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.
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 4: (continued from Side 3)
Track 1: The Colony of Slippermen (The Arrrival – A Visit to the Doktor – Raven) + Track 2: Ravine
After an intro full of strange sounds, the propelling keys and drums kick off the closing side, starting with an absolute highlight. After escaping from the snakes, Rael runs into a bunch of mutilated entities called the Slippermen. They tell him that the same thing happened to them with the snakes and that Rael will end up the same way: Don’t be alarmed at what you see, you yourself are just the same as what you see in me. Amongst the creatures Rael recognizes once again his Brother John, who tells him that the life of the Slippermen is devoted to satisfying the never-ending hunger of the senses, which has been inherited from the Lamia.
So we’re getting more and more indications that the criminal activities of Rael have something to do with sexual misbehavior. Certainly when John tells Rael that they’ll have to go to Doktor Dyper to remove the source of the problem, castrating that is. After getting it done, they receive their testicles in a little tube. But the brothers don’t get the time to walk home safely, as a black raven flies by (represented by the haunting synths), stealing Rael’s tube and dropping it in the water below. Rael runs behind it while his brother fears this sign of bad luck, leaving his brother behind once more: Now can’t you see, where the raven flies there’s jeopardy. The track merges into Ravine, an instrumental piece representing the wind across the cliffs of the ravine.
Track 3: The Light Dies Down on Broadway
As the title already presumes, this track shows some similarities with the opening track of the album. But to the contrary of the rest of the album, the lyrics of this track would have been written by Banks and Rutherford and not by Gabriel. However, Rael is searching for his testicles when he suddenly sees a glimpse of reality, as if there was some kind of portal to NYC in one of the cliffs. He sees the streets he’s so familiar with and runs to the way out. But at that point he hears John, screaming for help while he’s drowning in the water below. Rael now has to choose between returning to reality or saving the brother that left him so many times… Hey John!
Track 4: Riding the Scree
So Rael has decided to go after his brother and during this track he’s running along the ravine, chased by the synths. But.. If I want John alive, I’ve got to ditch my fear – take a dive… Here I go!
Track 5: In the Rapids
So Rael’s in the water now, trying to grab his brother. Although the lyrics describe a fairly exciting scene, the track is sung in a very calm way. Rael succeeds to get John out of the water and tries to reanimate him. But then he notices something remarkable: Something’s changed, that’s not your face. It’s mine!
Track 6: “It”
So we arrived at the closing track now, just having discovered that John is actually Rael, in some kind of split personality. As the title of the last track already gives away, it was all the time about ‘it’. It is chicken, it is eggs, it is in between your legs. You should really read the lyrics of this last track yourself, to experience the brilliance of it. And like Peter Gabriel says on the very end of it: If you think it’s pretentious, you’ve been taken for a ride..