Skin Alley were an amazing jazz based English progressive rock outfit formed in the late sixties by keyboard player/bassist/vocalist Thomas Crimble, drummer Alvin Pope, keyboard player Krzyszt of Justkiewicz (try saying that one quickly after just having run the Comrades!) and sax player/guitarist Bob James (no, not that one). Their first, self-titled album, released on CBS Records in 1969, featured the track "Living in Sin", which was included on the CBS popular 1970 budget priced compilation, "Fill your head with rock". This album was arguably their finest moment and contained elements of jazz, folk and rock. The follow-up album, 1970's "To Pagham and Beyond", was also a fine effort and contained probably the best cover of the Graham Bond penned "Walking in the Park". It was at this stage that Nick Graham, previously of UK outfits End and Tucky Buzzard and co-founder, bassist, vocalist andf lautist with Atomic Rooster, replaced Thomas Crimble in August of 1970, and drummer Tony Knight, ex-Bronx Cheer, replaced Alvin Pope. The band then took on a decidedly more mainstream progressive rock direction, with some wonderful keyboard, flute, brass and string parts. This album, "Two Quid Deal", which was one of the best album releases of that year, also saw them move to a new record label, Transatlantic, home to the likes of Stray, Mr.Fox and others. A fairly good final album, "Skin Tight", which was produced by American Don Nix and mixed in Ardent Studios, Memphis, was released in 1973, but they split shortly after its release. Graham went on to form the short-lived Alibi in 1980 and The Humans with vocalist Jess Roden in the mid nineties. The other members of this very competent band seem to have faded into obscurity. All four of their albums are available on CD and are certainly worth adding to the collection.
  
 


Biography by J. Scott McClintock
British prog rock act Skin Alley were a farsighted collaboration between Thomas Crimble (keyboards/bass/vocals), Alvin Pope (drums), Krzysztof Henryk Justkiewicz (keyboards), and Bob James (sax/guitar). Formed in the late '60s, they made inroads quickly and found themselves signed to CBS for their self-titled debut in 1969. That album, and its 1970 follow-up, To Pagham & Beyond, saw the band in top prog form — a pastiche of folk, jazz, and rock that, although well traveled by this time, managed to delight more than a few critics with its freshness and vitality. Crimble and Pope moved on later that year and were replaced by Nick Graham (formerly of The End, Tucky Buzzard, and Atomic Rooster) and Tony Knight (ex-Bronx Cheer), respectively. With new members in place, Skin Alley's sound took on a more polished, mainstream approach and began prominently featuring the complex string, woodwind, and brass arrangements of Graham. Their jazz-rock fusion sound was still there, but with decidedly more polish and sophistication.

A switch to the Transatlantic label in 1972 heralded the release of the band's third LP,Two Quid Deal, and found the group finally gaining some fame across the big water. Stax's Don Nix wooed Skin Alley over to Ardent Studios in Memphis to record their fourth (and final) album, 1973's Skintight, and made them the first European band to be signed to the otherwise American soul-oriented imprint. The band split shortly thereafter, with Graham having the most successful post-Skin career with his groups Alibi and the Humans in the early '80s. In 2006, Castle Music packaged Two Quid Deal and Skintight (along with a pair of singles) for a collection called Bad Words & Evil People: The Transatlantic Anthology 1972-73. 

 

Thomas Crimble
Nick Graham
Bob James
Krzysztof Henryk Justkiewicz
Tony Knight
Alvin Pope

 

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Skin Alley - 1969 - Skin Alley - 4.5/5

Skin Alley - 1970 - To Pagham and Beyond - 5/5

Skin Alley - 1972 - Two Quid Deal - 2/5

Skin Alley - 1973 - Skintight - 3/5

Skin Alley - 2006 - Bad Words and Evil People, The Transatlantic Anthology 1972-73 - 4.5/5

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