Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Popular Progressive 101

In the 1970's Yes, Rush and Pink Floyd may have ruled our record collections and, at times, the album charts, but they were still not sing-a-long favourites. It's tough to think of Emerson, Lake and Palmer at Number 1 or 18.44 of Yes's Closer to Edge.
Classic progressive rock bands took effort, you had to listen to the albums a number of times before you 'got it', soaking up the complexity until you could enter the world that they had created. Prog rock also came under alot of critisism as pretentious or overblown, something that, in the late 70's would eventually contribute to the rise of punk and disco.
It was possible, however, to maintain what was excellent about prog and mix it with popular music to great effect. Keep the classical influence, the concept album, the use of synthesisers, the sophistication, take away the long solos and the 25 minute tracks and add pop song melodies and chorus's and you get Popular Prog (otherwise known as Crossover Prog).

Here are some of the greatest bands in this genre:

1. Alan Parsons Project

Made brilliant concept albums from 1975-1987, including I Robot (based on Asimov), Pyramid (based on Ancient Egypt) and the recently remastered Eve (based on Women).

Track: Games People Play (1981)
2. Supertramp

Massive stars in the U.S. Their biggest selling was Breakfast in America (18,000,000)

Track: Take the Long Way Home

3. Electric Light Orchestra

Essentially a vehicle for Jeff Lynne, they holds the record for having the most Billboard Top 40 hits of any band in U.S. chart history, without ever having No. 1 single. In 1977 Jeff wrote the entire double album, Out of the Blue in three and a half weeks; there were 4 million pre-orders.

Track (brilliant track): Mr Blue Sky

4. Manfred Mann's Earth Band

A long way from MM early band (Do Wah Diddy), their most popular album was THe Roaring Silence, with the hit, Blinded by The Light, written, believe it or not by Bruce Springsteen

5. Marrillion

Starting a bit later than the rest, 1979, they have often been compared to Late Genesis. They are still going, releasing an album last year called 'Somewhere Else', with one due this year with a working title of M15

Track: 'Kayleigh'

6. Kansas

'Carry On Wayward Son' and 'Dust in the Wind' are still played on classic rock radio and are certified Gold singles, they've produced an amazing 21 albums and were a massive arena-rock spectacle

Tell me what I've missed and i'll add it to the post

Image: Courtesy Jet, United Artists, Columbia

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