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.
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).
I could easily turn this into a 1500 word rant about how Roger Waters has turned into a senile ass. I won’t do that, but I will just say that his head is shoved so far up his rear that he can’t see what’s going on in reality. Just look at the recent interview with Prog magazine where he said the following:
[Trump] might not sell his own kids, though you sense that they’re like lumps of meat when you see them parading around, They’re like prized cattle. They’ve sort of been plumped up. Those Trump boys, they look as if they’ve been injected with hormones every morning before breakfast to get them that pumped up and kind of dopey.
– Prog 77, page 57
Beyond the mere fact that the above idiotic statement has absolutely nothing to do with music, it is completely absurd! Just imagine if someone in Waters’ position said the same thing about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter. There would be people calling for his arrest and hanging!
It truly is sad to see the once-great cultural critic Waters succumb to this base level of stupidity. The Palestinian government monetarily supports and vocally condones the utter destruction of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. How can supporting a boycott of Israel in support of the Palestinians be anything but vitriolic racism against the Jewish people?
I’m happy there are musicians like Steven Wilson, Radiohead, Steve Hackett, Mike Portnoy, and many others that are willing to ignore the anti-Israel garbage spewed by some on the left and play in Israel and collaborate with Israeli musicians.
I would love to go to one of Waters’ upcoming shows in Chicago, but I refuse to give my hard-earned money to that man after the things he has said. For that same reason, I refuse to buy his new album, and even if somebody gave me a copy, I probably wouldn’t listen to it. I am even having trouble listening to Pink Floyd because of his absurd comments, and they are one of my very favorite bands.
Roger Waters has completely lost touch with reality, and he needs to seriously reconsider his political positions because they are in direct contrast with the anti-establishment and anti-totalitarian (and brilliant) lyrics he wrote for Animals, The Wall, and The Final Cut.
Mr. Waters, if you choose to support an egregious boycott of Israel and the Jewish people who choose to live there, then I can choose to boycott you.
When it comes to Pink Floyd, I usually prefer the atmospheric to the polemic: i.e. “Echoes,” Wish You Were Here, and even A Momentary Lapse of Reason to Animals, The Wall and The Final Cut. True, Roger Waters’ growing desire to beat the listener over the head with his irascible critiques of modern life brought the Floyd to new heights of popularity — but they also helped poison relationships with his collaborators and blow up the band, leading to a solo career with much lower impact. Until, that is, he pulled out the vintage Floyd warhorses and started touring them again, to deserved acclaim.
For me, Is This the Life We Really Want? strikes a welcome new balance between the prototypical Floyd sound and Waters’ ongoing preoccupations. It’s the most listenable and perhaps the most effective of his solo albums, harking back to Dark Side of the Moon in its precision and its muted (but undampened) fury.
Nigel Godrich’s lean, colorful production helps immensely here, keeping the musical tension on the boil throughout. Ironically, it also helps that Waters’ voice has aged; no longer able to bellow with his previous venom, he insinuates and rasps instead. Especially when his singing is paired with acoustic guitar or piano, you can more easily hear the blunt, direct expressiveness he admires in his heroes — early Dylan, Neil Young, John Lennon circa Plastic Ono Band and Imagine. Funnily, lowering the volume of his complaints makes them more compelling.
Another surprise: Waters owns the culpability he so thoroughly excoriates in the world around him (notice the pronoun in the album title). The songs still take plenty of scabrous, deeply profane potshots, earned and unearned, at Stuff Roger Thinks is Bad and at People He Utterly Despises. But he’s also quick to call himself out, and to stand in solidarity with the masses, even if he believes they’re dead wrong. “Broken Bones” and the title track are the best examples; they pull no punches, but Waters makes no excuses for himself, laying out his own neglect and indifference, calling himself to accountability along with everyone else. (The judgmentalism is diminished; the ambition, not so much.)
In sum, Is This The Life We Really Want? comes from a Roger Waters who seems more vulnerable and less inclined to condemn humanity wholesale — but not soft by any means. After 25 years without an album of new rock material, it’s good to know that there’s life in the old boy yet.
Over the past several months, I’ve been rather taken with Pink Floyd. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved the band. . . as far back as I can remember, their music was a part of my life. Certainly, in my little town in central Kansas, I could hear someone or some station playing Floyd at any time. As I’ve had the chance to mention before, our local planetarium played lots of Laser Floyd. I heard them so much and so often that I started to take them for granted.
Several months ago, I picked The Wall up after years of not listening to it. There was a time I thought it was a masterful work of art. I still think it’s brilliant, but it’s way too depressing for me to pick up casually. If I’m in a good mood, I certainly don’t want to be brought down by the album. If I’m in a bad mood, I don’t need it to bring me down any further.
There’s no doubt, however, that its message of anti-fascism and anti-conformity influenced my own thinking on the world profoundly.
2015 turned out to be another fantastic year for prog, as well as metal. Last year, I made a top 10 list, but this year, there has been far too much great music in prog, metal, and rock to narrow it down to 10 albums. Apart from my top 4, there will be no particular order for the rest of my picks. Most of this will be prog, but there is some straight up metal here as well.
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Neal Morse and company have made another outstanding album. “Alive Again” might be one of the top 10 best long progressive songs ever made. It is remarkably beautiful. Mike Portnoy’s drumming is exceptional, as always, and, like last year, this isn’t the last we shall hear of him on this list.
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
The Oblivion Particle is my first introduction to Spock’s Beard, and I am heartily impressed. Ted Leonard’s vocals really round out the band. “Bennett Built a Time Machine” is my personal favorite from the record.
Stryper – Fallen
I’m brand new to Stryper, and after listening to their last two albums, I’m flabbergasted. Their new music is better than their original stuff from the 80s. The drummer has grown incredibly, and Michael Sweet’s vocals soar to the heavens. The best thing – Stryper hasn’t given up on their values. They blast metal to honor God.
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
I was pleasantly surprised by this album. The music has just the right amount of complexity, with a few pop hooks here and there for good measure. The song “Lonely Robot” should be a radio staple, but rock radio sucks.
LEAH – Kings and Queens
The reigning queen of prog metal released a masterpiece this year. A long masterpiece. Her combination of metal with celtic influences works amazingly well. She creates a wonderful sound that no one else really tries to duplicate. Originality abounds.
Dave Kerzner – New World (Deluxe Edition)
The deluxe edition came out this year, so it counts as 2015. Plus, I overlooked the album last year since it came out in December, and for that I sincerely apologize to Dave. This album brilliantly revives classic elements of Pink Floyd, and Kerzner’s voice is eerily reminiscent of David Gilmour’s. This is an album meant to last.
The Winery Dogs – Hot Streak
Wow! AC/DC meets Mike Portnoy! Richie Kotzen’s voice has grown on me, as has the “Dog’s” music. From the virtuosity of the first track, “Oblivion,” to the hard rock bombast of “Captain Love,” Hot Streak is a fantastic album. Billy Sheehan’s bass balances Portnoy’s drums and Kotzen’s guitars beautifully. The quiet piece, “Fire,” is a nice change up, as well.
You could call this a supergroup for thrash, although it seems anything with Mike Portnoy in it could be called a supergroup. His double bass thrash drumming is a nice change for him. The abundant guest performances from bands such as Testament, Anthrax, and many other groups really round out their sound. Normally I don’t like thrash because of the lyrics, but the lyrics here are great. The combination of guests makes this album one of the greatest thrash albums ever made.
Disturbed – Immortalized
This isn’t prog in any sense of the word, but Disturbed’s first album since 2010 is a return to form for the band. They didn’t want to make an album again unless it was really good, and they delivered on that desire. Immortalized is one of the best album’s they have made, with only one song that I don’t like. Their cover of “The Sound of Silence” is better than the original, in my opinion.
Flying Colors: Live at the Z7
The live Blu-ray is one of the best live shows I have seen. The music is played flawlessly, and the production for sound is excellent. It was filmed in 4K and you can choose from two sound choices – front row or sound board. Well played, FC, well played. Oh ya, more Mike Portnoy, too.
Rush – R40 Live
This needs no explanation. Long live Rush.
Steve Hackett – Wolflight
Another great solo effort from one of the greatest guitarists ever. I have such a great respect for Steve Hackett and his dedication to his craft and the genre. Of all the 70s prog giants, Hackett is probably the best ally to the newer prog artists and musicians.
A year ago, I couldn’t stand Steven Wilson. Now I’m a fan. Go figure. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is simply brilliant. The story telling is at an extremely high level, and this album, while rather depressing, is so addicting to listen to. Wilson is an incredibly important figure in progressive rock.
2. Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld Path 2
Yeehaw, this is a great album! Holy crap, I don’t know how Andy Tillison does it! He is a master of cultural criticism, and while I don’t agree with him politically, I do respect him immensely. This album is well worth your time.
Like I said, a great year for rock of all kinds. As I promised, Mike Portnoy features prominently in my list, just like last year. He certainly deserves it since he is one of the hardest working men in the business. His “Hello Kitty” drum video for Loudwire was an instant classic.
Best prog book of the year goes to Progarchy’s very own Brad Birzer for his excellent book on Neil Peart, a man of letters. Well worth your time.
The new Kansas documentary, Miracles out of Nowhere, is excellent. While it only goes through Point of Know Return, it is an excellent look at the band, from the band members themselves, as well as Brian May and Garth Brooks. It was great to see that the band members don’t hate each other. In fact, they genuinely seem to like each other. If at all possible, order it from the band because it comes with a bonus disc featuring the band reminiscing and a few other features – http://www.kansasmerch.toursync.com
One final documentary/live concert that is worthy of any “best of” list is Roger Waters’ movie, The Wall. It combines a live concert from his recent tour with short scenes that examine the meaning of the album for him. The concert itself is outstanding – better than his 1990 The Wall concert in Berlin, performed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The music is basically indistinguishable from the album. A worthy look at one of the best and most important albums ever made.
Sorry if I have bored you with my list, but I am nothing if not thorough. I’m just amazed by the quality of music that has been released the last few years, and I eagerly look forward to what the coming year has in store. New Dream Theater coming in January. And who knows what Mike Portnoy will release. Such excitement. Merry Christmas everybody, and prog on into 2016.
I had the great privilege of speaking with one of America’s foremost political commentators yesterday, Tom Woods, about progressive rock. It turns out that Tom is a huge progger. I shouldn’t be surprised. I think we’re both the younger brothers of Neil Peart. We really had a field day talking about CLOSE TO THE EDGE, SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND, THICK AS A BRICK, PASSION PLAY, IN ABSENTIA, and THE FINAL CUT.
We talked “third wave prog,” too.
Tom was especially interested in the founding and purpose of progarchy. And, for what it’s worth, Tom is as smart and insightful as he is kind. A true gentleman. Here’s a link to our show yesterday. Enjoy.