Mark and The Clouds
Mark and The Clouds is a London based band playing a blend of timeless, catchy and powerful pop. Evolving from Instant Flight, a band so cool they persuaded the legendary Arthur Brown to sing on their debut album, Colours & Lights, Mark & The Clouds is fronted by vocalist and songwriter Marco Magnani.
Mark & The Clouds debut album 'Blue Skies Opening' was issued by Mega Dodo in July 2014. Their new album 'Cumulus' was issued in early 2017 on 180 gram black vinyl LP and CD.
Mark & The Clouds — Cumulus
(Mega Dodo DODOLP21 / DODOCD21, 2017, LP / CD / DL)
On March 10, 2017 Mark & The Clouds release Cumulus, their second album of homespun 60s pop-psych tunes. Extending what they started on their 2014 debut album, Mark & The Clouds gives us a set of 15 new songs of yearning, lusting, failed relationships, and anger that are a mixture of upbeat music, garage-pop-psych ballads, and rock. There some interesting touch points as well. “Hit by Lightning” bears a passing resemblance to Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine,” “Baby You’re Just a Liar” rocks like The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” the acid folk ballads “Another Grey Morning” and “Take My Sky” could have been Ummagumma era Pink Floyd tracks, and for some reason “Let Me Fade Away” makes me think of Voltaire’s “Worf's Revenge - Klingon Rap.” Running through all the songs are electrifying fuzzed / tremelo / jangling guitars, Mellotron, and great vocal harmonies. Of the 15 songs, only the CD and download releases give you the final four. The songs that really stand out for me are the Syd Barrett influenced “Another Grey Morning” with trippy vocals, minor chords, and harmonium; the acid folk “I’m Stopping Here (Bombs & Guns);” the West Coast psych ala The Byrds “Don’t Block the Sun;” and the acid folk album closer “Evil Fairies,” with a touch of mountain music and what could easily be a dulcimer. Cumulus is a wonderful sophomore release for this up and coming band
by Henry Schneider, Published 2017-02-07
Ever effervescent, which means they’re a lot more fun than you probably deserve, Mark & the Clouds finally drop their second album, and what a glorious racket it is. Their modus operandi, of course, has not changed – classic sixties-styled pop that prompts comparisons to everyone from the Beatles to the Kinks and onto the Small Faces, but with an extra-added buoyancy that bops in corners that most others never think of.
A dozen songs on the album, three more available on the download, Cumulus is one of those fist-pumping, knee bending, guitar strumming offerings that leaves you grinning like a loon for days on end, a transistor radio worth of hits-you-missed that sends you scrambling over the sand dunes to sit near the person who’s playing it loudest – in fact, it seems strange to be playing it in the depths of an east coast winter, when it ought to be adding its weight to the sunniest day.
No matter. Eased into the mood by “On Her Bike”; set dancing by “Road, Mud and Cold”; and reeling by “Hit By Lightning” – we’re only three tracks in and already, Cumulus has tingled toes that most records never touch. By the time you hit “You’re Just a Liar”… “Take My Sky”… “Don’t Block the Sun”… (and don’t forget the downloadable “Evil Fairies”), you’re reaching for their debut album and bunkering in for the long haul. Just don’t dare leave the room, cos you’ll miss another killer hook.
Dave Thompson: Goldmine
Like so many others who can remember when three 7” vinyl singles cost exactly a quid (6 shillings and eight pence each) every time a ‘long-lost masterpiece’ which was overlooked back in the 1960's is reissued on a shiny silver disc I part with my cash eager to hear what I’ve missed. Sadly the reason why it was overlooked (and in many cases not released at all at the time) is all too apparent on the first listen; it’s just not that good. So, with another let down, why do we keep buying the things? In the hope that we did miss out on a pop/psych classic maybe, that we are going to be blown away just one more time by this thing that’s soundtracked our lives and with so many new bands trying but failing to capture the spirit and sound of those halcyon days what alternative is there? Admittedly there are a handful of bands that can still create that excitement we crave but they are few and far between.
Mark & The Clouds released their debut album, ‘Blue Skies Opening’, back in 2014 on the Mega Dodo label. The title was appropriate, as here was a London band, led by Marco Magnani, who could capture the sound and spirit of the best bands of the 60's while not coming across like a cheap tribute band; they were far too good for that. Heavenly hooks and harmonies filled out each song and they had obviously been listening to and soaking in the music of all the greats from the Beatles to the Hollies taking in the Small Faces, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and even the Move along the way. The album was power pop perfection, lashings of psychedelia intertwined into the songs making each cut a killer.
Here we are, a couple of years down the line and the band release their second album, ‘Cumulus’ proving that that debut was no fluke and that they hadn’t exhausted all their ideas back then. The opening song hits you immediately, ‘On Her Bike’ transports the listener back to 1967. If Wayne Coyne thinks the Flaming Lips' latest in any way represents the early work of Syd Barrett he should lend an ear to this track and, with the greatest respect, hear how it should be done. Sounding like something that should have made it onto the Hollies ‘Butterfly’ album, it has one of Magnani’s gorgeous, shifting melodies coupled with wistful lyrics that alone evoke ’67. This one track really sums up all what Mark & The Clouds are about. It takes in pop/psych before shifting a gear into edgier territory; memories of early Floyd (it’s almost up there with ‘See Emily Play’ in sound and spirit) and the Small Faces at their most lysergic come to mind. It’s over five minutes long yet doesn’t overstay its welcome. Any child of the 60's is going to love this; it’s simply brilliant and what many of us have been searching for.
‘Road, Mud & Gold’ follows and is a hazy, late summer daydream of a song. With its Hollies harmonies once again, the listener can’t help wondering that if Graham Nash had his way back in the 60's and the band had followed his more experimental leanings then that band would have stayed with their classic line-up a little longer, bringing us little shining psych gems like this. It’s another slice of perfect pop.
‘Hit by Lightning’ finds the band in their rockier mode, still psych/pop but with a touch of the Who about it, a killer guitar break, a sing-a-long chorus worthy of Lennon /McCartney and you can feel Noel Gallagher’s pain and frustration.
To show that they are not the only contemporary band treading this path ‘Another Grey Morning’ recalls the work of Dodson & Fogg as much as it does that classic 60's sound; folk influences combined with their psych/pop tendencies produces the perfect soundtrack to an autumn yet to come. But don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘Cumulus’ is lightweight popsike; the energy of bands such as the Who, the Yardbirds and even, at times, the Pretty Things inform songs like ‘Baby, You’re Just a Liar’.
And that’s the appeal of Mark & The Clouds; they’ve taken elements of the music that they are so obviously influenced by and shaped it into something of their own and not just concentrated on one year or one particular sound. ’The Endless Road’ is yet another track where the band have seemingly taken elements from all our favourite 45s of the mid to late 60's and condensed them into a killer of a song. Heavenly harmonies, jangling guitars, a sublime melody and some cool lead and backwards guitar lines are all there in one song. Once again, it is perfect.
Available as a limited edition run of 250 on 180 gram black vinyl (twelve tracks) with a download code which includes three bonus songs (which you need, as they are not throwaways but of the same excellent standard as those on the album) and a limited double CD which includes a bonus live CD of the band's performance at the Half Moon in Putney, if melodic 60's influenced psych/pop/folk is your thing then head for www.mega-dodo.co.uk and get your order in. You won’t regret it.
Bright jangly pop! Well, who doesn't like bright jangly pop? Mark & The Clouds are a London-based group whose debut album "Blue Skies Opening" presses all the right buttons for fans of fine songwriting. Opening with multi-harmony hit-in-the-making 'In The Storm,' the sound is retro without being pastiche, beautifully sung and superbly orchestrated. The song is a terrific opener - you think of La Fleur Fatale, a hint of the Byrds, Big Star et al. 'You Call Me Brother' hints at the Kinks with its honky-tonk piano and early '70s glam references; another excellent cut. 'Music Disease' is filled with great harmonies and parping brass - catchy, infectious. The title track is much more laid back, warmer too, with slide guitar and either strings or a mellotron providing backing to a reverberated vocal. An album highlight, this, showcasing main man Marco Magnani's smooth vocal style. 'The Grudge' returns us to power-pop, this time Hammond style, with many fuzzed-up guitars arpeggiating away in the background; this one reminded me of Big Star, with a hint of bands like Teenage Fanclub and Cosmic Rough Riders. A strummed acoustic guitar opens the singer-songwriter track 'Darkened River,' but 'Goddess Of Desire' hints at the Jimi Hendrix Experience in style and attack, underpinned by a twelve bar blues chord sequence - another outstanding cut. 'Spirits In The Wind' has a slightly doomy folk feel to it, with a raga-style vocal and some nice mandolins in the distance; also thumping drums and Velvets style tambourines. Very atmospheric, with a nice riff floating through it. 'I Run Like Crazy' is perhaps the most obviously '60s sounding song on the album, thanks in part to the backing vocal harmonies, but it's a good song in its own right, and you could easily imagine it in the "hit parade" some time around 1968. 'For All Diamonds To Shine' skitters along similarly, with Ricky style guitars and a catchy tune; another album highlight, and highly evocative when the string section comes in. 'Faraway Laughter' is one of those quirky little tunes that English psych pop bands do so well; a hint of the Kinks, a groovy guitar solo, a bucketload of charm. 'London Fire' comes in fast and brash like the Jam sent back a few years in time, while album closer 'Are You Taking Time?' is awash with lovely guitar licks, backwards things and delightful vocal harmonies. None of these tracks outstay their welcome, and repeated listenings confirm depth and really good tunes. In six months time this will be viewed as one of the best releases of the year.
Steve Palmer; Terrascope reviews
Debut full length platter ‘blue skies opening’ from Mark and the Clouds arrives in two strictly limited formats – there’s your bog standard 13 track CD set to hit the decks 14/7 followed 2 weeks later by an ultra limited 250 only blue wax edition with the first 100 off the racks coming packed with an additional 4 track EP featuring unreleased cuts culled from the recording sessions. ‘blue skies opening’ is a lysergic dream coat marrying power pop swoons (‘for all diamonds to shine’) and 60’s beat-a-rama with paisley pop bliss and laid back country psych cool with the latter being succinctly evidenced on the slinky dream drift exotica escaping the grooves of the title track which for all the world sounds not unlike a secret session gathering together Gram Parsons and Gene Clark types. Radiating swoons aplenty the smoking ’the grudge’ is classic mid career Charlatans in full on smouldering the Band meets Dylan country soul soaked classicism while ‘music disease’ has the kind of sassy beat swagger about its wares rarely heard done better outside of a Rob Clarke and the Wooltones pop platter and comes replete in snazzy Seeds styled fuzzy kickbacks. For the Beatles-philes among you we suggest to fast forward to ‘faraway laughter’ without further delay given its subtle and sumptuous winter toned baroque pop reveals trace elements of the Fab 4’s ‘revolver’ being secretly dissected and puzzled upon by those Davies dudes while staying with the mop top theme the best moment of the set comes in the guise of the parting ’are you taking time’ which unless ears do deceive has something of the hazily glazed woozy underpins more commonly associated with Harrison’s rarely heard handicraft amid the Beatles canon all dutifully couched in dream weaving crystalline riffs and succulently teased in all manner of reverse loops and surrendering sun setting west coast serenades. Giving it a good run for its money in the favourite track stakes is the mod-tastic Hammond laced biff bang pow of ‘goddess of desire’ which to these well tuned ears sounds not unlike some thought lost recently unearthed sassy shakedown penned to adorn some 60’s hipster teen beat flick while the equally haunting desert campfire spiritual ’darkened river’ shimmers, creaks and coos adorned in death rattled twangs and whistling like some Meek overseen murder ballad. And before we forget to mention it ’I run like crazy’ is just like wow and should by rights satiate the stereophonic listening experiences of purists digging the sounds of wimple winch. Think that’s enough worthy excuses to persuade you to invest heavily in don‘t you think?
The Sunday Experience
Mark & The Clouds get added to the Mega Dodo Records catalog with their new full-length, “Blue Skies Opening.” Not as overtly psych as much of the label’s offerings, “Blue Skies Opening” nevertheless still leans heavily to pop, making its stance with Mega Dodo solid. Based in London and evolving from the Instant Flight when they ‘ran out of runway,’ Mark & The Clouds is led by Marco Magnani. Joined by a bevy of friends, Marco and co. pack “Blue Skies Opening” with enough pop rocks and ballads to satisfy a sweet tooth or two. There’s a definite older vibe, weighing heavy on the singer/songwriter leg that doesn’t steer clear of the ’60s (“Goddess of Desire,” “Faraway Laughter”), but embraces more of where some bands went after the ’60s when the ornateness may have started weighing them down. Traces of The Beatles, The Kinks, even that Moody Blues-ish lift on the opening chords of the title-cut, are focused more on the songs than the filigree of psych, which reflects what those outfits held closer over the long-term. Though based in London, Mark & The Clouds don’t shy away from incorporating some American weather patterns here or there, some times in vaguely rural flashes (it wouldn’t be hard to imagine our national treasure Stan Ridgway taking “Darkened River” for a ride) or fully embracing the power pop, jangly or horn-enhanced. Ballads, tougher nuts like “Goddess of Desire” and “London Fire,” observations and introspections … all find a place under Mark & The Clouds.
Sunrise Ocean Bender
Mark & the Clouds is the new project of Marco Magnani, formerly of Instant Flight, who is accompanied here by an eleven-piece band. This debut album is packaged within striking black and white pen art by Raffaela Bertolini, which includes a swirly drawing of a woman locked in an ecstatic erotic embrace with a guitar whilst floating on a cloud. The CD version is out now, and will be followed by a limited edition blue vinyl LP with bonus 4 song CD EP later in July. Mark & the Clouds explore a good variety of vintage-inspired sounds on this album, all with very high quality musicianship. In the Storm is great retro powerpop with psych-rock touches. You Call Me Brother is a late 60s country-rock thing. Music Disease is a strong catchy song with effective use of trumpet and trombone. Darkened River starts off as a laid-back, folky acoustic song, before building up to an intense crescendo with lots of that twangy Wild West guitar sound.Goddess of Desire is a powerful retro rock track with swirly vintage organ, really fantastic stuff. Are You Taking Time? is laid-back, lazy, hazy, summery retro pop. This is a really strong album, every track an absolute winner. If you're a fan of vintage-style music, whether rock, pop, psych or folk, you can't afford to miss this.
Mark & The Clouds is the latest project from singer, songwriter and guitarist Marco Magnani, former frontman of prog combo Instant Flight, whose new band presents an array of instruments as diverse as electric guitar, keyboards, bouzouki, trumpet and trombone. Magnani penned all 13 songs, ranging from the pleasant pop-rock of 'In The Storm' and the acoustic intro to 'Call Me Brother', through the rollicking 'Goddess Of Desire' and the layered power chords of 'Spirits In The Wind' to The Yardbirds-influenced 'I Run Like Crazy' and the plodding 'Faraway Laughter'.
While there's nothing new here (Flight shared stages with Arthur Brown, Eric Burdon, Hawkwind, Procol Harum and Focus, and it shows, along with echoes of the Fabs, Byrds and Big Brother, among others), Blue Skies Opening is a solid collection of pop-rock originals, well-written and competently executed.
The first 100 copies of the limited- edition blue vinyl release include a four-track EP
Jeremy Isaac; Shindig!
The new release of Mega Dodo is by the Londoners Mark & The Clouds, essentially a project by Marco Magnani, from our favourites Instant Flight. Here he has garnered a great company of musicians friends. Well played psych/pop, in the familiar style of the label. I enjoyed special the Goddess of Desire in a little more lively mood, and the track that closes the album the beautiful Are You Taking Time. Generally we're talking about a fairly nice release, that the many times you'll hear it, the more you'll love it!!!!! The band seems to have a future, and will probably excite us even more to possible future releases! Those who love psychedelic, gentle pop should invest in this album.
The cover art is a great match for the band’s name as well as the album title, but it does not prepare you for what you will hear. Mark and the Clouds is fronted by singer and songwriter Marco Magnani. What you experience on Blue Skies Opening is an infectious set of catchy pop psych songs. There is a plethora of influences percolating throughout the disc from John Lennon to The Everly Brothers to rockabilly. The music grabs you with the very first song, “In the Storm,” with its rocking psych rhythms, musical hooks, and vocal harmonies like The Beach Boys, as well as a hint of The Raveonettes. There is even a slight nod to Tex Mex and Doug Sahm on “The Grudge.” “Darkened River” is particularly outstanding with its Gothic western attitude that conjures up images of the band Guano Padano, especially the whistling. Then “For All Diamonds to Shine” prompts a comparison to Donovan’s “Epistle to Dippy.” The frustration for me is that many of the musical references are elusive, though they sound familiar. The closing song “Are You Taking Time?” is powerful and a great way to end the disc, making you want more. Blue Skies Opening is a fantastic debut release and it is available as both a limited edition blue vinyl LP (released July 28) as well as a CD (released July 14). In addition, to complement the release of their album, Mark and the Clouds have also released a free single with the title track b/w “I’ll Follow the Sound,” a non-album song. Blue Skies Opening is a fun and breathtaking release that is sure to please.
Hailing from London, Mark & the Clouds are fronted by singer/guitarist and songwriter Marco Magnani. They released the excellent ‘Blue Skies Opening’ album back in the summer and if you haven’t heard this long player, now definitely is the time to take a listen.
The moment you give it a spin it’s clear there’s a host of great songs in the timeless mold; guitar laden pop-rock with a lysergic twist; or the best indie that used to assault the charts in the 80s and 90s.
From the rock swagger of ‘You Call Me Brother’, anthemic melody of ‘The Grudge’, country pistols at dawn ‘Darkened River’ to blending this all together for ‘Spirit In The World’ this really is lovely stuff.
‘Faraway Laughter’ is another that really delivers in its Beatles-Kinks jaunt.
You could say this is a retro-trip digging into those recycled vinyl blues. However it really isn’t easily to cram in all those hooks in a tight 4 minute track; as Noel Gallagher would attest to from the more bloated moments of his alma mater.
Take Mark & the Clouds to your heart and spread the word.
Review by Jason Barnard at The Strange Brew
UK based project MARK & THE CLOUDS is the creative vehicle of Italian composer and vocalist Marco Magnani, and started out with the idea of inviting various musical friends to record an album of his music. A live band was assembled as this project unfolded, as well as the debut album “Blue Skies Opening” which was released through UK label Mega Dodo Records in the summer of 2014.
What is soon quite apparent as this album reveals itself is that this is a composer with a strong affection for the music of yesteryear. Marco’s lead vocals in particular, with his crystal clear and almost naive delivery, is of the kind that reminds strongly of mid to late 60’s pop in general and occasionally with some firmer resemblances to bands like The Beatles. The use of orchestral details emphasize this aspect of the music quite nicely, as does the use of relatively simple drum patterns with impact hits and the liberal amounts of acoustic guitar throughout. Adding depth to the material are darker toned and at times rougher guitar details and motifs, adding a touch of the harder edged sound of bands like The Who to the proceedings as well as a touch of garage rock at times. In addition brass details are used to good effect to add elements rather more unexpected to these compositions.
What sets this album apart from many others of a similar kind is the last ingredient in this brew though: Dreamladen hovering guitar details, twangy guitar details, I seemed to note some occasional lap steel as well, as well as a few instances of honky tong inspired instrument details here and there. All of these adding a distinct US sounding atmosphere to this material, with country and country rock as pointers in terms of the style in which these details are played out.
There are exceptions spread throughout this production that escapes the relative confinements of the above mentioned context too of course, with one composition revolving around more of a blues rock basis, a couple of tracks appearing to orient themselves closer to a band like Wall of Voodoo in terms of general sound, and concluding track Are You Taking Time a one off with it’s more liberal use of psychedelic effects, folkier foundation and a light, upbeat and jubilant mood, but more than anything else this is an album that overall sounds like a fairly good and stable marriage between mid to late 60’s gently psychedelic tinged pop and Americana from the same era.
It’s a well made production, with something of a vintage sheen given to the mix and production that adds an emotional sense of credibility to this mostly retro-oriented escapades, and if you are of the opinion that English, lightly psychedelic flavored pop explored within an Americana or country oriented context sounds like a good thing, then this album should be noted down on your list of albums to explore.
Olav, House of Prog