Progressive rock, or prog rock as it is more commonly called, evolved primarily in England from the late 1960s through the late 1970s. In some respects, the genre was a symphony-suffused offshoot of psych rock, but prog rock also included elements of jazz and musical theater, with long guitar and keyboard instrumentals that routinely broke the short-form molds of top-40 radio, and albums that often revolved around themes and concepts.

Collectors of prog rock gravitate to the original vinyl for numerous reasons. In some cases, it’s the album’s cover art that’s the draw, but in many more cases it’s the opportunity to get one’s hands on this extraordinary music. Some of the most collectible titles can only be found in its original LP format, while many albums have not been remastered properly in the conversion from analog LP to digital CD.

One of the earliest progenitors of the form was The Who, whose mini-rock opera from 1966, "A Quick One, While He’s Away," suggests the direction the band was heading in on its way to its 1969 classic, Tommy.

A Los Angeles band was also influential. Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention (1966) is widely considered to be the first concept album, which is a format that numerous prog-rockers would whole-heartedly embrace. By 1969, head Mother Frank Zappa would leave behind tunes about the fictional Suzy Creamcheeses of the world to record the jazzy, proto-prog-rock masterpiece Hot Rats.

Back in England, 1969 was shaping up to be quite a year for prog rock. King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King introduced the world to "21st Century Schizoid Man." The Moody Blues, who were shaking off some of their early psychedelic sound in favor of music that was more thematic and orchestral, released On the Threshold of a Dream in the spring, followed by To Our Children's Children's Children in the late fall. The Soft Machine released its second album, titled Volume Two, and, as has already been mentioned, 1969 was, above all else, the year of Tommy.

1970 saw the release of Egg’s self-titled debut as well as Van Der Graaf Generator’s much collected The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other—a CD version was released in 1991, but the sound quality is considered far inferior to the original vinyl, making this one of many prog-rock albums from this period that have not been successfully updated. The French psych-prog-rock band Gong released Camembert Electrique in 1971, one of three albums they recorded that year.

Yes was not quite that productive, but its place in rock history has been more lasting. In 1971, Yes recorded and released both The Yes Album and Fragile, followed, in 1972, by the incomparable Close to the Edge...

If 1967 was the key year for psych rock, 1972 was certainly one of the most productive years for prog. In addition to Close to the Edge, prog-rock classics from 1972 include Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, Triumvirat’s Mediterranean Tales (Across The Water), Gentle Giant’s Octopus, and 666: The Apocalypse Of Saint John by Aphrodite's Child, a Greek group that featured Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou (better known as the composer Vangelis) on keyboards.

But the biggest prog-rock stars of 1972 were Emerson, Lake and Palmer, who came out with the synthesizer-saturated Trilogy in 1972 and followed that up with Brain Salad Surgery in 1973. This supergroup featured Keith Emerson on keyboards—when Emerson was with The Nice, he played on 1967’s The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, which some consider the first true prog-rock album. Bassist Greg Lake’s resume included time as a member of King Crimson. And drummer Carl Palmer had survived a few intense years with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster.

As the 1970s lumbered along, pre-pop Genesis gave the world Selling England by the Pound (1973) and The Lamb Lies Dead on Broadway (1974). Mike Oldfield had a difficult time convincing anyone in the music industry to distribute his all-instrumental, heavily overdubbed Tubular Bells until he met Richard Branson, who released it as Virgin’s first album in 1973—to date the record has sold more than 15 million copies.

In 1974, a pair of German groups added electronica and synthpop sounds to prog rock, although Kraftwerk’s Autobahn was more pop oriented than Tangerine Dream’s ambient Phaedra. The next year, Pink Floyd followed up on their enormous hit Dark Side of the Moon (1973) with the prog-rock treasure, Wish You Were Here.

As the decade waned, two bands from North America tried to lay claim to the prog-rock crown. Canada’s Rush released two albums in 1975, but Caress of Kings is the one most collected by prog-rock fans—2112, from 1976, is also considered a classic. In the States, Kansas also released of pair of albums in 1975, but Leftoverture (1976) is the one to get, if you don’t already own it.

Fittingly, the English had the last word when prog-rock reached its apex in 1977. That’s the year The Alan Parsons Project came out with I, Robot, an album that seemed to pull together all the various elements of prog rock in one perfectly produced package. The album was a smash, but for prog-rock collectors, a self-titled LP by a Canterbury, England group called National Health is probably more collectible.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]



Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Tymepiece Rare Oz Lp Sweet Release Ex ’71 Infinity Sinl934113 Heavy Psyche Prog Tractor - Tractor - Original 1972 Dandelion Uk Vinyl Lp *super Rare Prog* Vg/exCan "tago Mago" German 1971 Original Ua 2-lp Top Copy M-/ex Kraut Prog Fold-outLp Matching Mole S/t Prog Soft Machine Caravan Quiet Sun Ex Cond Early Uk Press"fresh Maggots" - Rare - Progressive - Folk/rock Album. Ex ConditionKing Crimson - In The Court Of..(pink Island Uk Original Lp 1969) A2/ B3 ProgJethro Tull " Benefit " German M- Pink Island Lp 1971 + Poster Top Copy ProgSpontaneous Combustion-uk Lp-vg+ Harvest - 1972 -a2/b2 –psych/prog -g/f SleeveFruupp Lp Future Legends Original Uk In Mint Condition Psych Prog 1973 DawnSpectrum Indelible Murtceps Orig Oz Lp Testimonial Nm ’73 Emi Emc2503 Prog RockHeldon Heldon 6/interface Cobra ‎cob 37013 France Prog Experimental Vg++ 1977Erlkoenig 1973 Self Released Lp - Orig Tst 77 678 - German Kraut Rock Prog Vg++Funk Breaks Prog * Acid * Hipguard * Atom * Mega Rare Austrian Funk Bomb * Mp3Procol Harum S/t "procol Harum" Vinyl Lp Deram Shrink Trower Prog Rock Poster(m)Everfriend Tropicsphere 1980 Jazz Keyboard Prog Lp 1980 On JazzicalThe Motherhood Orig. Lp Liberty I Feel So Free Jazz Funk Psych Prog DoldingerLoch Ness - S/t Private Mexican Heavy Prog Lp *rare*Amish S/t Promo Lp Sussex St 7016 Rare 70's Prog Psych RockRumplestiltskin S/t Test Press Lp Rare Bell 6047 Psych Prog RockGert Thrue - 70s Electro Prog Stuk Lp "sound Painted Pictures Of Cosmic Love"Fields - S/t! 1971 Cbs S 69009 Rare Prog Rock Lp Uk 1st Press Gatefold Sleeve!Everfriend Sphere Of Influence 1981 Underground Jazz Prog Lp On Jazzical Black Sabbath 1st Uk Large Swirl Vertigo Rock Prog Lp 70 Electronic Pong Orch. Tales Of Electric Pong Jazz/prog Tax Scam Lp On Pelican SsEloy - Floating Orig. Us Lp Krautrock/progBakerloo - Bakerloo Lp Harvest 1969 Rare Blues Rock Prog Classic 1st PressHeldon ‎stand By Egg 900 578 French Experimental Prog Nm 1979 With InsertEnergy Self Titled S/t Harvest 4e 062-34983 Sweden Import 1974 Prog Vg+Wishbone Ash Pilgrimage Lp Sealed Original Decca St Dl 75295 Prog Psych RockThe Plastic People... Prague Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Band Ltm 1001 ProgOrig '70 Freedom Self Titled S/t Lp Gatefold Hard Psych Prog Blues Rock Ex Cond3x Lp Soft Machine Four, Six (dbl), & Seven Vg Condition Prog Robert Wyatt Gilgamesh Self Titled S/t Caroline ‎ca 2007 Uk Prog Canterbury Gong Egg Mike Fleming - S/t Private Canadian Lp Heavy Prog/psychThe Fourth Way Werwolf 1970 Prog Jazz Lp Harvest Druid - Fluid Druid Orig. Uk Lp Prog Rock YesDruid - Toward The Sun Orig. Uk Lp Prog Rock YesLed Zeppelin Iii Lp - Rare Uk 1970 Red Plum Atlantic 2401-002 Heavy Psych ProgSecret Oyster "sea Son" (1974) Lp : Danish Prog-fusion / Ex Cond.Groundhogs - Thank Christ For The Bomb (liberty Uk Lp 1970) Prog Blues. Nice!Adventures Of Robert Savage Lp White Label Promo Psych Prog Pas 6016 Nm- Rare!Supersister ~ To The Highest Bidder, French Polydor Prog Canterbury Monster MintFrank Zappa - Hot Rats - Prog Psych Blues Orig Lp! Blue Label Press! +++ Astra - The Weirding - Mint Rise Above Records - Psych ProgEloy - Floating Orig. Greek Lp Krautrock/progExcellent 1974 Prog/hard Rock Lp - Rush "1st Debut Album" Mercury RecordsNino Ferrer -metronomie -rare - Lp-psych-prog-funk - Riviera ‎– 70030Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Nightingales And Bombers - Uk Bronze Lp 1975 - ProgTop Copy! ~ Cosmic Debris 3.7 K ~ 1980 Avant Prog Acid Psych  acid Archives M-Classic Rock Pop Prog, 40 X  vinyl Lp/12" JoblotFruupp Seven Secrets Dawn Dnls 3058 Burgundy Vinyl Progressive Rock 1974Home "the Alchemist"1973 Rare Uk Orig G/f 1st Press A1 -b1 Prog L.p Cbs LabelZaperoko Cosa De Locos Latin Psych Lp Shrink Montuno Progressive Salsa60+ 45rpm Lot Psych/prog Garage Hard Rock Frat Nuggets Beatles Hendrix Who L@@kRare 1980 Lp - Ghostdance Gyp Fox & James Dean Private Prog Psych Original Verto "krig/volubilis" Rare French Press *tapioca* ~ Prog Rock~ Mint Copy!!Jd Blackfoot - Prophecy - Orig Acid Folk Prog Psych Orig Lp Minty Vinyl! Wlp!Birtha - 1st Debut Lp (probe Uk Original Lp 1972) Hard Prog Rock. Nice!Lp Ruphus Flying Colours Prog Vg Cond Brain Label Famed For Krautrock Rare!!!Genesis *i Know What I Like..* 1973 Prog Rock N Mint