CRACK THE SKY: BETWEEN THE CRACKS
Every band has a cache of favorite songs in their catalog they wish had gotten more attention and/or more airplay, and Crack The Sky is no exception. The 12 deep cuts culled for Between The Cracks, due out on all major digital platforms on July 2, 2021 via Carry On Music, were personally selected by all current CTS bandmembers as their top choices for the ones that got away from the albums they released between 1983-2015.
To fill in the blanks about Between The Cracks, CTS bandleader/chief songwriter John Palumbo (the man who approved the digital transfers and/or remasters of every one of these dozen reclaimed tracks), guitarist Rick Witkowski (the man who initially transferred and/or remastered each track digitally for inclusion in the band’s 15-album digital reissue series in 2020), and guitarist Bobby Hird (the man who knows where all the bodies are buried, and the stories that go with them) got together to detail why every one of these damn-fine prime Crack The Sky tracks are worth a second look, and listen. “We hope this collection will turn people onto some of the older stuff of ours they maybe haven’t heard before,” Palumbo explains. “And then, once they get into all of these songs, they can switch over to listening to our new stuff, and pick up with what’s going on with us now.” No matter how you come into the fold, everybody’s welcome through the Crack The Sky door.
“All Fly Away” — from World in Motion (1983)
John Palumbo: You know I hate talking about lyrics, but I will say that, as a songwriter, I like to take a general look at what’s going on in the world. That’s easy to write about. It just hits you in the face. Things don’t really change that much, so I can’t take too much credit for being all that psychic with this song.
Rick Witkowski: It’s a great song that I didn’t play on originally, but we have done it live a couple of times. I really love playing this one. Once again, JP was on point lyrically with what was going on at the time.
Bobby Hird: Could this song have been written last week? I agree completely with that. This was one of my personal favorites off that album. It was a great time recording it, and the few times we’ve played it live, people just seemed to love it right away, even if they hadn’t heard it before. I think it’s a good time to bring it back out.
“Monkey Time” — from The End (1984)
Witkowski: I had nothing to do with the original recording of this one either, so I basically heard it for the first time when I was asked to do the digital transfers. And during that first time I heard it, I went, “Wow!” It just hit me really strong. I immediately called JP and said, “We gotta bust this song out the next time we play a gig with the [Crack Pack] Horns!”
Palumbo: I’m glad you got into this one, Ricky. As a writer, I try to stay away from saying things that will become dated. My job is to entertain first, and secondly, to also make you think a little bit.
“Coconuts” — from Ghost (2001)
Hird: I love that one JP line here: “It takes a village, they say.” It’s so perfect.
Palumbo: Thanks, Bobby. And then it’s, “You blow the village up / You burn the village down.”
Hird: It kind of goes back to when I was a kid, and everybody’s parents were involved in all of our friends’ lives — it really wasa village. My parents did the same thing for other friends of mine. Everybody on our block knew everybody else.
Palumbo: And now, we don’t really even know our neighbors anymore. It’s a new concept.
Witkowski: It’s isolation — which is kinda like what we’re dealing with here right now. We’re talking over our computers, instead of face to face.
“Zoom” — from Ghost (2001)
Palumbo: Does the way “Zoom” unfolds remind me of how these guys jammed on “Quick” [the 9-minute epic from 2021’s Tribes]? Musically, yes. Lyrically, no. “Zoom” is a very spiritual track. “Quick” is about love.
Hird: When we were recording “Zoom,” I kinda took it as being like “Ice” [a perennial live Crack The Sky favorite from their self-titled 1975 debut album] a little bit — and that’s because of what the guitars are doing. The thing Rick and I were doing in that was pretty “Ice”-ish, I think. You know what — when we start doing those acoustic shows again, I think we should break this one out, because there’s a lot of acoustic guitar-picking on it. I think doing “Zoom” live acoustically would be killer.
Witkowski: I’m totally with you on that one, Bobaloo! That’s a good idea. I really love how you start it and then I come in, and then we end up in harmony on it together.
“A Letter Home” — from The Sale (2007)
Palumbo: This one is very personal, and very touching. You hear it in the way he [the song’s narrator] talks through this letter he sent home from the frontlines.
Hird: Ricky, wasn’t this one of the first Crack The Sky songs where a mandolin appeared, if not the very first? It sounds wonderful. The headstock on it says it’s a Stradolin.
Witkowski: Yes! It was [CTS drummer] Joey D’Amico’s grandfather’s mandolin, from the 1930s. The first time it appeared on any kind of recording is when you played it on this song, Bobaloo.
“Immigration” — from The Sale (2007)
Palumbo: This one is kinda . . . dark. It’s a dark subject and a dark situation, so you can’t make it happy. And these two guys, Ricky and Bobby, they know how to paint pictures very vividly, because they pay attention to the words. They always do what’s best for the song.
Hird: Well, thank you, John. This song has relevance for what’s still happening today, that’s for sure.
“Here It Comes Again” — from The Machine (2010)
Hird: Glenn Workman just played some fantastic organ on this song. It’s kinda Deep Purple-ish or Yes-like, and when I first heard it, I went, “Whoa!” Really great playing by Glenn on this one.
Witkowski: And JP, you use the word “virus” in this song, right? Always ahead of what’s going on.
Palumbo: Yeah. “But like the virus, I am spreading fast.” I think we have to slow down some so we can hit it at the proper time, and not be a decade too early!
“We’re All Dead” — from The Machine (2010)
Hird: That’s my son’s absolute favorite Crack The Sky song. He loves that song!
Witkowski: Oh yeah? That was a fun one to play, guitar-wise.
Hird: That’s right — and we were nose-to-nose when we recorded that one, weren’t we?
Witkowski: Yeah, and it might have been one of the first times we tried it that way — just sitting down next to each other, and going for spontaneous combustion in the recording.
“The Box” — from Ostrich (2012)
Palumbo: There’s a lot of electronics on that one — a lot of electronics. That was a fun one to do. And there’s a lot of noise on it too.
Witkowski: “The Box” is one of my personal faves. There’s kind of an “electronic playground” that’s happening there in the beginning. It’s almost like a carousel because all this stuff is flying around, and then it centers up to him being in the box. And I love Dave [DeMarco’s] bass part on there, because it really drives the song.
Hird: It was a blast playing on that one.
“Your House Is on Fire” — from Ostrich (2012)
Witkowski: We played this song live a week before it was released. The response we got from the crowd — they picked up on it right away, and they were singing the chorus right along with us. It just connected with everyone immediately.
Palumbo: The horns are really great on this one too — The Crack Pack Horns.
Hird: And whenever we do play it live, the Horns have to be up there with us.
“King of the Rodeo” — from Ostrich (2012)
Hird: I just have to say, “King of the Rodeo” is one of my favorites, and not just because my dad was a rodeo rider. JP is actually playing the solo on this one. After we heard that, Ricky and I were both like, “Man, we’re not touching that!” The guitar solo is just absolutely perfect for the song, you know?
Palumbo: Yeah, with the tremolo.
Witkowski: Personally, I love all our guitar tones on that one.
Palumbo: It’s clean, with a lot of space. I just wish I would have sung it straight-ahead, instead of in that character voice.
Witkowski: Oh? I think that voice is what makes it work, actually. It’s like you got a little bit of Tom Waits in there.
“Lemonade” — from The Beauty of Nothing (2015)
Palumbo: That’s pretty dark.
Witkowski: But it has a light-hearted feel to it, too.
Hird: When we got finished doing the guitar solos, Ricky and I looked at each other and went, “I think we just made some lemonade!” (all laugh) It’s got the back-and-forth thing we do that you hear going on between the two speakers. It’s really cool.
- BY MIKE METTLER, RESIDENT CRACKOLOGIST