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Crack the Sky - Animal Notes (1976)

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by Khor1255, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. Khor1255

    Khor1255 Senior Member

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    This is the second offering from the Crack the Sky and the one least sited by people likely due to it's lack of much radio airplay. It does feature a band on the rise in one sense (considering it was their second album and there were still high hopes for them) and decline in the other (creative differences really came to a head during this time and could have seriously affected the very existance of the band let alone the album). Despite all this, it is a very evenly balanced collection of highly progressive yet ultimately 'user friendly' songs that - at least for most fans of the group - represent part of the high water mark for this very underrated band.

    I started with Animal notes maybe because it is my personal favorite but also because it is a somewhat fitting analogy of the band at this time with so much potential and subsequent output yet so little commercial or historic success. Most bands like Crack the Sky endure a few years or possibly decade or two of obscurity before ultimately being revealed for the genius they were. Sadly Crack the Sky still remains largely unknown to all but a very loyal group of fans mostly in the Baltimore area.

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    The band at this time (and on the previous album) consisted of:

    John Palumbo (Lead vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards as well as lyrics and a major part of the musical ideas)
    Rick Witkowski (Lead guitar, harmonies)
    Joe Macre (Bass guitar, harmonies)
    Jim Griffiths (Lead guitar, violin, harmonies)
    Joe D'Amico (Drums and percussion, harmonies)

    as well as many of their friends from the northern West Virginia panhandle that comprised a fairly substantial little symphony. This band was contemporaries and ran in the same circles as Wild Cherry (Play That Funky Music White Boy) and if I'm remebering correctly at least one or two of the cherries are part of the 'Crack Orchestra' but you would never guess by the type of music and quality of this album.

    1."We Want Mine" 4:54 - This song has a somewhat strange almost rag time or flapper age feel to it yet delivers a rather rock and roll message in lyric as well as overall result. It repeats 'we don't want your money....we want mine' which is a clear thumb in the nose to corporations, silver spoons and artistically bereft executives of all stripes. It also delivers a small (if somewhat sloppy) taste of the bands otherwise masterful use of stops and tempo changes to display how completely on the same note every member is on these early Crack the Sky songs.

    2."Animal Skins" 3:33 - Some songs words just cannot do any justice to. Or maybe it's just that I'm that much of a hack at expressing the feel this tune has always given me from the first time I heard it back in '76 to this day. It delivers a rather quasi hymnal or even hypnotic lyric atop a sitar heavy but otherwise rither western main rythm. The song features virtuoso playing during the refrain ending in a full blown string symphony ending completely germain to the rest of the song. Ten stars out of five is 2000 too few for this one. But I rather like 'religious' sounding secular songs so I could be a little biased here.

    3."Wet Teenager" 3:32 - This is a straight up rocker with very cool drumming and a rather original handling of the melodic instruments. It sounds fairly epic at times but always down to Earth as is it's subject matter of youth angst with a profoundly mature resolution. Great tune.

    4."Maybe I Can Fool Everybody (Tonight)" 5:57 - This might have been the tune that made Crack the Sky stand out as a band when I first heard them. It is essentially a slow epic drone on electric guitar that goes into another offering of vocals that border on hymnal or chanting but still retaining a very rythmic attitude. You really need to hear this to apprecate it but it's another one that borders on religious experience to the listener.

    5."Rangers at Midnight" (Including 'Night Patrol' and featuring 'Let's Lift Our Hearts Up') 7:34 - Originally Palumbo wanted to make the whole album a concept album with this as the center piece. Thank God the band did not agree with this but please don't take that as a condemnation in any way of what this tune has to offer. It might be called the most progressive tune on the whole album if for no other reason than it has so many diverse sections. The sentiment is pure, the delivery almost flawless and even the somewhat repetitive chorus seems at least loosely fitting. I might call it the weakest track on the album but maybe that's because I don't really like pop and this one smacks of it. However, there are very redeeming factors like the segway into 'Night Patrol' and in fact that whole part. The Night Patrol section could easily be a good song on it's own and maybe at one time was intended to be.

    6."Virgin… No" 4:55 - Awesome sense of humor on this one (and many of the tracks as well) coupled with a really rocking guitar/drum 'harmony' or more accurately duel assault. This song features Palumbo really wailing about the disillusionment of adolescent and young adult experience in an epic and mature manner. The chorus kind of sums up the overall message of the lyrics and the various timing excercises throughout display a band so tight you think they might be able to pull anything off.

    7."Invaders from Mars" 3:31 - This one is whimsical to the point of being almost goofy but in a profoundly original and refreshing manner that make it another song I can hardly imagine going through life without ever hearing. It explains a possible invasion from Mars but we aren't sure because the guy singing 'didn't get a chance to watch the news today'. In any event it starts out rather conventionally but goes on to explain that the author doesn't care whether we are being invaded. He goes on to say the invaders say 'you're commin with us' to which he says 'well let's go' and near the end he wails that 'It's gotta be better than this!" More apathy and disillusionment for sure but the way the song builds is very interesting and manages to keep you on board in spite of the 50s matinee feel that surrounds it.

    8."Play On" 4:10 - Play on is kind of a soul soothing self therapy song with all the warmth and sincerity such a topic might illicit. It seems such a simple tune yet I find myself going back to it and even howling it to the moon again and again.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  2. LG

    LG Fade To Black

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    Re: Crack the Sky - Animal Notes

    Very well done Khor, I only have their debut record and never followed them after that.

    Perhaps I should pick up Animal Notes as well...:think:
     
  3. Lynch

    Lynch Rockin' Out

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    Nice writeup. I don't know much about this band but might have to check them out.

    I did add an album cover to the review (for those of us that like to see what the album looks like). :)
     
  4. Khor1255

    Khor1255 Senior Member

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    Thanks Lynch, I clean forgot about that. This album and Safety in Numbers are the only three studio albums I have ever liked. The next one (White Music) has their most popular radio song on it (Hot Razors) but in my opinion it is pop bildge. Safety in Numbers is perhaps the most progressive of all their albums and the one most fans of their golden age like best. The good news is that most of the newer CDs have both albums on them. I'd recomend listening to them on vynal first but those can be really hard to find so CD will likely have to do.
     
  5. METALPRIEST

    METALPRIEST Senior Member

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    Nice review..I will also need to look more into these guys. :grinthumb
     
  6. joe

    joe Senior Member

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    Excellent review. I think the band was cursed after Rolling Stone crowned their superb s/t debut the album of the year for 1975. Their third album, 'Safety in Numbers' was also well done with, IMO, contained their best song, "Nuclear Apathy'. After that, it was a rapid decline.

     
  7. Khor1255

    Khor1255 Senior Member

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    Yeah, Safety in Numbers is progressive excellence through and through. Yet it has enough 'hooks' to be something you'd think they would play on the radio once in a while. They used to play one or two songs from Safety here (along with the usual suspects from the first album) but I live in Baltimore and we have always been one of the most Crack the Sky friendly towns there was.

    As for passed Saftety Crack? The less said the better. What is cool is the fact that the last few times I saw them (the last being about 6 years ago) they played all older stuff and Beatles songs. I'm not even sure if they played Hot Razors but somehow feel they must have since that was a huge radio hit here.
     
  8. muzik_guy

    muzik_guy Certified Music Geek

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    Great song, but Jesus, Someone actually bothered to upload that video to YouTube? It's unwatchable.
     

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