Si-Sk

Paolo Siani & Friends Featuring Nuova Idea (Italy): Castles, Wings, Stories And Dreams (Black Widow BWRCD 131-2, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2010)
Progressive
Ottavia Bruno (occasional vocals)
This album by the former Opus Avantra drummer and a large cast of friends bears no resemblance to his earlier band (or to most other releases on Black Widow). In fact, it has no definable style, covering a gamut of progressive rock moods from prog-metal to jazz/rock and lighter sympho-prog, sometimes resembling a compilation of different artists and bands (particularly with different lead vocalists featuring on a number of cuts). There are only two constants: a solid seventies sound with good organ and flute work and a high standard of songwriting and performance, making for a consistent and enjoyable album. GRADE: C+.

Sicher (Switzerland): Sicher (No label EGO C4, 1981)
Progressive
Catherine Graf (recorder)
This low-budget instr classical progressive album (including an ELP-style interpretation of a Bach piece) starts off ponderously but quickly improves to offer some lively and ornate material. Both baroque and slightly jazzy, it’s perhaps a bit bombastic – but then again, it’s never particularly pretentious. GRADE: B–.

Sidan (UK): Teulu Yncl Sam (Sain 1017, 1975)
Folk/Pop/Rock
Carly Parry Jones (joint lead vocals, guitar, piano), Sioned Mair (joint lead vocals, guitar), Gaenor (joint lead vocals, guitar), Gwennan (joint lead vocals), Meinir Evans (joint lead vocals)
Performed by five young girls in their late teens, Teulu Yncl Sam creates an eerie and otherwordly atmosphere, heightened by the lush yet slightly dissonant harmonies and Welsh language lyrics. Musically, it is often as close to pop and rock as to folk, with many tracks having a low-budget symphonic feel, and one being Suzi Quatro-style boogie rock. The cast of guest musicians reads like a who’s who of Welsh rock, whilst leader and principal songwriter Caryl Parry Jones would go on to a prolific recording career with Bando, Injaroc and as a soloist. As a footnote, the entire band performs in the excellent Nia Ben Aur project, released on Sain almost simultaneously with this album.

GRADE: C+.
See also Bando, Caryl A’r Band, Gorffenwydd, Injaroc, Nia Ben Aur

Siebenbürgen (Sweden): Loreia (Napalm NPR 9030, CD, Austria, 1997)
Metal
Lovisa Hallstedt (joint lead vocals, violin)
Death metal is never going to rival doom in my affections, but this Swedish crew do it well – the growled vocals aren’t that distracting and Lovisa Hallstedt’s helium-pitched singing, which almost borders on yodelling at times, adds distinction whilst making the album odd through and through. GRADE: C+.
Siebenbürgen (Sweden): Grimjaur (Napalm NPR 044, CD, Austria, 1998)
Metal
Lovisa Hallstedt (occasional vocals, violin)
For the first nine tracks, this drifts by without making much impression – continual intensity can become as unobtrusive and as unremarkable as continual apathy. The only real difference is that there’s a lot less Lovisa Hallstedt, though she fronts the closing cut ‘Ibi Cubavit Lamia’ – an excursion into mediaeval-esque progressive metal that hints at potential way beyond anything expressed in the tracks that precede it. GRADE: C+.
Siebenbürgen (Sweden): Delictum (Napalm NPR 075, CD, Austria, 1999)
Metal
Kicki Hoïjertz
Once again, the closing track is the best: ‘Oculus Malus’ begins with a beautiful symphonic instrumental section before transmuting into a glammy seventies-style hard rocker. Elsewhere, it’s business as usual – perhaps a bit harder and meaner than normal, but offering no real diversion from the band’s usual style. GRADE: C+.

Siebenbürgen (Sweden): Plagued Be Thy Angel (Napalm NPR 100, CD, Austria, 2001)
Metal
Kicki Hoïjertz (occasional vocals)
Ms Hoïjertz does very little here, which is bad news as it means almost wall-to-wall death growls. Other than that, this is another solid Siebenbürgen album – dynamic, pacy, safe and anonymous, with no individual high points. GRADE: C+.
Siebenbürgen (Sweden): Darker Designs And Images (Napalm NPR 171, CD, with digipak and booklet, Austria, 2005)
Metal
Erika Roos (occasional vocals)
I’m not sure whether this is actually darker, but it certainly feels heavier and more energetic than Plagued Be Thy Angel. It’s also slightly more varied, with some power metal and symphonic elements worked in, and Erika Roos gets to sing a little more than Kicki Hoïjertz did last time around. But the most important word in the last sentence is the qualifier: slightly. GRADE: C+.
Siebenbürgen (Sweden): Revelation VI (Massacre MAS DP0585, CD, with digipak and booklet, Germany, 2008)
Metal
Lisa Bohwalli (occasional vocals)
Siebenbürgen’s last album is probably one of their best – energetic, unrelenting and majestic. The problem is that with this kind of band, it’s hard to tell. In a sense, that’s unfair – if they were a doom rather than death band, I might be thinking the same but would probably have afforded them B– rather than C+ grades for every album. But with death vocals on nearly every track on nearly every album, they’re just a tad too silly to rate any higher. GRADE: C+.

Siena Root (Sweden): Kaleidoscope (Nasoni Nasoni049CD, CD, with digipak, 2006)
Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Sanya (lead vocals)
This is a grab-bag of late sixties and early seventies style – mostly bluesy, vaguely hardish rock sometimes hinting towards Stone The Crows, though they divert into ethnic territory on ‘Bhairavi Dhun’ and full-blown prog on ‘Reverberations’. As such, there’s nothing original or even particularly distinctive here, but anyone who likes the early seventies ambience will find it in spades here. GRADE: B–.
Siena Root (Sweden): Different Realities (Transubstans TRANS043, CD, 2009)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Janet Jones Simmonds (lead vocals), Anna Sandberg (tambourine, recorder, rauschpfeife, backing vocals)
Whereas Kaleidoscope was intermittently very good, Different Realities is consistently excellent – and much more ambitious, consisting of two lengthy suites. ‘We’ offers superb early seventies-style heavy prog with constant surprising diversions, whilst ‘The Road To Agartha’ focuses on the ethnic side of the band’s repertoire and is slightly more ponderous, though it builds up a substantial head of steam. The two pieces add up to a wonderful album, containing sections that will appeal to fans of almost every kind of late sixties and early seventies rock. GRADE: B.
Siena Root (Sweden): Root Jam (Transubstans TRANS088, double CD, with digipak, 2011)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Sanya (occasional vocals)
This expansive live set features a number of differing line-ups and covers most facets of the band’s already very diverse sound. The results are perhaps a touch unfocused, offering a grab-bag of retro rock sounds, but it’s all consistently excellent and highly enjoyable. GRADE: B–.
Siena Root (Sweden): The Secret Of Our Time (MIG Music, CD, with digipak, 2020)
Rock
Zubaida Solid (joint lead vocals), Lisa Lystam (joint lead vocals)
This much later album is surprisingly straight and song-based in view of Siena Root’s interesting career to date. Sure, this is pretty good early seventies bluesy hard rock, and once again they capture the period atmosphere with aplomb, but it’s also deeply disappointing in view of their considerable potential. GRADE: C+.

Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (Czech Republic): Iron (Leviathan LUR-CD 002, CD, 1996)
Metal/Progressive
Zuzana Zamazalová (violin, backing vocals)
This impressive debut has a musical base of doom metal, but works in all kinds of other influences, with strong folk and neoclassical elements (mainly expressed through prominent violin work) and very good melodies and riffs. The understated death growl vocals aren’t exactly to my taste, but don’t detract significantly from the album’s impact. GRADE: B–.
Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (Czech Republic): Behind The Shadows (MAB MRB 001-2, CD, 1998)
Metal/Progressive/Folk
Zuzana Zamazalová (occasional vocals, violin)
Their second is a bit folkier, proggier and more atmospheric than their debut, but overall not as distinctive, although it improves as it goes on. In particular, the Eastern-tinged ‘Cantara’ is an outstanding piece of music. Despite some impressive moments, the vocals (with fewer growls this time, but once more a rather odd style) again don’t do much for me. GRADE: C+.
Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (Czech Republic): Themes (Redblack MRB 008-2, 2000)
Metal/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Zuzana Zamazalová (occasional vocals, violin)
Very different to their first two, this has a much heavier and more epic sound, with some neoclassical and avant-garde touches thrown in. A distinctive and original album, it could have been a classic without the increasingly tiresome vocals. GRADE: B–.
Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (Czech Republic): Relic Dances (Redblack MRB 028, CD, 2004)
Metal/Progressive
Hana Nogolová (joint lead vocals), Petra Novácková (violin)
With Forgotten Silence’s Hana Nogolová on board, there are thankfully far fewer death vocals on here, whilst the addition of a string quartet builds on the epic sound of the previous album. However, whilst the title and packaging suggest an experimental ethnic work in the style of Nogolová’s most recent recordings with Forgotten Silence, this is fairly straightforward metal with neoclassical and folk tinges – but a very good record nonetheless. GRADE: B–.
Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (Czech Republic): Osamelí (Redblack MRB 033, CD, with digipak, 2006)
Metal/Progressive/Folk
Hana Nogolová (principal vocals), Petra Novácková (violin)
A huge step forward from their earlier work, this is a superbly atmospheric yet extremely heavy album dominated by East European elements (including extensive use of what sounds like a cymbalon). The result is an epic fusion of styles that even includes two dance remixes at the end – a bold move indeed from a band that began its career playing death metal. GRADE: B.
Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (Czech Republic): Návaz (Season Of Mist SOM 228, CD, with digipak and booklet, France, 2011)
Metal/Progressive/Folk
Hana Nogolová (principal vocals)
Similar in style to its predecessor yet less daring and varied, this is another strong album but – for once – shows the brand treading water instead of pressing forward onto pastures new. GRADE: B–.

Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (Czech Republic): Smutnice (Redblack MRB 054, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2018)
Metal/Progressive
Hana Nogolová (principal vocals), Gabriela Povrazníková (violin)
This is Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy’s first album in seven years, and the major change is that they’ve added two dedicated string players to the line-up, in the manner of Fuchsia. Otherwise, this is broadly business as usual, instantly recapturing their many strengths: good use of beauty and the beast vocals (with Hana Nogolová’s lovely clear tones thankfully dominating), great counterpoint between delicate melodies and heavy riffs, effective use of ethnic elements, and a nice blend of gothic, doom and progressive elements – plus of course some great songs. GRADE: B–.
See also Endless, Forgotten Silence

Silmaril (USA): Given Time Or The Several Roads (No label LP-2173, 1973)
Folk
Sharon Tews (occasional vocals, percussion, autoharp)
The canopy of trees on the rather forbidding black cover accurately represents the contents within: this is dark, forlorn acoustic music with an acid-folk edge (though it’s not really psychedelic in any conventional sense). At its best, this rivals anything in the style that ever emerged from Britain but although broadly consistent in mood, the material varies considerably in terms of quality. Overall, it’s hard to believe that this emerged from the States as it sounds unlike any other American album of the era. Beware, however, of ridiculous comparisons that sometimes surface – this only once resembles Pentangle (‘The Voyage Of The “Icarus”’) and never bears the slightest traces of any influence from Fairport Convention. GRADE: B–.

Siloah (West Germany): Siloah (No label, 1970)
Folk/Psychedelic
Manuela von Perfall (percussion)
Song titles like ‘Yellow Puppets Hanging In The Sky’, ‘Krishna’s Golden Dope Shop’ and ‘Acid Eagle’ leave little doubt as to the band’s fondness for recreational substances, and musically this is stoned, rather lo-fi hippie folk. With mostly acoustic arrangements, it often resembles Amon Düül’s Paradieswarts Düül, Sündenfall II (notably on the standout cut ‘Road To Laramy’) or a number of similar Scandinavian outfits. After the initial private pressing of 600 copies sold out, the disc was reissued the following year as Säureadler (German Blues And Underground 1558015). The band went on to cut a second and final album, Sukram Gurk, with a radically different and all-male line-up. GRADE: C+.

Silver Birch (UK): Silver Birch (Brayford BRO 2, 1974)
Folk
Jayne Clark (joint lead vocals, harmonium), Angie Seal (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Supposedly pressed in a run of 200 copies, this rare private album offers pleasant folk with full band arrangements and a mixture of contemporary and traditional material. They also contributed material (along with Galley and others) to the equally scarce Eastern Approaches compilation, and returned to issue a second, cassette-only album, Lady Of The Woods, twenty years on. GRADE: C+.
See also Various ‘Eastern Approaches’

Silver Lining (USA): Well Dressed Blues (Eye-Con EC001, CD, 2006)
Rock
Anna Price (joint lead vocals)
Despite the title, this isn’t blues/rock; and despite the trippy, colourful cover it isn’t psychedelic pop either. Instead it’s charming melodic West Coast rock with a late sixties feel and a marked rural edge, with the whole thing having a sunny, light-hearted hippie vibe. GRADE: C+.

Silverleaf (Denmark): Silverleaf (Kozmik Artifactz Artifact 28, CD, Germany, 2016)
Rock/Metal 
Lene Kjaer Hvillum (lead vocals, bass)
This has none of the progressive leanings of the later releases by Hvillum’s other band Fuzz Manta, though its heavy, snaky jams do recall their earlier work. Later Fuzz Manta has the edge for me, due to the greater diversity and experimentation, but it’s ultimately academic – this is a damn good example of its style. GRADE: B–.
See also Fuzz Manta

Simmance (West Germany): Seven Stars (No label SM 02, with booklet, 1985)
Folk
Brigitte Simmance (accordion, percussion, recorder, backing vocals)
Chris and Brigitte Simmance managed to write some beautiful, delicate songs and accompany them with well-chosen acoustic instrumentation with a few mediaeval edges. Unfortunately Chris, who handles all the lead vocals, chooses to deliver them in an arch, quavery, pseudo-classical troubadour style that will render the album unlistenable to many ears. He went on to cut numerous further LPs, which I have not sought to hear. GRADE: C.

Clodagh Simonds (Ireland): Six Elementary Songs (Evangel EV.004, CD, with booklet and obi, some autographed, Japan, 1997)
Folk/New Age
Clodagh Simonds (lead vocals, keyboards, effects)
Simonds’s only solo album sounds nothing like Mellow Candle; the template here is clearly Enya, with layer upon layer of swirling synthesiser and lyrics in English, Gaelic and Latin. As Enya pastiches go, this is a good one: there’s nothing here of the standard of Watermark or Shepherd Moons, but it’s all catchier and less soporific than most of her later work. However, as that description suggests, the real problem here is not quality but originality (and quantity – the whole thing runs for a mere 20 minutes). GRADE: C+.

Michael Begg & Clodagh Simonds (UK): Witness 3 (Omnempathy, download, 2020)
Ambient/Classical/New Age
Consisting of three vast cosmic soundscapes totalling nearly an hour, this is a considerable diversion from the former Mellow Candle leader (though her work with Fovea Hex clearly hinted in this direction). According to the blurb, ‘live positional data from the International Space Station… is streamed live in real time, processed and realised by music by Michael Begg’s Witness Engine – a series of software programmes [sic] that transform environmental and climate data into musically meaningful real time compositions’. The end results are suitably spacy, with Simonds’s processed vocals hinting towards Ligeti; as another reviewer noted, this would have fitted in well on the soundtrack of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. I always find this sort of ambient neoclassical music difficult to review: it’s eerie and oozes atmosphere, but simply seems to arrive, hang around and then disappear without much actually happening. Nonetheless, those who love this style could adore it, and it could also have appeal for some collectors of minimalist electronic Krautrock. GRADE: C+.
See also Fovea Hex, Mellow Candle, Mike Oldfield

Sarah Simpson & Diana Wilson (UK): I Know Where I’m Going/The Cuckoo/The Wild Mountain Thyme/Four Strong Winds (Emidisc, 7" acetate, 1973?)
Folk
Only one copy is known of this acetate EP, which features gentle versions of four familiar songs with school project-style vocals and simple acoustic guitar backing. The overall effect is similar to acts like Stephanie & Leonie Clarke (of the Eron label), with a gentle, charming and naïve vibe.

GRADE: C+.

Singers, Instrumentalists, Composers & Arrangers Of Newquay School, Cornwall (UK): Nearly All Our Own Work (TC, 1973)
Folk/Rock
Pip Old (occasional vocals, glockenspiel), Peta Andrew (occasional vocals, guitar), Jane Robins (occasional vocals, guitar), Fiona Quinn (occasional vocals, guitar), Elaine Trestrail (occasional vocals, clarinet), Carey Dunn (occasional vocals), Yvette Glanfield (guitar, clarinet), Denise Cooper (guitar), Penny Kennedy (guitar), Sarah Gray (guitar), Lorraine Richards (guitar), Colleen Nail (clarinet), Betty Binysh (clarinet), Belinda Axworthy (clarinet), Caroline Vincent (clarinet)
This obscure secondary school album turns up on a few wants list, mainly owing to having been offered at an extremely high price by a prominent record dealer a few years back. Musically it’s a mixed bag, opening promisingly with a dark, mournful electric folk number, ‘Wandering Town’, before taking in traditional Cornish folklore, classical guitar themes, showtunes, heavy rock and more. Along the way, there are some pretty good folk tracks, including the gentle ‘Neptune’ and gorgeous Reality From Dream-style ‘Full Circle’. GRADE: C.

Romie Singh (UK): Masters (CBS 450108, with inner, West Germany, 1986)
Pop
Romie Singh (lead vocals)
The Corkscrew vocalist’s solo album is nothing like her former band: this is lightweight electro-pop that’s typical of its era. Occasionally unusual but frequently banal, it’s of little merit unless you enjoy stuff like Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin. GRADE: D+.
See also Corkscrew

Sinkadus (Sweden): Sinkadus (No label, cassette, with booklet, 1996)
Progressive
Linda Johansson (occasional vocals, flute), Lena Pettersson (cello)
This obscure cassette announced the emergence of a major new progressive talent, albeit one whose style could largely be summarised in a single word: Änglagård. The music here isn’t as dynamic or as assured or as well recorded as Änglagård (hardly surprising, given that it’s basically a demo), but at the same time it’s a touch folkier and more organic. In any case, comparisons are odious and taken on its own terms this is an impressive piece of work, full of complexity and 1970s references. GRADE: B.
Sinkadus (Sweden): Aurum Nostrum (Cyclops CYCL 048, CD, UK, 1997)
Progressive
Linda Johansson (occasional vocals, flute), Lena Pettersson (cello)
This re-recording of the four songs from their cassette really brings the music alive, with greater richness and dynamics. Whilst most critics compared it unfavourably to Änglagård, calling the musicianship sluggish, I rate both bands equally, with Sinkadus offering a slightly different twist on the same basic blueprint. GRADE: B.

Sinkadus (Sweden): Live At Progfest ’97 (Cyclops CYCL 061, double CD, 1998)
Progressive
Linda Johansson (occasional vocals, flute), Lena Pettersson (cello)
Their live album consists of Aurum Nostrum (or plain Sinkadus if you prefer) in its entirety, plus ‘Jag, Änglamarks Bane’, which would appear on their second studio album, meaning that is the third version of the same four songs. Which is the best is moot – I think that these renditions and those on Aurum Nostrum beat those on the cassette, but there’s not much in it. Talking of the cassette, this comprises the second disc, now retitled Aurum Nostrum Version 1. GRADE: B.

Sinkadus (Sweden): Cirkus (Cyclops CYCL 072, CD, 1999)

Progressive

Lena Pettersson (cello), Linda Johansson (flute, backing vocals)

Mirroring the transition undertaken by their principal influence Änglagård, this is more instrumental than their first (though three out of five tracks still have vocals). Complex, dynamic, dark and quintessentially Scandinavian, it’s superb from start to finish, making it a crying shame that they never recorded another album. GRADE: B.

Sinnermen & Sara (UK): Sinnermen And Sara (MGM CS 8099, 1968)
Folk/Rock
Sara (joint lead vocals)
The use of electric guitar throughout adds a bit of an edge to this otherwise fairly pro forma coffeehouse folk set, which focuses mainly on jolly, uptempo material. Those who like American-influenced folk (including versions of ‘Banks Of The Ohio’, ‘Pick A Bale Of Cotton’ and ‘Green Back Dollar’) should find much to enjoy here, though I doubt anyone will relish the occasional kazoo. GRADE: C.

Sintese Del Viaggio Di Es (Italy): Il Sole Alle Spalle (Lizard LDV 012, CD, 2017)
Progressive
Eleonora Montenegro (flute, whistle)
This is Rock Progressivo Italiano in its purest form: elegant, mellow and refined, with a well-judged blend between folky acoustic moments and mid-paced electric rock. Its detractors could argue that it’s not particularly experimental or adventurous, but when the music is as good as this who really cares? GRADE: B–.

Sirius (Japan): Crystal Voyage (Made In Japan MCD-2919, CD, 1992, recorded 1979-1990)
Progressive
Miyoko Miyatake (occasional vocals, keyboards)
This compilation of recordings by Kazuhiro Miyatake’s side-project to Mr Sirius features three cuts from 1979, one from 1987 and a twenty-minute suite from 1990. Throughout, it offers sophisticated progressive with a definite Genesis influence and a fair degree of complexity, although not a great deal of excitement. Miyoko Miyatake fronts the final cut ‘Wanderer’, whilst other singers provide occasional female vocals elsewhere. GRADE: C.
See also Mr Sirius

Sistra (Italy): Bearing (Psych Up Melodies PUM - 003/01, CD, 2011)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Gaia Vittozzi (joint lead vocals), Barbara Radi (joint lead vocals)
This Italian outfit, led by multi-instrumentalist Fabrizio Di Vicino, debuted with an album that’s odd through and through. Mixing acid-rock jamming with jazzy time signatures, a few avant-garde touches and a basement production, and throwing in a few spacey and occasionally folky songs along the way, it’s genuinely difficult to describe. Much of it is excellent and nearly all of it holds the attention, but the whole thing sounds more like a rehearsal session than an album per se. GRADE: C+.

Sistra (Italy): Communication Deferred (Psych Up Melodies PUM - 009/01, CD, 2014)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Barbara Milizia (principal vocals)
Alternating songs and instrumentals, their second album again blends disparate influences – acid-rock jamming, jazzy time signatures, skittering percussion (some played backwards) – into an unusual whole. Once again, it’s a hard album to sum up and once again, despite its high quality, none of it really goes anywhere. GRADE: C+.

Six North (Japan): I’m Here In My Heart (Muséa FGBG 4358.AR, CD, France, 2000)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Chizuko Ura (lead vocals)
Six North (or 6-North as the front cover has them) offer virtuosic, mostly instrumental jazz-fusion with a laid-back feel and some world music edges. Not until the penultimate track, ‘Kundabuffer’, does the music become uptempo or dynamic, and it’s too little too late: this is impressively virtuosic stuff, like lots of fusion, but it’s also lacking in warmth, personality or excitement, also like lots of fusion. GRADE: C+.
Sixnorth (Japan): Prayer (Poseidon PRF-011, CD, 2003)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Chizuko Ura (lead vocals)
Closing with an extract from Hatfield & The North’s ‘Fitter Stoke Has A Bath’, the band’s second and final album – issued under another slightly variant name – moves them closer to a Canterbury sound. Far more dynamic, playful and inventive than its predecessor, this is definitely the stronger of their two releases, but once again the music impresses far more than it delights. GRADE: C+.

Skalar (Germany): Spooky (Lollipoppe Shoppe LSCD 024, CD, with digipak, 2021)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Anne Smidt (principal vocals, guitar, keyboards)
According to their press release, Skalar released an EP five years ago, but this intriguing album still sounds like something of a work in progress. The basic style is spare folk/rock with some jazz edges and a bit of a singer/songwriter feel, occasionally hinting towards Crosby Stills & Nash or even the more atmospheric end of Fleetwood Mac. However, there are lots of diversions from the template – on the extended opener ‘Black Mamba’ the jam even reminds me of Axe (Crystalline). But whilst there’s plenty to enjoy here, it still feels a little slight – maybe they need to stretch out and jam a little more often. 

GRADE: C+.

Skara Brae (Ireland): Skara Brae (Gael-Linn CGLLP 31, 1971)
Folk
Tríona Ní Dhomnaill, Mairead Ní Dhomnaill
Reputedly the first album to combine Gaelic lyrics with harmony vocals, this is a beautiful and haunting acoustic folk set, owing an occasional debt to Davy Graham. However, Tríona Ní Dhomnaill and colleagues were to take huge steps forward when they introduced rock elements into their sound with her superb solo album and later ventures like Ceathrar and the Bothy Band. GRADE: C+.
See also Bothy Band, Tríona Ní Dhomnaill, Relativity

Skean Dhu (UK): Skean Dhu (Holme Recordings 1013/1, 10" acetate, 1969?)
Folk
This live folk club album doesn’t offer anything particularly surprising in its choice of material or interpretations, but it’s a consistently solid set. Given its origins, the band may have been connected to (or another incarnation of) Blue Horizon/the Orange & The Green, but this cannot be confirmed. GRADE: C+.

Skeeal (Isle of Man): Long Story (No label SKEEAL01, CD, 2005)
Folk
Sophia Dale (joint lead vocals), Breesha Maddrell (occasional vocals, flute, whistle), Simone Rogers (flute)
Despite simple backing from acoustic guitar, flutes and whistle, this collection of Manx and Celtic folk songs never sounds bland or one-dimensional. In fact, it’s frequently very beautiful, with the dual flutes working particularly well. GRADE: C+.

Skeeal (Isle of Man): Slipway (No label SKEEAL02, CD, 2009)
Folk
Sophia Dale (joint lead vocals), Breesha Maddrell (flute, whistle, backing vocals), Simone Rogers (flute, whistle, backing vocals)
Even better than their first, this peaks on two sublime songs with subtle psychedelic edges: ‘Laghyn’ and especially the mesmerising ‘Graih’. These numbers alone make this is a worthwhile purchase for acid-folk fans, whilst anyone liking high quality traditional folk should relish the remainder. GRADE: C+.

Sketch (UK): Outside-In (View VS 0016, West Germany, 1981)
Jazz/Funk
Sue Hawker (lead vocals)
Eighties jazz/funk is a particular bête noire of mine, and this is a textbook example of it (as well as being slightly ahead of the curve). In fairness, it’s not the worst of the crop, and the collection of saxophone and scat-led numbers on the A-side isn’t too offensive. However, it isn’t exactly compelling or interesting either, though the songs on the flip are marginally better (with Sue Hawker often recalling Linda Hoyle in her singing). She and guitarist Rob Koral went on to form the equally underwhelming Wotzat?. GRADE: C.

See also Wotzat?

Sketchshow (UK): Patchwork (No label, CD, with digipak, 2018)
Rock/Progressive
Satin Bailey (lead vocals)
This is of that ilk of modern, polished, symphonic not-quite-progressive rock, making me think of Lesoir with some of the harder-riffing style of District 97  or A Formal Horse, though Satin Bailey’s vocals remind me more of Bent Knee’s Courtney Swain with a hint of Tracy Hitchings. Since Lesoir isn’t exactly my favourite band and Courtney Swain (not to mention Tracy Hitchings) isn’t among my favourite vocalists, this 21½-minute EP strikes me as fairly unimpressive as well as pretty insubstantial, though with a different vocal style (and without the horribly brash mastering) it might just about have crawled over the line to C+. GRADE: C.
Sketchshow (UK): Waves (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2021)
Rock/Progressive
Satin Bailey (lead vocals)
I found their 21-minute EP underwhelming, so what of their album, which runs for a whopping 39? The good news is that this is a decidedly more mature work – the songs aren’t all the same length or the same tempo, for a start – and is actually rather pleasant. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, this could be the album of some people’s dreams – assuming there’s anybody out there craving Lesoir with crunchier riffs, A Formal Horse with greater pop smarts or District 97 with a faux-naïf girlish singer. GRADE: C+.

Skibbereen (Switzerland): Skibbereen (Image U-764-001, 1976)
Folk/Rock
Kathryn Gurewitsch (principal vocals, harmonium, percussion)
Their debut offers accomplished electric folk in the classic Fairport Convention, Folque or Steeleye Span mould. The interpretations of English and Irish material are lively and inventive, but lacking a really outstanding singer they never succeed in equalling their inspirations. GRADE: C+.
Skibbereen (Switzerland): Folk-Rockin’ (Image U-780-019, with inner, 1978)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Kathryn Gurewitsch (occasional vocals)
Gurewitsch obviously left the band early in the sessions for this second LP, as she is featured only as a guest (singing lead on the best cut ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ and contributing backing vocals to a few other tracks). In contrast to their first, this consists mainly of original compositions with a slightly more progressive flavour, including a couple of lengthier tracks and suites. During the eighties, the band went on to cut at least one further album with an all-male line-up. GRADE: C+.

Skin (West Germany): Hot Skin (EMI 1C 064-45 558, 1979)
Pop/Rock
Uwe Gaasch (joint lead vocals)
I’d assumed from the cover, era and partly black line-up that this would be disco, but it’s catchy, nicely arranged funky pop/rock with some decent guitar work. Drummer Ringo Funk had previously been a member of Atlantis, among other outfits, whilst the LP was produced by Dieter Dierks. GRADE: C+.

Skinflint (Botswana): Dipoko (Metal, CDR, 2012)
Metal
Alessandra Sbrana (drums, congas)
Despite frequent references to African mythology in the lyrics and the presence of congas on one song, this Batswana metal band’s album isn’t any kind of cross-genre fusion. Instead, this is pure retro heavy rock, with a stripped-down, seventies garage feel, bolstered by an excellent production. The heavily accented semi-spoken vocals take a bit of getting used to, and the disc isn’t hugely varied or ambitious, but in a world where most metal bands present an unceasing wall of sound it’s nice to hear an outfit that knows less is more and gives its music room to breathe. GRADE: C+.
Skinflint (Botswana): Nyemba (Metal CDSK04, CD, 2013)
Metal
Alessandra Sbrana (drums)
The only real surprise here is the presence of a blues jam (and a good one, at that). Otherwise, this is very much business as usual, and again very satisfying, with a nice blend of seventies and contemporary elements. GRADE: C+.

Skinflint (Botswana): Chief Of The Ghosts (Metal, CDR, 2016)
Metal
Alessandra Sbrana (drums, percussion)
Like many metal bands, artistic development isn’t really the point of Skinflint: you either like their stripped-down, unpretentious take on early seventies hard rock and metal, complete with lyrics about African mythology, or you don't. I do. GRADE: C+.
Skinflint (Botswana): Skinflint (Into, CD, 2018)
Metal
Alessandra Sbrana (drums)
Again, there’s not really a lot to say: Skinflint plough their own furrow and appear happy enough to cover the same ground on each album. Taken individually, their releases are good and enjoyable; taken collectively, one has to wonder when they’re going to try something new. GRADE: C+.

Skumring (Norway): De Glemte Tider (Chapter XXXIV, CD, 2005)
Metal/Folk/Progressive
Cecilie Langlie (lead vocals)
With just three long tracks of between 12½ and 19 minutes, this blends elements of folk and doom metal with Cecilie Langlie’s angelic vocals to create long, mournful soundscapes that evoke dark, forbidding forests and chilly Scandinavian landscapes. The most obvious antecedent for their sound would be fellow Norwegians Third & The Mortal on their first album – this takes their sound to the next level, with an even more uncompromising approach and far less regard for conventional song structures (or running times). GRADE: B–.
See also Havnatt, Omit, Vagrant God

Sky Cries Mary (USA): A Return To The Inner Experience (1994)
Psychedelic
Anisa Romero (joint lead vocals)
Blending modern dance music and ambient elements with good old-fashioned trip-rock, the band stretches out and creates some wonderfully hypnotic grooves on the lengthy tracks here. Mostly it’s catchy and relaxed, but they can also be aggressive and dynamic (‘Lay Down Your Head’) and minimalist and eerie (‘We Will Fall’). GRADE: B–.

Sky Picnic (USA): Synesthesia (No label, CD, 1998)
Psychedelic
Leah Cinnamon (joint lead vocals, bass, tamboura)
Oddly for an American psychedelic band, all their influences are British: the template is early Pink Floyd crossed with modern neo-psych sensibilities. With its wistful, catchy songs and floating, expansive guitar work this obscure debut stands as one of the best and most authentic nineties psychedelic albums. GRADE: B–.

Sky Picnic (USA): Farther In This Fairy Tale (Nasoni NASONI107, some on blue vinyl, 2011)
Psychedelic
Leah Cinnamon (joint lead vocals, bass, glockenspiel, flute)

Farther into the fairy tale indeed: their impressive second album builds on the sound of their first, with an overt nod to their biggest influence in the title of 'Going Mad In Cambridge'. I can also discern some eighties and nineties influences here, particularly recalling Red Chair Fadeaway, though the music (and particularly the singing) is more robust and not as fey. GRADE: B–.

Sky Picnic (USA): Paint Me A Dream (Nasoni NASONI129, some on blue vinyl, 2012)
Psychedelic
Leah Cinnamon (joint lead vocals, bass, glockenspiel, recorder)
Album number three is every bit as good as their first two – fantastic late sixties-tinged dreamy psychedelia with Syd Barrett influences well to the fore. With some excellent use of Mellotron and a few progressive edges, it’s another trippy classic. GRADE: B–.

Sky Picnic (USA): Her Dawn Wardrobe (Mega Dodo DODOCD7, CD, with digipak, 2014)
Psychedelic
Leah Cinnamon (occasional vocals, bass, glockenspiel)
Their fourth album is a touch one-paced and sedate, and it’s notable how much the one moment they rock out (the instrumental ‘Most Of A Box Of Winter’) lifts the LP. Nonetheless, this is a beautifully crafted set, with the eight-and-a-half-minute ‘Earl Grey’ providing another highpoint with its delicate Mellotron colourings. GRADE: B–.

  Skyhigh (UK): Skyhigh (Longman LG 56947.8, with booklet, 1975)
Pop
Nola York
This is one of the better teach-yourself-English albums on Longman: whilst its mildly jazzy, showtune-edged pop may be too upbeat and tuneful for many ears, Nola York has a fine voice and expertly arranges her compositions for a small combo of bass, piano and drums. An uncredited guitarist also puts in a few appearances on the slightly superior first side: he’s clearly in love with his fuzz pedal and uses it to good effect, particularly on ‘It’s All Over Now’, which recalls Loudest Whisper in hard rock mode. Typically for a Longman album, the lyrics concern themselves with pointless, humdrum lives, ecological concerns and over-development. Some sources jointly credit the album to York and lyricist Brian Abbs, who also contributed the words to another Longman project, Cloudsongs, which reunited several members of Principal Edwards. As a footnote, York had issued a number of pop singles in the sixties and went on to issue several more in a dance and disco vein, but her only other album was a collection of nursery rhymes. GRADE: C+.

Skylight (Australia): Skyhigh (EMI EMA-302, 1975)
Pop/Rock/Progressive
Bonnie Lever (principal vocals, tambourine)
For the most part, this Aussie band’s one-off album offers pleasant soul and funk-edged pop, with lots of evocative seventies touches. Their live cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ doesn’t add anything to the original, but side one closes with an excellent eight-and-a-half minute instrumental ‘Let’s Get Outta Here’ that demonstrates clear progressive ambitions and is by far the disc’s highpoint. Side two also closes with a long jam, based around Donny Hathaway’s ‘The Ghetto’: this is also good but not in the same league. GRADE: C+.

Skys (Lithuania): Colours Of The Desert (No label RK04CD, CD, 2011)
Progressive
Bozena Buinicka (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Why a Lithuanian band chose an Arabic theme for its artwork (including a very attractive front cover and a centrespread with the members in Bedouin clothing), I have no idea. Musically this has a few Arabian motifs as one might expect, but mostly it’s melodic sympho-prog with a Pink Floyd feel, a few space-rock touches and occasional jazzy dissonance. The end results are mildly interesting and unusual, but this is not cutting-edge music and the band clearly has one foot in commercial mainstream rock (as the lugubrious closing ballad ‘What If?’ demonstrates). GRADE: C+.

Skys (Lithuania): Journey Through The Skies (No label RK05CD, CD, 2015)
Rock/Progressive
Bozena Buinicka (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
This is by some margin the best Dave Gilmour album Dave Gilmour never made, with songs way better than 99% of anything he’s written in the last three decades. With mainly short tracks, it’s not an ambitious LP, and as my description suggests not an original one either, but for what they are the songs here are hook-laden and really quite special. GRADE: C+.

Skys (Lithuania): Automatic Minds (No label, CD, 2019)
Progressive
Bozina Buinicka (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Despite the presence of live Floyd alumni Snowy White and Durga McBroom, this isn’t the blatant Dave Gilmour pastiche that its predecessor was. But whilst the band demonstrate more of their own identity, this isn’t a particularly ambitious album, and it isn’t as good or as lively as Journey Through The Skies either. GRADE: C+.