The Court & Spark
Crash Test Dummies
The Crash That Took Me
In the Gray of the Morning (1973, 27.44) **½/T½
American Indian Blues
Opry House Blues
Lean on One Another
We Are Alone
Lessons of History
|When the Ship Comes in
Help You Smile
Although singer-songwriter Gene Cotton's fourth album, 1973's In the Gray of the Morning (named for a line from opener Question), was released on religious imprint Myrrh, its Christian input is relatively minimal, thankfully, only really apparent on Blessed. It's very much an album of its time, veering between the passable balladry of Apathy and We Are Alone and the more upbeat likes of Opry House Blues and When The Ship Comes In, while I can't work out whether the jaunty American Indian Blues is ironic, 'in character' or simply offensive.
One Beegie Cruser plays Mellotron, with background chordal strings on Apathy, Lean On One Another and We Are Alone, with slightly more upfront ones on closer Help You Smile. Cotton's known more for his activist work these days, but fans of middling '70s singer-songwriter fare may well go for this.
Extremely elderly official site
Movie Disaster Music (2006, 42.24) ***/TT½
Bridget in the Sun
Lookin' for Elvis
End of Story
|Beautiful But Deadly
You're the Boss
Josie Cotton? Never heard of her myself, but it seems she's (in)famous for her early '80s hit Johnny Are You Queer?, apparently a send-up of narcissism, rather than a pro- or anti-gay statement. You wouldn't write it now, though, would you? Anyway, having attained one-hit wonder status, Cotton's 2006 release, Movie Disaster Music (ho ho), is only her fourth album in well over twenty years, a perfectly acceptable, '80s-esque pop/rock effort, probably at its best on the guitar-led End Of Story and sparse, jazzy closer You're The Boss.
Patrick Warren plays Mellotron and Chamberlin, with chordal strings on Kung-Fu Girl and Beautiful But Deadly, a background string melody on Creeps, distant (Chamby?) strings on Nikita, occasional Chamby woodwinds and upfront Mellotron strings on End Of Story and a string melody on Fabulous. How much of this is one instrument or the other, however, is difficult to tell. All in all, a pretty decent album, actually, with reasonable tape-replay work to boot.
Counting Crows (US) see:
Hearts (2006, 47.07) **½/T
|Let's Get High
We Were All Uptown Rulers
Birmingham to Blackhorse Road We Wandered
The Oyster is a Wealthy Beast
A Milk White Flag
|Your Mother Was the Lightning
The Ballad of Horselover Fat
I used to play in a band named after a Joni Mitchell album, too. We were called The Hissing of Summer Lawns. OK, we weren't (although I did), but The Court & Spark clearly had the same idea, for better or worse. 2006's Hearts was their fourth and last album, a cocktail of alt.country, indie and stoner blues, possibly at its best on Birmingham To Blackhorse Road We Wandered (did the band play at that Walthamstow single-lane blacktop's semi-legendary venue The Royal Standard?), the slowburn Capaldi and closer The Ballad Of Horselover Fat, although too much of this record drifts past in a haze of disinterest.
The Mother Hips' Paul Hoaglin plays Mellotron, with, of all things, some clicky, pitchbent sax on Smoke Signals and wonky flutes on The Ballad Of Horselover Fat. I don't know if The Court & Spark's earlier albums focus their strengths to better effect than here, but this strikes me as a lost opportunity, Mellotron work excepted.
See: Hiss Golden Messenger
Christina Courtin (2009, 45.23) ***/½
One Man Down
Christina Courtin is a Juilliard graduate (on violin), although she doesn't flash her skills around on her eponymous debut album, a delicate singer-songwriter effort, which isn't to say she doesn't play at all. It's one of those perfectly nice albums that are slightly unengaging, Courtin's voice not really being quite strong enough to carry the material, although nothing here even comes close to offending. Think: fragile, folk-influenced writing and singing and you won't be too far off, though nowhere near the level of, say, Vashti Bunyan, but then, who is? The album's best tracks are probably February (a lovely string part) and maybe closer Unzipped, an unusually loud effort from Ms. Courtin, with an almost chaotically full arrangement.
Jon Brion plays credited Chamberlin on two tracks, with whichever woodwind plays the solo in the middle of the song (I think) and what sounds like flutes amongst the maelstrom on closer Unzipped. In other words, two credits, but it's not entirely certain what either of them are. Anyway, Christina Courtin isn't a bad album at all, with a couple of surprises, although its Chamberlin use isn't among them.
Mercy (2013, 60.46) ***/T
Mercy Suite Part One
Mercy Suite Part Two (Grace)
Mercy Suite Part Three (Mercy Wind)
Jazz pianist Jon Cowherd (who frequently works with Brian Blade) has taken nearly twenty years from his first sideman recording to releasing his solo debut. Mercy is... a jazz album. You know, laid-back piano, upright bass and brushed drums. Jazz. If you like this kind of jazz, you'll almost certainly like this. I don't, but I can appreciate the artistry. I think.
Cowherd's credited with Mellotron and, indeed, those clicky, poppy flutes on Seconds sound like they at least started off being played on a real machine, although I suspect some subsequent sampling and looping has occurred. As long as a genuine Mellotron's been part of the recording process... I'm making something of an assumption here, but isn't that often the way?
II × II (1970, 34.32) ***/T½
|II × II
I Really Want to Know You
Start to Love
Silver Threads and Golden Needles
|The Prophecy of Daniel and John the Divine
Don't Look Back
On My Side (1971, 34.18) ***/T½
|On My Side
Once There Was a Time
If You Can't Have it, Knock it
Can You Love Me
Mystery of Life
There is a Child
Cheatin' on Me
Down on the Farm
Good Ole Rock and Roll Song
If I were to tell you that Rhode Island's family grouping The Cowsills were the inspiration for The Partridge Family, would you run screaming? And could anyone blame you? I can't attest as to their earlier material (they debuted with an eponymous 1967 release), but 1970's II × II, if a tad dated for the year, is nowhere near as bad as I'd expected. It doesn't get off to a good start, the rather anodyne lead-off title track and the slushy I Really Want to Know You throwing out warning signs, but the rockier Signs (appropriately), the distinctly Beach Boys-influenced Goodtime Charlie and the religio-psych of The Prophecy Of Daniel And John The Divine are all pretty decent, as long as you're not expecting, well, The Beach Boys. Someone (John Cowsill? He played keys for, yes, The Beach Boys in later decades) slaps pseudo-orchestral Chamberlin strings all over I Really Want to Know You and Father, the arrangements sounding far too 'blocky' for real strings.
They followed up with '71's On My Side, if anything, slightly less commercial than its predecessor, highlights including Once There Was A Time, the doomy (no, really) Contact Made and the banjo-driven Dover Mine, although the generic country of Cheatin' On Me and the rather pointless hoedown of Down On The Farm let the side down slightly. Another two Chamby tracks, with flutes and strings on Can You Love Me and Mystery Of Life, from the mystery musician.
Clap Clap! The Joyful Noise (2013, recorded 1974-75, 39.44) ***½/TTTClap Clap! The Joyful Noise
Samba de Romance
Lost My Love
Beyond the Dream
Jazz pianist Kenny Cox owned Detroit's ill-fated Strata label, 2013's Clap Clap! The Joyful Noise being an unreleased recordings from their archive, along with Sam Sanders' Mirror, Mirror and others. It's a mostly instrumental jazz/soul/funk album, hardly Planet Mellotron's regular fare, but its joie de vivre, superb musicianship and all-round, well, joyful noise make it essential listening for fans of the cool end of '70s jazz.
Cox plays (local studio? Label's own?) Mellotron, with melodic string and flute parts on the jazzy Samba De Romance, in 'budget orchestra' mode, impeccably-arranged strings, almost fooling the ear, on Lost My Love and more strings and flutes on thirteen-minute, jammed-out closer Beyond The Dream, the album's one vocal track, if only just. Tired of 'standard' organ-style block-chord Mellotron playing? Kenny Cox was clearly a virtuoso, proven by his superb Mellotron wrangling, making this more than worth it on the tape-replay front.
Ear of Beholder (1971, 83.34) ***/T
Two Little Pigeons
Conversation With Children/Jamaican Rumba
Piccadilly With Goofs
I am the Walrus
Little Triple One Shot
That's Why... Darkies Were Born?
A Series of Superbly Played Mellotron Codas
|7" (1972) **½/T [as The Coxhill-Bedford Duo]
Pretty Little Girl Pt. 1
Pretty Little Girl Pt. 2
|7" (1972) **½/T [as Will Dandy & the Dandylettes]
Sonny Boy - Oh Mein Papa
Mood [by The Coxhill-Bedford Duo]
Legendary free jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill (1932-2012), already no spring chicken as the '70s rolled around, played with the good and the great, not least Kevin Ayers, Fred Frith and, er, The Damned, alongside running a solo career. His solo debut, 1971's Ear of Beholder, was released on the also legendary John Peel's wonderfully crackpot Dandelion label (logo: the Peel family's pet hamster, Dandelion), largely a home for the wilfully obscure and, frankly, utterly unsellable. Ear of Beholder falls firmly into both camps, being a double album of mostly unaccompanied soprano sax solos of variable recording quality, intercut with strange little items such as Coxhill and David Bedford (later of Mike Oldfield fame, of course) singing twee little songs such as Two Little Pigeons or Don Alfonso. The most 'difficult' piece here is probably the twenty-minute Rasa-Moods, though, a mad, full band improv piece, sounding as if it was recorded on one mic from the next room, which does little for its fidelity.
This album's presence on this site rests wholly on its last track, the twenty-six-second A Series Of Superbly Played Mellotron Codas, Coxhill playing five codas from the left-hand (rhythm) manual of a MkII machine, including the famous (well, round these parts, anyway) Bill Fransen "Yeah!". Despite its brevity, the track is so startling and so, well, Mellotronic, that it still gets a full T. This isn't an album for the faint-hearted, or, for that matter, people who don't like saxophones, but if you're of an adventurous bent, you might find things to admire here. Personally, I admire its last twenty-six seconds. File under: 'music I'm glad exists but don't really want to listen to again'.
A pair of Coxhill 7" curios crept out the following year, The Coxhill-Bedford Duo's Pretty Little Girl and Will Dandy & the Dandylettes' Sonny Boy - Oh Mein Papa, b/w another Coxhill-Bedford Duo track. The first-named is a strange little song, Coxhill's vocal (and clarinet?) accompanied by Bedford on school-hall piano and Mellotron flutes, the flip being an instrumental, sax-led version, while the Will Dandy single is no less strange, with orchestrated strings on the 'A'. All four tracks have been added to Esoteric's two-disc reissue of the album.
Marjory Razorblade (1973, 73.14) ***/½
Talking to No One
I Want My Crown
|House on the Hill
Jackie and Edna
Heaven in My View
|This is Spain
Kevin Coyne (1944-2004) is, by any definition, a cult figure these days, although, for a period in the '70s, the initially experimental Virgin label released several of his albums. Unsurprisingly, he actually debuted on John Peel's legendary Dandelion label, 1973's double LP Marjory Razorblade being his second full-lengther and first for Virgin. Veering between acoustic numbers and full band arrangements, heavily infused with the blues, highlights include Marlene and Eastbourne Ladies' downbeat boogie, notoriously played on radio by John Lydon at the peak of punk in '77, while the crazed Good Boy, if not exactly a 'highlight', at least typifies this very strange album.
(Presumably) session pianist Jean Roussel plays uncredited Mellotron, with near-subliminal strings, clearly intended to fool the ear, on Old Soldier, to the point where I'm tempted to give this '¼' on the Mellotron front. Marjory Razorblade is outsider art of the highest order, which is Planet Mellotron shorthand for 'this is not an easy listen'. Comparing him to Syd Barrett would be disingenuous, but fans of Kevin Ayers should probably apply.
Si Todo Hiciera Crack (1979, 40.53) ****½/TTT½Descenso en el Mahëllstrong
Amantes de la Irrealidad
Cobarde o Desertor
Marchando Una del Cid (part 1, 2)
Si Todo Hiciera Crack
Crack's sole album, 1979's Si Todo Hiciera Crack, is a masterpiece of Spanish progressive, gentle lyrical passages alternating with fiery unison sections. There's a slight 'Spanish' feel to the music (fair enough, really), albeit not nearly as overtly as, say, Iman, Califato Independiente, with a real edge to their piano-driven compositions, marking this as one of the best albums from Spain's late-'70s progressive scene. Plenty of interesting synth work on several tracks, plus, of course, shitloads of Mellotron (as you can see, a rare MkV) from Mento Hevia.
On the Mellotron front, Descenso En El Mahëllstrong has cellos on its gentle intro and later in the track, while Amantes De La Irrealidad features choirs quite heavily, plus a few ethereal string chords at its close. Cellos again on Cobarde O Desertor, while Marchando Una Del Cid (Mellotron brass) is indeed a march, with more than a little Jethro Tull about it and not just because of the flute. Apart from the last two tracks, there's a good whack of Mellotron on the album, although as with so many Spanish bands, most of the strings are from a string synth. Why did they do that?
Crack the Sky (US) see:
The Golden Age (1996, 48.34) ***/T½
|I Hate My Generation
I'm a Little Rocket Ship
Nothing to Believe in
The Golden Age
100 Flower Power Maximum
I Can't Forget You
|Sweet Thistle Pie
How Can I Live Without You
Cracker are fronted by David Lowery, ex-Camper Van Beethoven (of Take The Skinheads Bowling fame) and boast of being the only band to support both the Grateful Dead and the Ramones (!). Critical opinion has it that their third album, Golden Age, isn't a patch on their second, Kerosene Hat, but to my ears it sounds like a decent enough semi-Americana effort, frequently tipping over into more straightforward, slightly grungy mainstream rock. Best track? Possibly opener I Hate My Generation, even though (or because?) it nicks the riff from Hawkwind's iconic Assault And Battery.
Lowery and Dennis Herring both play Mellotron, with most of the work being Lowery's, with strings on the really rather good I'm A Little Rocket Ship, a high string part on the title track and yet more strings near the end of 100 Flower Power Maximum that could, at a pinch, be mistaken for real ones, which, incidentally, is exactly what you get on Dixie Babylon and Bicycle Spaniard. So; not bad at what it does, though no classic, with passable Mellotron work. Yup, another average Mellotron album.
See: Johnny Hickman
Penny Pills (2003, 37.23) ***½/T
|She Gets Away
Love Me Electric
Irish Blessing 95
You Don't Know
Wanna Be Like You
|Easy & the Fifth
Since You Been Gone
Sean Kelly's Crash Kelly (named in honour of his uncle, an ice-hockey pro) released their debut, Penny Pills, in 2003, an album at the heavy end of the powerpop spectrum, influences clearly including Kiss (boo!) and Cheap Trick (hooray!), to the point of covering the latter's Elo Kiddies (a bonus track on some versions of this album). Top tracks? Opener She Gets Away, Love Me Electric, You Don't Know, Wanna Be Like You... It's pretty much all good, but why end the album with a version of Russ Ballard's (via Rainbow) Since You Been Gone? Cheesy pop/rock nonsense.
Craig McConnell plays tentative, real-sounding Mellotron strings on 11 Cigarettes, the nearest the album gets to a ballad. Although Crash Kelly haven't released anything for a decade at the time of writing, Sean's busy playing variously with Helix, Nelly Furtado and others, so it ain't over until it's over.
Give Yourself a Hand (1999, 38.37) **½/TTT
|Keep a Lid on Things
A Cigarette is All You Get
I Want to Par-tay!
Give Yourself a Hand
Get You in the Morning
Pissed With Me
Just Shoot Me, Baby
|A Little Something
I Love Your Goo
Aching to Sneeze
The Crash Test Dummies apparently started off as irritating 'wacky', but by '99, they'd mutated into a far-too contemporary outfit, with all the right 'retro' instrumental references, including widespread use of a vibraphone, not to mention the obligatory Mellotron, although incorporating funk, soul etc. influences doth not necessarily a 'relevant' album make, especially when the lyrics are so tediously infantile.
As far as the Mellotron's concerned (possibly from co-vocalist Ellen Reid), most of the relevant tracks feature it in a pretty low-key role, although Get You In The Morning, Just Shoot Me, Baby and I Love Your Goo have some upfront flutes and strings. The others all have amounts ranging from 'bits' to 'next to nothing', but there's probably enough use to make it worth picking up second-hand, as long as you can cope with the irritating music.
See: Samples etc.
Chlorine Colored Eyes (2009, 42.11) **/TTT
|Reconnect it With a Curve
The Longest Winter's Gone
Through the Pattern and Out the Other Side
Chlorine Colored Eyes
Separation in the Design
Tragic Sense of Life
Shapes From Clouds
The Making of a Wonderland
I've seen The Crash That Took Me described as 'psychedelic', but their second album, 2009's Chlorine Colored Eyes, strikes me as an energetic-end-of-indie record, with the mildest of psych touches in places. Any better tracks? Not really, no; this really is a drab, tiresome effort, its 'songs' barely worthy of the name.
Kevin Howard plays Valve Studios' M400, with distant string spurts and more upfront flutes on opener Reconnect It With A Curve, strings, flutes and choirs on The Longest Winter's Gone, upfront strings on Through The Pattern And Out The Other Side, Patricia Lynn, Shapes From Clouds and closer The Making Of A Wonderland and background flutes on Tragic Sense Of Life, only really audible at the end of the track. Nice to hear a genuine Mellotron on a modern album, just a shame said album couldn't have been better.
They Dance Like This From as Far Off as the Crazy House (1982, 45.20) ***/½
|Come on Down No 1
10, Pemberley Sands
This is Procedure
While We Walked There
We Drive So Hard
The Weekend One (10, Pemberley Sands... Reprise)
Fall in Line Laura
|Cowboys Out of Action
The First Time
March, March, March
People Fall From Tall Buildings
Come on Down No 2
The Weekend Two (the Weekend One... Reprise)
I'm British and was a (young) music-obsessed adult in 1982. Why have I never heard of Crazy House? Despite being (much) more towards the rock end of things, I nursed a secret admiration for some synthpop outfits, so discovering this lot almost three decades on is, if not an active joy, certainly of interest. 1982's verbosely-titled They Dance Like This From as Far Off as the Crazy House is a pretty decent noo wave/synthpop effort, better tracks including Men Without Hats-esque opener Come On Down No 1, the driving, fractured electronica of We Drive So Hard and the spacious Cowboys Out Of Action, all tied together by David Luckhurst's Bowiesque vocals and the stench of cheap synthesizers.
Peter Parsons is credited with various keyboards, including Mellotron, although by the end of track thirteen, Come On Down No 2, I was beginning to think it was a misnomer. Then album closer The Weekend Two (The Weekend One... Reprise) kicks in and... there it is. Weedy background choirs, with that unmistakably Mellotronic key-click. Students of the era who haven't previously encountered Crazy House should make the effort to track this down; not exactly a lost gem, but a worthwhile effort, albeit not for the Mellotron.
Crazy World (2005, 52.09) ****/TTT
|No White Marble
Welcome to Crazy World
Long Haired Wildman Rides Again
Out of Me
Sweet Little Ugly Duckling
Welcome to Crazy World (Slight Return)
Good Times, Bad Times
Misery Loves Company
No White Marble (alternate version)
The Return of the Clown (2012, 80.08) ***½/TT½
|Every Good Wish All to You
I Think I Saw My Brothers Eyes
The Clown in a Swing
You're So So Vain
Pearls Before Swine
She Could Be Your Mother
From Son to Father
Clown's Gotta Go
The Return of the Clown
Lay it Down
Since I've Been Loving You (live)
The Clown in the Swing
Crazy World are some kind of Finnish supergroup, almost Five Fifteen Mk. 2 (they share vocalist/guitarist Mika Järvinen), whose eponymous debut is pretty much indistinguishable from that band's work; Long Haired Wildman Rides Again is actually a re-recording of a track from Five Fifteen's own debut. As with that outfit, this treads a fine line between hard rock, psych and prog, between wild enthusiasm, idiot near-plagiarism and knowing pastiche. But is it fun? 'Course it is, although you're best off leaving your brain at the door. Highlights include opener No White Marble and power ballads Poor Alice and Misery Loves Company, although I'm not sure why they bothered covering Zeppelin's Good Times, Bad Times; at least it isn't a Five Fifteen-style 'repurposed famous song title', as I'd originally assumed. Esa Kotilainen does his usual Finnish Mellotron thing, with flutes and strings all over No White Marble and Poor Alice, strings on Out Of Me, background strings on Sölvesborg Afternoon and a melodic flute line running through Misery Loves Company.
Harking back to Five Fifteen again, 2012's The Return of the Clown appears to be some kind of bizarre concept effort concerning the titular clown, from its sleeve art down to song titles and lyrics. Much like its predecessor, highlights include ten-minute opener Every Good Wish All To You, the crunchy hard rock of I Think I Saw My Brothers Eyes, the psychedelic Pearls Before Swine and Mrs Politician, while the bizarre You're So Vain continues Five Fifteen's habit of re-purposing famous song titles for their own compositions. Kotilainen on Mellotron again, with background choirs on Every Good Wish All To You, flutes and strings on The Clown In A Swing, flutes on From Son To Father, a flute part in the quiet section of Mrs Politician and chordal flutes and muted strings on the title track. Anyone who ever liked Five Fifteen will almost certainly like Crazy World, Kotailainen's Mellotron simply being the icing on the cake.
See: Five Fifteen
Goodbye (1969, 30.38) ***½/TI'm So Glad
Sitting on Top of the World
Doing That Scrapyard Thing
What a Bringdown
Cream's last, posthumous album, Goodbye, was comprised of three live tracks (covering about two-thirds of the album's length) and three studio, one of which had already been a hit. Scraping the barrel? Hmmm. Saying that, the lengthy I'm So Glad which opens the record is a storming version, Clapton's soloing showing what he was once capable of, the band almost telepathically slipping back into the groove after all going their separate ways for a few minutes. Neither Politician nor Sitting On Top Of The World fare as well, but the three studio tracks are all pretty good.
Badge is one of their best-known songs anyway, although the marvellous Leslied guitar part would have born some repetition. There's some Mellotron mandolin, of all things, towards the end of the song that I'd never noticed before, from producer and later Mountaineer Felix Pappalardi, although Doing That Scrapyard Thing is the track that's usually quoted as being the album's Mellotronic highlight. Well, it's got a brief repeating brass (?) part, but nothing to write home about, so good album, but no Mellotron classic.
See: Jack Bruce
How Does it Feel to Feel (1982, recorded 1966-68, 45.10) ***/½
|How Does it Feel to Feel
Life is Just Beginning
Through My Eyes
I am The Walker
The Girls Are Naked
|Try & Stop Me
For All That I am
Can I Join Your Band?
It seems a select band of music fans exist who claim that The Creation are better then The Who; both outfits had art school connections, both utilised feedback and did things to their guitars other than play them 'normally', but The Who predated The Creation by a good two years, had better songs and did it first. All of which isn't to say that The Creation were a bad band; far from it - they produced some excellent sides, more than equalling some of The Who's rather ordinary album tracks, but there's nothing in their (smallish) catalogue to obviously challenge My Generation, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere or, well, any other Who hits you can think of.
They only released one album in their lifetime, 1967's We Are Paintermen, although they've been compiled multiple times since, starting as early as 1968's The Best of The Creation. 1982's How Does it Feel to Feel added some previously unreleased tracks to their catalogue, including what appears to be their sole Mellotron track, Ostrich Man, with a skronky woodwind (oboe?) line from guitarist Eddie Phillips, although it's hardly something you're going to go out of your way to hear for that alone. Anyone interested in British '60s rock probably needs to hear The Creation somewhere down the line, but given that this compilation's long, long out of print, you're probably better off with, say, the expanded We Are Paintermen, containing pretty much everything you need to hear, including Ostrich Man.
Creation/Felix Pappalardi (1976, 35.19) ***/T½She's Got Me
Dreams I Dream of You
Green Rocky Road
Listen to the Music
Dark Eyed Lady of the Night
Ballad of a Sad Café
By 1976, Mountain were long washed-up, so bassist Felix Pappalardi fell in with a Japanese band, Creation. Each liked the other's way of working and a decision was made to record together, although the resulting album was released with the band's name first in Japan and Pappalardi's in the States, as you can see. The album isn't a million miles away from Mountain, proving that they were Pappalardi's band as much as Leslie West's, although it's fairly bland throughout much of its length - no Nantucket Sleighride here. Mid-paced bluesy opener She's Got Me sets the tone for much of the album, slipping into ballad territory on track two, Dreams I Dream Of You. None of the material's particularly outstanding, to be honest, although nothing actually offends.
Real strings on a couple of tracks, with Pappalardi's Mellotron only cropping up with a few string chords on She's Got Me and a slightly more substantial part on Ballad Of A Sad Café, though that would seem to be it. So; not a classic on any front, though possibly worth picking up cheap. Average.