The Garden

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Many rock historians have said that progressive rock's bloated excesses were one of the main reasons why the punk movement was an absolute necessity in the 1970s. To be sure, prog rock had its excesses back then -- actually, prog rock (like prog metal) still has plenty of them in the 21st century -- but when it wasn't too self-indulgent for its own good, prog rock gave listeners some true classics, including Yes' Fragile and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. Greatly influenced by British groups like Yes, Pink Floyd, and Genesis, Unitopia provide prog rock that is easy to absorb and doesn't allow itself to be suffocated by a sense of self-importance. The Garden is ambitious; during the course of this two-CD set, Unitopia incorporate everything from jazz to hard rock. But the Australian prog rockers manage to avoid sounding like they are full of themselves; in fact, The Garden has a lot of heart. And at the end of the day, this 2008 release is simply a collection of very listenable songs. Although it is best to enjoy The Garden as a whole, the individual songs can easily stand on their own. Of course, that has often been said about Fragile; many Yes fans prefer to listen to that 1971 recording from start to finish, but "Heart of the Sunrise," "Roundabout," and "Long Distance Runaround" are still meaningful if one opts to listen to those songs individually. Similarly, Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" works perfectly well on its own even if one hasn't heard the rest of Wish You Were Here. And those artists have obviously taught Unitopia that the most substantial prog rock isn't just about ambition -- it is about honest-to-God songcraft. That isn't to say that The Garden is in a class with Fragile or Wish You Were Here, only that Yes and Pink Floyd (along with early Genesis) have been positive influences on Unitopia, whose The Garden is a respectable, nicely crafted example of what prog rock had to offer in 2008.

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