The 10 Best Progressive Rock Songs

by Patria

Progressive rock, often shortened to prog rock, is a genre that evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Known for its ambitious compositions, complex structures, and experimentation with diverse musical styles, prog rock has produced some of the most innovative and influential music of the 20th century. This article explores the ten best progressive rock songs that have left a significant mark on the genre, showcasing the diversity and creativity of the musicians who pioneered this remarkable style.

The 10 Best Progressive Rock Songs

1. “Close to the Edge” by Yes

Album: Close to the Edge (1972)

Length: 18:43

Yes’s “Close to the Edge” is often hailed as a quintessential prog rock epic. This nearly 19-minute track is a journey through intricate musical landscapes, featuring complex time signatures, virtuosic instrumental passages, and poetic lyrics inspired by Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha. The song is divided into four distinct parts, each showcasing the band’s technical prowess and creative vision. Jon Anderson’s soaring vocals, Steve Howe’s masterful guitar work, and Rick Wakeman’s lush keyboards create a sound that is both majestic and profound.

2. “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis

Album: Foxtrot (1972)

Length: 23:06

“Supper’s Ready” is a multi-part suite that epitomizes Genesis’s theatrical and narrative-driven approach to prog rock. Clocking in at over 23 minutes, the song takes listeners on a fantastical journey through various musical themes and storylines, from the pastoral “Lover’s Leap” to the apocalyptic “Apocalypse in 9/8.” Peter Gabriel’s dramatic vocals and stage presence, combined with the band’s dynamic instrumentation, make “Supper’s Ready” a landmark in the prog rock canon.

3. “2112” by Rush

Album: 2112 (1976)

Length: 20:33

Rush’s “2112” is a sci-fi epic that tells the story of a dystopian future where music and individual expression are suppressed by a totalitarian regime. Divided into seven sections, the song showcases Geddy Lee’s powerful vocals and bass playing, Alex Lifeson’s innovative guitar work, and Neil Peart’s intricate drumming and thought-provoking lyrics. “2112” is a testament to Rush’s ability to blend storytelling with technical musicianship, making it a cornerstone of progressive rock.

4. “Echoes” by Pink Floyd

Album: Meddle (1971)

Length: 23:31

“Echoes” is a sprawling, atmospheric piece that occupies the entire second side of Pink Floyd’s Meddle album. The song begins with a haunting sonar-like ping and gradually builds into a richly textured composition featuring David Gilmour’s emotive guitar solos, Richard Wright’s lush keyboard textures, and the band’s trademark sonic experimentation. “Echoes” is a masterclass in creating mood and atmosphere, making it one of Pink Floyd’s most celebrated progressive works.

5. “Karn Evil 9” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Album: Brain Salad Surgery (1973)

Length: 29:37

“Karn Evil 9” is an ambitious suite divided into three “impressions,” each showcasing the virtuosic talents of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Keith Emerson’s keyboard wizardry, Greg Lake’s powerful vocals and guitar work, and Carl Palmer’s dynamic drumming come together to create a thrilling musical rollercoaster. The song’s futuristic and dystopian themes, combined with its complex structures and time signatures, make “Karn Evil 9” a standout in the prog rock genre.

6. “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull

Album: Thick as a Brick (1972)

Length: 43:46

Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” is a single, continuous piece of music that spans the entire length of its eponymous album. Presented as a satirical concept album, the song is a blend of folk, rock, and classical influences, with Ian Anderson’s flute playing and distinctive vocals at the forefront. The album’s whimsical and complex structure, along with its elaborate packaging, makes “Thick as a Brick” a quintessential prog rock experience.

7. “Starless” by King Crimson

Album: Red (1974)

Length: 12:18

“Starless” is a hauntingly beautiful composition that serves as the emotional climax of King Crimson’s Red album. The song features a melancholic melody sung by bassist John Wetton, interwoven with Robert Fripp’s ethereal guitar lines and David Cross’s evocative violin. The piece builds to a powerful crescendo, showcasing the band’s ability to blend intricate musical textures with raw emotional intensity. “Starless” is a poignant and masterful example of King Crimson’s progressive brilliance.

8. “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” by Van der Graaf Generator

Album: Pawn Hearts (1971)

Length: 23:04

Van der Graaf Generator’s “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” is a dark and atmospheric suite that explores themes of isolation and existential dread. Peter Hammill’s expressive vocals and poetic lyrics are complemented by the band’s intricate and often dissonant musical arrangements. The song’s shifting dynamics and dramatic intensity make it a standout in the prog rock genre, showcasing the band’s unique approach to musical storytelling.

9. “Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes

Album: Fragile (1971)

Length: 11:27

“Heart of the Sunrise” is a dynamic and emotionally charged track from Yes’s Fragile album. The song features one of the band’s most memorable instrumental sections, with Chris Squire’s driving bass line, Bill Bruford’s intricate drumming, and Steve Howe’s soaring guitar work. Jon Anderson’s ethereal vocals and the band’s tight harmonies add to the song’s dramatic impact. “Heart of the Sunrise” is a perfect example of Yes’s ability to blend technical proficiency with emotional depth.

10. “Tarkus” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Album: Tarkus (1971)

Length: 20:38

“Tarkus” is a seven-part suite that combines elements of classical music, rock, and jazz. The song’s narrative follows the journey of a mythical creature named Tarkus, set against a backdrop of war and conflict. Keith Emerson’s virtuosic keyboard playing, Greg Lake’s powerful vocals and bass, and Carl Palmer’s dynamic drumming create a complex and thrilling musical experience. “Tarkus” is a testament to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s ability to push the boundaries of rock music.

See Also: The 15 Most Played Rock Songs of All Time


Progressive rock is a genre that has pushed the boundaries of musical expression, blending elements of rock, classical, jazz, and other styles into complex and ambitious compositions. The ten songs highlighted in this article represent some of the finest examples of prog rock’s creative and technical achievements. From the epic narratives of Yes and Genesis to the atmospheric soundscapes of Pink Floyd and King Crimson, these songs showcase the diversity and innovation that define progressive rock. Whether you’re a longtime fan or new to the genre, these tracks are essential listening for anyone seeking to explore the rich and varied world of prog rock.

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