Progressive Fury and Quirky Humor

Lucas Lee – Lowered Expectations ( Lucas Lee Music, 2019)

Lucas Lee delivers a remarkable, high energy combination of progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion and quirky avant-garde influences on Lowered Expectations. As the title indicates, the album revolves around lowered expectations, making references to celebrity culture, poor parenting, exclusion, ethnic stereotypes, etc.

There are zany references to the music and humor of the great Frank Zappa plus Canterbury connections as well, primarily National Health.

Lucas Lee – Lowered Expectations

Although Lucas Lee plays the majority of the instruments superbly, he brought in a first class drummer that is well know in the msuic progressive music scene: Marco Minnemann.

Lineup: Lucas Lee on guitar, bass, keyboards, Merlin dulcimer, voice over performances and engineering; Marco Minnemann on drum arrangements, drums performances and drums engineering.

Buy Lowered Expectations

The Rebirth of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – Transiberiana (InsideOut Music, 2019)

One of Italy’s iconic progressive rock bands returns with Transiberiana, its first studio recording in over 20 years. The lineup includes numerous changes. The only original member left is keyboard maestro Vittorio Nocenzi. The venerable band’s style contains familiar classic Italian elements along with innovations and various new influences. The vocals have clearly changed. Banco’s longtime and highly recognizable vocalist Francesco di Giacomo died in 2014. The new vocalist has his own character, less operatic, and does a commendable job.

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – Transiberiana

The keyboards are still the essence of Banco, ranging from mesmerizing orchestrations to superb synths solos. The guitars go way beyond the classic Banco sound. At times, the lead guitarist channels Alan Holdsworth, delivering impeccable, exquisite solos. Regressive prog metal and hard rock appear briefly (thankfully) in the form of some riffs, but most of the guitar work is truly excellent.

Throughout the album, symphonic progressive rock meets furious, cutting edge jazz-rock at times. Highlights incluce the superb fusion piece “L’assalto Dei Lupi,” the lovely “Campi di Fragole”; the mesmerizing “Eterna Transiberiana” that features the best vocals on the album; the delightful keyboard piece “Lasciando Alle Spalle”; and the masterful “Il Grande Bianco.”

The lineup includes Tony D’Alessio on lead vocals; Filippo Marcheggiani on lead guitar; Nicola Di Già on rhythm guitar; Vittorio Nocenzi on piano, keyboards, vocals; Marco Capozi on bass; and Fabio Moresco on drums.

Buy Transiberiana

The Stylish Sound of Norway’s Jordsjø

Jordsjø – Nattfiolen (Karisma Records, 2019)

Jordsjø showcases progressive rock at its best. This remarkable Norwegian band led by multi-instrumentalist Håkon Oftung (former Tusmørke), brings together the best of Scandinavian symphonic progressive rock with a dash of folk, classical and space rock.  

The sound is characterized by the use of lead flute, featuring delightful solos and exquisite interlay with the guitars and keyboards. The keyboards used include vintage organ, majestic mellotron and spacey synths. Some songs feature captivating vocals.

Jordsjø – Nattfiolen

Although there are some connections to the music of Anglagard, Jordsjø’s style is not as dark and ominous.

The lineup on Nattfiolen includes Håkon Oftung on vocals, guitars, flute, keyboards; and Kristian Frøland on drums, percussion.

Jordsjo – Photo by Anne-Marie Forker

Overall, Nattfiolen is a masterfully-crafted with beautiful arrangements and first-rate musicianship. It is one of the finest releases of the year.

Purchase Nattfiolen

Guitar Charm on The Alluring Ascent

Pete Oxley & Nicolas Meier – The Alluring Ascent (MGP Records, 2019)

Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier continue their guitar collaboration with The Alluring Ascent, an album that presents an outstanding set of musical pieces. The two European guitarists mix jazz sensibilities with contemporary influences and Middle Eastern sounds. The sequencing of the album features upbeat tracks followed by laid back, melancholic works.

Pete Oxley & Nicolas Meier – The Alluring Ascent

The interaction of the two guitarists is delightful and varied, showcasing virtuosity and melodic creativity. The two guitarists use a fascinating mix of guitars, ranging from acoustic 12-string and nylon guitars to electric 12-string guitars and the captivating sitar guitar, which is one of the highlights of the album.

The two guitarists are joined by a solid rhythm section that takes the music to a higher level. The lineup includes Pete Oxley on sitar-guitar, jazz guitar, nylon acoustic, steel, slide and electric guitars; Nicolas Meier on acoustic 12-string guitar, nylon guitar, glissentar, steel guitar; Raph Mizraki on acoustic and electric basses, darbuka; Paul Cavaciuti on drums; and Keith Fairbairn on percussion.

Transfixing Shamanic Trance Music from Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig

Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig – Persistent Visions

Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig – Persistent Visions (Projekt Records, 2019)

Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig deliver a spellbinding performance on Persistent Visions. The combination of bansuri flute, electronics and the mesmerizing beat of frame drums create a fascinating, relaxing effect.

Persistent Visions is presented in two versions. There is single long piece that is 01:11:03 long and the same musical piece broken into six individual “Visions.”

Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig conceived Persistent Visions as a constant, uninterrupted listening experience that gradually evolves and builds with increasing rhythmic and energetic complexity.

Byron creates contemplative beats and patterns while Mark’s bamboo flute (bansuri) is rooted in two classic Indian ragas.

Progressive Rock Icon Rick Wakeman Opens Official Online Store

Rick Wakeman

Keyboard maestro Rick Wakeman has announced a new partnership with Music Glue as the new home of his online store, The Rick Wakeman Emporium. The new store includes Signed special items, signed CDs, DVDs and LPs, signed memorabilia & artwork, CDs, DVDs and LPs, T-Shirts, mugs and tote bags.

Visit Rick Wakeman’s Emporium: www.musicglue.com/rick-wakeman-emporium

Artist Profiles: Rick Wakeman

Rick Wakeman

Richard Christopher Wakeman was born May 18, 1949 in Perivale, Middlesex, England. His interest in music manifested itself very early. From the age of seven on, he studied classical piano. At the age of 14, Wakeman joined a local band, Atlantic Blues. The same year, he left school to enroll in the Royal College of Music. He had intended to start a career as a concert pianist, but Wakeman was dismissed from the college after it became clear that he preferred playing in clubs to studying technique.

By his late teens, Wakeman was a well-known session man, playing on records by such diverse acts as Black Sabbath, Brotherhood of Man, and Edison Lighthouse. At the end of the 1960s, his name also began appearing on the credits of albums by artists such as Al Stewart and David Bowie. A set of sessions with a folk-rock band called the Strawbs led to his joining the group in 1970.

After two albums with the Strawbs, Wakeman joined Yes, a rock band that evolved into one of the pioneers of cutting edge progressive rock. Yes had attracted considerable attention with their first three albums. Wakeman played a key role in the final shape of the group’s fourth record, Fragile, creating a profound, swirling sound on an array of electric and acoustic pianos, synthesizers, and mellotron. Fragile was a hit, driven by the chart success of the single “Roundabout,” and Wakeman was suddenly elevated to star status.

Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Yes’ next album, Close to the Edge, increased Wakeman’s audience and his appeal, for his instruments were heard almost continually on the record. During the making of Close to the Edge in 1972, Wakeman also recorded his first solo album, an instrumental work titled The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which comprised his musical interpretations of the lives and personalities of the said six royal spouses. Released early in 1973 on A&M Records, it performed well on the charts.

Yes’ next album, Close to the Edge, increased Wakeman’s audience and his appeal, for his instruments were heard almost continually on the record. During the making of Close to the Edge in 1972, Wakeman also recorded his first solo album, an instrumental work titled The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which comprised his musical interpretations of the lives and personalities of the said six royal spouses. Released early in 1973 on A&M Records, it performed well on the charts.

Cover of Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans, designed by Roger Dean

Public reception of Yes’ magnificent 1974 double album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, was mixed, and the British pop critics, who disliked and misunderstood progressive rock, were cruel in their attacks on the record. Wakeman left Yes before the album’s supporting tour. His new solo album, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, adapted from the writings of Jules Verne and featuring a rock band, narrator (David Hemmings), and full orchestral and choral accompaniment, was released to tremendous public response in both the United States and the UK, where it topped the charts.

Rick Wakeman

In 1975, Wakeman’s next album, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, was given a grand-scale premiere at Wembley’s Empire Pool, although it also cost Wakeman a fortune to stage the event on ice. During this same period, Wakeman began working on film scores with the music for Ken Russell’s Lisztomania, which was a modest hit.

In 1977, Wakeman returned to Yes, with which he has continued recording and touring. His solo career continued on A&M into the end of the ’70s, with Criminal Record and Rhapsodies, which were modestly successful.

Wakeman’s biggest media news during this period, however, came through his alleged role in getting the Sex Pistols dropped by A&M Records soon after being signed. None of this bothered his fans, which rapidly expanded to encompass those he picked up through his work with lyricist Tim Rice on a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, and his burgeoning film work, which included the music to movies about the 1976 Winter Olympics and the 1982 soccer World Cup competition. Additionally, he became a regular on Britain’s Channel 4. Wakeman’s audience and reputation survived the 1980s better than almost any progressive rock star of his era, as he continued releasing albums on his own label. He also remained associated with Yes into the 1990s.

Rick Wakeman

In January 2016, Trevor Rabin announced he plans to perform with Wakeman and Jon Anderson as Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman (ARW), later in the year. Anderson revealed the three wrote “some unique songs together”. Also in January, following requests from fans, Wakeman recorded piano versions of “Life on Mars?”, “Space Oddity”, and “Always Together” as a tribute to David Bowie following his death with proceeds from the songs donated to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Selected Solo Discography:

The Six Wives of Henry VIII (A&M Records, 1973)
Journey to the Centre of the Earth (A&M Records, 1974)
Lisztomania (A&M Records, 1975)
The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (A&M Records, 1975)
No Earthly Connection (A&M Records, 1976)
Rick Wakeman’s Criminal Record (A&M Records, 1977)
1984 (Charisma Records, 1981)
Silent Nights (President Records, 1985)
Country Airs (Coda Records, 1986)
The Gospels (Stylus Music, 1987)
Phantom Power (Jimco Records, 1990)
The Piano Album ( Castle Communications, 1995)
Return to the Centre of the Earth (EMI Classics, 1999)
Out There (Music Fusion, 2003)
Piano Odyssey (Sony Classical, 2018)

Renaissance Releases Expanded Version of “Prologue” Album

Esoteric Recordings has announced the release of a newly re-mastered and expanded edition of the classic 1972 album by Renaissance, “Prologue”.

Formed in 1969 by former Yardbirds members Jim McCarty and Keith Relf, Renaissance had by 1971 experienced a series of line-up changes and had evolved into a completely different band from the one that had recorded the albums “Renaissance” and “Illusion”.

Renaissance – Prologue.

By June 1972 Renaissance included celebrated vocalist Annie Haslam, John Tout (keyboards, vocals), Jon Camp (bass, vocals), Terry Sullivan (drums, percussion) and Rob Hendry (guitar, mandolin, vocals).

The album “Prologue” was recorded in June and July 1972 and contained material written by Michael Dunford (a member of the group who had decided to skip performing with the band to concentrate on songwriting) and lyricist Betty Thatcher. Featuring such classic material as the album title track, “Kiev”, “Spare Some Love” and the epic “Rajah Kahn”, “Prologue” was also notable for the presence of guest musician Francis Monkman (of Curved Air) who would play VCS 3 synthesizer on “Rajah Khan”. The album would pave the way for the future success of Renaissance and would effectively be regarded as the band’s first true album.

This Esoteric Recordings edition has been re-mastered from the original Sovereign Records master tapes and adds the rare single version of “Spare Some Love” as a bonus track (appearing on CD for the very first time). The booklet features a new essay and exclusive interviews with Annie Haslam and Terry Sullivan and fully restores the original album artwork.

Foreign Land, an Album for Prog Lovers Who Enjoy Epic Long Pieces

The Far Meadow – Foreign Land (Bad Elephant Music, 2019)

I really enjoyed the Far Meadow’s Given the Impossible, especially “Seamless Shirt”, with Marguerita singing the lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel’s classic, “Scarborough Fair”. That album was a magnificent surprise for someone who had never even heard of the band. When I heard they were working on the follow up I knew I had to hear and review it.

I am pleasantly surprised again by Foreign Land, which stands on its own with innovative sounds thanks to Eliot Minn, filling every corner of this record with legendary keyboard play. The keyboard work absolutely, separates this band from many of their peers globally. The fine tune of the delivery and the inspired choices made, are simply stellar.

The Far Meadow – Foreign Land

With the loss of Keith Emerson, fewer bands seem inspired to use the keyboard as a central instrument of their production. The Far Meadow, with Minn, stand out, holding the line. Place my early vote now for Eliot Minn, “keyboard performance of the year” in progressive rock.

You hear Minn’s work early and often on the opening track of Foreign Land. “Travelogue” opens with soft keys, but later powerful keyboard innovations will bring back memories of Keith Emerson’s highlights. Later, the organ work he has designed will take you back to early Gabriel – era Genesis. It simply must be heard to be believed. And then that piano…oh my. So, brief recap, synthesizers, organ, and piano. A song to make every keyboard prog fan happy. One of the best songs of the year, so far. But wait…there is more.

Foreign Land is an album for prog lovers who enjoy epic long track albums. Only five tracks with enough space to take in the world and its many flavors. The kind of album you have been waiting years to hear. Extended tracks that allow every band member to shine supreme.

The second major weapon this band has is the exquisitely wonderful voice of Marguerita Alexandrou. I loved her voice on Given the Impossible, but she is used more sparingly on Foreign Land, but in places where only the sophistication of her voice was vital to the sound. She drives the music to a higher level with each note she sings. Her elegant voice adds such magnificence to the overall sound the band delivers.

“Sulis Rise”, is a good example of the strength of these two key members of this band. Alexandrou’s voice highlights the story, bringing beams of the light she is describing. Then Minn delivers Genesis – level keys that take you right back to memories of the early ‘70s.

I have neglected the other members of the band far too long. Denis Warren’s lead and rhythm guitars have their excellent solo moments throughout the first two and final three tracks. Keith Buckman’s bass guitar is ever present adding background depth to the sound. Paul Bringloe’s drums are well placed and help keep a great beat.

Then, there is that classic opening of “Mud”! That pipe organ sound just absolutely caught me by surprise. It sounded so fantastic I wish it had continued throughout the entire song. The lyrics at times took me back to Peter Gabriel’s opening story for the live version of “Supper’s Ready”.

“The Fugitive”, is another great story set to those awesome keyboards and some of the best lead guitar work on the album. The buzzing lead guitar and bouncing bass help buoy the mid-section of the song.

“Foreign Land” is one hell of an album closer. Spellbinding lead guitar, followed by Alexandrou’s voice, then deep bass, and keyboards supporting. Alexandrou sounds very similar to Kate Bush in her early days, melded with Barbara Streisand on this and most of the album – excellent!

Then Minn gives us those deep keys and Warren the heavy guitars you may remember from early IQ and Genesis. Stunning.

Foreign Land is a perfect follow up album. The Far Meadow is definitely on my watch list now. Wish I could get over to see them at Summer’s End. Get this album and go back and complete the catalog. If you miss the music, we used to hear on the radio daily, back in the 1970’s, and that we used to take for granted, please don’t take the Far Meadow for granted. There are too few of these stellar bands left on this planet.

The Far Meadow are:

Marguerita Alexandrou – lead and backing vocals
Paul Bringloe – drums and percussion
Keith Buckman – bass guitar
Eliot Minn – keyboards
Denis Warren – lead and rhythm guitars
All titles written by The Far Meadow with Paul Mallatratt (1, 4 & 5), Nok (1, 4 & 5) and Lawrence Pollinski (4).

Mixed by Joe Gibb
Mastered by David Elliott
Art & design by Brian Mitchell

The Far Meadow will be making their debut appearance at Summer’s End in Chepstow in October 2019, with more dates to be announced throughout the year.

Track List

  1. Travelogue
  2. Sulis Rise
  3. Mud
  4. The Fugitive
  5. Foreign Land

Fusion and Electronics Around the Drums

Manu Katché ‎– The Scope (Anteprima Productions, 2019)

French drummer, singer, songwriter and composer explores various genres on his ninth album, The Scope. The biggest innovation on The Scope is the addition of various forms of electronica.

Manu Katché ‎– The Scope

The highlights include the superb opening instrumental piece, “Keep Connexion,” where jazz fusion meets funk and West African kora; “Glow,” a track where soulful male and female vocals combine funk jazz with chamber strings; “Overlooking,” a piece where jazz fusion meets chilled electronica and Latin jazz; the exquisite and mesmerizing trip hop meets funk jazz song “Please Do”; the song “Don’t U Worry” where rock, edgy electronica and neosoul are intertwined; and the bluesy “Goodbye For Now.”

On the downside, the prerequisite, annoying hip hop song and a cheesy electropop bonus track.

The lineup includes Jerome Regard on bass; Manu Katché on drums and vocals; Patrick Manouguian on guitar; and Jim Henderson on keyboards and programming.

Guests include Jim Grandcamp on guitar; Kandia Kouyaté on kora; Faada Freddy on vocals; Jazzy Bazz on vocals; Jonatha Brooke on vocals; Frédéric Kret on cello; Michael Nguyen on viola; Hugues Borsarello on violin; Kayla Galland on vocals; and Alexandre Tassel on flugelhorn.

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