Sunday, October 7, 2012

Top Ten: Sidelong Epochs

at 8:34 PM
Don't forget to read the intro to the list to learn a little about how YOU TOO can be a sidelong epic.

Let's get you started easy with something that isn't always considered full-blown prog (because since it's German it's "krautrock" like that makes any sense), a little bit of Can. I've written about Can here before so you have no excuse not to have heard this fantastic little ditty where I think Damo Suzuki is saying "searching for my front door". Who knows though, guy barely spoke English. Listen in for the hypnotic drums and yeah Jaki Liebezeit, talk about an underrated drummer.

2.) "Krigssang II" - Trettioåriga Kriget (hey look I even did the little å thing)
Here's a band that might be a mystery to you, though they shouldn't be. Shit I need to go finish writing their Wikipedia page. Maybe I'll cite the blog on it. So this is a Swedish band that is every bit as doomy and gloomy as Scandinavian music has come to be perceived over the years, with dark, bass-heavy whatever, and some occasional falsetto singing that is even more hilarious than usual because what a comedy language they speak.

Let's not forget that "Tarkus" is the source of the ORIGINAL Duck Solo (16:55), before Genesis refined the idea for "Counting Out Time" by giving the duck a name ("Mr. Guitar"). This song is an eccentric organ-centric piece that earns its place by never slowing down and never getting repetitive. "Tarkus" keeps on plowing with its supposed story of an armadillo that wore a tank for a hat and jumped off the Golden Gate bridge, to freedom.

Called by some "the Jazzman's prog rock", Colosseum's multitude of instruments are in stark contrast to organ-heavy three-piece bands like ELP. This is a cool song. I'm tired of writing these (this is actually the last entry I wrote), so who cares. Describing a song is way too tedious. As a matter of fact, I don't even know why you would be reading it. Just listen.

Yes, Yes is pretty much the King and Queen of the Epic, known equally for its greatest successes and excesses. They recorded like, I'm gonna say six or seven of them, although of course that number is bolstered by the QUAD-EPIC Tales from Topographic Oceans. While TFTO is indeed my preferred Yes Album, none of the four sidelong tracks makes an individually strong enough impression to be listed here. So why do I leave it as a tie between these two? Well, because the middle of "Close to the Edge" sucks but the ending is mind-fuckingly awesome, and "Gates of Delirium" starts strong but devolves into something unrecognizable by the close. See, the thing about these types of songs is that they're long enough to have their own ups and downs. Yes' have some of the highest ups and boringest downs, so let's leave it at that.

When our weary world was young, this is the song I listened to basically on repeat for my entire senior year of high school. I'm a tried and true Rush fan, I'm not gonna sit here and pretend I don't think they're the greatest band in the world. I've actually got a review of their newest album in the works. So structurally Hemispheres kinda does its own thing, it's not broken down into tiny episodes, but also doesn't subscribe to the Intro, Interlude, Reprise form that Yes and "Karn Evil 9" made so popular. It's a rock song that just goes off on a tangent here and there. As ever, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are blasting their grounded, technical riffs that'll have you humming and air-guitaring a long, even if not dancing.

Remember when Genesis used to do this?
Yeah, I hadn't been born either.
Not THAT Genesis, HAHAHAHAHAHA! Come on, it's a video game blog, I had to do it. There are those who say the popularity of the Tony Banks vehicle is why Sega Genesis was known as the Mega Drive abroad - I think this song confirms it. Surprisingly, though they're one of the seminal prog bands, these guys only have a single sidelong. Their albums are usually bursting with numerous mini-epics. So I have to ask myself, am I forcing in "Supper's Ready" just to get Genesis on the list, or does it really deserve its place here? Well the song certainly executes what the Gabriel-era G-men did best, which is take you on a wacky ride of fairy-tale narrative with comic characters and then acoustic guitar interludes. Absolutely one of their most memorable songs and one of the most memorable prog epics, definitely belongs among the top ten.

If only I could just put "Hocus Pocus". You know these guys, right? The yodeling song? Anyway, despite having penned what is possibly the greatest riff ever written, a lot of Focus' music falls on the uh... airy fairy side. Tutti flutey. Pretty, but quick to disappear into the background. Somehow they managed to combine these two styles for "Anonymous Two" and deliver the most aggressive flautistry you'll here this side of Jethro Tull, a fantastic driving guitar riff that would be echoing in my head were I not listening to the song right now, and a bass-headed breakdown that would make Can proud. I bet you haven't heard this song, so go check it out. You think I put in the Youtube links for funsies?

Of COURSE Zappa has to show up. This is the least sidelong epic-y of the listed tracks, really just a set of variations, only very loosely fitting the criteria. But hey it's good and it's Zappa and if you're looking for really strictly orchestrated stuff and none of that soloing around town, look here.

How much do I actually have to say about "Echoes". Perhaps the most beautiful song of the rock era, the 20th century's best answer to "Moonlight". Relaxing, ponderous, exploratory, celebratory and yet sorrowful, gentle yet sneakingly sinister. It's hard to convey how much I love this song without getting a lot more personal than even my e-diary can take. I encourage you to set aside twenty minutes of your day, switch off everything but the speakers, lay down, and listen to "Echoes".

That ought to be enough music to keep you busy for at least two minutes, or if you already know and love all those bands and songs, okay!

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