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.

Ad Maiora – Repetita Iuvant (2016)

AdMaiora_RepetitaIuvant4 out of 5 Stars!

From Italy, Ad Maiora appeared on the scene back in 2014 with the release of a fairly impressive self-titled album. So in 2016, when the band released its sophomore effort, Repetita Iuvant, I looked forward to hearing what the musicians had created the second time around.

Like the debut, Repetita Iuvant features a collection of tracks mostly in the Symphonic Progressive Rock genre, with even a few Jazz-Rock and Avant-Prog touches added for auditory tinsel. And once again, the level of musicianship shown during the typically intricate song arrangements rates high in my book, with guitarist Flavio Carovali delivering tasty riffs and occasionally rampaging solos, bassist Moreno Piva performing ultra-melodic runs and rhythmic counterpunches, and drummer Ezio Giardina adding splendid fills amidst his rock-solid tempos and smooth time-shift transitions. Moreover, I especially savor the wide variety of keyboards and synth tones Sergio Caleca employed throughout the album, including Clavinet and the generous use of the mighty Mellotron…the latter being always a welcome addition for Prog-Rock fans like myself to appreciate.

Although several compositions (“Torba,” “Repetita Iuvant,” and “Never Mind”) are dynamic instrumentals with varied styles, when lead vocalist Paolo Callioni makes his appearance on songs such as “Life,” “Invisible,” “Molokheya,” and “Etereo”—some of which he croons in his native language—his tone and style occasionally remind me of Saga’s Michael Sadler, only with a wider range and a slight accent (when he sings in English, of course)

Also of special note for Procol Harum fans, one of the album’s highlights (for me, at least) is the “bonus” track “Whaling Stories,” which Ad Maiora originally recorded for a Procol Harum tribute album—Shine on Magic Hotel—issued by Mellow Records in 2014. Thankfully, the musicians elected to include their rendition of the tune here also, since it’s simply terrific!

Anyway, to me, Ad Maiora is one of the more promising Italian Prog-Rock groups to have emerged in the recent past. Now I’m hoping the band sticks around for a good long while to concoct even more appetizing material for lovers of the genre like me who can never get enough.

Album Currently Unavailable At Amazon!

Syzygy – Realms of Eternity (2009)

Syzygy_RealmsEternity4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Like the heavily Gentle Giant-influenced album The Allegory of Light, Syzygy’s impressive debut from 2003, Realms of Eternity, the Ohio band’s sophomore release—or its third, depending if one counts a single platter the group issued under the name Witsend back in the ’90s—still has those same influences sprinkled throughout when it comes to several tracks, but here the musicians have also considerably expanded their style into numerous other realms. And for this outing, the band also brought in accomplished vocal powerhouse Mark Boals, who surprisingly doesn’t sound like the “normal” Mark Boals I’d come to admire from ultra-slamming albums he did with Ring Of Fire, Royal Hunt, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc., but instead has trimmed away much of the former gruffness from his vocal cords, and his smoother tone and occasionally dramatic delivery seem absolutely perfect for this intriguing material.

On both shorter and lengthier tracks such as “Dreams,” “The Sea,” “Darkfield,” “Variations, Parts 1 & 2,” “Vanitas,” and the mammoth and glorious “Dialectic,” the band delves deeper into Yes and Genesis territory, featuring countless passages, shifting moods, and elaborate scoring, while also giving generous nods toward outfits such as Spock’s Beard, Moon Safari, The Flower Kings, Jethro Tull, Transatlantic, etc., all of which makes for another grand affair of classic Symphonic Prog-Rock with a touch of Avant-Prog.

Although the vocal segments are generally melodious, with a few songs openly flirting with Pomp Rock and AOR-styled choruses, the band simultaneously injects layered and labyrinthine harmony arrangements that once again bring the Gentle Giant influences to the fore. Meanwhile, the band delivers the vigorous and astounding material with top-quality musicianship. Indeed, the nimble fingers of guitarist Carl Baldassarre and keyboardist Sam Guinta continually impress, while bassist Al Rolik and drummer Paul Mihacevich consistently direct the band through twists and turns galore, showcasing everyone’s sheer diversity and talent.

As a quick aside, I must declare that it’s a crying shame the grayscale cover art is so damned bland and sedate, since the music on offer is the complete opposite—colorful, exciting, and vibrant—and the artwork doesn’t even come close in reflecting what’s in store for the listener.

Anyway, since this terrific release, the group put out a live “digipak” album in 2012, then Cosmos and Chaos in 2014, a “20th Anniversary Compendium” of the album previously issued under the Witsend name from 1993, but no other fresh material. I’m just hoping the band is still active and in the process of creating additional Prog-Rock magic for a future release.

Now, can someone please tell me once and for all how to actually pronounce the name of this exceptional band? 🙂

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Dave Kerzner – Static (2017)

DaveKerzner_Static4.5 out of 5 Stars!

The name of Florida-based keyboardist and vocalist Dave Kerzner first came to my attention back in 2015 when investigating a band called Sound of Contact, a Prog-Rock act that also included drummer Simon Collins (son of Phil Collins, of Genesis fame). The group’s sole album in 2013, Dimensionaut, proved fairly impressive, especially when it came to Kerzner’s grand and symphonic keyboard arrangements. So in 2016, when I saw Kerzner’s name in association with yet another new band, this one called Mantra Vega (also including vocalist Heather Findlay from Mostly Autumn), I snatched it up without question. And once again, the keyboard-rich material on that debut, The Illusion’s Reckoning, made a terrific first impression. So Kerzner was “two for two” in my book, and I started delving into the man’s background, seeing what else I might have missed.

Well, one of the tidbits I unearthed was that the keyboardist had also delivered a solo album in 2014, New World, which became another “no-brainer” for me when it came to the decision of purchasing it. And, no great shock, the album ended up being another first-class winner. This time, however, Kerzner provided the lead vocals (along with keyboards, some guitars, bass, and drums, and the proverbial kitchen sink, I’m sure) as well as composed and produced lush and breathtaking soundscapes, his performances enhanced with the aid of various Prog-Rock cohorts, such as drummers Nick D’Virgilio and Simon Phillips, guitarists Steve Hackett and Francis Dunnery, and even the magnificent Keith Emerson himself (RIP), to name but a few. Okay, I decided, so the guy not only knows some top-notch people in “the biz,” but has talent—considerable and enviable talent at that!

So, with his name indelibly emblazoned in my mind, I certainly did not miss the announcement of Kerzner’s latest album, Static, which he dropped on the Prog-Rock community in late 2017. And guess what? Yes, it’s another gem, this time with Kerzner repeating his songwriting, performing, and production duties as skillfully, enjoyably, and as powerfully as he did on his first solo effort. And like before, a wealth of “guests” (most notably Hackett and D’Virgilio again) pop up on several tracks, but despite the presence of these musicians injecting their own talents on various tunes, it also becomes crystal clear that, like the previous album, Static is easily Kerzner’s beautifully and lovingly nurtured baby. Indeed, with both New World and Static in his arsenal, creating a one-two punch of musical muscle, Kerzer can now claim his own distinctive sound/style, much in the same way as other solo musicians (Neil Morse instantly springs to mind) has his own identifiable brand stamped on each new collection of tracks he releases under his own moniker.

Sure, amidst the varied tunes, both brief and lengthy compositions, I can sometimes hear, as examples, a bit of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Spock’s Beard, and Transatlantic influences, but Kerzner never attempts to clone any other artist. He doesn’t need to, actually, since his creativity seems to know no bounds.

Aside from the brief “Prelude,” the album opens with a mighty and sardonic bang in the form of the upbeat, glorious, and occasionally eclectic “Hypocrites,” a track that includes everything from numerous and diverse passages, tempo shifts, ballsy guitar rhythms and leads, keyboards galore (including Mellotron and synth solos), and creepy digital ambience tossed in for good measure. The vocals, done in luscious multi-part harmony for the most part, do seem to have a “David Gilmour/Pink Floyd” flavor when it comes to Kerzner’s range, timbre, and execution, but heck, the man can’t help it if his voice possesses a few homogeneous traits of another singer, right? He does, however, do much to avoid direct comparisons, delivering the lyrics with layered harmonies and electronic enhancements. And in the end, this track is a real corker, and one of my favorites—”we’re all hypocrites”—indeed!

The title track, on the other hand, is—music-wise—pretty much in direct opposition to the previous tune, with a dreamy, keyboard-grounded background over a lazy rhythm, luxuriant in its spacier atmosphere and laid-back vocal delivery. In other words, more along the lines of groups such as Pink Floyd or Airbag. Whereas on the quirkier and bopping “Reckless,” the poppish vocal melody, varied and highly creative instrumentation, and overall eccentric character of the song arrangement suddenly brings to mind the wonderfully produced material released by the late Kevin Gilbert on his The Shaming of the True release. And no shock that Kerzner might have adopted some of the same “sound/style” qualities as Gilbert, considering the two had worked together in and around the group Giraffe and the latter’s solo material.

From this point forward, the album moves at a brisk clip, with several shorter, more direct tunes such as “Chain Reaction” and “Millennium Man” (which remind me of the catchier, straightforward side of artists such as World Trade or Trevor Rabin, only with multifarious studio enhancements and Prog-Rock embellishments), “Trust,” “State of Innocence,” and “Right Back to the Start” (delightfully mellow ballads that I can easily envision Art Rock artists such as Roxy Music or 10cc would have killed to release decades ago if given the studio capabilities of the modern age), and “Quiet Storm” and “Statistic” (electronically enriched tracks that add avant-garde strangeness to the overall collection).

And then, the album closes with “The Carnival of Modern Life,” the nearly seventeen-minute magnum-opus, which deserves (no, it demands) its own paragraph. Talk about varied and strange, this wickedly creative track has it all when it comes to Prog-Rock magic…heck, just look at the eerie cover art (thanks to equally brilliant artist Ed Unitsky) and that should give you an idea as to the song’s off-the-wall qualities when it comes to numerous melodies, rhythms, and sound effects. Yet, the organs and synths, the guitar and bass runs, and the vocals performed in the same multi-layered resplendence as the aforementioned “Hypocrites” all work to perfection. In fact, the track’s mischievously assorted instrumentation and sundry mood shifts reflect the often-insane reality of modern society’s ever-alternating viewpoints and occasional mass-hysteria moments. How long it took Kerzner to piece together and mix this mammoth masterpiece is beyond me, but my guess would be months, since the level of detail with the shifting song arrangements, the various sound effects and voice-overs that add atmospheric tinsel, would seem a mighty daunting task. But damn it, the whole track works, therefore, bravo to the mastermind behind this daring and audacious composition.

So in total, Kerzner has once again delivered an album of exceptional quality, and now, after reveling in his work for several years, I can clearly and undoubtedly declare that the man has a laser-focused brain and boundless imagination for creating engaging music in the Prog-Rock variety. And I’m so damned covetous!

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Alaska – Alaska (1998)

Alaska_13 out of 5 Stars!

Not to be confused with the numerous other groups bearing the same name, this particular band (actually, a duo from Pennsylvania comprised of vocalist/guitarist/drummer Al Lewis and keyboardist John O’Hara) released a single album in the late-’90s. To me, Alaska’s music seemed a lighter, keyboard-dominated version of Yes or Cairo, mainly due to the highly symphonic arrangements and, especially, vocalist Al Lewis (also appearing on Starcastle’s final album from 2007), who has a range and delivery style similar to Jon Anderson (Yes) and Terry Luttrell (Starcastle’s original singer).

On this eleven-track collection, most of the compositions, including “WellsBridge,” “Forests of Heaven,” “Anyman’s Tomorrow,” “IceSpirits,” and “Tiananmen Square,” have an array of dreamy melodies and wonderfully rich and layered keyboards and vocal harmonies. And, truth be told, although I find nothing overly exciting in the way of varied orchestrations or rhythms, no tense dramatics or chord pattern surprises, the overall nature of the album makes for a decent, non-intrusive experience nonetheless.

Therefore, this one and only Alaska album contains nearly seventy minutes of gentle, melodious material, which is great for when I’m in a mellower mood, and for when I’m craving a massive amount of synth-driven Progressive Rock to fill the silence.

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