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R. J. Heath (Loughborough, Leics, UK)

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ROCKING THE CLASSICS: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture
ROCKING THE CLASSICS: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture
Edition: Paperback
Price: £32.99

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A nice but restricted thesis of prog rock's development, 22 Nov. 2000
A nice thesis on the early development of the progressive rock movement, including the musical development and the associated art, with coverage of more recent developments (at least to the mid 90's). However, the serious prog fan should read this with some reservations. One central thesis suggests progressive rock came about because of certain English institutions,(e.g. Anglican church music), and then especially in the SE of England! Debatable.

After an general introduction, Macan sets out to demonstrate his argument about the Englishness of prog rock, through a number of different analyses of 5 landmark prog albums (by Yes, Genesis, ELP, Floyd, etc). The importance of the artwork of albums and the theatrical sets at live gigs is rightly dealt with. The book provides good reviews of the different musical approaches and influences employed, and why these bands "progressed" rock along. The book finishes with a review of the state of play in this musical genre up to the early 90's, with some enthusiasm shown for the likes of Djam Karet.

In probability, Rocking The Classics was not intended to provide a comprehensive overview with musical theories of the subject nor it broad history - other books are around which attempt this with less success. Especially from my viewpoint as a Brit who grew up during the early days of progressive rock, I have to ask why the early American contribution to the genre is hardly touched. I would have like to seen something about Vanilla Fudge (who influenced Nice, and so ELP and indirectly Led Zeppelin), even something about the experimental work of the Electric Prunes. The omission of the Californian band Touch, who influenced Yes and Genesis, suggests the research was less thorough than it might have been. Here and there statements annoy, such as with "Allan Holdsworth is a typical Canterbury guitarist" - which is nonsense when there was no such being as a typical Canterbury guitarist - Steve Hillage, Kevin Ayers, Phil Miller, Andy Summers, Holdsworth and the others are distinctly different from one another.

Nevertheless, for new comers who have ignored the prolonged UK media tirade against prog and want to know more, this is a pretty good starting point.

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