Wednesday, January 07, 2009
reasons to feel guilty, part 3
Having extolled the virtues of the Carpenters and the Style Council in recent posts, I now stride fearlessly on in the quest for a hat-trick of Guilty Pleasures (TM). This week BBC4 brought to our homes its five-night Prog Britannia season in an appreciation of the 1970s musical behemoth that was progressive rock.
Like the music itself, the season had its ups and downs. The hour-and-a-half historical documentary which opened the season seemed to claim that it was at the very time when punk appeared to drag popular music out of the Court of the Crimson King and into a sweaty, pogo-ing crowd at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, that the music of the main prog acts (Yes, ELP, King Crimson) had begun to cross an ill-defined line into overblown self-indulgence. In reality, you only have to look at Rick Wakeman's spangly cape and huge bank of keyboards and listen to the cod mysticality in, say, Jon Anderson's largely nonsensical lyrics to know that self-restraint was never the prog way.
It's a fair enough assessment though that prog was a logical development of some of the psychedelic meanderings which had begun to appear, for example, in later Beatles albums, and for musicians involved--Steve Howe (Yes), Carl Palmer (ELP), Bill Bruford (Yes/King Crimson)--to claim that they were attempting to combine the complex structures of classical music, the irregular rhythmic metres of jazz and world musics and their own extreme instrumental dexterity, and so create something genuinely original.
Some of the programmes in the season were quite painful to watch. Nothing to do with the music though. Two words. Phil. Collins. Now, I have to admit a certain affection for the early Collins-era Genesis albums, Trick of the Tail, And Then There Were Three, Duke. Lord knows though, it's difficult to warm to him as a man... We'll leave it at that.
Anyway, that's not to generally denigrate the music. I reckon there are some good tunes buried in there among all those 27/8 time signatures and all that instrumental noodling. How about this YouTube gem for example, from the 1971 Genesis album Nursery Cryme? At least Collins could hack it as a drummer...