientated end of the prog spectrum. Ellie, the singer and keyboardist and myself, also a keyboard player, are classically trained. Ellie is also a classically-trained oboeist, although we haven’t yet put that to use! Jake had a Dad who liked to play jazz piano, and as a result Jake can play jazz piano pretty well himself, but he taught himself guitar as his main instrument. Both the guys in our new rhythm section can play piano as well, so we are an all-piano-playing band!

Speaking of the new rhythm section, this is something we want to announce, we’re very excited about it. We’ve got Mick Wilson on bass, and Ed Gorrod on drums, they’ve both joined us on a ‘session’ basis for gigging next year and for the recording of the second album. They are absolutely awesome players and the band sounds phenomenal. Mick comes from an instrumental prog band who are friends of ours called Red Bazar, we have gigged with them previously. Ed’s also in a prog band called Stuntmen.

Prog magazine recently described as like ‘Brian May and Rick Wakeman’s prog child’, which is not a bad description, although on Honey and Lava I perhaps sound more like Tony Banks than Rick Wakeman as I don’t do many whizzy keyboard bits (more of that on the next album, though).

Continue reading “Coralspin Interview”

High praise from a brilliant man, Blake McQueen

From Blake McQueen of prog outfit and class act, Coralspin:

Progarchy is a new US prog site that’s made a big splash already in only a few days of existence. This is not surprising as it’s headed up by that indefatigable trailblazer for modern prog (especially British modern prog) Brad Birzer. There’s even a review there of us…

Thanks, Blake!  I’m eager to tell my students about the trailblazer part.

Coralspin’s Honey and Lava (2012)

Coralspin, “Honey and Lava,” (Altrospire, 2012).  New on the prog scene, Coralspin hails from England.  Much of the music on this excellent release has the feel of something Trevor Horn or Trevor Rabin might have produced around the time of Yes’s 1984 MTV masterpiece, “90125.”  Certainly, Coralspin has its roots in the early to mid 1980s, especially with its big guitars and its big keyboards.  Whether one likes the music of Horn or Rabin or not, no one could honestly dispute the audiophile proclivities of each man.  The same can be written of Coralspin’s Blake McQueen.  The production of this album is simply stunning–this hit me from the first moment I put it in my cd player, and it continues to impress me with each listening.  It’s not just the keyboards and guitars that stand out , no matter how much they predominate on most of tracks.  The bass and the drums are crisp, offering this album a much more punctuated and professional feel than some of its 80s ancestors.  Indeed, I wish Horn and Rabin would’ve mixed Chris Squire’s bass at this level on 90125.  Amazingly enough, almost all of Honey and Lava was recorded in McQueen’s home, and he later mixed and engineered it.  He’s, simply put, a master audiophile, in the same league with Steven Wilson or Rob Aubrey.  The lyrics on this album are wonderful as well–mythic, pointed, hard, soft.  Everything has its place, and its place is very good.  If I were forced to make a comparison (and, as far as I know, I’m doing this out of my own free will), I would compare Coralspin to The Reasoning.  There’s the obvious fact that the lead singers of each are women, but the comparison between the two is much, much deeper than what some silly academic might have pronounced twenty years ago as worthy of revelation.  The structures of the songs–as approached by Matt Cohen and Blake McQueen–have a definite similarity.   Both love mythic lyrics as well, and each wisely uses the voice not only to convey the meaning of the lyrics but also to convey the meaning of the very music itself.  For what it’s worth, I’m a very proud owner of Honey and Lava, and I eagerly await the follow up.