Prepare To Prog

genesis

All right, got my ticket to the concert, check the calendar… 3 weeks to go, what’s next? Train man — train hard like Rocky would.

A typical training regime begins with listening to the artist’s latest CD, over and over again. Sometimes it’s easy. The songs come to you and you feel them immediately. Your body and brain react unconsciously, like Neo dodging bullets. You understand, accept and feel the music completely. This is rare. Training is usually difficult because you have your favorites from the artist and when the new stuff is not measuring up, it becomes work — like running in Siberia with a log on your back (Rocky 3).

I have been training very hard over the last few weeks, and at times have felt totally overwhelmed. I feel like I have given myself only 3 weeks to train for a marathon. Sometimes I question myself — do possess the endurance and mental fortitude necessary to rise to the occasion? Self-defeating thoughts have been entering my mind: I should have started training for this years ago (or maybe when I was 14)… it’s too big, too complex…I’ve never been challenged like this before, and I need more experience. But something brings me back each day to listen again and again, and search the interweb for different interpretations of the music. It is exhausting and excruciating, but then I feel my music muscle memory kick in and I’m starting to get the music version of a runner’s high. I just want to keep listening. I think can…I think I can — I just might be able to — get my mind and body in tune for The Musical Box‘s performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway this Saturday at the Danforth Music Hall.

This record is the New York Marathon of progressive rock concept albums. Genesis released the epic double album in 1974, and it is the sprawling storey of Rael, a streetwise kid from Brooklyn and his quest to make a name for himself. Transpose the “a” and “e” and it’s Real — or is it a play on Peter Gabriel? — and that’s just the beginning… I found pages and pages online written by people attempting to deconstruct the plot and explain the symbolism. I feel like I need an English teacher to help me understand this. And this has been the great fun of my current training exercise — remembering the things I love about concept albums. It’s pure escapism, suspension of disbelief, entering Rael’s world and following him along the gritty streets of 1970’s New York and through fantastical magical caves and endless staircases.

Spending time with this album has reignited my interest in revisiting some of my old favorite concept albums and taking a chance on some new ones. Maybe its time for me to give some of the contemporaries a shot – Coheed and Cambria come to mind. I took a break today from training and listened to Arcarde Fire’s concept album The Suburbs. I thought to myself “damn, Rush said all of this in one one song, ‘Subdivsions,’ and also released 3 concepts albums – one about necromancers, one about a dystopian society and one about Greek gods fighting for man’s conscience — and they still didn’t win a Grammy”. Maybe Arcade Fire’s Grammy for The Suburbs was more of a recognition of the brilliance of the concept album. A calling card to other artists to take an idea, add adventurous music, dare to be grandiose, and something special might happen. So special it is still being recreated 37 years after its’ release.

For more on the history of The Musical Box & their collaboration with Genesis, click here.

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13 responses to “Prepare To Prog

  • Spencer

    From the Wikipedia article: “The band’s decision to exactly reproduce the sound of the original studio albums in a live environment caused some controversy especially within the Genesis hard-core fan community.”

    I love it that there is a ‘Genesis hard-core fan community’. Fucking prog rock fans. AMAZING.

  • christian simpson

    Absoluetly loved that, great writing. you roped me in from the first sentence.

  • Alan

    Mark,

    I’ll have to lend you a bunch of my prog albums. I was a fan of the stuff, but my big love affair was with Krautrock. I found prog just took itself way to serious and was in jeopardy of crawling up it’s own arse. I fell totally out with Prog when I heard the raucous sounds of Punk, but I still kept many of my albums. Let me know when you want to get a hold of them and I’ll get some out for you.

    BTW, great article

    • Thinfinn

      Proof there is a little Prog in everyone. I understand becoming a bit
      disillusioned with the whole thing. To quote Christian/Thornehayes you can lost in “Fog of Prog”. It makes me think of idea of art born of resistance. A lot of people couldn’t take anymore and Punk was born- Punk owes a debt to Prog.

      I will gladly have a listen to those records

      Bonus!

  • whyskeletonwhy

    The-disaster-that-is Ken Russel’s cinematic interpretation notwithstanding, I think any discussion of concept albums should acknowledge the one, the only, and the original. ‘Tommy’. It may be the only true concept album in that there are multiple characters and a cohesive plot that progresses more or less chronologically. In the endless Beatles vs. Rolling Stones debates I always wonder what either of those two very fine groups ever did that compares to the Overture from Tommy, or even the Underture for that matter. To also produce Pinball Wizard, I’m Free, We’re Not Gonna Take It and Acid Queen while telling a story is phenomenal. Superb musicianship and truly genius writing, it is a vision beautifully realized

    • Thinfinn

      I completely agree. It is always about the Beatles and The Stones. Any discussion about or comparing the contributions of these bands is Incomplete without adding the Who to the conversation.

      The Who – destroyed and changed so many things and ideas of what band could do and be.

      Tommy I hear you

  • bytor

    Excellent Thin Finn!
    Great homage to Rush’s “concept song” I immediately thought of Gordon Lightfoots concept song ‘Great Canadian Railway Trilogy” he said in one song what Pierre Berton took 496 pages to say. No offense to AF & PB, great album and great book – but just saying…OK I digress big time….cheers to prog, concept LPs and bands that have the balls to write songs longer then 4 minutes!! (not that there is anything wrong with that) and cheers to Tommy – one of my favorites.

    here’s a couple notable current concept albums (well one is from the 90’s)

    Rheostatics ‘Music Inspired by the Group of Seven’ (1995)
    Kirk Swinghammer ‘turpentine wind’ concept album re. Tom Thompson, (2011)

    • Thinfinn

      Love the idea of the Concept Song. The first thing I thought of was those great Marty Robbins Trail songs- they seem to go on forever, a complete plot.

      I want to check out this Tom Thompson album- more info!

      Don’t apologize for “the digress” that’s the juice

  • Spencer

    I just started training with this record yesterday. Basically I’ve been doing the equivalent of lying on the couch eating Cheetos (i.e. Selena Gomez songs) for the past 3 weeks while Mark was getting in shape. Obviously I’m fucked.

    Doesn’t matter, I know I will enjoy the show tomorrow night anyway. Can’t wait to PROG OUT.

  • Guess It’s Goodbye Again « Let Them Read Vinyl

    […] been a slow week here at Let Them Read Vinyl. Our apologies. The Finn is recovering from his prog odyssey, which kept him out until the wee hours of the morning on Sunday. I think he is still collecting […]

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