Sunday, 30 June 2013

Yes, prog-rock of the Seventies is back, says Rick Wakeman

Clubbers who have made "Get Lucky" this summer's dance-floor anthem will be shocked to hear that Daft Punk aren't the robot-friendly sound of the future – but revivalists of Seventies progressive rock, once the most derided of genres.

Prog, a bombastic mutation of rock and classical genres typically performed by highly skilled musicians in outrageous capes, could once be heard echoing from student halls and stadiums across the land. 

Supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer sold 40 million copies of their symphonic rock while Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes and Rush became prog's most commercially savvy flag-bearers.

In the end it was punk that swept away those highly designed concept albums with their epic or medieval themes and ostentatious, lengthy, and, some would say, self-indulgent displays of musical proficiency.
But now prog is back, freed from rock's closet of shame, and claiming such favourites as Radiohead, Elbow and Muse as acolytes. A new wave of bands, such as Scottish electro-prog explorers North Atlantic Oscillation, is also finding favour.

Meanwhile, Rick Wakeman, keyboardist with Yes, is about to capitalise on the revival with a new multimedia touring version of his 1974 landmark solo album, Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Wakeman says Daft Punk, the French techno duo responsible for the million-selling single "Get Lucky", are as prog as they come. Inspired by Pink Floyd's album Dark Side of the Moon, the band employed live musicians on vintage synthesisers for their album Random Access Memories, which included one nine-minute song.

"They are going back to the prog ethos that there are no rules, no one is going to stop you experimenting. You aren't restricted to the three-minute single any more," said Wakeman. "That goes back to the early days of prog.

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