Prog Thoughts Buffet
Jerry Lucky Commentary December 2017
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2017 All Rights Reserved
As I sit getting ready to celebrate Christmas (or if you are reading this after December 25th, having spent the holidays with Family)…it’s that time to reflect on the year that was 2017. It’s a time to look back and take stalk of what took place over the previous twelve months, or fifty-two weeks or 365 days…etc., albeit from a very narrow perspective.
I was driving to a comic book convention back in October and took the opportunity to listen to a couple of albums I hadn’t listened to in some time, namely Genesis’ Duke and the Pineapple Thief’sSomeone Here is Missing, two very different sounding albums. And then around the same time I watched three Camel DVDs that contained music video clips from their early days to their more recent material. Listening and watching all of this Progressive Rock music in a short span of time caused me to think back about – what exactly counts as a prog rock musical endeavor. I know that’s one of those “bottomless pit questions” but all this music caused me to reflect back on this as a kind of thinking exercise because in these days of what some are calling “Post Rock” I feel it’s getting harder and harder to meaningfully label music. Which in the mind of some is a good thing, I guess. In fact there are some who are probably thinking just the opposite, now we can apply a unique and individual stylistic label to each and every band. No one is Pidgeon-holed anymore. Everyone has their own genre label. Well, perhaps?
But getting back to the music I was watching and listening to there is a world of difference between the music of those three bands and yet to my mind they all exhibit a strong Progressive Rock vibe, especially if like me you identify Prog by the various elements used in it’s creation. That said I get new music almost daily and when I read the promo material it’s clear the boundaries are getting ever blurrier and at the same time the labels are getting increasingly convoluted. It seems the people who come up with these new labels are using the labels to in some way carve out the band’s uniqueness. Well, perhaps?
Setting aside this whole issue of labels I wanted to refresh my memory about what is it that makes a good prog song? I realise this will sound vain and self-serving but to my mind I’ve not read or heard of any definition or description of what constitutes a Progressive Rock song that is better than the one I created in The Progressive Rock Files. My description is one that involves a song incorporating key descriptive elements in a manner that makes the end result a Prog song. This would be things like non-traditional song structure, long intros, changes in time-tempo-musical dynamics etc. (For a complete list check out The Progressive Rock Files) I have always maintained that if you wanted to write a Country song there were certain elements you would write to, if you wanted to write a reggae tune there are certain things you would adhere to and similarly if you wanted to write a Prog song you would create it a certain way. I’ve yet to have this concept disproved to my satisfaction so I’m sticking with it. No surprise there, right?
Now on to something else. Inevitably in a time of reflection one must ask - Was it a good year? And I would have to say, yes in so many ways. Certainly in the areas of life where I have some semblance of control life is pretty good. Health wise, no major complaints, wife wise – “happy wife, happy life” seems to be a truism and family wise no one’s been locked up or worse so all in all life is pretty good. From a new release standpoint…my highlights would have to be…Forever Twelve – Home, Playgrounded – In Time With Gravity, Sky Architect – Nomad, Bubblemath – Edit Peptide, Kaipa – Children of the Sounds, Machines Dream – Black Science, Kant Freud Kafka – Onirico, Brother Ape – Karma, Lonely Robot – The Big Dream, White Willow – Future Hopes, Steve Hacket – The Night Siren, and these are just for starters off the top of my head.
Were there any low lights? Of course there were. We lost a lot of wonderful talent: Greg Lake, Alan Holdsworth and John Wetton come to mind. And it’s probably safe to say we had favorite bands that skipped 2017 with no new music release. I’m thinking of Transatlantic for example. Still it’s good to be thankful for what we have rather than whinge about what we don’t.
Oh, here’s something, the numbering of my reviews is an experiment that is finished. I was prompted to try a little experiment this year where I offered a number out of five as kind of a rating for the new reviews but I have to admit it caused more confusion than anything else. What was happening was this: my number of 1 to 5 out of 5 was not based on quality as much as it was on other attributes of the recording. The number 1 was given (rarely) for material that was not my cup-of-tea and the number 5 was given to what I called Brilliant Prog. So it was possible for me two write about a band and say all kinds of nice things but only give it a 2 out of 5 because the music fell in the “Intriguing” category. This would confuse the artist who would say how come you said all those nice things but only gave it a 2? So I’m not going to do that anymore. Instead I may just stick with the word rating, calling something Satisfying or Brilliant, not sure yet.
I also want to take a moment to plug my radio show that’s heard exclusively on The Dividing Line Broadcast Network. I’ve completed over seventy programs as of this writing and we always keep the four most recent programs up on the site for streaming or downloading. For the most part, the program is devoted to new, independent and unsigned Progressive Rock artists and each program lasts a little over ninety-minutes with a little background given on each artist. So it’s more than just the music you get to hear me blather on a little bit as I do my part to promote these folks as they work to create some great music. Essentially if I take the time to put a review on my website I will try to include them in the radio show. As always I hope you find the time to give it a listen and if at all possible send me some feedback. I always enjoy hearing what you think.
Lastly then I want to thank all the artists, labels and promo companies for keeping me in the loop when it comes to new music. I also want to say a special thank you to all of you who regularly read my scribbling here on The Progressive Rock Files Web Site. I always enjoy hearing from you and appreciate you taking time out of your day to drop by. I wish you all the best in 2018.