Category Archives: CD Reviews

Formidable Multifaceted Alan Simon

Alan Simon – Songwriter (Babaika Productions/The Right Honourable Recording Company, 2017)

Songwriter is a compilation of musical works by French musician and composer Alan Simon now available on as 2 CDs (previously it was available on vinyl only). The anthology includes material from rock operas and other recordings made from 1995 to 2017.

Alan Simon is the creator of the highly successful Excalibur: The Celtic Rock Opera. He’s deeply influenced by Celtic, world and symphonic music, folk and progressive rock as well. Songwriter represents a wide range of genres, from majestic cinematic orchestral pieces to evocative Celtic music, exotic world music and progressive rock elements as well.

The compendium includes guest appearances by well-known artists from various backgrounds: members of Supertramp, Jon Anderson of Yes, Christian Décamps of legendary French progressive rock band Ange, Spanish bagpipe master Carlos Núñez, Midnight Oil, Alan Parsons, Fairport Convention, Moya Brennan, John Wetton, Justin Hayward, Maddy Prior, Billy Preston, Roberto Tiranti, Martin Barre, Les Holroyd, Mick Fleetwood and Zucchero.

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Gerd Albers’ Reflections

Project Patchwork II – Re / Flection

Project Patchwork II – Re / Flection (Progressive Promotion Records, 2018)

Re / Flection is the latest release by Project Patchwork, a musical endeavor by German multi-instrumentalist and composer Gerd Albers. Re / Flection is a concept album that addresses several topics that Alberts is interested in: community, faith, first love, aging and death, refugee issues, populism among others.

The album is an ambitious melting pot where Albers mixes rock, smooth jazz, pop, hard, heavy and progressive rock. Highlights include the Peter Collins’ Genesis-inspired “Fear of Loss,” the acoustic “Last Horizon,” and the prog-folk of “A winter’s Tale.”

Re / Flection features various musical guests, including keyboardist Marek Arnold, guitarists Martin Schnella, John Mitchell, Markus Steffen, Stephan Pankow and vocalist Larry Brodel.

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Casey Golden’s Wide Ranging Piano

Casey Golden Trio – Miniature (Scrampion Records, 2016)

Miniature is the third release by masterful Australian jazz pianist Casey Golden and his trio. It’s an EP featuring a single musical piece divided into four pieces.

The style is hard to define. It’s not exactly straight ahead jazz. Miniature contains jazz improvisation, classical influences and creative arrangements and structured compositions that take the music close to progressive rock.

Throughout the EP, Golden his musical colleagues plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent. The lineup includes Casey Golden on piano, keyboards, music box; Bill Williams on bass; and Ed Rodrigues on drums and percussion. Special Guest on Daniel Walsh on guitar.

Miniature is a fine example of multifaceted jazz piano craftsmanship.

Sumptuous Pop from Kino

Kino – Radio Voltaire

Kino – Radio Voltaire (InsideOut, 2018)

Kino is a project led by two well-known British musicians regularly involved in progressive rock projects: vocalist and guitarist John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot) and longtime Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas. Despite the prog rock pedigree, ‘Radio Voltaire’ is really not a progressive rock album. It’s rather a pop production with lush arrangements.

The title track ‘Radio Voltaire’ is one of the most progressive-leaning songs, featuring engaging vocals, sound effects and masterful guitar and keyboard work.

After that, most of the album consists of radio friendly classic rock, pop and ballads. Another song that caught my attention was “The Silent Fighter Pilot” which has an epic guitar conclusion.
And for symphonic rock fans, the band teases the listener with a great, but sadly short bonus instrumental titled “the Kino Fanfair”

In addition to John Mitchell and Pete Trewavas, the album features drummer Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) and keyboardist John Beck (It Bites), who provides magnificent keyboard work when given a chance.

Buy Radio Voltaire in Europe

Buy Radio Voltaire in the rest of the world

Mabel Greer’s Toyshop’s The Secret

Mabel Greer’s Toyshop – The Secret (Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, 2017)

Mabel Greer’s Toyshop is a British rock band founded in 1966 that preceded progressive rock band Yes. Mabel Greer’s Toyshop was founded by guitarist Clive Bailey, drummer Robert Hagger (drums) and bassist Paul Rutledge. Chris Squire and Peter Banks later joined the band. Clive Bailey resurrected Mabel Greer’s Toyshop after the death of Peter Banks, initially as a tribute.

The Secret features founders Clive Bailey on vocals and guitars and Robert Hagger on drum s and percussion. They are joined by Hugo Barre on bass and backing vocals and Max Hunt on keyboards, guitars, and backing vocals.

The album is highly enjoyable although I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a fully progressive rock album. It contains well-constructed rock songs with psychedelic and classical influences featuring melancholic vocals by Clive Bailey, along with fine guitar lines and keyboard work, and classic rock drumming.

The final piece includes an unused guitar solo by the late Peter Banks.

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Spontaneous Progressive Psychedelic Jazz

Vantomme – Vegir (Moonjune, 2018)

Belgian keyboardist Dominique Vantomme has released a fabulous genre-defying album where progressive jazz meets psychedelic rock.

Vegir has a cutting edge sound where analog keyboards (including distorted electric piano) meet the spellbinding psychedelic guitar and effects of Michel Delville, Tony Levin’s remarkable bass and Chapman stick sounds, and the powerful, creative drumming of Maxime Lenssen.

Vegir is an exceptionally good album featuring engaging and instinctive progressive jams that highlight the beauty of electronic keyboards.

Buy Vegir

The Jazz Side of Gong

Gong Expresso – Decadence (Gong Expresso, 2017)

Gong Expresso continues the legacy of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, which was one of the spin offs of the original 1970s progressive band Gong. The major difference here is that Gong Expresso leans much closer to classic jazz than fusion. Canadian guitarist Julien Sandiford is a talented young musician, whose style is closer to Wes Montgomery than fusion guitarists. It’s much laid back and sometimes ventures into smooth jazz.

Veterans Hansford Rowe (USA) and Benoit Moerlen (France) still have the cutting edge drive of Gong with formidable electric bass and vibraphone work, supported by the powerful drums of Francois Causse (France).

It’s good to see yet another incarnation of Gong, who are taking the Gong brand in new directions.

Buy the digital edition of Decadence

The Vintage Prog of Malady

Malady – Toinen toista (Svart Records, 2018)

Malady is a young Finnish band deeply influenced by the classic progressive rock bands of the early 1970s. The band member’s love the vintage sound of the era and apply it to the recording and musical instruments used.

Toinen toista features four average length pieces and one long epic suite. You’ll find outstanding dual guitar and organ work, along with glorious mellotron, creative bass lines and drums. Guitarist Babak Issabeigloo sings in Finnish, which gives the band a special charm.

Track two strays away from the rest of the musical pieces. It features what sounds like a chamber music ensemble.

The highlight of the album is, of course, the last piece, “Nurja puoli” (22:58). Malady does a great job building up the momentum and reaching an epic musical climax that will please fans of authentic progressive rock.

The lineup includes Tony Björkman on guitar; Babak Issabeigloo on guitar and vocals; Juuso Jylhänlehto on drums; Ville Rohiola on Hammond organ and keyboards; and Jonni Tanskanen on bass.

Buy Toinen toista

Phenomenal Perfect Beings

Perfect Beings – Vier (InsideOut/Sony Music, 2018)

Vier, released by Los Angeles-based band Perfect Beings is one of the finest progressive rock albums so far this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect because the band had a really strong debut album and then a mixed bag with album II. With Vier, Perfect Beings has blossomed into a truly exciting progressive rock outfit.

What’s exciting about Vier is the masterfully crafted instrumental and vocal work. Perfect Beings draw their influences from classic 1970s progressive rock, especially Yes and Pink Floyd and more modern influences from Steven Wilson as well. However, the band injects new elements like exquisite vocal overdubs, magnificent guitar work throughout the album, world music elements from East Asia and truly impressive keyboard work. One of the most notable aspects of Vier is that Perfect Beings incorporates German-style electronic music passages. This is truly a forward-thinking attitude by combining various progressive music genres.

Vier contains four beautifully orchestrated suites that will likely please progressive rock fans: Guedra (18:23), Vibrational (18:17), The Golden Arc (16:47) and Anunnaki (18:42).

The lineup on the album includes Ryan Hurtgen on vocals and piano; Johannes Luley on guitars and bass; Jesse Nason on keyboards; and Ben Levin on drums. Additional musicians: Fred Doumbe on bass; Max Kaplan on tenor saxophone; Dave Richards on trumpet, flugelhorn and trombone; Yanran He on erhu; Yuki Yasuda on koto; and Robin Hathaway on backing vocals.

 

 

Buy Vier

More Extraordinary Live Recreations and New Works by Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett – Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham (InsideOut Music, 2018)

Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham is a 3-disc boxed set featuring two audio CDs and a Blu-ray disc. The live albums were recorded in Birmingham and feature the many sides of Steve Hackett. Disc 1 focuses on Hackett’s solo material, featuring material from his solo albums Spectral Mornings, Defector, Voyage of the Acolyte, To Watch the Storms, and Darktown as well as his most recent work The Night Siren. It also gives you an appetizer of disc 2, which focuses on his work with the latter part of progressive rock-era Genesis.

On disc 1, Steve Hackett demonstrates his admirable skill and as performer and songwriter. He’s comfortable playing state of the art progressive rock and other types of rock, folk and blues. His signature solos with slight variations from the originals are a real treat.

 

 

Disc 2 is primarily focused on many of the songs from the Wind and Wuthering album, which many of us consider the last progressive rock album by Genesis. Steve Hackett also revisits two earlier Genesis pieces that are prog rock classics and fan favorites: Firth of Fifth and The Musical Box.

The Blu-ray disc contains the live concert on video plus bonus documentary and music videos.

Steve Hackett has assembled a fabulous band that rises to the top. The album features Steve Hackett on guitars and vocals; the remarkable Roger King on a wide-range of keyboards, Nad Sylvan on vocals and tambourine; Gary O’Toole on drums, percussion and vocals; Rob Townsend on saxophone, woodwinds, percussion, vocals, keyboards and bass pedals; and Nick Beggs on bass, guitars and vocals.

Two special guests also appeared on stage and the album: flute player John Hackett and vocalist Amanda Lehman.

 

 

Steve Hackett is living a new golden age. He’s risen to the top of the progressive rock world, recruiting a new generation of musicians, composing new material and recreating outstanding recreations of classic Genesis material and his own solo works.

Buy Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham in the rest of the world.

Buy Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham in Europe.