Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Shineback "Dial"

Greetings from the eye of the Polar Vortex fellow progheads!  Most of the tundra covering the planet is frozen; I've seen so many "boiling water frozen in midair" videos and lake effect snow photos I'm beginning to think it's a NASA conspiracy.  Fear not; The Closet Concert Arena remains warm and inviting.  So much so that I thought I would stay stateside this week and visit with a band I was fortunate to connect with courtesy of this blog and some mutual prog rock appreciation.

Shineback is a band in the sense that one person has an idea, some talent, a record label, courage, desire, and a greyhound...did I mention talent?  Simon Godfrey is the "man behind the curtain" bringing this album to life.  Shineback's latest release, "Dial," is a wonderful collection of prog music all conveniently gathered in one place for your listening pleasure...and it is my good fortune to present it to you now...

Finding refuge in the electronic, cinematic section of the prog garden, Shineback is a very reflective band...much the way Big Big TrainSeconds Before Landing, and Gaillion crawl inside your head and refuse to come out.  As an opening course, I opt for "The Gentlemen."  A trademark on this album is the fade-in; here it is done beautifully with a simple telephone ring and an almost "Close To The Edge" like mini-soundscape leading to quick, elaborate keyboards rolling into a guitar riff that spills out of the headphones accompanied by a vocal style reminiscent of 10cc or The Neal Morse Band; neat, clean, and thought provoking...

Shineback hits a nerve; the music cuts through the curtain like a scalpel through softened butter revealing an expansive sound that needs to be heard to be fully appreciated with a sense of humility in the vein of Dreadnaught running rampant through the entire recording.

Moving a bit farther down the playlist I discover a cut called "Without Words."  Simon seems to enjoy toying with your senses...the song opens leaning toward the cinematic section of the prog garden, with a dark background splayed across a canvas hit randomly with brighter hues, bringing a funky contrast to a somber melodic outpouring.  With topnotes of Lifesigns and perhaps a touch of Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate blending seamlessly, Shineback rides across the garden kicking up dust.

Liner Notes...Currently residing in Phildelphia PA, Shineback is Simon Godfrey.   Simon composed, performed, and produced "Dial" along along with longtime 
co-writer and lyricist Robert Ramsay.  Several artists you might recognize from the prog garden also had a hand in making "Dial" a reality; Dec Burke, Hywel Bennett, Joe Cardillo, Tom Hyatt, Ray Weston, Matt Stevens, Karl Eisenhart, Daniel Zambas, and Henry Rogers all contriubuted their talents to this latest Shineback release.  Don't forget Dora, the world's slowest greyhound; she made major "behind the scenes" contributions as well I am told...

Shineback records on Bad Elephant Music and "Dial" is the second full length album in their catalog.  The 2013 debut "Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed" was followed by "Minotaur," a 2017 EP release.  Simon also has several solo albums in the Bad Elephant Music catalog.

Learn more about Shineback as well as Simon Godfrey's other works and purchase all of his music at the Bad Elephant Music website Shineback.  You can dig a bit deeper at Facebook and follow along on Twitter @simonsimple.

My final selection to feast on this week is actually my favorite cut from the album, "I Love You From Memory."  As the song opens and the old Victrola gets cranked up, I feel as though I've been transported to my favorite smoke filled hole-in-the-wall nightclub, kind of a prequel to CBGB's.  The keyboards are wrapped around lyrics that puncture the lining of your cerebelum separating logic from emotion.  

Shineback moves slowly across the prog garden with this song, caressing your face like a distant lover who realizes this is the last time you'll be together.  The mood elevator continues to stay on both extremes, avoiding the neutral zone like hot asphalt in the summertime.  Let this one play on repeat a few times just so you can feel yourself fall into a song without fear of hitting your head... 


For your listening pleasure I chose "Consider Her Ways."  A bit more uptempo, this tune conjures up the bright lights of the boardwalk in Atlantic City while Simon stokes an emotional fire with his guitar.  Shineback plays well in the prog garden, moving across subgenres as smooth as singlemalt on a crisp fall evening...


                     

And once again fellow progheads we have reached the end of the rainbow...another week winds down.  Shineback brings a funky vibe to the prog garden, shuffling from poignant to witty to
hard-hitting to laid back, and with every mood swing you feel refreshed.

The prog garden continues to bring forth an exciting crop, even in this frigid weather.  The search for all things prog continues on its random path, searching out more new and as yet undiscovered prog gems.  Until next time...

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Kaleidoreal

Welcome to 2019 fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog is back and the journey is starting out strong.  I wanted to peel back the curtain on this latest version of the The Closet Concert Arena to much pomp and circumstance, but that really isn't me.  Instead I opted to set the GPS for Sweden to spend some serious listening time with Kaleidoreal.  I don't always make good decisions, but this is definitely one of them...



My first forage into the 2019 prog garden is also the first garden entry for  Kaleidoreal. "A Life Wasted" was released last summer and since that feels like forever ago, let's head straight to the CD player and put on those headphones...

The album begins and ends with the title cut..."A Life Wasted Part 1" being the opening act.  The song morphs and reinvents itself several times as sound alternately explodes and melts into itself...and the butterfly emerges from the cocoon.  Intermittently hard hitting and then riding the gentle inner edge of the prog garden, this song runs down that proverbial dark alley and dares you to keep up.


Kaleidoreal follows this up with a cut called "Yellow and Blue."  Once again the music starts out as if to pelt you with hailstones only to "settle down" and pour over you like a heavy summer shower...no pain and lots of emotion.  I sense top notes of Transatlantic wafting in the air throughout this cut, and perhaps aromatics of (no surprise) Spock's Beard and Dream Theater.  Kaleidoreal  draws from many different areas of the prog garden bringing a metal edge to a fusion of classic prog and alternative rock...music for an eclectic pallet...

Liner Notes...Kaleidoreal calls Sweden home and is the brainchild of Lars Granat who plays guitar, bass, keyboards, and lays down the vocal tracks.  Joining Lars on this debut album is Rikard Rynoson on vocals and Sebastian Johammer on drums.  Bjorn Headlam and Jonatan Bengtsson provided additional keyboards and David Kallberg added percussion and nose flute...I did say eclectic, didn't I?

This "rock project" is a relative newcomer to the prog garden and I anticipate more music emanating from their section of the prog garden in the future.  Kaleidoreal makes a good case in defense against those who lament the lack of good new prog bands; you know who I mean...people who believe nothing worth listening to was recorded when the decade known as the seventies came to an abrupt close.  Yet Kaleidoreal--and they are not alone--prove naysayers wrong at every juncture.  If you listen with your ears first and allow the sound to enter your heart, mind, and soul, you will understand what I am trying to convey...

One more slice from this incredible release, "I Was Dust."  This cut opens a bit edgier than previous, allowing the guitar to expand the boundaries just a bit.  Venturing into the alternative section of the prog garden, there are top notes of Dreadnaught floating through the headphones as everything comes crashing at you like schrapnel in a hurricane.   Kaleidoreal hits the canvas with a multitude of colors on each cut of this album.  Ranging from bright hues to somber greys, the band has embarked on a journey across the prog garden that will enlighten and expand your listening.  One more reason the killjoys stuck in the 70's are missing out...

Learn more about Kaleidoreal and make this one of your first purchases of 2019 at bandcamp.  You can also learn more about the band at facebook and Twitter @kaleidoreal.  Visit Sweden without the hassle of long airport lines and having your luggage rummaged through by customs...

I chose the cut below for several reasons; it is a genuine peek-behind-the-curtain on a band I expect to hear much more from, so much of who they are emanates from this one cut, the mood swings and climate changes are extreme and incredible, and I want you to run out and buy this...

                   

So my friends and fellow progheads, I hope our first foray into the 2019 prog garden was worthy of the journey.  Kaleidoreal is but a small slice of what I anticipate being one helluva prog buffet this year.  There is so much taking root under the current cover of snow just waiting to burst forth.  One reason I chose to open the season here in Sweden is the complexity of Kaleidoreal's sound blending beautifully with the simplicity of the music...it wraps itself around you and doesn't want to let go.  So just appreciate the gesture and tumble into the center of a long comfortable descent into utopia...

 The search for all things prog moves on, and the Concert Closet is doing everything possible to bring the best undsicovered and under-the-radar prog music your way.  Kaleidoreal is the torch bearer for 2019, and the trail blazes on...until next time...

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Goodbye 2018, It Was a Wild Ride

One last hurrah as we turn the final page on 2018 fellow progheads!  Looking back on the recent journey The Closet Concert Arena has taken I am at once awed, inspired, saddened, excited, and hopeful.  So much happened and so much fantastic music was released that to recount it here would take far too long and fall far too short of being a proper homage.  But since it is my blog, and since I abhor "Best Of" compilations and lists, I'll compromise on a quick rundown of the year that was and some sporadic holiday music randomly mixed in...



There isn't enough time and I dislike redundancy; and really there is no need to look at everything I reviewed over the course of the past twelve months...it's already there for your pleasure.  Hopefully you've read, listened, enjoyed, and made your purchases by now anyway...

However; I will revisit one review I wrote in February..."minor Masterpiece," an absolutely brilliant album from Colin Tench.  The world can be cruel though, as Colin passed through the veil just a few months prior to its release.  I like to think I am objective when writing reviews and capable of focusing on the music I am listening to at the moment.  Having said that I will admit openly and honestly this is still one of my favorite releases of 2018...and the music really is amazing.  I hope Colin is stompin' up a progressive storm in that prog garden in the sky...

There were many new releases from new friends and  follow up albums from old friends as well.  The best part of this journey--actually just one of the best parts (there are many)--is building relationships with artists and bands that would otherwise have been missed.  Servants of Science, Circu5, Zombie Picnic, Mile Marker Zero, I Am The Morning, and Silas Neptune are just a sampling of the treasures the search for all things prog discovered for the first time.

A brief interlude...first song for the holidays this year is something from Chris Squire's Swiss Choir; "Silent Night-Night of Silence."  I have always been a fan of Chris; his work with Yes, solo projects, and his collaborations with other artists.  This one just caresses your mind and your heart ever so gently...


                       

For returning favorites, Scarlet INside, Bent Knee, Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate, the Aaron Clift Experiment, and  Seconds Before Landing all had new releases and continued success.  Gregorian Rock even released a Christmas album!  Another favorite part of commanding the Closet Concert Arena is the front row seat to witnessing bands grow and expand not only their catalog but their abilities as artists.  When the the prog garden grows we all win...

One other aspect of the prog garden is big names coming together to form a new band and groups that have been together for many years--decades even--continuing to produce quality music appreciated by an astute audience.

The prog garden is home to much acreage producing so many vast and varied sounds; metal, ambient, classic, alternative and symphonic barely scratch the surface of what lies under the umbrella of progressive rock.  I have been fortunate to review so much great music and meet so many wonderful people; the prog world is a very close knit community I have come to realize and appreciate.

Next song on the holiday playlist is a cut from Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera; "We Three Kings."  A prog twist on a Christmas classic while paying homage to the traditions of the season.  Phil has done many a collaboration with too many artists to list here.  Andy has also played with several bands and on several projects--not to mention solo works.  Two fine musicians offering a lovely rendition of a holiday favorite...

                       

Now that 2018 is making her way through the final turn and fading to black, I want to thank everyone who helped make this year one the most successful for The Closet Concert Arena.  The lights will fade for a few weeks as I prepare for 2019; more reviews, some close-ups, interviews, rewinds, and perhaps a couple of surprises.  So to everyone reading and listening a sincere thank you and hope for an even better 2019.

I chose this last Christmas song as a sort of tribute to one of my favorites artists, John Wetton.  John played in many bands and was a major part of King Crimson--without John I don't think  "Red" would have been the classic it is.  He also played with Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Asia, District 97, Steve Hackett...the list is as long as it is incredible.  Yet somehow he tends to be overlooked when a discussion of great bass players or vocalists is in progress...one of the reasons I detest the annual "best of" lists that fly about.  It's Christmas, so just enjoy...       


                    

The search for all things prog will continue on as 2019 awakens...so as the journey moves forward I wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season however you choose to celebrate, and a safe and amazing New Year!  Until next time...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Tangent "Proxy"

A very chilly hello fellow progheads!  We have reached the final few weeks of 2018; the harvest for the 2018 prog garden season is just about in the barn.  Of course that means lots to look forward to in 2019, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Rather, let us savor what 2018 still has to offer...

...which can only mean the search for all things prog takes a quick "final for the year" trip to England as we visit with The Tangent.  The band has released studio album number ten recently, called "Proxy."  The Closet Concert Arena has been a faithful fan of The Tangent for quite some time, and while they do have quite a loyal following it is safe to say Andy Tillison and company have flown low under the radar for more than a decade.  Time to shine some bright light on this corner of the prog garden...


Opening with the title cut (of course).  The music is centered around Andy's keyboard playing with a strong jazz/funk rhythm going on throughout--much to the surprise of no one who follows the band.  There are subtle top notes are of Yes in their Fragile days and Weather Report when Jaco Pastorius roamed the stage; the ornate overflow of sound and emotion splatters across the inner lining of your ear walls.  As the song progresses into an anti-war rebellion all the while keeping the listener mesmerized, you realize The Tangent hasn't missed a beat...

Next song to pulsate through the headphones, "Supper's Off."  If I close my eyes I almost sense Rush pouring into my auditory canals; a very high energy uptempo piece.  The narrative lyrics get your adrenaline pumping while guitar and drums lay the foundation for silky keyboards to glide across like Michelle Kwan on ice.  There is an ELO/UK vibe running through this song, as if Eddie Jobson and Jeff Lynne were involved in a musical one upmanship benefiting all with the good fortune to purchase the album...stay for the credits...

Liner Notes...The Tangent hails from Northern England and is led by the epitome of individualism, Andy Tillison.  Andy is the lead vocalist, keyboardist, lyricist, and composer; in short Andy is The Tangent.  Not that the surrounding cast is a random collection of newbies--far from it.  Brilliance surrounds itself with brilliance...Luke Machin on guitar, Jonas Reingold on bass, Theo Travis on sax and flute, and Steve Roberts on drums.  Special guest Goran Edman also lays down some  vocal tracks.

"Proxy" was released November 16th on InsideOut Music, increasing the band's catalog count to ten.  While The Tangent has staked out their place in the prog garden, "Proxy" is about cementing their legacy.  This album wanders in many directions but never gets lost.  Instead it expands boundaries--as if Andy hasn't pushed and pulled in every direction already.

Learn more about The Tangent and purchase "Proxy" as well as the rest of the band's catalog at
The Tangent.  You can also visit Insideout Music for other bands recording on the label.  Follow The Tangent on Twitter @thetangentmusic and Facebook.



My final selection for review is "The Melting Andalusian Skies."  Andy seems to be channeling his inner Chick Corea on this instrumental extravaganza while Luke captures the essence of Al DiMeola...a winding piece that travels so many tributaries it's best to just lie back and let the music wash over your entire being...never has intensity felt so soothing...

Your teaser for the week is "The Adulthood Lie."  One of the traits of The Tangent is the band's ability to redefine themselves from song to song--or perhaps they defy definition.  No matter the method used; the prog garden is tilled, the acreage turned, and the bounty is beyond expectation.  The canvas is not simply splayed with color--it comes alive and leaps right at you.  As I savor this morsel, I am intrigued by what The Tangent could possibly do next... 

                


So as we witness 2018 begin her final descent, I can think of no better band that captures the meaning of prog today than The Tangent.  While they invite comparison, they defy categorization.  Capturing the essence of progressive rock, they steer clear of repetition.  Not exactly the new kids in town and while they fly low under the radar, they have justifiably earned the respect of peers and fans across the planet.  Playing like Weather Report one minute while emitting top notes of ELP and Genesis the next, The Tangent walk a fine line in extremely large shoes.

Of course the journey continues on as the search for all things prog moves closer to folding the calendar shut on what has proved to be a most incredulous year.  The Closet Concert Arena looks forward excitedly and with much anticipation...until next time...  

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Gregorian Rock Christmas "Centuries in the Making"

Hearty and jovial cold weather greetings fellow progheads!  It's crazy to be staring down the barrel of "holiday season 2018" already--there is still Halloween candy hidden in the closet and the bird isn't even stuffed yet.  But the ground has a fresh new white blanket as we round the final turn in what has been an exciting and tumultuous year in the prog garden.

The search for all things prog takes on a festive vibe this week as The Closet Concert Arena reviews a Christmas album that will be released very soon from Gregorian Rock.  This will be album number four from Roland Dale Benedict & Company for those keeping score at home...so let's get right to it...

The album opens with "Coventry Carol."  The mood is set immediately; you are immersed in the chant and chamber music resonance that builds a solid wall of sound...if early Pink Floyd had ventured into the Christmas album arena, I suspect Syd, Roger and the rest of the band would have put together something along these lines.  The stinging guitar that rides a current across the latter part of the song drives a stake right through your auditory sensors.  Starting to feel festive already...

The next song to flow through my headphones is a more traditional piece, "O Come O Come Emmanuel."  With a technological update to back up the vocals, this is an interesting cut.  Dale rides that thin line separating a "reflection" cover and a complete reinterpretation of the song very well...the feeling and mood are ever present, but the drums and keyboards expand the foundation on which the entire piece rests.  The top notes permeating the entire album are a toned down Trans Siberian Orchestra. 

Liner Notes...Dale Benedict is the heart, soul, brains, and life blood behind Gregorian Rock.  Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, Dale has released three albums prior to his venture into the Christmas spirit.  Phil Keaggy, who played guitar on the "Fire" album, also plays on two cuts here.  Classically trained and passionately dedicated to making great prog music, Dale continues to nurture his own unique acreage in the prog garden.  Now back to Christmas and music and celebrating and...

There are classic holiday tunes on the album as well; "The First Noel" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" are two that leaped through the headphones like Rudolph blazing across a moonlit sky.  The chanting vocals allow Dale to take the music down an entirely different road and "reinvent" each piece.  With so many songs--especially Christmas classics--being covered by a plethora of artists, the Gregorian spin changes the mood and the ambiance so you don't feel like you have "just another version" of the same-old same-old.  This album is extremely inspired...

One unusual cut from the album, "Personet Hodie," is a more uptempo holiday song that shines like the bright star that lit up the night sky so long ago.  Gregorian Rock has something on this album for every different taste this time of year; the canvas is filled with the bright colors the joy of Christmas brings as well as the more somber introspective hues that delve into the religious importance of what Christmas represents to so many.  Regardless of your vantage point, there is something here destined to seep into your pores and have you emit that "joyous holiday spirit."

Learn more about Gregorian Rock and get in on the Christmas hoopla at Gregorian Rock and follow up the latest on the band's Facebook and Twitter @cantusnovus.  In addition to "Gregorian Rock Christmas" you will find the entire Gregorian Rock catalog.  There is also an opportunity to get some special gifts and extras when ordering the Christmas album.  So please take the time and support the artist...

Normally this is the time and location for a clip from the latest release...however this week I am asking you to purchase the album for yourself and build your holiday music collection.  Rest assured you will be glad you did...and if you play it correctly, so will your neighbors...😄



As the sand empties into the bottom bulb of the hourglass, another week fades from the rear view mirror.  A reminder that 2018 is starting to wane like the Ghost of Christmas Past...but there is always time in the Concert Closet for one more song...

...so let me serve a last slice, "The Angel Gabriel."  A piercing drum leads the chant on this cut; as minimal as the first night in Bethlehem.  Slowly the music begins to erupt in a reserved celebration...and fade to black.  Gregorian Rock scores with this album because Dale understands the many facets that make up the holiday; celebration certainly, but there is also a feeling of awe and  magnificence wrapped around the importance of the season...Dale's music captures that quite beautifully.


One of the pleasures of blogging about up-and-coming, low under the radar prog bands is seeing first hand the progression and maturity of the entire project; writing, musicianship, mixing, producing...when everything comes together it really can be a work of art.  Listening to Gregorian Rock over these past few years has been an exercise in appreciation for me.  Dale is one of those artists who plays what he feels, and the results show it.  A Christmas album is just one more piece of the puzzle that is Gregorian Rock...

Now as I am so fond of saying, the search for all things prog continues. The journey will soon venture beyond 2018, but for the time being let us savor the harvest still waiting in the prog garden...until next time...

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate "Out Of Mind"

Welcome once more to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  As autumn makes her descent into November I am reminded as to why I prefer the land closer to the equator...but no worries; the temperature in the prog garden tends to stay warm and soothing...

...and this week I am happy to revisit an old friend I discovered here in the prog garden almost three years ago.  Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate released album number four, "Out Of Mind," in early October.  Since I have enjoyed all the previous musings of HOGIA, there is little risk in extending my UK visit another seven days for some music therapy...




My first foray into the garden this week is listening to "When I Was a Ship," a very insightful piece that rolls off the piano keys as eloquently as silk gloves peeled from elegant hands.  The song crawls inside the "mind" of a warship as it details all the memories--good and bad--held within.  The momentum builds with the aid of some dead-on drum work that rings of a military theme, but that piano never walks far from center stage.  Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate lives in a realm of the prog garden few enter; Malcolm is truly an independent writer and thinker.  I do, however, pick up aromatics of early Pink Floyd as the song floats through time and mood changes.  With HOGIA there tends to be consistent clouds, but the silver lining is always nestled safely inside...

Next serving to flow through the headphones is  "Stand Up."  Quirky by HOGIA standards, this song comes at you from around that blind corner--and the flute is an absolutely perfect fit!  A tune that gets in your face about the dark closet that is history, complete with all her skeletons.  One of the things I really enjoy about HOGIA's music is the life lesson tucked into each composition, just like the fortune cookie you order Chinese food to get.  To that end I am reminded of Seconds Before Landing, another band that crawls inside your mind and opens doors that encourage real thought process...
Liner Notes...Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate originates in London, Great Britain.  The line-up is founder Malcolm Galloway who also produces, and Mark Gatland.  This duo is often joined live by Kathryn Thomas (she of the amazing flute) and other guest musicians.

There is a lot behind the scenes with HOGIA; I have written previously of the charity work and fund raising Malcolm does and his relentless touring schedule.  With endorsements from many in the prog garden, including Steve Hackett, I am quite certain HOGIA's catalog will grow beyond four albums and theirs will be a more well known name--despite it length...

Last song on the buffet this week is "If You Think This World Is Bad..." an instrumental piece that has a jazzy groove emitting aromatics of The Alan Parsons Project.  In a "not quite tension filled but suspenseful nonetheless" way you get the feeling there is something or someone following you down an endless corridor as you find every door of escape locked.  There is a brilliance to this piece you need to hear to fully comprehend; once again Malcolm strays into territory that comes off skew to HOGIA's repertoire, but after letting it pour over your mind like an artisan beer sampling, you realize it's just the prog garden being stretched an acre or two...


Learn more about Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate and purchase "Out Of Mind" at their website Hats Off Gentlemen.  Purchase this and  their other music  as well at HOGIA bandcamp.  The band also has a Facebook  page and Twitter  @itsadequate  so you can keep up with the band and all things HOGIA.
To get you in the buying mood I went with the teaser this week.  It really is the best way to get a true taste of what Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate is...and once the sounds flows freely through your auditory canals you will need to quench that thirst.  The many moods of HOGIA are served up on individual canvas works, each with its own vibrant energy.  The pendulum swings to extremes as the music waltzes through your inner cranium...just let it take you where you know you want to go...

                      

Another week has indeed fallen off the calendar, sinking into the abyss off the final turn on the track
that is 2018.  Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate is for me an elixir that quenches a complex thirst. The canvas is hit with many a splash of vibrant color one minute and several hues of blue to grey to black the next...and each rides an emotional wave that carries across the prog garden like a newly discovered patch of crop circles; the wonder and awe is matched only by the calming beauty you have just discovered.  "Out Of Mind" has brought the music of HOGIA to a new level as Malcolm, Mark, and Kathryn each strut their progressive stuff...and the prog garden flourishes in the glow.

Of course, no time to rest on our laurels...so much harvesting left in the prog garden as the 2018 season races to its inevitable climax.  So the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Big Big Train

Another week means only one thing; back to the search for all things prog!  Welcome once again fellow progheads as this time the journey finds The Closet Concert Arena stretching the parameters a bit.  While I have been reviewing specific albums for quite a while, something I truly enjoy, this week I chose to spend time with a band that has been around a while boasting members with impressive resumes of their own.

The Concert Closet has been graced in the past--just recently as a matter of fact--with bands that fall into this same category...but this week it just feels different.  With the music catalog Big Big Train has, I felt it would be unfair to limit my review to a single album...thus I am reviewing a bit of a cross-section of their career over time.  So while I stay on the other side of the pond one more week, I am hopeful you will come away feeling so much better for the experience...and enough talk...

 

Forgive a fan's indulgence as I begin near the starting line with a tune from 1994's "Goodbye to the Age of Steam" called "Blue Silver Red."  As a matter of full disclosure my headphones are streaming the 2011 re-release, but no matter...the song opens clean and crisp, the curtain pulls back, and Big Big Train washes over your auditory sensors like sea foam as the tide ebbs.Top notes of early Yes fold seamlessly into aromatics of Van der Graaf Generator for a sound that is uniquely theirs.      
  
                                                                                                                                                       

Crossing the prog garden at several junctures only adds to the allure this band has.  The music is a soothing balm at the end of a chaotic day, the emotional and mental cleansing your mind needs to prepare for round two...which happens to be "Powder Monkey" from the 2004 release "Gathering Speed."  Big Big Train paints a myriad of emotions over the canvas; the gentle hues of a summer evening rain shower sweeping across the plains, yielding to the brisk bite of an autumn breeze as the sun sets earlier and the leaves do their  chameleon impression while slowly falling to earth.  All at once you feel at ease and excited as piano and guitar work together, weaving a musical tapestry to wrap around your mind and imagination...see the raindrops pelt the windows as the train rushes gently through the prog garden...

Liner Notes...Big Big Train has a big big history which began in the 1980's when Greg Spawton and Andy Poole met, discovering a mutual admiration for prog music.  From this "bonding  moment" the seed was planted and Big Big Train started its long illustrious journey...

Greg and Andy put a band together and Big Big Train toured and recorded; their first release being the aforementioned "Goodbye to the Age of Steam."  An adventurous pilgrimage through the prog garden enabled them to build quite an impressive catalog; eleven studio albums, several EP's, and two live albums...with a new release scheduled for early 2019.  

In addition to founding members Greg Spawton writing the songs and playing bass and Andy Poole  the uber-talented multi-instrumentalist, the current line-up of Big Big Train includes Danny Manners on keyboards, David Longdon on vocals, Rikard Sjoblom on guitar and keyboards, Dave Gregory on guitars, Rachel Hall on violin, and Nick D'Virgilio on drums.  Robin Armstrong also joined the band for their 2018 live tour and looks to become a more permanent passenger.  Despite leaving the band earlier this year, Andy is still listed as a member, because once you're in the family...
Big Big Train is a band greater than the sum of its parts--and the parts have individual resumes to impress even the casual prog fan.  The prog garden flourishes in part because artists of this caliber are able to come together and produce music that is, in a word, magnificent.  The emotional outpouring from each song is as real and tangible as the scent of an oncoming summer thunderstorm or the aromas that pour forth from a French patisserie...all you want is more...

One more cut, this one taken from their 2018 live album "Merchants of Light" called "A Mead Hall in Winter."  Once again Big Big Train spills a beautiful sound all over the stage.  With top notes of The Style Council and perhaps a hint of The Strawbs channeling through the headphones, the resulting sound is ornate without being overbearing.  Keyboards lay under just low enough to allow Rachel's violin to caress your senses.  Guitars weave effortlessly throughout, wrapping around the silky smooth horns that burst delicately, allowing you to become fully immersed and get absolutely lost...

Learn more about Big Big Train at their website Big Big Train.  You will have access to the band's music catalog--do yourself a favor and make a purchase! You will also find their music at iTunes and 
Google play  Big Big Train has a YouTube channel and  Facebook.  If these options still leave you wanting, try the links on their website for Spotify and LastFM--but be sure and make a purchase...  
                                                                                                                                                          

I decided to offer you "Swan Hunter" as your ear candy for the week.  This was a tough decision--mainly because the options were so abundant.  However, this cut is a glimpse behind the present day curtain with vocals that are meringue smooth and a band working in the background that works so well together they must be conjoined at the soul.  Delicate horns that lay a carpet for guitar and keyboard work that simply transcends...watching candles burn down as the curtain closes, you need to remind yourself this is a live recording; no studio dubbing, mixing, or other alterations.  Big Big Train takes you back to that time when you listened to music simply because you liked the way it made you feel...    

                      


Yet another week winds down and the taste in the air is bittersweet...Big Big Train has had a huge impact on the prog garden, which is all the more stunning when you realize they are not a "mainstream" band garnering big time radio airplay.  Fortunately for those of us who focus on quality and substance more than swag and bravado, Big Big Train delivers on so many levels.

The prog garden has provided so much pleasure to the fans of the genre and bands like Big Big Train allow loyal listeners to relish each note, knowing the soil is still extremely fertile.  The search for all things prog has taken me to many places exotic, tranquil, scenic, wild, and modest.  Big Big Train stops at so many stations offering the listener a prog garden experience that is, above everything else, immensely satisfying.  And isn't that what we wandered into the prog garden looking for in the first place?  As always, the search continues--because there is so much more to discover...until next time...