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Clouds - Up Above Our Heads [Clouds 1966-71] CD (album) cover




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4.13 | 15 ratings

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4 stars UP ABOVE OUR HEADS [CLOUDS 1966-71]

This is such an important release. Don't get me wrong, I personally don't think that 1-2-3 or Clouds were quite ready to make it all the way, 1-2-3 were too raw, the vocals too dodgy, the recording techniques too inexperienced. Clouds were struggling with the adaptation to the new era, and still had some way to go to catch up. But the significance of this music is the nearest we'll ever get to 1-2-3's profound influence on what happened, you have to look for the clues in between the cracks and tracks.

The Clouds Scrapbook is the nearest link we have between Beatles pop and 70s prog, though it is sounding more and more dated as music and musicianship move on. Yet this is an important album, a milestone on the way to where we are.

Up Above Our Heads is more an album of its time, a neutered 1-2-3 trying hard to emulate those who were influenced by them in the first place. Great musicianship, especially the outstanding organ. I'm not sure about the overall package, but great to hear on CD at last, quality much better than the vinyl version.

Watercolour Days is Clouds first steps towards progressive maturity, and has much to commend it. Strangely enough, the USA embraced it at the time, yet the UK was scathing. It almost seems that one took the glass is half full philosophy, the other the opposite. Some of the recordings here definitely stand the test of time, though it's terribly sad that we don't have the early evidence of 1-2-3 to make true comparisons.

All we have among the bonus tracks is the Marquee recording of America. When put in the context of the times, it's an amazing piece of music, whatever modern critics make of the recording circumstances itself. The so-called Beatles screams on the track sound more like whistles to me, but in any case, isn't it interesting that it was the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, who signed 1-2-3 on the strength of what happened at the Marquee? So perhaps it was screams after all.

The other bonus tracks are thought-provoking too, a darkness seems to hover over the writing, a haunted sound pervades the music and the lyrics in songs like Clockwork Soldier, which is a veritable song-poem, narrated gloomily but with an interesting choir-boy melody in the background. I personally would like to hear the melody more in the foreground, the spoken vocal can lead you to think you're listening to musical avant garde, when it's actually a specific and very clever classical composition. A Day Of Rain is another haunted soundscape, the playing almost simplistic and withdrawn behind the window. Even in the more conventionally-melodic songs like Why Is There No Magic a sense of disillusionment prevails, while The World Is A Madhouse and Shadows have Doors-like echoes, dark images, disturbing thoughts. Once Upon A time is more whimsical lyrically, but you can hear the power of the band, driven along by the tough uncompromising Hammond organ.

Nice to hear the previously vinyl-only Island single, Make No Bones About It/Heritage on CD.

This record is a must.

JeanFrame | 4/5 |


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