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 …
In case you hadn’t noticed, the last quarter of 2018 has put paid to any perceived drought of new releases & reissues. Capsule reviews of what I’ve been listening to since the first of this month follow the jump; albums are reviewed in descending order on my Personal Proggyness Perception (PPP) scale, scored from 0 to 10.
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.
Trailing the superior box set Still There’ll Be More, Esoteric Recordings has unleashed three further Procol Harum reissues — two underrated classics from the 1970s, plus the first of the group’s periodic reunion albums.
1972’s Live In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and its swaggering single “Conquistador” propelled Procol Harum into the Top 20 for the first time since “A Whiter Shade of Pale;” in response, Chrysalis Records threw money at the follow-up. When guitarist Dave Ball and the band parted ways in the studio, the new material was re-recorded with successor Mick Grabham; Gary Brooker went all in on orchestral and choral arrangements; producer Chris Thomas got free rein with further bells and whistles; and the group was flown to Manhattan in top hats and tails for the new album’s over the top launch party.
To their credit, Procol Harum didn’t succumb to the excess; on Grand Hotel they harnessed it, examining the pursuit of pleasure from the perspective of the morning after, and counting the cost without flinching.
Take a Dylanesque verbal collage by lyricist Keith Reid; marry it to instantly appealing melody and harmony — passionately sung and played by R&B pianist Gary Brooker, drawing equally on Baroque grandeur (Bach’s “Air on the G String”) and dramatic soul (Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman”). Then garnish with Matthew Fisher’s Hammond organ counterpoint. The result: “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” Procol Harum’s first single, a defining hit of 1967, and one of progressive rock’s most influential precursors.
You can argue Procol Harum (Brooker, Reid, drummer B.J. Wilson and a shifting supporting cast — notably Fisher and guitarist Robin Trower) never topped their debut, either artistically or commercially. But they made excellent music for a decade, with reunions every 12-15 years after that — thirteen fine albums that consistently engaged the mind, gut and heart. The latest installment in Procol’s current reissue campaign, Esoteric Recordings’ Still There’ll Be More: An Anthology, 1967-2017, is the long-overdue box set this band richly deserves.
Shed a tear for the hardcore prog collector — actually, don’t. This week has been absolutely crammed with articulate announcements looking to part fans from their hard-earned cash or pull them deeper into debt. And no, I’m not talking about the upcoming Derek Smalls solo album. Check out what’s coming our way as winter (hopefully) gives way to the spring of 2018:
The Gift, WHY THE SEA IS SALT (Bad Elephant Music, 2016). Tracks: At Sea; Sweeper of Dreams; Tuesday’s Child; The Tallest Tree; All These Things; and Ondine’s Song.
Talk about mythic. The Gift has given us a love song to the vast world of the oceans. Well, “love” might be too strong. There’s love here, to be sure, but there’s also fear and mystery and more than a bit of properly understood awe.
Finding myself quite taken with this most recent release, I keep feeling waves of nostalgia for the first time my great friend, Craig Breaden, introduced me to real Procol Harum—not the Procol Harum of the top 40, but Procol Harum in all of the band’s art rock glory. Yes, The Gift talk about “Salty Dogs”, but it’s far more than this lyrical reference that calls me back to my first moments with that Procol Harum album, more than a quarter of a century ago, now.
Partly, it’s the flow of the album.
Partly, it’s the intelligence of the lyrics.
And, partly, it’s the whimsy that mixes so well with gravity—not an easy skill for any lyricist.
And, there’s another fantastic aspect to this album—the flow of the music perfectly follows the flow of an ocean journey. How The Gift accomplished this so ably, I’m not sure. But, every instrument—whether the keys, the bass (love the bass playing on this album; absolutely love it), the voice, or the guitar—leads to the next one, always playing nicely as it trades off the focus, one to the next. The effect is an usual and compelling flow for the listener as he (or she!) journeys from one wave to the next.