Look into the most effective songs of the prog rock canon, and also you’ll discover tunes about all the pieces in life that basically issues: Non secular journeys, everlasting love, quick racing vehicles, and the necessity to keep away from yellow snow. To not point out deathless guitar and synthesizer solos, and sufficient tough time signatures to hold your sequined cape on. It’s not simple to whittle the style’s music right down to 30 songs, however a minimum of we’ve included a number of fairly prolonged tracks – plus a number of 4 and five-minute numbers which are simply as epic. This playlist hits on prog rock’s grandest songs through the years; for range’s sake, we didn’t embrace any band twice. So crank up your headphones and into the cosmos we go.
Hearken to the most effective prog rock songs on Spotify.
30: Comfortable Machine – Nettle Mattress
The phrases “ridiculously catchy” are seldom utilized to Comfortable Machine, a band liable to advanced and difficult jazz compositions. However the opener of their Seven album is, nicely, a ridiculously catchy progressive rock tune: Composer Karl Jenkins anchors it with a sprightly riff on electrical piano, which keyboardist Mike Ratledge (by now the one authentic member) decorates with leads on his newly acquired synthesizer. Underrated drummer John Marshall follows in scorching pursuit.
29: Focus – Hocus Pocus
Focus was (and is) basically a progressive rock band of significant gamers with classical and jazz leanings. However additionally they had an eccentric humorousness, which regularly bought aired on their uncommon vocal tracks. “Hocus Pocus” began as a rehearsal joke, with Jan Akkerman enjoying a crunching enviornment riff and organist Thijs van Leer responding together with his greatest yodels; drummer Pierre van der Linden solos wherever potential. It grew to become a left-field hit and nonetheless a beloved observe, even when everybody who purchased Transferring Waves due to the one was possible shocked by how totally different the remainder was.
28: Barclay James Harvest – Poor Man’s Moody Blues
This started as singer/guitarist John Lees’ revenge on a journalist who’d referred to as his band the “poor man’s Moody Blues”: He was miffed sufficient to go house and rewrite “Nights in White Satin,” utilizing the identical rhyme scheme and the identical tempo, plus a refrain constructed round “I like you.” In opposition to all odds, he got here up with an exquisite tune in its personal proper, so this one doubles as a romantic outpouring and a grand joke.
27: Dream Theater – Octavarium
Dream Theater are the kings of prog steel, however this 24-minute opus lands solidly on the prog facet: In the event you thought they have been at all times into shredding, it’s worthwhile to hear the tasteful, melodic contact of this prog rock tune’s first twelve minutes. (Concern not, the shredding comes on the second twelve, and it’s completely thrilling.) You may spend weeks decoding all of the references on this opus – for starters, it’s absolutely the one prog tune whose lyrics reference each Pink Floyd and the Ramones.
26: Nektar – Bear in mind the Future
Nektar was among the many most melodic prog bands, with clearer Beatles roots than most. The title observe and centerpiece of their best-known idea album, this borrows a little bit of its spacey groove from “Solar King” – which in flip borrowed from Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross.” Nektar’s tune can stand proud in addition to these two classics, with its anthemic refrain and pulsing single-note riff.
25: Gong – You By no means Blow Yr Journey Endlessly
Gong’s merry prankster Daevid Allen ends the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy the very best means, with an eleven-minute prog rock tune that throws completely all the pieces into the combination: Countless tempo adjustments, dazzling solos (take a bow, Steve Hillage and Didier Malherbe), out-of-nowhere pop hooks and boundless optimism. Absurd and great.
24: The Tangent – Jinxed in Jersey
The Tangent’s chief Andy Tillison is among the sharpest writers in trendy prog, and he’s at his wittiest on this sung/spoken 16-minute observe. The lyrics element all the pieces that went unsuitable when he tried to go to the Statue of Liberty on a US tour, together with assembly a cop who thought he was in Rush. Musically it references early Genesis and classic Steely Dan, with out sounding all that very similar to both.
23: Kansas – Miracles Out of Nowhere
Aspect one among Leftoverture opened with the breakthrough hit “Carry On Wayward Son,” however its finale often is the definitive Kansas observe. “Miracles” glides seamlessly from its pastoral verses to its advanced instrumental exercise, like most Kansas songs it’s all about non secular looking and the rewards that may be uncovered. Additionally makes nice use of Kansas’ secret weapon, the vocal tradeoffs between frontman Steve Walsh and the late violinist Robbie Steinhardt.
22: Can – Yoo Doo Proper
We’ll allow you to resolve if Krautrock is a part of prog, or one thing else altogether. However that is one among its definitive tracks, as Can subvert pop by writing a bubble-gummy love tune, stripping it right down to its core, and enjoying it for 21 hypnotic minutes. It’s downright perverse – and improbably sufficient, it’s additionally plenty of enjoyable.
21: Caravan – 9 Toes Underground
The unique, four-piece Caravan’s most interesting second. For a side-long piece that is remarkably tight and accessible, due to the easy-rolling groove of the instrumental sections and the chic melodies of the 2 vocal elements. The second vocal bit, sung by bassist Richard Sinclair, makes particularly beautiful use of an English people affect.
20: Mild Big – Free Hand
For all their ambition and complexity, Mild Big may be one hard-charging rock band. The title observe of their arguably greatest album places all of it collectively; keyboardist Kerry Minnear offers a soothing intro earlier than unleashing the primary riff. The lyrics are apparently addressed to a former enterprise affiliate, and Derek Shulman delivers an arena-shaking lead vocal. No coincidence that he’d uncover Bon Jovi in his subsequent profession as a label exec.
19: Asia – Sole Survivor
True sufficient that Asia had plenty of pop of their bloodstream, and MTV beloved them for it. However on this tune, they’re each bit the supergroup that followers have been hoping for. Steve Howe and Carl Palmer make their presence felt, and John Wetton tears into the story of beating the chances. It’s a observe that makes their accessibility a advantage.
18: Peter Gabriel – Lay Your Palms On Me
Safety has to rank as Peter Gabriel’s proggiest album, increasing the musical prospects together with his newly acquired Fairlight whereas the lyrics dare to discover some emotionally messy territory. The album’s centerpiece is in regards to the want for on a regular basis bodily contact – doubtless a tune that gained resonance within the covid period. Anybody who noticed that tour will keep in mind Gabriel’s belief fall into the viewers over the last refrain.
17: Procol Harum – A Salty Canine
Certainly one of Procol’s grandest prog rock songs, and one they performed all through their profession, this was an ideal automobile for Gary Dealer’s regal voice and B.J. Wilson’s majestic drumming. Lyricist Keith Reid characteristically leaves the story open to interpretation; to those ears, it sounds just like the narrator’s confession of his exploits as a pirate.
16: Jethro Tull – Heavy Horses
In search of “Thick as a Brick”? We’re going with a private favourite as an alternative. Ian Anderson has an on/off relationship with prog, however he was clearly on for this one, the title observe of an album that was in any other case closely folk-tinged. The energy of the English working steed, and the lifestyle it represents, set Anderson’s creativeness rolling on a nine-minute prog rock tune that opens with a basic Martin Barre riff, and will get some lightness from visitor violinist Daryl Manner of Curved Air fame. Drummer Barriemore Barlow offers the galloping hooves.
15: Mike Oldfield – Ommadawn, Half 1
The side-long observe was at all times Mike Oldfield’s specialty, however – with apologies to “Tubular Bells” – that is his most good one, creating two essential themes over the course of 19 minutes. The multi-textured piece hits one peak after one other, the very best ones being the African drumming/chanting part (kudos there to his vocalist sister Sally) and the savage guitar solo that follows. The ultimate reprise of the opening theme takes your breath away.
14: Renaissance – Mom Russia
Symphonic grandeur got here naturally to Renaissance, and so they’re at their most dramatic on this stately prog rock tune, in regards to the heroism of the dissident author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Annie Haslam’s vocal strikes precisely the fitting chord, expressing each sympathy and humanitarian outrage; and the band conjures the darkish and icy Russian panorama.
13: Marillion – Kayleigh
This four-minute single was excerpted from the idea album Misplaced Childhood, however it stands by itself as one among prog’s nice expressions of misplaced love. Marillion’s authentic lead singer Fish retains his lyrics direct and emotional, recounting the small print of their affair – when the tune ends, you already know she’s gone. The prog rock tune was a UK hit in 1985, so simply think about the variety of ladies named Kayleigh who have been born in that 12 months.
12: The Moody Blues – Legend of a Thoughts
You didn’t want acid to like the Moody Blues’ salute to Timothy Leary; this six-minute prog rock tune was a visit in itself. Written and sung by flautist Ray Thomas, this was a key observe on In Search of the Misplaced Chord, an album that contemplated totally different paths to enlightenment, additionally together with meditation and romantic love. Thomas will get a memorable flute solo however it’s Mike Pinder’s unearthly mellotron that takes this to the cosmos – and the Moodies are soaringly melodic even once they’re tripping out.
11: Transatlantic – Stranger in Your Soul
The trendy supergroup Transatlantic loves their classic prog, however they make all the pieces greater, grander, and longer: “Stranger in Your Soul” runs half-hour, however it’s so filled with melodic peaks that it doesn’t really feel overstretched. Non secular rebirth is their favourite lyrical theme, and this observe has their most inspiring refrain: “Arise, trigger that is your time!”
10: Utopia – The Seven Rays
At their greatest, the unique Utopia managed to bridge the band’s prodigious chops with Todd Rundgren’s pop wizardry. “Seven Rays” is cosmic however powerful, with the rhythm part hinting at funk and Rundgren’s lyrics evincing a type of streetwise spirituality. There’s a contact of gospel in there too, with none apart from a then-unknown Luther Vandross main the backup refrain.
9: Frank Zappa – Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow (suite)
We definitely thought-about “Inca Roads,” however this prog rock tune made a bit extra sense as a result of it affords an opportunity to spotlight simply how humorous the style may very well be, given the prospect. This Apostrophe mini-suite proved has Frank Zappa hanging a shaggy-dog Eskimo story on a bass riff in 7/4. Each the story and the music get extra outlandish because the suite rolls alongside. Regardless that “Yellow Snow” was improbably launched as a single, it’s worthwhile to hear the album facet in all its steady glory.
8: Genesis – Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers….In That Quiet Earth/Afterglow
No, the prog didn’t exit of Genesis after Peter Gabriel’s departure and the The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway/”Supper’s Prepared” period. The evocative instrumental on this medley is one among guitarist Steve Hackett’s masterstrokes, taking its spectral temper from the Emily Bronte line quoted within the title. There are many dramatic turns and jagged riffs, and all of it resolves with probably the most intense love tune within the Genesis catalogue – one of many first tracks to essentially present the heights Phil Collins may attain as a singer.
7: Van der Graaf Generator – Man-Erg
No person may put an existential treatise right into a tune lyric like Peter Hammill. On this key Pawn Hearts observe, he confronts the killer, the angel, the refugee, and the abnormal man who all stay inside his pores and skin, because the music builds from misleading calm to utter chaos. Hammill’s throat-tearing vocal finds its match in saxophonist David Jackson, who made lead guitar on this band largely pointless.
6: Kate Bush – Suspended in Gaffa
Kate Bush goes full-on theatrical on this spotlight from her twisted masterpiece, The Dreaming. She’d by no means sung fairly like this earlier than, and neither had anyone else: These shouts of “I would like all of it!” on the refrain nonetheless deliver shivers. And there’s no person else on this planet who would equate an existential disaster with being sure up in gaffer’s tape.
5: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Karn Evil 9: First Impression
Regardless of the unwieldy title, this piece is as heavy and direct as ELP ever bought, its two elements initially linking the 2 sides of Mind Salad Surgical procedure. It begins as a darkish imaginative and prescient of the longer term, pushed by Keith Emerson’s heavy organ riffing and Greg Lake’s forceful singing; half two takes you to the surreal circus within the well-known “welcome again, my associates” part. The underlying theme is a world the place mass leisure distracts individuals from the disappearance of nature and human rights. Under no circumstances prophetic, was it?
4: Pink Floyd – Shine On You Loopy Diamond
Pink Floyd’s arguably best single observe is a haunting and in the end loving tribute to their founder Syd Barrett. From David Gilmour’s crystalline intro solo to Roger Waters’ hovering refrain, all the pieces about this observe is emotive– and it looks like a unified tune although its two elements are separated to start and finish Want You Had been Right here. A final glimpse of the outdated Floyd that created classics like Darkish Aspect of the Moon earlier than they turned full-time to scathing social commentary.
3: Rush – Crimson Barchetta
“Cygnus X-1 Ebook II: Hemispheres” could be a well-liked choose, however we went with a Rush tune about that almost all rock ‘n roll of subjects, a thrill experience in a quick automotive. After all Neil Peart’s lyrics make it a metaphor for the lure of hazard and freedom; and the band responds in type. Alex Lifeson shifts gears with ease, developing with a brand new riff for every stage of the story. Geddy Lee was actually stretching his vocal skills at this level, and right here he’s nonetheless younger sufficient to attach with the adolescent narrator.
2: King Crimson – twenty first Century Schizoid Man
It’s a basic now, however you’ve bought to think about simply how jarring this prog rock tune sounded in 1969. Nobody other than Robert Fripp and firm have been delivering this sort of future shock, nor the type of clatter heard within the guitar/sax break. Greg Lake’s distorted vocal was so menacing that you simply’d by no means guess that choirboy-type vocals would quickly turn into his trademark. Each incarnation of Crimson has performed this basic from Within the Courtroom of the Crimson King, and it’s an plain kick to nonetheless hear it carried out within the twenty first century.
1: Sure – Near the Edge
In the event you’ve examine Sure’ strategies within the studio, you already know that they threw a great deal of concepts round after which stitched all of them collectively. So it’s a miracle that they got here up with one thing as fantastically seamless as this. Coping with nothing lower than a go to to Heaven, the marvel of “Near the Edge” is that it’s structured like a pop tune: Three verses, center eight, keyboard solo, and refrain finale. However these Sure harmonies get positively celestial, Invoice Bruford’s drumming is a strong anchor, and Rick Wakeman’s Hammond organ solo often is the most jubilant second in all of prog.
Hearken to the most effective prog rock songs on Spotify.
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