Best Prog-Rock Albums of the Decade (2010-2019)

We have a decade to summarize here. So without no further ado, here’s the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the cherry on the cake. These albums have made it to the top of the progressive rock community ratings and reviews:

1) Wobbler – From Silence to Somewhere

2) All Traps on Earth – A Drop of Light

3) Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase

4) Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing

5) Anglagard – Viljans Öga

6) IQ – The Road of Bones

7) Camel – The Snow Goose (Re-Recording)

8) Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning

9) Discipline – To Shatter All Accord

10) Phideaux – Snowtorch

11) Big Big Train – English Electric, Part I

12) Haken – The Mountain

13) Motorpsycho – The Death-Defying Unicorn

14) Opeth – Pale Communion

15) iamthemorning – ~

16) Haken – Visions

17) Anekdoten – Till All the Ghosts are Gone

18) Anubis – Tower of Silence

19) Big Big train – English Electric, Part II

20) Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine

 

From the top 20 prog albums we can learn that Steven Wilson is the most notable progressive rock artist of the last decade, with three albums in the final chart (an amazing achievement). Also, the band Haken is the most meaningful group to emerge from the UK prog scene in the last 10 years.

Personally, I don’t agree with the #1 spot acquired by the Wobbler band. It’s a cute band with a cute album, but it seems like Wilson or Haken should have occupied the apex of the decade.

The debut album by “All Traps on Earth” was a huge surprise out of nowhere. Clearly this is an offspring of the Anglagard camp, but nonetheless it’s a magnificent work of art, made in the dark studio for almost five years.

A note about IQ (#6 on the list) – the long-standing UK group have hit “album of the year” award with their 2019 masterpiece, “Resistance” (2-CD), arguably their best work ever.

Sweden & the UK seem to dominate the list, with a few exceptions here and there (USA, Norway and Poland).

Wishing you all a happy new prog-rock decade, with many more exciting albums to enjoy.

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Adrian Belew in Israel 2016: An Interview

adrian-belew-power-trio-2016King Crimson ex-frontman comes back to Tel Aviv for a Power Trio show on February 3rd, 2016. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for his third visit to the Holy Land.

1) First – thanks for coming to Israel again. It should be your 3rd time here. How was the last concert with the Crimson Projeckt in Tel Aviv?

    Adrian Belew: it was amazing. I’m a lucky person to get to travel to so many important places. crimson project is a mighty sounding band I really enjoy working with. it is, among other things, my vehicle to play 33 years worth of king crimson music I helped create. and I love coming to Tel Aviv. this time I’m bringing something I love even more: the power trio. not to be missed! recently we have taken a new approach to playing music live and it’s something no else is doing yet.

2)  “Spotify” seems to be a new digital “enemy” of yours. Judging from your FB posts, you are very worried about the future of professional musicians.

   Adrian Belew: I have no enemies and nothing against spotify per se. I was only dispensing information which I think music lovers should be aware of. I personally make nothing from spotify and it doesn’t matter, that’s not how I thrive. my concern is for the future of those musicians (young and old) still vying for a way to make music their livelihood. I think society is in danger of losing its best “intellectual property creators”of all type by allowing royalty incomes to be the lowest possible rate.

3)  “66 is the new 26” – you’’re recently declared. You’re a very busy artist, performing worldwide, devloping apps and releasing new music. Can you say you’re working harder now than you’ve worked when you were 26 years old?

    Adrian Belew: your age has everything to do with your perception of yourself. most of the time I don’t even feel 20! and it’s a good thing, because I work harder now than ever before. when I was 26 years old I was a skinny starving musician who spent most of his time trying to figure out how to make the rent! with success comes the hard work and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been given a platform of self-expression any artist would cherish and I love what I do.

4)  Your song “This Is What I Believe” from 1992’s “Innver Revolution” album has caught my attention. You wrote: “All the world is dangerous, Full of homicidals and terrorists, But underneath their blanket of hate, The only thing that will survive is our love and faith”. Do you still believe in this today?

Adrian Belew: more than ever. love drives all good things and without faith I would never even board a plane in these dangerous times. but you can’t hide in a corner, you have to live your life. I’m not a politically-minded person, I’m more of a humanist. I often wonder when people will realize we are all the same: human beings. mankind. regardless of our cultures, religions, and skin tones. and we should treat us other accordingly.

5) The great Frank Zappa keeps appearing in your publications, memories and annoucements. You’re very proud of his endorsement “Adrian Belew re-invenvted the guitar”. Since his death, can you name a new musical genius in the world? is there anyone in his level? was Zappa a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon?

  Adrian Belew: there will never be another frank zappa, he was utterly unique. I am fortunate to have worked up close with him and I owe him a great deal for helping me. I can’t name new musical geniuses because I don’t listen to other people’s music anymore. I learned years ago to stay focused on the music I hear in my head and for me that means shutting out everything else. I know that sounds awful and I’m sorry, but it is the best way for me.

6) One of your great songs “Asleep” says, simply: “one day you wake up. But you didn’t even know you were alseep”. It was written after 9/11. Did that dramatic event *really* wake us up, in hindsight? I mean – maybe we all just woke up for a few minutes and then fell asleep again?

   Adrian Belew: “this is a dangerous place”.  I wrote that line in 1981. so I have been awake for a while. “asleep”was indeed written regarding 9/11. it doesn’t seem to have”woken all of us up”enough, but I think it is more profound for some of us than others. it did manage to change life forever, especially here in america where we can never go back to the way we were.

7) You’ve travelled all over the world and performed in so many cities. Can you nail down the #1 gig of your life so far? I know it’s really hard to do, but would you please be so kind as to pinpoint one particular music event that you always look back to as the “singular moment” of a long career?

 Adrian Belew: there are so many many moments I could name, but you are most impressionable when you’re young. when I was only 28 years old I remember standing on the stage of madison square gardens in new york city right next to david bowie playing to a sold out audience of thousands! the front rows were filled with famous people of all sorts including andy warhol, dustin hoffman, mick jagger, and interestingly enough: talking heads. that was quite a moment.

8)  The Music Industry has changed: Once it was the gig promoting the album. Now it’s the album promoting the gig. Do you find yourself performing much more than ever before, or it’s business as usual?

Adrian Belew: I do perform now more than ever, especially internationally, but it’s because I love it (in small doses). live performance is now the primary source of income for most musicians whether they love it or not. it’s the one thing the bad guys haven’t yet figured out how to steal from us! there were years in my life when I dreaded touring, but at some point it turned around 180 degrees. now I enjoy touring. (in small doses). there is something entirely zen about performing live. a performance happens once and it seems like in an instant it’s over!

9) You always talked about the compromise a musician like yourself has to make within a band format, with all the frustration that goes with it. You prefer to create alone, just like a painter with his canvas. Having said that – isn’t it amazing what King Crimson (for example) has achieved with this huge compromise — in retrospect, of course?

  Adrian Belew: I complain too much and too loud about many things. it’s part of my nature to point out the negatives before moving on to the positives. but once I’ve done so I can really enjoy the positives! clearly my life is a balancing act: family time, career time. touring, recording. writing, performing. digital, analog. collaboration, solo work. I need a diet of all these things and being in a band is very important to me. king crimson is and will always be one of the most important collaborations of my career and nothing can change that. for me it was mostly fantastic.

10) I’ve read your post about your first concert ever – The Beatles at Crosley Field in Cincinnati back in 1966. You say Paul McCartney is your favorite artist of all time. You’ve met both Paul and Ringo. Sometimes you sound like Lennon himself. Are you still creating music today that is directly inspired by the Beatles?

  Adrian Belew: yes. that cannot change either because it’s in my musical DNA. I learned enough from the beatles (at a young impressionable age) to set me on creative fire for life.

The Adrian Belew Power Trio will perform live in Tel Aviv’s Barby Club, on February 3rd 2016. Julie Slick (Bass) and Tobias Ralph (Drums) will help Adrian Belew (Guitars, Vocals) make this a great evening.

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Manfred Mann’s Earth Band cancel Israel gig

“Due to the present ongoing problems in Israel with all the recent shootings and people getting kicked to death in public etc, the band do not feel safe or secure with the idea of playing Tel Aviv, and as the ticket sales are also not very good I think it is in everybody’s best interests that we cancel the show now. Thank you for your understanding and I am sorry that it did not work out”.

That’s how Manfred Mann’s Earth Band cancelled their Israeli gig, scheduled for January 19th in Tel Aviv’s Reading-3  club. The security issue angered Israeli ticket buyers, who felt cheated and humiliated.

The show was originally scheduled for September 21st, 2015. Although the band has informed the Israeli promoter on November 3rd, the show only was officially cancelled in the last minute by the Israel production, citing difficulties with locating a proper Organ for famed keyboardist Manfred Mann. Ticket buyers were suspicious about the whole thing, but a new date was set (19/01/2016) and things looked fine.

On November 23, the band issued a quick statement, cancelling the gig:

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However, the Israeli promoter, “Progstage”, refused to accept the situation. A wave of terror has swept Israel since September 2015, centering around the Temple Mount. The guys at ProgStage did not cancel the gig, and kept on selling tickets to Israeli consumers.

As the show’s January 19 date was getting closer, the UK band was bombed with questions from Israelis: are you coming or not? so they issued another statement on January 13th:

manfred-mann-facebook-announcement-13-01-16_484x203

After this annoucement, the Israeli promotor had no option but to cancel. However, this is where things got ugly. Progstage staff accused Manfred Mann’s management of joining a cultural boycott against Israel (BDS). This, despite the band’s sweeping denial of any such attempt.

It should be noted that Manfred Mann’s Earth Band has performed in Israel on May 2004. The band gave two gigs in Tel Aviv and Haifa. So clearly, at least some of the band members what Israel is like.

After the Israeli press turned the lost gig into a minor political scandal, the summary is quite simple: many UK artists don’t feel safe in Israel. They watch BBC News and see an endless stream of terror attacks throughout Israel, including the occupied territories. People are being stabbed in the streets of Jerusalem, Hebron and many more cities. Many Palestinians are being shot to death by soldiers, sometimes on a daily basis.

Justin Hayward (for The Moody Blues), for example, also cancelled his Tel Aviv gig after two attemps of rescheduling. American band “Kansas” also cancelled their gig back in August 2014, because of the war with Gaza.

We, Israelis, understand why some rock groups decide to avoid visiting Israel. However, it should be noted that many big rock bands have perfomed successfully in Israel lately. Bon Jovi, Art Garfunkel, Suede and the Rolling Stones are just some of the artists who ignored the security concerns. Even the great Elton John is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park on May 26th, 2016.

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Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – 2015 Promo Photo

 

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The Endless River: 5/10 – Worst Pink Floyd Album Ever Made

endless-river-pink-floyd-200[1]The Endless River, the 15th studio album by Pink Floyd, is a predictable disappointment. There are no great songs, no flashes of brilliance, no musical surprises and there is nothing exciting for PF fans.

We did not have “High Hopes” anyway, since the actual band broke up 20 years ago. Loyal fans of the British ensemble, adoring the guys for almost 50 years, did not really expect to receive an old-new album such as this money-making concoction. “The Endless river” is said to be a “tribute” to the late keyboardist Richard Wright, though it’s not at all clear that Wright, a fairly critical chap, would have expressed great satisfaction from the final result, had he been alive and kicking today. It’s more of a tribute to their record company.

How can leftover jam-session pieces made in 1993 for the Division Bell album, released way back in 1994, compete with the great works of the majestic Pink Floyd? It’s sad to say, but there is no competition with the ‘golden age’ of Floyd. The truth is, it takes a superhuman effort to put together something worthy of brain-ear intercation, from over 20 hours of useless studio jam sessions.

David Gilmour and Nick Mason had to recruit a team of musical producers and tech wizards, add new solos, throw in a mass of digital studio effects and try to build a consistent product, on par with the band’s perfect sonic reputation. But when time comes for the bottom line, “The Endless River” is nothing more than an elegant anesthetic for aging fans, which have become comfortably numb.

The album opens the voice of Richard Wright, the now-missing member, which says, ‘certainly we had an unspoken understanding’, and “There are many things that are left unsaid”. Gilmore adds its own statement, “Sometimes we fight, argue, and then work it out’, or something to that effect. Combining interviews at the opening of an album is an old trick from 1973 (‘ Dark Side Of The Moon ‘), offered by none other than Roger Waters. After a brief reunion with Waters in 2005, millions of Floyd-heads had renewed hope for a renaissance. The irritating Roger is missed (How I Wish you Were Here), at least those who think some political criticism is not the end of the world.

The direction of the endless cruise is highly ‘Ambient‘ (perhaps far too ambient), almost like a nostalgic fantasy filled with flashbacks, daydreams and perhaps some kind of polite longing for a gray and shy person. This is not the first time the Floyds mourn a lost band member. But unlike the grand lamentations about the colorful Syd Barrett, here it feels like browsing an old family album, with all the photos in black and white, faded, almost lifeless.

Throughout the album you can feel an attempt to recover and recycle great moments from classical albums like ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Animals’, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ and even some “The Wall” (“Alons-Y” sounds like a reproduction of “Run Like Hell”). Sometimes this is done in a gentle and implicit manner, and sometimes a little more blunt. The opening of “Anisina”, for example, sounds like “Us and Them” from The Dark Side, and Gilad Atzmon’s saxophone only strengthens the resemblance. The short track ‘Skins’ quotes the famous Tom-tom drums of “Time”. ‘It’s What We do’ sounds just like the final moments of ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’. “On Noodle Street” is elevator music, and ‘Calling’ can be a subsection of a soundtrack to a quite-pale documentary film about the Amazon river.

Naturally, the slow and ambient atmosphere is reminiscent of the less-than-dramatic sections from “The Division Bell“; But the music here, which is in fact just sleepy improvisations on the same three or four chords, is far less ambitious; In the absence of any meaningful text or true concept, they have no artistic direction, musical statement and lyrical depth. Some tracks are just too damn brief to be memorable at all. And above all, quite a few minutes sound too much like ‘On An Island’, Gilmour’s quite-nice solo attempt from 2006, which was far better-flowing than this mundane river.

Two tracks stand out from the ambience: “It’s What We Do“, and the only straight song, “Louder Than Words“. Polly Samson’s text is neo-kitsch, self-flattering and not very bright. Gilmour’s lovely guitar still sounds good here, with Mason and Wright giving the respectable guitarist all the space he needs for the right “take”. Bass roles, reserved in the past for Mr. Roger Waters, are now scattered between Gilmour, Guy Pratt, Bob Ezrin and Andy Jackson.

It is never pleasant to say negative things about a Pink Floyd album. Sometimes this ‘dirty work’ just has to be done, if you really love someone. Ironically, the new album actually highlights the greatness of the band at its peak, especially in the years 1973-1979. Even a hollow album like “The Division Bell” suddenly sounds so consistent, enjoyable and even inspiring, compared with the collection of meaningless glimpses. This endless river noq easily inherits 1987’s “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” disaster as the worst Pink Floyd album ever.

What motivated this negligible release? contractual obligations, an attempt to promote the back catalog (endless stream of 5.1 remasters), a new cashflow to the Wright family (note Wright’s name in the credits, again and again), or maybe even silencing the fans who demanded one last PF product. Perhaps we will never know what was behind the decision of David Gilmour to pull out the old tapes, sit patiently by the computer and the team of produers, and pretend that Pink Floyd is not just a company (corporation) with limited liability established in 1987, but also an artistic entity with a noble cause.

The ultimate test of any music album is the number of repeated listens. The Endless River does not arouse any desire to continue to listen to it in the future. It’s not because it sounds amateurish or ostentatiously embarrassing, not because the music does not sound “Floydish”. Luckily, though, there are at least 14 other good albums to choose from.

Conclusion: The Endless River is not a river you want to cruise in. The fountain of inspiration has dried out, long ago. A tribute to the late Richard Wright was not necessary at all. Every note in this album has already appeared in better form and context, inside past albmus made by the glorious Waters, Gilmour, Mason & Wright. Therefore, young listeners are cautioned not to start the introduction to Pink Floyd with this strange product.

Score: 5/10

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Genesis Together and Apart – BBC2 Documentary Review (7/10)

It’s very hard to say anything new about the Genesis story, and the BBC’s latest attempt, “Together and Apart“, which aired in the UK on October 4th (2014) was a failure at that point. Not only was it superficial, but it collapsed under its own weighty mission: to cover not only the band’s life-work, but to touch on multiple solo projects of band members.

The result was a mildly entertaining, but not very satisfactory, piece of public relations work, hiding behind the respectable cloak of “documentary” artisan-ship, and spanning only 90 minutes.

BBC Two - Genesis: Together and Apart

Genesis band members have interviewed themselves to death over the years. Their CD and DVD boxes were filled with extensive talking-head bits, describing in detail practically every album and song made by the band over their super-long history (1967-2007).

It would take more than 3 hours of video to handle this project with any level of respect. At least 2 hours for the band and 1 hour for the solo albums. Peter Gabriel’s work is, perhaps, the most influential. Not only has Gabriel’s music opened the doors for the world-music genre, but his political involvement justifies much more attention than BBC-2 was willing to give.

Besides the five band members, the film included exactly 20 interviewees, some of them from outside the band’s professional circle, with less interesting stories to contribute.

 

Missing pieces from the Genesis puzzle

  • Chris Stewart – first Genesis drummer. Wasn’t interviewed or mentioned in “Together and Apart”
  • Jonathan King – first producer for Genesis. His prison sentence wasn’t mentioned, perhaps in exchange for his willingness to participate in the film.
  • John Silver – 2nd Genesis drummer. Just like Stewart, he wasn’t interviewed or mentioned.
  • John Mayhew – 3rd Genesis drummer. As you’ve guessed, wasn’t interviewed or mentioned.
  • John Anthony – producer for the Trespass album. Totally ignored.
  • Paul Whitehead – artist for early Genesis albums. Didn’t make it to BBC’s final cut.
  • Anthony Phillips – his solo work wasn’t covered in any way.
  • King Crimson – huge influence on Genesis. Not a word in the docu.
  • The Nice – direct influence on “The Knife” epic piece. BBC viewers will not know that.
  • John Burns – producer for three early Genesis albums. Not in film.
  • Tony Stratton-Smith (“Strat”) – Charisma label for Genesis. The band’s real patron and godfather. He’s dead, but wasn’t included even through archive pieces.
  • Jill Moore – first wife of Peter Gabriel. Critical to “The Lamb” period, photographed but not interviewed.
  • Brand-X – Jazz-Fusion group, side-project for Phil Collins in the 70’s. No real mention of the albums, band members or significance.
  • Bill Bruford – hired drummer for late 70’s Genesis tour. Not mentioned.
  • Steve Hackett’s solo career – not included at all. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the film. Hackett is furious over this. Maybe the longer DVD version will fix that.
  • Milton Keynes Bowl reunion concert (1982) – important gig for the five. Not a trace.
  • Nick Davis – producer for We Can’t Dance. Wasn’t on BBC.
  • Ray Wilson – new singer after Phil Collins left in 1996. A huge miss for the film.
  • Calling All Stations – Genesis album in 1997. Impossibly, not mentioned in the film.
  • Genesis Archive box set (67-75) – great project that didn’t get any mention.
  • Three Remaster Box Sets: 70-75, 76-82, 83-98 – all three dismissed.
  • Collins’ 2007 accident on tour – reason for his inability to drum. Missing from final edit.
  • Genesis Live 1973–2007 – another box-set that was thrown out of the film’s “plot”.
  • Genesis Revisited II – even Hackett’s reworking of Genesis classics has been left out.
  • Influence on other bands – a subject that didn’t appear anywhere. Marillion’s just one example.
  • Tribute Bands – great groups such as The Musical Box and ReGenesis are missed here.
  • Hall of Fame Induction – both Genesis & Gabriel. Not there in the film.

Summary

Any short biography book, like “Genesis Inside & Out” (by Robin Platts) gives you a fuller and a truer picture of the band’s story, compared with BBC-2’s “Together and Apart”. Of course it’s better than VH1 short docu (44 mins.), but it seems like too many important milestones and people were not even interviewed, because a 90-minute duration is just not enough to cover this epic journey.

genesis-sum-of-its-parts-blurayThe DVD-BluRay edition, titled “Sum of its Parts”, has 30 minutes of extra footage, but it doesn’t showcase an expanded narrative or different interviewees. So, the jury is out and the rating is pretty low: 7/10 for “Genesis – Together and Apart”, a PR product to promote the “R-Kive” 3CD set.

The real documentary on Genesis has not been produced yet. It would take much more work, and complete editorial freedom to include the darker stories of the band, the chapters untold in the BBC dry-cleaning effort, and a wider perspective on the band’s work on the rock, pop and prog-rock world.

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Kate Bush Live 2014: What went wrong?

How could it be that returning after 35 years, one of the most gifted artists of our times feels the need to wow the audience with visual theatrics rather than play her wonderful songs?

by O. Shinar (Eventim Apollo, London, Sep 19th 2014)

The news was so outrageous it seems something was wrong: could it be that Kate Bush has just announced a return to live performance, after so many years? Sure, there were some signs of that materializing – she has returned to album making, was seen in public accepting an award and also spoke of a possible return to the stage. But few seemed to have believed her. Kate Bush was famous for being a recluse, content on creating music while shying away from ever meeting a live audience. The ‘Before the Dawn’ concerts have thankfully shattered this conception. Unfortunately, they have also broke other perceptions, in a more disconcerting manner.

Kate Bush did return to the stage, as we all know, working secretly for more than a year on a lavish and intricate stage production, together with some of the most talented people in theater, lightning and special effects. Dancers, singers and, of course, musicians were also part of the menu, as was one special teenager, Kate’s own son, Bertie, who has become a regular fixture in her albums since ‘Aerial’ (2005), almost a decade ago. The show might have never come into fruition without him, notes Bush, and indeed it is hard to miss his many roles in the concert – singing, dancing, playing various acting parts, etc.

Young Bertie’s presence seems to be a plausible explanation for the show immature tendencies, yet when push comes to shove, given the artist in question has time and time again proved to be hands-on with regard to all aspects of her work, including semi hidden etching on her vinyl singles, it should be assumed that, for better or worse, the concerts are a reflection of Kate Bush’s own vision rather than anyone else, including her son.

Yet the show was deeply upsetting for me as it seemed focused on visuals rather than sounds. This has been a great disappointment for me, having spent thousands of pounds travelling with my children to the UK for the concert at the London Apollo. It was natural to assume we will witness some balance between what was important for Kate and what could be expected of her, i.e., singing some of her brilliant musical achievements of yesteryear but also as of late. Songs like ‘In a Coral Room’ or ‘Snowflake’, which are widely regarded among the peak of her work, are rather recent and therefore could have been included in a show which would suggest Bush is still very much a rare musical genius.

However, while the inclusion of many of the ‘Hounds of Love’ songs, including ‘The Ninth Wave’ was expected, Bush has also added obscure songs under the heading ‘Hits’, some of which were never even released as singles, let alone attained popular following.

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Theater of Kate Bush Show

Eventim Apollo, London, September 19th 2014

It is possible to explain the omission of the earlier materials, some of which have been played live during the 1979 tour, but Bush decision to completely disregard more recent album such as ‘The Sensual World’ is a mystery. Well, at least somewhat of a mystery until one realizes ‘Never be Mine’, one of the most haunting songs ever recorded by Bush as to be included in the ‘Hits’ section, dropped, possibly at the last moment, due to the length of the show – three hours – one could assume. While this makes sense, in the context of having to shorten a very lengthy live concert, one which has been repeated almost every night during two months in the summer of 2014, the question still remains, why such a brilliant song, the only one from an entire album, was cut, rather than much less known and interesting songs.

"Never Be Mine" in the computer set-list

“Never Be Mine” in the computer set-list (Photo; O. Shinar)

The concert’s final section, the second half of ‘Aerial’, ‘A Sky of Honey’, provided a possible key to understanding the Bush criterion for song selection – visual aspects of the performance seemed more important to her than the sound. While the musicians faded into the background, literally shoved into the far reaches of the giant stage, birds, huge canvasses, the sun and the moon as well as a myriad of other stage antics were introduces in a spellbinding manner, spinning the heads of all present and making sure the musical experience become a soundtrack to some of the most amazing images, such as a huge, slowly revolving, yellowish moon, which was as real as the dancers who shared the stage.

For an artist who chose to transcend the need for tangible contact with the audience for so long, creating a show which included a selection of songs based on visual merit is unfortunate.

I’m probably missing something. Most critics and members of the audience wrote favorably and enthusiastically about the concerts. Many wrote of the Clouds passing us from above, the giant trees crashing on stage, the troop of skeleton-skinned fish patrolling the stage, which become a sea in which Bush drowns during the Ninth Wave reincarnation. Yet few contemplated the fact that the choice of song could and should have been significantly different.

Yet even more regretful was the heavy handed use of tapes and digital sounds rather than real musicians. A single violin player would have done wonders for the aural experience, while a small orchestra would have never been out of place given its extensive presence in the majority of Bush’s albums. Indeed, the songs renditions suffered, culminating in the abysmal omission of the counter melody in the show final song ‘Cloudbusting’. The audience seems content of just hearing the song. I wonder how many have noticed to lack of the delightful line played by the cellos on the album.

What to make of all of this? Perhaps the fear of performing pushed Kate into making such a bigger than life experience, one in which Kate herself is dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of the experience.

Kate Bush’s warm and wonderful voice is still very much there. It is still amazingly beautiful, lacking nothing, even if the range is a little more limited than before. Hence, she could have sung with ease most of the post 1985 songs.

For many, including myself, Kate bush is the most brilliant female artist alive today. She is among the most gifted musicians of our time, disregarding gender. When she sings other people’s songs, it becomes clear that her voice is a rare gift: Elton John suggests Kate Bush contribution to Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’ saved his life. Is there a bigger compliment? Unfortunately, much of her brilliance was lost on ‘Before the Dawn’.

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Chain Reaction by Distorted Harmony (2014) – 8.5/10

Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction [album] by Distorted Harmony [band]

After listening 48 times to the 2nd album by the Israeli prog-metal band “Distorted Harmony” (DH), I can say with certainty that this is an excellent export product for Israel.

“Chain Reaction”, while far away from the ethnic-metal music of bands like Orphaned Land, captures the right hemisphere of the brain with considerable success.
Compared to ‘ Utopia ‘, the ensemble’s debut album in 2012, this album boasts more sophistication, focus and self-confidence. Over 9 tracks and 51 minutes, the album proves that DH is not a one-time miracle. The CD displays extensive experience gained outside the band, very high technical skill and natural talent to write melodic musical pieces, original and exciting.

 

Many Israeli bands suffer from the ‘weak link syndrome‘ – when one member of a talented ensemble trails after the rest, but no one is willing to get rid of him, because that’s not pleasant, he’s a personal friend. Not so with Distorted Harmony: each band member is an ace, all endowed with appropriate musical abilities, and together they are just unstoppable. You can really feel that this is a collection of well-rehearsed musicians, working hard for two years, a real cutting-edge band that has painstakingly crystallized over time.

 

As the keyboardist and band leader, Yoav Efron,  was the most dominant member in the debut album, this time around he gave other members in the band the opportunity to lead the music. Guy Landau (guitar) demonstrates maturity, muscle, depth and amazing skill. I will compare him to John Petrucci and Michael Romeo‘s latest albums with Symphony-X. Second in the race for MVP, Yogev Gabay (Drums) boasts elegant virtuosity, using intelligent syncopation, changing meters and creative rhythmic transitions.

 

The compliments to Landau and Gabbay don’t come at the expense of Misha Sohinin (vocals), Iggy Jackson Cohen (bass) and of course Yoav Efron (keyboards, melodies, production, etc.). Sohinin sounds great as usual, refusing to conform to prog-metal singers clichés and mannerisms. Bassist Cohen filles his lines with a jazz vocabulary, although most listeners will not be able to hear his subtle intricacies. Yoav Efron enriches the entire recording with heavy walls of sound, electronic samples, broken chords and fast melodic lines. But Efron is primarily a project manager, who sees the overall picture — not just his own synthesizer; He can be proud of his “baby”, even though the album does not show-off with super keyboard solos under his belt. And that’s a very good thing, when you’re talking about prog-metal, a genre suffering from overkill, speeding tickets and heavy shouting.

 

Chain Reaction’s weaknesses are not hidden very deep: First, it’s a prog-metal album for prog-metal fans only. It’s hard to believe that people who do not like heavy metal music will connect to an aggressive one, which contains a predictable combination of heavy shelling and many moments of almost-symphonic beauty . Second, it is difficult to say that this album has something important to say, lyrically or conceptually. It’s not avant-garde in any way, and DH has no intentions in re-inventing the prog wheel; The band members stay away from gimmicks like fire. They don’t want to provoke, surprise too much or show they are more clever than their hard-core audience.

 

Chain Reaction has lots of wonderful moments worth experiencing over and over again: the choral anthem (5:10 timing) in the opening track (Every Time She Smiles); The revolutionary vocal tantrum of Sohinin (2:42 timing) in the 2nd track (Children of Red); Sophisticated instrumental passages (5:11) in the second half of the third track (Misguided); Thrash storm in the middle section (timing 3:50) in the 5th track, As One; The closing Djent-like section of the 6th track, Hollow (timing 5:46); Remarkable virtuoso opening of Natural Selection (0:19); Morbid band Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson in the last, 9th track, Methylene Blue.

 

Part of the secret of success of “Chain Reaction” lies, as usual, in technical matters: the musical production is extra-polished, loaded with up-to-date effects and electronics, benefiting from the superb mix by a great team (Yoav Efron, Priel Horesh and Jonathan Barak), and the work of the super-professional digital master wizard Jens Borgen. Sung in plain English, showing heavy financial investments and attention to fine detail, all of these qualities make “Chain Reaction” one of the best prog-metal albums of 2014.

Score: 8.5 / 10

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Kansas Band Cancel Israeli Gig, Scheduled for Aug 5th

The war with Gaza has made the American prog-rock band, KANSAS, decide to cancel their first-ever planned performance in Tel Aviv, Israel.

On July 29th, a week before the show was set to go, the band’s management issued this statement on their facebook page:

“Out of concern for the safety of concert goers, the band, and its crew due to the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza, the KANSAS concert scheduled for 5 August 2014 in Tel Aviv is cancelled.”

This was a huge blow for the band’s fans in Israel. Although the Gaza war started in July 8th, the band did not cancel right away. Everyone waited for an official ceasefire. When that didn’t happen, the band said “we can’t make it” and angered ticket-buyers.

In over 40 years of existence, Kansas never visited Israel. The band focused on the U.S. market, even ignoring major parts of Europe. Their 40th annivesary tour was supposed to be a landmark opportunity for Israeli fans to witness the band in an excellent venue (the revamped Tel Aviv’s Culture Hall, ideal for classical music), on Tuesday, August 5th 2014, shortly before the departure of Steve Walsh (vocals and keyboards) in mid-August.

Israeli production company, ProgStage, promised Israeli customers that Kansas will not cancel because of the war. It seems like the band just wanted to wait and see what happens, but eventually they couldn’t risk it.

 

Kansas with a fan, July 29th, 2014

Kansas with a fan, July 29th, 2014

Israeli rock fans have seen many cancelations of foreign artists recently. The war with Gaza, and the problematic security situation has made Neil Young, The Backstreet boys, America, Paul Anka and Chick Corea have all had to cancel. The German progressive-electronic band Tangerine Dream also had to cancel a show in Tel Aviv, following low ticket sales, even with no relation to any war.

The Rolling Stones was the biggest name to perform in Israel lately. Justin Timberlake also managed to make it before the war broke out. In light of repeated rocket attacks on Israel’s major cities, including Tel Aviv, the police and the home front command have ordered all outdoor performances to move to indoor facilities.

This political sad turn of events will force many prog-rock fans in Israel to take “rock trips” by airplanes, to see bands perform in Europe.

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Carl Palmer – April 2014 Interview

Legendary ELP drummer is coming to Israel for a one-time gig on May 3rd, 2014. He will perform with his Carl Palmer band, in the Reading club in Tel Aviv bay.  I called him in his UK home for a short interview about the upcoming show.

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1) Is this your first time in Israel – ever?
Yes, it’s my very first time. Looking forward to it. I’ve been wanting to come over there for a long time and play, bring the music to the people. It’s going to be a great experience.

2) Many people in Israel will really like to meet you in person. Will that be possible?
I won’t be bringing merchandise to the country, but if they have something to sign, I’ll be only too pleased to sign it for them, of course.

3) Are there places in the world that you still want to reach, maye China or India?
We’re looking at China for next year, just been to the World Bank to discuss the possibility of playing with an orchestra in China. We haven’t finalized anything it, we’re still looking at the details, is it very possible that could happen in the very near future (not India).

4) Bill Bruford has stopped performing live recently. How do you feel about his decision? have you talked to him about it?
I never take any notice of what other people do, what they play or how they do it, I look at my situation. I have always been a musician. I don’t think Bill has always been a musician, he had other jobs and things. It was never in his psyche to make it a life-long profession. I come from a family of loving musicians, and have always played and always worked. So to me, It’s not something you can just give up. It’s a bit like if somebody asked you to stop eating Latkes one day, it would be difficult for you, wouldn’t it? you couldn’t do it. You have to carry on being yourself. I don’t even relate to what he did. It’s not something that interests me at all, to tell you the truth.

My philosophy is – I carry on playing as long as I play in the high standard that I play at. I am still improving at the moment, which is really good for me, and as long as I improve – I’m happy. If I can’t improve any more but I can mainatain my standard, I will carry on playing. If I can’t maintain the standard, then yes – I will stop, because I will only go out there if I can prove a point, and prove to the people how good I am, and I think I can do that for a few good years yet, I’ve had a few right now, this evening, tomorrow can be different.

Do you still do some Karate, or maybe Jogging?
I ran this morning. I don’t do Karate anymore. I’ve had both my hands operated on for Carpal Tunnel Snydrome (CTS), it was a very succesful operation, I was very lucky indeed, I managed to save them just in time. That came from punching an object called a Makiwara which you do in a Karate exercise. (Carl got as far as Shodan, the first black belt, and a teaching certificate). I gave it up must be nearly thirty years ago now.

5) Arthur Brown is an important figure in your past, notably the late 60’s. Are you still in contact with him?
Yes, two years ago. I don’t think that performing with him is something I would consider.

6) How about Frank Zappa? did you ever get to play with him or see him live in the 70s or 80s?
Oh yes – Frank Zappa was a very big fan of The Crazy World of Arthur Band. We went to Frank Zappa’s house in 1968, in Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles neighborhood), he very was interested in signing the Crazy World band. We spoke about percussion and things, he actually gave me a book, we never played together, that was the only time I’ve met him. I would never play with someone like Frank Zappa because I’m not a hired gun. I only play for myself. I don’t play for money, I play for percentage. I’m not a side-man.

 

The Carl Palmer Band, now active for about 13 years, doesn’t have any keboards, although it perfoms the “ELP Legacy”. It’s just Palmer on drums, Paul Bielatowicz on guitar, Simon Fitzpatrick on bass. I didn’t want to bring it up on the interview, after Carl has been asked about the no-keyboards issue so many times. He says that “to have a guitar driven band, was the most honest way to go about things…for me to use keyboards would be very, very silly after all those years..guitar would be the real way out because it’s possible to do with guitar now”. It’s a bold approach, it could have worked, but frankly – after seeing this band on DVD I’m not sure it works as well as ELP fans would want. Maybe if the CP band had two guitarists (both solo & rythm), they could have pulled it off very nicely. But one guy just can’t handle the harmonic complexity of ELP music, at least for me, who has been listening to this music for almost 30 years now.

8) What’s the hardest ELP piece to play?
We’re dealing with guitars and not keyboards. I have to find a way to make it sound fresh and new and exciting. I try to make this music in a different environment, a different way. Using guitars with the virtuoso players that I have. Tarkus and Pictures in an Exhibition, let’s say they are difficult. It’s a different sound, a different approach, I think it’s a younger approach, taking the music to another direction really, more of a prog-metal progressive band, using guitars and not keyboards. It’s quite rewarding to play, we can play different versions of those pieces. That’s what I’m hoping to do.

9) Are you going to visit some sites in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?
There’s no time for that at the moment. I might go through a radio station. We have to check the equipment and the PA system, how good the sound is. A lot of those things will occupy a lot of my time. There’s aweful a lot to do, so sightseeing is not on my personal agenda. It’s not that I don’t want to. You have to understand taht I’m there for the business of music, that’s my main priority. To be able to play to the people of Tel Aviv as well as I possibly can, and as professionaly as I can. The show is 1 hour and 50 minutes. We’re playing music not just from ELP. We play things like the Fugue in D minor by Bach, Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, Mars the god of war by Holst and also 21st Century Schizoid Band, we might be playing that too. I’d be talking about everything in the set and explain what this is all about.

7) Now that you are a Vegan, does it cause some problems on the road?
I can get most of the things I want, like vegetables and bread. There’s not always soy milk or a vegan dish on the menu. But for the last 17 monthes I have been doing it now, it’s improved my health immensly. Obviously I miss certain things but I don’t crave for them. It is a bit difficult, it depends what country you’re in. Certain countries are very easy to accomodate. It’s easy to get good food at restaurants, also Chinese restaurants are very good. Unfortunately, a lot of the Jewish food that I used to love I can’t eat anymore. Some things I miss but there’s always a way around it. If I can’t eat one day as well as I would like it, hell I don’t care.

10) Did you ever catch a gig be the Keith Emerson band?
No, I didn’t.

Did you watch their DVD?

No, I didn’t.

 

11) I hope that maybe one day we can talk to the three of you (Emerson Lake Palmer), but it won’t happen in Israel, that’s for sure.
I don’t think it will happen at all. I played with ELP in 2010, at the High Voltage Festival. I decided after that concert that I no longer wanted to carry on with ELP, it was the time to stop it. I felt we done our very best. We’ve had our a great 40 years together, on and off, not 40 consecutive years. And I thought that when a band reaches the end of its day, when they don’t play as well, and you can’t achieve what you used to achieve, you can’t reach the same heights – it’s then time to stop. That’s my philsophy. We had a great time, we said goodbye and thankyou for the London crowd. I explained to Greg and Keith, who possibly wanted to carry on, that I would be making that my last venture, my last outing with the group. We only meet for business because we still own all of our catalouge and our publishing, but we don’t actually meet to talk about music or reherse, becasue that’s not going to happen.

 

Visit http://www.carlpalmer.com/ for more about CP and http://carlpalmerart.com/ for the Twist of the Wrist art project.

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Interview with Circle of Illusion’s Gerald Peter

An incredibly rare masterpiece of prog-rock music – that’s “Jeremias” by Austria’s big surprise, the band “Circle of Illusion”. Their debut album, an 80-minute rock opera, has been climbing prog charts all over the world, since its release in September 2013. The mastermind behind the project, Gerald Peter, agreed to conduct an interview with Uri Breitman.

1) I’ve been listening to Jeremias for weeks and weeks now. It’s a haunting album, it doesn’t let go and it penetrates every corner of your brain. This huge piece of work could not have been written by a musician with no formal education. Can you please tell me what kind of music training did you get, from childhood to these days?

Gerald Peter
Gerald Peter

Gerald Peter: Here is my musical CV where all the information is included. [Born in Vienna on 1986; Six years of piano lessons; Attended workshops and jazz-piano lessons] So I never studied music. I just had classical and jazz piano training, lots of band experience and passion for music.

2) This project has taken years to complete. Most musicians can’t work so long on one piece – how did you find the energy to keep going and not give up on your vision?

Gerald Peter:  The trick for me was to make unrealistic plans, due to my lack of real experience… I wrote the whole album in 2009 before the “Circle of Illusion” band was formed. It took me 6 months just to write an extraordinary concept album with very high ambitions. Actually, I wanted to finish it earlier, but the problem was that the band didn’t form earlier, the material had to be rehearsed, lyrics had to be written (which I cannot do). The CD-recording and the post-production also needed much more time than I had planned. My love for small detail also delayed the production process. But you have always to think about this: Good things need time!

3) The story of “Jeremias” echoes some past works, mainly Ayreon’s “The Human Equation” and Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime”. Did you find some inspiration in these masterpieces?

Gerald Peter:  I listened to the “Human Equation” a few times, but I don’t know the story and the music very well. I don’t know about Queenryche’s CD. The basic idea of the story of Jeremias arose in a dream i had years ago.

At the beginning of the project, we had a three person-creative-team (with me, Florian and a third guy called Markus) to do brainstorming about the development of the story based on the main idea. Later, Florian concentrated in writing lyrics and the progress of the story and me in the production of the album.

4) It’s so hard squeezing so much music into one 80-minute disc. How much editing did you have to suffer through? Did you have to cut down some written parts in order to fit the 79:59 limit?

Gerald Peter:  I could not believe how much work it is, until I actually did it the first time. This is especially true with arrangements containing over 100 audio/midi tracks. I did it professionally for the first time for a full album, and I have to say that this is a part of the work I could imagine to delegate on the next album 😀

5) This album deserves at least two titles/accolades: the best Austrian prog album of all times — and one of the best albums of 2013. Which title means more to you? would you prefer a different title altogether?

Gerald Peter: It is a special honour for me to hear both of this titles. But I think the title of one of the best albums 2013 means more to me, because there is no austrian prog band which I have listened so far (except my own…).

Circle of Illusion - band photo

Circle of Illusion – band photo

6) Which are your favorite composers? I mean classical ones, modern ones, rock composers, even Jazz or film score composers.

Gerald Peter: Film music composers: Danny Elfman, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Don Davis; Rock/prog composers: Dream Theater (late 90’s to early 00’s) , Haken, Symphony X, Neal Morse; Great artists from the jazz/fusion genre where I am inspired from: Hiromi Uehara, Dave Weckl Band, George Duke.

7) All three singers – Taris, Cara & Elga – have really done their best here, their voices are very good and they deserve a lot of respect. But personally, I had a hard time understanding their lines because of their (natural) Austrian accent. Was this a concern for you, or you just wanted to focus on the music itself?

Gerald Peter: I just focused on the music. Lyrics and pronunciation was Taris’ task [that’s Taris Brown, main vocalist and the guy behind the concept and most of the lyrics on the album; U.B.].

8) This is a rock-opera which needs to be seen, not just heard. Are there any plans for some kind of video production in 2014? perhaps a DVD or a stage show in London or even YouTube clips?

Circle of Illusion - album: Jeremias (2013)

Circle of Illusion – album: Jeremias (2013)

Gerald Peter: There are a lot of ideas, but no concrete plans at the moment. It has to be worked out and if there are any news it will be posted on our Facebook news feed.

9) Now that the “Jeremias” album has been released (on Sep-2013), are you thinking about writing a 2nd one? or are you focused with promoting and touring the first one?

Gerald Peter: The focus is on promoting and playing the first album. In my head I have enough ideas to start writing a 2nd concept album, but playing live is more important for me now than working on new stuff.

10) Although “Jeremias” is a very original composition, I still notice many Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation tributes and references in the arrangements, vocal parts and lyrics. Did you do that on purpose, did it slip by accident, or did you want to show your respect?

Gerald Peter: In the music itself, there is no intentional tribute to Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation. I also didn’t listen very much to Pain of Salvation except the album „Be“. I think some words of Dream Theater album-titles are used in the lyrics. You could consider it as a tribute.

11) What was the most exciting feedback you’ve got for the release of the Jeremias album? (feedback could mean reviews, phone calls, emails, invitations, anything).

Gerald Peter: A review from live-prog (Marcel Haster) – this review is really enthusiastic and made me smile for the whole length of 15 minutes.

12) What is your opinion on recent prog-rock works like Steven Wilson’s “Raven” album, Haken’s “The Mountain” and Dream Theater’s 12th release?

Gerald Peter: I did not listen yet to Wilson’s “Raven”. Haken’s “The Mountain” is one of the best progressive albums I have ever heard. Dream Theater’s 2013 release is good but at some points I miss the quality of compositions like 10-15 years ago (Scenes from a memory or Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence).

13) Thanks for your time. After you’ve answered all these questions, there’s probably something more you’ve wanted to say about this great album and your band?

Gerald Peter: It was the biggest project I ever did in my life, and I am happy that I found such a great band to realize it and record this album. I am also glad that I found our label Generation Prog Records with Michael Schetter. I am thankful about everyone who likes the album!

Please follow Circle of Illusion on Facebook and demand us on eventful.com and tell everybody about Circle of Illusion 🙂

* * *

That was the interview with Gerald Peter, the main composer, arranger and keyboard player for the band Circle of Illusion. If you like big, dramatic symphonic prog rock, you will definitely enjoy this action-packed, richly producted mega-monster of operatic prog, sing in English, with very elegant and tasteful metal influences, three great soloists and excellent playing from all members of the band.

I dare you to listen without getting hooked for at least 1 month. Now seriously, I wouldn’t have taken the trouble to interview Gerald Peter if I hadn’t thought this was one of the best progressive rock albums released in the last 3 years.

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