Results for progressive rock
Jim gets to unleash his inner thirteen-year-old this week as he and Greg sit down with Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of the Canadian prog-rock legends Rush. All three members of Rush are known for their ridiculous virtuosity on their instruments – drum god Neil Peart, Lifeson on guitar, and Geddy Lee, who manages to play bass and synths and sing simultaneously. Lee and Lifeson met in junior high in Ontario and released a couple hard rock albums with drummer John Rutsey in the early '70s. But the band really hit its stride when Rutsey was replaced by Neil Peart, who also became the primary lyricist. They began crafting epic progressive rock concept albums like 2112 and Hemispheres featuring side-length sci-fi suites. The albums Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures brought Rush radio hits in the early '80s, and the band moved into a synth-driven phase. Over the ensuing decades, Rush has continued to evolve its sound and adapt to new styles, while growing a cult fanbase that is intense to say the least. The band just celebrated its 40th anniversary with a tour and live album called R40 Live. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson discuss the band's evolving styles, the existence of female Rush fans, and whether the band will continue.Go to episode 535
Esperanza Spalding exploded onto the jazz scene as a bass prodigy, recording her debut album in 2006 and winning the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011. But she's never been satisfied being just one thing. Her many talents include being a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, bandleader, producer, librettist, and more. Her music ignores genre boundaries, freely incorporating funk, R&B, classical music, and progressive rock. She's even introduced a theatrical element with her latest album, Emily's D+Evolution.
Jim and Greg sit down this week with Esperanza Spalding for a spirited chat about the new record. She also discusses her collaborations with legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter, the challenges of being taken seriously as a female musician, and the moment she discovered the bass was for her.Go to episode 580
Andy Summers of The Police
This week Jim and Greg sit down with Andy Summers, former guitarist for 1980s supergroup The Police. Andy was in town promoting his latest tome, "One Train Later." It's a memoir — a good one according to Jim and Greg — about his years before and during the Police era. Andy is honest and frank in the book, and it comes across in the interview. Our hosts start things off by asking Andy about the origins of the band and The Police's distinctive sound. Andy was largely influenced by jazz growing up and firmly established himself as a professional musician well before he helped form The Police. He had a brief stint with the jazz fusion/progressive rock band Soft Machine and did session work during the 1970s for artists like Neil Sedaka and Joan Armatrading. His Police band mate, drummer Stewart Copeland also came from a musically trained background. Jim points the irony in having two highly trained musicians emerge out of the British punk scene — a scene that demanded unpolished musicians and hated solos. Andy considers The Police to have been fake punk band.
Although Jim did not get to catch The Police at their first US gig at CBGB's, he did see the band shortly after at New York's The Bottom Line. The young self-proclaimed“drum geek”strategically sat behind Stewart Copeland's drum kit. He discovered The Police's disdain for each other, noting the“nasty, nasty”words Stewart had written in magic marker on his drum skins cursing the other band members. Jim asked Andy what it was like to work in such acrimonious conditions, especially with the rising megastar Sting. Summers says nothing negative about his experience and feels the fights helped fuel the creativity of the band. Greg reiterates that although several people over the years mistake The Police as Sting's band, Andy and Stewart really shaped the sound. Andy concurs, detailing how songs like "Walking on the Moon" and "When the World is Running Down" involved all three members of the band.
As the interview nears a close, Jim asks the question that burns in the brain of many a Police fan: Will The Police reunite? Andy is up for reuniting and is in contact with the other two members (he had dinner with them this year) but he won‘t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. He’s busy with his own career, producing solo albums, and working as a photographer and bandleader. The closest the Police came to a reunion was in 2003 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. A reunion still sounds possible — let's hope this former Sting fan doesn't squelch such a possibility.Go to episode 53
School of Prog Rock
One of the terms that keeps coming up again and again on Sound Opinions is "Progressive Rock." The Decemberists channel it, Mastodon references it, and countless of fans are obsessed with it. So, this week Jim and Greg decide to dive right in to this larger-than-life, fantastical genre that, let's face it, sometimes makes us laugh. They talk to Charles Snider, author of The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock, about Prog's heydey in the 1970s. Charles, Jim and Greg define the genre as having the following traits: it is visionary and experimental, it has virtuosity in both execution and composition, it's romantic, and it has a sense of "Britishness."
So which bands do it best? Charles and our hosts recommend the following for great, Progressive headphone listening.
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer
- Jethro Tull
- Gentle Giant
- The Pretty Things
- King Crimson
Rush Snakes and Arrows
After much prodding, Jim finally convinced Greg to slate Rush's new album Snakes and Arrows as the record review for this week. And listeners who enjoy a good session of Kot vs. DeRogatis won't be disappointed. Sound Opinions fan know that Jim has a soft spot for the classic progressive rock band, and this week he declares drummer and chief songwriter Neil Peart the greatest drummer living today. He even compares watching Peart drum to what he imagines it would be like to watch God create the Grand Canyon. The question now is whether or not the band, which had its heyday in the 1970s, is still relevant. Jim argues that they are, and gives the album a Buy It. Greg thinks all the classic Rush elements are on the album, including the massive drumming and Geddy Lee's high pitched vocals, but it's Peart's overly-philosophical lyrics he takes issue with. Greg wonders where the passion is, and can only give Snakes and Arrows a Burn It.
Tool 10,000 Days
On a completely different note, progressive metal band Tool also has a new album out. 10,000 Days is the band's fourth album, and it debuted at number one on the Billboard Chart. Tool's commercial success is surprising considering the band's lack of self-promotion: They rarely get radio or MTV play, seldom do interviews, and perform practically in darkness. They are almost anonymous, yet have a huge cult following. Jim and Greg imagine this is because of the band's progressive rock vibe. They appeal to fans (especially teenagers) who love complete albums and desire to spend hours and hours mulling over one band's work. But, Jim points out, unlike prog rock groups like Rush and Genesis, Tool's music is lacking hooks. It's nü-metal side kind of ruins the package for Jim and Greg. Therefore, despite the fun 3-D packaging, 10,000 Days only gets a Trash It from Greg and an reticent Burn It from Jim.
Mastodon Once More 'Round the Sun
At the peak of its popularity, the Atlanta metal band Mastodon has just released its sixth album Once More 'Round the Sun. The band is favored by hardcore and mainstream fans alike, with its melding of influences including progressive rock, classic rock and classic metal. Jim thinks the success streak continues with Once More 'Round the Sun because the hooks and riffs are prominent and irresistible. He gives the album a Buy It rating. While still a Mastodon fan, Greg, wonders if the band has watered down its approach in order to read a mass audience. He likes the Once More, but misses the inventiveness and cohesiveness of the previous 5 albums. Greg says Try It.
It seems that Jim and Greg have been in a progressive rock mood of late, at least when it comes to their trips to the tropical isle. This week Greg looks to Procol Harum, a pioneer in the British prog scene. You of course know this song. But the track that Greg adds to the Desert Island Jukebox is 1969's "Salty Dog." It evokes desperation, drama and fear. Amazing considering it began in a bathroom in Cleveland.Go to episode 393
This year's crop of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were celebrated last week at a ceremony in Cleveland. 2009's class includes Metallica, Run DMC, Jeff Beck, Bobby Womack and Little Anthony and the Imperials. While Metallica is getting its props, heavy metal is consistently unrepresented. Greg would vote to nominate Slayer. Jim agrees and adds that progressive rock music is also due for some representation. Love ‘em or hate ’em, Genesis, Yes and Jethro Tull are certainly as influential, if not more, than Little Anthony.
On the same day that U2 released a second set of tickets for their highly sought-after fall tour, New York Senator Chuck Schumer unveiled new legislation to crack down on the secondary ticket market, or scalping. Schumer is riding the wave of popularity he got after criticizing Ticketmaster for sales of Bruce Springsteen tickets, but Jim and Greg don't blame him. Jim calls scalping“a plague”on the music industry, and both critics urge reform.
They may have stopped making music decades ago, but The Beatles' output is still going strong. This fall Apple Corps and EMI will release the band's entire catalog remastered digitally on CD. This is long overdue; their music hasn't been upgraded since songs were first put on CD twenty years ago. But, while fans might be excited for a new model, Jim and Greg see this as a very transparent attempt to keep dipping into the same profit pool year after year.Go to episode 176
Pope Francis just completed his first“sold-out tour”of the United States. Now you can own your own souvenir, as the Pope is putting out a pop album called Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward! To Greg, the record has a progressive rock feel, falling somewhere between Yes and Yanni. Jim notes that the Pope wasn't exactly in the studio laying down some“tasty licks,”as producer Don Giulio Neroni arranged the music around Francis‘ famous speeches. If the Pope is trying to speak directly to the population, a pop album isn’t a bad way to do it.
This week, Taylor Swift's album 1989 charted its 48th week on Billboard, and one musician is riding the coattails of that success. Alt country singer Ryan Adams released a track for track cover of 1989 and received more attention than ever. Jim thinks that without Swift's songs, there's no way Adams would be on the Billboard charts. He also references an article highlighting the "mansplaining" idea that people can only realize the strength of Swift's songwriting when a white male performs the tracks. Greg thinks that Adams is doing some solid marketing, as his music hasn‘t been relevant in 15 years. What do you think of Adams’ covers? Let us know!Go to episode 514
With his mutton chops, leather biker gear, and one word moniker, Lemmy was a larger-than-life rock icon. The lead singer, bassist, and founder of English heavy metal innovators Motörhead died on December 28 at the age of 70. Born Ian Kilmister, Lemmy started out as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix before making important contributions to the seminal space rock band Hawkwind. After getting kicked out of that band in 1975, he formed Motörhead. Initially they didn't fit in with the metal and progressive rock acts of the time, but became a template for thrash metal in the 1980s. Greg always appreciated the sly sense of humor behind Lemmy's music. Jim notes that he was also a serious scholar of military history. In tribute to Lemmy's passing, he plays the 1979 Motörhead cut "Bomber" about the Heinkel He 111 aircraft.Go to episode 528
The deaths of important rock musicians has been a constant theme in 2016. This is partially a factor of demographics, as the first and second generation of rockers are reaching old age. But the monumental losses of artists like David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen felt staggering. Even with all the coverage they've given this year, Jim and Greg felt there were still more musical losses that deserved attention.
Trumpet player Wayne Jackson died in June at the age of 74. As part of the house band of Stax Records and as a member of The Mar-Keys and The Memphis Horns, he helped define the sound of Memphis soul. Jackson played on an astounding number of iconic songs by artists like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, U2, and Peter Gabriel.
In 2016, we lost both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, one of the cornerstone bands of progressive rock. Before forming that supergroup, Lake was lead vocalist and bassist on the first and possibly greatest of prog albums, In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson. Emerson started off as the flamboyant organist of The Nice and later turned the Moog synthesizer into an essential rock instrument.
Songwriter and producer Prince Buster was at the ground floor of ska, rocksteady, and reggae. He produced "Oh Carolina" by The Folkes Brothers in 1960, sometimes credited as the first reggae song. He then gave us countless other classic Jamaican hits like "Madness," "One Step Beyond," and "Judge Dread." Prince Buster died this year at 78 after leaving a permanent imprint on reggae.
Richard Lyons, a founding member of the experimental plunderphonics collective Negativland, died at 57. This follows the deaths of two other members of the band, Ian Allen and Don Joyce, in 2015. Negativland was a groundbreaking band in the use of sound collage, cutting up strange audio and reassembling it in fascinating ways. The group is most notorious for its 1991 U2 EP, featuring a vulgar tape of Casey Kasem ranting about the Irish band while a rendition "I Still Haven‘t Found What I’m Looking For" plays underneath.