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.
Focus founder Thijs Van Leer recently made headlines when he stated in an interview in the new issue of British publication Prog Magazine that “All the bands who call themselves that [progressive] today, to me, are more regressive rock.”
Indeed, many current acts that are described by labels and publicists as prog or progressive are in reality regressive rock, a term we like to use.
Interestingly, the organizers of an event called Radar Festival came to the defense of certain current acts. This gathering will feature a set of heavy metal acts: Animals As Leaders, Monuments, VOLA, Valis Ablaze, Toska and Sumer. These are all prog metal bands, one of the most regressive genres out there.
Where Thijs Van Leer got it wrong is that there are currently some truly excellent acts making various forms of progressive rock that are forward thinking and metal free: Infinien, Big Big Train, The Tangent, Syndone, The Knells, Gleb Kolyadin, Yuka & Chronoship, Dave Kerzner and many more.
Thankfully, progressive rock is well and alive, featuring pioneering masters as well as young talents. We’ll keep you informed about superb new recordings.
wizard Steve Roach recorded Electron Birth in front of a live audience during a
remarkable performance at Tucson’s Galactic Center on February 11, 2018.
The album Electron
Birth consists of 54:49-minute long progressive electronic music piece titled “Electron
Birth” and a second composition called “Cloud Currents.”
Steve Roach’s electronic styles vary from album to album. In this case, Steve delivers a transfixing set of intricate, multilayered and constantly evolving, fast-paced electronic pulses generated by sequencers and other devices along with shape-shifting harmonic layers. This is the new generation of what is known as the Berlin-style of electronic music.
high energy construction, Steve takes the listener to another level of consciousness
with “Cloud Currents.” It’s a dreamy, peaceful and delightful track of morphing
ambient music that lets you sit down and relax.
instruments used on Electron Birth include Oberheim Xpander, Emu Esynth, Korg
Wavestation, Nordlead 2 and 4, TTSH Arp 2600 clone and Eurorack expander,
Doepfer MAQ 16 Sequencer, DSI Mono Evolver, and Mackie VLZ 4 – 32 channel
John Irvine is an excellent Scottish guitarist and composer inspired
by some of the leading jazz-rock and rock hero guitarists. His music is on the
progressive side of jazz-rock, incorporating influences from maestros such as
Pat Metheny, Joe Satriani, John McLaughlin and Alan Holdsworth as well as classic
progressive rock harmonies.
The guitar sounds are multifaceted, and highly satisfying. John Irvine also plays the bass and keyboards. Guests include Rob Ironside on saxophone; Gwen Kelso on flute; and Rich Kass on drums.
Favorite tracks include “Hymn To The Winter Sun”, full of seductive grooves and memorable guitar work; the captivating “Me And My Idiophone,” where John Irvine uses an impressive arsenal of guitars supported by formidable creative drumming; and the progressive desert blues of “Sahara Yadouin.”
Progressive rock band The Gardening Club recorded its new album at producer and guitarist Norm Macpherson’s Garry Oak Studios in Metchosin, British Columbia in Canada. This place, encircled by woods and near the Pacific Ocean, was a great place for composing and recording the new record.
Most of the music on The Riddle is by guitarist and vocalist Martin Springett. He delivers a wonderful set of slide guitar performances that add an enchanting bluesy feel to the band’s particular style of folk-influenced progressive rock. The vocals sometimes recall the Strawbs and Echolyn as well.
Guitar play an essential role in this album featuring the slide guitar as well as exquisite acoustic and electric guitar interplay between Martin and Norm Macpherson.
Although we associate heavy use of keyboards with progressive rock, the keyboards here appear in the form of a handful of delightful synth solos.
“The Riddle” also features a few saxophone solos. The smooth jazz saxophone is too sappy and breaks the magic of the album. Having two great guitarists is more than plenty and much more satisfying.
The lineup includes Martin Springett on vocals and guitars; Sean Drabitt on fretless electric bass; Norm Macpherson on guitars; Norm’s son, James Macpherson on drums and keyboards; and Wayne Kozak on saxophone.
Martin Springett is also well-known as an illustrator. He created the beautiful artwork for the CD version of the album.
A Life In Yes: The Chris Squire Tribute honors the work of the late Squire, who was the longtime bassist of progressive rock masters Yes. Chris Squire performed some of the most memorable bass solos in progressive rock history.
This project was produced by multi-instrumentalist and Squire’s friend Billy Sherwood. He did a great job this time, recruiting a truly impressive cast of first rate musicians: Todd Rundgren, Steve Porcaro (Toto), Annie Haslam (Renaissance), John Wesley (Porcupine Tree), Sonja Kistina (Curved Air), Patrick Moraz (Yes, The Moody Blues), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), Dweezil Zappa, Steve Hogarth (Marillion), Larry Fast (Synergy), Jon Davison (Yes, Glass Hammer), Brian Auger, and David Sancious (Jeff Beck, Bruce Springsteen).
The song selection is interesting, with several tracks from Tormato and Fragile, plus pieces from other Yes albums and a few curiosities.
As one would expect, A Life In Yes: The Chris Squire Tribute highlights the electric bass, performed by Billy Sherwood. He’s an outstanding instrumentalist, who shines when he ventures into real progressive rock.
The first track is the solidly progressive rock composition “On Silent Wings of Freedom: which appeared on the album Tormato (1978). This fabulous version features Jon Davison on vocals; Billy Sherwood on bass, guitar, backing vocals; Jay Schellen on drums; and Patrick Moraz on keyboards.
Track 2 is “Hold Out Your Hand” from Chris Squire’s first solo album Fish Out of Water. It is a very Yes-sounding song with superb bass work. The lineup here is Steve Hogarth on vocals; Larry Fast on keyboards; Billy Sherwood on bass, guitar; and Jay Schellen on drums.
The beautifully-melodic “Onward” appeared on Tormato. The Jon Anderson vocals are replaced on this occasion by the great Annie Haslam (Renaissance). The rest of the band includes Billy Sherwood on bass, excellent slide guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals; and Jay Schellen on drums.
Track 4, “South Side of The Sky” is the Yes progressive rock classic from the album Fragile (1971). The fierce rock guitar is played by Steve Stevens. The rest of the band: Billy Sherwood on vocals, bass; David Sancious on keyboards; Steve Stevens on guitar; and Jay Schellen on drums.
“The Fish” is a knockout electric bass fest, also from the album Fragile. Hats off to Sherwood for his bass work here. His colleagues here are Sonja Kristina on vocals; and Jay Schellen on drums.
Track 6 is from Yes’ least appealing era. “The More We Live – Let Go” appeared in the pop-leaning Union album (1991). It features Billy Sherwood on vocals, bass; Steve Hackett on guitar; Steve Porcaro on keyboards; and Jay Schellen on drums
The tribute returns to genuine progressive rock on track 7, “Parallels” from the Going for the One album (1977). Once more, the bass lines are by Sherwood are exceptional. The band: Jon Davison on vocals; Tony Kaye on keyboards; Billy Sherwood on bass, guitar; and Jay Schellen on drums.
Track 8, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” from the album 90125 (1983) was one of Yes’ greatest hits. This was a time when Yes moved away from progressive rock and embraced radio friendly AOR. The best of this version is Dweezil Zappa’s skillful guitar solo. The lineup here: Nikki Squire on vocals; Dweezil Zappa on guitar; Billy Sherwood on bass, keyboardss; and Jay Schellen on drums.
Another classic, and radio hit, is “Roundabout,” from Fragile. This striking version includes Todd Rundgren on vocals; John Wesley on guitar; Tony Kaye on keyboards; Billy Sherwood on bass; and Jay Schellen on drums.
Track 10, “Don’t Kill the Whale” was included in Tormato. It holds special significance now that several countries have disgracefully decided to hunt whales again. The unmistakable Brian Auger provides the stand out organ solo here. The other artists: Candice Night on vocals; Billy Sherwood on bass; and Jay Schellen on drums.
The album contains two bonus tracks. Track 11 is “The Technical Divide” from the supergroup The Prog Collective, featuring Chris Squire, Alan Parsons, David Sancious, Gary Green and Billy Sherwood. By the way, more pop-leaning than progressive.
The final track is “Comfortably Numb” from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The musicians here are: Chris Squire, Alan White and Billy Sherwood.
Swedish guitarist, composer and progressive rock marvel Roin Stolt is a prolific artists who has been involved in numerous projects as band leader or as part of super bands: The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Agents of Mercy, and Kaipa DC. His latest project is called Roine Stolt’s The Flower King, which is a subtle way to clarify that this is a solo endeavor rather than a new Flower Kings album.
Although many identify Roine Stolt as a progressive rock musician (which he is), the multi-faceted artists is also influenced by classic rock, blues and jazz.
The album begins with a short atmospheric piece titled Rainsong. This is followed by the least favorite song on the album, Lost America, which is a classic rock/hard rock song with catchy hooks.
Progressive rock starts trickling in with “Ze Pawns,” a track with dreamy keyboards and mesmerizing slide guitar. The introspective vocals recall the work by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.
High Road is one of the finest pieces on the album, symphonic progressive rock at its best; full of memorable and beautiful electric guitar work.
Rio Grande is an instrumental epic with outstanding guitar, drums and keyboard work, including evocative mellotron.
Next To A Hurricane is a happy, sing-along song with pop and jazz harmonies.
On The Alchemist, another instrumental, Roine Stolt incorporates jazz fusion, Zappaesque zaniness and blues, including interplay with saxophonist Rob Townsend.
Baby Angels is a sweet song with unexpected ukulele.
Thirty Wakeup sounds like a tribute to Focus’ signature classically-rooted instrumentals, with Roine’s guitar joined by electric organ and flute.
Roine Stolt has a great ability at making epic progressions. The Spell of Money is an instant-epic that feels familiar right from the dramatic beginning. It combines superb musicianship with politics and social criticism about the dark side of money.
The album includes Roine Stolt on lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, ukulele and drums; Hans “Hasse” Fröberg on vocals; Nad Sylvan on vocals; Max Lorentz on vocals and Hammond B3; Zach Kamins on organ, Moog synth and Mellotron; Rob Townsend on soprano saxophone and flute; Michael Stolt on bass and vocals; Jonas Reingold on fretted and fretless basses; and Marco Minnemann on drums
The album is available in various formats: limited edition CD digipak, Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD and as digital download.
Yesterdays, a progressive rock band based in Transylvania, Romania, recently released Senki Madara, a fascinating recording where Hungarian traditional music meets with state of the art symphonic progressive rock.
The band talked to Progressive Rock Central in December 2018:
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
I think is important to listen many styles of good music. For us, classical music, jazz, fusion and traditional music are the ingredients and this helps keeping the sound and the ideas fresh. Prog is just the final form, we communicate on this “language” best.
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
We grew up listening to The Beatles, Yes, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, but from the classical side renaissance music is essential for us, the usage of polyphonic vocals are very important to us.Of course Debussy, Ravel, Bartók and Stravinsky are also our favorites. Later we got to love Pat Metheny, Chick Corea’s works from the seventies and of course Hungarian bands like East and Faxni, and also some obscure folk/jazz bands like Makám and Kolinda.
How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years?
We started Yesterdays at a young age, so we were experimenting with prog, even bossa nova. Now after more than 12 years we are still experimenting, but everything got more conscious. You know, we love prog because here we can do musically everything we want. We are not part of any big label, so we don’t have to deal with compromises, which is a fantastic thing.
Tell us a little about the band members and the background.
The main “old” elements of Yesterdays are still present, me on guitars and keys, Enyedi Zsolt on keyboards, synths, Kósa Dávid percussion, we were present on all the 3 albums. Kecskeméti Gábor, flute virtuoso, got involved with our second album and since then he is also with us. While Zsolt and I are the main progheads, Dávid is more a funky guy, Gábor comes from the jazzy, bossa-nova fields, he is an amazing fusion guy with perfect pitch! Stephanie Semeniuc is the lead singer on the new album, she also has classical training, but she comes from jazz and funk, she’s a pro, handles prog very easily. Our drummer is Szűcs József, who plays with us for years now.
What’s the connection between progressive rock and Hungarian folk music?
Well, you can find connections everywhere. Hungarian folk music is such a rich and ancient source, it’s been “used” by Bartók a lot. It has beautiful melodies, texts, deep meanings, sums up the Hungarian traditions and history. Progressive rock is such a nice and forgiving style with integrating the “old” into the “new”. Just look at the classical renditions by Nice, ELP or Gryphon’s and Gentle Giant’s renaissance connections. We did the same thing with Hungarian folk music and it felt very natural. I think one can feel it by listening to the Senki madara album, it’s been only 1 and a half months since the release date and we are almost sold out. It feels good!
Although you are a Hungarian band, you are based in Romania. What’s the reason for this?
Yes, it’s correct. Transylvania, where we are living now was part of Hungary for a few hundred years. The 20th Century brought changes with the World Wars, so Transylvania is now part of Romania. Our grandparents were born in “Hungarian times”, we were born in “Romanian times”, so right now we live in Romania as Hungarian minorities along with many others. It’s a historical thing. Our roots belong here, our past, our traditions tie us to this land, we are at home here.
What musical instruments do you use?
Yesterdays is s symphonic prog band, so we are using all those instruments and samples from the seventies which made this sound unique. Many types of acoustic guitars, electrics, steel guitars, distorted bass, fretless bass, mellotrons, Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, piano, flutes and many many vocals.
Do you have plans to continue the great fusion of progressive rock and Hungarian music?
Of course, although this album started out as an experiment, looking at the current success and positive responses we decided to play as many shows as possible in 2019 with a minimal setup (voice, guitars and flute, in a trio line-up), but of course you can expect many sound-wizard things as well. We are planning to shoot a DVD with this material in the Summer of 2019. But near this, a brand new concept album is in the making, my long-time dream, a classical story from literature…
How’s the progressive rock scene in Hungary and Romania?
Right now it’s not in a good shape… the classic bands like Solaris are doing a few comeback shows every now and then, but that’s all. Barbaro is over, After Crying isn’t active as far as I know. In Romania it’s the same. Yesterdays is the only active prog band in Romania (it’s safe to say).
If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
We have many special friendships with Flamborough Head (played with them 3 times in the past), with Paidarion (from Finland) and with Argos (+Yacobs). In 2019 we’ll play a few shows with Argos in Germany.
As for recordings, we have many wishes to play with Patrick Moraz, Pálvölgyi Géza (East), maybe Dan Andrei Aldea (from Romanian band Sfinx), just to name a few, but Canadian singer/songwriter Marie-Pierre Arthur got under our skin with her recent album, she got near the progressive rock territory… it would be nice to collaborate with her (she is also involved in the recent Harmonium tribute in Canada… check her out!)
Aside from the new album, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?
Yes, we are working on a new single/song right now and in 2019 hopefully will bring our first DVD/live CD, and in the meanwhile we’ll keep on working on the 4th album, hopefully it won’t take this long as the 3rd…
Holdfénykert (Rockszerviz Records, 2006), re-released enhanced and remastered in 2008 (Musea Records)
Colours Caffé (2011) Senki Madara (2018)
Live At Avantgarden showcases the energy and talent of Norwegian progressive rock band Arabs in Aspic. This the seventh album by the band from Trondheim and its first live recording in a familiar and friendly environment.
Throughout the album, Arabs in Aspic delight the listener with a vintage sound that recalls the finest groups of the early 1970s. The band uses the exquisite mellotron generously and skillfully, along with notable electric organ and guitar work, plus a formidable rhythm section.
The influences range from the memorable progressive rock of Pink Floyd and King Crimson to the classic hard rock of Uriah Heep.
The lineup includes Jostein Smeby on guitar, vocals; Stig Arve Kvam Jørgensen on Hammond organ, mellotron, synths, piano, vocals; Erik Paulsen on bass, vocals; Eskil Nyhus on drums, percussion; and Alessandro Elide-Metal on percussion.
Alizarin is an instrumental rock trio from Los Angeles. On their album Cast Zenith, the band delivers a fabulous set of tracks that showcase the talent of guitar wizard Josh Kay, supported by a formidable rhythm section that includes Jon Damon on drums and Steve Ostaszewski on bass.
The music ranges from progressive rock to fusion, and guitar-hero rock. Although the music gets very intense at times, thankfully there is no prog metal.
Acclaimed keyboardist Adam Holzman makes a guest appearance, playing synths on two tracks.
Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana continues to demonstrate why he’s one of the finest guitarists in the jazz and rock scenes. He’s a prolific artist who has recorded and collaborated with some of the biggest names in the progressive jazz and rock fields.
Dewa Budjana has explored various musical genres in past albums. On Mahandini, he incorporates harder edged music. He rocks out throughout the album with a dazzling mix of progressive rock, jazz fusion, Indian vocal percussion (konnakol), transfixing Balinese traditional music and some hard rock.
His colleagues this time are multi-faceted keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani), and extraordinary Indian bassist and rising talent Mohini Dey.
The guests include the unmistakable vocals of rock star John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) on two tracks, fusion guitar virtuoso Mike Stern (Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius) and the enchanting vocals of Indonesian singer Soimah.
Dewa Budjana’s wide range of guitar sounds and techniques is truly impressive with masterfully-crafted melodies and solos, spectacular shredding and exquisite slide guitar.