Progressive rock, a genre to love or hate.  It originated in the late sixties thanks to heavy psychedelic rock influences and was pioneered by bands that wanted to go beyond the standard verse-chorus  based song structures.  As a result, often complex instrumental songs were bundled on concept albums with epic pretensions. It’s well possible that you once caught yourself asking what the hell one of these bands was trying to tell you while listening to one of their albums. The answers are provided here, in Prog Albums Explained. All you need  is the album, a comfortable couch and some good headphones.

 

 

Year: 1974

Genre: Progressive Rock

Preceded by: Selling England by the Pound (1973)

Followed by: A Trick of the Tail (1976)

Related to: Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon

 

 

Side 2: (continued from Side 1)

Track 1: Back in N.Y.C. + Track 2: Hairless Heart

These tracks are also treated as one as the first song smoothly fades into the second instrumental one. As Rael has now seen something and some people he is familiar with, he’s thrown in into a flashback that takes him back to the streets of New York City. He’s contemplating the times he had there together with the gang. How he gained their respect by misbehaving in several ways:  I’m the pitcher in the chain gang, we don’t believe in pain. In this way, this song gives the listener a first glance at the distorted mind of Rael which was discussed earlier in the title track. The music is creating some panic at this point, before fading into the instrumental interlude. No time for romantic escape, when your fluffy heart is ready for rape.

Track 3: Counting Out Time

Despite this warning from the last track, everything is becoming much more brighter in this song where Rael has his first experiences with love. We are now confronted with the softer sides of his character in what’s probably the most accessible song on the whole album. It has a catchy melody with a lot of synths that will stay in your head for days after hearing it, but the lyrics are probably still way too odd to become a mainstream hit (Erogenous zones I love you. Without you, what would a poor boy do?). Perhaps we should be happy about that. In fact, this song is the prelude to the next one, as the album is now reaching its melodic peak. Move over Casanova.

Track 4: The Carpet Crawlers

We are now at another absolute highlight of the album, musically (this would be one of the melodies that Gabriel has written)  as well as lyrically. Rael witnesses a bunch of people that fail to reach the top of a spiral stair, where they can escape from their misery. While the dreamy keys and synths that are producing some harp-like sounds certainly add a great part to the atmosphere, it’s above all the great mix between Gabriel’s lead vocals and Collins’ backing vocals that portray the helplessness of the people so well. Mild mannered supermen are held in kryptonite.

Track 5: The Chamber of 32 Doors

As we learn (after a great guitar solo) in this song, Rael has succeeded to reach the top of the stairs. Pity for our hero, the escape from his misery is still far away as he now ended up in a huge room containing no less than 32 doors (Are you listening, Moody Blues?). The room is filled with a large crowd that are all pointing to different doors, as only one door leads out. Rael is becoming desperate and begs for someone to show the right door. I’d give you all of my dreams, if you’d help me find a door that doesn’t  lead me back again. Take me away.

 -Continue to Side 3

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