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Skin Alley - Two Quid Deal ? CD (album) cover


Skin Alley


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.11 | 22 ratings

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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!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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