The Progressives

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Album Information:
Title: The Progressives
Artist: various artists
Year: 1973
Type: official release
sampler album

About The Album

- Notes by Jason M. Rubin

Editor's Note: Apparently there are two releases of this album with different tracks. The one described by Jason below contains Gentle Giant's "Knots." The other, released in Europe on CBS, contains the song "Minipax I" by Hugh Hopper instead of "Knots." Thanks to Sven Eriksen for this tip. Does anybody know which release is the "real" original album?

The Progressives is a two-album compilation of pieces from a wide range of artists, all of whom can be considered "progressive" in their approaches to music-making. It was released in 1973 on Columbia Records. Gleaned, of course, from the Columbia catalog, the 14 tracks are from acoustic jazz artists Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, and Keith Jarrett; electric jazz fusion masters Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report; progressive rock groups Gentle Giant, Soft Machine, and Marching Mole (the latter produced by King Crimson's Robert Fripp); synthesizer maven Walter (pre-Wendy) Carlos; and the harder-to-categorize Don Ellis, Paul Winter Consort, Paul Horn, and Compost.

While it is a given that no band sounds like Gentle Giant, our heroes, who are represented on the set by "Knots," clearly stand out in terms of style (I won't raise the issue of quality because Knots is an unusual track and amongst the work of true geniuses like Mingus, Coleman, and Evans it would be impossible to make such comparisons). This is, after all, a very broad use of the term progressive.

Excerpts from the liner notes: "(T)he progressive label is, like all labels, unsatisfactory. Rather than belonging to a category or school, the music on this record is about the obliteration of categories." "If Walter Carlos, Compost, Matching Mole, Gentle Giant, and Soft Machine have anything in common, it is their interest in amplified and processed sound. Gentle Giant and Matching Mole both employ the synthesizer, as does Carlos, but their approaches are quite distinct. Matching Mole's 'Marchides' burrows under the ground with deep, subterranean textures. Gentle Giant's sound is more brittle; it is a tapestry of almost-separate events." (It's worth pointing out that even though Columbia could choose tracks from only two Giant albums, there are certainly other tracks from Three Friends and Octopus that show up the synthesizer better than Knots.)

The lineup follows:

     Side One
     You Know You Know -- Mahavishnu Orchestra
     Country Lane -- Walter Carlos
     Living Time: Event V -- Bill Evans

     Side Two
     Unknown Soldier -- Weather Report
     Pigling Bland -- Soft Machine
     Jump Monk -- Charles Mingus

     Side Three
     Put It Where You Want It -- Don Ellis
     Icarus -- Paul Winter Consort
     Haida -- Paul Horn
     Knots -- Gentle Giant

     Side Four
     The Men Who Live In the White House/Love Life -- Ornette Coleman
     Compost Festival -- Compost
     Sundance -- Keith Jarrett
     Marchides -- Matching Mole

If you can find this album in a used record store (unlikely, I know; I found mine in the mid-80s and have never seen another copy!), check out the Bill Evans track or seek its original source. It's very intense.