It’s prog, Jim, but not as we know it…
After surviving the departure of Peter Gabriel, it was the loss of guitarist Steve Hackett in 1977 that was the catalyst for a shift towards pop on …And Then There Were Three… and subsequent Genesis releases. The hit-single floodgates then opened for the band, along with massive solo pop chart success for singer Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford’s Mike + The Mechanics.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the integration of The Buggles that sent the legendary prog giants into the pop charts. Former South African pop star and AOR multi-instrumentalist Trevor Rabin brought the contemporary AOR melodies for the band to reinvent themselves in 1983 with the hook-laden 90125 and its perennial hit single Owner Of A Lonely Heart. However, 1987’s bland _Big Generator _couldn’t repeat the success and normal service was soon resumed.
After several well-received records that mixed grandiose art rock with the occasional commercial gem, Roger Hodgson and company simplified their approach in 1979 with Breakfast In America. Several Top 20 singles (including the title track and The Logical Song) propelled the album to over 20 million sales worldwide. Inevitably, the ensuing …Famous Last Words… didn’t match up and main writer Hodgson left the band.
Alan Parsons Project
The Beatles/Pink Floyd engineer Alan Parsons formed the Project with keyboardist Eric Woolfson in 1976 and the pair used session musicians to create excellent concept albums. As time passed, Floyd-like instrumentals shared space with increasingly light AOR, The Turn Of A Friendly Card and Eye In The Sky both going Platinum on the back of US hit singles.
In direct contrast, America’s premier proggers were most successful with their adventurous early Jeff Glixman-produced records. The shift to AOR started in 1980 with Audio-Visions and continued with Vinyl Confessions and Drastic Measures, both fronted by John Elefante after the departure of popular singer Steve Walsh. Walsh returned to lead the band for the great commercial rocker Power and poppy In The Spirit Of Things.