CRACK THE SKY

West Vir­gini­ans’ an­thol­ogy of re-recorded ca­reer high­lights goes down a storm.

Prog - - Echoes Old Turns... - NS

The Amer­i­can pro­gres­sive rock scene presents a co­nun­drum. Prog’s big­gest bands en­joyed enor­mous suc­cess State­side in the 1970s and the pulling power of many en­dures to this day: just this sum­mer saw the Steve Howe in­car­na­tion of Yes play over 30 dates na­tion­wide from coast to coast. How­ever, it’s al­most ex­clu­sively Bri­tish prog bands that have drawn the US crowds. Sure, the USA can boast some no­table pro­gres­sive acts – Kansas, Echolyn and Spock’s Beard to name just three – but none be­yond the prog metal arena that have come any­where close to en­joy­ing the con­tin­u­ing global pop­u­lar­ity of their Bri­tish coun­ter­parts. For a coun­try whose pop­u­la­tion dwarfs the UK’s by a fac­tor of five, it all seems a bit dis­pro­por­tion­ate.

There re­main plenty of Amer­i­can prog bands toil­ing away largely un­der the radar. Fore­most among them are West Vir­gini­ans Crack The Sky, who have been plug­ging away since the mid-1970s. While their 1975 de­but al­bum earned high praise from Rolling Stone – who sub­se­quently in­cluded it in their Great­est 50 Prog Rock Al­bums Of All Time list – and the band toured hard, sup­port­ing the likes of Styx,

Rush, Yes and Kansas, break­ing through into the big time some­how eluded them. That they con­tinue to­day with this 12-track ret­ro­spec­tive of re-recorded songs from through­out their ca­reer prob­a­bly rep­re­sents a vic­tory for per­se­ver­ance over com­mer­cial logic.

Crack­ol­ogy is an ab­so­lute tri­umph. In the main, CTS’ ma­te­rial has aged pretty well and the re-record­ing here of Hold On/Surf City is pos­i­tively in­cen­di­ary. Mu­si­cally, CTS cover nu­mer­ous bases – one minute there’s the meat-and­pota­toes rock’n’roll of She’s A Dancer, the next the acous­tic honky tonk whimsy of Ro­bots For Ron­nie.

For the un­ac­quainted, Crack­ol­ogy is a first-rate in­tro­duc­tion to CTS. And as solid proof that they aren’t sol­dier­ing on purely re­liant on old ma­te­rial, the band have also re­leased an ad­ven­tur­ous new al­bum, Liv­ing In Re­verse, in par­al­lel with this col­lec­tion.

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