ProgSphere’s AwesomeCast: Episode 18 – The Vast and Unknown

This week’s Prog Sphere’s AwesomeCast is bringing the selection of songs by Brian Ellis of… Many. Best known as the guitarist of San Diego based prog rockers Astra, Ellis’ musical explorations outreach the lame genre categorization. Whether it’s Astra‘s intergalactic psyche/prog trip or twisted jamming (Brian Ellis Group), Zeuhl led fusion jazz (Brian EllisQuipu album) or freestyle rap by MC JRE & The E Team, quality is guaranteed. It gives us great pleasure to have Brian’s selection of songs for this episode of ProgSphere’s AwesomeCast.

Commenting his selection of songs, Brian says:

For this podcast I wanted to highlight some of my favorite and most influencial songs, as well as some more obscure songs that I feel deserve more exposure and recognition.

First off we have Teddy Lasry’s “Birds Of Space” from his album “E=MC2″. Teddy Lasry played Soprano Sax on the first 3 Magma albums before going on to create some of my favorite records in the Library genre. He’s an amazing multi-instrumentalist, playing almost every instrument on his albums, and I find this album to be a constant source of inspiration.

Next up is Shicke Fuhrs & Frohling’s song “Diaglog” from their album “Symphonic Pictures”. I was introduced to SFF by Richard in Astra a few years ago and have been a huge fan ever since. These are really top notch musicians playing their own unique brand of symphonic prog and has some of my favorite Mellotron playing of all time.

Following is Miles Davis’ “Black Satin” from the “On The Corner” album. The first time I heard this album I knew it was something that I would listen to for the rest of my life… It’s simply an amazing album and continues to be ahead of it’s time 40 years after it’s release.

From the album “Love Devotion Surrender” I have chosen John Mclaughlin and Carlos Santana’s “The Life Divine”. Although I find most of the material on that album to be subpar in comparision to many of their other albums apart from eachother, this song has an intensity and soul to it that can’t be denied.

One day I was browsing in a record store and came across the King Crimson section. Not expecting to find anything I wanted I came across a live album called “USA”. I looked at the year and line up, and decided I was gonna go for it even though I had never heard it. This is probably my favorite King Crimson release now and their performance of “Larks’ Tongue In Aspic, Part II” is incredible.

Herbie Hancock’s “Hidden Shadows” has always been one of my favorite tracks from him. Right from the second it starts, the disjointed beats and funky bass lines mixed with Herbie’s mellotron swells and hypnotic atmospheric synth work sucks me in and takes me right to outerspace.

Next up is Magma with their song “Zombies (Ghost Dance)” from their album “Udu Wudu”. It was the first Magma album I ever heard and by the end of “De Futura” I was completely obsessed. “Zombies” might not necessarily be very representative of the range that Magma take their music, being that it is such a short song, but It has always been one of my favorites with is forward pushing rhythms and out of this world minimoog playing.

“Program Me” is from Bruce Haack’s “Electric Lucifer” album. Haack had been making far-out children’s records entirely from instruments he had created himself for years before making this album. I always really loved the vocals in this tracks and the almost funny sounding bouncing synth bass.

Wara was a progressive rock band from Bolivia in the early 70s. “El Inca” is the opening track to the album of the same name. It has a sort of “floating” quality that I love and the vocals are really great. It’s a no frills, catchy prog song that I think anyone could enjoy.

Area is probably my favorite of the 70s Italian prog bands, with their album “Caution Radiation Area” being the best in my opinion. “ZYG” is an all over the place exploration that really shows off their amazing musicianship. I love how in control they are of how out-of-control it sounds.

Larry Young is my favorite organist of all time. He played on so many of the greatest fusion records of the early 70s is unfortunately overlooked all to often. “Peace (For Dakota)” is taken from the album “Love Cry Want” where he plays with Nicholas and Gallivan. It was recorded live in a park in front of the White House and Richard Nixon actually forced the concert to be stopped fearing that this strange music would ‘levitate the White House.’

If you’re not a huge Sun Ra fan, do yourself a favor and watch the documentary “A Joyful Noise”. “That’s How I Feel” is taken from his album “Lanquidity”. It’s a beautiful song and a great place for anyone to start with Sun Ra’s almost never ending discography.

Catalyst was a great fusion band from Philadelphia in the early 70s led by saxophonist Odean Pope. “East” is taken from their self-titled album and has one of my favorite bass lines ever. I’ve always thought of their sound as being a funkier version Soft Machine, and it works so well.

Wrapping it all up is Robbie Basho’s “Moving Up A Ways” from his album “Voice of the Eagle”, released on John Fahey’s Takoma Records. Robbie Basho is my favorite acoustic guitarist of all time. The power that comes out of his playing his mesmerizing and his vocals really take it to the next level.

The Mixtape (feat. Brian Ellis) by Prog Sphere on Mixcloud

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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