Moon Safari: “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”

The reason the new album from The Syn is so good is because Moon Safari plays on it.

I’m just sayin’…

P.S. Don’t they have one of the coolest band names ever?

I’m just sayin’…

I’ve always wanted to go for a moon safari, ever since I read Robert Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”…

 

 

Every song on their last studio album (Himlabacken, Vol. 1) is brilliant. It begins like this…

 

Classic Rock Society Awards Night 2014

As a lover of Progressive Music for many years now – from the days when I simply knew it as ‘good music’ back in my school days in the 1970s – I have been delighted to see the recent resurgence of the genre. This has been in no small measure down to the efforts of groups like the Classic Rock Society, who have been striving to keep the flame burning, particularly during the dark days when ‘Prog’ was considered by many to be a word not spoken aloud. This striving, though, happened (sadly) under my radar for a large number of years, but I recently came across them, and was delighted to discover that they functioned in my own neck-of-the-woods in South Yorkshire.

Once I’d made this discovery, I ventured out to a few of their gigs in the humble surroundings of the Wesley Centre in Matlby, near Rotherham – interestingly for me the site of a former Methodist Chapel – and when I heard that their awards night was on the horizon I decided to go along (taking my younger son with me, as a fellow traveller). These are my personal reflections on the event.

The venue – the Montgomery Hall in Wath-upon-Dearne – is similar to the Wesley Centre in lay-out, though it has a larger capacity and a larger stage, which proved helpful for the evening’s entertainment. We began with a short solo set from the brilliant Andy Tillison, who coped seamlessly with a keyboard malfunction shortly before the off which left him having to rely on someone else’s equipment for his performance. There didn’t appear to be any problems caused, and Andy gave us around 20 minutes of magic – one man and his keyboards performing without the aid of backing tracks, loops or a safety net and giving us stunning renditions of ‘GPS Culture’ and ‘Perdu Dans Paris’. As a recent ‘convert’ to his work, particularly with The Tangent, I found it sublime and wonderful.

The ‘business’ of the evening was the awards themselves, and after suitable lubrication with ‘Big Big Train’ beer, on sale at the bar, we settled down to find out who had topped the polls at the end of what many have called a classic year for Prog. The awards were presented this year by none other than Fish, who brought his own laconic wit to the proceedings. The awards went to:

Best Male Vocalist – David Longdon
Best Female Vocalist – Christina Booth
Best Keyboard Player – Rob Reed
Best Bass Player – Lee Pomeroy
Best Drummer – Henry Rogers
Best Guitarist – Steve Hackett
Best Album – The Twenty Seven Club – Magenta
Best Track – East Coast Racer- Big Big Train
Best Lyricist – Fish (presented by Andy Tillison)
Best CRS Live Act – Moon Safari
Best UK Band or Artist – Big Big Train
Best Overseas Band or Artist – Moon Safari
CRS Newcomer – Hekz
Unsung Hero – Summer’s End

Amusing incident of the night has to go to Steve Hackett, who having picked up the Best Bassist award on Lee Pomeroy’s behalf, disappeared and was nowhere to be found when his own award was announced. He did eventually return, but we were deprived of what would, I’m sure, have been a great acceptance speech!

The business done, we returned to the music, with a 2-hour performance, with numerous singers and a full band as well as visual images and a virtual choir, of Clive Nolan’s epic rock opera, ‘Alchemy’. This was not a piece with which I was familiar, but it carried you along with a good narrative, well-told and performed: I shall no doubt return to it in the future.

So, five hours after arriving, we set off back home, thrilled by a great evening of rock in the fabulous company of fellow fans and ‘passengers’. Three highlights for me: seeing Andy Tillison perform – an absolute treat; meeting Dave, David & Danny from Big Big Train – real, genuine guys who seem at times quite bemused by their much-deserved recent accolades; and seeing my young son, James, ask Steve Hackett if he would take a photo of James with Fish (he’d already got one with Steve when he came to Sheffield last year!)

All in all, a wonderful night, and a fitting celebration of another classic year for lovers of Progressive Rock!

 

I’m not the-list-kind-of-guy but…

…nevertheless I have done my homework and now will present my list of the best albums from this absolutely fantastic year of prog! 🙂 I mean 2012 and 2013 have been excellent years both of them but 2013 has been special. I think we can agree on that even though our personal lists may differ a bit. Not to be spoiling too much, but the number one was a no-brainer really, but then it was extremely hard to distinguish between albums 2 to 6. These are five albums that actually can interchange their positions depending on what kind of day it is for me. 🙂 This is how it all ended up today at least. So off we go!

10. Camelias Garden – You Have A Chance

You Have A Chance

Lovely debut album by this Italian band. Folky prog a bit in the vein of Harmonium.

9. Spock’s Beard – Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep

sb

Well, who would have thought that my favourite SB-album would be the one without both Neal and Nick? But so it is!

8. Haken – The Mountain

haken1

Rawk’n’rawl and some real quirkiness in a fine mix! Will always remember sitting in Mr Ian Greatorex’s listening room with high end stereo equipment, giving this a first listen…with a Big Big Beer in my hand.

7. Lifesigns – Lifesigns

Lifesigns CD (2)

After feeling it was a bit “meh” to start with this lush album has grown and grown. Some really beautiful songs here!

6. The Tangent – Le Sacre du Travail

tangent 2013 cover

Mr Andy Tillison’s magnum opus to date! Greatness! And with Gavin on drums and Jonas on bass, what can possibly go wrong?

5. Cosmograf – The Man Left In Space

cosmograf

Superb album by Robin Armstrong’s brainchild, comsograf! It’s one of those you just have to listen to from beginning to end totally undisturbed. 

4. Moon Safari – Himlabacken Vol. 1

Himlabacken Vol. 1

I can’t resist this band’s music! It always makes me so very happy and warm inside! Lovely peeps in the band as well!

3. The Flower Kings – Desolation Rose

"Pure Flower Kings, pure prog and Kingly epic."

Best TFK album since Space Revolver I dare say. So glad they’re back and sounding so fresch and on their toes again!

2. Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing

Raven That Refused to Sing

What can I say? It’s a gorgeous album!

1. Big Big Train – English Electric: Full Power

Progarchy Best Packaging, 2013: Big Big Train, English Electric Full Power.

Well, nobody’s probably really surprised about this being my number one of 2013. 😀 It’s a stunner and will be for many years to come! It’s the best album of any genre for me this year. Without competition.

So…that’s it folks. Outside my list of Top 10 you can find some that are very fine albums and would have made any Top 10 from any other year before 2012. Vienna Circle – Silhouette Moon, Days Between Stations – In Extremis, Johannes Luley – Tales From The Sheepfather’s Grove and Shinebacks fine album Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed (added 20130103) are examples of albums bubbling just beneath position number 10. Then we find albums that I haven’t found the time, motivation or curiousness to listen to more than very casually at the best. Riverside, Airbag, Fish, Nemo, Maschine etc are among those bands or artists that I haven’t given proper attention as of yet.

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year everyone!

PS. Best prog-related and most fun and interesting experience of the year: Big Big Weekend 14-15 September in Winchester and Southampton!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sIveLBgVl8

Himlabacken Vol. 1!

So the new Moon Safari album has been out for a while! Their music really has a special place in my heart! They hail from the same town (Skellefteå) where my significant other and mother of my three children comes from.  The music is easily recognizable but yet again the boys are presenting some new ingredients to the tasty stew that is prog Moon Safari-style! A little quirkier in places and also some heavier guitar riffs (Barfly). Since I’m a sometimes rather embarrassing fanboy I’ve got problems finding anything not to like here. Perhaps that Lover’s End was a bit more consistent but then again, Himlabacken Vol. 1 is also an album filled to the brim with beautiful melodies and of course their  trademark, breathtaking vocal harmonies written by maestro Simon Åkesson. The theme of the album is about growing up. Not that it is a conceptual approach on the subject at all but more of a red thread that the lyrics refer to in different ways. It’s nicely done. A fine example is from the song Diamonds.

My uncle on my father’s side’s a farmer, he is old now but smiles just the same, spent his life working way over yonder, in the fields among the rocks and the clay / He says: ”Tell me what more is a diamond, son, than a stone in the blind man’s hand, if you’d see what I see then you too could be king with a kingdom in hand”

The title of the album refers to the small hilltop where the, then small boys and now young men in the band, went bobsleighing down in winter. A small hilltop stretching up into to the sky…a Heaven Hill.

I have seen this band perform four times now and they just get better. Last time was Friday night 13th September together with fellow Progarchist, Mr Ian Greatorex at House of Progression at the music pub The Peel (“a rather grotty place”, according to Mr G) in  London. Once again I was absolutely blown away by their performance and how they nail all the intricate harmonies live is beyond me. The band was on fire and I have never seen them better. The band stated in an update on their FB-timeline that the audience at The Peel was the loudest on their European Tour so far….no surprise with a roaring viking in the crowd. What happened during the rest of that magic weekend you can see in the video footage by another Progarchist and dear friend, Russel Clarke, here.  

Appetizer: