CEO’s Ten Favorite Prog & Rock CDs of 2016

After failing to post any “Favorite Music of 2015…” lists last year, I’ve decided that I should avoid elaborate explanations for my choices, but simply note a thing or two about each release that captured my ears and held my attention. I’ve also decided to post three separate but fairly short lists: Prog/Rock, Jazz, and Everything Else. In short, I’m trying to kill my propensity for overkill. I suspect I’ll fail! Here, first, are my picks for favorite prog & rock albums of the past year (give or take a few months):

• “The Prelude Implicit” by Kansas | This is, I think, one of the best feel-good stories in kansas_thepreludeimplicitprog of 2016. After all, Kansas could have just kept touring and playing the same old—ranging from good to great to classic—tunes. Instead, they produced a very good, even great, album. As I wrote in my Progarchy.com review: “In short, the band has found a commendable and impressive balance between old and new, with plenty of prog-heavy, classic Kansas-like passages, but with an emphasis on ensemble playing over solos.  … Kansas is to be commended for embracing their past while clearly moving forward with a confident and often exceptional collection of songs. Highly recommended for both longtime Kansas fans and for those who like melodic, well-crafted prog that puts the emphasis on memorable songs and musical cohesion over theatrics and solos.”

 “Secrets” by Ian Fletcher Thornley | I was initially flummoxed by this album, expecting thornley_secretsa variation on the hard-rocking, high energy music of Big Wreck and Thornley, both fronted, of course, by the prolific Canadian singer, guitarist, writer, and producer. I finally listened to it late one night, in the dark, and I finally heard it on its own terms: acoustic, reflective, mellow, mournful, defiant, sad, and yet shot through with a sense of cautious hope. Thornley demonstrates that his remarkable writing skills are equal to his vocal prowess, which is an aural wine bearing hints of Big Country (“Frozen Pond”), Chris Cornell (“Feel”), Peter Gabriel (“Stay”), Bruce Springsteen (“Just To Know I Can”), and Jeff Buckley (“Blown Wide Open”). In the end, this is a modern blues record featuring every shade and hue of sadness, longing, and loss.

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Radiant Records: Kristoffer Gildenlöw

This week’s Monday Spotlight is
Kristoffer Gildenlöw’s newly released album
 
The Rain
Born in Eskilstuna, Sweden, Gildenlöw made a name for himself in the progressive rock scene during his eleven year career (1995- 2006) as bass player for world-renowned Swedish band, Pain of Salvation. His skill as a bass guitarist granted him the endorsement by Mayones guitars for more than a decade. In addition to bass guitar, Gildenlöw studied: piano, drums, double bass, guitar, classical vocals and music design; all of which have served the artist well in his transition to a solo career. He left Sweden and PoS to move to the Netherlands, but remained very active working as a session musician in live performances, touring, and recording bass lines on over thirty prominent albums for various artists all over the world. Gildenlöw’s solo career took flight with release of his debut album, RUST (2013). He released charity single, Pass The Torch (2014) and critic’s response to previews of The Rain (2016) have been very positive.
The deep tones of how the mind fights against itself resonate throughout this powerful and poignant work by Kristoffer Gildenlöw. A brilliant effort after his highly acclaimed first solo release: Rust (2013); a thematic album which delved into the realities of aging and one’s perspectives on past, future and ultimately reconciliation with life choices. Again, Gildenlöw has chosen a heavy subject for the theme of The Rain; which is a concept album that examines the life of a man in later stages of dementia who struggles with his own reality, perceived through the metaphor of rain and clouds.
The gentleness of the piano passages oppose the angst and turmoil which lie beneath. The gentle pace at which the album progresses is reflective of the destructive force of the disease upon the man, and you find yourself at the tipping point with the track, ‘Breath In, Breath Out’. It is through this lyrically beautiful song that the realization of the end becomes apparent; leaving the listener grasping for the beauty captured in the mind’s eye.
Never have I been so moved by an album. Put your phone on silent, so you will not be disturbed. It is best to listen with good headphones. Then you hear every detail and is the album the best advantage.
Esther Kessel-Tamerus – Rock Musizn
It’s a beautiful album which rewards further with repeat listening.
Kevin Thompson – Progradar

It is one of those albums that come along once in a generation and has such profound effect on the lives of the listener. It would not surprise me that this shows up as a Top 5 album of 2016
Robert Brady – Power of Prog

Get your copy of this AMAZING album here!