Damon & Naomi
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse
David Karsten Daniels
Dark Ocean Colors
Martin Darvill & Friends
David Devant & His Spirit Wife
Ethan Daniel Davidson
Stanton Davis' Ghetto/Mysticism
Lavori in Corso (1997, 60.15) ****/T½Work Machine
La Sua Anima
Trip on Metrò
Space Age Man
DFA (Duty Free Area) are another recent Italian band, along with the likes of Finisterre and their offshoot, Höstsonaten, who have rejected the irritating 'modernism' of the neo-prog crowd, delving instead into their own country's musical past and taking on board influences from the '70s greats such as Banco and PFM. Although jazzier than the above-named bands, DFA are firmly in the 'non-neo' area and, as such, are worth hearing.
Lavori in Corso ('Work in Progress') was their debut release, and the only one to date to feature Alberto Bonomi's Hammond and Mellotron skills. Much of it featured re-recordings of tracks from their 1995 demo, Trip on Metrò which, while listed on their site, is almost certainly long-deleted. The music reminds me of various '70s bands, not least Italian jazz-rock greats Area, with hints of Gentle Giant in places. Incidentally, I've listed the tracks as they are on the band's site, not as per the CD insert, making Pantera a lengthy two-part track including La Sua Anima. There's a little confusion over Bonomi's 'Tron use, as I'm certain the strings in Collage, for one, are modern generic samples, and I've only included Space Age Man because of the 'stabbed' chords near the end which sound more 'Tron than string sample. However, most of his limited use is standard 8-choir, including a short burst at the end of the 16-minute La Via, though you have to begin to wonder whether any of it's real.
DFA followed up a year later with Duty Free Area (***½), a jazzier work, then Work in Progress Live (***½) from their US NEARfest performance in 2000, although nothing seems to have been heard from the band since their appearance at Baja Prog in 2002. They haven't made a bad album yet, though (assuming they're still in existence), and Lavori in Corso is probably the best of the three. Recommended.
Zen of Logic (2006, 56.29) ***/T
|Peace Y'all (I am in the House)
9th Ward Blues
Jason "DJ Logic" Kibler is part of the New York scene that includes Medeski Martin & Wood and Scotty Hard and was mentored by Living Colour's guitarist extraordinaire Vernon Reid, giving him kudos here immediately. Zen of Logic is his fourth album, featuring his turntablist skills extensively, alongside musicians of the calibre of Medeski and Hard. Musically, it's a hip-hop/jazz cross, effectively, with elements of other styles thrown into the cauldron; not typical Planet Mellotron fare, I'll grant you, but good at what it does.
Medeski plays credited Mellotron on Rat Pack, with choir chords and a flute melody that do the usual thing for the song. Shame it's not on anything else, but there you go. A hip-hop album that has nothing to do with bling, ho's, bitches etc. etc. Makes a nice change, no? Kibler/Logic's clearly way beyond such idiocies; if only the brand leaders would take a leaf from his book. They won't, of course, as their sales would plummet, which says more about the general public's intelligence than I ever could.
See: Medeski Martin & Wood | Scotty Hard
Disorganicorigami (2009, 59.53) ***½/T½Holocaustica
The Dance of the Drastic Navels Part 1
A Saucerful of Secrets
Children of Our Dreams
Var Glad Var Dag
Destruktive Actions Affect Livings (2011, 60.10) ****/TTTRedroom
Noises From an Interlude
The Dance of the Drastic Navels part II
Destruktive Actions Affect Livings
Memories of Old Pictures
Dodecahedron (2012, 70.37) ****/TTT½
Rökstenen: A Tribute to Swedish Progressive Rock of the 70's (2010) ****/TT[Daal contribute]
Var Glad Var Dag
Dante's Paradiso: The Divine Comedy, Part III (2010) ****/TT[Daal contribute]
The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe: A SyNphonic Collection (2010) ****/TT[Daal contribute]
Daal are the brainchild of keys man Alfio Costa (Tilion, Prowlers) and drummer Davide Guidoni (Taproban), whose debut, 2009's near-unpronounceable Disorganicorigami, refreshes ears tired of the same old 'progressive' clichés. No two tracks on the essentially instrumental album sound alike, swerving violently between prog metal (Chimaira), tribal synth experimentation (Mo(o)nso(o)n), lengthy avant-prog (The Dance Of The Drastic Navels Part 1) and even out-there fusion (the title track). Top marks, though, may go to their very psychedelic take on Pink Floyd's A Saucerful Of Secrets, complete with wordless female vocals, the song only really becoming recognisable when the iconic piano part kicks in. Costa plays an assortment of real and virtual synths and vintage 'boards, including his M400 (naturally), with a flute part in Chimaira, full-on strings on Brian Melody and flutes and strings on closer Var Glad Var Dag, though none to any major degree.
2011's Destruktive Actions Affect Livings is, by and large, better all round, although I'm not so sure about the slightly formless, ten-minute title track. Top tracks include Level 6666, the sixteen-minute The Dance Of The Drastic Navels part II (the album's centrepiece and its sole vocal track) and gorgeous closer Memories Of Old Pictures, though little here is anything less than thought-provoking. More of Costa's M400 this time round, with string section on AnarChrist, strings on Level 6666, flutes on The Dance Of The Drastic Navels Part II and flutes and strings on Memories Of Old Pictures, generally used to a greater degree than on Disorganicorigami.
I haven't heard 2011's limited-edition Echoes of Falling Stars, but the following year's Dodecahedron (fittingly) is a twelve-part piece, with less obvious diversity than on their previous releases. Largely avant-prog, it also incorporates elements of contemporary and mediaeval folk, early 20th Century classical and, er, King Crimson, a recurring motif owing a debt to that band's 1974 lineup. Unless I'm missing something, Alfio plays Mellotron strings and/or flutes (as against the album's real one) on all parts except IV, VI and XI, although the strings sound slightly muffled; have they been routed through a grimy tape-delay?
If you're looking for modern prog albums that don't sound like everyone else (so; are Spock's Beard the new neo-prog? Discuss), Daal may well perk up your jaded taste buds, although be warned: some of you may find their wild genre freestyling a bit much to take. They're definitely admirable albums; only time will tell whether or not they're ones I'll return to with any regularity. More Mellotron on the second than the first and what's more, we know it's real.
See: Tilion | Colossus Project
Visitor (2002, 39.53) ***/T
My Days Go on
If He Comes
A Man's Requirements
House of Clouds
Norway's Dadafon, at least going by their third album, 2002's Visitor, play a rather Scandinavian form of melancholy pop, which isn't to say every track on the album crawls by at a pace that would make a sloth look lively. It opens with the so-slow-it's-almost-rhythmless After All, but several tracks (My Days Go On, Release Me) roll along at a fair clip, not that it makes them sound much more cheerful. There's a distinct folk influence in places; Babylon features an accordion, while several tracks have at least violin and cello, if not a full string quartet, not that that's exactly folky, but you know what I mean.
I'm still not at all sure that Lars Lien (3rd & the Mortal, many others) actually uses a real Mellotron, but whatever he's using is splattered all over Bygones, with some quite upfront flutes and strings, although the latter have a really odd tone to them. Overall, this isn't a 'Mellotron Album', but if you like the sound of the band's style, the one relevant track is worth hearing.
Ung Och Stolt (1987, 43.06) **½/T
|Jag Klär av Mig Naken
Ung Och Stolt
Lämna Mej Inte Här
|Allt för Dej
Hjärtats Ödsliga Slag
Eva Dahlgren is a successful, mainstream Swedish pop/rock artist, active since the late '70s, 1987's Ung Och Stolt being her seventh album. It's a long way from the trashy, 'typical '80s production you might expect, with a torch song/cabaret influence on several tracks, which isn't to say it's either groundbreaking or something I'd particularly recommend, but at least much of it doesn't actually offend.
Anders Glenmark plays Mellotron on Mitt Liv, with upfront choppy string, flute and cello parts on an album released in one of the lowest-Mellotron-use years since the mid-'60s. So; not terrible, one genuinely good Mellotron track.
|CDS (1997 22.26) **/½
Me Manquer (remixé par Bibi et Étienne Daho - version longue)
Me Manquer (version single)
De Bien Jolies Flammes (inédit - rough mix alternatif)
Me Manquer (remixé par Bibi et Étienne Daho - version courte)
Me Manquer (Londres en été - Air remix)
For somebody I've never heard of, Étienne Daho has been around for a surprisingly long time, having been born in the mid-'50s. 1997's five-track Me Manquer single (originally on the previous year's Eden) is a fairly typical chanson-influenced French pop song, entirely unremarkable, unless you understand French and listen to the lyrics. Thinking about it, it's probably unremarkable even then.
The only thing that interests us here is the last track, the Londres En Été - Air remix, where that outfit's Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin apparently both add a vague flute part that neither enhances nor detracts from the overall impression. Will you bother with this? Unlikely.
This River Only Brings Poison (2003, 51.07) ***/0
|The Leper's Companion
Boats in a Sunken Ocean
The Finished River
Let's Share Wounds
Sand Fools the Shoreline
Let's Be on Our Own
The Ferris Wheel of Winter
|We Made it Rain
How Safe We Must Seem
Pillows in the Water
Matching Eyes and Hands
Space Around Your Sleeping
Dakota Suite, maybe surprisingly, are British (Leeds, actually), although not only their name, but their sound makes the listener think of wide open prairies and other Americana. Two ex-members of American Music Club guest, another obvious reference point being the very quiet Low, with hints of country, folk and jazz all making themselves known (muted horns and pedal steel), although the end result is pretty uncategorisable.
Bruce Kaphan (from AMC) plays Mellotron, with absolutely nothing audible whatsoever on Let's Be On Our Own. Why bother, chaps? Anyway, overall, an album for quiet times; literally, as it would be entirely inaudible on a long car journey or while doing the vacuuming. Apparently, the US version adds four bonus tracks, but it seems long enough as it is, I'd say, with no obvious Mellotron use.
Sera - Mattina (1972, 35.07) ***/TT½Ogni Sera Cosi
Quando Scendevi le Scale
L'Altro Me Stesso
Le Mie Illusioni
Il Cielo e la Terra
La Grande Pianura
Gianni Dall'aglio, later drummer with Il Volo, produced a solo album, Sera - Mattina, in 1972, though it'd be difficult to classify this as particularly progressive, with most of it consisting of piano ballads in the Italian style. It isn't bad at what it does, but even at only 35 minutes, it begins to drag after a few tracks, especially when one is unable to understand the lyrics. The pace does pick up occasionally, notably on closer Per Amore, when the whole band suddenly kick off in the middle of the song, almost sounding like a rock band for a moment.
Gaetano Leandro plays organ, Moog and Mellotron throughout, although Dall'aglio himself plays all the piano and the occasional drum part. Leandro's 'Tron use is pretty upfront, particularly the first time you hear it, with some very high-in-the-mix flutes on opener Ogni Sera Cosi. From there on, it's strings all the way, although L'Altro Me Stesso quite clearly has uncredited string synth. I can't honestly say the 'Tron use is exactly innovative, though it is most pleasant, reducing the album's potential cheese factor from how it might've been had they used real strings (probably didn't have the budget).
So; a somewhat so-so record, with few progressive highlights, but a decent enough helping of Mellotron. Your choice.
Where it Lands (2002, 36.49) ***½/T
|All Night Special
Quarter in the Couch
Wanna Be Your Mama
Steeple Full of Swallows
New Hope Cemetery
Tora Tora Tora
Time to Go Home
After various label hassles, The Damnations have shucked off the 'TX' appendage attached to their name for their debut, 1999's Half Mad Moon, and have gone down the independent route for Where it Lands. Probably the best description of their style is the already-wearing-thin appellation 'Americana', i.e. country-ish post-punk rock - a sort of Cash/Clash crossover, maybe, although they don't really sound like either artist. New Hope Cemetery is a good example of the Clash side of their sound, though they mostly tend towards the Cash.
Like many of their peers, the two-female/two-male outfit use quite retro equipment, where appropriate, so various elderly organs and pianos are the order of the day, not to mention one 'Tron track, Animal Children. It's a fairly typically country number, although the chord changes go in a different direction to the expected, which has to be good; guitarist Rob Bernard plays a mournful string part toward the end of the track, though it doesn't exactly fall into the 'essential 'Tron' category, to be honest.
So; a good album at what it does (which makes a nice change), with one very minor bit of 'Tron. Buy only if Americana's your bag.
The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi (1995, 41.45) **½/T½
|In the Morning
The New Historicism
Tour of the World
Forgot to Get High
Life Will Pass You By
Who am I
New York City
Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang are the two-thirds of Galaxie 500 who aren't Dean Phillips, later of Luna. After G500's split (Wareham walked out), Krukowski and Yang formed Damon & Naomi, releasing their first album, More Sad Hits, in 1992. They followed up with '95's The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi, a strange little album of rather tortured-sounding folk-influenced, downbeat indie, for want of a better description. It's one of those albums where a few tracks sound fine, but even forty minutes of it begins to drag after a while, which is a shame, as its basic premise is good, just slightly overplayed.
Producer Kramer plays Mellotron, with exceedingly full-on flute and string parts on Pandora's Box and more strings on How Long, although the rumoured 'Tron on opener In The Morning turns out to be a chimera. So; not a bad album, but one that could've been better with a little more variety. Two decent 'Tron tracks leaves the ball in your court, methinks.
Tales of the Riverbank (2001, recorded 1972, 39.08) ***½/TTTales of the Riverbank
This Change in Me
Mind the Houses
Dancer were a little-known progressive band hailing from the Isle of Wight, a rather culturally isolated island off the south coast of England, although it's only a short ferry ride from the mainland. Although they released nothing in their lifetime, luckily they had the resources to record an album's-worth of material in 1972, finally released by those nice people at Kissing Spell in 2001 as Tales of the Riverbank, and would'ja believe it, it's really very good? Its highlight is undoubtedly the lengthy title track, which is a full-on prog epic, no less, but while some of the tracks (Mac's Cafe, Mind The Houses) are a bit on the ordinary side, there's nothing here that actually offends.
One (the only?) interesting fact about Dancer is that their keyboard player was a young Anthony Minghella, now, of course, known as director of 'The English Patient' et al. Given that the album was recorded in a London studio and was produced by the Groundhogs' Tony McPhee, the band had access to some pretty good equipment, and Minghella got some 'Tron (McPhee's?) on a couple of tracks (McPhee is also rumoured to have played it at the session). Tales Of The Riverbank itself has cellos near the beginning, with a good quantity of strings scattered throughout the piece, plus a brass part on Morning, although that appears to be it, despite Internet witterings to the contrary.
So; that rarity, a good 'unreleased album' (see: Fantasy), although most of its reputation rests on its title track, to be honest. Just about worth it on the 'Tron front, too, though again, largely for its centrepiece. Top marks to Kissing Spell, anyway.
A sad footnote to this review is that Minghella died on the 18th March, 2008, of complications from a cancer operation. After such a stellar career in film, it's hardly surprising that his rump musical career hasn't been mentioned in the obituaries.
Dark Night of the Soul (2010, 45.45) ***/0
Star Eyes (I Can't Catch it)
Everytime I'm With You
Man Who Played God
Dark Night of the Soul
Brian Joseph "Danger Mouse" Burton is best known for his production work and his groundbreaking The Grey Album, a witty mash-up of Jay-Z's Black Album (vocals) and The Beatles' White Album (beats), never officially released, due to a 'cease and desist' order from EMI. All this makes his 2010 collaboration with Sparklehorse, of all people, Dark Night of the Soul, his only generally available full-length release. Almost every track features an outside lyricist-cum-vocalist, including The Flaming Lips, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Suzanna Vega and Vic Chesnutt, most of them writing in their usual style, subsequently mutated by both of the featured artists. Different listeners will, of course, prefer different tracks, but The Pixies' Black Francis' Angel's Harp and Iggy Pop's Pain are probably my personal favourites.
Mr Mouse plays Mellotron on Pain, with absolutely nothing audible, not to mention I suspect samples anyway. So; a reasonable, sensibly-lengthed album, although I'm fully aware I completely miss the point by saying I, er, don't especially like Mr Mouse's distorted electronica splattered slightly needlessly over everything here. God, I'm so unhip. Incidentally, electronica or no electronica, this is a fitting eulogy for Vic Chesnutt and Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous, both, sadly, subsequently amongst the departed.
|7" (1968) ***½/TT½
Conversations (in a Station Light Refreshment Bar part 1)
Very little is known about A.P. Dangerfield, almost certainly a nom-de-plume, probably of the Carter/Lewis production team behind The Flower Pot Men. Their sole single, 1968's Conversations (in a Station Light Refreshment Bar) was a two-part effort, split over both sides of the disc, the a-side of which probably works better, although this is crying out for a professional edit of both halves. It's a typical Kinks/Beatlesesque effort, complete with station announcements; thinking about it, Manfred Mann's kitchen-sink mini-dramas are probably a better comparison. You get the idea, anyway.
The unknown Mellotron player adds some lovely flute and string parts to both sides, making it a pity this isn't more easily available, although it has turned up on a limited-edition box set, We Can Fly. Given that you may not want to splash out on an expensive set that's probably already sold out, there's a download of both sides around somewhere, too. Recommended. Incidentally, major thanks to Julian for putting me onto this and supplying the label scan.
Motor Cycle (1993, 48.18) ***/TTT
|Banquet at the World's End
Hole in the World
(What's Come) Over Me
Grace is the Smell of Rain
So Long Again
I'm surprised to find out that Daniel Amos (there's no such person, of course, also known as D.A. or Dä) have been around since 1974. While nominally CCM, they refuse to fall into the Christian music trap, at least going by 1993's Motor Cycle, which is a pleasant enough album of harmless pop/rock. OK, so little here makes me want to leap up and down in sheer joy (OK, none of it), but nor did anything actually offend, which is such a rarity for me in the Christian music industry that it's worth mentioning.
Rob Watson plays Mellotron, in those effectively pre-sample days, slathering it all over the album like there's no tomorrow, to my great surprise. What you get is a skronky flute part opening the album, with flutes and strings on Traps, Ensnares, flutes on Buffalo Hills, Motorcycle and Noelle and strings on Grace Is The Smell Of Rain. It's possible there's a little more hiding away somewhere (little of it is high in the mix), but this is certainly the main use. So; an inoffensive Christian album, Hooray! No cheeso lyrics (or none that I noticed), no vile, nursery-rhyme melodies, no horrid ballads... And plenty of Mellotron. Result!
See: Terry Scott Taylor
Sharp Teeth (2007, 36.52) ***½/T
|The Dream Before the Ring That Woke Me
Jesus and the Devil
Sharp Teeth I
Universe of No Parts
|Sharp Teeth II
We Go Right on
David Karsten Daniels is a peripatetic American musician who's lived in at least three wildly differing parts of his country, which I can only assume has had an effect on his worldview and songwriting. His melancholy take on, well, life, informs an album of frequent quiet beauty in Sharp Teeth, disturbing cover image and all. It's not as if every track is taken at a funereal pace, mind; American Pastime is jaunty enough, in a slowcore kind of way, while Minnows, although slow, builds to an incredible crescendo that reminds me, for no particular reason, of late-period Cardiacs. There aren't actually any bad tracks here, but Jesus And The Devil stands out, despite its slightly hackneyed lyrics, alongside Minnows.
Alex Lazara is credited with Mellotron, but the only place it can obviously be heard is the lengthyish Beasts, with quiet flutes (and possibly choir) laid over Daniels' guitar and voice, barely giving the album a whole T. Overall, however, this is really rather good, just not for its Mellotronic input. Buy anyway.
Incidentally, I've read that there might be more 'Tron on Daniels' subsequent release, 2008's Fear of Flying (***), but it doesn't appear to be credited and upon scrutiny, opening track Wheelchair has something flutey in the background, but it could be just about anything. In other words, it might be, it might not be, so it doesn't get on this site unless I know for definite that it's there.
|7" (2010) **½/TT
Danielson are, effectively, Daniel Smith and whoever's around that day, as far as I can work out. Smith had a 'spiritual awakening' (a.k.a. breakdown, followed by Christian conversion?) at college, although his subsequent work has been praised by various non-'worship community' media; in fairness, he doesn't seem to align himself with the CCM crowd, which is A Good Thing. 2010 single Moment Soakers is a twee little indie number, sadly, although its flip, Eagle, is rather better, a stately, Mellotron-led track, more Americana then indie.
Mellotron? Lew Rusko gets the credit, with a string part running through most of the track that might even be real, although it's becoming harder and harder to tell. I can't honestly recommend the 'A', but the 'B' is rather more listenable, with the considerable bonus of some decent Mellotron work.
Official label site
The White Album [as Danna & Clément] (1977, 24.55) ***½/TTDarkness at Noon
The People Left Behind
Watch the Clouds
Summer Last Words
Winter (Season of the Holocaust)
Elements (1979, 33.58) ***½/TFire
For the last twenty years, Mychael Danna has been known primarily as a composer of film scores, including Being Julia, Monsoon Wedding and Ride With The Devil, but he'd been making music for a good decade before his 1987 film debut (Family Viewing), with his first release, The White Album (as Danna & [Tim] Clément), dating from as early as 1977. Originally a single-sided LP, its brief 25 minutes lay out Danna's future gameplan, multi-overdubbed synth soundscapes sounding little like other electronic pioneers of the time, having more of a basis in progressive rock, if not the classical scene. Ping-Pong Parade opens with the (real or faked?) sound of a late '70s electronic ping-pong game (one of the earliest home computer games, for those too young to remember), while closer The Seasons takes up half the side, its thoughtful synth/guitar sonorities the diametric opposite of the era's wilder synthesists. Danna plays Mellotron choirs and strings on one of the album's two vocal tracks, The People Left Behind, strings on part three of The Seasons, Winter (Season Of The Holocaust) and flutes on part four, Spring, the other vocal piece, all to good effect.
1979's Elements appears to be his debut solo album proper and, rather unsurprisingly, sounds a little like a soundtrack in places, although it also has the feel of one of those 'classical music played on synths' records, but in a good way. His brother and future soundtrack collaborator Jeff and the aforementioned Tim Clément play guitar, not that there's an awful lot to be heard, ditto Larry Potvin's percussion; this is Mychael's record, make no mistake. Opener Fire is particularly orchestral sounding, with Air being more of an enhanced piano piece, with side two's pieces being more 'electronic', whatever you take that to mean. Danna uses the Mellotron pretty subtly, with ethereal ('Tron cliché alert) choirs at the beginning of Fire, sparse strings in Water and almost-unnoticeable flutes in Earth, but that would appear to be your lot, with the various synths definitely taking centre-stage across most of the album.
Amazingly, The White Album is available on CD, but Elements is sadly long out of print, although I picked an almost pristine copy up at an exceedingly reasonable 'buy it now' price on eBay, so it's not impossible to find. But do you want to? Well, if synth-heavy instrumental prog is your thing, I think you probably do. Let's just hope some label with more sense than money sees fit to reissue this at some point, assuming Mr. Danna hasn't locked the master tapes away or destroyed them or something. Not a classic, but not at all bad, although not worth it for the 'Tron. Incidentally, Canuck power trio Triumph's second album, '77's Rock & Roll Machine, features a certain 'Mike' Danna on extra keyboards, including the Mellotron on one track.
Traurig Aber Wahr (1980, 43.30) ***/½Vogelfrei/Der Schrei
Ich Will Nicht Mehr
Traurig, Aber Wahr
Der Alte Wessely (Gewidmet 140.000 Österreichern)
Ich Steig Aus
Zerschlagt die Computer/Diese Riesige Maschine
Georg Danzer was one of Austria's better-known singer-songwriters (he died in 2007), producing over forty studio and live albums in a thirty five-year career. Unsurprisingly, 1980's Traurig Aber Wahr is pretty much of its time, as is so often the case with artists whose chief raison d'être is to communicate their thoughts via song, musical style often being pushed down the priority list. The album flits between piano ballads (Deppert's Kind, Der Alte Wessely), vaguely new-wavish material (Ich Will Nicht Mehr, Ich Steig Aus) and several tracks with a vaguely progressive feel to them. Strangely, the album has not just a Pink Floyd influence, but a very specific Wish You Were Here one: opener Vogelfrei is a low-budget Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the title track kicks off in Wish You Were Here itself mode, Zerschlagt Die Computer has a faint Welcome To The Machine feel, while Diese Riesige Maschine has a more general Gilmour thing going on. Weird.
Eberhard "Bär" Wieland supposedly plays Mellotron, although the only even vaguely possible part is the distant choirs on Vogelfrei, the male voices on Der Alte Wessely appearing to be real. I'm not sure whom, other than Danzer fans, might go for this odd album; its progressiveness is too diffuse to appeal to any but the most desperate prog fan, while new wave fans will probably dislike its Floydisms. Not actually a bad record, in its own way, but not one for Mellotron fans, either.
Carmin (2007, 44.30) ***/TT½
Big Daddy Boy
Déclaration à Celui
Mourir d'un Oeil
Le Petit Navire
Les Yeux Comanches
Par la Fenêtre
Le Songe de Neptune
Daphné (real/full name unknown) is a French jazz/pop/chanson singer, of the kind only France can produce. Her second album, 2007's Carmin, is perfectly acceptable, if a trifle dull in places, especially for non-French speakers, although I doubt whether she could care less. Best tracks? The mournful Big Daddy Boy, the superbly-arranged male vocal harmonies of Les Yeux Comanches and closer Le Songe De Neptune, perhaps, although no individual track really lets the side down.
Fred Pallem (Kent) plays Chamberlin on several tracks, with strings on opener Musicamor, flutes on Big Daddy Boy, Déclaration À Celui and L'Homme Piano and both sounds on Le Petit Navire. It's possible the vibes on a couple of tracks are Chamberlinic, too, but I wouldn't actually put money on it. A pretty decent modern French singer-songwriter effort, then, although a working knowledge of the language would help in its appreciation.
Official record company site
Amours Suprêmes (2008, 39.57) ***/½
J'Irai au Paradis
Un An et un Jour
La Seule Fille sur Terre
Ça Ne Sert a Rien
La Vie est Mortelle
Daniel "Darc" Rozoum (born 1959) made his name in Taxi Girl in the early '80s, releasing his first solo album in 1987. 2008's Amours Suprêmes is only his fifth, an eclectic, very French record that skips between '60s-esque opener Les Remords, a synthpop feel on L.U.V. and (big surprise) the chanson of the sort-of title track, while the inclusion of two members of Elvis Costello's Attractions on La Seule Fille Sur Terre gives it a little noo wave credibility.
Chief composer, arranger and musician Frédéric Lo adds Mellotron to one track, with what sounds like a background brass part on La Seule Fille Sur Terre, although you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for something (anything?) else. While better than expected, I can't honestly say that this album especially floats my boat, although, unlike many, at least it's good at what it does. Don't bother for the Mellotron, though.
Dark Ocean Colors (2011, 35.38) ***½/TTT
|My Barbara Closed the Doors
Crashing the Sky
The Other Line
Love You Much Better
Own the Day
Lazy Lighthouse Jupiter Band
Alone With Candy
Same Old Mistake
|She's a Cornucopia
Dark Ocean Colors are the duo of Scott Hunt and Mark Mikel, whose rather gorgeous eponymous 2011 debut's overriding influence is quite clearly The Beach Boys generally and Pet Sounds in particular, although plenty of other era references creep in. The lush vocal harmonies, the unusual juxtapositioning of instruments, the unashamedly romantic melodies... Brian & Co. spot-on, chaps. Is this a bad thing? When the approach produces an album of this quality, unequivocally 'no'. Highlights include Crashing The Sky, Same Old Mistake and She's A Cornucopia, complete with squelchy Moog line, the album only occasionally crossing the schmaltz line, albeit so cheerfully that it seems rude to point it out.
Mikel plays what sounds like real Mellotron, My Barbara Closed the Doors' string chords opening the album, with choppy cellos later on in the track, the same two sounds also apparent on Own The Day, strings on Lazy Lighthouse Jupiter Band, Alone With Candy and Same Old Mistake and strings and skronky flutes on She's A Cornucopia. Bravo, gentlemen; not everyone's going to like Dark Ocean Colors, but I'd like to think it could raise a smile in anyone with even a hint of romance in their soul. Plenty of Mellotron, too.
Rumours in Our Own Time, Legends in Our Own Room (1980, 35.30) ***/½
Can't Get Used to it
Fun in Nicaragua
|Back on the Streets
Blow it Up!
You Should Envy Me
Down the Tubes
Odd Fellows on an Even Day: Anthology 1977-1995 (2005, 73.22) ***/½
Can't Get Used to it
Fun in Nicaragua
Back on the Streets
|Blow it Up!
You Should Envy Me
Down the Tubes
How I Cried
You & I Are Through
Out on a Limb
|Kiss & Tell
Dogs on Drugs
In the Dark
Another Crack in the Jaw
In the Dark ('95)
You Should Envy Me ('95)
Back Up Man
Dark Side were, essentially, a continuation of Baltimore's avant-gods OHO, although the musical path they chose was utterly different. Imagine a 1980-style 'noo wave' band, with pointed, ironic lyrics, a scratchy, punkish approach to their playing and dollops of Farfisa all over everything, and you won't be too far out. They released one album, the now-so-rare-I-can't-even-find-a-cover-scan-on-the-'Net Rumours in Our Own Time, Legends in Our Own Room, which should probably have done an awful lot better than it did. Just think; what if The Cars had had brains? Decent enough material, although Back On The Streets clearly deliberately rips off (Sittin' On The) Dock Of The Bay, for some unknown reason. Mellotron on one track, Down The Tubes, with some background strings that don't really make that much difference.
As part of a general OHO reissue programme, the whole album was released on CD in 2005 as Odd Fellows on an Even Day: Anthology 1977-1995, expanded to double its original length. Y'know, you've got to really like this stuff to want to listen to an entire album of it... That's not to dismiss it in any way, however; it's good at what it does, just doesn't really hold the attention of one not into the style for over an hour.
See: OHO | Food for Worms
Figure 8 (1999, 43.53) **½/TTT
My Inanimate Friend
Crinolines and Waltzing
Yup, you're seeing that correctly - I haven't forgotten to put the 'end bold text' HTML tag. Kiwi Julia Darling's debut album, Figure 8, is stuffed to the gills with Chamberlin, although, sadly, her music is of the 'bland, overproduced girly singer-songwriter' type, sounding like a watered-down (!) version of Sarah McLachlan or someone. It all pretty much stays at one level throughout, so unless you're particularly captivated by her confessional lyric style, you're likely to become as bored by its lack of variety as me.
Anyway, Chamberlin from Patrick Warren, Benmont Tench and producer Tony Berg, largely strings, but with a notable flute part on My Face. There may be other sounds thrown in, but with odd stuff like a marxophone and a bandura on various tracks, it's rather hard to tell. So; not a very exciting album, although Ms. Darling has a perfectly nice voice, and there's plenty of Chamby work for the aficionado. Pick it up very cheap.
The Greatest Show on Earth (1998, 68.49) **½/½
|Greatest Show ("From the
Greatest Show ("Rest of Our
I Must Go
I Will Love You Forever
|I Must Go (Reprise, including
"The Greatest Show"
"Mother Nature" Excerpt)
Don't Touch the Marble
Greatest Show ("Paradise is
Circus in the Sky
I am the Future
|Greatest Show ("From the Beach" Excerpt)
The Only Way to Fly
In Search of the Holy Grail
The Greatest Show on Earth
Part 1: The Dawning of the Ages
Part 2: From the Beach
Part 3: The Rest of Our Lives (I)
Part 4: The Day of the Rock
Part 5: The Rest of Our Lives (II)
Part 6: The Greatest Show, Finale (Mother Nature)
The Greatest Show on Earth is a rather odd album; going by the extensive sleevenotes, Martin Darvill seems to've been a cohort of members of the fledgling '80s UK neo-prog scene in late-'70s Aylesbury (the town where Marillion first came to prominence, for its sins), but opted to become a successful accountant rather than chance his luck with some dodgy band, and very sensible too. Twenty years later, the fire having never been entirely extinguished, he finally decided to record a batch of material he'd written over the years, getting all his neo-prog mates in to help.
The end result is a rather overblown and overlong neo-prog concept effort about the history of the world or something, which ultimately, I'm afraid, fails to excite, being nearly 70 minutes of averageness, with about as much musical invention as you'd expect. The 18-minute title track is ambitious, and I like the way its themes are spread out across the album, tying it all together, but the nearest the whole thing gets to 'key changes' are the soundtracky chord shifts that crop up in places, with the whole affair reeking of 'vanity project'. The huge number of musicians involved doesn't help in the project's coherence (and listing them on the front of the booklet is just plain naff), with the likes of John Wetton (Darvill's neighbour and drinking buddy, apparently), most of the then-current Arena lineup, Martin Orford and John Jowitt from IQ, Don Airey, Noel Redding and Nick Barrett from the awful Pendragon contributing to the proceedings.
Despite several Mellotronish bits, the only mention I can find in the booklet is a 'thanks to Karl [Groom, Shadowlands]'s bass pedals and Mellotron', which rear their ugly heads at the end of The Only Way To Fly, with some fairly obvious, if subdued choirs, although the credit doesn't tell us who played them. Darvill's regular keys man Paul Ward? Groom? Darvill himself? Doubt if it was Martin Orford... Pretty inessential, anyway.
The Greatest Show on Earth wasn't a huge seller for Music of Life, but given that Darvill can't be short of a bob or two (I mean, mastering at Abbey Road?), I doubt if it hurt him too badly, at least in the wallet department. It's notable that he hasn't repeated the experiment, though - probably run out of material. Well, I can't really recommend this, to be honest; too neo- for my tastes, meaning that however closely I attempt to listen to it, it's always going to have the same tired old musical clichés and silly lyrics, so I probably won't bother. Next to no (obvious) Mellotron, so if I were you, I wouldn't bother either.
See: John Wetton | Arena | IQ
Das Pop (2009, 44.50) **½/½
You Don't Wanna Know
Saturday Night - part 1
Never Get Enough
The Last Thing
Fool for Love
|Let Me in
Saturday Night - part 2
Girl Be a Man
[CD bonus track:
Das Pop (previously Things to Come) are a Belgian indiepop outfit, with the emphasis on the 'pop'. They've only released three albums in over a decade together, partially due to concentrating on EPs at one stage in their career, the latest being 2009's Das Pop, recorded at The Kinks' Konk Studio in North London (thanks, Dieter). It's a reasonable effort, as far as it goes, better tracks including the jangly You Don't Wanna Know, the rocky Saturday Night - Part 2 and slightly jammed-out bonus track Feelgood Factors.
A unnamed member of the band played the studio's house EMI M400, with a high, shrieky string part on Never Get Enough, complete with authentic 'slur' at the end, although all other string parts are real. Overall, probably not something most of you will want to hear, but, after its cheeso opening track, far better than expected.
I Split on Your Grave (1990, 47.58) ***/0
|I'm Outta Here
Didn't Know I Love You...
|Master Race Rock
I Got a Right
Master Race Rock
Do Anything You Wanna Do
The Pagoda Mystery
Well, you could never accuse me of not going to inordinate lengths to track down obscure Mellotron music for you, even when I fail. Date Bait were an '80s US outfit with their trash aesthetic turned up to eleven, with production somewhere around the zero mark. I Split on Your Grave (paraphrased from the horror flick, of course) is both brilliant and crap, usually at the same time, with band-written numbers like Graveyard Stomp, Bog Baby and the great The Pagoda Mystery rubbing over-reverbed shoulders with the likes of the Stooges' I Got A Right, the Dictators' Master Race Rock, Eddie and the Hot Rods' (!) Do Anything You Wanna Do and a hilarious effort at the now (rightly) disgraced Gary Glitter's Didn't Know I Love You... (sic), otherwise known as 'Didn't Know I Loved You Till I Saw You Rock'n'Roll'. Plenty of snatches of horror film dialogue inserted between tracks, too; play 'spot your favourite film' here...
The differing 'productions' on tracks just adds to the album's appeal, at least in my book; who needs two years in Montserrat and a recording budget of $2m? Insert your choice here. It actually sounds like their entire recorded output stuck onto one LP, possibly posthumously, reinforced by being rather overlong for this type of music. Half an hour's plenty when ripping it out like this; ask The Ramones. Anyway, the beauty of this album is in its idiotic persistence in the face of overwhelming odds, i.e. they were complete rubbish, and knew it, nay, revelled in it. Jeff Zang plays keyboards here and there, mostly Farfisa, by the sound of it. He's also credited with Mellotron (unsurprisingly, given that I'm reviewing the bloody thing), but unless my ears are totally deceiving me, I can't hear a note; maybe there never was any and it's all a big joke that I haven't got. Who knows? Anyway, a good laugh, but don't come here for even the tiniest hint of anything Mellotronic...
|7" (1970) **½/T½
I'm Going Back
The elusive David is rather better known as ex-copper Dave "Dee" Harman of the enormously unwieldily-named Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, of The Legend Of Xanadu fame. Dee left the outfit in 1969 for a short-lived solo career, before moving into the lucrative management and production area, though not before releasing '69's cheery I'm Going Back 7". Its flip, Selppin (yeah, yeah, reverse it...), is a far better affair, to be honest, being a Hammond-driven instrumental ripe for rediscovery by the hip moddish crowd that infests certain London clubs, even today. Are these people immortal?
Someone (usual studio sessioneer?) plays Mellotron strings on the a-side, though not to any great effect, to be perfectly honest, although it's always nice to hear. Both sides of this have been added to DDBM&T's 1969 album Together, in case you feel the urge to hear them. Unusually, the non-'Tron track here is better than the one with it, but neither's that outstanding, to be honest.
Alston David (2011, 49.26) ***½/TT
When California Falls Right Into the Ocean
Are We Like Family?
What is Love
The Sky is Purple Over 10th Street
|On the Verge of Paranoia
If it's All in My Head
Across the Indian Meridian
Present Situation Abstract
Alston David (a.k.a. David Alston) is an Oklahoma-based singer-songwriter, whose music combines historical and contemporary influences on his eponymous debut (download only?) album, giving us a kind of indie/psych/powerpop hybrid that manages to sound like no-one else in particular. Top tracks? Brief Moody Blues-esque opener Spottedcrow Flies, the powerpoppy When California Falls Right Into The Ocean, the stately Midtown Clouds and lengthy closer Photograph Suite, amongst others, the album's only real downside being a certain sameyness to some of the tracks.
Alston tells me that he'd only recorded four songs when the studio shut down and sold their Mellotron, so although the sounds can be heard on literally every track, we're only hearing the real thing on four, with upfront strings on opener Spottedcrow Flies, flutes and strings on What Is Love, strings and cellos on Photograph (Angels/Devils) and strings and choir on The Sky Is Purple Over 10th Street. You can get this at Bandcamp, Amazon et al., but I'm not at all sure a physical version's available. This might've been improved by trimming a couple of tracks, but overall, a worthy effort with a few tracks of real Mellotron.
Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous (1997, 51.17) ****½/T
The Last Ever Love Song
I Think About You
Re-invent the Wheel
|This is for Real
I'm Not Even Going to Try
Light on the Surface
Although I've been aware of the fictitious Mr. Devant and his unfeasibly discorporeal spouse for a while (although a very real Victorian magician, apparently - thanks, Mark), it's only recently, when I ended up driving them to a gig, that I found out just how good they are. A mix of classic British '60s pop and quirky late-'70s 'noo wave', with more than a dash of surreal humour, 'The Vessel' (a.k.a. Mikey Georgeson) and his unlikely crew have the songs to match the image, particularly in the lyrical department. Well, how many bands do you know who can get away with writing songs about their girlfriend being a human lie detector? Or, for that matter, about a game of Cluedo? Ballroom is possibly the best of an extremely good bunch of songs on Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous, but there's not one duffer to be heard here; I suspect the more I play this album, the better it'll sound, and it's not too often you can say that.
After mentioning Mellotrons as we drove along (as you do), the band informed me that they'd used one on this album, although after that incendiary gig, I'd have bought it anyway. In fact, I can only hear it (played by 'The Vessel') on a couple of tracks, and then only barely: a string line doubling the ubiquitous Vox organ on The Last Ever Love Song and what has to be a few 'Tron choir chords on Goodnight, although they seem to be combined with real voices. So; while it's no great shakes on the 'Tron front, it's a brilliant album, and I look forward to hearing their two subsequent efforts. And don't forget, don't leave your sense of humour at the door...
Don Quixote de Suburbia (2003, 71.45) ***½/½
Kill All Pop Songs
Hard Times for Ishmael and Isaac
Ghosts of Mississippi
Skinny Young Millionaire Blues
Incident on U.S. 65
Only One World Blues
|Joys of the Koyukuk
The Great Leap Backwards
Deirdre of the Sorrows
The World Turned Upside-Down
Globalize Your Local
The Continuing Adventures of Kid Folk
Free the Ethan Daniel Davidson 5 (2004, 54.10) ***/T½
|Conquered Beneath a Box-Car Moon
Woman / Ladder = You'll Get What You Deserve
I Need You Like a House on Fire
Situationist (Non) National Commercial
Semi-Literate Cowboy Poem
I Can't Drink You Pretty
Drive-By Diplomacy Blues
Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore
|King Coal Made a Mess of My Old Kentucky Home
Support the War on Nashville
No Gods, No Masters
Carry Me Back to San Juan Hill
War All the Time
A German Woman, an Irish Junkie, Their
Three-Year-Old Daughter, and Me
Ethan Daniel Davidson plays a sort of politically-aware alt.country, sometimes spilling over into 'rock'; I suppose this is more Americana than alt.country, really, not that there's a lot of difference. I wasn't expecting much of him, to be honest, but the material on these two albums is surprisingly good (why is it surprising? Why shouldn't he be good?). Don Quixote de Suburbia is his fourth album, opening with the authentic vinyl crackle of H, working its way through various styles during its rather overlong duration; it's good, but not 70 minutes good. Saying that, the six minutes of Ghosts Of Mississippi is completely essential; a spoken piece over a bluesy backing, recounting the night Davidson (half Jewish) and his Muslim fiancée discovered a racially mixed juke joint in the heart of Klan country. Actually, the more I listen to this, the more I realise that Davidson is a bit of a hidden treasure, particularly lyrically; the new Bob, anyone? Anyway, Mellotron on two tracks, with a high, sustained, er, something? towards the end of H, and nothing obvious on Deirdre Of The Sorrows, both from Jason Charboneau.
Two albums on, Free the Ethan Daniel Davidson 5 is less focussed; maybe it's the full band arrangements? It's actually not bad, although I'm not sure what's with the ridiculously long titles; still good lyrically, anyway. Two 'Tron tracks, from Davidson, Charles Hughes and Al Sutton. Conquered Beneath A Box-Car Moon has a nice string part followed by really full-on mixed choir ('Tron from all three, shockingly), while closer (deep breath) A German Woman, An Irish Junkie, Their Three-Year-Old Daughter, And Me has a string part that fades in gently, then stays throughout the song from Hughes.
So; two of Davidson's six albums - I have no idea if there's any Mellotronic involvement on any of the others - one good, one not bad, two decent 'Tron tracks on the latter and none on the former. Up to you.
|7" (1969) ***/T
Hold My Hand
The Album That Never Was (1987, recorded 1967-69, 28.49) ***½/½
|Death of a Clown
Love Me Till the Sun Shines
Suzannah's Still Alive
There is No Life Without Love
Hold My Hand
|Mindless Child of Motherhood
This Man He Weeps Tonight
According to the sleevenotes on PRT's 1987 collection of Dave Davies solo cuts, The Album That Never Was, the second best-known Kink released four solo singles over the course of a couple of years, but never completed a projected album. Album opener Death Of A Clown was a huge hit, but Davies couldn't repeat the feat, even with the wonderful Suzannah's Still Alive, memorably covered by the mighty Cardiacs a couple of decades later. With hindsight, several of these tracks are relatively weak, and it's easy to see why neither Lincoln County nor Hold My Hand were hits, although they're still vastly superior to the dross that passed for chart pop at the time, or indeed, any other.
Hold My Hand was his fourth and last single, and, to be honest, is more notable for its excellent b-side, Creepin' Jean, although the 'a' isn't bad, with a vague background 'Tron string part, played by unknown, possibly Dave himself, although nothing you haven't heard better elsewhere, really. As you can see above, this compilation is long out of print except in Japan, but all tracks except Funny Face, the 'b' of Suzannah, are on Essential's 1998 Unfinished Business 2-CD set. So; good material, inessential 'Tron.
Other People's Lives (2006, 60.53) ***½/T
|Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After)
After the Fall
Next Door Neighbour
All She Wrote
Creatures of Little Faith
Run Away From Time
Is There Life After Breakfast?
|The Getaway (Lonesome Train)
Other People's Lives
Stand Up Comic
Over My Head
Does Ray Davies need any introduction? I sincerely hope not. He may not have produced much groundbreaking work in recent years (or even decades), but anyone who finds themselves unmoved by his best '60s songwriting is surely ever so slightly deficient on the humanity front. 2006's Other People's Lives is his third solo album since The Kinks split in the mid-'90s, containing a combination of his expected observational humour (Is There Life After Breakfast?, Stand Up Comic) and more general lyrics concerning, well, other people's lives, all set to tunes that, while good, are never going to match his peak period.
Ray plays his own Konk Studios' EMI M400 on a few tracks, with uncredited flutes on Next Door Neighbour and credited ones on Creatures Of Little Faith and Over My Head, most obviously on the last-named. Committed Kinks fans will surely already own this; as for the rest of you, if you would like to hear an album of good, if rarely great songs by a once-classic songwriter, you could do worse than to check out Other People's Lives. If lacking classics, it also lacks any duffers, with minor Mellotron use into the bargain.
See: The Kinks
Back on My Feet Again (1975) **/TTBack on My Feet Again
Baby I Do
Step in the Right Direction
Sweet Little Rock'n'Roller
Only Love Can Last Forever
You and I
He's Just a Heartbreaker
I initially wrote, "I know nothing at all about Sandy Davis' career, although EMI obviously thought highly enough of him to release two albums in the mid-'70s", but I've just been informed (thanks, Sven!) that he was none other than Paul Davis of Mellotron megastars Gracious! fame, although there's little way of telling unless you're familiar with his appearance. Anyway, going by the second of his albums, Back on My Feet Again, Davis played bland, slightly funky pop with hardly any distinguishing features, about as collectible nowadays as pointy collars and tank tops. Probably less. What a come-down.
I've no idea whether or not there's any Mellotron on '74's Inside Every Fat Man, but Davis gets it onto a few tracks on Back on My Feet Again. Strings on the title track, slowly becoming more prominent towards the end of the song, Only Love Can Last Forever and probably Who Knows (who knows indeed?) although the flute on that track is real. He's Just A Heartbreaker is the nearest this album gets to a 'Tron track, with a decent enough flute part, and upfront strings coming in later on to quite reasonable effect. So; don't bother, even for the 'Tron. That was easy, wasn't it?
Brighter Days (1977, 43.03) ***/TThings Cannot Stop Forever (Poon Tang Tally-Wacky)
Brighter Days/Brighter Daze
Funky Fried Tofu
High Jazz Reprise
I know very little about Stanton Davis, never mind his Ghetto/Mysticism, although going by the evidence of the released-in-'77-though-recorded-earlier privately-pressed Brighter Days, he/they specialised in a kind of Afro/funk/jazz/soul fusion, probably not a million miles away from some of Funkadelic's more out-there stuff. In all honesty, this is a long way from my area(s) of expertise, but it seems to do what it does pretty damn' well, with much funky jamming and spaced-out vocals, should you be into such things.
One 'Tron track, with Davis himself doubling Mellotron strings and string synth (sounds like a Solina) on Nida, although not to any great effect, to be honest. Solina on several other tracks, sounding quite 'Tron-like on Funky Fried Tofu, but only the one credited track. Copies of this are available via online retailers, not always at outrageous prices, but it's a mystery as to why no-one's seen fit to reissue it. Anyway, decidedly not worth it for the 'Tron, but space-funk fans should track a copy down immediately.