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Clouds - Scrapbook CD (album) cover

SCRAPBOOK

Clouds

 

Prog Related

3.44 | 20 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars You can all join in now

The story of Scottish band Clouds is one of missed opportunities. The band came about in the late 1960's after paying their dues under other names. Noteworthy individuals such as Brian Epstein, Robert Stigwood and Terry Ellis were all involved in their career, they recorded music which was quite simply ahead of its time and they were around when prog was born, yet few even in these parts will remember them. Clouds may well have become a household name in 1969 along with acts such as Traffic and Jethro Tull had things been slightly different. The pioneering Island record label released their first sampler "You can all join in" around then, to great acclaim. This low priced LP contained tracks by a fine selection of proto prog bands and artists, and sold in great quantities. Many of us went off to explore the albums of the acts on that album, but when we went to find the album containing "I'll go girl" by Clouds (according to the sleeve notes called simply "Clouds"), no such album could be found.

This album, often simply referred to as "Scrapbook" but actually titled "The Clouds scrapbook", appeared a few months later, once the politics had been resolved. Before it was completed, the band's manager Terry Ellis had decided on the tracks to be included and arranged for some to be orchestrated. I actually bought it not long after it came out, and it has been a personal favourite ever since.

The resultant album is a wonderful myriad of ideas and styles. These range from the minute long drums'n'scat of "Humdrum" to the genuine proto prog of the 7 minute "Water there's something in my soup". There are the beautifully arranged pop prog ballads "I'll go girl" (with Alvin Lee of Ten Years After on guitar) and "Scrapbook", the latter bookending the album perfectly. There is the whimsical tongue in cheek British pop of "Grandad" and "Union jack" and there is the creeping blues of "Old man".

For me, one of the best tracks is the superbly arranged "Ladies and gentlemen" a song which is styled lyrically as if the singer is delivering a very self indulgent speech.

Musically, the album is devoid of lead guitar but heavy on the organ, leading to comparisons with fellow travellers Rare Bird and perhaps the Crazy World of Arthur Brown/Atomic Rooster. In terms of content though, the inclusion of so many many different styles combined with the highly melodic, quasi-symphonic recordings also brings to mind the first album of Barclay James Harvest.

Given that the album was recorded over 40 years ago, it sounds as fresh and invigorated today as it did then. Naturally, it will not have the impact now that it had then and it is easy to overlook the place of this album in the time-line of prog and indeed rock. "The Clouds Scrapbook" is though a superb set of great diversity and invention.

While the LP has long since been out of print, the recently released 2 CD set "Up above our heads" offers a superb way to obtain the album in full.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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