Progressive Rock. It is a term that inspires love, deep and heartfelt. And hate, venomous and cruel.
To some it means complex musical suites comprised of off-beat time signatures, extended themes and orchestrations and philosophical concepts. To others it is simply masturbatory self-indulgence, pomposity and pretentiousness.
Oddly enough, no one is wrong.
Prog Rock is wonderfully and ridiculously weird. It can be at times transcendent and inspirational and glorious; at other times painful, silly and annoying. And the thing is it is almost impossible to tell.
I have listened to a piece of music that has made me cry because it was so beautiful and poignant. But then I have played that same piece of music for another only to be told it was a wretched bit of noise that induces headaches. Then I’ll go back later and listen to it and think I must have been delusional because it is overblown and overproduced only to be told by my friend that once hated the piece that they had “gotten it” and loved it now. And then the situation reversed again. And again.
When prog rock is done well it is difficult. That is the best thing about it and its worst trait. It is a type of music that wants to be rock and roll, but it also wants to be jazz and classical. It wants to be arty and sophisticated but also wants to be commercial and accepted while trying its damndest to run away from success. It is a schizophrenic form of music. And when it is done well that dichotomy, that polarization, that split personality creates a sound that is … unique. Love it or hate it, progressive rock is unlike anything else in the history of rock and roll.
You may have guessed by this point that I am one the few that adore this type of music. And while it is impossible to rank or even narrow down the huge amount of progressive rock music to a simple list that would do it justice…I will do it anyway.
So here it is: the definitive list of the 15 best Prog Rock albums as chosen by me; the ultimate expert on progressive music! (Please note: not an expert in any way)
15: Larks’ Tongues in Aspic – King Crimson
The fifth album and third incarnation of King Crimson. Released in 1973 this is everything Prog Rock should be. It is psychedelic, it is jazz, it is a sonic wall. It is difficult and beautiful. It is not for everyone.