Depending on how you look at it, Sky was either a potentially powerful supergroup of classically-trained musicians, or a recipe for musical disaster of the more pretentious kind. Bassist Herbie Flowers was a seasoned session musician, but also well known for his work with David Bowie, T. Rex and Blue Mink; while keyboardist Francis Monkman was a founding member of Curved Air, and more recently in Phil Manzanera's 801. The pair guested on renowned classical guitarist John Williams's 1978 album, Travelling, which offered a precursor to what the duo would accomplish with Sky. Rounding out the lineup for the new band was Australian-born session guitarist Kevin Peek and drummer Tristan Fry, the latter previously with the London Symphony Orchestra. Tied together by a couple of Abbey Road engineers, Haydn Bendall and Tony Clark, the band's debut album, Sky, appeared in May 1979. "Westway" opens with promise, as the dueling guitars and undulating synth bass suggest a progressive edge. Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie No. 1" is served well by Williams's arrangement, though the light classical music of "Carillon" and "Danza" are ultimately pap. The album's second side, encompassed by the five sections of Monkman's "Where Opposites Meet," is another story. Despite drawing comparisons to Mike Oldfield's large compositions, or even Tangerine Dream's contemporaneous foray into progressive rock, Monkman's contribution suits Sky's virtuosity perfectly: interesting music played with precision. The album was a success in the UK, reaching the Top 10. Their next record—confusingly self-titled in the US, but know as Sky 2 elsewhere—was a double-album, highlighted by Monkman's side-long track "Fifo" and a spirited (if over-the-top) cover of Curved Air's "Vivaldi." However, it was the predictably rocked-up arrangement of J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor "Toccata" b/w "Vivaldi" that reached No. 5 on the UK singles charts and helped propel the album straight to No. 1. Monkman however took his leave after the album. Sky would carry on with continued commercial success well into the 80s, though their repertoire would firmly move into the realm of light classical music.
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Taken from The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock, here is an Album of the Week to enjoy and discuss.
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