Prog Round-up: January 2011

Geoff Barton on new releases from Fruits de Mer, Titus Groan, Big Big Train, David Minasian, Machiavel

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Various: Eddie Cochran Instrumental EP

If there’s one constant in the crazy world of prog, it’s to expect the unexpected. Even so, we’re doing our best to take this in our stride: an EP of mad and mischievous Eddie Cochran covers. Andy Bracken from the Fruits de Mer label explains the concept: “Cochran always sought somethin’ else – something different. I invited bands I knew could skew the tracks and take them on in a way I thought Eddie might have approved of.” Head South By Weaving’s rendition of Rain (allegedly a song written by Cochran for Duane Eddy) starts off with some gentle, pastoral guitar and spooky chorals, then develops/degenerates into a jarring krautrock workout. Vibravoid’s take on the Shotgun Wedding Theme sounds like the James Bond theme played on a sitar. Finally, Baking Research Station’s Jam Sand-Witch recalls Hawkwind’s Dik Mik leading a jam session in a cocktail lounge. To sum up: this is another terminally whacked-out offering from those mad-eyed psychos at Fruits de Mer. (710)

Titus Groan: Titus Groan

Titus Groan were one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em prog bands who enjoyed a brief burst of activity as the 1960s turned into the 70s. Theirs is a real mish-mash of styles, as is evident from It Wasn’t For You (reminiscent of a horns-heavy workout from Blood Sweat & Tears), while Hall Of Bright Carvings is a confused hybrid of Caravan and Jethro Tull. (410)

Big Big Train: Far Skies Deep Time EP

This is really more of an album than an EP, lasting for a mighty 41 minutes. The Bournemouth band’s approach has always been determinedly English and Marillionesque, and nothing has changed here. The highlight is the panoramic Fat Billy Shouts Mine, about the life and death of veteran Sheffield Utd/England goalkeeper William ‘Fatty’ Foulke. (710)

David Minasian: Random Acts Of Beauty

This record is a prime example of classically influenced, Mellotron-drenched, symphonic prog. Andy Latimer (Camel) contributes guitar and vocals on Masquerade, which wafts along like an old Moody Blues nugget, but the highlight is the 14-minute Frozen In Time, a stunningly crafted, medieval-tinged piece of work that Wakeman would be proud to call his own. (710)

Machiavel: Reissues

Belgians Machiavel were apparently ‘one of the most important prog groups to emerge from mainland europe in the late 1970s’. Second album Jester (1977) is typically keyboard-heavy, forehead-furrowing Euro-prog, while Supertramp-style follow-up Mechanical Moonbeams (’78) sold 50,000 copies – a local record before Plastic Bertrand came along. (510)

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.