The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Fourteen): Circus

This Circus closed after a brief tour in 1969 – our loss, in my humble opinion. Formed by Mel Collins (of King Crimson fame) in the late ’60s, Circus produced only one eponymous album in their brief existence, but it’s a gem. Collins takes centerstage here on sax and flute, but fellow bandmates Ian Jelfs (vocals and guitar), Kirk Riddle (bass), and Chris Burrows (drums) more than hold their own.

The majority of the songs (five out of eight, to be exact) are covers – but dull and uninspired they are not. And the three original songs (all penned by Collins) would be worthy additions to an early Soft Machine or Giles, Giles, and Fripp album. Here are (more than) a few highlights:

Circus opens up with a cover of the Beatles’ classic “Norwegian Wood,” and it is one of the better interpretations of any Beatles song I have ever heard. Rather than relying on melodic vocals (although Jelfs does sound somewhat Beatle-esque in his singing), the band members allow their instruments to do most of the work for them. Collins is absolutely superb on the sax, and the middle of this lengthy cover includes some fun interplay between the drums and guitar.

“Pleasures of a Lifetime” – Collins’s first contribution to the album – opens with a gentle acoustic melody, but picks up the pace about halfway through thanks to Burrows’s deft handling of the sticks.

The cover of Henry Rollins’s “St. Thomas” is a great upbeat tune, featuring top notch work from Jelfs on guitar and Collins on flute.

“Goodnight John Morgan” is another original tune and, alas, an all too brief one. I suggest listening to this one as you sit at a smoky bar late at night with a scotch in your hand while the rain pelts the roof above you. Collins’s sax will put you into that kind of mood.

“II B. S.” (a cover of a Charlie Mingus classic) opens with a funky bass riff that doesn’t let up. Percussion anchors this tune, but Collins once again shines through on the saxophone.

The last two songs – a cover of The Mamas & the Papas’ “Monday Monday” and a cover of Tim Hardin’s “Don’t Make Promises” – feature masterful work on the flute courtesy of Collins.

Sadly, Circus couldn’t deliver the same quality of material for a second album, and they split up, Collins going on to replace Ian McDonald in King Crimson. But at least we can enjoy this hidden gem, which sounds as fresh and as lively as it did when it was released over fifty years ago. For those who enjoy jazz fusion mixed with a healthy dose of psychedelic rock, you will not want to miss this under-appreciated effort.

Stay tuned for number fifteen!

The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Thirteen): Samurai

Originally known as Web, Samurai were another one of those unfortunate What if? bands that were lost in the shuffle of the early days of progressive rock.

Web released three albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including the well-received but commercially unsuccessful I Spider (which is on my list of future reviews). By 1971, however, band leader and keyboardist Dave Lawson (later of Greenslade fame) changed the name to Samurai, hoping, perhaps, that the change of name might result in a change of fortune. Alas, that was not to be. Yet we do have their sole eponymous album as a result of that name change, and it’s a true hidden gem. Samurai features the talents of Lawson on vocals and keyboards, Don Fay and Tony Roberts on winds, Lennie Wright and Kenny Beveridge on percussion, Tony Edwards on guitars, and John Eaton on bass. Part of the Canterbury/jazz-fusion movement of the early ’70s, Samurai relied on drums and woodwinds to drive their unique sound, although the keys and guitars are given their chances to shine. Here are a few of the highlights from the album:

“Saving It Up For So Long,” the first track, could have made a good single. It opens with a jazzy guitar riff and drum beat, making it as close to radio-friendly as a progressive band was likely to get. The saxes, courtesy of Fay and Roberts, are also a nice touch.

Edwards is given another chance to showcase his talents on the fifth track, “Give a Little Love.” His riff is both catchy and distorted, giving the song an early King Crimson feel (think Lizard-era).

Lawson, whose nimble fingers on the keys anchor the sound of every song on the album, really shines forth on the last and longest track, “As I Dried the Tears Away.” His Hammond organ solo in the middle is especially satisfying to the ear.

If you are the type of fellow who enjoys a daily or weekly pilgrimage to the Canterbury sound, in particular to Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt era in particular), early King Crimson, or Caravan, this album will be a pleasant surprise for your wandering ears. Even those less inclined to walk that path will nevertheless appreciate the top-notch musicianship of this solid but under-appreciated album.

Stay tuned for number fourteen!

The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Twelve): Fruupp

Well, perhaps you actually have heard of these chaps. Although they never made much of a name for themselves, Fruupp opened up for some of the biggest names in progressive rock, including Genesis, Queen, and King Crimson, in the early 1970s.

Founded in 1971 by Irish guitarist Vincent McClusker, Fruupp included classically trained Stephen Houston on keyboards and oboe; Peter Farrelly on lead vocals, bass guitar, and flute; and Martin Foye on drums. They recorded four albums in their five year tenure, but the sudden departure of Houston in 1975 (he became a clergyman) and poor record sales eventually forced the band to call it a day.

Fruupp’s third album, The Prince of Heaven’s Eyes, is considered their masterpiece. A concept album (based on a short story by Paul Charles), it tells the tale of a lad named Mud Flanagan, who, after the death of his parents, traverses the Irish countryside looking for the end of the rainbow. The influence of Genesis, especially in the songwriting, vocals, and keyboards, is evident throughout the album, but Fruupp are not mere copycats.

The album opens with a beautiful symphonic piece titled “It’s All Up Now”: Flanagan has made the decision to leave home and journey out into the wilds of the Emerald Isle. But shortly after his departure, “The Prince of Darkness” – a song that would fit nicely into the sinister world of Nursery Cryme – interrupts young Mud’s pleasant travels. Thankfully, our hero manages to avoid the road to hell and continues on his way, encountering a beautiful woman and experiencing several strange visions before reaching his journey’s end in the lengthy but uplifting “The Perfect Wish.”

Houston’s keyboards steal the show on this album, although McClusker and Foye are able to showcase their talents on guitar and drums, respectively, on the heavier “Annie Austere” and “Crystal Brook” (the latter also features some gorgeous flute courtesy of Farrelly).

It’s a shame Fruupp never enjoyed the success that other symphonic bands did, as this album certainly offers hints of bigger things that might have been. The Prince of Heaven’s Eyes may not reach the heights of Foxtrot or Selling England By the Pound, but it is certainly a worthy addition to the traditional symphonic prog canon.

Stay tuned for obscure prog band number thirteen!

King Crimson’s Music Is Our Friend USA Tour

It’s been a long, long, loooong wait for King Crimson to reschedule their pandemic-postponed tour, originally planned for last summer. But as of today, there’s rejoicing in the air at Discipline Global Mobile:

We are pleased to announce the dates for the re-scheduled 2021 King Crimson tour of the USA. This is also a good moment to publicly thank all those who have worked so hard to make this tour possible. The dates have changed on an almost daily basis over the last six months as rules and restrictions have changed.

The California Guitar Trio will be appearing as a special guest for the first leg of the tour. King Crimson will be accompanied by the Zappa Band for the whole of the second leg of the tour from 22nd August – 11th September, and also for the concerts in Concord and Los Angeles on 5th and 6th August.

There are currently Royal Package places available at all these concerts. The Royal Package gives priority seating at the front of the venue, early access, special merchandise, and personal insights and answers from David Singleton and one of the band members. Anyone with an existing place reserved last year, who now needs to move to a different venue or apply for a refund, should contact iona@dgmhq.com.

Crimson manager David Singleton has much, much more on the headaches involved at his DGM diary. And Crimson founder/mainman/guitarist Robert Fripp has also reacted in characteristic fashion:

The Crimson Beast Of Terror has woken from its enforced slumbering and is venturing out to stomp flat the psyches of innocents not yet experienced in the hammering onslaught of King Crimson’s uncompromising pounding – bish! bish! bish! – before turning on a beat to jellify hearts with gut-wrenching passion and soul-squeezing epic unfoldings to remind us that we are all mere subjects in the unfolding drama of the universe’s unfathomable mysteries while simultaneously rocking out and having a great time bopping about with Tony and Bobby and Gavin and Jakko and Mel and Pat and Jezza too.

Tour dates are listed below; Royal Packages are available by clicking the appropriate link, and regular seats will go on sale soon. I look forward to entering the Court of the Crimson King for the 10th time on August 18 at Meadow Brook Amphitheater!

July 22, 2021 – Clearwater, FL – Ruth Eckerd Hall

July 23, 2021 – Delray Beach, FL – Old School Square

July 24, 2021 – St. Augustine, FL – St Augustine Ampitheater

July 26, 2021 – Orlando, FL – Dr. Phillips Walt Disney Theater

July 27, 2021 – Atlanta, GA – The Fox

July 28, 2021 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium

July 30, 2021 – Fort Worth, TX – Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium

July 31, 2021 – Cedar Park, TX – H-E-B Center

August 2, 2021 – Greenwood Village, CO – Fiddlers Green Amiptheater

August 3, 2021 – Sandy, UT – Sandy Ampitheater

August 5, 2021- Concord, CA – Concord Pavilion

August 6, 2021 – Los Angeles – The Greek

August 7, 2021 – Scottsdale, AZ – Talking Stick Ballroom

August 23, 2021 – Saratoga Springs, NY – SPAC

August 24, 2021 – Northampton, MA – The Pines Theater

August 26, 2021 – Canandaigua, NY – CMAC

August 27, 2021 – Lewiston, NY – Artpark Ampitheater

August 28, 2021 – Rochester Hills, MI – Meadow Brook Ampitheater

August 29, 2021 – Highland Park, IL – Ravinia

August 31, 2021 – Milwaukee, WI – Miller High Life Theatre

September 1, 2021 – Cleveland, OH – Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica

September 2, 2021 – Huber Heights, OH – Rose Music Center @ The Heights

September 4, 2021 – Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center

September 5, 2021 – New Haven, CT – Westville Music Bowl

September 7, 2021 – Philadelphia, PA – The Mann Center

September 9, 2021 – Forest Hills, NYC – Forest Hills Stadium

September 10, 2021 – Boston, MA – Leader Bank Pavilion

September 11, 2021 – Washington, DC – The Anthem

— Rick Krueger

Album Review – The Rebel Wheel’s “Simple Machines”

The Rebel Wheel - Simple MachinesThe Rebel Wheel, Simple Machines, November 11, 2020
Tracks: 
Pulley (4:06), Hammer (5:21), Inclined Plane (4:48), Screw (5:40), Fulcrum (4:36), Switch (5:19), Wheelsuitewheel (11:37)

I’ve been sitting on the promo CD for Ottawa, Ontario band The Rebel Wheel’s latest album, Simple Machines, for a while, although I’ve been listening to it a fair amount. The album has been a pleasant surprise for me. I’ve enjoyed it every time I’ve listened to it. The Canadian three-piece is comprised of Andrew Burns (bass, keyboards, vocals, producer), David Campbell (guitars, keyboards, vocals), and Alex Wickham (drums, keyboards, vocals).

While The Rebel Wheel have several albums and several decades under their belt, Simple Machines finds them making a few changes, with every band member contributing to the writing and a different band member producing it compared to past records. Their overall sound is hard to pin down, as it is rather varied. I think Primus must be a major influence for Andrew Burns, who produced the record. Skimming through their discography on Bandcamp, I definitely recognize some similar musical ideas, but a Primus influence sounds much more prominent on Simple Machines. I hear this in some of the vocals, particularly on “Inclined Plane” and “Wheelsuitewheel,” as well as in the funk-influenced brand of metal on the album. That influence is present in the music and vocals, but not in the lyrics, which are rather simple in their construction, yet still deep with meaning. Not surprisingly I also hear a Discipline-era King Crimson influence in the guitars and bass.

With those two prominent influences there is still plenty of room for innovation. Some of the music almost approaches metal, if we’re going to call what Primus does a kind of metal. But it’s probably more accurate to call The Rebel Wheel progressive rock with heavy a jazz influence. The drums are distinctly jazzy. The bass drives the songs with guitars adding the flourishes and the keyboards filling the soundscape. There are experimental moments too, such as on the eleven and a half minute-long final track.

Even though I’ve made the connections to both Primus and King Crimson, the resulting record sounds quite unique and fresh. A King Crimson influence might be common enough in the prog world (I mean, who hasn’t been influenced by them to at least some degree), but Primus not so much. With the more progressive synth sounds, the record takes on its own life. The vocal harmonies add a nice touch. There’s even some blisteringly heavy guitar at points that remind me of Rush, but I’ll leave that to you to find those moments in the album.

I highly recommend The Rebel Wheel and their latest album. It’s a welcome departure from the Neo-prog territory common amongst most straightforward “prog” bands today. It’s got a crunch and a pleasant quirkiness that doesn’t blend into a symphonic backdrop. It grabs your attention. You won’t find too many other bands making music that sounds quite like this.

https://www.facebook.com/TheRebelWheel/
https://therebelwheel.bandcamp.com/album/simple-machines

Jakko M Jakszyk: The Progarchy Interview

When Jakko Jakszyk was 13 years old, he saw King Crimson play at Watford Town Hall — and it changed his life. Embarking on a globetrotting career that’s crossed paths with, among others, Level 42, The Kinks (he replaced Dave Davies for a week) and Steve Hackett, Jakszyk eventually found himself singing and playing guitar with founding members of Crimson in The 21st Century Schizoid Band. Which led in turn to The Scarcity of Miracles, a “King Crimson ProjeKct” with guitarist Robert Fripp and sax master Mel Collins — culminating in an invitation to join the current, career-spanning version of the band in 2013.

Since then, Jakszyk has been the voice of King Crimson in concert, tackling epics originally brought to life by Greg Lake, Boz Burrell, John Wetton and Adrian Belew with remarkable aplomb. And, if that wasn’t intimidating enough, simultaneously playing some of Fripp and Belew’s most challenging guitar parts. Oh, and co-writing knotty new Crimson pieces like “Suitable Grounds for the Blues,” “Meltdown” and “The Errors.” As a result, his undeniable melodic gifts, assured lyricism and instinct for the musical gut punch now have a bigger stage to play on than ever before.

All of this has beautifully set up Jakzsyk’s new solo album, Secrets and Lies. Released by Inside Out/Sony on October 23, it melds the yearning melancholy of 2007’s The Bruised Romantic Glee Club with the ferocious attack of present-day Crimson; fellow members Fripp, Collins, bass/Stick maestro Tony Levin and master drummer Gavin Harrison contribute along with Mark King (Level 42), Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), John Giblin (Simple Minds, Brand X) and even Jakszyk’s daughter. It’s a poised, exhilarating album, a thoroughly compelling showcase for the man’s hard-won talents and thoughtful, well-honed viewpoint.

Having heard Jakko Jakszyk in concert three times with King Crimson (including the best rock concert I’ve ever attended), it was an undeniable thrill to speak with him about Secrets and Lies, his progress in the court of the Crimson King and more!

How the solo album took shape:

“I’d met Thomas Waber of Inside Out – I think it was at the launch of the album that Steve Hackett put out that I sang on [Genesis Revisited II; Jakszyk sings “Entangled”].  And then I kept bumping into him ’cause I did a number of gigs with Steve, and then there were some other events.  And whenever I saw him he said, ‘Look, if ever you decide to do a solo record, we’d be really interested in working with you.’   I wasn’t sure it was a good idea; it had been such a long time since I made another one.  So, it was partly down to him and his installing confidence into me, really.

“And then I made the decision – for the past seven years we’ve toured in biannual chunks; we do two months here and two months there throughout the year with Crimson.  There’s lots of stuff: rehearsals and getting stuff together, so it becomes a full-time job.  And then, this year was only one chunk of touring, in the middle of the year.  So I thought, ‘This is probably a good time to do it.’

“And I’d already written some songs.  I’ve written a load of stuff [for] Crimson, some that has been accepted as part of the repertoire.  But there was a handful of others that I’d written that when I took to Robert [Fripp] – we started to have this in-joke where I’d play him some stuff and he’d say [assumes a West Country accent as he quotes Fripp] ‘I love this!  It’s marvelous!!  Ideal track for your next solo record!!!’  Which is not too subtle code for, ‘We’re not playing this, mate!’  So, I had a basis of an album there, material-wise. So I started recording it, I think, last summer, as in 2019, in between the Crimson tours.  And writing lyrics and doing stuff while I was away.  And I started on it in real earnest in the autumn – almost about a year ago.”

Secrets and Lies’ takes on obsession and betrayal:

“The opening track, which is called ‘Before I Met You,’ is based on a book by Julian Barnes [Before She Met Me]. And in that book, it tells the tale of a middle-aged man, I think he’s a college lecturer.  And he meets this woman who’s a fair bit younger than him, and he leaves his wife and family for her.  But he starts to get really obsessed with her and starts to fetishize objects that she might have had earlier that morning – a pen that she was writing with, or a cup or something. 

“And he starts doing this very weird thing where – when she first left school, she became an actress, and she made a handful of mediocre movies.  And although that was way in her past, he becomes so obsessed with her that he finds them.  He finds little cinemas around London which are showing these old films.  And he sits in the dark watching these, getting really wound up – because there’s his new love filming these love scenes.  Which of course are not real, anyway; and anyway, they were before he even knew she existed!  So, it’s a tale of a guy being so obsessed with someone that he ends up destroying the very thing that he loves.

“In terms of betrayal, there’s a song called ‘It Would All Make Sense.’  And it’s autobiographical, a song that happened to me, but something that happened to me a long time ago.  So, totally with the benefit of hindsight and distance, you can write about it!

“But I guess it’s something that’s – unfortunately, many of us have been through.  Which is the suspicion and the clues that someone you’re living with is having an affair.  And the clues get more and more blatant, and more and more real, but you’re less likely to believe them, ‘cause you don’t want to.  And you confront them and they deny it, and then you’re placated by that, because you don’t wanna believe it.  And then other people say, ‘No, no, this is really happening.’  So hence the chorus of that tune.  ‘It would all make sense; all of that makes sense much more than the stuff you’re telling me.'”

Songs on “the shifting grounds of contemporary politics:”

“[‘Uncertain Times’] was, again, was something that happened to me.  The Brexit debate in England became incredibly divisive, and it split up families and friends.  You get to a point where problems, be they political or personal, are invariably nuanced and complicated.  And the trouble is that you reduce an issue to black and white like this, right or wrong.  And it becomes a divisive concept, I think.

“On the day of the results, when it was announced that the Leave campaign had won, there was a place in Hammersmith in West London called the Polish Center, where I used to take my adoptive father when he was in his 80s.  And it was a place that I have a great nostalgia for, ‘cause it’s a cultural center, and it’s got a café and a restaurant.  And the night of the result it was covered in racist graffiti, which was discovered in the morning.  This is a place that had been there for 56 years, partly in tribute to the contribution of the Poles during the Second World War.

“So, it was pretty upsetting, and I uncharacteristically posted something about it on Facebook.  And everybody was very nice and very sympathetic, but after a while it started to get shared.  And then people that weren’t my ‘friends’ in inverted commas started to read it, and for a couple of weeks I got really abusive emails, all along much the same lines.  Which were ‘We won.  You lost.  Why don’t you eff off home?’ 

“Well, I’m the son of an Irish woman, born in London, so I’m not sure where they want me to go; but it seemed that I was getting abused because of the incorrect letters in my surname!  And of course, it’s divisive, simplistic populist politics [which is] popping up all over the world, not least in Britain and America of course. And you have leaders that are just pumping out half-truths, untruths, downright lies.  And appealing to this kind of populist notion of very simplistic answers to complicated questions.  So, the song’s kind of about that.

“The other political song on the record is the thing that I wrote with Peter Hammill [‘Fool’s Mandate’].  And Pete Hammill actually was also partly responsible for me making a solo record.  ‘Cause I kept bumping into him, and he kept saying, ‘Have you made your solo record yet?’ And I said, ‘No.’  ‘Well, have you even started?’ ‘Well, no, not really.’ ‘Look, you ought to; this is your moment!  You must do it!’  So in the end, the last time he said it to me, I said, ‘Listen, Peter, I will make a solo album on condition you contribute; you’re on it.’  And he said, ‘Of course!’

“So, I sent him this track.  He said, ‘Have you got any unfinished tracks?’  And I had a series of instrumental things that I was using as a kind of base to play guitar over on these videos that I do for PRS Guitars or some of the events that I play at.  ‘Cause when I’d seen other guitar players do it, they were either kind of  straight ahead rock things or fusion things.  So I always tried to do something a little different.

“So, I had a collection of different ethnic-based pieces; this is based on traditional Middle Eastern music.  And I sent that to Peter, and he sent back multi-tracked voices, bits of guitar, and a lyric that was kind of ambiguous.  It could have meant anything, I guess.  And it was about an individual, and what he might regret and what he might not regret.

“So, the combination of the stylistic nature of the music and that kind of vague lyric – I ended up writing it about an English politician called [Arthur James] Balfour, who at the turn of the last century was desperate to get the Arab nations onside, ‘cause the English were trying to defeat the Ottoman Empire.  But at the same time, he was a Zionist, so he was negotiating behind their backs! 

“And I was kind of intrigued by the number of unpleasant political and violent hotspots in the world, and how if you trace their origins, invariably there’s an Englishman [chuckles] at the bottom of it!  So I ended up writing about that.”

Exploring “the tangled threads of family history:”

“You know, my background story is an ongoing thing, and I’ve discovered a lot more.  in fact, exactly in the past twelve months, there’s been an extraordinary amount of discovery.  I think it’s part of the reason I called the albums Secrets and Lies, because I discovered a lot more of both of those things.

“Actually on the album, there’s a thing called ‘The Borders We Traded,’ which is about my mother and myself, and how my mother abandoned me and went to another country – hence utilizing the geographical location as an additional metaphor for that separation. 

“And I talk about two places really in that; one is where she ended up.  My mother was quite a famous singer in Ireland in the ‘50s, and she came to England for her career.  But she ended up getting married to an American serviceman; and I’m sure she had an idea about what America was like from many of the movies she must have seen at the time.  But she ended up in a place called Bearden, Arkansas.  And no disrespect to that location, but I’m not sure that’s what she was expecting.

“And so, I remember standing in Bearden, Arksansas when I first went there, to meet her for the very first time.  And it was a very weird experience, where you’re standing in this place.  And it’s quite a culture shock for someone that grew up just outside London, and had a reasonably cultured upbringing, and went to the theatre and worked in the arts.  So, there was that really weird moment of thinking, ‘If she hadn’t had me adopted, I’d have been brought up here.’  And how much of who I am is innately who I am, and how much of it is subject to location.  It’s that whole nurture/nature thing, I guess.

“So that song really was about that.  And then there’s an instrumental that my daughter wrote, which I’ve kind of stuck them together, just because it felt like she kind of wrote it out of nowhere.  And it’s this kind of connection to Ireland; it’s this very Celtic, Irish piece that she’s somehow channeling out of some kind of DNA or something, I don’t know!”

[The tale of Jakko M Jakszyk’s long and winding road to King Crimson follows the jump!]

Continue reading “Jakko M Jakszyk: The Progarchy Interview”

The Big Fall Prog (Plus) Preview, Part 2: Box Set Bonanza!

Since the initial installment of our fall preview, deluxe box set announcements are coming thick and fast. This article includes those mentioned in the preview, plus new announcements that may appeal to our readers. I’ve included approximate list prices in USA dollars (not including shipping), as well as lower-cost options for those who want to hear and support the music without breaking their personal bank. Links are to the ever-ready folks at Burning Shed unless otherwise noted.

King Crimson, Complete 1969 Recordings: 20 CDs, 4 BluRays and 2 DVDs include every surviving note Crimson played in their first year — the seminal debut In the Court of the Crimson King plus the complete studio sessions, extant live bootlegs and BBC recordings. The crown jewels here are new stereo, surround and Dolby Atmos mixes of Court by Steven Wilson. Available October 23 ($210 – $240 list price, depending on your vendor); slimmed-down versions of In the Court on 2 CDs + BluRay (with the new stereo and surround mixes, alternate versions and additional material ; $40) or 2 LPs (with alternate versions and additional material; $35) are already available.

Joni Mitchell, Archives Vol. 1 – The Early Years (1963-1967): Nearly six hours of recordings from before Mitchell released her first album — home recordings, radio broadcasts, and live shows, including 29 songs not previously released with her singing them! Available from Mitchell’s website October 30 as follows: complete on 5 CDs ($65); Early Joni 1 LP (1963 radio broadcast; $25, black or clear vinyl) and Live at Canterbury House 1967 3 LPs (3 sets recorded in Ann Arbor, Michigan; $60, black or white vinyl).

More from Porcupine Tree, Tangerine Dream, Tears for Fears and others after the jump!

Continue reading “The Big Fall Prog (Plus) Preview, Part 2: Box Set Bonanza!”

The Big Prog (Plus) Preview for Fall 2020!

As always seems to be the case, there’s tons of great music coming out between now and Black Friday, November 27. Below, the merest sampling of upcoming releases in prog and other genres below, with purchase links to Progarchy’s favorite online store Burning Shed unless otherwise noted.

Out now:

Simon Collins, Becoming Human: after 3 solo albums and Sound of Contact’s acclaimed Dimensionaut, Phil Collins’ oldest son returns on vocals. keys and drums; his new effort encompasses rock, pop, prog, electronica and industrial genres. Plus an existential inquiry into the meaning of life! Available on CD from Frontiers Records.

John Petrucci, Terminal Velocity: the Dream Theater guitarist reunites with Mike Portnoy on drums for his second solo set of instrumentals. Plus Dave LaRue of the Dixie Dregs and Flying Colors on bass. Expect lotsa notes! Available on CD or 2 LP from Sound Mind Records/The Orchard.

The Pineapple Thief, Versions of the Truth: Hot on the heels of their first US tour, Bruce Soord and Gavin Harrison helm TPT’s latest collection of brooding, stylized alt/art rock, honing in on the post-truth society’s impact on people and relationships. Available on CD, BluRay (with bonus track plus alternate, hi-res and surround mixes), LP or boxset (2 CDs/DVD/BluRay) – plus there’s a t-shirt!

Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly, Alone Together: Sjöblom spearheads a thoroughly groovy collection on vocals, guitar and organ, with Petter and Rasmus Diamant jumping in on drums and bass. Heartfelt portraits of daily life and love that yield extended, organic instrumental jams and exude optimism in the midst of ongoing isolation. Available on CD and LP (black or deep blood red vinyl).

[Upcoming releases follow the jump …]

Continue reading “The Big Prog (Plus) Preview for Fall 2020!”

“An Accidental Musician”: Judy Dyble, 1949-2020

Judy Dyble, whose crystalline vocals were key contributions to the early days of folk-rock legends Fairport Convention and progressive pioneers King Crimson, has died at the age of 71, following a late-life musical renaissance as a solo artist.

Dyble, who titled her 2016 memoir An Accidental Musician, grew up in North London. Drawn to the ferment of the Smoke’s music scene, she fell in with Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Martin Lamble, fellow singer Ian Matthews and Richard Thompson, who eventually became Fairport Convention.  Their kick-off single “If I Had a Ribbon Bow”, a oddball update of a 1940s big band shuffle, was a prime example of the early Fairport’s wildly eclectic style:

The band’s first self-titled album from 1968 featured a vivid mix of originals and covers (of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell among others), but Dyble was shuffled out of the band soon after, briefly joining an embryonic version of King Crimson (then trading as Giles, Giles and Fripp):

Following a final stint with cult duo Trader Horne, Dyble drifted away from singing, marrying music critic/record shop owner Simon Stable, then moving to the country and raising a family.  Invited to the occasional Fairport Convention reunion at the Cropredy Festival, she began singing in public again after her husband’s death.  A trilogy of electronica-based collaborations with Australasia’s Marc Swordfish eased Dyble back into songwriting — which led to 2009’s marvelous Talking with Strangers, co-produced by Tim Bowness of No-Man and Alistair Murphy (aka the Curator) and featuring contributions from Nicol, Fripp, and a starry host of other guests on the acoustic-prog epic “Harpsong.”

Further solo albums and guest appearances followed, including a vocal on Big Big Train’s “The Ivy Gate” from the Grimspound album.   Her latest effort Between a Breath and a Breath, a collaboration with David Longdon featuring contributions from the rest of BBT, has just been announced as a late September release.  While fighting her final illness, Dyble penned these reflections on the new album, showing both her unquenchable spirit and her wickedly impish sense of humor:  

The lyrics for these songs virtually wrote themselves, with minor tweaks, as music grew around them. All were written before I was diagnosed and before the dreadful virus stamped its footprint on our world.

“Quite a few of my lyrics have a touch of sadness about them but always with an optimism for the future and a desire to know what happens next. France, Whisper and Obedience tell stories suggested in conversations and Between A Breath And A Breath is sheer magic. Astrologers was a simple ‘Hmmpph! Stop it!, while Heartwashing and Tidying Away were just poems which wrote themselves.

David Longdon has written a tribute to Dyble which appears on the front page of Big Big Train’s website.  Two songs from the Dyble/Longdon sessions not included on Between a Breath and a Breath will be released as Bandcamp downloads later this year, with proceeds benefiting Dyble’s favorite charity, The Barley Greyhound Sanctuary.  A selection of Dyble’s albums (including a freshly released live recording from 2016, Weavings of a Silver Magic) are most easily available from Burning Shed and Amazon UK.

Oddly enough, I’d been celebrating the upcoming release of Between a Breath and a Breath last night, listening to Talking with Strangers again and re-reading An Accidental Musician.  So Dyble’s final words in her memoir have an uncanny resonance today:

There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s poetry and starlight and mellow autumn colour in the woods and a dog at my side, I’ll face the music and slightly dance.  To be continued.  I expect …

For all those who sorrow at Judy Dyble’s passing, I wish them comfort as they remember her life with gratitude, as well as continued delight in the beautiful music she made.

 

— Rick Krueger

 

King Crimson & The Zappa Band Tour Dates

As mentioned in this space a few weeks back, King Crimson and The Zappa Band (alumni of the late great Frank Zappa’s bands) will be touring North America this June & July, mostly at outdoor amphitheaters.  Tour dates are as follows:

June 4 – Clearwater, FL – Ruth Eckerd Hall
June 5 – St. Augustine, FL – St Augustine Amphitheatre
June 6 – Miami, FL – Mizner Park Amphitheatre
June 8 – Orlando, FL – Dr. Phillips Walt Disney
June 9 – New Orleans, LA – Saenger Theatre
June 10 – Memphis, TN – Graceland Soundstage
June 12 – Cary, NC – Koka Booth Amphitheatre
June 13 – Portsmouth, VA – Union Bank Pavilion
June 14 – Philadelphia, PA – The Mann Center
June 16 – Glens Falls, NY – Cool Insuring Arena
June 18 – Boston, MA – Rockland Trust Pavilion
June 19 – New York, NY – Forest Hills Stadium
June 20 – New Haven, CT – Westville Music Bowl
June 22 – New Brunswick, NJ – State Theatre
June 24 – Huber Heights, OH – Rose Music Center @ The Heights
June 25 – Louisville, KY – Palace Theatre
June 26 – Detroit, MI – Meadowbrook Amp
June 28 – Baltimore, MD – MECU Pavillion
June 30 – Vienna, VA – Wolf Trap
July 1 – Buffalo, NY – Artpark
July 5 – Chicago, IL – Ravinia
July 7 – Montreal, QC – Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier – Palace des Arts
July 9 – Quebec City, QC – Festival d’ete
July 11 – Ottawa, ON – Bluesfest
July 12 – Rama, ON – Casino Rama

VIP tickets (“Royal Packages”) will go on sale through DGM Live soon; tickets for most shows go on sale through Ticketmaster on Friday, March 13.  More details are available at Crimson’s website.  I’m looking forward to my tenth evening with the mighty Crim (and my second time hearing Zappa Band musical director Mike Keneally) on Friday, June 26!

 

— Rick Krueger