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Crack The Sky - Animal Notes CD (album) cover


Crack The Sky

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4 stars At their best, Crack The Sky reached the heights of artrock expression. A myriad of styles intersect effortlessly, lyrics are clever and delivered with equal measures of humor and gravity, and the performances are confident but not overwrought. The best Crack The Sky albums equal the best material by peers like 10cc, Queen and Max Webster. 'Animal Notes' is their second album, and along with successor 'Safety In Numbers', it's a high point in their discography. Both are recommended to all prog fans.

Coming off the quirky but relatively conservative self-titled debut, John Palumbo led Crack The Sky through eight engaging numbers on 'Animal Notes'. The brooding atmosphere of "Animal Skins" and ambitious melancholy of "Maybe I Can Fool Everybody (Tonight)" highlight Side 1. The musical themes in "Maybe..." are extremely affective, pulling distinct emotions from the listener: sadness, loneliness, longing. Aided by Palumbo's near-genius lyric writing, "Maybe..." remains a highlight of their catalog. Side 1 is rounded off with the harder rocking "We Want Mine" and "Wet Teenager", setting themselves apart thanks to dextrous playing and Palumbo's brilliant wordplay.

Side 2 gets proggier. "Rangers At Midnight" has everything you could want: a well- written storyline, an impressive dynamic range, excellent playing, unique arrangement ideas. Next track "Virgin...No" brings things to an entirely different plane, a hard rocking tune with curious shifts in tempo and time signature. "Invaders From Mars" finds Palumbo sounding like Genesis-era Peter Gabriel, and the music isn't far from the more linear material on 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'. Its final crashing flourishes lead to the sober "Play On", a smart, introspective ending.

There aren't a ton of keyboards here, a trait that sets artrock apart from the symphonic end of the genre. The guitar work on "Rangers At Midnight" takes the place of keyboards with commanding leads and themes, much in the way Brian May worked inside Queen's most ambitious songs. The players impress subtly, allowing Palumbo's songwriting gift to be the main focus. Though poor Crack The Sky albums outnumber good ones, the good ones should be investigated by even the most demanding prog fan.

Report this review (#58529)
Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars The least I can say is that our beloved ProgArchives are opening up the scope of interest, to rather surprising groups such as this one. Let me tell you right away that this is not a progressive rock group but rather a radio-friendly FM-sounding AOR band that did not receive much feedback from the not-so friendly radios. I cannot even say that there are many obvious progressive moments on any of their albums - they are your average guitar oriented group that wavered and oscillated between the James Gang, soft rock Ambrosia, and so many countless bands (Foghat also comes to mind sometimes) that flocked the lower rungs of the billboard 200 of the late 70's, and to be quite honest, did not really deserved to climb in the first half, either. Highlights are few and far between including Ranger At Midnight and the overlong but aptly-titled Maybe I Can Fool Everybody.

Not sure they achieved that feat for more than a few record spins. Complete lack of inspiration, and a journeyman attitude makes such an album best avoided by progheads looking for passionate music.

Report this review (#60667)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Without a question CTS were one of the most under appreciated prog art rock bands of the 70's (right up there with City Boy) and this their second album is nothing short of genius. In contrast to their debut album, Animal Notes explored a slightly softer and more acoustic side of sound while not straying too far from their signature sound. Highlights for me are the standout vocal harmonies and the guitar work of Rick Witkowski. For those who are not familiar with CTS you will find a high energy band with art rock written all over them......exceptional song writing, top notch musicianship, multi - genre challenging music....a mix of pop, rock and progressive rock at their core. Their sound is not that polished sound you hate but rather true raw sound and high energy playing. genuine graet music and a band I heartly endorse.
Report this review (#223831)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Although only one half of the songs on this album have prog credentials, this is still a very fine set. The better songs here are "Animal Skins", and eastern flavored song, with an extremely cool staccato bass line and weird string arrangement, "Maybe I Can Fool Everybody (Tonight)", a sort of ballad with a few off time licks thrown in, morphing into a hard rock middle solo section, and "Virgin...No" a hard rock tune in varying time signatures.

"Rangers At Midnight" always sounded to me like a song that Gabriel era Genesis might have written, had they hailed from Canada.

The rest of the album is a more standard hard rock fare, with John Palumbo's sometimes political, and usually humorous lyrics. Then their's "Play On". I usually skip over this too- maudlin track.

4 stars, partly for being a big part of the soundtrack of my youth. But where this album is good, it's very good.

Report this review (#224117)
Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Starmen?

Without wishing to appear to be judging a book by its cover, one look at the band image on the reverse of "Animal notes" does tend to confirm that Crack the Sky did not have any real prog ambitions. The smart outfits and long permed hair identify the band far more readily with the hairspray AOR of their American peers such as Styx and Boston.

With that in mind when listening to this the band's second album, this is nevertheless an album of good quality songs which go beyond being mere pop affairs. All the tracks are composed by vocalist John Palumbo, who ensures that he is given plenty of opportunity to display his talents, the twin lead guitar of Jim Griffiths and Rick Witkowski sharing the remaining limelight when it becomes available.

The four tracks on side one of the album are pretty standard pop rock affairs including the obligatory ballad "Maybe I can fool everybody tonight". The verse chorus structure which prevails offers little real opportunity for development of the songs beyond the inclusion of a brief guitar workout. The musicianship is of a consistently high quality, but we search in vain on side one for a standout track to give the album an identity.

Side two opens with the most ambitious track, "Rangers at midnight". This mini-suite in three parts (or "scenes") which runs to 7 minutes, sets out with the southern rock feel of bands such as The Band and Little Feat. The transition to Scene 2 ("Night patrol") offers an intriguing instrumental section which could have been further developed. The final section, "Let's lift our hearts up" becomes a raucous barroom sing-a-long.

"Invaders from Mars" is the oddest track, lyrically at least. The song appears to be a sort of Bowie tribute (or parody perhaps), both lyrically and in terms of the sound and style.

In all, a proficient but largely ordinary album. While the songs are well written and performed, they lack the spark which is needed to make the album worthy of recommendation. In prog terms, "Animal notes" sits very much on the periphery.

Report this review (#224689)
Posted Monday, July 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars For a much too brief period in the late 1970s, 'album-oriented rock' (AOR) radio stations were popular. On an AOR station, you could hear great music from bands that the pop stations did not ordinarily play. One of the darlings of AOR stations was Crack The Sky, especially the very catchy track 'We Want Mine,' which opens the ANIMAL NOTES album. This fast-moving song has some outstanding guitar work. The next track on the album, 'Animal Skins', completely changes the tempo and style, and I have always liked the contrast between those two songs. All the remaining songs on this album are just as enjoyable. I'll mention two in particular. 'Wet Teenager' contains some excellent lyrics about growing up and facing the struggles of life. The last track, 'Play On,' ends with a beautiful ELO-like piece played by a violin section. I was hooked on this album the first time I heard it, and it has been one of my favorites ever since. The student newspaper at the University of Notre Dame, THE OBSERVER, ranked ANIMAL NOTES as one of the top ten rock albums of the 1970s. That honor is well deserved. Play On!
Report this review (#635165)
Posted Friday, February 17, 2012 | Review Permalink

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