Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Clouds - Scrapbook CD (album) cover




Prog Related

3.48 | 26 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Scrapbook

The Clouds' debut album, like all their album releases, is a bit of a curio, but makes perfect sense in terms of progressive music.

It lives up to its name very well - the 11 pieces of music are very different to each other, and 4 are sub 3 minutes - 3 of these barely clocking in over one minute - giving a real patchwork effect, as different but related pictures pasted into a scrapbook. Yet somehow it all coagulates into one, with assorted musical flavours spilling out in rapid progression, primarily in 5 colours;

Hard bop / progressive jazz styled rock, retrospective, epic ballad with string arrangements a la Moody Blues, quirky English humour reminiscent of the Kinks, and the softer side of Crimson-esque Progressive Rock. It might be unfair to call it "Crimsonesque", given that it was released the year before, but that is the closest familiar term of reference I can think of.

The albums' concept is described in the bands' Wikipedia entry, and lyrically matches the musical approach. But this is very different to the kind of music the band formerly played live, and might well have been a source of confusion to their fans. Gone are the extended improvisations and crazy jazz arrangements of popular numbers, instead, a number of hastily recorded self-composed tunes.

Scrapbook opens with a self-titled introduction - a slow, nostalgic piece with vocals pre-echoing Greg Lake in some ways.

Then the mayhem begins, in the frantic jazz-rock number, The Carpenter. There is probably about 10 minutes worth of material condensed into this 3 and a half minute assault on your senses, which predicts ELP - and I'm put in mind of Bakerloo's self-titled debut of 1969 too.

With dynamic panache, the next number is a laid back acoustic based one, but is not simple chords accompanying a voice - rather it is a dialogue akin to some of Simon and Garfunkels finest moments. I am reminded quite strongly of Bookends, stylistically, especially when the orchestration joins in with similar scrunchy harmonies (and even the dropping two chord motif of the Bookends theme). There is added alliteration here, though, the smudgy harmonies and falling woodwind motifs illustrating the running colours.

Up next is a spine-shivering rendition of I'll Go Girl, the number featured on the You Can All Join In compilation. The tremolo effect on the piano is a masterstroke, and Merseybeat flavours of the Righteous Brothers and the Beatles pervade the song. Ellis provides a strong McCartney-esque rolling bassline above Hughes' Ringo styled drum beats, both providing elaborate and dramtatic fills. Strong vocal harmonies and lead guitar interjections complete this number, which builds to a strong climax.

Although melodically pleasing there's something about the overall production and arrangement which stops just short of being a pop single - the melody lines and chord progressions are just too elaborate for standard rock. This is a bit of a wolf in lambskin.

Grandad is empatically not the Clive Dunn number, although it does bear the hallmarks of a novelty item. I'd say it's more quirky in the same way that The Kinks were quirky than simply novel, with the atmospheric backing chat and pub singalong styled chorus. Again, the melody lines are deceptively complex, and the chord progressions not always what you'd expect. The trombone solo is a bolt out of the blue, and the sudden drop in dynamic for the coda is a natural surprise.

Ladies and Gentlemen seems to be a mixture of everything that was great about the late 1960s with sumptuous orchestration, and strong hints of the Kinks, the Beatles, the Moody Blues and the Small Faces. Everything feels so natural and tightly interwoven in this piece that it would be easy to put it down as a standard pop song - and you end up wondering how come you feel like you know it, even though you've never heard it before.

The next short piece is essentially a tasteful drum solo, but with very clever and amusing musical interjections, and anything but Humdrum. A musical joke no less!

This is followed by Union Jack, a Kinks or possibly Sgt. Pepper/Beatles inspired caricature and intriguing play on words.

Old Man is based on a standard falling jazz progression with tasteful blues harmonica in an engaging and nicely produced arrangement. I feel a little worried about the timing in places, though.

Next up is the Epic Waiter, There's Something in My Soup, with stunning orchestration and a strong resemblance to some of the material being released on the KPM library discs at that time - the legendary Alan Hawkshaw springs to mind. But this song is densely packed with all manner of changes, all of which seem to springboard off each other in a progressive manner, yet so many of which are blatantly plundered from popular culture, it's hardly surprising that this band divided opinion so strongly.

For my money, this is a great piece, fully deserving the title of Progressive Rock before Progressive Rock came to light - although Progressive Pop would be an equally fitting label. There are moments where I find the execution less than convincing, and I'm not completely struck by the lyrics - but there's nothing wrong with the composition; On the contrary, this is progressive writing at its finest.

Rounding things off is an orchestrated reprise of the title track far more reminiscent of the Moodies than Clodagh Rogers, who later covered the song.

All in all, a very worthy addition to anyone's Prog collection, but particularly of interest to Prog historians and fans of early Prog. It's one of those albums that gives up more of its content on each listen too, because the music is so surprisingly and deceptively dense while at the same time being immediately accessible.

4 solid stars.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this CLOUDS review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives