Il Bacio della Medusa
Badly Drawn Boy
Il Balletto di Bronzo
Banda do Casaco
|7" (1974) ***/T
Home Where I'm Going
|7" (1974) ***/½
Love Me Like a Lion
28 Golden Hits (1983, 98.40) */T
|Just an Illusion
Don't Give it Up
We All Will Dance
Les Gens de Tours les Jours
|Oh Me Oh My
It's All Right
Put on Your Make-Up
Just Say I'm Home
May We Always Be Together
Rockin' the Trolls
Cry to Me
The Old Calahan
Just Take My Hand
Hang on to a Dream
Oh dear. Ohdearohdearohdear. Well, never let it be said that I don't descend into the fiery pits of musical hell for your reading and listening pleasure... (?) According to the lengthy English-language band history on their website, BZN ('The band with no name', apparently. I wonder what the acronym is for 'The band with no talent'?), formed in the mid-'60s, releasing their first album, the entirely uncharacteristic The Bastard in 1971. After their brief flirtation with hard rock, they made what appears to be a business decision to change their style, and after several years of the odd single here and there, began an annual run of releases in '77 that has continued until the present day. The music? Try to imagine (if you will) a cross between schmaltzy mainstream Europop, Abba on an exceedingly off-day, and German schlager music. Not so much 'if you will' as 'if you can bear to'. I'm sure I've heard worse music, but off the top of my head I'll be buggered if I can remember where. Saying that, they do actually do it very well, although listening to the whole double album completely numbed my brain until I could kickstart it again with some top-notch prog.
To backtrack for a moment... The band's run of early-to-mid-'70s singles were in more of a glam/not-very-hard rock style, two of which, both released in 1974, actually interest us here. Barber's Rock is a sprightly, classically-influenced boogie (kind of), complete with a mock-operatic piano/vocal section, actually more fun than that sounds, while Love Me Like A Lion is less striking, though perfectly acceptable for the time. Mellotron strings on both from Thomas Tol, distant-yet-distinct on the former, particularly towards the end, with even less of the same on the latter, for what it's worth.
Back to hell... Ignoring the two previous 'hits' compilations (the first being after all of three 'proper' releases), BZN released 28 Golden Hits in 1983, an unusual cross between the standard 'best of' and a live album, with side three (why not four?) being live. The sleeve art tells you all you need to know; the downhome cheeriness of the band members, their dreadful fashion sense (I use the phrase extraordinarily loosely; note those 'noo wave' ties) and the jewel in the crown, the windmills with their vanes overlaid with gold records. Fabulous! It's a pity the cover reproduction here is so small; you can't really see the earnest/bored expressions on the faces of several of the band, notably the two guys in the middle, who look practically catatonic. I can only assume they were force-fed the contents of this album just moments before the photo-shoot. The singer looks a lot like Father Ted; so does the guy standing next to her.
Er... Mellotron? Well, as you can see from this heavily-cropped pic from the inside of the gatefold (you'll thank me for this), keyboard player Tol's rig consists of an upright piano, a Prophet V and a Mellotron M400. In 1982? Odd, but there you go. He only actually uses it on the first one of the seven lives tracks here, Mon Amour, a cheesy French-language track, which takes its place alongside many other similarly cheesy English-language tracks. I can't honestly recommend this album and thus anything else the band have ever recorded to anyone other than elderly Dutch people, hardcore masochists or the terminal insomniac. Even then, I suspect it's more likely to irritate than send one to sleep. Impeccably done, but impeccably done rubbish. One OK 'Tron track.
Just to prove I wasn't exaggerating, here they are playing some filthy schlager somewhere or other, hopefully a long way from here, Mellotron present but unused.
69 (2013, recorded 1969, 46.31) ***½/½
Will Meant Ciment
La Chasse au Serpent à la Flûte
Go Down Sunset
Song My (My Lai)
Keep it "Rythmique"
Just Like George
She's an Indian in Minor
Song for a New Connection
L'œil du Maître
Baba Scholae were a short-lived psych/proto-prog outfit at the end of the '60s, whose lineup included Jean-Yves Labat de Rossi, who went on to play in the first version of Todd Rundgren's Utopia as M Frog Labat. Bizarrely, it's taken over forty years to find a release for their professionally-recorded tapes, finally issued in 2012 as 69 (their year of recording). But are they any good? Stylistically, they shift between early progressive (1984/Melancolia Street, the excellent She's An Indian In Minor), semi-avant- (Kaleidoscope, Keep It "Rythmique"), more backward-looking '60s fare (Julius, Go Down Sunset) and even jazz (Song For A New Connection). In many ways a product of its time, this was a band that looked forward at least as much as back, making you wonder what they might have achieved had the dice rolled their way.
Jules Vigh plays Mellotron, although the only obvious use is the background string part on the brief La Chasse Au Serpent À La Flûte, making this of far more interest to fans of obscure psych and prog than to those of the Mellotron.
Baba Yaga (1974, 37.28) ***½/TTT
|The Man Who Wants to Buy the World
In the Morning
Baba Yaga's debut, 1974's Collage (****), almost defines the much-maligned term 'krautrock', being a document of two superb improvisations (or two edits from one longer one?) that really should be more widely known. I'm not entirely sure, but I get the impression that Baba Yaga, supposedly from the same year, is actually a CD-only archive release, but it's hard to tell. In contrast to their debut, it actually sounds like... Gentle Giant. Well, in places, anyway. Is there anything wrong with that? No, there isn't, but the album is a little less original than its predecessor, although several pieces are in the same general vein. Top tracks? The balladic In The Morning, the Latin-esqe High Fly and the gorgeous-if-unfortunately-named Turdus Merula, to name but three; frankly, nothing here's completely disposable, although the quality dips slightly in places.
Ingo Werner (My Solid Ground) plays Mellotron, with upfront string and flute parts on the gentle In The Morning and Rebekka, while Turdus Merula is effectively a Mellotron flute and string arrangement over piano, with volume-pedalled string chords on Homage A.... and a flute solo (again over piano) on closer La Tombeau. I'm amazed how little-known this is, given the quality of the music, not to mention its Mellotron content (perhaps surprisingly, I don't seem to be the only aficionado on the 'Net); all fans of underground '70s German music need to hear this, while the Mellotron makes it worthwhile for you lot.
Amar Caballero (1973, 35.37) **½/½
Gimme Some Leg
We Are Holding on
El Caballero de la Reina Isabella
Hombre de la Guitarra
El Testament de n'Amelia
Babe Ruth (1975, 38.27) ***/TTDancer
A Fistful of Dollars
We People Darker Than Blue
Sad But Rich
The Duchess of Orleans
Babe Ruth (named for the legendary American baseball player) were another of those so-so, a bit heavy, a bit proggy type of mid-'70s outfits, although better than many. Their debut, First Base (***), tends to be their most highly-rated album, though aside from excellent opener Wells Fargo, it's all a bit ordinary. They followed it with Amar Caballero, which (to my ears, at least) was a serious step backwards into vaguely funky territory, with efforts such as Gimme Some Leg and Cool Jerk being worthy of major avoidance, although there are a handful of more acoustic numbers, including Baby Pride and the instrumental violin-led We Are Holding On. The album's clear standout track is Amar Caballero itself, a three-part flamenco-influenced piece, with some excellent acoustic work from guitarist Alan Shacklock. As far as his Mellotron work goes, it's hard to say if there's anything at all; I believe the flute on a couple of tracks is real, and the 'choir' at the end of Baby Pride is possibly one singer multi-overdubbed - it also breaks the eight-second limit, though that can be circumvented in the studio. Hardly a 'Tron classic, then.
Third album, Babe Ruth, is better than its predecessor, but the band appear to run out of ideas by side two, and the album rather runs out of steam. There's some reasonable Mellotron flutes and strings on four tracks, played by Shacklock again, but it's no classic, I'm afraid. However, it's interesting in its choice of covers; Sergio Leone's theme music to A Fistful Of Dollars is worth a listen, and their proggy Mellotron-fuelled take on Curtis Mayfield's anti-racism anthem We People Darker Than Blue is also worth the effort.
So; one so-so album, and one that's really quite poor. Relatively mediocre 'Tron work, so don't go too far out of your way.
Babel Fish (1998, 45.31) **½/TTT½
Light of Day
Turning the Blind Eye
Two Feet Tall
Out of the Blue
I Can Wait
Close to Home
Boyscout Without Eyes
Oslo's Babel Fish (named in honour of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, of course) are the kind of band who straddle the divide between powerpop and, well, pop, knowing just how to spoil a potentially good thing. Their eponymous 1998 debut starts well enough, but soon descends into a pit of excess cheesiness, ending on big slushy ballad Boyscout Without Eyes, the kind of song that really isn't going to enhance my day.
Keys man Halvor Holter sticks plenty of (real?) Mellotron on the album, with combinations of cellos, strings and flutes on opener Mania, flutes and strings on all the highlighted tracks above, sounding very genuine in some places and rather less so in others, although it stays here until/if I should find out it's fake. Powerpop fans might wish to hear a few tracks from Babel Fish, but the bulk of the album only succeeds in irritating the discerning music lover. Plenty of Mellotron, mind, assuming it's real.
Where Did All the Money Go? (1976, 36.35) ***/T½Where Did All the Money Go?
Still in Love
One Hundred & One Turndowns
Brown Eyed Lady
I Need You
Easy Street, Hard Luck Avenue
Yesterday's a Friend of Mine
The World is Waiting for You (South of the Border)
Baby's 1975 eponymous debut is apparently a ZZ Top-style 'suvvern boogie' album, but by their swansong, the following year's Where Did All the Money Go?, they'd softened their approach a little. although a few tracks still fall into the 'rock till you drop' category. The opening title track says it all; a band, burnt out from years on the road, wondering what exactly did happen to all the money they'd earnt? Sly musical quotes from the old chestnut Money and, oddly, England Dan & John Ford Coley's I'd Really Love To See You Tonight, presumably in the charts as Baby were in the studio. Personal favourite on the album is the semi-epic L.A. Lady, shifting gears halfway through to a ripping solo from Johnny Lee Schell, before dropping back down, then picking up again... You get the picture.
Chamberlin (probably hired in) from Schell, with an odd little string part on Brown Eyed Lady and a more straightforward one on L.A. Lady, though very little other keyboard work at all; fair enough, given that they didn't have a full-time player. So; a reasonable album of its type with some nice moments, though hardly groundbreaking, with a bit of Chamby. As a postscript, Baby split soon after the album's release, the good news being that various members went on to play with some high-profile names, so unlike many similar outfits, their individual skills weren't lost to the world.
Children of the Revolution: The Inca Love Remix Collection (1989, 19.10) **½/½Children of the Revolution (Inca Love mix)
Children of the Revolution (Inca edit)
Children of the Revolution (Bumbino)
Peter "Baby" Ford is a British producer, notable for his pioneering work in the acid house and minimal techno fields (it says here). I feel I have to come clean at this point: sorry, folks, but my knowledge of these scenes is as minimal as the techno itself, so how much of this review actually has any use is arguable. Ford's fifth single was his take on T. Rex' Children of the Revolution, sounding more like a drastic remix of the original than new recordings. Er, am I surprised? The main thing that makes this palatable to non-fans of the genre is that it's a bloody good pop song to start with and survives its modernist treatment with dignity largely intact. This was released in several different versions, many of them featuring Hi, Mr. Logan on the b-side, although the four-track Inca Love Remix Collection eschews this in favour of My Innersence plus three versions of the title track.
It's version two, the Inca Edit, that we're interested in here, although all I can hear of Ford's credited Mellotron is a few seconds of strings; given that we're talking 1989, though, at least it's probably real. So; you're probably not going to want to hear this, are you? You might even be wondering why I've reviewed it. Obsessive behaviour, frankly. In fairness, it seems to be good at what it does, which is more than I can say for most of the things I've heard that fall loosely under the banner of 'dance'. Incidentally, the relevant track's also available on 1990's "Ooo": The World of Baby Ford compilation.
Money for Soul (2003, 33.54) ***/T
Everything's Gonna Be Alright
Money for Soul
Never Coming Back
|You Own it
You Better Run
Baby Woodrose are a Danish garage rock trio, whose second or third (!) album, 2003's Money for Soul, successfully pastiches all areas of British 1966 beat-into-psych, copping licks from all the major bands in the process. While an enjoyable listen, it's about as original as the last Stones album, although rather more fun.
Producer Jürgen Hendlmeier plays Mellotron on Carrie, with a weird-sounding monophonic string line that may or may not actually emanate from a real, tapes-and-stuff 'Tron. Overall, then, you ain't gonna buy this for its Mellotron use, but you just might for the music. Well, it brightened up my day, anyway.
Sinvergüenza (2004, 45.59) **½/½
El Algun Recuerdo
Pasos de Gigante
En los 70
Miro la Luna y Pienso en Ti
Despite their Latin American sound, Bacilos were based in Florida, although their three core members hailed from Colombia, Brazil and Puerto Rico. Musically, they conformed to the Rock en Español template, sitting firmly in between American pop/rock and more traditional Latin forms, while singing in Spanish. 2004's Sinvergüenza (Shameless) was their fourth (of five) albums, combining their trademark sound with the occasional nod to reggae and other forms, nothing particularly standing out to the non-fan, I'm afraid.
Tom Capone and Maurício Barros are both credited with Mellotron, although I've no idea why it took two musicians to play the brief string part on En Los 70, which is the only obvious audible evidence of its use. Latin pop/rock? Huge in South and Central America, less so elsewhere, unsurprisingly. Sinvergüenza's Mellotron use is highly minimal, so don't bother even trying to hear the relevant track.
Deus Lo Vult (2012, 33.53) ****/TTTInvocazione Alle Muse
Indignatio (Infedeli in Terra Santa)
Urbano iI Bandisce la Prima Crociata
Deus Lo Vult
La Beffa (Non un Trono, Non un Regno...Solo Sdegno)
Going by their third album, 2012's Deus Lo Vult, Il Bacio della Medusa are a band in absolute thrall to the '70s Italian progressive scene (note, NOT a criticism). The album's every bit as eccentric as you could hope for, given their influences, Urbano II Bandisce La Prima Crociata being a prog march, complete with massed male vocals and PFM flute, while Verso Casa is a rather bonkers flute-led waltz. Other highlights include the PFM clone intro, Invocazione Alle Muse, the ripping harmonica work on the rocking title track (quite a bit of full-on rock here, too) and closer La Beffa (Non Un Trono, Non Un Regno...Solo Sdegno). Pretty much everything, then!
Drummer Diego Petrini doubles on Mellotron, with strings all over opener Invocazione Alle Muse, running through into Indignatio (Infedeli In Terra Santa), cropping up again on Simplicio, with cellos and strings on La Beffa (Non Un Trono, Non Un Regno...Solo Sdegno). Real? Sounds it, but it gets harder and harder to tell... Deus Lo Vult is a superb album that can only improve with repeated plays. Buy this immediately.
Activate (1976, 36.31) ***/½You Got Evil
Thru the Zig Zag Gate
Train Won't Blow
Moon Mad Woman
Imagine walking into a pub, high on the Yorkshire moors, to be confronted by a mad jazz-rock trio who are going down a storm. It must be 1971, you must be at The Lion in Blakey Ridge, you must be watching Back Door. Their original lineup was sax/bass/drums, the bassist being Colin Hodgkinson, who bizarrely went on to play in Whitesnake in the early '80s. Hey, we all gotta make a livin'... After their inauspicious beginnings, Back Door ended up signed to Warners, releasing four albums over five years, 1976's Activate being their last, as the world moved away from music made for its own sake. Hodgkinson had begun singing on their second record, '74's 8th Street Nites (you can tell they'd gone to the States, can't you?), because, as he admitted, he was the "least bad" vocalist in the band, but the album's best moments are instrumental, with Hodgkinson's outrageous 'lead bass' playing (listen to Moon Mad Woman) augmented by saxophonist Ron Asprey's keyboards, largely Rhodes, although some tracks still stick to their original trio formation.
Asprey plays Mellotron on opener You Got Evil, with a brief but unusual 'choppy' single-note choir part at the end of the piece, although he resists the temptation to use it anywhere else, sadly. I assume it was a studio machine that he decided to stick on the track on a whim; sad to say, I can't ask him, as he died in 2003, not long after a brief reformation of their original lineup. If you can find a copy, this is worth it for jazz-rock (note: not fusion) fans. It seems that their first two albums are the only ones available on CD, which is a pity; they're a still-largely undiscovered corner of British jazz, ripe for reappraisal, although most sources say you shouldn't start with Activate.
Gypsy Without a Road (1977, 32.27) ****/TFar Away Tom
The Farmers Have Gone East
The Dark Side of the Moon
Keys of Canterbury
Gypsy Without a Road
Miriam Backhouse's Gypsy Without a Road is a beautiful example of late-'70s folk that combines traditional and modern elements, without straying into 'rock' territory. She had (and hopefully still has) a wonderful voice, making you wonder why she never achieved greater recognition at the time, but then, there's a million factors that affect such things: timing, promotion, sheer good fortune... Opener Far Away Tom incorporates a string quartet, while The Widow heads towards the Renaissance period and Nasty Spider sees Backhouse regressing to her childhood, amongst other stylistic twists, the upshot of which is, every track sounds different to every other, making this an (almost-) lost gem from the UK folk scene, had those nice people at Vinyl Tap not issued it on CD in 1998.
My old friend Dave Etheridge (a couple of years before we met) played Mellotron on The Farmers Have Gone East, with a repeating polyphonic flute part and background cellos, although I believe the bowed double bass on John Riley is real. That isn't the reason you should track this down, though; what is is the excellent music contained herein. Backhouse, now a resident of South Africa, is apparently still touring and plays the UK regularly, so she hasn't fallen off the face of the earth. Miriam tells me her album's been reissued on the Mother Earth label, so do yourself and her a favour and buy a copy.
Backnee Horn (2009, 63.56) ***½/TTTTTZooming Glooming
Outleting Storming Particles
Far Away But Close
Around the Karmal Line
Multiple Streaming Encounter
Exhale Inside a Shell
Flaming Inside Gaming
Backnee Horn (no, I don't know what it means, either) are a new Israeli psych outfit, whose eponymous debut should be lapped up by psychonauts worldwide for its lysergic wanderings. Its main thrust is a kind of semi-improvised, modern take on the style, possibly comparable to Sundial at their trippiest, rather than to psych's historical forebears, muttered vocals (Hebrew? Invented language?) duelling with acid-drenched guitar and swathes of Mellotron (it's cliché city tonight at Planet Mellotron, folks). It's difficult to pick out any 'best tracks', although Outleting Storming Particles defines their style well enough to stand alone as a microcosm of the album as a whole.
Renowned Israeli 'Tronnist Zohar Cohen (Lemmus Lemmus, owner of Pink Floyd's old MkII) plays Mellotron throughout, with strings on everything but Outleting Storming Particles, flutes and choirs on several tracks, a smattering of cellos and an unidentified solo brass instrument here and there and even the MkII's left-hand manual 'moving strings' on closer Malachite Stroke. The vibes may well be Mellotronically-produced, too, not to mention other distant, reverbed sounds.
All in all, a fine psych release, although not for the musically faint of heart, I fear. Backnee Horn is as Mellotron-heavy as you could wish for, Cohen rarely letting up on the instrument, giving the album that elusive five-T rating. Not the easiest of listens, but since when did good music have to be easy-going? Recommended.
One Live Badger (1973, 40.55) ***½/TTT½Wheel of Fortune
Wind of Change
On the Way Home
White Lady (1974, 42.46) **/T½
|A Dream of You
Everybody - Nobody
Listen to Me
Don't Pull the Trigger
Just the Way it Goes
Be With You
Lord Who Give Me Life
|One More Dream to Hold
The Hole Thing
Badger were formed after keyboardist Tony Kaye left Yes in 1970, although One Live Badger wasn't recorded until December '72. I don't know who decided to take the unusual step of debuting with a live album, but the end result is pretty good, and I suppose it saved on studio costs. Despite Kaye's apparent dislike of the Mellotron, and his alleged refusal to play one on The Yes Album, he gets some onto every track on this album, recorded, incidentally, at London's Rainbow Theatre; not bad for a band with no releases to their credit.
Some of the tracks only feature a few seconds of strings, but Wheel Of Fortune and On The Way Home, to name but two, have 'Tron all over them. The only reason I don't give the album a higher 'T' rating is the relatively unambitious arrangements; just because there's a lot of Mellotron on an album doesn't mean it's great 'Tron. Conversely, if there's only a couple of significant tracks (see King Crimson's debut), but they're killers, the full rating may well be awarded. Musically, the album reminds me slightly of Greenslade, in that the band's r'n'b roots show through quite clearly, despite the progressive overtones of their sound. The compositions aren't bad, but I don't really hear any classic material here, although it's a perfectly good listen.
Bizarrely, the band opted to have noted New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint produce White Lady, and I'm afraid the end result's pretty awful. If you like soul-tinged r'n'b, you may go for this album, but for the prog fan it's an utter disaster. There's some pretty uninspired Mellotron on a couple of tracks, but nothing to write home about. I'm sure this album's good at what it does, but I'd really steer well clear of this one.
So, buy One Live Badger if you see it cheapish (the initial pressing featured a wonderful 'pop-up' badger inside the excellent Roger Dean sleeve), but leave White Lady for sad Yes completists.
C'mon Girls! (2004, 46.43) ****/TT½
|No Good Together
One Hit Wonders of the World Unite
It's a Glorious Day
The Green Giant
Goodnight All Right
She's a Woman Now
Badger (presumably entirely unaware of the British band) are one of Norway's prime progenitors of powerpop, to the extent that you really wouldn't know they weren't native English-speakers. 2004's C'mon Girls! is their second and, to date, latest album, full of glorious songs along the lines of One Hit Wonders Of The World Unite, It's A Glorious Day and Elizabeth, although I'm having trouble finding anything about it I don't like, although closer Barefoot/Laila's Theme is a little too (deliberately?) cheesy.
Producer Lars Lien plays Mellotron, although as always with his productions, I'm not convinced it's real; the flute part on The Green Giant sounds OK until a speedy little run that would be difficult on all but the best set-up M400. The album's other 'Tron use sounds realistic enough, though, with background strings on Supermarket Marianne, a nice polyphonic flute part on She's A Woman Now and more upfront strings on Barefoot/Laila's Theme. All in all, highly recommended; the music's great and with several (hopefully real) Mellotron tracks, you're onto a winner.
About a Boy (2002, 44.03) **½/T
|Exit Stage Right
A Peak You Reach
Something to Talk About
Above You, Below Me
I Love N.Y.E.
Wet, Wet, Wet
Walking Out of Stride
File Me Away
A Minor Incident
Delta (Little Boy Blues)
Donna and Blitzen
Have You Fed the Fish? (2002, 45.48) **½/T
|Coming Into Land
Have You Fed The Fish?
40 Days 40 Fights
I Was Wrong
You Were Right
The Further I Slide
Using Our Feet
Tickets to What You Need
What is it Now?
One Plus One is One (2004, 55.16) **½/T
|One Plus One is One
Summertime in Wintertime
This is That New Song
Another Devil Dies
Year of the Rat
Four Leaf Clover
Logic of a Friend
Life Turned Upside Down
Take the Glory
So what, precisely, is all the fuss about re. Damon "Badly Drawn Boy" Gough? To hear the media bleat on about him, certainly a few years ago, you'd think he was the bloody second coming. His second album, 2000's The Hour of Bewilderbeast, won the much-coveted Mercury Music Prize; well, it invariably boosts sales manyfold - I'm not surprised it's much-coveted... Going by the evidence here, Gough is bland, dinner-party singer-songwriter fare, with much unnecessary studio tarting. Very safe. Of course he won that prize.
2002 brought his soundtrack to the film adaptation of Nick Hornby's About a Boy. Now, we all know that soundtracks are invariably a mixed bag, with incidental music that frequently makes little sense outside its dramatic context, making this one better than most, or at least, more cohesive. Nevertheless, Gough's songs are pretty bland, leaving some of the short instrumental pieces as the album's highlights, although that isn't saying much. Chamberlin from Jon Brion, with a queasy pitchbent, er, something on A Peak You Reach, with nothing obviously audible on Above You, Below Me (the strings are real), ditto on Delta (Little Boy Blues), although Donna And Blitzen has some very upfront male and female voices, with a solo male voice standing out nicely.
Later that same year, BDB released Have You Fed The Fish?, which turned out to be no more than a more song-orientated version of its predecessor, certainly in the sonic department. Brion and Gough played Chamby this time round, with nothing obvious on How? but nice flutes on The Further I Slide, while Tickets To What You Need reprises the choirs from his previous album. Two years on and One Plus One is One catches Mr. Gough in his immediate post-fame years (unlike its predecessors, you rarely see this album in charity shops); it's actually slightly more palatable than said predecessors, although I wouldn't actually take that as a recommendation. Gough plays Mellotron himself, with a major (and quite real-sounding) string part on The Blossoms, although that would appear to be your lot.
So; please don't buy these albums. Gough almost certainly has enough money already, and I dislike him for a) always wearing a woolly hat and b) thinking it's clever to smoke on camera. Oh, and c) for making horrible mainstream albums like these. One or two decent Chamby/'Tron tracks, but I don't want to catch any of you buying them for that reason.
Julien Baer (1997, 37.53) **½/T½
|Marie Pense à Moi
Une Femme Seule
Le Monde S'Écroule
La Bataille la Plus Dure
300 Années Lumière
La Folie Douce
|Cette Fille S'Appelle Demain
Vie sur Mars
Julien Baer is a French singer-songwriter of the modern chanson persuasion, probably unsurprisingly, whose eponymous 1997 debut is unlikely to appeal to many non-French speakers, its mix of balladry and mid-paced Gallic pop being fairly culture-specific. A couple of tracks stand out from the crowd, notably Juillet 66 and Cette Fille S'Appelle Demain.
XTC's Dave Gregory plays Mellotron on Juillet 66 and Vie Sur Mars (sadly not a translated version of the Bowie track), with flute parts dipping in and out of the songs throughout their respective lengths, although the keyboard flute on 300 Années Lumière doesn't sound Mellotronic. So; yet another 'you're unlikely to like this'-type album with a little onboard Mellotron. Whatever.
Solo (1977, 44.22) **/½
Duecento Lire di Castagne
Romano Male Malissimo
Gesù Caro Fratello
Nel Sole, Nel Sale, Nel Sud
Claudio Baglioni is your classic Italian mainstream pop/rock vocalist, a style which rarely travels further than his country's borders, like so many similar 'local market' artists. After a flop first release in 1969 (when Baglioni was all of eighteen), he broke through with his third album, 1972's Questo Piccolo Grande Amore, making him already a major star when he released his seventh, 1977's Solo. It's exactly as mainstream Mediterranean pop/rock as you'd expect, fitting that era's version of 'adult contemporary' like a glove, although the occasional unusual production trick turns up, notably the massed ARP 2600 part (did I hear someone say "PFM"?) on Gesù Caro Fratello and a soundscape nicked from then-current Genesis albums on Il Pivot.
Toto Torquati is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, although with nothing obvious on the title track, we have to assume that the credit was meant to refer to the few seconds of strings at the end of Duecento Lire Di Castagne, while Gesù Caro Fratello has nothing especially audible. Faint background strings? Who knows. Anyway, you're rather unlikely to want to hear this unless you're already a fan, frankly.
New Bell Wake (1976, 40.08) ***/T
|The New Bell Wake
Spare Me the Life of Georgie
Trooper and the Maid
The Wymondham Fight
The Beggar Man
Love, Loneliness, Laundry [as Roy Bailey & Leon Rosselson] (1977, 41.09) ***½/½
|Let Your Hair Hang Down
Single in Spring
Invisible Married Breakfast Blues
Don't Get Married, Girls
In the Park
Once When I Was Young
The Man Who Puffs the Big Cigar
We Sell Everything
Garden of Love
Stand Up for Judas
Roy Bailey, ex-MBE (he returned it), is the most famous British folkie you've never heard of; his fifty year-plus career has made him a legend on the scene, but he's never broken through in the manner of, say, Ralph McTell. Although not being a one-hit wonder (sorry, Ralph) hasn't helped, nor has Bailey's more 'traditional' delivery, a dead-cert put-off for listeners not inured to the style.
1976's New Bell Wake is a hybrid of 'trad' and 'modern' folk, incorporating a capella delivery (Flying Cloud, Adieu, Adieu), barely-accompanied material (John Barleycorn, Lord Franklin) and what can only be described as rhythmless folk-rock on closer Fair's Fair. The emphasis, as you'd expect, is more on the story than the tune, although the actual songwriting (when it's not 'trad.arr.') is memorable, particularly the melody on Fair's Fair. That tune also, weirdly, features a Mellotron (from Leon Rosselson), with cello, trumpet (?) and string parts all over the track, alongside the guitar.
Bailey's next release, the following year's Love, Loneliness, Laundry, was the second of three he made with fellow traveller Rosselson. To my ears, it's a more rounded release than New Bell Wake, Rosselson's contributions standing out in particular, although a better production helps considerably, as does the slightly more mainstream sound (not often you'll see me write that). Standout tracks include Invisible Married Breakfast Blues (why women shouldn't get married), Abiezer Coppe (a history lesson concerning the Ranters) and wonderful closer Stand Up For Judas, a pithy denunciation of the Bible's teachings with an exceedingly catchy tune. Rosselson on 'Tron again, but only just, with near-inaudible flutes on In The Park.
So; two worthy folk albums from the wilderness years, when no-one outside the closed scene even knew anyone was still making this music. Fair's Fair features some of the odder Mellotron use you might encounter, although the album's hardly worth buying for that alone, although both of these are worth hearing if you're in the process of exploring the British folk scene.
Official Roy Bailey site
Official Leon Rosselson site
Le Chanteur (1978, 39.59) **/T
|Les Oiseaux 1re partie
Les Oiseaux 2eme partie
C'est un Voyou
Si Je suis Fou
Oiseau de Nuit
|Le Pied par Terre
Des Gens Comme Vous
Daniel Balavoine was one of France's most successful artists of the '80s, his first major hit being the title track to his third album, 1978's Le Chanteur ('The Singer'). The album falls firmly into the 'lyrics more important than music' bracket, typified by the music being a version of whatever's mainstream at the time (think: the first two Kate Bush albums, before she gained a firmer grip over her presentation), meaning that, over thirty years down the line and in another country and language, Balavoine's songs, however much meaning they may have, come across as bland, late '70s pop/rock with few redeeming features.
Guy Boyer plays Mellotron, with flutes on Lucie and the title track's intro, although I think the strings on France and Lucie are synth-generated. Frankly, you really don't need to hear this unless you have a thing about French-language pop; the Mellotron use is too inconsequential to be worth hearing for its own sake. As a footnote, Balavoine began involving himself in good works in Africa in the early '80s, tragically dying in a helicopter crash in 1986 in Mali.
Catholic Guilt (1997, 38.03) ***½/½
|The Mill Hill Self Hate Club
Love is Blue
The Hampstead Therapist
Never Live to Love Again
|This is the Story of My Love
This is Real
Ed(ward) Ball is an on-off member of the Television Personalities, having played seemingly every instrument in his various stints in the band, spending the rest of his time in, er, The Times and on his solo career. Catholic Guilt seems to be his third full solo offering, and can be categorised loosely as an indie/singer-songwriter album, although it's a lot better than that suggests. Touches of Dylan, the Velvets, maybe a less caustic Elvis Costello, though I'm not sure Ball would thank me for the comparison. Or maybe he would. Imagine Oasis if they were good, even, especially given that he was signed to the same label, Creation. Go on, try. Difficult to pick standout songs, although the lyrics to The Mill Hill Self Hate Club and Controversial Girlfriend particularly caught my ear.
Ball credits himself with a whole raft of instruments; hardly surprising, when you consider how many he's played in the TVPs. Among the nice old 'boards is a Mellotron, although given that the album features both string and brass sections, there isn't an awful lot for it to do. In fact, all I can hear for definite are some slightly 'Strawberry Fields'-esque flutes on The Hampstead Therapist, making this a bit of a waste of time for the committed 'Tron nut. However, if you like well-written and played songs, with an English bent, you could do an awful lot worse.
Ballettirosadimacchia (1974, 38.28) ****/TTTTAscolta!
Altre Guei Calli
E Tutto un Sogno
Dalla Mattina al Pommeriggio
Se ti Piace
Now, here's an oddity for you; an album by a bunch of (allegedly) Italians, also allegedly dating from the mid-'70s, though no-one seems quite sure exactly when. Augusto Croce, of the highly estimable Italian Prog site, has this to say about it:
|"Little is known about this mysterious group, whose only good album changes hands for incredible prices and has never been reissued on CD.
Even the year of recording is not sure. Some say it is from 1974-75, but it seems likely that it is from the mid 80's.
The album has been released in Canada with a German producer, the music is good organ and Mellotron-led prog sung in Italian with a strong foreign accent and often incomprehensible lyrics: this is almost certainly a foreign group, German or probably Japanese, playing under fake Italian names".
So, how weird is that? Mind you, the also estimable Mauro Degrassi, who's made me a beautiful CD copy of this rarity, is of the opinion that it was recorded by a bunch of Italian ex-pats living in Germany in the mid-'70s, who probably spoke German as their first language, or maybe that's just the story that's going round? Anyway, it has to be said that Ballettirosadimacchia (a composite of 'balletti rosa di macchia') is actually very good, even if it is, technically, a 'fake'. None of the tracks is that long (apart from the seven-minute closer Se Ti Piace), in keeping with many other Italian bands of the era, and the album certainly has 'that Italian sound', with mellifluous guitar leads, occasionally gutteral vocals, slightly jazzy drumming and swathes of Hammond and Mellotron.
Oddly enough, despite having a full-time keyboard player in Gianni Mazzi, the 'Tron is played by bassist Tonino Leo Ucchi and drummer Marcello Taddeo Matteotti, although I can't imagine how they could've reproduced the parts on stage, assuming they ever played live. It's difficult to pinpoint any outstanding use, as it's used mostly for chordal string backdrops, with the odd bit of flute, complementing Ucchi's real one (he also sang and played acoustic guitar). The only real variation in approach is the heavily phased 'Tron on Suono, which actually sounds more like an overdubbed synth part; speaking of which, the only obvious Moog (?) part on the album is on Se Ti Piace.
So; who knows this album's real provenance? I hope the real story leaks out one day, but it's such an obscurity that I wouldn't be surprised if the mystery remains exactly that. I would be surprised if it was recorded in the '80s, though, as the sound is so very '70s, with no telltale signs (at least to my ears) that it was produced a decade later, although it seems quite certain that the band weren't actually Italian, at least not by residence. Japanese? I don't think so - German seems far more likely, particularly given Ulrich Zichter's production. Maybe the 'Germans of Italian parentage' story is actually true? Anyway, unless someone sees fit to put this out on CD, you ain't going to just stumble across a copy (note: now out on CD), at least not at a sensible price, so it's probably all rather academic anyway. If you do, though, grab it before its owner realises its true value.
YS (1972, 37.58/45.02) ****½/TTTIntroduzione
La Tua Casa Comoda
Il Balletto di Bronzo were a classic one-shot Italian band, singing in their own language, who operated at the heavier end of the progressive spectrum. The Italian Polydor CD confuses the issue somewhat by stating the copyright date as 1977, which made me wonder why the band sounded so dated; it is, of course, from '72, which sounds about right, to be honest. YS was apparently a 'fabled city state on the Bretagne coast', according to the WelshDragon site, although the letter 'Y' doesn't even appear to be used in Italian. The non-obvious tracks are titled first/second/third encounter but again, I don't know if there's an actual concept involved or not.
YS kicks into overdrive almost straight away, then stays there pretty much for the course of the album; Il Balletto di Bronzo don't muck about, just roll their collective sleeves up and get stuck in. This is a decidedly complex and intense record, which may not endear it to all prog fans, particularly those of a nervous disposition. To be blunt, it rocks. There's a good bit of Mellotron on offer, from vocalist/keyboard man Gianni Leone, mostly strings and brass, though I think I heard a short burst of flutes at one point. Leone tends to use it in bursts, rather than layering strings all over the place, so although you can hear it on four of the five tracks, you'll find little sustained use. No specific 'Tron highlights, although the brass at the beginning of Terzo Incontro is particularly searing.
The Polydor CD adds two tracks from a single from the following year, but there's no Mellotron to be heard. There are also English-language (and Mellotron-free) versions of Introduzione and Secondo Incontro doing the rounds, but I don't know if they've ever gained an official release or not. Anyway, YS is fantastic; OK 'Tron, but great album. Buy.
Balls Change When Balls Wants to Change (1993, 57.55) **½/T½
Shit Rolls in
Be My Bird
Let's Go Crazy
I Want to Take You Higher
|God's Gone to Sleep
Convertible Blow Job
Stop That Moaning
Too Much Monkey Business
Sadness of Sunday
Let's Take the Sea
The provocatively-named Balls are one of the inconceivably vast number of bands from non English-speaking countries who gain some sort of following in their home territory, while meaning diddly-squat to anyone else. Well, have YOU heard of them? What little information I can glean about the band (well, you try searching for them on Google) indicates that they've released several albums over a near-20 year period, of which the slightly cod-English Balls Change When Balls Wants to Change is the third. So, wossit sound like, then? A mixture of styles is the short answer, opening with an energetic instrumental before moving through a host of pop and rock styles without ever really settling on anything. Maybe that's the point. I have to say, the band's sound irritated me after a while, and an album of this type would be better kept under 40 minutes, rather than almost an hour.
As far as the album's Mellotron content goes, the inimitable Esa Kotilainen (one of Finland's handful of Mellotron owners/players) plays understated string, flute and possibly cello parts on the balladic Let's Go Crazy, and strings, choirs and flutes on God's Gone To Sleep, but that's it. I suspect you're unlikely to like this album very much, although there's nothing actually intrinsically wrong with it, other than a lack of memorable material. To summarise; sort-of mainstream pop/rock with a couple of 'Tron tracks. I really wouldn't bother.
Capsules (2007, 44.03) ***½/½
The Drowning Calm
Tangle in Delirium
Fall Away Into Darkness
A Long Fetch Over
The Museums of Sleep
Szól a Zene
Grant Miller's Balustrade Ensemble seem to be more of a project than a band 'proper', drawing in various suitable musicians who have lives outside. 2007's Capsules is an album of ethereal beauty, more of a soundtrack to an arthouse film you'll never see than anything as tawdry as rock'n'roll; of course, the downside is that some of you will find this plain boring, or won't even notice it's playing. Picking out individual tracks is a bit pointless, as they all fit the same general mould, but opener Glorianders sets their stall out nicely, acoustic instruments, voice and electronics merging into a unified whole.
As well as his Mellotron, Matt Henry Cunitz (Botticellis, Mushroom, John Vanderslice) also plays Orchestron, and I do believe it's that producing the choirs we're hearing on Glorianders, although the voices on Tangle In Delirium sound like real ones combined with Mellotron, plus strings, with another string part on A Long Fetch Over. You really have to be prepared to put some work into this, should you wish to hear it; I'm sure it'll reap rewards, but it may take some time. With next to no Mellotron, though, I really can't advise it on that front.
As the Dark Wave Swells (2010, 37.55) ***½/T
|As the Dark Wave Swells
Point of No Return
Into the Crimson Sunset
Lazy Girls Hangout
The Bambi Molesters are that most unlikely of things, a Croatian instrumental surf band. Active since the mid-'90s, 2010's As the Dark Wave Swells is their eighth album and first for seven years, leaning as heavily on Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks for inspiration as it does on Dick Dale et al. Since they maintain a stylistic consistency across the record, it's difficult to pick out specific tracks for praise or otherwise; suffice to say, if an excellently-played surf/Morricone crossover sounds like it might appeal, you won't go too far wrong here.
Chris Eckman plays Mellotron on Lazy Girls Hangout, one of the album's slower tracks, with a string line drifting in and out of the arrangement that may or may not be genuine, plus a quiet flute line on closer Rising East. Overall, while you're not really going to bother for the Mellotron, As the Dark Wave Swells is refreshingly different, nicely authentic and above all, fun.
Moondog Matinee (1973, 35.56/61.25) ***/½ (T½)
|Ain't Got No Home
Share Your Love With Me
The Third Man Theme
The Promised Land
The Great Pretender
|A Change is Gonna Come
Didn't it Rain
Crying Heart Blues
What am I Living for
Going Back to Memphis
The Band's fifth studio album, Moondog Matinee, continued their chosen remit, redefining American music from the roots up (pun intended), although it could be argued that they made their groundbreaking albums in the late '60s, and by 1973 they were slightly past their sell-by date. This impression is reinforced by their overly-familiar choice of material, not least Mystery Train, The Promised Land and The Great Pretender, and we haven't even mentioned their bizarrely faithful rendition of The Third Man Theme. To be honest, the CD's bonus material is better in places than the original LP. Crying Heart Blues works nicely, while Going Back To Memphis rocks more than anything else here, making a nice change from their usual Americana/country-inflected sound.
Garth Hudson plays Mellotron on The Great Pretender, with a background phased strings part that could easily be mistaken for the string synth used elsewhere on the record. However, one of the CD's bonus tracks, Shakin', is smothered in stabbed 'Tron strings and chordal flutes, bumping the expanded version's 'T' rating up nicely. All in all, not The Band's greatest achievement, and one of the more insignificant Mellotron parts I've heard in a while, against strong competition, at least on the original tracklisting. Buy Music From Big Pink instead.
Hoje Há Conquilhas, Amanhã Não Sabemos (1977, 36.14) ***/½Acalanto
Alvorada, Tio Lérias!
Água de Rosas
Banda do Casaco were a Portuguese folk/prog outfit, whose third album, 1977's Hoje Há Conquilhas, Amanhã Não Sabemos, is generally regarded to be the peak of their genre-fusing. While a perfectly pleasant album, I suspect it's lost a great deal of its power over the years, so to speak, sounding rather ordinary three-plus decades on. Better tracks include Alvorada, Tio Lérias!, which starts ominously before shifting into a Flamenco-influenced section and Geringonça (or Strange Machine), although nothing really stands out.
José Castro guests on Mellotron on Geringonça, although I have to say, the 'infinite sustain' atonal strings that open the track and reiterate halfway through sound little like an M400. Mellotron-via-studio-trickery? Hard to say, but not something you're going to track down for its Mellotron content, frankly.
Mother/Bow to the King (1972, 31.09) ***½/TMother
Feel the Hurt
Bow to the King
Bang! Music (1973, 33.15) **½/TT
Glad You're Home
Don't Need Nobody
Page of My Life
Must Be Love
Exactly Who I am
Pearl and Her Ladies
|Little Boy Blue
Bang allegedly produced one of America's best Sabbath impersonations in their eponymous debut (***), but upon actually hearing it, it's a very ordinary hard rock album with only one track that sounds even slightly like the mighty Sabs. They followed it with a decent enough concept piece, Mother/Bow to the King, although it's all a bit unexciting compared to what, say, the Blue Öyster Cult were doing at the time, not to mention a whole slew of British bands, Budgie, maybe, or Stray. Saying that, the band come up with some decent riffs, not least the opening to Tomorrow, spoilt almost immediately by an overly-cheerful guitar harmony, like a (slightly) heavier Wishbone Ash. Mellotron, finally, on closer and semi-title track, Bow To The King, apparently about a boxing champ. The uncredited string part actually enhances the track quite nicely, making me wonder why they didn't use it more on the album; it would easily have fitted onto a couple of the heavier tracks.
By the time Bang! Music appeared in '73, the fire had obviously left their collective bellies. It starts with a couple of reasonable tracks, notably Windfair, but quickly degenerates into that sort of vaguely hard rock that seemed to be inexplicably popular at the time. Or maybe not; how many bands of that ilk have survived? The band were a trio at this point, but no-one seems to have been credited with keyboards, so whoever elected to stick piano and Mellotron on a few tracks will have to remain a mystery. Windfair has some strings in the chorus, ditto Love Sonnet and Little Boy Blue. Another Town starts well, sounding like it's going to be one of the album's best tracks, 'Tron to the fore, until it peters out after 45 seconds. Why? Just when it looked like things were picking up...
So; not that exciting, I'm afraid. Yeah, I've heard worse (particularly in the case of the halfway decent Mother), but this style never really was a winner, and it's easy to see why. Anyway, one 'Tron track on the former, and four on the latter, none exceptional, but all OK. Wouldn't rush out if I were you.
Dancin' on Coals (1991, 50.56) ***/T
|Soul to Soul
Untied and True
Emotions in Gear
I'm in Love
Dancin' on Coals
|Dressed Up Vamp
Glam-metal troupe Bang Tango began the '90s unsure where they stood; their second album, Dancin' on Coals, came out the same year as Nirvana's genre-defining Nevermind, making their like redundant almost overnight. And not before time, some might say. In actuality, Dancin' on Coals, while no classic, is more diverse than you might imagine, making the likes of Poison look as stupid and one-dimensional as they actually were. Some tracks, notably big ballad Midnight Struck, sound like budget Aerosmith, and while you might say that isn't too unusual in the glam scene, Bang Tango at least do it with some panache, not to mention Joe Lesté's Tyler-alike vocals.
Pete Wood is credited with Mellotron, and while it doesn't sound much like one, I think we have to assume that's what we're hearing on Emotions In Gear (this is pretty much pre-easily-available samples, don't forget), with a rather ordinary string part, although the strings on the lengthyish Midnight Struck seem to be real. This is a rare example of early '90s 'Tron use in the hard rock field, although there's little enough that it wasn't really worth the effort, to be honest. One for the reformed glam fan in your life.
Everything (1988, 47.41) ***/T
|In Your Room
Something to Believe in
Be With You
I'll Set You Free
|Watching the Sky
Some Dreams Come True
Make a Play for Her Now
Waiting for You
Crash and Burn
Everything, The Bangles' fourth and last album before their recent reformation, is pretty typical, being a mixture of upbeat '60s-influenced girly pop and fluffy ballads, including the mega-hit Eternal Flame, although there's more of the former than the latter, thankfully. It's very good at what it does, the only proviso being that you have to like what they do, which I can't really say I do, to be honest, although Walk Like An Egyptian was quite good fun.
(John) Phil(ip) Shenale plays keyboards on the album; he informs me that they hired an M400 for the sessions, in 'perfect shape', which must've been rare for the late '80s, heard on the oriental-ish string sounds on In Your Room and the strong string melody on Watching The Sky. You pretty much know what you're going to get with a Bangles album, so as I can't honestly recommend this on Mellotronic grounds, it's pretty much down to how you feel about their music.
Fugitive Girls (2000, 48.13) ***½/T
|November (the Fugitive Girls Theme)
Candy Bar Killer
Happy Thursday I Love You
All My Little Ships
Building a Better Plaything
One Pink Squirrel
|A Monster in Your Cookie Jar
There Was a Sweetness
Late November (Theme reprise)
I believe (but not in a faith kind of way) that 2000's Fugitive Girls is Frank Bango's debut album, a frequently beautiful collection of powerpop gems, typified by 12-string classic Candy Bar Killer, the subdued One Pink Squirrel, A Monster In Your Cookie Jar and the rather psychedelic Entertaining Anne, amongst other highlights. In fairness, there are a few lesser numbers knock a half star from its rating, but that might be being picky. I could still be struggling to recall whom his voice reminds me of, until I read it somewhere else: Elvis Costello, for better or worse.
Bango plays Mellotron flutes on a couple of tracks, with a brief, skronky part on Building A Better Plaything and a more regular one on One Pink Squirrel. Real? Fucked if I know, especially as the flutes sample so well. Anyway, a decent powerpop effort from a name I hadn't previously encountered, although not really worth it for the Mellotron.
A Curious Feeling (1979) ***½/½
|From the Undertow
After the Lie
A Curious Feeling
Somebody Else's Dream
|The Waters of Lethe
For a While
In the Dark
Tony Banks is, of course, Genesis' keyboard player and one of their main writers; many of their classic pieces have his style stamped all over them. By 1979, Genesis had contracted to a three-piece with the regrettable departure of Steve Hackett, and after the success of their first album with that lineup, ...And Then There Were Three... the band took time off, with Banks and Mike Rutherford recording solo albums during their gap year, with Phil Collins following two years later. Sadly. The least commercially successful of the three was Banks' debut, A Curious Feeling; a curious album, in fact. Tony Banks is widely regarded as keeping his best material for the parent band (pity more musicians don't follow this dictum), and his solo albums have always sold poorly. A Curious Feeling, along with Genesis' subsequent album, Duke (***) and Rutherford's solo debut, Smallcreep's Day (***½) can be seen as the collective last gasp of the 'old' Genesis, before their style moved irrevocably towards the mainstream.
Banks is notorious for collaborating with unsuitable singers, of whom Kim Beacon was only the first. His voice really doesn't suit the material, and it seems strange that Tony couldn't have found someone better. Maybe it's the 'prog keyboard player solo album' disease; think of the bellowing Ashley Holt on all those Rick Wakeman albums... In fact, it's noticeable that as with his ex-colleague Hackett, the best bits are mostly instrumental; odd, given how many excellent vocal tracks Banks wrote for Genesis, but there you go.
From The Undertow is a beautiful, piano-based piece (Yamaha CP70 electric grand), starting the album as it should have gone on; sadly, only a handful of tracks match the opener's quality. After The Lie has some incendiary playing from Banks, with a killer solo, and the instrumentals Forever Morning and The Waters Of Lethe are excellent. The only Mellotron present (allegedly) is on You, but I only know this through an interview snippet; it's completely inaudible, although the track is the other fairly strong vocal piece on the album.
So; buy the album for the keyboard work. In fact, get it on CD and just program most of the vocal tracks out altogether. DON'T, however, buy it expecting to hear any Mellotron.
Official Genesis site
See: Genesis | Mellodrama
Love the Donkey (2005, 49.10) ***/0
Rio De Jamaica
Forró for All
Tap on the Cajon
Frevo de Rua
Olivia - Step on the Roach
Despite being a non-Jewish Brazilian, percussionist Cyro Baptista releases records on Jewish New York label Tzadik, largely due to his involvement with John Zorn. After forming Beat the Donkey in 2002 and releasing a self-titled album, he/they followed up with Love the Donkey in 2005, a Latin-via-New-York set, detouring into reggae (Rio De Jamaica, unsurprisingly), jazz (Forró For All), didgeridoos (Matan) and, er, blown bottles (duh, Bottles) along the way. The biggest surprise here is an accordion version Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, which actually works surprisingly well.
Tzadik mainstay Jamie Saft is credited with Mellotron, although as with Saft's solo album, Black Shabbis, it's totally inaudible, making me wonder quite what the point is. Anyway, a Latin-avant-New-York-jazz album for Tzadik label fans who like a bit of rumba (or whatever).
Megh (1972, 38.27) ***½/T½Un po' di Burro sul Mio Pane
In Quella Città
Non Dire Mai
In Quella Città (la Leggenda)
I don't know an awful lot about Mario Barbaja (real name Barbaglia, apparently), although I've seen him described as 'progressive'. Hmmm. Megh consists of a diverse collection of slightly progressive Italian pop, but there's no way I'd describe it as 'prog', although there's the odd interesting track along the lines of the Indian-sounding Tan and the interestingly oblique In Quella Città (La Leggenda).
Franco Orlandini plays Mellotron on four tracks, with what sounds like some rather muffled strings on Tan, more overt parts on Non Dire Mai and In Quella Città and a nice flute part on Un'Armonica. However, you really couldn't call this a Mellotron Album, to be honest. Not bad, but not worth spending a great deal of time and/or money on.
Comet of the Season (2001, 38.50) ***/½
|Nickel a Minute
Two Small Stones
Soft, Distant Light
Once in a While
Hot, But You Won't Blow
David Barbe has worked with many musicians, both as player and producer, fronting his own rated combo Mercyland in the '80s, although, ironically, he's probably best known for playing bass in Bob Mould's post-Hüsker Dü outfit Sugar. 2001's Comet of the Season is his sole solo album to date, and has some of that Athens, GA sound to it (Barbe is from Atlanta, but based in Athens, home to R.E.M., amongst others), with a modern psych feel in places. It's hard to say which Barbe does better: the slow, near-psych of Hot, But You Won't Blow or Medicine Takeover, or the high-octane Nickel A Minute or Once In A While; suffice to say that he knows how to construct a record that holds the listener's interest, which is more than you can say for most of his contemporaries, it seems.
Barbe is credited with Mellotron, but the only place it even might be is the flutey sound on Favorite Star, so this isn't going to go to the top of your 'Mellotron must-haves' list, I suspect. Not a bad album, most likely to appeal to your Athens Scene enthusiast, although the rest of us should be able to find something to like about it, too.
For All Time (2007, 42.02) **½/½
|Just for Now
Don't Go Easy
When I'm Making Love to You
Ashes to Ashes
For All Time
Two Brown Eyes
Starting to Show
Jill Barber is a Canadian singer-songwriter who, to be honest, breaks little new ground on her third album, 2007's For All Time. It straddles several genres, with the country of Don't Go Easy and Legacy contrasting sharply with When I'm Making Love To You's jazz/blues and the folky Hard Line, although 'countryish' seems to be the album's default setting. Barber's voice carries the material, along with a handful of decent songs, although most of them seem to be just a little too generic for their own good.
Les Cooper plays Mellotron on Ashes To Ashes, with some barely audible background flutes (the vibraphone, my first guess, is real); makes you wonder why he bothered, frankly. All in all, then, countryish singer-songwriter stuff, nothing you haven't heard before, really, with next to bugger-all Mellotron, to the point where if I could give it a quarter T, I would. Actually, I could, as it's my site and I can do what I like (within reason), but you've got to have rules, otherwise where would we be? Eh? Eh?