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Laurie Anderson
Rusty Anderson
Anderson Council
Jessica Andersson
Harvey Andrews
Ken Andrews
Nels Andrews
Anechoic
Angel Provocateur

Angels of Light
Angst Skvadron
Anima Morte
Paul Anka

Keren Ann
Annot Rhül
Adam Ant
Ant-Bee


Laurie Anderson  (US)

Laurie Anderson, 'Life on a String'

Life on a String  (2001,  44.12)  ***/½

One White Whale
The Island Where I Come From
Pieces and Parts
Here With You
Slip Away
My Compensation
Dark Angel
Broken
Washington Street
Statue of Liberty
One Beautiful Evening
Life on a String

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Laurie Anderson entered the public consciousness, of course, with 1981's very strange O Superman, one of the oddest songs ever to've almost hit the top spot on the UK charts. Her status as performance artist par excellence was sealed many years ago, her innovations including a violin fitted with a tape head instead of strings and a bow strung with a length of tape, making 2001's Life on a String sound fairly normal in comparison. It could be described as avant-garde jazz classical, for want of a better phrase, although none of those sobriquets really fit tracks like My Compensation or Dark Angel.

Mitchell Froom plays Mellotron on three tracks, with near-inaudible flutes on Pieces And Parts, and completely inaudible somethings on Broken and One Beautiful Evening, making you wonder why anyone bothered, really. So; a reasonable Laurie Anderson album, but a fairly useless Mellotron one.

Official site

Rusty Anderson  (US)

Rusty Anderson, 'Born on Earth'

Born on Earth  (2010,  43.52)  ***/½

Born on Earth
Timed Exposure
Baggage Claim
Private Moon Flower
Julia Roberts
Under a White Star
Where Would We Go?
New Beginning
These Are the Days
Funky Birthday Cake
Intro

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Russell 'Rusty' Anderson is best-known as Paul McCartney's guitarist of choice for the last decade or so, although he concurrently runs a low-key solo career, 2010's Born on Earth being his second release. It's a diverse effort, shifting between the unexpectedly string-fuelled, full-on rock of the opening title track, the indie-ish Baggage Claim and the Beatles-esque Julia Roberts, amongst several other styles. Does it work? To an extent, yes, although it might be fair to say that it could be just a little too diverse for its own good.

Anderson plays Chamberlin himself, with occasional strings on Julia Roberts and closer (!) Intro, although I'm willing to accept that it might be found elsewhere, too, as the album's real strings rather confuse the issue. So; 'sideman makes good solo album', eh? Not the first, won't be the last, but it's good to hear another example.

Official site

Anderson Council  (US)

Anderson Council, 'Coloursound'

Coloursound  (2001,  40.50)  ***½/T

Sitting on a Cloud
Blackboard of Your Mind
Mind Meld Mud
Feet of the Guru
Hole in the Sky
So in Love With You Girl
Poppies Pansies and Tea
Red Chalk Hill
Never Stop Being '67
The Coke Jingle

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The first time I saw Anderson Council's name I laughed out loud; for those at the back, The Pink Floyd (as they were originally known) named themselves after the forenames of two otherwise utterly obscure bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. For the three of you who didn't know the story...

Coloursound (note British spelling, probably from the FX pedal manufacturer) is an utter magpie of an album, copping ideas right, left and centre (note British spelling) from the original UK psych scene, with a few later powerpop tricks thrown in for good measure. The trouble is, as other online reviewers have pointed out, it's so slavishly copyist that the band forgot to put anything of themselves in it. Leslie'd vocal? Check. References to drinking tea? Check. Fake British accents? Check. It's a good album, but it's never going to be in any danger of being a great one. The two fake period-piece Coke commercials are amusing, but for how many times?

Beautifully full-on, very real-sounding Mellotron flutes on Mind Meld Mud, from Peter Horvath, although that's it on the 'Tron front. I suppose the Floyd didn't use one on Piper..., so getting one on here at all is a bit heretical. Anyway, definitely a fun listen, but you probably won't be digging this one out every week. File behind The Dukes of Stratosphear. Definitely behind.

MySpace

See: Pink Floyd

Jessica Andersson  (Sweden)

Jessica Andersson, 'Wake Up'

Wake Up  (2009,  31.39)  **½/T

Wake Up
I Will Follow Him
I'll Save the Last Dance for You
Running Scared
I Only Wanna Be With You
Tell Him
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
I've Told Every Little Star
Long Live Love
The End of the World
Here You Come Again

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Jessica Andersson is a mainstream Swedish pop artist who apparently found fame in her thirties on some TV show called Fame Factory, which is almost certainly at least as bad as it sounds. Her debut album, 2009's Wake Up, seems to be a tribute to '60s pop, featuring just one new composition alongside such standards as I'll Save The Last Dance For You, I Only Wanna Be With You, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me and Long Live Love. ...And the point is? OK, they're perfectly acceptable versions, I've no doubt, but they're never going to match the originals, are they? Introducing the songs to a new generation? If Ms Andersson was twenty-two, maybe, but she isn't.

Stefan Brunzell plays Mellotron strings on that new composition, opener Wake Up, although whether or not it's real is a moot point. Given that the track in question was recorded at Abba's Polar Studios in Stockholm, is this their machine we're hearing? The last I heard it was in a state of disrepair, but machines in worse condition have been resurrected from the dead... Anyway, it's all a bit irrelevant, as you almost certainly have no desire to hear this album, relatively harmless though it is.

Official site

Harvey Andrews  (UK)

Harvey Andrews, 'Writer of Songs'

Writer of Songs  (1972,  43.12)  ***/T½

Hey! Sandy
In the Darkness
Boothferry Bridge
Unaccompanied
Gift of a Brand New Day
Soldier
Anna (My Love)
Born on the Breeze
Martha
When I am Old One Day
Soap Opera
Writer of Songs

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Harvey Andrews is a Birmingham-born singer-songwriter, of the kind all-too often lazily and inaccurately described as 'folk'. His second album, 1972's Writer of Songs, features guest spots from a host of 'names', not least Danny Thompson, Daves Pegg and Mattacks (Fairport Convention), Ralph McTell, Cozy Powell and Rick Wakeman (on piano). It does exactly what it says on the tin, highlights including Hey! Sandy (written for a victim of the recent Kent State U. shootings), the excellent Unaccompanied (which also does what it says on the tin) and the harrowing Soldier (apparently the subject of a ludicrous unofficial BBC ban), although fans of the style will have little to complain about with anything here. Criticism? Although I've heard far worse offenders, the album suffers a little from that late '60s/early '70s insistence on 'smoothing over' singer-songwriter material with extraneous arrangement, sometimes affecting the songs' ability to breathe.

Ted Taylor (he of 'awful sixteen-voice Mellotron choir recording' fame) plays Mellotron on a couple of tracks, with lush MkII strings on Boothferry Bridge and more of the same plus a flute solo on Born On The Breeze. To be honest, you're probably not going to bother with this for its Mellotron use, but it's a good example of a folky singer-songwriter album of its day.

Official site

Ken Andrews  (US)

Ken Andrews, 'Secrets of the Lost Satellite'

Secrets of the Lost Satellite  (2007,  40.33/45.16)  **½/T

Allergic
Up or Down
In Your Way
Secret Things
Write Your Story
Perfect Days

What it's Like
Does Anybody Know
Tripped Up
The 23rd Boy
Without

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Ken "Andrews" Doty, ex-Failure (a band, not a description), kicked off his solo career after membership of several bands with 2007's Secrets of the Lost Satellite. Is this what they call emo? Or just common-or-garden indie-schmindie? It sounds like Andrews stabbed wildly for the button marked 'heartfelt', missed and hit 'dreary' instead. A couple of tracks in isolation aren't too bad (I'd pick In Your Way and Tripped Up if I were you), but that's not exactly a recommendation.

Andrews plays Mellotron himself, with a pleasant (if unadventurous) chordal flute part on Write Your Story and a rather wafting string part on closer Without. There seems to be a second version of the album, adding another Mellotron track, Perfect Days, from the Sunshine Cleaning soundtrack (it italics above); it's possibly the best thing here, ironically, although I can't work out what the Mellotron's supposed to be doing. Like indie? Go for it. Hate indie? Don't. Easy. Incidentally, Andrews has also played Mellotron on JamisonParker's Sleepwalker and his wife, Charlotte Martin's Reproductions.

Official site

Nels Andrews  (US)

Nels Andrews, 'Off Track Betting'

Off Track Betting  (2008,  38.27)  ***/T½

Fever Dream
Temple Incense
Three Days
Lady of the Silver Spoon
Butterfly Wing
Rented White Sedan
Shoot Out the Stars
Sunday Shoes
Dollar and the Dream

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Nels Andrews seems to've led a fairly itinerant life, taking work all over the States where he could, before his musical career kicked off early this decade. His second album, 2008's Off Track Betting, was recorded in New York, but shows little sign of its urban gestation, being a pretty straight folk/Americana offering featuring decent, if unspectacular material.

Producer Todd Sickafoose plays Mellotron, with uncredited strings and brass on Lady Of The Silver Spoon and credited (and more upfront) strings on Rented White Sedan. I see his Mellotronic additions have been criticised in some quarters, but to my ears, they do nothing but add to the tracks' appeal (big surprise there, then). Anyway, a reasonable if unexciting Americana album with a little Mellotron.

Official site

Anechoic  (US)

Anechoic, 'Verfallen'

Verfallen  (2011,  52.55)  ***½/TT

Logistic
The Keep
Baritøne Stepsøne
Cluster
Heeyoum
Alpha Centauri Stone
Yuggothian Landscape
Baritøne Stepsøne (reprise)
Ulnaris
Verfallen

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Anechoic are led by Peter Scartabello, also of Sky Shadow Obelisk, although that outfit's full-on doom is replaced on 2011's Verfallen by an intriguing mixture of progressive, darkwave, psych and (the slightly inevitable) doom, to name but four of the genres it mines. The album (their third) shifts between the psychedelia of The Keep, the suitably avant-proto-prog of Cluster, the experimentation of Heeyoum and the progressive hard rock of Alpha Centauri Stone, although its most impressive track is possibly the solo Mellotron frenzy of Yuggothian Landscape.

David McNally plays an upfront Mellotron flute part on The Keep, while Yuggothian Landscape has cellos grinding away on the intro, joined by strings and flutes later on, all sounding wobbly enough to be genuine. Those of you who were put off by Sky Shadow Obelisk's heavily metallic overtones may find Anechoic more to your liking, although the album's stylistic variety conspires to make it a little uneven.

MySpace

Official Peter Scartabello site

See: Sky Shadow Obelisk

Anekdoten  (Sweden)  see:

Anekdoten

Ange  (France)  see:

Ange

Angel  (US)  see:

Angel

Angel Provocateur  (US)

Angel Provocateur, 'Stars Below'

Stars Below  (2000,  42.40)  ****/TTT

Ether
Silver Garden
Stars Below
Angelhaze

Angelwaves
Light
Chant
Glassy Halls
Je Suis Partie Pour ne Pas Revenir
Siren
Angel's End
Angel Provocatuer, 'Cloud Street'

Cloud Street  (2003,  38.59)  ***½/TT½

Miracle Alley
In the Tall Grass
Pipes of Pan
Stalactites
Rapunzel
Her Window

Somewhere Faraway
Castle Walls
Strumming
Magnetic Shadow
Chant
Magnetic Curtain
She Was Here

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Angel Provocateur are part of the Ventricle Records interlinked group of darkwave outfits, along with the better-known (relatively speaking) Mauve Sideshow, concentrating on 'ethereal female vocals', not to mention a goodly helping of the mighty 'Tron. Their second release, Stars Below, is most certainly ethereal, with no discernable rhythms, and the only credited instruments being 'voice, Mellotron and electronics'. Dusty Lee's Mellotron takes a while to come in, but after the title track's faint cellos, Angelhaze consists almost entirely of voice and 'Tron strings, heavily reverbed, setting the pattern for the rest of the album's Mellotron use, although there's also a short burst of flutes on Je Suis Partie Pour Ne Pas Revenir. I have to say this is, while largely formless, quite beautiful in places; I expect it's meant to be listened to by candlelight, and that sounds like the best listening environment for this drifting, almost elegiac music.

Three years on, its follow-up, Cloud Street, is effectively more of the same, although I found it just marginally less engaging, although I've no idea why. Maybe because I'm beginning to feel I've heard it all before? There's little obvious difference between these two albums, and you feel Ventricle could go on churning these out until the sun goes cold, although I suppose that's a little uncharitable. Anyway, although there's a touche of background 'Tron strings (from Lee again, of course) on In The Tall Grass, the first major use occurs in Rapunzel, with full-on strings and flutes, right at the front of the mix, with more strings on Her Window. However, the album's real 'Tron track is also its longest, the eight minutes-plus Castle Walls, with stacks of strings and flutes; very nice.

So; if slightly experimental stuff's your bag, Angel Provocateur shouldn't disappoint, although they're considerably less 'out there' than Mauve Sideshow. Nice 'Tron, too, on both albums. Buy.

See: Kangaroo Kourt | Mauve Sideshow | Steeple of Fyre | Torn Curtain

Susan Angeletti  (US)  see: Samples

Angels of Light  (US)

Angels of Light, 'New Mother'

New Mother  (1999,  70.23)  ***/T

Fragment
Praise Your Name
New Mother
Angels of Light
Inner Female
This is Mine
Shame
Intermission
The Man With the Silver Tongue
Real Person
Forever Yours
How We End
The Garden Hides the Jewel
Not Alone
Song for My Father
His Entropic Highness
Fear of Death

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Angels of Light are Michael Gira's post-Swans project, sounding not dissimilar to that band's later work, i.e. after the 130-decibel period. I believe 1999's New Mother is their debut album, combining folk, electronica and even the odd progressive touch with a post-rock sensibility, although Gira would probably dismiss any attempts at categorisation. His raw emotional honesty leaks out of every track, for those who actually take any notice of the lyrics, while its instrumental diversity keeps the listener on their toes.

Bill Rieflin plays Mellotron, amongst other things, with string chords on The Man With The Silver Tongue and Forever Yours, and while there may be some other bits hidden away, these are the only obvious ones. Overall, then, a deceptively quiet album, menacing in its laid-back intensity, although with little Mellotron, probably not one for the 'Tron obsessive.

MySpace

See: Swans | Eszter Balint

Änglagård  (Sweden)  see:

Änglagård

Angst Skvadron  (Norway)

Angst Skvadron, 'Flukt'

Flukt  (2008,  34.24)  ***½/T

U.F.O. (Intro)
Silent Light, Alien Night
A Song to the Sky
Negativitetens Kveletak
The Astroid Haemorhoids and the Drunken Sailor
Slaves of Mental Distortion
Beyond Andromeda
Satan (outro)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Angst Skvadron are comprised of members of various other Norwegian bands playing under initials, chiefly T.B., a.k.a. Thondr Nefas (so not T.N.?) on vocals, guitar and bass, and L.F.F., a.k.a. Lars Fredrik Frøislie, known to us for his sterling analogue work with Wobbler, White Willow and a host of other Norwegian outfits. Frøislie actually plays drums here, unexpectedly, also playing the more typical MiniMoog, ARP Axxe, Clavinet, Korg Polysix and, of course, M400. I've seen Flukt described as 'melodic black metal', which strikes the non-believer as a bit silly; it's a relatively melodic metal album, never mind the sub-sub-sub-genre, with rather growly vocals that stop short of the full death-grunt.

Frøislie's keyboard work crops up here and there, though is far from ubiquitous, with sequenced ARP on U.F.O. (Intro), modulated Mini on A Song To The Sky, Polysix parts on a couple of tracks and what's with the 'Close Encounters' theme that opens the stupendously-titled The Astroid Haemorhoids And The Drunken Sailor? He only obviously uses his 'Tron once, with cellos and strings in the quiet end section in The Astroid Haemorhoids (etc.), although it's possible it's elsewhere, using an unusual sound, buried away in the mix.

So; modern metal that doesn't actually aurally crush the listener to an untimely death. Having just been subjected to a weekend of such things, I can say that this is a joy to listen to in comparison (I mean, have you ever HEARD Machine Head?), although it's unlikely to appeal to the average old-school hard rock fan. Only slightly over a minute of Mellotron on the whole record, too, but it's a good minute.

MySpace

See: Wobbler | White Willow

Anima Morte  (Sweden)

Anima Morte, 'The Nightmare Becomes Reality'

The Nightmare Becomes Reality  (2011,  47.21)  ****/TTTT

Voices From Beyond
Corridor of Blood
The Revenant
Contamination
Passage of Darkness
Solemn Graves
Delirious
Feast of Feralia
The Nightmare Becomes Reality
Things to Come
The Dead Will Walk the Earth

Current availability:

Mellotron(s) used:

Anima Morte (which I suspect is the Latin for 'zombie') are led by multi-instrumentalist Fredrik Klingwall (Rising Shadows), whose raison d'être seems to be to recreate Goblin's horror flick soundtrack/prog approach, updating it with heavier guitars and modern production techniques. 2011's The Nightmare Becomes Reality is their second album, a triumph of doomy key changes and analogue keyboards, although I'm not fully convinced by the cod-Dario Argento sleeve imagery. Best tracks? This is a 'listen to in one go'-type album; attempting to pick out highlights is futile, as is resistance.

A cursory glance at the album's credits will inform you that none other than Mattias Olsson (Änglagård, a million others) plays on the album, albeit in his traditional 'percussives' role, although it's obviously his Mellotron(s) we're hearing. Klingwall plays male voice choir on all but one track, adding strings to Contamination, Feast Of Feralia and Things To Come and flutes to Solemn Graves and Delirious, the title track being the lone (seemingly) Mellotron-free effort. So why only four Ts? Most of the choir work is a tad unimaginative, merely block chords layered over whatever else is going on, but when there's this much Mellotron to be heard, who's complaining? If you like the sound of dark, soundtracky prog (think: Morte Macabre), you really can't go too far wrong with this.

Official site

See: Rising Shadows

Paul Anka  (Canada)

Paul Anka, 'Anka'

Anka  (1974,  32.35)  **/TTT

Bring the Wine
One Man Woman/One Woman Man
Something About You
(You're) Having My Baby

Let Me Get to Know You
Love is a Lonely Song
How Can Anything Be Beautiful (After You)
I Gave a Little and Lost a Lot
Papa
It Doesn't Matter Anymore
Paul Anka, 'Feelings'

Feelings  (1975,  33.49)  **/T

Anytime (I'll Be There)
I Don't Like to Sleep Alone
Out of My Mind in Love
It's So Sad to See the Old Hometown Again
(I Believe) There's Nothing Stronger
  Than Our Love
Wake Up
Today, I Became a Fool
Girl, You Turn Me on
Walk Away
Water Runs Deep

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Paul Anka remains best-known for his early work, including Diana, Oh Carol and the English lyrics to My Way (he didn't actually write the song, contrary to popular opinion), although he remains musically active to the present day. In the mid-'70s, he was making soft pop albums, very much in contemporary style and still having hits, not least his doubtless unintentionally creepy US no.1, (You're) Having My Baby. Its parent album, '74's Anka, is actually a perfectly good album of its type, assuming you like its type, balancing on a knife-edge between mainstream pop and loungey MOR, including another major hit, his paean to 'playing away', One Man Woman/One Woman Man. What was that I was saying about creepy lyrics? Anyway, most unexpectedly, the album's stuffed with Mellotron, presumably played by either John Harris or Anka himself. The funny thing is, a few tracks have real strings, so it wasn't as if they didn't have the budget; maybe they actually, y'know, liked the sound? Anyway, we get flutes and strings on opener Bring The Wine and I Gave A Little And Lost A Lot, strings on Something About You, including a brief solo, a semi-infamous flute part on (You're) Having My Baby, with more strings on Love Is A Lonely Song and Papa, making for a remarkably 'Tron-heavy album in the field.

The following year's Feelings takes a backwards step, being even more traditionally balladic than its predecessor, most tracks smothered in real strings. There's nothing here as creepy as the hits from Anka, but then, nothing catches the ear like them, either, making for a bland, faceless album from someone who should've been able to do better. The album's worst crime isn't leaving you feeling vaguely soiled, just vaguely bored, exacerbated by a severe lack of Anka's Mellotron use, with nowt but a melodic flute part on closer Water Runs Deep, probably played by Barry Beckett.

Well, do you want to hear loads of Mellotron, well-played and recorded? Yup? Get hold of a copy of Anka, then, if you can bear it, although Feelings is pretty much a no-hoper on the 'Tron front.

Official site

Keren Ann  (France)

Keren Ann, 'La Disparition'

La Disparition  (2002,  39.12)  ***½/T

Au Coin du Monde
Le Sable Mouvant
Les Rivières de Janvier
La Corde et les Chaussons
Surannée
Ailleurs
L'Illusionniste
La Tentation
Mes Pas dans la Neige
Le Chien d'Avant Garde
La Disparition
Keren Ann, 'Nolita'

Nolita  (2004,  46.08)  ***/T

Que N'ai-Je?
Greatest You Can Find
Chelsea Burns
One Day Without
La Forme et le Fond
Nolita
Roses & Hips
Midi dans le Salon de la Duchesse
L'Onde Amère
For You and I
Song of Alice

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I know it's a bit of a cliché, but Keren Ann (Zeidel) sounds so, well, French, despite her Indonesian/Dutch/Jewish heritage. La Disparition, her second album, has a fair helping of that Serge Gainsbourg vibe about it, although the bulk of the material is subtly-accompanied acoustic material with beautiful French-language vocals, Le Chien D'Avant Garde (an avant-garde dog??) being typical. The Gainsbourg comparisons become less surprising when you see that the album's produced by chansonnier Benjamin Biolay, whose own Gainsbourgesque Rose Kennedy, from the previous year, channels the master with ease. One 'Tron track, with a credited flute part from producer Biolay on Mes Pas Dans La Neige that enhances the song nicely. As always, a little more might have been nice, but maybe that's being churlish.

Two years on, Keren's relocated to New York, released Nolita and started singing (partially) in English. Is it an improvement? Not really, no; I have to say I preferred her all in French. Anyway, not wildly different to La Disparition, but either not quite as good, or listening to two of her albums back-to-back doesn't work for me. One 'Tron track, with Jason Hart playing flutes on Midi Dans Le Salon De La Duchesse in a manner not dissimilar to Biolay's work above.

So; two albums for the Francophile in your life. Not all that much Mellotron, but what there is works well.

Semi-official site

See: Benjamin Biolay

Annot Rhül  (Norway)

Annot Rhül, 'Lost in the Woods'

Lost in the Woods  (2007,  23.06)  ***½/TT

Lost in the Woods
Ghost Children

Deadly Nightshade
Roses Blue
Sailing on the River Styx
The Dark Lord

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Annot Rhül are, essentially, Sigurd Lühr Tonna's solo project. His/their first release, 2006's Who Needs Planes or Time Machines, When There's Music & Daydreams? (reviewed here uses 'Tron samples, but the following year's Lost in the Woods, while far less eclectic than its predecessor (more dark psychedelia, I suppose), is, for this reviewer at least, a more satisfying listen. While several tracks are almost darkwave-influenced, closer The Dark Lord suddenly goes all sort of Scandinavian prog/metal on us, moving away from the ever-present Saucerful of Secrets/Ummagumma Floyd vibe of the rest of the EP.

Real and sampled Mellotron this time round (thanks to Sigurd for the info), played by him, with a brief flute part and choirs in the opening title track, cellos on the outro to Ghost Children and strings and choir on The Dark Lord. All other 'Tron parts (and it's pretty much all over every track, especially Deadly Nightshade) are from the M-Tron, for technical reasons. So, Mellotron, anyone? That's more like it.

Overall, I'd say this is worth a flutter; Who Needs Planes... is a little inconsistent, but Lost in the Woods is very good indeed. Worthwhile.

Official site

See: Samples

The Anomoanon  (US)  see: Samples

Adam Ant  (UK)

Adam Ant, 'Wonderful'

Wonderful  (1995,  46.53)  **½/T

Won't Take That Talk
Beautiful Dream
Wonderful
1969 Again
Yin & Yang
Image of Yourself
Alien
Gotta Be a Sin
Vampires
Angel
Very Long Ride

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

By 1995, Stuart "Adam Ant" Goddard was over a decade out of teeny stardom, if not yet the tragic figure of a decade on, after his court appearance on firearms charges. I'm not sure if Wonderful was designed to kickstart his career again, or was merely made for the hell of it, but despite featuring his old sparring partner, Marco Pirroni, on guitar, it (thankfully) has nothing in common with his early-'80s hits, being more of a singer-songwriter's album. While a little over-produced, it quite clearly wasn't made in the Decade From Hell, so at least we're spared sampled everything and gated reverb all round, although the odd '90s production trick turns up here and there (spot the occasional percussion loop).

To be brutally honest, the material contained here is a little second-rate, although a few songs manage to be quite affecting (Won't Take That Talk, Image Of Yourself, Angel). The Caribbean-flavoured Beautiful Dream should've been drowned at birth, but otherwise, everything is just about acceptable, though nothing really stands out. Bruce Witkin's Mellotron is actually the only keyboard instrument (ostensibly) used on the entire album, and it crops up here and there, with some background strings on the title track, only really audible on the final chord, with more of the same on Vampires. There are other points on the album that could be 'Tron (the middle eight of Angel, for example), but are more likely to be sustained guitar or somesuch.

Wonderful is Ant's last album of new material to date, and after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, we can only speculate on whether he'll produce anything else in the future. I'd be lying if I said I actually thought it was good, though it does have its moments. Beats Robbie bloody Williams, anyway.

Semi-official site

Ant-Bee  (US)

Ant-Bee, 'Electronic Church Muzik'

Electronic Church Muzik  (2011,  64.05)  ****/TT

Birth
Living
The Language of the Body
Eye of Agamoto
The Guff (Hall of Souls)
Mallard Flies Towards Heaven
Ant-Bee's Sunday Supper
Flutter-Bye, Butter-Flye
Endless Journey
The Light
Mannah
Psalm 23
Hallelujah
The Wrath - Part One
Secrets of the Dead
Pennies From Heaven
The Wrath - Part Two
The Lord's Prayer
Angels
Don't You Ever Learn
Re-Birth
Final Benediction

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Berklee graduate Billy "The Ant-Bee" James is a current psychedelic explorer whose career kicked off in the late '80s, although 2011's Electronic Church Muzik is only his fourth release in two decades. James has pulled together a stellar cast, contributors including Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth (Gong), Michael Bruce (the original Alice Cooper Group), Peter Banks (Yes), Jan Akkerman (Focus), the late Bruce Cameron and several members of his beloved Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. It's hard to say for sure, but the album seems to have some kind of religious connection, not only in its title, but in the choral parts on several tracks, not to mention the disc's dedication 'to God'. It couldn't be further from your typical CCM horror, though, more an updating of David Axelrod's work on The Electric Prunes' Mass in F Minor.

So what does it sound like? True psychedelia, is the answer, in that every track sounds different to every other, sound effects are practically obligatory and nothing here could even remotely be described as 'normal'. Individual examples include Eye Of Agamoto, which sounds like Gentle Giant channelling Zappa, Sunday Supper credits 'Michael Bruce (vocal), Chickens (chickens)' and he ain't kiddin', Mannah is effectively a jaw-dropping Akkerman solo acoustic guitar piece, while Psalm 23 and Hallelujah form a two-for-the-price-of-one psychedelic church experience. So what does James himself do? Apart from composing, it seems he's overall co-ordinator, playing percussion on most tracks, plus tape manipulation, the occasional guitar part and... Mellotron.

Billy plays his M400 on four tracks, with flutes and cellos all over the gentle Flutter-Bye, Butter-Flye, flutes on Mannah and The Wrath - Part One and strings on Don't You Ever Learn. All in all, Electronic Church Muzik is a roller-coaster ride of an album, endlessly inventive, deeply eccentric and more than worthy of your attention. Incidentally, James plays Mellotron on 1994's With My Favorite "Vegetables" & Other Bizarre Muzik; review forthcoming when I get to hear a copy.

Official site

See: Gong


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