Given that progressive rock tends to be literary and intelligent, it should not be shocking that there are also many great books coming out about the genre. Here are several recent books that every prog rock music lover should own.

Amazingly enough, I’m one of the conservatives who also loves progressive rock music. To be sure, I’m not alone. In fact, there are quite a few of us, though, perhaps, not as many as once existed. Progressive rock is a form of rock music that focuses, generally, on the complexity of melody, time signatures, and lyrics. Quite often, it borrows heavily from symphonic and experimental music, from European folk music and song structures, and from African, Latin, and jazz rhythms. Critically, it likes to tell complex stories through its lyrics. Though no one can agree exactly where or when progressive rock started, it probably began with either Pet Sounds (1966) by the Beach Boys or Sgt. Pepper’s (1967) by the Beatles. It blossomed in the early 1970s with bands like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, and Kansas.

I want to be as clear as possible: I get the conservative arguments that I should support classical music and opera. I really do. And, I do support them as well, along with jazz. When classical music and opera are good, they’re extremely good. Jazz, too.

But, I also want to be part of a movement that is growing and developing. Though rock music itself has been on the decline in popularity since the 1990s, there are still a lot of artists making great contributions to the genre, and what is commonly known as progressive rock has grown exponentially and vitally over the past three decades. Indeed, thanks to Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, Dream Theater, and others, what editor and author Jerry Ewing and others have called “Third Wave Prog” exploded and continues to this day. I am thankful that I had two older brothers who introduced me to the genre—probably with Yessongs as far back as the early 1970s, when I was but a wee lad!

Given that progressive rock tends to be literary and intelligent, it should not be shocking that there are also many great books coming out about the genre. Here are several recent books that every prog rock music lover should own.

Steven Wilson, A Limited Edition of One. Wilson, one of the single most interesting persons you might never have heard of, is a genius when it comes to the craft of musical construction. Best known for his solo work over the last decade, Wilson has (and is) also been a member of such bands as No-man, Blackfield, and Porcupine Tree. He also releases electronic music as well as experimental music under the name of Bass Communion. And, he was a part of Storm Corrosion. Oh, did I mention? The guy is prolific and genius. Just this year, he also released his autobiography, Limited Edition of One. Beautifully crafted and constructed, A Limited Edition of One reveals much about the man while also celebrating the mystery of this enigma. Astoundingly, Wilson never gets political, though he is quite “cultural” in his criticisms of the modern world. The closest Wilson ever gets to being political is when he explains why he’s a vegan. Frankly, though, Wilson’s argument is relatively convincing. Still, I’m more interested in what music influenced him and how he approached the art. He delivered beautifully. The edition I bought is in two volumes, in a slip case, and accompanied by a CD with musical sketches. Wilson is two months younger than I am, and I can feel our generational vibe is strong.

Ben Wardle, Mark Hollis: A Perfect Silence. One of the most interesting men in rock music over the past several decades has been Mark Hollis, the lead singer and driving force of the New Wave and, in latter iterations, prog band Talk Talk. Though they started out as a pop group, the band, by their third album, progressed into something almost unrecognizable in rock—experimental to the extreme, musically as well as lyrically, despite the desires of their label. Yet, not just experimental, but quite gorgeous in their lyrics and presentation as well. Hollis passed away several years ago now, but his legacy remains. This book captures the soul and essence of yet another enigma, the most endangered species (to quote Rush’s Neil Peart), the honest man. I consider Wilson to be the followup to Hollis, each man a mystery, but a glorious one. There’s nothing too revelatory in this biography, but we are reminded that Hollis was a hard-headed man of integrity—who never compromised when it came to all that mattered most.

Bradley J. Birzer (yes, me!), Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions. OK, this might be obnoxious, but I have to include the second edition of my own biography of the world’s greatest drummer (and lyricist) Neil Peart. It came out on June 14 of this year, from WordFire Press. I first encountered Peart’s words and drumming in the spring of 1981, after his band, Rush, released its greatest work, Moving Pictures. Since that day, Rush has been one of my favorite bands. Peart’s word resonate with the 13-year old Brad as much as they resonate with the 54-year old Brad. I always thought Peart would be the ultimate big brother, the cool big brother who introduced you to the best music and the best thoughts about what makes life worth while. I’m not the only person influenced by Peart—there are, by my estimation—at least a generation of us. Peart taught us not to be like him, but to be ourselves—to explore and accentuate our excellences. The man was excellence personified.

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