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.

Continue reading “2019 Prog (Plus) Preview 2!”

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!”

Rounding Up Some Live Ones

Several bands have recently released some nice live albums. In no particular order, here are a few of the most notable:

Pineapple Thief: Where We Stood


Wow, when I first heard this, I wondered who or what lit a fire under this group’s collective backside. After watching the excellent film that accompanies this recording, I have to say it’s having Gavin Harrison behind the drum kit. As good as Pineapple Thief’s 2016 album Your Wilderness is, I think the versions from this show are better: tight, energetic, and riskier. And if you ever wondered where Bruce Soord came up with the band’s name, now you can find out. By the way, every song from Your Wilderness is performed here, except for “Where We Stood”. Go figure.

Spock’s Beard: Snow Live

A lot of us fans of the classic Spock’s Beard lineup never thought we would see them reunite, let alone perform the double-album masterpiece, Snow. Well, Neal Morse managed to get all the Beardsters – past and current – together at his 2016 MorseFest, and they delivered a tremendous performance of Snow in its entirety. I’m probably biased (because I was there), but it is quite an emotional experience.

Yes: Topographic Drama Live Across America

I approached this set with trepidation – it is the first recordings of Yes without the late Chris Squire participating. However, as I got into the music, I was very pleasantly surprised. Jon Davison does an excellent job on vocals and acoustic guitar, while Billy Sherwood fills Squire’s huge shoes. Steve Howe is still full of fire, and Geoff Downes is uniformly excellent on keyboards. They perform all of Drama (one of my favorite Yes albums), as well as “The Revealing Science of God” and “Ritual” from Topographic Oceans. Add in “And You and I”, “Heart of the Sunrise”, “Leaves of Green”, “Roundabout”, and “Starship Trooper”, and you have a set to satisfy any Yes lover. It definitely helps that Jay Schellen was able to play drums and assist Alan White. God bless him, but Alan’s timekeeping has gotten a little shaky over past few years. That said, this is a surprisingly strong set of performances from Yes.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Wembley or Bust

Holy cow, this is a fun concert to watch! I wish I’d been there in June of this year when Jeff Lynne, supported by a crack band, played songs from every phase of his career, including The Traveling Wilburys. The love for Jeff from the huge crowd is evident, and he delivers an outstanding performance. I had forgotten just how many popular (and beautiful) songs he’s written. Takes me back to my high school days when ELO’s music was inescapable on the radio. How far we have fallen…. Anyway, this show had me grinning from ear to ear from start to finish.


Traveller: Agent of the Imperium (Book and RPG)

Yes, I know this is a site dedicated to the beauty of music in all its forms.  But, I also know that, like most music fans, I’m interested in a whole variety of things, especially if they’re done with excellence.  My love of prog has always coincided with my love of science fiction.  After all, whatever Ray Bradbury wrote, Roger Dean drew.   Well, not exactly, but close enough.

My original box set from 1980 and the latest Steve Hackett (2017).  They have nothing do with each other. . . except that I love both!

How many hours did I stare at the world imagined on the gatefold of YESSONGS or ELO’s OUT OF THE BLUE?  Too many to count.

Anyway, I’m guessing there are a number of other sci-fi/prog fans out there as well.

Back in 1980, I first got involved (obsessed would be more accurate) in RPGs.  I started (and continued) with Dungeons and Dragons, but I also really got into Traveller.  I still proudly have my Traveller GDW 301 Box, complete with the original booklets 1-5 as well as two adventures.  All purchased before 90125 ever came out!  Recently, I upgraded to Traveller 5–now, for better or worse, on CD-ROM.  Not as attractive, perhaps, but still very nice.

The point of this post, however, is this.  If you like sci-fi at all, make sure you pick up a copy of AGENT OF THE IMPERIUM, a novel by the founder of Traveller, Marc Miller.  I found it not only engaging, but I also found it one of the most inventive science-fiction novels I’ve read in a long time.  I have no idea if Miller is a progger, but, as I thoroughly enjoyed his novel, I couldn’t help but think of “Starship Trooper” and a number of other prog classics.

BillyNew: Quill’s Latest

Quill - Brush With The Moon med res.jpg
For Immediate Release 
UK Country Rock Band Quill Featuring Bev Bevan of ELO, The Move and Black Sabbath to Release New Album “Brush With The Moon”
Birmingham, UK – QUILL is a well-established, 7-piece country/folk/rock band based in Birmingham, England, from the same stable as ELO, Black Sabbath, The Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, Christine McVie (Fleetwood Mac) and more, have been wowing audiences for many years. In the past, all of these musicians played in and around Birmingham and kept in touch with each other. 
Says lead singer Joy Strachan–Brain, “ ‘Brush With The Moon’ is Quill’s first album to be released Worldwide and we are excited!!Until 2012, Quill was one of the busiest gigging bands in the UK, just getting out there and making music. Our self-penned album ‘Privileged’ sums up how we felt, doing a job we loved, visiting interesting countries , meeting amazing people and making music.” 
The band’s new album “Brush With The Moon” is a collection of songs written by the late BEN BRAIN. Ben was bass player and husband to Quill’s lead singer Joy Strachan–Brain. He left a legacy of wonderful songs and inspired by Jeff Lynne’s use of John Lennon’s demos on “Free as a bird”, Quill was moved to use Ben’s vocals and original demos to create this new album. “Brush with the Moon” is a tribute to Ben and has truly been a labor of love. 
Featuring respected musicians: Bev Bevan (ELO, Black Sabbath), Brian Tatler (Diamond Head), Tony Kelsey (who has played guitar with Robert Plant, Stevie Winwood, Jim Capaldi) and Matt Davies (well respected bass player and vocalist) along with band members Joy Strachan-Brain, Dave Bailey, Kate McWilliam and Tim Tandler 
Bev Bevan commented, “Over the years I have always been an admirer of Quill. I was particularly a fan of Joy, the lead singer, who I considered to be the best female singer around the Midlands area. When I was asked to put a band together for a national tour called ‘Stand up and Rock and found that the show needed a female lead vocalist, I immediately asked Joy to be part of it and she agreed. Since then ‘Stand up and Rock’ has become one of the most successful shows around with sell out tours around Great Britain. About a year ago I joined Quill as percussionist (being a drummer, I have always also liked playing percussion instruments too and have done so in the studio with The Move, ELO, Black Sabbath and Jose Feliciano). It’s great to be doing it live on stage now, and playing drums on some songs too. The line up has changed since I joined and the band now has a more folk and country rockier edge to it. The band is also now concentrating on just theatre shows and festivals and I’m very proud to be part of it and delighted to be on this current , newly released album ‘Brush With The Moon’. Joy and I are writing songs together and we are looking forward to recording tracks for another album to be released later this year.”  
Ben Brain was not only a fantastic wordsmith and performer, but a well respected artist. All of the album artwork consists of Ben’s sketches, which accompany his handwritten lyrics. All of Ben’s drawings seemed appropriate for the “Brush With The Moon” digipak artwork. The front cover is a water colour painting Ben had produced depicting the songs on the album. Additional artwork contribution to the album was from Ben’s daughter, Jenna Swann. 
JOY STRACHAN-BRAIN (lead vocals) 
KATE McWILLIAM (violin/vocals) 
DAVE BAILEY (keyboards/acoustic guitar/vocals) 
TIM TANDLER (drums/percussion) 
BEV BEVAN (drums/percussion) 
MATT DAVIES (bass guitar/vocals) 
TONY KELSEY (guitar/mandolin/vocals) 
1. Quicksilver 
2. Tumbling Years 
3. Schoolyard 
4. Poppy Fields 
5. Nine Mile Camp 
6. England 
7. Hollywood Blue 
8. Wedding Dress 
9. Twister 
10. Man In White 
To purchase Quill’s “Brush With The Moon”
QUILL is enjoying performing to sell-out shows throughout the UK, taking the audience on an exciting and emotional journey that features songs from an album that the audience can relate to. 
Quill tour dates
Acoustic Festival of GB – June 21, 2015, Uttoxeter Racecourse Wood Lane ST14 
Americana Festival – July 12, 2015, Loughborough Road Loughborough LE12 
Robin 2 – August 1, 2015, 
Artrix Theatre – August 15, 2015, Bromsgrove Highway Bromsgrove B60 
Abbey Theatre – September 26, 2015, Abbey Green Nuneaton CV11 
Prince of Wales Theatre – October 9, 2015, Arts Centre Cannock WS11 1DE 
Assembly Rooms – November 7, 2015, 1 Mill Street Ludlow 
Sutton Coldfield Town Hall – December 4, 2015, Upper Clifton Road, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands B73 6AB
Huntingdon Hall – December 11, 2015, Crowngate shopping Centre Worcester 
Watch the promotional videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOHKHgPB-PE
Official Websitewww.quilluk.com
Press inquiries: Glass Onyon PR, PH: 828-350-8158 (USA), glassonyonpr@gmail.com

Give Lobate Scarp some time and space—and volume!

January was incredibly busy. And February was incredibly surreal. When you edit a magazine titled Catholic World Report and the pope resigns while you are fighting the nastiest flu known to mankind, it is really surreal. And a new pope will soon be elected. Whew!lobatescarp_cover

But I’m putting all of that on hold for a few moments so I can write what is apparently my monthly—or is it bi-monthly?—post. I have grand plans to post much more often, but for now it is a monthly splurge. I intended (and promised, I’m ashamed to admit) to review the recently released Lobate Scarp album, “Time and Space”, several weeks ago. Russell Clarke has already penned a Progarchy.com review, but I wanted to also share a few thoughts about the album, in part because Russell and I have different takes on a few things about the album and because I have, at the moment, nothing to add to the many reviews of the excellent new Big Big Train album.

Upon first listening to “Time and Space”, my initial impression was quite positive. I’m happy to say that having now listened to it another 10 or 12 times, that impression remains and deepens.

Three things stand out. First, the production is exceptional. This album sounds fabulous: the sound is clear, warm, rich, and with a lot of depth and “room”, if that’s the right term. This album is worth getting just to listen to with headphones, volume up, in order to enjoy the variety of tones, the tasteful cello passages, the top-notch rhythm section, the robust harmonies, and lots of nifty details.

Now, beginning a review with praise for production values is usually the kiss of death, with a big, fat, “But…” to follow. But, no—there is no “but” to follow as, secondly, the music is also exceptional. Russell mentioned Spock’s Beard as a point of comparison, and I would add Neal Morse and Transatlantic. Considering that Adam Sears, the band’s leader, is the main lyricist, singer, and keyboardist, it seems apt that the group might draw some comparisons to Morse. The band’s site states, “From progressive rock influences like Genesis, Yes, and Phish, to the rock sensibilities of bands like Kansas, Muse, Faith No More and Styx, and a pop infusion of catchy vocals like Simple Minds, The Killers, The Police, Queen, and Foreigner; Lobate Scarp’s unique Progressive Space-Opera Rock music will surely take you on a musical journey you won’t forget.” That’s an interesting mix of musical influences and comparisons, and I can best hear Kansas, Styx, and Queen in the mix, as well as some Pink Floyd, especially in some of the guitar work by Hoyt Binder. The “space-opera” connection is, however, mostly lost on me; in fact, it is a bit confusing, because to my ears there isn’t much in the album—at least musically (more on they lyrics later)—that warrants such a description. Then again, I’m not exactly sure what a space opera is in a musical context, although the album that comes to mind for whatever reason is ELO’s “Time”, a personal favorite. While we at Progarchy.com rightly disdain most labels, or at least treat them as necessary evils, I would hazard that “Time and Space” is much more of a cross-over prog, or neo-prog, album, if only because the songs—while fairly complex and played with obvious skill—have an immediate accessibility. In fact, one of the real joys of this album is the presence of very good melodies, all of which stick with you and don’t become tired or stale after a few spins.

Third, and closely related to the first two, is the playing. The band’s promo material highlights the abundant contributions made to the album:

Over 50 musicians were involved in this progressive space-opera rock extravaganza. Guitars, Drums, Synths, Organs, Trumpets, Saxophone, Viola, Violin, Cello, Theremin, Glockenspiel, and a Latin singing choir were all recorded on this one. Peru Percussionist Alex Acuña (Weather Report) appears as a special guest percussionist and Rich Mouser (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Tears For Fears) mixed and mastered the album.

One might understandably think the resulting album would be overly busy, with endless layers of keyboards, guitars, strings, and whatever else. Surprisingly—and happily—this is not the case, at least not until the climax of the final cut, “The Mirror”, which features a full-blown choir (and to good effect, I think). As mentioned, this album has a lot of room; it breathes well, and part of that is the restraint shown by Sears and Company, who are clearly aware that there is a time and place for a wall of sound approach (at the Big, Choral-Driven End!) and a time for a less-is-more approach. The majority of the album features a very tight four-piece rock group that uses proggy time changes and proggy solos, but without being overtly, relentlessly proggy. This approach, I suspect, might annoy the more purist prog fans, but I think the band demonstrates they know what they want to do, and they do it very well. Besides, the mastery of various styles—notably jazz, classic rock, and some Latin based motifs—is obvious and adds a lot of flavor to the proceedings.

For instance, “Save My Soul” begins with a prog-icized classic rock riff that eventually works into a muscular bass line before Sears enters with a steadily gaining vocal line that finally releases into a big, power-chorded chorus. Then, at about the 3:20 mark, the song breaks down into a funky, fusion-ish segue with vintage keyboards that brings to mind late ‘60s albums (“Bitches Brew”, etc.) by Miles Davis, before eventually works back into a ripping rock song with horns and organ joining the chaotic fray at the end.

And while all of the playing, again, is exceptional, I must single out Sears for his fine vocals (clean and pure in many places; rocking and more raw in others), Binder for his tasteful guitar playing (the sequence in the middle of “Beginning of Us” stands out), and Andy Catt for some dynamic, propulsive bass playing.

Finally, the lyrics. Contra Russell, I heard (and read) the lyrics as working on a couple of different levels: one inter-relational and the other spiritual, or metaphysical. This was confirmed by Sears, who shared the following in an e-mail regarding the song, “The Contradiction”:

I’m sure one may look at it and think that it is about a struggle in a relationship. While this can be true, the deeper meaning of “Contradiction” is about the connection of the spiritual world and the physical world. It is spoken from the point of view of the soul which exists in the spiritual/metaphysical world and this soul is talking to its physical world inhabiter, who is struggling with the contradictions of existing in both worlds. For instance, if there is indeed a spiritual or meta-physical world, this computer I’m typing only exists in the physical world and doesn’t exist at all in the meta-physical world. So it exists, yet doesn’t exist at the same time. If you respect and accept the contradiction your physical self and your soul will be brought together in a strong bond, but if you think too much about the contradiction or try picking it apart, it can drive you mad. “The Contradiction will bring us together or tear us apart.”

I’m not sure I’m on board with the metaphysics outlined here (they sound neo-gnostic, but that’s for another discussion), but the seriousness of the searching is hard to overlook (also readily evident in “Save My Soul”); this is not an ordinary love song. And I suppose the lyrics are what are most obviously “space opera” about the album. Regardless of the descriptive used, I think “Time and Space” is a very good album by a young and talented band that rewards repeated listens—especially loud and with headphones!