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Clouds - Scrapbook CD (album) cover




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3.51 | 32 ratings

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Make no mistake. This is a significant recording. Listening with today's sensibilities, many of the tracks seem innocuous enough. Even the impressive musicianship can be put into a context we understand only too well in the present age of multi-music. But in historical terms, this can be seen to be one of the crucial moments where pop became progressive, a blending of the old and new. Beatles-type pop is mixed, often in the same song, with flashes of what could have been ELP or King Crimson or more particularly, Yes, These bands and others absolutely owe a great deal to Clouds.

Introduction - Scrapbook lulls new listeners into thinking they already know what sort of album this will be. A pretty and nostalgic melodic journey through sixties pop.

Those thoughts are immediately crushed with the first bars of The Carpenter. A wild and exciting jazz-rock performance with pushy organ and flying drums. Stop for a moment and think of how this music would have sounded in the context of 1966.

The Colours have Run surprises us again with a dreamy ballad that could have been written by Cole Porter and sung by Sinatra. David Palmer's wonderful orchestration dominates proceedings, but there is no disguising the creative forces at work here and the song-writing standard is once again very high.

I'll Go Girl is a much more mid-sixties type ballad, rather like a Walkers Brothers song, but the arrangement and melody structure is sophisticated and unusual, far in advance of any standard 60s pop melody/arrangement. A lot of the same cunning subtlety is shown again in Grandad, where a seemingly-simple song has hidden traps for the complacent listener, and the mood switches can catch you by surprise.

Ladies and Gentlemen is yet another song seemingly of the times, but a very fine David Palmer arrangement perfectly complements a fine melody that is not like any other of that era.

Just as we are becoming used to the pop sound of the record, Humdrum reminds us that this is not just an album of songs, but also an album of musicianship and invention. Outstanding drums are supported by scat vocals in what, by all accounts, must be a reminder of the earlier incarnation of Clouds, 1-2-3.

Union Jack swings us back to the pop side of the schism, a clever play on words reminds us of the Beatles at their best, although the vocals here leave something to be desired in terms of quality.

Old Man gives us some much-needed blues input at this point, even if the melody and chords are rather more derivative than usual. A nice harmonica underpins the blues feel, and in contrast to the wild muso playing of earlier songs, this basic but firm rhythm brings to mind the tight discipline of Free.

Waiter there's something in my Soup is perhaps the significant song of the album. Although some critics seem to find it 'weird', it actually contains elements of both the 60s, and the 70s yet to come, with its abandonment of all rules and strictures, its invention and daring. This must have surely been the nature of 1-2-3, the early band that had such an influence on Yes, The Nice, and Bowie, to name but a few. Pop melody sections intermingle freely with jazzy riffs and spine-tingling moments of changing moods, tempi, and dazzling orchestration. The central metaphor of the song may be unconvincing and possibly ill-chosen, but there is no mistaking the mark of genius in this music.

Almost as an afterthought, and to close the book, the full and impressive version of the fine song Scrapbook leaves us where we began, in the misty nostalgia of things that are already lost to us, even as we experience them. This is an album that is all too easily dismissed, especially by those who pay no attention to the roads that bring us here, looking only for the instant gratification of what we have become. Evolution can sometimes be so subtle that we only see the significance when it is already too late. 4 stars

resurrection | 4/5 |


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