album list
Tales From Yesterday
A Testimonial Dinner
Things Go Better With Coke
This is an Orange
Thousand Days of Yesterdays
Through a Faraway Window
Time & Love
Trampoline Records
Traveling Light
A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield
Viva Noel

We're a Happy Family
What the World Needs Now
7 Worlds Collide

Sweetheart 2005  see: Samples etc.

TF100  see: Samples etc.

Tales From the Edge  see: Samples etc.

Tales From Yesterday

'Tales From Yesterday'

Tales From Yesterday  (1995,  76.29)  ****/½

Robert Berry:
Stanley Snail:
  Siberian Khatru

Steve Morse
  Mood for a Day
  Don't Kill the Whale
Steve Howe & Annie Haslam:
  Turn of the Century
Shadow Gallery:
  Release, Release
World Trade:
  Wonderous Stories
  South Side of the Sky
Patrick Moraz:
Peter Banks:
  Astral Traveler
Steve Morse:
  The Clap
Jeronimo Road:
  Starship Trooper

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Tales From Yesterday was one of five 'tribute' albums released in the mid-'90s by US prog indie Magna Carta and, as far as I understand, is easily the best. A bit of background: Magna Carta appears to be heavily connected with one of the first bands to appear in the US prog resurgence, Magellan, who released the classic Hour of Restoration (*****) in 1991, although they've never managed to equal its impact on subsequent releases. All five tribute albums featured essentially the same pool of musicians, in or out of their respective bands, although quality varies wildly. I haven't heard the Jethro Tull album, To Cry You a Song, but the others are Supper's Ready (***½) (Genesis), the rather pointless The Moon Revisted (***) (Pink Floyd's Dark Side complete) and the dreadful Working Man (**) (Rush). The label don't seem to've learnt their lesson on the Rush front, with another dodgy-looking effort, Subdivisions, due any time.

However, unlikely though it may seem, Tales From Yesterday is really very good indeed. Now, you may not think that Yes would be the easiest band to reinterpret, but many of the bands (both established and one-offs) here have done exactly that, with aplomb. Robert Berry's Roundabout and Magellan's Don't Kill The Whale (in the style of 90125) are standouts, while Steve Howe has a good stab at a different take on Turn Of The Century (from Drama), along with Annie Haslam of Renaissance. There are a few 'why did they bother' tracks, with Enchant's carbon-copy of Changes and World Trade's not-far-off-it Wondrous Stories, but there isn't a single track here that actually offends me, which is praise indeed in the murky world of 'tribute' releases.

So, "Where's the Mellotron?", I hear you cry. Well, 'Stanley Snail' (a one-off including various members of Giraffe, who can be heard on Progfest '94, above) slightly rearrange Siberian Khatru, with a cheeky quote from Heart Of The Sunrise at the end. Looking closely at the credits discloses the information that a certain (and much-missed) Kevin Gilbert plays keys on the track. Gilbert was known as an analogue-keys man and, sure enough, the Mellotron flute'n'strings part from the song's quiet middle section is reproduced, possibly with a more adventurous string part added. That would appear to be it for the track and the album, but for the Yes fans out there, I can genuinely recommend this as that rarest of things, an excellent tribute album.

See: Yes | Kevin Gilbert

Tels Alain Bashung  see: Samples etc.

A Testimonial Dinner

'A Testimonial Dinner: The Songs of XTC'

A Testimonial Dinner: The Songs of XTC  (1995,  45.45)  ***½/T

Freedy Johnston:
  Earn Enough for Us
  Senses Working Overtime
Crash Test Dummies:
  All You Pretty Girls
The Verve Pipe:
  Wake Up
  Making Plans For Nigel
Sarah McLachlan:
  Dear God
Rubén Blades:
  The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul
P. Hux:
  Another Satellite
They Might Be Giants:
  25 o'Clock
Terry & the Lovemen:
  The Good Things
Joe Jackson:
  Statue of Liberty

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I'm not sure of the motivation behind A Testimonial Dinner: The Songs of XTC, released at the height of the band's 'strike' at Virgin; maybe to raise funds? Don't know. Anyway, it's a pretty good selection of takes on excerpts from their back catalogue, most barely indistinguishable from the originals, unfortunately. Plenty of well-known names, including The Crash Test Dummies, Joe Jackson, Sarah McLachlan and They Might Be Giants (who tackle XTC alter-egos The Dukes of Stratosphear's 25 O'Clock), plus lesser-known powerpop god P. Hux (a.k.a. Parthenon Huxley). And Terry & the Lovemen...? None other than XTC themselves (Andy Partridge's voice is unmistakeable), making the unusual step of appearing on their own tribute album with the excellent The Good Things, a track I can't trace anywhere else in their discography. About the only track to take serious liberties with the originals' arrangement is Rubén Blades' jazzy take on The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul which, while not something I'll probably play too often, at least injects some originality into the proceedings.

Mellotron on just one track, with cellos on Sarah McLachlan's take on Dear God from Dave Kershaw, also included on McLachlan's Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff, although it's not the most overt use you'll ever hear. All in all, then, a decent tribute album, despite (because of?) not messing too much with the originals. Largely slightly pointless, but a pleasant listen anyway.

See: XTC | The Dukes of Stratosphear | Sarah McLachlan

Things Go Better With Coke

'Things Go Better With Coke'

Things Go Better With Coke: Sixties Coca-Cola Commercials, 1965-69  (1996,  72.10)  **½/½

The Seekers #1
The Seekers #2
Fontella Bass
Tom Jones #1
Tm Jones#2
Petula Clark #1
Jay & the Americans
Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders
Jan & Dean
Freddie Cannon
Gary Lewis & the Playboys #1
Gary Lewis & the Playboys #2
Petula Clark #2
Petula Clark #3
The Supremes #1
The Supremes #2
The Troggs
Lee Dorsey #1
Lee Dorsey #2
Lesley Gore
The Vogues
Roy Orbison
The Drifters
Ray Charles #1
Nancy Sinatra
Joe Tex
The Moody Blues #1
The Fortunes
Lulu #1
Lulu #2
The American Breed #1
The American Breed #2
Jay & the Techniques #1
Jay & the Techniques #2
The Box Tops #1
The Box Tops #2
The Bee Gees
The Tremeloes
Aretha Franklin #1
Aretha Franklin #2
Sandy Posey #1
Sandy Posey #2
Sandy Posey #3
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Marvin Gaye
Brooklyn Bridge
B.J. Thomas #1
B.J. Thomas #2
Carla Thomas
Jerry Butler
Carla Thomas & Jerry Butler
Vanilla Fudge #1
Vanilla Fudge #2
The Moody Blues #2
The Moody Blues #3

Ray Charles & Aretha Franklin #1
Ray Charles & Aretha Franklin #2
Ray Charles #2
Aretha Franklin #3
Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart #1
Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart #2
The 5th Dimension #1
The 5th Dimension #2
Gladys Knight & the Pips #1
Gladys Knight & the Pips #2

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

1996's Things Go Better With Coke: Sixties Coca-Cola Commercials, 1965-69 is pretty self-explanatory, although there seems to be some confusion over the exact contents of the official release, as various bootlegs exist, some of a similar length with partially different contents, some claiming to be 'complete'. Whichever version you hear, they're all a tribute to rampant commercialism and artistic sellout to a notoriously unhealthy and vigorously-promoted product, although I doubt if any of the artists concerned saw their connivance in that light. On the offchance that you've never heard any of Coke's '60s ads, they mostly involve the artist concerned singing a rewrite of their current hit, mostly containing a variant on the line 'things go better with Coca-Cola', catchy enough that impressionable adolescents (and younger) would quickly associate chirpy, singalong melodies with a soft drink so acidic that it can reputedly be used as a rust remover. Hey, that's capitalism, folks...

This collection, maybe surprisingly, contains a good few contributions from British bands, including Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, The Troggs, Tom Jones and The Moody Blues. Of course, only the last-named particularly interest us here, with two of their three contributions containing Mellotron string (and brass, on the latter) parts; I'm ashamed to say that I can't spot exactly which of their songs have been rewritten for these jingles, but you're probably not going to buy this for them alone unless you're a Moodies fanatic who has to have EVERYTHING. So; a vaguely interesting curio, but not something I could see many people listening to more than once.

See: Moody Blues

This is an Orange

'This is an Orange'

This is an Orange: A Compilation of Scandinavian Progressive Rock  (1995,  66.37)  ***½/TT

Crome Yellow:
  How to Make it
Ab Intra:
Crack of Ice:
  Dusty Highway
  Shadow of My Mind
  The Maiden

  Blackest Cat in Town (live '78)
  Fanfare ('80)
Orchid Garden:
  Cirkus (live)

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

This is an Orange is, as the saying goes, as rare as rocking-horse shit, or maybe a moment of Emersonian good taste. Anyway, you're simply not going to find this (or at least, an original), as for some bizarre reason, it was pressed in a limited edition of 250 copies, which sold out immediately, probably for the otherwise unavailable Anekdoten track, even if it is 'only' a live Crimson cover. It's actually a pretty good compilation, covering various bases, from the almost blues-rock of Crack of Ice's Dusty Highway and intelligent hard rock of Winterland's Shadow Of My Mind through to the more familiar strains of the understated but really rather good Fruitcake, the overrated Manticore and, of course, Anekdoten. Fruitcake's contribution is the only track (I believe) that is otherwise available and a couple (the slightly dull Villblomst and the surprisingly good Folque) date from, respectively, 1978 and 1980.

As for the album's Mellotron content, the Manticore track, The Maiden, is different from the album version with extra added Mellotron, while Orchid Garden's Moonchild (another Crimson cover!) has a choir intro and flutes throughout, played by future White Willow man Jan Tariq Rahman. Finally, Anekdoten's fabled take on Cirkus is taken from a gig in Oslo, January '94, when they played no fewer than three actual Crimson numbers, plus their version of Holst's Mars, in the days before they had enough of their own material to fill an entire set. It's a rockin' version, utilising their MkV Mellotron well, doubling up strings and brass on the 'chorus', as on the original.

So; if you can find someone to copy this for you (as I did), it's worth hearing, with several otherwise unavailable worthwhile tracks on board, two of which are also worth it on the Mellotron front.

See: Manticore | Anekdoten

This is the Town  see: Samples etc.

Thousand Days of Yesterdays

'Thousand Days of Yesterdays: A Tribute to Captain Beyond'

Thousand Days of Yesterdays: A Tribute to Captain Beyond  (1999,  63.53)  ****/T½

  Dancing Madly Backwards (on a Sea of Air)
Rise & Shine:
  Myopic Void

Lotus with Brian Robertson:
  Mesmerization Eclipse
The Flower Kings:
  Raging River of Fear
The Quill:
  Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Intro)
The Quill:
  Frozen Over
Five Fifteen with Nik Turner:
  Thousand Days of Yesterdays
  (Time Since Come and Gone)

Locomotive Breath:
  I Can't Feel Nothing (Part I)

  As the Moon Speaks (to the Waves of the Sea)
  Astral Lady
  As the Moon Speaks (Return)

Locomotive Breath:
  I Can't Feel Nothing (Part II)
Orchid Leaves:
  Starglow Energy
ZoomlenZ with Willie Daffern:
  Sweet Dreams
  Dansar Galet Bakåt
Abramis Brama:
  Förtrollande Förmörkelse

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

You know you're a British rock fan when you've never heard Captain Beyond... Legendary in their home country, the US outfit actually featured a Brit, embittered ex-Deep Purple vocalist Rod Evans, despite his cabaret-esque singing style (the reason he was replaced by the far more suitable Ian Gillan). Their albums have never sold in particularly appreciable quantities, sadly, although fans tend to be, well, fanatical regarding their achievements. What did they sound like? Progressive psychedelic hard rock, actually, making it all the more bemusing that I haven't properly discovered the delights of their limited catalogue before.

In 1999, Swedish prog/psych label Record Heaven compiled and released Thousand Days of Yesterdays: A Tribute to Captain Beyond, essentially a re-run of the band's eponymous debut album, albeit in extended form, sticking one track each from their second and third albums on the end as bonuses, plus Swedish versions of two first album tracks for good measure. Without having the original album for comparison, I have to assume that most of the versions here are jammed-out takes on the originals; they're certainly mostly a good deal longer, anyway. Frankly, there isn't a bad track here, although the quality of the source material helps greatly, of course. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this could be seen as a primer for the band's work for fans of current prog; a rarity in the murky waters of the tribute album scene.

Standarte's Michele Profeti adds Mellotron flute and choir parts to Myopic Void to good effect, while Locomotive Breath's I Can't Feel Nothing (Part I) features an uncredited major choir part that doesn't sound sampled, particularly in those late '90s days of really shitty samples. This is a great album, although I'm sure fans will tell you how much greater the originals are. Next task: buy the first two Captain Beyond albums. [n.b. Done]

See: Standarte

Through a Faraway Window

'Through a Faraway Window: A Tribute to Jimmy Silva'

Through a Faraway Window: A Tribute to Jimmy Silva  (2010,  79.20)  ***½/½

Jimmy Silva:
  Intro/Carnival Barker
Dennis Diken with Jim Babjak:
  Waking Up
Sal Valentino:
  All the Places
Young Fresh Fellows:
  Kate of the Human Race
The Flywheels:
  I've Got Time
The Minus 5:
  People Standing in a Line
John Wesley Harding:
  Christmas is Holy
Jimmy Silva:
  Spontaneous Entertainment
Roy Loney:
  Big House
Christy McWilson:
  Man of the Cloth
Chris Eckman:
  Doesn't Matter at All
Bill Rivers Trio:
  I'll Never Go to Sea Again
Jim Hrabetin:
  Love of Land
Jon Auer:
  City of Sisterly Love
The Minus 5:
  St. Catherine's Statue

Jimmy Silva:
  We Want the Empty Set
Young Fresh Fellows:
  Fair Exchange
The Goats:
  Train Crossing
John Wesley Harding:
  Need I Know
The Flywheels:
  May the 2nd
Jimmy Silva:
  Robot Men
Freddie Steady KRC:
  Tin Whistle and a Wooden Drum
Chris Eckman:
  Through a Faraway Window
The Jigsaw Seen:
  The Branch
Joey Kline:
  Tell it to the Raven
Jimmy Silva:
  For the Masses
Sal Valentino:
  Grease the Wheel
Eddy Irvine:
  A Fine and Private Place
Jimmy Silva & The Smithereens:
  Jim Silva Ad

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Jimmy Silva died in 1994, aged all of forty-two, leaving a relatively small legacy of songs recorded with his band, The Empty Set, firmly in the powerpop tradition. Through a Faraway Window: A Tribute to Jimmy Silva is a loving tribute to his memory, featuring several major names from the powerpop field, not least The Minus 5, The Young Fresh Fellows and The Smithereens. The set's at its best on the likes of John Wesley Harding's Christmas Is Holy, Jim Hrabetin's Love Of Land and The Young Fresh Fellows' Fair Exchange, but little here should disappoint genre fans, not least the snippets of Silva himself inserted here and there and the truly deranged Jim Silva Ad that rounds the set off.

Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5, The Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M. associate) plays Mellotron strings and flutes on The Minus 5's St. Catherine's Statue, although the Mellotronic vibes on The Jigsaw Seen's The Branch presumably aren't. Real? I was under the impression that McCaughey owned an M400, also having access to Wilco's rare MkVII, although, if I'm being honest, I've heard more upfront use. Good album, then, essential for powerpop enthusiasts, less so for Mellotron ones.

See: The Minus 5

Time & Love

'Time & Love: The Music of Laura Nyro'

Time & Love: The Music of Laura Nyro  (1997,  59.19)  ***/T

Phoebe Snow:
  Time and Love
Jill Sobule:
  Stoned Soul Picnic
Suzanne Vega:
  Buy and Sell

Rosanne Cash:
  Save the Country
Jane Siberry:
  When I Think of Laura Nyro
Beth Nielsen Chapman:
  Stoney End
Lisa Germano:
  Eli's Comin'
The Roches:
  Wedding Bell Blues
Sweet Honey in the Rock:
  And When I Die
Patty Larkin:
  Poverty Train
Jonatha Brooke:
  He's a Runner
Holly Cole:
  Sweet Blindness
Leni Stern:
  Upstairs By a Chinese Lamp
Dana Bryant:
  Woman's Blues

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

To my shame, I've never listened to Laura Nyro; then again, I haven't really listened to most of her generation of American singer-songwriters, with a couple of honourable exceptions. As a result, it's hard to say whether or not 1997's Time & Love: The Music of Laura Nyro is a good introduction to her catalogue. Highlights include Lisa Germano's Eli's Comin', Sweet Honey in the Rock's gospel a capella And When I Die, Patty Larkin's Poverty Train and Holly Cole's jammed-out Sweet Blindness, although Dana Bryant's brave hip-hop-influenced take on Woman's Blues that closes the set may not be the best way to hear this music.

Mitchell Froom plays Chamberlin on his then-wife, Suzanne Vega's Buy And Sell, with vibes and muted brass, followed by cellos and distant... somethings. Chambys, eh? As single-artist tribute albums go, this is one of the better efforts you'll hear, more consistent than most, with one decent tape-replay track.

See: Suzanne Vega

To Canterbury & Beyond  see: Samples etc.

Top 25 Heart Seekers  see: Samples etc.

Trampoline Records

'Trampoline Records Greatest Hits, Vol. 1'

Trampoline Records Greatest Hits, Vol. 1  (2002,  62.38)  ***/TT

Peter Himmelman:
  So Many Little Lies
The Minus 5:
  Girl I Never Met
  Only in My Dreams

Gary Jules:
Peter Droge:
  All Lit Up
Phil Cody:
  We Could've Had it All
Jukebox Junkies:
  Sentimental Tattoo
Evan Frankfort:
  Nothing New

Pete Yorn:
  Hunter Green
  Who Cares
Jeff Trott:
  No Substitute
Ethan Johns:
  Trading Mistakes
Rusty Truck with Jakob Dylan:
  Never Going Back

The Hangups:
  Where Were You Last Night
Xander Sky:
  I Want to Be a Man

Happily Ever After:
  Little Silver Car
Sake Sushi Orchestra:
  I Agree With Mr. Scorcese

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

Trampoline Records are Pete Yorn's label, apparently specialising in a Yorn-like pop/rock singer-songwriter sensibility, so it's no great surprise that pretty much every track on Trampoline Records Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, some exclusive to this release, conforms to that dynamic. It's at its best on Peter Himmelman's opener, So Many Little Lies, The Minus 5's Girl I Never Met (from their cheekily-titled In Rock) and Jukebox Junkies' Sentimental Tattoo (from Choose Your Fix), but nothing here really offends. Sadly, nor does anything here make the heart skip a beat; all very pleasant, but a little too inoffensive for its own good.

Rami Jaffee (Wallflowers, a million others) plays Mellotron and Chamberlin, with Chamby (?) strings on Mavis' Only In My Dreams, Chamby (?) cellos on Phil Cody's We Could've Had It All (from Big Slow Mover), Minibar's Unstoppable (from Fly Below the Radar) and Melodine's Evan Frankfort's Nothing New, Mellotron strings on Rusty Truck/Jakob Dylan's Never Going Back (from Broken Promises, a.k.a. Luck's Changing Lanes) and Mellotron (?) flutes on Xander Sky's I Want To Be A Man. Although Jaffee's subsequently gone over to the dark side (sampled Mellotron in-joke there, folks), I believe he was still using the Real Deal at this point. Decent enough, then, if rather unexciting.

See: Phil Cody | Minibar | Rusty Truck

Transformers Roll Out  see: Samples etc.

Traveling Light

'Traveling Light: Songs From the 23rd Psalm'

Traveling Light: Songs From the 23rd Psalm  (2002,  43.38)  **/½

John Hanson & Sarah Groves:
  Traveling Light
Amy Grant:
  Gentle Shepherd
Bryan White:
  I Shall Not Want
Jaci Velasquez:
  In Green Pastures
Mac Powell:
  Mountain of God
Christine Glass Byrd & Marc Byrd:
  I Will Not Fear
Fleming & John:
  Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us
Russ Taff & Jenna Lucado:
  Let it Flow

  Following Me
Derri Daughtery & Ellie Bannister:
  Rest in Me

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

I presume Traveling Light: Songs From the 23rd Psalm does what it says on the tin, as I have no intention of tracking down the text of said psalm and comparing it to the lyrics. Suffice to say, there are no 'best tracks', although the worst is possibly In Green Pastures, 'featuring' Jaci Velasquez' whispery voice.

John (Mark) Painter and Phil Madeira both play Mellotron, supposedly, although all I can hear is an occasional cello part on Russ Taff and Jenna Lucado's Let It Flow. Big fail, on both musical and Mellotronic fronts.

Treasure Island  see: Samples etc.

A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield

'A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield'

A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield  (1994,  75.34)  **/½

Gladys Knight:
  Choice of Colors
Steve Winwood:
  It's All Right!
Repercussions & Curtis Mayfield:
  Let's Do it Again
Lenny Kravitz:
  Billy Jack

Whitney Houston:
  Look Into Your Heart
Bruce Springsteen:
  Gypsy Woman
Eric Clapton:
  You Must Believe Me
Isley Brothers:
  I'm So Proud
Branford Marsalis & The Impressions:
  Fool for You
Tevin Campbell:
  Keep on Pushin'
Aretha Franklin:
  The Makings of You
B.B. King:
  Woman's Got Soul
Rod Stewart:
  People Get Ready
Narada Michael Walden:
  (Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go
Phil Collins:
  I've Been Trying
Stevie Wonder:
  I'm the One Who Loves You
Elton John & Sounds of Blackness:

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

There seem to be, essentially, two kinds of tribute albums:

1994's unimaginatively-titled A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield (shouldn't that be the subtitle to something like 'Darker Than Blue'? There - I've titled it myself, without even trying) falls into the latter camp, unsurprisingly, although it might've been an awful lot better had it fallen into the former. Of the seventeen artists involved, eleven are black soulsters/bluesmen, the rest being, to a man (and they're all men), multi-platinum selling, mostly British white singers, all of whom can be guaranteed to a) deliver an insipid version of a classic and b) sell copies, since this kind of tribute has nothing to do with such old-fashioned concepts as 'art' and everything to do with shifting 'units'.

As a result, the album's a drab, pointless, cynical marketing exercise, unworthy of Curtis Mayfield (then still alive, although severely disabled)'s considerable talent. Most of the versions here are pretty much straight re-readings, sometimes accompanied by vile '80s drum and synth sounds, just to add to the album's 'appeal'. There are actually two best tracks, in case you were wondering: Narada Michael Walden's funked-to-the-max (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below, We're All Going To Go and the incomparable B.B. King's Woman's Got Soul, which he delivers with his customary élan, although it's (sadly) followed by one of the worst, as Rod Stewart mauls People Get Ready to a messy and untimely death. Phil Collins' dreadful I've Been Trying (could've fooled me) defies description, so I won't even try.

Just the one Mellotron track, from Lenny Kravitz, then at the nearest he got to a Mellotronic height, with some rather tepid strings from Henry Hirsch on an overly-'soulful' and overlong version of Billy Jack. All in all, then, unless you're a Mayfield enthusiast, you really don't need to track this one down. If you want to hear the songs, buy a Curtis compilation.

See: Lenny Kravitz

Værsgo 2  see: Samples etc.

Viva Noel

'Viva Noel: A Q Division Christmas'

Viva Noel: A Q Division Christmas  (1999,  44.20)  ***/TT½

Jen Trynin:
  The Christmas Song
  Someday at Christmas

Sex Foxes:
  Let it Snow
Merrie Amsterburg:
  2000 Miles
The Gentlemen:
  Blue Christmas
Brian Stevens:
  Christmas Waltz
The Sheila Divine:
  O Holy Night
Señor Happy:
  Christmas Time is Here
Aimee Mann:
  The Christmas Song

The Gravel Pit:
  Marshmallow World
Jules Verdone:
  Little Christmas
Brian Charles:
  Silver Bells

The Fly Seville:
  Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
The Sterlings:
  Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me
The Gravy:
  Mele Kalikimaka

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

Q Division are a Boston-based studio and label, who compiled and released a Christmas album in 1999, Viva Noel: A Q Division Christmas. The end result is a slightly mixed bag, like so many various artists albums, veering between the powerpop of Stepladder's Someday At Christmas through the heartfelt piano balladry of Merrie Amsterburg's 2000 Miles and Señor Happy's Christmas Time Is Here to jazzy material such as The Sterlings' Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me and The Gravy's closing Mele Kalikimaka. Highlights? The Sheila Divine's O Holy Night works particularly well, while almost anything by Aimee Mann's a winner, including The Christmas Song, later re-recorded for her One More Drifter in the Snow a few years later.

I don't know who's on which track, but Peter Linnane plays Mellotron, while Colin Rhinesmith and Mike Denneen play Chamberlin, presumably Q Division Studios' newly-refurbished MkII & Chamby MusicMaster 600. We get background Mellotron (?) strings on Someday At Christmas, Chamby solo male voice on The Gentlemen's Blue Christmas, Chamby (?) strings and a flute solo on The Christmas Song and Mellotron strings on Brian Charles' Silver Bells, although I don't think the mambo-esque rhythm track on Mele Kalikimaka is Chamby. Worth hearing? Music: possibly. Tape-replay: more possibly.

See: The Gentlemen | Aimee Mann

We're a Happy Family

'We're a Happy Family'

We're a Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones  (2003,  48.37)  ***/T

Red Hot Chili Peppers:
  Havana Affair
Rob Zombie:
  Blitzkrieg Bop
Eddie Vedder, Zeke:
  I Believe in Miracles
  53rd & 3rd
  Beat On The Brat
  Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio
Marilyn Manson:
  The KKK Took My Baby Away

  I Just Wanna Have Something to Do
Green Day:
The Pretenders:
  Something to Believe in
  Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
Pete Yorn:
  I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
The Offspring:
  I Wanna Be Sedated
  Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Tom Waits:
  Return of Jackie & Judy
Eddie Vedder, Zeke:
  Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)
John Frusciante:
  Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

We're a Happy Family was pieced together by the inimitable Rob Zombie and Johnny Ramone, not so long before the latter joined his erstwhile ex-colleagues Joey and Dee Dee in the hereafter (bet they're all having fun there...). Like pretty much all multi-artist tributes, it's the proverbial curate's egg, being a mixture of pointlessly faithful copies (The Offspring, the risible Green Day), no-hoper attempts at reworking the material to fit the artist's style (The Pretenders, Garbage) and the occasional gem, where it all comes together to produce a genuinely new take on a familiar piece of music. I never thought I'd hear myself say it, bus Kiss' joyous brass-driven take on Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio is a highlight (no, really), as are Pete Yorn's (admittedly slightly predictably) melodic, Byrdsian take on I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend and, of course, Tom Waits' bonkers Return Of Jackie & Judy.

As for the Mellotron (who'd a' thunk it, on a Ramones tribute?), it had to come from Marilyn Manson really, didn't it? He turns The KKK Took My Baby Away into a bizarre industrial dirge with shrieky Mellotron strings from his then-current bassist, Tim Skold, swelling up nicely near the end of the song, which isn't to say the track's actually any good, sadly. In fairness, the bulk of the album's (mostly) not actually painful, although much of it passes by without really impinging itself on your consciousness (Metallica? the Chilis? U2, for fuck's sake?).

So; stick to the first three classic Brudders albums and a compilation of the best bits from the rest of their career (I have) and give this rather pointless effort a miss, although there are a handful of tracks actually worth hearing. One thing I can say about it is that everyone involved sounds like they mean it (even U2), which makes a nice change. Maybe everyone really does love the Ramones? Let's hope so.

See: Marilyn Manson

What the World Needs Now

'What the World Needs Now'

What the World Needs Now...: Big Deal Recording Artists Perform the Songs
of Burt Bacharach  (1998,  46.01)  ***½/T

Shonen Knife:
  Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head
The Absolute Zeros:
  (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me
  I'll Never Fall in Love Again
  Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Idle Grant Conspiracy:
  Make it Easy on Yourself

BMX Bandits:
  It Doesn't Matter Anymore
  Promise Her Anything
Michael Shelley:
  Baby it's You
Dan Kibler:
  Trains and Boats and Planes
Cockeyed Ghost:
  Walk on By
The Vandalias:
  Wishin' and Hopin'
Barely Pink:
  It's Love That Really Counts
Hannah Cranna:
  (They Long to Be) Close to You
Mitchell Rasor:
  I Say a Little Prayer

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Love them or loathe them, to deny the quality of Burt Bacharach's songs is to be wilfully ignorant, whatever your personal tastes. What the World Needs Now...: Big Deal Recording Artists Perform the Songs of Burt Bacharach does precisely that, although the 'big deal' is the label, rather than a description. Highlights include Splitsville's I'll Never Fall In Love Again (from The Complete Pet Soul), which throws in the refrain from The Buggles's Video Killed The Radio Star, for some reason, Dan Kibler's Trains And Boats And Planes and Cockeyed Ghost's Walk On By, although the definitive rock reading of the last-named remains The Stranglers' iconic 1978 version.

Pete Weiss (John Huss Moderate Combo) plays a Mellotron flute line and chordal strings on The Idle Grant Conspiracy's (an Idles/Willard Grant Conspiracy collaboration) deliberately cheesy take on Make It Easy On Yourself. While ridiculous, this is fun, with a song selection to die for - all assuming, of course, that you're keen on cheese.

See: Willard Grant Conspiracy

Working Class Hero  see: Samples etc.

Zarathustra's Revenge  see: Samples etc.

7 Worlds Collide

'7 Worlds Collide: The Sun Came Out'

7 Worlds Collide: The Sun Came Out  [Disc 1]  (2009,  49.37)  ***/½

Johnny Marr, Neil Finn:
  Too Blue
Jeff Tweedy:
  You Never Know
Sharon Finn, Neil Finn:
  Little By Little

Neil Finn, Liam Finn:
  Learn to Crawl
KT Tunstall, Bic Runga:
  Black Silk Ribbon
Don McGlashan:
  Girl, Make Your Own Mind Up
Johnny Marr:
  Run In The Dust
Liam Finn:
  Red Wine Bottle
Phil Selway:
  The Ties That Bind Us
Lisa Germano:
Ed O'Brien, Neil Finn:
  Bodhisattva Blues
Jeff Tweedy:
  What Could Have Been

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Chamberlin used:

2009's 7 Worlds Collide: The Sun Came Out is technically credited to 'Neil Finn & Friends', although this seems to obvious place for it. It's actually Finn's second album under the 7 Worlds banner, following 2001's live 7 Worlds Collide, both charity efforts, all concerned donating their efforts for Oxfam. Available in one- and two-disc editions, the expanded version's obviously the way to go for Finnophiles.

As you can see, collaborators include Johnny Marr, members of Wilco and Radiohead, KT Tunstall and Lisa Germano, not to mention several Finns. Nepotism? I think Neil's allowed to bring his family in, especially as they all seem to be so obscenely talented. Unsurprisingly, the album's a bit hit-and-miss, better tracks including Finn and wife Sharon's duet on the Crowded House-alike Little By Little, Finn's All Comedians Suffer and son Elroy's eerie The Cobbler, although nothing here sounds out of place, or like it should've been quietly put to one side.

Finn (relatively) senior plays Chamberlin (and Jupiter 8) on Little By Little, although I'll be buggered if I can hear what he's doing with it. Steel guitar? Anyway, an utterly minimal tape-replay presence isn't a good reason to buy this, although some of the music may well be, not to mention that a proportion of the set's cover price goes to Oxfam.

Official site

See: Neil Finn | Crowded House

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