Reality Is Bad Enough

Patrick Sky

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Reality Is Bad Enough Review

by Richie Unterberger

Sky made some modest steps toward folk-rock with his first Verve album, with (usually drumless) acoustic-oriented accompaniment, and some tracks remaining wholly acoustic. Most of the songs were earnest mystical meditations, modestly tuneful in the manner of his friend Eric Andersen (though not as good as Andersen's work). These were broken up by his unfortunate propensity for hammy comic numbers, "She's Up for Grabs" recalling the jazz-folk mugging of Dave Van Ronk, and the banjo-driven "Modern Major General" opening and closing with bugle fanfares. Sky's tone and phrasing, like those of many folk and folk-rock singers of the time, bring to mind a minor-league Bob Dylan, though his way with a vocal is more subdued and conversational. The lyrics are often anything but conversational, obscure in their meaning and dabbed in some free-associative surrealism, though the good-time comic romps are straightforward. There are touches of orchestration, accordion, sitar, harp, and congas from time to time, like a low-budget variation on some of the settings used by Donovan. The forlorn, introspective moodiness of the majority of the songs isn't unappealing, but most of the melodies aren't too memorable. The high spots include the sad lament for "Jimmy Clay," the soldier marching (presumably in Vietnam) while images of his former life in New York flash through his head, and "I Don't Feel That's Real," which has hooks reminiscent of Dylan's most pop-accessible mid-'60s songs.

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