Redemption Road (1996, 50.11) ***/½
|Pools of Eden
Unless You Want Me
Rose of Sharon
Road Not Taken
|Her Melancholy Muse
Through the Glass Darkly
River of Gold
Misfits (1999, 42.22) ***/T
Mama's Little Baby
Bad Boy/Good Man
Last Big Thrill
|Nuestra Senora del Rio
Chimes of Freedom
Before beginning my research, I assumed Eliza Gilkyson (sister of Lone Justice member Tony) was a 'typical' modern singer-songwriter, whatever you take that to mean, so it comes as quite a surprise to learn that she was born in 1950. After an early album in 1969, it took her a decade to follow up, taking until the mid-'90s to kick her career off properly, having already released six or seven albums.
1996's Redemption Road is the first of her 'contemporary' releases, a rather lightweight collection of vaguely countryish songs whose depth is almost certainly more lyrical than musical. Despite that caveat and the fact that I really shouldn't like this very much, it's considerably better than the rubbish churned out by most of Gilkyson's contemporaries, to the point where three stars seems fair, better tracks including opener Pools Of Eden and Through The Glass Darkly. Patrick Warren does his usual Chamberlin thing, although the only likely candidate is the background polyphonic flute part on River Of Gold, as the solo flute on Through The Glass Darkly is almost certainly the credited real one.
'99's Misfits pursues a similar direction as its predecessor, better tracks including Bad Boy/Good Man, the instrumental Nuestra Senora Del Rio and her rocking version of Dylan (via The Byrds)'s Chimes Of Freedom. Unlike the album's predecessor, Warren's Chamberlin is almost immediately apparent, with an upfront flute part on opener Hollywood Years, although, sadly, that appears to be your lot.
Although I detect a certain religiosity on both of these albums, the overall quality of the material is good enough to suppress any qualms I may have about her views. And, er, surely that's her business, anyway? I'm quite surprised to find I like some of her material, but despite a couple of reasonable Chamberlin tracks, I really can't recommend either of these on those grounds.
See: Samples etc.
Apple Bonkers (2014, 36.47) ***½/TT
Change My Mind
Don't Let the Fuckers Bring You Down
Joel Gion's glamorous day job is as tambourine player/backing vocalist for The Brian Jonestown Massacre (the Gene Clark role), although his solo debut, 2014's Apple Bonkers, is less druggy, more '60s garage-meets-psych-with-a-hint-of-shoegaze. Highlights include opener Yes, Dart, with its backwards percussion, Radio Silence and the trippy Sail On, but nothing here should disappoint a fan of current psych.
Rob Campanella and Ryan Carlson van Kriedt play what I presume is Campanella's M400, with a distant flute line on Yes, volume-pedalled strings on Dart, a distant octave string line on Change My Mind, chordal strings on Mirage and a background flute line on Sail On. Given that I have little time for Gion's main band, this comes as a very pleasant surprise, not least for its Mellotron use.
See: Brian Jonestown Massacre
Geronimo! (2011, 38.45) ***/TT½
Here's Looking at You
Longest Day of Spring
Would You Be There
Friends & Neighbours
Let's Get Silly
La De Da
It's Our Time
"What sort of name is Piney Gir?", thunk I. A nom-de-plume, that's what. Angela Penhaligon's fifth album, 2011's Geronimo!, is pretty much exactly the sort of record you'd expect a New York-based, ex-Christian Midwest escapee to make (?), full of twisted Americana (Let's Get Silly), Tex-Mex (The Gift) and powerpop, the latter particularly evident in the Byrdsian Rickenbacker 12-string jangle of Would You Be There.
Garo Nahoulakian plays Mellotron, with long, sustained flute notes on Stay Sweet, little bursts of strings on River Song, odd, choppy strings on La De Da, upfront flutes on It's Our Time and creaky cellos on closer Say Goodbye, all sounding rather real, at least to my ears. I'm not entirely sure who this album's target audience is, but it's the kind of record that might, just might appeal to fans of several different genres and is also rather better than expected on the Mellotron front.
Written on the Wind (1977, 35.42) */TSpirit Wind
Thank You Lord
Plain Ol' Joe
Fool for Jesus
Hear The Angels Sing
Peace in the Valley
Chuck Girard has been around since the early '60s and is still performing to this day; his evangelistic CCM style really falls into the 'you will either love or hate it' category. 1977's Written on the Wind is his third solo release (after two Christian albums with Love Song and some pre-God releases) and is, I'm afraid to say, one of the gloopiest, cheesiest efforts it's been my displeasure to hear for a while, actually managing to outdo some current CCM offenders. The lyrics to Thank You Lord are utterly gagworthy, although Plain Ol' Joe's tragic story seems to largely avoid any majorly Christian bent, while musically, the album's essentially one long, slushy, sickly sweet ballad.
Someone (Girard? Terry Clark? Herb Jimmerson?) plays Mellotron (or Chamberlin?) on a couple of tracks, with strings on opener Spirit Wind that are distinctly different to the real ones on the rest of the album, while the flutes (and strings?) on Peace In The Valley seem to be tape-replay-assisted, too. I can't imagine what would make you hunt this album down, to be honest: masochism? Insanity? Fully repellent, it doesn't even feature any decent tape-replay work to alleviate the horror. Incidentally, at least one of Girard's first two solo albums has pretty much all of Ambrosia playing on it, for some reason. Just thought you might be interested.
Broken Dreams Club (2010, 30.07) **/TThe Oh So Protective One
Broken Dreams Club
Father, Son, Holy Ghost (2011, 53.59) ***/T½
Saying I Love You
Just a Song
Love Like a River
|Single-sided 7/12" (2011) ***½/TT
Girls (who aren't) are a San Franciscan indie/country crossover outfit led by Christopher Owens and Chet "JR" White, going by 2010's Broken Dreams Club mini-album. I can't tell whether Owens' childhood in the filthy supposedly Christian Children of God cult has any bearing on the record, but it's not what you'd describe as the angriest album ever, frequently slipping into near-MOR countryisms. J.J. Wiesler plays a brief Mellotron flute part on Substance, sounding reasonably real, although it's always hard to tell with the flutes.
The following year's Father, Son, Holy Ghost, however, is more of a psych/powerpop crossover record and, as a result, a distinct improvement on its immediate predecessor. Better tracks include rocking instrumental Die and psych-fest Vomit, although it has its lowpoints, not least '50s pastiche Love Like A River and dreary closer Jamie Marie. Christopher Owens plays Mellotron; I hear flutes on Die and cellos, strings and wonky flutes on mini-epic Just A Song, although other possible string sightings are probably sustained guitar.
Late 2011's Lawrence is a single-sided, er, single; the sleeve dedication reads, "This song was written and recorded as a gift to Lawrence", the titular gentleman being Felt's Lawrence Hayward, also mainman of Denim and apparently a major influence on Owens. Stylistically, it probably sits in between Girls' two releases listed above and, of course, Felt, enhanced by a nice helping of Mellotron flutes that sound right but are played slightly too fast for genuine veracity. Real? Who knows? Nice song, though.
Broken Dreams Club is a pretty dull release with one minor Mellotron track, but Father, Son, Holy Ghost and Lawrence are great improvements, both musically and Mellotronically.
Lookin' for a Smile (1973, 35.03) **½/T½
Let Someone's Smile Get Away
Long Way Home
Got to Be You, Got to Be Me
Love, Love, Love
|Lookin' for a Smile
Here Comes That Feelin'
Gladstone were the duo of vocalist H.L. Voelker and vocalist/guitarist Doug Rhone, both currently residing in the 'Where Are They Now?' file. Following their eponymous debut, Lookin' for a Smile was seemingly their last stab at fame and fortune, consisting of ten tracks of largely soft rock like Dixie Woman or Texas Sparrow, with, sadly, nothing to distinguish them from hundreds of similar sub-Eagles efforts. This isn't to say that their material was awful, only that there isn't one single feature that makes them stand out from the pack. No, not even the Mellotron.
Keys man Randy Fouts played the expected piano and organ, plus ARP synth (model unknown) and Mellotron, though on one track only, with flutes on Natural Inclination, although Lynn Groom plays 'Tron strings (very nicely) on Songbird, too. I can't really say they lift the song out of the doldrums of countryish ballad territory, although it's better than its successor, the very dull Love, Love, Love. So; this doesn't go for an awful lot, despite being unavailable on CD, for the very good reason that it's entirely average in every possible respect. I found it for a couple of quid, and I'm glad I didn't pay any more; perfectly respectable, completely inoffensive, but essentially dull, with little Mellotron. Don't bother.
No Stranger to the Skies (2000, recorded 1973-78, 100.53) ****/TTTT
|No Stranger to the Skies
Give the Man a Hand
The Myopic Stream
For Ursula Major and Sirus the Dog Star
| Childhood's Reflection
Patrice Mersault's Dream
Illuminations (2005, 62.57) ****/TT
The Secret Life of Aqua J. Long
Isle of Dyslexia
The Hidden Room
My Tantric Gatito
|Alchemy of the Word
Slightly Behind All the Time
Live at Progman Cometh (2007, recorded 2002-3, 66.23) ****/TT
|Set One - Dedicated to Mike (But
We Can't Find Him)
Give the Man a Hand
Dedicated to Mike
Miles, Monk, Elton and Mom
|Set Two - The Catch
Patrice Mersault's Dream
The War Song
For Ursula Major and Sirus the Dog Star
Big Sur 9-14-2000
No Stranger to the Skies
Spectrum Principle (2010, 64.15) ****/TT½
|Spectrum in Principle
Palindrome (2014, 63.43) ****/TT½
The Water is Always Moving on
The Rain Song
Wake for Owsley
Arrhythmia - Linger Longer
You can add Northwest trio Glass to the lengthy list of US '70s progressive acts who recorded enough material for an album (or more), but were never able to release it, or who only managed one local, independently-released LP. Not only have pressing costs plummeted in the CD age, however, but there are far more labels willing to take a chance on a long-forgotten outfit, as their potential losses are nowadays within acceptable limits. Glass actually formed way back in 1970, battering their collective heads against the impregnable wall of opportunity for a decade, before finally throwing in the towel. Thankfully, they'd managed to record some pro-quality tapes in 1975, plus several other demos, finally presented to us as No Stranger to the Skies by those lovely people at Musea.
The first disc would have made a great studio album at the time, being high-quality, slightly jazzy instrumental progressive rock, with brothers Greg (keys) and Jeff (bass) Sherman complemented by two different drummers over the recordings. Actually, Jeff doubled on keys, principally Fender Rhodes, giving the band an interesting two keys/bass/drums sound at points. The albums opens with its quite excellent title track, rarely letting up the quality, although what appears to be the band's favourite, For Ursula Major And Sirus [sic] The Dog Star, doesn't, to my ears, match No Stranger To The Skies itself.
Disc 2 is subtitled 'The 'Live' Recordings', but it turns out this refers to their being played live in the studio, as against on stage, although if they hadn't told us they weren't 'proper' recordings, we wouldn't know. The musicianship on display here is formidable, especially when you consider that on one piece the brothers rehearsed just once with their new drummer before recording. Jeff plays acoustic guitar on a couple of the tracks, expanding the band's palette, but most of the time there's enough keyboards to cover any gaps in the sound, and the lack of electric guitar isn't even an issue.
Greg's Mellotron work throughout is considerable, with (as you can see) only one complete track bereft of their machine, where he uses an Elka string synth instead. Interestingly, on several tracks (notably Changer), he waits until near the end of the piece to bring the 'Tron in, making its eventual appearance more climactic than it might otherwise have been. Most of his use is strings, although flutes (Childhood's Reflection) and cellos (Home) crop up in places, too. Without playing the 100-minute album several times straight off, it's difficult to remember exactly what was played where; suffice to say, there's some great 'Tron work here, along side the more standard string parts.
Well, would'ja believe it? Following the release of No Stranger to the Skies, Glass have reformed with their original lineup, with drummer Jerry Cook, releasing Illuminations, in 2005. Would'ja also believe it? It's basically in the same vein as their '70s material, with no compromises whatsoever, not to mention guest appearances from various Canterbury alumni, including Hugh Hopper, Phil Miller and Richard Sinclair. The material leaves plenty of room for the musicians to stretch out, while managing not to forget melody while they're at it. And it's still instrumental. And Greg plays what appears to be a black MkVI Mellotron... Overture leads you to think this is going to be a classic 'Tron album, though it's actually the album's main 'Tron shot, swathed in strings, making for a killer five minutes. The detailed instrumental credits list it on two other tracks, with choirs on part one of The Secret Life Of Aqua J. Long, Astral Transascension, and strings and overdubbed flutes on the short part three of Alchemy Of The Word, Eternity.
Next up is Live at Progman Cometh, a lesser-known Seattle-based prog festival organised by drummer Jerry Cook that ran for a couple of years, with Glass playing at both. The lineup, at least for the 2002 effort, was heavily Canterbury-orientated, with several of that movement's luminaries guesting with the band on various tracks. Saxophonist Elton Dean (now sadly departed) rasps tastefully all over tracks 1-3, from 2002, with Pete Pendras on guitar on track one and some of noted US proggers Kopecky on track three. Track four is from the 2003 festival, featuring Hugh Hopper on ridiculous bass, plus Richard Sinclair and a couple of other guys. The overall effect of the various guests is, thankfully, to enhance Glass' style rather than to swamp it, and to fill out the three-piece's live sound without making them sound like anything other than Glass. So; another Glass album, slightly jazzier this time round, but not to its detriment should you not be much of a jazzer, or even a Canterbury fan. Recommended.
Without doing some serious detective work involving the two studio albums, it's difficult for me to work out which sections of the two multi-part tracks are which. Suffice to say, Greg gets some 'Tron strings in at around the four-minute mark on Set One, then flutes at around eight minutes (black MkVI - you can see it in the booklet), so I'll guess at parts one and two. Nine minutes into Set Two, the strings surge up through the actually-pretty-good fake Hammond, probably in the Patrice Mersault's Dream segment, followed by a choir and bass pedal (sadly not Taurus) section, with more strings and flutes on Big Sur 9-14-2000, from the following year's festival. The disc's 'bonus track' is No Stranger To The Skies from their 2002 BajaProg appearance, with more of those strings, and yes, they took the MkVI down to Mexico, as you can see in the pics from the festival on their website.
Five years after Illuminations comes 2010's Spectrum Principle, another excellent effort, with little trace of the jazzy Canterbury influence on Progman.... Best tracks? As with so many well-crafted progressive albums, it's hard to say; the overall feel of the album is actually more important than the 'quality' of any specific track, but if I had to single out anything for praise, it would probably be the stately, symphonic Hope, while Saturation, effectively a drum solo, is probably its weak link. Again, Greg adds Mellotron to surprisingly few tracks (though more than on Illuminations), with flute and string parts on Empathy and Awaken and strings on Fulfillment and Hope.
2014's Palindrome was recorded over a week in 2011 in a large venue in Washington state that the band had used in the '70s, using keyboard equipment borrowed from Gene Stopp. Most of the album's ten tracks are in the three-to-six-minute range, the standouts being the nine-minute Hughtopia and the full twenty minutes of Arrhythmia - Linger Longer, the band shifting between a wide range of progressive styles, from the near-solo church organ of opener No Sanctuary through the faintly jazzy Satori, the faintly ominous, Rhodes-driven Hughtopia, acoustic guitar/Mellotron duet The Water Is Always Moving On, the hymnlike One... Not one track really resembles any other, although the album maintains a kind of consistency throughout, the personalities of the three musicians making themselves felt through their compositions. Greg plays Mellotron on four tracks, clustered together, with a beautiful flute line on The Water Is Always Moving On, accompanying the acoustic guitar, more of the same on The Rain Song, this time accompanying the Rhodes, with strings later on, string swells on Wake For Owsley and strident strings on Arrhythmia - Linger Longer.
So, er, buy these albums! You're not all going to like 'em, but most of you with a progressive bent aren't going to have any trouble with any of these records. OK, CDs. The Mellotron work's excellent on No Stranger to the Skies, and fair on the other titles, making these good all-rounders.
p.s. It's not often that American prog bands play the UK, so it was with some surprise that I learnt that Glass were to play a small venue on the outskirts of London in late 2007, with Sphere³ supporting. Result! Well, it might've been had the number of paying punters reached double figures... Shame on the rest of you. It was great to meet the band and I'd like to say publicly that they're far nicer and more down to earth than a certain other more current US prog band I could name but won't. After seven tickets sold, however, I can't see them coming back any time soon... Let's hope the rest of the tour goes better.
See: Hugh Hopper
Open Wide This Window (2003, 52.49) */½
Tonight (I Want to Live in Your World)
Weight of the World
I Stand Amazed
Everywhere I Turn
I Love You More
God of Wonders
Jesus, You Are Beautiful
Peace to You
GlassByrd (previously Adore) were the Christian duo of Christine Glass and Marc Byrd, whose sole album, 2003's Open Wide This Window, contains the very worst kind of soporifically mainstream pop/rock you can imagine, improved no end (?!) by the usual grovelly, fantasist CCM lyrics. Particularly bad examples on the lyric front include I Stand Amazed and Jesus, You Are Beautiful, but in actuality, they're all dreadful and, of course, entirely single-issue. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Glass and Byrd both sing in a breathy, reverential style that triggers violent thoughts in yours truly. Musically, Wake Up is the nearest this album gets to 'rock' and believe me, it ain't that near, the rest of the record being the kind of thing that makes me want to chew the carpet.
Mellotron-player-to-the-Christian-community Phil Madeira plays what sounds like rather clean cellos on Tonight (I Want To Live In Your World), although all string parts sound either real or like generic samples. This is fully, truly, thoroughly and horribly awful. One star errs on the generous side.
Younglove (2017, 28.42) ***/TSomeday
Wild Storm Girl
New Englander Samuel "Glenn" Skinner is a young singer-songwriter whose debut release, 2017's Younglove EP, features Glenn on almost everything (bar Matt Slobogan's drumming), with a handful of guests on a couple of tracks. The EP's chief problem, at least to my ears, is that its Dylan-esque '60s vibe is fatally undermined on some tracks by an aimless indie feel (Frozen Places is a particular offender). Better tracks include Romulus and the title track, although I'm less sure about the pedal steel-assisted Homesick.
Sam plays his own M400 on the EP (that's a video still to the right), with a chordal string part on Wild Storm Girl throughout most of its six-plus-minute length. I'm sure Glenn's songwriting will mature and as long as he keeps using that Mellotron, I'll keep reviewing his work.
Glider (1977, 35.45) **½/TT
It's Too Bad
Leaving Our Troubles Behind
You're Like a Melody
On the Line
Always the Last One to Know
Glider were a one-off studio project with a Raspberries connection, whose sole, eponymous album from '77 is a rather bland, soft-rocking effort that occasionally pulls its finger out, notably on the slightly epic On The Line. It didn't sell and the band split soon after, leaving Glider in the Land Of Lost Albums.
Someone (Steve Halter?) plays Mellotron (and/or Chamberlin?) with a tasteful strings part on It's Too Bad, background ones on Leaving Our Troubles Behind, what sounds like the Chamberlin solo male voice on On The Line (and Mellotron church organ?) and more background strings on closer High Fliers, although the strings on Lost Horizon are synth. While a very long way from 'great', AOR fans may find parts of this acceptable, although it rarely pushes the button marked 'excitement'. Reasonable tape-replay work, too, notably on On The Line, though not enough to make it worth spending very much for an original copy.
Gloriana (2009, 47.17) *½/0
|How Far Do You Wanna Go?
Wild at Heart
The Way It Goes
Lead Me On
If You're Leavin'
Cry on Command
Over Me Now?
|Come and Save Me
Even If I Wanted To
All the Things That Mean the Most
Change Your Mind
Time to Let Me Go
Calling a band Gloriana gives the impression (to me, at least) that they're a Destiny's Child-style girly trio, big on image and thin on interesting music. As it happens, they're a country/pop outfit, big on image and thin on... I say country, but what I actually mean is a kind of teen-pop/AOR/'70s West Coast hybrid, adding the odd country motif (pedal steel, fiddle) to just about slot into the genre. I blame Garth Brooks (hey, remember the 'don't buy used CDs' fiasco?), but then, why blame anyone? This kind of schlock stands alone as some of the least tasteful music ever, combining the worst of several genres into a multi million-selling stew of slick, crass commercialism. I didn't like their debut, 2009's Gloriana very much, in case you were wondering.
The ever-ubiquitous Patrick Warren is credited with Chamberlin on the album, but as so often, without specific credits, there's absolutely no way of telling where it might be used. Actually, even with specific credits, it's frequently a non-starter... This will sell shitloads (with the emphasis on the shit), but hopefully, not to your good self. In fairness, I have actually heard worse, the occasional swamp-guitar run giving me hope for a moment or two, before the song in question lurches into the usual drivel. So; no Chamby to speak of, nor listenable music. Avoid with prejudice.
Testimony (2002, 58.17) **/T
Almost Had it All
Make it Real
River of Love
|Falling Into Love
The Way (Radio Song)
['UK bonus tracks':
Sing to Me
It is You (I Have Loved)]
Dana Glover seems to be one of those artists who manages to be in the right place at the right time, leapfrogging their way to some sort of success ahead of many more worthy contenders. Saying that, who wouldn't, in that situation? After working with Peter Cetera (Chicago) and Robbie Robertson, she got herself onto a couple of film soundtracks, including the massively successful Shrek, recording her sole album to date, Testimony, soon after. I spent its first few tracks trying to work out who she sounded like, before I decided she's a combination of Joan Osborne (the slidey blue notes) and Alanis Morissette (the slick, mainstream blandness). Almost every track features a credit for 'programming', and her voice is just the right combination of black and white to appeal across the board; the 'soulful' singer it's acceptable for white, middle-class girls to like.
Patrick Warren does his usual thing, and sticks some Chamberlin flutes and strings onto Falling Into Love, which do nothing to rescue the song from Blandness Hell. Warren also plays on Make It Real, but I don't think it has any Chamby input, although the first of the 'UK bonus tracks', Sing To Me, has what sounds like a few flute notes at the end. Y'know, this really is mainstream drivel; there really isn't any excuse for anything this faceless, although I'm sure her label's accountancy department would take issue with me over that statement. I know perfectly well you're not going to go out and buy this, even if you see it cheap. Are you?
Clodhopper (1997, 42.46) **½/T
See Saw Man
Let All Hear
The Country Song
Glueleg were a rather irritating funkyish indie outfit from Toronto, with a vocalist (Ruben Huizenga) who insisted on doing that semi-rapping thing that always sounds so crap when done by white indie bands. What am I saying? That always sounds so crap, period. It seems Clodhopper was their second and last album, which at least means I won't have to listen to anything else by them, which is a bonus. OK, it's not all bad, with the spoken-word stuff on Fresh Pigs being mildly amusing, but their diluted metal sound really grates after a while, and the vocals are too high in the mix throughout, which would be just about acceptable were they any good.
I've already had it confirmed that a real Chamberlin was involved in the recording (no Chamberlins were hurt during the making of this record...), but this is possibly the first time I can remember seeing a credit for 'Chamberlin M-1' (spelt correctly, note), which makes a nice change. After exceedingly minimalist string parts on the first three tracks from sax/keys man Andrew Wyse, Mrs. Petrie sees a full-on flutes intro with some nicely audible strings under the verses, with some more background strings on closer The Country Song, although I wouldn't absolutely swear that any of it except Mrs. Petrie is the real deal.
So; one for indieheads; the rest of us should avoid like the plague. One decent Chamby track, which is nowhere near enough to make it worth buying, unless it's in the 10p/¢ bin.
På Vej (1973, 41.12) ***/TDu er Dig
Der er Så Meget
Jeg Bringer Håb
Bryd Op Rejs Ud
Forming in 1968, Gnags have released something in the region of twenty studio albums over the course of forty years and are still going today. Their debut, 1973's På Vej (possibly also titled simply Gnags), is a soft-prog/mainstream rock effort characterised by tracks such as Godag Godag, Farvelfærd and the folky Der Er Så Meget, although its best tracks are probably gentle opener Du Er Dig and closer Solsangen, also the longest thing here at over seven minutes.
Ivan Oehlenschaeg and Peter A.G. Nielsen play Mellotron, with background strings on Godag Godag and Solsangen, although it's hardly one of the album's defining features. Overall, a decent enough effort, albeit rather of its time, but with little enough Mellotron that it really isn't worth purchasing for that alone.