Progressive Rock Week Begins!
I like progressive rock for the same, simple reasons I dig fantasy and science fiction books and films, I reckon; they take me to another place for a while. The ‘place’ to which I speak of doesn’t have to be inhabited by wizards, fairies, crystal balls and unicorns, although sometimes it does. My definition of “progressive rock” is most likely contradictory to what most fans of the genre think. I’m sure of it, actually. For example, I’ll bet most of these hard core prog heads would have a conniption fit if they found out I consider Simple Minds album Sisters Feeling Call or the Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around The World “progressive albums”. I do, by the way. I also quite enjoy an awful lot of textbook definition prog albums by bands such as Genesis, Yes and, of course, Rush. That said, I also really loathe some of them, too. Tales From Topographic Oceans, for one example, bores me to tears. It just depends, I guess, on my mood. As opposed to those hard core prog fans I also have a high tolerance for the poppier side of prog. I consider Duke one of the best albums Genesis ever made. Ditto for Yes’ 90125. Some of the more theatrical, more dance oriented stuff as well, such as Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds, Alan Parsons Project (but only up to Eye In The Sky, nothing after). Lastly, there are the electronic acts like Kraftwerk, Jean Michel Jarre, The Orb And OMD, to name just a few, who have put out decidedly proggy sounding albums during their lifetime. In addition to all of that, a progressive album doesn’t need to have a lyrical theme, or story line, to make the list, but it does need to have a sonic coherence. Ambition and creativity are also prime factors in my definition, but 27 minute electric piano solos don’t ever enter the equation. Excellent production is key, sweeping statements ok but not essential. That broad enough for ya?
Prog is a genre that has been co-opted by rigid fanatics over the years, and I mean to take it back. The “Prog Community”–and believe me, there most definitely IS a prog community, millions strong–has softened a little as of late and have lowered the drawbridge for a few non-traditional progressive acts to make their way into the inner sanctum. I mean, 20 years ago bands like Spacemen 3, Super Furry Animals, Radiohead and Kraftwerk would have never been given the keys to the prog castle, but are now proudly cataloged and rated along Yes and Rush on the PROGARCHIVES website. I think it’s because of all the sub-categories that have been developed (some would say made up) over the years, like “Neo-Prog”, “Crossover Prog”, “Avant Prog” and “Electro Prog”. The community made a home for these bands that would have been listed as “Art Rock” or some such other genre, up until recently. But the mainstays, the Mack Daddies, are all either “Symphonic Prog” (Genesis, YES) or “Heavy Prog” (RUSH). They are the Untouchables, The High Priests, The Prog Pioneers, and will forever be used as examples of the very definition of what progressive rock is supposed to stand for. Right or wrong, that, my friends, is the truth.
Over the next few days I’ll be identifying my list of the top 50 progressive albums of all time and you, constant reader, will do one of two things. You’ll either tune in each day with baited breath to discover what the choices are, or you will take a week long sabbatical from this here little blog until I get back to my normal ranting and raving. I hope you tune in, though, as there should be a few surprises for everyone. At the very least you can take this opportunity to poke fun at, swear at, and debate my choices. You’ll notice a lack of so called ‘modern’ prog bands such as Spocks Beard and The Mars Volta. A few old prog stand by’s didn’t make the cut, for no other reason that I just don’t like ’em, such as Jethro Tull, King Crimson and Soft Machine.
What do you say? Wanna come along for the ride?