Loudon Wainwright III
The Wake Ups
J. Roddy Walston & the Business
The Walter Eugenes
War & Peace
|7" ( 1969)
You've Never Been to My House
Looking for Shirley: The Pop-Sike World of Cliff Wade (2001, recorded 1969, 58.07) ***½/TTT½
|You've Never Been to My House
I See I am Free
Yes I'm Finding Out
Gonna Meet the Man
Empress of Perisand, Wandering Maid
Casting the First Stone
I Could Have Loved Her
You Should Have Seen Me
Look at Me I've Fallen Into a Teapot
People Get the News
Did You Know
My Little Chicken
Cliff Wade is one of the music industry's peripheral figures, who's nonetheless had a several-decade career writing, recording and producing in the background (Tina Turner was an early recipient, while Pat Benatar's AOR classic Heartbreaker is one of his). He released a single in 1969 on the Morgan Blue Town label, You've Never Been To My House b/w Sister, both tracks groaning with Mellotron, although it sank without trace and he took a backseat in the biz. Thirty-odd years later, those lovely people at Edsel resurrected not just the single, but nearly an hour's-worth of material recorded at the same time, releasing it as Looking for Shirley: The Pop-Sike World of Cliff Wade.
The larger part of its contents consist of the expected 'pop-sike', as it's irritatingly become known in recent years (stand up and take a bow, Record Collector mag, for inventing another retrospective genre; see: freakbeat, sunshine pop), stronger efforts including the Manfred Mann-esque original single, the fabulous Shirley, Sister and Yes I'm Finding Out, although the only track the compilers might have quietly shunted to one side is ridiculous closer My Little Chicken. Other deviations from the main style include the dual acoustic guitars of Empress Of Perisand, Wandering Maid, the proto-hard rock of Casting The First Stone and Did You Know, which opens with a stodgy reinterpretation of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, all of which work in their own ways.
The album starts off giving the impression that it's going to be the most Mellotron-heavy effort of the period (from Wade himself?), although most of it's restricted to the set's early tracks, opener You've Never Been To My House opening with what sounds like a choppy brass part, with more of the same on Shirley, strings on Dagger Lane and I See I Am Free, brass and flutes on Sister (alongside a real flute, by the sound of it), strings on Yes I'm Finding Out, a chordal flute part on Gonna Meet The Man, strings on Fern Meadows and low strings on November, while the rest of the set's strings appear to be real. This is a more satisfying overall listen than, for example, Mark Wirtz' similar A Teenage Opera, albeit less well-known, but given the quality of some of the material and the outrageously heavy Mellotron use on nearly half its tracks, if you have any interest in the period whatsoever, buy.
Distances Between Us (1974, 36.23) ***½/TTDistances Between Us
Music of the Spheres
Instincts (1977, 31.32) ***/TWhere Are We Going?
There's Another Summer Coming
Above the Horizon
Leaving it All Behind
I don't actually know an awful lot about Adrian Wagner, other than he's the great-great-grandson of the better-known Richard and he's a British electronic musician who released three albums in the mid to late '70s, of which Distances Between Us is the first and best. The side-long title track is probably the strongest piece, also featuring the most Mellotron, although the vocals were probably a mistake, in retrospect; it would've made a far better instrumental. Distances Between Us is actually a very ambitious composition, with an effective sound effects sequence in the middle, and interesting use of various modular and semi-modular synths. The only vocal parts on the album that actually work to any real degree are the contributions made by Hawkwind's poet in residence, Robert Calvert, who manages to imbue his parts with a genuine gravitas. It sounds like him towards the end of the title track, and Steppenwolf appears to be the same lyric he later recorded with Hawkwind on their Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music album.
The Mellotron use is basically confined to the first and last few minutes of the title track (strings with a little choir) and album closer Music Of The Spheres, with some epic strings chords, again with choir mixed in. To be honest, this isn't a great album, although some of the synth textures are worth hearing for students of the genre. Top marks to Wagner for attempting something different; I'm just not convinced that it worked.
Wagner took a while to get round to his second album, Instincts, and I have to say, it's rather nearer the electronic music mainstream, with a couple of odd 'South American' tracks in Amazon and Machu Picchu, which I don't personally feel work very well. He's insisted there's a lot of 'Tron on the album, but all I can really hear are some background choirs on There's Another Summer Coming and Leaving It All Behind. There may, or may not be strings on opener Where Are We Going? and a couple of other points during the album, but I really wouldn't care to say either way.
His third album, The Last Inca (***) has a similarly 'mainstream' sound, and don't really grab my attention either, I'm afraid. Incidentally, there are some hilarious misspellings in the equipment list on Distances...; 'Melatron', 'Clavanette', 'VCS 111' and 'APR', anyone? At least they got 'Farfisa' right... Incidentally, Wagner's M400 was sold to someone who sold it on to IQ's Martin Orford, who eventually sold it on to Pendragon and Arena's Clive Nolan. Mellotron trivia? We goddit.
Sort-of official site
Strange Weirdos: Music From & Inspired By the Film Knocked Up (2007, 48.08) ***/½
|Grey in L.A.
You Can't Fail Me Now
So Much to Do
X or Y
|Feel So Good
Doin' the Math
Recovery (2008, 47.56) ***½/½
|Black Uncle Remus
Saw Your Name in the Paper
The Drinking Song
Be Careful There's a Baby in the House
|Needless to Say
Movie Are a Mother to Me
Say That You Love Me
Man Who Couldn't Cry
I don't know why I've always assumed Loudon Wainwright III was Canadian; probably because of his one-time marriage with noted Canuck Kate McGarrigle. Anyway, he isn't; he was born in North Carolina and his famous children (Martha and Rufus) have dual citizenship. He began writing songs in the late '60s, releasing his first, eponymous album in 1970, 2007's Strange Weirdos: Music From & Inspired By the Film Knocked Up being his 18th studio effort. Although it's a soundtrack album, as its publicity states, it stands up in its own right and includes several new songs which seem to be quintessentially Wainwright. Whether or not you think that's a good thing will depend chiefly on whether you like anything else he's done, I suspect. Not blown away by it myself, but maybe you have to get into what he does. Anyway, the ubiquitous Patrick Warren plays Chamberlin, with distant, ghostly flutes on Valley Morning that don't especially add anything to the track; it may be elsewhere on the album, but it's the master of musical camouflage, so who knows?
The following year's Recovery is a more cohesive effort, with songs that, at least to my ears, sound better-crafted. Turns out that's 'cos they're new recordings of songs from his first few albums, thus the title. It's occurred to me (duh) that it's all about the lyrics, as with so many singer-songwriters, Wainwright's schtick being that they're mostly humorous, so if you're not prepared to listen to what he's singing, forget it. Best lyric? Closer Man Who Couldn't Cry, no contest. I know I've heard this recently, and I know I've never heard any Wainwright album containing it, and a quick 'Net search tells me it's on Johnny Cash's first Rick Rubin album, American Recordings, proving that Rubin only picked top-notch material for Cash to tackle. Anyway, Warren's back on Chamby, and while there are several tracks that might have it in the background, the only definite use is an almost discordant string part on Muse Blues, so that's another low T rating for Mr. W, I'm afraid.
So; do you think humour belongs in music? If so, and you can bear his on/off countryisms, you may well goes for Rufus and Martha's dear old dad. OK, Martha wrote a song for him called Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole, but she's also collaborated with him. Parents, eh? Dad also wrote a song for Rufus when he was a baby, Rufus Is A Tit Man. Oh no he isn't... Very little Chamberlin on these albums, though, so don't go buying them for that.
Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole EP (2004, 17.23) ***½/½Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole
I Will Internalize
When the Day is Short
What must it be like to know that your children hate you? Ask Loudon Wainwright III (above): his son Rufus (below) hasn't exactly lauded his father to the skies, while his daughter Martha wrote a song about him called Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole. Ouch. Originally released as the lead track on her 2004 EP, most of her audience know if from its inclusion on her eponymous 2005 album. The five tracks on the EP (four on some versions) span a wide range of styles, from the acoustic 'morning after' sound of the title track, through the vaguely churchy I Will Internalize to the piano jazz of How Soon, only two tracks making it onto Martha Wainwright, one (I believe) in a different version.
Paul Bryan is credited with Mellotron on When The Day Is Short (the missing track on some versions), but the only possible use is some exceedingly background strings, which could be just about anything, frankly. If you like Martha's work, the EP's probably worth getting for the otherwise unavailable tracks, but you've probably already got the one essential here anyway.
Rufus Wainwright (1998, 53.21) ***/½
In My Arms
Poses (2001, 52.54) ***/½
|Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk
Tower of Learning
One Man Guy
In a Graveyard
Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Reprise)
Rufus 'son of Loudon' Wainwright (not to mention his mother, Kate McGarrigle, his aunt, Anna or his sister, Martha) seems to have single-handedly revived the art of the torch singer, with his uncompromisingly gay approach to his art (the sleeve of his recent Want Two pretty much redefines the term 'camp'). I'll be completely honest here, and say that his music does very little for me at all, although the only word I can find to describe his voice is 'gorgeous', despite its being fairly conventionally male. As a result, I'm not even going to attempt to review the music on these two albums; plenty of online reviewers have already done a good job of doing so, so I'll leave it up to them.
His debut, 1998's Rufus Wainwright has considerable orchestral input; in fact, it could be described as 'overblown' - I believe Wainwright himself wasn't that impressed by its OTT production. By and large, it's difficult to work out exactly where Jon Brion's Chamberlin has been used, though it sounds like Chamby flutes on April Fools, and there's some sort of loop at the end of Danny Boy (not that one, thankfully) that could be Chamby, although it could just as easily be a sampler.
It took Rufus three years to follow up with Poses, probably due to his much-publicised drug issues (crystal meth? Just say no!), and despite being described as more down to earth, it's not that different to his debut, to be honest. Richard Causon plays Chamby this time round, with what sounds like distant choirs on California, and while several other tracks may have some hidden in the mix, it's pretty much impossible to tell.
So; Rufus' very singular style appeals to many, but try as I might, I find myself unable to join them, despite my appreciation of the music's quality. As for Chamberlin use, I'd go somewhere else, if I were you.
The Waiting (1997, 44.54) **½/T
How Do You Do That?
Put the Blame on Me
It is Enough
Hands in the Air
Better Off as Friends
|Heaven is Home
No Time for That
The Waiting are a Christian outfit of the 'more palatable' variety, the breezy pop/rock of their second, eponymous album beating most CCM hands-down, better tracks including Put The Blame On Me and the rocky Number 9. Unfortunately, the album's limited appeal wears thin as it progresses, despite its reasonable length, but I've heard vastly worse in this strange, lyrical subject matter-driven genre.
Mellotron player to the CCM community, Phil Madeira, adds flutes and a string line to closer Beautiful Blood, although the strings on It Is Enough are real, making this somewhat not worth it on the Mellotron front. So; almost-listenable CCM. What will they think of next?
Tom Waits (US) see:
Wanna Meet...... the Wake Ups? [a.k.a. The Actual Size] (2001/02, 46.54) ***½/½
|Let You Down
Can't Believe My Luck
What's the Big Idea?
Second Time Around
It's Not Me
Keep it to Yourself
My Friends Are So Boring
You Make Me Nervous
So what's with all this 'a.k.a.' business, anyway? Seems the Sydney-based Scruffs released an album called The Actual Size in 2001, changing not only their name but their album's title the following year to avoid problems with their previously-existing namesakes in Memphis. So shouldn't this file under the original names? Yes, probably, but it's generally available as The Wake Ups, so The Wake Ups it is. The new title? Seems it's a homage to the original Scruffs, a late '70s outfit, whose debut album was titled Wanna Meet the Scruffs? So now you know. Anyway, this lot are a pretty decent powerpop outfit, The Actual Size/Wanna Meet...... containing a fair amount of variety in its grooves, from the mainstream powerpop of opener Let You Down and Can't Believe My Luck through the garage punk feel of Trash and You Make Me Nervous to It's Not Me's acoustic balladry.
Michael Carpenter and Manu Galvin both play Mellotron, although I'm not sure why it took two of them to play the flute part (with pitchbend) on Keep It To Yourself; one to play, one to manipulate the pitch-control? Don't laugh; it's been done before. I'm not even convinced it's a real Mellotron, but there you go. Anyway, you're far more likely to find the Wake Ups version than the Scruffs one, but it's worth hearing either way, albeit not for the minimal Mellotron.
Rick Wakeman (UK) see:
Nighttown (1997, 61.04) ***/T
|Follow Me an Angel
These Proud Streets
Tremble (Goes the Night)
Lift Your Burdens Up
Prayer for You
Slow Red Dawn
Trail of Stars (1999, 64.41) ***½/TT
Straight to the Stars
Harvey's Quote to Me
On the Day
|Till I Reach You
No One the Wiser
Train Leaves at Eight (2000, 68.47) ***½/T
|The Train Leaves At Eight (To Treno Fevgui Stis Okto)
Man From Reno
That Black Guitar (Tista Crna Kitara)
Hard Winds Blowin' (Sopram Ventos Adversos)
Everyone Kisses a Stranger
|People Such as These (Ces Gens-la)
Wake Me Up Before I Sleep
Solex In A Slipshod Style
That's How I Live (So Lebe Ich)
And She Closed Her Eyes
Death's Threshold Step #2
Ended Up a Stranger (2001, 64.58) ***/TT
Life: The Movie
More Heat Than Light
Fallen Down Moon
See it in the Dark
Lest We Forget
Ended Up a Stranger
Drunken Soundtracks: Lost Songs & Rarities 1995-2001 (2002, 129.41) ***½/T½
People Such as These (Kevin's Dub)
How Many Times (Must the Piper
Be Paid for His Song)
|Call Me Back Again
On the Day (Bone Mix)
Desert Skies (Black Light Mix)
Bonnie & Clyde (live)
Death's Black Train
|Thieves Like Us
Corcovado (Quiet Nights of
Cover of Darkness
|The Light Will Stay on (Country Mix)
Master of None
Theme From "Where the Air is
Cool and Dark"
Acetylene (2005, 52.38) ***/½
|Fuck Your Fear
Coming Up for Air
Devil in the Details
Have You Ever Seen The Morning?
Before the City Wakes
A name like The Walkabouts make you think the band in question might be Australian: wrong. The Walkabouts are from Seattle and their remit seems to be to sound as European as possible, even covering material by the likes of Jacques Brel and Scott Walker. Never mind the indie ethic, this is the noir ethic, personified by The Walkabouts.
Nighttown is their seventh album 'proper', ignoring compilations of EPs, live efforts etc. and lives up to its title with aplomb, channelling the melancholy end of those '50s Sinatra albums, anything by Scott Walker... You get the picture. Their record company apparently described it as 'the sound of a band committing suicide' (it wasn't), although it's certainly one of the most unremittingly downbeat things I've heard in a while. Orchestral arrangements (mostly strings) on most tracks, making it difficult to spot Glenn Slater's Mellotron when it appears. From what I can tell, though, we have a distant flute line on Unwind, with equally distant strings on the chorus, and what sounds like a polyphonic flute part on Slow Red Dawn, under the orchestral arrangement, but that would appear to be your lot.
Trail of Stars carries on the good works of its predecessors, to the point where, to the casual listener, it's almost indistinguishable from Nighttown, although I found it slightly more appealing. More Slater 'Tron, with strings on Gold and Drown, plus full-on flutes and strings on the album's Mellotronic highpoint, Last Tears. The band followed up with a covers collection, Train Leaves at Eight, with a sleeve more noir than noir. Unlike many similar, it actually works, to the point that if you didn't know they were covers, you, er, wouldn't know they were covers. Stylistically, of course, it's the usual, so it comes as even more of a surprise when they suddenly kick out the jams (albeit fairly slowly) on Brel's People Such As These, a.k.a. Ces Gens-la, also covered by French proggers Ange, back in 1973. The Mellotron finally appears on That's How I Live (a.k.a. So Lebe Ich), with a string line that sustains way past the eight-second limit, although studio trickery could be involved. However, so could samples.
2001's Ended Up a Stranger is, of course, in a similar vein to the rest of the band's work, though, at least to me, is slightly less appealing. Maybe I shouldn't have listened to it after Train Leaves at Eight? Anyway, a decent enough record, just a bit the same old same old. Slater plays 'Tron on several tracks, as far as I can work out, with flutes on Life: The Movie, flutes and possible strings on Fallen Down Moon and strings on Mary Edwards and Winslow Place, although they sound a bit sampled in places, I have to say...
The following year's double-disc set, Drunken Soundtracks: Lost Songs & Rarities 1995-2001, does exactly what it says on the tin, collecting outtakes, live tracks and no doubt all manner of other things that didn't make it onto their earlier albums. Not that you'd know, as it sounds every bit as good as any of their 'regular' releases, which makes a nice change for an outtakes album. Mind you, it's ridiculously long, so I wouldn't recommend playing it in one sitting, as I did... A few tracks of Slatertron, with flutes on Sorry Angel, full-on strings on The Getaway, tentative strings on Cowbells Shakin', faint ones on Glory Road and quite upfront ones on Incognito, although I've no idea from which era any of them hail.
After a several-year break from releasing new material, Acetylene appeared in 2005 and it's immediately apparent that the band have rocked things up in the interim, to the point where they're almost a different band. It's a perfectly good album, just... different, with a distinct Neil Young fixation becoming apparent, noticeably on lengthy closer Last Ones. Very little Mellotron, too, with nowt but occasional strings on Northsea Train, alongside what sounds like real ones.
So; slow and stately, barely rock at all in places, but maybe just not quite as miserable as I like it. Or maybe the instrumentation's wrong; certainly not enough Mellotron on many of these (a common complaint, you'll have noticed). Good at what they do, however. Worthwhile.
Letters (2004, 51.07) **/T
|Sunny Day Real Estate
Maybe it's Just Me
#1 Summer Jam
So at Last
Best Thing You Never Had
Race Cars and Goth Rock
Bradley Glenn "Butch" Walker played in bands throughout the '80s and '90s, before his solo career kicked off with 2002's Left of Self-Centered, following up with Letters two years later. By and large, the latter is an album of turgid, ballad-heavy mainstream pop, although some powerpop elements have 'boosted' its rating to a whole two stars. Not every track's a loser; #1 Summer Jam's a passable powerpop effort and Lights Out is a decent enough rock'n'roller, but the high(er) points are few and far between.
Joey Huffman plays Mellotron, with flutes and strings alongside real strings on the alt.country-ish Best Thing You Never Had and despite one or two other 'possible' sightings, this is probably the only real use on the album. Truly desperate powerpop fans may wish to hear this for its handful of not-so-dreadful tracks, but overall, it's a bland, disappointing effort of the 'play once then file' variety. Precisely where you choose to file it is entirely up to you.
Blitzkrieg (1971, 43.22) ****/TTTLunetic
Mother Universe (1972, 40.32) ***½/TTMother Universe
Dedicated to Mystery Land
Relics of Past
Cosmic Century (1973, 42.45) ***½/TTRory Blanchford
The Marvellous Child
Song of Wire
The Cosmic Couriers Meet South Philly Willy
Stories, Songs & Symphonies (1975, 37.46) ***/TThe Priestess
Stories, Songs & Symphonies
Your Lunar Friends
Sympathy for Bela Bartok
Wallenstein are one of those German progressive bands, along with Grobschnitt and Novalis, who always find themselves lumped in with the 'Krautrock' scene, next to Ash Ra Tempel, Amon Düül 2 et al., while not actually being anything of the sort. They were, in fact, a fairly typical prog band of the era, moving from their more guitar-heavy early material to a more symphonic keyboard-led style later on, before sliding into mediocrity in typical late-'70s fashion.
Blitzkrieg is a very early 'regular' prog album by German standards, although thinking about it, it's actually as much 'post-psych' as anything, with a fairly primitive sound. Keyboard player/main man Jürgen Dollase already knew the direction he was heading in, I suspect, and the end result is intense but tuneful, with some fiery playing from all concerned. Opener Lunetic (they had an American in the band at the time - couldn't he have told them how to spell it?) is probably the album's highlight, but there isn't a bad track to be heard, with reasonable Mellotron flutes and strings on all but the first track.
I believe the venerable elderly lady on the sleeve of Mother Universe was Dollase's grandmother - the rear sleeve shows the back of her head, hair in a bun. The title track opens the album in full-on symphonic style, 'Tron strings to the fore, although the band take a sharp left turn on the rocking Braintrain. The rest of the album veers between the heavier and more symphonic ends of the band's style, with some less obvious 'Tron on Shakespearesque, and an almost inaudible part on Dedicated To Mystery Land. Best track? Definitely Mother Universe itself.
Cosmic Century features a violinist, Joachim Reiser, along with the band's regular guitar/bass/keys/drums lineup. The material is rather more 'mainstream' than before, in a mid-'70s kind of way, of course, with no particular album highlights, although none of the tracks are actually bad. Dollase plays 'Tron on five out of six tracks, but it's fairly minimal, with the choirs and cellos on Song Of Wire being the most overt use. Be warned, though - some tracks feature no more than a few seconds of 'Tron, noticeably The Cosmic Couriers Meet South Philly Willy, which has a few flute notes on the fadeout.
By Stories, Songs & Symphonies, the band were describing themselves as 'The Symphonic Rock Orchestra Wallenstein', a bit of a misnomer, given that they still sounded like prog-ish mid-'70s rock on several tracks. The lengthy Your Lunar Friends is probably the album's best piece (Dollase's vocals aside), although the only Mellotron is some thin-sounding strings on the title track, so, better music than 'Tron, though not that great on either front, really.
So; a classic case of a band getting worse as they went along, to be honest. Blitzkrieg might not be their most 'symphonic' effort, but it's certainly the most energetic, and has the best 'Tron use. For fans of the German Sound, though, all these albums are probably worth the effort, though they did get a bit up themselves on the later ones. Like most of their contemporaries, Wallenstein 'went commercial' in the late '70s; their fifth effort, No More Love (**) is awful, and I'm sure later albums are even worse. Avoid.
See: Jerry Berkers | Cosmic Jokers | Sergius Golowin | Walter Wegmüller | Witthüser & Westrupp
|7" (1998) ***/T
Jakob Dylan's Wallflowers are one of those bands that I've been expecting to turn up here for years, so it comes as a surprise to find that their only credited tape-replay use is over ten years old and I've already inadvertently reviewed it. Their version of Bowie's iconic Heroes was used in 1998's godawful Godzilla remake, a pretty faithful take on the track, with little of the band's usual Americana feel, although the flip, Invisible City, (from their previous album, '96's Bringing Down the Horse) is more typical.
Patrick Warren plays Chamberlin strings on Heroes, with a part that would have worked well on the original track, although its actual Chamby use is different. This is easily available on the film soundtrack, but don't expect anything (other than its Chamby use) too different from the original.
See: Godzilla OST
Wally (1974, 41.30) ***/TThe Martyr
I Just Wanna Be a Cowboy
What to Do
Sunday Walking Lady
To the Urban Man
Your Own Way
Valley Gardens (1975, 40.00) ***/TValley Gardens
The Mood I'm in
The Reason Why
Wally suffered the rather dubious distinction of being championed by The Old Grey Whistle Test's 'Whispering' Bob Harris, these days known best for being a country music DJ (he sneered at the New York Dolls when they appeared on the Whistle Test, so he was hardly going to go for anything too energetic, was he?). In fact, Wally was produced by Harris and Rick Wakeman, which doesn't exactly inspire much confidence. While the band fitted (very) broadly into the 'progressive' category, there was more than a hint of country/rock about them, especially with Paul Middleton's steel guitar; West Coast Prog, anyone? Actually, the album isn't that bad, just rather forgettable, with a regrettable lack of energy. Paul Gerrett plays Mellotron on one track only, the twelve-minute To The Urban Man, with a string part drifting in and out of the song. Pete Sage's electric violin confuses the issue in places, but it's definitely only the one 'Tron track.
Second (and last) album, Valley Gardens, carries on in a similar vein to their debut, including a side-long track, The Reason Why, which was probably the best thing the band recorded. Gerrett was replaced by Nick Glennie-Smith, who gets marginally more 'Tron in this time round, with strings on the title track and the first part of The Reason Why, Nolan, but it's all pretty minor, to be honest. So; so-so albums, minimal 'Tron. Not that exciting, really, although I've heard an awful lot worse. I believe that's called 'damning with faint praise'. Oh well.
So What (1974, 36.42) ***/½Welcome to the Club
Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty
All Night Laundry Mat Blues
Turn to Stone
Help Me Through the Night
Song for Emma
The trouble with Joe Walsh solo albums is that I always expect them to rock rather more than they do; he's written a few genuinely great songs, but seems to restrict himself to one per album, which gives him about half-an-hour's worth over his entire career. So What's classic is Turn To Stone, with other highlights being Walsh's version of a Ravel piece, Pavane, played entirely by himself on synths, which actually works far better than you might expect, and the epic-ish County Fair.
Its sole Mellotron track (played by Walsh himself, incidentally) is the rather ordinary opener Welcome To The Club, with a single-note string line near the end turning into a decent enough chord sequence, but hardly in the 'classic' league. Since there was a 'Tron in the area, it's a shame Walsh didn't put it on a couple of other tracks; Turn To Stone would definitely have benefitted from its inclusion, but there you go. So, so-so album, minimal 'Tron usage. Buy the double Look What I Did! The Joe Walsh Anthology (***½) instead, with most of his best stuff and Welcome to the Club.
Hail Mega Boys (2007, 43.45) ***/½
|I'll Tell You What
Nineteen Ought Four
Rock and Roll the Second
Used to Did
The Times Are a Staying
Go for it
Generic in Love
Picnics and Kisses
Stop Rip and Roll
Tennessee native and vocalist/pianist J. Roddy Walston grew up surrounded by pianos, so it comes as no surprise to see him fronting his rock'n'roll combo, The Business, playing one. His/their first album, 2007's Hail Mega Boys, contains an appealing combination of southern boogie, rock'n'roll, blues and punk, not to mention several other related genres, better tracks including Sally Bangs and Mommie Bomb, although nothing here offends.
Jeff Conlin plays Mellotron on two tracks, with nothing obvious on Mommie Bomb and a brief but major flute part on closer Go Malachi, although I really couldn't imagine it sitting comfortably anywhere else. A decent enough effort, then, if a bit thin on the Mellotron front, but don't bother if you're not into straight-down-the-line rock'n'roll.
Bareback Ride (1993, 30.43) **½/T
|What a Day
Tree in Orange
El Producto (1996, 38.37) **½/½
Me & My Dog
Up & Out
Love in the Dakota
Colossus (1997, 41.27) **½/½
She Can Smile
Brave Beyond the Call
Lost in the World
|Act of Quiet Desperation
Walt Mink formed in '89 as the power trio of John Kimbrough, Candice Belanoff and drummer Joey Waronker, son of producer Lenny and brother of Anna. Their first 'proper' release (after a couple of album-length demos), 1992's Miss Happiness, sounds slightly like King's X, i.e. vaguely interesting hard rock with some unusual chords, although their follow-up, '93's Bareback Ride, is a rather less interesting proposition all round. Much of its material is in that vaguely 'punk' style that American bands seem to've made their own, although the acoustic tracks, notably Sunnymede, are rather better. The album's only Mellotron use is on closer Tree In Orange, with a murky flute part, probably from guitarist/vocalist Kimbrough, although the strings on Shine are real.
By their third effort, '96's cynically-titled El Producto, they were more at the rocky end of indie, which this site finds to be rather less interesting. It's not an awful album, by any means, but with so few positive features and so many neutral ones, it isn't that surprising that they only lasted another year or so after its release. I get the impression Kimbrough plays the Mellotron, with a faint flute melody at the end of opener Stood Up, distant string chords at the end of Me & My Dog and similar on Sunshine M., although the strings on closer Love In The Dakota sound real.
The following year's Colossus was the band's last studio album, slightly better than its two predecessors (particularly on the production front), although I really wouldn't take that as a recommendation. Once again, the acoustic tracks work better than the electric ones, notably the hidden track at the end of the album. Mellotronically speaking, all I can hear are murky strings on Lovely Arrhythmia (do I detect a pattern here?) and even they could actually be something else.
All in all, then, neither a particularly exciting series of albums nor decent Mellotron ones. Next...
Beautiful (1995, 45.02) ***/T
|Clear My Head
I Need You
Hole for a Heart
Farmer and the Crow
Talk to Me
|Hands That Feed Us
The Walter Eugenes seem to have effectively been an enhanced CCM duo, with Rick Eugene May singing and Walter Paul Robinette doing pretty much everything else, plus guests. Actually, this is vastly less offensive than the bulk of the Christian albums I've endured for the sake of you, dear reader; while not really sounding very much like, say, Daniel Amos, they share with them an ability to make Christian music than doesn't make the non-believer want to retch. I've just worked out who they're trying to sound like, amongst other funk/rocksters: King's X. A nominally Christian band at the time, their Hendrix-inspired chord work is a distinct influence here, although Houston's best band have a vastly better vocalist (in fact, three of 'em), vastly better material and would never produce songs as drippy as I Need You.
Mellotronist-to-the-Christian-community, Phil Madeira, does his usual thing here, with stabbed choir chords and a flute melody on opener Clear My Head and the occasional pitchbent string chord on Joy. So; much better than I'd expected, but not actually that good, just not that bad. Not much 'Tron, either, but given its genre (lyrically speaking), it could've been so much worse.
A Dream Within a Dream (1983, 44.38) ***½/TThe Foreboding
Valley of Unrest
A Dream Within a Dream
Song of Master and Boardswain
If I Could Tell You
Waniyetula's history is rather confused, encompassing forming in 1969, recording an album in '75, released three years later under a different name, then finally getting something out under their own name fourteen years after forming. Not to mention frequently being mistaken for Swiss... The story goes, their '78 release, Nature's Clear Well, was released by a moronic US label under the name Galaxy, and while it sounds little like the band's later work, it's worth hearing for what it is. '83's A Dream Within a Dream (a Poe quote) sounds like deceptively commercial-sounding Canadians Saga across most of its length, with the odd un Saga-like touch such as unusual time signatures, and the occasional burst of Mellotron. Heinz Kühne does his very best Michael Sadler impersonation (a German trying to sound like a Canadian trying to sound like an Englishman?), and the band have their twiddly synth hooks down to a tee, making for an actually very pleasing end result, as long as you like Saga.
Norbert Abels gets a distant Mellotron flute melody in on Valley Of Unrest, and a far more overt one, key-click and all, on Dreamland, although that's definitely it on the 'Tron front. A grinding Hammond on If I Could Tell You is also very non-Saga, but otherwise, they stick fairly closely to the Canucks' template, featuring mainly early '80s polysynths, from the era just before interesting keyboards dissolved in a huge vat of digital unpleasantness. This is actually a very decent album, deserving wider recognition amongst Saga and UK fans. It isn't easy to write this kind of stuff without morphing into pure cheese, but Waniyetula manage to keep on the right side of the dairy debate, making an album that should keep Saga fans happy, in lieu of any more archive releases from the real thing.
Incidentally, an archive release from Waniyetula themselves appeared in 2006, entitled Iron City, featuring early versions of Alone and Valley Of Unrest from A Dream Within a Dream, although it turns out to be 'Tron-free.
Platinum Jazz (1977, recorded 1971-77?, 77.44) ***/T
|War is Coming! War is Coming!
Slowly We Walk Together
I Got You
City, Country, City
Deliver the World
Nappy Head (Theme From 'Ghetto Man')
Four Cornered Room
Chamberlin (?) used:
War began in 1962 as The Creators, meeting ex-Animals wildman Eric Burdon at the end of the decade, triggering a name-change and commercial success at last. After two albums, including one which has to have one the best titles ever, The Black-Man's Burdon, Burdon left in 1971 after his friend Jimi Hendrix's death (he had jammed with the band the night he died), leaving the band to carry on perfectly well without him. After a run of jammed-out funk/soul/jazz records, someone opted to release the double part-compilation Platinum Jazz in 1977, in a gap between proper releases. Featuring a mix of (sometimes edited) earlier material, current stuff and possibly unreleased older tracks, it's a bit of a curate's egg, mangling some of their best jamming work, not least the mutilated City, Country, City, although its unreleased element makes it a must-have for fans of the band.
I wasn't at all convinced I was going to hear anything Mellotronic here, to say the least, but keys man Lonnie Jordan plays either Mellotron or (more likely) Chamberlin strings on one of the previously-unreleased tracks, I Got You, although it does a good job of simulating the real thing, making me think a Chamby's more likely. You're not going to buy this for its limited tape-replay, and it probably isn't the best place to become acquainted with War, but the unreleased material is worth hearing if you're into their style anyway.
Light at the End of the Tunnel (2001, 54.07) ***½/T½
|What Cost War
The Night You Walked Away
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Playing God Again
In the Dead of Night
End of the Tunnel
|Stay Out of My Mind
Cast the Stone
War & Peace were originally formed by Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson (later of Lynch/Pilson) around 1990, splitting two years later. After an archive release in '99, he regrouped a version of the band and recorded Light at the End of the Tunnel in 2001. It's actually a fairly good modern hard rock release, featuring a couple of surprisingly proggy tracks closing the album, Stay Out Of My Mind and Cast The Stone. The former obscurely reminds me of a couple of Gillan's underrated early '80s prog/hard rock crossovers, while the latter has touches of The Beach Boys and Queen, particularly in the vocal department. The album's oddest track, though, is Sweet Release, consisting of just vocal and (synthetic) strings, ensuring that hidebound rock dudes will probably avoid this like the plague, leaving it to the slightly more discerning listener to mop up unsold copies.
Pilson plays (real?) 'Tron, with strings on opener What Cost War, a handful of string chords on Playing God Again and a more upfront part on Stay Out Of My Mind, although the rest of the album's string sounds appear to be synth-generated. Overall, then, a relatively mediocre album with two or three excellent tracks, their combined weight adding a half star to its rating, although I wouldn't really bother for its Mellotron use.
Official Jeff Pilson site
See: Dokken | Lynch/Pilson
Post-War (2006, 37.35) ***/T
To Go Home
Right in the Head
Eyes on the Prize
Matthew Stephen "M." Ward is an American singer-songwriter of the mainstream variety (aren't they all?), whose fifth studio album, Post-War, consciously echoes post-World War II music of the '40s and '50s, referring to the West's appalling current escapades in the Middle East (there, that's given you an idea where I stand on the issue). It's not a bad record, per se, but its deliberately very retro sound is only going to appeal to a certain type of listener, I suspect, and that type isn't me.
Mike Mogis plays Chamberlin on the album, although the only obvious use is the dusty strings on opener Poison Cup, where, for once, you get to hear the instrument properly, without stacks of studio dreck heaped over it like a winter overcoat in the middle of summer (how's that for an over-egged analogy, eh?). It's possible it's in the background on Neptune's Net, too, although it could be, well, almost anything, really. For what it's worth, it seems to be real strings on Today's Undertaking.
Anyway, a curiously old-fashioned album in a post-modern world, or something. Ward manages to fuse old-style songwriting with the modern world - a feat in itself - but you're not all going to actually like it. One good Chamby track, worth hearing if you get the chance.
Anna (2002, 41.35) **½/T
I Wish You Well
John & Maria
All for You
Long Time Coming
Fortunes of Misfortune
|How Do You Sleep?
A Hollow Daze
Eat Me Alive
The Powers That Be
California Fade (2011, 40.48/47.28) **½/T
What Do You Do?
I Don't Wanna
How am I Doing?
Cannibals & Quicksand
First Time in My Life
I Never Want to See Your Face Again]
Waronker? Haven't I heard that name before? Of course, her dad, noted producer Lenny Waronker. Add another name to the lengthy list of 'ambitious offspring of famous musos'. After three albums with the strangely-named that.dog, Waronker released her solo debut, Anna, in 2002. Despite being married to the wondrous Redd Kross' Steven McDonald, it's... not actually that good. Aside from a couple of decent powerpop tunes (notably A Hollow Daze, although Goodbye is worthy of mention), most of the record veers between dopey pop-punk (Love Story, All For You) and dozy ballads (John & Maria, The Powers That Be), few of which capture the imagination in any great way. Oh, and spot the Who cop in How Do You Sleep? One bonus on the album is Anna's Mellotron use, with strings on Beautiful and flutes on the chorus of Nothing Personal, sounding quite real. The actual strings on several other tracks are mostly obvious, apart from on Fortunes Of Misfortune, where they're probably real, but sound a lot like a Mellotron (I believe it's all in the arrangement).
Nine years on and Anna releases her follow-up, California Fade, a very different record to its predecessor. Although it features the occasional punkier effort (I Don't Wanna), the bulk of the album contains typical, if better than some, singer-songwriter material, better tracks including What Do You Do? and Scared. Anna plays Mellotron, with flutes on Our Love and Spinning Out and strings on What Do You Do? and Scared, although the rest of the album's strings are real.
So; there's worse about than these, but there's also an awful lot better, so don't go too far out of your way. Passable 'Tron use on a handful of tracks, couple of OK songs. Hmmm.
See: Steven McDonald