13 Jan 2012

Thirty Classic Progressive Rock Albums That You Have To Hear ( Part 1 of 3 )

Gnidrolog - Lady Lake ( 1972 )
These guys are a little more unusual and definitely not everyone's cup of tea. Their debut In Spite of Harry's Toenail is a pretty eclectic mix of avant-garde prog rock which is very entertaining but not for the faint-hearted. For this, their second they added woodwinds ( flute, oboe, recorders, sax and more ) cleaned up the production and toned down the wackiness a little.   The title track is reason enough to buy this one - an epic with an impeccable arrangement. Fans of Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator should investigate immediately. BUY IT HERE

East of Eden - Mercator Projected ( 1969 )
A real product of it's time this one, that could have just as easily fit onto one of the psychedelic lists. Groundbreaking proto prog with catchy riffs and excellent use of wind instruments including a very beatnik flute solo in the excellent Isadora. Waterways combines tribal drumming, eastern guitar and sax scales and underwater vocals to create a bit of an epic. Oh yes, and the violin player from Baba O'Riley is in the band. Interested yet? BUY IT HERE

King Crimson - In The Wake of Poseidon ( 1970 )
Generally ignored in favor of their classic debut In The Court of the Crimson King, this is actually a very fine follow up which, while not covering much in the way of new ground, still has plenty to offer. Pictures of a City rocks and will give fans of 21st Century Schizoid Man plenty to smile about. Cat Food is as close as this line-up got to radio friendly, and The Devil's Triangle ( based on Holst's Mars ) is a dark and moody mellotron tour de force. BUY IT HERE

Pink Floyd - Obscured By Clouds ( 1972 )
Another maligned album by an otherwise respected artist, I've never been able to work out why people don't seem to click with this album. If anything it's a little darker and more adventurous than their previous works, with some krautrock motorik rhythms and drone experiments that they never really revisited. With a lot of instrumental pieces, there's plenty of room for some lovely David Gilmour guitar work, and Wot's Uh The Deal is one of his nicest acoustic tracks with a stunning slide solo. Definitely an album that's due for reappraisal. BUY IT HERE

Far East Family Band - Nipponjin ( 1975 )
Very entertaining space-rock release, heavily influenced by Pink Floyd ( especially the guitar work ) and Hawkwind. Long tracks with wonderful keyboard and mellotron work ( by a pre-new age Kitaro ), lots of sitar, massive lyrical  guitar solos and general all round epicness, with tracks that build to massive crescendos. Marvelous stuff. BUY IT HERE

Room - Pre-Flight ( 1970 )
Love this one. Somehow the budget for this unknown outfit's album ( apparently the rarest U.K release on the Deram label ) stretched to a full orchestra, which they use to amazing effect on the mindbogglingly good Cemetery Junction, a fantastically gloomy doom-prog suite, which may well be my favorite prog track of all time. The title track is also successfully ambitious. Elsewhere there are moments that bring to mind the jazz rock of Affinity, and the guitarist has a trill that would do Tony Iommi proud. Great. BUY IT HERE

Woody Kern - The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk ( 1968 )
Where's the love for this entertaining piece of proto-prog? Generally given a bum wrap, this is actually a pretty great album. Very early prog, but with more of a grounding in blues and psychedelia as was normal at the time. There's a lively cover of Spirit's Uncle John, but the stand-outs are their own Xoanan Bay and Gramophone Man, both prog-psych gems, and the moody, woodwind driven Tell You I'm Gone.

Gracious ( 1970 )
A rather excellent and varied debut, from this most English of prog bands, on the treasured Vertigo swirl label. Intricate arrangements, with complex, classically influenced keyboard work, some nice guitar and excellent pop harmonies. Opener, Introduction suggests Black Sabbath covering the Beatles, while Heaven and The Dream feature copious amounts of mellotron. This one takes a few listens but stick with it, there's lots of gold to be found if you keep digging. BUY IT HERE

Spring ( 1971 )
Produced by Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon, and featuring future Dire Straits drummer Pick Withers, this album has an interesting pedigree, but never sold in big numbers and is now one of the most valuable releases on RCA's Neon label. A mellotron lovers dream there's also some tasteful, clean guitar work and a very pastoral, English sound. Grail and Golden Fleece are the stand outs. Less complex than most prog of the era, it's generally chilled sound makes it a perfect Sunday afternoon prog album.

Black Widow - Sacrifice ( 1970 )
With a stage show that culminated in a mock human sacrifice you'd expect this to sound a lot heavier than it does. Once you've come to terms with the fact that you haven't discovered a new Black Sabbath, there's a lot to enjoy here. Musically this is more along the lines of Jethro Tull, with added hammond organ. The lyrics are entertaining occult hokum, politely English and seemingly inspired by the works of Dennis Wheatley and Hammer Horror, and they even managed a minor hit with Come To The Sabbat, probably the only hit single of the seventies to name check Satan? BUY IT HERE

Part Two Is Here

Part Three Is Here

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