Book Review: The Prog Rock FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Rock's Most Progressive Music by Will Romano

The Prog Rock FAQ is very much recommended for those who just cannot get enough of the stuff.
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I love progressive rock, and always have. Yes were the band who lured me away from the Top 40 hits and into more adventurous musical areas. Fragile, Close to the Edge, and The Yes Album are all-time favorites, as well as later works such as Relayer, Going for the One, and Tormato. The big gaping hole in that Yes-ography is Tales From Topographic Oceans, which is either the greatest prog album of all time, or the worst. I bring all of this up because I had high expectations for The Prog Rock FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Rock's Most Progressive Music by Will Romano. There are comparatively few books about prog out there, and I was hoping that Romano would get it right.

He does, for the most part. Romano discusses the history of the music, highlights key instruments such as the Mellotron, and conducts numerous interviews with prog survivors. There is even a chapter devoted to the ultimate progressive rock artifact, the concept album. He also made a conscious decision to highlight many of the most obscure artists in the genre, as well as those who have carried the torch into the present day.

It may be selfish on my part, but I did not really want to read about these people. The golden era of the music was about 1968 - 1980, and even by '80 things had really slowed down. I was really hoping for more in depth coverage of the classic period, and maybe some juicy Spinal Tap-type stories about such crazed bands as Nektar or Brainticket.

Still, we get a lot. One big plus are the numerous interviews Romano secured with artists such as David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator), Mick Abrahams (Jethro Tull), Anthony Phillips (Genesis), and others. He also tackles some of the intriguing links between prog and punk in "Prog Gets Punk'd: What Caused the Decline of the Genre?" Another important facet of the genre has always been the visual aspect, which is addressed in both "Escapist Artists: Designing and Creating Prog Rock's Wondrous Visuals," and "The Cinema Show: Prog's Celluloid Heroes."

As my little Yes-story in the opening paragraph indicates, I have long been a fan of that band. In "Yes, an Implosion? The Behind-the-Scenes Drama of a Rock Powerhouse" the author details the situation that led to their unusual Drama LP in 1980. It is fascinating stuff, and exactly the type of material I was anticipating throughout the Prog Rock FAQ.

For fans of the genre, there are sadly not a lot of books available. Even though I have a couple of reservations (which other fans may not share), I still very much recommend the Prog Rock FAQ to those who just cannot get enough of the stuff.