Crack the Sky


Crack the Sky
Crack the Sky
Origin Weirton, West Virginia
Genres Progressive rock
Rock and Roll
Funk
New Wave
Years active 1975–1978
1980–1983
1986–1990
1996–present
Labels Lifesong, Grudge, Red Line, Winthrop
Website Official site
Members
John Palumbo : Vocals, guitar
Rick Witkowski : Guitar
Joey D'Amico : Drums
Carey Ziegler: Bass guitar
Bobby Hird : Guitar
Glenn Workman : Keyboards
Past members

Joe Macre : Bass Guitar
Jim Griffiths : Lead Guitar
Vince DePaul : Keyboards
Gary Lee Chapell : Vocals
Rob Stevens : Keyboards
John Tracey : Drums
Sonny Petrovsky : Bass Guitar
Michael Taylor : Guitar
Jamie LaRitz : Lead Guitar

Nat Kerr : Keyboards

Crack the Sky is an American progressive rock band formed in Weirton, West Virginia in the early 1970s. In 1975, Rolling Stone Magazine declared their first album "debut album of the year", and in 1978, Rolling Stone Record Guide compared them to Steely Dan;[1] their first three albums charted on the Billboard 200. Despite this, they have had only meager success in the Baltimore area due to several factors, but continue to release albums to a small, but devoted fan base to this day.

Contents

History

1970s

Crack the Sky traces its roots to an early seventies band called ArcAngel,[1] which featured John Palumbo, on vocals and Rick Witkowski on guitar. The two had auditioned for Terry Minogue, a nephew of Terry Cashman of CashWest Productions. Minogue convinced CashWest to give them a development deal so they could get a band together and record demos. Minogue later said, "They played some of the most beautiful music I ever heard in my life."[1] ArcAngel, initially a 10 piece band, sized down to five core members. In addition to Palumbo and Witkowski, the first incarnation of Crack the Sky included drummer Joey D'Amico, bassist Joe Macre, and Jim Griffiths on guitar. During that time CashWest Productions started Lifesong Records, and Crack the Sky became the first band to release an album on that label.

In 1975, the band released their first album, the critically acclaimed eponymous Crack the Sky, which reached 161 on the Billboard chart. Although praised by The New York Times and declared the "debut album of the year" by Rolling Stone Magazine, promotion and distribution problems with Lifesong Records prevented its widespread success.[1] According to Terry Minogue, "Records were promised but never arrived at the distribution centers. The record would be on the radio but there would be no product on the store shelves or visa versa. When people wanted it, it would never be available."[1] By what some termed blind luck, the marketing did work in Baltimore, only because a surplus of records were shipped there and put on display in stores when the album was receiving radio play. Subsequently, the album became very popular in Baltimore. Laidback Larry Allen, music director at WYDD in Pittsburgh, professed love for the recording and played the debut album in heavy rotation, but no other place.

Animal Notes, the band's second album, was intended originally as a rock opera about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but in production the concept was reduced to only one song, "Rangers at Midnight." Like the band's debut release, it too was critically acclaimed, reaching number 142 on the Billboard chart, performing better than their first album. This time, the high concept and lack of "radio singles", due to the band's disdain for commercial music, contributed to lack of sales. The song "We Want Mine" was a slam at Lifesong Records for royalty withholdings.

By this time, Crack the Sky had finished two cross-country tours and had opened for Styx, Supertramp, Rush, Foreigner, The Electric Light Orchestra, Yes, ZZ Top, Kansas, Edgar Winter, Frank Zappa, and Boston.

As a result of a breakdown in communications with the band's record label, and a divergence in creative approaches to the music, Palumbo left the band in 1977 to pursue a solo career. The remaining band members, with new vocalist Gary Lee Chappell and Pittsburgh keyboardist Vince DePaul, released Safety in Numbers in 1978. Safety in Numbers reached 126 on the Billboard chart, their highest charting album. Promoting the "Safety in Numbers" Crack the Sky opened for Heart's 1978 Dog and Butterfly tour. Later that year, the band released an album on live concert performances, Live Sky.

Due to ongoing contractual difficulties with Lifesong, combined with their song writer and front man no longer with them, members of Crack the Sky agreed they had no other choice but to disband. Following the band's dissolution, Classic Crack, a greatest hits compilation, was released by Lifesong in 1980.

1980s

In 1980, Palumbo reunited with Witkowski and keyboardist Vince DePaul to re-form the band and released White Music later that year. This record featured a number of the "singles-quality" songs that had earlier proved elusive to the band, including "All American Boy", "Skin Deep", "Techni Generation", and "Hot Razors in My Heart." "Techni Generation" saw small airplay in the Pittsburgh area during this time.

After the release of the album they put the band on hiatus, as Witkowski, Macre & D'Amico went back to the Pittsburgh area to work with the vocalist/songwriter Bill Taylor and formed the B.E. Taylor Group. They released an independent 12" EP and eventually signed to MCA records for 2 full length LP's: "Innermission" and "Love Won The Fight". The group's catchy single release of "Vitamin L" (written by Witkowski and from "Love Won The Fight", found its way into Billboard's Top 100 charts and gained massive national airplay. This led to being signed to CBS Records; recording & releasing "Our World".

Palumbo reformed Crack The Sky once again in 1981 with DePaul, Carey Ziegler, Michael Taylor and John Tracey, and produced Photoflamingo. This release, and subsequent efforts including World in Motion 1 and The End, failed to garner the critical and public acclaim of the earlier releases, and the group disbanded again in 1983. A notable song from this era is "All Fly Away", about the fears of nuclear holocaust.

Palumbo released the studio album Raw in 1986. Although the album has the signature Crack the Sky sound and feel to it, it featured no past members of the band besides Palumbo (guitarist Jamie LaRitz is the only other musician credited).

Palumbo reunited Crack the Sky with Witkowski, DePaul, Ziegler, and D'Amico for a series of live shows in 1986 at the Baltimore club Hammerjack's. Between then and 1989 this band performed a number of shows in the Baltimore area, including Painters Mill Music Fair.

In 1988, Palumbo joined with Witkowski, DePaul and D'Amico to produce From the Greenhouse, in many ways a return to the band's classic sound, with solid efforts including the title track and the song "Lost In America". The album peaked at 186 on the Billboard chart, and received a mixed review from People Magazine.[1] During this time, this lineup performed occasionally in the Baltimore area with Ziegler joining on bass.

1990s

Crack the Sky released Dog City in 1990. The period between then and 1996 saw little activity except for the release of the compilation disc Rare! in 1994. During this time, Witkowski composed music for a number of game shows on the children's television network Nickelodeon, including Guts and Figure It Out.

Palumbo gathered the band together again in 1996 beginning a series of live shows at small venues in the Baltimore area. The band at this time featured the same lineup as 1993's The End, with the addition of Nat Kerr on keyboards. A new studio album, Cut, was released in 1999, as well as a double disc release featuring one of the band's live shows at the Recher Theatre in Towson, Maryland.

2000s

Crack the Sky (Rick Witkowski and John Palumbo), June 26, 2004

Crack the Sky continues to perform occasional live shows and collaborate on new music under Palumbo's guidance. The albums Ghost and Dogs from Japan were released to critical acclaim in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and the band continues to enjoy a devoted fan following. The band completed a new concept album in 2007, entitled The Sale, which features the return of original bassist Joe Macre performing and producing the record. In 2008, Joey D'Amico and Joe Macre returned as Crack the Sky's drummer and bassist, respectively. In addition the band headlined the ROSfest progressive music fesival and later a full length DVD of their performance called "Crack The Sky, All Access" was produced and engineered by Macre. The DVD was shot on six hi def camaras in 5.1 surround sound and includes pictures and interviews with the band members. The band has released their latest studio album "Machine".

Discography

Full-length albums

Release date Title Label
1975 Crack the Sky Lifesong
1976 Animal Notes Lifesong
1976 Live on WBAB Lifesong
1978 Safety in Numbers Lifesong
1978 Live Sky Lifesong
1980 Classic Crack Lifesong
1980 White Music Lifesong
1981 Photoflamingo Lifesong
1983 World in Motion 1 Criminal
1984 The End Criminal
1986 Raw Grudge
1989 From the Greenhouse Grudge
1990 Dog City Grudge
1994 Rare! Yodelin' Pig
1994 Crack Attic Renaissance
1998 Cut Stepford Wives (rereleased in 2007 by Aluminum Cat Recordings)
2000 The Best of the Rest (And Then Some) Winthrop
2000 Live—Recher Theatre 06.19.99 Aluminum Cat Recordings
2001 Ghost Aluminum Cat Recordings
2004 Dogs from Japan Aluminum Cat Recordings
2006 Alive and Kickin' Ass Lifesong
2007 The Sale Aluminum Cat Recordings
2010 Machine Aluminum Cat Recordings

Live Performance DVD

  • All Access (2009, Aluminum Cat Recordings)

Compilation appearances

  • Supper's Ready—A Tribute to Genesis (1995, Magna Carta) (song: "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)")
    • John Palumbo (Keyboards, guitars, lead vocals), Ian Palumbo (guitars, back-up vocals), Tim Deaner (back-up vocals), Dr. Maurice Hayes (narration)
  • Spider-man: Rock Reflections Of A Superhero (circa 1970s Lifesong / Digital Music Works)
    • John Palumbo (Keyboards), Joey d'Amico (Drums), Jim Griffiths (Guitar), Joe Macre (Bass) and others.

Crack Pack horn section

Sometimes the band has a horn section—known as the Crack Pack Horns—accompany them at live shows or on album tracks.

  • Tom Williams — Trumpet (1980s–1990s)
  • Tom McCormick — Tenor saxophone (1980s)
  • Dave Fairall — Tenor & alto saxophone (1980s–2000)
  • Paul Soroka — Lyricon (1980s–1990s)
  • Chris Walker — Trumpet (1990s–2000)
  • J.J. Gunning — Trombone (1990s–2000)
  • Ronnie Fowler — Horns (1986)
  • Jim Stienfeld — Horns (1986)
  • Keith Zaffino — Horns (1986)

References


Road Manager / Major domo since 1974: Danny Palumbo

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Pie in the Sky", Joab Jackson, Baltimore City Paper, July 12, 1995.

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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