Henk Tuijn & Lenne Huisman
Verborgen Prog-Parels 1970-1980

(Book February 2024)

(Book Review)

Serious Music Alphen       

For many progressive rock fans, their world only consists of the famous names from the seventies. Bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Camel, Genesis, Kansas, Styx and Emerson, Lake & Palmer are among their favourites. Or they know bands that later became known as neo progressive rock acts, such as Marillion, Pendragon, IQ, Twelfth Night and Pallas. Later on they also might got to know bands such as Spock's Beard, Riverside, Arena, Dream Theater and The Flower Kings. But the progressive rock landscape is of course much more extensive. Most people only know the tip of the iceberg. Underwater there are so many other bands that have hardly been heard of or are completely unknown. Bands that have delivered real gems during their existence but never received the attention they deserved. Even for people like myself who were born in the fifties and who regularly hear new albums, it is impossible to know all the albums that have been released. That's why it is good that every now and then literature appears that can help most people to bring the lost pearls to the attention. This way you can still enjoy a lot of really good progressive rock that people didn't know existed. A good example is the recently released reference work Verborgen Prog-Parels 1970-1980 (Hidden Prog Pearls/ Gems 1970-1980), compiled and written by Henk Tuijn and Lenne Huisman in the Dutch language.

Both authors already have a history of publishing a book about progressive rock. Henk Tuijn (70) came in 2021 with his book Het Mooiste Plaatje (The Most Beautiful Picture). Which is all about the beautiful album covers which you can find on albums made by progressive rock acts. Unfortunately I never had the chance to see it myself but I presume it must have been awesome. The same can be said about Lenne Huisman (61). In 2020 he published the book 50 jaar Progressieve Rock - Introductie Gids (50 years of Progressive Rock - Introduction Guide). Which is all about the explanation of prog rock and an overview of the most important bands and albums of the past 50 years. Unfortunately I also never had the chance to see it myself but I presume it must have been awesome as well. At the same time Lenne might be well known to some lovers of progressive rock as one of the team members of Serious Music Alphen. Who organise small-scale prog rock concerts in the Parkvilla theater in Alphen aan den Rijn since 2010. A venue which our team visits to review and film concerts of rather unknown progressive rock bands. Maybe you could say they give a platform to the many hidden prog acts.

This special book has been published in A4 format and contains 193 pages of information.
As said before the book is about prog rock bands and the albums that never reached the general public and that have sometimes been overlooked even by experienced prog rock fans. The authors have researched these bands and picked out 55 albums which are described in detail as forgotten prog gems from the period 1970 -1980. So in general progressive rock albums made in the seventies which didn't get the attention of a larger audience unlike the bands from the seventies mentioned in the intro. But they certainly deserved to be in the spotlight. The book offers an interesting journey back in time for both experienced prog rock fans and fans of the famous bands and albums from the 70s who want to broaden their views. They also explain certain genres in progressive rock. Like the Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI) movement or the Canterbury Scene. They also explain why sometimes such excellent albums never reached most lovers of progressive rock and why they never made it to the top or only released one single album. The punk scene destroyed the career of many progressive rock acts in the late seventies. Or record companies did not find those band commercial enough an ended their contract.

Even for myself, as an enthusiast who has followed the scene since the early seventies, I see that I simply do not know every album that is described. As a teenager, I used to go through all the album bins, usually together with my twin brother, to make new discoveries. And here by outdoing my two older brothers with albums that they also didn't know. We have discovered many new albums by bands that are also mentioned in this beautiful book. But I also unfortunately have to report that some beautiful pearls that I discovered myself are not mentioned. A number of real gems are still missing, such as Valley Gardens by Wally from 1975. Babylon by Babylon from 1978, But also Ardour by Ethos from 1976 and Night On Bald Mountain by Fireballet from 1975. And what about the debut album of Symphonic Slam which was released in 1976. Or Clockwork Revenge by Airlord which came out in 1977. But I have to say that the authors themselves do admit that this compilation book is far from complete. But of course the book is not about the albums which are not mentioned. That wouldn't do justice to the albums that are described in such wonderful detail.

Of every album mentioned by a certain band, they tell you a lot of detailed information. Such as the tracklist, year of release, line up, discography, artwork, history, an impression of the songs separately and quotes of the press. And yes Background Magazine is also mentioned several times with one of their album quotes.

I will not go into details about every album which is described. But I can tell you that the largest part of the mentioned albums were released by acts from Italy. Some of those releases nowadays sound dated. But that's of course not so strange if you do know they were recorded more than fifty years ago in the not best circumstances. But it doesn't mean you can't enjoy reading the information about great albums such as Contaminazione by Il Rovescio Della Medaglia (1973), Forse Le Lucciole Non Si Amano Pił by Locanda Delle Fate (1977), Zarathustra by Museo Rosenbach (1973), Inferno by Metamorfosi (1973) or the eponymous albums made by Alphataurus (1973), Acqua Fragile (1973) and Maxophone (1975). As for myself it was most of all the bands from the U.S. A. and England which released outstanding albums back in the seventies. Albums which are mentioned as well. Like from the U.S. A. you can read about albums made by Happy The Man, Mirthrandir, Hands and Cathedral. From England of course my all time favourite progressive rock album Garden Shed made by England. But also the wonderful albums made by Druid, Refugee,Seventh Wave, Spring and Fantasy are mentioned.

It's also great that Mental Notes from Split Enz is mentioned in two versions of the album. An album which is certainly underrated by most lovers of progressive rock. On the other hand I also would have loved to read more about the a number of real gems coming from Germany. Only a few are mentioned in the book. Here you can read about the great albums made by Neuschwanstein, SFF, Hoelderlin and Zomby Woof. Still missing are great albums made by bands such as Satin Whale, Birth Control, Ramses, Sahara and Tibet. Bands that most of the time were labelled as Krautrock. The same goes probably from bands from France. Shylock, Clearlight and Pentacle are mentioned. But maybe they also could have included albums made by Atoll, Pulsar, Mona Lisa, Sandrose and Carpe Diem.

Of course the question arises if certain albums have to be mentioned in this book. Because some bands released many albums and were well know in their own country or outside the Netherlands. Take for example the Polish band SBB. They released so many great albums and are certainly known to a lot of progheads. Albums such as Follow My Dream (1978 ) and Welcome (1979 ) are also albums to be discovered. They are also mentioned in the book, but not as real gems. Also Happy The Man is such a band which has a large following in the progressive rock scene and therefore I found it at first a bit strange to see them in this book. Don't get me wrong they certainly delivered real gems with the albums Happy the Man (1977) and Crafty Hands (1978). Or are certain albums to be discovered as real gems? It's of course all a matter of personal taste. Take for example the album Ys (1972) released by Il Balletto Di Bronzo. I bought this album brand new on a sale for only 5 Gulden at the time it was released. But I never really liked it and therefore I didn't understand why it was a real collector's item for many years. So for me personally, certainly not a hidden gem. Just like the album Arbeit Macht Frei (1973) released by Area. An album which sounds too chaotic and complex. Only on certain parts the music sounds good to my ears. But I guess for other people it might be a real masterpiece.

I have to admit I also came across many albums and bands that I didn't even really know or haven't heard of but were worth listening after all. Acts such as the Italian act I Giganti and their album Terra In Bocca Poesia Di Un Delitto (1971). Or the earlier mentioned Pentacle with their album La Clef Des Songes (1975). Or another great Italian band with the name Quella Vecchia Locanda and their album Il Tempo Della Gioia (1974). Also I wasn't aware of the Portuguese musician Jose Cid and his excellent album 10000 Anos Depois Entre Venus E Marte released in 1978. It includes some excellent Mellotron parts. Another rather unknown act for me was M I A from Argentina with their excellent album Cornonstipicum (1978). Also Mellow Candle and their album Swaddling Songs (1972) didn't ring any bells. This band with folk kind of music with minimal prog influences was compared to the music of bands such as Renaissance, Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention according to Henk. To be honest I didn't hear any Renaissance. Maybe a little Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention. Therefore for me personally I can't really name this album a true hidden prog gem. Maybe hidden but not a prog gem like albums made by England or Druid. Also the British band Comus was unknown to me. Listening to their album First Utterance (1971) didn't really make me jump up and down from my chair. A couple of more albums I can mention which didn't do anything to me after listening to them for the first time on YouTube. But then again it's all a matter of personal taste.

It's also nice to read that Lenne bought the Refugee album and after listening only one time he forgot all about it. Only realising later on that it is a real prog gem after all. Strange but true it seems.

But one thing is very certain. This book is definitely worth reading and highly recommended for people who want to broaden their musical horizons with albums they were not aware of. So for those people I can only advise to buy this excellent book and listen to all the hidden gems on YouTube. Just as I did with all the albums I didn't know. You will certainly hear new musical discoveries, but also albums that probably won't touch you musically. But that's part of the deal I guess! While listening to all of the seventies prog on this website you might well discover many new hidden gems. Just as Lenne and Henk were probably doing when they wanted to find music which they never had heard before!

For those who are interested in this excellent reference work I can tell you that the book costs 15 Euros. It is available at Serious Music Alphen concerts and can be ordered via email to info@seriousmusicalphen.nl (mentioning name and address). After transferring 19.50 Euros (4.50 shipping costs), the book will be delivered quickly to your home via Post.nl.

The compliments are coming and coming for this excellent book as you can read on Facebook. Some of them wrote: "What a fantastic book you have made. I didn't know many prog gems yet, but I have now started reading and listening at the same time. I have resolved to listen to 1 gem every day. What a fantastic music. I was still too young in the 70's to absorb all that good music, but I am now catching up. Thank you for this new voyage of discovery! ". I guess I can't add anything extra to this! So thanks so much to Henk and Lenne for publishing such an amazing book, even if I had some comments about the content of the book. It clearly meets a need for more information about the unknown gems in the world of progressive rock.

**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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