John Palumbo was becoming distanced from the rest of Crack the Sky – he wanted to concentrate on long epic songs while the others were pushing him to write more commercial and radio-friendly material. Palumbo planned the second album to be a rock opera about the Mounties of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In what was probably Lifesong’s only smart move, they (and to some extent the rest of the band) successfully objected to this concept, and Animal Notes was released in 1976 to reviews that nearly matched the debut in enthusiasm. The opening song (“We Want Mine”) was a thinly-veiled and bitter rant against Lifesong for withholding royalties from the group…[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/03-We-Want-Mine.mp3|titles=”We Want Mine”]
While the RCMP concept album idea was dead, a song about a young Mountie (“Rangers at Midnight”) became the epic centerpiece of Animal Notes…[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/04-Rangers-at-Midnight.mp3|titles=”Rangers at Midnight”]
Although Animal Notes was nearly as good as the debut, Lifesong showed themselves to be no wiser about promotion and the album stalled at #142 on Billboard while receiving virtually no radio airplay. Palumbo left the band for a solo career (which went nowhere) during the recording of their third album – 1978’s Safety in Numbers; however, a couple of Palumbo songs did make it to the record. The remaining members gamely carried on with writing songs (including the Mystery Date pick “A Night on the Town”) and acquiring a new lead vocalist. All things considered, Safety in Numbers, while still a dropoff in quality compared to the previous albums, was not the disaster it could have been. “Nuclear Apathy” – the closest CTS came to pure prog rock – is Palumbo’s exhortation to humanity to get its act together because aliens are sitting on the moon and laughing at us…[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/05-Nuclear-Apathy.mp3|titles=”Nuclear Apathy”]
While Safety in Numbers actually sold a little better than previous albums (reaching #126 on Billboard), the loss of Palumbo and the lack of financial success became insurmountable hurdles and Crack the Sky disbanded during 1978. Palumbo and a couple other members reformed CTS in 1980 and continued to tour and release albums for decades to come, but the window of opportunity was lost forever and the magic of the initial albums was gone. For those who wish to explore CTS further, a complete biography of the band can be found here. So what do we get on Classic Rock radio as representing 1970s American demi-prog? Kansas and Styx. Yuck. It should have been Crack the Sky, and it’s our loss.