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Progressive rock implies a particular mindset in recording and performing music, an predisposition to test established limits and boundaries. Stylistically speaking, progressive rock is all over the map. Pioneering artists, unfettered by preconceived notions of the status quo, can be found within all musical categories.

Furthermore, the means by which an artist displays "progressive" leanings may vary according to the presence of one (or more) of the following features:

(1) complex, often lengthy, compositions

(2) virtuostic performances

(3) exotic and/or eclectic instrumentation

The Beatles' release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band, represented a watershed development in the development of the genre. In retrospect, examples of progressive rock can be identified as existing prior to that album's appearance in June 1967, ranging from Elvis Presley's early rockabilly experiments to the Byrds' folk rock classics recorded between 1965-1967. However, post-Sgt. Pepper works tended to exude a seriousness of purpose (i.e., the consideration of aesthetics over the commercial marketplace) hitherto relegated to the jazz and classical music sectors. The emergence of rock journalism, largely built around young intellectuals who had grown up listening to rock 'n' roll and other popular music genres, helped to spread the gospel of highbrow rock art. The youth subculture, then preoccupied with weighty social matters such as civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War movement, wholeheartedly bought into the concept.

The concept album represented a notable subgenre within the progressive rock movement. In view of the increased profit-making potential of the long-playing twelve-inch record (which generally included ten to fourteen songs and ranged in length from thirty to fifty minutes) over forty-five r.p.m. singles, record companies concentrated their promotional efforts toward establishing the l.p. as the primary mode of aesthetic expression within the rock scene. Accordingly, rock musicians began experimenting with ways of presenting a unified thematic message (both in the music and song lyrics) within the framework of a record album. Notable concept albums produced by rock artists included:

Fairport Convention--Babbacombe Lee (1973)

The Kinks--Arthur (1968)

The Moody Blues--Days of Future Passed (1967); In Search of the Lost Chord (1968); On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)

Pink Floyd--Animals (1977); The Wall (1979)

The Who--Tommy (1969); Quadrophenia (1973)

After a dazzlingly creative period in the late 1960s which saw even mainstream pop artists incorporating progressive rock conventions into their work, the music business split off into an extensive array of stylistic fragments. While progressive rock was marginalized in the 1970s to the extent that its artists rarely achieved mainstream success, the genre could count on the support of a relatively substantial fan base, one that was at least the equal of funk and disco. However, the emergence of the punk movement, which viciously characterized corporate rock (many read this to mean "progressive rock") as a bloated guardian of the musical equivalent of dry rot, hastened the decline of the genre. By the 1980s, the term "new wave" was being loosely applied to all rock acts displaying progressive instincts.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

Amon Duul--Phallus Dei (1969); Yeti (1970); Dance of the Lemmings (1971); Carnival in Babylon (1972); Wolf City (1972); Live in London (1973)

Aphrodite's Child--And of the World Rain and Tears (1970); It's Five O'Clock (1971); 666, Apocalypse of John (1972)

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band--Safe As Milk (1967); Drop Out Boogie (1967); Strictly Personal (1968); Trout Mask Replica (1969); Lick My Decals Off (1970); Spotlight Kid (1971); Clear Spot (1972); Mirror Man (1974)

Camel--Camel (1973); Mirage (1974); Snow Goose (1975); Moonmadness (1976)

Can--Monster Movie (1970); Tago Mago (1971); Ege Bamyasi (1972); Deep End (1973); Future Days (1973); Soon Over Babaluma (1974); Limited Edition (1974); Landed (1975)

Caravan--Caravan (1972); If I Could Do It All Over Again... (1970); In the Land of the Grey and Pink (1971); Waterloo Lily (1972); For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (1973); And the New Symphonia (1974); Cunning Stunts (1975)

Curved Air--Air Conditioning (1970); Second Album (1971); Phantasmagoria (1971)

The Flock--The Flock (1969); Dinosaur Swamps (1971)

Genesis--From Genesis to Revelation (1969); Trespass (1970); Nursery Cryme (1971); Foxtrot (1772); Selling England By the Pound (1973); Live (1973); The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974); Trick of the Tail (1976); Wind and Wuthering (1977)

Gentle Giant--Gentle Giant (1970); Acquiring the Taste (1971); Three Friends (1972); Octopus (1973); In a Glass House (1973); The Power and the Glory (1974); Free Hand (1975); A Giant Step (1975); Interview (1976); Playing the Fool (1976); The Missing Piece (1977); Giant for a Day (1978); Civilian (1980)

Gong--The Flying Teapot (1973); Angels Egg (1973); Continental Circus (1974); Camembert Electrique (1974); You (1974); Shamal (1976); Gazeuse (1977); Live (1977); Magick Brother (1977)

Steve Hackett--Voyage of the Acolyte (1975); Please Don't Touch (1978); Spectral Mornings (1979); Defector (1980)

Hawkwind--Hawkwind (1970); A Search in Space (1971); Doremi Farsolatido (1972); Space Ritual (1973); Hall of the Mountain Grill (1974); Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975); Road Hawks (1976); Astounding Sounds (1976); Masters of the Universe (1977); Quark Strangeness and Charm (1977)

Jethro Tull--Time Was (1968); Stand Up (1969); Benefit (1970); Aqualung (1971); Thick as a Brick (1972); Living in the Past (1973); Passion Play (1973); War Child (1974); Minstrel in the Gallery (1975)

Kaleidoscope--Side Trips (1967); A Beacon From Mars (1968); The Incredible Kaleidoscope (1969)

King Crimson--In the Court of the Crimson King (1969); In the Wake of Poseidon (1970); Lizard (1971); Islands (1971); Earthbound (1972); Larks Tongues in Aspic (1973); Starless and Bible Black (1974); Red (1974); U.S.A. (1975)

Spirit--Spirit (1968); The Family That Plays Together (1968); Clear Spirit (1969); 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970); Feedback (1971); Spirit of 76 (1975); Son of Spirit (1975); Farther Along (1976); Future Games (1977)

Traffic--Mr. Fantasy (1967); Traffic (1968); Last Exit (1969); John Barleycorn Must Die (1970); Welcome to the Canteen (1971); Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (1971); Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory (1973); On the Road (1974); When the Eagle Flies (1974)

United States of America--United States of America (1968)

Van Der Graaf Generator--Aerosol Grey Machine (1968); The Least We Can Do Is Wave (1969); H to He Who Am the Only One (1970); Pawn Hearts (1971); Godbluff (1975)

West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band--Part One (1967); Vol. 2 (1967); A Child's Guide to Good and Evil (1968); Where's My Daddy? (1969)

Wishbone Ash--Wishbone Ash (1970); Pilgrimage (1971); Argus (1972); Wishbone Four (1973); Live Dates (1974); There's the Rub (1974)

The Youngbloods--Elephant Mountain (1969)

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention--Freak Out (1966); Absolutely Free (1967); We're Only in It For the Money (1967); Lumpy Gravy (1967); Cruisin' With Ruben and the Jets (1968); Uncle Meat (1969); Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970); Chungas Revenge (1970); Hot Rats (1970); Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970); Live at the Fillmore East (1971); 200 Motels (1971); Just Another Band From L.A. (1972); The Grand Wazoo (1972); Waka Jawaka (1972); Overnight Sensation (1973); Apostrophe (1974); Roxy and Elsewhere (1974); One Size Fits All (1974); Bongo Fury (1975); Zoot Allures (1976); In New York (1978); Studio Tan (1978); Sheik Yerbouti (1979); Sleep Dirt (1979); Orchestral Favourites (1979); Joe's Garage, Act 1 (1980); Joe's Garage, Acts 2 & 3 (1980); Tinseltown Rebellion (1981)