50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time

prog albums

(via Rolling Stone) June 17, 2015

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For close to a half century, prog has been the breeding ground for rock’s most out-there, outsized and outlandish ideas: Thick-as-a-brick concept albums, an early embrace of synthesizers, overly complicated time signatures, Tolkienesque fantasies, travails from future days and scenes from a memory. In celebration of Rush’s first Rolling Stone cover story, here’s the best of the deliciously decadent genre that the punks failed to kill.

50. Happy the Man, ‘Happy the Man’ (1977)

happy

Formed in a James Madison University dorm room, Washington, D.C.-based Happy the Man recorded three venerated, mostly instrumental prog albums in the late 1970s, striking a seductive middle ground between sax-driven jazz-fusion lunacy (circa Zappa’s One Size Fits All) and synth-heavy meditative twittering. After a showcase, Clive Davis reportedly told the band, “Wow. I don’t really understand this music. It’s way above my head”; yet he still signed them to Arista. Their debut is the band at its most dynamic, highlighted by intricate instrumental interplay as far-out as the song titles (“Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest,” “Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo”). R.R.

49. Ruins, ‘Hyderomastgroningem’ (1995)

ruins

Beaming down from the far reaches of the prog-rock galaxy, this Japanese drums and bass duo slam together mathematically improbable meters and dissonant blasts of rhythm with nonsense wails or demonic growls. The band’s fifth album is especially fascinating, as Ruins inject snippets of vocal melody, droning doom, punk tempos, and meticulous Crimson-esque prog into their rapidly morphing songs. The most obvious influence on Ruins’ ringleader Yoshida Tatsuya is Magma’s iconoclastic Christian Vander — like Vander, Yoshida even created his own language for the band — but there are also traces of experimental freaker Frank Zappa and avant-jazz terrorizer John Zorn (who released the album on his Tzadik label). Some have tagged Hyderomastgroningem unlistenable and undoubtedly it could drive most fans of King Crimson or Yes batty. But maybe that just makes Ruins more prog than prog. J.W.

48. FM, ‘Black Noise’ (1977)

fm

Superficially, Toronto-based FM had a lot working against them: Aside from Rush, Canada was never a prog hotbed, and the band released its debut album in 1977, as many of the genre’s originators were fading. Still, Black Noise was one of late-era prog’s most original albums – a hypnotic blend of symphonic synthesizer effects and glossy New Wave melodies, plus an exotic whirl of electric mandolin and violin from Nash the Slash, a.k.a. Jeff Plewman, who performed onstage with his face entirely obscured by surgical bandages. Opener “Phasors on Stun” became a minor AM radio hit, driven by a yearning hook from frontman-bassist-keyboardist Cameron Hawkins, and the band has released several more albums over the years, but FM never managed to reach their debut’s deep-cosmos magic. “There is a timeless quality about that record,” Hawkins told The Music Express in 2014. R.R.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/50-greatest-prog-rock-albums-of-all-time-20150617#ixzz49iwKJO8L

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