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5 stars The second album (1980) by the British instrumental band SKY was a double vinyl. For many listeners, including me, it's their best work, and the last one before keyboardist Francis Monkman from Curved Air was replaced by Steve Gray. The latter is a fine musician too, but much of the progressive rock orientation in SKY's music was lost when Monkman departed. This single contains two tracks from Sky2. Although the compositions weren't new, they both are among the highlights in the entire Sky catalogue.

'Toccata' was arranged by guitarist Kevin Peek from the mighty, famous organ composition of Johann Sebastian Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565. The powerful arrangement works wonderfully. The prog genre had a long tradition of making rock versions of classical pieces: The Nice, ELP, Ekseption... It's not too often that "rocking the classics" is done with such inspiration. Sky's 'Toccata' uses to the maximum the dramatic essence of the original Baroque composition, and the modern rock instruments make it a tight, exciting, 4-minute rollercoaster ride. Especially Monkman's work on synthesizers is marvelous. As a side note: my spouse doesn't like it, she thinks it's extravagant and pretentious, probably the same way that I see some of ELP's wildest pieces. But the pop music listeners at the time did like it: 'Toccata' peaked at No. 5 on British single charts.

'Vivaldi' is a rearranged CURVED AIR piece written by the band's violinist Darryl Way, which originally appeared on their debut album Air Conditioning (1970). It is loosely based on the well-known freezy movement of the "Winter" concerto of Antonio Vivaldi's Le Quattro Stagioni. Frankly, the way Way used to use the piece as the platform for his extended soloing was rather tiring in my opinion. Sky's version, over three minutes shorter, is much more powerful, and a firm group effort in which all give their best without overshadowing the others.

There are two preceding ratings, both five stars. I have no heart to break the line, even though I very seldom give a full rating for a single containing album material only.

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Posted Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Review Permalink

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