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Clouds - Watercolour Days CD (album) cover




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3.89 | 33 ratings

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If The Clouds Scrapbook didn't convince you that you were listening to one of the great lost groups, then Watercolour Days should at least cause you pause for thought. The advance in technique and serious purpose between the two recordings is startling, and promised a great deal more, but sadly, this was the last Clouds album.

Watercolour Days begins with a whisper of snare drum, building to a crescendo that climaxes in a plaintive melodic lament. The song is almost a blueprint for the usual Clouds patterns of unexpected changes, moods that swing from the dramatic to the sensitive, musicianship that is forceful, yet sympathetic to the song. Outstanding piano and organ control proceedings, and David Palmer's strings are perfect.

Cold Sweat, with its crushing, dominating organ, and spiky vocals is another tour-de-force of performance. How many bands without a guitar could be this dominant? And don't say ELP, because it just won't wash. Emerson and Wakeman certainly don't lack technique, they exude it. But neither can present dynamic content as Ritchie does here.

Lighthouse evokes images of waves on the shore, a ship in the distance, lost in the fog, a veritable sound painting, atmospheric and haunting.

Long Time has gone almost unnoticed in reviews of this album, yet it is another clever song in disguise, a bluesy offering with Rock overtones, but invested with all the quality of a fine song.

Mind of a Child , with its gruff phased organ joining the clever melodic phrases seamlessly, keeps the album in a Rock vein, the sudden drop of volume and mood surprising us (even though we should by now expect no less from this group). Another surprise awaits us at the end with the wistful afterthought of the piano in a completely new key.

I Know better than You is a powerhouse of a track, the band tough and confident, the changes dramatic and dynamic, the organ and piano simultaneously playing a virtuoso double-handed riff changing chord to chord three times or more within the space of each beat in the bar. You have to slow down the track to fully appreciate what's happening here. The power of the whole band is impressive, and gives a hint of what the band must have been like in concert.

Leaving is almost a step back in time to the sixties and pop ballads, a reminder that song- writing is important to the band and Ritchie in particular. A fine flute and strings arrangement prettily decorates and perhaps covers some shaky moments in the playing and singing.. The band probably needed more time in the studio than was available. But it's a nice song nevertheless.

Get off my Farm sounds like the band were trying to get heavier, almost self-consciously. To some extent, it works, there is some grit sticking to the track, but it's difficult to overcome the rather weak idea behind the song, and the organ solo meanders without conviction, almost as an afterthought.

I am the Melody is, along with the two opening tracks, one of the finest moments on the album. The harpsichord, with its classical melody, spins its way through the flowing tune, deceptively simple in its conception, odd-beat bars fitting in as naturally as can be, the vocal cleverly using an accented tone to suggest the timeless quality of the piece, in perfect chime with the harpsichord and drum brushes, alternating with the authentic thudding beat of a true Rock band to produce a song and a track that is far from ordinary.

Watercolour Days has only in recent years been critically acclaimed, like the band itself, spending years in the wilderness. Sad though it is that this music never reached the peak it should have, the Clouds albums deserve their place in a pantheon of Rock's importance. 4 stars

resurrection | 4/5 |


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