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Note: 1 to 7 - original studio tracks recorded in 1968 and never released until now (playing time: precisely 36 minutes); tracks.8 to 11: original versions of the four tracks that appear (among others) on the band's official debut LP released by "Vertigo" in 1970, - these tracks were recorded live in 1969.
Line-up: John Simms - guitars, vocals; Ken White - drums; Mark Sheather - bass (1-7); Ted Landon - bass on tracks 8-11.
Prologue. I think I won't be wrong to say that probably anyone considers Hawkiwind the Pioneers of Space Rock. But I remember well that at least Hawkwind's self-titled debut of 1970 was far from that Space Rock style thanks to which they subsequently became a huge cult band closer to the middle of the 1970. While I like Hawkwind very much (especially two of their albums - "Levitation" of 1980 and "Astonishing Sounds, Amazing Music" of 1976), now I am going to dethrone this band - at least as the pioneers of (psychedelically-progressive) Space Rock. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the most part of creation (1970 to 2000) of another English Space Rock band Clear Blue Sky, so bearing in mind how many albums have been released by Hawkwind over the 25 years of their (real) activity, so far I can't argue about another title of theirs - Space Rock Kings. But, back to the Pioneering...
The Album. For some reason, first of all I've noticed that John's vocal tone was obviously much lower at his tender 18 than now - at his 50, though I find his current, kind of neuter, polished vocals very original, that sound especially impressive to the accompaniment of strong, heavy guitar riffs. But I have to admit that anyhow John had excellent vocal qualities more than 30 years ago too. The human's nature (at least Earthly) is simple: either you have a talent or this thing is not destined for you at all. Talents are not of those things that people call "acquired". Most of the seven "Out of the Blue" songs have practically the same structures that I've found on the band's latest "Mirror of the Stars" album, though the way the early songs were constructed is different. First of all, there are much less vocal parts on "Out of the Blue" and compositions contain much more instrumental canvas. While I find John's early guitar riffs practically the same as on "Mirror of the Stars" (of course, minus the quality of guitar sound), his solos on "Out of the Blue" are simply outstanding with their positive 'wildness'. Each of the three band members worked on this album to sweat his guts out and their long and highly diverse arrangements are the most ungovernable I ever heard. On the first two or three songs vocals appear just in the very beginning and then only the instruments travel the length and the breath of the compositions with all the conceivable and even inconceivable arrangements, jams, crossing solos of guitar, bass and drums, all simultaneously. The overall sound of the album is incredibly heavy and harsh for 1968. There is lots of heaviness and psychedelics throughout the album, though few arrangements are more variegated in mood, and then these not too long episodes are filled with acoustic guitar passages and a few more or less gentle solos. There is probably the only song on the album that has a clear spacey feel almost throughout - Kill You Lie. All the six other songs are of the same true Space Rock 'quality' as such Hawkwind's albums, for example, as "Hall of the Mountain Grill" and "Warrior At the Edge of Time" We don't have here, on the other hand, such ungovernable heaviness even in the band's heaviest albums such as "Levitation" (their best, IMO), "The Chronicle of the Black Sword" and the likes. I have no idea how (and how long) sound on Clear Blue Sky's official debut album their four original live versions that I hear on "Out of the Blue". Frankly, I liked all the seven studio tracks (a whole album actually) more than the four bonus live tracks though all of them contain excellent prolonged arrangements. I just didn't find there that wonderful furious rage I hear on every track of Clear Blue Sky's real debut album of 1968 called "Out of the Blue". Not as heavy as previous studio songs, these four live tracks represent rather a mix of psychedelics and space music (in its more traditional sense reflected by such performers as Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra and lots of the likes) with an obvious progressive 'approach' to arrangements, than what we used to call Space Rock - with accent on the second word. Maybe, I've got such an impression just because these tracks were recorded live, and, perhaps, their studio versions sound radically differently - I just don't know. Though, I won't be surprised if the band's official debut album consists of only these four songs since on "Out of the Blue" they sound about the same 36 minutes as an original studio album. This is quite usual playing time for most of the LP-albums in general, and 'the question of time' was decided in the favour of prolonged albums just with the invention of another 'medium' - CD, though even presently many performers still consider it unnecessary to use new possibilities just in order to make an album as long as possible. That's for sure. I'd always prefer to listen to a 45-minute album which is excellent from beginning to end than to program (to 'castrate', maybe?) some songs from a 80-minute CD since these (good) songs sound about the same for 45 minutes if not less.
Summary. It's a great feeling to know that there was (is!) another one, the third truly progressive album following the first two genial Pink Floyd albums, with the first marking the birth of Progressive Rock in June 1967, being "hidden" from us up to now, by the way. "Out of the Blue" is not just one of the most revolutionary works in the history of Rock Music, this is also a real progressive killer and (I dare say) the very first Progressive Hard Rock album (in other words the first pre-Prog Metal album), whose elements are obvious among all the other ingredients of mostly truly progressive styles and genres. More. Seven original "Out of the Blue" tracks that Clear Blue Sky had recorded almost two years before the Hawkwind guys were just in work on their debut album are actually the very first full-length work of this exact style. If you still aren't sure that Hawkwind's debut album is far from what we call Space Rock, especially with regard to Hawkwind itself - I'm sorry to remind you about this axiom once again. So the star of real psychedelically progressive Space Rock had risen at least three years before Hawkwind began to perform the very kind of music Clear Blue Sky played on their real debut album in 1968. You don't have to believe me this time (though, I hope so) - anyone who like Hawkwind can just compare the albums of the band's most successful period to "Out of the Blue" and even to Clear Blue Sky's debut official album of the same 1970 because I know that Hawkwind released their first brain-child only by the end of that year. My thoughts by no means reflect my chilled attitude to Hawkwind, as I really like this band very much. I just think that the truth is the only thing to triumph always... All in all, Clear Blue Sky created their own, highly original and innovative, potent mixture of Psychedelics and Progressive Hard Rock, which later will be called Space Rock, far back in 1968, i.e. earlier than any other band or performer of the same style.
VM. May 17, 2001
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