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 Topographic Drama: Live Across America by YES album cover Live, 2017
3.60 | 28 ratings

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Topographic Drama: Live Across America
Yes Symphonic Prog

Review by judahbenkenobi

2 stars I have never seen Yes live, being as I am on the wrong side of the planet. So I have to make do with live albums and DVD's. I truly enjoy the Yesshows and Symphonic Live performances, the first one for its fine selection of tracks and the latter for the fun the band and the orchestra seem to be having during most of the show.

That said, I was eager to listen to this recording: the first time I would listen to the complete TFTO album performed live AND the controversial but enjoyable Drama.

I must say I was overly disappointed, and much more than I was when I heard the Heaven and Earth CD! That album lacked power and meaningful melodies, but at least I felt like it could be forced and strained into the band's catalogue. Unlike it, I cannot feel Yes performing on this live album. Simply put, this concert lacks soul. And the soul of the band was Chris Squire. I endured most lineup changes, but losing Chris Squire meant the death of Yes for me. Although all of its current members have been involved in at least one Yes album, this sounds more like "A tribute to Yes featuring Yes members", a bland, boring, dull and unenergetic performance. And the death blow was when I found out TFTO wasn't even complete. A half of something will never be the whole thing.

I cannot say for sure if it's a completionists-only album or a fans-only, since I AM a fan and don't feel satisfied by it. But being one of my favorite bands, and having Roger Dean's artwork will make it earn its second star.

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 Echoes From The Deep by PSYCHO PRAXIS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.78 | 19 ratings

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Echoes From The Deep
Psycho Praxis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars It took a while for me to warm up to this 2012 recording released by Black Widow Records. This is very much a retro sounding album with vocals in English unfortunately although I believe these Italians were influenced in a big way by the British Prog scene. And there is so much variety which isn't something I'm really into but other than the opening number it all works for me. Lots of organ, guitar and to lesser extent flute. I can't say any Italian bands came to mind while listening to this but CAMEL, JETHRO TULL and PINK FLOYD did at various times. I don't like the album cover at all, are you kidding me.

"Privileged Station" is for me getting this album off on the wrong foot and it took me days to get past this. Yes I've warmed up to this one since. The vocals don't do it for me here as he shouts the lyrics, and I just don't like that style of singing. The organ sounds great early on and I like that dark calm after 3 1/2 minutes, very atmospheric. It kicks back in and the organ shines late before the flute arrives after 6 minutes.

"P.S.M." has these Ian Anderson-like vocals and so it brings TULL to mind. Acoustic guitar and atmosphere too. It's melancholic and folky. It does turn fuller as the vocals step aside. Pulsating organ along with flute stands out 2 1/2 minutes in as it picks up again. Vocals are back after 4 1/2 minutes. A silent calm before 5 1/2 minutes signals a change in sound even with the vocals.

"Hoodlums" might be my favourite with that Swedish sound bringing LANDBERK to mind at times. This can be heard right from the start with the picked guitar as drums and vocals join in. I also hear a KING CRIMSON and PINK FLOYD flavour. We get an uplifting chorus where the vocals are more passionate. I like this one a lot. It kicks in harder before 4 minutes with organ as the flute comes in over top. Some nice guitar follows. A calm ends it over the last couple of minutes as we get flute, a beat and guitar.

"Black Crow" has laid back vocals, acoustic guitar and atmosphere. Nice sound here, quite folky and relaxed as we can hear people talking in the background. It turns fuller at 2 1/2 minutes as the flute joins in and the vocals stop. I like the sound after 3 minutes as well with the organ, drums and more. Vocals are back before 4 minutes. I like the instrumental section starting around 6 minutes especially the organ and guitar.

"Awareness" has a psychedelic vibe as it picks up quickly with organ, picked guitar and drums. This is the only instrumental on here. Synths to the fore before 1 1/2 minutes then the guitar takes the lead then organ as they continue to trade off. Flute and a CAMEL flavour after 2 minutes. More of that CAMEL vibe late.

"Noon" ends it and we get this fairly complex instrumental start with so much going on. I like the guitar lighting it up. Flute leads after a minute with bass and drums. Distorted organ 2 minutes in. Nice. Flute and organ then lead in this uptempo section. A calm before 4 1/2 minutes as reserved vocals arrive. It builds with more passionate vocals 5 1/2 minutes in. Nice guitar as the vocals step aside late.

I'm very comfortable giving this the 4 stars but it won't be going in my RPI section.

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 Pollen by POLLEN album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.10 | 145 ratings

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Pollen
Pollen Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 176

"Pollen" is the eponymous debut album of the Canadian progressive rock group Pollen and was released in 1976. In 1972, Tom Rivest and Lemoyne decided to form a progressive rock group. The band's name came by chance when, in the kitchen of the house where they lived together, the musicians spotted a jar of flower pollen. In 1973, Pollen gave their first live performance at Cégep, Maisonneuve. The group's concerts featured sophisticated light shows, visual elements and scenic effects of rare beauty. In 1974, Pollen made the tour of Québec with Gentle Giant. During 1975, Pollen continued performing to sell out shows at several venues like Cinéma Outremont, L'Évêché and Café Campus.

In 1976, Pollen released their self titled debut album, containing some of the best and most impressive progressive rock music in North America. One can say that Pollen was one of Québec's biggest progressive acts in the mid 70's, with Harmonium and Maneige. But their music is more purely rooted in the symphonic genre than their countrymen, whose music is more folk-oriented, Harmonium, or more fusion, Maneige. The band married tight musicianship and dazzling special effects and could be perceived as Québec's most symphonic contribution to the world of progressive rock. The album was launched during a show at the Grand Théatre de Québec where Pollen shared the headline act with Caravan.

Pollen split-up in 1976. So, "Pollen" is the only living testament under the Pollen's name, and represents one of the brightest jewels in the Québecois progressive crown. When I'm saying that "Pollen" is the only album of the band is really true. However, Tom Rivest released in 1979 his solo eponymous debut and only album with his band mates Lemoyne and Lemay. For some reason, Pollen never managed to release a second album, but the story somehow continued with the release of that solo album because some songs were already written for the second band's album.

The line up on the album is Jacques Tom Rivest (lead vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and keyboards), Richard Lemoyne (electric and acoustic guitar, keyboards and bass), Claude Lemay (backing vocals, keyboards, flute, vibraphone and bass) and Sylvain Coutu (drums, vibraphone and percussion).

"Pollen" has six tracks. The first track "Vieux Corps De Vie D'Ange" immediately sets the tone for the album and represents an excellent example of the unique musical style of Pollen. The track offers up a very dramatic mixture of pomp and symphonic filled with gorgeous keyboard excursions and extremely dramatic vocals from Rivest. This is really a great opener for the album. The second track "L'Étoile" follows and veers the album into a mellower direction. It opens with flute before the acoustic guitar and of the arriving of vocals. A mellow and pleasant sound is the result. This is a very interesting piece which demonstrates the band's ability to write more radio-friendly numbers. The third track "L'Indien" is another ballad that features acoustic guitar and nice vocals. Rivest does manages to put his own stamp on this one and his melancholic crooning and acoustic guitar is achingly poignant throughout the number. This is another excellent track that maintains the high quality level of the album. The fourth track "Tout L'Temps" is a quirky up-tempo number built on a jazz-like drum beat and swirling keyboards. The band once again shows a penchant for being able to write pop pieces with symphonic flair. The song ends on a particularly high note with some very tasty keyboards. The fifth track "Vivre La Mort" is one of the highlights of the album. The musical framework of the piece is built upon some powerful drumming and theatrical keyboard chords as the track builds to a crescendo. Halfway, through the number, we get a taste of Pollen's truly symphonic nature. Guitars and keys coalesce as the song builds up a head of steam before pushing the listener over the top in a fine display of tight musicianship. The sixth track "La Femme Ailée" is the epic of the album. It begins with some gentle guitar passages and delicate vocals. Slowly, the track builds in intensity until explodes in grandiose fashion. The closing 6 minutes represents its finest moment. Complex tempo changes and superlative instrumental prowess are the order of the day. Somber church organ cedes to powerful drum fills and moog madness and some excellent lead guitar before returning to the track's main theme. It closes the album in a grand style.

Conclusion: Hopefully, I've been able to express that Pollen, especially with the final long track, is one of the best symphonic progressive rock acts of the 70's, out of Europe. It can be reported with no failures and for friends of the 70's, a full recommendation can be given. Thus they offered in the French speaking Canadian province of Quebec one of the best progressive rock albums and one of the best introductions to Québec's prosperous progressive rock scene of the mid late of the 70's. This is the kind of albums that deserve to be rescued from the shades of the 70's recording industry and taken into every good progressive music collection. For lovers of the classic progressive rock of the 70's, this album should definitely be for them, especially for those who like the French strain of the genre. So, enjoy it, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Ones & Zeros: vol. 0 by 3RDEGREE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.36 | 5 ratings

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Ones & Zeros: vol. 0
3RDegree Crossover Prog

Review by Greg Jones

5 stars In 2015 the always adventurous 3rDegree released what I assume will be their artistic peak. A completely fresh and uncategorizable concept album called Ones And Zeroes Pt 1, it sounded different every time I played it and still does. Working within the limits of niche band economics, they achieved this unimaginable height purely on the strength of their compositional ideas. And the accolades poured in. Since this is a band who have been consistently topping themselves and surprising their fans since their comeback album 'narrow-caster', Ones And Zeroes Pt 1 was akin to a Dark Side Of The Moon to these ears, certainly in scope even if not in sonic lushness.

I was all set, then, for them to finally have a break in the winning streak. I mean, no one can keep leaping over expectations forever, right? I even told a few of the band members I'd be thrilled if they made a new record that was merely good. And when I was blessed with an advance copy of the follow up, Ones And Zeroes Part 0, I grinned and told myself as the rocking opener kicked in, 'that's better than good!'

I had no idea how much better. The first 3 or 4 listens I really liked it, feeling that they'd kept a bit of the unexpected from Part 1 and blended that with their penchant for hooks-less-travelled that made their earlier albums embed themselves so deeply into my heart. It seemed they had come up with a new gem worthy of their prior releases.

But this morning, not fully awake, I put on my trusty Grado headphones and decided to give it a slice of quiet zone-in time. And I entered an inter-dimensional anomaly of the unknown. If Part 1 depicted a freakish new world, Part 0 shows us in horrible detail how we'll get there by our own device-clutching hands. Indicting present day mankind with a mirror so clear you'll want to run, the message is matched by music that is miraculously timeless, somehow familiar but not. If people were spontaneously exploding and no one knew why, this album would be like a Unabomber manifesto where the only bombs are truth and we'd all be singing along, awaiting the inevitable.

Individual song comments won't help describe this for you; you really need to experience it as a whole. Lyrically 'Connecting' is arrow- splitting in it's accuracy. And 'Click Away!' Is a most unique 15 minute prog epic. But they're both part of a monster of an album that will give you an individual ride by touching your innermost thoughts and fears. Is it better than Part 1? Impossible to say. But to these jaded ears it's as important to our time as The Who's Quadrophenia and Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime were to theirs. The only criticism I can possibly make is that I wish there was a section of menacing overdriven electric guitar to drive home the scary way this shoe fits. But the world we're heading for has digitized those guitars down to ones and zeroes, just like it seeks to do to all human experience. This album? Chilling. Essential. Run!

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 Sledgehammer by GABRIEL, PETER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.88 | 24 ratings

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Sledgehammer
Peter Gabriel Crossover Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars 'FIRST REVIEW OF THIS SINGLE'

1. Sledgehammer

Peter Gabriel often reminds me of the late genius David Bowie: highly creative and innovative, great visual stage antics, musical chameleons, surprising their audience with yet another musical genre, delivering high quality pop top hits and ahead of their time. To continue comparing Gabriel with Bowie, it often comes to my mind that Sledgehammer could have been a David Bowie composition. Sledgehammer was the first single release of Peter Gabriel his fifth album entitled So (1986) and a worldwide hit: it topped the charts in Canada and the USA, and of course was the mindblowing and awarded video a huge contribution to the popularity of Sledgehammer (I can't listen to this song without seeing the images of the video). So Peter Gabriel went from the most charismatic frontman in progressive rock to a top selling solo artis, and a celebrity.

Sledgehammer starts with that very distinctive intro featuring a synthesized shakuhachi flute. Then it's swinging time: a catchy bass, Earth, Wind & Fire-like brass and Peter his soulful voice, this a perfectly structured and coloured blend of soul, funk and pop. Halfway again that synthesized flute and then female vocal harmonies join (including P.P. Arnold, once The Nice was her backing band), the propulsive percussion is great and Peter sings very powerful, with obvious hints from his soul inspiration. A masterpiece in its kind, and the doorway to international success, soon he released Big Time (also from So), another Top 10 USA hit!

About the lyrics, it's Freudian Extravaganza, a flood of hidden sex and phallic symbols! On the Internet I read: 'In the US in the 1980's local radiostations where often controlled by christian organisations. They where banning songs they ment where unsuitible for christian minds. So Peter Gabriel wrote Sledgehammer. If you listen good in the beginning of the song he says "how can anybody fool them". If the radiostations banned the song they would admit, that they themselves have a "dirty mind", so they played it...... and were fooled'.

2. Don't Break This Rhythm :

A strong blend of natural exotic percussion and modern technology (synthesizers and samplers), topped with Peter Gabriel his wonderful emotional vocals (the title is an excellent metaphor for the relationship in this song), it could have been a Peter Gabriel IV song.

P.s.: Thank you visitors and musicians for your Likes, social comments and Facebook messages! It's a huge boost to continue writing reviews here, now I am on my way to #100.

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 Khali by KHALI album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.31 | 5 ratings

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Khali
Khali Progressive Metal

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Khali this unknown melodic prog metal outfit from Italy, had one album so far released in 2000 selftitled. Well, this band has members from another italian prog metal band Time Machine, and the music is quite similar in many parts with them. This is an ok album, nothing special at all but not bad in the end, melodic prog metal , most of the time with nice vocals, some epic melodic/symphonic passages are to be found, the instrumental sections are ok , but far from excellent, imagine a combination of Queensryche, Fates Warning and Time Machine. So, all in all, a forgotten band, a forgotten album, but I think fans of prog metal can give a spin. 3 stars is best I can give, ok, but nothing more.

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 Gentlemen Take Polaroids  by JAPAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.15 | 78 ratings

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Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Japan Prog Related

Review by RossJWarren

5 stars Some of the reviews here are an absolute disgrace. Japan's last two LP's are certinly progressive music in the full sense of the word, maybe not to everyone's taste but they deserve a fair listen and review. Gentleman is by far my favorite recording by this wonderfully different band. Maybe their early glam rock efforts were indeed on the weak side but this recording is an absolute masterpiece. Had Japan stayed together they may well have been as big as bands like the Pink Floyd. The melodies are strong and the musicianship is very good indeed. Karn's bass playing is still unique, and added to the vocals give the overall sound a slightly woozy edge. This is what roxy music could have sounded like had Eno not been forced out so early on. Japan were never new romantics, their look and sound predated that movement, but they certinly helped give rise to bands like Duran Duran, who sound like a pale imitation of Japan at their very best.

Such a unique pair of recordings make Gentlemen and Tin drum essential additions to any well rounded prog rock collection. As for the haters one wonders if they listened to the recordings at all. 5 Stars without any hesitation.

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 Incredibile by GALAHAD album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Incredibile
Galahad Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars The gap between albums by this German Celtic Rock band keeps widening, with 5 years between "Ladhivan" and "Incredibile", which, in spite of its 2011 year of release, remains their last offering as of April 2018. Luckily this is another quality offering, albeit a tad uneven as is their wont.

The opening cut is certainly fun, but its rather hackneyed play on words cheapens the effect somewhat, and, in any case, when a band promises that they are here to folk me, I expect ecstasy and not mere enjoyment. The following song is far better and one of several mystical sounding pieces that brings GALAHAD ever closer to more prog oriented groups like THE MORRIGAN. Even though its title is based on a pun, this seems more like the innocent juxtaposition of those for whom English is not native, or just a more oblique and rewarding double entendre. Musically this is also much more rewarding. Tina de Vlinder weaves violin with her vocal duties, and somewhat dissonant harmony vocals. "Incredibile Galahad" is also brilliant, sung in Latin, so here what looks like a play on words regarding "bile", is actually the correct Latin, and pronounced "Incredeebeelee". The lead guitar excursions here demarcate the progress of the band towards a harder edged folk rock as well as an improvement in Dieter Horlitz's technique. "Tender Crazy" is a lilting piece of pure joy, a reminder that sometimes a melody that one can follow even before it unfolds can soothe the tattered soul. "The Princess and the Frog" asks the question "What if the objective of kissing the prince is to find the right frog"; it does so with class and, like so many tracks here, sweet flute work from Paul Alexander Yost. As before, between the outstanding songs are a few of average caliber, like the rather static "Next Step", the heavy but unfocused "Busy Lizzie" (the only one where Yost sings lead) , the soporific tale of "Malley-O" , and the silly but unfunny "Go Sit on a Tack".

The album has a higher quotient of instrumental tracks than before, and they are a bit of a mixed bag. "Ride to Akkon" and "Way to Tara" both depict the voyage with a sense of discovery and awe, while "Wolkenstein's Tanz" is at best remembered for its title, and "Rookie's Rondo" could have been performed by thousands of less distinctive bands in the genre.

At its best, "Incredibile" justifies its title and GALAHAD's longevity, while augmenting their already prolific legacy, but the excess of filler impedes its destination on the virtual top shelf.

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 Salinity Now! by UNAKA PRONG album cover Studio Album, 2018
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Salinity Now!
Unaka Prong Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
5 stars Man! these guys are tight! Man! is the production on this album amazing! Man! have these gotten better! Man! is this a confident band of young musicians, or what? Is this one of the best collections of entertaining, interesting, deeply layered, masterfully crafted and performed, and perfectly mastered songs ever created?!!! YES!

1. "You Want Me to Do What Now?" (5:38) high energy mania with amazing stop-and-start complexity and perfect cohesion and timing! And the sound is so good! Perfect mixes of the instrumental tracks! Jazz-rock at its funkiest best. One of those songs that simply must be heard to be believed! The drum-led section in the third and fourth minutes is awesome! The guitar solo (or is it a synth trying to sound like a trumpet?) in the fifth minute reminds me of old Jeff "Skunk" Baxter back in the early Steely Dan albums. (9.5/10)

2. "Misinterpretive Clues" (2:45) is a second spirited and amazingly intricate song construct built on some incredible drumming but this one has singing! Great phrasing and delivery of the witty lyrics by bassist Jonathon Sale! (9.5/10)

3. "Slow Dance" (6:02) starts out a little bland with it's thin, bluesy, organ-base, but the singing and lyrics are fun and the excellent chorus and following instrumental bridges make this one super special. Great slide work from guitarist Mike Welsh. Nobody in prog world is playing the Hammond like Chris Pope--and always with such amazing sense of melody! (9/10)

4. "Aibohphobia" (7:05) bouncy bass and organ open this one on a nice little cantor before wah-ed electric guitar- sounding synth and other synth sounds start alternating melodic soli over the top. Great chord and key progressions! The tempo shift at the two minute mark is a great trick. More volume pedal-controlled guitar in the background while synth solos over the top, then back to the first section's themes and pacing. Such a fun song! Definitely evokes memories of some of STEELY DAN's early instrumental work. Man, are all those keyboard sounds being performed by one man? Such fluidity and confidence! (10/10)

5. "Come on Back" (5:47) a little gentle PAUL WELLER-like guitar play sets up this incredibly emotional, poetic, and engaging song. One of the best lyrics I've heard in years--beautifully performed by guitarist Daniel Stephenson as lead singer and composer; beautifully, sensitively supported by the band. (9.5/10)

6. "Fine Leather Shoes" (5:17) clever, witty, DONALD FAGEN-like lyrics with an awesome BLUE NILE-like singing style as performed by drummer John Hargett over some complex jazzy rock. (10/10)

7. "Blue Mountain" (6:30) full on STEELY DAN--only no L.A. studio musicians, these young men are all doing it themselves. Amazing drumming from John Hargett. And the instruments are so well balanced in the mix! Again, I have to repeat, the engineering on this album is superlative! One of the best sounding albums since . . . Aja! Fun percussive guitar antics in the fourth and fifth while Chris and John play off each other. And HERBIE HANCOCK would be proud of Chris's work with the Fender Rhodes sound. (10/10)

8. "Fluvial Landscapes" (7:30) opening with some Latin-infused percussives from the drums, the bass and guitars soon join in giving it an early STEELY DAN sound--but the compositional complexity is far beyond anything the Dan were doing in their early days. Again, drummer John Hargett really shines on this one. Man! these guys have grown! They are SO tight! Amazing Hammond work beneath the rhythm section throughout the fourth and fifth minutes. And I'm so glad to be able to hear Jonathon Sale's deep bass thrombosis up front and center (he's often mixed a little too deeply into the sound for my tastes). Cool note play with the lead guitar solo in the final minute. Man this instrumental has it all! And these guys definitely have the chops! Early 70s Santana: Eat your heart out! (10/10)

9. "Lake Jam #3" (5:25) a vocalized Lake Jam? Well, will wonders never cease? Doubled up vocals works, even with these long, drawn out words and syncopated pronunciations. And this chorus! It's so infectious! I love the guitar and keyboard support for the vocal melody! (9.5/10)

10. "All Aglow in the Golden Hour" (4:24) a song with a little more country feel, but it really comes off more closely to one of The Amazing's (without the vocal reverb). An unusual singer has taken the lead vocal (and lyric writing duties?) on this one (Drummer John Hargett). It's fun, catchy, upbeat, danceable, happy, and still consistent with the western North Carolina feelings and themes that the other band members gravitate to. Also weird to have a UP song that is so guitar dominated, in which Chris's keyboard work is so far in the background. What versatility these guys have! (9/10)

11. "Colossus" (5:08) a slow, bluesy rock song with a simple instrumental support for lead singer Daniel Stephenson's verses, but then the Hammond rises and the chorus (with female vocal background support!) just sucks us in and transports us back to some very emotional family roots: "Take me back to a time when friends felt like family..." Beautiful! (9.5/10)

12. "Irma" (7:57) the one true "prog" song on the album. (Was this song written for me? Is this the "Run Out" of 2018?) Every sound, every hook, turn and riff, seems straight out of some classic progressive rock band. And this is beautifully constructed, slow to build and shift, expertly fabricated and performed. Great chord progressions, surprising shifts, unexpected singing and melody choices. Again, I am dumbfounded: Is there anything these guys can't do? While John's drumming is awesome, there's something weird that I don't like about the way the toms are recorded/treated on this one (reminds me of Steve Gadd on "Aja"). Again, it's nice to hear the guitars venturing off into improvisational work--very much like REINE FISKE! (The highest praise I can offer!) (10/10)

I have loved every album these boys from Boone have ever done (three, so far) but never have they put out an album that has this consistency and amazing, amazing sound production. There is not a song on this album that I will ever skip over--they're all going to give me years of joy and surprises from the nuances in the music and from the intricate collaboration of the collective members. Though I really miss the magical dimension that Nic Pressley's trumpet adds to the UNAKA PRONG sound--and I hope he comes back when grad school is over--but it becomes obvious with Salinity Now! that this band can make it as quintet. I hope the hard work pays off for these boys with the return of prosperity for these boys cuz they sure deserve it! If you want to hear some of the finest music and musicianship happening on the planet right now, you needn't go further than Appalachia! UNAKA PRONG is the best!

Five stars; an undeniable masterpiece of eclectic progressive rock music and, in my opinion, one of the shining lights of the present and future of rock music!

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 Il Fuoco Sotto la Cenere by CERCHIO D'ORO, IL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.96 | 30 ratings

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Il Fuoco Sotto la Cenere
Il Cerchio d'Oro Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars - First review for this album -

Il Cerchio d'Oro is an Italian prog band that was founded already in 1974 but which didn't manage to sign a recording deal at the time. To the pleasure of all progheads enjoying the retro-style symphonic Rock Progressivo Italiano, the band re-activated in this millennium and has now released four well-received albums. This latest release is my first acquaintance, and it actually took a while before I really realized how good album it is. Perhaps one could say that they "play safe" and therefor sound more or less like a connoisseur of the genre would expect. But no complaining, as long as it sounds so good. The title of the album (and the opening track) means The Fire Under the Ashes; the lyrics are printed both in Italian and in English. The very dynamic opener serves as a perfect example of the band's strengths. After a nearly four-minute instrumental intro enter the vocals, for the most part done in harmonies. By the way, there is no separate vocalist, and also the composing credits are divided between several members, e.g. keyboardist Franco Piccolini and bassist Giuseppe Terribile. This democratic approach sort of describes the music, which is rather free of the most self-indulgent features but always maintains the power and passion.

The group sound, served with those mentioned vocal harmonies, is warm and retro-ish. Lots of various analog keyboards (organ, Mellotron, etc), electric and acoustic guitars, and a tight rhythm section, all delivered with excellent production. The expectable British vintage influences such as ELP, Genesis, early King Crimson & Yes, and slightly also Uriah Heep, are there, but never in a downright derivative way. The compositions, all between 9½ and 5 minutes in length, are both melodic and full of symphonic prog dynamics, without going into distinctive multi-part epic direction or towards fancy drama á la Nursery Cryme -era Genesis. This music might be suitable for introducing prog rock to a non-connoisseur, not too demanding in that matter.

The whole 48-minute album is nevertheless pretty strong all the way. None of the seven tracks is weak, but perhaps the music gets slightly closer to mainstream rock on the two final 5-minute songs 'Il Rock e l'Inferno' (Rock and Hell) and 'Fuoco sulla Collina (the only one missing its lyrics in the leaflet), but they still sound proggy and contain some instrumental solos. The fifth song 'Il Fuoco nel Bicchiere' (The Fire in the Glass) is the slowest in tempo, and amidst the lyrics about alcohol-fuelled moarning for a lost love there are beautiful passages for various keyboards.

If there were also special instruments such as flute, violin or whatever to add pastoral ingredients to the sound, I'd enjoy the album even more. I'm very close to give a full rating; maybe this album slightly lacks originality and great surprises, but it's a guaranteed pleasure to the friends of symph-oriented RPI.

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