No more or less scattershot than any "official" compilation of the prog rock era (and there's enough of them about!), BBC Progressive Pop has one major advantage over all the others out there - there's very little here that you'll have heard before, at least on an official release.
Nineteen tracks, spread across two CDs, BBC Progressive Pop opens with Terry Reid's "Writing On The Wall" - not, perhaps, one of his best performances, but a scene-setting one, regardless, preparing the listener for a journey that leaps from deep blues to pastoral folk, and onto the darkest art rock without a second thought for continuity. The Strawbs' "The Battle" tracks back to the first of that band's myriad appearances on the BBC's Radio One, then bleeds into the Rod Stewart-era Jeff Beck Group in full metallic jacket mode. And so forth, a smorgasbord of sound and ideas that leave on breathless at the thought of just how much creativity was sparking through the ether at this time.
From Free's "Over The Green Hills" to Colosseum's "The Kettle"; from Zeppelin's "Dazed And Confused" to the Nice's curiously ramshackle performance of "Azrial," BBC Progressive Pop is a breathless rush through a vault of unmatched eclecticism.
a Beatles b-side, or updating an old rock'n'roller; rehashing a recent
hit or previewing a forthcoming album cut, the BBC studios at the end
of the 1960s encouraged bands to experiment in ways that their regular
recording dates would never permit (and the live stage could never achieve),
and though the performances here are not necessarily the very best that
could have been selected, still they flash on notions that were rarely,
if ever, to be repeated - Van Der Graaf Generator's "Necromancer," from
their first ever BBC session, wipes floors with its studio counterpart;
Tyrannosaurus Rex's "Nijinksy Hind" a reminder of the sheer purity of
the duo's magic. And though it would be a catholic ear indeed that could
claim to love every track on here, you'll be pleased you heard them, regardless.
- Dave Thompson
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