PapaJ's Top 10 CD's of 2009

Special Edition of PapaJ's Matinee featuring the Top 10 - MP3 Audio Download 2hrs/130MB (128kbps MP3)

1 . Umphrey's McGee  




Brendan Bayliss
guitar, vocals
Jake Cinninger
guitar, Moog, synthesizers, vocals
Joel Cummins
keyboards, vocals
Andy Farag
Kris Myers
drums, vocals
Ryan Stasik
I was late in discovering the Umph, having avoided them primarily because they were touted as a "jam band". But 2 years ago after reading many glowing reviews I decided to give them a listen and I picked up the brilliant CD "Anchor Drops". Ever since then I've been catching up on their back catalog. I have liked their proggier music but have been lukewarm to the material that earned them the jam band classification. This year they released Mantis and I got the feeling that they finally "took off the prog gloves" so to speak and made the album they've been hinting at for years. This album is strong from start to finish and the title song is an 11 minute mini-epic that is progressive in every sense of the word. No other CD this year even came close to spending as much time in my personal music rotation than this one, it's that good.
2 .  Transatlantic



The Whirlwind

Mike Portnoy
Drums, Vocals

Neal Morse
Keyboards, Vocals, Guitar

Pete Trewavas
Bass, Vocals

Roine Stolt
Guitars, Vocals, Moog

This album has taken a lot of shots from people. Many were from people that seem to dislike any material that appeals to a broad base audience simply because "good" music doesn't appeal to the masses by definition. To me that's the worse kind of snobbery. But the other main criticism was about the lyric content and I can't say I disagree. Frankly I was surprised that the rest of the band let the lyrics be so overtly religious, even though there is no appearance of the "J word".  But putting that aside Transatlantic continues to be the musical powerhouse of prog that deserves it's status as a super-group. Each individual has earned high regard as part of their "day job" bands, but together the resulting music is even greater than the sum of the individuals. While Neal Morse's trademark style remains very prominent in the compositions, this album feels more like a group effort than either of the previous TA studio albums. Roine and Pete's contributions are very apparent and quite welcome, and Mike is the heart and soul of this band. Glistening with superb musicality, vocals and production this is what prog rock is all about.

3.  Riverside



Anno Domini High Definition

Gerben Klazinga  
Keyboards and main Composer
Mark Smit  
Pieter van Hoorn
Gijs Koopman
Bass & Taurus
Rinie Huigen
Mark Vermeule
Joop Klazinga
Keyboards & Flute
While I'm not a huge fan of metal per se, the Polish band Riverside tends to lean that way. But they mix in enough "Floydish" ambience and melodic vocals to make the result extremely pleasurable. I think their entire catalog is strong but to me this is their crowning achievement so far. If you like your prog with bite, this record is for you.
4 . IZZ  



The Darkened Room

Tom Galgano
keyboards, vocals
Greg DiMiceli
drums and percussion
Brian Coralian
electronic and acoustic drums and percussion
Paul Bremner
electric and acoustic guitar
John Galgano
bass guitar, acoustic/electric guitar, vocals
Anmarie Byrnes
It's no secret that I'm a huge IZZ fan. I've loved their music (especially live) ever since the first time I saw them at ProgWest. And on top of that they are truly the nicest bunch of people you could ever meet. They have felt to me like they are a part of the CalProg family and in fact not having them there last year really caused a noticeable gap in the overall vibe of the festival (at least to me and the crew). Musically they have been maturing with each release but up until now I've always thought their albums contained some exceptional songs but also some stuff that was just OK. On The Darkened Room however there is a consistency throughout the material, and every track is strong. I get more a sense that this is a band record and in particular John Galgano's writing seems more prominent and powerful (I love the song 23 Minutes of Tragedy). Its hard to imagine anyone not liking this album and as such I recommend it very highly. IZZ is one of those rare bands that will appeal to your friends and significant others that may not care much for the rest of your prog collection, and that's worth something in itself.
5 . Francis Dunnery & The New Progressives 



There's a Whole New World Out There

Francis Dunnery
Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Tapbard
Tom Brislin - Pianos and Synthesizers
Jamie Bishop - Bass Guitar
Paul Ramsey - Drums
Brett Kull -Guitars
Dorie Jackson -Vocals
Phil Campbell - guitar
John Mitchell - guitar
on 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'

and many others...
Up until this past year I had never really listened to It Bites. But those of you that DID are probably aware that Francis Dunnery was the creative force behind that band. But after booking them for CalProg I started digging into their catalog, and especially while mixing the CalProg performance I grew aware of just what a talented compositional craftsman Francis is. From time to time Tom Brislin and I will talk on the phone and those conversations always turn into lengthy discussions about music and what's going on in the music scene. He called me when they were working on this record and I have never heard him sound so excited about a project. He was working with Francis and CalProg alums Brett Kull and Paul Ramsey (echolyn) and was going on and on about how cool this material was. So I made a mental note to check this out when it was released. In food I like diversity in my diet. Sometimes I want a really spicy twice cooked pork entree, but I also find a much more tame mashed potatoes side dish to be immensely satisfying. My musical palate is just as diverse. I've always enjoyed easy grooving, lushly harmonized, melody laden music as part of my diet, and this is just that kind of dish. It's not prog by any means, but I find myself loving having it on when I'm working or driving or just relaxing around the house. This double CD contains a mix of new material as well as some exceptional arrangements of some of the classic It Bites songs that I have come to appreciate. If you have a softer side, this will definitely appeal to it.
6 . miRthkon




Wally Scharold
guitars, vocals, composition, sound design, conceptual design, text, video, producer
Rob Pumpelly
guitars, composition
Nat Hawkes
bass guitar, vocals
Carolyn Walter
piccolo, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Jamison Smeltz
alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, vocals
Matt Guggemos
drums and percussion
Jarred McAdams
video, text, conceptual collaborator
In keeping with the dietary analogy miRthkon would be the Kung Pao Chicken with Tabasco and a banana on top. This is some WILD music. The Northern California based band first came to my attention 2 years ago with an EP called The Illusion of Joy. While I found the mix of brass and rock instruments intriguing, the music was just too weird for me to really get in to. I've never been a big Zappa fan, and this music seemed very "Zappa-esque" to me. But with this year's release of Vehicle I found the music to be wildly inventive and much more realized in style. These kids throw caution to the wind and just cut loose in every direction and with very satisfying results. Clever, innovative and unique are all words that describe them. While they may not be everyone's cup of tea, a little milk with Tabasco can really send your taste buds on an adventurous journey.
7 . Panzerballet




Hart Genossen

Jan Zehrfeld
guitar, background vocals
Martin Mayrhofer
guitar, vocals
Alexander von Hagke
tenor sax
Gregor Bürger
Heiko Jung
Sebastian Lanser
This German group was pretty much a tie with miRthkon and for a while I thought about them sharing a spot in my top 10 list. But that would take away from both groups. And while they are very similar in style to miRthkon, they really deserve their own place on this list. They whip up a musical stew that incorporates metal, progressive and swing jazz seamlessly together and again result in an extremely palatable dish. Their work up of the theme song from The Simpsons is nothing short of genius, and they also throw in a couple of Zappa medleys that will be of great pleasure to the late Frank's fans. Again I will caution you that this music is not for everyone, but if you like wild adventures, you might just love this record.
8 . Porcupine Tree 




The Incident

Steven Wilson
vocals, guitar, piano

Richard Barbieri
keyboards, synthesizer

Colin Edwin
bass guitar

Gavin Harrison

Porcupine Tree is now the undisputed co-behemoth (along with Dream Theater) in the "prog" world with regards to reaching a larger popular audience. This year I saw them perform The Incident in its entirety at one of the larger music venues in the LA area. I have watched them grow over the past few years from small clubs to this high level of popularity and they have done it with excellent live performances and the charismatic appeal of their leader Steve Wilson. But as is the case with many bands that rise like this, they have started to become a caricature of themselves, and have gotten very formulaic. For me they are at their best when they rock around a riff oriented groove, but sadly there aren't as many of those moments on this CD as I would have liked. Still they are making great music, and though this album didn't have the shelf life of much of their earlier work, it was still very impressive in places.
9. IQ 





Peter Nicholls - vocals

John Jowitt - bass

Mike Holmes -guitar

Andy Edwards - drums

Mark Westworth - keyboards
This band has been around forever but I have never acquired a taste for them... until now. I think I was always fixated on what I thought was a deliberate attempt to emulate Genesis, and I could never get past that. But the compositions on this CD seem fresh and original and as far as I'm concerned this is the best they've ever done. This is interesting prog at it's lengthy and bombastic best.
10 . Dream Theater 




Black Clouds and Silver Linings

Dream Theater
John Petrucci - guitar, Vocals

John Myung - bass

Mike Portnoy - drums, Vocals

James LaBrie - vocals

Jordan Rudess - keyboards

Jerry Goodman
Violin on The Best of Times, Odyssey and Larks' Tongues in Aspic Pt II 
When it comes to virtuoso level music chops and biting prog-metal compositions nobody can touch Dream Theater. But I've gotten to the point where I just can't listen to the high-voiced trademark metal singers anymore and so I have laid off the DT quite a bit. But on this CD there is a disk with all the songs sans vox and its those instrumentals that I listen to when I'm in a metal mood. Add to that a bonus disk of covers that include outstanding versions of songs by Queen and King Crimson and I'm IN.

Special TOP 10 CDs of 2009 Show (Playlist)
Downloadable WebCast

Jan. 9, 2010 
(2  Hours 15 mins) 
Download Archive
  180MB (128kbps MP3)

1. PJsTop10 - #10 Dream Theater - Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part Two (6:32)
2. PJsTop10 - #9 IQ - Stronger Than Friction (10:31)
3. PJsTop10 - #8 Porcupine Tree - Times Flies (11:40)
4. PJsTop10 - #7 Panzerballett - Jadoo (3:43)
5. PJsTop10 - #7 Panzerballett - The Simpsons (5:56)
6. PJsTop10 - #6 miRthkon - Congratulations (1:08)
7. PJsTop10 - #6 miRthkon - Flashbulb Of Orgasm (3:22)
8. PJsTop10 - #6 miRthkon - Banana (3:00)
9. PJsTop10 - #5 Francis Dunnery - Whole New World (8:58)
10. PJsTop10 - #5 Francis Dunnery - Old Man And The Angel (7:44)
11. PJsTop10 - #4 IZZ - 23 Minutes of Tragedy (7:00)
12. PJsTop10 - #4 IZZ - Can't Feel the Earth, Part III (5:07)
13. PJsTop10 - #3 Riverside - Left Out (10:59)
14. PJsTop10 - #2 Transatlantic - Overture / Whirlwind (9:53)
15. PJsTop10 - #2 Transatlantic - The Wind Blew Them All Away (6:10)
16. PJsTop10 - #1 Umphrey's McGee - Preamble (0:36)
17. PJsTop10 - #1 Umphrey's McGee - Mantis (11:51)