June was another good month for music, from my perspective: some excellent new stuff and some interesting steps back to forgotten or neglected gems from the past. There's been Progressive music from many genres: progressive rock, fusion, jazz and some a little hard to pigeonhole - but all good stuff, which at the end of the day is really all that matters.
Let's start with the new stuff.
Gandalf's Fist have recently produced a sort of prequel to their monumental 3-disc story-in-song, 2016's 'The Clockwork Fable': a 2-disc offering entitled 'The Clockwork Prologue'. Part narrative, part song, this tells a bizarre story of Cogtopolis with memorable tunes and some ripe language at times, but hugely enjoyable nontheless.
Completing his trilogy of albums begun with 'Courting The Widow' & 'The Bride Says No', Nad Sylvan - one-time singer with Unifaun and Steve Hackett's go-to vocalist for the Genesis Revisited tours - brings us 'The Regal Bastard' which is full of the same thoughtful prog with Sylvan's Gabriel-esque vocals to the fore.
Also completing a trilogy are Freedom To Glide, whose 'Seed' brings to an end their exploration of the First World War begun with 2013's 'Rain' and continued with 2016's 'Fall'. Few albums have affected me as much as this one, and after the first listen I was in tears - absolutely stunning work and even at this stage in the year in line to be very high in my end of year list.
Firefly Burning have released their third album, 'Breathe Shallow'. It's very hard to describe their music, which I first encountered in the 'church slot' at Summer's End a couple of years ago: there are elements of folk, classical, country, world music... all sorts. Bea Hankey's voice draws you in around the melee of music and on the whole it's wonderfully enchanting stuff, though so far this album hasn't captivated me as much as their previous one, 'Skeleton Hill'. Maybe it needs more time...
Bad Elephant Music have given us two offerings this month. First came Introitus with 'Shadows', a band I was unfamiliar with. There are echoes for me here of Karnataka and Muse in places, and this is a good mix of vocal and instrumental tracks with a couple of meaty 'epics'. And towards the end of the month there was the fourth album from The Gift - 'Antenna'. This is still 'bedding in' with me, but so far it doesn't seem to have the immediacy of their earlier albums. Maybe it will grow...
Away from Progressive Rock there's been a couple of new jazz acquisitions from Edition Records, both from piano/ bass/ drums trios. Alexi Tuamarilo Trio have produced a couple of excellent earlier albums in the past, and their latest, 'Sphere', is another great collection, enhanced on three of the tracks by trumpeter Verneri Pohjola: moody, moving and magnificent! Alongside this is the latest from Elliot Galvin - 'Modern Times', which is just as good and maybe a little more melodic.
The new album from Bruce Springsteen, 'Western Stars', is a wonderful example of The Boss's knack of telling moving stories through simple melodies, and although it's more country than Jersey - more Mid West than East coast - there's no denying it's Bruce and the songs are instantly memorable and feel like they've been around for ages.
I took the plunge last month with Gong, and this month I've given their latest album, 'The Universe Also Collapses' a spin. Although a different band now, with Kavus Torabi taking the mic and guitar, there is still that Gong magic: the music is deep and complex yet at the same time approachable, and I am so much looking forward to seeing them supporting Steve Hillage later this year.
Among the older stuff was another Gong album, 'Shamal', very much at the jazzier, fusion end of their music. Very much in the fusion 'camp' is The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and I recently treated myself to their first 5 albums, 2 of which - 'Apocalypse' & 'Visions of the Emerald Beyond' were new to me. All five albums are, of course, stunning.
Browsing around HMV (as I am wont to do) a couple of albums commended themselves to me. One was Scott Walker's debut solo album, inventively titles 'Scott' which has some outstanding songs on it, just, in 1967, showing signs of going out on a musical limb a little. Another was a compilation collection of songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival. I was only really familiar with their singles, so it was good to hear a little more of their repertoire which (to quote the CD sleeve) "fused the raw, organic honesty of country music with the fire and urgency of rock'n'roll to create a catalogue that even four decades [now 5 decades] later still sounds fresh and vibrant."
So, that's been most of my listening over the past month. No live gigs this month, apart from a visit by Christian singer/ songwriter Paul Field to the church in Ashby, which was a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And then there were a couple of early listens to up-coming albums from Magic Pie - a belter, really - and Pattern-Seeking Animals, who draw heavily for personnel on Spock's Beard, which shows in the music: pleasant-enough, if you like Spock's Beard...
Here's to the second half of the year! July is already looking interesting and mixed in content... but there's a house move to fit in sometime.