Sunday, 20 December 2015

32: VANDEN PLAS - Far Off Grace (1999)

Introduced by Andy Read

Here is a little story: Once upon a time, 15 years ago, DPRP was just a five-year-old web-sapling and I had just skidded through my third decade. Then one day a kindly doctor hovered over my hospital bed and uttered the dreaded C-word. A tumour, the size of fist, had staked its claim to the middle of my chest. The doctor kindly gave me a 50:50 chance of ever skidding through a fourth decade.

After a year's worth of chemotherapy and a weekly exposure of my chest to a kindly radio-therapy nurse, I was bald but bold. I made a list of 10 bands I wanted to see before I died - be that sooner or later. Within a year I was in remission and had travelled to Progpower USA, the south of Spain, Netherlands, Sweden Rock Festival, Paris and London and struck nine off that list (including the legendary ARK which I'd thought was being overly optimistic). One band however was proving problematic.

Vanden Plas had been on the bill for my trip to ProgPower USA, but pulled out due to safety concerns following 9/11. I had also travelled to see them in Paris, only to arrive to find a note saying they had had to cancel due to the sudden death of singer Andy Kuntz's father.

Undeterred, a year later I was back in Paris, to emotionally cross the final band name off my list. I cried a lot at the end of my mini-odyssey, especially during the already emotional Healing Tree, where Andy Kuntz dedicated the song to his father and apologised for not turning up the previous year, and the whole hall burst into a warm and lengthy round of applause in solidarity.

Thankfully I am now skidding through my fifth decade. With my wife I am working through a new list: 50 Great Walks To Do Before You Die. And when I do reach my Far Off Grace, this is one album I hope someone has put into the jukebox!

From the DPRP archives read the original review by Mark Sanders from 2000 and then Andy's review of the reissued version from 2004

Read Mark's review here
Read Andy's review here

Watch the band play a great version of Iodic Rain live
Watch it here

Sunday, 13 December 2015

31: HANDS – Strangelet (2008)

Introduced by Raffaella Berry

I had never heard of Hands until a couple of years ago, when my good friend Dave (who is also an excellent musician in his own right) sent me a copy of their 2008 album, Strangelet. Incidentally, they had performed at the 2006 edition of ProgDay just a few weeks before my first trip to the US, when I finally met my husband-to-be in person.

Based in Texas, where they were formed back in 1977, Hands have never enjoyed as high a profile as other veteran US prog outfits. In the light of the excellence revealed by Strangelet and its follow-up, the recently-released Caviar Bobsled, that is a real shame.

This album comes with four bonus tracks (in addition to the original seven), which include the stunning instrumental Zenith of Mars, a showcase for Mark Cook (also known for his tenure in Herd of Instinct and Spoke of Shadows), whose Warr guitar creates utterly entrancing atmospheres.  All in all, Hands’ uniquely eclectic take on progressive rock is likely to appeal to most prog fans, regardless of their affiliation.

Read Gerard Wandio's original review from the DPRP archives in 2008
Read it here

Listen to the track Tambourin
Listen now

Sunday, 6 December 2015

30: MAGELLAN - Impending Ascension (1993)

Introduced by Jerry van Kooten

When I first heard Magellan's debut album at a friend's place, I was impressed. Soon after I bought this second album and the melodic bombast blew me away. My then fellow team member Dirk van den Hout didn't like it much though. Hearing back this album for this article, I recognise what I liked back then, but this part of my taste has gone. (I do like my music very heavy though!) I now hear the patchwork of pieces that do not necessarily fit iton a longer piece, something I recognised right away in the music by Shadow Gallery. I tend to call this too "American" - too much head, not enough heart (a common problem in prog, I have to add). It just feels cold to me.

Read why Dirk van den Hout thought this album was only worth a score of 5.5 in his review from the DPRP archives in 1998
Read it here

Listen to the track Waterfront Weirdos
Listen now