Progradar’s Review of 2021

I’ve had a little time to digest what was a rather wonderful year of music in 2021. Here is my review of the year with my favourite albums, in no particular order barring my number one!

Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe – Forevermore

A true return to form for the prog supergroup with melodies, tunes and overtures galore. Transatlantic gave us their best album since ‘Bridge Across Forever’.

Lifesigns – Altitude

I really think that Lifesigns have taken a massive step forward with this album, good as ‘Cardington’ was, this release is so very much better in my opinion.

Echoes & Signals – Mercurial

‘Mercurial’ trades some of Echoes & Signals’ signature post-rock sensibilities for a darker journey into the kind of prog-metal embraced by the likes of Tool and this new direction is one that I feel suits them perfectly. 

Cosmograf – Rattrapante

At the time, I said, “At this moment in time there is nothing I would rather listen to than this incredible new album from Cosmograf, will Robin’s latest pièce de résistance still be up there at the end of the year? Most probably but, here and now, it just does not get any better than this!” And here it is!

League of Lights – Dreamers Don’t Come Down

Not only a nod to the past but also a completely relevant piece of music in these present times, ‘Dreamers Don’t Come Down’ is a perfectly crafted collection of pop and electronica infused songs that really hit home.

Ana Patan – Spice, Gold and Tales Untold

Wearing her many influences proudly on her sleeve Ana Patan has just allowed the music and her excellent vocals to tell her many intriguing and involving stories and this has allowed them to breathe and come to life quite spectacularly. An album that has surprised me in its simple brilliance and one that, if you let it, will enrich your life in a myriad of ways.

The Vicious Head Society – Extinction Level Event

‘Extinction Level Event’ is shaping up to possibly be the best prog metal album of the last few years at least, I honestly don’t think I’ve had a prog metal album hit me so hard since Haken’s ‘The Mountain’

Catalyst*R – self-titled

When everything that is happening around you is making your life jaded, just press play on this bewitching collection of songs, light the spark and let the music start to take your cares away…

Michael Woodman – Psithurism

A hugely impressive and admirably different collection of songs that shows Woodman’s impish creativity at its best. A musical breath of fresh air that will leave a smile on your face and wonderment in your soul.

Vestamaran – Bungalow Rex

Get your hands on this album and, when the sun shines, get the barbecue lit, an ice cold beer in your hand, put the stereo on, turn it up to 11 and just enjoy this incredible album for, as the press release says, “Life is not just bungalow all day long, it also includes a lot of rex in the evenings.”

Tillison, Reingold, Tiranti – Allium – Una Storia

Simple but perfectly formed and harking back to the days when music just put a smile on your face, this is one album that deserves success just because of how it makes you feel and I love it for that.

Big Big Train – Common Ground

Vibrant and upbeat, thoughtful, wistful and even melancholy at times, it is a collection of amazing songs that will touch you on a basic level and move you on many others. ‘Common Ground’ is the album that will make you fall in love with the band all over again and I can’t give it any higher praise than that!

smalltape – The Hungry Heart

I’m a massive fan of music that makes me think, music that doesn’t give up its deepest delights easily and ‘The Hungry Heart’ has that in spades. HungerBurning House, Dissolution, the list goes on, cuts of pure musical brilliance that showcase this young German musician as a seriously precocious talent and one to follow closely.

Giancarlo Erra – Departure Tapes

If music could tell a story of a life lived, lost and, deep at its core, loved then ‘Departure Tapes’ is it. I am along term fan of this intelligent musician’s brilliant work and this new release is another entry into his very impressive discography.

Great North Star – self-titled

Step out of this confusing and hectic world that we live in, if only for the thirty nine minutes running time, and allow your mind and your soul to recharge. A wonderful and insightful masterpiece that will stay with you for a very long time.

Three Colours Dark – Love’s Lost Property

‘Love’s Lost Property’ is an exquisite creation, nine tracks of wondrously charming music with Rachel’s honeyed vocals lifting this release well above what you may have heard already this year. I suggest you get your hands on it as soon as you can, it is definitely worth seeking out.

The Holy Road – An Unshakeable Demon

Never be afraid to challenge yourself and listen to something different, I found the eclectic and evocative wonder of ‘An Unshakable Demon’ really hit home with me.

CYAN – For King And Country

A masterpiece of intricate melodies, mellifluous vocals and intelligent songwriting, ‘For King And Country’ delights on every level and makes you smile. You can’t really ask for much more than that, can you?

Glass Hammer – Skallagrim – Into The Breach

Epic in scope, majestic in scale and blurring the lines between progressive rock and progressive metal, Glass Hammer have given us their best album of recent years and possibly their best release ever and it should be another monster success for this evergreen band.

Findlay Napier – It Is What It Is

‘It Is What It Is’ sees this fine musician and songwriter on a higher plane and is a must buy for anyone who appreciates and treasures original music with heart and soul.

And the top gong for album of the year goes to….

HFMC – We Are The Truth

This superlative gem of release is worthy of all the praise that is being heaped upon it and finishes 2021 on an utter high for this reviewer, the finest of a wonderful crop of albums released this year!

So, there you have it, my selection of some of the great albums that graced 2021 and I am sure that 2022 is going to be just as good!

Review – Tillison Reingold Tiranti – Allium: Una Storia – by Progradar

The Lineup of Andy Tillison (The Tangent/Po90), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings/Steve Hackett Band/Karmakanic) and Roberto Tiranti (New Trolls/Ken Hensley/Labyrinth) is a pan European Progressive Rock Band project and the album was recorded during lockdowns in Italy, Austria and the UK.

The album ‘Allium: Una Storia’ is a concept album which takes as its subject a real band, Allium, that Tillison saw play (and jammed with) in Italy when he was a teenager in the mid 1970s.

One afternoon spent with this band was enough to decide my career for the rest of my life” says Tillison, who subsequently spent a long time searching for any information about them.

It was the first time I saw and touched a synthesiser; it was the first time I ever saw an electric band play. It was a golden moment on a holiday camp in Italy that has been an influence on every recording I have ever made in the past 46 years.”

The new band –TRT-‘s album is an imagining of the record Allium might have made. Written in the style of the music that they played, the band were joined by Italian lyricist Antonio De Sarno (Moongarden, Barock Project, Mangala Vallis) who, in keeping with Tillison’s original music, wrote the kind of lyrics that might have been penned by Allium at that time.

All members of the band have contributed to the songwriting since inception. The album, whilst paying homage to this and many other forgotten Rock Progressivo Italiano bands, is all original material written in 2021.

Right, that’s the publicity blurb and the background out of the way, the main question is, is it any good?

The album consists of three tracks and is just over forty minutes long. I’ll give you my initial feelings first, the way I felt when I first listened all the way through and what I told Andy when I discussed it with him…

The feeling I get from the music is one of pure unfettered joy, it takes me back to when the world was a much more simple place. It literally does just take me away to a another place in my head and I just smile every time I listen to it.

Andy told me, “Like you, I find the modern world exhausting, I feel more and more like I’m in a dystopian story every day. So a bit of my own memory of more joyful times has helped!”

It certainly shows on this album, it just feels as if it was created naturally, with love and just a in a really relaxed way, it’s a feeling of freedom and no constraints, the album will be ready when it is done and not before.

“I have always found, at least since the Prog Glory Days that Italian Prog was almost the “real thing”. It’s not that Crimson and Yes and Emerson didn’t develop the style, they certainly did, but it was the Italians who really coalesced the style into the most diverse and free thinking forms. Even bands I love like Camel, Genesis, even ELP themselves were often left standing by The Italians. They hadn’t had much truck with Rock Music.. but when Prog arrived, we were on their turf.”, Andy went on to say.

So it’s that Rock Progressivo Italiano vibe brought right up to date for our modern times but music to give you some relief from the complexity of modern life. The swirling, sweeping keyboards that are are signature of Mr Tillison are present and correct and Jonas’ bass is as smooth and stylish as ever, his excellent electric guitar playing skills are also much evident on the album too but what makes this hugely different from what has gone before are Roberto Tiranti’s mesmerising vocals which, like all the best foreign language singers, make the lyrics less important than the actual way in which they are delivered, his voice is like an additional instrument. They add a bit of innocent naivety to the songs and take you back to the sepia tinged hue of a nostalgic 1970’s and, boy, have I longed to be somewhere like that quite a few times over the last eighteen months!

The three songs are the side long epic Mai Tornare and the two shorter tracks Ordine Nuovo and Nel Nome Di Dio and usually at this point, I would go into further detail about each one but, this time, I’m not. This album is a listening experience that should be consumed in one sitting, in the fashion of the 70’s and not dipping in to one track and going back later to listen to another.

Is ‘Allium: Una Storia’ an antidote to the lockdown and everything associated with it? Well I wouldn’t want to make a claim that huge and I don’t think Andy, Jonas or Roberto would thank me if I did! No, it is a joyous expression of music, as, deep down at its core, it should be. Simple but perfectly formed and harking back to the days when music just put a smile on your face, this is one album that deserves success just because of how it makes you feel and I love it for that.

The album is set for a SUMMER 2021 release and is available on Reingold Records. pre-orders are available at Jonas Reingold | Webshop