Following the jump, the reissues and compilations from this past year that:
For one reason or another, I absolutely had to buy (whether I previously had a copy or not), and
That grabbed me on first listen and haven’t let go through repeated plays. Except for my Top Favorite at the end of the post, I haven’t ranked them — in my opinion, they’re all worth your time. But first, a graphic tease …
What new music, live albums, and reissues (deluxe and otherwise) are heading our way between now and Black Friday? Check out the exhaustive (and possibly exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with a few other personal priorities — below. Pre-order links are for CDs or combo packages; vinyl editions are frequently available from the same website.
Marillion, Happiness is Cologne and Popular Music. Limited edition live reissues from Racket Records and earMusic. Pre-order at Amazon or other online retailers.
Blackfield, Open Mind (The Best of Blackfield). Pre-order from Burning Shed.
Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin, Star Clocks. Pre-order from Burning Shed.
Steve Hackett, Broken Skies – Outspread Wings (1984-2006). Esoteric Recordings reissue box set (6 CDs + 2 DVDs). Pre-order autographed copies from Hackettsongs.
King Crimson, Meltdown: Live in Mexico. 3 CDs + 1 BluRay. Pre-order from Burning Shed.
Glass Hammer, Chronomonaut. Pre-order autographed copies or the deluxe bundle from Glass Hammer’s webstore. Pre-order deadline: October 11.
Sanguine Hum, Now We Have Power. Pre-order from Bandcamp.
Greta Van Fleet, Anthem of the Peaceful Army. The first full-length album from Frankenmuth, Michigan’s young Zepheads. Pre-order at GvF’s webstore.
iamthemorning, Ocean Sounds. Live in the studio; audio/video bundle. Pre-order at Burning Shed.
In Continuum, Acceleration Theory. With Dave Kerzner and an all-star line-up. Pre-order bundles from Bandcamp.Pre-order deadline for special bundles: September 30.
Frank Sinatra, Only the Lonely: 60th Anniversary Edition. Yes, really. The greatest concept album of the pre-rock era, with Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle at their most gorgeous and devastating. “Make it one for my baby … and one more for the road.” More info at Super Deluxe Edition.
Anathema, Internal Landscapes. The best of the band’s Kscope albums. Pre-order from Burning Shed.
I originally posted this a year ago, to mark the 99th anniversary of Sinatra’s birthday on December 12th. After reading this USA Today article on Sinatra’s influence on “the world”, I thought it made sense to re-post it to mark the centenary of his birth.
“Well, yes, of course,” you said, upon reading the headline. “Everyone knows that Old Blue Eyes was not just a crooner, but a prog crooner, and thus the grandfather of prog rock! Does it really need to be said again?” Yes, it probably should, despite the abundance of articles on the topic (ahem). Especially since today marks what would have been The Chairman of the Board’s 99th birthday if he was still among us. Sinatra was born on this day in 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey, and would go on to be one of the best-known, best-selling musical artists of the 20th century, rivaled in sales and popularity by only a handful of artists and groups.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that Sinatra was a “prog rocker”. I might be a Sinatra fanboy—I have over 1,200 Sinatra songs in my iTunes library and listen to some of his music nearly every day—but I’m not insane. At least not that insane. What I am saying is that Sinatra did a number of things on the musical front that were either quite unique or very notable (and probably little known to most people), that pointed toward key elements and attitudes making up what we now call “prog”.
I began writing this post several months ago, in January, carried along on the brief rush of excitement that comes with a new year. “2015! How about noting a bunch of anniversaries of great albums?” And, in fact, one of the great strengths of Progarchy.com is the sense of music history and the awareness of anniversaries: “Forty year ago….thirty years ago….twenty-five years ago…twenty years ago…”, as opposed to the dominant model out there, which is “Forty minutes ago…thirty seconds ago…twenty tweets ago…” But then life overwhelmed me and the burst of focused energy dissipated for a while. Now it’s back. Best strike while the vinyl is hot—or something along those lines.
The idea here is very simple: I listen to hundreds of new albums every year, along with hundreds of older albums that I come back to for various reasons; but how much of that music has real staying power? And what, in the end, makes a person return repeatedly to This Album rather than That Album? Sure, of course it is because of impeccable taste and a rare instinct for timeless music. (Duh.) But there is a wonderful mystery to it all, for so much of what resonates in a particular album comes from accidental things: the time, the place, the event, the moment. Certain songs bring back great memories; certain songs make you want to jump off a cliff (yes, I’m looking at you, Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”).
But it isn’t simply a matter of nostalgia, which can only go so far; it is, I hope, more often a matter of discovery, of hearing something new—or, in some cases, hearing something old and suddenly hearing it. Really hearing it.
My criteria is this: what albums from 60, 50, 40, 30, 25, 20, and 10 years ago do I still listen to now on a regular basis? And never tire of hearing? And why? With that, here goes!
1955: In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatraand It’s a Blue World by Mel Tormé. I was not raised on Sinatra’s music; quite the contrary—I was raised on decent hymns and mediocre to rotten “Christian” music; I hardly paid attention to Top 40 pop and rock until I was in junior high. And I didn’t really listen to Sinatra or Tormé until a dozen years ago. Prior to that, I simply didn’t “get it”. Then I did. Why? I’m not sure. But since then, I’ve collected some 1300 Sinatra songs. The Chairman of the Board produced many classic albums, but this one is my personal favorite: dark, lush, aching, beautiful, gut-wrenching, perfect. I sometimes fall to sleep listening to it, especially when it’s 2:00 in the morning and I’m wide awake. Sinatra had the rare gift of making you, the listener, believe The Voice was singing only to and for you. It’s impossible to describe; it simply has to be heard and experienced. And don’t forget: Sinatra is the God Father of Prog. Really. Sinatra, by the way, was born a hundred years ago this year.
Tormé did not have the edge or darkness of Sinatra, nor did he ever plumb the depths of emotional despair as did the legend ten years his senior. But Tormé had range, talent, and genius to burn, not just as one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century, but also as an accomplished songsmith (he penned 250 songs or so), fabulous arranger, top-notch drummer (and decent pianist), novelist, biographer, author, actor, screen writer, consummate showman, and collector (guns, cars, movies, etc.). It’s a Blue World is a lush, impeccable set of songs, likely influenced by Sinatra’s Wee Small Hours. While Sinatra packs an emotional punch, Tormé thrills with pure beauty and dazzling musicality, all delivered with an effortless ease that reminds me of watching Roger Federer play tennis at Wimbledon. Bing Crosby, asked late in life to name his favorite musicians, named only one vocalist–Tormé–saying, “Any singer that goes to hear this guy sing has got to go and cut his throat.” For a taste, check out Tormé singing Duke Ellington’s “I’ve Got It Bad, And That Ain’t Good”. Continue reading “60 Years, Twelve Albums, One Man’s Favorites”→