Up Above Our Heads (Clouds 66-71) Double CD
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Audio CD, Double CD, 1 Nov 2010
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This package encompasses all Clouds' known recorded works and includes their two UK albums 'Scrapbook' and 'Watercolour Days' plus singles and unreleased demos. Also included are the tracks from their US-only album, 'Up Above Our Heads'. These Scottish prog-rockers have maintained credibility over the years and this compilation will help enhance their reputation. Digitally remastered and slipcased, and with new notes by Billy Ritchie and David Wells.
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The liner notes are complete and tell a sad story, about a band that was in the wrong place (Chrysalis), with the wrong manager (Terry Ellis) and in the wrong time (because of the emergence of certain band fronted by one-legged flute player that monopolized the manager's efforts).
But the music speaks for itself, and only 'Watercolour Days' keep a reasonable balance between power and musicality. The other albums are plenty of ups and downs. The drummer (Harry Hughes) was fantastic, and Billy Ritchie played organ with talent and energy. Sadly, Billy or Ian Ellis voices were not as good as their skills on their instruments and the songs sometimes were long and boring improvisations. These two albums were lacking in cohesion but you could find somehow good tracks in them.
Don't try to listen the two CDs in a row. It's better to take the first album (Scrapbook), and spin it two or three times. And the same with the rest (as if you were listening the LPs, not the CDs). Then you will be able to appreciate the sound of this band, rough and ready but quite interesting.
There were many bands that followed the path open by The Clouds, as The Nice, EL&P or Atomic Rooster, to quote just a few ones.
This pack, IMHO, is not a must-have, nor a masterpiece, but bring us back from the vaults an interesting band to re-discover in modern times.
As the rest was brilliant! A real bargain in fact, with over 2 hours of music. Love the fact the whole collection of songs
are included here.
Let's start with the packaging here. This box includes one of the best ever booklets I have seen. It is the full Clouds story, compiled and written by one guy called David Wells. Excellent job, David ! The Clouds story is excellent written and includes a lot of very useful stuff. It is a booklet you cannot stop reading if you have started on page. It is that well written. Hence, this booklet is alone worthy a purchase. The booklet also includes the lyrics and linear notes for each individual albums and the extra tracks. It is obvious that the record label BGO Records has spared no money to get this box perfect. That also goes for the sound which is spotless and absolute perfect, as far as I gather on my office stereo rack. Maybe if you put this box on a $ 25 000 stereo rack, the sound may not be perfect. But it is perfect on my rack. The result is a very impressive box which I seriously wish should be copied by other labels too. All praise to BGO Records for this job.
There are 2 cds here. The first CD includes their first two albums Scrapbook and Up Above Our Heads. The latter album was only released in USA and Canada, but never in Europe and world wide. Hence; this is the first world wide release of this album. The sound on the two albums has very probably been cleaned up from the LPs. Which is both fair and right. You will find my reviews of these two albums somewhere else on these pages. But let me shortly ad that they and their music in general sounds like a crossbreed between The Beatles (who was also managed by Clouds manager Brian Epstein) and The Nice. The music is very much Hammond organ based and we are talking Proto Prog here in it's truest sense.
The second CD contains their third album Watercolour Days and nine bonus tracks. I again refer to my review of the album. The nine bonus tracks are the A and B side of a single, unreleased material and their version of Simon & Garfunkel's massive hit America, later also covered by Yes. Their version was probably spurred on by Clouds, or 1-2-3 as they were called back then. I very much prefer Clouds version which has a lot more bite and meat than the Yes version. In short, the nine bonus tracks is all great and would had made a great album.
In short; this is an excellent documentation of a band who influenced David Bowie, Keith Emerson, The Nice, ELP and scores of other artists and bands. The price of this box is also very reasonable too. It is therefore close to being an essential purchase for any prog head with a bit of self respect. I am a very happy owner of this box which goes straight into my top 5 of the alltime best compilation boxes. Hence some awarded stars.
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