For a band once considered to be the epitome of counter culture and not in it for “the bread, man”, it sometimes seems as if the twenty first century Hawkwind are just a machine churning out new products. December 2021 brought the career spanning, anthology ‘Dust of Time’ – their fourth release in under two years. Although it was beautifully put together, it didn’t give hardcore fans much they wouldn’t already own. However, it successfully covered a lot of musical ground, and for the keen eared and eagle eyed, a couple of rarer BBC recordings could be found within its sprawling eighty one tracks. It’s hard to please everyone, but the six disc box set had a really good go.
Following the release of their eighteenth studio album ‘FEAR’, Marillion found themselves somewhere near the top of their game. The recording had gained them a vast amount of praise, and the subsequent tour saw the band sell out London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall. Not a bad result for a band that some quarters of the press had previously written off. Although a rather dense listen, ‘FEAR’ covered a lot of musical ground, and had plenty of moments that suggested the band were in a more creative space than they’d been for some time. Between some dark arrangements, politically charged lyrics and a desire to make their listeners think, it felt like Marillion’s most complete sounding work for some time. Not necessarily their “best”, but arguably their most coherent.
The twenty second studio album from Yes, ‘The Quest’ demonstrated how the ever evolving and legendary prog band were still capable of making great music. With a delicate balance between soaring melodies and complex structures, the album harked back to classic Yes in many ways, but also showed how they refused to become stagnant.
In a piece of very welcome news for fans of 80s prog, the legendary Twelfth Night are set to release a new version of their classic ‘Smiling At Grief’ album entitled ‘Smiling At Grief…Revisited’ in March.
The reworked material, set to have new instrumentation, new mixes and vocals features contributions from some of the current prog scene’s most important figures, including Steven Wilson, The Tangent’s Andy Tillison, and Camel’s Peter Jones.
For even the greatest bands, there’s rarely such a thing as overnight success. This was certainly true for British prog band, Big Big Train. They spent the second half of the 90s and the early noughties recording independent albums that clicked with a small core of people, but remained largely hidden from the prog world at large. Works like ‘Goodbye To The Age of Steam’ and ‘Gathering Speed’ set out a rich musical stall that showed a love of Anthony Philips, and despite changes in line-up and sound, their music retained a very pastoral, very English heart that inspired all who heard it. Despite cult adoration, genuine success often seemed elusive; it wasn’t really until the release of their sixth proper album, 2009’s ‘The Underfall Yard’, that the band started to gain the kind of attention they’d long deserved.