Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Lisa Marie Presley
Porcupine Tree (UK) see:
Amazing Disgrace (1996, 53.28) ****/T½
Please Return it
Fight it (if You Want)
Everybody is a Fucking Liar
¿Will You Ever Ease Your Mind?
|CDS (1996) ***½/T
Please Return it
Sad to Be Aware
Every Kind of Light (2005, 49.54) ***½/TT½
|It's Great to Be Here Again!
All in a Day's Work
I Guess You're Right
Anything and Everything
Second Time Around
Could He Treat You Better?
I Finally Found a Jungle I Like!!!
That Don't Fly
Sweethearts of Rodeo Drive
From Washington State, the Posies specialise(d) in high-energy powerpop, falling somewhere between Big Star and Hüsker Dü. Despite supposedly splitting in 1998, I believe there's still activity somewhere in their camp; in fact, I met them around 2001, when they used my brother's studio for a quick pre-gig rehearsal while in London. Ken Stringfellow (I think) confirmed for me that they'd actually owned a rare Mark V Mellotron in the late '90s, but had since sold it; he told me it was 'all over' '96's Amazing Disgrace, though I have to say that the audio evidence somewhat contradicts him.
It's a really good album, actually, with plenty of wit (Everybody Is A Fucking Liar, Grant Hart, referencing Hüsker Dü's drummer) and stacks of great songs, although they're not quite up to Big Star standards, to be honest. Ironically, Stringfellow and fellow guitarist Jon Auer played guitar and bass in the sporadically-reformed version of that band, backing Alex Chilton. Anyway, on the 'Tron front (played by both guitarists, apparently), Precious Moments opens with cellos before the strings kick in, still running under the heavier guitar parts, World has a reasonable string part, but The Certainty is top 'Tron moment here; a slower number with dirty great slabs of pitchbent strings all over it. It's possible that there's other bits of Mellotron dotted around, buried in the mix, but I wouldn't like to say for sure. For those of you lucky enough to own a copy of the Australian issue's bonus EP, none of the extra four songs (three of which are late '60s covers, including The Zombies' Leave Me Be and The Hollies' King Midas In Reverse) contain Mellotron, even their take on The Bee Gees' Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You.
Incidentally, although Please Return It is Mellotron-free, it can be heard on both its b-sides, Sad to Be Aware and Terrorized, with a background string melody on the former and a few seconds of flute at the end of the latter (also available as a bonus track on some versions of the album and on 2000's four-disc At Least, at Last).
After various splits, reformations and nebulous, in-between states, the band released Every Kind of Light in 2005. Yes, it's a Posies album, but something's changed: their innocence? A ridiculous statement, maybe, but the music sounds slightly wearier this time round, slightly less joyous. Don't get me wrong, it's a great album, but Amazing Disgrace's joie de vivre seems to be missing in action. Presumably either Stringfellow or Auer plays fairly real-sounding Mellotron (their MkV having long since been sold, I believe), with strings on opener It's Great To Be Here Again! and Second Time Around, a near-solo string melody on Conversations and a pitchbent part on I Guess You're Right, making this actually a more Mellotronic release than Amazing Disgrace, maybe surprisingly.
There's supposed to be some 'Tron on compilation giveaway Limitless Expressions, but I have to say I can't hear it, while their (supposed) swansong, Success (***½) sounds 'Tron-free, too, which isn't to say that there aren't any more relevant tracks scattered around their discography. So; I haven't heard their earlier material, but '93's Frosting on the Beater is supposed to be excellent and I can heartily recommend Amazing Disgrace and Every Kind of Light, though more for the music than the 'Tron. But then, isn't that how it should be?
See: Jon Auer | Orange Humble Band
Star Maps (1996, 42.25) **½/½
In Her Disc
Emergency's About to End
Crashing Your Planet
Possum Dixon were an L.A.-based 'alt.rock' outfit, revered by their fans for their Farfisa-driven indie stance and apparent ear for a hook. Can't say I hear it myself, at least going by their second album (of three), 1996's Star Maps. OK, it's a passable slightly '60s-ish record, but I've heard so much better in this area; the only track that stands out in any way is lengthy closer Apartment Song, and then only because it isn't a rapid-fire burst of Standells-esque speed-freakery.
Robert O'Sullivan plays Mellotron on Reds, with a brief string part that was hardly worth the effort of hauling what sounds like a real M400 into the studio. Not that exciting, then, unless you're an aficionado of Possum Dixon's brand of pop, with one so-so 'Tron track.
This is Somewhere (2007, 48.27) ***/½
Stop the Bus
Ain't No Time
You May See Me
Lose Some Time
|Here's to the Meantime
Falling or Flying
Big White Gate
The Lion the Beast the Beat (2012, 45.42/61.04) ***/T
|The Lion the Beast the Beat
Never Go Back
One Heart Missing
All Over You
Grace Potter and her inimitable Nocturnals are a classic case of genre-blending, mixing soul, blues, country and a smidgeon of arena rock into a radio-friendly stew that should appeal to, say, Dave Matthews fans (Potter & Co. supported Matthews in 2008). Her/their third studio album, 2007's This is Somewhere, efficiently blends their various influences without actually coming up with anything particularly memorable, although better moments include the mildly raunchy blues-rock of Stop The Bus and Grace's Plant-esque wails on Here's To The Meantime, sitting happily alongside some Page-esque slide, the whole thing just scraping three stars. Potter plays the Mellotron herself, while Mike Daly adds Chamberlin, with a muted flute line on You May See Me and background strings on Falling Or Flying, which doesn't seem to cover two people playing two instruments, really.
Although 2012's The Lion the Beast the Beat (with or without punctuation) is a better album, I'm not sure it's better enough to garner an extra half star. Better tracks include the ripping opening title track, the catchy Turntable and the slow-burn of The Divide, while One Heart Missing is about the best of several slow numbers. Potter plays (apparently genuine) Mellotron flutes, with a nicely pitchbent line on Never Go Back and an echoed part on Runaway plus credited and clearly real strings on four tracks.
This is Somewhere is passable enough, if pretty unexciting, while The Lion the Beast the Beat is something of an improvement, with little tape-replay work on either.
Take Me Away (1972, 50.07) **½/T½
|Take Me Away
Too Many People
It Must Have Been Hard
|I Think I Always Knew
If I Could Sing
Risa Potters' debut, 1970's Half Woman/Half Child, was a rather twee singer-songwriter effort, very much of its time, but her follow-up, '72's surprisingly lengthy Take Me Away, saw her backed by Brit prog-lite crew Capability Brown, who managed to inject a little energy into the proceedings. Saying that, it's still a fairly bland proposition, rather insipid efforts such as Second Choice and Love Song letting the side down a little, better tracks including the moving, er, Moving and Traveling Man (why the American spelling?).
Tony Cox plays Mellotron, with a pseudo-orchestral string part on Too Many People and My Mistake, with flutes, in a counterpart to the piano, on the latter, although the strings on Second Choice, I Think I Always Knew and Traveling Man are real. This has never been issued on CD, but I couldn't, in all honesty, really recommend it anyway; harmless enough, but with too many mournful ballads and too little Mellotron.
See: Capability Brown
Daniel Powter (2005, 40.26) *½/TTT½
Lie to Me
Jimmy Gets High
|Lost on the Stoop
Give Me Life
Stupid Like This]
Under the Radar (2008, 45.02) **/TT
|Best of Me
Not Coming Back
Whole World Around
Next Plane Home
Am I Still the One?
Don't Give Up on Me
My So Called Life
Love You Lately (remix)
Bad Day (live)
Mellotrons/Chamberlin (?) used:
Late starter Daniel Powter (born 1971) is a Canadian singer-songwriter who had the commercial good fortune to find his way onto the US version of the UK's Pop Idol, irritatingly renamed American Idol (why does everything have to be 'American'? Why?), although he's, er, Canadian. Admittedly, he wasn't a contestant; they used his horrible song Bad Day (non-partisan? Moi?) in the series, for some unknown, doubtless nefarious purpose. He released his eponymous debut in 2005, featuring that vile cheesefest and some other vaguely similar stuff, none of it quite as offensive, largely due to being less catchy. There's no such thing as a 'best track' here, although Hollywood is possibly the least nasty; the only spot of light on the horizon is that it's only 'vinyl length'. God, this is loathsome. To my great surprise, the album's laden with Mellotron and possibly Chamberlin. Powter and Chamby hero Mitchell Froom both play unspecified keys, so my guess is it's the latter who splatters tape-replay instruments all over the place here, with strings on the first six tracks, plus choir on the filthy Bad Day, making for this site's first (ta da!) *½/TTT½ rating.
Powter released his follow-up, Under the Radar, in 2008, and it's fair to say that he hasn't noticeably developed his style in the intervening three years. Nothing here's as all-out infuriating as Bad Day, which actually gives the album an extra half star. Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes, many others) produces and plays Mellotron, with strings and flutes on Best Of Me, flutes on Negative Fashion and strings on Don't Give Up On Me, plus a choir part on the remixed version of his hit, Love You Lately. This is also available on some versions of Daniel Powter, as its opening track, so whether Perry plays the 'Tron, or Froom, or someone else entirely is unknown. Amusing to note that Warners presumably didn't have quite enough faith in the album's abilities to sell under its own steam, so a live version of bloody Bad Day is stuck on the end.
Well, if you want to hear loads of well-played Mellotron, you might just go for Daniel Powter, although Under the Radar is rather less in that department. However, unless your cheesometer's been completely disabled, you're going to have more than a little trouble with the horrible music on offer here. You have been warned.
Resoution (1976, 37.06) **/½
If You Could See Yourself
(Through My Eyes)
Can't Stop My Love
Everything Falls Into Place
|That's When Miracles Occur
Some Things Go on Forever
Treasure That Canary
Set Your Sights
Although I've never heard of him before, Andy Pratt is apparently best known for Avenging Annie, a multi-tracked vocal number from his second, eponymous album from 1973. Resolution was his follow-up, three years on, and is best described as typical mid-'70s singer-songwriter fare, with its arrangements locating it chronologically as surely as carbon dating. If you're into the style, it's probably a good album; certainly some way ahead of the likes of the horrible Leo Sayer, for example, although I wouldn't actually take that as a recommendation. What's the Douglas Adams quote? 'Mostly harmless', that's it, albeit rather irritating in places. The bulk of the album's material washes over me fairly harmlessly, although when the piano balladry got too close to Billy Joel territory (Can't Stop My Love, Everything Falls Into Place), I start twitching a little.
Mellotron on one track, with from Ken Bichel (Average White Band, Stories), with string and cello parts on Set Your Sights, although I've no idea why Pratt chose to use a Mellotron rather than the string section employed on the rest of the album. It's phased on the second chorus, which may be the reason, although I can't imagine why that couldn't be done to the real strings as well. Anyway, Resolution is an album caught in its own time like a fly in amber, with a very inessential 'Tron part, so don't go too far out of your way.
Gutters & Pews (1996, 44.32) ***½/0
|Down and Out in This Town
Cold Mountain Music
I Won't Be There
Something is Wrong
In the Darkened Night
Back Then We Only Cared for Hell
Eagle-Eye Cherry collaborator Christopher "Preacher Boy" Watkins is an author, poet, songwriter, musician and singer, whose second album, 1996's Gutters & Pews, reminds the listener of a less extreme Tom Waits, if he concentrated more on old-time country and blues and less on being deliberately weird. Watkins is a superb guitarist, who clearly loves his raft of vintage instruments, playing them to perfection across the album, better tracks including Something Is Wrong, the energetic Buckshot and Back Then We Only Cared For Hell.
Watkins supposedly plays Mellotron, but whatever he might've added to the album is effectively inaudible. Somehow, I can't imagine that he used samples; maybe it's a mis-credit and he actually played something else entirely? Anyway, this is a fine Americana record from the old school, but you're not going to bother for the Mellotron.
|7" (1975) **½/T½
Tens um País
Longe de Mim e do Mundo
Preâmbulo Que were a 'progressive folk' band from northern Portugal, whatever you take that to mean; I've no idea whether they released anything else, but 1975's Tens Um País is a rather cheesy effort, albeit stopping short of full-blown Europop. Its flip, however, Longe De Mim E Do Mundo, is somewhat better, a slower, folkier effort with a psychedelic guitar solo to liven things up a bit.
The semi-legendary José Cid produces and plays Mellotron, with background strings on the 'A' and a major flute part on the flip. This is available on download blogs, although I wouldn't go too far out of your way; Longe De Mim E Do Mundo is decent enough, but rather uninspired, with little enough Mellotron overall to really make it worth the effort.
See: José Cid
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) (Italy) see:
No.6 (1999, 47.12) ****/T
|The Limping Little Girl
Ceux d'en Bas (Suite)
Part 1: Le Matin
Part 2: Le Rêve de la Nuit
| Part 3: La Realité
Part 4: Vers le Cauchemar
Part 5: Le Cauchemar Yo
Part 6: Le Combat
High Infidelity (2001, 48.03) ****/TSouls for Sale
Strychnine for Christmas
Rêve de Fer
A few years ago, I saw Present play at a Swedish progressive festival. Their drummer hadn't made the gig so, undeterred, they played anyway, largely clearing the hall, which sums up the band's attitude perfectly. They began as a Univers Zero offshoot, formed by guitarist Roger Trigaux, with other UZ members guesting, although the band soon took on a life of its own. Splitting in the mid-'80s, it was a decade before Trigaux put together another lineup under that name, who have worked sporadically ever since. Their music is most easily compared to that of Univers Zero, best described as 'avant rock'; dissonant, repetitive, angular and intense, it's about the furthest you're going to get from 'easy listening' while remaining even vaguely in the realms of progressive rock, although I rather doubt that the band would even consider themselves such.
Trigaux contacted me himself to confirm the Mellotron use on their two most recent studio releases, 1999's No.6 and High Infidelity from two years later (REO Speedwagon connection, anyone? Thought not...). No.6 fits the band template to a T, with lengthy opener The Limping Little Girl's edginess setting the tone for the rest of the album. Oddly, Trigaux barely performs on the record, crediting himself mainly with 'composition/musical direction', leaving a five-piece band to actually play his material. Pierre Chevalier provides the slightly Magma-like piano work, plus the Mellotron on Ceux D'en Bas Pt.6, Le Combat, with some background strings slowly working their way to the front of the mix by the end of the piece.
High Infidelity is, if anything, better than its predecessor, with Trigaux taking more of an active role in the recording this time round. Although two of the album's three tracks are again split into several parts, it seems to be less 'official' than on No.6, so I haven't included them in the tracklisting above. The music is from the same, angular school as other Present albums, although it may be just a tad more accessible, or maybe it's just that I'm getting used to it; either way, it's all good stuff, particularly the 27-minute Souls For Sale. As with its predecessor, the album was recorded in Tel Aviv, and Chevalier does the Mellotron honours again (using Zohar Cohen's machine, also used by Israeli psych/pop monsters Rockfour), though only on his own composition, Strychnine For Christmas. I think the staccato sound over the (real) cello is actually guitar, though it's hard to say, but the strings in the middle of the piece are very obviously 'Tron.
So; two excellent albums in their field, but if you don't go for more 'out there' prog, stay away! For the more adventurous spirits out there, though, give it a go, although the Mellotron work isn't that overt.
See: Univers Zero
To Whom it May Concern (2003, 50.45) ***/½
The Road Between
Nobody Noticed it
To Whom it May Concern
It wouldn't be fair to say that Lisa Marie's management went out of their way to make her look like the spit of her dad, now would it? OK, it would. The Pelvis would've been proud of the monochrome 'over the shoulder smoulder' she sports on the sleeve of her debut album, To Whom it May Concern, archly raised eyebrow and all. Veteran of three failed marriages (one to Michael Jackson, as I'm sure you'll all remember) and a Scientologist since her teens (troubled celebrity background, eh?), Lisa's finally, at the age of 37, taken the plunge and followed in her father's footsteps. I was expecting the album to be truly awful, with some name producer shoehorning her into an inappropriate 'R&B' format, so, while I can't really say I particularly like it, I was surprised to find that it sits on the border between singer/songwriter territory and AOR, while Presley has a pleasant, warm contralto voice, proving that she's inherited more than just her father's looks.
Zac Rae (Macy Gray) plays Chamberlin on one track, with rather pointless background strings on Lights Out, which you quite honestly wouldn't spot were they not credited. So; by no means a great album, To Whom it May Concern is still better than expected, but don't go out of your way for its Chamby content.
Mappa Mundi (1997, 46.45) ****/0
Flowers of the Forest
Death of the Last Crusader
Lyke Wake Dirge
Trip to the Glen
Lock the Gates
Walking in the Wild
Rocks and Stones
Pressgang have been chugging along for over 15 years now, brandishing their own, raucous take on UK folk-rock at the general public, some of whom have been seduced by the band's raw, uncompromising but fun approach to the genre. I hesitate to say this, but there are at lest slight similarities between their sound and that of the tedious 'folk-punk' crowd, including the Levellers and the appalling New Model Army, although Pressgang beat the competition hands down, largely by not being boring politicos, having brains and knowing how to write a tune.
I first heard Mappa Mundi some years ago, and was quite surprised to see a credit for 'Mellotron' on three tracks. Now, here I have a slight problem; I'm actually reviewing this from a taped copy of the album (sorry, chaps), and without the CD insert, I don't know which the three tracks are [note: I do now. Thanks Ritchie]. This is heavily compounded by the fact that when I heard it originally, all I could hear on the relevant tracks was a weird sort of drone, unlike any Mellotron sound I'd ever heard. So; is it actually a Mellotron at all? Or have they used the term indiscriminately, in a similar manner to the word 'Moog' being interchangeable with 'synthesizer' in the '70s? Or 'Fender bass' simply meaning 'bass'? Who knows?
Anyway, the album is actually bloody impressive; doom-laden opener The Sylkie sets the tone nicely, with several other darker pieces scattered throughout the record. There are more 'trad' folk numbers, too, plus a handful of more modern folk-rock efforts, making for a varied and interesting album that nonetheless fits firmly within the boundaries of English folk. George Whitfield's 'Mellotron' is, of course, another matter. As outlined above, all I can hear is what sounds like guitar-generated drones on three tracks, giving the album a resounding '0' on the 'Tronometer, I'm afraid. It is, though, well worth hearing if you're into this brand of folk.
Out-of-date official site
Peace Among the Ruins (2005, 47.15) ****/TTTTPeace Among the Ruins
Find the Time
Speed of Time
Bringin' it on
The Lost Art of Time Travel (2008, 60.24) ****/TTT½The Mind Machine
One Tragedy at a Time
I'm Not Blind
Invisible Places (2011, 61.45) ****/TTT½Between the Lines
Of Grand Design
One Perfect Moment
All in All
No End to Begin
Love What You've Done With the Place (2011, 40.38) ***½/TTKing of the Stars
A Distant Heart
Deep Black Blue
The Faith Healer
Relic of the Modern World (2012, 41.53) ****/T½The Chemical Age
Watching the Radio
Prelude to Farewell
Relic of the Modern World
Presto Ballet is the latest project from Metal Church guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, who gleefully admits to having been a vintage keyboard collector for some years (he used his Mellotron on Metal Church's '99 album, Masterpeace). Peace Among the Ruins is a curious mixture of '70s progressive hard rock and Vanderhoof's roots, '80s metal, so this isn't going to appeal to everyone into Zeppelin, Heep et al, although many of you will get off on at least some of it. Find The Time is particularly retro, with a No Quarter-style piano part and swirling synths (rock reviewer cliché no.37 - sorry about that), while Sunshine is an acoustic strum-along kind of thing, with upfront 'Tron strings and flutes, although most of the other material is heavier, in that '70s-crossed-with-'80s way that Vanderhoof seems to have made his own. There's Mellotron and Chamberlin, maybe surprisingly, everywhere you look here, making me think at first that it could be samples, until I found an online interview where Vanderhoof talks about his collection. Mellotronic high-points? The flutes'n'strings pitchbending at the end of Sunshine, the point in closer Bring' It On where he finally uses the choirs, and just about every point where the strings lurch up out of the mix and kick you in the teeth.
Three years on, and Presto Ballet follow up with The Lost Art of Time Travel, possibly a less heavy album than its predecessor, although certain production tricks pronounce it a modern album, not a long-lost classic. It's as good as its predecessor, too, albeit rather different, which means (wait for it...) THEY'VE PROGRESSED! Well, shiver me timbers and fuck my old boots! It's such a rarity to see a band in the progressive area actually, y'know, move on these days that I feel it had to be remarked upon. Slightly less 'Tron than on Peace..., with two tracks entirely free of it, but plenty of good, tasteful use on most of the record makes this another worthwhile effort.
2011 brings two releases, the hour-long Invisible Places and the forty-minute 'EP' (huh?) Love What You've Done With the Place (ho ho). Although they're both recognisably Presto Ballet, most of the band has been replaced and they take a sharp left turn, going for that late '70s pomp thing, sounding not unlike Styx in the process. Is this a good thing? Depends on whether or not you like The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight, really; I do, but I'm sure many US readers tired of them after radioplay overkill at the time. The end result is quite excellent, only falling very slightly short of an extra half star, highlights including upbeat opener Between The Lines, All In All (particularly the sequencer/guitar interplay section) and parts of closing epic No End To Begin. New keys man Kerry Shacklett plays Mellotron, with strings on opener Between The Lines, Sundancer and No End To Begin, strings and choirs on Of Grand Design and flutes on One Perfect Moment. But is it real? The Hammond sounds fake, so I remain unconvinced, although the monosynth (an ARP?) sounds real enough.
Love What You've Done With the Place, while good, smells like outtakes, although the Wurlitzer-driven Deep Black Blue is as good as anything on the album. Material that wouldn't (and indeed, didn't) make the cut includes the cheesily-riffing Looking Glass, which incorporates the Peter Gunn Theme, for no apparent reason and their cover of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band's immortal Faith Healer, which channels the live version, rather than the original studio take. Shacklett adds Mellotron strings to the first four tracks, notably on The Clock, but this is far from being a major Mellotron release.
Clearly on a major roll, 2012 brought yet another Presto Ballet release, Relic of the Modern World, on which the band have backed away a little from their prevailing pomp influences, going back to a more 'typically' rock/prog (as against the abomination of prog metal) approach. It's impossible to pick out any 'best tracks'; they're all excellent, although the 'side-long' title track, veering between detailed, Genesis-like 12-string work, Spock's Beard riffery and a plethora of other styles is possibly the stand-out. Shacklett (and Vanderhoof?) presumably play Mellotron, although I'm becoming more and more disbelieving of its veracity with every passing PB release. Anyway, we get strings on opener The Chemical Age, playing solo at the end of track, with more of the same on Watching The Radio and the title track, the last-named adding choirs, although it's hardly the heaviest use you'll ever hear.
These are all good albums, decidedly worth hearing, their debut actually losing its '80s-ness as it progresses, strangely, bumping it up from a prospective ***½ to a ****, while Invisible Places channels Styx so effectively that I can wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of their best work. Buy.
See: Metal Church | Vanderhoof
|7" (1968) ****/TT½
Talkin' About the Good Times
Walking Through My Dreams
S.F. Sorrow (1968, 41.08/57.17) ****½/TTT
|SF Sorrow is Born
Bracelets of Fingers
She Says Good Morning
I See You
|Well of Destiny
Old Man Going
Talkin' About the Good Times
Walking Through My Dreams]
Parachute (1970, 41.03/63.01) ***/T½
The Good Mr. Square
She Was Tall, She Was High
In the Square
Miss Fay Regrets
Cries From the Midnight Circus
She's a Lover
What's the Use
Blue Serge Blues
Philippe DeBarge (2008, recorded 1969, 44.15) ***½/T
|Hello, How Do You Do
You Might Even Say
Send You With Loving
You're Running You and Me
Graves of Grey
It'll Never Be Me
I'm Checking Out
All Gone Now
Monsieur Rock (Ballad of Philippe)
The Pretty Things started life as the nastiest beat group in town, out-outraging the Stones wherever they went, until psychedelia suddenly hit. Their first 'interesting' single, Defecting Grey, was good, but Talkin' About The Good Times was an excellent Mellotron and sitar-driven effort, easily the equal of many better-known psych 45s.
Famously, with S.F. Sorrow, the Pretty Things beat The Who to The First Concept Album (or, appallingly, 'rock opera') crown, although it's only in recent years that they've really been heralded for the feat. A fairly straightforward narrative of a man's unhappy life, it hangs together both lyrically and musically, and holds up well against its two major contemporaries, the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper and Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn. There's not a bad track on it, and highlights include the title track, Balloon Burning and the full-on Baron Saturday. The title track features much 'Tron brass, and a little strings for good measure, with other Mellotronic highlights being the swirly string chords and brief flute melody on Baron Saturday, while several other tracks feature the instrument rather more in the background. Thinking about it, S.F. Sorrow has to be one of the earliest 'Mellotron Albums', where it's used in anything more than a supporting role, giving it yet another 'first' in addition to the several it's already chalked up.
It took the band two years to follow S.F. Sorrow - doubtless the exertion involved in being so groundbreaking fair took it out of them. Anyway, Parachute was never really gong to compete, but it's not a bad record, just all a little ordinary in comparison, and showing their r'n'b roots more than you might expect. Apparently, John Povey definitely plays the 'Tron this time round, although his use seems to be limited to flutes on The Good Mr. Square and The Letter, and nice, if subdued string parts on Grass and the title track. There's a remote possibility there's more 'Tron elsewhere, but if so, it's low enough in the mix as to be almost inaudible. No 'Tron on any of the CD's bonus tracks, either.
Late 2008 brought a belated official release for one of the strangest Pretties stories of all. In 1969, a French playboy, name of Philippe DeBarge, wanted to be a rock star and asked the band if they'd back him, money no object. Being a bit on the skint side, the band agreed, recording an album's-worth of their own material (some of it rescued from their Electric Banana series of library recordings, speaking of strange Pretties tales). Philippe DeBarge is actually a pretty good effort, DeBarge making a fine lead vocalist, falling stylewise in between S.F. Sorrow and Parachute, funnily enough, highlights including Alexander, the acoustic jam You're Running You And Me and closer Monsieur Rock (Ballad Of Philippe). It's probably Povey on Mellotron again, with strings and brass on You Might Even Say, a brief, wildly pitchbent string part (thanks, Zohar) on Eagles Son and what sounds suspiciously like Mellotron guitar on It'll Never Be Me, so no 'Tron classic, but a good album in its own right.
So; I don't think I really need to recommend S.F. Sorrow to you. You either already know it or should, unless you just happen to have some antipathy towards late-'60s UK psych, in which case I suggest you revise your opinions post-haste. Buy unreservedly, particularly the version with the As and Bs of their two previous singles, including Talkin' About The Good Times. Parachute and Philippe DeBarge are rather more ordinary, but have some nice 'Tron here and there.
Coalition of the Willing (2006, 47.05) ***½/½The Ministry of Truth
The Ministry of Love
The Inner Party
Anthem for Andrea
Drummer Bobby Previte is one of the central figures in the New York jazz/avant-garde scene, frequently working with luminaries such as Charlie Hunter (in Charlie Hunter & Bobby Previte as Groundtruther) and John Medeski. Jazz discographies are notoriously convoluted, making it near impossible to work out how many solo albums Previte's released. Step 1: define 'solo'. Step 2: define 'released'. You get the picture... Suffice to say, 2006's Coalition of the Willing is a jazzy ((blue) note: not 'jazz') instrumental album, stuffed to the gills with Hunter's guitar (the album's outstanding feature, I'd say), working on a regular six-string instrument for once. Why is it so many jazz bandleaders are drummers, huh? Then they give all the solos to tuned instruments? Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth, son.
Jamie Saft (Matt Maneri) plays Mellotron, alongside Hammond, Moog and guitar and bass, although it only gets a look-in on one track, closer Anthem For Andrea, although it's near-impossible to tell what it might be doing. The vague, pad-ish sound in the background? Anyway, a bloody good album of its type, but don't bother for the Mellotron.
See: Charlie Hunter & Bobby Previte as Groundtruther
White Sky (1999, 41.01) ***½/TTTRaise on High
Last Summer Days
Walking on the Farm
I'll Be Waiting
Three (2002, 57.54) ***/½
|Over the Line
Tear Me All Away
When I'm With You
Two Can Play
I'm Coming Over
Gifts of Love
Second Time Trader
|Behind Your Sun
The Day to Day
Wilderness (2005, 53.50) ***½/TTT
|Way of the Sun
Archer Prewitt's career started with The Coctails, before moving on to The Sea & Cake. He runs a solo career alongside playing in the latter, working in the slightly jazzy singer-songwriter area, crossed with what's probably best described as adult pop/rock (sorry).
His second solo effort, 1999's White Sky, typifies his style, mixing more laid-back material (Shake, Summer's End) with slightly (but only slightly) more aggressive stuff (Motorcycles, the title track), most with a vaguely jazzy feel that doesn't overwhelm with its... jazziness. Prewitt plays the Mellotron himself, with an uncredited flute melody on opener Raise On High, full-on strings on Summer's End and more of the same towards the end of Walking On The Farm. Ghostly flutes on Final Season and strings (and flutes?) on closer I'll Be Waiting finish off a surprisingly 'Tron-heavy release.
2002's Three is a rather more mainstream pop/rock thing, I'm afraid, and thus a lot less interesting than its predecessor. Don't get me wrong; it has its moments, but nowhere near as many as on White Sky, despite the addition of the occasional Neil Youngism. It's also far less notable on the Mellotron front, with nowt but a few faint string notes on opener Over The Line from Prewitt himself.
Wilderness appeared in January '05 and redressed the Mellotronic balance immediately. The music's better, too, if not a full return to his style of half a decade earlier. I believe that's called 'progression'. No fewer than three credited Mellotron players this time round: Prewitt, Dave Max Crawford and Mark Greenberg, all of whom are kept busy, with a front-of-the-mix flute line at the end of Leaders, a string part and more flute on O, Ky and what sounds like 'Tron strings mixed with real ones on Go Away. I think that's polyphonic Mellotron flutes on No More, but I could be wrong, and while the strings on Cheap Rhyme seem to be real, O, Lord and Without You both have Mellotron strings, the latter doubled, again, with real ones, with a chordal flute part on the title track to round things off nicely.
So; two out of three both musically and Mellotronically. Happily, they're the same two. Prewitt's work is probably going to appeal more to those who like to listen to something relaxing but not bland, and I'm quite sure many of his songs will grow on the listener given time. After all, how much good music takes a while to get into? I've learned to distrust immediacy; the initial sugar-rush of excitement is all too often followed by the sour taste of ennui. I suspect Archer Prewitt's albums will not be subject to this boom/bust cycle.
See: The Coctails | The Sea & Cake
|7" (1968) **/TTDon't Stop the Carnival
The Time Has Come
|7" (1968) **½/½When I Was a Cowboy
Alan Price was the guy who played that organ riff on The Animals' immortal version of the traditional The House Of The Rising Sun, notoriously being the only band member with his name on the label (and thus the recipient of all publishing), as 'they ran out of room'. Yeah. Right. He eventually left the band (I'm not surprised, after that), becoming a Professional Geordie for the rest of his career which, at least for the rest of the '60s, was quite profitable.
Price released a couple of Mellotron efforts in 1968 in the shape of his first two singles of that year. The first, Don't Stop The Carnival (a Geordie calypso, for Chrissake?) was backed with the rather better The Time Has Come, the A-side adding background Mellotron mandolins and one of the brass variants, while the flip had rather more obvious strings and flutes. Single #2, When I Was A Cowboy, is immediately recognisable as Leadbelly's Out On The Western Plain, as memorably performed by the late, great Rory Gallagher, but nowhere near (near) as good. Its flip, Tappy Tortoise (presumably in honour of Animals roadie Tappy Wright), is an odd little number, possibly aimed at the younger market, Price intoning the heartwarming story of how some lonely instruments met up and formed a band, backed by an exceedingly faint 'Tron string line.
All four tracks are available on I Put a Spell on You: The Decca Deram Singles A's & B's, along with his better-known solo hits, but I'd have trouble genuinely recommending any of these, for either the music or the Mellotron.
The Very Thing That You Treasure (2001, 59.53) ***/T½
|Every Broken Heart
She Used to Be My Baby
The Right Thing
What Yer Missing
Listening to Me
Look it Up
I'm in Love
So Good to See You
Spike Priggen seems to specialise in country-flavoured singer-songwriter stuff, sometimes with a Byrdsian edge to it (maybe it's the 12-string). The Very Thing That You Treasure By Spike Priggen, to give it its full title, is OK, but lacks those killer songs that would elevate it from the morass of similar stuff that clutters up the world's second-hand racks. That probably sounds unnecessarily harsh - it's not a bad album, just not far enough above 'average', although the country-rock fans amongst you may disagree. Thankfully, Priggen does up the pace occasionally, principally on What Yer Missing, which sports a guitar riff straight out of the 'class of '77' punk songbook, and Look It Up has a minor cojones injection, too.
Dean Falcone plays Mellotron on two tracks; The Right Thing and So Good To See You are typically lovelorn countryish ballads, both with polyphonic flute parts throughout. There's a lengthy gap after So Good To See You, culminating in a hilariously stumbling, incoherent radio ad from a hillbilly removal company, including the line 'the very thing that you treasure', followed by a superb Spïnal Tap-style studio argument, culminating in a hidden track with what sounds slightly like another 'Tron flute part, but isn't. The album timing above is minus the gap, but includes the extra stuff at the end, so the actual amount of music is nearer 40 minutes.
So; a decent enough album in its genre (post-hardcore Americana, anyone?), but I really can't tell how much this is going to appeal to its target audience. The two 'Tron tracks both feature reasonable use, but don't splash out too much on their account.
Xtrmntr (2000) ***½/TT½
|Kill All Hippies
Swastika Eyes (Jagz Kooner Mix)
Keep Your Dreams
|MBV Arkestra (if They Move Kill 'em)
Swastika Eyes (Chemical Brothers Mix)
Shoot Speed/Kill Light
Primal Scream started off as typical indie, before mutating into a sort of indie Stones - all raunchy guitars and bad attitude; since then, they haven't made two albums alike, which has to be applauded, given the competition. 2000's Xtrmntr (the band are credited on the sleeve as 'Prmlscrm', by the way) was their techno album; all beats, loops and samples, not to mention rather embarrassing Bobby Gillespie raps on Blood Money and Insect Royalty. Sorry, mate, white boy rap just doesn't cut it. Now, while I wouldn't actually choose to sit down and listen to this again, it's a brave experiment, and miles better than yet another Oasisalike rehash (see: Ocean Colour Scene).
The Mellotron strings on opener Kill All Hippies certainly sound real; very wobbly, with some pitchbend thrown in for good measure, but the ascending line on the first version of Swastika Eyes has a note that's held way beyond the eight-second limit, but it's possible that it's a synth fading in as the 'Tron fades out. Very hard to tell. Keep Your Dreams has some near-inaudible flutes, then there's a different strings part on the second version of Swastika Eyes (so how many 'rock' bands actually put two different mixes of a track on their album, as against a single?).
So, while I don't personally like the music, many do, and I don't feel inclined to slag Xtrmntr off just because I don't like it very much. There's some passable Mellotron work, too, but I wouldn't really buy it for that alone.