The Friday Five: Some Progressive Rock


My next series on Two For Tuesday will be Progressive Rock (“prog-rock”) artists. I mentioned this the other day, when I covered Emerson Lake & Palmer, when I called it “bands I liked whose albums I never got around to buying.” Turns out I did own my share of prog-rock albums, although at the time I didn’t think of them as prog-rock, mostly because we didn’t call it prog-rock. Those were the days (my mid-teens) where there were two kinds of music: “cool” and “sucks.”


Some of the characteristics of prog-rock include:

  • Integration of other types of music, such as jazz, folk, and/or classical.
  • A departure from the standard song format (i.e. intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus, ending).
  • Extended improvisations.
  • A focus on “suites” of music (as opposed to individual songs) and concept albums.
  • Synthesizers and other instruments not typically found in rock (e.g. flutes), as well as collaborations with symphony orchestras and string quartets.

Enough chat. Let’s get to the music.

  1. A Salty Dog – Procol Harum: Procol Harum was one of the original British Invasion bands who had a hit with “A Whiter Shade of Pale” in 1967. Even then, you could hear classical influences in their music. This was the title track from their 1969 album.
  2. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd: This is the title track from their 1975 album, the followup to their classic Dark Side of the Moon from 1973. One of the original psychedelic rock bands, they were defined by their sonic experimentation and the guitar work of David Gilmour.
  3. Bourée – Jethro Tull: Ian Anderson and crew were constantly genre-bending, mixing rock, jazz, folk, and classical, most of which you can hear on this track, a more-or-less faithful performance of J. S. Bach’s “Bourée in E Minor,” at the beginning, anyway. My roommate in college was a dead ringer for Ian Anderson, to the extent that, when Anderson got his hair cut, so did my roommate.
  4. Long Distance Runaround – Yes: Another college story: there was a guy who lived in the dorm with us that would turn this song up all the way on his stereo and his bass amplifier up above 10 and play along with Chris Squire to blow off a little steam. And God help you if you tried to get him to turn it down. Yes actually had some commercial success, charting with “Roundabout” from their 1971 album Fragile, which also included this song. The album also included a track for each member of the band to display his musical prowess.
  5. Moving Waves – Focus: Focus was a Dutch band who shot to popularity with “Hocus Pocus,” a song that combined a strong guitar riff by Jan Akkerman and “verses” by keyboardist-flautist-vocalist Thijs van Leer, who alternated between yodeling, scat singing, and playing the flute. It was on their second album, Focus II, better known as Moving Waves, of which this is the title track.

The series starts this Tuesday, so be sure to stop by and have a listen. For now, that’s your Friday Five for January 8, 2016.


Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

5 thoughts on “The Friday Five: Some Progressive Rock”

  1. Have you ever seen ‘the Committments’? One of the prospective band members plays organ in a church, and there is a wonderful scene where he is talking to a priest and playing A Whiter Shade of Pale…


    1. I have, and I think I read the book as well. Been a while, so I forget that scene, but I know other organists that do the same thing. You could almost get away with it with “Whiter Shade of Pale,” because there is something Bach-y about it. Not so much with “Chest Fever” or “Funeral for a Friend,” which I’ve also heard played on a church organ…


  2. I don’t recall ever having heard the term “prog rock” until the past 10 or 15 years. I don’t know that my friends and I had any specific name for the genre, but I listened to all the groups you mentioned and enjoyed them all. Jethro Tull was a big favorite–saw them in concert a couple of times and they were fantastic.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


    1. I had a friend whose dad worked at a radio station; he got a bunch of tickets to see Jethro Tull, and invited me, but my mother said no. Don’t know what her problem was…

      “Progressive” is almost an umbrella term that encompasses just about anything you want to lump in there. Psychedelic, synth, classical, fusion, anything that isn’t pop or r&b. Even some singer songwriters fit in there, but not all of them. It’ll be a challenge to take the artists and determine what makes them “progressive.”


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