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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bands We Play: Crack the Sky

Unless you were a rock music fan in the Baltimore area in the 1970s, chances are you're not familiar with Crack the Sky. Which is a shame, because they're a terrific band that, thanks to various record-company screw-ups and personnel changes, never picked up the momentum needed to break into the big time. Radio airplay in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and a few other cities brought them a devoted audience that has followed them ever since.

The band's debut album was released in 1975. Forty years later, Rolling Stone included "Crack the Sky" in its list of "50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time." The magazine's Ryan Reed wrote:
Crack the Sky ... created an outright classic with their kaleidoscopic debut. Led by singer-mastermind John Palumbo, the band expertly navigated chunky hard-rock riffs ("Hold On"), barbed art pop ("Surf City"), fusion funk (the wicked breakdown in "She's a Dancer") and long-form balladry ("Sea Epic"). Yet they never achieved more than a faithful regional following, despite a glowing Rolling Stone review: "Like the first albums of Steely Dan, 10cc, and the Tubes, Crack the Sky's debut introduces a group whose vision of mid-'70s ennui is original, humorous and polished. . ." Bolstered by the fans they do have, Crack the Sky have kept at it: Their 15th studio album, Ostrich, was released in 2012.
Crack the Sky's Rick Witkowski and John Palumbo, circa 2011
And indeed they're still at it. The band released a new album, "The Beauty of Nothing," in October 2015. The title cut is in our current rotation at Birch Street Radio and it demonstrates that progressive rock can still sound fresh and new. It's available for purchase and streaming on the group's Bandcamp page. The band also has some live shows coming up. Learn more at Crack the Sky's website.

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