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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Al Stewart

Modern Times

Review by Gary Hill

I know that Al Stewart has never considered himself progressive rock. That said, a lot of music fans have thought of his stuff that way. It’s also not far removed from a lot of the folk prog out there. For that reason, I land this under the heading of progressive rock. Whatever you call it, though, this reissue sounds great. It has a killer lineup of songs, bringing a lot of different flavors and textures to the proceedings. It’s a winning disc, no matter where you think it belongs in terms of genre.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Carol

Folk, blues and rock all merge here. In some ways this makes me think of something Dire Straits might have done. That said, there is still plenty of proggy sound built into this thing.

Sirens of Titan
With a lot of Beatles-like rock in the mix, this certainly has a proggy edge. It makes me think of the proggier stuff from Sergeant Peppers in a lot of ways.
What's Going On?
I love the mix of soulful folk rock, prog and more on this. It has some great instrumental work. There is almost a space rock edge at times, but a lot of the percussion is almost tribal. This is another killer cut on a disc that is great start to finish. The jam on the outro again calls to mind Dire Straits. It also has a jazz edge to it.
Not the One
There really isn’t any prog rock here. This is a folk rock song with some minor Island elements. It’s a fun song with some catchy vocal hooks.
Next Time
I suppose one could say that there isn’t any progressive rock in the majority of this. Still, it has a lot in common with some folk prog. I can even hear some links to Pink Floyd on this. Acoustic guitar drives it, creating some killer lines of melody. There is harmonica in the mix at times, too. This is jazz based, but also very definitely rooted in bluesy music. It’s intricate, pretty and powerful. It’s also an incredible piece of music. A short instrumental break mid-track brings some prog to the proceedings, too.
Apple Cider Re-Constitution
More of a rocker, there isn’t a lot of prog in the mix here. In some ways, this makes me think of the kind of thing David Bowie would have done early in his career. There is quite a bit of roots music, including a cool slide guitar solo, built into this tune, too.
The Dark and the Rolling Sea
This piece is one of the best here. It’s a magical song. It grows organically and slowly enough that it is really in soaring territory before you look back and wonder how it got there. This is very much tied to folk prog music. It’s also so potent and effective. It’s worth the price of admission by itself and yet, there is so much more here, too. The sounds of the sea and other sound effects end this, or more appropriately segue it toward the next piece.
Modern Times
At some point the sea sounds from the last song morph into the sounds of a bar. A short folk like movement is heard over the top of that. From there, the sound effects drop away and the song moves out into some rocking music that works really well. It still has plenty of folk rock in the mix, but it’s also very proggy in a lot of ways. This is another that grows gradually and steadily into something amazing. It’s also another worth the ticket price.
 
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