What Happened When Progrock Left To Make A New Home Far Away
When the bloated beast known as Progrock was driven from the shores of the UK under a hail of safety-pins and spit it slunk off and made its refuge in Europe. Of course, it left behind some of its progeny. Now and then a Gentle Giant can be seen wandering bemused with a sack full of musical instruments, a Camel may be sighted in a run-down concert hall. The shape-shifting King Crimson is rarely seen though its messages still emerge on double cds from time to time. Of course, the most reviled of all Progrock's offspring, Yes, only ever travels in public with the protection of a full symphony orchestra.
So what happened to Progrock during its enforced sojourn in Europe? Rumour has it that it re-gathered its powers in the country which gave the world another much hated creation, Opera. Now I can confirm that there is indeed a new power rising in the East and it is promoting the cause of Progrock. The shadowy figure of Leonardo Pavkovic, also known as MoonJune, is issuing from his tower high above New York works by DFA and Finisterre, siblings of the great Progrock family who have been hidden away in Italy awaiting their moment.
DFA were captured ´live' in the USA spreading the staple messages of Progrock. These include the importance of shifting time and the mastery of fleet-fingered trickery to produce sounds that wail and dive over the enthusiastic heads of acolytes. Behind a fearsome bank of electronic keyboards, the stern-looking maestro Bonomi issues baleful waves of sound as cymbals crash under the hands of De Grandis and a dark growl emanates from the belly of the bass. Sounds like this have the power to take you back in time offering you glimpses of Topographic Oceans, Magician's Birthday Parties, The Land Of Grey And Pink and other fabled sights. You will find yourself hanging on during ´La Via' as Minella's electric axe screams and crashes mighty power chords about your ears. ´Pantera' is also a frantic trip led by Minella as he explores all the known extremes of his instrument, aided by Bonomi's contributions which pay tribute to that icon of Progrock, the now dormant Emerson.
Of course the great weakness of Progrock, as was often pointed out by its enemies, lay in its voices. Often weedy, often incomprehensible, they were better silenced. Such is the case still. The beast may have renewed some of its energies but the voices remain feeble. An Achilles Heel.
What of Progrock's other manifestation, Finisterre? They too were found to be ´live' at a special celebration called Progday where the faithful and newly converted gathered to hear the call of Grazia and his flute while Marelli carved monolithic electric towers before their astonished eyes. ´Hispanica' briefly raises the spirit of the great Tull, a dervish like demi-god from times past, only to lose it again in the weakness of the voices. At times it is possible to hear this creature's lack of direction as it stumbles through overgrown labyrinths of its own making. Then, as if by some supernatural effort, it will raise itself up and deliver a powerful attack, usually through Marelli and his super-charged axe.
They also pay homage to their elders, the sometimes revered PFM, whose anthem ´Altaloma' they present to the adoring masses. Other anthems, including two usually associated with the fearsome King Crimson, are also briefly offered, one raising the spectre of the terrifying Schizoid Man, now finally at home in his rightful century.
So what should we make of this new incarnation of Progrock? Well, it still uses words like ´classically trained', ´rock opera' and ´mellotron'. It often address its followers with expressions such as, ´We love you' and ´You're beautiful, thank you'. It seems that not a great deal has changed, then, so there is no need to fear a massive revival. I believe it will be gratefully received in some quarters and totally ignored in others. As it always was.
ę Paul Donnelly 2002