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album list
MetroGnom
Metropolis
Mew
Meredith Meyer
Ingrid Michaelson
Malcolm Middleton
Bette Midler
Midnight Circus
Midnight Movies

Midnight Oil
Paulo Miklos
Mikromidas
The Millennium

Pete Miller
Rhett Miller
Steve Miller Band
Milman-Brignall Enigma


MetroGnom  (Norway)

MetroGnom, 'Twangyluck'

Twangyluck  (2006,  64.20)  ****/T½

Max Planet (incl. The Sudden Turbulent Landing Procedure)
Ten Peppermint Butterflies in a Ray of Moonlight
Opening Ceremony to the Trolls' Seventeenth Olympic Games
Tellus Will Tell Us its Will

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

MetroGnom (ho ho) are a new Norwegian outfit whose take on progressive rock involves long instrumental workouts, jazzy sax and choppy, offbeat riffs that land so far from the prog-metal mainstream that there's (thankfully) almost no point of contact. 2006's Twangyluck is their debut, combining ridiculous 'song' titles with fearsome arranging skills and playing, somehow managing to keep things interesting over four track and 64 minutes, all without vocals. That isn't to say the album's faultless; it is a bit overlong, although as faults go, there's a lot worse, and there's a slight lack of overall focus, but they're pretty minor quibbles, really.

Guitarist Ole Ivar Jörgensen plays Mellotron, with strings on Ten Peppermint Butterflies In A Ray Of Moonlight, cellos on Opening Ceremony To The Trolls' Seventeenth Olympic Games and strings again on Tellus Will Tell Us Its Will, none of it to any major effect, to be honest. All in all, a fine first effort, although I wouldn't bother purely for its Mellotron use.

Official site

Metropolis  (Germany)

Metropolis, 'Metropolis'

Metropolis  (1973,  40.27)  ***½/½

Birth
Metropolis
Superplasticclub
Dreamweaver
Glass Roofed Courts
Ecliptic

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The sole Metropolis album may actually, unlike the work of so many German bands from the '70s, fit the 'krautrock' genre, at least to an extent. A trippy mix of straightforward rock, psych and all-out experimentation, various members had links with the likes of Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free and Mythos, and clearly had considerable interest in jamming, although much of the album is fairly conventionally structured.

Most of the strings and flutes on the album are real, easily heard on opener Birth, although a pitchbent strings part on the lengthy title track has to be Manfred Opitz's Mellotron, although it's not actually credited as such. It's easy to see how Metropolis has been labelled a 'Mellotron Album', as many (though by no means all) of the string parts are of the 'block chord' variety, with a slight lack of imagination in the arrangement department. Anyway; a good album of its type, more tuneful than the likes of Dzyan, and rockier than, say, Wind, though definitely further 'out there' than Nektar and their ilk. Hardly any 'Tron, mind, so don't go buying it for that.

See: Ash Ra Tempel | Agitation Free | Mythos

Mew  (Denmark)

Mew, 'Half the World is Watching Me'

Half the World is Watching Me  (2000,  44.24)  ***/TT

Am I Wry? No
Mica
Saliva
King Christian

Her Voice is Beyond Her Years
156
Symmetry
Comforting Sounds
She Came Home for Christmas
I Should Have Been a Tsin-Tsi (for You)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I was under the impression that Mew were 'the new prog', so I was quite surprised, on playing 2000's Half the World is Watching Me, to hear an album of quirky pop, referencing The Beach Boys, Porcupine Tree, Sigur Rós and '70s TV themes (listen to the piano part on Saliva), amongst other influences. OK, so Comforting Sounds is nearly nine minutes long, but this isn't prog by any standard definition, unless what's meant is 'progressive pop', which is another matter entirely. Actually, a large part of this album sports the incredibly irritating type of vocal melodies that became popular in the '90s which make you want to lynch the songwriter, but seem to be popular with 'the kids', although the writing has enough quirks to keep it interesting, if not something that I'll play too often.

Produced by the obscenely talented Tim Christensen, it's hardly surprising there's some vintage kit to be heard here, not least one or more of Christensen's Mellotrons on several tracks. Going by his solo albums, there could be all sorts of obscure sounds, so apologies if this list is incomplete. It sounds like strings, sometimes doubled by a real violin on Am I Wry? No, Saliva, with its rather disturbing lyric and King Christian, plus what I'm guessing are 'Tron vibes on 156 and Symmetry. There's a very clear 'Tron string section on Comforting Sounds, followed by polyphonic flutes, probably the most obviously Mellotronic parts on the album, with real strings later on in the long-form piece.

So; an odd little album, albeit irritating in places. This would have been much improved (musically if not commercially) by some less generic vocal lines and a reduction in tweeness, although the album's breeziness isn't necessarily a bad thing. Only one really overt 'Tron track, sadly, so not worth it on those grounds alone.

Official site

See: Tim Christensen

Meredith Meyer  (US)

Meredith Meyer, 'Items You Won't Find Elsewhere'

Items You Won't Find Elsewhere  (2004,  51.22)  ***½/T

Storyteller Girl
The Stars Kiss Me Goodnight
Faster
Simple Sensation
Arms of Love
Mr. Wilson
Pebbles on the Window

The Purest Thing
My Solo
Mary is Missing
Wrapped Around Your Finger
Phoenix

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Meredith Meyer is an American singer-songwriter (California via Oklahoma) who bears comparison with Aimee Mann, amongst others, which is praise indeed. Less melancholy than Ms. Mann, she beats the likes of Fiona Apple hands-down on her debut, Items You Won't Find Elsewhere, and with songs of the quality of Storyteller Girl and The Purest Thing surely it can't be long before she comes into the orbit of the Lilith Fair crowd? Mind you, I can't see her dumbing-down for them... Was it a dream, or did people actually once buy well-crafted records that made them think? What happened?

Anyway, the inimitable Brian Kehew (Moog Cookbook, Jellyfish compatriot) produces, and has been given free reign with his collection of vintage gear. Mellotron on three tracks (one uncredited), with almost-inaudible strings on Mr. Wilson and something even less identifiable on Mary Is Missing, although the strangely uncredited Pebbles On The Window makes up for it; essentially a brief (45-second) 'Tron cello solo, this is quite gorgeous, though nothing like the rest of the material on offer here.

So; a good album of modern singer-songwriter fare, with those 'up-close and intimate' vocals that give the impression she's singing the songs for you alone, and no sub-Kate Bushisms, either (take note Tori and others). Not actually that much 'Tron, although Pebbles On The Window is a must-hear. Buy if you're into the style.

Official site

Ingrid Michaelson  (US)

Ingrid Michaelson, 'Everybody'

Everybody  (2009,  43.15)  **½/TT

Soldier
Everybody
Are We There Yet
Sort of
Incredible Love
The Chain
Mountain and the Sea
Men of Snow
So Long
Once Was Love
Locked Up

Maybe
Ingrid Michaelson, 'Parachute' Download  (2010)  **/TT

Parachute

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

Ingrid Michaelson (married to fellow singer-songwriter Greg Laswell, fact fans) is a New York-based singer-songwriter of the type who gets her songs used on mainstream TV shows, which should give you some idea of her sound. Her fourth album, 2009's Everybody, is pleasant enough, although most of its contents are unremittingly bland, if largely inoffensive. I'm reminded strongly of Alanis Morissette on opener Soldier, although the rest of the record is rather more generic; exactly what TV producers look for, in fact. Dan Romer plays Mellotron and Chamberlin: I would guess that those are Chamby strings on Soldier, Mellotron flutes on Incredible Love, (Chamby?) cellos on Mountain And The Sea, (Mellotron?) strings on Once Was Love and an occasional Mellotron flute melody line on Locked Up, although the small string ensemble on several tracks sounds real.

Michaelson co-wrote Parachute in 2010, subsequently recorded by Brit non-talent/ex-footballer's wife/TV 'talent show' judge Cheryl Cole. Now, here's where things become slightly confusing: Ingrid's released her own version as a single, although it doesn't seem to appear in any discographies I can find (although it's apparently on her Everybody/Girls & Boys twofer). Download only? Nevertheless, here it is, a pretty crummy effort, clearly written for a mainstream popster, Romer's tape-replay strings clearly audible throughout. To be honest, I'd have trouble recommending Everybody to, well, anybody, although its Mellotron and Chamberlin use are upfront enough to be worth hearing. Not actively offensive, but very dull.

Official site

Malcolm Middleton  (UK)

Malcolm Middleton, 'Waxing Gibbous'

Waxing Gibbous  (2009,  61.17)  **½/T

Red Travellin' Socks
Kiss at the Station
Carry Me
Zero
Stop Doing Be Good
Don't Want to Sleep Tonight
Shadows
Ballad of Fuck All
Box & Knife
Made Up Your Mind
Subset of the World
Love on the Run

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Malcolm Middleton used to be half of Arab Strap, going solo after they split in 2006, although he'd already release two solo albums by that point. 2009's Waxing Gibbous is his fifth such, sounding not wildly dissimilar to his previous outfit, its contents a mélange of wispy indie, pre-psych '60s pop and folk, 'best track' award going to the vulgarly-titled Ballad Of Fuck All, which is, indeed, a rather sweet ballad, title notwithstanding. A major fault here is length, both of the album overall and most of its tracks, which average around five minutes, a good ninety seconds too long for their content. Edit, sir, edit.

Middleton plays what might just be genuine Mellotron cellos and strings on Carry Me and strings on Shadows and closer Love On The Run. Is it genuine? Is it even a Mellotron? Sounds like it on Carry Me, but the jury's out on the other two. I can't really recommend this any more than I can recommend his former band although it has its moments, not least the Mellotronic ones.

MySpace

See: Arab Strap

Bette Midler  (US)

Bette Midler, 'Thighs and Whispers'

Thighs and Whispers  (1979,  42.30)  **½/½

Big Noise From Winnetka
Millworker
Cradle Days
My Knight in Black Leather
Hang on in There Baby
Hurricane
Rain
Married Men

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Hmmm... Bette Midler, eh? 'The Divine Miss M'. Actually, the world would be a duller place without Bette's raucous humour and larger-than-life persona, although neither excuse this album, or for that matter, the rest of her musical career. Always more Broadway than rock/pop, Midler's albums, as far as I can tell, were largely producer-driven, locking them forever in a prison of the time and place of their creation, and her sixth, Thighs and Whispers (groan), is no exception. About half of its contents are overlong disco workouts (Big Noise From Winnetka, My Knight In Black Leather), with an excruciating version of Hang On In There Baby just to down the ante. Maybe surprisingly, the album's best track is closer Married Men, and that largely for its wry lyrical observations on its subject (amusingly, written by a man).

So why the hell is this here, eh? Usual reason: Randy Kerber plays keyboards on a few tracks, with some distant (credited) Mellotron strings on the faux-S&M My Knight In Black Leather, just about recognisable amongst the general discoisms of the rest of the track's instrumentation. So; you know what I'm going to say, so I won't bother saying it, and if you're thinking of asking why I've given this as high a rating as I have, well, it's Bette Midler, innit?

Official site

Midnight Circus  (Germany)

Midnight Circus, 'Midnight Circus'

Midnight Circus  (1972,  32.54/39.01)  ***/T (TT)

The Light
I Had a Dream
November Church

Mr. Clown
Indian Impression
Disappointed Love
Meditation
[CD adds:
Coloured Gay
Get it]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Midnight Circus were essentially the folk-rock-with-progressive-tendencies duo of Christian Bollmann and Torsten Schmitt, who made just the one self-titled album in 1972. Between them, they shared the vocal and acoustic guitar work, with Bollmann adding recorder and trumpet (notably the solo on longest and best track November Church) and various guest musicians filling out the sound. Midnight Circus is good, if not essential, with several of the songs operating in 'meandering and slightly stoned' mode, although some interesting instrumentation helps to lift it out of the also-ran category.

Amongst the album's guests was Veit Madaus on keys, who played instantly-recognisable Mellotron strings on I Had A Dream, with less obvious brass on November Church, with more of what sounds like both on one of the CD's bonus track, Get It, with a particularly abrasive and upfront brass part. So; there are more essential albums in the German Progressive category, though this wins out over the likes of, say, Witthüser & Westrupp or Wind, by being less stoned and containing a couple of decent songs. Not much Mellotron, although I Had A Dream's work is quite nice. So-so.

Midnight Movies  (US)

Midnight Movies, 'Lion the Girl'

Lion the Girl  (2007,  44.03)  ***/T

Souvenirs
Patient Eye
Hide Away
Ribbons
Lion Song
Coral Den
Bell Tower
Parallel Paramour
24 Hour Dream
Dawn
Two Years

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Midnight Movies seem to be part of the new wave of American goth, assuming there is such a thing, although any chance of material as memorable as anything by Siouxsie & the Banshees or The Cure are vanishingly small, I'm afraid, and please don't tell me either of those outfits aren't actually goth; you know what I mean. Gena Olivier's vocals do that female gothy thing passably well, although her voice has little character and sounds like it would be more comfortable singing something a bit more mainstream, or possibly nothing at all.

Mellotron on two tracks, with strings on Coral Den and 24 Hour Dream, probably from producer Steve Fisk. Now, Fisk is known for his past sample use, but apparently bought a real M400 in the mid-'00s, so despite its largely background nature here, we can probably assume it's real. The high part in the latter has the 'ring of truth' about it, but as I've been wrong many times, before, who knows? Anyway, an album of outstanding ordinariness, with a smattering of Mellotron. I really wouldn't bother.

Official site

Midnight Oil  (Australia)

Midnight Oil, 'Earth & Sun & Moon'

Earth & Sun & Moon  (1993,  53.59)  ***/TT

Feeding Frenzy
My Country
Renaissance Man
Earth and Sun and Moon
Truganini
Bushfire
Drums of Heaven
Outbreak of Love
In the Valley
Tell Me the Truth
Now or Never Land

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Midnight Oil, or 'The Oils', have followed a path of political activism from the outset, providing a welcome antidote to the unfortunate right-wing streak that crops up all too often in Aussie politics (remember the appalling Pauline Hanson, the 'Oxley Moron'?). While it's easy to accuse them of being musically unadventurous, with their agenda, they weren't going to get very far as a punk band or something, so playing mainstream rock is clearly their compromise, assuming they even consider it to be such. Earth & Sun & Moon was their eighth full studio album, and doesn't sound startlingly different to their two early-'80s records I've heard, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ('10 to 1') and Red Sails In The Sunset, with its apocalyptic sleeve design, being radical radio-friendly rock, concentrating heavily on their country and what will become of it, particularly on the anti-monarchist Truganini. Difficult to argue there...

Guitarist/keys man Jim Moginie plays Mellotron (presumably real?) on several tracks, with flutes and possibly strings on opener Feeding Frenzy, pitchbent strings on Renaissance Man and more regular ones on Drums Of Heaven and Outbreak Of Love. As always, it perks up almost any track, so although his use isn't especially radical (pitchbends aside), it's always nice to hear. Moginie also played it on his solo project from '96, Fuzz Face, for what it's worth.

Although the band appear to have split, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them have another go before too long, even though their most outspoken member, vocalist Peter Garrett, is now a member of parliament for the Australian Labour Party. Although not their biggest seller ('87's Diesel & Dust takes that honour), Earth & Sun & Moon is probably as good a place to start as any if you're unfamiliar with the band, and is probably less slick than their late-'80s efforts. Reasonable Mellotron, too, though I've no idea whether or not Moginie used it with the band again.

Official site

Informative fan site

See: Fuzz Face

Paulo Miklos  (Brazil)

Paulo Miklos, 'Vou Ser Feliz e Já Volto'

Vou Ser Feliz e Já Volto  (2001,  42.28)  **½/½

Vai Acontecer de Novo
Mamãe Disse... Papai Disse...
Todo o Tempo
O Que Você Me Diz?

Hooje
Por Querer
Lâmina de Vidro
Orgia
Sem Amor
Sinos Entre os Anjos
O Milagre do Ladrão

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Paulo Miklos (born 1959) is apparently best known as multi-instrumentalist with Titãs, although he's released a couple of solo efforts some years apart, 2001's Vou Ser Feliz e Já Volto being the most recent. Much of the album is decidedly ordinary poppy, Portuguese-language singer/songwriter stuff, its better (i.e. rockier) tracks clustered in a block around the middle of the record, specifically Por Querer, Lâmina De Vidro, complete with its outrageous bass work and Orgia, not to mention closer O Milagre Do Ladrão's authentic acoustic blues.

Dudu Marote is credited with Mellotron and indeed, it sounds like Mellotronic flutes on Todo O Tempo and occasional, distant strings on O Que Você Me Diz?, although I've no idea where the album was recorded and whether or not he had access to a real machine. Anyway, passable at what it does, but don't get too excited, eh?

MySpace

Mikromidas  (Norway)

Mikromidas, 'Brennende Drømmer'

Brennende Drømmer  (2001,  55.11)  ****/TTTT½

Incognito City
Dvergenes Palass
Nostradamus
Pilegrim
Jublende Rekker
Middelveis
Berg og Dvale
Døende Stein
I Tåketimen
[unlisted track]
Mikromidas, 'Faunus'

Faunus  (2005,  49.33)  ****/TTTT½

Den Dagen Jeg Forsvant
Virveldans
Sjælernes Evige Beven
Trollmann
Sultekunstneren
Den Gjengrodde Sti
Englesangen
Famle Rundt
Krigsmann

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Despite forming in 1995, it took Mikromidas until 2001 to release their debut, Brennende Drømmer, but it was worth the wait. I've seen comparisons to Änglagård et al., but the only real one is in their choice of instrumentation, specifically Hammond and Mellotron. Stylewise, they go for a (relatively) straightforward song format with Norwegian lyrics, although we ain't talking mainstream here, more a vaguely Uriah Heep thing, though they're not a particularly good comparison, really. Difficult to pick out the best tracks on one listen, but Jublende Rekker made me stop what I was doing.

Øystein Larsen at the M400

Øystein Larsen uses his very obviously real 'Tron (hurrah!) on every damn' track, with plenty of strings and choirs, with some flute and cello parts here and there. He seems to have the same problem with his as I had with mine before its last service, where some of the pinch rollers are clogging up and sticking, giving a few of the high notes that classic 'Mellotron wobble' which, while extremely authentic, isn't really any more welcome than the audible whine and instability of an old motor board. Anyway... particularly strong 'Tron parts on the intro to Døende Stein and the flutes on I Tåketimen, but there isn't a bad 'Tron (or otherwise) track here. Now, an oddity is the last track: only nine are listed, and no other online reviewers seem to've noticed there's a tenth, unlisted track, but it's as good as everything else on the album, and features the usual 'Tron quotient.

Four years on, and Mikromidas suddenly reappear with Faunus, and it looks like the band have taken a turn towards the prog mainstream in the interim, although some tracks, notably Sjælernes Evige Beven and Famle Rundt, hark back towards their earlier sound. Overall, another great album, although I imagine it'll take several plays for its subtleties to become completely apparent. Loads of 'Tron, of course, including quite a bit of brass, especially on opener Den Dagen Jeg Forsvant, plus the usual strings, flute and (a little) choir; this really is a 'Tron monster, falling only just short of the full five Ts.

So; buy? I'd say so, yes, unless you insist on 'symph über alles'. Brennende Drømmer is a damn' good '70s-influenced hard rock/prog album, with some excellent Mellotron work, and Faunus is just possibly even better.

Official site

Asa Milbankx  (US)  see: Samples

Robert Miles  (Italy)  see: Samples

The Millennium  (US)

The Millennium, 'Begin'

Begin  (1968,  41.38)  ****/½

Prelude
To Claudia on Thursday
I Just Want to Be Your Friend
5 AM
I'm With You
The Island
Sing to Me
It's You
Some Sunny Day
It Won't Always Be the Same
The Know it All
Karmic Dream Sequence #1
There is Nothing More to Say
Anthem (Begin)
The Millennium, 'Magic Time: The Millennium/Ballroom Recordings'

Magic Time: The Millennium/Ballroom Recordings  (2001, recorded 1966-68,  174.53)  ***½/T½

Spinning, Spinning, Spinning
Love's Fatal Way
Would You Like to Go
Magic Time

You Turn Me Around
Forever
It's a Sad World
I'll Grow Stronger
Musty Dusty
Crazy Dreams
Lead Me to Love
A Time for Everything
Baby, Please Don't Go
Would You Like to Go (instr)

Forever (instr)
I'll Grow Stronger (instr)
You Turn Me Around (instr)
Magic Time (instr)
It's a Sad World (instr)
Spinning, Spinning, Spinning
  (instr)
I'm Not Living Here
Opus to a Friend
Believe You
The Island (orig.version)
5 AM (orig.version)
Karmic Dream Sequence #1
  (orig.version)
Sun Arise
Milk and Honey
Too Young to Marry
Love's Fatal Way (instr)
Another Time (demo)
Sea of Tears (demo)
Sunshine Today (demo)
Sunshine Today (alt.instr)
Keeper of the Games (demo)
Dancing Dandelion (demo)
It Won't Always Be the
  Same (instr)
There is Nothing More to
  Say (instr)
To Claudia on Thursday
  (instr)
Lonely Girl
Prelude
To Claudia on Thursday
I Just Want to Be Your Friend
5 AM
I'm With You
The Island
Sing to Me
It's You
Some Sunny Day
It Won't Always Be the Same
The Know it All
Karmic Dream Sequence #1
There is Nothing More to Say
Anthem (Begin)
Blight
Just About the Same
It's You (single version)
I Just Want to Be Your Friend
  (single version)
5 AM (single version)
Prelude (single version)
To Claudia on Thursday
  (single version)
There is Nothing More to Say
  (single version)

Current availability:

Chamberlins used:

The Millennium were a studio group, put together by the legendary Curt Boettcher, who was heavily involved with The Association (Beach Boys-lite, going by what I've heard), going on to sprinkle his fairy dust on several subsequent projects, none of which, sadly, made much of an impact at the time, although they've since assumed their proper place in Californian music history. 1968's Begin was also, sadly, the end, apparently due to falling between two stools; too light for the emerging rock audience and too complex for the pop mainstream. It's notorious for being Columbia's most expensive production up to that time, going on to sell diddly-squat; with over four decades' hindsight, there's no denying it's pretty light stuff, but the vocal harmonies are sublime, as is much of the material. Someone (Boettcher?) adds the tiniest smidgeon of Chamberlin strings to its bizarre closing track, Anthem (Begin), but not so's you'd actually notice.

To credit 2001's Magic Time: The Millennium/Ballroom Recordings to The Millennium alone is a misnomer; the three-disc set includes material recorded by several linked outfits, chiefly The Ballroom and The Millennium, plus odd tracks from Summer's Children, Sagittarius and Boettcher himself. Be warned: if you dislike the idea of 'sunshine pop', don't go anywhere near these recordings. This is the lightest end of vocal harmony psych-pop, and can sound pretty lightweight to ears attuned to a modern aesthetic, although fans of the style/era will be in absolute rhapsodies. Disc one ('The Ballroom') contains an imaginary album by said group (who included Michael Fennelly, later of Crabby Appleton, amongst their ranks), plus several instrumental backing tracks, disc two ('Assorted Milk & Honey') mops up the rest of the Ballroom tracks, adding two each by Summer's Children and Sagittarius, plus a handful of Boettcher demos and instrumental Millennium tracks, leaving disc three ('The Millennium') as a reissue of Begin, plus extras.

The set's Chamberlin content is concentrated on disc one, with unidentified woodwind (oboe?) and strings on Would You Like To Go (and its later instrumental version), vibes and strings on the set's title track (plus instrumental), wavery strings on the cheesily sentimental Musty Dusty and accordion on their genuinely radical take on Baby, Please Don't Go, and, of course, those few seconds of strings on Anthem (Begin). All in all, essential listening for sunshine pop aficionados, although maybe a bit lightweight for many psych fans, with enough Chamby to be worth hearing if you're listening anyway, but not enough to make a purchase necessary.

Official Curt Boettcher site

See: Curt Boettcher | Michael Fennelly

Pete Miller  (UK)

Pete Miller, 'Summerland'

Summerland  (1997, recorded 1966-68,  40.05)  ***/½

Where Did it Go?
The in Things
Time Has No Meanings
Time and Time Again
Forget Me Not
Who Cares About the Moon
Soho Solitaire
Sweet Talk Town
Peter Pan
Willow Tree
Antoinette
Fiesta Time
Listen Girl
Oh Miss Halliday

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

'Big Boy' Pete(r) Miller is one of those shadowy figures that has apparently helped to quietly steer the music business since the late '50s, in his role as songwriter, engineer and producer, although his performing career has had rather less success. Well, have you heard of him? Vinyl fetishists Tenth Planet have released several albums of Miller's '60s demos, including 1997's Summerland, recorded between 1966 and '68, notable chiefly for not really sounding like anybody much else; it isn't beat, psych or folk-rock, although it has elements of all those styles, ending up sounding like, well, a Pete Miller album, I suppose. Miller's voice, while relatively tuneful, isn't the most endearing sound in the world, but the material isn't bad, so why it's taken these recordings so long to appear, I've no idea.

Derek Shepherd plays Mellotron, although the only part I can hear for definite is some background strings on Listen Girl, other possibles being covered by real instruments (oboe, brass). '60s obscurity obsessives need to hear Pete Miller now, if they haven't already done so, but the rest of you can probably limp along in your ignorance of his work without missing out on too much. Summerland certainly contains some decent songs, but their delivery isn't all it could be, so with next to no Mellotron... Maybe not.

Official site

Rhett Miller  (US)

Rhett Miller, 'The Believer'

The Believer  (2006,  43.20)  ***½/TTT

My Valentine
Help Me, Suzanne
Meteor Shower
Brand New Way

Ain't That Strange
I Believe She's Lying
Fireflies
Singular Girl
I'm With Her
Delicate
The Believer
Question
Rhett Miller, 'Rhett Miller'

Rhett Miller  (2009,  42.25)  ***/T

Nobody Says I Love You Anymore
Like Love
Caroline
I Need to Know Where I Stand
Happy Birthday Don't Die
Bonfire
Haphazardly
If It's Not Love
Another Girlfriend
Refusing Temptation
Lashes
Sometimes

Current availability:

Chamberlins/Mellotron used:

Rhett Miller is The Old 97's vocalist, although he somehow finds time to run a parallel solo career; 2006's The Believer is his third album, although the first pre-dates his involvement with his main band. It's a pleasing mix of alt.country and powerpop, although most of its contents fall into one camp or the other, rather than combining them, highlights including opener My Valentine, the rockier Ain't That Strange and Delicate and closer Question. Patrick Warren and Jon Brion both play Chamberlin on the album; is this overkill? Thankfully not, with flutes on opener My Valentine, strings all over Help Me, Suzanne, Meteor Shower, Brand New Way and I Believe She's Lying, although I'm pretty sure the pedal steel on Fireflies is real (the Chamby's known for its emulation). More strings on I'm With Her and the title track and what sounds like solo violin (is there such a Chamby sound?) on Question. Excellent!

Miller followed up, three years later, with Rhett Miller, and I'm afraid to say, while perfectly pleasant, it's all a bit unengaging, being more alt.country than powerpop and a more downbeat record all round. Despite the presence of Jon Brion again, Rip Rowan plays Mellotron this time round, with a ripping (sorry) pitchbent string part on Another Girlfriend, plus a more subdued part on closer Sometimes, making for a rather lesser album, at least in my eyes.

So; The Believer beats Rhett Miller hands down on every front, it seems, unless you intensely dislike powerpop and love alt.country, in which case, ignore me.

Official site

See: The Old 97's | Pine Valley Cosmonauts

Rick Miller  (Canada)  see: Samples

Steve Miller Band  (US)

Steve Miller Band, 'Children of the Future'

Children of the Future  (1968,  38.23)  ***½/T½

Children of the Future
Pushed Me to it
You've Got the Power
In My First Mind
The Beauty of Time is That it's Snowing

Baby's Callin' Me Home
Steppin' Stone
Roll With it
Junior Saw it Happen
Fanny Mae
Key to the Highway

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Steve Miller's first album, Children of the Future, is stylistically a long way from the mainstream radio rock he churned out later on in his career, sitting somewhere between blues-rock (Fanny Mae, Steppin' Stone) and psych (side one's linked tracks). It's actually pretty good, and nowhere near as formative as you might expect, with good musicianship all round, with Miller and future solo star Boz Scaggs sharing the guitar work. The album was recorded in the UK (Olympic Studios in London, fact fans), with noted engineer Glyn Johns at the desk.

There were few Mellotrons in America in the '60s (although Chamberlins were used), but recording in Britain meant that Olympic's MkII found its way onto the album, played by either keys man Jim Peterman or Miller himself. It's only actually on two tracks, with the chief use being on the lengthy In My First Mind on side one, with strings running right through the song in a most pleasing manner, with a little more on the following The Beauty Of Time Is That It's Snowing.

So; a good psych/blues album, for want of a better description, with one classic 'Tron track. No 'Tron on Sailor from later the same year, although it was another Glyn Johns production, although it's rumoured to be found on '69's Brave New World; more news when I get to hear a copy.

Official site

Leslie Mills  (US)  see: Samples

Milman-Brignall Enigma  (US)

Milman-Brignall Enigma, 'Bafflemania'

Bafflemania  (2005,  47.00)  ***½/TT½

Prologue
You're So Existential
Arcade Love Machine
Any Further Attempt to Contact Me
  Will Be Ignored
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore
Fragments
Expressions Worn in Autumn
Yesterday's Garbage
Barbecue Sauce
Psychotic Episode
Mighty Mouth (Version 2)
Liberation
Acka Raga
How's Your Fuzzy Box

I'll Wake Up Dead That Morning When I'm Gone
Epilogue

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

It's difficult to find out any hard-and-fast information regarding the Milman-Brignall Enigma, as they obscure the issue with misinformation; for what it's worth, Bafflemania was certainly not recorded between 1971 and 2007... Then again, the actual recording dates fell somewhere between those two years, so are they lying? You see what I mean, anyway... It seems likely that the band really does consist of Alan Milman (vocals and other bits) and Matt Brignall (assorted guitars and keyboards), both of whom have been around for 'a while', and are probably now headed inexorably for their 50s. Which matters not one jot when you hear the album (or indeed, at all); an insane blend of garage punk, authentic late-'60s psych and various other disparate influences, all chucked into a Magimix and sugar-coated with analogue keyboards and effects.

I'm not sure I even consider myself competent to describe the music, although some of it is actually quite straightforward. The parts that aren't, however, include fucked-up acoustic ballads, mangled psych and the new wonder of the modern world that is How's Your Fuzzy Box, veering wildly between arranged sections and anarchy. Brignall and David Will play the studio Mellotron, with strings and choirs on their suitably OTT version of the Walker Brothers' lugubrious The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore, and distorted flutes (!) on Mighty Mouth (Version 2). Choir on Acka Raga and strings and flutes on the fairly random How's Your Fuzzy Box finish things off, with much of the 'Tron work being original enough to earn them another half 'T'.

So; a weird album, both of the '60s and up-to-the-minute at the same time. If you like the sound of what they do, you can't go too far wrong, especially with the bonus of some decent Mellotron work. Worth the effort.

Myspace site


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