In which I mount a defense for one of the more lampooned and derided styles in rock history—Progressive Rock. If you want to keep keep up with future episodes of this podcast, subscribe to sndlgc podcasts in the app of your coice or copy this link to subscribe manually.
In recent years, progressive rock has come a long way towards rehabilitation. Not so long ago, ‘prog’ was a four-letter word in reviews, derisively thrown any band a tad too ambitious. Of course, while the concepts behind prog have gained greater acceptance, there’s always more to the scene than King Crimson and Yes.
It can a a daunting task, wading into such a sprawling genre without a guide. When the style is filled with side-long song cycles, each song reaching into double-digit durations, what sort of primer can one make?
Here is my solution: make 7-inch single edits. Cut the epics down into digestible lengths. In doing so, I endeavor to not just present an excerpt of the song, but to preserve some of the original’s scope—it’s varied passages and virtuosity and grandeur. Granted, if I’m lopping off more than half a song, something’s bound to be lost, but my hope was to give a vague impression of the whole.
While progressive rock was in exile, the accepted wisdom went something like it was just too much twee noodling. This mix goes a long way to prove how, despite all the dextrous displays and extemporaneous tempo shifts, the best bands could make it rock convincingly. It’s also common to hear that punk rock was, in part, a direct repudiation of prog—and yet, listen to Peter Hammill’s unhinged performance on Disengage, and you can understand why he had Johnny Rotten’s respect.
Like any major movement in music, progressive rock is more than it’s remembered for. In the 24 songs included here, we move from blues-based hard rock to keyboard-drenched psychedelia to improvisatory jazz-rock and end with some pastoral progressive-folk.
Progressive rock is as expansive as it’s proponent’s symphonic ambitions. It’s a fertile spot in rock history, not some aberration. Despite a wan period of neglect, it is flourishing again.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band: Earth Hymn
Uriah Heap: Tears in My Eyes
The Norman Haines Band: Rabbits
Brian Auger: Oblivion Express
Robert Fripp: Disengage
Osiris: Sailor on the Seas of Fate
Can: Vernal Equinox
Gong: Master Builder
Brand X: Malaga Virgen
Volker Kriegel: Plonk Whenever
Carol Grimes & Delivery: The Wrong Time
Julie Tippetts: Oceans and Sky (and Questions Why)
Amon Düül II: Telephonecomplex
Nektar: The Dream Nebula
Traffic: Dream Gerrard
UK: Thirty Years
Fuchsia: Another Nail
Hatfield and the North: Fitter Stoke Has a Bath
Yonin Bayashi: Ping-Pong Dama no Nageki
Trees: Sally Free and Easy
If you’re looking for even more progressive rock, I wanted to include the first volume here, since it was released before the start of this blog. This original missive includes a lot of the biggest names in prog, from King Crimson to Yes and Genesis.