On the eve of the release of Haken’s Affinity, here’s our list of the top 80s prog albums with a commercial twist.
GENESIS Abacab (1981)
The 80s, Phil Collins-fronted era of Genesis always causes fierce debates among prog purists, but Abacab remains an alluring album in their back catalogue. Those preferring expansive progressive ramblings will find fault with such songs as Who Dunnit? and No Reply At All, but the title track and Dodo/Lurker retained the band’s innovative spirit.
Essential track: Abacab
YES 90125 (1983)
This is the album that reinvigorated the band and provided them with an unexpected handful of hit singles, much to the chagrin of many of their original fans. Snappier songs boasting a cutting 80s production, along with a fresh guitarist in Trevor Rabin, demonstrated their ambition for a new decade.
Essential track: Owner Of A Lonely Heart
KING CRIMSON Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984)
The band’s 1982 album Beat may have possessed a more commercial edge than this recording, but Three Of A Perfect Pair showcased King Crimson’s ability to blend their more accessible moments with a complex approach. It may not top any fan lists of favourite Crimson albums, but it shows how prog and pop should be mixed.
Essential track: Sleepless
TWELFTH NIGHT Art & Illusion (1984)
Their first recording with new vocalist Andy Sears, the band veered away from the 70s-influenced neo-prog that had been a feature of their earlier releases and embraced the archetypal drum and keyboard sounds that were prominent at the time. Despite such dating audio shackles, it’s still a mesmerising recording.
Essential track: Art And Illusion
RUSH Hold Your Fire (1987)
Loathed and adored in equal measure by Rush purists, Hold Your Fire and its predecessor Power Windows are dismissed by many as the band’s failed attempt at recording overtly commercial music. Yet for all that criticism, songs such as Mission and Time Stand Still are classy and seductive creations that retain a nimbleness that remains to this day.
Essential track: Prime Mover
IQ Are You Sitting Comfortably? (1989)
The pair of albums from when Paul Menel fronted the band have often been disregarded by fans and IQ alike, but the commercial approach they took for Are You Sitting Comfortably? remains endearing. More progressively-minded tracks such as Wurensh are the perfect counterbalance to such classy pop-minded moments as Sold On You.
Essential track: Drive On