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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hugh Hopper

Volume 1: Memories

Review by Gary Hill

Best known for his work as the bassist in Soft Machine, this is the first disc of a ten disc set of archival releases from Hopper. This one is a collection of rarities.Each of these pieces is started with a spoken introduction or explanation. It’s well worth having.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Memories

A piano based tune, this (a Soft Machine demo) reminds me a bit of Traffic. It’s pretty mellow and jazzy. The instrumental section mid-track isn’t long, but takes us through some intriguing prog territory. This is the only piece with real vocals.

Was a Friend
The percussion that opens this has a definite Indian element. The melody work over the top continues that kind of theme. There is a definite folk music vibe to this. It is also very much an instrumental bit of psychedelia with some jazz overtones. It’s a bit understated at times, but it’s classy. It is pretty extensive without any drastic changes. It’s kind of freeform in some ways, though.
Shuffle Demons
This has a definite progressive rock vibe with a lot of jazz in the mix. It’s freeform and quite cool, albeit a little weird. The fuzzy bass sound is great. This is another instrumental. It’s definitely a lot more pure jazz in the later sections of the cut. There is some real powerhouse jamming further down the musical road here.
Playtime
This is a pure progressive rock piece. It has symphonic elements, but is a very keyboard dominated cut. It reminds me of Synergy to some degree. Later sections work towards something more like Emerson Lake and Palmer.
Dabinaire
Another great jazz exploration, there are some exceptional melodies and shifts built into this thing.x
Mgh

This is very much a freeform kind of jam. It’s avante-garde and fairly sparse, but still rather noisy and weird. It’s like space jazz turned prog in a lot of ways.

Long Piece
The first couple minutes of this is echoey space music with a loop of “pretty long piece.” That loops stays around beyond as some backwards tracking and more brings in a rather jazzy weirdness. Eventually the voice loop goes away and the cut moves into a jazzy groove. By around the six minute mark it works out to more echoey space. Eventually more energized jazz space takes over the cut. Then more echoey sounds emerge further down the road. Another voice loop emerges before keyboards take into more traditional (albeit old-school) progressive rock territory. Then another jazz jam joins after a time. More weird space emerges, but by around the sixteen mark that gives way to saxophone that takes it to the end.
 
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