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SKIN ALLEY

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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Skin Alley biography
Formed in the fall of 68, Skin Alley turned professional when they signed to Clearwater Productions as managers (whom also handled High Tide, The Trees and a bit later Hawkwind), on word from an ex-member that was now in the firm. Gigging around regularly for free (concerts organized by their management firm) in order to find a following, this West-London quartet developed a different kind of rock that drew much from jazz and blues. Built around keyboardist Juskiewicz and part-time guitarist, but sax and flute player Bob James, Skin Alley had a distinctive sound, which made them stand out at the many free concerts they played. Having been spotted by the legendary John Peel, they recorded a BBC session for the Top Gear programme, which in the short term landed them a recording contract with the English branch of CBS. Recorded in November of that year, it was released in March 70 coupled with a non-album single. The critical acclaim and encouraging sales lead CBS to allow Skin Alley (who suffered the departure of Crimble during the recording and was partly replaced by ex-Atomic Rooster bassist Nick Graham) to release a second album, From Pagham And Beyond, later that same year.

For some reasons (the album was not as successful as the debut), CBS decided not to invest further in the band, and Skin Alley had to find another label, which took a while. It wasn't until early 72 that their third album was released on the small folk Transatlantic label (and amazingly enough, the soul Stax label in the US), but by that time Skin alley was a different band, drummer Pope had left the group, replaced by Tony Knight, and the SA had a much rockier approach aimed at the US, even enjoying some success with the track Skin Valley Serenade. Their third album Two Quid Deal offers much prog while they recorded the last album Skintight in Memphis, Tennessee (home of Stax Record), maybe a hint that they had axed everything towards America, because of its country rock flavours. They disbanded the following year and outside Graham, none were to make much waves in the music industry.


:::: Bio written by Hugues Chantraine, Belgium ::::




Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
A good typical early UK jazz rock between Colosseum and brass rock ala If, Warm Dust, Brainchild and Galliard



Discography:
Skin Alley (70)
To Pagham And Beyond (70)
Two Quid Deal? (72)
Skintight (73)

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Big Brother Is Watching You: CBS Records AnthologyBig Brother Is Watching You: CBS Records Anthology
Import
Esoteric 2011
Audio CD$20.26
$31.81 (used)
Two Quid DealTwo Quid Deal
Import
Esoteric 2011
Audio CD$14.83
$23.04 (used)
To Pagham & BeyondTo Pagham & Beyond
Remastered · Import
Eclectic Discs 2006
Audio CD$18.80
$11.99 (used)
Skin AlleySkin Alley
Remastered · Import
Eclectic Discs 2006
Audio CD$18.66
$12.94 (used)
Bad Words & Evil People: TransatlantBad Words & Evil People: Transatlant
Extra tracks · Import
Castle Music UK 2006
Audio CD$64.90
$34.00 (used)
bad words and evil people 45 rpm singlebad words and evil people 45 rpm single
STAX
Vinyl$7.99 (used)
First AlbumFirst Album
Import
Akarma Italy 2003
Audio CD$29.98
$14.99 (used)
Skin Alley (including 5 tracks from Two Quid Deal ?) Remastered VersionSkin Alley (including 5 tracks from Two Quid Deal ?) Remastered Version
MASON RECORDS
Audio CD$18.50
$16.80 (used)
Skin Alley / To Pagham and BeyondSkin Alley / To Pagham and Beyond
Import
See for Miles
Audio CD$20.00 (used)
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SKIN ALLEY discography


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

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

3.58 | 22 ratings
Skin Alley
1970
4.10 | 11 ratings
To Pagham And Beyond
1970
3.01 | 10 ratings
Two Quid Deal?
1972
1.00 | 6 ratings
Skintight
1973

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

SKIN ALLEY Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Big Brother Is Watching You
2011

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

SKIN ALLEY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Two Quid Deal?  by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.01 | 10 ratings

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Two Quid Deal?
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars I recently attended a recurring local record fair, and rolling my eyes at the lack of prog records left these days, I came across this LP no less than three times amongst the different vendors. Each copy was in great condition and no more than $15. Looking at the rather rubbish cover, and wondering how unloved must this album be due to a number of copies remaining unwanted in the crates, I expected it to be pretty ordinary. I had heard the first `Skin Alley' album many years ago, thanks to Archives member Tom Ozric's recommendation, but I assumed by this time the well of great music from this band might have dried up. Finding nothing else of note at the fair, I decided to purchase the best looking copy of `Two Quid Deal', just so I wouldn't go home empty handed. Turns out it's pretty damn good, and a very welcome addition to my collection.

Although the album is quite straightforward rock in many sections, it's always accompanied by varied, energetic flute and sax playing, groovy and very prominent bass, fluid fuzzy organ driving and killer electric lead guitar work. Occasionally folky, very jazzy, jammy progressive rock, while still remaining quite accessible and easy to get in to. There's several moments spread throughout the album where the band gets to loosen up and really break out, but their playing is never overindulgent or brought down by endless noodling. The mixing allows every player to be heard beautifully too!

Until I read up on the album and looked at the credits closer, I had no idea it was the same lead vocalist from the `Atomic Rooster' debut album. Nick Graham sounds quite different on this one, even reminding me a little of the lead singers from Rush or Budgie in the higher pitched moments. His vocals are more varied than on the first Rooster LP, very strong and confident. We all know several 70's prog albums that were let down by poor vocals, but on here you have a very powerful singer. But it's his outstanding bass and flute playing that really gets your attention. He truly is an exceptional talent.

Graham is perfectly complemented by the rest of the band. I love Krzysztof Justkniwwicz's very dirty, messy and noisy Hammond organ solos! Drummer Tony Knight has a huge presence on this album, and is a very gifted musician. Bob James' guitar playing sometimes sounds quite acid rock, really searing. His sax playing is incredible too. I did read on the bio of this band that the majority of the players all but vanished, or went on to do not much of note. This is a real shame, as they all get numerous standout moments throughout the LP.

Reference points for this album might perhaps be some instrumental sections from Focus, or the occasional hard R&B of Atomic Rooster, but the organ has a warmer sound and is not as aggressive as on that band's albums. This LP sometimes reminded me of the wonderful `Tonton Macoute' album, which is no bad thing at all!

The standout track is the Camel-like instrumental `Skin Valley Serenade', with beautiful melodic guitar playing from Bob Jones, which comes as a bit of a surprise because on several other moments on the album his playing has an almost acid rock sound. On this he plays with a gorgeous romantic tone. It wouldn't have sounded out of place on any of the early Camel albums.

On the downside, the album is housed in a pretty horrid cartoon knock-off cover! There's a few missed opportunities, such as when the opening track ends on a fade out as the electric guitar is really wailing! Some tracks do seem to be cut off a little too early, when they should have been allowed to play out. Not sure about the accordian solo on `So Glad' either!

In the end, this album is quite forgotten and probably fairly unimportant. However, to my ears, it's well worth proudly owning, and a very worthy addition to any progressive music collection. Exciting, varied, well played honest prog-rock played by talented musicians, what more could you want? This album was a real pleasant surprise, and I'm so happy I snapped it up. Four stars from me.

By the way, if you happen to attend the Camberwell Fair in Melbourne and find one of those other two copies I left behind, give it a go!

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 Skin Alley by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.58 | 22 ratings

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Skin Alley
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Many bands with challenging albums in late-60's remained under the shadow of the masterful King Crimson debut.One of this cases are Skin Alley,a British Proto-Prog band,formed in 1968, guided by the forces of bassist/keyboardist/singer Thomas Crimble, drummer Alvin Pope, keyboardist Krzysztof Henryk Justkiewicz and guitarist/sax player Bob James.Soon they were singed by CBS to record their self-titled debut in 1969.

Quite a daring sound for 1969,Skin Alley mixed Psychedelic Rock and Jazz Rock with some symphonic flute-led parts to present some full-edged Proto-Progressive Rock style,often with a dark sound,not dissimilar to MARSUPILAMI or CATAPILLA.With an obvious tendency towards long instrumental passages,their compositions are characterized by the psychedelic organ sounds, the driving flutes, the bluesy guitar work and the jazzy rhythm section.These elements are often blended with jamming sax parts in a free music form compared to Jazz, together with the good vocals of Crimble.Along with the organ, one can detect some really decent effort on Mellotron and harsichord in a couple of more Classical-inspired tracks as well as some jazzy-inspired piano lines with the band becoming a really versatile beast along the way.However the psychedelic influences are the most dominant throughout the listening with Skin Alley being a significant part of the early UK Psych/Prog movement.

''Skin Alley'' marks another interesting entry in the transmission of UK Rock from the psychedelic flourishes to the more progressive compositions,that dominated England in early-70's.Fans fond of this particular sound should be the first to chase for this release,which already succeeded a couple of CD re-issues.Strongly recommended overall...3.5 stars.

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 Two Quid Deal?  by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.01 | 10 ratings

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Two Quid Deal?
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Skin Alley is an anglo-american band formed in late'60's . After a couple of so so succes albums , released both in 1970, third album proves a turning point in their career, who was short anyway. The album was named Two quid deal release in summer of 1972, refering name for singning to a new record deal, CBS former label kicked them out for some odd reasons. The new album was out on Transatlantic records, but with all that with the new label, even a new member came in Nick Graham from Atomic Rooster, the sound and manner of composing never gave them to much recognision in that period. To many this third album is less good than the predecesors. Here they melted some elements from progressive jazz rock with some funky tunes and even in places some melodic aproach of R'n'B. So a mixt bag, but in the end not so bad as many said. For many listners Skin Alley was to mainstream with a fiew elemnts of traditional progressive sound of early '70's, being far from Genesis, Yes or Nektar for ex. The best pieces are all to me, not a weak moment here, some very strong vocal parts through the album like on So Many People or So glad. Some brass arrangements are here and there given to the album an enjoyble atmosphere. 3 stars for Two quid deal, a good album for sure, but in places less captivating than the predecesors. And by the way, the cover art in cartoon way made by comic artist Edward Barker is not necessarly bad , but for sure a very unpleasent for the album. In the end, an underrated band, their albums are not easy to find, but if you do worth listen if you are in this kind of music.

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 Skintight by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1973
1.00 | 6 ratings

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Skintight
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by avreml

1 stars Yes, this is really depressing album, so better avoid it, since it's difficult to listen to it even once. As Sean Trane have mentioned, most of the songs are nashville country-rock with soupy string and brass arrangements, with few elements of very schematic bluesrock. Melodies are awfully banal, as well as the lyrics. If I had to point the best (bearable) tracks, these would be Broken Eggs (1,5 star for this boring primitive version...) and - definitely the best final Instrumental (3 stars..). Listening to this album is a waste of time and energy, so even if You loved their 1st and second album, don't try this.

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 Two Quid Deal?  by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.01 | 10 ratings

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Two Quid Deal?
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Tom Ozric
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I first discovered this album at a record fair sometime in the late 90's - it was the name Nick Graham that caught my attention. Being a fond fan of Atomic Rooster and their debut album (of which Graham was Bassist/Flautist/Vocalist) I snapped it up in a flash. I definately enjoyed hearing this for the first time, still do, but not as much since I acquired their first 2 LP's. Nick Graham and Bob James (Guitars/Winds/Vocals) contribute about half the songs each, and the result is a jammy, jazzy-rock (without being 'Fusion') that's worth a listen, without question. Graham's Bass playing is an important component of the music, and many of the songs are based around his riffs, especially those written by him (obviously). 'Bad Words and Evil People' is a killer track, starting out with a Bass riff in '7', and cool vocals from Nick, with the jammed- out second half featuring a marvellous Hammond solo from keyboardist Krzysztof Juszskiewicz. 'So Many People' is a funky number, again jammy, with a rhythmic Flute workout during the instrumental section, it's quite a groovy song, actually. 'A Final Coat' starts out softly with a lovely Piano and Flute melody, which leads in to the 5/4 verse section with some tasteful Organ playing followed by a screeching Sax work-out from Bob James till the end. 'Graveyard Shuffle' is a song that I don't really 'connect' with, one of the few songs in my life I don't bother with. On side II we have 'Nick's Seven' with, you guessed it, a Bass riff in '7', but it's a lively piece of music and quite appealing. Instrumental track 'Skin Valley Serenade' is a beautiful tune with many changes and blissful Flauting, it reminds me of Camel for some reason, possibly the most 'colourful' moment on the record. 'So Glad' is a lesser track, with shrill singing from BJ and a repetive melody. It does feature an Accordion solo, which is something different, not necessarily great, but different. 'The Demagogue' has a really good feel to it, great groove - an all-round great song. That segues into 'Sun Music' to finish off the album, slightly weaker, but still listenable. I'll grant it a 3.5 now, as I would've said it's a masterpiece, several years ago.

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 Skin Alley by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.58 | 22 ratings

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Skin Alley
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars A cop (and an ugly one at that) pulling his tongue right in your face under their bloodied name is the opening image that Skin Alley chose as an approach to music fans. Despite such a poor decision, the album was well received by the press and the fans alike, and rightfully so, because this unusual quartet (line-up wise) developed a distinctive mix of jazz and blues into their rock music, fronted by Bob James' wind instruments and Juskiewicz's (bless you ;-) organ and piano and usually offering "male" lyrics.

Opening on one of their most popular track Living In Sin (it was part of the sampler Fill Your Head With Rock), the group sets the tone for the whole album, as their jazz-inflected rock (it can be included in the early 70's UK proto prog) that enthrals the listener directly as the communicative enthusiasm of the band is almost overwhelming. Indeed Bob James alternates between the flute and guitar, while bassist Crimble sounds like Cressida's Angus Cullen on vocals. The same Cressida name is also reminded on Tell Me (mellotrons), this time more to do with the songwriting (I'm sure there is an unintentional borrowing from whomever recorded their track second, which is probably Cressida). The Mother Help Your Child track is one of the album's highlights, as Crimble's voice takes on dramatic Out Of Focus tones, after a menacing church-organ sound and an isolated flute opened it. The lengthier Marsha is an up-tempoed organ-driven groove that allows for a few wild sax solos, alternated by organ lines, reminiscent of the second-era Traffic.

On the flipside, past the short pastoral and medieval (piccolo flute and harpsichord) Country Aire, with the other mammoth track, the dark 8-mins All Alone, SA gets to serious business with the slow sinister organ that will drive the entire track, sharing the spotlight with the sax. Night time is one of my fave from the album, loaded with flute and tron layers, and later on evolving rolling jazzy piano ditty. Juskiewicz gives us another pointless taste of his harpsichord before the group closes the album with a boogie-ing Highway, maybe the album's weaker moment.

Included as bonus tracks are the two songs from the non-album single (engineered by Martin Birch, the first being a fairly different version of Tell Me with some wild cello lines replacing the melotron, the track resembling less the Cressida track, under this version, which I find better. Better Be Blind has a deceiving vocal line coupled with an annoying whistle, but outside this, it remains a worthy SA track, but sounding fairly different from the album per se.

A bit of a lost classic proto-prog album, Skin Alley's debut has recently received a re-issue through Eclectic Discs, with an excellent booklet and extensive liner notes, the object narrowingly missing the perfect mark, because of the band's name being black instead of the orange-blood colour scheme on the front cover, the rear artwork taken from a much weather-beaten vinyl. Besides this nitpicking, Skin Alley's debut comes awfully close to a masterpiece, but no cigar. Essential, certainly!!

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 To Pagham And Beyond by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.10 | 11 ratings

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To Pagham And Beyond
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Second album from this West London group (although there might have some Americans in the group), released the same year as their debut on the same CBS label. Apparently the sessions of To Pagham and Beyond suffered from some unrest: bassist Crimble left in the course of recording (headed for Hawkwind) and was replaced by ex-Atomic Rooster bassist-singer Nick Graham (an important reinforcement for SA), the production is not quite up to the debut (same person for both albums) and with an orange nonsense gatefold artwork, finally CBS dropped them soon after its release. Although the SA sound remains relatively intact, the songwriting seems a bit weaker (but nothing really noticeable, but the tracks tend to drag on a bit) and all tracks are 7 minutes or longer, bar the closer (clocking at 5.5 minutes); but something is lacking in TPAB.

Right from the opening of Big Brother, you'll find the same jazzy proto-prog spirit than on their debut (even if the vocals don't sound like Cressida anymore), but something is not there (I say the production is faulty, but it's still Fritz and it is engineered by Martin Birch); nevertheless the tune is pleasant with a cool slow piano mid-section crescendoing back to the groove, but ending with an atrocious-sounding snare drum roll. Starting on Bob James's superb flute (often rightly compared to Anderson, but never wild and saturated), Leader's Daughter is a superb 9-mins jazzy-grooved track with Juskiewicz's piano twirling all over and James' sax, a bit reminiscent of VdGG's Jaxon. Next is a poorer and muddy version of Graham Bond's Walking In The Park, at least compared to Colosseum's, and to which it sticks a bit too closely to be useful.

Queen of Bad Intention starts the flipside on an organ line with a sturdy and steady beat, a fiery guitar solo hovering over a Hammond-driven rock and a very proggy finale lead by the piano. A badly recorded chaos starts the 8-mins Sweaty Betty (one of two tracks sung by newcomer Graham, but written by the departing Crimble) and the track settles into a groove taking a brass rock twist (Graham also plays wind instruments, Juskiewicz plays trumpet), but it's plagued by a lengthy drum solo from Giles Pope. The closing Easy To Lie again has brass rock feel (Graham, James and Justie on brass/woods), but strangely recorded once again

Although still a very worthy album, TPAB doesn't hold the charm of its predecessor and might logically disappoint a bit (maybe a good remastering is needed, that maybe Eclectic Discs has done), but for obscure reasons their label stopped investing. The group was not record its next album until 72 after changing drummer and finding a new recording contract. If you like the debut, this one is well in its line, even if not as mighty.

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 Two Quid Deal?  by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.01 | 10 ratings

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Two Quid Deal?
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

After getting the CBS boot, SA had to find a new recording deal and it doesn't seem like it was an easy task (and took a long time) as their next record came on unlikely labels: the trad folk Transatlantic label in UK/Europe and the soul Stax label in the new world. Strangely enough, they kept the producer of their first two album Fritz Fryer (but not Birch as engineer) and found a new drummer Tony Knight (ex-Bronx Cheer and Chessmen). The Two Quid Dea album (hopefully referring to CBS than their new album) was recorded well into 72 and came out with an atrocious Mickey Mouse artwork (it's amazing Disney never sued)

Opening on the heavy Nick's Seven with the unusual (for them) standard prog quartet (Dr, Bs, Kb and Gt), the track announces a more straight-forward rock direction, something confirmed with the funky 6- mins So Many People, the flute solo over the funky beat is only half-successful, but the track ends almost convincingly. Bad Words again veers straight hard rock (but is the highlight of the first side), until the interesting mid-section organ break, the track returns rebuilds slowly to its original groove; this is something that SA use and abuse over the course of their discography. Graveyard Shuffle is an uninteresting soul track as is the atrocious So Glad track (with an accordion solo if you can believe it) that you'd have a hard time recognizing Skip James' song version done fantastically by Cream.

After such a disastrous middle of the album (spread over two sides), finally the TQD album manages to grab the proghead's interest with the slow flute introduced A Final Coat track (one of the album's best tracks) with a much faster tempo past the first two verse, than a return to the wild instrumental interplay found on their first two albums, including a Jaxon-reminiscent sax. Up next is one of their best- known later tracks (released as a single) Skinvalley Serenade, a flute-laden instrumental track that could easily figure on early-Tull albums or early Focus. Another cool track is the above-average organ- driven Demagogue, but it's acoustic equivalent Sun Music following it is a constantly evolving track, even if hardly riveting, it holds our interest and ends the album on a medium note.

While the first side of TQD is of no interest to progheads (average at best and frankly boring at worst, the second part of the album saves it from sinking and even has some brilliant moments. But really apart from three tracks, this album might just as well be avoided by progheads looking to save both shelf space and hard-earned cash.

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 Skintight by SKIN ALLEY album cover Studio Album, 1973
1.00 | 6 ratings

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Skintight
Skin Alley Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

1 stars 1.5 star at max!!!

If Skin Alley's TQD album was a definite step downwards, what can be said of Skintight? That the band had moved to the States to record this album in Memphis Tennessee, home of soul label Stax and the album was produced by the house hero Don Nix. That the album was definitely aimed at US markets? The previous was already looking at charts, but Skintight is a shameful shot at what will be called later in the decade AOR. Coming with different artwork depending on which side of the Atlantic you were: e psych cover is the European version and the "can version is the US one.

This album is filled with fillers, most of them either on the country rock side (Nashville is also in Tennessee) or on the soul side and there is an added brass section (as if SA needed that) and a string section, I smell Gruyeres and Provolone here. Tracks like How Long, If I Only Had The Time or Mr Heavy are bland barely credible country rock, which most progheads have a dislike for. While The Heap and Maverick Woman Blues both escape country music colours, it's not much more interesting, just a hard uninspired blues-rock. Others tracks like Quarter To One (brass laden, but not brass-rock), the reedy Surprise Awakening are tilting towards soul music

The Don Nix-written Broken Eggs and What Good Does It Do, both with those soppy string arrangements are completely uneventful, even if well played and arranged, this is cheese fondue enough for the Indian sub-continent. The only track worthy of interest is the closing Instrumental (that's its name) where glimpse of the first two albums appear and this track is the only good one on this album, enough to fit in the previous TQD album

No wonder after such a bad album that SA broke up. Completely direction-less, even schizophrenic between Memphis and Nashville, Skintight is easily their worst album and best avoided like the plague as all trace of their early fun jazz rock have disappeared? Dobn't run for, but run away from it.

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