Ariola 1983 / Esoteric 2015
Half-homecoming celebration of classical spirit on the rocks with Down Under surprises abound.
SKY emerged in England, but the band’s magical guitar front had come from Oz, and that’s where the quintet recorded their only concert album. Never the ones to conform – otherwise, there wouldn’t be this communion of chamber and rock worlds – during that tour the ensemble evaded their hits delivering instead, for the most part, pieces which never saw the inside of a studio. Those that did, especially the luxuriously energetic closer “Hotta” and “Dance Of The Little Fairies” off "Sky 2", lose their reserve on-stage to truly come to life.
Opening with a 21-minute “The Animals,” the group quickly build the momentum as Steve Gray’s piano jive sprinkles a steady beat, and John Williams’ acoustic web weaves around Kevin Peek’s sharp riffs before the ivories are left alone with Herbie Flower’s ebbing bass to measure the dynamic depth of the collective performance. While two parts of “KP,” named after its writer, enter a fusion territory for him to shred and shine, Tristan Fry’s vibes lend an almost subsonic grace to Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan.”
Loud to quiet and back again, the band’s show marries funk to cosmic prog and symphonic sway where synthesizers enhance, rather than contrast, other instruments’ natural fibre that gravitates towards blues and waltz in equal measure. If “Antigua,” which starts a globe-trotting suite, flutters delicately, “Sahara” sears the listener with electric tension, and “Sakura Variations” blossoms on a lucid, filigree interplay of strings and keys, yet “Meheeco” dances slyly into the saloon sunset, mariachi-style, and “The Bathroom Song” with its faux-drunk vocalizing, first on a SKY album, turns all the elegance upside down. Rather logical for a Down Under slide and the quintet’s humorous side that shines ever so bright here. A brilliant record.