Jazz fusion blended traditional jazz composition methods with more modern instrumentation, utilizing electric guitars, synthesizers, keyboards, and elements of rock’n roll. It was a style that resulted in some excellent, innovative music, but it could also result in some absolutely boring and dull sounds more suited for waiting rooms and elevator music. Yet for the British collective Sky, fusing jazz with rock wasn’t enough; they decided to take it one further and add classical music into the mix. Carillon: The Singles Collection 1979-1987 compiles their A- and B-sides of their interesting musical hybrid that was never dull.
Sky came together when Australian classical guitarist John Williams worked with British session musician and bassist Herbie Flowers and drummer Tristan Fry on his 1971 solo album Changes. Over the next few years, the three would continue to work together, and after Williams recorded and released a successful album in 1978 entitled Traveling, they decided to put their energies into a band. Their debut single, released in 1979, showed off the two sides of the group. The a–side, “Cannonball,” was an up-tempo groover, while the flip side, “Tristan’s Magic Garden,” was a gentle and delicate piano number. It helped to establish them as a promising progressive rock band. Unsurprisingly, this exciting little record—along with Williams’s on successful solo single for the theme song to the film The Deer Hunter that raised his profile— helped make Sky’s 1979 self-titled debut a surprising success.
It was with their third single, though, where they displayed the classical/rock hybrid sounds that they innovated. It was a stunning and somewhat heavy arrangement of Johan Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata” that was coupled with an original song entitled “Vivaldi” that paid tribute to the master composer. Once again, the song was a unique sounding arrangement that helped lead the album it came from, 1980s Sky 2, to the top of the charts. Over the next few years, they would release a handful of singles, some of which were original compositions (“My Giselle,” “Desperate For Your Love,” “Night Sky”) while others were classical reinterpretations (“Masquerade,” “Troika,” “The marriage Of Figaro”). When John Williams left in 1984, some of the magic left with him, but they rallied in 1987 to release Mozart, their final album and a magnificent, lush orchestral tribute to one of the greatest classical composers of all time.
Sky may not have been the most obvious singles band––their concept was best experienced over the course of an album––with Carillon: The Singles Collection 1979-1987, it’s not hard to find the enjoyment of their unique style.