Dick’s Picks: Dick has plumped for this mega-bucks rarity by Clear Blue Sky on the uber-collectable Vertigo ‘Swirl’ imprint, a prime slice of vintage, mind-bending prog-flavoured space rock if ever there was…..
Clear Blue Sky
Hailing from North West London (Acton to be precise), this hard-hittting prog three-piece which featured John Simms (guitar), Mark Sheather (Bass) and Ken White (Drums) began life on the bustling late ‘60s college circuit operating under a variety of different names; Jug Blues, Matuse and latterly ‘X’. Quickly making an appearance on the radar of local music impresario Ashley Kozak the band soon hit the space-rock motherlode by inking a deal with the ‘freaky’ Vertigo imprint – N-I-C-E! Promptly despatched to the studio with one-time Nirvana (no not that one) member Patrick Campbell-Lyons, a quick name change saw them morph into ‘Clear Blue Sky’ and, before you can say ‘side-long-suite’ or ‘space-rock odyssey’ they were primed and ready to unleash their particular brand of musical freakiness on an unsuspecting audience, ooops, nearly forgot, they were but eighteen years of age!
As with so many other titles in the Vertigo catalogue, Clear Blue Sky would end up recording just one long player for the label, and like many of their freak-flag contemporaries it was either ignored or met with indifference, leaving the band to quickly disappear down the prog-shaped hole from whence they came – what a damn shame! Check album opener, a full eighteen and a half minutes (yikes!), divided into three parts (three parts? surely the first rule of prog no?), with the first, all-instrumental, 9 minutes of ‘Sweet Leaf’ (nothing to do with Black Sabbath btw), being a non-stop showcase for gnarly, hard blues-riffage (yikes again!) from John Simms.
Part II, ‘The Rocket Ride’, leaps out of the traps with some fine Hendrix styled ‘Foxy Lady-isms’, before tricky time signatures, weird effects (what is that noise at 20 seconds in?) and Simms unusual stop-start vocal arrives – it’s a strange beast with an angular, loose-limbed feel that gives it an almost krautrocky vibe…
The relatively short part III (I’m Coming Home), functions as a sort of coda (but of course, prog Ed.) to the opening 15 minutes, love those dive-bombing noises throughout btw.
Flip the record and ‘You Mystify’ is high-grade prog action of the “all-hell-let-loose” variety, all fractious guitar and more tricksy time signatures than you can shake a metronome at…
‘My Heaven’ throws a little acoustic guitar into the mix and whilst still showcasing their prodigious prog-rock-chops, definitely highlights another, more reflective, side to the band – final track ‘Birdcatcher’, wheels out the ‘Foxy Lady’ guitar shapes again but this time with the pedal placed firmly to metal, look out for the flute giving it all more than a faint whiff of Jethro Tull too!
Although the band released just one album in their original lifetime there have been some post-Clear Blue Sky demos released as ‘Destiny’, amazingly the band continue to record and play live releasing brand new studio albums in 2009 and 2013 – you can find more info here1