Top 4 Progressive Bands

Progressive rock and pop music was a result of the 1960s cultural and artistic revolution. All the great prog bands got their start then. Here’s a list of my favorite bands from this niche genre, in no specific order:

Genesis

This band set the precedent for many prog bands from the 1970s to today – they shifted their style with the times.

Genesis existed from 1967 to about 1978 as your stereotypical “pure”, esoteric prog band. They put out great rockers with nicely thumping beat patterns, but also a massive heap of wandering concept songs. Things began lightening up once front-man and lead concept-whore Peter Gabriel left in 1975 to begin his long climb to solo super-stardom.

As the 1980s dawned the band began a transition to radio-friendly song formats gradually. Instead of moving their albums whole-hog into this style, they dipped their toes into it by inserting 3-4 songs on each album around 1980 with the radio-friendly rock sound. By the time 1986’s Invisible Touch was released, they were a pure pop-rock band. 1991’s We Can’t Dance was their last actual album. It charted well but was lousy artistically. They basically fizzled in the early 1980s. Very said since they produced some of the most fantastic prog rock – rock period – ever.

Doing his best Joe Cocker impersonation, a youngish, sweat-banded Phil Collins belts out a brilliant vocal performance on this classic song from Genesis’ 1980 album Duke:

Jethro Tull

Proving the adage that progressive rock band members are without fail the ugliest, homliest fellows – Jethro Tull debuted its quintet of ugly dudes in 1967, same year as Genesis.

This band is closest to my heart of all these 5, mainly because front-man and primary song-writer Ian Anderson brought such humor to the bands music. He also mingled the band’s sound with folk, blues, mysticism, concepts from day one – making Jethro Tull less a pure prog band and more a creative synthesis of the 1970s disparate musical threads (sans funk, of course).

I have such fond memories of listening to Tull from an early age. It was a massive thrill when I landed an interview with Ian just this summer (2012). Truly an underrated visionary of popular music.

Rush

What can I say that I haven’t about Rush? They are the ultimate cult band (if that label can be applied to a band that’s sold 20M+ albums). Its music made by and for geeks…who don’t drink, don’t sleep around, and only care about the music.

If you’re interested in more about Rush, just navigate to the blog and sift through the myriad post and reviews I’ve done on the band. For now, here’s an awesome live performance of their greatest song, according to my Top 20:

Yes

Like Genesis, Yes was one of those chameleon prog bands that shifted style with the times. And like Genesis, they had a good go if it in the early 1980s, petering out by the late 1980s, never to recover after that.

I’ve never been a massive Yes fan, but have gone through “periods” when I listened intensely. The last such period was a year or two ago when I explored their 1969 debut album in and out. Its a great debut that represents the transition from the 60s Beatles influence to the prog adventurousness of the 1970s. Survival is the song that just sticks with me – never tire if hearing it. Chris Squire’s rattling, thundering bass tone and distinctive accompanying vocal tone are what made this band from day 1. That, plus Jon Anderson’s pure, boyish counter-tenor of course. Its was even purer in 1969.

Skip ahead to the chorus actual verse at 2:15. The bridge and chorus are the most majestic harmonic progression and vocal texture:

  • BBoy

    Gentle Giant? ELP? Mahavishnu?

    • bensommer

      Top FOUR! But even my top 7 wouldn’t include those… Sorry 🙁