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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
28
Skylarking
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Price:£7.99


on 22 July 2011
Fantastic album from XTC, and an absolute gem. At the time I understand Andy Partridge fell out over the production of this, apparently. Personally I think it is an outstanding album - and the production is too. There is not one bad track on this and each track has its own unique character. And it is that character which is so cool about good XTC albums, the fact that the musicians can play amazingly well and manage to hold their own with such a diversity of style. Quite often with bands, and particularly I find with many new wave outfits the later albums are very disappointing simply because a band loses direction or sticks to one style and becomes boring but not this later collection from XTC, and I guess that is because of, and in part the ability of the musicians, and of course the song-writing to be so confident in exploring a diversity of musical style. I think Andy Partridge described this album as something similar to 'Summer Baked into a Cake' when sometime later he chilled out after his disagreements over the production. Absolutely spot on description that. I love this album it is delicious. Stuff yer face. More tea vicar...
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on 6 August 2008
I cannot really add much to the previous reviews accept to say that Skylarking is amazing album. Andy Partridge and Co obviously have a very good taste in music as the influence of the Beach Boys and the Beatles is very apparent in this album, which has to be XTC's finest. If this album is news to you, it is basically orchestrated pastoral psychedelia, and is very strong in the melody department. On a final note i generally don't buy albums made in the 80's (they have a clinical air about them which hasen't really gone out of pop music since, but that's another argument for another day....)but this in an exception. A must for fans of 'nice' music.
2 people found this helpful
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on 5 April 2016
Hailed as one of their best, not so sure about that, but a must for XTC fans
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on 26 July 2014
IMHO their second best job, just a step down "English Settlement".
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on 1 October 2015
No comment.
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on 16 October 2017
Great
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on 15 March 2008
It's late on a Saturday night, and my 11 year old daughter Hayley wants to tell you exactly why should this buy this beautiful album. Take it away Hayley........

wow theirs a lot to say about this ablum were should i start, i have to say my favourite song on the album is possbley Earn enough for us and Meeting place i think them to song are the best, but i wouldn't not give the whole album a miss i like all the songs it just them two i think are cool. In the album some of the songs are joined togther like the firsts song plays and it goes dircertey in to the second song i think that's very clever. how i got in to XTC is weird, my dad got this book called 1001 albums you should hear before you die and it had XTC in it their was two of the XCT albums in their, thier was skylarking and the reading on that was fantastic and their was apple venus witch had a really good coment to it, so my dad got apple venus and i listened to it and i said do XTC do any more albums and he said yes so i have listen to a couple of their albums but skylarking hits the top on my list of 1 to 10 and if you dont like or listen or buy skylarking than theirs no point buying the rest of the XTC albums!!

And because skylarking is the BEST I GIVE IT A 5 RATING!!

So there you go - a genuine untampered with review from Hayley. I want to review this album myself so badly, but I would trip up on the superlatives. It is a recording of very great beauty, and if an 11 year old feels moved to review, then that is surely to it's favour, 20 or more years after the original release. Listen, Learn And Love.
14 people found this helpful
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on 29 February 2008
Ever wondered what Astral Weeks would have sounded like if performed by Elvis Costello and produced by George Martin? If the answer is yes, then look no further than this album. Skylarking is, without question, the apex of XTC's mid-80's studio period, in which the band traded jerky-new-wave rhythms and bitter lyrics for more delicate, multi-layered arrangements and err... bitter lyrics! They also temporarily relocated to New York to work with producer Todd Rungren who persuaded the band that the songs they'd written whilst still back home in Swindon would make one hell of a concept album and thus, set about re-structuring the set-list to form the backbone of a loose narrative in which a young couple spend a summer's day languishing in a field making plans for their life ahead... or something along those lines.

As with other albums of this ilk, such as The Kink's Village Green Preservation Society, The Divine Comedy's Promenade and, more recently, The Streets' A Grand Don't Come for Free, the actual concept is hardly coherent, jumping from location to location almost at will whilst looking at certain themes that deviate from the story at hand. None of this is particularly important though, as the fourteen songs that made up the original album stand as some of the very best compositions in the whole of the XTC canon. However, it's not just the songwriting that is at its peak here, but the album on the whole that is wonderfully performed and produced, with the range of instrumentation creating a real atmosphere that compliments the subject matter perfectly. As they had done with earlier albums like Mummer and The Big Express, the songs manage to capture a sense of pastoral tranquillity, whilst also pushing the boundaries of what the band could do on a purely creative level.

As a result of this, Skylarking sounds worlds away from stuff like Drums & Wires and Black Sea, sounding like The Beatles probably would if they'd still been making albums in the mid-80's. Don't believe me? Take a listen to the first two tracks and marvel at how the Andy Partridge composition Summer's Cauldron moves so effortlessly and invisibly into the Colin Moulding piece Grass; with gentle instrumental flourishes and evocative lyrics merging with constant sound samples of twittering birds, buzzing insects and a gentle caressing breeze, all moving gracefully from speaker to speaker as the two songs progress. As album introductions go, it's up there with the greatest and shows the two songwriters, creatively, at their very best. On the whole, the credits for the album are split fairly evenly, with Andy contributing the most but Colin delivering my personal favourites. Andy gives us classics like Ballet for a Rainy Day, 1000 Umbrellas, Earn Enough for Us, Another Satellite and the jazzy The Man Who Sailed Around his Soul, which are all definite highlights, but Colin's quartet of songs, Grass, The Meeting Place, Dying and Sacrificial Bonfire go beyond everything else, developing into full-blown and sublime pop symphonies.

Each song has a strong sense of melody and atmosphere that can be appreciated as a single track or instead, combined with the rest of the album to further the band's idiosyncratic concept (which also takes in ideas of evolution and the life cycle from birth to death). Because of all this conceptual and instrumental experimentation, Skylarking can be a difficult album at times and definitely takes a few listens to sink in; with many listeners new to XTC claiming that the production is cluttered and heavy-handed and that the lyrics seemed forced and self-indulgent. Now, I'll agree that certain elements of Rungren's production is somewhat bold and in your face, but I think it suits the overall mood of the record perfectly. The best songs are the ones that really push those Beatles connections to their fullest, with layered and varied instrumentation being swamped in sound samples; whilst simultaneously acting as the melodious and intermittently catchy backbone to an album that, when really looked at as a cohesive whole, seems almost crushingly bleak.

Because of this, Skylarking is certainly not the best place to start if you are new to the music of XTC; and if that is the case, then I suggest you fist subject yourself to great albums like Black Sea, English Settlement and perhaps even that great 60's pastiche/experimental record 25 o'clock (released by XTC under the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphere) before you even attempt a listening to this. Skylarking does however remain a great album from a great band - then at the height of their creative success - and should definitely be a required purchase for XTC devotees and admires of forward thinking, highly experimental pop.
5 people found this helpful
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on 28 January 2008
Gone were the jagged, new wave guitars and angular melodies of the early post punk years. In one smart move XTC reinvented themselves as natural heirs to the Beatles, Beachboys & Byrds. Ringing harmonies and pastoral arrangements to the fore. Andy Partridge coming into his own as one of the UK's finest lyricists and Todd Rungren on inspired and elegant form as the record's producer. It's all here on the glorious Skylarking.
The critics adored it and, whilst in England it was largely ignored, the inclusion of bible bashing single 'Dear God' was embraced by the American college audiences who took this oddball little band from Swindon to their hearts and wallets.
Summers Cauldron, Grass, The Meeting Place, Seasons Cycle, Earn Enough For Us - magnificent songs one and all - full of great pop hooks and shimmering arrangements. If you love harmony driven, orchestrated powerpop/rock then Skylarking is a must listen. The record has aged beautifully and reminds us that the 80's was much more than Stock Aitken & Waterman and big hair.
That Skylarking followed the patchy and poor selling albums 'Mummer' & 'The Big Express' is even more remarkable.
A true classic that laid out the blueprint for the likes of The Nines and Pugwash.

cw
3 people found this helpful
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on 28 March 2009
This band is the one that I am most 'train-spotterish' about - if there's anything they have done I've got to have it - so no doubt I'll be shelling out for the forthcoming latest remasters with additional tracks. This is, by a short head, XTC's finest album. It is in my top ten albums of all time. There isn't a track here that I do not thoroughly enjoy. The band and Todd Rundgren (the producer - nicknamed 'Herman Munster' by Partridge & co) didn't exactly hit it off, but between them, and maybe even as a consequence of that friction, they have produced a work of genius. A atmosphere is created which is a melange of English summers, pastoral themes, teenage desire, and uplifting optimism. It's the rock equivalent of 'Cider with Rosie' by Laurie Lee. From the outset, the songs flow effortlessly from one to the other, from the delightfully 'woozy' 'Summer's Cauldron' into the licentious 'Grass' (is that a reference to 'jazz woodbines'?!). Partridge and Moulding between them (and I do believe, as other reviewers here comment, that Colin Moulding is as talented as Andy Partridge as a writer) write some gloriously infectious songs with great hooks, such as 'Meeting Place', 'Earn Enough for Us', & 'That's Really Super, Supergirl'. You can understand why this band is so respected amongst many musicians in modern bands, and why they are such an influence.
One person found this helpful
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