To the Edge of Prog

Carpe Nota - Carpe Nota
Carpe Nota

Carpe Nota (2012)

Carpe Nota, a rock band from the Philadelphia area, released its debut album this year. Even though they are categorized as progressive rock, their sound is truly hard rock. Two of the band members describe Carpe Nota on their band’s website as an instrumental hard rock band with strong progressive rock influences. Clearly, when the keyboards dominate the pieces, the progressive rock side of the band surfaces, with creative atmospheres and solos. When guitars rule, it’s pretty much straight ahead hard rock.

The line-up includes Dan Pluta on keyboards, Pete Rubinetti on guitars, Ken Sundling on bass; and Phil Derenbecher on drums, percussion.

I’m not a fan of hard rock riffs in progressive rock. They muddy the sound and always drown out the other instruments and make the music more simplistic. I’ll keep proposing my plan to create two mixes for these type of albums: a progressive rock mix without the hard rock, and a hard rock mix.

Carpe Nota’s musicians are skillful and their music has great potential. At this time, the band’s sound will appeal to hard rock fans.

Carpe Nota will be performing at The Rusty Nail in Ardmore, Pennsylvania on May 5th, 2012 (Prog Cinco De Mayo), at 9:00 pm, along with Philadelphia heavy metal band 2ndOrder.

Listen to samples and MP3s:

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Instrumental Improvisational Supergroup OHMphrey Releases Posthaste

OHMphrey - Posthaste
Posthaste (Magna Carta Records) is the title of a new album by OHMphrey, a creative group that includes three members of jam band Umphrey’s McGee: keyboardist Joel Cummins, guitarist Jake Cinninger and drummer Kris Myers; and OHM guitarist and former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland and bassist Robertino Pagliari (a.k.a. “Pag”).

The album features seven original instrumental compositions, and two bonus live tracks (“Firestarter” and “20/20”) recorded at Winston’s in San Diego in 2009. Posthaste includes elements of progressive rock, fusion, reggae and one less interesting heavy metal piece.

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The Two Sides of Squackett

Squackett - A Life Within a Day

A Life Within a Day (Esoteric Antenna EANTCD 1002, 2012)

A Life Within a Day, the eagerly anticipated album by two of progressive rock’s best known instrumentalists, Chris Squire of Yes and former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett is finally here. The street date is May 28th, 2012.

Progressive rock musicians are a strange breed. In some cases, excellent instrumentalists and composers get together to form outstanding superbands, like the late 70s UK. Other times, they put aside their formidable instrumental skills and deliver pop or radio friendly rock music (also known as AOR). Squackett has both.

The Squackett album has some pieces that will please progressive rock fans. ‘The Summer Backwards’ features great vocal harmonies, elegant acoustic guitar a la Genesis, symphonic synths and a fabulous guitar solo. Another keeper is ‘Can’t Stop The Rain’ which has more of a Yes sound with soft ethereal vocals and delightful guitar parts. It segues into the last piece ‘Perfect Love Song’ which begins with an epic progressive rock feel.

The rest of the album features rock songs with the heavy slow tempo drums that Steve Hackett often uses in his pieces, as well as radio friendly rock and pop with nicely done vocal harmonies that sometimes recalls Crosby, Stills and Nash. Most pieces have outstanding guitar solos and occasional bass brilliance.

A Life Within a Day is an interesting first project by two major forces in classic progressive rock, who explore their pop and vocal sides as well their progressive rock heritage.

Explorations of Classical and Metal

Acid Empire
Acid Empire

Acid Empire (2011)

Acid Empire is the musical project of composer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Bridge. He is the bass player for a British gothic metal band called Season’s End. Acid Empire began as a solo project of Mike Bridge, who was interested in combining the rich dimension of a symphonic orchestra with the energy of heavy metal.

The album Acid Empire came out in 2011 and the album line-up includes Mike Bridge on bass and acoustic guitar; Dave Stanton on electric guitar, Jack Lipinski on vocals, Hannah Bridge on vocals, and Damian Wilson as guest vocalist on ‘Into The Void.’

Although I’m not a fan of heavy metal, Acid Empire has its interesting moments. The most noteworthy cuts are the symphonic introductory piece titled ‘Prelude’, the delicate acoustic guitar piece ‘Theme’, the first part of ‘1000 Days’ and the dreamy ‘The Return (Prelude)’.

On the more metal-oriented pieces you can also find epic guitar moments. I’ll keep floating the idea of doing two versions of albums such as this: a progressive rock mix without the metal and a metal mix full of the riffs that heavy metal fans like so much.

Listen to samples and buy MP3s

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Focus Announces Fall 2012 Tour Dates

After its successful South American and 2012 Dutch and Belgian tour, Dutch progressive rock band announced its Fall European tour. This new series of concerts will take the legendary band to Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK.

The current Focus band features founder Thijs van Leer on keyboards, flute and vocals; veteran Focus musician Pierre van der Linden on drums; and newer Menno Gootjes on guitar and Bobby Jacobs on bass.

Focus has a new DVD titled “More or Less…” Also available on DVD: ‘Live Beyond Reality,’ a live show including ‘Beyond Reality’ album in its entirety.

The group’s latest recording is Focus 9 / New Skin.

Tour dates

September 27 – Reichenbach Bergkeller GER
September 28 – Palenberg Outbaix Music Club GER
September 29 – Leverkusen Venue tbc GER
October 26 – Nieuwendijk Xinix NL
October 27 – Lelystad Underground NL
November 08 – Buxton Opera House UK
November 09 – Hessle Town Hall UK
November 10 – Glasgow The Ferry UK
November 11 – Hebden Bridge Trades Club UK
November 13 – Wolverhampton Robin 2 UK
November 14 – Runcorn The Brindley UK
November 15 – Barnsley Birdwell UK
November 16 – Fletching Trading Boundaries UK
November 17 – Tavistock The Wharf UK
November 18 – Sutton Boom Boom Club UK
November 19 – Milton Keynes The Stables UK
November 20 – Chislehurst Beaverwood Club UK

A Master of Fusion Drumming

Lenny White - Anomaly
Lenny White

Anomaly (Abstract Logix, 2011)

Drummer Lenny White is a legendary name in jazz fusion. He has played with some of the best and most innovative musicians in the field. He was a member of Return to Forever and has performed with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke. Anomaly is his first solo album in 10 years and above all it is a master lesson in jazz and rock drumming.

The majority of the album contains jazz-rock in various forms. The Return to Forever essence is evident in several pieces, with guitar nods to Al Di Meola and Chick Corea-inspired keyboards. Although White rocks out in various parts of the album with turbo charged beats, he also ventures into funk jazz.

Contemporary jazz has been hijacked by easy listening melodies and Lenny White does not believe in wimpy music. I’ve been very critical of some of the current progressive rock groups who dumb down their music with heavy metal riffs to make their sound more powerful. Lenny White’s guest guitarists show you how you can deliver dazzling and blistering electric work that is creative and energetic at the same time. Guitar players include Nick Moroch (a former member of White’s Astral Pirates), David Gilmore, Tom Guarna and David Bendeth. On keyboards we find some of the best players: George Colligan, Bernard Wright, Donald Blackman (another Astral Pirate) and Vince Evans. Bassists featured include the legendary Return to Forever maestro Stanley Clarke as well as a new generation of top of ther line players: Victor Bailey, Richie Goods, and Charles Fambrough.

Anomaly is a phenomenal album of gripping jazz-rock fusion by Lenny White, one of the great jazz drum maestros of our time, accompanied by some of the hottest musicians in the fusion genre.

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Project: Chicago to Perform at EthelFest 2012

Going For The One
Project: Chicago is set to perform at EthelFest 2012 on August 25th, 2012. EthelFest is the Chicago-area progressive rock music gathering. It is held annually to bring progressive rock fans together to spend an evening to bond over the music they love.

The group of musicians that performed Project: Crimson last year will play the music of Chicago; specifically, the early years, around the time they were called Chicago Transit Authority. That’s how the band was known at their start, until our the city of Chicago’s actual Transit Authority lawyers threatened to sue if they did not change the name.

The first Chicago albums were experimental for their time; the starting years were groundbreaking. Chicago’s first two releases, both double albums, contain impressive, varied and polished compositions.

EthelFest 2012 will also include the previously announced Yes tribute, Going For The One. The Band:
Jimmy Warlick on lead vocals, John Covach on guitar, vocals; Chris Meeker on bass, vocals; Matt Riddle, keyboards; Mark Annal on drums

Rock In Opposition Festival Returns to France in 2012

This fifth edition of the RIO (Rock In Opposition) Festival is set to take place September
21-23, 2012 at Maison de la Musique in Le Garric, France. The festival features avant-garde, Canterbury, chamber rock and Zeuhl forms of progressive rock.

The 2012 program will be slightly different from the previous editions. It will be divided into two parts: the concerts and the finale.

The Concerts

The Festival as such will take place on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd September 2012. Seven groups are scheduled:

September 21st:

Kafka / Benjamin de la Fuente (France)
One Shot (France)
Caravan (UK)

September 22nd:

Spoke Orkestra (France)
We Insist ! (France)
Thinking Plague (USA)
Strange Enquête (France)
Magma (France)

Ticket price for two days:

Ticket will be available in advance for €25 per day. The two-day pass will be 50 euros . Additional fees may add up if tickets are purchased online or using Paypal. Tickets will also be sold at the venue for €30 per day.

The finale

September 23rd
a.. AM, in the main venue: projection of Adele Schmidt’s and Jose Zegarra Holder’s movie about the European “Rock In Opposition” movement.

b.. Lunch time: closing lunch for festival-goers and musicians

c.. PM: in the main venue: workshop/ master class with Christian Vander (Magma) and concert by Erik Baron. Festival closing time: 5PM.

Entrance fee for September 23rd

Movie projection/ masterclass and concert: €10. Closing lunch: €15. Reservation recommended payable online or at the venue.

For those who wish to participate to the whole festival, it is recommended to book for accommodation at the uUberge Cap Decouverte or any hotel in the neighborhood in advance.

Rock in Opposition Festival 2012
Maison de la Musique
Cap Découverte 81450
Le Garric (Carmaux), France
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Bostock’s Whereabouts

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson - Thick As A Brick 2
Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson

(Chrysalis/EMI, 2012)

The eagerly anticipated album by Ian Anderson, founder and leader of Jethro Tull is now available. TAAB2 or Thick As A Brick 2 revisits the life of Gerald Bostock. Those familiar with the original Thick As A Brick album will remember the attention-grabbing and humorous stories featured in the fictitious newspaper that served as album sleeve. Gerald Bostock was the spectacled child featured in Thick As A Brick. If you ever wondered what happened to him, Ian Anderson may have some answers.

The theme of this anniversary “part two” album is to examine the possible different paths that the precocious young schoolboy, Gerald Bostock, might have taken later in life and to create alter-ego characters whose song-section identities illustrate the hugely varied potential twists and turns of fate and opportunity,” says Anderson. “Not just for Gerald but to echo how our own lives develop, change direction and ultimately conclude through chance encounters and interventions, however tiny and insignificant they might seem at the time.”

Thick As A Brick 2 follows the Gerald Bostock saga with music that will please Jethro Tull fans. Ian Anderson’s unique voice has aged well, like a good wine. He treats the listener to a series of songs, narrations and flute performances that demonstrate that he is still a major musical force. Anderson’s flute performs solo and intertwined with Florian Opahle’s guitar. The primary keyboard used throughout the album is the electric organ, which adds yet another familiar element to Anderson’s music.

The band on Thick As A Brick 2 includes veteran musicians as well as a new generation of players. Performers featured in the album include Ian Anderson on vocals, flute and guitar; John O’Hara on organ, piano and keyboards; David Goodler on bass; Florian Opahle on guitar, Scott Hammond on drums and percussion, with additional vocals by Ryan O’Donnell and Pete Judge on horns.

Actually, I played much more acoustic guitar than usual on this record having written most of the music on that instrument,” says Anderson. “But there are still sections conceived on the flute and sometimes – quite often, in fact – the lyric writing preceded all the melodies and harmonic structures. Starting with lyrics and then thinking of the music is not normally the way I work but it was here. A title, a few words or a verse or two and then the acoustic guitar was immediately to hand to conjure up a full song section out of the growing lyrics. Having a plan was important. Stories to tell made it all easier. The imagination-filled process of thinking how things might have turned out for the young and older Gerald kept me fascinated. Maybe you will be too. And maybe not.”

The special edition 2-CD set includes the audio CD and a DVD with 5.1 stereo mixes, 24-bit stereo mix, video of the making of the album, interviews with the musicians and Ian Anderson reading the lyrics in different settings.

Thick As A Brick 2 is another memorable album by Ian Anderson with his carefully crafted and recognizable mix of rock, classical, jazz and folk music elements.

Progressive Rock Band IZZ to Release New Studio Album, Crush of Night

IZZ - Crush of Night
IZZ, one of the finest progressive rock bands in the United States, announced today the release of its new studio album, Crush of Night (Doone Records). The album will be available on May 1st, 2012. It serves as Part 2 of a 3-part series of thematic albums that began with The Darkened Room (TDR) in 2009.

Crush of Night features a guest appearance by Gary Green of Gentle Giant on ‘Words and Miracles’ (electric guitar, guitar solos and backing vocals) and ‘The Crush of Night’ (guitar solo). The album includes a 26-minute epic titled ‘Crush of Night.’

We started recording some of the tracks for this album at the same time we were working on The Darkened Room, so there is definitely a strong sense of continuity between the two albums,” notes keyboardist and vocalist Tom Galgano. “At the same time, as we developed the pieces for Crush of Night, it began to take on its own identity and in many ways is completely different from what was heard on the last IZZ record.”

The 26-minute suite, ‘Crush of Night’, is divided into two tracks, This Reality and The Crush of Night. Serving as the musical, lyrical and emotional centerpiece for the album, this piece brings together the struggle that surrounds one’s search for meaning. The ‘Crush of Night’ piece runs a musical panorama, weaving melodic and rhythmic themes with innovative and fresh diversity.

Gary Green joined the band in the recording process. “Having Gary come to the studio and record with us was an amazing experience,” says IZZ bassist John Galgano. “Gary came in and not only added his signature guitar playing, but also contributed to the writing, added a few blistering solos and even sang backing vocals on Words and Miracles. It is a great honor to have Gary playing alongside us on this record and we know that fans of Gary will enjoy the guitar artistry that he’s added to this IZZ record.”

The IZZ line-up for Crush of Night is:

Paul Bremner: electric and acoustic guitar
Anmarie Byrnes: vocals
Brian Coralian: electronic and acoustic drums and percussion
Greg DiMiceli: drums and percussion
John Galgano: bass guitar, acoustic/electric guitar, vocals
Tom Galgano: keyboards, vocals

IZZ will kick off the release of Crush of Night with a full-band live performance at the New Jersey Proghouse ( on April 22 and will follow up this show with an appearance at the Terra Incognita Festival in Quebec City, Canada on May 19.

IZZ plans to announce more shows in support of Crush of Night for Fall 2012. The band will also return to the studio to continue work on the third and final chapter of this series of albums. In October 2011, IZZ released their first live DVD, IZZ Live.

In other news, bassist John Galgano is in the final stages of mixing his first solo album and guitarist Paul Bremner continues recording his new solo album.

Progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, ambient electronic music and beyond