Prog rock is a divisive genre. At best, it promises some of the most advanced musicianship in the world. At worst, it appears self-indulgent and pompous.
But if you're new to the genre and want to find the good stuff, where do you begin?
Well, this weekend we have a storming roundup of prog recommendations from one of the most prominent prog musicians around. Jordan Rudess is the keyboardist in Dream Theater, and he recently listed his top 10 prog-rock albums of all time on Music Radar.
Rudess first found prog as a teenager. "It electrified my thinking," he says. "Suddenly, I became super-aware of new sounds and possibilities. In fact, there were even parts on it where I went, Wow! I've got some pieces that are kind of similar, but they sure don't sound like that' because I was just playing them on piano. The record really changed my life."
Now it's your turn, so kick back and check out some of the best prog in the world as recommended by one of the best prog musicians in the world, in his own words. They're listed in alphabetical order. Enjoy!
Emerson, Lake & Palmer "Tarkus" (1970)
"Here you have a band that introduced me to the whole harmonic world, which I'd heard a little bit in classical music but never in rock. It had all these kind of cool, suspended chords, based on fourths, that Keith Emerson was so fond of. It probably stemmed from Aaron Copeland, the classical composer.
"I remember hearing this album and then going over to my piano so I could find every fourth chord and sus chord possible. I wanted to be able to land on them without any trouble... The combination of everything they did was pretty great."
Genesis "Trick Of The Tail" (1976)
"I love the harmonic sense that Tony Banks brought to this record. One of the things he really had down at this point was keeping the same root note, but the triads moved over that note. It's a real Genesis thing, and it really hit with this record. If you go back to earlier albums, it wasn't so established.
"Phil Collins sounds so great, too. He's such a marvellous singer."
Gentle Giant "Free Hand" (1975)
"I always felt like Gentle Giant had something unique in the way that they used counterpoint and rhythm. Nobody else was doing that. It was special, and it had a tremendous influence on me.
"I kind of saw it as the 'rock-Bach', where you have all these moving voices and interesting lines going on. I spent a lot of time studying it, not necessarily in learning how to play the exact music, but just to figure out what made it tick. I really wanted to know: 'What is that?'"
King Crimson "In The Court Of The Crimson King" (1969)
"One of the all-time classics.
"There's some tremendous themes on here, and of course, 'The Court Of The Crimson King' is truly memorable. Greg Lake's voice is so innocent and pure he's a remarkable vocalist... I just love the scope of this record. It's tremendous."
Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon" (1973)
"One big thing I liked was that their music was slow. They managed to be progressive in the depth of their musical space. To me, that was fascinating, because I came from classical music, and everything was so focused on technique. To have something that moved at its own pace and yet be so effective, that's what captured my imagination."
Van Der Graaf Generator "Pawn Hearts" (1971)
"I saw the band live at the Beacon Theater in the 70s, and it was one of the coolest shows that I had seen. They didn't have a bass player; the keyboard player had bass pedals; they had a saxophonist who was playing two saxes at once, which was pretty cool. The drummer was fantastic."
Rick Wakeman "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" (1973)
"There's a lot of simple elements, simple chords, but it has a super-classical approach. Another thing that struck me was the Mini Moog. The reason why I just had to have a Minimoog was because of the tone that Rick Wakeman used on his albums.
"I remember going to see him live, and he had three Minimoogs on stage with them. They all had tape markers right next to the dials to show the correct positions. There were no patches in those days."
Steven Wilson "Grace For Drowning" (2011)
"I don't know if this is fair, but I played on the album! There's such depth on it. Steven's like a painter, crafting and coloring moods, mixing in progressive elements. There's some King Crimson-y things, and he finds the intervals that create a dark energy. He's very good at textures, but all in all, it's just wonderful music."
Yes "Close To The Edge" (1972)
"With Yes, it was about the positivity that came out of their music, not just the progressive nature of the songs and the unbelievable musicianship. It was the energy level. Jon Anderson and the rest of the band put out such a fantastic spirit - it screamed off of the vinyl."
Stefan Zauner "Prism And Views" (1978)
"Super melodic, really good keyboard work, the drumming is cool, and there's great guitar playing. But something about the songs really stayed with me. I turn everybody on to this record."
That's it! Thanks to Music Radar for sharing Jordan Rudess' top 10 prog albums in his own words.
Which do you like, and what personal favorites would you add to the list? Share them in the comments.