This page is an attempt to mop up various unreleased Mellotron recordings across the years, including artists who never released an album, unreleased soundtracks etc. It's not a page for bootleg recordings of otherwise released bands, which can be found either at the band's dedicated page (if they have one), or in Bootlegs.
Highlighting in album tracklistings denotes 'contains Mellotron'. On 'multi-part' tracks I've tried to indicate which parts contain 'Tron, although this isn't always possible.
The * rating (½-5) is my personal, entirely subjective and completely partisan rating of the music.
The 'T' ('Tron, of course...) rating (0-5) is an only slightly more objective indicator of an album's Mellotronness.
By the way, if you know of any Mellotron albums that aren't listed here, please look at my albums page first
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Unreleased sessions (1973-6, 68.36) ***/TT
|Uh-oh (John Rinaldo)
Soufflee Shuffle (live)
Soufflee Shuffle (studio)
Bread and Circus
I Celebrate the Seconds
The Sun is Always Out
It's All the Same
She's a Good Woman
|Do it Now
New England soul outfit The Mantiques became Charisma after signing with the obscure Roulette Records in 1969. They were effectively signed as a tax write-off, so it's hardly surprising that they were treated pretty much as you'd expect, not least with regard to their new name, which they hated. They released two albums, Charisma in 1969 and Beasts and Fiends the following year, then spent the first half of the '70s playing 'commercial' gigs for a living, while recording the material they really wanted to play. An unknown member of the band has put up a webpage (singular) detailing the band's history and providing free downloads of their entire oeuvre, including the unreleased material. Now, if only more little-known bands would do the same, the need for trading obscurities might recede a little, despite the crummy sound of MP3s...
And they sounded like...? Frank Zappa, basically. I'm sure they would never have been mistaken for The Mothers, but the bulk of Charisma's unreleased material has that jazzy, misplaced-humour thing out of which ol' Frank made a career, with ridiculous lyrics (Soufflee Shuffle) and bizarre vocal interjections (the lengthy Bread And Circus), though without the fiery musicianship of Zappa's various lineups. About the most straightforward thing here is a proposed single, She's A Good Woman (b/w Do It Now), which betrays their soul roots, and could even have been a hit had it been released.
Of course, there's only one reason this is here at all. Mike Reynolds spent most of his time on these recordings playing a rather cheesy organ, but gets a bit of 'Tron strings in on most tracks, though never for very long, reflected in the relatively low T rating. The aforementioned She's A Good Woman is the set's chief 'Tron track, where you get the feeling that they might've preferred to use real strings, but didn't have the budget. Given that this is freely available, you might as well download it to see what you think for yourself; I'm not blown away by the material, but that's merely my personal taste.
The Field (1999, 43.08) ***/TTT
Here I am
Goodbye to Innocence
Take Back Your Poison
Same Old Seed
One Company (2000, 53.48) ***/TT½One Company
As Above, So Below
Knee Jerk Reaction
Out in the Flats
Who Are the Men?
The Little Things...
The Field by The Field. How are you supposed to find any references for that on the 'Net? The Internet was well on its way to its current ubiquity in 1999, so the band were either being dim or simply not giving a toss. Anyway, the album's loosely 'progressive', although there's something of a dearth of ideas on many tracks, leaving a handful of better efforts such as The Owners to rescue the project. It's an ambitious work, that seems to have some kind of concept, but a lack of great material hampers it badly. Steve(n) Sofranko plays Mellotron, although it's been recorded so badly, you have to listen closely at times to realise that's actually what it is. Assuming it's real, that is, and not some crummy, late-'90s samples... Anyway, strings on the first three tracks, flutes on A Glimpse and Take Back Your Poison, then strings on the last two tracks, with a wonderfully cranky part on Attention Residents. Overall, this album's obscurity is surprising, given its relatively recent release, but while it has its moments, it doesn't really cut it in the world of the professional progressive album. Not bad, but not that good, either.
One Company is dated 2000, but like their debut, it seems likely that it's never received an official release. Like that album, it seems to be a concept work and like its predecessor, it's a little short on good musical ideas. Parts of it are actually better produced than The Field, but a more 'metal' sound, with a couple of superfluous guitar solos, has not dated well. Steve Sofranko on keys again, with Mellotron on most tracks, with choirs on the first two parts of the title track and strings on the third, strings and choir mixed on Out In The Flats, strings on Laying Low, flutes and a choppy choir part on Who Are The Men? and choirs on The Little Things... Unfortunately, as on its predecessor, the 'Tron is recorded fairly badly on most tracks and isn't used that heavily, making for a relatively low 'T' rating. Overall, then, a better sound than their debut, but mostly less good material, evening out in the long run. 'Fraid I've no real idea where you can get this, although the band might just send you a copy if you can get hold of them.
Sacrament of the Blind Dead (2005, 30.23) ****½/TTT½
La Subida Muerte
La Torre de Bell
La Muerte del Sacerdote
|Tema del Final
Tema Alterno del Final
It seems there's something of a story surrounding The Giallos Flame's Sacrament of the Blind Dead, not least whether the project's Italian or British, as I've seen both quoted, never mind whether or not the album ever officially saw the light of day. It was apparently (I do say apparently) commissioned (and I quote), "By Indie Gods Publishing to be released in conjunction with a planned graphic novel entitled Sacrament of the Blind Dead", which never appeared, due to the company going bust. It's actually a fab Goblin/Fabio Frizzi-style faux-horror soundtrack, every bit as good as some of those artists' work, highlights including the ultra-creepy Funcione Rápidamente, the (pseudo-?) analogue synth-heavy Iglesia and the percussion/church organ/choir jam on La Torre De Bell.
Someone (a British chap called Ron Graham?) plays Mellotron on most tracks, mostly male choirs, with strings on Funcione Rápidamente and Iglesia and cellos on Introducción Antigua, although I'm not entirely convinced it's genuine. However, the church organ on La Muerte del Sacerdote wobbles all over the place in a very 'real' and fairly unfakeable manner, although it's rather more stable (alongside a string part) on Tema Del Final. Since this has finally cropped up on download sites, I can only urge you to make the effort to track it down. A minor masterpiece.
Unreleased Sessions (1972-78, 139.27) ***½/TTTTT
Every Mushroom Cloud
Long Time No See/Checkmate
I am a River
At This Point in Time
Lost in a City (live)
|The Sorcerer (live)
I am a River (live)
Travelling Blind (live)
No Way Out (live)
Maybe There's Somebody
The Mynd, from the North-East, were one of a host of British progressive bands in the '70s who, despite gigging around for years and working their arses off, never managed to get anywhere, eventually splitting when the Great Punk Purge hit at the end of the decade. The mainstays of the band were keyboard player Billy Surgeoner and his guitarist brother, Bob, who between them wrote and sang the band's largish repertoire of original material. The only reason they've suddenly found any sort of public platform is Billy's decision to post some of their material on the 'Net, following that by creating a MySpace page dedicated to the band (link above). He's provided me with three discs'-worth of live, studio and rehearsal stuff, most of which probably won't be made publicly available, but hopefully this review will give you some idea of their sound and whether it's worth downloading whatever tracks Billy chooses to post.
The first two tracks here, The Spider and Every Mushroom Cloud, are studio recordings from the early '70s, prior to Billy's expensive purchase of a new M400, his chief keyboard for much of the band's career. In Motion, Disorientation Test and Communicate are from a rehearsal tape, and despite a slightly ropey sound (and believe me, I've heard worse), are a distinct improvement on the studio recordings. I'm not sure how to define their sound; maybe a bit of Barclay James Harvest crossed with the lighter end of King Crimson? They specialised in long, slowish songs, rather than risking falling flat on their faces going for 100 m.p.h. stuff, giving even their mid-'70s material a slight late-'60s ambience. After a live track, another two studio recordings complete the first disc, capturing the band's sound a good deal better than their earlier session. The live disc contains probably the band's best song, Lost In A City, with a marvellous dynamic guitar/Mellotron motif, although most of the material here is more memorable than on the studio disc. The last, shorter disc contains the band's last studio session, later in the decade, containing noticeably shorter (note: not short) and more high-energy material, with opening track Indian Giver having a more straightforward hard rock vibe about it, with a scorching Bob Surgeoner solo for good measure, while closer Maybe There's Somebody rocks out more than anything else on any of these discs.
On the (considerable) 'Tron front, there's a lengthy flute part on In Motion, followed by a string section (so to speak), with a heavily echoed flute part opening Disorientation Test. Actually, attempting to log Surgeoner's 'Tron use is difficult to nigh-on impossible, as there's so much of it. He tells me he only owned the 'Tron and a Hohner organ for a while, eventually adding a small Korg monosynth to his rig, but relying on his 'Tron more than anything. How did he afford such an outrageously expensive keyboard? The Mellotron was £1200 in the early '70s; to put that in context, you could buy a small house in a not-so-good area for the same. Apparently, he borrowed the money, then paid it off in a year or so by the band doubling as a presumably well-paid covers act, as so many had to at the time. Nice money if you can get it, I have to say... A quick note on Billy's 'Tron usage is that he used to stick it through a wah pedal (Disorientation Test and Lost In A City), which, to my knowledge, is unique, unless you know better...
Anyway, I don't know what you might be able to get out of Billy if you write to him, but if you want Mellotron overkill, you've got it here. I'll be honest enough to say that some songs are better than others, but there's enough quality stuff here to keep the committed prog fan (as in 'should be', if I'm anything to go by) happy for a while.
See: High Chair
Crucifixion Lust: The Basement Tapes (Recorded 1974-75, 71.29) ****/TTTT
Here Come(s) the Oysters
Cragwheel in Spain
No Fewer Days
Dream of the Ridiculous Band (Recorded 1976, 44.24) ****/TT½
Hogshead (Slight Return)
We'll Be Famous When We're Dead
Snow Lady (Part II)
|I Crawled Back to Nothing When I Crawled Back to You
The Hand Over Isaac's Head
OHO were not only one of Baltimore's, but one of America's oddest bands in the '70s, at least that I've heard. See their main review for a better description of their sound; suffice to say, their music is unlikely to appeal to those whose taste strays towards (or entirely inhabits) the mainstream. Crucifixion Lust: The Basement Tapes is an unreleased document of the band's four-track demos from 1974-5, in the days when 'four-track' meant reel-to-reel (often a Revox), not crummy cassette, meaning that they sound pretty good, if not actually studio standard (there are minor dropouts on a couple of tracks, as if to prove the point). Of course, most of these tracks are available in studio-recorded versions, but these are invaluable for hearing the uncluttered instrumental parts, should you feel so inclined. Mellotron on most tracks, from Mark O'Connor, with strings on Here Come(s) The Oysters and (very clearly) on Tinker's Damn, with choir and strings on Parade/Charade. Hogshead features a quite bizarre 'underwater' 'Tron choir (male voice?), with more strings and choir on the remaining highlighted tracks, usually far clearer than on their studio recordings.
It seems that 1976's 'legendary unreleased' album, Dream of the Ridiculous Band, has leaked out on bootleg label Gott Discs, assuming you can find it. To say it's more 'mainstream' than the band's previous work is rather irrelevant; everything's relative, and this album is only 'relatively' normal. It's certainly an easier listen than their work from a couple of years earlier, although not specifically better for it, merely different. A couple of diversions from their standard ensemble playing are the under-a-minute snippet, Hogshead (Slight Return) and acoustic guitar solo Albumblatt, although most of the material fits their usual remit. Mellotron on Parade/Charade, Lez Lee, Miss Mouse, Paint Can and The Hand Over Isaac's Head, with chiefly fairly background strings and choir use. This could be a good entrée to the band's oeuvre (enough French already), so it's cool that Dream of the Ridiculous Band is sort-of available, although every track on it has been commercially released at some point on one format or another. If you don't feel like splashing out, the easiest way to hear half of the album is to get the Recollections (1974-1976) compilation, with most of the remainder on 2003's Best of Baltimore's Buried Bands II.
I can't tell you where you can find these, but who knows, they may appear officially at some point. It's always down to money in the end... Anyway, the demos are far more 'Tron-heavy than their 'produced' tracks, which probably isn't so surprising.
See: OHO | Dark Side | Food for Worms
Lucifer Rising [OST] (1973, 22.35) ***½/TT½Lucifer Rising
Jimmy Page's legendary aborted soundtrack for Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising is pretty much the only known solo Zeppelin recording during the band's lifetime. Page was approached by Anger at an auction of Aleister Crowley memorabilia in 1973, agreeing to write and record a soundtrack for his new film project, which ended up dragging on for three years or so, probably due to Page's considerable Zeppelin commitments. Stories differ, but Anger claims he was locked out of Page's London house, where he had been editing the footage into shape (for free, it should be noted), immediately retaliating by sacking Page from the project and hiring Bobby Beausoleil (ex-Love), who had already acted in the film, to record a new soundtrack, even though he was serving a prison sentence for murder, having got himself mixed up with Charles Manson. With me so far?
Page had only produced twenty-something minutes of music in three years, which was partly why Anger lost the plot, it seems; the 'drone' section that opens 1979's In Through the Out Door's In The Evening is rumoured to be excerpted from it, but it's hard to tell, frankly. Twenty-two minutes have circulated for years on bootlegs and can now be found on YouTube and on various download sites, giving us all the chance to assess it for ourselves. Most of it consists of vast, unearthly, bowed drones, with various instruments layered over the top, notably acoustic 12-string, ARP synth (probably a 2600) and Mellotron, the end result being every bit as unnerving and occultish as you could want. The piece is split into two sections of roughly equal length, but it's hard to tell which is meant to come first.
Page has been quoted as saying that, amongst other, more exotic instruments in his home studio, he owned 'synthesizers and a Mellotron'; presumably a different machine to Zep's touring M400. A brief flute section can be heard at around two minutes into one of its parts, with strings and cellos drifting in about three minutes later, lasting for most of the rest of the 'track'. Is this worth hearing? For Zep fans: yes. For film buffs: yes. For Mellotron obsessives: possibly. At least we can finally hear what all the fuss has been about for so long in the Zep fan community. Now all we need to find is the legendary acoustic guitar concerto Swan Song, although my guess is that it was never recorded, or probably even finished.
See: Led Zeppelin | Jimy Page & Robert Plant
Demos 2001-2002 (2002, 55.34) ****/TTTT½Silent Service
One Step to Freefall
The Cool Vibe of Asia C
(I am) the Reluctant Plumber
Red Sun Fading
For the Systems Theory story, go to their main reviews. Their first set of demos is now available as a download from Mike Dickson's site, but they've opted not to post their second set, but as they've been available in the past, here they are.
The craftily-titled Demos 2001-2002 has no cause to worry the trades description people and, if anything, improves on their first demo collection (which is as it should be, really). More of Mike's 'Tron, of course: Silent Service has some distant choirs early on, shifting into an upfront string part, with some pipe organ later on. One Step To Freefall opens with the infamous 'Dickstrings', while after a regular string part, Serengeti Surprise doubles up one of the 'Tron brass sounds with flanged 'Steve Hackett' 'Tron guitar, before slipping back into a faintly disturbing string part over a vaguely African rhythm, then more of that brass/guitar duetting. The Cool Vibe Of Asia C has much string/choir doubling, with occasional counterpoint, while (I Am) The Reluctant Plumber doubles the standard 8-choir with more of that Hackett guitar and the next-to-never heard 'Tron Fairlight (yes, really...). Finally, Red Sun Fading has what I presume to be Mellotron oboes, along with the 8-choir again, not to mention even more of that Hackett guitar and brass.
These are worth hearing if you can find them, but several of the tracks appeared, reworked, on the band's first album 'proper', 2004's Soundtracks for Imaginary Movies.
See: Systems Theory | Mike Dickson
Wobbler (Norway) see:
Demonstration CDR (1999, 25.40) ***/TTInterstellar Biplane
Demonstration CDR II (2002, 34.49) ***/T½Strangled By Light
Yeti's two 'regular' releases are reviewed here, where you'll find a description of what they do. Suffice to say, it's a prog/space-rock combination you won't have heard too often before, which works sporadically. Demonstration CDR contains early versions of two of the tracks on their first album, 2000's Things to Come..., with a slightly longer version of Interstellar Biplane and a shorter one of Est Mort. To be honest, apart from minor arrangement differences, unless you're a total fanatic, you probably don't need to track this down if you've got the album. As on the later versions, there's a smattering of Doug Ferguson's 'Tron choirs on Interstellar Biplane, while Est Mort hit the flutes several minutes in, eventually followed by strings, but without the official version's choirs.
Demonstration CDR II again demos two of their forthcoming album's four tracks, in this case, Strangled By Light and Black Pills, that ended up on 2004's Volume, Obliteration, Transcendence. Again, slightly different track lengths, with Strangled By Light being shorter than its final version and Black Pills being slightly longer, but otherwise pretty similar. Doug Ferguson tragically died in early 2002, so I presume the Mellotron on the demo is played by bassist Tommy Atkins, with choir parts on both tracks, though with less variety than Ferguson may've used.
These are knocking around the 'Net as downloads, although not only are they probably not available from the band now, but they were probably only ever on very limited release. Good, but buy the albums if you really want to hear where they're coming from.
See: Yeti | Ohm
The Life & Times of Grizzly Adams (1974) ***/TTTTMain Theme
Various untitled tracks
Not to be confused with the later TV series, this cheapie film's budget obviously didn't run to an orchestra, so the bulk of the soundtrack is played on a Mellotron, loaded with the 'standard' strings/flutes/cellos frame. And very nice it is, too; several excellent themes, including a very impressive 'Indian falls down a cliff' sequence. No, really. Shame about the ultra-cheeso title theme, but there you go. Like so many similar, it doesn't seem likely that anyone's going to bother putting the soundtrack out in its own right, which is a shame, as there are some lovely Mellotronic moments contained therein. I've compiled a half hour or so from a crummy old VHS of the film, but now that it's out on DVD, even if only in the States, hopefully I'll get a chance to upgrade my recording at some point.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) ***½/T½Main Theme
Various untitled tracks
Picnic at Hanging Rock is the extraordinary film of a bizarre multiple disappearance in turn of the century Australia, beautifully directed by Peter Weir. Strangely, for such an iconic film, the soundtrack remains unavailable, although its noted pan-pipe player, Gheorghe Zamfir, recreated two of its themes a year later on his A Theme From "Picnic at Hanging Rock". The soundtrack budget obviously didn't run to orchestras and the like, making the unknown composer work with whatever he could find, namely, a mid-'70s synth (ARP 2600, maybe?) and a Mellotron, on top of the ubiquitous piano and pan-pipes.
The Mellotron is used solely for its choirs, and not that much, really, with a recurring theme that can only be described as 'soundtrack-like' in its use of multiple minor chords modulating between keys with abandon. It's a shame it wasn't used more, but, of course, the soundtrack is subservient to the action, so it only crops up when needed, helping to create the film's eerie atmosphere.