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🎵 English Progressive

Say what now?

Pretty much anyone can tell you what bands fit into ‘Progressive Rock’ and yet it is hard to define - and don’t get me going on the sub genre’s … for example here is one site’s summary.

Progressive Music Genre

And this is what Chat GPT had to say on the topic.

Progressive rock (often shortened to prog rock or prog) is a genre of rock music that originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, characterized by its musical complexity, elaborate instrumentation, and eclectic musical influences drawn from various musical genres, including blues, folk, electronic, and classical. It is also known for its use of extended musical structures and unconventional song formats, as well as its concept album approach to songwriting and presentation. The genre was a response to the limitations of conventional rock music and aimed to push the boundaries of the musical form. Some of the most well-known progressive rock bands include Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.”

Sounds good?

I am also not a fan of genres. Seriously, a band might fall into a predominant genre, but listen to any album they have produced and you will find that it does not … cannot … fall into a single genre, so really they are there to help us categorize … but, as we are finding out in disciplines everywhere, categorization is not where it’s at and clearly genre’s just don’t make sense. If you are going to use genre’s you should apply them to something more micro, like an album. Even better? A song … or ‘track’.

That said, George Box wrote;

All models are wrong, but some are useful!

To riff on that, might I suggest that;

All genres are wrong, but some are useful!

And that is why I am now going to talk ‘genre’…

… because my own personal roots are ‘Progressive’, but actually, even more focused into something I call ‘English Progressive’, which as you can see from the above summary - is not a category that others might recognize!

Characteristic and traits of what I consider to be ‘English Progressive’;

Before reading further, you should know that this is a genre that I have been playing around in my head for years. To me it is very clear, but I have always had a problem with the articulation - and why. I’ll come to the articulation in a moment, but first let me share this link with, it is taken from Andrew Hickey’s ‘500 songs’ podcast - and for the first time, I started to get a glimmer of why I was thinking what I was thinking. If you don’t want to listen to the clip, there is the full podcast … and of course this:   american versus english rocl

And so , moving on to The Articulation (an alphabetical listing)

  • Conceptual
  • Exploratory
  • Folk in Rock (think Early Genesis or Syd Barrett’s Floyd and not ‘Rock in Folk’ (think Fairport Convention)
  • ‘Intellectual’ (not to be too up my own you know where)
  • Journey (as in the music contains a ‘sense of journey’)
  • Musically complex
  • Musicians demonstrate mastery of their instrument of choice
  • Progresses .. not repetitive
  • Storytelling
  • Themed
  • Varied
  • Weighty
  • Whimsical


  • The artist does NOT have to be ‘English’ or from ‘England’ or even speak English - so bands like Riverside and PFM can fit into the genre.

  • The genre is not locked into the 60s and 70s - consider Riverside, Anathema and Pineapple Thief.

  • It’s also clear that artists often span multiple genres - nowhere is this more clear than to examine the catalogue of Steven Wilson, who has projects/albums that are categorized in Progressive, Metal, PowerPop, Electronica, Drone, Jazz/Rock Fusion - to name just a few.

Music can be about ‘inner space’ … not just ‘outer space’.

💬 Steven Wilson

I am building a list here. It sits on AlbumWhale - a cool little site that allows you to build lists of ‘albums’. I am definitely more an album guy than a singles guy - but actually I am really an artist guy - it’s just that (to my knowledge) there is not a site called ‘ArtistWhale’! So instead I am choosing one album for each artist. The choice may or may not be;

  • the best
  • their first
  • the first one I heard
  • the popular one
  • the one I heard that really made me sit up
  • or even their best known (for example ‘Dark Side’ is not my choice for Pink Floyd. If you know the name Pink Floyd, you will know Dark Side of the Moon, so I avoid it.

Instead I have chosen the album that I think would be a great introduction to that artist. Three so far (the bolded artists below).

The quick (and paradoxically longer) list below, also highlights a little classification hesitancy thatI am suffering fromas I ask ‘does the artist even qualify as ‘English Progressive’?

Finally - quick caveat, the following is not to be taken as definitive, rather I have added the more common names that most people would be aware of to guide the reader through the logic. Without a supporting database behind the scenes (one day), it becomes an impossible task … but some quick honorable mentions so you can see what I mean … John Wetton, UK, Steve Hackett, Dave Greenslade, Jordan Rudess, Tony Levin, Robert Fripp, Guthrie Govan, Gavin Harrison … you get the drift.

Still Thinking

Old School

Alan Parsons Project
Barclay James Harvest
Curved Air
Dream Theater
Dream Academy
Jethro Tull
King Crimson
Moody Blues
The Nice
Pink Floyd
Soft Machine
Van De Graaf Generator
Roger Waters (On The Soundtrack of my Life)

New School

Blackfield (or are they more ‘Power Pop’?)
Lunatic Soul
Opeth (maybe not so much their early stuff)
OSI (Office of Strategic Influence)
Pineapple Thief
Porcupine Tree (though in all honesty in two minds - it does depend on which album - but doesn’t that apply to everyone?)
Public Service Broadcasting
Bruce Soord
Tame Impala
Steven Wilson (On The Soundtrack of my Life)

Love Them - Just Not Sure If They Are ‘English Progressive’

Of course - the beauty of defining your own genre is that you get to decide who’s in and who’s out - but right now the very name ‘English Progressive’ suggests that it is a sub genre of ‘Progressive’ -so if an artist isn’t defined as Progressive - then how can they more specifically be ‘English Progressive’?

BUT I do see overlap with Electro/Classical/Jazz/Art/Rock Fusion 😎

Asia (I know - massive overlap with (say) Yes - just shows right?
Brand X
Peter Gabriel (On The Soundtrack of my Life)
Hatfield and the North
Henry Cow
Jon Lord
Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mike Oldfield
North Atlantic Oscillation Nucleus
Talking Heads
Tangerine Dream
Secret Machines

The List (So Far) Excludes

Deep Purple (despite Jon Lord)
(The) Flower King
Neal Morse Band
Spocks Beard

… nothing against them as bands, some I even like, they just do not fit the definition.

Am I wrong?

All The Music Pages On This Blog


The Soundtrack of my Life | The Top 10 Artists
Steven Wilson | Roger Waters | Peter Gabriel
English Progressive | Album Lists On AlbumWhale
Music Genres