Progressive rock Stylistic origins Psychedelic rock, jazz fusion, classical music, free jazz, experimental rock, Canterbury scene Cultural origins Mid-late 1960s, United Kingdom, United States, Italy, and Germany Typical instruments Guitar – Bass – Keyboards – Piano – Drums Mainstream popularity High in the 1970s, cult following with occasional significant commercial successes since then. Derivative forms New age music, math rock, post-rock, space music Subgenres Progressive metal, symphonic rock, neo-progressive rock, new prog, space rock, krautrock, zeuhl, Italian progressive rock Other topics Art rock, Baroque pop, Ambient music, Arena rock, Rock in Opposition, Afro prog
Progressive rock (also referred to as prog rock or prog) is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." John Covach, in Contemporary Music Review, says that many thought it would not just "succeed the pop of the 1960s as much as take its rightful place beside the modern classical music of Stravinsky and Bartók." Progressive rock bands pushed "rock's technical and compositional boundaries" by going beyond the standard rock or popular verse-chorus-based song structures. The Oxford Companion to Music states that progressive rock bands "...explored extended musical structures which involved intricate instrumental patterns and textures and often esoteric subject matter." Additionally, the arrangements often incorporated elements drawn from classical, jazz, and later world music. Instrumentals were common, while songs with lyrics were sometimes conceptual, abstract, or based in fantasy. Progressive rock bands sometimes used "concept albums that made unified statements, usually telling an epic story or tackling a grand overarching theme." Progressive rock developed from late 1960s psychedelic rock, as part of a wide-ranging tendency in rock music of this era to draw inspiration from ever more diverse influences. The term was initially applied to the music of bands such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, reaching its peak of popularity in the mid 1970s.
Allmusic cites Bob Dylan's poetry, The Mothers of Invention's Freak Out! (1966) and The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) as the "earliest rumblings of progressive and art rock", while progressiverock.com cites the latter as its "starting point". The Beach Boys' concept album Pet Sounds (1966) and Jefferson Airplane's second album Surrealistic Pillow (1967) were both big influences for many progressive rock bands.
From the mid-1960s The Left Banke, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys had pioneered the inclusion of harpsichords, wind and string sections on their recordings to produce a form of Baroque rock and can be heard in singles like Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (1967), with its Bach inspired introduction. Freak Out!, released in 1966, had been a mixture of progressive rock, garage rock and avant-garde layered sounds. In the same year, the band "1-2-3", later renamed Clouds, began experimenting with song structure, improvisation, and multi-layered arrangements. In March of that year, The Byrds released "Eight Miles High", a pioneering psychedelic rock single with lead guitar heavily influenced by the jazz soloing style of John Coltrane. Later that year, The Who released "A Quick One While He's Away", the first example of the rock opera form, and considered by some to have been the first prog epic.
In 1967, Jeff Beck released the single "Beck's Bolero", inspired by Maurice Ravel's Bolero, and, later that year, Procol Harum released the Bach-influenced single "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Also in 1967, the Moody Blues released Days of Future Passed, combining classical-inspired orchestral music with traditional rock instrumentation and song structures. Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, contained the nearly ten-minute improvisational psychedelic instrumental "Interstellar Overdrive".
By the late 1960s, many rock bands had begun incorporating instruments from classical and Eastern music, as well as experimenting with improvisation and lengthier compositions. East of Eden, for example, used Eastern harmonics and instruments such as a sumerian saxophone on the album Mercator Projected in 1969. Some, such as the UK's Soft Machine, began to experiment with blends of rock and jazz. By the end of the decade, other bands, such as Deep Purple and The Nice, had also recorded classical-influenced albums with full orchestras: Concerto for Group and Orchestra and Five Bridges. This use of classical music would crystallise in the '70s with Amon Düül's orchestral score on Made in Germany (1975), Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother (1970), and several works of Frank Zappa.
Bands formed by the end of the 1960s included The Moody Blues (1964), Pink Floyd (1965), Soft Machine (1966), Barclay James Harvest (1966), Gong (1967), Genesis (1967), Jethro Tull (1967), The Nice (1967), The United States of America (1967), Van der Graaf Generator (1967), Yes (1968), Caravan (1968), King Crimson (1969), Supertramp (1969) and Gentle Giant (1969).
Although many of these bands were from the UK, the genre was growing popular elsewhere in continental Europe. Triumvirat led Germany's significant progressive rock movement, while Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can and Neu! led the related Berlin School and Krautrock movements. Italian progressive rock is an important sub-genre led by PFM, Le Orme, and Banco, all of which gained significant international recognition. Other notable Italian bands include New Trolls, Area, Goblin, Museo Rosenbach, Il Balletto di Bronzo, Maxophone and Locanda Delle Fate.
Focus and Trace formed in the Netherlands, France produced Ange, Gong, and Magma, the Quebec-based Harmonium were one of the first significant North American progressive bands, and Greece saw the debut of Aphrodite's Child led by electronic music pioneer Vangelis. Spain produced numerous prog groups, including Triana. Scandinavia was represented by Norwegian band Popol Vuh, Swedish band Kaipa, and Finnish band Wigwam.
Peak in popularity and decline
Progressive rock's popularity peaked in the mid-1970s, when prog artists regularly topped reader polls in mainstream popular music magazines in Britain and America, and albums like Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells topped the charts.
By this time, several North American progressive rock bands had been formed. Kansas, which had actually existed in one form or another since 1971, became one of the most commercially successful of all progressive rock bands. Pop star Todd Rundgren moved into prog with his new band, Utopia. Toronto's Rush, who were formed in 1968, became a major band, with a string of hit albums extending from the mid-1970s to the present. In Japan, Osamu Kitajima's 1974 progressive rock album Benzaiten, featuring Haruomi Hosono, utilized electronic music instruments such as a synthesizer and drum machine. Back in Britain, Electric Light Orchestra, who formed in 1970 as a progressive offshoot of "The Beatles sound", saw their greatest success during the mid-1970s. Todd Rundgren, known for his pop-rock style, had begun to experiment with a more prog-rock sound with his 1973 album A Wizard, A True Star, using a Beatles' style of short songs that segue into one another and with very hallucinatory and humurous lyrics.
Bruce Eder claims that "the rot" in progressive rock "started to set in during 1976, the year Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) released their live album Welcome Back My Friends". Eder claims that this album was "suffering from poor sound and uninspired playing" which "stretched the devotion of fans and critics even thinner." He claims that "the end [of progressive rock] came quickly: by 1977, the new generation of listeners was even more interested in a good time than the audiences of the early 1970s, and they had no patience for 30 minute prog-rock suites or concept albums based on Tolkien-esque stories." He asserts that by the late 1970s and early 1980s, "ELP was barely functioning as a unit, and not producing music with any energy; Genesis was redefining themselves ... as a pop-rock band; and Yes was back to doing songs running four minutes ... and even releasing singles."
In 1974, four of progressive rock's biggest bands – Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Genesis and King Crimson – all went on indefinite hiatus or experienced personnel changes. Members of Yes and ELP left to pursue solo work, as did Genesis lead singer Peter Gabriel, who left his band (though Genesis would continue with Phil Collins as lead vocalist), and Robert Fripp announced the end of King Crimson after the release of their Red album. When, in 1977, Yes and ELP reformed, they had some success, but were unable to capture their previous dominance.
The 1975 and 1976 period saw progressive rock bands using more and more elaborate stage shows, thus moving away from its original "music first" ethos.
In the late 1970s Great Britain was going through difficult times due to a poor economy, frequent strikes and shortages. Progressive rock with its exotic, literary topics had nothing to say to British youth growing up in that era. Punk rock, a simpler and more aggressive style of rock that emerged in this era, and disco, which also emerged during this period, helped move critical opinion and popular support in the UK away from progressive rock, ending the genre's reign as a leading style there. However, established progressive bands still had a strong fan base; Rush, Genesis, ELP, Supertramp, Yes, Queen, and Pink Floyd all regularly scored Top Ten albums with massive accompanying tours, the largest yet for some of them. By the end of the 1970s and 1980s Progressive rock had fallen into disrepute. It was dismissed as overblown, pretentious and elitist. Fans were embarrassed to publicly admit they liked an act associated with the genre and record stores stocked progressive rock acts in the back of the store sans labels.
Despite this supposed opposition between the two styles, bands which emerged in the aftermath of punk, such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Japan, Cabaret Voltaire, Ultravox, Simple Minds, and Wire, all showed the influence of prog, as well as their more usually recognised punk influences.
Progressive rock fans
The genre had a period of great popularity in the United States during the 1970s. The vast majority of progressive rock concert attendees were male. Audiences were reserved in their behavior tending to sit and intently concentrate on the performance. This contrasted with more overt and emotional reactions of audiences of other rock music genres.
The early 1980s saw a revival of the genre, led by artists such as Marillion, UK, Twelfth Night, IQ, Pendragon, Quasar, and Pallas. The groups of this period are sometimes referred to as neo-progressive rock, influenced by 1970s progressive rock groups like Genesis and Yes, but incorporating elements of New Wave and other rock elements found in the 1980s. The digital synthesiser became a prominent instrument in the style. Neo-prog continued to remain viable into the 1990s and beyond with bands like Arena and Jadis.
Some progressive rock stalwarts changed musical direction, simplifying their music and making it more commercially viable. In 1981, King Crimson regrouped with a more techno-rhythmic sound and Asia, a new supergroup composed of members of some of the major prog acts of the 1970s, released a mainstream rock-oriented debut album. This demonstrated a market for more commercialised British progressive rock – combining progressive rock with hard rock elements, in a style similar to that played by North American Top 40 stalwarts such as Styx, Journey, and to a lesser extent Rush. Genesis changed to a more commercial direction during the 1980s, as did Yes with a comeback album entitled 90125, featuring their only US number one single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart".
1990s and 2000s
The progressive rock genre enjoyed another revival in the 1990s. A notable impetus to this revival was the 1991 foundation of the Swedish Art Rock Society, an association created to rescue the values of classic progressive rock, with Pär Lindh as chairman. This society was a catalyst for new Swedish bands such as Anekdoten, Änglagård, Landberk and Pär Lindh Project, which joined the scene between 1992 and 1994. These bands became part of progressive rock's "Third Wave," spearheaded by Sweden's The Flower Kings, the UK's Porcupine Tree, Norway's White Willow, and from the United States, Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, Echolyn, Proto-Kaw (a reincarnation of an early lineup of Kansas), and Glass Hammer. Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon project, featuring the backing of an array of talent from the progressive rock genre, produced a series of innovative prog-metal concept albums starting from 1995.
Several of the bands in the prog-metal genre – U.S. bands Queensrÿche, Fates Warning, and Dream Theater, as well as Sweden's Opeth – cite pioneer progressive hard-rockers Rush as a primary influence, although their music also exhibits influences from more traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Tool (U.S.) have cited pioneers King Crimson as an influence on their work. King Crimson opened for Tool on their 2001 tour and expressed admiration for the group while continuing to deny the "prog" label.[dead link]
Progressive rock has also served as a key inspiration for genres such as post-rock, avant-garde metal, power metal, neo-classical metal and symphonic metal. Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy has acknowledged that the prominent use of progressive elements and qualities in metal is not confined to bands conventionally classified as "progressive metal". Many underground metal styles (especially extreme metal styles, which are characterised by extremely fast or slow speed, high levels of distortion, a technical or atmospheric, epic orientation and often highly unusual melodies, scales, vocal styles, song structures and, especially in death metal, abrupt tempo, key and time signature changes; folk metal is known for often employing uncommon instruments and other unusual elements) and some seminal bands such as Watchtower, Death, Celtic Frost (a band having pioneered several styles) or The 3rd and the Mortal remain poorly known even to genre fans.
Former members of the pioneering post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez went on to form The Mars Volta, a successful progressive band that incorporates jazz, funk, punk rock, Latin music, and ambient noise into songs that range in length from a few minutes to more than thirty. They achieved some crossover success with their 2005 album Frances the Mute, which reached number 4 on the Billboard 200 chart after the single "The Widow" became a hit on modern rock radio. Coheed and Cambria are another band known for their lengthy solos and off-the-beaten-path songwriting direction, in which each song corresponds to an important event in the graphic novel and novel series, The Amory Wars, which was written by lead singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez. Other successful mainstream rock bands, including Radiohead, Muse and 30 Seconds to Mars, have been cited in the mainstream press as inheritors of the progressive rock mantle, along with Pure Reason Revolution, The Mystery Jets, Nude and Mew.
The first decade of the 2000s saw progressive rock gain popularity in eastern Europe, especially in Russia, where the InProg festival was founded in 2001 and bands like Little Tragedies, EXIT project, Kostarev Group and Disen Gage achieved relative success in the Russian rock scene and were also noted outside Russia. Other notable north and eastern European bands are the Danish band Prime Time, the Turkish band Nemrud and Latvian band Olive Mess and the Polish band Riverside. In Asia, some progressive rock bands such as the Uzbek band FromUz were also founded. With popularity of post-hardcore on rise, late 2000s groups such as Of Machines and Woe, Is Me would combine their musical styles with progressive rock handling the term "progressive post-hardcore".
Renewed interest in progressive rock in the 1990s led to the development of festivals. ProgFest, organized by Greg Walker and David Overstreet in 1993, was first held in UCLA's Royce Hall, and featured Sweden's Änglagård, the UK's IQ, Quill and Citadel. ProgDay, held at Storybook Farm near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, began in 1995 and is still active as of 2011. A Southern California festival called CalProg is held every year at Whittier, California in Los Angeles. NEARfest held its first event in 1999 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and has held annual concerts ever since. NEARfest is a gateway for reunions and helps bring international acts back to the US. However, in March 2011 NEARfest was canceled due to low ticket sales for the first time in its history. An international festival called InProg has been held in Moscow since 2001. Most of the performers at this festival are from Russia, but there are also bands from other countries.
Gouveia Art Rock in Portugal is one of the most successful of all. Since 2003, many historic artists from the progressive scene have appeared in the lineup: Van der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, Focus, Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), Richard Sinclair, Ange, Amon Düül II, Present, Univers Zero, Daevid Allen, Mike Keneally, Isildurs Bane, California Guitar Trio and Miriodor.
Other festivals include the annual Rites of Spring Festival (RoSfest) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, ProgResiste Convention  at The Spirit Of 66 in Verviers Belgium, Three Rivers Progressive Rock Festival (3RP) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Rogue Independent Music Festival (or Rogue Fest) in Atlanta, Georgia, Baja Prog in Mexicali, Mexico, Prog In The Park in Rochester, New York, Prog Sud in Marseille, France, Tiana in Barcelona, Spain, Peralta in Navarra, Spain, Progfarm in Holland, Rio Art Rock Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ProgPower USA in Atlanta, Georgia, BalticProgFest in Lithuania, Sinfo Prog La Plata near Buenos Aires, Argentina, The Night of Prog in Loreley, Germany and Summer's End in the UK.The High Voltage Festival (Victoria Park,London,UK) has a Prog Stage, as well as featuring Prog Metal artists on the mainstage .Progressive Nation was held in 2008, featuring progressive metal bands Dream Theater, Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and Three. Progressive Nation 2009 was held the following year featuring Dream Theater, Zappa Plays Zappa, Bigelf, and Scale the Summit touring across the United States and Canada, as well as an additional international tour.
- List of musical works in unusual time signatures
- Progressive folk music
- Progressive metal
- Rock in Opposition
- Timeline of progressive rock
- ^ Listening to the future: the time of progressive rock, 1968-1978, pp. 71-75
- ^ a b c d "Prog-Rock/Art Rock". AllMusic. AllMusic. 2007. http://www.allmusic.com/explore/style/d374. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
- ^ a b Informaworld.com, Covach, John. "Echolyn and American Progressive Rock." Contemporary Music Review 18.4 (1999):Web.
- ^ Popular music. Oxford Companion to Music. Subscription required for online access. Accessed online on March 29, 2010.
- ^ Progressive Rock Timeline (progressiverock.com)
- ^ Classic Rock, July 2010, Issue 146.
- ^ The Roots: The Progressive rock roots, http://www.rockprog.com/04_RockStory/RootsProgressive.aspx
- ^ John Sidney Cotner, "Archetypes of progressiveness in rock, ca. 1966-1973",(University of Wisconsin--Madison, 2001),p.30.
- ^ J. S. Harrington, Sonic Cool: the Life & Death of Rock 'n' Roll (Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2003), ISBN 0-634-02861-8, p. 191.
- ^ Brian Hogg, The History of Scottish Rock and Pop. (BBC/Guinness Publishing);'1-2-3 and the Birth of Prog', Mojo, Nov. 1994
- ^ The Who at progarchives.com
- ^ Proarchives.com
- ^ Unterberger, Richie Progressive Rock Allmusic. Retrieved June 11, 2011
- ^ Osamu Kitajima – Benzaiten at Discogs
- ^ The album was actually released in 1974.
- ^ ELP disbanded in 1979, later reuniting during the years 1992-98.
- ^ "The Early History of Art-Rock/Prog Rock" by Bruce Eder (All-Music Guide Essay). Available at vanguardchurch.com
- ^ a b c d BBC Prog Rock Britannia 2008
- ^ a b Holm-Hudson, K. (October 2001). Progressive Rock Reconsidered. Routledge. ISBN 0-8153-3714-0.
- ^ Brian L. Knight. "Rock in the Name of Progress (Part VI -"Thelonius Punk")". http://members.tripod.com/vermontreview/essays/progressif6.htm. Retrieved 2006-09-19.
- ^ Tommy Udo (September 2006). "Did Punk kill prog?". Classic Rock 97.
- ^ Parlindh.com
- ^ Blair Blake (2001). "Augustember 2001 E.V.". Tool Newsletter. http://www.toolband.com/news/letter/2001_09.php. Retrieved 2006-04-28.
- ^ Eyes Wide Open
- ^ Mike Portnoy Pledges Alliance to One Nation Under Prog
- ^ An Overview of Metal Genres on GEPR
- ^ Interview with Christofer Johnsson, leader of symphonic metal pioneers Therion
- ^ Petridis, Alexis (September 7, 2001). "My journey into sound". London: Guardian Unlimited. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4251589,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
- ^ Campling, Chris (January 28, 2006). "Prog rock? Just say yes". London: Times Online. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22875-2007511,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
- ^ Metal-archives.com
- ^ Fromuzband.com
- ^ ProgDay home page
- ^ Calprog.com
- ^ Gaudela.net
- ^ RoSfest home page
- ^ ProgResiste Convention home page
- ^ 3RP home page
- ^ Myspace.com
- ^ Summersend.co.uk
- ^ http://www.highvoltagefestival.com/line-up/full-artist-line-up/
- ^ Progressivenation2009.com
- Lucky, Jerry. The Progressive Rock Files. Burlington, Ontario: Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc (1998), 304 pages, ISBN 1-896522-10-6 (paperback). Gives an overview of progressive rock's history as well as histories of the major and underground bands in the genre.
- Lucky, Jerry. The Progressive Rock Handbook. Burlington, Ontario: Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc. (2008), 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-894959-76-6 (paperback). Reviews hundreds of progressive rock bands and lists their recordings. Also provides an updated overview, similar to The Progressive Rock Files.
- Macan, Edward. Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1997), 290 pages, ISBN 0-19-509887-0 (hardcover), ISBN 0-19-509888-9 (paperback). Analyzes progressive rock using classical musicology and also sociology.
- Martin, Bill. Listening to the Future: The Time of Progressive Rock. Peru, Ill.: Carus Publishing Company (1998), 356 pages, ISBN 0-8126-9368-X (paperback). An enthusiastic analysis of progressive rock, intermixed with the author's Marxist political views.
- Snider, Charles. The Strawberry Bricks Guide To Progressive Rock. Chicago, Ill.: Lulu Publishing (2008) 364 pages, ISBN 978-0-615-17566-9 (paperback). A veritable record guide to progressive rock, with band histories, musical synopses and critical commentary, all presented in the historical context of a timeline.
- Stump, Paul. The Music's All That Matters: A History of Progressive Rock. London: Quartet Books Limited (1997), 384 pages, ISBN 0-7043-8036-6 (paperback). Smart telling of the history of progressive rock focusing on English bands with some discussion of American and European groups. Takes you from the beginning to the early 1990s.
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