Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Into the Electric Castle – Ayreon [#638]

Ayreon_-_Electric_Castle album cover
Big-haired symphonic prog rocker Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s third concept album, with his collaboration project Ayreon, tells the tale of time-napped protagonists sent to find their way through some weird assault course like maze for some obscure reason that really doesn’t matter.

Marillion’s Fish, The Gatherings Anneke van Giersbergen and Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel all play characters warbling their way through various trials and tribulations much like they might in some Jeff Wayne tribute musical if it was done right. The dramatic passion within the music illustrates just how talented and creative Lucassen can be if left to his own devices.

Into the Electric Castle is possibly my most played Ayreon album if not for the fantastically big hair rock Rainbow Bridge which often results in in-car rock performances while en-route to distant places indeed, I have frequently threatened to subject passengers to the entire album it’s so good.

I think if I’d come across the music in 1998 when it was released, many of the late night conversations I used to have about music with my pals would have resulted in even longer talks into the night. Sadly I only became aware of Ayreon when I had moved away from my hometown of Liverpool, leaving the opportunities for late night debate ever diminishing into the realms of misspent youth and early adulthood.

 

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Interstellar Encore – Pink Floyd [#636]

R-1738078-1240176164.jpeg.jpgA bootleg so bootleggy you can smell the sweaty socks. Interstellar Encore is one of many Pink Floyd bootlegs donated to my collection by a former work colleague who had a similarly large music library to mine, although admittedly, most of his music was a bit more….”bootleggy” in nature.

Of course, back then, the tagging of MP3s was in its infancy and some people used to just dump a load of MP3s into a folder of a CD with no organisation and pass it around like a spliff at a hippy party. Carefully written sleeve inserts would get mixed up and any questions about which MP3 belonged to which album quite often resulted in snorts of derision.

So, as a result of how it happened, my version of Interstellar Encore might differ from 99% of the people out there with the actual Interstellar Encore bootleg although on research the track listing does seem to match up. But, such is the nature of illicit downloads and bootlegs; only a true fan would tell you whether it was actually the Filmrore West Interstellar Encore version of Embryo that I have or if it was the Biding My Time in Croydon version.

Like I care.

Incidentally, if you’re still enjoying this music project, I would appreciate a little publicity. One thing that fires me up when doing this project is knowing I have a readership. While it’s not exactly interactive like say The Existential Compost, The Compostual Existentialist or u/stegzy on Reddit, a look at the (very basic) site stats shows me that I do have some visitors, but having more keeps my typing fingers itching!

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Emerger – Carptree [#635]

Emerger by Carptree
Apple Music was one of the causes of the last hiatus. Having taken advantage of the super 3 months free offer and slightly better than usual broadband at my rural home, I was given access to loads of new music. Moreover, I was thrilled to discover the “Suggested for you” feature of the For You tab and how it “Suggests” music you might like based on your listening. Then, one-day last year, Apple Music suggested I’d like Emerger by Carptree and that was it, I was sucked in like a leaf in a water pump reservoir.

Carptree do everything right that a progressive rock band formed of two Swedish blokes with a fondness for fishing and a theremin would do. Bog standard low budget music videos, lyrics about nature, crazy waxed moustaches, lots of keyboard twiddly and a vocalist that sounds like Peter Gabriel before he went all Brian Pern.

Emerger is new prog done well. Like someone has been handed the progressive rock recipe book and followed it to the letter. The whole album has a semi-concept feel (is it about fishing? Or is it about life on a river bed? I’m not entirely convinced) and the production values show how easy it is for middle-aged mates to be creative together in a “We’re getting old now but haven’t made it yet because of the day job” way with an Apple Mac and a bloke from work who plays the drums.

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Inconsolable Secret – Glass Hammer [#633]

TheinconsolablesecretWhenever I hear Glass Hammer, I can’t help imagining a group of prog loving guys getting together to play music they enjoy. They do a few cover versions then decide to do their own stuff. Their own stuff is heavily laden with references to riffs and melodies from the covers they have just played. This makes their sound almost comical and self-referential.

I first heard Glass Hammer on the Odessey concept album, a various artist collaboration retelling the story of Odysseus, in the track In the Court of King Alkinoos and was interested in its similarities to works by Yes and King Crimson. A quick Google resulted in the suggestion that Inconsolable Secret was an album that I’d like.

I didn’t.

There is a little too much twiddly in the album for me. Lots of long keyboard widdling and guitar wankery can be a little too detrimental to the sound of an album. Moreover, the similarities to Yes are a little too obvious. Indeed, Glass Hammer singer Jon Davidson would later go on to replace Jon Anderson in the latest post-Squire incarnation of Yes. Beyond that, there are too many similarities to In the Court of King Alkinoos. Too often I forgot I was listening to Inconsolable Secret and thought iTunes had slipped into Oddessey. Still, it’s an interesting work and I suppose I keep it just incase my music tastes develop later, much like how they did recently with Renaissance and Illusion.

 

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The Incident – Porcupine Tree [#632]

Unknown-6.jpegPorcupine Tree‘s tenth and final album, The Incident draws heavily from other progressive rock bands and especially shows influence from Pink Floyd in their homage Time Flies which has clear elements of Animals and Dark Side of the Moon woven stylistcally throughout the song.

The first time I properly listened to this album was while doing research for today’s post and was frequently surprised by the elements that appear throughout the album. THe aforementioned Pink Floyd homage and even stylistical similarities to David GalasCataclysm.  Definiately the icing on the Porcupine Tree Cake, the album has grown on me over the weeks and, if you’re a prog or Pink Floyd fan, I think you too might be tempted to lean favorably towards it.

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Incantations – Mike Oldfield [#629]

Incantations_(Mike_Oldfield_album_-_cover_art)Incantations is Oldfield’s fourth album following Ommadawn and precedes Exposed. Musically, this album features themes and motifs that are repeatedly used throughout the four sides accompanied by Oldfield’s stylistically familiar circle of fifths.  Through his guitar wankery, his use of choral and a folksy solo by his singer du jour, Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior (doing a really good impression of Renaissance’s Annie Haslam), the whole album just screams Mike Oldfield.

Incantations requires a good set of headphones, a good red wine and a badly earthed hi-fi for that true middle-class seventies dad experience. It is sadly too minimalist for casual listens and, like most of Oldfield’s work, definitely requires the listener’s full attention to appreciate fully.

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In the Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson [#627]

In_the_Court_of_the_Crimson_King_-_40th_Anniversary_Box_Set_-_Front_coverI first learned about King Crimson following the amusing Bill Bailey fronted Channel 4 docu-countdown-show Top Ten Prog which was broadcast at the height of the prog revival of the late nineties/early noughties.

Crimson King was the band’s first album, King Crimson then comprising of Robert Fripp  Michael Giles, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald and Peter Sinfield. Over the years Crimson’s line up would change more often than I change my socks with other notable musicians such as Yes’ Bill Bruford and session musician Tony Levin turning up over the years. As a result of this frequent fluctuation of line up, it is difficult to find a sound that one can pin on their output as 100% identifiable King Crimson. Indeed, their heavy jazz influence makes most of their output inaccessible to me as after a while, for me, it starts to grate.

Even so, the variety of the sound and the diverse use of instruments make In the Court of the Crimson King is an album I enjoy listening to, however, the album is, sadly, not available on Apple Music. Licencing again eh?

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Illusions on a Double Dimple – Triumvirat [#611]

Illusions_on_a_double_dimpleThis, it has to be said, is quite possibly the album that has been the most influential in my life. From as young as 11 years old, when introduced to the album by my brother who had won it in a competition, to my teen years where Shitbag Pulling and I would sit around his piano and try to deconstruct its intricacies and beyond into my late twenties, thirties and present day. Not a period of my life has gone by without something being connected or linked to this album.

Back in the pre-internet days, one’s only source of music would be friends, relatives and flicking through the alphabetical racks in Virgin Megastore, Our Price or HMV. Every single time I went to those shops I would flick through the racks, Triumph…Trivium…no Triumvirat. Every dictionary of popular music I would thumb through to T looking for anything, even a chuffing footnote about Triumvirat. No. Nothing. By my early twenties, when I was dabbling in Goth, I’d begun to think that maybe the band was just a fantasy. But as the floodgates of internet knowledge started to creak open, information about the band reached me and I began to realise that they were so much much more than this album.

The album is a concept in two parts. The first, an allegorical telling of a tale of social and financial hardship brought on by being “Born on the wrong side of town”. The narrator, fired from their job, accused of some dubious theft, heads to the local bar and seeks out a large glass of Dimple. Dimple, which I didn’t know until I was in my late teens, is a brand of Scotch whisky.  Upon imbibing the drink, and having sold his coat and every possession, our narrator heads out into the streets of Dusseldorf, passes out then plays the piano a bit.

The second half, possibly connected to the first, I’m not quite sure, tells of a band who revolt against their manager, Mr Ten Percent, a frightfully extravagant gentleman with a big Mercedes, a house on a hill and frequent week-long trips to Sweden, and become awesome and meet girls.

Well, that’s my interpretation.

The album was the band’s breakthrough release and saw their popularity rise in America and Europe. Of course, in the UK we’re culturally insular and don’t like anything not homegrown or that we’re not told to like by commerce. As a result, this is probably why Triumvirat, a giant on the world prog rock stage, were never available in major high street record shops in the UK. Well more fool you, Mr HMV. Look what your selfish enforcement of culturally appropriate music did to your profits following the Great Internet Download Free for All of the Early Noughties.  Even Apple Music has Triumvirat!

 

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Illusion – Renaissance [#610]

Ren_ill2Since rediscovering this in my collection, I have listened to it nearly every day since. It’s curious how the modern way seems to be more playlist orientated than album driven. As an exercise, I listened to the first album, Renaissance, this album, Illusion, and the following three albums, Prologue, Ashes are Burning and Turn of the Cards, in effect the first 5 albums by the band, to see if I could pinpoint something groundbreaking. I couldn’t but it was fun. But this Renaissance exercise has shown me how important music appreciation skills are in the full enjoyment of music by artists and appreciation of how sound develops over time.

As per Illusion by Illusion, I had mostly ignored this album, frightened by what stylistic differences that might exist to affect my enjoyment of core 1973-1978 era Renaissance. However, in true form, I found pre-Haslam Renaissance much more enjoyable. Indeed, it was clear that the style only seemed to change once the Dunford/Haslam crew stopped recycling work by the original band members and focused on their own style.

Illusion is the second album by the first incarnation of Renaissance that would later become Illusion and Stairway. It features the first song to include a member of the second incarnation, Michael Dunford, Mr Pine, which also features a melody that would later resurface in the fifth, and third with the new lineup, album Turn of the Cards. 

To add further twists the album was released in Germany in 1971, then again to the wider world in 1973 but not in the UK until 1977.

Finally, as a footnote, the video that accompanies today’s entry features Binky Cullom in the female vocal lead. Binky was a transitional member between Relf and Haslam. Sadly Binky doesn’t really seem to have the steadiness of Relf or Haslam, but I thought it would be fun to include it here.

Confused? Think about how the band felt!

and for those whose ears are now bleeding, here is the salve.

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Illusion – Illusion [#609]

Illusion_-_Same.jpgDuring the run-up to the next Music Project entry, I had to do a bit of research. Renaissance is one of those true prog bands whose line up has changed so much over the years, they’re unrecognisable to their original form. 

When Renaissance formed in 1969 it originally comprised of former Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Keith & Jane Relf together with John Hawken and Colosseum Bassist Louis Cennamo but when I first heard the band they were a quintet of none of the original members. The original line up released two albums then kind of went their separate ways in the early seventies. They then had a change of heart and reformed as a different band, Illusion. 

Of course I only kind of slightly knew this and to be honest, I was a little scared to listen to any Renaissance before Annie Haslam.  So when the next Music Project entry was Illusion by the McCarty/Relf lineup naturally I was a bit apprehensive. Then I dug about on Wikipedia and relearned the Renaissance story and how the McCarty/Relf Renaissance split and reformed as Illusion, confusingly later releasing the album Illusion. Curiosity got the better of me and I ended up Apple Musicing the album into my collection. 

So today, we’re looking at Illusion by Illusion. Jane Relf, together with Jim McCarty, John Hawken and Louis Cennamo (basically Renaissance pre-Dunford/Haslam) released this, their second Illusion album in 1978, Keith Relf having died tragically in 1976, is missing from this lineup.  It’s when you hear stuff like this, you begin to see the roots of Renaissance, the influence of other prog bands and how things could have been so-so different. 

Relf has a distinctive a voice as Haslam and there are clear embryonic audible melodic themes that would later resurface in Dunford/Haslam era Renaissance songs, likewise, one can hear the converse. Stylistically, they are subtly different yet the same; piano heavy, with an essence of floaty folk music vocals, airy poetic lyrics and a lick of Floydesque synth motifs here and there. I think my favourite track has got to be Madonna Blue which screams seventies folk rock so much it may as well grow long straight hair and wear a kaftan. Indeed, when listened to in its entirety, one might as well try listening back to back with Renaissance’s Illusion and see if you can tell the difference.

Just like I did.

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If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You – Caravan #604

Car-IfIThe thing with Canterbury scene folk music is it is as incestuous as progressive rock in that band members swap around like couples swap partners at a swingers party. Indeed, along with the band members, so also comes a very distinctive sound that pervades the music like the sort of odour that lingers inside a musty old caravan. Moreover, Canterbury scene bands blur the prog rock/folk boundaries and it is often difficult to pigeonhole your selected band into the correct genre.

When you listen to the likes of Caravan, it’s not surprising that it seems so familiar. Indeed, two of the band’s members, Richard and David Sinclair, later joined Camel. But apart from that, one can detect influences both from and to the likes of Gong, Spirogyra, Trees, Renaissance and even Greenslade. I ended up with this and three other Caravan albums following a deeper investigation of bands featured on The Best Prog Rock Album in the World…Ever compilation.

If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You is the band’s second album. Released in 1970 and features the original line up of the band – Pye Hastings, David & Richard Sinclair and Richard Coughlan. It also features a rather prog-a-licious heavily jazz-influenced 14 minute track For Richard. 

 

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I Can See Your House From Here – Camel #601

I Can See Your House From Here – Camel

Obviously influenced by the successes of Supertramp, in this album prog-meisters Camel make a departure from their sound of Mirage and Snow Goose and head down a more poppy Collins era Genesis path effectively becoming a sound akin to some sort of Rush-Supertramp-Toto hybrid.

This is Camel’s seventh studio album following Breathless and, in typical prog fashion, features a lineup change with original keyboardist Pete Bardens and bassist Richard Sinclair both having left the band. Moreover, Genesis’ Phil Collins guest performs on the album as a percussionist, which is probably why it sounds a little Genesissy than previous releases.  Indeed, the keen ear can certainly pick out the foundations of Stationary Traveller era Camel when the band went full on pop.

Not a big listener to this album to be fair but even during the listen for writing this entry I’m sofa dancing like a fan.

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Hurdy Gurdy – Hurdy Gurdy #599

 

R-1977968-1373153933-1294

Hurdy Gurdy by Hurdy Gurdy

Legend has it, Danish prog band Hurdy Gurdy wrote to Donovan in the late 1960s asking him to help the band break into the music scene. Impressed by the demos he received, Donovan went home and wrote a song for the band but when he heard them perform it, he rewrote a more acoustic version and kept it for himself.

 

That song became Hurdy Gurdy Man.  

Of course whilst Donovan made it big on the world stage, Hurdy Gurdy would have disappeared into obscurity if only for the Great Free-for-All-Download of the mid to late noughties. You know, that big downloady thing people did back then that killed popular music? I often think about my actions during that time and how I wrongly downloaded music from online file sharing locations depriving many artists of their hard earned funds. Hardworking artists and music that I would never have heard of had it not been for the whole downloady thing because, face it, who has time (and money) to spend all day looking through the racks of market approved music in HMV?

Hurdy Gurdy is Hurdy Gurdy’s first and, as far as my limited research has taught me, only album. I came across it while looking for hurdy-gurdy music, which, if you know me well enough you will know, is my favourite musical instrument. Sadly there are no actual hurdy-gurdys on the album. However,  it is saved by being very much a prog sounding album, with lots of guitar twiddling and quite a bluesy feel to the whole. The non-melodic singing is a little shouty for me and reminiscent of some post In the Court Of the Crimson King King Crimson or early Triumvirat. I think the only reason I’ve kept hold of it is that it’s quite a rare album and I’m always a stickler for rarities.  Fortunately, good old Youtube has the whole album for you to hear yourself.

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Human Equation – Ayreon #597

Ayreon_-_Human_Equation

Human Equation by Ayreon

Human Equation is a double concept album from legendary Nineties/Noughties Dutch prog experiment Ayreon.

A man in a coma for twenty days struggles with inner demons and outside influences through internal song, each day being a track on the album. A supposed break from Ayreon’s  album spanning “Forever” story arch, although in the last track we do hear albeit briefly, from Forever of the Stars from the album Final Experiment and the Dream Sequencer from Universal Migrator which ties it all in nicely.

Human Equation is not my most favourite of Ayreon discoveries instead I’m all for the drama of Into the Electric Castle but as 01011001 hadn’t been released at the time I obtained my copy of Human Equation, it was a lid on the metaphorical pie of Ayreons work for me.

Like other Ayreon albums, guest singers each take a voice of a character within the overarching story with the likes of Dream Theatre’s James LaBrie and Soul Machine’s Eric Clayton joining the cast. Even prog keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman‘s son Oliver guests as synth player on track 7.  A feast of noughties prog.

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How to Measure a Planet? – The Gathering #595

 

The_Gathering_-_How_To_Measure_a_Planet

How to Measure a Planet? – The Gathering

Back in the mid-noughties I was directed towards The Gathering’s Mandylion album and swiftly became enamoured with the Dutch Prog-metal band. Yet, while Mandylion and Home scratched an itch, How to Measure a Planet? made sure that further irritants were applied to the metaphoric discomfort.

At the time I was a mature student studying Media at Huddersfield University which often required late nights of reading European Media Directives,  Media Theory and writing essays on audience paradigms. Sometimes, to get me into the study zone, I would listen to albums while wearing my headphones, often on repeat. How to Measure a Planet became one of those albums. Constantly on loop,  songs from the album such as Liberty Bell and Probably Built in the Fifties would often blur into each other in some sort of semi-hypnotic chant. Moreover, I would sometimes fall asleep, book flopping to my side, waking sporadically through the night hours to what seemed like an extended mix of the song I’d already woken and fallen asleep to. As a result, this album has a kind of important place in my life soundtrack.

How to Measure a Planet is the band’s fifth studio album.

 

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House of Yes: Live at the House of Blues – Yes [#594]

House_of_YesWhen this album was released back in 2000, the internet as we know it today was still in its fledgeling state. Websites were mostly created and owned by actual people rather than by corporations and users actually had to seek out their news rather than have it shown to them if an algorithm deigned to do so. As a result, I was only aware it had been released because I saw it while I was browsing the CD racks in HMV.

Of course, with it being a Live/Best of compilation and I already had most of the songs Live or in compilations, I was reluctant to part with hard earned cash for stuff I already had and instead bought something a little more desirable like Air’s Moon Safari or whatever else was about in those days. However sometime later, probably during the Great Internet Download Free-for-All of the early noughties, I was given a copy of the album by a work colleague and so it joined my collection.

House of Yes is a live double album featuring music from Yes’ earlier career and their album The Ladder. It also features Billy Sherwood on guitar and Igor Khoroshev on keyboards, Sherwood left shortly before the album’s release and Khoroshev had already been booted out of the band by that time due to a sexual harassment controversy.

I can’t say that I don’t like this compilation. There are some good performances on the album the enjoyment of which can be enhanced by the viewing of the DVD of the gig.

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Harbour of Tears – Camel [#568]

Andy Latimer and Pete Bardens conceptualise the departure of generations from Ireland to seek prosterity in the New World.

If you can imagine Justin Hayward had joined Clannad. Yeah? Well that’s the sound you get.

Harbour of Tears is an interesting album from Camel’s catalogue. You can hear the aural fetuses of themes developed further in later albums such as Stationary Traveller and Rajaz. Also, unlike with earlier Camel albums, gone are the Tolkienesque overtones and there is actually some really good guitar work from Latimer.

It’s a real shame about Camel. They could have been much bigger than they were but with the looming brooding shadow of punk and new romance and their bastard child corporate saccharine pop, progressive rock bands like Camel were never going to break out of daddies record collection before the core band members died off. A condition made worse by the record company’s DMCA writs fired out at fans trying to entice newer uninitiated fans into the temple of prog on social media platforms.

It’s almost as if they don’t want any publicity…

So no fan video for you, freeloaders. Instead have a cover version…..

 

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Greenslade – Greenslade [#561]

Greenslade_coverDave Greenslade again, this time with his debut self titled album.

Greenslade is a progressive rock album and so there is quite a fair bit of twiddly keyboarding going on. In fact, Greenslade do for Moog and Hammond keyboards what Yes‘ Steve Howe does for guitars. However, this is a hard-core prog, a prog that only those that either experiment with certain illicit substances or those trained and lectured to Master of Prog Level 10 might fully appreciate. As I have not experimented with certain illicit substances and I am only a mere Level 6 self proclaimed Prog Master, Greenslade features in the music project purely for research purposes.

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Greatest Hits – Aphrodite’s Child [#551]

Aphrodites Child Greatest Hits

Three bearded Greeks and an Egyptian perform their “greatest hits” from their three albums of which, I have one, 666.

Having only heard 666 before, when I first heard this album back in 2004, I was surprised by the other songs on the album. Aside from the tracks from 666 I’d already heard Rain and Tears and It’s Five O’Clock but had no idea they were Aphrodite’s Child songs. I had always thought they were Demis Roussos songs.

Anyway, it’s surprising how many “hits” a hardly heard of band have had and it frequently amuses me when I play people their songs and they exclaim, like me, they didn’t know it was by Aphrodite’s Child.

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Going for the One – Yes [#532]

220px-Yes_Going_for_the_OnePossibly one of the first albums I had recorded on cassette. My middle brother had this on cassette and did a copy for me on his twin tape but as home taping killed music, there was nothing after this.

Nonsense of course, I eventually went and bought the album on vinyl, thus saving music for future generations.

Indeed, as a teenager, Going for the One was pivotal in my musical development to such an extent that I performed the track Turn of the Century during a school end of term concert and Wondrous Stories as an exam piece for my Music GCSE. While the majority of my peers enjoyed the likes of Wham, Culture Club and emerging techno, rap and house music, I was busy being ten years behind my contemporaries and enjoying what this album had to offer.

The album sees the return (albeit briefly) of keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman following the departure of Patrick Moraz who played keys for the previous album, Relayer. The return of Wakeman does do some favours to the band at this stage of their career and the track Awaken with its extended organ solo at the heart, really is like a “glad to be back” from Rick.

Sadly, as with all prog bands, the band would separate once more after their next album, Tormato but you can certainly hear the development of the Yes sound and how it is an acoustic ancestor of Tormato with this album.

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Gazeuse! – Gong [#512]

Gong_-_Gazeuse!In true prog fashion, flying teapot hippy group Gong, split and became two entities; Daevid Allen’s Gong (the one responsible for all the pot head pixies) and Pierre Moerlan’s Gong a jazz rock based band.

Gazeuse! is the band’s first album and is very clearly jazz orientated. Unfortunately, due to a “jazz embargo” imposed on Gnomepants Cottage by jazz loathing Mrs Gnomepants, I am unable to bring you much of a detailed  entry today. The only statement I can make is, if jazz is your thing or maybe you liked the theme tunes to late seventies chat shows like Wogan, Russell Harty or Parkinson, this will really float your boat. I’m not that much of a jazz fan, but I occasionally like to dip my toes into the murky cheese sauce that Pierre Moerlan’s Gong produced.

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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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Flying Teapot: Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1 – Gong [#484]

220px-Gong_Flying_TeapotDave Allen, Steve Hillage and friends float about in a gnome filled teapot with some pot head pixies and a witch.

Back in the nineties when I was experimenting with life, my former acquaintance, Shitbag, introduced me to this album, stating as he did with Pink Floyd’s Animals that the album was rare and not available on CD except to an elite group of music lovers. In fact, he added, the band had floated away with pot head pixies so would never be seen live or in any branch of HMV.

Not only was I able to gather myself a copy of Flying Teapot, but I was also able to gain a copy of the follow-up album, Angel’s Egg using patience and a twenty pound note from the HMV in Church Street Liverpool. I like proving people wrong.

I regret never being able to see Gong live. Flying Teapot is one of those eye opening albums that bring a whole new experience to prog and the band, together with Pink Floyd, held my hand through my musical development into the mid to late nineties. Indeed, whenever I wanted some music to enhance my mood and spiritual yearnings, I’d choose Flying Teapot first, as a result, the album features heavily in my life soundtrack of that time. Which, on reflection, is bizarre when considering the concept behind Flying Teapot draws from Russell’s Teapot idea. Sadly, due to my introduction to darker, goth music, and exploration of new progressive rock, my appreciation of later chapters in the Radio Gnome story was missed. Not helped by frequent cries of “This is a right racket can we turn it off now please”.

Not an album for haters of jazz.

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Fish Rising – Steve Hillage [#476]

220px-Steve_Hillage_Fish_RisingUncelebrated guitar king and one time Gong member, Steve Hillage’s first solo album following his departure from Gong.

By all other regards, this really sounds like a Gong album. It has Gong members Howlett, Moerlen, Blake and Malherbe but also features Dave “no the other one” Stewart who you might know from helping to arrange Fear of a Blank Planet or his work with Barbara “Spirogyra” Gaskin or his TV work.

This is exactly what I like about prog. Former band mates, guys you meet in the pub and pals from different groups getting together to make music. You don’t get that in modern times. You never see the likes of Gary Barlow getting together with say, H from Steps, Noel from Oasis and Mel C to do an album about a fish. For a start their agents and recording labels wouldn’t allow it but also it’d be complete bollocks.

As I said, Fish Rising by all accounts sounds like a Gong album but without the Gnomes, Pixies and Flying Teapots. A more relaxed background album than a fully fledged “concentrate or you’ll miss it” progressive concept album. It is however something you – if you’re a fan of Gong, Hillage or embarking on a life changing journey through prog – might want to listen to as an appreciation exercise to see if you can detect distinctive musical styles and flourishes. Or maybe you’re just high on something and have the old oil projection lamps going and need something to help you focus on.

 

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Final Experiment – Ayreon [#470]

440px-Ayreon_The_Final_Experiment Arjen Anthony Lucassen and his rag tag collection of musicians again this time with his first album under the collective name of Ayreon.

Final Experiment sets the ground work for Ayreon’s later works such as Universal Migrator and 01011001Far off in the future, the remnants of the human race project telepathic images to a minstrel living in the past with King Arthur and Merlin in an effort to prevent an almighty calamity.

This is it. This is the album that those who like story based concept albums such as War of the Worlds or Spartacus (both Triumvirat’s and Jeff Wayne’s versions) or later unrelated Ayreon works such as Actual Fantasy should like. Yes, you should  like it. I know I know, I take the piss out of endless lists of people who tell me I “should” like some music, but I mean it this time.

Ayreon’s mix of story telling and rock music improve with age and time and it should be remembered that this is the first Ayreon album so things aren’t quite honed to perfection but it is a strong foundation to grow the seedlings of fandom in.

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