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Clouds Up Above Our Heads [Clouds 1966-71] album cover
4.13 | 15 ratings | 6 reviews | 40% 5 stars

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc One - THE CLOUDS SCRAPBOOK [1968-69]:
1. Scrapbook Intro (1:08)
2. The Carpenter (3:29)
3. The Colours Have Run (3:00)
4. I'll Go Girl (3:21)
5. Grandad (2:10)
6. Ladies And Gentlemen (3:09)
7. Humdrum (1:07)
8. Union Jack (1:25)
9. Old Man (3:25)
10. Waiter There's Something In My Soup (7:01)
11. Scrapbook (2:51)

12. Imagine Me (3.:28)
13. Sing, Sing, Sing (13:44)
14. Take Me To Your Leader (3:00)
15. Big Noise From Winnetka (4:06)
16. In The Mine (4:02)

Total Time 60:26

Disc Two - WATERCOLOUR DAYS [1970-71]
1. Watercolour Days (5:28)
2. Cold Sweat (3:36)
3. Lighthouse (5:03)
4. Long Time (4:38)
5. Mind Of A Child (2:51)
6. I Know Better Than You (4:53)
7. Leavin' (3:25)
8. Get Off My Farm (3:27)
9. I Am The Melody (2:44)

BONUS TRACKS [1966-71]
10. Make No Bones About It (2:48)
11. Heritage (4:18)
12. Why Is There No Magic (2:46)
13. The World Is A Madhouse (4:00)
14. Shadows (2:42)
15. Once Upon A Time (2:54)
16. A Day Of Rain (4:16)
17. America (8:09)
18. Clockwork Soldier (5:09)

Total Time 73:27

Line-up / Musicians

- Ian Ellis/bass, vocals, harmonica
- Harry Hughes / drums, glockenspiel, trumpet
- Billy Ritchie / keyboards, acoustic guitar, vocals, bass

- Alvin Lee / guitar
- Rod Butler / guitar
- Steve Gould / guitar
- George Ritchie / bass
- Peter Sapsard / bass
- Mike Kidson / drums

Releases information

2CD BGO/EMI BGOCD966 (2010, remastered by Andrew Thompson with 9 bonus tracks of previously unreleased music)

Thanks to JeanFrame for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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CLOUDS Up Above Our Heads [Clouds 1966-71] ratings distribution

(15 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(40%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(53%)
Good, but non-essential (0%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

CLOUDS Up Above Our Heads [Clouds 1966-71] reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars I've looked at Clouds from both sides now

Having disbanded after the release of their third album "Watercolour days" in 1971, the world quickly forgot about Clouds. This travesty was finally put right in 2010 when BGO records put together this superb compilation. Not only do we have for the first time ever, all three of the band's albums, regardless of whether you live in Europe, North America or anywhere else, but we have a selection of 9 well chosen bonus tracks not previously available anywhere.

All three albums are carefully remastered, bringing out the essence of each perfectly. The first CD gathers in the band's first album "The Clouds scrapbook" (released in Europe only) and their second album "Up above our heads" (released in North America only). The three tracks which appeared on both are only present once, slightly disrupting the running order of "Up above our heads". It would have been good though if the full running order of that album had at least been listed somewhere within the package.

The band's third album "Watercolour days" (was this "Watercolor" in North America?!) occupies the first half of the second CD. Reviews of all three albums are of course posted under the Clouds entry on this site.

It is though to the bonus tracks that we head for this review. The first pair of these are a single A and B side from 1968, the band's first recordings as Clouds having changed their name from 1-2-3. The A-side, "Make no bones about it" is very much of its time, offering a Barrett-era-Floyd/Wood-era-Move like slice of psychedelia, but it failed to garner much interest. Had it done so, which in retrospect with the right exposure it could easily have done, the single may have set Clouds on the road to fame and fortune. The B- Side "Heritage" is a more ambitious story song, which now sounds a little clumsy but at the time would have certainly been viewed as progressive. The track features a captivating organ interlude, but the vocals are weak.

The following three tracks were recorded for the "Watercolour days" album, but to the dismay of the band they were omitted from the track listing by band manager Terry Ellis. "Why is there no magic" is a multi-tracked Beatles like pastiche with a strong melody. The track's omission from the album borders on the criminal, this being one of the band's strongest recordings ever. "The world is a madhouse" and "Shadows" are interesting but less essential, the Jim Morrison like vocals betraying an obvious attempt to imitate the Doors.

"Once upon a time" appears to be a leftover track from "Up above our heads", but this time the decision to overlook it was probably justified. Not a bad song, just undistinguished. "A day of rain" and "Clockwork soldier" are further leftovers from "Watercolour days". These tracks though were only seen through to the point of being demo tracks at the time, although the band had written them some years earlier. The sound on these tracks is different though, with a more modern feel. It turns out this is due to Billy Ritchie revisiting the recordings some years later, and adding synthesisers and processing the vocals! Admittedly he has done a good job on them, even if the authenticity has been tarnished. "Clockwork soldier" is based on the reading of a poem over sympathetic instrumentation, and as such sounds as if it has been lifted straight from Jim Morrison's solo album "An American prayer".

The most significant of the bonus tracks here is an 8 minute live recording of the band's cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "America". Proving that there is nothing new under the sun, this interpretation pre-dates the famous Yes version by some distance. While by no means identical to Yes' version, many of the nuances are the same. This track alone finally confirms Clouds rightful place in prog history, the recording actually coming from a time when they were still known as 1-2-3. It also demonstrates how much Terry Ellis sanitised their work before the début album was released.

The package is rounded out by an excellent booklet containing an essay on the entire history of the band and the lyrics to the first album (reproduced from the gatefold LP sleeve).

In short, a wonderful way to discover the criminally under-appreciated history and influence of this fine proto-prog band.

With grateful thanks to our Interviews guru Torodd, who drew my attention to the availability of this superb package, which retails at a very reasonable price.

Review by GruvanDahlman
4 stars From what I have gathered, my ears are facing the missing link between rock and prog, as it were. Mind you, the transition and development of rock'n'roll had been quite an impressive one. No matter where in time rock music was born (in 1948 or 1954 or whenever) the progression from basic three chord blues and/or country and folk to full blown psychedelica and early stages of hard rock was pretty impressive. The greats, like Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Who (to name a few) had taken rock music to different heights and new territories which proved that pop and rock certainly could be just as much an art form as classical or jazz. All this laid the foundation for things to come. The melding and merging of different genres and styles eventually led to the creation of progressive rock.

Nowadays progressive rock is an array of styles and genres, and anything goes, but in the early stages of prog elements of classical and jazz seemed to be the dominator in rock, alongside folk. Maybe I'm ranting but when I listen to alot of the early bands, and certainly that's the case with Clouds, the influence of jazz and classical is very distinct.

Since there were no real prog to speak of in 1968, as in the movement we all know and love, bands had to invent it. Thus one had no ready made mould to go by. It was simply a strong desire and inclination to break out of the rock mould and expand into any other shape and form. As this review concerns Clouds I have to put forth that they, alongside other pioneers, at times do feel forced in their efforts. The experimentation with tempos and chord progressions are all very commendable but that does not mean it turns out in the best of fashions. They try too hard and the result is forced. Well, at times anyway.

There are obviously alot of talent in this band. Their first album (1968) is sort of typical for it's time. Baroque-ish pop but with aspirations. The lengthy "Waiter, there's something in my soup", for instance, hints at the desires of the band. But is it really all that great? I think it's okay, or slightly better, as far as ambitious song writing goes. The horns are quite effective in giving the track boost and there is an interesting dose of big band jazz. This is where their early prog leanings really comes to the fore. The next album (1969) is really the same album as the first but with the addition of a few tracks. The Benny Goodman number "Sing,sing,sing" is really the best of the lot, showcasing their progressive talents. Great organ, bass and drums. An amazing track.

The best of the three albums is "Watercolor days". Recorded in 1971 I do feel, though the album is a really good one, that time has passed them by. There were certainly other bands that had released progressive albums far more challenging than this one. It has an ELP-ish attitude, circa 1970, though a lot more accessible. I really feel that they fell into the backwaters of prog. If they, as I've been told, spearheaded the development of prog they had by this time become figures in the background. Competent and ambitious in their own right but no longer groundbreaking.

This compilation is really a very good one, encompassing almost their entire recorded output. All three albums, some singles and other treats gives this band a chance to glow. And it's cheap too! I got it for 10£ and that's really a bargain. This is proto-prog and you may not find anything too challenging here but there's a whole lot of good things to enjoy, if you share my taste in late 60's, early 70's progressive rock. Interesting and charming. The organ is splendid too and that alone is worth the price for this wonderfully packaged compilation.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Its funny the way things turn out; this group, lost to history, turns out to be THE prime catalyst for UK progressive rock, yet due to lack of early recordings, even now it doesn't get the credit it deserves, not even on this site, which owes them so much. Then again, this is partly their own fault. ... (read more)

Report this review (#510252) | Posted by DiamondDog | Saturday, August 27, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An important anthology, bringing together at last the three crucial recordings of an enigmatic but essential band. Already extensively reviewed in these pages, the three albums tell the somewhat sad tale of a trio that was the catalyst for much that happened, yet it remains quite unknown in vast s ... (read more)

Report this review (#435961) | Posted by giselle | Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An excellent compilation of this band's outputs. Clouds........ who ? I had no idea who this band was until two months ago. I did an interview with them and purchased this 2 cd's box from Amazon. Then I got stucked into their world and reviewed their three albums. All of them included here. ... (read more)

Report this review (#388381) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Friday, January 28, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 a ... (read more)

Report this review (#361884) | Posted by JeanFrame | Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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