Pohjola, Pekka [Finland]
Updated 5/9/02

Pihkasilmä Kaanakorva (72)
Harakka Bialoipokku (74, aka B The Magpie)
Keesojen Lehto (77, aka Mathematician's Air Display, aka Skuggornas Tjuvstart)
Visitation (80)
Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme (80)
Urban Tango (82)
Jokamies (83, aka Everyman)
Space Waltz (85)
Flight Of The Angel (86)
New Impressionist (87, Compilation)
Sinfonia No.1 (90)
Changing Waters (92)
Live in Japan (95, Live)
Heavy Jazz: Live in Helsinki and Tokyo (95, Live)
Pewit (97)
Views (01)
Onetime bassist for Wigwam (way back when), his solo stuff is unpredictable but always good. His first two are very jazzy, yet stylistically unique. Urban Tango and Space Waltz probably represent his more accessible side, combining classical tendencies, fusion, folk and more, using a full band. Impressionist is an excellent compilation CD that contains tracks from Everyman, Urban Tango, Visitation and Katkavaaran.. and is probably as good a place as any to start. Flight of the Angel is a smoker as well. Note: Symphonia is an orchestral piece which does not feature Pohjola, although the entire piece was written by him. The latest Changing Waters falls somewhere between Angel and Impressionist in style, with a couple of waltzes and classically inspired tunes, a good mix of his musical pallette.
Pohjola was the bassist for the excellent Finnish band, Wigwam. (Which, by the way, would be a good intro to Pohjola as well as Wigwam itself.) I have two Pohjola albums, Space Waltz and the compilation New Impressionist. Space Waltz consists of six songs ranging from 4-14 minutes though most are in the 6-8 minute range. The sound is modern, somewhat fusionesque and, with up to three keyboards playing, can get quite lush. Pekka contributes excellent bass and there is also ample guitar. New Impressionist is an excellent introduction to Pohjola's early '80s solo work is it covers a variety of styles and includes some horn work. Either of these are a good place to check out Pekka's work.
I have heard his first two albums. Pihkasilma Kaarnakorva is very Zappa-influenced with lots of woodwinds and some fine bass soloing. Harakka Bialoipokku is more individualistic, the emphasis being more on composing than playing, ending up sounding more like something from Canterbury, but not suggesting any one band. The last ten minutes of this album really burn!. -- Mike Ohman
[See Group, The | Made in Sweden | Uni Sono | Wigwam]

Click here for the Pekka Pohjola web site

Pohl, Bill [US]
Updated 6/26/05

Solid Earth (92)
Bill Pohl - live in concert with The Underground Railroad, January 13, 2001.
(Photo by Fred Trafton)

I've never been too fond of guitarists' "solo" albums. Mainly because that's what they tend to be: "solo" albums. The technical skill of a Satriani or Vai is a lost cause when they can't back it up with an interesting rhythm section. Even masters such as Allan Holdsworth have been guilty in leaving something to be desired in everything but the guitar lines. Steve Hackett is a notable exception on his very early solo work, with band-oriented music rather than virtuostic showing off, but how many guitarists put out albums that you can enjoy for more than just the guitar work? So along comes Bill Pohl. Hailing from the Midwest US (a hotbed for progressive rock these days?) [Not unless you call Fort Worth, Texas where Bill comes from the "Midwest" -- Ed], he releases his first album on the Long, Dark Music label. Keeping the previous paragraph in mind, I was not expecting much. Well, well, well ... Other than the first two songs, Pohl has made a commendable contribution to the US prog scene. His guitar style fits into that Satriani / Malmsteen influenced group of youngsters, but his writing shows some maturity. But wait! Solid Earth is a good debut, but still owes too much to the gentlemen mentioned in the first paragraph. Pohl's playing puts him in their league, and he makes an attempt at band-oriented composition. However, he's a solo artist and it shows. Pohl plays bass on all tracks, sings on four while drum duties are taken by John Livingston and keys are played by Tom Main. Most cuts are the "power trio" guitar/bass/drum approach that sounds almost like at Rush at times. The only tracks that stand out as strong progressive music are "The Incognizance" and "Solid Earth." Most sound like a Rush / Brand X / Satriani combo, with classic rock stylings. Some people are going to have problems with the vocals. I found them weak at first but after several listens I'm beginning to like them. His voice is high and thin, something like a fuzzy Geddy Lee. I can see this having appeal beyond progressive rock, and getting airplay on AOR stations. Yet it remains a display on promising young musicianship, and like many of the newer artists it hides as much potential as it shows.

Bill Pohl is a guitarist whose style recalls Mahavishnu, and, on some of the more aggressive passages, Brand X.
Pohl is an excellent guitarist who draws from both progressive and fusion influences. His overall style and tone reminded me quite a bit of Eric Johnson, a fellow Texan, as well as Mahavishnu Orchestra. Tony Spada's Holding Pattern also comes to mind when I hear Pohl's release, I'm sure by coincidence of style and not influence. To date, Pohl has released one album, Solid Earth, on Kurt Rongey's Long, Dark Music label. Most of the musical work is by Pohl (he also plays bass and sings) and drummer John Livingston. Tom Main on keyboards appears on a few songs. Functioning mostly as a trio of guitars, bass and drums, the album highlights Pohl's fiery, fusion-tinged guitar style in a Progressive setting. The sound is a bit fuller on the three tracks with keyboards, which I would like to see on all songs. The standout tracks are "Light Years" with its start and stop introductory rhythm and excellent keyboard work balanced against Pohl's blazing riffs and solos; at more than eight minutes, "The Incognizance," with its many changes and good musical development, highlighting the interplay of drums, keyboards and bass (it should be noted that Pohl does a very credible job on the bass guitar) with Pohl's blazing riffs and solos (am I repeating myself here?); and "Solid Earth," which is a good showcase for Pohl's sense of melody and quieter side with hints of Steve Hackett's guitar style. To be sure, all the songs on Solid Earth are equally worthy of note and Pohl shifts easily between all out chops and laid-back chordal work. He's not constantly assaulting the forelobe of your brain as does, for example, Mastermind. I think Pohl has more taste and variety of style than heard in Mastermind's barrage of MIDI-fied guitar. The music is great but the singing brought the album down for me just the slightest bit. I admit that I'm not much for vocals in any form. Pohl's singing was somewhat thin, perhaps tentative and lacking in confidence. They're not awful (far from it, in fact) but they're not great either. Happily for me, most songs are instrumental (or mostly so) and the vocals are at least not grating. The only drawback to the album is the production. The sound is rather thin as both highs and lows are rolled off. Hopefully, future albums (hopefully, there will be future albums) will have improved sonics. I had the pleasure of seeing Pohl live as The Bill Pohl Trio. These guys were incredible in a live setting. Gone were the thin sound and most of the vocals. Replacing them were a full, robust sound and lightning quick licks traded among keyboard, guitar and even drums. (Bass was handled by keyboards and Pohl's moog pedals.) The band played with blinding fury and energy that made for an outstanding show. The Trio sound much more cohesive as a live band than the "band" work on the studio release. Their set even included excellent Mahavishnu and Genesis covers in addition to original material, including a song not on Solid Earth. For a trio, they were very powerful and engaging. If you get the chance to see them, by all means, do so. In the meantime, check out Solid Earth. Aptly titled, it is a solid debut from an excellent musician. I am looking forward to another release from Bill Pohl.
[See Covenant | Rongey, Kurt | Underground Railroad, The]

Pointer, Noel [USA]

Phantazia (77)

If you like Jean-Luc Ponty's fusion work, you'll probably like this, but it's nothing special. Pointer is a decent bow-man, and he's backed by a who's-who of the New York fusion scene (Dave Grusin, Earl Klugh, John tropea, Steve Gadd, Will Lee, etc.) Avoid anything after Phantasia, as Pointer went off down the born-again christian pop path - no prog or decent fusion to be found.

Poisoned Electrick Head [UK]
Updated 10/30/07

Drink Me (87, Cassette)
Unmistakeably Rainbow Trout (92, Cassette)
Poisoned Electrick Head (92)
The Big Eye Am (94)
The Hanged Man (96)
Poisoned Electrick Head - Billy, Bri and Phil. This isn't the whole band.

Current psych. Apparently really over-the-top live.

PEH hailed from the North West of England and shared their five albums and unique live shows with UK audiences in the late 1980's to mid 1990's.

Their first couple of cassette albums and first CD could roughly be described as psychadelic rock, but it was their fourth album The Big Eye Am (1994) veered into a unique bouncy flavour of prog, featuring the epic "Pendulum". I found their last album The Hanged Man disappointing - like a band who had lost their way.

Their sound? Think Devo-inspired bouncy psychadelic/prog rock. Big guitar sound, keyboards go from lush to wierd industrial. Powerful but bouncy. Song subjects are strange and often amusing.

Live, they were remarkable. Dressed in dark overalls and wearing enormous (self made) fibreglass "death masks", they appeared about 8 feet tall. On at least one occasion they approached the stage though the audience, causing a few spilt drinks.

I think The Big Eye Am was their finest effort, and it still makes me grin. -- Steve Ridley

Click here for Poisoned Electrick Head's web site
Click here to order Poisoned Electrick Head or The Hanged Man from Voiceprint

Polestar [USA]

Flying Through The Universe (80)

Hard-hitting space-rock.

Polifemo [Argentina]
Updated 6/1/08

A couple of singles in 1975 & 1976 ...
Polifemo (76)
Polifemo (77)
Polifemo was a real supergroup in the Argentinian rock/prog history. The band was born out of the ashes of Sui Generis in 1975 when that band's career came to an end. Legendary guitarist David Lebon (Color Humano, Pescado Rabioso, guest on Sui Generis' albums), bassist Rinaldo Rafanelli (Sui Generis, Color Humano), drummer Juan Rodrigez (Los Mentales, Sui Generis) formed Polifemo in 1975. They recorded a couple of blusey hard rock singles, that instantly got them fame and recognition.The following year they entered the studio to start working on their first LP. They enlisted keyboardist Ciro Fogliatta (Los Gatos, Sacramento, Espiritu) who launched the band's sound in a much more symphonic and progressive direction with his arsenal of synths, Mellotron, organ and electric piano. He also played clarinet.

The first album was well received too, being an amalgam of short hard/boogie rock songs(like their early singles) and longer more elaborated pieces, where the bands' symphonic ambitions came shining through. The band's overall sound could draw comparisons with Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Argent, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd for the many athmospheric instrumental parts. Side two of the original LP was a suite, where all three songs were linked together. Most songs were generally heavy and song-based, yet progressive and symphonic in approach.

The second album, released the following year, was more of the same, except this time the bulk of the album's tracks were longer (8 minutes range) giving ample time and space for the musicians to stretch their musical muscles and show off their talents during the longer instrumental flights. Once again, Moog, synths, Mellotron, and Hammond, are used in abundance and more effectively so than on their first album. Percussions are also used to great effect on a few tracks, lending a jammy Santana feel. Unfortunately, before the album was released, the band came appart, no surprise with such an amalgam of big names. Egos probably came at stakes.

Both albums should find a niche among those into the heavier side of 70's prog. Both have been re-issued on CD with the early singles as bonus. -- Alain Mallette

[See Espiritu | Sui Generis]

Click here for some information on Polifemo

Pollen [Canada]
Updated 1/10/01

Pollen (76)
Pollen - I don't have a band photo, but here's the cover art from their one album

Pollen was a french band from Quebec, Canada. It is hard to categorise their music except that after hearing a lot of Italian progressive bands, I believe their main influences to lie there. Very apt musicians playing very difficult rhythmic music.

The most prominent instruments were the Mini-Moog and Clavinova although the guitarist had a style of his own. The singing was pretty bad but compensated by the intensity singer brought across. It's a shame they only put out one album. -- Paul R. Martin

Pond [East Germany]

Planetenwind (84), Auf der Seidenstrasse (86), Maschinenmensch (92)

Synthesizer electronics.

Ponty, Jean-Luc [France]

Sunday Walk (67), Electric Connection (68), Experience (69), King King (70), Astrorama (70), Open Strings (72), Live in Montreux (72), Ponty/Grappelli (73), Upon the Wings of Music (75), Imaginary Voyage (76), Cantaloupe Island (76), Aurora (77), Enigmatic Ocean (77), Cosmic Messenger (79), Civilized Evil (80), Taste for Passion (80), Mystical Adventures (82), Individual Choice (83), Open Mind (84), Fables (85), Gift of Time (87), Storytelling (89)

Starting with classical training, Ponty soon branched out into the jazz realms under the guidance of Stephane Grappelli and others. He's also played with Elton John, Frank Zappa (on the excellent Hot Rats), and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Apparently, fusion suited his taste, because after leaving MO, he started creating his own fusion based albums, beginning with the excellent Upon the Wings of Music. The albums following continued in that vein with little change, so they can get old. Prog heads would probably be most interested in Upon the Wings through Enigmatic Ocean, which includes Allan Holdsworth on guitar.

Great violinist. Played on a Zappa's Overnight Sensation. I have two of his solo albums, but neither of them are all that good. I have heard some of them that I liked, but unfortunately, I have no idea which ones.

Prog fans would be most interested in the first four records from his fusion period - Upon The Wings Of Music, Aurora, Imaginary Voyage, and Enigmatic Ocean. After that the sound began to get a bit lighter, eventually becoming nothing more than new age fusak. There are some good moments on Cosmic Messenger, A Taste For Passion, and Mystical Adventures. Over time Ponty played less and less of his trademark violin and began noodling with keyboards and computers. When you hear a gem from the later efforts it invariably features the bow. Also should be of interest to fusion guitar lovers. Allan Holdsworth, Daryl Stuermer (Genesis), Scott Henderson (Tribal Tech), and Joaquin Leviano (Zazen) all spent time with Ponty's bands.

[See Holdsworth, Allan | Mahavishnu Orchestra | Zappa, Frank]

Pooh, I [Italy]
Updated 9/21/01

Opera Prima (71)
Alessandra (73)
Parsifal (73)
Pooh 1971-1974 (74?)
Un Po' Del Nostro Tempo Migliore (75)
Forse Ancora Poesia (75)
Poohlover (76)
Rotolando Respirando (77)
Boomerang (78)
Pooh 1975-1978 (78?)
Viva (79)
Stop (80)
Buona Fortuna (81)
Pooh 1978-1981 (81?)
Tropico Del Nord (83)
I Nostri Anni Senza Fiato (84)
Aloha (84)
Asia Non Asia (85)
Giorni Infiniti (86)
Il Colore Dei Pensieri (87)
Oasi (88)
Uomini Soli (99)
Il Cielo È Blu Sopra Le Nuvole (92)
Musicadentro (94)
Buona Notte Ai Suonatori (95, 2CD)
Amici Per Sempre (96)
Un Minuto Prima Dell'Alba (99)
Un Posto Felice (99)
Cento di Queste Vite (00)
Italian prog. For Se Ancora Poesia is reported to have excellent keyboard work.
[Regarding Parsifal]
I Pooh, like I Nomadi, is in the Italian pop vein but there are some proggy elements here and there. Most of the songs are in 3-6 minute vein and consist of catchy pop melodies. Fans of I Nomadi and some of the poppier Italian albums (i.e., Le Orme's "Smogmagica" or "Storia O'Leggenda") would like I Pooh. Recommended. -- Betta
Click here for the official I Pooh web site in Italian

Poor Genetic Material [Germany]
Updated 4/25/11 (Discog & Links only)

Free to Random Vol. 1 (99)
Free to Random Vol. 2 (00)
Summerland (01)
Leap Into Fall (02)
Winter's Edge (03)
Spring Tidings (06)
Paradise out ot Time (07)
Island Noises (11)
Poor Genetic Material - (not in photo order) Philipp Jaehne (keyboards), Stefan Glomb (guitars), Philip Griffiths (vocals), Dennis Sturm (bass) and Ludwig Benedek (drums)

Original Entry 11/12/03:
Poor Genetic Material's Leap Into Fall kicks off with the 16:32 "Rush of Ages", which begins with a Fripp and Eno Evening Star-like ambient guitar loop to set the mood, but this quickly becomes far more rock. The guitar sounds a lot like Steve Howe, and many of the keyboard solos are reminiscent of early Rick Wakeman though the overall composition is more simple than the early Yes it recalls. There's something about the mood of the music that reminds me of Timothy Pure as well, though this isn't dense with Mellotron like TP, opting instead for lush string samples to fill this sonic niche.

After this opener is a longish proggy ballad, "Thin Red Line". This doesn't sound as Yes-like, being a vocal and string sample-heavy song. This tune actually reminds me somewhat of Duran Duran at their most mellow and least dancable. "Star of Eden" is another proggy ballad, with repeating verses and choruses interspersed with some alternate sections and solos, also very thick with sustained organ chords and some '70's "classic rock" tendencies in the guitars. Not bad, but to tell the truth the sound at this point is starting to sound pretty similar to the previous pieces. This track is also too long, at 8:03, for the limited quantity of musical diversity in it ... by the end of the tune, you've heard all the themes too frequently.

The trend continues with "Leap into Fall", which again is a somewhat repetetive proggy ballad full of lush string samples and a smooth, lounge-jazz guitar solo. By the time "Antares" comes around, I'm finally getting the point ... these compositions aren't as much about the musical composition as they are about the lyrics and vocals. Unfortunately for me, the lyrics don't speak to me that much. "Antares", for example, is saying in many different ways, "stop comparing me to someone else, I'm who I am." I'm long past the need for reassurances on this subject, so the lyrics seem pointless whining to me, even though they have been nicely thought out and are well executed. The final short tune is "Fall", which is about waiting.

My recommendation on this CD is mixed. Personally, it didn't do that much for me. But the tunes and lyrics are emotional, well-recorded and certainly have heavy progressive leanings. For those who like more ballad style songs with symphonic lushness, contemplative lyrics and a bit of a dark mood, you may really like this. Though they certainly don't sound exactly like Timothy Pure, those who like them may also like this. It seems to have a similar feel, and also has a "post-modern" tinge. -- Fred Trafton

Updated 11/12/03:
There are six songs and one instrumental piece on the third Poor Genetic Material album Summerland. All of them were created within the framework of a unified stylistics, which is Classic Symphonic Art-Rock. While on the whole, both the music and sound of Summerland remind me of a vintage Symphonic Progressive of the 1970s, this is, nevertheless, an original album, and I don't find traces of any distinct influences here. Furthermore, although PGM present a moderate complex music on this album, some marvelous magic and charm, that were typical for most of the classic works of the 1970s, have touched Summerland as well. The alternation of the vocal and instrumental parts, as well as hard-edged and quiet arrangements, frequent changes of tempo and mood, diverse and, often, contrasting interplay between various soloing instruments, etc, are typical for most of the tracks on the album. All of the compositions are excellent, but the album's title track, which is also the longest track here, is an absolute winner. In all, Summerland is a very good debut.

There is a huge difference between Leap Into Fall and the previous PGM album Summerland. Leap Into Fall is not only an outstandingly progressive album, but also one of the most unique albums of a contemporary Symphonic Progressive. For the most part, the music that is featured on the album represents a very innovative manifestation of this genre. I would call this style a blend of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Teutonic Prog-Metal Opera. All three of the long tracks here are the brightest representatives of this innovative stylistics. The music is just filled with all the possible progressive ingredients. However, while this music is complex, it is at the same time very picturesque and intriguing. It's difficult for me to reproduce a wide variety of the wonderful mosaics that form the musical palettes of these songs. You should yourselves listen to them to see the pictures, events, and even images that this music creates. The other two songs represent just an original Classic Art-Rock, though the album's title track contains some elements of Prog-Metal. Both of the vocal and instrumental arrangements that are featured here have a mixed theatrically dramatic feel to them. The last track on the album is a beautiful classic Art-Rock ballad, the instrumental arrangements of which consist of very tasteful and diverse interplay between solos of bass guitar and passages of piano and string ensemble, all of which are clearly symphonic in character. Also, Leap Into Fall is undoubtedly an hour of triumph of vocalist Philip Griffith (from Alias Eye). His singing never was as wonderful and impressive as on this album. Leap Into Fall is by all means an outstanding album, which just cannot remain unnoticed.

Do you regard the music on Genesis' eponymous album of 1983 and Marillion's Holidays in Eden of 1991 as Neo Symphonic Progressive? I'm not, and I used to call it Modern Art-Rock. Marillion played a true Neo Prog only during the 1980s (while Brave is their only Classic Symphonic Art-Rock album), and Genesis showed it in its pure form only once - on Duke. In the CD press kit, PGM presents Winter's Edge exactly as the entity of Modern Art-Rock, which is correct regarding the first two songs (only): "Sharp Bends Sudden Crests" and "Whitescape", and I even hear some echoes of "Home by the Sea" and "Silver Rainbow" (both from Genesis) on each of them respectively. Of course, the voice, as well as the way of singing of Mr. Griffith, has nothing in common with that of Mr. Collins, but it does with that of Mr. Hogarth - at least in some ways and at least on this recording. Both of the following songs: "Hugging Horses" and "Protean Profile" are already about a "classic" Neo Art-Rock and arouse associations with Marillion's Seasons End - especially the second of them, which features the heavy Rock romps sounding similar to those on "Hooks in You" from the said album. This is the only track here where the "spirit" of winter isn't that evident. Overall however, the musical palette of the album is painted mostly with rather soft, somewhat pastel shades and just wonderfully reproduces the atmosphere of snowy, yet, quiet winter, which, by the way, is a really great achievement. The moods on Winter's Edge are lightly pathetic rather than dramatic, and this is also the part of the album's conception directly linked with a sensation of winter and related phenomenon. My memory keeps lots of albums with a very picturesque and imaginative music, but only on one of them, Genesis' Wind & Wuthering, the breath of a season (autumn in this case) was reproduced as vividly as PGM did it on Winter's Edge. The style that the remaining three songs on the album are done in is a blend of Neo and Classic Symphonic Progressive. With the sounds of Mellotron and Hammond, distinctive solos of electric guitar, and episodes consisting of purely acoustic arrangements, all of them: both of the parts of "Winter's Edge" and "Nuage Bleuare" are as if taken from the second half of the seventies and are not without traces of influences of still the same Wind & Wuthering by Genesis, the band, the legacy of which is the most honored by the contemporary progressive bands. If I wanted to be only partly objective, I would content myself with saying that Winter's Edge is the most mature album by PGM. On the other hand however, this album is more accessible than Leap Into Fall, and the presence of influences is another feature distinguishing it from its glorious predecessor. -- Vitaly Menshikov

[See Alias Eye]

Click here for Poor Genetic Material's web site
Click here for Poor Genetic Material's MySpace page
Click here to order Paradise Out Of Time from CD Baby
Click here to order Spring Tidings from CD Baby
Click here to order Winter's Edge from CD Baby

Popol Ace [Norwegian]

Popul Ace (73), Stolen From Time (75), Curly Sounds (78)

I've just come to think of a final Popol Ace album from ca. 1978 called Curly Sounds. It's a real turkey, and should be avoided. (Typically for prog bands around that time).

[See Popol Vuh (Norway)]

Popol Vuh [Germany]
Updated 7/3/01

Affenstunde (71)
In Den Gärten Pharaos (72)
Hosianna Mantra (73)
Seligpreisungen (73)
Einsjager and Siebenjager (75)
Das Hohelied Salomos (75)
Music from the Film Aguirre (76)
Letzte Tage - Letzte Nachte (76)
Yoga (76)
Perlenklange (76, Compilation)
Coeur De Verre (77)
Singet, Denn der Gesang Vertreibt die Wolfe... (77)
Bruder des Schattens - Sohne des Lichts (78)
Die Nacht der Seele: Tantric Songs (79)
Sei Still, Wisse Ich Bin (80)
Agape-Agape, Love-Love (83)
Spirit of Peace (85)
Der Gesang Der Engel (88)
Florian Fricke (90)
City Raga (94)
Shepherd's Symphony (97)
Messa di Orfeo (98)
Led by keyboardist and composer Florian Fricke, Popol Vuh are one of the most unique-sounding bands in the history of progressive rock. To be fair, only a part of their output could be regarded as "rock", rather a lot of their work could be seen as pioneering in such genres as electronic, ethnic or New Age music. They have an extensive and somewhat confusing back catalogue, with a legion of studio albums, soundtracks, compilations and re-releases which don't always match the original versions. Furthermore, same tracks can appear on different albums under different titles (either in English or German) and sometimes different versions of the same song appear on different albums. What follows is a brief introduction to the bulk of their output, roughly in chronological order:

Affenstunde and In den Gärten Pharaos -- Ambient and almost free-form music, basically just Fricke experimenting with a Moog synthesizer backed by some ethnic percussion. Reminds of Alpha Centauri / Zeit era Tangerine Dream. The gloomy organ, cymbal clashing and eerie voice on "Vuh" (In den Gärten Pharaos) also bring to mind Pink Floyd's "A Saucerful of Secrets". Both are quite abstract works and not really representative of the band's main output. Note: one CD version of Affenstunde actually features the whole first half of In den Gärten Pharaos, while another includes the entire Die Nacht der Seele album.

Hosianna Mantra -- Exit synthesizer, enter Conny Veidt on electric and acoustic guitars and Djong Yun on vocals. Fricke's piano paints lush, melodic sound scapes which are filled out by Veidt's echoing, spooky electric guitar lines and Yun's dreamy, whispering vocals, singing Biblical texts. This delicious musical cake is further sweetened with some tamboura, violin and beautiful oboe. A marvellous album of dreamy, mystical music with a subtle menacing undertone, Hosianna Mantra provides the blueprint for the next few Popol Vuh albums.

Seligpreisung -- Daniel Fichelscher of Amon Düül II enters the fold to provide percussion and more electric guitar. The melodiousness of Hosianna Mantra is sustained, but the still sparingly used drums give the music some rock feel, evident especially on the only instrumental track "Tanz der Chassidim". Fricke is the lead vocalist this time, giving a rather murmuring performance which doesn't diminish the power of the music, though.

Einsjäger & Siebenjäger and Das Hohelied Salomos -- Performed by the core of Fricke, Fichelscher and Yun, these albums are perhaps the band's strongest overall records and certainly the most accesible to an "average" progressive rock listener. Fichelscher's spirited, cymbal-splashing drumming and biting yet soulful guitar work combine with Fricke's melodic, slightly jazz-influenced piano patterns to create music that is dynamic but ethereal, busy but peaceful. This is best represented by the 19-minute epic "Einsjäger & Siebenjäger". There are also some quieter solo piano or guitar pieces. Both albums are excellent.

Letzte Tage, Letzte Nächte -- This is the closest Popol Vuh have come to conventional psychedelic rock. Darker and heavier than the previous two albums, the album is dominated by Fichelscher's guitars and drums, and his compositions "Dort ist der Weg" and the title track are strong rock songs reminding of some of Amon Düül 's works. Fricke's songs show stronger Indian and Arabic influence, especially in the chanting of "Haram Dei Ra". The song "Kyrie" is not the same composition as the identically-titled track on Hosianna Mantra. Vocals come courtesy of Renate Knaup (Amon Düül II) and they have somewhat more strength and bite than Yun's.

Aguirre -- The soundtrack to the movie "Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes", first of the many soundtracks Popol Vuh made for director Werner Herzog. At least two different CD versions exist, neither of which seems to match the original LP release exactly (apparently somebody misplaced the master tapes). However, all versions contain the track "Lacrimé de Rei" (or just "Aguirre" on the CD versions), a six and a half minute masterpiece of haunting Mellotron choirs and mysterious synthesizer melodies. Both CD versions contain the three-part song "Spirit of Peace", 20 minutes of peaceful and low-key piano playing, which was not on the original LP. The rest of the first CD version actually consists of the whole of In den Gärten Pharaos, while the second version (the second Spalax or ZYX) restores most of the LP tracks, many of which are alternative versions of songs already released on studio albums. Another excellent album.

Yoga -- Two long Indian ragas composed by Fricke but performed by Indian musicians. Percussive, very repetitive and devoid of usual melodic qualities. Mainly for completists.

Coeur de Verre (aka Herz Aus Glas, aka Heart of Glass, aka Singet, Denn der Gesang Vertreibt die Wölfe). Another soundtrack for Werner Herzog, this album also shows strong Indian influence, largely thanks to Al Gromer's shimmering sitar, but is a much more interesting work. Songs like "Das Lied von den Hohen Bergen" and "Blätter aus dem Buch der Kühnheit" succesfully combine Indian and rock sounds to create some of Popol Vuh's brightest and most joyful songs. Others, like "Hüter der Schwelle", are darker, with crashing drums and guitars in the style of Letzte Tage, Letzte Nächte. A great album.

Brüder des Schattens, Söhne des Lichts. This album is more low-key and instrumental. The title track is another strong piece, opening with a Gothic section full of moody choirs, atmospheric piano and gentle woodwinds, and then bursting out with a hyperextended acoustic guitar jam, spiced with droning sitar and sparkling piano; nothing very complex, just hypnotically captivating. The other three songs are sparser piano or guitar pieces, still influenced by Indian music, often quite gloomy. Most of the music on this album was also used in the Herzog movie "Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht" which has its own soundtrack release. None of the songs from Brüder are duplicated as such on Nosferatu (aka On the Way to a Little Way), though pieces of them appear in a remixed form among some abstract synth explorations, sitar pieces and the dark, droning choral repetition of "Mantra".

Die Nacht der Seele: Tantric Songs -- A more minimalistic music, many tracks featuring just growling, sepulchral bass voices and a little percussion. Other tracks feature the same warm, Indian-influenced sound evident on the previous studio album, among them one of Popol Vuh's most beautiful songs "Engel der Luft". A subdued and uneven album.

Sei Still, Wisse Ich Bin -- This album features a heavy choral sound on just about every track. The music consists of ritualistic chanting supported by guitar and piano ostinatos, very atmospheric and often quite gloomy but songs like "Wehe Khorazin" and "Im Garten der Gemeinschaft" are compelling. Chris Karrer of Amon Düül II contributes some sax. A lot of this music is also on the soundtrack album Fitzcarraldo.

Agape, Agape -- This one is a mixed bag. The title track is another ritual chant like on the previous album, elsewhere you get some more guitar-oriented stuff and one abstract and meandering piece that harks back to the band's early days. Pretty bad sound quality, at least on the Spalax CD re-release.

Spirit of Peace -- Three songs out of four are just chanting supported by light piano and guitar in the same style as Sei Still, Wisse Ich Bin, but altogether less powerful. "We Know About the Need" is chilling, but at 17 minute "Take the Tention High" is just too long, lacking any real dynamics and development. The title track is the Part Two of Fricke's 20-minute solo piano piece.

Cobra Verde -- Another Herzog soundtrack, credited as "composed by Florian Fricke, performed by Popol Vuh". Features Fricke, Fichelscher and Knaup and one of the band's best choral pieces "Der Tod des Cobra Verde", as well as some interesting electronic pieces like "Eine Andere Welt". Quiet and low-key, but the band's best release during the 80's.

In the Garden of Pharaos - Aguirre and Tantric Songs - Hosianna Mantra -- These are repackagings by the American label Celestial Harmonies. The titles are in English, but the music is exactly the same as on the original studio albums. The former release is identical to the first CD version of Aguirre, while the latter contains the whole Hosianna Mantra album, about half of Die Nacht der Seele and two songs from Brüder des Schattens, Söhne des Lichts (including the title track).

Best of -- A compilation of soundtrack material plus a couple of songs from Agape, Agape and Spirit of Peace. A good selection of songs but many of them are heavily abridged.

Florian Fricke -- A compilation drawing mainly from late 70's - early 80's albums, again with some different titles for familiar songs. A rather limited scope of this compilation diminishes its value.

For You and Me -- A strong comeback album after some years of inactivity. The polished production and tasteful synth work by the new collaborator Guido Hieronymus give the record a cleaner, New Agey sound, but Fricke's piano work is still prominent and beautiful while Fichelscher's somewhat more processed guitar swirls around and Knaup's singing is as powerful as ever. Many of the songs are based on folk music from places as far apart as Ireland, Nepal and Africa. There is also a classy remake of "Letzte Tage - Letzte Nächte", retitled "When Love Is Calling You".

Sing, for Song Drives Away the Wolves -- A compilation of songs from Seligpreisung, Einsjäger and Coeur de Verre, some of them remixed and partially re-recorded with additional instrumentation. This is mainly extra percussion or some digital textures and actually improves the originals. A good selection of Popol Vuh's best songs, including the complete (and unmodified) version of "Einsjäger & Siebenjäger", though under a different title.

City Raga and Shepherd's Symphony -- Oh how the mighty have fallen... Unfortunately Fricke decided to go for a "modern" sound, hence these albums are full of overbearing trance and dance styled drum loops, ethnic samples and bland synthesizer textures. A few interesting moments on both albums, but the wonderful melodiousness of their heydays is but a memory.

Messa di Orfeo. Recorded live as part of an "audio-video-light-installation", this extremely low-key album consists of shimmering or rolling synthesizer drones, choir parts subdued almost to the point of subliminal, sounds of nature and repetitive Italian-language recitations of poetry about the unity of all things. Apart from the cooing vocal of the languorous opening track "Deep in the Ocean of Love", most of the music seems mainly intended to evoke sombre and sunny moods or to illustrate the natural cycles depicted in the booklet. It evokes the ritualistic and mystical spirit of Popol Vuh's prime much better than its immediate predecessors but can feel lacking in true musical substance at times. -- Kai Karmanheimo

One of the very best German bands, that exemplified "cosmic music" in its myriad of forms. Earlier stuff (Affenstunde, In Den Garten Pharao) is spacey and ethnic almost electronic music. Hosianna Mantra is close in style with ethereal and uplifting female vocals. My favorites, though, are the mid seventies albums like Seligpreisungen or Einsjager and Sibenjager This music is undeniably classic with spacy guitar/piano/percussion jams that spiral and reach amazing crescendos. And is always beautiful. Very peaceful and mesmerizing.
Best albums IMHO are the ones with Djong Yun on vocals: Hosianna Mantra and Das Hohlied Salamos. Beautiful stuff.
I've only heard part of Affenstude. Way out there space/psych with lots of electronics and quiet percussion. It will definitely carry you along for a mellow ride.
Popol Vuh are best known as early pioneers of the German rock scene, fusing folk and gospel music with rock influences, with releases that have spanned two decades. For You and Me is the latest release from the German group who have been making music since the early seventies. Their music combines elements from folk music, rock, and new age, with religious overtones. Rather than describe this album in my words, I will excerpt from the sleeve notes, which convey the effect very well " ... merging the styles of various cultures ... elements from the Himalayas, Ireland, Greece, and Africa ... instrumental base of new age/world/folk music with transcendent vocals ... eclectic mix of instruments, rhythms, and arrangements ...."
Categorized with the German space-rock of the seventies, Popol Vuh is a great place to start if you're looking to fill your collection with original sounding music. I've combined Einsjager and Siebenjager and Das Hohelied Salomos into one review because they go so well together they could be considered one release. The band is lead by Daniel Fichelscher on guitars and percussion and Florian Fricke on the piano. Aside from occasional guest musicians on vocals and various eastern instruments, these two create the Popol Vuh sound. The music on these two CDs consists mainly of multi-tracked bluesy guitar leads backed up by piano chording and jazz-inflected drumming. Fichelscher and Fricke and very good musicians, though not in the virtuostic way that Bill Bruford, Keith Emerson or Steve Hillage is. While complex enough to please prog-heads, they don't show off. Yet the music is not minimal. Many of the tracks feature vocals by Djong Yun and have a full, lush feel to them. This is excellent music to relax or meditate to. I surprised me to find how peaceful the music is, even when they are playing fast. I've been told the lyrics have a religious twist to them, but as far as I can tell they are in German. In any case the majority of the vocal tracks seem to be chanting rather than singing. I can't think of any bands to compare Popol Vuh to. Their style has diverse roots that I'm not going to attempt to guess. They sound like no other progressive band I've ever heard. These two CDs work well together and if you're thinking of ordering one, you might as well get both. An excellent addition to any collection, I highly recommend these recent and welcome re-releases.
Look out for this band. I've heard two albums: one is pretty good, the other sucks. My first experience with them was not good. Their album Hosianna Mantra has all the markings of some 1980's crystal-gazing mellow hippie new-age album, yet was made in 1972. Lighter than air piano, woodwinds, guitars and Indian instruments meander and go nowhere while a Japanese lady adds some very bloodless vocals. Boring with a capital B. I heard some of a later album, Seligpreisung. Still very mellow and acoustic, but this time the playing is spirited and colourful, not narcotic and bland. Th first two albums are electronics orientated, while recent (1980-present) albums feature ex-Amon Düül II vocalist Renate Knaup. -- Mike Ohman
[See Amon Düül II | Gila | Niagara]

Click here for a Popol Vuh fan page (in Italian)

Popol Vuh [Norway]
Updated 7/24/11

Popol Vuh (72)
Quiche Maya (73)
Popol Vuh / Popol Ace - (not in photo order) Pete Knutsen (keyboards, guitar), Arne Schultze (guitars), Jahn Teigen (vocals), Terje Methi (bass), Thor Andreassen (drums), Asbjørn Krogtoft (vocals)

First two entries from the original pre-2000 GEPR:
This Norwegian band is also called Popul Vuh and had to change their name [to Popol Ace] in 1973-74, when the two bands became aware of each other. Before the name change they recorded two albums; Popol Vuh and Quiche Maya. Both these albums have their moments, some parts being probably the best Norwegian prog ever (apart from Akasha's elusive album from 1977). Popol Vuh used all sorts of guitars, flutes, keyboards etc. but usually they ended up playing straightforward and boring rock. However, there's about 10 minutes of startling prog on each of their albums. In 1975-76 they released a third album called Stolen From Time (under the name Popol Ace, this time). This is by far their best effort, with tons of Mellotrons and synthesizers, but this tends to be a bit softer than their previous releases. As you would expect, these three albums are really hard to find on vinyl these days, but Polygram rereleased all of them as low-price CD's a few years back and should still be available.

I've heard one cut. Lots of Mellotron and flute, but lots of psych elements, making it sound like a prog/psych hybrid. Vocals are in English with only minor accent. Can't offer much more as it was a short tune, but it didn't really grab me.
Updated 7/24/11:
Found the following video for the Norwegian Popol Vuh on YouTube:

-- Fred Trafton

[See Popol Ace]

Click here for a Popol Vuh/Popol Ace web site
Click here for another Popol Vuh/Popol Ace web site

Porcupine Tree [UK]
Updated 1/18/10

Tarquin's Seaweed Farm (89, Cassette)
The Nostalgia Factory (90, Cassette)
On the Sunday of Life... (91, mostly compiled from Tarquin's and Nostalgia)
Voyage 34 (92, EP)
Radio Active (93, EP, Promotional CD)
Up the Downstair (93)
Voyage 34: Remixes (93, EP)
Spiral Circus (94, Promotional Cassette)
Yellow Hedgrow Dreamscape (94)
Moonloop (94, EP)
The Sky Moves Sideways (95)
Staircase Infinities (95, EP)
Waiting (96, EP)
Signify (96)
Coma Divine - Recorded Live in Rome (97, Live)
Stupid Dream (99)
Piano Lessons (99, EP)
Stranger By the Minute (99, EP, CD also includes a video track)
Pure Narcotic (99, EP)
Voyage 34: The Complete Trip (00, Remixed CD reissue of all 4 versions of Voyage 34)
Four Chords That Made a Million (00, EP)
Lightbulb Sun (00)
Shesmovedon (00, EP)
In Absentia (02)
Deadwing (05)
Fear of a Blank Planet (07)
The Incident (09, 2CD)

In addition to the above are Vinyl releases which don't have the same song sets on them, plus many "Expanded" and "Special" re-releases of previous material with bonus tracks. See their web site for complete details.

Porcupine Tree - Steven Wilson (guitar), Chris Maitland (drums), Colin Edwin (bass), Richard Barbieri (keyboards)

What to think of a man who calls himself Porcupine Tree and hangs out with guys like The Expanding Flan, Soloman St. Jermain and Master Timothy Masters? I'm not sure but I do know what to think of the 76 minute On the Sunday of Life.... Pretty damn good, that's what. Well, for the most part, anyway. Porcupine Tree is part of the British neo-psych scene, of which the Ozric Tentacles are the best known proponents. On the Sunday ... contains four parts: "First Love," "Second Sight," "Third Eye" and "Fourth Bridge." Within each section are four or five songs that all flow together. Most of the album is excellent, mind-blowing spacy psychedelia reminiscent of early Pink Floyd circa Ummagumma. The only problem I have with the album is the interjection of occasional pop-styled songs. The lyrics are definitely acid inspired such as the very cool "The Nostalgia Factory" or the coy "Linton Samuel Dawson": Linton Samuel Dawson/Has just reached 25. You figure it out. And "Footprints" includes the "Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies" verse from the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." I think you have enough clues to figure out the cerebral theories of Mr. Tree. But the beat for a few of these songs (that is, with lyrics) are very straight-forward pop. Fortunately, only half of the 18 songs have lyrics of any type and not all are set to a pop beat. Few are, in fact, but the sudden beat does dampen the overall aura just a tad. Fortunately, the long wordless interludes will carry you away to universes infinite to places where beat and meter slow and distort. All instruments are played by Porcupine with the exception of a few spots of guest work by the strange characters mentioned above. Porcupine Tree is well regarded in pyschedelia circles. On the Sunday of Life... is one good reason why. Highly recommended to psych fans.

Voyage 34 is a thirty minute and four second voyage that is summed up by the sticker on the cover: "A post rave space wave to the Darkside of the Moon." This CD consists of various atmospheric and more direct music, interrupted by narration. The opening narration claims, "This remarkable sometimes incoherent, transcript illustrates a phantasmagoria of fear, terror, grief, exultation and, finally, breakdown. It's highlights have been compressed on this recording to make their own disquieting points." This is followed by about one minute of atmospheric synths and seagull-like cries, before the host returns and says, "The time is 9:30 pm, one hour after the participants have eaten sugar cubes saturated with LSD. We hear Brian and his fellow travellers observing their gradual transformation." Treated as outside observers by the narration, the music brings you in as an active participant. I think you get the general gist of the direction of this EP. Knowing it's "philosophical leanings," you probably already know if this album is for you or not. The next instrumental passage brings back the atmospheric seagull cries but adds a distinct beat that comes directly from "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3" from Pink Floyd's The Wall. Weaving in and out of the mix of this rave wave are various synths, voices, both background and ethereal, guitars and further narration. Their entrance and exodus is gentle, so that you often aren't aware of their arrival and departure; they are just textures that are there one moment and gone another. At times, there is pulse but no beat; other times the beat is distinct and direct. At 30 minutes, the trip is short but the journey far.

Nearly half way into Voyage 34, there is a reference to "down an up staircase." After that trip, we find ourselves going Up the Downstair, Porcupine Tree's follow-up release to Voyage 34. Though the 47 minutes of the disc is divided into 10 songs, they all flow together for a non-stop stellar journey. After a brief introduction of strange instrumental sounds, our host politely informs us, "What you're listening to are musicians, performing psychedelic music, under the influence of a mind-altering chemical called ..." and the music starts again. The song, "Synesthesia," is layered synths over a dance-type beat that recalls many of the techno-pop bands of the '80s. I have a hard time getting into the trip of this type of beat though it's fortunately helped by a soaring Gilmouresque guitar solo for the final minute or so. Fortunately, too, the beat becomes less dance-like and the music becomes more drifting, shifting and nebulous, trademark of the psychedelic imagery of Porcupine Tree. In fact, I think Porcupine Tree excels in his use of synthesizers to create a cosmic atmosphere, dreamy and floating, while his guitar, under the influence of the soaring, slow hand of David Gilmour, adds intensity as needed. No where is this illustrated better than in the 10 and 11 minutes of "Up the Downstair" and "Burning Sky." On the latter cut, Mr. Tree switches among very ephemeral synths, a guitar riff similar to Twelfth Night's "Sequences," ticking clocks, and heavier guitar riffs and solos out of "Saucerful of Secrets." As one song flows into the next, the intensity rises up to a climax in "Burning Sky," then comes gently back to earth with the closing "Fade Away." Except for "Synesthesia," the beat is much less pop-like that some of the songs on On the Sunday of Life.... In short, Porcupine Tree's Up the Downstair is a bit like early Gilmour-era Pink Floyd using '90s technology, an Ummagumma with digital synths, if you will. If that sounds appealing, definitely check it out. You will likely not be disappointed.

Moonloop is a two song EP, that opens with "Stars Die." The promo literature claims, "'Stars Die' is one of those rare songs to justify the use of hyperbolic adjectives such as luschious, breathtaking, seductive and sensuous ... because the mere word 'beautiful' is simply not enough." A very apt description for this dreamy song, with vocal harmonies, and acoustic and electric guitar that recall early Pink Floyd, yet with a uniqueness that belongs to Porcupine Tree. In the middle of the track is a tape snippet of President Nixon talking to astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. "Stars Die" dissolves into the 18 minute orbit known as "Moonloop." The first 13 minutes is a shimmering guitar excursion into the unknown, charted only by gentle drums, congas and ambient synth textures. After drifting along, the band bumps into a riff of solidarity, which builds into a frenzied plunge back to solid ground. Outstanding!

The Sky Moves Sideways could easily be Porcupine Tree's best effort yet, a drifting, surreal voyage of electronics, space and ambient music that delivers you with a warm, familiar ease to distant universes. Though still dominated by Steven Wilson, the majority of the music makes full use of the four-piece live band. Around Wilson's guitar work and reverberating vocals, Richard Barbieri drapes shimmering soundscapes of synth. The rhythms, provided by bassist Colin Edwin and percussionist Chris Maitland, shifts from '70s laid-back Teutonic hand percussion to '90s rave beats, all swirling in cosmic debris. The two phases of the title track, which open and close the album and total more than 35 minutes of mind-expanding music, are the heady highlights. "Phase One" launches with dark, Floydian organ chords amidst a rain storm and taped voices, migrates through gentle fields of synth, guitar and dreamy vocals, past gigantic slabs of Orb rhythms and swirling Hillage dervishes, before landing in pastures of acoustic guitar. "Phase Two" is equally explorative and inventive. A 17 minute version of "Moonloop" also appears on The Sky Moves Sideways, removed of one minute of quiet spaciness from the very end. Between the three tracks above is twelve minutes (three songs) of Wilson in solo form, but with all the hallmarks of Porcupine Tree. A booklet included with Porcupine Tree's debut cassette, Tarquin's Seaweed Farm detailed the history of the legendary "Incredible Expanding Mindfuck." This fictional legend has been given true life with The Sky Moves Sideways. Along with bands like Ant-Bee and Mandragora, Porcupine Tree continues to inventively propel cosmic space rock into new, unexplored realms, boldly going where no band has gone before. -- Mike Taylor

One of the most original, prolific, and energetic bands in the current prog scene, England's Porcupine Tree continue to defy convention with their 1996 release Signify. As with other PT releases, this album begins with ironic and often humourous snippets of spoken word dialogue which acts to keep the listener on their feet (or ears). The title track "Signify" shows PT's roots in the spacey hard rock mold of classic Hawkwind. The intensity of this opening riff rivals Metallica and features great electronic effects jumping around in the background. "Sleep of No Dreaming" begins with a mellow space jazz chord progression before gradually building into a powerfully orchestrated chorus. "Waiting" is the British single from the album and features head Porcupine Steve Wilson demonstrating considerable skill on slide guitar. "Every Home is Wired" is an incredibly beautiful soundscape built on a wall of sound and echo. This song demonstrates how effectively PT uses the recording studio as a member of the band. The shimmering cascades of keyboards, Wilson's ethereal voice, and the hook of the chorus will have this song in your head for days. This song is worth the price of the CD alone. PT has received a lot of positive press and publicity in the UK (including full page ads in the better mainstream music magazines) on the strength and popularity of Signify. Catch them now before they become HUGE. -- Antonio Ortolani
Up the Downstairs is in the style of the new bands with psychedelic inspirations. The music has a certain "pop" flavour and always relies on spacy atmospheres. The keyboard arrangements provide a lushious base on top of which vocals and electric guitar solos are added. The rhythms, a bit simple and mechanic, remain solid and adequate. Certain tracks evoke the style favoured by Ozric Tentacles while others are more "pop" oriented. Easy to listen to and very efficient. -- Paul Charbonneau
Added 7/15/01:
Porcupine Tree is one of those bands that spawns a lot of discussion of the "are these guys really prog or not?" variety. I have to admit, I hadn't heard any of their recorded output when I heard them at NEARfest 2001. What I heard was some spacey keyboard intros to some fairly straight-ahead rock (I always said this of The Steve Miller Band too, though the rock part of PT bears no resemblence). In fact, it sounded a bit too much like the stuff my 20-year-old son watches on MTV for me ... too much "alternative" or Seattle grunge or something for my taste. OK, I did hear a couple of guitar solos that were as cool as what Dave Gilmour used to play. But for the most part, I was bored witless by this "headliner" act. And my eardrums were also being tortured by their EXCESSIVE VOLUME. Of all the acts of NEARfest 2001, this is the one I could have done without the most easily. But clearly, most of the audience didn't feel that way. I walked out on their THIRD encore to drive home before I fell asleep (only partly the band ... the show was running pretty late the first night). Maybe I'm really missing out, but I have no desire to pick up any of their recordings based only on this concert experience. I would, however, like to thank JAL Airlines for supplying the earplugs which probably prevented me from major hearing loss. -- Fred Trafton
Added 2/24/06:
[Regarding In Absentia]: Keep yourself away from this album; nothing special. It has very poppy sound, not prog or psyschedelic rock. This is the case for last three PT albums, Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun and the latest In Absentia. They are British type modern rock albums, I think music and lyrics of these albums can be thought as an underground and more trippy version of Radiohead. New beginners should avoid these albums. -- Emrah Yucelen
Added 7/25/07, in response to a NEARfest discussion board post, where I repeated what I said in 2001 (2 entries up):
If you have not listened to Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet give it a listen. It has all of the elements of classic prog; long songs, melodic guitar rifs, theme album, etc. They just keep getting better, and attract a young crowd. PRR has the the same edgy sound that the young crowd likes and have the potential to develop in the same direction as Porcupine Tree. I don't always agree with my 15 year-old, but in this case we agree completely. I think both bands have the potential for being the "classic" prog of the future, but only time and more albums will tell. Again, Fear of a Blank Planet is probably the best prog release of the year ... -- JoeD
Added 7/25/07, written in response to the above paragraph:
... if you haven't listened to them since 2001 you really have missed some fine "proggy" music. Admittedly, they have leaned toward a more metal influenced edge with the last few CDs, but only as an influence not as a style. In Absentia is full of great melodic hook laden material even though its a touch heavier than Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun. Deadwing has some prog gems on it, including "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" and "Mellotron Scratch". I would defy you to find a better representation of what prog is all about than "Arriving Somewhere ..." -- a fantastic piece of music. And like the last poster said [see JoeD comments above --Ed.], Fear of a Blank Planet is probably the most prog oriented album since Sky Moves Sideways, with its thematic unity and the centerpiece 17 minute track "Anesthetize", with Alex Lifeson adding a guitar solo. -- Squonker
Added 7/25/07:
OK, after hearing the two glowing reviews above, I felt I had to go get Fear of a Blank Planet and give it a try. While I'm not ready to call it "the best prog release of the year" (I've heard some really wonderful albums this year!), I do have to admit that Fear of a Blank Planet is pretty good stuff. Good enough to make it an Editor's Choice for this release.

While I wouldn't call it quite a "concept album", JoeD above hit it on the head with the term "theme album". The theme, as they describe it, is: "a 21st century cocktail of MTV, sex, prescription drugs, video games, the internet, terminal boredom, and subsequent escape." All the songs are about these interrelated subjects, and the album title itself says we are becoming a "Blank Planet" of vapid creatures living a pointless, apathetic existence. Not the world's most encouraging theme, perhaps, but one has to say there's a good point being made here. But I don't know what the point is, and I don't care. Where's my Zoloft? And my TV remote?

Musically, the album is heavy on guitar and, of course, vocals. It's heavy, but I wouldn't say "metal". More like what the teenagers used to call "edgy", or what I think of as "alternative" or "post-rock". It's a very 2000's sound, not owing much to '70's prog at all, except perhaps for the Floydian touches. There is some psychedelic '70's sound, like The Beatles perhaps, particularly in the vocal processing and sound effects, but also some of the guitar phrases. There's some good keyboard/electronics work happening in the background, but you have to listen for it ... it's not flashy at all, mostly atmospheric. All the instruments take a turn at being "atmospheric" or "hypnotic" in their turn, as a matter of fact. The song "Sentimental" doesn't sound very strange until you try to count it ... the time signature varies between 4, 5 and 6 beats per measure at intervals that seem fairly random. Yet it doesn't sound forced, in fact if you don't count it out, you won't even notice anything odd is happening, it's very smooth.

By the way, for those that like to play the name-dropping game, Alex Lifeson (Rush) plays a guitar solo on "Anesthetize", and Robert Fripp (King Crimson) plays "soundscapes" on "Way Out There". But you'll have to listen hard to notice either one of them, they blend in seamlessly with the rest of the band.

My final word is that I'm liking this album more and more, and hearing more nuances each time I listen to it. And perhaps that's the best test of "progressiveness". Fear of a Blank Planet fills the bill. It's hard to argue with it being "progressive". And interesting enough that I'll probably pick up a copy of Deadwing if I see one. -- Fred Trafton

Added 1/18/10:
The Incident is the latest release from Porcupine Tree. As much as I liked Fear of a Blank Planet, I can't say that The Incident does much for me. I've listened about three times now, trying to give it a chance. There's lots of extremely heavy guitar juxtaposed against almost America-light acoustic guitar, and of course some vaguely depressing and difficult-to-interpret vocals. There are two CD's, the first one being "The Incident" suite, and the second is a short CD of unrelated songs.

While there are parts I like, overall I'd generally rather be listening to something else. It's not bad. It's just not very engaging. I find my mind wandering off thinking about something else or sorting through my CD stack for something else I'd rather put on. Oh well, not every band is for everyone, and Porcupine Tree just isn't my favorite. At least not The Incident. -- Fred Trafton

[See Fripp, Robert | Incredible Expanding Mindfuck | Karn, Mick | No-Man | Rain Tree Crow | Rush]

Click here for the Porcupine Tree web site

Pork Pie [Germany]
Updated 5/16/06

Transitory (74)
The Door Is Open (76)
The Dutch keyboarder Jasper Van't Hof (living and recording in Germany) put together this band after he left Association P.C.. In the line up were among others Philip Catherine (guitar), Charlie Mariano (sax) and John Marshall (Soft Machine). They played very strong fusion, with dominating guitar and sax best compared to Isotope, Soft Machine's Bundles or Italian band Perigeo. Excellent musicians were grouped together on these two equally strong releases and therefore these are highly recommended! -- Achim Breiling
[See Apocalypse (Denmark) | Association P.C. | Catherine, Philip | Soft Machine]

Portal [USA]
Updated 11/15/00

Demo tape only
Only demotape, probably sold-out, this was project of Paul Masvidal and Jason Gobel from Cynic, with other musician, whose names don't come to my mind now. It was said to be kinda mixture between Cynic and Dead Can Dance, thus encompasing more DCD elements in its sound than Cynic had. Must be something to hear! -- Nenad Kobal
[See Cynic | Death]

Potemkine [France]
Updated 10/19/01

Foetus (75)
Triton (77)
Nicolas II (78)
Surprise! I've finally found a band too meandering and themeless for even my tastes! :-) With a fair amount of talent and shifting time changes, these guys seem to noodle endlessly without any clear direction. However, from my experience, bands that sound like this intially tend to have an underlying structure too complex to grasp without serious effort. This was my experience with Magma, Henry Cow and Univers Zero, three bands that I appreciate quite a bit now.
French instrumental band Potemkine successfully combined jazz-fusion and progressive Zeuhl music for a style that should appeal to many. The band was made up of the three Goubin brothers (guitars, keyboards, drums) plus assorted other musicians who filled in on bass, percussion, and violin. The first album, released in 1975 was titled Foetus, and was heavily influenced by the early works of fellow French band Magma. Mostly instrumental, the album featured uptempo jazz and rock signatures with a few moments of vocal chanting along the way. The bands second release, 1977's Triton, followed similar paths, but a more fusion vibe had started to appear, as it is obvious the band was listening to such groups as the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever. The culmination of this style appeared in 1978 on the magnificent Nicolas II, a stunning fusion album that features emotional guitar and electric piano trade-offs, funky bass and drum grooves, and melodic songs. Compared to contemporaries like Iceberg and Arti e Mistieri, this album holds up quite well with its searing fire and passion. While Foetus has yet to be released on its own on CD, all of the tracks from that album appear as bonus cuts sprinkled on the Triton and Nicolas II CD's. -- Peter Pardo
[See Verto]

Powell, Roger [USA]
Updated 3/28/07

Solo Albums:
Cosmic Furnace (73, CD reissue 2005)
Air Pocket (80 - CD reissue w/bonus track 2006)
Fossil Poets (06)

With Utopia:
Ra (77)
Oops Wrong Planet (77)
Adventures In Utopia (80)
Deface The Music (81)
Swing To The Right (82)
Utopia (82)
Oblivion (84)
POV (85)

Other notable appearances:
L (76, w/ Steve Hillage)
Bat Out of Hell (77, w/ Meat Loaf/Jim Steinman)

Roger Powell in front of his MOTM Modular synthesizer

I was a big fan of Roger Powell's back in the days when he was playing with Utopia. I saw him twice, touring with Utopia around the time of Ra (1977/78), playing his Probe keyboard (one of the first "keytars", a keyboard that hung around the neck like a guitar, allowing the keyboard player freedom of movement around the stage). He was a great keyboardist, and I so wanted one of those Probe controllers.

So when I heard that he had come out with a solo album, I was quick to obtain a copy of Air Pocket when it came out in 1980. I've always been an electronic music fan, and this was just my cup of tea ... melodic without being poppish, with lots of new sounds being used in ways I've never heard before, yet not degenerating into tuneless noise. Sprightly, uplifting and airy, with synthesized percussion to make it sound more "rock" and not too "classical". There was even some "new wave" vibe, which I was into at the time, though not enough to make it too commercial ... sort of like Thomas Dolby's early albums. I thought it was great, and so did the folks at Keyboard Magazine, who awarded him their annual "Best Keyboard Album of the Year" award for it. Of course, John Tesh got it the following year, so there's no accounting for tastes.

But, after a couple more increasingly uninteresting Utopia releases (for my tastes at least), Powell vanished from the music scene. After Utopia's dissolution in 1985, he released a piece of MIDI sequencer software called Texture which was my sequencer of choice for many years. It was a great piece of software, and it evidently got him started on a new career path, as a software engineer. Initially, he worked for WaveFront in Colorado, then moved on to Silicon Graphics and Macromedia. Six months after the move to Macromedia, they were bought by Apple Computers, where he worked on software called Final Cut Pro.

However, around 2000, he got the bug to start playing music again. He created a bunch of musical snippets using his Nord Lead synthesizer, and brought them to an old friend, Gary Tanin, who agreed to work with Powell in a long-distance recording effort, sending CD's back and forth to each other by mail. This was a time-consuming process, but it has finally resulted in a new Roger Powell album -- the first in 26 years! I asked Powell if Fossil Poets is a band name or a project name, and his answer was, "Fossil Poets is kinda both: a loose band name, and the name of the 'solo' album. We left it somewhat vague, but I'll probably be working with the same folks on the next one." So, for the time being, I'll list it under Roger Powell. If they make another album under the same name, I'll give it an entry of its own.

Musically, to my ears, Fossil Poets picks up right where Air Pocket left off, though the addition of guitarist/bassist Greg Koch is an improvement. As before, these are upbeat and light songs, with enough complexity to stay interesting without getting too bogged down. But what really makes Fossil Poets sound like Air Pocket is the synthesized percussion, which is used as inventively here as it was on Air Pocket. He calls it "retro future music", a pretty cool way to describe it ... but then I'm a sucker for those seemingly self-contradictory phrases that end up giving a lot of information.

I'm very glad to see that Powell has taken a break from his "day job" long enough to release this album, and I hope to hear more ... but I don't think my ears will last another 26 years, though, so I hope it's sooner than that! -- Fred Trafton

[See Hillage, Steve | Utopia]

Click here for Roger Powell's web site

Prat, Jean Paul [France]
Updated 2/16/01

Genial (Non-existant, see text)
Masal (82, re-issued on CD in 1996 w/ bonus tracks)
J. P. Prat, much impressed by Magma, founded the band Masal (which means star in Hebrew) in 1973. They played instrumental music, clearly influenced by Magma, but also with similarities to KC and VdGG. They toured till 76 throughout France, often as opening act for "bigger" groups, for example Soft Machine and Gong, but never recorded an album. A friend of the band, publishing a book containing a discography of French rock, invented for this purpose a fictional Masal LP called Genial. So don't try to find this one if you see it in any discography, it does not exist.

In '76 the band split. In 1981 a concert agent convinced Prat to reform Masal for one concert and because of the great success they recorded an album, which was published in 1982 under the name of J. P. Prat. In 1983 Prat somehow got involved into the Christian faith movement and pledged the band to the glory of god, causing several band members to leave and the band in principle broke up. Musea put out Masals single release in 1996, together with more than half an hour of bonus tracks. The original LP consisted of one piece of more than 42 minutes ("Masal"), because of the vinyl cut in 2 parts (on the CD you have one long track). The band who recorded this consisted of 14 musicians (horns, saxes, flute, 3 guitars, bass, keyboards and percussion) and they played a jazzy, symphonic music with a distinct Magma influence, interrupted by very quiet parts. The bass and brass reminds of Weidorje, whereas some jazzrock-like passages make you think of Zao. All in all this comes along a bit smooth, missing the rough edges and the hypnotic intensity you find in Magma pieces and therefore gets a bit boring during this three quarters of an hour. The bonus tracks where recorded later by Prat and friends, with a very reduced band (4-6 players) and feature a kind of jazzrock. IMHO Masal is interesting, but not really essential. -- Achim Breiling

Praxis [Mexico]
Updated 8/12/00

La Eternidad De Lo Etímero (87)
Iconoclasta spinoff. The sound is similar to Iconoclasta's earliest stuff but more guitar oriented. Instrumental.
A short-lived Mexican group, Praxis featured drummer Héctor Rosas, bassist Bernado Anaya, future Iconoclasta guitarist Héctor Hernández and Iconoclasta's musical mastermind Ricardo Moreno on keyboards. Their only album La Eternidad De Lo Etímero (or just Praxis , as the Mellow Records CD reissue is titled) was recorded live in studio and features five instrumental compositions. "Al Filo Del Abismo" is an uptempo tune with the guitar and keyboards alternatively playing a Latimer/Hackett inspired three-part melody and blazing solos. "Praxis", on the other hand, sounds very much like the first Iconoclasta album: extremely busy drumming and riffing, with two keyboard and one guitar line interlocking and criss-crossing at an incredible pace. "No Se Quien Soy Desde Que Se Quien Eres" is initially very chaotic with shredding solos all over the place, but then mutates through an Alex Lifeson styled, spasmodic guitar riff into a slower symphonic piece with limpid keyboard tones wrapped around an emotional guitar solo. "Equinoccio" is the most memorable tune on the album: layers of shimmering synths establish a light, almost mediaeval melody over sparkling guitar arpeggios, as the song builds into a guitar-driven blowout. The 11-minute title track closes the album with a lot of searing guitar (somewhat psychedelic in tone), bouncing riffs and some droning synthesizer, a somewhat aimless, though obviously composed track. Overall: a combination of the early Iconoclasta sound (in a more refined form) and some neo-progressive directness, with greater emphasis on digital keyboard sounds. Mediocre sound quality and occasional immaturities in composition and performance (again similar to early Iconoclasta) are largely offset by the energy and enthusiasm of the music. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Iconoclasta]

Pre [USA]
Updated 11/25/08

Pre (94)
Pre formed in February 1973 in Kentucky, recorded an album and disbanded by December of the same year. The album was never released until 1994. Pre were a quintet of Alfred Collinsworth (vocals, 12-string guitars), Larry Collinsworth (electric 6- and 12-string guitars), Brian Paulson (Hammond organ, electric and acoustic pianos, Mini-Moog), Steve DeMoss (bass, vibes, glockenspiel) and Dwight Dunlap (drums, percussion). Pre is a mixed collection of styles. "The Path" is the opening instrumental, a brief acoustic guitar duet with dashes of piano. This is followed by "Who's Laughing Now," an acoustic guitar ballad of love scorned. "Bowing Down" is a three and a half minute of bowed electric guitar noodling on top of 12-string acoustics. At nearly 60 minutes of music, it is likely that some of these less than interesting songs would have been cut from an LP release, though historical value warrants their inclusion.

The meat of Pre's style is represented by songs like the five minute "Water Meeting," the eleven minute "Ascetic Eros" and the side-long "Ballet For a Blind Man." Like many American bands in the mid-'70s, Pre shows strong influences of Yes circa The Yes Album and Close to the Edge. Not only do Larry Collinsworth and Brian Paulson show influences of Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman, respectively, but the arrangement and development of the longer songs, divided into multiple parts, are similar to Yes' episodic style. DeMoss and Dunlap do not compare to Squire and Bruford, nor does Alfred Collinsworth's somewhat forced vocal style compare to the ease of Anderson. Paulson's keyboard work also shows influences of Keith Emerson, but without the bombastic presentation, so some comparisons to ELP can be made. Additionally, Larry Collinsworth's bowed guitar adds an eerie sheen to the mix, particularly welcome in the varied and inventive "Ballet for a Blind Man." While few American bands tuly hold up against their influences, Pre adds enough melodic originality to make most of this resurrected music an interesting listen. -- Mike Taylor

Pre keyboardist Brian E. Paulson wrote to let me (and, by extension, you GEPR readers) know that he's still around and still making music. He said, "I am still progressive but in a more horizontal mode". I asked him if this meant he played laying down, to which he replied, "I meant that I have incorporated more of a global music source". So does that mean "New Agey", as his web site (see link below) might lead you to believe? Of this he says, "I know my site looks a little 'New Agey', but it really focuses on Brain Sync and Resonance. This music was a direct reaction to the new age crap that is out there. If you speed up some of my 'psycho-active' CD's, it sound very progressive."

Brian wanted to let me know that Keyboard Magazine was printing a review of his latest solo album, Quirk. The review has been published now, and they called Quirk a "jazz fusion" disk, and compared the keyboards to Joe Zawinul (though another song is compared to Phish, if that makes any sense at all). At any rate, you can check out this and other Brian E. Paulson works at his web site link below.

Also, for those who have interest in Pre's sole release, Brian says, "Pre is out of pressing, but is still available thru me only as a clone CDR of my master. Interested parties can call direct 317-896-9156." I don't think he would have given me his phone number if he didn't want me to pass it along, so there you go! -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Brian E. Paulson's web site

Prelude [Belgium]

Voyage (79)

Cosmic keyboard prog.

Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) [Italy]
Updated 2/17/06

Storia Di Un Minuto (72)
Per Un Amico (72)
Photos Of Ghosts (73)
L'Isola Di Niente (74)
The World Became The World (74)
Live In USA (74, Live, a.k.a. Cook)
Chocolate Kings (75)
Jet Lag (77)
Passpartu (78)
Suonare Suonare (80)
Come Ti Va' In Riva Alla Citta (81)
Performance (82)
PFM? PFM! (84)
Miss Baker (87)
10 Anni Live - 1971-1981 (96, Live "Official Bootleg")
Ulisse (97)
www.pfmpfm.it (il Best) (98, 2CD Compilation)
Serendipity (00)
Live in Japan 2002 (02, 2CD Live)
Dracula Opera Rock (06)
PFM in 1970

Most should be familiar with Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) through the Manticore releases Photos of Ghosts and The World Became the World. These, their third and fifth releases chronologically, are rather inferior remakes of their second and fourth LPs, Per Un Amico and L'Isola Di Niente. To make them more "accessible" to a "larger audience," (something that ruins progressive music no end) the Italian vocals on Nos. 2 and 4 were replaced with rather "unnatural" sounding English vocals on the Manticore releases, thus taking away some of the magic inherent in the Italian releases. In summary, Per Un Amico and L'Isola Di Niente as well as their first, Storia Di Un Minuto are all virtual classics of progressive music, obviously influenced by early King Crimson and Genesis yet sounding nothing like them. The instrumentation is superb with fluid guitar, highly original synthesizer sounds (at a time when innovation was at its prime), beautiful violin and flute, and ethereal vocals that are so important to the music, that replacing them with English vocals becomes a detriment. Subsequent albums saw a change in style (mainly for the worse), although Live In The USA a.k.a. Cook, and "Chocolate Kings" are worth a listen. My recommendations are for Per Un Amico and L'Isola Di Niente.

THE classic Italian band, certainly the best-known. Their first three Italian albums are all must-haves. Storia di un Minuto is a very striking debut. Their music is very symphonic, mixing influences from King Crimson and Genesis mostly, but in the end arriving at something not like anything before, and providing the mould for many other Italian and other European bands. Guitarist Franco Mussida is most obviously classically trained, keyboardist/main vocalist Flavio Premoli's playing ranges from gentle piano etudes to wailing Moog. Adding a distinctively Italian flavour is flute/violin player Mauro Pagani. The mixture works best on tracks such as the beautiful "Impressioni di Settembre" and the exuberant "E' Festa". Per Un Amico is an equally fine album, neatly balancing between gentle contemplation and bouncy melodicism, never getting especially heavy, but consistently interesting and lovely. Photos Of Ghosts is a poorly remixed version of Per Un Amico, with English lyrics by Peter Sinfield, who obviously didn't know what the original Italian lyrics were, and didn't seem to care. Some of the songs are reedited and stuck elsewhere, vocals are added to the instrumental "Generale!" (retitled "Mister Nine-Till-Five"), and there's even a wimpy re-recording of "E' Festa" called "Celebration". PLEASE get Per Un Amico if you can, Photos Of Ghosts is NO substitute! L'Isola Di Niente features a minor personnel change, their original bass player is replaced by ex-Area (!) member Jan Patrick Djivas. It's certainly their finest hour, with the breathtaking title-track beginning the album with a BIG bang. The intricately multilevelled "Four Holes In The Ground" is a classic, and became a concert favourite (not hard to see why!). "Via Lumiere" is a fine fusion-y instrumental, while "Dolcissima Maria" is a beautiful ballad. Even the English-language (again with Sinfield lyrics) "Is My Face On Straight?" is excellent. If you're just starting out in Italian prog, this is one to get! The World Became The World is another English-language album, but this time with the same music, so it's not as bad as Photos Of Ghosts. Again there is a re-recording of a song from the first album: the title song is "Impressioni di Settembre" with English lyrics. Cook is a high-quality live album recorded in Canada and the US, and is the same as the erroneously titled Italian album: Live in U.S.A.. Marconi Bakery is a compilation of music from the first three Italian albums. Later albums feature ex-Acqua Fragile leader Bernardo Lanzetti on lead vocals. I haven't heard these, but from what I've heard of Lanzetti, I'd expect these to be less listenable than the early albums. -- Mike Ohman
I have only Photos of Ghosts, which is an English version of the original Italian release, Per un Amico. Supposedly the original Italian versions are much better. I can easily believe this, as it is pretty obvious that the vocalist is not singing in his native language. The music, however, is very good, similar to early Genesis.
Similar to my ears to Banco, maybe slightly better. Very dramatic and well crafted music. Classically influenced (in a Genesis sort of way) with a little folk too. Have only heard a few songs of theirs though.
They started out with a sound like Crimson, the first album being their best. The LP Photos Of Ghosts is an English lyrics version of Per un Amico. Chocolate Kings was boycotted by the american labels because the band made a gig in favour of ELP.
A wonderful band, both in their early "progressive" carrer as well as in their later rocky one.
Thought I'd put in a plug here for some of their later stuff which is generally overlooked. Jet Lag is a very fusionesque excursion, without losing the connection to the colorful progressive rock that marked its predecessor Chocolate Kings. Passpartu is the last one with singer Bernardo Lanzetti. Suonare Suonare marks a turn in a folky direction, and might elicit comparison to some of the mid-period Banco that relied heavily on melodies drawn from the spirit of italian folk music. Miss Baker is their last album from 87, a long way from Per Un Amico, but every bit as enchanting, sort of a mystic pop-folk w/ jazzy overtones.
PFM were probably the most "popular" Italian group to be associated with the progressive rock movement in Italy, and these three releases are from the late seventies when their direction changed a bit. Jet Lag, from 1977, had much of the original PFM spirit with a jazz inclination, akin to groups such as Arti + Mestieri, though somewhat more low-key. The pace, however, picks up in the latter half, so as to be comparable with Brand X, etc. Their next release was Passpartu, that came out a year later. This is probably the beginning of their most obscure period, during which time they released a handful of albums veering toward a more accessible format. Despite that, this is a very melodic, rhythmic release, with nimble acoustic guitar and washes of keyboards. Suonare Suonare came out in 1980, and saw PFM turning back toward their original sound, from the style of Passpartu. As before, all the songs are well in the melodic vein, but with a little more bite, and generally more upbeat. This was arguably their most well-liked work from this period, and many of the tracks from here are featured in PFM compilations.
I have Per Un Amico which has to be one of the most beautiful symphonic albums ever made. Additionally, if you think all Italian lyrics are harsh, then listen to this album. It reinforces, in my mind anyway, the lyricism that seems to be inherent in all Italian lyrics. Moog, Mellotron, electric and acoustic guitars, and violin are all used to create a sonic tapestry that will leave you breathless. If you are burgeoning prog-head, this album (not the inferior US version, Photos of Ghosts, with English lyrics) is a *great* place to start. I highly recommend it.
I have Chocolate Kings and it does absolutely nothing for me. Apparently, Per Un Amico is their best, and I haven't gotten around to buying it yet.
Just to let you know that PFM is still on the road, the last info about the band stopped at 1987 Miss Baker album ... They stopped their activity for 10 years and they came back in 1997 with a nice album called Ulisse: this is a concept album, well played that received a gold award for sales. The Ulisse tour was awarded as the best italian rock show in 1997.

Then they released Serendipity, a great album with a good mix between their traditions and the time they are living. But because they are great musicians, their best CD is the last one: Live in Japan 2002 "is a testimony to the greatness of European classic and Progressive rock. PFM have all of their old finesse and I wish I could make a live album that sounded so good!" (Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, to PFM's web site). This album was recorded in Japan early 2002 and was taken from the world tour they made (Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, South California, UK). This album includes a new song, "Sea of Memory", written by PFM and sung by Peter Hammill, formerly of VDGG.

They also played a gig in Milan in November 2002, the "Celebration day", with many guests including Peter Hammill who sang "Sea of Memory" and "Impressioni di settembre". -- Leonardo Kosarew

When I first listened to the new PFM's Dracula Opera Rock I was really amazed by Franz Di Cioccio, the drummer's superb voice and thought that the whole album could be ideal for a massive super musical production, even ,[Andrew] Lloyd Webber would be amazed!!! Then browsing in the web I realized that on March, 2006 this opera will be performed in Rome!!! So, the first Italian rock opera sung in Italian by this talented singer!!! For those lucky enough to live in Europe, the opera is presented at La prima dell'opera si terrà on March 2nd, 2006 at El Gran Teatro di Roma under the direction of Alfredo Arias.

Just as a little bit of history; Franz was not the main singer when PFM started, it was until the 80's when he became the lead singer. After all these years PFM keeps the energy the band had from the 70's. The orchestration is magnificent and the vocals on the last track are monumental. The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra does a pretty good job. What makes this record unique is the majesty of the music, arrangements and the continuity through all the tracks. PFM's line up for this recording is the same as the 70's. - Franz Di Cioccio / vocals, percussion and vocals, Franco Mussida / guitars and vocals, Patrick Djivas / bass and programming, Flavio Premoli / piano, organ, synthesizers and vocals.

As a final comment I might add that this record is an excellent addition to any prog collectionist, but not just prog rock collectionist, symphonic rock, or heavy metal. -- Ana Revuelta

[See Acqua Fragile | Area | Hammill, Peter | Katharsis | Krel | Pagani, Mauro | Sinfield, Peter | Van Der Graaf Generator]

Click here for PFM's official web site

Presence [Italy]
Updated 9/12/07

The Shadowing (90, EP)
Makumba (92)
The Sleeper Awakes (94)
Black Opera (96)
Gold (01)
The Sleeper Awakes + Live (04, 2CD)
Presence - Sergio Casamassima (guitars), Sophya Baccini (vocals) and Enrico Iglio (drums)

Black Opera (Black Widow Records BWRCD 014-2) is neither an opera nor quite as dark an affair as the cover art work would suggest. A good comparison would be Devil Doll meets The Gathering: Presence take the former's horror-sympho sound and streamline it with a lighter version of the latter's doom prog plus an all-pervading presence of a spine-chillingly strong female singer. Guitarist Sergio Casamassima plays metallic rhythms and leads and occasionally indulges in a bit of neo-classical shredding, all of which combines with the pounding (and pretty uncomplicated) drums to create an effect that is rough and oppressive without being too heavy or abrasive. Enrico Iglio's smooth digital keys (okay, there's a bit of Hammond as well) further forge heavy metals into lighter, more sophisticated alloys, as he chimes in with darkly descending piano drop-ins, typically gothic organ tones and more conventionally symphonic synth sounds; his is mainly a supporting role, though a few solo spots open for him as well. The focal point of it all, however, is the sonorous yet unsettling voice of Sophya Baccini, which can slide Kate Bush-like from bizarre innocence to a sub-operatic soar, a striking combination of sensuous croon and demonic avant-garde. Her dramatics, complete with the eerie sound effects used to heighten the mood, help to make this a kind of dark symphonic rock album that quite successfully juggles elements of Gothic, metal and symphonic prog.

The album's highlight, and the track that comes closest to delivering what the title promised, is the four-part "A Giuseppe Verdi", a rock version of themes lifted from four of the said composer's operas. Here Baccini switches to her native Italian and lets her voice really rocket through the familiar melodies, resulting in one of the most engaging classical music adaptations in progressive rock context that I have heard (can't touch [Los Canarios] Ciclos, though). While I find Black Opera a very even and interesting work, it doesn't quite rise beyond good, never becomes truly striking, except for this single track. Still I believe the album will find its audience. It is neither complex nor heavy enough to appeal to the fans of Dream Theater-style prog-metal, but those who would like Devil Doll in a slightly more rocking and vocally captivating form should find themselves absorbed.

Gold (Black Widow Records BWRCD 045-2) is a more stylistically diverse collection of songs; it also seems to be a concept album based on Virginia Stait's 1932 novel "The Planet of the Witches", but the band's English is too idiosyncratic for my language skills, so let's leave it at that. Musically, however, the songs range from the gentle three-minute ballad "If It Runs Away", powered by a soulful and very clean electric guitar, to the thirteen-minute "Carnival", which contains the most vigorous and twistiest metal bursts on the album. "The Conjuration of the Stronghold Lodge" best encapsulates the previous album's style with its dark dramatics and classical quotations, but the album reaches its apogee with the sublime "Lightening", a slowly unfolding rhapsody where Baccini's voice rises torturously yet beautifully to soar over the big-chord melodrama of ponderous guitar riffs and funereal keyboards, while Casamassima displays a hint of David Gilmour influence in his introspective solos. The drums are completely programmed this time, yet done with enough care that they don't become a distraction (at least they are none the worse than the real drumming on Black Opera). Though it lacks a magnum opus like "A Giuseppe Verdi", I feel Gold has more depth and variation than Black Opera, and is overall a more engaging and effective album. -- Kai Karmanheimo

Click here for Sophya Baccini's web site (includes Presence info)
Click here for Sophya Baccini's MySpace page

Present [Belgium]
Updated 10/5/06

Triskaidekaphobie (80)
Le Poison Que Rend Fou (85)
Live! (96)
Certitudes (98)
N°6 (99)
High Infidelity (01)
A Great Inhumane Adventure (05)
Present - Daniel Denis, Réginald Trigaux, Roger Trigaux, Alain Rochette, Guy Segers

Present is led by Roger Trigaux, the former guitarist and co-founder of the Belgian band Univers Zero. Daniel Denis and Christian Genet are also Univers Zero alumni and lend a hand (or four) on percussion and bass. The first two Present albums were released by Cuneiform on a single CD. As you might expect, these albums are in the same vein as Univers Zero with angular, dark melodies that manage to create a tense and dense atmosphere, despite (or because of) the somewhat sparse instrumentation. Triskaidekaphobie ("fear of the number 13") was the first Present release, which I believe was originally released on LP in 1980. Trigaux plays with a Fripp-like intensity within the stylistic framework first defined by Univers Zero. If you've heard the first two Univers Zero albums (1313 and Heresie) you know exactly the style of the music heard on Triskaidekaphobie. Although Trigaux left after Heresie, Denis and Genet played with Univers Zero and Present simultaneously. In addition to guitar, percussive piano, played by Alain Rochette, is also strongly featured on both albums is mainly the interplay between Trigaux, Rochette, Genet and Denis that creates the taut atmosphere in the three songs of Triskaidekaphobie. The first two cuts are greater than 15 minutes each and highlight the parlay between all four musicians, building in statement and ferver until the very end. I don't know how long I held my breath but I visibly relaxed at the end of each tune. These songs a prime examples of tenseness and intensity. Le Poison Qui Rend Fou ("the poison that drives you to madness") is a little more accessible than Triskaidekaphobie. Of course, this is all relative. Released five years later, only the bassist changed, with Genet replaced by Ferdinand Philippot. On Le Poison..., Trigaux has more extended soloing on top of the melody, rather than being an integral part of the whole piece. Though still very angular, the music feels more free-form and relaxed (certainly less rigid) but tension still abounds through out. Fans of Robert Fripp (not just King Crimson) would do well to give Trigaux a listen. Though Fripp displays lightning quick runs that aren't heard here, Trigaux matches Fripp in overall technique and force. This isn't "plug and play" music that you fully appreciate after the first, or even a few, listens. Rather, this is for the experimental person, one who appreciates a musical challenge and is willing to give the music time to fully reveal itself. With Present, Univers Zero, Daniel Denis, etc., it takes many listens to fully appreciate the quality. But if you give it the chance, you will be rewarded.

Present dissolved soon after Le Poison... was released but Trigaux, joined by his son Reginald, formed Present C.O.D. Performance in the early '90s. As a duo, they toured small clubs and coffee houses all around Europe, culminating with a self-titled release in 1993. As they gigged, the Trigaux's were joined variously by Daniel Denis and other musician friends. Eventually, a full band evolved back into Present. In late '95, Present toured Europe and the four songs on Live! draw from the 9 December 1995 show in Wuerzberg, Germany. Bruno Bernas played bass and U Totem / 5uu's drummer Dave Kerman is also with the band at this point. Opening with the strangely named "Laundry Blues," the listener quickly becomes aware that the dark, horrifying atmosphere didn't get any lighter. Ostinato bass, guitar and drums give foundation to searing guitar from Roger Trigaux. This quickly gives way to a dank cellar of scraping strings, feedback and graveyard vocals that can only call to mind the otherworldly musings of Devil Doll's Mr. Doctor. Half way through the twelve minute song, Roger Trigaux evaporates the dampness with a solo of terrifying intensity. And the show has just begun! Next up is the seven minute "Contre," a more "typical" Present-type song that could have fit next to "Ersatz" on Le Poison.... Sustained feedback and frantic soling on top of a taut rhythm once again compels the listener to hold his breath, waiting for a release of tension that seems never to come. The 11.5 minute "Alone" begins with a groove that even a casual listener can grab hold of, but as soon as he grasps it the nightmarish sequence begins to cradle the listener with a quiet unease. Somber vocal and guitar lines lull you deeper and deeper before exploding with hellish fright. Finally, comes a 22 minute rendering of "Promenade au Fond d'un Canal," which first appeared on Triskaidekaphobie. After 16 years, "Promenade" is changed slightly, partly with age, partly because of Kerman's different style from Denis's, partly because of a brief vocal passage added to the middle and partly because it's live. But the fervor is as hot as ever. A must. -- Mike Taylor

Present is a band started by ex-Univers Zero guitarist Roger Trigaux. The listener will find many similarities between the styles of the two bands: dark chamber-rock stylings, dissonance and dynamic intensity - avant-rock with a 20th century classical touch - the chief difference here being the almost exclusive use of electric instruments to achieve this type of sound - no saxes, cellos, violins or bassoons here, just a standard four-piece guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion - the latter played by none other than Daniel Denis. At times the music briefly gets into a repetitive mode and offers a slight reminder of early Magma circa MDK, but this will typically pass quickly into some dark and moody soundscape or a tense and violent orgy of rhythm and dissonant melodics. There are two albums - the first is Triskaidekaphobie ("fear of the number thirteen") which is a completely instrumental effort, and generally the more abstract of the two; the second album is Le Poison Qui Rend Fou (The poison that drives you to madness), a far more spirited and powerful effort, it does feature one track with vocals and an overall higher energy level. Cuneiform has made it easy to choose between them by reissuing both of the albums on one CD. Roger Trigaux has since formed a guitar duo with his son.
[See 5uu's | Present C.O.D. Performance | U Totem | Univers Zero]

Click here for the official Present web site
Click here for the Present page on the Cuniform Records web site

Present C.O.D. Performance [Belgium]

Present C.O.D. Performance (93)

Present C.O.D. Performance is a guitar duo of Present's Roger Trigaux and his son Réginald. They performed in small clubs around Europe in the early '90s. Eventually, they evolved back into Present.

[See Present]

Presser, Gabor [Hungary]

Electromantic (82)

Keyboardist with Omega and Locomotiv GT

[See Locomotiv GT | Omega]

Preston, Don [USA]
Updated 2/13/01

Vile Foamy Ectoplasm (93)
Long-time Zappa fans will recognize keyboardist Don Preston as one of the Mothers of Invention. Other ex-Mothers, including Jimmy Carl Black, Roy Estrada and Bunk Gardner, contribute to several tracks. Given this assemblage then, you would be correct to assume that the style of the original Mothers is evident on this release. An anthology of sorts, Vile Foamy Ectoplasm consists of Preston tunes dating as far back as 1967 through 1981. The work ranges from the outlandish moog noises of "Contruction in Slow Motion with Sharp Interludes" to the incredible fusion of "Moon Unit," "Bannon Call" and "Sweet 15." In particular, "Sweet 15" is an incredible fusionesque romp with excellent solos by Dave Prichard on guitar and tasty vibe work by another ex-Mother, Emil Richards. Some of the tracks are seamed together by "The Street Urchins," short samples of kids in a rabble-rousing fun state of mind. Another brief seque is "Voices from the Past," an eleven second ditty with quickie soundbites from some ex-Mothers. The last and longest track is the 15 minute "Death Lights," culled from a year's worth of recordings from 1967-68. Preston cleaned up the tapes and put together this bizarre piece which ranges through avant-garde stylings, general moog sounds, interjected voices and body noises, spacy electronics, psychedelic ruminations, and other strange artifacts. There's a little bit of everything on this disc, from the strange patchwork of "Death Lights" to the excellent fusion stylings of "Sweet 15" and several other tunes. At 53 minutes, Vile Foamy Ectoplasm is a must-have for any good Mothers fan, as well as for adventurous fusion freaks.
[See Ant-Bee | Mantler, Michael | Zappa, Frank]

Pretty Things, The [UK]

The Pretty Things (65), Get the Picture (65), We Want Your Love (67), Emotions (67), Electric Banana (67), More Electric Banana (68), S.F. Sorrow (69), Even More Electric Banana (69), Parachute (70), Freeway Madness (73), Silk Torpedo (74), Savage Eye (75)

Very popular in UK, didn't make a dent in the States. S.F. Sorrow is first rock opera, predating and possibly inspiring The Who's Tommy.

Priam [France]
Updated 5/22/02

Diffraction (01)

After my initial exposure to Priam's Diffraction it becomes clear that, musically, the album consists of three parts, all of which are distinctly different from among themselves. The first one, which is the largest and best of them, includes all four of the first tracks on the album and also "Lakeside 7:30 a. m." (track 7). Taken together, these five tracks last more than 45 minutes, which is the normal time of a full-fledged album. All of them were composed within the frame of a unified stylistics and represent a rather innovative manifestation of Classic Art-Rock. Relatively and only with regard to the overall musical atmosphere, some parallels can be drawn between (let's call those tracks) "Diffraction, part 1" and such albums as Uppsala's self-titled (1983) and Djam Karet's Burning the Hard City (1991). However, unlike both of those albums, the role of keyboards in Priam's music is as significant as that of an electric guitar. All five of the said best tracks on the album are filled with very diverse, hard-edged, and often atonal interplay between solos of an electric guitar and various keyboards, including at least a couple of synthesizers. "Congruatic Boulevard" (track 2) is, in addition, featured by wild solos of two saxophones and the clarinet. While "Granito Rosa del Oeste" (track 3) contains the excellent "extra" solo of an electric violin. The guitar parts range from fluid and slow passages to rather heavy riffs and high-speed virtuosi solos. The chords, solos and passages of keyboards and synthesizers are for the most part of a purely symphonic character - regardless whether they're slow or fast. Frequent changes of tempo and mood, complex time signatures, and already the said uniqueness of the band's music in general, - all these details are also typical for this "album within the album".

The second part includes "In Pace" and "Feel Diffract" (tracks 6 & 8). Both of them are featured by spacey and kind of avant-garde solos and interplay between various synthesizers and very diverse male and female vocalizes. Though, unlike "In Pace", there are no percussion instruments on "Feel Diffract". The remaining third part is, as a matter of fact, just a one-track part. "Stella" is kind of a short opera sung beautifully and very diversely by the mixed female and male choir with the accompaniment of the magic sounds of bells, but without any musical instruments.

What is interesting is that the intros to all compositions that are featured on the Diffraction album are full of various sound effects, including "flying" ghostly sounds of synthesizers. This way, they're rather similar among themselves, which, undoubtedly, the band did especially. However, these intros can't help the album as a whole. Not the absence of a unified style, but a very distinct stylistic difference between the contents of the first and second halves of the album makes it slightly obscure on the whole. It's a pity that the order of the tracks had not been placed on the album a bit differently. In order to have a "logical" musical picture of this album, program your CD player in the following track order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 5, 6, and 8. Though, quite frankly, if there were only those five best tracks that last more than 45 minutes on Diffraction, I'd rated it as an excellent album. -- Vitaly Menshikov

[See Skeem]

Click here for Priam's incomprehensible web site
Click here to order this album from Musea Records

Primitive Instinct [UK]

Floating Tangibility (94)

Another neo-prog band that sounds much like a Fish-era Marillion or Saga clone but it lacks some of the punch of these two bands. Minimalistic melodies featuring ambient synth noodling and prominent guitar with vocals. The guitarist/vocalist, Nick Sheridan, whose lead reminds me of Saga's Ian Crichton and rhythm style of U2's The Edge, is the backbone for this band. His voice is very similar to that of Fish. Not really bad but nothing that great either. "Hypnotic" is a 6:44 instrumental that has a Genesis-Steve Hackett quality with nice guitar but the drumming is pretty lame and the keys are pretty weak. Best cut on the album is the nearly ten minute, three part "Triludan" which would sound quite at home on a Saga album. Mostly recommended for those really into neo-prog scene. They are on the Cyclops label, the same that features Grey Lady Down. -- Steve Staub

Primus [USA]
Updated 9/13/04

Suck on This (89, Live)
Frizzle Fry (90)
Sailing the Seas of Cheese (91)
Miscellaneous Debris (92)
Pork Soda (93)
Tales From The Punchbowl (95)
The Brown Album (97)
Rhinoplasty (98)
Antipop (99)

They also have a few EPs, live stuff and compilations out (The two Making Plans for Nigel things with a cover of Floyd's "Have a Cigar," the live Suck On This and also Does Primus Really Fry?) but the above are the only official album releases to date in August 94. [Updated 4/17/02 - Ed.] Well, a lot of controversy about whether these are "progressive" but I'm gonna stick my neck out and say "Yeah they're progressive enough to be in here." Not a serious band by any means, Primus are a three piece that play very original material. That bass player, Les Claypool is one-of-a-kind. He use 5 and 6 string basses with whammy bars, tunes down radically to get weird bubbling bass sounds and has been known to use an electric cello. They play sort of funky, sort of noisy usually up-beat stuff with the highlight being Claypool's amazing basslines which are worth getting the albums for on their own. The guitar generally just makes a noise to thicken the sound but I really like it. The percussion is very competent indeed great sense of timing with the weird (and I mean *weird*) time sigs. Start in the middle with Seas of Cheese and work outwards. Check out "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" on this for an example of the incredible bass-lines. A bit silly at times so don't take it seriously and the vocals take some getting used to but you'll learn to love them. Highly recommended.

American band that you've probably heard of; they're generally considered "alternative," but also happen to be popular enough to get on the radio. Nevertheless, I think they certainly deserve mention in a progressive rock context, so here goes. Their first two albums, Frizzle Fry and Suck on This and Suck on This (the latter a live album) are where they earned something of a reputation as "Rush with a sense of humour" (although I would emend that to "Rush with an American sense of humour" -- anyone who has read Rush's liner notes knows they have a very dry, subtle, Canadian wit that simply hasn't translated to their music). These two early albums have a great mix of energetic, extended jams and alternating goofy/dark lyrics; later albums have toned both down a bit in favour of *slightly* more straightforward songs. Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991) is essentially more of the same, but it just feels a tad more polished. I would give Frizzle Fry the nod as the album to start with, but you can't go wrong with Sailing. Primus' mainstream success started in 1993 with Pork Soda, which is another little tad more polished; I certainly wouldn't call this commercial, but it has their highest concentration of more-or-less straight rock songs in favour of instrumental interludes. (Although nothing could really be called "straight" in Primus' world; this is still weird, twisted music.) (Most of those instrumental interludes, incidentally, tend to come inside songs -- for a band of such instrumental prowess, Primus have very few wholly instrumental tracks.) Their most recent album, Tales from the Punchbowl (1995) is quite a bit better than Pork Soda, and that's a high compliment. As usual, it packs a considerable punch (pun not intended), both instrumental and lyrical. Finally, in recent years Les Claypool (the man responsible for those wacked-out basslines and the crazy lyrics) has had a couple of side projects: in 1994 he and some old bandmates called themselves Sausage and made *Riddles Are Abound Tonight*. This is probably the best Primus album that never was; the instrumental heat is cranked up another notch, with (as usual) strange lyrics delivered in Claypool's inimitable brood/rant style. And 1996 saw the release of Highball with the Devil by "Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel", a mostly solo effort. This ditches a lot of the great guitar/bass/drums interplay of Primus and Sausage, leaving behind mostly Claypool's bass and still more bizarre lyrics. However, it is quite good, and if you've read this far you'd probably like it. -- Greg Ward
Les Claypool uses 4- and 6-string basses, not 5 strings, and electric upright basses, no cellos. As far as I know, he has always used the standard EADG or BEADGC tunings. -- Andy Doonan
[See Attention Deficit | Oxygene8]

Click here for Primus' web site

Prism [Canada]

Canadian synth-oriented rock band. I like them, but they're not progressive. If you like Saga's Worlds Apart, you'd probably enjoy Prism's Canadian best-of album called Over Sixty Minutes With Prism.

Prism [Japan]

Prisim (77), Second Thoughts/Second Move (78)

This is a fusion six piece led by guitarist Akira Wada, I'm not sure how many albums they have out, I have one (self titled) on the Japanese Polydor label, and I'd like to hear more. Their style reminds me a little bit of a completely instrumental Santana, with some vague Mahavishnu echoes.

Procession [Italy]
Updated 9/28/03

Frontiera (72)
Fiaba (74)
The first album is acoustic, while the second (the best) has a more vangard sound. When the band split, Gianfranco Gaza sang in Arti+Mestieri.
Fiaba (Warner Fonit 3984 27121-2) presents a scaled down but very compelling take on the classic Italian progressive style. The album's six tracks are dominated by strummed acoustic guitars, bass and drums, over which melodic flute, sax and electric guitar whorls, as well as an occasional male vocal, are woven. Yet the music has its fair share of chordal sophistication and strong, often folky melodies so typical of the Italian school of progressive. The drummer particularly impresses with his dynamic, percussionist approach to orchestrating the compositions, knowing when to stay silent, when to just decorate the structures with vibraphone or jazzy ride cymbals and when to drive the song with busy but hard-hitting beat ("Uomini di Vento"). Mellotron and electric piano are used to thicken the texture on some of the tracks, and "C'era Una Volta", the album's longest track, brings in the Circus 2000 vocalist Silvana Aliota to do an almost note-for-note recreation of Clare Torry's "wailing woman" performance from "The Great Gig in the Sky". The end result sounds airy and accessible, yet has depth and both light and darkness, making this a very enjoyable addition to the ranks of Italian progressive rock. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Arti E Mestieri | Capra, Marcello | Circus 2000 | Venegoni E Co.]

Procol Harum [UK]

Procol Harum (67-aka Whiter Shade Of Pale), Shine On Brightly (68), A Salty Dog (69), Home (70), Broken Barricades (71), Live in Concert (72), Grand Hotel (73), Exotic Birds and Fruit (74), Ninth (75), Something Magic (77), The Chrysalis Years 1973-1977 (7?), Prodigal Stranger (91), The Early Years (92?)

Early classically influenced rock that paved the way for many of the prog bands that would follow. Their sound was characterized by dual keyboards of Matthew Fisher (organ) and Gary Brooker (piano and vocals) and the blistering blues-influenced guitarwork of Robin Trower. Driven by the mysterious lyrics of Keith Reid, their albums covered a lot of ground, but had a very distinct sound due primarily to Brooker's vocals. After Salty Dog Fisher quit, and the sound became more guitar dominant, as Trower stepped up to the vacancy. Then Trower quit after Barricades. The band carried on with Brooker, new organist Chris Copping, and several recruits. They produced a couple gems in Grand Hotel and Birds and Fruit, but then they began to stagnate, and the period from 75-77 pales in comparison to all that had preceeded it. The band reformed in 1992 for a tour and an album, which featured originals Brooker, Trower, and Fisher. Best Albums: early period - A Salty Dog, Trower period - Broken Barricades, later period - Exotic Birds and Fruit.

Put these guys on to unwind after a day of hard listening. Also a good choice when having friends over since your usual taste for complex-time-signatured, contrapuntal mind music may drive them away. Nothing very flashy, and they mostly stick to basic song structures, but Gary Brooker has to have one of the all time classic voices. Recommended: Salty Dog.

The music does not fall specifically into the category of "progressive rock," the way the term is used, and is probably more similar to some of the organ-based rock groups of that time, such as Argent and the like. However, the music should appeal to the "rock-n-roll crossover" crowd, in that it is a blend of the rock-n-roll, almost bluesy, approach with some of the complexity and poetry that spawned the prog rock scene.

An excellent proto-progressive group whose first hit single, "Whiter Shade of Pale," sold 4 million copies world-wide, and also ensured their oldies-station immortality, all thanks to an unforgettable organ line borrowed from J.S. Bach, and perhaps its oblique reference to Chaucer. These two elements, in fact, account for much of their material's appeal: Tasteful respect for the classics (doubtless because of Gary Brooker's stint at the Royal Academy of Music) and the fascinating, unique lyrics of Keith Reid. Another attraction would have to be Robin Trower's superb guitar-leads, bluesy sustain-and-bend jobs done over tight organ and piano playing. Nevertheless, it must be stated that this group really isn't progressive; they're more art-rock in the old-fashioned sense - rock that's so good it seems on par with art compared to the rest of the dross. Everyone should give this group a chance, though, particularly their output from the late 60s, their heyday. For an overview of this period, I'd recommend The Early Years. For albums of that period I suggest primarily A Salty Dog, or the insanity concept album that preceded it, Shine On Brightly, with its sidelong hippie-parody "In Held 'Twas I" [After five years of contemplation, a student goes to his guru and inquires about the meaning of life. The response, "Well, life is like a bean-stalk, isn't it?"]. Of the later stuff, Home and Grand Hotel are most memorable, and quite good. The band burned out after GH though, and the rest are repetitious.

The only album I have is Exotic Birds And Fruit. Not 100% prog, but pretty good. The pretty "The Idol" is the best track.

Programme D'Experience [USA]
Updated 10/31/02

Thought Molecules (02)
Brad Bansner of Programme D'Experience

Programme D'Experience is essentially multi-instrumentalist Brad Bansner with some guest musicians. The music on Thought Molecules runs a broad gamut of styles, but are in the range of "modern" prog. By this I mean that the sound and composition is slick, digital and not harking back much to '70's prog. Most of the music here features guitar and guitar synthesizer, but there are also a fair amount of synthesizers used both melodically and for sound effects. Bansner is also not afraid of throwing in some "popular" elements, like Police-type reggae beats among the more experimental noodlings. Every song is so different, the only way to get an idea of the album is to take a brief tour of the album:

"Premonition" starts the CD with a 0:52 snippet of ... I'm not sure what. Perhaps these are themes which will be expanded upon later? If so, I didn't really notice them recurring later in the album. "An Eye for an Orange" is vaguely reminiscent of 80's Crimson, but more jagged ... actually, Snakefinger's warped guitar style from Greener Postures comes to mind. "Closed Circuit" starts off with a bit of reggae in the beat, but ultimately ends up being a guitar and piano lounge jazz improv. "Bit Of It" is just a brief snippet of Reggae which ultimately goes nowhere, but is probably shorter than this descriptive sentence, so it doesn't really matter. "Science of No Science" is just plain weird, with its fast almost disco-ish strummed guitar chording and crazed sax solos. "Fingers Aligned (Light)" is very Frippish sounding, but in ambient mode a la Fripp and Eno's Evening Star. Frippertronics and heavy metal chording coexist nicely in the very cool "Programme Divine". "Fingers Aligned (Dark)" is a strange mix of disco drums and bass with Frippian guitar synthesizers and new wavey synth swoops. "Twinkle" is a simply a jazz improv. "Round Unwound" is a short piece with Red era King Crimson influences. "Beyond Experience" is a simple jazz tune with some spaciness thrown in. "Deep Engine" I would categorize as spacey trip hop. "Cradle" is hard to describe - almost a lullabye but with a Gilmouresque solo and Frippian guitar screeching, this hardly seems possible.

So there you have it. Confused? I don't blame you. This album isn't easy to pin down to a specific category. I feel certain Mr. Bansner likes it that way. He has also written what was essentially another solo album under the name of Soundscape entitled Soundscape Parts I and II. I downloaded this from his site about a year ago, back when he had all the pieces posted on his web site for free download. He has it for sale now, and it's also good. Try out Thought Molecules first, and if you like it, order Soundscape Parts I and II as well ... it's very much in the same vein.

My conclusion is that if you like the more modern types of prog, this is an excellent album. If you're mostly into the '70's guys or their modern imitators, you may find Bansner's approach to be too accessable for you. Personally, I enjoyed this album, though I must admit I'm more of a retro prog lover, so the new releases from Simon Says or Magenta which hark back to those tired, old (wonderful!) styles will be getting more spin time on my CD player than Thought Molecules. But that's just me. -- Fred Trafton

[See Soundscape]

Click here for Brad Bansner's web site, where you can order Thought Molecules and/or Soundscape Parts I and II

Progres 2 [Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic]
Updated 1/4/05

Dialog s Vesmírem (80)
Treti Kniha Dzunglí (Third Jungle Book) (82)
Third Jungle Book (83, re-release of Treti Kniha Dzunglí with English lyrics)
Mozek (84)
Zmena (88)
Treti Kniha Dzungli was originally a double album released in 1981, and on CD it clocks in at a few seconds shy of 80 minutes! From Czechoslovakia, Progres 2 is at times symphonic, at times more electronic, at times maybe even a bit "euro-techno," and at times simply unique. I can't really think of any pointers, but if I had to try (be aware this is stretching it a bit); maybe a vocal SFF? There are some fine musical moments that, even listening from a prog point of view, one can't help but find delightfully "catchy," in the best sense of the word. The sound on Treti Kniha Dzungli is defined by a heavy synth presence, though never leaving the strong guitar and rhythm section far behind. There is a somewhat dark, aggressive edge that runs through the album, and the songs for the most part flow into each other, with shorter pieces serving as interludes or introductions to some wonderful 6 - 8 minute tracks. The vocals are strong and clear and are sung Czech. All in all an excellent album and an excellent value on one CD.
"Beat boys in outer space" could be this album's slogan. Progres 2 began in 1970 as a beat band called Progress Organisation, though their debut album Barnodaj (LP Supraphon 113 0985) from 1973 apparently already contained progressive elements; in 1975 they resurfaced as Barnodaj and in 1978 released the album Maugli (LP Supraphon 113 1919). However, in Dialog s Vesmírem (CD Bonton BON 492931), their first one as Progres 2, they produced a full-fledged progressive rock album, and a science fiction concept album to boot. From the very little I can make out, the story seems to concern an astronaut who escapes from the ravaged future Earth, visits surreal worlds and civilisations and finally ends up stranded all alone on a planet near Proxima Centauri, while a robot revolt finishes off the rest of the human race. Well, these things happen, but what about the music?

The album style is hard to pin down, apart from saying that it sounds pretty dark overall and that there is a surprisingly lot of rather scalding electric guitar playing, which suggests influences like Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page more than any of the traditional melodic school of prog guitarists (listen to the Hendrix-in-the-Twilight-Zone opening of "V Zajetí Pocítacu"). Yet this is balanced by a heavy use of metallic-lustre synthesizers in the way of many contemporaneous East European bands, such as Hungary's East and Poland's Exodus. At times, the electronic influences can lead to the kind of proto-weirdo-synth-pop as "Hymna Robotu", whose skippy beats, zappy synth sounds and wacky vocals conjure up images of stiff-legged robots trying to do conga. The music's mutability is best represented by "Odlet", which opens and closes with booming, gothic synth and guitar chords (a bit like "Red" with more keyboards), but in between becomes an up-tempo, almost catchy rock tune not too far removed from the band's beat roots and throws in a weird, voice-box-like synth solo. The album is at its most beautiful in "Písen O Jablku", where a serene theme is first given a Genesis-like ballad treatment with gentle vocals, discreet guitar arpeggios, piping piccolo flute and luxurious synthesizer layers, and then re-harmonised and jazzed up for raw material of a busy but pleasant instrumental jam. At the other end of the scale is the behemoth "Planeta Hieronyma Bosche II", whose continental shift-like guitar riffs are tempered by steely keyboards and a wailing, folkish vocal melody, polishing a rusty metal track into a brilliant heavy prog tune. The unifying factor is high quality, with excellent production that includes lots of details and eager sonic innovation in what might otherwise seem rather crude and simple musical framework.

This CD version greatly expands the original album with a host of related tracks from contemporaneous singles and an EP (ranging from the spacey narrative "Výkrik V Proxima Centauri" to a pretty straight-forward hard rock tune "Muzeum Planety Zeme"), plus a rather superfluous 1999 re-recording of "Planeta Hieronyma Bosche". The booklet also has lyrics for several more songs that apparently were part of the story, but were not recorded for the album. Note that there is also an earlier CD version of Dialog s Vesmírem (Monitor 010213-2331), which contains a (supposedly inferior) live recording of the piece, and which may or may not contain some of these extra songs. In any case, Dialog s Vesmírem is an excellent album, which may not dazzle on the first couple of listens, but will on successive listens reveal a sophisticated network of ideas underneath the rough exterior.

For Tretí Kniha Dzunglí (LP Panton 8113 0259/60) Progres 2 got a double album's worth of space to play with and returned to the Kipling influence of their early works for another concept album about the meeting of a noble savage and savage civilisation. Perhaps it was the personnel changes between albums or perhaps the group just had expended most of their creative charge on Dialog s Vesmírem, but for most part this album lacks the verve and creativity of its predecessor. Many sections are spacey backgrounds for the nicely contrasting singing voices of drummer Zdenek Kluka and keyboardist Roman Dragoun, full of their trademark synthesizers and ringing guitar arpeggios remarkably similar to those that British neo-progressive bands were reintroducing to the public at the time. Elsewhere heavy, asymmetrical riffs on guitars, clavinets and synthesizers come fore again, but this time technicality gets a headlock on composition. Powerful melodic peaks do burst up out of the moody musical topography, particularly on "Setkání" and "Strach", but nothing here has the grace of "Písen O Jablku" or the unstoppable crunch of "Planeta Hieronyma Bosche".

The second disc is more varied, yet more uneven. Apart from its spacey intro and instrumental break, full of whooshing and bleeping synthesizers, ominous bass grooves and massed guitar arpeggios, "Muz, Který Se Podobá Odvrácené Strane Mesíce" is an uncomplicated rock song with a four-on-the-floor rock beat, hook chorus and simple guitar riff backed by New Wavey synthesizers. "To Já Se Vracím" is an Elton John-style piano ballad distinguished only by a few off-centre guitar and synth cadences. These are actually good songs in their own right, unlike the melodically-challenged space-funk jam "V Ráji Století" and the unaccompanied electric guitar solo "Ozveny", which seem to serve mainly as diversions before the album's grand finale, "Cím Je Svet Muj". Here the prodigiously layered synthesizers, guitars and percussion whip up a sonic storm that is truly like a taste of Armageddon - just too little, too late. I can find a lot to enjoy on this album, but can't deny the fact that with more than double the running time of Dialog s Vesmírem it still has barely half the musical depth of the previous album.

As with Synkopy's Kridlení, Panton put out an export version of Tretí Kniha Dzunglí with English lyrics, Third Jungle Book (Panton 8113 0335/36). Once again the Bonton 2CD re-release (BON 501677 2) includes all the English vocal tracks along with the full Czech album. And once again the new version is adequate but no improvement over the original.

This album was apparently where Progres 2's progress ended. On their later albums they adopted a more conventional hard-rock approach. -- Kai Karmanheimo

Progresiv TM [Romania]
Updated 10/18/06

Dreptul de a Visa (73)
Puterea Muzicii (77)
Warning: There is no album called Progresiv TM, even though some dealers have been known to sell copies of Dreptul De A Visa as such.
Dreptul De A Visa is 1970s hardrock with progressive trimmings. Progresiv TM combine crushingly heavy mid-tempo riffs with strong vocal harmonies and melodies that slip interestingly in and out of the expected routes of blues-based rock progressions. Virtuoso solos on, often double-tracked, electric guitar and flute punctuate the prevalent vocal sections. Progressive feel comes from occasional rhythmic and structural complexities, as well calmer moments where a piano may intrude upon the guitars and the flute may assume a more lyrical hue. The flautist's Thijs van Leer-like ability to chirp out flowing scalar runs or folky melodic fragments as well as breathy rock riffs is in fact the band's greatest asset and the album's biggest delight. The combination of ideas works best on couple of the normal-length songs, particularly "Clepsidra", less well on the 10-minute title track that seems to just fluctuate between two riffs with some additional ideas dropped in to extend the song. Extremely utilitarian in terms of production values, Dreptul De A Visa will most likely appeal less to progressive rock fans than to fans of flute-augmented hardrock, of which it is a prime example, thanks to good melodic writing and the interesting tensions created by the sonorities of Romanian language and the conventions of hardrock delivery. Puterea Muzicii is reputedly more elaborate. -- Kai Karmanheimo

Project Creation [Portugal]
Updated 4/22/11

Floating World (06)
Dawn on Pyther (07)
Project Creation

Project Creation is, as the name implies, a project band created by Hugo Flores to tell a three-CD epic sci-fi/fantasy story. The first two, Floating World and Dawn on Pyther, have been released. The third album has been delayed by Flores' work with his other project, Factory of Dreams, but in a recent Facebook conversation with Flores (he's an avid Facebooker, and he'll FRIEND anyone!), he assures me that work continues on the third installment, which will someday see the light of day. Or maybe the Dawn on Pyther as it were.

The album I've heard is Dawn on Pyther. My first impression of this album was that it can't decide whether it wants to be a symphonic prog album, a prog-metal album or an ethnic new-age album. After a couple of listenings, however, it's clearly a symphonic prog album with heavily distorted guitars augmenting and taking the place of the synthesized "string section" (or Mellotron) you might hear on a traditional symphonic prog album. Add to that tribal drums, flutes, bells and other ethnic percussion, and you get a really unique sound that straddles genres without ever getting into the boring areas of any of them. Dawn on Pyther is great stuff with lots of similarities to Factory of Dreams (especially the guitars and predominantly female vocals) and also differences (Factory of Dreams has way less synth timbres and none of the tribal/ethnic feel of Project Creation, and PC has more male vocals balancing the female). Both projects are excellent, with both their own individuality and "that Hugo Flores feel" about them.

Dawn on Pyther is an excellent album, and makes me feel I need to get ahold of Floating World to check it out soon. Of course, I'm also looking forward to the third album, whenever Hugo takes the time from all his projects to focus on this one again and finish it off. He's a busy guy. -- Fred Trafton

[See Daymoon | Factory of Dreams]

Click here for Hugo Flores' MySpace page

Project Lo [USA]
Updated 10/18/06

Dabblings in Darkness (95)
Black Canvas (97)
Dabblings in Darkness features the work of a duo on guitars and keyboards. Guests bring their contributions on saxophones, bass, percussions and violin. This fairly light music often relies on a keyboards and percussion base with melodic work by the acoustic guitar, often doubled by soprano saxophone. Jazz (improvisation) and electronic (meditation) elements are present in the music but rock elements are practically absent. The presence of Percy Jones on most tracks introduces a sound familiar to Brand X fans. -- Paul Charbonneau
The above review fails to mention that the guitarist/mastermind for this band is Bon Lozaga (hence "Project Lo"), who played on the Pierre Moerlen's Gong album Expresso II and went on to form his own Gong offshoot band, Gongzilla. Dabblings in Darkness also features Pierre Moerlen himself on drums. A second album made with "enigmatic" vocalist Happy Rhodes (somewhat reminiscent of Kate Bush) named Black Canvas was also released in 1997. This album again features Percy Jones on bass. -- Fred Trafton
[See Brand X | Gong, Pierre Moerlen's | Gongzilla | Jones, Percy]

Click here for the Project Lo page on the LoLo Records web site
Click here for Happy Rhodes' web site

Prometheus [USA]

Prometheus (94)

Prometheus are built around the core of Steve Ball and Sanford Ponder on guitars. Support is provided by Pat Mastelotto on drums, Nigel Gavin and Steuart Liebig on bass and Chris Rhyne on synth and organ. Ponder is active in the Los Angeles underground scene, while Ball has worked with Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists. Fripp's influence is the undercurrent throughout Prometheus. The album opens somewhat tenuously with "Dark," a seven minute track featuring Ball's soft vocals and a vague pop direction, but with some nice, jazzy instrumental breaks. "Orphan" also has an uptempo rhythm and pop sensibility. "Angst" and "Enough's Enough" pay homage to Crimson's Discipline. Crimheads will recognize the similarity between riffs of "Angst" and "Frame by Frame," and "Enough's Enough" and "Matte Kudasai." Prometheus head off in their own direction, particularly for "Angst," but the comparison can not be denied. "Sardukar" and the 10 minute "Assault on the Consensus" are dual guitar shredfests that ardent Crimheads are sure to love. Interestingly, "Sardukar" would fit in nicely with Crimson's Thrak, though I believe this song was recorded before the new King Crimson formation was finalized. "Assault on the Consensus" covers a range of territory, and features excellent synth soloing and fine drumming, in addition to the guitar interplay. The ninth (and final) track is a 180 degree Frippertronic-type turn from the rest of the album, a 23 minute exploration of soundscapes and texture. While Prometheus probably should do more to remove themselves from Fripp's shadow, their debut has much to recommend. They incorporate and cross many different styles and rhythms, play complex patterns with deceptive ease, and demonstrate top-notch musicianship. -- Mike Taylor

Proto-Kaw [USA]
Updated 3/7/05

Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-1973 (02)
Before Became After (04)
Before Became After, Special Edition (04, also contains bonus disc)
Proto-Kaw (at that time named Kansas), 1971-73 promo shot (not in photo order) - Lynn Meredith (vocals), John Bolton (electric saxes, flute), Don Montre (piano, keyboards, sax, flute), Dan Wright (Hammond organ, keyboards), Rod Mikinski (bass) and Zeke Low (later replaced by Brad Schulz)(drums)

Like many a sodbuster who braved life on the prairie, the members of Proto-Kaw are unsung heroes. They were pioneers of progressive rock in America and like the pioneers who came to the plains a century before them, they paved the way for those who came after. But pioneering is hard. Many do not make it, even giving it all they have; the elements are sometimes too much and there comes a time to pack it in. 30 years ago, Kansas was not a place where progressive rock thrived and try as they might, Proto-Kaw (then simply known as Kansas), was forced to give up their dream and turn to other ways of life. However, they paved the way for the band that immediately followed their footsteps. Kerry Livgren, the song smith for the band joined forces with another group, White Clover, who picked up the now unused moniker: Kansas. The new Kansas picked up where their predecessors left off and managed to hold on until they were discovered. They went on to define the American sound of progressive rock.

That could have been the end for the first Kansas and for many years that is how it appeared. However, that is not the end of the story, because in 2002 the early demo recordings had become popular bootlegs in Europe and were available for download on the internet. Cuneiform Records became interested and released them on CD, but the band needed a new name and thus began the resurrection of Proto-Kaw (Proto: first or earlier - Kaw: the Native American name for Kansas).

How many bands can say that they have back to back album releases recorded 30 years apart? Thirty years after the dream of success as a band died and had been laid to rest, the dream has now been resurrected with the band reuniting to record an all new album.

Before Became After is a weaving of old and new. The band is comprised of original members, Lynn Meredith, vocals; Kerry Livgren, guitars, keys & compositions; Dan Wright, keyboards; John Bolton, sax & flute; Brad Schulz, drums; plus newcomer Craig Kew, bass, who worked with Livgren on an earlier solo release. The songs, too, are a blending of old and new. Livgren updated songs the band played 30 years ago and added new compositions into a seamless fabric of their new sound. Which is which? It's impossible to tell unless you were around when the band first began performing 30 years ago.

The new Proto-Kaw is fresh, but more mature. Gone are the blood curdling banshee wailings from Bolton's sax, but no less frenetic is some of his playing than his younger days, coupled with some very lyrical flute work. Gone, too, are the occasional stretches of experimental cacophony. The new music is much more euphonious progressive rock tinged with jazz improvisation shifting in tone and color as quickly as the weather of the band's home state. It is a bit hard to describe the band's sound because it is so varied and constantly shifting, not just from song to song, but within songs themselves there can be elements of soaring beauty which segue into rocking jams. In fact, there is very much the feel of a jam band within a nearly classical framework in its complexity.

Before Became After is great ensemble playing and the compositions give rise to some fine solo work, an interplay between Wright's keyboards, Livgren's guitar or Bolton's woodwinds, all anchored by Kew & Schulz. Meredith uses his voice as an instrument, just as the different ranges of sound produced by his instrumentalist band mates, his voice reflecting and inflecting just the right sound to fit the song. Truly, Meredith sounds better today than he did 30 years ago, which can't be said of many vocalists.

There will likely be the temptation to compare Proto-Kaw to other bands, especially their well known successor, but this is unwarranted as Proto-Kaw is very much their own band, with a sound that is their own. What is familiar about their music lies at the heart of their music, which is the song writing of Kerry Livgren. As with any composer there will be elements that are recognizable from song to song, a phrasing or chord progression. As an author's use of language keeps readers coming back for more, so does Livgren's writing, both musically & lyrically. "The Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming", departs from the prog format in a joyful straight ahead light rock number with an infectious melody sung as a group vocal.

My only criticism would be the ending of one of the most powerful songs on the CD, "Theophany", which builds in dynamic crescendo & tempo to the final chord, but then has an extra beat with just bass and drums, sounding more like a minor miscued cutoff than a well planned anti-climax. That aside, this is an outstanding album and all the more joyous when you consider how it came to be, how long it was in coming.

There is a line in "Axolotl" which says: "Dreams don't mean a thing until they're true." Surely these dreams mean something now, because this is the real thing. Proto-Kaw's Before Became After is American progressive rock at its best. -- Ken Westphal

Regarding Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-1973:
To try and explain the history behind these recordings and their release, as well as their relationship to the rather complicated history of the American progressive rock band known as Kansas in the limited space of a review is futile. The amazing story is available on the inner sleeve of the CD, as well as at [their web site, see link below]. Suffice it to say that before the Kansas that gave us such classics as "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind" there were two other lineups, both including Kerry Livgren, that were known as Kansas. The band featured in these recordings was the second incarnation of Kansas and would become, nearly thirty years later, known as Proto-Kaw. These early recordings were in the possession of Dawayne Bailey, (Chicago, Bob Seger) a friend of the band from back in the Seventies. He posted these rough demos on a website and this lead to Cuneiform Records releasing them on CD, after Kerry Livgren cleaned them up and got the band members back for a reunion, calling the band Proto-Kaw (meaning "pre-Kansas"). The rest, as they say, is history.

The music is what is really worth talking about. Fans of Kansas will especially enjoy recognizing some early versions of familiar Kansas tunes, such as "Belexes", which appeared on Kansas' first album in 1974, and "Incomudro", which appeared on Song for America. One will especially be struck by how differently Steve Walsh phrased the vocals on the Kansas versions of the songs. Another thing about the Early Recordings that Kansas fans will notice (and probably be surprised by) is the darker themes in Kerry Livgren's songwriting, especially on the first three tracks. People who are not avid fans of Kansas might not be especially taken by this CD because of the sound quality. I have definitely heard worse. In fact, I was expecting it to be pretty bad; after all, these were cheap demos made in small Midwestern studios and live tracks recorded with mikes to reel to reel. Poor sound quality is something that will instantly turn me off to a CD. But I was pleasantly surprised. Having heard their 2004 release Before Became After first, I was disappointed that I couldn't hear the bass as well and that the drums were a little unimaginative in comparison, but the songs were so enthralling I was able to forgive these minor imperfections.

The first track, "Hegemonium", is a definite attention-grabber. Haunting keyboards that remind me of Bloodrocks "D.O.A.", cryptic, Ozzy-like vocals, psychotic saxophone blurts, and lyrics about maggots having a holiday. Lest one think that Kerry Livgren was inspired by mind-altering chemicals, word has it that he was inspired by the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch. The song quiets down to a funereal semi-silence and then ends with an unearthly howl from Lynn Meredith and more twisted saxophone from John Bolton.

On "Reunion in the Mountains of Sarne" Lynn Meredith showed what promise he had as a rock and roll singer, his voice soaring above the slow drone of the instruments. His vocals reflected the darkness of the doomsday lyrics of the song. The song fluctuates between quiet moments held together by muted militaristic drumming and flute flourishes and builds momentum behind Meredith's vocals with the sax and lead guitar providing the heaviness.

"Nactolos 21", starts with a haunting piano chord progression that is interrupted by a chaotic jazz burst of sax and keyboards, and then goes into a horn section that sounds as if it could have been lifted from an early Chicago album. This song is evidence of why Don Montre (now deceased) was an integral part of this lineup. The dual saxophones make for an impressive sound. Kerry Livgren's lead guitar work on "Nactolos" is also noteworthy. Although the song is very slow and mellow it has an emotional impact because of the way the song builds in momentum. Five minutes into the song, the time signature changes and a flute solo is followed by some incredible sax work. "Nactolos" is one of the best representations of Proto-Kaw's jazz fusion and jam band sensibilities on the Early Recordings CD. There are also some unique effects being used by Dan Wright on the keys. A real testament to the band's musicianship, their tightness as a musical unit, and Kerry Livgren's gift for arranging, is the fact that through the time and tempo changes and instrumental breaks, they somehow manage to bring the song back around to where it started and then give it an ending that fits, yet sounds nothing like the rest of the song.

On "Totus Nemesis", the keys and guitars start with a riff that sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a movie about Native Americans. These Native American sounds appear on "Belexes" and would remain present in future Kansas music, some of which was lifted from these Early Recordings. "Totus Nemesis" is the longest track on the album and is the most representative of Proto-Kaw's willingness to experiment with their instruments. Livgren does a guitar solo that reminds me of Jimmy Page's guitar solo during "Whole Lotta Love" on Song Remains the Same. The guitar solo is followed by a long sax solo backed up by some jazzy percussion. Just when the listener has settled into the groove, though, the time signature changes and then all sorts of strange noises are being made with the instruments. At one point it even sounds like there is a pig snorting.

"Skont" is a live performance of an extended jam, one that makes you wish you were in the audience when it occurred. Dan Wright's organ playing is beyond incredible. The energy of their live shows actually comes across fairly well on this recording, despite the low fidelity.

As I stated before, "Belexes" and "Incommudro" are worth hearing just to hear what they were like before Kansas III did them. Overall, The Early Recordings is a great album in and of itself. If you can't deal with poor sound quality, then it might not be for you. If you are a die-hard Kansas fan, then this is a must-have piece of history. The most important thing one gains by listening to The Early Recordings is learning that Kansas (pre-record deal or post-record deal) was not a derivative band, copying its influences as some progressive rock "experts" have claimed. These recordings pre-date some of the "influences" that Kansas III allegedly drew inspiration from. This CD proves that Kerry Livgren was an original and a one-of-a-kind writer and arranger, one who should be hailed by rock historians in as high regard as Lennon/McCartney, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and others of the late Sixties/early Seventies era. This honor is even more deserved, because Livgren continued to create quality music far more prolifically and longer than any of these other artists.

Regarding Before Became After:
Proto-Kaw's first release after thirty years apart is an absolute masterpiece! Released in 2004, Before Became After is a solid, intricate, and magical piece of prog history-in-the-making. BBA is not the result of a bunch of early Seventies musicians trying in vain to recapture their old sound; nor is it that of a bunch of early Seventies musicians trying in vain to sound contemporary. Proto-Kaw 2004 is six musicians (Kerry Livgren – guitar, Dan Wright – keyboards, John Bolton – saxophone and flute, Craig Kew – bass, Brad Schulz – drums, and Lynn Meredith – vocals) who gel so perfectly together that one can't help but wonder what they would have done if they had been together the thirty years between albums. But what matters more is what they accomplished on BBA and what they will hopefully accomplish in the future.

Comparisons to Kansas should be avoided. Except for Livgre's guitar and songwriting, this is a different band, and Livgren gives each of the band members plenty of breathing room to make each song their own. Guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, saxophone, flute, and vocals all blend seamlessly together, yet standing out distinctly at the same time, creating ten songs that are nothing short of brilliant. The result is a progressive rock album that maintains quality from beginning to end without falling prey to monotony. The music ranges from mellow to hard rock to jazz fusion to medieval folk to orchestral majesty, sometimes spanning many of these forms in one composition. The fact that Proto-Kaw can accomplish this without sacrificing cohesiveness is testament to their ability to gel as musicians and to Kerry Livgren's talents as a songwriter and arranger.

While all the songs are truly great, the standout tracks on BBA are "Alt.", "More Worlds Than Known", "Words of Honor", "Leaven", "Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming", "Quantum Leapfrog", and "Heavenly Man". "Alt." begins, appropriately (considering the band's history) with the words, "Here I am, I'm alive again." Although, there was no intent to make BBA a concept album, the themes of new life and being set free run throughout many of the songs. "Alt." builds very strongly on the escalating keyboards and Lynn Meredith's dramatic vocals. Kerry Livgren's guitar carries this song strongly, but Lynn Meredith's vocals bring the song to an epic conclusion.

"Words of Honor", the closest thing this album has to a ballad, relies on the powerfully emotive vocals of Lynn Meredith, but is made memorable by a couple of heavy instrumental breaks that showcase Livgren's guitar and Bolton's flute. The song is available in a shorter single version on the bonus disc of the BBA special edition. "Leaven" is the third, and best, track on the CD. It literally has something for everyone in it. Starting out with an augmented narrative by Meredith (the ONLY time his voice is ever augmented during recording), the song sounds at times medieval, and simultaneously tribal. The song begins with background vocals that sound like Gregorian chants, flutes, and acoustic guitar – but then all this is interrupted by some killer guitar riffs, which are broken by Pink Floydish guitar solos, followed by keyboard-simulated strings and a flute solo. Another lyric that possibly alludes to their history comes at this point in the song – "I will always wonder if there could have been another way." By this point, one has to appreciate Lynn Meredith's vocal prowess; he uses his voice as an instrument and conveys so much emotion without over-dramatizing as many prog vocalists are prone to do. He cuts loose with a high note that he probably could have never reached if he had spent the last thirty years blowing his pipes on endless concert tours. His vocals grow fierce as the song gets more wild, Bolton does things with his sax that are mind-blowing. And the song settles down again, followed by more narration and flute. Then all hell breaks loose. Choral vocals, tribal percussion, sixties-style organ, acoustic guitar. The percussion is incredible.

One interesting feature of Before Became After is that listening to it gives one the impression that the six members were having a lot of fun making the CD. And it is in the next two tracks that this is most evident. "Quantum Leapfrog", a song from their early days, but re-worked for BBA, is a blast to listen to. This is definitely their most jazz fusion-oriented track. It is very difficult to tell which instruments are which. The keyboards, sax, and guitar blend so seamlessly at times, they are indistinguishable. The bass playing of Craig Kew is a strong point on this track, as well as the sax playing by Bolton. The time and tempo changes keep things interesting as well. Track six, affectionately called "The Lawyer Song" is a cover of Chicago band The Cryan Shames' "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones". Proto-Kaw show their love for a good rock song on this track. They play it with energy and enthusiasm and the vocals take you back to a time when rock and roll was fun and full of harmony. The track almost sounds like Brian Wilson popped in to co-produce the vocal tracks.

Though Proto-Kaw's reputation as a live band was always built around their legendary extended jams, they also know that a song does not have to be twenty minutes long to be progressive. Some of the best songs on BBA are the shorter ones. "Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming", which barely clocks in at a little over three and a half minutes is the catchiest song on the album. It also sounds most like it could have been culled from their early seventies demo tapes, yet it was newly written during the BBA sessions. "Occasion ..." has guitar licks and a jazzy piano riff that would have sounded right at home on Steely Dan's first album and vocal harmonies that could have been on any early Doobie Brothers album.

"Heavenly Man", which is a slightly re-worked song from their early days, is a bass-heavy song. At times, the vocal melody follows the bass and guitar riff, much as Black Sabbath's Iron Man. Craig Kew's bass playing and Dan Wright's keyboard solo are the featured attraction on this song. For those who like extended jams, "Gloriana" and "Theophany" will not disappoint, especially the awesome guitar leads Kerry Livgren nimbly races through on the latter track. Regardless of song length, each song has so many ideas crammed into it, but they all work. Many progressive rock bands take bits and pieces of music and put them together to make an "epic" song only to have it sound like just that: a bunch of pieces pasted together. Every song on BBA, many of which were constructed from pieces each member contributed, somehow avoids that pitfall. Every song sounds like a cohesive piece of well-thought-out music. Another element of good song structure that is often lost in the construction of progressive rock is memorable hooks and melody. Proto-Kaw do not have a problem with this. One of the first things that struck me about Before Became After was how catchy most of the songs were. I haven't had a progressive rock album that I could sing along to or carry around in my head this well since Spock's Beard's V and Dream Theater's Metropolis.

Proto-Kaw is a group that has a unique sound, thus few comparisons are made to other groups in this review. Do not be mistaken: just because masterful flute playing has a major role in the music of Proto-Kaw, there is little to no similarity to Jethro Tull , any more than the sax justifies comparisons to Huey Lewis and the News. However, it is safe to say that fans of early classic prog, such as King Crimson, Kansas and Genesis will enjoy BBA, but fans of Spock's Beard, Dream Theater, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra will appreciate it too. The band consists of six exceptional musicians who work extremely well as a cohesive unit. They were just testing the waters with BBA after a thirty year reunion and the results were incredible. This means Proto-Kaw has major staying power. This album gets five out of five stars in my book.

I recommend getting the special edition that includes the bonus disc. The bonus disc contains the single edit of "Words of Honor", a non-album track called "It Moves You", and a video interview with the band members. But the star attraction of the bonus disc is a 1972 live recording of "Belexes", a song that would appear on Kansas' first album in 1974. Listening to "Belexes", it is easy to hear why this early Seventies incarnation of Kansas had such a loyal following at their live gigs. It also serves as a reminder of not only what an amazing story this band has, but what amazing musical chops this band had back then. -- Steve Moffitt

[See Kansas]

Click here for Proto Kaw's web site
Click here to order Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-1973 from Cuneiform Records
Click here to order Before Became After from Inside Out Records

Protos [UK]

One Day on a New Horizon (82)

British prog rarity.

Providence [Japan]

...And I'll Recite An Old Myth From... (90), There Once Was A Night of "Choko-Muro" The Paradise (96)

This was an extremely powerful band in the neo-prog vein fronted by powerful vocalist Yoko Kubota, their music having threads to bands like Quasar, mid-period Genesis, Marillion, and mid-period Renaissance, but still a very original sound, not imitative. The four tracks on ...And I'll Recite an Old Myth From... are all in the 9-20 minute range. They also have other tracks (not on the CD) on some of the Japanese compilation discs.

...And I'll Recite an Old Myth From... contains four songs, two in the 8-10 minute range, one 14 and one 20 minute cut. Providence create a very forceful and energized form of prog rock. The band consists of the usual bass, drums, guitar, keyboards and the powerful, dramatic Japanese vocals of Yoko Kuboto. Christian Beya, of Atoll, contributes guitar on the excellent 20 minute title track. Digital synths and modern guitar tones give the band a current sound but you'll also hear Mellotron-like sounds that recall the past. I guess comparison-wise, the closest I can do is some middle-era Genesis (say around Wind and Wuthering) and perhaps Quasar. Yoko's vocals are somewhat similar to Tracy Hitchings of Quasar, though Kuboto is much, MUCH better. Overall, though, the sound is pretty unique. Good new progressive that successfully straddles the border of neo-prog and retro-prog. Recommended.

There Once Was A Night... features a reformed lineup with new singer, who is every bit as good as Yoko Kubota (from Myth) but different too. The music remains heavily symphonic, featuring 12 string, bass, drums and an array of keyboards. Sounds like there's some Mellotron too, but it's not listed in the credits (may be "Vintage Keys"). Seven tracks, ranging from under two minutes to almost twenty, several are smokers, the general direction is more complex and technical when compared to the first, but the band hasn't lost their power. A good one, fans of the first album should be pleased.

Providence [USA]
Updated 6/8/05

Ever Since The Dawn (71)
Providence (from a concert poster) - (not in photo order) Bob Barriatua (bass, vocals), Bartholomew Bishop (keyboards, autoharp, vocals), Jim Cockey (violin, glockenspiel, vocals), Andy Guzie (guitar, vocals), Tim Tompkins (cello, vocals, recorders, percussion) and Tom Tompkins (viola, violin, vocals)

Folk/prog on Moody Blues' Threshold label. Formerly listed in GEPR as a UK band, but actually from Portland, Oregon. Some band members did tour with the Moody Blues as their string section. See web page below for more info. -- Fred Trafton, with thanks to Peter J. Lyon for the information & web page link

[See Moody Blues, The]

Click here for a web page about the band
Click here for a Wikipedia entry on this band

Prudence [Norway]

Tomorrow May Be Vanished (72) , Drunk and Happy (73), No. 3 (74), Takk de Dokk (75)

I've heard two cuts from Tomorrow May Be Vanished on a sampler tape. The first was kinda folk/psych/prog, pretty decent decent actually, but not my gig. In addition to electric guitar, it included mandolin and accordion and a definite Scandanavian folk presence. Next cut was great, with acoustic and electric guitar in a great jam, similar to Culpeper's Orchard in execution, though not as intense. Probably a little more rock influence is detectable, though the Norwegian folk influence is still evident. Not bad! Drunk and Happy is an eclectic blend of Tull-like flute, electric psych, acoustic folk and a large dose of lighthearted silliness. I imagine these guys were pretty drunk and happy at the time they recorded this. The folk/psych is the most prevalent style. Like the one cut described above, you'll hear mandolin, accordion and electric guitar. The humor is evident in the title of the longest song (almost six minutes) called "I Hope We Never Get to Serious About the Music so This is Just a Joke." It also happens to show some pretty strong Jethro Tull influences combined with folk and is the standout track on Drunk and Happy. The other nine songs are all in the 3-4 minute range for the most part. I doubt too many Prog fans would like this. Psych fans will probably want to audition first, if possible. Mostly of interest to "students" of the entire Scandanavian scene.

Psychomuzak [UK]

The Extasie (95)

The Extasie was a hard album to review. I continually drowned in the drifting, ebbing waves of cosmic rivers and couldn't take any notes! Psychomuzak is Dean Carter on guitar, transforming the sound through delays and effects manipulations, much the same as Manuel Gottsching on Ash Ra Tempel's Inventions for Electric Guitar. Dean later rounded out the sound with a few synths, plus he is helped out by Cliff Stapleton, and the album was produced by Mr. Porcupine Tree himself, Steven Wilson. Apparently starting as a tripping fave of the British underground, The Exstasie ranges from "stroboscopic mind warps" to ambient drones afloat in psychedelic waters, with the layers of processed guitar bobbing among synths and even hurdy gurdy (Hillage fans take note!). Drum machine patterns sometimes dive in to the cool rave wave. A clear winner, The Exstasie is a killer cosmic chasm of '70s sounds in a '90s mindset.

Psychomuzak, with The Extasie on Delerium records is actually just one guy, Dean Carter, playing synths, processed guitars, bass and other electronics, with some help from Steven Wilson (aka Porcupine Tree) on programming and a guest player on "Hurdy Gurdy" on one of the five tracks, which all clock in between 10 and 22 minutes. There is no percussion, and little rhythm per se, other than some repeating electronic sequences, and the whole project fits squarely into the droning electronic style not far from early works of Michael Garrison, but perhaps a bit more psychedelic. Not bad.

Psychotic Waltz [USA]
Updated 4/18/01

A Social Grace (90)
Into the Everflow (92)
Mosquito (94)
Bleeding (96)
Days and Birth of a Legend (98, Compilation)
Dark Millenium (99)
Psychotic Waltz

For me personally they were most-appreciated prog-metal band for a long time, as they were more powerful and less mass-appealing than Dreamy Theater or Fates Warning. As the monicker suggests they have feeling for "heady" things (to certain extent). I have first four albums and have also heard the compilation. The line-up is (almost) usually metallic, which means two guitars, bass and drums with some keyboard programming, but then again there was a central figure, vocalist/ flutist Buddy Lackey, who also wrote lyrics (rather socio-critical). All mentioned 'bout him certainly recalls a comparison with Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame - which are in turn responsible for few more intelligent approaches in hard rock and metal in the 80's), albeit I don't know, if Buddy also used to stand only on one leg during performances.

Debut A Social Grace is a good mix of Watch Tower and more melodic/ harmonic riffs, quite heavy, quite complex and a bit murky. Actually melodies prevail, but dischords seep through here and there. The best picks are the sharp opener "And the Devil Cried", more controlled "Halo of Thorns" and "Another Prophet Song", elegiac "I Remember" and a few darker tracks like a "Spiral Tower".

Their second, Into the Everflow is for my opinion their best. Sound of debut is mixed with 70's sympho, 60's psych, funk, alternative, etc. The "plateau" opens with anthemic "Ashes", which sounds really exalted, then continues with quite heady "Out of Mind"."Tiny Streams" is paying an homage to Black Sabbath in some way, while "Freakshow" is an appraisal of Jane's Addiction leader Perry Farrell (Lackey was seemingly great fan of Janes at that time), but is extraordinary track, where Lackey show his talents in vocal acrobatics (he gets my vote for the best singer in metal.) PW are also in longer song format contest. "Into the Everflow"and "Butterfly" are both 9+' minute long. Both shift through different atmospheres. "Little People" is interesting song whose lyrics (probably) deal with tv-soapies like Santa Barbara and the like (with which American readers are probably more acknowledged than I am -- I mean that tv-programs boasts of this more than on the ol' continent). It's hard to believe that such crap can inspire such good music.

Mosquito sees the band navigate into more alternative/grungy waters (close to sound of Soundgarden circa Superunknown), but the ending result is very good, also more "spacy". Outstanding pieces: simply fantastic "Mosquito", pretty laid-back "Lovestone Blind" and maybe the best Pinky Floydy influenced number of all times, "The Mindsong", to name only few.

With The Bleeding, the band shifted "back to the roots" with more modern production. Album sounds powerful but did not convince me for some reason. Still some good tracks like "Morbid", "Locust" and "Faded".

Days of Birth and Legend offers some unreleased tracks and outtakes of never finished tracks plus a recorded concert from times just before A Social Grace was released. The sound is quite rough, but the effect is excellent. Tracks from A Social Grace sound darker but much much cooler. I'm not sure if the compilation contains the first Aslan demo. In the time when Days was released, Lackey went out and was replaced soon after. When Dark Millenium came out, I didn't even bother. But if you find yourself to like metallic prog, first three albums are a necessary purchase. -- Nenad Kobal

[See Aslan | Darkstar]

Click here for a "posthumous" Official Psychotic Waltz web site

Psychotone [Belgium]
Later known as Psychotone Too
Updated 7/7/08

Psychotone (81, Unreleased demo tape)
Rick Boebbel

[Please note that the following article violates one of the usual GEPR rules ... it was written by the artist himself. But Boebbel provided some nice, concise write-ups for his three interlinked bands, and it's unlikely that I would get info on these in any other way. If you know of him and have an opinion, please send it in and I'll publish that as well. In the meantime, be aware that there will be some built-in bias in the following article. You have been warned. -- Fred Trafton]

After having been a member of Zak & Boebbel and Oezem, Belgian multi-instrumentalist Boebbel successfully toured a couple of years as a solo performer, while at the same time he was a guest musician or temporary member of various Belgian groups, such as Bullshit Blues Band, Kobold, Royal Erotic Space Orchestra, The Plastic Bags or Le Lis. Together with Paul Van Laere he founded the jazzrock band Psychotone around 1980. The original line up included Rick Boebbel (guitar, percussion), Paul Van Laere (saxes, flute), Erwin Van Handenhoven (piano, synthesizer), Marc Van Puyenbroeck (bass), and Frans De Jongh (drums). After the recording of a demo tape with arrangements of instrumental jazzrock standards, Boebbel and Van Laere decided to go their own way. Paul Van Laere and some of the former band members founded a new band, while Rick Boebbel called in Gerry Liebens (sax), Mack Riské (bass), and (drums, percussion) to form Psychotone Too.

All the compositions were written now by Rick Boebbel, who played a large assortment of instruments himself, such as guitar, bouzouki, altsax, trumpet, noseflute (!), percussion, and selfmade instruments like the 'boebbelophone'.

His music could be described as instrumental ethno-jazzrock, peppered with weird and humorous interventions, such as puppetry intermezzos, noseflute quartets, boebbelophone solos and so on ... , but the amazing complexity of the music made it almost impossible to play it live. The suite "Cosmos-perma-cussion" e.g. featured no less than 120 different musical instruments! Since the music was uncompromisingly uncommercial, no record company was interested in recording it either, while a private album release cost far too much. After a few years, Rick Boebbel therefore decided to disband Psychotone Too, thus withholding the world some of the finest jazzrock ever written, such as "Salmonella", "Genetic Blues", "Lintje", "Hungarian Sonata", or the musical fairy tale "Jessica and the Guitar Player". He withdrew from musical activities and started making humorous assemblage - sculptures under the pseudonym of Ribley! -- Rick Boebbel

Click here for Boebbel's incomprehensible web site under the name of Ribley!

[See Boebbel, Rick | Zak & Boebbel ]

Ptarmigan [Canada]

Ptarmigan (74)

Ptarmigan's style is a laid-back, dreamy blend of psychedelic music with folk elements. Instrumentation consists of an abundance of acoustic guitar, wood flutes, hand percussions, plus male and female vocal harmonies. There are no organs, pianos or other keyboards, nor is there any electric guitar. "Go Dancing" is very folky, kind of like a psychedelic Mamas and Papas. On "The Island," the psych vibe trips into the sea breeze, as wood flutes float like gulls over sand beaches of acoustic guitar, voices swaying gently, carrying you off too remote islands within your mind. By now, some comparisons can be made to German "cosmic" bands like Popol Vuh, particularly with the flutes, bongos, finger bells and so forth. As they continue through the remaining three songs, Ptarmigan take you past the frantic "peak" of deep space (particularly, the trippy, free-form "Night of the Gulls" and "Coquihalla") to no-man's land. An excellent psych/folk album.

PTS [Netherlands]
Updated 4/17/05

Nightlines (92)
Tides (94)
Campaign (98)
Stay away from Nightlines. Hollow Dutch sympho. No feeling, emotion, or whatever it is that makes a band a good band.
Rather poppy neo-prog band on the SI Music label. Nightlines has a few interesting moments, but tends to wash away in neo-mediocrity. To be fair, this is a first album, and they are not untalented, there is a lot of room for improvement on their second (esp.in the originality department) if they get that far.
With all songs on Tides falling between 3-8 minutes (well, one at 2:35), PTS write music that is direct and to the point. The 60 minutes of music, while not complex and usually lacking development and progression with a song, is solid and nicely arranged. They didn't try to stretch three minute ideas into 12, nor did they try to incorporate a dozen schizophrenic and incoherent key and meter changes into that time. While I can't say that I particularly cared for PTS, it was easy to appreciate their approach to the neo-progressive style. Except for a couple of slower ballad-type songs (e.g., "Where Are You?"), the songs generally had a quick, rock 'n' roll pace encompassing both vocal (mostly) and instrumental tunes. The drummer, Marco de Haan, was more energetic and active (e.g., "Down to Zero") than many boom-chick neo-prog drummers, which is partially why I found PTS more interesting than other SI-label neo-prog bands. Other PTS members are Marco Kerssies (bass, backing vocals), Ron van Kruistum (guitar, backing vocals) and Simon Veenhuis (keyboards). Lead vocals are delivered by de Haan. The guitar is the predominant melodic instrument, while keyboards are generally used for atmosphere and texture. Though not as technical, I was reminded a bit of Rush's shorter songs -- not a comparison; I was just reminded of the concise rock format with a dash of proginess -- as well as bands like Jadis and Twelfth Night. I think many of you with a neo-progressive bent will like this album very much. -- Mike Taylor

Public Foot The Roman [UK]

Public Foot The Roman (73)


Pulsar [France]
Updated 4/17/05

Pollen (75)
The Strands Of The Future (76)
Halloween (77)
Bienvenue Au Conseil D'Administration (81)
Mélodie Boréale (86, Solo tape-only release by keyboard player Jaques Roman, reissued on the CD version of Bienvenue Au Conseil D'Administration)
Görlitz (89)
Early Pulsar was supposed to have covered Pink Floyd a lot - Pulsar's space progressive was like a mixture of Pink Floyd and Klaus Schulze albeit with a symphonic edge. These guys created a startling spacious music with the accent on melody and instrumental prowess. Different from many French bands due to English vocals on their first three releases. Their debut Pollen showed a band in progress quite good, yet slilghtly immature. Their second, Strands of the Future was their most spacious at times resembling early Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze, yet in a symphonic mode. The side-long title track is especially amazing. Their third and acclaimed best is Halloween. This is a fantastic album full of conflict between spaciousness and dynamics, and very haunting. Although maybe slightly slightly inferior, their fourth Bienvenue Du Conseil D'Administration is maybe their most explorative, with shorter more concise tracks - yet rarely in song format, this album was originally written for theatre. I haven't heard their reunion album as of yet, but am led to believe that Görlitz, although a good neo-progressive album, isn't on a par with the previous four, but don't take my word for it!
Pulsar are a French progressive rock band, who were widely regarded as France's answer to Pink Floyd. However, though the music is very atmospheric at times, they add a symphonic edge to it, with many little musical twists that give them an original style. Pollen was their first release, and is typical of the Mellotron-based prog rock of the mid-seventies. Strands of the Future and Halloween are the two classic releases by one of the best French progressive groups ever. Though influenced to some extent by Pink Floyd, they combined that with the magic of the Mellotron to create these two releases of spacy progressive rock. The music is also very much in the style of the seventies' groups, with long, melodic passages over minor-chord washes of keyboards, with long tracks and thematic compositions.
Pulsar is a French band most often compared to Pink Floyd, supposedly even doing Floyd covers in early gigs. Pulsar's third album, Halloween, reveals this to be a valid comparison. I have never heard any band create a Pink Floyd-type atmosphere more successfully than Pulsar, though the sound is distinctly French and unique. They create a haunting atmosphere that is very tense at times and very relaxing at other times. A comparison could also be made to Eloy, another band sometimes compared to Pink Floyd. Halloween can be compared to Wish You Were Here in that a central core of vocal "songs" are surrounded by long instrumental passages. Approximately the first 15 minutes and the last seven minutes of this disc are pure instrumental, the former being the most Floyd-like in atmosphere. Of particular note is "Fear of Frost" with Emerson-like moog (from "Aquatarkus") on top of a Brand X-like fusion underpinning, though sounding nothing like ELP, Brand X or Floyd. It jams! Pulsar is a unique band and Halloween is an incredible album. You should consider adding this disc to your collection as I feel it is "a must have" album from both the French and space-style progressive scenes. Their first album, Pollen, is similar with lots of flute, but is a somewhat less mature work. Start with Halloween and work your way back to Pollen.
Shades of Jean-Michel Jarre, Alan Parsons, Camel, and Styx! The tune "Colours of Childhood" (I heard only a 6 minute excerpt) is reminiscent of all these bands. The low vocals are similar to Camel's Andy Latimer, but they get wimpy at times, soaking in reverb. This band makes good use of the studio, both in sound quality and special effects. The second tune, "Sorrow in my Dreams," was slow and dull. I hardly noticed it.
Symphonic French band with a very unique, ethereal feel to their sound. Although I've not heard the first, Strands and Halloween bridge a french symphonic sound with additional influence from the Pink Floyd school. The vocals are NOT so out front and all dominating as in so many other French groups (Ange, Atoll), but more subdued and relaxed. Lyrics are in french, except for Halloween which is english. Görlitz, is a reunion project from 89, and captures well the spirit of the band in the early years. The sidelong title track Görlitz is a stunner.
I recently got Pollen, and haven't really listened to it enough to give a sound judgment on it, but it's very nice with Floydian guitar, Schulze-ish synths and symphonic Mellotron. The Strands Of The Future refines these techniques into a smoother, more uniform style that works excellently over the 18-minute title track. The Latimer-like flute is more pronounced here, as are the organ and Mellotron. Halloween is their masterwork, dreamy pastoral pieces dripping with Mellotron and spiced with acoustic guitars and flute, heavy, complex prog rockers bristling with intensity, and moody impressionistic soundscapes using electronic keyboards alongside classical instrumentation (cellos, clarinets). Great for an introduction to the French scene. -- Mike Ohman
This French band of five musicians play keyboards, guitars, flute/keyboards/vocals (in English), bass and drums/percussions. On Halloween, the two long tracks offer symphonic arrangements, slow but progressive developments and a softness that's often dark and menacing. Rich keyboard textures dominate the sound and the other instruments' contributions are episodic. The intensity of the performances varies but the tone remains tormented. This convincing production favours haunting atmospheres more than flashy performances. -- Paul Charbonneau

Punishment of Luxury [UK]

Laughing Acadeny (79)

Art rock meets heavy metal. Only one LP that I know of - Laughing Academy 1979, various singles too.

Puppet Show [USA]
Updated 5/23/09

Traumatized (98)
The Tale of Woe (07)
Puppet Show (Traumatized line-up) - (not in photo order) Mike Grimes (keyboards), Chris Ogburn (guitars), Matt Lipford (drums), Craig Polson (bass), Sean Frazier (vocals)

Original GEPR write-up, 6/16/02:
Puppet Show is a symphonic progressive rock band from the San Fransisco Bay Area. Kinesis' advertising for this band called them "Prog with a capital 'P'". I'm not too sure what that means, but Puppet Show does have an excellent progressive sound, and you know you're in for a treat from the opening cut with the pomp and circumstance of the solo pipe organ in "The King Always Wins". This brief (0:52) cut is followed by the nearly 12-minute mini-epic "Relativity" featuring a total prog workout from the Hammond and swirling synths of keyboardist Mike Grimes, aggressive guitars of Chris Ogburn, a precise and intricate rhythm section comprised of Matt Lipford (drums) and Craig Polson (bass), and topped off by the emotional vocalizations of singer Sean Frazier. These guys rock and are also very complex in their orchestration and composition. The third cut "As Ye Hath Sown" features all of the above plus a mellow-tron dominated section that would sound like Court of the Crimson King era Crimson if Frazier sounded anything like Greg Lake, which he doesn't. (Yes, I do know how to spell "Mellotron", OK?)

The next cut, "Marathon" isn't a mini-epic, but a full-bown one, living up to its name by being 14 minutes long, almost a "side long" epic from LP days. This is a spectacular piece rife with Wakemanesque (or Banksian?) synthesizer arpeggios (which are also echoed by guitar) and Yesish vocal harmonies, plus some Steve Hackett attack-suppressed guitar. Proggy to the max, but perhaps sonically a bit too similar to "Relativity".

The last two tracks, "In the Heart of Man" and "The Ring of Truth" are more of the same, and if I had a gripe to make about the album overall it's that the songs start to sound too similar to each other by the end of its 55:28 duration. Actually, I really didn't care much for the album the first two or three times I listened to it, but it's really grown on me with repeated listenings. Now, I ask myself, "What more do you want from an album? This has got it all!" Another hint: this album sounds great on stereo headphones ... for some reason the mix sounds cleaner through them than it sounds over speakers. At least, it seems that way to me.

Puppet Show have been quiet for awhile, the last major performance I'm aware of being their ProgFest '99 performance. Of course, if they play locally in the Bay Area, I wouldn't know about it. However, I've recently spoken with Puppet Show keyboardist Mike Grimes by e-mail and he assures me that they are alive, well and recording their second album now. Their former drummer Matt Lipford left the band to pursue "the Family thing" as Mike puts it, and has been replaced by Rush Manbert. Mike describes their method of composing as "very democratic", which results in interesting compositions, but this kind of composing takes longer than simply playing a song brought in by a single band member. Add to that the fact that the band members no longer even live in the same city, and you can see why it's taken awhile for them to finish their second album. A demo version of a new Puppet Show tune, "Harold Cain", is available on the BayProg compilation CD which came with Spring 2002 issue of Exposé magazine. They're hoping to finish up the new CD in 2002, but since Kinesis has decided to release no more new CD's, they will be either looking for a new label or self-releasing this new album. Stay tuned to the GEPR for news as it becomes available. Traumatized is still available as a CD from Kinesis, or in downloadable (for a price) MP3 format from Avantnoise. -- Fred Trafton

News 10/21/05:
The above was written over three years ago, and that second album never made it in 2002. However, Puppet Show keyboardist Mike Grimes has written to say, "There is finally light at the end of the tunnel and I truly think the new Puppet Show CD will get released later this year [2005]. We're finishing up tracking this month [June] and plan to mix in the July/August timeframe." After this, they will need to get the CD artwork done and find a label, but hopefully this can happen by the end of the year. I for one am looking forward to it!

Puppet Show's members don't get together regularly because some of them live on the East Coast (Baltimore) and some on the West Coast (Northern California) of the USA. In spite of this, they have acquired a new new drummer, Chris Mack (Iluvatar) and recorded his drum tracks in April. They're still working on finishing up the other instruments as of this writing. The album is unnamed so far.

As an aside, Avantnoise, mentioned above, seems to have come and gone in less than a year. I don't believe the link is functional any more. -- Fred Trafton

News 5/11/07:
Well, it's about time! Puppet Show has finally released their second CD The Tale of Woe on the ProgRock Records label. I'll be getting a copy for review soon, and I'll let you know what I think. I'm excited! -- Fred Trafton

News 6/9/07:
After a nine year wait, Puppet Show is back with their sophomore offering. Was it worth the wait? Yes! The Tale of Woe is an excellent collection of works. I know that these have been composed and recorded slowly over a period of years ... for instance, "Harold Cain" had already been released (with a different mix) on the 2002 BayProg sampler that came with the Spring 2002 issue of Exposé magazine.

For those who've already heard Traumatized, The Tale of Woe will seem like familiar ground. Familiar, yet also different ... they have fixed what I considered the only issue with Traumatized, namely the sameness-sounding of the songs. The Tale of Woe has more variation, with some bits of almost prog-metal guitar and even some atonal passages, though these don't go on for too long before resolving into melodic content again. The point is that there's enough style changing to give each song its own identity while still sounding like Puppet Show.

For those who haven't heard Traumatized, I'll compare Puppet Show to Genesis, especially in the Banksian synthesizer sound and Hackettish guitar work that seems to inspire much of their style. But these compositions are brighter and more uplifting in tone than the more sombre Genesis, perhaps a bit like Yes in that regard. But Puppet Show somehow succeeds at making prog rock that sounds like it came out of the '70's without really sounding much like anyone from that period. Maybe that's what they meant by "Prog with a capitol P" in the old blurb for Traumatized.

Bottom line: Good stuff, worth the wait and recommended. -- Fred Trafton

[See Iluvatar | Mind Furniture | Jeremy Cubert Project | Oblivion Sun]

Click here for Puppet Show's web site.
Click here to order Traumatized from Kinesis CD's.
Click here for info on the BayProg compilation CD and the bands featured on it.
Click here to order The Tale of Woe from ProgRock Records, or click the or icons above to download it from Mindawn.

Pure Reason Revolution [UK]
Updated 11/4/07

The Dark Third (07)
Pure Reason Revolution signs autographs at NEARFest 2007

I had heard about Pure Reason Revolution from reading reviews of their first full album release, The Dark Third and even before that from their EP release Cautionary Tales for the Brave (all of which is included on The Dark Third). When they were introduced at NEARFest 2007, Chad Hutchinson called The Dark Third "the best album release of 2006", and other reviews have been similarly enthusiastic.

To be honest, I was disappointed in their NEARFest performance. Not that they were terrible or anything, I just expected that with all the hype about their being "Pink Floyd for the new millenium" and similar glowing words of praise, they would come off less like an alt metal band who had definitely heard some Floyd in their lives and more ... well, just more. More complexity, more lyrically compelling, more ... uhm ... prog. Ya know?

Well, I said a few words along these lines on the NEARFest boards and got several polite but insistent responses that I didn't know what I was talking about. They raved about the band and told me I just had to hear The Dark Third before I made up my mind. "OK", I thought, "if everyone but me thinks they're the greatest, maybe I should pick up the album for myself." And so I did. I've listened to it at least half a dozen times now. It's not bad. There are parts I really like, particularly "The Million Bright Ambassadors of Dawn" vocal refrain. A few other parts. But overall, I still don't see what all the fuss is about. There are plenty of much better albums that came out in 2006. Or at least, albums that spoke to me far more.

Still, the point has been made that this is an accessable enough version of "prog" that it will attract new listeners who might then branch out into more challenging work. But I never believed marijuana was a steppingstone to heroin either. So I doubt it. For those that think Porcupine Tree is the greatest thing that ever happened to prog, Pure Reason Revolution should also be up your alley. Those who are into ornate complexity, heavy symphonic sounds, classical music influence, high note-per-measure counts or strange dissonances should look somewhere else. Not bad. But not my style. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Pure Reason Revolution's MySpace site.
PRR's web site is currently just redirects to the MySpace site.

Pursuit [USA]
Updated 2/13/06

Quest (04)
Pursuit - John Sebring (drums, backing vocals), Andrew Zuehlke (lead and backing vocals) and Dan Wolfe (guitars, keyboards)

Look, I'm going to be honest. Of the progressive genres, prog-metal isn't my favorite. And when it comes to lyrical content, christian evangelism isn't high on my list either. That hasn't prevented me from really enjoying some evangelical prog-metal bands (Divine in Sight comes to mind), but it is two strikes against a band in my book.

So, with only one strike left, a band has to really impress me with their compositions, their playing prowess or an innovative approach to getting their message across. Pursuit, while adequate in all of the above categories, do not excel in any of them. The songs on Quest are OK, for what they are ... heavy metal with progressive tendencies. The recording quality is good, but nothing really special. They play well, which is just about the price of admission for calling yourself "prog". And their lyrical content ... well, let's just say I've heard a LOT of christian rock in my days, and this is just more of the same, except in the places where it gets preachy, which TOTALLY turns me off.

Well, what do you expect from a heathen reviewer? To me they're too reminiscent of Stryper, who I never cared for even when I cared about christian rock. OK, they have more proggy content than Stryper. But there's just something wrong with music that says "I'm really really angry and have been poisoned by an overabundance of testosterone" while the lyrics are saying "Jesus loves you, come to Him and change your life" (yeah, I know I sound like your mother). All I can say is that if your mindset leans more towards metal and christian content than mine, these guys might really appeal to you. For a viewpoint biased more in that direction, check out this review on the Virtuosity web site, which is dedicated to reviews of "spiritual" (read: "christian") prog albums.

All that negativity aside, I'd still give Quest a "C". I didn't want to throw it out of the car or anything. It just didn't do much for me. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Pursuit's web site

Pussy [UK]
Updated 9/9/04

Pussy Plays (69)
Really a psychedelic rock group, not a prog one, though the progressive methods they occasionally use cannot be overlooked. The group had its roots in a band called the Creepers, which was formed in the mid-60s and consisted of Steve Townsend (Drums, narratives), Dek Boyce (Vocals), and Jez Turner (Bass). In 1967 they recruited two new members, Barry Clark (Guitars) and Peter Whiteman (Miscellaneous Keyboards), and thus became Pussy.

Pussy Plays is actually a project of Clark's friend, Danny Beckerman, who simply needed Pussy to record the album. Beckerman arranged and produced all the tracks and played the backing vocals and odd instruments. Except "The Open Ground" (which is music-B.Clark and lyrics-S.Townsend), all 8 songs are Beckerman's conceptions, though 3 underwent musical adjustment at Barry Clark's hands. Pussy did interpret Beckerman's more pop-oriented ideas, however. How much free reign they were given is noticeable by the fact that 3 of the tunes, as well as much of the opening tune, are instrumental and comprised largely of jamming.

The result is not bad, surely, but not the classic that it's often made out to be. There are some distinctly prog touches, especially on "All of My Life", "Tragedy in F Minor", and the sinister "Everybody's Song", but in general this is a psychedelic effort. With its dramatic, breathy vocals and strong instrumental pauses, the despairing "All of My Life" is the album's highlight. A close second is "We Built the Sun", which is centered around spacey guitar and vocals (clearly inspired by early Pink Floyd) and also features very touching piano breaks. "Come Back June" and "G.E.A.B." are also worth a listen for their strong instrumental muscle. "The Open Ground" is a fierce vision of an ozone-less Earth burning to ashes ("Hear the virgin cry/See the Summer sky tear at Winter earth") with music to match. "Comets" is to my ears the worst track in the bunch, but anyone who loves mad moog freakouts is in for a treat.

On the whole, this is a worthy but unexceptional piece of psych/prog which generally receives much higher praise than it deserves. Recommended if you like instrumental workouts, as there are plenty of them and Pussy are remarkable on the performance level. Of interest to Pussy fans is the 2001 CD issue of Pussy Plays on Edsel Records; its extensive linear notes do a thorough job of covering the band's history, thanks to the help of Steve Townsend. -- Robert Orme

Pyle, Pip [UK]
Updated 11/4/06

Solo or with his own bands:
Pip Pyle's Equip' Out (87, w/ Pip Pyle's Equip' Out)
Up! (91, w/ Pip Pyle's Equip' Out)
Seven Years Itch (98, Solo)
Belle Illusion (04, w/ Pip Pyle's BASH!)
Instants (05, w/ Pip Pyle's Equip' Out)

With Gong and related:
Banana Moon (71, w/ Daevid Allen)
Camembert Electrique (71)
Obsolete (71, w/ Dashiell Hedeyat)
Continental Circus (72)
Mother (78, w/ Gilli Smyth)
Fetish (87, w/ Didier Malherbe)
Shapeshifter (92)
Live On TV 1990 (93)
25th Birthday Party (94, Live, 2CD)
Pre-Modernist Wireless: The Peel Sessions (95)
Family Jewels (98, 2CD)

With Phil Miller and In Cahoots
Coxhill/Miller.Miller/Coxhill (73)
Cutting Both Ways (87, Phil Miller solo album, w/ In Cahoots)  
Split Seconds (88, Phil Miller solo album)
Live 86-89 (91)
Digging In (91, Phil Miller solo album)
Live In Japan (93, w/ In Cahoots)
Recent Discoveries (95, w/ In Cahoots)
Parallel (97, w/ In Cahoots)
Out of the Blue (01, w/ In Cahoots)
All That (03, w/ In Cahoots)

With Hatfield and the North
Hatfield and the North (73)
The Rotter's Club (75)
Over the Rainbow (75)
Afters (79)
Live in 1990 (91)
Hatwise Choice (05)

With National Health
National Health (78)
Of Queues and Cures (79)
D.S. al Coda (82)
Complete (90, 2CD Compilation of all three albums)
Missing Pieces (96, Compilation of outtakes & unreleased material)
Playtime (00, Live from two concerts in 1979)

With others
A Fool's Meeting (70, w/ Carol Grimes & Delivery)
Thank You For ... (72, w/ Bridget St. John)
Lady June's Lingusitic Leprosy (74, w/ Lady June)
Soft Heap (79, w/ Soft Heap)
Accident (82, w/ John Greaves)
Dogged By Dogma (82, w/ The Ghoulies)
Neil's Heavy Concept Album (84, w/ Neil)
Dromadaire Viennois (86, w/ Patrice Meyer)
Pazapa (89, w/ Alain et Yvon Guillard)
Couleur Rubis (89, w/ Faton Cahen)
La Petite Bouteille De Linge (91, w/ John Greaves)
Au-Dela Des Limites (91, w/ Lydia Domancich)
The Night Forlorn (92, w/ John Asherton)
Shortwave - Live (, w/ Shortwave)
R.S.V.P. (94, w/ Richard Sinclair)
A Veritable Centaur (95, w/ Soft Heap)
The Children's Crusade (99, w/ Brainville)
Rebela (99, w/ Mark Hewins)
The Pig Part (00, w/ Pyle-Iung-Greaves)
Inside The Whale (02, w/ Jack Monck)
Crashing Icons (03, w/ Absolute Zero)

Pip Pyle at Glastonbury Festival, 1971

"Pip", is, of course, short for "Philip". Pip Pyle was probably the most famous of the Canterbury drummers, having played in many of the famous bands of the genre. My personal favorites are his tenure in the 1971 formation of Gong (Continental Circus and Camembert Electrique), Gilli Smyth's Mother and all the National Health albums. I got to see him play just a few months before his death at the NEARFest 2006 pre-show with the reformation of Hatfield and the North, though I must say that HATN just didn't seem right without Dave Stewart at the keys. But this didn't detract from Pyle's drumming, which were as intricate and tasty as they had consistently been throughout his career.

Pip Pyle died in his sleep in a Paris hotel on August 28th, 2006. I couldn't possibly do any better at summarizing Pip's career than the folks on the Calyx web site (see link below) have already done, so I'll just direct you there. -- Fred Trafton

[See Absolute Zero | Gong | Greaves, John | Grimes, Carol and Delivery | Hatfield and the North | In Cahoots | Lorenzini, Mimi | Miller, Phil | National Health | Sinclair, Richard | Smyth, Gilli | Soft Heap | Stewart, Dave |

Click here for Pip Pyle's biography on the Calyx web site

Pythagoras [Netherlands]

After The Silence (81)

Electronic music.