Italian band Giant The Vine delivers an effective set of instrumental tracks on Music for Empty Places. The group combines high energy guitars (although not metal), cinematic passages, symphonic rock, post rock and exquisite mellotron.
There is a nicely-crafted balance between the muscular rock and the delicate and mesmerizing, laid back segments. You’ll hear echoes of King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Anglagard.
The lineup on Music for Empty Places includes Fabio Vrenna on guitars; Fulvio Solari on guitars; Daniele Riotti on drums and percussion; Marco Fabricci on bass; Chico Schoen on keyboards; and Ilaria Vrenna on keyboards.
An excellent release by a very promising forward-thinking band.
Shining Pyramid play a delightful form of instrumental progressive rock using guitars and keyboards (spacey synthesizers and gorgeous mellotron). What makes the duo especially attractive is it mix of classic 1970s progressive rock influences, space rock and Berlin-style electronic music.
The two London-based musicians create layers of guitars and keyboards delivering a mesmerizing set of finely-constructed pieces. Shining Pyramid consists of Nick Adams on guitars and Peter Jeal on synthesizers.
The Flower Kings recently announced they will be heading out on tour December 2019 with label-mates Kayak. Roine Stolt said: “We’re happy to go on tour in Europe again in December – We will present The Flower Kings music from the early days – concert favorites – plus some brand new music – that is along the lines of the early music of the band – symphonic rock.
We’re happy to bring our friends in KAYAK along for this proggy double bill – it will be a monumental meltdown of melodic prog – not to be missed.”
The two bands will perform 12 dates across 6 countries:
1st December – Bahnhof St. Pauli, Hamburg, Germany 2nd December – Musikzentrum, Hannover, Germany 3rd December – OK Andaluzia, Piekary Slaskie, Poland 4th December – Klub U Bazyla, Poznan, Poland 6th December – Burgerweeshuis, Deventer, Netherlands 7th December – De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands 8th December – Scala, London, UK 9th December – Piano, Dortmund, Germany 10th December – Columbia Theater, Berlin, Germany 11th December – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, Denmark 12th December – Brewhouse, Gothenburg, Sweden 14th December – Kraken, Stockholm, Sweden
British multi-instrumentalist, composer and sound designer Emmett Elvin has released an outstanding progressive rock album titled The End of Music. Emmett Elvin’s style is hard to categorize. He interweaves the best of progressive music: masterful symphonic progressive rock, wondrous cinematic structures, cutting edge electronica, post rock, fascinating sound effects, exquisite acoustic guitar pieces and mesmerizing loop creations.
“Having of late been sorely beleaguered by testy whimbrels I decided the hour was ripe to once again beseech the assistance of that sagest of metaphysical bards, Magnus Opium,” says Emmet. “His prescription was simple enough: conjure an entirely fresh, lapis-hued songbook from the trembling, indifferent maw of the Abyss to be used as a calmative for the hearts of even the most truculent waders. ‘But what title should I bestow on this sonic grimoire?’ I asked of him. Poor timing on my part, as his mouth was at that moment stuffed with coconut mushrooms. I’m reasonably certain he said: The End of Music. Dallying long enough to make sure would likely have lost me everything. And these 13 songs from the Abyss were too hard-won to surrender.”
Emmett Elvin is best known as the keyboardist for Knifeworld, Guapo and and Chrome Hoof. On The End of Music he plays acoustic and electric 6 & 12 string guitars, bass, acoustic piano, Rhodes, Nord synth, casserole, biscuit tin, percussion, recorders, vocals.
The band includes Alex Thomas (Chrome Hoof, Squarepusher, Badly Drawn Boy) on drums and percussion; and Sarah Anderson on violin and viola. Additional musicians: Eden Duke on stacked harmony vocals on ‘Everything Falls Away’ and ‘Everything Falls Away (reprise)’; and Olga Lisikova on vocals on ‘No Wonder.’
Canadian bassist, guitarist and composer Antoine Fafard is back with his sixth album, Borromean Odyssey. Fafard makes some of the finest progressive jazz-rock fusion at the present time. A constant in all his albums is the presence of superb instrumentalists. This time, Fafard invited British musician Gary Husband and American rock and jazz drummer Todd Sucherman.
On Borromean Odyssey, Fafard treats the listener to memorable bass solos. The electric guitar work is equally outstanding, inspired by Alan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin as well. Fafard switches from high energy virtuosic fusion to laid back, ambient short passages titled Borromean Odyssey I-V that change the mood and relax the listener, before returning with another outburst of stunning electric energy.
Gary Husband is a multifaceted artist. Sometimes he plays the drums and on other occasions, he appears as a keyboardist. Although Husband released an album recently as a pianist, on Borromean Odyssey he really stands out as a master of the synthesizer and electric piano. Borromean Odyssey contains a remarkable set of synth solos that demonstrate that Husband is one of the finest electronic keyboard players in the current progressive music field.
Todd Sucherman has played with American melodic pop-rock band Styx for two decades. On Borromean Odyssey, Sucherman delivers a spectacular performance of creative drumming.
Fafard has also released a boxed set titled Hexalogy 2011-2019 that contains six albums and a 100-page booklet.
A new boxed set titled Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75 will be available on September 27, 2019. From that we’ve listened to so far, the remastered versions are outstanding. We spoke with progressive music and electric guitar innovator Steve Hillage, who was a member of Gong during the early 1970s.
Q. The original Gong is described as a Franco-British or international band. How did the French, British, Australian and Fijian musicians meet each other?
Daevid Allen always used to refer these magical meetings a “by chance and by trance”. But the basic story is that Daevid, as a young aspiring poet and musician, left Australia in the early 60s and wanted to come to London and Paris, which he saw as epicenters of the Beatnik movement. After various adventures he eventually formed a band with some other quirky and experimental musicians, based in Canterbury, UK. They became the Soft Machine, and they quickly developed into one of the two (along with the Pink Floyd) top psychedelic bands in the UK in the heady years of 1966 and 67.
Later, in 67, after an extended tour in France, where they became highly acclaimed in the French underground arts scene, the Soft Machine returned to the UK but Daevid was stopped at the UK border and was refused entry, having an incorrect visa. He stayed on in France and formed an initial experimental collective, also with Gilli Smyth who was living in France, and later met up with French saxophone and flute player Didier Malherbe who was to become a hugely important part in what eventually became Gong.
The band’s first official gig was in October 1969, which makes this year the 50th Anniversary! Gong went through various line-up changes, and after the recording the Flying Teapot album went into a state of dissolution, with an entirely new line-up formed, initially without Daevid and Gilli. Starting with myself, Tim Blake and Didier we were approached by an amazing drummer Pierre Moerlen, from a classical percussion background. Daevid met a bass player, Mike Howlett, who was born in Fiji and had been in bands in Australia, and he recommended him to us. And so was born the so called “classic” line-up that recorded the Angel’s Egg and You albums, as featured on this box set.
Q. What spoken language did you use to communicate?
French and English, often mixed together in what we call “Franglais”…
Q. Gong became a breeding ground for various musicians who moved on to make progressive rock, jazz-rock, electronic music and other musical forms. How was the music making process and was there a lot of experimentation in terms of music and musical instruments?
I can only really speak of the period 1973-75, when I was in the band, in particular on the Angel’s Egg and You albums. We had a fantastic mixture of musical personalities with different styles and we succeeded in making a whole that was definitely greater than the sum of the parts, but with a strong Gong sonic identity. We used to jam a lot and developed shared skills in going on musical journeys. It was a wonderful time, but it was a combustible mix as we each had strong personalities and it became difficult to sustain for more than a couple of intense years.
Q. What did you enjoy the most during those early Gong years?
Creativity, fun and psychedelic adventures. And we had a lot of laughs too.
Q. Tell us about your favorite performance venues in the 1970s.
Hard to say, but one club we played at several times, in central France, was the Club Arc En Ciel (in translation “The Rainbow Club”). This was a very free place with a great crowd and we loved playing there. Luckily, we got the Manor Mobile studio to come down and record a whole show there in 1973, and we have included it in the new box set.
The key thing about this box set release is that we, the surviving members of the 1973-75 line-up, have been able to examine all the master tapes in the Virgin Records archive, and most importantly we have for the very first time a CD release of the Flying Teapot album from the original masters used for the original vinyl release.
We had access to all the multi-tracks, but we weren’t particularly interested in making new mixes. We just wanted to make the original mixes from the original masters sound great. And here we have the second key thing, in that the original engineer from the Manor Studios, who engineered these albums and was our co-producer, was Simon Heyworth, who is now a noted mastering engineer! So we got Simon to master or re-master everything, which goes right back to the roots of the sound we were making then, and making it sound good and pristine for now! Also Simon is experienced in 5.1 surround sound, and after some searching we located the original tapes of the quad mixes of the You album, that he was involved in at the time, and these have also been re-mastered for contemporary digital surround.
Q. The boxed set also contains a lot of other material. Tell us about the bonus tracks and previously unreleased material contained in this anthology.
Some of the album bonus tracks have been released before but some, including various different mixes of the title track of Flying Teapot, and the Shamal alternative mixes, have never been released before. Apart from the Bataclan live show, which was only partially released before, all the other live gig recordings have been mixed from multi-track by our former bass player Mike Howlett, and only some tracks from these shows have ever been out before. And, like the studio albums, the bonus tracks, radio recordings, and live show recordings have all had the meticulous mastering attention of Simon Heyworth.
We feel we’ve extracted all the best stuff from the Virgin tape archives. There’s nothing really left now – it’s all here – with Love from the Planet Gong!
Q. Gong continued with newer musicians after Daevid Allen died. A new upcoming tour was announced featuring yourself. What is the line-up and what songs will you perform live?
Gong’s story has continued right up to the present day. It was Daevid’s adamant dying wish that the final line-up he had assembled should carry on as Gong. They’ve now released two successful and brilliantly received new albums since Daevid passed away and they are a brilliant band with their own sound, but one that is still fully imbued with the unique vibrations of Daevid and Gong. So they continue to fulfill Daevid’s wish, and also I’ve collaborated on some of their recordings and have played a number of shows guesting with them.
When I was offered the perfect opportunity to play some Steve Hillage Band shows earlier this year, the obvious choice was to invite the guys from the current Gong line-up to play with me as the Steve Hillage Band. It worked out great, and now we have a substantial UK and Europe tour coming up in November. On this tour the Gong guys will also play their own Gong set, featuring high energy Gong classics and tracks from their acclaimed new album The Universe Also Collapses. The Steve Hillage Band set features tracks from my 70s albums Green, Fish Rising, L and Motivation Radio. We see our November/December tour as a great way to celebrate the release of this box set and Gong’s 50th anniversary!
Q In addition to the boxed set and the live concerts, are there any activities planned, such as new studio or live albums?
There are all kind of thing on the front burner, the back burner, the side burner. We move forward “by chance and by trance”…..
Gong is a psychedelic rock band formed in the late 1960s when Australian musician Daevid Allen was refused entry back into Great Britain following European tour dates with Soft Machine. He decided to stay in Paris, where he began working together with Gilli Smyth and various musicians on what would eventually be recognizable as Gong.
The first recordings from the band were Magick Brother, Mystic Sister in 1970. Followed by albums such as Camembert Electrique, Flying Teapot, Angels Egg and You. These last three albums followed the fortunes of Zero The Hero and told the tale of the pothead pixies and was told over the course of the three albums and became the Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy.
Following the release of You in 1974, Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth left Gong and Steve Hillage became the band leader. He also left in 1975 to pursue a solo career. Gong continued in a jazz fusion oriented direction which was very different from the original musical concept of the band.
Since the 1970s, Gong experienced various reincarnations with variations of the Gong name: Mother Gong, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, Planet Gong, New York Gong and Gongmaison.
Founder Daevid Allen re-formed Gong various times and his last album was I See You, released in 2014. He died in 2015 and a new Gong lineup without Daevig Allen released Rejoice! I’m Dead! (2016). This new lineup, led by Kavus Torabi, featured Fabio Golfetti, Dave Sturt, Ian East and Cheb Nettles.
Lazleitt is a progressive rock project conceived by
Alex Lazcano; a Washington, DC-based musician, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist.
I had the pleasure of reviewing Alex Lazcano’s debut
album from 2018, On the Brink. It was a wonderful album filled with some
of the best keyboard work I had heard that year. Now Alex has returned with a
much more full-scale album, including many important supporting musicians.
On Perpetually Under Idle Grounds, Alex Lazcano,
plays guitars, bass, keyboards, piano, and sings vocals; Eric Gillette, (The
Neal Morse Band), plays drums & lead guitar; Liz Tapia, (Dark Beauty), adds
lead and supporting vocals; Carlos Hernandez, (Tree Of Life Project), plays
lead guitar; and David Knowles, (The Swan Chorus), plays keyboards.
Perpetually Under Idle Grounds, is
an incredible step forward for Lazleitt and Alex Lazcano. His first album was a
stunner, but this album takes him to a brand-new level of talent exhibition.
Each of the tracks beyond the prelude, take you inside an intricate story,
which plays out throughout the album. More of Alex’s classical music background
comes through on this album.
The Prelude is a synthesizer and keyboard extravaganza,
of fire and light. It is a beautiful awakening type piece that truly gets this
epic album off to a gallant start.
The next track, “Furtive Shelter”, mimics the opening
track, prelude, only this time using electric guitar. The song is inspired by
the works of H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and others. “Furtive Shelter”
features a keyboard solo by Lazcano. David Knowles provides beautiful high
strings and synth arpeggios throughout the piece. Liz Tapia sings soft lead
vocals, adding another vocal sound to Lazleitt’s repertoire. Carlos Hernandez
and Eric Gillette play some innovative alternating electric guitar solos. This
is the longest and best track on the album at over 21 minutes.
“Gallows Hill: Dossier 1: Grace Sherwood”, is a story
about a forty-six-year-old Princess Anne County woman named Grace Sherwood, who
faced being accused of being a witch back in 1706. She was about to be thrown
from a boat into a river as a test to see if she was a witch. Luckily her case
passed from the county court to the attorney general of Virginia without any
judgment. Musically, the track is full of regal splendor keyboards, electric
guitar and bass.
“Gallows Hill: Dossier 2: Bridget Bishop”, tells the story of Bridget Bishop,
who was one of nineteen people executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts,
in 1692. After Bishop’s hanging, eighteen others were executed for the crime of
witchcraft. Eric Gillette’s drums stand out well amongst the regal music
filling the soundscape.
“The Owl and the Blue Rose”, is inspired by the David
Lynch classic, Twin Peaks. The music follows the shows’ “illusory perceptions of the mind awakening to
alternate dimensions or multiverses”. This song is inspired by the episode
which features, “The Giant, who first appears to Agent Cooper after he’s been
shot and drifts between states of consciousness, and informs Cooper “the owls
are not what they seem”. “Blue Rose was a top-secret joint task force of the
United States military and Federal Bureau of Investigation, formed in the years
after the official closure of Project Blue Book in 1970 to investigate cases of
a paranormal nature”. The piano and keyboards which open this track will take
you back to early and mid-70s Genesis, which is a wonderful trip back, every
time you get to take it from a different musician’s perspective. This is the
second-best song on the album.
Perpetually Under Idle Grounds, is
a wonderful follow-up to Lazleitt’s first album. Get this second part of
Lazleitt’s discography to build on the collection. Fine progressive music with
a classical influence.
Furtive Shelter – 21:13
Hill Dossier 1: Grace Sherwood – 5:00
Hill Dossier 2: Bridget Bishop – 6:35
Owl and the Blue Rose – 8:18
Written, produced, and arranged by Alex Lazcano. Additional
production by Eric Gillette. “The Owl and The Blue Rose” – lyrics written by
Sue Lumb. Mixed & mastered by Eric Gillette at EKG Studios, www.ericgillettemusic.com.
Sleeve design by Alex Lazcano.
Singer Annie Haslam has one of the most recognizable voices in the progressive rock world. She joined progressive symphonic rock group Renaissance during its early stage and has carried the torch for many years. Annie currently leads Renaissance and the band is geting ready to tour the United States. She talked to Progressive Rock central about her career and the upcoming tour.
What are your fondest musical memories?
Performing at Carnegie Hall in 1975, the Albert Hall in 1977, meeting my favorite singer I used to listen to before I started singing professionally ‘Joan Baez’, and I was also thrilled that she knew of me too!
Also meeting Paul McCartney at De Lane Lea studios in 1977 when I was recording my solo album ‘Annie in Wonderland‘ produced by Roy Wood.
Roy and I were listening back to ‘If I Loved You’, and I had just finished my final vocal track. Paul was at the studios with Linda and Denny Laine, they were mixing ‘Wings at the Speed of Sound‘.
Paul was taking a break and heard my vocals floating down the corridor from studio 3! When he came in he said how beautiful my singing was and that it made his hair on his arms stand up ! Wow! Hhe stayed and chatted for about an hour, a magical experience!
Performing in 2017 with orchestra again, 40 years almost to the day that we last played with an orchestra… it was a huge amount of work to put it all together and something we had been trying to accomplish again for many years. We have a DVD from the Keswick Theatre show, Glenside, PA called ‘A Symphonic Journey‘, a very proud time!
Did you have any formal music studies?
Yes I did, I went to Sybil Knight who had been an opera singer, because of that I learned to sing from my diaphragm and not just from the throat, that is when I discovered my 5 octaves!
What was the first tune you learned?
When I was very young, I learned a song called “Diana” by Paul Anka… when friends came to the house (in Bolton, Lancashire), my Dad used to say “Our Anne, come on let’s hear you sing Diana… I was always mortified and dreaded those words that I knew were coming. I was only 10 and would only sing standing behind the door to the kitchen so no one could see me!
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
First, the strong beautiful and memorable melodies, carried along by the piano as lead instrument, thought provoking and unique interesting lyrics and my 5 octave voice. All of these elements enhanced by lush and powerful orchestral arrangements.
Renaissance was one of the pioneers of the progressive rock genre. How did the confluence of rock and symphonic music come together in your case? Were there other influences?
The original band was formed by Keith Relf and Jim Mc Carty of the Yardbirds. They were the ones who created the sound of the band. We took it to another level with the addition of more classical influences and writing our own pieces in a more classical vein and, of course, taking it to the ultimate level by performing with orchestras; in particular, The New York Philharmonic (Carnegie Hall) and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Royal Albert Hall).
The British and American mainstream music media were very hostile towards progressive rock. How did they treat Renaissance and why do you think there was such animosity towards progressive rock?
I am not aware that there was hostility. I remember being treated very well, with maybe a few reviewers that couldn’t quite get a hold of the longer passages that came along with this genre…we were very fortunate here in the USA with WNEW in New York City (Alison Steele) and WMMR in Philadelphia (Ed Sciaky) playing a huge role in breaking the band in this country.
Many of the progressive rock pioneers kept the band name but changed genre in the late 1970s and early 1980s, switching from progressive rock to radio friendly AOR and pop. Did Renaissance get any pressure from record labels and radio stations to change its format to shorter catchy songs?
We certainly did, and I was against it, but the times were changing, and after Northern Lights was a hit, it was plain to see that we were capable of writing pop songs… but we took it to the extreme, and sadly lost out uniqueness. We never caught up again until Michael Dunford and I reformed Renaissance in 2009 using some of my solo band musicians… from which we have grown from strength to strength. Sadly Michael passed away in 2012.
How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your latest recordings?
We were not involved in the first Renaissance album..Kings and Queens, a fabulous album. When I went for the audition in 1971 I learned all the songs on that and was asked to sing Island, which got me the job and which we orchestrated for the first time and included it in our 2017 ‘A Symphonic Journey‘ DVD.
Our albums from Prologue on evolved naturally from one album to the next; it was like we were all growing together in the same direction. The music was outstanding between 1972 through 1979, and stands out as being some of the best… After we made the foopah of taking the wrong direction in the mid-early 80s, finally years later when we reformed, Michael and I vowed we would go back to our roots, and we did with a glorious album called ‘Grandine il Vento (2012).
Tell us a little about your upcoming tour and the musicians you are currently working with.
Our upcoming tour will be on the US east coast it will be our 50th Anniversary Tour, with 10 concerts, 5 will be with our very own ‘The Renaissance Chamber Orchestra.’
Founding member of the Yardbirds and Renaissance Jim McCarty will be making a special appearance at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania on October 12th and will be filmed for a blue-ray DVD. Band members are: Annie Haslam on lead vocals; Rave Tesar on keyboards; Mark Lambert on guitars and vocals; Leo Traversa on bass guitar and vocals; Geoffrey Langley on keyboards and vocals; and Frank Pagano on drums, percussion and vocals.
Your tours seem to focus on the northeastern region of the United States, what some call the progressive rock corridor. Do you have plans to tour in other parts of the United States or elsewhere?
We would love to perform in other parts of the US but it is too expensive to take 9 people on the road… our hearts are willing but the promoters cannot pay enough to make it happen.
We have been able to go overseas in the past few years, though, and since we reformed in 2009 we have been to Japan, South Korea, England, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Israel, Portugal and Brazil… in fact we are going back to Brazil next March (2020). So excited about that!
Mainstream media does not provide an outlet for progressive music. In what ways are you promoting your music?
We promote through live shows of course, some internet radio stations and there is streaming of many types… seems like the internet world in unending.
Of course there are still FM radio stations still playing our music, but most of them are commercial now and the DJ’s have less ability to choose their own choice of music.
If you could gather any additional musicians, or bands, to collaborate with, whom would that be?
At this point in time, I would just love to keep performing with Renaissance accompanied by orchestra, it’s just way it should be!
Personally, I would like to finish off a writing/recording project with Steve Howe that we started back in 1997. We wrote some beautiful songs together over in the UK and our blend of his unique style of guitar work and my voice were a match made in heaven.. that’s my wish (smiles).
Aside from the tour, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?
After the Fall tour I will be going over to the UK in January to edit the DVD, looking forward to that very much. Then, we will be touring in Brazil next March, 2020. We were there in 2017, quite an amazing experience as the fans had been waiting over 45 years to see the band! So we know they will be unforgettable shows.
headline photo: Annie Haslam – Photo by Ebet Roberts
British progressive rock band Bram Stoker has a long story
and has gone through various incarnations. No Reflection presents a fascinating
mix of classic progressive rock with folk-rock, Renaissance and Baroque
influences. Occasionally they drift too far to pop for my taste, but the
majority of the album is very satisfying.
Highlights include the outstanding guitar work of Neil Richardson, one of the finest British guitarists I’ve heard recently; the keyboards of classically-trained composer Tony Bronsdon, specially the Gothic organ, clavichord and synth solos; and the vocal work of Jo Marks.
Bram Stoker was founded by organist Anthony Bronsdon,
guitarist Peter Ballam and drummer Rob Haines. They later added bassist John
Bavin, all of whom were based in their south coast home town of Bournemouth,
Bram Stoker’s discography includes “Heavy Rock Spectacular”
(1972), “Rock Paranoia” (2007), “Cold Reading” (2014), and “Bete Noire.”
The current lineup includes Tony Bronsdon on keyboards, vocals; Josephine “Jo” Marks on bass, guitar, vocals; Neil Richardson on lead guitar, bass, guitar synth, vocals; and Warren Marks on drums.