Thursday, February 3, 2011

A solid prog-rock history?

Wow, this could be it. I've only had a few hours 2 look it over, but Will Romano's recent MOUNTAINS COME OUT OF THE SKY (2010) seems to hava pretty good shot at being the 1st above-avg, almost-complete prog-rock history. & it's gorgeous 2 look at.
With lotsa photos & flashy graphics, + new interviews with key band members, producers, engineers, etc., there's a lot 2 digest here. It doesn't appear lazy, sloppy or wrong-headed up-front, which is a relief. It's potentially a 1-stop shop, with almost everything U could ever ask 4 -- Xcept an index.
The coupla reviews posted at about this book indicate that it's full of errors. It's early yet, but just in skimming thru it I've only found a few proofreading/typesetting errors, & none of them R major. Classical composers Dvorak & Janacek both have their names spelled wrong. 1 album title is botched. Little words R left out here & there ("of," "and," "in," etc.). & in 1 graphic, 6 Pink Floyd albums R mis-identified as being by Porcupine Tree (or the other way around) -- that's either 1 big error or 6 little errors, depending on how you count. But I've found no major errors-in-fact in the actual text, so far.
There R some other minor issues: Some of Hawkwind's artwork is used, but they aren't discussed in the text, near as I can tell. Tangerine Dream gets 7 paragraphs in a chapter on Krautrock. Nektar gets 2 paragraphs. Kraftwerk, Neu! & Faust Rn't mentioned at all.
But the bands who R in here include all the usual suspects (Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Moodies, Canterbury bands, Kansas, Rush, etc.), + a ton of other good & often overlooked folks. Crap, Gryphon's in here. Jade Warrior. Illusion. Amazing Blondel. Happy the Man. I'm impressed with the completeness. Or at least the effort. So far.
There's even a whole section on "Prog Folk" that includes people usually left out of prog retrospectives: Strawbs, Renaissance, Incredible String Band, Gryphon, Amazing Blondel, Illusion, etc. Fairport Convention's even in here, I assume Bcos of their tie thru Sandy Denny back 2 The Strawbs....
It's worth noting that this isn't a critical history -- Romano passes no critical judgements on mosta these artists. He calls Yes's TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS "mostly misunderstood," makes some other comments about the careers of Genesis & Camel that R hard 2 argue with. But mostly he just lays-out the evidence & history & lets you the reader Dcide if you want 2 investigate further.
The closest Romano gets 2 a critical outlook is at the very end, with a list of nearly 300 "essential prog-rock listens," leading off with DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, of course.... Hawkwind is listed here (with SPACE RITUAL), if nowhere else. But this list is a little odd: The Beach Boys' PET SOUNDS is included -- great album of course, but prog? Perhaps a sorta precursor 2 prog.... & The Band's MUSIC FROM BIG PINK. I don't get that 1 at all.
I promise more on this as I get further in2 it. But, unlike other previous prog-rock histories, this may take me awhile.... For now, I'd say if U're a prog fan & can get ahold of a copy cheap (thru the usual sources), it's well worth browsing thru....
More soon.

PS -- I see copies of David Sancious & Tone's TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE) R going 4 as much as $300 at It's well worth hearing if you're a jazz-rock fan, there's a coupla beautiful melodies on it. But it's wildly inconsistent. & it's not worth THAT much. In fact, I'm not sure what album WOULD be worth that much. An original demo copy of the Beach Boys' SMILE, maybe?


R S Crabb said...

Strange how this author considers Pet Sounds Prog Rock but didn't mention Kraftwerk or Neu! Not that it really matters, I discovered Neu! not too long ago, since Klaus Dinger was part of Kraftwerk, I think he took the rock sensibilities and avant garde and made the first sound prog rock. Neu! 2 is even stranger, the record company didn't give them any money and Neu! ended up remixing and slowing down of the finished songs. Beyond belief if you get to hear it.

I never heard Faust, although if i come across an album of theirs I want to hear it. Kraftwerk, found Autobaun for 2 bucks in the cutouts and the 20 minute title track is tour de force, including the sublime last movement. Radio Active shows them having fun making beats out of a geiger counter.

rastronomicals said...

TAD -- Nirvana's "Love Buzz" single goes for 4 figures when you see it on eBay . . .

R Smith -- Don't spend too much for the Faust album. I have the first one, and was pretty deeply disappointed. Doesn't seem like prog to me, or even that much like Krautrock.

A lot of it is found sounds, marching bands, people talking, etc., like "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" or "Revolution # 9" Maybe your cup of tea, but to me more like failed hippie experiments. There's some music, certainly, but nothing catches fire.

'Course no mention of Faust's first album would be complete without mentioning that Scaruffi ranks it third on his top 100.

Impossible to be dispassionate about Neu!

See what I mean?