Sky 3


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Sky 3

Steve, Herbie, John, Keivin, Tris

Herbie Flowers

John Williams

Steve Gray

Kevin Peek

Tristan Fry
Percussion Waterphone

Released: March 1981

Peak position in UK charts: 8 (May 1981)

Availability: Sky 3 was released on CD in 1993 on the Music Club budget label in the UK and Europe. It is hardly surprising that, 10 years later, it is now out of print and not available in shops. It is generally fairly easy to find on eBay even if listed as "rare".

In the meantime, click on the track title to hear/download an MP3 sample from the track (roughly one minute in all cases). I don't include the full tracks for a multitude of reasons, and never will.

Short Review: Made shortly after Francis Monkman's replacement by Steve Gray, this album was an indication of things to come: fewer serious weighty pieces and more of a jazz feel and sound, obvious from the first few tracks. The highlights are those pieces which would remain in Sky's repertoire for the remainder of their performing career, namely Hello (Steve's turn at the simple tune), Meheeco and Westwind. Dance Of the Big Fairies, as the name indicates, was a bit of silliness, and John proves himselves a fine arranger for this particular combo with his take on Handel. Agree? Disagree? Have your say in the Forum!

Track listing (including original liner notes from the band):

The Grace (Flowers)
I wanted to write a hymn, not for any religious reasons, but because they are among the first songs we ever hear. and that's what I wanted to re-create. A lot of things I've done in the past don't satisfy me now, but I still like this. H.F.

Chiropodie No. 1 (Peek/Flowers)
Written by Kevin and Herbie (neither of whom has studied under Nadia Boulanqer or been influenced by the Gamelan Orchestras of Bali) this piece is not to be confused with similarly titled works by Eric Satie or Dr Scholl.
Kevin starts the piece with the famous Peek chug, then John and I share the tune on Ovation and Oberheim OBX respectively, joined from time to time by Kevin on his Gibson L5S. Herbie lays down his usual rock-solid foundation, and Tris does his noted impersonation of Nadaia Boulanger shooing a Balinese Gamelan Orchestra out of her front room. S.G.
The title is a little joke based on Eric Satie's Gymnopedies, one of which we played on the first album. But what I was really trying to get at was that it's a bit of a foot-tapper." H.F.

Westwind (Peek)
I have no idea why I wrote this piece or why I named it Westwind except a strong desire and commitment to do both. The first part of the piece (in D Major) came several weeks before the middle section (which is modal in character) and were at first thought of as two separate pieces altogether (we Australians are sometimes a bit slow in these matters). The penny finally dropped that they fitted together as one piece and the appropriate putting of pen to paper to write out parts for the lads commenced. Slowly but surely the moving hand rit, er whrit, er riht, er... K.P.

Sarabande (Handel, Arr. Williams)
As the title 'Sarabande' implies, this is a sarabande - an old Spanish dance in slow triple time. Most of the notes were originally written for the harpsichord by Handel himself, but he is not responsible for the guitar parts from Variation I onwards, especially the inexcusable false relation ( ... Dawn?) in bar 10 of that variation (my fault, but I like it!). If you don't like this piece, either repeat 'another load of sub-standard baroque rubbish from this boring pop-classic-jazz-rock fusion band' until it's over or jump to the next track, pass Go, collect 200.00 and give it to George in commiseration. J.W.
I was particularly pleased that we were able to play this in Westminster Abbey, within a few feet of where Handel lies buried. As far as I know, he didn't turn over. S.G.

Connecting Rooms (Fry)
Why such a title? Well who knows? But all I can say is that on our last European tour, John and I went missing for two days in the mountains of Austria travelling from Zurich to Salzburg and when we eventually met up with everyone at the hotel in Salzburg, we found we had been given connecting rooms...
The piece, I like to think, starts early in the mountains just as dawn breaks ... her arm? It ends, as I also like to think, next to warm log fire, or somewhere ... in a reflective mood. What happens in the middle: well... what does happen in the middle? T.F.

Moonroof (Peek)
A noisy, brash piece this. If you get a pin and score a deep scratch across the track whilst the record is on the turntable, the needle should jump straight onto the next title. For those without pins (or listening to this on CD) here are some musical observations...
Moonroof is in the same key as the masterly 'Chiropodie No. 1'- D Major. The rhythm guitar plays virtually the same rhythm, and the tempo, an Italian musical term for speed, is nigh on the same. In fact, a court of law would surely admit that the complete thing is a total and utter rip-off - plagiarism I think it's called.
You'll notice that the circular label on the album states that Chiropodie No. I was co-written by Peek and Flowers (don't try and read it while the record is playing).
What precisely happened that night of November 6th, 1980 is still a bit cloudy, but as I recall, Peek came round to my house to 'do a bit of writing together' - pinch ideas more likely! He locked me in the music cupboard (where the piano and cassette player are) for two hours, claiming it was an accident. I could hear these funny noises (like fizzy drink bottles being opened) coming from the kitchen. I could hear distinctly as it was dark - the candle having accidentally gone out as I tried to light a cigar. 
Whilst I put a piano and voice demo on the cassette for Peek to take home and work on (we write better songs together when we're apart!) he'd been firing rockets that were left over from the bonfire night party at the budgie (it had rained that night before we'd got to the rockets and buzz bombs out in the garden). When Peek went home ... voila! The next morning he was straight on the phone: 'I've written a monster Herbs'(I hate being called Herbs.) 'It's called "Moonroof".
Next time get someone else to write the sleeve notes. H.F.

Sister Rose (Gray)
Sister Rose? Meet Brother Steve, who writes lovely long tunes such as the one that gets you going here. And there's more to come! Herbie's bass riff ... is this the wonderful sound that so many synthesised bass lines often try to copy? Kevin plays the tune with solos from Tris and Steve following - and me scurrying around until I get the long tune back. What a piece, sister. J.W.

Hello (Gray)
I handed this little tune out as my arrival present to the band at our first practice. I never planned to record it or play it live, but they seemed to like it. S.G.
It's like a complement to Carillon. It's kept quite deliberately as simple as possible. When we did it on stage, he would say, 'My name's Steve Gray. I've just joined this group. Hello'. Then we'd launch into this one. H.F.

Dance of the Big Fairies (Flowers/Peek)
We all agreed that the sub-title of this piece should be Around The World in 80 Bars (musical bars that is and not the other variety that I have heard tell some musicians frequent after work etc ... oh, the shame of it all!). The basic idea is to take a melody and wring as much out of it as possible by taking it through a variety of treatments such as oom-pah bands, Jewish weddings, Schubert in the twilight, Greek restaurants and so on. I only would have wished that anyone reading these notes could have been a fly on the wall when we were recording thisjust to see the different characterizations coming out in each player as we proceeded through the different sections. (How many Jewish weddings has Herbie played at anyway, and why was John to be seen, after playing the Greek section at the end, serenading the tables in the E.M.I. canteen?) Sometimes I think there are still a lot of secrets to be revealed about my fellow group members. K.P.
A failed attempt to come up with a Son Of Tuba Smarties, but done in a similar rhythm to Dance Of The Little Fairies, hence the title. Even so, if this had come before Tuba Smarties, I might well have preferred this one. H.F.

Meheeco (Flowers/Gray)
Now this one's a definite Sombrero job, with a touch of the Tequila Sunrise. The touch of sunrise over the synthesiser at the beginning is a waterphone, which is a percussion instrument; rather like a closed-in saucepan filled with water and having rods of different lengths soldered to the outside. When these rods are played with a double-bass bow (up-bow of course!) and gently shaken it gives a very unearthly sound. Don't be surprised once the rhythm starts if your heart jumps a beat! It's just that there's a quaver missing from every second bar: I think. Worth remembering if you're doing a Mexican Dance to it. Maybe it should be a Mexican't Dance. T.F.
This was the first thing I wrote with Steve, at his home in Glastonbury. It was quite magical. I had a great rhythm in my mind, and I also knew the colours I wanted for it. It starts off on a Mexican beach, then goes off to the carnival, and it has a couple of slots for improvised solos which made it great fun to play. H.F.
For those a little baffled, pronounce the title with a "Spanish accent" and you'll understand it...

Keep Me Safe And Keep Me Warm, Shelter Me From Darkness (Flowers)
This is just another version of The Grace. We used to open our five shows with Grace, and end with Keep Me Safe. H.F.

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