David Peel & the Apple Band
Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come
Peter & Gordon
Duane Peters & Pascal Briggs
Tom Petty (& the Heartbreakers)
Phantom's Divine Comedy
Phenomenal Handclap Band
Phil & John
vs (1993, 46.15) ***/½
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Vitalogy (1994, 55.22) ***/½
Spin the Black Circle
Not for You
Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me
Like Alice in Chains (an ex-glam outfit) and the Stone Temple Pilots, what was it about Peal Jam that makes them inherently 'grunge'? If 'grunge' was Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Nirvana, why was it also dodgy metal bands in lumberjack shirts and no makeup? (That's NO makeup, OK?). Actually, Pearl Jam are better than AiC or STP, which isn't to say that they're particularly good; everything's relative, you know. They certainly sucked a dead dog's dick when I saw them supporting Neil Young back in '93; what possessed him to take them on as his backing band for an album and tour I will never know.
Anyway, vs was their second effort, after the critically-acclaimed (why?) Ten (why?), and sees them already in a musical rut, doing that 'rock with emotions' thing, somewhere in between Led Zep on an exceedingly off day and, er, Neil Young, I suppose. While better than expected, I'm afraid I find this stuff terribly unexciting; not a patch on their influences, anyway. Faint (uncredited) 'Tron strings on W.M.A. from Brendan O'Brien, but that's yer lot.
Follow-up Vitalogy is both better and worse than its predecessor, with full-on punk like Spin The Black Circle contrasting sharply with muckabouts such as Bugs. Guitarist Stone Gossard is credited with 'Tron, and although I remember hearing some brass, oddly, on the track on a previous listen, it seems to've disappeared, with the only audible keyboard being a (deliberately) badly-played harmonium.
Rumours have it that 2002's Riot Act also features 'Tron, but close listening has proved this to be fallacious. So; I'd find it difficult to recommend Pearl Jam (OK, I DO find it difficult), and their Mellotron use is so utterly minimal as to be almost non-existent. Go elsewhere.
Under the Big Tree (1997, 63.20) ***½/T
Mouths and Frogs
Writer in a Rainstorm
The Teepee Morgue
Into the Opera House
Boulder and Cactus
|The Mountain, the Mirror, and the Pocket Watch
The Candle Card Game
Portrait/Bow in the Cabin
Where Do We Connect?
Finale: Into the Trunk
Nick Peck is the ex-keyboard player for rather lightweight US proggers Episode, who released a handful of albums on various formats between the late '80s and mid '90s, and whose career peak probably came when they played at Progfest 94, along with luminaries such as the mighty Änglagård and Anekdoten. Peck has recorded several solo albums, although Under the Big Tree confuses the issue by not actually mentioning him anywhere on the cover, though as it's so obviously his album, I feel justified in crediting it to him. Lyrically/conceptually, the album is based on a profound experience of Peck's during a lengthy meditation session, while musically, it's in the 'modern prog' category, rather than Episode's typical neo-prog. The album features eleven guest musicians, including two other Episoders, and while I wouldn't put it up there with, say, Spock's Beard, it's a worthy effort in the genre.
Peck plays a variety of keys, old and new, principally a grand piano and Hammond B3, but there's a couple of snatches of Mellotron choir on Portrait/Bow In The Cabin and Finale: Into The Trunk, but nowhere near enough to make it worth buying on those grounds. If you like modern US prog, there's a good chance you'll get something from Under the Big Tree, but more 'trad' proggers might be better off going somewhere else.
Don't Get Too Comfortable (1998, 42.03) **½/T
Big Blue Sky
Greatest Show on Earth
Some Day Soon
Pee Shy were the Floridian duo of vocalist/accordionist Cindy Wheeler and clarinettist/keyboardist Jenny Juristo, with other musicians coming and going. Don't Get Too Comfortable was their second and last album, best described as, well, indie, I suppose. It features both Wheeler's accordion and Juristo's clarinet on several tracks, making them distinct from their contemporaries, although the album doesn't have a great deal to recommend it to non-fans of the genre.
Brad Jones plays Mellotron, with a melodic flute part on Greatest Show On Earth, although I suspect the album's cellos are real. Generally speaking, you're probably not going to like this, unless you've found your way here as a fan of the band. Better than the subsequent non-genre of 'landfill indie', it still requires the listener to be tolerant of the low-fi aesthetic and for a blatant disregard for the conventions of a tight rhythm section. One passable 'Tron track.
Unofficial MySpace page
Bring Back the Beatles (1977, 46.57) *½/T½
|Beatles Pledge of Allegiance
Bring Back the Beatles
Turn Me on
The Wonderful World of Abbey Road
Apple Beatle Foursome
|The Ballad of James Paul McCartney
With a Little Help From My Friends
My Fat Budgie
Keep John Lennon in America
(The John Lennon Interview)
I've pondered at length upon the point of David Peel & the Apple Band's Bring Back the Beatles, as I clearly have nothing better to do with my life. It seems the estimable Mr. Peel didn't either, as the independently-released album must have consumed a considerable quantity of resources, although going by the cheap typescript on the rear of the sleeve, maybe not that many. Basically, this is a rather odd Beatles tribute, consisting of Peel's songs, all of which reference the Fab Four in one way or another, all sung in Peel's highly unappealing, flat tones, for no readily apparent reason whatsoever. To be fair, Peel's a street performer/political activist, on the eccentric side of an eccentric field, although I'm not sure that excuses this abortion of a record, although some reviewers see it as parody rather than shite.
Musically, we're looking at a series of poor Beatles pastiches (Lollipop Fish, the title track) intercut with decidedly average folk-rock material (The Wonderful World Of Abbey Road, The Ballad Of James Paul McCartney) and (get this) rewrites of Beatles-related material (Imagine, With A Little Help From My Friends); believe me, you've ain't heard nuthin' till you've heard Peel's 'reinterpretation' of the latter, with the original lyrics 'sung' to a new, vastly inferior tune. My Fat Budgie is apparently a Lennon lyric, to which I can only say, "On a bloody off-day", and I can't say Peel's music helps its cause any. I can only imagine (ho ho) that the whole thing was basically a scam, attempting to draw people in with the Beatles titles on the sleeve, set to new 'tunes' in a doubtless failed attempt to avoid paying too many royalties, although I can't imagine this sold that many copies, or was that widely available. Or was it? Or was it simply the product of a deeply eccentric mind and should be taken in that spirit?
American sessioneer Les(lie) Fradkin plays guitar, bass, assorted keys and Mellotron here, and has listed his contributions for me (thanks, Les). Nothing obvious on the title track, although Les says it's strings, background strings and apparently flutes on Coconut Grove, more strings (and apparently flutes again) on Imagine and flutes (and apparently strings!) on Turn Me On, none of which exactly set the world alight, to be honest, making this rather less than essential on the 'Tron front.
If I'm being generous, I'd describe this as a 'curio', although a more honest summation might be 'crap'. I can't imagine (ho ho again) at whom, exactly, this disaster was aimed. Mid-'70s US Beatles fans desperate for anything referencing their heroes? (See: the bizarre Klaatu debacle). I mean, who else would buy this rubbish? Its *½ rating is more for its laugh value than anything else, although it's not even really that funny, just sad, not to mention utterly interminable (the execrable Keep John Lennon In America is almost nine minutes of the title repeated ad nauseam with minor variations). The only thing here of any real interest is a brief Lennon street interview, where it seems he not only met Peel, but recorded with him. Christ, he's not on this record, is he? Maybe I'm being unkind and this is regarded as a lost classic of outsider music, but I doubt it. Fradkin's Mellotronic input is pretty minor, too, so I can't even say it's worth picking up on those grounds. Avoid. Please.
Marburg (1972, 40.00) ****/T½The Clown and the Queen
Rhapsody (1975, 39.53) ***½/TRhapsody
Frost of an Alien Darkness
Desert in Your Mind
Paris the Past
Only a Star (1977, 39.58) ***/TCount Down
Only a Star
Across the Universe
Trailors in Movie Halls
Phoebus is Dead
Pell Mell (not to be confused with the American avant-garde outfit of the same name) were one of many German progressive bands who 'grew out' of their Krautrock beginnings, becoming more symphonic along the way. Their debut, Marburg, named for their home town, is an intriguing mix of slightly old-fashioned UK 'proto-prog' and German Krautrock, with pastoral, organ-led passages coexisting peacefully with bizarre multi-vocal parts like Focus on speed (Friend). Another occasional influence is early Pink Floyd, particularly in the organ part in Alone; in fact, the Floyd seem to be a constant in the Krautrock arena, with several bands obviously getting stoned to A Saucerful of Secrets on a regular basis. Anyway, the band's violin use is notable, sometimes confusing the ear as to the album's Mellotron content, to the point where all I can hear is a string part under the violin on Moldau and a similar part doubling the organ on Alone.
Album no.2, From the New World, is more progressive (and 'Tron-free), and 1975's Rhapsody (with co-writing credits for Liszt and Rachmaninoff) is full-on prog, complete with eccentric interjections like the Can Can (yes, that one). Did you know it was written by Liszt? The band were a six-piece by this time, and with three people credited with keyboards, it's impossible to know who plays the rather minimal Mellotron on the album, so take your pick from Thomas Schmitt, Ralph 'Flipper' Lippmann or Cherry Hochdörfer, although my money's on Schmitt, one of the band's two main men, along with vocalist Rudolf Schön. Anyway, the only audible evidence is a few seconds of choir on part 1 of Rhapsody itself, Frost Of An Alien Darkness, and a short choir part, repeated once, on Paris The Past. Not a bad album, but not one for 'Tron fanatics.
'77's Only a Star was noticeably more straightforward, in keeping with the times. I've seen comparisons with Kansas, and there's certainly a couple of violin parts that recall Robby Steinhardt's style, but overall, it sounds like a mainstream version of their earlier sound, although there's still quite a bit of classical influence, particularly on side two. Again, very little Mellotron (definitely played by Schmitt this time), with faint choirs on Disillusion and the rather ropey Across The Universe (not the Beatles' song).
So; Marburg and From the New World are their best albums, although the 'Tron on their debut is far from earth-shattering. Rhapsody has noticeably better 'Tron, and Only a Star has its moments, but none of these are really worth it on the Mellotron front.
La Stagione per Morire (1972, 33.51) ***/TT½Paura
Cosa Aspetti ad Andar Via
Vent'anni di Galera
La Stagione per Morire
E Dire Cha a Maggio
Che Poi Non e Vero
Mauro Pelosi is an Italian singer-songwriter from Rome, who, for a brief period in the early '70s, recorded in the semi-progressive style popular at the time. He debuted with 1972's La Stagione per Morire ('A Season to Die'), a dark, embittered-sounding album, of the kind where not understanding the language makes a major difference to one's appreciation. While loosely 'progressive', this is never going to seriously challenge the big Italian players, or even most of the smaller ones, most of its material (nine tracks in under thirty-five minutes, note) being lyric-driven and acoustic-based.
Mike Logan and Il Balletti di Bronzo's Gianni Leone play Mellotron, with limpid string and flute parts on Vent'Anni Di Galera, more powerful strings in the closing seconds of the title track, with more of the same on E Dire Cha A Maggio and closer Suicidio, although the flute part opening E Dire Cha A Maggio is clearly real. So; no classic, at least on the prog front, but a decent enough listen, with some nice Mellotron. Put it on your 'B' list.
Do Right Man (1994, 37.10) ****/½
|The Dark End of the Street
Cry Like a Man
It Tears Me Up
You Left the Water Running
Do Right Woman Do Right Man
Memphis Women and Chicken
He'll Take Care of You
|I'm Your Puppet
Where There's a Will There's a Way
Dan Penn, of course, is best known as a songwriter and producer, often in collaboration with Spooner Oldham; a list of artists who've recorded Penn's songs would take me the rest of the day to compile, and it's only 10.30 a.m. Suffice to say; Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris... Penn prefers a back-room role, so despite starting his career around 1960, 1994's Do Right Man is only his second solo album, where he revisits some of his most famous songs, not least opener The Dark End Of The Street. This is one of those albums that, even if you're not a fan of Penn's southern soul/blues style, it's almost impossible not to like, or at the very least, respect; it just kind of... strolls by, minding its own business, while gently letting you know it's written and performed by one of the major American songwriting talents.
Spooner Oldham turns up, of course, playing keyboards, including plenty of lovely Rhodes and Hammond work, and no bloody modern synths. Credited with Mellotron, it's only even slightly apparent on He'll Take Care Of You, with a very background string part, so you're not going to be rushing out and buying this on that account. Nevertheless, an album stuffed full of soul classics played and sung by their author. More please, Mr. Penn.
Michael Penn (US) see:
How Do You Live (1998, 35.51) **½/T
How Do You Live
Here I Go
Not Lovin' Anybody
Save My Life
House of Blues
Fool Come Down
Michelle Penn plays a kind of Americana-influenced singer-songwriter thing, which means (naturally) she's played Lilith Fair. To be honest, 1998's How do You Live is a pretty unexciting album, but I'm sure I should be concentrating on the lyrics, rather than the run-of-the-mill music. Trouble is, I almost invariably listen to the music first... It's not rubbish, by any means, but there's nothing here that grabbed my attention, unlike the best artists of her genre.
Aaron Swihart plays Mellotron, with flutes and strings on Drown, plus one or two possible (though unlikely) string sightings elsewhere. So; a somewhat average record, although I can't fault Ms. Penn's enthusiasm. She's made one more definite 'Tron album, 2001's irritatingly txtspk 2 Good 4 U, or is it meant to be referencing Prince?
Pentwater (1977, 37.31/50.19) ***½/T
Living Room Displays
|[CD changes track order slightly and adds:
Prelude to War
Out of the Abyss (1992, recorded 1973-76, 62.41) ****/T½EM 54
Cause & Effects
Gwen's Madrigal (the Violation Version)
Kill the Bunny
Ab-Dul (2007, recorded 1972-2006, 60.26) ****/T½
|It Feels Like Stealing
Luncheon at the Parade
Kill the Bunny
The Tale of Clear Fog
Sealed in Today
Across the Mediterranean
Somehow Feelin' Fine
The Tale of Clear Fog (Reprise)
|The Cry of Eugene
Turn the Key
It Feels Like 3 a.m.
Pentwater were one of a surprisingly large number of US prog bands who couldn't even get a foot in the door, managing one self-financed album, and never breaking out of their own region, in this case, the Illinois area, I believe (see: Leviathan, Lift et al.). Pentwater crept out in 1977, but only found its way onto CD in 2003, replete with four bonus tracks and a slightly revised running order, making it awkward reviewing the original tracklisting. It's a good album, while not really displaying the odder side of their repertoire, opening with the average hard rock of AM (moved to track 5 on the CD, swapping places with Frustration Mass), and rarely moving into non-(prog)mainstream territory from then on. This isn't to say there's anything wrong with the album, of course, just that it doesn't especially stand out from the pack. There isn't that much Mellotron to be heard here; I don't believe the band owned one, so keyboard man Ken Kappel would probably have decided where to use it pretty much on the spot in the studio. There are a couple of string chords on Orphan Girl and Gwen's Madrigal, with more serious use on Palendrode, but that seems to be it, with nothing on the CD's bonus tracks.
Given that very few people would've heard their sole album at the time, it was a wonder of the modern age that an archive disc, Out of the Abyss, appeared in 1992, triggering interest in the band among the newly-organised progressive community (praise be for the Internet...). It contained nine of the 54 (!) songs the band wrote in their lifetime, most of which are now, sadly, presumably lost to the ravages of time. It seems that their more interesting material was kept on the shelf at the time, so going by this disc alone you'd probably describe their sound as complex, driving prog, with Gentle Giant influences, amongst others, reminding me slightly of another obscure US outfit, Yezda Urfa. There isn't a bad track on the album, although some are, of course, better than others; definitely worth hearing for any fan of the genre.
Kappel is listed as playing a wide range of 'boards, but going by the rehearsal pic in the CD booklet, he probably owned the cheaper end of the list, with the one highly visible instrument being an Elka string synth. Oh well, at least they had the nous to borrow/hire some good kit for recording, unlike other bands I can think of (how much better would Fruupp have sounded if they'd hired a 'Tron?). Saying that, the Mellotron gets very little use indeed, with short (but intense) bursts of strings on EM 54 and Gwen's Madrigal (The Violation Version), and slightly more of the same on The Journeys, so this is quite a long way from being a 'Tron classic, although it's a damn' good prog album, especially if you're into the more 'twisty/turny' end of the genre.
Like many of their contemporaries, the band reformed in the 2000s and recorded some new (and old) material, combining it with more archive recordings, releasing the composite album as Ab-Dul in 2007. Bad news first: the cover. What are you thinking of, guys? Even if it's meant as a joke, it's possibly the ugliest prog sleeve design I've ever seen; maybe I'm missing something. Anyway, the good news: it's excellent. It seems a few more of those 54 songs have now been made available, which has to be good news, and while neither of the newly-written tracks are exactly jaw-dropping, nor are they offensive, which is a distinct result. I'm not sure if anything here is as adventurous as some of the Out of the Abyss material, but most of it is more satisfying than most of their original album. As always, very little 'Tron, but given the number of different sessions over which it was recorded, that's hardly surprising. Near-as-dammit identical flute parts on the exceedingly short and near-as-dammit identical The Tale of Clear Fog and The Tale of Clear Fog (Reprise), plus a monophonic string line (along with a real violin) on Chasing, only just tipping the album over the one-star level.
So; three good albums, though the archive material is definitely more adventurous. Not a lot of 'Tron on any of them, to be honest, but they're all worth hearing for prog fans of all persuasions.
Spare Time Machine (2007, 46.06) ***½/T
|The Mischief of Cloud Six
Ms. Wilhelmina and Her Hat
Go for Blue
Last of the Great Explorers
Pussy Cat Rock
Lucky the Blind Vs. Vacuum Cleaning Monster
Captain Carter's Fathoms
|Forgotten Knights Prelude
Queen of the Wave (2012, 48.08) ***/½
A Night and a Day
Temple of Unfed Fire
In the Cave
|My Flaming Thirst
Riders on the First Ark
Formed in the mid-'90s, Pepe Deluxé were the electronica duo of Vellu Maurola and Tomi Paajanen, or DJ Slow and JA-Jazz, although by their third album (minus Maurola), 2007's Spare Time Machine (ho ho), they had become the nearest I've heard in years to an original psych outfit. Influences range from soul (opener The Mischief Of Cloud Six) through a psych/electronica combo (Ms. Wilhelmina And Her Hat, several others) to that just-pre-psych style that you hear in the party scene in slightly clueless '60s films. There are more ideas here than even a couple of plays can properly assimilate; suffice to say, while it isn't all great, there should be enough here to keep you guessing for a while. Ville Riippa apparently plays Mellotron and Chamberlin, although where, exactly, he sourced the latter in Finland isn't known. On an M-Tron disc? Let's hope not, but it's all a bit suspect. Anyway, we get a few seconds of strings on Lucky The Blind Vs. Vacuum Cleaning Monster and a major Chamby string part, plus flute (it's not Mellotron and don't think it's the album's real one) on Captain Carter's Fathoms (seemingly based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars), although either machine could easily be on several other tracks, hidden away in the mix.
Five years on, Queen of the Wave is, somehow, rather less appealing. Less variety? Not sure, but the band have changed in the interim and not towards my taste. Better tracks include mid-'60s-esque opener Queenswave, the energetic Go Supersonic and the skronky electronica of Grave Prophecy, but the band have clearly shifted towards the early '60s in their influence base and away from psych. Pity. Paul Malmström is credited with Mellotron, but I'd love to know where; are those Mellotron strings on Go Supersonic? If so, I heavily suspect samples, but with so little to go on, this'll have to stay here, at least for the moment.
Anyway, Spare Time Machine's slightly dubious tape-replay content isn't why you should try to hear it, but the music is. Not a classic, but well worth hearing, although I'm having trouble saying the same for its successor.
|7" (1968) ***/T½
I Won't Be There
Keeping My Head Above Water
Peppermint Circus? Yup, yet another obscure late '60s British psych act who've only really come to light again due to a slew of compilations of lesser-known efforts from the era. I haven't heard the 'A' of their first (of four, surprisingly) singles, I Won't Be There, but the flip, Keeping My Head Above Water, is a pretty decent number, described on bassist Alan Tallis' website as 'the B side that should have been the A side'.
Presumably the band's keyboard player at the time (possibly Clive Hartley) plays a perfectly pleasant, if unexciting string part that runs through most of Keeping My Head..., adding to its 'worth hearing' status. Thankfully, those nice Past & Present people have included it on part two of their estimable Piccadilly Sunshine series, the 'A' being on part one.
No Man's Land (1975, 38.31/49.43) ***½/TTTTT
|Sun Sets Sail
Demon of Love
Empires of Steel
Lady of the Morning
Garden of Death
Run Through Your Life
At Last a Crew
Demon of Love
After Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come disintegrated following the release of the wonderful Journey, US keyboard player Victor Peraino somehow retained the name, releasing No Man's Land in '75 under the name Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come. It doesn't sound a million miles away from Journey, if you could imagine that album being played by a full band and sung by an American (go on - try). There don't seem to be any genuinely great songs on the record (although Lady Of The Morning's pretty good), but all the material's reasonable, in a hard rock/prog vein, although some of the tuning discrepancies between synths and 'Tron are enough to set your teeth on edge.
Peraino's Mellotron use is, again, quite magnificent, with lashings of strings, choir, cellos and brass all over the album. There are too many individual highlights to name, although Lady Of The Morning has especially good use on all fronts. Peraino frequently used two sounds at once (strings and choir being popular choices), although I doubt if he was able to reproduce this live. To my knowledge, his Mellotron ended up on the West Coast with Syn-Phonic label owner Greg Walker, who occasionally hires it out for gigs or recording. So; not a bad album, and it's finally out on CD, but an absolute Mellotron Monster, so highly recommended on those grounds.
Incidentally, the bonus tracks on the CD are from Peraino's 1981 EP, We're Next, in a very similar style to the album, despite being from several years later. Unfortunately, they've been 'mastered' from rather tatty vinyl, complete with distortion and considerable surface noise, with no obvious attempt made at de-noising. The tracks aren't bad (OK, Victor's version of Arthur's Fire is rather ordinary), although only two of them are actually new songs, Demon Of Love being on the album in its original form. Practically no 'Tron, with only a couple of choir chords at the end of Demon Of Love, although I'm quite surprised there's any at all. Anyway, you won't find this on vinyl, so you've got 'em whether you want 'em or not.
See: Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come
Oceans of Art (1981, 40.32) ****/TT
|Morning Songe for Peace
The Second Fantasy
Oceans of Art
The Jetty Incident
Rudy Perrone was guitarist with Cathedral (US version), playing on the sole album from their original incarnation, 1978's semi-legendary Stained Glass Stories. 1981's Oceans of Art is his only solo album from the period, surprisingly progressive given its relatively late date, built around Perrone's superb acoustic guitar work, most tracks also featuring vocals, in case you were getting the impression this was a typical 'guitarist's' album. This approach is abandoned towards the end of the album, with the new wave/prog (uneasy bedfellows, as you can imagine) crossovers of To You and closer The Adolescent and Violent Silence, like a more compact version of Cathedral's sound, making for some welcome variety on an otherwise slightly samey release.
Cathedral's keyboard player, Tom Doncourt (Quiet, Fauve Museum), adds Mellotron to three tracks, with string section and choir on the title track, string section on The Cusp and regular strings on Violent Silence, enough to make their mark on the album, without overwhelming it. Rumour has it that this will get a proper CD issue sometime soon, although there's no mention of the project on Perrone's site. As a result, I've no idea where you might find this, but if you can track a copy down, it's worth the effort.
In London for Tea (1967, 30.05) **½/T
|London at Night
I'm Your Puppet
Here Comes That Hurt Again
You've Got Your Troubles
Sally Go Round the Roses
Sunday for Tea
Red, Cream and Velvet
|Stop, Look and Listen
Please Help Me, I'm Falling
Goodbye My Love
Peter & Gordon, a.k.a. Peter Asher (brother of Jane, relevantly then Paul McCartney's girlfriend) and Gordon Waller, were sounding like men out of time by 1967, as their lightweight harmony pop sank slowly in a sea of psychedelia. Macca wrote several of their hits, sometimes under a pseudonym, but his interest in the duo was probably on the wane by this point and, going by their (unbelievably) ninth album in four years, In London for Tea, they'd become pastiches of themselves anyway.
The album was presumably aimed at the American audience, as I can't see the Brits taking its picture-postcard view of our capital particularly seriously; I've read that it wasn't even released in the U.K., which would make some kind of sense. I'm sure the Suits looked at Herman's Hermits' massive transatlantic success, playing the quirky Brit bit to the hilt while laughing all the way to the bank and thought, "If it works for them..." However, without an ersatz Peter Noone, any chance of reproducing their feat in the long-term was doomed from the outset, I suspect. It's not a bad album as such, just not an especially good one, with too many so-so songs (see: the actually pretty godawful Please Help Me, I'm Falling), although a few psych/chamber pop touches like the harpsichord on the ridiculous Sunday For Tea (their last hit of any kind) redeem it slightly.
Mellotron from an anonymous session musician, with brass and strings on The Jokers, although all the album's orchestrations are real. So, why this one track? Who knows? It enhances a passable song well enough, but is pretty inessential in the grand scheme of things (then again, so's this site, for what it's worth). Unless you're a big fan of orchestrated '60s pop (yes, I know you're out there), you're probably not going to go a bundle on this, although it has its occasional moments, its lone 'Tron track among them.
|7" (2003, 10.35) ***/0
Cold, Cold Ground
Duane "The Master of Disaster" Peters seems to be known more as a professional skateboarder than as a musician, although he was mainman of late-period American punks U.S. Bombs, while Pascal Briggs seems to have no skating background. Er... The pair collaborated on Suicide Child in 2003, a brutal song played in an almost-acceptable style, while the flip, their version of a Tom Waits song, is as endearingly nihilistic as you'd expect.
Jens Schilling is credited with Mellotron on the 'A', although the only thing it could even vaguely be is the background choir part running through the song, which, to be honest, sound more like actual backing vocals to my ears. Like Johnny Thunders? Stiv Bators? Richard Hell? Get hold of a copy of Suicide Child.
Official Duane Peters site
Pascal Briggs' MySpace
Clear to Venus (2001, 45.28) *½/0
|No More Faith
Mary Picked the Roses
Isn't it Love
Song & Dance
Hold Up My Arms
Steady As She Goes
Let Me Sing
|Alaska Or Bust
Why Walk When You Can Fly
Land of the Free
Andrew Peterson is (wait for it) a Christian singer-songwriter whose lyrics (gasp!) proclaim his undying love for and allegiance to a wholly imaginary deity for which there is not one shred of actual, real, hold-in-your-hand proof. Utterly bizarre, although I believe over half the Earth's population has a similar, irrational belief. Education, education, education... Peterson's second album, 2001's Clear to Venus, is a fairly typical God-bothering effort, although, in fairness (why?), some of its contents are less offensive than others (Isn't It Love, Hold Up My Arms), but the bulk of the record is, to be honest, an utter dog.
Glenn Rosenstein (Sarah Jahn, the horrible Plumb) allegedly plays Mellotron on Hold Up My Arms, but whatever he adds to the track is entirely inaudible, drowned out by the Hammond. More CCM with no obvious Mellotron? I can't even be arsed to give my usual damning pronouncement.
Wildflowers (1994, 62.49) ***½/T
You Don't Know How it Feels
Time to Move on
You Wreck Me
It's Good to Be King
Only a Broken Heart
Don't Fade on Me
|Hard on Me
Cabin Down Below
To Find a Friend
A Higher Place
House in the Woods
Crawling Back to You
Wake Up Time
Echo [as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers] (1999, 61.58) ***½/½
|Room at the Top
Counting on You
Free Girl Now
Accused of Love
Won't Last Long
|Billy the Kid
I Don't Wanna Fight
This One's for Me
About to Give Out
One More Day, One More Night
Tom Petty's had a slightly odd career, not releasing his debut album until 1976, despite being born in 1950, making his spiritual home some years earlier than his first flush of success. He survived the horrors of the '80s remarkably well, even managing a great psych single in '85 with Don't Come Around Here No More, and gained a career boost from being the youngest member of the Travel(l)ing Wilburys later that decade. The '90s saw him taking on the role of Rock Elder Statesman, without the pompousness that so often goes with the title, not to mention no appreciable drop in songwriting quality.
1994's Wildflowers is Petty's second solo album, though most of us would be hard-pushed to spot the difference, especially considering that most of the Heartbreakers are present and correct, including keys man Benmont Tench. It's a good album without being groundbreaking, covering all Petty's bases from fully acoustic (Don't Fade On Me) to all-out rock (Honey Bee) and every stage in between. Tench plays Mellotron on a couple of tracks, with quite upfront flutes and more background cellos on Only A Broken Heart and a weirder, less overt flute part on Crawling Back To You.
Echo saw him back with the Heartbreakers officially, though sonically, it heavily resembles Wildflowers, essentially being his take on what's become known as Americana. I actually found the album a little dreary in places, though Petty fans will almost certainly love it; it certainly sounds like a Tom Petty album, which beats just about anything being produced by anyone new, sad to say. Definite Chamberlin from Tench on closer One More Day, One More Night (flutes) and possible strings on Rhino Skin, but, as usual, it's hard to tell.
So; two Tom Petty albums, both predictable, but in a good way. More tape-replay on Wildflowers than Echo, should that be your buying criterion (and don't try to pretend it isn't; I've got the e-mails to prove it). n.b. Petty's 2009 four-disc The Live Anthology (or a greatly expanded five-disc 'deluxe' ed.) has Tench credited with Chamberlin, but not only is there no audio evidence for it (even on the one tape-replay track from the above albums included on the set, Crawling Back To You), but would he really haul a piece of equipment like that around on tour in the 2000s? Really? For maybe one song a night? Sorry; strikes me as an over-enthusiastic copywriter error, but if anyone can prove me wrong...
Dreamland (1996, 39.33) ***/½
|Walkin' After Midnight
Hey Sweet Man
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write
Myself a Letter
(Getting Some) Fun Out of Life
La Vie en Rose
Always a Use
In case you haven't heard of her, Madeleine Peyroux is a contemporary jazz singer, though more in a 'contemporary singer tackling traditional jazz' than a modern interpreter. 1996's Dreamland is actually her debut, a perfectly acceptable album of mostly piano-led 'late-nite' jazz, Peyroux's voice perfect for the style. She actually writes three of its tracks, although I'd guess the bulk of the remainder are lesser-known (at least to me) standards.
Charlie Giordano plays Mellotron, with a muted string part on the title track that couldn't be anything else, unless it's, er, samples. Don't think so, but they were easily available by this point, so who knows? Anyway, perfectly good at what it does, but not something I shall find myself playing again any time soon.
Phantom Planet is Missing (1998, 34.41) ****/TTTT
|I Was Better Off
So I Fall Again
Can't Take it
The Local Black and Red
Don't Get Down
Dying of Silence
Down in a Second
|Lisa (Does it Hurt You?)
Good job Jim Rigberg reviewed this; I've never heard of Jason Schwarztman...
While every review I've ever read concerning this band comments on Jason Schwarztman's acting (and that Francis Ford Coppola is his uncle and Talia Shire is his mom), none of them note that Phantom Planet Is Missing actually was released months before Schwartman's film debut in Rushmore. It would not surprise me if the omission of this fact incorrectly leads readers to believe that Phantom Planet is some kind of gimmick band put together to enhance Schwartzman's burgeoning film career. I suppose it doesn't help that, at the time Phantom Planet is Missing came out, no member of the band was older than 21 and lead singer Alex Greenwald is a model.
Clearly, Phantom Planet is no gimmick. I happened to pick up Phantom Planet Is Missing the week it was released after listening to the first three songs at a Tower Records 'CD bar'. (Consequently, while most people seeing Phantom Planet for the first time likely saw Schwartzman and said "Hey, its the guy from Rushmore", I saw Rushmore and said "Hey, its the drummer from Phantom Planet!"). The first three songs were that good and the rest of the CD really didn't disappoint either. The band plays earnest art-pop - I'm certain their influences would include the usual suspects (Beatles, ELO, old David Bowie, Cheap Trick, XTC etc.). Phantom Planet has a unique sonic 'attack' in that its three guitarists - Greenwald, Jacques Brautbar and Darren Robinson - really take the time to come up with great guitar 'arrangements'. Rarely do all three play the same thing at the same time and they come up with a great variety of guitar sounds. As good as it sounds on the CD, it's even more effective live.
Adding to the mix on Phantom Planet is Missing is a copious contribution of Chamberlin courtesy of the ubiquitous Patrick Warren. Opener I Was Better Off is laden with flutes and strings as well as what sounds (to my untrained ears anyway) like either slide or Hawaiian guitar during the chorus. Flutes are used effectively to punch up the chorus in So I Fall Again and there is a great little cello melody weaving in and out of the verses in the power-poppy Recently Distressed. Possibly the tape-replay highlight of the CD is Warren's great string waltz that wraps up the end of Can't Take It. Also of note is the great vibe part in Down In A Second.
Producer Mitchell Froom of all people unbelievably opted not to use Mellotron/Chamberlin on Phantom Planet's second CD, The Guest. The few songs I've heard are very good, though, augmented as they are with real strings etc. Incidentally, according to Allmusic.com, Schwartzman left Phantom Planet two months ago (August 2003). As he did not appear to write any of the music, I'm not all that concerned that the band's creative abilities will be horribly affected by his departure, although reviewers, I suppose, will start referring to Phantom Planet as his former band.
At any rate, if you like crunchy (but happy) arty power pop, pick this up, although I can certainly recommend it for its Mellotronic (okay, Chamberlinic) content as well.
Phantom's Divine Comedy, Part 1 (1974, 39.23) **½/TTales From a Wizard
Calm Before the Storm
Half a Life
Spiders Will Dance (on Your Face While You Sleep)
Black Magic, White Magic
Stand Beside My Fire
Welcome to Hell
I listened to Phantom's Divine Comedy, Part 1 before I read any online reviews, but still managed to come to the same conclusion as most other reviewers, i.e. it's a rather ropey Doors pastiche with a vocalist who sounds slightly like Jimbo on a bad day. The music is basically piano-driven slightly hard rock, with few memorable features, while the lyrics are by and large preposterous rubbish, although at least they're amusing in places. I've no idea why they called themselves what they did, let alone why they used pseudonyms like Phantom, X, Y and Z, unless it was a semi-deliberate attempt to pull the wool over the public's eyes (see: Klaatu). The weirdest thing about the whole project is that is was actually released by Capitol, rather than just creeping out on some two-bit independent. What were they thinking? The Doors?
All in all, this is a bit dismal. Plagiarism is rife; Stand Beside My Fire could be accused of ripping off Hawkwind's Magnu, had that appeared a year earlier (!), and Welcome To Hell cops lyrics from Sabbath's NIB. I sat through most of the album thinking, "No bloody 'Tron here", until the uncredited strings on Welcome To Hell, possibly played by the mysterious 'Z', who may or may not be otherwise known as Mike DeMartino. So; pretty tedious, even to fans of the era, with just one passable 'Tron track. Avoid.
The Phenomenal Handclap Band (2009, 66.10) **½/T½
|The Journey to Serra da Estrela
All of the Above
Give it a Rest
15 to 20
Dim the Lights
I Been Born Again
The Circle is Broken
The Phenomenal Handclap Band play a confusing mélange of styles, referencing Motown, '70s funk and even Santana into a funky stew of psychedelic soul, filtered through modern indie which, frankly, does it few favours. Their eponymous 2009 debut will probably go down very well indeed in some quarters, particularly those equipped with a dancefloor, although lovers of even slightly more 'serious' music are unlikely to go a bundle on this, possibly excepting lengthy psychedelic closer The Circle Is Broken, which is actually halfway decent. It might be more palatable if track lengths had been kept down, or a couple of songs chopped off the album's length, but as it, is, not only does its style irritate, but it goes on seemingly forever, making for a double-whammy of finger-drumming, and not to its rhythmic intricacies.
Daniel Collás plays Mellotron, with a string part opening Give It A Rest, flutes on the slightly rocky The Martyr and strings again at the end of Baby. The Phenomenal Handclap Band may grab some of you, but I'm afraid the bulk of it left this listener cold. Good at what it does, assuming you like what it does... One Mellotron highlight, but not enough to redeem the record overall, I'm afraid.
Don't Look Now... It's the Hallelujah Brothers (1989, 37.53) *½/T
|Young at Heart
Feels Like the Summer
(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace
Love and Understanding
Keep Me in Your Love
The Old and the Wise
Gabriel's Sitting in
Please Tell Me Why
|Heart's on Fire
Nothing to do with the identically-named '70s German duo (whose names weren't Phil and John anyway), this Phil & John are Phil Baggaley and John Hartley, who were that most horrible of things, a Christian folk/rock/pop duo, from Mansfield, of all places. 1989's Don't Look Now... It's the Hallelujah Brothers was their fourth album, full of limp paeans to their god in a variety of pop/rock styles, sung in rather limp voices; if truth be told, neither was really lead vocal standard. Recorded at no fewer than six studios on two continents, they're helped out by a cast of thousands (OK, maybe a dozen), including our old friend (?) Phil Keaggy, who chips in on guitars. Is there a best track? No, but a seemingly uncredited version of Nick Lowe's (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love And Understanding (as popularised by Elvis Costello) is easily the best lyric.
Along with harmonium, Steve Lindsey plays, surprisingly, Mellotron (well, not so surprisingly, otherwise it wouldn't be here), in those dark days for the instrument, with a nice flute part on Heart's On Fire, with faint strings later in the track. It doesn't look like this is available on CD, for which we can all truly praise God. One so-so Mellotron track doth not an album make.