Dutch Progressive Rock Page (Review)

DPRP 2012: Volume 34

Books written by music fans, especially those about prog rock, appear very infrequently. Most recently, there has been an update of Paul Stump’s excellent The Music’s All That Matters, followed by Will Romano’s lavish Mountains Come Out Of The Sky and Citizens Of Hope And Glory by Classic Rock Society director Stephen Lambe who is also co-promoter of the Summer’s End Festival.

Tackling prog rock is always tricky as everyone has an opinion about what constitutes great prog, but author and self-confessed music fanatic Michael Anthony has addressed it through his own personal journey through the musical landscape over the years. As a result, many of his observations will strike very familiar chords with all of us and we how we reacted when we first heard a particular piece of music on tape or CD or saw a band live. In many respects, it is finding our own meaning to the music that shapes our individual outlooks – and more than occasionally, causes significant damage to our bank accounts!

Though most of Anthony’s book concentrates on his mainstream rock and heavy metal favourites such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, there is a rich and thoughtful seam of prog into which he drills to offer his own personal perspective and reflect on those who have influenced him the most. Much of this centres on Marillion of whom he has been an admirer for many years along with Twelfth Night, in particular, the band’s original and much missed singer Geoff Mann.

Writing about Twelfth Night, in a chapter called God And The Devil, Anthony compares the blatantly Satanist Black Sabbath back catalogue with the works of Mann, a devout Christian who became in a Church of England vicar just before his untimely death from cancer in 1993.

Exploring both his lyrical and vocal contribution to Twelfth Night, Anthony focuses on Mann’s personality, passion, lyrical contribution, overwhelming belief in social justice and sense of the absurd as bringing a unique quality to the band especially its acclaimed Fact And Fiction album particularly the classic Love Song still regarded as a benchmark both for the band and indeed prog music in general because of its powerful words, haunting melody and inspiring chorus line.

This segues into Anthony’s assessment of Mann’s I May Sing Grace, which he admits, after a year of trying to find his way into its meaning, the music suddenly hit him and “came on like a revelation” as it all made sense to him at last.

This is just a very small taster of a very thoughtful and well measured examination which is further supported by a sparkling testimony from Brian Devoil, Twelfth Night’s drummer on the back cover.

The author’s excursions with Marillion are equally insightful as again, he trains his literary microscope upon their music to discover how and why it affected him so much especially around the time, the vocal duties were passed on by Fish to Steve Hogarth.

Having attended an international Marillion weekend in Holland, Anthony tries to put into perspective his chequered relationship with the band and shares the emotions common to all prog fans when their favourite bands decide to make changes particularly to their line-ups, which at the time, seem difficult to fathom out.

Other close-up examinations are made of artists such as Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan, all highly readable and always well-reasoned. It all ends fittingly with the inaugural High Voltage festival in London when an overlap of bands on the Sunday night meant having to choose between seeing all of Marillion on the Prog stage and missing the first part of ELP’s oh so rare appearance on the main stage. But it is a great place to end the book as it is here where the metal, classic and prog rock tributaries all join in musical confluence.

With testimonies also on the back cover from both Matthew Cohen, his fellow Welshman and main-man bassist with The Reasoning and Lucy Jordache, Marillion’s Communications Manager, Anthony was setting himself a huge task in writing this thoroughly engrossing book. But his tales will strike a familiar chord with fans of all musical rock genres.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Alison Henderson

See this review on the DPRP website: http://www.dprp.net/reviews/201234.php#book

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