Are there great live albums from the modern progressive rock bands to rival the classics recorded in the 1970s by Yes, Genesis, ELP and King Crimson?
Below I give you the chance to vote in a best live modern prog albums poll as well as present the mainstream best live progressive rock albums polls.
In terms of record sales, modern prog rock has been a flop with a place well away from the top reaches of the album charts.
I think there’s a different story in terms of quality. Some of these modern prog rock bands have plenty interesting to contribute.
I’ve been stubborn. Stuck in the 1970s, happy to explore what was happening in Italy and elsewhere but not if it was recorded after 1979.
I realise it’s ridiculous to talk about “modern prog” as starting in 1980, nearly 40 years ago but I think many prog fans have a similar attitude to mine of old. When Marillion appeared in 1983 with Script for a Jester’s Tear, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to listen to Gabriel era Genesis clones when we had Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway to appreciate. Then they added insult to injury by having hit singles.
Gradually I’ve gone in search of more prog, investigating the difficult bands from my youth and the Internet increased my knowledge to the wonders of Italian prog.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve gradually opened up my eyes and closed down my prejudices to post 1980 prog and come to accept some bands are interesting and, dare I say it, good to great.
The Progressive Rock Background
Progressive Rock started as a separate category of music around the time of the debut King Crimson album, The Court Of The Crimson King in 1969.
It really took off in the early 1970s and most of the recognised classics come from those early to mid 1970s. Pick a major group and the run of albums is enough to make a prog rock fan drool at the mouth:
- Genesis and Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, A Trick Of The Tail, Wind & Wuthering.
- Pink Floyd – Meddle, Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals.
- Yes – The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge, Tales From Topographic Oceans, Relayer.
- The list could go on as you work your way down the prog rock royalty list.
Did the punk and new move explosion of 1976-1978 kill off prog?
Not quite although many of the leading lights tailed off or took their work down commercial avenues.
In the 1980s, the neo-prog movement emerged although Marillion were the only ones to have success comparable with the 1970s super bands.
Since then prog rock has been bubbling away and thriving in the undergrowth of popular music. Out of sight of the mainstream, bands like Spock’s Beard, The Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree and Transatlantic have been loyal followings.
Progressive metal has also emerged, combining the heaviness of Iron Maiden and Metallica with complex song arrangements and even concept albums. Dream Theater are probably the best known of the prog metal bands and, for me, these bands mainly belong in my hard rock and heavy metal polls rather than in the prog rock polls.
The Role Of ProgArchives.com
I owe my conversion to the excellent specialist website Progarchives.com , which lets reviewers and others rate prog rock albums out of 5. In their scoring system, 5 is essential for a prog rock album collection, 4 is excellent and 3 good. In those scales, anything with a score more than 4 must be worth taking a look at.
To quality check their taste, here is the list of top live albums recorded in the 1970s (data extracted 16/9/2018, default settings used except studio album changed to live album):
- The Great Deceiver: Live 1973 – 1974 by King Crimson
- Solar Music – Live by Grobschnitt
- Playing The Fool – The Official Live Album by Gentle Giant
- Karlstad Live by SBB
- The Collectable King Crimson – Vol. 1 (Live in Mainz, 1974 + Live in Asbury Park, 1974) by King Crimson
- The Night Watch by King Crimson
- Live/Hhaï by Magma
- Live At Fairfield Halls – 1974 by Caravan
- Yessongs by Yes
- Seconds Out by Genesis
As you can see, this is a proper prog rock website. You might think there’s too much King Crimson, and they are a band I’ve found it difficult to love beyond their debut, but I don’t think you can argue with the quality in the list.
In my poll, it is the Yes and Genesis albums that dominate but then asking people to vote for their favourite five live albums turns it into a combination of a guide to quality combined with popularity.
So what do ProgArchives think are the modern greats (again data extracted 16/9/2018) ? I’ve created separate lists for prog rock and prog metal to give due warning to anyone who has problems with metal.
- Live at the Pongmasters Ball by Ozric Tentacles
- Whirld Tour 2010 – Live From Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London by Transatlantic
- Coma Divine by Porcupine Tree
- The Gettysburg Address by Moon Safari
- Prog På Svenska – Live In Japan by Änglagård
- This One’s for England by Discipline
- Arriving Somewhere… by Porcupine Tree
- Live in Europe by Transatlantic
- Waking The Dead – Live In Japan 2005 by Anekdoten
- A Night At Loreley by Gazpacho
- Live Scenes From New York by Dream Theater
- Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with the Octavarium Orchestra by Dream Theater
- The Retinal Circus by Devin Townsend
- 12:5 by Pain Of Salvation
- Operation: Livecrime by Queensrÿche
ProgArchives is very much for prog specialists and it’s preference for albums doesn’t mean it fits in with the mainstream. There is also a huge number of differences in the number of review ratings between the popular and the rare which may provide a bias towards the less well known bands.
My personal tastes are very much in the symphonic style of progressive rock – Yes, Genesis and Camel back in the 1970s and so far I’m finding Transatlantic, The Flower Kings and Karmakanic to be well worth exploring.
What Do You Think Are The Best Modern Prog Live Albums?
I considered not creating a separate poll as the modern prog live albums dominate Division 2 in my main best live prog albums poll but I thought that could prevent these albums getting a fair judgement.
What I have done is bring across the votes from the main poll (as of 17/9/2018) into this best modern prog live albums poll.
Normally I only allow five votes per poll but I’ve given you up to ten this time.
This is a less well known category so I think there are fewer obvious answers. Back in the 1970s, there was a right time to record a live album. It happened after a series of strong albums so the fact that Yessongs appeared after The Yes Album, Fragile and Close To The Edge was perfect. If it had ben left until the Tales From Topographic Oceans tour or even later it would have been weaker.
It’s the same story with ELP and Welcome Back My Friends and even Genesis and Seconds Out. Robert Fripp was reluctant to revisit his past so King Crimson live shows were very focused on his current band so if you loved the Wetton, Brufford, Cross version, the 1973/74 albums were obvious. It’s a shame the band broke up before they had a chance to tour with Red.
The career highs of bands like The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic are much less obvious so the choice of live album may not be driven so much by song selection as performance.
Please cast your vote, and if possible, tell other prog rock fans about the polls. The more people who vote, the better the polls are to guide people to the best live recorded music.
How Does Modern Prog Stack Up Against Traditional Progressive Rock In Terms Of Live Albums?
The truth is, not very well on current evidence but as more of us release our prejudices against the new bands, I’d expect to see some of the albums rise although the lack of clear focal points may stop them rivalling the top 5.
You can vote for up to FIVE of your favourites in this main best live prog rock albums poll. The blue links take you to pages with more details about these great prog rock live albums.
After 240 people voted, I decided that there were less well known bands and albums that should be brought to your attention as a discerning fan of progressive rock. I encourage you to vote for any albums you believe are good enough to be included in the main poll. Promotion and relegation is possible as I’m aiming for the first division to have the best ranked 50 to 60 albums.
As you will see, the majority of the live modern progressive rock albums appear in division 2 but you can help to change it.
If you think I’ve missed a great prog rock live album out, tell me who and what particular album by leaving me a comment.
Other Best Live Album Polls
If you found it interesting to vote in the poll to find out the greatest progressive rock live album, you might like to vote in some of these polls for individual groups and artists:
- Best ELP live albums
- Best Genesis live albums
- Best King Crimson live albums
- Best Pink Floyd live albums
- Best Yes live albums
- Best Van Der Graaf Generator live albums
- Best Camel live albums
You may also want to take part in more of the genre based live album polls:
- Best AOR Live Albums Poll
- Best Art Rock Live Album Poll
- Best Classic Rock Live Albums Poll
- Best Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Live Albums Poll
My aim is to help you to find the best live albums through readers polls, my own reviews and from bringing in Amazon reviews.
You can see the complete list of readers polls at Live Album Polls.