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Skin Alley - To Pagham And Beyond CD (album) cover


Skin Alley


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.16 | 32 ratings

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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.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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