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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Henry Scott-Irvine - Procol Harum: The Ghosts of a Whiter Shade of Pale


When it was announced this year that Esoteric Recordings was going to reissue the first four Procol Harum albums this summer, I almost geeked out at the moment. I’ve been a fan of their music since 1996 after hearing songs on Classic Rock Radio including; Conquistador and their hit single, A Whiter Shade of Pale. I always love their R&B, Symphonic, and not to mention the early pioneers of Progressive Rock. When people think of their music, they think of just that song. But it wasn’t just that.

Henry Scott-Irvine’s book, The Ghosts of a Whiter Shade of Pale, released in 2012, is a must have book to read. Now for me, I must admit, I’m not a reader myself, but when I bought this, I jumped at the chance and I was completely blown away of the research Henry brought to the table on the history of the band. From their formation as The Paramounts in Southend, Essex which the Rolling Stones championed them, to the hit single in 1967, they were the band that were often overlooked in the history of the British Rock scene.

Psych-pop with the touch of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite in D Major, it got them recognition. Keith Reid and Gary Brooker were pioneers and a magnificent combination when it comes to instrumentalist and songwriter. Songs like; Homburg, Conquistador, A Salty Dog, Whaling Stories, Grand Hotel, Shine on Brightly, Fires (Which Burnt Brightly), & Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) to name a few, they would have given Lennon & McCartney a big run of their money on how they took the music into a beautiful structured landscape.

And also along with interviews with the band and former band members, Irvine himself is the Sherlock Holmes of Procol Harum’s history and its well done on what he wrote from start to finish. There’s also supporters including Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend in which he describes Shine On Brightly the inspiration for his 1969 classic Rock Opera, Tommy, and the foreword notes from both filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Sir Alan Parker on their love of the band’s music.

The hardcover book is a trip back in time of their history, to the court case of authorization that Matthew Fisher filed suit against Gary Brooker and his publishing company for co-credit on A Whiter Shade of Pale back in 2004. All in all, this is an excellent book for any fan of the Prog Rock genre and Procol Harum to delve into the history of the band’s music. And I’ll close off with a line; And though it seems they smile with glee/I know in truth they envy me/and watch as my befuddled brain.”

Mick Abrahams - Revived!


It’s been a good while since I’ve listened to some good music lately, both old and new. Whether it’s from the realms of Progressive Rock, Metal, and Jazz Rock, something special and magical is about to happen. Mick Abrahams, guitarist as with his work with Jethro Tull, Blodwyn Pig, and as a solo artist, he is often overlooked in the history of the guitar players. When people think of guitarists, they think of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Brian May to name a few. But Mick Abrahams himself deserves some recognition in the history of the sounds of the blues in his DNA that would have made Robert Johnson very happy for.

This year, he’s brought along special guests including Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Paul Jones (Manfred Mann), Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake), Jim Rodford (The Kinks), and his successor Martin Barre from Tull to name a few. All have come together to lend a helping hand for Abrahams for an album entitled, Revived! This is a wonderful touch for Mick himself to get on the groove on his guitar and bring the Blues Rock sound with a driven, strong, powerful rhythm that he comes up with. 50% of the royalties and the sales for the album will proceed to the children’s charity of Kids ‘n’ Cancer in which they are going through to help them in the UK saving Proton Therapy treatment for their cancers and tumors. 

And this is a wonderful benefit for Mick to help out for the charity and lending a helping hand on what the children are going through and Mick himself isn’t doing this for the money, he’s doing this because he is lending help for support and knowing that he’s got their back. The DVD features an interview with Mick himself about the making of the project and you could he has an excellent sense of humor in him and shows no sign of stopping. There’s also sessions during the rehearsals including practices between songs such as: Chuck Berry’s Nadine, Canned Heat’s On the Road Again, the ‘50s rock essence for What About Love?, and Hungry for Love.

Watching these outtakes shows Mick along with Patrick Walshe in which he’s helping him through guide vocals and George Muryan doing some Blues improvisations on the Hammond Organ, they are having a wonderful time working on the tracks that inspired and influenced Mick’s playing and his roots.

Hungry For Love has this wonderful reminiscent of the Beatles first album Please Please Me while the opening track of Blodwyn Pig’s Summer Day sees Mick nailing his adaptation of the song in the heavy rock bursting crunch in a mid-tempo beat. Organists Josh Phillips and Chris Gore take the keyboards for a driving down the blues highway for some amazing solo work and improvisations to get into the groove and tapping their feet on the rhythm for Eliz. & Abys Jam and the drive down for a different version of Summer Day with Hammond.

Dragonfly in which his son Alex wrote, both he and Mick do a beautiful father-and-son duo. The composition is very much a laid-back acoustic beauty. And you can imagine the sun rising into the right moment but it’s the country-tinged waltz take of Goodnight Irene shows Mick going in the 1950s and the styles of George Jones and Hank Williams. Not to mention Paul Jones bringing wonders to his harmonica to capture the atmosphere.

But he and Mick share vocals on the 12-bar walking blues take of Jimmy Reed’s Bright Lights, Big City. It’s a great touch to have a slowed down groove followed by former Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden creating amazing riffs on his instrument and Jones harmonica both sharing turns on what will happen next and their touch of Reed’s song makes it spot on.

I really enjoyed listening to Revived and it shows Mick’s return to the Blues Rock adventures. And I hope we get a chance to see more of Mick Abrahams return to the spotlight anytime soon and this is a wonderful take of the ‘50s Rock and Blues/Soul influences. This is my fifth time listening to Revived! Mick Abrahams and his friends showed how much support and honor that knowing he will be back. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Trojan Horse - World Turned Upside Down


I first became aware of Trojan Horse’s music back on Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout and just being completely blown away by what I was hearing. They are a quartet from Salford that feature the Duke brothers and drummer Richard Guy Crawford. This is their second album released on the Bad Elephant Music label entitled World Turned Upside Down which was release last year.

And it’s a real mind-blowing experience from start to finish with unexpected results that will have you on the edge of your seat where the quartet takes the music of ‘70s Progressive Rock and Post-Punk into one giant blender. Mixing the elements of XTC, The Mars Volta, King Crimson, Robert Wyatt, Tears for Fears, and a little dosage of the Zappa twist and Gong thrown in.

The opening instrumental track, Juraspsyche Park is a real kicker to start things off. Beginning with a reminiscent of Gong’s Oily Way with a thunderous guitar-like roar and the switching of the time signatures, it gives Trojan Horse a chance to have some fun on vocalizations and swirl Organ-like solos that touches the King Crimson plateau in the styles of The Sailor’s Tale as if it continued where it left off for the quartet along with Kavus Torabi who guest appears on the album to reach the jump for light speed.

The ominous spacey rocked-out ascending adventures of Sesame, has this mixture between Amon Duul II and Starcastle while they pay tribute to the Cardiacs in this wacky and intense sinister increasing elemental vibrations featuring the Mellotron and effects filling the halls of insanity from percussions and voices, organ through the Scuttle. Trojan Horse also carries the waltz melodies in their music which gives it a real jolt which is shown on here for the last two minutes.

Waltz’s show the band on what to expect. The title track has a melodic ballad, but with a twist of the relaxing elements thrown in the styles of Sweden’s own Pugh Rogefeldt as the haunting folk of Death and the Mad Queen, fits in the atmospheres of the Lewis Carroll stories and touches of the Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow-era. But the 11-minute Hypocrite’s Hymn is a real kicker!

The 11-minute piece sees the dosage of the Prog, Avant-Rock, and Crimson homage thrown in that makes it a perfect piece of cake. It will meld and swallow you up in the midsection as the band travels through the space of time in the outer limits and then in the haywire effects that will melt you down like no other. And it gives the band a lot of experimentations and avant-garde noises to settle the tones throughout the last section and nailing it at the right moment.

This is my third listen of Trojan Horse’s World Turned Upside Down and I have to say this was not easy album to listen to from start to finish. But they have really surprised me the moment during the second and third listen. This wasn’t your typical prog-rock band, but a balls-out yet weird, surreal, strange, and crazy adventure that Trojan Horse have unleashed with their second album.

So if you are ready for the insanity and adventures of the twisted sounds of the Post-Punk and Prog genre, then get ready for Trojan Horse’s World Turned Upside Down.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Audience - House on the Hill


Audience weren’t very much Prog, but more of the sounds of Americana, Soul, and R&B thanks to the sounds of vocalist Howard Werth. I first heard their music back in 2005 on the Prog Archives website. And after hearing some of their music, I was blown away. Cut to 2009 that I got a 3-CD set compilation that I got as a Christmas/Hanukkah gift entitled Refugees: An Anthology of the Famous Charisma Label 1968-1978.

And after hearing some of the tracks, my jaw dropped to the floor. He sings powerfully. He wasn’t like Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury, but more in the realms of String Driven Thing’s Chris Adams and Van Morrison. This year, the good people from Esoteric Recordings are reissuing the Audience catalog starting off for the summer’s release of their third and their final album which was released at the end of May of this year (House on the Hill and Lunch) and their first two that is about to be released at the end of June also (Audience & Friend's Friend's Friend).

Their third album, originally released in 1971 on the Charisma label, it’s very laid-back and with a professional sound in their music. And with the late great producer of Gus Dudgeon, who worked with Locomotive and of course Elton John, shows no sign of pressure and giving Audience free rein.

Raviole sees a classical concerto guitar with a symphonic string quartet done by Robert Kirby who did the arrangements for this along with Nick Drake, he gives it a pastoral and orchestral vibe. Howard goes into town on his acoustic guitar to show a touch of intense pick-driven momentum that pays tribute not just to Nick himself, but also Jim Croce with a flamenco construction.

The flute improvisation done by Keith Gemmell on Eye to Eye, he really nails it in the styles of Ian Anderson. The song is almost about a conversation between the young and older version of themselves in different infinite universes as they argue about politics, agree/disagreeing on what’s right and wrong throughout the day and night. The rhythm is very bouncy and catchy and nails it down. Not to mention Trevor Williams bass line fitting the scenery on what’s going on.

The haunting and melodic yet thunderous take of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You is breathtaking. It just sends shivers down the spine for Howard to nail his take to pay tribute to the master and Werth just takes it to town while You’re Not Smiling is almost a single that would have been an FM smash. It has vocalization, chorus, and very much you can follow the bouncing ball on the lyrics.

Opener, Jackdaw begins with Werth’s vocals and Acoustic Guitar followed by Keith’s Tenor Sax, goes into almost a Brass-Rock sound as the melody and Trevor’s Bass follows each other as Howard comes in before the downtown soul midsection as Tony Connor’s drums lends a hand for dance-like feel, before getting back into the mid-thunder rock momentum. It almost has the same touches as Blodwyn Pig and essence of Elton Dean of the Soft Machine.

The 15-page booklet talks about the making of the album features an interview with Howard Werth himself on his experience and memories of House on the Hill. The liner notes are done by Sid Smith himself and he has done an incredible job along with Mark and Vicky Powell for bringing the Audience catalog to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The three bonus tracks on the album feature two different versions of You’re Not Smiling. Including the single mix and the promo radio version while the B-side of Indian Summer which didn’t do well in the single charts in the States, has a joyful clapping ascending rhythm, sing-along acoustic adventure that Werth and Williams wrote.

Ahead of their time, overlooked, it’s about time Audience deserve some recognition and this is highly recommended. Just sing the line, "When the young man/was talking to the old man/you know the old man/he wouldn't understand."

Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout


Ian Beabout and his co-host Mike Lieto are almost this combination between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson when it comes to Progressive Rock. Ian started out as a DJ back in High School, College and fitting the music in about 15 minutes to play the music whenever he wanted to play. Back in 2013, his break came when he hosted his own radio shown online at Progrock.com entitled, Prog Rock Deep Cuts. And Beabout shows no sign of stopping.

From the realms as a kid growing up listening to Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum and diving into the swimming pool of the essence of the grand wazoo of Frank Zappa. And he followed by the genres, bands/artists such as: Anglagard, Steven Wilson, Necromonkey, Kate Bush, Egg, the Canterbury Scene, RIO (Rock in Opposition), and a little dosage of RPI (Rock Progressivo Italiano), he knows his stuff very well.

But he and Lieto are masters when it comes to playing the music. They would buy the album and talk about how they discover the band/artist and how they grew with them. Since listening to the show every Thursday evening at 6:00pm (CST) on the old site and now on House of Prog (houseofprog.com), I am blown away by both Ian and Mike have made my wish list bigger each time they would play both the old and the new Prog bands that would peak my cups of coffee.

Whether it is Univers Zero, Trojan Horse, Mirodor, Present, or Magma, they know the scores very well. They always search for hidden and new treasures to search upon the sea and finding gems to have listeners be blown out of their minds and expect the unexpected. And they have always keep the flames of the Prog genre flowing for years and years to come.

Symphonic, RIO, Wacky, Intense, and breathtaking music, Ian and Mike show a lot of courage and hope for the younger generation on where the future of Prog Rock will go into next.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Guapo - Obscure Knowledge


Guapo have really peaked into my listening ear since hearing their music on Sid Smith’s amazing Podcasts from the Yellow Room a few years ago. And with Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt’s 2012 documentary, Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga about Rock in Opposition. Originally they started out as a duo in the formation of the mid ‘90s by drummer Dave Smith. But then moved to as a trio in the trilogy format with Five Suns, Black Oni, & Elixirs. And as a quartet with the release of 2013’s History of the Visitation.

This year, in which they are celebrating their 20th anniversary, they have released their new album from the Cunieform label that clocks in about 43-minutes which is, the Obscure Knowledge suite. This is a balls-to-the-wall unexpected mind-boggling adventure that the quartet have unleashed as if the volcanoes have erupted at the right exact moment with unexpected time signatures, twists, insane guitar lines done by Kavus Torabi.

It starts off with an alarming signal from Emmett Elvin’s keyboards and effects that give the spooky atmosphere as if the aliens are about to attack. It’s very much like a sci-fi/horror score and then it ascends before Bassist James Sedwards comes in with different tones as the drums and guitar come knocking down the door to make it a spectacular adventure.

There are moments where it’s almost as if the Red-era of King Crimson were having nice juicy hamburgers with Magma, Van Der Graaf Generator, and Frank Zappa as if he was the waiter giving out orders on what they want on their burgers and then conducting the three bands to see where he wants to take them into. And it’s chaotic, weird, surreal, avant-jazz rock, free jazz, and with a dosage of RIO, you know what is about to be expected on what is to come.

But Emmett does this signalizing sound between the Hammond Organ and the Electric Rhodes to give it the right moment where the band go into for a climbing up-and-down momentum. With all of the instruments following him, it’s almost as if he’s giving the signal to say “Now!” Bit by bit, it goes through an ominous climatic atmosphere as Kavus and James create this duel between each other as Dave Smith follows in with his powder keg drumming with thunderstorm crescendos followed by woodwinds creating the sound of nightmares as the tension increases.

The second movement is a droning neo-classical wailing of a crying annihilating ambient/atmospheric futuristic screeching vibration. Keyboards going off the wall into a mental state as it rises up more and more to reach the temperature level like something out of The Faust Tapes and Aphrodite’s Child’s 666. And then, the closing third movement is where everything gets back into place.

The Zeuhl sounds are in the momentum as Emmett’s Rhodes goes into darker places as Kavus’ mellowing minor chords goes with the improvisation. Thumping and erupting moods are excellent concepts on pushing and moving into the next areas. Torabi is showing his technique. Elements of Robert Fripp and Roger Trigaux, it’s almost as if the areas are floating in simultaneously.

Then, they move into some more of the improvisations in chaotic momentum! This is what I call the “Holy Crap!” moment and they are nailing it down! The haywire effects where every ascends into terror as Michael J. York’s woodwinds comes in to give it that shrieking sound a-la David Jackson (Van Der Graaf Generator) style! And the climax will give you goosebumps.

Guapo have scored a huge home run with Obscure Knowledge. Steve Feigenbaum is the Sherlock Holmes of finding amazing bands and artists and reissue hidden treasure when it comes to Cuneiform Records. If you are up for the challenge of ascending into the sounds of Zeuhl, Rock in Opposition, Avant-Jazz Rock, and a dosage of Magma meets Crimson meets Van Der Graaf Geneator, then Obscure Knowledge is the roller-coaster ride of terror that will the hair on the back up of neck from beginning to end.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Arcadia - Adhorrible and Deathlicious


Arcadia has been around for 20 years since forming in Italy. Originally, they started out as a Metal cover band before recording their demo and debut EP back in 1998 and ’99. And so far, they have released four albums going back from 2001 to 2010 whilst being an opening band and going to the States for supporting bands like: Testament, Trivium, and Obituary to name a few.

It wasn’t until they were the warm-up band at the Sonisphere festival in Milano, which I could tell they got the crowd going for Iron Maiden and Megadeth. This year, they have released their fifth album on the Beyond Productions label entitled, Adhorrible and Deathlicious. For me, I’m new to the band’s music. 

And listening to their new album is a strong dosage of driven Metalcore, Industrial Rock, thumping roaring melodies, clean and screaming vocals, roaring guitar riffs and a keg of Extreme Metal. And those ingredients, have taken me by surprise. It’s a combination between Rage Against the Machine having a nice juicy Steak with The Dillinger Escape Plan, Slayer, Pantera, and Kollwitz. 

Arcadia has nailed it very well to capture the heavier, touching boundaries between the vocal arrangements that almost have melodic, industrial and softer sides to it. There are 10 compositions that they have written on here. It’s the balls-to-the-wall momentum from the throttling industrial guitar lines that are both hard and calm before the rhythm changes into chaotic momentum. 

The drums, which I’ve mentioned before in previous bands that have a rapid machine gun fire, this one goes all the way of the rapid reigning bullets to go at the right moment followed by the electronic background to give it that industrial vibration with an unexpected twist.
Adhorrible & Deathlicious is Arcadia’s intriguing fifth momentum. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Industrial Metal, I have to say that Arcadia have sparkled the flaming fire at the right moment. 

So if you love harsh/clean vocals, intense guitar lines, melodic/intense metal with the twists and turns of the electronic vocalizations, then this will be exploring into of the world of Arcadia.