ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Clear Blue Sky (UK)
Overall View


1968/2001 - "Out of the Blue" (71 min, "Hi-Note")

1970 - "Clear Blue Sky"

1972 - "Destiny" (60 min, "Hi-Note")

1996 - "Cosmic Crusader"

2001 - "Mirror of the Stars" (65 min, "Hi-Note" / "Headline")

Visit the band's web-site at:

1968/2001 - "Out of the Blue" (71 min, "Hi-Note")


Man of Stone

New Dream


Kill You Lie

Veilof the Vixen



Journey (live)

Mystery (live)

Destiny (live)

My Heaven (live)

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.


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

1970 - "Clear Blue Sky"

Journey To the Inside of the Sun (18:30):

SweetLeaf 4:30

The Ride 5:60

I'm Coming Home 3:05

You Mystify 7:45

Toolof My Frade 4:50

My Heaven 5:00



John Simms - guitars, vocals

Ken White - drums

Mark Sheather - bass

All music & lyrics by John Simms.

Produced by Patrick Campbell-Lyons.

Engineered by Roger Besle at "Island Studios".

Artwork by Roger Dean (though!).

Prologue. Officially recognized as the band's first recording, "Clear Blue Sky" is also the only album in the band discography that is hailed as their classic one everywhere. Meanwhile, I see the Roman numeral II under the band's logo just slightly stylized for design unity's sake, as well as both the other titles of the early CBS albums with the same logos (by Roger Dean). Well, if you don't tend to consider this my discovery (don't believe your eyes man!?), let it be on my fantasy's part. To these ears, especially when they listen to music, I always trust them. They're like locators, imagine that? Looking at the title of the first track and the playing time of it, I thought this was a typical LP's side-long composition in 3 conditional parts that seamlessly flow one into another, as always in such cases. While it's clear that Journey To the Inside of the Sun was the side A of the original "Clear Blue Sky II" vinyl LP (nevertheless I have all rights now to call it the band's second album: can you guess, why?), it looks like these three parts were recorded separately (it becomes clear like the blue sky already after the first listen). While the pauses are generally usual things (for separate tracks, but not for such conceptual pieces as The Journey To the Inside of the Sun), the endings of these parts and some other songs on the LP were roughly buried in the mix as if the engineer, dreaming of seven-league boots in the process of the recording session, were at the same time in a hurry to a mixed funeral procession dedicated to the memory of both his own and his neighbour's old shoes. It's also obvious that the people at "Vertigo" have given Clear Blue Sky too little of the recording time since the band's second album was recorded in haste and carelessly, - actually as "live in the studio". Otherwise, with all the essential overdubs and a proper mix, this album would not just have become a classic, but a Classic for the future, for all times.

The Album. As well as all the other Clear Blue Sky proGductions, the band's second album is way heavy in sound. On the other hand, this one isn't as heavy as all the other albums that are the real Progressive Space Rock heavy-weights. It's because it doesn't contain all those essential overdubs. First of all it concerns all the electric guitar solos (and there are lots of them on the album) because there are no John's heavy-riffing guitar parts that would support his own long, tasteful and virtuosic solos on this album - "thanks" to the same limited studio time. The lack (the absence!) of real heaviness in all soloing parts is too obvious despite the fact that Mark makes incredibly successful efforts to replace all these specific guitar heavy moves with the bass guitar riffs. Ken also does his best to keep an overall sound in a 'heavy key' with using such an essential ingredient of heaviness as energetic, tense, sometimes (positively) maniacal and hypnotic drumming. Bass guitar, however, remains just a bass guitar even in Africa, though if Mark had the Chapman Stick then (didn't you know that Ernest Chapman created that wonderful instrument far back in the mid 1960s?) he could've had more possibilities to play both electric guitar riffs and bass parts simultaneously. Musically, the Clear Blue Sky second album represents, on the whole, a style that became the band's hallmark already on the very first recordings done by this unique trio (see the review above), though there are less spacey episodes on "II" and they are much shorter than those on "Out of the Blue". Although John plays heavy riffs only to accompany his vocal parts, it's obvious that the album as a whole was composed the way to sound heavy and progressive, first of all. I've found no less than eight and ten different themes on The Ride and on You Mystify, respectively, not counting a wide-variety of John's incredibly virtuosic and always tasteful solos. At least at the time, in 1970, John was the best soloing guitarist, without a doubt, while in 1968, at the age of 16, he was the best guitarist in general - at least within the genre. (So I'll have to make changes in "Top 20 guitarists in the 1970s" section on the site as soon as possible.) While The Ride and You Mystify are real progressive masterpieces, the powerful and, on the whole, impetuous - both passionate and speedy - Sweet Leaf, as well as each of slightly more variegated in moods I'm Coming Home, Tool of My Frade and My Heaven contains no less than five different themes, that change one another, again and again, kaleidoscopically sometimes, are excellent examples of early Progressive Rock (exactly). The last track, however, unexpectedly took me by surprise with its contents. This was and still is the only Clear Blue Sky song that sounds almost nothing like them, especially when someone's flute's quite simple roulades play a prominent part in the song's instrumental centerpiece. (Later Birdcatcher was included in one of Vertigo's compilations)

Summary. Frankly, I don't regard as drawbacks all that has been done to the album just through Vertigo's swirl fault because, in spite of all, "CBSII" still sounds excellent (up to now) thanks to the outstanding musicianship of each of the three 18-year old members of the band and their wonderful joint performance as well. I only wonder why the guys reached such a strange decision - to close the album with that strange song. Was it a decision on Vertigo's part, again? I don't know, but it's obvious to me that Clear Blue Sky were probably the only "bad boys" for this quite significant, on the whole, label, since the people there just killed the band whose only "Vertigo"-related album not only had all trumps to become one of the five first Prog Metal albums as it really is in line with Black Sabbath's debut album, Deep Purple's "In Rock", Led Zeppelin's "III", and Uriah Heep's "Salisbury", but also to become as popular as these four other albums are - up to now. PS: Also, I've heard on the album (just in places), someone's brief yet very effective keyboard (especially piano) 'invasions' to the overall heavy structures. While it's not interesting to me who was the flautist on the last track, I'd like to know the name of the keyboardist. PPS: As for Vertigo, I liked the new "sci-fi" one more than the old "swirl" label. As for "the only "Mr. Vertigo" Barry Winton", I believe he was really the only man at the label who was seriosly interested in helping bands that played Progressive Rock. But I also find that he did too little for the Progressive Rock development, especially in comparison with the only true Mr. Progressive Tony Stratton-Smith whose unselfish love for the Genre and Its Entities has resulted in the loss back in the mid 1980s of the only truly Progressive Label to come out from the first wave of international Progressive Rock movement. This was Charisma, led by him.

VM. August 9, 2001

1972 - "Destiny" (60 min, "Hi-Note")


Pick Up

Bottom of Your Soul

Follow the Light

Backon the Road Again


When I Call Your Name

Waiting for the Day

Killing Time

Could This Be the Way*

Big City Man*

Note: * tracks 10 and 11 (live): previously unreleased.


John Simms - guitar

Ken White - drums

Mark Sheather - bass

All music by John Simms.

Prologue. Most likely, Clear Blue Sky had their third studio sessions merely a few months after their most known (at least until July/August 2001: read "What's New" at album of 1970 had been released on the "swirl Vertigo" label. The scheme of placing the tracks on "Destiny" and all nuances of the musicianship of the (same) band members (as well as the guys' faces in the album's booklet) approach on the whole the level that I've heard (saw) on "CBSII". There is, however, a major difference in sound between these two albums, as all the nine (1 to 9) original songs on "Destiny" were recorded and mixed properly, though back then the album was privately released on cassettes for demo purposes only. Most recently, first Hi-Note has released (more than just historically significant) "Destiny" on LP, and later on CD, too.

The Album. The first two songs on the album, the title-track and Pick Up, are simply wonderful, by all means. Especially impressive is that they not only follow the vein of the best tracks from the previous album, but also show a logical compositional development in comparison with them and, most importantly, in terms of diversity of themes and arrangements. There are more than enough progressive things in Destiny and Pick Up to regard them as real progressive killers, though the presence of brilliant keyboard parts and solos (by an unknown yet very talented keyboard player) on the title-track makes it a winner. (To this very style Hawkwind came in 1974 on the "Hall of the Mountain Grill" album.) In all other respects Destiny and Pick Up are like twin progressive brothers, whose place is exactly at the head of the album's track-list. Although other songs are also very good on their own right, the first two tracks surpass all of them in all senses. In other words, the further development of events on "Destiny" isn't too rich on events as such, as it was the case with the previous album, too, when The Journey To the Inside of the Sun was just finished. In respect of musical progressiveness, tracks 3 to 6, Bottom of Your Soul, Follow the Light, Back On the Road Again, and Vagabonds, have more or less the same characteristics as Mystify, Tools of My Frade, and I'm Coming Home from the swirled with Vertigo's indifference (to its real status) "CBSII" album. The only detail (which is major, though, - with regard to the band's firm style, formed already during the "Out of the Blue" recording sessions), that differ from most of the "Destiny" tracks from the "CBSII" album almost as a whole, is the presence of a solid number of elements that make up the Space Rock sound. Of course, it also feels great to hear John's wonderful solos (as well as a lot of other musical moves) firmly backed by his own heavy and strong riffs. The closing three songs of original "Destiny" album are the shortest tracks here. The 7th track, When I Call Your Name, with another invisible guest (or were these two guests just ghosts?), performing a couple sax solos, is the most mellow song on the album, whose stylistic "sister" may be the previous album's closing track. Both the following songs Waiting for the Day and Killing Time structurally are, in itself, similar to the Four that go right after the two opening masterpieces, but there is too little playing time in each of them to stretch a more or less large-scale musical palette. While the first of the two live bonus tracks, Could This Be the Way, whose compositional and performing qualities can touch the best tracks on "Destiny", could have been a very good ending to the album if only it had the same quality of sound, Big City Man just catches up with You Mystify, Follow the Light, etc.

Summary. A great step forward (return to form, keeping in mind "Out of the Blue"?) that the band took on the first two tracks of "Destiny" is, unfortunately, marred with a series of more accessible songs in the way typical for Clear Blue Sky's previous album, though I really like this good, original, hard-edged proto-progressive. There are, however, as many as three songs that are too simple to these ears on the band's third album (tracks 7 to 9), so even counting Could This Be the Way, I can't estimate "Destiny" higher than just a very good album and only as a whole. Actually, I think at the time of "Destiny" the band already showed signs of stagnation. Destiny is the word. But Destiny loves those who can find the strength to bounce back and the return of the mighty Clear Blue Sky is really glorious. Just have a look into the next review:

VM. August 16, 2001

1996 - "Cosmic Crusader"

Earth, the Rock

The Age of Dinosaurs*

Every Living Thing

The Serpent's Venom

Picture Puzzle

Highway of Fire

People of Darkness


Cosmic Crusader


John Simms - guitars & vocals

Ken White - drums

Kraznet Montpellier - bass (except: * by Tad Landon)

Adam Lewis - keyboards

Maxine Simms - backing vocals

All music & lyrics by John Simms.

Produced by John Simms.

Recorded at "Saturn" studios, London, UK.

Prologue. And more than twenty-five years later Clear Blue Sky are back with a vengeance on the Space Rock front line. They also are not only back to the form, but they come back in a new, modern form, worthy of their status of the Pioneers of Progressive Space Rock - one of the most important sub-genres of Progressive, created by them during the "Our of the Blue" recording sessions in the distant year of 1968, Anno Domini.

The Album. The second Clear Blue Sky conceptual album "Cosmic Crusader" (the first was "CBSII") brims with innovative, true Progressive Space Rock from start to finish. You may ask why I should define the album's contents so categorically, while there is the only, short yet obvious exception, which almost entirely contradicts with my words. The answer is simple: when I program the album on my CD-player I just exclude the 3-minute sugary ballad Every Living Thing and listen to the 46-minute long "Cosmic Crusader" album, which is really full of all those wonderful things. As for the so roughly destroyed lyrical conception, I have time to read the lyrics of Every Living Thing in the album's booklet before The Serpent's Venom begins. So let's start. Opened with nice spacey instrumental intro Earth, the Rock and closed with the title-track, which is a long (9-minute) epic and a majestic musical flight to the farthest spaces of spacey music, "Cosmic Crusader" is, in my view, the best album among all those that represented the sub-genre in the 1990s, including Hawkwind. All the album's songs-nuclei, beginning with The Age of Dinosaurs, down through The Serpent's Venom, Picture Puzzle, Highway of Fire, People of Darkness, and to conclude with Supernatural, contain all the essential ingredients of real Progressive Space Rock. Variegated fluid guitar solos are either supported by heavy, hypnotic guitar riffs or surrounded by flowing spacey waves. Unusual beats of the heart of the Universe are reflected by the excellent drumming, while pulsating bass lines remind of the signals of pulsars. Meanwhile the soaring vocals of the starship's Commander tell a story of the Earthly people, forgotten somewhere in the spaces of time and in the times of space, who have forgotten themselves and, having lost their way in a wood of just two trees of Good and Evil, can't even imagine that they, Entities of the United Universe, are actually just waiting for another big bang. Beautiful voices of an Unearthly female Entity sometimes responds to Commander's thoughts, confirming them, and the flashes of the dying stars, accentuated by the effects of keyboards and guitar-synth, echo these monologues.

Summary. Not counting the last shadow of the past ballad-syndrome in the face of Every Living Thing, the "Cosmic Crusader" album signifies not only the glorious return of Clear Blue Sky, but also the revival of real Progressive Spacey Rock, now renewed and improved according to the conditions of the contemporary Progressive Rock movement. This album also became a starting point for creating one of the most significant, magnificent works (if not just the best album) of the sub-genre "Mirror of the Stars", with which the Pioneers of Progressive Space Rock become real Kings of the Kingdom, founded by them themselves far back in 1968.

VM. August 18, 2001

2001 - "Mirror of the Stars" (65 min, "Hi-Note" / "Headline")

Mirror of the Stars  6:38

The Passage of Time  3:56

Vexdre  6:00

Hello Earth  4:45

Fly  3:27

Marari  6:22

Lucidra-City of Light  5:36

Say  5:39

Stargaze 777  6:30

The Eye of the Cosmos  6:02

Timelords Speak  6:30

Into the Light  5:13

All songs written by J. Simms & M. Marten,

except 9: by Simms, Marten, K. White, T. Landon.

Produced by John Simms.

Recorded at "Cock Hill" & "Saturn" studios, UK.


John Simms - guitars, midi-guitar,

             lead & backing vocals;

Ted Landon - bass;

Ken White - drums;

Maxine Marten - percussion, backing vocals;


Adam Lewis - keyboards on tracks 4, 7 & 8

Prologue. Really, it was as unexpected to see a promo package from the UK's "Hi-Note" label as its contents turned to be some of the most wonderful albums I've received this year. My wife Nelly brought this parcel from the post - with an unfamiliar to me address of the sender on the cover - just yesterday evening about 6 p.m. and I, being deeply impressed with all the four CDs from "Hi-Note", decided to write immediately at least a couple reviews on the two most important of them, in my view. Although there are about 10 CDs to be reviewed in priority, I find too many significant factors that have to do with the latest "Hi-Notes" releases to talk about them right now. Oh, and the release of Clear Blue Sky's pre-official debut album… it's a revolution in some ways… talk a bit later, though.

The Album. After I listened to "Mirror of the Stars" I was more than just wondering why the people at "Hi-Note" described this music in a promo press kit precisely with the same words as in the album review in Progression magazine. Well, I understand this is the Journal of the Genre, but does it really mean that anything said there is always the truth in the last instance? Nature didn't provide uniqueness at all both for all humans in general and for any 'separately (I didn't say "independently") thinking piece' in particular. Concerning that very review of the Clear Blue Sky "Mirror of the Stars" album I came to the next conclusion: the guy who reviewed it in Progression is either a big fan of 'garage' music and, this way, paid a compliment to the band, or, which is more likely, he doesn't properly orient about Metal manifestations and especially about those in British Rock music. All in all, where did he find American 'garage' on Clear Blue Sky's latest album? The most interesting thing here is that John Simms played the same ('garage'?!) riffs more than 30 years ago, as the basis of his unique style of playing the electric guitar hasn't changed over the years. And, after all, am I a person who doesn't know what is 'garage' and what isn't? You may not believe me, though - just listen to both "Mirror of the Stars" (of 2001) and "Out of the Blue" (of 1969) albums and compare them. Though it would be more than enough to any experienced prog-head or metal-head to listen to the band's brand new work to make sure that this music in general and John's guitar work in particular have absolutely nothing to do with that (damn!) garage style. "Mirror of the Stars" represents wonderful hard-edged Progressive Space Rock of a quality that the 'Kings of the Genre' Hawkwind has never reached. (Actually Hawkwind were merely pseudo kings of this genre: in this respect read the "Out of the Blue" (Clear Blue Sky-1969) review.) John Simms's highly original guitar riffs, moves, etc are, first of all, of a 'pure' British origin (such an axiom just cannot sound differently, bearing in mind that the band, as well as the Progressive Rock movement itself, came to life in Britain in the second half of the 1960s). Secondly, all variegated guitar moves the bandleader uses are tasteful, strong, often positively hypnotic and always diverse - completely in line with the (progressive) style the band works in. His vocal themes are very picturesque and, after all, I just can't imagine a garage band whose singer would have as high-pitched a voice as John's. Finally, the band's overall musicianship, including an outstanding work on the part of the rhythm-section, doesn't contain a single element typical for "garage music" (and here is another turn to say "it's hard" - to put together such words as "garage" and "music": let music remain the area for musicians, and garage for car mechanics and drivers).

Summary. It must be said that the Clear Blue Sky music has a distinct English feel from the first to the last note. Also I consider a good factor that all the three original members feature the band's first album in the new millenium. Their joint work on "Mirror of the Stars" is as strong and tight as (probably) never before. I see there's almost nothing about this wonderful band in the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock, so I feel it a necessity to meet all the lacks concerning Clear Blue Sky's discography, reviews, etc. From my side, I'll add there both the materials on the band's real first and latest albums I have as soon as possible. Also, such important events in the history of Rock music as a reincarnation of the true Progressive in old good England, its motherland, on the threshold of the new millenium, should be aired in all possible progressive channels. Yes, now I can tell you that with such albums as one from the heroes of these lines and the wonderful works of new English bands, such as Tantalus, I hear quality, true Progressive Rock to come out of Britain for the first time in many years.

VM. May 8, 2001


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