Smell of Incense
Craig P. Smith
Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) (2004, 64.06) ***/T
The Blister Exists
Opium of the People
|Pulse of the Maggots
Before I Forget
Vermilion pt. 2
The Virus of Life
Danger - Keep Away
I'll come clean and admit that, before now, I'd never really heard Slipknot, despite their high-profile, twenty-year career. I usually find their style of metal rather tiresome - I certainly have no time for the bands with whom they're usually compared - but, I have to say, their third release, 2004's Rick Rubin-produced Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses), definitely has its moments. No, I don't much like all the clichéd stuff - manic double-kicks, tuneless high-speed guitar soloing, yelled vocals - but many tracks (yet few complete ones) contain features that work for me. As a result, the only whole songs I can say I definitely like are the slow ones, Circle and Vermilion Pt. 2, which also have something else in common.
Keys man Craig Jones (a.k.a. #5) plays Chamberlin, although it's not specifically credited, with a repeating cello line on (guess what) Circle and an octave string line, nicely high in the mix, on Vermilion Pt. 2. Well, I find Slipknot a classic 'curate's egg' band; elements I like and dislike, usually within the same song. I also found the album far too long for its content, but I doubt whether fans would agree. Anyway, two seemingly real Chamby tracks, although you can't imagine the band using them on the full-on metal stuff.
Rok Cirkus [a.k.a. Rock Cirkus] (1980, 36.53) **½/TRock Cirkus
I to Je Za Ljude
Zašto Ne Volim Sneg (1981, 39.57) ***/TJužni Voz
Zašto Ne Volim Sneg
Smak formed in 1971 in what is now Serbia, playing a form of jazzy progressive blues, rapidly becoming one of Yugoslavia's top rock bands. After losing popularity in the late '70s, they returned with Rok Cirkus (a.k.a. Rock Cirkus), in a more commercial hard rock direction, although Instrumental Baby is more progressive fusion, while closer Hirošima is more funky, Clavinet-driven pop with a cod-Japanese feel. Unlike some Yugoslav albums of the period featuring false 'Mellotron' credits, there's no doubt that Smak had access to one; in fact, it was played (and presumably owned) by Laza Ristovski (Laza & Ipe), with flutes and strings on Ogledalo, Ristovski playing Hammond on the bulk of the record.
The following year's Zašto Ne Volim Sneg is very noticeably less commercial and more progressive, Balet moving off into fusion territory again, while the lengthy Maht Pustinja is nearer a fusion/space rock crossover than anything. Ristovski on 'Tron again, with flutes and strings on Zajdi, Zajdi, the band's reworking of a folk tune from the region and nicely upfront flutes on Talisman. I couldn't honestly say either of these albums exactly sets the world alight, but they're both listenable enough, Zašto Ne Volim Sneg definitely being the better of the two, although Rok Cirkus has better Mellotron use.
Small Faces (1967, 30.19) ***½/T
|(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me
Something I Want to Tell You
Happy Boys Happy
Things Are Going to Get Better
My Way of Giving
Become Like You
|Get Yourself Together
All of Our Yesterdays
Talk to You
Show Me the Way
Up the Wooden Hills to Bedfordshire
|7" (1967) *****/T½
I'm Only Dreaming
Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (1968, 38.35) ****/T½
|Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
Long Agos and Worlds Apart
Song of a Baker
|The Hungry Intruder
Happy Days Toy Town
The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette: the Immediate Anthology (1999, 140.43) ****½/TT
|I Can't Make it
Here Comes the Nice
Talk to You
(Tell Me) Have You Ever
Something I Want to Tell
Happy Boys Happy
Things Are Going to Get
My Way of Giving
|Become Like You
Get Yourself Together
All of Our Yesterdays
Show Me the Way
Up the Wooden Hills to
I'm Only Dreaming
I Feel Much Better
Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
Afterglow (of Your Love)
Long Agos and Worlds Apart
Song of a Baker
The Hungry Intruder
Happy Days Toy Town
Donkey Rides, a Penny, a
Wham Bam, Thank You Man
The Autumn Stone
Call it Something Nice
Wide Eyed Girl on the Wall
Don't Burst My Bubble
Every Little Bit Hurts
The Pig Trotters
The War of the Worlds
Take My Time
(If You Think You're) Groovy
Wham Bam, Thank You Man
Green Circles (backing)
The Small Faces' rise to fame was fairly meteoric, shifting from good, if generic r'n'b through to cockney psychedelia in the space of two years. Their first two albums both bear the same eponymous title, for some unknown reason, so have become known as 'The Decca Album' and 'The Immediate Album', the latter being the only one to concern us here. After leaving Decca, the band, signed to Stones' manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label, producing a brief but incendiary run of hits and two albums. The Small Faces (Immediate version) shows the band on the cusp of their stylistic shift, with straightforward r'n'b like the instrumental Happy Boys Happy rubbing shoulders with more adventurous material like Green Circles. Organist Ian 'Mac' McLagan sticks some Mellotron on opener (Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me and some very background brass on Feeling Lonely, but his main use on the album is on the more psychedelically-inclined Become Like You, with its melodic string line, shifting up an octave just before the end of the song.
One of their (possibly the) career peaks was their huge summer '67 hit, the fabulous Itchycoo Park (which I remember from a rather unlikely 1975 reissue, when it hit for the second time round). I could wax lyrical about the song for paragraphs, but I won't 'cos it's not relevant to this site. Its b-side, however, I'm Only Dreaming, features McLagan on Mellotron vibes; I wasn't sure if they were 'Tron or real, until I heard the block chords at the end of the song, complete with key-click. Available on various compilations, it's hardly worth obtaining for its 'Tron input, but isn't a bad song, whatever. [n.b. Mellotron God Martin Smith tells me that we're also hearing MkII sax (correct: a short solo near the end) and 'Dixieland fills in short staccato phrases', to which I can only say, you REALLY have to know your MkII Mellotron sounds to spot this. I think I can hear the bit he means, but it takes someone considerably more expert than myself (as in Martin) to notice.]
1968 found the Small Faces still mods, but having already dipped their collective toes into the murky world of psychedelia the previous year with Itchycoo Park, they were reasonably well-equipped to take on the late-'60s mob-handed. Anyone who may have any even remote doubts as to the band's drug credentials should give an at least cursory listen to Here Comes The Nice - I mean, how DID they get away with that lyric? Anyway, I don't know how much acid the band were doing, but going by side two of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake there was definitely something in the water down at Wapping Wharf.
Most of the songs are a more laid-back update on the r'n'b style they'd made their own, with Steve Marriott's distinctive 'cockernee' vocals, the best-known being Lazy Sunday, although there isn't a bad track on the album, to be honest. Side two is an odd little concept piece, Happiness Stan, with bizarre narration from Stanley Unwin, speaking his own superb and unique distortion of the Queen's English, Unwinese. McLagan's Mellotron work is unfortunately limited to three tracks; Happiness Stan itself has some reasonable background string work, while The Journey is limited to a few pitchbent string chords and there's a brief 'Tron sax solo on closer Happy Days Toy Town. There's also a brief mention of the instrument in Unwin's rambling on the latter track, where he says something like "And [someone] brought his Mellotrone [sic] and freaked 'em all out". So; great album, but only so-so 'Tron.
After seemingly dozens of reissues, of greater or lesser quality, the reactivated Immediate (through Castle) released the double CD The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette: the Immediate Anthology in 1999. I'm no expert on the band's career, but it apparently includes every studio track they recorded for the label, although the live tracks from their original posthumous odds'n'sods release, The Autumn Stone, are missing. I've also read that a between-song link on Ogden's has mysteriously gone walkies, while the album itself is irritatingly split over the two discs, with the original side division as the split point. Minor quibbles aside, this is an excellent release, mopping up all their single-only tracks, both albums and various extraneous bits and pieces, not to mention a quick, 'hidden' burst of a backing track for Green Circles stuck at the end of disc two, after a gap. All five of the band's 'Tron tracks are present and correct, so if you want to hear what the 'magic midgets' got up to in their two-year Immediate period, and you're not fussed about Ogden's being split, this is the place to go.
Three-quarters of the band went on to become the Faces, of course, while Marriott played in the inexplicably (temporarily, now essentially forgotten) successful Humble Pie. With both Marriott and bassist Ronnie Lane now dead, the Small Faces are about as 'history' as any band can be. Saying that, isn't there a version of Humble Pie doing the rounds consisting of the original rhythm section plus hired-hand frontmen? Heinous.
Small Wonder (1976, 37.13) **½/TTTTIt Was Meant to Be
Time is Passing Me By
I'm a One Way Train
Pray for the World
Why Walk When You Can Dance
You and I
Midnite Plane Ride
Growin' (1977, 32.49) **/0Will You Be Part of Me?
Run Run Around
Good Morning Daybreak
Who am I
Whatever it Will Be
Nowhere Left to Turn
Right Side of the Bed
Small Wonder are determinedly obscure; the only information I've been able to find about them is that vocalist/violinist Henry Small is Canadian, an ex-member of Scrubbaloe Caine (who?!) and future singer with AORsters Prism. On their eponymous 1976 debut, the band's style was mainstream pop/rock, mid-'70s style, with distinct progressive tendencies in the instrumental department, going by the amount of Moog and Mellotron (Atlantis sounds like a pop version of '70s Yes), not to mention Jerry Morin's twin-neck. Jimmy Phillips slaps Mellotron all over Small Wonder, with strings on every track, although his use sometimes seems a little gratuitous. Mellotron highlights are Atlantis, the intro to Midnite Plane Ride and, most of all, You And I, although you have to fight your way through the layers of rather sickly harmonies and self-consciously upbeat commercialism to get to it.
Their second (and last) long-player, the following year's Growin', makes its predecessor look like a prog classic, subjecting us to a range of MORisms on most tracks. Exceptions? A little pseudo-classical Clavinet part in opener Will You Be Part Of Me? and a similar piano run in countryish closer Oh! Hoedown, Run Run Around is the rockiest thing here, in a solid '70s vein and Rollin' On and Whatever It Will Be aren't too bad, in a good-time boogie kind of way, but we appear to be clutching at straws. And as for Phillips' 'Mellotron' credit... Is it here at all? Real strings on most tracks, so who knows whether our tape-driven friend is lurking in the background anywhere? Those could be background strings on Good Morning Daybreak, although the flute duet on the track sounds real, so I think we're looking at a big, fat '0' here. Frankly, you have to be something of a West Coast pervert to get anything out of this at all, just in case you were wondering (ha ha) whether or not to invest.
So; difficult to recommend musically, but at least their debut features loads of Mellotron for the aficionado. I got my copy for US$1.00, thrown in with another album, so unless you're really into this type of thing, I wouldn't bother paying a lot more. Incidentally, I doubt whether you'll find a greater first/second album Mellotronic dichotomy than Small Wonder's on this site, for what it's worth.
Smashing Pumpkins (US) see:
All Mimsy Were the Borogoves (1994, 53.20) ****/TT½Alice
(The Smell of) Interstellar Overdrive
|7" (1994) ****/T½
The Smell of Incense
A Visit With Ashiya
Through the Gates of Deeper Slumber (1997, 49.54) ****½/TTTTT
|A Floral Treasury
The Song of the Winter Aconite Fairy
The Song of the Nightshade Fairy
The Song of the Queen of the Meadow Fairy
|A Word in Season
From the Third Hemisphere
Kraken (Slight Return)
Of Ullages & Dottles (2007, 50.20) ****/TTTTBumbles and Dragons
Where Forlorn Sunsets Flare and Fade
The Golden Knot
The Haunted Chamber
Well in it
Of Pygmies, Palms and Pirates
A Curious Miscellany (2010, recorded 1992-2005, 49.45) ****/TT
|The Smell of Incense
Why Did I Get So High?
(I Wanna Live in the) Golden State
Coming Down (long version)
If Not This Time
|Christopher's Journey (demo)
A Visit With Ashiya
Tread Softly on My Dreams
I'm Allergic to Flowers
Until I heard them, I was under the impression that The Smell of Incense were 'just another Scandinavian prog band'. Not a bit of it. They mix'n'match influences from all over, but are most easily described as 'psychedelic', whatever you take that to mean. Some of the members had known each other since the mid-'70s, unbelievably and after putting out various odd releases in the '80s as Famlende Forsøk, they put the SoI together in the mid-'80s with a remit to be as 'psychedelic' as possible, with the intention of recording an album of '60s psych classics.
Somewhere along the line, however, they started writing their own material, ending up with the compromise that is All Mimsy Were the Borogoves (Lewis Carroll's 'Jabberwocky', of course). Of the seven tracks on board, they ended up with three covers (The Kinks' Fancy, The Incredible String Band's Witch's Hat and a heavily customised version of Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive), plus another three where they put their music to someone else's lyrics (Faerie Emerald, from Edmund Spenser's 'Faerie Queen', Christopher's Journey from A.A. Milne's 'Winnie the Pooh' and a late-'60s Peter Hammill poem, Shrine, previously not set to music). The band obviously refuse to use any equipment produced later than, say, 1972, with the end result being a marvellously 'authentic' late-'60s album. Well, nearly. Mellotron choirs didn't exist until 1972, but who's arguing when they sound this good? Their only wholly 'in-house' number, Alice, has some very background 'Tron strings, but the flute melody and strings on Faerie Emerald are right at the front of the mix, with background choirs. More choirs on Christopher's Journey and Shrine, although Interstellar Overdrive is more of a trippy organ jam, different enough from the original to justify the band's collective co-writing credit. Incidentally, the 'Tron (it seems they own one) was played by 'Han Solo', one of several nom-de-plumes used by the band, for reasons best known to themselves.
The band have released a handful of singles, in various formats, all of which consist of covers of obscure psych classics. 1994 brought their version of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's The Smell Of Incense (wondered where they'd got their name), backed with HMS Bounty's A Visit With Ashiya ('67 and '69 respectively). As I've heard neither track in its original version, comparisons are not so much pointless as impossible, but they both sound pretty damn' good here, with some 'Tron strings and a smattering of choirs on the 'b'.
They followed All Mimsy... three years later, with Through the Gates of Deeper Slumber, which had shifted right up to, er, about 1973, taking on prog influences to add to the all-pervading psych. Their remit this time round, it seems, was to put music to the writings of various mystical writers, those being Mary Cicely Barker, Michael Moorcock, Lord Dunsany and Robert E. Howard. Opening track, A Floral Treasury, is 25 minutes long, working its way through several sections and feels, including a near-dance part (that's contemporary, not country...). The songs are all excellent, with killer hooks inserted all over the place, particularly on A Word In Season, so don't get the idea that this is just another pseudo-psych effort favouring style over substance. The Smell of Incense have both... Apart from the music, Through the Gates... is stuffed to the gills with Mellotron; not only strings/flutes/choir, but an unidentified woodwind instrument and what sounds like it may be one of the various 'orchestra' sounds near the beginning of the first track. They often use two sounds at once, but I've no idea what their Mellotronic setup is, so no news on how they reproduce it all live, assuming they even try. 'Trons not only by Han Solo, but Mickey Moog as well, this time.
A decade on, the band's third album, 2007's Of Ullages & Dottles, displays more of a folky/medieval flavour on material such as Laughing Song and Where Forlorn Sunsets Flare And Fade (which starts off as the bastard lovechild of Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well (Part 2)), although the nine-minute Well In It is full-on prog and a couple of tracks feature the band's punchier side, while closer Of Pygmies, Palms And Pirates has more than a hint of Floyd's Astronomy Domine about it. 'Moog' on Mellotron again (as against 'Mellotron on Moog', I suppose), with flutes on opener Bumbles And Dragons, flute and string parts on Laughing Song, choirs and strings on Where Forlorn Sunsets Flare And Fade, polyphonic flutes on Song, choirs and strings on The Golden Knot, with cellos and low-end flutes later on, a fastish (and quite wobbly) string line and flutes on Well In It and beautiful string and flute parts on Of Pygmies, Palms And Pirates, quite possibly the album's Mellotronic highlight.
2010 brought A Curious Miscellany, a long-overdue collection of out-of-print tracks from singles and compilations, alongside some previously-unheard material. Their recording debut, 1992's one-sided flexi, I'm Allergic To Flowers, proves that their sound was fully-formed from the off, top tracks including both sides of the aforementioned The Smell Of Incense/A Visit With Ashiya, compilation track Varulv and superb third album outtake, Tread Softly On My Dreams. Surprisingly little Mellotron, just three tracks out of twelve, with choirs on 1991 demo of first album track Christopher's Journey, strings on A Visit With Ashiya, of course and strings, choirs and flutes on Tread Softly On My Dreams, all purportedly from Mickey Moog.
So; unlike so many similar, a band more than worthy of your hard-earned. I believe All Mimsy... is currently 'unofficially' available (so why not re-release it properly, chaps?), with their three other albums all still on catalogue. Plenty of Mellotron, but they'd be great albums had the band never heard of tape-replay instruments. Buy.
See: Famlende Forsøk | Seid
Ghost of a Smile [a.k.a. Gettin' Smile] (1982/97, recorded 1969, 20.47) ***/½Earth
Step on Me
Smile's mini-album, variously known as Gettin' Smile and Ghost of a Smile, has a rather confused history. The band were a London-based trio at the tail end of the '60s, who just happened to include one Brian May on guitar and one Roger Taylor on drums, along with bassist/vocalist Tim Staffell. If the last name looks at all familiar to you, it'll probably be from the writing credits on the first Queen album, where he co-wrote Doin' Alright, also to be found here, although he also played with future Mott the Hoople Morgan Fisher's Morgan project. As far as anyone can work out, they only ever recorded six tracks, which remained unreleased until the early '80s, when a Japanese label stuck them out as Gettin' Smile, presumably in a somewhat unauthorised manner (I remember seeing a copy of this, but stupidly didn't buy it). It appeared again in '97, this time (of course) on CD as Ghost of a Smile; there appear to be two different versions, with the Dutch Pseudonym issue being relatively official, and the other (Italian?) one being a poor-sounding boot, although it adds both sides of Freddie Mercury's 'Larry Lurex' single from '73. Incidentally, don't bother with that particular rarity - I Can Hear Music is a poor version of the Beach Boys' song and the b-side isn't much better.
So, what's it like? A bit of a mixed bag, actually; the proverbial 'curate's egg', even. Smile admit to being influenced by Cream, although this only shows up here on Blag, with the other songs presumably being rather unrepresentative of their live sound. Earth (b/w Step On Me) was actually a single, but it's hardly surprising it didn't exactly set the charts alight, although it's a decent enough song. Actually, the one reason you'd really want to get this is to see the roots of Queen; not only did they record Doin' Alright, but Step On Me has some signature May guitar harmonies, already in place even then, while Blag's obviously curtailed 'jam' section contains bits of what would end up as Brighton Rock, five years and three albums later. As for the Mellotron (very possibly played by May), there's a bit of background string work on Earth, but as great 'Tron work goes, it's deeply inessential, to be honest.
So; this is actually quite essential for fans of early Queen, if only to see from whence they came. The rest of you should probably pass swiftly by; this is no long-lost psych classic, although it does have its moments. Your decision, methinks.
Apollo Smile (1991, 44.37) **/½
I Want You to Love Me
Love Comes Your Way
Theme for All Nations
Hymn to the Sun
Temple of Love
Dune Buggy (Bonus Remix)
Paula Apollo Anne "Apollo Smile" Scharf is a singer who's concentrated on film and SF convention work over the course of her career, sometimes billing herself as 'The Live Action Anime Girl'. Her eponymous 1991 debut is her first of three albums to date, consisting of rather mainstream pop/rock, with the accent on the 'pop', including Thunderbox, her contribution to Tom Cruise's 1990 effort, Days of Thunder. It's pretty disposable stuff, to be honest, although I can imagine the more committed AOR fan may find some merit in it. You, dear reader, probably won't.
Ronnie "Fingers" Jeffrey plays Mellotron, unusually for the time, with a rising string line in the reasonably rocky Love Comes Your Way, although I can't hear it anywhere else. Given that noted early 'Tron resurgence king Michael Beinhorn was involved in the project, I suppose it could be his machine we're hearing. Anyway, you really don't need to hear this for either the music or its minimal Mellotronic presence. And to her small but devoted online following, bemoaning her disappearance in recent years... Guys. Apollo was born in 1967. She turned forty in 2007. I hope this doesn't come across as sexist (it absolutely isn't meant to), but she probably retired from stage work to start a family. Sorry.
Exceptionally out-of-date fan site
Temper (2001, 39.50) **½/½You Can't Even Tell
You Can't Even Tell (Garage Remix)
I can't tell you much about Bec Smith, other than that she's from Minneapolis. Her (debut?) 2001 release, Temper, is a passable pop/rock effort, at its best on opener You Can't Even Tell and the stomping Heartless, although too many of its tracks drift along to no great purpose (Redeye being an obvious example), while the 'Garage Remix' of You Can't Even Tell, presumably included here to pad out an otherwise very short record, is a complete waste of time.
Bryan Hanna plays wobbly-enough-to-be-real Mellotron flutes on Heartless, albeit not for long, sadly. Yes, I've heard worse, but this isn't even really worth the effort, even for the Mellotron.
The Visit (1970, 62.38) ***½/T
Don't Tell Lady Tonight
The Wishing Song
Can You Jump Rope
Latter Days Matter
|Source You Blues
Of She, of Things
The Path Does Have Forks
Try, Try to Understand Yourself
Bob Smith's The Visit (or The Visit From Bob Smith) is a relatively obscure, late-period psych album, although it's become better-known in recent years, if only in collecting circles. Originally a double LP, it features various known musos, not least keyboard player Don Preston from the Mothers of Invention and Daryl Dragon (The Dragons), later the 'Captain' part of Captain & Tennille, who aid and abet Smith in producing a truly wigged-out effort, highlights including dense opener Please, the experimental, vibes-driven Ocean Song and the ultra-trippy India Slumber. Actually, a few more plays and this will probably gain a four-star rating, if the multiple acid guitar leads don't drive me mad first.
Preston plays blistering 'Tron strings on The Wishing Song, making you wish it'd been used on a few other tracks; it's almost certainly a Mellotron, not a Chamberlin, making it an early example of American use. Psych fan? Played all your trippy classics half to death? Desperate to hear something new from the era? Buy The Visit. I suspect the 1996 CD issue's gone out of print, but a double vinyl replica edition appeared in 2007, so it's bound to find its way back onto a little shiny disc at some point.
In Earth Nights (2013, recorded 1975-79, 62.51) ***/TTT
A Cybernetic Dream
Light Year Transit
Surreal Areas of Space
In Space Nights part one
Energy Meets the Dawn
Eclipse of the Glass Moon
In Space Nights part two
The Last Sunset
Craig P. Smith bought Albatross' Mellotron in the mid-'70s, utilising it on several projects over the ensuing years. In Earth Nights is a download-only compilation of material he recorded between 1975 and '79, nearer the then-current electronic music mainstream (specifically, Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze) than his later work. Most of its contents focus more on the synths than the Mellotron, particularly Craig's Mini-Korg (a surprisingly powerful little beastie), while several tracks are clearly influenced by Schulze's anti-melodic approach, favouring texture over tunes.
Craig adds Mellotron to several tracks, with major string and flute parts on the gentle Nightwind, strings towards the end of the lengthy Pyramid Shadows, distant boys' choir on A Cybernetic Dream, a flute line, string stabs and woodwinds on Science Fiction, strings and what sounds like MkII church organ on Mystic Castle, what appears to be brass on a couple of parts of Surreal Areas Of Space and finally, rich string swells and gong on closer The Last Sunset. As with Craig's other download albums, since this is free, you might just as well give it a listen. EM fans will certainly like portions of it, while Mellotroniacs should enjoy the less common sounds on display.
See: Eternal Void | Providence | The Decayes