Skin Alley - Skin Alley 1969 [progrock-jazz_fusion]

Biography by J. Scott McClintock

British prog rock act Skin Alley were a farsighted collaboration between Thomas Crimble (keyboards/bass/vocals), Alvin Pope (drums), Krzysztof Henryk Justkiewicz (keyboards), and Bob James (sax/guitar). Formed in the late '60s, they made inroads quickly and found themselves signed to CBS for their self-titled debut in 1969. That album, and its 1970 follow-up, To Pagham & Beyond, saw the band in top prog form -- a pastiche of folk, jazz, and rock that, although well traveled by this time, managed to delight more than a few critics with its freshness and vitality. Crimble and Pope moved on later that year and were replaced by Nick Graham (formerly of The End, Tucky Buzzard, and Atomic Rooster) and Tony Knight (ex-Bronx Cheer), respectively. With new members in place, Skin Alley's sound took on a more polished, mainstream approach and began prominently featuring the complex string, woodwind, and brass arrangements of Graham. Their jazz-rock fusion sound was still there, but with decidedly more polish and sophistication.

A switch to the Transatlantic label in 1972 heralded the release of the band's third LP,Two Quid Deal, and found the group finally gaining some fame across the big water. Stax's Don Nix wooed Skin Alley over to Ardent Studios in Memphis to record their fourth (and final) album, 1973's Skintight, and made them the first European band to be signed to the otherwise American soul-oriented imprint. The band split shortly thereafter, with Graham having the most successful post-Skin career with his groups Alibi and the Humans in the early '80s. In 2006, Castle Music packaged Two Quid Deal and Skintight (along with a pair of singles) for a collection called Bad Words & Evil People: The Transatlantic Anthology 1972-73.

Review by Jo-Ann Greene 4 1/2 *s

It takes just one listen to Skin Alley's eponymous 1970 debut album to explain the band's popularity in Britain's underground college and club scenes. Here was a group who refused to play by the rules, a band whose diverse musical influences were given free rein, but who beautifully stitched together their eclectic stylings into a sound quite uniquely their own. Like most British acts of the day, Skin Alley were beholden to the blues, and the band paid off part of the debt with the barrelling "(Going Down The) Highway." But as passages in that song made just as clear, the group were equally enthralled by jazz, a style that would be explored more intimately on the atmospheric stunner of a track "All Alone." That conjured up smoky torch clubs, while jazz of a more exhilarating mode is given its due on the equally excellent "Marsha," which slips gaily in and out of R&B as well. The set opener, "Living in Sin" is a breezy piece of British R&B, but given an intriguing twist of the Middle East. It had all the makings of a single, but instead it was the more downbeat "Tell Me" that was chosen, albeit not in its original portentous album form, but in a jazzed-up version, which is included on this reissue, along with it's B-side "Better Be Blind." But Alley's influences didn't end in America, they were also inspired by their own musical heritage, as the medieval tinged "Country Aire" illustrates. Folk is pulled into the modern pop world on the equally single worthy "Night Time," then enters the arenas with the ballad-cum-haunting show-stopper "Mother, Please Help Your Child." All told Skin Alley was a stunning debut, with excellent production by ex-Pretty Things guitarist Dick Taylor, but, amazingly, better was yet to come.

(edition limited 2001 Russian)


01. Living In Sin (4:42)
02. Tell Me (4:41)
03. Mother Please Help Your Child (4:15)
04. Marsha (7:26)
05. Country Aire (2:16)
06. All Alone (8:19)
07. Night Time (5:38)
08. Concerto Grosso (Take Heed) (0:30)
09. (Going Down The) Highway (4:21)

Bonus tracks:

10. A Final Coat (5:05)
11. Bad Words And Evil People (6:03)
12. Graveyard Shuffle (5:18)
13. Nick’s Seven (4:42)

Tracks 1-9
Alvin Pope – drums, congas, timpani
Bob James – guitar, alto sax, flute, vocals
Krzysztof-Henruk Justkiewicz – organ, piano, harpsichord, melotron, vocals
Thomas Crimble – bass, melotron, vocals

Tracks 10-13
Bob James – guitar, alto sax, flute, vocals
Krzysztof-Henruk Justkiewicz – organ, piano, harpsichord, melotron, vocals
Nick Graham – vocals, keyboards, bass flute
Tony Knight – drums, vocals

First posted by Val on: 
 6/18/10 4:06 AM
Pacific Daylight Time

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