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Clouds - Up Above Our Heads [Clouds 1966-71] CD (album) cover

UP ABOVE OUR HEADS [CLOUDS 1966-71]

Clouds

 

Prog Related

4.19 | 8 ratings

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giselle
4 stars An important anthology, bringing together at last the three crucial recordings of an enigmatic but essential band. Already extensively reviewed in these pages, the three albums tell the somewhat sad tale of a trio that was the catalyst for much that happened, yet it remains quite unknown in vast swathes of the public mind.

Part of the fault for that lies in the inability of the group to transform itself into the new age. After laying the foundations for much of what became known as progressive rock, the band curiously failed to capitalise on their own advantage, staying almost stuck in the mud, unable to transform their own writing into something comparable to the exciting re-inventions of existing compositions that had so transformed musical thinking in 66-67. We get a glimpse of the real thing in the bonus tracks, with the sole known recording of 1-2-3 and America. It's difficult now to transport ourselves back to 1967 and imagine the impact this kind of arrangement made on young impressionable and talented musicians, such as the members of Yes, The Nice, King Crimson. Yes later even produced their own version of the same song, arranged in the same fashion as 1-2-3, but the originators of the form faltered and lost their way.

This sad trail is laid out on a plate in these three albums, wonderful songs (but stilted at times by uneasy performances and a band unsure of what to do with them) sitting awkwardly side by side with riff-like pieces (often somewhat mundane constructions whose purpose was to enable the individual musicians to parade their particular talents), the two never really meeting in harmony, except at rare moments, such as in the opening section and verses of Watercolour Days (the title track), the middle section of Waiter, the verses of I am the Melody. These fleeting moments give glimpses of a rare talent that never truly found expression.

The remaining bonus tracks only add fuel to this theory, the striking moments are almost exclusively Ritchie's songs, Why is there no Magic, A Day of Rain, Clockwork Soldier; lovely indeed, sometimes profound, but what have they to do with Clouds? Not much. This is the fatal schism of songs and band, still exposing itself 40 years on.

giselle | 4/5 |

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