Progradar Best Of 2016 – Leo Trimming’s Top 10

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Simply stunning. Robin Armstrong has imagined a rich narrative of alien incursion (or paranoid breakdown?!) with sonic brilliance. The imaginative story is unnerving, whilst the music is captivating on a human level but cinematic in scope – ranging from crunching Purple riffs, through atmospheric acoustic passages to sweeping Floydian soundscapes. Robin Armstrong’s multi-instrumental ability would be nothing without the excellent song writing and fascinating concept of this outstanding album. Undoubtedly, Album of the Year for me, from one of the best Progressive Rock artists of this generation.

(I’ve put Cosmograf as my Album of the year… the rest are in no particular order… they’re all great albums.)

Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase

This was my TPA’s review’s conclusion early in the year for this surprise package, and I’ve had no reason to change it since…

‘This is an excellent collaboration: Red Bazar have helped Peter Jones express more of his serious, darker side and also allowed him to display more vocal dexterity. In return Red Bazar have gained a talented and very fine rock vocalist who has added great lyrical skill and vocal feeling  to their own fine emotional musical palette…

This may be a bit of a dark horse, but Red Bazar may just have released one of the Prog albums of the year.’

Matthew Parmenter – All Our Yesterdays

A favourite on two levels – it’s a great album of subtle artistry and fine music, and on another level the artist & his music  touched me personally. My Progradar review concluded:

Matthew Parmenter has stepped aside from the magnificent, gothic group dynamic of Discipline to create a solo work of art suffused with dramatic shades and emotional lyricism, conveying tragedy and hope. This is an album that is likely to captivate and beguile with subtlety and delicate emotion. It certainly gave me unexpected comfort – Inside.’

Nine Stones Close – Leaves

A darkly trippy and psychedelic album. Part dream, part nightmare – this is an album for which repeated listens gradually unpeal the layers, like all the best progressive releases. My Progradar review observed:

Nine Stones Close create rich musical landscapes suffused with a sense of the dramatic and psychedelic… They do not stick to their old formula and want to progress. My advice is stick with these guys because you are never quite sure in which direction their songs or this albums may turn, but it sure is an imaginative and fascinating ride!’

Big Big Train – Folklore

A much anticipated release does not disappoint as the album describes modern folklore, ancient legend, elegies for lost love and epic stories of heroism and loss … plus bees (!) in a rich tapestry of folk tinged progressive rock. Lyrically intelligent and insightful, conveyed with integrity and emotion, and played with consummate skill and passion. Impossible to ignore – we all sort of knew it would be great. Of course it’s great!

Marillion – F.E.A.R

This is a remarkable release from the Prog veterans that rightly propelled them back to wider prominence with an album full of anger and insight in to the state of the world, with the dominance and influence of the ‘super rich’. Of course, none of those political thoughts or feelings would count for anything in an album without outstanding music – Marillion have conveyed their message with powerful rock passages and also subtle melody. Three epic songs with ambitious scope are clearly modern and truly ‘Progressive’ without lazily resting on ‘Prog’ tropes.  A late contender for album of the year, but who would guess that well over 30 years in to their career that Marillion would pull off an album that truly has something to say about today’s world with such impact and sensitivity, and really mean something.  Beautiful at times, dramatic at other times… thought provoking throughout.

The Gift – Why The Sea Is Salt

Let’s get straight to the point – ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ is a truly exceptional album, and deserves to propel The Gift in to the higher echelons of current British Progressive Rock Music. Simple as that – it really is that outstanding. Very few albums indeed have the potential to attain the status of a potential ‘classic’ album, which will live long in the memory like ‘Why the Sea is Salt’. This is a work which greatly appeals to the heart and mind in equal measures, and similarly beguiles and stimulates in its beauty and drama. The Gift have skilfully and  beautifully draw upon a variety of influences, inspirations and ideas and artfully crafted them into an imaginative and enjoyable musical experience that touches the heart and stimulates the mind. Just brilliant.

What more could one want from an album?!

Paradigm Shift – Becoming Aware

This is an outstanding album musically and lyrically, with this young band fusing elements of heavy rock, psychedelia, rap, politics and progressive rock tropes in an intoxicating mix.

Paradigm Shift create finely played music based on well known influences with a largely retro feel. It is refreshing to see a new, younger band on the progressive rock scene willing to inject a political but not overwhelming edge to their songs on this very promising debut album, addressing such issues with vigour and passion.

What remains to be seen is whether Paradigm Shift can sustain this very impressive early showing, and how they develop and absorb other influences in the modern progressive music scene. However, with this album I think many progressive rock fans will definitely be ‘Becoming Aware’ of this promising young band.

TILT – Hinterland

TILT have delivered 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. It is a clever mix of styles with some subdued, complicated sections weaving between the more straightforward rock themes and gives TILT their own definite sense of identity. This is a talented group of musicians who are at the top of their game and it shows.

Yorkston,Thorne and Khan – Everything Sacred

Finally, and completely out of ‘left field’ for me after seeing them at a festival.

What do you get when you combine a talented Scottish folk singer-songwriter, (James Yorkston) with a reknowned double bass jazz player (Jon Thorne) and finally an award winning Sarangi player and classical singer from New Delhi ( Suhail Yusuf Khan)?

You get an album of beguiling beauty, heart breaking emotion and diverse sounds, blending styles and cultures in a fascinating mix. Listen to songs like ‘Broken Wave’ and ‘Everything Sacred’ and try not to dab the corner of your eye. At other times you are drawn in to hypnotic Indian rhythms with hints of folk, and always played with such delicacy and skill.

Is it ‘Prog’? Of course it bloody isn’t!

But what is more ‘Progressive’ than skilfully and intuitively blending musical and cultural influences to create something so new and so beautiful? Go on… challenge yourself – it’s a great album.

 

Progradar Best of 2016 – Emma Roebuck’s Top 10

Emma’s 10 for the year November 2015 to November 2016. It’s difficult to select 10 out of a whole year of frankly remarkable music. This selection is based on what I have listened to outside my radio show and reviewing schedule. No doubt I will change it in 2 days or more but this is the list as I type the words. I have looked at the albums I have played most at home or in the car since I acquired them. I apologise to any I have omitted but 10 is 10 and there has to be a line. It is not because the quality is less but more that these albums have spoken to me more than others. I think it is representative of what the year has given us musically from the independent sector to the ones with recording deals.

Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase

What can be said about this out of the Blue album that already hasn’t? A good instrumental band gets access to a vocal talent in the extreme that is a bit of a musical polymath. You get the final ingredient they needed. You get a collection of storytelling songs that bode well for the future of good solid melodic Progressive rock that is a delight to ears.

Steve Thorne – Island of the Imbeciles

Brooding, insightful, dark and political, no, not my facebook posts but Mr Thorne’s latest output. I have returned to this album again and again this year.  He captured the zeitgeist so well in this album. The songs stand up to repeated listening and are musically outstanding as well as lyrically. He has the ability for the melancholic which suits me down to the ground.

Birdeatsbaby – Tanta Furia

One of my more oddball, leftfield choices for the Prog scene, their publicist asked me to give it a listen and I duly obliged. What hit me straight away is the desire to just follow their path no matter what genre they were placed in by others. This is high energy music where a Gothic mentality meets Prog avante guard and adds a little Lana Del Rey. Yet it is all about the song not the ability to play. It’s dark and seedy, the world of Birdeatsbaby but worth a visit.

Kyros – Vox Humana

Adam changes a band name and then gets a band to make an album by a band rather than a solo project with musicians helping. It’s a jump in maturity for the song writing and although not an actual concept it is a thematic album on the “Human Condition”. I look forward to seeing this album brought to life on stage live.

Drifting Sun- Safe Asylum

This is Neo prog in its finest tradition. I played a track from this to a fellow DJ at Progzilla Radio and he was blown away in a fit of nostalgia for the days of a renown pub in Walthamstow. It is neo Prog of the highest standard. Full on, no holds barred and unashamed in where it comes from and long may it remain so.

Under A Banner – TheWild Places

If you have ever seen New Model Army or the Pogues then you’ll have some idea of the passion and power in this music. Add a strong political lyrical undercurrent and a joyous love of the music with a progressive ideology then you get a vague idea of what the music is all about but you must listen to the album to get the impact. It felt like a slap in the face. The raw power yet the sophisticated arrangements and music. Despite coming from a strong folk tradition it screams ‘hear me and be stirred’.

We Are Kin – …and i know…

We Are Kin come out with a second album on Bad Elephant Music. The previous album was a studio project using musicians to add to the core tracks of the composers and was not really designed for live performance and, as such, felt like a studio project, a good one, but it was more of a compositional process.  ‘…and I know… feels like a band has gone into a studio and a written and album together. The flow and format gives strength and depth. They are part of an up and coming group of new “Prog” outfits coming up that give me hope for the future of music in general not just the progressive scene.

Tilt – Hinterland

I have said it before but, like Dylan’s backing group stepping out from behind the star to take centre stage (as an independent band writing their own music and doing a great job), TILT have stepped up from being behind that talented  behemoth Fish and found another amazing vocal talent and given freedom to some amazing power prog that any band would be proud of making. I need to see these guys live and Prog Dreams seems like a great festival to do it.

Napiers Bones – Hell and High Water

A truly artistically independent effort, Gordon and Nathan live over 250 miles apart, one close to the wilds of Yorkshire moors and the other in Dartmoor. These places form a cornerstone of their inspiration and writing. This album I reviewed for Progradar when it came out and was knocked back that not only was this album being given freely but also the rest of their catalogue was free too. Very well written and produced storytelling of a high standard. Classic Prog coming from the local mythology of both localities this is music that needs a wide audience.

Maschine – Naturalis

The perpetually busy Mr Machin gets the time to write his own stuff and put out an album that feels considerably mature and still full of the passion and energy only the young seem to be able to maintain. I am a fan of great musicianship but never at the cost of the music. Maschine strike this balance very well indeed.  This is another thematic album this one on the struggle between man and the natural world. The future of Prog is in safe hands.

I suppose I should state the struggle I had getting these 10 from the amazing releases that 2016 has had has been huge.  The list of bands not in here because of making my criteria so strict is immense – Cosmograf, Opeth , I am The  Manic Whale,  Kate Bush,  Verbal Delirium, Marillion, Steven Wilson, Van Der Graaf  Generator, Twice Bitten, jH , The Tirith etc etc etc . These albums in my selection have the highest personal play numbers of any others in my list. I commend you to try them but also do not be afraid to listen to an album from any act despite having never heard of them. With streaming from most sites now like Bandcamp you can try before you buy.  Go on you know you want to.

 

Progradar – 2016 – Best of the First Six Months

David

(Yours truly and Prog Guru™ himself)

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first official Progradar Reviewers and Friends ‘Best Of…’ feature.

I asked those who wished to contribute to cogitate over what great music they had heard, released 1st January to 30th June, in the first half of 2016 and come up with a list of their definitive five favourites.

Not an easy task, let me tell you but, here are the selections of nine (including me) erstwhile wordsmiths and friends, including a few words as to why these particular releases made the cut.

Emma

Emma Roebuck (Progradar reviewer)

Cover 2

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

This is Robin Armstrong on some amazing form.  I loved ‘Capacitor’ and I thought ‘Man Left in Space’ was a hard one to beat. I was clearly wrong and happy about it too. Robin is at his best when looking at the human condition when viewed through a less than regular lens. The mythology of Sisyphus and alien abduction combine to make such a lens.  I will treasure seeing his one and only live performance so far at Celebr8.3 fondly. The album is dark and melancholy which is the way I like my music to be honest.

This film might change your life and Relativity being high points in an album that is a mountain range of achievement.

Aftermath

Preacher – Aftermath

Their second album, and independently released like the Cosmograf album (and another 2 in my, selection if I remember rightly.) Preacher craft both songs and albums exceedingly well. ‘Signals’, the previous album, shows signs (poor, but unintentional, pun) of a band with tons to offer. They draw their roots from 70s Floyd and the melodic side of the genre.  It could be said that this is the album that Floyd should have released instead of ‘The Endless River’, I could easily agree but this is not that Floyd this is a band that use melody, harmony and song in a way that could go beyond the genre.

Stand out Tracks

War/ War reprise and Vinyl show how we look to emotions and actions and make things or deeds of them as people.

Cover

Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum

I was too young to be really aware of the genuine impact of the classic period of Prog rock. I caught the periphery in my early teens but felt no ownership of Yes, Genesis, VDGG, Floyd, Gentle Giant, etc only a serious attraction to the music as a 14 year old in 1975. In the early 80s, having ridden the horror that was punk, I remember seeing Marillion, IQ and Pallas in small pubs and clubs in 82 and it was a pure emotional and intellectual epiphany. It felt like I was hit in the heart and the brain with a piece of 2 by 4. I found home and ownership of music.  I liked ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ immensely and when I heard this album I felt all those emotions again. I was in the Sheffield Limit club again hearing something of very high quality and I connected immediately to this music. It is Neo Prog of a very high standard.  They sound like themselves with echoes of the last 40 years resounding through the music.

Standout Tracks Intruder and DesolationRetribution.

Jump Over The Top Cover

Jump – Over The Top

I have been a fan of Jump for the best part of 21 years. It is the Classic rock society that I owe big style, not just for these but many others, in times of musical desolation.  I found my first sample of these by old school recognition and recommendation by word of mouth. Fast forward to many Jump gigs later, the new album ‘Over the Top’ comes out and it was ‘yes, get in!’. Some of the current live set had been used to fine tune some of the songs over the last 18 months or so and it shows. John Dexter Jones is a storyteller par excellence and the band are an excellent vehicle for those stories. The words are heartfelt and the music comes from the same place. If they lived in medieval times they would be the bards of old. The use of the past to illustrate the way of the world we live in now is the stock in trade here.

Stand out tracks, I want to say all of them but if I was to choose The Beach and the Wreck of the St Marie are those choices.

Cover-500K

Kiama – Sign of IV

Just when you think you have Rob Reed figured out, Sanctuary, Magenta and so on, he does something out of the blue and blows the socks of you. Take good old rock sensibilities from the 60s and 70s, put them in the hands of some very talented individuals and they become a band which sounds like they have been a unit for years. I recently saw them support Frost* and wow, just wow.

This is a hybrid, musically drawn from the past in a very real sense, and is a homage to how they used to work but it does not feel like a tribute band in anyway.  It results in a multifaceted album of light and shade with some fantastic songs and heartfelt lyrics. It is some of Luke Machin’s best work outside of Maschine & Rubidium.  Rob Reed has a blast playing with sound and tone to create things like ‘Muzzled’, which is a tribute to the Floyd Album ‘Animals’, using the tones from the period to reflect the music and the time it came out. Dylans voice is amazing, we need more Kiama …

Stand Out Tracks  Muzzled and Slip away.

Leo2

Leo Trimming – (Progradar and TPA reviewer)

Tales From The Bookcase Cover

Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase

This was my TPA’s review’s conclusion early in the year for this surprise package, and I’ve had no reason to change it since…

This is an excellent collaboration: Red Bazar have helped Peter Jones express more of his serious, darker side and also allowed him to display more vocal dexterity. In return Red Bazar have gained a talented and very fine rock vocalist who has added great lyrical skill and vocal feeling  to their own fine emotional musical palette…

This may be a bit of a dark horse, but Red Bazar may just have released one of the Prog albums of the year.

All Our Yesterdays cover

Matthew Parmenter – All Our Yesterdays

A favourite on two levels – it’s a great album of subtle artistry and fine music, and on another level the artist & his music  touched me personally. My Progradar review concluded:

Matthew Parmenter has stepped aside from the magnificent, gothic group dynamic of Discipline to create a solo work of art suffused with dramatic shades and emotional lyricism, conveying tragedy and hope. This is an album that is likely to captivate and beguile with subtlety and delicate emotion. It certainly gave me unexpected comfort – Inside.’

BEM023 cover

Nine Stones Close – Leaves

A darkly trippy and psychedelic album. Part dream, part nightmare – this is an album for which repeated listens gradually unpeal the layers, like all the best progressive releases. My Progradar review observed:

Nine Stones Close create rich musical landscapes suffused with a sense of the dramatic and psychedelic… They do not stick to their old formula and want to progress. My advice is stick with these guys because you are never quite sure in which direction their songs or this albums may turn, but it sure is an imaginative and fascinating ride!’

Cover

Big Big Train – Folklore

A much anticipated release does not disappoint as the album describes modern folklore, ancient legend, elegies for lost love and epic stories of heroism and loss … plus bees (!) in a rich tapestry of folk tinged progressive rock. Lyrically intelligent and insightful, conveyed with integrity and emotion, and played with consummate skill and passion. Impossible to ignore – we all sort of knew it would be great. Of course it’s great!

Cover 2

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Simply stunning. Robin Armstrong has imagined a rich narrative of alien incursion (or paranoid breakdown?!) with sonic brilliance. The imaginative story is unnerving, whilst the music is captivating on a human level but cinematic in scope – ranging from crunching Purple riffs, through atmospheric acoustic passages to sweeping Floydian soundscapes. Undoubtedly, major contender for Album of the Year already from one of the best Progressive Rock artists of this generation.

Gary

Gary Morley – (Progradar reviewer)

HAWKWIND The Machine Stops

Hawkwind – The Machine Stops

Everything that Hawkwind evoke distilled into one disc. Great musicianship, tunes and tons of atmosphere make this the top of the pops for me. It’s been a long time since a Hawkwind album had such a buzz about it. Biggest regret – that I missed the live shows. Biggest hope – a proper live blu-ray & CD set is coming.

Aftermath

Preacher – Aftermath

Prog at it’s best for me needs a driver. Preacher use guitars. Proper guitars like your dad waffles on about when he talks about Pink Floyd, Steve Hillage, Jimmy Page and that time he watched Rory Gallagher play for 3 hours at the Hexagon Theatre and your mum was drinking pints and ended up paralytic, singing along to “Wayward Child” sat on his boss’s shoulders…

cover

I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time

Local boy’s debut embraces everything that is good about music. It has great tunes, off the wall lyrics and subjects that place it head and shoulders above most of what passes for modern music from the under 30’s. I’m looking forward to their next offering, be it a live gig in Reading or more music.

cover-1

Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

‘The Clockwork Fable’ is a Steam punk opera, like a space opera or a soap opera but without the bad romance and dodgy backdrops.

I loved the variety of musical genres used to tell a totally bonkers tale of clockwork suns and steam powered boys looking for missing cogs in a giant machine all played out in a cavernous underground city. There are rock tracks, some great drumming, some “epic” prog , some plaintive melodies and a host of guest vocalists and musicians, all of which add to the mix without overegging the lily.

The first time you listen you get sucked into the world presented here. It’s a Post apocalyptic, dark dystopian world but there are flashes of humour and the absurdity does not detract from the sheer brilliance of the effort here.

Cover

Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

“left over’s” from ‘Hand .Cannot .Erase’ these track might have been, but as a snapshot of Mr Chuckletrousers ( © Angus Prune I Think) and his Zeus like stature in the modern Prog pantheon  this is sublime in its perfection. Hints of Zappa referencing impossible “stun guitar”, epic soundscape that demonstrate his skill as an arranger and bleak yet beautiful lyrics are all wrapped in a package that sticks 2 fingers up at the download and go generation. This is a quality production in every detail, lovingly constructed and presented for your pleasure.

Shawn Dudley

Shawn Dudley – (Progradar reviewer)

Press_cover

Messenger – Threnodies

It took several spins for this album to truly work its magic on me, but once hooked it just won’t let me go.  A beautifully organic record, informed and powered by vintage sounds but not a slave to them.  The tastefully arranged guitar work on this album is a particular highlight.  Favorite tracks:  Balearic Blue, Celestial Spheres. 

Press_cover

Haken – Affinity

Haken leaves the 1970s sounds of ‘The Mountain’ behind, makes a brief stop in the 1980s for the song 1985 and then ventures forward into the future on Affinity.  An endlessly inventive collection of intricately designed and passionately performed pieces it’s one of the most thrillingly forward-looking albums of 2016.  It’s time to drop the “Prog Metal” genre tag, these guys have transcended it.  Favorite tracks:  The Architect, Red Giant

purson-desires-magic-theatre-cover

Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

Purson’s follow-up to ‘The Circle And The Blue Door’ is essentially a solo album from Rosalie Cunningham who wrote, arranged, produced and performed the majority of D.M.T. herself.   A conceptual psychedelic journey influenced by her Father’s record collection and her own experimentation with mind-expanding substances.  Another case of an artist using the canvas of vintage instrumentation and production techniques to create very personal and unique modern music.   Favorite tracks:  The Sky Parade, The Bitter Suite.

Cover

Big Big Train Folklore

Another beautiful collection of immaculately arranged and produced “pastoral prog” from this master collective of musicians.  I recommend going for the extended track-list available on the LP and High-Res download editions, I believe an even stronger collection than the shorter CD version.  Favorite tracks:  Salisbury Giant, London Plane

Print

Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A wonderfully quirky concoction of pop sensibility, progressive experimentation and the harmonic sophistication of jazz all mixed together into a thoroughly accessible brew.  And it’s fun!  Favorite tracks:  I Am Lost, I Must Set Fire To Your Portrait.

Roger

Roger Trenwith – (TPA reviewer and Astounded by Sound blog)

cover low

Bent Knee – Say So

An unparalleled triumph of invention, melody, and strangeitude, it will take some beating for album of the year.

cover

David Bowie – Blackstar

Hardly seems right relegating this poignant artistic statement and full stop on a career of a true visionary to No.2, but from a purely musical point of view, them’s the breaks.

Print

Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A chronicle of loss leavened by hope, Knifeworld get better with each release. Criminally underrated.

cover

Body English – Stories of Earth

Is there a sub-genre called “prog-pop”? If not, this is it. A truly joyous record shining a light in this dark Year of Stupid.

KCr

King Crimson – Live In Toronto – Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, Canada, 20th November 2015

Whatever I put here means leaving out at least half a dozen albums equally as good, so this came out on top after a complicated mathematical randomisation process involving dice, incantations, dead frogs, toads, and copious amounts of single malt. The mighty Crim remake, remodel like no-one else. The version of Epitaph will make you shiver, unless you have no soul. Superb!

Kev

Kevin Thompson (LHS) – (Progradar reviewer)

Cover

Big Big Train – Folklore

Does this really need a reason?, best of the Band’s excellent output so far and an album that will always be on my desert island disc list. As near to perfect as it gets…

Press_cover

Long Distance Calling – Trips

There are so many bands in this area of music it’s hard to stand out, but, on this release, Long Distance Calling have…..

cover-1

Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

A tremendous 3 disc concept package of such quality. Never been better value for money and shames the bigger bands!!

cover

Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

A delicately beautiful album from this Russian duo added further poignancy with the heartfelt vocals from Mariusz Duda on the title track.

Cover Album low res

Downriver Dead Men Go – Tides

Another band who came recommended and I’d not heard before buying. Slow, dark and emotional, this Dutch band surpassed my expectations.

David

David Elliott – (Prog Guru™, TEP, Bad Elephant)

Cover

Lazuli – Nos Âmes Saoules

There is nothing else quite like them, and they keep on going from strength to strength….

cover low

Bent Knee – Say So

My first exposure to this amazing American band…genuine innovators, and hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck exciting!!

Cover

The Dowling Poole – One, Hyde Park

Unashamedly unoriginal, but huge fun, and immaculately crafted. Big smiley music.

Print

Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

Banging tunes, a great groove, and more bassoon!!

Press_Cover_01

Frost* – Falling Satellites

A great return to the arena from the masters of modern progressive. Progressive rock with pop sensibilities – what’s not to like?

John Simms

John Simms – (Progradar reviewer, Rev Sky Pilot blog)

Cover

Big Big train – Folklore

Consistently turning out excellent pastoral English progressive music, BBT have hit the motherlode again with this suite of songs celebrating the British folkloric tradition. From the sublime beauty of ‘Transit’ to the quirky tale of ‘Winkie’ the Pigeon, this is music of the highest calibre.

IoK cover

Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge

This, for me, is simply the best music anyone connected with Yes has produced since ‘Awaken’. It draws on the bestaspects of Yes and Flower Kings and produces something sublime and beautiful. It was a very close call between my Top 2.

cover

Southern Empire – Southern Empire

One of the up sides to Unitopia folding a few years ago is that we now have both UPF and Southern Empire to carry on the legacy. This is a fine collection of melodic progressive rock music, exhibiting high levels of virtuosity and songmanship.

Print

Knifeworld – Bottled Out of Eden

Another band with a unique style and approach to music making. This is a wonderful follow-up to ‘The Unravelling’ and Kavus and his band of minstrels continue to delight.

BEM021 album cover

Mothertongue – Unsongs

The best music is that which stands out from the crowd, and Mothertongue certainly do that. Ecclectic, bizarre, unexpected and bonkers, this is a wonderful collection of (un)songs.

Hutch

And finally my thoughts, this selection of five albums was incredibly difficult to pick but I’m pretty certain that, at this moment in time, it is my definitive top five!!!

BEM021 album cover

Mothertongue – Unsongs

With its incisive, intelligent lyrics and first-class musicianship, Unsongs is unlike anything you will have heard in recent years. The music will lead you on a roller-coaster journey of acid jazz inventiveness that’s a big heap of noisy and light and also includes a lot of brass because everyone likes brass, right? A musical breath of fresh air that you will return to again and again, it’s just brilliant!

Cover

Big Big Train – Folklore

The acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling return with a fresh collection of 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.

Cover 2

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.

cover

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!

Tilt Album

Tilt – Hinterland

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. By the way, three of these guys are better known as Fish’s backing band but, oh my god, have they risen well above that soubriquet now….

So, there you have it, a small selection of our own, very subjective, opinions on what has been the best music of a highly impressive first six months of 2016. You may agree, you may not but, one thing that everything agrees on is that the music just keeps getting better, and long may it continue!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase – by Progradar

Tales From The Bookcase Cover

 

“A good marriage winds up as a meeting of minds, which had better be pretty good to start with.

When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, and engage in new trains of thought.”

I know, you’re wondering what the heck am I going on about now but please lend me your ears and I shall explain….

When I heard that the instrumental progressive rock of Red Bazar was courting the vocal and lyrical talents of a certain Peter Jones of Tiger Moth Tales fame I, being a natural optimist, was certain it would be a glorious union.

I’d listened to the odd track or two from Red Bazar and had always been impressed by what I’d heard and, as for Peter, I’m sure you know I am a long term fan of this mercurial musician (and very nice bloke).

But, as well as successful accords, history is littered with stories of disastrous tie-ups, now you could bet your house on this joining together of musical marvels being a success, however, until you hear the material of the new partnership, you can never know for sure…..

band

Red Bazar formed in 2007 with Andy Wilson on guitar, Paul Comerie on Drums and Mick Wilson on bass and keyboards.  The trio released their debut album in 2008, ‘Connections’ which was an instrumental album.  It was very well received by the prog world and garnered excellent reviews from around the world.  

 The following year they started work writing and recording the follow up album ‘Differential Being’ which again was an instrumental album. The album was released in 2010 and this too received excellent reviews and saw the band move forward, making a video to the first track (Paragon) from the album  and undertaking a series of gigs.

The band’s next release was a three track EP ‘After The Ice Storm’ released in 2013.  This used more keyboards, allowing them to create a wider variety of sounds.  The EP also received glowing reviews.l

The use of more keyboards made it difficult for the band to play live as Mick was juggling between keyboards and bass, so the band took the decision to find a keyboard player.  After a long search and many auditions, along came Gary Marsh.  He was perfect and was promptly added to the band’s line-up towards the end of 2013.

Peter Jones, attended a Red Bazar gig in Nottingham and suggested if we ever wanted to try some vocals he’d be ‘up for it’”, explains Andy. “We sent him a track and were really impressed with the lyrics and melodies. The rest, as they say……is history.”

Through 2014 and 2015 the band wrote and recorded the songs for ‘Tales from the Bookcase’ which is a collection of musical stories, many of which are based on Pete’s favorite books, with him providing the lyrics for all of the tracks except one, Sunset For A New World.

Band Name

By jove, they do love irony these rock bands, let’s laud the fact we now have a vocalist and start the new album with an instrumental! Actually In The Beginning is a rather fine opening to this new release with its slow burning feeling and ramping up of anticipation. Andy Wilson’s guitar is the lead here, ably assisted by the other musicians and setting the scene perfectly for Queen Of The Night Pt.1. A heavy riff opens the track with pounding drums and a tasty bass line before the distinctive voice of Peter Jones adds a edgy tone. Moving away from his usual progressive tinged vocal, Peter gets to rock out a bit more on this song and you get the impression that he’s really enjoying it. The punchy guitar and dynamic drums drive the track along giving it an added impetus before the laid back interludes where Peter’s voice takes centre stage amid a tug of war between dark and light where he takes on two distinctive characters with his clever invectives. The inventive music can, on one side, lull you into a feeling of goodwill and yet, on the other, leave you feeling like you’ve been run over by a force of nature. The next track is a particular highlight for me, Calling Her On is an almost perfect symbiosis of Peter’s Tiger Moth Tales persona and the inherent brilliance of the original musical quartet. A delightfully subdued opening where the vocals lay the foundations of the story is quite captivating, a gentle tranquility amid a hectic world. As expected, it doesn’t last forever as a sweeping riff demands your attention, the compelling rhythm section urging, the vocals taking on a pressing tone. The central part of the song opens up with Andy’s expansive guitar solo, one that carries you away on a wave of emotion. He’s always been a master storyteller Peter Jones and his new partners in crime just add to his skills as a troubadour of note on this compelling musical tapestry, a journey that twists and turns dragging you along with it as a willing victim, the mellow, unhurried closing out of the track soothing your troubled soul.

Album cover

Peter is a well known Genesis fan and City And The Stars has that revered prog rock band written large all over it. The gentle introduction with the Gabrielesque vocal and the Tony Banks inspired keyboards is inspired and the rest of the track does not let you down in any way. The guitar playing is sublime, the drums are smooth as you like and the bass is suave and sophisticated. It all leaves you cocooned in the nostalgic, whimsical 70’s bubble from which you never want to leave as it paints pictures in your mind. There is an undercurrent of despair deep at the core of this powerful song though and the longer it goes on that feeling of being safe and secluded drifts away. Intelligent songwriting delivers quite a profound tale and one of which we should surely take note. Andy Wilson delivers another coruscating guitar solo of note and you are left with a slightly hollow feeling of wistfulness. Lights Of Home is the centrepiece of the album and is a track of intricate sensibilities amid a story of endurance and bravery. The opening is busy and engrossing with a percussive riff and Paul Comerie’s abilities as a drummer are brought well to the fore, aided and abetted admirably by Mick Wilson’s driving bass. This guy has inherent brilliance behind the kit and it is allowed to shine here. There’s an impatient, restless quality to the song, never settling, an urgency that you feel through the impressive musicians and the vocals add direction to that verve. A lull in proceedings midway through allows you to gather your thoughts on the scenario before you and then a brilliant guitar solo creeps into your mind, the guitar seemingly piercing your very being, Gary Marsh adding the distinctive panache of his keyboards. A track epic in scope and delivery and one that stays in your mind long after it has come to a close. There’s something really addictive about the guitar theme that runs through Sunset For A New World, something that gets under your skin and into your very soul. I can’t describe it exactly but I really like the feeling it engenders as it meanders along, captivating and beguiling. The intricate drumming and ever so polished bass line just add to this feeling of uber-cool jazziness that runs throughout this high-class track. Peter’s vocals are heartfelt and fervent and give the song a feeling of perfection and rightness. The pent-up emotion that erupts out of Andy’s guitar on the evocative solo is amazing to behold and, added to the dapper keys, adds that final veneer of elegance to what is a really excellent piece of music.

Album title

The darkest track on the album and one that deals with Peter’s own previous battles with depression, Almost Over begins in a solemn and restrained manner, building the scene gradually. Peter’s voice has a more hushed tone and there is a muted feeling that overshadows everything before a dark riff strikes out. There’s an intentionally oppressive tone to the song, one that provokes an aura of despair and anguish. Long gone are the jolly themes and jocular tones of Tiger Moth Tales’ ‘Storytellers’ yet the song is still as persuasive as any other on this release, even the the guitar solo has a slightly ambiguous and obscure feel to it. Despite the darkness inherent in the track’s theme it does seem to, finally, come to a more optimistic close, there is hope to be found inside your own mind.

The final track on the album is the conclusion to the first, Queen Of The Night Pt2. revisiting musical and lyrical themes originally explored in the opening track. A more refined opening with a staccato riff backing Jones’ dulcet tones as the scene is described in detail. Occasional glimpses of the heavy riff prevalent on Pt1. tie the two tracks together. You must listen to the decidedly impressive lyrics  as they add not a little weight to the music and Peter Jones must be one of the pre-eminent lyricists at large today in the world of progressive music, if not the whole music industry. Listen to the superb nuances in the bass, drums and keyboards with their jazzy feel and the charismatic guitar that seems to glow with a life of its own, there is an organic quality to the music that gives it a unique tactility. The song opens into a huge soundscape that entrances and delights in equal measure, an infinite depth that becomes almost primordial and elemental and, as it fades to a close, one that has captured your very soul.

The addition of an artist of the calibre of Peter Jones to the already impressive musicians in Red Bazar always had the potential to create a new force in the world of progressive music, the question was how good would they actually be? Well my friends I can answer that firmly in the positive. ‘Tales From The Bookcase’ is a new classic to my ears and an album that should be in any discerning fans collection, roll on the next one!

Released 22nd March 2016.

Buy ‘Tales From The Bookcase’ from White Night Records