- Peter Hamill, "The Unconscious Life": A track from an amazing live
performance. In general, I'm not a big fan of live recordings - you really need
to be there for a live performance. There's a dynamic between the performer
and the audience in live music, and in a recording, you're listening to it from
the outside - so you can feel that there's something missing. This recording has an
intensity, an intimacy, which is extraordinary. And it's a great song, too.
- Valley of the Giants, "Whaling Tale": Valley of the Giants has taken its
place as my favorite post-rock band - surpassing even "Godspeed You Black Emperor!".
This track is very godspeed-like, but it manages to carry it out better than
even Godspeed would have.
- Black Math Horseman, "Deerslayer": This is a hard group to describe.
It's sort of like a cross between Mogwai, Sonic Youth, and King Crimson. They're not really post-rock, and they're not really prog rock, but they've got elements of both. They've got a really great sound. I haven't listened to them enough to get a really
good feel, but they're definitely worth a listen.
- The Flower Kings, "The Rainmaker": What can I say about the Flower Kings
that I haven't said before?
- Marillion, "The Only Unforgivable Thing": a vaguely poppy track from
Marillion's second-best album. It's slow, with the feel and structure
of a pop ballad, but the lyrics are very un-ballad-like, and it's got a ton
of subtle complexity. Classic Marillion.
- Riverside, "Cybernetic Pillow": I'm pretty sure I've mentioned
Riverside before. They're a really fantastic neo-progressive band from
Poland that I discovered lately. They're really remarkable - they've got
an amazing sound, which is very distinct from anything else. Most neo-prog
bands, you can listen to, and say their main inspiration is Genesis, or Yes,
or Pink Floyd, or whatever. With Riverside, I can't do that. They sound like
themselves, and nothing else. I've embedded a Youtube live video of this
- Gong, "Damaged Man": A very typical Gong track, if there is such a thing.
- Porcupine Tree, "Sentimental"
- Rush, "Red Lenses": a nice old classic Rush track.
- The Reasoning, "Shadows of the Mind": another recent discovery for me;
The Reasoning is a decent neo-prog band. They're not great, but they're good,
and they do some terrific multipart vocal harmony.
Having been a Marillion fan since 1984 or so (has it really been that long??), I have to ask: if Marbles is their second best album, what do you think their best album is?
I always feel weird when Rush songs from my high school days (trans: Rush songs after the Broon era) are labeled "classic".
Honestly, I think that their newest album, "Happiness is the Road" is their best ever. "Marbles" is a close second.
What about "Brave"?
Mark, great blog, thanks for all the info.
About the music, I had a question. To the uninitiated who'd like to begin listening to progressive rock, which album/artist/band would you recommend starting off with?
It's hard to rank Marillion albums, because they've done so much great stuff. But "Brave" is somewhere below "Misplaced Childhood" in my opinion. It's definitely up there, but I'm not sure how I'd rank it compared to "Clutching at Straws".
I tend to like to look at recent material.
Most folks would probably recommend something like old Genesis - "The Lamb Lays Down on Broadway" or "Trick of the Tail". Or old Yes, like "Going for the One".
But personally, like I said, I think that newer bands tend to need support more than the old classics. And in my opinion, there's two clear recommendations.
(1) The Flower Kings. Roine Stolte, the leader of tFK, is an incredibly talented guy. I'd put his songwriting ability up against any of the prog greats, and I like his guitar playing better than anyone else I've ever heard. He's got both amazing technical chops, and incredible taste - so he doesn't tend to get in your face with lots and lots of fast stuff when it doesn't really fit. But he can do the fast stuff with the best of 'em. I don't think that they've done a bad album. A good starting point would be either "The Sum of No Evil", or "Unfold the Future".
(2) Marillion. They started out as a Genesis cover band. When I first heard them, I was convinced that their lead singer was Peter Gabriel - the original singer, Fish, sounded so much like him. But they rapidly grew beyond the Genesis thing - there's still a clear influence, but they've grown into their own very distinctive sound. They're an incredible band. I'm absolutely mad about their newest album, "Happiness is the Road".
Mark, thank you very much! Will listen to The Flower Kings and Marillion and will definitely keep you posted!
I just discovered neo-progressive via Frost*. Thanks for pointing toward some more bands to explore.
Valley of the Giants reminds me of some tracks by Lanterna. If you haven't heard them check 'em out: Desert Ocean and Lanterna are two favs of mine. Thanks for the music post.
Mark, thanks to your blog I decided to rediscover Marillion after generally cutting myself off from music in the 90s (went travelling). It is truly amazing to see how they have blossomed, considering that at the start I basically dismissed this bunch of gangly youths as a glorified Genesis tribute band - from my point of view it's as if their creativity didn't come naturally to them but was the deliberate product of hard work (what are the chances that four musicians would be on the same page so consistently all this time, and equally creative after changing their front man? - not your typical rock n roll story).
Anyway, what surprises me is that a lot of the Hogarth era stuff is actually very mainstream - obvious attempts to emulate Crowded House, U2 and Radiohead - yet still appeals to us prog fans. You always seem to be on the lookout for new stuff, and since you can tolerate a pop/rock mix when it's done well, I suggest you check out the Argentine band Soda Stereo, if you don't mind everything being in Spanish. They are basically the U2 of the latino rock world, but without the hype (for us gringos at least). Their 1998 farewell concert double disk is a great place to start.
There's also the Spanish band Mecano - an absolute crime that they are unknown in the gringo world.
LOVE LOVE LOVE Mecano! Maybe your post will help catapult them up!