|The Great Balloon Race|
|Produced by Sky|
|Released on 1985|
|no chart information|
|Find it at GEMM|
|FM 42052 cover
[high resolution scan]
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Sky; I go into some of these things completely blind. At first, this reminded me of those Alan Parsons Project instrumentals and Mannheim Steamroller: classical pop or soft instrumental rock or smooth prog or whatever you want to call it. I secretly suspect that Rick Wakeman’s albums from the ‘90s sound like this too, which is probably why I don’t make acquiring them more of a priority. Not that I don’t enjoy The Great Balloon Race on some level; it’s just not a very elevated level. At its most agitated (“Roleystone”) it sounds like Jan Hammer, at its least (“Caldando”), Windham Hill. Of course, Sky like Mannheim Steamroller pre-dated Windham Hill and no doubt influenced its artists. Given the negative backlash to new age music, I imagine that fact and a dollar might get you a cup of very average coffee these days. The Great Balloon Race is better than new age music; in fact, the opening “Desperate For Your Love” had me thinking prog out of the gate, but one too many celtic interludes and not enough elasticity in the jazzier sections (“Peter’s Wedding,” “The Great Balloon Race”) puts this on a lower peg than prog. You could argue that it deserves its own genre: smooth prog. Similar to smooth jazz (e.g., Yellowjackets), Sky is less interested in pushing envelopes than mailing pretty postcards from some picturesque point. The Great Balloon Race is a nice record, a small triumph considering the deflating effect that John Williams’ departure must have had on the band. You could argue that classical pop is all just so much hot air, and I won’t disagree with you, but at least Sky isn’t making albums about endangered wildlife or architects or dead English kings.
HERBIE FLOWERS -- electric & string bass
TRISTAN FRY -- drum kit and percussion
STEVE GRAY -- keyboards
KEVIN PEEK -- guitars and guitar synths
Ron Aspery -- saxophones & flutes
Adrian Brett -- pan-pipes
Lee Fothergill -- guitars
Tony Hymas -- synthesiser and vocals
Clare Torry -- vocals
Ric Curtin -- engineer
Nick Flowers -- engineer
Owen Davies -- engineer
Jon Jacobs -- engineer
Roslav Szaybo -- design
Steve Moss/Foto-Bank -- photography
Studio Gerrard -- design, artwork
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There's a great Sky fan site (or actually a John Williams fan site with a great Sky sub-site) at plum.cream.org/sky/index.htm. Fascinating. You should check it out.
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