The next genre I want to discuss is indeed a "difficult" one. Over the decades, the almighty tastemakers have mocked, dismissed, and derided it. Though I understand their arguments, I'll defend this genre like it was my own timid, bullied child. Yes, I'm afraid I'm talking about...
Because I am docile and slender of figure, progressive rock is very dear to me. I like it because it is ungainly yet graceful, because it poses the question "what if?" (for example, "What if we made a concept album about Shastric scriptures?") and tackles it with blinding optimism and enthusiasm, because sometimes it's really loud and you know it'll become quiet and pretty very soon, because it generally avoids sex and adolescent rebellion as subject matter (particularly important when you're a 15-year-old virgin who hates his classmates more than he hates his parents), and because, hey, we all need a little pseudo-intellectual stimulation to wake us up to larger possibilities as we stumble into adulthood.
As my friends know, I'm loyal to the things (and people) I love, and so my passion for ornate, prissy music made by people who practise way too much has stayed with me since I was 12, when I was riveted by a hideous shriek coming out of the stereo in Mike Schmidt's basement--Geddy Lee, take a bow. But I think everyone has a bit of the prog-freak in them. One of the most punk rock people I know sometimes fancies a bit of Supertramp. 54-40, my mortal musical enemies, took an album title from a Genesis lyric. An ex-classmate claimed he saw Gentle Giant in concert (the bastard!). 'Fess up, everybody. You liked getting high and listening to Yes as much as the next spotty oik.
So, how do we define progressive rock? The records speak more eloquently than I ever could, so check out Strawberry Bricks, a site I just discovered that provides a great timeline of progressive rock from 1967 to 1979, describing the key albums from each year. For example, the year 1971 includes The Yes Album, Led Zeppelin IV, and Aqualung. Suits me fine. When I have a spare nanosecond I'll make a return visit.