The 100 Greatest Prog Artists Of All Time: 80-61

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Part two of five…

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80 The Beatles

WE SAY: The band that changed music forever – and, it has to be said, the whole world – The Beatles saw the mould-shattering possibilities in rock’s robust formula before everyone else. With hindsight, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road are simply cornerstones of the prog ethos and everyone else in this magazine owes them an incalculable debt.

YOU SAY: “Fresh, energetic, making history while jamming on. No boundaries, no limitations. Sgt. Pepper is proof of the evolution of a young band developing into a musical force.” – Winston Arntz

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79 Sigur Rōs

WE SAY: A band so fervently original that the ‘post-rock’ tag seems far too narrow to contain them, Reykjavik’s much-adored sound explorers have admirers from right across the alternative spectrum, but their amorphous, wildly evocative sound is as definitively progressive as they come.

YOU SAY: “Iceland’s post-rockers are as close to magic as music can possibly come.” – SoulQuest7

78 Mostly Autumn

WE SAY: Celebrating their 20th year as a band in 2015, Mostly Autumn have been making exquisite, broad horizon rock music throughout their career and few prog aficionados have resisted their charms along the way.

YOU SAY: “I first saw them supporting Blackmore’s Night about 15 years ago and thought they were brilliant – after that I bought The Last Bright Light which instantly became one of my favourites. I loved Heather Findlay and I think Olivia Sparnenn has been a great replacement and they continue to go from strength to strength.” – Matthew Westwood

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77 The Plastic People of the Universe

WE SAY: The Plastic People Of The Universe were bold purveyors of experimental rock during the days of communist Czechoslovakia. They also drew their inspiration from the likes of Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground and revelled in the revolutionary potential of musical liberation.

YOU SAY: “The Plastic People Of The Universe made some wonderful music and never gave up despite being harassed and almost driven out of existence.” – Russell Garrett

MY FAVOURITE PROG ARTIST OF ALL TIME

Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld/Gong)

Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld/Gong)
(Image: © Ashley Jones)

“Christian Vander. Magma’s primary composer, drummer and occasional singer is nothing short of a visionary. Possessed with, and possessed is the operative word, the most extraordinary charisma, Christian Vander is a force of nature. From the moment he takes the stage, all eyes are on him. The man is a superhuman.”

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76 Steve Hogarth

WE SAY: Rightly celebrated as Marillion’s frontman since 1989, the man fans know as H has also amassed a sturdy solo catalogue to the delight of fans everywhere, his gentle and elegant approach to songwriting providing sublime contrast with the grand conceits of his day job. More importantly, he is one of the all-time great prog vocalists and we love him.

YOU SAY: “Steve Hogarth is an amazing talent. He took on the difficult position in Marillion after Fish left and is still going strong 26 years later. Also produced some great solo work.” – William Leggate

75 Knifeworld

WE SAY: Kavus Torabi’s psychedelic ensemble have grown into one of Britain’s most endlessly fascinating and peculiar bands. Their 2014 release The Unravelling sealed their reputation with a collective display of warped whimsy that was both bewitching and bewildering.

YOU SAY: “A fresh blend of psychedelic pop and prog. Probably the best current prog act.” – Samuel Hatcliff

74 Devin Townsend

WE SAY: Both the metal scene’s resident mad professor and one of the modern prog scene’s most consistently original and brave exponents, Devin Townsend’s insanely eclectic catalogue and admirably unique sonic world have made him one of our most loved and respected figures. And let’s not forget Ziltoid!

YOU SAY: “Post Strapping Young Lad, Townsend has become the reigning champion of the concept album, from the flatulence-fueled Ziltoid epics, to a four-album (!) exorcism of his personal demons, to the sci-fi country of Casualties Of Cool. It’s alternately atmospheric and aggressive, but always shot through with just the right dose of bombast and grandeur.” – Craig E. Bacon

73 Ayreon

WE SAY: Arjen Lucassen is not known for musical self-restraint, largely thanks to his band Ayreon’s extraordinarily extravagant prog symphonies. More recently he’s collaborated with Anneke van Giersbergen for The Gentle Storm.

YOU SAY: “I love Arjen Lucassen. He’s like a lonely warrior, doing his own doings all by himself. The key to his secret with me, is the fusion he has made between ‘metal’ and ‘rock’.” – Cyrus Sarrafha

MY FAVOURITE PROG ARTIST OF ALL TIME

Al Heslop (Heights)

Al Heslop (Heights)

“The one I keep coming back to these days is the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis. I’ve always been in awe of the songwriting, the complexity and the finesse of pieces like Supper’s Ready and The Fountain Of Salmacis – they achieved something that not many prog bands do. The main thing that struck me about them was the incredible cohesion they had as a unit.”

72 Anekdoten

WE SAY: Devoted prog foot soldiers at a time when hardly anyone was brave enough to bother, Anekdoten pay passionate tribute to prog’s first wave of bands via albums that fizz and crackle with analogue warmth and remorseless ingenuity. Standard bearers for Swedish prog…

YOU SAY: “I’ve got to put Anekdoten in here. This is the band who have maintained the spirit of 70s prog the most by making a path from King Crimson covers to a beautiful sound that is very much 21st century, yet still provides a comfortable home for retired mellotrons.” – Kenneth Lowe

71 The Mars Volta

WE SAY: Born from the ashes of celebrated post-hardcore crew At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta’s untamed art rock eruptions delighted both the prog world and converted the alternative rock scene to the ways of swivel-eyed self-indulgence. Relentlessly inventive…

YOU SAY: “The first time that I heard their music I thought the earth had shaken and the world had turned over; I don’t think there are many bands with as much energy and passion as The Mars Volta.” – Daniel Jaramillo

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70 Strawbs

WE SAY: Led by Dave Cousins and originally a bluegrass band (no, really), The Strawbs are perhaps best known for briefly boasting a certain Mr R Wakeman among their number, but the Brits’ ever-changing sound and gleefully exploratory approach has sustained their renown for four decades. These days, it’s Adam Wakeman on the keys. That’s continuity for you.

YOU SAY: “Prog’s most criminally underrated band. Creators of two of prog’s all-time greatest albums, Grave New World and Hero And Heroine, they have just as many truly classic albums as Yes yet get none of the acclaim.” – Adam Buraczewski

MY FAVOURITE PROG ARTIST OF ALL TIME

Derek Shulman (right, Gentle Giant)

Derek Shulman (right, Gentle Giant)

“Touring with Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull in Europe and North America in 1972 was a huge turning point for Gentle Giant and myself. Jethro Tull were touring Thick As A Brick and Gentle Giant had just released Octopus. Watching Ian’s command of the stage and the band’s incredible tightness and musicianship was very inspiring indeed.”

69 Saga

WE SAY: Forged on the slippery pastures of late 70s prog, Ontario’s symphonic adventurers have built their legend on a laudable refusal to stagnate creatively. Albums like 1981’s Worlds Apart brim with smart ideas and moments of melodrama, driven by a refined melodic intelligence.

YOU SAY: “A surprise choice? Well, while Rush may be Canada’s biggest prog band, just check out one of Saga’s ‘Best Of’ CDs to hear what many will undoubtedly have missed – simply sensational.” – Jerry Clark

68 Oceansize

WE SAY: Mike Vennart’s masters of the multi-guitar barrage and purveyors of oddball arrangements that brought prog firmly together with left-field indie and post-Cardiacs madness, they never achieved the success they deserved, but those that loved them did so with every fibre of their being.

YOU SAY: “Often described with clichés like ‘most underrated’, which they really were (sadly). They were masters at combining gentle atmosphere and sheer power.” – Ivan Posokhin

67 Enchant

WE SAY: Neo-prog diehards from the beautiful Bay Area, Enchant have been releasing immaculate sonic journeys since the early 90s, guitarist Doug Ott and frontman Ted Leonard’s gleaming melody mazes and flights of muscular fancy marking them out as one of the modern age’s most consistently impressive acts.

YOU SAY: “My favourite pick is probably the most underrated and unknown prog band. After a 10 year break, they came back with a vengeance with The Great Divide last year. The music is simply amazing.” – Tim and Dawn Laseter

66 Eloy

WE SAY: Germany’s progressive rock scene in the 70s has been frequently overshadowed by the more pointedly arty Krautrock movement, but Eloy are one of the few bands to transcend that particular obstacle. Albums like their 1974 masterpiece Floating earned the Hanover space cadets a formidable reputation.

YOU SAY: “Everything about this band just clicks for me: the vocals, the guitar, everything is exactly where it needs to be.” – Mike

65 Arena

WE SAY: Led by ex-Pendragon keyboard player Clive Nolan and featuring the likes of original Marillion drummer Mick Pointer and It Bites’ John Mitchell, Arena are something of a British prog supergroup, but the sheer strength of their sonic identity has made them a revered force for dark, melodic music over the past 20 years.

YOU SAY: “This band got me back into prog. Starting with The Visitor running through to Contagion, they provided an amazing run of music that was a touch heavier than many of the other prog bands without going as far as prog metal.” – Steve Stewart

MY FAVOURITE PROG ARTIST OF ALL TIME

Matt Stevens (The Fierce and the Dead)

Matt Stevens (The Fierce and the Dead)

King Crimson have always been my favourite prog band. They were one of the originators and have always been genuinely progressive. They did the early Mellotron thing and then went for more of a jazzy sort of style during the Bruford era, when they were the best example of a band that wasn’t Mahavishnu Orchestra.”

64 Änglagård

WE SAY: Flying the flag for wildly eclectic prog rock, Änglagård’s 1992 Hybris emerged when our beloved genre was at in the midst of its unfashionable nadir and proclaimed the Swedes’ intuitive grasp of its restless spirit.

YOU SAY: “Three masterpieces. Classic sound and vintage keyboards.” – Richard Morin

63 The Nice

WE SAY: One of the first bands to harness the pioneering prog blend of jazz, classical and rock’n’roll, The Nice made the late 60s as much more interesting time to be alive. Keyboard maestro Keith Emerson may just have been warming up for later feats of musical madness with ELP, but The Nice’s adventurous gait paved the way with ingenious aplomb.

YOU SAY: “Keith Emerson and the Nice have been my entry to prog.” – Agnes50x

62 Tangerine Dream

WE SAY: Edgar Froese’s synth-wielding sound warriors enjoyed huge success in the 70s with albums like Phaedra and Rubycon. More importantly, their influence has been vast and enduring, not just in progressive rock but also in the worlds of electronica and movie soundtracks.

YOU SAY: “The music sounds as fresh and relevant today as it ever did.” – Debbie

61 Muse

WE SAY: The explosive, theatrical Queen to Radiohead’s thoughtful, edgy Floyd, Muse grew from indie rock pups to arena-conquering titans at a ferocious rate and are now certainly one of the biggest bands on the planet.

YOU SAY: “One of the world’s biggest grossing live acts, their completely OTT stage show packing stadiums worldwide.” – Mark Daly

MY FAVOURITE PROG ARTIST OF ALL TIME

John Mitchell (It Bites/Lonely Robot)

John Mitchell (It Bites/Lonely Robot)

“I love Trevor Rabin, because he is 100% the reason why I play guitar the way I play it. He never sacrifices melody for technique and when he does chuck a bit of technique in, it sounds impressive because it isn’t overused. I also love Trevor’s voice and the fact that he’s a brilliant writer to boot, and that certainly kickstarted the Yes career back into gear in the early 1980s.”