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SKY 2

Sky

 

Eclectic Prog

3.78 | 68 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Sky 2", what a lovely collector's item for me in my earliest days as a prog rock fan. My Spanish vinyl edition remains a cherished gem in my collection: I haven't listened to it too often in the last two years, but from time to time I come back to it, even if it's only for two or three tracks. 'Hotta' kicks off the album on a very optimistic mood: it is basically a refined rocker on an up tempo pace, featuring solos by each member (special mentions to Peek's soaring phrases and Fry's amazing drumming chops) as the moderately exotic main motif gets cleverly reiterated. This is what I call taking good advantage of 7 minutes. It is a great opening, indeed, and from step one it is an indication that this album should be more vibrant than the debut. 'Dance of the Little Fairies' a Flowers-penned piece that had already been part of the band's live setlists before this album's production, states a dynamic exposure of Baroque- style palace music on a playful 5/4 tempo: while the dual classical guitars carry on the main motif, it is the piano harmonies and harpsichord additions that bring the definite structure for the track. 'Sahara' is one of the most accomplished Peek compositions: bearing a combination of plain symphonic rock and jazz for the Arabic main motif, it delivers a pleasant atmosphere whose eerie potential is mainly discovered during the soft interlude. So far, so good. And things will continue to be so very good with the 'Fifo' suite written by Monkman to fill the vinyl B-side's 17 minutes. The first section has the peculiarity that Monkman doubles on keyboards and a second electric guitarist, which helps the catchy motif's groove to carry out a clever dose of intensity: as usual, Fry confidently builds the rhythmic dynamics paired with Monkman's precise bass lines. Not that the band turns heavy or Hawkwind-like, but the energy level of Sky-style rock is properly conveyed. The second section, entitled 'Adagio', is a literal adagio, a slow piece with a patent melancholic mood. Section 3 returns to the uptempo elegance of Sky at their rockiest: once again we find a catchy motif delivered with finesse and gusto, eventually connected with inserted portions of section 1 plus a quotation of 'Scipio' (a Flowers composition that will appear later in the album). The suite's last section is a cleverly monotonous spacey motif that conjures images of airplanes flying through pleasant blue skies above peaceful desert lands. As the fade-out slowly begins, I wish the motif could be reiterated one more time. The double album's C-side was devoted to highlighting the individual ideas. Here is Flowers' tuba-centered piece for a circus-like theme (Fry plays some trumpet counterpoints); two classical pieces that Williams arranged for duets with Peek; an extended harpsichord solo. Well, my favorite solo is Fry's adventure on vibes, marimba, xylophone and tympani, which makes an accessible approach to the use of percussive textures in 20th century chamber. But my fave track from this vinyl's side has to be 'El Cielo', movingly beautiful, impressively evocative. Williams took two Spanish folk pieces, taking one as the verse and the other as the chorus: the final result is a captivating exercise on romance and introspection, with a controlled colorfulness and a convincing use of atmospheres. I don't need to listen to it, just remember it to feel a special, unspeakable warmth in my heart. Anyway. Moving on with the album's repertoire, next is a 'Vivaldi' cover (a hint to Curved Air, Monkman's prog alma mater): it really isn't that substantial, although it is fair to say that it works as a pretext for the musicians to show their skills craftily integrated into the whole ensemble. Something similar happens in 'Scipio', but this really is a substantial track, with heavily melodic interplaying, a well-sustained groove, a solid demonstration of inspiration and colorfulness. The album's closed down by yet another chamber music cover: Bach's 'Toccata' is given a sort of Camel-meets-Wakeman treatment that really enhances the popular motifs involved. "Sky 2" is Sky's top opus, not their last great release, but definitely, this is where the band was at top of their game. One may enjoy some tracks more than others, but it is not like the less enjoyable numbers are mainly fillers: this is, generally speaking, a well constructed double album. Sky rules!
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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