Todd7 | Michigan | 08/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Folks, SKYLARKING is XTC's high moment--whether you like it or not. I happen to like it, because it's so rich in complex arrangements, is pastoral, emotional and can trigger my imagination. It doesn't get more alternative than this release from 1986. This album puts you into a certain frame of mind and mood right from the beginning with "SUMMER'S CAULDRON", as birds are chirping, etc. The song transitions into "GRASS", which is a nice continuation of the previous song.This album has so much to like, as the melodies are upbeat, as well as down at times, which adds to the appeal. ANOTHER SATELLITE is another favorite of mine, with its cool beginning. There's a little jazz thrown in with THE MAN WHO SAILED AROUND HIS SOUL. Andy Partridge is one exceptional musician and lyricist, as is Colin Moulding. These two are unbelievable on this album, and one will quickly come to appreciate the awesome musicianship that is featured. What I appreciate the most about this release is how daring these guys were to make an album that sounded NOTHING like any previous releases, or future releases. I'll admit that it took me 3 run-throughs before I really started to like it. I love the acoustic work on this album, as it's rich, pure and relevant. A song that's a real treat is "SACRIFICIAL BONFIRE". This song has a ritual-like sound to it, and features the sound of fire burning for good measure.Colin Moulding was probably crinkling some paper for the fire sound!!! The vocals and harmony for this song almost sound like Greg Lake of ELP on this song, along with Roger Daltry of The Who. Of course, the controversial "DEAR GOD" is a fan favorite, and puts an exclamation point on an album that's deserving of high praise for being ahead of its time. Rolling Stone lists SKYLARKING as #48 in their top 100 albums of the 1980's--not bad at all. A lot of people prefer the ORANGES AND LEMONS/NONSUCH sounds of XTC, or they prefer the earlier stuff (new wave, punkish) from the late 70's. I'll admit that ORANGES AND LEMONS and NONSUCH, with their radio-friendly popish melodies and steady beats are tremendous, but SKYLARKING is an album that is much more sophisticated. It is rich in complex arrangements, is pastoral-sounding, and has that catchy sound that gives it an identity all its own. It follows a theme of changing seasons, etc. The whole Todd Rundgren thing is a bit overstated and has little to do with the success of this album. Sure, mixing and arranging helps, but this album is about 3 talented guys who weren't afraid to put out something different. This album put alternative music of the map. This is a must-have for any fan of XTC, and a good starter album for newcomers. If you like quirky yet rich and eclectic sound with outstanding lyrics, then this album will not let you down. 10/10"