Dear prog enthusiasts please make room in your bookshelves because some very interesting reading material is on sale again which you absolutely should not miss. I am talking about the new book by author, reviewer and music lover Kev Rowland. Titled The Progressive Underground Vol. 4. His history in the progressive rock scene is well known by most progheads so I will not tell it again. Just read the reviews of The Progressive Underground Vol. 1 (2019, see review), The Progressive Underground Vol. 2 (2019, see review) and The Progressive Underground Vol. 3 (2020, see review) to know all about what he's writen and done.
His new book is not introduced by well known progressive rock stars met during his days of writing all those reviews. It's really that he now asks some other people. Some of his fellow reviewers now shine a light on Kev's great work for the scene. People like myself who have been around the progressive rock scene a very long time, almost a lifetime just like Kev. Of course they are all very positive about him just like myself. So let's start by telling you what is in his new book.
First I'll have to tell you that he published his reviews from 1991 to 2006 in volumes 1 to 3 of his book series The Progressive Underground. Volume 3 was supposed to be the last one of the series. In my review of that book I wrote: "Hopefully a Volume 4 will be released in the not so far future. Kev thinks it might happen one day even if he lives nowadays on the other side of the world in New Zealand. After all he still writes reviews. Perhaps even more than when he was still living in England. So who knows". Well many readers asked him about younger bands, and many musicians asked him about his reviews of their albums. His answer was always that he wanted to limit his reviews to 2006. Now Rowland has thrown this restriction overboard and still made a fourth volume. The Progressive Underground Vol. 4 contains all his reviews from the years 2008 to 2013.
This time around the book has 309-pages to read and that means lots of CD reviews again and a couple of interviews as well. There are no concert reviews because the bands have difficulties to find New Zealand on the map as he himself explains. But without his writings of bands on a stage there is certainly enough to enjoy as in his earlier books.
Of course the book is written in the same style as the previous editions. This means it's easy reading for everybody and having a picture of the album as well. As on all earlier editions it once again includes artists that don't come to mind immediately and many of them most people haven't heard of. Even for me it's the case. Luckily not that much. Every page I turned had a review of an act that was well know to me. But for example Half Light from Poland and their album Black Velvet Dress is unfamiliar to me, a band that probably take their influences from bands such as Kraftwerk and the Petshop Boys. So not really my cup of tea and therefore did not try to find them on the internet.
As always Kev agrees with me about many great album releases from less known act. Albums from acts such as Syzygy, Zen Rock And Roll, Traumhaus, State Urge, Simon Says and Moth Vellum he finds great food for our ears just as I did. But also on the big names in the genre he sometimes feels the same way, for example, the best album by Spock's Beard without Neal Morse, Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep, got the same five stars as given by our website. But as you might have guessed, there are also some reviews which have a different opinion. Take for example my review of Circle Of Illusion and their album release Jeremias - Foreshadow Of Forgotten Realms. It was released in 2013 and I wrote at the time: "Only the highest rating is suitable for a superb sounding concept album like Jeremias - Foreshadow Of Forgotten Realms. For me this is a true masterpiece that perfectly blends different musical styles into something new which is in fact the core of progressive music. After listening to this album I felt I could die in peace! Well, that's maybe a bit exaggerated, but it indicates my feelings for this wonderful musical concept. This album will most certainly end up in my top ten of 2013. No doubt about that”. However Kev wrote "This should be a five star review, but it isn't. I would love to rate this more highly as there is much promise within it, but there are also huge chunks where the Vegas lounge is just too much for me”. As you can see we don't have always the same musical taste. Even one of my fellow reviewers at the time listened to this album because of my very positive review. But he liked it less than Kev did and never played the album again.
Many well know acts are featured. Acts such as Twelfth Night, IQ, Roger Waters, Galahad, Glass Hammer, Steven Wilson and Threshold. However I do miss album reviews of one of the big leading names in the genre. Namely Yes. They released Fly From Here in 2011 but there is no review about this rather strong album. Marillion also has only one review mentioned. Sounds That Can't Be Made (2012) is there but I can't find Happiness Is The Road (2008) and Less Is More (2009). Also Dream Theater isn't mentioned at all. In the period between 2008 to 2013 the band released Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009), A Dramatic Turn of Events (2011) and Dream Theater (2013). I guess as with our website Kev is more focused on the less well known progressive rock acts. Most people know the real big names and you can read all about them elsewhere. The more obscure never before heard acts need all the attention they can get and above all most of the time they are the better sounding acts. As for myself I always find it a real kick if I discover an act which is not known at all but delivers a real masterpiece or an outstanding release which gives me goosebumps. I think Kev will feel the same way.
However, even with the missing reviews this is again a must have for all progressive lovers who want to discover more of the rather unfamiliar acts. As I wrote before and will end this review once again as I did on the others:“All I can say is if you are a true proghead this book should be in your library of progressive rock literature. Because it's a great work. A book to be considered of superior or lasting artistic merit. Thanks Kev for keeping the progressive rock flame burning!”.
And once again probably for many progheads the perfect birthday and Christmas gift!!!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
Kev Rowland @ Gonzo Publishing
Where to buy
Review Progressive Underground Vol1
Review Progressive Underground Vol2
Review Progressive Underground Vol3
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