Timeless Wavelengths: The Midlands Rocks’ Irregular Look at the World of Progressive Rock

0

By Paul Quinton

Well here we are again once more, there were no torchlit processions to MR Towers demanding the imprisonment of everybody responsible for the first Timeless Wavelengths, so, encouraged, we thought we’d give it another go.

First this month, I want to go further into something TW only touched on last month, namely Esoteric/Antenna signing The Reasoning and Panic Room to a record deal. I freely admit to being a huge fan of both bands, and have championed the Reasoning in particular since I started writing for Midlands Rocks. But if I can put my personal bias aside, I really am excited about this. Not just for both bands, but I take it as huge vote of confidence in the current UK prog scene as a whole. As a label, Esoteric Antenna will specialise in releasing new studio albums by new and established artists and among other projects,  will be releasing the results of the collaboration between Steve Hackett and Chris Squire, a project by the name of Squackett, which is pretty good company to be in. The label is being launched with a showcase gig at the Underworld in London, in mid April, where the two bands will perform along with the other new Antenna signings, Sanguine Hum and Tin Spirits. It should be a great evening, and we’ll see if Timeless Wavelengths can stagger along and let you know how things go down.

While Panic Room are currently in the studio recording their debut album for the label, due in June, and celebrating Anne Marie Helder being voted ‘Best Female Vocalist’ in the Classic Rock Presents Prog Poll, The Reasoning have announced that they will be releasing an EP this Spring, on their own Comet label, prior to beginning the recording of their  debut for Antenna. The EP is called ‘…And Another Thing’, and will include some of the new material the band performed on their dates last year, along with two new songs, ’21 Grams’ and ‘Pale Criminal’.  However, amongst all this good news, came the unwelcome announcement that the band’s guitarist, Owain Roberts, would be taking leave of absence from the band due to illness. We can only send our thoughts and best wishes to Owain for a complete and speedy recovery and look forward to his early return to the band. Meanwhile the rest of The Reasoning intend to continue with their plans for 2012 and so have recruited Mr. So and So guitarist Dave Foster to fill in while Owain is away.

Meanwhile, some fascinating news from the Jethro Tull camp recently. Ian Anderson has already announced a solo tour where he’ll play the legendary ‘Thick as a Brick’ album in its entirety. Now he’s added the news that he’s written and recorded a sequel to the album, which will take the story of the album’s central figure, Gerald Bostock, through life into middle age. The shows will comprise both albums being performed in full, and the new album, at the moment adventurously titled ‘Thick As A Brick 2’, comes out in April. I tried to think of more legendary concept albums that had sequels, but couldn’t think of many, and the list of successful sequels is even shorter, if not actually non-existent. ‘Operation Mindcrime 2,’ anyone?  The tour includes Derby Assembly Rooms, (April 24th) and Birmingham Symphony Hall on April 30th.

Still in the ‘legends’ category, events in Yes have taken another strange turn. With the ‘Fly From Here’ tour still in progress, the band have changed singers yet again. Benoit David has left the band, possibly temporarily, possibly not, to be replaced by Glass Hammer singer John Davison. It’s not clear whether this is a permanent change, although Chris Squire has already been quoted on the Dutch Progressive Rock Pages to the effect that it is permanent, but as someone who has loved the band for a long time, I wonder how far their credibility can diminish before the penny drops. There’s nothing to be done when band members fall ill, but it’s telling that the band were voted as the biggest non-event in the Classic Rock Presents Prog Poll.

A little closer to home, Solihull’s finest, IO Earth, have just released their new album, ‘Moments’. As ever, the band have mixed several styles together to produce their own sound and it’s a very worthy follow up to their acclaimed debut album. They debuted some of the songs at The Robin in October and make a return visit in April, on a very interesting bill with veterans Solstice. The band also had an excellent result in the Classic Rock Presents Prog Poll, being placed 5th in the ‘Best Unsigned Band’ category.

Timeless Wavelengths thought The Robin excelled itself for Prog in February, with some mouthwatering gigs, including Pallas, Pain of Salvation and Steve Hackett. March is a little bit quieter, although gigs by Gazpacho and a double bill of Manning and the Paul Menel (ex-Arena) band aren’t to be sniffed at, even if the Heather Findlay show planned for April is now postponed (insert sad faced emoticon here). One thing that has disappointed me recently, though, and this doesn’t just apply to Prog, but other genres as well, is the frequency with which the Midlands is omitted from tours. FM are playing nowhere between Manchester and London on their ‘Indiscreet 25th Anniversary’ tour and if I can put my stetson on for a moment, Lynyrd Skynyrd have done exactly the same. North Eastern proggers Dee Expus, now featuring Marillion’s Mark Kelly, might not be in quite the same league, but it was still disappointing to find that they left the middle of the country out of their plans. It’s not like we don’t have the venues, or the crowds, so if someone can explain this, I’d be very grateful.

And on the subject of venues, and going back to the CRPP poll, a round of applause to Mike Hamblett and everyone at The Robin for their second place in the ‘Best Venue’ category. They were only beaten by the Peel in Kingston, which has the advantage of being in the media’s backyard, but I’m positive if everyone who voted had been to both venues, the result would have been reversed.

Finally this month, I’d like to highlight someone who is doing a fine job of carrying the prog torch. Shaun Geraghty hosts the Prog Mill every Sunday night on Stafford Radio, an online community station, between 10.00p.m and midnight. The station broadcasts from the restored Broad Eye Windmill in Stafford, hence the title of the programme, and Shaun not only features the legends of Progressive Rock, Floyds, Genesis and the like, but also gives ample airtime to the newer breed, the likes of Magenta, Panic Room, Touchstone and Mostly Autumn, which is exactly the kind of thing Timeless Wavelengths will throw its full support behind. The show is very much music based, but eventually Shaun would like to expand into carrying interviews and promoting local gigs and venues. You can find Stafford Radio here and if you have any requests or anything you’d like The Prog Mill to feature, contact the show here.

And that’s that for February.