Following his days with the original King Crimson and the release of his LP with Ian McDonald, drummer Michael Giles focused on studio work. After building his own recording facility, he began work on Progress, completed it around 1978, mixed it, and then put it on a shelf, waiting for the "right moment" to put it out as prog rock was experiencing an abrupt decline in popular favor. It came out only in 2002 and thus will appeal mostly to nostalgic fans. A loosely conceptual album built around a trip by train, Progress is a very nice album of prog rock with hints of jazz fusion and Canterbury-style writing. Michael Giles is not a great singer. His voice recalls Chris Squire's on the latter's solo LP, Fish Out of Water (i.e., it lacks strength and character to assume a leading role). Then again, only five of the 12 tracks have lyrics. The other tunes range from delicate atmospheres to full-on prog rock anthems and feature established U.K. musicians like Geoffrey Richardson, John Perry, and Jimmy Hastings, plus brother (and also ex-Crimson) Peter Giles. Highlights include "Departure," where the drummer reminds listeners that he has the finesse of a free improviser, the quiet "Midsummer Day," "Progress," and the jazzier "Arrival." Most of all, Progress shows how good a session player and studio arranger Giles could be. It will be of more interest to fans of Cunning Stunts-era Caravan and Hatfield and the North (although the music adopts a friendlier mood reminiscent of Anthony Phillips' pop albums from the same period) than to King Crimson completists.
AllMusic Review by François Couture