Friday, April 11, 2008

Progressive Rock: Can Rock Music be Artistic and Intelligent?

I've recently rekindled an interest in Progressive Rock music -- a genre that is too often absent the recognition it observes, usually because it doesn't fit the 4 minute, teeny booper, mindless pop culture syrup that passes for "music" these days.

Progressive Rock (often referred to as Prog Rock) came into being in the late 1960's and early 1970's, as some artists wanted to create a form of Rock music that had artistic credibility and also sought to engage the mind. Many of the early artists were British, but Prog Rock has become a global genre in the decades since its appearance on the scene.

The origins of Prog Rock are numerous, and some or all of these elements are identifiable in the various artists of the genre. Contributing styles include psychadelic rock, jazz, [jazz-rock] fusion, blues-rock, hard rock, metal, folk rock, experimental music, electronic art music, classical, free jazz and even some celtic elements.

The musical styles usually emphasized innovative technical and compositional stylings, lyrics that tend to be intricate, meaningful and conceptual, and sometimes based in fantasy, abstract truth and grand over-arching themes.

Pioneers in the Prog Rock genre include groups such as Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Rush, The Moody Blues, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. One would also have to mention groups of that era that -- if not regarded as full on Prog Rock practitioners -- were certainly influenced by and contributed to the genre to some degree, like Kansas, Styx, Asia, and Deep Purple.

The "first wave" of Prog Rock hit it's peak in the late 1970's to the mid-1980's, and then went into decline as musical stylings and popularity changed. Still, there has been a "second wave," identified as "neo-progressive" music, which had it's origins in the late 1980's and early 1990's, that have kept the genre alive and innovative. This decade there has been a resurgence in the genre's popularity in some areas, and with the exposure of more people to the art through the internet (internet radio, youtube, etc). Groups at the forefront of this "new wave" of resurgent progressive rock include Dream Theater, Amaran's Plight, Porcupine Tree, Dominici, Ayreon, Symphony X, and to a lesser extent more popular bands like Queesryche in the 1990's and Tool currently.

One of my personal favorites of the genre is Neal Morse. Morse has always been in Prog Rock, but a few years ago, he was saved. That transformation has translated into several powerful albums (okay, I'm old fashioned -- CD's!) that are as spiritually progressive as they are musically. I would recommend his CD's "?" and "Sola Scriptura." WOW -- good stuff. Prior to his solo efforts, he also performed with Spock's Beard and Transatlatic -- both solid and gifted progressive groups and musical styles.

I think because you find more innovative approaches to music in the Prog Rock genre, you also see more openness among some of its artists to express spiritual themes -- even blatantly Christian ones. My favorite place to hear a great mix of Prog Rock -- old and new -- is MOROW.Com -- a radio station available free through the internet at ITunes. I suppose you can get it via other means at their website as well.

Give it a listen and tell me what you all think.



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