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Rodd Keith
Josh Kelley
Ian Kelly
Roberta Kelly

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Kennedy
Kenso


Keane  (UK)

Keane, 'Under the Iron Sea'

Under the Iron Sea  (2006,  50.21)  *½/T½

Atlantic
Is it Any Wonder?
Nothing in My Way
Leaving So Soon?
A Bad Dream
Hamburg Song
Put it Behind You
The Iron Sea
Crystal Ball
Try Again
Broken Toy
The Frog Prince
Keane, 'Perfect Symmetry'

Perfect Symmetry  (2008,  50.44)  *½/½

Spiralling
The Lovers Are Losing
Better Than This
You Haven't Told Me Anything
Perfect Symmetry
You Don't See Me
Again and Again
Playing Along
Pretend That You're Alone
Black Burning Heart
Love is the End
Keane, 'Strangeland'

Strangeland  (2012,  45.19)  **/T½

You Are Young
Silenced By the Night
Disconnected
Watch How You Go

Sovereign Light Café
On the Road
The Starting Line
Black Rain
Neon River

Day Will Come
In Your Own Time
Sea Fog

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

If you're British, there's no way you'll have been able to avoid Keane; super-successful, bland-as-shit posh-boy trio whose horrible, lifeless music seems to define popular 'taste' in the first decade of this century. Under the Iron Sea is their second album, after 2004's multi-million-selling Hopes & Fears and while popular opinion seems to be erring on the side of 'it's their best work', I have to ask: "So what's their worst, Daddio?" This is fucking awful. No, it really is; flaccid, faux-emotional, hand-wringing nonsense of the most girly kind, suffused with Tom Chaplin's whiny voice and infuriating vocal lines. I've nothing against gentle music, but this isn't gentle; it's turgid pap. No wonder they're so bloody popular; they're shit.

Instrumentally, of course, Keane are unusual in mostly eschewing guitars in favour of piano, and not any old piano, but a Yamaha CP70 electric grand, of the kind ubiquitous in the late '70s and '80s, before the rise of sampled pianos. Keyboard player/main writer (so it's his bloody fault) Tim Rice-Oxley also gets some other vintage stuff on here, not least the harmonium on Hamburg Song, although I suspect most of the album's string sounds are generic modern ones. An online interview confirmed the Mellotronic rumours re. the album: Rice-Oxley played a machine in the New York studio where they worked on four tracks. Anyway, what we get is distant strings on opener Atlantic, slightly more obvious ones on A Bad Dream, major (male?) choirs on The Iron Sea (an instrumental, it's easily the album's best track) and more choirs, right at the end of closer The Frog Prince.

2008's Perfect Symmetry is stylistically slightly different, but every bit as bad as its predecessor, the highly irritating 'retro' drum machine on several tracks being a real bone of contention, as are the shameless Bowie ripoff Better Than This (Ashes To Ashes, for what it's worth) and the excessive length of nearly every track. Other tracks triggering particular hatred including opener Spiralling, with its repeated 'Woo!'s (apparently a reference to wrestler Ric Flair. Who?), the title track and cheeso closing ballad Love Is The End; suffice to say, this album has no redeeming features. Rice-Oxley plays (real?) 'Strawberry Fields' Mellotron flutes on Pretend That You're Alone, although the album's string parts appear to all be either real or synthesized.

After a lengthy (but not lengthy enough?) wait, 2012's Strangeland is, perhaps surprisingly, marginally less horrible than its predecessors; either that, or I'm getting used to this stuff. Let's hope not. Less homicide-inducing material includes Watch How You Go and, again surprisingly, closing ballad Sea Fog, not that I'd take that as any kind of recommendation, you understand. Rice-Oxley uses far more Mellotron this time round (recent YouTube footage indicates that they use one live), with skronky strings and flutes on Disconnected, background choirs on Watch How You Go and Neon River and a wobbly flute line (and cellos?) on Black Rain.

God, these are horrible. Despite a surprising four Mellotron tracks, there's no way I would recommend Under the Iron Sea to anyone but my worst enemy and even then, I'd think twice, Perfect Symmetry being equally horrible and Strangeland only marginally less so. I have, in fairness, given lower star ratings, as Under the Iron Sea's sort-of title track drags this up infinitesimally, as do a couple of the instrumental sections, but overall, it's vile. I knew this lot would repel me, and they do. Very, very nasty.

Official site

See: Mt. Desolation

John Keating  (UK)

John Keating, 'Space Experience'

Space Experience  (1972,  40.25)  **½/T

I Feel the Earth Move
The Unknown Planet
Rocket Man
Prelude to Earthrise
Star Trek
Space Agent
Jesus Christ Superstar
Upon Another Earth
The Sound of Silence
Signal to Saturn
John Keating, 'Hits in Hi-Fi 1'

Hits in Hi-Fi 1  [as John Keating Incorporated]  (1974,  32.59)  **/½

Love's Theme
Touch Me in the Morning
You Are the Sunshine of My Life
Eye Level
Dreaming
Never Never Gonna Give You Up
You're So Vain
The Show Must Go on
Vado Via
Where You Lead

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Now in his eighties, I'd imagine John(ny) Keating's long-retired, but he was a composer and arranger back in the days of 'light entertainment', releasing a slew of album over the course of a decade or more in the '60s and '70s, some of which were issued on CD during the appalling Lounge revival of the '90s.

1972's Space Experience is clearly a cash-in on the era's fixation with the Apollo programme and SF films, notably 2001: A Space Odyssey, complete with a generic library shot of a space-walk on the sleeve. Its contents are split evenly between Keating's own compositions and instrumental covers of well-known material that could, at a real pinch, be construed to have some kind of space connection, notably Elton John's Rocket Man and, er, the Star Trek theme. Not sure what Jesus Christ Superstar's doing on there, mind... The sleeve boasts the slogan 'featuring the E.M.S. Synthi VCS3 Music Synthesizer', while saying nothing about Mellotrons whatsoever. However... the strings sitting underneath the real ones sound an awful lot like the Mellotronic variety on Prelude To Earthrise, Space Agent, Upon Another Earth and The Sound Of Silence (yes, that one, for no obvious reason). Of course, uncredited Mellotron from the '60s was hardly unheard-of and this album, despite its release date, is more a '60s record than one from the '70s.

After a handful of (to my knowledge) Mellotron-free releases, 1974's Hits in Hi-Fi 1 goes for more of a Thunderbirds graphics vibe on the sleeve, while Keating eschews the orchestra completely (budgets, eh?), enlisting the help of Francis Monkman (Curved Air, er, Sky) on a pretty cool selection of gear, 'some of which at the time of recording were prototypes'. Sadly, the album's pretty awful, making Space Experience sound like the voice of genius, with Keating originals actually sounding cheesier than the handful of covers he tackles this time round. Although one of those pieces of cool gear is a 'Mellotron 400', all the (considerable) strings work on the album seems to emanate from one of the credited three string synths, meaning that the only place the Mellotron crops up is the background choirs on Vado Via, the occasional flute part clearly being synth.

I've heard one other Keating/Monkman album, '74's John Keating Conducts The Electronic Philharmonic Orchestra, but it appears to be Mellotron-free. Can I recommend either of these? Not really, no; their ultra-lounge sound is from another era, even to someone whose musical roots lie in the early '70s, while the Mellotron use errs on the near-invisible. Perhaps not, eh? Incidentally, many thanks to Mattias for both info and albums.

MySpace

Ronan Keating  (Ireland)

Ronan Keating, 'Destination'

Destination  (2002,  54.48)  *½/0

I Love it When We Do
Love Won't Work (if We Don't Try)
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Come Be My Baby
Lovin' Each Day
My One Thing That's Real
Time for Love
Blown Away
As Much as I Can Give You Girl
Pickin' Me Up
Joy and Pain
We've Got Tonight
The Long Goodbye
I Got My Heart on You
Ronan Keating, 'Fires'

Fires  (2012,  45.21/52.08)  **/½

Fires
I've Got You
Love You and Leave You
Nineteen Again
Wasted Light
Lullaby (featuring KizMusic)
Easy Now My Dear
NYC Girl
Oxygen
Close Your Eyes
Get Back to What is Real
The One You Love
[Bonus tracks:
It's Alright
Will You Ever Be Mine?
Lullaby]

Current availability:

Mellotrons/Chamberlin used:

I'm not really sure what to say about Ronan Keating; he's Irish, he sings, he used to be in '90s boy-band wonders Boyzone. Did you know, by the way, that their name had already been used, by a dodgy fifth-rate bunch of Duran copyists in the '80s? Did you care? I believe there was an out-of-court settlement, which is possibly slightly unfair, as the creators of the '90s band had almost certainly never heard of the '80s one. Well, I mean, had you? Anyway, Keating's second solo album, 2002's Destination, is exactly what you'd expect, being lifeless mainstream pop aimed at little girls of all ages with too much money (patronising? Moi?). There are no highlights. Rick Nowels (of the horrible Dido fame) plays Mellotron, as, I believe, does Greg Kurstin, on any or all of tracks one, two, four and six to ten, although I'll be buggered if I can hear it anywhere. The background strings on As Much As I Can Give You Girl (track nine, so could be)? Who knows?

A decade and several interim albums on, 2012's Fires is marginally better than Destination, less terrible tracks include the acoustic Wasted Light and cheery bonus Will You Ever Be Mine?, but that really isn't, frankly, saying a lot. On the tape-replay front, I've no idea what Rick Nowels' Mellotron might be doing on Nineteen Again, but I presume the Chamberlin's providing the strings, the same going for Get Back To What Is Real, while bonus track Will You Ever Be Mine? has nothing even slightly obvious, despite featuring not only Nowels, but Patrick Warren on Mellotron.

Anyway, Destination's a rubbish album of glossy, empty pop, with not an obvious Mellotron in sight, while Fires is slightly less bad with slightly more, so to speak. Generally speaking, avoid.

Official site

Jim Keays  (Australia)

Jim Keays, 'The Boy From the Stars' Jim Keays, 'The Boy From the Stars'

The Boy From the Stars  (1974,  51.57/78.21)  ***/0 (½)

The Boy From the Stars
Take it on Easy
Nothing Much Left
Space Brothers
Alchemical Takeover
Urantia
Kids' Blues
The Right Way to Go
Reason to Be Living
[CD adds:
Inter-Planetary Boogie
Give it Up (Cocainut)
For Someone
Interview with John O'Donnell 3XY
Nothing Much Left/Urantia (live)]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

With hindsight, David Bowie has an awful lot to answer for; his arty approach struck a chord (usually minor) with thousands of musicians worldwide, not least in the Antipodes, giving us not only New Zealand's Alastair Riddell, but also Australia's Jim Keays (ex-Aussie heroes Master's Apprentice). 1974's concept effort, The Boy From the Stars, is blatantly influenced by The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust..., although Keays didn't have the same songwriting chops, unsurprisingly. It's decent enough, if rather unexciting, better efforts including the opening title track, the manic Nothing Much Left and the epic Space Brothers, but this was never going to seriously bother the Dame's hegemony.

First things first: there's no Mellotron on the original album, all string and choir parts being, well, strings and choir. However, the final bonus track on Raven's CD issue, the Nothing Much Left/Urantia segue, is taken from the 1975 Sunbury Festival, Keays backed by a cast of thousands, including Peter Robinson on Mellotron, who adds a background string part to the second half of the track, although there's no string part on the studio version. And I'm complaining? Something of a period piece, then, more for Aussie completists and nostalgia buffs than the rest of us, I fear, with next to no Mellotron.

Official site

Kedama  (Switzerland)

Kedama, 'Live at Sunrise Studios (LP)' Kedama, 'Live at Sunrise Studios (CD)'

Live at Sunrise Studios  (1976,  32.57/72.21)  ****/TTTT

Ouverture
Finale
Our Power
Zugabe

[CD adds:
Chinese Dragon
Hwrklnzg
Honey Moon
Improvisations
Intermezzo
Two Souls in Space

Feelings Without Name]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Kedama were a one-shot instrumental Swiss progressive trio whose sole release, Live at Sunrise Studios, was presumably the cheapest way they could find of getting their music to the listening public. I think it's probably proof that I should never try to review something after a single listen, especially in the progressive field! I started by saying that I didn't think it stood up too well now, but after only a second listen, I'm beginning to appreciate its worth. Their style was essentially complex, slightly Crimsonesque progressive, but with less of the lushness than Crimson could conjure up on a good day. It's less strong melodically, but with plenty of genuine power, particularly on Zugabe.

There's a fair bit of 'Tron use from keyboard man Richard Rothenberger on the original album (tracks 1-4), with strings all over Ouverture and Zugabe, and flute parts on Finale and Our Power. The bonus tracks are almost as good, particularly Honey Moon, with swathes of strings over a driving bassline, and Chinese Dragon, where they come over all Gentle Giant, both from their unreleased second album from 1977. Two Souls In Space, one of the two tracks from their first session in '73 features a solo Mellotron string part to die for; Black Rills have done a fantastic job on this reissue, and seeing as how a vinyl original (only 200 pressed) will set you back several limbs, this CD really should suffice.

I have to say, I really rather recommend this, although the sound quality on the bonus tracks occasionally leaves a little to be desired. There's a fair whack of Mellotron on board, and the music stands repeated listening. Best Swiss prog band, maybe? Buy.

Official site

Speedy Keen  (UK)

Speedy Keen, 'Y'Know Wot I Mean?'

Y'Know Wot I Mean?  (1975,  35.21)  **/T

Crazy Love
Almost Eighteen
Nightmare
Fighting in the Streets
Bad Boys
I Promise You
Someone to Love
My Love
The Profit on Ecology

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

John "Speedy" Keen (don't want to know how he got his nickname, thanks) is best known as writer of Something In The Air for his band, Thunderclap Newman. Y'Know Wot I Mean? was his second solo album; sadly, it's not great; mid-paced, middle-of-the-road rock with the obligatory rock'n'roll number. And a bit of Mellotron. Only a bit, mind you; Someone To Love is a rather drippy ballad with some 'Tron strings thrown in. Definitely a 'don't look too hard for this one' sort of record, I think.

STOP PRESS: Sad to say, Speedy Keen died on 29th March 2002; forgetting the above album, he'll be remembered for his work with The Who, Thunderclap Newman, The Heartbreakers and Motörhead, among others. R.I.P.

Tommy Keene  (US)

Tommy Keene, 'The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down'

The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down  (2002,  59.54)  ****/T

Begin Where We End
The Man Without a Soul
Hanging Over My Head
All Your Love Will Stay
Technicolor
Big Blue Sky
The Final Hour

Time Will Take You Today
The World Where I Still Live
How Do You Really Say Hello?
Circumstance
The Fog Has Lifted

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Powerpop god Tommy Keene (he released his first album in 1982) survived a two-album spell on Geffen in the late '80s to become an elder statesman of the genre by the 2000s. 2002's The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down is his seventh studio album, full of exactly the kind of 'B' band (Badfinger, Beatles etc.)-influenced material you'd expect, which is no bad thing. Original? Not really, but since when was a current album in an old style going to have much originality about it? I didn't spot any actual rip-offs, although The Man Without A Soul opens with the cheeky line, "I think I've lost that loving feeling", but homage is expected, right? The album's personal highlight has to be the sixteen-minute The Final Hour, which rocks like a bastard, still amazingly sounding like powerpop despite its prog length, other goodies including opener Begin Where We End and Hanging Over My Head.

Wilco's Jay Bennett plays keys, including Mellotron, with background flutes on Big Blue Sky, strings on The Final Hour and both sounds cropping up on The World Where I Still Live, though nothing especially obvious, explaining the low T rating. Overall, this is a fine album that can only improve with age, its Mellotronic contributions being neither here nor there, really. Buy anyway.

Official site

Rodd Keith  (US)

Rodd Keith, 'I Died Today'

I Died Today  (1996, recorded 1966-74,  69.36)  **½/TT½

I Died Today
Hippy Happy Land
The Graveyard Rock
This
Our Senators
Tahiti
The Hump Dance
General Custer's Story Remains Legend
Do the Pig
T.V. Love
Waiting for the High Tide
I am a Real American
Don't Throw My Love Away
I've Been Hurt So Many Times
Space
Dreamed Too Long Woke Up
  Too Late
The Music Man From Mars
Do the Turkey
In the Stillness of the Night
The Flitting Firefly
Elmer-21-Century Hop
First Comes the Rain
Gardenia
Somebody Else
Just Runnin' Wild

Cloud Nine
Rodd Keith, 'Ecstacy to Frenzy'

Ecstacy to Frenzy  (2004, recorded 1966-74,  74.39)  **/T

Shome Howe Jehovason Plays - (version one)
Beat of the Traps
Little Rug Bug
Ecstacy to Frenzy

Shome Howe Jehovason Plays - (version two)
Rodd Keith, 'Saucers in the Sky'

Saucers in the Sky  (2005, recorded 1966-74,  72.56)  **½/T

Lettuce and Lace
You Only Want to Hurt Me
Magic in Her Eyes
Saucers in the Sky
My Living Doll
Sawdust
Here Comes the Judge
A Soothing Dream, But...
Don't Be a Dope
The Merry-Go-Down
Go Go Girlie
Winds of March
Do Me Mister Buddy
It's Raining
Cancel My Order for Love
Lost Vein of Love
Telephone Call
Get on My Honda, Rhonda
Exotic Woman
Los Angeles City Lights
It Means That You Love Me
Gloria
Move Along Surfing Girl
Ravens
Next Time
Ship for Home
Rodd Keith, 'My Pipe Yellow Dream'

My Pipe Yellow Dream  (2011, recorded 1966-74,  42.26)  **½/TT

My Pipe Yellow Dream
Baby, I'll Give it to You
You Don't Have to Alibi
Bury Me Deep
Choo Choo Train
Tired of Waiting
Surfing Along
Deep Velvet
America the Not So Beautiful
Search Out Your Soul, American
Love Opens the Door
Red Sports Car

There's a Party Going on
The Watchin' Man
O Jesus My Savior
Rodd Keith, 'Black Phoenix Blues'

Black Phoenix Blues  (2013, recorded 196?-?,  44.24)  **½/TT

Green Bermudas
Stroll Through the Wildflowers
The Game of Love
Black Phoenix Blues
It Happened Anyhow
You and I
I Love Lovely Chinese Gal
Sing My Death Note
Let's Get Started
The Explosion of Holden 22 Mine
I'm Proud to Be a Hippie From Mississippi

Bus Driver Stop That Bus
Abidin' tuh the Rule
Curse of the Grave
Too Late for Tears
Peaceful Valley

Current availability:

Chamberlins used:

Many of you may well be au fait with what has become known as the 'song-poem' genre, or 'send us your lyrics'; ads in the back pages of magazines promising fame and fortune if you pay some dubious bunch a pile of cash to set your lyrics, however appalling, to music. Rodney Keith "Rodd Keith" Eskelin is the undisputed emperor of this twilight world, despite (or possibly because of) his death in 1974; a talented (if flakey) musician, he slipped into the song poem industry in the '60s, producing some of the least terrible work you'll hear in a genre known for its utter awfulness.

1996's I Died Today is a compilation of what must be but a tiny fraction of his song-poem work, originally released under a wide variety of names. Most are sung by Keith, a couple are even written by him, making me wonder how they fit into the genre, but they all have one thing in common: a relentless, melodramatic cheesiness, designed to appeal to the kind of egomaniacal, taste-free idiots who availed themselves of his services. The overriding musical 'style' on offer here is a kind of pre-psych '60s thing, somewhere between bad early '60s pop and lounge, apparently often first takes and surprisingly musical, all things considered. Since the music's almost universally terrible, the only real way to judge these is on their lyrical content, which (rather improbably) makes Keith's title track the 'best' thing here, a piss-your-pants funny tale of a guy surviving a car crash while his hobo hitchhiker dies, letting his family claim on his 'double indemnity', thinking the hobo's him. Sheer genius. Other mirthful efforts include Irene Walker's Hippy Happy Land (clearly a lady on the verge of breaking out of society's straitjacket), Susan Howard's General Custer's Story Remains Legend (kill all injuns) and Brother Curtis Joyner's split-your-sides I Am A Real American, intoned to perfection by Keith.

So why is this nonsense here? Keith often used a Chamberlin (model unknown) in the studio, substituting it for any number of expensive session musicians. To be honest, it's not always easy to tell where you are or aren't hearing it on the album, so it might be best to take my claims of heavy Chamby use with a pinch or three of salt. Various orchestrations almost certainly emanate from the machine, but the Chamberlin highlight is the instrumental Elmer-21-Century Hop, pitting Chamby guitar (and vibes?) against flutes and saxes in a surprisingly decent mélange of tape-replayism.

Eight years on and Tzadik decided to issue another collection, the grammatically-challenged Ecstacy to Frenzy. Very different to its predecessor, it consists of a mere three song-poems, the rest of the full-length disc being clogged up with two versions of Keith's rambling Shome Howe Jehovason Plays, each over half an hour of tootling organ and clearly drug-fuelled, improvised 'lyrics'; I know Keith used psychedelics heavily, but is this entirely necessary? I suppose fans of the man will be ecstatic (pun intended) to hear his working methods in action, assuming you can apply that description to these jammed-out messes. Of the song-poems, Little Rug Bug and the title track (doubtless how it was spelled originally) contain Chamby flutes, saxes, clarinets and possibly harpsichord in varying measures, making for decent Chamberlin demo discs, if nothing else.

A mere year later, Roaratorio released Saucers in the Sky, a return to the format of I Died Today, featuring no fewer than twenty-six song-poem horrors for our delectation (?), more amusing efforts including Here Comes The Judge, Keith hamming it up for all he's worth, the naïvely anti-drug Don't Be A Dope, Cancel My Order For Love and the frankly bizarre Ravens. Not an awful lot of obvious Chamby, with strings on opener Lettuce And Lace (another piece of classic ludicrousness), brass on Don't Be A Dope, what sounds like various guitar, woodwind and female vocal tapes on Move Along Surfing Girl and background strings on Ship For Home.

2011's (currently) vinyl-only My Pipe Yellow Dream is more of the usual, 'featuring' another selection of deluded idiocy (Surfing Along is particularly lyrically poor, even by the genre's rock-bottom standards), often treated with far more respect than they really deserve by Mr Eskelin, a man who clearly took great pride in his work, come what may. The jewel in the crown is the creepy, racist America The Not So Beautiful, a nutsoid, bigoted tract superbly intoned over a cheesy pseudo-orchestral backing, including an almost certainly personal-to-the-author section regarding the lack of promotion opportunities for manual workers, doubtless tackled with heavy irony by Keith. Quite jaw-dropping. A few obvious Chamby tracks: Deep Velvet has 'are they?/aren't they? woodwinds, although the flutes sound Chamberlinic, strings all over the insane America The Not So Beautiful and, more obviously on religious rant Search Out Your Soul, American and Love Opens The Door and brass and various woodwinds on Red Sports Car.

And they just keep on coming... Since Rodd recorded hundreds, if not thousands of these things, I can see this going on approximately forever, 2013's Black Phoenix Blues being the latest in an ongoing series. 'Highlights' include the title track's terrifying domestic-slavery-charter-set-to-a-slow-blues, clearly the product of a disturbed mind, there's little I can say about Sing My Death Note that isn't already encapsulated in its title, The Explosion Of Holden 22 Mine is a brief, near-as-dammit prose history lesson set to music, while the hilarious I'm Proud To Be A Hippie From Mississippi is clearly an 'answer' to Merle Haggard's Okie From Muskogee. Chamberlin? Naturellement. We get what sounds like cellos on the suitably vaguely Oriental I Love Lovely Chinese Gal, upfront strings on Let's Get Started, background ones on The Explosion Of Holden 22 Mine and I'm Proud To Be A Hippie From Mississippi and a more subtle, pseudo-orchestral part on closer Peaceful Valley.

I'm sure Keith's fans will accuse me of a lack of a sense of humour with regard to his work, to which I say: not at all. Some of I Died Today's contents had me doubled up with laughter, but I'm afraid I have trouble taking Keith's undoubted major talents seriously, mainly due to the horrible, dated setting in which he used them. Writing music to the lyrical tosh he was sent is a skill all its own and compared to some of the horrors I've encountered (the funniest, by some way, being John Trubee's deathless Peace & Love, better known as Blind Man's Penis, although it was done as a prank), so kudos to Mr. Eskelin for that. His early death was undoubtedly tragic - the jury's still out on whether it was entirely accidental (he fell from a freeway bridge), drug-fuelled, or suicide (or any combination of the above) - but at least there seem to be untold hours of what he considered his musical prostitution to, er, enjoy. Oh, and with only a handful of obviously Chamberlinic tracks over all of these albums, I wouldn't especially bother on that front.

Official site

See: Bert Lowry | Rod Rogers | Jim Wheeler

Josh Kelley  (US)

Josh Kelley, 'Almost Honest'

Almost Honest  (2005,  54.24)  *½/½

Walk Fast
Only You
Love is Breaking My Heart
Almost Honest
Didn't Hear That From Me
20 Miles to Georgia
Lover Come Up
Shameless Heart
Too Good to You
I Don't Mind Singing
Hard Times Happen
Lydia

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Although Josh Kelley is from a small country music dynasty, his first several albums are more in a straightforward singer-songwriter pop vein, although he's apparently recently moved across to the dark(er) side. Possibly the most telling thing I can say about his second release, 2005's Almost Honest, is that it reminds me in places of those slightly funky, slightly soullike mid-'70s pop albums that those of us who knew better avoided like the plague at the time. Horrible. Worst examples? Lover Come Up and closer Lydia are full-on dreadful, but I bet this sold loads.

Zac Rae plays Chamberlin, although it's difficult to tell where (again), given that the album also features real and sampled strings, but the most likely candidate is the strings on Didn't Hear That From Me. Y'know what? You don't want to hear this any more than I did. Planet Mellotron: listening to the utter tape-replay-containing shite so that you don't have to.

Official site

Dan Kelly  (Australia)  see: Samples

Ian Kelly  (Canada)

Ian Kelly, 'Speak Your Mind'

Speak Your Mind  (2008,  44.04)  *½/½

Wiser Man
Take Me Home
Complicated
Brown
Wonderful Humans
La Terre
The Sea
Angel
Saturday Morning
Triste
Sorry
Your Eyes

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Ian "Kelly" Couture's second album, 2008's Speak Your Mind, is the kind of ultra-lightweight, rubbishy modern singer-songwriter guff I've berated in my Dan Kelly review; the kind of music designed to slime its way onto popular US TV shows like Grey's Anatomy. You know, slick arrangements, twee, major-key melodies and that horrible falsetto that every 'sensitive' type feels they have to throw in at least once per song. Nasty.

Guillaume Chartrain plays Mellotron, with a chordal flute part on Wonderful Humans, although I've pretty much no way of knowing whether or not it's genuine, as the flutes sample so well. I can only urge you not to buy this pile of crap, anyway, making it all slightly irrelevant.

Official site

Roberta Kelly  (US)

Roberta Kelly, 'Roots Can Be Anywhere'

Roots Can Be Anywhere  (1981,  44.24)  ***/½

Kabaka Shaka
Miel Masai
Aie
Little Mary Joe
Roots Can Be Anywhere
Lady Jive
Unless We're Gonna Change it
Tribute of Love
Coconut Rock

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Roberta Kelly is an American soul singer popular in the disco era, although it's now been three decades since she's released a full album. Her fourth album, 1981's Roots Can Be Anywhere, contains an intriguing mix of funk, soul and the then-emergent 'world' styles, the latter particularly evident on the title track, while Unless We're Gonna Change It points towards a more '80s sound, for better or worse. Kelly's stunning voice is the glue that holds this rather disparate record together, making it a shame that she never really made the transition into the new decade.

Jim Taylor plays Mellotron, with a deep choir part on Unless We're Gonna Change It, although that would seem to be your lot. So; a surprisingly decent album from the genre/period, although, generally speaking, soul/funk/disco records are nothing if not impeccably-played. Next to no Mellotron, though, so don't put too much effort into tracking this one down.

Official site

Gary Kemp  (UK)

Gary Kemp, 'Little Bruises'

Little Bruises  (1995,  48.59)  *½/½

Standing in Love (the Still Point)
Brother Heart
An Inexperienced Man
Wasted
Little Bruises
Ophelia Drowning
She Said...
Shadowman
These Are the Days (Born Under Twins)
My Lady Soul

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Gary Kemp, now a successful actor, was guitarist and songwriter-in-chief in the horrible Spandau Ballet, which, I suppose, makes him the 'talented one'. God help us. His lone solo album, 1995's Little Bruises, is as bland a pop album as you could possibly wish for (or not), not helped in the slightest by the dismal cod-Celtic warblings on several tracks. Highpoints? Don't be silly, although the sneaky Bowie lyrical quote in the title track ("Always crashing in the same car" indeed...) at least made me laugh, though, admittedly, not for long. Frankly, this album made me lose the will to live; almost every track is at least a minute too long, except Brother Heart, which would probably be improved by being deleted losing a good three minutes, which is even more painful than it sounds.

Ed Shearmur allegedly plays Mellotron, although it's near-on impossible to say where. The background strings on the title track? Who knows? I'll highlight the track, but I could as easily be wrong as right. I suppose I should watch what I say here; Kemp rose to actorly fame playing the insanely violent Ronnie Kray in 1990's The Krays, so maybe I should expect some 'eavy to turn up wiv a shooter sometime soon. I look forward to it.

Official site

Rose Kemp  (UK)  see: Samples

Kennedy  (Japan)

Kennedy, 'Twinkling NASA'

Twinkling NASA  (1986,  42.15)  ***½/T

Twinkling NASA
Burning Days
Flying Ship part 1
Elliptic Orbit
Explorer 1958 ALFA
Boctok
Prelude
Flying Ship part 2
Florida

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Kennedy's only studio album, Twinkling NASA, sounds quite unlike most Japanese prog, although it does have more than its fair share of bad '80s synths, as did just about everything from that era. There's a fusion influence at work here (listen to Explorer 1958 ALFA), though it's far from overriding and remains precisely that: an influence. Other than that I find this album quite difficult to describe; energetic instrumental prog with some ripping guitar and synth work, reasonably complex 'song' structures... Will that do? There's even a sampled rhythm track on Boctok, with which the band play along with vigour, so there's no way you could accuse them of living in the past.

After a couple of tracks that made me think the album's 'Mellotron' tag was a misnomer, Flying Ship Part 1 rocks up with a full-on strings part, alongside the generic '80s synths. I've no idea of the player's identity, to be honest, as I haven't yet learnt enough Japanese text to even translate phonetically, and it appears to be a different person to the one who played on the far more easily available live album, Kennedy!, a year later (now available on Musea). Y'know, you're really not going to find this at all easily, until/if Musea should choose to add it to their release schedules, which appear to be almost entirely random where reissues are concerned. As a result, pick it up should you chance upon a copy (or indeed, a copy), but not for its fairly minimal Mellotron use.

Kenso  (Japan)

Kenso, 'Kenso III'

Kenso III  (1985,  40.08)  ***½/T

Sacred Dream I
Power of the Glory

The Breeze Whispered Through My Mind
Far East Celebration
La Liberté de l'Esprit
Patter of the Groovy
Turn to Solution
Nostalgia
Sacred Dream II
Beginnings

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Mellotron used:

Kenso are one of Japan's finest progressive bands, although they're rarely mentioned in discussions on Japanese symphonic prog (unbelievably, these do actually happen). Their early albums, at least, are fusion-inflected instrumental progressive of a high standard, with occasional bursts of full-on symphonic prog; Kenso II is particularly good. Kenso III, from three years later, isn't quite up there, but is still an excellent listen, although, as with so many albums from this genre, multiple listens will no doubt reveal its charms more fully.

Surprisingly, maybe, Yoshihisa Shimizu uses a Mellotron on a few tracks, as he didn't before or since, so unsurprisingly, there's only one track, Nostalgia, that uses it to any great degree, with a fairly decent strings part. Sacred Dream I and Power Of The Glory have lesser string parts, but that appears to be your lot. So; good album, fairly mediocre 'Tron, hear their second album first, if you get my drift.

Official site


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