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Clouds - Watercolour Days CD (album) cover

WATERCOLOUR DAYS

Clouds

 

Prog Related

3.85 | 14 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Art rock

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Clouds enjoyed increasing recognition of their talents on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately for them, this was a great time for music though, and other bands were securing far greater commercial success. One such band was Jethro Tull, who were also managed by Clouds manager Terry Ellis. Ellis became ever more committed to Tull, leaving Clouds twiddling there collective thumbs waiting for him to devote some time to them. It was therefore some 2 years after their "Up above our heads" release that this their third and final album was recorded.

By 1971, those who had discovered Clouds through their previous albums had probably assumed that the band had come and gone, so interest in "Watercolour days" was somewhat limited. In the US, the album at least attracted a handful of favourable reviews, but in the UK both the record company and the music press were united in their apathy.

"Watercolour days" sees the band refining the contrasting works of their UK début ("The Clouds Scrapbook") and their North America début ("Up above our Heads"), with proto-prog explorations standing alongside pop orchestrations. By this time of course, music, especially prog, had moved on at an astonishing pace. Such was the extent of the progress that in two short years, the band went from being ahead of their time to sounding rather antiquated.

There are certainly similarities here with the early work of Yes, whom Clouds pre-dated by some distance. The frantic"Cold sweat" has some fine organ playing supporting an adventurous arrangement. It seems reasonable to assume that a young Tony Banks of Genesis may well have heard tracks such as this when advancing his early style. There is also a fair hint of Emerson to be found too!

On the ballad side, "Lighthouse" is a natural development of the avenues explored on "Scrapbook" (the track). "Leaving" has all the mood of a Scott Walker classic, the sensitive orchestration sitting well alongside the drifting organ.

One of the best tracks is the protest song "Mind of a child", which has something of a John Lennon feel to it, both lyrically and in the echoed vocals. The title track also raises the bar considerably, its intense arrangement testing the band well. Band member Billy Ritchie says of the track that he would have preferred not to have sung on it as it was not in his key, but he does a fine job of it nonetheless.

Overall, there is a maturity to the package this time, with progressive elements being developed well. The lack of lead guitar is no great issue in the main, although some variation in the organ backing would have been good. Those in Europe who enjoyed "The Clouds Scrapbook", and those in North America who enjoyed "Up above our heads" should find this to be an interesting yet natural development.

Significantly, while the band were given almost total freedom while recording the album, history now records that at the behest of manager Terry Ellis a number of tracks were dropped unbeknown to the band. These tracks can now be found on the newly released "Up above our heads" compilation.

This would prove to be the band's final album, collective disillusionment setting in when it failed to find the recognition it deserved. Fortunately, having lain dormant for 40 years, the work of Clouds is now gaining some of the recognition it deserves.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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