Dark Ocean Colors
Martin Darvill & Friends
David Devant & His Spirit Wife
Stanton Davis' Ghetto/Mysticism
Dawn of the Replicants
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
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
Travelogue II (2000, 72.29) ***/T
The Slice Of Life
Don't Look 'Til It's Gone
Go Beyond, But...
What, ANOTHER Dark Star? On top of the excellent NWoBHM band and the Levitation spinoff? And, doubtless, many others? This lot seem to be, essentially, Wolfgang Reffert's solo electronica project, utilising many collaborators, not least members of Anglo-Dutch experimentalists Legendary Pink Dots. Travelogue II is actually a semi-reissue of 1994's Travelogue, missing its last two tracks, while adding another four, apparently from an unfinished follow-up. Much fucked-up electronic blipping and growling ensue, like an attempt to soundtrack Lynch's Eraserhead working only from a description of the film, if that makes any sense at all. Highlights? I quite honestly have no way of telling.
Volkmar Miedtke plays what sounds pretty much like real Mellotron on near-quarter-hour closer Solaris II, with some nicely borderline-discordant string swells, not dissimilar to how King Crimson used the sound in an earlier epoch. Given the abuses heaped on electronics in music over recent decades, it's refreshing to hear someone use them in a genuinely experimental manner, whether or not the end result is especially 'musical' (whatever that means) or not. I wouldn't bother for the Mellotron, though.
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 seventy minutes of averageness, with about as much musical invention as you'd expect. The eighteen-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...
Mr. Untel (1982, 47.34) ***½/T
|La Ballade de Mr. Untel
La Cour des Miracles
Un Air de Fête
Sang, Foutre, Haine
|La Tour d'Ivoire
Un Age d'Or
French proggers Datura released just the one album, 1982's Mr. Untel, an amateurish, yet intriguing effort, frequently compared to the likes of Mona Lisa in its relatively straightforward compositional style. Like many other early '80s progressive albums, it points towards neo-prog, while taking the kind of risks of which Marillion and Pendragon could only dream. It lacks originality in places; Sang, Foutre, Haine cops a riff from Yes' Starship Trooper, while hints of late '70s Genesis crop up here and there, although, compared to the open plagiarism that was to emanate from the genre over the following years, it's pretty small fry. Highlights? Maybe the upbeat L'Attaque, the two-part Retour and closer Un Age D'Or.
Patrick Loisel plays keys, principally the ubiquitous (and overused) string synth, with Mellotron choirs on Un Air De Fête, L'Attaque and Un Age D'Or, only at all upfront on the last-named. Not exactly a Mellotron classic, then, but a decent listen from the lesser-known end of the French scene (see: Grime).
The Untuning of the Sky (2013, 41.47) ***/TAlms Vert
Qualities of Bodies Permanent (2015, 48.17) ***/TMare Imbrium
Flowers and Other Voiceless Things
Going by 2013's cassette-only (and Bandcamp, thankfully) The Untuning of the Sky, Sarah Davachi is an analogue synthesist, working at the 'drone' end of the electronic genre. I won't say the album's an easy listen - her intervals are far too disharmonic for the new age crowd - but she understands dissonance and the merits of allowing a piece to slowly unfold over the course of ten minutes or more. Sarah plays the credited M400 on Brumeux (and a single note on closer Aurum), with a haunting flute part, pretty clearly from a real machine. I reiterate: not an easy listen - in fact, a challenging one - but for those who like to hear synth rarities such as the Buchla 100, the Serge modular and the Korg PS-3300, this is your album.
Two year on, Qualities of Bodies Permanent is a similar proposition, five of its six tracks being synth drone pieces, oddly major-key across much of the album's length. Closer Codex is no more or less than a solo piece for Mellotron flutes (again, a credited M400), making up for its lack elsewhere on the album. Davachi also credits 'Mellotron' (no M400) on 2018's Let Night Come on Bells End the Day, but it appears to be a false alarm.
|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...
A Bright To-Morrow (1971, 34.24) ***½/TT½
|Eight Days and Wake Up
A Taste of Love
A Bright To-Morrow
May, You're a Woman
|A Long Way to Go
Hide and Seek
David Explosion were a one-shot French late-period psych outfit led by Robert Fitoussi, a.k.a. F.R. David, under which name he had considerable success in the '80s, notably with huge international hit Words. 1971's A Bright To-Morrow is, unsurprisingly, a different proposition altogether, flitting between the Rhodes/Hammond groove and fuzz guitar of opener Eight Days And Wake Up, the jaunty, Zombies-like A Taste Of Love, the acoustic Lena and brass band-driven (!) closer Hide And Seek, to name but four variations on a very broad theme. In fact, not one track here really sounds like any other, which can now be seen as the album's strength, but was almost certainly its weakness at the time.
Someone plays (probably MkII) Mellotron on several tracks, with chordal strings and rather wobbly baritone sax on A Taste Of Love, strings on Father Machine, complete with some serious pitchbending, lush strings on the title track and strings and flutes on May, You're A Woman. Given how little-known this is, fans of obscure psych should make every effort to track a copy down (CD release, please?), its Mellotron use merely the icing on the cake.
|7" (1969) ***/T
Hold My Hand
Hidden Treasures (2011, 78.50) ***½/T
|Susannah's Still Alive
This Man He Weeps Tonight
Mindless Child of Motherhood
Hold My Hand
Do You Wish to Be a Man
Are You Ready
|Mr. Shoemaker's Daughter
There's No Life Without Love
I am Free (mono)
Death of a Clown (mono)
Love Me Till the Sun Shines (mono)
Susannah's Still Alive (mono)
Funny Face (mono)
|Lincoln County (mono)
There's No Life Without Love (mono)
Hold My Hand (mono)
Creeping Jean (mono)
This Man He Weeps Tonight (mono)
Mindless Child of Motherhood (mono)
Mr. Reporter (alt. mix)
Hold My Hand (early take with guide vocal)
Good Luck Charm (rare studio version)
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, although titles such as A Hole in the Sock of... and Lincoln County have been applied to it. The ten-track vinyl has been comprehensively replaced by Universal's 2011 set Hidden Treasures, unless you're a vinyl die-hard, of course. 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. If the set has a problem, it's that it's too complete; yes, I agree that everything should be made available, but a version featuring every different track, with no repetition of mono and stereo versions might be an easier listen.
Hold My Hand was Dave's fourth and last single and, to be honest, is more notable for its excellent B-side, Creepin' (or Creeping) Jean, although the 'A' isn't bad, with a vague background Mellotron string part, played by brother Ray, apparently, who also adds a few string chords to the flip, only audible on the original mono version. Both sides are, of course, on Hidden Treasures, in mono and stereo versions, while the set adds a 'rare studio version' of Good Luck Charm, featuring Mellotron strings from Nicky Hopkins, clearly an expert on the machine, although the jury's out on Crying, which could either be a shrill, choppy organ part or one of the MkII's organ sounds.
|7" (197?) **/T½
Farewell for Now
Put Your Love Back in Your Locket
Debbie Davies (assuming that's the lady's real name) seems to've been another member of the Rodd Keith song-poem factory, so it should come as little surprise to hear that Farewell For Now and Put Your Love Back In Your Locket are the usual anodyne-dross-with-appalling-lyrics that the 'genre' threw up as standard. This is difficult to date, but the weedy synth on the flip makes it more likely to be early '70s than the previous decade.
Of course, it's impossible to know who played the Chamberlin on the 'A', although the legendary Rodd Keith seems like a good bet. However, background strings and woodwinds arranged in a pre-psych '60s style are only going to excite the most perverse fans of the instrument and/or genre, I suspect.
See: Rodd Keith
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
Let the Woman (2007, 36.30) **/½
|Earth and Venus
Let the Woman
Our Love is Not Their Business
Spade a Spade
Beautiful Day for Bad News
Union & 3rd
Louisianan Andy Davis' 2007 debut, Let the Woman, is your typical wet singer-songwriter effort, although he manages to restrain himself enough to avoid using that awful 'overwrought' thing that was so popular at the time. It's at its least irritating on opener Earth And Venus and Beautiful Day For Bad News. I did say least...
Mitchell Froom does his increasingly rarely-heard Chamberlin thing, with background strings on Earth And Venus, other possible sightings being the organ/strings thing on Black Keys and, just possibly, the vibraphone rolls on Our Love Is Not Their Business. Is this a Chamberlin sound? You don't want to hear this either way.
Forever Lovers (1976, 33.31) **/T½
|The Good Times We Had
I'm Just in Love
Tears in Baby's Eyes
I'm a Survivor
Baby, I Just Ain't the Man for You
Please Tell Her That I Said Hello
I Won't Want to Own You
|The Love Lamp
Every Now and Then
They don't come a lot more mainstream than Mac Davis; not that fake Christian 'mainstream' that's actually so extreme it's bizarre, but the genuine, light entertainment kind of mainstream that means someone known as a country singer can put a dance-pop track such as I'm Just In Love onto an otherwise fairly ordinary country record. 1976's Forever Lovers is typified by its mawkish, tearjerking title track, other horrors including opener The Good Times We Had and Tears In Baby's Eyes. Ugh.
Randy McCormick plays Mellotron, with a fragile, clicky flute line and high strings on Baby, I Just Ain't The Man For You and upfront strings and flutes on closer Every Now And Then, although all other string parts sound real. Do you need to hear this? You do not.
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.
The Evolution of... (2000, 53.24) ***/TT
My Dear Kate
Fall Like I Fall
Another Lonesome Highway
Salvation Number 10
Can't Have You
Murder in the Brickyard
Cut to Pieces
Davis Waits were, at heart, a roots-rock outfit, although 2000's The Evolution of... sees them tackle several other genres, not least alt.rock (opener Senorita, Think Twice), acoustic balladry (My Dear Kate, Better Days) and even hard rock (Bastard, Seven Years). Highlights? Probably Senorita and Bastard, but, despite being over fifty minutes, there's barely a bad track here.
John Philip Shenale plays Chamberlin, with a cello line and chordal strings on My Dear Kate, a handful of string chords on Another Lonesome Highway and more chordal strings on Better Days; not the most upfront use ever, but nice to hear.
Loneliness (2007, 50.38) ***½/TTTDawn
Rain on the Moon
The Story of Nobody
Switzerland's Dawn (this lot have clearly never heard of Tony Orlando, to their great good fortune) released their debut, Loneliness, in 2007, a welcome addition to the progressive canon (thanks for this one, Mike). Stylistically, it sits solidly in the 'retro' category, featuring bursts of late '70s-esque Genesis here and there, although René Degoumois' slightly neo- vocal style becomes a little wearing after a while. I'm not sure what's going on with that sleeve design, either; I'm not asking for a return to the clichéd sub-Deanisms of yesteryear, but this looks like a kind of space-age indie effort, were you to go by its cover. Best track? Possibly the album's longest, the seventeen-minute The Story Of Nobody, although the lyrics leave a bit to be desired, to say the least.
Nicolas Gerber plays seemingly real Mellotron, with strings all over the opening title track and towards the end of Rain On The Moon, a choppy part in The Brook that switches between strings, flute and choir in a most authentic manner, strings on the title track, strings (including an improbably high-speed part) and flutes on The Story Of Nobody and Dusk.
See: Samples etc.
|10" (1998) ***/TTT½
Skullcrusher (David Holmes & Tim Goldsworthy Remix)
Dawn of the Replicants are one of those outfits who passed me by, largely due to their dance-orientated stance, although it seems they were pretty hot on the synth front, in a '90s kind of way. The David Holmes & Tim Goldsworthy remix of Skullcrusher, a track originally available on their first release, the previous year's All That Cheyenne Caboodle EP, was released as the flip to the 10" of Candlefire, the second track of three on the CD EP and as a 10" promo in its own right. It's pretty acceptable to the non-fan, as these things go, being a lot less 'dancey' than I'd expected, helped along no end by Darrin Morris' credit for Mellotron.
Mellotron? They ain't kiddin'... Morris splatters what is quite clearly a real M400 all over the place, with string chords throughout, skronky cellos and a mad, lengthy flute part, full of key-clicks and pops, giving this a startlingly high rating for a single track. I've no idea what the rest of their stuff sounds like (they seemed to be keener on EPs than albums), or whether they used a Mellotron on anything else, but this one track is genuinely worth hearing for some of the most full-on 'Tron work you've heard in a long time.