Tag Archives: symphonic rock

Rising Talent from Brescia

Il Paradiso Degli Orchi – Il Corponauta (AMS Records, 2016)

Il Paradiso Degli Orchi is a new progressive rock band from Brescia in northern Italy that has attracted a lot of attention. Il Corponauta is the band’s second album, based on Il Corponauta, a book by the late Flavio Emer.

With the assistance of rock progressivo italiano icon, musician and producer Fabio Zuffanti, Il Paradiso Degli Orchi delivers a formidable, masterfully-crafted album.

From the very beginning, Il Paradiso Degli Orchi engages the listener with superb layers and mellotron, guitars, drums and assorted percussion. The vocals are in Italian, which always adds to the charm of Italian bands.

The instrumental skills are what stands out in Il Paradiso Degli Orchi with great interplay between the guitars, flute, keyboards and bass, supported by creative rhythms.

Stylistically, Il Paradiso Degli Orchi incorporates exquisite, classic progressive rock of an epic nature, jazz fusion, forward-thinking electronica and some Italian folk music inspirations. Influences include prog rock era-Yes, Banco, King Crimson, PFM and Jethro Tull.

Il Corponauta is a long album with a mix of short songs and extensive pieces, including an 18-minute long suite and the final epic aptly titled Il Gran Finale with guitar and mellotron that will send chills down the spine of progressive rock fans.

The lineup includes Marco DeGiacomi on drums and vocals; Michele Sambrici on guitars, keyboards, mellotron and vocals; Andrea Corti on bass; Sven Jorgensen on lead vocals and guitars; Stefano Corti on percussion; and Andrea Calzoni on flute and saxophone. Guests: Iran Fertonani on percussion; and Giorgio Presti on synthesizer.

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Focus’ Renaissance

Focus – The Focus Family Album (In and Out of Focus Records, 2017)

Acclaimed Dutch band has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years with superb progressive rock albums, international tours and artwork by iconic illustrator Roger Dean. The Focus Family Album is a 2-CD set with 15 previously unreleased pieces and alternate adaptations.

Disc One opens with Nature Is Our Friend, a great flute solo piece by founder and bandleader Thijs Van Leer.

Track 2, Song For Eva, is one of the best compositions in the album. It begins with a spoken word part taken from Lord Byron’s “They Say That Hope Is Happiness.” The rest is a masterful instrumental with admirable bluesy prog guitar work, nearly eight minutes of guitar goodness by Menno Gootjes.

Each member of the band has solo pieces in The Focus Family Album. Riverdance is a drum and percussion work by Pierre Van Der Linden, from a drum album he made from friends.

“Victoria” is an anthemic Focus instrumental that appeared in the album Focus X. This is a vocal remix version with vocoder.

Menno Gootjes picks up the acoustic guitar on Two-Part Intervention, recorded after the Focus 11 sessions.

Mosh Blues is a powerful blues jam recorded in Brazil while on tour.

Raga Reverence 1 is a piece by Swung, an improvisational jazz-rock trio formed by Focus members: Menno Gootjes (guitar), Pierre Van Der Linden (drums) and Bobby Jacobs (bass).

The Fifth Man is a hard rocking track recorded in 2014 that nearly made it to Focus 11.

Bassist Udo Pannekeet, who joined Focus in 2016, delivers a masterful fretless bass performance on Song For Yaminah.

The last track on Disc 1 is the laid back Clair Obscur featuring masterful guitar work by Menno Gootjes. It’s an early version of the piece that appeared in Focus 11.

Disc Two opens with another classic Thijs Van Leer flute solo, a mesmerizing piece titled Let Us Wander? That includes birds and other nature sounds.

“Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)” was released in Focus 10 with vocals by Ivan Lins. Here, the song features the original vocals (and his unmistakable trademark whistling) by Thijs Van Leer. It has a Latin American flavor and features superior guitar work by Menno Gootjes.

“Spiritual Swung” is the second solo drum piece by Pierre Van Der Linden.

Brazilian singer Ivan Lins sings in Spanish on “Santa Teresa” a song by Thijs Van Leer dedicated to Chile. Originally meant to be included in Focus X, it only appeared in the Japanese edition of Focus X. Great work by Lins on vocals, Van Leer on flute and Gottjes on guitars.

Hazel is an exquisite, skillful acoustic guitar solo by Menno Gootjes.

Focus plays the blues on “Fine Without You,” featuring vocals by Jo De Roeck and superb blues organ by Thijs Van Leer and electric guitar work by Menno Gootjes.

Instrumental trio Swung returns with a second improvisational piece titled “Raga Reverence 5.” The three musicians experiment and create new parts during Focus soundchecks and downtime.

“Five Fourth” is classic Focus, a symphonic progressive rock instrumental with delightful guitar and organ interplay.

Udo Pannekeet performs a funk jazz bass solo titled “Anaya” on his 6-string bass, along with drum programming.

The last track, “Winnie” is another wonderful instrumental from the Focus 11 sessions featuring memorable guitar by Menno Gootjes and flute by Thijs Van Leer.

The Focus Family Album physical edition comes in an 8-panel digipack with artwork by Roger Dean. The booklet includes credits, lyrics, photos and illustrations.

Buy The Focus Family Album in Europe

Buy The Focus Family Albumm in the rest of the world

Interview with Acclaimed Norwegian Band Wobbler

Norwegian act Wobbler is one of the greatest progressive symphonic rock bands that came out of northern Europe in recent years. Wobbler recently released a superb album titled From Silence to Somewhere. The current lineup includes Lars Fredrik Frøislie on keyboards; Kristian Karl Hultgren on bass; Martin Nordrum Kneppen on drums and percussion; Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo on vocals and guitar; and Geir Marius Bergom Halleland on lead guitar. Two members of Wobbler discussed with us the new recording and their background.

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

Andreas: The sound of Wobbler is not a constant one, but there are some elements that probably could be called essential. We’re very fond of vintage gear, because we think it sounds better and more «natural». It’s not always a perfect sound in terms of modern hi-fi standards, but it is an honest and soulful sound, almost with an otherworldly presence.

When a sound is very slick or perfect with no flaws, it becomes artificial and flat in our opinion. We try our best to create some magical moods and moments within our songs, and the right gear helps us achieve that.

Another essential element is the way we think about progressive music. We will never make a difficult song or structure just for the sake of pushing the envelope in terms of doing something completely new. We strive to create compositions that touches both the brain and the heart.

Seven different parts piled on top of each other does not necessarily make a good song. If we manage to make music that speaks directly to the listeners, that bypasses genres and analytical examination, then I believe we have done something right. And the song may be complex, but not for the sake of it. It has to fit with the greater whole. Our aesthetics are rooted in the golden age of prog, but we’re no strangers to incorporating newer elements if it suits the music. And we love a good melody.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Lars: Mainly progressive rock from the golden age 1969-1974. British bands such as King Crimson, ELP, Genesis, Yes, Egg, Hatfield and the North, Gentle Giant. Loads of Italian bands: PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Marxophone, Museo Rosenbach, Il balletto di bronzo, etc. Also baroque music, classical, jazz, 60s psychedelia and pop, 90s black metal and folk can be traced.

When it comes to sound, I’m fond of the sound of early 70s, Neil Young, Dolly Parton, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd to name a few.

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

Lars: Hinterland (2005): we were very young, and this was probably the first time most of us had ever been in a real studio. The process was long and filled with pain and ups and downs. I did a remix of Hinterland which was released last year, which I’m quite proud of. Finally got the sound we aimed for.

 

Wobbler – Hinterland

 

Afterglow (2009): We had almost broken up as a band, and i started recording the old songs we made when we were in our teens. Like a document. Also the painting of the front cover is from the same period (late 90s), so Afterglow seemed like a appropriate title for the album. It’s quite short (30-something minutes), but it’s so full of ideas and stuff, that it would have been too much info for the ear to have it longer – at least in my opinion. Anyway, the album made us hang in there as a band, even though it was recorded in a very primitive manner on my parents farm. Didn’t really have that good recording equipment, just a few ok preamps and half decent microphones.

I did a remix of that one as well a few years back, and it really helped to send the signal thru my analog TG1 limiter and germanium eq. Basically the same equipment as they had in Abbey Road in the early 70s.

 

wobbler – Afterglow

 

Rites at Dawn (2011): With Andreas on vocals everything finally got together in my opinion. Such a great vocalist and he also writes lyrics and is full of ideas. He came in rather late in the recording process, but his vocals is like it had always been there.

 

Wobbler – Rites at Dawn

 

From Silence to Somewhere (2017): After Morten, the guitarist, left the band in 2011, we went into a sort of depression or something. I think that’s why it took so long before this one came out. When Geir Marius joined the band on guitar, everything became easier, and now we have a steady line up, and everything is going great.

 

Wobbler – From Silence to Somewhere

 

When it comes to instrument philosophy I try to keep it as old school as possible. I avoid modern equipment as much as i can. What you hear on the albums are the real deal – only vintage analog keys, etc.

Making a living from progressive rock is not easy, more like a passion. Are you full-time musicians or do you have daytime jobs?

Lars: I was a full-time musician (mainly in the studio) for a few years, but I hated having music as a job. It killed the thrill, and it became a …umm.. job, instead of a hobby. If you have to think about money and stuff it’s no fun. So now I’m working as an curator/art historian in the City of Oslo’s art collection, and it’s great to combine the two passions.

You can easily grow tired of something if you only do one thing, at least that’s how it is for me. So in the evening and weekends it’s all about music. Just for fun as well as an outlet for whatever is on my mind. Music can be therapeutic (of course if you’re stuck on a piece it’s hell).

Andreas: For all of us music is a passion, and not a job. But after almost 20 years of playing in a band you think and feel like a full time musician all the time.

For me it’s a part of who I am as a person, how I express myself and interpret the world around me. It’s like an ongoing and never ending journey. If it gets too focused around the coin and paying the bills, I loose sight of the creative track and start doing things for the wrong reasons. But I believe that doing other stuff than just music can be a good thing and actually enhance the moments you work with your creativity. Gurdijeff and his ideas about «The Work» is interesting in this context.

 

 

On your new album From Silence to Somewhere you use mellotron, synths and other keyboard sounds. Are these real vintage instruments or emulators?

Lars: Yes. No emulation.

Where did you find the keyboards and how do you maintain them?

Lars: it took ages and a lot of work and money. Much of it is from ebay and such, before the instruments became way too expensive like they are today. Many of the instruments I maintain myself if it’s an easy fix, but for the more tricky stuff I hire technicians (like for the cembalo, Hammond organ, mellotron, chamberlin and some of the synths). Also I take very good care of them in a stable climate, with an annual maintenance plan. Also it’s very important to just use them. I’ve sold everything i don’t use, simply because if you don’t use an old keyboard it will wither and die.

What other musical instruments do you use?

Lars: lots of old string instruments, like the Marxopone, Tremoloa, autoharp, etc.

Andreas: Apart from the vast array of keyboards, we also use recorders, glockenspiel, different percussion, bass clarinet, steel flute, crumhorn and more conventional instruments like Rickenbacker 4001, Fender Jazzbass, Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul Standard, Gibson Firebird, Gibson SG double neck and different acoustic guitars.

On the amp side we summon the power of Sunno, Sound City, Music Man, WEM, Fender Twin, Vox AC15 and such.

 

 

And what effects do you use?

Lars: Roland Space echo re 201 and 150, vox and snarling dog wah wah, various vintage fuzz pedals and an old flanger.

How’s the current progressive rock scene in Norway?

Lars: right now it’s quite exciting, with bands like Tusmørke, Jordsjø, Weserbergland, Alwanzatar, Arabs in Aspic, Suburban Savages and of course good old White Willow. We played at a progfestival in Bergen, west in Norway, and there were lots of exciting young bands, so i think the prog-scene in Norway is up and coming.

Andreas: The progressive scene in Norway is thriving and a lot of new bands are emerging. more and more people are attending concerts and supporting the scene. During the last couple of years several Norwegian contemporary jazz acts has even released albums inspired by classic progressive rock. It raises the awareness of the progressive music to a greater audience, which is a good thing.

Your neighbors in Sweden had an association dedicated to the promotion of progressive rock. Is there something similar in Norway?

Lars: Yes, there are several small prog-societies around. In Stavanger, up north, Larvik, Hurum, etc.

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

Andreas: I think it would be interesting to collaborate with some Norwegian folk musicians. People like Hallvard T. Bjørgum, Kirsten Bråten Berg and the like. They are bearers of an old tradition of Norwegian folk music and masters at what they do. Also it would be exciting to work with a classical composer and a choir sometime.

Do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

Andreas: It’s been six years since our last release, so naturally the focus now is on the new album. We very much look forward to release it, but also to share it from the stage as we plan several concerts in the near future. The last weekend of September we’ll do a show in a church in Oslo with Tusmørke, Jordsjø and Alwanzatar. That’ll be fun.

We’re also playing in Chicago in October and then some gigs in Norway before Christmas. We have more planned for early next year, so it’s looking good!

Remarkable Vintage Keyboard Fest on Per Aspera Ad Astra

Taproban – “Per Aspera Ad Astra” (Musea Parallele, 2017)

“Per Aspera Ad Astra” is the new album by Italian symphonic progressive rock trio Taproban. The band features three talented musicians that deliver high energy prog rock highlighting keyboard wizardry, creative bass lines and outstanding drum work.

For this project, the band’s fifth album, the musicians used an arsenal of vintage musical instruments from the 1970s, recreating the magical sound of the era.

The lineup on “Per Aspera Ad Astra” includes keyboard maestro Gianluca De Rossi on Minimoog Model D, Hammond C3 organ, Mellotron SM400, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, Roland JX8P, Nord Electro 3 HP, EMU Vintage Pro, acoustic grand piano, glockenspiel and vocals; Roberto Vitellion Rickenbacker bass 4003 Jetglo, Geddy Lee Fender Jazz, Moog Taurus I & III, Gibson Les Paul Gold Top, E-bow, and Fender 6 string acoustic; and Ares Andreoni on Gretsch Catalina maple drums, Zjildjian Sabian and Paiste cymbals, rototoms, cowbell, darbuka, windchimes, and vibraslap.

Guests: Francesco Pandico on drums and percussion and Antonio Marangolo on tenor saxophone.

Buy Per Aspera Ad Astra in Europe

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Masterful Norwegian Progressive Rock Alchemy

Wobbler – From Silence to Somewhere (Karisma Records, 2017)

Wobbler is the Norwegian progressive rock powerhouse. It’s a band deeply influenced by some of the finest classic progressive rock bands of the 1970s. Unlike other progressive acts that draw their influences exclusively from British bands, Wobbler’s music is also inspired by the great Italian bands of the 1970s.

In Wobbler’s new album, From Silence to Somewhere, you’ll find Gentle Giant-style early music influences as well as passages inspired rooted in progressive rock-era Yes, King Crimson and Genesis. On the Italian influence side, Wobbler pays tribute to masters such as Museo Rosenbach, PFM and Banco.

For music fans, this is symphonic progressive rock at its best. From Silence to Somewhere contains four extensive musical pieces loaded with captivating mellotron, distorted organ a la Canterbury and other classic keyboard sounds along with beautifully-constructed vocals derived from Renaissance music, superb dual guitars, bass and percussion work.

The lineup on From Silence to Somewhere includes Lars Fredrik Frøislie on keyboards, backing vocals; Kristian Karl Hultgren on bass, bass clarinet, bass pedals; Martin Nordrum Kneppen on drums, percussion, recorder; Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo on vocals, guitar, glockenspiel, percussion; and Geir Marius Bergom Halleland on lead guitar, backing vocals.

From Silence to Somewhere is one of the best prog rock releases so far this year. It’s scheduled for release on October 20, 2017.

Absorbing Cosmology

Kotebel – Cosmology

Kotebel – Cosmology (Musea, 2017)

Kotebel, the masters of symphonic rock are back with an album about the cosmos plus an assortment of other pieces. The Madrid-based band is known for its two talented keyboard players (father and daughter) along with outstanding guitar, bass and drum work. On cosmology there is also notable flute work performed by guest musician Omar Acosta.

Cosmology is an instrumental work, like other Kotebel albums, where classically-influenced progressive rock is combined with avant-garde music and other influences in the form of mini symphonies.

The lineup on the album includes Carlos Franco Vivas on drums, percussion; César García Forero on electric and acoustic guitars; Jaime Pascual Summers on bass; Adriana Plaza Engelke on piano, keyboards; and Carlos Plaza Vegas on keyboards. Special guest: Omar Acosta on flute.

Buy Cosmology

Epic Grimspound

Big Big Train – Grimspound (English Electric Recordings, 2017)

Big Big Train is a third generation British progressive rock band (which also features American and Swedish members) that has matured to such a degree that it has become of the finest British progressive rock bands of all time. Grimspound came out in April 2017 and is one of the two albums released this year by Big Big Train. The other album is The Second Brightest Star (2017) released in June.

Grimspound was originally envisioned as an EP companion to 2016’s Folklore. However, as the band readied to release the EP, it grew into a fabulous full length album with state of the art progressive rock.

Big Big Train’s style draws from 1970s and 1980s classic progressive rock bands, but they also honor progressive rock pioneers by adding traditional folk, classical, jazz and even electronic elements. This makes Big Big Train a true delight to listen to.

On Grimspound you’ll find stellar musicianship, masterfully constructed musical pieces and lead vocals and exquisite vocal harmonies that immediately hook you. The listener is treated to memorable keyboard, guitar, flute and fiddle work, where moments of calm lead seamlessly to epic progressions.

Getting things right in terms of composition and arrangements in the complicated world of progressive rock is not easy, but Big Big Train are at a stage where the music flows perfectly.

Grimspound contains abundant folk music influences and references. The gorgeous voice of folk singer Judy Dyble (a folk singer with a prog rock soul) appears on “The Ivy Gate.”

The physical version contains beautiful artwork, lyrics and song descriptions.

The lineup on the album includes Nick D’Virgilio on drums, percussion and backing vocals; Danny Manners on keyboards and double bass; Rikard Sjöblom on guitars, keyboards and backing vocals; Rachel Hall on violin, viola, cello and backing vocals; Greg Spawton on bass guitar and bass pedals; David Longdon on lead and backing vocals, flute, piano, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, banjo, lute, melodica, celesta, synthesizers, percussion; Dave Gregory on electric 6 and 12 string guitars; Andy Poole on acoustic guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. Guests:
Judy Dyble on vocals; and Philip Trzebiatowski on cello.

Check out the videos for this album and get this band’s great albums. It’s one of the finest prog rock bands in the current scene.

 

 

 

 

Buy Grimspound in the Americas and rest of the world

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Stellar Lost World Band

Lost World Band – Of Things and Beings (Samum Publishing, 2016)

Of Things and Beings by Lost World Band is undoubtedly a progressive rock masterpiece. The talented artists behind this project are four excellent Russian musicians. Stylistically, plays masterfully-crafted symphonic progressive rock filled with stellar instrumental performances and magnificent orchestrations.

Lost World Band have developed their own style. It is founded in the interplay between multi-instrumentalist Andy Didorenko and flute player Vassili Soloviev. The rhythm section is equally superb, with creative drumming and bass lines. To get an idea of the band’s sound, picture a mix of Stravinsky, Anglagard, Canterbury jazz-rock and Mike Oldfield.

The lineup includes Andy Didorenko on all guitars, violins, keyboards and vocal; Vassili Soloviev on flute; Konstantin Shtirlitz on drums; and Alexander Akimov on percussion

 

 

Of Things and Beings is an impressive progressive rock release by Lost World Band, one of the finest bands in the current scene.

Buy Of Things and Beings

Franky Valentyn’s Dream

The Franky Valentyn Project – All In A Dream

The Franky Valentyn Project – All In A Dream (The Franky Valentyn Project, 2015)

All In A Dream is an ambitious concept album with two distinct sets of tracks. The first two pieces are original symphonic rock instrumentals, deeply inspired by classical music, featuring lots of keyboards and orchestrations similar to Rick Wakeman’s earlier solo work. Franky Valentyn composed and arranged the music and plays the majority of the instruments featured here.

Tracks 3 through 6, on the other hand, sound like pop ballads, stylistically very different from the first two pieces.

Valentyn returns to symphonic rock mode on the final track, a long piece titled The Jovian Suite.

All In A Dream features several guests, including Ben Craven, Nikki Bennett and Michael Carr on vocals.

Buy All In A Dream

Symphonic Prog Rock Band Renaissance Featuring Annie Haslam To Perform with 10-Piece Chamber Orchestra

Renaissance

Pioneering progressive rock band Renaissance featuring Annie Haslam has announced its upcoming tour of the US Northeast in October and November 2017. Titled “Symphonic Journey,” the tour will feature four very special concerts with a 10-piece chamber orchestra, a handpicked ensemble of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

Concerts include October 26th at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield CT; October 27th at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA; Town Hall in New York City on October 28th; and The Egg in Albany, NY on October 29th. These concerts will be the first time in 40 years that Renaissance will perform on stage with a “live” orchestra.

Plans are currently being made for the group to film the October 27th Keswick Theatre show for an upcoming DVD release that will follow the success of its 2015 London Union Chapel DVD. A crowd funding campaign has been started to raise the significant funds to produce the new live DVD.

The band keeps getting stronger and stronger and the addition of the chamber orchestra will be the most exciting event for the band in years,” said Renaissance leader and singer Annie Haslam. “This addition of ‘live’ orchestral musicians will add an incredible dynamic to our big numbers like ‘Mother Russia,’ ‘Carpet of the Sun’ and ‘Song For All Seasons,’ all of which included an orchestra on the original recordings.”

Annie Haslam will be joined on stage by long time musical associate Rave Tesar on piano, together with Tom Brislin on keyboards, Mark Lambert on guitars, Frank Pagano on drums and percussion, and Leo Traversa on bass.

Tour dates:

Oct 26 – Ridgefield Playhouse – Ridgefield, CT (With 10-Piece Chamber Orchestra)
Oct 27 – Keswick Theatre – Glenside, PA (With 10-Piece Chamber Orchestra)
Oct 28 – Town Hall – New York, NY (With 10-Piece Chamber Orchestra)
Oct 29 – The Egg – Albany, NY (With 10-Piece Chamber Orchestra)
Nov 01 – City Winery – Boston, MA
Nov 02 – Rams Head on Stage – Annapolis, MD