I was surfing around on the Modern Drummer website as I tend to do most mornings… Instead of useful tips on drumming or upcoming events I’d consider attending, my eyes drifted to a link titled 20 Classic Prog Albums and I sure am happy they did. It’s easy to get lost in contemporary music when it’s forced on us from all angles. However, it’s great when the nostalgia of it’s roots sets in to remind us where it all came from.
Progressive music showed us many things; one of them being impeccable drumming. When I think about the most influential drummers of all time, I immediately default to guys like Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Neil Peart, and Carl Palmer. I maintain that the 60s and 70s were the best musical decades ever and that just would not have been the case without these top of the line players and their contribution to Progressive Rock. Chops, odd times, contradictions…. As a genre, it created a different musical experience than people were used to at that time. It made people think a little more.
Music is inviting when its an easy listen but its an experience when it puts your brain to work. Us music nerds listen to these songs searching for the one of each beat to determine the odd time signatures. We listen for the complexities that challenge traditional musical attributes. Much like jazz and fusion, Progressive Rock caters to a select group of music fans who desire the artistry in music. There is both a sloppiness and a sophistication to it frequently assessed by the percussive nuances of it’s definition. Consider the atypical beat arrangements of Bill Bruford or the heavy syncopation of Vinnie Colaiuta (I never spell his name right the first time). As time went on, these touches became quite ubiquitous and the notion of such complexities in Rock music became more or less expected. Prior to the influence of guys like Bruford and Colaiuta (did it again) on Rock music, we really only heard these complexities in jazz.
Today, it’s just a melting pot of ideas out there. Musical influence is taken from anywhere and everywhere. Rock maintains its roots in the Mainstream (i.e. Black Keys and Jet) but I’m always intrigued to hear the Progressive influences in modern day sub-genres of metal and alternative music. While we probably won’t see a revival of Prog in the mainstream, we can certainly enjoy the mark it will continue to leave on up and comers.