A PAUSE FOR QUIET REFLECTION
Jerry Ewing ponders the emotion behind so much progressive music.
So there I was, sorting out a recent Prog Magazine Radio Show, and having filled up about two thirds of the show with music related to the issue on sale that month, we dip into prog’s rich and varied past for a few classics. With Alan Parsons Project’s Eye In The Sky about to get the deluxe 35th Anniversary treatment I happened across album closer Old And Wise, featuring a heart-rending vocal performance by the late Eric Woolfson and thought to myself, ‘Now that’ll be an ideal show closer. One to wobble the bottom lips…’ And that got me thinking about how emotional progressive music can be.
I’ve heard just about every cliché there is to be thrown at progressive music over the years. And so have you probably. That it’s boring, that it all sounds the same, that it’s devoid of emotion, that it’s just for blokes… Utter tosh!
I’ve long pointed out that none of the great prog originators sounded anything like each other, which dispels the first two. And if you’ve attended as many prog gigs as I have over the past 20 years, there’s one factor that will strike you: an increasing and welcome presence of more women at gigs, and the manner in which they are drawn into the music.
It’s not just the ladies, either. I recall one of Steven Wilson’s
2015 gigs at the Royal Albert Hall, encoring with The Raven... Watching the giant screen and Jess Cope’s stunning stop motion animation, I found myself put in the position of the lonely main character. And damn, if I didn’t have something in my eye.
It’s not just the new stuff either. Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd have all supplied me with moments of intense drama and heightened emotion. And while Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the full throes of prodigious musical bravura might not tug at the heartstrings in the same manner, there’s plenty of true soul in the likes of Still... You Turn Me On, Lucky Man and beyond. I expect everyone’s got their own particular lip-trembling moments.
Please do feel free to share.
So why do I write this? Well, you don’t need me to tell you that as far as whipping boys in music go, progressive rock has taken more than its share of beatings. And I don’t think it’s fair. So I’m making my own little stand, as someone who’s seen bands from Anathema to The Tangent and Lifesigns to Marillion conjure up emotions in their audience, that progressive rock’s not just about musical flamboyance. It has real soul and emotion too.
I’ve been listening to the music we’ll be playing on the Prog Magazine Show in question while writing this. You know what? Of course you know. As I type these words, Eric’s crooning ‘When they asked me if I knew you I’d smile and say you were a friend of mine…’ And, dammit, if I haven’t got something in my eye again!
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