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Progressive Rock 101

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Progressive Rock 101

Early prog rock was often packaged in provocative album covers like King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King.

How to recognize progressive rock:

  • The band's first four albums are all about a blind albino who takes over the world
  • There are three drummers in the band
  • Each track is over 50 minutes long with a 10 minute Mellotron solo
  • You have to listen to it twelve times before you finally "get it"

Progressive rock is a much parodied but important genre in the history of rock, one that emerged from the psychedelia of the 1960s and became enormously popular in the 1970s.

Prog rock is essentially a mix of classical music and rock, characterized by virtuoso solos, frequent changes in time signatures, concept albums, and less reliance on the guitar than in hard rock.

The first prog rock bands were lesser known British artists like Soft Machine (1966), Gong (1967), The Nice (1967) and Caravan (1968). By the 1970s, however, prog was a major force, fronted by the Big Six: Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes and Jethro Tull.

In the late 1970s prog rock came under attack by punk and disco, both serving as an alternative to the seriousness of this genre. Prog did not die, however, but became commercialized at this time. Bands like ELO, Supertramp, Styx, Marillion and Kansas all demonstrated that prog could retain its appeal by getting rid of its perceived excesses.

The 1990s saw a renaissance of prog that has remained to this day. Bands like the Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree, Spock's Beard, Mars Volta and Coheed & Cambria have retained the principles of the original first wave of prog.

A new genre, prog metal, has also emerged since the 1990s. Dream Theatre, Opeth and Queensryche quote both Rush and Black Sabbath as influences and are helping prog reach a new audience in the Metal Nation that is the United States.

Some significant albums in prog rock history:

In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson (Compare Prices)

Close to the Edge - Yes (Compare Prices)

Selling England By the Pound - Genesis (Compare Prices)

Brain Salad Surgery - Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Compare Prices)

Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd (Compare Prices)

The Power and the Glory - Gentle Giant (Compare Prices)

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