Album Reviews

The Tangent – The Music That Died Alone

UK release date: 22 September 2003


Three generations of prog-rockers have joined together for this tribute to the age of concept albums, triple live LPs, ostentatious album sleeves and 20 minute drum solos. Veteran progger David Jackson, former reedsman for Van Der Graaf Generator, provides an authentic ’70s flavour, while members of Flower Kings and Parallel Or 90 Degrees (surely one of the sillier band names, even by this genre’s standards) give a more contemporary flavour to proceedings.

In keeping with prog-rock traditions, the album is divided into three suites. In Darkest Dreams sounds, in the more convincing passages, like a cross between Close To The Edge-era Yes and early King Crimson, at its worst like Uriah Heep on a bad day. The whole, however, is marred by some horribly mannered vocals.

More convincing is the tribute to the Canterbury bands, Caravan, Hatfield And The North and Soft Machine. This was the whimsical, less po-faced, aspect of prog and the four tracks that make up The Canterbury Sequence capture, in the vocals, instrumental settings and lyrics, the joyous, eccentric spirit of the Canterbury scene.

The Music That Died Alone sums up the overall theme of the album, coming over as a lament for the early ’70s heyday of prog. A Serenade makes a convincing pass at a Keith Emerson piano workout and Pre-History features both some pleasing trio interplay and jazz-inflected guitar lines.

At its best – on albums like Brain Salad Surgery, Fragile and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – there was a genuine buccaneering spirit of adventure about progressive rock. The problem for The Tangent and other contemporary prog-rock revivalists is that the best work in this genre came in the years 1969-74, book ended by the King Crimson albums In The Court Of The Crimson King and Red. What came after was mostly either pale imitation, self-parody or rampant egomania.

Although this album is a brave attempt to evoke the golden age of prog-rock it merely ends up reminding fans of the genre what’s been lost.


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