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Sky

Carillon: The Singles Collection 1979-1987

Review by Gary Hill

A while ago I reviewed a box set of studio albums from Sky. For my money, that might be the best introduction to this act. That said, this new set is a more economical option. It provides a good cross-section of this act. Given that there are some previously unreleased tracks here, it is also recommended to long-time fans of this band. The music here combines classical with fusion and prog rock to create something interesting. This collection (as you might guess from the sub-title) includes all the A and B sides of singles the band released during the years covered. I should mention that since I reviewed album versions of many of these songs, where appropriate I've adapted those track reviews for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One
            
Cannonball

Fusion merges with more pure progressive rock on this cut. It's a powerhouse and energized rocker that has some moments that make me think of Alan Parsons. Here is what I said of the original album version. A much more energized and rocking number, this is such a cool jam. There are things here that make me think of Alan Parsons Project. Other parts have more fusion built into them. The guitar soloing is all rock music, though. There are some unusual shifts and turns built into this thing.

Tristan's Magic Garden
This single version is mellow and quite pretty at the start, but it turns quite bombastic later along the ride. Here's what I wrote about it in its original album version. While there is still a lot of classical music built into the first half of this, and it is another sedate movement, this has almost a psychedelic prog vibe to it. It shifts to percussion entirely mid-track with drums and vibes driving it. There is a driving almost jazz rock feeling to this section, but it remains a percussion solo.
Carillon
A slow moving and sedate number, this is quite pretty. Here is what I wrote about the album version, and it applies well to this one. Mellow elements start this, basically piano and acoustic guitar. It grows outward gradually from there. It gets a bit more powered up right near the end, but overall remains a mellower piece.
El Cielo
The mix of sounds and general evolution of this track is so classy. Here's what I wrote about the album version of the track, intricate acoustic guitar and synthesizer the driving points of the first section of this cut. There are things about it that make me think of Emerson, Lake and Palmer a bit. There is a Spanish vibe to this in some ways. They work through a more folk prog styled section before turning toward more symphonic prog. Then it makes its way back to a revitalized version of earlier classically inspired sounds.
Toccata
This classically based number is just so cool. Here is what I wrote about it on the original album review, this is the famous "scary movie classical music" piece from Bach. They start it in fairly traditional ways but eventually move out into more prog rocking territory with it. It really becomes a smoking hot hard rocker.
Vivaldi
While the title explains that this cut is based on the music of Vivaldi, it goes further than that. Here's an adaptation of what I wrote in the original album review. Francis Monkman was in Curved Air at one time, and here Sky takes on a Curved Air song. The mix of prog and classical on this number really works particularly well here. It drops back to guitar solo and that holds it for a time before things gradually power back upward.
Dies Irae (7" Single Edit)
This single version has never appeared on a CD before this release. It has a particularly powerful arrangement that deftly merges classical music with world sounds, fusion and hard rock. It's a perfect example of what Sky is at its best. This is a killer tune and a great inclusion here.
March to the Scaffold
Here is what I had to say about the album version of this killer cut. Starting with classical piano, this arrangement gets quite a bit of a progressive rock edge added to it. It's perhaps close to things like the more classical side of Rick Wakeman's catalog and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Masquerade
Looking again to my review of the album version, here is what I had to say: Fairly mellow classical music is the concept on the early parts of this. It has an almost creepy carnival vibe to it. It works out to a more prog rock based version of this concept.
Fantasy
Here we get more of a prog rock take on a Bach composition. This is a killer jam that again feels a bit like something Wakeman or Emerson might do. I like this one a lot. It's pretty cool stuff for sure. At least that was what I said in my review of the album version. It fits as presented here.
My Giselle
The album version of this includes this parenthetical, "From a Theme by Adam De La Halle." Here is an adaption of what I said about that version of the piece.  There is a dramatic building element that leads this cut out of the gate. The piece gets quite rocking and is a standout of this particular album. It works out to more melodic stuff at times, but this is decidedly progressive rock number. It has some great shifts and changes.
Fantasia
With both rock and classical elements at play, this is another solid instrumental piece. It manages some particularly energetic moments. That is what I said about the rendition on the original album. It's equally valid here.
CD Two
   
The Animals (Part One)

This has a cool jazzy groove at its heart. It's a rocking little number that is very tasty and cool. There is some Americana, surf guitar and more here. It also makes me think of Alan Parsons a bit at times. This is quite dynamic and intriguing.

KP II
More of a pure progressive rock piece, there are some really powerful movements on this. The cut works through a number of different movements and has a lot of varied sound at its core. It's high energy and a lot of fun.
Troika
What I said about this track on the studio album applies here. So, here it is: Sleigh bells start this track off, and they work out into a classically based rock arrangement from there. This is a holiday piece, and as such reminds me a bit of Mannheim Steamroller. There are some ethnic music elements at play here. Ultimately, this is probably closest to folk prog than it is to anything else. There are some intriguing changes. The faster paced, more rocking section makes me think of a proggy version of The Ventures in a lot of ways.
Why Don't We?
A fun rock and roll groove is at the heart of this number. This bouncy and so cool. It's not the proggiest thing here by any means, but it's a solid tune and a nice change of pace.
Fool on the Hill

Here we get a cool instrumental version of the Beatles cut. It's a pretty and mellow proggy rendition.

The Spirit
Classical music merges with a real pop folk prog sound for quite a bit of this. There are more hard rocking sections, too.
Desperate for Your Love (7" Single Edit)
This is a previously unreleased on CD track.  While this edit is previously unreleased, I have reviewed the full album version of the song. What I said about that can be adapted here to address this version. Mellower elements bring this in with a trippy kind of space rock vibe. There are some spoken words almost in the background. This is unsettling and movie soundtrack like in a cool proggy way. More of those spoken voices come across as this grows upward. Eventually the rhythm section asserts itself and starts to take command. The number shifts more toward a melodic space rock meets fusion kind of groove. More spoken vocals are heard on this piece, this time further in the foreground. The jamming continues to guide the piece through some intriguing musical territory. There are some bits of whispered female vocals and some sung non-lyrical female vocals further down the road as the cut fades down to end.
The Great Balloon Race (7" Single Edit)
This single edit of an album title track is seeing it's first CD release here. Again, what I said about the full version of the song is relevant when adapted for use here. This feels like Vangelis as it works forward. It builds ever upward as it keeps evolving. This is so dramatic and powerful.
Night Sky
I love the balance of acoustic guitar and piano on this sedate tune. At least that's what I said about the song in the album version review. This number is quite classical and so pretty. There is a sadness to it.
KP 4
A playful electronic styled tune, this has a new age meets fusion kind of vibe to it. It gets some energy and manages to rock a bit before it's all over and done.
The Marriage of Figaro: Overture
While the album version of this cut really combines the symphonic classical elements with progressive ones, this is more purely classical in nature. In fact, there really isn't any rock here at all.
A Musical Joke: Presto

Symphonic prog is the best way to describe this, but the emphasis is on the symphonic side of things for the first half of the cut. There have been some interesting meldings of progressive rock with classical music over the years (have you heard any of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music before he started doing the musicals?), and this fits well in that tradition. This grows out into more of a rock arrangement later, but the symphonic things are still integral to the arrangement when it does.

 
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