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Style Guide: Progressive Rock

Style Guide: Progressive Rock

Suggested Discography

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
Described as the group’s definitive album and one of the most daring debut albums of all time, it crushed the competition and set a new standard for progressive rock with Robert Fripp’s mixture of classical, Hendrix-like rock, and jazz imagery. Check out “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “In the Court of the Crimson King” and you’ll see why.

Yes – Fragile
This album marks the point where all the elements of their music come together, propelling the band from cult status to a worldwide reality. Popular songs from The Yes Album contained sci-fi and fantasy themes and Fragile capitalizes on that momentum, defining the Yes sound for the next decade. “Roundabout,” “Long Distance Runaround,” and “Heart of the Sunrise” are excellent examples of classic Yes.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery
This album is ambitious, well realized, electronic, loud, and successful. It represents a high point for the band and is exemplified by the 20-minute “Karn Evil 9” trilogy. Pete Sinfield (King Crimson) helped provide the lyrics that sustain the carnival and fantasy epic. “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression” and “Still… You Turn Me On” have all the multi-layered masquerade that one will ever need.

Genesis – Selling England By The Pound
Returning to their English eccentricity, Genesis created an album that has a storybook quality to it. It is a rock record that plays as a collection of short stories, but the songs stand up exceptionally well on their own. “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” and “I Know What I Like” are provided by the classic Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Steve Hackett/Peter Gabriel lineup.

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
Over 1,500 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart and still selling almost 10,000 copies a week. Not too shabby. A collection of songs about mundane, everyday details made psychedelic through soundscapes, tape effects, jazz-rock, and the blues. More commercial than previous Floyd albums, but listen again to “Money,” “Us and Them,” or “Time” for the progressive, blues influenced writing and playing of David Gilmour.

Rush – Moving Pictures
Though successful as a crossover album, Moving Pictures reflects the band’s progressive rock sensibilities in such songs as “YYZ,” “Tom Sawyer,” and “Limelight.” Treat yourself to a listening of “Witch Hunt” and absorb the lyrical imagery, 2/4 measure, odd-numbered phrasing, and multi-sectional riffery of one of the more underrated compositions from this album.

King’s X – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
On the heavier side of things, this offering from King’s X has been praised for its progressive musical approach and varied styles. Featuring harmonized vocals and woven bass and guitar lines, “Summerland” and “Pleiades” offer the core elements of progressive rock.

Dream Theater – Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
Heavier still, this concept album from Dream Theater is an elaborate composition that dives into old-fashioned progressive rock. A close listen will reveal the intricacies of the song structures, which include long instrumental sections offset by the narrative lyrics. “Overture 1928” borrows riffs and other material from “Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper,” a song from an earlier album called Images and Words, and “Strange Déjà Vu” has it all—complex meters, complex chords, soaring vocals, and riffs aplenty.

Pete Weise has a B.M. and M.M. in Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas, is an Associate Professor of Jazz Guitar at Collin College, faculty of the National Guitar Workshop, and teaches privately at the Guitar Sanctuary and the Fine Arts Academy at FBC Keller. He leads his own jazz fusion quartet and is a freelance guitarist in Denton/Dallas, Texas. Visit for more information.
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