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CRACK THE SKY

Crack The Sky

Heavy Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars A few weeks ago, I had the surprise to find CTS had been included on the Archives, but from memories of my Canadian teenhood and the few aural encounters I had with them, I had problems relating them to prog. My souvenir was of an average radio-friendly hard-rock band that had a promising debut album, but little more to offer the teen I was then and the prog buff adult I have become. So I set out to see if the national library had anything to lend, and much to my surprise, they did

CTS's debut album is a rather tight rock that approaches progressive moments - their third track Sea Epic is not far from Kansas (for the guitars) meeting Ambrosia (for the string arrangements), but mostly develops straight-forward short rock songs dominated by the guitars in general but the keys make regular appearances on this record, something that is to diminish with further albums. Robots and Sleep are also rather pleasant tracks, and Ice is quite inspired and maybe the most progressive track on the album, but there are some real stinkers (Dancer just to name one). On the whole this first album is, as I remembered it, worthy of notice. Too bad the following albums do not hold the promise made with this one.

Just in case you care enough to investigate, this album was coupled with their fourth studio - but fifth overall - album (an odd non-sequential pairing) by Lifesong Record in 8! (cat# LSCD 8801). While the debut is worth your investigation in case you have no other inspiration, the other record is definitely not.

Report this review (#60666)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The best album from CTS. Progressive elements together with an often very groovy 70's hard rocking vibe. Very good arrangements within the group as well as horn and string sections. I like all the songs on the album but Ice is a very original track in 3/4 time. Its clever twists and effective breaks works fine all the way. Look out for nice sounding harmonies on I Don't Have A Tie and Sleep. I love the kind of trippy seventies feel that this album represents which is already apparent on the opening tracks Hold On/Surf City which kind of transcends into eachother. Great musicianship and many fun moments on this their debut. Check out!
Report this review (#187184)
Posted Monday, October 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Here is where it all began...the debut hard hitting album by the band known as CRACK THE SKY. This explosive art rock album is a true stonker housing many of the most fan loved tunes "ICE", "Hold On" and "Surf City". Musically this band play a slice of pure original progressive rock creating for themselves definitely their own unique sound and approach. On the Lifesong remaster they have included 4 extra bonus tracks offering some rare and unreleased bits for their past. The album even has a little bit of mellotron. An awesome album and deserves a lot for attention then they got.
Report this review (#223813)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This was a very good debut for Crack The Sky. The songs are tight, well written and arranged. Although there are only two complete songs, plus a few instrumental parts on other songs I would say qualify as prog.

One thing that stands out is the way the musicians play together so perfectly. Joe Macre's snaky, rubbery bass is perfectly aligned with Joey D'Amico's drumming. And guitarists Jim Griffiths and Rick Witkowski aound like they grew up playing together.

One standout song is "A Sea Epic", which is, well, a sea epic. I won't give away the punch line. Another good one is "She's A Dancer", a gender-bender song with a great solo section at the end, featuring the Brecker Brothers and David Sanborn on horns. The best song is "Ice", the most proggy song on the record. This song is only four and a half minutes here, but live versions have been know to go over twice that.

Beware of the CD version coupling this album with the awful "White Music". It's missing "Mind Baby" from this album, where, if they needed the space, there are plenty of stinkers they could have dropped from the other album.

Report this review (#224161)
Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Roland113
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In My Not So Humble Opinion:

Crack the Sky's eponymous debut is surprisingly good.

So, the bands for 3RP were being announced last winter and it was time for another big announcement. They had just announced It Bites and IQ, I'll admit, I was hoping for Frost*. Instead they announced "Crack the Sky". My first thought was "Who?" I mentioned this to my uncle who was a progger in his day and he mentioned how much he loved them. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later, I was given their first few albums to listen to. . . They're really good.

For starters, they do have a somewhat dated sound; this was obviously recorded in the seventies, though with progressive rock, that tends to be more of a badge of honor rather than a problem.

I'm hard pressed to describe exactly what they sound like, the best that I can come up with is this. Take the quirkiness of Mr. Frank Zappa's lyrics sung by a mellower John Fogherty and throw it over a more progressive version of Led Zeppelin. All in all, it's a pretty good combination. Guitarist Rick Witkowski in particular seems to emulate the classic Jimmy Page guitar sound.

"Crack the Sky" starts out with "Hold On" a rocking Zep sounding tune with some wonderful four part harmonies punctuating the chorus and odd musical breaks. This goes directly into the funky "Surf City". Again, the music has some odd moments of silence intermixed within the almost doo wop vocals.

"Sea Epic" is just that, a jaunting six and a half minute shanty about a sinking ship; chock full of mystery, intrigue and humor. The 'hero' starts the song out, nobly requesting that God save the Admiral and the Captain. Half way through, he apparently comes to his senses and prays for salvation for both himself and the cook. This is a well done song, again fully of epic harmonies and salty intrigue.

"She's a Dancer" reminds us to look before we leap; you never know quite what's lurking down there. Another well done song. "Robots for Ronnie" laments the fate of a boy who just can't seem to make any friends. The tearful chorus cries that we need to make robots for the child to keep him company.

All in all, the first five songs are all fantastic, each worthy of four stars in their own right.

"Ice" is another Zep sounding song, I'm not too terribly familiar with Zeppelin, but I'm thinking it's kind of a clone of "Children of the Sun". "Mind Baby" is forgettable.

"I Don't Have a Tie" has a Steely Dan feel to it, good vocals, good harmonies and kind of a funky groove to it This is the best track of the back half of the CD. "Sleep" is another classic rock sounding track with kind of an America feel to it.

And voila, we have "Crack the Sky", basically, the first five songs are great while the last half is a tour of the seventies classic rock scene. I give this one a four star rating, more like a three and a half which rounds to four. If you're looking for fun seventies rock, this is a band worth exploring.

Report this review (#229999)
Posted Tuesday, August 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The frankly non-existent sub-genre of danceable prog seemingly begins and ends with the brazen American outfit Crack The Sky, a short-lived group who somehow fused a funky art-pop sensibility onto their furiously-inventive pop-prog melodies - and got away it. Featuring some wonderfully sharp lyrical observations, impressive musical interplay and some rather un- proggishly short songs, this quirky group's 1975 debut is living proof that there really was an artful side lurking beyond the limited confines of the mid-seventies American prog scene, a scene dominated by a handful of once-decent groups - Journey, Styx, Starcastle, Kansas - who nonetheless all managed to eventually adhere to the commercially-viable, stadium-rock sized aspirations of the cynical record company executives who controlled the purse strings. Crack The Sky, it seems, were the eccentric exceptions that prove this rule. Very much a product of the 1970's but sounding like they both: a) belonged to the eighties and: b) had been piping a certain drug found in their name, this was a group who sought to add a touch of hysterically campy new-wave glamour to proceedings, blending the high-brow creativity of groups like Yes and Genesis with the playful pazzaz of David Bowie, Roxy Music et al. It doesn't always work - sometimes the group overcook their formula to the point of silliness - yet when they do click, as on tunes such as the wonderfully absurd 'She's A Dancer', Crack The Sky really show their bones. Pity, then, that the five-piece are unable to fill-out an entire album with nuggets like these, as much of this debut album is divided between either the inspired or the insipid. Tracks like 'Surf City' seem half-formed, yet on the other end of the scale you'll find complex witticisms adorning tricksy time-signatures in almost perfect harmony, the excessively energetic 'I Don't Have A Tie' a testament to Crack The Sky's indulgent style. That said, this a very singular release, and at times the music defies labelling, a sure signifier of true progressive instincts. An uneven first try then, but this nicely ironic debut is just as technically enthralling as anything by your more serious-minded groups, and it's a genuine relief to find actual humour in the progressive rock genre that doesn't rely on the surreal or the fantastical. To put it mildly: you ain't heard anything quite like this before. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
Report this review (#636399)
Posted Sunday, February 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Crack the Sky ? What can I say? This band was about as unique and witty as it could get in 1975. Progressive Rock was just starting to mature, when this edgy Prog-Crossover group hit the scene. It is actually quite controversial among Progressive Rock fans as to whether this band is progressive or not. This band followed and still follows no rules, nor placed itself in any genre. In fact, at the time I started listening to them in the mid-70s, I did not think of them as "Progressive", but since then realize that they do not fit neatly into any other category and have some brilliant progressive cross-over moments, and therefore Progressive is really the best category for them. They have 16 releases, which are all very (very) different. Some of the records are more straight-forward rock, while others are more decidedly progressive. Most of their records have moments of Pop-Punk and elements of Electronica, all with satirical, witty, quirky lyrics producing a distinctive sound that is easily identifiable as Crack the Sky. The technical aspect of the music is sophisticated and complex. The first three records are responsible for generating 90 percent of their fan base as the group generated a dedicated hard core following in from 1975 through 1982 before they started breaking off into more experimental directions. Unfortunately the band never broke past having a "cult" following. They are almost "too different" for the "run of the mill" Prog-Rock fan who generally claims to pride themselves on appreciation of the unusual. The first three records; Self-Titled Debut, Animal Notes and Safety in Numbers were defined by the unique musical sound and lyrical style that was Crack the Sky. Everything after that has been an exploration in different directions for the band while maintaining the core sound. John Palumbo's distinct vocal along with the exceptional guitar-work excellence of Rick Witkowski has been at the core for most of the bands existence with other members coming and going throughout, with perhaps the most complete and talented version of the band playing at ROSFest in 2008. The band is little known and rarely performs outside of the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It has always dumbfounded me that this band did not become an internationally renowned icon as they are simply exceptional regardless of whether you agree that they are progressive or not. If you have not seen them live, the performances can only be explained as extreme FUN! I know that this is supposed to be an album review, but Crack the Sky is more defined by the array of unique styles that propagate through their music as opposed to individual album or track releases. For some reason that I cannot fully explain, this exceptional band continues to suffer from not having enough exposure. I urge you to listen to them; preferably in order of the releases. And write more reviews to give this band the critical acclaim that they actually deserve.
Report this review (#846454)
Posted Sunday, October 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Can I consider this prog? Well... does it even matter? 8/10

The eponymous of CRACK THE SKY is energetic, heavy and interesting. The first two tracks ( Hold on and Surf City) are the hooks that make you listen to this 13-tracks long progressive (?) hard rock piece.

I'll tackle this detail about my doubt regarding this being properly progressive. I find the definition rather shady, particularly on those Canadian lads, because their sound is distinctive hard, distorted rock. I must agree there's many unconventional structures featured, but sounding different isn't enough to be 'progressive' properly in my opinion. However, it is progressive because that's how it's deemed, and I won't question this, after all the general consensus, is, after all, what makes a definition... a definition. So if everyone says "this is prog", well, this is prog. Oh, the pragmatic wonder of socially constructed concepts. But as much as "progressive" is debatable, "hard rock" isn't. It is almost distilled AC/DCidic rock purity.

Back to the album, it's perhaps more humoristic than one would expect. Hold On, Surf City, Sea Epic, She's a Dancer, Robots for Ronnie; Eileen, I Lean on You (I bet my chips the music is just a filler and the whole purpose was to put this pun on the album), Dr. Octopus (pt. 2) (for those with the bigger version)... they're a very humorous band. This factor brings much freshness to the lyrics, and therefore to the songs. The guitar is superb and ABSURDLY distorted - some will feast, others will cringe ('distortion sucks' purists, mostly).

Each track is also VERY unique on their own: Hold On is features powerful guitar riffs and solos. Rhythmically, it is relatively complex, and that's going to be enough for me to name it 'prog' and call it a day. Surf City's verse is interesting, resembling GENTLE GIANT's Knots. Sea Epic is an orchestral epic tale about a man on a boat praying to God, whom... listen to his prayers, in a certain way. The humor here is the flavor that brings interest to the music. Lastly, there's - accordingly, to lyrics sites - the band's most viewed song, She's a Dancer offers an unforeseen funky grip on the track, whose solo section also could be deemed as "progressive". The lyrics' buildup to the "plot twist" is pretty interesting, and will most likely leave you with a grin.

If you like hard rock, whether or not proggy, listen to this track. It's guaranteed you'll enjoy at least one of the abundant tracks. If you're into humor, then that's a plus. CRACK THE SKY is great at making you smile both from the good song and good jokes they produce. If you like IRON MAIDEN, give this a shot too - the vocalist definitively resembles, at least slightly, Bruce Dickinson. If you like THE SEX PISTOLS, jump to the last track - Dr. Octopus (pt. 2). I guess the vocalist is really good at sounding like other people.

Report this review (#1673197)
Posted Tuesday, December 27, 2016 | Review Permalink

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