Progressive Rock is one of my favorites musical styles.  I’m attracted to its adventurous nature and I like the fact that it’s benchmark is pushing the boundaries of what is possible within the rock canon.  Plus I like the primary featured instruments–guitar and keyboard.  I also like the extended compositions these artists offer.

According to AllMusicGuide.com, Progressive Rock and art rock are two almost interchangeable terms describing a mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility….Prog-rock tends to be more traditionally melodic (even when multi-sectioned compositions replace normal song structures), more literary (poetry or sci-fi/fantasy novels), and more oriented toward classically trained instrumental technique (with the exception of Pink Floyd). Art rock is more likely to have experimental or avant-garde influences, placing novel sonic texture above prog-rock’s symphonic ambitions. Both styles are intrinsically album-based, taking advantage of the format’s capacity for longer, more complex compositions and extended instrumental explorations. In fact, many prog bands were fond of crafting concept albums that made unified statements, usually telling an epic story or tackling a grand overarching theme. In addition to pushing rock’s technical and compositional boundaries, prog-rock was also arguably the first arena where synthesizers and electronic textures became indispensable parts of a rock ensemble.

While the British bands King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator,Genesis, The Nice ,Yes, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Barclay James Harvest, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Soft Machine, Caravan, Pink Floyd and Henry Cow were the primary progenitors of the Progressive rock movement (occurring during the early 1970’s, with the Nice and VDGG and Yes and King Crimson sewing the seeds with releases in the ’60’s) the influence of american artists like Frank Zappa and Miles Davis, among many other rock and jazz musicians, is certainly palpable.  In addition, artists like  German bands Kraftwerk  Can  Faust and Neu! were pioneers in terms of sound manipulation and the use of electronics, developing a style called Krautrock.  Because of these groups, progressive rock artists could be found all over the globe– Japan, Australia, the Middle East, Scandinavia–you name the country or region.  For most, the influences are easily discerned, and it primarily comes back to the groups and artists mentioned previously.

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Now then, the purpose of this post is not to give a historic lesson on the history, but to document my favorite progressive rock acts and albums.  I just wanted to give a brief overview on the origins, and how the music came to be one of my favorites.  I became very fond of the Yes song “Roundabout” after hearing it on the radio (one of the few radio-friendly progressive rock songs, by the way) and was also fond of the music of Frank Zappa.  I bought a Yes album and listened to it over and over, then I got into Can and King Crimson and found my way to Genesis, then Caravan, then Gentle Giant and Barclay James Harvest.  Then I started listening to derivative groups from other countries, and began developing my own tastes.  Here are my favorite artists—

Gentle Giant

In my eyes, the ultimate prog band (along with King Crimson).  Awesome harmonies, virtuosic instrumentalists, an incessant will to push the envelope.  In the ’70’s the group had an unparalleled string of fantastic albums.

Moreover, this is my favorite progressive band to listen to.  Their works flow with remarkable precision, and I find their music powerfully moving, yet very easy to listen to, even though I know the songs are incredibly challenging musically.  I think that’s what set’s them apart from the others for me is listenability paired with virtuosity.  Couple those with 8 great albums and a number of breathtaking live recordings, you have a true prog Giant.

Kraan

Kraan is an influential German outfit that’s been together since the early 1970’s.  This band sounds like no other I’ve ever heard.  Their classic lineup has an electric saxaphone player that adds these jazzy touches to the rock songs.  In my eyes, the groove like an R and B unit, they swing like a jazz group (they were a free jazz collective before making records), they add african and middle eastern flourishes to their songs, and they rock.  LOUD.  Without playing loud.  I think thats why I love their music so much.  That, and the fact that they are so different, they almost defy categorization.  ProgArchives.com labels them a jazz fusion/progressive band, but to me they are just a rock band.  Plus their bass player is named Hellmut.  They sold out in later years to a more pop approach (after the sax player left and they added a keyboardist), but their early stuff is fantastic.

The album “Andy Nogger” is my all time favorite progressive album.

Kollektiv

Not popular and short-lived, the German collective Kollektiv released one studio album, one live album, and one compilation of outstanding material.  All instrumental, this band skirts the edges of rock, jazz, avant-garde, and electronica.  Challenging yet very rewarding listening.

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso

Italian giants Banco del Mutuo Soccorso are the italian equivalent of Gentle Giant–extremely prolific and proficient, easy to listen to, experimental yet highly melodic.  Like Kraan, they sound loud without playing loud, yet each instrument is easily identified.  The italian lyrics give the songs added mystery and loveliness, since I have no idea what they mean.  Again like Kraan, they adopted a more pop approach in later years, but their first five albums are incredible.

Finch

A symphonic band from the Netherlands, FinchFinch picture released three albums of full throttle prog in the mid to late ’70’s. Incredibly melodic, with swift tempo changes and chord shuffles, lots of solos– this band will blow your ears off.  I love them.

check out the flaming flying sperm

Favorite Prog Albums

 

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