Very few American rock bands of the late '70s and early '80s demonstrated the sheer versatility of Pittsburgh-area band Crack the Sky. Unfortunately, though, this is a band that has always stayed deeply underground (except, strangely, in Baltimore) and has not had the opportunity to display its cleverness, musical virtuosity and melodic gifts on a wide scale. I only recently learned, in fact, that the group's 1975 self-titled debut was named one of the best albums of that year by Rolling Stone magazine.
Though sometimes labeled progressive rock, frontman John Palumbo and his often-changing cast of supporting players deftly combined melodic hard rock pursuits with early alternative rock impulses on both that debut release as well as 1980's White Music. In the case of that record's "The Radio Cries (It's Singles Time)," Palumbo collaborates with returning original band member Rick Witkowski to generate a power pop-tinged classic that practically no one heard at the outset of the new wave era. The song is also much more than that - just as the band's music is frequently far more varied than immediately apparent - and delivers incisive commentary regarding the already declining state of radio circa 1980. Palumbo's distinctively odd lead vocal style works wonders on this track, combining with jangling guitars and a jerky stop-start rhythmic dynamic that should have been right at home on college rock radio. I'm too young to be able to tell you if this record or the band in general received even that level of airplay, but I suspect that very few outlets existed then (or even now) to give Crack the Sky its proper due.
- Sample or download "The Radio Cries (It's Singles Time)" here.
- Compare prices on Crack the Sky CDs here.
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Album Cover Image Courtesy of Lifesong