Sky – Same (Vol. 1) (1979)

FrontCover1Sky were an English/Australian instrumental rock group that specialised in combining a variety of musical styles, most prominently rock, classical and jazz. The group’s original and best-known lineup featured classical guitarist John Williams, bass player Herbie Flowers, electric guitarist Kevin Peek, drummer Tristan Fry and keyboard player Francis Monkman.

In 1971, John Williams (already one of the most acclaimed classical guitarists in the world) released the fusion album Changes – his first recording of non-classical music, and the first on which he played electric guitar. Among the musicians working on the album were Tristan Fry (an established session drummer who was also the timpanist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and had played Timpani on The Beatles ‘A Day In The Life’) and Herbie Flowers (a former member of Blue Mink and T. Rex, as well as a busy session musician who, amongst other things had recorded the bassline for Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’).

The three musicians became friends, kept in touch and continued working together on various projects during the 1970s. One of these was Williams’ 1978 album Travelling, another substantially commercially successful cross-genre recording. As well as Fry and Flowers, the record featured former Curved Air member Francis Monkman (who in addition to his progressive and psychedelic rock background as guitar and synthesizer player, was a trained and accomplished classical harpsichordist).

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In 1979, Monkman performed on Louis Clark’s album (per-spek-tiv) n., on which he collaborated with an Australian session guitarist called Kevin Peek. Peek was a musician equally adept at classical guitar and pop/rock styles, having built up a reputation both as a chamber musician and as a long-standing member of Cliff Richard’s band, as well as for working Manfred Mann, Lulu, Tom Jones, Jeff Wayne, Shirley Bassey and Gary Glitter.

The success of Travelling inspired Williams and Flowers to set up Sky, their own long-term cross-genre band. Fry and Monkman were swiftly recruited, with Kevin Peek being the final addition. The band began writing and recording instrumental music drawing on their collective experience of classical, light pop, progressive and psychedelic rock, light entertainment and jazz. After a protracted search for a record company, Sky signed with the small European label Ariola Records.

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Although Sky was run democratically (with all members contributed music and/or arrangements), the presence of John Williams in the lineup was regarded as the band’s biggest selling point and was emphasised in publicity. Williams’ concurrent solo instrumental hit – “Cavatina – Theme from The Deer Hunter” – also helped to raise the band’s profile. However, this selling was counterbalanced by some negative reviews from critics accustomed to Williams’ classical performances, who remained unimpressed by his new direction with Sky.

Sky’s self-titled debut album (released in 1979) was highly successful in Britain and Australia, quickly reaching gold record status and eventually topping out as a platinum record. The album featured versions of Eric Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1” and an Antonio Ruiz-Pipò ‘Danza’ , as well as original compositions by Monkman and Flowers. Monkman’s ‘Cannonball’ was a minor hit single, and the keyboard player also contributed the twenty-minute second-side composition “Where Opposites Meet” (intended to combine and display the band’s diverse influences) (by wikipedia)

This is the debut album from the session musician supergroup Sky. The idea behind this band was to assemble virtuoso instrumentalists and adept composers who possess an appreciation for classical music, allowing it to infiltrate their own playing and writing. The concept was admirable, and was manifested more fully in future albums; however, on this recording the songs never seem to unfold completely.

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With the exception of Kevin Peek’s fiery adaptation of Antonio Ruiz-Pipó’s Spanish guitar piece “La Danza,” this album plods along with no apparent destination. Melodies seem undeveloped but trudge forth nevertheless, presumably for the sake of completing the album. Given the presence of world-class guitarist John Williams, his contribution is hardly detectable, and Francis Monkman’s omnipresent harpsichord becomes tiresome midway through the album. And the monotonous rhythm of bassist Herbie Flowers and drummer Tristan Fry does nothing to alter the tediousness of these pieces. It would be a stretch to call this progressive or classical rock; it is merely instrumental pop/rock. (by Dave Sleger)

I can´t agree with this review … maybe this album is not a masterpiece, but´s it´s the beginning of one of the finest classic-rock formations from this time … with a lot of very interesting sounds … especially in “Where Opposites Meet” … or: listen to the guitars on “Danza” … what a sound …  !

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Personnel:
Herbie Flowers (bass)
Tristan Fry (drums, percussion)
Francis Monkman (piano, synthesizer, harpsichord)
Kevin Peek (guitar)
John Williams (guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Westway (Flowers) 3.39
02. Carillon Flowers) 3.29
03. Danza (Ruiz-Pipò) 2.58
04. Gymnopedie No. 1 (Satie) 3,41
05. Cannonball (Monkman) 3.42
06. Where Opposites Meet (Monkman) 19.22.
06.1. Part 1 (3.38)
06.2. Part 2 (2.24)
06.3. Part 3 (5.28)
06.4. Part 4 (5.39)
06.4. Part 5 (2.21)

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