Bryan’s Best of 2018

Earlier this year, I questioned whether or not 2018 was going to be a poor year for prog. It seemed like the the progressive rock community took a few months to stop and take a collective breath… but that was only the breath before the plunge. The second half of the year saw many excellent new releases. The following are some of my favorites from 2018, in no particular order (my top two at the bottom of this list are tied for first place).

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Prog More, Spend Less: Radiant Records 3-Day Sale

radiant recordsRadiant Records–the company founded and owned by Neal Morse–is having a three-day sale, with the wonderful tagline, “Prog more, spend less.”

The sales are on cds/DVDs/ and/or blu-rays of MORSEFEST2015, SNOW LIVE, SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM, ALIVE AGAIN, KaLIVEoscope, TESTIMONY 2, MOMENTUM, GOD WON’T GIVE UP, and SO MANY ROADS.

Frankly, all specular releases.

To go to the sale (which ends this Friday), go here: http://www.radiantrecords.com/category/191735-bargain-bin.aspx

Insideout: 25th Year

Spock’s Beard & Roine Stolt’s The Flower King’s celebrate InsideOutMusic’s 25thanniversary on tour

InsideOutMusic, the leading light in today’s progressive rock scene, celebrate their 25th anniversary of being a label in 2018, in what will be one of their biggest and busiest yet. To coincide with this, two of their longest serving artists, Spock’s Beard & Roine Stolt’s The Flower King’s, will head out on a European co-headline tour in Winter 2018.

Spock’s Beard comment: “Spock’s Beard is excited to announce an upcoming Winter tour!  It will be a co-bill with Roine Stolt’s THE FLOWER KING’s revisited band, so each show promises to be a great evening of music.  We’ve been getting a lot of questions about who will be playing drums on this tour, so at this time let me introduce our new touring drummer, Mr. Mike Thorne, from SAGA!  We are really excited to have him on board and are looking forward to seeing you on tour.”

Roine Stolt adds: “Asked to put together a band  to go on the road, celebrate our label Inside Out’s 25 year anniversary – I was thinking of the ‘treasure’ that is the music I wrote for The Flower Kings during that same period. I felt compelled to bring out this music for yet another round – and in the process bring in some old friends and some new.
The music is universal – some songs timeless – and by November I hope to have an exciting set-list – to not only celebrate my 1st album and the origin of all things  “The Flower King” – but to cover the rest of TFK’s history – and eventually a new tune & a few new faces. Tune up the engine – Time to prog!”

You can find the full list of dates below:
30th November – Cosmopolite, Oslo, Norway
1st December – Kulturhuset Studion, Stockholm, Sweden
2nd December – KB, Malmo, Sweden
4th December – Zeche, Bochum, Germany
5th December – Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
6th December – La Machine, Paris, France
7th December – De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands
8th December – Hedon, Zwolle, Netherlands
9th December – Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK
10th December – Academy Club, Manchester, UK

Formed back in 1993 in Kleve, Germany, the label made their name with acts such as Enchant, Spock’s Beard, Symphony X & The Flower Kings, many of whom they still work with now – a rarity in this day and age. Since that time, the label has played a key & continued role in the survival and resurgence of progressive rock in recent years, and has always prided itself on shining a light on leftfield music. Now the band count some of the biggest & most exciting bands amongst their roster, including Dream Theater, Steve Hackett, Devin Townsend, Sons of Apollo, Kansas, Haken, Riverside, Leprous & more. On the label’s 20th anniversary back in 2013, one of the labels founders, and current label-head Thomas Waber was given the Guiding Light award at the Progressive Music Awards, praising his aforementioned role in the continued celebration of progressive rock.

Many of InsideOut’s longest running relationships will see new albums released in the labels 25th year, including Spock’s Beard’s 13th album ‘Noise Floor’, a new collaborative project called The Sea Within that features Roine Stolt, Daniel Gildenlow & Jonas Reingold (all veterans of the label), a landmark live album from Devin Townsend filmed at a special performance at a Roman Theatre in Bulgaria, a new studio album from Riverside & much more.

This year will also see InsideOut release a whole host of lavish catalogue releases throughout 2018, including the second part of The Flower Kings ‘A Kingdom of Colours’ CD boxsets, a series of Devin Townsend high-end vinyl boxes, a CD collection covering the whole of Enchant’s illustrious career, & much more yet to be announced.

The Progressive Music Awards 2018 recently announced their nominations, with InsideOutMusic seeing 10 nominations in total, including Spock’s Beard for best international artist, as well as nods for Perfect Beings, Toundra, PFM, Sons of Apollo, Kino, Leprous & Caligula’s Horse. Find more details here: https://www.loudersound.com/features/vote-now-in-the-2018-progressive-music-awards

Watch out for more news throughout 2018!

SNOW by Spock’s Beard: Two Stories

Snow LIVE
From Radiant Records.

As I am sure is true for all of us, albums I love and cherish and listen to, repeatedly, carry with them fond personal memories.  For better or worse, almost every single Neal Morse album and Spock’s Beard album comes with a story, and usually more than one.  As I’ve mentioned on progarchy before, I’ll never forget the release of the first Spock’s Beard album, THE LIGHT.  Being a prog fan since as far back as I can remember, I had no idea about the arrival of neo-Prog in England, and I had to content myself in the early 1990s with jam bands such as Phish and jam pop bands such as the Dave Matthews Band to satisfy my not so easily satisfied prog desires.  I had purchased so many CDs and had had so many discussions with the manager of Tracks in Bloomington, Indiana, that she remained on the lookout for me.  Anything that even remotely smacked of prog, she let me know.  She rather gleefully handed me a copy of THE LIGHT when it first came out.  To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.  I was just plain elated, inserting that cd in the tray, putting on my Sennheizers, and falling into prog bliss, attempting to follow all the nuances of the album and to figure out all of the lyrics.  I mean really, who is the catfish man?

And, why did this guy with such a great voice have to cuss so much?

Continue reading “SNOW by Spock’s Beard: Two Stories”

Kruekutt’s 2017 Favorites: New Albums & Videos

by Rick Krueger

After the jump are the new albums and videos from 2017 that grabbed me on first or second listen, then compelled repeated plays.  I’m not gonna rank them except for my Top Favorite, which I’ll save for the very end.  The others are listed alphabetically by artist. (Old school style, that is — last names first where necessary!)  Links to the ones I’ve previously reviewed are embedded in the album titles.

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Spock’s Beard SNOW LIVE Deluxe Edition

Snow LIVEAfter what seemed like an eternity (yes, even at age 50, patience is not one of my virtues), my copy of the deluxe edition of SNOW LIVE by Spock’s Beard arrived this afternoon.  And, the wait was more than worth it.  This thing is just loaded to the max with goodness and beauty.  Lots of truth as well.  2 CDs, 2 DVDs, and 2 Blu-ray disks.  Additionally, the set comes with a certificate of authenticity.  My authentic number is 1,887 out of 2,000, in case you were wondering.  And, you were wondering, right?  There are also a number of elongated postcards of the band members and a poster.

The best part of it all, though, is the book.  The size of a traditional album, the SNOW LIVE book is a thing of glory at 50 pages.  Full of liner notes and photos, I found myself quite taken with what Radiant Records has produced.  I’ve only begun to explore this all, but I’m thrilled to have it.  This is some of the best packaging I’ve seen, and I hope other bands take notice.

I really like, for example, the Rush boxset of 2112, but I think I like this open book format the best.  As sturdy as the Rush 2112 box is, I’m always a bit afraid it will get crushed.  Not so with the SNOW LIVE deluxe packaging.  It just feels solid.  As solid as it is beautiful.

Thank you, Radiant!  And, thank you, Amy Pippin at Radiant Records for doing the hard work of processing all of the orders and getting these shipped out.

Rounding Up Some Live Ones

Several bands have recently released some nice live albums. In no particular order, here are a few of the most notable:

Pineapple Thief: Where We Stood

 

Wow, when I first heard this, I wondered who or what lit a fire under this group’s collective backside. After watching the excellent film that accompanies this recording, I have to say it’s having Gavin Harrison behind the drum kit. As good as Pineapple Thief’s 2016 album Your Wilderness is, I think the versions from this show are better: tight, energetic, and riskier. And if you ever wondered where Bruce Soord came up with the band’s name, now you can find out. By the way, every song from Your Wilderness is performed here, except for “Where We Stood”. Go figure.

Spock’s Beard: Snow Live

A lot of us fans of the classic Spock’s Beard lineup never thought we would see them reunite, let alone perform the double-album masterpiece, Snow. Well, Neal Morse managed to get all the Beardsters – past and current – together at his 2016 MorseFest, and they delivered a tremendous performance of Snow in its entirety. I’m probably biased (because I was there), but it is quite an emotional experience.

Yes: Topographic Drama Live Across America

I approached this set with trepidation – it is the first recordings of Yes without the late Chris Squire participating. However, as I got into the music, I was very pleasantly surprised. Jon Davison does an excellent job on vocals and acoustic guitar, while Billy Sherwood fills Squire’s huge shoes. Steve Howe is still full of fire, and Geoff Downes is uniformly excellent on keyboards. They perform all of Drama (one of my favorite Yes albums), as well as “The Revealing Science of God” and “Ritual” from Topographic Oceans. Add in “And You and I”, “Heart of the Sunrise”, “Leaves of Green”, “Roundabout”, and “Starship Trooper”, and you have a set to satisfy any Yes lover. It definitely helps that Jay Schellen was able to play drums and assist Alan White. God bless him, but Alan’s timekeeping has gotten a little shaky over past few years. That said, this is a surprisingly strong set of performances from Yes.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Wembley or Bust

Holy cow, this is a fun concert to watch! I wish I’d been there in June of this year when Jeff Lynne, supported by a crack band, played songs from every phase of his career, including The Traveling Wilburys. The love for Jeff from the huge crowd is evident, and he delivers an outstanding performance. I had forgotten just how many popular (and beautiful) songs he’s written. Takes me back to my high school days when ELO’s music was inescapable on the radio. How far we have fallen…. Anyway, this show had me grinning from ear to ear from start to finish.