Published on 11th June 2017
Best of 2017 (so far) …
As we approach the half way point of 2017 and enjoyed the delights of many fabulous releases, The Progressive Aspect, in collaboration with Anthony Rowsick’s radio programme Prog-Watch, have collected together our “Best Albums of 2017 (so far)”. The programme will air on Progzilla Radio on Sunday 11th June 2017 at 1:30 pm, will be repeated again on Monday at 6:30 pm, and Wednesday at 11:00 pm (UK times). A podcast will be available for download later in the week. The show will also air on Progressive Positivity on Thursday at 1:00 am and Thursday at 5:00pm, also UK times.
Isildurs Bane & Steve Hogarth – Colours Not Found In Nature
The level of song writing and performance is top notch, with each contribution as important as the next. There is a natural flow throughout the album, complex and dynamic, blending together elements of rock, prog, jazz and contemporary classical music into a cohesive whole.
White Willow – Future Hopes
White Willow stand out on their own, their music pays homage to the “classic era” of Progressive music, but they have given it a modern feel. They do not sound like anyone in particular and have forged their own trail; here they have presented another album of quality.
Kshettra – Five Mothers
The whole album has a lot to give the listener, each play reveals something new, and it captivates, draws you in. The interplay between the instruments appears so natural, each playing with and off each other.
The Hadron Big Bangers – FlAsh
There appears to be a Bowie (Berlin era) and Zappa influence here at times, but don’t let that detract you from what these guys have achieved. So much like their influences, they have not constrained themselves in their art. They have pushed boundaries with so much invention, not afraid to try new sounds, adventurous and a little different.
Tim Bowness – Lost In The Ghost Light
An effortless and classy offering, building on the success of Stupid Things That Mean The World. Here production and arrangement appear larger with some symphonic touches at times, coupled with Tim’s catchy rhythms and insightful lyrics.
All Them Witches – Sleeping Through The War
This band has reignited my faith in American rock ‘n’ roll. This earthy Nashville quartet has conjured up a deliriously infectious blend of heavy blues stomp, swampy backwoods ambience, resin-dripping stoner groove and psychedelic expansiveness that’s practically narcotic. It’s a truly brilliant record and an easy favorite for album of the year.
Telepathy – Tempest
Powerful U.K. riff worshippers Telepathy really nailed it this year with their sophomore effort, Tempest. From my review: “It’s essentially a tone poem; an immense and brooding maelstrom of powerful riffs and lilting melodic passages that’s as surprisingly beautiful as it is uncompromisingly heavy”.
Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis – The Stone House
Because of the untimely passing of fusion innovators Larry Coryell and Allan Holdsworth I’ve been revisiting the genre this year. That made me especially receptive to the improvisational joys of The Stone House. This live-in-the-studio recording beautifully captures the interplay between guitarist Mark Wingfield, touch-guitarist Markus Reuter, bassist Yaron Stavi and drummer Asaf Sirkis. A rewarding jazz album that’s also highly accessible for rock fans.
Pallbearer – Heartless
The Denver, Colorado-based Pallbearer have been making waves in the underground doom metal scene since 2008, but with the release of the mature, assured Heartless they’ve officially landed in the mainstream. Their unique blend of Sabbath/Candlemass riffage, progressive-leaning arrangements and a melodic approach to vocals reminiscent of Kansas and Boston makes for a refreshing vacation from the norm.
Kepler Ten – Delta V
Powerful, sizzling album. The sheer consistency of the song writing is deeply impressive and the striking quality of the musicianship is truly remarkable. There is a breathless air of unbounded enthusiasm, an almost raw, fresh vibrancy which speaks of excitement, passion and intensity. The music is captivating, immersive, weaving gorgeous textures with extravagant layers which eagerly engage, consume and delight. The compelling momentum carries you ever forward to the next song.
Beatrix Players – Magnified
Fresh, intelligent and emotionally honest music, designed to make you think as well as feel. It works so well because it takes the rawness of everyday experience and fuses it with the mythology and the symbolism of age old stories which are familiar to us all. Real life mixes with fantasy to create sweeping, expressive melodies that are rich with empathy and compassion and form an enticing gateway through which we hardly notice ourselves enter.
Alan Reed – Honey on the Razors Edge
The quality of the music and the writing is exceptional; simultaneously soaring with melodies yet packing some seriously dark lyrical punch. Resistance to its melodic charms quickly becomes futile. Once immersed, the full impact of what lies covered and concealed beneath is not slow to make itself known and felt. This is a riveting and consuming album, briskly fresh, thoughtfully feisty and full of disturbing charm.
Kant Freud Kafka – Onírico
Unexpected and totally brilliant. Catches you off guard and surprises you with its joyful, dreamy soundscapes, fascinating transitions, complex musicianship and insightful musical narratives. It is not often that music tells a story as thoughtful, as provocative and as powerful as this. Beautiful.
Magenta – We Are Legend
An album which just blows you away. This is a major development in the Magenta sound, feisty, compelling and full of depth and intricate substance. Amazing textures deliver wonderfully creative soundscapes, packed with vitality and vibrancy. Brilliant.
Gordon Giltrap & Paul Ward – The Last Of England
Selecting any track from the album above would be very difficult, however the stunningly beautiful The Light Of The World with Gordon’s achingly touching guitar enveloped in layers of warm choirs and soft synths is a fitting piece to entice the listener in. Gordon Giltrap and Paul Ward have produced something rather special here and a release that ranks very highly in the Giltrap catalogue. The Last Of England is a wonderful testament to Gordon and his music.
Mew – Visuals
Pop music for people who don’t like that sort of thing! From Denmark, Mew produce swoonsome sounds, melodies to die for and exquisite hooks over unorthodox rhythms. A smoother album than some of their others, Visuals is a mature work by a band doing what they do best and succeeding with style.
A Formal Horse – Made in Chelsea
There is plenty of variety within this EP which is spiky and epic all at the same time, and at less than 20-minutes it’s a real hit-and-run deal that doesn’t drag for a second, just making you want to hit ‘Play’ over and over. To cap it all, Hayley McDonnell’s entrancing operatic tones soar above the frenetic instrumentation, like an angel over a mass brawl.
Karda Estra – Infernal Spheres
Richard Wileman’s skill at taking chamber classical, jazz and rock influences and turning them into something new is beyond reproach and he continues to give his audience fascinating and intelligent music of real depth. It certainly makes you think, the music conjuring images of beauty but also epic demise.
The Bob Lazar Story – Baritonia
A new album from guitarist Matt Deacon’s vehicle of choice is always something to get excited about and Baritonia does not disappoint. I just love the beautiful craziness of it all. It’s uplifting and inspiring, and in a world of lies and deception on the grandest scale, we need this more than ever.
White Willow – Future Hopes
New album from the Norwegians, another new sound. ‘Quality’ is written all over this album in Big Gold Letters, the writing and performances are superb, the complete article a spellbinding listen.
All Them Witches – Sleeping Through The War
This is a gloriously groovy and marvellously unhinged record that works fabulously in LP format. or indeed any format you like.
Nick Prol & The Proletarians – Loon Attic
It’s pop music, but not as we know it, Jim. This is also quite mad, but in a completely different direction to All Them Witches. Don’t mention the insects…
Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
This band live in a place where all preconceptions are required to be checked in at the door, and each album they make is entirely different to the last one. Kristoffer Rygg calls this their “pop album”, but that’s only half the story.
Richard Barbieri – Planets + Persona
Video of the Year, filmed in 360° panoramic wotsits – see the link in the TPA review. The album is none too shabby, either! All in all a wonderful cinematic experience.
Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis – The Stone House
An astonishing feat of on-the-hoof jazz fusion improv. Top notch stuff!
Barock Project – Detachment
We sometimes stumble over something totally unexpected and special in music, something which we cannot always explain or rationalise, but just feel at a deeper level. Detachment is one of those special musical moments for me. A remarkable release of finely crafted and varied melodic progressive rock with stellar musicianship, but most importantly memorable hook laden songs. One can tell a lot by the friends one chooses and mainman Luca Zabbini intelligently and intuitively selected the mercurial talents of Peter Jones (of the excellent Tiger Moth Tales and Red Bazar) to help with some of the lyrics and sings wonderfully on two songs. I am struggling to remember an album that I have enjoyed quite so much in a while… and that’s the feeling this album engenders – JOY.
Magenta – We are Legend
Magenta continue their remarkably consistent but varied career with an imaginative album of dazzling progressive rock about post apocalyptic nightmares, Giant Robots… and Vincent Van Gogh! Magenta have more than just great technique and imbue their songs with melodies to stir the soul and stories to fascinate the mind. Distinctly ‘un-Magenta’ drum loops, sequencers, dashes of dance music rhythms and heavy guitars feature as Robert Reed and the band stretch their envelope. However, they are still very recognisably Magenta, noticeably reinvigorated with new sounds, energy, and edge, showing a band that does not compromise and wants to explore. This will be regarded as one of THE progressive rock albums of 2017 – Magenta have definitely added to their own ‘Legend’ by creating one of the best albums of their career.
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
The second album from the solo project from John Mitchell, renowned guitarist and vocalist with Frost*, Arena, It Bites and Kino. Such is the excellent quality and imagination of the Lonely Robot project, Mitchell has arguably now created material which surpasses the achievements of his time with most of those bands. The Big Dream showcases Mitchell’s strong song writing and distinctive guitar style, but also shows his excellent keyboard work throughout this musically dynamic album. This is an album of ‘Big Ideas’ expressed through accessible and polished rock songs, punctuated with memorable hooks and riding along on waves of melodic progressive rock, alongside more cinematic passages.
Magic Bus – Phillip the Egg
Magic Bus have produced a very fine album in Phillip the Egg which takes their journey onwards from the Caravan/West Coast hippy sounds of their previous albums and into a more expansive, progressive and exciting musical orbit, with echoes of Gong and Ozric Tentacles. Combining the fine keyboard sounds of a former Kula Shaker and Oasis keyboardist with great guitar and flute playing, Magic Bus have created an album full of finely written, sparkling and optimistic songs of cosmic themes. They continue to draw on and honour their inspirations and influences, but have developed their sound to liberate their true energy and spirit.
Yorkston, Thorne, Khan – Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars
In a time when what divides us seems to be valued more than what unites us, it is perhaps timely to celebrate music which melds different cultures and traditions in a fascinating mix. Following their mezmerizing 2016 album Everything Sacred, Scottish folk singer-songwriter, (James Yorkston), double bass jazz player (Jon Thorne) and Sarangi player and classical singer from New Delhi (Suhail Yusuf Khan) combine to give us something magical, an album of beguiling beauty, heart-breaking emotion and diverse sounds. Hypnotic Indian rhythms interweaved with folk, played with sensitivity and skill, all anchored superbly by double bass. Is it ‘Prog’? Of course it isn’t (although there is one ‘epic’ of 15 minutes!), but what is more ‘Progressive’ than skilfully and intuitively blending musical and cultural influences to create something so new and so beautiful?
This Winter Machine – The Man Who Never Was
A perfect mix of early Genesis with touches and flourishes of modern Marillion with great songs on a debut that stands tall and wears its influences without shame.
Kaprekar’s Constant – Fate Outsmarts Desire
Another astounding debut with songs that show real historic context and are simply outstanding, both well written and performed – another band to champion, fans of Big Big Train will love this too.
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Second album featuring Steve Wilson/Steve Hackett alumni Nick Beggs, and far more savage than the debut. Another great 2017 release, who’d have thought songs about beetles could be so impressive?!
Steve Hackett – The Night Siren
A fine release that shows that Steve has lost none of his passion for music, with a loose theme of unity and a striving for peace in a post-Brexit divided world. There’s some really fiery guitar on here too.
Deep Purple – Infinite
Is this the end? No one really knows but a strong set from the boys and the accompanying DVD is really good with recordings of the songs (music only) and decent interviews with each band member.
A Formal Horse – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram
All Them Witches – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Richard Barbieri – Facebook
Barock Project – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Beatrix Players – Website | Facebook
The Bob Lazar Story – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Tim Bowness – Website | Facebook
Gordon Giltrap – Website | Facebook
Steve Hackett – Website | Facebook
The Hadron Big Bangers – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Steve Hogarth – Website | Facebook
Isildurs Bane – Website | Facebook
Kant Freud Kafka – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Youtube
Karda Estra – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Kepler Ten – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Kshettra – Facebook | Bandcamp
Magenta – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Magic Bus – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Mew – Website | Facebook
John Mitchell/Lonely Robot – Website | Facebook
The Mute Gods – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Nick Prol & the Proletarians – Facebook | Bandcamp
Alan Reed – Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp
Telepathy – Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter
This Winter Machine – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Ulver – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
White Willow – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis – Bandcamp