Sunday, April 29, 2018

Soft Machine - 1975-01-10 - Enschede, The Netherlands

Soft Machine
Vrijhof Cultuurcentrum, Universiteit Twente
Enschede, The Netherlands

Soundboard recording (unknown lineage), very good quality
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and Mp3 (320 kbps) versions

Continuing with Soft Machine and the Canterbury Scene in the '70's: With original drummer Robert Wyatt's departure in late 1971 (and the formation of his new band, Matching Mole), followed by the loss of reeds man Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge was the last original member of the band left to carry on. So, in came John Marshall (drums) and Karl Jenkins (reeds, keyboards) for the recording of their sixth album (Six, 1973), and a further progression into jazz fusion. Bassist Hugh Hopper was then replaced by Roy Babbington for Seven (1973) as Jenkins took over the role of leader and primary composer. In 1975, another major change took place with the addition of fusion guitarist Alan Holdsworth, marking the debut of guitar as a prominent melody instrument to the band's sound, and the release of Bundles (1975). Although Holdsworth didn't stay long, guitar remained a prominent sound on their subsequent album Softs (1976), with John Etheridge replacing Holdsworth. But this was essentially the end of Soft Machine (for the time being), as original member Ratledge left during the recording of that album. However, the band did continue to tour into 1978. In the '80's, various members put together short-lived variations on the band, and later ('90's, '00's), various combinations and reunions of sorts formed under such band names as Soft Ware, Soft Works, and Soft Machine Legacy. Soft Machine Legacy was the longest-lasting of these (with John Etheridge, Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, and John Marshall) releasing several albums through the mid-2000's, and continuing on even after further member losses (Dean died in 2006, replaced by Theo Travis; Hopper died in 2009, replaced by Roy Babbington), all the way to 2015. In 2015, the remaining band (Etheridge, Travis, Babbington, Marshall) went back to the original name, Soft Machine, and continues right up to the present day. The music featured here today is from the 1975 lineup that featured Alan Holdsworth and Karl Jenkins.
CD 1
1. The Floating World
2. Bundles
3. Land Of The Bag Snake
4. Ealing Comedy
5. The Man Who Waved At Trains
6. Peff
7. North Point
8. Hazard Profile Pt. 1
9. Hazard Profile Pt. 2
10. Hazard Profile Pt. 3
11. Hazard Profile Pt. 4
12. Hazard Profile Pt. 5
CD 2
1. Four Gongs Two Drums
2. Improv 1
3. audience
4. Song Of Aeolus
5. Improv 2
6. Dave DiMartino interview with Mike Ratledge & Allan Holdsworth
   (East Lansing, Michigan, 3 November 1974)

Allan Holdsworth - guitar
Mike Ratledge - organ, synth
Karl Jenkins - oboe, sax, recorder, piano
Roy Babbington - bass
John Marshall - drums

FLAC - Soft Machine_1975-01-10_Enschede_Netherlands_FLAC.rar

mp3 - Soft Machine_1975-01-10_Enschede_Netherlands_mp3.rar

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Soft Machine - 1970-1971 - Rotterdam, Breda, The Netherlands

Soft Machine
De Doelen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Het Turfschip, Breda, Netherlands

Soundboard recordings, very good quality
Rotterdam show available in both Lossless (FLAC) and Mp3 (320 kbps) versions
Breda show only available as Mp3 (320 kbps)

Soft Machine (originally The Soft Machine) were one of the pioneering psychedelic/progressive rock bands of the '60's with a free-form improvisational style that paved the way for what would become jazz-rock fusion. Originally formed in London in 1966 by Daevid Allen (guitar), Kevin Ayers (bass, guitar, vocals), Robert Wyatt (drums), and Mike Ratledge (organ, keyboards), Soft Machine were involved in the early UK Underground scene and developed a growing reputation around Europe. However, this form of the band didn't last long, as when returning from a series of gigs in France in 1967, Daevid Allen (an Australian) was denied entry to the UK due to overstaying his visa. So, Allen was out and went back to Paris and formed another influential prog rock band, Gong (more about them later). Soft Machine continued on as a trio for awhile, recording and releasing their first album (The Soft Machine, 1968), considered an essential root album of psychedelic/progressive rock/jazz fusion. However, Kevin Ayers also left the band (to record a solo album) following a successful US tour (as the opening act for Jimi Hendrix) in 1968, and was later replaced by Hugh Hopper, for the recording of their 2nd album (Volume Two, 1969). At this time they transitioned away from the more psychedelic aspects to all instrumental and more of a pure jazz fusion style. Saxophonist Elton Dean was added in late 1969 and this lineup remained for their next 2 albums (Third-1970, Fourth-1971). Third was notable for its 4 extended suites (One per side of the double album), and became their best-selling and one of their most famous albums. This is the timeframe of the included shows here, from late 1970 and early 1971 following the release of each of these albums featuring this line-up. But shortly after this, the line-up would change again, as Wyatt left the band before the end of 1971, and Dean would also leave in 1972, leaving Mike Ratledge as the only original member going forward. Soft Machine was one of the early and central bands of what became known as the Canterbury Scene, which referred to a loose assemblage of intertwined bands and musicians originally based in and around the Canterbury region in the '60's and early '70's, that developed their own improvisational progressive style, incorporating a certain whimsicality with touches of psychedelia into a progressive rock/jazz fusion. Other notable Canterbury scene bands included Gong, Caravan, Hatfield and the North, and National Health (more from some of these later). So, here is Soft Machine and the progressive-proto jazz fusion era of Wyatt, Ratledge, Hopper, and Dean. 
01. Teeth  8:26
02. Slightly All the Time > Kings And Queens  16:17
03. Esther's Nose Job  10:38
1971-03-15 (incomplete)
04. Facelift
05. Virtually
06. Fletcher’s Blemish
07. Out-Bloody-Rageous
08. Eamonn Andrews
09. All White
10. Pigling Bland

Elton Dean - alto sax, saxello
Hugh Hopper - bass
Mike Ratledge - keyboards
Robert Wyatt - drums

FLAC (1970-10-24 show only) - Soft Machine_1970-10-24_Rotterdam_FLAC.rar

Mp3 - (both shows together) - Soft Machine_1970-1971_Rotterdam,Breda_Netherlands_Mp3.rar

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Decade of BB

Quality Music Blog for a Tenth of a Century

Before continuing with posts for my current Tribute to Progressive Rock feature, I must take time out to acknowledge a rather momentous occasion, the tenth anniversary of this blog. Yes, that's right, believe it or not, the BB Chronicles has managed to stick around for a whole ten years! In blog years that's almost like 100. Ok, so, it may not be that much, but it is something, and it has survived long after so many other music blogs have come and gone. So, here we are, after 10 years, and although I post at a somewhat sporadic rate, we have covered a whole lot over the years, from features covering country-rock to pub rock to power pop to progressive rock, from The Kinks to Neil Young to Genesis to Tom Petty, from local to international music scenes, the obscure to the mega-popular, from Aliotta Haynes and Jeremiah to Steve Goodman to Golden Smog to The Vulgar Boatmen, from Aimee Mann to Zoe Daschanel, from The Grays to The Beatles, from America to Wilco, etc., and everything in between, on several hundred music posts, hundreds of thousands of downloads, and millions of pageviews, and it's all still here (mostly). And what I have put out here is some really quality stuff, all music and artists that I personally enjoy very much, and many of these shows are (or at least were) not readily available elsewhere. I try to provide some background and context to the music and artists, as well as my own commentary, rather than just unadorned music files, to give those new to these artists some perspective and history, to explore the music further. And in that sense I hope that what I have provided here has been useful and worthwhile, as well as musically satisfying. And so, I am somewhat proud of what I have assembled here over the past decade, and I hope it has been something that you come back to often and have been introduced to some new music here that you really enjoy, to expand your musical horizons and enjoyment, and be a positive addition to your musical experience as well as your music collection.

And once again, as I have each year at this time, I also want to take this time to thank and celebrate all the others out there who have made so much of this great music, which is not available for purchase anywhere, freely available to all who wish to download and enjoy it. I am only able to offer these downloads because others before me have made them available. So, to all the other bloggers, tapers, forum posters, and music fans that have collected these recordings and made them available over the internet, and most importantly, to all the great artists and musicians out there that have created and performed this wonderful music and allow these recordings to be freely exchanged, I offer a huge and heartfelt Thank You. And again, I implore everyone to purchase all the official releases of your favorite artists, as well as, wherever possible, go see them live in concert. The music here serves to supplement, not replace, all of their officially released music. They are supported by fans like us.

So, I plan to continue on with this little endeavor for as long as possible, such as it is. Perhaps part of my secret to longevity is that I don't spend an inordinate amount of time working on this (just what I can spare at the moment), thus I have not gotten burned out from it. Anyway, I very much enjoy doing it, just have a limited amount of time I can devote to it. But I will always strive to provide new and interesting content that is generally not readily available from many of the the other music blogs. As I've said previously, I do wish I could get more comments, feedback, and discussion from you, the readers of this blog. Please, let me know what you think of what is here, provide your own insight and perspective, and some real discussion of some of this great music. I would love to hear and see more from you, if possible. So, for know, I'll just keep things going as they are, and I hope you will stop by occasionally, check it out, and and join me on this journey. Thanks to all.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Gentle Giant - 1975-01-27 - Agora Theater, Cleveland, OH

Gentle Giant
The Agora, Cleveland, OH

FM Broadcast (WMMS-FM) Recording, very good quality
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and mp3 (320 kbps) versions

OK, to start my tribute to progressive rock (featuring its breadth of scope and some of the excellent but less commercially successful artists), here we have Gentle Giant, for no other reason than they were where my progressive rock concert experience started. The first official rock concert I attended (other than local events at high school, etc.) was a Procol Harum show at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago, IL, on April 13, 1973 (almost exactly 45 years ago). Gentle Giant was the opening act, and let's just say I was mightily impressed by them, their musical style, and their multi-instrumental versatility (I remember, in particular, being completely blown away by the 4-part recorder section of 'The Advent in Panurge' (which can be heard in the recording featured here in the 'Excerpts from Octopus' track).
Gentle Giant was formed in Portsmouth, UK, in 1970 by the musically diverse, multi-instrumentalist Shulman Brothers, Phil (sax, trumpet, clarinet, etc.), Derek (sax, recorder), and Ray (bass, violin), after some frustrating earlier experiences with various pop and soul bands, when they teamed up with a couple other talented multi-instrumentalistst, Gary Green (guitar, mandolin, recorder, etc.) and Kerry Minnear (keyboards, vibes, cello, etc.). What set Gentle Giant apart from other aspiring progressive rock bands of the time was their versatility and musicality, their complex and sophisticated musical structure, and incorporation of a wide swath of musical styles, including folk, jazz, blues, soul, and classical. And even their "classical" influences were more diverse, incorporating medieval, baroque, and modernist styles in addition to the more common Romantic period classics. Minnear, in particular, was classically trained, with a degree in composition. Their compositions are adventurous and challenging, and perfect for progressive rock. Their only weakness is that, although almost all members sing and do multi-part harmonies, none of them have a great lead voice (although it has infamously been told that Elton John auditioned for and was turned down as lead vocalist). Through their first 2 albums (Gentle Giant-1970, Acquiring the Taste-1971), they were experimenting and finding their sound, but not finding much of an audience. Their pursuit of musicianship didn't fit the mainstream styles of the time. Their stated aim on Acquiring the Taste was to "expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of becoming very unpopular". Their next album, Three Friends (1972) was their first concept album, and also first released in the U.S.   For the band's first tour in the U.S. later that year, they were unfortunately booked as the opening act for Black Sabbath, and were not greeted well (mostly booed) by Sabbath fans. Their next album, Octopus (1972-UK, 1973-US), perhaps their best album, marked the beginning of their peak years. For their US tour this time (Spring 1973), they were paired with Procol Harum, a much better audience for them (and where I saw them). Although Phil left following the Octopus tour (couldn't handle touring),  the band continued with a couple more powerful concept albums (In a Glass House-1973, The Power and The Glory-1974), and were building a solid following, although never quite breaking through commercially. By 1975, with a change in record labels and the album Free Hand, they started to try to polish their sound and style to reach a wider audience, resulting in their most successful album to date. But further moves over the next few years to simplify and streamline their songs to achieve a more accessible pop sound (and wider audience) resulted in diminishing returns, and the band eventually split in 1980. But, throughout their career, their live shows have always been sensational and much appreciated by the progressive fans. Although there have been many calls for reunions over the years, there has been no official Gentle Giant reunions, albeit a few unofficial partial ones for specific events. I think this is another one of those bands that are looked back on with much more love and respect now than when they were originally around. So, here is a concert from those peak years, a very nice sounding FM broadcast from 1975, from The Power and The Glory Tour (Unfortunately, I could not find any recordings from the 1973 tour I saw them on, but this one is very good). 

1. Cogs in Cogs
2. Proclamation ->
3. Funny Ways
4. The Runaway ->
5. Experience
6. Excerpts from Octopus
7. So Sincere ->
8. drums
9. Mr. Class & Quality ->
10. Valedictory

Derek Shulman: vocals, mulberry, saxophone, recorder, bass, percussion
Ray Shulman: bass, acoustic guitar, violin, recorder, percussion, vocals
Kerry Minnear: keyboards, cello, recorder, vibes, percussion, acoustic guitar, vocals
Gary Green: guitar, recorder, percussion, vocals
John ‘Pugwash’ Weathers: drums, percussion, vibes

FLAC - Gentle Giant_1875-01-27_Cleveland(FM)_FLAC.rar

mp3 - Gentle Giant_1875-01-27_Cleveland(FM)_mp3.rar

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Progressive Rock Lives On (Part 2)

Some background on progressive rock

Most agree that progressive rock started in the mid-60's, with the exploration and experimentation of The Beatles (Revolver, Sgt. Peppers) and other bands (The Byrds, Beach Boys, Mothers of Invention etc.), and then grew out of the psychedelic music phase of that time. Bands were searching for new sounds and styles, the more avant-garde and eclectic the better, for "tripping" with or without drugs. Now, just what defines progressive rock has been hotly debated ever since the term was invented, but as I noted previously, I take a much more inclusive attitude toward progressive rock than many (which I think is in the spirit of what progressive rock is all about). So, for me, the basics are that it constitutes a synthesis of rock with at least one or more other musical genres, and that the structure is more complex or experimental than traditional rock, in that it involves experimenting with compositional structure, instrumentation, harmony and rhythm, and/or lyrical content. Some progressive bands formed at that time incorporated classical music and themes (Procol Harum, Moody Blues, The Nice), others incorporated more jazz (Traffic, Frank Zappa), while others explored more of a psychedelic space-rock (Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Gong), and still others transformed the folk revival into various forms of electric folk or progressive folk-rock (Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steelyeye Span). By 1968, an explosion of new bands exploring some form of progressive rock emerged (Can, Caravan, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Gong, King Crimson, Rush, van der Graaf Generator, Yes, etc.), with more following in 1969-70 (Atomic Rooster, Eloy, ELO, ELP, Focus, Gentle Giant, Hawkwind, Renaissance, Stackridge, Supertramp, Triumvirat, etc). By the early 1970's, progressive rock had fully arrived, with many of the classic albums of the genre being released, having greater impact on album sales, and becoming ever more popular and more accepted by mainstream rock fans (even resulting in some hit singles!). The bands emerging with the greatest sales, success, and popularity were Pink Floyd (after Dark Side of the Moon), Jethro Tull, ELP, Yes, and The Moody Blues, with Genesis and King Crimson possibly being the most acclaimed, but more cult faves than mass audience successes at that point. This lead to even more bands with a progressive edge as well as bands diversifying and incorporating progressive rock themes into other genres, particularly jazz-rock/fusion (Steely Dan, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jean-Luc Ponty, Return to Forever, Weather Report) and pop-rock (ELO, Kansas, Styx, Boston, Journey, Foreigner) through the mid-to late 70's. This was a very interesting time in rock music history, as many different styles or subgenres were all active and successful at the same time. Think about it, in the mid-70's, in addition to the peak of progressive rock, we had the singer-songwriter wave (Neil Young, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, James Taylor, Carol King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, etc.) going strong, country-rock making waves (Eagles, Poco, Pure Prairie League, SHF Band, etc.), classic rockers (The Who, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Zeppelin) still strong, emerging rockers (Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty) just starting out, London's pub-rock scene transitioning into Punk rock (Sex Pistols, The Damned, etc.), and in the dance clubs, Disco was king (?). All these types of music were popular and present on the radio, at the record stores, and in concert, at the same time, and they all had their audience and all were succeeding (and that's not even mentioning power pop and R&B, which were also doing just fine).

But by the end of the 70's, things were changing; In both the record industry and radio, the time of exploration and experimenting was over, emphasis shifted to slick production, commercial sound, and shorter catchy songs. Radio stations became more corporate entities with strict formats and controlled playlists, big record companies were no longer interested in signing bands or releasing albums with long meandering songs that would not get played on the radio. But progressive rock persisted and carried on, albeit in a less prominent role (Those that insist punk rock killed off progressive rock are just wrong, they coexisted just fine, but changes in the music industry affected both types quite drastically). At the beginning of the '80's, there was more fragmentation and diversification of styles, with all those earlier influences melding into a few distinctive trends. In a way, punk sort of merged with pop and progressive rock to yield many of the "new wave" bands (you can't tell me that bands like Talking Heads and XTC are not progressive at their core).  Although many of the 'old' progressive bands had or were disbanding, others re-grouped and re-focused their sound and style to better fit in with the changing times. Genesis and Yes, after substantial personnel changes, focused on shorter songs and a more commercial pop sound, and started generating hit records, but still maintained their progressive core. King Crimson also re-formed with a tighter sound and style, but still was very much a progressive rock band, as was Pink Floyd. Although certainly not as dominant a style (or nearly as many bands pursuing it), progressive rock continued throughout the '80's. For some cases, like with Genesis, with former members (such as Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips, etc) now regularly putting out their own solo progressive albums, there were more progressive rock albums being released by old faves. Some new prog rock groups, such as Marillion and Saga, did form around that time, as well as bands such as Asia and GTR, which featured former members from various prog rock bands, and they tended to play a mixture of retro prog rock and more streamlined commercial fair. In the '90's, there was another wave of new progressive rock bands, such as The Flower Kings, Glass Hammer, and Spock's Beard, continuing in the tradition of the '70's bands but with an updated sound, but they were generally relegated to the fringes and only known by their cult following. Other bands with decidedly progressive leanings, such as Radiohead, openly rejected or denied any association with progressive rock. In the 2000's there was another wave of heavier, more aggressive progressive rock bands, such as System of a Down, Coheed and Cambria, and Mars Volta, keeping progressive rock active. Even more recently, bands such as Stick Men (featuring current and former King Crimson bandmates) and Knifeworld are putting their own spin and updates on the progressive rock scene. Now, some insist on specifically categorizing all these different eras of progressive rock as distinctly different entities, such as early prog as 'proto-progressive', later stuff as 'post-progressive', then 'neo-progressive' and 'new progressive', etc., but come on, it's all progressive rock, why nit-pick that way. So, progressive rock has not only survived through the decades, it has flourished, albeit with peaks and valleys, it has been influential to so many other styles and sub-genres over the years, and has remained tremendously popular. How else could bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Moody Blues, and countless others, not to mention the individual former members and the various tribute bands, still be around and performing today (and primarily performing songs from the 'golden' days), even with all the personnel changes and re-grouping?

Although there have been progressive bands of all types, kinds, and styles over the years, whenever people talk about progressive rock, they usually refer to just a handful of bands that were the biggest or made the most impact, and they are the big half dozen or so: Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and perhaps The Moody Blues and Rush. Those bands have all been very well-covered already, and there are lots of recordings of their concerts and music available all over the internet. So, in this current feature on progressive rock, I won't be posting any music from any of them (besides, I have already posted quite a bit of Genesis and ELP, and the others are readily available). Instead, I will focus on some of the other progressive rock bands that may not have gotten as much attention as the Big Names. So, over the next several weeks, I'll be featuring various shows from different worthwhile progressive bands, spanning the history of the progressive rock movement. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Long Live Progressive Rock!

Progressive Rock Lives On (Part 1)

I grew up listening to and marveling at progressive rock music. It was at the center of my musical development, as my formative musical consciousness years (junior high through college) coincided with the heyday of progressive rock (1968-1978). Although I liked many kinds of music, progressive rock was the most intriguing, enticing, stimulating, enchanting, and exhilarating. It was about exploration, innovation, and creativity, bringing new and varied styles and influences, breaking down rock conventions to create new and wondrous musical worlds. The complex structures and musical intricacies had me enthralled for countless hours and re-listens. To me, it represented the development and future of rock into whatever we wanted to make it. That's why I am always surprised by the often hostile, derisive, and dismissive backlash it has received over the years. Now, I know that for many, progressive rock represents a a subgenre of rock with a specific style and sound, with numerous cliches that define it, that was confined to a brief period of time (some refer to just 1970-1975?). They say the genre consists of overlong songs and solos, weird concept albums and fantasy lyrics, overly complicated and annoying rhythms and instrumental passages, and an obsessive dedication to technical skill. But that's such an oversimplification, and mostly wrong. Progressive rock is based on fusions of styles, approaches, and genres, integrating major components of folk, jazz, and classical music into classic rock. It covers a broad spectrum of sounds and styles, so cannot be summarily dismissed by objecting to specific traits that may apply to a select few bands. Progressive rock isn't a genre, or confined to a particular sound or style, it is an attitude, a concept, a movement; it represents the freedom and desire to create new music through exploration of nontraditional sounds and influences from many musical genres and styles. What most people who denigrate or dismiss progressive rock are referring to is a rather small subset and purposely extreme caricature of what progressive rock represents. Look, I can understand people who don't like a particular band or style of progressive rock, but not condemning all of progressive rock. For example, if you can't stand Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (ELP), or King Crimson, or whoever, fine, but they are just a small part of what progressive rock is, and there may be many bands and styles that are also within the realm of progressive rock that you would really like. Sure, just like with any other broad classification, some "progressive rock" is pure crap, but much of it is also quite wonderful. Anything that incorporates alot of exploration and experimentation is destined to produce some things that just don't work, resulting in some terrible stuff, but also much that goes very right, producing some glorious sounds, styles, and compositions. I, for one, love the complex rhythms, intricate harmonies and melodies, and compositions evolving and developing in varying directions and unusual chord progressions that are present in many progressive rock songs.

OK, so you may ask, what has prompted this praise (I won't call it a defense) of the glories of progressive rock? Well, last summer, there was an article in The New Yorker ('The Persistence of Progressive Rock', by Kelefa Sanneh, link here) that was featured and passed around many of the online news feeds (Yahoo, MSN,etc.) for quite some time, that sort of pissed me off with it's attitude toward progressive rock (and I've been quietly fuming about it ever since, but just hadn't had time to write about it). And actually, I believe the author sincerely thought he was being supportive, but was so dismissive and condescending, with back-handed compliments amid outright insults. The piece's theme was basically that despite the 'bad reputation' and how 'reviled' and despised the genre is, it has somehow persisted and still has many fans (The subtitle of the article was "Critics think that the genre was an embarrassing dead end. So why do fans and musicians still love it?"). The piece is filled with misrepresentation and a misguided notion of just what progressive rock is all about. Ostensibly, the article is meant to be a review of sorts of the recent book on progressive rock, The Show That Never Ends, by David Weigel, who is usually a political reporter for the Washington Post, but now thinks he has something to say about the problems with and joys of progressive rock. However, although Sanneh references and quotes Weigel's book, as well as several previous tomes on progressive rock, most of the piece seems to be Sanneh's own analysis of 'prog rock' (I always hated that demeaning abbreviation. If you're gonna shorten it like that, why not 'prock'?). I haven't read Weigel's book (and probably won't), but I have read some of his articles on prog rock in Slate and other mags, and am not impressed. Both Sanneh and Weigel have that same very narrow definition of what constitutes progressive rock, thus restricting its designation to specific examples that further their desired points. And Weigel, in particular, seems to proudly parade around this impression that progressive rock is despised by all but its devoted fans as if it is some sort of demented badge of honor. The overall message of Sanneh's essay can be summed up in the following excerpt:
 "Progressive rock was repudiated by what came next: disco, punk, and the disco-punk genre known as New Wave. Unlike prog rock, this music was, respectively, danceable, concise, and catchy. In the story of popular music, as conventionally told, progressive rock was at best a dead end, and at worst an embarrassment, and a warning to future musical generations: don’t get carried away."
There is so much wrong with these sentences, it's excruciating. First, disco and punk didn't 'follow' prog rock, they all occurred around the same time in the '70's, and was not 'repudiated' at all. These types of music all coexisted, as they had, for the most part, distinctly different audiences. Although it's true that progressive rock was not 'danceable' or 'concise', and mostly, not very 'catchy', it was not meant to be, as it was meant to be listened to and enjoyed for what it was. And, come on, new wave was definitely NOT a mixture of disco and punk. It was much more of mixture of punk, pop, and progressive rock (Think bands like Talking Heads and XTC, who were definitely more on the progressive rock side). But the most egregious statement here, that progressive rock was 'at best a dead end', is utter nonsense, as progressive rock was exactly the opposite, it was a gateway. Progressive rock opened the doors and made possible virtually all the trends in rock that followed (including new wave, jam bands, alt-rock, prog metal, etc.). It continued to shape and influence rock for decades to come as well as be an active force in and of itself. Yes, it's true that some prog rockers did get 'carried away' in thinking that they were creating a higher art form, but there is no doubt that progressive rock was responsible for expanding rock into so much more than the standard format that had carried it from the 1950's. The legacy and continued development of progressive rock deserves more than the restrictive stereotypes and misrepresentation of what was and is a great chapter in rock history. 'Embarrassment'? Give me a break. Progressive rock produced some of the greatest bands and greatest rock albums of all time. Sanneh repeatedly points out how 'critics' despised progressive rock, but never mentions that these were just some critics, as many others highly praised many of the top bands and albums associated with progressive rock. Admittedly, a few very prominent rock critics, such as Lester Bangs (Rolling Stone) and Robert Christgau (Village Voice) were the primary voices condemning the prog rock trends, whereas many other critics and popular voices wholeheartedly supported them. Eventually, Sanneh provides his own recommendations regarding what modern day listeners should turn to if interested in checking out progressive rock themselves: He suggests ignoring ELP completely, and checking out what he considers the best of progressive rock, Yes' Close to the Edge, or if you can handle it, King Crimson's Red (my take: ignoring ELP would definitely be a mistake; yes, Close to the Edge is a great album, but it is not even Yes' best - I would rank both The Yes Album and Fragile above it - let alone the best of progressive rock; as for King Crimson, I could never really quite get fully into them. Although I admired their musicianship and much of what they did, they just never moved me and was only rarely what I wanted to listen to. For me personally, Genesis was the best overall, with Foxtrot and Selling England by the Pound at the very top, followed by The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - For an individual extended composition showing all of what was special about progressive rock, my choice would be 'Supper's Ready', the 23 minute epic from Foxtrot).
Anyway, what struck me most when reading the Sanneh article was what younger generations must think of all this. Is this the primary source of information young people have about this music and this era? I was there, I know that this misrepresents what was going on, but for those that weren't there - how can they view this music as presented here as anything but silly and ridiculous, or have any interest in checking it out for themselves? (it also seemed clear to me that these authors - Sanneh and Weigel - were not around at the time this music was being made.) And that is primarily why I felt I needed to do a feature on progressive rock, and tell the other side of the story. So, over the next several weeks I will feature a varied selection of progressive rock, from the '60's all the way up to the present day.

(To be continued in next post)