Songs over 10 minutes long are frequent in progressive rock like it’s part of its essence but very long song (more than 20 minutes) are quite common as well, for some artists, it even became a signature (Transatlanic, Mike Oldfield, The Flower Kings…). Here are the first 10 songs over 20 minutes which instantly came to my mind while writing, my favourites actually. NB : I’m aware that some choices here are in fact longer songs which have been divided into parts due to the limitations of vinyl LPs (Thick As A Brick, Tubular Bells) but it’s the format we all know, isn’t it?
In no particular order :
The Gates Of Delirium by Yes (21:54, Relayer)
Yes probably jumped the shark with this one as they never went that far musically but it’s so good! The peaceful part coming after “the battle” part, with Jon Anderson’s beautiful heavenly voice and Steve Howe’s guitar layers is pure prog heaven.
Thick As A Brick Part One by Jethro Tull (22:45, Thick As A Brick)
One of Jethro Tull’s masterpieces. Verses are so beautiful with Ian Anderson’s warm voice and delicate acoustic guitar. Hammond lovers should not be disappointed neither.
All Of The Above by Transatlantic (30:52, SMPTe)
This is the birth of a “modern” supergroup. They made great other epics (understand more than 25 minutes long songs) but this one has always been my favourite and I can remember very clearly the first time I played the album in 2000, I was blown away since the first seconds of the great intro. I find this one has a really nice “fresh” feel, it sounds more natural than what they did later (which is still great).
Tubular Bells Part One by Mike Oldfield (25:00, Tubular Bells)
This one is special as it contains a theme which has became a classic theme, the famous “The Exorcist” piano part. Mike Oldfield’s music is unique and Tubular Bells is one of many examples of this statement. When the tubular bells are announced and they start their melody, it’s just so majestic.
2112 by Rush (20:33, 2112)
Rush at its best! The main chorus of 2112 is a real catchy epic anthem and the finale is brillant.
Supper’s Ready by Genesis (22:58, Foxtrot)
Foxtrot highlight and one of the best epic finale of this selection, the mother of all epics if I can say that. The song is very eclectic, from the peaceful – but disturbing – acoustic introduction to the brillant instrumental “apocalypse” part, it’s a lesson of epic songwriting and a good place to start if you want to get into exciting long songs.
Echoes by Pink Floyd (23:31, Meddle)
Another epic classic. This one is probably the most accessible of this selection but brillant nonetheless. Beautiful vocals, great atmospheric part, classy keyboards. Pink Floyd may have lost something after this one…
Tarkus by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (20:42, Tarkus)
Did you say ambitious? Pompous maybe? Well, ELP may sound arrogant at times but Tarkus remains one of their masterpieces. As you guess, this is keyboards paradise and one of their best work.
A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers by Van Der Graaf Generator (23:04, Pawn Hearts)
The darkest epic of the selection. Not the most accessible neither. A true adventure in the dark meanders of Peter Hammill’s musical world.
Taurus II by Mike Oldfield (24:49, Five Miles Out)
This 25 mn long epic is a pure Oldfield track and one of his best works, if not the best, from the 80′s. With a nice celtic atmosphere thanks to the uilleann pipes played by Paddy Moloney (The Chieftains), amazing guitar work, we’re not that far from his early albums but with a brand new sounds, especially concerning keyboards. Brillant!
There’s a lot more of great progressive rock songs over 20 minutes long so a second part would be welcome but right now, what is your selection?