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Friday Fun: The Best Prog Band… Ever?

09:01 AM Friday 1/29/10 | |

Progressive rock fans unite! For too long you’ve been heckled, rankled, criticized and minimized. Now is the time to stand up for synthesizers, gongs, esoteric lyrics and atypical time signatures and declare the greatest prog rock band of all time.

  • Steve Howe of Yes

    Paramount Theatre, Denver, Colo.
    July 12, 2009

    (Rod Tanaka / TanakaPhoto.net)


For too long progressive rock fans have been treated like second-class citizens. Critics lambaste our favorite bands for wanting more than just a beat you can dance to. They snicker at the theatrics, laugh at 30-minute songs and deride orchestral arrangements.

But we know better, don’t we? Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues… the list of progressive bands is filled with groups that went beyond three chords and a catchy hook to captivate fans’ imaginations and carve out an important chapter in rock history.

  • The Moody Blues

    John Lodge and Ray Thomas of The Moody Blues play Harvey E. Arneault Memorial Theatre in Chester, W.Va.
    October 3, 2002

    (Chuck Saus)


  • Neil Peart of Rush

    Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Colo.
    August 8, 2007

    (Rod Tanaka / tanakaphoto.net)


Are you a prog rocker? Scientists are still split as to what actually defines such a beast, but if you’ve ever been captivated by a Keith Emerson solo; if you cried on the day you learned Roger Waters left Pink Floyd, written essays about the magnificence of King Crimson, if you ever hummed “Tarkus” in the shower or argued about which side of Tales From Topographic Oceans was the best, then it’s a good chance you’re a progressive rock fan.

  • Roger Waters

    Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio, Calif.
    April 27, 2008

    (AP Photo)


Now it’s time to pick the best of the best and tell the world which band you think is the greatest prog act ever.

And don’t be afraid to talk about how many times you’ve seen Patrick Moraz solo tours or how much money you spent buying a Journey To The Center Of The Earth tour poster on eBay. Go ahead, unleash your inner prog fan in the comment thread below. After all, you’re among friends.


  1. progfan wrote:

    07:07 AM, Feb 01, 2010

    Who is Jay Smith? He seems to know prog but how could anyone compiling a list of prog greats mention bands such as Yes and ELP more than once but not even mention early Genesis once? I take comfort in the fact that others have noticed this. While there were many great prog bands and a few had greater virtuosos, none were more successful at creating truly progressive music than early Genesis. It is beautiful, elegant, imaginative, adventurous, complicated yet engaging, humorous, intelligent, brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed. The Moody Blues may be my favorite band (for reasons that go beyond prog), and The Strawbs, Kansas, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Yes, Camel, Caravan, and many others deserve mention, but Genesis came closer to the prog ideal than any band and not mentioning them is therefore a glaring, almost unforgiveable omission.

  2. bowieismyhero wrote:

    11:49 PM, Jan 31, 2010

    I love the genre, but seriously, how nerdy is this entire debate?  The Fripp-Wetton-Cross-Bruford lineup of King Crimson was, simply unstoppable, but it's Genesis I keep coming back to.  Selling England By the Pound should end the discussion.  

  3. drizzle2099 wrote:

    09:03 PM, Jan 31, 2010

    Genesis. the best prog rock band, or best band in general is Genesis. Then King Crimson, Pink Floyd, ELP, and the Mars Volta.

  4. Livewolf wrote:

    07:50 AM, Jan 30, 2010

    First off, I can't believe that only one person on here mentioned Dream Theater.  They are pretty much the leaders in the genre for the last 18 years followed closely by Porcupine Tree.  No one has as yet mentioned Fates Warning (a hugely talented band).  

    As for all-time, I would have to say Rush with Yes a close second.  No one has ever come close to combining the intelligence of prog with the depth of feeling & emotion that Rush has.  

  5. opendoor wrote:

    03:00 AM, Jan 30, 2010

    The current culmination of the evolutionary process places Porcupine Tree at the apex of the art

  6. El Perro wrote:

    08:57 PM, Jan 29, 2010

    I've seen Yes 4 times with 4 different versions of the band.  I've seen King Crimson at least 10 times with 3 variations of the band. I've seen Rush 7 times. Tool twice, The Moody Blues once, Pink Floyd (sans Waters) once and Dream Theater once.  By far the most dynamic shows were done by Rush.  They manage to be complex and hard rocking and still remain accessible and fun.  One of the things I noticed about most prog bands is that they take themselves and their act so seriously, but Rush is humorous and goofy in concert and really seem to enjoy themselves

  7. slipkids wrote:

    08:22 PM, Jan 29, 2010

    What no mention of Genesis? Granted they morphed into a pop band but while Gabriel was with them they have a strong bidy of work and are MY Favorite prog band...

  8. PPP wrote:

    06:45 PM, Jan 29, 2010

    How in God's name am I supposed to answer a question like this? I have seen all of these bands numerous times, and have been blissed out and blown away by just about every one of them. I guess if I HAD to pick, I'd pick ELP, because it just doesn't get better than Keith.

  9. crimsonk19 wrote:

    06:05 PM, Jan 29, 2010

    As a 40 year Crimhead, there is only one seminal band worthy of the title of best prog rock band ever, King Crimson. KC should be in the R+RHOF.

  10. Angel Liz wrote:

    04:12 PM, Jan 29, 2010

    has to be Rush....so many memories..so many concerts.... hands down my favorite... LOVE EM

  11. daveb59 wrote:

    03:25 PM, Jan 29, 2010

    I've got to go with RUSH for a more well known band because I'm a Rushhead. Not as well known as the classic progressive bands, The Flower Kings are  awesome. To see them live is a truly memorable event.  Reine Stolt is possibly the most underrated guitarist out there right now.  I'm an older guy too, so I have heard most of the best. If you ever get a chance to see the Flower Kings live, DO IT!!!

  12. Levitation wrote:

    03:25 PM, Jan 29, 2010

    The "classic" prog acts (Genesis/Yes/ELP/King Crimson etc), to which I'd add Frank Zappa, Marillion, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, Van Der Graaf Generator and Camel