Yep, I’m absolutely fed up of all these “best CD’s of…” which merely rely on artists previous releases and bolster absolutely talentless people, or reward for diabolical formulaeic songwriting and cliched releases.
I’ve was a director of a well known prog organisation for a long time, and was involved for an even longer time, and have heard a hell of a lot of releases… some of which concern me…
Here we go:
1. Sylvan – Artificial Paradise
It’s amazing. Put quite literally. Metal, blended with prog, blended with rap. Some superb musicianship and some brilliant basslines. Sylvan’s finest hour and even they haven’t managed to top it. The title track is around 20 minutes of sheer bliss, but in all honesty there isn’t a weak track on the album and it just gels together so well. If you don’t have it, why not?
2. Kate Bush – Aerial
A slightly more commercial release, but poetic lyrics and, in particular on the second CD of the batch “a sky of honey” some haunting melodies and great themes running throughout. A concept which describes perfectly what it goes out to do, and all inspired by bird song!. I know it’s a Marmite album – but I do love it.
3. Wobbler – Afterglow
When progressive bands release albums, they should be progressive. Most don’t, they just sit there happily widdling away on their mellotrons and regailing us all about how good the 70’s were. Sorry fellas, but the 70’s have gone. Wobbler mix some Mediaeval influences into the entire package and, well, yeah. It works.
4. Touchstone – Wintercoast
A late entry but, yeah, it’s Touchstone… I could pass on them live, but they have the ability to stick some amazing tracks onto a piece of plastic and make my speakers vibrate. Talented musicians doing what they do very well.
5. Magenta – Metamorphosis
I hated Seven. I love this. Magenta are one of these bands who have gone from being fluffy hugs and puppies with sub Yes noodlings mixed in, and have literally metamorphosed themselves into a powerful band this stunning release. If you’re a prog fan, you must have this. It progresses, it doesn’t sound stale and 70’s, and it’s bloody great!
Honourable mentions also go to It Bites for The Tall Ships and we mustn’t forget Mostly Autumn for most of their albums (see below), Manning for The Ragged Curtain (which I would put in my top 5 but I’m in the band so really that would be unfair).
And some I’d rather forget
1. IQ – Frequency
I love IQ, but I just can’t seem to get myself to like this album. It’s just another album, IQ returning to their 80’s roots, and is really nothing special, and full of prog cliche. I was even worried upon hearing the samplers – I heard Genesis Afterglow moments…
2. Pendragon – Believe
This is probably one of the dullest albums I have ever heard. Yeah, it’s Pendragon, and we have the superb stuff they have done before such as Masquerade Overture, The World, and even Pure which DOES progress… but Believe? – what were you thinking?. 9/10 for dullness.
3. Mostly Autumn – The Last Bright Light
If Pink Floyd did Mostly Autumn this is what it would sound like. If Mostly Autumn did Pink Floyd… oh shit they did, and it’s called The Last Big Shite. Do yourself a favour – buy the rest of their catalogue, but skip this one if you know what’s good for you.
4. Jadis – Photoplay
In my opinion, this is the end of Jadis. Fanatic was forgettable, but this is just dreadful. The band split when Orford and Jowitt left and it doesn’t feel like a band anymore. Buy the rest of their back catalogue, but give Photoplay a miss.
5. Magenta – Seven
If Magenta did Yes… etc. Seven is a prog low point in my opinion. The band were just finding their feet, and thankfully when they did find them they left this Yesesque sound behind and released the clearly wonderful Metamorposis (above). If you love Yes, you’ll love this, but treat it as a bland Yes tribute and it will deliver. Treat it as a stand alone album and it falls somewhat short of the mark.