Erik Neuteboom's DVD Special, Part 4
In 2021, we unveiled a major redesign and update of the DPRP website.
As you will appreciate, a lot has changed in web-design since the site was created 26 years ago. The new look has meant that some of our older articles and features, no longer fit the new format.
Whilst we shall always prioritise our coverage of modern progressive releases, we appreciate that many readers are also keen to (re)discover music from by-gone times. Thus, over the coming years we shall be (re)publishing some of these "lost" features; those that we feel highlight albums ("hidden gems") that readers will enjoy.
This series is taken from a major feature on progressive rock DVDs, first-published by DPRP back in 2008. Originally written by Erik Neuteboom, we have updated the information on each band and added links to videos and other DPRP album reviews that were unavailable at the time. The feature is being re-published over five editions. This is the fourth edition. Additional reporting and editing by Andy Read.
Niacin — LIVE! Blood, Sweat & Beers
A few years ago I got a promo from Niacin and was stunned by the wonderful Hammond B3 organ sound from John Novello. His play reminds me of Greg Rolie (Santana) and Vincent Crane (Atomic Rooster) with lots of organ floods and short solos. The title of the CD was Time Crunch (2001) and most of the songs delivered a very dynamic rhythm-section and exciting organ-play. But I was most delighted about the two covers of Red from King Crimson and Blue Wind from Jeff Beck's excellent solo album Wired.
This live DVD Blood, Sweat & Beers was recorded in Japan in 1997. Its running time of almost an hour mostly contains songs from the eponymous debut-CD. All the songs sound as a pleasant mix of blues, jazz, funk and rock with good interplay, some nice work from bass player Billy Sheehan and powerful support from drummer Dennis Chambers.
But again my conclusion is that the two covers are the best part. This time we have Birdland from Weather Report and You Keep Me Hanging On (great rendition) from Vanilla Fudge. These aree the most mature compositions. In my opinion Niacin is a great band to witness during a concert but in order to keep my attention when listening to one of their studio albums, they have to work on their own compositions which sound more like a jam.
Niacin was formed in 1996 and released six studio albums and two live efforts, mixing jazz, prog and funk. The band was pretty active until the release of Organik in 2005 and a short US tour the following year. This live recoding was released in various CD and DVD and Laserdisc formats between 1997 and 2003.
Omega — Zsuperkoncert - Nepstadion 2001
In the late 70s I bought the 2-LP Live At The Kiss Stadion by the acclaimed Hungarian prog-rock band Omega. This is still one of my favourite live albums, so I was excited when I heard that this live DVD contains many songs from that great, early period. Omega has released a lot of DVDs but in my opinion this one is superior to all others in every way.
From the very first moment, you will be blown away by the inspired and dedicated performance by Omega. We have a beautiful lightshow, an emotional crowd participation (lots of Omega banners, even “Deutschland Gammapolis”) and, last but not least, the outstanding renditions of their early work like Russian Winter (wonderful, melancholic climate, great vocal harmonies and wonderful synthesizer flights), Late Night Show (excellent interplay, strong duo-guitar work and warm crowd reactions), Ten Thousand Paces (swirling Hammond organ intro, exciting V-shaped guitar and duo-guitar play) and Help To Find Me (sensational, often pitchbend-driven synthesizer flights, powerful duo-guitar play and dynamic drums).
For me it was very moving to see how outstanding this Hungarian prog-rock legend played (skills, power, energy) and how euphoric the Hungarian fans reacted to the music. This concert was a Hungarian delight for everyone! This DVD is an excellent choice, it captures Omega at their best! Not to be missed by any serious symphonic-rock fan.
Not a band that has previously featured on DPRP, so we have to resort to Wikipedia for a bit of background: "Omega was a Hungarian rock band formed in 1962 ... that has released more than 30 studio albums both in Hungarian and English. After several early personnel changes, their classic line-up came together in 1971 and was intact for more than forty years."
Their music has been described as a combination of eastern European prog with a bit of symphonic and a bit of psyche prog.
Singer János Kóbor was with the band continuously from 1962 to his death from Covid in 2021, keyboardist/singer László Benkő was present from 1962 until his death in 2020, while guitarist György Molnár and drummer Ferenc Debreczeni joined in 1967 and 1971 respectively. Bassist Tamás Mihály was a member of the band from 1967 to 2017. He also died in 2020. The album Testamentum was released less than a week later, and has been described as a "farewell" record, containing contributions from both Benkő and Mihály.
PFM + Pagani — Piazza del Campo
Here's another, even more exciting and captivating DVD (also including a CD) from PFM after their DVD entitled Live in Japan 2002. It's from a concert in the beautiful Italian city of Siena, so PFM were playing a home game; and you can feel it in the air, what a enthusiastic atmosphere on stage and what a warm interaction with the crowd.
On the DVD Live in Japan 2002 PFM played almost in the original line-up. In Siena former violin player Mauro Pagani joined the band on stage, along other guest musicians Piero Pelu (vocals), Lucio Fabbri (violin, keyboards, rhythm-guitar), Roberto Gualdi (drums) and some classical musicians.
After the short opener, Rain Birth, PFM showcase their class with the composition River Of Life; a wonderful harmony of classical guitar, flute and piano, followed by sparkling and dynamic interplay by piano, flute, electric guitar, Minimoog and violin. What a lush and captivating sound and what a warm performance; these veterans love to play prog-rock, it comes straight from their hearts.
The rest of the concert is a succession of classics: a splendid violin solo, accompanied by a propulsive rhythm-section in Photos Of Ghosts, exciting interplay from flute and electric guitar and lots of changing climates in La Carrozza Di Hans, fat Minimoog runs and cheerful violin in Fourholes In The Ground, stunning interplay from sparkling piano, harder-edged guitar en sweeping drums in Mr. 9 Till 5, and the catchy rhythm from Celebration, featuring the known Minimoog flights, flute and violin. Everybody is cheering, clapping and dancing!
The long, live improvisation Siena Rock Jam delivers lots of solos (from a 'western' violin and sensational Minimoog with pitchbend to a short Blackmore/Gillan variation). Also worth mentioning is the duel-violin performance resulting in Rossini's William Tell Ouverture; an excellent combination of classical and progressive rock music that is clearly appreciated by the fans.
The DVD contains 15 tracks and the CD 12 (slightly different) so you can enjoy this outstanding Italian prog-rock legend both on CD and DVD.
As one of the big three bands of Rock Progressivo Italiano, Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) should need no introduction. Their 20th studio album, Emotional Tattoo, was reviewed by DPRP in 2017. They were on tour at the end of this year 2022.
Plackband — Visions
The first line-up from Plackband existed between 1977 and 1981. Then they disbanded due to the usual problems like musical disputes and lack of money and interest from record companies. While other Dutch symphonic rock bands like Differences, Taurus, Ywis, Cirkel and Arkus managed to release a LP in those days, Plackband only managed to release the single, Seventy Warriors.
Then in the late 90s the band members started to meet each other again, everybody was super enthusiastic and one decided to re-form Plackband. And what a contrast, as after their re-union, the band released the CD The Lost Tapes (a concert from 1981), a CD-single entitled Remember Forever in 2001, and After The Battle (with some re-recordings) in 2002. Then in 2006 the eagerly awaited DVD/CD entitled Visions arrived.
The lions share of the DVD contains a concert recorded at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands in November 2004 featuring new singer Karel Messemaker. Plackband showcases their huge potential. What a professional and inspired band. We can enjoy their wonderful mid-Genesis-inspired symphonic rock sound.
But Plackband is more than a copycat. At some moments they add distinctive elements like the pleasant vocal harmonies, a jazzy flavour by keyboard players Michel Van Wassem and a rocky approach by guitarist Ronald Brautigam. Especially in the long first track, The Battle/After The Battle they deliver a great solo on the ARP Pro Solist synthesizer, a powerful and catchy guitar riff and a fiery wah-wah solo on guitar.
Drummer Tom Van Der Meulen does a decent job, and the bass work by Albert De Keijzer is very flowing; he is a very underrated musician. Singer Karel Messemaker's voice is very similar to Peter Gabriel (he even has that hoarse 'timbre'). In the covers of Red Rain and Carpet Crawlers he sounds excellent.
For almost one-and-a-half hours Plackband treats us to strong renditions of their classics See The Dwarf and Hunchback with great Mellotron samples, fat Moog Taurus bass pedals notes, sensitive electric guitar and fluent synthesizer runs. In The Good Earth is a captivating instrumental jam in which Ronald (subtle build-up solo) and Michel (exciting pitchbend driven synthesizer solo) show their skills. Plackband on stage play a lot of improvisations, extended solo and surprising musical ideas, and you can witness these distinctive elements on this DVD/CD.
Plackband also deliver some less-known songs like Little Minds, Pillow and Blue Flashes In The Red Light District but the total chemistry is found during the final song, the stage favourite Seventy Warriors. Michel plays a flashy synthesizer solo, Ronald a very compelling guitar solo and both gentlemen deliver exciting improvised interplay; their combination of skills and pleasure reminds me of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush.
The extras on the DVD are the tracks Visions Of Another Life (featuring the distinctive voice of Kees Bik) and L'Enfant Du 92ème (with beautiful vocals from the recent singer Koos Sekrève), the docu The Making Of Visions Of A Concert and the 'collage' that contains pictures from Plackband die-hard fans like Jan Vrolijk and Jerry Van Kooten. This box-set also includes a CD that contains the same tracks and a 16-page booklet with wonderful, often nostalgic pictures.
Plackband eventually released their sole studio album in 2002, After The Battle and after some touring, they officially called it quits in 2008. Several former members have continued under the new name PBII. Their three studio and two live albums have all been reviewed on DPRP.
It was recently announced that PBII has also called it quits, but four of the members (three original Plackband members) will continue under another new name.
Quaterna Requiem — Live
For many years I had intended to buy a CD from the splendid, highly acclaimed Brazilian band Quaterna Requiem but every time I postponed it, due to several reasons. Then I noticed that the Brazilian progrock label Rock Symphony had released a DVD by the band and I immediately ordered it! This DVD was recorded live in 2004 to mark the 15 anniversary of the band (in 1990 they released their first album).
Listening and watching to this DVD, it becomes very clear that Quaterna Requiem plays very tight, fluently and powerfully and all musicians are very crafted. Every of the 12 compositions is a jewel featuring wonderful, fluent twists and turns, great solos and tasteful arrangements. This is excellent 24-carat symphonic rock!
The 'man' behind this amazing band is Elisa Wiermann, indeed, a woman in prog! It's obvious that she is classically trained, she plays a very varied style and Elisa is also the main composer. My highlights on this compelling and varied DVD are Prefacio (great build-up featuring a captivating contrast between the classical violin, fiery electric guitar and lush keyboards), Gargula (beautiful harpsichord intro, then a swinging rhythm with sparkling violin work, powerful electric guitar and breathtaking interplay by all musicians), Tempestade (very alternating delivery, JL Ponty inspired violin play and a wonderful strings-sound), Cantilena (dreamy climate with flute, acoustic guitar and classical sounding violin), the long Irmaos Grimm (dynamic, again outstanding interplay and a flashy Minimoog-like synthesizer solo), Horda (spectacular break featuring a sensational synthesizer and fluent organ solo), Velha Gravura (loaded with solos on keyboards, drums, bass and guitar and exciting interplay between the electric violin and electric guitar) and the final track Toccata as a tribute to JS Bach with sparkling church-organ runs, lots of strong shifting moods and a bombastic 'grand finale'.
This DVD is a musical document. A highlight in Latin-American prog-rock history.
Formed in the mid 8Os, this band intermittently released four studio albums between 1990 and 2012. Until recently the band appeared to still perform live. From their Facebook page it appears that Elisa Wiermann still performs as a solo artist including a handful of recent Genesis-inspired videos. The band's music has recently been released on most digital platforms.