album list
Christophe F/Black Sheep
Magne F
De Fabriek
Fabulous Five Incorporated
Fabulous Rhinestones
Piers Faccini
Fairfield Parlour
Fairport Convention
Faithful Breath
Marianne Faithfull
The Fall

Family Cat
Famlende Forsøk
Merrill Fankhauser

Christophe F/Black Sheep  (UK)

Christophe F/Black Sheep, 'Heathen Frontiers in Sound'

Heathen Frontiers in Sound  (2009,  51.28)  ***/TT

Gringo Blues
My Heathen Revolution

Talkin' Revolution Blues
I Never Write Slow Love Songs
Black Sheep Blues
Brother Motherfucker
Crucifiction Blues
Heathen Frontiers in Sound

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Who is the mysterious Christophe F? (As in Christiane F?) No idea, but he seems to've gravitated into the orbit of a certain J. Cope and his Black Sheep, making 2009's Heathen Frontiers in Sound essentially a Cope album with someone else singing. Well, I say 'singing', but Mr. F. rarely actually breaks into song, preferring a Northern-accented revolutionary 'talking blues' style, like an unholy cross between Bob Dylan and John Cooper Clarke. The eleven-minute Talkin' Revolution Blues is probably the epitome of his folk-informed style, although the closing title track probably runs it a close second.

I presume that's Cope on Mellotron, with strings on opener Gringo Blues and My Heathen Revolution, while Brother Motherfucker features string and oboe parts, unusually. Overall, if you're a fan of Saint Julian And All His Works, you stand a good chance of liking this. If you're not, give it a go anyway, if only for the Mellotron.

See: Black Sheep | Julian Cope

Magne F  (Norway)

Magne F, 'Past Perfect Future Tense'

Past Perfect Future Tense  (2004,  51.02)  ***/TT

All the Time

Past Perfect Future Tense
No One Gets Me But U

Nothing Here to Hold You
A Friend Like Me
Little Angels
2CU Shine
You Donít Have to Change
Envelop Me
Never Sweeter

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Magne "Mags" Furuholmen is A-Ha's keyboard player/guitarist and co-writer of several of their major hits. After the band reconvened at the end of the '90s, solo albums started appearing, Furuholmen waiting until 2004 to release Past Perfect Future Tense as the international market-friendly Magne F. It's an inoffensive album of acoustic guitar/piano/strings-based pop, likely to appeal to grown-up A-Ha fans, which means, unsurprisingly, that it probably isn't going to do much for your typical Planet Mellotron reader.

Furuholmen plays Mellotron throughout, almost certainly the parent band's MkVI, with strings on Obsolete, All The Time and Kryptonite and flutes (though real strings) on No One Gets Me But U, although all the other strings are real. So; acceptable (if slightly dull) mainstream stuff with a few decent Mellotron tracks. Going by Furuholmen's frankly bizarre website (actually worth a look, on oddness grounds), he's a fan of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, which I shall honour by saying: mostly harmless.

Utterly incomprehensible official site

See: A-Ha | Morten Harket

FFH  (US)  see: Samples etc.

FFS  (UK/US)  see: Samples etc.


FIR, 'Summer Wasn't There' 7"  (2016)  ***½/½

Summer Wasn't There

Winter Doesn't Care

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

FIR seem to be, chiefly, Beachwood Sparks' Brent Rademaker and The Rain Parade's Matt Piucci, aided and abetted by members of The Allah-Las and others. Their debut single, 2016's Summer Wasn't There b/w Winter Doesn't Care, is exactly the kind of summery, West Coast pop you'd expect; even the 'wintry' flip still sounds kind of summery.

Rob Campanella plays Mellotron, although you'll struggle to work out where: I reckon there's some fainter-than-faint strings on the 'A', but I could be wrong. Hardly a reason to hear this excellent single, anyway.

See: Beachwood Sparks | Allah-Las

FKA Twigs  (UK)  see: Samples etc.

FM  (Canada)

FM, 'City of Fear'

City of Fear  (1980,  42.56)  *****/TT


Truth or Consequences
Lost and Found
City of Fear
Surface to Air
Up to You
Riding the Thunder
Nobody at All

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

FM fit quite neatly into the category of 'Canadian progressive bands using synths'; not a very snappy description, admittedly. 'CPBUS', anyone? There must have been something in the water there in the late '70s, though; FM, Saga, Rush and to an extent, Max Webster all have elements in common and it has to be said that Rush were by no means the first to utilise this style. That honour definitely goes to this lot; FM (not to be confused with the awful '80s UK AOR band) had their 'power trio with synths' thing down pat by '77. The oddest thing about them, though, was their 'no guitars' ruling; they had two different electric violin/mandolin players at different points in their career. Er, they managed to find two?!

Anyway; purists moan that by their fourth album, City of Fear, FM had moved well away from the 'progressiveness' of Black Noise (****) from a couple of years earlier and I suppose it's fair to say that the songs were shorter and more straightforward, but this is one of those bands who give the lie to the general ruling that this leads to Satan. In my humble opinion, City of Fear is the band's best album; concise but inventive song structures, immaculately arranged parts and above all, great songs. The title track is probably the album's best, but opener Krakow runs it a close second, with the added bonus of much Mellotron, provided by Synergy mainman, producer Larry Fast, although played by band all-rounder Cameron Hawkins. Haunting strings underpin a solo vocal in the verses, then ride over Ben Mink's 'mandolin through a Marshall' bridge sections. Second track in, Power, uses it too, but to rather lesser effect. No more Mellotron to be heard on the album, but there's nary a duffer on display here; even closing ballad Nothing At All has a certain charm and Silence and the storming Riding The Thunder are pretty essential.

De Fabriek  (Netherlands)

De Fabriek, 'Labish Intermediaries'

Labish Intermediaries  (1989,  53.03)  ***½/T½

Prince Farm's Balance Buddha
Subadai's Sun Beam Sally
Angkor's Balance Buddha
Nirvana's Polytelis Magic Typhoon

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

De Fabriek (The Factory) are more often known as 'post-industrial' or somesuch, so their fifth or so album, Labish Intermediaries, must have come as something of a surprise to their audience. It fits fairly neatly into the much-maligned 'EM' category, sounding more like atonal German electronic music than anything more in-your-face. It has its rhythmic parts, admittedly, chiefly on Angkor's Balance Buddha, but the bulk of the album drifts along in a haze of hisses, clanks and low groans. OK, maybe it is industrial.

I was absolutely convinced this was going to be Mellotron-free, until the choirs on Angkor's Balance Buddha made me sit up and take notice. It turns out they're played by Mekanik Kommando/The Use of Ashes' Peter van Vliet, who seems to be one of a handful of musicians (relatively speaking) who nursed an M400 through the '80s. The strings on the same track could be Mellotron or generic samples, but those are quite definitely Mellotron strings in side-long closer Nirvana's Polytelis Magic Typhoon, after the choirs and the generic strings, just for comparison.

See: The Use of Ashes

Fabulous Five Incorporated  (Jamaica)

Fabulous Five Incorporated, 'F F One'

F F One  (1975,  41.22)  ***/TTT½

Sweet P
Smile Me a Rainbow

Feel the Spirit
Please Don't Leave Me Now Baby
Jah Jah
Where Do I Find it
Be a Man
Wish I Could Read Your Mind
Oh Lord Why Lord
Classical Reggae
Shaving Cream

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The Fabulous Five Incorporated (Fabulous 5, Fab 5 or any variant thereof) are, as far as I can work out, unusual on the Jamaican scene for being a cohesive unit, rather than 'frontman plus backing band'. It's difficult to say for sure, given their multiple name variants, but 1975's F F One might be their second album, not so much reggae as a general Caribbean mix of post-calypso, Jamaican soul and yes, reggae, notable moments including the mad fuzz guitar on the Booker T-esque Feel The Spirit, the squelchy synth on Jah Jah and the genuinely epic, hymnlike Oh Lord Why Lord.

Conroy Cooper plays Mellotron and lots of it, with major string parts on opener Sweet P, Smile Me A Rainbow, Please Don't Leave Me Now Baby, Wish I Could Read Your Mind and Oh Lord Why Lord (particularly upfront on the last-named) plus flutes on the amusing Classical Reggae. So; not really reggae, but difficult to categorise as anything else, with plenty of upfront Mellotron work, to the point where fanatics may wish to hear this for it alone.

Official site

Fabulous Rhinestones  (US)

Fabulous Rhinestones, 'Freewheelin''

Freewheelin'  (1973,  38.07)  **½/T

Down to the City
Go With Change
What Becomes of Your Life
Vicious Circle
Do it Like Ya' Mean it
Roots With You, Girl
Hurt Somebody

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Freewheelin' was The Fabulous Rhinestones' second of three albums, a typical early '70s soul/blues/jazz record, well-written, sung and played, yet utterly of its time and really not that interesting to anyone not into their particular musical niche, I think it's safe to say. Any better tracks? Probably Go With Change, Vicious Circle and instrumental, sax-led closer Whitecaps.

Marty Grebb plays Mellotron, with major string and flute parts on the balladic Roots With You, Girl, although the strings on Whitecaps are real. The Fabulous Rhinestones were perfectly competent, probably a major live draw in their area, but are really rather redundant, several decades on.

Piers Faccini  (UK)

Piers Faccini, 'Tearing Sky'

Tearing Sky  (2006,  57.57)  ***/T

Each Wave that Breaks
Sharpening Bone
At the Window of the World
If I
Days Like These
Fire in my Head
Come the Harvest
Midnight Rolling
Talk to Her
Uncover My Eyes
The Taste of Tears
The Road's Not Long
Sons and Daughters
Walk Over to You

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Piers Faccini's family left the UK when he was small, but everybody's got to have a nationality... His fourth album, 2006's Tearing Sky, is unusual in that its gentle, understated folky musings bored me for much of its length, then picked up towards the end, in a reversal of the usual 'started well then went downhill' scenario. I won't deny that the album's overlong, especially with so little musical variation, but material like Uncover My Eyes and closer Walk Over To You help to rescue it from ignominy.

Faccini plays what I believe is LA's Sonora Studios' MkII Mellotron, with background flutes on Midnight Rolling, before the advent of deranged flute and string parts towards the end of the track. Not a top Mellotron release, then, but an album that, with the judicious removal of its lesser material, could actually be halfway decent.

Official site

Faelwa  (Netherlands)  see: Samples etc.

Donald Fagen  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Fairechild  (US)

Fairechild, 'Fairechild'

Fairechild  (2005,  47.00)  ***/½

Hit and Run
Let Somebody in
These Days
The Way
Mellow in My Skin
Rock n Roll
Belong to Me
Even When She Walks
On Your Way
Last Dance

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Fairechild were the married duo of Elisa Randazzo and ex-Beachwood Spark Josh Schwartz, their eponymous debut (and sole release?) bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Buckingham/Nicks Fleetwood Mac, apparently earning them the sobriquet Fleetwood Sparks. Although large chunks of the record swish about the West Coast in a West Coast kind of way, Enemies is quite effective, as is the Neil Young guitar on Even When She Walks.

Although Mellow In My Skin starts with real strings, it's Schwartz' Mellotron ones that carry the track, sounding pretty damn' real, which makes a nice change.

Fairfield Parlour  (UK)

Fairfield Parlour, 'From Home to Home'

From Home to Home  (1970,  35.13/53.35)  ****½/TTTT

In My Box
By Your Bedside
(Onward) Soldier of the Flesh
I Will Always Feel the Same

Chalk on the Wall
The Glorious House of Arthur
Sunny Side Circus
Drummer Boy of Shiloh

[CD adds:
Bordeaux Rosé
Chalk on the Wall
Just Another Day
I am All the Animals
Song for You
Bordeaux Rosé (alternate)
Baby, Stay for Tonight

Other versions include:
Medieval Masquerade
Eye Witness
Let the World Wash in]
Fairfield Parlour, 'Bordeaux Rosé' 7"  (1970)  ****/T½

Bordeaux Rosé

Chalk on the Wall
Fairfield Parlour, 'Just Another Day' 7"  (1970,  6.59)  ***½/T

Just Another Day

I am All the Animals
Song for You

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Fairfield Parlour metamorphosed out of UK psych hopefuls Kaleidoscope, who in turn grew out of various West London-based beat groups in the mid-'60s. After inexplicably failing to become huge as Kaleidoscope, Fairfield Parlour went for a more folk/psych direction, Peter Daltrey (no relation)'s wonderful voice and intensely personal lyrics to the fore. They only released one album at the time, the excellent From Home to Home, recently reissued with a swathe of bonus tracks. Much of the album is quite upbeat, major-key stuff with a melancholic undercurrent, but its standout track is the minor-key Floyd-ish ...And Emily Brought Confetti (coincidence?!), which has more than a little of Julia Dream about it, a sad (true?) story about a lonely woman going to pieces at a wedding, worth the price of admission on its own, with some gorgeous Mellotron to boot.

From Home to Home can lay claim to being a minor Mellotron Classic, nine of its thirteen tracks suffused with Mark II, mostly strings, with the odd bit of flute thrown in for good measure, played by Daltrey and guitarist Eddy Pumer. I wouldn't say the bulk of it is 'classic' in the accepted sense, but the subtle, understated parts complement the material beautifully and there are a couple of great pitchbend moments that show just how well the instrument was integrated into the band's sound. Vertigo subsequently released two relevant singles, the gorgeous Bordeaux Rosé, complete with Mellotron strings and the four-track 7" Just Another Day, which features flutes and strings.

This really is a wonderful album, highly recommended to all fans of late-'60s British music, or indeed, anyone who wishes to hear great songs, excellently played, with lashings of Mellotron. A double album's-worth of material recorded a year later but never released, finally crept out as White-Faced Lady in 1991 and seems to be more of the same, but less so. The Mellotron was replaced by real strings and the songs sound as though less care was put into them, although I expect this is maligning a perfectly good album. I'm afraid it just doesn't match the insanely high standards set by From Home to Home. As you can see, there are a couple of extra Mellotron tracks on the expanded CD and that's the version you're most likely to find anyway. So; buy. Immediately. A minor classic.

See: Peter Daltrey & Asteroid No. 4

Fairport Convention  (UK)

Fairport Convention, 'Meet on the Ledge' 7"  (1968)  ****/0

Meet on the Ledge
Throwaway Street Puzzle

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Fairport Convention? I've known for years that they're supposed to've used a Mellotron on Meet On The Ledge b-side Throwaway Street Puzzle, but it's taken me until now to get round to hearing the original mix, as against the one on Richard Thompson's (Guitar, Vocal). The A-side is, of course, one of the band's iconic tracks, almost always used to close their annual Cropredy Festival to this day, but what of the flip? Well, it's a Thompson/Ashley Hutchings composition, clearly written in the style of the West Coast American songwriters the band favoured at the time, only, er, not quite as good. Not bad, but not exactly classic.

Rhythm guitarist Simon Nicol is credited with Mellotron, but if anyone else knows what he did with it (up to and including Simon himself), I'd love to know, as it's entirely inaudible, proving that the (Guitar, Vocal) version isn't actually that different to the original. While not indispensible, this is worth hearing for Fairport fans who think they've heard everything, but don't bother for the Mellotron. Really.

Official site

See: Richard Thompson | Judy Dyble

Fairy  (Japan)  see: Samples etc.

Faithful Breath  (Germany)

Faithful Breath, 'Fading Beauty'

Fading Beauty  (1973,  44.20)  ***½/T

Autumn Fantasia
  Fading Beauty

  Lingering Cold

Faithful Breath, 'Back on My Hill'

Back on My Hill  (1980, recorded 1978,  34.38/40.51)  ***½/TTT½

Back on My Hill
Keep Me Away
This is My Love Song
Stick in Your Eyes
Judgement Day

[CD adds:
Die Mörderbiene]
Faithful Breath, 'Die Mörderbiene' 7"  (1981)  ***½/T½

Die Mörderbiene

Keep Me Away

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Faithful Breath are better known as an '80s metal band, so some readers may be surprised to learn that they were operating as early as 1973, as a full-on prog outfit. To be perfectly honest, despite Fading Beauty's reissue on the US label The Laser's Edge and its 'lost classic' status, it's not actually that good, certainly in comparison to some of their lesser-known countrymen such as Epidaurus or Führs & Fröhling. The two lengthy tracks slightly outstay their welcome and are decidedly one-paced and overly simplistic, but then, I've heard an awful lot worse and the album makes perfectly pleasant background listening, unlike many I could name (but shan't). It does actually have a brooding, autumnal feel to it, particularly side one's Autumn Fantasia and is several steps up from some of the German 'prog by numbers' I've heard. Despite its being second in the list of Manfred von Buttlar's keys, there's practically no Mellotron to be heard on the album, with all the strings sounding like they're synthesized. I can hear a little choir on the title track and some background brass chords on Tharsis, but as for this being a 'Mellotron Classic'; forget it.

Back on My Hill is their second album (so what were they doing for the rest of the '70s?), released as late as 1980, but they released a metal album the following year as a keyboardless trio, causing some confusion. It turns out that this was recorded in the 1977/78 period, then held back for two years, after which the band disbanded then reformed as a metal outfit. The rather silly sleeve art puts it into 'dodgy metal' territory, but the music certainly doesn't, although its initial release on the dodgy Sky label is enough to make the experienced prog listener blanch slightly. The title track is a good, straightforward song with prog stylings, although the quality of the material drops a little after this. You can see that they were headed for more mainstream territory, with the lush ballad This Is My Love Song; even side-long epic Judgement Day has less variety than you might expect from this type of piece. Von Buttlar's Mellotron is perfectly audible this time round, with upfront strings on This Is My Love Song and Stick In Your Eyes and full-on Mellotron throughout most of Judgement Day. Garden of Delights' CD adds a 1981 single, the German-language Die Mörderbiene, a final prog blast from the band, six minutes long with a nice helping of Mellotron strings.

Marianne Faithfull  (UK)

Marianne Faithfull, 'Kissin' Time'

Kissin' Time  (2002,  44.29)  ***½/T½

Sex With Strangers
The Pleasure Song
Like Being Born
I'm on Fire
Wherever I Go
Song for Nico
Sliding Through Life on Charm
Love and Money
Nobody's Fault
Kissin' Time

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

I was under the impression that Marianne Faithfull was going through a career renaissance until I checked her discography and discovered that since the end of her drug-induced slump in the '70s, she's released albums fairly consistently for over twenty-five years. These days, Marianne looks like yer gran, if, that is, yer gran smokes sixty tabs and drinks two bottles of gin a day. She does? Bet she can't sing with the same intimacy, even if Marianne's voice is beginning to sound like an old lady's. Kissin' Time isn't, strictly speaking, her own album, as every track is co-written with various collaborators, including Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Dave Stewart (that's evil Dave Stewart from the godawful Eurythmics, as against good Dave Stewart from Egg and Hatfield & the North) and Jarvis Cocker from the sublime Pulp. The latter's Sliding Through Life On Charm is the album's best track, both musically and lyrically, although there aren't many low points, to be honest.

Jon Brion's Chamberlin can be heard on a couple of tracks, with strings on Sliding Through Life On Charm and Beck's Nobody's Fault, although, unsurprisingly, it'd be difficult to name it as one of the album's outstanding features. All in all, this is a surprisingly good album, eclectic, though not so much that her fans lose interest, with some impressive names on board. And Billy Corgan. So; forget it on the tape-replay front, but not a bad album. Not bad at all. Fuck-off ugly sleeve, though.

The Fall  (UK)

The Fall, 'New Facts Emerge'

New Facts Emerge  (2017,  48.19)  ***/T

Fol de Rol
Brillo de Facto
Victoria Train Station Massacre
New Facts Emerge
Couples vs Jobless Mid 30s
Second House Now
Gibbus Gibson
Nine Out of Ten

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I have a mental list of 'artists who are highly unlikely to ever appear on Planet Mellotron'. Manchester's The Fall are high on that list. In case you haven't encountered them, they convened in 1976, led by legendary maverick Mark E. Smith, just as punk was about to break, although that genre was vastly too narrow for his vision, such as it was. Can I describe them? Only with difficulty. Let's see what Wikipedia says: "...an abrasive, repetitive guitar-driven sound, tense bass and drum rhythms and Smith's caustic lyrics..." They might just be the ultimate cult band, fitting the old cliché 'love 'em or hate 'em' more than anyone else I can think of. Smith's approach might best be described as 'a Mancunian Captain Beefheart, but crazier', typical stunts including fucking about with musicians' amp settings on stage and firing band members for any or no reason.

2017's New Facts Emerge is their last album, Smith's not-especially-untimely-all-things-considered death the following year drawing their forty-year career to a close. I mean, Mark E. Smith was The Fall. He once, famously, said, "If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's The Fall". It's apparently far from their best work, but, going by what little I've heard of them in the past, it's not untypical in its gleeful refusal to conform to any norms whatsoever, probably even their own. After a brief intro, first track proper, Fol De Rol, is (unsurprisingly) about as far from the bucolic folk its title suggests, Couples Vs Jobless Mid 30s is eight minutes of musical patchwork, seemingly gaffa-taped together from various takes (The Fall go prog?), while closer Nine Out Of Ten is another eight minutes of solo, undistorted chordal guitar work, only mildly sullied by Smith's rantings, leaving Brillo De Facto and the title track, perhaps, as the closest this gets to 'normal'. Three stars? What else do I give something that I have no hope of understanding?

Smith: "We went to a studio in Castleford, Yorkshire. Itís a big, fuck-off heavy metal studio. I left them in there for a week or so." It turns out to be Chairworks, whose website tells us that they own (assuming they actually know what they have) a Swedish-built MkVI Mellotron. Bassist Dave Spurr plays wildly pitchbent, er, somethings (strings?) on Couples Vs Jobless Mid 30s, followed by near-random, woozy choir notes thrown in for bad measure, in a bravado display of 'making a Mellotron sound like anything but'. I'm sure Smith was delighted. In fact, had he not been, it wouldn't be on the album. A quick amusing Fall fact for you: my bandmate in Tytan, the legendary 'Big' Kevin Riddles (ex-Angel Witch, for fans of the era) crewed for the band in 1990, becoming temporary keyboard player during the Australian leg, after a typical Smith tantrum. Kev not only played their Japanese dates, but also their Reading Festival appearance, with YouTube footage to prove it.

Official site

Fallout Trust  (UK)  see: Samples etc.

Fallulah  (Denmark)  see: Samples etc.

Family  (UK)

The Family, 'Scene Through the Eye of a Lens' 7"  (1967)  ***½/TT

Scene Through the Eye of a Lens

Gypsy Woman

Family, 'Music in a Dolls House'

Music in a Dolls House  (1968,  37.14)  ****½/TT½

The Chase
Mellowing Grey
Never Like This
Me My Friend
Variation on a Theme of 'Hey Mr Policeman'
Old Songs New Songs
Variation on a Theme of 'The Breeze'
Hey Mr Policeman
See Through Windows
Variation on a Theme of 'Me My Friend'
Peace of Mind
The Breeze
3 x Time
Family, 'It's Only a Movie'

It's Only a Movie  (1973,  39.23)  ***/T

It's Only a Movie
Buffet Tea for Two
Boom Bang
Sweet Desiree
Check Out
Family, 'BBC Radio Volume 1'

BBC Radio Volume 1: 1968-69  (2004,  61.19)  ***½/T

See Through Windows
The Weaver's Answer
Second Generation Woman
Holding The Compass
The Procession
How Hi the Li
Love is a Sleeper
I Sing Em the Way I Feel
A Song for Me
Drowned in Wine
No Mule's Fool
The Cat and the Rat

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Family were formed in Leicester in the late '60s, led by charismatic frontman Roger 'electric goat' Chapman and guitarist Charlie Whitney; Chapman's voice is something of an acquired taste, but he's nothing if not distinctive... They're a bit of an oddity, being difficult to cram into any existing category, which was probably both their strength and their downfall. Psychedelic hard rock with violin? Warble-voiced balladry? Folk metal? Maybe 'post-psych' serves them best, although it's less of a description than an excuse for not being able to find one. Their first single, the punningly-titled Scene Through The Eye Of A Lens (credited to The Family), is a typical period piece, Mellotron played by Steve Winwood of Traffic; while not actually a classic, it's worth hearing, both sides available on See for Miles' Music in a Dolls House/Family Entertainment twofer.

Music in a Dolls House itself is something of a psych classic, incorporating many of the era's quirks while never forgetting that without a good song you're sunk, particular highlights being The Chase, Winter and Peace Of Mind. I'd recommend the album on these grounds alone, but a bonus is the Mellotron strings on several tracks, notably See Through Windows and Voyage, sometimes mixed in with bassist Ric Grech's violin, apparently played by producer Dave Mason, also of Traffic. It's also completely uncredited on the sleeve; in fact, there's no credit for keyboards at all, but the information's leaked out somehow.

Family carried on for some years, with multiple lineup changes, until calling it a day in 1973. Having not used a Mellotron since their debut, Family chose their last album, It's Only a Movie, with an almost completely different lineup, to use one again, this time played by keyboard man Tony Ashton. The album is probably too diverse for its own good, to be honest, being a sort of rock/blues/soul/country mix (!) which doesn't, in all honestly, especially appeal to this listener. Low-level Mellotron strings and (I think) oboe lead on the title track, but that appears to be it, so I wouldn't go out of your way, if I were you.

2004's BBC Radio Volume 1: 1968-69 does exactly what it says on the tin, making the contents of five sessions available, mostly from the legendary Top Gear. I'm not au fait with all of the original recordings, so comparisons are difficult, but the first three tracks, from a Saturday Club Session in September '68, consist of two from their debut and The Weaver's Answer from the forthcoming Family Entertainment. The second session here, from Top Gear from a mere two months later, is noticeably different in sound and feel, the band already moving away from the psychedelia of Music in a Dolls House into, well, however you describe the bulk of Family's music. Non-symphonic progressive? Even though this album covers a period of under a year, the range of styles covered is astonishing, making you wonder if anyone actually likes everything in the band's catalogue. Given that their Mellotron use encompasses their first and last recordings, it's hardly surprising that there's only one Mellotron track here, with an atmospheric string part on See Through Windows, closely mirroring the original.

So; whether or not you like Family probably depends on how open-minded you might be. Psych fans will lap their debut up, but then it all gets a bit weird and a degree of iconoclasm probably helps. I can heartily recommend Music in a Dolls House and just as heartily not recommend It's Only a Movie, but the mixed-bag of BBC Radio Volume 1 is another matter. If you have any interest in how psych became prog, not to mention several other styles, it's possibly a good introduction to the band's early music, but not worth it for its minimal Mellotron content.

Fan site

Family Cat  (UK)

Family Cat, 'Magic Happens'

Magic Happens  (1994,  50.21)  **½/0

Wonderful Excuse
Amazing Hangover
Move Over I'll Drive
Your Secrets Will Stay Mine
Airplane Gardens
Gone, So Long
Hamlet for Now
Springing the Atom
Blood Orange
Nowhere to Go But Down

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The Family Cat were a Plymouth-by-way-of-London indie band from the late '80s, who released three albums and rode, briefly, on the coattails of Britpop, before dissolving in the mid-'90s. 1994's Magic Happens was the last of these and is fairly easy to stick in the 'typical '90s indie' bracket; not really that '60s, making the 'Britpop' label rather redundant, in hindsight, but with more of a rock element than their immediate forbears, The Smiths. A lack of memorable material doesn't help their cause, but it's the album's dreary feel that really scuppers it.

Sean Slade (Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh) is credited with Mellotron on Your Secrets Will Stay Mine, but I have absolutely no idea what he's supposed to be doing with it; even the highish sustained notes in the song are clearly guitar. So; a rather dull album with nonexistent Mellotron. Next...

Famlende Forsøk  (Norway)

Famlende Forsøk, 'Ars Transmutatoria'

Ars Transmutatoria  (1990,  46.19)  ***/T

Belzebub i Amerika
Hassan i Sabbah
Etter Nansen
Kold Eksperimentering
Spang Virr
Dyret Fra Moskva
Hårdhendt Redigering
Exit Kanon
Famlende Forsøk, 'Return of Monster Attack'

Return of Monster Attack  (1996,  57.11)  ***/TT

Looking for Bob
Monster Attack
Freudian Slippers
Børre Svinger
Chtulhu Lives!
Music From the Black Lodge
Spider & the Octopus
Belzebub II
Bring Out What You Have to Give
The House
Til Sist
Famlende Forsøk, 'One Night I Had a Frightful Dream'

One Night I Had a Frightful Dream  (2002,  61.59)  ***½/T½

Supernatural Horror in Literature
The Dunwich Horror
The Call of Cthulhu
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
The Gardens of Yin
Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
The Festival
Al Azif
The Ancient Track
At the Mountains of Madness

A Gentleman From Providence

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Famlende Forsøk are a sort of sister band to The Smell of Incense, although they've been going for far longer, so maybe that should be the other way round. 1990's Ars Transmutatoria is a challenging, dissonant work, some of it barely 'music' in the usually accepted sense of the word, which isn't to denigrate it in any way. Distant, echoing voices, assorted clangs and bongs (not that kind. OK, maybe that kind) and near-tuneless keyboard and guitar parts combine to make an album quite unlike anything else I've heard. I don't know which of the project's three members plays the Mellotron, though I'm guessing Chrisph (can you pronounce that?), with a repeating string pattern in Belzebub I Amerika, although the strings in Dyret Fra Moskva sound like generic samples, particularly on the low notes.

Six years on, Return of Monster Attack was only available on cassette until a 2002 CD edition, nearly as deranged as its predecessor, probably at its most listenable on opener Looking For Bob and least so on the nine-minute The House. A personage calling themselves 'Han Solo' (who also appears on the Smell of Incense releases) plays Mellotron, with upfront, in-yer-face flutes on Spider & The Octopus and uncredited chordal strings and cellos on Belzebub II and strings on closer Til Sist.

Their next non-compilation release was 2002's One Night I Had a Frightful Dream (subtitled 'A Tribute to H.P. Lovecraft'), gestated over a fourteen-year period (!). Lovecraft is an ever-present influence on the band and, unlike many 'tribute to...' albums, parts of this actually conjure up visions of the Master Of Macabre's work, particularly the haunting The Shadow Over Innsmouth, complete with recorded whale song and the grinding The Ancient Track. Believe me, this isn't an album to sing along to and not just because there are very few vocal tracks; this is dark, dissonant and a welcome change after reviewing piles of modern rock and neo-prog albums, thank you very much. Someone (Chrisph again?) tackles the Mellotron, although I don't think it's Mellotron strings underlying the synth on opener Supernatural Horror In Literature, but those are most definitely Mellotron flutes and cellos (plus strings) on The Ancient Track, with more strings on At The Mountains Of Madness. Music for scaring small children, then, with a bit of Mellotron. Buy them for a change of scenery.

See: The Smell of Incense

Fan Modine  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Thomas Fanger  (Germany)  see: Samples etc.

Merrell Fankhauser  (US)

Merrell Fankhauser, 'Message to the Universe'

Message to the Universe  (1986,  33.56)  **/½

Unexpected Journey
Alien Talk
Space Shuttle Mechanic
Jammin' at Johnnies
End of an Era
The Wind Cried Maui
Peace in the World
Mother Sea
Matthew's Dream

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Merrell Fankhauser's had a long and honourable career, starting as guitarist/songwriter for noted surfists The Impacts in the early '60s. He went on to form MU, a late-period psych sort of thing based in Hawaii, with some considerable agenda re. the existence or otherwise of Lemuria, the fabled continent that may or may not have existed where Hawaii now sits. He progressed to a solo career, but I'm afraid to say that I hope that his other albums are better than this one.

Message to the Universe is pretty ropey, to be honest; a sort of hippy-blues concoction with some bizarre alien visitation concept and a very silly sleeve. Laid-back without being particularly relaxing, it isn't helped by the fact that most of the drums, bass and keys are programmed (this was 1986, but no excuse). The music is too intrusive to be ignored (especially those godawful programmed drums), but neither the material, the arrangements nor the playing manage to excite. Worst of all, though, is the dearth of decent songs. Remember them? Mr. Fankhauser doesn't seem to...

Just to add insult to injury, the Mellotron strings on The Wind Cried Maui (ha ha), by his regular violinist Mary Lee have to be one of the worst examples I've heard. Badly arranged, played and recorded, the few audible chords add nothing to one of the album's better moments (and that probably only because it's an instrumental). The album's only real saving grace is some of the guitar work; Fankhauser's insipid vocals grate after a while and the weedy arrangements and dodgy mid-'80s sounds do little to inspire. Maybe I'm just not doing the right drugs.

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