Finest Prog Rock Songs: 30 Important, Advanced Tunes

Look into the very best songs of the prog rock canon, and also you’ll discover tunes about every part in life that basically issues: Religious journeys, everlasting love, quick racing automobiles, and the necessity to keep away from yellow snow. To not point out deathless guitar and synthesizer solos, and sufficient difficult time signatures to hold your sequined cape on. It’s not straightforward to whittle the style’s music right down to 30 songs, however not less than we’ve included a couple of fairly prolonged tracks – plus a couple of 4 and five-minute numbers which can be simply as epic. This playlist hits on prog rock’s grandest songs through the years; for variety’s sake, we didn’t embody any band twice. So crank up your headphones and into the cosmos we go.

Listen to the best prog rock songs on Spotify.

30: Delicate Machine – Nettle Mattress

The phrases “ridiculously catchy” are seldom utilized to Delicate Machine, a band liable to complicated and difficult jazz compositions. However the opener of their Seven album is, nicely, a ridiculously catchy progressive rock music: Composer Karl Jenkins anchors it with a sprightly riff on electrical piano, which keyboardist Mike Ratledge (by now the one unique member) decorates with leads on his newly acquired synthesizer. Underrated drummer John Marshall follows in scorching pursuit.

29: Focus – Hocus Pocus

Focus was (and is) basically a progressive rock band of significant gamers with classical and jazz leanings. However additionally they had an eccentric humorousness, which frequently bought aired on their uncommon vocal tracks. “Hocus Pocus” began as a rehearsal joke, with Jan Akkerman enjoying a crunching area riff and organist Thijs van Leer responding along with his finest yodels; drummer Pierre van der Linden solos wherever doable. It grew to become a left-field hit and nonetheless a beloved monitor, even when everybody who purchased Transferring Waves due to the one was possible shocked by how completely different the remainder was.

28: Barclay James Harvest – Poor Man’s Moody Blues

This started as singer/guitarist John Lees’ revenge on a journalist who’d referred to as his band the “poor man’s Moody Blues”: He was miffed sufficient to go dwelling and rewrite “Nights in White Satin,” utilizing the identical rhyme scheme and the identical tempo, plus a refrain constructed round “I really like you.” In opposition to all odds, he got here up with a stupendous tune in its personal proper, so this one doubles as a romantic outpouring and a grand joke.

27: Dream Theater – Octavarium

Dream Theater are the kings of prog steel, however this 24-minute opus lands solidly on the prog facet: If you happen to thought they had been all the time into shredding, you should hear the tasteful, melodic contact of this prog rock music’s first twelve minutes. (Concern not, the shredding comes on the second twelve, and it’s completely thrilling.) You might spend weeks decoding all of the references on this opus – for starters, it’s certainly the one prog music whose lyrics reference each Pink Floyd and the Ramones.

26: Nektar – Bear in mind the Future

Nektar was among the many most melodic prog bands, with clearer Beatles roots than most. The title monitor and centerpiece of their best-known idea album, this borrows a little bit of its spacey groove from “Solar King” – which in flip borrowed from Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross.” Nektar’s music can stand proud moreover these two classics, with its anthemic refrain and pulsing single-note riff.

25: Gong – You By no means Blow Yr Journey Without end

Gong’s merry prankster Daevid Allen ends the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy the absolute best method, with an eleven-minute prog rock music that throws completely every part into the combination: Infinite tempo adjustments, dazzling solos (take a bow, Steve Hillage and Didier Malherbe), out-of-nowhere pop hooks and boundless optimism. Absurd and fantastic.

24: The Tangent – Jinxed in Jersey

The Tangent’s chief Andy Tillison is without doubt one of the sharpest writers in fashionable prog, and he’s at his wittiest on this sung/spoken 16-minute monitor. The lyrics element every part that went mistaken when he tried to go to the Statue of Liberty on a US tour, together with assembly a cop who thought he was in Rush. Musically it references early Genesis and classic Steely Dan, with out sounding all that very similar to both.

23: Kansas – Miracles Out of Nowhere

Aspect considered one of Leftoverture opened with the breakthrough hit “Carry On Wayward Son,” however its finale could be the definitive Kansas monitor. “Miracles” glides seamlessly from its pastoral verses to its complicated instrumental exercise, like most Kansas songs it’s all about religious looking out and the rewards that may be uncovered. Additionally makes nice use of Kansas’ secret weapon, the vocal tradeoffs between frontman Steve Walsh and the late violinist Robbie Steinhardt.

22: Can – Yoo Doo Proper

We’ll allow you to determine if Krautrock is a part of prog, or one thing else altogether. However that is considered one of its definitive tracks, as Can subvert pop by writing a bubble-gummy love music, stripping it right down to its core, and enjoying it for 21 hypnotic minutes. It’s downright perverse – and improbably sufficient, it’s additionally a whole lot of enjoyable.

21: Caravan – 9 Ft Underground

The unique, four-piece Caravan’s best second. For a side-long piece that is remarkably tight and accessible, because of the easy-rolling groove of the instrumental sections and the elegant melodies of the 2 vocal elements. The second vocal bit, sung by bassist Richard Sinclair, makes particularly beautiful use of an English folks affect.

20: Mild Large – Free Hand

For all their ambition and complexity, Mild Large may be one hard-charging rock band. The title monitor of their arguably finest album places all of it collectively; keyboardist Kerry Minnear supplies a soothing intro earlier than unleashing the primary riff. The lyrics are apparently addressed to a former enterprise affiliate, and Derek Shulman delivers an arena-shaking lead vocal. No coincidence that he’d uncover Bon Jovi in his subsequent profession as a label exec.

19: Asia – Sole Survivor

True sufficient that Asia had a whole lot of pop of their bloodstream, and MTV beloved them for it. However on this music, they’re each bit the supergroup that followers had been hoping for. Steve Howe and Carl Palmer make their presence felt, and John Wetton tears into the story of beating the percentages. It’s a monitor that makes their accessibility a advantage.

18: Peter Gabriel – Lay Your Arms On Me

Safety has to rank as Peter Gabriel’s proggiest album, increasing the musical potentialities along with his newly acquired Fairlight whereas the lyrics dare to discover some emotionally messy territory. The album’s centerpiece is concerning the want for on a regular basis bodily contact – doubtless a music that gained resonance within the covid period. Anybody who noticed that tour will bear in mind Gabriel’s belief fall into the viewers over the last refrain.

17: Procol Harum – A Salty Canine

Certainly one of Procol’s grandest prog rock songs, and one they performed all through their profession, this was an ideal automobile for Gary Dealer’s regal voice and B.J. Wilson’s majestic drumming. Lyricist Keith Reid characteristically leaves the story open to interpretation; to those ears, it sounds just like the narrator’s confession of his exploits as a pirate.

16: Jethro Tull – Heavy Horses

In search of “Thick as a Brick”? We’re going with a private favourite as an alternative. Ian Anderson has an on/off relationship with prog, however he was clearly on for this one, the title monitor of an album that was in any other case closely folk-tinged. The power of the English working steed, and the lifestyle it represents, set Anderson’s creativeness rolling on a nine-minute prog rock music that opens with a traditional Martin Barre riff, and will get some lightness from visitor violinist Daryl Manner of Curved Air fame. Drummer Barriemore Barlow supplies the galloping hooves.

15: Mike Oldfield – Ommadawn, Half 1

The side-long monitor was all the time Mike Oldfield’s specialty, however – with apologies to “Tubular Bells” – that is his most sensible one, growing two essential themes over the course of 19 minutes. The multi-textured piece hits one peak after one other, the best ones being the African drumming/chanting part (kudos there to his vocalist sister Sally) and the savage guitar solo that follows. The ultimate reprise of the opening theme takes your breath away.

14: Renaissance – Mom Russia

Symphonic grandeur got here naturally to Renaissance, they usually’re at their most dramatic on this stately prog rock music, concerning the heroism of the dissident author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Annie Haslam’s vocal strikes precisely the fitting chord, expressing each sympathy and humanitarian outrage; and the band conjures the darkish and icy Russian panorama.

13: Marillion – Kayleigh

This four-minute single was excerpted from the idea album Misplaced Childhood, but it surely stands by itself as considered one of prog’s nice expressions of misplaced love. Marillion’s unique lead singer Fish retains his lyrics direct and emotional, recounting the small print of their affair – when the music ends, she’s gone. The prog rock music was a UK hit in 1985, so simply think about the variety of girls named Kayleigh who had been born in that yr.

12: The Moody Blues – Legend of a Thoughts

You didn’t want acid to like the Moody Blues’ salute to Timothy Leary; this six-minute prog rock music was a visit in itself. Written and sung by flautist Ray Thomas, this was a key monitor on In Search of the Misplaced Chord, an album that contemplated completely different paths to enlightenment, additionally together with meditation and romantic love. Thomas will get a memorable flute solo but it surely’s Mike Pinder’s unearthly mellotron that takes this to the cosmos – and the Moodies are soaringly melodic even once they’re tripping out.

11: Transatlantic – Stranger in Your Soul

The fashionable supergroup Transatlantic loves their classic prog, however they make every part greater, grander, and longer: “Stranger in Your Soul” runs half-hour, but it surely’s so stuffed with melodic peaks that it doesn’t really feel overstretched. Religious rebirth is their favourite lyrical theme, and this monitor has their most inspiring refrain: “Arise, trigger that is your time!”

10: Utopia – The Seven Rays

At their finest, the unique Utopia managed to bridge the band’s prodigious chops with Todd Rundgren’s pop wizardry. “Seven Rays” is cosmic however robust, with the rhythm part hinting at funk and Rundgren’s lyrics evincing a form of streetwise spirituality. There’s a contact of gospel in there too, with none aside from a then-unknown Luther Vandross main the backup refrain.

9: Frank Zappa – Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow (suite)

We definitely thought-about “Inca Roads,” however this prog rock music made a bit extra sense as a result of it affords an opportunity to focus on simply how humorous the style might be, given the possibility. This Apostrophe mini-suite proved has Frank Zappa hanging a shaggy-dog Eskimo story on a bass riff in 7/4. Each the story and the music get extra outlandish because the suite rolls alongside. Although “Yellow Snow” was improbably launched as a single, you should hear the album facet in all its steady glory.

8: Genesis – Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers….In That Quiet Earth/Afterglow

No, the prog didn’t exit of Genesis after Peter Gabriel’s departure and the The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway/”Supper’s Prepared” period. The evocative instrumental on this medley is considered one of guitarist Steve Hackett’s masterstrokes, taking its spectral temper from the Emily Bronte line quoted within the title. There are many dramatic turns and jagged riffs, and all of it resolves with probably the most intense love music within the Genesis catalogue – one of many first tracks to essentially present the heights Phil Collins may attain as a singer.

7: Van der Graaf Generator – Man-Erg

No one may put an existential treatise right into a music lyric like Peter Hammill. On this key Pawn Hearts monitor, he confronts the killer, the angel, the refugee, and the bizarre man who all stay inside his pores and skin, because the music builds from misleading calm to utter chaos. Hammill’s throat-tearing vocal finds its match in saxophonist David Jackson, who made lead guitar on this band largely pointless.

6: Kate Bush – Suspended in Gaffa

Kate Bush goes full-on theatrical on this spotlight from her twisted masterpiece, The Dreaming. She’d by no means sung fairly like this earlier than, and neither had anyone else: These shouts of “I would like all of it!” on the refrain nonetheless deliver shivers. And there’s no one else on the earth who would equate an existential disaster with being certain up in gaffer’s tape.

5: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Karn Evil 9: First Impression

Regardless of the unwieldy title, this piece is as heavy and direct as ELP ever bought, its two elements initially linking the 2 sides of Mind Salad Surgical procedure. It begins as a darkish imaginative and prescient of the longer term, pushed by Keith Emerson’s heavy organ riffing and Greg Lake’s forceful singing; half two takes you to the surreal circus within the well-known “welcome again, my buddies” part. The underlying theme is a world the place mass leisure distracts individuals from the disappearance of nature and human rights. By no means prophetic, was it?

4: Pink Floyd – Shine On You Loopy Diamond

Pink Floyd’s arguably best single monitor is a haunting and in the end loving tribute to their founder Syd Barrett. From David Gilmour’s crystalline intro solo to Roger Waters’ hovering refrain, every part about this monitor is emotive– and it appears like a unified music though its two elements are separated to start and finish Want You Have been Right here. A final glimpse of the previous Floyd that created classics like Darkish Aspect of the Moon earlier than they turned full-time to scathing social commentary.

3: Rush – Crimson Barchetta

“Cygnus X-1 Guide II: Hemispheres” could be a preferred decide, however we went with a Rush music about that almost all rock ‘n roll of subjects, a thrill trip in a quick automobile. After all Neil Peart’s lyrics make it a metaphor for the lure of hazard and freedom; and the band responds in variety. Alex Lifeson shifts gears with ease, developing with a brand new riff for every stage of the story. Geddy Lee was actually stretching his vocal skills at this level, and right here he’s nonetheless younger sufficient to attach with the adolescent narrator.

2: King Crimson – twenty first Century Schizoid Man

It’s a traditional now, however you’ve bought to think about simply how jarring this prog rock music sounded in 1969. Nobody apart from Robert Fripp and firm had been delivering this type of future shock, nor the form of clatter heard within the guitar/sax break. Greg Lake’s distorted vocal was so menacing that you just’d by no means guess that choirboy-type vocals would quickly change into his trademark. Each incarnation of Crimson has performed this traditional from Within the Courtroom of the Crimson King, and it’s an plain kick to nonetheless hear it carried out within the twenty first century.

1: Sure – Near the Edge

If you happen to’ve examine Sure’ strategies within the studio, that they threw a great deal of concepts round after which stitched all of them collectively. So it’s a miracle that they got here up with one thing as superbly seamless as this. Coping with nothing lower than a go to to Heaven, the surprise of “Near the Edge” is that it’s structured like a pop music: Three verses, center eight, keyboard solo, and refrain finale. However these Sure harmonies get positively celestial, Invoice Bruford’s drumming is a stable anchor, and Rick Wakeman’s Hammond organ solo could be the most jubilant second in all of prog.

Listen to the best prog rock songs on Spotify.