Toundra’s El Odio

TOUNDRA – release 3rd and last single “El Odio. Part III” of the “El Odio” trilogy

Premiere of “El Odio” short film on Jan 10th

 Photo by Sergio AlbertToundra are enchanted to be releasing “El Odio, Parte III”, the third and last part of their 22-minute-long piece “El Odio” off of their new album “HEX”. For the video of “El Odio. Parte III”, the band once more collaborated with Asturian director Jorge Carbajales again.

Watch the video here:
https://youtu.be/_knouen7nMQAnd the band is just as excited to be announcing the launch of the full short film “El Odio” on January 10th (1PM CET) via Youtube. Stay tuned for more info.
 
“HEX” is available as Ltd. Edition CD, 180g Gatefold LP (incl. the album on CD) and as Digital Album. Click here to pre-order the album now:
https://toundra.lnk.to/Hex
 
Toudra “HEX” (45:25):
1. El Odio. Parte I (8:07)
2. El Odio. Parte II (6:44)
3. El Odio. Parte III (6:53)
4. Ruinas (5:01)
5. La Larga Marcha (5:50)
6. Watt (7:50)
7. FIN (4:57)
 
“HEX” will be released on January 14th, 2022 via InsideOutMusic.TOUNDRA online:
http://toundra.es/
https://www.facebook.com/toundra
https://www.instagram.com/toundra/

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Spirit of Cecilia Radio Progcast 1

This is the first of our Spirit of Cecilia Radio Progcasts, episode one–featuring music by Big Big Train, The Flower Kings, Galahad, IZZ, The Bardic Depths, Kevin McCormick, NAO, No-man, Wobbler, and The Tangent. All songs used by kind permission of the artists/labels.

And, with the fiery and enthusiastic commentary of Dave Bandana, Brad Birzer, and Tad Wert.

Among our topics: how much we miss David Longdon (RIP); if the Flower Kings are diverse in their musical offerings; if disco can be prog; just what the number 42 is about; if The Tangent simply rocks; what kinds of instruments Wobbler uses; how McCormick, NAO, and No-man owe something to Mark Hollis of Talk Talk; and just how much we love prog.

Enjoy!

The Best Albums of 2021

As much as I am happy to see 2021 fade away in my rear-view mirror, it was an exceptionally good year for music. Wait, let me qualify that – 2021 was an exceptionally good year for some genres of music. In broader cultural terms, music streaming services continued their ascendance as the preferred choice of consumers. Spotify, Apple, and Amazon are steadily erasing the idea of the “album” as a listening experience. People can now create their own playlists, mixing artists and genres to suit their personal preferences. In some ways, the compact disc was its own worst enemy. Instead of an album taking 35 to 45 minutes of a listener’s time, artists began adding more and more subpar songs to their releases so as to fill out the 75-minute capacity of the CD. While the extra available time is a perfect fit for progressive rock, classical music, and jazz, it definitely doesn’t work for pop music.

Speaking of which, pop music itself has degenerated into a homogeneous olio of auto-tuned, computer-composed dreck that is as lasting as cotton candy. There are no longer any artists that attract a broad audience that spans ages, cultures, and tastes. Taylor Swift might come close, but her sales (if that concept has any meaning these days) are a fraction of what a 1970s Fleetwood Mac or Elton John achieved. Radio is a spent force, and most teenaged music consumers get their tunes via TikTok and other social media. The days when one could turn on the radio and hear The Beatles, a Motown masterpiece, a Burt Bacharach ballad, some Lee Morgan hard bop, and The Who on the same station are long gone.

However, in 2021 progressive rock continued to champion the album as the preferred musical package. With that in mind, here are my favorite albums of last year. It was such a bountiful crop that I can’t limit myself to a Top Ten; it was hard for me to whittle the list down to fifteen!

15. Arc of Life

arc-of-life-album

This is a side project of Yes-men Billy Sherwood, Jon Davison, and Jay Schellen, who are joined by prog-genius Dave Kerzner and Jimi Haun. While Yes’s album, The Quest, got all the attention, I found myself enjoying this one more. It’s poppier and tighter, with terrific production. Also, the optimistic and uplifting lyrics lightened the dreary early months of 2021.

14.Gary Numan – Intruder

Numan Intruder

From the light of Arc of Life to the darkness of Gary Numan. His previous two albums, Splinter and Savage were tremendous efforts, and Intruder continues in their synth-heavy style. There’s not a lot of hope in Gary’s outlook on life, but you can’t deny his compositional gifts. Every song satisfies on a gut level.

13. Kevin Keller – Shimmer

Keller Shimmer

One of my favorite contemporary composers, Keller solicited suggestions from his fans and incorporated them into this collection of songs. At times minimalist, other times unabashedly romantic, Keller’s music in Shimmer is always a treat. This is one that will never grow stale.

12. Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe

transatlantic

An unprecedented release from this prog supergroup, and one of their best ever. It came in three versions: the single-CD Breath of Life, The two-CD Forevermore, and the Blu-Ray Ultimate Version. All three are different albums with unique character. If pressed, I prefer the Ultimate Version, but I have really enjoyed immersing myself in each one.

11. Ulrich Schnauss and Jonas Munk – Eight Fragments of an Illusion

Schnauss Munk

I’m such a big fan of Schnauss (Tangerine Dream, Engineers) that I will buy anything he puts out. This is his third collaboration with guitarist Jonas Munk, and, and it is excellent instrumental electronica. Highly recommended for fans of Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, and American Dollar.

10. Evership – The Uncrowned King

Evership

Nashville proggers Evership continue to impress with their third effort. This is a concept album based on an allegory by Harold Bell Wright. This is great prog in the style of classic Kansas or Queen.

9. Leprous – Aphelion

leprous Aphelion

With a name like Leprous, you might think this is extremely dark, growly metal. However, vocalist Einar Solberg possesses some of the most impressive pipes in music. This is a set of songs that are uplifting and thrilling. Leprous is on the verge of breaking into a huge phenomenon.

8. Richard Barbieri – Under a Spell

Barbieri Spell

Barbieri’s previous album, Planets + Persona, was my favorite album of 2017. Under a Spell continues his unique musical creations – part jazz, part samples, part rock, all great. Spooky and comforting at the same time, if that makes sense.

7. NMB – Innocence and Danger

NMB Innocence

The Neal Morse Band is now a full-fledged collaborative group, and this 2-CD set is their best yet. No concept, just terrific songs. The 31+ minutes long Beyond the Years is one of their greatest epics. The only fly in the ointment is Bill Hubauer’s annoying nasal vocals, but they aren’t distracting enough to ruin the listening experience.

6. Big Big Train – Common Ground

welcome-to-planet

A wonderful collection of songs that cement BBT’s status as the most creative group making music today. The loss of David Longden was one of the most tragic events of 2021.

5. Glass Hammer – Into the Breach

Skallagrim

Glass Hammer reinvent themselves once again, this time as ferocious prog rockers. New lead vocalist Hannah Pryor is the perfect person to carry these powerful songs. Messrs. Schendel and Babb never cease to amaze with their endless musical ingenuity.

4. Styx – Crash of the Crown

Styx Crown

I never thought I would be raving about a new album from veteran rockers Styx, but this is the real deal. Tommy Shaw has never sounded better, and there isn’t a single piece of filler in this album. Fifteen songs clocking in at 43 minutes, this an impeccably crafted set that was the biggest surprise of 2021.

3. Downes Braide Association – Halcyon Hymns

DBA Hymns

The fourth album from DBA is their best yet. Chris Braide is a terrific singer, and this is a great set of melodic gems. Each song evokes a pastoral paradise, providing relief from an anxiety-laden 2021. For most of the year, when I couldn’t decide what to listen to, Halcyon Hymns was my go-to album that never failed to satisfy.

2. Lifesigns – Altitude

Lifesigns Altitude

What a tremendous album, full of gorgeous twists and turns. The title track and Last One Home are two of the finest songs of the year. I listened to this one more than any other, excepting….

1. Frost* – Day and Age

Album_Cover

The title track is my favorite song of the year, featuring a killer hook from Jem Godfrey and ferocious guitar and vocals by John Mitchell. A perfectly sequenced album, with musical themes resurfacing throughout, Day and Age is a towering achievement for Frost*. The production is unbelievably crisp and reveals new details with each listen. Hands down, the best album in a year of truly outstanding ones.

I hope my list piqued your interest in some artists you may not have heard before. Here is a Spotify playlist that samples some of the delights contained in these wonderful albums.

New Video from the Flower Kings

The Flower Kings share new single “The Great Pretender” from upcoming album ‘By Royal Decree’Photo: Lillian ForsbergProg icons The Flower Kings recently announced the release of their 15th studio album ‘By Royal Decree’, set for March 4th, 2022.  Now, the band are pleased to share the first single from the album “The Great Pretender.” The album is now available for pre-order.
 
Check out the new track here:
https://youtu.be/3IyGvwYhvTY‘By Royal Decree’ Tracklisting
1.The Great Pretender (6:55) 
2.World Gone Crazy (5:04) 
3.Blinded (7:45) 
4.A Million Stars (7:11) 
5.The Soldier (5:23) 
6.The Darkness In You (5:13) 
7.We Can Make It Work (2:48) 
8.Peacock On Parade (5:15) 
9.Revolution (5:59) 
10.Time The Great Healer (6:12) 
11.Letter (2:25) 
12.Evolution (4:47) 
13.Silent Ways (5:01) 
14.Moth (4:31) 
15.The Big Funk (4:39) 
16.Open Your Heart (5:17) 
17.Shrine (1:08) 
18.Funeral Pyres (7:14) 
 
‘By Royal Decree’ will be available as Ltd. 2CD Digipak,
as Ltd. 180g 3LP+2CD Box Set as well as Digital Album.
 
You can pre-order the album now here:
https://theflowerkings.lnk.to/ByRoyalDecreeThe band are back at their most creative, flowery and playful – mirroring the 70’s melting pot of folk, symphonic, electronic, jazz, blues, funk & prog. On the new album they have looked for more organic and vintage sounds, still centered around the foundation of drums, bass, guitars and the iconic Hammond, grand piano, mellotron & Moog synthesizers.
 
The album also sees the return of founding member Michael Stolt, who takes up bass guitar and vocals, alongside the line-up of Mirko DeMaio on drums, Zach Kamins on keyboards, Hasse Fröberg on vocal & guitar and Roine Stolt on vocal & guitars and Jonas Reingold on bass. The band convened in the middle of 2021 at Fenix Studios in Sweden to record through the fully analogue Rupert Neve mixing desk. The album also features beautiful cover art, once again created by Denver-based artist Kevin Sloan.
 
Next year’s tour will also see the band revisiting their early years, performing tracks from ‘Retropolis’, ‘Stardust We Are’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Space Revolver’ and ‘Back In The World Of Adventures’. This will coincide with the release of newly remastered editions of The Flower Kings albums on CD & Vinyl later in 2022. The first confirmed live dates are as follows:
 
30th March 2022 – Katalin, Uppsala, Sweden
31st March 2022 – Musikens Hus, Gothenburg, Sweden
1st April 2022 – Södra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden
1-7th May 2022 – Cruise To The Edge, USA
11th May 2022  – TBA, Quebec City, Canada
12th May 2022  – TBA, Montreal, Canada
14th July 2022  – Rootsfestival, Notodden, Norway
4th Sept 2022  –  HRH Festival , UK
 THE FLOWER KINGS online:
https://www.roinestolt.com/
http://www.facebook.com/TheFlowerKings
https://www.instagram.com/roinestolt8112/
https://www.facebook.com/pale.rider.127

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Troika’s First Video, JULIA


Nick D’Virgilio, Neal Morse & Ross Jennings share first single and video for “Julia” from debut albumNick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, ex-Spock’s Beard), Neal Morse (Transatlantic, NMB, ex-Spock’s Beard), and Ross Jennings (Haken, Novena) are pleased to announce their debut album titled ‘Troika’ will be released on Feb 25th, 2022.  The album is now available for pre-order here:
https://dvirgiliomorsejennings.lnk.to/Troika
 
Today, the band is also sharing the album’s first single “Julia”.  You can watch the video by Christian Rios here:
https://youtu.be/Y31eVTnMIxIRoss had this to say about the track:
“With my original demo clocking in at around the 8-minute mark and possibly leaning too close to ‘prog epic’ than the singer/songwriter vibe we were attempting to present on this record, Neal arranged my lengthy ballad into something more concise, in-keeping with the album’s essence and writing in a powerful new chorus in the process! 
 
“This one was all about the 3-part vocal harmony interplay and ‘pull-at-the-heartstring’ lyrics which deals with themes of regret and forgiveness in the context of a broken father-daughter relationship.”
– Ross JenningsTracklisting:
1.Everything I Am (5:43)
2. Julia (6:07)
3. You Set My Soul On Fire (3:22)
4. One Time Less (4:53)
5. Another Trip Around The Sun (4:39)
6. A Change Is Gonna Come (4:24)
7. If I Could (4:02)
8. King For A Day (5:47)
9. Second Hand Sons (4:43)
10. My Guardian (3:43)
11. What You Leave Behind (4:16)
 
‘Troika’ will be available as Ltd. CD Edition / Gatefold 2LP+CD / Digital Album. Each format includes a bonus alternative version of the track ‘Julia’ and is available for pre-order here: https://dvirgiliomorsejennings.lnk.to/TroikaRecorded during lockdown, the process began with Neal Morse writing some acoustic songs that he thought would be enhanced by strong vocal harmonies. He already knew how well his voice blended with former Spock’s Beard band-mate and Big Big Train drummer/ vocalist, Nick D’Virgilio who came on board and, considering a third man, the Americans sought out Haken’s Ross Jennings from the UK to complete the trio. All three found they had songs that would benefit from the three part harmonic blend, and so they pooled their resources, inputting creatively into each others compositions.
 
Neal comments: “What a great pleasure it’s been to work on this album with these amazing artists! It was kind of funny… We had been working on the songs remotely for several months before I finally heard all of us singing together at the same time. The first time I brought the faders up, I knew we had the magic!“
 
Nick adds: “I’ve known and worked with Neal for over 30 years and I’ve been a big fan of Ross and the music he makes for a long time. I felt confident right away that this would be a fun project to be a part of. I was so right.”
 
Ross comments: “Receiving ‘The Call’ from Neal to participate in this project was somewhat of a prayer answered… As a long time fan of their work, I’ve been singing along to Neal’s & Nick’s records for years, so it felt really natural for my voice to slot right in.”
 
The tracks took shape with the musicians recording all of the music and vocals separately, yet the eclectic performances burst with the energy and excitement of the collaboration. Acoustic anthems, charged rockers and sensitive ballads are all part of the mix, and the unique blend of Ross, Neal and Nick’s voices and styles have created an album in which you will encounter these musicians in a way you’ve never heard before.D’Virgilio, Morse & Jennings ONLINE:
https://www.facebook.com/ndvofficial/ 
https://www.nickdvirgilio.com/ 
https://www.instagram.com/ndvirgilio/ 
https://twitter.com/NDVmusic
 
https://www.facebook.com/nealmorse/ 
https://twitter.com/nealmorse 
https://www.instagram.com/neal_morse_official/
 
www.rossjennings.co.uk
https://www.instagram.com/rossjenningsofficial/ 
https://www.facebook.com/rossjenningsofficial
https://twitter.com/RossWJennings
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Reconciling Gene

If it isn’t already quite evident, most of my contributions on this website have been eulogies, attempted hymns of motorcycling and all the things uniquely American. My dad and great grandfather also used to motorcycle, so for that obsession I’d conveniently blame the inherited genes. But curiosity about Americana and in general Western civilization is probably acquired. Would like to believe for the most part these ideas were shaped by an honest sense of inquiry, sort of an amateur study into the causes of relative peace and prosperity.

If it isn’t already obvious, most parts of the world are in a constant state of strife or state of tension. It varies in terms of degree, but people are in general deadlocked in some form of bickering, often these inter-group squabbles are over disputes hundreds of years old, and probably even inflicted by unknown individuals. Generations continually born into this baggage and their minds shaped by these artifacts of the past. Without reconciling these disputes there is no peace or path to prosperity. Even if someone manages a truce, it is often fleeting, the mischief inevitably reemerges.

Thanks to some fortunate accidents of history, somehow the reconciling cultural strand of Englishmen survived, and often thrived. From common law jurisprudence and related institutions, to its more evolved form of American Federalism, for hundreds of years there is a constant recurring theme of attempting to reconcile divergent views. This framework itself is designed to resolve disputes without taking sides or enforcing collective goals. An unconditional 1st Amendment is a perfect illustration of this tendency. Even when most countries emulated Constitutionalism and all the surrounding institutions, they adopted a caricatured variant devoid of that impartial reconciling strand.

Not just in dispute resolution, peace through reconciliation is evident in all the functioning layers of the political system. Whether it’s reconciling majority views with minority or legislature with judiciary or democracy with rule of law or states rights with Federal — seems like English tradition constantly steered towards that simple goal of peaceful coexistence. But that mere goal of peaceful coexistence has lead to lofty outcomes of stability and prosperity, because that peace also allowed channeling individual energies to higher goals. In short, while simple goals lead to elevated outcomes, numerous political systems striving for explicitly high ideals consistently fell off the cliff. Well, yet another Thanksgiving, and felt like we have a lot to be thankful for, including that rarely acknowledged reconciling institutional gene.

Rest in Peace, David Longdon

It’s finally hitting me that we live in a world without David Longdon. What a tragedy, what a loss. I first received the news of his death during lunch. Uncharacteristically for me, I was eating lunch while checking things on my iPad. Two things happened at once–I saw the notice from Louder.com and my phone rang. It was my awesome friend, Tom Woods, making sure that I knew the news. Seriously, the phone rang within seconds of me reading the Louder.com post.

A few years ago, Tom and I had the great fortune of interviewing David for Tom’s rather famous podcast. Tom and I have bonded over many things, but few as precious as the hour we spent with David. David was, to be sure, a master craftsman, an original, and a true-to-life gentleman. While Tom and I were barely concealing our fanboy excitement, David offered us nothing but gratitude and clarity.

When I was at Progarchy.Com, I had the pleasure of “talking” with David over email, and I’ll never forget when I first heard the magisterial song, “A Boy in Darkness”–about child abuse. I emailed David, asking him (and hoping against hope that my suspicions were wrong) if the song was autobiographical. No, he assured me, it was not! Thank, God.

To be sure, Longdon and Spawton were the greatest rock musical writing duo since McCartney and Lennon. Their loss will be felt for a generation or more.

I first heard David Longdon’s excellence in 2009, receiving a mix from the mighty Carl Olson with a Big Big Train song on it. I was, from the first moment, hooked. I still consider The Underfall Yard one of the best rock albums of all time. It ranks up there with Selling England by the Pound, Close to the Edge, and Spirit of Eden. I would also–and, yes, I’m throwing the gauntlet down–argue that Longdon had the single best voice in all of rock.

So, David, thank you for everything. A life beautifully lived. There’s so much more to be said, but my brain and soul are still processing a world without you.

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