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SKY – Westway.wmv


Originally Released: May 1979

Peak position in UK charts: 2 (June 1979)

Short Review: A ground-breaking release for its time (prog rock at the tail end of the punk boom?), this album showed what five musicians who were virtuosos of their instruments could do together. The highlights are without a doubt Francis Monkman’s two compositions, Cannonball and the five-movement abolsutely stunning Where Opposites Meet. This really was a meeting of styles and approaches to music-making. Carillon set the trend for Sky to include a straight, simple tune on each album, played without any histrionics, and Eric Satie’s Gymnopedie paved the ground for further classical arrangements, not all as calm as this one! Dies Irae, which most fans heard for the first time when the previously (little-sold) single was included on the CD release ten years later, is further indication of Francis Monkman’s unique compositional and arranging talents for this particular ensemble. Agree? Disagree? Have your say in the Forum!

Track listing (including original liner notes from the band):

Westway (Flowers/Monkman)
“When we recorded this album, I was living out in West London, and the studio was in Central London. Every night, I would drive home along the Westway elevated road and listen on my car tape player to what we’d done that day. This track is such a great groove for driving and it got its name because if I put it on at the Marylebone Road end of the Westway and stuck right on the speed limit, it would finish just as I came off the other end.” H.F.

Carillon (Flowers/Gomm)
New groups, in the excitement of doing their first album, can quite easily overkill. The idea of Carillon was to have four or five minutes of tranquillity, a piece that any student musician could play in no time at all. Carillon means a peal of bells, two or three instruments following each other with the same melody, as in the chorus.
I hoped it would stop the critics calling us clever dicks. It did. They said “Musicians of this calibre should avoid such simple songs.” H.F.

Danza (Pipo, Arr. Peek)
When John Williams rang up Kevin Peek to ask him to join Sky, Kevin was out. The message was relayed to Kevin as “someone rang to ask about guitar lessons”. Despite this poor start, Kevin quickly proved his value to the group by finding Danza, a lively piece by the obscure Argentinian composer Pipo, and transforming it into a perfect vehicle for the new band.

Gymnopedie No. 1 (Satie, Arr. Williams)
Satie is a favourite for rock transcriptions, with everyone from Blood Sweat & Tears to Gary Numan attempting it, but Sky were not attempting to rock it up. “We played it with more arpeggios than are in the famous piano version, but I took everything in that arrangement from Satie’s own sketches for doing an orchestration, which he never finished.” J.W.

Cannonball (Monkman)
“This was one of my earliest attempts to find a fusion of rock and classical that would work for the band, and we often played it live as an encore. We must have thought it worked, because we put it out as a single before Toccata. Recently, in Russia, I heard it being used as the title music for a Russian TV current affairs programme, but I still don’t know if I get paid a royalty for that.” F.M.

Where Opposites Meet (Monkman)
“As a group, we all came from different disciplines, and that’s what Francis was thinking about when he wrote this piece. We were opposites in terms of background, but the music is the point at which we all meet.” H.F.
There are five “movements” and the piece takes up the whole of Side 2 of the original LP/Cassette release, lasting almost 20 minutes. The extract presented here is from Part Four.

Dies Irae (Monkman)
(not on original LP/Cassette release)
This free setting of a well-known plainchant melody was released as a single in the summer of 1980. Intriguingly, the Dies Irae theme also makes an appearance in Berlioz’s March To The Scaffold (from Symphonie Fantastique) which was the b-side of the same single. However, March To The Scaffold eventually appeared on SKY 4 so, by reverse logic, we feel it is appropriate for Dies Irae finally to make its album debut on this re-release. F.M.
Not to mention because the original album was somewhat on the short side in terms of duration and needed something more to fill a CD.
Actually, to be utterly sad and pedantic, the theme doesn’t appear during March to the Scaffold, but the last movement of the Symphonie Fantastique. SKY – Westway.wmv

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29 Comments

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  1. I believe the Chinese CCTV should pay a big fortune for this music! They used it as the ending-theme for its documentary programme "Animal World" for nearly 2 decades. I grew up with this music.

  2. totally agree they are under rated, but brilliant, turn up loud, good system and close eyes, heaven

  3. Listen Monkman's synth lick just after 2 mins (it's hard right in the stereo mix if you're listening on headphones).

  4. I remember having this on really loud and with the base up high. What days some 30 years ago, bring back some great memories.

  5. I don't remember the year I bought this album but think it must have been in the late eighties or early nineties. All I can say is that I remember blowing down the walls of my bedroom with the bass up and the walls singing back to me. Must have been inmy late teens then.

  6. Visiting this after a long time away; my Dad had this album. Like a lot of prog, technically very good but lacks soul. This is very 'programme' music, very 'TV theme'.

  7. I still have my Mum & Dad's vinyl album of this that we played in the early eighties.I bought a new one(special edition blue vinyl) so as not to wear the original out.Still my fave album period.👍

  8. You guys never know to all those who were born in the 80s in China how nostalgic this tune is. It was the ending tune of the only wildlife TV program back in the day.

  9. will do an edit of this track .. had the vinyl for years and now is the time to edit a slowburner remix of it to play for my dj sets

  10. I ought to thank my father, who brought the disc from Germany: THE BEST OF SKY ( time machine) ……
    DAMN THIS IS 40 YEARS OLD !!!

  11. Though only 90k viewed, this piece (at least part of it) has at least 1 billion fans…. i'm among them. From 1981-2011, it was the ending music of Animal World TV program, broadcasted nationwide in China. The only animal/nature program available in China at that time.

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