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The Cryan Shames - A Scratch In The Sky (1967)
The Cryan' Shames:
IsaacGuillory (vocals, guitar, cello, accordion, keyboards, bassguitar) Jim Fairs (vocals, guitar, flute, bagpipe, bass guitar) Lenny Kerley (vocals, guitar, bass guitar, tambora) Toad (vocals, autoharp, bells) J. C. Hooke (vocals, French horn, cowbells, tambourine) Dennis Conroy (drums, percussion)
Just like scientists posturing the existence of an unknown particle or detecting a planet through its gravitational pull, you knew this had to exist - a Chicago psychedelic pop-rock album. Okay, maybe you did not know it, but it does exist and if you can accept the fact that the Cryan' Shames never had an original idea in their entire lives, you'll enjoy A Scratch in the Sky.
The album succeeds because Fairs and new bassist Larry Kerley did a great job writing hooks, coming up with catchy melodies, and getting the group's vocal harmonies into shape. Instead of the Byrds, the Chicagoans now echoed West Coast harmony groups like the Beach Boys and the Association, as well as British psychedelia. So, the group gathered up every conceivable instrument they could play, and went on a psychedelic pop-rock binge. A Scratch in the Sky is not a masterpiece by any means, but it was more cutting edge than Paul Revere and the Raiders ever got.
The band's flexibility is apparent, from happy little tunes like "The Town I'd Like to Go Back To" and the cosmopolitan "In the Cafe," to more Beach Boys influenced songs like "It Could Be We're In Love." The group had enough chops to successfully venture into more rock territory ("Sunshine Psalm" and the humorous "Dennis Dupree from Danville") and their psychedelic jams are rather, erm, pretty (the intricate "The Town I'd Like to Go Back To"). Fairs and Kerley just cranked out a pile of fine pop songs such as "A Carol for Lorelei", "In the Cafe", "Cobblestone Road" and the tripped out "The Sailing Ship," among those already mentioned, and the band's playing is credible and detailed enough to enable the Fairs/Kerley songwriting team to present all this without it coming off as crude. Sure, there is plenty of outright copying: "Mr. Unreliable" is a fine Beatles knockoff and "I Was Lonely When" is a dead-on impression of a Marty Balin led Jefferson Airplane track, and there's an unnecessary cover of the Goffin/King "Up on the Roof".
Still, if you like psychedelic pop-rock (or think you might) check this out - it's rather good, even if unoriginal. (Isaac Guillory (guitar) replaced Stone as well.)