Modern Prog Retrospective

by Jason Warburg


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Back in the day – which for someone of my vintage means the 1970s – progressive rock represented the epitome of cool for a certain kind of fan.  (Sounds better than “geeks like me,” doesn’t it?)  Flowering from the more avant garde offerings of bands from Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention to the Beatles (was Sgt. Pepper’s in fact the first progressive rock album?  Discuss…), prog became a musical behemoth as the early seventies wore into the mid-.  Like many a burgeoning movement, though, prog eventually fell victim to its own excesses (Topographic Oceans, anyone?) and came under fire from new upstarts, chiefly punk, with its anarchic ethos, short song forms and disdain for instrumental skills.

Prog, much like rock and roll itself, though, has proved that it will never die.  Even in the depths of the 80s, new bands began to emerge to pick up the threads – extended song forms, fantasy-tinged lyrics, dynamic and complex arrangements, and eye-opening instrumental flash – laid down by forefathers like Pink Floyd, Genesis, the Moody Blues, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, ELP, Rush and Yes.  Marillion, UK, IQ and Pendragon were among the leaders of this second wave of prog.

After another period of relative dormancy, the third wave of progressive rock arrived with the ascendancy in the 90s and since of modern prog acts such as the Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree and Spock’s Beard, paralleled by the success of these groups’ close cousins on the prog-metal side of the fence, bands such as Dream Theater, Queensryche and more recently Opeth.  One of the developments seen especially in the third wave is the splintering of the prog scene into distinctive subsets like symphonic rock, neo-prog, space rock and the especially active progressive metal niche. 

And so it came to pass that we surveyed the modern prog scene before us and decided it was high time to acknowledge the accomplishments of the second and third waves of progressive rockers by making Modern Prog the focus of our March 2009 retrospective.

This March the Daily Vault will feature 19 reviews covering a wide range of modern prog artists and albums, beginning on Thursday, March 5 and continuing through Tuesday, March 31. The majority of these reviews will be appearing on the Vault for the first time.

Founded in January 1997, the Daily Vault has featured more than 5,800 reviews of more than 2,700 artists from all across the musical spectrum, written by a volunteer staff from around the world. Previous Artist Of The Month retrospectives have spotlighted the work of artists from Tori Amos to Frank Zappa, including the Beatles, Depeche Mode, Garth Brooks, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Yes and many others. Themed retrospectives have included punk, hip-hop, classic soul, classic jazz, Broadway musicals, Christian Contemporary Music and live albums.


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