It’s that time again. Christmas eve and pondering on what the year has given us thus far and looking towards a peaceful day of love and sharing tomorrow. 2015 wasn’t the most prolific of years with regards to the release of Prog related music though some diamonds managed to float the surface of the endless river. Pun very much intended there folks. This year we lost two very important players (amongst others) in the sphere of Prog we enjoy and eulogise about here at Progmeister, namely Camel keyboard ace Guy Le Blanc in April and the Yes legend and bass innovator Chris Squire in June. both stolen from us, both leaving a hole in the wall of Prog and the lives of many. Brave battles were also waged by Magenta maiden Christina Booth and The Tangent’s Andy Tillison both of whom we as fans and friends are still fortunate to have in our lives making music and being the stalwarts they are!
Music was perhaps the most important it has ever been this year to me personally in it’s many guises, getting me through a very difficult year. Prog as ever though being a guiding light, an anchor if you like. 2015 Prog ball was started rolling by Glacier back in February with the release of Ashes For A Monarch. Glacier are very much a friend of The Progmeister and a band i have followed for many years. The band got the year off to a flying start followed quickly in March by the now legendary Steven Wilson and the release of Hand Cannot Erase. Indeed March was a good month music wise heralding the release of Steve Hackett’s Wolflight album and ensuing tour. I got to speak to Steve on a couple of occasions throughout the year and 2015 saw Steve at the top of his game. A big highlight for me in April was A Spark In The Aether by me old mates The Tangent. This album witnessed the band returning to their roots and really is a trailblazer of an album. I have it on very good authority that Andy Tillison is back to fighting weight and working on new songs. Music to my ears quite literally.
Summer time brought us a couple of albums that bring a smile to my face namely Colin Bass At Wild End and The Syn Live At Rosfest. Colin Bass being one of those people that i have a huge respect for,not just as a member of one of my favourite bands but as a musician who promotes and advocates diversity in music as well as being a fine multi-instrumentalist who’s own musical spectrum knows no no bounds. More recently i found myself immersed in Pink Floydism’s following the release of David Gilmour’s latest album Rattle That Lock. Even at the age he is Gilmour is still bringing smiles to people’s faces and a tingle to their neck with his attention to texture, contentment and above all else being David Gilmour. One of the downers of the year for me was not being able to attain tickets for any of his concerts and having to make do with footage pasted on social media.
The Progmeister site itself became a victim of terrorism earlier in the year and with the help of malicious software virus “Malware” Islamic state sympathisers managed to completely shut down the site and infect many of my reviews and blog entries. It took me weeks/ months and lots of money liaising with the American hosting company Hostgator to get the site back on-line. This however was very short lived as their expensive endeavours only lasted a matter of six weeks before Progmeister ran into the same difficulties again. To say Hostgator’s technical support was poor is a huge understatement. Still, funny how things turn out innit? Just as i was about to throw the towel in there was a bell ringing and an Angel receiving their wings. I was contacted by Bob Mulvey Glacier’s bass player who just so happens to be very clued up about such things and between Bob and his wife Julie they saved Progmeister from extinction. Words fail me with regards to Bob, he is the most genuine, sincere and honest person i know. Gawd know why he bothers with me? Though i am glad he does. What you see being written here is partly down to me actually writing it though mostly down to Bob and his wife for enabling it.
Live shows this year where not in abundance though the ones i was able to attend were on the whole pretty darned good. I managed to see Mr Hackett a couple of times though i do have to admit that too much of a good thing can be bad for you and i did find myself wanting something a little different from he and his cohorts. highlights of the year for me started with Camel in July at York Barbican. Camel to me aren’t simply a band they are an institution, part of the fabric that make up my life and it’s composite parts. Some bands play good and bad gigs, to me Camel merely play gigs that may differ technically though maintain a constant spirit.
In August i travelled south with Riversea and Northlands man Brendan Eyre to watch one of my fave contemporary Prog bands Big Big Train. On a warm and balmy mid August evening we sat right at the back at Kings Place just down the street from Kings Cross station to witness an amazing evening of Big Big Trains fabulous and dare i say it in such a politically correct world? British brand of Prog. This really was a very special event and i felt a big big part of it. I would have to site this as live highlight of my year. Hot on the heels of this as i ventured North West to Salford, yet again in the company of Mr Brendan Eyre to watch Prog Royalty King Crimson. So many bands of this status rely on huge production, hype, promotion and to a degree who they are. Not so with King Crimson, as someone who never got to see them at all in their heyday or indeed any other day they delivered something i simply wasn’t expecting, sparseness, innovation, technical perfection, enjoyment and quality. King Crimson really do live up t their name and i feel so lucky to have shared their recent event with so many other appreciating souls. . Sadly due to many reasons i have been unable to attend many musical events since then. However, like certain species who only dine twice or three times every year i do feel fulfilled.
To the lovely folks that sent to me their discs and Mp3’s, many thanks. For reasons some of which stated above and some just because of the Progmeister no negativity policy that didn’t reach the hallowed halls please keep the faith and never forget, there are those that play and those that write about it and i am merely the latter. Every year that Progmeister is here i learn of more and more uber talented musicians, song writers and performers.
So who would get my vote as top albums of 2015? A difficult one this year. However here goes with my top five albums of the year….
- David Gilmour / Rattle That Lock
- Steven Wilson / Hand Cannot Erace
- The Tangent / A Spark In The Aether
- Steve Rothery / Ghosts Of Pripyat
- The Syn / Live At Rosfest
Lastly and with David Gilmour in mind, i would just like to pay tribute to a close friend who passed away this summer. Julie Readman who without doubt was one of David Gilmour’s biggest fans. Julie’s passion for David Gilmour and Pink Floyd’s music was intoxicating. I will miss sharing a well know brand of bourbon with her and staying up to stupid o’clock in the morning watching DVD’s and playing CD’s with her. Julie never got to hear Rattle That Lock which i am sure she would have adored. Julie was a great gal and i miss her a lot and my biggest regret regret in regard to our friendship was not taking her to a Pink Floyd or Gilmour gig. Julie, SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND! In a year when Paris has yet again been stricken by blind injustice and many innocent people in the middle East have been displaced i sign off my last blog of the year hoping for peace, sense and justice to prevail. Christmas day tomorrow, i wish everyone peace and light. For those in the uk enjoy the tranquillity of Christmas day. Enjoy the fact that the world as we know it has slowed if for only one day and in that time appreciate what we have and the views of others. Merry Christmas people and a positive new year.