I know some of you must be scratching your head at this band...who are they? Where did they come from? How long have they been here? In answer to your unspoken questions, I will shortly answer them in full: Crack The Sky is a progressive/hard rock band, which released their first self-titled debut in 1975 (and just recently chugged out a new CD, entitled Ghost), and the positivity of that record is basically why I'm writing this review.
Rolling Stone named it "Debut Of The Year," and they weren't far off. Crack's first record is full of lush, immaculate, articulate, and artistic tunes and ideas. In many ways, it is the perfect album, and before you sneer at this bold statement and try to prove me wrong, I will explain myself a little further (and, in turn, explore the album).
The record starts off with "Hold On," a kooky tune derived by Palumbo (all songs on the LP were written by himself) about the pressures of life, suicidal thoughts, and an inner voice telling him not to do it, and to keep living life to its fullest. Many critics jabbed the band for starting the record off with distorted vocals, but I have to disagree (the distortion is one of the many reasons I love this record).
Next comes "Surf City," another goofy creation, which explores the narrator searching for the reason that he's here ('surfing is...is not my life...fighting is...is not my life'), and finally coming to the conclusion that just existing serves a purpose. One of the best things I love about CTS is that, while they do journey into the dark realm of musical subjects, they always seem to have a positive and uplifting conclusion (and often times darnright hilarious). Radio stations and Crack promoters were scared to play this masterpiece, and for good reason; the racial themes would have offended many.
"Sea Epic" follows in rapid succession, and what a success it is! This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, simply because it is so unique and original. Palumbo's lyrics poke fun at religious worship, while making you laugh behind your hand at the same time. The piano licks and guitar riffs are intense, and the tempo changes pace several times throughout the piece. One doesn't need to wonder about this track; this is what progressive rock is all about.
Did the Beatles record this next track? Maybe, but Crack The Sky would have and have done it better. "She's A Dancer" kicks off with heavy-rock riffs and harmonies similar to what the Beatles did in their early years. It is very apparent who is their number-one influence; however, Palumbo provides yet another set of lyrics that are quirky and fun, while not spoiling the piece in the process. A song about a boy and a girl who can shake their hips, "Dancer" is fun to dance to...and look out when the last section hits, as Crack shows the world how hard they can rock!
Following in the vein of "Sea Epic," "Robots For Ronnie" starts off with Palumbo tinkling the ivories, playing complicated chord progressions, and singing some of the best vocals he's provided us on this album. It seems that nothing is easy for our hero in this song, as Ronnie encounters trouble in school, among his peers, within his family, and among himself. Robots indeed. Another highlight of the album.
The big hit from the LP comes next..."Ice." Honestly, the first handful of times I heard this song, I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. It just didn't hit me, until a couple of days ago, and since then, I've never skipped over it. D'Amico provides some great drums on this track, Witkowski and Griffiths hold their own with tasty guitar licks that fold perfectly over Palumbo's guitar rhythms, and the beautiful lyrics, vocals, and added orchestral arrangements tie everything together. A wonderful track, through and through.
"Mind Baby" enters with crunchy guitars and catchy drum patterns and blows everything else away! This one is tied with "Sea Epic" as my favorite Crack song. You can dance to it, you can easily sing to it, but that doesn't mean it's just another pop song. This is prog at its finest, with multiple instruments overlaying upon one another, and classy vocals and rhythms from Palumbo, shrieking lead guitar jabs from Witkowski and Griffiths, joyous bass patterns from Macre, and perfectly timed drum punches from D'Amico. When it's over, you'll want to play it again (I guarantee it.)
"I Don't Have A Tie" is the second-to-last song on the LP, and it shows perfectly how fine Crack can rock in an open forum! I love this song, because of it's lighthearted lyrics, the piano and guitar-led complex rhythms that work in synchronization with the rocky percussive from D'Amico, and the wild guitar screams that Witkowski and Griffiths release.
And finally, we're on to the actual closer of the original album, a track called "Sleep," which stops the album with the same class that it was opened. I've always enjoyed listening to acoustic-guitar led rock and roll, and that's exactly what this is, delivered in first-class style by one of the most underrated bands of all time. Another gem of a track, among an album which has been highly underlooked.
As far as the bonus cuts on the remaster go, the first song, "Let Me Go Home" is a great song, and should have been included on the album. The exact opposite goes for "Eileen," which follows sadly, in my opinion, into a boring and tiresome bluesy number, which drags on and on much longer than it should have; the group should have, in my opinion, been ashamed for releasing this 'drivel.' Oh well, you can't knock a band for trying. The remix of "Hold On" which comes next on the CD, is a complete laugh; while there are added and more clearly stated guitar licks in the middle section, the track has been edited down nearly a minute...and all the vocal distortion has been removed, and the singing sounds flat, leaving the song feeling empty and worthless. However, "Dr. Octopus," the next track (and the last one on the CD), helps make up for the loss. This is an incredible tune, which sounds like something that the Beatles would have done circa. "Abbey Road." It could even fit easily on that LP.
My final thoughts are that if you don't have this album yet, get it as soon as possible, for you have a huge hole in your music collection (without this release). If you don't, you will be missing out on a true masterpiece, which is long overdue for an enormous circulation among the masses.