You may be wondering how there can be any news about an instrument that's over fifty years old. Well... It seems that, despite the ever-encroaching software sample package (damn you M-Tron! Damn you Sampletank!), the state of play in the World Of Mellotrons is healthier than it's been for years, so expect a new entry every time I update the site.
Well, look on the bright side: a regular, two-monthly update! Woo-hoo! Long may it last (cue: another year-long hiatus). I'm continuing my programme of working my way through loads of 'regular Mellotronist credited with unidentified keyboards'-type albums, which is paying dividends, although I'm yet to unearth any classics using this technique. The usual thanks to all my contributors, especially those who provide impossible-to-find rarities, although I still have some 500-odd 'can't find this obscurity' releases to track down (see: Wants).
Highlights this time round? Thin on the ground, sadly. The latest Molesome release, Aftonland, is worth hearing, as is The Watch's The Art of Bleeding, from last year, while you already know that King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic: The Complete Recordings and Pink Floyd's The Early Years 1965-1972 are excellent, assuming you can afford them (or even if you can't). Next time? More guff with a few seconds of Mellotron on one track.
Ah. Um. Er... How did that happen? Or not happen, as the case may be (and, in fact, was)? Over the last year, review albums have trickled in, yet I've done precisely sod-all about reviewing them. Because? I don't know. I wasn't feeling it. I'm easily distracted. I've read about a hundred and fifty books over this period.
I don't know.
However, in mid-January, I suddenly got it into my head that I'd like to write some reviews, at which point I listened to over a hundred albums over a two-ish-week period, making for (I hope) a fairly satisfying site update after a year off. The best? Caligonaut's debut and the new Regal Worm, while Mellotron-heavy albums include James Hersch & Tim Miller's Butterman's Ball, Johnny Society's Wood, Terry Masters's rare-as-rocking-horse-shit Thesaurus, The Mynd's Bandcamp album and my friends The Osiris Club's latest, The Green Chapel, using my M400.
"So, Andy, what's the worst album you've heard in your intensive two-week reviewing period?", I hear you cry. Well, the Ashtar Command, Egil Fylling and Mark Rose albums are all complete crud, in their different-yet-equally-horrid ways, but prime position has to go to something I only stumbled over after reading a newspaper interview with ex-Bronski Beat Jimmy Somerville on his 2015 release, Homage. I quote... "There's one synthesiser but even that's a Mellotron from the 70s". Before I continue, please understand that I acknowledge that it's a good album of its type, professional, well-written, recorded and produced, but I hated it. I mean, does the world really need an album of late '70s disco in the 21st Century? Then again, is it any of my business? I just wish that Mr. Somerville knew what he was talking about when it comes to vintage keyboards, as (you've guessed it) there's not a trace of Mellotron on the album, although one track features a Solina string synth, which is clearly what he means. And I tortured myself for this... Not actually the worst album, then, merely the most painful listen.
Right. Another update in two months, then, not a fucking year.
Well, I've finally tackled my reviews backlog and had a good sort-through of site entries, ending up chucking a dozen or more into a 'queries' section (here), most of which probably don't actually exist. Incidentally, while trying to track down site entries I haven't heard online, I've become irritated at not being able to listen to several dozen albums (mostly American and Scandinavian) on the hated Spotify, as they're 'not available in my region'. If anyone can think of a good way round this that doesn't involve paying for a VPN that may not work, perhaps you could let me know? I've also continued apace with a project I started a while back, listening to albums involving known tape-replay players, which has yielded another several dozen new site entries so far.
Notable new reviews this time round include a couple by friends of mine, Carrie Melbourne's Can Dance a Little and Mattias Olsson's Molesome's Are You There?,, two more Pallas archive releases, Arriving Alive and The Journey to Atlantis , King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King (40th Anniversary Ed.), a mere twelve years late and Bucky Adams & Basin Street's Bucky Adams & Basin Street at Privateers' Warehouse, if only to hear unfeasible levels of Mellotron use on an obscure Canadian jazz album from the mid-'70s.
Well, I did a bit better this time, mostly at the last minute. Two obvious mentions this time round are Wobbler's latest, Dwellers of the Deep and Tom Doncourt & Mattias Olsson's Tom Doncourt & Mattias Olsson's Cathedral, while another Olsson production, Pixie Ninja, are worth hearing. Joanna Newsom has always seemed like an obvious Mellotron user, too; it's only taken me five years to work out that she is.
I don't really have any sensible excuse for doing so little on the site over the last few months, as I'd largely settled in to my new home by early August. I shall do better next time. Honest. Of this update's paltry selection of reviews, Desertion Trio's and Jeremy Cunningham's are both recent examples of different flavours of American jazz, Constantine have released a future folk/psych classic, while thanks are due to Lift's Chip Gremillion for supplying me with a copy of The Moment of Hearing, the much-expanded version of their US '70s prog classic Caverns of Your Brain.
July 2020 brought the death of one of the most consummate musicians and composers you'll find on this site, not to mention one of the nicest and most unassuming people you could ever meet: Cardiacs' Tim Smith. Tim had been gravely ill for over a decade, after his catastrophic heart attack in 2008, followed by twelve years of pathetic buck-passing by officialdom and, finally, a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign. It seems Tim died in his sleep, freeing him from the almost constant pain he had been in due to the rare and little-understood condition he had developed, dystonia. On a personal note, as the band's driver for around a decade, I came to know Tim; he was a lovely, generous, obscenely talented man, loved by everyone who knew him. Rest in peace, Tim. You'll be missed more than I can say.
After that, nothing about this site seems particularly important. Suffice to say, I spent most of June and July moving house and avoiding viruses, which hopefully explains the minimal effort I've put in this time. If anyone has physical review copies they'd like to send and has my old address, please e-mail me for my new one. And apologies for unanswered e-mails.
What strange times we live in (part two). The site-tweakage carries on apace, as I have no more to do than I did two months ago. In theory (I love that word; it gives the impression of saying 'in actuality', without actually doing so), all reviews up to and including O should now read better and all the links should work. In theory.
New 'give this one a go' entries include the first Passport album (not, admittedly, actually 'new'), Frank Pisani's crazed Sky, Crucifer's archive release, Tranzam's Funky Steps and Ike White's Changin' Times, probably the only album on this site recorded in a prison (!). I've also tackled a raft of expanded editions (having nothing better to do), including Esoteric's Greenslade reissues and their three-disc version of PFM's Cook, IQ's splendid Tales From the Lush Attic 2013 Remix and Pseudonym's Trace upgrades, other expanded editions including Mellotronically-worthwhile two-disc editions of Coda's Sounds of Passion and Alf Emil Eik's Joy & Breath of Eternity. Note: 'Mellotronically'.
What strange times we live in. Sitting at home in the midst (hopefully) of the Covid-19 outbreak has made me realise that this is pretty much how I live my life anyway. Said outbreak has delayed my relocation plans, but, in the grand scheme of things, worse things happen at sea. This really isn't about me. Quite a few new releases this time round, from faces familiar (Julian Cope, Djam Karet, Tusmørke) and less so (Iron Griffin, the splendid Mellotron Variations), plus a slew of new entries, including several late '60s singles, that kind readers have put me onto. More Crimson, more obscurities, even a Flamin' Groovies album that's been sitting on my shelf, Mellotronically-unspotted, for years.
I've also been using this time to tackle some of the long-term site maintenance projects I've been putting off for years, due to their being stultifyingly dull, so the albums pages should now work a lot better, while most external links have been fixed/deleted, not least a slew of ancient MySpace ones. It was always shit, wasn't it? What was it for? Facebook seems to work a good deal better, its chief failing being that, should you not have an account, I believe it's quite difficult to access. So sign up, then never use it, like several people I know.
Rush only recorded one significant Mellotron piece, Tears, from 1976's 2112 (but you knew that anyway, right?), which is neither here nor there when it comes to the dreadful news of Neil Peart's untimely, cruel death from brain cancer. As an old friend said to me after the event, "I haven't been hit so hard by a musician's death since Phil Lynott's, well over thirty years ago". Amen to that. RIP, Neil. To end a bad, bad month, political events in what I laughably refer to as 'my country' have finally come to a head, as the hard-right bodily rip us from Europe for no good reason whatsoever. Other than the vast profits to be made by the already ultra-wealthy that is, cheered on by their poorly-educated lapdogs. Well done, seventeen million people. What a shithole.
On a more cheerful note, I've recovered my e-mail archive and have spent some time sorting through it, resulting in quite a few new site entries and reviews, not to mention several migrations in both directions between 'sampled' and 'real', cloth-eared bastard that I am. Listen to the All Over Everywhere album to see what I mean. I've also tackled the contents of several unwieldy boxed sets by Steve Hackett, King Crimson and Tangerine Dream, with more Crimso to come. Expect the third Osiris Club album later this year, too, finally containing (my) real Mellotron.
Firstly, I'm afraid I have to start with some sad news. We've lost two prominent American Mellotronists this year, one present, one past, within a day of each other, both correspondents of mine, both in their mid-sixties. Cathedral's Tom Doncourt died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis on March 20th, while Charles "Char-el" Thaxton died a day earlier after years of painful, debilitating illness. Planet Mellotron would like to send its condolences to the families and friends of both men, not to mention anyone who was ever touched by their music.
Secondly, an apology. Not only has the site not been updated all year, but nor have I responded to e-mails, due to a major data blowout in February. You know when they say 'back up!' They fucking mean it. Everything's been recovered (eventually), albeit at enormous cost, which will finally make me back up on a regular (i.e. at least weekly) basis. Given that I escaped a similar scenario by the skin of my teeth some years ago, you'd have thought I'd have learned. I have possibly redefined the meaning of the word 'complaceny', to my (considerable) cost. At the time of writing, I STILL haven't sorted my e-mail out, although I have, at least, recovered twenty years'-worth of mail archives. At least Windows 10 (to which I've had to migrate) has the One Drive facility, which I'll use for essential non-private data (he says, as if he has anything truly private on his machine). Sadder and wiser.
Thirdly, given that I've written fuck-all this year, there have been several major relevant releases, unsurprisingly, including Purson's Rosalie Cunningham's solo debut, Fabienne Delsol's comeback, The Flower Kings' first ever genuine Mellotron release, Mattias Olsson's In These Murky Waters' debut, a Mausoleum Gate single, Canadian oddballs Mr. Goshness' debut, ex-Zoltan drummer Andy Prestidge's solo project Morlock and several new Lisa Bella Donna releases, at least two containing genuine M400. Although they're now over a year old, I've also reviewed two excellent Daal albums from 2018.
Backlog: SMASHED! To stave off the inevitable ensuing boredom, I've devised a new way to track down previously-unknown Mellotron albums: compile a list of 'known users', go to their Discogs entry, check every album on which they've played, then check out those that are on YouTube. Don't laugh (oh, go on, then), it's producing results, which explains why so many of this update's new reviews are for albums featuring many familiar names on the tape-replay front. No, I've nowhere near finished, thank you for asking. This month's unexpected Mellotron must-hears? Acanthe.
In case you've come here without seeing the main page, the mighty England, complete with no fewer than two genuine Mellotrons, will be playing Stourport (near Kidderminster)'s Fusion Festival in March. On a completely unrelated note, Martin Bate has sent me his Mellotron top ten, the first I've received for for several years. Come on, people...
And I still haven't redesigned the site.
Backlog news: down to below 100! I'll finally have this monkey off my back by the new year, after which I can get on with improving the site on various fronts (yeah, yeah, appearance...) without finding myself up to my neck in reviews. I still know of a few hundred releases (some of which are bound to be sampled) that I haven't yet heard; with any luck, the majority of them will find their way onto YouTube over the next few years.
New releases? One obvious 'must-hear': All Traps on Earth. Johan Brand's new Änglagård offshoot, their A Drop of Light should keep fans of the parent band happy while we wait for something new from them. One less obvious is Juliana Hatfield's Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John. I struggled to like the actual music, but it gets four Ts for mucho genuine Mellotron use.
Not a great deal to report this time round, except that I've removed all the YouTube links from the site. I hated to do it, but they seem to drastically slow down the page loading time, while I'm fed up with links going down. Backlog? Carrying on apace, aided by the odd phenomenon of someone uploading entire albums onto YouTube, mostly in a 'professional' format. Who is doing this? I've no idea, but it makes tracking down those '90s and 2000s obscurities that much easier.
New releases? Principally Regal Worm's Pig Views, while Mattias Olsson's Molesome's Dial is now officially available, a mere decade late.
I've done it again! I've also finished the vast stack of 'don't knows', most of which have been hurled, bodily, into samples, aside from the handful I've simply deleted. My backlog now consists of a piddly four hundred-odd supposed 'definites', although I'm sure a few will be chucked out as I go along. You know, 1974, Mellotron credit, turns out to be string synth. Usual shit.
Any decent new albums? Nope. Any decent old ones? Ciro Dammicco's Mittente isn't a great record, but it's the most Mellotron use I've heard for a long time, actually earning it the full TTTTT. ExCubus' Memoires Incubussiennes features four tracks from 1974 and four from a decade ago; medium Mellotron, but one of the best albums I've heard these past two months, while the improbably-named Super Groovy Band actually turn out to feature loads of real Mellotron on 2006's Joyride.
Well, I've done it! I've also finished The Cull, which is nice. I'll almost certainly be pulling the odd item out for some time to come (and probably reinstating a few over-enthusiastic deletions), but it's effectively completed. How many albums have I pulled out? Almost a thousand, which explains why most of the reviews pages are looking a little sparse. I've also learned a bit about which studios have kept working machines, making me want to compile a list for a future page. One day, eh?
In other news, new Italian outfit La Batteria are well worth hearing and I've finally found someone to review the Tytan album I played on last year.
Well, a chaotic scenario involving a late friend's vast CD collection has, unsurprisingly, impacted on the site, although I've still managed to throw over 250 new reviews at you. Most, of course, sampled. The Cull (note title case) hasn't gone as well as hoped, although P-R are now suitably trimmed. Finish next time? We'll see. The only new(-ish) releases it's worth mentioning are a couple from my friends The Luck of Eden Hall (who now have their own page), particularly their side of last year's Psychedelic Battles, Volume Four, the, er, mighty Make Way For The Mighty Machines. Sampled Mellotron, but a stupendous piece of music.
Before I start off about anything else, January brought some appalling news in the untimely death of über-producer and all round lovely chap Chris Tsangerides. Chris produced many major names, not least Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Judas Priest and The Tragically Hip, just to prove that he wouldn't be typecast as a rock producer. Oh, and Yngwie Malmsteen. Well, we all have our crosses to bear... He also produced NWoBHM outfit Tytan's reformation album, Justice: Served!, recorded late 2016; I play keys (yes, Chris let me get a bit of Mellotron on there) and spent several days in his company, plus a couple more a year later. At the time, his incessant story telling (and he had some good ones!) drove us mad; in retrospect, we feel honoured to have had that time with him. R.I.P. Chris. A genuine legend.
Back to usual site business... Well, you know that cull I talked about last time? It's gone faster than expected, given how many albums I've had to dip into all over again. I'm up to the end of O, so I should be able to wrap this up by the next update. Have I pulled much out? Yes, is the answer; I've only kept track of how many albums I've slung out, not how many I've tackled, but I reckon half of the ones I've gone back to have been chucked. Of course, I'm bound to've missed some sampletastic stuff and worse, I've probably been a bit over-zealous at times and removed some genuine ones. Then again, even if the background flute part on a single track from a CCM album from 1997 turns out to be genuine, do any of us really give a shit? I mean, really? Not the attitude, I'm sure and if I'm told I've pulled something out by mistake by someone in the know, back it'll go. The process has actually been quite cathartic; I've felt that the site was becoming top-heavy with 'really not sures' for years, so this is redressing the balance somewhat.
Amazingly, I've also found time to do a slew of regular reviews, most of which turn out to be sampled (big surprise). One that most definitely isn't is the long-awaited England album, Box of Circles. Don't go expecting Garden Shed mark II, but it was never going to be. My other great discovery this time round is that not only have Denmark's mighty Dizzy Mizz Lizzy reformed properly, but there's a new album, Forward in Reverse, from 2016. Yes, of course it's got some Mellotron...
With all the (unsurprisingly accelerating) spate of rock deaths over the last couple of years, October's passing of Klaus Hoffmann, a.k.a. Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock, a.k.a. Cosmic Hoffmann, has gone largely uncommented-upon. I met Klaus at an electronic music festival near Amsterdam in 2000; a nicer man you couldn't hope to find, or more of an authority on Mellotrons, having owned over thirty different machines in his time. Love it or hate it, he was also instrumental in collating the sample set used in the Manikin Memotron. R.I.P. Klaus.
Let the cull begin! (See below). I began, possibly counter-intuitively, with the 'various artists' section (I have my reasons), also tackling the 'A's. It took less time than expected, although the subsequent re-jigging, including cutting down and moving the actual reviews, shifting links from the regular albums pages to 'samples' and a host of offline, Excel-based admin wasn't the quickest of jobs. At least I'm (relatively) organised, which makes the whole thing rather easier. Expect me to've got through several more letters by next time round. In theory.
Any real news, other than the sad news in my initial paragraph? I've shifted another handful of artists into their own pages, not least The Stones (due to their iconic status, rather than their large number of relevant releases), Graham Bond (ditto) and new US psychonauts Eye, who are clearly only going to increase their presence on this site. New(-ish) albums reviewed include Eye's Vision & Ageless Light, Wobbler's latest (reviewed at the last second) and Leah Kardos' Rococochet, although I admit I may be missing the odd current genuine release, due to my 'new releases' policy I outlined last month.
Following on from my last two 'news' posts, I've made another momentous decision, sitewise: no, I'm not about to stop doing this (panic ye not, Mellotron lovers), but, after trawling through a stack of recent Mellotron-crediting releases, it's become obvious to me that the vast bulk, that's over 95% of them, feature, at best, samples. That's, y'know, practically all of them. Depressing, isn't it? A combination of software-based sample sets (G-Force's M-Tron and the like) and hardware fakeotrons (the Memotron and, more successfully, Mellotron.com's M4000D, standard and 'mini' versions) have had even seasoned players surreptitiously replacing real machines with fakes, while continuing to claim 'Mellotron' use. Allow me to explain something: a Mellotron (or Chamberlin) works by playing strips of tape. Period. Anything else is a sample player, never mind how many 'official' logos it has on its cabinet. You can argue the toss if you like, but the M4000D differs from, say, Roland's rather crummy sample set from the mid-'90s only in quality; a vaguely Mellotron-shaped cabinet doth not a Mellotron make. Think of them as the Mellotronic equivalent of modern digital 'Hammonds', which really cannot claim to be 'Hammond organs' in the true sense of the phrase.
(Here it comes) As a result of the above statement, I am no longer going to bother obsessively tracking down modern 'Mellotron' albums, only to find that they're nothing of the sort. Will I miss genuine releases this way? Well, there's bound to be a few, but the bulk of the current actual Mellotron albums are either ones I know about anyway, or tend to make themselves known through online promotion ('making of' videos and the like), as users seem to like it known that they're being authentic. Bring it on, I say. So, PM will still be added to, but at a far slower rate than previously. However, aside from sample albums I'm specifically asked to review, I'm only going to bother with the 'real deal' from now on. I've had it up to here (visualise some old git holding his hand up above his head) with so-called 'Mellotron albums' that quite simply aren't. So bloody there. I'm not even sure I'll bother with major artists' sample releases (say, Steve Hackett), or multiple-sample release artists (say, The Tangent), as I've quite simply Had Enough Of This Sample Shit. Rant over?
On other site news, assuming anyone ever looks at the Albums List, I've tidied the whole thing up a bit, partially deprecating sample links and attempting to make the whole thing a little more readable. The sample links from the regular reviews pages have also been shrunk by one font size, marking them out as 'lesser' than the regular reviews. Which, of course, they are. See above. I've also added sample review page links from the regular reviews pages. Other than that, it's just the raft of reviews that I'm still managing to churn out, helped by taking the obviously sampled stuff less seriously than I would have in the fairly recent past. I've also (as I said last time round) stripped the sample reviews back, removing tracklistings, cover scans etc. Let me know if you think it looks better, not that I'm about to change it back.
Oh, er, anything new? Yes! The Pretty Things have a released a storming new album, complete with mucho (hopefully) real Mellotron, far better than a band their age has any right to do. Mausoleum Gate's second album is a 'must-have', too.
I have come to a realisation. No, not that PM is an utter waste of time (although, by any 'normal' standards, it is), but that reviewing Mellotron sample-using albums as if they were actual Mellotron Albums is a poor use of my time and resources. As of my next update, expect to see the sample section trimmed down heavily; all existing reviews will still be there, albeit sans cover scans, tracklistings, excess verbiage and other ephemera, but new reviews will mostly be curt and to the point, maybe only a sentence or two, written in a blunt, to-the-point style. I've also tentatively begun (as I alluded to last time round) to cull the regular reviews of some of the more blatantly non-Mellotronic releases that have been sitting there, in some cases, for rather over a decade. Vive la révolution!
Pourquoi? Aside from having tired of pretending that sample-using albums are (nearly) as relevant as the site's actual remit, I really don't think that most of you, my faithful reader(s), wish to trawl through acres of indie/shitty singer-songwriter/modern pop/whatever albums from 2008 that 'feature' a few seconds of something that may or may not be genuine Mellotron flutes on one track, in order to get at the genuine, definite Mellotron Albums from all eras, of which there are still several thousand. Of course, if said indie/shitty singer-songwriter etc. albums clearly use real Mellotron/Chamberlin, then in the regular reviews they shall stay; it's not up to me to dictate my taste to you. After all, I already do a good job of that within the actual reviews. As a result, the 'samples' section (I'm also going to lose the 'sampledelica!' sobriquet) has already been renamed 'samples etc.', to include more recent albums with nothing audible, potentially mistaken identity releases and the like. As I said last month, the Great Cull will begin at some point next year; this is merely a Little Cull to start things off. Will anyone miss tracklistings from sample reviews? I doubt it; I'm not sure anyone bothers looking at them anyway, going by my electronic postbag.
Time for a change.
Well, I've done it. Done what?, you may (or may not) ask. Regained my Mellotron Mojo, that's what. And for real, this time; none of that 'more next time' bollocks you've seen over the last couple of years. Reasons for its loss? Personal. Reasons for its return? Unknown. Perhaps I just got sick of looking at a massive folder full of albums, all waiting to be listened to, absorbed, reviewed and (all too frequently) reviled. As a result, a glance at my new reviews page will tell you that I've gone from a rather small to an extremely large number of such, possibly the most I've ever managed in a two-month period, in fact. And that number is? Over two hundred, ladies'n'gentlemen; given that I've spent nearly two weeks of that period in foreign climes, it's a quite astounding number, while my workload acceleration is roughly comparable to one of those performance cars that does nought-to-sixty in some stupidly low number of seconds. Enough self-congratulation, Thompson.
But can I keep this workload up? I don't see why not, now I've got back into the swing of it. At this rate, I should crack my backlog out sometime next year (do the 'math'; I told you it had got out of hand), although I'm bound to add to it as time goes along; I mean, I've heard relatively few 2016/17 releases so far. And when I finally review the last album? That's when the fun starts, boyz'n'gurlz. I seem to've become rather more bloody-minded with regard to sample use lately; instead of giving artists the benefit of the doubt, I'm pretty much doing the opposite, which is why there are so many more 'sample' reviews than you might expect this time round. So... I'm going to tackle the Augean Stable-esque task (appropriate, given how much shit I'll be reluctantly revisiting) of working my way through every potentially suspect release, many of which will be banished forthwith to the Sample Dungeon. Which should take how long...? Given that there'll often only be a track or two per album to play, probably less time than you might imagine, although I expect to put some months' work into it. As a result, some of the sample pages will temporarily grow to an unfeasible size, while many 'regular' pages will shrink, possibly alarmingly. Once the process is complete, I'll re-jig everything (a lengthy job in itself) and make it all a bit more readable. Speaking of which, how about a site re-design? Hmmm... You know when you need to do something, often badly, but really aren't sure of the best way to go about it? That. Given that its current design hasn't changed more than mildly cosmetically since, er, 2004 or so, a re-design is long overdue. I'll see what I can do.
Er, any real news? You know, in the outside world? Reality, I believe it's called, unless you're one of those intellectual solipsists who argue that 'reality' is merely a product of the ego (or is it the super-ego?). Enough pound-shop philosophy, Thompson. Genuine (as against the Curse Of The Samplotron) recent Mellotron releases include Tim Bowness' Lost in the Ghost Light, Djam Karet's Sonic Celluloid, Robby Grant & Jonathan Kirkscey's magnificent (in its own way) Duets for Mellotron, I Monster's even more magnificent Bright Sparks, Zhongyu's eponymous debut and several Tusmørke albums. Oh, and reformed NWoBHMers Tytan's Justice: Served!, with yours truly adding a couple of near-inaudible Mellotron parts as part of my keys role in the band. Anyone up for reviewing it?
At last! Finally, conclusive proof that ELP used a Mellotron live! It doesn't take much to make me happy. Actually, having done some work (if only a little) on the site makes me happy, too. Lots of people have given me their albums (or at least, downloads) to review, but the only two I've, er, actually managed to do are Italy's Cellar Noise and our old pals White Willow, whose Future Hopes keeps up the good work. Oh, and for those of you not allergic to classic British pop, you'll hear my M400 on a few tracks on last year's Madness album.
Are you getting as sick as I am of people on social media bleating "OMG! Worst year ever! All our heroes are passing!", or somesuch? Me too. Statistics, people, statistics. Stars of the '60s and '70s are now in their, well, sixties and seventies, so given the lifestyles many of them will have led, not to mention the law of averages, it's hardly surprising that they're dying off in increasing numbers, is it? Yes, it's saddening. Yes, it's inevitable. Harsh? But true. Chuck Berry (no, I have no evidence that he ever recorded with a Mellotron, before you ask) died last week, aged ninety (too mean to die, I reckon), but he's bucked the trend; upper sixties seems to be a typical age. And so it was with John Wetton, sometime Mellotron owner and a man who's played on more Mellotron Albums than you can shake a stick at. But above all, he wrote the first four minutes (you know, the Mellotron section) of King Crimson's Starless, undoubtedly one of the Mellotron classics. RIP, John.
Oh dear. This is getting worse, isn't it? Not exactly a major update, either, but at least I've done something. More next time. Honest.
Hmmm. Another seven months off, eh? Sorry about that, regular readers; no real excuse, frankly. News? Plenty's happened in this half-year-plus, but how much of it's actually relevant? David Bowie's unexpected death? A slew of recent-ish Mellotronic releases? I've no idea. Sorry.
Sadly, my biggest news item is the untimely death of Yes maestro Chris Squire, just days before this update. His excellent solo effort, '75's Fish Out of Water, is one of the most obvious 'should've featured Mellotron but didn't' records in the progressive canon. RIP, Chris.
Once again, I've failed in my attempts to become the Hardest Working Man In Showbiz, managing a crapulent twenty-something reviews over a five-month period. I can't even promise to up that workrate next time around, although my intentions are, of course, the best. Anyway, some decent new stuff out, with new releases from Anekdoten, Anima Morte, Randone, Sulphat'Ketamine, Paul Weller and my very own Zoltan, while Castle Canyon's new album keeps up their sample use.
Um... Seven months, anyone? I've had quite a few 'where the hell are you?!' communications, so I can only apologise for abandoning the site for so long. The reason? No specific one, just a smallish raft of issues and a temporary loss of my 'Mellotron mojo', now regained. Particular apologies to everyone who sent me stuff for review; many of those are now some months out of date, but hopefully a good review's a good review.
First of all, as I'm sure you all already know, Tangerine Dream's Edgar Froese, in his day, one of the THE great Mellotronists, died on January 20th, aged 70. RIP, Edgar.
New releases? The melancholy pop of Sweden's Akaba, the long-awaited return of Annot Rhül, ex-Cathedral man Tom Doncourt's solo debut, Motis' wonderful Josquin Messonnier, Vincent Priceless' debut, a new Rashomon album, Regal Worm's follow-up, the second Samurai of Prog release, England's Robert Webb's solo album... Plenty more reviews, too, all dated either last summer or this January, somewhat highlighting my several-month 'holiday'. Back to normal next time. Honest.
Yup, another three-month gap between updates. It's a slippery slope, you know... New releases include an Änglagård live album, Bigelf's latest, a new Glass release, debuts from Kaukasus and Messenger, yet another Motorpsycho... If you're in the London area at the end of July, keep an eye out for the Resonance festival, three of the acts (England's Robert Webb, Änglagård and Bigelf) all using the Planet Mellotron M400... At least I managed to get through a reasonable number of reviews this time, after last time's miserable total...
A couple of new Mellotronic releases for your perusal this time round, with Regal Worm's debut and Necromonkey's second both scoring highly. After a few quiet months, I expect the site to pick up a bit over the spring, so expect more reviews next time round.
Not a lot of news this time round, partly because I've done so little on the site over the last two months, although I've become aware of two events, one sad, one not. I'm sorry to report that Pavlov's Dog's Mellotron god, Doug Rayburn, apparently died in 2012, although I've only just heard (thanks, Gary). On the upside, however, Steven Wilson, all enamoured with Mellotrons after using Robert Fripp's recently, has bought his very own M4000 and will quite certainly be using it on upcoming projects. Hurrah!
Well, a few rarities have turned up this time, not least Gli Alisei's album and a relevant single, a relevant G. Men single (and, at last, an album cover scan) and Stefan Zauner's first album, which turned out ot be a huge Mellotronic disappointment. Some back-catalogue checking has turned up a few things, too, not least some more Cocteau Twins EPs and new entries from Fludd, Stackridge (thanks, Keith) and the horrid Keane.
Other than that, I've just finished (for the 98th time) my regular and sample review backlogs, although I'm sure they'll build up again. On to the bootlegs! Shall we start with Landberk, Pink Floyd's BBC sessions and Trace? Why not?
Even less to report than last time, unless a nepotistic mention for Zoltan's Psychomania 12" counts... Oh yeah - a massive, multi-disc Moody Blues box set, with unreleased live material and a hitherto unspotted Nektar album have turned up, too.
Not much to report this time round... Hardly any new entries or reviews, chiefly due to my having been away for a large chunk of the last two months, some of it in the States. So; did I come back with stacks of new stuff to review? I did not. One, make that ONE measly new review item, my grand haul from two large shops on the West Coast. Pah. And I haven't even done it yet. But I HAVE, finally, reviewed Änglagård's Viljans Öga and enormously good it is, too. Hurrah!
Notable Mellotron-heavy releases this time round include Henry Fool's Men Singing and Purson's The Circle & the Blue Door (my M400 on the latter, fact fans), not to mention an archive release from the superbly-named The Last James. Speaking of whom, many thanks to Mark and Sven for finding some of the title on my 'wants' list - much appreciated, chaps. Anyone else know where I can find any more?
Site news: I've been meaning to do a major redesign for ages, to make the site less '2003', but lack a) the skills and b) the time to do a complete rebuild, so I've copped out and resized all those ridiculously over-large reviews pages anyway. As a result, you'll find more, smaller pages, with a handful of new artist pages, including Argent, OHO and the wonderful Trace. I've added another new feature this time round: a 'recent releases' page. Because? Because it's occurred to me that all the nice people who send me their new albums for review get naught but a brief mention here (if they're lucky) and a listing on the 'new reviews' page, before disappearing into the black hole that is six thousand-odd reviews spread over what is now the better part of (aargh!) four hundred reviews pages. All new release reviews (apart from the really shit ones) will now be duplicated on the 'recent' page (button on the main reviews page), where they'll stay for a couple of site updates before making way for newer stuff.
Some good new (or newly-discovered) releases this time round, not least Necromonkey's Necroplex and La Maschera di Cera's Le Porte del Domani, while Tamarisk's long-lost cassette release, Lost Properties, is apparently finally available on CD as Frozen in Time, although I haven't yet seen an actual hard copy.
Sitewise, two small but significant changes:
Otherwise, I'm back to my usual ridiculous workload, reviewing the better part of two hundred albums over the last two months, with a few more to go before I can get back to the bootlegs (and the DVDs???).
I've given up mentioning Änglagård for Lent.
As you may have noticed (a few of you have actually chased me up on this), I've been über-slack on the Planet Mellotron front recently, having become caught up in doing 'other stuff', not least recording the next two Zoltan releases. Speaking of which, my friend Mark Medley has done a sterling job reviewing our recent album. I tried to talk his outrageous rating down, but all to no avail.
Big Mellotronic news on the Porcupine Tree front: not only has Steven Wilson used one of Robert Fripp's old MkIIs on his new album (review next time round), but my pal Neil tells me that a chance meeting with Porcupine Tree's Richard Barbieri (ex-Japan, of course) led to The Mellotron Conversation, in which he assured the intrepid Neil that (and I paraphrase), "It was real Mellotron on Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun and In Absentia, because I played it". To which I can only say, "You can't say fairer than that, really, can you?" Consider yourself reprimanded, Thompson. That'll teach me to make rash assumptions, won't it? Er, probably not, no. Unfortunately, I haven't actually had time to re-review several Porky albums, but rest assured, their page will be thoroughly re-jigged next time round. I'll also be taking another look at various side-projects, too.
Incidentally, I've been e-mailed by a chap called Mark Fischer regarding an edition of the American syndicated radio show InTheStudio, where four of the five members of Yes (sans Squire) who played on Close to the Edge talk about the recording in honour of its 40th anniversary. Stream it here.
And no, I still haven't heard the Änglagård album...
Oh no, a three-month gap... Has the world ended? Did anyone even notice? Didn't think so... Various computer deaths (or at least, periods of great unwellness) tend to slow one up, wouldn't you agree? Still haven't heard the new Änglagård, but I see that the band's lineup has changed radically, losing its creative heart, so only time will tell how that pans out. They might at least do a few gigs now, though. Please? I'd also like to proudly announce the release of my own band Zoltan's debut, First Stage Zoltan (spot the reference, SF fans); unfortunately, I feel that reviewing my own work's a bit cheeky (though it never stopped me with regard to Litmus), so if anyone out there might like to say something about it, please let me know.
Sitewise, I've made inroads into the bootleg box, so I might even finish them by next time round, which may or may not be in two month's time. And I may even have heard the Änglagård album by then...
Änglagård's Viljans Öga is out; is there any other news? Sadly, I haven't heard it yet, but I shall review the moment I do. Sadly, they are no longer playing here; I can only hope that I get to see them somewhere. Oh yeah - Astra's second, The Black Chord, has been unleashed; superb, with (some) real Mellotron.
Sitewise, the regular reviews backlog has finally bitten the dust (hurrah!), meaning that I've made a tentative start on the bootlegs, which I hope to plough through by the next update. After doing a handful of DVDs, what's left? Surely I won't sit back and just do the occasional release that floats by? What, regain my life? I'm not sure what I'd do with it... Don't worry, I'm sure something will come along to fill the gap; another trawl through various sites, a whole bunch of new site entries, plenty of new reviews, most of which will turn out to be samples...
It would seem that Änglagård's third album, Viljans Öga, is out any time, which puts just about any other 'news' I could summon up into the shade, so I shan't bother. Good excuse, eh? On the site front, I've fallen behind on the backlog due to computer malware hell, which I'm hoping to sort out a.s.a.f.p.
OK, so it's a couple of days late this month. Get over it. Er, anyway, Änglagård are indeed playing the UK this autumn! Hurrah! Not an awful lot of other news this time round, to be honest, although Italian prog legends Locanda delle Fate's reunion album contains real Mellotron, used on a selection of tracks written in the '70s but never recorded. Review next time round...
That sample review backlog has finally bitten the dust, although many supposed Mellotron albums are being bodily hurled into 'samples' as I play them and pull a bad face. Shock site entry this month? Marie bleeding Osmond. No, I haven't heard it, but I'm sick enough to want to. Plenty of new single- (or double- or even triple-) artist pages this time round, in a foolhardy attempt to group linked artists together, e.g. XTC.
The big news this time round (not that it's really news any more) is that Änglagård are touring this year, nine years after their last reformation. Hurrah! Rumours of UK dates will be confirmed or denied at a later date. New albums? Well, there's the new project from my good self, my brother and a mate of ours... Actually less Mellotron than you might expect; we get subtlety. When will it be released? Wish we knew; watch this space.
Sitewise, yet another almost-endless trawl through various websites has produced even more list entries, not to mention the latest in a long line of review backlogs (well over 300 this time). However... I've finished the sample review backlog! Almost.
Unless I'm just not hearing it, the debut Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds album is a Mellotronic disappointment (let's not mention the music, eh?), although I'm pleased to be able to tell you that Opeth's Heritage, for the first time in the band's career, features real Mellotron. I stand corrected. Three Spirits Burning and a Viima album have also been shifted across from samples after friendly-yet-informative e-mails from the bands concerened. Oops... Kevin Seager has just brought his Signal project to my attention; a fine album, stuffed to the gills with real M400.
The never-ending reviews backlog is still never-ending, so plenty of new reviews (with doubtless more to come), loads of new album list entries, several more new artist pages, more YouTube clips... Will this Mellotron madness never end? (pt.96)October 2011
New albums? White Willow's first in some years, Terminal Twilight, is well worth hearing, both musically and Mellotronically, but I'm struggling to think of anything else of note this month.
Sitewise, I've taken another step towards a rather belated modernism on the site: embedded YouTube videos of artists using Mellotrons. Will this future shock never end? Have a look at N.Æ/Niemen, Josh Ritter and The Strokes, amongst many others. I've also created several new artist pages, mostly in anticipation of various bootleg and/or DVD reviews in the near future. Can't think of anything else; over and out.
Several new Mellotron-heavy releases, not least two Mattias Olsson-related albums, Anima Morte's The Nightmare Becomes Reality and Matti Bye and Mattias' Elephant & Castle, not to mention my discovery that the mighty Änglagård have reissued their second album, Epilog, adding a new recording of a track left off the original version, strangely put onto a second disc in splendid isolation, despite only being three minutes long. Essential listening, whatever.
Sitewise, you get no fewer than an exhausting 260 new reviews. Make the most of it, though; Planet Mellotron sadly announces it has had to get a proper job, so, despite reducing the sample backlog to under two hundred, the remainder will now take rather longer to obliterate than previously hoped. Studiowise, we're still not up to full operating capacity (as in, 'still no recording equipment'), but since we're sure many of you will bring Logic/ProTools LE/whatever-enabled laptops anyway, consider us vaguely open for business. Yes, we do have monitors. No, we don't have decent headphones. We might even get the Odyssey and Prophet working properly soon. On the offchance that anyone's interested, the rest of the gear-list looks like this:
Interested? E-mail us at the usual address.
This month's two 'big' Mellotron releases are Raphael Saadiq's Stone Rollin (the M400's even visible in at least one promo) and Fleet Foxes's second, Helplessness Blues, the former being considerably better-endowed than the latter, several people being kind enough to let me know about them.
The site backlog has temporarily stalled, as the amount of music coming in perfectly matches my output, although I fully intend to begin blitzing the samples this month coming. I've had a couple of positive responses to Neglected Hard Rock Classic of the Month!, although I suspect it isn't something most of you would bother reading it it were anywhere else. Er, or even when it's here. Never mind, once there are a few more up, it may reach some kind of online critical mass where people who'd never normally read PM begin reading it.
Planet Mellotron Studios are still not up'n'running, although I hope they will be by next time round. Famous last words...
So, what's new this month? Billy "The Ant-Bee" James has written to tell me his first album in twelve years, Electronic Church Muzik, is out now, featuring Billy playing real Mellotron on several tracks. Our favourite Mellotron abuser, Mike Dickson's been at it again, making Basilica available, as always, as a free download. Other new releases include a new P.J. Harvey, a new Jeffrey Simmons, The Watch's Timeless and Sky Shadow Obelisk's debut.
This month's main site news has nothing to do with Mellotrons, oddly enough. You know, sometimes even I get a bit sick of perusing album after album after frequently shitty album, trying to work out whether that string line actually has anything to do with a Mellotron, or even a sample. I know it's hard to believe, but... As a result, I'm diversifying slightly into more 'regular' criticism whilst simultaneously returning to my roots. No, not prog, but '70s (style) hard rock, in my new Neglected Hard Rock Classic of the Month! feature. Many of you will have no interest in the subject - no problem, don't read it - but I hope some of you will enjoy a more in-depth look at some unfairly critically-maligned, or merely ignored efforts.
Incidentally, despite only a brief mention here last time round, I've already had several enquiries regarding Planet Mellotron Studios, one from the other side of Europe (!). Suffice to say, I'm in the process of raising the capital to effect a few last-minute equipment repairs and install some recording hardware and software. Hopefully by my next update...
New releases from Sklenik, London Underground and Glass, not to mention the incidental music from Mellodrama. Loads more additions to the site, loads more reviews, loads to come... Will this Mellotron madness never end? The reviews backlog will tip over past the next update; in fact, factor in sample/bootleg/DVD reviews and it could tip over into the one after that... As I once typed on the index page, sheer idiocy.
The grandly-named Planet Mellotron Studios have added a Solina (not the ARP-badged version, but the same instrument) and are hoping to obtain something a lot more collectable before long. A new feature for this month that I've been meaning to implement for, oh... years, is a 'samples?' annotation to certain suspect entries. See it here, please tell me if it isn't working.
While there aren't any more Mellotron albums being produced than usual, I can tell you that the new Rashomon and Litmus discs have both been suitably overdubbed at the nascent Planet Mellotron Studios (don't laugh). Yup, an almost up'n'running vintage keyboard overdub facility in darkest Kent, within easy reach of the Channel Tunnel... Anyone else remember before it was built it was usually referred to as the 'Chunnel'? Thank Christ that one didn't stick... In all seriousness, anyone interested in using all the kit I've amassed, at very reasonable prices, please e-mail me at the usual address.
Site expansion carries on apace, with, rather than loads of new reviews, a vast number of new entries (making June's additions look fairly paltry) added to the list, with more to come. This is what happens when I do a concerted, organised search through several relevant sites... I can't guarantee the Mellotronic veracity of all the new entries, but I hope to start winnowing out the samples over the next few months, as far as I can. I've also added another batch of single-artist pages, while the various artists section has undergone a long-overdue overhaul.
Still having trouble summoning up anything from the outside world of any great interest... Close Planet Mellotron watchers may note that I've completely re-jigged the Sample reviews, splitting them into a great many more pages and removing the 'reviews' bit from the header to hopefully reduce confusion over what you're reading. Some of the pages are surprisingly under-filled; don't worry, there's a near-300 sample reviews backlog to clear... I've also done something I've been meaning to do for years to clear up confusion for those who go straight to a reviews page from a Google search or whatever: all 'sample-only' artists now have a link to their review from the regular reviews pages. Praise the Lord and pass the album review... The regular reviews backlog grew a little, then was eradicated again. Long may it last...
Oh, I dunno... Cathedral used my M400 again, Rashomon, Litmus and Electric Wizard are putting it on their albums... The site backlog's nearly obliterated... Over 200 new reviews for you this time round... If I think of anything else, I'll come back here over the next week or two. [n.b. I didn't.]
The Astra and Cathedral gigs both went off very well, thanks, despite the addition of a MemoTron at both events... The next public appearance of the Planet Mellotron M400 is unknown, but it's about to be used on the new Circulus and Rashomon albums, while I believe Litmus are gearing up for album no.4. Hurrah!
Site news: I've been doing some sleuthing and have unearthed nearly 200 new site entries... Shows how much time I have on my hands, eh? As a partial result, I've done fewer reviews than I'd have liked over the last two months, but the backlog's on track to be obliterated over the summer. I've also fixed some long-running layout irritations, although the hoped-for major re-jig is still only somewhere on the distant horizon.
Well, Cathedral (UK branch)'s The Guessing Game is out, and it's stuffed with my M400; what's more, they're using it on stage at their London gig later this month - check their MySpace for details. Bigelf's UK tour was every bit as cataclysmic as you'd expect, especially in London, where they played a near-two hour set, playing practically everything from their last two albums. Still no 'Tron strings, though, despite backing their M400 up with a MemoTron...
Site news: the end of the reviews backlog is in sight! By the next update, it should be history, giving me time to, er, catch up with the samples, bootleg and DVD reviews... My work is never done (sigh). At least you lot keep writing, so I know someone's actually reading this shit. Please keep reading and please keep sending site submissions through; I reckon a good half of my new entries are down to people telling me.
This month's big news is that Dianna Dilworth's Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie is out on DVD (reviewed here), making it accessible to more than the handful of people who got to see it at little film festivals last summer. It also has the distinction of being the very first DVD review on this site; there will be more, but they take more effort (and usually time) than albums, so always get pushed to the bottom of the pile. To be terribly Anglocentric for a minute, there are several Mellotronic gigs coming up in the ol' British Isles, only some of them down to my good self. The Watch are doing their 'mostly early Genesis' show around Europe, including two British gigs, Glasgow on February 12th and Rotherham (Classic Rock Society) on the 13th, where my pal Gary and I shall be in attendance with his M400. We'll remember the volume pedal this time, chaps... The wondrous Bigelf play several dates here in late February, doubtless bringing their own 'Tron with them, while as mentioned below, a Rise Above triple-bill's lined up for Wednesday April 14th at the London Scala, featuring the very wonderful Astra, Diagonal and Litmus.
It's Planet Mellotron's tenth anniversary! Oh, you've already seen the main page. Well, have a look at the early version of the site and laugh your arse off.
It's true (sniff); Astra used a Memotron. "Can't find a Mellotron in San Diego", apparently. In more positive news, they hopefully know by now that the Planet Mellotron, er, Mellotron will be in attendance at their London gig next April (Scala, April 14th 2010, for those in the vicinity), for the use of whoever would like to use it. Litmus' Aurora, despite its 'Balearic Trance Vol.23'-style sleeve, is something of a triumph, against all expectations. Which is nice. They're also at Astra's Scala gig, but probably won't be using the Mellotron. Cathedral (UK branch) have splattered my M400 all over the album they've just finished recording, due out next year.
Site: the reviews backlog dismemberment carries on apace; might even crack it out before the spring at this rate. Once it's done, I'm going to re-jig the site (again), as most of the reviews pages will be far too big for easy loading by that stage. My nephew's helpfully pointed out that my index page still has a reference to it 'being optimised' for Netscape', a browser that fell out of use early this decade. Er... Consider it gone. There, wasn't that interesting?
Aargh! The pics on Astra's site seem to indicate they're using a Memotron in a fake Mellotron casing. Cheeky... They're not answering e-mails on the subject, either, so I think it's probably guilty as charged... The third Litmus album (and first post-me) is finally out, but I haven't heard it yet. Review next time round. My old mucker Gary and I provided two Mellotrons for The Strawbs' 40th anniversary bash in early September for Blue Weaver's use; they only had about forty minutes on stage, but sounded and looked great, and will hopefully feature on the DVD that will doubtless appear in good time, going by the amount of filming that was going on.
Site news: the reviews backlog is dropping at a significant rate; if you look at the 'new reviews' page, you'll see why... Have I no life? I've added links to other artists below reviews where relevant, so they're clearer and easier to use. I'm also part of the way through adding a 'Mellotron used' annotation, to every review, although many of them say (and will doubtless continue to say) 'unknown'. I hope to have this complete by next time round. Anything else? Er, look how many new reviews I've done! Did I tell you about the new reviews? I have t... [shut up, Thompson. Ed.]
At last! I've finally heard Astra's The Weirding, and it's a monster... The third Litmus album, Aurora, is out this month, too, also on Rise Above; review next update, hopefully.
Site news: I've finally removed the troublesome 'artists' page, which only seemed to confuse everyone, and was a hangover from the site's earlier days, anyway. The information on it will be distributed amongst the review pages when I get a chance. 'Links' have also been moved to the bottom of the 'trivia' page; does anyone actually care about an external links page any more?
The Second Mellofest went well, despite being a paying event this time round. I'm sure all concerned will agree it was slightly shambolic and it overran, but with sets from Martin Orford (IQ) and Robert Webb (England), amongst others, a great interview from Tony Clarke and no fewer than three Mellotrons on stage, what more could you ask for? OK, next time round, some more musicians!
This month's big news is on the reissue front. Änglagård's two studio albums are finally being reissued again, this time on Alvarsdotter. Hurrah! What else? The wonderful Astra have released an album, The Weirding, out now on UK's Rise Above, no doubt stuffed full of 'Tron, and I forgot to mention that Bigelf put another one of their infrequent releases out last year, Cheat the Gallows. The new Anekdoten album is merely a compilation, so don't get too het up about that one, and the new Litmus isn't out yet, despite a launch party several weeks ago. Call it a 'preview', apparently.
I forgot to say last time round, but if you're in need of a laugh, have a look at Marco Rossi's Mellotron top ten entry here. Admittedly, the guy's a 'proper' writer, but top marks for commentary; a new benchmark has been created, I think.
Well, that was a long wait, wasn't it? Sorry about that, real life caught up with me for a while. As a penance, I've done over 200 reviews in four months, a great many of them truly appalling records, particularly this one.
Mellotron news? Lay Low's Icelandic country album (!) is out, the Planet Mellotron, er, Mellotron to the fore on three tracks. On the subject of Icelanders, the wonderful Sigur Rós also used my machine in the autumn, this time on stage at London's historic (it says here) Alexandra Palace, filmed for a forthcoming DVD. Hurrah! The second Mellofest is in the planning stages, and is booked for May 2nd at the Luminaire, 311 High Road, Kilburn, London NW6 7JR. Not sure who'll be there yet, and it clashes with one of Rick Wakeman's horrendously-overpriced Six Wives gigs at Hampton Court, but hopefully a few of you will turn up. Ashley Franklin, whose Classic Rock Society Magazine article on the 'Tron can be found here, has asked me to tell you he hosts a show on ARFM every Sunday, repeated three times during the week.
Well, it's out... What is? Nick Awde's Mellotron: The Machine and the Musicians that Revolutionised Rock. It might not be the first book about our fave keyboard, but it's certainly the best, featuring interviews with (amongst others), Tony Banks, Mike Pinder, Woolly Wolstenholme and members of The Strawbs, King Crimson, Pavlov's Dog and many others. And, er, me. Ignoring my brief chapter, it's an excellent read, stuffed full of new insights and great anecdotes from all and sundry, especially MkII pioneer Geoff Unwin's chapter, which fills in a few gaps in the machine's early history. And all for £20 from Amazon (direct link here). What's more, Nick's launching the book at The Fiddler's Elbow, Kentish Town on Sunday, 16th November, should you be within sensible reach of London that weekend (more details here).
Otherwise, Diagonal's album is out on Rise above, featuring my M400, though nobody's sent me a copy yet. Rumour has it that several bands have bought Memotrons for live use, so at least we get to hear something that sounds a bit like a 'Tron onstage... My reviews backlog has gone through the roof, which should keep me quiet for the next year or three, so don't expect many innovations 'round these parts for a while, just new reviews.
Bit slow round these parts at the moment. Plenty of new stuff to review, but haven't had the time to do it, all the site upgrades I'd like to do have gone on the back-burner (again), half the people who've kindly written to me haven't had a reply... Sigur Rós have released their first 'Tron album, British outfit Sanctuary Rig have released their debut double CD (!) with plenty of my 'Tron (and Taurus) on board, and the new Litmus album's nowhere near ready. Any real news? Not really, no.
I've recently been made aware of the downloads on Mike Dickson's site. Mike is the British member of US/UK electronic outfit Systems Theory, and its Mellotron owner/player. No surprise, then, that his three solo albums and the latest Systems Theory album all feature shedloads of Mike's M400. And they're FREE! Download immediately, and send them a donation via PayPal.
Site news: Another quandary resolved. What to do with all the 'officially unreleased' stuff that's popping up everywhere, principally on the 'Net? An Unreleased page, that's what. Various odds and ends will eventually find their way here; so far, there's a couple of download-only things, two unreleased albums sent to me on CD-R, and a pair of Mellotron-infused soundtracks recorded onto my hard drive from video/DVD. Told you it was a mixture. I'm also nearly halfway through spell-checking the entire site, which is a dispiriting experience, I have to say.
The Zombies put on a brilliant show in London in March, playing the whole of the wondrous Odessey & Oracle, plus a load of other stuff. Highlight? Walking into the theatre and seeing an M400 on stage! Sadly, it was barely used, as Rod Argent played piano for most of the set, leaving his deputy to play 'Tron samples, but a solo part on Changes was quite jaw-dropping. I hear that they've also used it at their holiday camp '60s weekender-type gigs, too, although I've no idea what it might've been used on.
Site news: at last! I've actually done some work on the thing this time round, as regular readers will probably/hopefully notice. New lettering for headers (yes, I know they're slightly pixelated) and the better part of twenty new 'single artist' review pages. The purpose of the latter is to group together all available information about an artist in one place, instead of, say, Genesis fans having to look in three or four different places. Although there aren't any written yet, video/DVD reviews will be added to these pages as I do them, alongside regular albums, samples, bootlegs, interview snippets and the like. As a result, several obsolete pages have been removed from the 'articles' section, all of which were written before the reviews section was started. Another innovation is the 'Mellotron(s) used' annotation to many reviews, where the type of machine and its owner are listed, where known. Internal links have been checked, too; please let me know if you find any that still don't work. There's plenty of housekeeping work to do yet, but I've made a start!
Mellotron news: well, I did think of some, then forgot it again... Diagonal (on Rise Above Records) have used my Mellotron in the studio, so expect that out before too long. A collection of Barclay James Harvest BBC sessions from 1974-6, After the Day, is due out any time, almost certainly stuffed full of Woolly's M300. Loads of King Crimson 'download only' recordings have been added to the site (thanks, Nick!), and a new Pugwash album is due out any day. Oh yeah, the big news: UK fusionesque proggers Thieves' Kitchen have their latest effort, The Water Road, out any minute, with stacks of Mellotron from none other than Thomas Johnson, ex-Änglagård. There you go - knew it was something special... Review to follow a.s.a.p.
The trouble with this News section is that it's invariably the last thing I write before updating the site, and I can never think of anything to say... It shows? Site news: the improvements are still in the pipeline, as is an ever-growing review backlog... (Again). I'll get round to it all at some point, honest.
Mellotron news: very little, really. The Fiery Furnaces' newie, Widow City, is apparently stuffed to the gills with real M400 and Chamberlin; expect a review next time round. Anekdoten's A Time of Day is the expected 'Tron-fest, and Astra's MySpace tracks are incredible. Streetly's M4000s are being turned out as quickly as their team of trained monkeys can assemble them; I believe there are five or six now out in the Big Wide World; expect some recordings featuring them before long.
Site news: apologies for taking so long to update the site; there are some serious improvements in the pipeline, but they're going to take a while to implement, as I'm having enough trouble keeping up with the day-to-day business of writing reviews and updating the album lists.
Otherwise, the M4000 is doing very nicely, with the first few off the 'production line' (such as it is) already in the hands of their hopefully ecstatic owners. I haven't had a chance to knock up a proper reviews page yet, let alone give you any pics, but here are a few quotes from Dave Etheridge's review in new gear mag Performing Musician:
|"The thinking behind the M4000 is to take the best aspects of the Mark II, with its height (you stand up comfortably to play, rather than stooping with consequent strain on your back), light and fast keyboard action and cycling system of six banks of three tapes, and the improved tape motor, preamp and (relative) portability of a single manual M400".|
|"Wherever possible, all the parts are hand made in house, and it shows in the beautiful and lovingly assembled engineering. Just observing the innards makes you realise that this sort of hand crafted work is no longer produced in the U.K. to any great extent".|
|"The keyboard action is as light as a synth, which may be a surprise to anyone who ever played an M400, where you had to occasionally fight the action if you wanted to play fast solos. Here you'll find that the articulation on each note is superb, and you can play 200mph solos to your heart's content".|
|"While those who think that everything can be done by computer technology will turn their noses up and walk past, the muso with eye to see and ears to hear will have no problem loving the instrument for what it is and all its foibles. The M4000 is a wonderful instrument, a carefully thought out development of the original design, fully backwards compatible with previous technology, and designed for decades of use without hassle or tears. The look, the feel and the sound is truly timeless and outside the vagaries of fashion, and M4000s are designed to be still ticking over when todays PCs and VSTs have gone the way of the dodo".|
And a list of the 'standard' tapeset...
Whad'ya mean you can't afford one? That's OK, neither can I. Plenty of people can though, it seems, so anyone with a spare £4500 (that's, ulp, $9000 at current exchange rates...) should give Streetly a call, or at least go to their website.
Releases: I haven't heard the new Anekdoten yet, but hope to soon, the Cathedral reformation album is excellent, Rockfour have done it again and the new Fiery Furnaces is apparently smothered in Chamberlin. Hurrah! Glass have a composite live effort out, recorded a few years ago, The Watch have a new, 'Tron-heavy effort, and Matt Thompson (ex-Guapo) has a new project, Rashomon, utilising my M400 on several tracks. And the Rush album? Not bad, but disappointing Mellotronically. Big surprise.
Site news: instead of taking a ludicrously long time to update the site, I've managed a variation on a theme by updating it, but doing hardly any reviews. Maybe I'll find some time to do something to the site at some point in the not-too-far-distant future. Oh, and a slight change on the background colour front, as the last one was too purple.
Otherwise... It's out! Streetly's much-vaunted M4000 is finally available, and is looking pretty gorgeous. Go here for more news. Mellotron Archive's MkVI was the first 'new' Mellotron in well over a decade, and all credit there, but this beastie is the first new cycling machine since 1968's rather ill-fated M300; think of it as half a MkII, but with six more sounds and a far better selection, and that's if you go for the factory standards. For an extra fee, you can have a custom set of 24 sounds, or rather, 24 keyboards'-worth, which isn't quite the same thing. And if that ain't enough for you... The M5000 is the twin-manual version, offering a ludicrous 48 sounds, which should be enough to keep even the most ardent 'Tron fan happy. Drawbacks? Just the one: you can't change the internal sounds yourself, but as long as you choose carefully, do you really need to? Reviews will be collated and posted on the site a.s.a.p. Bravo, chaps!
On the release front, this quarter's shock addition to the site is the new Rush album, Snakes & Arrows. Yup, it's a real 'Tron, and it's the only keyboard actually used on the album; expect a review next time round. The second Litmus album, Planetfall, is finally out, although their esteemed keyboard player (cough) has bailed out, partly due to his dissatisfaction at his role in the band. I'm sure they'll use my Mellotron in the future, as nobody's fallen out with anybody, but not played by me.
Site news: chiefly, apologies for taking so long to update the site - four months is completely unacceptable, and some of you have written to ask why... The short answer is, my computer was on the blink for several weeks over the end-of-Feb period, when I hoped to update. While not 100%, it's an awful lot better now, and doesn't crash for no good reason much more often than it ever did. On the organisational front, I've finally decided to remove the 'number bands' (10cc, 9.30 Fly etc.) to their own page, both in the albums and reviews sections. This removes the problem of where to file bands depending on their country of origin; both 14 Bis (Brazil) and 4/3 de Trio (France) have been filed under Q, for example, which, while linguistically accurate, isn't necessarily the best place for the casual reader to find them. Anyway, the new pages are helpfully labelled with a nice bold '#', and can be found just after 'Z'.
As far as genuine Mellotron news goes, though, it's all a bit thin on the ground: the M4000 is still not out, though it should be any time now; although it's no longer 'news', per se, I've only just heard Shannon Taylor's wonderful if it is to be as it is [sic], from last year, which is stuffed to the gills with Mellotron (and Chamberlin samples), not to mention great songs. Buy it here, or at least listen to the downloads. On the reissue front, according to the Gnosis reissues news page, both Don Bradsham Leather and Quarteto 1111's 'Tron-stuffed obscurities are due out on CD soon. Bring it on!
The BJH tour went very well indeed, I'm glad to say, with good attendances throughout. When you compare this with the hundred or so who turned out to see Woolly a couple of years ago in London, it just goes to show the power of a name, I suppose. The Litmus album's been mixed, with two or three 'Tron-heavy tracks, rather fewer than expected. Hmmm.
Streetly's new M4000 prototype is nearing completion, and looks very nice indeed! Expect essentially a cycling M400, with what looks like a couple of new features. Oh, and R.I.P. Fluff.
Well, England's gig went well, apart from their high-end Akai sampler breaking down after two songs and refusing to come back to life. I know why Robert used it, but people call Mellotrons unreliable... Barclay James Harvest (or at least, John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme) are touring the UK extensively this month, avec M400. Be there. The cat is well out of the bag concerning Streetly's new M4000, although a tight lid is being kept upon specifics. Remember your mother saying, "Wait And See"? On the Mellotron-heavy new album front, the (US) Cathedral album draws ever closer to completion, as does the second Litmus.
Site news: two major new pages, bootleg reviews and a much asked-for feature, Top 'Tron, or all the higher-ranking reviews (for their Mellotron content) listed in order of T rating.
And you thought news was thin on the ground last time round... England's Japanese dates were reportedly a triumph, and they have a one-off date at the Boardwalk in Sheffield on Saturday August 26th. You will be there. Nothing to do with Mellotrons (although the Floyd used one soon after his departure), but R.I.P Syd.
Sorry, news is a bit thin on the ground at the moment. In fact, all I can think of to say is that yours truly plus some important people will be featured on BBC Radio 4's new Mellotron documentary, due to be broadcast at 10.30 a.m. (GMT+1) on Saturday June 3rd. For those of you not in the vicinity, I believe it's being streamed from their website for a week afterwards.
New albums from (on the prog front) La Maschera di Cera and Paatos, and from Mattias Olsson's Roth-Händle studio, Vijaya and Two Times the Trauma (said we were short of news).
Major news: Rick Wakeman's new album, Retro, was recorded using entirely vintage gear, much of which was discovered as Rick moved from the Isle of Man back to the mainland. No, he no longer owns a Mellotron (well, not after the 1982 bonfire, anyway), but he used his bassist, Lee Pomeroy's machine. Review to hopefully follow before too long.
Irish retro-pop merchants Pugwash have finally released a new album, Jollity, stuffed to the gills with Mellotron, including some performances from ex-XTC/Dukes of Stratosphear god Dave Gregory. Essential.
England's performance at Baja Prog went down a storm, by all accounts. Next stop: Japan. All we need to do now is sort out a British date for the handful of discerning UK progressive fans who actually know who they are, and who don't consider bloody Marillion to be the pinnacle of the genre.
I'm afraid I have to begin with some very sad news; Rick van der Linden (of Ekseption and the mighty Trace) died on January 22nd after a stroke, aged 59. An incredible player, Rick is known mainly for his on/off work with Ekseption, but amongst progressive fans, the first two Trace albums are revered for their stunning musicianship, not to mention the incredible music. R.I.P. Rick van der Linden, 5.8.46.-22.1.06.
On a happier note, the England reformation carries on apace, with the band on target for their official debut performance at Baja Prog in March.
Anekdoten's new live album, Waking the Dead, Live in Japan 2005, apparently features three of the band's four members on Mellotron, although they only used samples on their previous live effort.
It's official - England have reformed! They're lined up for Baja Prog 2006, so fingers crossed for a UK warm-up date. Period instrumentation is expected to be used.
Tom Doncourt of the mighty Cathedral (US division) is recording again, with his 'Tron. No idea when something official will appear, but keep an eye out for it. Speaking of Cathedral the British band have just released a new album featuring the Great White Beast, too, entitled Garden of Unearthly Delights. [Note: turns out it's samples].
England's utterly seminal Garden Shed opus has just been reissued, appropriately, on Garden Shed Music, with a bonus track and in a beautiful package with lyrics and illustrations. Do any of you remember the blurb on the back cover of the original vinyl? "We have compiled a companion booklet to this, our first album, containing all lyrics, and illustrations to the songs, together with information about the group. It's available from..." Well, it never actually existed, though only because no-one got their act together sufficiently to get it done. Well, now you've got it, albeit in slightly different form to how it was originally intended, and very nice it is, too. One minor potential problem for some of you is the packaging format. Robert Webb didn't want the artwork shrunk down to CD size, and although a couple of labels have produced 12"x12" CD packaging, he's opted for 7"x7", or single size; big enough to look good, but small enough to... not fit in your CD racks. Oh well, you'll have to find room for it elsewhere. I'm not totally convinced by the housing for the disc itself, but I'm sure most of you will stick it in a regular jewel case anyway, and put the booklet somewhere else. If lush symphonic prog's your bag, BUY THIS ALBUM!
I don't know how many of you sat through untold hours of Live8 the other week (I didn't), but several people informed me that indie darlings Razorlight wheeled an M400 onstage in London for one song - I believe it was only used on the intro. Well, how's that for commitment to the cause? Nice one, chaps, even if I haven't heard you, a situation I intend to rectify. Actually, Live8 was a haven for vintage keyboards of all hues. Try:
Not bad, not bad...