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Old 01-03-2015, 02:49 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default I know what I like: Trollheart's History of Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal


Part of

Although most people here would label me a proghead, and they'd be right, the first part of the title above is very appropriate to me: I do know what I like, and I often tend not to venture too far past that. There are a lot of prog rock bands I have never heard, heard of, or refuse to try. I've never heard a Camel album, nothing from Caravan, I know virtually nothing about the Canterbury Scene, have an abiding hatred for ELP and am not crazy about early Yes, though I've heard little. I doubt I've ever heard any Krautrock and King Crimson remain a mystery to me.

These are not good things to admit when you're a proghead, and so I've decided to try to do something about it. Some time back, Big Ears started writing a history of progressive rock, but he didn't get too far and now he's left, so that's not going to go anywhere. So latching onto that idea, and sort of bouncing off Unknown Soldier's format a little, the plan here is for me to go chronologically through the development of progressive rock, from its origins (though not too far back: I know some people talk about the Beatles having progressive albums, and Miles Davis, and others; these I won't be touching on, only those who have become or emerged as true progressive rock bands) through its heyday in the seventies to its death and then rebirth in the eighties, bringing in the evolution of progressive metal, and on to the present day, where it continues to enjoy a resurgence and constantly changes and evolves as its name implies.

Although I'm fifty-two this year (oh no!) I only got into what I would class as “my own music” , ie stopped just listening to what was on the radio or the TV, when I was about 15, so that would be 1978, and once I found artistes I liked I tended to stick with them, buying all their albums and occasionally branching out a little, but I was not one who wanted to explore a genre. I found what I liked and I was happy with that. As a result, I could not in any way be said to have a comprehensive knowledge of progressive rock, certainly not a personal one, so unlike my friend Unknown Soldier I will have to rely on the recollections of others in order to trace the history of this oft-maligned and misunderstood subgenre of rock. To help me, I will be using mostly two books I have purchased recently, shown below. Why those? Well, to be perfectly honest, I bought my sister a Kindle for Christmas, and then thought of getting one myself I was so impressed with it. But on discovering I could download an app for my phone which would allow me to read Kindle books, a lot of expense was spared and I am now able to read e-books. So rather than wait for books to arrive in the post, I can now just download them and read them right away. Certainly saves time, and often money.

Beyond and Before: Progressive Rock since the 1960s (Martin Halliwell and Paul Hegarty)


Mean Deviation: Four decades of Progressive Metal (Jeff Wagner, with a foreword by Steven Wilson)

The two shown above, and one other, shown below, are the only real authoritative sources I could find on progressive rock, and so I've decided to let them guide my feet on the steps of this journey I'm undertaking. I may look into some online sources too, but only for reference: I do not in any way want to plagiarise anyone's work or rob from their writings, and the books I mention are there for my own information and to allow me fill in the details I don't have or am not aware of. Wiki will of course play its part, as it always does. Generally the way I'm going to do it is this:

Going, as I said, chronologically (what other way would I go, after all?) I'll be looking at the beginnings of the subgenre, noting any important albums along the way and mini-reviewing them. Again, as this is a pretty big undertaking (and I already have “1001 albums” under way, to say nothing of my other journals) I won't be doing in-depth reviews, but may do another “Bitesize” format or something similar. Any albums I'm aware of, have heard or know will be noted and spoken about, and here I will bring to bear any personal knowledge or insights or memories that are appropriate. I will try to do it, unlike Unknown Soldier, as a kind of book, labelling chapters in important eras, as well as year-by-year. If I can.

Citizens of Hope and Glory: The Story of Progressive Rock (Stephen Lambe)
Why is this another journal, now my tenth? It's another case of my looking at doing this, thinking of doing it in my main journal and realising it's far too wide-ranging and time-consuming for me to allow it the odd entry in the Playlist; it would either take it over or it would take the rest of my life to get it done. And so I've freed myself from those self-imposed bonds by tackling this huge venture in a totally new journal. I invite any progheads, or anyone interested or who has stories, information, corrections or advice to assist me: this is certainly one of the biggest undertakings I have ever attempted, so any help is certainly appreciated. Do remember though, if you intend to contribute, to keep strictly within the guidelines for chronology. In other words, don't start posting about an album released in 1972 when we're only in 1968, and so on. Which is not to say that we can't discuss same, but I'd like to try to keep, as US does, the conversation pertinent to the year or era being covered at the time.

Does this mean there'll be less prog rock covered in my main journal? Not really; I love prog rock and metal and will continue to feature it as I feel is appropriate in the Playlist, Bitesize and other journals, but here I'll be doing my best to give an overall picture of the genre as it has developed over the decades, as well as educating myself along the way, and listening to and experiencing bands I surely should have heard by now. If an album or artiste I feature here does not tally with your view of prog rock, bear in mind that I'm being guided by these authors, and while I won't slavishly follow their recommendations and advice, they obviously know more about the subject than me and I will have to mostly defer to their expertise. However, if you feel there's an artiste I'm not covering, or I'm covering someone I shouldn't be in this context, feel free to let me know.

It'll probably take a little while before this gets properly underway, but I hope to be able to start posting by next week at the latest. Any comments before that are certainly welcome. If you're someone who knows nothing or little about prog, and wants to get into it, or understand it better, now is the time to hop on board and join me for what I hope will be an entertaining and enjoyable journey.
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Old 01-03-2015, 08:53 PM   #2 (permalink)
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All I can say is that Moss nailed it.

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Good luck. I'll be reading!
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Old 01-04-2015, 03:52 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Good luck with this and I'm sure you'll make this list as in-depth as possible. Any starting list should start with the Moody Blues (very important) Procul Harum, The Nice, Family, Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, United States of America and anything with Frank Zappa. All of these were either putting out psychedelic. concept, space rock or experimental and weird recordings that a lot of other prog artists built their sound around.

People normally qualify albums by people like the Beatles or the Beach Boys as well, when these two were heavily into their psychedelic phase, but to my mind they're not really essential listening to any prog list like the above are, I mean you can't listen to everybody.
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Old 01-04-2015, 10:13 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Good luck with this and I'm sure you'll make this list as in-depth as possible. Any starting list should start with the Moody Blues (very important) Procul Harum, The Nice, Family, Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, United States of America and anything with Frank Zappa. All of these were either putting out psychedelic. concept, space rock or experimental and weird recordings that a lot of other prog artists built their sound around.

People normally qualify albums by people like the Beatles or the Beach Boys as well, when these two were heavily into their psychedelic phase, but to my mind they're not really essential listening to any prog list like the above are, I mean you can't listen to everybody.
Yeah you've kind of put your finger on it there. I mean, you could argue a case for Elvis being progressive probably: anyone who moved on from the strictures of the music that was being played at the time could be said to be progressive in one form or another, but as you say then you'd end up listening to so much more than you need to.

For me, it's going to be bands who started the movement, influenced later bands or recorded important albums, as well as any perhaps forgotten ones that should be mentioned. Like your endeavour, you couldn't possibly cover all the bands that contributed, unless you were a vampire and immortal like me (oops! Forget you heard that!) or had an army of clones, so as I say I'll be guided by those books and stay pretty within the boundaries of what they consider to be the bands and artistes I should be concentrating on. Probably start around the mid/late sixties and move on from there.
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Old 01-04-2015, 11:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Yeah you've kind of put your finger on it there. I mean, you could argue a case for Elvis being progressive probably: anyone who moved on from the strictures of the music that was being played at the time could be said to be progressive in one form or another, but as you say then you'd end up listening to so much more than you need to.

For me, it's going to be bands who started the movement, influenced later bands or recorded important albums, as well as any perhaps forgotten ones that should be mentioned. Like your endeavour, you couldn't possibly cover all the bands that contributed, unless you were a vampire and immortal like me (oops! Forget you heard that!) or had an army of clones, so as I say I'll be guided by those books and stay pretty within the boundaries of what they consider to be the bands and artistes I should be concentrating on. Probably start around the mid/late sixties and move on from there.
So you're going to be delving into more Captain Beefheart, then?
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Old 01-04-2015, 01:27 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'll definitely be following this.
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Old 01-06-2015, 11:26 AM   #7 (permalink)
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After reading several, quite boring and arty-farty chapters of the first book I mentioned I've come to the conclusion that it is --- how can I say this without giving offence? --- total crap. Well, that's not fair, but I had hoped it would give me something of a timeline, who was first, what elements make up a prog album, and so on, a starting point if you will. But it's been jumping back and forth from Duke Ellington to The Who, The Nice to Floyd, The Beatles to Frank Zappa and I'm still as confused as I was before I began reading. Attempts to answer this question --- which was the first prog album --- have yileded almost flame wars in forums and websites, and everyone has their own idea but there is no clear concensus it would seem. Therefore, for the moment (and given that the other book is on Prog Metal which did not really get going till much later) I will discount these authors' opinions and fall back on my good friend Wiki, as I almost always do.

While they do not list a definitive starting point for prog rock --- and it is really hard, given that so much of psychedelia, blues and other forms had nascent elements of prog within their structure --- there is a basic agreed “ground zero” point of 1967 as being the accepted year that progressive rock as a whole more or less came into being. There are albums from the previous year that seem to figure too, though, and so what my plan is here (right or wrong) is to look briefly at albums that are considered allied to the progressive rock movement but not actually part of it --- albums that have, or started, certain principles that became the founding precepts of prog rock --- and more deeply into ones which were composed by bands who became important to the movement and influenced other bands later on. To again borrow slightly from Unknown Soldier's format, I will therefore grade albums on their importance and relevance to the genre.

Ones which are considered intrinsic to Progressive Rock, founding fathers if you will, will be graded as Type A. Ones which had an effect on Prog Rock, but are not specifically that genre, will be Type B and ones which are decidedly not (in my opinion) Progressive Rock albums, but still need to be discussed will be type C. These grades will appear in the reviews. The reviews themselves may be quite short, a simple look at the album, or they may be reasonably in-depth, but given how much I have to get through here, I don't envision my usual note-for-note/quote-every-lyric/track-by-track deep review. I will be trying to achieve four things with this journal:

1) Get a deeper understanding of the history and legacy of this music
2) Finally listen to albums and bands I have not, for whatever reason
3) Introduce anyone who wishes to this subgenre as best I can and
4) Afford those who deserve it their place in the history of Progressive Rock

With all that in mind, the current running order is now going to be this:

1966:

Pet Sounds --- The Beach Boys --- Type B

Freak out! --- The Mothers of Invention --- Type B

The fifth dimension --- The Byrds --- Type C

1967

The Velvet Underground and Nico --- The Velvet Underground --- Type B

Procol Harum ---- Procul Harum --- Type B (Surprised nobody told me I got the title wrong, but I did... Correcting now)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band --- The Beatles --- Type B

The piper at the gates of dawn --- Pink Floyd --- Type A

Safe as milk --- Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band --- Type B

Days of future passed --- The Moody Blues --- Type A
(Sorry: I ran out of picture credits...)
The thoughts of Emerlist Davjack --- The Nice --- Type A

Lumpy gravy --- Frank Zappa --- Type B

There are a few others in 1967 that should be noted, but I can't review or look at every album released each year, so the above are the ones I've chosen to allow me to get, and give, an overall flavour of, if you like, the birth of progressive rock, or certainly its conception at any rate. Other albums that were considered but decided against include “Good vibrations” (The Beach Boys) and “Absolutely free” (The Mothers of Invention). These are all, as I say, merely taken from a list shown on Wiki, but as I could continue going back and forth, checking site after site and comparing like to like, or unlike, and this would never get started, I have decided to trust Wiki as it has always been a reliable source of information for me. Also, I want to get moving on this.

So that's the list for the first two years of what seem to be universally accepted as the ones in which prog rock began its first faint mewling cries, and therefore that is where we start our exploration of the subgenre. If anyone has other suggestions I will consider them, but I really think this list is almost set in stone now. If you think I've left out an important album though, let me know. Also, if you believe I am mis-grading (is that a word? It is now!) any of the above say so, as I am only going on what I know of the albums and artistes involved, and indeed, after having listened to them and given the matter some more thought I may even change an album's grade. But for now, this is how they stand.

So my next entry will contain a brief introduction to the emergence of progressive rock and reviews of the first few albums. Comment, discussion and debate is always welcomed.
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Old 01-06-2015, 02:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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*Sees Zappa and Beefheart recs*

*giggles*

Seriously though, its still quite possible that you might like Safe As Milk (like I said from the beginning of the TMR event yet you adamantly disagreed) as well as (most of) Freak Out!

Time will tell and I can't wait to see your thoughts on the albums in any case, but be warned that Lumpy Gravy will be a bit of a challenge for ya.
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Old 01-06-2015, 03:42 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Looks good to me. Fifth Dimension's inclusion is a bit confusing--it's a fantastic album, but I really didn't think it was prog-related at all. However, I'm sure you've researched it more thoroughly than I have.

BTW, "Good Vibrations" was never, to my knowledge, a BB album title. Perhaps you're thinking of Smiley Smile?
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Old 01-06-2015, 07:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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*Sees Zappa and Beefheart recs*

*giggles*

Seriously though, its still quite possible that you might like Safe As Milk (like I said from the beginning of the TMR event yet you adamantly disagreed) as well as (most of) Freak Out!

Time will tell and I can't wait to see your thoughts on the albums in any case, but be warned that Lumpy Gravy will be a bit of a challenge for ya.
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Looks good to me. Fifth Dimension's inclusion is a bit confusing--it's a fantastic album, but I really didn't think it was prog-related at all. However, I'm sure you've researched it more thoroughly than I have.

BTW, "Good Vibrations" was never, to my knowledge, a BB album title. Perhaps you're thinking of Smiley Smile?
Of course, nobody can out-research the man when it comes to The Beach Boys! Yeah, Wiki screwed up; it's a single but they have it under albums. D'oh!

As for The Byrds, here's what the Big W has to say:

Upon release, Fifth Dimension was widely regarded as the band's most experimental album to date and is today considered influential in originating the musical genre of psychedelic rock

So if it's important to psych rock then I guess it qualifies. I'll probably only skim over it though.

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So you're going to be delving into more Captain Beefheart, then?
If it is important to the prog rock movement I'll be getting my shovel out and pulling on my wellies, be it freakout, psychout, chillout or bluesout, or any other out.

I posted the albums I'm looking at for 66/67; I'll be doing that for each year.
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