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Sky The Great Balloon Race  album cover
3.34 | 33 ratings | 2 reviews | 6% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1985

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Desparate for your love (6:37)
2. Allegro (3:34)
3. The land (3:19)
4. Peter's wedding (7:19)
5. The great balloon race (4:50)
6. The lady & the imp (5:39)
7. Caldando (4:34)
8. Roleystone (3:24)
9. Night sky (2:31)

Total Time: 41:47

Line-up / Musicians

- Kevin Peek / guitars
- Steve Gray / keyboards
- Herbie Flowers / bass
- Tristan Fry / percussion

Guest Musicians:
- Ron Aspery / saxophones & flutes on "Peter's Wedding"
- Adrian Brett / pan pipes
- Lee Fothergill / guitars
- Tony Hymas / synthesiser & vocals on "Desperate For Your Love"
- Clare Torry / Vocals

Releases information

CS Columbia FMT-42052

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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SKY The Great Balloon Race ratings distribution

(33 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(6%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(24%)
Good, but non-essential (48%)
Collectors/fans only (21%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

SKY The Great Balloon Race reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by russellk
3 stars Exit John Williams.

Without the classical guitar maestro, few expected SKY to soldier on. But they did, and I for one am glad. This album was a pleasant surprise: it moves away from SKY's increasingly irrelevant instrumental formula, incorporating new instruments (synthesiser, flute and pan pipes, for example), and some interesting songs. The opener, 'Desperate for your Love' is a lazy, slow-building number unlike anything else SKY did, with a spoken vocal, and they almost pull it off. The rest of the first side and much of the second is well-played but ultimately unmemorable.

The power of this record comes from two pieces: the achingly beautiful 'Caldando' and the following rocker 'Roleystone'. These pieces, along with the first and title track, could have formed the basis for a major departure for SKY, had they but shown the courage to completely abandon their tried and true formula.

You don't need this record, but if you see it lying around somewhere, dust it off and slap it on your turntable. It's worth an hour of your time.

Review by Matti
4 stars "We were stretching our wings a little bit. When you've got two guitars, piano, bass and drums, you're stuck. Suddenly we had the opportunity to use a voice, brass and other things. It's definitely the most varied of the Sky albums but I'm glad about that. It stopped us being bored." -- Herbie Flowers in the liner notes of the Esoteric Recording's reissue from 2015.

Probably there were feelings of boredom also on the listeners' behalf. SKY had been repeating the formula based mostly on the classical pieces, although their previous, not very rewarding album "Cadmium..." (1983) only had an adaptation of Prokofiev's Sleigh Ride' amidst original compositions from the band. When the famed classical guitarist John Williams announced his departure just before an Australian tour, "disbanding at this stage was never really an option" according to Flowers. The tour was done with a couple of guest musicians, Ron Aspery (sax, keys) and Lee Fothergill (guitars), both of whom are guesting on this album among a few others.

In a nutshell, The Great Balloon Race will most likely (at first, anyway) disappoint a listener seeking for the typical SKY music, but listened to without prejudices it might surprise you in a positive way. Actually it feels more progressive than their usual rocking-the-classics approach, and in a modern way. Indeed this is a brave album coming from the mid-80's. I sense some kindred spirit to e.g. Mike Oldfield, Pekka Pohjola or The Enid.

'Desperate for Your Love' was composed by Tony Hymas -- a keyboardist from Jeff Beck's band etc. -- who also speaks the sparse lyrics and plays the airy synths. Clare Torry, remembered from Pink Floyd's 'The Great Gig in the Sky', adds nice backing vocals. This mostly very slow and spatial piece is a major departure in style, but a pleasant one. Steve Gray's 'Allegro' is a fast and sharply rocking piece with a more typical SKY sound. 'The Land' written by Kevin Peek and Trevor Spencer was inspired by the vast landscapes of Australia, their home country. Synths dominate this beautiful piece with an orchestral illusion.

Herbie Flowers wrote 'Peter's Wedding' as a wedding gift for the band's manager. This playful, ambitious and progressive composition makes me occasionally think of Pekka Pohjola's music from the 80's onwards. Flowers composed also the following title track that progresses from serenity to slightly annoying rhythmic sharpness. 'Lady and the Imp' (by Flowers/Gray) is a many-sided and playful piece that sounds orchestral like The Enid. Steve Gray's 'Caldando' easily satisfies the fans of SKY with its classically influenced calmness focusing on acoustic guitar and softly played keyboards, and pan pipes fit in very well.

Kevin Peek's lively 'Roleystone' has a hilarious drive; the bright synth riff reminds me of Mike Oldfield's 'Guilty'. The album closes beautifully with Steve Gray's serene 'Night Sky'. All in all this is a surprisingly interesting album. Despite some slightly irritating sonic details, the band's sound is rewardingly updated, and also the compositions show respectable bravery. 3 stars rounded up!

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