Multidimensional Musician Releases Epic Prog rock Album

Steve Hughes – Once We Were – Part One (Progressive Promotion Records, 2016)

Once We Were – Part One is the second solo album by British multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and producer Steve Hughes. He’s the former drummer of two essential second generation British progressive rock bands, Big Big Train and The Enid.

This is a very ambitious album that opens with a mammoth 33-minute suite about love, misguided politicians and war titled “The Summer Soldier.” Although Steve Hughes is best known in the progressive rock scene as a drummer, he shows his talent as a composer and performer of a wide-range of instruments. He uses keyboards to deliver synth-based high intensity classic prog rock as well as wonderful electronic atmospheres. Hughes guitar work is also impressive. On this composition he duels it out with two other guitarists on this track: J. C. Strand and Keith Winter.

“The Summer Soldier” progresses along with a series of sections where we encounter epic symphonic progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, hard rock and even electronic trip hop. Steve Hughes is like a 21st-century English version of Todd Rundgren.

After the fierce strength of “The Summer Soldier,” Hughes switches to a more relaxed mode. “A New Light” has some vocals, but most of the track sounds like melodic electronic music.

The beginning of “For Jay” has the feel of Big Big Train’s pop side. The piece later morphs into an epic progressive piece with memorable guitar.

On “Kettering Road” Hughes returns to powerful rock drums, bass and guitars. The second part features great harmony vocals that lead into a mesmerizing dreamlike section with spellbinding vocoder work and more outstanding guitar work. Along with “The Summer Soldier”, this song is one of the highlights of the album. Many current progressive rock bands totally ignore electronic music. Hughes, however, embraces it in a creative way.

“Propaganda, Part One” is a short and laid back keyboard symphonic piece.

Next is “Was I Wrong,” a vibrant song with a fabulous electric guitar solo by Dec Burke (Frost and Darwin’s Radio) and notable keyboard work as well.
“That could’ve Been Us” is a bittersweet love song with nicely-crafted vocal harmonies and a violin solo.

On “Second Chances” Hughes sings along with Angie Hughes. For some reason the dreamy vocals accompanied by guitars remind me of some of Michael Oldfield’s work.

The album ends with “Saigo Ni Moichido.” The best part is the instrumental second half of the song featuring epic guitar and violin.

The musicians featured in Once We Were – Part One include Steve Hughes on drums, percussion, keyboards, bass, electric, rhythm and acoustic guitars, and vocals; Angie Hughes and Katja Piel on vocals; Alex Tsentides on bass; Maciej Zolnowski on violin; Keith Winter, J.C Strand, and Dec Burke on guitars; and Richie Phillips on saxophone.

Additionally, Hughes produced, engineered and mixed Once We Were – Part One. The second part of this album will be released in December 2016.

The CD physical version includes a booklet with song lyrics, credits and paintings by Jim Trainer.

Once We Were – Part One is a truly impressive forward-thinking progressive rock album by the multidimensional British artist Steve Hughes.

Buy Once We Were – Part One

Rising Prog Talent from Rome

Perspectives of a Circle – Masks Faces Whispers (2015)

Masks Faces Whispers is the debut album of Italian progressive rock band Perspectives of a Circle. In addition to the influence of English and Italian classic acts from the 1970s, Perspectives of a Circle seem to be influenced by American band Echolyn.

Perspectives of a Circle combines technically proficient instrumental progressive symphonic rock passages and jazz bass with beautifully crafted English-language (except one song which is in Italian) vocal harmonies that borrow from folk music, prog rock and even the Beatles. The best track on the album is the Italian-language song “La Scala Che Sende.”

The lineup on Masks Faces Whispers includes Lorenzo Corsi on vocals, rhythm guitar, and flute; Lorenzo Politi on vocals, lead guitar, 12-string guitar; Tommaso Calemme on keyboards, backing vocals; Francesco Marchetti on drums, backing Vocals; and Vittorio Pagano on bass.

A really promising debut by yet another outstanding Italian progressive rock band.

Buy the digital download version of Masks Faces Whispers

Floydian Inspired Songs of Alienation

Airbag – Disconnected (Karisma Records, 2016)

Norwegian progressive rock band has effectively taking the torch of the classic Pink Floyd sound. The group is characterized by melancholic vocals combined with guitars that channel David Gilmour. Additionally, the group adds effects and lavish electronic atmospheres that take the listener into a world of psychedelic progressive rock mixed with post rock sensibilities.

Guitarist Bjørn Riis provides the most significant moments throughout the album. Riis extracts a wide-range of sounds out of his electric guitars. It’s astonishing how he’s managed to emulate many of the sounds that David Gilmour showcased in his Pink Floyd albums and concerts.

The title of the album reflects the life changes experienced by guitarist and composer Bjørn Riis: “The idea and inspiration for most of the lyrics, and the title track in particular, came from me realizing that I had to make some changes in my life. I was tired of the daily routine, working 9-5 in an office doing basically nothing and never having enough time for my family and music. I took a year off and started writing for the album.”

Riis and his colleagues discussed adding more electronic elements and giving more room to the drums, “allowing them to be more percussive and basically avoid the usual rock formula on all songs.”

The lineup on Disconnected includes Asle Tostrup on lead vocals; Bjørn Riis on guitars and vocals; Henrik Fossum on drums; Anders Hovdan on bass.

Airbag’s previous releases include Identity (2009), All Rights Removed (2011) and The Greatest Show on Earth (2013).

Disconnected is a well-crafted recording featuring a set of memorable relaxed songs heavily-influenced by Pink Floyd’s guitars.

Buy Disconnected

Philip Glass Selects Composer Pauchi Sasaki from Peru for Year of Mentorship and Creative Exchange

Rolex announced today that distinguished composer Philip Glass has chosen violinist, composer, and multimedia performance artist Pauchi Sasaki from Peru as his protégé in the Rolex Mentor & Protégé Arts Initiative for 2016–2017. The Rolex Arts Initiative is a philanthropic program that pairs emerging artists with masters in their field for a year-long collaboration.

 

Philip Glass and Pauchi Sasaki - Photo: ©Rolex/Bart Michiels
Philip Glass and Pauchi Sasaki – Photo: ©Rolex/Bart Michiels

 

Sasaki has been inspired by her multiethnic background, as a Peruvian of Japanese descent, in creating work that has been acclaimed for its “magical vision.” Of note are her two solo albums; her “speaker dress,” a wearable sound sculpture created from 96 speakers; and the music she has composed for more than 30 films. She is a graduate of the Mills College Electronic Music and Media program.

Headline photo: Pauchi Sasaki – Photo: ©Rolex/Bart Michiels

Billy Sherwood & Tony Kaye Captured Live

Billy Sherwood & Tony Kaye - Live In Japan (Cherry Red Records, 2016)
Billy Sherwood & Tony Kaye – Live In Japan (Cherry Red Records, 2016)

Multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood and keyboardist Tony Kaye, two musicians associated with progressive rock band Yes performed live in Japan in 2011. The duo played songs from both artists’ careers and released them on this 3-CD set that includes two audio CDs and a DVD.

The selection includes some progressive rock-era Yes songs as well as quite a few FM-oriented AOR songs.

Billy Sherwood, Yes’ current bass player, provided drum and bass backing tracks while he concentrated on the live vocals and guitar. Sherwood is an excellent guitarist and treats the listener to a series of memorable solos. I’ve mentioned before that his vocals sound more like Peter Gabriel than Jon Anderson so the effect is really interesting. Former Yes keyboardist, Tony Kaye concentrates primarily on the electric organ sounds, so his sound is less symphonic.

The best thing about a live performance is that even the less interesting AOR songs feature great guitar solos by Sherwood. Nevertheless, the high points are the Yes songs like “Time and Word,” “Wondrous Stories” and “Roundabout.” Other highlights include the guitar instrumental “I Am Waiting” and the “Toky Kaye Solo” keyboard piece.

The DVD features the same songs as the audio albums but also includes behind-the-scenes tour video clips.

Buy Live In Japan

Indonesian Post-Rock Band Summer Effect Releases Afterlife

Afterlife is the third album from Indonesian band Summer Effect. The new recording includes 10 instrumental post-rock, ambient, progressive songs.

Summer Effect was formed in early 2012. Ibo (drums, keys) is the founder. At the end of 2011, he met Aroel (guitar, keyboards), and since then they have been playing as an instrumental band that combines shoegaze, ambient and post-rock.

Buy Afterlife

Azymuth Reissues ‘Outubro’

Brazilian jazz-rock fusion band Azymuth has reissued its fundamental 1980 album ‘Outubro,’ mixed and mastered from the original tapes and pressed onto 180g vinyl. This new edition is also available on CD and digitally.

Outubro began Azymuth’s series of prolific output for Milestone Records throughout the 1980s. Typifying the consummate craftsmanship of the three members’ performances – each with such distinct personality and together so perfectly balanced – together they color the expressionist fusion of samba rhythm, jazz progression, funk attitude and psychedelic electronics.

Azymuth will be playing at Dekmantel Festival Amsterdam on August 4-7th together with a star studded lineup that includes Tony Allen, Theo Parrish and Jeff Mills. Azimith will embark on a European tour in October/ November 2016 to support the release of their forthcoming album release.

Buy Outubro

Lines in the Sky’s Parallel Travel

Lines in the Sky - Parallel Travel (Faster Steps Records, 2016)
Lines in the Sky – Parallel Travel (Faster Steps Records, 2016)

Nashville-based band Lines in the Sky is described as an alternative rock band and also a progressive rock band. Their new album Parallel Travel points more towards the alternative rock direction.

It’s true that the trio includes three great instrumentalists, who deliver notable guitar, bass and drum work. But the majority of the songs are fundamentally alternative rock.

The album opens with one of the best cuts, “History.” It’s an intimate song with beautiful vocal work accompanied by piano and ambient synths. Very different from the rest of the album.

Another high point is the piece “Admiral” that includes excellent instrumental sections showcasing great guitar, bass and drum work.

The high point is the final track, titled “Ocean,” where Lines in the Sky decide to explore their progressive side. The vocals and guitars quickly indicate that there are good things to come. “Ocean” grows into an epic with memorable progressive rock guitar work and a delightful laid back conclusion. I’d love to hear more of this side of the band.

The lineup on the album includes brothers Jesse and Bowman Brock and Zack Wakefield. Jesse is on lead vocals, guitar, backing vocals, keyboards and programming; Bowman plays drums and percussion; and their colleague Zack Wakefield is on bass and vocals. Stephanie Middletown makes a guest appearance on backing vocals.

Lines in the Sky by Parallel Travel shows us a young rock band with tremendous potential.

Memorable Live Recording by Rising Italian Progressive Rock Masters

Barock Project – Vivo – Live in Concert (Artalia ART002, 2016)

Italian progressive rock band Barock Project showcases its talent on its first live album titled Vivo – Live in Concert. As the name of the band indicates, Barock Project is deeply influenced by classical music and symphonic rock. The group of young musicians is led by keyboard maestro and composer Luca Zabbini.

Vivo – Live in Concert is a 2-disc set with live versions of some of the band’s most iconic pieces. There is also a Genesis tribute, with a version of Los Endos, an instrumental piece that appeared on Genesis’ a Trick of the Tail.

The repertoire includes straight-ahead symphonic progressive rock inspired by Baroque music, ELP, Genesis and the great Italian progressive bands of the 1970s and some hard rock in the Deep Purple vein.

The vocals are primarily in English although the album includes two songs in Italian that truly captivating. In fact, I much prefer when Italian bands sing in Italian. They have special charm within the progressive rock realm.

I gravitate towards the more progressive pieces. Highlights on Disc 1 include: “Coffee in Neukolln,” an epic piece where Luca Zabbini deploys symphonic keyboards, dreamlike classical piano and synths. There’s also fascinating call and response vocals and creative bass lines.

On the somewhat operatic “Fool’s epilogue” we get to experience the admirable skill of drummer Eric Ombelli and guitarist Marco Mazzuoccolo playing admirable classical-inspired electric guitar as well as fabulous shredding with jazz-rock elements. Zabbini also treats the listener with masterful electric organ and other keyboards.

Another high point is “Un altro mondo”, an exquisite vocal and piano duet with lyrics in Italian that builds into an epic with the addition of guitar, bass and drums and grand finale with synth solo. It’s followed by another fabulous Italian-language song that feels like PFM meets ELP.

The last track on Disc 1 is the remarkable rendition of Los Endos. A version that progressive-era Genesis would be proud of.

The high spots on Disc 2 are: “Overture”, a scrumptious keyboard fest by Luca Zabbini that sounds like a 21st Century version of ELP.

Another standout is “Skyline,” a long suite with various phases featuring memorable keyboard and guitar work. At times, however, they stray a little towards hard rock.

The final highlight is “The longest sigh,” where the band returns to state of the art progressive symphonic rock, featuring brilliant synth and mellotron work by Luca Zabbini and a great guitar solo by Marco Mazzuoccolo.

The lineup on Vivo – Live in Concert includes Luca Zabbini on piano, keyboards, acoustic guitars, vocals; Luca Pancaldi on lead vocals; Eric Ombelli on drums; Marco Mazzuoccolo on electric guitars; and Francesco Caliendo on electric bass.

Buy Vivo – Live in Concert in North America

Buy Vivo – Live in Concert in Europe

Progressive Psychedelia from China

Zhaoze – Intoxicatingly Lost (Trail Records, 2016)

Intoxicatingly Lost, the latest album by Chinese progressive rock band Zhaoze is now available internationally through Trail Records. Zhaoze delivers a fascinating mix of instrumental psychedelic progressive rock, post rock and Chinese musical influences.

The quartet blends rock instrumentation such as guitar, bass and drums with Chinese musical instruments, including guqin (plucked zither) and xiao (a vertical bamboo flute).

Intoxicatingly Lost features mesmerizing cinematic atmospheres and melodies, featuring a fascinating interplay between guitars and guqin. Another innovation by this band is that multi-instrumentalist Hoyliang sometimes played the guqin with a cello bow.

 

 

The lineup on Intoxicatingly Lost includes Hoyliang on guqin, xiao and keyboards; Littledream on guitar; Roy on bass; and Seasean on drums and glockenspiel.

Intoxicatingly Lost is a magnificently-crafted recording by forward-thinking Chinese progressive music band Zhaoze.

Buy Intoxicatingly Lost

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