Sad news to report, as we learned the other day that guitarist and Progress Records owner Hansi Cross has passed away having been battling cancer.
While I didn't know Hansi personally, I had reviewed a few of his releases, under the bandname Cross, as well as a selection of titles by others that he released via his record label. There was even an occassion where Hansi asked if I would be interested in providing artwork for an upcoming album. While that that never came to fruition, I was honored that he thought I might have (even a smidgen) of talent for it.
The first Cross release, Uncovered Heart, came out around 1987/1988 (reissued on CD with a bonus track), followed by 2nd Movement (1990), notably the first album recorded at Progress Studio, and Changing Poison Into Medicine (1993), about which Hansi notes on his website "could be considered as the final of a solo project which is called the 'Uncovered Heart-Trilogy'."
In 1996, Cross released Gaze through both Cyclops and Lyxvax, each with a slightly different tracklist -- Gaze was remastered a few years later and released on the then-new label Progress Records, including all tracks from each of the earlier releases (it was re-issued again 2015, remixed with "occassional overdubs made 2015"). About the release, our own John "Bobo" Bollenberg noted "All by all a very strong release and a pleasant surprise..." revealing bits of Crimson, Rush, IQ, among others (full review here). Dream Reality, released in 1997, was a compendium of tracks from the first three albums rearranged and remastered.
The very first release on the Progress Records label (PRCD001) was 1998's Visionary Fools, where our same Bobo noted elements of Genesis (circa Wind And Wuthering) and Yes. (full review here)
Moving forward to the aughts, we find 2000's Secrets, which I likened to Spock's Beard, Flower Kings, and Marillion (among others). "The music on there is fantastic," I wrote, "bright, colourful, with just the right edge. [...] Keys take the lead on the instrumental 'Awakening,' though the guitars are hardly shortchanged. Cross is equally adept at both, though being more a guitar fan than an keys fan, it's the guitar I tend to follow more closely - so, yeh, Cross is getting close to be added to my list of guitar heroes." (full review here)
Playgrounds followed in 2005, released in the US by ProgRock Records. Again vainly quoting myself, about this I said "As with 2000's Secrets, the highlight is the musicianship, which is of a classic modern progressive rock mould, with beautifully expressive guitars (Hansi Cross), shimmering percussion (Tomas Hyort and Cross), throbbing bass lines (Lollo Andersson), and beds of keyboards (Olov Andersson and Cross)." (full review here)
Around 2007, Hansi started experiencing tinnitus; his mission to relieve the symptoms and repair the damage, and the positive effects of Low Level Laser Light, is chronicled on the Progress Records website here. This delayed the completion of The Thrill Of Nothingness, which was eventually released in 2009. Sea of Tranquillity said of Cross' return "There's a well trodden saying that goes something like 'this one was worth the long wait,' but I think in this case, it's well worth repeating that worn out statement. The Thrill of Nothingness is a welcome return from Cross, and one of 2009's best symphonic progressive rock albums. Lovers of Trick of the Tail & Wind and Wuthering era Genesis will eat this up in a big way." (you can read several reviews here including our own Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner's commentary).
Once Hansi had his hearing back sufficiently if not to what it once was, he released Wake Up Call (2012). We have not (yet) reviewed this title, so we turn again to outside voices, this time Music From The Other Side Of The Room, who note: "Wake Up Call is an excellent symphonic prog-ride into the outer limits that shows that Cross can really be something quite extraordinary and one of the finest albums to come out of from the Neo-Prog band and it really has something to give a special treat to all." (read the full review and others here).
This brings us to the near present, 2014's De Capo, which was a look back to material from the band's early days, re-recorded on modern equipment. It features four tracks from Changing Poison... ("Dream Reality," "Changing," "Visions" and "Courage") and one from 2nd Movement ("Fire").
This time last year, having finished the mixing of the then-forthcoming Violent Silence album, Hansi was going through older Cross material; according to an August 8, 2016 Facebook post: "Unreleased, alternative versions of older material re-recorded in 1997 are being looked over and mastered for release. [...] Simultaneously drums are recorded for a brand new Cross album."
In 2016, Visionary Fools was "remixed and refixed" in 2015.
It is with sadness that we and the prog music community say goodbye to a respected voice. His label was not just a launch pad for his own music, but for others, too, in the progressive music realm: Brother Ape, Magic Pie, Soniq Circus, Violent Silence, Chris, among others.
[Source: unless otherwise noted, us; photo: courtesy, circa Nov 2008]