For those who don't know, and for some reason didn't suss it out from the fact that I'm writing such a treatise, I'm a proghead, so the first part of the title above is very appropriate to me: I do know what I like, and I often tend not to venture too far past that. There are a lot of prog rock bands I have never heard, heard of, or refuse to try. I've never heard a Camel album, nothing from Caravan, I know virtually nothing about the Canterbury Scene, have an abiding hatred for ELP and am not crazy about early Yes, though I've heard little. I doubt I've ever heard any Krautrock and King Crimson remain a mystery to me.
These are not good things to admit when you're a proghead, and so I've decided to try to do something about it. The plan here is for me to go chronologically through the development of progressive rock, from its origins (though not too far back: I know some people talk about the Beatles having progressive albums, and Miles Davis, and others; these I won't be touching on, only those who have become or emerged as true progressive rock bands) through its heyday in the seventies to its death and then rebirth in the eighties, bringing in the evolution of progressive metal, and on to the present day, where it continues to enjoy a resurgence and constantly changes and evolves as its name implies.
Although I'm fifty-six this year (oh no!) I only got into what I would class as “my own music” when I was about 15, so that would be 1978, and once I found artistes I liked I tended to stick with them, buying all their albums and occasionally branching out a little, but I was not one who wanted to explore a genre. I found what I liked and I was happy with that. As a result, I could not in any way be said to have a comprehensive knowledge of progressive rock, certainly not a personal one, so I will have to rely on the recollections of others in order to trace the history of this oft-maligned and misunderstood subgenre of rock.
To help me, I will be using mostly two books I have purchased recently, shown below. Why those? Well, to be perfectly honest, I bought my sister a Kindle for Christmas, and then thought of getting one myself I was so impressed with it. But on discovering I could download an app for my phone which would allow me to read Kindle books, a lot of expense was spared and I am now able to read e-books. So rather than wait for books to arrive in the post, I can now just download them and read them right away. Certainly saves time, and often money.
These books are the only real authoritative records I could find on progressive rock, and so I've decided to let them guide my feet on the steps of this journey I'm undertaking. I may look into some online sources too, but only for reference: I do not in any way want to plagiarise anyone's work or rob from their writings, and the books I mention are there for my own information and to allow me fill in the details I don't have or am not aware of. Wiki will of course play its part, as it always does. Generally the way I'm going to do it is this:
Going chronologically (what other way would I go, after all?) I'll be looking at the beginnings of the subgenre, noting any important albums along the way and mini-reviewing them. Any albums I'm aware of, have heard or know will be noted and spoken about, and here I will bring to bear any personal knowledge or insights or memories that are appropriate. I will try to do it as a kind of book, labelling chapters in important eras, as well as year-by-year. If I can.
I invite any progheads, or anyone interested or who has stories, information, corrections or advice to assist me: this is certainly one of the biggest undertakings I have ever attempted, so any help is certainly appreciated. Do remember though, if you intend to contribute, to keep strictly within the guidelines for chronology. In other words, don't start posting about an album released in 1972 when we're only in 1968, and so on. Which is not to say that we can't discuss same, but I'd like to try to keep the conversation pertinent to the year or era being covered at the time.
I'll be doing my best to give an overall picture of the genre as it has developed over the decades. If an album or artiste I feature here does not tally with your view of prog rock, bear in mind that I'm being guided by these authors, and while I won't slavishly follow their recommendations and advice, they obviously know more about the subject than me and I will have to mostly defer to their expertise. However, if you feel there's an artiste I'm not covering, or I'm covering someone I shouldn't be in this context, feel free to let me know.
After reading several, quite boring and arty-farty chapters of the first book I mentioned I've come to the conclusion that it is --- how can I say this without giving offence? --- total crap. Well, that's not fair, but I had hoped it would give me something of a timeline, who was first, what elements make up a prog album, and so on, a starting point if you will. But it's been jumping back and forth from Duke Ellington to The Who, The Nice to Floyd and I'm still as confused as I was before I began reading. Attempts to answer this question --- which was the first prog album --- have yielded almost flame wars in forums and websites, and everyone has their own idea but there is no clear answer it would seem. Therefore, for the moment (and given that the other book is on Prog Metal which did not really get going till much later) I will discount these authors' opinions and fall back on my good friend Wiki, as I almost always do.
While they do not list a definitive starting point for prog rock --- and it is really hard, given that so much of psychedelia, blues and other forms had nascent elements of prog within their structure --- there is a basic agreed “ground zero” point of 1967 as being the accepted year that progressive rock as a whole more or less came into being. There are albums from the previous year that seem to figure too, though, and so what my plan is here (right or wrong) is to look briefly at albums that are considered allied to the progressive rock movement but not actually part of it --- albums that have, or started, certain principles that became the founding logic of prog rock --- and more deeply into ones which were composed by bands who became important to the movement and influenced other bands later on. I will therefore grade albums on their importance and relevance to the genre.
One which are considered intrinsic to Progressive Rock, founding fathers if you will, will be graded as Type A. Ones which had an effect on Prog Rock, but are not specifically that genre, will be Type B and ones which are decidedly not (in my opinion) Progressive Rock albums will be type C. These grades will appear in the reviews. The reviews themselves may be quite short, a simple look at the album, or they may be reasonably in-depth, but given how much I have to get through here, I don't envision extensive, in-depths reviews. I will be trying to achieve four things with this journal:
1. Get a deeper understanding of the history and legacy of this music
2. Finally listen to albums and bands I have not, for whatever reason, listened to
3. Introduce anyone who wishes to this subgenre as best I can and
4. Afford those who deserve it their place in the history of Progressive Rock
So buckle up, get your best cape ironed and prepare to sneer at anyone who listens to a song that's less than nine minutes long. It's gonna be a bumpy ride, but hopefully a fun one too.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Note: Album reviews are not included in this; they are listed below separately by year
Chapter I:Into the Mystic: the Courtship of Progressive Rock
Before the Storm
Reflections on 1967
Introduction to 1968
Album Review List for 1968
Reflections on 1968
The Agreed Definition of Progressive Rock. Maybe.
Chapter II: Children of the Revolution
Changing Times: Ascendancy of the Album
INDEX OF ALBUMS BY YEAR
Note: (1966 only) since several albums are reviewed in each post, the links shown here will bring you to that post, where then you'll have to scroll down to find the album(s) you want. Sorry, but there's no other way to do it and hey: it's just a little scrolling.
The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds, The Mothers of Invention: Freak Out! and The Byrds: Fifth Dimension
The Velvet Underground and Nico - The Velvet Underground and Nico
Procol Harum - Procol Harum
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Captain Beefheart - Safe as Milk
The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed
The Nice - The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack
The Mothers of Invention - We're Only in It for the Money
The United States of America - The United States of America
Pink Floyd - A Saucerful of Secrets
Family - Music in a Doll's House
The Moody Blues - In Search of the Lost Chord
Giles, Giles and Fripp - The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp
Caravan - Caravan
Jethro Tull _ This Was
The Nice - Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
Soft Machine - The Soft Machine
Procol Harum _ Shine on Brightly
The Pretty Things - S.F. Sorrow