Prog Edition: Steve Hillage- Van Der Graaf Generator- Richard Barbieri

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Our salute to prog rock this time out samples a mammoth box set from one of the genre's most-revered guitarists, a stunning new album from some elder statesmen of prog and a solo effort from one of today's most popular prog bands.

Steve Hillage - Searching for the Spark - (Madfish)
Hillage fans may have to save their pennies for a while in order to pick up a copy of this huge, limited edition box set from the one-time Gong guitarist. At 22-discs, the set contains all eight of Hillage's solo records plus six albums of live material and perhaps of the most interest to diehard fans, four full discs of demo and archive recordings. A sampler given to members of the press contains some of the rarities, like the psychedelic instrumental "AFTAGLID (Tambura Backing Track Mix - Pt. 2)" which is a rough mix from the sessions for the Fish Rising album, a 1977 vocal turn in the form of the Pink Floyd-ish "Beginning to See the Light" and an uncompleted, unreleased rehearsal from 1972 called "Madman's Rap" where keys player Dave Stewart (Hatfield and the North, Egg) creates a sonic tornado as he meshes with Hillage's guitar. Some of the included live cuts are the breezy "The Fire Inside" recorded in 1979, a 1977 take on "It's All Too Much" and a lengthy jam on "New Age Synthesis (Unzipping the Zype)" which first appeared on the studio portion of the Live Herald album. Also included in the box set are several posters, two booklets, an enamel badge, a 60-page scrap book and a certificate of authenticity personally signed by Hillage. Get your copy here.

Van Der Graaf Generator - Do Not Disturb - (Esoteric Antenna)
It's great to once again hear the voice of Peter Hammill back in action. The singer will turn 69-years-old later this year but he's in fine form throughout and on opening cut "Aloft" where the arrangement leaps from segment to segment, sometimes recalling a Pink Floyd-ish, David Gilmour/Roger Waters tug of war. "Alfa Berlina" begins with trippy effects before Hammill recites the song's first few lines before the melody kicks in; he also momentarily flirts with hitting some high notes as the song works its way to a simple but extremely catchy chorus. From the almost-boogie of "Forever Falling" to the delicate instrumental "Shikata Ga Nai" to the early Jethro Tull-recalling "(Oh No! I Must Have Said) Yes," Do Not Disturb is solid and satisfying all the way through. With the band rounded out by keys and bass man Hugh Banton and percussion master Guy Evans, Do Not Disturb is bound to please longtime fans as well as give new fans a stellar entry point to the work of one of prog's legacy bands. Get your copy here

Richard Barbieri - Planets + Persona - (K Scope)
The former member of Japan and current member of Porcupine Tree steps out for his third solo effort, and here the keyboards wizard offers a set of mostly lengthy instrumental jams, ranging from the synth and loops-driven "Solar Sea" to the sublime, sax-enhanced proggy jazz of "New Found Land" to the ethereal, drifting-in-space downbeat groove of "Interstellar Medium." The three-part "Night of the Hunter" is the album's centerpiece; clocking in at over 10-minutes, the work is delicate but striking, a shooting star in an otherwise static night sky. The cosmically-themed album wraps with "Solar Storm," a more manic answer to "Solar Sea." Get your copy here.

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