Unpopular Opinion: 80’s Homogeneity Killed the Radio Star

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There are multiple reasons why the 80’s were my least favorite decade for pop music. I grew up mostly on organic and not sampled sounds. Warm, carefully crafted arrangements rather than sterile synths. Heartfelt vocal performances that gave you the feels rather than the flat and robotic delivery typical of New Wave.

Most of all I like diversity in music. And the 80’s seemed to swallow diversity and spit it out all one color and one flavor–that is, no flavor.

The 70’s were a decade when Carly Simon, Led Zeppelin, the Average White Band and Tom Jones could play consecutively on the radio.

The 80’s, conversely, were the decade when drum sounds, keyboard sounds, vocal performances and even (thanks in part to MTV) fashion and hairdos became more regimented. It’s like all the sudden there was a uniform you had to wear to qualify for the top 40.

Take a listen to this sample of three of the decade’s more ubiquitous hits–by Heart, Cher and Starship respectively:

 

And now a bit of a medley of some of the diverse sounds created by the same artists in the decades prior:

 

The first clip illustrates the sound of 80’s pop radio, typified by its uniformity of style and arrangement.

The second is all over the place musically, from riff-driven rock to folk pop to orchestrated adult contemporary to fusion to psychedelia. And yet it’s the same three artists.

The second clip is culled from the years when these artists each forged an identity. And the first is from the decade when they apparently had to forego that identity to stay on the radio.

How many of the 70’s greatest artists became hollowed-out versions of themselves creatively in the decade of the 80’s?

Chicago, Aerosmith, Heart, Jefferson Starship, ZZ Top, Kansas, Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, and on and on.

I’m not saying these artists didn’t sell loads of records in the 80’s. But I will say their 80’s output a) typically lacked the imagination and diversity of their earlier work, b) was more often written by outside writers than the work that made them famous and c) kind of sucked.

As a teenager Steven Tyler wrote:

Every time when I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn…

Sing with me, sing for the years
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears
Sing with me, just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away

As a 40-year-old he wrote:

Love in an elevator
Livin’ it up when I’m goin’ down
Love in an elevator
Lovin’ it up ’til I hit the ground

And as for Chicago’s steady decline into Easy Listening post-Terry Kath well…Look Away indeed.

As for 80’s pop radio’s slavish devotion to the new, processed, synthy sound, I think it precipitated interesting shifts in radio formats. Plenty of artists who had success on pop radio in the 70’s had to redefine themselves as Country artists in the 80’s.

Exile (“Kiss You All Over”), The Bellamy Brothers (“Let Your Love Flow”), Michael Murphy (“Wildfire”), Michael Johnson (“Bluer than Blue”) and others made music too distinctly traditional-sounding and too organic for New Wave-dominated 80’s radio. After tweaking their sound and their songwriting just a bit they were welcomed by country radio, which experienced a shift toward a more pop-friendly crossover sound in the same decade.

Songs in the Key of Amy

(via Purple Clover) by Jess Tardy

The casting call found its way to me by email, a strange, urgent request from a booking agent who’d previously altogether ignored me. A beautiful young woman was planning her memorial service, he wrote. She was just weeks, if not days, from her death, and she wished for the story of her life to be told through a series of her favorite songs, and for those songs to be sung by an Eva Cassidy-ish singer.

I’d recently returned to Boston from a doomed stint in Nashville. A development deal with a major label went south, and I fled north with my hat in my hand. I joined a wedding band upon my return and was promptly fired for refusing to sing a Destiny’s Child cover. I sulked at a copyediting job by day and played a few divey gigs singing sad Dinah Washington songs by night. I was bummed out and broke, the subject of me and my tanked music career a sore one, my future a big, hazy question mark. Even 1,100 miles from Music Row, I felt surrounded by singer-songwriter types bent on making it, frenetically promoting shows and breathlessly extolling their latest recording projects. They made me tired. I didn’t see the point in singing, for fun or profit. I didn’t have the heart for it anymore.

When the agent offered me the memorial service performance, I took it anyway. It was a sad way to make rent, but beggars can’t be choosers. I assumed it would be just another weird, unfulfilling rent gig on my resume, like the time I sang the national anthem at a near-deserted horse track. Nothing I’d ever want to tell anyone about, and certainly not a game changer…

Read more: http://www.purpleclover.com/relationships/3849-songs-key-amy/

Video of the Week: Jim Stafford–’Cow Patti’

Another of Stafford’s finer moments.

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2016/12/02/video-of-the-week-jim-staffords-comedic-classical-gas/

Video of the Week: Jim Stafford’s Comedic ‘Classical Gas’

Jim Stafford gave us such 70’s novelty hits as “Wildwood Weed”, “My Girl Bill” and “Spiders & Snakes. He also had a knack for a performance that split the difference between comedy and musicality. From my father (a huge Victor Borge fan) I learned an appreciation of the comedic musician.

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/05/24/jim-stafford-performs-cow-patti/

I Didn’t Know That Was a Cover! Part 3

Have you ever been taken aback to discover a beloved or familiar song has roots in another decade, style, or incarnation? Did something you heard on the oldies station ever cause you to lose just a little of the awe and reverence you had for a particular artist’s creative proclivities?

In this our third installment revealing the relatively obscure original versions of familiar songs, we hope to open your eyes and ears once more with revelations about songs you didn’t know quite as well as you thought you did.

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“Bette Davis Eyes”-Kim Carnes

Carnes’ career-making “Bette Davis Eyes” topped the charts for nine weeks and won Grammy awards for Record- and Song of the Year in 1981. While its arrangement is heavy on the atmospheric 80’s synths, Jackie DeShannon’s 1975 original by contrast comes on like Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show band.

While both versions have merit, the contrast between the two is jarring.

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“Got My Mind Set On You”-George Harrison

What have we here? The legendary former Beatle (redundant I suppose, since you can’t be a former Beatle and un-legendary) teams with producer Jeff Lynne for a 1987 #1 hit that sounds like…a 1987 ELO song.

Again the contrast with the original (James Ray in 1962) is striking. Honestly in this case I can’t imagine a large number of people being fans of both incarnations of this song–making the case for studio production’s major role in a song’s appeal.

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“Cum On Feel the Noize”-Quiet Riot

Although Slade’s 1973 original has a certain glam rock charm, it also demonstrates in unmistakable terms the relative appeal of glam here (where it peaked at #98) and across the pond where British fans made it a chart-topping single. Conversely, Quiet Riot’s version didn’t chart in Britain, while American fans made it a #5 hit.

To my (American) ears Quiet Riot’s cover is a lesson in how to make a rock song feel more like a punch in your face. Like other 80’s metal anthems (Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”, Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, for example) it begins with the fist-pumping, anthemic chorus–not a verse–and is fueled by a much more pronounced backbeat.

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“Good Lovin'”-The Rascals

Felix Cavaliere and the Rascals (who still called themselves the Young Rascals at the time) broke through with the first of their three #1 hits in 1966, a cover of the Olympics’ #81 chart dud of the previous year. Honestly, though Cavaliere and Co. upped the energy level a bit, I’m a little surprised the earlier version didn’t break the top 40 itself.

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“China Girl”-David Bowie

Talk about your upgrades. Bowie’s slick, clean cover of Iggy Pop’s “China Girl” adds the  “Oh-oh-oh-oh” vocal hook and generally doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a garbage can. So it’s not a shock that it went top ten in 1983 while Iggy’s original has been heard by about seventeen people, including you if you played the above sample.

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“No More I Love You’s”-Annie Lennox

The Eurythmics lead singer’s 1995 #23 hit was a cover of a non-charting original from a well-regarded self-titled album by new wave duo The Lover Speaks.

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youngbloods

“Get Together”-The Youngbloods

“Get Together” peaked at #5 1968 for Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods and has considerable boomer cred as its plea for peace, love and brotherhood to triumph over fear is just the kinda shit hippies were into.

But it takes a true hippie to appreciate the song in its original incarnation. The Kingston Trio’s recording is perfectly emblematic of the genre of overly earnest 60’s folk so brilliantly pilloried in the film A Mighty Wind.

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The Kingston Trio

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Kingston Trio parodists The Folksmen

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/11/20/i-didnt-know-that-was-a-cover-part-2/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/11/19/i-didnt-know-that-was-a-cover/

There’s More to the Music than The Voice: TV Singing Competition and its Insidious Effect on Pop

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This morning I was engaging in a favorite pastime, that of diving down a rabbit hole of Amazon.com music recommendations, when I came across a band named Hop Along and their album Painted Shut which, according to the editorial review, consisted mainly of “accounts of more everyday poverty, abuse, greed; and banal, sub-par behavior“. These songs were put across by the vocals of one Frances Quinlan, whose voice is appraised as “a spellbinding entity all it’s own, celebratory and raw“, the resulting music described as “jubilant as well as irreverent“, full of  “joy, in the abandon of Frances’ unforgettable voice, in the exulting choruses…”

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This inflamed an itch that lies just under my skin most of the time anyway, but had recently been irritated by a chance channel-surfing encounter with British singing competition show The X Factor. What I saw there was what I see every time I happen to look in on American Idol, The Voice and their ilk: purveyors of inoffensive songs with glossy production values, physical appearance ranging from above average to stunning; but most of all, pure and pristine voices.

So much for the judges.

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As for the fodder–contestants, if you insist–they mainly seem fall into two categories. The first group is the clearly non-gifted. We watch the episodes which feature the biggest losers as we would rubberneck a car crash or burning building. How did they fall under the delusion that they had the talent to compete here? Clearly he/she is the victim of too much polite praise from family and friends. Can’t wait to see their shock and disappointment at being ousted, etc. Pretty fun, I’ll admit.

The second type of contestant consists, on the whole, of those who’ve honed a natural gift to fit the talent show ideal; to impress by that narrowest definition of impressive that these shows will allow.

There are exceptions, of course: True child prodigies. Voices of genuine singularity. A style you’ve never quite seen before.

But they are few. If there were a navigation app to point out the surest path to TV singing competition success it would constantly repeat commands such as: Wear shiny things…sing BIG…use lots of hand motions…sing a song people already love…if you’re a male, sing in an unnaturally high register…embellish, embellish, embellish…make the pain face…hit that unexpectedly high note at the very end…you have reached your destination.

If you follow the template, you’ll sound like this guy:

And what’s wrong with that? Nothing at all, if all you want from music is a tribute act.

But what if there’s too rampant a proliferation of mere tribute acts? What will be left to pay tribute to?

The Kelly Clarksons and the Carrie Underwoods of the early days of American Idol and their subsequent successes created an expectation that winners of TV talent shows are to become pop stars. I know–that’s the whole point. That’s the dream American Idol has peddled from the start. And in fact winning the pop charts after winning the talent show is such an expectation that you find quotes like the following (from Yahoo News):

The X Factor withstood another blow at the end of the latest series when its youngest ever winner, Louisa Johnson, reached only number nine in the charts at Christmas with her Bob Dylan cover – the lowest entry for any winner over the show’s 12-series history.

For me that sentence is like one of those How many things are wrong with this picture? puzzlers. “Youngest ever winner” speaks to the novelty-act nature of these shows. We’re looking for precocious, fully-developed talent at a younger and younger age–trying to top the previous youngest-ever. For me at least, it brings unbidden and uncomfortable images to mind…

ramsey

And “only number nine”? The bar of expectation for the show’s youngest-ever winner wasn’t simply a Top Ten single. It was to go higher into the Top Ten. What a crushing disappointment young Louisa must be to her parents to merely have one of the ten most popular songs in the land. The humiliation will probably mean a move to a new neighborhood.

Finally, the phrase “Bob Dylan cover” reminds us that these shows, while expected to launch new recording stars into the pop firmament, are not in the business of creating new artists–at least, not by the definition of artist as “creator of art”. What emerges from these weekly liturgies of Voice Worship is batch after batch of new interpreters of art.

Imagine, say, a painting equivalent. People would parade onto a stage with a palette and brush instead of a microphone. Rather than interpreting the beloved works of Leonard Cohen or Phil Collins or Freddie Mercury they’d step up to a glittery easel to render their best–or more accurately, their most gaudy and eye-catching–imitation of Norman Rockwell, Georgia O’Keeffe or Vincent Van Gogh. And the work of these imitators would then be sold in art galleries as the valid contemporary equivalent of the greats.

In other words, it’s all a lot of fun until someone loses an ear.

And that someone is us.

lucinda

Because I suspect many a true artist–Dylan, Neil Young, maybe even a nascent Rolling Stones–would be relegated to those episodes where you’re meant to watch hand-over-mouth in horror, the ones where the judges smirk to themselves and gently (or not so gently) inform the contestants they won’t be moving to the next round.

Maybe the “celebratory and raw” voice of Frances Quinlan and her songs about “everyday poverty, abuse, greed; and banal, sub-par behavior” don’t deserve an audience, but then neither would a ragged-voiced troubadour poet and critics’ darling such as Lucinda Williams or a chronicler of the downtrodden with the voice of Beelzebub himself, Tom Waits. Hank Williams Sr. and Elvis Costello would, I expect, be met with the familiar smirking derision. Would rough-voiced and rough-looking Bonnie Raitt or prickly Chrissie Hynde stand a chance?

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The next Bob Dylan may not see a way into the popular music scene, may just decide to pawn the acoustic and get his CDL.

TV sing-offs are a triumph of style over content. All the ragged glory of true folk music, all the irreverent impact of real rock n’ roll, all the visceral thrill of authentic rhythm and blues is lost in the sheen of star-making hype. Even when they sing with exaggerated histrionics and make the Face of Pain and try to convey the agony or ecstasy of the true artist, it’s just an antiseptic version of the truth, only an imitation of art. What a supreme irony that these are called ‘reality shows’.

Young singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett may one day write a song–may have already written a song–that a young singer will make her mark interpreting under those dazzling lights before a young, easily-impressed audience who’ll act like the moment is the high-water mark of Western Culture so far.

But not only would Barnett herself be relegated to also-ran status as a competitive-singing TV contestant, but her music itself is in danger of being marginalized in a marketplace where each season’s crop of fabricated stars are expected to vie for a place beside, and eventually supplant, the true artists.

How to Enjoy Progressive Rock

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(via wikiHow)

Progressive rock, also known as “prog rock” or just “prog”, is an absolutely exceptional genre of music, and to many the greatest genre that has ever emerged in the history of recorded sound. Extremely diverse, breathtakingly complex and largely underrated in the world today, it is created by some of the most talented musicians the world has ever known, and many progressive rock songs are excellent examples of immense instrumental and songwriting creativity. But what makes this genre so special, and how does one acquire a taste for it and absorb the huge number of bands in the genre? The trick is to start small – and then take the progressive rock journey.

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Take into account that that this genre can be overwhelming for first-time listeners. Don’t let this turn you away though! It is important to note that many popular classic rock artists, such as The Beatles, Queen and Led Zeppelin, also dabbled in this genre several times. Did you know that Led Zeppelin’s classic track “Stairway To Heaven” is actually a progressive rock song? If you enjoy that song and other lengthy classic rock pieces (such as The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and Dire Strait’s “Tunnel Of Love”), there’s a very good chance that you’ll enjoy progressive rock music as well. Also, Pink Floyd, one of the famous bands in music history, are a progressive rock band, though many are not aware of this at first. A basic love of rock music, especially from the 1960s and 1970s, is necessary for one to be able to at first appreciate and go onto enjoy progressive rock. The genre is challenging and requires an open mind.
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Before listening to the music, learn and memorize the various and styles (or sub genres) of progressive rock, as there are multiple of them:

  • Symphonic – Highly influenced by classical music, with complex song structures.
  • Progressive Folk – Features elements of folk, blues, country and world music.
  • Crossover – More accessible, often radio-friendly progressive rock inspired by classic rock and pop.
  • Psychedelic – Features surreal, psychedelic guitars and keyboards and sci-fi elements.
  • Eclectic – Bands in this genre play a broad range of progressive styles.
  • Progressive Metal – A mixture of progressive rock with heavy metal music.
  • Jazz Fusion – A mixture of progressive rock with jazz music.
  • Neo-Progressive Rock – More modern and often highly-advanced progressive rock, largely aimed at veteran fans.

Remember that the styles do not end there. There’s many more – too many to list, and there are still various styles of progressive rock being developed as they constantly cross over with each other to create newer sounds. It can difficult to categorize some progressive rock bands, so sometimes it’s best to just jump in and see what’s there instead of judging them by their genre.

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Band-wise, start with Genesis. They’re considered the most influential progressive rock group to progressive rock lovers. Becoming a big stadium band by the 1980s and exploring almost every style of progressive rock there is throughout their career, they are a band that is in the hearts of music lovers both inside and outside of the progressive rock world.
  • To start listening to this timeless band, get hold of their 3-disc compilation “The Platinum Collection” and listen to the three discs in order. The first disc features a lot of their pop music, some of which you may recognize from the radio, but it also contains some progressive rock material, mainly the two-part song “Home By The Sea” which is a highly accessible prog song to get into compared to others.
  • The second disc contains a good mixture of progressive rock and pop music, and this particular disc is great for acquiring a taste in the genre as it’s very accessible and light here, mainly due to the warm vocals of Phil Collins.
  • The third disc is the most challenging – it features just nine tracks from the Peter Gabriel era, with five of them clocking in at eight minutes and over. Start off by listening to the first two discs a few times, and then check out the third disc. It can be overwhelming due to the amount of talent on display and the lengths of the songs, especially on the third one, but don’t give up. These songs are very special to many progressive rock fans, and soon you’ll learn to love them.
  • Take note of the fast and complex keyboard solos from virtuoso Tony Banks, Steve Hackett’s usage of melodic guitar to create atmosphere, the intricate drumming from Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford’s clever bass playing and Peter Gabriel’s dark, powerful vocals.

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Move on to the albums. Once you’ve absorbed and enjoyed the music of the three discs, it’s time to listen to their albums.

  • “Duke” is an excellent place to start album-wise because it features the best mixture of their progressive rock and pop music. “…And Then There Were Three…” is also an accessible and highly recommended progressive rock album.
  • Make sure to check out the essential “A Trick Of The Tail” and “Wind And Wuthering” as these two albums arguably contain their most beloved Collins-era pieces and are both considered almost flawless.
  • If these two albums aren’t your cup of tea at the moment, try some of their later albums, like “Invisible Touch” and “We Can’t Dance”, which are very radio-friendly and easy to listen to, but also show off some of their progressive rock capabilities as well, though they are less obvious.
  • Once you’ve absorbed the Collins-era music, move onto the Gabriel-era albums as well. The five albums in this era (“Trespass”, “Nursery Crime”, “Foxtrot”, “Selling England By The Pound” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”) are all recommended here, and require multiple listens as there is a lot of complexity on offer.
  • The Genesis discography is full of extra stuff worth checking out as well, including live albums, B-sides and EP tracks and two multi-disc archive collections.

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Get into other bands. After getting into Genesis, whose albums hopefully should have given you an interest and hunger for more progressive rock music, try out some of other progressive rock groups from the era. This genre is very diverse and there are many different styles and bands to absorb. All of these bands, all hailing from the United Kingdom, are considered the greatest in the genre, and the ones that will help you advance further into the genre thanks to their albums:

  • Yes – Similar to Genesis, this band is famous for their highly complex guitar and keyboard solos. Their songs are often science fiction-themed and are generally funky, eclectic, nonsensical and a lot of fun. Recommended albums are “Fragile”, “Close To The Edge” and “Going For The One”.
  • Pink Floyd – The most commercially successful and well-known progressive rock band, Pink Floyd’s music is highly psychedelic and experimental, with multiple elements of world music and science fiction shining through. Recommended albums are “Atom Heart Mother”, “The Dark Side Of The Moon” and “Wish You Were Here”.
  • Camel – A symphonic/eclectic prog group who are known for their luxurious and soothing guitars, melodic keyboards and proficiency for artful instrumental songs. Recommended albums are “The Snow Goose”, “Moon madness” and “Breathless”.
  • Gentle Giant – This band’s music is easy to get into and yet still very rewarding. Their songs craft an interesting medieval atmosphere, using brass, strings, percussion and woodwind instruments to great effect, and the slightly shorter lengths of their songs make them palatable for new prog fans. Recommended albums are “Three Friends”, “Octopus” and “Free Hand”.
  • Jethro Tull – A progressive folk group, whose songs feature a lot of folk and acoustic elements, woodwind incorporated by famous prog bandleader Ian Anderson, and guitar that ranges from bluesy to heavy. Recommended albums are “Aqualung”, “The Minstrel In The Gallery” and “Songs From The Wood”.
  • The Moody Blues – A crossover group who recorded mostly short and straightforward progressive rock songs that feature classical instrumentation and lyrics that range from poetic to amusing to touching. Another great band for prog newbies, especially those who love the Collins era of Genesis. Recommended albums are “Days Of Future Passed”, “On The Threshold Of A Dream” and “A Question Of Balance”.
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer – A more difficult progressive rock band to get into, ELP’s music is largely based around the pianos and organs of keyboardist Keith Emerson, and their songs are often creatively chaotic and humorously over-the-top. Recommended albums are “Emerson, Lake & Palmer”, “Brain Salad Surgery”, “Tarkus” and “Trilogy”.
  • King Crimson – Like ELP, this band may be more difficult to get into, but are considered one of the most important progressive rock bands of all. Their style is mainly eclectic and sometimes jazzy with heavy guitars and a lot of other instruments being thrown into the mix. Like with ELP, their music often gets very chaotic (and sometimes quite scary), so proceed with caution. Recommended albums include “In The Court Of The Crimson King”, “Lizard” and “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic”.
  • Renaissance – With the angelic vocals of Annie Haslam, this is a symphonic prog band who mix a classical style with folk and world music. Recommended albums are “Prologue”, “Ashes Are Burning” and “Scheherazade And Other Stories”.

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Listen to each album closely. Take note of the sections of each of the songs you choose to listen to.

  • Close your eyes and try to imagine the scenarios that the songs are crafting, the themes being explored and the meanings of the lyrics. Play these songs again and again to really take in what is going on, comparing each song as you do so. And if you can’t get into a certain track, try another.
  • Remember to start with shorter tracks – if you can’t get into the longer songs, some over 20 minutes, don’t worry. These songs will arouse your interest eventually, as once you appreciate the shorter songs, the longer ones will appear more tempting. The longest progressive rock tracks are often the greatest, including songs such as Genesis’s “Supper’s Ready”, Yes’s “Close To The Edge” and Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother” all of which contain multiple parts with loads of surprises all the way through.

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Make sure to learn to appreciate concept albums. These kinds of albums are a significant part of progressive rock, as they are albums that tell stories and must be listened to from start to finish in order to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Albums such as Genesis’s “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, Camel’s “The Snow Goose” and The Moody Blues’ “Days Of Future Passed” are excellent examples of classic concept albums of the progressive rock genre, all taking the listener on magical adventures with every track being necessary to the experience.

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Learn to understand the amount of talent necessary for the music to be made. Progressive rock is a genre which requires mastery of one’s instrument and a large amount of knowledge on song-writing regardless of the style. Progressive rock albums take a long time to write, rehearse and record, and though not all go on to become classics, the most famous progressive rock albums, like Genesis’s “Selling England By The Pound”, Yes’s “Close To The Edge” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” are considered landmarks in recorded music. If you play an instrument, you may want to try playing the genre yourself; it’ll take a while to adapt to a complex style if you are more accustomed to playing simpler songs on your instrument, but it’s well worth knowing how to play progressively.
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Watch performances by progressive rock groups on YouTube, to further appreciate the talent involved. There are loads of videos of various bands of this genre performing live and most of them will show you how they are able to make their music and project it to their audience. Make sure to note how the band carefully works together to perform their songs, including the broad range of playing techniques, the instruments used and the sense of unity. This can also help you get into styles of prog that you’re struggling with, as it can be interesting to see the passion of the group and the personality they give off.
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Talk to other progressive rock fans online. They’re easy to find if you use Google to search for progressive rock websites and forums, or Facebook for prog rock pages and groups. You can also join forums for individual prog bands, as these will almost always feature “other band” sections where you can discuss a wide variety of bands in the progressive rock genre and other genres as well. Here you discuss your progress with progressive rock, review your favorite and least favorite albums, and obtain the thoughts, opinions and band/album recommendations of people who may be experienced with the genre. You will find progressive rock fans to be among the kindest, cleverest and most open-minded people online, and they will more than happy assist you in your journey through prog.

Read up on the histories and discographies of each artist, reviews submitted by users for each album, the lists of the most beloved progressive rock albums of every sub genre and from every country, and any other things you might want to know. With enough effort and interest and discussion with other followers of the genre, soon you will be able to appreciate and explore the genre further.

 

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Remember that there are loads of progressive rock bands of all different kinds. Don’t feel like you have to bankrupt yourself by buying every album you can find. Recommended bands to explore outside of the golden years of progressive rock (the late 1960s to the late 1970s) include Porcupine Tree (psychedelic prog/progressive metal), Marillion (neo-progressive rock/art rock), Anathema (symphonic prog) and IQ (neo-progressive rock), among many others. It’s up to you – there’s a massive amount of choice for you in this genre and ProgArchives will help you find the ones you want. Soon enough, you will have built a large collection of excellent progressive rock albums.

Tips:

1. First and foremost, remember to continue to listen to music of other genres. Don’t just limit yourself to progressive rock – listen to many kinds of music from different eras for a good balance. This shows a varied and appreciative music taste.

2. Don’t be put off by the idea of pop albums produced by progressive rock bands. Though some progressive rock fans refuse to listen to the more commercial albums by prog groups, they are still worth listening to if you’re into commercial music as well, and they can often help ease you into newer bands. The most important thing about progressive rock is not to judge albums by how progressive they are but by the quality of the music.

3. Don’t feel as though you have to listen to exactly the same bands as other progressive rock fans. It’s such a diverse genre of music – arguably the most diverse ever – that many fans listen to completely different band and sub genres of this genre. However, remember that progressive rock fans are all united in their love for the music, regardless of personal preference.

4. Try to acquire as much as possible from the bands you enjoy. A band’s discography doesn’t stop at their albums – there are various live albums by progressive rock bands, like Genesis’s “Seconds Out”, Yes’s “Yes songs” and Camel’s “A Live Record” which are considered essential by fans, as well as loads of rare tracks and other surprises just waiting to be discovered.

5. If a band’s discography looks difficult to explore for any reason, try obtaining a compilation instead – like Genesis’s “The Platinum Collection”, compilations are great introductions to bands you might go onto enjoy.

6. Pay no attention to the people who say you need drugs to enjoy and create progressive rock. You don’t – all you need is an interest in creative music, an open mind to a diverse and often challenging genre, and imagination when understanding the music and when making it yourself (if you choose to do so).

Warnings:
1. Don’t force yourself to listen to more progressive rock then you can take in. Take breaks from it now and again and make sure it doesn’t dominate everything you do, otherwise you won’t be able to enjoy it. It’s not a race – you can take as long as you like to explore the genre, and there’s a very, very high chance that you’ll never be able to listen to all of it.
2. Make sure not to purchase progressive rock albums you know nothing about. Instead, always read reviews of and information on the album you want to buy to decide whether or not you are going to enjoy it. Or, if you want to, you can preview the music on YouTube or Spotify. Very few progressive rock fans enjoy bands from all prog sub genres, so it’s strongly recommended that you make sure you know what you’re buying before you buy it.
This blog recommends:
The Moody Blues:  On the Threshold of a Dream
Jethro Tull: Songs from the Wood
Yes: Close to the Edge
Genesis: Foxtrot
Big Big Train: English Electric (Part One)
Kansas: Point of Know Return
Threshold: March of Progress
A.C.T: Silence
Porcupine Tree: Stupid Dream
Nektar: Recycled

Pop Quiz: What Do These Artists Have in Common?

vallineilpatsy

carskiss

Each group of artists listed below have something in common. Can you identify the link between the artists in each group?

Some are easy, others are tough. Answers will be posted in comments section.

1) Neil Young, Loverboy, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who, Barenaked Ladies, Rush

2) Donna Summer, Kiss, Parliament, Village People

3) John Denver, Jim Croce, Otis Redding, Patsy Cline

4) Dionne Warwick, Frankie Valli, Dolly Parton, Samantha Sang, Yvonne Elliman, Tavares, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand

5) Paul McCartney, Kurt Cobain, Elliott Easton, Jimi Hendrix

6) Aerosmith, Guster, Boston, The Cars

7) The Beach Boys, AC/DC, Bee Gees, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Heart, The Black Crowes, The Kinks

8) Lauren Hill, Christopher Cross, Starland Vocal Band, America, Debby Boone, Jody Watley, Men at Work, fun.

9) The Sex Pistols, The Postal Service, The La’s, Blind Faith, Jeff Buckley, Rockpile, Derek & the Dominos

10) Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ben Folds Five, America, Run-DMC, The Police, Salt ‘n’ Pepa, ZZ Top

Pop Quiz: The Sunshine Music Mix

sunshine photo

How many of the 14 “sunshine song” snippets can you identify? Use the comments section to post your guesses.

A Jovial Journey Through Fictitious Band Names

 bon

Cleverly-named Pittsburgh-area tribute act Bon Journey play a set that draws heavily on the music of the two bands whose names combine to form their own appellation.

jovi

Considering it doesn’t take much to bend idle minds to pointless mental meanderings, this set us to considering the plethora of possibilities for other cover band designations. To wit (hopefully):

If your band covers the music of Bon Jovi and Joni Mitchell you could name it Bon Joni.

If you do music primarily by The Rolling Stones and Styx you could be Styx and Stones.

S’pose you played mostly Johnny Cash and Eddie Money tunes. May I suggest Cash Money?

Now if you’ll indulge us, further into the preposterous we blunder for the sake of a laugh. If your band was all about Richard Marx and Skid Row music, you could be known as Skid Marx.

Let’s say your set combined the music of Grover Washington and AC/DC. You could be Washington/DC. Fats Domino and Don McLean? Fats McLean.

If your band mixed the early work of Clapton with to-the-extreme 90’s white rap may I suggest Vanilla Ice Cream?

marxSay your Richard Marx tribute band got tired of mixing in Skid Row songs and decided to include more Doobie Brothers in its set. You could call yourselves the Marx Brothers.

No…I’m not done yet. Smokey-voiced Chris Rea and Mark Knopfler of rifftastic rockers Dire Straits have remarkably similar vocal styles. Given this and the fact that in England they are both fairly prominent artists, perhaps it’s not completely unthinkable that if your tribute band were British you’d cover both artists’ material. Whether or not you decide to call your band Dire Rea would be entirely up to you.

I know this is unlikely. But if your band played only songs by New Pornographers and Destiny’s Child the obvious choice of band name would be Child Pornographers. Unfortunately.

marx 2

You say you’re way into Cream but you don’t really play that much Vanilla Ice? That’s weird. But if you instead focus mainly on Humble Pie and Boston you could be called Boston Cream Pie.

Do Bryan Ferry, Godsmack and the Mothers of Invention form the bulk of your live repertoire? For some reason bands like yours have all overlooked the name Ferry God Mothers so far. You’re welcome.

And to you versatile rockers who alternately play Aerosmith, Insane Clown Posse and Tool songs: Aeroposstool.

You say your lead guitarist worships Duane Allman but your keyboardist wants to play Joy Division? Allman Joy is your band’s new name.

enama

In one of those 80’s tribute bands that mainly cribs the catalogues of the Police, Billy Squier and Culture Club? Police Billy Club.

Or maybe your cover band is a mishmash of Fleetwood Mac, Public Enemy and Yo Yo Ma. It could happen. If so, please help yourself to my suggested band name: Fleet Enema. Of course your band logo may not be as cool as Bon Journey’s…

And if you play Grateful Dead, Phish and Bon Jovi covers I dub you Jam Band Jovi.

banjo

Not to fixate on the whole Bon Jovi thing–they are the reason we’ve come to this after all–but it occurs to me that if you like to play Bon Jovi tunes interspersed with Pete Seeger folk songs (and who doesn’t?) you really ought to consider the moniker of Banjovi.

Or if you have a Bon Jovi tribute band that happens to be fronted by a woman who looks like Debbie Harry you could be BlondeJovi. You don’t? K, just trying to help.

Are you one of those acts who tends to ping pong between the British heavy metal of Iron Maiden and the breezy American folk of…America? How about Maiden America?

harry

Are you in a rock and roll revivalist act who cover Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry? You could be Holly Berry.

Thinking of starting a band that plays Gentle Giant, Tim Hardin and Ce Ce Peniston? I dunno. Use your imagination–you can do this!

I could go on. In fact, it’s difficult not to after a while. REM Speedwagon, Buffalo Springsteen, Faith No Doubt, The Mamas & the Papas & the Babys, Aretha Hollies, Ratt Poison, Kajagoogoo Dolls

But I want to hear your tribute band names. Bring ’em on–the more preposterous the better!

p.s. If there can be an Australian Pink Floyd, could there be a Swedish Phish?

bostyx

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