Electric Soft Parade
Element of Crime
Eleventh Dream Day
Elkin & Nelson
Electric Light Orchestra (UK) see:
Electric Sandwich (1973, 39.31/46.04) ***/T
It's No Use to Run
I Want You
On My Mind
China (single version)]
I think the opening to Electric Sandwich's self-titled sole album must be the most 'typical' krautrock I've heard; full-on spacey jamming with an insistent backbeat, although much of the rest of the album settles for more mainstream styles, not least the unnecessary blues of, er Archie's Blues. Top marks for refusing to be shoehorned into any one style, though; every track's different, for better or worse.
Guitarist Jörg Ohlert doubled on keys, with organ on I Want You and a short Mellotron flute solo, followed by a string part on album closer Material Darkness, so not enough to make it worth it on the 'Tron front (where have we heard this before?). Overall, Electric Sandwich is a decent enough album of its type, but not really for those who aren't students of the era.
The Human Body EP (2005, 21.31/25.04) ***/TT½A Beating Heart
Kick in the Teeth
So Much Love
The Electric Soft Parade (originally The Soft Parade until, hilariously, they were threatened with legal action by a Doors tribute band) are a Brighton-based outfit, essentially brothers Alex and Thomas White, plus whoever's around. Stylistically, at least going by their third release, The Human Body EP, they're all over the place, although it's difficult to get bored when you don't know where they're going next. The second half of A Beating Heart sounds a bit like Cardiacs, Cold World has something of the '70s singer-songwriter about it, while Everybody Wants is full-blown orchestral pop. As I said, you won't be bored.
One or both of the brothers plays either a Mellotron or good samples on three tracks, with strings on A Beating Heart and strings and flutes on Cold World and Everybody Wants, the latter sounding particularly orchestral. Are they real? I'd be surprised, but unlike many examples of sample use, there's no obvious 'there it is!' moment, so this stays here until/if I should find out otherwise. An interesting EP, although I can imagine a whole album may get a little wearing. Oh, and The Captain is a US-only bonus track, for what it's worth.
Black Masses (2010, 59.06) ***/TBlack Mass
Venus in Furs
Patterns of Evil
Turn Off Your Mind
Crypt of Drugula
Electric Wizard have been around for the better part of two decades, purveying their take on Sabbath-style stoner metal with some degree of success. Jus Oborn has led the band through several line-up changes, the current one featuring his wife, Liz Buckingham, on second guitar, making a welcome change for a metal band. 2010's Black Masses is their seventh album, recorded at London's legendary all-analogue Toerag, making for a dense, compressed sound, complete with genuine tape-hiss and the sound of old equipment. The material's pretty much what you'd expect from the style, long, slow, doomy tracks with underwater vocals and guitar solos, not to mention horror film soundtrack effects between tracks. And no, Venus In Furs is not a Velvets cover.
Alongside the studio's vintage gear, the band used the Planet Mellotron M400, played by studio mainstay Edryd Turner. Although I was under the impression they'd used the machine on more than one track, it's only credited on The Nightchild, with strings swells throughout, although the wobbly, pitchbent choirs at the end of Turn Off Your Mind couldn't be anything else. It might even be elsewhere, although I suspect the droning high notes on a couple of tracks are more likely to be controlled feedback. Anyway, if you're into this stuff, you'll probably love this album. Conversely... It seems to do what it does well enough, but it's a shame they didn't use the Mellotron a little more.
Elegant Simplicity (UK) see:
Asylum (1978, 33.31) ***/TQueen of the Night
Prisoner of the World
Fever of the Night
Rock and Roll Love
Elektroshock are routinely named as 'Italy's first punk band', but as expected, the Italians' idea of what constituted 'punk' differs markedly from the US/UK take on the term. Their first album, 1978's Asylum, does, in fairness, feature a few tracks of basic, guitar-fuelled aggression, but overall, the standard of musicianship (and, crucially, songwriting) is far too high for real authenticity and since when did a ten-minute epic have anything to do with 'punk'? Then again, why not? Surely punk was about breaking down barriers, not setting up new ones? Ha bloody ha.
Said epic, Blood Sacrifice, is the album's only obvious Mellotron track, too, with background choirs throughout from guitarist Giorgio Mastrosanti, adding an eerie, Goblinesque feel to the piece; I'd guess the lyrics are central to the track's theme, but I don't have enough (any, really) Italian to be able to tell. This isn't on CD, although I'd have thought it was worth one of the punk reissue labels' while to make an important piece of Europunk history available again. Then again, it sounds nothing like The Exploited, so I doubt whether anyone would be interested. So; sort-of interesting, but really not worth it for its Mellotron use.
See: Samurai of Prog
Psycho (1999, 49.15) ***/½
|Ich War Nicht Dabei
Ferien von Dir
Jung und Schön
Alles Was Blieb
Du Hast Mir Gesagt
Nicht Dein Tag
Jetzt Musst du Springen
|So Wie du
Weil es Schön War
In those pre-Rammstein days of the late '90s, a German-language outfit like Element of Crime were never going to get anywhere internationally, but with such a large German-speaking market, why bother? Their ninth studio album, 1999's Psycho, is a fairly laid-back effort, featuring, amongst the album's prevailing vaguely new wave feel, a strange French chanson air on several tracks, albeit in German. Does it have any 'best tracks'? Matter of opinion; I can't hear any, but I'll admit that's got more to do with my personal taste than any lack of actual quality.
Christian Hartje plays Mellotron, with flutes on Ferien Von Dir, but only just. So; new wavish French/German something-or-other? Not for me, thanks, but they seem to be good at what they do. More Mellotron might've been nice, though.
Angels Forever (1974, 35.26) **½/T½
Face the Day
Going to a Party
Tell the Truth
First to See the Last of Me
Hoochie Coochie Rockin Information Man
Elephant's Memory had several claims to fame, beginning with Carly Simon's brief membership of the band in 1968, then having two songs included on the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy, for which they received a gold disc. They're mostly remembered now, though, for their work backing John Lennon and Yoko Ono on two albums and as their live band (a recording surfacing in the '80s), temporarily renamed the Plastic Ono Elephant's Memory Band. 1974's Angels Forever, their fourth album (of five), presumably references the Hell's Angels' 'Pirate Party' at which they played the previous year, immortalised in the Hell's Angels Forever documentary a decade later. The rocking Going To A Party is pretty decent, but overall, it's a rather dated collection of mainstream early '70s rock, bearing slight comparison in places with the likes of Chicago and Santana.
Chris Robison plays Mellotron on two tracks, with strings on Running Man and First To See The Last Of Me, more obviously (and screechily) on the latter, a dodgy pseudo-reggae effort. This isn't on CD, for the good reason that this kind of stuff has little audience these days, sitting outside any of the obvious genres of the era that still have fanbases. Two OK Mellotron tracks, but really, nothing you can't live without.
See: John Lennon | Yoko Ono
Zeroes & Ones (2006, 49.27) ***/½
Lately I've Been Thinking
Lost in the City
Return of Long Shadow
From K to Z
Journey With No Maps
Eleventh Dream Day released their first album in 1987, but became a part-time proposition after the mid-'90s, members going on to other bands, notably Tortoise. 2006's Zeroes & Ones is their tenth album and third since they took a bit of a back seat; it's a decent enough album of its type, possibly at its best, strangely, at its least original moments. I mean, New Rules IS Cortez The Killer, Douglas McCombs or Rick Rizzo's Neil-inspired guitar work stretching the track out to over seven minutes.
Mark Greenberg of The Coctails plays Mellotron on closer Journey With No Maps, with literally a handful of string notes. Not bad, then, if not great, either, at its best when impersonating Neil Young, with little enough Mellotron to be effectively worth ignoring on that front.
Pearl Days (2004, 41.57) **/½
Written in Your Eyes
In the Green
Life Goes on
Elisa (Toffoli) is an Italian singer-songwriter of the insipid variety, 2004's Pearl Days being her fifth release in seven years. It's pretty dull pop/rock fare, frankly, although rocky opener Together is about the best thing here, leaving drippy closers The Waves and Life Goes On as the worst.
Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, of course) plays Chamberlin, with what sounds like occasional strings on Written In Your Eyes and cellos on City Lights, although the album's other string parts sound real. Then again, with a Chamberlin, anything's possible... Funnily enough, although Tench isn't actually credited with Chamby on the album, he is on 2008's Dancing, a compilation of tracks (some remixed) from Elisa's four previous albums, City Lights being the common factor between the two. Anyway, you're unlikely to want to hear this, while I don't particularly feel the need to hear it again, minor Chamberlin use or not.
Elkin & Nelson (1973, 56.58) ***/TT½Samba Samba
Light My Fire
Tienes Que Tomar Conciencia
Angeles y Demonios (1974, 60.39) **½/TT
|Abran Paso-Ahoa (Enrolle)
Ay, Mulata Mia
Mama High, Mama Way
Tema de Amor
Ain't No Sunshine
Abran Paso (Aperitivo)
I suppose Elkin & Nelson should really be categorised as Colombian, not Spanish, as they emigrated to the latter country from the former in the early '70s. The Marin Pérez (or Velez) brothers, Javier (Elkin) and Leon (Nelson) specialised, unsurprisingly, in a potent form of Latin pop, bringing Spanish music back home, after filtering it through their South American heritage.
They debuted with 1973's Elkin & Nelson, a single album almost long enough to be a double. Imagine a poppier Santana without the distinctive guitar work and you won't be a million miles off, although the duo are unlikely to appeal to those looking for a Latin/rock fusion. Better tracks include opener Samba Samba, the Carnavalito/Al Carnaval segue and possibly their very odd take on Light My Fire, a song with a slightly dishonourable history of weird versions. Eduardo Leiva plays keyboards, including Mellotron, with a sparse string part on A Caballo and flutes and strings on Carnavalito 1, Al Carnaval and Carnavalito 2.
The following year's Angeles y Demonios (please don't tell me you can't work that one out) was a double album almost short enough to be a single, not dissimilar to its predecessor, though nearer to the pop mainstream. Its big hit, Jibaro, had a resurgence decades later, finding itself eminently sampleable, which might give you some idea of the album's bent. Leiva on Mellotron again, with flutes and strings on Simón, alongside real cello (and strings?), choirs on Cuándo Llegaré, Tema De Amor, El Maniquí, Ain't No Sunshine and closer Los Invitamos, although most of the album's strings are synth-generated.
While Elkin & Nelson might just be worth investigating by Santana fans, Angeles y Demonios really isn't, although both albums feature passable Mellotron use. File under 'second division Latin'.
Lost Paradise (1980, 41.42) ***½/TTTime Reflection
Homage à 'M'
Tree of Conflicts
Old Man's Voice
Eloiteron's sole album is probably fairly typical for 1980, being a sort-of progressive release, but with shorter, more straightforward material, although, interestingly, most of it's instrumental (thankfully - the vocals aren't very good...). Some of the tracks are more adventurous than others, with Homage À 'M' having a particularly good part before sliding back into a rather standard chord sequence. One oddity on the album is the (real) solo trumpet, which is most unusual in the genre, and is one of the things, along with the excellent piano work, that lifts this above the mundanity to which it sometimes aspires.
Martin and Christian Frey both play the 'Tron, apparently, but do no more than add choirs to a few tracks, sometimes more overtly than others (Octopus has a nice part), until you get to the album's longest track, closer Old Man's Voice, with a beautiful string part, although I'm fairly certain the flute section on the intro is a double-tracked real one. String synth on a few tracks, but where you can hear it properly (Octopus again), it quite clearly isn't 'Tron.
So; you're not going to find this easily, to say the least, and it probably isn't the most scintillating Mellotron use ever, although should you run into a copy for sensible money, it's probably worth the effort.
Power and the Passion (1975, 42.45) **½/0
Journey Into 1358
Love Over Six Centuries
Thoughts of Home
The Zany Magician
|Back Into the Present
The Bells of Notre Dame
Dawn (1976, 45.05) **½/T
Between the Times
Memory - Flash
Appearance of the Voice
Return of the Voice
The Dance in Doubt and Fear
Lost!?? (the Decision)
The Victory of Mental Force
Gliding Into Light and Knowledge
Le Reveil du Soleil/The Dawn
Ocean (1977, 44.08) ***/0Poseidon's Creation
Incarnation of Logos
Decay of Logos
Atlantis' Agony at June 5th - 8498, 13 p.m. Gregorian Earthtime
During the '70s, Eloy were Germany's most popular progressive band, and (to my knowledge) the only one signed to a major label, EMI/Harvest. Predictably, given the circumstances, Eloy aren't the most exciting of bands, and frequently give the impression of wanting to be Pink Floyd so badly it hurts. Unfortunately, while they got the 'long sustained chords' bit right, the 'great songs' part went a bit awry somewhere; not that I'm saying they're bad, just... average. Songs often meander along for anything up to a side of vinyl without going anywhere in particular, although they're a perfectly pleasant listen, especially (I imagine) if you've been partaking of, er, 'recreational substances' (see below).
Power and the Passion, Eloy's fourth album, falls fairly and squarely into the dreaded 'concept' zone, with a particularly silly story concerning time travel, including a section where the chief protagonist introduces a 14th-century girl to marijuana. Sample lyrics:
|'I've got something here... lots of my friends smoke it...
I don't suppose you know it... try it, it helps at times like these...'
'Oh what a beautiful feeling... everything shimmering in the twilight...
Look at that sunset... I've never seen such colours before...'
Do me a bleeding favour! Christ Almighty, what a ludicrous concept; I'm sure the mediæval bæbe in question would be perfectly au fait with the techniques of smoking. Not. I suppose a lyric along the lines of 'Stop drooling on it and coughing so loudly' wouldn't have the same impact, would it? Er... anyway; back to the topic in question: Mellotrons! Well, Manfred Wieczorke is credited with playing one, although there's no mention of the string synth splattered all over the album. There's no sign of any 'Tron anywhere, so I'd approach this one with caution on several levels.
By '76's Dawn, the keyboards were being handled by Detlev Schmidtchen, and there's a few 'Tron choir chords towards the end of side one. The music's in the same general vein as its predecessor, although maybe slightly more dynamic; there's an orchestra involved this time, as well as Schmidtchen's RMI Keyboard Computer, so all strings tend to be either of these or, of course, the trusty unnamed string machine. Actually, the choir sound doesn't really match the usual Mellotron library ones, so it's possible that it's produced by the RMI as well; difficult to say.
Ocean has the makings of a better album; on Poseidon's Creation they get their Floyd pastiche just right, but it all falls to pieces by the near side-long Atlantis' Agony On Sunday, Round About Teatime or whatever it's called, which is based on a two-chord drone, but without any of the stuff that made the best Krautrock work so well. There is, once again, no sign of the credited Mellotron, making me wonder if they had any idea what one was. Too many drugs. It's perfectly possible that they used one on '78's Live (***), but if so, it's no more audible than on Ocean; there's a few tiny pics of the band on stage, but no close-ups of the keyboard rig.
So... As Mellotron albums, these are all complete disasters, with only a few chords on Dawn to boast of. Musically, they're OK if you want to hear Floyd-y stuff without the songs, with badly-accented vocals and extra added drone. Not awful, but a long, long way from 'special'.
Elysian Field (2000, recorded 1968-71, 63.31) ***/TT
Didn't it Feel Good
I Think I Can't Live Without You
I Hate You
Good Time Living
Bed of Roses
|24 Hours of Loneliness
Kind of Man
Alone on Your Doorstep
Old Oak Tree
On My Way
|Revolution's in the Air
Let the Music Take You Down
Still I Want You
Man on Fire
Soul, Inc(orporated) were a Louisville, KY, psych/r'n'b outfit who released a clutch of singles during the latter half of the '60s, three members of whom formed Elysian Field upon the original band's dissolution. Although the new band only released two singles during their 'lifetime', they did plenty of recording, the entire results of which were finally released by Gear Fab in 2000, simply titled Elysian Field. As you'd expect, it's a pretty mixed bag, the four single sides being pretty cheesy pop, as their record company would've expected, but a good bit of the rest actually rocks, not least proto-grunge opener Mother Hate and I Hate You (is there a theme developing here?).
Rudy Helm is credited with Mellotron, with fairly upfront string parts on Keep Her, Canada, Let The Music Take You Down, Man On Fire and Sundown Red (with a particularly effective part on the last-named) presumably all from the same, late-period session or group of sessions, although the strings on various earlier tracks are clearly real. So; something of the proverbial curate's egg, although probably over half of the disc will appeal to fans of early '70s mainstream American rock. More Mellotron than expected, too, so certainly worth hearing on that front. Incidentally, one of the lesser players on the set is none other than guitarist Mark Miceli, later of unsung US prog heroes Easter Island.
Official Soul, Inc. site
If You've Never Been (2001, 47.56) *½/½
I Hope You're Happy Now
Many Will Learn
It's Gonna Take Time
Hey, What You Trying to Say
If You've Never Been in Love With Anything
Make it Last
|Happiness Will Get You in the End
There's a pretty easy test you can take to determine whether or not you're going to like Embrace:
Do you like music?. Er. sorry, that was meant to read: Do you like Travis? Or Coldplay? I would say Elbow, but shockingly, that insipid outfit are actually dynamic in comparison... Embrace's debut, The Good Will Out, hit no.1 in the UK album charts, probably giving them a false sense of security, although despite a subsequent career lull, they still seem to be doing OK a decade later. They operate in that wussy pop/rock kind of area popular with people who just like something nice and uplifting with just a hint of melancholy in the background - something that doesn't actually require any thought or emotional involvement. Mainstream pop - yeah, that'll be it. Overblown, pompous arrangements, meaningless, 'positive' lyrics, vaguely involving relationships; you know the stuff. Not quite "Music for people who don't like music" (that's Simply Red), but bleedin' close.
There's very little I can think of to say about their third release, If You've Never Been, as it's so emotionally unengaging that it just washes over me, which is probably the point. God, this is almost the anti-music, isn't it? If there was a word meaning 'beyond bland', it would describe this perfectly. There's no point quoting any song titles, as they basically all sound the same, and are entirely interchangeable. I remember their official site used to have some studio pics from the sessions for this album, in one of which was an M400, so it seems that the little identifiable Mellotron on the album is real. Keys man Mickey Dale seems to have very little to do in the studio, as most of the songs' chordal backdrop is provided by acoustic guitar and orchestral strings (although there's some nice harmonium on Happiness Will Get You In The End), but the 'Tron's clearly audible on I Hope You're Happy Now (strings at the end), assuming it's Dale that plays it, and not guitarist and co-writer Richard McNamara. As so often with this type of album, it's possible there's more of that 'Tron in there (I thought I heard some choirs at one point), but the sludgy throw-everything-in mix makes it impossible to tell for sure.
This is a painfully awful album, and I sincerely hope that you, dear reader, never have to suffer as I have, listening to (or rather, hearing) 47.56 of this blandola tedium. Then again, maybe you like dullsville rubbish that washes over you? What do I know? And who am I to say this is rubbish anyway? It's perfectly well-played, the songs all hang together, but it's so dull. Practically no Mellotron either. What's the point?
As an odd postscript, I was sitting at the ferry port in Calais, waiting to go home after Änglagård's final gig in Belgium in August 2003, with my Mellotron sitting in the back of my van, when I got a call on my mobile from Embrace's production office asking if they could hire it (the Mellotron, not the van) for the recording of their next album. Weird or what? I think they found a pic on my brother's studio's site and rang them for my number. Needless to say, the hire never happened, despite my chasing it up, so although I missed out on some income, at least my M400 never had to play this kind of anodyne crap. The album in question was no doubt 2004's Out of Nothing, and I don't believe there's any 'Tron on the record.
Embryo's Rache (1971, 41.37) ***½/TTT½Tausendfüßler
You Can't Wait
Spain Yes, Franco Finished
Try to Be
Steig Aus (1973, 37.45) ***½/TTTRadio Marrakesch/Orient Express
Call (part 1)
Call (part 2)
We Keep on (1973, 38.34/63.12) ***/T (TT)No Place to Go
Flute and Saz
Ehna, Ehna, Abu Lele
Don't Come Tomorrow
Ticket to India
Flute, Saz and Marimba]
Surfin' (1974, 39.38) **½/½You Can Turn on Me
Music of Today
In My Lunamatic
Dance of Some Broken Glasses
Embryo's second effort, Embryo's Rache, is a fairly typical early-'70s German freakout album, sitting (un)comfortably alongside other Kraut heroes such as Amon Düül II, Witthüser & Westrupp et al.. The occasional lyrics are the usual stoned idiocy ("Revolution is the only way" etc.), but I suppose that may be missing the point somewhat. Listening to this 'straight' is a slightly futile experience, to be honest; an awful lot of drugs were consumed during its conception, and it seems a little pointless to attempt to appreciate it without indulging in a similar fashion. I can't really pick out any highlights as such, although the few moments where the band slot into a pseudo-Van der Graaf groove are worth hearing. James 'Jimi' Jackson, from Amon Düül II plays Mellotron on three tracks; Revenge and the lengthy Spain Yes, Franco Finished feature mainly brass block chords, with little bits of flute here and there, but Change has a heavy 'Tron strings presence, although I think the flutes may be real. Embryo's Rache is a lot more 'Tronically inclined than I'd expected, so although some of the music's rather hard going, a cautious recommendation on the 'Tron front.
No 'Tron on the follow-up, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but it's back on album no.4, Steig Aus, played by Jimi Jackson again. The band's future proto-world music direction is apparent on the muezzin's call at the beginning of Radio Marrakesch/Orient Express, before the track shifts into a heavy funk jam, like Funkadelic on overdrive. After the slightly more relaxed Dreaming Girls, the side-long multi-part Call is more reminiscent of the opening track, being another organ-heavy instrumental jam, though maybe fractionally less funky. Jackson's 'Tron work consists of thick, sludgy brass chords on the first and last tracks (pretty much all the way through Call), and more arranged brass on Dreaming Girls, making an interesting change from the more commonly-heard sounds.
After another gap ('73's Rocksession, which sounds like it should be a bad compilation, but isn't), Embryo delivered their next to last 'Tron album in their second release of '73, We Keep on. A collaboration with veteran jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano, it seems to me to be less cohesive than it predecessors, though that could simply be a result of their evolving style. Several of the tracks have vocals, although it's actually hard to tell whether they're being sung in German or English much of the time (!); suffice to say (at least to my ears), the band worked better instrumentally. For some unfathomable reason, the bonus-tracked CD has a completely different running order to the original album, so the order above is the original, with the bonus tracks added on (they're last on the CD, too). One 'Tron track on the original album, from drummer/main man Christian Burchard: Don't Come Tomorrow has a drifting strings part with little chord work, while one of the CD bonus tracks, the lengthy Ticket To India, has, er, a drifting strings part with little chord work. Quite nice, but inessential.
Surfin' shows the band's new direction very clearly indeed, being a jazz/funk/psych record, with barely a hint of 'progressiveness', although, of course, the band were actually progressing at a rate of knots; 'cosmic proto-World music' would be an adequate description, I think. I can't actually say I'm very keen on this stuff, personally, but I'm sure it fills a much-needed void. Very little Mellotron, with a bit of cello at the beginning of Secret and the same in closer Side Track, though barely enough to make it worth their while, to be honest.
So; if you're into your Krautrock, and you haven't already discovered Embryo, you need to. Conversely, I'm not sure there's much here for your typical prog fan, although some of the Mellotron work is worth hearing.
Get Out to the Country [a.k.a. This is Emergency] (1973, 44.49) **½/T½I Know What's Wrong
Take My Hand
Early in the Morning
Get Out to the Country
No Compromise (1974, 41.51) ***/TSmilin'
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
From Here to New York City
Time Can't Take it Away
Goodbye to a Friend
Munich's Emergency are one of the many early-'70s German bands to get themselves lumped in with the Krautrock crowd, while being absolutely nothing of the sort. Going by their third album, Get Out to the Country (a.k.a. This is Emergency, oddly), they played a funky kind of pop/rock, with jazz and progressive elements here and there (the sax solo on Take My Hand, the Moody Blues-isms of Early In The Morning, parts of 12-minute closer Get Out To The Country). Veit Marvos and Hanus Berka both add a bit of Mellotron to the mix, with string parts on I Know What's Wrong and (fittingly) the aforementioned Early In The Morning, though nothing groundbreaking, sadly.
No Compromise, their fourth and last album, is an odd mixture of cool jammed-out stuff (Time Can't Take It Away, with its great descending jazzy unison line) and tedious, funkyish material (From Here To New York City, Hideaway), and sometimes both in the same piece (the title track) making for the proverbial curate's egg. Berka plays Mellotron on a couple of tracks, with quite overt string lines on From Here To New York City and No Compromise itself, although we're not exactly talking outstanding use here, to be honest. So; OK album with a handful of blistering moments, but fairly minimal 'Tron.
So; to Emergency or not to Emergency? I'd say not, on balance, although those with a yen for vaguely jazzy German rock may like the odd track here and there. Passable Mellotron work, but don't bother buying these for that alone.
Gert Emmens (& Ruud Heij) (Netherlands) see:
Mark I (1995, recorded 1974, 48.22) ***½/TTTOut of Our Hands
More Than Words
Someone Who Cares
For a Lifetime
Hear My Voice on the Radio
a. From the Top
b. Common Ground
c. Iceland on the Rocks
d. Shooting Star
Sky at Night
Empire were ex-Yes Peter Banks' post-Flash outfit, featuring his then-partner, Sydney Foxx (her real name, surely?) on vocals. For all the usual irritating reasons, they couldn't get a deal at the time, and despite recording a fair bit of material over a several-year period, the tapes sat in a drawer for twenty years before One Way gave them a belated release, splitting them into three 'themed' discs, depending on lineup and era. Mark I opens with the killer Yesalike Out Of Our Hands (presumably written for Flash but unrecorded), sounding like a cross between Yes and The Yes Album, with other better tracks including the twelve-minute Common Ground and Sky At Night, although it's a bit of a curate's egg, with tracks like the insipid For A Lifetime or the countryish Hear My Voice On The Radio letting the side down slightly.
Mellotron from either Banks or Jakob Magnusson on a few tracks, with flute and string parts on the semi-balladic More Than Words and the even more balladic For A Lifetime, with strings and cellos on Shooting Star (probably on the second part, Common Ground) and occasional flutes and strings on the closing epic, Sky At Night. Overall, then, a pretty good archive release, with a couple of lesser tracks; that's why programmable CD was invented, folks... Plenty of Mellotron, too, so this is probably worth the effort should you run into a copy.
Official Peter Banks site
See: Yes | Flash
Saat (1972, 38.14) ***½/½Walkin' in the Park
Touch the Sun
Love Time Rain
I don't know much about Emtidi, but they strongly remind me in places of early Pink Floyd, particularly on Touch The Sun, although all the organ work has that 'Rick Wrightness' about it. Male and/or female vocals, acoustic guitar, spacey keys; yup, it's Krautrock, albeit the folk end of it. Definitely an, er, 'late night listen'; it doesn't make much sense straight, to be honest.
Dolly Holmes plays Mellotron on Touch The Sun (although Dieter Dierks is credited with 'help with Mellotron'), and apart from some very background strings and (possibly) choir, that's it, really. A fairly good laid-back sort of stoner folk album, then, with minimal Mellotron presence.
Introspection (1969, 34.36/40.19) ***½/T
Under the Rainbow
Shades of Orange
Introspection (part one)
What Does it Feel Like?
|Don't Take Me
Loving, Sacred Loving
She Said Yeah
Introspection (part two)
Shades of Orange (single version)
Loving, Sacred Loving (single version)]
Retrospection (1997, recorded 1967?, 40.28) ***/T
|Loving, Sacred Loving
Building Up a Dream
Tears Will Be the Only Answer
Lady Under the Lamp
Black is Black
Shades of Orange
We Have Got it Made
Bypass the By-Pass
The End are known, if at all, for Bill Wyman's patronage; the bonus tracks on the CD of 1969's Introspection were recorded during the sessions for Their Satanic Majesties Request, and have apparently turned up on Stones bootlegs, despite sounding nothing like them. It was the only album they released during their career, and is a fairly normal psych effort, albeit a little late in the day, although it was recorded in late '67. It's oddest feature is the handful of spoken-word tracks, including Bromley Common and Linen Draper, featuring some old cockney talking about his lifestyle; it sounds like someone's family friend, and makes for an interesting diversion, if nothing else. The material is mixed in both style and quality, and you can sort of see why this didn't really take off, as by then the listening public had moved on from the English whimsy of harpsichord-driven tracks like Loving, Sacred Loving (more's the pity). Mellotron on one track, with a lovely flute part on Cardboard Watch from Nicky Graham, also featured (before the album's release) on a Spanish film, Al Escondite Ingle's, which received a bit of UK publicity at the time.
The band split soon after its release, morphing into the more rocking Tucky Buzzard, although never really breaking through. 1997's Retrospection consists of outtakes from Introspection and other material recorded over the same period, although it lacks the original album's charm, for some reason. Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad record, but while psych fans probably need to hear Introspection, this is rather less essential. One 'Tron track, again, with strings and brass (Nicky Graham again?) on We Have Got It Made, although not worth buying for that reason.
Introspection is a good, if not outstanding album, its unfashionability neutered by time, while Retrospection is a decent enough collection for the faithful. One reasonable 'Tron track each, but not enough to make them worth the effort for that alone.
Alone (2007, 16.25) **½/½Me
Love Me Morbid
Endezzma are yet another entrant into the 'Scandinavian extreme metal' stakes, as if any more were needed. The Alone EP is their debut release, consisting of the usual growled vocals, sludgy riffs and overlong material... Maybe it's just that I don't understand this stuff at all; on the heavier front, '70s hard rock's my bag, and this genre-fixated approach simply bores me. Sorry. It's all very silly, anyway, unless you're a True Metal Believer, in which case it's deadly serious. I found a (deliberately) piss-funny 'how to be a tr00 kvlt black metaler' list on someone's blog recently (try here), including helpful advice along the lines of 'be grim' and 'be necro'. NECRO??! Oh, gimme a break... In fairness, the list is right royally taking the piss, but even the concept...
Ahem... Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler/White Willow) plays piano, Moog, Mellotron and clarinet, although I have to say it's difficult to spot what the Mellotron might be doing. There are background... somethings on Antilevitation and Love Me Morbid which have to be the 'Tron, as there's nothing else credited that could make those sounds, but I've no idea what tapes he might be using. As a result, it's a low score on the 'Tronometer, until/unless I get more info. You probably don't want to hear this anyway, unless you're a mad metalhead who has to have everything in the genre. Some task...
England (UK) see:
It's All a Game (1974) ***/T
|Turn the Page
Just the Way I am
He Could Have Been a Dancer
Love Goes on
Chained to the Middle
|Superstar (You Promised Me)
Hail All Hail to the Revolution (12 Bore)
Jon English managed to juggle careers in acting (stage and screen) and music during the '70s, releasing several successful albums, including this presumably semi-concept effort, It's All a Game. It contains a cover of Bob Seger's classic Turn The Page (greatest 'road song' ever?), and seems to basically be about the trials and tribulations of playing in a band (maaan...), with the rear sleeve pic of English as a marionette, and the board game on the inside of the gatefold, an idea also used by Triumph a couple of years later. It also has to be said that his countrymen AC/DC's It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock'n'Roll) did it far better in one song... It's not actually a bad album, though English's theatrical background comes lurching through at inopportune moments, not least on closer Hail All Hail To The Revolution (12 Bore) and the frankly bizarre Irish pub singalong interstellar epic (!), Space Shanty.
Mellotron on two tracks, from Michael Carlos, who also played on Chalice's Overflow: strings on He Could Have Been A Dancer and Snakeyes, although neither performance is exactly groundbreaking, to be honest. Interestingly, three-quarters of Sebastian Hardie are also present (how incestuous is all this? OK, it seems he was an early member), though not keyboard player Toivo Pilt (who also played on the Chalice album...), thanked on the rear sleeve as 'Sebastian Hardy'.
Anyway, this isn't common, even in Australia, and only just scraped three stars, so don't make it your life's work to track a copy down or anything. Two OK 'Tron tracks and that's it.
See: Sebastian Hardie | Against the Wind
In the Region of the Summer Stars (1976, 39.29) *****/T½The Fool...The Falling Tower
Death, the Reaper
The Last Judgement
In the Region of the Summer Stars
The Enid formed in 1974, the brainchild of Robert John Godfrey, who had previously worked with Barclay James Harvest as orchestral arranger. He claims that he presented his idea for an album based on the Tarot to Charisma, with whom he had just released a solo album, Fall of Hyperion, only to have it stolen from under his nose by Steve Hackett for his Voyage of the Acolyte opus. Undeterred, Godfrey began developing his own material anyway, demoing it with his fledgling lineup in 1975. These demos became available, briefly, on the vinyl-only The Alternative Enid, Vol.1 in the mid-'90s.
The band eventually secured a deal with the independent Buk Records, and released In the Region of the Summer Stars in '76. The album is an absolute tour de force; classical and rock influences thrown into the melting pot, creating a completely unique sound unlike that of any other progressive outfit of the era. Godfrey's years at music school were put to good use and the arrangements, for keys and two guitars, are top-notch. Anyone who's heard Hyperion will spot a steal from that album's opening track in The Sun, a trick Godfrey was to re-use many times throughout the band's career. Basically, I can't recommend this album highly enough; there's not a duff moment on it, although I know Robert dislikes some of the synth sounds. The band were signed by EMI soon after, who re-released the album, although this version is no more common than the Buk issue.
They used a borrowed Mellotron on the last two linked pieces; The Last Judgement is based on Gregorian mega-hit Dies Irie, which I've never heard put to more effective use, despite the number of times it's been used over the years. The 'Tron use is restricted to some choirs in the background on both Judgement and the title track, so In the Region is far from being a Mellotron Classic, which explains its low 'T' rating, but the album itself is an absolute stormer. Now, a warning: after much legal wrangling with ex-record companies, Robert apparently retrieved various master tapes in the early '80s, only to lose some of them in a fire. Allegedly. The Enid re-recorded In the Region in 1984, but the guts of the original were lost; it's a pale imitation of the original LP, although the material still holds up. This version has a completely different sleeve, so it's the one pictured above that you want. STOP PRESS: As of 2010, the never-actually-lost masters have been provided by EMI and the original album (plus the original version of its follow-up, Aerie Faerie Nonsense) are finally, properly, legally available on CD. Hurrah!
So... BUY. IMMEDIATELY! Not for the 'Tron, mind you, but for the music. I quite seriously intend to have one of these pieces played at my funeral, which should give you some idea of how highly I rate this album. A true classic.
See: Robert John Godfrey