As we move into the second half of our deep dive into the finest records of the past ten years, things certainly haven’t gotten any easier. At many times this list became a real battle between head and heart; between the records with a profound personal connection and those that hold great influence and importance in the wider scheme of things. After much soul searching we’ve struck upon the right balance between the two for our final look at the best albums of the decade. (If you missed part one, you can check it out here) Continue reading
Considered by most to be the world’s greatest drummer, Rush’s Neil Peart has announced his retirement saying “it does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to take yourself out of the game”. Rush recently completed their 40th anniversary tour. Whilst the band were reluctant at the time to call it a farewell tour, given this latest development it seems they have called it a day. Peart suffers from tendonitis and can no longer continue with the physical demands of the lengthy, intricate drum solos that made him famous. It also gives him more time with his family as the band have been touring nearly nonstop for the past few years. It is the end of an era and a fond farewell to one of history’s greatest musicians.
Canadian prog gods Rush have played what may possibly be their last ever concert, at The Forum in LA, the final stop of their 40th anniversary tour. The show included the seldom performed track ‘Losing It’ and a performance of ‘Xanadu’ featuring classic double neck guitars. A star studded crowd featuring members of Tool, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Foo Fighters assembled to see the band play a show packed with songs from their expansive back catalogue. Rush are hesitant to call ‘R40’ their farewell tour but they have gone on record saying it will be their “last tour of this magnitude”.
King Crimson’s debut is considered by many to be the first true prog album. Instead of following the blues influences of more mainstream rock bands they looked instead to classical and jazz for inspiration. The result is the frantic maddening bursts of ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ and the mellow ‘I Talk to the Wind’. The band’s ever changing line-up would go on to produce even more complex epics but Crimson King was the album that started it all.
Whilst 1982’s ‘Moving Pictures’ is the band’s most successful album, it was 2112 that made Rush who they are. Ditching their blues origins and gaining drumming god Neil Peart they pursued more and more intricate songs. Their early efforts had met with little commercial success and their label pressured them to tone things down. Instead they created a masterful dystopian epic about a world without music which granted them a massive cult audience which has grown over the band’s 40 year long life.
Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull found unexpected success with their previous album Aqualung. After facing nonstop questions about whether it was a concept album and speculating what the unifying concept might be, with the next album he gave the fans what they were looking for. A single, massive 44 minute track spanning the whole album, complete with flute solos, bright sparkling folk, raging rock guitar and an album cover which formed a complete (fake) newspaper that somewhat described the crazy complex theme behind it all.
The last great album by the most quintessential prog band. It has everything you’d expect, sprawling expansive tracks taking up whole sides, unfathomably intricate keyboard solos over ever changing time signatures and incomprehensible lyrics. The plain green sleeve, devoid of Rodger Dean’s iconic artwork, was a major statement: “We are putting everything into the music”. This was the band’s creative peak.
Genesis have had a difficult life, facing criticism as both a Peter Gabriel fronted prog band and as a Phil Collins fronted mainstream rock band. This is the closest thing they have to a mid point. It contained their first attempts at radio friendly singles and also featured some of their best epics including ‘Firth of Fifth’ and ‘The Battle of Epping Forest’. Gabriel’s fanciful Alice in Wonderland like characters and narratives create a mental picture every bit as wild and colourful as the music.