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Clouds - Up Above Our Heads CD (album) cover

UP ABOVE OUR HEADS

Clouds

 

Prog Related

3.48 | 18 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Clouds over America... but nothing for Europe

Clouds felt that their début album "The Clouds Scrapbook" did not fully succeed in capturing the essence of the band. The diversity of the selected tracks and the orchestration of a number of the songs were by and large due to the intervention of their manager and their record company. As a result, the style they had developed during the preceding years was to some extent repressed.

When the band set about recording their second album "Up above our heads" (get it? Clouds!) they were determined that it be much more representative of the way they wished to portray themselves. By this time, Clouds were starting to break in North America and this would be their first release there. Ironically though, the album was never released in their homeland UK. This was almost certainly because it contained three tracks already included on the début album. Those three tracks, "The Carpenter", "Old man" and the wonderfully proto-prog "Waiter there's something in my soup" were presumably selected as the band felt they fitted in with their intentions for the album, and that the North American audience should not miss out.

The difference between the first and second albums is therefore enormous. The opening "Imagine me" is not too much of a shift, being a 60's pop organ based romp which includes a burst of "Nutrocker", as previously made famous by B Bumble and the Stingers and later adopted by ELP.

It is though the 13+ minute "Sing, sing, sing", a cover of the Benny Goodman number, which is the first truly different piece. This drums, organ, piano and scat based track sounds largely improvised, having been developed over several years, even before the band took the name Clouds. The track is firmly rooted in jazz, with little real rock or prog as such. The excessive and overt nature of the drums on the track may suit some, but to these ears it is an indulgence too far.

Things get back on track with "Take me to your leader" a short burst of organ fuelled brass rock. It is all wonderfully dated sounding proto-prog, and over in under 3 minutes. As mentioned, "The Carpenter" and "Old man" are recycled from the previous album. "Big noise from Winnetka" is a sort of cut down version of "Sing sing, sing", although here bass guitar gets to take centre stage too.

"In the mine" sees the band successfully putting together their most complex vocal harmonies, creating a song of considerable beauty and mystique. The 7 minute closing track "Waiter there's something in my soup" was a feature track on "The Clouds Scrapbook".

In all, an enjoyable album, but one which for me is flawed. This may be more representative of what the band were seeking to achieve, but when indulgence is allowed to prevail, things take a definite dip. There is some fine music here though, and it is good to hear the missing link between the band's two official UK releases.

Footnote, the wonderfully flawed masterpiece UK sampler "Bumpers" (www.progarchives.com/album.asp?id=11440) contained the track "Take me to your leader" which it claimed was from "Clouds forthcoming (UK) album", but the track was never actually available in the UK on a Clouds album. The sleeve notes to the recent Clouds reissue also go on to point out that European releases of "Bumpers" contained a non-album single by Clouds instead!

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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