Home & Garden
D.R. Hooker Band
Hootie & the Blowfish
Hugh Hopper & Kramer
Hot Hot Heat
Rebecca Lynn Howard
Howell & Atkins
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Hughes Turner Project
Charlie Hunter & Bobby Previte
Confessions of the Mind (1970, 38.53) ***/½
|Survival of the Fittest
Man Without a Heart
Isn't it Nice?
Perfect Lady Housewife
Confessions of a Mind
|Too Young to Be Married
I Wanna Shout
Rarities (1988, recorded 1965-81, 50.41) **½/½
If it Wasn't for the Reason That
I Love You
She Looked My Way
Here in My Dreams
Tomorrow When it Comes
Open Up Your Eyes
The Times They Are a-Changin'
Look Through Any Window (French)
After the Fox
Non Prego per Me
Like Every Time Before
1970 found The Hollies at a crossroads; Graham Nash had hopped off to Califor-ny-ay to be a hippy, play with his famous buddies and shag Joni Mitchell, leaving his bandmates to carry on singing songs about how shit life was in ol' Blighty. Confessions of the Mind finds them doing exactly that, via Little Girl (divorce through the eyes of a child), Confessions Of A Mind (playing away from home) and Too Young To Be Married (kitchen-sink drama), amongst others. Musically, it's all a bit unexciting, frankly, especially after their brief dalliance with psych-lite, but then, this was 1970, wasn't it? Some seriously schizophrenic production decisions don't help the album's cause, although overall, it's a perfectly competent pop/rock album of its type, albeit one lacking any real creative spark. An unknown musician plays MkII strings on Frightened Lady, complete with pitchbend, though not so's you'd particularly notice, to be honest, so unlike some of their contemporaries, you can't even say this is their 'Mellotron album'.
1988's Rarities collection does exactly what it says on the tin, collating a selection of b-sides and other non-album tracks from 1965-81. Unsurprisingly, most of the '70s selections are exactly the kind of MOR pop you'd expect (a.k.a. inferior versions of The Air That I Breathe), while the '60s ones have slightly more life to them, although there's little here that even fans of the band would probably consider essential. Its sole point of interest, for us at least, is its closing number, Wings, originally donated for the semi-legendary World Wildlife Fund charity album (possibly the first of its type), No One's Gonna Change Our World, better known for being the first place anyone heard The Beatles' Across The Universe. It's a passable enough track, in a wussy ballad kind of way, but we're not exactly talking 'classic' here; someone (Graham Nash? Or had he gone by then?) plays tremulous Mellotron strings on the track, though to no great effect.
To my knowledge, The Hollies only ever used a Mellotron on these two tracks, but I've been wrong before... Neither of them's especially worth tracking down unless you're a massive fan of the band in the first place, mostly being fairly minimalistic on the 'Tron front.
See: Allan Clarke
Viandra (2008, 49.48) ***½/T
Merged With Friends
Lilla Bye (Little Bye)
Första 05 (First 05)
Lars Hollmer helmed Samla Mammas Manna and their successors throughout their career(s), made several solo albums and collaborated with many noted musicians from various disciplines over the course of a near-forty year career. 2008's Viandra was his last album before his untimely death on Christmas Day of that year; it has little in common with Samla/Zamla, being largely influenced by Swedish folk music, albeit adding an atonal, dark edge to proceedings, featuring large helpings of Hollmer's excellent accordion playing. As has been observed in other reviews, much of the album sounds like it belongs on a film soundtrack, particularly the little accordion vignettes that pepper the album.
Hollmer plays (real?) Mellotron flutes on Viandra (Jewel), Mirror Objects and Lilla Bye (Little Bye), three of the album's folkier pieces, although, given that the flutes are probably the easiest Mellotron sound to sample accurately, it's perfectly possible that it's sampled. Sampled or not, this is an excellent album within its limitations, although those with an aversion to Scandinavian folk and/or accordions should probably give this a miss.
See: Samla Mammas Manna
Ocean's Thirteen [OST] (2007, 44.33) ***½/T
|Not Their Fight
11, 12 & 13
Shit! Shit! Shit!
All Sewn Up
The Holy Pictures (2008, 42.32) **½/½
|I Heard Wonders
The Story of the Ink
Love Reign Over Me
Kill Her With Kindness
The Ballad of Sarah and Jack
Belfast native David Holmes has come a long way since 1997's Lets Get Killed (sic), an album still heavily influenced by his DJ background, although, fittingly, he's always described his work as inspired by film soundtracks. 2007's Ocean's Thirteen is his tenth soundtrack in a decade; in many ways, it's a typical modern Hollywood score, albeit one without all the tiresome pseudo-metal that any action-adventure flick deems necessary these days (admittedly, the Ocean's... franchise aren't those kind of films, but you know what I mean). Incidentally, I presume the naming of soundtrack pieces is down to the composer, in which case Fender Roads is an inexcusable (if rather witty) pun. Woody Jackson and Zac Rae both play Chamberlin, with what sounds like female voices (multiply overdubbed?) on 11, 12 & 13, flutes on Caravan and strings on Suite Bergamasque. It's very possible that some of these 'sightings' are wrong and just as possible that it's used elsewhere It's hard enough spotting a Mellotron on some albums; Chamberlins are a nightmare...
His tenth 'regular' release, 2008's The Holy Pictures, is a far rockier proposition than Lets Get Killed all round, maybe surprisingly, although there's still a fair chunk of programming to be heard in its grooves, along with energetic indie (I Heard Wonders, Holy Pictures) and even (admittedly instrumental) piano balladry, with closer The Ballad Of Sarah And Jack. Three tape-replay tracks, all from different players. Jackson (again) adds some distant Chamberlin strings to The Story Of The Ink, while Leo Abrahams plays inaudible Mellotron on Theme/I.M.C. and Scott Kinsey sticks what I take to be Chamby strings on the brief Birth.
So; not albums for the tape-replay obsessive, I fear, and while I actually prefer both of these to it to Lets Get Killed, they're decidedly less original.
Holy Ghost! (2011, 49.16) *½/0
|Do it, Again
Wait & See
Hold My Breath
Say My Name
Jam for Jerry
It's Not Over
|Static on the Wire
Holy Ghost! are the New York-based duo of Alex Frankel and Nicholas Millhiser, whose eponymous 2011 debut consists of a most irritating form of electropop, almost guaranteed to infuriate anyone outside their target audience. Is there a least bad track? Possibly Static On The Wire, if only for its Clavinet work, but that's a pretty thin excuse for listenability in my book. No, this is crap.
Alex Aldi is credited with various analogue keyboards (including the aforementioned Clav), but I'd love to know where the supposed Mellotron is hiding out. Is it sampled? Is it here at all? Fucked if I know, but I can only advise you to head in the opposite direction to Holy Ghost! as quickly as possible.
Pause for a Hoarse Horse (1971, 39.14) ***/T
Pause for a Hoarse Horse
Red E Lewis and the Red Caps
In My Time
How Would it Feel?
Welwyn Garden City Blues
You're No Good
The Alchemist (1973, 40.44) ***½/T
The Old Man Dying
Time Passes By
The Old Man Calling
The Sun's Revenge
A Secret to Keep
The Brass Band Played
The Disaster Returns
The Death of the Alchemist
Many years ago, I did a temporary job working for the Census Commission, doing my little bit to help compile the figures for that year's census (not to mention earn a bit of dosh); I met with a good deal of resistance from certain sectors of the public, one of whom subsequently mellowed when he found out I was also a musician. It turns out that he was Mick Cook, once drummer with Home, along with Cliff Williams, later of AC/DC and Laurie Wisefield, subsequently of Wishbone Ash. I was saddened to hear a few years later that he'd died; definitely one of the good guys.
His old band's first album, 1971's Pause for a Hoarse Horse, is perfectly pleasant but undemanding countryish rock, which finally tips over into full-blown country on the last couple of tracks. It's very well done, but hasn't dated terribly well, and I'm not quite sure where this would fit in with modern listening tastes (not that that should necessarily be a problem, of course). The best tracks are probably Moses and the short country hoedown Welwyn Garden City Blues, but it's all a bit tame, really. Clive John plays Mellotron on two tracks, with melodic, largely single-note string parts on Red E Lewis And The Red Caps and Bad Days, but we're not talking a 'buy it now' album, I think.
Home's third (and last) album, The Alchemist, was their only concept piece. The concept's as flaky as most from the era, although it does at least have some sort of narrative structure, concerning, er, an alchemist, although I'm not quite sure how his activities relate to alchemy, but there you go. The first few tracks come across as nothing special, with some of that Wishbone Ash twin-guitar feel in places, and rather ordinary songwriting. Guest keyboardist Jimmy Anderson seems so integral to the band's sound that I can't imagine how they performed live as a four-piece; maybe they didn't - Home are one of those bands about whom very little information seems to have survived.
Anyway, as the band slide into The Disaster, most of the way through side one, they suddenly come alive, producing a quite ferocious piece with excellent keyboard and guitar work, including a smattering of 'Tron strings buried in the mix, with the intensity carried on through The Sun's Revenge. Side two again starts poorly, but picks up towards the end, with The Disaster Returns being a highlight, with another handful of those string chords. The closing title track has a string arrangement that sounds real, rather than 'Tron, but there's no mention on the sleeve of 'orchestral arrangement' or similar, so it could be simply well-arranged keys.
So; although Pause for a Hoarse Horse isn't especially worth the effort, while The Alchemist's a bit of a mixed bag, a few tracks really stand out, with the band having the advantage of a (relatively) original sound, although they let themselves down throughout much of the album by being too unadventurous. It isn't worth it on the Mellotron front, though if you're interested in the lesser-known early-'70s UK progressives, you could do worse than pick up a copy.
History & Geography (1984, 34.06/75.57) ***/T
|Marco Polo: The Voyage
Marco Polo: The City of Kin-Sai
Bells of Ever and Never
From the Life of King John
Marco Polo: The Desert
Does This Belong to You?
|How I Spent My Vacation
(Please) Fix My Horn (My Brakes Don't Work)
Where We Left Off]
Home & Garden formed out of the dissolution of Cleveland's legendary Pere Ubu in 1982, the rhythm section going on to form the new outfit. Like their previous band, they were disinterested in following the well-worn path, finding a vocalist (Jeff Morrison) who tended to read his poetry over the music rather than actually 'sing', which fitted in pretty well with the band's ethos, by the sound of it. Their sole full LP, 1984's History & Geography, is part post-Ubu, part early indie, part avant-rock; you get the feeling this lot were a better live band than studio, although the album never fails to be interesting, at the very least.
Jim Jones plays Mellotron flutes, choir and strings on the fairly avant- Bells Of Ever And Never, probably sounding quite alien to the band's core audience, who may very well not have heard one since they were old enough to know what they were. This is now available in a vastly expanded edition and is heartily recommended to Pere Ubu fans and followers of '80s rock weirdness in general. Just for once, this is truly deserving of that single T, its one Mellotron track being a real killer.
Grown in U.S.A. (1970, 38.47) ***/TTT½Circles in the North
Taking Me Home
In the Beginning
Four Days and Nights Without You
Cyrano in the Park
Texans Homer release just the one album, Grown in U.S.A. It's a slightly mixed bag, to be honest, fusing psych, hard rock and, er, country into a sort-of interesting stew that doesn't always work, if truth be told. After psychedelic hard rock opener Circles In The North, the pedal steel puts in an appearance on the next couple of tracks, particularly on Dawson Creek, almost a straight country rock song. The rest of the album veers between the rock and country sides of the band, often during the same song, with twin guitar leads battling it out with pedal steel balladry in an almost unique mix of styles.
Rob Meurer (misspelled Meuer on the sleeve) plays Mellotron on most of the record, which must make this one of the earliest American 'Tron (as against Chamberlin) albums. Most of his use is nice, upfront strings, although flutes and even brass rear their misshapen heads occasionally. Meurer seems to use practically no other instrument, although the odd synth line puts in an appearance, sounding like an old Moog III. I'd give this a higher star rating if it wasn't for the country influence; OK, it makes for a more unusual album, though not always in a good way. Plenty of Mellotron, though, so worth it for that if you can track a copy down.
Story (1970, 39.55) ***/T½
Black Mourning Band
Fresher Than the Sweetness of Water
He Was Columbus
Ceilings No. 1
Under the Silent Tree
She's Out There
|She Said Yes
I Remember Caroline
Ceilings No. 2
Honeybus were a London-based late '60s outfit, who neatly sidestepped the prevailing psychedelic ethos, preferring to update the mainstream pop of the era just prior to things getting interesting, in the manner of The Hollies or (The) Marmalade, maybe. They're remembered for their sole hit, '68's terrace-style singalong I Can't Let Maggie Go, also used for an iconic early '70s TV ad for slimming bread (no, I'm not making this up).
Despite their one-off success, the band only released one album in their lifetime, 1970's Story, a vaguely baroque pop concoction that has its moments, notably Under The Silent Tree and How Long, although its middle-of-the-road feel scuppers it from a viewpoint four decades ahead. Ray Cane plays Mellotron; Under The Silent Tree features the rarely-heard guitar plus pitchbent flutes, with quite distinct string stabs on She Said Yes in comparison to the track's real strings and another unusual sound, the fast-picking mandolin, taking a solo on I Remember Caroline, making a nice change from the usual strings and flutes hegemony.
Story isn't the most exciting album, although students of the era (are there such things?) will probably find things to like about it. Its main plus point is its unusual Mellotron use; just a shame there isn't more of it.
Here's Luck (2001, 46.27) ***/TTT
Pins in Dolls
Red Dye #40
Hearts and Heads
For the Tears
The Honeydogs have been around since the mid-'90s, releasing their fourth album, Here's Luck, in 2001. Although their earlier work is apparently in an alt.country vein, as various online reviewers have pointed out, this release is slanted in a Beatles/powerpop direction, if you can imagine an alt.country American band trying to be The Fabs. By far from everything here grabs me, but Losing Transmissions and Freakshow are two of the better efforts.
Mellotron and/or Chamberlin on several tracks, probably from keys man Peter J. Sands, although it could be previous 'Tron user, producer Chuck Zwicky; without a specific credit it's hard to say. Anyway, strings and cellos on Stonewall, flutes on Sour Grapes and Wilson Boulevard, strings on For The Tears and Freakshow and finally, flutes and strings on Losing Transmissions, making for a fairly heavy tape-replay record. Assuming, of course, it's all real... So; a powerpop album for alt.country fans? Hard to say, but it's a reasonable record with plenty of tape-replay of one variety or another.
Armageddon (1979, recorded 1974, 39.01) ***½/TTT½Hello
A Tormented Heart
D.R. Hooker's rather limited fame is based on the impeccable late-period psych credentials of his 1972 debut, The Truth, reviewers tending to be a bit sniffy about its follow-up, Armageddon. Although recorded in '74, the album only saw the light of day, in a very different musical climate, in '79, where it must've really sounded like a fish out of water (so what does a fish out of water sound like, anyway?). It's actually a pretty decent prog/hard rock/psych effort, many of the tracks running into each other, highlights including the epic Winter and the closing title track, although, truth be told, there's nothing here that made me reach for the 'skip' button.
Bob Reardon plays Mellotron, This Moment opening with a lovely flute part, with string swells on Free, strings all over the first part of Winter and on A Tormented Heart, strings and very upfront flutes on Kamala, finishing with more strings on Armageddon itself. So; an excellent effort, proof positive that there are almost certainly many more great obscure albums languishing on mouldy old master tapes, just waiting to be hauled, kicking and screaming, back out into the light. Loads of 'Tron, too, unexpectedly. Irritatingly, although this is now available again, it's only on 180gm vinyl (blah blah blah), so much as I applaud any labels' efforts to keep the old black stuff alive, it'd be quite nice to be able to get this on CD...
Out of Body (1993, 45.49) **½/½
|Twenty-Five Hours a Day
Boys Will Be Boys
Shadow of Jesus
Great Big American Car
Dancing on the Edge
All Around the Place
|One Too Many Nights
Nobody But You
The Hooters formed back in 1980, apparently, two of their members being ex- of an old second-hand shop perennial, Baby Grand. There's a Cyndi Lauper connection, making it unsurprising that she guests on their fifth album, 1993's Out of Body. I've occasionally wondered, idly, what this lot sound like, and now I know. A bit like an American Waterboys, that's what. Sort of faux-folk rock/pop, with mandolin, accordion and fiddle thrown into the vaguely rootsy brew. To give them some credit, most of the keyboards are of the vintage variety, before they became fashionable again, but they're not really enough to save the band from 'mainstream dullards' status.
Chief Hooter Rob Hyman allegedly plays Mellotron on Driftin' Away, in those mostly pre-sample days, but all I can hear is something that just might be a few background flute notes. I mean, what's the point? What's the point in carting the instrument into the studio in the first place, wrestling with its 'awkward' keyboard action, then crediting it, all for it to be next to inaudible on the finished product? You didn't want to buy this album anyway, did you?
Musical Chairs (1998, 48.31) **½/½
|I Will Wait
Las Vegas Nights
|One By One
Desert Mountain Showdown
What's Going on Here
What Do You Want From Me Now
Closet Full of Fear
Looking for Lucky (2005, 42.23) **½/T½
|State Your Peace
Hey Sister Pretty
The Killing Stone
Get Out of My Mind
Another Year's Gone By
Can I See You
Free to Everyone
Waltz Into Me
I'd never actually heard Hootie & the Blowfish (named for two old college friends) before encountering 1998's Musical Chairs, and while I can't say I'm particularly blown away, they're less offensive than I'd expected. They sound like... I dunno. College rock? Springsteen? Less unpleasant Bon Jovi? Mainstream pop/rock by any other name? Purpose-built for arena shows, lightweight 'rock' with all the rock removed, I suppose. Standout tracks? None. Only Lonely has Chamberlin strings and cellos from the ubiquitous Patrick Warren, but they're almost indistinguishable from real strings, to be honest, which seems slightly pointless to me. Plenty of Hammond spread across the album, but that's it on the tape-replay front.
Seven years and two albums on, and 2005's Looking for Lucky is reassuringly similar to its predecessors, for those reassured by such things. A handful of tracks are less dull (opener State Your Peace has some Eagles-esque harmony guitars, which is actually a good thing), but most of the album conforms to their arena-pop/rock template, although their appeal seems to have become more selective over the years. John Hobbs plays Mellotron this time round, with background flutes on the obnoxious Hey Sister Pretty and what sounds like unison flute and string chords on The Killing Stone, with a rather ordinary string part on Can I See You.
I really don't think you need to hear either of these, unless listening to very bland non-rock is your idea of a good time; they might not be as bad as I'd expected, but I still sort of wish I hadn't.
Sit Down & Listen to: The Live Theater Recordings (2003, 54.51/58.07) **½/0 (T)
My Autumn's Done Come
Frosted Flake Wood
|Vinegar & Salt
The World is Mine
The Last Thing I Need is You]
The President of the L.S.D. Golf Club (2007, 41.20) ***/TTT½
The Eclipse Song
Black Marble Tiles
|Strictly Out of Phase
Belgian indie/trip-hop outfit Hooverphonic interrupted their run of studio LPs to record live with an orchestra (But no audience), the end result being released as 2003's Sit Down & Listen to: The Live Theater Recordings. Most of the tracks given this treatment can be found on their earlier albums in their original versions, which may or may not sound better than their reworkings. This is entirely a matter of taste, but I find this kind of Nancy Sinatra-esque '60s orchestral pop a bit wearing, to be honest, although I'm well aware that at one point, it was considered the height of chic. Never was very chic, me... I suppose it's good at what it does, but I'm having trouble finding anything very encouraging to say about it. Although there's no Mellotron on the original album, some versions feature a bonus track, the single The Last Thing I Need Is You, with a nice flute part from David Poltrock, although it's hardly worth picking up the album to hear.
Their sixth studio album, the marvellously-named The President of the L.S.D. Golf Club, is best described as a cross between indie and trip-hop, not necessarily within songs. The overall mood is 'down' rather than 'up', although the band do pick up the pace here and there, notably on Expedition Impossible and Circles, although you'd hardly call them cheerful. Er, is this a problem? Cédric Murrath plays keys, including a real Mellotron (thanks for the confirmation, Dieter), with strings on 50 Watt, background flutes on Expedition Impossible, major string and flute parts on Gentle Storm (the album's 'Tron classic), more flutes and strings on The Eclipse Song... Basically, this album is smothered in 'Tron strings and flutes, which is a serious bonus. So; passable gloomy record, plenty of great 'Tron.
Beautiful Targets (2007, 45.33) **½/½
|In Full Bloom
All Angels Road
Windy Day (Giant Dancers)
Over & Over
Echo & His Brother
Are You Anywhere?
To the Slaughter...
Hopewell play a kind of psych/indie crossover on their fourth (? Their website is pretty unforthcoming) album, 2007's Beautiful Targets, that works well for a couple of tracks before becoming irritating. Better tracks include Tree and Over & Over, but it's all rather anodyne, if truth be told.
Max Avery Lichtenstein (Camphor, Timesbold) supposedly plays Mellotron, but the real (and sampled?) strings all over the album make it difficult to spot. Is that a brief squirt of strings at the end of Windy Day (Giant Dancers)? Who can say? Is it even real? There's another relevant Hopewell album, 2000's The Curved Glass; review forthcoming when I track a copy down.
Light Through the Veins (2009, 34.56) ***/½Light Through the Veins
Light Through the Veins (radio edit)
Light Through the Veins (David Holmes remix)
Light Through the Veins (Ewan Pearson's downtown lights remix)
Jon Hopkins is one of those British musicians who've emerged from the '90s dance scene, still making music influenced by that, while moving into TV and general soundtrack work. As you can see, 2009's Light Through the Veins EP is as long as a short album, only with far less variety, each of the four versions of the track contained herein almost, but not quite merging seamlessly into the next. Is it any good? It's good at what it does, at least to my ears and is at least inoffensive, which makes a nice change.
Track three, the David Holmes remix, the nearest any of these gets to 'rock', features Holmes collaborator Woody Jackson on Chamberlin, although I've no idea whether or not it's real and it's hard to tell what it might be doing: strings? The faint, background choirs? Certainly not enough to make it worth hearing for its use, that's for sure. One for remix enthusiasts, I think, while the rest of us find something more to our liking.
See: David Holmes
A Remark Hugh Made (1994, 44.17) ***½/TT
|Free Will & Testament
A Streetcar Named Desire
We Can Work it Out
The Twelve Chairs
This Island Earth
John Milton is Dead
All in My Head
His Wife for a Hat
Lenny Bruce Sings
His Hat for a Wife
Our Final Remark
Hugh Hopper was, of course, one of the Canterbury Scene's most fêted alumni, playing on the first six Soft Machine LPs before going on to work with almost everyone of note from the scene and a myriad others before his untimely death in 2009. One of his more unexpected collaborations came in 1994 with American alt.god (Mark) Kramer, the end result being an album with that most Canterburyesque of titles, A Remark Hugh Made. In many ways, it has a most Canterburyesque sound, too, comprising a bewildering variety of styles, many, but not all, jazz-related, all squashed into forty-four minutes, shifting between suitably whimsical opener Free Will & Testament, the duo's wonderfully Indian take on The Beatles' We Can Work It Out, the heavily psychedelic The Twelve Chairs and Hopper's outrageous fuzz/wah bass work on Sliding Dogs, to name but four examples.
Kramer plays Mellotron, with strings all over We Can Work It Out and Sliding Dogs, plus chordal flutes and strings on His Hat For A Wife (although not on His Wife For A Hat - spot the Oliver Sacks reference). Fans of straight-down-the-line, 'normal' music are fairly unlikely to like A Remark Hugh Made, but anyone who ever cocked an ear when the needle hit the vinyl on a copy of Soft Machine's Third, or even realised that listening to music some distance from the mainstream frequently brings unexpected results may very well get something out of this, its Mellotron usage merely a bonus.
See: Kramer | Glass
Calypso (2012, 43.49) ***/TTFront Forming
Nearly Broke Your Heart
Keep Coming Over
Young and Sweet
Going by their third album, 2012's Calypso, The Horse Company are a superior Dutch indie/Americana outfit (their debut was apparently more in a transatlantic direction), with a detailed, quite intricate sound, only lost on its rockier tracks (notably One Wheel). Highlights? Opener Front Forming (one of the album's least 'indie' sounding tracks), Young And Sweet and 'epic country/indie' closer Calypso itself, while Aeons is possibly the most successful of the 'mainstream indie' material, although I have trouble with the more laid-back tracks, particularly Keep Coming Over and Older Speeder.
Matthijs Herder (Black Atlantic, Oceana Company) plays all keys, including his own Mellotron, with a flute melody and string chords on Nearly Broke Your Heart, exceedingly background choirs on One Wheel, far more upfront ones on Aeons and major flute and string parts on the lengthy title track. Parts of this album will appeal to fans of the more psychedelic end of things (although parts of it won't); get to hear the title track, at least.
Hostsonaten (Italy) see:
Elevator (2005, 36.53) **½/½
Running Out of Time
Ladies and Gentleman
You Owe Me an IOU
No Jokes - Fact
Pickin' it Up
|Island of the Honest Man
Middle of Nowhere
Soldier in a Box
Shame on You
British Columbia's Hot Hot Heat are current Noo Wave revivalist press darlings, having morphed out of a punkier phase of their existence. I'll be brutally honest here and say I can't see what all the fuss is about, but then, I'm at least double the age of their typical fan, and music that sounds like a modern and less quirky version of Elvis Costello really ain't gonna float my boat. You Owe Me An IOU seems to be the track that Those In The Know rave about, but to my ears, it's no less irritating than anything else here. Is it supposed to be about the lyrics? Probably, but my inability to hear most of them round vocalist/keyboard player Steve Bays' writhing lips rather spoils the effect.
Mellotron? Played by Bays, could be lurking in the background on several tracks, but is only actually audible during the fading seconds of Middle Of Nowhere, with a couple of seconds of choir. Don't bother. I mean, really, don't bother.
Thinks: School Stinks (1971, 43.07) ***½/½Neanderthal Man
How Many Times
Take Me Back
Um Wah, Um Woh
Run Baby Run
All God's Children
Hotlegs were a one-off project based in Manchester, consisting of Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, who, of course, after adding Graham Gouldman to their ranks, went on to become 10cc. They're chiefly remembered for their no.2 UK hit, Neanderthal Man, a bizarre effort based around, er, a rather Neanderthal drum pattern and massed acoustics, over which they chanted "I'm a Neanderthal man, you're a Neanderthal girl...(etc.)". You can actually envisage this as a 10cc single; it has the same kind of dry wit and inventiveness they used to such good effect later on - hardly surprising, really.
The trio actually dragged the concept out far enough to record an album, Thinks: School Stinks, though in the best 10cc tradition, it's a little too clever for its own good, and the best track is the single. The rest of the material sits somewhere between the Neantherthal Man silliness of Um Wah, Um Woh and the 12-minute Suite F.A. (ho ho), with most of it being good, but not that good. Someone plays a brief Mellotron flute part on Fly Away, and it sounds like a couple of string chords on Neanderthal Man itself, though it's rather hard to say, to be honest.
So; an interesting curio, though not exactly essential, unless you're a 10cc completist (are there such things?). Absolutely not worth it for the 'Tron, though.
Flying Upside Down (2007, 52.04) ***/½
|Better Than Love
I Remember (it's Happening Again)
Let Me in
The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is
Out of His Mind
Live to Be Free
|Heart of Stone
Hanging on (Tom's Song)
Flying Upside Down
When the Time is Right
Good for You
Waiting for the Rain to Come
Griffin House (who sounds like a band, but isn't) shifted his attention from sport to music in his late teens, self-releasing several albums before being picked up (as they say) by Canada's Nettwerk label. 2007's rather overproduced Flying Upside Down is his third release on the label and fifth overall, a perfectly acceptable, folk- and country-influenced singer-songwriter effort that flies a little too close to the mainstream in places for those whose taste sits at the 'authentic' end of the spectrum. Better tracks include I Remember (It's Happening Again), chiefly for its lyrics, the Wurlitzer-driven One Thing and the title track, but it's all a little anodyne, somehow.
Despite the presence on the album of two members of Tom Petty's band, including major Mellotron/Chamberlin user Benmont Tench, Jeff Trott actually plays Chamberlin here, presumably supplying the strings on the title track, although the sustained string part on Hanging On (Tom's Song) sounds generic. Flying Upside Down will appeal to a certain audience dynamic, specifically one that values lyrical content over musical, although House's melodies are memorable enough, if somewhat bland. Next to no obvious tape-replay work, however, so don't bother unless you have a yen for mainstream singer-songwriter stuff.
Forgive (2002, 45.24) **/½
|Beautiful to You
Dancin' in God's Country
It Didn't Look Like Alcohol
Life Had Other Plans
It's My Job to Fall
Jesus and Bartenders
|When Did You Ever Listen to Me
Pink Flamingo Kind of Love
Softly and Tenderly
Rebecca Lynn Howard began her career writing for other country artists before releasing her first solo album in 2000. 2002's Forgive is its follow-up, fitting neatly into the 'modern country' bracket, containing elements of both 'traditional' country and AOR, although the schmaltz begins to take precedence after the first few tracks. As so often in the country world, the lyrics are presumably given more thought than the music (God, it shows), making Pink Flamingo Kind Of Love about the best thing here, in a manner of speaking.
Tony Harrell on Mellotron, with merely a few seconds of strings at the beginning of Memorized, so not something you're going to want to track down too badly, frankly. This is half a respectable country album and half a load of old schlock, with next to no Mellotron. I rest my case.
Shine Through it (2008, 48.36) ***½/½
|Love Makes You Beautiful
Shine Through it
Mr. Johnson's Lawn
No. 1 Fan
Spanish Love Affair
I Remember When
|It's All Game
She Was Mine
If you think you've heard of Terrence Howard, but can't place him, think: Ray, Crash, Iron Man. Yup, he's another in the long list of 'actors who want to be singers'. The difference is, Howard has a terrific voice and impeccable taste, his debut album, 2008's Shine Through it, being stuffed with the kind of soulful jazz that's long out of fashion, but musically a light year or two away from generic r'n'b drivel. What's more, Howard writes all his own material, making you wonder why he hasn't done this earlier. Top tracks include the balladic title track, Mr. Johnson's Lawn and the eccentric War, but, given that this isn't exactly what you'd call my thing, not one track here disappoints.
It's difficult to work out where Kenneth Crouch adds any Mellotron under all the big band work, but I think we can hear some flutes in the background on Sanctuary. If your tastes lean towards jazz or soul to any great degree, I can wholeheartedly recommend Shine Through it, although not for its Mellotron use, sadly.
Beginnings (1975, 39.53) ***/TDoors of Sleep
The Nature of the Sea
Will o'the Wisp
Pleasure Stole the Night
Break Away From it All
Steve Howe's first solo album away from Yes was his contribution to the band's 'mass solo project' of 1975, all of which (with the possible exclusion of Alan White's Ramshackled) are worth hearing. For the record, the others are Jon Anderson's uniquely wonderful Olias of Sunhillow (****½), Chris Squire's Fish Out of Water (****) and Patrick Moraz' i (a.k.a. The Story of i). Saying that, Beginnings isn't the strongest set ever, with the guitar playing (unsurprisingly) being the best thing about it. The songs are OK, but nowhere near Howe's contributions to his alma mater, and someone should've told him not to sing.
Moraz plays a little 'Tron on Will O'The Wisp among his other credits on the album, but nothing to get steamed up about, really; a few seconds of 'Tron strings on an otherwise inconsequential song. The title track and Ram are far better pieces, but I don't feel I can give the album more than three stars overall, I'm afraid.
See: Yes | Patrick Moraz
Howell & Atkins (1979, 38.06) *½/TT½
Pictures 1 and 2
Paint the Night
Oh My Lady
We've Been Through Love
From Day to Day
|Don't Blame Me
Cry an Empty Tear
Howell & Atkins? Who? Vocalist/keyboard player Kurt Howell and guitarist Dave Atkins, that's who. What, another successful soft-soft-rock duo like Hall & Oates, perhaps, or maybe Steely Dan's Becker and Fagen? Well, have YOU heard of 'em? Point proven, methinks. 1979's Howell & Atkins (hopefully their only release) is pretty rank, frankly, possibly best described by the term the aforementioned Becker and Fagen used for their first single: 'stinko'. Its slushy balladry and not-very-soulful r'n'b-lite could actually have been a hit with suitable promotion; yes, it's that bad. Is there a best track? OK, a least worst? Catch On ups the rock quotient slightly, even featuring a groovy synth solo, so it'll have to be that.
Although John Robertson is credited with 'Mellotron string arrangements', it seems likely that Howell actually plays the thing, with pseudo-orchestral strings all over Pictures 1 And 2, Paint The Night, We've Been Through Love, Don't Blame Me and Cry An Empty Tear, plus cellos on the last-named. Given the current propensity for reclaiming '70s rubbish as 'guilty pleasures', it's almost surprising that this guff hasn't been rediscovered; I can only assume that its deserved obscurity allows it to fly unhindered under the hipster radar, for which we should all be truly thankful. Absolute tosh, albeit tosh with passable levels of Mellotron.
Exiles [as Sivert Høyem & the Volunteers] (2006, 51.45) ***/T
|Love, Leave Me Alone
Don't Pass Me By
Into the Sea
Just a Little Closer Now
I've Been Meaning to Sing You the Song
Moon Landing (2009, 52.50/70.49) ***½/T
The Light That Falls Among the Trees
What You Doin' With Him?
Going for Gold
Lost at Sea
[Deluxe ed. adds:
Return to Nothing Special
Sister Sonic Blue
The House of the Rising Sun]
Long Slow Distance (2011, 60.06) **½/½
Long Slow Distance
Give it a Whirl
Red on Maroon
Sivert Høyem (sometimes Höyem) was vocalist with Madrugada, who split after guitarist Robert Burås died in 2007, although his one album as Sivert Høyem & the Volunteers appeared the previous year. The Dylanesque Exiles is a decent enough record, albeit one in thrall to its chief influence, the original Saint Bob, heavily Zimlike opener Love, Leave Me Alone setting the tone for the rest of the record. Mikael Lindqvist plays Mellotron, with a strings solo in the middle of January 3rd, sounding nice'n'real at the end of the track and distant strings on Black Cross, rather less effectively.
2009's Moon Landing is his third solo album and the first since Madrugada's split; it improves upon that band's sound, in my opinion, largely consisting of major-key psychedelic epics with subtle nods towards Sigur Rós' elegiac mini-symphonies. Other influences become apparent: Shadows/High Meseta has more than a hint of Hawkwind about it (squiggly synths and all), while Neil Young remains a touchstone from Madrugada days, all of which adds up to the kind of album that should be able to reach out to indie and psych fans alike, maybe even some of the less dyed-in-the-wool prog types. Cato Salsa plays Mellotron, with background choirs and upfront strings on Lost At Sea; any other possible parts show themselves up as being something else, sooner or later.
Unfortunately, 2011's Long Slow Distance takes something of a backward step, losing most of its predecessor's strong points and going for the post-rock/pop jugular, presumably because it sells. Best track on this overlong effort of overlong material? Probably the intense Give It A Whirl, non-coincidentally because it sits the closest to that Neil Young influence again. Christer Knutsen plays background Mellotron flutes on Animal Child; when I say 'background', I actually mean 'audible for about a second', making this unworthy on both musical and Mellotronic fronts.
Exiles and Long Slow Distance are a bit ordinary, but Moon Landing is the kind of album that could easily gain another half star if I give it enough time (fat chance); take that as a recommendation, especially if a Nordic indie/psych crossover sounds like it might float your boat. Only one 'Tron track on his best release, but it's a good'un.
Ray Wylie Hubbard & the Cowboy Twinkies (1975, 38.35) ***/½
|West Texas Country Western Dance Band
The Lovin' of the Game
|He's the One (Who Made Me #2)
Belly of Texas
Texan country/blues artist Ray Wylie Hubbard has had a rather sporadic career, possibly due to his refusal to stick to a single genre. 1975's Ray Wylie Hubbard & the Cowboy Twinkies was his second album, of only three released across that decade, largely consisting of authentic country, of the kind far removed from Nashville schmaltz, exceptions (and probable best tracks) including the honky-tonk of $60 Ford, the funky Blackeyed Peas and excellent blues-rocking closer Belly Of Texas.
Drummer Jim Herbst also plays Mellotron, adding background strings to opener West Texas Country Western Dance Band and only slightly more upfront ones to Portales, so while this is a decent album of its type, you really aren't going to track it down for its Mellotron content. Hubbard is still playing and recording, a recent album superbly titled A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C). A maverick, in the best possible way.
Newcastle Song (1974, 49.44) ***/TT½
Livin' it Up on the Dole
R Certificate Song
Motor Car Song
Christened My Dog
|Who's Your Friend?
I Never Was Born Like Mel
The Girls in Our Town
The Newcastle Song
No More Songs
Bob Hudson was one of Australia's top comedians of the '70s, vaguely comparable to Billy Connolly or Jasper Carrott in the UK, combining music and humour in roughly equal quantities. His live recording of The Newcastle Song, his paean to the perils of growing up in that rather singular industrial city, topped the Aussie charts for four weeks in 1975, triggering demand for a long-player, sensibly also titled Newcastle Song. As you might expect, although some of Hudson's humour still works today (notably the title track), much of it isn't far off mother-in-law jokes for (non-)topicality, but then, I rather doubt whether he was keeping one eye on the future.
None other than Chris Neal, of the previous year's Winds of Isis non-fame, plays guitar and keys, including Mellotron, with strings and choirs on Motor Car Song, choir on Shangri-Las spoof Teenage Cremation (almost as tasteful as it sounds), strings and flutes on The Girls In Our Town and strings on the nearest the album gets to a serious song, closer No More Songs, along with Neal's massed synths. This isn't on CD, but is probably easy enough to find in the outback, so if you're partial to a bit of '70s Aussie humour (you'd almost have to be Australian yourself), you might wish to give this a go, particularly with its surprisingly high Mellotron content.
See: Chris Neal
Totally Out of Control (1974, 38.39) **½/TT
|Long Long Day
Be a Man
Truth of the Matter
Killer on the Road
Lover, Come Back to Me
Straight Up and Tall
If You Really Need Me
Isn't it Lovely
La La Layna
Medley: These Things We Do/Home/Out of the Rainbow/Find Me a Woman
The Hudson Brothers, Bill, Brett and Mark (actual brothers, real name Salerno), formed their first band in the late '60s, working their way through several similar names before settling on the above in 1974, in time for their second album, Totally Out of Control. By this point, they'd signed to Elton John's Rocket label, being helped out on the album by Bernie Taupin and members of Elt's band, which sort of figures, given their style. It's a surprisingly rocky effort in places, although much of it slots into that 'mid'70s pop/rock' thing, as you'd expect. Better tracks include opener Long Long Day and Killer On The Road, but it's all far from essential. Bill and Mark both play Mellotron, with strings on Be A Man, flutes and strings on Dolly Day and strings on parts of the closing Medley.
The Hudson Brothers were a pretty mainstream bunch generally; they hosted two TV series, later working in TV and film together and separately, while Bill was married to Goldie Hawn for a while, fathering the very successful Kate. Mark went on to work with Aerosmith and Ringo Starr, amongst others, playing Mellotron on three of the latter's albums and one with Chastity Bono's Ceremony. If you're hellbent on finding a copy of Totally Out of Control, it probably isn't hard to find second-hand, at least in the States, or as a download, although whether or not it's worth it is something I have to leave entirely up to you.
Free Spirit (1974, 39.39) ***/TT½Take a Little Word
I Don't Want to Be a Star
Such a Day
How Many Times
Floating in the Wind
Drummer Richard 'Hud' Hudson and bassist John Ford, maybe surprisingly, left The Strawbs in 1973 to strike out on their own, although both (together and separately) have been on/off members of the Strawberry Hill Boys in more recent years. Free Spirit was their second album of four, full of the kind of mainstream rock that went out of fashion later that decade, never really returning; don't forget, these are the guys who wrote the execrable Part Of The Union for their previous band... It's not a bad album per se, just one of considerable averageness, if there can be such a thing, with probably only the mildly proggy Silent Star's stately rising string lines and the Strawbs-ish Such A Day being really worthy of note.
Chris Parren plays Mellotron on several tracks, with a so-so string part on opener Take A Little Word and a brief, if better one on the title track, although the strings and flute on Mother Mild are real. More o' dem strings on I Don't Want To Be A Star and Silent Star, complete with pitchbends of a level of smoothness of which my own machine, a few months old when this album was released, would struggle rather badly these days. I have to say, Parren's keyboard work overall stands out; his multiple monosynth parts on otherwise unremarkable closer Floating In The Wind are excellent, and he provides some of the album's best moments.
So; a rather ordinary album with a few nice moments and quite a lot of 'Tron strings. I don't believe it's ever been available on CD, so you're restricted to finding an old vinyl copy or downloading it from somewhere, anyway. Heard worse, heard better, passable Mellotron. Damned with faint praise? Incidentally, the duo reinvented themselves in the noo wave era as The Monks, releasing the horrible Nice Legs, Shame About The Face. "Shame abaht the boat race"? Thanks, chaps.
See: The Strawbs | Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera
The Way It Is (1999, 55.38/60.54) ***/T
|The Way it is
You Kill Me
Rain on Me
The Truth Will Set Me Free
Stoned in the Temple
|Too Far Gone
Take You Down
Don't Look Away
[some versions add:
Freedom (Shagmeister mix)]
As I'm sure you all know, Glenn Hughes has a long and honourable history: Trapeze, Deep Purple, plus stints with Gary Moore, Black Sabbath etc.etc. I'm not entirely sure he has the right to label himself 'The Voice Of Rock', though, especially as he's chiefly known for his bassist/vocalist role in Purple, but that's how he seems to be billed these days, like it or not. The Way It Is is certainly rock, although only in places, with too many tracks sitting nearer the 'funk' camp (don't forget that Hughes was one of the proponents of the style in Purple). As a result, for every rockin' track, there's one that doesn't quite cut it; variety, I expect it's called, but to my ears it fatally weakens the album and makes for an inconsistent listen.
Marc Bonilla is credited with Mellotron on Curse on Hughes' own site, so although there's something somewhat 'Tron-sounding on the opening title track, I think we have to assume it's not. Curse opens with a nice little string part, with plenty more strings and flutes, but that does seem to be your lot. This is only really worth it if you're a big fans of Hughes, I suspect; he's in great voice throughout, although he doesn't seem to know when to hold back. Subtlety, my dear sir, subtlety.
See: Deep Purple
Hughes Turner Project (2002, 61.16) ***/T
You Can't Stop Rock & Roll
Missed Your Name
Mystery of the Heart
Heaven's Missing an Angel
|Ride the Storm
Run Run Run
On the Ledge
Hughes Turner Project 2 (2003, 62.34) ***/T½
Alone I Breathe
Losing My Head
Going My Way
Time and Time Again
|Burning the Sky
Keep on Shining
Let's Talk About it Later
Another of Glenn Hughes' current projects, alongside his solo career, is his duo with ex-Rainbow (and, shockingly, Deep Purple) vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. Now, excuse me for seeming a bit dim, but why would a singer of the calibre of Hughes wish to duet with a singer who almost defines wishy-washy AOR vocals (or would if Steve Perry didn't exist)? Turner ruined Rainbow (OK, it was Blackmore's fault), then had a good stab at doing the same to Purple (OK, that was Blackmore, too). Were he a lesser singer himself, I'd accuse Hughes of using Turner to look good in comparison, but since he isn't... Who knows? Maybe he thinks he can sing. OK, he can, but not with any great power and I don't think he's made a single good album in his entire career.
Hughes Turner Project could be described as 'classy hard rock', or even (wince) 'melodic rock' (sorry), although it's better than the run-of-the-mill AOR slop that usually bears that title. Saying that, it 'features' several fairly dippy numbers (mostly sung by Turner) alongside the rockier efforts (not sung by Turner). 'Jolene' is actually at his best on the album singing harmonies with Hughes, when the true wussiness of his voice is less apparent; his leads remind me why I disliked him so much in Rainbow. Anyway, keys man Vince di Cola sticks largely to (very well-played) Hammond, but sticks some 'Tron on a couple of tracks, with occasional flute interjections on gloopy ballad Heaven's Missing An Angel, and a string part on the noticeably better On The Ledge, though both sound like they could very well be samples; I shall report back should I find out more.
In an exceedingly keen manner, the pair released their wittily-titled follow-up, Hughes Turner Project 2 a mere year later. While similar to its predecessor, the album seems to have more energy; there are certainly fewer of those awful ballads, although most of the material remains relentlessly average. Ed Roth on keys this time round, with four 'Tron tracks (all strings): Losing My Head, Lost Dreams, Burning The Sky and Let's Talk About It Later, although I suspect samples again. Losing My Head is the only one to do anything interesting, to be honest, with some nice pitchbends and a Kashmirish feel.
So; you're only going to want these albums if you're into slightly retro-ish melodic hard rock. There's nothing 'clever' about them, with even the longer tracks having depressingly-simplistic song structures, but if that's not what you're after, you won't be disappointed. While both albums feature a modicum of Mellotron, there's nothing very exciting on offer, and it's probably samples anyway.
See: Deep Purple | Rainbow
Rykestraße 68 (2007, 38.07) **½/½Berlin
The North Wind
Break My Body
Hanne Hukkelberg's third album, Rykestraße 68, is a sparse, lonely sounding Norwegian singer-songwriter effort that occasionally picks up the pace, but is largely content to trudge along, head bowed, radiating an air of mild despair. I'm quite sure that's the effect Ms. Hukkelberg is after, in which case this may be considered a success, at least on its own terms. Musically, we get gently bowed cellos, tinkling glockenspiels and wistful pianos supporting Hanne's voice, mostly in a rather unmemorable way, although I'm sure its proggiest moment on Ticking Bomb is a classical steal.
Hukkelberg plays (real?) Mellotron herself on Fourteen, albeit no more than background strings and choir, that could've emanated from almost anything, frankly. Overall, one for depressives, though probably not those of a suicidal nature.
Squire (1975, 38.21/44.15) ***/T½
Dan the Plan
Picture a Little Girl
One More Bottle of Wine
I'm Sorry Squire
|Bad Side of Town
Alan Hull was, of course, linchpin of Geordie superstars Lindisfarne, who really should be remembered for more than the tedious Fog On The Tyne. Squire was his second solo album, after 1973's Pipedream, and covers a variety of styles, with the good-time boogie of Nuthin' Shakin' and the jaunty Mr. Inbetween contrasting sharply with the gentle Picture A Little Girl and I'm Sorry Squire, with the rest of the album covering most bases in between. The end result is a little uncohesive, but we'd complain if it all sounded the same, wouldn't we? In fact, it mirrors Lindisfarne's dichotomy, where they juxtaposed something as beautiful as Lady Eleanor and the previously-mentioned Geordie anthem, so its variety and on/off lack of taste shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Mellotron on two tracks, with string swells and a flute solo in opener Squire (from Hull), and slightly Strawberry Fields-esque flutes and (excuse the cliché) ethereal choirs in the instrumental I'm Sorry Squire (from Kenny Craddock). In actuality, there aren't many more places on the album where it would've fitted, and both tracks feature a decent amount of the Great White Beast, so no complaints here. But do you need to own a copy of this album? That depends largely on whether or not you like Lindisfarne and have a high tolerance for the folk end of pub rock. Squire has several nice tracks, particularly the Mellotron ones, but doesn't really hold up that well overall. Sadly, Alan Hull died in 1995 at the age of fifty, almost certainly a victim of the folk-rock lifestyle; think: 'rock'n'roll lifestyle, but more so'. RIP.
Official Lindisfarne site
Out of the Dust (1998, 41.05) **½/T
|Read Your Mind
Make Your Light to See
I Can't Live
Hand Me Down
In the Name
Fat Man's Delicacy
By three or four tracks into Human's Out of the Dust, I knew they were Christians. I wasn't even listening to the lyrics; they just have that irritating 'Christian-ness' about their vocal melodies, that and the insipid content, given that they're supposed to be a bloody rock band. The best tracks sound like King's X-lite, the worst like any other shitty Christian 'rock' band you can think of. None of it's any good, anyway, and for what it's worth, I'd have said the same if I'd had no idea of their religious persuasions, before you start pointing your accusatory Christian fingers at me.
Blair Masters plays Mellotron, with a nicely full-on string part on In The Name, making it easily the best thing about this dull record, although I must commend the second half of Fat Man's Delicacy, the one time on the album where the band actually rock out properly. So; one reasonable 'Tron track on a flaccid, CCM/rock album. No thanks.
Cause & Effect (2002, 62.13) **½/TT½
|I am Not Here
Look at Me Now
Madame Hate's Mad Search for Love
Bang the Drum Slowly
Dance Me to the End of Love
Although they've been releasing albums since the late '80s, I've somehow contrived never to've heard of L.A.'s Human Drama (originally The Models, from New Orleans). 2002's Cause & Effect is their eighth studio album, fitting the 'sort of goth' description that's usually levelled at them, mid-paced efforts occasionally giving way to piano numbers (no, not ballads) like Lonely or The Battle, while vocalist/mainman Johnny Indovina does his best Bowie impression.
Mellotron from Richard Ochoa and David R. Zimmerman, plus Chamberlin from the latter, with strings on opener I Am Not Here and Bang The Drum Slowly, strings and flutes on Imitation Of..., flutes and background strings on Madame Hate's Mad Search For Love, an upfront, chirpy flute part and cellos on The Mystery, background flutes on Cynthia's Journal and something not immediately identifiable on About Michelle, making for a surprisingly decent album on that front. Overall, a bit of a goth-lite effort, though, only really enlivened by some decent tape-replay work.
Peg Leg (2002, recorded 1975, 50.11) ***½/TTTT½
All Time Loser
Find Your Heart
For a Friend Pt.I
For a Friend Pt.II
|Tight Rope Lover
Human Instinct were one of the best known 'underground' bands in New Zealand in the '70s, releasing five albums across their career, including 1971's highly-rated Pins in it. Peg Leg was recorded in late '75, but by the time the band were presented with a rough mix, their style had changed, and the decision was made the shelve the album. Vocalist/drummer Maurice Greer kickstarted the process of resurrecting it by approaching their old record company armed with a cassette of that rough mix, triggering a search for the original multitrack which, amazingly, was found in a warehouse. After a full remix, it appeared in 2002 on the Rajon label, letting the Kiwi buying public know what they'd been missing.
Unsurprisingly, like most NZ music of the time, Peg Leg now sounds a little dated, but stands up surprisingly well, in a prog-lite kind of way. I'm not sure that opening with a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's inimitable Freebird was the best idea the band ever had, although it has to be said, they have a fair crack at it, duelling guitars and all, although their own slightly pedestrian material pales a little in comparison. Saying that, the two parts of For A Friend are pretty good, and it's not as if there are any real stinkers, although the title track is probably slightly unnecessary.
Steve McDonald's Mellotron work is quite exemplary; and to think I was worried this one might be a dud... His string part on Freebird shits on the original's, which is, admittedly, notorious as one of the worst-recorded 'Tron parts ever. McDonald actually writes a completely different, and vastly superior part, then carries on in a similar vein on most tracks, slapping strings all over the place, with choirs here and there (notably on For A Friend Pt.I), too, not to mention a high cello part on Fallen Star. Given how unexpected it is, this is a real Mellotron monster, although, typically, I believe there are only a few copies left unsold at the time of writing, probably spread out across North and South Island. There's bound to be a few online, if you search hard enough, and although the music is only slightly above average, the Mellotron work is excellent. Recommended.
See: Steve McDonald
Back on the Hunt (1980, 37.39/75.09) ***½/TT (TTT)
|Standing in the Road
She Flew Freely
Little Bit of Love
If Only We Had Tried
Ain't Got You
It's All Too Much
What Good is Love
|Back on the Hunt
Tell Me Why
She Opens My Eyes
Gimme Some Loving
|Love is a Happy Song
I've Been Waiting for So Long
It's My Life
Take a Piece of My Life]
The Hunt formed from the ashes of Canadians proggers Dillinger, recording an apparently excellent debut in The Hunt in 1977. After multiple lineup changes, vocalist/bassist Brian Gagnon regrouped the band as a power trio for 1980's Back on the Hunt, bringing in guitarist Paul Dickinson and their old drummer, ex-Max Webster man Paul Kersey. To be brutally honest, the album isn't that exciting, being mainly typical hard rock of the period, rather too plodding in rather too many places to be afforded any kind of 'classic' tag; it's by no means bad, but there are better albums from the era you'd be advised to sample first.
Gagnon also plays all the keyboards on the album, including Mellotron on three tracks. A string part on She Flew Freely and strings and choir on Little Bit Of Love are quite overshadowed by the full-on, upfront choir on What Good Is Love, along with real strings. Closing ballad Tell Me Why seems like it should have been a perfect 'Tronnish ending to the album, but Gagnon resisted the temptation and stuck the string section on again.
The CD reissue adds a whopping ten bonus tracks, doubling its length, while irritatingly completely changing the track order of the original album. They're a slightly mixed bag, although the first few are excellent (if shortish) progressive tracks, making me wonder if that's how their first album sounds. It all goes a bit downhill after their workaday cover of Spencer Davis' Gimme Some Loving [sic], although nothing really stinks, I'm glad to say. Three extra 'Tron tracks: She Opens My Eyes has a fair helping of (quietish) choirs, while I've Been Waiting For So Long's 'are they/aren't they?' strings are completely overshadowed by the definite 'Tron on It's My Life.
So; not bad, not great, passable 'Tron. More news if/when I get to hear either of the band's other albums.
Van Hunt (2004, 54.53) **½/T
Seconds of Pleasure
Down Here in Hell (With You)
What Can I Say (for Millicent)
Anything (to Get Your Attention)
Hold My Hand
Who Will Love Me in Winter
Out of the Sky
Randy Jackson's Music Club, Volume 1 (2008)[Van contributes]
Something to Believe in
Van Hunt has had a varied musical career, working with rock bands, producing hip-hop artists and recording his own, slightly skewed R&B, unbelievably covering The Stooges on his second album and working with Cree Summer, amongst others. It's his first, eponymous effort that concerns us here, though. Van Hunt was apparently largely recorded in 2000, but didn't see the light until 2004, which must have been torture for the man. Although more inventive than most of the bland nonsense this deservedly-maligned genre puts out, I wouldn't say it's exactly groundbreaking, in the grand scheme of things. Tracks like What Can I Say (For Millicent) and Who Will Love Me In Winter help to keep things uninteresting, although I'm sure they helped sell the album.
Unusually for him, Patrick Warren plays Mellotron, rather than Chamberlin, on the album, with an orchestrated string part on Seconds Of Pleasure that makes a welcome change from the standard string section. However, it's the record's chief point of interest for most of us and hardly makes it worth buying for that alone. Slightly quirky R&B, sir? I don't think so, no.
See: Randy Jackson's Music Club
Altitude (2007, 97.46) ***/TT
Pyramid of Giza
Warsaw Radio Mast
Sea Floor Spreading Hypothesis
Altitude is apparently the final instalment in a trilogy by Charlie Hunter and Bobby Previte, recording as Groundtruther. Both musicians are generally thought of as 'jazz', although this album slides between styles like a greased pig, falling, more often than not, into that specifically NYC avant-garde scene defined by Medeski Martin & Wood. Fittingly, since John Medeski is a guest player here, to the point where he actually gets a 'special guest' mention on the cover. It's (obviously) a two-CD set, disc one being electric and two acoustic, the mostly lengthy tracks on the electric disc being named after some of the world's tallest structures, while many of the mostly very short acoustic ones have something to do with underwater goings-on. There's no getting away from the fact that most of the set is highly experimental, some of the acoustic disc crossing over into modern atonal classical, which you will either like or... you won't. It's difficult to fault the concept and impossible to fault the playing, but I'd be lying if I said this was an album for everyman.
On the Mellotron front, Medeski only uses it on disc one (well, is a Mellotron acoustic? No), with a string part on Pyramid Of Giza, bassoon and strings on Everest and more bassoon on the lengthy Empire State, with flutes (?) and wildly pitchbent strings later on. Good to hear such an under-used sound, actually, although whether Medeski had to change frames to use it or he has it alongside strings and flute on one frame is unknown. So; a fairly out-there release, delving into the further reaches of modern jazz, but a nice bit of Medeskitron for those who can't get enough of his uniquely skronky style.
Official Charlie Hunter site
Official Bobby Previte site
See: Medeski Martin & Wood | Bobby Previte
Ian Hunter (1975, 40.38) ***/T½Once Bitten Twice Shy
Who Do You Love
3,000 Miles From Here
The Truth, the Whole Truth, Nuthin' But the Truth
It Ain't Easy When You Fall
I Get So Excited
All-American Alien Boy (1976, 41.20) ***½/TLetter to Brittania From the Union Jack
All American Alien Boy
You Nearly Did Me in
God (Take 1)
Rant (2001, 56.58) ***½/T
Death of a Nation
Dead Man Walkin' (Eastenders)
Wash Us Away
Knees of My Heart
Still Love Rock and Roll
Man Overboard (2009, 47.22) ***½/½
|The Great Escape
Arms & Legs
Up and Running
The Girl From the Office
|Win it All
Way With Words
The River of Tears
Ian 'Unter's something of a long-term fixture on the UK scene, and good luck to him; he joined Mott the Hoople around 1969, and is still touring and recording over four decades later, although I've no idea what his recent output's like. Probably a lot like these two albums, I suspect. Ian Hunter was his solid solo debut after leaving Mott, and it features the same mixture of, er, 'rockers and ballads' as his alma mater, with plenty of his signature-type songs thrown in, particularly hit single Once Bitten Twice Shy, covered by a whole slew of rock acts since. The 'Tron only gets used on one track (played by Mick Ronson), but there's a fair bit of strings on the lengthy Boy, which is a typical Hunter-style power ballad building to a crescendo of wailing guitars, etc.
His follow-up, All-American Alien Boy, is more of the same, with standout tracks including Irene Wild and Rape, with its bleak refrain of "And justice was seen to be done". Chris Stainton on 'Tron this time round, with flutes on the misspelt Letter To Brittania From The Union Jack, making this even less of a 'Tron album than its predecessor, but if you're into Hunter's skewed take on the world, it's worth hearing whatever.
Twenty-five years on... 2001's Rant answers the question at the top of these reviews: yes, his new stuff sounds just like his old stuff and why not? Not one duffer here; top tracks include opener Ripoff, the acoustic Death Of A Nation, the superb Morons and statement-of-intent closer Still Love Rock And Roll. Andy York on Chamberlin, with background string stabs on Dead Man Walkin' (Eastenders), that suddenly swell into an in-your-face chord and a regular chordal part, plus a less-obviously Chamberlinic part on No One.
2009's Man Overboard is another damn' good album of well-crafted, memorable songs of the kind that no-one under forty (fifty? Sixty?) seems to be writing any more. You know, great tunes, great lyrics, a bit of humour... Best tracks? Opener The Great Escape and (particularly) The Girl From The Office ("Everybody says/What's she like/What's she like/What's she like/What's she like in bed?"), although it all gets a little countryish towards the end. Listen, Hunter's over seventy now; how many other artists of his age are doing anything worthwhile, or, for that matter, anything at all? York plays Chamberlin on the title track, with a faint string part that doesn't especially enhance the track, to be honest, as the sound could've come from almost anything, but it's hardly central to the album's considerable appeal.
I wouldn't say 'rush out and buy these for the tape-replay', but they're all good albums, transcending their 'mid-'70s middling rock' feel, later albums included.
Hurricane #1 (1997, 47.53) ***/T½
|Just Another Illusion
Faces in a Dream
Step Into My World
Let Go of the Dream
Stand in Line
Only the Strongest Will Survive (1999, 71.47) **½/½
The Greatest High
The Price That We Pay
Only the Strongest Will Survive
|Long Way Down
What Do I Know?
Hurricane #1 were effectively Britpop Johnny-come-latelys, formed by Andy Bell, after the Oxford-based Ride bit the dust. Although they took Oasis as their rather unfortunate collective muse, they couldn't stoop that far, partly because Bell's voice is considerably better than the estimable (?) Mr. Gallagher's. In fact, the music's better all round, with some fairly inventive riffs (Step Into My World, Stand In Line) and a less whiny vibe about the whole thing, which has to be good.
The Mellotron, played by Bell, is mostly in the background, to the point where I'm not 100% sure it's there at all on some tracks, with vague flutes and strings on Just Another Illusion, Faces In A Dream and Mother Superior, the only upfront use being on closer Stand In Line, with some Beatles-esque flutes, and maybe a little strings. As a result I really couldn't recommend this as a Mellotron Album, although if you're into that UK indie sound, you could do an awful lot worse. Like Oasis. Talking of which, in a supreme irony, after Hurricane #1's split, Andy Bell has joined Oasis as a full partner, apparently. Good luck, mate...
Before said split, Hurricane #1 managed one more long player, '99's Only the Strongest Will Survive, which is near-as-dammit identical to their debut, only even less good, not to mention horrendously overlong. And they did a bunch of otherwise unreleased b-side tracks... No outstanding tracks in any area, and only one with any 'Tron, with some faint flutes on Afterhours, although I believe the phased strings are just regular samples. They've used that grotesquely clichéd 'gap with a hidden track' technique, too, said track being an interminable instrumental jam loaded with synth bleeps, but it only knocks three or so minutes off the album's ridiculous length.
A Parallax I (2009, 37.38) ***/T½
A Grave in the Gravel
Take the Train!
No No Baby
While the Boys Went Down Under
|Waiting on Rayne
The Great-Grandghosts of Buena Vista, GA
James "Husband" Huggins III used to play with Mellotron sample users Of Montreal, which hasn't stopped me from putting his fourth album, 2009's A Parallax I into the main part of the site. It's a pretty mainstream, indie pop/rock kind of record, albeit one with fairly decent songs, which makes a nice change, which isn't to say I'm going to want to hear it again for a while. Possibly ever.
Co-producer Tom(as) Hakava (Ben's Diapers, Witchcraft, loads of others) adds (presumably his own) Mellotron to a couple of tracks, with a flute line and a major string part on Waiting On Rayne and flute and cello parts on The Great-Grandghosts of Buena Vista, GA. More would've been nice, but it'd be churlish to complain, wouldn't it? Overall, something of an indie pop effort, but better than most of the competition, with one great 'Tron track.
A Lifetime (2004, 45.18) **½/T
|If You Go Breaking My Heart
Say a Little Prayer
That Don't Make it Right
Come to My Rescue
To a Better Place
|For How Long
Why You Fly
If I Was
Hush are the Danish duo of Dorthe Gerlach (vocals) and Michael Hartmann (guitars/programming), and going by the evidence on their debut album, A Lifetime, are heavily committed to producing rather dull, maudlin ballads, making the occasional more upbeat track (Why You Fly, If I Was) sound good in comparison. Is this stuff popular? They've on Universal, so I'd imagine someone thinks so. Not round here, though.
String arranger Ole Hansen also plays Mellotron, with flutes on Come To My Rescue and strings, as against the ubiquitous real ones, on closer Drown, with an interesting 'choke-off' at the end, as the tape runs out. You know, you really don't need to own this album or, for that matter, even hear it. There's good maudlin and bad maudlin, and this is the latter. Avoid.
Yankee Reality (2009, 40.41) ***/T
So They Say
One Way Ticket
Take it Easy
|For While You Slept
Devil Made You High
Hush Arbors are effectively Keith Wood's solo project; Wood is also a member of Current 93, which probably gives you some idea where he's coming from. Yankee Reality features elements of 'wyrd folk', current indie and that early '70s brand of fuzz-guitar psych that never really quite broke into the mainstream at the time. For all that, there's a fair bit of stylistic variety across the album's forty minutes, from the almost Byrdsian So They Say through the twisted country of Coming Home and Take It Easy to the full-on psych guitar-fest of closer Devil Made You High.
Producer J. Mascis plays (presumably his own) Mellotron on Coming Home, with a string part than enhances the song nicely without being intrusive, making it a shame it wasn't used slightly more. Yankee Reality is irritatingly inconsistent, which is why it doesn't get a higher rating, although its good bits are very good indeed. Lysergonauts should probably give this a go for its best bits.
Goodbye Blues (2008, 40.04) ***/TT½
The Boys Are Too Refined
As You Cry
Not Your Concern
Love You Much Better
Hospital Bed Crawl
Break the Sky
The Hush Sound play a kind of jaunty-yet-melancholic, early '60s-influenced indie, at least on their third album, 2008's Goodbye Blues. It's not so much the kind of album where you can pick out 'best tracks' (although I rather like The Boys Are Too Refined, in its own way), as the kind which should be listened to as a whole, its strength being in its cohesion rather than in individual highlights.
Zac Rae plays Chamberlin, nicely audible for once, with strings on Honey, Medicine Man, Six and Molasses, with strings and flutes on Break The Sky. This certainly isn't going to appeal to everyone, but it sit well above your 'typical' indie album in both concept and execution, with some decent Chamberlin use as a bonus.
Purgatory Falls (2001, 32.38) ****/T½
I Loved Everything
My Sweet Nothing
Offer You the World
Parthenon Huxley, or P. Hux, is a singer-songwriter of the highest calibre, having written major hits for other artists and worked with ex-members of E.L.O., amongst others. Purgatory Falls is his fourth solo album, detailing his wife's tragic struggle with and death from cancer, so those unable to cope with one man's outpouring of grief in song form should probably go elsewhere now. Far from all the lyrics are obviously grief-stricken, though, making it easy to see the album for what it is; a great powerpop/singer-songwriter record chock-full of songs of the quality of Goldmine or Red Eyeliner.
Nic Peroni plays Mellotron, with flutes and strings on the heart-wrenching Red Eyeliner, with flute block-chords and more strings on Offer You The World, although some of the album's strings (notably on Belief) sound either real or sampled. The cheesy string part on closer Chordothelord bears a striking resemblance to the 'moving strings' on the MkII Mellotron, making me wonder if we're hearing 'Tron samples throughout, although they could quite feasibly be some other form of sound generation, including real strings, playing a similar part.
So; a fine album, painfully sad, almost distraught in places, with some excellent songwriting. I need to hear more of this man's work. Anyway, a couple of 'Tron tracks, assuming it's real (so often an issue these days), on an album very worthy of your attention.
Hydravion (1977, 31.13) ***½/T½Metro
Étude en Do
I Don't Have the Time
Stratos Airlines (1979, 35.11) ***/T½Passadena Airport
Hydravion (named for a famous French seaplane) were essentially the duo of guitarist Cooky Rhinoceros and our old friend Philippe Besombes, allegedly having a stab at doing something at least vaguely commercial. I wouldn't actually call 1977's Hydravion commercial, as it resembles a cross between the more obtuse end of the Jean Michel Jarre canon and Heldon, to pick two better-known French synthesists, although it has an infectious energy missing from M. Jarre's work and an innate tuneful missing from Heldon's. Best track? Maybe Étude En Do, though nothing here makes you reach for the 'next' button. Besombes plays Mellotron, with heavily-reverbed choirs on Metro and Sad Ending and church organ on Silver Seaplane and Étude En Do, though barely on the former.
The duo followed up with their second and last album in 1979, Stratos Airlines, which turns out to be no more poptastic than their debut, although opener Passadena Airport has a certain Jarre-ness about it and Ligne Équateur is bouncy enough, in an odd kind of way. Besombes gets some phased 'Tron strings on opener Passadena Airport and choirs on Carolyn Sud, though that would appear to be it.
I don't think either of these has ever been available on CD, though I've been wrong before. If you just can't get enough of that French electronic avant/pop crossover, you'll probably want to add these to your other various Besombes releases, but they're not essential listening for the rest of us. Hydravion's probably better than its successor, but both albums' Mellotronic input seems to be on a (low) par. Not bad, heard better.
See: Philippe Besombes | Besombes-Rizet
The Intrige of Perception (2004, 48.22) ***½/TTThe Endless Void
Good Sinner - Bad Saint
Twisting the Knife
The Intrigue of Perception
I Islands in the Sun
II The Next Level
III A Castle in the Sky
IV Islands (Reprise)
Hypnos 69 grew out of an earlier, '70s-inspired outfit, Starfall. Although they changed their name in 1995, their first release (an EP) was in 2000 and their first album in 2002. The Intrigue of Perception is their third full-lengther, sounding almost exactly like the kind of band who'd be on about mid-afternoon at one of those early-'70s festivals, just when you'd given in and joined the three-hour queue for an overpriced, half-cooked dogburger. But better. There's something to be said from having the ability to learn from your predecessors' mistakes, you know... It's a pretty varied effort - you can't fault the band for their eclecticism; opener The Endless Void is mad psych/prog, while Good Sinner - Bad Saint is an electric blues jam, the title track falls halfway between CSN&Y and Earthbound-era King Crimson, maybe and closer Absent Friends is all '68-era Floyd.
Steven Marx is credited with Mellotron and we get pretty authentic-sounding strings on The Endless Void, with flutes on parts I and III of the title track and background strings on part IV. Not the most jaw-dropping use ever, but the strings sound wobbly enough to be real. This album beats a lot of the competition by dint of its variation and overall sound, even if the material isn't that outstanding. Worth hearing. Incidentally, there's supposed to be more 'Tron on their follow-up, 2006's The Eclectic Measure (reviewed here), but it sounds seriously sampled to my ears.
Apple 13 (2003, 43.48) ***/T
Boat Keep Sailing
In a Silver Room
Do You Love
The World Spits Out a Lover
|Hush Little Children
Over and Over
Find Another Clown
Hypnosis coalesced in the late '90s, releasing their debut, Medicine Works Like Magic, in 2000 (review to follow when I track a copy down). Three years on, Apple 13 appeared, sounding precisely like a recently-unearthed late-period psych album from 1969, round about the time the brown acid kicked in. While not a bad record, I've found it difficult to engage with this; I think I prefer my psych either short and poppy or drawn-out and jamming, and this is short but jamming, which is almost as bad as long and poppy. Opener Stargazer's pretty good, ditto Shivering Sands, but most of the rest just drifts along in a fog of third-rate Pretty Things copyist accusations and badly-recorded Farfisa.
Produced by Sundial's Gary Ramon and recorded at his studio, I presume keys man Darren McFerran played Ramon's Mellotron, although it's possible Ramon did the honours himself, I suppose. Anyway, we get spitty brass on In A Silver Room and solo trumpet (same sound?) on closer Find Another Clown; oh well, I suppose at least they aren't the usual Mellotron clichés... I'm sorry to be so down on this; UK psych's pretty thin on the ground, and I'd love to be able to be more positive about it, but... I can't. Has its moments, but they're not Mellotronic ones.