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.
On Parallel Worlds, Florida act Magnatar delivers an instrumental
set of mandolin-fueled progressive rock. The band is led by mandolinist and composer
Glenn Smith. The inspiration comes from progressive rock-era Yes, jazz-rock
fusion and high energy rock.
The mandolin contributes a unique sound to Magnatar’s style that sets it apart from other current acts. The rest of the band provides classic progressive rock passages with guitar hero lines by Ryan Rivas and notable keyboard, bass and rum work.
The lineup on Parallel Worlds includes Glenn Smith on mandolin,
Joey Costa on bass, Reed Hayes on drums, Ryan Rivas on guitar, and Dave Norton
In celebration of its 50th Anniversary, acclaimed progressive symphonic rock band Renaissance featuring Annie Haslam is embarking on a 10 concert date tour of the United States. The tour includes five special dates with The Renaissance Chamber Orchestra.
Annie Haslam says, “I joined the band New Years day 1971, now 48 years later we are still performing and bringing our unique style of music to more and more fans all over the world. This very special Anniversary tour will be a retrospective celebration of Renaissance Classics including a special guest appearance from Jim McCarty, Renaissance and Yardbirds co-founder. He will be joining us at The Keswick Glenside show on October 12th which will be filmed for our first high definition Blue Ray DVD.”
Renaissance will be performing songs with the orchestra that have never been orchestrated before including their most notably “Ashes Are Burning.”
The current incarnation of Renaissance includes Annie Haslam on lead vocals; Rave Tesar on keyboards; Mark Lambert on guitars/vocals; Geoffrey Langley on keyboards/vocals; Leo Traversa on bass guitar/vocals; Frank Pagano on drums/percussion/vocals.
Acclaimed progressive rock band The Flower Kings has announced the release of a new studio double album titled ‘Waiting For Miracles.’ Set for release November 8th, 2019, the album includes 15 new tracks, recorded over the summer at RMV studio in Stockholm, Sweden, a vintage studio space owned by ABBA star Benny Andersson.
Band leader Roine Stolt said: “We have gone back to the joyful and playful style that made the band famous in the late 90s. So here ‘more’ is always ‘more’! At time the lyrics have a bit of a serious concern about the state of our world, but overall the theme is full of joy and color.”
The current The Flower Kings lineup includes Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, Hasse Fröberg, Zach Kamins and Mirko DeMaio (the most recent live line-up).
The album will be released as a 2CD, Gatefold 2LP + 2CD & as digital album, featuring stunning artwork by American artist Kevin Sloan.
1.House Of Cards
3.Miracles For America
6.Ascending To The Stars
7.Wicked Old Symphony
8.The Rebel Circus
9.Sleep With The Enemy
10.The Crowning Of Greed
Disc 2: 1.House Of Cards Reprise 2.Spirals 3.Steampunk 4.We Were Always Here 5.Busking At Brobank
The Flower Kings started as a conduit for Swedish guitarist, singer and composer Roine Stolt in 1994. It was a time when a third generation of progressive rock artists appeared in the international scene.
The first album was a solo effort. On “The Flower King” (1994) Roine played all instruments except for drums and the project was a self-produced/self-financed endeavor quickly pushed the Swedish guitarist into international progressive rock stardom.
Stolt formed a touring band to present the album. He recruited two musicians who had participated in “The Flower King” album: Jaime Salazar on drums, and Hasse Fröberg on vocals. Two additional musicians joined the band, Stolt’s brother Michael on bass and Tomas Bodin on keyboards.
The Flower Kings released a series of successful albums as a band and quickly gained popularity in progressive rock circles and was one of a small set of bands helping to revive the progressive rock scene worldwide.
The Flower Kings got back together in 2019. The 2019 lineup included Roine Stolt on guitars and vocals; Hasse Froberg on vocals and guitar; Jonas Reingold on bass; Zach Kamins on keyboards; and Mirko Demaio on drums.
The current King Crimson line-up is releasing a 5-disc boxed set titled “Audio Diary 2014 – 2018.” It is a comprehensive summary of 5 years’ worth of concerts, one year per CD. The collection includes performances selected from a first concert in Albany, New York in 2014, to the band’s 2018 concert in Tokyo.
“Audio Diary 2014 – 2018” contains material from the debut album “In the Court of the Crimson King” (including ‘Moonchild’ which was never performed in 1969) through to works from “Lizard” which, likewise, was never performed at the time.
Also featured, King Crimson classics from “Islands”, “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic”, “Red” & other studio albums, up to compositions from Fripp’s solo album “Exposure” (‘Breathless’), reinterpretations of 1980s material (‘Neurotica’, ‘Indiscipline’), and newly written pieces for this line-up, (‘Meltdown’, ‘Radical Action’).
Richard Henshall – The Cocoon (The Burning Shed, 2019)
Richard Henshall is one of the best known guitarists in the prog metal field. He is a member of Haken and has also worked with Nova Collective and Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress. On The Cocoon, Henshall plays his characteristic guitar and also appears as a lead vocalist.
The first track takes the listener into prog metal
territory, which is not my cup of tea. Thankfully, the intro is short and
Henshall’s music gets considerably more interesting, multifaceted and
progressive on “Cocoon,” a piece where Henshall constructs a complex musical
structure with unexpected tempo changes, progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, modified
vocals and excellent guitar soloing. There is some metal riffing, but it’s not overwhelming.
The intricate, masterfully-crafted material continues on “Silken Chains,” where Henshall combines skillful guitar configurations and altered vocals with electronics and creative bass.
On “Limbo,” Henshall adds mesmerizing guitar loops, ambience and transformed vocals along with heavy pounding drums.
The rapping vocals on “Lunar Room” are annoying. This is
what is known as the pandering song targeting the hip hop fans.
“Twisted Shadows” is typical prog metal, with heavy metal
dominating the entire track. The highlight is Jordan Rudess’ keyboard solo.
The album ends with the climactic “Afterglow.”
Personnel: Richard Henshall on guitars, keyboards and vocals;
Conner Green (Haken) on bass; and Matthew Lynch (Cynic and Nova Collective) on
Guests: Ross Jennings on vocals; Jordan Rudess on keyboards; Ben Levin on vocals; Jessica Kion on vocals; Marco Sfogli on guitar; David Maxim Micic on guitar; Chris Baum n strings; and Adam Carrillo on saxophone.