Saturday, April 13, 2019

My Favorite Ten Progressive Rock Bands of the Seventies

This is a hard list, because of the question of who do you define as progressive rock, and who do you define as something else.

It's also a little controversial, as I'm leaving out some major bands who were either a little too jazz oriented for me, who who were just too out there (I'm looking at you, Genesis!).

1. Jethro Tull - But you already knew that, didn't you? I love their folky elements.

2. Yes - You knew that, too. I love their classical musical influences.

3. Procol Harum - I'm re-listening to their discography over the next three months. I love Brooker's voice, Keith Reid's fantastical lyrics and Matthew Fisher's beautiful piano. And Mr. Trower wasn't exactly a slouch either.

4. Strawbs - I just wrote about their live show at the Boulton Center last night. Another prog rock band with great folky elements.

5. Renaissance - Annie Haslam's vocals are divine. And this is another band with amazing classical music influences, and in particular, some ravishing piano pieces.

6. King Crimson - They have a bit of a split personality. By and large, I'm not in love with their harsher jazz numbers. But then they have that melodic, beautiful side that they show on "The Wake of Poseidon", "Islands" and "Starless," among others, which is simply divine.

7. Kansas - My favorite American prog rock band (and the only one to make this list). Leftoverture and Point of Know Return are ridiculously good.

8. The Moody Blues - Yeah, yeah, they're a little sappy at times. But at their best, they're also pretty delightful. And they were really consistent over a good, long stretch.

9. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Yes, they could be pretty bombastic. But Emerson and Rick Wakeman were the two best prog rock keyboardists of their time, and Greg Lake had one of the richest voices in all of rock.

10. Hawkwind - I've only really started listening to these guys in the last year, so they could actually move up on this list. Warrior on the Edge of Time is amazing.

Now there are three bands who would have made this list, except that while they definitely are part prog rock, I mostly classify them in another category.

The Who, to me, clearly have prog rock elements, especially in the two rock operas, and in Townshend's use of the keyboards. But I think that most people classify them primarily as more hard rock than prog rock, and I agree.

Likewise, Pink Floyd definitely has some strong progressive rock leanings. But here again, I think that most people would classify their music as a little more psychedelic rock than progressive rock.

The toughest call was Rush, who I see as having been the forerunners of the progressive metal movement. You could definitely classify them as progressive rock, and many do. But they can also be classified as hard rock and as math rock, so I reluctantly left them off of this list as well.

I know the biggest omission that many would cite is the exclusion of Peter Gabriel's Genesis. They clearly are a prog rock band. But while they definitely had some music that I like a lot (I'm a big fan of their 1973 Live album, with tracks such as "Watcher of the Skies", "Get 'Em Out By Friday" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed"), a lot of their music was just a bridge too far for me. (And in fact, my other favorite Genesis album besides the Live album is Genesis from the Phil Collins years.

As for my favorite prog rock band of the modern era, right now it's the British band (of course) Mostly Autumn. And my favorite progressive metal band is Nightwish.