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Passionate Progressive Rock Archaeology

The Samurai of Prog – “Lost and Found” (Seacrest Oy, 2016)

Transnational progressive rock band The Samurai of Prog has a new double set titled “Lost and Found.” As the title indicates, the music on this recording includes rare pieces composed by early American progressive rock bands.

The music selection comes from various sources so each track has a very different personality. It feels more like a compilation than a cohesive progressive rock album.

Bassist Marco Bernard came up with the idea. He was curious about musical pieces by progressive rock bands that never made it to albums. He approached friends in several bands and received copies of demos and live recordings.

Disc 1 begins with “Preludin “, a fiddle-driven song by American band Pavlov’s Dog. It has classical music influences and features Pavlov’s Dog’s guitarist Steve Scorfina.

Track 2 is a short and delightful piano instrumental piece titled “Along the Way” performed by David Myers.

One of the best compositions in this 2-CD album is track 3, “Inception”, a 20-minute epic suite originally composed by American progressive rock band Lift. This piece begins with a dreamlike atmosphere and is followed by a Yes-inspired section that progresses into Selling England by the Pound-era Genesis influences. The most original and forward-looking sections in this track are the electric violin solos backed by electronics. Steve Unruh delivers outstanding work on vocals, violin and flute. Lift’s keyboardist and composer Chip Gramillion appears on keyboards, along with Glass Hammer guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh.

The weakest point in this album is track 4, “She (who must be obeyed)”. I normally like Jon Davidson’s (Glass Hammer, Yes) vocals, but his high pitch vocals here and the sappy nature of this piece makes the song painful to hear.

Disc 1 ends with another great piece, this time from American band Cathedral, one of the finest of the 1970’s progressive bands from the USA. “Plight of the Swan” has Genesis and King Crimson influences, with majestic keyboard work and notable vocals by Unruh.

Disc 2 is a single mammoth piece, “The Demise”, clocking 57:18 minutes. This work was composed by an obscure band called Quill. It’s an ambitious fantasy piece broken into 36 parts, featuring Richard Maddocks as narrator and two vocalists, the fabulous Mark Trueack (Unitopia, United Progressive Fraternity) and Quill’s Keith Christian. Despite the ambitious nature, this piece features occasional memorable moments. Keith Christian’s voice has suffered the passage of time and it’s hard to follow the story.

The principal members of The Samurai of Prog are Finnish-Italian bassist Marco Bernard, Finnish drummer Kimmo Pörsti, who founded Mist Season; and American multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Steve Unruh of the prog jam band Resistor.

The lineup on “Lost and Found” includes Marco Bernard on bass; Steve Unruh on vocals, violin and flute; Kimmo Pörsti on drums and percussion; the late Stefan Renström on keyboards; David Myers on piano; Tom Doncourt on keyboards; Chip Gremillion on keyboards; Johan Öijen on electric and acoustic Guitars; Kamran Alan Shikoh on electric guitar; Jon Davison on vocals; Steve Scorfina on electric guitar; Keith Christian on vocals; Mark Trueack on vocals; Linus Kåse on saxophones; and Spanish piper Llorián García on electronic bagpipes.

The physical version comes with beautiful artwork by Ed Unitsky and thick booklet with photos, illustrations, credits and lyrics.

Buy Lost and Found

Moog Music Resumes Production of the Iconic Minimoog Model D

Moog Music announced today that after more than 30 years, production of the Minimoog Model D synthesizer has resumed. The Minimoog Model D was the first portable synthesizer and served as the standard for all electronic keyboards that followed.

Conceived as a response to the large-scale modular synthesizers of the 1960s, the Minimoog’s portability, accessibility, and expressiveness made it the go-to instrument for musicians looking to expand beyond the traditional sounds of the time.

The Minimoog Model D has been used by music innovators to give shape to the sounds of the future. Progressive rock and fusion luminaries like the late Keith Emerson (ELP), Rick Wakeman (Yes), Chick Corea (Return to Forever), Jan Hammer (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Jürgen Fritz (Triumvirat) and Peter Bardens (Camel) led the way. Later, Bernie Worrell used the Minimoog to develop Parliament Funkadelic’s futuristic funk sound.

German band Kraftwerk used the Minimoog on the pioneering concept electronic music album Autobahn. Gary Numan replaced his live band’s guitars with Minimoogs. The classic sound of the Minimoog Model D can be heard on Bob Marley’s “Catch A Fire” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Each Minimoog Model D is handcrafted at the employee-owned Moog factory in Asheville, North Carolina. This legendary 3-oscillator monophonic instrument is securely housed in a hand-finished aluminum chassis and locally-sourced Appalachian hard-wood enclosure. To realize the unmistakable sound of the world’s first performance synthesizer, Moog preserves the component placement and through-hole design of the original analog circuit boards, employs military-spec precision resistors and custom-reissued transistors to complete the circuit.

Even though no changes have been made to the original sound engine or audio signal path, the Minimoog Model D now includes a series of functional modifications to expand the instrument’s sonic capabilities beyond the factory specifications of a 1970’s production unit. These modifications include a premium Fatar keybed with velocity and after pressure available via top panel CV jacks, a dedicated analog LFO with triangle and square waveshapes, CV outputs for pitch, gate, velocity and after pressure, basic MIDI integration, and a mixer overload modification, which when engaged, allows the Minimoog Model D to conjure thicker and far more overdriven sounds than before.

Due to the complexity of the build process coupled with the demand for other Moog instruments, Moog Music is only able to produce a small number of Minimoog Model D units per month.

Watch a Brief History Of The Minimoog:

More about Moog Music: www.moogmusic.com

United Progressive Fraternity Working on New Album ‘Planetary Overload’

Australian progressive rock group United Progressive Fraternity (UPF) is currently working on a new double album. The band’s philosophy goes beyond music, promoting awareness for the environment and social justice.

UPF band leader, Mark ‘Truey’ Trueack, (co-founder of the band Unitopia) describes this double set as ‘the most communicated album ever made’.

The ambitious project unites a team of international artists, including Steve Unruh (Samurai of Prog), with whom Mark is closely working with, writing music and arrangements.

Taking its name from the book by Epidemiologist Tony McMichael, the album is divided into two parts; ‘Planetary Overload’ (Loss) and ‘Songs of Hope’ (Hope) and centers on the problems we are already beginning to face on a troubled planet as it reaches ‘overload’ to the point of no return, and how we can reverse the point of catastrophe before it’s too late.

Contributing to arrangements and ideas are the full time UPF members Tony Schumacher, Matt Williams, David Hopgood and Tim Irrgang.

The writing process of Planetary Overload will introduce other producers such as Gordo Bennett, Colin Tench, Joanne St Claire, Ben Craven, Owen Lealan, Richard Chew and Dale Nougher.

Special guests on the album include Jerry Marotta, Steve Hackett, Nick Magnus, Hasse Froberg, and Phil Naro , just to name a few at this point who are collaborating with Truey to record this concept album.

Climate scientist Dr. James Hansen will appear as narrator throughout the album.

The album is scheduled for release in early 2018.

In 2014, UPF released its debut album ‘Fall In Love With The World’.

Professor McMichael sadly passed away just months before the birth of Planetary Overload; the album is dedicated to him.

Swedish Progressive Rock Band Karmakanic Releases ‘Dot’ Teaser Video

Celebrated Swedish progressive rock band Karmakanic has announced the release of its 5th album titled ‘Dot.’ The album is scheduled for release on July 22nd, 2016.

Karmakanic was formed in 2002. The band returned in 2011 with the acclaimed recording ‘In a Perfect World.’

The current line-up includes Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen), Morgan Ågren (Casualties Of Cool, Frank Zappa, Steve Vai), Lalle Larsson (Agents Of Mercy), Nils Erikson, Krister Jonsson, Andy Bartosh and Ray Aichinger

Buy Dot

Unstatic by Manu Katché

Manu Katché – Unstatic (Anteprima Productions CD18021, 2016)

Unstatic is the new album by acclaimed French drummer and session man Manu Katche. Although the first track on Unstatic has a Cuban flavor, featuring three Latin American percussionists, most of the album is straight ahead modern jazz with funk, lounge and smooth jazz elements.

The three musicians that stand out on Unstatic are Katche, with his creative drums, the fabulous keyboardist Jim Watson who uses acoustic and electric piano, organ and synths; and virtuoso bassist Ellen Andrea Wang, who delights the listener with wonderful interplay with the keyboards and drums.

The lineup on Unstatic includes Manu Katché on drums; Ellen Andrea Wang on upright bass; Jim Watson on acoustic piano and keyboards; Tore Brunborg on saxophone; Luca Aquino on trumpet; Nils Landgren on trombone; and Abraham Rodriguez Mansfarroll, Joel Hierrezuelo Balart and Esteban Sotolongo Zapata on percussion.

Unstatic is a high quality recording with ear friendly contemporary jazz that should appeal to a wide audience.

Buy Unstatic in the Americas.

Audacious Armonite

Armonite – The Sun is New Each Day (independent, 2015)

Armonite is a great international collaboration between Italian keyboardist and composer Paolo Fosso and violinist Jacopo Bigi with British bassist Colin Edwin and Dutch drummer Jasper Barendregt.

The band’s sound is characterized by the electric violin of Jacopo Bigi who straddles the line between progressive rock, chamber music, jazz-rock fusion and occasional world music inclinations.

Paolo Fosso composes marvelous instrumental pieces where there is plenty of room for instrumental exploration and interaction.

The Sun is New Each Day showcases the talent of Armonite, one of the most audacious progressive rock bands in the European scene.

A Beautiful Kaleidoscope of Electroacoustic Ambient and Tribal Sounds

Green Isac Orchestra – Green Isac Orchestra (Spotted Peccary, 2015)

Green Isac, a fabulous progressive electronic music duo from Norway, has expanded its project to a five-man ensemble called Green Isac Orchestra. Their new album Green Isac Orchestra presents an enthralling mix of electronic sounds with acoustic instruments.

There are mesmerizing, mysterious ambient music passages along with trance-like percussive segments, soaring space guitar, enchanting cello and distant melodies, as well as world music and cinematic elements.

The current lineup of Green Isac includes multi-instrumentalist Morten Lund and percussionist Andreas Eriksen along with the three new members: Frode Larsen on percussion; Tov Ramstad on electric cello and saw; and Jo Wang on piano, mellotron, therevox, and synthesizers. Elvind aarset appears on guitar.

Green Isac’s previous recordings include Passengers (2014), Etnotronica (2004), Groundrush (2001), Happy Endings (1997) and Strings & Pottery (1991).

Green Isac Orchestra is a beautifully composed album by one of the greatest progressive music acts in Scandinavia.

Buy Green Isac Orchestra

Jon Davis’ Musical Visions

Zhongyu – Zhongyu (MoonJune Records MJR078, 2016)

Despite the band name, the Chinese-style artwork and even some of the music, this is not a Chinese act. Instead it’s a progressive music project that brings together composer and multi-instrumentalist Jon Davis, three members of American progressive rock band Moraine and a jazz drummer.

The result is fabulous cocktail that crosses numerous music boundaries. There is electronica, progressive rock, avant-garde music, jazz-rock and world music with a Chinese edge.

Jon Davis delights the listener with his collection of multi-dimensional music instruments: Chapman stick, guzheng (Chinese zither), mellotron and synthesizer.
In addition to the music itself, Zhongyu also experiments with sound. Instrumentalist Jon Davis plugs the guzheng into a modular synthesizer and processes a bass clarinet through a wah-wah pedal.

The album lineup includes Jon Davis on Chapman Stick, guzheng, Mellotron, ARP 2600; Dennis Rea on electric guitar, resonator guitar; Alicia DeJoie on electric violin; James DeJoie on baritone saxophone, flute, bass clarinet; and Randy Doak on drums and percussion. Special guest: Daniel Barry on trumpet.

Zhongyu is an exceptionally good, multi-faceted progressive music album.

Buy Zhongyu

Masterful Prog and Beyond from Greece

Gravitysays_i – Quantum Unknown (Inner Ear Records, 2016)

Quantum Unknown is the third album by a fascinating progressive music band from Greece called Gravitysays_i. Their sound is a mix of epic progressive rock, Pink Floyd-style space rock, post rock, ambient electronics, experimental effects and world music influences. This makes Gravitysays_i one of the most interesting acts we’ve heard in recent months.

In addition to the usual rock band instruments, Gravitysays_i adds acoustic instruments like trumpet, Cretan lyra and the beautiful mesmerizing sound of the santur, a hammed dulcimer originally from Persia.

The vocals are in English and have a darkwave/post rock feel. Post rock has a tendency of meandering and not going anywhere. Thankfully, Gravitysays_i injects captivating electronic and prog rock arrangements and melodies that keep you engaged throughout the entire recording.

Gravitysays_i was formed in March of 2003 by Manos Paterakis and Nikos Retsos in Piraeus. Their debut album was “The Roughest Sea” (Sirius, 2007). The band’s second album was “The Figures of Enormous Grey and The Patterns of Fraud” (Restless Wind, 2011).

The lineup on the album includes Manos Paterakis on lead vocals, santur, lead and rhythm guitar, pocket piano, electric bass; Nikos Retsos on drums, synths, acoustic and electronic percussion, rhythm santur, 12-string guitar, Celtic harp; Mampre Kasardjian on double bass and electric bass and backing vocals; Alekos Georgoulopoulos on lead and rhythm guitar; Vangelis Katsarelis on trumpets and flugelhorn; Nikos Sotiropoulus on lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals; Costas Stergiou on keyboards and backing vocals; and Peggy Sarrou on vocals; and George Kontogiannis on Cretan lyra.

Quantum Unknown is a masterful progressive music recording showcasing the talent of some of the finest musicians from southern Europe.