19 Jan 2012

Thirty Classic Progressive Rock Albums That You Have To Hear ( Part 2 of 3 )

Affinity - Affinity ( 1970 )
One of the earliest and very best progressive jazz rock releases with very strong vocals from Linda Hoyle, and lots of Hammond organ. I Am And So Are You is punchy and direct and should have been a hit single, while the following Night Flight stretches out a bit more with a great guitar riff during the outro. Their cover of All Along the Watchtower could perhaps do with some judicious editing but otherwise this is prog jazz gold of the highest caliber. BUY IT HERE

Babe Ruth - First Base ( 1972 )
Excellent progressive hard rock with superb guitars by Alan Shacklock and another strong female vocalist in Jenny Haan. Amazingly assured for a debut, they never bettered this. Most well known for The Mexican, based on Morricone's For a Few Dollars More, there's also much more to enjoy here in the form of The Runaways' steadily building crescendos, Black Dog's straight out rock and their immaculate take on Zappa's King Kong. BUY IT HERE

Gravy Train - Staircase To The Day ( 1974 )
Patchy but interesting final album from this UK outfit who started out on Vertigo, before moving to the dawn label. Opener Starlight, Starbright has a great riff and an anthemic glam inspired chorus,  Never Wanted You is a nice slice of Deep Purple- lite hard rock, and the intro from the excellent title track absolutely has to be the inspiration for Metallica's Call of Cthulu. Navigate your way around the Dad-rock tracks and you've got a fine album of prog boogie fusion. BUY IT HERE

Roy Harper - Stormcock ( 1971 )
Folk and Prog often make uneasy bedfellows, but you wouldn't know it from this, Harper's masterpiece. Basically a prog rock album played on acoustic instruments these are long, complex, multifaceted pieces with virtuoso guitar playing from Harper and guest Jimmy Page, exquisite orchestral accompaniment by David Bedford and some of Harper's very best songs sung with unwavering conviction. Everyone should own a copy of this. BUY IT HERE

Manfred Mann Chapter Three Volume One ( 1969 )
Absolutely stonking progressive jazz from this most unlikely of sources. Some fairly dark prog rock tunes with a swampy voodoo vibe and mindblowing sax solos that verge on free-jazz at times. At the other end of the spectrum, One Way Glass is a stomping upbeat brass driven rocker that gives Chicago a run for their money. Click here for a more in depth review. BUY IT HERE

Caravan - If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You ( 1970 )
One thing I love about Caravan, and the Canterbury Scene in general is their wacky sense of humor and pop smarts. There's a perception that progressive musos are all humorless boffins, who approach their music with scientific precision, and little in the way of joy. One listen to the bouncy title track on here should help dispel those misconceptions, and there's a lot of fun to be had all over this record. The follow up, In The Land of Grey And Pink is generally more highly regarded, but this is a much more enjoyable record and catches them at the cusp between their earlier psych identity and the progressive monster they were to become. BUY IT HERE

Comus - First Utterance ( 1971 )
An astonishingly creepy progressive folk masterpiece that the world was just not ready for in 1971. Dark stuff with subject matter that touches on madness, pagan sacrifice and more, this is a totally unsettling, but compelling listening experience which defies comparison ( but I'll try anyway ). Musically they sound a little like A Beard of Stars era Tyrannosaurus Rex, only with Bolan's woodland elves replaced with a keen interest in demonology. Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt is a big enough fan to have named one of their albums ( My Arms, Your Hearse ) after one of their lyrics. BUY IT HERE

Still Life - Still Life ( 1971 )
This one's got a bit of a poor reputation, but is pretty great if approached with the right expectations.  A Hammond organ led 3 piece, these guys come across like a less complicated and much darker version of the more highly rated Vertigo outfit Cressida. Simplistic, hard rocking prog with mysterious occult lyrics, which would probably appeal more to a hard rock audience than a prog one, which may explain it's reputation. Aside from some wonderful Hammond work, there's also some great flute and the choruses on tracks like standouts October Witches and Love Song No. 6 are as good as anything from the Uriah Heep songbook. BUY IT HERE

Ragnarok - Ragnarok ( 1975 )
Great debut from New Zealand's best prog outfit. The only album they released with stunning female vocalist Lea Maalfrid, this is an intriguing mixture of Eloy style space rock with obvious Pink Floyd influences, with some hooky choruses, notably the glammish Caviar Queen, while opener Fenris features the sort of vocal gymnastics that bands like Nightwish aim for. The follow up album Nooks, is also rather good and heavy on mellotron for those that like that sort of thing.

The Alan Parsons Project - Tales of Mystery & Imagination ( 1976 )
There are people out there rolling their eyes at me for including this, but this is smooth, radio friendly progressive rock at it's best. Based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, there's a bit of everything here from the prog-pop of (The System Of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Feather, to the demented ( but still immaculately smooth ) Arthur Brown voiced Tell-Tale Heart, to the orchestral suite of The Fall of the House of Usher, which sounds like it comes straight from one of the Corman Poe films. A guilty pleasure. BUY IT HERE. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.

Part One is Here

Part Three is Here

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