Sky Islands

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Caldera's second album, Sky Islands, found the fusion band working with a vocalist for the first time. Singer Dianne Reeves, who had yet to record a solo album and was little known in 1977, is featured on Eduardo del Barrio's haunting "Ancient Source" and provides wordless background vocals on the Earth, Wind & Fire-minded title song (which Reeves would cover for Blue Note ten years later). Nonetheless, this is an instrumental album first and foremost, and intriguing cuts such as "Pescador," "Pegasus," and the Andean-influenced "Carnavalito" give the soloists enough room to stretch out. With musicians like guitarist Jorge Strunz, keyboardist Eduardo del Barrio, and saxman Steve Tavaglione on board, it would've been regrettable if there hadn't been some room for blowing. While Caldera's first LP was produced by Wayne Henderson, Sky Islands finds Strunz and del Barrio doing the producing with Earth, Wind & Fire keyboardist Larry Dunn -- who was a logical choice considering that EWF was among Caldera's many influences. At times, they tend to over-produce. But the writing is consistently superb, and all things considered, Sky Islands makes good on the promise of the band's previous album.