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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Space Opera

Safe at Home

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve never heard of this band before. As strong as this release is, that’s a real shame. Particularly when you consider that this is all essentially left over material recorded just before and after their debut album in 1970. These guys created music that had a lot of classic rock and psychedelia in it but was incredibly complex and very definitely progressive rock. While the vocal harmonies really stand out in terms of the power and complexity, the music is able to rival it. That says a lot. Comparisons to Yes and Gentle Giant are often appropriate, but those are just a couple examples. The music is a lot more diverse than that.

Track by Track Review
Singers And Sailors / Father

Keys start this and other instruments are gradually added until it fires out into a killer progressive rock jam. There’s a bit of a Captain Beyond kind of vibe to this, but with more pure progressive rock built in. This is just plain awesome and it works out into a smoking hot jam later in the track that has definite psychedelic and jam band leanings. They drop it way down from there for a balladic vocal section based on just piano and vocals.

Journey's End

This comes in with an almost country rock sound but shifts out to something closer to Peter Banks’ band Flash. There is still some of that country tinge here and some psychedelia, but it’s got plenty of progressive rock changes and a couple jams that even feel rather like early Yes. The vocal arrangement is great. I can also make out hints of Crosby Stills Nash and Young here. This is an exceptionally dynamic and diverse track, taking us through a number of changes and alterations.

Fly Away

A folk rock motif leads off, but as other instruments are added it moves to more progressive rock based territory. It still stays pretty close to the folk areas of the musical landscape, though, but they are built on in rather powerful ways. There is a jam later that’s like the Grateful Dead turned more proggy.

Singers And Sailors

This seems to come out of the previous cut. It’s based on a piano and vocal ballad approach at first, but there’s a CSN and Y meets Hawkwind kind of feeling to this. It works out to a definite space rock jam from there. It’s a pretty cool instrumental section that calls to mind a cross between Hawkwind and Jethro Tull.

Country Max

They bring this in with an acapella section then launch out into a jam that combines southern rock with some hints of prog. This is arguably the least progressive rock tune on show. There’s a cool guitar solo at the end.

Unless I'm Gone

This has a definite psychedelic rock texture and a cool vocal arrangement. There are some sections, though, that call to mind Peter Banks era Yes. They work this through a number of changes and there’s a more classic rock oriented hard rock jam later.

Marlow

Another diverse and dynamic cut, there’s a lot of classic rock built into this adventure, but plenty of progressive rock, too. Once again the vocal arrangement is stellar. There is some killer harmonica playing built into this number, too.

Over And Over

A fairly straightforward classic rock arrangement starts this, but they build it gradually upwards into a powerful jam that’s more proggy. This is a rather soaring number. It has a scorching hot psychedelia meets progressive rock instrumental section later. That extended instrumental section is among the most potent parts of the disc.

Psychic Vampire

This is very much a psychedelic rock song, but there is still plenty of progressive rock built into it. As it builds there are sections that call to mind Yes here and there. It’s a great piece of music with a rather symphonic bent to it.

Bells Within Bells

This piece opens with a section that is quite Yes-like. It also has a lot of symphonic elements. It’s one of the most purely progressive rock pieces and comparisons to Gentle Giant wouldn’t be unwarranted. There are female vocals in this piece and the vocal arrangement rivals the musical one in terms of complexity.

Still Life

There is a very definite symphonic element to this piece. It’s a ballad, but the arrangement is incredibly complex. Comparisons to Yes are again warranted, but so are comparisons to Gentle Giant. There are few little tidbits that call to mind the more symphonic side of The Beatles, too.

Caledonia

An even more symphonic arrangement is heard here. This one gets quite noisy and is very pounding. It also runs towards the RIO category at times. It is incredibly complex and involved.

Snow Is Falling

While the basic concept of this, a prog ballad that’s quite symphonic and balladic, is not that different from “Still Life,” this song is quite different than that one. There’s more of a focus on a folk sort of element here.

Play It Rough

The riff that opens this feels like something that might have come from Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. They take it out into a more straightforward rock jam from there, but there is plenty of progressive rock laced into this tapestry. It also seems to predict the early sound of The Police at times. It’s a nice piece of variety, but not one of the strongest tunes here. Still, the vocal arrangement is great. There are some interesting changes and variations and it even turns a little funky at times.

Squeeze Play

A bouncy number, there is still quite a bit of progressive rock on this, but it’s also not all that far removed from the more pop oriented music of Lake. It turns towards more pure prog late in the piece.

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