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Clear Blue Sky

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3 stars These three very young lads were quite gifted musicians. John Simms (guitar) even joining Ginger Baker for some touring in the seventies. The music they played is a trio based guitar - bass - drums as it was popular those days (remember Hendrix, Cream, T2 etc.).

The music is quite heavy and little melodic as one could have imagined. While the musicianship is solid, the vocals aren't quite of the same level. This is probably why I prefer the first part of their suite called ''Journey To The Inside Of The Sun''.

It is called ''Sweet Leaf'' (huum, I've heard this before.) and is a pure jamming and good effort for over eight minutes. Actually, this might well be part of a so called suite (or epic) but none of the parts are linked whatsoever. It is more a collection of three songs than a one-piece unit. It falls a bit flat during ''The Rocket Ride'' and ''I'm Comin' Home'' (second and third parts).

Their heavy music is tinted with blues and psychedelia (''You Mystify''), but this no big news for the period of release. It was quite conventional for such a trio to play this type of music. But they are probably more personal than a band as T2 for example who was too closely related with Hendrix Experience.

Nothing as such here. There is a definite prog feel when you listen to ''Tool Of My Trade''. It is not a ballad of course, but it swaps nicely between heavy passages and more sophisticated music. A highlight, for sure.

The more the album advances, the more diversified is the music. ''My Heaven'' demonstrates some Eastern influences delicately painted with some fine psychedelia. Some acoustic guitar is even featured and the interplay with distinct percussion is just perfect. To have reached this level at the age of eighteen is quite impressive. The album closed on some sort of heavy Tull piece (''Birdcatcher''). Aren't these fine references?

Three stars.

Report this review (#190008)
Posted Thursday, November 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The sound is heavy, dirty, and few expressions of d has an average age of 18 musicians. with influence hendrix, T2 and cream. The music is very heavy with the sounds of guitar unfortunately poorly produced too much distortion. Lot of energy emerges from the album, domage that production has not been a more accurate picture of the jacket, which she signed beautiful Roger Dean (Yes, Uriah Heep, etc. Gravy Train. The titles are very heavy and hard rock, progressive little except'' 'Journey To The Inside Of The Sun''which remains progressive. The melodies are sophisticated musicians who unlike them are talented. The music is heavy with classic progressive sounds strange sometimes, on certain securities, including mixtures very aggressive and mixed with the flute and some sound effects.
Report this review (#228514)
Posted Sunday, July 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars A blast from the past this one. Released in January 1971, I bought this from a remainder bin in 72 or 73 and I still play it now. Although following the power trio format popular of the time, their sound is actually quite distinctive with a definite psych/prog crossover element. As it says on the spine of the original LP "Play It Loud" (perhaps the album was originally going to be called this, but Slade had beaten them to it?). IMO The Groundhogs sound like their biggest influence, which is no bad thing, but they do have their own sound. The side long track Journey To The Inside Of The Sun has some great interplay, and considering these lads were only 18 at the time, it is quite an achievement. The first part of this epic, Sweet Leaf, has some good boogie action, interspersed with quieter psychy phases, follwed by Rocket Ride, played in a Groundhogs style. The track finishes with I'm Coming Home which although a little disjointed is still a decent work out. Side 2 starts with the great You Mystify, with some basic time changes and lots of reverb on the chorus vocals. A great bit of fret wizardry too. Tools Of My Trade is very Cream like in places, but with enough style of its own to shine. builds nicely in the middle section. Things slow down for My Heaven which is the most psychedlic of all the songs and has some nice instrumentation. The closer Birdcatcher, has good riffage and a very odd ending fading away with flute and lazy hand clapping. Very stoned. As with most Vertigo acts of the time virtually nothing was spent on promotion and unfortunately Clear Blue Sky did not get the chance to develop as they should have done, and split up soon after, only reforming many years later.
Report this review (#269733)
Posted Friday, March 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars A thunderous, bluesy power-prog trio who released this self-titled debut in 1972, Clear Blue Sky belong to that select group of artists whose legacy has, for one reason or another, been exhumed and re-examined thanks to the excellent re-issue label Repertoire Records. Now available in a beautifully-packaged, mini-vinyl gate-fold replica edition, 'Clear Blue Sky' has been released under the dubious 'lost classic' tag that record companies give to albums that failed to succeed either commercially or critically in their own time, thus the opportunity to foister the music upon unsuspecting music fans who either do not remember or simply weren't alive the first time round. Though by no means a classic album, it is still a worthy entry into the prog canon, with an edgy, metallic sound undercut by bluesy rhythms and hoarse vocals that give the music a very slight punk aesthetic. Fans of Steamhammer and The Groundhogs may find much to admire, especially in the album's 18 minute long opener 'Journey To The Centre Of The Sky' which assaults the listener with a barrage of buzzing riffs and tribal drumming and, most importantly, never gets dull despite it's epic length. The shorter, sharper, more melodic songs that fill out the second-half of the album, such as the catchy 'You Mystify' and 'Tools Of My Trade', bring a touch of funk into the equation, again with John Simms brazen guitars pushed to the fore. A nice little bonus is the understated artwork from a certain Mr Roger Dean(one of his earliest pieces), and the only disappointment is the fact this under-rated threesome failed to record again until 1990, when they released a hugely-belated follow-up that is a Clear Blue Sky album in name only. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Report this review (#293727)
Posted Saturday, August 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars There may have been a fair amount of great hard rock bands of the early 70's that got unfairly overlooked or set aside, but Clear Blue Sky is not one of those lost classic bands. Even after hearing their only effort from the 70's, I still can't quite figure this group out or why I decided the time was right for me to get a Clear Blue Sky album.

Right away, the opener hits you and the gigantic problem with the record smacks you in the face; it's production is miserable. Apart from sounding like a lesser hybrid of Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath (and the title of their first track is ''Sweet Leaf''?coincidence?), the production sounds too unnecessarily loud to the point where the guitars sound like they're going to vomit. And it may be extreme nitpicking, but the volume on the cymbals sounds awful.

I like riffs as much as the next hard rock fan, but the riffs here are largely forgettable, and typically songs use about three unrelated riffs that are so poorly connected that any semblance of a fluid track is mostly lost. A track like ''You Mystify'' might have been a great lost rock classic if the actual song could progress with some finesse, but it ends up being a jumbled menagerie of muck.

This especially becomes a gaping problem on their attempt at a sidelong epic track; the three movements have barely any resemblance other than chugging away at riffs hoping for some lasting appeal. The aforementioned ''Sweet Leaf'' is the worst of the lot as it sounds completely without any direction and runs for far too long (at eight minutes, it's the longest of the album).

And yet, this album still manages to have an actual great tune in ''My Heaven''. It's the one time where there's a song that really functions like one. Had the muddy production not been there, this would have been a lost classic.

If the idea of checking out lo-fi hard rock sounds like fun to you, then check out CLEAR BLUE SKY. The idea of ''raw rock'' went a mile too far here.

Report this review (#815891)
Posted Thursday, September 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Clear Blue Sky" is one of those albums that emerged from the virtually two-year-long period (1970 and 71) that presented us with a myriad of heavy psych/prog, most of which are still undiscovered. This record stands out because, despite the slight lack of musical prowess to bring them above their more renowned peers at the time, their ambition is undeniable. Right from the first moments of "Journey To The Inside Of The Sun", that signature guitar sound (reminiscent of "Sea Shanties") grips you. It's such a filthy, raw tone that beautifully misfits the pompous theme of the opener. Of course, it's almost certainly unintentional and just due to the absence of good recording equipment/instruments. Therefore, I suppose it's mainly an non-prevailing sympathy for the zealousness of this determined band.

Many passages can be as overwhelming as an early blues/metal song, and they probably take influences from groups like Led Zep and Black Sabbath. However, they are still ultimately stuck in the psychedelic 60s, not wanting it to end. Therefore, an oddly alluring combination of heavy rock and psychedelic music (ergo "heavy psych") is produced, but I think that Clear Blue Sky struck on just the right balance. Furthermore, their unsophisticated sound makes them kind of an underdog in the growing scene of the 70s, and listening to them take you to right into their perspective of music. Unfortunately, their potential was never explored, presumably due to a lack of funding from record companies.

"You Mistify" displays some surprisingly effective chord progressions and relatively intricate passages, contrasted with that raw timbre that the group brandish. The following track "Tool Of My Trade" is similarly lysergic, but overall demonstrates their numerous styles more vividly. The concisely rhythmic sections, and excellent moments of light and shade here take the band further in some ways, and keep the quality from deviating. "My Heaven" draws some folkier, or at least janglier acoustic influences. Again, the musical escapades the band undertake set them apart from their cohorts. "Birdcatcher" draws the album to a close. I think they're clinging onto the past a little too much with the fuzz guitars and Hendrix imitations, but experimentalism from the wistful flute solo adds some colour. Overall, "Clear Blue Sky" narrowly clinch a 4-star rating from me, but the more tangible personality of the band secures their place.

B(-): Certainly not a masterpiece, but a very much under-appreciated record in that swamp of heavy proto-prog. The essence of "Clear Blue Sky" offers an all-pervading sense of heartfelt freedom and a search for something great, which I find irresistible.

Report this review (#1407485)
Posted Saturday, May 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Recorded by a guitar/bass/drums trio when they were just teenagers, UK band Clear Blue Sky's self-titled debut from 1970 is a bluesy and fuzzy psychedelic shred-fest, with heavy rock songs stretched out by way of jamming soloing and punchy instrumental spurts. Reminding in its electric-guitar dominated parts of everything from Cream, Jimi Hendrix and High Tide, the occasional presence of flute takes it into Jethro Tull and Skin Alley territory, and vocally it calls to the mind Budgie and the early Rush albums.

Those prog fans getting excited at the prospect of an eighteen-minute side-long piece (and one given a title like `Journey to the Inside of the Sun' - trippy, man!) - lower expectations immediately! It's really three unrelated tracks, if still very cool and full of killer playing with energy to spare. Instrumental `Sweet Leaf' sets much of a template for the LP, full of John Simms' muscular electric guitar slinging laced with a molten rocking bluesy swagger, Mark Sheather's thick bass murmurings and Ken White's barrage of drum battery, the trio almost sounding in parts here like Dutch band Finch's more debauched younger brother! After a tricky false-start (you'll pick it when you hear it!), the Rush-like stop-start vocal rocker `The Rocket Ride' reminds of German band Message with its propulsive guitar drama crossed with soul-searching lyrics, and the Budgie-esque `I'm Coming Home' is a peppy vocal rocker with little surges of nimble guitar soloing and blustery noise.

The flip-side's `You Mystify' is another longer one at almost eight minutes, gliding between groovy electric guitar sauntering, bluesy strutting and wailing soloing tantrums, and the Rush-like `Tool of My Trade' has trickles of tasty Hammond organ breaking through the gutsier erupting guitar bursts. The more introspective `My Heaven' crosses reflective acoustic and fiery electric guitar passages with a spiritual slant to the words, and lusty closer `Birdcatcher' is a relentless bluesy wailer that dips into a flute-carried dreamy interlude in the middle before rumbling to life again in the final moments.

Despite being adorned in a Roger Dean cover, `Clear Blue Sky' is hardly a prog-rock album, instead it crosses the sounds of both the late Sixties and emerging Seventies, offering rock tunes branching out with adventurous arrangements and longer unhurried soloing. But those who like guitar-driven `proto-prog' sounds or simply great rock albums with tons of character will likely dig the hell out of this spiky and addictive little one.

Four stars.

Report this review (#1909866)
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2018 | Review Permalink

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