For the most part my life is a blur of reviews, stuff arrives I listen to it, review it and move on to the next panic project. OK I will admit that this is not the life led by the average Joe, but it is the life I have chosen, or maybe it chose me!

For the first time in a couple of years I find myself at a bit of a loose end. My wife and I just moved from Calgary to somewhere (that I can’t even spell) in Mississippi. Today we actually moved into our new house. Well the house isn’t new, but it is new to us.

The Internet and phone service is not up and running, but should be sometime tonight. Most of our stuff is still in transit, a few boxes arrived today, but for the most part did not contain the stuff we really need.

Oh and the cable TV won’t be hooked up until next Thursday, so I have time on my hands. What I do have though are my two portable DVD players and my box of MUST KEEP DVD’s.
This got me to thinking. What in my mind makes music outstanding? What makes a work something that you would want to watch and listen to time after time?

Obviously different people have different criteria, for some it might have been the song on the jukebox when they met their wife or husband. It might have been the song that you and your school friends liked. The list is endless.

What took me off on this voyage of discovery was spending the last week in an unlevel 30 foot travel trailer and being subjected to rap music on a daily basis. In my mind Rap does not even qualify as a music genre, it is a source of torture for anyone over 30. Maybe they should use it in Guantanamo Bay.

I have some very clear favorite musicians, and yes they are old, and yes I have interviewed them all. But they were my favorites long before I got involved in the very silly reviewing game.

My number one pick has to be Al Stewart, Al has been playing since the late 60’s, I don’t know how many times I have seen him perform, and I’d need a super computer to figure out how many times I have played his CD’s. Like many great British musicians, he jumped ship from England in the late 70’s. Punk arrived, and every musician that could play more than three chords was leaving England for warmer climates.

Al went on a US tour, and the way he tells the story, he just stayed. Year Of The Cat was getting air play in the US, and not in England, why go back?

I grew up in England, and the 70’s were my formative years in more ways than one. From a music perspective I was drawn towards Prog Rock. Prog is an interesting genre, unlike many other styles, Prog is littered with classically trained musicians. These are no three chord wonders, these are masters of the music world.

One of the absolute masters is Rick Wakeman. I first stumbled upon him in the early 70’s when he was the keyboard player for The Strawbs. His innovations in the music world were huge, he was one of the first adopters of the Moog Synth, and a regular user of such amazing toys as the Melotron.

I have to admit that I for one thought that Rick had made a very bad career move when he announced that he was joining a relatively unknown band Yes. For several years I lost touch with Rick Wakeman, and in fact the entire music industry. It was about two years ago that I rediscovered him.

Maybe time mellows the mind, suddenly Yes were much more presentable than I remember. And here we are over 30 years later and they are still a tour de force. members have come and gone, and all of them have had very successful solo careers outside of the band. Often straying far from the confines of the Yes style. The one exception being Jon Anderson, his vocal style is so unique he is forever labeled as Yes.

Rick Wakeman’s solo career has been a journey of discovery. He has created many solo projects, written movie sound tracks, and more recently starred in a comedy TV show. What I find interesting is that Rick has come full circle, his most recent releases are of a very classical nature, not a synthesizer in sight, just a grand piano.

My other favorite keyboardist from this era is Keith Emerson as in Emerson Lake And Palmer. Keith is still abusing Hammond Organs on stage, and still using his original Moog Synth. It is getting on in years and has been rebuilt god knows how many times, in fact Keith has a technician on staff who’s sole function in life it to keep the Moog running. Although not classically trained there are elements of the classics in Keith Emerson’s repertoire.

My next pick would have to be Genesis. Oddly enough during the 70’s I thought very little of Phil Collins and his buddies. In my mind they did not represent Prog, they were very mainstream. Yet looking back at their work I realize that I was wrong. They were Prog, and indeed are Prog, it is just in a slightly different way.

What all of these artists share is they have passed the test of time. Their music is ageless, and new fans are discovering them every day.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to review a Motley Crue concert. While not my favorite band, who can turn down free seats close to the stage? Crue has been around for 30 years, but you would never guess it by looking at the audience. Yes there were a few of us aging Baby Boomers, but there were also a great number of young people in attendance.

Even though I am by no means a Motley Crue fan their music was far superior to todays rubish.

Good music survives and bad music goes the way of the Dodo bird. I recently interviewed Oliver Wakeman, who has followed in his fathers footsteps and is very active in the Prog Rock world. I asked him if Prog was making a comeback after being decimated in the late 70’s “Prog is a minority sport and it always will be” was his comment.

I mulled his answer over, well minority sports do quite well. You may not see them on TV as often as baseball or football, but they have their dedicated followers and new inductees everyday. The same goes for music, Classical is a minority sport, but has existed for hundreds of years and is a very popular genre.

I know that 100 years from now people will still be listing to Brahms, Bach and Beethoven, but will people still be listening to the rappers, or to the Shania Twains of the world?

Simon Barrett

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