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Clouds - Up Above Our Heads CD (album) cover




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3.51 | 22 ratings

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4 stars I'm not sure about the compositional quality, but the musicianship is first rate here, outstanding organ and piano and virtuoso drums from Harry Hughes, the guy who gave Carl Palmer and Bill Bruford lessons, no less. They even both appeared on Hughes' Premier drums book, one of the first rock drum tuition books and records ever, though so rare now, I can't find a copy on the internet.

Some of the tracks included here are also on the Clouds Scrapbook album, so there's quite a bit of overlap and wasted space for anyone making a double purchase at the time. Interestingly, the duplicated tracks sound almost like a different mix, but friends who know better tell me that it's because of the different pressing plants involved, this record being from London Deram USA, the other from Island Records UK.

Of the other tracks exclusive to this album, Imagine me is stirring stuff, and a decent tune. Powerful organ ends in blistering style, daring anyone else to manage to do the same. Similar pyrotechnics are on display in Sing, Sing, Sing, though the long solos get a bit boring for my ears. I love the organ solo, Ritchie at his best, and the speed of the playing on the coda is mind-boggling. Apparently this track is the one remaining 1-2-3 number kept in the Clouds routine because of the drum solo spot for Hughes. If this is what the Marquee crowd heard in 1967, it was way way ahead of its time.No wonder the band made the fuss that they did and drew the attention of Brian Epstein, who became their manager.

Take me to your Leader is again full of virtuoso musicianship, but seems to me rather perfunctory otherwise. Big Noise from Winnetka was wonderful to see on stage, but without the visuals (and with the gimmicky effects) it doesn't seem quite the same.

A bright shining light of composition arrives in the last song, In The Mine, with a beautiful instrumental section complimenting a fine ballad that is perhaps a bit too doomy gloomy for its own good.

A fine album, though naggingly incomplete somehow. 4 stars.

JeanFrame | 4/5 |


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