Rolling Stone Reader’s Poll – Top 10 Best Prog Rock Bands

August 11, 2011

Top 10 All Time Prog Bands

Rolling Stone Magazine did a reader’s poll to find out who they thought the top 10 prog bands of all time are. Some of the results may surprise you … but remember, this is a poll of “regular” people, not prog-heads. Still, they’re all solid choices. Just probably not the choices I would have made. At least not all of them. Before clicking the link, make your prediction for who won the #1 slot, remembering the magazine who sponsored it. I guessed right! It is pretty obvious.

Click here to go to the Rolling Stone poll site. — Fred Trafton

Derek Sherinian – Oceana

August 9, 2011

In the last release of the GEPR, I added an entry for Derek Sherinian with a bunch of blathering about his tenure with Dream Theater, etc. To this I should have added his credentials of playing with lots of famous rockers in a supporting role, including Billy Idol, Alice Cooper (Cooper dubbed him “The Caligula of the keyboards” whatever that’s supposed to mean), Kiss (backstage, black and white face paint and silver platform shoes were not required) and tech-metal icon Yngwie Malmsteen. In addition, he’s the keyman for “Classic Rock” super-group Black Country Communion. But I didn’t have much to say about his solo albums because I hadn’t actually heard any of them. Well, now that’s changed because I’ve now heard the soon-to-be-released (Sept. 5, 2011) new album Oceana. I have to say, I’m quite impressed, though not for the reasons I thought I would be.

I expected to hear keyboard work and soloing similar to what I heard from his (former?) band Planet X. This is very guitar-like in the way he bends pitches, trills and makes fast speed-metal-like arpeggios. There’s a little of this on Oceana, but overall I’d say it reminds me more of Chick Corea from the Return to Forever / Elektric Band days, or maybe even a bit of Eddie Jobson from the first UK album. In other words, fusion, not speed metal at all.

Well, OK, when guest guitarist Tony MacAlpine cranks up, it gets pretty speed metallish sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes the guitar work really reminds me of Allan Holdsworth, though I’m not sure if this is MacAlpine, one of Sherinian‘s other guests, or possibly even Sherinian himself playing in “guitar mode”. Whatever, Oceana is a collection of really good fusion pieces with influences from other musical genres also playing in “guest-starring” roles. Production, composition and technical execution are all second to none. It doesn’t get any better than this. Highly recommended!

One more thing – the album cover is great! Right-click the cover photo to open it up full-screen and check out the detail on the vintage keyboards at the bottom of the ocean. — Fred Trafton

“Watcher” by Yes w/ Peter Gabriel vocals?

August 4, 2011

So, the claim here is that Yes was warming up for a TV performance and Peter Gabriel walked by, so they just did their own impromptu version of “Watcher of the Skies” and let Gabriel sing it. There’s even bits and pieces of “Close to the Edge” in here. The guy who uploaded it even claims to be the DJ that can be heard talking in French before and after the clip.

The dates don’t seem like they line up right for this to be genuine. Also, as my buddy who sent this to me Ted Zeppelin pointed out, it’s hard to believe us prog-heads had never heard of such a performance before, even if the original recording had been lost. Ya know, I hardly care if it’s real. It’s unbelievably cool. I just wish the quality wasn’t so grungy (perhaps to disguise the fakery?) I’d love to hear someone do a cleaned-up version with some “Gabriel Clone” singer. Heck, this could end up being an epic cover song, like when Yes did their cover of “America”. I liked the Simon and Garfunkel version too, but Yes really made it their own. Nad Sylvan, are you listening? Maybe Karmakanic could do it just for fun?

ProgRock Records changes identity

August 2, 2011

The following is a press release from Shawn Gordon, proprietor of both the ProgRock Records label and the Mindawn download site:

“We’re transitioning ProgRock Records in to a genre at The Record Label. As part of the transition, we’ve added a lot of new features to make it easier to find material and listen to previews. If you go to you’ll see in the upper right a quick search and ability to switch between the various genres. The home page now features a particular artist and new releases instead of the latest news.

“The menu navigation on the upper left gives you the basics you’d expect, but if you click on Albums you can search, filter and sort on things like genre, artist, album and price. When sorting by price, during the sale in particular, you can quickly find material by the lowest price. Our sale has items all the way down to $1. The Albums list gives a short summary on the album and the ability to add to cart, or you can click on the album and read reviews, hear samples, etc.

“We take credit cards and paypal and you can choose from a list of shipping options. The sale will run for the first week of August 2011. Due to the volume of orders we typically get during a sale, please allow a few weeks for delivery. The sale is live right now, some items are limited, we’ll do our best to de-activate them as they run out”.

I wasn’t quite sure what this meant, so I asked Shawn for some clarification. Here’s what he told me:

“I launched TRL in 2005 but didn’t do much with it, then re-launched it about 15 months ago with signing Steve Morse to it. This is really a matter of just consolidating things on the corporate end. Mindawn will also get its own corp soon (they are all DBA’s under my software corp at the moment). The PRR site is 9 years old now, so it’s part of the whole upgrade and such. The transition is just putting everything in one place”.

There you have it. Click over to the new web site and check it out.

Return of the Giant Hogweed – Really!

July 7, 2011

Heracleum Mantegazziani! It’s not just a Genesis song. Those guys warned us about this back in the ’70’s, and here I thought it was just a fantasy story … like the rest of Nursery Cryme. It’s not! It’s invading New York state, and the story of how it escaped its native lands is exactly what Genesis said in their lyrics … “Fashionable country gentlemen had some cultivated wild gardens in which they innocently planted the Giant Hogweed throughout the land!”

Check out the links below, or enjoy the YouTube video of Genesis singing out their warning.

Huffington Post article about Giant Hogweeds.
Complete lyrics to “Return of the Giant Hogweed”

Alphataurus Reunites

July 2, 2011

Italian symphonic proggers Alphataurus are back together again. They released a single self-titled album in 1973, followed by a demo-quality release of their unfinished second album, Dietro L’uragano, also recorded in 1973 but only released in 1992. In November 2010, they re-united and played a concert in Mezzago, Italy. I’ve requested further information from the band and I’ll pass further information along as soon as it’s available. — Fred Trafton

New GEPR Upload coming soon!

June 24, 2011

There will be a new upload of the GEPR full web site coming soon. Really! I promise! I know it’s been over a year since the last full update, but I have been trying to stay somewhat in touch via this blog. At least when it comes, you’ll see I’ve updated a huge number of entries, and not all of them have made it into this blog either. Don’t hold your breath … yet. But it should be ready really soon. — Fred Trafton

Adrenaline Mob

June 24, 2011

Adrenaline Mob

Jeez. If I met these guys on a regular street, I’d probably soil myself. They definitely look pretty badass. But separated by the Internet Data Superhighway? No problem. This is Adrenaline Mob, and their drummer sounds like that guy from Dream Theater. Oh. Never mind. It is that guy from Dream Theater, Mike Portnoy … or rather the guy who used to be in Dream Theater. Also Symphony X frontman Russell Allen, guitarists Mike Orlando and Rich Ward, and bassist Paul DiLeo. No keyboard player? Perhaps they ate him for lunch. Well, just saying.

Even with all these prog and proggish luminaries, they claim this is an old-school metal band, not prog-metal. Well, I’ve heard a preview of their songs on their Facebook page, and as far as one can tell from a collage of snippets, there’s enough prog content here to make for at least a couple of good listens … as long as you don’t hate prog-metal. They haven’t released an album yet, but look for one soon.

Oh, and this obviously isn’t the Morse-Morse-Portnoy-Larue-McPherson band, which near as I can tell still doesn’t have a name yet. — Fred Trafton

Click here for Adrenaline Mob‘s Facebook page, where you can hear the “collage of snippets” preview by clicking on “Like”.

AKIN – The Way Things End

June 22, 2011

AKIN Р(not in photo order) Luc Babut (bass), Matthieu Baker (guitars, backing vocals), Philippe Chaubiré (flute), Julien Chometton (rhythm guitar), Romain Fayet (drums), Adeline Gurtner (lead vocals) and Pierre Lucas (keyboards)

Akin is alleged to be prog-metal. Well, I certainly hope I won’t offend this excellent band if I say, “NO WAY!” Sure, there are heavy guitar parts and even a bit of shredding, but these are relegated so far down in the mix that you actually have to listen for them. How can you call a band prog-metal when they rely this heavily on a real string ensemble, lots of acoustic guitar plucking and strumming, flute, harmonizing vocal overdubs and a non-operatic female lead singer? Personally, I can’t. The poorly-defined Prog Archives designation of “heavy prog” I might buy. But calling this band prog-metal just doesn’t work for me. Not that I have anything against prog-metal you understand. I just think it’s a poor description.

Akin is a French band, though you can barely detect any accent from lead singer Adeline Gurtner as she belts out these tunes in flawless English. Don’t expect any operatic vocals √° la Jessica Lehto (Factory of Dreams) or Simone Simons (Epica). If not for the heavy guitar oriented accompaniment, I’d almost call her vocals “folksy”. That’s by no means a bad thing … her vocals fit wonderfully into the music, which is complex, orchestrated with a great deal of variety and mood changes, and with liberal dashes of very Bach string concerto classical-sounding passages.

After a long hiatus (ten years!) since their last full album, Akin returns on the Progrock Records (the USA one) label with a fantastic new album, The Way Things End. If you’re interested in hearing their earlier album (and an EP), click the links above to download them for free from their Bandcamp site. The new album The Way Things End will be released by Progrock in September 2011. — Fred Trafton

Footnote: Actually, ProgRock Records‘ Shawn Gordon says they’re in, so click on over and order your copy now!

Click here to order The Way Things End from ProgRock Records
Click here for Akin‘s Facebook page
Click here for Akin‘s Bandcamp page
Click here for a review of The Way Things End on the Femme Metal Webzine

M. Judge – Architects of Flesh-Density

June 14, 2011

The Nerve Institute (M. Judge) – Architects of Flesh-Density

I must say, I’ve gotten to the point where I yawn (or grimace) at the receipt of a promo pack from some record labels. I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a bad album from anyone, but there’s an awful lot of also-rans out there, and I just have too many albums to be spending a lot of personal energy on them. One label for which this is not the case, however, is the AltrOck label from Italy, which consistently delivers outstanding CD’s from incredible groups and artists. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything from the label that wasn’t really good, and most of them go well beyond that and into “superb”.

In my last AltrOck mailing, I received a CD from a band called The Nerve Institute. I was amazed to see that the first “reference band” they were compared to was The Underground Railroad. Hey, I know and love these guys, they’re from my area (Dallas/Fort Worth), but I’ve never seen them named as a “reference band” before. So I was really interested to give a listen to this CD.

The first thing I’ll say about Architects of Flesh-Density is, “WOW!” This is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. The comparison to Underground Railroad is pretty fair, but Architects of Flesh-Density is more experimental, and goes into more avant-garde/RIO territory than UR. At the risk of sounding glib, I’ll say that, “If Bill Pohl liked Fred Frith as much as he likes Allan Holdsworth, then The Nerve Institute would sound like Underground Railroad.” Helpful if you know all these references, useless if you don’t.

So, if you don’t, I’ll just describe it as symphonic with strange but beautiful harmonies, jagged rhythms, and a high level of virtuosity on all the instruments. The musical parts stray toward dissonance, then resolve into quite beautiful harmonious sections. It’s also punctuated by innovative sound effects and artfully-used noises and studio sound-warping. The sections are tightly integrated and the music is skillfully composed and recorded with utmost attention to detail and clarity. All this is made even more impressive by the fact that it’s all composed, played and recorded by one guy named M. Judge, and the “studio” consists of a laptop where the music is “edited/EQd/compressed in whatever freeware music program I happen to be using.” What’s the “M” for? A careful search of the links will reveal it, but since he always seems to introduce himself as only “M” I’ll just stick with that.

Mr. Judge has stated in an interview that he gets tired of band names, and so has released works under several other monickers, including The Wolf Tickets, Jerusalem and Sinthome. The only other Judge I’ve been able to find available is the second Sinthome album, Ficciones, still available on the ReR label. It’s very different from The Nerve Institute, and from what I’ve read, Judge delights in changing what he does from one album to the next. In fact, he’s said, “My goal with any upcoming album is really to scare the hell out of myself and anyone else who liked the previous one.” He goes on to say, however, that he may record more under The Nerve Institute name. I’m hoping this means more along the same lines, because one CD of this brilliance just isn’t enough. I do hope to hear more. My highest recommendation! — Fred Trafton

Click here for M. Judge‘s MySpace page
Click here to download Ficciones from ReR USA
Click here to order Architects of Flesh-Density from AltrOck Records
Click here for an interview with M. Judge for Prog Archives