Aphrodite's Child - "666" (1971)
Legendary double-album based on the drug-related hallucinations in the Revelation of John (the last book in the Bible, if you didn't know). Both Vangelis and Demis Roussos were amongst the members in this Greek band. The material on the album is very varied in style, but most of it could be described as a kind of a psychedelic progressive rock. Vangelis wrote all the material, and it's not hard to hear. Here are lots of great themes and melodies. The highlight for me is the incredible beautiful and atmospheric "Aegian Sea". Beautiful keyboards, a heavenly choir and a great guitar-theme make an awesome track. Rousso's voice comes to the fore on "The Four Horsemen", a very catchy track. "The Battle of the Locusts" and "Do It" are energetic jams. There's also some orchestration to good effect on "Altamont". There's also a VERY weird track here "sung" by Irene Papas. The track is just a lot of screaming and moaning, sounding like she's having an orgasm! I must admit that I have absolutely no idea what the meaning of this track is. In addition to this, there are also a lot of short, experimental pieces and interludes on the album, adding a mystical and weird touch to the whole album. There's also some less interesting pop-tunes in between all this, but don't care about them. Most of the album is very interesting and entertaining. This was also the album that made Jon Anderson ask Vangelis if he wanted to join Yes.
Apoteosi - "Apoteosi" (1975)
Another Italian goodie. Apoteosi played very typical 70's progressive of a kind that most of you should like. Long and complex tracks of a high quality with lots of organ, moog and beautiful flute. A lot of people claims that there's mellotron on this album too, but I can't hear it. But don't care about that, because the album is good anyway. Most of the tracks are quite structured and based in strong themes and melodies. The highlight is the 15-minute "Prima Realta / Il Grande Disumano", which in fact is two tracks floating into each other. The title-track seems to be more jam-based, and is different from the rest of the album. And by the way, the band had a female vocalist. The moog sound is also very tasty and beautiful. My only complaint is that the production is a little bit thin and has too much treble. But the music itself is very good, so you should check out the album anyway.
Aquila - "Aquila" (1970)
Rather tedious and unengaged sax/flute/organ driven progressive rock from this British one-shot. Their album reminds me quite a lot of Hannibal's album with some slight jazz and blues influences. The songwriting is mediocre and lacks riffs, themes and melodies that really grab me. Of course there's some good tendencies here and there (especially on the 24-minute "Aquila Suite"), but most of the album just bores me. You should better check out Web/Samurai, one of the best bands of this style of progressive rock. Guitarist/vocalist Ralph Denyer had earlier played with Blonde on Blonde, which was a more psychedelic orientated band than Aquila.
Argent - "Nexus" (1974)
I've been told that this is one of Argent's most progressive albums, and I suppose it's true. The three first tracks on the album are instrumental, keyboard-dominated progressive rock of a kind all of you will enjoy. Tons of Hammond, mellotron and moogs plays mighty and inspired themes. Very good. "Love" is a ballad that gets saved by a very pleasant mellotron arrangement. "Keeper of the Flame" is a nice symphonic track that for some unknown reason reminds me a little bit of Greenslade. "Thunder and Lightning" and "Gonna Meet My Maker" are more straightforward rock tracks. The El-piano dominated "Music from the Spheres" and "Man for All Reasons" is a little bit slick, but they're definitively not bad. The latter is kind of a progressive pop-track in the vein of Kayak. Argent's problem was that the two main songwriters in the band, Rod Argent and Russ Ballard, obviously had very different musical interests. Argent was the one who wrote the most progressive tunes while Ballard was much more hit-song oriented, resulting in a lack of musical profile. Anyway, most of their material is good and so is the performance too.
Ars Nova - "Sunshine and Shadows" (1969)
No, this is not our fave-girls from Japan but an American group who was one of the very first over there to be labelled as progressive. "Sunshine and Shadows" was their second and last album (the first is supposed to be their best, but I haven't heard that one) and shows a band that experimented with several different styles. However, the styles were mostly separated in each song instead of mixing them together, and the songs themselves are not very complex at all. The instrumentation consists of the traditional guitar/bass/drums/organ, but also features some trumpet and trombone. I've often seen this band described as "baroque-rock" but I honestly can't hear many baroque-influences here apart from some VERY slight ones in the ballad "Temporary Serenade". The best tracks here are "I Was Once", "She Promises Everything", the jazz-folkprog combination of "Round Once Again" and the earlier mentioned "Temporary Serenade". But most of the album is rather straightforward, melodic late 60's rock with some minor influences from other styles that probably was the reason why some people called them progressive. Decent and listenable stuff, but far from fantastic and not essential in any way.
Ars Nova - "The Goddess of Darkness" (1996)
This is a rather unbelievable group. It consists of three Japanese ladies which plays instrumental progressive rock of the highest quality! The music sounds often like a mix of ELP , Il Balletto di Bronzo and Änglagård with some classical influences. The album consists of five long and very complex tracks, all of them are good. All the tracks are written by keyboard player Keiko Kumagai, and she plays any keyboard you can imagine! There's tons of hammond, moogs some mellotron, and at least thousand other keyboards here. The tracks varies from quite raw and aggressive to more orchestral and classical passages. The production and playing is flawless, and the tracks have a breathtaking complexity. Ars Nova are simply the world's best female-group and they're also amongst the best progressive rock bands of the 90's.
Ash Ra Tempel - "Ashra Tempel" (1971)
Formed by ex-Tangerine Dream member Klaus Schulze, Manuel Göttsching and Hartmut Enke, Ash Ra Tempel was one of the pioneers of the progressive space-rock genre. Their debut-album seems to bee many people's favourite by the band, and I don`t blame them, cause you don`t get a more perfect space-atmosphere than the one you'll find here. The two tracks on the album is both VERY spacy pieces, but still very different from each other. "Amboss" opens quiet and relaxed, but soon bursts into a frenetic jam, highlighted with Göttsching`s excellent spacy guitar playing and Schulze's energetic drumming. It`s quite facinating how such an energetic and noisy piece still can be so atmospheric and relaxing. "Traummaschine" lives up to its title, and gives a clue about what Schulze later would do on his own albums. A very quiet and mysterious piece, with floating electronics and shimmering guitar.
The whole album gives you a feeling of flying through space in a pyramid and visiting planets with ancient temples.
Yes, this really is SPACE-music! This is definitively the one to start with if you're not familiar with Ash Ra Tempel.
Ash Ra Tempel - "Join Inn" (1973)
The original line- up of the band were re- united for the recording of the 4th Ash Ra Tempel album. And believe me, it's not hard to hear that this is the same line- up as on the debut- album. Just as the debut- album, this album consists of two tracks where the first is a energetic jam while the last is a atmospheric and floating track dominated by keyboards and electronics. As the title may suggests, "Freak'n'Roll" is the rocking track. As always, Göttsching contributes with great and spacey guitar playing, and the whole track is a quite inspired improvisation. But personally I like the electronic side of the band best, and "Jenseits" is no exception. Wonderful, dreamy, spacey, mystic and VERY atmospheric track that takes you to a far away and dreamy place. The track also featured some lyrics which was spoken by Göttsching's girlfriend Rosi Müller. The track would have fit onto any of Klaus Schulze's 70's albums. I just can't get enough of stuff like this! Wonderful! This, and the first album are probably Ashra Tempel's best albums.
Ash Ra Tempel - "Starring Rosi" (1973)
At this moment the band just consisted of Göttsching and his girlfriend Rosi. The tracks on the album were much shorter than on the previous albums, and this is with no doubt the weakest AT album I`ve heard. The best tracks here is "Schizo" and "The Fairy Dance". This is AT as we like it, spacy and atmospheric, but the tracks are just too short! "Day Dream" is a nice and acoustic track with the voice of both Göttsching and Rosi. "Interplay of Forces" is also a listenable track, while "Bring Me Up" and the extremly cheesy "Cosmic Tango" is pure crap. Not a fantastic album, and if you don`t want absolutely everything Göttsching have done, you better stay well away from it.
Ash Ra Tempel (Manuel Göttsching) - "Inventions for Electric Guitar" (1974)
Ash Ra Tempel had never a very stable line-up and it had gradually decreased until the "band" consisted of no one else than Göttsching himself. He was obviously not sure if he should keep the name or release the new albums under his own name, as they were actually pure solo-works, so he ended up with having both the band-name and his own name on the covers! "Inventions..." turned out to be a gigantic relief after the partly embarrassing "Starring Rosi". Basically the album sounds like your typical German, mid-70's space-electronic progressive album, but it featured no electronics at all. Every sound you hear on the album is created by Göttsching's electric guitars, and you probably won't believe it when you listen to the album. The 17-minute opener "Echo Waves" sets the tone for the album. Tons and tons of overdubbed spacey electric guitars that plays several different rhythmic chords over each others, creating a hypnotic and atmospheric space-progressive music in the vein of Schulze and Tangerine Dream, but the fact that it includes no electronics and synths makes it very unique. "Quasarsphere" is the shortest track on the album and the only one to feature no rhythmic patterns. A very pleasant and floating track that brings up images of a dark and lonely planet in outer space. The second side is taken up by the 21-minute "Pluralis" (I guess just the titles of the tracks are enough to make any space-fanatic drool!). This track is based in a repetitive theme with lots of spacey improvisations on top of it. It reminds me a lot of "Cyborg"-era Schulze. "Inventions..." is a unique piece of work that will satisfy most fans of German space-progressive music.
Ash Ra Tempel (Manuel Göttsching) - "New Age of Earth" (1976)
The second Ash Ra Tempel album as a Göttsching solo-album was a pure electronic album, and this time actually WITH electronics! "New Age of Earth" is easily one of the classics of 70's German electronic progressive music. Göttsching used all the synths and electronics in the typical German 70's way. His guitar-playing was now limited to just a few chords on some very brief passages. "Sunrain" opens the album with its pulsating electronic rhythmic theme with some light and pleasant synths on top of it. You can almost see the sunlight filtered through the raindrops when you listen to this track. Wonderful and very hypnotic music. The same goes for the slower and more spacey "Ocean of Tenderness". This track has the ability to set you in a very pleasant, relaxing and dreamy state. And "Deep Distance" can very well be the sweetest and most beautiful 5 minutes of electronic music ever recorded. All of the second side consists of the strongly Klaus Schulze influenced "Nightdust". Both the atmosphere, sound and build-up of this track reminds a lot of Schulze's classic "Moondawn" album, and just as good. Göttsching had a true talent for making hypnotic music to dream along to, and "New Age of Earth" is on of his/Ash Ra Tempel's best works.
Atila - "Intención" (1976)
Excellent and very powerful Spanish progressive. There's some vocals on the title-track, but all the other tracks are instrumental. There's lot of excellent keyboard work here, mostly Hammond and moog. The band also used a female choir to very great effect, and the drummer has a very powerful and aggressive style. My favourite track on the album is "Dia Perfecto". It starts with some quiet sounds that turns into a classical influenced keyboard theme. And when the track really kicks away with it's incredible moog-theme, thundering drums and guitar, then you'll understand what I mean with POWER! The 16-minute "El Principio Del Fin" starts with some church organ. After that, an almost Hendrix-like guitar riff appears, before the whole track slows down to something that reminds me a little bit of none other than Bo Hansson! A great band and a great album.
Atlantide - "Atlantide" (1976)
French band which with no doubt had listened a lot to Yes. Don't get me wrong, this is not a Yes clone in the same way as Starcastle, but some of the themes and melodies sounds sometimes a lot like Yes. But most of the time the band had a sound of their own. You will hear this especially on the more relaxed and excellent vocal parts (sung in French). The guitarist sounds quite Steve Howe influenced. The band didn't use any keyboards, but their sound is so rich and interesting that you won't miss it at all. The opening track, simply just called "Atlantide", is an excellent example of the group's style. Energetic and Yes-ish instrumental parts relived by atmospheric and distinctive vocal-parts. Overall this is a great album and recommended to any lover of 70's progressive.
Atlas - "Blå Vardag" (1979)
A classic from Sweden. The music this group played was instrumental and keyboard based progressive. Here you'll get lots of hammond and tasteful moog-sounds. The songwriting are overall good and quite complex. The highlight of the album is the 14-minute "På Gata". This track will satisfy any lover of 70's progressive. "Elisabiten" is another excellent track. The second side of the album sounds slightly more jazz-influenced and a little bit weaker than the first side, but still good. If you like Genesis, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer then you'll surely enjoy this album.
Atoll - "Tertio" (1977)
Ridiculously overrated French symphonic progressive rock band. This album was their third and is supposed to be their best. Well, thanks for the warning, guys! My problem with this album is that it sounds EXACTLY like some slick, boring and useless neo-progressive crap from the mid- 80's! To be ahead of your time isn't always a good thing. The boredom opens with a track called "Paris, C'Est Fini", supposedly one of the group's "classics". I hate it! A horrible track that gives associations to a stinking a noisy big-city. Definitively not the reason why I'm listening to progressive rock! And the sound is very modern and slick with some funk(??) and fusion influences. Awful. "Les Dieux Meme" is a better track. Very symphonic and atmospheric with some listenable themes. "Gar Lowe (Le Duel)" is obviously an attempt at fusing symphonic progressive with both funk and AOR- influences. Yuk! And what about "Le Cerf-Volant"? Well, I listened to this album right before I wrote this review, but I simply can't remember that track!! Sorry. The 13-minute, two-part closing track "Tunnel" is just like most of the rest of this album. Slick, boring and loaded with uninspired and useless themes that doesn't engage me at all. Neo-"progressive" fans will with no doubt like this album, but any true 70'S PROGRESSIVE ROCK FAN should avoid this crap at all costs.
Audience - "The House on the Hill" (1971)
Audience were a good British sax/flute-driven band from the late 60's and early 70's. "The House on the Hill" was their third album and is often considered to be their best. Musically there's an obvious influence from early Jethro Tull here, but the saxophone still gives them a different sound and feel. The best and most progressive tracks here are "Jackdaw" and the title-track. Both tracks features great and very powerful vocals and extended instrumental-parts where both the flute and sax stretches out in some great solos. "Raviole" is a tasty and classical-influenced instrumental played on acoustic guitar and strings. Probably the only track on the album that is close to being symphonic. The rest of the album is made up of catchy and enjoyable stuff like "You're Not Smiling", "Nancy" and the irresistible "Eye to Eye". There's also an interesting, acoustic and different version of "I Put a Spell on You" here, dominated mainly by vibes and flute. An excellent album and recommended to all 70's lovers.
Aunt Mary - "Janus" (1973)
Believe it or not, but there has in fact been some good progressive rock bands here in Norway too! Aunt Mary was most of their time a hard rock band in the Deep Purple vein. But on their third album, "Janus", the music took a much more progressive direction. The album is clearly inspired by Yes, Pink Floyd and Emerson Lake & Palmer. Keyboardist Bengt Jenssen had also bought a minimoog which he used in the most tasteful way. The album starts with "Path of Your Dream". The opening riff soon gets into a acuostic vocal part, and the track ends in a disharmonic riff with the moog monotonius just going on and on in the background, and it sounds great! "For All Eternity" is a quite Yes influenced track and also very good. On "Stumbling Stone" you can still hear some of the group`s hard rock roots, but in a much more experimental way than before. "All We got to do is Dream" is a nice acoustic track, and "Candles of Heaven" got some Emerson influenced hammond-work and high vocal harmonies. A great album which gets my vote as the best norwegian progressive rock album ever.
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Axis - "Axis" (1973)
The second album by this Greek band who lived in France. I've been told that their two other albums are both non-progressive, but this one is a REALLY progressive album! It's incredible diverse and features almost everything: heavy progressive, trad/free-form jazz, Crimson-like passages, experimental and atmospheric Tangerine Dream-like Mellotron-parts, Canterbury-like jazzy progressive and grandiose, symphonic parts with church-organ and choir. The only thing that doesn't do much for me is the most far out free jazz on "Asymphonia". But the rest is GREAT! The opening track "Waiting a Long Time" is a great heavy-progressive track, and at the end the track suddenly turns into a part where it's played by a trad-jazz arrangement. And the album just continues to surprise the listener with unexcepted turns. "Sewers Down Inside" features Tangerine Dream-like flute-Mellotron and creates some great atmosphere. "Materializing the Unlimited" sounds like a good Crimson-instrumental with great Mellotron. "Suspended Recipe", "Roads" and "The Planet Vavoura" are all more in a Canterbury progressive vein. Jazzy, but the band managed to give it a sound of their own by using the Mellotron on these passages (not very common in jazz-influenced progressive). A great and VERY progressive album, but be aware that I've also seen this album listed as "Sewers Down Inside" and that their third (and non-progressive) album also was called "Axis". And thanks to my good friend Bill for making me aware of this band!
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