Album review: SKY – Reissues (Sky, Sky 2)


Esoteric [Release date 01.12.14] CD/DVD

These two reissues give us a welcome opportunity to re-evaluate that fusion of classical and prog that the band Sky purveyed back in 1979.  A “supergroup” of sorts bringing together the unlikely presence of classical guitarist John Williams with fellow Aussie Kevin Peek, and one-time Curved Air keyboards man Francis Monkman with ace sessioners Tristan Fry (percussion) and Herbie Flowers (bass).

Flowers and Fry had actually worked with Williams on his 1971 album ‘Changes’ but listeners are directed to his second non-classical album ‘Travelling’ in 1978 and the title track for a taste of what was to come.

On paper, Sky sounded promising and their debut album was well received reaching No.2 in the UK album chart.  In particular the original side two was taken up with a superb Monkman composition ‘Where Opposites Meet’.  This is a brilliant showcase for the stellar musicianship and ebbs and flows beautifully within its 19 minute timeframe.

The expanded version of this debut includes a bonus live version recorded in November 1979 but to be honest it sounds to me like the recorded version – the band are that good.  There are bonuses also of the non-album ‘Dies Irae’ (another fine Monkman composition) and the single ‘March To The Scaffold’ whilst the second disc – a DVD – includes a short  interview with Williams, Fry and Flowers in March 1979 and several BBC television performances in the same year.

The band excelled at single-length instrumental pieces that melded rock (Peek), pumping rhythm (Flowers) with a semi-classical (or folk) veneer such as on ‘Westway’, ‘Danza’ and ‘Cannonball’.  Monkman’s resonating synth tones are also quite wonderful.

Once again Esoteric have produced a much needed definitive reissue enhanced by remastering and Sid Smith’s liner notes. This release also brought back happy memories of getting my original album signed by the band in HMV, Birmingham in 1979.

Sadly guitarist Kevin Peek – wracked by a protracted legal case over his later business interests – died in February 2013 which makes a full reunion impossible.  But, whatever, it was always novel to see John Williams with an electric guitar and this album is a stellar example of where classical meets rock.  *****

Sky’s 1980 follow up – Sky 2 – is further enhanced by a bonus DVD which features the band in concert for the BBC in May 1980.  The ambitious double album may have lacked the novel impact of their debut but nevertheless yielded the minor hit single ‘Toccata’ and Monkman’s Curved Air-staple ‘Vivaldi’ (always a live favourite).  Tunes like the Elizabethan ‘Ballet-Volta’,  ‘Gavotte & Variations’ and ‘Andante’ are played quite straight and contrast with the more heavyweight ‘Fifo’.

The serious stuff was tempered by the somewhat throwaway Flowers piece ‘Tuba Smarties’ which again became a staple in their live act and his ‘Dance Of The Little Fairies’ which almost matched Flowers’ chosen attire (a very seventies hooped jumper) in its child-friendly conception.  He redeems himself with the long-form ‘Scipio’.  The album was more commercially successful than its predecessor reaching No 1 in the album charts and going platinum.  ****

Monkman’s departure from the band before the third album – Sky 3 – changed the dynamic somewhat and  in spite of a further two albums, by 1984 they were struggling after the departure of John Williams.  By 1995 they were history.

Perhaps most significantly Sky bucked the popular trend in the late-1970s/early 1980s, the perfect antidote to the more prevalent punk and then new wave fashion.  Clean-cut and non-threatening  they received plenty of exposure on mainstream TV as well as radio.  The Esoteric reissue campaign is to be welcomed and affording a timely reappraisal.  Yes, you may have thought Sky were uncool and somewhat studied at the time (they remain seated for much of their live shows) but – goodness me – the music has aged better than most.

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 20 March 2022 at 21:00 GMT (16:00 EST). Josh’s next session is Sunday 22 May.

Check out previous videos here:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 8 May 2022.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 3 May 2022.

How to Listen Live?

Click the programming image at the top of the page (top right of page if using desktop)

Listen via Windows Media Player. Click or tap here and “open file”
Listen via other media player (eg. VLC) Click or tap here and “open file”

Get Ready to ROCK! Radio is also in iTunes under Internet Radio/Classic Rock
Listen in via the Tunein app and search for “Get Ready to ROCK!” and save as favourite.

More information and links at our radio website where you can listen again to shows via the presenter pages:

Power Plays w/c 16 May 2022 (Mon-Fri)
FLOYA The Hymn (Arising Empire)
VEXES The Dream Disease (indie)
NEAR DUSK The Way It Goes (Iron Head Records)
IN SEARCH OF SUN Make Me Crazy (indie)
WALLNER VAIN Deceive Her (indie)
MARATON Non-Euclidean Heart (Indie Recordings)

Featured Albums w/c 16 May (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 TERRA NOVA Ring That Bell (Lion Music)
12:00-13:00 FOZZY Boombox (Mascot)
14:00-16:00 MICHAEL McDERMOTT St.Paul’s Boulevard (Pauper Sky Records)

Popular (last 30 days)

This entry was posted in ALBUM REVIEWS, ALBUM REVIEWS (Mobile), ALL POSTS, Reissues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply