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(73:57, Trail Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Taking the Stage 5:03 2. Rain 7:39 3. Wall Walla / Moving like a Water 7:38 4. Cornerman 6:14 5. Don’t Forget the Sky 5:10 6. The Ant, the Stars, the Owl & Its Prey 5:27 7. Remember Me the Wind 6:38 8. Nowhere 7:02 9. Want 6:46 10. Gliding 5:10 11. Elephant Song 6:19 12. Walk of Nothingness 4:08 13. California Dreaming 3:32 LINEUP: Anisa Romero – vocals Roderick Romero – vocals Ben Ireland – drums, percussion Michael Cozzi – guitars, programming William Bernhard – guitars; keyboards Juano – bass, guitars; backing vocals
Prolusion. The US outfit SKY CRIES MARY has been around for 25 years at the time of writing, with a string of albums from the late 80's and throughout the 90's that saw them build a good-sized following. In the last few years the independent US label Trail Records has taken an interest in this act, issuing a compilation disc in 2009, followed by "Taking the Stage: Live 1997-2005" now in 2011. The latter item is a remastered version of the band’s live recordings made between 1997 and 2005.
Analysis. Sky Cries Mary appears to be a good example of a band that has managed to escape the attention of the art rock audience, at least until Trail Records took an interest in them. And it seems like this has been a fruitful endeavor for both parties, seeing that this small label now has made a second production by the band commercially available. And this collection of live recordings showcases a band with less of an art rock approach than the custom-made compilation from 2009, and as such this is a production with a stronger appeal to existing fans than to a progressive rock audience unfamiliar with them until now. The basic premise for all these compositions is gentle, careful atmospheres: Light-toned, fragile guitar textures are a trademark feature, carefully reverberating and swirling motifs creating a dream-laden, careful psychedelic sheen to the proceedings. Keyboards and synths will occasionally strengthen this mood by way of supplementing it with carefully fluctuating textures resulting in associations towards space and science fiction settings, albeit with more of an inner space than outer space vibe, introverted rather than extroverted, reflective and thoughtful in nature. At other times the tangents will have a more subservient role, supporting the vocals in a non-intrusive manner. The lead vocals themselves at times add an extra psychedelic patina to the proceedings actually; in cases where the delivery is laid-back, lazy and sleepy the dual lead of Mr. and Mrs. Romero is something of a stand-alone psych-dripping presence. Add in the odd piece with tribal-inspired rhythms and you get the gist of this band's art rock credentials, gentle, careful and light-toned, with dream-laden and drowsy as possible main characteristics, and the token excursion sporting more of an energetic approach. What this disc reveals is that Sky Cries Mary as a live unit tends to tone down some of their psychedelic tendencies, mostly by way of firmer guitar delivery. When the light-toned guitar textures are clearer, less reverberating and loose, some of the swirling tendencies, the sound and subsequent associations tend to head more in the direction of indie rock. The same goes for the lead vocals and, in particular, on the compositions that don't feature keyboards or synths supplementing the psychedelic tinges of their sound. As such this is a CD with more of a mainstream-oriented sound in general. Still easily recognizable as songs by Sky Cries Mary by all means, the alterations from the studio versions are mostly of a subtle and nuanced nature, but there is a difference present that will be noticed by the avid listener. Other than that, Trail Records has done a splendid job in remastering these recordings, and the total package they present to the buying public is arguably their most delightful yet, the cover art in particular, which is a piece of high quality art in itself.
Conclusion. As far as progressive rock goes, this is a disc residing on the border between psychedelic art rock and indie rock. If you're a newcomer to Sky Cries Mary and have an interest in psychedelic music, I'd recommend getting hold of the compilation disc "Space between the Drops" rather than this live CD initially. But if you know and like the band, be it on a superficial level or as a dedicated fan, "Taking the Stage" is a production that can be recommended with ease. This is another high-quality production courtesy of the US label Trail Records, where the level of interest is determined by musical taste alone.
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