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Evil never sounded like so much fun: Magma’s magnificently menacing epic ‘De Futura’ live, 1977
09.02.2014
07:58 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Magma

Magma
 
For my money, the French avant/prog/metal band Magma’s greatest track is “De Futura.” A wild-n-heavy number that first appeared on their 1976 album Udu Wudu, it really came to life in a live setting, where epic versions often lasted 20+ minutes.

This performance was recorded live at the Hippodrome de Pantin in Paris on May 14th, 1977, and aired on French TV. Here the group features two drummers, including Magma founder Christian Vander (he’s the one making the best ROCK faces this side of Nigel Tufnel), and two back-up singers who look like cult members. Oh, and did I mention Magma’s songs are sung in their own made-up language? It doesn’t get more wonderfully weird than this, folks.

Unfortunately, this was edited for TV and the footage ends just shy of the ten-minute mark, because by then the band had worked themselves into a glorious frenzy (the background singers look hypnotized!).

Ah well, enjoy what you can. Evil never sounded like so much fun!
 

 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
MAGMA’s cheerfully insane brand of sci-fi avant garde make them prog rock’s weirdest outliers
08.19.2014
07:59 am

Topics:
Music
Unorthodox

Tags:
prog rock
MAGMA


H.R. Giger’s cover for 1978’s Attahk album

From the Dangerous Minds archives:

French progrockers MAGMA sing their lyrics in “Kobaïan,” a made-up phonetic language based on German and Slavic languages constructed by the group’s founder, Christian Vander, after he had a “vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future.”

MAGMA’s albums tell the multi-part sci-fi saga of humans who have been forced to leave a dying Earth behind and settle on the planet Kobaïa. MAGMA’s unusual sound is described as “zeuhl” in Kobaïan, which means “heavenly” and Vander claims his biggest musical influence is John Coltrane at his most celestial. One can also detect some Zappa, Stravinsky and “Carmina Burana.”

The mysterious MAGMA are considered somewhat tangential members of the progressive subgenre (“avant garde” might be a bit more accurate) and have little in common with the likes of Yes, Genesis or King Crimson. Certainly it can said that they hoe their own row! Often they sound like an extremely dark heavy metal band. You can’t really compare MAGMA to anyone else, they’re just that weird. Give me MAGMA over Emerson, Lake & Palmer any day!

As on YouTuber quipped:

If anything could be more twisted and insane than Magma, it’s early Magma.

They’re even weirder than Gong and that ain’t easy!
 

 
More MAGMA after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Power and The Glory of Gentle Giant
08.18.2014
12:00 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Steven Wilson
Gentle Giant


 
70s progressive rock cult group Gentle Giant were known for their concept albums featuring complex lyrics (the work of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing on mental illness inspired them, so did Rabelais) multi-part vocal harmonies, and abrupt tempo and key changes (often within the same bar). Their singular musical style featured unusual chord progressions, instrumental and voice counterpoint, “classical” and madrigal themes repeated and traded between instruments with medieval instrumentation and choral styles not often heard in the rock—or even progressive rock—genre.

Recently their 1974 album The Power and The Glory came out on the Alucard label remixed for 5.1 surround on DVD and Blu-ray by Porcupine Tree’s Steven WIlson. I asked group members Ray Shulman, Kerry Minnear and Derek Shulman some questions via email.

Dangerous Minds: What was your reaction to first hearing Steven Wilson’s 5.1 surround mix of The Power and The Glory?

Ray Shulman: Over the last few years we’d been asked by a number of people whether they could mix our albums in surround. We were always reluctant until Steven approached us. Having authored some of his other Blu-rays and DVDs I was very familiar with his work. What’s great is that he pays a lot of respect to the original mix in terms of balance and tone but by spreading it around the available sound field, in such a creative way, it gives it a new life and I would think even listeners already familiar with the album would get a new perspective on the arrangements. Hopefully you can tell I’m pleased.

Kerry Minnear: I enjoyed Steve’s stereo mix of The Power and The Glory very much finding him to be able to ‘beef things up’ but keeping the original instrumental sounds clear and vibrant. I don’t have a 5.1 system but I imagine that in that medium the counterpoint and part sharing in the music will be great to experience. I’m saving up for a new system just so I can hear it!

Derek Shulman: I was happy that Steven respected the sonic quality of original mixes. He “tweaked” parts of the low end of the drums and bass and made slight adjustments to levels of the bass and kick drum. Overall I was very happy with Steven’s work on the album.

Do you reckon that you’re seeing Gentle Giant attract new fans as a result of the 5.1 release? It would seem to me that there’s a real interest in among audiophiles about what Steven Wilson is doing, so that someone getting into Yes or Jethro Tull for the first time might pick up on his Hawkwind project, the Caravan album or your album because he worked on it. Has this been the case?

Ray Shulman: That’s a hard one for me to answer but I know that Derek, who’s out and about with other acts of our era, comes across many young fans hearing about us for the first time. More surprising is other acts, not associated with prog, who now site our band as an influence.

Kerry Minnear: There is an annual GG fan convention which I have attended and each year it appears that there is a growing percentage of fans in their twenties. I can only imagine this is the power of the Internet and the availability of GG music on it. I would certainly hope that this new release could make more potential followers aware of us, both young and old.

Derek Shulman: The ‘odd’ thing is is that after 40 years our music still seems to be relevant to both old fans and newer fans..I hope this indicated that we at least did some things ‘right’.

Steven’s involvement in the audiophile world is obviously very influential of course. We’re happy that a musician of his stature wanted to be involved with our music. If he can bring newer fans to listen to what we had recorded then we are very grateful to him.

In the way that pop culture gets recycled, at the moment, prog is the new reggae, which was the new easy listening, which was the new jazz, etc. It must be gratifying to so many new fans come into the fold, especially for a band with no intention of reforming or playing live again?

Ray Shulman: The amusing thing is how, in the late seventies and the dawn of punk, commentators hid their prog albums for fear of ridicule. Time has truly softened their stance and even the most hardened critics can now confess their appreciation of bands such as ours.

Kerry Minnear: It is gratifying, and it really was a privilege to be part of a band with such a unique set of dynamics. We could never have predicted the consistency of the music’s appeal through the years.I am often quite baffled by it all!

Derek Shulman: Well… as I had indicated I guess we may have by ‘default’ did some things right..or at least we didn’t stray too far from what we wanted to be as a musical entity. I think that in some ways the fact that new and younger fans are listening to our music says a lot about who and what a musician should be. We tried to push our own musical boundaries for ourselves first, to be better musicians for our own benefit. If we could make a living at that, this was enough. Not to sound pretentious for the sake of it ;-) but I believe fans old and new can see that our music was somewhat ‘authentic’ in that regard.

A friend of mine said that in the 70s, Gentle Giant were the band that comes after Genesis is in the rearview mirror, but Henry Cow is still off in the distance and too artsy and obscure for most people. Whereas there might be more than a little truth to that, I think it misses the fact that there was a sense of humor going on with Gentle Giant, too, at least that’s what I’m hearing. Were you guys always serious or was it more playful that that?

Ray Shulman: Although I don’t agree with your friends pecking order :-) we never took ourselves too seriously. Even though we took our music very seriously we were all too aware things could come across as pretentious or pompous. To that end I think we were always quite self-deprecating.

Kerry Minnear: It’s a fact that humour played a big part in things, it was never far from the surface. No one was allowed to be a prima donna, they were quickly de-throned. It played a big part in the music too, as did another not so typical emotion, nostalgia. So much music is self-assured and self-promoting, it’s nice to hear some different human emotions creeping in now and then.

Derek Shulman: To be honest we didn’t really see anyone in the rearview mirror or indeed in the front windshield, either. We were quite a sequestered group and not part of any scene. What we were however were very hard working musicians who practiced and played more for our own personal pleasure to try to make ourselves better for each other and then for the audience who would come to see us.

That being said we never took ourselves too seriously as people or musicians. I had deliberately mentioned pomposity previously. There is a great deal of playfulness in our music if you listen carefully… VERY CAREFULLY!!!

Below, The Power and The Glory-era Gentle Giant captured on 16mm film directed by Christopher Nupen, a classical music film director who invited the band to record this concert in a film studio in Brussels for the German television station ZDF:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Prog Is A 4 Letter Word’: Exclusive Flaming Lips prog rock playlist


 
Enjoy this exclusive mix compiled for Dangerous Minds readers by Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips.

Prog Is a 4 Letter Word

“South Side of the Sky” - Yes
“Siberian Khatru” - Yes
“Knife Edge” - ELP
“Watcher of the Skies” - Genesis
“Archangel Thunderbird” (proto prog-punk) - Amon Düül II
“Darkness” - Van der Graaf Generator
“Yours Is No Disgrace” - Yes
“Cygnus X-1 book 1” - Rush
“The Inner Mounting Flame” - Mahavishnu Orchestra
“Thick As A Brick” - Jethro Tull

The pair’s Flaming Lips sideproject, recorded as Electric Würms with Nashville-based psych-rock band Linear Downfall, is called Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk. The EP is comes out on CD, vinyl and iTunes via Warner Bros. Records on August 19th. Later today we’ll premiere the Miles Davis-influenced track “Transform” from the new release.
 

 

Posted by Electric Würms | Leave a comment
Prog perfection: Van der Graaf Generator’s ONLY live performance of ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’
08.14.2014
06:09 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Van der Graaf Generator
Peter Hammill


 
From the Dangerous Minds archives…

Although history will recall the Van der Graaf Generator as being a “progressive rock” group, in many respects, this assessment has more to do with timing than the actual music this far ahead-of-their-time band actually made. Imagine if Pawn Hearts, their masterpiece, was released in 1981 instead of 1971, if you take my point.

It wasn’t for nuthin’ that the likes of John Lydon, Julian Cope and Marc Almond were all such massive fans of the group. David Bowie, too.

And speaking of Pawn Hearts, this is an album I’ve loved for decades, and yet I remained blissfully unaware of the existence of this single, solitary live filmed performance of “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers,” the sprawling, 23-minute-long epic suite consisting of ten separate movements that takes up the entirety of that album’s side two. I found this by accident yesterday, looking for something else. My jaw dropped as I watched it.

This 1972 performance from Belgium television—which is nothing short of astonishing and quite intensely intense—was shot piecemeal and edited together because it was impossible to play the song all in one go. Apparently, this is the only time “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” was ever performed live like this by the original classic line-up of Hugh Banton, Guy Evans, Peter Hammill and David Jackson.

Peter Hammill told this to the Sounds music newspaper about the theme of the enigmatic suite:

“It’s just the story of the lighthouse keeper, that’s it on its basic level. And there’s the narrative about his guilt and his complexes about seeing people die and letting people die, and not being able to help. In the end—well, it doesn’t really have an end, it’s really up to you to decide. He either kills himself or he rationalises it all and can live in peace… Then on the psychic/religious level it’s about him coming to terms with himself, and at the end there is either him losing it all completely to insanity, or transcendence; it’s either way at the end… And then it’s also about the individual coming to terms with society—that’s the third level…”

 

 
Van der Graaf Generator performed “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” each night of their 2013 summer tour dates.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘What’s prog?’: Prog rock talk with Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd
08.13.2014
10:51 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Wayne Coyne
Electric Würms
Steven Drozd


 
What is prog? Why is prog? Is prog good? Is it okay to like prog? Who is prog?

What’s an “Electric Würm”? Are Electric Würms prog? And if not, what “are” they?

These burning questions—and more—answered as Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd talk prog rock.

The new Electric Würms’ EP Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk (“Music that’s Hard to Twerk to”) comes out on August 19th on Warner Brothers Records.
 

Posted by Electric Würms | Leave a comment
Heavy metal yodeling: What’s more insane ‘Hocus Pocus’ or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?
08.13.2014
08:23 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Focus


 
From the Dangerous Minds archives:

“Hocus Pocus” was an AM and FM radio hit for Dutch prog-rockers Focus, straddling the line between avant garde and just plain silly. Focus, you might say, were one of the few prog rock bands who didn’t take themselves so seriously. How could they with a signature tune like this one?

Although “Hocus Pocus” was originally released in 1971 on their Moving Waves record, it didn’t really become a hit until 1973 when they re-recorded a faster version for release as a single. Of course, it’s unlikely that any song which could be (accurately) described as “heavy metal yodeling” would ever get radio play in the first place, let alone become an absolute worldwide smash, but improbably, that’s what happened.

“Hocus Pocus” takes the form of a rondo, meaning a central motif (in this case the guitar riff) keeps returning as drum, flute, accordion and guitar solos each, in turn, take the spotlight. The lyrics are just gibberish. It might be the most elaborate hit single, either before or since Queen’s epically ridiculous “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

When Focus would perform “Hocus Pocus” live, the group would play the tune even faster, with each member of the band taking an extended solo. I admit to being the proud owner of not only Moving Waves, but also their live album, Focus at the Rainbow, which includes an eight minute-long version of the song. Many people will know the tune because it was used in a Nike commercial shown repeatedly during the World Cup in 2010.
 

 
Here Focus seen are performing their smash on The Midnight Special in 1973:
 

 
More Focus after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Genesis: The legendary Shepperton Studios concert in HD
03.20.2014
06:42 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Genesis


 
The restoration of the film of Genesis performing at Shepperton Studios in 1973 is perhaps the single most heroic episode in the history of fanatical fandom.

I might not have all the details exactly correct, but the gist of it is that about ten years ago a guy who goes by the online handle of “King Lerch” became aware of a 16mm film of of a live Genesis concert from 1973 that was being auctioned off as part of an estate sale in New York. He then noticed that a small group of Genesis fans were planning to pool their resources, rather than bid against each other and joined forces with them. No one had any idea what exactly was on the film or even what condition it was in, so by banding together, their risk was spread out, and minimized.

Like most reels of Kodak film from 1973, the film had gone a bit red and required significant clean-up in that department. The audio was kind of iffy, too, coming as it would from the magnetic track on the celluloid print. Apparently a few hundred man hours were devoted to the project and it became widely known when it was released—for free—to grateful Genesis fans on the Internet.

The version that was done ten years ago amazed and delighted fans of the group, but a couple of years ago, good King Lerch and his merry men opted to make yet another better version, taking advantage of updated audio/visual technology, and the fact that many people now have Blu-ray burners, to offer an HD version—it’s free for download at the Genesis Museum—of the Shepperton concert. That’s… really generous

Old Michael went past the pet shop, which was never open, into the park, which was never closed, and the park was full of a very smooth, clean, green grass. So Henry took off all his clothes and began rubbing his flesh into the wet, clean, green grass. He accompanied himself with a little tune - it went like this….

Set list:
“Watcher Of The Skies”
“Dancing With The Moonlit Knight”
“I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”
“The Musical Box”
“Supper’s Ready”

This is perhaps the single best representation of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis on film. Sadly there is next to nothing that exists of live footage of them playing their enigmatic, inscrutable masterpiece, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but if I had to pick a second choice, it would be seeing them do their seven-movement progressive rock sonata, Foxtrot‘s epic “Supper’s Ready.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
King Crimson: Incredibly heavy, yet somehow still gravity-defying live set from 1974
03.10.2014
02:11 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
King Crimson
Robert Fripp
prog rock


 
As there is precious little live footage of the pre-80s incarnations of King Crimson—Beat Club, the poor quality fragment from Hyde Park in 1969 and the Central Park 1974 clip, not much—this extended 29-minute set from France’s Melody television show is a treasure (even with all of those goofy video effects, in fact, I think they enhance it nicely).

The line-up is Bill Bruford, John Wetton, David Cross and Robert Fripp.

1 - Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part II
2 - The Night Watch
3 - Lament
4 - Starless

Larks’ Tongues here is frighteningly good.

The quality is great, but it’s even better on the deluxe 40th Anniversary Series edition of Red that came out in 2009. That release, with Steve Wilson’s insane 5.1 surround mix of the album (done with Robert Fripp’s participation), sounds like a jet plane lifting off inside your living room skull. Red happens to be one of the heaviest rock albums of all time. Crank it up loud enough and the sonic power of that album can blow you away like a feather in the wind. Most King Crimson albums I find to be a bit spotty (some of them are really spotty, in fact) but when they lock into a serious groove, like on Red’s unfuckingbelievable title cut, well it’s awe-inspiring.

If you haven’t heard the Steve Wilson 5.1 surround treatment of the classic King Crimson albums and you’ve got a 5.1 set up for TV and gaming, they are simply superb. I recommend starting with the first King Crimson album, In the Court of the Crimson King, because it’s a great—indeed the perfect—place to start anyway, plus Wilson did such a crazy good job with it. Ditto with Lizard. Hell, I never even liked that album, but in Wilson’s mix the “rock band as symphony” aspect of the work is teased out nicely and envelops you like you’re standing inside of a large (and especially complex) audio equivalent of an Alexander Calder mobile.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Emerson Lake & Palmer: Do they suck?


 
Over the weekend and for half the day yesterday, I tried—TRIED—to figure out if there was anything worthwhile in the Emerson Lake & Palmer catalog.

The answer is yes, but not that much! For the most part, they’re bloody horrible, exhibiting the very worst muso excesses of any of the progrock bands. Musical hubris on a very grand scale, pop pomposity writ large. Genesis seem humble compared to these guys. Even Yes never got even close to the edge of what ELP were all about. One album after another struck me as tedious, boring and just “virtuoso” shite, but there was occasionally a number—or a snatch of something, a moment in one of their longer pieces—that was not just good, but excellent. Those highlights were, quite honestly, to my ears, few and far between.

At their best, ELP could be sublime. No really. Carl Palmer is a truly great drummer. Keith Emerson is a keyboard god. Greg Lake, that man could sing! At their worst, they sound like three goofballs whose best idea was to rip off B. Bumble & The Stinger’s “Nut Rocker”, play it on the Moog and add an orchestra!

My wife politely inquired at one point “What the fuck is this shit?” When I told her, she rolled her eyes, shook her head and walked away from me, disappointed.
 

 
This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to figure out if there is anything decent in ELP’s recorded output. A double A-side of “Lucky Man” and the even better “From the Beginning” was one of the very first 45s I ever bought and I had most of their albums, purchased at a garage sale for 25 cents each. For a nine-year-old kid, the die-cut, fold-out H.R. Giger cover of Brain Salad Surgery seemed extra mysterious and cool, but the music left me totally cold. It’s not like I didn’t try to listen to it. A) I only had so many records at that age and B) because they were such a monster group, I wondered if maybe it was something that I wasn’t getting. (I listened to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music around that same time, over and over again on headphones, because it irked me that I didn’t quite understand it.)

By the time Never Mind the Bollocks was in my hot little hands, I never gave Emerson Lake and Palmer another thought. Probably like the vast majority of you reading this, I would imagine.

Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to name a band so more or less forgotten, but who were once so MASSIVELY POPULAR. During their heyday, ELP sold over 25 million albums. There were basically tied with Led Zeppelin for the top-grossing touring act of 1974 and they co-headlined (with Deep Purple) the massive “California Jam” concert that year, a gig that drew over 250,000 people.
 

Awards? We got ‘em!

The next time I was reminded of them, they were hawking their box set on Live with Regis and Kathy Lee in the early 90s looking rather well-fed.

This is not a troll post, I promise. Maybe I’m the one still missing something… I’m happy to listen to anything by ELP that anyone cares to post in the comments. Here’s the best of what I found, my (admittedly short) list of Emerson, Lake and Palmer favorites.
 

“From the Beginning”—this song, a typical acoustic “Greg Lake number”—is killer. I’d rate this song a perfect 10/10. It’s awesome. Check out that fantastic Moog work from Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer’s delicate percussion. Why couldn’t they always be this restrained?
 

“Lucky Man”—another “Greg Lake number” (and written when he was just twelve years old!). This one’s a stone classic, nothing controversial in that statement, right? A great pop song. One for the ages.
 

Here you can see Emerson Lake & Palmer play Mussorgsky’s 1874 piece, “Pictures at an Exhibition” at London’s Lyceum Theater in 1970. Because this composition is often used to demonstrate “prowess” by concert pianists, I’m including this out of respect for Keith Emerson’s prodigious talents, but… yeah. This is all kinds of Spinal Tap…
 
More ELP after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Demons of the Night Gather: Black Widow, amazing, obscure early 70s ‘Satanic’ prog rock group
07.24.2013
12:49 pm

Topics:
Music
Occult

Tags:
prog rock
Black Widow


 
Black Widow were an early 70s British progrock group known primarily for their use of occult and often outright Satanic imagery in their act. They “consulted” with “King of the Witches,” Alex Sanders about the rituals they performed onstage, and he is said to have advised them that they were in danger of evoking a “she devil.” (That’s a buck-naked Maxine Sanders seen on one of their picture sleeves).

Their best known song, not really a hit, but it’s excellent just the same, was “Come To The Sabbat.” With its persistent sonorous chant of “Come, come, come to the Sabbat, come to the Sabbat, Satan’s there” and that flute, Black Widow really didn’t sound like anybody else (maybe a more evil-sounding Uriah Heep?). Too bad that they disbanded after three albums and not much interest, because Black Widow could rock.

Black Widow actually recorded one album before they split that was never released, but it did eventually come out in 1999 on Mystic Records. Black Widow reformed in 2011 and put out new music. There’s even been a Black Widow tribute album made by various doom metal bands.

Thankfully, for such an obscure group, there was a pretty decent documentation of Black Widow’s stage act left behind due to a 1970 Beat Club appearance. In it, they perform the entirety of their Sacrifice album. It was released on by Mystic Records in 2007 as Demons of the Night Gather to See Black Widow.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Mother Superior jumped the gun: Unknown all female prog rock group from the 1970s
07.17.2013
12:31 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Mother Superior

image
 
One of the first all-girl rock groups—and they were “prog rockers” at that—the UK-based Mother Superior recorded just one album in 1975 before going their separate ways. Apparently it was only released in Sweden.

From Prog Archives:

UK band MOTHER SUPERIOR was formed in the summer of 1974, when bassist Jackie Badger turns up for an audition to join UK band Cosmetix and finds the main members of that band in an almighty row that ends their history there and then. She opts to hook up Jackie Crew and Audrey Swinburne now formerly of Cosmetix, and through and ad in Melody Maker New Zealand musician Lesley Sly becomes the final member of the new band, and following a long session involving substantial amounts of alcohol they come up with the band name Mother Superior.

The band is actively gigging whenever and wherever they can, performing in pubs, at air-force bases and later on a number of gigs in Central Europe follows. While they do build up a regular fanbase, the UK record labels aren’t overly keen on signing this all girl band. As bassist Jackie Brewster revealed in her blog: “One night at the Golden Lion, the place is rammed with an audience of men and women, Sony have sent an A and R man down who says to us after two encores, that he can’t see who our market is, women would be jealous of us and men wouldn’t buy our records because their girlfriends wouldn’t like it. “

At that point in time this isn’t a great concern for the band. They have recorded their debut album in the usual manner of a new band their label doesn’t really think too much of - late night sessions handled by inexperienced studio techs promising that “it will be all right in the mix”. The album is subsequently released on a small Swedish label attached to their own label Polydor, which does give the band a good reason to tour Scandinavia the following year. That their label chose to call the album “Lady Madonna” just one more decision made that wasn’t approved by the band members.

Following extensive gigging, a label not really believing in the band, the usual on the road hassles and management problems, line-up alterations and day to day problems became the order of the day for Mother Superior. They decided to call it quits in 1977, their final gig performed on December 9th.

Seen here on an unknown TV show, the band does an original, almost Yes-like take on the Stephen Stills classic, “Love the One You’re With.” (Here’s a link to their interesting cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.”)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
MAGMA’s cheerfully insane brand of sci-fi avant garde make them progrock’s weirdest outliers
07.01.2013
01:31 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
MAGMA


H.R. Giger’s cover for 1978’s Attahk album

French progrockers MAGMA sing their lyrics in “Kobaïan,” a made-up phonetic language based on German and Slavic languages constructed by the group’s founder, Christian Vander, after he had a “vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future.”

MAGMA’s albums tell the multi-part sci-fi saga of humans who have been forced to leave a dying Earth behind and settle on the planet Kobaïa. MAGMA’s unusual sound is described as “zeuhl” in Kobaïan, which means “heavenly” and Vander claims his biggest musical influence is John Coltrane at his most celestial. One can also detect some Zappa, Stravinsky and “Carmina Burana.”

The mysterious MAGMA are considered somewhat tangential members of the progressive subgenre (“avant garde” might be a bit more accurate) and have little in common with the likes of Yes, Genesis or King Crimson. Certainly it can said that they hoe their own row! Often they sound like an extremely dark heavy metal band. You can’t really compare MAGMA to anyone else, they’re just that weird. Give me MAGMA over Emerson, Lake & Palmer any day!

As on YouTuber quipped:

If anything could be more twisted and insane than Magma, it’s early Magma.

They’re even weirder than Gong and that ain’t easy!
 

 
More MAGMA after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Prog perfection: Van der Graaf Generator’s ONLY live performance of ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’
04.23.2013
12:54 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Van der Graaf Generator


 
Although history will recall the Van der Graaf Generator as being a “progressive rock” group, in many respects, this assessment has more to do with timing than the actual music this far ahead-of-their-time band actually made. Imagine if Pawn Hearts, their masterpiece, was released in 1981 instead of 1971, if you take my point.

It wasn’t for nuthin’ that the likes of John Lydon, Julian Cope and Marc Almond were such massive fans of the group. David Bowie, it is alleged, once refereed to himself the “poor man’s Peter Hammill”!

And speaking of Pawn Hearts, this is an album I’ve loved for decades, and yet I remained blissfully unaware of the existence of this single, solitary live filmed performance of “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers,” the sprawling, 23-minute-long epic suite consisting of ten separate movements that takes up the entirety of that album’s side two. I found this by accident yesterday, looking for something else. My jaw dropped as I watched it.

This 1972 performance from Belgium television—which is nothing short of astonishing and quite intensely intense—was shot piecemeal and edited together because it was impossible to play the song all in one go. Apparently, this is the only time “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” was ever performed live like this by the original classic line-up of Hugh Banton, Guy Evans, Peter Hammill and David Jackson.

Peter Hammill told this to the Sounds music paper about the theme of the enigmatic suite:

“It’s just the story of the lighthouse keeper, that’s it on its basic level. And there’s the narrative about his guilt and his complexes about seeing people die and letting people die, and not being able to help. In the end - well, it doesn’t really have an end, it’s really up to you to decide. He either kills himself, or he rationalises it all and can live in peace… Then on the psychic/religious level it’s about him coming to terms with himself, and at the end there is either him losing it all completely to insanity, or transcendence; it’s either way at the end… And then it’s also about the individual coming to terms with society - that’s the third level…”

According to Peter Hammill, writing on his website just a few days ago, Van der Graaf Generator will be performing “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” each night of their upcoming 2013 summer tour dates.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Rock snob alert: Dig the Soviet bloc psychedelia of Hungary’s Omega
03.27.2013
10:26 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
prog rock
Omega


 
One of the most influential bands ever to come out of the Eastern Bloc, Hungary’s legendary Omega have been at it since 1962, the same year the Rolling Stones first got together. Give or take a couple of early members departing and a period of inactivity during 1987-1994, they are one of the longest-running acts in rock history and with one of the most stable line-ups.

Omega’s sound has obviously changed over their five decades, travelling light years from their early Beatles-influenced pop songs towards something kinda like early Status Quo fuzz box guitar meets the Moody Blues classical rock (or sometimes like a Slavic version of schlager), then a prog rock sound in the 70s that gave way to harder rocking wail (and even disco) by later in that decade. The 1980s saw them develop a spacerock thing that continues to be their signature sound.

Since Omega recorded songs in both magyar and in English, and regularly toured in England and Germany (The Scorpions are known to be big fans) they are one of the most popular groups to originate from the Communist bloc.
 

 
In any case, it’s more Omega’s early material that I like the best, so that’s what I’m going to post here. I hadn’t thought about this band in years until one of our readers, Kjirsten Winters, reminded me of them. I was shocked by how many amazing vintage clips of this band exist. Feast your eyes and ears on Omega…

Start with the mind-bending “Tékozló fiúk” (“Prodigal Sons”) from 1969. Play it LOUD!
 

 
More Omega after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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