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.

Solstice – Prophecy (2013)

Solstice_Prophecy4 out of 5 Stars!

Solstice is a shamefully obscure band from the U.K. that released only five studio albums between 1984 and 2013, with Prophecy being the most recent. Although with only five studio releases in a twenty-nine-year period, with numerous lineup changes through the decades, plus the band taking lengthy breaks, the reason for Solstice’s continued obscurity is certainly understandable. After all, it’s not like the Prog-Rock community has been continually bombarded with announcements from the band regarding fresh material, news of upcoming album releases, world tours, etc., right?

Be that as it may, Solstice plays majestic, engaging, complex, and often-hypnotic Symphonic and Neo-Prog material with Prog-Folk influences, and with the band featuring female vocals, I’m sure many fans of artists such as Magenta, Flamborough Head, Curved Air, Mostly Autumn, Thieves’ Kitchen, and Introitus will find much to savor here.

On Prophecy, the band shows its gift for successfully offering up a delicate balance of acoustic-based passages along with electrified fare, typically with a dreamy atmosphere on which the serene vocal melodies float. This is never more evident than on both the opening tune “Eyes of Fire” and on the lengthier “West Wind.” Then, on “Keepers of the Truth” and “Blackwater,” the band adds a larger degree of fiddle to the overall instrumentation, and with the more upbeat tempos, often creates a sound similar to early Kansas, only melded with a group such as Magenta (thanks to the female vocalist, of course).

My favorite track, however, is the seventeen-and-a-half minute epic “Warriors,” which takes the listener through numerous moods and tempo shifts, with both acoustic and electric segments seemingly united in a perfect marriage, and lovely vocal segments loaded with rich background harmonies. Here also is where—due to the electric guitar and synth trading off enjoyable solos in the lengthy middle Neo-Prog section, and the vocals popping in with rhythmic accents—the band once again reminds me primarily of Magenta. Simply beautiful and captivating in its tunefulness and scope.

All in all, although Prophecy is not an essential item for Prog-Rock enthusiasts to add to their music collections, it’s nevertheless a splendid release that contains enough alluring moments to justify its replay value. And as mentioned earlier, fans of female-led Symphonic and Neo-Prog bands, especially those who prefer a somewhat lighter, more acoustic touch, will certainly delight in the material.

Also please note, along with the five tunes described in this short review, the album also contains three additional “bonus” tracks. “Find Yourself,” “Return of Spring,” and “Earthsong” were originally recorded back in 1984 for the band’s debut album Silent Dance, but were remixed by Steven Wilson from the original tapes for inclusion on Prophecy. Although none of these tunes adds any extra magic to the main bulk of the album, it’s still nice to compare the band’s past and present style, which, frankly, hasn’t changed all that much.

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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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Wally – Valley Gardens (1974)

Wally_ValleyGardens4 out of 5 Stars!

To me, this U.K. band’s debut album sounded like what may have happened had a group such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young merged with a band such as The Strawbs or a “lite” version of Kansas, mixing Progressive Folk and Symphonic Prog with a trace of Country Rock, thanks to the inclusion of pedal steel guitar, violin, and mandolin.

But on Valley Gardens, Wally’s sophomore release, not only does the band continue with the pleasing blend of styles on the four tracks included, but by adding even more musical influences to its overall soundscape, improves on the mixture.

During the lengthier title track, for instance, one vocal section strongly reminds me of Nektar’s Remember the Future, while several instrumental segments within the complex introduction and ending passages, especially the synth tones and accompaniment, bring to mind both Camel and Flash. The mellow, piano-driven “Nez Perce,” however, is more reminiscent of the band’s debut album, where the spot-perfect harmonies and the violin are once again at the forefront.

From there, “The Mood I’m In” is a laid-back and dreamy tune with the inclusion of a jazzy sax solo in its ending section, while the final track, the eighteen-minute “The Reason Why”—the obvious centerpiece of Valley Gardens—is where the band includes all of its strengths, from the flawless harmony vocals, instrumental passages that employ both acoustic and electric guitar, luscious keyboard orchestrations that make captivating use of the Mellotron, and the violin adding extra symphonic touches in various sections of the intricate song arrangement. Additionally, the steel guitar makes an appearance here, leading into a segment that has obvious Yes influences, including an all-too-brief Wakeman-style synth solo, then a hypnotic “Space Rock” segment that brings to mind early Pink Floyd, before the band returns to more CSN&Y-styled vocals with a flavor of Country Rock, more violin insertions, and a Strawbs-like atmosphere. In short, the track is a beaut—a splendid achievement.

So with “The Reason Why” being undoubtedly the grandest (and longest) composition Wally ever recorded, Valley Gardens was an improvement on the 1974 self-titled debut and an obvious step forward in the band’s development, hinting at even more exciting creativity to come, which makes the fact that Wally completely evaporated shortly after this release (not taking into account a reunion album that popped up thirty-five years later, in 2010) all the more disappointing.

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Ciccada – A Child in the Mirror (2010)

Ciccada_ChildMirror3.5 out of 5 Stars!

From Athens, Greece, comes Ciccada, a female-led band playing highly folksy music with a touch of Canterbury jazz and even chamber music tossed in.

On A Child in the Mirror, the first of only two albums by Ciccada, the arrangements on compositions such as the instrumentals “Elisabeth,” “Ciccada,” and “A Storyteller’s Dream,” along with vocal tunes like “A Garden of Delights,” “Isabella Sunset,” and the title track, are occasionally complex in the style of Symphonic Prog groups such as Renaissance and Camel and mixed with more than a smidgen of Progressive Folk music performed by groups like Gentle Giant, Strawbs, Jethro Tull, and Gryphon, thanks to a healthy dosage of acoustic guitar and “medieval” instrumentation such as flute, recorder, clarinet, French horn, violin, cello, and glockenspiel. And overall, the pretty voice of Evangelia Kozoni adds a generous amount of lilting elegance and sophisticated charm to the band’s folksy retro style.

The band isn’t about bombastic power or high energy, but of serene atmospheres and emotive melodies, with the musicians displaying their instrumental prowess without blowing up your stereo speakers in the process. Both this debut as well as 2015’s even better The Finest of Miracles are worthy of investigation for fans of lighter Progressive material that is also somewhat different from the norm.

 

 

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