Mia Doi Todd
Toots & the Maytals
Tin Tin (1970, 35.11) ***½/TT
|She Said Ride
Swans on the Canal
Flag/Put Your Money on My Dog
Nobody Moves Me Like You
Only Ladies Play Croquet
|He Wants to Be a Star
Toast and Marmalade for Tea
Come on Over Again
Lady in Blue
Tin Tin were an Aussie four-piece who formed in 1968 and had a strong Bee Gees connection, via the Gibb brothers' early success in their adopted country; Steve Kipner's father, Nat, produced their early work, and members of Steve's band played on their records (thanks for that, Joe). Maurice Gibb's patronage did Tin Tin no harm at all, of course, and he's credited as a band member on at least one issue of this album. Tin Tin is slightly harder-edged than you'd expect, all things considered, although they were never exactly going to rival Black Sabbath in the heaviosity stakes. 'Baroque pop' is possibly the best description I can think of, with tracks like Swans On The Canal and the instrumental Spanish Shepherd conjuring up images of lace cuffs and the like. Or maybe that's just me.
I've seen one source that lists not only Maurice, but also band members Steves Groves and Kipner as playing Mellotron, although there's no way of telling. There's a passable amount of MkII to be heard, with occasional string chords on Flag/Put Your Money On My Dog, brass on Nobody Moves Me Like You, more strings on the harpsichord-driven Only Ladies Play Croquet, a brass/strings mix (?) on Family Tree and finally, flutes on Come On Over Again. There's genuine orchestral accompaniment on a few tracks, too, notably Swans On The Canal and with several more 'credited but inaudible' tracks, it's hard to know what's going on, really.
So; something of a period piece, but not at all bad, and more listenable than most of the Bee Gees' work from the time. Again, reasonable Mellotron work, though not a classic. Worth hearing for fans of the era. There was a second Tin Tin album the following year, Astral Taxi, but I believe it's 'Tron-free. Incidentally, Toast And Marmalade For Tea was apparently a major hit for the band worldwide, and Steve Kipner went on to be a successful songwriter, still working today.
See: Bee Gees
|7" (1968) ***½/½
Walking My Baby
Tinkerbell's (or Tinkerbells) Fairydust, from East London, were originally known as The Rush, 'going psychedelic' with 1967's Lazy Day. Their second single is the one track by the band that concerns us here, though: 2010 (or Twenty Ten) is a classic, minor-key psych effort, bearing comparison with contemporaneous material by The Status Quo (as they were then), amongst others. This should've been a hit, especially with the support it received from John Peel, but it wasn't to be.
Someone, probably guitarist Stuart Attride, added low Mellotron strings to the track, with possible other parts in the mix. It became the lead-off track of their eponymous unreleased 1969 album, which finally saw the light of day nearly thirty years later and has just had an expanded reissue on Grapefruit. The rest of the album's a bit hit and miss, but contains enough decent tracks to make it worth the effort for fans of the era.
True Reflections (2003, 47.29) **½/½
Cause it's Time
Long Time to Wait
What a Time for Love
After hearing Boyd Tinsley's True Reflections, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to discover that his 'day job' is violinist with the deeply unexciting Dave Matthews Band, as its bland, mainstream sound is well in keeping with that band's modus operandi. It's an impeccably produced and played record, don't get me wrong, but its 'upbeat with a hint of melancholy' approach is somewhat well-worn by now and, to my ears, Tinsley isn't adding anything to the genre, and don't let the raucous guitar solo in Long Time To Wait fool you into thinking he knows how to rock after all. He even manages to bugger up Neil Young's incomparable Cinnamon Girl, sounding more West Coast than CSN&Y ever could, although it's still the best song here, by sheer dint of being written by Neil Young.
The highly ubiquitous Patrick Warren is credited with Chamberlin and indeed, there it is on Show Me, with a passable string part, although we could've done with hearing more of it. Overall, then, a very mainstream record that you'll either like or, er, won't. I didn't. One decent Chamby track, but nothing you haven't heard many times before, done better.
See: Dave Matthews Band
|7" (1967) ***½/TT
Tintern Abbey are one of those legendary 'one killer single then disappeared' British psych outfits, although a second single was at least demoed. Beeside (actually the A-side) is a wonderfully creepy little number that almost grinds to a halt in the middle before dragging itself back to its previous lethargic pace. The flip, Vacuum Cleaner, is a decent song, though a little more upbeat; strange it wasn't the A-side, really...
MkII Mellotron strings on Beeside from the usual 'player unknown', adding nicely to its gothic atmosphere. This is fairly easy to find, notably on The Rubble Collection, Vol.6, although I believe it's been anthologised all over the place. There is a vague Tintern Abbey/Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera connection, as later guitarist Paul Brett went on to join them, before starting his long-running solo career.
See: Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera
Hazel's Wreath (1988, 33.55) ***½/TAround it Goes Around
Colors and the Light
The Capricious Yearnings of King Edward
Before You Go
The Smaller the Grape the Sweeter the Wine (1997, 41.57) ***/T
|I Had it All
Maybe You Will Listen
Sing to Me
Who's That Whispering
|No Baby, No Songs
Would You Like to Float
Tiny Lights were a sort of, er, folk/rock/classical/jazz/whatever outfit, who (thankfully) didn't fit into the '80s in the slightest. Hazel's Wreath is a pretty eccentric record, and not for those who love stylistic consistency above all else, but there are several excellent songs on the album, particularly the bulk of side two, which is largely the folkier end of their repertoire. With both a violinist and a cellist, the folk and classical influences cut through all over, but they could rock, too, when the mood took them. Mellotron from guest Jack Pettruzzelli on Red Planet, with some fairly full-on choir chords, which is more than you'll hear on almost any other album from that benighted decade. Anyway, a good, if eclectic album, but with only one 'Tron track it's not an essential on that front.
Almost a decade later, Tiny Lights used a Mellotron again, on 1997's The Smaller the Grape the Sweeter the Wine. Unless it was all a huge wind-up, the album sounds, to my ears at least, a great deal more commercial than their early work, at least until what would be side two were this on vinyl. From Blue Sky onwards, the album gets rather more interesting, although not up to the Hazel's Wreath level, to be honest. Andy Burton plays some excellent pitchbent 'Tron strings on album closer Would You Like To Float, but it's not really enough to make it a 'Tron album.
So; one very and one mildly interesting album and not very much Mellotron. If you want to hear Tiny Lights, go for the former here rather than the latter, I think.
Eagle Rock (1973, 44.36) ***½/T½
One Night in Eagle Rock
All Around You
One of Your Kind
And it's Music
Titanic were the first Norwegian band to gain international acceptance, hitting the charts continent-wide with Sultana in 1971; it even reached no.5 in the UK, but they were fronted by British singer Roy Robinson, which can't have hurt their overseas profile. I haven't heard their first two albums, and the later ones suck, but Eagle Rock is pretty good, in a sub-Uriah Heep kind of way. There's a slight African tribal percussion theme running through the album, reminding me of, er, Uriah Heep on Look at Yourself, but overall, this is just an ordinary mid-'70s hard rock album. It does have a couple of highlights, though, in the epic One Night In Eagle Rock and the excellent Dying Sun, where the band stumble across a great riff, then brutally club it to death over the course of several minutes.
Keyboard man Helge Groslie sticks mainly to Hammond and Rhodes, but the odd bit of Mellotron creeps in here and there, though I rather suspect they didn't own one, or use it anywhere else. One Night In Eagle Rock has a repeating flute motif, while both One Of Your Kind and Maureen feature a few seconds of strings, but that's it. So; not bad, but not that good either, really. One for aficionados of the era, I think.
Dreams (1975, 37.45/45.00) **/½
|Keep on Movin'
Let's Get Hi
Because You're Not
You Know Who I am
Boogin' on a Saturday Night
Making You feel Right]
I'm told Toad's first two albums (Toad and Tomorrow Blue) are undeservedly obscure stonkin' hard rock classics, which I'll have to take at face value, as their third and last effort, Dreams, is a dull, third-rate effort with no obvious distinguishing features whatsoever. Track titles such as Let's Get Hi and (appallingly) Boogin' On A Saturday Night say all that needs to be said, really, although the album has the odd reflective moment (chiefly the title track) to alleviate the tedium.
Although there's no keyboard player credited, there's a little Rhodes to be heard here and there, plus some faint Mellotron strings on Dreams and You Know Who I Am, but we're really not talking anything that worthwhile, to be honest; overall, a bit of a dead loss. While I can't comment on their earlier releases, it seems to me you'd be better off sticking with them. Incidentally, my research for this review tells me that the mysterious Vic Vergat, whose late-'70s solo album used to do the rounds, was actually Toad's guitarist, his real name's Vittorio Vergeat and he was the only Italian in the band. The other two members were drummer Cosimo Lampis and bassist Werner Fröhlich, for what it's worth.
Fucked Up Friends (2008, 38.05) **½/TTT½
Yum Yum Cult
Berries That Burn
Get My Nails Did
Little Pink Riding Hood
To be honest, calling yourself 'Tobacco' isn't the best way to make friends with Planet Mellotron... The gentleman of that nom de plume (a.k.a. Tom Fec) is vocalist with/mainman of Black Moth Super Rainbow and his solo project isn't that far removed from their sound, apparently fitting somewhere in between the worlds of techno and hip hop, guaranteeing that I have no idea what he's on about. OK, his sample manipulation and (apparently genuine) analogue synth work on Fucked Up Friends is well done, but I'm afraid it leaves this particular reviewer cold.
Black Moth Super Rainbow apparently own a Novatron, which I presume is what's used extensively here, although the sounds' smoothness makes them sound sampled. Anyway, flutes on most highlighted tracks above (Tobacco's trick is to throw pretty little flute melodies down over crunching synths, providing the bulk of the album's limited melodic input), with strings on Truck Sweat and Gross Magik, all to reasonable effect. Anyway, unless you're into modern, techno-ish electronica, you're not going to like this, so it's probably all a bit irrelevant.
See: Black Moth Super Rainbow
Chaos Theory: The Soundtrack to Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (2005, 48.17) ***/½
Theme From Battery
Kokubo Sosho Stealth
Kokubo Sosho Battle
The Clean Up
Brazilian-by-way-of-the-UK Amon Tobin began as a Brighton-based DJ, electronica/remixer-type and trip-hop pioneer under the name Cujo, reverting to his own name in 1996. 2005's Chaos Theory: The Soundtrack to Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is exactly what it says on the tin and is surprisingly listenable in its own right, given that it's designed to make an unholy racket to soundtrack teenagers' gaming pursuits. It actually features a full band, including the Modugno brothers, who apparently hadn't spoken in some years. What does it sound like? It sounds like a game soundtrack, basically, but those of you who appreciate the further-out realms of electronic music may well go for it.
Umberto Modugno is credited with Mellotron (his no-longer estranged brother Massimo plays Hammond, very audibly on one track), but there ain't a lot of it to be heard, even assuming it's real. Given the real strings, samples and general electronics on display here, about the only place it even might be is the cello part on Hokkaido, but it could just as easily be real cello. So; an intriguing album, though probably not one I'll end up playing too often. Next to no obvious Mellotron, though, so don't bother on that account.
La Ninja: Amor & Other Dreams of Manzanita (2006, 50.58) ***/T
|What if We Do? (Nobody Remix)
Amor (Adventure Time Remix)
My Room is White (Dungen Remix)
Muscle, Bone & Blood (AmmonContact Remix)
Deep at Sea (Dntel Remix)
The Last Night of Winter (Campanella/Hellie Remix)
My Room is White (Reminder Remix)
|My Room is White (Flying Lotus Remix)
Muscle, Bone & Blood (Chessie Remix)
Cosmic Ocean Ship (2011, 37.57/42.03) ***/0 (½)
My Baby Lives in Paris
Under the Sun
Canto de Lemanjá
The Rising Tide
|All My City
Gracias a la Vida]
Mia Doi Todd is an American folk-ish artist who tends to concentrate on acoustic settings, making it all the more surprising that she consented to a remix album of 2005's Manzanita, La Ninja: Amor & Other Dreams of Manzanita. It's certainly interesting, but it just makes me want to hear the original record, to be honest. It features three new Todd tracks, possibly outtakes from the original album, including an excellent (and gender-reassigned) version of The Beatles' Norwegian Wood. The remixes vary in quality and style, as you'd expect, the best possibly being My Room Is White (Dungen Remix); going by the sound of it (dreamy psych), this has to be a group effort by fêted Swedish psychsters Dungen, making a nice change from the usual 'isolate the vocals and stick a crummy dance beat underneath' approach.Robert Campanella (The Quarter After) plays Mellotron on Norwegian Wood, with what sounds like a string section part after the vocals, towards the end of the song.
On the other hand, 2011's Cosmic Ocean Ship is a perfectly 'normal' release, featuring ten quiet, introspective songs, all perfectly good, although none really stand out. Maybe I should concentrate harder on the lyrics? Jonathan Wilson is credited with Mellotron, but the only 'possible' is a faint flute part on the CD-only Gracias A La Vida, so you're not going to rush out to hear this on those grounds.
As far as La Ninja goes, you may be better off with the original album, but you won't get the three new tracks on offer here, or Campanella's lovely Mellotron work, while Cosmic Ocean Ship, while quietly beautiful, is slightly unengaging and features next to no obvious 'Tron.
Tamahime-Sama (1984, 29.41) ***/TDoto Ne Ren-Ai
Yuumon no Giga
Tonari no Indojin
Mori no Hitobito
Musi no Onna
In many ways, Jun Togawa's a fairly typical Japanese starlet, getting her first break as part of the creepy (to Western sensibilities) idol phenomenon, although, in fairness, I'm not sure how much it differs from the West's preoccupation with appearance (particularly of young women) over talent. As with so many Japanese artists, hard and fast info is hard to find, but 1984's Tamahime-Sama appears to be her first album, heavy with Japanese folk and 'new wave' influences, rather than the light, fluffy pop I'd expected, which is quite welcome. Actually, some of this is decidedly weird, not least Togawa's twisted, little-girl vocals (particularly on Yuumon No Giga) and some of the synth arrangements, making it a far better proposition than it might've been.
Someone (Togawa herself?) plays Mellotron, with choppy flutes and cellos on Teinen Pushiganga and what I take to be a brief string part on Yuumon No Giga, although the muted choir on Konchugun sounds like an early sampler (an original Emulator?). So; interestingly odd, although not exactly something I can see myself listening to on a regular basis. Not much Mellotron, but plenty of unusual synth use, for those into the sounds of the era.
Both Sides Now (1970, 29.46) **½/T½
|Both Sides Now
She Let's Her Hair Down (Early in
Don't Worry Baby
The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)
|Tonight I Fell in Love
I Hear Trumpets Blow
He's in Town
If I Were a Carpenter
Some People Sleep
Intercourse (1972, 25.01) **½/TT
|It's Amazing to Be Alive
Droplets of Water
Gray is Gray
|Waiting for Something
I Could Be
Girl on 6
I Want to Make Love to You
In and Out
You Loser You Fool
Some People Sleep
By 1970, The Tokens were known as one-hit wonders, for The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh), a position they hold to this day. Already seen as has-beens, they clearly felt they had nothing to lose with that year's Both Sides Now, a strange mix of then-current folk-rock and their doo-wop roots. Material like Brandywine, The Lemon Pipers' Green Tambourine and If I Were A Carpenter (easily the album's best track) rub shoulders uncomfortably with a remake of The Lion Sleeps Tonight and I Hear Trumpets Blow, making for an album that is neither one thing nor the other. An unknown musician plays Mellotron strings on If I Were A Carpenter and closer Some People Sleep, surprisingly, since most of the album's strings are real. An attempt to appear 'hip'? Unknown, but it provides a bit of welcome light relief.
The following year, they presented Warners with the provocatively-titled Intercourse, only to see it rejected by the company. Undeterred, they released it in a limited edition themselves, although hearing it nearly forty years later makes you wonder a) what all the fuss was about and b) whether it was all worth it. It's actually more dated than its predecessor in some ways; the brief skits between tracks are very topically Firesign Theatre-ish, although combining them with their patented doo-wop vocals really doesn't work very well. Somebody, possibly band member Mitch Margo, plays 'Tron this time round, with strings on Animal, flutes and strings on Waiting For Something and more strings on a repeat of the previous album's Some People Sleep to finish things off nicely, although it hardly makes the album any more worth the effort.
So; four decent 'Tron tracks over two short and not very interesting albums. I could hardly recommend that you spend hard cash on these, but the tracks in question are worth hearing.
See: Night Time Music
Tomita (Japan) see:
This Way (1981, 42.31) ***½/TTOnce I Had a Dream (Parts 1 & 2)
Ask Me No More
Against the Fear of Death
Tonic's This Way was a rather late entrant into the German progressive scene, along with Tau's self-titled effort from the same year and maybe a handful of others. It actually covers several bases, including hard rock, folk, blues and jazz, along with material considered more traditionally 'progressive', but the overall feel is of a band willing to reach beyond the mainstream, which is good enough for me. Saying that, I could well have done without the rather dull and jazzy Black Boy, although the first two tracks are very much worth hearing.
Uwe Murschel's Mellotron use is pretty minimal until the last two tracks, to be honest: you have to wait until a good nine minutes into Ask Me No More for the 'Tron choirs to finally appear, only for them to disappear just as suddenly after two runs through a few-second sequence. On the second half of side two you finally get some serious 'Tron action, with a brief string part on the title track followed by choirs, then a full-on string'n'choir bonanza on closer Against The Fear Of Death, grasping victory from the jaws of Mellotronic defeat.
So; this is probably fairly hard to find, and doesn't appear to be on CD, and is only really average musically speaking. Decent 'Tron on the last two tracks, but not what you'd call a Mellotron classic.
Sugar (1999, 50.03) **½/T
|Future Says Run
You Wanted More
Knock Down Walls
Mean to Me
Stronger Than Mine
Waiting for the Light to Change
|Waltz with Me
Drag Me Down
Top Falls Down
Love a Diamond
Tonic were a johnny-come-lately grunge outfit, forming in 1993, finding success with their debut album, 1996's Lemon Parade. 1999's Sugar was their third effort, still making the US charts, albeit rather lower down. By and large, I'm afraid it's a bit of a dullard of an album, with only Top Falls Down featuring any attempt to write something more than a bland pop/rock song.
Jeff Russo plays Mellotron strings on Love A Diamond, plus cellos, by the sound of it, but it would be a misnomer to say that it seriously enhances a rather dull ballad. Overall, then, a bland, mainstream album with one Mellotron track. You know what to do. Or not.
In the Dark (1973, 39.45) **½/T½
|Got to Be There
In the Dark
Having a Party
I See You
Take a Look in the Mirror
Take Me Home, Country Roads
|Love Gonna Walk Out on Me
54-36 Was My Number
Frederick "Toots" Hibbert was the first artist to use the term 'reggae', admittedly spelled 'reggay', giving him an immediate place in the genre's history. Going by his second international release, '73's In the Dark, Toots & Co. were at the poppier end of the spectrum, although it's easy to forget that most reggae was lightweight and dance-orientated, Bob Marley's rebel/rabble-rousing style being fairly uncharacteristic within the field. Nothing here particularly stands out, to be honest, although their version of John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads (substituting 'West Jamaica' for 'West Virginia') is at least recognisable.
An unknown session player adds Mellotron to a few tracks, with (very) background strings on Take Me Home, Country Roads, upfront ones, plus cellos on Love Gonna Walk Out On Me, flutes on Revolution and faint cellos on his remake of his own hit 54-36 Was My Number. To be honest, this is a pretty typical reggae release of its era, so unless you're a fan of the genre, I wouldn't go too far out of your way for this one, Mellotron or no Mellotron.
At Last (1977, 34.19) ***/TAstral Plane
Say What You Feel
Smile for the Clown
Phaze 1 (Prelude)
It's difficult to know what to say about an album like Topper's lone (?) release, At Last, It's a bit proggy, a bit hard rock, and bit boogie... Seems like they were trying to be all things to all men, with the predictable end result that they produced a rather average album with few real high points. It seems it was recorded at vocalist Jimmy Hodges' nightclub in the Kansas area; it starts OK, with Astral Plane being one of the better tracks, but by Devil's Rx it's sunk into a tedious rock'n'roll pastiche (despite a guitar track apparently being left out of the mix), rather giving the impression the band weren't ready to record quite yet.
Anyway, keys man Rudy Paissano plays the usual 'boards, including a string synth on a couple of tracks, and some slightly wobbly Moog in places. Smile For The Clown is the album's only 'Tron track (suspect studio machine), although it rather unfortunately rips off Stairway To Heaven something rotten. I mean, of all the songs... Anyway, strings and flutes throughout most of the track, with Paissano switching sounds 'on the fly'.
So; I believe this is available on Japanese (legit?) reissue label Never Land, but I wouldn't go too far out of your way for it. Comparable to, say, Strongbow, but probably less interesting, although with one great 'Tron track. Average. n.b. Many thanks to Hodges' son Jimmy Hodges III for extra info.
Prezens (2007, 72.38) ***/T
Rest and Unrest
Structural Functions of Prezens
Them Buried Standing
Neck Deep in the Harrow
|Ever More Other
Ring for Endless Travel
Miss Place the Mist
David Torn is a noted American jazz guitarist, of the 'not afraid to experiment' variety, to the point where much of his work is probably not considered 'jazz' at all by purists. Like many (most?) jazz musicians, his discography is complex, as he's played with many different bands, plus collaborations, albums as bandleader etc. 2007's Prezens credits the other musicians on the sleeve, after Torn's name and the album title, but is clearly his project, led by his vision(s) of how the music should progress, including laptop glitches (not a pleasant sound, frankly) and more guitar tones than you can shake a stick at. My chief criticism of the album is its overall length, not to mention that of several of the longer tracks, which tend to drift off into aimless noodling.
Craig Taborn adds some long, reverbed (real?) Mellotron flute notes to Structural Functions Of Prezens, key-click present (prezens?) and correct, and despite various string sounds cropping up here and there, that would appear to be it. So; a forward-looking jazz guitar album, not for everyone, but definitely for someone. Not for Mellotron enthusiasts, though.
See: Craig Taborn
Torn Curtain (1996, 37.10) ****/TTTTDaymare
Another of the Ventricle Records stable of darkwave acts, Torn Curtain bear more than a passing resemblance to Angel Provocateur, with drifting, ethereal, mostly wordless female vocals, with the only credited instruments being 'voice, Mellotron, effects and feedback'. Dusty Lee certainly knows how to get the best from his machine, utilising its gothic inclinations to the full, as with the other bands in the collective.
The only track that doesn't feature the 'Tron as pretty much the lead instrument is Creatures, with just a few flute chords, but the other three tracks have shedloads of almost atonal strings, though, unlike Mauve Sideshow, in a very listenable kind of way. Some of the string parts are so high in the mix they almost distort, so if you like it loud... No particular highlights, but Daymare, Creatures and Dawn are unlikely to disappoint on the 'Tron front. Recommended.
See: Angel Provocateur | Kangaroo Kourt | Mauve Sideshow | Steeple of Fyre
Toro [a.k.a. Banana Split] (1975, 38.58) ***½/TRamona
Small Folk Reservation
Fields of Laughter
Falling in Love
Like the Sun (N.Y.C.)
Going to Borinquen
I'm having trouble finding much useful information regarding New York (?)-based Latin outfit Toro; I'd imagine their difficult-to-search-for name isn't helping. What I believe is their sole album, 1975's Toro (reissued as Banana Split, with a really shit sleeve), is a decent slice of Santana-esque Latin rock/soul/funk, highlights including opener Ramona, Fields Of Laughter and Going To Borinquen, although the top marks are reserved for the quite excellent Like The Sun (N.Y.C.), replete with ripping guitar solo from Steve Napoleoni Monge.
Keys man Larry Harlow plays Mellotron, along with the more usual 'boards, with exceedingly background strings on Ramona and far more upfront polyphonic flute and string parts on Like The Sun (N.Y.C.). To my knowledge, there were loads of bands around this time making this kind of music, but few (OK, none) managed to break out from their purely local fanbases; Toro is worth seeking out if you have any interest in this area. I once passed on a copy of this for a few quid, as it was more than I was prepared to pay for an unknown quantity; I still slightly regret doing so, but at least I've finally got to hear this rarity.
Odd Man Out (1998, 40.50) ***/TT
|Jack the One Eyed Jill
Spit it Out
I Really Don't Mind
Dumb it Down
Peeping Tom Tom
Pat Torpey is best known as drummer with Mr Big, working alongside stunt bassist and guitarist Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert and vocalist Eric Martin, although he's also released several solo efforts, the first of which is 1998's Odd Man Out. It's a perfectly decent album of mainstream hard-ish rock, although Torpey's at best so-so voice drags some reasonable material down slightly. Nothing here offends, but nor does it particularly inspire, sad to say, although I've heard so much worse.
Patrick Warren plays Chamberlin, for the 1001st time, with strings on I Really Don't Mind, Buildings and Hangover (some nice pitchbends on the latter) and strings, flutes and pitchbent male voices on Crazy Thing, although any other string parts are real. Overall, then, probably one for Mr Big fans, the rest of us possibly finding it a bit anodyne, although it's improved by some decent Chamby work. Torpey followed up with '99's Y2K, confusingly released as Odd Man Out, using the same pool of musicians; review to follow when I get to hear a copy.
Touch (1969, 40.12/79.30) ****/0 (T)
|We Feel Fine
The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer
Down at Circe's Place
Alesha and Others
|[Eclectic CD adds:
We Finally Met Today
Alesha and Others
The Spiritual Death of Howard Greer
The Second Coming of Suzanne]
Touch (not to be confused with the AOR act that metamorphosed from American Tears a decade later, who also released an eponymous debut album), are a serious anomaly in the History Of Prog. Received wisdom states that it effectively began with King Crimson in 1969, although that version of events ignores several other bands, not least The Nice and early Van der Graaf Generator. It also ignores Touch, a (gasp!) American band, who can't be conveniently slotted into a 'late-period psych' category or somesuch; this lot were, like it or not, proto-prog, with lengthy, complex song structures and a notable classical influence (listen to the massed vocals on The Spiritual Death Of Howard Greer for proof). The album was released on both sides of the Atlantic, and has apparently been quoted as an influence by both British and American progressive and associated bands, which rather turns the accepted view of events on its head, doesn't it?
"So where's the Mellotron?" I hear you cry? Well, the short answer is: nowhere. Neither a Mellotron nor a Chamberlin were used in the album's recording, which may leave you wondering exactly why I'm even bothering to write this stuff. Well... The album's first CD issue was on the excellent but short-lived Renaissance label, based in California (who also reissued both Gracious! albums, for what it's worth), which added two bonus tracks to the original running order, Blue Feeling and Alesha And Others (demo version). Another three tracks turned up on a hard-to-find compilation from the label called Buried Treasures, including a much later piece of full-blown prog from 1973, called The Second Coming Of Suzanne, including some Mellotron parts from keys man Don Gallucci (who also produced The Stooges, fact fans). After the label folded, I don't believe the album was sighted again for another decade, until the UK-based Eclectic re-reissued it, with the three Buried Treasures tracks added to the two previously-available bonuses, making Touch a slightly belated Mellotron album, some 35 years after the event. The Second Coming Of Suzanne was apparently written and recorded for a long-forgotten surrealist film, but never used; it doesn't sound especially like soundtrack music, to be honest, although it is instrumental, and could easily be edited into shorter sections, I suppse. Gallucci's Mellotron use is limited chiefly to several flute parts, some of which almost fool the ear into believing they're real, although there's also an effective 'Tron strings/guitar duet around the middle of the piece.
So; for those interested in the roots of prog, or for those who simply want to hear a fine, underrated late-'60s album, you really can't go too far wrong with Touch. Those who want a Mellotron Classic can probably look elsewhere, but they'll be missing out. Those who want a lesser-known late-'70s AOR album should probably get the first New England record, and avoid the other Touch entirely.
Tales From a Book of Yestermorrow (1994, 43.54) ***/TT½There is Music Left to Be...Write!
Sailing Too Long
For a Moment of Love
In My Life
Rondò (We Come Back)
Tower are one of several Beppe Crovella (ex-Arti & Mestieri) projects from the early '90s, including Cantina Sociale, Secret Cinema and the ludicrous Romantic Warriors, all released on the now-defunct Italian Vinyl Magic label. This bunch were the trio of Crovella, vocalist Paola Mei and drummer Elio Rivagli, with no guitar or bass, with the emphasis on the female English-language vocals. While better than the Romantic Warriors album (not difficult), their sole release, 1994's Tales From a Book of Yestermorrow, bears too many neo-prog hallmarks to be fully palatable, although it probably features as many jazz tropes as neo-prog ones, notably on Crovella's take on Rondo.
Crovella gets some Mellotron strings onto most tracks, although I feel much of his 'Tron use is almost gratuitous, not especially enhancing the music, although In My Life features a particularly nice part, sounding like it's doubling real strings. Overall, then, a passable effort, but some of the keyboard work aside, nothing much to excite the prog fan in search of something new. In fairness, Tales From a Book of Yestermorrow doesn't sound like any other prog album that springs to mind, but that isn't necessarily a recommendation.
See: Beppe Crovella | Arti & Mestieri | Cantina Sociale | Romantic Warriors | Secret Cinema
Toy Matinee (1990, 45.56) ***/TLast Plane Out
Turn it on Salvador
Things She Said
Remember My Name
The Toy Matinee
Queen of Misery
The Ballad of Jenny Ledge
There Was a Little Boy
We Always Come Home
Toy Matinee were the duo of Kevin Gilbert and Patrick Leonard, the former being the head honcho of Giraffe (who later played a chunk of Genesis' Lamb at Progfest '94), the latter being a major producer and songwriter, having worked with Madonna, Bryan Ferry etc. and later Elton John. The project was actually initiated by Leonard, although it seems to've become known as Gilbert's baby - he claimed to've written most of the material, although the CD insert just says 'all songs by Patrick Leonard and Kevin Gilbert', so who knows? While this is heavily rated by many people, it's all a bit '1990 mainstream' for me, although most tracks have interesting compositional and arrangement ideas; what's the betting I'll love this in two years' time? For the moment, though, despite excellent lyrics (There Was A Little Boy, The Toy Matinee) and great chord changes (nearly everything), it plays it all a bit too safe for my personal tastes.
I was most of the way through the album before I spotted any definite Mellotron use (presumably from Gilbert), with an upfront string part on There Was A Little Boy, at which point I went back to Queen Of Misery to reassess the background strings, but we're not really talking the heaviest Mellotron use ever. However, this was 1990, at which point practically no-one would touch the Mellotron with a bargepole, so any use at all has to be applauded, even when it's this vague.
So; interesting arrangements could make this one a grower, although the hardened proghead will probably find it all a little unpalatable. Not much Mellotron, either, though a veritable feast for the time. Your call. Incidentally, other Kevin Gilbert-related 'Tron albums (definites or possibles) include his 1995 solo effort, Thud, Michael Jackson's Dangerous, Spock's Beard's The Light, Marc Bonilla's EE Ticket (possible) and the Yes tribute album, Tales From Yesterday. The only other Gilbert-related albums I've heard even mentioned on the 'Tron front are his own The Shaming of the True (ho ho) and Toy Matinee's Live at the Roxy, though the latter is highly doubtful. Tragically, Gilbert accidentally took his own life on May 17th 1996. R.I.P.
Official Kevin Gilbert site
See: Kevin Gilbert