Various Artists

Prog Is Not a Four Letter Word

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Certainly this well-annotated compilation covering progressive rock from around the globe between 1969-1978 is both wide-ranging and obscure. The 15 tracks offer material from a dozen countries, representing not just the Western European nations that were most responsible for propagating the genre, but also some countries from which little progressive rock has widely circulated, including Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Hungary, and Korea. Only Egg, the sole entry from England, is apt to be known to the average prog rock collector, and even Egg wasn't exactly a household name. As to whether Prog Is Not a Four Letter Word represents some of the best prog rock (or even best obscure prog rock) ever, that's more open to debate. Those who've never warmed to prog rock will find much of what's kept them at bay presented and accounted for in various degrees, including hard-to-hum melodies and a certain seriously cerebral artiness. Open-minded devotees of the approach, however, will find a lot of variety, including eerie, folky electronic spaciness, wiggly use of guitar and keyboard textures, echoes of cheesy organ psychedelia (in San Ui Lim's "Frustration," from Korea), the more standard prog rock churchy organ sound (Egg's "Fugue in D Minor"), dramatic classical- folk-influenced melodies (Bran's Welsh-language "Breuddwyd"), and gothic ethnic accents from Eastern and Central Europe. It's nothing if not eclectic, with touches of funk, hard rock, Indian music, jazz, and metal making their way into the mix at times as well. Jean-Claude Vannier's "Le Roi des Mouches" is a highlight if that kind of genre-blending is your thing, with its sweeping blend of twangy Eastern-flavored riffs, cinematic orchestration, and pulsing percussion. It's kind of lacking in dynamically memorable riffs, but to its credit, it does generally have a lighter, more human touch than is usually associated with the prog rock label. It's useful for those who just want a sampler of a bunch of unexpected international spins on the style, as well as for those who might find it a useful springboard from which to start investigating and collecting these kind of little-known bands.

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