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(91:30, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: Ars Nova: 1. Morgan 10:53 2. Transi 9:01 3. Danse Macabre 9:19 4. Jihad 5:56 White Willow: 5. Cryptomenysis 10:16 6. Snowfall 3:28 7. John Dee's Lament 9:15 8. Lord of Night 6:49 Solaris: 9. Apocalypse 4:22 10. Oz 8:11 11. Hungarian Dance 3:42 12. Solaris 5:30 LINE UP: Various artists, as specified in track listing
Prolusion. The US progressive rock festival PROGFEST was the initial of the modern day progressive rock festivals, which have become something of a phenomenon in the USA, the main inspiration for events like the North East Art Rock Festival, Rites of Spring Festival and others. Musea Records had a firm interest in this original venture, and in cooperation with Greg Walker from Syn-Phonic helped out with spreading the word about and financing and following up on this yearly event. Part of the involvement was the release of video films from some of the events, and “Progfest '95 Day One” is one such production. Originally issued in 1996 on VHS, it has now been reissued on DVD sporting additional footage from Ars Nova and White Willow.
Analysis. The technical development that has taken place in the last 20 or so years is amazing. One of the areas where this is most noticeable is in the movie industry. Even in as recent the past as the mid 1990s, there was a vast difference between professional, semi-professional and amateur equipment for producing video footage. The video footage used for Progfest '95 Day One shows that perfectly, or perhaps imperfectly is a better description. Today we're spoilt with images of a generally high quality on our DVDs, and this time capsule of yesteryear makes me really appreciate this aspect of the technological revolution. Memory tells me that the footage we're served was of a decent quality back then, but today it just doesn't measure up to what we're used to. The images are blurry, often with coarse grain, the colors are often wrong and the saturation leaves much to be desired. Distance shots are so low in quality that it can be hard to tell exactly what we're seeing, and even the close-up footage is far inferior to what modern day digital recorders can produce. Measured by today's standards we're basically dealing with a flick that normally wouldn't have been released for commercial purposes now. But as this is a reissue where one might assume that many of the folks who purchased the original might want a new copy in a format playable today, there is a market for this production as such, and in addition there's the small matter of sound footage. The sound recording can easily measure up to a contemporary one though. Good quality equipment was used to capture the audio, and one of the technicians that worked with it was a highly regarded craftsman known to get the best out of what he had to work with. And while those who only recently have become interested in progressive rock might not be familiar with him, those who have followed the genre for some time will most likely have heard of Kevin Gilbert. His involvement in this venture is something of a quality guarantee, and as long as just over 30 minutes of live recording from each of the three bands performing on this DVD is of interest, you can be assured that these are among the best live recordings existing of these artists as far as technical dynamics go. The artists themselves represent rather different directions of progressive rock. The Japanese outfit Ars Nova has symphonic art rock of the ELP style as their specialty; Norwegian innovators White Willow have more of a folk and gothic tinged approach to their variety of art rock, while Hungarian veterans Solaris take their cues from Camel and Eloy in their peculiar brand of futuristic sounding neo progressive rock.
Conclusion. When compared to any modern day DVD production this reissue of Progday '95 Day One is of vastly inferior quality, first and foremost due to the video footage. Its main importance seems to be as a historical document, although owners of the 15-year-old original VHS tape might offer alternative arguments for why it was important to reissue it on DVD. The latter will probably be the main audience for it as well, alongside fans of the artists performing on it.
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