New David Gilmour! Repeat: New David Gilmour!

Via Synthtopia, the new David Gilmour/The Orb collaboration will be out in about a month and it looks like a delicious electronica-prog soufflé.  And where are they recording, anyway?  I want to go there.  Also, extra credit for the white kitty at 2:08.

Release date is October 5.

Progtastic news from Poland – new SBB record Autumn 2010!!

Józef Skrzek is one of “those” guys.  He’s working on a whole different level than most of humanity.  For about the past forty years he has been doing all his own stunts, writing, performing and even singing once in a while.  Skrzek is one of those guys who was going to be famous no matter what.  The force of energy contained within him is simply too great not to be shared.  Not even the Iron Curtain could hold him back.  And, as the leader of legendary Progressive giants S.B.B., he has elevated his status to that of Robert Fripp, Christian Vander of Magma and perhaps even Zappa himself.  SBB’s influence may seem less than that of those legends, but the output is nothing short of prodigious, including over 50 official releases.  The next one is tentatively titled Blue Trans, and is slated for an Autumn release through Metal Mind.

Here’s a small example of the Tangerine Dream meets Steely Dan vibe that Skrzek favored in the late 70′s:

Does this kind of life look interesting to you? Apparently, for an American Idol alum, the answer is “Yes”

I wouldn’t know an American Idol alum if he or she were biting my ass at this very moment.  And, while I am glad that is not the case, I have, for the first time in my sheltered life, some reason to be interested in that monstrosity of foolishness that passes for entertainment.

Leslie Hunt, the nice young lady featured in the video above, was apparently a finalist and performed to an audience of millions.  I suppose she would have preferred to win and become the next Kelly Clarkson or Taylor Hicks, but considering the abusive sounds those two artists have created (similar to fingernails on a chalkboard), I am glad that she lost.

Through some stroke of good fortune she has become connected to a Chicago-based instrumental outfit that fancied itself to be a junior version Liquid Tension Experiment.  Great music to aspire to, but nothing that would pay the bills.  But, if there is a way to bring a bit of sex appeal to the nerd-tastic sounds of District 97‘s modern prog, then these folks might have a tiger by the tail.  Judging from the video, I am interested.  The record is due out later this year, and I’m sure I’ll give it a listen.

Is this the record I’ve been waiting for all my life?  Based on the early snippets, probably not.  But I don’t have anything against popularity.  And if a prog band can sell a million records in this decade, then all the better.

Special thank you to Bill’s Prog Blog, which brought District 97 to my attention.  He’s featuring a Q&A with the band’s drummer at his wonderful site.

Nearfest 2010 – just a lil taste

If you know me, you know that Gabriel-era Genesis is sort of where it all begins.  I’m not old enough to have seen the classic line-up, but when I finally discovered the genius of that quintet, well, that pretty much changed everything forever.  I’ve gone deep with Genesis, seeing the trio when possible, collecting every manner of album, bootleg and video, and going to see the amazing Musical Box tribute show countless times.

And my Prog Rock education and appreciation has just gone on and on.  I have recently opened my mind to extraordinary groups from Brazil, Sweden, Poland and other points across the globe.  I have gotten to know bands old and new, finding music that is uplifting, challenging and extraordinary.  So much of what I love about all the music I have discovered is that it relates back to that wondrous moment when Messrs. Banks, Collins, Gabriel, Hackett, and Rutherford brought forth the beauty of The Musical Box, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.  It was no coincidence that those selections had such a profound impact on me.

So, among the first-generation proggers, I’ve been pretty lucky to see the reunions and comebacks of Yes, King Crimson, ELP and even Genesis.  But Hackett, long exiled from the group he helped make famous, does more to keep that original spirit of innovation and irreverence alive than all the rest.  When I found that his only area performance would be at Nearfest 2010, I pounced on the opportunity and grabbed very good seats.

I had long known of Nearfest, but never mustered the strength or inclination to spend the better part of an entire weekend in nearby Bethlehem, PA watching a lot of prog with which I was wholly unfamiliar.  Thanks to the miracle of social networking, I got more info and encouragement than ever to make Nearfest happen this year, but in the end, I only sprung for Friday night, electing to, once again, pass on the vast majority of music and fellowship that makes up the weekend.

I would have let the whole thing pass me by (again), had it not been for the encouragement of my spiritual music guide, my teacher, my long-lost big brother: Cousin Steve.  He played a rather large role in the whole Genesis thing taking shape for me, and though we’ve seen Hackett before, he was not about to let this opportunity pass.  Thanks to Steve (who had never been either), I got my first taste of Nearfest.  And now, a few days later, I am comfortable in the firm belief that it will not be my last.

Lehigh University is a beautiful setting and the Zoellner Arts Center is the Perfect theater.  We arrived in plenty of time to see Riverside (a phenomenal Polish band I have followed for a few years, but never seen live), but I locked my keys in the trunk just as we were heading over to the theater.  The Lehigh security department was understanding, kind and efficient in helping me put that brain cramp in the rearview mirror and Steve and I took our seats in the fifth row center after only missing a couple songs.

Riverside was tremendous.  They lean more toward the prog-metal end of the spectrum, with a dash of Porcupine Tree thrown in for good measure.  But after seeing Dream Theater last summer, I really appreciated Riverside’s more deliberate approach.  The emphasis was less on individual pyrotechnics and more on creating a dramatic musical experience.  I was thrilled.

We then got a nice long break to kibbitz with our fellow proggers.  Serge Morissette (artistic director of The Musical Box) was present and in good spirits until he saw my Transatlantic shirt.  He missed the gig in his home town of Montreal on account of being in Europe during the eruption of a certain Icelandic volcano.  He was delighted, however to chat us up about his groups latest doings (their version of The Lamb may be coming back!) and we even shared a few laughs about Mr. Hackett’s personal difficulties.  Serge said that Hackett’s (now) ex-wife would now be changing her name from Kim Poor to Kim Rich.

Serge’s good nature and attitude was emblematic of every soul we encountered on Friday night.  Everyone was happy and willing to share a story as we bonded over this music we share and love.  I finally understand why people have been telling me to just do it.

So after this lovely experience in this beautiful place, Steve and I walked back into the theater to see Hackett – the original, the real thing.  And, of course, he did not disappoint.  It was a full set, with such surprises as Carpet Crawlers, Slogans, and Ace of Wands thrown in to the crowd’s delight.

So I’ve had my taste of Nearfest.  I get it.  Next year, even if I have to go solo, I’ll be there.  And I’ll look forward to seeing all those beautiful folks who come from far and wide to enjoy the greatest music ever composed.

Transatlantic concert at TLA a week from tomorrow!!

Roine Stolt

Ready for a total PROG-stravaganza with cousin Steve, Dr. Dave and new friend Dara.  We’re going to ge there early and get right up front.  We’re getting a bit old for the standing-all-show deal, but, thankfully, there is no opening act and this is a special show in that it represents the mightiest prog-rock super-group in the land.  Roine is a legend, the godfather of swedish prog.  Neal Morse is the happy warrior, a missionary of prog and evangelical Christianity!  Michael Portnoy is, as of this date, the greatest rock drummer out there.  When he plays with his band (Dream Theater), the kit is the size of a small school bus.  Who knows what he’s bringing to the TLA next week?  And finally, Pete Trewavas, he is the glue that brings order to the ferocity of the others’ passion.

Transatlantic will, presumably., be performing their entire new album The Whirlwind as well as some of their back catalog and a couple covers.

It’s gonna be a great night.  Here’s a sample of the new record:

p.s. I’m pleased to say, after the chaos of my recent relocation, I have finally found our tickets, so we are ready to go!

The Watch – impersonation or reincarnation?

Simone Rosetti

Cover bands.  Tribute bands.  ”Experiences.”  Do not get me started!  Have you never wanted to do something creative?  Something that was truly yours?  Do you see your job as, essentially, one of impersonation?  The only passion that really comes across to the audience is the passion for perfection.  At best, the performers disappear, or, as is often the case, wear costumes.  But part of it is still an exercise in impersonation.

But I am a good one to talk.  Let us not even, for the moment, mention the dozens of shows by a certain Genesis tribute band that I have witnessed.  As an audience member I delight in the opportunity to see something I never had the opportunity to witness the first time around.  And, taken on its merits, the performance is inspiring – sound, vision, composition. But here’s the sick part: I also have audio-only recordings of tribute bands!  Why not just listen to the original?  That’s the thing I’ve been listening to for twenty-five years!

But that’s just it.  After all this time, I’m looking for something different, another level of genius.  And when that raw material is in another’s hands, the possibility for “interpretation” or variation is dangerously prominent.

Well, The Watch is your cure for the common tribute band.  Part of what motivated Genesis (a BIG part) was the desire/need to write music.  That push to be creative, to do something new, was, no doubt, a big part of what moved the real Genesis on stage.  The Musical Box has never had that.  New music has always been explicitly excluded from their mandate.  The Watch, on the other hand,  has four studio albums of original material and a live album of that material.  They are established original artists.  They have also created two Genesis programs that perfectly imitate the dominating force of Foxtrot and Nursery Cryme.  Those records have had a profound, though often overlooked, influence on music throughout Europe, North America and South America.

Will The Watch have that kind of impact?  I don’t think so, but one never knows.  The point is that they are making the music that they want to make, and while it is overwhelmingly influenced by Gabriel-era Genesis, it is also their own.  Or is this what Genesis would have sounded like if that remarkable quintet had never disbanded?  That’s a fanboy question for the ages.

For now, I count myself very lucky to have come across this band from Milan.  Thirty-eight years ago, Genesis was looking for a break with a live show that they new was good, but it wasn’t getting through outside England.  Italy was a home for Genesis when they were on the road.  Now, it seems, Genesis has become a musical home for a few gifted musicians from Italy.

I have ordered The Watch’s two most recent titles from Amazon – Primitive and Planet Earth.  I also want to thank Sommutante for having an amazing music blog.  It’s in Portuguese, but it’s pretty easy to see he’s pretty hip.  And I don’t recommend Google Translate.  Just listen to the music.

Shining Bald Heads (5:55) – from Vacuum (2004):

04 Shining Bald Heads

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October is shaping up to be a big month for prog heavyweights

Marillion634_MainPicture

Marillion (pictured above) is betting that their fans will still shell out the bucks even though the ‘new’ record doesn’t have any new music. ‘Less Is More‘ (October 2) contains acoustic arrangements for older tracks – some favorites and some obscure. They’re emphasize that they really worked hard on doing something new with these songs. I’ve already placed my order.

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Steve Hackett looks to get up off the mat after his ex wife Kim Poor metaphorically shattered his jaw with a lawsuit that could cost him his Genesis royalties. As a result of the hard times, this electric rock album, featuring hall-of-famer Chris Squire, had to be completed in Hackett’s apartment. ‘Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth‘ is available on October 5.

transatlantic2009

On October 27 we’re all going to be crushed by Transatlantic’s ‘Whirlwind.’ No word about touring yet, as bass player Pete Trewavas will be busy promoting Less is More with Marillion (see above). And you can decide for yourself whether it’s genius or a dick move to have the record as one track. this pretty much forces us all to buy the ‘bonus disc’, which has the rest of the songs and some covers. Of course, that bonus disc will, no doubt come at a premium.

You will notice that only the Transatlantic title is slated for a Tuesday release. Hackett’s record is due on a Monday, which is, I think, normal for UK releases. But the Marillion release on a Friday is just more proof that, no matter how many years you have in this business, traditional distribution rules don’t hold up for prog records – unless you’re Dream Theater.

You know, because 30 minute prog-rock epics are starting to feel too short…

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So let’s try a 77 minute track!  That’s right, proggers!  One disc, one song.  That’s what we’re in for with the new Transatlantic album ‘The Whirlwind’ slated for an October 27 release this fall.  We knew from back in April that the band had gotten together for a new record, but a project of this scope was not anticpated, nit by me, at least.  Plus, there will be a 2CD version where the extra disc has four more originals and four covers.  Oh, you know, what, that’s OK – I didn’t want to hear Mike Portnoy play Return of the Giant Hogweed, anyway.  I mean, in these trying economic times it’s better for me not to know what that’s going to sound like.

Get the details at Transatlantic’s homepage, and mark your calendar for a very proggy Fall.