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KEVIN ROWLAND – THE PROGRESSIVE UNDERGROUND (Volumes 4 & 5) (Gonzo Books)

Updated: 6 days ago

Moving further on with Kev’s musicology artifacts from a period when CDs were falling through doors left, right and centre and prog and ‘underground’ (which is a term I always preferred when I started listening to serious music), these last two volumes (for now?) made me realise that my contemporaneous reviewing for “Acid Dragon” and others, whilst extensive, still had gaps which are now filled in by new discoveries I made when leafing through “The Progressive Underground”.


First of all, nice memories were stirred (and validation appreciated as our views of the releases were broadly similar) with the likes of DEAD HEROES’ CLUB (Whatever happened to them?), MAGIC PIE, ACQUA FRAGILE, THINKING PLAGUE and one of the finest prog metal bands ever in THRESHOLD. I was also reminded that, once you invited CDs for review, piles of material by the same artist caused some quality control issues - a) in finding the time to listen to them properly and b) in the lack of restraint by artists themselves who sometimes filled a CD full of music simply because the capacity was there without stopping to think how difficult it is to make a ‘keeper’ in a single album, never mind a double. There was something very liberating in the growth of home studios, but the lack of producer certainly took its toll. Despite all that, it is amazing how much consistently good music appeared.


Whilst many of the names of the artists covered have not endured so well (although many are still going in some guise or another), others have made significant impacts, such as ANEKDOTEN and BIG BIG TRAIN. I was also reminded of the first ‘Flamenco prog rock band’ in CARMEN with their “Fandangos in Space” and their JETHRO TULL connection, and how PARTICK MORAZ and BILL BRUFORD had reinvented themselves with albums like “I” and Bruford with his jazz-fusion outfits in compilations known as the “Winterfold” and “Summerfold” collections.


There is so much to discover/ re-discover in “The Progressive Underground” with interviews and occasional book and gig reviews also included; they are essential for those who wish to have a comprehensive and personal but insightful look at the first steps of a revivalist movement – who would have thought there would be a magazine called “PROG” when Punk and New Wave held sway?

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