Now Available As A Podcast…

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NOW AVAILABLE AS A PODCAST…

“Prog-Scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present)”
Show #7, February 17, 2018

Featuring music from After The Fall, Anthriel, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, Credo, Dale, Electric Food, Fireballet, Genesis, Heart of Cygnus, Jane, Kraan, Mind’s Eye, Mechanical Poet, Overture, Panic Room, Rough Diamond, Seven Steps To The Green Door, The Shadow Theory, StoneRider, Thieves’ Kitchen, Trillion, Violet District, and White Willow.

Listen or Download: https://archive.org/details/ProgScureShow7

Now Available As A Podcast…

ProgScure_PromoBannerNOW AVAILABLE AS A PODCAST…

“Prog-Scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present)”
Show #6, February 14, 2018

Featuring music from 3rDegree, Adagio, Angel, Armonite, Babe Ruth, D’Accord, Druckfarben, Epitaph, Gino Vanelli, Ian Gillan Band, Khan, League of Lights, Magnum, Mentor’s Wish, New Trolls, Paradigm Shift, Riff Raff, Socrates, Sweet Smoke, Thirteen of Everything, Twelfth Night, Uriah Heep, and Wallenstein.
https://archive.org/details/ProgScureShow6

Expanded Radio Show

ProgScure_PromoBanner_NewDOUBLE THE PROG-SCURE = DOUBLE THE PROG-FUN!

That’s right, “Prog-scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present)” is expanding to TWO SHOWS PER WEEK. Not only will Prog-Scure continue at its regular time each Wednesday from 8-11 AM (CST), but an entirely new show will also be presented each Saturday from 1-4 PM (CST). So instead of savoring music from more than twenty artists of the past fifty years each week, you’ll have the opportunity to revel in more than forty, doubling the Prog-Fun!

Coming this week…

WEDNESDAY, 02/14/18, 8-11 AM (CST)
Including music from 3RDegree, Adagio, Armonite, D’AccorD, Druckfarben, League of Lights, Magnum, Paradigm Shift, Uriah Heep, and many more.

SATURDAY, 02/17/18, 1-4 PM (CST)
Including music from Anthriel, Credo, Heart of Cygnus, Mechanical Poet, Panic Room, Seven Steps To The Green Door, The Shadow Theory, StoneRider, Thieves’ Kitchen, White Willow, and many more.

Join me for the shows at http://progrock.com
Visit the chatroom during the shows at http://progrock.com/chat
Previous shows available at https://archive.org/details/@zap_niles

Now Available As A Podcast…

ProgScure_PromoBannerNOW AVAILABLE AS A PODCAST…

“Prog-Scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present)”
Show #5, February 07, 2018

Featuring music from Agnes Strange, Anyone’s Daughter, Blue Mammoth, Crucible, Crystal Lake, Dave Kerzner, Ethos, Everon, Golden Earring, Harvest, Introitus, Little Atlas, Moonrise, Now, Omega, Pictures, Shadow Circus, Skeem, Vienna Circle, Waste Lagoon, and Xsavior.
https://archive.org/details/ProgScureShow5

This Wednesday, 02/07/18, on Prog-Scure

ProgScure_PromoBannerTHIS WEDNESDAY – on “Prog-scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present),” hear music from more than twenty artists of the past fifty years, including Blue Mammoth, Dave Kerzner, Harvest, Introitus, Little Atlas, Moonrise, Shadow Circus, Skeem, and Vienna Circle.

Join me for the show at http://progrock.com
THIS WEDNESDAY, 02/07/18, FROM 8-11 AM (CST)

Podcasts Now Available

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Hear or Download My Podcasts

Prog-Scure: Show #1 – Recorded January 10, 2018
Featuring music from After Forever, Ambrosia, Animator, Armageddon, Birth Control, Bloodrock, Grace, Gravy Train, Grobschnitt, It Bites, Legend, Lucifer’s Friend, Magenta, Max Webster, Mindwarp Chamber, Scarlet Hollow, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Siena Root, Stories, and Ursa Major.

Prog-Scure: Show #2 – Recorded January 17, 2018
Featuring music from Abraxas, Advent, Bad Dreams, Beyond The Bridge, Captain Beyond, Damon Shulman, Druid, Ezra, Friar Rush, Guru Guru, Hands, Hellfield, Imminent Sonic Destruction, Janus, Landmarq, Maestrick, Mona Lisa, New England, The Othello Syndrome, Ragnarok, Ricocher, Stories, Think Floyd, and The Watch.

Prog-Scure: Show #3 – Recorded January 24, 2018
Featuring music from Astarte Syriaca, Be-Bop Deluxe, Cell15, Cyan, Dynamic Lights, Epsilon, Frogg Cafe, Gentle Giant, Iluvatar, Journey, King Eider, Maze Of Time, Nektar, Pell Mell, Ritual, Shaolin Death Squad, Simon Says, Violent Silence, Wingdom, and Yezda Urfa.

Prog-Scure: Show #4 – Recorded January 31, 2018
Featuring music from Alan Parson’s Project, Andromeda, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Cressida, Distorted Harmony, The Emerald Dawn, Felony, Grand Prix, Indian Summer, Jack Yello, Kaipa, Kevlar Red, Lord of Mushrooms, Madsword, Moon Safari, Neuschwanstein, Novalis, Phil Manzanera (801), Poverty’s No Crime, Strongbow, Three Man Army, and Welcome.

New England – New England (1979)

NewEngland_14.5 out of 5 Stars!

Back in the late ’70s while working at a record store, one of the most memorable “PROMO” albums that arrived was the self-titled debut by an act called New England. I distinctly recall hearing it for the first time…it was a long, dreary night with no customers, due to a torrential rainstorm. My co-worker and I, bored out of our skulls and unpacking shipments, tugged this album from the box, saw the lightning-decorated cover art, and decided that on such a stormy evening it would be highly appropriate to crank it up on the store’s sound system. We actually didn’t realize how appropriate until after hearing the lyrics to “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya.”

Anyway, just as Side A faded out, then after lifting our jaws from the floor, we simultaneously sprinted to the turntable. I wanted to flip the platter to Side B since I couldn’t wait to hear more, while my co-worker begged to repeat the first five tracks, especially that “catchy song about losing someone during a storm.” She eventually won the argument only since I wanted to once again absorb all the layered vocals and lush keyboard instrumentation (never had I heard an album outside of Prog-Rock that actually featured the Mellotron so liberally). Well, I got to hear Side B soon enough, fell in love myself with the song “Nothing To Fear,” and she and I ended up repeating those five songs before replaying the album in its entirety. And before we realized it, the “quitting hour” had arrived and the thunderstorm outside had also miraculously vanished.

Needless to say, over the course of the following week, she and I “promoed” this album as often as possible and we both purchased it when our next paychecks arrived (with our employee discount, of course). And since those days, I have savored the album more often than I can count and have never grown tired of it. From the rockier tunes such as “P.U.N.K. (Puny Undernourished Kid)” and “Shoot,” to the aforementioned AOR masterpieces “Nothing To Fear” and “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya,” to the Poppy, Art-Rockish, and Pomp-tastic “Hello, Hello, Hello,” “Turn out the Light,” “Encore,” “Shall I Run Away,” and (another favorite) “The Last Show,” the musicians had created a grand and majestic style all their own.

Although the band hailed from the Boston area, that musical style, however, did seem so damned British, almost as if the groups 10cc and Mott The Hoople had joined forces with Queen and Badfinger, then added perhaps Rick Wakeman or Patrick Moraz to play Mellotron. Indeed, when he’s not adding full power chords or blazing solos, guitarist/vocalist John Fannon sings with almost a British accent at times, and on piano-featured tracks such as “Turn out the Light,” and the highly theatrical “The Last Show” and “Encore,” Fannon’s voice could almost pass for Ian Hunter’s (only somehow tamed) while various musical passages and chord patterns often remind me of material from Mott the Hoople’s final days, only mixed with those other groups I mentioned…and the abundant Mellotron. And speaking of which, when it came to New England, no one ever had to ask the question “Where’s Waldo?” since keyboardist Jimmy Waldo was always front and center, adding his symphonic flourishes to create some of the most extravagant Pomp Rock on the planet. Meanwhile, bassist Gary Shea and drummer/vocalist Hirsh Gardner set a high standard, their rhythms always tight, punchy, and easily fluid while they shift from one tempo to the next. And adding to the magnificence of it all, Kiss’s Paul Stanley produced the collection along with Mike Stone (of Queen/Journey fame), who also engineered the project.

But after such an impressive release, the question remained—could New England follow it up successfully? Thankfully, the answer was a resounding “yes,” with 1980’s Explorer Suite easily matching the same catchy high quality, although with (sorry to say) less Mellotron overall. Oh, well, you can’t have everything, right? Anyway, after releasing a third album in 1981, the group sadly disbanded for reasons unknown to me. I did, however, happily find myself in a situation some years later when one of my own bands opened several shows for Alcatrazz, a group that included both Waldo and Shea, and I got to hang out one evening with these “idols” of mine, so had New England not broken up, that evening certainly would have never happened. (Yes, I know, I’m selfish.)

But one final and happy note: it’s a thrill to know that New England is once again together and touring, so I’m praying for the guys to release new material in the near future. I will never forget that stormy-night-turned-special at the record store when I discovered the band, so New England remains special to me for that reason alone and I can never get enough from this wildly talented team of musicians. So come on, boys, you can do it…you’ve got “noth, noth, noth, noth, noth, noth, noth, noth, noth, noth, nothing to fear.”

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Van der Graaf Generator – Godbluff (1975)

VanDerGraaf_Godbluff4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Back in 1971, Van der Graaf Generator released Pawn Hearts, a masterpiece of an album and probably my favorite in the group’s catalogue. But even through the band’s reputation and popularity seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds on the Prog-Rock scene, the group surprisingly disbanded, with leader Peter Hammill deciding to concentrate on a solo career in lieu of keeping the band together. Thankfully, and much to the thrill of many fans, Hammill resurrected the band several years later, and Godbluff popped up shortly thereafter. To my ears, the album proved to be yet another masterpiece, a collection of four complex tracks that certainly matched Pawn Hearts in regards to creativity, moodiness, and technical proficiency, so easily it remains my second favorite of the band’s works and the one I still play as often.

Now, compared to Pawn Hearts, this collection of tunes is almost as musically creepy, almost as wickedly demented, but a touch more straightforward (that is, if one can consider anything released by Van der Graaf Generator during the band’s early years as being “straightforward”) and more jazz-inspired. Included on this album are the classic tracks “Scorched Earth” and “The Sleepwalkers,” the songs that initially enticed me to further investigate this group in the mid-’70s, and causing me to fall in love with Van der Graaf Generator’s overall strangeness. “The Undercover Man” and “Arrow” are equally as enticing, and offer up even more weird and wonderful, dark and dastardly fun, clearly showing Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, and Guy Evans in tip-top form, while David Jackson’s exceptional and unusual saxophone performances act as the icing on the already wacky cake.

So to me, Godbluff (as well as the previous Pawn Hearts) is definitely a “bucket list” album, one collection that every Prog-Rock fan should experience before they die.

(Additional note: To read my short review of Pawn Hearts, click here.)

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Barclay James Harvest – Everyone Is Everybody Else (1974)

BarclayJamesHarvest_EveryoneElse3.5 out of 5 Stars!

Although Britain’s Barclay James Harvest was never my favorite Progressive Rock group due to the band’s overall laid-back and less-intricate nature, I did nevertheless enjoy many of its albums, and Everyone Is Everybody Else, the group’s fifth studio effort, ranks among my favorites.

The majority of tracks on this 1974 release—such as the catchy and beautiful “Child of the Universe,” the countrified and harmonious “Poor Boy Blues,” the Mellotron-lush “For No One,” the electric-piano-enhanced “Negative Earth,” and the more dramatic “The Great 1974 Mining Disaster”—are generally mellow and moody, never in-your-face with twiddly bits or unnecessary passages. Additionally, even on the more upbeat “Crazy City,” the overall song arrangements are often elegant yet sparse, with the instruments never trampling over the vocal melodies or creating too much of a jarring distraction. Each song has plenty of breathing space, lending a lighter atmosphere to the proceedings.

Moreover, for Prog-Rock fans unfamiliar with Barclay James Harvest, don’t expect much in the way of a style comparable to various groups such as Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP, etc., but more of a folksier, semi-Prog style played by bands such as Strawbs or The Moody Blues with perhaps a bit of Procol Harum, Wally, Supertramp, and even America and Crosby, Stills, & Nash thrown in. No, purchasing any BJH album is not with the anticipation of basking in lightning-fast guitar, Hammond, or Moog solos, or innovative time signature shifts, or jaw-dropping multi-part Prog-Rock epics with bizarre lyrics, but only to provide your mind with dreamy and undemanding melodies to savor at the end of a long, exhausting day.

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A.C.T – Circus Pandemonium (2014)

ACT_CircusPandemonium4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Sweden’s A.C.T is such a difficult act (pun intended) to describe. In many ways, the group brings to mind ’70s/’80s Pomp Rock/Art Rock bands such as Aviary, City Boy, and Sparks, and you can almost imagine the best ingredients of those bands being somehow tossed into a blender and poured out into the new century with modern-day production techniques bordering on perfection.

The group has a quirky uniqueness and often-brilliant song arrangements, vocal harmonies, performances, and songwriting, the type of band where no matter how many times you listen to its albums, you will always notice something bizarre you hadn’t noticed the previous times, something hidden in the shadows of each track that has eerily and magically appeared to enhance the experience.

Circus Pandemonium, the group’s fifth release after a lengthy break, is another top-notch offering. As the album title indicates, this is a circus-themed concept album, a dramatic and majestic collection of linked tunes with endless and catchy Pop melodies floating atop dynamic Symphonic-Prog arrangements, not too dissimilar from what one might hear on albums from groups such as the aforementioned City Boy, or It Bites and Spock’s Beard, with a touch of 10cc and Queen merged in, and often as theatrical as a rock opera or a cross between the genres of Broadway musical, cabaret, and vaudeville. In fact, fans of Saga’s grand concept album Generation 13 will probably find this album of great interest since it often has a similar sound and atmosphere.

And like any daring and industrious concept album worth its weight in ambition, throughout Circus Pandemonium, various voices and circus sounds pop up to either bridge several tracks or enhance the ambience of others and further the storyline. The lyrics here are generally dark, despite the rather upbeat rhythms and bright chord patterns on many of the tracks, yet a creepy vibe nevertheless infiltrates several tunes as the story’s main character comes to grips with his fate as being held captive as an exhibit in a freakshow by its sinister circus manager. As I said, creepy, and altogether intriguing.

Yet regardless of the dark theme, Herman Saming’s vocals are as peculiar and delightful as ever, as are the grand and layered background vocals, while Ola Andersson’s lead guitar insertions and Jerry Sahlin’s numerous keyboards, synths, and orchestrations prove melodically and bombastically riveting, like always. Simultaneously, the rhythm section of bassist Peter Asp and drummer Thomas Lejon keep the proceedings tight, yet often surprising with periodic tempo shifts or unexpected breaks and fills. And as displayed on A.C.T’s previous albums, the group’s collective technical skills are outstanding, far superior than most groups of the Prog-Rock genre.

Yes, A.C.T is indeed one group difficult to pigeonhole, with each of its albums providing high levels of creativity, and Circus Pandemonium proves that in spades. In the world of Progressive Rock, this group is not even close to being the “same old, same old,” and fans of the genre craving something different should investigate the band forthwith. I, for one, pray that A.C.T never stops delivering more and more of its truly eccentric and invigorating material, which always equals fresh blasts of aural greatness to my often-jaded ears.

 

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