It’s fair to say that the author is a man on a mission, as with most people who discovered progressive rock music during its first verdant flush back in the late 60s and early 70s (he is previously published author on the subject, to wit his excellent account of the life and times of one of the musical movements most durable bands, Gentle Giant, in Gentle Giant: Acquiring the Taste (2005), there is perhaps the sense, when listening to him speak about his subject (as your reviewer has had the pleasure of doing) that passion has, over time, been allowed to shadow perspicuity.
But not so when you read his latest, The Music’s All That Matters – the mission’s he’s on becomes quickly apparent, namely to produce an erudite and entertaining, well, ‘romp’, for want of a better term, into Progressive rock’s past and revived present, one that in addition offers more than mere hope for its future.
And he has certainly succeeded – this writer, given the limited space available for the review, can but hope that a good proportion of its audience has at least a limited understanding for the sub genre – what is truly appealing about The Music’s…, in fact, is Stump’s obvious willingness to share his seemingly boundless knowledge of the subject in a way that is at once appealing and not patronising.
‘Progressive rock? That was Genesis when Peter Gabriel was with them, wasn’t it?’ And so on – to be fair, before reading Stump’s revised tome (it was first published in 1997 and has been re-released and revised the previous statement was in fact about the extent of this writer’s prog knowledge, even though I felt I could always bluff my way through a ‘retro’ conversation.
Of course, as the book skilfully reveals, there was and is way much more going on with prog than bands whose names begin with ‘Gen’ – and the author traces not only the rise and fall of its key practitioners, but also the cultural changes that informed and were informed in turn by prog rock’s progress.
In short, while there is sometimes the feeling, such is the in-depth nature of some of Stump’s analysis and arguments, that they might be better placed in a scientific examination of the music, rather than the labour of love that the book so clearly is, there is never any doubting either the strength of his convictions, nor his willingness to pass on prog rock’s flame to a new audience. For both, he should be warmly applauded.
The Music’s All That Matters