Jerry Ewing pon­ders the emo­tion be­hind so much pro­gres­sive mu­sic.

Prog - - Limelight -

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!

jerry ewing

Got an opin­ion on the mat­ter that you’d like to share? Please email us at: prog@fu­turenet.com.

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