Pan Flute Notwithstanding
“Prog-rock is a term describing an attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility”, says allmusic.com, but the critics have never considered prog bands credible. Is it the multi-sectioned compositions, or sci-fi/fantasy lyrics that turn them off, or is it the fact a ton of prog band’s were/are more preoccupied with their classically trained instrumental technique than they were with actual ‘songs’? A major focus on complex compositions and extended instrumental…ahem… explorations is what makes hardcore fans salivate and everyone else turn the dial, IMHO. You can’t blame it on the ‘concept’ album, or you’d have to discount the Beatles, The Who and The Kinks, who all put out records which tackled grand overarching themes (Sgt. Pepper/Tommy, Quadrophenia/Village Green, Arthur, etc.).
I read a lot of progressive album reviews because, well, I’m a fan. Truth be told I used to be a little embarrassed by it. Liking Rush, or Queen, for example, wasn’t something I bragged about growing up. I didn’t lie about my musical allegiances; I just never spoke about it.
A funny thing happened on the way to Mordor, though. With each passing year I got more and more into this genre of music. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rushing out to buy Spock’s Beard’s back catalogue or anything. But some old Genesis and Supertramp, APP, Zeppelin, and especially Rush have found their way back into rotation. Some it’s worth re-exploring ‘cause, quite honestly, there’s a lot to love there. And I am not alone.
Apparently progressive music is experiencing a renaissance (pardon the pun) of sorts lately. Rush’s acclaimed documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage” and their appearance on The Colbert Report (the band’s first American television appearance in over 30- years) where Stephen endorsed the band to his massive, and quite hip, viewer ship. Not that this appearance on Colbert had everything to do with it, but it sure helped. As a group, Rush has 24 gold albums and 14 platinum records and rank 3rd (after the Beatles and the Rolling Stones) for consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. And a good majority of progressive back catalogues are getting a second life, selling in healthy numbers, due to the genre being an album oriented one.
The thing with prog, with me, is that you can’t take it too seriously. It’s like reading a good fantasy novel, or movie; it’s something you get lost in while you’re reading or watching, but woe to those who stay there too long. You may end up with a hankering to learn how to play the pan flute.
Here are some favorite prog albums in no particular order:
Moving Pictures, Rush
I Robot, Alan Parsons Project
Queen II, Queen
Jurassic Shift/Erpland, Ozric Tentacles
Crime Of The Century, Supertramp
Selling England By The Pound, Genesis
Animals, Pink Floyd
Oxygene, by Jean Michel Jarre
Deserter’s Songs, Mercury Rev
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Flaming Lips
El Dorado, Electric Light Orchestra
Tommy, The Who