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CRACK THE SKY

Heavy Prog • United States


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Crack The Sky biography
The band CRACK THE SKY started in the Ohio River valley (the members are originally from the Pittsburgh, PA area; John came from West Virginia to Pittsburgh). Originally named ARCANGEL, they became Crack the Sky when they signed with Lifesong records.

They broke first in Pittsburgh, and eventually "emigrated" to and were "adopted" by the Baltimore, MD area. They recorded albums and played live shows with various personnel changes from the mid '70's until the late '80's. They played an original mix of quirky rock and roll with many time changes and switch-ups mixed in with a few Beatles-esque touches. Originally fronted by John Palumbo, the group's initial lineup also included Jim Griffiths (guitar), Rick Witkowski (guitar), Joe Macre (bass) and Joey D'Amico (drums). They were quasi-adopted by the Baltimore radio station, WIYY (98 Rock); this station above all others continued to play the classic hits from the band, and ended up sponsoring their reunion shows at Hammerjacks nightclub in 1986-1988.

Their first album "Crack The Sky", released in 1975, was declared album of the year by Rolling Stone magazine, and contained such "cult" hits as Ice, Hold On/Surf City and She's A Dancer. Unfortunately, it never got promoted very well, and failed to catch on with the public. This was followed by their second in 1976, "Animal Notes", which contained such songs as Rangers At Midnight and Maybe I Can Fool Everybody (Tonight), was more quirky and less accessible than the first album, but good, nonetheless. Unfortunately it fared as well or worse than thier first album.

John Palumbo left the band in 1978 during the writing of their third album, "Safety In Numbers", which resulted in songs on the first half of the album having words & lyrics by John, but the second half having words & lyrics by assorted (remaining) band members. John's leaving was "due clearly to a divergence in artistic direction." While many thought that losing John would damage the band, they were able to put together a good third album, followed by a tour which received rave reviews and produced their fourth, live album in 1978, "Live Sky". ("This band has come all the way down from an acid trip just to play for you...") This is an excellent example of the band live, with replacement vocalist Gary Lee Chappell, and credits (for the first time) Vince DePaul on keyboards, although he had played keyboards for the band on previous live outings. (I can't count the number of people...
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CRACK THE SKY discography


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

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

3.73 | 27 ratings
Crack The Sky
1975
3.43 | 22 ratings
Animal Notes
1976
3.72 | 26 ratings
Safety In Numbers
1978
1.44 | 10 ratings
White Music
1980
2.13 | 5 ratings
Photoflamingo
1981
1.13 | 4 ratings
World in Motion 1
1983
1.55 | 6 ratings
Raw
1987
3.42 | 8 ratings
From The Greenhouse
1989
2.17 | 5 ratings
Dog City
1989
2.83 | 4 ratings
Cut
1998
3.50 | 6 ratings
Ghost
2002
3.13 | 4 ratings
Dogs From Japan
2004
3.82 | 11 ratings
The Sale
2007
4.88 | 5 ratings
Safety In Numbers - 21st Century Redux
2007
3.18 | 9 ratings
Machine
2010
3.71 | 5 ratings
Ostrich
2012

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

4.05 | 2 ratings
WBAB-FM Radio Broadcast
1976
4.03 | 5 ratings
Live Sky
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
The End
1983
4.00 | 2 ratings
Live - Recher Theater
1999
4.00 | 2 ratings
Alive and Kickin' Ass
2006

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
All Access
2009

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Classic
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
Rare
1994
3.14 | 3 ratings
Crack Attic (The Best of Crack the Sky)
1997

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

3.00 | 1 ratings
Machine - The Demo
2011

CRACK THE SKY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ostrich by CRACK THE SKY album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.71 | 5 ratings

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Ostrich
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by chefster

4 stars The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars is that Ostrich is not progressive in the traditional "prog" sense of the word...although if you follow CTS then you will see that this is definitely a progress-ive record with the emphasis on progress.

This is their funkiest record ever. Yes, you can dance to it. I choose not to but that's just how I roll. I prefer to sit and chill and groove and brother, there's plenty to groove to here.

Ostrich opens with "The Box", very reminiscent of Vrooom-era King Crimson with angular guitars and interesting Floydian effects. When the band kicks in 1/3 of the way in, prepare to feel like the guy in the old Maxell cassette tape adverts. You better ""hold on"...haha. The band slams like guys with something to prove!

And btw, the band hasn't fessed up to this, but this IS a concept record! "I live in a box...the size of my head". Well right there you can see the ostrich connection. The subject is a modern day isolationist who knows what he knows and not much else. The next track "Happy Happy Happy" shows our subject walking around so blissfully ignorant of what's going on in the world that all you can do is pity the chump. Musically this one kicks off with mega bass, introducing new bassist Dave DeMarco, who I can only guess was a member of P-Funk in another life. Deep, dope and funky to the max! The horns make this song feel so lively and upbeat but it's only when you read the lyrics that you understand the irony - this is a very dark song and if you're like me, you'll feel this song describes someone you know or work with.

Next is "Your House is on Fire". I originally thought this was a metaphor for someone whose life was in a mess but nope...this brother's house is literally on fire. I won't spoil it for you by telling you who set it. This is a tour-de-force and again, I hear Crimson in the verses. Maybe a little ToP in the choruses but by golly the guitar solo is pure vintage Rick Witkowski...or it might be Bobby Hird. They both complement each other so well that it's hard to tell who's who sometime.

"Big Elephant"...a political treatise that's spot on. Great keyboard flourishes that remind me of late 80s Rush, tribal drums and again that bass. Slap bass in CTS??? That's a first.

But wait...CTS done went all country on us, complete with pedal steel guitar and prairie dog back up vocals. That's "King of the Rodeo" a song about a cowboy who moves to Japan to get work because his job got eliminated here. Where does Palumbo come up with this stuff? Was this a story on Fox news? Makes me laugh every time though and twango guitar solo is the icing on the cake. Like I said, not prog...but very progressive.

"Pole Dancing"...another funky monkey here with some great jazzy horns. These guys must be eating cornbread and collard greens these days. This is some serious soul. Go back and listen to their last record "Machine" and then remind yourself that this is the same band. Well different bassist and maybe that's where all this funk comes from although he is not listed as a songwriter.

"Don't Ask"....I hear Nine Inch Nails and ToaPP-era Crimson again. And some Revolver-era Beatles from the guitars. Lyrically, I'm not going to ruin the surprise for you but it's VERY topical and very controversial. My son likes this song the best and said it reminds him of Green Day. Maybe in terms of it being very up-tempo and almost punky.

"Holding My Breath" features the patented CTS dual guitar trade off at the end. I get another whiff of Rush on this one but I can't quite put my finger on it. Well, if Rush were from Oakland. Another great social commentary about the other 98% of us!

"Under The Hood". This is CTS's "Kashmir"...lots of deep, trippy grooves and southwestern guitars. Yeah, this is going to be all about introspection and self-discovery. Nope. It's about a blow up doll. HAHAHA! Classic Crack from the guy who brought you cannibalism in "Sea Epic". Love it!

Ostrich closes with a very touching ballad - "Ali's Song". My wife and I dance to this in our parlor and my son leaves the room but I don't care, I think it's sweet. There's some nice mandolin and accordion on this one and the band sounds very relaxed and confident. I'd bet my porch swing that they recorded this live in one take. At least that's what I want to believe. If you tell me otherwise I'll bury my head in the sand.

I listen to this and can't believe that all or most of these guys must be in their 60s by now. Compare this to new offerings by any of prog's elder statesmen an there's no comparison. They can play circles around just about anyone out there and yet they take the high road and groove like a well-tuned muscle car. And yet the arrangements have so much ear candy I was expecting to see George Martin's name in the credits. The production is flawless and totally state of the art.

I'm a big fan of Joey Macri and was surprised he had left the band again. Dave DeMarco fits this band like a glove - driving, authoritative lines reminiscent of the first 3 albums but with the added funk upgrade. Kudos to Palumbo and Co for giving the new guy so much air time. Bass kicks off 3 or 4 songs on Ostrich including the lead off track. Welcome aboard DD!

There's not a dud to be found on this platter. If they release a live DVD from this tour, I'll be all over it! Buy this record and enjoy the ride. This is a concept record for the rest of us!

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 Crack The Sky by CRACK THE SKY album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.73 | 27 ratings

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Crack The Sky
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by TechnicallySpeaking

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.

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 Crack The Sky by CRACK THE SKY album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.73 | 27 ratings

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Crack The Sky
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by 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

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 Animal Notes by CRACK THE SKY album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.43 | 22 ratings

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Animal Notes
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by NDMET

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!

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 Live Sky by CRACK THE SKY album cover Live, 1978
4.03 | 5 ratings

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Live Sky
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by 7headedchicken

4 stars I will be honest - Live Sky is the only Crack the Sky album I've heard. I decided to give it a try after hearing their cover of Genesis' "I Know What I Like" on the tribute album Supper's Ready, and the sound of the band was quite different than what I was expecting. (I believe the lineup of the band had changed since 1978.) I've since heard the studio version of "Ice", and while I like both, the embellishments on this recording are very good, making the piece even more progressive than it started out. The other songs are all good performances, although I don't get into the last two as much as the others, but then it would be difficult to do a good cover of "I Am the Walrus." They have a pretty strange sense of humor that they alternate skillfully and unpredicably with heavy sections and jamming. They also have a way of making it sound as if there are more instruments on stage than there really are, and the recording quality is very strong. Highlights for me inlucde the haunting lead guitar and solo on "Maybe I Can Fool Everybody (Tonight)", the segueway from "Lighten Up McGraw" into "She's a Dancer", the latter songs' jam, and I love the MC's intro of the band.

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 Safety In Numbers - 21st Century Redux by CRACK THE SKY album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.88 | 5 ratings

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Safety In Numbers - 21st Century Redux
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by ShipOfFools

5 stars This is quite an interesting cd, since it's essentially a re-recording of a classic album, except with new guitar parts, a nice remix, and John Palumbo's much grittier vocals added onto the mix.

I've often compared JP's vocals to Peter Gabriel's (even mentioned it to him once in an online chat), and this is definitely apparent on this recording. What makes this cd essential is not that they've rewritten history - but that they've provided an alternate, and quite superior, recording of one of the greatest albums in progressive rock.

This album is not without flaws. I much prefer the original lyrics to "Lighten Up", than to JP's rewrite. However, the vocals are much stronger, and give the album a "dark flow" that the original album lacked. I often felt that the original Safety In Numbers was the poppiest and most light sounding of all their records; that is erased here, where you hear an album that is extremely progressive, and at the same time, very heavy and gritty and rocky sounding.

The 3 additional tracks are also really essential. Atlantic City and Jungle Man Lonely were re-recorded and made much stronger than the original demos recorded in '79, found on the cd "Rare". While I do prefer the solo JP version of "The Crying Father" that appeared on his debut cd (Innocent Bystander, which is also an essential buy, for anybody looking for a great album), this version is also very, very good. A "band version" of a song that worked well as a solo piece.

Basically, this is an essential buy. If you've never heard of Crack The Sky...well, maybe you should get something else first, like their debut self titled, Animal Notes, White Music, or the new cd Machine. However, if you're a devoted Crack The Sky fan (like me!), this is an absolute and essential buy.

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 Machine - The Demo by CRACK THE SKY album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Machine - The Demo
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

— First review of this album —
3 stars Crack The Sky has posted this album at www.crackthesky.com as a free download. I thank them for that.

This is a collection of the original demo recordings that John palumbo recorded, and submitted to the rest of the band to use for their 2010 album, "Machine". Some of these tracks were used as the foundation tracks for the songs used on that album. All of them sound pretty much complete.

The thing that stands out to me the most about these demos is the Pink Floyd influence (much like what was heard on the "From The Greenhouse" album, that does not come through on the final album versions. The laid back sound, and particularly Palumbo's guitar style, both on rhythm and solos, makes me think of various phases of Floyd's career.

The lyrics, the same as those on the album, are good. Palumbo has always had a nice way of turning a phrase. and all are tied together into a "machine" theme (again, a Pink Floyd reference).

There is very little prog, but this album is a nice listen. I would recommend the full band version over this.

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 Alive and Kickin' Ass by CRACK THE SKY album cover Live, 2006
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Alive and Kickin' Ass
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by yanch

4 stars I've been a fan of Crack the Sky for many years. They are one of those bands that deserved more success than they got, but to their credit kept playing in one form or another for many, many years. Alive and Kicking A#@ is an excellent live album featuring most of the original band line up: John Palumbo (guitar/lead vocals), Rick Witkowski (lead guitar/vocals), Joey D'Amico (drums/vocals), Joe Macre (bass/vocals), and Jim Griffiths (guitar/vocals). The show is made up of most of Crack the Sky's most recognizable material and captures their live energy and near-virtuoso playing.

The show starts with the classic intro-"These guys came down from and acid trip to play for you tonight.." The set starts with live staple Hold On and proceeds through a fine set including "classic" songs like She's a Dancer, Lighten Up McGraw, Nuclear Apathy, Ice and their fine cover of The Beatles I Am the Walrus. The playing is great and the band stretches out many of the songs with some intricate multiple guitar solo's and extended versions of the songs. The vocals are not always consistent, but they don't detract much from the songs as John Palumbo's lyrics are interesting, sarcastic, and entertaining.

I've always thought these guys were better live than in the studio and this cd confirms that. Even 30 years later they still can kick a*# live. A solid 4 stars and recommended.

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 Machine by CRACK THE SKY album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.18 | 9 ratings

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Machine
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

3 stars Okay, they got me again. This album reunites four of the original band members: John Palumbo, Rick Witkowski, Joe Macre and Joey D'Amico (no Jim Griffiths) for the first time since Palumbo left during the recording of "Safety In Numbers". I expected an album at least approaching the inventiveness and exhilaration of those early albums. But alas, it is not to be.

First of all, Macre and D'Amico were once one of the best rhythm sections anywhere. The syncopated drum and bass were a signature of those early CTS albums. They hint at a bit of that at the beginning of Heaven, but it goes nowhere.

And there is very little prog on this album. If you like the Pink Floyd influenced CTS of "From The Greenhouse", than you may enjoy this album. Heaven, Come Out, Hero and We're All Dead all have those hints of "Wall"-ere Floyd.

The lyrics, as usual for Palumbo, are clever, and I wonder if Hyphen-American was inspired by the old John Wayne spoken word recording of the same title.

2.5 stars.

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 World in Motion 1 by CRACK THE SKY album cover Studio Album, 1983
1.13 | 4 ratings

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World in Motion 1
Crack The Sky Heavy Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

1 stars This album made Crack The Sky disappear for a few years in the mid eighties. And if you heard it you would understand why. It's hard to believe that it this is essentially the same lineup, plus a couple of guitarists (one being founding member Rick Witkowski), and minus keyboardist Vince DePaul, that created this band's very good comeback album, "Cut", in 1998.

If you just listened to the first two tracks, Breakdown and Skindiver, you might think this was a fair hard rock album. But after that, a lame semi-electronic version of Needles And Pins indicates where the rest of the album is going. Bland and unimaginitive, the rest of the album offers little of interest, unless you like the dreary Too Cold To Be Cool (used in the heroin movie "Rush").

Don't bother.

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