MV & EE
Steven McDonald Group
McGough & McGear
The Dream is Over (1999, 42.40) ***/T
|The Dream is Over
Red on White on Blue
All We Have
|Darkness and the Silver Spoon
I Miss the War
What I Live for
MK Ultra (named for some dodgo CIA mind-control programme) released three albums over the course of their career, 1999's The Dream is Over being the last. It could loosely be described as 'powerpop', although with a heavy streak of 'indie' and a largish helping of 'dullness'. It's all proficient enough, but ultimately rather boring, I'm afraid, the gloomy Darkness And The Silver Spoon possibly being the best thing here and it isn't that great. The band's one claim to Planet Mellotron fame is the involvement of John Vanderslice, himself a dedicated Mellotron user.
Adam Cohen is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, but it must be buried fairly well in the mix, with only cellos (as against the real ones on the rest of the record), flutes and what have to be Chamby strings on I Miss The War. Overall, then, a rather unexciting slice of late-'90s indie, with little tape-replay work. Whoopee.
See: John Vanderslice
Green Blues [as MV & EE with The Bummer Road] (2007, 62.43) ***/TEast Mountain Joint
Drive is That I Love You
Mine All Troubled Blues
Gettin' Gone [as MV & EE with The Golden Road] (2007, 65.51) **½/½
I Got Caves in There
Day & Night
Matt "MV" Valentine and Erika "EE" Elder have been churning out several albums a year since 2001, using a wide range of collaborators and names. Their overall style is best described as 'stoned-out psych', although they prefer 'lunar ragas', apparently. Green Blues (as MV & EE with The Bummer Road) is their first (of six!) albums of 2007, and while it has its moments, an hour is vastly too long for such a prolific band; surely a forty-minute edit would serve their listeners better? Or am I missing the point? Valentine sounds like Neil Young in places, which is a good thing, but far too much of the album is stoned (or pseudo-stoned)-out nonsense and merely drags. Mellotronically speaking, the album opens with J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr, of course) on strings on East Mountain Joint, reprising later in the song, alongside flutes, with more flutes on Big Deal, although I'm not convinced about the latter.
Later that year, the duo released Gettin' Gone as MV & EE with The Golden Road, and the same complaints apply as with Green Blues: it's overlong and unfocussed, and drags badly by about halfway through, with even less gripping material than before. Valentine plays 'Tron this time round, with a near-atonal flute part on Country Fried that neither enhances nor detracts from the rambling piece. Sorry, I thought I might like these albums, but they both drove me mad with their complete lack of focus and insistence on highlighting the worst of the psych era's excesses. One decent 'Tron track between the pair of 'em, and not actually worth buying for that.
Wide Prairie (1999, 52.18) *½/TT
The White Coated Man
Love's Full Glory
I Got Up
The Light Comes From Within
B-side to Seaside
Cook of the House
Now, after poor Linda's untimely death a few years ago, I feel really bad about saying this, but this album sucks. I've really tried to think of something positive to say about it, but I've hit a blank; poor songs, dodgy lyrics and dreadful vocals. Sorry. One thing I won't hold against it is the idea behind it; after Linda's death, Paul collected the various solo tracks she'd recorded over the years, and released them in her memory. I'm not going to be cynical about this; it's a really sweet thing to do, but unfortunately, the end result is, er, 'not that good'. By its very nature it's a little uncohesive, but that could be said of any retrospective; it might hold together slightly better if the tracks had been sequenced in chronological order, but I presume Paul had a reason for mixing them up.
Anyway, Wide Prairie has Mellotron on four tracks, played by either Linda or Paul. The title track is a faux-cowboy song, showing off Linda's vocals as you'd rather wish it wouldn't, though there's a nice helping of 'Tron strings. Linda has the good sense to keep her contributions to Oriental Nightfish down to some narration, though once more, there's some nice 'Tron. B-Side To Seaside is, of course, the original flipside to Seaside Woman, a 7" Linda put out in the mid-'70s; more narration and a little more 'Tron strings. Unfortunately, she sings again on the rather terrible Cook Of The House, and the Mellotron's inaudible this time round.
It's noticeable how good the playing is on this album; top session people all round, I suspect, and of course hubby Paul's contributions are always spot-on. Sadly, it's all a bit of a waste of talent; for all Paul's protestations, Linda was no great shakes musically, although she played keyboards (including two 'Trons) in Wings throughout the '70s. As I said, I feel pretty bad about trashing this album, but I couldn't in all honesty tell you it's any good. Apart from the general musicianship, one of its few saving graces is the amount of Mellotron on offer, but don't rush out to buy it on those grounds. Please. By the way, is this a bad place to mention the existence of the infamous 'Linda tapes', and to ask why this opportunity to make them more widely available has been missed?
See: Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney & Wings (UK) see:
Nothing Personal (2001, 49.44) ***/T
|Livin' it Down
Gotta Get it Worked on
When Rita Leaves
Squeeze Me in
All Night Long
Don't Leave Home Without it
Nothin' Lasts Forever
Read Me My Rights
All There is of Me
Watchin' the Rain
Although I'd never heard of him before, it seems that Delbert McClinton's been around since the early '60s, playing that peculiarly Texan blend of blues, country and all stages in between. 2001's Nothing Personal is something like his seventeenth solo studio album, and I'd imagine it defines his style perfectly, shifting between the blues and country ends of his oeuvre with a bunch of well-written songs that will do his reputation no harm whatsoever, not least Livin' It Down, Birmingham Tonight and the amusing All Night Long.
Benmont Tench (from Tom Petty's band) plays Chamberlin, with an 'almost fooled me' part on tear-jerker ballad When Rita Leaves, although that seems to be it. Overall, then, a good album of its type, though probably not one to excite my regular readers (yes, you lot - you know who you are).
Streamline (2001, 32.58) ***/T½
Love Without Shame
Too Much Love
Wrong Side of Anything
Americana outfit Volebeats' Robert McCreedy plays an appealing form of Americana on (his sole album?) 2001's Streamline, low on schmaltz, high on meaningful lyrics and decent tunes. Highlights? Down, Emily and low-fi closer Wrong Side Of Anything, maybe.
Andrew Hollander plays Mellotron and Chamberlin, with seriously upfront (Mellotron?) flutes on Down and exceedingly wobbly (Chamby?) strings on Something's Wrong, clearly as real as real can be, making a nice change, even as early as this. Recommended for Americana fans.
The Riddle & the Rhyme (1980, 34.49) ***/TT
Cause of Confusion
Distant Drum (Vertical Hum)
Universal Prime Force
The Riddle and the Rhyme
Collision With Destiny
The Tree of Life
Steve McDonald is known these days as a highly successful Celtic musician, despite being a New Zealander; he's clearly tapped into his Scots heritage, and good luck to him. He's actually been around since at least the early '70s, playing with bands such as Taylor and Timberjack and appearing on Human Instinct's final album, Peg Leg, only released in 2002. The Riddle & the Rhyme was apparently his first solo album, featuring a rather eccentric sleeve design; not just the cover itself, but the montage of pictures inside the gatefold, showing Steve carrying what is clearly his favourite string synth around various locations, including a pub and a bus stop. And I haven't even mentioned the rear sleeve, with Steve in white evening dress (and waist-length hair), seated at a grand piano with the maker's logo replaced with a plaque displaying the album title...
Anyway, the album is a strange mixture of styles, from the pop/rock of Universal Prime Force through the soft rock schlock of Sentimental Boys and Distant Drum (Vertical Hum) to the proggy Predestination and Meltdown, which take up much of side two. Steve's Mellotron work is somewhat variable, with cellos and exceedingly murky strings on Sentimental Boys and Distant Drum, while Omnipresence has a slightly better string part and sound, with more strings and mushy choir on the title track. This leaves Universal Prime Force as probably the album's best 'Tron track, though despite the number of songs featuring the beast, this is some way from being a top-notch 'Tron album.
Actually, this is some way from being a top-notch anything album, really, although it's interesting as a curio of late-period Kiwi (semi-) prog. Try not to pay as much as I stupidly did for a copy. Oh, and going by recent pictures, he still has the hair.
Fan club site
See: Human Instinct
This is Not a Rebellion... (2002, 16.06) ***½/TAwake
Something to Love
Steve(n) McDonald is better known as bassist with the excellent Redd Kross. He formed the Steven McDonald Group while the mother group were in hiatus, although they released just the one EP, This is Not a Rebellion... (or This is Not a Rebellion... This is a Mass Awakening!) before Redd Kross reformed. Despite only containing five tracks, this is a blast; powerpop bordering on bubblegum while, crucially, never quite tipping over. 'Best track' award is probably split between Get Jimmy and their cover of the outrageous Kim Fowley's ridiculous Motorboat.
Mellotron (amongst other things) from Anna Waronker (daughter of über-producer Lenny), who, it turns out, is married to McDonald. She sticks a nice flute part onto Something To Love, which, although presumably meant to back the guitar solo, ends up being higher in the mix. And I'm complaining? So; one very nice little release, one cool 'Tron track, shame they didn't do more.
See: Redd Kross | Anna Waronker
Peaceful (1974, 47.31) **½/½
Alone Again Naturally
Waltz for Tricia
Follow Your Heart
Rusty Ships & Sandcastles
Better Than Anything
Nova - the Beginning
Confusingly, jazz drummer Dick McGarvin shares his name with a well-known actor, making it difficult to find much useful biographical information about him. 1974's Peaceful might be his only solo release, an instrumental album recorded with a keyboard player, a flautist/saxophonist and a percussionist, featuring a handful of covers (notably Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again Naturally) and several McGarvin originals. Highlight? The lovely flute-led Waltz For Tricia is the least cheesy thing here by quite some way, but it's difficult not to see this as one of the precursors to the horrors of late '70s smooth jazz, or 'middle-aged dinner party music', as it's known around these parts.
Keys man Gus Gustavson plays Mellotron, with a background string line on opener Rambler and exceedingly background strings on Rusty Ships & Sandcastles, although that would appear to be our lot. All in all, a thoroughly professional, yet rather dull release, with only the occasional hint of the then-ongoing raging mid-'70s fusion epidemic. Not much Mellotron, either.
McGear (1974, 43.48) ***/T
What Do We Really Know?
Have You Got Problems
Simply Love You
|Givin' Grease a Ride
The Man Who Found God on the Moon
On/off Scaffold member Mike "McGear" McCartney (see: McGough & McGear, below) is, of course, Paul's younger brother, so it's no great surprise that his second solo album, 1974's McGear (on which, by Christ, he doesn't 'alf sound like his brother), features members of, and sounds a lot like Wings. While the jokey likes of Norton and Have You Got Problems seem to be the album's default setting, better material includes opener Roxy's Sea Breezes, The Casket and the stomping Givin' Grease A Ride, although Simply Love You is the very worst kind of cheesy nonsense Paul (who, surprise, surprise, co-wrote) would emit like a bad smell.
Someone (Linda?) plays Mellotron here and there, with something woodwindish and flutes on Rainbow Lady and chordal strings on Simply Love You, although the strings on Sea Breezes sound real. So; mid-'70s mainstream rock-lite, harmless enough, but all rather unexciting some forty years on.
See: McGough & McGear | Paul McCartney
McGough & McGear (1968, 44.52) ***/T
A Little Bit of Heaven
From 'Frink, a Life in the Day of' &
'Summer With Monika' - Prologue:
Introducing - Moanin', Anji
From 'Frink, a Life in the Day of' &
'Summer With Monika' - Epilogue
|Come Close and Sleep Now
House in My Head
Do You Remember
Please Don't Run Too Fast
Ex Art Student
Roger McGough and Mike McCartney (younger brother of the better known... and professionally known as McGear, to avoid accusations of nepotism) were two of three members of Liverpool-based comedy troupe The Scaffold, along with John Gorman (biggest hit: the immortal Lily The Pink). They released their only album as a duo, McGough & McGear, in 1968, enlisting the help of loads of famous friends, most of whom couldn't be credited for legal reasons, including Jimi Hendrix, an inveterate jammer (that has to be him on wah guitar on closer Ex Art Student). It is, to be honest, a bit of a curate's egg, as you might expect, with 'straight' songs (So Much) rubbing shoulders with sillier material (A Little Bit Of Heaven) and essentially spoken-word tracks (both parts of Frink, A Life In The Day Of).
Mellotron, apparently from Paul McCartney, although with musicians largely uncredited, one or more other players could easily be involved. Anyway, background brass on So Much and a few seconds of very obvious flutes on Frink, A Life In The Day Of (Prologue) and slightly more in the background on Do You Remember, in other words, fairly low 'Tron content. So; psychedelic music-hall? Comedy poetry? Call it what you will, it's pretty unique, but may not bear repeated plays.
Official Roger McGough site
Official Mike McCartney site
See: Paul McCartney
Peace on You (1974, 35.04) ***/T
|Peace on You
Going to the Country
(Please Not) One More Time
Same Old Sound
Do What You Want to
|Gate of Horn
By 1974, The Byrds were well and truly history, and Roger McGuinn had already released his eponymous solo album. His second such effort, Peace on You, was a decent enough slightly country-rock effort, very recognisably McGuinn on the vocal front, although his trademark Rickenbacker 12-string only appears sporadically, notably (and ironically?) on Same Old Sound, although Gate Of Horn and probably the album's best track (probably because it sounds most like The Byrds), The Lady, feature it too. Overall, it'd be hard to argue that this is his finest work, and while Byrds completists shouldn't be wildly disappointed, nothing here matches the quality of his best work with that band. Well, are you surprised?
Uncredited Mellotron here and there, apparently from Paul Harris, with strings on the opening title track, which starts nicely before going slightly honky-tonk later on, and the same on (Please Not) One More Time, clearly recorded 'on the fly', as chords fade out and back in, as Harris re-triggers notes. So; passable, nowt special, for either music or 'Tron, although The Lady could well do with anthologising.
Screaming (2003, 41.12) **/T½
I Should Know
Higher She Cried
I Don't Mind
Never Let Go
Minneapolite guitarist Rick McGuire's Screaming contains the kind of bland, Americana-inflected pop/rock guaranteed to raise Planet Mellotron's hackles, insipid to the max, if that isn't a contradiction in terms, at its least crummy on the title track and Vegas Dream. You know you're in trouble when an artist states that they're 'influenced by Dave Matthews'...
The album's CD Baby spiel states, "...Mellotron Mark VI tape replay keyboard and the Chamberlin M1", throwing my initial 'sample' diagnosis out of the window. Not sure who plays them, mind... Possibly their owner (and album producer) Tom Herbers. Anyway, background (Chamby?) strings on opener Falling Hard, presumably Chamby strings and (Mellotron?) flutes on I Should Know and Chamby strings on Crashing Down. I think... The background strings on Never Let Go, however, are more likely to be generic.
Ashley MacIsaac (2003, 48.40) ***/T
Lay Me Down
Save Me From Tomorrow
I Don't Need This
To America We Go
Chorus Jig/The King's Reel
Mull of Kintyre
Bog an Login
This is My Father
Ashley MacIsaac started his career as a folk fiddler from Nova Scotia, moving into more mainstream areas as time's gone on. It seems he's also quite a controversial figure, leading a slightly fragmented lifestyle and infuriating people by being rather more open on his views regarding politics and his own sexuality than many people might like. Ashley MacIsaac is his seventh album, incorporating various very un-folklike rhythms in places; I know artists have to move on, but into commercial pop? Pretty much every track features some kind of folk influence - MacIsaac's fiddle sees to that - but it's a bit few and far between in places. Best track? Maybe the fiddle frenzy of Grapes, complete with monosynth and Clavinet, or possibly Chorus Jig/The King's Reel. Worst? The entirely pointless version of Wings' horrible Mull Of Kintyre. It might not be quite as awful as the original, but, y'know, why?
Paul Bryan plays Chamberlin on the album, although it's not wildly obvious where, as is irritatingly common with the Chamby. It sounds like the instrument's strings on Cello Song and This Is My Father, though I wouldn't be entirely surprised if it turns out to be nothing of the sort, and they're used inaudibly elsewhere. So; a modern Gaelic folk-influenced pop/rock album. Hmmm. Listen to the real thing instead? Next to no obvious Chamby, either.
In Search of Eddie Riff (1974, 39.06/39.03/59.11) **½/T
|Ride of the Valkyries
The End of the World
The Hour Before Dawn
Past, Present and Future (Pyramid of Night)
Walking the Whippet
What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
A Four Legged Friend
|An Die Musik
[1977 reissue loses two tracks, retitles one and adds:
Long And Winding Road.
1999 CD adds three rehearsal takes]
Saxophonist/oboist Andy Mackay is best known, of course, for his tenure with Roxy Music, also doing session work and writing and recording the music for almost-forgotten UK TV series Rock Follies during Roxy's late '70s hiatus. It also turns out we attended the same school (briefly, in my case), which is just weird. 1974 saw the release of his first (of two, to date) solo albums, the near-instrumental In Search of Eddie Riff (I presume that's an uncredited Mackay singing on Summer Sun and the dreadful A Four Legged Friend), which was reissued, three years later, with a heavily-amended tracklisting, losing easily the two worst tracks (funnily enough, the two vocal ones). Better efforts include the brief, atmospheric Time Regained and the nine-minute Past, Present And Future (a.k.a. Pyramid Of Night), although the latter takes a while to get going, while Ride Of The Valkyries, rock'n'roll style, is (no doubt) intentionally hilarious (the CD-only rehearsal take is even better), but overall, it's a bit of a flop, frankly.
Two keyboard players are credited, Brian Chatton (who also worked with Mackay on Rock Follies) and then-Roxy member Eddie Jobson (Curved Air, UK etc.), but it seems likely that it's the latter who provides the album's minor Mellotron use (thanks, once again, to Mark for this one), with background choirs on Walking The Whippet (a rare example of rock'n'roll Mellotron here, folks) and Past, Present And Future. So; do you bother? Roxy completists probably already own at least one version, but I think the rest of us can go to bed tonight safe in the knowledge that we're really not missing out that much.
See: Roxy Music
Trouble (2004, 49.19) **½/½
When it All Comes Down
Open Your Eyes
A Voice That Carries
Sensitive Subject Matter
I Hold Her
Confessions of a Teenage Girl
Bonnie McKee was something of a child prodigy, writing the bulk of what was to become her debut album in her early teens. Said album, 2004's Trouble (the album seems to be largely autobiographical), starts off well enough, in a tough female singer-songwriter vein, but the slick production gradually overtakes the material, leaving the listener with a rather empty feeling by the end. As with so many singer-songwriter efforts, the lyrics seem to be the most important part of the package, the music often just something melodic on which to hang the words, which probably makes closer Confessions Of A Teenage Girl the best thing here, telling it just how it is (or was for Ms McKee), although I'm sure a reasonably privileged background helped no end.
Patrick Warren does his usual Chamberlin thing, near-inaudible as almost always (bloody producers), with faint, er, somethings on the album's single, Somebody, making this the kind of album you're unlikely to want to hear unless you're a member of Bonnie McKee's peer group, i.e. teenage girls. It's not that bad at what it does, but there really isn't much here for the rest of us.
|7" (1974) **/T
Peaches on a Tree
What Can I Do
Nick "McKenzie" van den Broeke is a mainstream Dutch singer whose career is fairly well tied to the '70s. Like other Dutch pop stars of the era, it seems he released few albums, information on even their titles, never mind their contents, being difficult to trace. What I can tell you, though, is that Peaches On A Tree was his first single of 1974, a jaunty, Eurovision-style, vaguely oompah-like number with few redeeming features, its flip, What Can I Do, faring no better.
An unknown keyboard player adds pseudo-orchestral Mellotron strings to the 'A', merely giving the impression that the whole thing was done on a rather tight budget, rather than that anyone actually liked the sound. You can probably find a download of this if you're really bothered, but I can't say I am.
Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff (1996, 62.32) **½/T
I Will Remember You
Fear [LunaSol remix]
Gloomy Sunday [live]
Full of Grace
Song for a Winter's Night
Drawn to the Rhythm [live]
|Shelter [violin mix]
As the End Draws Near [extended remix]
Vox [extended remix]
Into the Fire [extended remix]
Possession [rabbit in the moon remix]
Sarah McLachlan is possibly the archetypal Lilith Fair artist; a rather wet female singer-songwriter who over-emotes at every opportunity. There's a huge audience for this sort of thing, mostly single women, but I'm afraid to say it couldn't leave me much colder if it tried. The slightly clunkily-titled Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff does exactly what it says on the tin, although it's only a selection of the apparently large number of tracks she recorded for singles, compilations etc. The album has moments of genuine beauty - McLachlan's multitracked harmonies on Blue are gorgeous - but all too many tracks feel, to an outsider like myself, to be a Carole King by numbers for this generation.
Mellotron on a couple of tracks (from David Kershaw), starting with cellos on Sarah's take on XTC's Dear God, also found on A Testimonial Dinner, the 1995 XTC tribute album. A brief burst of flutes on Song For A Winter's Night, but that seems to be your lot. So; if you're a McLachlan fan, you'll probably like about half of this, if you don't already own the tracks anyway. I can't imagine who would want to listen to several crapola dance remixes of her work, as they're not going to satisfy either the dance crowd or her fans, and by all accounts, there are better rare tracks not on here, but that's compilers for you. Not much Mellotron, and not a very exciting record, so the rest of us should probably discretely withdraw.
Falling Deeper Under a Spell (2005, 37.41) ***/T½
|Everybody's a Fool Sometimes
Falling Deeper Under a Spell
The Road I Have Wandered
Getting Lost Inside Myself
On My Way Home
Gypsy Heather Love
Thinkers Don't Sleep
Too Far Out
|Do You Think I'm Blind
Life's a Breeze
Don't Want the Night to End
Ulsterman Kieran McMahon is based in Berlin these days, although 2005's Falling Deeper Under a Spell has an indefinable Britishness about it, a pre-psych '60s thing with a contemporary feel, without slipping into indie duffness. Highlights? Opener Everybody's A Fool Sometimes, the title track and Gypsy Heather Love, maybe.
Carola McMahon plays Mellotron, with flutes all over opener Everybody's A Fool Sometimes and background (yet real-sounding) strings on Do You Think I'm Blind. Yes, I think it's genuine, yes, I could be wrong. Worth hearing for fans of the non-indie end of the singer-songwriter spectrum.