Sunday, January 16, 2011

Prog Rock 101

To pass a boring nite at work, I tried 2 come up w/ a "core" list of essential progressive rock songs -- trax that could stand as top-quality Xamples of the genre, a list that could serve as a starting point 4 Bginners who R intrested in the field, if there still R such people.
At 1st I tried 2 limit the list 2 101 songs (thus "Prog Rock 101"). But of course I couldn't do it. What follows is what I came up w/ after a coupla hrs of thinking & a quick run-thru of the collection. This list is hampered by all the stuff I haven't heard (early ELP, early Genesis, etc.) & my back-assward biases on some artists (Yes, Genesis, Renaissance). Items marked w/ a * indicate songs I'd drop from the list if I discovered a better Xample.
These weren't all hits or overplayed -- tho there R some overplayed classics included here. This list is based more on quality & impact (radio play, sales). & I snuck summa my obscure faves in. But popularity sure ain't everything, & just cos it's prog don't make it great: I personally think Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" is an ugly & stupid song, but millions seemta love it. See what you think, & who I've 4gotten....

Yes -- Your Move, Roundabout, The South Side of the Sky, Close to the Edge (live), Starship Trooper (live), America (long version), Going for the One, Wonderous Stories, Turn of the Century, Leave It.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer -- Lucky Man, From the Beginning, Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression, Parts 1 & 2), Fanfare for the Common Man.
Moody Blues -- Tuesday Afternoon, Nights in White Satin, Ride My See-Saw, Question, The Story in Your Eyes, You Can Never Go Home, You and Me, The Voice, Your Wildest Dreams, I Know You're Out There Somewhere.
Pink Floyd -- Flaming, Astronome Domine (live), *Money, Us and Them, Wish You Were Here, Comfortably Numb, Run Like Hell, High Hopes.
Jethro Tull -- *Aqualung, Fat Man, Teacher, Living in the Past, Thick as a Brick (opening), Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day, One White Duck/Nothing at All, Baker Street Muse, Songs from the Wood, The Whistler.
Genesis -- Supper's Ready (live), Firth of Fifth (live), Madman Moon, Ripples, Your Own Special Way, Afterglow, Inside and Out, Vancouver, Abacab, Like it or Not, You Might Recall....
King Crimson -- 21st Century Schizoid Man, Epitaph, Fracture, Red, Starless, Frame by Frame, Sleepless.
Gentle Giant -- Knots, His Last Voyage, Pentegruel's Nativity, Funny Ways (live), Think of Me with Kindness.
Kansas -- Song for America, Carry On Wayward Son, Miracles Out of Nowhere, Journey from MariaBronn, Reason to Be.
Procol Harum -- A Whiter Shade of Pale, Shine on Brightly, A Salty Dog, Wreck of the Hesperus, In the Autumn of My Madness/Look to Your Soul/Grand Finale (live).
Rush -- Closer to the Heart, Time Stand Still, The Camera Eye, Force Ten, Freewill, Distant Early Warning, Manhattan Project, Mystic Rhythms (live), Red Barchetta, Tom Sawyer.
Styx -- Prelude 12/Suite Madame Blue.
Electric Light Orchestra -- Can't Get it Out of My Head, Twilight, Mr. Blue Sky, 10538 Overture (live).
Alan Parsons Project -- The Gold Bug, Some Other Time.
Supertramp -- Dreamer, *Bloody Well Right, Crime of the Century, Give a Little Bit, Babajii, From Now On.
Caravan -- Memory Lain/Hugh/Headloss, The Dog the Dog He's at it Again, For Richard (live), All the Way With John Wayne's Single-Handed Liberation of Paris.
Camel -- Never Let Go, Rhayader, Rhayader Goes to Town, Flight of the Snow Goose, Unevensong, Breathless, Echoes, City Life, Drafted, Sasquatch, Manic, Eye of the Storm, Who We Are.
Mike Oldfield -- Tubular Bells (single version), Ommadawn (Part 1), Incantations (Part 1).
Renaissance -- Ashes are Burning (opening, live), Northern Lights, Rajah Khan.
Kraftwerk -- Autobahn.
Gong -- Wingful of Eyes.
Soft Machine -- *Moon in June, *Slightly All the Time, *Out-Bloody-Rageous.
Strawbs -- Where is This Dream of Your Youth?, Hero and Heroine, Down by the Sea.
Barclay James Harvest -- *Mocking Bird, Hymn, Ring of Changes.
Led Zeppelin -- Carouselambra, The Battle of Evermore, Over the Hills and Far Away, Stairway to Heaven.
Queen -- The Prophet's Song, '39.
The Nice -- America.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- *Blinded by the Light, Stranded.
Peter Gabriel -- Family Snapshot, In Your Eyes, Shock the Monkey.
Al Stewart -- Roads to Moscow, Nostradamus, Modern Times, Year of the Cat, Flying Sorcery.
Coheed and Cambria -- The Road and the Damned.
Roxy Music -- The Thrill of it All, Love is the Drug, Over You.
Spirit -- Nature's Way.
Journey -- Daydream, People and Places.
Jefferson Starship -- Freedom at Point Zero, Fading Lady Light, Save Your Love.
Clannad -- The Wild Cry, Journey's End, In Fortune's Hand.
U.K. -- Time to Kill, Mental Medication, In the Dead of Night suite.
Kate Bush -- The Man With the Child in His Eyes, Cloudbusting, Running Up That Hill, This Woman's Work, Empty Bullring, December Will be Magic Again.
The Move -- Message From the Country.
Justin Hayward and John Lodge -- When You Wake Up.
Grace Slick -- Full Moon Man.
Vangelis -- Alpha.
Gryphon -- Lament, Spring Song.
Happy the Man -- Wind-Up Doll Day Wind, On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs.
National Health -- Tenemos Roads, Binoculars.
Synergy -- Warriors, S-Scape.
Nektar -- Do You Believe in Magic?, King of Twilight, It's All Over, Fidgety Queen.
Focus -- Hocus Pocus, Hocus Pocus II.
Hawkwind -- You'd Better Believe It.
Be-Bop Deluxe -- Sleep That Burns.
Illusion -- Everywhere You Go, Candles are Burning.
Sky -- Vivaldi, Toccata, Watching the Aeroplanes, Where Opposites Meet.
Tangerine Dream -- Monolight.
Group 87 -- One Night Away From Day.
Love -- You Set the Scene.
Scarlet Rivera -- Day of the Unicorn.
Jade Warrior -- A Winter's Tale.
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur.
Rare Bird -- Birdman, Epic Forest.
Wigwam -- Bless Your Lucky Stars.
David Sancious and Tone -- Transformation (The Speed of Love).
Glass Moon -- Solsbury Hill, Sundays and Mondays.
Providence -- Fantasy Fugue, If We Were Wise, Neptune's Door.

...OK, that's 60+ artists & over 200 songs. Who or what did I forget? & where to start cutting....?


rastronomicals said...

My list would probably be a bit more concise, if only because I'm not as familiar with as many bands.

Or maybe because I'm taking it as an exercise to pare your list down. Some of your choices may not be my favorites, but I didn't change anything unless I had a reason.

Start with fifteen songs from five bands:

Yes - "Astral Traveller," "Close To the Edge," "Does it Really Happen?"

ELP - "Lucky Man," "Trilogy," and "Fanfare for the Common Man"

Kansas - ""Song for America," "Miracles Out of Nowhere," "A Glimpse of Home"

King Crimson - "21st Century Schizoid Man," The Talking Drum," "Frame by Frame"

Genesis - Pick any two plus "Abacab"

As titans of the form, our first five each get three and I tried to get them to corresponed to early, mid and late period for the band. Except for Genesis, where the only thing I'm really familiar with is late, and I'll defer to you on the "early" and "mid." Getting it down to three each doesn't mean I don't like "Roundabout" or "Icarus Borne on Wings of Steel," it just means they might be a bit less representative than the tunes I picked.

I also tried to get rid of songs that I consider to be clear attempts at airplay, things like "Wonderous Stories," and "Reason To Be." Not bad songs as it goes, but also not really representative of what each band was doing in the main.

In that same vein, maybe get rid of Journey and Jefferson Starship and Styx and Queen.

On a 100-point list, some important bands aren't quite Titans, and maybe deserve two songs rather than three.

Is early Pink Floyd really progressive? Or psychedelic? For that matter, aren't the various "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"s proggier than "Wish You Were Here?" Their greatest song is "Sheep" IMHO, and I can take or leave anything from the Wall. Give 'em two songs.

I've never really much cared for the Moody Blues, but I do get that a lot of people who care for this kind of music find them important. Give them two songs, is "Legend of a Mind" more to the prog ideal than "Ride My See-Saw?"

I should defer to you on Caravan, but if they should get two songs on the pared down list, shouldn't one be "Nine Foot Underground?"

And shouldn't one of Camel's be that Nimrodel/White Rider thing? Prog is as prog does when you think about that one.

Eno makes me think of about 30 different songs from those four glam-prog albums he did. Give him two songs; "Sky Saw" is probably Eno at his proggiest. "The Fat Lady of Limbourg" besides?

rastronomicals said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rastronomicals said...

Other bands might be one-song bands, which is still pretty good, right?

You hit the nail on the head with The Nice.

"Carouselambra" is definitely prog, even with that glorious sludge part in the middle, but I'm not sure that the other Zeppelin songs you mention are. I once wrote something that said "Achilles Last Stand" is "proggy," I think I did anyway, but "proggy" isn't prog, and neither is "Stairway to Heaven."

I think Rush's progressive side might be best shown by "Cygnus X-1." And if you include that, can you really say that that there are any prog values Rush has that aren't already exemplified by "Cygnus?"

Kinda the same thing with Roxy Music. I like "Ladytron" and "Avalon" just fine, but when you wanna hear what Roxy's prog side was like, it's all there on "Remake/Remodel."

I might deny that Peter Gabriel was prog at all, or at my most extravagant, snip it down to "Shock the Monkey." It might be prog--of a mutant electroclash sort.

Speaking of mutant prog, how about we consider the 20-minute "Space Truckin'" from Made in Japan essential prog in its own bloozy way? Jon Lord quotes Holst and everything. . . .

Hey, get crazy, go all out, do the full version of "Tubular Bells." But that's it. No more Oldfield needed after that. "Tubular Bells" says it all about the guy.

And, in the interests of economy, as much as I love The Soft Machine, I'll make the case that "Moon In June" says it all about them. If you get "Moon in June," you get the Softs, and if you don't, you don't. So why do you need more than that one song for this list?

I don't see how Kraftwerk can be included in any definition of prog, though I think you might wanna find a way to fit in some Can.

Doesn't the one Vangelis song need to be "Pulstar?"

Speaking of whom, where's Aphrodite's Child, dammnit? :-)

TAD said...

R: Thanx 4 responding in such depth. I said this list was hampered by all the stuff I haven't heard. 4 most of yr suggestions listed immediately above, I haven't heard them. Which again shows me that if I ever seriously try to write a book on this stuff, it's going to B a Lifetime Project.
...& I figured U were really gonna jump on me about Soft Machine. Thanx 4 letting me off easy. I wish I could find something by them that REALLY knocks me out, altho 4 me "Hope for Happiness" almost makes it on chant power alone. I still think they're important, but I'm also still exploring. If I can go 10 years between listenings to "Out-Bloody-Rageous" & "Slightly All the Time" & still remember the tunes, there must be something there. & it'd B tough 2 forget "Moon in June." I gotta finish listening to their best of....
4 me, the best part of Caravan's "Nine Feet Underground" is Richard Sinclair's mournful "Dissociation" section toward the end -- it's beautiful. & I do like Dave Sinclair's riffing organ & so on, I just think summa their other stuff hits harder. Does sound a lot like the Softs tho, don't it?
Which reminds me: Have you heard Caravan's version of "Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'" on their WORLD IS YOURS box? -- I think you'd really getta kick out of it....

rastronomicals said...

I do love "Dissociation," and mournful or melancholy does describe it very well, but I think my favorite part of "Nine Feet Underground" is at about 9 minutes, when it suddenly breaks down into a bluesy almost staccato synth solo, with piano and bass playing counterpoint.

Don't know how the song breaks down into those seven parts, besides knowing Dissociation and 100% are the last 8 minutes or so, so I can't really refer to it by name. Is it "Make It 76" or "Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies?" Or something else? Hell, I don't know, but it goes on around 3:00 before getting slow and mournful in thematic anticipation of "Dissociation" to come, and its very intense for me, *especially* the first 30 or 45 seconds when it kicks in.

Just downloaded "Feelin Reelin Squealin," and I'll have to listen again, but I was impressed by the raucous playing, if not by the nearly continuous nonesensical spoken voiceovers. Based on your description, I thought the thing might have reminded me of the noisy bits on Third, but it wasn't like that at all.

Got my head in the clouds don't you know, so sometimes the naughty nuance can escape my notice. I am finding it . . . interesting . . . to note after having read your previous post on Caravan and other prog reviews floating around the net that Pye Hastings had such a fixation on chubby call girls . . . .

Of course, beyond the feelin' reelin' thing I just downloaded, my Caravan library is still In the Land of . . . and For Girls Who . . . (extended versions of course). What would be your recommendation as next to grab? Just read a good review of Cunning Stunts, but was wondering what you thought.

TAD said...

R: Ghod bless ya. What to get next: I think BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTANS' is really underrated. There's some filler on it ("Jack and Jill," ugh), & it's smoothed-out a little, but the good stuff is really good, especially "All the Way" & "Can You Hear Me?"
I think the live album with the New Symphonia is also pretty good, even if it's just for the killer performance of "For Richard" & "Virgin on the Ridiculous." "The Love in Your Eye" ain't bad neither, & I hear the CD has a bonus track of "A Hunting We Shall Go...."
If you prefer jazzier, WATERLOO LILY is above avg -- the 2nd side is classic, the 1st side is 2 pretty good songs separated by 11 mins of jazzy noodling.
4 me, CUNNING STUNTS has 1-1/2 pretty good songs, the side-long "Dabsong Conshirtoe," & "The Show of Our Lives." "Dabsong"'s pretty solid mosta the way, but turns 2 noise toward the end, like they couldn't think of a real ending. I wouldn't be in a hurry 2 get it.
I admit I liked most of their later stuff more. Just more stuff I could sing along with, maybe....
On "Feelin' Reelin'," the original leads-off the Softs' OUT-BLOODY-RAGEOUS best-of, & Caravan's version to me sounds like the original only 6 minutes longer, just as wild & silly. Surprised they could do it, considering how smooth a lotta their other stuff is....

Seriously, now: You want to team up on this book about Strange Music I've always wanted to write? You seem pretty strong in all the musical areas I'm weak. & the only way I'm gonna get it written in the 30(?) years I have left is if I team up with somebody. Think it over....

rastronomicals said...

Tad -- drop me an email if you will.

Go here and follow instructions to get the addy.