Live music prog extravaganza tonight at Vancouver’s Space Centre!

44305581_301424893783976_1512316207498264576_oDaniel James’ Brass Camel honours progressive rock legends tonight, underneath the unreal visuals of the HR MacMillan Space Centre’s 360 degree Star Theatre: Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Rush, and more!

Video from the rehearsals is viewable here and here.

Buy tickets here.

Get the DJBC band’s new album here and also on iTunes.

In Concert: Progtoberfest 4, Part 1

Due to the delights and demands of daily life, my second annual visit to Chicago’s Progtoberfest couldn’t be as extensive as last year’s three day blowout. Originally, I was only going to take in Sunday, in order to experience Soft Machine’s 50th anniversary tour of the USA. But an unexpected schedule opening let me check out the Saturday night action at Reggie’s Rock Club on the Windy (and Sleety) City’s south side.

One of the reasons I added Saturday night to my itinerary was the return of North Carolina’s ABACAB – The Music of Genesis. This ambitious tribute band charmed Progtoberfest 3 with a complete run-through of 1977’s live Genesis album, Seconds Out. This year, the brief was even more demanding: celebrating Genesis’ 50th anniversary by counting back down the years a la Rush’s R40 tour.

IMG_5793Given their time constraints, ABACAB opted to start with the 1981 Genesis track that gave them their name, then go back, back, back … Jaws dropped throughout the audience as they scaled the challenging heights of And Then There Were Three’s “Burning Rope,” Wind and Wuthering’s “Eleventh Earl of Mar” and the title track from A Trick of the Tail, never originally performed onstage. These choices all had special meanings for me: not only did I play “ABACAB” with my Alma College band The Run-Outs (shout out to Gadz, Jenny, Beef and the late great Joel Kimball), but “Burning Rope” and “Earl of Mar” were highlights of Genesis’ set when I saw them in 1978 at my first rock concert (also my first date)!

And the upward climb continued — Nick D’Virgilio (among his numerous credits, drummer on the final Genesis album Calling All Stations) hopped onstage, taking command to sing “In the Cage” from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway with flair and power:

IMG_5804From that point on, ABACAB had the audience completely in their grasp, cruising through highlights of the Peter Gabriel years in high style, then finishing with “In the Beginning” from the 1968 schoolboy album From Genesis to Revelation. Singer Pete Lents, bassist/guitarist Cliff Stankiewicz, new guitarist James Nelson, keys man Patrick Raymaker and drummer Matthew Hedrick played with brio and precision throughout, and got an enthusiastic standing ovation for their sterling effort.

Another cool thing about Progtoberfest: how organizer Kevin Pollack draws on the incredibly talented musicians based in Chicago, including many who’ve played crucial roles in the development of jazz, rock and prog. Dinosaur Exhibit was a shining example of that talent on display — a seasoned “where are they now” octet featuring members of area bands The Flock, Aura and The Mauds; the prime draw was violinist Jerry Goodman, best known for his founding stint with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra.

IMG_5830Given Goodman’s pedigree and track record, I’m not sure the Rock Club crowd (including members of Soft Machine leaning back against the soundboard) were ready for the horn-powered blue-eyed soul that kicked off Dinosaur Exhibit’s set. It was driving, vivid stuff , as vocalist Ben Cothran testified with the best and Goodman fiddled up a storm — but you could almost see the “is this really prog?” thought balloons forming over the audience’s heads. The rest of the set (pioneering Goodman fusion originals like “Brick Chicken”, an admirably psychedelic take on “I Am the Walrus” and a viciously swinging “Theme from ‘Perry Mason'” finale) were more in that expected wheelhouse, though, and DE ultimately got the extended applause they deserved.

Which left Neal Morse as the evening’s closer, climbing onstage for a solo set on vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboard, percussion and looping software. As always, Morse was engaging and impressive, using his sonic arsenal to present songs from his new Life and Times, along with impressive takes on solo material (the multi-layered overture/finale sequence from ?), tunes by Transatlantic (“Stranger in Your Soul,” an impromptu “We All Need Some Light”) and Spock’s Beard (“Thoughts Pt. I & II,” done entirely with vocal loops).

Morse’s improvisatory opener “Songs of Freedom,” incorporating riffs from both Black Sabbath and Yes, established a loose, fun tone for the set — best encapsulated when he brought “Selfie in the Square” to a shuddering halt, then spent 10 minutes pulling tunes by Coldplay, Donovan and The Beatles out of his head, all because he couldn’t help singing the word “yellow” with an British accent! This wasn’t the high-energy, goal-directed path of concept albums like Testimony and The Similitude of a Dream; it was a relaxed, meandering vibe, in keeping with the smaller crowd, the quieter sound palette and the lateness of the hour. It was delightful to catch Morse off his guard and having more sheer fun than usual, with every bit of his heartfelt lyricism and musical brilliance still there for us to enjoy. (After I left to catch the train, Nick D’Virgilio hopped back onstage to harmonize with Neal on Spock’s Beard standards “The Doorway” and “Wind at My Back.”)

The other great part of my Progtoberfest sojourn was catching up with fellow fans I connected with last year from West Michigan, Kentucky, St. Louis, Wisconsin and beyond.  More about that next time, as well as covering the lineup for Day 3 — sixteen bands on two stages in twelve hours.  Stay tuned …

— Rick Krueger

Tom Timely’s “The Elf King”–a Prog Masterpiece?

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Just a smidgeon of confidence!

Tom Timely has written, produced, and released a single under the title, “The Elf King.”  Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems only to be available as a Facebook video. Here’s hoping Timely will move it to Youtube.

 

Somewhat astoundingly, Timely begins his video with “Introducing A Prog-Rock Masterpiece,” all in Tolkienian, Elven script.

Indeed, he writes on his Facebook post:

My new song! Remind yourself of an earlier time over and over…until it becomes your reality. Think of the things you could do if you had the key to unlock the past….You could change things! Some call it nostalgia, I call it the key. Check out my song and see if it takes you back.

So, kudos to Mr. Timely for possessing so much confidence.  His pronouncement of “introducing” a “classic” reminds me of the founding father Benjamin Franklin when he wrote, rather proudly, that he possessed the virtue of humility.

Some things, simply put, cannot be bestowed on one’s self.  Anyway, I’ll just take this as Mr. Timely’s enthusiasm.

The single, “The Elf King,” is quite excellent, introducing us to some very Yes-ish bass, combined with Kansas and Genesis-like keyboards throughout much of the song, though harpsicord is the first instrument the listener hears.  I can’t quite place the voice, but Timely (I’m assuming it’s Timely on vocals) has a Styx-like feel to me.  While the entire middle and sections sound very reminiscent of Tony Banks’s work on Gabriel-era Genesis, the song itself seems to have been a long, forgotten part of Leftoverature.

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Since I’ve referenced Yes, Genesis, Kansas, and Styx, you might very well get the opinion that this is pure nostalgia prog.  Heck, even Timely himself admits the element of nostalgia. Yet, this song is definitely more than a sum of its parts, and no one of the bands mentioned above could’ve written this song as is.  Thus, there’s a real genius in the way Timely pulls all of this older pieces together into a new whole.

I have a feeling Timely might very well have introduced a masterpiece. What say you???

 

 

Space Elevator II (May 25) @SpaceElevatorUK @TheDuchessSpace

Here’s a taste of the new album Space Elevator II coming on May 25 from Space Elevator:

There’s a new mix on the new album of a track from their first album. As a preview, here is the frenetic new video for the song:

Why can’t the Duchess be the new Doctor Who? She’d be amazing…

In the first episode, she could travel back in time to get Genesis to sing a song about her on Duke.

In Concert — “The Clock … Tick, Tock:” Back in Time with The Musical Box

The Musical Box presents “Selling England by the Pound with Special Lamb Set Encore,” 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 2, 2018.

Back in 1977, the Broadway musical revue Beatlemania‘s tagline was “not The Beatles; an incredible simulation.”  Little did anyone know that, 41 years later, Montreal’s The Musical Box would carve out a career applying that maxim to Genesis’ Peter Gabriel-fronted concerts of the early Seventies.

If the retro stage set (authentic down to the drum kit and keyboards) didn’t clue in uninformed patrons, the opening “Watcher of the Skies” left no doubt how hardcore The Musical Box is recreating the early Genesis experience.  Clad in angelic white, “Tony Banks” (keyboardist Guillaume Rivard), “Phil Collins,” (drummer/vocalist Marc Laflamme), “Mike Rutherford” (bassist/guitarist Sébastien Lamothe) and “Steve Hackett” (guitarist François Gagnon) built the harsh, Mellotronic tension of the opening riff to a shattering climax — only for “Peter Gabriel” (Denis Gagné) to grab the spotlight with his black jumpsuit, cape of many colors, bat-winged headgear, shaved head, luminescent eye-shadow — oh, and his committed, slightly crazed vocal narrative of an abandoned Earth seen through extraterrestrial eyes.  Right away, the bar was set high: this would be a night of prog-rock epics, meticulously performed by an ensemble that’s toured worldwide far longer than the original band, replicating the musical and theatrical quirks of legendary tours with painstaking precision.

Continue reading “In Concert — “The Clock … Tick, Tock:” Back in Time with The Musical Box”

Steve Hackett: The Progarchy Interview

Yesterday I had the immense pleasure and privilege of talking by phone with Steve Hackett as he prepares for his 2018 Tour de Force.  Over the course of 30 minutes, Steve was genial, gracious and forthcoming.  He talked about life on a prog rock cruise, his busy agenda for this year, the musicians he works with, his take on where progressive music might be heading, and much more.  Steve’s words (slightly edited for clarity and organized by topic) follow!

About this year’s Cruise to the Edge:

“Absolutely marvelous.  I think this was our fourth Cruise, as was the case for many of the acts, and I think everyone said this time they felt that it was the best of the lot, because so many people knew each other, familiar faces.  They have a boatload of about 3,000 people.  In the end, when you’ve done this thing before, people just keep coming back, and saying, ‘Oh, hi, Steve.’ ‘Hi, Fred.’ All that is just wonderful, it’s mind-boggling, it’s like a sort of brotherhood on the briny, on the high seas.  It’s wonderful that these cruises have become such a success.   I get to hook up with all sorts of extraordinary pals, such as the guys from Marillion and all the Yes guys, of course, and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull, and so many.  So there’s a great camaraderie amongst everybody, so we all got time to hang out together, see each other’s shows, and it’s become a great tradition.”

ctte kerzner hackett

About sitting in and collaborations:

“I sat in with Dave Kerzner on the Cruise, I’ve played on a couple of albums of his.  In a way, I think there’s this thing about helping each other out, as I say, this brotherhood feeling.  And he’s tremendously hard working, he’s done so many things recently, and it’s great.  He often says, ‘Ooh, I’ve got such and such, do you feel like using that?’ in his studio.  Between all of us, we’ve got a ton of contacts and we help each other.  It’s a great time in rock & roll, it’s very much everyone’s feeding everyone else, it’s really very good.”

“We played a version of this thing called ‘Stranded,’ which was on his first album.  It was a poolside thing where we did that at night, but it really took off.  I’m hoping we see a film of it at some point.”  [Here’s Steve’s solo from the end of ‘Stranded,” as played on Cruise to the Edge 2018.  Thanks to Dave Kerzner, guitarist extraordinaire Fernando Perdomo, and Fernando’s friend Cyndi for supplying the video!]

 

“I think perhaps it’s a case of having been in the industry for a certain amount of time, where the people remember me via Genesis or GTR or solo stuff, or whatever it happens to be.  Over and above that, I’ve worked with a tremendous amount of artists, showing up, doing the solos.  Not always guitar – sometimes it’s harmonica or other strange things that I get asked to do, and if I can fit it into the schedule, I like doing it.  I’ve worked with all sorts of artists.  It hasn’t always been rock; sometimes it’s been other stuff – Evelyn Glennie, which is avant-garde stuff, a Hungarian band called Djabe.  I do stuff with them and meet musicians all over the world.”

Continue reading “Steve Hackett: The Progarchy Interview”