I’ve never really written an official book review before, so this is an experiment for me. That said, I know exactly what I want to say about this upcoming release from The Prog Report’s Roie Avin. Roie has been active in the music industry for years, and his The Prog Report website is a major source for news, reviews, and interviews. His first book is called “Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums” and it releases on December 4th.
“Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums” seeks to present the modern era of progressive music in all its glory. The title puzzles me a little bit, as the book is chock full of progressive metal albums, as well. Basically, after an excellent introduction, the book starts in 1990 and ignores most of the albums from the bigger classic prog bands. It progresses through the years chronologically, documenting the albums according to release date, and even putting together a solid timeline for modern prog itself.
The purpose of ignoring the bigger bands, and one which I admire greatly, is to spotlight the new generation of proggers that is so often ignored or considered somehow lesser when compared to the “greats”, like Pink Floyd or Yes. Roie and I seem to share a passion for publicizing lesser known acts who, in all honesty, eclipse many of the original prog bands. In fact, The Prog Mind is built on the idea of fleshing out all the awesome bands that don’t get the spotlight they deserve.
The book itself is very sleek and well designed. It has huge pages and beautiful images. I also like the super informative format of each album entry, as each one is made up of mostly interviews with band members and lots of great band photos; in addition to release dates, track listings, and other information. In the back of the book is another section of albums that didn’t quite make the cut of the main part of the book, but I definitely find that this section is necessary and includes some albums that, honestly, I would have put in the forefront of the album, such as Symphony X’s “V” or Sound of Contact’s “Dimensionaut”.
Writing a book is fundamentally a very subjective, personal experience. Authors write their books according to their own interests, likes, and dislikes; and no one has the right to fault them for that. Roie’s book, then, is quite subjective and you will come away knowing exactly which bands and musicians are his favorites. That said, there are many excellent choices, from Marillion to Riverside to Haken to Pain of Salvation.
When going through this book, it becomes apparent that Roie is a huge fan of Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, and others. Delving a little deeper, I think it’s more that he is a big fan of Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci, Roine Stolt, and Neal Morse. Why, you might ask, do I say this? I can confirm this because there are many, many entries for not only Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard, but also for most other bands that Neal Morse or Mike Portnoy have been in across the board, like Transatlantic, Flying Colors, the Neal Morse Band, and so on.
Much like writing a book, reading a book and reviewing it are also very subjective experiences. While I read Roie’s book, I alternated between being thrilled by some of the very surprising revelations from the band interviews to turning the page and thinking “Portnoy again? Really?” One of the book’s greatest weaknesses is that it can often read like a history of Portnoy and Neal Morse than a book about the history of modern prog. Granted, they are vital to what prog is today, but I also feel like the 90s especially are pretty empty when there are several major bands and albums that could have been named. In addition, it seems like some of the albums selected for some of the bands are somewhat strange choices, which obviously hails back to the subjectivity of writing lists and books.
In the end, “Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums” is a great read about albums that might be more essential to Roie’s personal history, rather than to the history of modern prog itself, though there is significant overlap. However, that’s the nature of writing books, and I believe that Roie has put together a very sleek package that is very professional. I’m honestly proud of him. I feel that many prog fans, especially prog metal fans, will agree with many of the entries. For myself, I find myself agreeing with the “additional” section at the end, but that’s just how I am.
Find Roie Avin online: