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David Fricke on 2017’s Best Prog Reissues

Can’s complete singles, a massive King Crimson box and more

David Fricke on the Best Year's New Prog Reissues

David Fricke runs down the year's best prog reissues, including a Can singles collection and a massive King Crimson box set.

Giving prog for Christmas? It is not an outrageous idea. In the reissues sweepstakes, where obscured-stories-richly-told beat size and celebrity every time, progressive rock is a booming industry. What follows are seven of the best archival releases in the field, of varying depth and focus, from a banner year.

Unicorn, Blue Pine Trees

Unicorn, ‘Blue Pine Trees’; ‘Too Many Crooks’; ‘One More Tomorrow’

In 1973, a young English band with one album and diminishing prospects took a job playing at a wedding. Among the guests: Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. He jammed on a Neil Young song with the group, Unicorn, and took a shine to its blend of progressive-country songwriting, jangling-Byrds guitars and three-part vocal harmonies. Gilmour brokered a deal for the band with the Floyd’s management; produced Unicorn’s 1974 album, Blue Pine Trees; and remained supportive even after the last of these three seductive albums, reissued in expanded form. The new version of 1977’s One More Tomorrow has a demo from two years later, taped at Gilmour’s home studio. Unicorn had as much California in their sound as English countryside. Think of the choral Crosby, Stills and Nash and the ballad Poco via the Floyd’s bucolic strains on Side One of 1971’s Meddle, the real-ale whimsey in the Canterbury band Caravan and Nick Lowe’s pub-rock songcraft for Brinsley Schwarz. Unicorn never made it that high and far but not for lack of friends or the lasting goods.

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