Tag Archives: Progressive rock

United Progressive Fraternity – Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1

I have been a friend of Mark Trueack’s online since I first heard Unitopia’s The Garden album. He and the band created a world of new progressive music that I think shook up the neo-prog that was dominant at the time, with that album.

Trueack has moved on now beyond Unitopia to assemble the United Progressive Fraternity. A group of musicians that love making progressive rock music, but also love the cause of preventing climate change and alerting the world to the damage we as humans are doing to our Earth.

They have already released their debut album, Fall in Love with the World, in 2014. It was a great debut and introduced the world to what could happen if a huge collection of progressive artists came together to work on such an important project.

Now, they return with the follow up Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1. This is the first part of a group of albums coming with additional guest artists that will surprise many fans.

The collection of artists on this album would take a couple of pages to fill. The main members of the fraternity include: Mark Trueack, on lead vocals, composer, and co-producer; Steve Unruh, on violin, guitars (electric, acoustic 12-string, slide), sitar, mandolin, flute, keyboards, congas, kalimba, floor tom, tabla, percussion, composer, and co-producer; Christophe Lebled, on keyboards, piano, synths, and soundscapes; Cornel Wilczek, on orchestration and conducting; Matthew Atherton, on synth, soundscapes, and backing vocals; Marek Arnold, on sax; Daniel Mash, on bass; Mark Franco, on fretted & fretless basses; and Joe Toscano, on drums, drum programming, and backing vocals.

Guest artists include, (the short list): Jon Davison, lead vocals, (tracks: 1,11); Lisa Wetton, vocals, (tracks:1,3,10,11); Hasse Fröberg; vocals (track:5); Matt Williams, on electric & acoustic guitars, bass, synth & vocals (track:7); Steve Hackett / nylon-string acoustic guitar (track:11); and Michel St-Père, on guitar (track:11).

As always, the out of this world artwork was created in the mind of Ed Unitsky!

The album opens with “Loss Anthem”, and its slow strummed guitar with haunting female vocals from beyond. Narration and synths surround the soundscape as flutes and chimes welcome the listener to the what almost sounds like a morning awakening. Then Trueack and Lisa Wetton duet as a symphonic Lion King like orchestral production rises from the jungle.

Then Jethro Tull like flute and more of that Lion King level orchestration. Trueack sings, “Down, but not out! A world in drought!” Violin supporting as “What Happens Now?” gets in full swing. Lots of interesting guitar and bass soloing. Kind of a jazzy, beat poet, kind of mix of multi-talented musicians chiming in at different times. An amalgam of choruses and music compelling a feeling of excitement.

More narration and mixed soundbites, before a powerful guitar solo. Then Trueack begins to lay out the album’s story and theme, on the third track, “Cruel Times”.  “These are cruel times. We are the ones who can make this right. The shining light”, he sings. Interesting guest violins and instrumental insertions meant to keep you on your toes and listening. Trueack’s voice is low and sounds full of sadness. A rambling caravan of guest musician virtuosity. Hints of ELO, maybe an attempt at later Yes. Great piano solo work mixed well with powerful drumming. Great high-pitched synth augmented with Kansas-like violin.

“What are we doing to Ourselves”, opens with kind of a jazzy rap from Trueack, “Hey you, what are we doing to ourselves”. A funky little beat not heard on most prog albums, innovative and sounding more like an orchestrated movie soundtrack.

“Stop Time”, opens with narration, water, and then the sound of plastic wrinkled. A heavy synth and drum extravaganza. Fun rhymes with Trueack singing. It is full of many time sig changes, definitely alternative prog. The middle has cool funky synths, but I wish for more The Garden level of musicianship. At times this sounds a little like a stab at Kino’s Radio Voltaire.

“One More”, opens with more narration and birdsong. Pink Floyd, Wall – like guitar, then Trueack, “One more drop. One more glacier caves into the seas”. Then, the best lyric on the whole album, Trueack sings, “Take a look around you, don’t hide behind some wall”. Trump needed that, thanks.

“Mercenaries” is my favorite song on the album. Narration and loads of sound effects that Unitopia was famous for using. More sound waves and synthesized music. Powerful lead guitar and some of the best keyboards and synths I have heard on an Unitopia or UPF album yet. A little Tull with flute and synth, before Kansas and violin. The launching violin solo that follows is one of the best on many an album I can remember recently. The Middle eastern rhythm that picks up speed is wonderful, but it is cut off too soon. Then, almost like a Marx Brothers movie, too much gets thrown into the pot near the end. Rather than hearing the  refrain again, I wish they would play more of that Middle eastern music.

“What if” is a lead vocal with horns and soft guitar. This song contains some of the best lyrics on the album.

“Forgive Me My Son” opens with gunfire and soft guitar. The momentum builds preparing for Trueack to unleash the words, “Forgive Me My Son”. A plea for no more war. Trueack’s most dramatic vocal in years. The musicianship is some of the best on the album.

“Dying to be Reborn” opens with Trueack singing to quiet accompaniment of guitar and drums.

“Seeds for Life” tells the story of how seeds have been preserved to repopulate the planet with crops that may die during climate change. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a safeguard for the world to be able to recreate what may or will be lost. A good portion of the song is narration and the story, with synths and keyboards filling the air. The bubbling synths that start after the narration are great. A Noah’s Ark type story lyrically.

This song is probably the second-best track because it includes a blistering guitar solo by Steve Hackett. No one can match Hackett on guitar. He is the master and all boats rise with his presence…even in spirit. A 19:34 minute epic song, that should have been the closer. The piano work is excellent and dreamy.

“Loss to Lost”, is the closer. Piano opens the sound, with sitar and flute. Then back to the power of orchestration, a, la Lion King.

Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1 is another great project from the creator of Unitopia and the United Progressive Fraternity and its members. It captures some of the power of the debut album, but also makes me nostalgic for Unitopia’s past.

Although the UPF is full of incredibly talented musicians, the quirky lyrics, narration, and sound effects take up too much space on this album. The story is important though, and a strong foundation is laid out well, with wonderful music supporting.

The support the band has received from so many scientists and influential people in the field of climate change has been wonderful. The fact that any one band is making climate change such an important issue that they would write an entire album to support and tell the story of its nature is enough to earn your support.

This is a good album in that it was made with wonderful good intentions. Please give it a listen and show your support for protecting the world we share.

Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1 is available for purchase on their label GEP – Giant Electric Pea:

“Mercenaries” Video:

Track List

  1. Loss Anthem – 3:26
  2. What Happens Now? – 4:04
  3. Cruel Times – 8:06
  4. What Are We Doing to Ourselves – 3:19
  5. Stop Time – 6:56
  6. One More – 2:37
  7. Mercenaries – 6:49
  8. What If – 1:45
  9. Forgive Me, My Son – 7:47
  10. Dying to be Reborn – 5:20
  11. Seeds for Life – 19:34
  12. Loss to Lost – 5:16

Stratus Luna, Rising stars of Progressive Rock

Stratus Luna – Stratus Luna (Music Magick /Moonjune, 2019)

One of the great surprises of the year in the progressive music area is Brazilian band Stratus Luna. This young, new generation progressive rock band from Sao Paulo has released a superb self-titled debut album.  Stratus Luna features talented musicians 20 to 17 years old.

The music on Stratus Luna is masterfully-constructed and the performances are equally good. Although the foundation is classic instrumental progressive rock with echoes of Camel and Pink Floyd, Stratus Luna also incorporates psychedelia, jazz and world music influences in the form of Brazilian and Indian music.

The band members include Gustavo Santhiago (20) on keyboards, flutes and sitar; Ricardo Santhiago (21) on guitars; Gabriel Golfetti (18) on bass and keyboards; and Giovanni Lenti (17) on drums and percussion.

Nad Sylvan Releases Video for “Meet Your Maker”

Nad Sylvan, vocalist with Steve Hackett and Unifaun, has released the second single from his new solo album ‘The Regal Bastard.’ The video showcases the song ‘Meet Your Maker.’

Nad comments about the track: “This song features the fabulous Tania Doko on vocals, Tony Levin on bass and Nick D’Virgilio on drums. The rest is all handled by yours truly. ‘Meet Your Maker’ is a typical song, where still in the realm of prog – I bring in my R&B/soul influences combined with rock and dark theater. I don’t hear anyone else making that kind of noise at the moment, so I believe this is a unique piece of music, delivered by first rate musicians and production. So I’m very pleased with it.”

Nad Sylvan – The Regal Bastard

The Regal Bastard ’ is scheduled for release on July 5th, 2019. This album is the final part of the Vampirate trilogy that Sylvan began on 2015’s ‘Courting The Widow’.

BangTower, Instrumental Rock Powerhouse

BangTower – With N With Out

BangTower – With N With Out (Declassified Records, 2016)

BangTower is a progressive music outfit that features superb instrumentalists. With N With Out is the band’s second album, released in 2016. It showcases a powerful mix of virtuosic jazz-rock, progressive rock, instrumental rock and blues.

The band features guitarist, keyboardist and singer Neil Citron, famed bassist Percy Jones (Brand X), and drummer Walter Garces. Guest musicians include Frankie Banali on drums; Robby “Pag” Pagliari on bass; Jon Pomplin on keyboards and bass; Rodger Carter on drums; Joan Fraley on bass and backing vocals; Josh Greenbaum on drums; Chris Colovas on bass; and Justin Stone on piano.

BangTower first recording was “Casting Shadows” (2010).  The band’s third album “Hey, Where’d Everybody Go?” came out in 2017.

Buy With N With Out   

Exceptionally Good Jazz-Rock Fusion from Jukka Iisakkila

Jukka Iisakkila – Clocks and Clouds (Eclipse Music, 2018)

Clocks and Clouds is the superb solo album by Finnish multi-instrumentalist Jukka Iisakkila. Although he is best known as an acclaimed classical music orchestra conductor, he has deep passion for progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion as evidenced by Clocks and Clouds.

Jukka Iisakkila – Clocks and Cloud

This remarkable set of instrumental pieces highlights Iisakkila skill as a guitarist, keyboardist and masterful arranger. His influences include Frank Zappa, Pekka Pohjola and various guitar heroes, such as Steve Vai.

Jukka Iisakkila plays practically all instruments except the drums, performed by Ilkka Saarikoski.

Clocks and Clouds is an outstanding electric fusion album with a Finnish twist by a versatile and talented instrumentalist and composer.

Buy the Clocks and Clouds download from amazon or the CD from eclipsemusicrecordlabel.bandcamp.com

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

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)