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Spiritual Progressive Rock Artist Reviews

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Cairo;   Canarios, LosCasinoCastCathedralCatley, MarcChampion BirdwatchersCoates, RobertCollaboration Element;   CPRCrow, Robin




Cairo (USA - CA)

Cairo (94), Conflict and Dreams (98)

Sort of vaguely ELP-like but still original sounding full on jamming prog band with fairly heavy spiritual imagery and themes in the music. If you like Echolyn you'll enjoy Cairo. The keyboardist is amazing, and the rest of the 5 piece band is great as well. Songs like Seasons of the Heart (And when its time for me to go, I pray that I will know - love will carry me, out of this darkened world..into the light. Within the sands of reason there runs a spring eternally, below the waves of sorrow there burns a flame that never falters..) from the first album and Valley of the Shadow from C&D (I will fight for my gracious King, yes give my life through the valley of the shadow..) certainly have a positive feel, and the lead vocalist, Bret Douglas (who sounds a little like the guy from Toto or John Elefente) profusely thanks God in the liner notes. He claims to be a follower of Christ, but some of his theology is a bit new age (he believes in reincarnation, for instance).  The keyboard player, Mark Robertson, is also rumored to be a Christian. Cairo puts together vibes from all the prog groups I love and manage to carve out a sound of their own. After a while it does tend to get overwhelming at times and starts to sound a bit the same. Can something be too progressive? The recording quality is quite good too. Available on Magna Carta records, and their web site is on the Magna Carta site. Syn-phonic carries their CD's as well. {dt}



Canarios, Los  (Spain)

Ciclos (75)

This 73 minute progressive classic album is a extremely creative adaption of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.  Its a genre-bender, mixing prog/jazz/blues /opera and avant-gard classical music together into a symiotic masterpiece.  It is listed on numerous prog-snob pages as one of the greatest prog albums of all time. I havn't heard it and am not quite sure what the spiritual tie-in is.   Read some other reviews at: http://www.progreviews.com/reviews/cana-cic.html




Casino (U.K.)


A one-off concept album featuring The Reverend Geoff Mann and keyboardist Clive Nolan from neo prog band Pendragon. Mann wrote the lyrics and sings in his wonderful quirky style. It's an allegory about a spiritual being who sacrifices himself to deliver those in bondage to gambling at a casino, set over a really tasty keyboard heavy neo-prog back drop. If you like Genesis or Twelfth Night, you will love Casino. See also Geoff Mann, Twelfth Night and a web site with lyrics, etc. at: http://www.lucid.co.uk/verglas/verglas/casino/casino.htm . Available for sale through Pendragon Merchandising, USA: http://www.pendragonusa.com. {dt}



Cast (Mexico)

Angels and Demons

Older Genesis sounding true prog band from Mexico. The lyrics are available to read at http://www.1russ.com/cast/angdem.htm, and they are fairly theologically accurate if a little uneven, and they lift up Christ. Their other albums aren't particularly spiritual, as far as I know. {dt}




Stained Glass Stories

I have only heard two mp3's of  this older Yes/Crimson type classic prog album that is supposed to contain many spiritual references to the messiah.  It is classic prog in the Yes style musically, and it is very popular among the prog snob elite. Don't confuse Cathedral with the heavy metal band or the newer neo prog band of the same name. Available from Synphonic.



Catley, Marc (UK)

Classical Acoustic Rock (1986); The Peel Tower Hop (1987); In Difference (with Geoff Mann) (1988); The Off The End Of The Pier Show (with Geoff Mann) (1991); Fine Difference (With Geoff Mann) (1992); Make The Tea (1992); The Peel of Hope (1992); Hot Air For Jesus (1993); No Tomorrow (1994); November (Paley's Watch) (1994); (w/ The Flaming Methodists) Char

 English progressive guitarist and sometime collaborator with Geoff Mann. A lot of various styles of albums, some instrumental, some experimental. See also his progressive band Paley's Watch, who released a fine Renaissance-like album called NovemberThe Off the End of the Pier Show is a progressive instrumental album of jangly guitars and repetitive themes.  His album, Char, with the 'Flaming Methodists' is an satirical look at the modern church, in prog-rock trappings. The Paley's Watch team joins him, and it's quite humorous, with some really off-the-wall British comedy thrown in.  Marc has a great website with lots of humorous information plus Plankton records titles available for sale here.   For more information about British Christian prog music, see this site that details the history of Plankton Records:  http://freespace.virgin.net/third.bass/plankton.html {dt}



Champion Birdwatchers (USA, ID)

The Inconsolable Longing (98)

Imagine if prog had evolved from the "alternative" rock of c. 1991 rather than the psychedelic rock of c. 1968 - it would sound different, but there would be certain commonalities. Champion Birdwatchers are an Idaho quintet who augment the basic guitar-bass-drums rock instrumentation with cello and occasional flute, and the drummer uses things in addition to the basic drumkit. At moments the texture is reminiscent of mid-70's King Crimson (the guitar-cello textures bringing to mind Fripp & Cross on guitar & violin), and then there's a hint of Gabriel & Hackett - but only a hint, because more prominent than Gabriel in the vocals is the early-90's sound of Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain (and Wetton is a more appropriate 70's comparison most of the time than Gabriel). But it is the subdued side of the 90's rockers which predominates, because the disc is very introspective, sounding like something eavesdropped upon in a living room rather than a self-conscious performance. Compositionally, their songs tend to remain centered around a tonic (which they even indicate in the titles of the songs), but they don't use a lot of typical chord progressions from 18th-century European classical music or any folk mode known to me - sometimes they'll be droning around the tonic plus its minor subdominant plus a few other less conventional chords, for example. It's not expressionistic, wild improvisation, nor is it what is usually called "minimalism" in classical music circles, although one could say that it sounds minimalistic next to the 70's KC. Maybe this is what people call "post-rock" - sort of like the Minutemen strung out at 16 2/3 rpm? Stark and confessional -- lyrically and theologically, the band has been heavily influenced by C.S. Lewis, and the surrealistic overlays of watercolors, Lewis quotes, and psalm fragments on the cover art add a dimension to the album (although not conveying the starkness of the music before you hear it). {Virginia Landgraf)



Coats, Robert (USA - MN)

Up from the River (99); On This Very Day (01)

Moody Blues influenced art rock, somewhat prog in its instrumentation and vocal arrangements. Layered keyboards, and a voice not unlike Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, mixed with Long Distance Voyager era Moody blues stylings. I have the first album, which is a little slow but still enjoyable. Lots of layered mellotrons, and intelligent lyrics.   He sells his albums for cost, which is $2 plus shipping, so its not a bad deal. See his web page at: http://www.robertcoates.com/ He also has mp3's at mp3.com {dt}


Collaboration Element   (USA)

The Science of Music (coming soon)

The Collaboration Element is a Christian progressive rock instrumental band out of Dayton, Ohio, playing music which combines the progressive rock elements of 70's bands like Yes and Kansas with the more modern prog rock influences of bands like Dream Theater/Liquid Tension Experiment, Rush and the Dixie Dregs. The band consists of Greg Jones on guitar and Jason Macintosh on drums. These guys don't have a CD yet, only some poorly recorded live sound clips. But even at that, they show tremendous promise, especially if you dig tight hard progressive instrumental music a'la Liquid Tension Experiment. Good musicianship, nice chops, tasty stuff.  I hope they can get into a studio someday, it will doubtless be impressive. Sound samples and ordering information are available on their website at:  http://www.geocities.com/collaboration_element/  



CPR - Christian Progressive Rock

Volume 1 (04)

A compilation of spiritual progressive rock's finest bands, CPR Volume 1 contains two discs with over two hours of epic songs from eighteen different artists. This is the place to start if you are exploring the Christian Progressive Rock genre for the first time. 

You'll hear a new song from the pioneering band Ajalon, What Kind of Love, with special guest Rick Wakeman laying down his trademark lightening-fast keyboard solos.  You'll hear epics from prog stalwarts like Glass Hammer, Salem Hill, and Neal Morse, some of the finest music you'll find anywhere. You'll also hear a brand new song from Kerry Livgren and Proto-Kaw, the band that spawned Kansas. America Gomorrah showcases a lively, unreleased tune about Mary and Martha called Two Sisters. Dave Beegle of Fourth Estate lets loose his considerable guitar chops on the middle-eastern-flavored instrumental Kara Kum. Popular newcomers Akacia introduce Postmodernity, a 70's style prog gem infused with Steve Howe-like guitar riffs.  Divine-in-Sight, a bass-heavy power trio for fans of Rush and Yes, tear things up with Viper's Brood, part of their stellar concept album Sorrow and Promise.  Ten Point Ten, a popular band renowned for their Transiberian Orchestra-like Christmas tunes, shows they know how to bring prog to the masses with one of my favorites from the disc, The River, a song, to my ears at least, seems inspired by early Genesis. And the unheralded but talented newcomers on the disc shine as well. Navigator, Revelation Project, Vertical Alignment, Theophonic Cloud, Eric Parker, Everlasting Arms, Shadowstar, and Dwight Mitchell all deliver compelling songs of faith and fine musicianship.

An album this rich in incredible music is a steal for $16.  For more information on CPR and the bands involved, go to http://www.cprogrock.com .



Volume 3  (08)

CPR is short for Christian Progressive Rock, and Volume 3 continues the outstanding series showcasing some of the finest new progressive rock artists.  Compiled by Randy George (Ajalon, Neal Morse) and Gene Crout (America Gomorrah),  the eleven songs on this disc offer a wide variety of styling while maintaining a cohesive enough feeling of unity that no song seems out of place.  The disc kicks off with Australia's Unitopia and the song Lives Go Around.  Fans of Marillion and Peter Gabriel would do well to seek out these excellent musicians that have another brand new album coming out soon that should be fantastic. Lives Go Around is a good sample of what their music offers: top notch production, a killer vocalist, and well crafted, catchy songs with just enough creative twists and turns. Up next is Ted Leonard, vocalist of the potent neo-prog band Enchant.  He delivers a polished yet poppy prog number In the Name of God. Leonard has a powerful voice, and he sets the record straight on what sort of acts should really be done in the name of God. His solo album is definitely on the poppy side of things, but we can look forward to perhaps more prog oriented material in the future.  Phil Keaggy follows with a rare treat, a re-working of his classic song Passport from the album Getting Closer. Randy George stepped up and talked  Phil into an extended version that rips it up, bringing the song to its full potential. Keyboardist and vocalist extraordinaire Mike Florio lays out a Kansas influenced track next called The Wise Man. Wise men indeed would do well to pick up Mike's excellent solo albums. Apple Pie, hailing from Russia, is a wonderful surprise. Their more traditional prog piece Solution has some very creative instrumental interludes at the end. Let's hope their next album finds some distribution in the West.  Greg Wollan, former bass player for Steve Taylor, contributed the title track from his epic Deep Calls 2 Deep album.  Mellow and jazzy but extremely creative, he's a progressive talent well worth exploring for fans of Phil Keaggy and Kerry Livgren. The volume turns up for Mike Lockett's The Dust.  Crunchy metal riffs blend with nifty keyboard sections and a likeable voice, tantalizing the listener. I definitely want to hear more from Mr. Lockett.  Prog-metal band Pursuit follows with the title track from their album, Quest. If you like powerful guitars with your keyboard riffs and a flair for the dramatic, this up and coming band is for you.  Ad Astra and their song Angle of Repose mix tasty keyboards with former Kansas member Dave Hope's bass riffs in a tantalizing progressive brew. California prog band Time Horizon is another surprise, a new band with a ton of potential.  Their song Life Fantastic sounds a bit like classic Kansas, complete with tasty synth riffs and a vocalist that's a ringer for John Elefante. This is another band working feverishly on their debut album. Let's pray it comes to fruition quickly. The album finishes with an epic song from Everlasting Arms. Ed Jerlin's excellent piano and keyboard work highlight The Mirror, a fitting finale to this fine disc. Ed gives away most of his music for free, so it is well worth tracking down.  All in all, there is plenty to tantalize fans of all styles of prog music, from pop to metal to the classic symphonic prog. Any of the artists listed above can hook you up with a copy of CPR Volume 3. See http://www.cprogrock.com for more information. {dt}



 Volume 4  (11)

CPR is a vehicle of a subgenre of sorts in progressive rock circles, namely a movement of bands and artists with a Christian background. Think Neal Morse, Glass Hammer, Unitopia, Salem Hill, Ajalon, Proto-Kaw, Salem Hill, or Ten Point Ten, as featured on earlier CPR discs. Producers of the CPR compilation series are Randy George (Ajalon and Neal Morse) and Gene Crout (America Gomorrah). The idea is to expand knowledge of progressive rock into the Christian community and to infuse the progressive rock community with Christian themes. The one more explicitly so than the other, to be sure.

CPR 4 again showcases a number of progressive rock bands and artists, known and unknown, on their spiritual journey. It opens with a taste of ‘hard prog’ from guitarist Rob Perez’ band Visual Cliff. The song Exposed features one of the finest vocals in progressive rock today (if you ask me) by Orphan Project’s Shane Lankford. The crunchy riffs and straightforward structure make for a decent tune. Eric Parker’s track Thy Life is much mellower with its eerie piano, voice and cello opening bars. Parker worked with Glass Hammer but is now a recording artist in his own right. His track quietly explores some folky and classical hints, contrasting with the next song on the compilation, which is another sample of ‘hard prog’. Gene Crout continues the style developed in America Gomorrah in this track called Pax Americana. He shows great prowess on lead guitar on this piece that seems to be part of a larger, epic work in prog metal. Swept to the other end of the continuum once again we float into the atmospheric musical sceneries of Iona. A special mix of a track from their latest album shows what fine musicians and composers they are. Let Your Glory Fall is a mature example of their tender fusion of folk and prog, ending in a grandiose coda around an excellent guitar solo by maestro Dave Bainbridge.

Farpoint is the first band on this compilation to make a first appearance. There contribution Calling Out sound less seasoned compared to the first four on the CD. It’s a verse-chorus rock tune with a fine guitar solo in between. As far as progressive rock standards go it could have been more interesting. Personally, I was excited to see Pursuit turning in new work. Their debut cd Quest – and this song, Judah, as well – has something of an Under the Sun quality to them. The musicianship is top-notch and in your face, the composition deliciously complex to the point of the inaccessible, Andrew Zuehlke’s characteristic vocals rasp away – all in all it’s an acquired taste perhaps, but a very distinct and rewarding journey. Kenetic Element is the second newcomer in the CPR series. With See the Children they clearly offer a piece of progressive rock in the traditional sense of the word. Apart from the vocal harmonies it has ‘old school’ written all over it. It doesn’t grab me though. The intro is very reminiscent of Steve Hackett but a little flatter; with a jazzy middle section and an early-IQ ending it clocks in around 10 minutes. KDB3 is Doug Bower and friends (formerly of Ad Astra) who bring a two part song called Crisis of Faith. It slowly and softly builds up like something from Glass Hammer’s Chronometree, then shifts to a rocking part picking up the opening theme. Yet it needs more work to make an entire album interesting.

Supernal Endgame is a relative newcomer on the c-prog front but they boast years of experience in rock music and it shows. It’s a very tasteful blend of musical styles rolled into a prog rollercoaster. Some might compare the proggy tropes in Still Believe to early Spock’s Beard and Hackett-era Genesis, but the most fitting reference is probably Unitopia: fresh, tight, up-beat, and adventurous. It takes 10 minutes of excellent musicianship to deliver the goods. A worthy close to this disc together with Syzygy’s epic Dialectic. First as Witsend, later as Syzygy, Carl Baldassare and cohorts wrote excellent prog from the word ‘go’. This track is from their last cd is also the longest on the compilation: over 16 well-crafted minutes. It’s one of those pieces that take you around the Progiverse in various movements, with a keyboard and guitar nod here and there to old Yes and Genesis, but clearly a composition with an identity of its own. {BC}





Crow, Robin (USA)

Electric Cinema

Kerry Livgren guests on this instrumental album featuring a three-song tribute to Robin's favorite bands, Yes, Pink Floyd, and U2. Nothing too adventurous, it is still enjoyable fare, containing some tasty guitar and only suffering from the 80's lazy keyboard sounds. If you like Livgren's instrumental albums, you'll like this. Crow's other albums are mostly mellower, although I've only heard Creator. Robin recently recorded some stuff with Jon Anderson of Yes and Phil Keaggy for an upcoming release. {dt}