Mariusz Duda/Steven Wilson
Chuck Dukowski Sextet
Dunn & Rubini
Joe d'Urso & Stone Caravan
|7" (1974) **½/TTT
Joaquim da Silva
Ermelinda Duarte's Somos Livres, or 'We Are Free', from 1974, is highly significant, as that was the year the country overthrew its fascist dictatorship, a year before neighbouring Spain followed suit. The song opens with a stately folkish melody, although, sadly, it soon slips into jaunty Mediterranean folk-by-numbers, although I'm sure the message should be regarded as more important than the music. José Cid, then still of Quarteto 1111 (who were the band on the session), adds Mellotron strings throughout the track, sounding great on the intro and rather more cheesy later on. Good to hear them used, whatever. B-side Joaquim Da Silva isn't dissimilar, although Cid's Mellotron is further in the background.
Arnaldo Pata supplied me with these (thanks, Arnaldo!), although they're only available on crackly vinyl these days. You're not exactly going to find a copy of this easily, and you probably wouldn't like it if you did, but despite its being very much of its time and place, it's interesting to hear Señor Cid use his Mellotron in a non-prog setting.
See: José Cid
|Download (2014) ****/TTT
The Old Peace
Alec Wildey was a young Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson fan, involved with grassroots promotion, with (as Wilson says on his site) 'a very bright future ahead of him'. Tragically, still in his teens, Alec contracted cancer, which, as is often the way with young victims, aggressively attacked his system, ending his life at 26. Upon learning that his condition was terminal, he asked Steven and Riverside's Mariusz Duda is they'd set one of his poems to music. Sadly, Alec didn't live to hear the result, The Old Peace, all proceeds from which are being donated to cancer research.
Duda's music is quite beautiful, a case study in how to write for acoustic guitar without falling into the usual clichés, while both men sing Alec's lyrics. Although, under the circumstances, it seems almost irrelevant, Mellotron use is what this site's about, so Wilson plays his M4000 on the track, with a vibes part, a flute melody, chordal strings and choirs towards the end of the piece.
See: Steven Wilson
Luxury Problems (2005, 45.35) ***½/T
|Married With Kids
In My Junkie Clothes
Song to America
Early Morning Birds
King of the Underworld
Mother Nature's Refugee
The Lion and the Hawthorn Tree
Patrick Duff, once of Strangelove, is yet another entrant in the 'outsider musician' stakes, with years of global travel and international collaborations under his belt. 2005's Luxury Problems is his first solo album; imagine a modern British Dylan and you won't be a million miles off. Duff only actually sings on a handful of tracks, preferring a 'talking blues' style most of the time, top tracks including the angry howl of openers Married With Kids and Mirror Man, Song To America and the manic live take on Elephant Man, although you'd be hard-pushed to find any genuine duffers (sorry) here.
Weirdly, given that it's only audible on two tracks, no fewer than three people are credited with Mellotron, Mike Mooney, Damon Reece and Duff himself, with a seriously skronky string/flute line on Early Morning Birds and a wobbly flute solo on Mother Nature's Refugee, both sounding nicely real, for a change. Going by this album, Duff is a somewhat undersung talent, although his style certainly isn't for everyone, but then, mass acceptance inevitably means lowering one's standards to somewhere around zero, which clearly isn't going to happen in Duff's case.
Dukes of Stratosphear (UK) see:
Eat My Life (2006, 35.59) **½/T
|Eat My Life
Dreaming of the Endless Death
Night of the Hunter
The Hammer Will Fall
Venus in Furs
|My Blood Shines So Bright
Just Like This
The Day My World Fell Apart
Leave All This Behind
After leaving hardcore legends Black Flag in 1983, bassist Gary "Chuck Dukowski" McDaniel has gone on to play with a plethora of outfits, including The Chuck Dukowski Sextet, with his wife, Lora Norton. Their debut, 2006's Eat My Life, combines free jazz with hardcore sensibilities and the further reaches of psychedelic experimentation, the end result being something of an acquired taste. Sadly, I appear unable to acquire it, clearly being from the wrong musical background. Anything listenable? Possibly punky closer My War, although I won't pretend it's to my taste.
Red Hot Chili Peppers' Michael "Flea" Balzary plays Mellotron strings right through their take on The Velvet Underground's Venus In Furs, to passable effect, though hardly enough to make the effort worthwhile, unless their thing sounds like it might be yours.
Amber Headlights (2005, 31.07) **½/TSo Tight
Early Today (and Later That Night)
Get the Wheel
Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers, Gutter Twins) is well known to us here, utilising Mellotrons on most of his work since the early '90s. Taking a break from The Twilight Singers, 2005's Amber Headlights was his first (and to date, only) solo studio album; sadly, I have to report that it's a bit of a disappointment. In my humble opinion, of course. It does all those Dulli things, but the bulk of it seems to glide past in a mid-paced kind of way, without ever really impinging itself on your consciousness, Wicked being an honourable exception.
It apparently took both Dulli and Mathias Schneeberger to play the Mellotron strings on Domani; admittedly, it does sound like two different machines, never mind different parts. Anyway, Dulli fans will undoubtedly already own this, while the rest of us can probably pass on by without worrying about it too much.
See: Afghan Whigs | Afterhours | Twilight Singers | Gutter Twins
Lemmings Travel to the Sea [Disc 1] (2001, 42.24) ***½/T½Stars Grow Colder
Waste My Time
Too Many Times
This Was a House
Water for Tears
Originally the duo of Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan, Dumptruck (Spike Priggen was an ancillary member) lasted in this form from 1983 to '91, splitting after a spectacularly mean-spirited and doomed-to-failure lawsuit from their record company. Since the split, Tiven has released two albums under the name, the second of which, 2001's Lemmings Travel to the Sea (note: a myth, as I'm sure he knows) is a double-disc set, disc one consisting of new studio recordings, while disc two archives life performances from 1986 and '88, effectively irrelevant to this site's remit. The studio disc's excellent, Neil Young-influenced Americana holds its own against any current practitioner of the genre you might care to name, highlights including opener Stars Grow Colder, Waste My Time, the brief, experimental Lemmings and stately, twelve-minute closer Water For Tears.
Alice Spencer plays Mellotron, with clearly genuine flute, cello and string parts on Too Many Times (listen for the flute stabs at around the two-minute mark), making for a proper Mellotron mini-classic, actually gaining the album (OK, pedant, the disc) a rare star-and-a-half for a single track. Going by disc two's original lineup live material, Dumptruck fans of old shouldn't be disappointed by Lemmings..., while Americana fans who might be unaware of their existence could do worse than to give this a go. Recommended.
Dunaj IV (1994, 45.36) ***½/T
|Po Ztezkách Srdce
Už Dávno Není
In the Flash
It's Near Right
|The Solitary Bird
Popel a Dým
Pustit Musíš [as Iva Bittová & Pavel Fajt] (1996, 54.35) ***½/T½
Iva Bittová's Dunaj seem to have a decent public profile in their native Czech Republic, although they mean diddly-squat anywhere else, as is so often the way with local heroes. They had a pretty ragged history, with lineups coalescing, splitting and re-coalescing, with albums being recorded with various combinations of musicians. Iva Bittová (vocals) and Pavel Fajt (drums) appear to've been the main members, although they left an early version of the band, reforming their best lineup to recorded 1989's Dunaj a Bittová. However, Bittová subsequently left, rejoining for their third effort, '93's Dudlay, which sounds an awful lot like locals' pronunciation of Dudley in the Birmingham conurbation. With me so far?
Anyway, going by 1994's Dunaj IV, they played a kind of awkward, progressive hard rock, with '80s Crimson influences never far from the surface, typified by Už Dávno Není or Sometimes, contrasting sharply with the acoustic Popel A Dým, although their version of Dutch pop outfit Shocking Blue's Venus is a bit pointless. Attempt at a hit single, anyone? Volkmar Miedtke plays Mellotron on two tracks, with a floating string line on Any Sight and a skronky flute line with shrieking strings on It's Near Right. It sounds a bit ropey, but it seems rather unlikely that Mellotron samples had reached that part of the world in '94, although who knows?
Just to confuse matters, their follow-up, '96's Pustit Musíš, was officially released under the name Iva Bittová & Pavel Fajt, although I've also seen it listed under its title and, of course, Dunaj. It seems easier to leave it here, anyway. It's not dissimilar to its predecessor, although Jiří Kolšovský's vocals put a different emphasis on things, though not enough to change their overall sound. Two 'Tron tracks from Miedtke again, with block string chords on opener Ouvertura and very upfront ones on Kaše, making the latter the nearest the band ever got to a 'Tron track'.
So; I think these are both available on CD, so fans of rather offbeat prog might want to make the effort to hear them. Not all that much Mellotron, but it's hardly at the centre of their sound, anyway. Odd, but worthwhile. incidentally and sadly, Jiří Kolšovský died in the late '90s, although all the other members are still musically active.
Pelo Sabor do Gesto (2009, 46.26) ***/T
Todos os Verbos
Telhados de Paris
Tudo Sobre Você
Pelo Sabor do Gesto
|Esporte Fino Confortável
Os Dentes Brancos do Mundo
Se Eu Fosse
Se Um Dia Me Quiseres
Zélia Duncan's been around since the early '80s, but doesn't seem to mean a lot outside her home territory. 2009's Pelo Sabor do Gesto is very much a Brazilian pop record, at its most typical on the likes of opener Boas Razões, Tudo Sobre Você and Esporte Fino Confortável, while Ambiçâo and the jazzy Se Eu Fosse step outside the box a little.
Graig Markel plays Mellotron, with surprisingly genuine-sounding choppy flutes on Duas Namoradas, key-click and all. Hardly a reason to buy this, but nice to hear a relatively recent album that doesn't just slap on the old samples.
The Event Horizon (2012, 42.06) ***/TTT½
|A Life for Every Sleeper
Vulture of July
The Event Horizon
|The False Light
On Event Horizon, Duncan Idaho (named for the character from Dune) play that rarest of things, halfway decent indie. It undeniably falls into the genre, while simultaneously rising above it, by writing memorable songs that utilise more than two chords and one rhythm. Surely that elevates it out of indie altogether, then? Their trick (I finally worked out) is to incorporate ideas from elsewhere: psychedelia, avant-rock, prog even, particularly on Vaporizing Waterfalls and eight-minute closer Echolocation 4-7. You know, just like proper bands.
Ruud Peeters plays his M400 on the album, with choppy choirs on Extrapolate, strings and upfront flutes on Vulture Of July, cellos and wonderfully upfront strings on the title track, strings on Spiraling Bridges and flutes and volume-pedalled strings on The False Light. Much better than expected, plenty of very real Mellotron.
Ta det Lugnt (2004, 53.25) ****/T½
Gjort Bort Sig
Du e fö Fin fö Mig
Ta det Lugnt
Det du Tänker Idag är du i Morgon
Lejonet & Kulan
|Glömd Konst Kommer Stundom Ånyo Till Heders
Om du Vore en Vakthund
Tack Ska Ni Ha
Sluta Följa Efter
Dungen (pronounced 'doon-yen', not phonetically, or worst of all, 'dungeon') are the brainchild of a young Swedish multi-instrumentalist, Gustav Ejstes, around whom a band eventually coalesced, including no less a personage than guitarist Reine Fiske, ex-Landberk and Paatos. Having just seen the band play a blinding gig in a London club, I can attest that they can cut it live: what about on album?
Ta det Lugnt is technically their third release, although only their second CD (followed by a compilation of early EPs, Dungen 1999-2001), a cool-as-fuck mixture of psych and prog, which begs the question: why are they fashionable? I ask the same question about Australia's super-retro Wolfmother and the only (patronising) answer I can come up with is: expose enough people to good, underground music and some of them will catch on, unaware of the band's forebears. Ta det Lugnt by and large captures the band's live sound, right down to Fiske's guitar torture, particularly on Du E Fö Fin Fö Mig. Did I say that Ejstes sings in Swedish? Nothing if not uncompromising... He hauls a Hammond and a Wurly around, too, rather than make do with the standard substitutes. Christ, you can tell the difference... Listen to the churchy tones on Lejonet & Kulan for proof. Basically, there isn't a bad track here, from the more (relatively) straightforward stuff to the brain-frying psych workouts.
I mean, closer Sluta Följa Efter is essentially Landberk at their most freakout, complete with ripping (and clearly real) Mellotron strings. Landberk's old machine? Who knows? Glömd Konst Kommer... is the other Mellotron track present, being no more or less than a flute solo, complete with tape wobble part of the way through. Fantastic!
See: Samples etc. | Landberk | Paatos
Diggin' it (1976, 32.55) **½/T
Love is Blind
Words Could Never Say
Back From the Fire
Just Keep Laughin'
|You Gotta Give it to Me
Turn on the Radio
You Gotta Give it to Me (reprise)
I've been after a copy of this ever since I found the LP cheap some years ago, bought it and got it home, only to find that the contents were something else entirely, I got my money back, but I've been looking for it ever since. Was it worth the wait? Not really, no... Dunn & Rubini were Don (not Donald "Duck") Dunn and Michel Rubini, both professional writers and sessioneers, whose sole LP, 1976's Diggin' it, is pretty much what you'd expect of both the era and their musical circle; no, not fusion, but a soul/pop/rock hybrid that hasn't aged especially well. They were supported by a cast of thousands, including no fewer than ten different guitarists, among them Jesse Ed Davis, Lee Ritenour and Stray Dog's Waddy Wachtel, plus vocalists Seals & Crofts and Thelma Houston, although I can't really say that their presence really livens things up any. Best track? Probably the Back From The Fire/Just Keep Laughin' one/two, with a ripping guitar solo (Wachtel?) and the latter's Stonesy vibe.
Rubini plays Chamberlin, amongst other keys, with flutes on Imaginary Girl and strings on Love Is Blind, although all other string parts sound real. Well, I've heard it at last. Consummately written, played and produced, but it sounds like the kind of stuff you can hear on the soundtrack of footage of New York from the mid-'70s. Take that as you will.
Both Sides of Life (2003, 79.23) ***/T
Let it Go
Funny What This World Can Do
She's Leaving Home
As the Rain Falls in Dublin
Six Months in Italy
Power of the Dove
Joe d'Urso and his band, Stone Caravan, play a kind of Springsteenish Americana, purpose-built for America's FM stations, where good old-fashioned rock'n'roll can still be heard. It seems blue-collar rock will never go out of fashion in the States; something to do with the sheer size of the place seems to encourage a conservatism of a kind almost unknown in Europe, including musically. Saying that, there's nothing wrong with d'Urso's work, although you wouldn't exactly call it 'forward-looking'; I think the term 'traditional' could be applied here. In spades. His seventh album, 2003's double-disc Both Sides of Life, is almost certainly typical of his oeuvre, mixing Tom Petty-style rockers (occasionally almost straying into Bob Seger territory) with acoustic ballads, particularly on the second disc. Er, thus the title? Highlights? The rocking Happy Song and Air. No actively bad material, although the rhyme-and-scansion-free Six Months In Italy is a little odd, while much of the second disc is too slushy for its own good.
Michael Mazzarella plays Mellotron, with strings and flutes on Be and flutes on Hey Annie, sounding real enough, which is what I'd hope for from someone this old-school. Is your collar blue? Do you drive a truck? Sorry, getting carried away there... D'Urso plays proper heartland rock as it was, is and always shall be. Non-Americans may not get this - I know I don't - but it does what it does superbly and is difficult to knock. He's also one of the 'good guys', sitting on the boards of several right-on organisations, although that isn't actually a reason to buy his albums. So; good at what it does, but not much Mellotron.
Le Cowboy et la Call-Girl (2009, 38.40) ***/½
La Poupée Borgne
Ta Main, pt. 2
|Le Cowboy et la Call Girl
Sept Bonnes Raisons
Eric "Jacques Duvall" Verwilghen seems to be better known as a lyricist than as a musician, so, although his first published lyric dates back to 1977 (for The Runaways, as it happens), 2009's Le Cowboy et la Call-Girl (in collaboration with Belgian garage specialists Phantom's Benjamin Schoos) is only his third release since his 2006 'comeback'. It's like a more polite version of, say, The Cramps, rockabilly slowed to a funereal pace, at its best on opener Le Cri, Ta Main, Pt. 2 and acoustic closer Sept Bonnes Raisons.
Kramer adds a touch of Mellotron to the proceedings, if only just, with a brief, echoed-to-hell flute part at the end of closer Sept Bonnes Raisons. Very faux-'50s, very Gallic.
Boxes (2007, 33.39) ***/TT
As the Snow
River of Love
Sally Dworsky might be best-known for providing singing voices for several high-profile animated characters, not least someone in The Lion King (no, I don't know; you don't think I watch this crap, do you?), although she's recorded with a couple of bands, not least Uma and released a solo album, 2007's Boxes. While, in many ways, it's a pretty standard female singer-songwriter-with-a-touch-of-country record, Dworsky's songs elevate it above the usual, at their best on the opening title track and the countryish Breaking.
Patrick Warren plays Chamberlin, with distinctly Chambyesque strings on Slow, Save You and Changing Everything and strings and flutes on Sweetest Days. I've heard more dynamic albums of this type, but then, I've heard vastly worse, too.
Gostayplay (2004, 44.02) ***/T
Nick (Song for Nick Drake)
Ocean of You
Surely it'll Shine Through
Two Can Play Too
Center to Hold
A chance reacquaintance with Johnny Society's Kenny Siegal in a New York club set John Dyer on the road to making 2004's Gostayplay, a cool-end-of-pop/rock-singer-songwriter album, at its best on Moving Fast's cool '60s vibe and the mildly deranged Surely It'll Shine Through.
Co-producer Siegal (also of Blueberry) plays Old Soul Studios' M400 (also used by Ratatat), with strings on Nick (Song For Nick Drake). Shame he didn't use it more, as I so often say. A decent album, then, if no classic.
Electric Silence (1974, 37.05) ***½/TTBack to Where We Come From
A Day in My Life
The Road Not Taken
For Earthly Thinking
Dzyan were named for the Stanzas of Dzyan, a supposed ancient Tibetan text, quite possibly forged in the late 19th century by H.P. Blavatsky. Their third and last release, Electric Silence, is a pretty bonkers stoned-out Krautrock album, with a considerable Eastern influence on several tracks. Eddy Marron's sitar and tambura playing are added to the ethnic pot-pourri, along with more standard rock and folk instrumentation, although the title track is pretty much the only one to stick to the standard electric guitar/bass/drums format. Difficult to isolate highlights when you're not really into the style, but if you go for that trippy, Eastern thing, you could do a lot worse.
The 'Mellotrone' (why?!) was played by both Marron and bassist Reinhard Karwatky, although side one of the original album seems to be 'Tron-free. Khali, on the other hand, has more 'Tron choir than you could shake a stick at, quite possibly being both players improvising on two machines, though that's a complete guess. There are a few flute chords on For Earthly Thinking, although that's it on the 'Tron front. So; if you like that Krautrock thing, you'll be well away here, although fans of more standard prog should probably steer clear. One full-on 'Tron track, so the decision's yours.