Top 50 Prog Albums (part 2)

This is a continuation of my last post cataloging my fave progressive rock albums of all-time.  If I can editorialize for a minute, you might do some cross-referencing of these artists with those currently in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Pink Floyd and Genesis managed to sneak in, but where are the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Yes, Procol Harum to name a few – will they ever be elected? Don’t forget to read the first part for #50 – 26.  Now on to #25 – 1:

25.Emerson Lake & Palmer – Trilogy (1972)

Their first album likely would have been #51 on my list but this is the one that grabbed me the most with it’s faux Ravel (“Abaddon’s Bolero”) and the superb cover of Copland’s “Hoedown (taken from Rodeo)” on which Keith Emerson plays some manic organ.

24.The Alan Parsons Project – Tales Of Mystery & Imagination – Edgar Allan Poe (1976/1987)

The first album from the collective helmed by producer Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson (who never has gotten enough credit for his work).  They would go on to have a strong career filled with radio-friendly hits, but at this point they were an unknown –  a cast of players mostly from Ambrosia and Pilot with guest singers like John Miles (“[The System Of] Dr. Tarr & Professor Fether”).  Terry Sylvester sings like an angel over a choir on “To One In Paradise” making you wish he would have taken the lead more in the Hollies more.  The 1987 remix with Orson Welles spoken intros improves an already excellent album.

23.King Crimson – In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970)

Current criticism of this second KC album is that is follows a similar path to their first album.  Well, frankly, that isn’t a bad thing as both albums are outstanding.  After the first album, the band splintered and this record found Robert Fripp taking the reins from the departed Ian McDonald (who went on to early Foreigner).  Even though he was out of the band and in ELP, Greg Lake guested on vocals except on “Cadence & Cascade”.  The mellotron driven title track is  the highlight for me as is the three part downright evil sounding “The Devil’s Triangle”.

22.Blackfield – Blackfield (2005)

Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and Aviv Geffen from Israel teamed up for an outstanding modern prog album.  You hear hints of Pink Floyd and other touchstone bands but the music is catchy and original.  Especially love the title track, “Scars” and “Pain” – all melancholy and midtempo.

21.Genesis – Nursery Cryme (1971)

Many early fans point to Foxtrot as their fave, but this is the one that still grabs me (thanks to my old pal and drummer Dan Campbell for turning me on to this album and so many others years ago!).  “Seven Stones” is a pretty ballad but the closing “The Fountain Of Salmacis” is amazing with a story from mythology, great harmony vocals, ethereal keys and some excellent playing from new guys Steve Hackett (guitar) and a drummer we will hear from later named Phil Collins.  The illustrated lyrics and a cover about a rather evil croquet game (after album track “The Musical Box”) were certainly eyecatching.

20.Triumvirat – Spartacus (1975)

Keyboardist Jurgen Fritz Germanically channels Keith Emerson (ELP) on this album with very catchy songs to boot.  Have to wonder what the mouse in the lightbulb has to do with Spartacus – gotta figure a picture of battling Romans might have sold better.  “The March To The Eternal City” sounds amazing on CD.

19.The Moody Blues – In Search Of The Lost Chord (1968)

The second album from the Hayward/Lodge edition of the band found them  more comfortable with their ability to act as a self-contained orchestra.  Graeme Edge’s billowing blasting intro leads seamlessly to Lodge’s great single “Ride My See-Saw”.  The album also features the Ray Thomas tribute to LSD guru  Timothy Leary “Legend Of The Mind”.  Side two includes Justin Hayward’s love song “The Actor” and Mike Pinder’s spacey “The Best Way To Travel” (listen with headphones on as the sounds swirl around your head).  At this point we all started to believe they were tapping in to some great cosmic truths – of course they were only singers in a rock and roll band.

18.Procol Harum – Shine On Brightly (1968)

While there were some fine individual songs on the album (notably the title track with Robin Trower’s screaming riff and more baroque organ from Matthew Fisher), it was the long side two opus “In Held Twas In I” that made us all take notice (and still does).  After Keith Reid’s lyrics intone that “life is like a bean stalk, isn’t it?”, the band crashes in and the mini-symphonia is on.  This set the stage for many other bands to follow suit (this stretching lengths in the studio supposedly inspired Pete Townshend to move into his own rock opera with the Who).  My vote is for the U.S. green cover over the awful U.K. version.

17.Strawbs – Hero & Heroine (1974)

Featuring some of the best mellotron driven songs ever by a progressive band, what kept this album from topping this list was the horrid “Just Love” and  Dave Cousins’ ill-conceived sexual lyrics at times.  Too bad he didn’t write about cosmic themes instead of… well, you know.  “Autumn” is simply glorious while the title track has the best use of mellotron as an aggressive lead instrument (played by John Hawken).  Your’s truly managed to see them touring this album at Ebbets Field in Denver and sat so close to the stage that it was tough to keep one’s feet out of the back of the mellotron  plus Cousins came by to say hi – cool.

16.Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (1970)

Floyd fanatics are probably screaming at this being my fave album by them, but I love the side-long orchestrated title track (Ron Geesin gets alot of credit from me and blame by many fans).  The shorter tracks are also some of my faves ever by them (“If” and especially Rick Wright’s “Summer ’68”).

15.The Moody Blues – Days Of Future Passed (1967)

With this album and Procol Harum’s first, you have the beginning of prog rock – and what great albums to be the first of a genre.  The story has been told that the record company wanted the Moody’s to record a demo of Dvorak’s New World Symphony however they were more ambitious and came up with an orchestrated (by Peter Knight) masterwork with the classic songs “Nights In White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon” as centerpieces.  My pal DC thinks they still might have time to record Dvorak – wouldn’t that be cool?

14.Family – Music In A Doll’s House (1968)

Family’s first album exists in a middle world betwixt psych and prog, but no matter the label it was a masterpiece of a debut produced by Traffic’s Dave Mason (and includes his song “Never Like This”).  The production and engineering by Eddie Kramer and George Chiantz are mindblowing when heard in headphones with the lights down low.  The side two suite of songs is especially disturbing with Rick Grech’s soaring violin powering “Peace Of Mind” which leads to “The Voyage” with Roger Chapman’s very strange voice to the fore over devilish sounds.  That gives way to the gentle “The Breeze”.  Great cover as well.

13.Genesis – Wind & Wuthering (1976)

The second post-Gabriel album found a band secure that Phil Collins could carry the lead vocal load and wow were they tight as an instrumental act as can be heard on “Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers…” “…In That Quiet Earth” which leads to the powerful ending track “Afterglow”.  They showed a gleam of their pop future on “Your Own Special Way” which would flower into huge success on Abacab and Invisible Touch.  As a live band there was no better augmented by Chester Thompson (drums) and Daryl Stuermer (guitar) and an incredible laser light show (as captured on the live Seconds Out  album) – my favorite alltime concert – Macky Auditorium in Boulder.  Sadly, guitarist Steve Hackett then left the band and after one more prog-ish album Genesis went for pop stardom.

12.Strawbs – Bursting At The Seams (1973)

Dave Cousins completed the transformation of Strawbs to an electric band with this album.  The folkier Tony Hooper was out and rock guitarist Dave Lambert was in.  Cousins came up with some wonderful music in “Flying” and the rocking “Lay Down” which pushed them in to the U.K. charts.  The singalong “Part Of The Union” (a huge U.K. hit) showed where the Hudson Ford team was to head after this album when they left (putting out some fine albums on their own).  The masterworks, though, are “Tears And Pavan” and especially the riff driven “Down By The Sea” with ethereal choral mellotron from Blue Weaver.

11.Barclay James Harvest – Everyone Is Everybody Else (1974)

A switch in labels to Polydor seemingly re-energized the band as they came up with one of their strongest albums featuring John Lees’ slap at violence “Child Of The Universe” and his anti-war “For No One” which demands the stereo to be cranked up a notch to better hear his searing lead over Woolly’s mellotron.  Les Holroyd’s best here is “Crazy City” which sounds even better on their double live album of that era.

10.The Moody Blues – A Question Of Balance (1970)

It’s hard to think of any more exciting intro to an album than “Question” with Justin Hayward’s furious acoustic guitar strums followed by an orchestral sounding blast of  noise till the whole band kicks in – an acoustic cool-down in the middle then the same kick-in at the end.  Up next Mike Pinder asks the cosmic question “How Is It (We Are Here)”.  The rest of the album is good if not up to the intro, but what a fantastic cover painting by Phil Travers.

9.Procol Harum – Home (1970)

Robin Trower’s driving riff rocker “Whisky Train” opens the album but from there things get decidedly darker as most of Keith Reid’s lyrics seem to deal with death.  You get the Gary Brooker ballad “The Dead Man’s Story” and Trower’s nastier guitar on “About To Die”.  For this album Chris Copping plays more organ than he would on the next more rockin’ Broken Barricades album which manifests on “Piggy Pig Pig” (which would have been outstanding had they omitted the silly pig noises near the end).  The track that stands out is “Whaling Stories” that starts as a simple blues till a couple minutes in when it starts turning darker and the bass and piano echo an ominous riff that Trower and drummer B J Wilson build upon with Brooker shouting out over intense sound till it releases and the amazing choral ending comes in.

8.King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)

Another touchstone in the growth of a style, this debut was unfortunately the only album released by this version of the band before Ian McDonald (keys) left and Greg Lake (vocals, bass) decamped to ELP (though he guested on the next album at least).  Michael Giles’ drumming is outstanding and the guitar of Robert Fripp screams right from the opening “21st Century Schizoid Man”.  Pete Sinfield supplied excellent lyrics for all 5 songs especially on the title track which features McDonald on mellotron and flute.  The high point of the record for me was always “Epitaph”.  Greg Lake may have been the best singer in progressive rock but let’s not forget he was a fine bassist as well.

rarebird

 

7.Rare Bird – As Your Mind Flies By (1970)

Certainly an album not on too many top lists which is a pity as it was brilliant and a huge leap up from their first fine album.  “I’m Thinking” starts with Graham Fields’ churchy organ playing a riff that the rest of the band picks up and embellishes on.  Again the vocal from Steve Gould may be too powerful for some tastes but the music is baroque and lovely as on “Down On The Floor” plus you get a powerful nasty riff rocker in “Hammerhead”.  Side two was taken up with the title track and honestly the music is amazing and could fit well with Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother or Focus’ Moving Waves sidelong pieces.  Again, double keyboards with David Kaffinetti on electric piano (later in Spinal Tap) along with Field.  The U.S. album cover was far better than the dull U.K. one.

6.Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)

After several great bluesy/folky albums, Ian Anderson and company put it all together on this tour-de-force that he insisted wasn’t a concept album though the lyrics were disturbing and interesting (the title track about a homeless lecher and “My God” – a slap at organized religion – to name a couple).  John Evan’s mellotron and Anderson’s flute intro to “Cross-Eyed Mary” is as prog as you can get till Martin Barre’s nasty guitar comes in to take it more mainstream. Check out the great riff of “Locomotive Breath” that follows a long bluesy workout.  “Mother Goose” could be a track by fellow Chrysalis label Brit-folk band Steeleye Span.  There would be far more Tull in this list as I love their music, but it simply doesn’t seem to work to call their other albums prog  (A Passion Play might fit but how to categorize the rest? –  that won’t stop me from recommending Stand Up, Benefit, Living In The Past, Songs From The Wood, etc).

5.Procol Harum – Grand Hotel (1973)

Their first Chrysalis label album in the U.S. that delivered on all fronts – great music, fine cover and a booklet to boot.  Having just tasted success with their live album (and a hit in “Conquistador”), they lost Dave Ball on guitar so Mick Grabham was an unknown.  He more than filled the guitar vacancy (listen to “Bringing Home The Bacon” which has some fine B J Wilson drum/cowbell work).  The lovely “Fires (Which Burnt Brightly)” has a very unique vocal from Christianne Legrand of the Swingle Singers singing a solo line as opposed to a duet with Gary Brooker.  The title track is simply a masterpiece of band and producer meshing and has one of Brooker’s best vocals singing Keith Reid’s words over orchestra and chorus.

4.Barclay James Harvest – Gone To Earth (1977)

A great album from beginning (John Lees’ lovely “Hymn”) to end (Les Holroyd’s harmonious “Taking My Higher”).  “Spirit On The Water” is an anti-fur song with a catchy riff while Woolly’s “Sea Of Tranquility” speaks to the futility of the space race.  Lees could write a song with a powerful riff like “Leper’s Song” or the gentle “Love Is Like A Violin”.  The high point of the album is “Poor Man’s Moody Blues” which is how many reviewers referred to BJH so Lees wrote the greatest mellotron Moody’s sound-alike ever.  A gorgeous cover as well.

3.Genesis – A Trick Of The Tail (1976)

Hard to explain what a pleasant shock it was to pick this first post-Peter Gabriel album up at the store and play it to find that if anything the band sounded better with the drummer singing – at the time we all felt he sorta sounded like Gabriel though of course now we know he just sounds like Phil Collins.  There simply isn’t a weak cut here with excellent mellotron and guitar interplay.  “Ripples” and “Entangled” are gentle ballads while “Dance On A Volcano” and “Squonk” show the old power they could summon.  The title track showed a knack for a catchy song that would flower over the years.  A nice cover and decent lyrics.

2.Strawbs – Grave New World (1972)

For those of us who bought albums based on the cover, this one certainly pulled us in with a great logo atop a William Blake nude and, upon opening, another striking painting inside.  A lavish book of lyrics was also included – it simply looked classy.  From the opening “Benedictus” you were in the presence of greatness – a song I want played at my memorial service.  Dave Cousins sings a litany from the I Ching (“bless the daytime, bless the night, bless the sun which gives us light”) over a dulcimer driven song (fuzz dulicimer?  who knew you could do that) that gives way to some wonderful piano/mellotron work by new keyboard player Blue Weaver who made up for the loss of Rick Wakeman.  The folkier Tony Hooper was still in the band so the sound was more acoustic than when Dave Lambert joined but the sound can still be nasty as on the acid attack at the departed Wakeman “Tomorrow”.  John Ford’s “Heavy Disguise” and Hooper’s “Ah Me, Ah My” have some excellent horn work making the former sound baroque and the latter cartoonish.  “New World” is amazing with dueling minor key acoustics washed with crashing mellotron cords with some excellent Cousins lyrics that he sings with increasing passion as the song progresses.  The only misstep for me is Richard Hudson’s sitar song “Is It Today, Lord?” which wasn’t a bad song, but suffered from a poor choice of backing instrumentation.  The gentle piano of “The Journey’s End” closes the album admirably.

1.The Moody Blues – To Our Children’s Children’s Children (1969)

Not only the best progressive album of all-time, but arguably my favorite album of any style ever.  I have seen that the theme of the album was inspired by the moon landing, but I have always seen it more globally as their ode to the Earth (“I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Hundred” giving way later to “I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Million”).  The best Ray Thomas song ever is his “Eternity Road” (“travelling eternity road, what will you find there?”) which has some subtle playing by the band that leads to perhaps the best John Lodge composition ever “Candle Of Life”.  A chilling mellotron line by Mike Pinder with excellent classic piano playing and beautifully melancholy lyrics (“something you can’t hide says you’re lonely …. burn slowly the candle of life”).  If that doesn’t choke you up, the closing Justin Hayward/Ray Thomas masterpiece “Watching And Waiting” will definitely do the trick (keep your hankies handy – “watching and waiting for a friend to play with, why have I been alone so long?”).  Graeme Edge’s opener “Higher And Higher” is a thrilling start and he plays excellent drums throughout the album as well (always loved the crashing cymbal rhythm on the end section of Pinder’s “Sun Is Still Shining”).  The inside picture of the band huddled around a fire in a cave with a jagged vista visible through the entrance would have made a better external shot.

Advertisements

Top 50 Progressive Rock Albums

One of the rock n roll dentist’s fave musical styles over the years has been what is referred to as “Prog” or “Progressive Rock”.  For me that means rock with classical overtones – music that Beethovan or Mozart might have played if they were baby boomers.  The music seemed to evolve from late-60s psychedelia as first created by The Beatles on Strawberry Fields Forever (a style which seems to be having a mini-resurgence – very cool!) with a bit of folk thrown in.  It can be hard to distinguish between psych and prog, but I’ll leave the details to others.  Suffice it to say that to me Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is psych while A Whiter Shade Of Pale is prog – don’t ask why;  it simply is.  A group like Jethro Tull put out some of my favorite albums (such as Stand Up), but to me only a few can truly be called progressive so most of their records aren’t on the list.  Other acts like Procol Harum put out mostly progressive rock but at times would put out a great album that doesn’t feel prog enough for this list (Broken Barricades for instance is a mainly guitar/rock record so misses the cut).

The instrumentation can be all over the place but guitars over a hammond organ playing churchy motifs or especially mellotron seem de rigueur.  Mellotrons were tape driven monstrosities that sounded incredible and could playing as an orchestra (or chorus) as heard on a song like “Tuesday Afternoon” by the Moody Blues.  The ethereal sound of a mellotron still gives me chills to this day (and boy would it be nice if just once before they retire the Moodies would go back to that sound again on an album). So many of these musicians happened to be incredibly gifted on their instruments as well – punk rockers needn’t apply (and yes I like punk as well but that’s primal – this is cerebral).  Often the lyrics can be about mythology or philosophy as opposed to love song themes (which are okay but don’t seem as cool somehow) and could be written by non-musician band members.   One other hallmark of progressive albums has been great graphics – a record you would pick up at the store and buy even without hearing it due to the great cover art (plus they often included booklets, stickers, etc.).

Let’s make this clear, this is my fave 50 prog rock albums so there is no conceit that these are the best of the genre – don’t complain that I didn’t include Rush, for instance as I’m simply not a fan of Geddy Lee’s high voice.  Hey, let’s be honest anyway – many of these singers are acquired tastes – Peter Gabriel and Dave Cousins aren’t Elvis – so what.   This was inspired by a list that ran in Prog Magazine of their readers’ fave 100 albums – a list that annoyed me with omissions of seminal classics of the genre (no Strawbs or Barclay James Harvest?!) and inclusions by acts that don’t seem prog.  Heck, virtually none of my faves even made their list.  So feel free to reply with what you think I missed but we all have different tastes.  There will be no Tool, no Soft Machine, no Gentle Giant – just not a fan of jazz/fusion prog or new metal/prog.  Most of the albums are from the 70s plus there are a bunch by the same  bands.   Yes, today there are a ton of great bands which I enjoy, however their albums mostly haven’t hit me the same as the classics did (okay – I’m an old dude – sorry).   One other caveat – there are great songs I felt bad leaving off the list but overall the album they come from isn’t up to snuff (i.e. groups like Hudson-Ford, Greenslade, Fireballet, etc.).

Here, then, are 50 – 26 with 25 – 1 to follow in a couple weeks so stay tuned.

50.Genesis – Trespass (1970)

Their second album – heavy on gentle 12 strings (“Dusk”) with and excellent organ driven “The Knife” – pre-Phil Collins and Steve Hackett.

49.Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing and other stories (2013)

Wilson is a one-man progressive army fronting one of the best newer prog groups in Porcupine Tree while helming side-projects like Blackfield plus remastering classic prog albums for reissue.  His solo releases have improved steadily till this  six song classic that shows influences from all to right old bands.  Check out “Drive Home” and the title track which feature some outstanding videos on youtube.

48.Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

It’s almost painful to include this as it signaled the end of them as the cool peoples’ cult band and took them to mainstream stardom – ultimately imploding them to two warring camps (really tedious, guys).  Still there were iconic graphics and some fine songs like “Us & Them” and “Eclipse”.

47.Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1975)

A good double album would have been a great single with some editing.  Frankly don’t care about the story of Rael – only care about great songs like “The Carpet Crawlers” and “Ravine”.  Their sixth studio album was the last with Peter Gabriel as singer meaning alot of uncertainty with fans like me as to the band’s future.

46.The Moody Blues – Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)

Some gorgeous mellotron on “You Never Go Home Anymore”.  The beginning to every Justin/John led Moodies album has always been a high point as it is here with the progressive “Procession” leading in to the loud guitar/piano rock of “The Story In Your Eyes”.  Ray Thomas’ “Nice To Be Here” is a cute track too.

45.Yes – The Yes Album (1971)

Aside from Chris Squire, their membership seemingly changes with the wind yet their music has been at least worth checking out no matter the players.  “Your’s Is No Disgrace”, “Starship Troopers”, “I’ve Seen All Good People” – all classics.  Tony Kaye’s work on keyboards tends to be forgotten which is a shame.

44.Nick Magnus – n’monix (2014)

Proving that there are still great albums out there if you just look for them, this album sounds at times like ELP while others like Genesis – not odd considering that he has for years played keys for former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett.  Tony Patterson from Re-Genesis sings lead on “Time” and “Kombat Kid”.

43.Barclay James Harvest – Once Again (1971)

John Lees’ “Galadriel” Les Holroyd’s “She Said” are outstanding but the classics are “Mocking Bird” and the incredible “Song For Dying” – great mellotron. Would have been higher but there are some equally duff tracks to avoid.

42.The Electric Light Orchestra – No Answer (1971)

Move men Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne had the ambition to make an album taking the cello driven sound of “I Am The Walrus” by the Beatles to the extreme.  Wood acted as a one man orchestra playing bassoons, oboes, etc. in a tour de force of musical acumen for a self-taught player.  Of course Jeff Lynne would take the group to pop/rock superstardom as ELO after Wood left, but here the two plus drummer Bev Bevan are a bit more ambitious.  Lynne’s “10538 Overture” was the closest to later ELO while “Manhattan Rumble”, “Mr. Radio” and “Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644)” are worth a listen.

41.Procol Harum – Procol Harum (1967)

The American album came with a nice poster of the cover and featured “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” – to this day a radio staple with Matthew Fisher’s fine Bach-like organ motif and pianist Gary Brooker’s singing of the oddly haunting Keith Reid lyrics.  Perhaps the very first progressive rock band and if the rock and roll hall of fame was created to honor groundbreaking rock acts then why are they not in?  The definitive version of “Conquistador” appeared on their 1972 live album, but they were just learning here – not to mention creating a masterpiece in the instrumental “Repent Walpurgis” featuring Fisher and guitarist Robin Trower.

40.Strawbs – From The Witchwood (1971)

This is the sound of a band in flux.  Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper had begun as folkies in the Strawberry Hill Boys.  Cousins gradually steered them in a more progressive direction adding Richard Hudson (drums), John Ford (bass) and critically Rick Wakeman – a keyboard virtuoso.  Yes came calling very quickly after this album, but he contributes heavily here to “A Shepherd’s Song” (great mellotron) and “The Hangman & The Papist”.  “A Glimpse of Heaven” is ethereal.

39.Renaissance – Scheherazade and other stories (1975)

Female led progressive bands were not the norm, but Annie Haslam was no ordinary singer – possessing a beautiful clear soprano voice.  Renaissance were more acoustic than their brethern but no less powerful with John Tout on piano and Michael Dunford on guitar.  There isn’t a weak cut here with “The Vulture’s Fly High” and “Ocean Gypsy” leading to the side-long “Song Of Scheherazade”.

38.Steve Hackett – Spectral Mornings (1979)

After leaving Genesis, guitarist Hackett stayed on the prog path while his former band went on to become superstar popsters.  Vocalist Pete Hicks does a nice job with “Every Day” but the instrumental interplay of Hackett and keyboardist Nick Magnus drive songs like “Clocks – The Angel Of Mons” and the title track.

37.Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (1972)

The solo debut of former the Strawbs/current Yes (at the time of this album) keyboard player was an all-instrumental affair using players from both bands among others.  The playing is amazing from piano to moog to mellotron but the songs are generally all memorable (“Catherine Howard”, “Jane Seymour”)

36.Rare Bird – Rare Bird (1969)

The album cover (the American one was SO much better than the UK one) was what drew me in, but the music was worth it.  An odd band with standard drums and bass but no guitar.  They relied on the electric piano of David Kaffinetti in counterpoint with the churchy organ playing of Graham Field.  Singer/bassist Steve Gould had a tendency to shout too much, but that didn’t stop them from having a huge international hit in “Sympathy” about world hunger.  “Melanie” and “God Of War” were my faves.  Kaffinetti’s moment of fame was as a demented looking keys player in the movie This Is Spinal Tap.

35.Focus – Moving Waves (1972)

Of course the silly but driving “Hocus Pocus” was the one that got them noticed, but the rest of the album was a mostly instrumental prog rock milestone from Holland.  Gentle nylon string guitar over mellotron = “Le Clochard” while the side-long “Eruption” and “Focus II” are louder and more band driven.

34.Blackfield – II (2007)

At this point a Steven Wilson side-project with Aviv Geffen (since then, it has become mostly Geffen’s baby), the music is pretty much minor key mid-tempo ballads with mellotron and piano more to the front than guitars.  Some great songs in “Christenings”, “”Epidemic” and the closing “End Of The World”.

33.The Moody Blues – On The Threshold Of A Dream (1969)

This album is bookended by two wonderful suites.  Drummer Graeme Edge’s sinister “In The Beginning” leads to Justin Hayward’s catchy riff track “Lovely To See You” on one end while Edge’s “The Dream” leads in to keyboardist Mike Pinder’s “Have You Heard”/”The Voyage” closer.  Boy, the packaging was really growing back then – nice cover, cool looking deep-hued band photos and a booklet to boot.  Producer Tony Clarke seemed like the sixth Moody.

32.Pink Floyd – Meddle (1971)

If not for two really horrid songs, this would have been a top ten choice.  Just before the Dark Side took over, this was a great band to see in concert (perhaps my second fave show all-time) thanks to songs like the sinister and driving “One Of These Days” and the spooky sidelong “Echoes” which is great for halloween.

31.Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (1972)

One continuous piece of music divided by the need to flip the record back in the day, Ian Anderson decided to lampoon the concept album using the nom de plume of a small boy – Gerald Bostock – as co-writer.  The packaging was lavish to say the least wrapped in a mock newspaper.  Catchy right from the start.

30.Yes – Fragile (1971)

Their fourth album was the one that took them to the masses via “Roundabout”  and the great Roger Dean cover art that has continued off and on to this day (and on side-projects like Asia).  “Heart Of The Sunrise” has some great mellotron (Rick Wakeman)/bass (Chris Squier) and drum (Bill Bruford) interplay with guitarist Steve Howe and singer Jon Anderson adding their bits.  Never been a big fan of Anderson’s gentle tenor so excuse the low placement, but I love Wakeman’s “Cans & Brahms” solo spot.

29.Genesis – Selling England By The Pound (1973)

This would have been #1 if side two lived up to side one which is early Genesis at their progressive best.  To this day, I can’t listen to “Dancing Out With The Moonlit Knight” without getting chills at the gorgeous choral mellotron swell.  “Firth Of Fifth” is also excellent while “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” gave them their first taste in England of chart success.  Interesting cover with handy enclosed lyric sheet for those of us who cared about music.

28.Strawbs – Deep Cuts (1976)

Some duff tracks drag it down a bit, but this includes some of their catchiest (“I Only Want My Love To Grow In You”), hardest (“Turn Me Round”) and prettiest (“So Close And Yet So Far Away”) songs.  The change of label from A&M was a bad decision or else this might have pushed them higher on the charts. Though there have been other high points, this was the last truly great Strawbs album for me.

27.Electric Light Orchestra – Eldorado (1974)

By now thoroughly Jeff Lynne’s band, this album was his most orchestral and perhaps only concept album (about a dream world, says he).  “Eldorado Overture” features full orchestra chugging away to lead into one of his best songs “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”.  “Poor Boy (The Greenwood)” was also great.

26.Marillion – Misplaced Childhood (1985)

At that time, the heir apparent to Genesis as a prog band seemed destined to follow them into pop success as this album spawned three UK top 30 singles in “Kayleigh”, “Lavender” and “Heart Of Lothian”.  Peter Gabriel sound-alike lead singer Fish only stuck around for one more album, however, and they faded to a successful if cultish level with new singer Steve Hogarth.