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SKY

Sky

Eclectic Prog


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4 stars What a beautiful album. I am very happy that the band has been included in ProgArchives. The first composition Westway is very energetic and as rockish as Sky can be taking into account classical training and careers of the members. I always imagine driving a car in the early morning through London. (Well, it can be any city.) Next two (Carillon and Danza) are very beautiful almost classical pieces played very skillfully. Gymnopedie is a good reworking of Eric Sati's famous piano piece. Cannonball is another my favourite. Very rockish and classical in the same time. The last almost 20-minutes Where opposites meet is a magnificent opus alhough slightly unfocused. I will not comment on misicanship, because it is impeccable. Highly recommended for any prog collection, especially if you like classical influence in prog music.

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Send comments to Foxy (BETA) | Report this review (#31178)
Posted Thursday, June 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sky's debut album was published in a time when the terms "prog rock", "art rock" and other derived ones meant something vile, pathetically pretentious and ultimately worthless. Sky was actually a supergroup consisting of veterans united for the task of making intelligent and attractive music for the turn of the new decade - former Curved Air founding member Monkman, together with three excellent and well reputed session musicians (Flowers, Peek and Fry) and classical guitar maestro Williams, joined forces in order to perpetuate the ideology of combining rock, classical and jazz, and to do so, they decided to alternate attractive, complex musical ideas of their own with foreign ideas excerpted from the area of chamber music (and occasionally, traditional folk as well). There are also some hints to pop sensibility, which helps the melodic lines and harmonic layers to come to the fore as a clear point of reference for all musicians. While it is clear all throughout the album that each individual member incarnates a polished example of mastery and finesse at their respective instrument, the main point is that the interplay between all players is the absolute star in this casting, and not only tow or three of them. And this is the major virtue of this album (and of Sky's overall style): the fluid combination of all individual efforts into a common sonic source. It is the 5-part suite 'Where Opposites Meet' - which filled the whole B side of the vinyl - where all the band's virtues are fully exposed: that makes it the definitive highlight if the album. On the poppier side of things, 'Westway' and 'Cannonball' manage to be quite catchy while retaining some of the prototypical elegance of symph prog, while tracks 3 and 4 show us the band's academic side. Among the shorter numbers, my personal fave is the beautiful, relaxing 'Carillon': I wish the band had arranged it properly in order to extend it a bit longer. After all this praise, let me tell you something about my collateral reservations on this album: I feel that this repertoire lacks some extra energy that is potentially there, but not properly worked on and developed (except for the aforementioned suite). My guess is that the fivesome chose to focus in their capability to create exquisite music while they were getting to get increasingly acquainted with each other: once they did so, the resulting energy took off, as their next two albums would eventually prove. But by the time their debut album was recorded, that special spark was yet to find its "full frontal" light. All things considered, my personal rating for this album stands somewhere between "just good" and "excellent": anyway, it sure makes a great entry in any good prog collection.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#31179)
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Ah yes, I remember Sky... they came out around the time I got into the Mahavishnu Orchestra and having just reviewed Birds of Fire (5 stars) I was thinking what other if any instrumental-based groups with higher musical aspirations were around. Of the ones I knew, there was King Crimson, and er..Sky.

Sky's music was pleasant and unassuming; slightly fast-paced wallpaper music that wasn't very imaginative and all a bit sterile. You could have put them on as support act for Neil Diamond (nothing wrong with that I'm just indicating that they were well.. slightly too MOR for some tastes). "Ooh, but they're real classical musicians and they really play their instruments" my parents would cry. Well yes, but even though they are all 24-carat classical musicians, I actually prefer the likes of ELP's ventures into the classics - heck, either you listen to the original or you want to listen to something that's new and a bit different. But if I want to listen to John Williams I'll take an album of his classical guitar work thank you.

I won't say the Sky fell in for me when I listened to their album again (sorry! couldn't resist...) and actually it really is quite pleasant to have on in the background - oh dear, is that what's called damning with faint praise?

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Send comments to Phil (BETA) | Report this review (#41426)
Posted Wednesday, August 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars For all his worth, this writer always had problems considering this "group" seriously, not just as a rock group but also as valid artistes: There are so many doubtful moments about these guys's integrity - I am speaking of the classical music's adaptations as well as giving credits to the masters who wrote the themes these guys are re-working. Those of you who have read my (poor) reviews of groups like Trace or Ekseption, will know I am not kind to that particular brand of Rocking The Classics. I was always a bit wary of Curved Air's Francis Monkman ripping off the dead classical, composers, too and in Sky, this is probably even more audible than in his previous group. However, compared to those Dutch masters of the genre, both Curved Air and Sky (funny air association is it not?) are much more personal in the way they render their versions.

While a lot of progheads laud Sky's first four albums (well they are prog, but certainly nothing approaching the cannons of the genre), these guys never really work up a sweat either in the writing dept or even playing out their tunes. Even their loudest passage on this album does not even reach the waist of dB levels of the slower Yes tracks. One big problem I have with these guys is their slick sound, not one single note louder or out of range than the rest of them; While I would not call Sky elevator music or easy-listening, it is not that far away from that either. The jazzy intonations these guys are giving are sometimes also veering towards ECM- type of jazz rock/fusion never far from passe-partout and downright bland.

Please do not get me wrong here, the musicianship is impeccable and the music can be even enjoyable, but as background music to an afternoon in the sack with the partner, but as far as listening music is concerned, I find this unnervingly shallow. I suppose that the period in which they recorded their better albums (this actually might be it) has also something to do with their sound: by now digital synths were definitely taking the upper hand on their analogue ancestors, and believe me, it shows, but they will not resort to loops or other effects: these guys were studio pros and knew how to play their instruments. In some weird sort of way, their music can be likened to a vocal-less Alan Parson Project (their fist three albums), with a slightly more prog twist. Also a cross of Happy The Man meets an instrumental Toto.

Bonus track Dies Irae is an invaluable addition to the album (even though it is inspired by Berlioz) and might even be my favourite. But even with this track, Iwill generously round my rating to the upper nit, meaning three stars only.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#70722)
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is what it is all about. Progressive rock. A tastefull combination of classical music and rock&roll, yes? Well not quite. Progressive rock, atleast to me, is rock with same attitude to treat a musical thema as is in classical compositions. A suitable variation of sonata form, kinda. This Sky is a effort to combine the two musics in a way that you take a classical composition and arrange it to a rock band. Well all classical music is not progressive or atleast not very progressive. And the chosen compositions are not among the best choices.

Anyway this is enjoyable music. Extremely skillfull and experienced musicians. Good arrangements. Interesting music. There were moments when I was so pleased that I thought of to give a five. But then I started to analyze the music more carefully. This is no masterpiece but is s is important album? This was not the first effort, to play classical with a rock band. The Nice didi it over 10 years earlier and many other as well. Music flows well and is comlex enough to keep your interest. Four stars. But as prog? Good but not essential.

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Send comments to pirkka (BETA) | Report this review (#86303)
Posted Wednesday, August 09, 2006 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album is a gem, as is the one that followed it, Sky2.

SKY was an interesting experiment: a group of session musicians, some with band experience (Francis Monkman from CURVED AIR and Kevin Peek fresh from working with DAVID BOWIE) collaborating with a highly skilled classical guitarist on what people at the time considred jazz/rock fusion. I first saw them on a TV jazz programme in the early 1980s, but by then I'd purchased their first two albums and had been converted to their sound.

They were far more than 'rock the classics' instrumentalists, though they were to do themselves a disservice with their fourth album, which contained little original music. This first album did have some well-known classical pieces, the best of them SADIE'S haunting 'Gymnopedie', but the highlights of SKY'S oeuvre were always their roriginal music, and here Francis Monkman was front and centre. The astonishing 'Where Opposites Meet', which takes up side two of the vinyl release, is essential listening, to see what can be done with a combination of classical and contemporary stringed instruments. It's entirely Monkman's composition, and I've heard nothing better. 'Westway' is the album's other highlight, a piece that nails their colours to the mast immediately: here we get splendid bass lines overlaid with playful acoustic guitar and harpsichord, underpinned by a driving beat.

It goes without saying that the musicianship here is outstanding. But don't mistake perfection for lack of passion. What we get here is subtlety. An excellent debut release, and well worth picking up - if you can find it.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#112959)
Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Granny prog?

Sky were formed in 1979 through the coming together of five highly accomplished musicians. Classical guitarist John Williams had previously called upon the services of bassist Herbie Flowers as producer of his solo album "Travelling". Curved Air's keyboard player Francis Monkman played on that album, and the three began to discuss working together on a project. The vision was to bring together rock and classical music in a way which would appeal to a wider audience. Guitarist Kevin Peek and drummer Tristan Fry were brought in to complete the line up, and Sky was born.

There are certain parallels in the work of Sky with those of Asia. Both involve highly talented and accomplished musicians creating something which is hugely successful in commercial terms, but which does not fully reflect the underlying talent. Here we have a succession of instrumental pieces which even your granny would enjoy. The music is simplistic and direct with catchy hooks and heart-warming melodies. Now there is of course nothing wrong with that whatsoever, this album is a highly enjoyable listen. If it prog at all though, this is prog-lite.

While many of the tracks here have strong classical leanings, all but two are original band compositions. Pieces such as "Carillon" will sound highly familiar, its simple melody being instantly infectious. Such upbeat numbers are balanced by the more delicate arrangement of Satie's "Gymopiedie No. 1". "Cannonball" was released as a single, the chiming lead guitar melody being ideal for that medium.

The focal point of the album is the 20 minute suite "Where opposites meet" written by Francis Monkman. In the sleeve notes, Flowers hypothecates that the title reflects the diverse backgrounds of the group members. Monkman however alludes to an altogether more abstract concept involving Zen and infinity. The track takes the form of a classical piece, with varied lead instruments and moods. From a prog perspective, this is altogether more satisfactory, but even here there is something lightweight, perhaps new age, about the whole exercise.

The 1993 CD release has a bonus track "Dies irae", a piece credited to Francis Monkman but which has its roots in Berlioz "Symphonie Fantastique".

In all, a pleasant listen, and an album you can safely play to the relatives.

Incidentally, the band name apparently came about through a session of sticking names to the wall. I wonder though if it subconsciously relates to the ending of the names of some of the great composers such as Tchaikovsky and Moussoursky. Just a thought.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#176267)
Posted Monday, July 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sky I is as the name suggests the debut studio album from UK progressive rock act Sky. Sky has a very prolific progressive rock name in the lineup and itīs the reason why I picked this album up in the first place. Francis Monkman is mostly known for being a founding member of Curved Air and guesting on the Rajah Khan song from the third Renaissance album Prologue. Sky is not a showcase for Monkmanīs skills though, but more of a group effort.

The music is very melodic, generally simple, instrumental progressive rock. Most melody lines are played by the classically trained guitar player John Williams on acoustic guitar but Monkmanīs keyboards are also pretty dominant. The rythm section is pretty straight forward. Just keeping the beat most of the time. Nothing out of the ordinary. The album consists of six songs where the first five are short ( about 3 minutes each) and the last song Where opposites meet Pt. 1 to Pt. 5 is a 19:30 minute long piece. Personally I think Skyīs music fits the short song formula best. Iīm a little bored when I listen to Where opposites meet Pt. 1 to Pt. 5. Sky reminds me a bit about late seventies and early eighties Camel.

The musicianship is excellent. I could have wished for a more interesting rythm approach, but I guess thatīs an aquired taste.

The production is a bit thin and itīs obvious that weīre close to the end of the seventies here.

The music is very pleasant and nice but itīs almost too nice at times and as other reviewers have also pointed out this is close to easy listening background music. Itīs a bit more sophisticated and interesting than that though and Iīll rate the album 3 stars. Itīs a pretty average album that seriously lacks highlights IMO. Good but never excellent.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#188787)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The band SKY would appeal to those who enjoy the instrumental works of the Alan Parsons Project, early symphonic period of Mike Oldfield and '80s Camel. Entirely instrumental, almost like a distant sounding Discipline-era King Crimson without the dissonance of Mr. Fripp and oddball lyrics of Adrien Belew. Better yet, what the California Guitar Trio might sound like by collaborating with the Alan Parrsons Project. Very proper and organized sounding instrumentals. The album gets better as it moves along and really starts to take off with _Cannonball_ then concludes with the sprawling _When Opposites Meet_ which has familiar themes pop in and out throughout its 20 minutes. The bonus track _Dies Irae_ is similar to the track _Vrooom_(King Crimson '95) in composition style, however - without the sheets of sound. 3.5 really, but gets a 4 rating to bump it up a bit here. The second SKY album is similar, but can't grab my attention for the entire 2 LP set. Stick with the first SKY. If you need more, then by all means get SKY 2 as well. Points of reference for production values similar to SKY in *sound* in the year 1978 are BANCO's _Di Terra_ and Alan Parson Project's Pyramid.

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Send comments to Gooner (BETA) | Report this review (#195279)
Posted Saturday, December 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars SKY were a band of 5 excellent and versatile musicians, all veterans of the 70's music industry, performing totally instrumental music with a mainstream edge to it. The main attraction here though would have to be Francis Monkman, keyboardist of the original line-up of CURVED AIR. His work here on keys is often beautiful (piano, harpsichord, clavinet and synths), complimentary to the other band members' classical approach to composition and performance - indeed Aussie John Williams is a master of classical guitar, often incorporating jazz, rock and even folk elements in his playing. The rhythm section of Tristan Fry (dr/perc.) and Herbie Flowers (bass) are capable of handling the diversity of the involved arrangements, and lastly, a second guitarist/composer in Kevin Peek completes the line-up. As a few pointers here, ALAN PARSON'S PROJECT and early 80's CAMEL come to mind. Soft-Prog maybe - accessible, but skillfully played - much of the complexities are overshadowed by the smoothness of the production and the highly melodic nature of the songs. Side 1 features 5 short pieces, of which the stand-out would be their arrangement of Satie's 'Gymnopedie No. 1' - just love that gentle beauty, Monkman's keys are wonderfully ethereal here. The remaining tracks are mostly undemanding and pleasant on the ears - up-tempo opener 'Westway' has that noticeable APP feel to it, 'Carrillon' is classical and mainly acoustic, 'Danza' is folky, said Satie piece is superb and 'Cannonball' is again similar to APP with a commercial and catchy arrangement. The 'meat' of the album is Monkman's side-long contribution 'Where Opposites Meet' - a keyboard-heavy journey full of captivating themes, occasional odd time sigs, great ideas and shifting moods. The musicianship is tight, especially the interplay between keys and guitars. The bass playing is solid for the most part, though elaborate at times and the drums are kept simple. 3 star effort here, as massive improvement came on their next album 'SKY 2'.

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#595087)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a good album. I pretty much agree with the largely positive reviews on progarchives. It is part nostalgia for me to pull out the crackly vinyl copy I have of this, Sky's first release. The sound quality is great all the same. I can confirm the strong classical influences and renditions throughout. I am not convinced of the rock people refer to as it is very soft here. There is electric guitar on some pieces though. A modern sound runs through for sure but it is definitely a product of its time. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. It is charming and pleasurable, however one couldn't consider it progressive for the late seventies. There is no denying the quality playing of course. Monkman's synth, piano, keyboards are really showcased on the album as well as William's classical guitar. Highlights are the opening 'Westway', the tranquil composition that follows called ' 'Carillon', the lovely, folky 'Danza' and on side 2 the opening parts of 'Where opposites meet' are excellent. Fine music for your collection. Three solid stars.

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Send comments to Frankie Flowers (BETA) | Report this review (#1139967)
Posted Friday, February 28, 2014 | Review Permalink

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