To coincide with this month’s feature on twelve heartland prog-rock drumming albums, we asked our readers and social media followers for their own favorite prog records. Plenty of choices featuring drum legends such as Bill Bruford, Neil Peart, and Phil Collins topped the list, along with albums backed by current trailblazers like Matt Garstka, Gavin Harrison, and Mike Portnoy. This month’s cover artist, Jon Theodore, got plenty of love as well, in part due to his output with the Mars Volta. Check out some of the responses.
King Crimson, Red. The entire sound of Bill Bruford’s kit was as revolutionary as his creative playing, from the ring of his snare to the trashiness of the Zilco cymbal he fished out of a rehearsal room’s trash can. His work on that album has inspired everything I’ve played since I first listened to it.
Rush, A Farewell to Kings. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Neil used loads of percussion on the album without making it sound out of place within the context of the songs. No triggering back then—he played the real thing!
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Trilogy. The quality of the songs, the quality of the recording, and the musicianship are all top notch. And Carl Palmer’s use of the cowbell in the title track is amazing.
My nod goes to Phil Collins on Genesis’s Foxtrot. When it was released there was very little prog rock around. From the opening tune, “Watcher of the Skies,” through “Supper’s Ready,” there are so many compelling rhythmic changes. And Collins’ execution is flawless.
Tool, Lateralus. Technically it’s brilliant, sure. But that’s not the point. The creativity, sound, and thought behind each drum hit have made Danny Carey stand out for years. On this album, he became an absolute master. The title track is proof as to why he’s a genius.
Bill Bruford’s drumming on U.K.’s debut album, U.K., is amazing. His drumming is tight and funky, and he creatively navigates the odd time signatures and rhythmic changes. Also, Bruford’s use of Rototoms in his drumset sounds so colorful and unique.
Focus, Moving Waves. Pierre van der Linden performs the familiar “Hocus Pocus” brilliantly. But he also provides jazz-influenced drumming throughout the album, making it a must for any prog-rock aficionado.
I always liked Virgil Donati’s playing on MoonBabies by Planet X. It’s slightly obscure—it’s no Rush or Yes—but Donati is such a monster player. He can do things that don’t seem humanly possible.
Ryan Alexander Bloom
I would have to say Lizard by King Crimson. Andrew McCulloch plays the most amazing, syncopated, and unconventional parts that oddly fit perfectly into the music. Give it a listen with headphones.
The Mars Volta, De-Loused in the Comatorium, or any other album Jon Theodore played with that group. No one can mix soul and complexity while remaining as tasty as Theodore.
I used to come home from school and play through Rush’s 2112 nearly every night. The dramatic changes within the title track were a great way to practice different tempos and styles.
For me it’s Dream Theater’s Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From a Memory. The songs flow seamlessly together, and Mike Portnoy’s drumming is solid throughout the record. There are tasty drum fills and awesome patterns, especially in the opening medley and on “Scene Six: Home.” Portnoy also pulls out all the stops in the last section of the closer, “Scene Nine: Finally Free.” There are plenty of odd time signatures for the die-hard prog lovers too.
Tool’s Lateralus and 10,000 Days are two of my favorites. Danny Carey’s rhythmic creativity and technique, distinct drum and cymbal sounds, human feel and dynamics, and mastery of seamlessly blending acoustic and electronic elements are all so awe-inspiring.
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