Prog Rock: music for grown-ups? Well, yes, sort of

BBC Four’s suite of programmes on Prog Rock confirmed the view that even Prog has some music for grown-ups.

The genre both attracts and repels this listener. On the positive side:

* Prog encompassed some gifted musicians, notably Robert Fripp, Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman.

* its leading lights were clever innovators; they were creatively courageous in ditching rock’s blues roots; some of their mixing of rock with classical and jazz fusion worked well.

But much Prog is off-putting, mainly because:

* where the music has lyrics, they’re rarely worth listening to.

* even the best musicians veer towards over-indulgence.

* apart from the major players, the bands are so samey that they undermine the genre’s claim to be innovative.

That said, I enjoyed (re)discovering albums like In The Court Of The Crimson King – King Crimson, and The Ultimate Collection – Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I wouldn’t listen to them frequently, but they are engaging, musically interesting and challenge my prejudices.

But I didn’t linger long over The Ultimate Yes or anything by Caravan or Genesis.

Gerry Smith

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