It all started in 1983, on MTV. I first saw Shishonee Flynn play that wonderful
golden harp that cascades like a waterfall across the opening and title track
for their debut album, Art in America, and I knew I was hooked. I can’t
imagine how many times I lifted the stylus on the vinyl version and replayed
that opening. I still have that vinyl album in storage. But when their album
finally came out on CD, I relived the experience all over again.
The rest of the title song had that cool Yes’ 90125 sound and vibe to it. 90125 came out the same year. Art in America’s debut was produced by Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer producer Eddy Offord.
Cloud Born, has three different producers. Tracks 1 – 6, were produced by David Hentschel; tracks 7 -1 0 were produced by Chris Flynn; and tracks 10 – 12 were produced by Jim Kuha.
Well, skip forward 36 years later and we finally get
to hear the follow up, Cloud Born, and it was well worth the wait. The
album is being released through the band’s website and is available now.
Cloud Born is
a combination of tracks recorded in 1983 at Cloudborn Studios in Dearborn, Michigan.
Thus, the title Cloudborn. The new album also includes some tracks produced
by one of my favorite producers David Hentschel; who
also plays keyboards on tracks 1 through 6; and a piano solo on “Someday”.
The album opens with “A Tale of the Unexpected”. It is an
instrumental that does not open with a beautiful harp, but rather a sharp line
from the famous 1957 movie, Witness for the
Prosecution. It is followed by
percussion, drumming, and wonderful wavy synths and keyboards. That wonderful choir mellotron, permeates the soundscape
and takes you back to mid-70s Genesis and others who used it so effectively to
create warmth and emotion. Bass and lead guitars
join in on the soft running rhythm and make this one of the best opening tracks
I’ve heard this year.
“I Am I”, opens with Chris Flynn singing his first
lyrics on the album. His voice reminds me a little of Stan Ridgway’s, only less sarcastic.
The song is an upbeat track full of great bass, lead electric guitar, solid
drumming and wonderful keys. The song also features the first harp sounds from Shishonee.
Her harp work matched with Tony Levin’s bass work, make this song magical.
“Someday”, is full of the kind of emotional keyboards
and guitar music I remember so well from mid-70s Genesis and David Hentschel’s
influence. It is my favorite track on the album. They use that choir mellotron sound very
affectively on this track. Wonderful lyrics like, “I will arrive
someday. Riding the tide someday. Open the sky and shine the dark away.
Destiny, Come tomorrow let the dream arrive tonight’. This song is full of dreamy
flights of musical instrumentation filled with positive lyrics.
“Drool” opens with electric and acoustic guitar with a
little of a country twang. Then Flynn returns singing, “Ripping your head off.
Taking out your piece tonight. Taking the edge off”. A track full of concern
and loathing over the curse of alcoholism.
“The New Swami”, is another interesting track. Plenty
of heavy drumming, bass, and electric lead guitar and yes, what sounds like a
little sitar. A commentary on Los Angeles and its residents’ desire to embrace
Eastern religions and worldly ideas. Amidst all of this, the sound of 70s
Genesis keyboards and effects.
“Someone Called My Name”, is another good song full of
good lyrics and thoughtful music. Flynn sings, “Waking up early morning pouring
rain. Just the same as yesterday”.
“For Shelly”, opens with soft acoustic guitar and
builds momentum with Flynn’s vocals, “Once I was here bright eyed ever clear.
Now I can see what you meant to me. How we could talk about anything, yeah just
anything”. A thoughtful love song, which is my third favorite song on the
“When We Were Young”, opens with cool keyboards, then that
wonderful harp. With lyrics and music that tug at the heart and your memory. Flynn
sings, “Another time – another place”. “A piece of time – to while away”. “Oh,
Tidal Road take me back again”. “Make life flow again when we were young and
life was so simple”. “Life in my town in Ohio”. Yes, Chris grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, not far
from where I grew up.
“Facelift”, is a track that deals with war, especially
World War II. The opening guitar riffs remind me of IQ’s monumental, “Common
Ground”. The track is interspersed with the voice of Joan Crawford from Mommie
Dearest, which was released in 1981. It is a deeply moving track and my
second favorite track on the album. Powerful guitar rhythms with great
supporting bass, keys and drum beats. The lyrics are deep and moving, “This war
can’t be won, and the sorrow wasted everyone. Villages on fire, courtesy of ein
“Don’t Look Down”, is a strong rock track about
searching out that someone you need for comfort on a weekend night at the local
bar or pub. Great drumming and electric guitar.
“No Wonder”, opens with soft guitar and a rhythm
reminiscent of the Genesis song, “Pigeons”. Which was a wonderful memory in
itself. More harp enters the soft soundscape as keyboards, bass, guitar and
drums build momentum.
“Goodbye My Love -Mind’s Eye – Peace of Mind”, is a
powerful closer, full, of harp, keyboards, bass, lead electric guitar and
drums. The fourth best track on the album. Those powerful synth and mellotron vibes
throughout the song will bring back memories. The instrumental section that
takes over halfway through the song will take you back to Mike Oldfield and
mid-70s Genesis…and oh what a journey…
is the beginning of a comeback for Art in America. Chris Flynn posted on Facebook
that they have up to three additional albums worth of music either recorded, or
ready to release. That is good news for all of us fans. Please pick up this
wonderful piece of history in the band’s evolution and get set for more exotic
journeys in the future.
Tale of the Unexpected – 3:49
Am I – 4:17
New Swami – 3:40
Called My Name – 4:22
Shelly – 4:08
We Were Young – 7:40
Look Down – 5:01
Wonder – 3:52
My Love -Mind’s Eye – Peace of Mind – 8:20
Art in America is: Chris Flynn, on guitars, keyboards,
and vocals; Shishonee Flynn, on pedal harp, koto, tambura, and vocals; Dan
Flynn, on drums; David Hentschel, playing additional keyboards on tracks 1 thru
6, and a piano solo on “Someday”; Tony Levin on bass, for tracks 1- 6; Jim
Kuha, on bass, for tracks 11-13; Gary Galloway, on keyboards, for tracks 11 -13;
Karyn Ormiston, on keyboards for tracks 11 -13.
The wonderful front and back cover art were created by
Ioannis, from the Zografou section of Athens, Greece. He also created
the wonderful art on Art in America’s debut album.
Inside CD booklet cover art was created by Dan Flynn. Photography:
Mark Swidler captured all of the photographic images. The collage and digipak design
were created by Levi Gray.
Darrel Treece-Birch is the keyboardist
for Nth Ascension. He offered to let me listen to a couple of his solo albums that
he created since I was so impressed by his keyboard’s on Nth Ascension’s latest
album, Stranger Than Fiction. I was happy to receive the downloads and
after listening, knew these albums deserved to be heard by others. Both Celestial
and No More Time are wonderful gifts of creative talent that I hope
you will purchase and listen to for yourself.
album cover says it all. On the oceans of times our Earth’s hour glass is
broken. Time is slipping away when we can do anything to stop the effects we
are having on this globe, our home. The shocking cover photo is a wake up for
us to try to reverse course. The music within the album stirs consciousness and
hopefully you into action to care more daily, about what it is that we are
doing here on Earth.
The theme of No More Time, echoes across the
music: Darrel’s notes explain it this way, “No More Time, begins at some distant point outside of our space-time and
follows the very essence of human spirit through its journey to finally return
home to the nexus of our eternal regeneration”. “The soul is cast on a
journey that flows with artistic fluidity conveying a meaning that is eternal
and universal, like the broken hourglass, our perception belies reality …There
is always time”.
This album is different from Celestial,
which was instrumental and keyboard driven. This album uses more guitar, bass
and drums. Darrel features the piano more often on this album than the
synthesizers he used to wonderful effect on the last album.
Songs like “Hold On”, truly grab at you
emotionally. This track in particular is very moving. It sounds like a narrative
taken from a talk between a father or elder and a son. It is one of the stand
out tracks on an album full of spectacular highlights. Alan Taylor, from Nth
Ascension, sings lead vocals and warmly fills this song with emotion.
Pro Caris” follows “Hold On” and almost brings you to tears with its emotion drenching
deep bass, strings and orchestration.
Fellow Nth Ascension bandmates
contribute on No
including:Alan Taylor, who sings lead vocals, plays
acoustic and electric guitar; Gavin Walker, plays bass guitar; and Martin
Walker, plays electric guitar. So, at times it almost feels like an extra Nth
Ascension track, for your collection.
bold piano and keys on “Mother (Olive’s Song)”, tells the story of someone full
of grace and soaring beyond this place and time like the wind.
reminded me a little of Steve Hackett’s many great moments. Like: “Shadow of The Hierophant”, “Land of a Thousand Autumns”, “The Angel of Mons”, without the clocks: or maybe
“Valley of The Kings”, mixed well with some Dark Side Floyd. Deep
electric guitar and soaring rhythms that make this another of the best tracks
on the album.
“The River Dream” is a wonderful
David Gilmour – like guitar solo with drums, bass, and keyboards backing.
“Music of the Spheres” brings back
that wonderful piano, this time with Karen Fell, from the Gary Hughes Band as
lead vocalist. I have to admit that I had not heard of her before. But I will search
out her other works after hearing her beautiful voice.
“Return to the Nexus” is just the
closer you wanted an expected for this wonderful epic album. An over 7-minute
keyboard and skyrocketing guitar soloing epic that takes you back to all of the
greats, like Pink Floyd and others of progressive rocks’ Golden Age. And at the
same time providing new sounds and riffs to remember.
More Time, is
a wonderful progressive rock epic which should have been given more coverage
when it was released on August 19, 2016. But as I always
say, better now than never!
solo albums are not given the same respect as group releases. This album would
sit very well on the shelf next to any of the classics of progressive rock;
while at the same time it re-imagines the sounds and visual landscapes inspired
by generations in this genre.
The album includes other guest appearances
Phil Brown: (Counterparts UK) Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
Steve Grocott (Ten) Electric Guitar
Karen Fell: (Gary Hughes Band) Vocals
Dan Mitchell: (Formerly of Ten) Electric Guitar
John Power: (Counterparts UK) Bass and Fretless Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar,
Electric Guitar, & Violin
Dann Rosingana: Electric Guitar
Darrel Treece-Birch plays keyboards,
sings vocals, plays bass guitars, mandolin, and drums.
More Time was recorded at the War Room,
Fleetwood, UK, Taylormade Studio, Ansdell, UK, The Dog House Studio, Blackpool,
UK Westmorland Studio, Burton-In-Lonsdale, UK RW Studio, Rossall, UK SJG
Studio, Stafford, UK, and Sandyforth Studio, Thornton, UK.
More Time was engineered, produced and mixed
by Darrel Treece-Birch. It was mastered by Dave Aston, Digital Audio, Skipton,
UK, CD Production, Pure Music, Manchester, UK.
Andalusian Rock (rock andaluz in Spanish) is a musical genre characterized by the combination of Flamenco with rock music and other elements such as Arabic influences, jazz and blues.
Rock andaluz was started in the late 1960s by Seville-based group Smash. This legendary psychedelic rock and blues act was formed by Gualberto Garcia in 1967 and recorded two influential albums, Glorieta de los Lotos (1970) and We Come to Smash this Time (1971).
Another seminal group was Gong, formed in Seville in 1967. Gong initially played blues-rock but it soon evolved towards progressive jazz-rock and incorporated Andalusian influences. Gong initially included Mané on guitar, Ricki on organ and piano, José Maria Ruiz on bass and Pepe Saavedra on drums. There were several line-up changes. Luis Cobo “Manglis” joined the band on guitars and Manuel Marinelli on keyboards. These last two musicians later formed two of the most important bands in the 1970s: Guadalquivir and Alameda and respectively.
Gong recorded an LP that was never released and put out two singles. They disbanded in 1971.
An early 1970s band called Green Piano is sometimes mentioned within the Andalusian rock context. However, even though they were based in Seville, the group played blues rock and progressive rock with little Andalusian or flamenco influence.
The Andalusian Progressive Music Era
Inspired by the rock music pioneers, Andalusian rock emerged in the early 1970s with groups based in Seville (Sevilla), Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz province), Córdoba, Antequera (Málaga) and Cádiz. Due to the lack of regular music venues, musicians and young entrepreneurs found a wide range of locations to stage concerts: town squares, high school soccer fields, summer movie theaters, bull fighting rings and some municipal theaters.
The most popular Andalusian rock band by far was Triana, a trio that added Flamenco bulería beats to a progressive rock format and released several commercially successful LPs. The original line-up included Jesús de la Rosa Luque on vocals and keyboards, Eduardo Rodríguez Rodway on vocals and guitar, and Juan José Palacios “Tele” on drums and percussion.
The first three Triana albums were progressive rock creations: El Patio (Fonomusic, 1975), Hijos del agobio (Fonomusic, 1977), and Sombra y luz (Fonomusic, 1979). After that, Triana became very popular and switched to a more radio friendly rock and pop crossover format. Jesús de la Rosa Luque died on October 14, 1983 in a car accident.
Iman, Califato Independiente
One of the most influential bands was Iman, Califato Independiente. The group incorporated some of the best instrumentalists from Seville and Jerez. Imán combined Andalusian music with progressive rock, Arabic melodies, fusion jazz and Latin American rhythms. The band’s founder was Manolo Rodríguez, a former Goma member. He was joined by keyboardist Dr. Marcos Mantero, who had performed with Gualberto and Germán Rodriguez-Hesles García from Gong. The band also included the multifaceted Luis Delgado, who only lasted a few months.
The classic Iman line-up included Manolo Rodríguez on guitar and vocals, Marcos Mantero on keyboards, Iñaki Egaña on bass (former member of funk band Barrabás) and Kiko Guerrero on drums (former member of Jerez rock pioneers Los Solos). Their first album was “Imán, Califato Independiente” (CBS, 1978), featuring a legendary 20-minute piece titled Tarantos del Califato Independiente. After this recording, Uruguayan jazz bassist Urbano Moraes replaced Iñaki. The group released its second and final studio album “Camino del águila” (CBS) in 1980.
Alameda, from Seville, was another essential group, featuring two keyboardists, the Marinelli brothers. The lineup included Rafael Marinelli on keyboards, Manuel Marinelli on keyboards, Manuel Rosa on bass, José (Pepe) Roca on guitar and vocals, and Luis Moreno on percussion. Alameda’s sound was a fusion of flamenco and progressive rock.
Alameda released 4 essential albums during its first phase: Alameda (1979), Misterioso manantial (1980), Aire cálido de abril (1981), and Noche andaluza (1983). A double CD set titled Todas sus Grabaciones para Discos Epic (1979-1983) included all the band’s recordings for Epic Records.
Cai, from Cadiz province, incorporated progressive rock, jazz fusion and Flamenco. Its young keyboardist, Chano Dominguez, went on to become the leading jazz pianist in Spain and is known for his brilliant fusions of Flamenco and jazz. Cai released two progressive albums, Más allá de nuestras mentes diminutas (La Cochu-Trova Records, 1978) and Noche abierta (Epic, 1980). After that the band headed in a more commercial direction with the album Canción de la primavera (Epic, 1981).
Guadalquivir were more jazz fusion oriented, creating a mix of jazz, rock and flamenco. Their first LP Guadalquivir (EMI, 1978) was also known as the disco verde (green LP) because it was manufactured with green vinyl instead of the regular black vinyl. The band was based in Madrid, led by two guitarists from Andalusia, Andres Olaegui and Luis Cobo ‘Manglis.’ The rest of the band members were Madrid-based musicians Pedro Ontiveros on saxophones and flute, Jaime Casado on bass and Larry Martin on drums.
Miguel Ríos, from Granada, is one of the pioneers of rock music in Spain and most of his albums are straight ahead rock. However, during the mid 1970s, he released two superb progressive rock concept albums. The first one was La Huerta Atómica (the atomic orchard), released in 1976. The other recording was Al Andalus, dedicated to Andalusian music, fusing flamenco with progressive rock and jazz. Guadalquivir was the house band that recorded Al Andalus and toured with Miguel Rios during that period.
Vega was a Madrid-based band that performed Andalusian rock and jazz-rock, active between 1977 and 1982. It was led by guitarist Tomás Vega, from the the Extremadura region in western Spain. Vega’s first LP, titled “Andaluza” was recorded in 1977 and released in 1978. It had flamenco and Spanish classical music influences from Albéniz and Granados. The album included Enrique Carmona on flamenco guitar. The second album, “Jara” came out in 1979. The group went in a jazz-rock direction with Andalusian influences. The lineup included Jorge Silvester (alto saxophone), Fernando Bravo (flute), Luis Formés (piano), Miguel Ángel Chastang (acoustic bass), Rubem Dantas (percussion), and César Berti (percussion).
Azahar was a well-known Madrid-based progressive rock band with Andalusian influences. Azahar included musicians from South America, Spain and Egypt. They released Elixir (1977) and Azahar (1979).
Former Smash musician guitarist and sitarist Gualberto introduced the sitar to flamenco. Seville-based Gualberto recorded a series of albums that combined progressive rock, flamenco and Indian music influences. Early albums included A La Vida, Al Dolor (1975), Vericuetos (1976) and Otros Dias (1979).
Mezquita (Cordoba) attracted a lot of attention with its mix of progressive rock and flamenco airs. The group was formed by former members of a rock band called Expresión. The original lineup included José Rafa García Roso on guitars and vocals; Fernando “Randy” López Rojas on bass and vocals; Francisco López Carrillo “Roscka” on keyboards and Rafael Zorrilla “Pelucas” on drums.
The first Mezquita album was “Recuerdos de mi tierra” (Chapa Discos, 1979), which became a collector’s item and was licensed to Japan and South Korea due to high demand from progressive rock collectors. The second album, “Califas de rock” (Chapa Discos, 1981), departed from progressive rock and disappointed fans by heading in a hard rock direction.
Sevillian group Cuarto Menguante was formed at the end of 1978 by Paco Urizal group (vocals and guitar), Pedro Castro “Pedrito” (percussion, conga and bongos), Valentín Ponce (guitar and chorus). They were later joined by Pedro Menchen “Pilo” (bass and choruses) and Jesús Jiménez (drums). Valentin and Pedro were former members of the group Tiza y Humo, while Jesus used to play in Los Brios.
Cuarto Menguante recorded an instrumental demo that attracted the attention of the Movieplay label. The band recorded a debut mini-LP titled ‘Rompehielos’ in 1980. Half of it were well-crafted instrumental flamenco rock pieces. A year later, Cuarto Menguante released its second and final album ‘Buscando la sombrita.’
Mantra were based in Puerto Real (Cadiz) with musicians from Puerto Real, Cádiz, Barbate and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Band members included Juan Ahumada (guitar), José Manuel Portela (keyboards and vocals), José Antonio Ramírez (bass), Tito Alcedo (guitars) and Tato Macias (drums). An old Mantra demo was released on CD by the Asociación Cultural Arabiand Rock in 2011.
Lesser known groups include Formas, Fragua (Seville), Aljarafe (Seville), La Banda del Tio Paco (Granada) and Frontera (Jerez).
Flirting with Andalusian Rock
The 1970s was an era of innovation and experimentation. Several artists from various genres joined the Andalusian Rock movement for brief periods of time, including:
Barcelona band Iceberg started as a progressive rock group with vocals and later evolved towards high energy jazz-rock fusion influenced by Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Their album Sentiments incorporated flamenco rock elements.
The highly popular Medina Azahara (Cordoba), and Tabletom (Antequera) had less of a progressive edge, combining hard rock, blues and flamenco
Influential singer-songwriters Lole y Manuel played an important role, combining flamenco, rock, folk and other elements. Their trailblazing album Nuevo día – El origen de una leyenda (1975) became a classic.
Flamenco guitarist Diego de Morón collaborated with rock musicians. Two well known bands, Triana and Madrid progressive rock act Granada, participated in Diego de Morón’s 1977 recording.
The Decline of Andalusian Rock
With the arrival of punk, new wave and various Britpop fads, record labels lost interest in progressive bands. Many of the influential Madrid and Barcelona music critics were known for their hostility towards Andalusian rock and progressive rock in general. Obsessed with music trends coming from London or New York, these gatekeepers were happy to dismiss Andalusian rock. Thus, the 1980s meant the end of the Andalusian Rock golden era.
Rebirth: New Generation Acts and Reunions
Few new Andalusian rock acts appeared after the 1980s except for Zaguán.
Zaguán started as a Triana tribute band and then evolved into an Andalusian rock band with original material. The group is led by keyboardist and singer Miguel Ángel Gómez. Zaguán released its self-titled debut album Zaguán in 2002, followed by “Testigo del tiempo” (2005).
Throughout the 1980s, several bands appeared in Madrid and elsewhere, combining rock, blues, pop, world music and salsa with flamenco and other influences. These included Ketama, La Barberia del Sur.
One of Guadalquivir’s guitarists, Luis Cobo “Manglis” formed Arrajatabla in 1990, together with Raimundo Amador. Arrajatabla released Sevilla Blues, a fusion of Flamenco, jazz, blues and other styles. In 1996, Manglis founded Manteca, with which he released two CDs, Pa Darte Gloria and Bailando Con Cabras. In 2002, Manglis founded the world fusion band Manglis Compas Machine featuring percussionist and tabla player Nantha Kumar. Manglis Compas Machine released the albums Mandala and My Indian Heart.
In the 2000s, a new wave of bands appeared, deeply influenced by Andalusian rock. The leading act was Madrid’s excellent band elbicho that combined progressive rock, flamenco, blues jams and more.
Other outfits included Taifa, based in Mallorca, the Spanish island in the Mediterranean. Led by vocalist and bassist Luis Massot, their sound featured Andalusian progressive rock influences. Taifa released Más allá del sur (Foque, 1999), Fe (2005), Alhambra (Discos Libres, 2008) and Despertando el silencio (Santo Grial Producciones, 2012).
Malaga band Alhandal was formed by members of a rock band called Tyr. Alhandal combined hard rock and Andalusian elements. Recordings include Raíces (2010), Rotta (2012), Retales (2014) and Donde empieza el tiempo (2016).
Arábiga (Lucena, Córdoba) included Mario J. Alcántara on guitars, chorus and programming; José Pino on keyboards and programming; Juan José Benítez on vocals; and Raúl Torrico on bass. The band’s sound leaned toward hard rock, similar to Medina Azahara. The group released two albums: Arábiga (Arabigarock, 2008) and Retazos de vida (Arabigarock, 2012).
A new Cai line up released the double album Mucho Más Allá (2007), featuring studio and live tracks. The studio album – Metáforas de Luz (El Bujío Producciones) came out in 2010.
Mezquita reformed in 2011 and released a live album, 30 Aniversario en directo ( Navarrock, 2011).
elbicho ‘s lead singer, Miguel Campello started a solo career, releasing several albums in a similar flamenco rock and fusion style as elbicho. Recordings include Chatarrero (DRO East West, 2011), Chatarrero 2 (DRO East West, 2013), Camina (Chatarrero Records, 2014), Agua, Pan, Amor y Vino (Chatarrero Records, 2016) and Entre Mil Historias (Chatarrero Records, 2018).
In 2012, Cai’s Diego Fopiani and Paco Delgado created a new band called Caeman that included Iman’s former bassist, Iñaki Egaña, and keyboardist Blas Lago. Diego Fopiani passed away in 2019.
Various music festivals between 2006 and 2012 presented reunions of various key acts: Guadalquivir, Smash, and Imán Califato Independiente.
Some of the mestizo rock (world music-leaning) bands in southern Spain such as O’funk’illo, Los Delinqüentes and Delola have Andalusian rock influences.
Heavy metal bands like Hora Zulú and Fausto Taranto also incorporated flamenco.
In 2017, one of the finest new groups in many years appeared in Seville. Malabriega released Fiebre, an album that brought back a mix of progressive rock and flamenco.
In 2018, Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba was formed in Seville. It is a psychedelic rock band with Triana and other Andalusian rock influences. The band released a self-titled CD. Band members include Dandy Piranha on vocals; Bacca on guitar; Gringo on guitar; Papi Pachuli on drums; Soni on bass; and Von Máscara on keyboards.
If ever there was a country most conducive to prog rock, it must be Peru. The molten heart of South American embraces Amazonian rainforest, frozen Andean peaks, mist-shrouded ancient monuments and the incredible folk-prog powerhouse that is Flor De Loto. To sample just one of their extended audio adventures is to fly to all these places and beyond.
The band comprises lead guitarist Alonso Herrera; bassist Alejandro Jarrin; Junior Pacora on wind instruments, charango (Andean stringed instrument) and backing vocals; Alvaro Escobar on drums and Pierre Farfán on lead and rhythm guitar.
“Alonso and I started to play together back in 1998,” says Alejandro, “we just hang out at a drummer friend of mine´s house and jam for hours. We released our first album in 2005,we have eight albums now. We have a lot of influences. A lot of progressive rock bands from the 70s and 80´s, heavy metal, progressive metal, Latin American folk, Jazz, world music, etc.”
“The hallmark of the band is the fusion…” adds Alonso, “…we can have moments oriented more towards metal, hard rock or progressive but always the differential element is the influence of Latin American folklore.”
Says Pierre: “…it is the progressive rock influence that allows us to fuse the metal and Andean music. The expertise in their representatives, their complex structures and capricious cadences, easily seduces [those} who seek music with extensive content. It is a transgressor that has something to offer everyone.”
Composition is very much a group responsibility. “Usually what happens when one of us shows a new song to the rest of the band, we all propose arrangements and sometimes, the song ends being different [from] it´s original version,” says Alejandro.
“We put all our influences and knowledge to the service of the songs,” says Alonso, “ and we make these no longer the work of a single composer, to become part of the whole band. We call this process ‘florlotization’. At this stage what you do is connect with the other members of the band; turning the whole into a single musician.”
This ‘oneness’ is impressively evident in the band’s recordings and live shows. Even on their wildest flights, the guys display an easy togetherness that never seems to falter.
So what next for Flor De Loto?
“After an intense and emotional step towards the Crescendo festival in France,” says Alonso, “we have to make dates in Lima to present our new album, Tree of Life , then in November we will travel to festival Crescendo in Cayenne, French Guyana. 2017 will continue with the ‘Tree of Life Tour’ and we have planned concerts in Mexico and the US.”
In the home of the Gods, the cradle of Western civilization, something powerful and magical is stirring. When it comes to progressive rock, Greece has a long and distinguished history, not least among the list of notables being the mighty Aphrodite’s Child. Inevitably, though, old makes way for new, and here come a fresh band of torch-bearers from the ancient city of Athens…
Ciccada are: Nicolas Nikolopoulos (flute, recorder, sax, and keyboards); Yorgos Mouchos (guitars); Yannis Iliakis (drums,synthesizer); Dimitra Spela (vocals) and Aggelos Mal (bass). The band was formed in 2005 and their last album, The Finest of Miracles, was deservedly well-received by the prog community. It’s a down-the-rabbit-hole adventure that is cinematic in scope, weaving and turning whilst rocking hard.
At times Ciccada sound like a heavenly mix of Renaissance, Gryphon and King Crimson, but that would be selling them short – there is a marriage of robustness and delicacy, intricacy and power in their music that is unique. It’s a spellbinding quality perhaps best reflected in their wide-spread influences. As Nicolas attests, the band not only cite prog-rock luminaries such as Gentle Giant, but also “…the greats of the first half of 20th century like R.V. Williams, Bartok, Martinu, the French school of Six, Stravinsky, Martin, Bernstein, to name but a few.”
I asked Nicolas how he viewed the musical vision of the band. “To merge our influences,” he told me, “in a genuine musical language of our own. Be faithful to our tastes `till the end. And play it to the people!”
What is, does he think that makes progressive music so popular and enduring?
“The challenging mixes of styles and its adventurous nature. Many progressive artists` output is timeless like the great classic composers` work is.”
Perhaps it’s this even-handed respect for both progressive rock and classical music that makes Ciccada’s work sound so extraordinary. Not that the band limit themselves to inspiration from musical sources, they have also contributed to “Decameron”, a special project featuring music based on tales by the 14th century Italian writer, Boccacio, and a similar venture celebrating the work of visionary horror-maestro H.P. Lovecraft.
What next for the band?
“A new release of a 12′ inch is due next month,” says Nicolas, “there will be just two songs that never made it to our albums but were included in several thematic projects in the past.”
In 1970, English pioneering symphonic progressive rock group The Nice disbanded and its keyboardist, Keith Emerson formed the legendary act, Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP) along with King Crimson bassist and vocalist Greg Lake and Atomic Rooster drummer Carl Palmer. This was in effect the first progressive rock superband. Emerson Lake and Palmer achieved instant fame with their debut at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.
The 1971 debut album, Emerson Lake and Palmer went platinum. It was produced by Greg Lake and featured a song that Lake had written while still in school: “Lucky Man.” This song, performed on acoustic guitar, was their first single. It ended with an unconventional new sound, the lead Moog synthesizer solo. This futuristic sound fascinated thousands of music fans. “Lucky Man,” became an iconic song for the band and a popular classic on FM radio.
Like other progressive rock groups in the late 1970s, ELP headed in a commercial direction after Works Volume 2 (1977). Love Beach, released in 1978 contained a couple of pieces that recalled ELP’s former glory, but the rest of the album leaned towards short pop songs and, additionally, the unappealing disco-like album cover was disliked by many fans. The final two studio albums, “Black Moon” (1992) and “In the Hot Seat” (1994) continued the direction towards radio friendly AOR and melodic rock.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer disbanded several times so its members could pursue solo careers. One line-up featured the late Cozy Powell on drums, together with Emerson and Lake. Each time the band re-united on stage, fans showed up by the thousands to see them.
In 2010, Shout! Factory released Emerson Lake & Palmer “A Time and A Place”, a 4-CD boxed set of remastered live rarities and bootlegs. The collection includes material from 1970 to 1998.
On Sunday, July 25th, 2010, Emerson, Lake and Palmer reformed for the first time since 1998 to headline the High Voltage Festival in London. The music from this performance appeared on the Emerson, Lake & Palmer “40th Anniversary Reunion Concert” DVD. This release contains many of ELP’s most beloved compositions.
In 2012, British musician and engineer Steven Wilson (Porcupine tree) remixed ELP’s debut album Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Tarkus into 5.1 and high resolution stereo.
The Brain Salad Surgery and Trilogy remixes were made by King Crimson’s guitarist Jakko Jakszyk in 2013.
In 1967, flutist Peter Gabriel, keyboardist Tony Banks, guitarist Anthony Phillips, bassist Mike Rutherford and drummer Chris Stewart formed Genesis, an extraordinary musical act that would later become one of the most famous progressive rock bands in history.
Initially, Peter Gabriel was a flute player, but he soon became the lead vocalist. Gabriel also became the main lyricist for Genesis. Gabriel also introduced theatrical elements to the band’s shows. He used makeup and various costumes during Genesis’ live performances.
While Genesis was recording its debut pop album, From Genesis to Revelation, drummer Chris Stewart was replaced by John Silver. Before recording the second LP, Trespass, Silver was replaced by John Mayhew. Trespass marked a shift to lengthier and more complex tracks, moving Genesis into a solid progressive rock direction.
Health problems and stage fright led guitarist Anthony Phillips to leave the band. This crisis nearly broke up the band. Steve Hackett was recruited and became the new guitar player, while Phil Collins took over drums and backing vocals.
Genesis quickly became a legendary progressive rock band thanks to its charismatic vocals, elaborate lyrics, outstanding music and innovative visual effects. Progressive rock fans worldwide consider the band one of the finest of all time and numerous groups and singers in the 1970s, and later decades, were and are still heavily influenced by the Genesis sound.
In 1975, after tensions during the recording of the double LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Peter Gabriel left and started his solo career. Genesis stayed as a quartet and drummer Peter Collins became the lead vocalist.
Genesis took a radical shift in 1978, after guitarist Steve Hackett left. Genesis became a trio and was transformed into a very successful chart-topping pop band.
In 2012, Steve Hackett released the highly successful Genesis Revisited II album.
When you look for music to capture the spirit of the Halloween celebration, you normally get the usual recommendations: Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s overplayed ‘Monster Mash’ or Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ and Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome to My Nightmare.’ However, there other fabulous alternatives with musical genres such as progressive rock, folk, early music and world music that also capture the feel of horror, fantasy, and mystery.
Progressive rock is a great place to find wonderful material. Italian group Goblin is one of the kings of horror film music. They released straight ahead progressive rock albums and also specialized in horror movie soundtracks. Goblin worked closely with Italian director Dario Argento. Their available discography includes: Profondo Rosso (1975), Roller (1976), Suspiria (1977), Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark (1978), Tenebre (1982). A 6-CD boxed set titled Awakening includes their iconic soundtracks to Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, Tenebre and George Romero’s Zombi (Dawn of the Dead), together with their 1976 album Roller, Il Fantastico Viaggio del Bagarozzo Mark and the rare non-album singles ‘Chi?’ And ‘Yell’.
Multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield had an unexpected hit with his album “Tubular Bells.” Parts of this recording were used in the cult horror film The Excorcist”
One of the most wonderful symphonic progressive rock albums released in the 1970s was Pulsar’s Halloween. This French beauty released in 1977 was reissued on CD and is easily available. Halloween features vocals in English, ghostly voices and hauntingly beautiful mellotron and other keyboards.
Swedish group Morte Macabre (featuring members of Landberk and Anekdoten) specialize in recreations of Italian horror film music. Their album is titled Symphonic Holocaust.
Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma includes the strange creature sounds of ‘Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict’ and the frightening axe murderer piece ‘Careful With That Axe Eugene.’
If you love the Gothic sound of Baroque-era cathedral organ, Italian trio Three Monks specializes in instrumental progressive rock led by cathedral-style pipe organ. Their album is titled Neogothic Progressive Toccatas (Black Widow Records, 2011)
Of all the great classic progressive rock bands on the 1970s, Van Der Graaf Generator was certainly the darkest. The band’s leader Peter Hammill released a solo album from his opera The Fall of the House of Usher inspired by Edgar Alan Poe.
A reader alerted us about an omission. Although the name Halloween has been used by several rock bands in various countries, there is a French progressive rock band that released 5 recordings. Halloween played symphonic rock with horror and fantasy themes. Therir discography includes Part One (1988), the critically acclaimed Laz (1990), Merlin (1994), Silence…au Dernier Rang! (1998) and Le Festin (2001).
On Les Morts Vont Vite (The Dead Go Quickly) French band Shub-Niggurath plays a mix of Zeuhl and dark contemporary classical music with anguished female vocals and guitars inspired by King Crimson.
Belgian Rock In Opposition (a form of avant-garde rock) ensemble Univers Zero ventures into the world of dark and ominous music on its second album titled Heresie.
Although not exactly progressive rock, composer, organist and excellent vocalist Kristen Lawrence has a great collection of recordings that capture the Halloween spirit. Rather than focusing on the horror side, her wonderful albums center on the mischievous and mysterious side of Halloween. With her gorgeous voice and symphonic organ mastery, Kristen Lawrence straddles the line between classical music and magical folk music. Her recordings include A Broom With a View, Edgar Allan Poe’s the Raven, and Arachnitect – From the Halloween Carols.
The cover of the album Possessed by early music ensemble eX looks like a collage of B-series movies. Possessed delves into Christian ecstatic trance as felt by Hildegard von Bingen, Teresa of Avila and Joan of Arc, demonic possession of the Salem witches, initiation ceremonies of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé and a musical exorcism performed to the wild rhythms of the Italian spider dance known as Tarantella.
In the world music area, there are numerous recordings with horror themes. Notable Swedish folk music band Garmarna has a song called Varulven/Werewolf in their God’s Musicians – Guds Speleman álbum.
Spanish folk band Acetre from Extremadura sings in the Spanish-Portuguese border dialect about witches in Mãe Bruxa from their album Dehesario.
Mexican-American singer Lila Downs has recorded “La Llorona,” a tribute to the Dia de los Muertos with the popular Mexican ballad La Llorona about a female ghost that haunts the Mexican countryside.
Lastly, Frank Zappa was known for his irreverent mix of rock, avant-garde music and blues. His album Zoot Allures includes the unsettling blues-rock song called The Torture Never Stops.
I went back in the afternoon to ProgDay at Storybook Farm on Sunday, August 31st. That’s why I overlooked the first two bands, Thank You Scientist (USA) and Out of the Beardspace (USA). Steven Feigenbaum of Cuneiform Records informed me that I had missed one of the highlights of the festival, Thank You Scientist.
Thank You Scientist is a seven-piece band from New Jersey that crosses multiple musical boundaries, from progressive rock to jazz, fusion, classical, hard rock, psychedelia, etc. Band members include Sal Marrano on vocals; Ellis Jasenovic on tenor & soprano sax; Greg Colacino on bass; Andrew Digrius on trumpet, flugelhorn; Russ Lynch on violin, viola; Tom Monda on guitar; and Odin Alvarez (Drums).
Out of the Beardspace is a 6-piece experimental rock band formed in 2010, originally from South Jersey. In the summer of 2011 they moved into a house in Cherry Hill, and in the summer of 2012 they relocated to a mountain farm in Linden (Virginia) to grow their own food and practice sustainable living.
The group has released two EPs, Out Of The Beardspace I and Out Of The Beardspace II, and a full length album titled Out Of The Beardspace III. Band members include Ethan Feinstein on drums, percussion; Sam Gutman on keyboards, vocals, bass; Zach Lopresti on guitar, vocals, drums, percussion; Matt O’neil on bass, percussion, keyboards; Jeremy Savo on vocals, guitar; Kevin Savo on vocals, bass, percussion, guitar, drums.
I was able to watch the performance by Herd of Instinct, one of the most exciting new bands in the American progressive rock scene. The group from the Dallas-Fort Worth area plays a mix of vibrant King Crimsonian progressive music with elements of psychedelic jam rock, electronica, avant-garde experimentation and world music.
Band members include Mark Cook on Warr guitar, electronics; Mike Davison on guitar, guitar synth; Mike McGary on keyboards; and Jason Spradlin on drums, electronics. These guys need to be commended because they drove 17-18 hours from Texas to the Piedmont area of North Carolina. This was also their first festival appearance and they put a great show.
The last band on stage was the fabulous fusion outfit simakDialog from Indonesia. This group of skilled musicians has gained worldwide recognition thanks to their superb releases on the MoonJune label. Their lineup is really interesting, with a keyboardist, electric guitarist and bass player and then three percussionists who play Indonesian barrel drums (kendang) and other instruments.
simakDialog’s sound was excellent, clean and very tight. Their virtuosic jazz fusion style has elements of progressive rock and mesmerizing Indonesian music. Band members include Riza Arshad on keyboards; Tohpati on guitar; Rudy Zulkarnaen on bass; Endang Ramdan on lead kendang, percussion; Erlan Suwardana on kendang, percussion; Cucu Kurnia on percussion.
ProgDay organizers are considering the possibility of becoming a non-profit organization. That would make it easier to raise funds.
I saw numerous out of state license plates: Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia, etc. Festivalgoer Tony from Cary (North Carolina) said that he never misses one. “I drive an hour and it’s a great way to spend the weekend.”
For Jason and Cat from the Washington DC area, “It’s a fun festival. A nice place to relax. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere. You can also bring kids.”
If you plan to attend the next ProgDay, it’s best if you bring a canopy to protect you from the sun. Even though there is a small roofed picnic-shelter area, it’s on the left side of the stage and you will enjoy the concerts better with a canopy. Also bring some lawn chairs and water or other beverages for hydration. Although Saturday’s weather was somewhat pleasant, it got pretty hot and steamy for a while on Sunday.
Catered food and beverages are available for sale in the picnic area. If you have the time before or after the concerts, you should check out the restaurants in Chapel Hill and Durham. Nearby Durham has gained quite a good reputation as a foodie town with great restaurants and a vibrant food truck scene.
Progday 2013 is taking place this weekend at its customary location in Storybook Farm, in Chapel Hill (North Carolina). Even though I live near the festival location, the morning schedule doesn’t work for me so I missed the first band’s concert. Although the program shows Mavara as playing today, Sunday, August 31st, there were scheduling changes and the group actually played yesterday, August 30th morning.
Mavara is a group of Iranian rock musicians who have relocated to the United States where they have been granted political asylum. They are now based in the New Hampshire area. I asked a couple of festivalgoers for their impression of Mavara’s performance. Jason and Cat from the Washington DC area described them as: “pretty good; intense. Heavy neo-progressive.” Another member of the audience, Toby, from Cary (North Carolina) said they were “good, entertaining.” The band’s American manager also described the band’s music as neoprog.
Mavara has three albums. Ultimate Sound (2007), Forgotten Inside (2009), and Season Of Salvation (2012). The current incarnation of the band includes keyboard player and band founder Farhood Ghadiri; Ashkan Hamedi on vocals; Arash Radan on electric guitar, Anis Oviesi on piano and keyboards, Sina Khodaiefar on bass; and American drummer James Welch.
I’ve had time to listen to Mavara‘s Forgotten Inside and most of it sounds like melodic rock with only the last two songs venturing into 1980s-style progressive rock, which some call neoprog. As far as the latest album, Season Of Salvation, the group continues in a melodic rock direction with harder guitars at times. ‘Mystery of the Universe’ is perhaps the only piece that truly ventures in the prog rock realm.
The second act on Saturday was renowned Canadian band Miriodor; which is normally described as a Rock In Opposition act. I was impressed by their balance of jazz, progressive rock and avant-garde classical and specially the interaction between Pascal Globensky’s keyboards and Bernard Falaise’s guitars. Festivalgoers Jason and Cat had difficulty describing Miriodor’s sound. Cat said it was “expressive.”
Miriodor played material from their new 2013 album titled Cobra Fakir, as well as fan favorites. Although Cobra Fakir doesn’t come out until September, Cuneiform Records had copies available at the festival. The new album features Bernard Falaise on guitars, stringed instruments; Pascal Globensky on keyboards, piano; Rémi Leclerc on drums, percussion, sampler.
Chris Lamka, who many will know from his progressive rock store called Of Sound Mind, was there with a wallet-busting selection of albums. His web site is not active anymore, but he still sells recordings from his home. He had some hard to get imports, including the Italian version of Le Porte del Domani by one of the finest progressive rock acts of the moment, La Maschera di Cera. The album is truly excellent. I listened to it on the way home. La Maschera di Cera has captured the essence of the 1970s classic Italian bands, especially Le Orme. If you are a fan of Italian progressive rock, you need to get this album.
Next came one of the leading Zeuhl bands in North America, Corima. The audience was in for a wild ride. Zeuhl is the French progressive genre that was led by Magma, Weidorje and others. Corima has certainly captured the spirit of Zeuhl music. Their music has great intensity, based around a vibrant rhythm section and the very passionate improvisations and interactions between the saxophone, violin and piano/keyboards. Occasionally, the band drifted into tranquil moments of beauty with beautiful violin and piano neoclassical passages.
The band was started when two musicians from the border area of Ciudad Juarez/El Paso, Francisco Casanova (piano) and Sergio Sánchez (drums) relocated to Los Angeles and hooked up with bassist Ryan Kamiyamazaki and saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi. Violinist Andrea Calderón later joined the band. The group’s self-titled debut full length album came out in late 2007. Quetzalcoatl was released in 2012.
Before their concerts, I had the opportunity to talk to keyboardist and sax player Frank Wyatt. He’s one of the brains behind legendary group Happy the Man and the more recent reincarnation Oblivion Sun. Frank mentioned that he had suffered serious health issues and was happy to be at Progday ready to perform. I asked him if there was a chance of a Happy the Man reunion. He said that it was unlikely because keyboardist Kit Watkins is very disconnected from the music scene, sold most of his keyboards and is involved in organic farming [editor’s note: Watkins has not released any new material since 2006].
Frank Wyatt also confirmed that Oblivion Sun’s members all have day jobs and unfortunately can’t dedicate all their time to music. Nevertheless, Frank said that they are making an effort to release more recordings and are working on a new album. Frank also indicated that he is open to collaborating on other artist’s recordings, even if it’s long distance collaboration.
I made a pretty interesting discovery while visiting the Oblivion Sun table. They had Happy the Man and Oblivion Sun CDs for sale, but there was also an album titled Pedal Giant Animals by Wyatt and Whitaker. I asked someone about the music style and was informed that it was a short-lived band created after Happy the Man, similar to Happy the Man and Oblivion Sun. I bought the album and indeed, it’s great stuff. If you like Happy the Man, you need this album in your collection.
Frank Wyatt and Stanley Whitaker are two of the greatest progressive rock musicians that have come out of the United States and there was a lot of anticipation about the Oblivion Sun. The group played pieces from the brand new Oblivion Sun album titled The High Places, as well as a few familiar and cherished classics from the Happy the Man era.
Oblivion Sun demonstrated that they are a world class symphonic progressive rock band. Most of what they played was state of the art prog rock, although there were a couple of pieces where the band drifted into generic harder rock and blues rock. Naturally, the progressive rock material was much stronger and captivating, and more appreciated by the audience.
In addition to Frank Wyatt and Stanley Whitaker, Oblivion Sun features two outstanding musicians, who provide formidable support. Bill Brasso is one of those fabulous drummers who deliver a rich palette of creative drumming. David Hughes is a skilled bassist who delivers superb bass lines and also provides engaging vocals that interact perfectly with Whitaker’s vocals.
At one point in the concert Stanley Whitaker confirmed that he had been seriously ill and has survived cancer. He also mentioned Frank Wyatt’s health problems. The musicians were very thankful to be on stage again. The audience in turn was truly honored to have the opportunity to see these great musicians back on stage. It was a genuinely memorable concert.
Progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, ambient electronic music and beyond