Up Above Our Heads: Clouds 1966-1971

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Fred Thomas
Straddling the line between vocal pop and all-out prog explorations, Scottish rock trio Clouds toiled over their complex compositions in relative obscurity before disbanding in 1971. Though probably not the first, on later recordings the band honed an intricate rock sound that relied on organ and completely eschewed guitar, making them an anomaly in the developing prog movement that was largely defined by noodling stringed instruments. Up Above Our Heads: Clouds 1966-1971 includes all known work by the band, with U.K.-only albums Watercolour Days and Scrapbook and the U.S.-issued Up Above Our Heads, as well as demos and other unreleased material. The earliest material finds...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Fred Thomas
Straddling the line between vocal pop and all-out prog explorations, Scottish rock trio Clouds toiled over their complex compositions in relative obscurity before disbanding in 1971. Though probably not the first, on later recordings the band honed an intricate rock sound that relied on organ and completely eschewed guitar, making them an anomaly in the developing prog movement that was largely defined by noodling stringed instruments. Up Above Our Heads: Clouds 1966-1971 includes all known work by the band, with U.K.-only albums Watercolour Days and Scrapbook and the U.S.-issued Up Above Our Heads, as well as demos and other unreleased material. The earliest material finds the band running through fragmented songs in decidedly different styles ranging from extended psychedelic freakout "Sing, Sing, Sing" to after-hours jazz garage numbers like the woozy "Old Man." The gently crooned "The Colours Have Run" finds vocalist Ian Ellis toning things down with a full orchestra, achieving the same Chet Baker-inspired vocal melancholia that the Zombies and Scott Walker would find in their strongest moments of subdued beauty. On the second disc of the collection, the density and precision of Clouds' musicianship lends itself to the types of head-spinning progressive workouts that bands of the same era like Egg and Soft Machine were immersing themselves in. These heady compositions, however, were always tempered with a strong traditional songwriting sensibility. The Hammond organ-driven "Mind of a Child" delivers its antiwar sentiments like some pleasant hybrid of early electric Dylan and later-period Small Faces. "A Day of Rain," with its grisly baritone vocals, predicts Nick Cave with eerie similarity by about ten years. It's moments like these that make it a mystery why Clouds never saw mass appeal in their day. Bowie and Keith Emerson both championed the band during its existence, and the influence of Clouds could be heard later in Emerson, Lake & Palmer, the organ-heavy sounds of the Nice, and other followers. With the amount of tossed-off filler taking up space on records by established bands like Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues, and even the Kinks during the same time period, Clouds were crafting stronger and more interesting takes on similar sounds. Up Above Our Heads is another chapter of what may be one of the oldest stories in the rock & roll book: why wasn't this band huge? Weighing in at over two hours of music, this two-disc set may be a lot to take in at once. Clouds' strength lies in their almost Beatlesque level of varied sounds and successful experiments with different styles, and they are thusly best approached on a song-by-song basis. Riding a number of stylistic waves so well, it's a mystery why Clouds never really made it to the shore.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/9/2010
  • Label: Bgo - Beat Goes On
  • EAN: 5017261209665
  • Catalog Number: 6120966
  • Sales rank: 54,692

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Scrapbook Intro (1:08)
  2. 2 The Carpenter (3:29)
  3. 3 The Colours Have Run (3:00)
  4. 4 I'll Go Girl (3:21)
  5. 5 Grandad (2:10)
  6. 6 Ladies And Gentlemen (3:09)
  7. 7 Humdrum (1:07)
  8. 8 Union Jack (1:24)
  9. 9 Old Man (3:26)
  10. 10 Waiter, There's Something In My Soup (7:01)
  11. 11 Scrapbook (2:49)
  12. 12 Imagine Me (3:20)
  13. 13 Sing, Sing, Sing (13:45)
  14. 14 Take Me To Your Leader (2:52)
  15. 15 Big Noise From Winnetka (3:53)
  16. 16 In the Mine (3:55)
Disc 2
  1. 1 Watercolour Days (5:29)
  2. 2 Cold Sweat (3:36)
  3. 3 Lighthouse (5:03)
  4. 4 Long Time (4:38)
  5. 5 Mind of a Child (2:51)
  6. 6 I Know Better Than You (4:53)
  7. 7 Leavin' (3:26)
  8. 8 Get Off My Farm (3:26)
  9. 9 I Am the Melody (2:42)
  10. 10 Make No Bones About It (2:38)
  11. 11 Heritage (4:18)
  12. 12 Why is There No Magic (2:43)
  13. 13 The World Is a Madhouse (4:01)
  14. 14 Shadows (2:41)
  15. 15 Once Upon a Time (2:54)
  16. 16 A Day of Rain (3:42)
  17. 17 America (8:11)
  18. 18 Clockwork Soldier (5:06)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Clouds Primary Artist
Alvin Lee Guitar
Ian Ellis Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica, Bass Guitar, Vocals, Background Vocals, Mouth Organ
Harry Hughes Trumpet, Drums
David Palmer Conductor
Billy Ritchie Organ, Acoustic Guitar, Guitar, Piano, Bass Guitar, Electric Guitar, Harpsichord, Vocals, Background Vocals, Hammond B3
George Ritchie Bass
Mike Kidson Drums
Rod Butler Guitar
Roadie Don Vocals
Technical Credits
Robin Black Engineer
John Burns Producer, Remastering
Andy Johns Engineer
Ruan O'Lochlainn Cover Design
David Palmer Orchestration, String Arrangements, Brass Arrangment
Billy Ritchie Liner Notes
Steve Kingston Cover Painting
David Wells Liner Notes
Andrew Thompson Remastering
Bauduc Composer
Terry Ellis Producer
John Williams Cover Design
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 29, 2010

    ROCK ARCHEOLOGY

    UP ABOVE OUR HEADS [CLOUDS 1966-71]

    I usually don't like compilations or packages. With compilations, for every gem in there, you often have to wade through the debris, like trawling for pebbles on the beach. With packages, it's often difficult to see how you can justifiably take several albums that have their own individual concepts and shove them together on one or two discs.
    However, in the case of Up Above our Heads (Clouds 1966-71) the package works, because it not only unifies and brings together the three Clouds albums, it encapsulates the history of a band that, until recently, without due credit, had a huge part to play in bringing pop into the progressive age.
    The approach is more or less chronological. The Clouds Scrapbook still has traces of pop songs as well as musical invention, and is perhaps in some ways the most simplistic of the three albums, but in reality, it is the most important of the recordings. It is perhaps the first true bridge between 60s pop and 70s progressive.
    Up Above our Heads is much more of a stage-performance album, the band sounding pretty much as it must have done in the Albert Hall and Fillmore days. For anyone wishing to hear the musical heights the band could reach, this is the album to pick out from the shelves. Virtuoso keyboards and stunning drums are the order of the day, though often at the expense of songs and arrangements.
    Watercolour Days seems, in hindsight, to be an attempt to marry all the elements together. The title song is a classic melody, extremely unusual and clever in its chord structures and vocal lines, and exceptionally arranged. Thereafter, power and dynamics dominate proceedings, but with melodies breaking through at regular intervals, seemingly striving for a mixture of the first two albums, and at times, succeeding brilliantly, and though the lapses are at times glaringly obvious too, it was a valiant effort, promising much yet to come.
    The bonus tracks contain some surprises. Make no Bones About it was the first Clouds release, and though reviews were not favourable (Melody Maker said "They are one of our finest groups, and very exciting live, but this is disappointing and seems to go nowhere" ),in hindsight, it is clearly a song out of its time. Extremely pessimistic lyrics were not in vogue in an era of Marmalade skies, but this is a fine song, albeit sounding nothing like the same band.
    Heritage, the B-side of the single follows. It is a more Clouds-sounding track, with interesting organ riffs and vocals, but it is also somewhat unmemorable as a song.
    A beautifully sad song follows, Why is there no Magic sings of disillusionment, but with a Christmas sound lingering through it, ending with some wonderful guitar phrases (by Steve Gould), bell-like pianos, and a poignant lyric "Beneath a tinsel wrapping nothing lies, only diminishing cardboard boxes". How terrible that such beautiful songs and the songs yet to be, were lost to us. Why songs like these were not released at the time instead of now is part of the 1-2-3/Clouds tragedy.
    Then, a bit of a jolt, a song recorded in 1971 suddenly transports us to the late 70s. The World is a Madhouse, sounds like new wave, or possibly the Doors meet John Cage, but is much too complex in its musical structure to be of that ilk alone. A rather chilling atmosphere pervades the music, disturbing as much as pleasing.
    This new wave sound continues with the next track, Shadows, a quite haunting and at times ethereal voc

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