Yes. And why you should say the same to Prog rock.

I don’t believe this song has anything to do with that crappy science fiction movie which is a good thing. I think the outro riff, those three chords, is one of the coolest yet simple licks in rock and roll. Its been used countless amount of times in as many songs, but perhaps it is most useful here. Steve Howe’s guitar licks continually amaze me and I’ve been a hardcore Yes fan for years at this point.

I’ve talked of my love for progressive rock numerous times and have kept making the threat of writing a whole post on it. Here it is. I got into hard rock as a young man when Led Zeppelin was my first real love in the genre. The Mighty Zep was a blues rock cover band at its onset and always had that tinge to their music. Many bands did, from Cream to Ten Years After to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Therein is the big difference between what I’d call standard English Rock of the late 60’s and early 70’s and Progressive rock. Prog rock comes from Europe and owes more to the classical music tradition of that continent than that of the blues from the Mississippi delta.

Pink Floyd has never struck me as a progressive rock band but Wikipedia says they are so I suppose it is true. I always felt they didn’t have the musical virtuosity that some of the other bands did, which is not to say they aren’t awesome.

Rick Wright was a suburb keys player rooted in Jazz and Sid was a great guitarist who had a deep love of the blues. When he had his mental breakdown from drugs,  he was replaced by the excellent blues player David Gilmour. He is probably the tastiest guitarist in history, really playing when absolutely necessary which is antithetical to a band like Yes that has long complicated solos.  I’d say this band is probably the first band of this genre to get popular but I just always considered them more of a psychedelic band or art rock, not much prog because of their bluesy roots that always shined through their whole career. Check them out compared to ELP.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer was a keyboardist, bass player and drummer. They had a chance to jam with Jimi Hendrix soon before he died but Keith Emerson wanted a band without a guitar player. That would have been a hell of a group,

This song really exemplifies why I like progressive rock so much, This is like sped-up weirdo circus music which features fantasy vocals and keyboard sounds that could come from outer space. In fact, a friend’s dad told me that seeing ELP in the 70”s was kind of like being present at an alien invasion. It sounds so different from any other music you hear and this draws me to it. The unique sound can repel people, much like my favorite band Primus that has some definite prog rock flavors in it. It’s safe to say it’s the Anti-Mumford and Sons in its complexity. This genre draws some of the music industry’s finest players because how technically difficult the music can be to play.

King Crimson was a conglomeration of members from many of the early prog rock bands like Atomic Rooster, Yes and many of the other bands I can’t name off the top of my head. The only constant member is Robert Fripp and he still tours with a version of the band which sometimes tours with Tool.

Listen to the lush orchestration in this tune, combining so many instruments that it can be had to discern which is which. You can’t really listen to this music and tune out, it commands that you pay attention through frequent changes in tempo, volume, rhythm and other musical terms I’m not smart enough to use. I like that it’s not the standard four man line up with some verses, guitar bridge, and outro solo. it’s doesn’t follow the format of a traditional pop song and is not radio friendly in style or length.  This song has elements of jazz, classical, and rock that all mix together to make prog rock what it is. King Crimson ties almost evenly with Yes as my favorite progressive rock band, with the former being typically darker in tone/content than the former.

I can’t get enough of the multiple tempo changes in the music that can be severe, something that specifically turns people off to the music. It’s like several songs within one long ass song, more bang for your buck in one sitting is my feeling on the matter. “Heart of the Sunrise” has always been close to my favorite Yes song because of the wide range of sound dynamic and the jarring changes that occur on a dime.

Yes found me at a time in my life when things seemed pretty bleak. I was fresh out of graduate school with a Master’s degree with no job in sight in my field. I was newly single after years of living with a girl and was seeking out new things and ideas wherever I could. My best friend and current lead singer in my band sold me the three-record set Yessongs for the equivalent of two tall boy Pabst Blue Ribbons. The crazy circus sounds scared him and the disc got practically worn out by me playing it so often. I love the crescendos, both high and low, and the raw power of each instrument including the lead singer Jon Anderson. He actually sings in his natural register, not a falsetto. I think this is awesome, however, this and other nuances is specifically what turns some people off of the music.

You can’t really write a blog post about progressive rock and not at least mention the amazing Canadian power trio Rush. l want to write a whole post about my favorite tunes by them so I will keep it quick here and say that the cool dynamic changes are again present here, perhaps without so much space jamming, I love the reggae breakdown at the end and always drum on my steering wheel before doing the Rasta nod whilst driving my multi-colored 1999 Subaru. Check out Beyond the Lighted Stage, it really fills you in on the sheer awesomeness of the band. 

Any of my friends who don’t like Rush, or Yes or any prog rock band for that matter, cite the high-pitched vocals and widely sporadic music as reasons for hating this music. It is not run of the mill and is sometimes at high or low registers that are opposite to a lot of popular music.  It can be very intense and like I said, forces you to listen to it. Many people want to listen to music as background and this is the biggest reason I can see that people shy away from prog rock. There is a lot going on, just like in classical which I am getting into now, and it is not for everyone. I can say it has improved my life considerably.

I wish I listened to more Mastodon because everything I’ve heard is awesome. This song is significantly more melodic than much of their work where the lead singer does sort of this pig like snarl while singing, This video reminds of the video for “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins which also connects back to Rush because one of the best scenes in the aforementioned movie is when Billy Corgan looks like he might cry when talking about how much he loves Rush.

For some reason, prog rock really pushes me to use my brain, due to the complicated nature of it. I can’t tell you how much writing, cleaning, and solid philosophizing I’ve gotten done while listening to all of these bands that I have mentioned. It pushes my brain forward to new spaces, much as they say classical music does.  There are studies that show listening to classical music improves test scores, so I guess I will have to do a study on prog rock and higher thinking. I love the crazy changes, I love the musical virtuosity, I love the high-pitched vocals and I love how different this music is. I love progressive rock and I think you should too.

Why one of the earliest prog rock bands at the end? When it comes down to it, this music is like a short vacation from reality through your speakers or headphones. The wispy melodies, the abrasive changes, the amazing solos and the fantastical content all provide the chem- free break from a mundane morning or even a Tuesday Afternoon. It’s a little journey for anyone who is willing to take it and I hope you do.

11 comments on “Yes. And why you should say the same to Prog rock.

  1. theelderj says:

    Man, prog-rock can be overwhelming. I prefer proggish stuff like Mates of State. But the full-on prog onslaught is definitely an acquired taste.

    Yet, you make a great case for giving it a chance. Nice post.

  2. T.A. Gerolami says:

    Never trust Wiki on questions of what fits into what genre. Since anyone can edit, inevitably some a-hole will classify bands or what have you willy nilly, often missing the subtleties that more experienced genre fans bring to the table. For proof, visit their horrific list of Film Noir.

  3. […] nearly a stop, the music kicked into high gear towards the end of the song and my love affair with progressive rock began in […]

  4. […] you like Deep Purple? It’d be a lot cooler if you did. Almost prog rock, but I’d say it has a little too much blues for that genre and it’s a good thing. This […]

  5. […] with a consistent unique sound that is never overbearing, which may be antithetical to my love of prog rock but I’ve always liked a variety of tunes. I didn’t know until recently that the band […]

  6. […] less morose version of the Pixies. Their drummer Ryan Rabin is the son of one of the drummers from Yes which gives him major points with me. Lastly, I find the flannel plus leather pants look on the […]

  7. […] think about the problems in their lives, then he considers it a job well done. Regardless of the complexity of music, isn’t this what we are all looking for in our music? A distraction from the rigors […]

  8. […] band conceivably, the vary high pitched. I could see why someone who is into complicated music like progressive rock would see this music is overly simple and why women could see some of the songs as being […]

  9. […] limited but tasty instrumentation and very tight song structure. They are definitely not prog rock, are pretty obscure in general and were often covered by Elliot […]

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