Book Reviews Prog Rock FAQ Book

Published on March 3rd, 2015 | by Mike Ainscoe


‘PROG ROCK FAQ – All that’s left to know about rock’s most progressive music’

By WILL ROMANO    (Backbeat Books)

A subtitle which is quite some claim as progressive rock is surely one of, if not THE most challenging and boundary pushing of musical genres, so much so that its frontiers are essentially limitless. In fact didn’t someone once label prog as ‘music without frontiers’, and if not, they should have done. Prog icon Peter Gabriel of course had his ‘Games Without Frontiers’ but we’re talking a different ball game, on which we should blow the final whistle before, as sometimes happens with the music, especially prog, the plot gets lost.

That caveat aside, this is another set in the FAQ  series which tend to be less biographical and authoritative and more of a dipper inner – a series of chapters which don’t need to be read in sequence and can act as stand alone sections of text. As such it uses a well trodden format and is edited by an author who has taken the opportunity to include some of his own interviews with major figures in the field. Naturally, all the big players are addressed in some format at some point, be it interview, track or album retrospective or features. The chapters do vary in terms of moving from the more obvious content  – collections of top compositions and some of the harshest (and amusing) critiques – to more in depth looks at, for example, King Crimson’s ‘Lizard’ artwork, that most prog of instruments the mellotron  and Italian cult bands (after all, the Italians were quite unashamed in embracing the genre). Genesis fans will also find the interviews with Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips to be of relevance, offering up something a tad more illuminating than the standard fayre.

Choosing to go down the path which avoids the more obvious subjects and sail into slightly choppier and uncharted waters seems to have been the order of the day. Consider Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ for example, ready made for analysis in all its forms from conceptual double album to film to seemingly never ending live productions, yet earning no more that the odd reference or so throughout the text. So kudos to Romano for not taking the easy route and the obvious author bashing that goes with it.

There’s quite an amusing anecdote about trying to get Emerson, Lake & Palmer back together at the same time Desert Storm were breaking out – two similarly monumental events – alongside snippets of information which will occasionally raise the eyebrows of maybe even the most dedicated prog students – Steve Hackett’s membership of the Spiritual Association of Great Britain for example, as revealed in the chapter which analyses his late seventies/early eighties output at the start of his solo career.

Q&A’s with Van Der Graaf’s Dave Jackson and original Tull member Mick Abrahams, plus a look through ‘journeyman’ John Wetton’s choice moments all add up to a refreshing compendium, by no means definitive,  although naturally there still may be questions left unanswered – such is the nature of prog, but Will Romano has had a good go at filling some gaps.


About the Author

Mike's mellowed in his old age, discovering the delights of traditional folk and acoustic music and the constant stream of new music coming through his passion as a gig-goer, music photographer and writer. With favourite artists and favourite songs which change daily, even hourly, he adds another spoke to the Sonic Bandwagon wheel of fortune.

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