Alf Emil Eik
El Doom & the Born Electric
Beautiful Freak (1996, 43.59) ***/T
|Novocaine For the Soul
Rags to Rags
Not Ready Yet
My Beloved Monster
Your Lucky Day in Hell
Electro-Shock Blues (1998, 48.18) ***/T
|Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor
Going to Your Funeral Part I
Cancer for the Cure
My Descent Into Madness
|Going to Your Funeral Part II
Last Stop: This Town
Climbing to the Moon
Dead of Winter
The Medication is Wearing Off
P.S. You Rock My World
Daisies of the Galaxy (2000, 44.18) ***/TTT
|Grace Kelly Blues
The Sound of Fear
I Like Birds
Daises of the Galaxy
It's a Motherf#&!@r
|Tiger in My Tank
A Daisy Through Concrete
Something is Sacred
Souljacker (2001, 40.34) ***/TT
|Dog Faced Boy
That's Not Really Funny
Woman Driving, Man Sleeping
Souljacker Part I
Bus Stop Boxer
World of Shit
Souljacker Part II
What is This Note?
Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005, 93.43) ***½/TT½
|Theme From Blinking Lights
From Which I Came/A Magic World
Son of a Bitch
Blinking Lights (for Me)
Trouble With Dreams
Marie Floating Over the Backyard
In the Yard, Behind the Church
The Other Shoe
Last Time We Spoke
Theme for a Pretty Girl That
Makes You Believe God Exists
Blinking Lights (for You)
Dust of Ages
Old Shit/New Shit
Bride of Theme From Blinking Lights
Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)
I'm Going to Stop Pretending That
I Didn't Break Your Heart
|To Lick Your Boots
If You See Natalie
Sweet Li'l Thing
Dusk: a Peach in the Orchard
Whatever Happened to Soy Bomb
Last Days of My Bitter Heart
The Stars Shine in the Sky Tonight
Things the Grandchildren Should Know
I've got several friends who love The Eels to bits, and while their appeal has largely passed me by so far, I'm beginning to understand why their following is so fanatical. For those not in the know, the Eels, led by 'E', a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett, specialise in short, bittersweet, Americana-tinged quirky pop, with a fine line in terribly depressing lyrics.
Their debut, Beautiful Freak, sets out their stall with aplomb, laying down the template for most of their future releases, particularly on the lyrical front. Its sole Chamberlin track, My Beloved Monster, is very typical, with a flute line played by the ubiquitous Jon Brion, and what sounds like 'Chamberlin noise', quite possibly produced by leaning on the keyboard on the strings patch, which is no bad thing. The track was used in Shrek, in case you think the title sounds familiar, but aren't sure why. Electro-Shock Blues is more of the same, essentially, although there's a little more experimentation musically, with the odd sampled rhythm (note: not 'beat') finding its way in here and there. Climbing To The Moon has an excellent little Chamby flute part from Brion again, but neither of these albums is actually worth it on the tape-replay front.
Third album in, Daisies of the Galaxy, is more of the same musically, but loads more 'Tron. They apparently used Chamberlin sounds on Mellotron tapes, and the 'Tron certainly sounds quite odd, so that would make sense. For example, the choirs on I Like Birds and the actually quite good Flyswatter definitely aren't standard Mellotron, but have 'that sound' about them, ditto the strings on the title track. The heavy flute use on Tiger In My Tank works really well, actually, key click to the fore, though I'm afraid I find the song a tad irritating. Jeannie's Diary mixes 'Tron flutes with real strings, and Something Is Sacred has more flutes. It's distinctly possible that some of the other tracks feature the Chamby/'Tron hybrid, but without a better knowledge of the Chamberlin sound library, it's hard for me to say for certain. By the way, there's an uncredited fifteenth track on the CD, which may also possibly contain 'Tron, but it's hard to say for certain.
No.4, 2001's Souljacker is a rather heavier proposition, while still retaining much of that Eels sound they've spent three albums refining. The only obvious 'Tron (this time clearly credited) is some flute parts on the three tracks noted above, with Souljacker Part II being almost entirely 'Tron and vocal, making it one of the band's best uses of the instrument yet. Once again, not really a Mellotron album, and less accessible than its predecessor.
After 2003's 'Tronless Shootenanny! (***), Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is indeed a revelation, as E's songs finally match his reputation (personal opinion, of course...). OK, it's a little overlong, but Everett practically redefines the word 'melancholy' on several tracks, most of which sound pretty much autobiographical. Mellotronically, opener Theme From Blinking Lights is the album's first 'Tron overload, being simply vocals and (real) strings over a lovely Mellotron flute part. More flutes on several other tracks on disc one, but nothing that matches up to the short instrumental Understanding Salesmen, effectively a 'Tron flute solo piece. No Mellotron strings until disc two, with Dust Of Ages, with the rest of the album's strings being real, but I'm not sure what's generating the female solo voices; a Chamberlin sound on Mellotron tapes? An Orchestron/Optigan? Something else entirely? Doesn't sound like a 'Tron, but you know how it is...
So; if you like the sound they make, I expect you've already got the Eels' back catalogue. As far as the Mellotron/Chamberlin/whatever's concerned, forget the first two, be wary of their fourth, but Daisies of the Galaxy and Blinking Lights are worth the effort.
Egg (1970, 43.45/50.17) ****/T
While Growing My Hair
I Will Be Absorbed
Fugue in D Minor
They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano...
The Song of McGillicudie the Pusillanimous (or
Don't Worry James, Your Socks Are Hanging
in the Coal Cellar With Thomas)
[Eclectic CD adds:
Symphony No.2, Movement 3 [before Movement 4]
Seven is a Jolly Good Time
You Are All Princes]
The Polite Force (1970, 42.59) ****/TA Visit to Newport Hospital
Long Piece No.3
Egg were a marvellously bonkers psych/prog/jazz-rock/whatever trio who coalesced from an earlier band, Uriel, including the legendary Steve Hillage (later of Gong, of course), whose only recordings were later released under the name Arzachel for contractural reasons. Egg took the guitarless route, with keyboardist Dave Stewart (NOT the Eurythmics one, as if you didn't know) providing the bulk of the chordal and melodic work, mostly in unfathomable time signatures, with strange lyrics, when anyone (OK, bassist 'Mont' Campbell) actually bothered to sing at all.
Egg is a good little album, and quite unlike anything else you'll hear from the 'Canterbury' scene, such as it was. It's difficult to pick out highlights; suffice to say, there's no dead wood on the record, and later versions with both sides of their sole 45 added (including the fantastic Seven Is A Jolly Good Time) are worth picking up. There are a couple of classical adaptations, with some (credited) Bach on Fugue In D Minor and some (uncredited) Grieg on Symphony No.2 (Movement 1), although the band's sense of humour peers through the chinks in the arrangement, in case you were about to take them too seriously. Anyway, Stewart used the studio's Mark II Mellotron on the brief Boilk, but all you get is a few seconds of a dissonant string part and some bonkers left-hand manual rhythms, so don't go buying this for its 'Tron use.
Later that same year, the mischievously-named and frequently-mispronounced The Polite Force (ho ho) appeared, featuring rather more heavily than on their debut that 'Canterbury organ sound', also heard on various Caravan albums. The material is the equal of that on their debut, although it's probably slightly less eccentric, with no obvious classical adaptations this time. Again, 'Tron on one track, which is... Boilk. For some reason, the band elected to use the same title for another improvised piece, this time nine minutes long as against the one or so of their first attempt, and it's easily the most 'difficult' piece on the album, consisting largely of strange noises and studio experimentation, including some mangled 'Tron strings near the beginning.
After they split in '72, Stewart went off to form the 'Canterbury supergroup' Hatfield & the North, although Egg reformed for a one-off release in 74, The Civil Surface (ho ho again), although it's 'Tron-free. You're probably better off sticking to their two 'proper' albums, I suspect, both of which are more than worth a listen, though not especially for their Mellotron work.
Official Dave Stewart/Barbara Gaskin site
See: Hatfield & the North
Taxi Europa (2003, 52.20) **½/T
|On Nous a Donné
Mon Ami (Guarda e Passa)
Cendrillon Après Minuit
Tant & Tant
Si on S'y Mettait
Swim to America
Rien N'Est Si Bon
Eldorado (2007, 43.11) **/½
Weiss Nid Was es Isch
Dimanche en Décembre
(I Cry at) Commercials
Zrügg Zu Mir
Stephan Eicher, belying his German name, is a French-speaking Swiss singer-songwriter, active since the mid-'80s. 2003's Taxi Europa is, essentially, a French-language indie/'modern rock' effort, only really coming alive on the energetic Avec Toi, the rest of it shifting between 'boring' and 'interminable'. Achim Meier and Reyn Ouwehand both play (real?) Mellotron and Chamberlin, with specific credits for the Mellotron on four tracks, with nothing obvious on Mon Ami (Guarda e Passa), faint flutes on Cendrillon Après Minuit, flutes, strings and cello on Kreis 5 and faint strings on La Voisine. The Chamberlin? It could be on any of nine tracks, but isn't readily apparent on any of them.
2007's slightly Dylanesque Eldorado has that typical chanson feel down pat, mixed with a modern indie sensibility, a combination not exactly tailor-made to endear itself to myself. I can't imagine he's very worried about that, as I'm sure he has a large audience of people who hang on his every word, but even if I understood said words, I rather doubt whether I'd be joining them any time soon. Bizarrely, assuming the sleeve credits are to believed, although no fewer than four musicians are credited with Mellotron, it's near-as-dammit inaudible on the end result. For the sake of completion, Frédéric Lo adds nothing of any note to opener Confettis, someone naming himself Finn and Reyn Ouwehand allegedly do something on (I Cry At) Commercials, the album's one English-language track, Finn's solo contribution to Voyage simply isn't, Eicher himself plays nothing I can hear on Pas Déplu, leaving Finn and Ouwehand's rather dead-sounding strings on Charly. Is there actually a Mellotron on this album? Samples? Something else altogether? An Optigan turns up here and there, too; maybe somebody got confused? Anyway, a second listen irritated me more than the first, knocking half a star off its rating.
Anyway, two rather dull, mainstream releases with little tape-replay content. Just don't.
Joy & Breath of Eternity (1979, 47.27) **½/TT½
Man of the Present Age
Breath of Eternity
March of Earth
After All/After the End
I'm not entirely certain, but I get the impression that Alf Emil Eik's Joy & Breath of Eternity is some sort of Christian concept album, although I could be mistaken. Whatever, it's something of a mixed bag, musically; Morning Glory is a gentle, string synth-led piece, immediately followed by the rather naff Joy, full of funky bass and fusionesque synth leads and piano. In fact, the bulk of the album appears to be rather more 'commercial' (I use the term loosely) than you might expect; certainly not particularly 'prog', anyway.
There's actually less of Eik's Mellotron on this than I'd expected, but it suddenly enters the picture on track 4, Crying, with male voices (?), strings and flutes all over the place, although the voice (it sounds solo) is quite possibly real. Care features a huge strings pitchbend, with the standard 8-choir on another funky effort, Man Of The Present Age. After another 'Tronless gap (and a rather better track in March Of Earth), there are some very symphonic 'Tron strings on Heart.
Anyway, while not the greatest album you'll ever hear, and certainly not worth the outrageous price some dealers want for it, Joy & Breath of Eternity does have its moments, and there's some fairly nice 'Tron work in places.
Marvelous Things EP (2003, 15.06) ***/½Marvelous Things
The Winter Song
Eisley are comprised of four siblings from a small Texan town, originally naming themselves Moss Eisley (from Star Wars' Mos Eisley), eventually dropping the Moss bit in case of copyright infringement. The youngest member was a rather terrifying eight when the band formed in 1997, making her a whole fourteen when they released their debut major-label EP, Laughing City, in May 2003. Marvelous Things (Aargh! American spelling!) followed in the December of that year and is best described as folky indie, I suppose, with Sherri and Stacy (the previously-mentioned babe in arms) DuPree's pure vocals giving a slight early-'70s Californian singer-songwriterly vibe to the whole thing. None of the material leaps out, although none of it offends, either.
Stacy is the band's keyboard player, although the minor Mellotron flute on the opening title track is uncredited, and buried in the mix as it is, no idea on whether or not it's real. Anyway, a nice enough dreamy indie release with minor 'Tron use. That's it.
The Invisible Man (2001, 53.07) ***/½
|The Boy With the Hammer in the Paper Bag
Can You See?
Christian Science Reading Room
To the Sea
Steve I Always Knew
The Global Sweep of Human History
Seeing Eye to Eye
Proclaim Your Joy
After American Music Club split in 1994, Mark Eitzel went solo, 2001's The Invisible Man being his fifth subsequent release. Here, as with anything touched by the hand of Eitzel, the lyrics and the overall mood are at least as important as the music, which is all well and good, unless you tend to rate musical content over lyrical, in which case, this may well disappoint. Most tracks follow a well-worn (not to mention world-weary) path, mid-paced and somewhat gloomy; perhaps surprisingly, an occasional electronica influence rears its head, notably on Steve I Always Knew and Bitterness, although it's a moot point whether or not it actually improves anything.
Eitzel plays Chamberlin, with strings on The Boy With The Hammer In The Paper Bag, although all other possible parts are probably something else. How's that for being vague? After this review, I may well be taken to task by Eitzel fans for misunderstanding his work, so I apologise in advance, but however meaningful the lyrics, the music left me cold. Sorry.
See: American Music Club
Ejwuusl Wessahqqan (1975, 40.53/67.49) ***½/0 (T)Die Geborstenen Kuppeln Von Yethlyreom
Die Orangefarbene Wüste Südwestlich Von Ignarh
The utterly unpronounceable Ejwuusl Wessahqqan were a one-shot German progressive/kraut crossover band, whose instrumental, organ-infested eponymous album stands up pretty well in comparison to some of their contemporaries. OK, it's self-indulgent, but at least it isn't Mad Hippy Shit and Michael 'Hieronymus' Winzker's Hammond work is reminiscent of Jon Lord's, largely because like Lordy on Deep Purple in Rock, he doesn't appear to be putting it through a Leslie. Anyway, the album consists of two ten-minute tracks on side one, with one short and one very long one on the flip, all but the short one (Thuloneas Körper) being keyboard/bass jams, with Rene Filous' enthusiastic if clunky bass work standing out.
Those wonderful Garden of Delights people have reissued this rarity with four bonus tracks, the latter two of which are apparently actually by a later Winkzer project, Koala-Bär. There's no Mellotron at all on the original album or the first two bonus tracks, but the second of the later band's tracks, La Mer, is a gentle, drifting piece, featuring an unusual Mellotron strings/synth unison part, although it's not quite worth the price of admission on its own.
So; a decent enough album, probably approaching essential for fans of the genre(s), although not for its Mellotron use. Worthwhile.
Ekseption (Netherlands) see:
El Doom & the Born Electric (2012, 53.46) ****/TFire Don't Know
With Full Force
Subtle as a Shithouse
Norway's sublimely-named El Doom & the Born Electric give the impression of being more Ole Petter Andreassen's project than a band per se; only time will tell on that one, I suppose. Their eponymous 2012 debut displays a variety of heavy, psychedelic prog that is practically guaranteed to appeal to anyone for whom things were never quite as good again after the mid-'70s. Like, er, me. Actually, El Doom & the Born Electric is less retro than I make it sound; not only do I detect echoes of (more) modern King's X/Tea Party-esque riffology, but The Lights wanders down the post-rock path. I'm not saying that's a good thing, mind, just commenting... This is probably at its best on lengthy opener Fire Don't Know and even lengthier closer Red Flag, but the aforementioned The Lights aside, there's little here that could reasonably have been left off, despite the album's slightly excessive length.
Mikael Lindquist plays Hammond and (real?) Mellotron strings, only obviously present towards the end of Fire Don't Know and dipping in and out of The Hook, to good, if overly brief effect. All in all, then, a damn' good record, although a little more Mellotron might've been nice. Worth hearing.
Street Child (2003, 57.43) **½/T
They Came From the City
Elan Sara DeFan is a Mexican singer-songwriter, hovering on the cusp between 'rootsy' and 'mainstream pop', at least going by her debut album, 2003's Street Child. She's apparently the first female Latin artist to write her own first album entirely in English, for what it's worth, as the lyrics sound like the usual run of platitudes; hardly anything groundbreaking. The music is less offensive than it might be, but largely mid-paced rock/pop numbers (think: a duller Bonnie Raitt) pall after a while, the end result being a dull, nothing kind of record which the discerning listener would do best to avoid.
Despite credits for two Mellotron players, Alan Weatherhead and Elan's guitarist brother, Jan Carlo DeFan, there's next to none actually to be heard, as in so many similar cases. In fact, the only obvious use is on the title track, with a half-second of ghostly choir at the beginning, heard as if on a radio, with a more upfront reprise towards the end of the song and cellos and possible flutes on the unlisted 'hidden' track Perfect Life. All in all, a worthy but dull release with little Mellotron. Next...
Peace (1975, 35.15) */TTT
|Peace, Love and Hope
Eternity to Live or Die
Reach for the Light
Peace Won't Come
Brother, Watch the Light
His Light Still Shines
Thank You, Jesus, You're My Friend
|Six Sixty Six/I Wish We'd All Been Ready
Nearer to Thee
Rick Eldridge's debut album, 1975's Peace, would be a typical (albeit a particularly unpleasant) pop/rock effort of the era were it not for his religious inclinations, which turn a tedious effort into an offensive piece of propaganda. Musically, this is bad; think: the worst end of Eric Carmen, say, but Eldridge's patronising, Does this have any, I mean any redeeming (pun intended) features? Possibly the groovy squelchy synth/guitar duel in the otherwise horrible Peace Won't Come, a sentence that almost defines the old saw 'clutching at straws'.
Joe Rotina plays Mellotron on several tracks, with cello and string lines on Eternity To Live Or Die, full-on strings on Reach For The Light, a high string part and flute solo on Brother, Watch The Light, strings on the Six Sixty Six/I Wish We'd All Been Ready medley and string and flute parts on closer Nearer To Thee, although the orchestral accompaniment on Thank You, Jesus, You're My Friend sounds more like the credited string section. In recent years, Eldridge appears to've moved into Christian film production/direction, which almost certainly fills us all with hope. Not. This is properly dreadful, the sort of album that, hopefully, turned far more people off the Christian 'message' than drew them in. Is this worth it for its Mellotron use? Don't be so fucking stupid.
If You'll Be Null, I'll Be Void (2009, 52.58) ***/TT
|Electricity Wants to Dance
Right Foot From Left
Death With Benefits
Black Veil Down
A Dreamless Sleep Will Do Just Fine
A Box of Rain
Nights When the Moon Comes Too Close
The Book of Elsewhere
|A Song in the Snow
The Non Sequitur
Influx of Quackery
The Electones are otherwise known as Xploding Plastix, presumably forming their sister outfit to make music in a poppier vein, although it's hardly what you'd call mainstream. In their first album, 2009's If You'll be Null, I'll Be Void, the duo of Jens Petter Nilsen and Hallvard Hagen have made a sometimes-interesting blend of '60s pop, folk, indie and electronica that won't appeal to everyone, by any means, but is well-crafted and inventive, managing to sound a little like lots of other bands and a lot like themselves. Quite a trick, chaps.
Norwegian vintage keys king Lars Fredrik Frøislie plays Mellotron, with a few seconds of strings on Black Veil Down, loads of strings and cello on The Book Of Elsewhere, faint choirs on Jubilee Humming and what I take to be string chords on closer Summercloud, although I wouldn't swear to the latter. So; a slightly Sigur Rós-like release in places (notably Summercloud) and most unlike them in others, which probably doesn't help you very much. Not that much obvious Mellotron, given Lars' Mellotronic proclivities, but the one excellent 'Tron track's worth hearing if you get the chance.
See: Xploding Plastix
No Shouts, No Calls (2007, 47.25) **/½
|The Greater Times
To the East
After the Call
Between the Wolf and the Dog
Cut and Run
Electreland are a Brighton-based all-female outfit who, going by their fourth and last album (to date), 2007's No Shouts, No Calls, sound like they've come to their Velvets-influenced indie via (gulp) Stereolab. Those thin organ drones, thrashy clean-ish guitars, rather Nico-esque (i.e. tuneless) vocals... You get the idea. One national newspaper critic gave it a bad review, stating something like 'every track turns into a proggy wig-out'. Now, if they actually did, I might feel more inclined to like the album, but what said reviewer actually meant was '...psychedelic wig-out', had they actually known anything about pre-'90s music. The worst offender is the interminable, six-minute Five, but the band repeat the trick on several tracks, making a dull album far longer and duller.
Ros Murray plays Chamberlin, although I've no idea where she sourced a real one in Berlin, where they recorded. Er, maybe she didn't? Anyway, all we get strings on In Berlin, so it's of little consequence anyway. Do you like British indie? If so, why? Have you not made the effort to listen to anything better? This is pretty dreadful, frankly, with next to no tape-replay work, more of which might at least have livened things up slightly.
The Band Kept Playing (1974, 42.26) ***/T
|Sweet Soul Music
Every Now and Then
Doctor Oh Doctor (Massive Infusion)
Make Your Move
|Talkin' Won't Get it
The Band Kept Playing
The Electric Flag were Mike Bloomfield's late '60s outfit, whose original remit was to make 'American music', melding many American forms into a cohesive whole. The original band only produced two albums, one after Bloomfield's departure, but they reformed in 1974 to have another go, releasing the relatively unsuccessful The Band Kept Playing the same year. I haven't heard the original band, but I can say with authority that the reformation version delivered a brass-driven soul/blues/rock mix, with a hint of jazz, all played to perfection. Best track? Entirely down to taste, really, although this reviewer found Doctor Oh Doctor (Massive Infusion) came the nearest of anything here to floating his personal boat.
Barry Beckett played Mellotron, with a perfectly respectable string part on Lonely Song, although that's your lot. Whether or not you'll like The Electric Flag will depend almost entirely on your tolerance for their particular combination of genres; it's all impeccably done, but I can't personally say I warmed to The Band Kept Playing very much, which is probably more my fault than the album's. Anyway, not much Mellotron, so don't bother on those grounds.
Official Mike Bloomfield site