Pink Floyd’s sixth album, ‘Meddle’, is regarded as a prog rock masterpiece. The band had released enjoyable works prior to its release in 1971, but ‘Meddle’ is arguably the first album where all of the “classic Floyd” ingredients came together to create something coherent. David Gilmour has referred to it as the first album since his appointment as guitarist that really made sense, and – as enjoyable as bits of its predecessors are in their own weird and wonderful ways – it’s hard not to argue with that logic. The thunderous bass groove driving ‘One of These Days’ very much looks forward to parts of ‘Animals’; in Gilmour’s ‘Fearless’, there’s a melodic prog songcraft that he would take forward and make the heart of ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ and even the post-Roger Waters ‘Division Bell’, and via the mighty ‘Echoes’ – a side long epic – bits of the Floyd’s soundtrack recording past collide with huge solos, and there’s even a melodic phrase that would be reworked a few years later to become one of ‘Dark Side’s timeless musical touchstones. Unfortunately, there’s the lazy blues of ‘Seamus’, too – something that undoubtedly grew from their Pompeii animal cruelty jam ‘Madamoiselle Nobs’ – but very few albums are perfect.
There are several albums that are widely perceived as genuine classics. Albums which haven’t faded with the passing of time, but instead only seemed to become richer. Sometimes you might feel as if you never need to hear these again due to their over familiarity, and yet, a chance encounter with Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of The Moon’; The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’, or a favourite Beatles album only serves to remind you how good they still sound, and remind you of why you loved them in the first place.
Formed in 2012, The Prog Collective purports to be the world’s biggest prog rock supergroup. The idea of “supergroup” suggests musicians taking a permanent role; for this band, the reality is somewhat different. Yes, there are a lot of different musicians involved, but many of the famous faces signed up for the Collective only ever play on one or two tracks each. In that respect, as has previously been pointed out, this is just another vehicle for the multi-talented Billy Sherwood to present material that doesn’t necessarily fit his day job as Yes bassist/arranger. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course – the likelihood of Steve Hillage, Richard Page and Dweezil Zappa ever being invited to a Yes recording session is less than zero, so Sherwood’s extra-curricular project is more than valid.
During their original run, Alcatrazz weren’t especially stable. They recorded three studio albums with three different guitarists, and went from humble beginnings to imploding within five years. Given how short-lived the band’s time in the sun actually was, it’s absolutely staggering how many bootleg recordings were made. In terms of popularity, they never managed to reach the heights of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, and yet someone pushed the record button surreptitiously whenever and wherever the band appeared.
In 2018, fans were treated to a wealth of these unofficial recordings in an official capacity when HNE Recordings released a 6CD box set made up of various live tapes and studio rehearsals. The quality was often rough, much like old bootlegs you might have sourced from record fairs back in the 80s and 90s, but the historical value of some of the material just couldn’t be ignored. Surprisingly, there was enough material – and seemingly enough interest – for a second volume, and this 5CD set offers fans much more of the same.
Graham Bonnet has always been prolific. Since the release of his self-titled album in 1977, he has barely stopped recording and touring, but the few years in the run up to this third release from Graham Bonnet Band has seen Skegness’s most famous export take on a phenomenal amount of work for a man in his 70s.
Beginning with 2016’s double set ‘The Book’, the veteran vocalist began a late career gold run, with that album presenting some massive new tunes alongside some tight re-workings from his past, creating a great release suitable for both the big fan and the more curious listener. He then played a one off show with a reformed Alcatrazz in Japan, and recorded with both Michael Schenker and Ezoo, before 2018’s ‘Meanwhile…Back In The Garage’ saw Graham and his band sometimes rocking out in a more casual way, but still delivering the goods in terms of riffs and hooks. At a point where most performers might consider stepping back to admire their handiwork, Bonnet then revived Alcatrazz again, toured, and eventually released the critically acclaimed ‘Born Innocent’ – the first new studio work from the band in almost thirty five years.