RIP Alan White

This morning I decided to wear my Yes “90124” t-shirt. It’s one of my favorites as I love the band and of course the album. Then I find out that Alan White passed away today. Now I am honoring one of the greatest drummers in rock history. Alan White played with such power and when that started to slip, you knew something was wrong. I remember him as he was. An icon.

I am curious how long Steve Howe will milk the Yes name now that Alan is gone. It really isn’t Yes now, Steve. I think one more tour to honor Alan and the 50th year is fine but unless Jon Anderson comes back, shut it down. It’s a tribute band.

RIP Alan White and thank you for all of the music.

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The Pineapple Thief – “Give it Back”

Normally when a band re-records their music, it’s a last ditch effort to salvage what’s left of their career. They paint it as how the current lineup interprets their classics. “Give it Back” by The Pineapple Thief is not that however. While it is a band re-recording older songs, it’s more about a reinterpretation of songs by a lineup that now features legendary drummer Gavin Harrison. They have referred to this as the songs being “re-wired.”

It’s an opportunity really newer fans that came on because of Harrison to get acquainted with a sampling of the band’s back catalog AND a chance for old time fans (like myself) to hear these songs with a fresh coat of paint. The performances are all absolutely stellar of course and Harrison knows when to attack a song and when to lay back a bit. The only question when it comes to any sort of “compilation” style album (or live album for that matter) is song selection. And of course there are plenty of songs I might have preferred but that’s not to take away from the songs chosen.

One of my favorite choices and interpretations is “Build a World.” It’s a great song so it lends itself well to whatever you might decide to do. But I like the intro where the band gives it the same arrangement as the bonus disc from “Versions of the Truth.” Eventually it kicks in and that dynamic just makes it more interesting to me. A classic like “Shoot First” has even more teeth than the original. It is interesting that 5 of the songs are from the same album, “All the Wars.” At that point, why not just re-record the rest? That said, the choices from it are great, including the song that gives this set its title, “Give it Back.” I really do wish they had done “We Subside” because I can hear Harrison attacking the end of that song and making it even more powerful.

“Give it Back” accomplishes the task of being an album all fans of The Pineapple Thief will enjoy while also making a great place to start for those who have never checked them out. It’s a great showcase for the songwriting talent of Bruce Soord who is on par with ANY modern prog artist (yes you, Steven). I hope the band decides on a sequel as well, assuming Harrison has time with Porcupine Tree returning to action. Time will tell. Until then, we can celebrate the history of a band that’s success is long overdue.

Release Date: 13 May 2022
Label: Kscope

Tracklist:

1. Wretched Soul (Rewired)
2. Dead In The Water (Rewired)
3. Give It Back (Rewired)
4. Build A World (Rewired)
5. Start Your Descent (Rewired)
6. 137 (Rewired)
7. Shoot First (Rewired)
8. Boxing Day (Rewired)
9. Warm Seas (Rewired)
10. Someone Pull Me Out (Rewired)
11. Last Man Standing (Rewired)
12. Little Man (Rewired)

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Porcupine Tree – “Closure/Continuation”

For years now, fans of Porcupine Tree have been begging for a new album. After the release of 2009’s “The Incident,” band leader Steven Wilson embarked on a very successful solo career. It seemed he no longer needed Porcupine Tree, nor was interested in revisiting his past. But after 2 very poppy albums (both were pretty terrible, in my opinion), Wilson surprised everyone by reforming Porcupine Tree, albeit without bassist Colin Edwin. There’s been no explanation for his absence as of yet.

The remaining trio of Wilson, drummer Gavin Harrison and keyboardist Richard Barberi formed an company called “Porcupine Three Limited” earlier in 2021 which led people to speculate the reason for it. Then the band started up all their social media accounts and before long we had a new song “Harridan” released on November 1, 2021. It was official! A second single “Of the New Day” was released on March 8th. And the full album “Closure/Continuation” is coming out on June 24th.

Prior to hearing “Harridan,” I was definitely concerned that Wilson’s song writing might not be up for the task since I hated the songs (not the style) of his last 2 solo albums. But “Harridan” was a Deadwing-era sounding STOMPER! I was very excited and that continued with the more mellow “Of the New Day.” The mix of styles and textures on “Closure/Continuation” not only brings in “Deadwing” and “Fear of a Blank Planet” but many tracks, including “Of the New Day,” would not sound out of place on “Hand.Cannot.Erase.” which has always felt very PT to me. Wilson actually takes over on bass, in addition to guitar and vocals making this very much a “And Then There Were Three” type project.

After the first two tracks, the great songs keep going with “Rats Return.” The song has some of those angular riffs and moody keys that Porcupine Tree were/are known for. GREAT SONG! The range of the album is clear when you compare the next two tracks. “Dignity” is very melodic and would not sound out of place on “HCE” while “Herd Culling” has some of the thickest riffs that PT have done which is reminiscent of “In Absentia” or “Deadwing.”

“Walk The Plank” has that odd etereal sound that was heard in the past on “Gravity Eyelids” or “Sleep Together,” though it’s probably stranger than each one. The nearly ten minute “Chimera’s Wreck” has plenty of everything that makes this band amazing, moody as hell, cool riffs and great playing! Another highlight for me is the instrumental “Population Three” which is a clear reference to their new company.

But the key for ALL of these songs are the reference points (even if I am overdoing that). Rather it’s that these are GREAT songs with a ton of tension, hooks and memorable moments. All of those have been seriously lacking for me with regard to Wilson’s solo career of late.

“Closure/Continuation” is the album Porcupine Tree fans have been waiting for. Period. The only question is, is this a closure or a continuation? If this winds up being the actual end for this band, they have gone out on top. Part of the problem for me was always that “The Incident” was good but not truly great. I felt they needed a masterpiece to end on. This is definitely a masterpiece, I just hope it truly isn’t the last one.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:
1. Harridan
2. Of The New Day
3. Rats Return
4. Dignity
5. Herd Culling
6. Walk The Plank
7. Chimera’s Wreck
BONUS TRACKS
8. Population Three * †
9. Never Have * †
10.Love In The Past Tense †

* Limited Audiophile Deluxe LP
† Limited Audiophile Deluxe CD

Label: Music For Nations/Megaforce Records
Release Date: June 24, 2022

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Leave Your Preconceived Notions at the Door

It’s probably the hardest thing to do when it comes to any art form. Not having any sort of expectation. The only time that I can actually listen to an album without any sort of preconceived notion is if I have not hard anything by the artist before. It helps if I know very little about them as well. But the days of buying an album based on someone else saying “yeah it’s great, just buy it” are long gone.

I used to buy albums if they had a cool cover. You would only hear top 40 shit on the radio so the cooler music was completely unknown. Now you can check anything out before you buy it. Reviewing music means getting inundated with pressers about the music to convince you to listen to it. So you have a slight bias or expectation before you even hear it. A necessary evil I suppose.

Part of the reason that people love the first album they ever heard by a band is that they had nothing really to compare it to. That’s not to say that something might come along that you like better but it’s hard to do. You are always going to compare a new album to that first one. “They just aren’t as good anymore!” Not true. You just prefer that innocence you can’t have any longer.

Bands change, their sounds change, members change, and yes you change. All of that baggage is with you going into listening to a new album by that band. You have an expectation, a preconceived notion that you are certainly entitled to but many times it puts blinders on you. You might not be comfortable without them, no matter how “progressive” you claim to be. Trust me, I know.

How do you leave those preconceived notions at the door? You have to be in a frame of mind for it. As open as you can be and up for anything. You also need to be willing to listen many times to break through the walls your expectations have built. It can take years. I find many times that albums that didn’t meet what I wanted at the time hit me later, years later, and I wind up loving them for what they ARE and not what I demanded at the time.

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Where did they go?

I was having a conversation in the comments with a friend on here about a one man project that apparently no longer exists on Bandcamp or anywhere else for that matter. I am not surprised. Of course it’s hard as hell for small bands or projects to survive unless they are content with being just for the sake of making music. Unfortunately, many people really want more than that.

The other possibility is that priorities change, life changes or any number of things. I’ve had it happen A LOT with bands that I had tried to support. Or they change so much from what they were, they are no longer my style. Very few bands are “fully formed” when they start out. Even the greats like Rush, Pink Floyd or Genesis changed from their first album or two to what they became.

Patience is not something we as listeners or they as musicians have, for various reasons. So that is actually one reason why I limited all review submissions to not include independents because they were so unstable (and there were way too many of course). I thought that if they were signed or used a PR firm, they were more “committed” and would not just vanish. It’s not perfect or fair but when you get burned enough times, you make adjustments.

Now I barely do music reviews and when I do it’s going to be for something that just DEMANDS I write something. Not an easy plight. But it beats having to try to figure out what happened to a band. Where did they go? Who the fuck knows…

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10 Years of PMP

On March 25th 2012, I decided I would try creating a Facebook page. I had been posted music related stuff on my personal page but no one really cared (other than my amazing wife). So why not throw all of that onto a separate page? That way I am not annoying anyone and I just have a private place.

I called it “Progressive Music Page” because I had no better ideas. I even included a parenthetical of Progressive Rock/Progressive Metal so that it wouldn’t get lost. Then again, I assumed maybe 10 people would like the page. For a while that’s all there was.

The first change was that I did this A-Z exercise where I posted a band a day based on the name. I decided to tag the band, mostly because I had just learned how to do it. And that was when people started liking posts and even liking the page. I recall going over 100 and thinking how crazy that was. Other people liked the same weird ass music. Nice.

I came up with a logo for the page and things were fine. From 2012 to 2015, the growth was steady but certainly nothing to take seriously. But the page changed into a planet. I had been asked by my buddy Jon DuBose to contribute music ideas for his radio show “Headphone Meditations.” It was fun and I always wanted to be a DJ since I was a kid. So this was close. I was asked by Metal World Radio station owner Melissa “DJ Hawk” Montano if I wanted my own radio show. Hell yes! This made me rethink the name since calling a radio “Progressive Music PAGE” made no sense at all! Enter the Warden.

My wife is amazing and she said to me “why not change the last word from ‘page’ to ‘planet’?” She knew I loved astronomy and space and it was the same first letter. PERFECT! And thus the planet was born. That led me to create the logo using a Roger Dean font I found and I felt like a read site versus whatever it was before this. The radio show had many fun moments and is still going strong to this day.

In 2016, things got crazy. To this day I still don’t know how it happened. I have never advertised on Facebook or anywhere. My Instagram page at the time was called “progmanrob” since I adapted that alias for myself (I’ve dumped the Progman part since then). I had to change the Instagram page over to be Progressive Music Planet because my follows were getting crazy and had more to do with music than my cats. So I created a personal one and let PMP have the initial one. On Facebook, the likes went thru the fucking roof. Thousands at a time were coming in. It never slowed down either. Apparently FB was including me more and more with “Pages you might like” for free. How nice. It was truly mindblowing.

Of course since I’ve been a shy, unsocial person all my life, being surrounded by tens of thousands of people caused issues. To this day I still act like a fucking asshole from time to time. I’ve had to apologize many times for saying something stupid or getting into an argument. I still get really pissed off with the “that’s not prog” comments or when people piss all over an album that I love. It’s fine to have an opinion but people get nasty and then I have to ban them. I’ve learned not to argue as much and just ban jerks FIRST. But I’ve never been in a position like this and eventhough it’s been years now. I am learning.

I started this website because I’d been doing music reviews for another website PowerofMetal.dk and had a good following there. Why write for someone else? So…I started this and did reviews. The problem was, I never liked doing them! I was an English major in college so I can write. But how many ways can you say you like an album or don’t like an album?? Eventually it started to ruin my enjoyment of listening to music. I wasn’t listening, I was thinking about what about the song I liked or didn’t. Plus I got SLAMMED with review requests. I had to remove my email from this site. It was nuts. I still get a lot of requests via Facebook and had to create an auto reply for them. I have basically stopped doing reviews and because I stopped, so did the folks who were contributors to this website. I do appreciate their work!

The page has always been a one man show. Along with Instagram and 95% of this site. Why don’t I share? I wanted this to be my vision of music I like and that I think others will like. The mission statement is to share music that maybe people know and like and thus can share with others OR maybe it’s something they haven’t heard before but will like. That’s it. “Check this out.” That’s all it is. I used to frequent a prog record store back in the 90s and that’s what the owner would say to me when I came in. “Hey Rob, check this out!” So that’s all I am saying to all of you. “Hey folks, check this out!”

Thank you for being a part of my life for 10 years or whenever you arrived at the Planet. It doesn’t matter when just as long as you did.

Rob

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RIP Ian McDonald

King Crimson founder Ian McDonald has passed away from cancer at the age of 75. He was a legend who helped create the progressive rock genre as we know it. He went on to found the rock band Foreigner and scaled the charts with them, creating many classic albums and songs. And yet it’s his work on “In the Court of the Crimson King” that many will always cherish. He appears in the documentary of the same name and apologized to Robert Fripp for breaking his heart. He was in tears and now it breaks MY heart to see it. RIP Ian.

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Cynic – “Ascension Codes”

Since the last Cynic album, both Sean Reinhart and Sean Malone passed away suddenly. Reinhart was 48 and Malone was 50. They died 11 months apart. This leaves Paul Masvidal and one could argue that the new album “Ascension Codes” is more of a solo album in that regard. But overall it sounds like Cynic or at least how the band have been sounding over their last few albums.

This is only the band’s 4th full length album and that is amazing since they seem like they should have a lot more. Granted they vanished for 22 years. For me, each of their albums has been good…but there’s always been something missing that would have made them great. That tends to be the mix or production. “Focus” might be a classic but it sounded very dated and the remixes of 4 tracks on the re-issue pointed that out. Then you have the muddy production of their last album “Kindly Bent to Free Us.” The songs were so damn good and the production was hideous.

“Traced in Air” was a solid album but when it was remixed in 2019, it sounded a LOT better in my opinion. The original mix sounded like a band trying to sound like Cynic versus just BEING Cynic.  The EP “Carbon Based Anatomy” was probably my favorite but it’s an EP. After the solid stand alone single “Humanoid” from 2018 (the first release with Matt Lynch on drums instead of Reinhart), I thought the band would finally release a perfect album. They had to get it right!

Then both Seans passed away. Did it even make sense for Cynic to exist? “Ascension Codes” is the answer. But a really confusing answer. There are 18 tracks. 9 of those add up to a total of 5 minutes. That means 30 second new age interludes between just about every real song. FUCK! I hate filler and yes this is the definition of filler. The one spot on the album that there isn’t 30 new age dreck separating the songs, we get a song with 4 minutes of it! WHAT THE FUCK! “DNA Activation Template” is a snoozefest til 4 minutes in and then the song starts. And it’s done at 5:25.

The rest of the songs SOUND good so the mix and production are probably the best that Cynic has ever had. But overall, there’s just nothing too compelling. Masvidal is back leaning on the vocoder for his vocals which is disappointing. There’s a death growl at one point which was odd since it didn’t get followed up on. Weird. My favorite track is the instrumental “The Winged Ones.” The band have a lot of energy which makes for a nice change.

I really hoped “Ascension Codes” would be the definitive Cynic album but it’s a disjointed effort that adds to the strange career of this tremendously talented if not cursed band. That said, I am sure this album will tick enough boxes for most fans. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

Label: Season of Mist

Release Date: 26 November 2021

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Yes – “The Quest”

I’ve already pondered the “validity” of the current Yes lineup calling themselves “Yes,” but they are the only Yes we have. And just when we thought the mess that was “Heaven & Earth” would be the final Yes album, we have “The Quest.” The good news is that it is better than “Heaven & Earth” but that wouldn’t take much. It is a long way from coming close to any of the classic albums. And certainly it misses the late Chris Squire, as it is the first Yes album (not counting ABWH) that he is not on.

It has some good songs, some okay songs and no real shitty ones. So at least song-wise, it’s good. One problem is still that Alan White just doesn’t have the firepower any more. The drums sound better than the last album but he is the clear weak link performance wise. Jon Davison does a far job walking in Jon Anderson’s shoes but he isn’t Anderson. Billy Sherwood has the Squire bass sound down.  Steve Howe can still play but should not be allowed to do duets any longer. What the fuck, dude? Leave the vocals to Davison and Sherwood. Howe never had a great voice and there’s nothing left of it at this point.

Highlights? Well I liked “The Ice Bridge” the first time I heard it and still do. The Beatles tribute “Mystery Tour” is actually good and clever too. Despite Howe’s vocals, “Leave Well Alone” and “Damaged World” are good songs. If nothing else, this is a fair estimation of a Yes album. It won’t be the 10th favorite…hell I have no idea where it would even rank. BUT it’s a good album that is enjoyable to listen to. If it wasn’t called Yes, no one would be upset. But this is the next entry into the Yes legacy. Not bad.

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 1 October 2021

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What’s in a name?

May 4, 2008 – Concord, California, USA – NEIL PEART of RUSH live at Concord Pavilion. (Credit Image: © Jerome Brunet/ZUMA Press)

The question of when is a band no longer “authentically” that band is one you see constantly raised in music. Rarely do you have a band like Rush that kept the same members for years and then disbanded upon the passing of Neil Peart. On the flip side of that is Yes, who lost the only constant member they had, Chris Squire, who wanted the band to continue after his death.

The current version of Yes

If Geddy and/or Alex chose to continue as Rush, it would certainly have caused an uproar. That’s not to say that, despite the numerous lineup changes, the validity of the current Yes lineup hasn’t come into question. The current lineup is led by guitarist Steve Howe who is not an original member but took part in many of the band’s greatest successes. Drummer Alan White is technically still in the band, though his role is severely limited due to health issues. White has been with the band since 1972, so him maintaining his membership is a huge plus for the Howe led lineup.

Yes featuring ARW

Jon Anderson is an icon and he briefly turned his side project with Yesmen Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman into Yes…well Yes featuring ARW. Many fans declared that this band was more “Yes” than the current Yes. So that begs the question as to what gives a band that “authenticity.” Obviously Anderson joining the Howe/White Yes would lay all questions to rest but that seems unlikely. And if White decides to retire, isn’t it more Asia than Yes (Geoff Downes on keys afterall!).

The original King Crimson

Other bands have existed with one defacto leader for years and there’s never been any question. Camel has with Andrew Latimer, Ian Anderson with Jethro Tull, Robert Fripp with King Crimson, Mikael Akerfeldt with Opeth. As long as these guys are present, the band is who they claim to be. But that’s often a product of a dictatorship, right? Problems arise when multiple members are seen as “leaders.” Taking Yes again, Squire and Anderson were the founders and decided who stayed and who got fired in the band. But then Anderson split in 1979 (and again in 1988). That essentially gave the rights to the band name to Chris Squire.

Andrew Latimer of Camel

This isn’t to say that Yes don’t have the legal right to call themselves Yes, nor that they shouldn’t honor Squire’s dying wishes. It’s more about asking just how Yes are Yes? And more importantly, does it matter? At some point, do bands cross a line to no longer be who they claim. Foreigner has been lead by Mick Jones for years with no other original or long time members. Jones then had to miss shows but the band played without him. What difference is there between that and a Foreigner cover band at that point?

Is the name of the band owned by the music versus the people playing it? Or do the fans decide based on their interest in the band calling themselves by said name?

What do you think? What’s in a name?

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