Ariola 1981 / Esoteric 2014
Further adventures of pop-symphonists – subtler and sunnier and certainly funnier.
After a chart-topping triumph of their second album, SKY seemed to have a winning formula in their lap, but this band never were about repetition. Still, the change in the line-up came unplanned, as Francis Monkman, one with most extensive live experience, left without explanation and on board came Steve Gray with his jazz expertise. Balance tilted, bassist Herbie Flowers found a new creative angle and moved to the fore, composition-wise, as outlined by the hymnal “The Grace” and “Keep Me Safe And Keep Me Warm, Shelter Me From Darkness” which, each less than a minute long, open and close “Sky 3” and give its electric elegance a slightly humorous slant – very eloquent in the players’ own liner notes and on the bonus DVD documenting their fantastic performance at Westminster Abbey.
John Williams and Kevin Peek’s lines aren’t so contrasting now as on the previous records, although there’s a nice race between the two on “Connecting Rooms” before the pop rumble enters the picture – rather gracefully – to be devoured by quietness towards the end. And while “Chiropodie 1” provides a light stroll with a lot of curlicues instead of the title-suggested Satie-esque elegy that hides in the funky flutter of “Westwind,” the taut “Moonroof” offers a rocking roll against the bass-punctured panorama. Continuing down the contradiction lane, the quintet strips “Sarabande” of Handel’s sparse solemnity in favour of breathing, if bittersweet, acoustic transparency where piano and guitar entwine until Tristan Fry’s drums return the piece to a heavier path, whereas the brass-caressed waltz “Dance Of The Big Fairies” turns “Dance Of The Little Fairies” from “Sky 2” on its pixie head.
But “Sister Rose” glues gentle six-string lace and riffs to flashy fusion splashes and synthesizer buzz, and “Hello” is a SKY-patented classical delicasy at its most heart-tugging, although it’s “Meheeco” that excels on the merry cinematic front laying out a mariachi delight and blowing up its scope beyond seriousness again. A pocket symphony, indeed!