Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
P (1995, 57.16) ***½/TT
|I Save Cigarette Butts
Jon Glenn (Mega Mix)
White Man Sings the Blues
Scrapings From Ring
The irritatingly-named P (you try searching for it on Google) were a seemingly one-off 'supergroup' (yuck) of the inimitable Butthole Surfers' inimitable Gibby Haynes on his patented effected vocals and Johnny Depp (yes, that one...) on guitar and bass, plus two of their friends and several guest players. P is pretty much what you'd expect, being largely raucous rock'n'roll with bonkers vocals and huge lashings of irreverence all round. Haynes is on top form, but you wouldn't have a clue Depp was involved if the booklet didn't tell you, with fairly faceless guitar work throughout. A handful of tracks border unlistenable: Jon Glenn (Mega Mix) is a lengthy (and tedious) dub experiment and White Man Sings The Blues is funny for about a minute, while lasting an interminable six-plus, but even the eight-minute weird-fest Scrapings From Ring is worth hearing and several tracks are genuinely good.
Andrew Weiss plays bass and Mellotron, with a lovely string part on Michael Stipe, which brings me to the Butthole Surfers' Stipe story. They were apparently obsessed with the REM frontman, presumably before his band's dropping of all musical standards and attendant rise to fame'n'fortune (or maybe not?). The Surfers' old tour van finally died, so they towed it to Stipe's house and left it outside, allegedly painting on the windscreen something along the lines of (quotes vary):
|"Michael Stipe, despite the hype,
We'd like to suck on your long tall pipe"
Which may or may not've pleased Mr. Stipe. Who knows? More 'Tron strings on their twisted cover of Abba's Dancing Queen, and it's by no means the strangest instrumentation used on the song... Two more minor 'Tron tracks, with the occasional single string note on Scrapings From Ring, and some distant choir and flutes on The Deal, but they make little difference to the album's overall rating.
So; you're not going to find this all that easily, despite its major-label origins, as it's out of print and pretty collectable among Depp's large fanbase, but it's worth hearing for Butthole Surfers fans, and anyone who likes a bit of grime with their avant-rock. Decent 'Tron on two tracks, too.
Slightly Sorry (2007, 38.53) ****/½
|United Micro Mini
Cover Art Reprised
The End of Winter
I've Been Traveling
Bless These Blues
Not I the Seed
|Lily of the West
P.G. Six are effectively Pat Gubler plus friends, whose fourth album, 2007's Slightly Sorry, condenses a slew of folk-rock influences into an appealing stew of acoustic and electric guitars, male and female vocals and all kinds of Fairport Convention-esque things, without actually sounding like a Transatlantic clone (there might be a joke in there, had Fairport been on Transatlantic. Sorry). It's all good, but its top track has to be the beautiful Lily Of The West, sounding exactly like the kind of English folk ballad that Fairport might have tackled around Angel Delight. Actually, it's credited to that wealthiest of songwriters, Trad. Arr, so it's probably sheer bad luck that didn't lead Fairport to it, er, nearly forty years earlier.
Gubler plays all manner of elderly keyboards, including Mellotron; its one probable sighting here is the rather un-Mellotronic cellos and flutes on Strange Messages, although in lieu of anything else, and no credits for those instruments, I'll have to assume that's it. So; a very good album, should you be of a folk-rock disposition, but don't bother for the Mellotron.
|7" (2001, 10.18) ****/TTT½
Timeloss (2002, 39.47) ****/TTTTSensor
They Are Beautiful
Kallocain (2004, 51.36) ****/TTTGasoline
Look at Us
Won't Be Coming Back
Silence of Another Kind (2006, 42.08) ****/TT½Shame
Is That All?
Procession of Fools
There Will Be No Miracles
Not a Sound
Silence of Another Kind
Paatos were formed by two ex-members of Swedish prog revivalists Landberk, one of whom (guitarist Reine Fiske) has since left for the wonderful Dungen, leaving only Stefan Dimle, also owner of renowned Stockholm shop/label Mellotronen. The band pick up where Landberk left off, playing gentle, melancholy progressive rock on largely vintage gear, though this time with female vocals (Petronella Nettermalm), which suits the music perfectly.
They set out their stall with 2001's vinyl-only single, Perception, backed with the misspelt Tea (corrected on the album version), in honour of Petronella and drumming husband Huxflux's baby daughter. Both tracks feature a long, slow build-up, with Mellotron strings from Johan Wallén breaking in at the nearest each track gets to a crescendo. This isn't going to be easy to get hold of, unless you a) see them live or b) visit Stockholm (just done both), but it's worth the effort if you can find a copy.
The unusually short Timeloss carries on in the same excellent vein, with four medium-length tracks of quiet beauty, although the band aren't immune to picking up the pace every now and again, not to mention the odd Mellotron-fuelled crescendo. The album's 'oddity', though, is lengthy closer Quits, with a drum'n'bass-inspired rhythm, which actually works really well. It's the only non-'Tron track, with Wallén on (unspecified) electric piano. I can confirm that the band own their own M400, painted a fetching baby blue, sans feet, with very odd little spoked wheels replacing the knobs. They seem to have a strings/flutes/oboes tape frame, and the oboes are used here and there, making a welcome change from the usual sounds. One minor gripe, though, is the intro to Téa, which is copped straight from Änglagård's Sista Somrar from Epilog, although I didn't notice the rip on the single version. What were they thinking of? These bands all know each other...
Two years on, Kallocain starts in uncharacteristically upbeat mode with the Eastern-flavoured Gasoline, but soon shifts down a couple of gears back to by-now familiar Paatos territory. There are no actual standout tracks here, but nor are there any surprises like Quits, with the rest of the album being the same type of laid-back but curiously intense progressive as the bulk of Timeloss. An interesting feature of the album is Wallén's Mellotron use (all strings, by the sound of it); it's on seven of the nine tracks, but by and large, used with great restraint, making the occasional heavier use stand out all the more (the 'Tony Banks' trick).
While Silence of Another Kind produces no major surprises, it's another very good album, if sitting pretty in familiar territory. It opens with the uncharacteristically heavy Shame, sounding not unlike Anekdoten, but soon settles into their regular groove; this is not, by the way, a criticism... Procession Of Fools is a very short instrumental piece, and the closing title track consists chiefly of various effects, leaving Not A Sound as the album's probable highlight, as well as longest track. Wallén's Mellotron is use mostly as restrained as on Kallocain, although Not A Sound sees him let rip on the strings in fine style, but again, low-ish on the 'Tron front.
So; Timeloss is a seriously 'Tron-heavy album, Kallocain and Silence of Another Kind less so, although both are excellent. If you liked Landberk, or even if you've never heard them, I can wholeheartedly recommend Paatos. More, please.
See: Samples | Landberk | Dungen
Bells & Whistles (2009, 42.41) **/TT
|The Lonely Life
Gun and the Sword
John & Betty
Bring Down the Day
Don't Be Gay (Working Title)
Chase Pagan apparently started out as an emo/nu-metal type whom, after having a generic album rejected by Geffen, reinvented himself as an indie/singer-songwriter type, which certainly seems to be more his forte, going by his second album, 2009's Bells & Whistles. I wouldn't actually take that as a recommendation, mind, just that his voice would be even less well-suited to his original oeuvre. It isn't much of an album, frankly; the occasional interesting arrangement ideas (notably at the ends of Warrior and Search) are spoiled by Pagan's awful whiny voice, the nearest the album gets to a highpoint being the jaunty John & Betty, which stands out as, if not actually particularly good, at least fairly original.
Chad Copelin plays (very real-sounding) Mellotron, with pitchbent strings on Gun And The Sword, flutes and strings on Bring Down The Day and cellos and flutes on Just Fine, making it just about the best thing about this rather lacklustre record. I really hope young Pagan doesn't use a Mellotron next time round, so I don't have to hear his voice again.
Walking Into Clarksdale (1998, 60.52) ****/T
|Shining in the Light
When the World Was Young
Upon a Golden Horse
Please Read the Letter
Heart in Your Hand
Walking Into Clarksdale
When I Was a Child
House of Love
Sons of Freedom
In 1994, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant did what everyone had wanted for the previous 14 years, i.e. work together again. The resulting live 'unplugged' effort, Unledded (****) (ho ho), gave an interesting new perspective on many Zeppelin songs, but the four new pieces of music were, at best, pretty average (Wah Wah, anyone?), causing concern among fans over the quality of any further new material. '95's world tour was spectacularly good, but consisted entirely of Zep stuff, so it was quite a surprise when the duo suddenly came up with Walking Into Clarksdale in '98 (the title referring to the supposed 'home of the blues' in the Mississippi Delta). The album achieved the almost impossible, by updating the Zeppelin formula without being crap. Plant's vocal quirks and Page's guitar stylings are evident all over, and while I wouldn't rate most of the material as highly as most Zep stuff, there's some good songs scattered across the album, including When The World Was Young, Most High and When I Was A Child.
Jimmy Page is known as a Mellotron owner, notably the Mark V prototype John Paul Jones played on stage in the mid-'70s (a weird, unfinished-looking device), and he apparently bought a standard M400 in the mid-'90s. There's (uncredited) 'Tron on one track only here, the opener Shining In The Light, with a nice complementary string part, possibly played by Tim Whelan, who's credited with 'oriental keyboard'. Anyway, a good album, particularly if you're into their '70s oeuvre. Buy anyway. Note: at the time of writing (late 2002), rumours abound of a 'full' Zep tour in 2003, with JPJ and Jason Bonham (oh dear), but I wouldn't hold out too much hope of any live 'Tron, given Jones' views on the subject...
Official Jimmy Page site
Official Robert Plant site
See: Led Zeppelin | Jimmy Page
Twelve Rooms (2005, 51.45) ***/T
|Speech With Animals
Up My Sleeve
The Criminal Mind
Seems So Long Ago, Nancy
|Me & You & Him
Legs on the Ladder
Palaxy Tracks named themselves for an amusing fossil hoax of the 1930s in the Paluxy River area, still used by Christian scientific ignoramuses (most of them? All of them?) to 'prove' the Old Testament's version of events. The band hail from Chicago, despite originating in Austin, Texas and seem to play, at least on their third album, 2005's Twelve Rooms, a kind of Americana-informed indie, which is actually a lot better than it sounds, better tracks including opener Speech With Animals, Grey Snake (hey! British spelling!), The Criminal Mind and the near-ambient, lengthy instrumental title track that closes the album. They also tackle Leonard Cohen's Seems So Long Ago, Nancy, for fans of Smiling Len.
The only obvious Mellotron on the album is on Grey Snake, presumably played by Tim Rutili, although it's hardly a groundbreaking performance, consisting of a background string part that may or may not emanate from an actual Mellotron. Overall, then, worth hearing for Americana fans, despite the band's indie leanings. Incidentally, Twelve Rooms is actually the band's second Mellotron album, following 2003's Cedarland, which I'll review when I get to hear a copy.
Pallas (UK) see:
Heartland (2010, 46.26) ***/½
Keep the Dog Quiet
Red Sun No. 5
Lewis Take Action
The Great Elsewhere
Oh Heartland, Up Yours!
Lewis Takes Off His Shirt
E is for Estranged
Tryst With Mephistopheles
What Do You Think Will Happen Now?
Owen Pallett's classical background has stood him in good stead subsequently, as he's used his violin training to do something interesting with the instrument, feeding it through looping pedals and other effects. His third album, 2010's Heartland, is the first to be released under his name, rather than as Final Fantasy; a good move, methinks. It's a surprisingly effective release, combining elements of 19th- and 20th-century classical music, modern pop, musical theatre and even a smidgeon of the avant-garde, several tracks being a very long way from easy listening. Lyrically, the whole thing's apparently a concept piece, which Pallett has described as 'preposterous'. Who am I to argue?
Pallett plays Mellotron himself, with flutes on Oh Heartland, Up Yours!, although it's almost impossible to tell whether or not they're real. So; a surprisingly good album, when I'd expected another tedious, modern singer-songwriter effort. Little Mellotron, but that's hardly the point, really.
Fires (2005/06, 46.51) **/T
|Everybody's Gone to War
Learning to Breathe
|All Good People
Year of the Wolf (2011, 39.57) **½/T
|Put Your Hands Up
Turn Me on Again
All Bets Are Off
If I Lost You Now
This Will Be Our Year
Will You Still Love Me
|I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have
After being dicked around by the industry, resulting in a withdrawn album, Nerina Pallot released 2005's Fires on her own label, unsurprisingly, although a slightly remixed version gained a reissue the following year on 14th Floor (thus the two sleeve designs above). Basically, it's straightforward pop/rock with a dancey edge, so not something you're probably going to get too het up about, frankly. It probably does what it does well enough (interesting production tricks include reverse tubular bells on Mr King), but is that bloody Autotune I hear on a few high notes? Patrick Warren plays Chamberlin, with nicely overt flutes and strings on Geek Love, although the strings on Idaho are real.
2011's Year of the Wolf is better all round, the dance influence having seemingly withered into a far more palatable singer-songwriter pop/rock style. Highlight? Has to be the lovely Celtic harp section at the end of All Bets Are Off. Bernard Butler plays what sounds like real Mellotron on two tracks, with upfront, stabbed flute chords on Butterfly (plus real strings) and volume-pedalled strings on I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have.
All in all, Fires is professional, heartfelt, but tedious, with one passable Chamby track, although Year of the Wolf is both much more listenable and more worth it on the tape-replay front.
The Cycle is Complete (1971, 35.41) **½/TTAlpha Omega Apocalypse
Calm Before the Storm
Bruce Palmer is best known as bassist for Buffalo Springfield, although he played with his old compadre Neil Young in the early '80s, too. The Cycle is Complete is his only solo album, and while the influence of Hendrix's 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) is fairly evident on side-long opener Alpha Omega Apocalypse, I'm not at all certain that its spirit is anywhere to be found, probably due to Palmer (and possibly everyone else concerned's) heroic drug intake. The country fiddle is an interesting addition to the already well-worn 'tripped-out jam' format, but, although this actually sounds strangely contemporary in a way, it's still an acid jam that's probably designed (if that isn't too strong a word) to be listened to in the same spirit in which it was made. The rest of the album's pretty similar, albeit shorter, with more tablas and the occasional vocal, but overall, it's pretty stoned stuff, and not that good at it, either.
Edward Roth or Jeff Kaplan (or both?) plays what's likely to be a Chamberlin on closer Calm Before The Storm. A major string part runs right through the ten-minute track, overlaid with that distinctive Chamby solo male voice, which pretty much confirms its use, I'd say, although I suppose it could be 'Tron strings and Chamby voice? In fact, the only instrumentation on the track is acoustic guitar, Palmer's lead bass, tablas and two Chamberlins, making it a surprise minor Chamby classic, especially considering the general tedium induced by the rest of the album.
So; a rather second-rate jamming album with one great (and unexpected) Chamby track, although whether it's worth picking up for that alone can be a decision only you can make, dear reader. As a sad postscript, Palmer's lifestyle caught up with him eventually, and he died of a heart attack in 2004, aged 58.
Paloalto (2000, 53.15) **/T
Throw the Brick
Some Things Must Go This Way
The Mayor and the Seizure Pills
Coming Back From the Sun
|Too Many Questions
Beauty of Disaster
Made of Stone
Paloalto seem to be yet another in a long line of production-line US indie outfits, a bit grunge, a bit fifth-rate folk-rock, a bit, well, a bit what? This is apparently the reality of 'alternative rock', which, I have to say, is the equivalent of much 'alternative comedy', i.e. an alternative to it rather than of it. Even when the overlong Paloalto rocks, it doesn't really, as if the musicians concerned had never actually heard any actual rock music, but had made an album based on a description of it, which they hadn't fully understood. I can't tell you what its 'best tracks' are, as there aren't any; they're all a horrible whiny mess, and I can only urge you not to bother picking this up under any circumstances whatsoever.
The wholly ubiquitous Patrick Warren plays Chamberlin on the record, with flutes and strings on Home, and while it could be hiding in the mix elsewhere, in true Chamby style, it's just as likely to be sustained guitar. Thankfully, the band appear to have called it a day, although they managed to spit out one more slice of tedium before they imploded, 2003's Heroes and Villains, which you can be absolutely sure sounds nothing like The Beach Boys.
No Illusions (1979, 36.15) ***/TTTMust Miss Your Smile
Fire and Rain Songs
No Touch of Illusions
Going by 1979's No Illusions, Pancake were more of a hard rock outfit than the more expected prog, although their female vocalist softened their edges slightly. Saying that, Dream Deltaland and Autumn Leaves are pretty damn' prog, although they never really escape their hard rock background.
Much of the album's keyboard work is rather average, but they get some 'Tron onto five out of six tracks, although it doesn't always sit comfortably with their style. Dream Deltaland has some background strings from Uli Frank earlier in the song, before some seriously grandiose choirs towards the end, rivalling just about anyone's use, really, although they never quite hit those heights again. Otherwise, there are 'Tron strings on Fire And Rain Songs and No Touch Of Illusions, then more choir on Autumn Leaves and I Try, but despite fairly heavy use, the album isn't really any sort of 'classic'. Pick it up if you find it cheap.
Things Are Strange (2004, 50.12) **½/½Legally Tender
Theory is Famous
We Are Louder
Stroke My Genius
If You Were Once Young, Rage
Walk of Shame
Thank Me With Your Hands
My Commodities Have Been Fetishized
Panthers are a Brooklyn-based hardcore band who defy the genre's 'rules' by slowing down and giving their music more of a groove. I'm not saying you'll necessarily like this, just what it is. Their second album, 2004's Things Are Strange, irritated me almost immediately, largely due to Jayson Green's infuriatingly tuneless vocals and the band's insistence on one-dimensional riffing when I'm sure they're capable of actually doing something interesting. And why are the songs so bloody long? Nine tracks in fifty minutes? Four over seven minutes? Closer Weird Birds is about the best of a fairly sorry selection, managing to find a decent riff halfway through and some genuine power, but that's not really much of a recommendation.
Simon Wojan guests on trumpet and keys, including, rather self-evidently, Mellotron, with rather discrete strings, briefly, on Walk Of Shame, though that seems to be your lot. Hardly worth the effort, really. Anyway, not a very interesting album, unless you happen to like post-hardcore stuff by one of its lesser practitioners.
Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know (2000, 52.07) **½/½
|This May Be the Last Song You Ever Hear
These Things Happen
Ever Since the Turn
Apple Pies and Alibis
Neat, Manageable, Piles
Can I Pour You Another Drink, Lover?
Lenny What's Gotten Into You?
Goddamn These Hands (I Let Them Touch You)
|A Face Like That Could Launch a Thousand Ships
Throw Your Body on the Apparatus
Off With Their Heads!
Daddy's Got Your Nose
When You Least Expect it
When (and if) the Big One Hits... I'll Just Meet You There
The Paper Chase are Texas-based producer John Congleton's project, whose first full album, 2000's Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know, is probably best described as 'skronky indie', although I'm sure the band's fans would (and possibly will) object to such an oversimplification. The samples are noisy, the vocals are shouty, the riffs are angular, but not in a good way. Your bag? Maybe, but not mine.
Congleton plays Chamberlin on Ever Since The Turn, with a sustained flute note near the beginning and choir chords here and there that sound more like a Mellotron to my ears. Is this genuine? The flutes last too long for anything except samples or studio trickery, while the choirs don't even sound like a Chamby. I think we should be told. To be honest, I can't really recommend this to any but lovers of the noise/indie crossover area anyway, making it all slightly irrelevant.
Absence (2009, 49.57) */½
|Enemy Among Us
No Sudden Revelations
Are We All Forgotten
Dance on Our Graves
Paper Route (as Americans, doubtless pronounced to rhyme with 'shout' rather than 'shoot') play the worst kind of indie/dance crossover, going by their sole album to date, 2009's Absence. Opener Enemy Among Us is best described as
shit electro/indie, I suppose, the rest of the album drifting between the two styles indiscriminately, making for one of the most depressing listening experiences I've had to suffer all month, which, given that I'm currently exclusively reviewing current releases, really is saying something.
Chad Howat plays Mellotron, with flutes on opener Enemy Among Us, and despite a couple of other probably false alarms, that would appear to be it. Just think, had I known that in advance, I could've skip-played the bulk of this crummy, crummy album. I shall never retrieve those fifty minutes [sob]. And just to add insult to injury, the sleeve's deeply unimaginative, clearly designed by a dullard. Please go away.
Fading Parade (2011, 37.42) **/T
|Do You Really Wanna Know
Do What You Will
I'll See You Later I Guess
White Are the Waves
Wait Till I'm Dead
|Marie Says You've Changed
Papercuts are essentially San Franciscan Jason Quever's solo project, helped out by friends. 2011's Fading Parade is possibly his/their fourth album, doubtless intended as some form of transcendental pop, but coming off as a strange combination of upbeat and dreary: lots of major keys, yet a rather depressing overall sound. Or is it just that I don't like it? I have to say, I really don't like it, actually; in Quever's company, thirty-seven minutes sounds more like an hour, his wispy, breathy, occasionally falsetto vocals making me gnash my teeth in irritation. No, there are no best tracks.
Someone (probably keys man David Enos) plays (real?) Mellotron cellos on Chills, actually taking a solo in the middle of the track. Welcomingly unusual Mellotron use, but pretty much unrecommendable otherwise. Maybe you have to be a hipster to get this kind of stuff.
Le Souffle Noir (1981, 43.41) ***½/TLes Chevaliers de Rolon
La Cité des Golodhrims
Tres Précieux Tresor de Gollum
Le Spectre des Minas Morgul
Le Dernier Chant des Elfes
Les Havres Gris
Didier Paquette's Le Souffle Noir ('the black breath') is a lesser-known entrant in the 'music inspired by Lord Of The Rings' category, the title referring, of course, to one of the Nazgûls (Ringwraiths)' secret weapons. Er, not that I've actually read the book or anything, you understand... Musically, the album veers between mostly instrumental progressive rock (Arwen Normaire's treated vocals being the sole exception) with a slightly Germanic feel, and an even more Teutonic electronic style (notably on the brief Tres Précieux Tresor De Gollum). I have to say that none of it exactly inspires image of Tolkien's great work; Bo Hansson's Lord of the Rings does a far better job of that. Saying that, we all see and hear different things in literary works, so who's to say that this album has no connection with the book?
Paquette's Mellotron work is actually quite limited, with a large proportion of the album's keys coming from still relatively-new (thankfully pre-digital) polysynths and more traditional monosynths. The most obvious 'Tron comes within the album's first minute, with a short string part on Les Chevaliers De Rolon, with Le Dernier Chant Des Elfes having no more than some distant, heavily-treated choirs. Both Arwen Normaire and Le Spectre Des Minas Morgul have something similar, but with note-lengths way over the eight-second mark, while I have no idea what it is, it's most unlikely to be a Mellotron.
So; not a bad album, but no classic, and given its relative rarity, certainly not worth the large sums some dealers may wish to charge you. If, however, you find it cheap (it does happen), or you get the chance to obtain a CD-R, go for it.