Jerry Lucky — The Progressive Rock Files
(Collectors Guide, 1998/2000, TPB)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1997-02-01
Lucky is a Canadian writer and music historian with a background in radio, and an observer of the progressive scene at large. In this ambitious revised and expanded third edition, he attempts to tackle it all within its 160 pages: defining what exactly progressive rock is, tracing its roots and historical development from the late 60s through the mid 70s and beyond, and attempting to analyze the causes for its demise. This is not a reference book as such (although there is a lengthy A-Z band listing with brief three to four line descriptions occupying the latter half of this spiralbound volume), it is better thought of as a reader, and one that can be highly recommended to anyone who didn't live through those early days of the progressive era. Lucky has written extensively on the relationship between the mainstream music press and progressive rock, citing numerous references from Melody Maker and other publications throughout the 70s.
In addition, Lucky supports his own work with excerpts from numerous interviews culled from Guitar Player, Record Review, Record Collector, Keyboard, Down Beat, and others, as well as several interviews he has done himself. These give his work a very objective feel, as he attempts to sort out the purpose and meaning of this branch of the musical tree. He seems to be a big fan of Yes, and others on the symphonic side of the prog-rock world (Camel, Genesis, etc.), or at least one would gather that based on the personalities he has chosen to quote from, yet the book does not ignore the balance of the big picture, and one would not read this volume and walk away not knowing something about Canterbury, zeuhl, and RIO, as well as the important developments that were going on outside of the UK. As Lucky traces the development of progressive rock, in a margin sidebar on each page he has listed what he feels are the most important albums of each year from 1967 through 1996.
One important essay within these pages is titled "Why Asia Missed the Mark," which deals with the attempt to take progressive rock, cut out all the 'fat,' and present it in a short song format with a more marketable pulse. Lucky hits the nail on the head with this one; in comparing the shallow success of Asia with the enduring success of Dark Side of the Moon, he says "Floyd were very successful, because as artists they first set out to please themselves and then their fans. They did not then and do not today bend over backwards to give their fans what they want, or what they think will make their fans happy... Now certainly, Pink Floyd wants their fans to enjoy what they hear, but that involves their fans keeping up with the band... very different from Asia, who on the surface appeared to try very hard to come up with something that pleased their following." The book is filled with numerous other essays dealing with similar types of material.
The back section of the book lists over a thousand bands and a brief description of what each one sounds like; in a forward to this listing Lucky notes that he has concentrated on the "Classical, Pomp and Symphonic" rock styles, and has a good many from the Canterbury school as well, but admits that the listing is far from complete, especially in the RIO, avant-garde, and fusion areas.
In summary, Lucky has done a respectable job here, this is probably something that should be required reading for everyone born after '64 who probably missed the formative years of progressive rock. And for those born before, the recap and analysis are well worth the price of admission.
Related artist(s): Jerry Lucky
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more