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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.

Ratings:
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


Charisma
The Field
Giallos Flame
The Mynd
Systems Theory
Yeti
Grizzly Adams
Picnic at Hanging Rock

Charisma  (US)

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
Two Fly

Lightfooted Fricassee

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

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  (US)

The Field, 'The Field'

The Field  (1999,  43.08)  ***/TTT

A View
Here I am
Goodbye to Innocence
A Glimpse
Take Back Your Poison

Same Old Seed
The Owners
Hydroplane
Attention Residents
The Field
The Field, 'One Company'

One Company  (2000,  53.48)  ***/TT½

One Company
  As Above, So Below
  Knee Jerk Reaction
  Alley/Boardroom

Out in the Flats

Dogma
Laying Low
Who Are the Men?
The Little Things...

Exploiters Exploited

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

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.

Giallos Flame  (Italy?)

Sacrament of the Blind Dead  (2005,  30.23)  ****½/TTT½

Introducción Antigua
Tema Principal
La Subida Muerte
Funcione Rápidamente
Iglesia

Escape
La Torre de Bell
La Muerte del Sacerdote
Tema del Final
Tema Alterno del Final

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Mellotron used:

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.

Marillion  (UK)  see:

Marillion

The Mynd  (UK)

Unreleased Sessions  (1972-78,  139.27)  ***½/TTTTT

The Spider
Every Mushroom Cloud
In Motion
Disorientation Test
Communicate
Long Time No See/Checkmate
I am a River
At This Point in Time
Lost in a City (live)
The Sorcerer (live)
Underwater (live)
I am a River (live)
Travelling Blind (live)
No Way Out (live)
Indian Giver

Skinch
Herman's Boys
Maybe There's Somebody

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

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.

Billy at the 'Tron, early '70s

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. Billy not at the 'TronI'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

OHO  (US)  see:

OHO

Systems Theory  (US/UK)

Systems Theory, 'Demos 2001-2002'

Demos 2001-2002  (2002,  55.34)  ****/TTTT½

Silent Service
One Step to Freefall
Serengeti Surprise
The Cool Vibe of Asia C
(I am) the Reluctant Plumber
Red Sun Fading

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

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.

Official site

See: Systems Theory | Mike Dickson

Wobbler  (Norway)  see:

Wobbler

Yeti  (US)

Demonstration CDR  (1999,  25.40)  ***/TT

Interstellar Biplane
Est Mort

Demonstration CDR II  (2002,  34.49)  ***/T½

Strangled By Light
Black Pills

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

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

Soundtracks


The Life & Times of Grizzly Adams  (US)

'The Life & Times of Grizzly Adams'

The Life & Times of Grizzly Adams  (1974)  ***/TTTT

Main Theme
Various untitled tracks

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Mellotron used:

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  (Australia)

'Picnic at Hanging Rock'

Picnic at Hanging Rock  (1975)  ***½/T½

Main Theme
Various untitled tracks

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

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.


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