Soft Prog | Experimental and Smooth

One of the joys of record collecting is getting to create new taxonomies of music. Record stores do an passable (albeit subtly racist) job of organizing records so they’re easy to find, but most of them don’t do much to help create new connections and genres of music.

Every time we reorganize our records we create a new system before we start shuffling things around. The joy in the end is discovering cultural associations and musical connections that we didn’t know existed before. Suddenly artists we’d never connected to one another sit side by side on shelves. The gaps in our collection are exposed, and most excitingly, new genres emerge.

A genre I would love to see gain wide acknowledgment is Soft Prog. Soft Prog is (or should be) a cousin of traditional progressive rock, but with a decidedly smooth sensibility. Think about it like this: if there is a bleed on one end of the spectrum from early metal bands (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple) into prog groups (King Crimson, Jethro Tull), then soft prog would be the other end of prog that interfaces with smoother, “light” rock and “easy listening” (The Captain and Tennille or Barry Manilow for example).

As a fan of this wholly contrived genre, I’ve compiled a few examples below. They span from the early 70’s to the early 00’s. I’ll refrain from any amateur musicology that would attempt to articulate the common musical thread and instead let these songs do the work for me. Enjoy. Next up: Avant Soul.

10 CC | I’m not in Love

The Band | Whispering Pines

Roxy Music | Mother of Pearl

Alan Parsons Project | Eye in the Sky

Robert Fripp and Daryl Hall | North Star

Robert Wyatt | Shipbuilding

Sebastien Tellier | Universe

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Is this the reason I am the way I am?

As a kid I loved the muppet show. I watched them as re-runs with my family. The Liberace episode first aired the year I was born, and for some reason it really resonated with me as a toddler. I think it might be my first memory of abjection. I remember being transfixed by the elegant Rococo bird dancers, but also horrified by their too-close-to-humanness—like muppets, but also like people. They are perfectly grotesque.

As if that wasn’t enough, the whole affair was conducted by a gay icon who effortlessly moved between high and low culture, but without the sort of sneering condescension of so much camp. I find it ironic that this phenomenally talented lover of all music has become a camp icon for people who have a very crude notion of what camp is. Regardless, Liberace is a hero of mine.

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