Tag Archives: Progressive rock

Masterful Rock Symphony

Höstsonaten – Symphony #1: Cupid & Psyche (AMS Records, 2016)

Symphony #1: Cupid & Psyche is the latest album by Höstsonaten, one of the various progressive rock projects developed by the great Italian musician and composer Fabio Zuffanti. The current incarnation of Höstsonaten is a partnership between Zuffanti and Luca Scherani (La Coscienza di Zeno).

Höstsonaten is the most symphonic of Zuffanti’s projects, mixing classical music with progressive rock instrumentation. Symphony #1: Cupid & Psyche is an instrumental symphonic suite. This musical work is also envisioned as music that can also serve as ballet music, as great composers such as Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky did in the past.

Symphony #1: Cupid & Psyche is inspired by Roman-era writer Apuleius’ “Cupid and Psyche”, which is part of the “Metamorphosis”. Zuffanti came up with a set of musical ideas appropriate for such a suite. He gave this material to Luca Scherani, who arranged it for string quartet, woodwinds and brass, sometimes using Zuffanti’s ideas and at times writing new arrangements of his own.

The final result is an album that beautifully brings together classical music and rock. In addition to the classical music orchestra instruments, such as violins, bassoon, and trumpet, Zuffanti and Scherani added powerful bass, drums, epic guitars and lots of keyboards, including Moog, mesmerizing mellotron, organ and piano.

In addition to classical influences and well-crafted classic symphonic progressive rock, Symphony #1: Cupid & Psyche contains engaging jazz elements and avant-garde moments.

The line-up on “Cupid & Psyche” includes Luca Scherani on keyboards; Fabio Zuffanti on bass pedal & devices; Paolo “Paolo” Tixi on drums & orchestral percussion; Laura Marsano on guitars; and Daniele Sollo on bass.

Formus String Quartet:

Sylvia Trabucco on first violin; Alessandra Dalla Barba on second violin; Ilaria Bruzzone on viola; and Chiara Alberti on cello;

Woodwinds section:

Joanne Roan on flute; Luca Tarantino on oboe; and Sofia Bartolini on bassoon;

Brass section:

Marco Callegari on trumpet; Alberto Repetto on horn; Federico Curotto on trombone; Maurizio Zofrea on tenor saxophone.

“Cupid & Psyche” is the first of a series of rock symphony projects that Fabio and Luca would like to work on in the future.

The “Cupid & Psyche” suite and ballet will have its live debut on October 22, 2016 at the Teatro Govi of Genoa under the direction of choreographer Paola Grazzi.

Symphony #1: Cupid & Psyche is a masterful symphonic rock suite by two of the most talented musicians in the current progressive rock scene.

Buy Symphony #1: Cupid & Psyche

Stick Men’s Forward Thinking Progressive Rock

Stick Men+ featuring David Cross – Midori, Live at Billboard, Tokyo, 10 April 2015 (Moonjune Records, 2016)

This fabulous special limited edition 2-CD set contains two live performances by Stick Men+ with a guest appearance by former King Crimson violist David Cross. Midori demonstrates that progressive rock and electronics are perfect companions. The album features a mix of ambient pieces and soundscapes, improvisatory progressive rock and classic symphonic progressive rock.

King Crimson is one of the essential progressive rock bands that never sold out to pop and AOR. Midori features three musicians who have been involved with one of King Crimson’s multiple versions: Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and David Cross.

Throughout Midori there are spectacular jams, mesmerizing soundscapes, violin and stick solos, and structured compositions showcasing the talent of the three musicians.

King Crimson fans will recognize some of the musical pieces such as the classic Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part 2 (from Larks’ Tongues in Aspic), Industry (from Three of a Perfect Pair), The Talking Drum (from Larks’ Tongues in Aspic), Breathless (from Robert Fripp’s 1979 album Exposure), and “Sartori in Tangier” (from the album Beat). Additionally, disc 2 includes a version of Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.” The rest of the pieces are improvisations and new pieces composed by Stick Men.

Stick Men with David Cross
Stick Men with David Cross

This project came about in April of 2015. Stick Men performed four historic concerts in Japan, with special guest, iconic King Crimson violinist David Cross. Moonjune Records’ Leonardo Pavkovic coordinated the project. The live recording of the 2 Tokyo concerts was released as a double CD in Japan only, and now is available as well through MoonJune in a limited edition of 2500 copies, available only on MoonJune’s BandCamp and on Stick Men’s 2016 live shows.

The album lineup includes: Tony Levin on stick and voice; Pat Mastelotto on acoustic and electronic drums and percussion; Markus Reuter on Touch Guitars AU8, soundscaping and keyboards; and David Cross on violin and keyboard.

Midori, Live at Billboard, Tokyo, 10 April 2015 is an outstanding set of forward thinking progressive rock by one the finest acts in the current progressive music scene.

Buy the album from Moonjune’s Bandcamp website.

The Pineapple Thief to Release “Your Wilderness” in August 2016

British progressive music band The Pineapple Thief has announced the release of its most ambitious studio album to date, Your Wilderness (Kscope). The album will be available on August 12.

The new album was a joy to make. More so than any other The Pineapple Thief album before it,” says frontman Bruce Soord. “Everything came together so effortlessly and I think this comes across when you hear the record.”

The Pineapple Thief - Your Wilderness
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness

For the first time, The Pineapple Thief has invited several special guest musicians. “Since our last album ‘Magnolia,’ the most eye catching change is obviously having Gavin Harrison contribute drums throughout the album,” adds Bruce Soord. “This has not only redefined our sound, but also redefined how we approached the songs as a band. Gavin’s drumming is technically brilliant, but also incredibly musical, and it inspired all of us to raise our game. I’ve also rediscovered my progressive roots in terms of songwriting and arrangement.

Added to that, we were lucky enough to have John Helliwell from Supertramp contribute some beautiful clarinet parts and Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) provided a string quartet. We were also joined by a lovely four piece choir and, to cap it all off, my friend Darran Charles (Godsticks) added some jaw dropping guitar playing… You’ve never heard a The Pineapple Thief album like this one! I am convinced people will love this record as much as we do.”

Your Wilderness will be available on CD, LP, digitally and as a special deluxe hard cover book.

Peter Gabriel Classics Reconstructed

Security Project – Live 1 (7D Media, 2016)

The Security Project is a superband featuring members of King Crimson, Shriekback and Peter Gabriel band musicians. They have just released a live album titled Live 1 that recreates iconic Peter Gabriel songs. Once he left Genesis, Peter Gabriel drifted away from progressive rock so his solo work was primarily pop and mainstream rock songs. Security Project transforms Gabriel’s songs and delivers a mix of modern pop and progressive rock-infused arrangements.

When you hear the vocals on Live 1, you will immediately think of Peter Gabriel. Brian Cummins sounds remarkably similar Peter Gabriel. He’s a member of one of the best Genesis tribute bands called Carpet Crawlers. On the other hand, the instrumentalists are some of the finest rock virtuoso musicians in the world.

The first six songs are the most pop-oriented tracks. Well performed, but I lost interest in pop a long time ago. Naturally, I gravitated towards the songs that have a closer connection to progressive rock, which includes several of the pieces in the second half of the album. In addition to Brian Cummins’ captivating vocals, the guitarists and keyboardist deliver memorable, although brief, instrumental moments.

Peter was always great at setting the table for us as musicians. He always got us started with great ideas,” says drummer and vocalist Jerry Marotta. “As we were creating Security we had no idea we were making something so unique… I’m proud that with Security Project we’re able to deliver the deepest of those songs, and do it with real conviction — playing them live.

Highlights include the outstanding vocal performances of Cummins and the backing vocals in “The Rhythm of the Heat”; the beautiful keyboard and guitar work in “San Jacinto”; the fabulous transition of “Games Without Frontiers” into “Of These, Hope” which is full blown state of the art progressive rock; the epic version of “Here Comes The Flood”; progressive-era Genesis song “Back in N.Y.C.” (from the remarkable The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album).

 

 

The lineup includes Jerry Marotta on drums and percussion, backing vocals, and lead vocal on Back in NYC; Trey Gunn on touch guitar, backing vocals; Brian Cummins on lead vocals; Michael Cozzi on guitar, backing vocals; and David Jameson on keyboards, Eigenharp.

Buy Security Project – Live 1 in north America

Buy Live 1 in Europe

One-Man Master of Prog

Ben Craven – Last Chance to Hear (Tuneleak Records, 2016)

Ben Craven, the extremely talented Australian multi-instrumentalist and composer, has released his eagerly anticipated progressive rock album titled Last Chance to Hear.

Although in the past, he had discussed forming a band, Craven wrote, performed and recorded all the material on this inspired album except for a very special vocal performance.

The new album is a logical progression from my previous album, ‘Great & Terrible Potions‘,” explains Craven. “The arrangements are more confident and more purposeful. But probably the biggest difference is that there are fewer vocals on this new one. ‘Last Chance to Hear’ is more about having the confidence, and presumably the competence, to let the music do the talking.”

 

Ben Craven
Ben Craven

 

I really enjoy Ben Craven’s epic and forward-thinking progressive rock style. He has developed a unique type of sound that mixes classic 1970s symphonic progressive rock with jazz swing, lavish cinematic and orchestral passages, mesmerizing electronic music, echoes of Pink Floyd, and, on one piece, something that I can only describe as progressive rockabilly.

 

 

As indicated earlier, Ben Craven plays everything on this recording: drums, bass, keyboards and his signature guitar. Although the album is primarily instrumental, Craven also provides vocals except on ‘Spy In The Sky Part 3’ where the vocals are performed by famed actor William Shatner (Star Trek).

 

 

I recommend that you get the physical version. It’s a 2-disc set with the audio CD and a DVD with music videos, making-of footage and interviews. It’s also beautifully-packaged and pays a tribute to albums, with a fold-out poster.

The beautifully-crafted Last Chance to Hear demonstrates the maturity of Ben Craven. It’s his best work yet.

To purchase the album in physical or digital format, go to bencraven.bandcamp.com/album/last-chance-to-hear

The Land That Never Was

Reptiel – Hobbitozz … A Land That Never Was (Cubby Control Records, 2015)

San Francisco band Reptiel continues the city’s psychedelic music tradition with its fantasy-inspired progressive psychedelic rock. The title of the album includes the word Hobbitt which is a clear reference to one of the races in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The last part of the album’s title makes reference to another land of fantasy, Oz, from the Wizard of Oz.

Reptiel has a clear West Coast flavor, mixing late 60s and early 70s American folk-rock beats and vocal harmonies and psychedelic music. The progressive side of the band appears in the form of occasional ambient electronic music passages and guitar and synth solos.

Hobbitozz … A Land That Never Was is a concept album that tells the story of Forest Boy who wakes up one morning to hear a bird singing to him that he must bury his father who has died in the night and begin a journey through the sylvan landscape of Hobbitozz to face the roots of its demise and discover his destiny.

The lineup on the album includes Alec Way on guitars, keyboards, piano, percussion, lead and backup vocals, and slide/ebow bass/guitar; Brian Weaver on bass, lead & backup vocals, and acoustic guitar; Jason Gonzales on drums, backup vocals, percussion, and electric guitar; Jason Yakich on guitars, backup vocals, and mandolin. Guests: Elton Cunniffe who provided swirling leaves on ‘Leaves Are Falling’ and Greg Turner on woodwinds.

Hobbitozz … A Land That Never Was

A Journey through the World of Distorted Guitar

Ödemarken – Ödemarken 3.0 (Terrorjazz Brewery, 2016)

Swedish trio Ödemarken defies musical boundaries on its second recording titled Ödemarken 3.0. The group plays primarily instrumental music with guitar, bass and drums. However, this is not the power rock that you would expect from such a format. Instead, Ödemarken’s sound is based around a wide-range of distorted guitar, electronic effects and guitar-playing techniques backed by creative bass and drumming.

The musical influences are varied, ranging from blues rock to psychedelia, progressive rock, world music and jazz and even echoes of Frank Zappa. The musicians pour out a rich selection of sounds and combinations that keep the album engaging through the end. The artists define their music as terrorjazz which is the time we’ve heard this term.

The Malmoe-based band includes Thomas Karlsson on drums and percussion; Thomas Augustsson on guitars; and Bartosz Traczykowski on upright bass.

 

 

 

Ödemarken 3.0 is a mind expanding electric guitar voyage by an imaginative progressive music trio from southern Sweden.

Tne digital version of the album is available from itunes.apple.com

Revolution Loading

BarnuM’S Freak – Revolution Loading (indie release, 2014)

Naples progressive rock band BarnuM’S Freak released this independently-produced debut EP in 2014. Revolution Loading is a concept album about the spiritual growth process of mankind. The album’s title is a symbiosis or revolution and evolution.

Although the first track features fine vocal work by guest Manuela Papa, the majority of the album is instrumental. The band’s sound is characterized by the work of virtuoso keyboardist Sergio Vassetti and guitarist Massimiliano Romano.

BarnuM’S Freak style is deeply influenced by British progressive rock acts like Genesis, IQ, Camel and jazz-rock as well.
The lineup on Revolution Loading includes Sergio Vassetti on keyboards; Salvatore Oroso on drums; Massimiliano Romano on guitars. Guests featured: Alessandro Bagagli on bass and Manuela Papa on vocals.

Revolution Loading is a very promising debut album by a rising talent in the Italian progressive rock scene.

Buy digital version of Revolution Loading.

Buy the Cd version of Revolution Loading