History, Music, Prog Blog, Prog Metal, Prog Rock
The Evolving Progressive Rock Ear
December 28, 2017 - History, Music, Prog Blog, Prog Metal, Prog Rock
Throughout my life, I’ve found that some things I hear for the first time in the music world don’t sound right initially. Even though one of my earliest loves was Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, my mind did not seem to immediately be open to some of the progressive rock music that I heard in later years. It took me a while before my ears understood the music of Yes. I actually did not like Roundabout for quite some time.
And, once I learned to appreciate the beauty and intricacy of Yes, it was through an odd route. I went from Close to The Edge, to Drama (yes, Drama), to Fragile, to Going For The One, to Relayer, to Tales From Topographical Oceans. I would suggest to anyone who is not into Yes to avoid the last two until your mind has been trained to appreciate their other music.
There are other bands that took some time for me to learn to love. Even the Pieces of Eight album by Styx took me a while to get into. I remember paying the higher price that The Record Factory charged to get Pieces off Eight because of my love of The Grand Illusion, but the music that I heard did not enchant me enough for the cost. I do think that my blues over spending that much money on an album added to my initial dislike of the record. It did, later, become one of my favorite Styx albums, right alongside The Grand Illusion.
The experience of learning to love progressive metal has taught me never to give up on my evolving progressive rock ear Click To Tweet
Perhaps one of the biggest mind shifts in my musical taste had to do with the acceptance of progressive metal. I hated prog metal upon first listen. I remember wanting to give it a try, and so I went to Tower Records and bought two CDs. This was back when Tower would let you return anything that you did not like within so many days. And so I made the trip, and remember picking out A Pleasant Shade of Gray by Fates Warning and Dream Theater’s Metropolis Part 2: A Scene’s From A Memory. To me, these are two of the best progressive metal releases of all time. I came home with them, listened carefully, and returned them both!!! I could not accept the sound. I was used to the classic, whimsical sound of progressive rock. These two CDs just sounded pretentious, flailing in the wind and trying to belong to a genre where they did not belong. But, then, one afternoon I was watching MTV, and they played the live performance of S&M by Metallica. I was not a Metallica fan, and probably could not name one of their songs at the time, but the prospect of a metal band playing with an orchestra behind them intrigued me. I was blown away. I began to watch it repeatedly and it opened up a musical door for me. I was able to hear how a classical sound could merge with metal, and it primed my mind to hear what I needed to in order to appreciate progressive metal.
Soon afterward, I once again bought the two CDs that I had returned and could not believe the difference in how they sounded to me. This taught me never to give up on music that does not at first appeal to me.
I am still on a mission to like certain bands or eras of the music from those bands, but the experience of learning to love progressive metal has taught me never to give up on my evolving progressive rock ear.
Jesse (aka Xen)
I’ve experienced this same phenomena with every prog band. Almost every song takes a few listens to appreciate. For me, Pink Floyd was the bridge from growing up listening to the local classic rock station and loving Tom Petty, RHCP, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I also immediately loved Congo by Genesis when it was the hit of ~1995. But then high school hit, and I remember singing the symphonic part of the chorus to Comfortably Numb, not knowing what it was. A drive with my Dad one day pointed me to Wish You Were Here.
I recall, at 16, sitting with my cousin and listening right through WYWH (album) and HATING Shine On. But it grew on me. Then I put on my Dad’s copy of Animals. It didn’t even hit me, did I even listen to anything or did I just browse the internet for 40 minutes without paying attention?
Two more listens a few months later, and I was hooked. Pink Floyd became my focus in life for several years, until I discovered Yes and The Flower Kings around 2003… all the while hating my high school buddies listening to this noise called Opeth.
In summary, music defies instinct. Ignore your first instinct.
Hello, Jesse (Xen)! How interesting! I love to hear how others got into progressive rock. The irony about what you wrote is that in mix 27 I have both Pink Floyd and Opeth! There are a lot of bands and songs that I love now that I could not stand to listen to before. I think that progressive rock takes a mature musical ear and that’s why it isn’t as popular as some of the mainstream pop music. You have to let your ear grow into prog. I’m glad we made the journey, my friend! Take care!~Sebastian