2019 Prog (Plus) Preview 2!

More new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe & super-deluxe) and even books about music heading our way between now and Christmas?  Yep.  Following up on my previous post, it’s another exhaustive sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with other personal priorities — below.  Click on the titles for pre-order links — whenever possible, you’ll wind up at the online store that gets as much money as possible directly to the creators.

Out now:

Andrew Keeling, Musical Guide to In the Court of the Crimson King, 10/50 Edition: composer/musicologist/online diarist Keeling’s revision of his 2009 book (the first of a series acclaimed by King Crimson’s Robert Fripp).

Marillion with Friends from the Orchestra: 9 Marillion classics re-recorded by the full band, the string quartet In Praise of Folly, flautist Emma Halnan and French horn player Sam Morris.  Available on CD.

A Prog Rock Christmas: Billy Sherwood produces 11 holiday-themed tracks from the typical all-star cast (members of Yes, Utopia, Flying Colors, Renaissance, District 97, Curved Air and more).  Download and CD available now; LP available November 1.


October 25:

King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King (50th Anniversary Edition): featuring brand new stereo and surround mixes in 24/96 resolution by Steven Wilson.  Available in 3 CD + BluRay or  2 LP versions.  (Note that the new mixes will also be included in the Complete 1969  CD/DVD/BluRay box set, which has been delayed until 2020.)

Van Morrison, Three Chords and the Truth: 14 new songs from Van the Man, available in digital, CD or LP versions.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Colorado: the first Young/Horse collaboration since the 2012 albums Americana and Psychedelic Pill, available in CD or 2LP versions.

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In Concert: Olé ELO!

Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids Michigan, July 23, 2019.

Parsing this band’s name closely pays off.  This isn’t an Electric Light Orchestra reunion by any means; rather, it’s reclusive ELO main man Jeff Lynne, touring North America with the music that made his bones for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Armed with fistfuls of Top 20 hits and key album tracks, Live Nation’s deep pockets, a dozen top-notch hired guns — including progressive rock role players Milton McDonald (Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe) on guitar and Lee Pomeroy (Anderson Rabin & Wakeman, Steve Hackett, It Bites, Headspace) on bass — and visual production rivaling Pink Floyd, Lynne delivered the goods to a pumped-up, near-capacity crowd Tuesday night.  Sure, the show was polished and manicured (and doubtless click-tracked and auto-tuned) within inches of its life — but it was also irresistible to the ears and dazzling to the eyes, an unalloyed pleasure from start to finish.

Continue reading “In Concert: Olé ELO!”

soundstreamsunday: “Mission (A World Record)” by Electric Light Orchestra

soundstreamsunday HQ

I never knew anyone who wasn’t at least a little bit of a fan of Electric Light Orchestra.  My age privileges me in remembering hearing new ELO songs on the radio when I was a kid — it was almost impossible I think for DJs to screw up their set with ELO, as the band’s music straddled so many genres at one time — and although I never owned any of their albums until I was in my 40s (I can’t believe it either), not liking their music would be akin to not liking having any fun.  But along with that fun came a musicality and seriousness of songwriting that could get you scratching your head, too.  In the words of the old ad, this stuff was good and good for you.

Those were the days….  Launched on record in 1971, by 1976 ELO had five albums under their belt and their sixth, A New World Record, would distill Jeff Lynne’s profound ambition into a back-to-front nine-song pop-prog epic 36 minutes long.  While many fans cite ELO’s next record, 1977’s Out of the Blue, as the masterpiece (and in some ways it is), that double album’s aesthetic really gestated on A New World Record: late-era Beatles laid across heavy accents of American R&B and soul, filtered through an army of instruments and tracks.  Lynne’s achievement in 1976 was to make this happen succinctly, in service of his writing, which produced the best kinds of love songs — those without the hey babies — full of heartbreak, hope, and hooks.  Always the hooks, the insanely catchy melodies.  And so the album is packed with genuine chart hits: “Telephone Line,” “Livin’ Thing,” the odd and wonderful “Do Ya,” the dopey but tolerable “Rockaria!”  Pop done and undone to the level of the avant-garde, it’s so ridiculous.  But it’s at the end of the album’s sides where the sweetness isn’t so much cleansed as qualified, adding a complex finish to the confections preceding.  So the album closer “Shangri-La” declares in its operatic final two minutes a return to paradise, either towards or away from the pain of love, and the last cut on side A is a puzzle that resolves in a lyrical, gorgeous sadness.

From the LP lyric sheet, the (artfully incomplete) words to “Mission (A World Record)”

There is nothing straightforward in “Mission (A World Record),” the central lyrics of which are “watching all the world go by” and — not even printed in the liner notes — “how’s life on Earth?” The rest of it could be a starry sci-fi mini-epic or the rant of a tenant at a mission hospital, or both.  But, astral projection or interstellar travel aside, the song concerns itself primarily with a melody, guitar line, and arrangement that read like maps of a future Radiohead.  A vibe of desolate beauty, of being left behind, linked with a prophecy or the ramblings of a seer, a paranoid android or a subterranean homesick alien.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section above.