Prog disc that most influenced you, and why?
Matt Maugeri: Back in the late 80s early 90s I was mainly a metal head. Listened to the essentials, Metallica, Megadeth, Testament and of course Kiss. I remember watching an episode of Headbangers Ball in 1992 and Dream Theater’s Pull Me Under came on. Well I was hooked immediately. Next day I headed to Strawberry’s to buy the cassette and CD. I have to say I probably wore the tape out I played it so much. This, to some extent is how I met Chris Parsons. A friend told me I needed to meet one of his friends that likes crazy music like Dream Theater. That’s when I met Chris. I started following some of the other Prog metal bands like Fates Warning, and A Pleasant Shade of Grey became extremely inspirational in my own writing. Hanging out with Chris throughout the 90’s led me to being re-introduced to Kansas. Like most, I was very familiar with their radio hits but when Chris and I attended a concert at the infamous Birch Hill night club in Old Bridge NJ, I completely fell in love with their music. To this day Masque has to be one of my all-time favorite albums start to finish.
Paul Higginbotham: My most influential prog album? I’m probably stuck at a tie here: I was hanging out at Dave Peters’ house one afternoon, circa 1978, and he put on two disks, one right after the other: first was Rush’s Hemispheres, and right from the opening swell of chords in the intro, immediately what comes to mind is that old Maxell tape commercial where the guy is sitting in his easy chair and it’s like a hurricane is blasting out of his stereo speakers. I was just blown away. Gob smacked. After a bit more sampling of that album, he proceeded to drop the needle on Jean-Luc Ponty Live (1978) and I lost my Jazz-Rock Fusion virginity. As a result, a lot (probably too much) of my clean electric, chorus type chord playing is certainly influenced by Alex Lifeson; and some small degree of my solo style I think, when freely improvising, could possibly be traced back to, well, Jean-Luc Ponty himself perhaps, but more so by some of his guest guitarists: notably Jacquin Leavano and Peter Maunu who left an indelible impression on me of playing with fluidity.
Ken Walker: As a guy with jazz roots, what got me into Prog? My hook, so to speak was the first two chords of Genesis’ Watcher of the Skies. That beautiful mellotron, those chords, I heard nothing like it before. I didn’t hear music like that on the radio. Sure, I heard Roundabout and the whole Fragile album—one of my desert island albums (I consider that version of Yes the best rock band in history)–but this was somehow different. My final defining moment as a confirmed progger happened with my first take of Ashes Are Burning. To this day I consider Renaissance Live at Carnegie Hall a treasure of live music. I completely devoured Song of Scheherzade from that tour! I fell in love with Annie Haslam’s voice. Genesis and Renaissance became my favorite Prog bands. I was listening to Genesis and Renaissance and Chick Corea and Jean-Luc Ponty and, well, things many of my friends didn’t listen too. I still listen.
Chris Parsons: I had the identical story as Paul, with Dave exposing me to Rush’s Hemispheres and Jean-Luc Ponty’s Live 1978 disc. They both had a great effect on me. My exposure to what we now know as the legendary Prog discs of the 1970’s all came from Dave Peters. Leftoverture, Permanent Waves, Songs from the Wood, Scheherazade and Other Stories, Trick of the Tail, Close to the Edge…..Dave took a naïve young kid and gave him an education in the Prog Rock of the time. What I didn’t learn from Dave, I picked up from Randy Sandmann. Randy took the Prog rabbit hole deeper. He played me Gentle Giant, Marillion, Wakeman’s Six Wives, and showed me that it was ok to dig deeper into their catalogs. He was right. The deeper I dug, the better Prog got.
Randy Sandmann: My first venture into Prog was my freshman year in high school… first, I was mesmerized by Jan Akkerman’s great guitar work on Focus’ Hocus Pocus by Focus. Later, keyboardist Chuck Oliver played me Song for America by Kansas and that was it for me. I loved the interplay and balance between the keys and guitars, the odd time signatures, and the sheer power of the music. After that, the Prog world opened up for me. Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Six Wives of Henry VIII made me, a guitarist, fall in love with keyboards. Then there’s Rush…the album that got me was A Farewell to Kings. The writing and musicianship on that album was incredible, as was the 2112 album. UK (the band) was a fun excursion and a lesson in how to make odd time signature tunes into hits. Lastly, let’s not forget Genesis, whos early catalogue is a staple of my Prog collection. My favorite current Prog band? Frost. Just brilliant stuff! I’d love to be on a bill with them some day!
Elizabeth Holder: My exposure to Progressive Rock came from my father. He always played classic rock in the car, wherever we went. He always liked adventurous music, jumping from the bombastic songs in the Queen catalog, to Yes’ Close to the Edge and Roundabout, to Kansas’ Carry on Wayward Son. While he liked the simple rock tunes of the times as well, my dad seemed to like playing the more adventurous songs for us kids. Fond memories.