The Best of Sky

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In the late '70s, Australian John Williams formed Sky, a clean-cut instrumental outfit that merged jazz, rock, classical, and even new age styles to form some rather innovative music in the final product. The timing was just right for Sky, since other genres that sported classical-rock fusion, such as progressive rock, were becoming rather quieted toward the end of the decade. But even without a barrage of competition, Sky only gained minimum attention outside of the U.K., and never garnered the consideration that the group's talents should have mustered. The Best of Sky combines 16 tracks that shine a light on all of the group's different styles, providing an abbreviated "all bases covered" type of compilation. Although Sky's music is multi-dimensional, it's the smooth impressions of classical favorites put into a modern atmosphere that rise to the surface first, not only through Williams' guitar, but from Tristan Fry's percussion work and ex-Curved Air keyboardist Francis Monkman. Toccata, Ride of the Valkyries, and Darryl Way's "Vivaldi" are three of Sky's most resounding takes on classical music, while Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" is a beautiful adaptation, showcasing the elegance of Williams' guitar fingering. Covered many times by numerous artists, Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1 makes for a gorgeous mood piece, washed over gently with lush keyboard and guitar. Outside of the classical pieces, "Sahara" may be the group's best. Inundating a Mediterranean flavor but melding it with Middle Eastern string work, powerful crescendos and docile passages follow each other to create some excellent musical movement. "El Cielo" unites the guitar and synthesizer once again, and "West Wind" paints a vivid portrait with a submissive brand of conservative funk. All of the cuts include Williams' involvement, and stretch from 1979's self-titled Sky release up to 1982's Forthcoming album. Williams left the band after 1983's Cadmium album to pursue a solo career, while Steve Gray took over Monkman's spot in 1981. A box set compiling their first three albums is also available, but The Best of Sky is suitable for those who just want to dip their toes in first.

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