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Best Prog Epics in Music?

Jimmy Higgins

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As I continue getting more familiar with Genesis, Supper's Ready makes me ponder the greatest progressive rock epics (set stop watch for 15 minutes or longer) of all time. Of course, one could argue both on personal taste and on merits. ELP's Tarkus is odd, because I just don't like ELP that much, the organ is just not synthy enough for me. I'm not saying it isn't technical, but I don't like it like I like other epics. But I will say, after listening to it just once, it wasn't hard to dive back into it. When looking online, a number of songs comes up, a number of Yes candidates (though I didn't see Nous Sommes Du Soliel mentioned), 2112 by Rush, Supper's Ready, Thick as a Brick, Anesthetize, Raider II, Echoes, The Great Nothing (which is what I think of that song, Neil Morse is quite over-rated... for a guy most people haven't heard of), some Dream Theater stuff.

Some of this I'm familiar with, others not. I don't enjoy 2112 as much as others. Yes, it starts wonderfully, finishes wonderfully... I find it lags in the middle. Again, Tarkus, complicated, but I haven't run out to buy ELP records... albums... follow on Spotify?

Yes is the king of the epic track. They released 7 of them, four on one album (of which 2 are really good). Close to the Edge was first, it was also the only epic with the original "classic" lineup. Close to the Edge is perfection in music. All of it has purpose. Gates of Delirium is Close to the Edge's angry drunk uncle. Don't get me wrong, this angry drunk uncle is sharp on the edges and that is what makes it intense. It is King Crimson within reasonable bounds. Then we have Awaken, which comes off of Yes's apparently under-rated GFTO album (and as a derail, can someone explain to me what is wrong with GFTO? The weakest track is GFTO, but when played live it is incredibly fun. The remainder of the album is nothing but top notch. WTF people?!). This is much more spiritual. Not Close to the Edge, but ridiculously great. Nous Sommes Du Soliel comes from the album that Yes kind of just wandered into excess overload. But the percussive drum section was what originally sold me on both Yes and Prog Rock... in the 90s.

30 years later, I start really listening to that other prog band, Genesis. And Supper's Ready is just remarkable, though I would consider it, more of a The Incident like multi-track "single" track. There is a lot of not so complicated conventional rock aspects to this song, but it contains so many hooks you look forward to hearing. By the end you think "This is the best song ev... oh wait... that is Close to the Edge still." I'd say the difference between Supper's Ready and Close to the Edge is that I've been chugging down Supper's Ready over and over and over. Close to the Edge is perfection, but not quite listen to it all the time perfection... granted, I've been listening to it for 30 years (apologies to those that were alive when this stuff originally was released).

Steven Wilson enters the fray as he has taken on a wing of 21st Century progressive rock. A few space prog epics out there, including a 30+ minute cut of The Sky Moves Sideways. But while that is enchanting to listen to, Anesthetize from Fear of A Blank Planet was his epic return to the long track. Anesthetize contains one of the best bass lines ever written. And I can say that because while I know almost nothing about music, other people that know more agree. :D One of the critical keys of an epic epic is that you aren't looking at the clock. And this song manages that. Wilson also followed this up with Raider II, which I'm not certain how to classify. It is a great listen, but I don't think it is top of list best.

The Great Nothing? Spock's Beard? At the End of the Day is a better song, but it benefits from a great opening which falls away into not as interesting (and also not long enough).

So for me, knowing little about long songs by Pink Floyd or Jethro Tull, I'm left with a list of:

Close to the Edge
Supper's Ready
Gates of Delirium
Anesthetize

...need to be on the list. But what else?
 

Jimmy Higgins

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It occurs to me that Yes actually release 9 epics, two as part of the KTA live event releases. Mind Drive being exceptional.
 

ZiprHead

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Supertramp: Crime Of The Century

Dream Theater, uhg. Mote interested in how many notes can be inserted into a song than making it musical.
 
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