Tuesday, 10 May 2016

34: IAN ANDERSON - The Secret Language Of Birds (2000)

Introduced by Owen Davies

One of Ian Anderson’s main talents was to use the flute to embellish his gifted ability as a writer of complex, yet intrinsically melodic tunes.

Anderson's most recent compositions in Homo Erraticus, pale in comparison to his skill as a song writer displayed in The Secret Language of Birds released in 2000.

The Secret Language of Birds arguably marks the last occasion that Anderson showed the full extent of his song writing abilities and artistic genius.

The Secret Language of Birds has integrity. It displays no artistic pretensions and is an album that has no apparent desire to please a Tull audience, or indeed any particular audience. It is simply an album full of superb tunes from a guy writing songs from the heart, rather than by numbers, or to a set formula, or with a view to nostalgia and commercial success.

The Secret Language of Birds is quite wonderful and works magnificently on so many different levels.

Read Henri Bos' review here

Listen to "The Little Flower Girl" from the album on You Tube here

Find more information at the Jethro Tull website

Saturday, 30 April 2016

33: MOTH VELLUM - Moth Vellum (2008)

Hello Dear Readers, now that the long winter is over, the sleeping bear that is the Archive of Prog has slowly awakened, and so here is edition 33.

Introduced by Martin Burns

So now the clocks have changed to summer time, at least here in the northern hemisphere (apologies to our antipodean readership). The extra daylight always makes me look for this album on my CD shelves. I play it as part of the soundtrack to my summer. 

Moth Vellum were a four piece band based in California. They were Johannes Luley’s band before he formed the well regarded Perfect Beings. Moth Vellum's music is brimming over with sunny, summery melodies and pin-sharp vocal harmonies. There is nothing dark or heavy here, just a lot of joyfulness. They are not innovators, but they use the classic 70s prog models so well that it really doesn’t matter. Superb guitar and synth sounds make playing the spot the reference game a pleasure. If you are missing a happy Genesis and Yes influenced album to play on long summer days, then have a listen to Moth Vellum's over looked retro-gem.

From the archives read Geoff Feakes’ 2008 review 

Listen to the album on You Tube

Sunday, 20 December 2015

32: VANDEN PLAS - Far Off Grace (1999)

Introduced by Andy Read

Here is a little story: Once upon a time, 15 years ago, DPRP was just a five-year-old web-sapling and I had just skidded through my third decade. Then one day a kindly doctor hovered over my hospital bed and uttered the dreaded C-word. A tumour, the size of fist, had staked its claim to the middle of my chest. The doctor kindly gave me a 50:50 chance of ever skidding through a fourth decade.

After a year's worth of chemotherapy and a weekly exposure of my chest to a kindly radio-therapy nurse, I was bald but bold. I made a list of 10 bands I wanted to see before I died - be that sooner or later. Within a year I was in remission and had travelled to Progpower USA, the south of Spain, Netherlands, Sweden Rock Festival, Paris and London and struck nine off that list (including the legendary ARK which I'd thought was being overly optimistic). One band however was proving problematic.

Vanden Plas had been on the bill for my trip to ProgPower USA, but pulled out due to safety concerns following 9/11. I had also travelled to see them in Paris, only to arrive to find a note saying they had had to cancel due to the sudden death of singer Andy Kuntz's father.

Undeterred, a year later I was back in Paris, to emotionally cross the final band name off my list. I cried a lot at the end of my mini-odyssey, especially during the already emotional Healing Tree, where Andy Kuntz dedicated the song to his father and apologised for not turning up the previous year, and the whole hall burst into a warm and lengthy round of applause in solidarity.

Thankfully I am now skidding through my fifth decade. With my wife I am working through a new list: 50 Great Walks To Do Before You Die. And when I do reach my Far Off Grace, this is one album I hope someone has put into the jukebox!

From the DPRP archives read the original review by Mark Sanders from 2000 and then Andy's review of the reissued version from 2004

Read Mark's review here
Read Andy's review here

Watch the band play a great version of Iodic Rain live
Watch it here

Sunday, 13 December 2015

31: HANDS – Strangelet (2008)

Introduced by Raffaella Berry

I had never heard of Hands until a couple of years ago, when my good friend Dave (who is also an excellent musician in his own right) sent me a copy of their 2008 album, Strangelet. Incidentally, they had performed at the 2006 edition of ProgDay just a few weeks before my first trip to the US, when I finally met my husband-to-be in person.

Based in Texas, where they were formed back in 1977, Hands have never enjoyed as high a profile as other veteran US prog outfits. In the light of the excellence revealed by Strangelet and its follow-up, the recently-released Caviar Bobsled, that is a real shame.

This album comes with four bonus tracks (in addition to the original seven), which include the stunning instrumental Zenith of Mars, a showcase for Mark Cook (also known for his tenure in Herd of Instinct and Spoke of Shadows), whose Warr guitar creates utterly entrancing atmospheres.  All in all, Hands’ uniquely eclectic take on progressive rock is likely to appeal to most prog fans, regardless of their affiliation.

Read Gerard Wandio's original review from the DPRP archives in 2008
Read it here

Listen to the track Tambourin
Listen now

Sunday, 6 December 2015

30: MAGELLAN - Impending Ascension (1993)

Introduced by Jerry van Kooten

When I first heard Magellan's debut album at a friend's place, I was impressed. Soon after I bought this second album and the melodic bombast blew me away. My then fellow team member Dirk van den Hout didn't like it much though. Hearing back this album for this article, I recognise what I liked back then, but this part of my taste has gone. (I do like my music very heavy though!) I now hear the patchwork of pieces that do not necessarily fit iton a longer piece, something I recognised right away in the music by Shadow Gallery. I tend to call this too "American" - too much head, not enough heart (a common problem in prog, I have to add). It just feels cold to me.

Read why Dirk van den Hout thought this album was only worth a score of 5.5 in his review from the DPRP archives in 1998
Read it here

Listen to the track Waterfront Weirdos
Listen now

Sunday, 29 November 2015

29: MAN - Back Into The Future (1973)

Introduced by Martin Burns

Way back in the mists of time when I was but a callow youth, I went with my younger brother (he was 12 at the time) the many miles from Smethwick, in the UK's then industrial heartland, all the way to Cardiff for an open-air gig at the city's castle.

On an overcast and increasingly rainy 12th of July 1975 we saw headliners 10CC, ably supported by Steeleye Span and Thin Lizzy. I had seen all of these bands before in Birmingham, but also on the bill were a surprise to me in the shape of Welsh band Man. I was not at all familiar with their music, but they were a revelation, proceeding to blow me away with their twin guitar line-up and loose, loping grooves.

On returning home I purchased Maximum Darkness, Man's then current live album. Not their best album as it turned out, but a good intro to their recordings. It led me on retrospectively to the wonderful mix of studio and live tracks that is Back Into The Future. Capturing the band at its peak, it is a wonderful album. I was alerted to the Esoteric re-release by Mark Hughes' cracking review on DPRP.  The re-release confirmed to me that my 17-year-old self actually had quite good taste. Come on and take a trip back in time with this great band that deserves now, as well as back then, to be much better known.

Read Mark Hughes' review from the DPRP archives in 2008
Read it here
(Also, you will find Mark's reviews of Man's albums Slow Motion and Maximum Darkness on the same page).

Watch this video of Man live on German TV back in 1975
Watch now

Sunday, 22 November 2015

28: GROBSCHNITT - Solar Music - Live (1979)

Introduced by Jerry van Kooten

Grobschnitt are among a few bands (Mountain, Counting Crows, Nektar, Pink Floyd, DeWolff, Deep Purple Mk 1, Birth of Joy) who have appealed to me throughout the years because of a mix of different musical styles my shifting taste has visited: blues, rock, prog, and psych.

In 1998, I reviewed what I still think is one of this band's best albums: Solar Music - Live. To me, it's the perfect mix of all those ingredients. It rocks with great riffing and drumming, and it is psychedelic in all its keyboard work and Grobschnitt weirdness. It's progressive in combining these elements in a melodic and progressing way and in its epic-ness. Also the bluesy heart (instead of mind) that goes into the solos, simply makes this an awesome piece of music. I still love this album. I listen to it regularly and if you like any of the bands I just mentioned you should at least hear it once.

Read Jerry's original review on this album from the DPRP archives in 1998
Read it here

Listen to the track Solar Music (Part1)
Listen now