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progressive rock

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Tusmorke, Bydyra, 2017

tusmorke - bydyraThis is certainly a first; a psychedelic progressive folk rock band from Norway delivering their fifth album, aimed at and done with children. Comprising of 2 mini musicals, written for a local school in Oslo, this is indeed something unique. According to their label both children and adults will be able to enjoy the album. But alas I think they forgot that most of the world are not so fluent in Norwegian.

Now I am able to “understand” the music and think the genre description is quite accurate. And while I understand that within the concept it makes sense to add children singing to a lot of songs, it also makes me question the people who will fall for this. Especially since the language barrier isn’t helping me. So I do not understand the humour on display or the stories about urban wildlife, skyrocketing prices of houses, the financial crisis and so on.
On top of that I think the melodies are often fairly simple, aimed to sing along to at schools. Nevertheless, the music is done well and really supports the ideas. So it makes sense to think that in Norway this is welcomed with open arms. For me its appeal is limited alas.

If you are able to listen past language and or enjoy children singing and a band performing folky rock songs, you might enjoy this more than I did.

Website

Wingfield Reuter Sirkis, Lighthouse, 2017

wingfield reuter sirkis - lighthouseYou can agree or not, but much of the so called progressive music of today is in fact quite the opposite. Seventies music redone in various forms and combinations. Not necessarily a bad thing though, good songs and vibes are always welcome in this house. And while I do understand it will be impossible to create something so new it has never been done before, I never understand people arguing about some of the genre style standards.

But anyway, before people want to lynch me for blasphemy, here we have something that is progressive in my book. Recorded in a long improvisational jam in Spain, guitarist Mark Wingfield, touch guitarist Markus Reuter and drummer Asaf Sirkis have created this album of… Is it jazz, rock, progressive rock? Well whatever you want to call it, it is certainly an album for the daring. I guess best recognisable for people into the soundscape side of King Crimson, so this isn’t your regular cup of tea. It is a bold, non conform and really stretching work of seasoned professionals who live to expand their horizons. So no easy songs structures or recurring themes here. Just 3 musicians feeding off on each other.

Like I mentioned, probably only for the brave, despite the undeniable class at work.

Mark Wingfield    Markus Reuter    Asaf Sirkis

Uriah Heep, Raging Through The Silence, 2017

uriah heep - raging through the silenceUriah Heep have also gone independent and this is their second release on their newly formed label. The band are determined to close all the gaps in their discography so the core fans (me included) will be pleased with this double disc and DVD, as this has only been available on a long lost VHS at the time.

What we have here is the 1989 concert of their 20th Anniversary show. Also included is an interview which was recorded at that very same time. Which makes 2018 their 49th year of existence… In the band besides ol’ Mick Box (RESPECT), Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon, are Trevor Bolder (RIP) and Lee Kerslake. Besides mandatory pieces like July Morning, Stealin’, Gypsy, Easy Livin’ or Look At Yourself, we also get more recent material from that time. Like Bad Bad Man, Blood Red Roses, Too Scared To Run, Cry Freedom or The Other Side Of Midnight.
Because Uriah Heep never was a band content with delivering another greatest hits set and always look to perform their newer songs. And in the process captivate every audience they can play for. A live band par excellence! And even when I own 5 live albums now, as well as all the studio albums, I never get tired of listening to the band. Classic songs and a bunch of guys thoroughly enjoying what they do.

On to the 50th anniversary! And more music please 🙂

Website

Cairo, Say, 2017

cairo - sayThis version of Cairo is not the same as the US band that released a trio of great prog albums between 1994 and 2001. This is an UK band, also of progressive nature, and is the new outlet for singer and keyboard player (and writer) Rob Cottingham, of Touchstone fame. The name might be new, but the sound of the band is not that distant from his previous band. This even has a female singer adding to Rob’s delivery.

The album opens with Cairo, an instrumental with a nice Eastern feel. Next is a prelude to Shadow’s Return, and mainly contains spoken word. And finally after some 5 to 6 minutes into the album we hear the first singing. Not that I got bored before mind you, I think the mood was set to get you to listen carefully.
Of the 13 songs on the album, many are in the 2 – 3 minute range. And of course there are songs that tick the 9 minute mark. It is also obvious experience rules in the band. Many layers, clear production and interesting arrangements galore. Happily all this led to an album that is far from sterile. If anything it sounds warm and convincing. In fact, I’d expect that even non prog lovers would find several songs on this very appealing. Songs like Wiped Out or Say are plain catchy! Another bonus is the band is not afraid to experiment. Just have a listen to Katrina Breath mix, the closing song.

So there you go, if you liked Touchstone, you will not have a problem liking this too. And if you are into quality music with great melodies, you might want to have a listen to this. It is very tasty!

Website

Major Parkinson, Blackbox, 2017

Major-Parkinson-BlackboxAs I understand this is the fourth album from this Norwegian band, labelled as cult prog rock in the press sheet. That continues to write: come over to the passenger side, open the lid and embark on an unparalleled journey through cinematic progressive soundscapes and otherworldly melodies. Eh? So you can imagine I was curious to hear what the band had to offer.

And I must say after hearing the music, I was starting to understand the information. This turns out to be quite the unique experience. That is, I know of no other band combining eighties new wave sounds, with pop sensibilities over a progressive foundation. Growing up musically in the seventies and eighties, I must also confess I really like what I am hearing here!
The lead singer has a low and dark voice, not quite unlike Tom Waits. The melodies are there and they are instant. There is a constant feeling of mystery and tension throughout the album. The combination of the vocals, the synths, the fierce drumming and guitar interludes keeps you on your toes. And still you never get lost. I don’t think it makes sense to lift out specific songs from this release. This is best listened to as a whole as that will give you the best idea of their attraction.

Very special, very interesting, very good. Go listen!

Website

Slug Comparison, IIb, 2017

slug comparison - iibNo rule without exception, and for Slug Comparison I have no problem breaking a few. After a full length and part a of a series of EP’s, we now have the already announced part B. The info on bandcamp gives you some insight in the background of these songs, worth a read. The band / project now consists of Mike Young – bass and programming, Dave Young – programming, Sam Levin – additional string arrangements and Doug Harrison – vocals, guitars, programming and string arrangements.

First song is When You Were Living Here. Very moody and I suspect a fitting tribute to the friend Doug lost. Some wonderful accents in the arrangement too. Beings Far Away is the second song and is another emotional piece full of heartfelt performances. This music grabs you and in my humble opinions crosses genres. Just open your heart and ears and listen!

By the way Doug, sorry I missed part A!

Mavara, Consciousness, 2017

Mavara - ConsciousnessIntriguing album artwork or? Well, then imagine the first track opening with windy noises and the voice of a storyteller. After over 2 minutes a sequence kicks in and a cow starts to moo. In a disturbing manner. Well it sure kept me on my toes! And then the track really comes to live in a typical prog rock manner with drums, bass, keys and guitar riffing. The first vocals come in after 5 minutes in. No wonder the song (Invasion (636 Gregorian Calendar)) clocks in at over 11 minutes.

Talking of vocals, I noticed that the first couple of tracks somehow sound less convincing that the rest of the CD. Might be me, but it distracted me a little. Maybe because part of the delivery sounds a bit theatrical. This might be because of their Far Eastern roots, but that would be a guess on my part. Anyway, my advice is to keep listening, because there are some tasty things on offer here.
For me, the album really comes alive from track 4, Living The Fast Life. More urgency in all departments it seems. Because make no mistake, even when I had never heard of them before, they have been active since 2001 and have won several prizes in their home country Iran. Since relocating to the US, more people can have the opportunity to get to know the band, and that is a good thing. On offer are 10 tracks and a running time of 67 minutes.

All in all this is an entertaining album with class music and a bit of a special flavour. Check them out and start with track 6, Mandatory Hero.

Website

Medea, Northern Light, 2017

medea - northern lightAh, yes, the third instalment of Henry Meeuws (songs, keyboards), also known as Medea. And since a lot of people I know are involved, it gives me a lot of pleasure to listen and write about the album. Just dropping some names here: Igor Koopman – drums, Frank de Groot – bass, and on vocals Ernst le Cocq d’Armandville, Joss Mennen, Rob Laarhoven, Sandra Peeters and John “JayCee” Cuijpers. So some rock, some metal, some alternative and some prog coming together.

And ofcourse prog is what is on offer here. From opener Aurora Overture, with a hint of Kansas in the violin, to closer Northern Light. A total of 12 songs and a playing time just short of 70 minutes. The first thing I noticed was the sound of the album. The Rock Inc studio managed to elevate the album into the premier league. It is transparent, with awesome sounding orchestrations, and still enough punch in the guitars to let it rip. And all the vocalists are prominent in the mix.
On to the music then. As you will expect the range of influences is broad. As I mentioned before, the orchestral parts sound very convincing, and they add a lot of sizzle to the songs. Throughout the CD melodies come and go, and whether flute, violin, cello, keyboards or guitar, all are effectively used to add colour.

I am sure no one expects the album to be instant. This needs to be played a couple of times to sink in. And then you have an album that shines. Lush arrangements keep giving you new discoveries. Very well done!

Website

Lifesigns, Cardington, 2017

lifesigns - cardingtonI was fairly late to the party after the first Lifesigns album was released in 2013, but after hearing a lot of their songs on the radio, I loved it. (Yes I said radio, my favourite station One World Music plays rock and prog every Friday!) Anyway, when I heard about the new album, I decided to step in and make sure I got this one early. Alas mister postman refused to cooperate, my first copy was broken so John Young (keyboards and vocals) had to send in another one.

But boy, since it arrived safe and sound, it has been making many rounds! And to put it simple; this is another fantastic progressive rock album. I probably like it so much because it not only gives a big nod to all the great music of the past, but still sounds up to date and contemporary. Don’t know if that makes any sense to you, but that is how I feel about it.
So it has the long epic tracks as well as shorter ones, but they all feel authentic and logical. No throwing together a bunch of ideas and see what comes out. This is coherent and given enough thought. And man, the way instrumental parts in for instance Voice In My Head lift the song to an even higher level, amazing.

In my humble opinion anyone serious about progressive rock should own this one, jaw dropping good!

Website

Lonely Robot, The Big Dream, 2017

lonely-robot - the big dreamI guess John Mitchell (Arena, It Bites, Kino, The Urbane, *Frost, etc.) likes to keep busy. And frankly I do not mind at all. Not only is he a gifted guitar player, but as a singer he also manages to convince. And over time his production skills have been in demand as well. Yet without the proper songs all that is of little use.

And so we now have the second Lonely Robot album to digest. As before, less metal than Threshold, yet of the same progressive and melodic blood. A bit of a concept running through, it seems the man has strange dreams… Or is it just the packaging? Nah, just kidding. On offer on my version are 14 songs of which the first 11 form the actual disc. The extra songs are 2 acoustic versions and a song with Kim Seviour (ex-Touchstone) guesting.
And the album serves songs like the powerful Awakenings, the highly melodic impact of Sigma, the drama of In Floral Green or more powerful riffing in Everglow. We get the groove and feel of False Lights and the … You get it, there will always be something that gets you going. You can be sure there is enough happening to whet your appetite and quench your thirst for melodic prog rock. There is a reason Mitchell is so in demand, he is damn good at what he does!

For me it’s simple, it walks the walk and talks the talk. Go check this!

Website

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