Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

In Abstentia – Porcupine Tree [#621]

As a mature media student at Huddersfield Uni, it was fun, and refreshing, to discuss similar musical tastes with my lecturers during tutorials.

During one long discussion about the joys of Prog when we should have been discussing Media Theory, my lecturer asked me if I knew about Porcupine Tree. I said I didn’t. Reaching over to the bookshelf above his desk, he picked out a copy of In Absentia and told me that my homework was to listen to the album.

I was late handing in the assignment. Probably now nearly ten years late. To be fair, I’ve listened to some of the tracks admittedly not all but what I’ve heard I have enjoyed. Indeed, Blackest Eyes has featured in a number of my in-car playlists over the past few years. It is the band’s seventh album coming between Lightbulb Sun and Deadwing and features several songs seemingly about serial killing. As you do…

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Force of Gravity – Sylvan [#486]

Sylvan - Force of GravitySince we last met Sylvan with their release Artificial Paradise, I’ve actually grown to like them more. I’ll even go as far to say Artificial Paradise is quite a clever little concept album and deserves more ear time. Force of Gravity is another one of those albums that have not had anywhere near the amount of ear time as I would have liked. Getting old sucks kids, don’t do it.

Anyway, Force of Gravity, Sylvan’s seventh studio album, shows a great deal of maturity considering it was released seven years after Artificial Paradise (the band’s second album). Yet still we get the rich gravy of their sound pouring over our aural Sunday dinner complete with their lyrical roast potatoes and conceptualised roast meat (or nuts if you’re aurally vegan).  It’s as if the band have actually bettered themselves rather than tear themselves apart in an effort to maintain the successes of their earlier output.

The album has, as in the opening statement, had little ear time despite languishing in the collection since 2009, something I regret, but even on fifth listen I’m impressed with the sound the band have produced.

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Fairyport – Wigwam [#455]

Wigwam_-_FairyportDiscovered while exploring the far corners of progressive rock during the noughties, Wigwam’s 1971 opus Fairyport is a curious album. While not in the same attention winning arena as Bodkin, it does show the roots of the likes of Glass Hammer and perhaps the influence of early Genesis.As an eternal pregnant keen to explore the darkest reaches of Progressive Rock, Fairy Port provides a nice restful stop on the way to King Crimson.

The band themselves hail from the land of Prog, Finland and while in some respect, stylistically similar to their contemporary country fellows in dear old Triumvirat, there are sufficient differences in both to distance their music from each other comfortably. Wigwam managed an impressive ten albums during their career, with the most recent surfacing in 2005 and only had a few minor changes in their line up.

Great if you like a lot of twiddle in your prog sandwich and just as wonderful if you don’t.

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Dust and Dreams – Camel [#402]

Camel_Dust_And_DreamsAndy Latimer and Pete Bardens with their band again, this time with their 11th studio album.

Camel are a mixed bag progressively speaking in that their stuff either works or it doesn’t. I love their earlier albums such as Mirage and of course Snow Goose, then my next favourite Camel album is  their tenth, Stationary Traveller along with their penultimate, Rajaz. But there is a lot of Camel that’s a bit…bobbins – Dust and Dreams being an example of bobbins.

Latimer and Bardens churn out another concept album, this time based on Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Having never (shock horror) read the book, I guess I just don’t get the same enjoyment out of it as I would War of the Worlds, 1984 or Journey to the Centre of the Earth but saying that I’ve never read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda but I really like Yes‘ Tales from Topographic Oceans. 

I found Dust and Dreams dry, stodgy and forced. I got the impression that Latimer and Bardens went to their bookcase, pulled out a book and went “Let’s write a concept album based on that”. It’s as though Camel were trying their best to bring Progressive Rock out of it’s coma by beating it across the head with a heavy book.

I don’t get it.However, it is an interesting album because the sharp eared listener can hear early development of themes used later in Rajaz and further development of themes used in Stationary Traveller. 

 

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Days of Future Passed – Moody Blues [#344]

440px-TheMoodyBlues-album-daysoffuturepassedWhen I listened to this album in its entirety for the purpose of the Music Project, I couldn’t help  but imagine some sort of Raymond Briggs style animation to accompany it. Something like The Snowman or maybe When the Wind Blows. 

Justin and his chums released this, their second album back in 1967. It is a concept album about the passage of a day culminating in the famous Nights in White Satin. 

Because of this album, some say that the Moody Blues sparked off the whole Progressive Rock movement, a questionable statement that many still argue about. Still, it’s a good starting point for anyone wanting to embark on a historical prog filled journey.

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Close to the Edge – Yes [#281]

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.35.18Close to the Edge – Yes

The first time I heard this album I was blown away. I had it on cassette so I was able to play it wherever I wanted on my Walkman or on my portable hi-fi. One place I played it was on top of a windy rainy mountain in Wales, miles from anywhere significant. It is there where I am transported when I hear this album.

Stuck up a mountain. In the wind and rain. Rain pattering onto my hood. Snug and warm in my coat. Listening to this album overlooking fields of sheep watching the rain clouds drift in from the Irish Sea. Getting back to nature.

Years later I discovered that the album was recorded in a studio where the band had requested a more “rural” feel. Cue plastic cows, sheep pens and straw being strewn across the floor; Steve Howe stood on his carpet, Rick Wakeman with his cup of tea and Jon Anderson with his tambourine. Prog madness. Prog. No music like it.

Close to the Edge comes in with 3 tracks. Not many to the uninitiated, but with track one coming in at just under 20 minutes long and tracks two and three together the same, it’s easy to see why prog is such a good showcase for talent. Think of recent popular music. The likes of Gaga and her ilk with wishy-washy 3 minute jobbies. Trash. It’s like Twitter versus the blogosphere.

Close to the Edge is Yes’ fifth studio album and last with Bill Bruford (until Union at least). A rich tapestry of musical talent surpassed only by their next  studio album, Tales from Topographic Oceans.

 

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Classic Rock: Symphonic Rock – Various Artists [#276]

Classic Rock: Symphonic RockClassic Rock: Symphonic Rock – Various Artists

This is another compilation where the core idea works but the choices of tracks don’t.

Curiously, it appears that 70% of the artists featured on the album have previously featured on this project, so if you’ve missed those entries you’ll find that the links take you to those articles.

Anyway, Classic Rock: Symphonic Rock has a relatively good mix of tunes really but not ones I’d have chosen to highlight how rock can be symphonic. It’s a little too…. “twee”…for my liking. There are far better bands that could have featured on this compilation. There’s no Queensryche. No Meatloaf. The Yes option is pretty much mundane and the inclusion of Clannad, of all bands, confuses me no end. Clannad are not what I’d call rock for a start.

Tracklist

1-01 Vangelis Pulsar
1-02 Sky Toccata
1-03 Hawkwind Urban Guerilla
1-04 Focus P’s March
1-05 Electra Scheidungstag
1-06 Gentle Giant The Advent Of Panurge
1-07 Triumvirat A Day In The Life
1-08 Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe Brother Of Mine
1-09 Roger Waters The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range
1-10 Procol Harum A Salty Dog
1-11 Mike Batt Losing Your Way In The Rain
1-12 Clannad Sirius
1-13 Jon Lord Aria
1-14 Barclay James Harvest Child Of The Universe
1-15 Jon & Vangelis So Long Ago, So Clear
2-01 Mike Oldfield Sentinel
2-02 Moody Blues* The Story In Your Eyes
2-03 Rick Wakeman Catherine Howard
2-04 Electric Light Orchestra Standin’ In The Rain
2-05 Alan Parsons Project, The Damned If I Do
2-06 Herd From The Underworld
2-07 Jethro Tull Aqualung
2-08 Gong Ard Na Greine
2-09 Vanilla Fudge You Keep Me Hanging On
2-10 Ekseption 5th Of Beethoven
2-11 Aphrodite’s Child It’s Five O’Clock
2-12 Strawbs Autumn
2-13 Camel Tell Me
2-14 Genesis The Silent Sun
2-15 Yes Heart Of The Sunrise

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Camel – Camel (#239)

Camel - Camel

Camel – Camel

In the 1970s, Andy Latimer and Pete Bardens got together in a studio and started releasing music under the name Camel, this is Camel’s first studio release.

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