Tales of Justine
Tanx (1973, 35.07/51.54) ***/TT
Electric Slim and the Factory Hen
|Born to Boogie
Life is Strange
The Street and Babe Shadow
Left Hand Luke and the Beggar Boys
Children of the Revolution
Solid Gold Easy Action
20th Century Boy
Zinc Alloy & the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (1974, 46.29/61.00) ***/0
|Carsmile Smith and the Old One
You've Got to Jive to Stay Alive - Spanish Midnight
Painless Persuasion vs.the Meathawk Immaculate
The Avengers (Superbad)
The Leopards Featuring Gardenia and the Mighty Slug
Truck on (Tyke)
Bolan's Zip Gun (1975, 33.51/38.27) ***/T
|Light of Love
Token of My Love
Girl in the Thunderbolt Suit
|I Really Love You Babe
Zip Gun Boogie
Do You Wanna Dance?
Dock of the Bay]
Futuristic Dragon (1976, 40.45/49.09) ***/½
|Futuristic Dragon (Introduction)
New York City
My Little Baby
Calling All Destroyers
Theme for a Dragon
|Ride My Wheels
Life's an Elevator]
Precious Star: The Alternate Zip Gun (1996, recorded 1974, 71.14) ***/T
|Light of Love
Token of My Love
Girl in the Thunderbolt Suit
|I Really Love You Babe
Zip Gun Boogie (live)
Do You Wanna Dance?
Dock of the Bay
Till Dawn (Marc's guide)
Girl in the Thunderbolt Suit
Dishing Fish Wop (Golden Belt)
Marc Bolan was never really known for his Mellotron use; all the well-worn hits feature real strings alongside T.Rex's R'n'R-influenced glam-boogie thang, making me wonder how the rumours started. Well, listen to Tanx, and you'll find out. It's widely regarded as the album where Bolan irretrievably 'lost it'; it's certainly bereft of anything resembling a major hit, but don't hold that against it. There's a great deal more blues in this record than in anything the band put out at their peak, although there are too many weak spots to consider it 'classic' in any way. Given the hit-heavy bonus tracks on the CD, it seems Marc wasn't putting his singles on his albums at the time, which could have been a serious error commercially.
Given that Bolan's singles tend to be swamped in real strings, it's quite a surprise that Tanx features so much Mellotron, although producer Tony Visconti was known for using them at the time. In fact, although there are real strings to be heard, too, the first sound on the album is a tortured 'Tron being put through its paces, with Tenement Lady earning the clichéd phrase, 'Mellotron drenched', with strings all over the shop, including the phased middle section. Mister Mister has more of the same, plus flute chords in the verses, as does Highway Knees; there may possibly be 'Tron on a couple of other tracks, but I wouldn't swear to it, and real strings are also used in places (Electric Slim And The Factory Hen, Left Hand Luke And The Beggar Boys), just to confuse the issue. The CD features several single-only tracks; Free Angel features 'Tron strings trying desperately to sound like the real thing.
Zinc Alloy & the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (apparently a dig at the current glam crew) saw Bolan experimenting with American soul textures a good year before Bowie, although he still couldn't manage that all-important US breakthrough. It has a couple of real standout tracks, notably opener Venus Loon, with an almost unearthly harmony in the chorus, but as with its predecessor, far too much of the album sits squarely in the 'also-ran' camp, forgotten as soon as heard. Despite the expanded CD's sleevenotes making a reference to 'an occasional intergalactic Mellotron', the album's real strings fudge the issue to the point where nothing obviously leaps out at you, leaving me no option but to give it a resounding '0' on the 'Tron front.
'75's Bolan's Zip Gun is a bit of a mess, to be honest, with Marc adrift in a sea of coke and booze, having no real idea where he was going; even Bolan's biggest fans have trouble finding nice things to say about it, although to my ears, it comes across as merely a lesser version of its predecessor. Although almost everything here comes across as a pastiche on his earlier style, closer Zip Gun Boogie has a great intro riff that deserved better than its workmanlike boogie verse. Dino Dines played the bulk of the album's keyboard parts, including Mellotron strings on Think Zinc, and a very obvious part on Golden Belt, as against its predecessor's 'is it/isn't it?' approach. Incidentally, the expanded CD's version of Do You Wanna Dance? was kicked completely into touch the following year by the Ramones, leaving Marc musically high and dry, however much he tried to assume the mantle of the 'Godfather of Punk'. Yeah, right.
1976's Futuristic Dragon was something of a return to the T.Rex of old, although as it was recorded over the space of a year or more, in various locations, there is some disparity in style. New York City is as dumb a single as Bolan was ever to write, although Jupiter Liar and Chrome Sitar are excellent. As always, the material gets rather samey about half-way through, making me think that all you really need by T.Rex is a greatest hits and a best of the album tracks, should such a thing exist. Dines played keys again, and although most of the strings sound real, that has to be a 'Tron on Calling All Destroyers, surely?
The trouble with the bonus discs attached to all the above albums is that, unless you're a deeply committed fan, they're a bit, well... boring. Endless demo run-throughs of material you weren't that fussed about in the first place aren't all that enthralling, to be honest, but then, they really are only for Bolan obsessives, meaning that I'm missing the point. Again. Anyway, I've trawled through all of 'em, and the only one featuring any Mellotron is Precious Star: The Alternate Zip Gun, originally released in its own right as far back as 1996. Space Boss has 'Tron strings and a full-on flute solo completely missing from the album version, although Golden Belt's short string part is the same, making it likely that this is a working version of the song, rather than a completely different take. Despite a total lack of instrumental credits for the alternate versions, it seems likely that the 'Tron was played by Dino Dines.
So, despite there only being a Mellotron presence on a few tracks on Tanx, they're all stuffed to the gills with it, so a cautious recommendation on the Mellotron front, ditto the music. The other albums here are 'forget its' on the 'Tron front, with the possible exception of Zip Gun's bonus disc, although if you like Bolan's schtick, you could do worse than give 'em a listen.
Official Marc Bolan site
It'll All Work Out in Boomland (1970, 44.28/66.04) ****/TIn Circles
No More White Horses
[Later CD issues add:
Questions and Answers
T2 [a.k.a. Fantasy] (1997, recorded 1970, 45.40) ****/TTTHighway
T2's lone album during the band's lifetime, It'll All Work Out in Boomland, falls somewhere between the psych, prog and hard rock areas. Its sound is 'very 1970', but it's a bit of a lost gem; the material's excellent, particularly No More White Horses, covered in the '90s by Swedish 'trad-prog' outfit Landberk and the side-long Morning. The only Mellotron here (played by guitarist Keith Cross) is a nice string part plus background vibes on J.L.T., and no, I don't know what it stands for either. The brass on most of the tracks would appear to be real, as there's a sleeve credit for 'additional arrangements by Peter Johnson'. Later CD issues add three BBC session tracks, all Mellotron-free, including the amazingly prescient CD. Er...
In 1997, a CD, allegedly of a second, unreleased T2 album slipped out, entitled, with stunning originality, T2, also known as Fantasy, apparently. Although obviously sourced not only from old tapes, but acetates and any other format in which the music could be found, it sounds a little rough in places, which matters not one jot when the band kick off in Careful Sam, for example. It's a great shame it's taken so long for this music to get itself heard, although we should count ourselves lucky it's appeared at all. Surprisingly, drummer Peter Dunton played 'Tron this time round, with brief string parts on both Highway and Careful Sam, before two full-on 'Tron attacks on The Minstrel and the lengthy T2 itself, with swathes of flute and string work, plus brass (I believe) on the former track. If anything, this album's even better than their one official release; it certainly beats it on the Mellotron front.
So, two good albums, although T2 is the superior 'Tron record. Buy 'em both anyway.
Only Love (2002, 36.13) **½/½
|Back Into Space
After You Killed Me
Pieces of My Heart
Absence Makes the Heart Beat
|It All Comes Back to You
Some Other Time
Buddy is Not So Tall
The First of May
Jasmin Tabatabai is a German/Iranian actress, who wrote and sang several songs on the soundtrack of 1997's Bandits, as well as being a cast member. Although acting is still her main thing, she's recorded another couple of soundtracks and a 'proper' solo album, 2002's Only Love. It's a perfectly acceptable singer-songwriter effort, vastly better than a lot of modern British and American dross, largely due to Tabatabai's refusal to do that 'wispy girly' vocal thing, which is a bonus when you've heard as many terrible albums as I have.
Tabatabai plays the Mellotron herself on Pieces of My Heart, with an occasional, yet powerful string part that sounds far enough out of tune to be real. Overall, then, better than expected, if not something to which I shall be returning any time soon. Kudos to Tabatabai for using influences from her original home (she was twelve when she left Iran), although it's a pity that Mellotron couldn't have been used a little more, eh?
Nuevo Cauce (1976, 38.40) ***½/TT½
|Folia del Campesino
La Raza Vive
Ganerso la Tierra
Canción de las Poetas
Yo Poeta Declaro
Canta a Tu Unidad
Now, it may say 'Spain' above, but traditional folk group Taburiente were actually from the Canary Islands, specifically La Palma. Nuevo Cauce ('New Riverbed', literally) was their second album, and is likely to be fairly unpalatable to anyone with a low tolerance for Spanish folk. It starts well enough, with Folia Del Campesino, but the title track is a bit cheesy, though still many castanets away from the sort of stuff you can hear in tourist bars on the Costa del Sol, should you really wish to do so. The rest of the album veers between pleasingly authentic and a bit naff, though you'd have to be pretty hard-hearted to really dislike any of it.
I rather suspect the album was recorded on the mainland, with Mellotron additions played by Canarios' Teddy Bautista, as despite their 'traditional' tag, it seems Taburiente branched out a little on Nuevo Cauce. It's all over the album, mostly strings (Folia Del Campesino, La Raza Vive, Aguantando, with pitchbend), but also cellos (Folia Del Campesino again), plus muffled choir on Canción De Las Poetas and Navidad Guancho, with possibly brass on the former, too, although all flute parts appear to be real. There's even a smattering of synth here and there, notably on Canción De Las Poetas and Canta A Tu Unidad.
So; those of you into various European folk musics may well like this; there's some excellent playing, particularly the flute, and some of the harmonies are wonderful. It's not actually bad on the 'Tron front, either, though don't expect anything too ground-breaking; you get the feeling it was a cheap alternative to a string section, as with many bands of the era. Anyway, don't go spending a fortune on this oddity, but it's actually not at all bad, with some decent 'Tron work.
Smilin' Memories (1975, 40.07) *½/½
Love to Love You
Castle of Loneliness
Sandman (Bring Me a Dream)
Only Thing You Said
|In December's Cold
Never Had the Feelin'
Illinois native Eric R. Tagg began his career in the Netherlands in Beehive and Rainbow Train, becoming Erik in the process, although he also recorded a couple of solo albums, of which 1975's Smilin' Memories is the first. It's about as bland a mid-'70s pop/singer-songwriter effort as you can imagine, with only the synth work on Steamboat to alleviate matters, recorded with a crack studio crew, including Jeff and Michael Porcaro (later of Toto, of course) and no lesser a personage than Lee Ritenour on guitar, later to give Tagg a break on his own early '80s solo albums.
Alan 'Lendgrin' (Lindgren) plays Mellotron (and that Moog part on Steamboat), with background strings (sounding like they're depping for real ones) on Fantasy, although the album's other string parts sound like synth. This really is quite awful: ultra-professional soft soul/MOR slush of the 'run away quickly' variety. Next to no Mellotron, either. Incidentally, Tagg moved into the Contemporary Christian area in the '80s, where I'm quite sure his lack of musical personality is appreciated.
Puzzle (1999, 45.35) **/T½
|Easy Way Out
Things Are Made to Last Forever
When the Sun
So You Want to Be a Rock'n'Roll Star
Wallpaper for the Soul (2002, 46.58) **/T
|Wallpaper for the Soul
The Other Side
Get Yourself Together
Don't Look Below
Memories of the Past
A Piece of Sunshine (2004, 24.44) **½/TDon't Misunderstand
Better Days Will Come
In My Arms
Fosbury (2005, 50.43) **/T
Matter of Time
Something About You Girl
Your Love Shines
Take Me Back
On the Run
Empty and Amused
Tahiti 80 are apparently named for a holiday T-shirt worn by vocalist Xavier Boyer's dad during his youth, which is pretty appropriate for this terribly twee band. Their remit appears to be to recreate that sultry kind of '60s French pop (ye-ye?) that inexplicably seems to be popular at the moment with a modern twist, i.e. beats an'shit. Boyer's voice is a supremely irritating thing, wafting along to no real purpose in a sunny kind of way, which is all well and good if you like that kind of thing, which probably explains their success.
1999's Puzzle (released internationally in 2000) was their debut album, summed-up by opener Yellow Butterfly, one of the cheesiest songs I've had the misfortune to hear in a while. Actually, reviewing this music any further is pointless; I dislike this stuff intensely and don't feel I can say anything fair about it, although I will throw in that their use of bloody Autotune is utterly unforgivable. There seems to be Mellotron on four tracks, possibly from Boyer, with flutes on I.S.A.A.C, Things Are Made To Last Forever and Revolution 80, plus faint choirs on Heartbeat. 2002's Wallpaper for the Soul is fairly appropriately-named, as listening to it is akin to looking at said wall covering, or maybe watching paint dry. It clearly has its fans, but I'm not among them. There's only one credited 'Tron track (definitely Boyer this time), with barely-audible sax, of all things, on The Other Side, although I've seen references to Sylvain Marchand chipping in, so given the Mellotronic flutes on Open Book and one of some editions' bonus tracks, Aftermath, maybe we can assume that's him.
2004's mini-album, A Piece of Sunshine is, unsurprisingly, more of the same, or maybe less? Its brevity is its strength, actually, being less annoying than its compadres due to the simple expedient of being half the length, although it's still pretty irritating. Producer Andy Chase plays Mellotron flutes on Listen and Antonelli, the latter being probably the least awful thing here, also the most energetic (the two factors may be linked). The following year's Fosbury is pretty similar to their earlier efforts, probably unsurprisingly; has this band no depth whatsoever? Clearly not. Is there a least awful track? Yes: Take Me Back, a brief acoustic number. Anyway, Rémy Galichet plays high 'Tron strings on King Kong, a slightly disco-inflected number that made me want to gnaw my own leg off, and uncredited ones on the slightly less offensive Alloveragain.
This stuff really is awful, I have to say. Yeah, it's impeccably done, but it's horrible, unless you have a yen for sticky-sweet '60s-influenced Euro-pop. I don't, as you might've guessed. Not much Mellotron, either, even assuming it's real. Very nasty.
Last Flight (1979, 37.24) **½/TEnd of an End
Farewell Gig in Amsterdam
How Do You Do
Despite being nominally French, Taï Phong were actually formed by two Vietnamese brothers, giving their progressive rock more than a little flavour of South-East Asia. Their third release, Last Flight, was, unsurprisingly, their last album, only featuring one brother, and is probably best described as 'ethno-fusion', whatever you may take that to mean. Amongst the jazzier efforts are hidden heavily uninspired efforts such as Sad Passion or How Do You Do, although some of the longer pieces, notably the title track, have their moments.
Despite never having used one before, Farewell Gig In Amsterdam features some Mellotron choir from Pascal Wuthrich, used reasonably well, which is always nice to hear, although that's it on the 'Tron front. I can't really recommend this album, I'm sad to say, as at their best, Taï Phong were trying to do something a bit different. Last Flight is a disappointingly bland effort, probably best avoided unless you really have to hear 'Tron choir track no.5438. Or is it 5439?
Twelve Sketches (2010, 42.23) ***½/T½
|Here's to Yesterday
Color the Eclipse
Quiet Night in the Country
Feast of Bread
|With the Red Sun
Light the Fire My Brother
Taigá seem to be Redmond, WA-based Jonathan Spruance's solo project, aided and abetted by several other musicians. Their/his debut, 2010's Twelve Sketches, is a beautiful, organic, turn-of-the'70s-style instrumental folk/psychedelia album, highlights including gentle, organ-driven opener Here's To Yesterday, Swift Skiis, the twelve-string of Wooden Rainbow and the real string arrangement on Restless Slumber. Faults? Its contents are slightly samey, with too little variety from track to track and an overly-consistent Hammond tone used throughout, but that's mere nitpicking. Just ignore me.
Spruance plays Mellotron, with polyphonic flute parts on Color The Eclipse and With The Red Sun, plus upfront solo flutes opening Feast Of Bread, complete with pitch wobble. Real, then? Could be... This is a lovely album, a hair's-breadth away from a four-star rating, stymied only by its aforementioned homogeneity. Recommended.
Beautiful World (2006, 47.46) **½/½
Like I Never Loved You at All
I'd Wait for Life
Ain't No Sense in Love
|What You Believe in
The Circus (2008, 46.31) **½/½
Said it All
How Did it Come to This
Up All Night
|What is Love
Hold Up a Light
Progress (2010, 46.45) ***/T
What Do You Want From Me?
Take That seem to have been not only one of the more successful, but also (get this) one of the more artistically valid pop group reformations of recent years, picking up their teeny audience, now around thirty, where they left off, while recording new albums that don't make the audience groan when they announce, "Here's a new one!" at gigs. Of course, it's still all lightweight fluff, but what did you expect? King Crimson? Actually, the two bands do have one thing in common, which is why this is here... Rather breathless Take That boss Gary Barlow was introduced to the Mellotron by the band's bassist, Lee Pomeroy, who also plays with Rick Wakeman, user of Lee's M400 on his recent Retro albums.
Beautiful World is as blandly professional as you'd expect, with those terrible vocal melodies that Barlow's known for, but they sell millions, so what do I know? I can't bear it, to be honest, but somehow I can't bring myself to give it a good pasting; maybe Barlow's sincerity actually shines through the aluminium micro-pits? Anyway, discussing the music here's almost irrelevant; it's Take That, and it does what Take That do, for better or worse. Probably the latter. An unknown player (Barlow? Pomeroy?) adds a bit of 'Tron to the album, with quiet little flute stabs on Patience, if you can imagine a quiet stab; it may well be elsewhere, alongside the considerable use of a real string section, but it's impossible to tell in the mix.
As if to prove it wasn't a fluke, the band released a second reformation album two years later, The Circus. It's business as usual, musically, being every inch as professional (and bland) as its predecessor, although they seem to have gained a modicum of cojones since their '90s heyday, to be fair. Mind you, spot the first use I've encountered of the abbreviation 'OCD' in a song lyric (in How Did It Come To This) and the Queen-alike guitars in Up All Night, self-deprecating lyrics to the fore. Again, very little Mellotron, almost certainly from Barlow this time, with a faint string part in Said It All, only audible at the end and a very brief flute part, only just audible under the piano, on You.
2010's Progress, now with Little Lost Robbie back in the picture, features a rather odd sleeve. Are those figures meant to be the band? So which one's Mr. Williams? Surprisingly, the album's title is quite appropriate, its more inventive writing including Happy Now and Underground Machine, with interesting use of synths on several tracks. Presumably Barlow on Mellotron, with background string swells and some form of M4000 choir on Kidz and quite overt strings on Pretty Things, although if there's anything else here, it's quite effectively hidden in the mix.
Take That's resurrection has an amusing side to it: Robbie Williams, their original fifth member, who left them in the lurch back whenever, has watched his mega-career shoot down the shitter in recent years, only to see his ex-colleagues return and clean up. For those of us on the sidelines, I believe this is known as schadenfreude. Strangely, there's been talk from the quartet of taking him back [n.b. they actually have now], but given that he could never sing in the first place (I mean, have you HEARD his attempts at Sinatra?) and he's ballooned in the last few years, why, I mean WHY would they?
See: Robbie Williams
Alive in the Spirit World (2004, 67.10) ***/½
|The Way Life is
Painting of a Man
On the Horizon
Living in the Spirit World
Billy Talbot is, of course, bassist with Neil Young's on/off backing band Crazy Horse, credentials about as near to impeccable as it's possible to get, frankly. 2004's lengthy Alive in the Spirit World is his first solo album, an unsurprisingly Neil-esque effort that, while excellent in places, rather outstays its welcome in a 'just because you can put over an hour on a CD doesn't mean you should' kind of way. I understand perfectly why Talbot wants to share his band's jammed-out desert rock with us, but nearly seventy minutes of it in one hit is maybe twenty minutes too many. The only track that actually sounds like it belongs on another album is Stress Release, and then only in parts, songs like On The Horizon and the two ten minute-plus pieces, Security Girl and Dreamer, possibly working best, despite the extraneous length of the latter two. Perhaps fewer, longer tracks?
Talbot's website states that the band drew on "an assortment of vintage gear", so we can probably assume that Matt Piucci's Mellotron is genuine, not that it's used much, with nowt but a background flute part on Stained that neither adds to nor detracts from the track's appeal. Definitely one for Neil fans, then, despite his absence.
Petals From a Sunflower (1997, recorded 1967-68, 46.21) ***½/T
|Albert (a Pet Sunflower)
Music to Watch Us By
Sitting on a Blunestone
So Much Love to Give You
Tales of Justine were one of far too many late '60s psych/pop outfits who should have been bigger, but ended up doomed to obscurity. They released just one single in their lifetime, Albert (A Pet Sunflower), a typically 1967 psyched-up pop song, rather too jaunty for its own good, to be honest, though better than many that made the charts. Fans of the era had to wait thirty years before hearing anything else, when Tenth Planet released a vinyl-only compilation (I do wish they wouldn't do that), Petals From a Sunflower, now sadly out of print. EMI had enough belief in the band at the time to record them at Abbey Road, from where all but one of the album's tracks emanate, despite some 'Net info to the contrary (my info comes direct from David Daltrey - thanks, David). Admittedly, some of the album's contents are a bit psych-by-numbers (Jupiter and So Much Love to Give You spring to mind), but Sunday School is really very good, with a slightly churchy organ part, ditto the oddly-titled Sitting On A Blunestone, although the intro to Aurora is a straight cop from the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer In The City, which is a bit cheeky.
David tells me that the Abbey Road 'Tron is on several tracks, although it's barely audible, one of which isn't the rather inconsequential flutes on So Happy, which are David on recorder. The flutes on Something Special are probably 'Tron, ditto Pathway and So Much Love To Give You, though I wouldn't actually put money on the latter two. So; there are enough decent tracks here to make the compilation worth the effort for the connoisseur, but don't go expecting a long-lost classic. Incidentally, information re. this release is incredibly hard to find on the 'Net, probably because it's never been on CD (I had a bugger of a job even finding a tracklisting), so for your information, side 1 (up to Sitting On A Blunestone) is from 1967, and side 2, '68.
Talk Show (1997, 42.06) **½/T
Everybody Loves My Car
Peeling an Orange
Wash Me Down
End of the World
Fill the Fields
Talk Show were essentially Stone Temple Pilots plus one, without the wayward Scott Weiland, doubtless off on one of his many rehab visits at the time. And it sounds like...? Not a million miles away from Stone Temple Pilots, as far as I can tell, songs full of riffs that aren't riffs, just rather dull chord sequences (yes, there is a difference) and unmemorable vocal lines. It does pick up the pace every now and again, with John rocking out quite nicely, but the overall effect is of exactly what it is; a side-project.
Mellotron on one track from drummer Eric Kretz, with a typical flute part opening Behind, reiterating throughout, morphing into a full-on strings part towards the end of the track. A couple of other tracks sound like they might feature the mighty 'Tron, although they're more likely to be 'actual' instruments, notably the solo flute on Hide. Anyway, not a very interesting album, while falling short of completely crap, and one so-so 'Tron track.
See: Stone Temple Pilots
The Colour of Spring (1986, 45.40) ****/T½Happiness is Easy
I Don't Believe in You
Life's What You Make it
Living in Another World
Give it Up
Time it's Time
The Colour of Spring was the album where Talk Talk broke away from their fairly dreadful '80s pop beginnings, becoming more organic and far less mainstream, while still making an album that's relatively easy on the ear and, dare I say it, almost commercial. Saying that, April 5th and particularly Chameleon Day are distinct pointers to the band's future, sparse and effective, with a welcome sense of space to them; definitely of the 'less is more' school. While there's the odd bit of digitalness to be heard on the album, it's nice to see a band in the appalling mid-'80s using not just analogue, but electro-mechanical gear, too.
Life's What You Make It, the album's surprise hit, has Tim Friese-Greene on Mellotron flutes, strings and choir at different points, along with the Hammond that starred in one of their videos from this period (possibly for this song), while Mark Hollis gives it some more flutes and strings on the also almost-mainstream Give It Up, although to slightly lesser effect. Talk Talk went on to greater things, releasing the even-better Spirit of Eden (****½) two years later (no 'Tron, though), before quietly closing their career with '91's Laughing Stock (****½).
Throw a Sickie (1986, 21.19) ***/TUnderhand
Road & Hedgehog
Attack of the Munchies
The Universality of Neighbourliness
The Big Dive
And Other Kinds
Fork Songs (1991, 47.41) ***½/½
|Dare to Tread
We Bleed Love
Life is Strange
All is Fine
3 EPs (1994, 59.35) ***/T
|For All the Walters in the World
What Goes Up
Starry Eyed & Wooly Brained
Two Dozen Lazy Hour
Bob's Yer Uncle
Ain't it Funny
Bee to Honey
Post Modern Deconstructivist Blues
Self-Deluded Dream Boy (in a Mess)
Our Advice to You
Stumpy [as International Tall Dwarfs] (1996, 62.37) ***/TT
They Like You, Undone
The Green, Green Grass of
Someone Else's Home
The Severed Head of Julio
Song of the Jealous Lover
|Honey, I'm Home
Jesus the Beast
Cruising With Cochran
Box of Aroma
And That's Not All!!
Pull The Thread (& Unravel Me)
The Sky Above the Mud Below (2002, 69.29) ***/T½
|Meet the Beatle
Room to Breathe
Right at Home
Time to Wait
We Are the Chosen Few
|Baby it's Over
The Beautiful Invader
Big Brain of the World
You Want Me Shimmy
How the West Was Won
Your Unmade Eye
|['The Weidenhaüsen Impediment' EP:
Seduced By Rock'n'Roll
Open Wide Your Pretty Mouths
Over the Waves
The Runout Groove]
Tall Dwarfs have been around since the early '80s, ploughing their own furrow of drumless, low-fi folk-influenced 'indie' stuff, whatever you take that to mean. They're pretty unique, which has to be celebrated in these days of homogeneous (NOT 'homogenised' - that's what they do to milk) radio-friendly blandness. I imagine 1986's Throw a Sickie is fairly typical of their oeuvre, with plenty of thrashy, not always in tune acoustic guitar and mucho vocal harmony stuff, reminding me in places of the Velvet Underground, amongst others, the echoey, early Floyd madness of The Universality Of Neighbourliness standing out particularly. Chris Knox plays a rather wonky Mellotron flute part on Road & Hedgehog, clearly audible at the end of the track, although I've no idea whether he put in on any more recordings for the following five years. 1991's Fork Songs (ho ho) isn't wildly dissimilar, proving, at least to me, that the duo found their niche early on and have stuck to it like glue. Knox plays Mellotron cellos on Small Talk, but they're pretty much inaudible, apart from a hanging note at the end of the song.
1994's 3 EPs is, on vinyl at least, exactly that, although it's (sensibly) available as a single CD. I'm afraid I found this rather less appealing than Fork Songs, although its elements are, essentially, the same. Although it's only credited on one track, that's Mellotron flute on opener For All The Walters In The World (from Knox?), while the credited one, Post Modern Deconstructivist Blues, has a repeating string line from Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg. Apparently, a liner note in 3 EPs asked listeners to send in their own rhythm tracks. They did, and '96's Stumpy (released as International Tall Dwarfs in honour of the multiple collaboration) used them as the basis for new material. It's typical Tall Dwarfs, being generally skronky low-fi oddness, but fans of the band are almost guaranteed to like it, even 19-minute closer Up. Knox and Alec Bathgate (the band's two principal members) apparently both play 'Tron, with a lovely flute part on Crocodile and a clunkier one on Cruising With Cochran, fractured cellos on Deep-Fried and more flutes about ten minutes into Up.
They released The Sky Above the Mud Below in 2002 to considerable acclaim, although I believe some of their older fans are disappointed in their recent releases (but isn't that always the way?). The basic album comes with another International Tall Dwarfs EP attached, The Weidenhaüsen Impediment, consisting of the duo plus various friends worldwide, including Jad Fair and Jeff Mangum, although I expect I should know some of the other names on there, too. And no, I don't think 'Jimmy Page' (on vocals?!) is actually, er, Jimmy Page! Maybe he's a Jimmy Page. Anyway, I'm afraid most of the material left me a little cold, although the album starts fairly well, and Baby It's Over is an excellent song. Maybe it's just too long for its own good - when will bands learn that just because you can put 80 minutes of music on an album, that doesn't mean you should? Anyway, two credited 'Tron tracks: Room To Breathe features a nice little flute part, while Melancholy has almost nothing but 'Tron, with Bathgate's harmonising cellos and flute melody underpinning Knox's vocals and, er, 'oventray' percussion (I told you they were lo-fi).
So; if you're into that lo-fi thing, you may very well like the Tall Dwarfs, and even if you're not, you may anyway. From what I've heard so far, they don't use their 'Tron much, but any contemporary Mellotron use has to be applauded, so please don't think I'm knocking them.
See: Chris Knox
Lost Properties (1983 cassette, 23.44) ***½/TT½An Alien Heat
No Room at the Top
Tamarisk were, unfairly, one of the lesser-known outfits to emerge from the early '80s UK prog revival. Their first demo, the Tamarisk E.P. was released in 1982, along with similar offerings from Marillion, Pendragon, IQ etc., but received less attention than their compatriots/rivals (delete according to taste). To my knowledge, they never gigged that far from their home territory of north-east London, but I'm willing to be proved wrong on that one. If that's true, it may account for their small following; most of their contemporaries were gigging feverishly up and down the country for all they were worth, building up sizeable fanbases as they went. Tamarisk also had trouble holding down a steady lineup, and by 1984 they were still only managing Marquee supports, with not a sniff of record company interest.
Listening to them with the benefit of hindsight, they were never going to bother Genesis, Yes et al for complexity or sheer musicality, but they were every bit as good as many other bands from the original neo-progressive movement. Song structures were simpler than their forebears, and more based around vocal parts in common with Marillion and co., but the tunes were strong and generally well-arranged, which should have given them a clear advantage over several bands discretion leads me not to name...
Their second (and last) demo, Lost Properties, while not actually progressing very much musically from their debut, had the added bonus of keyboard player Steve Leigh (later of just about everybody)'s EMI Mellotron M400. It's hard to tell exactly what he had on his tape frame, but Mojo opens with some rather tremulous top-of-the-keyboard choirs, and An Alien Heat features lower-pitched choir and what sounds suspiciously like Mellotron FX tapes of a crowing cockerel and church bells. It also sounds like there may be some faint choirs towards the end of No Room At The Top, but it's hard to tell.
If you get a chance to hear this stuff, do; Tamarisk's approach should've been different enough to afford them more attention. Criminally, these tapes remain unavailable over twenty years on; rumours appear occasionally that an official release is 'imminent', but nothing ever seems to happen. n.b. They're finally out! The CD's entitled Frozen in Time. Anyway, if you like the better end of the neo-prog thing and you find this on a trade list, give it a listen.
The Tangent (UK) see:
Tangerine Dream (Germany) see:
|7" (1967) ***/TT
Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You
Tangerine Peel were a third-division late '60s UK psych outfit, only notable for having future glam rock producer Mike Chapman (The Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro) in their ranks for a while. Given that The Bee Gees had elected not to release their mock-gothic classic Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You (from 1967's Bee Gees' 1st) as a single, the Tangerine chaps decided to do so themselves, recording a fairly straight copy later that year, backed with a more straightforward late-period mod effort, Trapped.
Someone, very possibly Chapman, plays a low Mellotron string part that matches the original's low, cathedral-like feel until near the end of the track, when the player gets a bit creative, adding a few chords to the arrangement. Both sides of this 7" have been made available on compilations in recent years, some more obviously legal than others, but neither's too hard to find if you're determined enough.
Holocausto (1979, 43.42) ****/TOm
Holocausto/Ultimo Raio do Astro Rei
Tantra were Portugal's chief progressive exponents, releasing two albums in the late '70s, before deciding to tread the commercial path, leading to an unpopular album and their eventual split. I haven't heard their debut, but Holocausto's a fine album, if not quite up there with their heroes. The material has a jazzy bent in places (listen to the MiniMoog solo in Talisma), but slightly lacks in originality; the title track's refrain is an obvious steal from King Crimson's The Court Of The Crimson King, though not the part that usually gets 'borrowed'.
Pedro Luis' Mellotron use is fairly minimal; the band borrowed a machine for the recording, but the only audible evidence is a little choir on Holocausto itself (the track also utilises a real choir), and some faint string and choir chords on the most symphonic part of Talisma. It's actually a pretty good album, though, so probably worth it for the prog fan, if not for the Mellotron.
Tarántula I (1976, 44.41) ****/T½Recuerdos
La Arana y la Mosca
Un Mundo Anterior
La Danza del Diablo
Tarántula 2 (1978, 43.08) ***/TTTBlancanieves
Nacido Para el Trabajo
Avui Com Ahir
La Tarantula de Granada
Canta Canario, Canta
Esto es el Fin
Tarántula's debut, Tarántula I, displays a Spanish progressive outfit with more of an Italian, or even German sound, as against the jazz or flamenco influences heard in many of their countrymens' outputs. Opener Recuerdos flies through a bewildering variety of styles, including a brief bright'n'breezy section, darker Crimsonesque guitar and an almost MOR/opera vocal part. A Mellotron flute melody from bandleader Vicenti Guillot and 'Tronalike string synth lift the track, but it seems a strange piece with which to open the album. The rest of the record is more 'normal', at least by prog standards, although Tarántula refuse to be shoehorned into one style, mixing the rockier likes of La Danza Del Diablo with the more mellow La Arana Y La Mosca. The other Mellotron track is Un Mundo Anterior, with more of that flute melody and what sounds like it may be female choir towards the end of the song; it's a shame they didn't use it a little more and find space for some strings, unless of course, my ears are deceiving me with that string synth...
Two years and an almost complete lineup change on, Tarántula 2 is the oddest record; on one hand, it's an uninspired hard rock effort, on the other, a relatively adventurous heavy prog LP, often within the same song. Two lead vocalists (male and female) help matters little, especially when Enrique Alfonso Almiñana's awful nasal growl, although Ana Maria González Pazos' semi-operatic tones in the more symphonic sections improve things somewhat. Basically, the hard rock material (or sections of longer tracks) is terrible; the band had no idea how to make the style sound convincing, a trend reflected across most of southern Europe, sadly. Better material? The proggier stuff, essentially, including Avui Com Ahir, the eight-minute La Tarantula De Granada (about the only thing here to successfully marry the band's two disparate styles), Canta Canario, Canta, Extasis and the second half of closer Esto Es El Fin. Guillot, now Vicenti Guillot Peñalver, adds Mellotron to most tracks, surprisingly, with upfront flute and cello parts on Nacido Para El Trabajo, during the unexpected quiet middle section, choirs on Avui Com Ahir (although the strings are Elka string synth), stabbed choir chords, a flute solo and unmistakable tubular bells on La Tarantula De Granada, choirs on Canta Canario, Canta, more flutes and choirs on Extasis and strings, to my surprise, on closer Esto Es El Fin.
I is a great example of Spanish progressive, although it's a bit thin on the Mellotron front, while 2 reverses the situation, being far stronger Mellotronically than musically. What do los Americanos say? Oh yeah: "Go figure".
|7" (1973) ***/½
La Peinture à l'Huile
Faut Vivre ta Vie
Like several other overseas single-only artists on this site, I can't tell you much about Tartempion, even whether they actually recorded any albums. I believe 1973's La Peinture À L'Huile was their debut 7", a passable pop/rock track, very much of its time, although vastly better than a lot of the dross that clogged up the charts then and now. Unfortunately, the flip, Faut Vivre Ta Vie, is a fairly terrible ballad, but you can't have everything.
The 'A' features occasional pitchbent Mellotron string chords from Mickey Graillier that enhance the song without actually making themselves very obvious, sadly, while the 'B' has a more 'standard' chordal string part. You may find this as a download (both sides are also on YouTube), or even (should you feel so inclined) the original vinyl, in these days of international ordering. Good enough at what it does, but all rather unexciting, really.
Sgt. Shonen's Exploding Plastic Eastman Band Request Mono! Stereo (1989, 60.55) ***/½
Who Has Seen the Wind?/Bohemian Rhapsody
Strawberry Fields Forever
1, 2, 3 Red Light
The Luck of the Irish
Sisters, O Sisters
|The Lovely Linda
Shompton in Babylon
Two Virgins #9
Tomorrow Never Knows (live)
Cambridge 1969 (live)
Tater Totz (sorry, don't know the US '70s cultural reference) were a Redd Kross side-project featuring Pat Smear, ex-Germ and future Nirvanaist and Foo Fighter alongside Redd Kross linchpins Jeff and Steve McDonald. It's difficult to work out if their career (such as it was) was loving homage, complete send-up, somewhere between the two or (quite possibly) both at the same time. 1989's Sgt. Shonen's Exploding Plastic Eastman Band Request Mono! Stereo, usually known as simply Mono! Stereo, was their second album, consisting wholly of covers, mostly Beatles-related, including at least three Yoko songs. Yoko crops up again on the cover's Help! homage (that word again), and in spirit on the solo Lennon covers, alongside two Beatles and one Paul song, assuming Lovely Linda deserves that accolade. The remaining tracks are David Essex's first hit Rock On, 1, 2, 3 Red Light, originally by bubblegum gods The 1910 Fruitgum Co., Shompton In Babylon, the only non-cover and their hysterical Who Has Seen The Wind?/Bohemian Rhapsody mash-up (to use the current vernacular), which somehow puts Yoko's words to Queen's music and works. Sort of.
Special guests abound, with The Runaways' Cherie Currie singing Instant Karma and members of the wondrous Shonen Knife and Sonic Youth (Thurston M. Miserable, anyone?) getting in on the act. As far as Pat Smear's credited Mellotron goes, the obvious candidate is Strawberry Fields Forever, of course, although the famous intro flutes sound too synthetic to be genuine. I can't imagine where else it might be, though, so I think we'll have to go with this one.
So; do you need this album? If you're a Redd Kross fan (and if not, why not?), a tentative yes, though only tentative, and conversely, if not, no. Fun in places and excruciating in others (Why? and Cambridge 1969 are both lengthy and teeth-grindingly irritating), this is a very mixed bag indeed, which is why it gets a lower rating that it might. Incidentally, the CD reissue adds the most bizarre bonuses I've ever heard of: two actual Os Mutantes tracks, sourced from crackly vinyl; rumour has it that they're actually the first Mutantes tracks ever to be released in the States. Odd. Very odd.
Official Redd Kross site
See: Redd Kross | Steven McDonald Group
Tau (1981, 39.42) ****/TTTTWillkoruinen
Weuer die Rose Soure Gei McDonald's Versinks un Hauseruren
Eines Morgens, im April...
Tau were surprisingly progressive for 1981, although, for some reason, the band elected to open each side of the album with its weakest tracks, Willkoruinen and Weuer Die Rose Soure... respectively. By Der Traum, though (the album's longest and best song), the full-on prog kicks in properly and, despite the occasional lesser number, Tau acquits itself very well. It isn't especially German sounding, despite German-language vocals, so don't write this off as 'another Sky label-type thing', like so much lesser German prog of the time (see: Octopus, Shaa Khan et al.). The album finishes with a thoroughly bizarre cover of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, re-titled L.S.D., bearing very little obvious relation to the original, with a new chorus melody (!) and lyrics in German.
There's a fair bit of Mellotron, too, presumably from keys man Michael Barfuss, with strings, choir and flutes on Der Traum, with excellent choirs, plus a polyphonic flute part on Todesfuge, and more choirs on the following two tracks. The aforementioned L.S.D. is smothered in strings, playing the verse melody and some 'violined' and pitchbent chords, making for one of the most bizarre reworkings I've ever heard, almost on a par with the Residents' highly disturbing take on Satisfaction.
Overall, then, a pretty good record, with some pointers towards its year of release, although if you ignore the two non-'Tron tracks (coincidentally, I may add), it's well worth hearing, both for music and Mellotron.