On Prog Rock

prog 3   prog 2

by Jose Luis Carballo

prog 1

As a Prog-rock kid in the early and mid-70’s, I got used to this kind of abuse. Rolling Stone, Cream and all the other big rock journalists at the time hated Prog rock that includes Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson and all other practitioners. The complaints were the same: It ain’t rock&roll. Well, duh. Of course not. For starters, Prog has no sexual energy. It doesn’t build a “groove.” It doesn’t funk, it doesn’t make you wanna dance. It’s not the music of rebellion, the music of throwing out the old masters and starting from zero.

prog 4

Prog had no “zeitgeist.” It wasn’t imbued with the spirit of it’s day. Prog was not the music of abandon. It’s rather cerebral. Prog is intricate, sculpted, fussy and frilly and a bit in love with itself. The composers of Selling England By The Pound, Close To the Edge, and Brain Salad Surgery knew that decades later, we’d still be discovering new melodies hidden in each Opus (they were right, we are). They knew they were writing music closer in spirit to Vivaldi than Bob Dylan, and they were OK with that.

Prog is the music created by the best musicians of their day (the early to late 1970’s), and the fact that you could name all worthwhile Prog bands on two hands – tells you how singular those players and composers were. Prog music lived in a kind of Alternate Universe, a bit disconnected with The Vietnam War and The Civil Rights Movement.

Prog is still a refuge for those of us who “get it”; we can carve out our own moment and still enjoy our brainy, pretentious music long after the 70’s had come and gone.

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