Grant Lee Buffalo
Grasshopper & the Golden Crickets
Green River Ordinance
Greenfield & Cook
Grey Eye Glances
Grey Lady Down
Copperopolis (1996, 56.12) **½/½
Even the Oxen
All That I Have
|Two and Two
Better for Us
Hyperion and Sunset
Comes to Blows
Only Way Down
Jubilee (1998, 59.10) ***/T½
Change Your Tune
Fine How'd Ya Do
Come to Mama
8 Mile Road
Everybody Needs a Little Sanctuary
My My My
The Shallow End
Grant Lee Buffalo's third album, 1996's Copperopolis is, I'm afraid to report, the dreariest load of old cock I've heard since, er, the last load of dreary old cock to which I subjected myself in the name of Rock Criticism. Mainman Grant-Lee Phillips quite desperately wants to be Bob Dylan throughout most of the album, but given his inability to write anything remotely in the Big Zim's league, he insists on torturing us with his half-arsed attempts at songwriting anyway. Harsh? Yup. I thought GLB were supposed to be better than this, so my disappointment at hearing something this limp has probably led to a harsher review than it might otherwise have got. But not much. Very little obvious Mellotron from Paul Kimble, with nowt but flutes on closer Only Way Down, although it's possible some of the album's (real) strings may be backed by something Mellotronic, too.
Their fourth and last album, '98's Jubilee, is apparently the point at which their disparate influences come together, producing an all-American blend of rock, folk, country, vaudeville etc. etc. It's not my fave kind of stuff, if truth be told, so I'll just concentrate on its tape replay aspects. Phillips plays Mellotron, while the ubiquitous Jon Brion adds Chamberlin in places, although you feel that a few more tracks may have benefitted from their inclusion. Testimony has some background flutes, while all I can hear in Fine How'd Ya Do are some strings in the middle 'phased' section, and cellos, inaudible until the end. The title track has Chamby brass (very subtle, and unlike anything a Mellotron would do), while The Shallow End sounds like cellos again, though it's pretty hard to tell, to be honest. So; I can't wildly recommend this on either musical or Mellotronic grounds, but there are plenty who would, so maybe you should take their advice instead.
Overall, then, one really quite poor and one average album, with neither worth it for the 'Tron. All very disappointing.
Around Grapefruit (1968, 34.23) ***½/T
Round Going Round
|This Little Man
Ain't it Good
Theme for Twiggy
Grapefruit are another UK psych obscurity, although unlike many of their compatriots, they managed to release not one, but two albums, 1968's Around Grapefruit and the following year's listless Deep Water. Their debut is a good slice (sorry) of contemporaneous pop/psych, almost all of which could've passed muster as singles, and indeed, two tracks were hits, with Dear Delilah actually reaching no.21.
I've no idea who plays the Mellotron on the instrumental Theme For Twiggy, but it's an excellent track, possibly the album's highlight, with a great 'Tron strings part. Very much of its time, but that's no bad thing, unless, of course, your time happens to be any time from the early '80s on... Also mandolins on Elevator (thanks, Chris), though nowt essential. Overall, good album, but don't chuck out your copy of Pet Sounds just yet. One decent 'Tron track, but that's your lot.
Chestnut Loke (1996, recorded 1970-74, 74.29) ***/T
|Starflight Over the Skies
A Dragon's Tale
Dawn (Morning Has Come)
Set it Free
Out in the Rain
|Don't You Think it's Kinda Strange
In Our Country Home
She's Gone Away
I'm Feeling Low
Graphite are another of those 'almost lost forever' bands whose works have been resurrected, this time by the estimable Audio Archives label. Sadly, unlike their long-overdue issue of the second Fantasy album, Chestnut Loke is all a bit ordinary, really. It's difficult to categorise the music, though not in a particularly good way; laid-back rock, but with an English rather than an American approach is the nearest I can get. In other words, this isn't terribly exciting, but doesn't have either the complexity or the melodic strength to really appeal to the prog crowd. It's perfectly pleasant, but that's rather damning it with faint praise, isn't it? The lyrics are of the 'a little too cosmic' variety, too (see: Starflight Over The Skies and A Dragon's Tale, in particular), dating the music almost to the year.
I can't tell for certain, but it looks like this is material that has never been previously released, so it's not an album with bonus tracks, more a new album of various studio recordings. Most of the tracks just drift along pleasantly, with considerable Fender Rhodes input, but both the title track and Freedom feature a bit of the old 'Tron strings, to passable effect, played by Chris Gore. I'm sorry I can't be more positive about this, as I applaud the efforts of labels Like Audio Archives, but it's really not the sort of album that's likely to grab anyone much, I'm afraid. Of its time, really. File under 'play once, then shelve'.
The Orbit of Eternal Grace (1998, 43.46) ***/T½
The Ballad of the One Eyed Angelfish
O-Ring (Baby Talk)
Nickel in a Lemon
The Orbit of Eternal Grace
Univac Bug Track
SMPTE for the Devil
|N.Y. Avenue Playground
Sketches of Saturn (Love in Space)
N.Y. Avenue Playground (Reprise)
Grasshopper and the Golden Crickets are effectively a Mercury Rev side-project, led by multi-instrumentalist Grasshopper. The parent band's Deserter's Songs is something of a recent Mellotron classic (sampled, sadly), so while The Orbit of Eternal Grace, released the same year, was never going to equal it on that front, it gets a little bit of 'Tron in here and there. The album itself is a bit of a hodgepodge, with some tracks (the 'Tron-heavy The Ballad Of The One Eyed Angelfish or N.Y. Avenue Playground (Reprise)) working vastly better than others (the rather punky O-Ring, reverting to an earlier era of Mercury Rev, or the techno-esque Univac Bug Track).
I personally feel that the gentler tracks work better, including both the 'Tron numbers here. The Ballad Of The One Eyed Angelfish is mostly flutes, but with a few strings chords coming in at the end, and the instrumental title track has flutes running all the way through. It sounds like Mellotron on various other tracks, but the track-by-track instrumental credits are quite explicit, so they must be either samples or more generic synth patches. So, I'm not sure if this is one for Mercury Rev fans or not; it's more eclectic, while having some of the Appalachian feel of their recent work. It also sounds more 'indie', so I think I'm going to have to say, one for die-hards only. Oh, and for the non-musicians out there 'SMPTE' is pronounced 'simpty'. Very droll.
See: Mercury Rev
III (1998, 63.20) ***/½
|A Beaten Dog Beneath the Hail
Down in the Happy Zone
Every Third Thought
Paul Has an Emotional Uncle
Six to Four to Three
Of All Possible Worlds... Pt. II
|The Violent Misery of Everything Lost
A World Reduced to Zero
112 Greene Street
Thunder Ain't Rain
The Grassy Knoll (great name) are frequently described as 'fusion' of some description. OK, there's a jazzy bent to what they do, but their combination of jazz and electronica has little in common with the '70s purveyors of instrumental excess. I suppose that's the point; this has more to do with post-rock than prog and as such, is a fusion for the modern world. I can't personally say I find III an easy listen, but then, I doubt if it's meant to be.
Nick Sansano's credited with Mellotron, but with so much sample manipulation going on, it's difficult to tell where it might be, never mind whether or not it's real. All I can really hear is a few string chords in Blue Wires, but I wouldn't put serious money on those, frankly. So; weirdo modern jazz with next to no 'Tron. Your choice.
Gratitude (2005, 43.15) **½/T½
All in a Row
The Greatest Wonder
This is the Part
Someone to Love
|Another Division Street
Gratitude were a one-off indie outfit with powerpop tendencies, formed by members of Crumb, Far and The Get Up Kids. Their eponymous 2005 release treads an uneasy line between the two styles, spoiling things with 'big indie' nonsense like The Greatest Wonder and Sadie, that just end up sounding exactly like a million other bands. On the positive side, most of the album's upbeat enough to make for an inoffensive, if undemanding listen, which is so very much better than so much of the dross clogging up landfills worldwide that I can barely begin to describe it. Still only gets **½, though.
Yup, it's Patrick Warren on Chamberlin again, with strings on The Greatest Wonder, Feel Alright, Another Division Street, If Ever, Dream, Again and Begin Again, with the most obvious use being on If Ever, the rest of it sounding like it could come from pretty much any keyboard equipped with a string sound, to be honest. Powerpop fans may go for Gratitude, although it's really only tangentially within the genre's remit, while Mellotron nuts will find it frustratingly light on the tape-replay front, despite a clear half its tracks containing Chamberlin. B-, could do better. Oh, you can't; you've split.
See: Crumb | Far | The Get Up Kids
(A Ballad of) a Peaceful Man (1970, 39.08) ***½/TAlone in Georgia
(A Ballad of) a Peaceful Man
Can Anybody Hear Me
Old Tin Box
Won't Talk About it
Staircase to the Day (1974, 43.59) ***/TStarbright Starlight
Bring My Life on Back to Me
Never Wanted You
Staircase to the Day
Going for a Quick One
The Last Day
Evening of My Life
Busted in Schenectady
Gravy Train were a Manchester-based band whose first album, Gravy Train (****) is an enjoyable blend of early Jethro Tull and, er, slightly later Jethro Tull. Its flute-heavy blues-based style is a little dated now, but it's got loads of energy and the writing's excellent. Sadly, the band never really equalled their debut. By (A Ballad of) a Peaceful Man, later the same year, they were almost unrecognisable as the same outfit; a more mellow sound, replete with (real) string parts on many of the songs. The only Mellotron track here is Messenger, with 'Tron strings, possibly fed through a Leslie, along with the guitar part. The album's no less dated than its predecessor, but hasn't aged as well, I'm afraid, although Messenger is actually a decent enough song.
I don't know why, but after spitting out two albums in such quick succession, there was a three-year gap before Second Birth (***½) (probably due to label hassles), which wasn't dissimilar to their second effort, though with noticeably more keyboards. Gravy Train's last album was Staircase to the Day, and it was business as usual, with the band basically rehashing their previous two albums, although the formula was beginning to wear a little thin by this time. There's a minute or so of 'Tron strings on the title track, but once again, one track and that's yer lot.
So; neither of these are great, but they're not bad, either, and deserved to do better at the time. The Mellotron presence is fairly negligible, though, and neither album is worth it on those grounds alone. Actually, their best effort is most definitely their debut, so I'd go for that one if I were you.
On How Life is (2000, 44.55) **½/TT
|Why Didn't You Call Me
Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak
I Can't Wait to Meetchu
I've Committed Murder
|A Moment to Myself
The Id (2001, 58.25) **½/TTT
|Relating to a Psychopath
Hey Young World Part 2
Gimme All Your Lovin' or I Will Kill You
Don't Come Around
|My Nutmeg Phantasy
Freak Like Me
Blowin' Up Your Speakers
The Trouble With Being Myself (2003, 49.50) ***/T½
|When I See You
It Ain't the Money
She Ain't Right for You
Things That Made Me Change
She Don't Write Songs About You
Jesus for a Day
My Fondest Childhood Memories
Every Now and Then
It's quite possible that some readers of this site may not have run into Macy Gray before, despite her massive popularity. Well, she's a much-fêted so-called 'R&B' singer, i.e. that soul/funk/rap crossover that's so hideously popular at the moment. To be fair to her, Macy's been around for years, finally breaking big well on the wrong side of 30, so kudos to her for persistence. It's just a shame that her chosen oeuvre is so devastatingly dull, although there do actually seem to be some tunes on her albums, which is more than I can say for many of her contemporaries.
So what's she doing here? Well, for whatever reason, she's soaked all her albums in Chamberlin. 2000's On How Life is has Jon Brion, Patrick Warren and Jeremy Ruzumna on the ol' tape replay, two of whom you'll recognise from numerous other projects. To be perfectly honest, although there are fairly obvious strings on Do Something and I Try, I'm at a bit of a loss as to where it might be on, say, Caligula. It's that 'Chamberlin Effect' again, isn't it? Stick it on tape and watch it disappear in the mix! All in all, despite having six tracks'-worth of Chamby, I really wouldn't go too far out of your way for this one. You shouldn't need to anyway; it's pretty difficult to escape Ms Gray at the moment.
Next album up, the following year's The Id, sounds more upbeat than its predecessor, but other than that, it's business as usual. Chamberlin by Zac Rae this time round, with strings, flutes and brass all over the place. Actually, the Chamby's far better produced this time round, being clearly audible on almost every relevant track, with some interesting parts, to boot. Not that I'm actually recommending the album, you understand...
Third time round, The Trouble With Being Myself, opens with a full-on Jackson 5-style '70s funk groove on When I See You, though by second track in, it seems nothing's changed that much, with some tedious hip-hop type rapping over a rather tuneless effort. Or hasn't it? It turns out that most of the album is fairly palatable, given its overall style, to the point where it didn't really offend me at all, certainly compared to some 'melodic rock' rubbish I've just subjected myself to... Chamby (from Rae and Ruzumna) on several tracks. A string part opens She Ain't Right For You, carrying on throughout the song, sounding an awful lot like real strings, which may be part of the instrument's appeal and its problem, unless, that is, it's actually real strings... More strings in Things That Made Me Change and strings and cellos in the lyrically amusing My Fondest Childhood Memories and the other highlighted tracks, although in a rather less interesting manner than on her previous effort.
So; I can't personally stand most of her music, although The Trouble With Being Myself could be a lot worse. Either way, more obvious Chamberlin on The Id than on her other two albums, but I wouldn't actually buy any of them.
Ro Sham Bo (1994, 59.06) ****/TTT
|Very Best Years
Friend of Mine
Is it Now Yet
Oh Well Maybe
Nothing Between Us
Not Long for This World
All You Wanted
No One Can Hurt Me
The short-lived Grays consisted of four multi-instrumentalists, some of whose names will be familiar to you; Jon Brion, Jason Falkner (of the mighty Jellyfish), Buddy Judge and Dan McCarroll. It seems that all concerned were sick of the bands they were in, and formed The Grays as an experiment in leaderless democracy, although, sadly, it only lasted for one album. As you'd expect, Ro Sham Bo is stuffed with intelligent pop tunes, with Very Best Years being a 'radio hit', which presumably means it didn't translate into sales. In fact, there isn't a bad track on the album, which is an achievement in itself.
Brion and Falkner both play Chamberlin, with more flutes than anything, with very obvious use on Is It Now Yet, amongst others. Oh Well Maybe has some pretty upfront strings, but given that we've entered the Wacky World of Chamberlins, there could be all sorts of stuff going on here that I haven't spotted (again). I'm assuming the cellos on a couple of tracks are Chamby; actually, on All You Wanted, there seems to be a polyphonic part that gives the game away. Anyway, much Chamby all round, though subtly.
So; do you need this album? I'd have said so, especially if you're into any of the members' other works, or intelligent powerpop in general. Loads of Chamberlin, albeit sans the massive block chord work you'd get from the prog crowd, adding up to a fairly unequivocal Buy.
See: Jon Brion | Jellyfish | Buddy Judge
Somber Wurlitzer (2004, 36.25) ***/T½
Hailing from the same two-bit town as the legendary Lester Bangs (El Cajon), Greater California are an indie/folk/psych outfit, treading the fine line between their chosen genres on their debut, 2004's Somber Wurlitzer. The album is aptly-named, every track based on the slightly gloomy tones of their latest purchase, a Wurly piano, so much more expressive than a Rhodes. Discuss. The material's fairly decent, if a little samey; not even a Donovan cover (Jersey Thursday) particularly stands out.
The uncredited keyboard player adds a cello line and a complex flute part to May Day and string section on the closing title track; for once, using it (assuming it's real) more might have been overkill. So; not bad, not great, some nice moments and a little Mellotron. Actually, a full-sized Mellotron, but you know what I mean.
Out of My Hands (2009, 40.57) *½/½
Out of My Hands
On Your Own
Different (Anything at All)
|Sleep it Off
The grammatically-challenged Green River Ordinance (although given that they're named after a common American local by-law, maybe it's not their fault) are one of those horrible, drippy, ultra-mainstream outfits, roughly comparable to Matchbox Twenty or Third Eye Blind - you know, the sort of stuff that makes Train look authentic. Their second full (and first major-label) album, 2009's Out of My Hands, is the kind of record that says, "Despair all ye that enter here", wussing along with wet-as-water efforts like opener Outside (probably the least offensive thing here, actually) or the vile title track. Y'know, once you get down to the level of these kind of bands, just about the only thing between them is how much they offend me, which tends to determine the album's rating, from which you can ascertain that this, while horrible, is slightly less upchuckable than some.
Paul Ebersold plays Mellotron, although the background strings on Out Of My Hands (only really audible at the end of the track) are the only definite sighting, despite seemingly generic string parts on several other tracks. So; don't even think about buying this for any reason whatsoever. Crud.
|7" (1975) *½/TT
Green Windows were a Portuguese vocal group of the '70s, whose music, at least going by 1975's Quadras Populares single, sat firmly in the 'very mainstream' bracket. That's 'mid-'70s Mediterranean mainstream', a branch of the cheeso Europop sound so prevalent at the time and the obvious inspiration for a thousand and one terrible Eurovision entrants. The upbeat A-side is only beaten in the 'cheese' stakes by its balladic flip, Ana Karen; a drippier effort you'd be hard-pushed to find, I can tell you.
And this is here because... Portugal's premier (only?) Mellotron owner of the time, José Cid, plays his machine on both sides of the single, with background flutes on the 'A' and more upfront strings and flutes on the flip. You actually want to hear this? A quick Internet search should locate a download, but remember: you've been warned.
See: José Cid
American Myth (2006, 66.08) ***/T
So Hard to Find My Way
Just as Well
I'm So Gone
Never Satisfied (Revisited)
Love Song, 2:00 AM
When You're Walking Away
|Cold Black Devil/14 Miles
Closer to You
I'll Let You in
Farewell, So Long, Goodbye
Giving Up the Ghost (2008, 52.19) ***/T
I Don't Live in a Dream
Like a Ball and Chain
Don't Let the Devil Take Your Mind
Prayer for Spanish Harlem
Another Love Gone Bad
When You Return
Ghosts of Promised Lands
Till the Light Comes (2010, 48.09) **½/½
Stranger in Sand
A Moment of Temporary Color
Take Me Back in Time
|The Holy Land
Till the Light Comes
Jackie Greene is a young Americana artist who began his career as independently as is possible, recording his early CD-R releases in his garage and funding the recording of his first 'proper' album himself. 2006's American Myth is his fourth such, consisting mainly of well-written alt.country material, while also diversifying into the more contemporary-sounding I'm So Gone, the beautiful acoustic I'll Let You In or the soul-influenced Closer To You and Farewell, So Long, Goodbye. Best track award possibly goes to the near-ten minute Supersede, though, a Dylan-style epic in the grand tradition. Major session dude Steve Berlin plays percussion, vibes and Mellotron, maybe surprisingly, with an upfront cello part on the raucous Cold Black Devil/14 Miles and flutes on closer Marigold.
His fifth album, 2008's Giving Up the Ghost, maintains its predecessor's standards, better tracks including opener Shaken, the Stonesy Like A Ball And Chain, Prayer For Spanish Harlem and When You Return. Greene plays Mellotron, with faint strings on Animal and more upfront ones on Follow You, although I'm not 100% convinced of their veracity. Sadly, 2010's Till the Light Comes, while perfectly respectable, is also rather dull, displaying little of its predecessors' variety, sadly, although the title track is ballsy enough to make this listener prick up his ears. Greene's on Mellotron again, although the only thing I can hear that even might be it is the background strings on The Holy Land, which don't actually sound that Mellotronic, frankly.
While not classics, American Myth and Giving Up the Ghost are pretty decent efforts, although too little Mellotron work to make it worthwhile on that front, while Till the Light Comes is a lesser album on all fronts.
Greenfield & Cook (1972, 33.31) **/½
|Don't Turn Me Loose
Baby Don't Cry
All Around the World
|It's Up to You
It's Up to You (Part Two)
Like several Dutch artists of the period, Rink Groenveld and Peter Kok renamed themselves, presumably to make them more acceptable to English-speaking audiences, giving us Greenfield & Cook. Their eponymous debut is exactly what you'd expect: a bland, mainstream folk/pop release, very much of its time, although, in fairness, I rather doubt whether they were trying to create a lasting work of art; more likely, something that would make a quick buck, if they were lucky.
An uncredited player (although Cees Schrama from Casey & the Pressure Group played synth) adds what sounds like Mellotron strings to the nearest the album gets to an epic, closer The End, although the rest of the album's strings are real, making me doubt this one, too. Greenfield & Cook is not the most interesting album you'll ever hear, assuming, that is, that you can be bothered to track a copy down at all. Unlike several similar, it doesn't even contain enough Mellotron work to make it worth hearing as a curio.
Greenslade (UK) see:
Dave Greenslade (UK) see:
Toi + Moi (2008, 39.43) **½/T
Toi + Moi
Rien à Voir
Ce Qu'il Reste de Toi
Donne Moi une Chance
Rue des Etoiles
Sauver le Monde
À la Claire Fontaine
Le Même Soleil (2010, 33.50) **½/0
|Tu Me Manques
Grégoire Boissenot, unsurprisingly, is a French singer-songwriter, whose debut, 2008's Toi + Moi ('You and Me', of course), is a bland, yet inoffensive collection of mainstream material in an 'adult pop' vein, the piano-and-vocal Merci being about the best example. While a long way from 'hateful' (unless you're feeling particularly vindictive), it's also a long way from 'interesting', unless confessional French-language songs happen to be your bag. Boissenot plays Mellotron on Sauver Le Monde, with a flute part that may even be played on a real machine, although, as the easiest sound to sample, it's hard to tell.
2010's Le Même Soleil is every bit as bland as its predecessor and probably a little less inoffensive, too, despite its brevity. Cyril Taïeb is credited with Mellotron on Mon Repère and Boissenot on J'Adore, but there's not a jot to be heard on either, as if you needed any other reason not to bother to hear this. This kind of stuff has a large audience, but not only does it not include me, it probably doesn't include you, either.
Record company site
Rest (2008, 47.40) **½/½The Adolescent
Jeroen Van Aken
First Mile, Last Mile
Du Meine Leise
It seems Virginians Gregor Samsa are a band, not a person, in the grand Max Webster tradition of 'bands named after a nonexistent front-man'. Unlike the fabulous Maxes, though, they're a rather drippy post-rock band who sound a lot like, er, a lot of other post-rock bands I can't be bothered to name, with wispy female vocals for the Cocteaus fans. Their second album, Rest, even has a typical post-rock sleeve - you know, desolate, monochrome, printed on the rough side of the cardboard. Not clichéd at all, in fact. The album isn't awful by any means, but it does exude a distinct air of 'heard it all before', and that's coming from someone who doesn't listen to any more of this stuff than necessary. None of the material stands out, although First Mile, Last Mile has a certain atmosphere about its long, slow, vaguely Godspeed-like (aargh! I mentioned Godspeed!) build-up.
Champ Bennett plays lots of things here, including a Mellotron, although whether or not it's real is completely unknown. You can't hear it much, anyway, with nowt but some strings in the middle of Jeroen Van Aken. It's possible it's buried away on another track or two, but this is the only obvious sighting. Anyway, very little Mellotron, and the album is, frankly, pretty dull.
A Little Voodoo (2002, 41.19) **½/TT
|Close Your Eyes
If I Was
Big Red Boat
He and She
All Because of You
Bizarrely, two members of mainstream alt.pop/rock outfit Grey Eye Glances also play in East Coast prog gods Echolyn, which probably explains why they've found their way onto progressive sites. Believe me, going by their sixth album proper, 2002's A Little Voodoo, there ain't no prog round these parts... Its downbeat, female-fronted sound has its moments (opener Close Your Eyes, the acoustic-bluesy If I Was), but the jaunty pop of Big Red Boat and the semi-hard rock of He And She really don't work at all, while the album's overall vibe becomes irritating after a few tracks if you're not into their thang.
Paul Bryan plays Chamberlin, with flutes and strings on Close Your Eyes, strings on Oh No, strings (and flutes?) on Good Folks, very upfront strings on Even and very orchestral ones on closer All Because Of You. Not the most upfront use you'll ever hear (Even excepted), but far more audible than on many credited albums. So; one for 10 000 Maniacs fans, I suspect.
The Glorious Revolution EP (2007, 21.24) *½/TGlorious
You Belong to Me
Where You Want Me
Texans Grey Holiday (interestingly, using the British spelling) were a Christian outfit who never actually released an album, although I'm sure their hardcore fans have collated one from their three EPs. Their sound, at least on their final instalment, 2007's The Glorious Revolution, was the usual upbeat attempting-to-be-transcendental indie that so many current CCM bands clearly believe is the way to the nation's hearts. Maybe they're right, although I hope not. It actually has a 'best track', Revolution, although it's only 'best' in that it's not as bad as the rest of the record.
Patrick Warren on Chamberlin (you wouldn't believe on how many albums this man is featured), with strings and flutes on You Belong To Me, and despite various other 'possibles', that's probably it on the Chamby front, not only on this EP, but on their career. I can't imagine any of you going out to buy this on my recommendation (!), but don't anyway. You have been warned.
Star-Crossed (2001, 66.23) **½/TFading Faith
As the Brakes Fail
New Age Tyranny
Sands of Time
Grey Lady Down (name taken from a Charlton Heston film, apparently) are one of those bands I used to like (rather like Jadis, with whom they have musical similarities), before deciding that second-generation neo-prog, or the second generation of at least the third generation (!), was a bit of a waste of time. After all, just because you can't go to see the good bands, doesn't mean that you should settle for fifth-rate copyists who wouldn't know a key modulation if it fell on them, does it? Sorry to be so down on GLD, but after buying (and liking) their demo tape in the early '90s, I bought their debut album, The Crime (**½), although after never really be able to warm to it, I ended up giving it away. I was dragged along to their 'farewell' gig in '98, where I was bored almost to tears for two hours, although a 20-second burst (!!) from their third release, Fear, made me think there might be slightly more to the band; sadly, it appears to be the best 20 seconds of their career.
GLD have been through a few lineup changes over the years, with the excellent Sphere³'s Steve Anderson playing guitar in both bands for a while (hardly a problem in Sphere³'s case...), so it came as no great surprise when various ex-members ran into each other a couple of years after their demise, and decided to have another go. The end result was Star-Crossed, the sleeve of which is a prime example of what happens when you use computer-generated graphics. I can't in all honesty say that they've improved any; then again, I've no doubt they were trying to appeal to their small but enthusiastic fanbase, so change wasn't really an option. Then again, they weren't suddenly about to become Änglagård now, were they? Musically unexciting and unadventurous, it resembles a heavier version of Marillion, with slightly better vocals. To illustrate my point: Fallen seems to be regarded as the album's 'classic'. However, there's a section in the song where the keys hold a single chord for around a minute, while guitar and synth solo over it. This isn't 'not knowing a key change if it fell on you', this is 'not knowing a chord change...' But hey, if you like neo-prog, you stand a good chance of liking this.
Given GLD's considerable links with Sphere³, it's not entirely surprising that keys man Mark Westworth borrowed Neil Durant's M400 for the sessions, even though it's far from standard in neo- circles (early IQ and Pallas excepted, of course). He didn't overuse it (sadly), with a brief choir part on Fading Faith (although I suspect the choir-ish sound at the end of the song is something generic), strings on Shattered and another burst of choirs on Fallen, but that would appear to be your lot.
So; this really is unlikely to appeal to the full-on symph brigade, to be honest. Long songs count for nothing; content is all. I think I'm right in saying there was a 27-minute piece on their second effort, Forces, which was the musical equivalent of watching wood warp; a decent prog outfit will do something interesting in two minutes; GLD can't manage it over an entire album. Well, I seem to've written an awful lot about a stunningly ordinary band; sorry chaps (I've met most of you over the years), but Star-Crossed has little in common with progressive rock as we know it, or would like to. Conversely, if you prefer the simplified and bombastic neo- style, go for it. A little 'Tron, but certainly not enough to make it worth buying on that account.
See: Sphere³ | Thieves' Kitchen | IQ