Rustichelli & Bordini
Forever & Ever (1974, 37.44) **/T½
|Forever and Ever
My Friends the Wind
Lay it Down
Lovely Sunny Days
Lost in a Dream
|When I am a Kid
Good Bye My Love Good Bye
I've been dreading playing this; I bought it six months ago and have been putting it off ever since. I paid A$1.00 for it in a crummy shop in Perth, to the extreme consternation of my mate (hi, Stuart), who had only pointed it out for a laugh and couldn't believe it when I picked it up... OK, it's not good, but with the benefit of 30-odd years' hindsight, an album of Demis Roussos ballads sounds quite harmless compared to some of the utter dreck to which I've subjected myself over the last few years. Roussos, of course, was a member of the mighty Aphrodite's Child (bit of a shocker when I discovered that, many years ago), along with Vangelis, but after their demise, swiftly moved into the realms of Large Greek Balladry, delighting and horrifying Europeans in approximately equal quantities. Yeah, Forever & Ever is pretty crapulent, but largely drifts past without overly offending in the process. Modern dross take note.
Surprisingly, maybe, the album doesn't entirely comprise cheesy ballads, with Lay It Down being an energetic pseudo-rocker, with rather duff girly backing vox, while Rebecca actually has proggy touches, although, er, the other eight tracks all seem to be cheesy ballads, at which I shouldn't be entirely surprised. They obviously couldn't afford a real string section for the whole album, with the exception of closer Good Bye My Love Good Bye, so S. (Stylianos) Vlavianos plays Mellotron on several tracks, with strings and flutes on the title track and Lovely Sunny Days and a particularly strident string part on Lost In A Dream. I don't think the album's brass parts are 'Tron, though I could be wrong.
So; I can't imagine why you'd want to own a copy of this - oh, you didn't anyway? Well, Demis is hardly ripe for reassessment, but this was a far less unpleasant experience than I'd been expecting, for which I am truly grateful. Passable 'Tron on a few tracks, too, which is always a bonus. Incidentally, note the writing credits: several tracks mention a certain 'Ch. Chalkitis', clearly the legendary Harris Chalkitis, probably the first artist to get a really rippingly bad review on this site.
See: Aphrodite's Child | Harris Chalkitis
Have a Nice Day (1999, 55.19) **½/½
|Crush on You
Wish I Could Fly
You Can't Put Your Arms Around
What's Already Gone
Waiting for the Rain
It Will Take a Long Long Time
|I Was So Lucky
Pay the Price
Staring at the Ground
Roxette, a.k.a. Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle and named for the Dr. Feelgood song (thought so!), formed in 1986, breaking through two years later with Look Sharp! In case you've never heard them (unlikely, I know) they play a really mainstream kind of pop/rock, short on innovation but long on catchy hooks. Have a Nice Day is their sixth original album, ignoring the album of Spanish-language ballads (get the picture?), and sounds like... a late-'90s pop album, complete with occasional techno influences, as was de rigeur at the time. While desperately unexciting, it's also not entirely appalling, much of it drifting by harmlessly, although it's not something with which the discerning listener may wish to spend any time, to be honest.
Clarence Öfwerman plays all kinds of devices, as he has on Gessle's solo albums, including Mellotron. Now, I've read that it's on Fredriksson's Waiting For The Rain, but all I can hear there is regular strings, and the only place I can even possibly hear it is a high flute line on opener Crush On You, probably also the album's best track. So; boring mainstream pop, next to no 'Tron. You know what you have to do.
See: (Per) Gessle
Mojo Gurus (1998, 49.38) ***/T
Blues for Maryjane
I Walk Alone
Magic Carpet Ride
Baddest Mother's Son
Ballad for a Blue Guru
Come on Into My Kitchen
Shine a Light - This Little Light of Mine
Originally forming as far back as 1982, Roxx Gang's fourth album in a decade, 1998's Mojo Gurus, caught them on the cusp of mutating into a band named for the album. It apparently sounds little like their earlier work (and only has one member in common with it), being more of a sleazy blues-rock album than their previous glam metal style, better tracks including the porch-blues of Blues For Maryjane, the epic folk/blues of I Walk Alone and acoustic closer Red Rose, although the mid-paced Strawberry Wine goes on approximately forever and not in a good way.
Howard Helm plays what might just be genuine Mellotron string and flute parts on Red Rose, the sounds having more of an edge to them than the era's samples. I'm not going to say, "Best thing I've ever heard, squire", but this is a decent enough effort, if not especially for its Mellotron use.
Roxy (1969, 31.19) **½/T
|Love, Love, Love
Sing a Song
New York City
Somebody Told You
Love for a Long Time
You Got a Lot of Style
I Got My Friends
Rock and Roll Circus
The little-known Roxy were precursors of the better-known (at least in the States) Wackers and were the first band that outfit's Bob Segarini and Randy Bishop played in together. They were apparently a blast live, but their sole, eponymous album has too many rather dreary, countryish efforts like Somebody Told You or You Got A Lot Of Style to be considered a particularly good listen today.
Someone, probably Segarini, plays a Mellotron on Yesterdays Song [sic.]; according to the CD liner notes, Elektra's president, Jac Holzman, brought one over from the UK, so the band dug it out and stuck it on the track. The song's harmonium actually takes 'best keyboard' award on the track, but the 'Tron's flutes and faint strings add enough to make it worth hearing if you're listening to the album anyway. I can't honestly say this is that great a listen, though, unless you're into the kind of mainstream stuff the band were peddling, or are a dedicated Wackers fan (huh?) who has to own everything connected with the band.
Roxy Music (UK) see:
Rufus (1973, 42.11) ***/TT
Keep it Coming
There's No Tellin'
Maybe Your Baby
I Finally Found You
|Whoever is Thrilling You (is Killing Me)
Medley: Love the One You're With/Sit Yourself Down
Rufus are remembered these days as Chaka Khan's jumping-off point, although she wasn't even a founding member of the band. She was already installed when they recorded their eponymous 1973 debut, though, dominating the vocal area, despite the occasional male lead. Surprisingly, it isn't the funk-fest you'd expect from their later work, being more of a blues/soul concoction with a funk feel on some tracks, although opener Slip n'Slide is essentially rock'n'roll and Maybe Your Baby is more electric blues than anything.
Ron Stockert plays Mellotron, with cellos and strings on There's No Tellin', strings and flutes on I Finally Found You and a triumphal string part at the climax of Haulin' Coal. Given the lack of real strings on the album, the Mellotron was probably employed as a substitute, possibly making itself more useful than expected once Stockert actually sat down at the thing. Anyway, Rufus is not an album you need to hear if you don't get on with the more soulful end of things, although it contains some unexpectedly worthwhile 'Tron work.
Phallobst (1971, 36.45/79.29) ****/T
Wenn Schon, Denn Schon
I'm on My Way
Paint it Black
Wade in the Water
Rufus Zuphall's Phallobst was their second and last album, and for most of its length could be described as an interesting blues/prog hybrid, with a clean but punchy guitar sound, very distinct from the band's heavier contemporaries. The material is good, the style unusual, the playing excellent; what's not to like? OK, so it hasn't dated that well, but compared to the type of acid folk that Germany was chucking up at the time (Emtidi, Hölderlin etc.), it hasn't actually done too badly, and I can see this becoming a minor favourite if I ever find the time to play it more often.
Guitarist Günther Krause doubled on Mellotron (Dieter Dierks' studio's machine), although he hardly used the thing, to be honest, with no more than a brief burst of brass at the beginning of Portland Town and some more obvious strings on closer I'm On My Way, but nothing to get too excited about. So; a good, unique album, worth it for the progressive fan who wants something slightly different. Long Hair's CD version has the second half of a bloody good gig, 'Live Aachen '72' (part one is tacked onto the reissue of their debut, Weiß der Teufel), which is, of course, Mellotron-free.
Zed (1996, 48.54) ****/TTZed
Runaway Totem's second album (I think), Zed, is a dense, difficult work, which repays the extra effort required to gain anything from it. Among their chief influences would appear to be Magma, with a similar operatic feel to the male and female vocals, and lengthy sections in march time, although they go off at a tangent, where Magma would plough on till the bitter end.
The album consists of two side-long tracks (although I don't know if it's ever been released on vinyl), with a gentleman named Ohm playing Mellotron on the first, and piano on the second; his 'Tron work consists of slabs of strings laid down all over the place, definitely improving the sound of the piece. I'm not sure whether or not to recommend this to 'Tron fans, but if you don't mind your prog a little on the abrasive side, it's probably worth hearing.
A Wizard, a True Star (1973, 55.56) ****/T½
Never Never Land
Tic Tic Tic it Wears Off
You Need Your Head
Rock and Roll Pussy
You Don't Have to Camp
Just Another Onionhead;
Da Da Dali
When the Shit Hits the Fan;
Le Feel Internacionale
Sometimes I Don't Know
What to Feel
Does Anybody Love You?
I'm So Proud
Ooh Baby Baby
La La Means I Love You
Hungry for Love
I Don't Want to Tie You Down
Is it My Name?
Just One Victory
Todd (1974, 66.53) ***½/½
|How About a Little Fanfare
I Think You Know
The Spark of Life
An Elpee's Worth of Toons
A Dream Goes on Forever
Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song
Drunken Blue Rooster
|The Last Ride
Everybody's Going to Heaven/
King Kong Reggae
No.1 Lowest Common Denominator
|Heavy Metal Kids
In and Out the Chakras We Go
Don't You Ever Learn?
Sons of 1984
Todd Rundgren is known for recording albums entirely solo, a practice which reached its apogee with Faithful, where he attempted to recreate classic songs to the point where they were indistinguishable from the originals, meaning it's hard to know who's playing what on his albums. On the offchance you've never heard any of his stuff, he's wildly eclectic, and on a good day, a truly brilliant pop writer, although his career contains far too much faff for him to ever be really consistent. Starting with The Nazz in the late '60s, he worked his way through two albums with Runt at the beginning of the '70s, before striking out on his own, then forming Utopia, while running his solo career concurrently. Confused?
A Wizard, a True Star is regarded by many as his peak, with songs of the quality of International Feel and Is It My Name?, although it has to be said that at nearly an hour, it's a little overlong, and a little editing may have been in order. As far as the Mellotron's concerned, although I've had people swear blind he never used one, all I can say is: listen to the highlighted tracks above. It's difficult to tell on Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel until the end of the song, where it's quite clearly 'Tron strings, and they're all over the Medley, a rather unnecessary combination of four soul tracks. It may well be elsewhere on the album, too, but it's extremely difficult to tell, given the denseness of the production.
The following year's Todd is more of the same, musically, with killer songs like An Elpee's Worth Of Toons and Useless Begging vying for space with bizarre tracks like the Gilbert and Sullivan spoof Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song. I'm assuming it's Mellotron strings again on The Last Ride, but I wouldn't actually stake anything really important on it, and if it is, it might also be elsewhere. Who knows?
Rundgren's had a long and honourable career, and is still doing it now, albeit to a smaller audience. I wouldn't absolutely swear that either of the above albums absolutely, definitely contains Mellotron, but it seems likely. As to whether he used one on anything else... More news should I ever get a fuller story.
Drive (1997, 41.33) **/½
Roll Into One
Y'know, I really want to like Bic Runga's music; she's a Kiwi (I have family there), and she sounds pretty sorted and independent. Unfortunately, her debut, Drive, is a dullsville girly singer-songwriter album, like an Antipodean Dido, though without the irritating production (and admittedly, several years earlier). It starts OK, with the sparse title track, but as soon as the band come in, my attention begins wandering, and after a few tracks, I have to physically stop myself from hitting the 'stop' button.
The sole Mellotron track (played by Miss Runga herself), Suddenly Strange, is as dull as the rest of the album, with a brief 'Strawberry Fields'-style flute part before the (real) strings come in. Although there's only one track credited, I can hear a couple of other 'is it?'s, particularly the background strings on Heal, but without confirmation, the one track it is and shall remain. So, buy? Only if her chosen style is really what you're looking for, to be honest. Sorry, I tried...
Don't Give Up the Ship (1974, 33.44) ****/TTFrom the Sea
Life Has Just Begun
Son Keeps Shining
Allegro/Study in D/Long Long Ago
Country Here I Come
Robin Runge's first (?) album, 1974's Don't Give Up the Ship, has caused some confusion in collecting circles, as his follow-up release, three years later, bears exactly the same title. Huh? Having not heard the later version, I can't comment, but the '74 album is, most surprisingly for a Christian release, a beautiful (if rather amateurishly recorded) record, largely consisting of Runge's lovely acoustic guitar work, sounding (as other reviewers have pointed out) slightly like the quieter tracks from Yes' contemporaneous work, its best tracks including opener From The Sea and Runge's pair of classical segues, Fur Elise/Minuet/Bouree and Allegro/Study In D/Long Long Ago.
The album opens with over a minute of solo Mellotron strings and flutes from Runge himself, while John Salmon adds more of the same to Son Keeps Shining (v.droll, chaps), although, sadly, they elected not to use it anywhere else. This must have the highest star rating of any 'Christian' album on this site; it seems odd referring to a mostly instrumental album as such, but its pair of vocal tracks land it in that category, so there it is. This is really very good indeed; although unavailable officially, it's doing the rounds on download blogs - just take care to grab the right version. Runge apparently went on to record CCM albums the following decade as Robin Crow, a fact you can probably forget immediately. Remember him for this superb effort instead.
Official Robin Crow site
The Stamping Ground (2001, 56.44) ***½/½
|Book of Golden Stories
The Stamping Ground
An Sabhal Aig Neill
Wall of China/One Man
The Engine Room
The Summer Walkers
|Running to the Light
Òran Ailein/Leaving Strathconon
Big Songs of Hope and Cheer
Everything You See (2007, 48.59) ***½/T
|Year of the Flood
Clash of the Ash
The Ocean Road
|Something's Got to Give
And the Accordions Played
Before I start, I must apologise to Runrig for listing their country of origin as 'UK'; if ever a band deserved to be called 'Scottish', it's them. I mean, two members have actually left the band to go into Scottish politics, at least one of them on the devolution side. Quite how well Scotland would/will do devolved from the rest of the so-called 'union' remains to be seen, and I expect we will eventually see it. And when we do, Runrig will play the independence celebrations.
For a brief period in the mid-'80s, I quite liked the band, buying a couple of albums and even going to see them once. My enthusiasm waned after I realised that their music was featuring a growing element of AOR/stadium rock, mixed with their patented Celtic thang. I can't have listened to them in nearly twenty years, so it comes as a nice surprise to report that 2001's The Stamping Ground is actually a pretty decent album, albeit in a Celtic/stadium rock kind of way. To be fair, they've actually toned down most of the bombast, making for a reasonably listenable record, rather against the odds, still throwing in the occasional Gaelic title for good measure. Michael Bannister is credited with Mellotron on An Sabhal Aig Neill (sorry, my Scots Gaelic is a bit rusty), but the only thing it even might be doing is background cellos, though, which makes me wonder why they bothered.
Six years and two albums later, Runrig used a Mellotron again, on 2007's Everything You See. Musically, the album isn't dissimilar to The Stamping Ground, finding a good balance between their Gaelic heritage (the band come from the Isle of Skye and are native Gaelic speakers) and their more anthemic side. I'm not sure how it occurred, but they contacted noted Edinburghian Mellotron owner Mike Dickson about the use of his M400, their keys man Brian Hurren ending up recording it onto a laptop in Mike's front room. Anyway, we get background strings on The Ocean Road, This Day and In Scandinavia (the album's best track?), quite upfront for a few brief seconds on the last-named.
You'd need a heart of stone (yes, even colder than mine) to dislike these two albums. Runrig's evident joie de vivre spills over onto their records; it's not difficult to see why they're such a major live attraction these days. Neither of these albums features an awful lot of the mighty M400, but I really can't see that being a reason for anyone to buy them, anyway. If you like Runrig and haven't heard these, do so.
Ranshart (1974, 33.35) ***½/TT½Love is My Light
Easy Lovers, Heavy Moaners
Pictures of a Day
I don't know much about Ruphus, to be honest; they give the impression, at least on their second effort, Ranshart, of being a hard rock band with progressive leanings, rather than vice versa. The titles and lyrics rather give the game away; I mean, Easy Lovers, Heavy Moaners? However, the music's reasonably good, though far from world-beating, being fairly run-of-the-mill heavyish mid-'70s prog, although the longer tracks on side two betray a slight Yes influence.
Keys man Håkon Graf plays Mellotron on four of the album's five tracks, along with the usual Hammond and Moog. His use is in the standard 'string washes' territory, although it definitely lifts the tracks on which it's used. Unsurprisingly, for a semi-prog album, the best tracks are the longer ones (why is this so often the case?), those being Pictures Of A Day and Back Side, although I suspect the rest of the album may grow on me, if I can ever find the time to play it enough.
So; not bad, not great, some nice 'Tron. Haven't we heard this somewhere before? Worth hearing for the enthusiast.
2112 (1976 , 39.00) ****½/T½
The Temples of Syrinx
Oracle: the Dream
A Passage to Bangkok
|The Twilight Zone
Something for Nothing
Snakes & Arrows (2007, 62.50) ***½/T
Armor and Sword
Workin' Them Angels
The Larger Bowl
The Main Monkey Business
The Way the Wind Blows
Good News First
We Hold on
That's 'Twenty-One-Twelve' to you, not 'Two-One-One-Two', as some initiates to Rush's music first thought (yeah, me too). One of Rush's finest hours (a Rush hour? Sorry...), 2112 is their second album to feature a concept piece, but the first to really get it right. However, it isn't the album's centrepiece that concerns us here, but a rather inconsequential ballad on side 2, Tears. The sleeve states: 'Special guest Hugh Syme - keyboards on 'Tears''. Syme was keyboard player with the Ian Thomas Band, and owned his own M400, also used on the Spoons' Stick Figure Neighbourhood, from '81, and still works for Rush in his capacity as artwork guru to this day. I haven't actually looked that closely at the sleeve of 2112 for years; I was convinced he was credited with 'Mellotron', which shows you how the mind can play tricks sometimes. Well, it is 'Tron, and a very fine example too. The track itself would be easy to discount as a rather wussy ballad if it wasn't for the Mellotron interjections; flutes in the verse, strings in the chorus. Whether the band wrote the 'Tron part or if the legendary Mr Syme came up with it himself isn't specified, but it enhances the song no end, though if you don't like Rush, this track isn't going to convert you to their cause.
Skip forwards 31 years... Rush released their 19th studio album, Snakes & Arrows, in mid-'07, with Geddy Lee's credit reading, 'Bass guitar, bass pedals, Mellotron, vocals'. Er, y'wot? Mellotron? Apparently it's a genuine one, already resident in one of the studios the band used. I must have had more mail about this one album than any other in the seven or eight years I've been running this site, almost all of which said something along the lines of, "But you can't bloody hear it". They're not actually right - although inaudible on my car stereo, there's a fairly obvious string part on Faithless, with a few notes on Bravest Face and Good News First and a background noise on Armor And Sword (so what's suddenly with the American spelling, guys? You're Canadian) that could just, at a pinch, be strings. However, like the credited bass pedals (their producer persuaded them to dig out the old Taurus), there's so little 'Tron here that the credit was barely worth the effort. So, not a bad album, given that their last couple were so ropey, and the accompanying tour was, of course, stupendous. No Mellotron, though.
Buy? If you like Rush, you already own 2112; if you don't, try to hear the track anyway. You won't regret it. Snakes & Arrows is a good modern Rush album, leagues ahead of, say, Vapor Trails (more American spelling!), but please ignore that 'Mellotron' credit.
n.b. Darren has pointed me towards an oddity on Ian Thomas' website; an answer to a question from the man himself, viz:
|"I do believe the Mellotron you refer to [on Thomas' The Runner] may very well have been played by the multi-talented Hugh Syme on the Rush track "Tears". That Mellotron was the best one I had ever seen over the years. It was a double manual and with a pretty comprehensive tape library. Note: incorrect. Further down the same page, Syme is quoted as saying, "We used the (classic) white Mellotron 400 (single manual) model [on both the Thomas and Rush recordings]". There is a greater story to that Mellotron in that it was sold to Geddy by none other than the late great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Oscar, rest his warm curious soul, was always interested in any technology involving music and in particularly anything involving his love... the keyboard.".|
So Geddy owns/owned Oscar Peterson's old MkV? First I've heard of it, but then, I haven't exactly got a hotline into Ged HQ.
Look Inside the Asylum Choir (1968, 27.24) ***/T
|Welcome to Hollywood
Icicle Star Tree
Death of the Flowers
Land of Dog
Mr. Henri the Clown
|Thieves in the Choir
Black Sheep Boogaloo
Carney (1972, 37.09) ***½/TT
Out in the Woods
Me and Baby Jane
Manhattan Island Serenade
Cajun Love Song
|If the Shoe Fits
|7" (1972) ***/TT
Slipping Into Christmas
Christmas in Chicago
Hank Wilson's Back! (1973, 40.49/48.50) ***½/T½
|Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms
She Thinks I Still Care
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
I'll Sail My Ship Alone
A Six Pack to Go
The Battle of New Orleans
|Am I That Easy to Forget?
Truck Drivin' Man
The Window Up Above
Hey Good Lookin'
In the Jailhouse Now]
Stop All That Jazz (1974, 35.06/41.27) ***/T
|If I Were a Carpenter
Time for Love
The Ballad of Hollis Brown
|Mona Lisa Please
Stop All That Jazz
Will o'the Wisp (1975, 42.12) ***/T
|Will o'the Wisp/Little Hideaway
Make You Feel Good
Can't Get Over Losing You
My Father's Shoes
Stay Away From Sad Songs
Back to the Island
Down on Deep River
|Laying Right Here in Heaven
Leon Russell played (and probably still plays) an eclectic mixture of blues, soul, country and just about anything else you can think of. Despite never crediting the thing, I believe he owned both a Mellotron (M400) and a Chamberlin, using the latter on quite a few recordings, the first of which is 1968's slightly ill-advised 'psychedelic' offering, Look Inside the Asylum Choir, actually credited to 'Leon Russell Marc Benno Asylum Choir'. It's actually not a bad effort, all things considered, and absolutely bugger-all like anything else Russell ever produced, once he was given free rein. It's exceedingly short, bearing the hallmarks of the genre cash-in, although I'm quite sure Russell was manoeuvred into it by whichever bunch of shysters he was signed to at the time. Best tracks? Probably bluesy psych (!) opener Welcome To Hollywood and the whimsical Icicle Star Tree. Chamberlin strings on Death Of The Flowers, but despite other possible parts scattered throughout the record, that's probably it for this one.
I can't hear any on 1971's Leon Russell & the Shelter People, but the following year's Carney has it on several tracks. Cajun Love Song has strings and brass on, er, a Cajun-style thing, while the under-a-minute title track has jaunty, fairground-style brass, and the frankly weird Acid Annapolis has male voices, alongside the real thing. The album's Chamby highlight, however, is This Masquerade, opening with an overdubbed strings and vibes part, with possibly other sounds thrown in, with strings (I think) on Magic Mirror, too.
Slipping Into Christmas is a distinct oddity in the Russell catalogue; it sold well upon release, but has been totally unavailable since the single's deletion, appearing on no Russell album or general seasonal records. The reason? Hard to say for certain, but its downbeat, bluesy take on the 'festive season' may have a lot to do with it; this isn't the most cheerful Christmas record you'll ever hear and is all the better for it. The flip, Christmas In Chicago, is musically slightly more upbeat, but even less so lyrically, if that's possible. Leon plays jazzy (presumably) Chamby strings on the top side, plus a grungy flute solo, quite clearly tape-driven. This is almost impossible to find, although some kind soul has put a recording of his scratchy old copy onto YouTube, making it rather more accessible.
Nothing audible on '72's Asylum Choir II (a second collaboration with Marc Benno), but Russell's first 'country' album (in his own inimitable style), Hank Wilson's Back! has presumably Chamberlin strings on I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry and Am I That Easy To Forget?. Given my usual distaste for most country stuff (honourable exception: Johnny Cash), I surprised myself by quite liking some of this album; Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms features some of the most furious banjo playing you'll hear this side of Flatt & Scruggs (don't tell me; it is Flatt & Scruggs, right?), and even the pedal steel stuff didn't make me vomit.
'74's Stop All That Jazz and the following year's Will o'the Wisp are more 'straightforward' Russell albums, whatever you take that to mean; not country, anyway. Stop All That Jazz opens with a bizarre r'n'b take on Tim Hardin's deathless If I Were A Carpenter, then sticks fairly closely to Russell's patented jazz/blues/soul mixture for the rest of the album. Now, why is it that he wouldn't credit his tape-replay use? Full instrumental credits on the album, with the glaring exception of the full-on Chamberlin (?) strings on side two's Big Ballad, Time For Love. Will o'the Wisp's opening pairing of Will o'the Wisp/Little Hideaway is particularly good, although some of the material strikes one as slightly unnecessary (notably closing ballad Lady Blue). Ignoring the comment I made above re. his Chamby/Mellotron use, My Father's Shoes has a really full-on upfront strings part that has to be Mellotron rather than Chamby, although I'm not sure about the intro oboe (clarinet?).
I'm told there's more tape-replay on some of Russell's other albums; more details when I get to hear them. One that isn't listed here is his 1979 collaboration with outlaw country legend Willie Nelson on a double album of standards, One for the Road, featuring extensive use of his Chamberlin. As for this lot, Carney is the only Chamby 'must-have', though Will o'the Wisp's My Father's Shoes really should be heard.
See: Willie Nelson & Leon Russell
Enter (2006, 44.16) ***½/TCarpe
Death Rides a Horse
You Already Did
I suppose you could call Russian Circles post-rock, but they add a huge dose of heaviosity to the proceedings that you won't hear on Godspeed or Mogwai albums. Entirely instrumental, their 2006 debut, Enter, is actually a pretty decent record that doesn't outstay its welcome over six tracks, combining metal, prog and indie into a vocalless stew that will probably have your typical post-rocker (is there such a thing?) running screaming.
Robert Lowe plays Mellotron towards the end of the title track, while everything else drops away, leaving a lonely flute part that sees the piece out, getting very wobbly towards the end. Despite its nicely upfront nature, a minute or so of unaccompanied Mellotron probably doesn't make this worth buying on that account. However, not a bad album, probably unlike anything else you've heard this week/month/year.
Rusted Root (1998, 52.33) **/½
|She Roll Me Up
Live a Long Time
Kill You Dead
You Can't Always Get What You Want
How can Rusted Root have sold several million records and I've never heard of them? They're not even genre-closeted, so to speak, like many multi million-selling country artists. Anyway, how to describe them? Well, their fourth, eponymous album contains a percussion-heavy fusion of blues, soul and country, with a little generic African influence thrown in. Like the sound of it? Didn't think so. Me neither. Actually, their faithful cover of The Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want that closes the album sums their sound up perfectly; if you've always disliked the track as much as I have, you've got a pretty good pointer as to how you'll feel about this album.
It seems the band collaborated with Hot Tuna on some of the record (fittingly, since that outfit are a Grateful Dead offshoot, a band to whom Rusted Root are often compared), after touring with them. Their Pete Sears adds Mellotron to Away From, with a minor flute part that doesn't really add anything to the song. Rusted Root isn't the kind of album you're going to analyse, pick apart and generally obsess over; it's the kind of album you're either going to dance to at a thirty-somethings party or smoke a fat one to, if pseudo-ethnicity's your bag. Personally, I shall do my level best never to hear it again. Dull, dull, dull.
Replicas (1988, recorded 1970, 44.32) ***/0
|T on the Lawn for Three
But That Was Then That Was But
High Tide Play Rustic Hinge
Romanian Folk Dance No.1
Romanian Folk Dance No.2
John "Drachen" Theaker and Andy "Android Funnel" Rickell's Rustic Hinge were one of the nuttier early Brit progressive outfits to crop up at the beginning of the '70s, not to mention one of the many who almost got something released, but fell at the last hurdle. In this case, John Peel's Dandelion label were going to issue the one-sided (fuck knows why) T on the Lawn for 3, but when it never happened, the tapes were stashed away until the late '80s, when London's much-missed Reckless label released Replicas (on vinyl only), presumably containing all known material by the band.
It's a bonkers mix of (relatively) straightforward psych, proto-prog and manic Beefheart-like strangeness, much of it apparently 'written' from Theaker's mad improvs, Rickell keeping up somehow, until the pieces coalesced into some vague kind of form. Although the eventual release is only 'vinyl length', you get the feeling that maybe the original, briefer running order might make more sense, as the band wander off into avant territory on side two's Romanian Folk Dances, although that's also where you'll find High Tide Play Rustic Hinge, the band having links with Tony Hill and future Hawk Simon House's band.
Bruce Langhorn allegedly plays Mellotron on 'side 1, track 4', although given that everything up to [Untitled] seems to be a subdivision of T On The Lawn For Three, it's hard to say just which track this might be. Anyway, I can't hear a damn' thing, so if there's anything there, it's buried at the bottom of the mix. Incidentally, Arthur Brown was involved with the band for a brief period (Theaker had been an on/off member of The Crazy World), until they turned out to be too crazed even for him, at which point he buggered off to form Kingdom Come, I believe having later links with Theaker and Funnell again. Anyway, an, er, 'interesting' album, if not always a particularly listenable one, but no obvious Mellotron, for what it's worth.
See: Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come
Opera Prima (1973, 40.48) ****/TTTNativita
E Svegliarsi in un Giorno
Rustichelli and Bordini were a keys/drums duo, contracted from a trio with a bassist who made just the one, excellent album, Opera Prima. I've seen this listed as 'one of the Italian greats', so it's gratifying to hear that it is, indeed, one of the better albums to come out of such a large scene; I must've heard album opener Nativita sometime in the past, as it was immediately familiar, which is more than I can say for a great deal of music I've owned (and played) for years. The material takes a slight dip in the middle of the album, with some unfortunate vocal parts (Rustichelli?), although that's just being picky, really.
Rustichelli used his Mellotron on four of the six tracks, mostly strings, although there are several cello parts (notably the intro to Cammellandia), and the odd bit of flute. This is all excellent stuff, with the 'Tron coming in just when needed, avoiding 'Mellotron overkill' syndrome. Well, it's nice to hear a much-awaited album, and find that it was worth the wait. Buy.
Broken Promises (2003, 47.31) ***½/½
Civil Wars/Luck's Changing Lanes
|Tangled in the Fence
Never Going Back
Luck's Changing Lanes (2008, 45.11) ***½/½
So Long Farewell
New York Fallen Angel
Luck's Changing Lanes
Tangled in the Fence
Never Going Back
Mark Seliger is best-known as Rolling Stone's chief photographer in the '90s, shooting many magazine covers and portraits, although, maybe unfairly, his musical career is less noted. He began writing songs during his tenure at Rolling Stone, during which time he made many friends in the music biz, including Jakob 'son of the better-known...' Dylan (surely Zimmerman?) and one of this site's Chamberlin superstars, Rami Jaffee, who helped him pull a band together, including members or associates of Grant Lee Buffalo and Ryan Adams, amongst others. Once Lenny Kravitz came on board, Seliger felt confident enough to approach some other people he'd worked with in his main career, taking 18 months to piece a record together.
The resulting album, Broken Promises, appeared in 2003, under the moniker Rusty Truck (who he, then?), apparently as a 'limited release', according to Seliger's website, although it still seems to be available through Amazon. It sits firmly in the alt.country/Americana area and to my ears, is every bit as good as the genre's leading lights, the songwriting covering all the usual bases, with a distinctly Texan twang to some of them. Presumably due to its original 'limited' status, Seliger reissued the album five years later as Luck's Changing Lanes, dropping two tracks (the mariachi-flavoured Candy, sadly, and TKO) in the process, while adding So Long Farewell and the country/reggae (!) of New York Fallen Angel. Maybe it's Seliger's non-musical background, but he brings something new to the genre, as evinced by the tablas and sax on Prey and New York Fallen Angel's unusual feel.
Rami Jaffee plays Chamberlin on one song on both versions, with background strings towards the end of Never Going Back, although you could hardly call his use 'classic', frankly. That isn't why you might wish to splash out on this album, though; that'll be the songs. The reissue also adds a DVD with a surround sound version of the album and several videos, should you be impressed by such things.
|7" (1980) ****/TT
Working in Line
This has to be the oddest Genesis-related 'Tron track of them all. Mike Rutherford's first solo album, the really rather good (if Mellotron-free) Smallcreep's Day gave birth to a single, Working In Line, excised from the side-long title track. Its non-album b-side, Compression, is a six-minute number, the instrumental section of which apparently dates right back to the Selling England sessions in 1973. It's actually a perfectly good song, better than several on the album, so it can only be a matter for conjecture as to why it hasn't been added to CD issues.
Rutherford's old pal Anthony Phillips plays keys on the album and the track, adding, assuming my ears don't deceive me, Mellotron flutes (first part), strings AND choir (second part), making this not only a last (current) Genesis 'Tron gasp (Steve Hackett was, of course, an ex-member by this point), but also the most upfront use of the machine by any of them in three years. I've no idea why he elected to use one at this late stage, but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth, eh?
You really are not going to find this one easily, to be honest; I couldn't even find a download of it, having to rely on the charity of one of my correspondents (thanks, Jochen!). Apart from the rare-as German fan club CD mentioned above, it turns up on, of all godforsaken things, a four-disc Mike + the Mechanics bootleg set. I mean, four DISCS? Wild horses couldn't drag me to play one bloody track... Hopefully this will appear officially one day, but until then, good luck in your search...
See: Genesis | Anthony Phillips
Sings Paul Ryan (1968, 35.57) ***½/½
|Theme to Eutopia
Why Do You Cry My Love?
The Colour of My Love
I Will Bring You Love
Love is on the Way
|What's That Sleeping in My Bed?
You Don't Know What You're Doing
Kristan Astra Bella
Paul & Barry Ryan were identical twin pop stars of the mid-'60s, but when Paul bowed out due to stress, Barry carried on, at least for a while, singing Paul's songs. The best (only?) known of these is the baroque orchestral pop classic Eloise, memorably covered by The Damned in the early '80s. It was a massive hit for Ryan in '68, too, selling over three million copies and completely overshadowing anything else he did. He made two albums, '68's Sings Paul Ryan and an eponymous '69 follow-up, before retiring from the biz himself. Stuffed full of material in a similar vein (if not quite the quality) of Eloise, both albums are well worth hearing, although it's only the former that interests us here. Opening with Theme To Eutopia, a kind-of overture to the album as a whole, as well as the obvious, it features songs of the quality of Crazy Days, My Mama and the Beach Boys-esque I Will Bring You Love, although, in truth, there's not a single clunker to be heard here.
An anonymous session muso adds overt MkII strings to the intro of Love Is On The Way, in direct contrast to the orchestra utilised on the rest of the album, making it likely it was used specifically for its sound (hurrah!), rather than as a cheap orchestral substitute. You almost certainly know Eloise, if only The Damned's version (which doesn't differ that much from the original, anyway), so if you'd like to hear more of the same, you could do an awful lot worse than to buy Rev-ola's Singing the Songs of Paul Ryan, 1968-69, containing both of Barry's albums and a couple of bonuses. Sings Paul Ryan's a great album, though really not worth it for its minor Mellotronic contribution.
May Day (1997, 53.17) ***/0
Watch Your Step
The Dead Girl
Lights of the Commodore Barry
Matthew Ryan plays a similar kind of rootsy, Americana-informed rock to John Mellencamp, or even Bruce Springsteen, but with fewer cars. His debut album, 1997's May Day, sets his stall out nicely, with material as strong as opener Guilty, The Dead Girl and closer Certainly Never, although it rarely transcends its influences.
David Ricketts plays various keyboards, mostly old, allegedly including Mellotron, although I think you'll need better ears than mine to detect it, frankly. Is that cellos on Comfort? More likely to be sustained guitar, but it's hard to tell. Anything on Lights Of The Commodore Barry? Probably not. I'm sure the credits tell the truth, but if I can't hear it, it gets a zero. So; not a bad album of its type, but no audible Mellotron.
The Lipstick Game (1999, 41.28) **½/½
|The Prosthetic Aesthetic
Thanksgiving Day for Cats
Baby's Got New Flame
The Dirty Aristocrat
Amplification of the Queen Bee
The Lipstick Game
|Busted Bride's Last Ride
Through the Years
The Rye Coalition are a New Jersey-based hardcore band who spent the first several years of their career tarred with the 'emo' brush, despite all insistences to the contrary. 1999's The Lipstick Game is their second album, a shouty-yet-intricate effort, better moments including the angular guitar work on opener The Prosthetic Aesthetic, the deranged seven minutes-plus of Thanksgiving and the acoustic Tangiers.
John Forsdahl plays Mellotron on Amplification Of The Queen Bee, with a muffled octave string part opening the track, possibly even emanating from a real M400, although the soundalike on closer Through The Years is presumably something else. Overall, then, better than expected, though still rather wearing after a few tracks, with very little Mellotron indeed.
Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away (1974, 37.10) ***½/TT½Silver Bird is Heading for the Sun
Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away
Unfinished Highballs (2012, recorded 1976, 67.58) ***/½Unfinished Highballs
The Golden Eye
Dine and Dance to the Music of the Waves
Bright Lights - Big City
Terje Rypdal is probably Norway's best-known jazz guitarists; not so difficult, to be fair, but he's a talented player and writer, active since the early '60s in one guise or another. His ongoing collaboration with the esteemed ECM label began around 1970, while he was working with Jan Garbarek, with Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away being (I believe) his third solo effort. In many ways, it's a typical mid-'70s fusion album, although it has some very untypical Mellotron work from Pete Knutsen of the Norwegian Popol Vuh (nothing to do with Florian Fricke's outfit). Actually, it's unfair to say the album is typical; it's a good deal more inventive and less clichéd than your average American fusion record, with considerable use made of orchestral instruments, particularly on side two's title track, which was written for guitar and orchestra. Knutsen's Mellotron work on the 'band' side is excellent, opening the album with cellos and strings under (real) french horn on the 13-minute Silver Bird Is Heading For The Sun, shifting key signatures every couple of bars to great effect. More 'Tron interjections throughout the piece, with similar on the shorter The Hunt, along with Knutsen's jazzy Rhodes work.
There's no Mellotron on 1975's reflective double album Odyssey (****), but 2012's three-disc reissue includes over an hour of a live set recorded with a large ensemble the following year at Estrad, Södertälje, subtitled Unfinished Highballs. You've really got to be into Rypdal's brass-driven, orchestral-ish jazz to listen to this without finding yourself catapulted back into a bizarre pre-/post-rock'n'roll crossover era that never actually existed, early '60s brass co-existing with mid-'70s fusion. Bengt Hallberg is credited with Mellotron, but the only possible use is the background choirs on The Golden Eye and I'm a bit suspicious of them.
If Whenever I Seem... has a fault, it's that the Mellotron could've been used rather more (how many times have we heard this before?), but although it's only on one side of the record, it's well-used. (Tentatively) buy, although while the original Odyssey is superb, I'm really not convinced by its now-attendant live disc.
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