Rick Wakeman interviews Mistheria on Vivaldi’s 2016 Album of the Year @VivaldiMetal

The Vivaldi Metal Project is arguably the Album of the Year for 2016.

Part of that argument involves adopting an historical perspective. To that end, here’s an extract from the interview that on January 2015 (at Blue Train’s studio, Venice) Mistheria gave to Sir RICK WAKEMAN.

Rick wants to test his theory that Vivaldi was the first rock star, and that the Four Seasons was the first concept album. The Croatian musician Mistheria, who is behind the Vivaldi Metal Project, confirms Rick’s thesis.

Rick Wakeman on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons is the most popular piece of classical music of all time. There have been over 1000 different recordings , selling tens of millions of copies.   It’s become so ubiquitous – in lifts, as phone ring tones or on call-centre answering machines – that it has been denounced as Muzak for the middle classes.

Rick Wakeman – platinum-selling prog rock keyboardist and television Grumpy Old Man – thinks the critics are wrong. He believes that the Four Seasons was so far ahead of its time that it was actually the first ever concept album – and that Vivaldi was the world’s first rock superstar.

But how could a sickly 18th century priest create the prototype for Rick’s very modern genre? And why did Vivaldi and the Four Seasons disappear into obscurity for more than 200 years after his death ?

Rick turns detective to solve the mystery: his journey takes him to Venice – in the 18th century the most debauched city on the planet – where he encounters some of those who have devoted their lives to studying and worshipping Vivaldi … and uncovers the whiff of a very modern rock star sex scandal which may have contributed to Vivaldi’s downfall.

Rick talks to Scottish virtuoso Nicola Benedetti and genre-hopping British composer Max Richter. In Venice he tracks down a Vivaldi super fan who relocated from France to pay homage every day; he meets Vivaldi scholar Susan Orlando and author Dr Virgilio Boccardi who writes about The Red Priest. And he learns about the composer’s involvement with Pieta, an institute for abandoned children to whom he taught music, from former Wimbledon photographer turned Venetian Micky White.

But the investigation also leads Rick to unexpected places and people.  He meets fellow prog rocker Mike Rutherford from Genesis and debates whose band Vivaldi would join; and he encounters the Croatian arranger and keyboard player whose multi-national assembly of musicians is turning the Four Seasons into heavy metal.

Along the way Rick also discovers the only existing original score for the Four Seasons – in just about the last place anyone would have thought to find it ….

Directed/Produced by Linda Brusasco/Tim Tate

Watch the whole documentary online if you can.

Concert Review: Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman (ARW) Saturday, November 12, 2016 at the Majestic Theater, San Antonio, Texas.

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ARW

 

With the first step into the Majestic Theater in San Antonio one crosses the threshold into a magical space, like entering a ride at a theme park.  The original 1920s tiled floors direct your paces into the main theater with beautifully sculpted dark wood lining the walls, railings, ceilings, and staircases.  Ornate chandeliers illuminate the space and the main theater is adorned in its entirety with an elaborate stucco relief which includes birds and vases and spiraling banisters. It’s a sight to behold.  My fondest concert memories are from this incredible place.

Something about the Majestic’s dramatic architectural collage made it the perfect setting for the music of Yes performed nearly fifty years after the band’s creation.  That it would be performed by the band’s founding member—arguably the soul of Yes—Jon Anderson, along with his concertmaster, ringmaster, and erstwhile musical genius Rick Wakeman, and guitarist/composer extraordinaire Trevor Rabin, made it a concert for the ages.

Opening with the track that began the joining of Rabin to Yes, the band rolled in with the rocking instrumental “Cinema” from 90125: Rabin in a slim-fit coat and slacks looking like he might have stepped off of the photo shoot from the Beatle’s Sergeant Pepper’s album, and Wakeman dramatically strolling onto the stage in his iconic cape and tennis shoes and settling in behind his mission control deck of nine keyboards.  This served as the band’s intro, much in the same way that Stravisky’s Firebird Suite had in past concerts.  The stage is set, the band are playing…

Continue reading “Concert Review: Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman (ARW) Saturday, November 12, 2016 at the Majestic Theater, San Antonio, Texas.”

YesYears: Twenty-Five Years Later

Remember YesYears?  It was one of the first really nice box sets to come out, back in the day when the only nice box set was that Bruce Springsteen one that had come out in the late 1980s?

yesyears
YesYears–a Nice Fiction that Every Member of Yes Loved One Another, Beginning to Present

YesYears came out on August 6, 1991.  Union had come out at the very end of April that same year.  Unless you were really connected to the internet (not that easy in 1991), Yes fans just had to guess as to what was going on that summer with the band.  Was Yes really an eight-person band?  And, how long would that last?  YesYears seemed to present the eight as living in harmony with one another.  After all, while the four discs did not include anything from Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe, it did list them as a part of the really nice fold-out sleeve, tracing every aspect of Yes history from “The Warriors” to Yes incarnation #9.

Whether real or not, the packaging of YesYears certainly makes a coherent narrative of the band and everyone of its members from Alpha to. . . well, certainly not Omega!  Yes was alive!  Or, so it seemed.

At the time that YesYears came out, I was very poor (a second-year graduate student) and still listening to cassette tapes.  Despite the expense of the YesYears box set, I purchased the four-cassette package.  And, yes, it made a deep cut in my savings account.  Those were years when I would skimp on lunch (usually not even eating one) to spend the money on music or books.

Yes+Yes+Years+350639bAnd as far as I remember, I never regretted having bought that box set.  Sadly, though, the cassettes that came with it were not of the best quality, and I wore my copies out rather quickly.

Jump forward two decades.  Today, in the mail, all the way from an Ebay seller in New Jersey, arrived a mint condition 4-cd box set of YesYears.

Wow, it is a thing of beauty.

I know that many of the songs that had not been readily available in 1991–such as Abilene, Vevey, Run with the Fox–are now very easily available.  Still, the 1991 box set is really, really gorgeous.  I actually paid less for this mint condition version (including postage) than I did for the cassette version 25 years ago.

Just as in 1991, I have no regrets.  The sun is out, my kids are laughing somewhere in the house, and I’m listening to disk three of YesYears.

Still amazingly beautiful. . . even a full quarter century later.

Rick Wakeman Live, April 24, 2014: A Review

by Dave Smith
wakeman 40th
Rick Wakeman. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth.  Newcastle City Hall. 24th April 2014
***
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth has been played live in the UK on three occasions. Once at Crystal Palace and twice at the Festival Hall London. It was here that the recording was made that went on to sell 15,000,000 copies. So tonight was the fourth time it had been played and the first time in it’s newly extended version due to Rick finding the old manuscript with the music that had been left off the original recording.

There was an air of expectancy from the mainly older looking crowd gathered to pay homage. The stage looked amazing with Ricks’ keyboard bank taking centre stage. The organ pipes at the back looked down on the seating for the orchestra and choir and a large chair was positioned for the narrator.

At 8.00pm prompt, Rick casually walked onto the stage dressed in a two piece suit. The audience responded and seemed to put him at ease. The was a Roland Piano set up at the front of stage and Rick went on to tell us who had influenced and encouraged him in the early days. These included Cat Stevens and David Bowie, so we got renditions of Morning Has Broken and Life on Mars. After forty minutes of humour and music, Rick left the stage and soon after the orchestra and choir started to filter on. Then the lights dimmed and on came Rick in white t shirt and trousers and the most magnificent silver sequin cape. Thus began our Journey.

The sound was crystal clear and the playing was impeccable. The strings and the brass shone through and the choir added an extra texture. They played the whole thing straight through. You could hear a pin drop during the quiet bits as the audience seemed transfixed. But as the build up to Hall of the Mountain King and the final closing notes approached the crowd were ready to jump to their feet to show their appreciation of such an outstanding piece of music.

Rick was overwhelmed by the support. I think he wasn’t too sure how the reaction was going to be, but he needn’t have been worried

For an encore they played some music from Return to the Centre of the Earth and then the final Hall section again, this time with rick out front duelling with the guitar player with Rick playing his over the shoulder synth guitar.

Another standing ovation then he was gone. A wonderful evening of nostalgia and superb music. If you are in two minds as to whether to get a ticket for the remaining shows… I say see it while you can. You won’t be disappointed.

 

[Dave is a great Englishman from Durham.  He’s also a member of the progressive rock band, Salander.  We’re very proud to have him write for progarchy–ed.]

Prog 2013 – An Unordered List

Last year was an incredible year for Progressive Music (note: upper case), but in my opinion, 2013 has been even better. Thanks to this community (Progarchy) and the ever-lively Big Big Train Facebook group, I have been exposed to more new prog in 2013 than in any year since the halcyon days of the early 70s. As a result, my wallet has been considerably lightened, but my musical universe has been enriched way beyond mere monetary value.

What follows is a brief review of my top ten purchases in 2013 – albums received for review or borrowed from friends are not included, however much I enjoyed them. The list is alphabetic, as each of these albums is my favourite when I’m listening to it, depending on my mood.

Steven WilsonThe Raven That Refused To Sing: A superb album from start to finish, replete with powerful, hard-rocking passages, beautiful melodies, jazzy interludes, lush arrangements, and oodles of emotion (not something SW is renowned for). Much as I enjoy SW’s guitar playing, I’m delighted that he has handed over most of the guitar work to the incredible Guthrie Govan and stepped back to be more of a musical director – he has always been an excellent songwriter, but I think his compositions have benefitted greatly from this change of focus. I also think this is Wilson’s strongest and most confident vocal performance ever. Of course the rest of the band members are all outstanding, but in particular I love Wilson’s use of Theo Travis’ woodwinds to add an extra dimension that was sometimes lacking in the Porcupine Tree soundscape.

SW

Spock’s BeardBrief Nocturnes and Dreamless SleepI love Nick D’Virgilio’s singing and drumming and was concerned when I heard that he’d left Spock’s Beard, but I needn’t have worried. I thought X was an excellent album, but Brief Nocturnes is even better. Ted Leonard not only brings his powerful and emotive vocal delivery to the band (I think he’s the best vocalist the Beard have had to date), but also his strong compositional skills, which were always evident with Enchant. And Jimmy Keegan is a monster drummer, a worthy full-time successor to the vacated “batterie” stool (he’s been touring with the band for years). Ryo’s keyboard work has also been going from strength to strength since Neal Morse, the uber-controlling force, left the band, while Alan Morse and Dave Meros seem to be even more energised by the injection of new blood into the band. A strong set of songs, powerfully delivered by a great band.

SB

Sanguine HumThe Weight of the World: Sanguine Hum are one of my favourite “new” finds. This Oxford-based band deliver layered and beautifully structured compositions with plenty of dynamics, which never fail to surprise and delight. One reviewer described their approach as “polymath”, but I think this may give the wrong impression – while their music is precise, it is never clinical, and while complex, it is never complicated for the sake of it. Although I slightly prefer their first album, “Diving Bell”, “Weight of the World” is an excellent album that gets repeated listening, and will continue to do so.

SH

RiversideShrine of New Generation Slaves: “SoNGS”, to my ears, is the best Riverside album since their impressive debut “Out Of Myself” in 2004. With greater emphasis on songwriting rather than thrash, and more varied textures that their last few albums, this album is imminently listenable, apart from the rather tiresome first few minutes of the opening song, which seems to stutter along for ages before it gets going. Mariusz Duda’s side project, Lunatic Soul, is definitely bleeding back into Riverside, which I’m delighted about. More, please Mariusz…

Riverside

HakenThe Mountain: For me, the find of the year. Two months go I’d never heard of this band, but now I have all three of their albums and can’t stop listening to them. “The Mountain” is a real tour de force, with light and shade, strong melodies, excellent harmonies, tight ensemble playing and impressive pyrotechnics that are just right in context of each song, when they explode. I think their “Gentle Giant” moment (The Cockroach King) is one of the finest since the great band themselves were performing – far better than Spock’s Beard’s efforts (which are nevertheless uniformly good), and rivalling Kevin Gilbert’s genius in his “Suit Canon”. This band has everything (except a permanent bass player – sad that I’m living on the wrong continent, too old and simply not talented enough to audition for the post… !). Great album, and great band with a stellar future.

Haken

CosmografThe Man Left In Space: I’m a sucker for good sci-fi – combine it with superb songwriting and musicianship from wide range of musicians and I’m in there, lead boots, space suit and all. The first time I heard this album, I thought some of the the interludes caused the album to lose momentum musically, but repeated listening has completely dispelled that impression. I now think this is a beautifully balanced album, lyrically and musically, and I’m really looking forward to the next Cosmograf album (which is always a good sign).

cosmograf

Big Big TrainEnglish Electric Full Power: “English Electric”, parts 1 and 2, were already two of my all-time favourite albums, but the combined and expanded package, “Full Power”, has raised the bar even higher. I have already written full reviews of the individual albums (here on Progarchy and elsewhere), so suffice to say that the re-ordering of the songs and the additional material has created one of the most satisfying listening experiences I’ve had since I first became “aware” of music. Brilliant songwriting, meaningful lyrics, exemplary delivery, superb, lush production. And of course, there’s also the magnificent packaging…

BBT

AyreonThe Theory of Everything: Two adjectives often associated with Ayreon are “bombastic” and “overblown”, but I prefer to use adjectives such as “majestic” and “melodic”. Arjen Lucassen has more musical ideas than is reasonable for any single human being, and he seems to be a helluva nice guy as well. “The Theory of Everything” is his best work, including side projects, since “The Human Equation”, which was my first encounter with his music and still my favourite. However, I’ve only had TTOE for two weeks, and already it is threatening to nudge THE aside. With a stellar cast of musicians and singers, including major prog alumni John Wetton, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Jordan Rudess and Steve Hackett, he’s created another intense epic work that soars and delights, while examining the very human themes of genius, deception, ambition, pride and love. As a scientist, I also appreciate the recurring symbol of the lighthouse, representing intellect and science casting illumination through the gloom. Brilliant album.

ayreon

The AristocratsCulture Clash: This band has literally blown my socks off (it’s OK, it’s summer in the southern hemisphere, so I’m not too uncomfortable). I bought the “Boing! We’ll Do It Live” DVD earlier this year, and was mesmerised by the incredible technical abilities of the three musicians, Govan Guthrie (guitar), Marco Minnemann (drums) and Bryan Beller (bass). But this is not just a musical show-off band – not only do they write splendid (instrumental) music that crosses a vast range of genres (truly Progressive), but their obvious enjoyment of the music, and each other, is completely infectious. “Culture Clash”, their second album, sees them settling into their relationships and interactions, and writing music specifically for each other – and it’s a sheer delight. Want more!

aristocrats

Antione FafardOccultus Tramatis: I get to listen to a lot of new music while I’m working, putting science textbooks together. Much of it tends to slip by me while I’m concentrating on the work, but every now and then an album wrests my attention from whatever I’m doing and forces me to focus on the music. “Occultus Tramatis” was one of those albums. Canadian bassist Antione Fafard has put together a star-studded cast of jazz, jazz-fusion and progressive rock performers including Jerry Goodman and drummers Simon Phillips, Chad Wackerman, Terry Bozzio and Gavin Harrison, and produced an outstanding album of prog fusion, which despite its musical complexity and ever changing time signatures is nevertheless fresh and rewarding, revealing different possibilities every time you listen to it. Each track has its own feel, with changes of pace, a variety of complex rhythms and contrasting instrumental arrangements, but the album still still has an organic flow. I listened to my review copy twice straight through, and immediately ordered the CD. Challenging, but excellent.

af

Honourable mention:
Thieves’ Kitchen – One For Sorrow, Two For Joy: I marginally prefer The Water Road, but this is a strong collection of jazzy prog songs.

Roy Harper – Man and Myth: Powerful, emotional work.

The Flower Kings – Desolation Rose: Their darkest album to date, but a real return to form. May have made it into my top 10 if it had arrived earlier.

Amplifier – Echo Street: Gorgeous guitar-based, atmospheric music.

Airbag – The Greatest Show On Earth: Only arrived last week. Excellent album that is rapidly growing on me.

Notable omission:
Lifesigns: This is a strange one for me. I really like the instrumental work, but some of the compositions seem to meander for long periods. And I can’t get into the vocals – the delivery seems flat and unidimensional to me. Sorry.

Not considered (see above, but added to my wish list):
Comedy of Errors – Fanfare & Fantasy
Days Between Stations – In Extremis
Dream Theater – Dream Theater
KingBathmat – Overcoming the Monster
Levin Minnemann Rudess – LMR
Magenta – The Twenty Seven Club
Moon Safari – Himlabacken Vol. 1
Persona Grata – Reaching Places High Above
PFM – Da Mozart A Celebration
Shadow Circus – On A Dark and Stormy Night
Sound of Contact – Dimensionaut
The Tangent – Le Sacre Du Travail
TesseracT – Altered State
Verbal Delirium – From The Small Hours of Weakness
Von Hertzen Brothers – Nine Lives

Verdict:
So much to listen to, so little time.  Prog has never been healthier.

Craig Farham/faroutsider

The Extreme Pleasure of Listening to Days Between Stations

days between stations

2013 has already shaped up to be one of the most bountiful years ever for prog. Consider a few of the outstanding albums that have already been released: Big Big Train’s English Electric 2, Cosmograf’s The Man Left In Space, Bruce Soord/Jonas Renkse’s The Wisdom Of Crowds, KingBathmat’s Overcoming the Monster, Sanguine Hum’s The Weight of the World, Sound of Contact’s Dimensionaut. Add to that list Days Between Stations’ In Extremis, which has taken up permanent residence in my home CD player and my iPod.

Days Between Stations, based in Los Angeles,  is Oscar Fuentes Bills (keyboards) and Sepand Samzadeh (guitars). In Extremis is only their second release, but it possesses the maturity and excellence of a far more experienced group. Their 2007 self-titled debut consists of five extended instrumentals with some wordless vocals (plus two “intermissions” of sampled conversations), and is top-notch prog in its own right. The opening track, Requiem for the Living, begins with a beautiful yet mournful theme on synths and piano, which eventually develops into a slide guitar workout that would do David Gilmour proud. According to Samzadeh, it was inspired by Gorecki’s Third Symphony, also known as his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. The album concludes with the epic Laudanum, which never loses focus or power over the course of its 22 minutes. It includes ambient textures, jazz fusion, and, of course, lots of prog guitar!

While Bills and Samzadeh were ably assisted on their first album by Jeremy Castillo (guitars), Jon Mattox (drums), and Vivi Rama (bass), for In Extremis, they have taken things to an entirely new level. Billy Sherwood (Yes) is sharing production duties with Bills and Samzadeh, Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, and many others) is on Stick and bass, Colin Moulding (XTC) lends his voice to a song, and Rick Wakeman (Yes, etc.) contributes some mellotron and minimoog. In a fitting way, the late Peter Banks (Yes, guitar) adds his magic to several songs. As a matter of fact, these are Banks’ last recorded performances.

In Extremis begins with a massive fanfare featuring the Angel City Orchestra that becomes the overture for the album. The most obvious difference with this set of songs is that we now have vocalists singing lyrics! Billy Sherwood sings in the Floydian VisionaryEggshell Man, and the title track. Thematically, the lyrics convey the loss and regret of someone near the end of his life:

There’s no replacing what’s been left behind

There’s no returning to that place and time

In sight were all the distant horizons

In flight were all the dreams alive

(From Visionary)

A high point is Colin Moulding’s marvelous vocals on the wry pop of The Man Who Died Two Times. Set to an irresistible, bouncy ’80s vibe, Moulding sings of

All the angels cried

For the man who died two times

And they wiped away tears of laughter

And helped him survive

Going station to station

Always ready to revive

Next up is a touching string quartet piece dedicated to Peter Banks, which is followed by the crowning glory of the entire album, Eggshell Man. It features a delicate accoustic guitar intro with gorgeous vocals by Sherwood and a mellotron flute solo by Wakeman. It soon picks up speed and intensity, including a section with some Middle Eastern flair. The tempo ebbs and flows over the course of twelve minutes, Wakeman has a terrific minimoog solo, Levin is rock-solid on bass, and Sherwood sings of “best laid plans” and empires returning to dust. It’s one of the finest songs released this year.

Believe it or not, there is still the title track to come, and it’s a monster, clocking in at 21:37. In Extremis is a requiem for a man (the Eggshell Man?) who realizes too late the brevity and preciousness of life:

Images upon the screen

Recanting all the memories

From the first breath

To the last goodbye

Dust dancing on beams of light

Most groups would give anything to achieve a track like In Extremis. Days Between Stations pulls it off with ease, and manages to precede it with seven other tracks that are its equal.

There have been some extraordinary releases in prog music this year, and Days Between Stations’ In Extremis is near the top of the heap. This is an album not to be missed.

Here’s the official trailer: