The Big Prog (Plus) Preview for Fall 2021!

What new music and archival finds are heading our way in the next couple of months? Check out the representative sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with a few other personal priorities — below. (Box sets based on reissues will follow in a separate article!) Pre-order links are embedded in the artist/title listings below.

Out now:

Amanda Lehmann, Innocence and Illusion: “a fusion of prog, rock, ballads, and elements of jazz-blues” from the British guitarist/vocalist best known as Steve Hackett’s recurring sidekick. Available direct from Lehmann’s webstore as CD or digital download.

Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective and the Turtle Island Quartet, Absence: trumpeter/film composer Blanchard dives into music both written and inspired by jazz legend Wayne Shorter. His E-Collective supplies cutting edge fusion grooves, and the Turtle Island String Quartet adds orchestral depth to the heady sonic concoctions. Available from Blue Note Records as CD or digital download.

The Neal Morse Band, Innocence and Danger: another double album from Neal, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette. No overarching concept this time — just everything and the kitchen sink, ranging from a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to brand-new half-hour epics. Available from Inside Out as 2CD, 2CD/DVD or 3 LPs/2 CDs

Trifecta, Fragments: what happens when Steven Wilson’s rhythm section turns his pre-show sound checks into “jazz club”? Short, sharp tracks that mix the undeniable chops and musicality of Adam Holzman on keys, Nick Beggs on Stick and Craig Blundell on drums with droll unpredictability and loopy titles like “Clean Up on Aisle Five” and “Pavlov’s Dog Killed Schrodinger’s Cat”. Available from Burning Shed as CD or LP (black or neon orange).

Upcoming releases after the jump!

Continue reading “The Big Prog (Plus) Preview for Fall 2021!”

The Progarchy Interview: Lonely Robot’s John Mitchell

Whether contributing to Clive Nolan’s Arena and Jem Godfrey’s Frost*, driving the bus in collaborations like Kino and the latter day It Bites, or helming his own Lonely Robot project, John Mitchell has brought the progressive rock world tons of cool music in the last decade-plus.  His irresistible melodic hooks, exciting riffage, heart-on-sleeve lyrics, passionate singing and meticulous craftsmanship are instantly recognizable and (at least for me) guaranteed to raise a smile.

Mitchell’s latest album, Lonely Robot’s Feelings Are Good, pivots from the high-concept themes of the Astronaut Trilogy (2015’s Please Come Home, 2017’s The Big Dream and 2019’s Under Stars), refocusing his sharp observational eye on the rich, sometimes heart-stopping drama of daily life — while resculpting the music to match, aided and abetted by ace drummer Craig Blundell.  Released by Inside Out on July 17th on CD, LP and download, Feelings Are Good  is a thrilling, wildly eclectic, moving, just plain fun listen.

Getting the chance to interview John Mitchell was just as much fun — he’s warm, humorous and gregarious, serious about his art and at ease with himself.  And as you’ll see in the video below, he was definitely having a better hair day than me!  An edited transcript of our talk follows the jump.

Continue reading “The Progarchy Interview: Lonely Robot’s John Mitchell”

Steve Hackett Sells England By the Pound – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 10/3/19

Steve Hackett, Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI, October 3, 2019
Band:
Steve Hackett, Nad Sylvan, Craig Blundell, Jonas Reingold, Rob Townsend, Roger King

Setlist:
Set 1
Every Day
Under the Eye of the Sun
Fallen Walls and Pedestals
Beasts in Our Time
The Virgin and the Gypsy
Tigermoth
Spectral Mornings
The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
Clocks – The Angel of Mons

Set 2
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth of Fifth
More Fool Me
The Battle of Epping Forest
After the Ordeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
Deja Vu
Dance on a Volcano

Encore
Los Endos

I had been looking forward to this concert ever since I bought tickets at the beginning of the year. I had never seen Steve Hackett live, but it had been at the top of my bucket list for a while. He’s my favorite guitarist, and I’ve loved all of the recent Genesis Revisited live albums. I consider Selling England By the Pound to be one of the finest albums ever made, so I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see Mr. Hackett and company perform it live. They didn’t disappoint.

During the first half of the show, the band played highlights from Hackett’s 1979 solo album Spectral Mornings and this year’s At the Edge of Light. The whole set was very strong, but I particularly enjoyed Craig Blundell’s drum solo. Some drum solos can be a little boring, but not this one. Very engaging, interesting, and complex. The opening “Every Day” really highlighted the light and airy style of Hackett’s solo music, while “Beasts In Our Time” showed how heavy his music can be. Jonas Reingold’s bass was exceptional all night, but the bass line on “Under the Eye of the Sun” really allowed his talent to shine.

Continue reading “Steve Hackett Sells England By the Pound – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 10/3/19”

Review: Frost* – “Falling Satellites”

frost-falling-cover

No matter their level of activity, all’s right in the prog world when the on again/off again ensemble known as Frost* is in “On” mode.  Many of us have closely – and happily – followed the twists and turns of writer/keyboardist/vocalist Jem Godfrey’s group since they released the landmark album “Milliontown” back in 2006.

For those who may not have been exposed to the band back then, “Milliontown” was something altogether new, or at least sounded altogether new – an accessible, expertly-produced, keyboard-heavy, dense, dynamic, and at times industrial-sounding blend of prog rock not for the faint of speaker cones. It was not to be mistaken for yet another prog band channeling the 70’s with all the cliches that go with that era (band names withheld to protect the guilty). As a fan of modern prog, “Milliontown” easily became one of two of my favorite albums of the last 15 years – the other being It Bites’ “The Tall Ships” – and not a week has gone by in the last decade when I haven’t given at least some of “Milliontown” a listen (no, really).

Continue reading “Review: Frost* – “Falling Satellites””

VIDEO: “Heartstrings” by Frost*

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade (!) since the release of “Milliontown” by Frost*.  It was an album that seemingly came out of nowhere and didn’t sound quite like anything in the genre – a dense, dynamic, keyboard-heavy, and at times industrial-sounding album full of killer playing and plenty of memorable melodies.

The brainchild of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jem Godfrey, “Milliontown” remains one of my all-time favorite albums. I’m not sure a week has gone by in those 10 years without my giving at least one or more tracks from it a listen. Since then, the band released a follow-up album, “Experiments In Mass Appeal,” played quite a few gigs, went through some lineup changes over the years in the rhythm section department, released a couple live albums and bonus tracks, and has been an on-again, off-again unit since “Experiments.”

Well, the band is very much on again as Godfrey, John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena, Kino), bassist Nathan King (Level 42) and drummer Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson of late) have recorded “Falling Satellites,” their third full-length album and first in nearly eight years.

Never a group to do the obvious thing – a look at their many “Frost* Reports” and live videos kicking around YouTube will more than prove that point – the Frosties gathered at Rockfield Studios several years back to record some of their tunes live off the floor.  One of those tracks,”Heartstrings,” is well known in the Frostiverse, but will see its studio debut on “Falling Satellites,” which will be released May 27th.

(By the way, it’s not like you need me to connect any prog dots for you, but if Rockfield Studios sounds somewhat familiar, it could be because Rush recorded “A Farewell To Kings” and “Hemispheres”at the Wales-based studio)

Taken from “The Rockfield Files” DVD, Godfrey excerpted and posted this beautifully-shot and edited video for “Heartstrings” earlier this week. Enjoy!

Frost* – The Rockfield Files DVD Trailer

Lest anyone think the lack of Jem Godfrey’s often hilarious “Frost* Reports” means the band have been hibernating, fear not: The boys are back with a new DVD just in time for the holidays!

Aside from brilliant re-workings of Frost* staples, the photography and lighting are REALLY good here, so do check out this trailer. Cheers!