The latest edition of the Backbeat Books 'FAQ' series takes a look at the much maligned but beloved genre known as progressive rock, written by New York author Will Romano. Less of a 'lay it all on the line' introduction to prog than it is a glossing over of some of the 'need to know' and more in depth look at the lesser known facts, it is at times a fascinating read. Chapters dealing with the Mellotron, famous concept albums, cover art, epic length tracks, and the death of prog in the '70s due to the uprising of punk of course are prerequisites when talking about the history of the genre, and Romano tackles these with great success. However, it's the little things that makes this book so intriguing, such as discussions of lesser known bands such as Clouds, Happy the Man, Henry Cow, as well as interviews with ex-Van Der Graaf Generator sax/flute player David Jackson, founding Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips, Univers Zero's Daniel Denis, and original Jethro Tull guitarist Mick Abrahams.
On the down side, much of the book leans heavily in favor of the 'Big 5' of prog, namely Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, and Jethro Tull, which in itself is not such a bad thing, but acts like Gentle Giant, Rush, Moody Blues, Procol Harum, and Nektar barely get mentioned at all. Some chapters will have less appeal to longtime followers of the genre, such as topics of minimalism (with Steve Reich & Radiohead), prog in film, or the history of Asia, but, others, like the implosion of Yes, Italian prog, critical reactions to some top albums, and closer looks at the careers of John Wetton, Manfred Mann's Earth Band (and specifically their huge hit 'Blind By the Light'), Steve Hackett, plus newer bands Anglagard & District 97, are quite entertaining. The book itself kind of goes all over the place and doesn't have a lot of structure, but perhaps that was the intent of the author, who seems to have been more interested in putting together a book detailing stuff you didn't expect to read about, rather than another rehashing of the basic history of the genre. I'd say he was for the most part pretty successful.