Clear Blue Sky - Mirror Of The Stars


Year of Release: 2001
Label: Aftermath Records
Catalog Number: AFT 1010
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:38:00

I didn't really think about the title of this album much as I was formulating my opinions, but as I sat down to write it, the title suddenly made everything snap into place. Here I was thinking how much Clear Blue Sky seemed influenced by classic rock bands of the 70s, mainly Rush. But that is, of course, by design certainly. How can you do that -- play homage-drenched rock -- and not call your album something like Mirror Of The Stars? It even sounds like the title one of those K-TEL compilation albums advertised on TV back in the 70s -- a phenomenon that continues today, though it isn't K-TEL anymore. Of course, a number of the tracks have stellar-related titles.

So yes, cast your mind back to the 70s. You'll need your shimmering disco ball for some of this. Because CBS doesn't just recall the prog rock of the 70s, but also the soft-rock of the period -- Bread, Player, Pablo Cruise, among others. Rush is the most often referenced artist, getting a nod by no fewer than 4 tracks. They sound so much like classic 70s Rush that it's eerie. Throw in that 70s soft-rock/disco harmonies I mentioned and you'll have a perfect picture of what CBS sound like here. "Hello Earth" recalls "The Trees," if only topically, while recalling "What You're Doing," and parts of 2112 sonically.

Now, some of you are sure to be way ahead of me here, especially those who really know their music history, because the irony in all this is that Clear Blue Sky were a band in the 70s, their self-titled album released in 1971 (Rush's first album debuted in 1974). Then CBS were a trio of John Simms (guitar/vocals), Mark Sheather (bass), and Ken White (drums). According to their bio, they've played on the same bill as Janis Joplin/Big Brother & the Holding Company, Rory Gallagher/Taste, Country Joe McDonald And The Fish, Free, Edgar Broughton, and, perhaps most relevant to readers here, Gentle Giant (among others). They eventually signed to Vertigo Records. As I was looking at the inside artwork for Mirror..., it struck me how much it looked like the work of Roger Dean. Here we have a pink castle with a rainbow in the foreground. It symbolizes not only the sugary arrangements found within the CD but specifically the track "Stargaze 777," which in part recalls Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters" along with a few other classic Steely Dan tracks. The lyrics to this track are the only ones printed, and the words alone evoke the style of Roger Dean -- "violet moons / light cerise skies / sapphire clouds / a jade beast flies" (cerise is a bright red). And, wouldn't you know it, the artwork for CBS's first album was done by ... Roger Dean! One of his first! This remains a sought after album. As it was, CBS, as CBS, wouldn't release another album until 1990. Destiny featured material recorded in the 70s, including live material. They later released Cosmic Crusader, Out Of The Blue (unreleased and live tracks from 1969; marking their 30 year anniversary), and, most recently, Mirror..., an album of all new material (you can read their complete history at their website). The band line up here on Mirror... is Simms on guitar and vocals, White on drums, Ted Landon on bass, and Maxine Marten on backing vocals and percussion.

That said, I find the music here a little too light and airy. When I first wrote this review, the text of which disappeared during our hiatus, my opinion was less favourable than it is now, as I'm listening to it again. So, for whatever reason, I'm liking this a bit more than I did more than a month ago. So, it's likeable despite the airiness.

About some of the other tracks: "Vexdre" has a little more meat on it, with dark, churning guitar with loping percussion -- reminds me of Metallica's "The Thing That Should Not Be" with a lot less menace. "Marari (For Your Love)" leaves Rush behind for shades of Deep Purple ("Hush") and paraphrases the chorus from Cream's "For Your Love." Homage or theft ... hard to say. Nothing else tastes of Cream, but it does have the heavy blues rock of Deep Purple ... I'd say circa Machine Head. Blue &Oyster Cult also come to mind. "Lucidra, City Of Light" is a dreamy, floaty track that smacks of 70s soft-rock cum disco. A frothy Ambrosia, would be a good comparison, with a bit of Steely Dan thrown in where Simms brief guitar solo is concerned ("FM" came to mind, to be specific). "Fly" recalls Heart's "Barracuda" a bit, and Queen's "Keep Yourself Alive" both mainly to the guitar and bass work heard here.

Mirror... is a nostalgic trip back to a strange and wonderful time in music, though I wouldn't recommend this to the deeply cynical, as the music here, even when dark, seems overly upbeat and happy.


Tracklisting:
Mirror Of The Stars (6:38) / The Passage Of Time (3:56) / Vexdre (6:00) / Hello Earth (4:45) / Fly (3:27) / Marari (For Your Love) (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 Night (5:13)

Musicians:
John Simms - guitars, guitar effects, lead and backing vocals
Ted Landon - bass
Ken White - drums
Maxine Marten - backing vocals and percussion
Adam Lewis - keyboards (4, 7, 8)
Lee Limerick - backing vocals (5, 7)

Discography:
Clear Blue Sky (1971)
Heads Together/Round One (comp.; 1 track)
The Vertigo Trip (comp.; 1 track)
Destiny (1990)
Vertigo Classics & Rarities, Vol.1 (1990) (comp.; 1 track)
Cosmic Crusader (1991)
Still Dizzy After All These Years (comp.; 1 track)
Out Of The Blue/Live & Unreleased (2001)
Mirror Of The Stars (2001)
Time Machine (comp.) (2005)
Gateway To The Seventh Dimension (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: February 8th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.clearbluesky.co.uk
Hits: 588
Language: english

  

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