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Carptree  (Sweden)  see: Samples etc.

Jim Carroll  (US)

Jim Carroll, 'Pools of Mercury'

Pools of Mercury  (1998,  46.11)  ***½/T

Train Surfing
Falling Down Laughing
Zeno's Law of High-Heeled Shoes
Desert Town
It Goes
My Ruins
Pools of Mercury
Things That Fly
I am Not Kurt Schwitters
Hairshirt Fracture
Female as Thunder
Cinco de Mayo
Message Left on a Phone Machine
The Beast Within
8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain
Jim Carroll, 'Runaway'

Runaway EP  (2000,  18.28)  ***/T

Runaway
Hairshirt Fracture
I Want the Angel (live)
It's Too Late (live)
Falling Down Laughing (live)

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Jim Carroll was born in 1950, detailing the hard drugs and prostitution of his teenage years in The Basketball Diaries, filmed in 1995. He formed the Jim Carroll Band in his late twenties, collaborating with various New York alumni, including Patti Smith, Lou Reed and the Blue Öyster Cult, amongst others. As much a poet as a musician, Carroll has released a handful of records, 1998's Pools of Mercury being his first in 15 years. Unsurprisingly, much of its content consists of poetry read to music, although there are some proper 'songs' on board, too, notably the excellent Falling Down Laughing and Desert Town, although Carroll speaks rather than sings, in the way that Americans seem to manage with effortless cool, while Brits just sound awkward and selfconscious. Anton Sanko plays Chamberlin, with strings on Things That Fly and (notably, albeit briefly and uncredited) on Hairshirt Fracture, although it's not groundbreaking stuff on the Chamby front, to be honest.

Two years on, Carroll released his latest recording to date, the Runaway EP and yes, it's the Del Shannon song, with a surprisingly faithful clavioline (or facsimile thereof) solo. Hairshirt Fracture is a completely different recording to the album version, featuring largish slabs of Mellotron church organ from Built to Spill/Truly stalwart Robert Roth, highly unusually outside a self-consciously 'prog' setting and all the better for it. The album's worth getting hold of, the EP less so, though neither really for their tape-replay work, despite the rare sighting of the 'Tron pipes. Is it just me, or does Carroll's pic on the Pools of Mercury sleeve makes him look like Thin White Duke-era Bowie? Deliberately? Who knows.

As a sad postscript, Carroll died of a heart attack, aged 60, mere months after I wrote this review.

John Carter  (UK)

John Carter, 'Measure for Measure: The John Carter Anthology, 1961-1977'

Measure for Measure: The John Carter Anthology, 1961-1977  (2003,  158.56)  ***/TT½

Carter-Lewis & the Southerners:
  Will it Happen to Me
  My Broken Heart
  Somebody Told My Girl
  Easy to Cry
  Sweet and Tender Romance

The Ivy League:
  Funny How Love Can Be
  Lonely Room
  Tossing & Turning
  Running Round in Circles
  My World Fell Down

Carter Shaw Keen:
  I Couldn't Spend Another Day Without You
Ministry of Sound:
  White Collar Worker
Carter Shaw Keen:
  Time and Motion Man
  Little Ray of Sunshine

John Carter:
  Winchester Cathedral
Carter-Lewis:
  Playing With Fire
John Carter:
  She Won't Show Up Tonight
  Brown and Porter's (Meat Exporters) Lorry

Viv Prince:
  Light of the Charge Brigade
John Carter:
  Am I Losing You
The Flower Pot Men:
  Let's Go to San Francisco
  A Walk in the Sky

John Carter:
  Sunshine Girl
  Conversations (in a Station Light
    Refreshment Bar)

Carter-Lewis:
  Birmingham Brass Band
The Flower Pot Men:
  You Can Never Be Wrong
Friends:
  Mythological Sunday
Haystack
:
  Letter to Josephine
  Pantomime People
  Tahiti Farewell

Dawn Chorus:
  A Night to Be Remembered
John Carter:
  My Sentimental Friend
  Knock Knock Who's There

The Flower Pot Men:
  White Dove
  Say Goodbye to Yesterday

Scarecrow:
  I Want to Be Where You Are

Stamford Bridge:
  Little Boy Blue
  Happiness and Rainy Days
  Move Out of Town
  First Day of Your Life
  Arizona Lost and Gone

Stormy Petrel:
  Hello Hello Hello
First Class:
  Coney Island
Kincade:
  Dreams Are Ten a Penny
  Do You Remember Marilyn
  Big Hand for Annie

First Class:
  Beach Baby
  What Became of Me

Kincade:
  Slow Down
First Class:
  And She Cried
Starbreaker:
  Sound of Summer
John Carter:
  British Caledonian (ad)
  Bird's Dream Topping (ad)
  Rowntree's Tots (ad)
  Vauxhall Chevette (ad)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

John Nicholas "John Carter" Shakespeare is a slightly forgotten figure these days, except among aficionados of British '60s pop, for whom he's remembered as the nearest the UK got to America's Curt Boettcher. Carter and his friend Ken "Lewis" Hawker played together in Carter-Lewis & the Southerners and The Ivy League in the early '60s, after which they backed away from the limelight and took backseat roles, writing and recording a huge quantity of material, using a pool of trusted session singers and musicians. This material was released under a bewildering variety of names, notably The Flower Pot Men, other monikers including Friends, Ministry of Sound, Dawn Chorus and The Haystack.

RPM's 2003 two-disc Measure for Measure: The John Carter Anthology, 1961-1977 could never be more than an overview of Carter's work, taking in his major hits, lesser-known material and demos, also covering he and his wife's equally fly-by-night '70s outfits Stamford Bridge, Scarecrow and Kincade. The duo finally hit gold as The First Class in summer '74 with the Beach Boys-go-glam of Beach Baby, after which their fortunes declined. Aside from the expected Mellotron tracks covered elsewhere, a solo Carter demo, Sunshine Girl, features a lovely MkII flute solo, while his demo of a track ultimately released as A.P. Dangerfield, the 'why wasn't this a hit?' Conversations (In A Station Light Refreshment Bar) has the same string and flute parts as the eventual single, only further in the background.

I have to say, over two hours of this stuff is a little wearing if you aren't really into lightweight '60s-to-'70s pop, but there are a handful of gems scattered amongst the by-numbers material in which Carter usually specialised. Several Mellotron tracks make this collection worth hearing, although you're probably better off with The Flower Pot Men's Listen to the Flowers Grow, also from RPM.

Official site

See: The Flower Pot Men | Friends | The Haystack | Ministry of Sound | Beautiful People

Nick Carter  (US)

Nick Carter, 'Now or Never'

Now or Never  (2002,  43.36/50.20)  *½/0 (½)

Help Me
My Confession
I Stand for You
Do I Have to Cry for You
Girls in the USA
I Got You
Is It Saturday Yet?
Blow Your Mind
Miss America
I Just Wanna Take You Home
Heart Without a Home (I'll Be Yours)
Who Needs the World
[European bonus tracks:
Scandalicious
Forever Rebel]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I had no idea before I played this album, but Nick Carter is a member of The Backstreet Boys, which probably tells you all you need to know about him. 2002's Now or Never is his only proper solo album to date, ignoring his 'early demos' collection, Before the Backstreet Boys 1989-1993, and while it shows a reasonable diversity of style, it's still a mainstream pop album, mixing his usual boy-band thing with various dance styles, piano balladry and that kind of neutered 'metal' guitar sound on a few tracks, usually thrown in by producers in a vain attempt to portray their client as 'edgy'.

The original, 12-track US release has no Mellotronic input, but one of the two overseas bonus tracks, Forever Rebel, has an exceedingly brief 'Tron flute part from Phil Thornalley, although given that his credit includes the fatal words 'programmed by', one has to wonder just how real it might be. It might be just the bass that's programmed, but I'm not convinced. So; you really don't need to hear this album, but I think you'd already worked that out, hadn't you?

MySpace

Caitlin Cary  (US)

Caitlin Cary, 'While You Weren't Looking'

While You Weren't Looking  (2002,  47.43)  ***/0

Shallow Heart, Shallow Water
Please Don't Hurry Your Heart
Fireworks
What Will You Do?
Thick Walls Down
Sorry
Pony
The Fair
Too Many Keys
Hold on to Me
I Ain't Found Nobody Yet
Caitlin Cary, 'I'm Staying Out'

I'm Staying Out  (2003,  48.19)  **½/T

Empty Rooms
Sleepin' in on Sunday
You Don't Have to Hide
The Next One
Please Break My Heart
Cello Girl
Beauty Fades Away
I'm Staying Out
Lorraine Today
In a While
I Want to Learn to Waltz With You

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Along with the better-known Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary is the other ex-Whiskeytown member to have a visible solo career, taking that outfit's Americana template and, er, making it more mainstream. Saying that, several tracks on her solo debut, 2002's While You Weren't Looking put the alt. into alt.country, not least Thick Walls Down and Pony. Jen Gunderman plays Chamberlin, but, yet again, it's nowhere obviously to be heard. Why? Really, why? Why use such a cool instrument then ensure it's buried in the mix? I know it's shy and retiring, but a sympathetic producer can make it stand proud and tall, not hide its light under a bushel (whatever that is). Not this time, however.

Cary took a whole year to follow up with I'm Staying Out, which shifts yet further away from 'alt.' territory, despite the odd track of the quality of Cello Girl (great guitar solo) and closer I Want To Learn To Waltz With You, complete with Frank Gratkowski's clarinet. Gunderman on Mellotron this time round, albeit not very much, with strings on Sleepin' In On Sunday, Beauty Fades Away and I Want To Learn To Waltz With You (although at least one of these could be a real string part), but I can't say you'd miss it if it wasn't there.

Overall, two not particularly inspiring albums, although both have their moments, though certainly not in the tape-replay arena.

Official site

See: Whiskeytown | Ryan Adams

Neal Casal  (US)

Neal Casal, 'The Sun Rises Here'

The Sun Rises Here  (1998,  40.18)  ***/T

Today I'm Gonna Bleed
On the Mend
Reason
Angelina
Halfway Through Town
Dandelion Wine
The New Jenny Jenkins
Real Country Dark
Best to Bonnie
The Last of My Connections
Untitled

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Arguably best-known for his membership of Ryan Adams' Cardinals, Neal Casal has had a twenty-year solo career at the time of writing. His fourth release, 1998's The Sun Rises Here, errs towards the country side of Americana, better tracks including opener Today I'm Gonna Bleed, the vaguely rocky Reason and the brief untitled track that closes the album, although the whole veers a little too close to 'trad' country for this listener.

Chris Pitman plays Chamberlin on The New Jenny Jenkins, with an intermittent flute part throughout; nice to hear, if slightly inessential. The Sun Rises Here probably isn't for Americana fans who prefer the genre's more energetic elements, but does a decent enough job in its chosen niche.

Official site

Neko Case  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Peter Case  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Casey & the Pressure Group  (Netherlands)

Casey & the Pressure Group, 'Lazybones'

Lazybones  (1970,  36.00)  ***/T½

Lazybones
Deep Down and Dirty
Venus
Stockmobile
Silly Sue
In the Smokehouse
Soul Tango
Change the Better
Peer Gynt
E.R.G.
Just Like Anyone
A Shade of Blue
Casey & the Pressure Group, 'Powerhouse'

Powerhouse  (1970,  30.38)  ***/0

The Train
Funky Business
Powerhouse
Save Our Soul
Wailing Arab
Heighty-Hi
This is Just the Beginning
Sour Grapes
Dynamite
Outasight

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Casey & the Pressure Group (ho ho) were a mostly instrumental Dutch soul/funk outfit, albeit more in what's come to be known as a 'rare groove' format than a 'matching suits with bow ties' one. Led by Cees (or C.M.) 'Casey' Schrama, they only seemingly lasted for two albums, both released in 1970, both now unwitting providers of breaks for those too untalented to actually write their own music (ouch...). They debuted with Lazybones, a decent enough collection if you're into such things, with more sonic variety that I'd expected, incorporating mainstream pop and country amongst the album's influences; and, chaps, what's with crediting Peer Gynt (a.k.a. a funked-up Hall Of The Mountain King) to yourselves, eh? Schrama plays keys, including (Phonogram Studios' M300?) Mellotron, with strings on Silly Sue, a high-speed flute part on Just Like Anyone (well, there's no flautist credited) and more strings (sounding like they involve studio trickery) on closer A Shade Of Blue.

Powerhouse was their speedy follow-up, a bare half-hour long, doubtless due to an unsurprising dearth of new material. Their debut must've sold well enough for Philips to pay for a brass section this time round, giving the material that authentic American sound for which Schrama was clearly striving, audible on most tracks. Schrama's credited with Mellotron again, but if it's here at all, it's obviously buried beneath layers of brass. Unavailable on CD, various tracks from these albums have been anthologised, and they're not difficult to find as downloads (shhh). Amusingly, Schrama was co-opted by a better-known Dutch outfit, Golden Earring, to play Mellotron on their eponymous 1970 effort (a.k.a. Wall of Dolls), although I'm not aware of any other Mellotronic activity from the man.

Johnny Cash  (US)

Johnny Cash, 'American II: Unchained'

American II: Unchained  (1996,  43.31)  ****/T½

Rowboat
Sea of Heartbreak
Rusty Cage
The One Rose (That's Left In My Heart)
Country Boy
Memories Are Made of This
Spiritual
The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea
Southern Accents
Mean Eyed Cat
Meet Me in Heaven
I Never Picked Cotton
Unchained
I've Been Everywhere
Johnny Cash, 'American IV: The Man Comes Around'

American IV: The Man Comes Around  (2002,  56.01)  ****/TT

The Man Comes Around
Hurt
Give My Love to Rose
Bridge Over Troubled Water
I Hung My Head
First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Personal Jesus
In My Life
Sam Hall
Danny Boy
Desperado
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Tear Stained Letter
Streets of Laredo
We'll Meet Again
Big Iron
Johnny Cash, 'Unearthed'

Unearthed  (2004, recorded 1994-2003,  243.23)  ****/T

Long Black Veil
Flesh and Blood
Just the Other Side of
  Nowhere
If I Give My Soul
Understand Your Man
Banks of the Ohio
Two Timin' Woman
Caretaker
Old Chunk of Coal
I'm Going to Memphis
Breaking Bread
Waiting for a Train
Casey's Last Ride
No Earthly Good
Fourth Man in the Fire
Dark as a Dungeon
Book Review
Down There By the Train
  (alternate take)
Pocahontas
I'm a Drifter (version 1)
Trouble in Mind
Down the Line
I'm Movin' on
As Long as the Grass Shall
  Grow
Heart of Gold
Running Kind
Everybody's Trying to Be
  My Baby
Brown-Eyed Handsome Man
T for Texas (Blue Yodel
  No.1)
Devil's Right Hand
I'm a Drifter (version 2)
Like a Soldier
Drive on (alternate lyrics)
Bird on a Wire (live)
Singer of Songs
L & N Don't Stop Here
  Anymore
Redemption Song
Father and Son
Chattanooga Sugar Babe
He Stopped Loving Her
  Today
Hard Times
Wichita Lineman
Cindy
Big Iron
Salty Dog
Gentle on My Mind
You Are My Sunshine
You'll Never Walk Alone
The Man Comes Around
  (early take)
Where We'll Never Grow Old
I Shall Not Be Moved
I am a Pilgrim
Do Lord
When the Roll is Called Up
  Yonder
If We Never Meet Again This
  Side of Heaven
I'll Fly Away
Where the Soul of Man
  Never Dies
Let the Lower Lights Be
  Burning
When He Reached Down His
  Hand for Me
In the Sweet By and By
I'm Bound for the Promised
  Land
In the Garden
Softly and Tenderly
Just as I am
Johnny Cash, 'American V: A Hundred Highways'

American V: A Hundred Highways  (2006,  42.51)  ****/½

Help Me
God's Gonna Cut You Down
Like the 309
If You Could Read My Mind
Further on Up the Road
On the Evening Train
I Came to Believe
Love's Been Good to Me
A Legend in My Time
Rose of My Heart
Four Strong Winds
I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now

Current availability:

Mellotrons/Chamberlins used:

The first two reviews here were written a couple of days after Johnny Cash's death, so I felt the least I could do was to honour him by listening to some of his recent music. For those of you who don't know, Rick Rubin (Def Jam) released a Cash album called American Recordings in '94, featuring a stripped-back sound; just the man and his guitar. Of course, Cash utterly transcends the genre with which he's always been aligned, predating 'alt.country' by decades, and the four Rubin-produced LPs released before his death prove it unequivocally.

The second album in the series, American II: Unchained, features Tom Petty and his inimitable Heartbreakers as Cash's backing band, a pretty inspired pairing, by the sound of it. Several of the tracks are covers, often from unexpected sources; Rowboat (Beck), Rusty Cage (Soundgarden) etc. with excellent results, in most cases. Both Petty and his keyboard player, Benmont Tench, play Chamberlain on the album, with a variety of strings (violas? Solo violin?) on Spiritual, Southern Accents and Unchained; almost fooling the ear into thinking it's a real string section. Nice Chamby use, but outclassed by the quality of the album itself.

No Chamberlin on American III: Solitary Man, but Tench was back on 2002's American IV: The Man Comes Around, this time on Mellotron, along with ex-Jellyfish man Roger Manning on Chamby and 'Tron. Sadly, it turned out to be the last album of Cash's life, released mere months before the death of his wife, June Carter Cash, followed with almost indecent haste by that of the great man himself. His voice is noticeably less sonorous than on Unchained, and his song selection is rather more variable (Bridge Over Troubled Water? Danny Boy?), but there are some stunning performances on the album, not least his searing version of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt, with a video to match. More covers, with The Beatles' In My Life and Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus, although hokey country like Give My Love To Rose slightly dilutes the overall effect. Hurt is the first of the album's two tape-replay tracks, with 'Tron flutes and strings from Tench. There's more flutes, plus strings, choirs and raucous cellos from Manning on Bridge Over Troubled Water, which is less cheesy than you might expect, although I'm not sure which is Chamby and which 'Tron.

A year after Cash's death, the astonishing 5-CD set Unearthed appeared, containing no less than four discs of previously-unheard material from the Rubin sessions, plus a 'greatest hits' compiled from Americans I-IV; to quote an online reviewer, "Cash's rejects are better than most artists' greatest hits", with which it's difficult to argue. The unheard material has been loosely grouped together according to style and subject, with disc one, Who's Gonna Cry, being exclusively acoustic, and disc four (an unreleased completed album from around the time of American III, which explains its relative brevity), My Mother's Hymn Book, being gospel songs. There are several duets spread across the set, including Joe Strummer (Bob Marley's Redemption Song), Nick Cave (Cindy) and Fiona Apple (a less successful take on Cat Stevens' Father And Son), but it's Cash's voice that captivates here, on old classics like Long Black Veil, or new ones such as Cash's own Caretaker, with the heartbreaking line, "Who's gonna cry when old John dies?"

On the Mellotron/Chamberlin front, Cash's version of Neil Young's Pocahontas has some flutes, while Jimmy Webb's Wichita Lineman (popularised by Glen Campbell, of course) has sympathetic string and cello parts, although Big Iron's cellos are rather less obvious. Two of the set's four discs (one and four) are entirely acoustic, with only one decent 'Tron track across the other two discs, but that isn't why you need this release. Of the five discs, the only one you may (I do say may) have trouble with is four, My Mother's Hymn Book. Gospel music is all well and good, but to a heathen like me, the usual preposterous nonsense about living for ever in paradise etc.etc. begins to grate after a while. Sorry, John. The tracklisting above omits disc five, as the entry's quite long enough already, and the two tape-replay tracks are available on the other two relevant albums.

Just to prove that the vaults are not only not empty, but still contain very worthy material, 2006 brought American V: A Hundred Highways, although, frankly, it could just as easily have been subtitled 'Songs About Death'. Of course, I doubt whether Cash actually intended these songs to fit together like this; posthumous editing can give a very different spin on things, but just about everything here has something to do with death, be it the jaunty Like The 309 or Hank Williams' heartbreaking On The Evening Train. And I think we all know what the authors meant on I'm Free From The Chain Gang Now... Benmont Tench is credited with piano, harpsichord and organ so what's that I can hear on Springsteen's Further On Up The Road? Polyphonic flutes, too much warble for a Mellotron, so presumably Chamby. Actually, the instrumental credits are exceedingly vague, with a long list of 'additional musicians who offered invaluable contributions', in contrast to the detailed credits on earlier albums. Incidentally, Rubin's sleevenotes are centred around the night he heard Cash had died and how he kept the news from his fellow diners so as not to spoil the evening. In their near-decade of collaboration, the two obviously became very close, and I don't think it's an overstatement to say that Rubin effectively retrieved Cash from his '70s and '80s doldrums and possibly even absolved him, in whichever way you care to take that.

So; Unchained is probably the best of these albums overall, but the highlights of The Man Comes Around are probably, er, higher, while Unearthed and A Hundred Highways have many gems among the also-rans. Either way, all these albums contain classic tracks, and are worthy closers to Cash's career. Reasonable Chamberlin/Mellotron stuff, too, with two excellent 'Tron tracks in Bridge Over Troubled Water, bizarrely, and Wichita Lineman. Buy? According to taste.

Official site

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Michael Cassidy  (US)

Michael Cassidy, 'Nature's Secret' Michael Cassidy, 'Nature's Secret'

Nature's Secret  (1977,  33.52)  **½/T

Come Along
Golden Avatara
Sign of Surrender
Simple Living
Spirit of Reason
Hidden Worlds

I'll Never Be Younger Than Today
Nature's Secret
Embodiment of Bliss
Oh Thoughtful Men

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

If you're British and have ever trawled through second-hand or charity shops (and who hasn't?), you will at some point have run into a copy of Golden Avatar's 1976 opus Change of Heart. I have one. Have I ever played it? No, I haven't. I believe that the reason the market's so flooded with them is that they were sold, probably for a 'contribution', by London's Krishnas (or Krsnas), a familiar, orange-robed sight to anyone who's spent any time in the West End.

The man behind the album, Michael Cassidy, released another album the following year under his own name, Nature's Secret, which seems to've been available in various sleeve designs, depending on the country of release. It's dated for '77, let alone '79, the release date I've seen quoted as often as not, it's mid-'70s soft rock aesthetic disappearing gently into a haze of... Hang on, this guy's a Krishna devotee, not a West Coast hippy, so the phrase I was about to use, 'pot smoke', is probably irrelevant. Or not? In fairness, I've heard worse, but the upbeat material's pretty disposable, leaving the gentler tracks (Surrender, I'll Never Be Younger Than Today) as its least dull.

Wayne Cook (Steppenwolf, other lesser-knowns) plays keys, with quite unmistakeable Mellotron strings on Spirit Of Reason and Hidden Worlds, although that seems to be our lot. Compared to Change of Heart, Nature's Secret is relatively hard to find, or maybe it turns up in places other than London. Either way, while vaguely acceptable, it's all distinctly unexciting, with only a couple of minor Mellotron appearances to spice it up at all.

Cast  (Mexico)  see: Samples etc.

Castle Canyon  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Cristian Castro  (Mexico)  see: Samples etc.

Catbird  (Denmark)  see: Samples etc.

Catch Up  (Germany)

Catch Up, 'Catch Up Vol. 1'

Catch Up Vol. 1  (1975,  35.47)  ***/TT

Catch Up
Bordun
Onkel Joe
Moonlight on a Baldhead
Lydia
Blues for the Kaiser
A Night Without Dreams/The Little Things That Make Us Happy

Spinning Wheel

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The multi-national trio (Czech, Swiss and German) of Milan Pilar, Charly Antolini and Max Greger Jr. apparently met while playing in Greger's father's (doubtless jazz) band. They decided to record an album of them 'blowing' at their hottest, calling themselves Catch Up, although I've also seen them listed under their names. Catch Up Vol. 1 (I don't believe there was ever a Vol. 2) is in many ways a typical German fusion album, full of fiery playing, but this time adding a funk sensibility that most of their peers couldn't match, making this a favourite with the breakbeat crowd. As with most fusion, if you're of the post-beatnik persuasion you'll probably like it, and if not... Spinning Wheel was the one track that really caught my ear, probably due to Greger's ripping Hammond solo, reminding me slightly of the much-missed Rick van der Linden's playing in Trace.

Fairly typical fusion 'Tron use, with slabs of heavily-reverbed strings wafting around in the background on Onkel Joe and a cello line with discordant strings in Lydia. Slightly more tuneful strings and cellos in Blues For The Kaiser and a flute melody in the latter part of A Night Without Dreams/The Little Things That Make Us Happy makes for reasonably heavy Mellotron use in the genre, bordering the point at which you could buy it (cheaply) for that alone. Decent enough, with the proviso that it's instrumental jazz fusion of the most uncompromising kind.

Chris Catena  (Italy)  see: Samples etc.

Cathedral  (US)

Cathedral, 'Stained Glass Stories' CD Cathedral, 'Stained Glass Stories' LP

Stained Glass Stories  (1978,  45.25)  ****½/TTTT½

Introspect
Gong
The Crossing
Days and Changes
The Search
Cathedral, 'The Bridge'

The Bridge  (2007,  58.40)  ****/TTTT

The Monsterhead Suite: parts 1, 2, & 3
Satellite
Hollins

Kithara Interludium
Angular World
The Lake
The Secret

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

For anyone who's heard Sweden's Änglagård, the Cathedral sound will have a strange ring of familiarity to it; that 'play a riff twice, then move on Then...to something else before boredom sets in' approach. However, Stained Glass Stories predates the Swedes by nearly fifteen years, so Cathedral can probably be said to have actually invented the technique. It's impossible to pick a standout track, although album opener Introspect may just possibly be the best example of their sound, with Mellotron church organ as well as the more familiar sounds.

Keyboard player Tom Doncourt goes all-out on the 'Tron front, with more string section and (male voice?) choir than you can shake the proverbial stick at, including a possibly over-ambitious choir melody that stretches the machine, er, slightly past its design limitations. Fantastic use all round, though, making this one of the American Mellotron albums. Doncourt still has his machine, unlike so many of his contemporaries, and is talking about putting out some of his post-Cathedral work at some point. So, if you want to hear one of the best US prog albums EVER, buy!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... Fast-forward almost thirty years, and instead of solo Doncourt, what should appear but a new Cathedral album? 2007's The Bridge features, amazingly, four of the five original band members, with only guitarist Rudy Perrone missing (and then only recently), replaced by David Doig. So, have they mellowed in the interim? Have they settled into a comfy musical middle age, playing soft rock with a hint of neo-prog about it? Have they hell. Opener The Monsterhead Suite has a Crimson feel about it, while Satellite's angular riffs aren't going to please the armchair brigade one little bit. ...And nowGood. Unsurprisingly, the album has echoes of the band's original sound about it, although also unsurprisingly, many other influences have clearly been soaked up in the intervening decades, which only serve to broaden their palette and make them more inventive. Paul Seal's vocals are both as melodic and as unconventional as ever, the marvellously-named Mercury Caronia IV's percussion work is still offbeat, while remaining strictly on the beat, and Fred Callan (driving force behind the reformation, apparently) still plays Taurus pedals, though nowhere near as much as I'd like. Album's highpoint? hard to say, but the closing couple of minutes of The Secret are pretty cataclysmic.

Doncourt's Mellotron work is as full-on as ever, with some tricky string pitchbends on The Monsterhead Suite, alongside cellos, choirs, and some unidentified woodwind. Of course, this is 2007, so he's also credited with 'other keyboards', so it's not always easy to determine what's what with the less-obvious sounds, although the bulk of his work consists of the Old Favourites, but since when did we have a problem with that? Although Tom plays real flute on the album, that's definitely the taped variety at the beginning of Angular World (see, told you they were angular), and is that Mellotron brass in The Secret? In fact, the only 'Tron-free track is Doig's acoustic solo piece, Kithara Interludium, which doesn't overreach itself, even at seven minutes, making this a Mellotron-lover's dream.

So; Stained Glass Stories is one of the '70s most inventive US prog albums, and The Bridge is one of the most inventive of whatever you call this decade, making the flaccid likes of The Flower Kings et al. look as safe as they are. If you have any interest in lesser-known prog, I strongly urge you to buy both these albums pronto (assuming you can actually find their debut, as I believe it's been criminally discontinued), both for the music and the Mellotron. And it's real! More, please.

Official site

See: Rudy Perrone | Fauve Museum


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