Rocking the Classics - Part#1 (Classic Prog)

(Note: The text below consists of excerpts and paraphrases from Edward Macan's book "Rocking the Classics"):

The prototype or classic "Progressive Music" bands all put out their definitive or best recordings between 1971 an 1975: King Crimson, ELP, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull and to a lesser extent Van Der Graaf Generator, Renaissance, Gentle Giant and Curved Air. The music is characterized as an attempt to combine classical music?s sense of space and monumental scope with rock?s raw power and energy. It combined the musical genres of classical, rock, R&B and folk. Subject matter for the albums was drawn from science fiction, mythology and fantasy literature. The music itself was characterized as complex, dynamic and multidimensional. Musical virtuosity was exploited as evidenced by keyboard genius? Keith Emerson (ELP) and Rick Wakeman (Yes) with guitarists Robert Fripp (King Crimson), Steve Howe (Yes) and Jan Akkerman (Focus), as well as drummers Carl Palmer (ELP), Bill Bruford (Yes) and Guy Evans (VDGG).

The music and lyrics had a dichotomy spawned by the hippie counterculture which was trying to reconcile the conflicts with the Vietnam war, the Establishment, the sexual revolution and personal enlightenment. Hence the constant shifting in the music between acoustic/electric, vocal/instrumental and climax/reprise... but always "progressing" in complexity and theme development. It creates a sense of unpredictability, tension and non-conformity. The evolution of keyboard equipment (mini-Moog, Mellotron and Hammond organ) was the defining moment which allowed progressive music to transcend the traditional pop format of the 3-minute single by exploiting the use of long instrumental passages. Classical music?s multi-movement suites and symphonic poems of the 19th century composers were the basis for the complex sound structures. Album covers were an essential part of setting the tone and backdrop for the music. To a large degree, the music was never adaptable to radio airplay, but rather as a personal or group home listening experience or in concerts, which were becoming more popular, large and extravagant.

The Super-Groups realized that there was a demand for live concerts both in the UK and now America which is where over half of their album sales were from. These concerts, although they were huge successes at the time, ironically marked the beginning of the end for their current existence. The grandiose productions and grueling tour schedules served to distance themselves from their fans and eventually they lost touch with the creative energies and influences which had fueled their previous successes. This is what led Robert Fripp to disband King Crimson in 1974 right after the release and subsequent tour for their ?Red? album which was arguably their best recording. In addition, the ever-increasing complexity of the music had reached its apex and in order to continue, the music would have to be simplified or another direction would have to be pursued. Right about then (1976) the punk movement began in the UK and the predominantly blue-collar youth led musical movement threatened to overshadow the aging prog-rock scene which was largely middle and upper-middle class... and eventually it succeeded.

Well, that?s it for installment #1... I?m going to put together a few more parts on:
2. Neo-Prog of the 80's (Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Pallas, Twelfth Night)
3. Post-Prog of the 90's (Djam Karet, Edhels, Ozric Tentacles, Anglagard)
4. Proto-Prog in the 80?s and 90?s (Frippertronics, Second-Wave, Retro-Prog)
5. International Prog-Rock (Banco, PFM, Le Orme, Pulsar, Triumvirat, Eloy)
6. The Present and Future of Prog-Rock

There?s also sub-genres called Symphonic-Prog (Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Focus) and the Canterbury Scene (Camel, Soft Machine, Caravan, Egg, Gong, Henry Cow) but I choose to not concentrate on them because they do not fit the theme/focus of this mailing list which is Electronic Prog-Rock. The book focuses on British bands mainly because that is where most of development of the genre has occurred, but it does give adequate discussion of international progressive music bands as well.

This is fun to put together since it ties together a lot of what I remember from the past since I was in high school and college in the 70?s and witnessed the rise and fall of the Prog-Rock Supergroups. I lost touch with most of it until fairly recently and this puts it all into perspective for me.  It's ESSENTIAL READING.  I know Cranium Music and Amazon.com carry it.

(Go to Part 2 of 3)

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