Sky was a band that was formed in the late 1970s, when most British progressive bands had already forgone their style in favour of a more commercial one. It is no surprise that Sky’s sound is more streamlined. The production is a bit more slick than it was by the classic 70s bands. I would say that Sky might in fact be the missing link between the complex stylings of symphonic rock and the simpler neo genre.
The musicians that played in Sky were all trained musicians at the very top of their profession. There were two lead guitarists (Kevin Peek and John Williams), both versed in the classical style as well as in a more modern approach. On the keyboards, there is Francis Monkman, who was already a very prominent musician having played with The Alan Parsons Project and Curved Air prior to his joining Sky. On the bass and tuba is Herbie Flowers, who has a way of creating very catchy melodies. Along with Monkman, he is the main writer. Tristan Fry joins on the drum and is another excellent performer.
Sky try to create an album with the feel of 70s classical symphonic rock. There are all the elements. There’s the great acoustic guitar work that was a trademark of many of the great bands, there are vintage keyboards like the harpsichord used. In fact, the harpsichord was Monkman’s forte; it was what he was most renowned for. As said, they tried to recreate the classic 70s style. Yet, there’s something missing. It’s hard to describe what. It’s perhaps the atmosphere or the lack of it. The melodies they write are a bit simpler, I guess. One could almost say they try to mix progressive rock with pop in a way.
The album starts with “Westway” – an energetic opener and a showcase of Flowers’ sense for a good tune. “Carillon” is another Flowers number. It’s a very nice song with a simple acoustic guitar melody and the piano supplying the background chords. Later, the electric guitars join in which livens up the song. This is one of the highpoints of the album. The following two tracks are arrangements of classical pieces. They were done by the two guitarists. Most of the work is done on the acoustic guitar. “Cannonball” is another more dynamic track with some nice keyboards. The last track is yet another highpoint. It’s a Monkman-written song. It goes through several movements. The harpsichord work alone is worth the price of this album.
Although this album will probably never be considered a classic of the genre, it’s still a highly enjoyable album with some excellent acoustic guitar and keyboard work. Most of the tunes are very catchy and you might find yourself singing along even though there are no vocals. The album lacks the sort of inventiveness and complexity that some earlier masterpieces possess but it is a charming record with lots of good things on its side.
7.5 out of 10.
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