Classic: Saga, Silent Knight, 1980

saga - silent knightWhen a number of songs out of 8 are kind of obligatory in a live set, even after over 30 years, you know you have done something special. And Saga sure did something special with Silent Knight. And no, I am not referring to the obvious play with words here.

On this classic album, those 3 songs are Don’t Be Late (Chapter Two), What’s It Gonna Be, and Careful Where You Step. But then I am leaving out personal favourite Compromise, and one of the other chapters: Too Much To Lose (Chapter 7). I will not be delving into the story behind the chapters here, that is something for another day.
The sound of Saga really come into fruition with this album and it’s successor Heads Or Tales (which some regard as their trademark album). For me Saga are that gentleman voice and melodies of Michael Sadler, the flashy and instant recognisable guitar playing of Ian Crighton and the fast fingers of keyboard player Jim Gilmour. But all based on the framework often laid out by Jim Crighton and held together by the steady drums of Steve Negus. Always melodic so for a progressive band they are very accessible. And yet, with the prowess within the band, some stunning work is never far away.

I cannot imagine anyone into prog not knowing these guys. But if that is you, start with this one and the mentioned Heads Or Tales and then move back and forth in their discography. You will not regret it.

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Classic: Peter Gabriel, 3, 1980

peter gabriel - 3Peter Gabriel achieved something that many strive for, but little succeed to. While once the singer of successful symphonic rock band Genesis, he managed to launch a solo career that has turned out even more successful. And the best thing is, he did it on his own terms! He has not released a gigantic back catalogue, choosing quality over quantity, but all his records are a worthwhile addition to any collection. And don´t be put off by the progressive tag, many pop lovers will dig this stuff as well as it is very accessible in many ways.

For me, his third outing is a pivotal record. The prog roots are still there, but there is more pop popping up, as are the more ethnic sounds he would later be associated with. Yet he manages to maintain artistic integrity and choose an often synthesised sound on many instruments. This lead to an unique experience where his music transcended beyond his magical voice alone. No mean feat!

The opening bunch of songs like Intruder, No Self Control and I Don´t Remember set the mood with that spellbinding spheres and catchy melodies. Next is one of the most intense tracks I know of, Family Snapshot. Goose bumps every time I hear it. A fantastic lyric that will fool many. But the delivery, both vocally as musically is unsurpassed on an emotional level. The only way to follow such a masterpiece is with a rocking work out, in this case And Through The Wire, with it´s odd time signatures the perfect lightning rod to the second part of the album. Games Without Frontiers features a young Kate Bush (her French lyric of the title is often misinterpreted as she´s so funky yeah) and is another instant hit. Not One Of Us is vintage Gabriel with heavy sound processing. Lead A Normal Life, is beautiful with its extensive use of marimba´s and a simple but effective piano.
Album closer Biko has since become the international anthem against racism and rightly so. The use of original African vocals and stuff has since been copied by many, but no one comes close to the impact of the chorus on this thing. Timeless.

Classic: Gentle Giant, Civilian, 1980

gentle giant - civilianI am guessing this first Classic Album will raise a few eyebrows already 😉

This is actually the first Gentle Giant album I ever heard and I immediately fell in love with it. And I said it before, albums you grow up on, tend to stick with ya and get that aura of being fantastic due to all the memories attached.

Even for the time it was rather short, but I just kept playing the LP at the time. For it´s wonderful choruses, the great use of Hammond by Kerry Minnear, the inventive guitar licks by Gary Green, and the somewhat hoarse voice of singer Derek Shulman. (and to complete the list of musicians involved: Ray Shulman played the bass, and John Weathers drummed). And a lot of singing of course.

And yes, this has little to do with their previous output. So imagine my surprise checking out albums like Octopus, Free Hand or Missing Piece. From where I was coming from (hard rock) that was not an easy task. But I grew into it and have since also developed a taste for quality symphonic music.

But this was close to perfection according to me. On it´s own I regard it a classic melodic rock album with some symphonic influences. In hindsight I understand some of the older fans as well. they thought it was a sell out and hated the band for it.

For me, I still enjoy playing this (meanwhile upgraded to CD) All Through The Night