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SKY

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Sky biography
SKY is a British-Australian classic rock band formed in London in 1978 by classic guitarist John Williams (not to be confused with the American movie score composer of the same name), keyboarder Francis Monkman (of Curved Air fame), guitarist Kevin Peek, bassist Herbie Flowers and drummer Tristan Fry. Their unique style combined with the virtuosity of the individual members and easy accessibility of the compositions quickly gained them a huge and steady fan base. The absolute highlight of this era was a concert in Westminster Abbey in February 1981 (in fact the first ever rock concert there) which was video taped by BBC.

Unfortunately after only two albums Monkman decided to leave the outfit and he was replaced by Steve Gray. Grey's influence made the band sound more jazz oriented. After the third album audience interest gradually declined. After two more studio albums and a (excellent) live double album the band fell into oblivion.

The highlights in their discography ar certainly "Sky2", a double album with a broad variety of songs from very funny to virtually symphonic compositions. The other one is the above mentioned live album "Sky Five Live" on which every member of the band is able to show his prowess.

Highly recommended to everyone who likes easy listening and doesn't mind classical influences.

Sky official website

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SKY discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SKY top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.31 | 68 ratings
Sky
1979
3.81 | 73 ratings
Sky 2
1980
3.01 | 40 ratings
Sky 3
1981
2.54 | 30 ratings
Sky 4: Forthcoming
1982
2.28 | 18 ratings
Cadmium
1983
3.06 | 16 ratings
The Great Balloon Race
1985
3.02 | 17 ratings
Mozart
1987

SKY Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.47 | 13 ratings
Sky 5 Live
1983
3.09 | 7 ratings
Live in Nottingham
2002

SKY Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.00 | 3 ratings
Classic Rock Legends (DVD)
2002
4.04 | 5 ratings
Live In Concert: Bremen, Germany 1980 (DVD)
2005

SKY Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.09 | 5 ratings
Masterpieces: The Very Best of Sky
1984
4.00 | 5 ratings
The Best Of Sky
1994
3.50 | 2 ratings
Skywriting (Best Of...)
1994
3.67 | 3 ratings
The Very Best of Sky
1998
3.40 | 5 ratings
Squared
1999

SKY Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Cannonball
1979
0.00 | 0 ratings
Toccata
1980
2.55 | 6 ratings
Dies Irae
1980

SKY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sky 5 Live by SKY album cover Live, 1983
2.47 | 13 ratings

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Sky 5 Live
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars There are two preceding collab reviews for this live set, both very negative. That came as a surprise to me, although I basically agree on most that SouthSideoftheSky says. But first a little personal background of my SKY relationship. As a teenager I used to borrow vinyls from a library and that way learn new bands, and Five Live was such first-acquaintance album to me, and possibly my first INSTRUMENTAL pop/rock album in general. The totally atypical live experience (almost devoid of any interaction between the group and the audience), , well, it did make a peculiar impression on me, though not a very lasting one, for some time later I overtaped it. Something like a decade later I bought SKY2 -- generally seen as their best -- which I removed from my shelf a couple of years later. Even in my enormously prog-expansive recent years SKY has escaped my radar, until this year I received Esoteric Recordings' re-releases of the albums # 2-5 to be reviewed in a prog magazine. It probably helps being now a middle-aged man to better appreciate the academically stiff style of SKY, ha ha!

The roughly 95-minute set starts with a 20+ minute, admittedly narcotic wandering of 'Animals'. In my teens I couldn't quite decide whether it was an over-extended bore or a fascinating piece of music painting inner images to my mind. It sure demands a friendly and patient attitude from the listener but at least partially it is rewarding. The next track is a very delicate Tristan Fry arrangement of Camille Saint-SaŽns' 'The Swan' starring marimba. Not bad, actually.

'KP I' (written by, you guessed, Kevin Peek) has a rockier flavour and tastes more like the Sky2 material. Tristan Fry's marimba starts 'Dance of the Little Fairies', joined soon by piano, acoustic guitars and rhythm section. This joyfully galloping tune is a good example of the SKY music operating between the no-man's land of "pop" and "art" music. 'Love Duet' is a beautiful, romantic track starring guitars.

The second CD opens with a naive 'Bathroom Song' which has its own humorous charm, even if musically it is a throwaway tune. "Ignore!!! Except for the Glitterball", writes Herbie Flowers about it. 'KP II' is a lively fast-tempo tune offering the "rock" aspect which is so scarce in this set in general -- which doesn't mean I'd prefer it over the rockless tracks. 'Antigua', a moody classical guitar number of John Williams, is among the finest moments here. The rest of the set varies between narcotic and disappointing. But summa summarum: if you appreciate SKY also when they don't rock at all, there's no solid reason not to enjoy this double album as well. Just don't expect it to capture the "live energy" normally felt on live albums. SKY was not a rock band in that sense!

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 Sky 4: Forthcoming by SKY album cover Studio Album, 1982
2.54 | 30 ratings

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Sky 4: Forthcoming
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The music of SKY has been referred as "granny prog", and that amusing tag is indeed very accurate. Their classically influenced instrumental rock is technically perfect, clean, relatively free of big surprises - and quite sterile to the ears of acquainted prog listeners. It's probably the 2nd album (a double on a full-length CD) that has the most to offer for us. After that work keyboardist Francis Monkman (formerly of CURVED AIR) left Sky and was replaced by Steve Gray, who in my opinion was a very good choice. Funny how much he looks like greyed Tony Banks... But now onto the Forthcoming: this time Sky, featuring the classical guitar virtuoso John Williams, decided to make an all-covers album concentrating on the works of art music composers. To some this seems to be reason enough to malign the results, but I see no point to do so. Sky remains faithful to their own style, and this shortish album isn't so bad at all. Had they chosen only the best-known classical pieces that everyone would recognize, it would have been a totally different situation, closer to tasteless things like Hooked On Classics.

The danceable 'Masquerade' (Khatchaturian) sounds like it was written by - or for - this group. 'Ride of the Valkyries', the dramatic Wagner tune known also from the film Apocalypse Now, suffers from the popularity of the piece, and the electric guitar focussed sound is definitely not Sky at its best, nor is the drama captured very well. 'March to the Scaffold' (from Hector Berlioz' Fantastic Symphony) is percussionist Tristan Fry's choice, a favourite tune since his youth. The percussion comes to the fore in this strong arrangement. The next tune 'To Yelasto Pedi' is taken from the film "Z", familiar to many also as a sung version. This rhythmic track contains a small delicate moment for acoustic guitar and marimba.

'Waltz No. 2' (Ravel) is an excellent choice, especially as it isn't so worn-out. The nocturnal arrangement gives it a Satie-like spirit. I like the harpsichord and rich guitar texture on 'Fantasy' (Bach) but Baroque music suits much worse for crossover treatment. The version of a Spanish tune 'My Giselle', in which Kevin Peek's arrangement favours electric guitar, is poignantly compared to ALAN PARSONS PROJECT by Kenethlevine. 'Xango' of Brazilian origin leans on Fry's moody marimba but remains rather sleepy. 'Skylark', an evergreen composed by Hoagy Carmichael, has a nice classical guitar arrangement. ---------

My main reason to review Sky is receiving three recent Esoteric Recordings re-releases (# 2, 3, 4) that each feature a concert DVD as a bonus. From that point of view this one - with an 1982 TV performance entitled "Sky: Night Music" - is the least satisfying, both because of the shortness (approximately 46 minutes) and the cheaper visual looks. There's a fine acoustic arrangement of 'Fool on the Hill'. Tristan Fry's joke-like 'Tuba Smarties' seems to have been a concert perennial, unfortunately. In case I won't review other albums, let it be said that Sky 3's DVD featuring a lengthy concert from Westminster Abbey (1981) is very enjoyable, and Sky 2's slightly rockier DVD is recorded in 1980 with Francis Monkman still in the band.

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 Sky 2 by SKY album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.81 | 73 ratings

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Sky 2
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by Frankie Flowers

3 stars The second album by Sky is really appealing being a double album and it is an enjoyable one. Just as many reviewers have explained, these musicians were top class but you're often reminded here that they are playful and seldom take themselves seriously, most notably from the song titles. "Hotta" for instance was so called when the piece was composed and thought to be similar rhythmically to the Spanish dance 'Jota' only to find it wasn't quite like the real thing when played back so they called it 'Hotta" instead! There are some truly superb pieces of music here, one of which is named 'Sahara' with its dramatic main theme perfectly setting the mood for the harshness of a desert. On side two 'Fifo' is another one of the best pieces of music by the band, and this surely is a piece which progressive music lovers should appreciate. There's a great variety of styles here and more classical on the second half. They were mocked by critics for putting their commercial edge on to those avenues of music but they did it their way and had a lot of fun doing it as well. Worth exploring this music. Three and a half stars.

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 Sky by SKY album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.31 | 68 ratings

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Sky
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by Frankie Flowers

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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 Dies Irae by SKY album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1980
2.55 | 6 ratings

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Dies Irae
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Day of wrath

Dies Irae is a non-album (12") single by Sky released in 1980. The A-side is a seven and a half minutes long up-tempo, instrumental piece in the style of early Sky. The track would have fitted very well on any of the band's first two full-length studio releases and is up to par with much material from those albums. If you are a fan of those albums, you will almost certainly enjoy Dies Irae as well. The track has since appeared as a bonus track on some re-releases of the self-titled debut (and I think also on some rare compilation album(s)).

The B-side is March Of The Scaffold, a Classical piece that was previously unreleased at the time, but later appeared on Sky 4.

Being a single (with only the A-side being of real interest), this is of course far from essential. But it is a good piece of classic Sky and as such it is worthy of the fan's attention.

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 Live in Nottingham by SKY album cover Live, 2002
3.09 | 7 ratings

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Live in Nottingham
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Son of Hotta

As far as I'm aware, there are three (officially released) live recordings by Sky: the live concert video Live In Concert: Bremen, Germany 1980 (actually filmed and recorded in 1979 and released on DVD in 2005); Five Live (a double vinyl album originally released in 1983 but subsequently re-released in CD); and the present one, Live In Nottingham (recorded and filmed in 1991, but made available on CD--and also on DVD under the Classic Rock Legends banner--in 2002). Out of these three live releases, my first choice is without a doubt the Live In Concert: Bremen, Germany video, which despite a less than perfect sound and picture quality captures the band at their best and in my opinion this recording outshines the band's studio albums. My least favourite of the three is the incoherent Five Live album, which admittedly has several highlights, but overall lacks direction. This brings us to the present recording which falls in between those two in terms of quality.

I think it is fair to say that these three live releases focus on different aspects of the band: while the Bremen recording focuses on the band's progressive side, and Five Live more on the band's jazzy side, Live In Nottingham focuses on the band's Easy-Listening side. The latter showcases an altogether more laid back band. The three live recordings together give a nice overview. One thing that makes Live In Nottingham stand out is the presence of violin, mandolin, and ukelele.

The performance starts with Son Of Hotta (from 1983's Cadmium) and ends with Hotta (from 1980's Sky 2). The first of these is obviously intended as a follow-up to the second. Together with Cannonball (from the self-titled debut from 1979) the two Hotta-numbers are the most rocking tracks here, but they are somewhat less rocking than other versions of these tunes. These are certainly good and enjoyable versions, but I can't help note that the band feels and sounds somewhat tired here compared to the aforementioned Live In Concert: Bremen film.

Jehad is a Middle-Eastern-sounding number that is not present on any studio recording. It is dark and atmospheric yet never degenerates into ambient territory. I like it. Reverie similarly never appeared on a studio album. It is a beautiful, mellow, Classical piece driven by grand piano and acoustic guitar. It is very solemn to the point of almost sending you to sleep--in a good way! It is at this point that we get a couple of lesser numbers. Meheeco is jazzier here than the studio version (on 1981's Sky 3) and starts with a rather long improvisational part that I don't value highly. Still, that one is much less of a problem than the downright awful Would You say I'm In Love With You which features cheesy keyboard sounds and an unbearable tropical-island-beat. This is something you would expect in a touristy bar in some tropical holiday resort, not on a Rock album). Praeludium again represents the Classical side of the band and is a decent slice of Classical/Rock fusion.

Overall, a rather nice live album. (I have not seen the video version of it.)

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 Sky 5 Live by SKY album cover Live, 1983
2.47 | 13 ratings

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Sky 5 Live
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Pie in the sky

Most band's I know of that called their albums by their order of appearance (1, 2, 3, etc.) didn't include live albums in this "system", but Sky did just that with Sky Five: Live. This was, however, not entirely without justification as this live release did contain lots of new material that appears only on this album and nowhere else (but also a few Sky classics). So despite being a live album, this was also, in one sense, properly speaking Sky 5. The contents are a mixed bag with some strong moments amidst longer sections of boredom.

Apparently there are several versions of this album, some lacking the 20 minute plus opening The Animals. It is however not a great loss! It is clear from the start that Sky took a more jazzy and improvisational approach on this album. It starts out well enough in a moderately structured and melodic vein, but rather soon it deteriorates; half way through it looses direction and becomes a rather tedious, slow, jazzy thing. This piece falls very far behind previous "side-long" compositions by the band such as Where Opposites Meet (from Sky 1) and Fifo (from Sky 2). This is followed by the equally dull The Swan which is a very understated, mellow, Classical piece. If you have managed to stay awake until the end of this track, you're in for something more interesting.

The best track on the whole album is KP1 (very unimaginatively titled after the initials of its creator, Kevin Peek). This is much closer to the style of the band's first three albums and features excellent electric/acoustic interplay. With such a track there is still hope for this album. Next up is Dance Of The Little Fairies, one of the previously familiar numbers, which is a good piece though I prefer other versions over this one. Love Duet is (together with the aforementioned KP1) the other really worthy new piece of music presented here. This one is less melodic but features the same lovely electric/acoustic interplay. Very pleasant, but not particularly memorable.

The Bathroom Song is utterly and completely pointless and consists of someone playing piano and mindlessly singing la la la la while the rest of the band (presumably) had gone to the toilet! It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but there's really no excuse for including it on a live album. KP2 is a fun little, uptempo rocking number. I fail to detect any real connection to KP1. Antigua slows things down considerably and is a lovely, Classical-style guitar piece. They return to familiar ground with Sahara which was originally a great number from Sky 2 that reminds me a lot of Al Di Meola's style, though the original studio version is better. Sakura Variations sounds to me like mindless improvisation on acoustic guitar that really goes nowhere. Meheeco is another disappointment as it reminds little of its studio counterpart. Hotta, on the other hand, does remind of its studio counterpart, but it lacks the latter's excitement.

A couple of stronger moments, but overall a rather disappointing release. I much recommend to begin with the earlier and very much better live concert video Live In Concert: Bremen, Germany (1980) (actually recorded in 1979; sometimes goes under the alternative title of Live Across Europe). Sky Five Live is primarily recommended for fans (for whom I reckon it must be essential due to the several songs not available elsewhere).

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 Live In Concert: Bremen, Germany 1980 (DVD) by SKY album cover DVD/Video, 2005
4.04 | 5 ratings

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Live In Concert: Bremen, Germany 1980 (DVD)
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars The sky is the limit

Here we have a performance by Sky, recorded and filmed for the German TV programme Musik Laden. While the DVD states that the event took place in 1980, the band's official website claims that this information is mistaken and that it was actually in 1979. The track list shown on the DVD is also almost completely mistaken (according to the same source). I don't actually own this DVD, but have seen the contents on YouTube.

Sky was here a very tight unit and the performance is close to perfect as far as the playing goes, the band also seem to enjoy what they are doing. However, the interaction with the audience is minimal at best. With the exception of keyboard player Francis Monkman (ex-Curved Air), the band is sitting down during the whole show and so is the audience. Monkman is the liveliest of the performers and he shines on piano, harpsichord, and various other keyboard instruments. The band's website gives an explanation for the somewhat lukewarm audience response. This was very early on in the band's career and it is probable that the audience just didn't know what to expect from these guys. Perhaps, it didn't fit their expectations. It does fit mine, however.

Sky are obviously highly talented musicians and there is a very nice balance between acoustic and electric instruments. The rest of the band consists of John Williams on classic guitars, Kevin Peek on electric guitars, Herbie Flowers on electric bass, and Tristan Fry on drums and xylophone. The set list is appealingly varied and alternates between up-tempo "bouncy" numbers that bring to mind Alan Parsons Project-instrumentals, and gorgeous classical and folky pieces. In the folkier moments they remind me of Mike Oldfield and Gordon Giltrap, and in the more classically oriented, mellow numbers Steve Hackett's Classical side comes to mind.

The sound and picture quality are not perfect, but the quality of the music itself easily makes up for those minor flaws. In the end, this is a very enjoyable experience and in my opinion this outshines the band's studio releases. Even though they are not the liveliest of performers, there is more life and energy in these live performances than what one finds on the studio recordings.

Very nice!

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 Sky by SKY album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.31 | 68 ratings

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Sky
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by 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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 Live in Nottingham by SKY album cover Live, 2002
3.09 | 7 ratings

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Live in Nottingham
Sky Eclectic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars This band is almost forgotten now. But their first album was a multi-million seller and the two follow ups was also big commercial successes. In other words, Sky's mix of rock and classical music hit jackpot, big time. Even I bought their albums, but later sold them on again.

This album was one of the gigs BBC did with some golden oldies art rock bands. Caravan and the Hatfield & The North is the other relevant bands. See their own albums in this series. But back to Sky and this album again......

Sky is playing easy listening music with a lot of influences from classical music, film music and jazz. The musicians in Sky has both this background and their daytime jobs in this segment of the music world. Honourable, creative jobs, I hasten to add.

The sound quality of this recording is really good with a lot of participations from the audience which I guess had a great time with Sky. If I am not wrong, there is also a DVD out from this gig so hasten over to Amazon if this is your cup of tea.

And the music here is really good. Easy listening music, but still good. The musicians cannot be faulted at all too. The music is based on various forms of guitars, tangents, drums and bass. There is a lot of long solos on this album and that even includes a drum solo. The main body of the music is based on good band work with good harmonies and interplay. The music reminds me a lot about Jarre at times.

But I am not denying that this album is good for 2-3 listening sessions before the music becomes predictable and tedious. But this is still a good album which will please their fans and others which may encounter both Sky and this album.

3 stars

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