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Progland was founded by John Gabbard in 2005. It's purpose has been to provide you, the music community with the latest music and dvd reviews. It will continue to be your link to the most popular music reviews in the progressive world.


"Jerry Lucky's" (Progressiveland's) Commentary

Buy Jerry's Books Interested in buying Jerry's books click on picture above or see below:
Commentary-By "Jerry Lucky"

Neo-Prog Misconceptions #1 and #2:

Last time I set out to establish a broad definition of what constitutes progressive rock. I’ve always viewed the genre as one that is relatively easy to define in fact, partially because so much material has been produced over the years that building a consensus is relatively easy for those who choose to hear the obvious. My view is that each genre of music has identifiable descriptives such that if you wanted to create a country song or a Reggae song you simply apply the appropriate stylistic elements and viola…the song is easily identified as what it was intended to be. The same hold true for a progressive rock song. ***

Since Neo-Prog is almost always compared to, or identified as an off-shoot of Symphonic Prog, it’s essential we identify the specific characteristics of Symphonic Prog. Symphonic Progressive Rock is described as such not because it necessarily sounds like a symphony but more because of the manner in which the music is composed and arranged. The bulk of what many consider Progressive Rock, from the Moody Blues to Spock’s Beard tends to fall into this sub-genre of prog. This is by far the largest and according to many surveys the most popular sub-genre of prog. ***

To describe Symphonic Prog in somewhat more detail, it is music that borrows’ much from the structure and style of classical music but it is blended with the harsher, more direct aspects of rock. What this means is that Symphonic Prog is music that is dramatic and dynamic. It has loud and soft parts throughout as opposed to a traditional pop or rock song which tends to follow a prescribed audio pattern of consistency. Symphonic Prog incorporates the rock element but blends it with the grander symphonic style of slow and fast, loud and quite, complex and simple. In other words, Symphonic Prog is the most inclusive of the prog genres. It is conceivable to hear huge swells of instruments forming dramatic crescendos followed by the most minimal, ambient passages leading into an aggressive rock based 4/4 section that then changes tempo and time signature to introduce a completely different melody that may never repeat itself. The overriding element in Symphonic Prog is melody. Melody is that one aspect of the compositional pallet that allows the composer to leave the listener with something to hum, a tune to whistle, an idea to bounce around in the brain. Melody is the thing our brains remember most. Symphonic Prog allows the composer the ultimate freedom in creating a piece of music that conveys every emotion needed to tell the story. But just for clarification, Symphonic Prog is called symphonic because of two things: the compositional structure and the arrangement. ***

Therefore we can expect to hear music that is layered, music that reflects changes in mood and atmosphere, music that for a variety of reasons seems at odds with what is heard on mainstream media. I say at odds in that it seems to be constantly defying musical custom, defying convention or at its best defying the pop-rock tradition. To the average listener Progressive Rock and within that genre the sub-genre of Symphonic Prog always seems to sound either too busy, to complex, or too confusing. For aficionados that may seem to be a strange reaction and yet it is not coincidental that were these people listening to actual classical symphonic music their reactions might be very similar. The reason for this is best exemplified in the music of YES. The musicianship established by this band (along with others) has done much to confirm the symphonic rock tradition. What you have essentially, is a band ethic where everyone plays lead much of the time. Each member, guitar, drums, bass, and keyboards will for a good portion of the composition be performing their own distinctive part, rather than just supporting the others. It is the manner in which the band arranges these parts that then completes the symphonic effect. Whereas a traditional rock or pop band relies almost exclusively on the bass/drum rhythm being supported by harmonic open-chording and little lead-work, the symphonic prog approach has each member performing with a greater emphasis on lead-work almost as if each instrument were performing solo. So in truth it is more complex than what most people hear in the media. Symphonic Prog brings together the most accessible aspects of classical composition but yet demands a stringent level of rock music composition. It is in many respects it is the best of both worlds. ***

Having laid the groundwork let’s now look more closely at what is typically labelled as Neo-Prog. ***

Most important for me is not simply to make the assertion that the use of the term Neo-Prog is flawed, but to present an argument that clearly and concisely dismantles previously held opinions and assertions to the contrary. However, in order to do that we need to examine what is typically labelled Neo-Prog and why. I’ve visited a number of respected internet sites looking for their definitions of Neo-Prog in the hopes of identifying the key descriptives used that hold some consistency across the board rather than just relying on idle opinion. These definitions are presented at the end of this article. What you find in reviewing these various attempts at defining Neo-Prog however, is that far from there being any consistency, each of these sites tends to introduce elements into the definition that are particular to the individual author. As such there remains much inconsistency when trying to pin down what it is that actually constitutes a Neo-Prog definition. That in-and-of-itself is perhaps reason enough to question the legitimacy of the term. ***

I have chosen to use the term “misconception” for each of these identifiers not because of the controversial nature of the term, but rather to simply allow for a concise response to the purported claim. As I go through each of these misconceptions, let me be perfectly clear about one thing as I describe various bands and their musical output. I love all this music. What I may say about a band in comparing it to another is by no means meant to denigrate but simply to demonstrate. That being said here are 13 claims made that are purported to identify Neo-Prog followed by my response: *** · Misconception #1 – Neo-Prog is less complex than other Symphonic Prog It is commonly held that Neo-Prog is less complex than other forms of Progressive Rock but specifically other Symphonic Prog artists. In fact, most would probably say that it is the least complex, perhaps sitting just a tiny notch above Art Rock. But is this really the case. If we use the most recent CDs from Pallas (Dreams of Men) and IQ (Dark Matter) as a current reference point, how do these two releases stack up against history? If we are to compare these two releases against the symphonic style of early King Crimson or Gentle Giant or even some of the more ambitious compositions of Yes and Genesis we would be safe in saying they are in fact somewhat less complex. How much less becomes highly subjective. On the other hand if we were to compare Pallas and IQ to say, Barclay James Harvest, Strawbs, Le Orme, Banco or even some Ange and Mona Lisa the argument of complexity begins to thin somewhat for many of the releases of these symphonic bands are in fact less complex that Dreams of Men or Dark Matter and are in many cases a collection of melodic songs. This is true of many of the classic early British, Italian and French bands. Truth is the Moody Blues on their first seven recordings created music that was far from what many today might consider complex yet few can deny its Symphonic Prog roots. The music’s simplicity is hardly a case for calling it Neo-Prog. So today clearly complexity is hardly an appropriate form of measurement for this particular musical style. ***

The idea that complexity is a bastion of the old guard is a false notion. There are many contemporary bands such as Glass Hammer, Spock’s Beard, Neal Morse and many others whose musical output is not only far more complex in terms of composition, but also arrangement and musicianship. So if complexity is your frame of reference for determining what Neo-Prog is then by rights, many of the old guard would have to be labelled in such a way. If not, then complexity alone cannot be used to single out certain bands for the Neo-Prog identification. Complexity is very much alive and well in many modern prog artists. ***

· Misconception #2 – Neo-Prog is a sub-genre that is distinct from Symphonic Prog While scouring the net looking for bands that others label as Neo-Prog, it was amazing to see that in every case (I was going to say virtually but there wasn’t a single example otherwise) the bands held up to represent this supposed sub-genre were in fact symphonic in nature. These lists would include not only Pallas and IQ but also Marillion, Jadis, Twelfth Night, Pendragon, Arena and in some cases Spock’s Beard, Glass Hammer, The Flower Kings and so on. So when you peruse the list what do see? To my eyes there are only symphonic bands. I’m hard pressed to name a single band that might be labelled Neo-Prog and NOT be a Symphonic Prog band. Not one. ***

I believe there is a reason for this, and that reason is that all these bands are in fact first and foremost Symphonic Prog bands creating music that is in the same tradition as the original progressive rock icons. Each of these new bands incorporates elements of the past but then has clearly created their symphonic sound. Really after a dozen albums, to still describe a band like IQ as sounding like Genesis seems to be a classic case of not listening to what’s actually on the disc. If we are to be fair and honest, IQ sounds like IQ. Bands like these are clearly second; third or perhaps even fourth generation Symphonic Prog bands. ***

By way of comparison, no one labels the Rolling Stones Neo-Rock even though the blues and rock music of the late Fifties and early Sixties influenced them. So my contention is that Neo-Prog is not distinct from Symphonic but is in fact every bit symphonic in nature. It is not a sub-genre of Symphonic because the bands identified are clearly holding true to the symphonic hallmarks. They cannot be Neo-Prog since they are first and foremost Symphonic Progressive Rock bands. ***

Next time we’ll look at a few more Neo-Prog misconceptions. As always your comments are welcome. ***

Jerry Lucky

To buy Jerry's book's - The Progressive Rock Files/20th Century Rock and Roll : Punk /The Psychedelic Rock Files /20th Century Rock and Roll : Women in Rock - Click Here


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