Category Archives: Prog Rock Sundays

Prog Rock Sunday – “Tarkus”, by ELP (plus bonus video)

Again, while the other sluggards are taking the day off from the A to Z Challenge, I am in the office providing you with another quality post!  Prog Rock Sundays is just too powerful of an institution here in Bloglandia.  I could never miss a day of work!

Okay, I’ve been gentle with you in previous weeks, but this one is dense.  For those of you who are not fully chartered in the school of Prog Rock, this one is about as “Proggy” as it gets.  It is a complex, over-the-top composition that is typical of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

If the only ELP you know are the acoustic ballads that get played on the radio frequently (Lucky Man, Still You Turn Me On, From the Beginning), then this may be a shock.  If you are familiar with the radio edit of “Karn Evil #9”, then you may stand a better chance.  If you are a fan of ELP through and through, then you already love this song, and need no introduction.

ELP is about as excessive in egotistical, self-indulgent Rock-n-Roll as it gets.  The keyboardist, Keith Emerson, is a virtuoso powerhouse that dominates every aspect of the band.  He controls much of the writing, and certainly leads most of the instrumental sections, which can be lengthy and tedious.  He’ll give Carl Palmer a drum solo once in a while, and Greg Lake has his lovely solo acoustic ballads, but I think those only serve as a break for Emerson’s fingers.

But you know what?  I LOVE it!  I love these complex Prog Rock ditties, and will often play them on long drives (when else would I have time for 20+ minute compositions?).

I know that I am not painting a pretty picture here, but trust me, you will see why I felt that I had to prepare the casual listener for the aural onslaught that will ensue.

“Tarkus” is complex, multi-themed, and often hard to follow, but I think that it is a brilliant composition, and a masterpiece.

And so, I present to you, “Tarkus”, by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

Happy Sunday!

Oh, and as a bonus, I cannot help but share this amazing video of Rachel Flowers, a keyboard prodigy (who also happens to be only 18-years old and blind!!) playing an instrumental version of Tarkus on Keith Emerson’s own instruments.  She is quite amazing.  Even if you cannot stomach ELP’s version, you really should check her out, and then watch her other videos!

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Prog Rock Sunday – Songs From the Wood

Happy Sunday to you all.  Greetings, well met fellow, Hail!

While the other sluggards of the A to Z Challenge are taking the day off, I schlepped my way into the office so that I could bring you all my regular Sunday feature: Prog Rock Sunday.  I would have loved to have taken yesterday off, since Saturday is my slowest readership day, but no; I will follow the cruel rules of the game.  “The Man” rules with an iron fist.

Anyway, today’s Prog Rock selection comes to you from Jethro Tull.  Some may argue that they were not a proper Prog Rock band, to which I say, “Shut up, and write your own blog, Luddite!”

Jethro Tull is certainly a Progressive Rock band, at least until the 1980s, or so.  And this song is a lovely example of a Prog Rock band’s ability to write shorter songs.  Yet, at under five minutes, “Songs From the Wood” contains all of the elements of a classic Prog Rock song.  It features orchestral arrangements, multi-part sections, and sounds like a song plucked directly from the Renaissance era.

The album, Songs From the Wood, is Jethro Tull’s tenth studio album, and the first of the unofficially known, “Folk Trio” albums, which also include Heavy Horses and Stormwatch.  Released in February 1977, Songs From the Wood is also considered the first beautiful sounding record by Jethro Tull since 1972s Thick as a Brick.  Jethro Tull had made several heavier, hard-rocking albums in between those two, and Songs From the Wood was a return, in whole, to their folksy roots.

This has always been one of my favorite Jethro Tull songs–next to Thick as  Brick, which I would have loved to include, except that the song “Thick as a Brick” is 43-something minutes long, and I wanted my readers to actually give the song a try.  I think that if you listen to “Songs from the Wood”, you will be pleasantly surprised.  It is a beautiful song with complex compositional parts that make it all the more interesting.

So, without further pause, here it is: “Songs From the Wood”, by Jethro Tull.

Enjoy

Ah, what the heck?  If you have nothing else to do for the next 44 minutes, here is “Thick as a Brick.”

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Prog Rock Sunday – Yes (plus a bonus video)

Good Morning and Happy Sunday!

Today’s Prog Rock Sunday features one of my oldest and favorite bands ever–not mention Prog Rock bands–Yes.  This morning, I chose the somewhat mainstream, Long Distance Runaround/The Fish (Shindleria Praematurus).  I could have gone with so many other songs than that pairing, but many of those others would have been one of Yes’ longer epics; such as Close to the Edge, Sound Chaser, or Ritual, and I figured that no one would sit through such longs pieces willingly on a Sunday (and I don’t blame you).

Also, Liam has been playing Long Distance Runaround on the bass quite a lot lately, so it has been stuck in my head.

You see, when I was a wee laddie, I taught myself how to play the bass guitar by trying to mimic Chris Squire (and Geezer Butler, John Paul Jones, and Phil Lesh).  Squire is a madman on the bass, and a phenomenal musician all-around, and I learned to attack the bass like he did, rather than simply play the bass.

Long Distance Runaround is one of the songs that I always wanted to learn, but I always thought that it was too difficult, and so I never tried.  Until recently, that is.  Liam sort of challenged me to learn it, and it was so much easier than I had anticipated.  I am a bit embarrassed that I never tried before.  I mean, I spent so much of my early bass-playing days trying to mimic Squire’s bass solo from The Fish off the live album, “Yessongs”, but I felt intimidated by Long Distance Runaround.  Ahhh, youth.  We can be so silly sometimes.

Anyway, here it is.  I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you all have a fantastic day!

Oh, and as a bonus, here is Liam kicking ass on the bass part for Long Distance Runaround!

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Prog Rock Sunday – King Crimson

Today’s Prog Rock Sunday features the fantastic and innovative talents of King Crimson.  King Crimson of the 1970s centered on Robert Fripp, and had a revolving door of support players.  By 1973’s “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic”, the line-up had almost solidified with the addition of drummer Bill Bruford, singer/bassist John Wetton, percussionist Jamie Muir, and violinist David Cross.

“Lark’s Tongue” is a masterpiece of controlled jamming and composed improvisation (if any of that makes sense).  Essentially, the band jammed songs into creation, and then Fripp would allow Wetton to sing over some of them.  It was also a period in which Fripp began his experiments in distortion, dissonance, and soundscapes.

My two favorite tracks are the final two; “The Talking Drum”, and “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic (Part Two)”, which are both instrumentals (I’m not really a fan of Wetton).

“The Talking Drum” starts off almost inaudible, and then builds at a frustratingly slow rate, finally reaching full volume at its end.  It is centered on a drum and bass groove that has violin and guitar solos weaving in and out of that groove.  The gradual build-up adds a sort of tension to the groove before releasing into its full potential.  Then, with shrieking feedback, it explodes directly into “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic (Part Two).”

“Lark’s Tongue in Aspic (Part Two)” is a brilliantly composed piece that varies in moods and tones.  It is a sort of precursor to a lot of Heavy Metal in the 1980s, with its distortion and multiple sections.  Think of Metallica during the “Master of Puppets” era, or early Megadeath.  “Lark’s Tongue” is not nearly as heavy, but you will hear its influence.

I find that I enjoy later versions with Adrian Belew on second guitar than I do with the violin, but the original is still brilliant.  The two songs are jazzy, distorted, and definitely Progressive.  I hope you enjoy them.

By-the-way, I had hoped to find a single video with both songs, since I see them as interconnected, but I had to settle for two separate videos.  Again, be patient with “The Talking Drum”, as it is almost inaudible for the first couple minutes.

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Prog Rock Sunday – Rush, “Xanadu”

Happy Sunday, all.  It is time for more Progressive Rock extravagance.  Today’s entry; “Xanadu”, by Rush.  There were so many different Rush songs that I could have chosen; and I’ve been on a real Rush kick lately, but I chose this because a) it is my favorite Rush song, and b) it is the song that introduced me to Progressive Rock.

Before I discovered Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, or King Crimson, I fell in love with Rush’s “A Farewell to Kings” album.  I borrowed it from my friend’s brother, and I think my family kept it for months before returning it (my mom and sister fell in love with it, as well).  This was in 1980, when Permanent Waves and “Spirit of Radio” hit the airwaves, so we were a few years behind, but we still loved this album.  And it was a perfect introduction to something greater.

About a year later, I joined the Columbia House Record Club, where you could get 12 records (LPs) for a penny, and you only had to buy 5 more at regular price in three years.  Of those original 12 records, I think I bought only Rush, Genesis, and Led Zeppelin.  I know we eventually got the entire Rush catalog soon after joining.

Some would argue that Rush is not a “real” Prog Rock band because they were a Hard Rock band first, and then later abandoned any semblance of Prog Rock by 1982.  To that, I say, “Bah!”  Rush is a true Prog Rock band, even if they only did it for a few years.  Check out 2112, Hemispheres, and A Farewell to Kings.  Check out “Natural Science” from Permanent Waves, or “Camera Eye” from Moving Pictures.  They are the real deal.

Oh, and since they are all Canadian, I will just assume that there is some Irish blood somewhere in the band, so there is your St. Patrick’s Day nod.

Anyway, here it is.  I hope you enjoy.  If nothing else, please enjoy Geddy Lee in leggings and a Kimono!

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Prog Rock Sunday

I have decided that since many people are out enjoying their weekend instead of reading blogs all day that I would start a new segment for Sundays with a theme.  Since my readership is at a weekly low on Sundays, I thought that I would not post any of my hard work, and instead, post a song.  Not just any song, but a song from one of my all-time favorite genres: Progressive Rock.

I seems to fit, in my mind, to have rock music with such a deep classical bent attached on Sundays.  I was raised Catholic, and Sunday is our Sabbath, but since music is my religion these days (always has been, actually), I choose to use this sacred day to play the holiest of music.

Besides, I am working all day, and I won’t be checking my blog every 5 minutes.

Today’s song is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music–Firth of Fifth, by Genesis.  Long, long ago, before Genesis became Phil Collins’ backing band, and they focused on gimmicks and cheap pop ballads to get airplay on MTV, they were a weird Progressive Rock band.  Back then, Phil Collins was just a drummer, and Peter Gabriel was a really strange dude fronting the band.  They created brilliant music with heavy classical influences, led by Tony Banks’ virtuoso keyboards, and created a uniquely “English” sound that harkens back to the Edwardian era.

Firth of Fifth has several sections, beginning with a beautiful piano intro that leads into a powerful rock and roll section before going back into the required progressive rock elements of a flute solo, followed by a keyboard solo, followed by a guitar solo that brings the original themes together.  Later in their career, they would continue to play the middle solo sections as part of some medley during their live shows.

Liam and I–neither of whom is classically trained on piano–have been attempting to play the piano intro for a few months now.  We are making progress, but still so far to go.

So, here you go.  I hope you enjoy!

Happy Sunday!

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