All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero has been writing about progressive music and world music for many years. Publications include Eurock (USA), Marquee (Japan), and Nuevas Músicas (Spain). He founded the websites progressiverockcentral.com and worldmusiccentral.org. Angel also produced Musica NA, a music show for TVE (Spain) featuring fusion, avant-garde, world music, new age and electronic artists.

Progressive Fury and Quirky Humor

Lucas Lee – Lowered Expectations ( Lucas Lee Music, 2019)

Lucas Lee delivers a remarkable, high energy combination of progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion and quirky avant-garde influences on Lowered Expectations. As the title indicates, the album revolves around lowered expectations, making references to celebrity culture, poor parenting, exclusion, ethnic stereotypes, etc.

There are zany references to the music and humor of the great Frank Zappa plus Canterbury connections as well, primarily National Health.

Lucas Lee – Lowered Expectations

Although Lucas Lee plays the majority of the instruments superbly, he brought in a first class drummer that is well know in the msuic progressive music scene: Marco Minnemann.

Lineup: Lucas Lee on guitar, bass, keyboards, Merlin dulcimer, voice over performances and engineering; Marco Minnemann on drum arrangements, drums performances and drums engineering.

Buy Lowered Expectations

The Rebirth of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – Transiberiana (InsideOut Music, 2019)

One of Italy’s iconic progressive rock bands returns with Transiberiana, its first studio recording in over 20 years. The lineup includes numerous changes. The only original member left is keyboard maestro Vittorio Nocenzi. The venerable band’s style contains familiar classic Italian elements along with innovations and various new influences. The vocals have clearly changed. Banco’s longtime and highly recognizable vocalist Francesco di Giacomo died in 2014. The new vocalist has his own character, less operatic, and does a commendable job.

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – Transiberiana

The keyboards are still the essence of Banco, ranging from mesmerizing orchestrations to superb synths solos. The guitars go way beyond the classic Banco sound. At times, the lead guitarist channels Alan Holdsworth, delivering impeccable, exquisite solos. Regressive prog metal and hard rock appear briefly (thankfully) in the form of some riffs, but most of the guitar work is truly excellent.

Throughout the album, symphonic progressive rock meets furious, cutting edge jazz-rock at times. Highlights incluce the superb fusion piece “L’assalto Dei Lupi,” the lovely “Campi di Fragole”; the mesmerizing “Eterna Transiberiana” that features the best vocals on the album; the delightful keyboard piece “Lasciando Alle Spalle”; and the masterful “Il Grande Bianco.”

The lineup includes Tony D’Alessio on lead vocals; Filippo Marcheggiani on lead guitar; Nicola Di Già on rhythm guitar; Vittorio Nocenzi on piano, keyboards, vocals; Marco Capozi on bass; and Fabio Moresco on drums.

Buy Transiberiana

The Stylish Sound of Norway’s Jordsjø

Jordsjø – Nattfiolen (Karisma Records, 2019)

Jordsjø showcases progressive rock at its best. This remarkable Norwegian band led by multi-instrumentalist Håkon Oftung (former Tusmørke), brings together the best of Scandinavian symphonic progressive rock with a dash of folk, classical and space rock.  

The sound is characterized by the use of lead flute, featuring delightful solos and exquisite interlay with the guitars and keyboards. The keyboards used include vintage organ, majestic mellotron and spacey synths. Some songs feature captivating vocals.

Jordsjø – Nattfiolen

Although there are some connections to the music of Anglagard, Jordsjø’s style is not as dark and ominous.

The lineup on Nattfiolen includes Håkon Oftung on vocals, guitars, flute, keyboards; and Kristian Frøland on drums, percussion.

Jordsjo – Photo by Anne-Marie Forker

Overall, Nattfiolen is a masterfully-crafted with beautiful arrangements and first-rate musicianship. It is one of the finest releases of the year.

Purchase Nattfiolen

Guitar Charm on The Alluring Ascent

Pete Oxley & Nicolas Meier – The Alluring Ascent (MGP Records, 2019)

Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier continue their guitar collaboration with The Alluring Ascent, an album that presents an outstanding set of musical pieces. The two European guitarists mix jazz sensibilities with contemporary influences and Middle Eastern sounds. The sequencing of the album features upbeat tracks followed by laid back, melancholic works.

Pete Oxley & Nicolas Meier – The Alluring Ascent

The interaction of the two guitarists is delightful and varied, showcasing virtuosity and melodic creativity. The two guitarists use a fascinating mix of guitars, ranging from acoustic 12-string and nylon guitars to electric 12-string guitars and the captivating sitar guitar, which is one of the highlights of the album.

The two guitarists are joined by a solid rhythm section that takes the music to a higher level. The lineup includes Pete Oxley on sitar-guitar, jazz guitar, nylon acoustic, steel, slide and electric guitars; Nicolas Meier on acoustic 12-string guitar, nylon guitar, glissentar, steel guitar; Raph Mizraki on acoustic and electric basses, darbuka; Paul Cavaciuti on drums; and Keith Fairbairn on percussion.

Transfixing Shamanic Trance Music from Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig

Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig – Persistent Visions

Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig – Persistent Visions (Projekt Records, 2019)

Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig deliver a spellbinding performance on Persistent Visions. The combination of bansuri flute, electronics and the mesmerizing beat of frame drums create a fascinating, relaxing effect.

Persistent Visions is presented in two versions. There is single long piece that is 01:11:03 long and the same musical piece broken into six individual “Visions.”

Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig conceived Persistent Visions as a constant, uninterrupted listening experience that gradually evolves and builds with increasing rhythmic and energetic complexity.

Byron creates contemplative beats and patterns while Mark’s bamboo flute (bansuri) is rooted in two classic Indian ragas.

Artist Profiles: Rick Wakeman

Rick Wakeman

Richard Christopher Wakeman was born May 18, 1949 in Perivale, Middlesex, England. His interest in music manifested itself very early. From the age of seven on, he studied classical piano. At the age of 14, Wakeman joined a local band, Atlantic Blues. The same year, he left school to enroll in the Royal College of Music. He had intended to start a career as a concert pianist, but Wakeman was dismissed from the college after it became clear that he preferred playing in clubs to studying technique.

By his late teens, Wakeman was a well-known session man, playing on records by such diverse acts as Black Sabbath, Brotherhood of Man, and Edison Lighthouse. At the end of the 1960s, his name also began appearing on the credits of albums by artists such as Al Stewart and David Bowie. A set of sessions with a folk-rock band called the Strawbs led to his joining the group in 1970.

After two albums with the Strawbs, Wakeman joined Yes, a rock band that evolved into one of the pioneers of cutting edge progressive rock. Yes had attracted considerable attention with their first three albums. Wakeman played a key role in the final shape of the group’s fourth record, Fragile, creating a profound, swirling sound on an array of electric and acoustic pianos, synthesizers, and mellotron. Fragile was a hit, driven by the chart success of the single “Roundabout,” and Wakeman was suddenly elevated to star status.

Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Yes’ next album, Close to the Edge, increased Wakeman’s audience and his appeal, for his instruments were heard almost continually on the record. During the making of Close to the Edge in 1972, Wakeman also recorded his first solo album, an instrumental work titled The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which comprised his musical interpretations of the lives and personalities of the said six royal spouses. Released early in 1973 on A&M Records, it performed well on the charts.

Yes’ next album, Close to the Edge, increased Wakeman’s audience and his appeal, for his instruments were heard almost continually on the record. During the making of Close to the Edge in 1972, Wakeman also recorded his first solo album, an instrumental work titled The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which comprised his musical interpretations of the lives and personalities of the said six royal spouses. Released early in 1973 on A&M Records, it performed well on the charts.

Cover of Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans, designed by Roger Dean

Public reception of Yes’ magnificent 1974 double album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, was mixed, and the British pop critics, who disliked and misunderstood progressive rock, were cruel in their attacks on the record. Wakeman left Yes before the album’s supporting tour. His new solo album, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, adapted from the writings of Jules Verne and featuring a rock band, narrator (David Hemmings), and full orchestral and choral accompaniment, was released to tremendous public response in both the United States and the UK, where it topped the charts.

Rick Wakeman

In 1975, Wakeman’s next album, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, was given a grand-scale premiere at Wembley’s Empire Pool, although it also cost Wakeman a fortune to stage the event on ice. During this same period, Wakeman began working on film scores with the music for Ken Russell’s Lisztomania, which was a modest hit.

In 1977, Wakeman returned to Yes, with which he has continued recording and touring. His solo career continued on A&M into the end of the ’70s, with Criminal Record and Rhapsodies, which were modestly successful.

Wakeman’s biggest media news during this period, however, came through his alleged role in getting the Sex Pistols dropped by A&M Records soon after being signed. None of this bothered his fans, which rapidly expanded to encompass those he picked up through his work with lyricist Tim Rice on a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, and his burgeoning film work, which included the music to movies about the 1976 Winter Olympics and the 1982 soccer World Cup competition. Additionally, he became a regular on Britain’s Channel 4. Wakeman’s audience and reputation survived the 1980s better than almost any progressive rock star of his era, as he continued releasing albums on his own label. He also remained associated with Yes into the 1990s.

Rick Wakeman

In January 2016, Trevor Rabin announced he plans to perform with Wakeman and Jon Anderson as Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman (ARW), later in the year. Anderson revealed the three wrote “some unique songs together”. Also in January, following requests from fans, Wakeman recorded piano versions of “Life on Mars?”, “Space Oddity”, and “Always Together” as a tribute to David Bowie following his death with proceeds from the songs donated to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Selected Solo Discography:

The Six Wives of Henry VIII (A&M Records, 1973)
Journey to the Centre of the Earth (A&M Records, 1974)
Lisztomania (A&M Records, 1975)
The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (A&M Records, 1975)
No Earthly Connection (A&M Records, 1976)
Rick Wakeman’s Criminal Record (A&M Records, 1977)
1984 (Charisma Records, 1981)
Silent Nights (President Records, 1985)
Country Airs (Coda Records, 1986)
The Gospels (Stylus Music, 1987)
Phantom Power (Jimco Records, 1990)
The Piano Album ( Castle Communications, 1995)
Return to the Centre of the Earth (EMI Classics, 1999)
Out There (Music Fusion, 2003)
Piano Odyssey (Sony Classical, 2018)

Fusion and Electronics Around the Drums

Manu Katché ‎– The Scope (Anteprima Productions, 2019)

French drummer, singer, songwriter and composer explores various genres on his ninth album, The Scope. The biggest innovation on The Scope is the addition of various forms of electronica.

Manu Katché ‎– The Scope

The highlights include the superb opening instrumental piece, “Keep Connexion,” where jazz fusion meets funk and West African kora; “Glow,” a track where soulful male and female vocals combine funk jazz with chamber strings; “Overlooking,” a piece where jazz fusion meets chilled electronica and Latin jazz; the exquisite and mesmerizing trip hop meets funk jazz song “Please Do”; the song “Don’t U Worry” where rock, edgy electronica and neosoul are intertwined; and the bluesy “Goodbye For Now.”

On the downside, the prerequisite, annoying hip hop song and a cheesy electropop bonus track.

The lineup includes Jerome Regard on bass; Manu Katché on drums and vocals; Patrick Manouguian on guitar; and Jim Henderson on keyboards and programming.

Guests include Jim Grandcamp on guitar; Kandia Kouyaté on kora; Faada Freddy on vocals; Jazzy Bazz on vocals; Jonatha Brooke on vocals; Frédéric Kret on cello; Michael Nguyen on viola; Hugues Borsarello on violin; Kayla Galland on vocals; and Alexandre Tassel on flugelhorn.

Tim Bowness with his Favorite Singers and Musicians

Tim Bowness – Flowers at the Scene (InsideOutMusic, 2019)

Flowers at the Scene is the exquisitely produced and arranged fifth solo album by British artist Tim Bowness. The album showcases Bowness talent as songwriter and exceptionally expressive vocalist.


Tim Bowness – Flowers at the Scene

Musically, Bowness crosses various boundaries: elegant art rock, masterfully-crafted progressive rock and electronic ambience.

Flowers at the Scene was coproduced by Bowness and his longtime collaborator Steven Wilson. The diverse lineup of collaborators includes well-known names in the progressive rock, prog metal, jazz and other genres: Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), Andy Partridge (XTC), Kevin Godley (10cc), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), David Longdon (Big Big Train), Brian Hulse (Plenty), Ian Dixon, Tom Atherton, Dylan Howe, David K Jones, Fran Broady and Charles Grimsdale.

Bowness said about the album: “It was an exciting project to put together and it was great working closely with old sparring partners, Brian Hulse and Steven Wilson. Steven was initially brought in to mix the album, but very quickly he was doing far more and developing production ideas alongside Brian and I. Listening to pieces such as Not Married Anymore, Borderline and The War On Me, we both felt that the project had more than a hint of the spirit of no-man and it became obvious that this was a no-man co-production rather than a Bowness/Wilson one.”

Flowers at the Scene is a deeply mesmerizing album with a charming set of dreamy songs.

Interview with World Class Fusion Drummer Dali Mraz

Czech drummer Dali Mraz has released a spectacular new album titled Level 25. Mraz delivers a set of masterful creative drumming performances accompanied by world class collaborators from various European countries and the USA.

Level 25 is a beautifully-packaged wonderland of jazz-rock fusion, progressive rock and classical influences. The masterfully-crafted instrumentation is classic fusion: drums, electric bass, keyboards and guitars, along with some outstanding vocals. Thankfully, there is no smooth jazz saxophone anywhere to be seen.

Musical influences range from Return to Forever, Joe Zawinul and Alan Holdsworth to funk and cinematic symphonic rock.

The list of musicians onLevel 25 is truly impressive: Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech) on keyboards; Marius Pop on guitar; Anton Davidyants (Virgil Donati) on bass; Martin Miller on guitar; Federico Malaman on bass; Romain Labaye (Scott Henderson) on bass; Junior Braguinha (Virgil Donati) on bass; Lawrence Lina (Sideburn) on guitar; Mike Gotthard (Electric Shock) on guitar; Kolta Gergely (European Mantra) on bass; Veronika Stalder on vocals; Gyöngyösi Gábor on keyboards; Maria Nagyova (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; Diana Minarovicova (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; Terezia Jarosová (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; ato Ivan on bass; Dano Soltis on vibraphone; Elis on vocals; Gergo Borlai on bass; and Valeriy Stepanov on keyboards.

Dali Mraz

What are your fondest musical memories?

I like to remember any creative process that I had. The moment, when you turn into a child and let your fantasies go. I experience every each creative process like these differently and that’s what is beautiful about the whole thing. Besides, all of this is written down in the music as a memory. When I listen to various moments from the recording process, I remember moods and even fragrances.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

My music comes a lot from classical pieces. I choose elements, that I like and try to put them together in all ways. The most of the parts that I write are composed behind the piano. It is a royal instrument for me and that’s why the composed parts project into all instruments, even the drums.

How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your new recording?

In my case, there were two different worlds walking besides each its own line. The drums as an amusement and unlimited toy store, where I could play as many notes as I wanted and where I wanted. And a classical and film music, where I had to capture very subtle emotions and a basic line, almost inaudible. When I was 23 I started to fuse those worlds and finally put them together on Level 25.

Dali Mraz with Drumeo team

You used a crowd funding tool to fund Level 25. How was the experience and how did you attract people to fund it?

I tried it because I was in need to finish the album to its end. I was putting a lot of finances to it and I had to ask people for help when I was short on resources. Thanks to those that had helped me I could finish the album. I was surprised with their interest and with the fact, that we had gained more than 100% of the needed money. It was an honor to me, that DRUMEO had supported me with another amount of money, which had helped a lot.

Of course I asked for lesser amount of money on Indiegogo, than I really needed, to produce the album, because I was worrying that I couldn’t reach it. But it happened and different people from different countries supported me. We have sent the album to more than 40 countries on all continents after releasing.

Dali Mraz – Level 25

The album contains high-energy fusion featuring electric guitar and keyboards (which are ones we prefer). Are these the solo instruments you like the most?

As I mentioned before I spend a lot of times behind the piano/keyboard because of the possibilities which are almost endless.

Musicians who appear on Dali Mraz’s Level 25

Your album features quite a few excellent musicians from central Europe. Tell us a little about the guests and their background.

I knew some of them as we played together, some of them as friends and some of them became my friends on the internet before we met in person. I tried to put the list of guests together so the result is a really colorful fusion of cultures and to follow a specific concept of the album. We were tuning the details of the album for the whole three years and the number of letters and messages, that we have sent to each other is huge. I would like to record the next album in the studio.

How’s the fusion and progressive rock scene in the Czech Republic and nearby countries?

I guess it’s growing. Fusion doesn’t have tradition here and will take some time till people will start going to such concerts. However, the fact that my music comes out of classical stuff, which has tradition here, could make it easier for me.

Dali Mraz

Drum kits vary a lot. What drum set do you normally play and what’s your favorite configuration?

I like to use 22″ bassdrum + 2 rack toms + 2 floor toms + 1 gong drum + snare drum of course. If I play my own music, it is better to have a bigger set, to be able to express all the colors and orchestrations. Of course you can play it on a small kit too, but bigger kit means more colorful, in this case.

What is your advice to improve the hands technique?

Hands are a hard time. I tell everyone who asks me to set a workout exercise ideally for an hour and practice every day, just on a snare drum with a towel or a shirt on it.

What is your advice to improve the feet’s technique?

A lot of patience and a similar approach as with hands. I work with these problems a lot and I prepare a new app, which will have various workouts for drummers. It should be released at the end on June.

What is your advice to improve more speed on the drum kit?

If the player realizes that some of the exercises on the kit are almost identical with sports training, it is a key to mastering it. It is good to look for the inspiration out of music business in certain disciplines of the drums.

Dali Mraz

Who are your 10 favorite drummers and why?

Ronald Brunner – He can always surprise me.
Buddy Rich – He managed to fascinate the crowds and he made the drum set dominant in the big band.
Todd Sucherman – His precise play and the insight of all the notes, that he uses to play with bands, is incredible.
Thomas Pridgen – His directness.
Keith Carlock – His sound and flow.
Steve Gadd- His life journey and willingful playing.
Billy Cobham – His story and approach.
Gene Krupa – His ideas and motives.
Bernard “Pretty” Purdie – You gotta love him.
Virgil Donati – He was a big influence to me with his perception of music and approach to the instrument.

Mainstream media normally ignores progressive music. How do you promote your music?

The whole team and musicians who contribute on the music promotes it on our websites and the music slowly spreads into more fusion and mainly prog communities and that really makes us happy. We do what we love and we are gracious for every feedback. It’s not a mainstream thing, but it’s our happiness. That’s why we put so much energy to it.

If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

There’s a whole bunch of musicians, that I would like to connect with and continue in collaborations. Currently we are working on a video with MohiniDey and I prepare two more projects, so I think that the guests will be a surprise.

Aside from the new album, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

Yes. I prepare three projects. Two musical and one educational. They will have premiere soon and we want to start to work with vocalists a push our music further again. We look forward to that a lot.

To purchase the album and learn more about Dali Mraz, go to www.dalimraz.com

Diego Fopiani, Founder of Andalusian Progressive Rock Band Cai Dies in Cadiz

Diego Fopiani

Drummer and vocalist Diego Fopiani, founder of trailblazing Andalusian progressive rock band Cai, died on April 4, 2019. He had been sick for the last few years and had stopped drumming although he still made music on the piano.

Cai was a groundbreaking progressive rock band that incorporated symphonic rock, jazz fusion and Andalusian flamenco elements. Cai released an acclaimed independent album, Mas allá de nuestras mentes diminutas in 1978.

Additional albums included Noche abierta, Canción de la primavera and a comeback reunion album titled Ocho metáforas de luz.

Read more about Diego Fopiani: Interview with Diego Fopiani