When Francis Monkman left Sky he was replaced by Steve Gray who was a former member of Back Door and Wasp. Like most of the other band members, he was an established session musician. Gray soon became a prominent composer within Sky and took the band toward a more jazz-influenced sound drawing in part on his experience as a piano player with Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini, Michel Legrand, Lalo Schifrin, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr and John Barry.
Gray joined the band in time for their first European tour, followed by another UK tour and (on 24 February 1981) the "Sky at Westminster Abbey" concert. This had been conceived by the British producer Martin Lewis and was the first-ever rock concert held at the abbey. It was videotaped for a BBC TV special and subsequently released on home video and laserdisc. The concert was a benefit for the human rights organisation Amnesty International and commemorated the organisation's 20th anniversary. The landmark event resulted in Sky receiving considerable positive media coverage. The Westminster Abbey concert was also the launch event for the band's third album, Sky 3, a generally brighter and breezier album than its predecessors. The band toured Australia, Europe and the UK in support of the release. On the album the band continued with the instrumental music they started on their eponymous album and critically acclaimed double album Sky2 (see review). Maybe the songs were not as adventurous as on their previous releases but they were still worth listening to. The album reached the UK top ten upon its release in March 1981.
The re-mastered version of the album includes an extra DVD of their earlier mentioned concert done at the Westminster Abbey. Sky At Westminster Abbey certainly does not live up to the current standards of today's rock concerts releases but it does not mean you can't be entertained. The ninety minutes of the band on stage includes many of the bands favourites such as Fifo, Hotta and Toccata-all done in a very professional way.
The fourth Sky album - Sky 4: Forthcoming - was released in March 1982. This was Sky's first album to feature no original material. It consisted predominantly of arrangements of classical compositions and was marketed under the slogan "Genius Past, Genius Forthcoming". Included are wonderful versions of Wagner's Ride Of The Valkyries and Berlioz's March To The Scaffold. The music on this album still had the same musical trademarks that could be heard on their predecessors. Therefore fans loved it immensely once again! The band toured the UK and Australia to promote the album and followed this up with trips to Europe and Japan. The Australian autumn tour featured the debut of plenty of new material, much of which was included on a live double album, Sky Five Live, released in January 1983.
The re-mastered version of the album includes an extra DVD as well just like what was done with the earlier re-mastered Sky CDs. Once again footage was taken from a BBC TV show-this time from "Night Music”, which was broadcast in July 1982. The half hour footage of this show can now be seen for the first ever since their television appearance in the eighties. It is nice to see how they covered The Beatles tune Fool On The Hill and the always present Tuba Smarties-a short instrumental on which bassist Herbie Flowers plays on the Tuba decorated with lights.
Just as with the other Sky reissue, I am glad Esoteric Recordings managed to release re-mastered versions of all these wonderful instrumental albums. The extra DVDs are once again really appreciated and enjoyed entirely. I am already looking forward to the next batch of Sky rereleases!
****/**** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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