Cobham, Billy [USA]
Updated 10/24/00

Spectrum (73)
Crosswinds (74)
Total Eclipse (74)
Shabazz (75)
A Funky Thide of Sings (75)
Life and Times (76)
Inner Conflicts (7?)
Observations (82)
Warning (85)
... many others
Drummer for Mahavishnu Orch. Numerous solo albums. I only have 2. Spectrum 1973 w/ an all-star band Tommy Bolin (guitar), Jan Hammer (keyboards), Lee Sklar (bass), other guest horn players. Mahavishnu Orch with a more rock feel. Crosswinds 1974 more jazz w/ John Abercrombie, George Duke, the Brecker brothers and more.
Best known as the drummer for the first Mahavishnu Orchestra formation, he's also worked with Miles Davis during his fusion era. His solo efforts vary in quality. He's a fine drummer under someone else's direction, but tends to get flashy on later solo works, to the sacrifice of the music. Spectrum is a good starting place, as it also features Jan Hammer and Tommy Bolin.
Billy Cobham inspired me to start playing the drums, so his music has always had a place close to my heart. Early in his career, Cobham played with James Brown, The 5th Dimension, and Miles Davis (Jack Johnson and Directions feature his instantly recognizable playing). He also did numerous sessions for a number of jazz (Steve Kuhn, Richard Davis, Jimmy Owens, George Benson, Randy Weston, Eumir Deodato, etc.) and pop artists. His playing can also be heard on the theme music for the popular TV program "Mission Impossible" (the last couple of years, anyway). Cobham was a natural choice for the Mahavishnu Orchestra, where his jaw-dropping chops and relentlessly driving style became singularly influential. After recording three spectacular records with Mahavishnu, he pursued a solo career.

His first solo record, Spectrum, was his most Mahavishnu-like and featured ex-Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer. To put it bluntly, Spectrum is a classic fusion album. Half the cuts also featured gonzo guitarist Tommy Bolin and bassist Lee Sklar (from the jazz-rock group The Section) and approach a Mahavishnu-like intensity, only with a harder funk-rock edge. The remaining cuts are more jazz-oriented, and feature the work of trumpeter Jimmy Owens, and saxophonist Joe Farrell. There are also a few brief drum solos, several of which incorporate the Moog drum. Crosswinds continued in the more jazzy, horn-based vein and featured several sidemen who would remain with him for the next several albums: trumpeter Randy Brecker, his saxophonist brother Michael Brecker, and guitarist John Abercrombie. Cobham's next album, Total Eclipse, was vastly superior to Crosswinds for several reasons. Here, guitarist Abercrombie really came into his own as a soloist, and the phenomenal trombonist Glenn Ferris was added to the horn section. Cobham's composing and arranging skills also shine, and tracks such as "Solarization" and "Sea of Tranquility" are among the best he ever committed to vinyl. Shabazz is a superior live set, seemingly issued as an afterthought. Bulgarian keyboardist Milcho Leviev's synth work really shines, as does Glenn Ferris on an electronically modified trombone. A Funky Thide ... retained most of the band from Total Eclipse and Shabazz, but had a much more commercial sound, rather like an instrumental version of Tower of Power. Shortly thereafter, Cobham broke up the 'big' band, and resumed working with a more typical keyboards, guitar, bass and drums lineup. Life and Times is a fine effort from this era, featuring George Duke (a.k.a. Dawilli Gonga) on keyboards, Doug Rauch (ex-Santana) on bass, and the young John Scofield on guitar. Musically, Life and Times is polished, energetic, funky jazz- rock fusion. Their rendition of Scofield's composition "Earthlings" is a real high point. This band (with ex-Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson) recorded another album, but I didn't care for it. His final recording for Atlantic, Inner Conflicts, has the look and feel of odds & ends and outtakes, but is actually pretty good. In the late '70s, Cobham switched record companies (to CBS) and his music became more polished and commercial, although his first record on CBS was very good. Observations &, released on the Elektra / Musician label, is very polished, efficiently played fusion with some great music ("M.S.R.", "Observations & Reflections") and some really lame music which sounds like an instrumental version of the pop band Journey. Pretty much everything after the early '80s was very commercial. He also did a record with Jack Bruce, drummed in a band which included various members of the Grateful Dead, and returned briefly to record with John McLaughlin. A recent project, "Jazz Is Dead" involved ex-members of Bruce Hampton's Aquarium Rescue Unit playing Greatful Dead covers.

When you consider Billy Cobham's impact on progressive rock and fusion, his solo records are only a small part of the story. He developed a very distinctive way of playing odd time signatures (11/4, 7/8, etc.) which is still imitated today, and he was one of the first to incorporate new (e.g., gong drums, octobans) or long-unused (e.g., Chinese cymbals) instruments into the modern drummers' percussion arsenal. Finally, pretty much every fusion and progressive drummer around today owes at least a small stylistic debt to Billy Cobham. I hear strong Cobham influences in the work of influential drummers like Simon Phillips, Rod Morgenstein, Dennis Chambers, Mark Mondesir, Jeff Watts, Terry Bozzio, and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. Best of all, Cobham is still out there kicking ass! -- Dave Wayne

[See Abercrombie, John | Davis, Miles | Hammer, Jan | Mahavishnu Orchestra]

Click here for Billy Cobham's web site

Cobraa [Germany]

Cobraa (74)

Cobweb Strange [USA]
Updated 4/20/01

Thoughts Under Glass (95, 4-song EP)
The Temptation of Successive Hours (96)
Sounds From The Gathering (98)
A Breath of October (01, scheduled out in Winter)
Cobweb Strange as of April 2001 - Brandi (keyboards), Wade Summerlin (bass), Holly (guitar), Soumen (drums) (don't blame me for the lack of last names ... they aren't given on the Cobweb Strange website)

Have you ever heard of the Is/Is Not chart? It's one of those wonderful new business gimmicks that comes along every few years and is in vogue among the business community. It's the sort of thing Scott Adams makes fun of in his Dilbert strips. Anyway, it's used to tell what a new project or product is all about. It gives a quick overview (usually for management types) of what something is and what it isn't. I thought I'd give it a try for Cobweb Strange:

Cobweb Strange IS Cobweb Strange IS NOT
  • A band featuring excellent musicians.
  • A band with its roots in Acid (Psychedelic) Rock and Classic Rock.
  • A band that plays in odd meters and has long songs.
  • A band that is enjoyable to listen to.
  • A band that should get a lot of FM radio airplay on "Alternative" stations.
  • A band that changes line-ups for every album (except for Wade Summerlin).
  • ... particularly Progressive.

I've heard The Temptation of Successive Hours and Sounds From The Gathering. Neither of these albums feature the line-up shown above; both are three-piece albums (guitar/bass/drums). I'll admit to having a bias towards symphonic prog, so the lack of keyboards makes it tough for me. However, I don't need keyboards to make a band Progressive in my mind. It just helps.

These albums are really more in the psychedelic vein, with lots of "oh, Wow, Man, pass me that doobie" sound to it. I actually really enjoyed these albums because of that, I just don't think they are very progressive. The songs are mostly in the verse/chorus format with some interesting solos and occasional progressive stylings (like the breaks in "Sometimes the Shine" which alternate measures of 6's and 7's), but overall just about anyone should be able to listen to this without being overly challenged. There's also a fair amount of influence here from late '90's FM radio "Alternative / Grunge / Post-Rock" bands, which somehow manages to blend well with the older '70's psychedelic feel.

So, a lukewarm review. If you missed these CD's, you wouldn't be depriving yourself of any prog masterworks. Perhaps the addition of a keyboard player to the band (see photo above) will help ... in fact, bassist Wade Summerlin is the only common denominator between the band I've heard and the one that's currently in the studio working on the third full-length CD. We'll see. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Cobweb Strange's web site

Cocai, I [Italy]

Piccolo Grande Vecchio Fiume (77)

Only one album that I know of. They play an Italian rock with progressive tendencies that reminds me of UNO, Dalton and Odissea. The music is mellow and not very complex, and keyboards are used as a background for the guitar and flute. The album is 40 minutes long and consists of seven songs between 4 to 8 minutes and all of them are very melodic and sometimes beautiful, but overall the album feels slow and a bit boring. This is far from the best Italian bands and is (IMO) only for collectors of Italian progressive rock. There are so many better bands. -- Andre Hagberg

Cocciante, Riccardo [Italy]

Mu (73), others

Italian rock/pop singer (and keyboardist) who did a progressive album called Mu in 1973 (re-issued on Italian RCA in 1976). Mu starts out rather slow and spacey, and most of it is similar, but ultimately inferior, to the great Italian progressive bands (e.g., PFM, Banco, Acqua Fragile, etc.) of the same time period. -- Dave Wayne

Cochrane, Steve [Canada]
Updated 12/19/00

Heroes Awaken (91)
To See It Made Real (95)
The Purest of Designs (98)
Steve Cochrane

No one can deny Canada's amazing contribution of artists and albums to the cause of Progressive Rock. Rush and Saga stand out as much as Yes and King Crimson for their longevity as well as the calibre of music they've entertained us with.

Inspired by his fellow countrymen and the full gamut of progrock, Steve Cochrane from Ontario offers his third solo album, The Purest of Designs. An inspired follower of the school of [author] Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged), Steve has woven a concept sound around the idealistic value of optimism and the hero awakening within us. This conviction is bought out in astounding, almost frantic guitar riffs climbing on the first track, "To the Glory of Man". But I'm ahead of myself.

He is the consumate musician with a mastering of guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and vocals, and is not shy of telling anyone of the progrock inspirations which have helped create this album. Certainly the likes of Rush, Camel, early Genesis (Steve Hackett), Renaissance, and even an element of Steve Howe show up in his latest album to date.

Steve picked up a guitar at the age of 15 and 5 - 7 years later was playing in the Ontario progrock band, Endpieces before deciding on going solo. With the advent of so called Contemporary Instrumental (okay, I'll call it what it really is, New Age) music Steve found a willing market for his home studio recordings. The first album, Heroes Awaken explored the theme of what he proposed, "something to be experienced - our integrity, honesty, intelligence, ambition, the best within us." To See It Made Real, the follow up album again was targeted for the New Age market but Steve's past was catching up with him and elements of Progrock showed through especially with what I think is the best track, "To See It Made Real." Electric and MIDI guitar ran amok in the best prog fashion possible.

And so to The Purest of Designs, the third album in his trilogy. In a way it is a full circle for this Ontario artist. Steve had actually written much of his latest album before he had even recorded his first one, Heroes Awaken, shelving the project for when technology finally caught up to his artistic vision. And vision plays a large part in the running theme on this album. This time around Steve worked on the production in Sweden with fellow artist and friend, Roland Ivarsson.

As said, the first track, "To the Glory of Man" [6:44] fades in with a wash of keyboards followed quickly by guitars and bass reminiscent of Rush. Nice fingerwork displays Steve's own unique signature found in most of his albums leaving you to wonder how many scorch marks he leaves on the neck of his guitars. This guy is very fast.

Track two, "When Music Speaks" [5:14] is a melodic piece introducing Steve on vocals with a brief but pure of voice contribution by Marie Bodine.

Whereas the first two tracks were built for speed, "Songs For Spring" [27:26] is marginally slower to begin with but it doesn't hold Steve back for long. This seven piece ode to Spring begins with a nice turn of e-bow which would warm the strings on any of Steve Howe's guitars. The keyboards denote the sparkling of snow on a track coincidently named "Overture/The Melting Snow". MIDI'd trumpets herald Steve on vocals leading onto the next piece, "The Hopeful Seed". Oh yeah, the album is heavy on nature mirroring the growth of the spirit of man. Greenfingered metaphors abound throughout as this track hauntingly similar to some of the works by Anthony Phillips introduces the next song, "The Flower". This has a slight folk element to it, almost Jethro Tull in some ways with an excellent guitar arrangement near the end of the piece.

"The Dreadful Weed" is darker in mood to begin with as Steve rushes ahead (no pun intended) with another excellent guitar solo creating the sonic battle with the weed. The pace builds with "The Storms Of Passion" and the artist showing his best keyboard talents yet. Shades of Yes and Genesis on the next gentle track, "The Scent Of After Rain", as e-bow heralds one of the best, in my mind, tracks on the album. Nice blending of acoustic, electric guitar, keyboards, and vocal harmonies in a tribute to Mike Oldfield maybe. The last piece in this verdant opus winds up as an instrument with Steve let loose on lead.

Steve then relaxes with "Dreams Of Reason" [4.39]. This has radio airplay written all over it if given the chance. The title of the album can be found in here in the chorus - "Isn't it dreams that paint a world, With the purest of designs?" This reinforces the total concept of the album - an optimistic disposition towards being the masters of our own destiny and fulfillment.

"The Promise Of the Music" is in some ways an addendum to the constant theme throughout the album. Initially I didn't see the point of including it once the story had been told, but over the past months it has grown on me and it displays Steve's talent of balancing not only acoustic with electric guitars but also his ability to play smoothly at a seemingly running start. We may wrestle with disproving Einstein's theory of relativity, but this artist has no problem defying the speed of light with his fretwork. It's an instrumental of nearly 16 minutes and as I once said in a review of one of Steve's earlier albums, "As we know, steriods are a banned substance, but one can't help feeling this guy has been feeding his guitar with it to achieve the sudden climb we are subjected to as we listen to this album further." Never truer words spoken or meant as on Steve's latest contribution. I'm in awe of this artist's technique and ability to patch his multi-talented instrumentations and vocals into an album befitting the progrock genre. -- Paul Watson

Click here for Steve Cochrane's web site
Click here to order Steve Cochrane CD's

Cocteau Twins [UK]
Updated 2/29/08

Garlands (82)
Peppermint Pig (83, EP)
Head Over Heels (83)
The Spangle Maker (84, EP)
Treasure (84)
Aikea Guinea (85, EP)
Tiny Dynamite (85, EP)
Victorialand (86)
Love's Easy Tears (86, EP)
Moon and Melodies (86)
Blue Bell Knoll (88)
Heaven or Las Vegas (90)
Four-Calendar Café (93)
Twinlights (95, EP)
Otherness (95, EP)
Milk & Kisses (96)
The Cocteau Twins in 1990 - Simon Raymonde (bass, guitar, piano), Elizabeth Fraser (vocals) and Robin Guthrie (guitar)

Very spacy pop-art band with very nice female vocals in some language that nobody can seem to identify. Two albums in particular, Victorialand and Treasure, feature 3 or 4 great cuts each, the balance being too poppy or just plain too weird.

"Just plain too weird"? What kind of concept is that in the GEPR? This is the web site that discusses Henry Cow and Thinking Plague as if they're the most normal bands in the world. How could any band be "just plain too weird" for the GEPR? I was both unsatisfied with and intrigued by this review, so I decided to try a Cocteau Twins album for myself.

First, a few hard facts. Quoting from their web site, "Founded in 1981 by Robin Guthrie, Will Heggie and Elizabeth Fraser, the Cocteau Twins have always been a threesome. In 1983, Will Heggie departed the band and, in 1984, Simon Raymonde joined Robin and Liz. This lineup would be the de-facto Cocteau Twins until their breakup in 1998. [Elizabeth Fraser's] unique vocal stylings and mysterious, indecipherable lyrics have generated much debate over the years, but she has often been taciturn on the matter when asked about it."

Now on to my own experience with the album I bought. With no guide for which album to get at the time I decided to buy, I picked up a random album, which happened to be their second album Head Over Heels (83). The liner notes belie the statement made above, indicating that "Cocteau Twins are Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie". Perhaps this was written after Heggie had turned in his resignation but before Raymonde joined. Whatever. The music itself is what's of interest here.

This album could certainly be described as "weird", especially considering the (relatively) large audience they have. I bought the CD at a Border Books and Music store, where you certainly won't find copies of Henry Cow or Thinking Plague albums ... CT is selling far more albums than most "prog" bands ever will. The music is very thick, though not in the usual "symphonic" way. The instrumentation is mostly guitars, drums and vocals, though there are also keyboards which are used like Mellotrons. But I suspect they're modern samplers playing slowed-down violin samples. What thickens the sound is the oppressive haze of velvety reverb that enshrouds every song, to the point that you can't make out the individual instruments any more. As to the vocal incomprehensibility, Fraser could be singing in English, Gaelic or Kobaïan and I wouldn't be able to tell with this much reverb. OK, I can pick out occasional words in English, but not enough to form a coherent thought or even a phrase. The CD insert has two phrases in barely-legible text: "When mama was moth I took bulbform Slan(?) candle grenades are popping still will not keel over. Tinderbox of a heart left a shell is all fog up my love paramour ooze out and away onehow." OK. So what's wrong with that? Seems perfectly obvious to me (the reviewer claims with the pompous air of an art critic).

All that's beside the point, however. Personally, I like this music, in spite of the obvious "pop" leanings ... if "pop" means it was created with some hope of enjoying popularity, which it was and has. It's odd enough in harmony, lyrical content (or lack thereof) and orchestration to hold the interest of this "old-school" progger, at least. No, it's not terribly complex or high in "virtuosity" as far as the instruments go, though Fraser's vocals are certainly well trained in their sound. If you like their 4AD labelmates Dead Can Dance, then Cocteau Twins shouldn't seem like too much of a reach for you. But don't expect "conventional" RIO stylings. They aren't "weird" in that way. But I'd definitely buy another album based on this one. Any Cocteau Twins fans out there with a recommendation? -- Fred Trafton

Together with Dead Can Dance, [they] are probably the most well know group of the 4AD label, and the two of most interest to progheads. The band was founded in the early 80's in Scotland by Robin Guthrie, guitar, tape loops, echo boxes, keyboards, Will Heggie, bass, drum machine and Elizabeth Fraser, vocals. Their first record Garlands came in 1982, a good album were they try to define their sound, this is probably their most rocking album with a slight punk-new wave influence even the vocals are little aggressive in some songs and the sound is quiet repetitive in all the songs, this may be the least appealing to prog fans.

Their second album Head Over Heels was recorded as a duo of Guthrie and Frazer, after the departure of Heggie, this is the album with the sound that they are known for, start to take place, a ethereal sound very atmospheric, relaxing, nothing complex and quiet accessible, this is a good album.

By the Spangle Maker EP they were joined by bassist Simon Raymonde, which helped to improve the band sound and the follow up works saw the band making a series of flawless albums were they get creative and produce a sound of their own.

Treasure, the first full record as a trio again, is a great album, were all the above ingredients that started in Head Over Heels are put together to create very mature record and were each song is a winner. This high quality music continued through a series of EP's and a couple of albums. Then Victorialand is another good album a bit more acoustic. And one with the collaboration of Harold Budd titled The Moon and the Melodies which is a mix of their own sound and the ambient sound Budd was doing at that time, after the record with Eno.

[For] Blue Bell Knoll they create, together with Treasure what I think are the best albums they ever did. Due to their signing to Capitol, (Fontana in the U.K.) the group became more accessible and even with that Heaven or Las Vegas still one of their best albums. Their next four records (two EP's and two LP's) still very good but not to the caliber of previous jobs. I don't see anything weird in this group other that the "language" the songs are singing, a mix of English and some made words that nobody seams to understand. This is a beautiful and very innovative group and worth listening to. -- Julio Lopez

[See Dif Juz]

Click here for the Cocteau Twins web site
Click here for Elisabeth Fraser's web site
Click here for the official 4AD web site

Coda [Netherlands]
Updated 10/18/01

Sounds of Passion (86)
Crazy Fool and Dreamer/Central Station (92, mini CD)
What a Symphony (94)
Coda is a Dutch concept band led by multi-instrumentalist Erik DeVroomen. The sound is progressive and very symphonic, with strong emphasis on melody and impact. Possible comparisons might be made with Vangelis but with some killer guitar and some very beautiful spacy segments as well. The album Sounds of Passion was originally released in 1986, but has recently been transferred to CD. The thirty minute title track is an absolute mindblower. Two other shorter tracks are a little lame and poppy.
Coda were a Dutch progressive band who released this one masterpiece of conceptual, symphonic rock and vanished. For those who enjoy the essence of progressive rock, with swirling keyboards, passages with varying moods, and profound lyrics, this is sure to be of interest.
Coda's sole release, Sounds of Passion, is essentially a conceptual solo work by Erik de Vroomen though he brought in a band to help pull of his ideas. The reason you buy this album is for the 30 minute title track. It is divided into five parts of which only the first two minutes contain (spoken) vocals. The vocal prologue tells the story behind the concept and the remaining 28 minutes weave the instrumental story. The music is lush symphonic and ranges from aggressive to very pastoral in nature. Most notable is de Vroomen's keyboard work which covers everything from grand piano to novatron to various synths and more. Also heard throughout are various sampled sounds such as birds singing, thunderstorms, doors closing, voices and several other sound effects. The remaining two songs (totalling about 11 minutes) are weaker vocal efforts leaning toward the pop end of the Progressive spectrum. I've heard several SI releases and I've been disappointed with the vast majority of them. Coda's Sounds of Passion is a notable exception and very worthy of an audition if you like lush symphonic Prog.
This [What a Symphony] is the second album from Dutch keyboardist Eric De Vroomen, who is a free politician and journeyman rather than composer and musician. The most part of compositions represented here are not very complex classical music performed mostly with modern instruments. This very serious project was well composed and played. However, rare vocal parts with lyrics performed, on the whole, by a nice guest operatic female singer, insufficiently reflect the conceived anti-fascist conception. Also frequent jazzy guitar solos sometimes slightly destroy the overall classical scheme. Nevertheless, this album is one of the best acts from Lukassen's "Transmission" label. -- Vitaly Menshikov

Códice [Mexico]
Updated 8/23/03

Alba y Ocaso (99)
Códice is a Mexican band. To my knowledge, Alba y Ocaso (Dawn and Dusk) is their only release. But what a release! This is '70's styled prog with many references to the bands of that day. Alba y Ocaso is a 2-CD set with the first CD being a set of cuts featuring a mix of male and female vocalists and great '70's keyboards (actually, an E-mu Vintage Keys).

Códice reminds me in parts of various Italian bands (particularly Le Orme) plus Pink Floyd, Genesis, Red-era King Crimson and even Rubycon-era Tangerine Dream in one place. But they most frequently recall Emerson, Lake and Palmer, complete with a B3 riff positively stolen from Tarkus' "Stones of Years" and lead synthesizer patches ripped right from Emerson's personal library. But even so, one might rightly say that they've borrowed from so many '70's bands that they don't really sound like any of them any more. In addition to these prog rock influences, there are also numerous classical style compositions, including several classical (nylon-string) guitar solos and a nice Bach-like pipe organ fugue. This is great stuff!

If you like energetic, '70's-sounding keyboard-oriented prog with just enough "neo" flavor to sound like a modern recording, Alba y Ocaso is a gem. It even has a cover that looks as if it was taken from a Giger sketch book (very Brain Salad Surgery looking). This album was recorded on David Overstreet's Art Sublime label and is available from the usual prog sources, or from David himself if you attend any prog festivals. This one gets my highest recommendation. -- Fred Trafton

Códice do not seem to have a web site.
Click here for an interview on the Hispanic Progressive Rock web site

Codona [USA]
Updated 1/11/01

Codona (79)
Codona 2 (80)
Codona 3 (82)
Codona was an influential world-jazz group, certainly progressive, but with hardly any rock influence. Members were Collin Walcott (from the group Oregon) on sitar, tabla, dulcimer, sanza, etc.; famous jazz musician and world music fan Don Cherry on trumpet, flute, organ, doussn'gouni, etc., and Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos. The group name was derived from the members' first names. The group ceased to exist after Walcott was killed in a car accident while touring with Oregon in East Germany. -- Dan Kurdilla
Project of Don Cherry, Colin Walcott (Oregon) and Nana Vasconcelos (Weather Report), dominated by Cherrys trumpet. Here you find something best described as ethno/jazz/prog., a lot of percussion, psychedelic organ, sitar and tablas. "Inner Organ" on Codona 3 has an incredible tension, spacy organ, weird trumped and some secreted whisperings, that will delight many prog. listeners (especially Gong fans). Not really prog. but nevertheless great music. -- Achim Breiling

Coeur Magique [France]
Updated 9/7/01

Wakan Tanka (71)
Bluesy, very ordinary riff-driven psych, reminiscent of the plethora of anonymous San Francisco bands of the period who did this kind of thing; in other words it isn't particularly interesting even within this genre, and I can't imagine it being of any interest whatsoever to prog fans. -- Alex Davis

Cofradía de la Flor Solar [Argentina]
Updated 1/12/05

Cofradía de la Flor Solar (71)
El café de los ciegos (97)
Korfrádica (98)

Coheed and Cambria [USA]
Formerly known as Shabûtie
Updated 11/27/07

The Second Stage Turbine Blade (02)
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (03)
Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness (05)
Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow (07)
Coheed and Cambria - (not in photo order) - Claudio Sanchez (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, synth), Travis Stever (guitars, lap steel, vocals), Michael Todd (bass, vocals), Chris Pennie (drums, percussion)

Very good, melodic hard rock with tight arrangements and sweet vocals. I can't wholly recommend the 2003 CD, however, as it only had two tracks that interested my progressiveness [the title and "Cuts Marked in the March of Men"] and though complex by rock standards -- they remind me a little of Tool (or a less techie IQ) and theme their albums around characters Coheed and Cambria -- their music is more neo-grunge than prog rock. -- David Marshall

I picked up the same album that David Marshall discusses above, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, in Half-Price Books' clearance rack for $3.98. Though it's hard to argue with Marshall's overall assessment, I will say that I find this album to be pretty good, though it speaks to other musical interests than "progressiveness". Many of the tracks have echoes of punk thrash or even '80's new wave (one cut could almost be a Cars tune, though a bit more metallic). Others are straight ahead metal anthems or ballads. But my interest level is high enough that I'd like to hear some of their latest work, particularly since some reviewers say they have gotten more progressive in the last few releases.

Coheed and Cambria are not the names of band members, but are fictional characters in an epic sci-fi story collectively referred to as The Amory Wars. The story line has been partially revealed in a set of comics published by Evil Ink Comics, whose reason for existence is to publish The Amory Wars story line penned by C&C leader Claudio Sanchez which inspire the lyrics for their albums. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Coheed and Cambria's web site
Click here for Coheed and Cambria's MySpace page
Click here for Coheed and Cambria's Facebook page
Click here for the Evil Ink Comics web site

Coincidence [France]

Coïncidence (78), Clef de Ciel (79)

Clef de Ciel is an excellent album, purely fusion, reminding me very much of a Belgian band named Cos. It also sounds sort of like the best fusiony moments from Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow. The band was led by brothers Jean-Pierre Llabador on guitar and Jean-Claude Llabador on keyboards. Michel Montoyat played Rickenbacker bass, Joel Allouche was on drums and Olivier Chabrol played sax and piano. Yes, it's "just fusion" but it beats the hell out of UZEB. It's much more like the great European fusion bands of the time. -- Kenneth Newman

French prog/fusion band co-led by brothers Jean-Pierre (guitars) and Jean- Claude (guitars and keyboards) Llabador who did at least two records (Coincidence and Clef de Ciel), before Jean-Claude was killed in a tragic auto accident while touring. In the light of the band's history, I truly hate to say that I find both records to be rather pedestrian and uninteresting. Some of the guitar work is nice, but the keyboards are very dated- sounding, and the compositions are riddled with all sorts of lame jazz-rock cliches. Generally, the playing is merely competent but not especially inspired. Of the two records, Clef de Ciel is the superior.

[See Llabador, Jean-Pierre]

Collage [Poland]
Updated 3/4/09

Basnie (89)
Nine Songs of John Lennon (93)
Zmiany (93, Compilation)
Moonshine (94)
Changes (95, Compilation, same as Zmiany)
Safe (96)
I know this review is going to confuse a lot of people. I've a bit of a reputation of being down on neo-prog. It's true that I don't care for Pendragon, Galahad, Aragon, Deyss, and most of the dozens of their sound-alikes and wannabes. The music is simple and commercial, and often the singing is atrocious and the drummer metronomic. So why do I like Collage? You tell me. I'm a bit confused myself. This Polish five piece write fairly simple music with catchy harmonies, prominent vocals, and the overused verse-verse-chorus style. However, they sing in their native Polish, and they have an excellent drummer. These two features set them apart to my ears. Sure, the music is straightforward I-IV-V progressions but the singer is competent, and doesn't butcher English grammar like so many do. The drummer adds fills and rolls constantly, and while he's not in the Moerlin, Farrugia, or Hauser camp, he's head and shoulders beyond most. If you approach this album for what it is, accessible music, you won't be disappointed. It's not a prog classic in terms of musicianship, composition or feel, but it contains more depth than just a few hooks and catchy vocal melodies. In ways it reminds me of what Jadis could be if they decided to be more musical, or maybe Marillion without the emphasis on twisted, emotional pieces. Friends have told me it reminds them of Rush. Whatever. I like it. -- Mike Borella
From Poland, this group plays a melodic rock typical of modern British bands. The usual lineup features vocals (in English), keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. The compositions on Moonshine are text based but instrumental parts and solos are also present. A heavy production and very symphonic arrangements add a touch of drama to the performances. The themes often evoke the melancholic feel of ballads but also rely on inspired work from the drummer. A band to discover for fans of the style. -- Paul Charbonneau

[See Satellite]

Collegium Musicum [Czechoslovakia/Slovakia]
Updated 8/24/03

Collegium Musicum (70)
Konvergencie (71)
Live (73)
Marián Varga & Collegium Musicum (75, Live)
Continuo (78)
On a ona (79)
Divergencie (81)
In the style of ELP, they were active from 1971 until 1981. Your best buy is the live album [1973]. Perhaps a bit jazzier than ELP.
Whereas many of the progressive bands in what was then the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia were fusion-oriented and had strong guitar presence, Collegium Musicum's leader, keyboardist Marián Varga, took his cues from classical music and steered his band into the same murky waters between classical and rock that Keith Emerson had been navigating with The Nice. Considering Czechoslovakia's harsh political climate in 1969 (Prague's Spring was only a year in the past, after all), when clampdown on any dangerous ideological elements in art cast its shadow over the relative musical independence of previous years (which didn't stop bands on government-owned labels like Supraphon from clashing with the rulebook), working on classical music in rock context, as Collegium Musicum did on their debut single "Hommage à J.S. Bach" / "Ulica plná plastov do dazda" (Panton 03 0250), might also be seen as a relatively safe way of starting a career of explorative music making.

"Hommage à J.S. Bach" is a rather workman-like pastiche of Bach's baroque organ pieces, full of stomping chordal marches and liquid arpeggios (the kind that Tony Banks made part and parcel of his keyboard style). Varga's instrument here behaves more like a common church organ than Emerson's unruly Hammond, which gives this a more formal and restrained air than The Nice's classical dissections. Also the accompanying guitar and rhythm section are largely superfluous, merely underlining the basic rhythmic pulse and adding an occasional flourish here and there. The end result is quaint, nicely drawn, but ultimately rather flat. "Ulica plná plastov do dazda", though harmonically and melodically more spartan, uses dynamics and orchestration much more skilfully, letting all instruments have a go at its central melody.

Some development had been made by Collegium Musicum (Supraphon 113 1018), which features three 13-minute tracks. The first one, "If You Want to Fall", is well within the extended psychedelic tune format, with bluesy, pedestrian vocal sections featuring a rather strained vocals from bassist Fedor Freso separated by an extended instrumental jam. From here on, Varga begins his successful emulations of what is unfortunately Emerson's most influential mannerism, his Hammond torture routines, turning his instrument into an airraid siren or a celestial glockenspiel with eager delight. The electrified-chickenwire guitar sound and the monotonously honking orchestral backing help to make this song sound dated beyond its years. The more subtle "Strange Theme" is far superior in terms of melody and arrangements, with Varga even adding a bit of harpsichord and the orchestra only appearing during the middle section to give effective and appropriate boost to his solo. "Concerto in D" is a rock arrangement of Haydn's well-known piano concerto (organ is used here instead), and is also the album's strongest individual track, thanks to a high overall energy level and Haydn's superior melodies. Yet it shows the structural limitations of this approach, for after the initial theme is stated, the orchestra is chucked aside and the tune settles on to a metallic bass ostinato over which Varga spins and stretches the piece's melodic material with admittedly a good touch and range of organ tones, completely bypassing the slower, Mozart-influenced second movement. The end result is a ballsy but brazen simplification that rocks nicely, but makes no attempt at a more subversive reconstruction and reinterpretation as Los Canarios would do with Ciclos. Collegium Musicum is a bit too much a child of its own era. Time has not been kind to many of these psychedelic innovators (including The Nice), but to parts of this album, it has been one sadistic son of a bitch.

Collegium Musicum then made the effortless leap from ambition to megalomania with Konvergencie (Opus 9113 0136/37), a second member in the Guild of Progressive Rock Double Albums with Just Four Side-Long Tracks on Them. I find most of the other members (Soft Machine's Third, Tangerine Dream's Zeit and Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans) problematic at best, and Konvergencie suffers from lot of the same problems of obesity and over-indulgence as [the others]. "PF 1972" has a catchy main riff and a good melody sung by a children's choir that for once is allowed to sound assertive rather than just twee innocent. "Suita po tisíc a jednej noci" is a live jam built around themes lifted from Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade", which suffers from a slightly inferior sound quality, but packs more sonic wallop than the cleaner studio tracks. Varga's solos will surely make the Campaign for Humane Treatment of Rock Instruments scream in protest and some of the instrumental flights are exhilarating, but especially with "Suita po tisíc a jednej noci" I feel a bit of condensing would have improved things considerably. The most successful track is "Piesne z kolovrátku", which essentially consists of three distinct vocal numbers strung loosely together with instrumental segues and manages to include Beatles-derived pop, Slovakian folk melodies, Hendrix-like guitar strains and quasi-hymnal organ all in one track. "Eufonia" is where the album "converges", with some of the melodic material from the other songs restated in a nicely mutated form, but the majority of the track is devoted to Varga's sound experiments, where he subjects his organ and piano to combinations of basic echo chambers, Leslie modulation and simple feedback-inducing excess volume. The resulting electric menagerie of sounds may have been mind-blowing in its own time, but now sound mostly dated and overdrawn, gimmicky even. Ummagumma did it before and IMO with much more imagination and better integration between the sounds and the rest of the music.

The CD re-release of Konvergencie (Opus 91 2413/4-2) contains also the first album and the first single, all in one double CD. With 137 minutes of music, there is enough good stuff to justify keeping it, but I can't help feeling that quite a lot of this sounds dated and unexceptional, a simple psychedelic romp that lacks the development and compositional finesse I associate with the best of progressive rock. However, if Emerson-style Hammond torturing and lengthy jams are your cup of tea, then get Konvergencie and your cup shall overflow.

Divergencie (LP Opus 9113 1221-22; CD Bonton BON 497636 2) was another double album with four distinct sides. It abandons the "convergent", Hammond-heavy sound of the earlier albums for a more diverse set of musical influence orchestrated on a larger palette of shiny synthesizers and keyboards.

The first side, titled "Refrény", consists of three segued fusion compositions of rather mediocre quality. Only the final (and the only vocal) track, "Nemé výcitky", stands out, but half of it is taken by a spacey if impressive solo by guitarist Lubos Andrst, whose influence is spread across the album side: he also provides electric solos and humorously dated-sounding, funky rhythm parts under piping synthesizer lines on "Refrén" and a noodling acoustic duet with Varga's piano on the moody "Interlúdiá".

A children's choir is back for the oddly episodic "P.F.[1982, 1983,........ ]" suite, giving a vaguely Christmas carol-like ambience to most sections where it appears; the mood is carried over to the near-mawkish vocal sections featuring singer Pavol Hammel, clinky piano and sentimental strings. But between these are interesting keyboard instrumentals and one catchy, folk-like tune. Where "PF 1972" sounded raw and had more length than meaningful material, this one comes across as over-polished and disjointed, as it flits from theme to theme and back to reprise without developing anything fully, making the end product sound more like some half-finished musical jigsaw full of interesting but isolated pieces than a smooth integration of rock, classical and folk elements it probably was intended to be.

Much better is the more formally classical suite "Musica Concertante", which integrates a full symphony orchestra to your standard rock quartet and sounds much more like a real classical piece than many of the slap-some-strings-on-it jobs in prog history. A combination of stabbing fanfares, domestic folk influence and brooding becalm where a supposedly stable tonality is blurred by gusts of thickening harmonies, it bears more than passing resemblance to the symphonic style of Varga's countryman Bohuslav Martinu.

The final side, "Sazda do obálky", is a collection of short vocal tracks which, apart from "Piesen o blate" with its magisterial build-up conclusion, are rather innocuous pop heavy on glittering keyboards but light on edge or really memorable hooks, though "Prístavy" is brightened by a burst of bubbling (and somewhat out of place) Minimoog arpeggios. Like with earlier Collegium Musicum albums, Divergencie has lots of interesting ideas but the realisation often leaves me cold. Varga obviously had his heart more on the classical elements than the pop music of the fourth side, as evinced by his more adventurous solo album three years later. -- Kai Karmanheimo

[See Modry Efekt | Varga, Marián]

Color [Hungary]
Updated 2/18/11

Color (78)
Uj Szinek (82)
Update 9/10/01:
An underrated, never-spoken about band from 1970's Hungary that made an album just as good as a few of the first tier Italian albums and 2nd tier Italian albums. I don't know about their 2nd album from 198?, but their first is very good. Loaded with Mellotrons, keyboards, guitars, harmonizing vocals and cellos to boot. Fans of Italian prog should like Color as there's quite a bit of similarity in the keyboard sounds (sometimes sounding like Biglietto Per L'Inferno and other times like Le Orme). I would say that this album is not a classic but "close" to being a borderline classic. Not overly complex but it sports all of the moves that fans of melodic 70's Italian prog would like. I heard their 2nd (and last one) from the early 80's no longer had violin/cello and sounded more poppish. -- Betta
Update 2/18/11:
The second album (and last) of Color was Uj Szinek (Other Colours) 1982 - a little bit in vein of Canadian Saga.
  • Bokor Attila - gong, drum, vocals
  • Bokor Gyula - keyboards, vocals
  • Bokor Tibor - mellotron, bass, acoustic guitar
  • Lamer Emil - guitar, vocals
  • Polya Laszlo - cello, vocals
Bokor brothers soon moved to Scandinavia and the group disbanded. -- Yuri

Colorstar [Hungary]
Updated 9/10/01

Heavenicetrip (98)
Techno-influenced modern instrumental psych prog. For those looking to hear modern-day psychadelic with Camel-esque guitars, Colorstar might be up your alley. I personally don't care for the techno drums which almost gives the album industrial sound of Nine Inch Nails or something of the like. But the guitars are a good listen and there are some touches of middle eastern sounds. -- Betta

Colosseum [UK]
Updated 8/14/00

Those About To Die Salute You (69)
Valentyne Suite (69)
Daughter of Time (70)
Grass Is Greener (70?)
Live (71)
Collector's Colosseum (71)
More jazz/blues than progressive.
Their first is the best prog blues album ever made, but it may be too blues for most Gibraltar readers (its one of my very favorites, actually).
Dave Greenslade's first prog-jazz group, Their first two releases Valentyne Suite and Those Who Are About To Die Salute You are generally regarded as their best.
Jon Hiseman (drums), graduate of the John Mayall school of power blues set out to meld the evolving blues sound with a solid rock rhythm section and the result is a very solid if somewhat dated debut album For Those.... The music is Mayall style power blues that evenly showcased the musicianship of saxman Dick Heckstall-Smith, keyboardist Dave Greenslade, Hiseman, guitarist James Litherland, and bassist Tony Reeves. The sound is somewhat dated, but it remains to this day one of the most powerful and important progressive albums. This is to blues what Soft Machine's Third was to jazz. The second release, Valentyne Suite, shows a more mature band beginning to experiment with different musical styles. Some of those presented on this album are the psychadelic sounding opening track "The Kettle," "Elegy" with a great strings arrangement, and Greenslade's monsterous sidelong suite "Valentyne Suite." This 17 minute instrumental track is a tour-de-force and is in my book of the 10 greatest progressive tracks of all time. Unfortunately for Hiseman, personnel changes after the second album began the downfall and a year later there was to be no more Colosseum. They lasted only a brief three years and a small legacy of five albums, but Colosseum did leave its mark and a good mark it was. The first two albums are available on a singe CD and is an excellent introduction to the band. Sound quality is excellent and it is highly recommended.
Colosseum, along with bands like King Crimson and Julian's Treatment, were creating some of the earliest forms of progressive rock back in 1969. Two fine examples are their excellent albums, For Those About to Die, We Salute You and Valentyne Suite. While King Crimson's famous In the Court of the Crimson King (generally touted as the first Progressive Rock album) comes in from the Heavy Mellotron Psychedelia angle, Colosseum approach this early form for Prog from the Jazz and Blues direction. For Those About to Die..., recorded in late '68 and early '69 contains eight songs averaging about 5 minutes each. Half have vocals and half are instrumental. The sound (a bit dated here) consists of the standard fare of guitar, bass, drums, vocals and Hammand organ as well as saxophone. Essentially, this album is a good-time jammin' rock album that is heavily blues and jazz inflected. There are definite Progressive tendencies, however, as some of the chordal progressions are a bit out of the ordinary. I'd file this under "proto-prog." Valentyne Suite, recorded in the summer of 1969, continues where their previous release left off but becomes more adventurous and Progressive. While the first four songs contain vocals and range from jazzy blues (or bluesy jazz) to hard rock (similar to their debut), the three-part, side-long "Valentyne Suite" is a stunning piece of instrumental music. Dave Greenslade turns in a *killer* Hammond solo that simply blows away ANYTHING Emerson ever did. I haven't heard any of their others but I would suggest Valentyne Suite is an excellent album to start with and, if you are interested in the growth of progressive rock, an essential part of any progressive collection
About Daughter Of Time: I found it a bit better than the first two albums, simply because I barely tolerate blues unless it is not incorporated into a track in such a way, that it is unrecognizable or barely recognizable. Of course, in the case of Morituri and Valentyne's Suite, blues component is passable and doesn't nerve me much. If first two efforts were bluesier, this one comes closer to the classic progressive rock sound. As the sound is less bluesy, songs sound straighter, more vivid, the production is improved, sorta brightened, performances shine and gleam even when all around is dark, (ha!). Overall, album is slightly leaning toward KC's In the Court ... or In the Wake ..., albeit they run through ears joyously, even when they tend to be pompous and dignified. As guests also appear additional saxist (f), plus brass duo and string quintet on two tracks ("Time Lament" and title song). This gives the sound width, depth and brightness, mentioned earlier, as the brass and string arrangements are demonstrating pristine gaiety. The opener, "Three Scores and Then ..." is straighter, as the openers should be or they usually are. "Time Lament" has so good orchestrated lines that it is rather festival than lament. The best track is "Take me back to Doomsday" with the superb melody and vocal lines, here Dave Clempson sings, fits more to my ears than Farlowe (maybe won't fit to yours, who knows; of course, neither him, nor Farlowe could surpass Hammill or Gabriel, still talking ‘bout my taste, and not anybody elses). "Daughter of Time" begins with great orchestral part and proceeds rather solemn. "Theme for Imaginary Western" is cover of or is written by Pete Brown, don't know exactly. "Bring Out Your Dead" is great instrumental piece. Track no.7, "Downhill and Shadows", is still very bluesy and I must really "wade" through it in comparison with first six ones. O.K., sax at the begining is great but rest is much predictable. "The Time Machine" (last track) is recorded live and is Hiseman drum solo. Awesome, at least for track length and the endurability of a drummer. As I have CD, don't know if it appears on original LP or it was added for CD-rerelease. By my opinion, DOT should be surpassed by the last album of Colosseum's first incarnation in 70's, The Grass is Greener, from 1971. I heard two pieces, which I think belong to it, and these are the very best I have heard from the band. And the rest is quite good, innit? Yes, "The Rope Ladder to the Moon" and "Jumping-off the Sun" are peak efforts. If the rest of Grass is Greener is third-quarter as good, let's unearth this gem, which still remains un-rereleased and undeservably so. -- Nenad Kobal
[See Airey, Don | Colosseum II | Greenslade | Mogul Thrash | Tempest]

Colosseum II [UK]
Updated 3/20/01

Strange New Flesh (76)
Electric Savage (77)
War Dance (78)
Variations (78)
Strange New Flesh: Expanded Edition (05, 2CD, Reissue w/ 2 bonus tracks plus a 10-song bonus disk of live & demo tracks)
After the departure of Dave Greenslade from Colosseum in his quest for a solo career, drummer Jon Hiseman teamed up with a very talented bunch of musicians to form Colosseum II. Powered by the guitars of Gary Moore and the keyboards of Don Airey, they released a trio of albums, of which these are the best two. Musically, they straddle the boundary between jazz fusion and rock in very much the same style as Brand X, Arti+Mestieri, etc., with an increased keyboard presence. With the exception of a couple of tracks, most of their work is all-instrumental. Jon Hiseman's drum and percussion work also contributes greatly to the intensity of the music, all of which is anchored by John Mole's bass. Electric Savage was released at the end of 1976. As noted in the sleeve, "Just hours before Christmas 1976 and a few hours after our return from a European tour, our exhausted crew set up the gear ... for seven days we continued playing the music live ..." The recording captures the musical virtuosity of the band members, and their ability to present a powerful live performance. War Dance was released in 1977, and was a more mature work with tightly executed compositions written around the dueling guitar and keyboard leads of Moore and Airey. In terms of overall effect this might have the edge over Electric Savage, but only slightly. Additionally, Don Airey's keyboard work is on equal footing with Gary Moore's guitars, unlike Electric Savage in which Moore's guitar was more prominent in the mix.
Jon Hiseman tries it for a third time this time enlisting newcomers Gary Moore (guitar), Don Airey (keyboards), and Mike Starrs (vocals). Starrs lasted for only one album as the band made a change to a more instrumental approach. Strange New Flesh is an interesting first release by the new lineup. The opening track, "Dark Side of the Moog" - a humorous tribute to Pink Floyd, shows a band primed and ready for an instrumental performance. The second track, a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Down to You" is a bit of a letdown after the solid opener, but does redeem itself by Don Airey's extended keyboard improvisation in the middle. The remainder of the album much the same, great instrumental passages surrounded by vocal pieces that seem out of place. All in all a nice album, but nothing to rush out and buy. Electric Savage was recorded just before Christmas in 1976 and shows a Colosseum II that has corrected all the shortcomings from the first album. Gone are the laborous vocal tracks with Gary Moore handling the lone brief vocal track. Instead you will find relentless interplay between Moore and Airey with the listener left trying to decide who really won. This is high energy progressive fusion in the same vein as Return to Forever or Mahavishnu Orchestra sans violin. You have not heard the best of Gary Moore unless you have heard this album. Very highly recommended. War Dance features the same lineup as Electric Savage and is really more of the same brand of fierce fusion. All three releases are available as Japanese or US domestic CD reissues.
Variations is an Andrew Lloyd Webber album of arrangements of a theme written by classical composer Nicolò Paganini. He enlisted all of the members of Colosseum II (Hiseman, Moore, Airey & Mole) as well as Rod Argent, Phil Collins, and Herbie Flowers. The 2nd track, "Theme (Paganini Caprice in A Minor No. 24) and Variations 1-4" was used as the theme music to ITV's "South Bank Show". -- Dave Lane
Not a lot to add to the above write-ups except to say that their first, Strange New Flesh, is mediocre at best. The second album however, Electric Savage, is a rock-fusion tour de force loaded with fiery, tight instrumental performances at a time when Mahavishnu had already peaked and "fusion" consisted mostly of Jean-Luc Ponty's whiney violin or Brand X's endless stream of uneven records. Sadly, C2's later albums are not currently in print and [I've heard] they're only available at inflated prices. -- David Marshall
[See Airey, Don | Colosseum | Lucifer's Friend]

Columbus Circle [USA]

St. John's Eve (76)

Coma Cluster, The [Iceland]
Updated 12/15/09

Observation (09, Digital download only)
No band picture available, so here's the "album cover" for this download-only release

The Coma Cluster is an internet band put together by the Icelandic artists Hallvardur Ásgeirsson and Siffvilnius. The sound is heavy on synthesizers and "sound sculpting" in the studio, though there's guitars, drums and voice also. Their first and only release, Observation, is available only as MP3 files ... no hard media is available unless you create it yourself. Which you can do, including downloadable jewel case art. See link below for their web site, where you can download the album.

Space Rock? Well, they say so, but I say not really. Stoner Rock? Closer. Industrial? Maybe closer still. Whatever you want to call it, expect no dancable techno beats or bubbly sequencers here. This album is "difficult" ... a thick, chaotic background of noise, drones and slow drums gives birth to repeating patterns of harmony, racket and muttered voices, only to swallow them up into the void again by the end of the song. If I said, "The Residents and Pere Ubu meet early Devo in the place where whales go to mourn and die", would that mean anything to you? If so, you'll probably enjoy this release. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth a listen for those who appreciate the avant end of electronic music. Pretty cool stuff. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for The Coma Cluster's web site.

Combo FH [Czechoslovakia]
Updated 4/25/02

Veci (Things) (80)
Fascinating all-instrumental 6-piece (keyboards, reeds/violin, bassoon, guitars, bass, drums/percussion) from Hungary. None of the members of this group were full-time musicians, but they run through 14 brief (1':35" to 4':26"), but very intricate compositions (mostly by keyboardist Daniel Fikejz), as if they were conservatory-trained. Wonderful stuff which, although strongly influenced by Hungarian folk and classical (i.e., Bartok) musics, seems very Zappa-inspired (circa Burnt Weeny Sandwich). The basson is prominent, so the music is superficially reminiscent of Gryphon, at times. I highly recommend this to fans of Zappa, Canterbury sounds, RIO (esp. those of us who enjoy Nimal, Zamla, etc.), and people who like the sound of the bassoon. The music of Combo FH is weird, but not in a pernicious/atonal/chaotic way, so even those of you with more mainstream tastes may like this. -- Dave Wayne
Václav Pátek, who used to be in this band, wrote to let me know that they were a Czech band (then Czechoslovakia) from Prague, not Hungarian as previously reported. -- Fred Trafton

Comedy of Errors [UK]
Updated 7/31/00

Comedy of Errors (8?)
A British neo-prog band, at times similar to Pendragon or the Holidays In Eden era Marillion. Some songs are almost straight melodic hard rock with some Mark Kelly styled keyboards icing the cake; others feature a bit more complexity in the rhythm and composition departments. An obviously low-budget production, the CD has a pressing error so that the song "The Student Prince, Part I" has been replaced by a demo-quality version of another song on the album, "Behold The Knight". Most of the songs are undeniably catchy, but the whole album is very light on the progressive side. Still if you are into neo-prog, have all the essential releases and still want more, then by all means, try this out. -- Kai Karmanheimo

Çompanyia Electrica Dharma [Spain]

Diumenge (75), L'Oucomballa (76), Tramuntana (77), L'Angel de la dansa (78), Ordinaries aventures (79), L'Atlantida (81), Çompanyia Electrica Dharma al Palau de la Musica Catalana amb la Cobla Meditterania (82), Catalluna (83), Forc,a Dharma (85), No volem ser! (86), Homenatge a Esteve Fortuny (87), Fibres del cor (89), Tifa Head (91), Que no es perdi mai aquest so (93), 20 Anys, Forc,a Dharma! (94, comp.)

Çompanyia Electrica Dharma is a Catalan group that blends Catalan folk music with pop-rock music, and with a "soft" jazzy and experimental flavour, especially in their seventies albums, which gives an interesting final result. After Catalluna they became more poppy (avoid Forc,a Dharma and No Volem Ser!!), with the exception of Homenatge a Esteve Fortuny. The 20 Anys, Forc,a Dharma! compilation album is very a good starting point and to decide a further follow-up. -- José Miguel Girart

Compost [USA]
Updated 10/25/00

Compost (72)
Life is Round (73)
Compost is what drummer-keyboardist Jack DeJohnette did right after he left Miles Davis' group: a happy, funky, slightly weird jazz-rock band that had a distinctly hippy-dippy flavor to it (supplied mainly by drummer-mallet percussionist-vocalist Bob Moses). Compost also contained bassist Jack Gregg, saxophonist Harold Vick and percussionist Jumma Santos. The self-titled first album was pretty commercial, but despite sounding like a less funky, more jazzy, guitar-less version of Sly and the Family Stone, it had its moments. Life is Round is a much better record, with a more jazzy sound (only 3 vocal cuts) reminiscent of Eddie Harris' recordings on Atlantic from the same time period. It's fun to listen to, but sounds rather dated today ... -- Dave Wayne
[See Davis, Miles]

Comus [UK]
Updated 9/1/04

First Utterance (71)
Diana (71, EP)
To Keep From Crying (74)
Note: A 1999 reissue combines First Utterance and Diana under the title First Utterance.
Twisted folk music with male and female vocals and plenty of instruments (flute, oboe, viola, slide bass along with acoustic guitars and percussion), First Utterance abounds with themes of rape, murder, and insanity. The song "Diana" would not be out of place on a newer Current 93 record. Pretty unique stuff for its time or any time. [To Keep From Crying] is less interesting, as it goes into more conventional folk music. -- Rolf Semprebon
Comus, appropriately named after the Greek god of revelry, is certainly one of the most interesting musical groups of all time, and in my opinion one of the best. The Tapestry of Delights neatly describes their style: they use folk as a point of departure, and from there do whatever they want. The result is startling, complex, generally fast-paced and often twisted tunes that elude categorization. The sound is somewhat like that of Air Conditioning-era Curved Air. Unfortunately, in '72 the group lost half their lineup. The original line-up, which recorded their first two albums, was:
  • Roger Wooton: Lead and backing Vocals, 6-string acoustic guitar
  • Colin Pearson: Acoustic Violins, Acoustic Viola
  • Glen Goring: 6 & 12-string Acoustic and electric Guitars, backing vocals, hand drums
  • Andy Hellaby: Electric Basses, backing vocals
  • Bobby Watson: Miscellaneous Percussion, Lead and backing Vocals
  • Rob Young: Flute, Oboe, hand drums
Each was a truly special talent on his own particular instruments and molded perfectly with the others. Roger Wooton often used terrifyingly evil and hideous voices, but sang primarily with intense emotion and was perfectly complimented by Bobby Watson, a woman with a voice like a dying nightingale; the power of these two harmonizing has to be heard to be believed. Colin Pearson produced truly fearsome melodies on the violin, and is perhaps the best embodiment of the group's mood. Glen Goring and Rob Young fill out the rest of the instrumental muscle. Andy Hellaby is a phenomenal bassist whose talent is shadowed over on the first two albums by virtue of its compositional basis. Bobby's percussion talent is also shadowed over on the first two albums, but in her case because of the producer.

First Utterance is respected yet somewhat misunderstood by reviewers. From my viewpoint the album does not revel in evil; rather, it reveals evil. The music and lyrics wipe away ideas of relative morality and unmask evil as the sick, festering monster that it is. All 7 tracks are strong and, with the probable exception of "Bitten" (appareny a Hellaby composition), all are group compositions. "Diana", a paradigm of lust, is filled with the haunting viola of Colin and the impassioned warning cries of Roger and Bobby. The 12-minute "The Herald" is peaceful yet often eerie and features lengthy acoustic guitar and violin journeys. The 10-minute nightmare of "Drip Drip" sports curious instrumental sections, a catchy viola riff, and some of Roger's creepiest vocals. In "Song to Comus" the peace of a summer day gradually builds to the horror of rape with ingenuous arrangement and wonderful playing. "The Bite" is dominated by superb flute offset by rusty, rapid acoustic guitar and strained vocals in a mixture that builds tension to an almost unbearable point, while "Bitten" is a horror-movie style instrumental with shocking violin and bass atmospheres.

The album Diana is largely ignored due to its rarity, but is their best in my opinion. Aside from a slightly different version of "Diana", all the tracks are percussion-less medieval ballads marked by atmospheric violin. "In the Lost Queen's Eye" is a superb lament opened by an intense bass line. Bobby's despairing lead vocals are beautiful, and Roger's anguished backing is in perfect contrast. Side B is entirely occupied by the 8-minute "Winter is a Coloured Bird", Comus's masterpiece. All the emotions are here: from gentle peace to roiling fear, from soft acceptance to unbearable lament. The guitar solo alone is filled with pity and a dozen unnamable emotions. Certainly one of the best progressive epics to be placed on record.

Most blame Comus's decline on a turn towards commercialism. If you listen to "Down (like a movie star)", "To Keep From Crying", or any of Andy's compositions on To Keep From Crying, however, it is plain they never lost their taste for experimentalism. Rather, it seems that they were unable to keep up their old pace due to their lineup being reduced to Roger Wooton (Vocals and Guitars), Andy Hellaby (Basses and tape effects), Bobby Watson (Miscellaneous Percussion and Vocals), Keith Hale (Misc. Keyboards), and Gordon Caxon (Drums). After all, is it not plausible that most of the group's experimentation came from the songwriting of, say, Colin and Glen?

This line-up was largely dominated by the original members (Caxon only appears on 6 of the album's 11 songs!). The instrumental muscle was taken on by Andy and, to a lesser extent, Keith Hale. Andy's incredible bass work is therefore much easier to appreciate. All but one song is written by either Roger or Andy. The masterpieces are "Down", "To Keep From Crying", and "After the Dream", but even the giddy "Figure in Your Dreams" has great vocal harmonies at the end.

A throwback to First Utterance, "Down" is filled with twisting and unpredictable vocals, excellent bass, and an odd bridge with fine recorder. The follow-up, "Touch Down", is melancholy and despairing with fascinating background piano work. "Waves and Caves" and "Panophany" are eerie instrumental interludes. "Perpetual Motion" starts as light-hearted folk before suddenly changing; a real Folk Geek-meets-King Crimson song. The classically influenced "To Keep From Crying" brings the album to an unexpected and shattering climax, with mind-blowing bass work and vocal harmonies. The harp-based "After the Dream" is a strangely beautiful epilogue. Though certainly weaker and less consistent than their first two, To Keep From Crying has some great prog. (Note:Although members of Gong, Henry Cow, and Esperanto do appear on TKFC, fans should be warned that their roles are minimal.)

There are few things in life that can give you such a shocking experience as Comus. Highly recommended to those who like their prog unconfined, frightening, and with touches of folk. The third is the rarest, but well-worth seeking out if you are prepared for an album of a weaker and more conventional variety than the first two. -- Robert Orme

Confessor [USA]
Updated 4/19/01

Condemned (91)
Condemned (91, EP)
In the very late eighties fairly gruesome and strange band from North Carolina began to dig up itself from the total underground. They used to mix Watchtower-like technical metal with extremely slow doom metal a la early Cathedral with very interesting results. Even nowadays I consider this band's music to be the hardest to get into. These guys have seemingly captured trully inhuman source of inspiration.

Their music has an eerie aura, which one can not put down just like a ... snap. Univers Zero and co. are galaxies away from them but Confessor can compete. Actually, I have better feeling, when I listen to Univers Zero's Heresie. In comparison with Condemned even Shub Niggurath's C'Etaient ... can be written off as a sort of abstract music-concrete hodge-podge (of course it is not that bad, listener only need to approach it different way). Condemned usually fills me with unease and strange tenseness. I wonder for years now how to explain rationally the fact that I can't comfortably land on this album.

With other words this could be ... music for the dying robots, music for the dying cyborgs, or mourn-songs for the computerized and dehumanized world of today. But we are sorta used to it, aren't we? I mean, this world of today. Their music itself is a solitary, lonely world. However, I always put them in CD-player with a great respect. Singer has hella high pitched voice, higher than Alan Di Tecchio of Watchtower fame, with a slightly different colour, but not a falsetto or similar to Vienna Boys' Choir. Depression and sadness are expressed in higher pitch. Really inclassifiable. The other comparison with WT is through use of rhythms. Mostly contrarhythms with pounding, grinding, almost industrial resonance. Slow (midtempo is highest gear here) and precise. Phobos of VoiVod is scary, but it is also brutal. Condemned has some differently strange qualities, which, so it seems, will always fill me with an awe and will never be unveiled. EP Condemned has two tracks not appearing on the album. These two are a bit less eerie. Recommended only to those who think that they have experienced all posibilities in progressive music. One of the guitarists of late Confessor, Graham Fry participated in Ozone Quartet. -- Nenad Kobal

[See Ozone Quartet]

Congreso, El [Chile]
Updated 1/12/05

El Congresso (71)
Tierra Incognito (75)
Congreso (77)
Mias de los Andes (78)
Viaje Por La Cresta Del Mundo (81)
Ha Llegado Carta (83)
Páfaros De Arcilla (83)
Estoy Que Me Muero (86)
Gira al Sur (87)
En Vivo (88, Live)
Los Arqueólogos del Futuro (89)
Aire Puro (90)
La Pichanga (92)
Los Fuegos Del Hielo (92)
25 Años de Musica (94 Compilation)
Por Amor Al Viento (95)
La Loca Sin Zapatos (01)
La Historia de un Viaje (03)
Congreso de exportación (04, Live)
Excellent Chilean progressive band with a big sound, some influence from the melodic side a-la early Genesis, but an equal influence from their own ethnic folk heritage, such so they come off sounding very unique yet accessible. Many albums. Vocals in Spanish. Start with their double-live En Vivo.
Click here for El Congreso's official web site
Click here for a fan web site

Connors, Bill [USA]

Theme to the Guardian (75), Of Mist and Melting (79), Swimming With a Hole in My Body (80), Step It (85), Double Up (86), Assembler (87)

US jazz and fusion guitarist who first came to prominence in the mid-'70s with Chick Corea's Return to Forever (Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy), only to be replaced by the far less interesting Al Di Meola. Connors also appeared on Stanley Clarke's eponymously-titled second solo effort with Jan Hammer and Tony Williams. Two (Theme... and Swimming...) of Connors' first 3 solo albums on the ECM label are lovely, introspective solo guitar records, while Of Mist and Melting finds Connors on acoustic guitar in a jazzy, yet subdued, quartet with the likes of Jack DeJohnette (drums), Gary Peacock (bass) and Jan Garbarek (sax). Connors subsequently occupied the guitar chair in Garbarek's group, where his successors were the equally worthy Bill Frisell and David Torn. The three most recent solo albums (all reissued on the Evidence label) are very fine high-energy jazz-fusion power trio affairs, and should be of interest to fusion fans. -- Dave Wayne

Conspiracy [USA]
Updated 3/18/07

Conspiracy (00)
The Unknown (03)
Conspiracy - Billy Sherwood and Chris Squire

The easiest way to describe Conspiracy is as "Chris Squire's other band", following his tradition of extra and para-Yes projects like 1975's Fish Out of Water, Syn, or his work with former Yes men Rick Wakeman and Alan White. I have always loved Mr. Squire's rich, piercing tone and impeccable finesse and was looking forward to something in the creative spirit of those heady days.

Sadly the band's second outing The Unknown (Inside Out, 2003) does not reflect that. Resembling neo-progressive rock, it is actually a stale attempt at catchy song stylings with just enough Yes-isms (some nice chorales and Steve Howe-ish guitar) to make you think you're hearing something decent from the later Yes period. Except what your hearing is a throw-away record with, count it, two reasonably good cuts ("New World" and the title track). It is more like neo-regressive. I would actually love to hear a good new Chris Squire album. Unfortunately this ain't it, not by a long shot. -- David Marshall

[See Squire, Chris | Yes]

Click here for Conspiracy's web site (seems to be incomplete)
Click here for Chris Squire's web site
Click here for info on the first Conspiracy album on the Notes From The Edge web site
Click here for info on The Unknown on the Inside Out Music web site

Contact Trio [Germany]

New Marks (78), Musik (81)

German space-jazz trio who recorded 2 albums for JAPO (the now-defunct sister label to ECM). Both are excellent and are highly recommended to people who like ECM and that spacey German stuff. The music never lapses into fusion posturing, new age noodling, or straight-ahead jazz. Featured on both records are guitarist Evert Brettschneider and bassist Aloys Kott. Brettschneider sounds, at times, like John Abercrombie (circa his Timeless solo record, also on ECM), but plays a lot of acoustic as well. Michael Jullich doubles on drums, vibes and marimba. On the second album, Peter Eisold replaces Jullich on drums. Eisold doesn't play mallet percussion, which limits the group's sonic palette a bit. Nevertheless, Musik is a fine release which, although firmly in the ECM mold, has moments which recall space-jazz groups like Dzyan. -- Dave Wayne

Continuum [Canada]

Kronos (93)

Name a power trio from Canada with a singing bassist and a drummer who writes lyrics? No, not them because the drummer only wrote two songs. Continuum have released one CD that I know of, called Kronos. These guys are obviously influenced by fellow Canadian techo-progsters, Rush. There are a few brief moments where they get away from that formula but basically Continuum are...let's just say very strongly Rush influenced. If you like Rush, check these guys out. If not, then stay away because there is no other reason to check it out.

Contraction [Canada]
Updated 6/4/06

Contraction (72)
La Bourse ou la vie (74)
Canadian '70s prog.
[See Dervieux, Franck]

Click here for further information

Contraluz [Argentina]
Updated 7/26/11

Americanos (73)
El Pasaje (00)
Ramos Generales (03)
Novus Orbis (11)
Contraluz - (not in photo order) Carlos Barrio (guitar, flute), Nestor Barrio (drums), Freddy Prochnik (bass) and Jaime Fernández Madero (vocals, keyboards)

Original Entry 8/7/06:
Contraluz was born at the end of the '60's with brothers Carlos and Nestor Barrio (guitar and drums respectively), Freddy Prochnik (bass) and Alejandro Barzi (vocals and flute). By the time of their first LP, Americanos, they had added vocalist Alvaro Cañada and played a number of major festivals. But due to a number of problems both internal and external, Contraluz broke up in 1974.

But after more than 20 years, core members the Barrio brothers and Prochnik got together again, with a new vocalist/keyboardist Jaime Fernández Madero and created a new album, independently released in 2000 etitled El Pasaje. The band has always had some folkish roots and Tull-like flute passages, and El Pasaje continued that tradition, with Carlos now playing flute.

Prochnik sent me their latest effort, Ramos Generales a while back, and I've finally had a chance to give it the listen it deserved. Though I had heard that the band had "folky" tendencies, it hadn't occurred to me that this might mean hispanic folk music. (Duh. What was I thinking? The Strawbs?) The first song in particular has a sort of mariachi feel to it, though the electronic keyboards, drums and flute set it apart from that type of music. There's also some classical (spanish) guitar parts (some of them, perhaps, counterpointed with guitarish-sounding keyboards) that remind you you're listening to a South American band ... as if the Spanish vocals weren't enough of a clue.

Ramos Generales isn't without its problems. In particular, the keyboards sound a bit cheezy in places and the recording quality is a bit in the "pretty good garage recording" range. But still, the compositions range from good to excellent, and the vocalist and flautist both turn in impassioned performances to go with the rest of the band. I've read elsewhere that Contraluz is really more of a "classic rock" band than "prog" (though this was about their first album, Americanos), but I would disagree. If you think Tull is prog, then Contraluz certainly is too, though the "folk" parts of each of them come from their respective ethnic backgrounds and prevents Contraluz from sounding like a Tull tribute band. They definitely have a unique voice that should be attactive to prog fans on both sides of the equator. I enjoyed Ramos Generales and recommend it to any fan of folky electric prog who doesn't mind hearing the words in a language other than English. -- Fred Trafton

I have to call Contraluz' 2011 release Novus Orbis a bit of a "low-profile" release. What else can you call it when they haven't even listed it on their web site, nor can I find any reviews that aren't in spanish. They have no presence on Facebook, MySpace or even ReverbNation. This may be the first english review!

Well, what to say about Novus Orbis? It sounds like a few members of early '90's Marillion with Tull's Ian Anderson on flute jamming with a mariachi Tijuana Brass covers band. Recording live in a home studio. There, that captures the feeling so well I don't need to say much more. I actually sorta liked it. More interesting than many band CD's I get for review. But will it get a lot of spin time in my CD player? Maybe not. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Contraluz' web site (finding the place to click to enter the site is a bit of an Easter Egg hunt ... keep clicking around on the sun and you'll be rewarded ... but don't bother clicking the "English" text.)

ContrarianTM [USA]
Updated 12/9/08

Minor Complexities (07)
Original entry, 8/29/07:
Contrarian is a band from Trenton, New Jersey. Their debut album has a core of three members; Joseph Leming (lead vocals & percussion), Michael White (drums) and Timothy Boney (everything else, including acoustic and electric guitars, bass, keyboards and backing vocals), plus a couple of guests on violin and cello. On their web site, they refer to themselves as a six-piece band, but this must be a recent development, and the names of the other members aren't mentioned on their web site.

Their album is called Minor Complexities, and it's a good album, especially for a debut. Their sound has a lot in common with Kansas (including the use of violin on several cuts), but with more of a prog-metal edge like Dream Theater and their brethren, plus a fair dose of Styxian Arena Rock. Some have compared Leming's vocals to Rush's Geddy Lee, but he doesn't sing nearly as high-pitched. I would compare him more to Kansas' Steve Walsh myself.

Minor Complexities is a good album, but not a great album. No bad songs on it. No really memorable ones either, at least for my taste, at least after only 2 listenings. Fairly intellectual material in the lyrics (several songs are attributed to the writings of philosophers Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Plato, for example) does remind me a bit of Neil Peart's newer (non-sci-fi) lyrics, and that's not a bad thing in my book. But there are Christian overtones here that Peart wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, though they're not too preachy.

In summary, I'd say "Recommended but not essential". I would keep a watch on these guys, though. They may yet develop into much much more. -- Fred Trafton

P.S. I added the TM after their name because when I talked to Boney at their vendor's table at NEARFest 2007, he spent several minutes telling me about how important it was for a band to get their name trademarked. I suppose this is because he had a bad experience before in an untrademarked band, but that's just a guess. Anyway, since he thought it was important, I thought I'd add the trademark symbol, at least to their main entry name. -- FT

Update 12/9/08:
At this year's NEARFest, I ran into Contrarian's Timothy Boney, who wanted to thank me for the above review. He did want to make one point that I should pass along ... Contrarian is not a "Christian band". They use philosophical material from a number of sources, and some of them (i.e. Kierkegaard) happen to be Christian. But nobody ever accused Nietzsche of being a Christian, and Plato was "one of those Greek guys" (my words, not Timothy's). So they're neither anti- nor pro-Christian, they're just philosophers. Got it? OK. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Contrarian's web site
Click here for Contrarian's MySpace page
Click here to order Minor Complexities from CD Baby

Controlled Bleeding [USA]
Updated 6/5/06

Trudge (90)
Body Samples (90)
Curd (91)
Golgatha (91)
Penetration (92)
... many more releases on tape, vinyl and CD, see links below
Trudge is industrial sounding dance-pop. Somewhat interesting on the first listening, then annoying thereafter. Very unusual, distorted and agressive sounding vocals. Apparently some of their other stuff is more ambient.
Click here for Controlled Bleeding's discography on their web site

Conventum [Canada]

A L'affut D'un Complot (77), Le Bureau Central des Utopies (79)

Unusual band, complex musical constructs like Gentle Giant, but entirely acoustic. Worth searching out.

[See Duchesne, Andre]

Cooper, Lindsay [UK]
Updated 6/5/06

Rags (83, Recorded 1979-80)
The Golddiggers (83)
Music for Other Occasions (86)
Oh, Moscow (91, Recorded 1991)
An Angel on the Bridge (91)
Schroedinger's Cat (91)
Sahara Dust (93)
Pia Mater (97, w/ Charles Gray)
A View from the Bridge (98)
Cooper was a member of the tremendous Henry Cow. A wind and reed player and brilliant composer, her solo work is very much in line with Henry Cow's more melodic work. She writes wonderful textures and striking melodies unlike anyone else I can think of. Rags and Golddiggers are both film scores -- the first for a film about female garment workers in London circa 1840, the latter for an all woman film directed by Sally Potter. Potter sings on both scores and Fred Frith, Chris Cutler and Phil Minton all appear on this disc. The music to Rags is based on traditional London "broadside ballads" and does a great job conveying a traditional feel to very avant-garde composition. Golddiggers is less historical but still great. Oh Moscow is a live recording of a Potter/Cooper extended piece about the Cold War. The music is incredible and features Potter, Alfred 23 Harth, and Minton. Cooper is truly a gifted composer and musician whose work is essentially ignored and unknown!
[See Frith, Fred | Henry Cow]

Click here for further info
Click here for further info

Copeland, Stewart [UK/USA]
Updated 9/2/04

Music Madness From the Kinetic Kid (80, as Klark Kent, EP)
Rumblefish (83)
The Rhythmist (85)
The Equalizer and Other Cliffhangers (87)
Wall Street/Talk Radio (88, Side A—Talk Radio, Side B—Wall Street)
Wall Street/Salvatore (88, Side A is by a different artist, Side B is the same as previous)
Noah's Ark (90)
Highlander I,II, and III (91, I and III are by other artists)
Rapa Nui (94)
Silent Fall (94)
The Leopard Son (96)
Little Boy Blue (98)
Pecker (98, 8 songs by Copeland + 8 by other artists)
Four Days in September (98)
Simpatico (99)
Stewart Copeland

Ex-Curved Air and Police drummer, released an album The Equalizer and other Cliff Hangers on the IRS No Speak label, I think it's mostly soundtrack stuff, electronic oriented, some of it pretty good, other stuff leans towards lame. Overall not an exceptional album.

I found Rumblefish interesting the first couple times. But then, I'm a drummer and was very much prejudiced favorably to like anything Copeland might do. However, it didn't hold my interest for repeated listenings.
Though formerly a member of both Curved Air and Frolk Haven, [and, of course, The Police -- Ed.] in my opinion Stewart Copeland is more of an avant-garde instrumental artist than a prog artist. His work is extremely interesting, however, and his first 4 albums are highly recommended to those who can enjoy non-traditional progressive. A sense of humor, playfulness, and humility is saturated throughout his work, yet Stewart maintains a high artistic standard and creates some very unique emotions. His style is distinctly his own, and while several songs show influence from Curved Air (e.g."The Mud Lions" from The Leopard Son sounds much like "Cheetah"), there is really no artist to compare him to.

His album debut is the EP Music Madness From the Kinetic Kid under the name of Klark Kent, his fictitious alter ego. All 8 EP songs, plus 5 non-album single tracks and 2 previously unreleased tracks, are included on Kollected Works, which is easier to find. All the tracks are written by Stewart (who also plays all the instruments). Most are humorous rock tunes posing as punk(exceptions being the 3 instrumentals and "Guerilla") which, while not remotely progressive, are musically clever and lyrically witty (most of them satirizing adolescence and its foibles). Stand-outs include "Away From Home" with its gangly punching, the blitzing "Thrills", the powerful "Love Lessons", and "Guerilla" (which features some startlingly sinister kazoo work and arabic vocals). But by far the best is the prog-ish instrumental "Theme For Kinetic Ritual". Boogie-ish piano and drums weave behind a soul-healing piece of guitar and an excellent kazoo solo.

Rumblefish is my favourite instrumental album. A concept album based on the book, Rumblefish is a quirky and unconventional mix of clever riffs and fascinating moods with prominent elements of classical, rock, folk, and punk. Apart from the brasses and a Stan Ridgeway guest appearance, Stewart plays all the instruments (which include not only drums, guitar, bass, double bass, piano, kazoo, banjo and synthesizers, but also typewriter, door chimes, jackhammer, pool table, motorcycle, and more!) Stewart wrote, arranged and produced all 13 tracks himself-yet the album is infinitely unpretentious and elegantly composed. Though the haunting "Don't Box Me In", the complex "Tulsa Tango", the blossoming "Our Mother is Alive", the metamorphizing "Party at Someone Else's Place", the foreboding "Father on the Stairs", and "Personal Midget" with its stunning climax are stand-outs, every track-all the way to the melancholy epilogue "Motorboy's Fate"-contributes to the album's genius. Rumblefish is not just a statement of a great drummer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist's talent, but a masterpiece in and of itself.

The Rhythmist is another concept album accompanied by a movie, written by and starring Stewart himself as a black clad figure journeying across Africa in search of the secret of "Rhythmism". The album is a blend of assorted African styles and Copeland-style rock. Side A is often weak and is equally written by Stewart and guest vocalist Ray Lema, but side B is consistently strong and entirely written by Stewart. Highlights are the immensely creative and delightful (though often grim) instrumentals "Coco" and "Franco", "Gong Rock" with its wonderfully uplifting backing track layered beneath superb guitar work, and the swiftly moving "Serengeti Long Walk" with humorous vocal from Stewart.

Stewart dropped his instruments for a time to create 3 generally serious, computer-generated albums. The first, appropriately titled The Equalizer and Other Cliffhangers, is even more magnificent and surreal than the bizarre cover. The careful approach of "Lurking Solo" leads into a flourish of powering rock rhythms. The delightful chimes and toots of "Music Box" are a joy, while "Screaming Lord Cole and the Commanches" leads a conquest of your musical mind with each instrument carefully placed in the campaign. "Green Fingers (Ten Thumbs)" is a brilliant, unconventional piano piece; "Flowershop Quintet" is touched by strange and friendly woodwinds and wonderful keyboards; and the wild yet majestic and often moving "Rag Pole Dance" finishes the album. While the playing isn't impressive, it is good enough that the astounding composing more than makes up for it.

Stewart's consistency ended with his fifth, Wall Street/Talk Radio. Side B is quite good, but side A is a boorish nightmare. The album is the first of several that Stewart has made which serve strictly as soundtracks and are incredibly boring to sit and listen to. The last of his computer-generated albums is Noah's Ark, which includes a 25 1/2 minute instrumental, "The End and the Beginning". It suffers from being not ambitious enough and the computer programming, but there are definitely enough sparks of originality in it, and it maintains consistent purpose (something not true of many side long pieces). The album's other two songs are noticeable mainly because James Earl Jones narrates over them.

Rapa Nui is an unusual part of SC's catalogue in that it is dominated by a truckload of percussion. Stewart also plays the bass and most of the synths. The album has lots of strange tribal chants and hauntingly reeks of dark pagan rituals and human sacrifice. Particularly noteworthy are the lengthy "Training" with its frightening outbursts of percussion and vocals and the searingly beautiful "Sail Away". Good atmospheric stuff.

Still, SC has continued to make some brilliant albums, among them The Leopard Son, which consists solely of a 36-minute, 12-part classical suite. A couple of key themes are echoed throughout the work, including a clarinet riff that is pure childlike innocence. Stewart plays drums, percussion, and piano while accompanied by a full orchestra and Stanley Clarke (ex-Return to Forever) on acoustic bass. There are marvelously playful moments, thrilling rides, and pieces of sublime beauty. Not to mention some good rock influence: in particular, the concluding section is one of the most successful melds of classical and pop/rock I've heard. Overall a must for the classical-phile.

Incidentally, Pecker is an album that should be avoided at all costs. Stewart's contributions consist of 5 pointless, pithy jazz instrumentals and 3 horrific rap numbers.

The last of SC's albums which I've heard is Simpatico. Aside from a Petula Clark contribution to this soundtrack, the album consists of a 29-minute, 15-part suite. Stewart plays the percussion and bass, plus some synthesizer. The music is tremendously ethereal, yet has an eerie and compelling feel which somehow draws you in, despite the incessant repetition of the suite's central themes. The finale, "Free of it All", features Stan Ridgeway on vocal and harmonica and is quite good with dark and metaphorical lyrics. Though largely lacking in ideas, Simpatico may interest the lover of electronic music.

Stewart Copeland is in my opinion one of the greatest composers of this age, and a phenomenal multi-instrumentalist as well. His songs are not so much individual entities as part of a larger tapestry (the album to which they belong). While those which are too closely linked with movies show great misdirection and should be avoided, most of Stewart's albums are at least worth investigating, particularly for those who favor both classical music and avant-garde instrumentalism. Not for those who like their music hard and serious, thanks to Stewart's often childlike approach to songwriting and his fondness for playing typewriter, kazoo, and computer-generated dog barking. The exceptions to this last statement are The Equalizer and Simpatico. -- Robert Orme

[See Curved Air | Frolk Haven]

Copernicus [USA]
Updated 11/26/07

Nothing Exists (85)
Victim of the Sky (86)
Deeper (87)
Null (90)
No Borderline (93)
Immediate Eternity (01)
Immediate Eternity II (05)
Copernicus - Joseph Smalkowski

Do not take this write-up as any kind of recommendation -- I personally don't care for Copernicus' muses. But they do represent an interesting debate on what is and is not progressive, or progressive rock which, according to my understanding of progressive and of rock, they are in fact both. Frankly they sound more like performance art, or if Jim Morrison had lived and started some sort of rock circus of musicians, poets, speakers and other individuals on hand to create any number of noises. Do these guys push the limits? Yes. Good listening? If you like bad poetry and uninhibited, guttural yelling about the downfall of mankind, absolutely. -- David Marshall

Click here for Copernicus' web site

Chick Corea Elektric Band [USA]
Updated 4/12/02

The Elektric Band (86)
Light Years (87)
Eye of the Beholder (88)
Inside Out (90)
Beneath the Mask (91)
Elektric Band II - Paint the World (93)
After several projects both in fusion and traditional jazz, Return to Forever's leader Chick Corea formed The Chick Corea Elektric Band with him on synths and keyboards, joined by Dave Weckl on drums and John Patitucci on bass. The first album featured Scott Henderson and Carlos Rios as guests on guitar. Their debut album sounded very dated, (specially for the synthesizers and the Simmons electronic drums featured in most tracks) but showed great interplay and good compositions.

In 1987 guitarist Frank Gambale and sax player Eric Marienthal joined the band. The album Light Years was very mellow sounding, in the vein of bands like Spyro Gyra and Yellowjackets but with heavier use of synths and electronic drums. This line up recorded Eye of the Beholder and Inside Out. Instead of keeping the same mellow and sometimes radio-friendly approach of their previous albums, for these albums the band delivered some very powerful and original fusion compositions, with glimpses of progressive rock all over, which came like a bucket of cold water to the mellow fusion scene at the time also called "fuzak". The soloing and interplay in both albums is very intense, making the band very influential and popular among musicians. During this time, Corea created a sort of spin-off group, the Akoustic Band with Weckl and Patitucci, featuring jazz standards with some fusion twists.

After the success of Eye of the Beholder and Inside Out, the band returned with Beneath the Mask. The album featured great instrumental work, but the compositions were weaker than its predecessors. The Corea - Weckl - Patitucci - Gambale - Marienthal line-up broke up by the end of 1991.

Two years later, Corea reformed the Elektric Band, this time called Elektric Band II, that featured Corea and Marienthal from the previous group and this time joined by Gary Novak on drums, Mike Miller on guitar and Jimmy Earl on bass. The album Paint the World, released in 1993 was a very good effort, improving the composition level of Beneath the Mask, but lacking the fiery instrumental work of Patitucci, Gambale and Weckl, although the album had its great moments. After this album, Corea disbanded the Elektric Band definitely to return to the traditional jazz scene. -- Juan M. Sjöbohm.

[See Return to Forever]

Click here for Chick Corea's web site

Cornucopia [Germany]
Updated 12/31/02

Full Horn (73)
Cornucopia only released one album, and, after receiving a very cold reception by the public and the press, decided to put an end to their brief career. The band was composed of seven members: Wolfgang Bartl - Bass, Vocals ; Wolfgang Gaudes - Guitar, Percussion, Drums, Vocals; Christoph Hardwig - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals; Rudy Holzhauer - Percussion; Wolfgang Kause - Vocals; Harry Koch - Percussion, Vocals, Effects; Kai Henrik Moller - Guitar, Vocals; Jochen Petersen - Flute, Guitar, Saxophone. The music itself is experimental, draws some inspiration from the psychedelia in the first Pink Floyd albums, but is more dense and agressive and definitly with more interplay. I didn't find it very enjoyable, but my listening was not deep enough to have a well balanced opinion. -- Luis Cardoso

Coronarias Dans [Denmark]
Updated 12/20/05

Breathe (71)
Visitor (75)
Good Danish jazz-rock band, 3/4ths of which (keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen, drummer Ole Streenberg, and guitarist Claus Bøhling) went on to form the somewhat less interesting progressive band Secret Oyster. Did at least two albums, one of which (Visitor, originally issued on the Steeplechase label in 1974) was issued in the US in 1976 on the Inner City label. The music on Visitor is loose, jazzy, and dominated by Knudsen's electric piano, although Bøhling cuts loose on several tracks. Those of you who like fusion (especially post-Bitches Brew Miles Davis), the more aggressive ECM stuff, and Canterbury sounds (Soft Machine, etc.) will like this. -- Dave Wayne
[See Day of Phoenix | Secret Oyster]

Corte Dei Miracoli [Italy]
Updated 8/2/06

Note: Albums in the GEPR are always listed by release date, not recording date
Corte dei Miracoli (76, LP, re-released on CD in 1994)
Dimensione Onirica (92, Recorded in 1973-74)
Live at Lux (93, Live, Recorded in 1976)
I don't know them very well but I think they have a symphonic rock sound.
Corte dei Miracoli put out one (that I know of) self-titled album. There's no date on the CD release but I'd guess by the sound that it's around '75 or '76, maybe a little later. Taking a lead from Banco, Corte dei Miracoli are a quintet of bass, drum, vocals and two keyboardists. Obviously synth-heavy, the band creates a sound fairly similar to Banco, sometimes heavy, sometimes lighter, usually lyrical, always in the symphonic vein. The music is moderately complex and all members are good on their instruments. I think there is a bit more emphasis on vocals than with Banco. Four of the five songs are in the 6-7 minute range and one is 13 minutes. If you like heavy layers of keyboards with lots of synth, these guys would be worth checking out.
Corte dei Miracoli came from Savona. They [were] formed around 1973 by past members of The Tramps (a local band). Something important to say is that they have two keyboardists. Their first album was Dimensione Onirica (1973-1974). This album reminds a lot of Colosseum, [but] the quality isn't the best (I mean the LP). [The next album is] Corte dei Miracoli (1976) [which] had a clean sound. It's a little pop, but it has his moments. I recommend [the song] "Everra Luomo".

Then in 1993 Mellow Records [released] a rare album called Live at Lux, originally recorded in 1976. The band is very melodic and sometimes sounds like ELP, Il Balletto di Bronzo, Colosseum, Un Biglietto Per L'Inferno, Campo di Marte, etc. The band has a very classic style of playing. They are not an excellent band but ... they're [still] quite interesting. -- Ignacio Vassallo

Keyboardist Alessio Feltri was a member of Il Giro Strano before playing in Corte dei Miracoli. When Corte dei Miracoli disbanded in 1976, he re-formed Il Giro Strano, bringing along Corte dei Miracoli bassist Gabriele Siri. -- Fred Trafton
[See Giro Strano, Il]

Coryell, Larry [USA]

Coryell (69), Spaces (74), others

Mostly known foor his jazz and fusion, solo and with Eleventh House. Check out his second album Coryell (yes, the one with he and his family naked on the cover), which has some splendid moments fusing hard rock, blues, classical, jazz and even some psychedelic licks, a must for any self respecting guitar junkie. Also, his album Spaces featuring dueling guitars with John (pre-Mahavishnu) Mclaughlin, Chick Corea on piano, Miroslav Vitous on bass, and Billy Cobham on the kit may be too jazzy for some readers, but still may be of interest to others, especially in light of the all-star lineup and the fact that it was recorded in 69, when all these guys were still unknowns!

Highly respected jazz guitarist who has released a couple of albums of interest to Progressive Rock fans. Spaces is outstanding fusion and includes guests John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham (both from Mahavishnu Orchestra), Chick Corea (Return to Forever) and Miroslav Vitous (Weather Report). Fans of any of these bands would do well to find Spaces. His first release, Coryell is a jazz/blues/psych hybrid that works suprising well and shows an experimental side of Coryell not heard later on. Also worth finding are his Eleventh House albums, his fusion band which is similar to the other fusion bands mentioned above but with some trumpet. The first, Introducing the Eleventh House is excellent, somewhat spacey, fusion.

Cos [Belgium]

Postaeolian Train Robbery (74), Viva Boma (76), Babel (78), Swiss Chalet (79), Pasiones (83)

Excellent Canterbury-inspired Belgian band, led by guitarist/flutist Daniel Schell, which featured the unique vocal talents of Pascale Son (Schell's wife). Each of the two recordings I have by Cos have their own sound. The first, Postaeolian Train Robbery is a personal favorite. The extensive liner notes included in the Musea CD reissue make it very plain that Cos were admirers of French progressive bands such as Zao and Magma, and their muscial influence is obvious on Postaeolian Train Robbery. The music on this CD is weird jazzy fusion comparable to the first couple of Zao albums (esp. Z=7L and Osiris), only Cos had a whimsical, goofy edge that Zao (and Magma) lacked. The Musea reissue also includes 4 tracks by Schell's previous group Classroom, which had a similar sound to Cos, only more straight-ahead jazzy and less interesting. The second album, Viva Bomma is more overtly influenced by Canterbury bands such as Caravan, Hatfield and the North, and Gilgamesh. Pascale Son's sweet vocals are again prominent and, at times, give the music an almost pop sort of sensibility. Aside from that, the keyboards sound like Dave Stewart minus the fuzz organ (I wish that dreadful 'string synthesizer' sound could somehow be eliminated!), the drummer sounds very much like Pip Pyle, and there's even a Hugh Hopper-styled fuzz bass feature on one cut. Very good, but also very derivative. Several members of Cos went on to other interesting projects: keyboardist Marc Hollander formed the excellent 'Aksak Maboul', and guitarist Daniel Schell formed an interesting band named Karo (just like the corn syrup) which recorded two albums for Crammed Discs in the late 1980s. -- Dave Wayne

After hearing Cos described as a Belgian Zao, I was intrigued. However, they fall far short of Zao, and remind me of a more accessible Art Zoyd. Fairly repetitive and predictable, I wouldn't give this one very high marks. -- Mike Borella

I've heard the first album by this band, Postaeolian Train Robbery. It's excellent semi-experimental jazz-fusion with flutes, synths, percussion and, most interesting of all, unbelievable female vocals of Pascale Son. She plays oboe (on one track) and guitar (but not on this album) as well. There are no real lyrics to the album. Like avant-garde vocalist Cathy Berberian, Son uses nonsense syllables as a substitute for language, but usually to suggest the semblance of language. On "Cocalnut," Son seems to be testing the limits of her voice, reminding of Zao circa Z=7L. "Amafam" includes an incredible duet for voice and drums, quite unlike anything I've yet heard. Coloc is a joyously dissonant song, as it turns out in the rarely used Locrian Mode. The piano and guitar playing, as well as Son's singing are all standouts here. The CD includes four bonus tracks by Classroom, the predecessor to Cos. Here there really ARE lyrics, in French. -- Mike Ohman

[See Abraxis | Aksak Maboul]

Coses [Spain]
Updated 6/5/06

Via Fora! (76)
Ara és Demà (77)
Perque No s'Apagui l'Aire (78)
Catalan prog.

Cosmic Jokers, The [Germany]
a.k.a. Galactic Supermarket, Cosmic Couriers, Sternmadchen
Updated 6/24/05

The Cosmic Jokers (74)
Galactic Supermarket (74)
Sci-Fi Party (74)
Gilles Zeitschiff (74)
Planeten Sit In (74)
Basically various sets of tripped-out "supergroup" jam sessions for the Kosmische Musik label released under different names (e.g., Sternmadchen, Galactic Supermarket, Cosmic Jokers) but they are all generally known as coming from the Cosmic Jokers (and sometimes Cosmic Couriers) and are all included here.
The Cosmic Jokers were the Krautrock supergroup that never was, most of the musicians (Manuel Gottsching and Klaus Schulze from Ash Ra Tempel, and Jurgen Dollase and Harald Grosskopf from Wallenstein) didn't even know they were in the band until the albums started showing up at record stores. Recorded at acid parties in Dieter Dierk's studio under the instigation of producers Rolf Ulrich Kaiser (the Malcolm McClaren svengali of the Krautrock era) and his girl friend Gille Lettman, and then engineered down by Dieter Dierks, these were Kaiser's attempt to harness the Ash Ra Tempel cosmic vibe into something more accessible to the masses.

The first two albums with their side-long grooves of cosmic mostly instrumental riffing are the best, the ultimate in trippy space rock, like an enhancement of the Ash Ra Tempel sound. Gilles Zietschiff, Sci Fi Party, and Planeten Sit-in are actually label samplers, using material from various albums with added vocals or different engineering. The shorter tracks don't quite reach the cosmic heights found on the first two albums, but these are still excellent. R. U. Kaiser pissed off a lot of people with the Cosmic Jokers (and they ran him out of Germany for it) but the music is nothing short of brilliant. -- Rolf Semprebon

[See Ash Ra Tempel | Gottsching, Manuel | Schulze, Klaus | Wallenstein | Wegmuller, Walter ]

Cosmos Factory [Japan]
Updated 6/6/06

An Old Castle of Transylvania (73)
A Journey With The Cosmos Factory (74)
Black Hole (75)
Metal Reflection (77)
Cosmos Factory were a Japanese band that existed in the early '70s and released a few albums. The only one I've heard is An Old Castle of Transylvania from 1973. The title track is 18 minutes long and more in the psych realm, with just a few progressive overtones. This song is very much in the vein of classic early Floyd like "Saucerful of Secrets," "Careful With That Axe, Eugene," "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive." The other "side" consists of five shorter songs that range from keyboard dominant semi-prog pieces to heavy guitar-laden tracks against washes of Mellotron. One of the short songs is a three minute piano ballad which, to me, brings the album down a notch compared to the energetic and psychedelic nature of the other songs. Japanese vocals are heard now and again. Fans of heavy psychedelia may well go a bundle for this but the symphonic fans are warned against. -- Mike Taylor
I've heard An Old Castle In Transylvania. An interesting mix of spacy, symphonic and psychedelic. Some parts are rather dated '60s styled guitar rock, others are bright symphonic with washes of Mellotron and bubbling synth. Varied and interesting. -- Mike Ohman

Coto En Pel [Spain]

Holocaust (78)

Another solid Spanish symphonic band reissued by Laser's Edge and quite good albeit nothing special.

Spanish symphonic King Crimson influenced band. Good but not great. A little tedious, long hyperextended tracks that lack direction.

A Spanish band that is fairly unique to my ears, but not very exciting musically. It's not bad, but fails to develop any real excitement. I am reminded somewhat of mellow King Crimson, but the interplay isn't as complex nor as tight as Crimso. Coming from Catalan, there are obvious Spanish influences, such as in the use of trumpet and acoustic guitar. I like it for an occasional listen, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get it. Which is just as well, as the CD (on Laser's Edge) is out of print.

Couer Magique [France]

Wakan Tanka (71)

Early French prog rock band with Claude Olmos of Alice. Pretty good, pretty rare.

[See Alice]

Cousins, Dave [UK]

Two Weeks Last Summer (1972) Old School Songs (Dave Cousins and Brian Willoughby) (1979)

The voice of the Strawbs, Cousins released an excellent 1972 solo album of progressive folk rock and less adventurous folk tunes titled Two Weeks Last Summer, a must-have for any fans of the Strawbs. The sound is very much in the Strawbs vein, circa Grave New World or Bursting.

Covenant [USA]

Natures Divine Reflection (93)

Well this is another one that has been truly hyped. There are a lot of interesting points to be made here. The cover is absolutely phenomenal, a colorful and spiritual design done by Carlos Tello Nielsen who is quickly becoming one of progressive music's finest artists. There are only three songs on the album but with all the damn titles it looks more like 15. Check this out, "Sunchild's Spiritual Quest Through The Forest Of Introspection" with Aquiescence, Catharsis, Assesment Of Reality... etc (you get the picture). Any wonder why the mass media finds this type of music pretentious? Dave Gryder is Covenant, a drummer and keyboardist of abundant talent, and lists several bands in the inner jacket that influenced him, and they do a hell of a job explaining where Gryder's coming from. Among others there's Kansas ('74 - '82) (well almost...??), Änglagård (whos shirt he proudly dons in a picture), Quill (explains some of what annoys me about the music, the pompous keyboard flourishes and majestic fanfares that having a full time guitarist usually helps to tone down), and Ibis "Sun Supreme" (which explains Gryder's penchant for long titles). You got to hand it to him, the music has got quite a bit of flair. Unfortunately, if Gryder's ARP Solina and Prophet 5 broke, there probably wouldn't be a Covenant, and there are times where I get up and scream "TURN IT OFF" as another Quill like melody starts with ARP stings a blazing. Yes, being a one man band certainly brings a lot of one dimensionality to the proceedings, and Bill Pohl's guest guitar work is often all too short (and his bass playing on the opener is very drowned out). Gryder has a Mellotron, but rarely uses it, sticking to the Solina and Prophet 5 and the depth seems to drop out occasionally. Basically the album is certainly listenable and some of the themes are quite good, yet after a while the sameness of the sound wears thin. Definitely worth a listen, but Gryder would probably be more effective in a band situation where other members could help to flesh out his ideas. Nevertheless, a pretty impressive debut.

Covenant consists solely of one Dave Gryder, formerly a drummer from a thrash-metal band. Syn-phonic put this album out under the name of Covenant for marketing reasons, and who can blame them? I can count the progressive rock solo albums that I enjoy without going into double digits. I've always considered prog as the ultimate form of synergy. Musicians of better-than-average skill pull ideas together in a form that none of them could have done on their own. The creative process of three or more people can be fascinating to watch, especially in music, as dozens of related, unrelated and/or random ideas get turned into a cohesive piece. Without bandmembers to provide feedback and vetoes, it seems harder to step back from your own material and see it through someone else's eyes. This is what I hypothesize Gryder had to go through, as he wrote this album. "Nature's Divine Reflection" is a keyboard/drum monster, with Gryder's virtuosity on both instruments near the mastery level. However, the lack of bass (mixed so low it might as well not have been there at all) and guitar (two way-too-short interludes by fellow free-lancer Bill Pohl) limits this album to a very one-dimensional appeal. But somehow, it still works. The keyboard array consists to something straight out of the seventies. Mostly analog (or digital imitating analog) keys add a dark, gothic feel. Mellotrons and church organs, blistering runs and atmospheric themes, add to the mix. And the drumming - wow. I always notice drum lines because they often divides the good prog from the not-so-good. Gryder's talents are prodigious as his busy, fast style dominates the rhythm. The metal influences are evident, perhaps reminding me of modern death-metal drumming, like that found on Cynic's or Atheist's newest albums. So here we have the darkness of Il Balleto di Bronzo, and American ELP style without the "L", perhaps an updated version of the incredibly overrated band Quill, but without the pretentiousness and lyrics that make Quill unlistenable. Gryder's definitely a major talent, but he needs to work with a real band to truly exploit his skills. Albums like Nature's Divine Reflection are good listens but they tell of too much unused potential. Missing from this offering is the synergy of a group of people working together (as well as the instruments that members of that group would be playing). I'll give Covenant a B+. Worth owning, but could have been so much better! -- Mike Borella

I've had the pleasure of meeting with and talking to Dave Gryder, who is Covenant. We talked for quite awhile about some of our favorite bands. It was evident to me that Dave was quite passionate about some of his faves, including Kansas, Cathedral, Yezda Urfa and, of course, Änglagaring;rd. In fact, Gryder thanks several prog bands for inspiration, which also describes the many influences heard on the 42 minute _Nature's Divine Reflection_. In addition to the above-named bands, Gryder lists Quill, Chakra, Earthrise, Ibis, Ethos, Polyphony, Il Balletto di Bronzo, Shadowfax, Nektar, Providence, October, Mirthrandir, Happy the Man and Harlequin Mass. An impressive list, overall. True to his influences, Gryder delivers a music that is very retro in style, sounding more like an album released in '76 rather than '93. Covenant is a true solo work, with Gryder playing all keyboards (Hammond organ, Mellotron, ARP Solina, Prophet-5 and a couple of Korgs), plus acoustic and electronic drums. A minimal amount of guitar is provided by guest guitarist Bill Pohl on the 17 minute opening track, "Premise of Life." As the album's title suggests, the music reflects various positive and negative aspects of spirituality and the quest for ultimate truth. There are three songs total on this disc. The remaining two are the six minute "Eschatolic Covenant" and the 20 minute "Sunchild's Spiritual Quest Through the Forest of Introspection." Each of the two long cuts are divided into many named parts in which Gryder explores and varies many different themes. Switching among the battery of analog and digital keys, Gryder develops each song, building the intensity to the climax, followed by a gentle end refrain. I like his choice of timbres selected for the Korg because they don't sound digital. For the Mellotron, Dave favors choral tape loops, used quite effectively. There is, unfortuntely, a one- dimensionality about the album due to the fact that it is just the one player. On "Premise of Life," the drumming became repetitive after a period of time, and I tired of the rapid fills employed on the electronic drums. I felt the music would have greatly benefitted from a bonafide drummer while Gryder concentrated on the ivories. Also, particularly on "Premise of Life," I felt the music could have used the input of one other musician. While Pohl's trademark guitar helped for its brief appearance, I really thought that another keyboardist dueling with Dave would have been a welcome addition. I don't intend this as a detraction of Gryder's talent, however, because "Sunchild's Spiritual Quest" is an excellent track, one that made it very easy for me to overlook the relatively minor drawbacks. On this cut, Gryder pulls out all the stops, fingers running furiously across the keys, taking the intensity level to dizzying heights. I think it's safe to say that Covenant's debut release won't set the prog world on end. But I also think it's gone a little under-noticed. I certainly think it deserves more attention from fans of keyboard-dominated progressive rock. -- Mike Taylor

Coxhill, Lol [UK]

Ear of the Beholder (71), Coxhill/Miller (73, w/ Steve Miller), The Story So Far...Oh Really? (74), Welfare State (75), Fleas in the Custard (75), Diverse (76), The Joy of Paranoia (78), Moot (78), Lid (78), Digswell Duets (79), Chantenay 80 (80), Dunois Solos (81), French Gigs (82, w/ Fred Frith), Instant Replay (82), Lol Coxhill and Tosuzen Danbor (83), Couscous (83), Frogdance (84), Cafe de la Place (88)

This wonderful British saxophonist is at home in any conceivable musical context (and a few inconceivable ones!). He has recorded numerous solo albums, most of which would probably not interest progressive rock fans. One possible exception is 1974's The Story So Far... Oh, Really? a release which he shared with ex-Caravan keyboardist Steve Miller (brother of Hatfield, etc. guitarist Phil Miller). The music on both sides is that slightly goofy, jazzy-type stuff which all Canterbury fans will immediately recognize and appreciate. Backing musicians include drummer Laurie Allan, bassist Archie Leggett, Kevin Ayers (guitar on one cut) and Robert Wyatt (voice on one cut). Contrary to the liner notes, on Side One (the Steve Miller side) there are only two solo piano pieces, three piano-drums duets (with Laurie Allan), and one piano-sax-bass-drums quartet. A must-have for Canterburians. -- Dave Wayne

[See Grimes, Carol and Delivery]

Crack [Spain]

Si Todo Hiciera Crack (79)

I have Si Todo Hiciera Crack from 1979. I don't know if there are other albums by this band. Si Todo is very lyrical symphonic progressive from Spain. If Tony Banks were a keyboardist rather than a song writer, he would sound like this. Lyrics in Spanish, of course. Acoustic and electric guitars are also featured, but you won't be reminded of Steve Hackett. Also, there isn't a Gabriel-style vocalist, so a Genesis comparison isn't valid. For the Mellotron fan, there's plenty of it, as well as piano. Nicely original, this album is worthy of any symphonic collection.

While in countries like England, Italy and the United States, the outlook for progressive rock by the late seventies was practically at its bleakest; Spain's scene was at its most prolific stage. While the rest of the world has really had little contact with progressive rock from this country - Spain's media also had little kindness for musicians - there really was an abundance of great music coming from Spain, and Crack was no exception. Probably one of Spain's finest examples of majestic and powerful symphonic progressive, Crack was maybe one of the most Anglo styled of the Spanish bands, although there are obvious cultural references that must not be ignored. With male and female vocals, flute; excellent use of guitars and synthesizers; and a warm and dreamy atmosphere; Crack show that they are an instant winner for symphonic rock fans.

Crack the Sky [USA]

Crack The Sky (75), Animal Notes (76), Safety In Numbers (78), Live Sky (78), Classic Crack (80), White Music (80), Photoflamingo (81), World in Motion (83), The End (83), Raw (86), From the Greenhouse (89), Dog City (90), Rare! (94)

Crack The Sky were (are? they keep re-forming occasionally to do some special event or record an album, but they're not a steady band by any stretch of the imagination) a hard pop-rock band which started out in the mid-late '70s. The band members for the most part are from the area around Baltimore/southern Pennsylvania. In Baltimore they are absolutely *legendary* among the hard-rockin', beer-drinkin' work-down-at-the-docks/steelmill crowd from the east side of town. I stood out as a bit strange growing up there and listening to progressive music, I did like Crack The Sky, so I wasn't a total outcast. It seemed that the band could never catch a break in New York or LA and were therefore destined to remain a regional success. The band has gone through a variety of lineups - the central figures being John Palumbo (vocals/guitar/keyboards) and Rick Witkowski (guitar). Their first 3 studio albums are the ones to get if you can find them. They were (maybe still are) out on CD - the titles are Crack The Sky, Animal Notes, and Safety In Numbers. When I saw these on CD they had been issued as 2-LP sets, with #2 and #3 on one disc and #1 on a disc with the 4th album, called White Music. These albums feature Palumbo's masterfully quirky pop-funk-rock compositions coupled with Witkowski's manic guitar and a very tight rythym section. The songs are full of witty lyrics, unconventional time signatures, changing dynamics... in short, pretty progressive-sounding for a hard rock outfit. Obvious influences were the Beatles, Elton John (at least in Palumbo's piano playing), and maybe a cross between Led Zeppelin/Aerosmith/Bad Company, but a *lot* harder than the Beatles or Elton. Queen also comes to mind, maybe Rush too, but no one hard rock outfit ever sounded like CTS. This band was, to my ears, *very* original. I can't think of anyone that sounded like them on the first 3 LP's. After that they became much less distinct. Of the stuff released in the later years, I would say that From The Greenhouse would appeal to Pink Floyd fans, but the rest (Raw, Dog City, Flamingo) is kinda shitty. Mostly this is due to the lack of a regular lineup - I get the feeling that more than ever Palumbo is just working in open-loop mode and then getting some guys into the studio to record his compositions. The last few times I've seen the band they have performed mostly back catalog material from the first 4 LP's, which sort of confirms the band's lack of familiarity with the recent material. One final note which may be of interest. Cary Siegler (sp?), the group's current bassist, plays in a local (Baltimore-Annapolis) bar band on weekends called "Band Of A Thousand Names." This group was formed by guitarist/guitar maker Paul Reed Smith. Paul doesn't play with the group anymore, but some of you might recognize the current lead guitarist. He is none other than Stanley Whitaker, ex-axeman for the noted prog-rock group Happy The Man. What a small world. The band really cooks, and their shows are always *packed*. They play all cover material, much of which might be enjoyed by prog rockers (Zappa, Satriani, Santana, Floyd, Gabriel, Neil Young, Supertramp, Allman Brothers, to name a few).

Crack the Sky's first four albums are particularly notable because of the interplay of the guitars of Jim Griffiths and Rick Witkowski. John Palumbo's songwriting is funny and increasingly bitter, but the guitar harmonies are what made Crack the Sky really special. The live album, Live Sky, probably best illustrates this. The first three Palumbo dominated albums don't hint at the power of the band. The fusoid jam at the end of "Lighten Up, McGraw/She's a Dancer," with it's contrasting themes pitted against one another, until a brutal ensemble riff finishes out the tune, must be heard to be believed. The same goes for the rabid "William Tell Overture" at the end of "Surf City." After the release of the live album, Palumbo returned to the band, and his songwriting became increasingly grim and bitter. The original band disappeared, and as a result the remaining albums were very pale imitations of the first four. Photoflamingo has two or three nice tunes that recall the third album, Safety in Numbers. World in Motion has a terrific Zep stomp called "Breakdown" and From the Greenhouse overall is a pretty decent pastiche of Pink Floyd. Overall, though, after the end of the original organization this band faltered terribly. Raw is an album to be avoided at any cost. -- Tim Schultz

Click here for the Crack the Sky Home Page

Craft [UK]
Updated 2/14/06

Craft (84)
Craft was essentially keyboardist William Gilmour and bassist Martin Russell, both ex-of The Enid. Their only album Craft from 1984 featured six tracks based on six of the twelve signs of the zodiac. The sound was very symphonic much in the vein of The Enid, but perhaps a little more direct and less impressionist, mostly due to the drumming of Grant Gilmour and the band's no- nonsense writing style. The CD reissue features two bonus tracks, unrelated to the zodiac. Still waiting for the last six signs.
Craft is a three-piece offshoot of the English band, The Enid. The Enid were in existence from the mid '70s and throughout the '80s. I've never heard them myself but they are said to play a very orchestral/classical style of Prog. Based on that description, Craft sound perhaps a bit like their former band but placing more emphasis on the rock aspect. Craft released a single album in 1984 titled Craft. The three members of Craft are: William Gilmour plays keyboards, (brother? cousin? coincidence?) Grant McKay Gilmour is the percussionist and Martin Russell contributes guitar ... erm ... bass. It seems that all the guitar sounds (and there are many) are created by the bass going through a custom pedalboard. When Russell isn't playing guitar ... erm ... bass, he also plays keyboards. Russell and keyboardist Gilmour are credited with writing all of the tracks. Their sole release is based on six of the twelve signs of the zodiac. The CD on Kinesis release contains two bonus songs that are quite different than the zodiac tracks. More about them later. The music is a more overtly symphonic Progressive Rock (relative to The Enid description) with layers of lush synthesizers defining their sound. True to their roots, I suppose, the music is fairly orchestral. I sat and thought about it for a few moments and it hit me: The opening cut, "Aries," sounds like a fanfare-styled march and would easily make a good song for the Boston Pops Orchestra to close out an evening of gala events. Thus, the music is engaging, bouyant and rousing. "Taurus" is more somber with piano stating the melody and the bass adding punctuation. There are no drums which adds to the serious atmosphere. "Gemini" follows and the pace picks back up a notch as all three musicians get involved. Though the classical nature of these songs is far removed from the keyboard-led fusion of Kenso, the melody of "Taurus" reminds me of the Japanese band. "Cancer"'s theme is developed from an Irish jig which gives it a fun, lighthearted feel though it jams quite heavily in the middle. This is probably my favorite tune on the album as it seems to have the most changes and development. Suffice it to say the remaining two original songs are also nicely done (particularly "Leo") and make for a very solid and engaging album. As I mentioned above, the two bonus tracks are completely different in style from the zodiac tracks that make up the original album. "Branislana" and "And So to Sleep" are credited solely to Russell as writer. Both are short pieces of melancholy piano against a thin sheen of atmospheric synth While it's nice to hear another aspect of Russell's writing style, the two bonus tracks certainly are in contrast to the upbeat nature of the original album. Without them, though, the album would only be 35 minutes long. Of course, with them the music lasts only 40 minutes. Craft is a very enjoyable album that I think many Progressive Fans, both neo- and not, would enjoy. -- Mike Taylor
[See Enid, The]

Click here for the Craft page on the Kinesis web site

Cranioclast [????]

Lost in Karak (??), Somnii Palus (??), Rats Can Roll (??, EP)

Similar to Nurse with Wound.

[See Nurse With Wound]

Cravinkel [Germany]

Cravinkel (70), Garden of Loneliness (71)

I heard three tracks from Garden of Loneliness, featuring alternately male and female vocals. Hers are soul-blues inflected, while his are gruff and gravelly in the tradition of German rock. The first song was a cool 7/4 jam with prominent electric piano and gutsy female vocals. The second (the title song) was a typical German spacy hard rocker with raspy male vocals and lots of guitar and organ soloing, not unlike Bullfrog but made long before that. The last song was a bluesy ballad, remindling alternately of Janis Joplin and Gladys Knight. Fanatics of the genre like me might search this out, others need not apply. Members of this group later formed the synth-pop band Trio, of "Da Da Da" fame!. -- Mike Ohman

Crazy World of Arthur Brown, The [UK]
Updated 12/4/02

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (68)
Strange Lands (88, Recorded in 1969)
Order from Chaos (93)
Arthur Brown (Photo by David Montgomery)

This was one of Carl Palmer's first bands...I think he was 18 or so at the time. The only song I remember, "Fire" appeared on Empty-TV (regards to Joe Bob Briggs for that pun) and features Vincent Crane on keyboards. Pete Townsend covered the song recently. Not bad at all, especially with Roger Daltrey singing. The album is almost impossible to find ... I don't know anywhere other than a garage sale.

Most notable for his late 60's monsterpiece Crazy World of Arthur Brown, with it's bizarre vocals and heavy-handed Hammond, this album still sounds killer 25 years after the it's original release. He made one more album with Crazy World (that wasn't released until a few years ago), and then a lot of mediocre stuff after that.
The band had the smash hit "Fire" in early 1968 and became famous around the world. The single was taken from the only studio album the band ever did. The album is a true masterpiece. The A-side is a mini rock-opera with five tracks forming a story about a man fearing the hellfires (or something like that). This is IMHO the best LP-side ever in the history of music. It is filled with "evil" Hammond organ and superb drumming, and the lyrics are topnotch poetry. The B-side give us three very good original songs, a James Brown cover and the best version ever of Screaming Jay Hawkins´ "I put a spell on you".

The heavy organ is excellently played by the late Vincent Crane. The drums on the album are provided by Drachen Theaker, who later was replaced by Carl Palmer. Arthur was back then, and are still, one of rock music´s best and most powerful voices, and the album proves that. His vocal span is enormous, ranging from deep, quiet parts to sinister highpitch screams that will make your hair stand up on the back of your neck. Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden has on several occasions said that Arthur is his great inspiration and many consider Arthur as the founding father of heavy metal vocals (he outsings the likes of Dickinson, Dio and Halford). The live performances by the band were often remembered as wild shows with Arthur, the God of Hellfire, wearing a crown of flames and a painted demon-face (inspiring Alice Cooper, Larry Husband, King Diamond and Marilyn Manson).

"Strangelands" is a experimental jam session recorded in 1969, after Vincent and Palmer had left the band. It is in a more progressive vein and not soon after, Arthur formed the great progressive rockband Kingdom Come, which you definitely should check out. But first give the Crazy World album a chance. -- Tobias Broljung

[See Atomic Rooster | ELP | Kingdom Come (UK)]

Click here for Arthur Brown's web site

Creative Rock [Germany]

Gorilla (73), Lady Pig (74)

Jazzy Brain-label band. Probably like Altona?

Cressida [UK]

Cressida (70), Asylum (71)

This is a bit of an obscurity, but undeservedly so! Cressida were a progressive rock group from the early seventies, with a sound based around organ/piano/ Mellotron, similar to Beggars' Opera, and such groups. Asylum is the better of their two releases, and is sure to appeal to those who like the sound of that era. The compositions are very melodic, minor-chord based works, and, at times recall the early works of Fruupp and The Nice.

Cressida was one of several bands from the late '60s and very early '70s that were inspired by the Moody Blues. Similar bands include Fantasy, Salamander, Beggar's Opera, Cirkus, and Spring. The focus in on organ and guitar, often with a Mellotron backdrop. Flute is sprinkled throughout. Recommended for fans of any of the above groups but symphonic, fusion, or heavy-prog fans may want to audition first. Personally, I think it's good for what it is but I get enough of this style from the Moody Blues. Asylum is more developed than Cressida, adds some strings and horns as occasional sonic highlights, and is is generally more mature. Thus, if you're interested, Asylum is the recommended starter.

A worthwhile find from the early British scene. Asylum is the second Cressida album, released on thel legendary "swirl" Vertigo label around the same time as Gentle Giant's Acquiring The Taste and the first Jade Warrior album. Cressida vocalist Angus Cullen sings in a pleasing British folkie style, while keyboardist Peter Jennings organ and piano playing has an apparent jazzy slant. John Culley's electric guitar playing seems to be hanging on to the remnants of the sixties, but it doesn't date the music too awful much. The band's sound benefits a good deal from the orchestrations on several tracks, which make them sound much more progressive than they otherwise might have, especially on the climactic "Munich," my favourite song on this album. "Lisa" and the eleven-minute "Let Them Come When They Will" are other touchstone tracks, the rest of the album is adequate; not exceptional but harmless. "Goodbye Post Office Tower Goodbye" shows the band's sense of humour, and is probably a disgruntled postal-workers anthem. :-)

[See Black Widow]

Criollo, Agustin [Puerto Rico]
Updated 9/22/06

Iconoclasta (98, w/ F.J. Torres)
Oxomorfosis (01)
El Retorno del Sol de Nada (02)
Agustin Criollo

Agustin Criollo is a Puerto Rican (well, he started in Puerto Rico, moved to Chicago where he recorded El Retorno del Sol de Nada, but has now moved back to Puerto Rico) guitarist/synthesist/sound sculptor. He claims to not be a virtuoso musician; El Retorno del Sol de Nada isn't about complicated playing. But he sells himself a bit short here ... his playing is really pretty good, and the guitar work wanders the territory between Fripp's arpeggios in League of Gentlemen, Gilmourian blues, Hackettish acoustic strumming and even Lifesonian metal riffing against a backdrop of symphonic synths, drum machines, vocal chants, Frithian glass-sharp guitar overdubs (circa Gravity) and Tangerine Dream / Schulzeian noise swoops. A pretty nice combination of sounds.

El Retorno del Sol de Nada is mostly instrumental but a couple of songs have heavily processed lyrics in Spanish, and one cut has a spoken part in Spanish. Overall, this album could be categorized as either mellow prog or fairly strident new age depending on how judgemental you're feeling. I've heard a lot of music of this kind identified as "Ambient" of late, though this seems to me to be too demanding of your attention to be very "Ambient". An enjoyable listen, and recommended to those who like spacey sound experimentation with more than a little melodic content.

One other thing I found interesting: this CD is black. I mean BLACK. There's no silvered side, it's black on both sides. I was almost afraid to put it into my CD player; I thought I had mistakenly been sent a black piece of plastic. But then I remembered seeing some Playstation CD's that looked like this, and thought I'd shove it into the CD player anyway. It plays without any problems at all. Almost as interesting as The Residents' brown Mark of the Mole or white Eskimo vinyl albums. Nice touch, with the black 2001 monolith being featured on the cover of an album whose concept is about solar eclipses. -- Fred Trafton

[See Astrid Pröll]

Click here for Agustin Criollo's web site
Click here to read the review of El Retorno del Sol de Nada or here for Oxomorfosis on the Aural Innovations web site

Cro-Magnon [Belgium]

Zapp (92)

Belgian five piece featuring a lineup of dual violins, keyboards, alto and baritone saxes and bass, their basic sound could be likened to Art Zoyd meets Miriodor, they share much in common with both bands - The melodious sax- driven approach of Miriodor, and the drummerless chamber-music stylings of Zoyd. The keyboards seem to tie everything together into one cohesive whole. Truly a case where the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

Cross [Sweden]
Updated 7/1/06

Uncovered Heart (88)
Second Movement (90)
III - Changing Poison into Medicine (93)
Paradox (95, Mini-CD)
Gaze (96)
Dream Reality (97, Compilation)
Visionary Fools (98)
Secrets (00)
Playgrounds (04)
Boring Neo-prog mixed with commercial pop music. Not my cup of tea. But Mr. Hansi Cross himself is one of the driving forces behind The Swedish Art Rock Society Crimson. -- Gunnar Creutz
Click here for more information

Cross, David [UK]
Updated 4/20/01

Memos from Purgatory (89)
The Big Picture (92)
Testing to Destruction (94)
Exiles (98)
I only have Memos from Purgatory, which has a band of Cross' violin, saxophones, keyboards, bass and drums. Five of the tunes are written by Cross and three by keyboardist Sheila Maloney. Cross' tunes are interesting, although they tend to develop slowly and can sound half-written at times (there are long parts of "Meantime" and "The First Policeman" which are mostly bass and drums). My favorite piece is "Bizarre Bazaar," which runs through several riffs and a couple of solos in some weird Arabian/gypsy scale. Maloney's tunes aren't nearly as good, IMO; nothing much seems to happen in them (whereas with Cross' pieces there is usually a violent solo or some memorable noises every so often). Incidentally, they used a real drummer for the album, but from the sound of things they might as well have saved the money and used a drum machine instead; it would hardly have affected the sound of things at all. And no, it doesn't sound the least bit like Crimson. -- Michael Walpole
Cross played violin with King Crimson in 1973-74. His solo album Testing to Destruction shows lots of ideas lingering from those times: heavy guitar riffs, blazing violin solos, angular melodies, a singing bassist who sounds like a cross between Belew and Wetton and an overall tortured atmosphere. Half the songs are even more-or-less-structured improvisations recorded live (a'la Starless and Bible Black). On the other hand the keyboard player conjures up interesting digital backdrops and solos, lending a more modern feel to the music. The problem is just that many of the compositions are not really developed. Interesting vocal and instrumental ideas keep popping up, but they are rarely fully explored, instead the noisy solos usually take over; these are well-executed but start sounding repetitive after awhile. "Calamity", for example, has an infectious melody and very good dynamic shifts between restrained, tension-building vocal sections and explosions of rock power, but then the song dissolves into a sea of self-indulgent crashing 'n' bashing. The stand-out tracks are the those where the band deviate from the most obviously Crimsoid course. "Tripwire" is a lighter, neo-progish tune, almost poppy at times, but "Abo" is the album highlight: it opens with some ambient samples and abstract percussion, moving through a nice vocal section to an impressive instrumental blowout; here the pulsing bass line, repetitive riffing, gradually increasing intensity and finally the wordless falsetto vocals show definite zeuhl influence.

Exiles is a bit more diverse collection of songs, as the regular backing group is augmented by contributions from guest stars Robert Fripp, Peter Hammill, John Wetton and Peter Sinfield. Wetton sings on two tracks: the title song - a modernised (and inferior) remake of the Crimson classic - and the album's most accessible song "This Is Your Life", which has typically ironic lyrics by Sinfield; Fripp's guitar work is featured on three songs, the most interesting being the atmospheric "Duo" which finds Fripp and Cross alternating solos over Fripp's lush “Soundscapes” background; Hammill's vocals give some boost to the otherwise quite undistinguished rockers "Tonk" and "Troppo". The rest of the songs are again rather noisy and monotonous instrumentals in the previous album's style. The fact that Cross is still reworking the central riff from "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" on "Slippy Slide" shows he is in sore need of new ideas to explore. To be fair, I must say that neither of these albums is really bad, they just fall well short of spectacular. Testing to Destruction is a stronger album overall, but Exiles has individual moments that eclipse it. -- Kai Karmanheimo

[See Clearlight | King Crimson | Radius]

Click here for David Cross' web site

Crucible [USA]
Updated 1/21/02

Tall Tales (97)
Curtains (01)
Crucible - Chris Kasidas (Bass Guitar), Tim Horan (Piano, Organ, Acoustic Guitar and Flute), Bill Esposito (Vocals), Tony Cappellina (Drums/Percussion), Dan Esposito (Guitars)

A great band from Connecticut. On my first listen to Tall Tales, I thought "Wow, what a great Genesis clone band." However, after three or four subsequent listens, I realize this is entirely unfair. They definitely have a fair amount of Genesis influence, particularly in the Mellotron choirs and some of the synth solos. There's even some Steve Hackett-like guitar solos. But there's probably an equal amount of Jethro Tull influence, especially in the Hammond organ and flute parts, with some prog-metal leanings in some of the guitar parts, and some vocal harmonies reminiscent of pomp rockers Styx. The closing multi-part epic tune, "An Imp's Tale", is very Genesis-like, except for the vocals which remind me of Geddy Lee. All in all, they've really developed a great sound all their own with lots of references from familiar territory.

Curtains is their second CD and is a more mature album overall, in terms of sound quality, composition and even the cover art. The influences of their prog forbears remains strongly in evidence, particularly the Genesis style keyboards, but is probably even more varied than Tall Tales. I like the subject matter of their lyrics a lot on this album, too ... I especially like the very Genesis-like "Noble Rot" (the Hammond chording with vocal Mellotron chorus sound is right out of The Lamb, though melodically it's different), asking the question of why we would work so hard to extend the life of someone who's dying for just one more day (perhaps this is from the point of view of the dying person). Another goodie is "I'd Rather Walk", bemoaning the predicament modern technology has put us into ... now that we have it, we really can't live without it any more. Bill Esposito's vocals always seem to go well with the music, and I don't get tired of hearing him. This is one of those albums that seems to get better every time I listen to it.

They've played at Prog Day '98, NEARfest '99 and Baja Prog '99 to name just a few of their live performances. You owe it to yourself to check out the samples of their music on the Prog2K site (for Tall Tales) or their official web site (for Curtains, see links below) if you haven't heard them yet. These guys are among my favorites of bands that play the "retro '70's sound". Excellent and highly recommended for those who like symphonic prog. I haven't heard, but I hope they're working on a 3rd album! -- Fred Trafton

Hailing from Connecticut, Crucible play a masterful blend of 70's flavored Genesis mixed with Kansas/Styx mainstream prog sounds. The band's first CD Tall Tales is a very strong debut, filled with some excellent songs that are highlighted by the powerful vocals of Bill Esposito and the vintage keyboard sounds from Tim Horan. Fans of Hammond, Mellotron and Moogs have much to savor here, especially on the epic track "An Imp's Tale", which clocks in at twenty minutes.

The band really shows their maturation on their follow-up Curtains, which is a much more cohesive effort. The songwriting is even stronger, and the band has kicked up the complexity a notch to maybe help get away from the more neo-prog style of their debut. While some of the Genesis influence remains, guitarist Dan Esposito has a more upfront role, and exchanges intricate passages with Horan throughout. Songs like "The Swordplayer" and "A Man of Two Minds" are some of the strongest tunes the band has recorded. They even do a cover of Crack the Sky's "Nuclear Apathy" that more than rivals the original. Definitely a band on the rise. -- Peter Pardo

Click here for Crucible's old official web site (soon to be unsupported)
Click here for Crucible's new official web site
Click here for Crucible's Prog2K web page (with RealAudio samples)
Click here for Crucible photos from NEARfest 99

Cruciferius [France]

A Nice Way of Life (70)

Short-lived prog group that at one time counted Christian Vander and Bernard Paganotti among it's members, although Vander was in for only a very brief period of time. Paganotti was the vocalist/bassist, Francois Breant the keyboardist.

[See Breant, Francois | Ergo Sum | Magma | Nemo | Paga | Weidorje]

Crucis [Argentina]
Updated 6/1/08

Crucis (75)
Los Delirios Del Mariscal (76)
Kronologia (95, Crucis and Los Delirios Del Mariscal together on one CD)
Crucis - Gustavo Montesano (vocals, bass), Pino Marrone (guitar), Gonzalo Farrugia (drums), Anibal Kerpel (keyboards)

Monster Argentine prog band who put out two rare albums in the mid seventies. Both are musts. Crucis and Los Deliros Del Marsical Sound like Focus, Finch or Yes and are incredibly talented musicians.

Excellent band from South America somewhere. The sound is very elaborate and rich with influence, colorful and artful. Not derivative, at least to my ears. They have two CDs, unfortunately both were limited editions and seem to be out of print now. Good thing I got my pirated cassette.
I haven't heard it enough to go into detail, but I know I really like the album I have heard by them: Los Delirios del Mariscal. Fans of Finch, Focus, Yes and other bands with really murderistic guitar players will fall in love with this immediately. The keyboardist concentrates primarily on Hammond organ, and his stop-start playing brings to mind early Patrick Moraz. There are the odd spacy sections with soloing that somewhat resemble Carpe Diem or some Gong. All in all, this one gets my highest recommendations. -- Mike Ohman
Los Delirios regarded as one of the classics of South American progressive. It's a hard one for me to peg down style-wise. While listening I hear elements of Focus, Yes, and ELP. During heavier moments, they reminded me of Semiramis, while other times were clearly straight out of the early British rock/prog scene, such as Spring. In other words, they have a fairly unique sound that is closest to symphonic in style, overall. Great album.
What can I say? These guys are great. Killer fusion in the style of Focus and Finch, but unique enough to catch your interest and keep it for a long, long time. Los Delirios Del Mariscal, their second album, is a bit slower to get into than their self-titled first offering, but it has really grown on me in the last few months. Like I said in my review of their first, the drummer is utterly fantastic. Carl Palmer fans will appreciate his style. This release has got more serious jamming and soloing than the first, and even though the guitarist falls back on typical cliches it is well worth the money. Sad that they only put out two releases. These guys are one of the best.
This band is one of the greatest I have heard, the musicians are experts, very talented, especially the drummer (Gonzalo Farrugia) and the bassist and general composer (at least in their first album), Gustavo Montesano. I feel, hearing this band, a fair taste of Camel, principally in the drums, even the difference of colours and power. The base of this band is very much more powerful than Camel (doesn't mean better).

The first album (Crucis) is more of a rocker than the second (Los Delirios del Mariscal), but, in the second album, you will hear more solos and the precision and capacities of the players. Pay attention in the solos of bass and drums in the last song of the second album ("Abismo Terrenal"). -- Eduardo C. Melloni

A fan wrote in to let me know that Kronologia, which has both albums on one 69-minute CD, was released in 1995 on the Argentinian Record Runner label. I've tried to find a link for Record Runner, but I can't. They used to show up with a table at NEARFest every year, but I haven't seen them recently. I'll try to find out what happened to them and let you know. -- Fred Trafton
[See Merlin (Argentina) | Montesano, Gustavo]

Crusem, Thierry [France]
Updated 6/19/06

Les Couloir de L'Amer Étonnant (03)
Thierry Crusem (foreground) and his band

[Regarding Les Couloir de L'Amer Étonnant:] Well-intentioned but ultimately flat collection of semi-progressive French pop rock from odd character Thierry Crusem. They probably love this guy in Europe but with the intolerable moaning, mediocre rhythms and foreign lyrics, I couldn't wait for this disc to end. I challenge any progger (or even regular rock fan) to sit through this CD in its entirety. -- David Marshall

Click here for Thierry Crusem's web site
Click here to order Les Couloir de L'Amer Étonnant from Musea Records

Cry Freedom [Germany]

Volcano (76), Sunny Day (79), Nobody's Fool (80)

Rock w/light prog touches a la Karthago, Cherubin, etc.

Cry 3 [USA]

S/T (75)

Crystal Haze [USA]

S/T (77)

Symphonic prog.

Crystal Maze [Germany]
Updated 7/1/06

Waiting in the Spider's Web (87)
Forever (94)
Lost in a Crystal Maze (96)
German mid-80's band with a sound comparable to Grobschnitt's better moments, a harder progressive rock with lots of riveting lead guitar, moody stretches, abundant synth and Mellotron, with powerful melodics and dramatic intensity. The vocals (sometimes sung, occasionally spoken) are in English, but the word pronunciation is atrocious, and the lyrics are a little disjointed.
I've heard just the title track from Waiting in the Spider's Web. It was a pleasant mix of symphonic Genesis and melodic Camel. Some vocal harmonies were nice but the vocals were nothing spectacular. But they weren't annoying, either. For this one short song, the guitar was the main melodic instrument. -- Mike Taylor
Click here for more information on the Rockdetector web site

Cue [Netherlands]
Updated 1/21/11

Cue (08, CDR)
Five Steps to Happiness (10, 2CDR)

Cue is a Dutch band, who I might characterize more as "art-rock" than "prog". That's just because, at least for their second album, Five Steps to Happiness, the emphasis is on the lyrics and story of this concept/rock opera album more than trying to impress you with their instrumental prowess. There's some nice playing on here nonetheless, in a '70's "classic rock" mold, but the story is what this album is about.

It's the tale of an emo goth kid (he dresses in Victorian attire ...) who's a self-styled intellectual (... while studying to be a medieval historian), and is dark and depressed all the time. Then one day, he finds a "ticket" with the inscription "Five Steps to Happiness" on it. There are cryptic instructions on the ticket, but as he strolls through the cemetery he hangs out in, he decides it can't be for him, since he's "always so glum". As we're guided through the double CD, he goes on a modified "hero's journey" to discover what life is about by following the instructions on the ticket, to find the mystical land of Borkulo, and find true love along the way.

Trite? Naive? Overworked? OK, it's all of the above. But it's so charmingly done, it's hard to not be carried away by the youthful enthusiasm (and these band members all look VERY young) and optimism of these folks. The inclusion of both male and female vocals really helps this to be more of an opera than just a narrative, and the story resonates with things we hate about our own lives ("He's busy ... no time to think ... never any time ... there's always stuff to do ...").

So, for those who would like to try out a feelgood story and don't need to be too serious about their "prog", this album is very good theatrical art-rock. Clearly the output of inspired and talented amateurs (or at least young, starry-eyed newbies to the cutthroat world of music) rather than "pros", but that just adds to the charm. I actually like it that the CD cover of the promo I got was clearly created on someone's color printer and the CD's were hand-labelled CDR's. If you order the album from them, you'll get 2 CDR's with the CUE logo "lightscribed" on the top, not a pro-pressed CD. But for $US 12.50 for a 2CD release (that includes postage), a made-on-demand CDR is a good deal.

But I did get a nicely-printed ticket to Borkulo with the Five Steps ... now, which way should I go to find that forgotten Aunt?

As a final note, the band describes their debut album as "more progressive/fusion oriented", and it is still available as an on-demand lightscribed CDR. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Cue's web site
Click here for Cue's MySpace page
Click here to email Cue about ordering Five Steps to Happiness or their debut album

Cuixa [Spain]
Updated 7/1/06

Montgo (78)
The GEPR had previously listed a second album entitled O Els Cavallers ... (??). There is no other Cuixa album. Montgo's cover has the text, "... O Els Cavallers de la Quixa Rodone", which may have caused the misunderstanding. -- Kai Karmanheimo
Click here for more info
here for more info

Cul De Sac [USA]
Updated 9/29/06

ECIM (91)
I Don't Want to Go to Bed (95)
China Gate (96)
The Epiphany of Glenn Jones (97, w/ John Fahey)
Crashes to Light, Minutes to Its Fall (99)
Immortality Lessons (02)
Death of the Sun (03)
The Strangler's Wife (03)
Abhayamudra (04, 2CD, w/ Damo Suzuki)
Cul De Sac

Regarding ECIM:
This four-piece from Massachusetts offers a free-wheeling neo-psychedelic sound that finds itself at home somewhere between current bands bands like Porcupine Tree, and the experimental music of earlier times like Faust or Fifty Foot Hose - a swirling miasma of novel ideas delivered with unbridled urgency. Completely liberated from any convenient labels, the material (mostly written by guitarist Glenn Jones) delivers on a multitude of levels. Most of the tracks are instrumentally oriented, but when vocals are used (tracks like "Nico's Dream" or "The Invisible Worm" - the latter co-written by synthesist Robin Amos) they are never done straight, but always treated, always deranged somehow, whispered, or barely intelligible, which all adds to the pervasive mysterious quality of their music. Most of the songs are permeated with electronic tweedling, either at the surface or just below, but unlike bands like Ozrics, who employ similar techniques, Cul De Sac does so in a way that often seems completely irreverent, giving their music a jagged feel which adds an additional layer of subliminal interest. Even a cover of John Fahey's "Portland Cement Factory" begins fairly normally, but halfway through is ripped apart, scrambled and reworked with an industrial vengeance before coming back to the familiar finger-picked solo guitar style. Like Djam Karet, Cul De Sac's music eschews instant accessibility, taking the long road and growing on the listener over a period of time, but that grip grows stronger with each play. I'll recommend this one highly to anyone looking to approach from a more adventurous and experimental angle.

Click here for Cul De Sac's web site

Culpeper's Orchard [Denmark]

Culpeper's Orchard (71), Second Sight (72), All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go (73)

Culpeper's Orchard is a great Danish psych/rock group that put out two or three albums, of which this is the only one to make the transfer to CD, so far. The first time you listen to the opening strains of "Banjocul," you'll think, "What did I get myself into?" But then comes the opening chords of Mountain Music and you'll know you are in for one fun guitar jam for the entire album. Though definitely in the psych vein, Culpeper's Orchard isn't a rehash of the '66-'69 psychedelic bands or the "west-coast sound." Instead, the band takes intense electric jams that dissolve into beautiful folk-like acoustic arrangements and harmonized vocal melodies. Even the lead guitar is clean and jangling, eschewing the popular fuzz-tone of that era. The Orchard combine known styles with Danish-folk arrangements into an original style distinctly their own. Hendrikson's electric lead played over driving dual acoustic rhthym guitars never fails to get me out of my chair and bopping 'round the living room. His lead guitar style in "Gideon's Trap," "Your Song and Mine," and the two-part "Mountain Music" draws heavily upon Eric Clapton during EC's time with John Mayall and Cream. This is most obvious in "Mountain Music Part 2," where he plays many classic Clapton licks from the Bluesbreaker album in homage to Eric. Though drawing from Clapton, Hendrikson doesn't wear it on his sleave, having developed a unique style of his own. Don't look for outstanding technical ability or phenomenal musicianship because you won't find it here. Just expect some good solid psych 'n' roll and you'll be as happy as I am with this album. Highly recommended.

A completely different beast from the usual, this obscure Danish group produced a really underrated album in 1971 that should please those fans of innovative sixties acts. This album is amazingly stylistically diverse. Opening with a banjo/vocal ditty, you really have no idea what is going to happen next as Culpeper heads into a great rock flight like the best of the early Vertigos with Jack Bruce on vocals. Strong point of this group is the lead guitarist who's tone and emotion causes this group to really excel. As the album progresses you hear the Byrds, the Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, Procul Harum, Chocolate Watchband, 13th Floor Elevators, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, the list goes on. The way it all comes together is extremely powerful and in my opinion far better than much of those bands music. In truth this is like an amazing tour into the late sixties and early seventies by a simply excellent band.

Culto Sin Nombre [Mexico]
Updated 5/18/01

Halasgos Nervosos (98)
CSN is actually new project of bassoonist Juan Carlos Ruiz, who was responsible for a band named Nazca and was also in Decibel, when participation was the most necessary. It sounds to me that Mexican musicians have listened to Univers Zero a bit too much. Like myself. Ooopss! Well, it looks like they (UZ) have taken our souls with them. Uncle Bela would be proud of 'em. And perhaps even of us! -- Nenad Kobal
[See Decibel | Nazca]

Cultural Noise [Austria]

Aphorisms Insane (80)

Experimental guitar/synth/Mellotron prog.

Curlew [USA]
Updated 4/20/01

Curlew (81)
North America (85)
Live in Berlin (88, Live)
Bee (91)
A Beautiful Western Saddle (93)
Paradise (96)
Fabulous Drop (98)
Curlew (Fabulous Drop line-up) - Davey Williams, Chris Cochrane, Kenny Wollesen, Ann Rupel, George Cartwright

Obnoxious and lame New York band that are too close to punk for me. Why Cuneiform released this is beyond me. I don't know anyone who likes this.

Dissonant and cacaphonic experimental Jazz group featuring Tom Cora on cello and George Cartwright on saxes, with guitar, keyboards and drums. Excellent stuff if you can handle this type of music, Live in Berlin is a good place to get your feet wet.
All of their recordings feature saxophonist George Cartwright and cellist Tom Cora, others present on various releases include multi-instrumentalist Fred Frith, guitarists Nicky Skopelitis and Davey Williams, drummer Pippin Barnett, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz and bassist Ann Rupel (among others). Frankly, I'm dismayed by the opinions of the little old ladies who wrote the preceding remarks about this fine band. Maybe they want more Mellotron, and more vocals with lyrics about warlocks and wizards... who knows? I can accept that Curlew is not "progressive" in the Yes/Genesis/Marillion vein, but that's no reason to spout baseless invective! I beg you, the reader, to ignore those conservative twits and listen to me. Curlew is one of the truly great bands in existence today. In a nutshell, Curlew is more about adventures in sound, jazz-based improvisation and bold musical ideas than it is about being neat, pretty and derivative. Their sound is complex, shifting and original. My ears detect a wide variety of influences (Zappa/Beefheart, Ornette Coleman, Stockhausen, Slavic/Greek/Balkan ethnic music, Funk, noise, etc.) which have been blended, mutated and stretched to the breaking point. Their first release has rather twisted fusion sound, but is much more straightforward than the next several releases, some of which can really get out there! Their fifth recording, A Beautiful Western Saddle, is a real departure in that it de-emphasizes improvisation, and instead features a vocalist (Amy Denio) who sings over more "traditional" song-like compositions. Lyrics are by the great Paul Haines (...who did Escalator Over The Hill with Carla Bley in the early '70s). Despite the radical stylistic departure, A Beautiful Western Saddle is an utterly convincing musical statement, and is perhaps the best place for the uninitated prog-rock fan to find his (or her) way into Curlew's sound-world. -- Dave Wayne
Modern avant-garde progressive fusion band from New York with a few CDs out. Bee is a 70-minute 1991 recording of mostly instrumentals (the one vocal a cover of Jack Bruce's "As You Said"). This is a quintet: bass, drums, sax, guitar, and *cello*. Production values are iffy at times, the low end being a tad muddy, but this ensemble can whomp, buzz and saw with the best of them; moreover, their use of space and breath in the music makes up for whatever might be lacking in the engineering department. The music is gritty and even bizarre at times, but Curlew is not quite as intense as Mahavishnu Orchestra or Crimson (though the use of cello brings those bands' violin-enhanced textures readily to mind). They frequently flirt with atonal jazz, even more so than Brand X, but do not let Ornette Coleman rule their lives. (In any case, all of the soloists are quite accomplished.) Bee is an excellent albeit offbeat work for those who appreciate Crimson, Mahavishnu, etc. and are looking for something more recent/modern in the genre.
I wonder what the guy who thinks this is "dissonant and cacophonic" would think of John Zorn's more extreme records. I always thought Curlew was relatively accessible, playing tuneful material, albeit with some fairly raucous soloing. Interesting to hear Tom Cora make a cello work in a loud electric band, too. For those looking for well-known names, Bill Laswell played bass on Curlew; Fred Frith is the bassist on North America. Unlike their other records which are all (or almost all) instrumental, A Beautiful Western Saddle is a vocal record, with guest Amy Denio singing settings of words by poet Paul Haines, who provided the words for Carla Bley's landmark Escalator Over the Hill back in the late 60's. -- Dan Kurdilla
[See Cartwright, George | Orthotonics]

Click here for Curlew's web page on the Cuneiform web site

Current 93 [UK]
Updated 5/2/01

Lashtal (83)
Nature Unveiled (84)
Dog's Blood Rising (84)
In Menstrual Night (84)
Live at Bar Maldorer (86)
Dawn (87)
Imperium (87)
Swastikas for Noddy (87)
Earth Covers Earth (88)
Christ and the Pale Queens (88)
As the World Disappears (90)
Looney Ruins (91)
Thunder Perfect Mind (92)*
Hitler As Kalki (93)
Lucifer Over London(93)
Of Rune and Some Blazing Starre (94)
Where the Long Shadows Fall (95)
All the Pretty Little Horses (96)
The Starres are Marching Sadly Home (96)
Dogs Blood Order (97)
I Have A Special Plan for This World (99)

* A "sister album" was released by Nurse With Wound under the same name at the same time, which has little in common musically with C93's version apart from the title and some common sounds.

Absolutely demented band whose sound ranges from wild noisy experimental music to psycho death folk, to strange soundscapes of electronics and voices and mutant covers of songs like Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" (kind of like YBO's version of that tune plus "Bedlam Boys" on Alienation; contrast it to Tempest's version of Serrated Edge... eep!). Unpredictable as hell, and not for the easily offended. Like the genre description in the beginning of the survey says; can be wonderful or horrible depending on what you listen to... Earth Covers Earth is very acoustic and folky (relative to their overall output), while Dog's Blood Rising will induce nightmares for weeks. David Tibet, the "group"s leader is heavily into eerie processed voices and some bizarre subject matter ranging from Chaos Magick to occultism, the Third Reich and Eastern mysticism. Stress is on experimentation not musical prowess. In other words, this is not for symphonic fans. Probably harder to get into than zeuhl, Zappa and Canterbury but just as fun.
The early C93 albums (Nature Unveiled, Dogs Blood Rising, and Live at Bar Maldorer) use mysticism, a slurry of electronics, sampled Gregorian chants, and David Tibet's unique voice (shrieking, chanting, often sounding demonically possessed) to create the perfect soundtracks for Halloween. Of the three, Dog's Blood Rising is the scariest, most jarring and fully realized version of C93 of this period. Definitely not easy listening, pieces like "Fields of Rape" are unforgettable in their depiction of war carnage.

C93 then shifted towards Celtic folk music, with acoustic guitars and a much softer sound for many of their subsequent releases, with the electronics kept in the background. Tibet's hallucinogenic lyrics, invoking doom and despair, need the right backing, and on albums like Imperium and Swastikas for Noddy the music doesn't hold up, the guitar strum becomes too repetitive and boring. Island is almost a pop record, and also doesn't succeed on a whole, though there are some good tracks on it. Dawn and the live Loony Runes come closer in sound to early C93, heavy on industrial electronics, noisy and abrasive. Of Rune on Some Bloody Starre and Where the Long Shadows incorporate the folk and electronic elements much better, and the instrumentation is more interesting. Of Rune consists of many short tracks that blend into each other, with Tibet's descriptive vocals never letting up, whereas the latter album consists of a one long haunting track. Lucifer Over London is also recommended -- the title track rocks more than most C93 without sounding like anything else, and the 17 minute closing track starts quietly and builds up in intensity with Tibet's nightmarish religious vision. Tibet also contributes vocals on several Death in June albums. -- Rolf Semprebon

[See Nurse With Wound | Stapleton, Steven]

Click here for Current 93's official web site

Curtain, The [Sweden]
Updated 5/24/05

New Sound Made (04)
The Curtain - Johan Carlsson (drums), Oscar Olsson (bass), Stefan Juhlin (vocals), Daniel Carlsson (guitar), Jan Mårtensson (drums)

To be honest, I can't say that The Curtain's style of music is my favorite. Their sound is heavily influenced by "alternative" or alt-metal bands popular with angst-ridden modern teenagers, all guitar and bass with vocals in the forefront. They have two drummers. Still, it's hard to not call them progressive, with influences from Primus and modern King Crimson, and perhaps the least angry and noisy Tool. They also sometimes bring to mind their countrymen Valinor's Tree as well. They cite as influences Peter Gabriel and Björk, which I can certainly see from the Art Rock and impeccable studio work aspect of the songs. There are indeed some very cool studio "tricks" that even make an old symphonic prog dinosaur like myself take notice.

For my ears, jaded by too many years of total musical chaos like Henry Cow, the tripped-out aural hallucinations of Gong, the bombastic histrionics of ELP or the classical gymnastics of Gentle Giant, The Curtain sounds a little too ... uhm ... normal. But, I also think that many listeners to more mainstram alternative bands would find them to be quite "out there" and experimental, and agree that on this album they have indeed a New Sound Made. So, depending on where you're coming from musically, you'll either find The Curtain to be new and exciting or not quite up your alley. But either way, they are certainly following their own muses and trying to do something they can call their own. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for The Curtain's web site

Curved Air [UK]

Air Conditioning (70), Second Album (71), Phantasmagoria (72), Air Cut (73), Lovechild (74), Live (75), Midnight Wire (75), Airborne (76), Live at the BBC (95)

Many a British prog band cut their mould from these pioneers, using synth, electric violin and female vocals in a way never tried before. The first album is one of the most adventurous of 1970, and while not all of the music has aged well, enough of it has to make it still interesting today. Most well-known from this album is probably "Vivaldi," a clever knockoff of the composer alluded to in the title featuring hot violin flashes from Darryl Way. Keyboardist/ guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Francis Monkman shines on the lovely "Situations," which features bell-like electronically altered guitar sounds. And then there's the voice of Sonja-Kristina Linwood, one of the best female vocalists, at least to these ears. Not only does she perform sweetly pretty ballads as "Situations" and "Screw," but can also rock with the best of them, something you can't say about Annie Haslam. The second album hit pay dirt with the hit single "Back Street Luv," and also introduced full-force synth into their sound on the 12-minute epic "Piece Of Mind." As before, not all the music here has dated well, but "Piece Of Mind," "Puppets" and "Young Mother" make it well worth the effort. Phantasmagoria found them fully ensconced in the progressive world, "Marie Antoinette" and the soaring beauty of "Over And Above" being two of the finest examples. A couple of tracks ("Not Quite The Same" and "Once A Ghost Always A Ghost") display a wry sense of humour. Several others essay folk and neo-classical styles, as the pretty "Melinda (More or Less)" which tries both. Also of note is the weird experimental music of "Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway?" which uses a computer to analyze and distort Sonja-Kristina's voice and make bizarre electronic music out of it. Amazingly, given the stylistic diversity of what's here, it hangs together marvelously. Their undisputed best. Air Cut was made after a drastic lineup shift, with only Linwood and bassist/backing vocalist Mike Wedgwood remaining from the previous band. Linwood incorporated some young prodigies in her new band, 17-year-old Kirby on electric guitar, and a certain 16-year-old named Eddie Jobson on keyboards and electric violin. The 10-minute epic "Metamorphosis", co-written by Jobson and featuring some of his finest keyboard playing, is the reason to own this one. "Armin" spotlights his violin playing and is likewise excellent. Nothing else takes your breath away like those two songs do, the rest of the songs resemble Caravan in their less inspired moments, but with harder-rock guitar. Still, any album with "Metamorphosis" on it is well worth owning. Lovechild is an mini-album of music recorded just after Air Cut with the same lineup, but not released until 1990. A quick listen will soon display why it stayed on a shelf all those years, it isn't very good. Two subsequent albums: Midnight Wire and Airborne reunite Linwood and Way, and are supposed to be better. -- Mike Ohman

Vaguely prog band from England who was responsible for unleashing monster violinist Darryl Way into the world who would go onto form Wolf with future Marillion drummer Ian Mosley, future Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge, and future Caravan bassist Dek Messecar. Actually these guys unleashed two monster violinists, because I must NOT forget virtuoso Eddy Jobson. Try any of the first five.

Sort of a progressive Jefferson Airplane. This group is pretty eccentric w/ vocalist Sonja Kristina. Francis Monkman, Darryl Way, Eddie Jobson, and Stewart Copeland all started out in Curved Air. Lots of hot Violin and proto- synth stuff. First three (Air Conditioning, Second Album, Phantasmagoria) and last two (Midnight Wire, Airborne) are the best, all include prog + non-progressive and experimental stuff as well, but still very worthwhile, incredibly original and unique. The mid period albums (Air Cut, Lovechild, and Live) are a little spotty, but even these have their moments.

Featured the warbling of Sonja Kristina, the violin of Daryl Way, and the multi-instrumental talents of Francis Monkman. Eddie Jobson was a later member. True "art rock," they could range from being wildy experimental to just plain weird, but I think they avoided sounding like many of their contemporaries. Given the fascinating talent in the band, there is much worth listening to. Recommended: Second Album and Phantasmagoria.

Curved Air is a well respected UK band featuring several luminaries of the Progressive scene, including Francis Monkman and Darryl Way. I had heard a single track (title unknown) from an early album that was excellent (as their early albums are reputed to be). However, I unfortunately picked up Live first. There are a few nice moments but for the most part, the playing is very uninspired. I suggest you look elsewhere (try any of the first three) but stay away from Live.

On Air Cut this great British art rock band moves around among a variety of styles, from Fairport Convention-style folk ("Elfin Boy") to Jefferson Airplane-style psychedelic rock ("Easy") to more straightforward hard rock that occupies a middle place between prime-era Renaissance and early David Bowie. Not aggressively progressive, but those with open ears will find much rewarding stuff here. Eddie Jobson's keyboard work is particularly sharp. -- Doug Bassett

[See Caravan | Copeland, Stewart | 801 | Gong, Pierre Moerlen's | Jobson, Eddie | Kristina, Sonja | Monkman, Francis | Way, Darryl | Wolf, Darryl Way's]

Cyan [UK]
Updated 8/3/02

For King and Country (93)
Pictures From The Other Side (94)
Remastered (97, Compilation)
The Creeping Vine (99)
Echoes (99, Compilation)
Cyan's Rob Reed. That's Magenta's vocalist Christina Murphy in the back, who also sings backing vocals for Cyan.

Cyan's story is a complicated one, and you can get the full story at the F2 Music web site, but I'll try to summarize it here.

Around 1984, Cyan was a band of school chums who got together to form a progressive rock band, "wanting to be Genesis". These were Carl Smith (guitar), David Miles (drums), Steve Reed (vocals), Paul Williams (bass) and Rob Reed (keyboards). However, this line-up was to split up after a few gigs and a demo release. It wasn't until 1993 that Rob Reed re-recorded some of the material on the Cyan demo and some new material for the first Cyan release, For King and Country on the SI label. This is essentially a Rob Reed solo album, in spite of the name. He plays all instruments and sings, and the drums are handled by a drum machine.

During the recording of Pictures From The Other Side, Rob met Nigel Voyle, who was to become the voice of Cyan for subsequent releases. However, after the release of this album, their label SI records went out of business, leaving Cyan (and many other bands) without a label. The Cyan biography states that, at this point, Rob was signed to Festival Records, which was later to become F2 Music, but as near as I can tell, Reed took over F2 Music as his own personal label. He either plays on or produces (or both) just about every release on the label. That's not a bad thing ... Reed is an excellent producer, keyboardist and songwriter, so his influence is to the benefit of all the F2 artists, though it does make all their albums have a certain similarity in their sound.

At any rate, Cyan's first release with F2 was Remastered, a re-release of what Reed considered to be the best material from For King and Country and Pictures From The Other Side. These cuts have been remastered, reworked or completely re-recorded for this release, so they are not the same as the originals, but have been improved. Not having heard the originals, I can only comment on the versions from Remastered, which are quite good. The keyboards and production are excellent, while the guitar and bass work are merely good, all of which are played by Reed. The drumming is handled by drum machines, and the computer-perfect precision and cymbal sample size limits are noticeable, but the programming is ornate enough that you don't get that "80's dance music" feel from them; only occasionally do they become annoyingly mechanical. Reed sings for the For King and Country material, but the lead vocal switches to Nigel Voyle on the Pictures ... cuts, helped by Christina Murphy (later of Magenta) doing backing vocals. Reed's vocals aren't bad, but Voyle's stylistic range is broader and he doesn't sound like he's working as hard as Reed. Musically, the album sounds a lot like Genesis circa Trick of the Tail or Wind and Wuthering, though with '90's production quality. Reed uses vintage keyboards (or reasonable-sounding modern facsimiles of them), so the sound is quite retro '70's, though of the "bright and sunny" Yes persuasion rather than dark and sinister.

The Creeping Vine is the third regular album release under the Cyan moniker, and once again is mostly Rob Reed playing all the instruments and Nigel Voyle singing. Steve Reed (Rob's brother and original Cyan vocalist?) wrote the lyrics for several of the songs. On this album, however, Tim Robinson (The Fyreworks, Magenta, The Othello Syndrome) plays real drums, eliminating my main complaint about Remastered. The music on this album is even more along the lines of Yes, though there's still a lot of Banksian keyboard work that reminds of Genesis, particularly the synth solos. Reed's guitar work has improved noticeably since the Remastered work, or perhaps it's just that this music was composed to play to his strengths rather than another guitarist's. A very good album ... this won't set the prog world on fire, but it's at least competent with some moments of brilliance here and there. Overall, the musical styles vary more than on the older material, making The Creeping Vine easily the most diverse and interesting of all the Cyan releases. I especially like the celtic feel of "Gwenan", where the mixture of pipes and electric guitars give an amazing impression of bagpipes, and later features real bagpipes (or is that a synthesizer patch?). Never anything really complex nor even remotely difficult to listen to, it is nonetheless melodic and catchy and completely non-commercial. There's even a brief, tongue-in-cheek flirtation with rap in "I Will Show You Life". Pendragon fans may be interested to know that Nick Barrett plays a guitar solo on one cut, and is said to be a fan of Cyan since the SI Music days.

The last Cyan album, released the same year as The Creeping Vine, is Echoes, which completes the re-release of the songs from For King and Country and Pictures From The Other Side. In addition, it also releases two cuts recorded for The Creeping Vine that didn't make it to that album. The personnel descriptions are the same as Remastered, though the remixes and reworkings for this album are arguably of a bit higher quality than Remastered.

All of the Cyan albums are easily recommendable for fans of the alleged "neo-prog" genre, i.e. relatively simple song structures but with prog production, guitar and synthesizer solos, and interesting lyrical content. If you like Cyan, you should definitely check out Magenta, which is really just Cyan in a different color (it's pretty clear this is an intentional bit of humor), but with Christina Murphy replacing Nigel Voyle while the other players remain the same. -- Fred Trafton

[See Fyreworks, The | Magenta | Othello Syndrome, The | Pendragon]

Click here for F2 Music's web site with info on Cyan and all the related bands

Cybotron [Australia]
Updated 1/12/05

Cybotron (76)
Sunday Night at the Total Theatre (77, Live bootleg)
Colossus (78)
Implosion (80)
Electronic/space/prog music, has been compared to Heldon. Don't confuse with American band w/same name, who released Enter.

Cymoryl [France]
Updated 6/20/04

Strange Evocation (02)
Cymoryl - Frédérik Allegre (keyboards), Marc Santiago (drums), Jean-Christophe Panza (guitars), Alain Puget (Vocals) and Renaud Boyer (Bass)

To tell the truth, prog-metal isn't usually my cup of tea, though there are a few bands of this genre that I like. Cymoryl's debut release (aside from a 2001 demo) Strange Evocation has many of the standard prog-metal mannerisms, including chugging guitar chords, machine-gun double-bass drums and a vocalist from the Geoff Mann/James LaBrie school of heavy-vibrato high-pitched metal screaming. There's plenty of power here to satisfy the most jaded prog-metal fan ... but this album also has a lot more. It has moments of wonderful keyboards and backs off from the high-energy power chords long enough to supply an old-school prog fan like me with some melody and harmony as an occasional respite from the stress levels. There's also some 80's hair metal/pomp styling here and there as well, making this album varied and interesting. Strange Evocation is one of those rare albums that I can recommend to both prog-metal and symphonic prog fans who don't mind a foray into heavier waters. An excellent album. And (please take this as a compliment, guys), they don't sound at all French! -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Cymoryl's web site.
Click here for Musea Records' web site.

Cynic [USA]
Updated 12/4/07

Focus (93)
Focus is the best, the fieriest, the most energetic, the most intense fusion album ever made. And one of the most complex, if not the most complex. How do I dare to say that? Well, I simply dare. Why? Continue with reading. Although drawing its roots from one of the most agressive metal subgenres, this band has managed to accomplish one of the most original progressive creations ever recorded. The technical skill of the musicians involved (two guitars/guitar synths + vocals, bass/chapman stick, drums/electronic drums) is extremely high and they were not afraid to show it. What surprises even more, they also possess an immense quantity of feeling when playing their monster, hyperfast chops. Musicianship is so good, that could be called natural-born supergroup. They handle their instruments with incredible ease. Until today I didn't heard better drummer like Sean Reinert is, and Paul Masvidal is still my favourite guitarist. The band cited Vinnie Cotaiuta and Allan Holdsworth as their influences, but as they all studied on colleges and academies they came in touch with contemporary music and other genres as well.

Musically, not really in the sharp, "extreme-fusion" mould, they are what Watch Tower could have been. Listening to the aerial aspects of the music, I trace some leanings toward ambiental (album is really atmospheric), religious (Hindu) music (strong psychedelic feel), and also chamber music. Very close to definition or even properly defined "Dead Can Dance playing fieriest jazz-fusion" we quickly arrive closely to Gentle Giant. Or maybe Mahavishnu Orchestra on a new, high-energy level. One can hear a lot of polyrhythmics and contrarhythms. Sonances and dissonances, often in counterpoint, are neatly intervowen. Yes, there is a lot to listen to here, but everything is played so fast that it will just whizz past you, if you won't listen very carefully to it. Eight tracks on Focus are well balanced between powerful and quieter passages. All are superbly arranged. Album starts with vivacious "Veil of Maya", continues with more aerial/etherial "Celestial Voyage" and "The Eagle Nature" and then with raga-inspired "Sentiment". "I'm but a Wave To" is fantastically giddy festival of complexity. "Uroboric Forms" appoint listener to slightly sharper, earlier period of band's history. Concerning that period, I hope that their earlier demos will be released on CD. "Textures" is astounding instrumental, intense angel-like dance on the fretboards and skins, while the closer "How Could I" is a high point of complex ethereality. Prog purists could have problems with vocals, which are not as harsh and aggressive as one may think, but sound, well, quite strange for uninitiated. Also heard can be female/male mini-choir, which empowers the aerial/atmospheric component of the album. I must emphasize that, in fact, this was a band who has fueled my enthusiasm for progressive and different sounds (other fusion also, but was somewhat disappointed when I ventured into it, for my opinion all bands pale in comparison with Cynic, albeit I'm aware of the fact my venture was retrograde). But don't think I got used to them upon one night. It took me quite a time that I started really enjoying their music and unveil everything (well, almost everything). How many listenings? I don't remember. As truly gifted, members of Cynic have also played and recorded for other bands. So have Masvidal and Reinert played with Death, the results was Human, another major progressive/innovative work in metal. Tony Choy (bass; went out before Focus was recorded) have been involved in third, bizarre yet great recording Testimony of the Ancients, of Dutch band Pestilence (another highly innovative metal band) and later joined Atheist (another high-tech metal band), Jason Gobel went to found Portal (with Paul Masvidal) and Sean Malone (had replaced Choy on bass) has helped various different artists and still does. After split of the band various projects had been spawned of which Gordian Knot is the only working today. So, give these guys a chance and try to delve deep into their sound. You will not be sorry. Essential!!!!! -- Nenad Kobal

There is no doubt this is a group of fine musicians with an ambitious vision and a creative, contemporary style. The sound comprises many layers of lush color and intricate, building textures of guitar, keys and vocals. Unfortunately for these boys, being a rockin' band does not mean you're making quality music. A lot is not a substitute for good, and a neo-psychedelic cover doesn't hide a lack of interesting rhythms and melodies. And what really annoyed me about this CD is the singers' desperate need to talk about himself -- almost every cut is about "me". A band that seems to want to convince you how good they are, Cynic's creative swagger only bores, or worse, infuriates when one realizes what a waste this good looking and well-produced record really was. -- David Marshall
[See Aghora | Atheist | Death | Ever | Gordian Knot | Malone, Sean | Pestilence | Portal | Spiral Architect]

Click here for Cynic's web site

Czar [UK]
Updated 8/24/03

Tread Softly On My Dreams (70)
Czar (70, 1995 reissue on CD of above w/ bonus tracks)
Very pleasant and rather easy to listen to album. In '95 reissued on CD with two bonus tracks "Oh Lord I'm Getting Heavy" and "Why Don't We Be A Rock'n'roll Band". Album contains keyboard dominated prog rock a bit similar to King Crimson. With line-up: Bob Hodges - keyboards, Mick Ware - guitar, vocals, Paul Kendrick and Del Gough - drums they recorded very competent album, all in a bit melancholy mood. Most of tracks have tuneful lines, lots of Mellotron and not too strong guitars. At their best are opening and closing cuts "Tread Softly On My Dreams" and "A Day In September". Personally I like "Cecelia" with some melodramatic instrumentation and contrasted with it sentimental ballad "Today". Bonus tracks are not as good as the rest of the album. Interesting is the covers mostly in red with the head wearing the crown of Russian czars. Nothing more is known what the personnel did after the band split. -- Ryszard Ryzlak
Regarding Czar re-release:
There seems to have been a near-endless supply of early-progressive rock bands like Czar hopping around in Britain both sides of the sixties/seventies borderline, bands that pitted electric guitar against organ and occasional Mellotron, hoary blues-based rock riffs against rudimentary classical licks recalled from piano lessons or the family record collection, in an effort to stretch the rock idiom beyond the three-chords, four-square-beat boundaries. Czar's sole effort is not the most glorious of this lot, as the band lack the depth and skills that the best bands had.

Most of these songs are drawn-out but structurally pretty ordinary rock tunes where thudding drums splash in muddy puddles of scratchy guitar riffs under a clear blue Mellotron sky. It is the beauty of the Mellotron work that often makes the difference, e.g. the gothic main riff of "Tread Softly on My Dreams" which stands in stark contrast to the vocal hooks that are leftovers from second-division sixties pop. "Cecelia" features a nice if predictable swathe of acoustic guitar and harpsichord, but is ruined by a turgid guitar solo backed by monotonously grungy riffing. Overplaying their hand with weak cards is Czar's basic failing, worst example being the psychedelic organ work of "A Day in September", which cycles through cliches with minimum authority and even manages to squeeze in that requisite circus motif before the fade-out. It is not hopeless, but other bands were turning out much better product out of the same basic material at the time, and I suggest trying some of them before delving into this Siberian basement to discover Czar's musical legacy. Basement may be just the place, in fact, because the only CD edition I have seen is a vinyl-to-CD job and apparently a bootleg to boot, though it does feature the band's two singles-only tracks as a bonus. -- Kai Karmanheimo

Cziglán, István [Hungary]
Updated 11/23/01

Alhambra Kapui - Seven Gates of Alhambra (99)
Guitarist István Cziglán was a founding member of Solaris and its pop-alter ego, Napeoleon Boulevard. Like his bandmate Attila Kollár, he began working on a solo album in the late 1990's, but unfortunately death claimed him in 1998, leaving the work unfinished. Alhambra Kapui is his posthumous solo album, completed and released by his friends and colleagues in Solaris.

Whether it was intentional or result of the album's troubled birth, the instrumentation is often pretty sparse and centres on synthesizers, with Cziglán's main instrument being often completely absent (and even when it appears lot of the guitar work seems to have been done by others). This is not to say that interesting things don't come out of this, because they do. The title track is a gorgeous pseudo-classical piece of slightly downcast Romanticism built over stylish contrapuntal lines from a fretless bass and a twanging, guitar-like synthesizer, with prominent use of Spanish-influenced melodies and Arabic scales, and a frugal but all the more effective arrangement of synthesized orchestral tones. Non-Anglo-American influences are most obvious on the 17-minute "Personal Gravity", which throws in Gregorian chanting, flamenco guitar, Tibetan male vocal samples (which remind me of Christopher Franke's Celestine Prophecy because they obviously come from the same sample collection) and wordless female vocals (no lyrics on this album) to create a kind of cut-and-paste-ethnic effect favoured by third-grade New Age musicians, but Cziglán's music is melodically and compositionally much too refined to fall into this category. "Personal Gravity" suffers mainly from a sprawling, disjointed structure and occasional austerity in instrumentation, but it gathers itself for the climax with guitar, flute, heavy drums and steely keyboards conjuring up an atmosphere similar to Solaris' "Book of Prophecies" suite. "April" is the album's highlight, riding on a rhapsodical melody that is fired up by the guitar and reheated by a processed female voice, with Attila Kollár's flute winging its flight.

The rest of the album is more of a mixed bag, however. "Bangkok"'s rhythm section is modelled after dance-oriented electronica, while the lead synthesizer work hints at 1980's Jean-Michel Jarre. The pulsing "Tango Tango" is like a hybrid of early-1980's Tangerine Dream and Antarctica-era Vangelis, but its icy melody is let down by a skeletal sequencer arrangement. "Old Lady with Cat" is a quiet synthesizer waltz, almost cinematic and quite sentimental in a Romantic classical fashion. "Swan Song" is less nostalgic but even more moody, its simple guitar melody echoing with cautious hope across the dark, aquatic soundscape.

Not really a rock album, even if elements of rock are used (the only real rock moment is the bonus track "For Beginners ...", which sounds like a parody of stadium rock and techno cliches), Alhambra Kapui is an uneven but interesting work that is only let down by the feeling that it could have been so much better if only its author could have completed his work. Unlike Kollár's Musical Witchcraft, it is not a Solaris album by any other name, but there is enough of that style to make it worthwhile for Solaris fans. Fans of moody electronic music might also find some of this to their taste. -- Kai Karmanheimo

[See Kollár, Attila | Solaris]

Czukay, Holger [Germany]
Updated 1/3/01

Canaxis (68)
Full Circle (80)
Movies (80)
On The Way To The Peak Of Normal (82)
Snake Charmer (82)
Der Osten Ist Rot (84)
Rome Remains Rome (87)
Plight And Premonition (88, w/ David Sylvian)
Flux And Mutability (89, w/ David Sylvian)
Radio Wave Surfer (91)
Moving Pictures (93)
Clash with Dr. Walker (98)
Good Morning Story (99)
La Luna (00)
Plight and Premonition is a great ambient album in the same vein as Eno's ambient stuff albeit a little darker. Recommended.
Of the various members of Can, Holger Czukay has been the most prolific and creative outside of the group. Recorded about the time Can was formed, in 1968, Canaxis contains bass and electronics overdubbed onto two long tracks of Vietnamese ethnic music. Somewhat ambient, haunting music, this record was way ahead of its time, and is recommended for anyone into strange music.

The post-Can material explores further the use of sound, employing world rhythms without sounding like world beat. Sampling everything from Iranian pop songs (on Movies) to the Pope (on Rome Remains Rome), combined with Czukay's bass and french horn, and many other musicians (often including the other members of Can as well as Jah Wobble) Czukay's early albums are upbeat and humorous. On the Peak of Being Normal is the high point - Czukay's subtle manipulation of the music on tape gives it an extraordinary quality. Radio Wave Surfer suffers from too many short pieces that never attain the right groove. Moving Pictures is mellower in sound (though nowhere as ambient as Plight & Premonition) and is rich in sonic textures, and then just when you think Czukay's getting too old to rock out he comes out with Clash with Dr Walker, a live two CD release of industrial hip hop. Good Morning Story is the best of his more recent material. On three of the tracks Czukay samples some old Can tracks an adds additional instruments and voices on them. Also on this release is the 20-minute "Mirage" with it's Arabian music samples. Drones, wails, chants, pipes and other sounds create music that is both stark and hallucinatory. La Luna consists of one 47-minute track of electronic trance music performed live by Czukay and U-She.

Of the albums Czukay has made with Jah Wobble, Full Circle is heartily recommended for it's punchy upbeat shorter pieces employing more of Czukay's electronic manipulation and atmospheric longer pieces, whereas the weaker Snake Charmer, with several other musicians thrown into the stew, is too smooth and glossy for my taste, though not a complete loss. -- Rolf Semprebon

[See Can]

Click here for Holger Czukay's web site
Click here for an interview with Holger Czukay