Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Quirky and accomplished progressive rock from Crack the Sky

Years ago, my brother turned me onto a somewhat obscure band from Wierton, WV that flirted with fame in the late 70s but never quite broke through. They are called Crack the Sky and they played a quirky brand of progressive rock. I’d have to say the band they most remind me of is Phish but with less of a jazz influence. I make the comparison for two reasons. The topics they pick for songs are every bit as odd (take “Robots for Ronnie,” which is two parents deciding to buy “a stainless steel group of chums” for their son who is a loser). Also, the songs are full of complex bridges and disparate movements that are amazingly well played. Trust me, these guys are cool as hell and very accomplished players.

Still at it in 2008, 33 years after their debut.

I had a couple of their albums on vinyl years ago and one of their songs popped into my head the other day so I started going back to find the old songs I loved. I thought they had broken up in the 80s, but discovered they are still at it and have released no fewer than 22 albums since their self-titled debut in 1975. This gives me a happy amount of work to do since I only ever heard 3 or 4 of their albums. I may have more to report down the road after I have delved a bit into their catalog, but for now I want to recommend a handful of songs from 2 of their early albums.

First, their 1975 debut “Crack the Sky.”

  • She’s a Dancer – I wanted to start with my favorite. You know I’m a sucker for horns and though this song opens as a straight-ahead guitar rock tune the horns kick in toward the end. It’s about a guy who finally must admit he’s attracted to a transvestite dancer (“Alright. I like the way he moves.”).
  • Sleep – It opens as a ballad, but gets more energetic. It’s pretty the whole way through, with great harmony vocals and beautiful acoustic guitar.
  • A Sea Epic – Here’s an odd one about a sailor begging in vain for mercy not for himself, but for the captain, admiral, and ultimately the ship’s cook. It’s a stirring song of several different passages all of which are musically more serious than the funny lyrics.
  • Ice – I don’t know how they remember all of the weird little turns of musical phrase they throw in the corners of songs like this. This song about doubt in relationships darts all over in a complex arrangement.
  • Hold On / Surf City – The chorus of ‘Hold On’ has a bit of a halting feel to it, but I love the verses and ‘Surf City’ is funny and cool all the way through with lots of that 70s masturbatory soloing sprinkled in.

And from their 1978 release, “Safety in Numbers.”

  • Safety in Numbers – Such a product of the times, but it has aged well, I think. I love the wide variety of feels they were comfortable in. This one is alternately oozy and anthemic.
  • Lighten Up McGraw – The intro is cool and the groove they build after is a smooth rocker.
  • Nuclear Apathy – This 8 ½ minute epic has a beautiful acoustic intro that patiently builds for 2 ½ minutes to a complex arrangement of alternating crushing rocker, delicate lullaby, and math rock.

The band has only ever had moderate success and has seen many line-up changes as guys have left the band, done other work, and returned. They’ve even had some success with their other projects (remember ‘Vitamin L’ by B.E. Taylor?) but they keep coming back to write and perform together. As I said, they never quite broke through, but they have put out some cool music. I hope you’ll enjoy these. I’ll let you know what I find out about the rest of their stuff I find.

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December 30, 2009 - Posted by | Classic Rock, Popular, Rock

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