Progradar’s Best of The Year For 2016 – Editor’s Choice

So we have had a wonderful selection of Top 10 picks from some of my great collaborators and now it is my turn. I’m going to stray from the norm because mine is going to be a Top 20 to keep it in line with my TEP selection that I spoke with David Elliott about.

Yes, it is a bit of a cheat but it is my website so I don’t have to follow the rules. Anyway,without any further ado, here are my top albums of 2016,not in any particular order but they have all made a big impact on my life this year…

You will also notice that there are no Bad Elephant Music releases in my Top 20. The label I work with had another superb year but it would have been a bit unfair of me to include any releases from the artists on BEM.

Bad Dreams – Déjà vu

‘Déjà vu’ is an album that will stand the test of time and is a great achievement for Bad Dreams. I was impressed from the first note by the accomplished musicianship and the superb vocals, add in the exemplary songwriting and it was sure to be a winner in my book. What makes it stand out even more is the way the music becomes almost part of you and can make you stop what you are doing and just listen for the sake of it and that, my friends, is what truly great music can do to you.

Blue Mammoth – Stories Of A King

Proper seventies epic prog of massive proportions from these excellent Brazilians. The artwork alone is very striking but the music will literally knock your socks off, play it loud,VERY loud!

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Thought provoking, questioning and inventive, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ has all that I ask for in my music. A well constructed and intelligent concept brought to reality by a gifted musician with incomparable support from some incredible guests. It makes you really think about what you have heard and, above all, is a peerless, outstanding and incomparable listening experience that you will not forget any time soon.

Tony Patterson – Equations of Meaning

Well I was utterly mesmerised by ‘Northlands’, Tony’s collaboration with Brendan Eyre and this album deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. To get the utmost from the album you must listen to it from start to finish, preferably with headphones on, in  a darkened room and with your choice of relaxing alcohol. To me, ‘Equations of Meaning’ is not merely a great release, it is a state of mind that we should all aspire to when our Life in the Fast Lane gets too much for us. Superb and highly recommended.

Big Big Train – Folklore

It was always going to be hard to follow ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the ‘English Electric’ albums but the acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling have returned with a fresh collection of stories and tales gleaned from our heritage and history. With their penchant for heartfelt lyrics and beautiful music it is an involving and mesmerising journey that everyone should take at least once in their life…

Damian Wilson – Built For Fighting

Funny how music fits in with your life isn’t it? I was listening to this album walking back home last night and it just struck me as to how much it was a soundtrack to how my life has turned out this year. Painful lows, beautiful highs and, ultimately, balance has been restored.Taking a break form his Prog-Metal roots, Damian delivers a solo release of sublime brilliance.

David Foster – Dreamless

The usually modest and self-effacing Dave Foster has stepped out of the shadows and onto centre stage to deliver his second solo opus and is to be applauded and admired for doing so. Such a variety of moods, styles and colours doesn’t always mix well but when it is done with consummate skill, like it is here, you are treated to a cornucopia of musical delights. While neither ground breaking or game changing, what it is is really rather good.

Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

Gandalf’s Fist truly believe that this is the finest musical work that they have ever created. There’s a mix of all of their influences and, were you to put all of the best bits of our discography into a huge melting pot, you’d end up with something quite close (but not as awesome) as what the guys have created! But don’t just take their word for it – head over to the pre-order store and have a listen to a whopping 10 minutes of audio previews!

Ghost Community – Cycle Of Life

‘Cycle of Life’ is a thought-provoking, beguiling and fulfilling musical journey that excites and satisfies at every turn. Ghost Community may have had to endure trials and tribulations while making this record but the experiences have enabled them to deliver something quite magical and rewarding that will stand the test of time, worthy of a place in anyone’s musical collection.

Glass Hammer – Valkyrie

With its insightful, thoughtful lyrics every bit as important as the mightily impressive music, ‘Valkrie’ is a concept album in the true sense of the word. With some delightful departures from what some would call their signature sound (The Beatles anyone?) Glass Hammer continue to evolve into one of the world’s foremost Progressive Rock bands. This iconic group of musicians lead you on a journey through the horrors of war with a totally immersive sixty-five minutes of music and you will come out the other side changed forever. I can’t recommend this album enough, one of the best albums of 2016? One of the best albums of recent years more like…

iamthemorning – Lighthouse

‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!

Nerve Toy Trio – Accidental Bar-B-Que

A really impressive and ultimately satisfying release that really gets into your psyche and has you reaching for the repeat play button again and again. Nerve Toy Trio has given us one of the best instrumental releases of the year with ‘Accidental Bar-B-Que’ and one with which the music really does stand comparison to the excellent album art. Seems my gut feeling was right once again, a highly recommended release.

I Like Trains – A Divorce Before Marriage

A real late comer to the party, in fact I haven’t reviewed it fully yet! This sublime and haunting collection of instrumental marvelousness from these Yorkshire musicians is a soundtrack to the film of the same name. Ethereal and yet solidly powerful, I haven’t heard anything like it all year and it demanded to be in this selection of top releases.

Patchwork Cacophony – Five Of Cups

There is intelligence and a wry humour than runs throughout this remarkable album. Ben Bell has an immense talent and really knows how to put it to good use. Intelligently crafted songs that make you want to listen to them show him to be a great songwriter and what he delivers proves what a notable musician he is as well. In the world of progressive rock a new star is set to rise.

Blue Rose Code – …And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing

Blue Rose Code is Edinburgh-born songwriter Ross Wilson. At the edge of contemporary alt-folk, Wilson’s music evokes a meeting of Van Morrison and a young John Martyn, both shipwrecked with a bunch of Motown records. A deep emotive well of stunning music that affects you at a core level, another late discovery of 2016 for me but a band I will be keeping my eye on now!

Of the new record, Wilson says, “It’s an album for music fans and musicians. A challenging record, I think, and it’s  abundantly clear that the process has been undertaken away from the cynicism of any record company.”

Ray Wilson – Makes Me Think Of Home

Ray Wilson has taken us on a deeply personal musical journey full of hope, despair, pain and, ultimately, salvation and I was hooked on every word, every note. This is music at its very best, written from the heart and full of the passion and soul of the artist. This is an album that I will return to again and again, no matter how much new music crosses my path and is surely a collection of songs that can, and will, stand the test of time.

Thence – We Are Left With A Song

What Thence have delivered with ‘We Are Left With A Song’ is no mere album, it is a breathtaking, creative powerhouse of sonic delight that grows to fill any space that it occupies to take on a life of its own. It is a life that you will want to share until your dying breath, above mere superlatives, it is an utter triumph.

Tilt – Hinterland

What TILT have delivered is a superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. A fine combination of excellent rock music with all that’s best about progressive rock, these guys show how it really should be done!

Marc Atkinson – Home Grown

To me, this is what makes writing about music worth every single minute I take. I have been involved in this long musical journey in some small way from start to finish and when you hear the finished article, it is almost like welcoming a newborn into the world. Marc Atkinson will have agonised about every single word and note on this album and to my ears it has been worth every single second he has taken. This is music that takes over your mind and soul and which you can relate to on a very personal level. Fifteen songs that are extremely personal to this gracious man and we should be glad that he has released them for us to enjoy. A great album and one that I have no doubt is the complete pinnacle of Marc’s solo career to date, I am extremely proud to be able call him a friend.

Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum

Drifting Sun have delivered quite a work of art, one that touches on the past for influences but, also, has its own, confident vision of the future. Consume it in one listen to get the full effect of this great album, it is one that will live in the memory for a long time.

So, there you have it. 2016 was another brilliant year for music and I hope our End Of Year choices might make you go out and buy the music to support the artists involved. Please join me and my fellow authors at Progradar in 2017 for what I hope will be another stellar year for lovers of music.


Review – Bad Dreams – Déjà vu – by Progradar


“When life gets too much and you just want to get off the ride, remember, there will always be music…”

Indulge me if you will, this morning I was pounding away on the cross trainer at the gym, watching Saturday Kitchen. Glynn Purnell was talking to the great Suggs from Madness and Big Big Train’s ‘The Underfall Yard’ was playing on the iPod.

Those who have heard the song Victorian Brickwork will know where I am coming from when I say that, as the scintillating and very moving brass section begins towards the end, time literally stood still and a warm feeling of contentment washed over me. I forgot about US elections and Brexit and all the other ills that seem to blight this world at the moment, all that existed for me at that very moment in time was the music and the music was everything.

Music has the power to make our lives better and almost become tangible, a physical and substantive force for good and I thank whatever high power may be up there that it has become part of my life in a very concrete and irrefutable way.

Today I am writing a review of the forthcoming new album from Argentinian progressive rock band Bad Dreams and ‘Déjà vu’ is a release that evokes similar emotions in this aging wordsmith.


Bad Dreams consists of Gabriel Agudo (Lead vocals and guitars), Jorge Tenesini (keyboards, synthesizers and programming), Alex Calvera (Bass and Moog bass pedals), Ariel Trifunoff (Lead guitars and backing vocals), Fernando Cornejo, (Drums and backing vocals).

Now for an edited history lesson taken straight from the band’s website…

Bad Dreams is the first Latin American classic and prog-rock band to triumph outside the continent. Hailing from Argentina, and comprising five accomplished musicians, they began their prolific career performing Genesis‘ music for a period of more than 10 years, a venture in which they attained worldwide recognition by fans and Genesis members alike; being mentioned in the official website of Genesis and Steve Hackett.

Wanting to spread their wings even further, they took a big undertaking out of their comfort zone in 2014, and released their first album with their own original music entitled “Apocalypse of the Mercy”. The album garnered worldwide recognition among classic and progressive rock fans, and Bad Dreams opened for Steve Hackett and played alongside Steve Rothery and his band during the South American leg of their world tour.

2015 marked a milestone in Bad Dreams’ history, when they became the first Latin American band to take part of the prestigious Cruise to the Edge celebration. After Cruise to the Edge the band played a single show in Miami, and later embarked in tremendously fruitful Central America tour, visiting Panamá, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, before locking themselves up to start working in their sophomore album, entitled “Deja Vú”. The new album will feature Steve Rothery as a special guest, playing an otherworldly guitar solo on the album title track.

Bad Dreams have been once again invited to the next iteration of Cruise to the Edge to take place in February 2017, this time around again including the cream of the crop in the prog-rock scene.


Opening track Samurai of the Rising Sun has a slow burning opening, all mysterious and enigmatic, setting the scene for what is to come with it’s strange, almost sci-fi feeling sound effects. The brooding guitar and keyboards ramp up the tensions even more before a staccato riff trades off against some rather nice swirling keyboards. Gabriel’s vocals begin and he has a really passionate vocal style that works brilliantly with the music, holding you in its sway. There’s a feeling of treading water, as if you are awaiting something but it is a very pleasant wait. The music just seems to flow along delightfully, it is immediately obvious that these musicians are technically very efficient and yet their playing also has huge amounts of soul. The song opens up with some gusto with fiery guitars and intricate keyboards and Gabriel’s vocals go up another level, this is classic progressive rock done with a large amount of flair.

So, onto the title track Déjà vu and it is immediate from the first notes that you realise that this is something very special. Ariel’s guitar and Jorge’s keyboards are full of an intense passion and the music really invokes some heartfelt feelings in you. I was hooked from the first time I listened to this song, Gabriel’s voice is almost a lament, full of fervor and a melancholy intensity. This song should be listened to in a dimly lit room, headphones on and a glass of your favourite tipple, it would suit a dark and cold winter’s evening, keeping you warm against the chill outside. Fernando and Alex lead the rhythm section with aplomb  before the track builds up with even more added fervor, the keys really driving things along and the vocals taking on more magnitude and severity. To me, it has touches of Fish era Marillion and when Steve Rothery starts to play his utterly mesmerising solo, that comparison is fully realised. His guitar seems to take on a life of its own and I just sat there completely astounded by its brilliance. That’s not to take anything away from Bad Dreams, this is just the cream on the top of a completely enthralling song.


Fallen has a very intricate opening that blossoms into a really powerful track. The guitars, keyboards and rhythm section hit you with a forceful blast before things settle down in to a cryptically esoteric verse. The power returns on the compellingly dominant chorus. Think IQ meets Gabriel era Genesis and you wont be far wrong, I really like the way the song flows and Gabriel’s vocal takes on a a darkly authoritarian tone, as if he is reading from a dark book of secrets. Things move on in a tide of Delphian abstruseness, there’s a perplexing conundrum at play here and you feel that Gabriel is the main antagonist in a play that has a veil of secrecy around it. Ariel’s solo is thing of wistful delight, adding to the riddle posed, and insinuates itself into your psyche before the song bleeds out to a subtle close.

Another serpentine opening introduces Song For Augusto, another brilliant nod to the classic progressive tracks of the 70’s, with a touch of Yes (Soon, if I’m being precise). It meanders around your mind before the winsome keyboards begin and give some direction with their captivating feel. The next part of the song has Pink Floyd writ large above it, the drums and keyboards are absolutely spot on and I can’t help but nod the skill on show. The vocals are emotive and impassioned and add another level of polish to this already impressive track. There’s an urgent feel to the next section, the guitar almost feels sentient as it prescribes every note and then the keys open up into a great organ sound before Ariel gives us a seriously poignant and powerful guitar solo that stays long in the mind after this track comes to an imperious ending.


Moonlight is just over 3 minutes of Ariel Trifunoff’s enchanting acoustic guitar, a whimsical instrumental that has bucket loads of charm under its captivating exterior. A really engaging track that leaves a calmness in your very soul as it passes through your life.

The upbeat feeling carries on with the cheerily satisfying A Trick Of The Wind, a song that is, to my ears, Bad Dreams’ homage to early Genesis. Gabriel even sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel and the guitars have a real Steve Hackett tone at their core. Underneath that charming exterior is a more serious side though and it shows its face now and again. The keyboards really come to the fore in the second half of the track and the interplay with the guitars is sparkling and gives a real polish and refinement to this cultivated song, Tony Banks would be proud.

And so to the last track on the album. Frida is a graceful and tender love song full of sparkle and wit as it dances across your aural receptors. The vocals have a lightness and freshness to them and yet are still full of love and affection and the music just seems to dance lightly and leave gossamer like footprints wherever the notes land. This is a song that can lift any gloomy mood and replace it with a a feeling of contentment joy and hope, the sun is out, the sky is blue and the birds are singing, life is very good indeed.

‘Déjà vu’ is an album that will stand the test of time and is a great achievement for Bad Dreams. I was impressed from the first note by the accomplished musicianship and the superb vocals, add in the exemplary songwriting and it was sure to be a winner in my book. What makes it stand out even more is the way the music becomes almost part of you and can make you stop what you are doing and just listen for the sake of it and that, my friends, is what truly great music can do to you.

Released 18th November 2016

Buy ‘Déjà vu’ direct from the band here


All music composed by Gabriel Agudo and Jorge Tenesini except Frida by Alex Calvera and Moonlight by Ariel Trifunoff.
All lyrics by Gabriel Agudo except Frida written by Alex Calvera & Gabriel Agudo.
Music arrangements by Bad Dreams.