Highlighting in album tracklistings denotes 'contains Mellotron'. On 'multi-part' tracks I've tried to indicate which parts contain 'Tron, although this isn't always possible.
The * rating (½-5) is my personal, entirely subjective and completely partisan rating of the music.
The 'T' ('Tron, of course...) rating (0-5) is an only slightly more objective indicator of an album's Mellotronness.
By the way, if you know of any Mellotron albums that aren't listed here, please look at my albums page first! Thanks.
Earth & Fire
Eddie Boy Band
E Motive (1998, 67.42) ****/T
|Waking in Dreams
Love and Death
Improv: Laughing Jones Strokes
Improv: Big Daddy in the Big House
The Ones Two Grieve
A Gathering of Days
|Improv: When Grandfather Gets Flatulent, We Kick the Dog
"In the Wink of an Eye" excerpts:
Crime and Punishment
Reality is Mine
Improv: We Came for the Jam; We Stayed for the Explanation
First Movement Symphony #25 in G min
What appears to be American progressive outfit E Motive (ho ho)'s sole, self-titled album is a fascinating piece of work, covering a lot of ground in its hour-plus. In some ways, it could be said that the band had too many ideas, which could account for their apparent demise, I suppose, but it keeps E Motive fresh, which is more than I can say for an awful lot of modern prog albums. Actually, 'modern' isn't a word I'd necessarily use in relation to this band; there's nary a hint of neo-prog to their sound (hurrah!), influences being more along the lines of King Crimson or even Gentle Giant, although it's actually quite difficult to pin their sound down, which has to be in the album's favour. Stylistically, they veer between the pretty keyboard intro to The Ones Two Grieve to the abrasive guitar work of Schtzorythmia and across all points in between, and the four improv tracks are all at the very least interesting, falling into an area all-too infrequently covered in the prog field.
Zero 'Tron from keys man Frank McGlynn until track 8, A Gathering Of Days, with major string and flute parts on the track, but other than that, zilch, it seems. Was this a studio machine? Borrowed from a mate? Samples? It sounds real enough, especially in a ballad, but it's not always so easy to tell... So; if mildly challenging (I mean, have you HEARD Univers Zero?) prog with a '70s bent sounds like your bag, you could do a lot worse, although it's pretty spartan on the 'Tron front. Worth the effort, though shame about the cheapo sleeve.
Song of the Marching Children (1971, 33.49) ***½/TTT½
|Carnaval of the Animals
Storm and Thunder
In the Mountains
Song of the Marching Children
Theme of the Marching Children
Opening of the Seal
|7" (1972) ***½/TTTT
From the End Till the Beginning
Atlantis (1973, 33.40) ****/TTTT½
Prologue (Don't Know)
Rise and Fall (Under a Cloudy Sky)
Theme of Atlantis
The Threat (Suddenly)
Destruction (Rumbling From Inside the Earth)
Epilogue (Don't Know)
Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight
Theme From Atlantis
Love, Please Close the Door
To the World of the Future (1975, 41.11) ***½/TTTTTo the World of the Future
How Time Flies
The Last Seagull
Only Time Will Tell
Voice From Yonder
Love of Life
|7" (1976) ***/TT
Thanks for the Love
Excerpts From 'To the World of the Future' (or Only Time Will Tell)
Gate to Infinity (1977) ***/T
|Gate to Infinity
A Princess in Egypt
The Joyous Untruth
A Life-Time Before
Green Park Station
Earth and Fire were a fairly major pop outfit in the Netherlands in the '70s, so it's quite odd that they should also cross over into prog territory, but they certainly do, with side-long suites on three of these four albums. Their 'progressive pop' isn't going to appeal to everyone, but there are nice moments on most of the above albums, and they shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Jerney Kaagman's strident vocals are rather an acquired taste, to be honest; she's often compared to Rose Podwojny of their French contemporaries Sandrose, but to my ears that's a lazy comparison, as the bands really don't sound at all alike. Their debut, 1970's Earth & Fire (***), is a late-period psych-pop album really, and isn't wildly interesting, despite being a UK Vertigo label rarity. The CD is bolstered by a slew of non-LP singles, making it worth the effort for the collector, including a 7" pairing of 'Tron tracks unavailable elsewhere.
Earth and Fire found their own voice on their second album, Song of the Marching Children, defining a style later partially borrowed by fellow countrymen Kayak, although In The Mountains has more than a hint of Focus about it. I believe the band owned an M300, with its fairly distinctive sound, although it's not always easy to tell. Apart from the title suite, Storm And Thunder is the album's only 'Tron track, with strings a-plenty, plus what sounds like cellos towards the end. Song Of The Marching Children itself is a seven-part epic, opening with Gerard Koerts' organ, before 'Tron strings and brass burst in on part two, Opening Of The Seal, carrying on through Childhood. The strings cut back in on Damnation, which tries its level best to be doomy, but blows it completely with a jaunty little Mellotron oboe (?) part, before a reprise of the brass theme from earlier on heads everything back in the right direction. Purification's strings actually sound like a real string section, although there's none credited, but the 'Tron comes back in properly on The March, rounding the album off nicely.
Unusually for the times, Earth and Fire didn't release an album for two years, but filled the gap with various singles, including the 'Tron-heavy Memories/From The End Till The Beginning pairing. Memories starts with an ominous Mellotron string part, but quickly shifts into pop song mode, despite reprising the intro throughout the song, while From The End Till The Beginning is a slower, more reflective number, certainly not a b-side throwaway, with heaps of Mellotron brass, strings and flute. As mentioned above, you'll have to buy the German Repertoire issue of Earth & Fire to hear these, along with various other non-LP tracks.
Atlantis carries on in a similar vein to Song of the Marching Children, with the side-long title track opening this time. Their style is a decidedly uneasy marriage between two genres you wouldn't imagine would mix for a second, but somehow or other, they seem to make it work. Well, sometimes. There's plenty of Mellotron throughout Atlantis, and this time, it sounds more like an M300; maybe they used a Mark II on Song? Anyway, mostly strings, with that rather thin M300 sound to them (two violins instead of three), with the odd bit of cello thrown in, and maybe a touch of brass, although the flute is real. Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight is hilarious; an insanely cheesy, pure pop number with jaunty organ and the odd bit of strings somewhere in the mix. Interlude is practically all 'Tron (including flutes), and Fanfare is mainly brass, appropriately enough, with some 'stabbed' chords before a full brass section part halfway through, followed by a gorgeous upfront string part. Superb. Theme From Atlantis has more strings and brass, as does Love, Please Close The Door. Cheesy, but great 'Tron.
Earth and Fire must have been a busy bunch, as two-year gaps between their albums seem to be the norm, in defiance for '70s convention, so To the World of the Future didn't appear until '75, and is their one 'wall to wall' Mellotron album, although Atlantis runs it a very close second. Actually, minute for minute there's probably less 'Tron on this album, although it's on every track; the ten-minute synth-heavy opening title track has plenty of strings, though I suspect quite a bit of it's string synth, with more of the same on the balladic How Time Flies. Incidentally, To The World Of The Future rather unnerved me with a vocal melody almost identical to Chic's Le Freak, but several years earlier. Moving swiftly on, instrumental The Last Seagull has more of that brass, along with an excellent little 'Tron string melody, and is possibly the album's best track; it's certainly its least cheesy... Only Time Will Tell is another strings'n'brass 'Tron-fest, although Voice From Yonder's strings and funky Rhodes are a little inessential. More of those strings and brass on Love Of Life, and a string-heavy Circus to finish, complete with a vaguely, er, circusy feel to it. I keep hearing what sounds exactly like Mellotron strings, but stretching way over the 8-second limit, so I don't know if they used some sort of multitracking trick, or it's actually something else I'm hearing, but it sounds like 'Tron to me. It's all a bit lightweight, but more Mellotron than you can shake a stick at.
Non-LP single Thanks For The Love came out after the album, backed with Excerpts From 'To The World Of The Future', though I don't know if this was a straight edit, or different bits of the piece tacked together. Thanks For The Love starts well enough, with a high 'Tron string line, but clicks into funky-ish pop almost straight away, backed with more single-line 'Tron, although the brass on the chorus is obviously real. This is a bit of a clunker, to be honest, and hardly a 'Tron classic either, although if you really feel the need to hear it, it's also on the Repertoire Earth & Fire. Incidentally, it appears it was reissued later the same year backed with LP track Only Time Will Tell.
Sticking to their two-year schedule, Gate to Infinity appeared in '77, and, unsurprisingly, is even nearer the mainstream than their previous efforts, despite the inclusion of a rather apologetic side-long suite. Saying that, Recognition?'s a damn' good song, with some nice 'Tron choirs (Koerts must've bought an M400 by this point), also heard in Infinity and A Life-Time Before, although that appears to be it on the 'Tron front, as all the strings appear to be real, although I'm not entirely convinced about closer Driftin'. Musically, side one's as good as anything on the earlier albums, but side two's basically commercial drivel, without even any 'Tron to sweeten the deal. I was amused to see a song called Green Park Station (on the London Underground, fact fans), written by a Dutch band; sadly, it sucks. I'm also not entirely sure why Dizzy Raptures is listed as being 'instrumental', when it's nothing of the sort. Anyway, if you can extract the title suite from a CD version and ignore the rest, do so.
Surprising though it may seem, I'm told that Earth and Fire carried on using their Mellotron later then '77, so both '79's Reality Fills Fantasy and even '81's Andromeda Girl may have some, but going by Gate to Infinity, there won't be a lot, and the music will be dreadful to boot. Anyway, I haven't yet been able to force myself to purchase copies, but next time I'm in the Netherlands, who knows? Anyway, as far as the above albums are concerned, if you can cope with their cheesy take on early-'70s prog, well, dare I say, buy 'em all? They do get cheesier as they go along, but there's some killer 'Tron on Song, Atlantis and To the World, and Gate's at least half good.
French Skyline (1979, 43.35) ***/TT½Latin Sirens Face the Wall
The Flourishing Illusion
Splendored Skies and Angels
French Sky Lines Suite
Movement I: Morning Song (for Iris and Richard)
Movement II: Sources Change, Including 'The Movement'
Movement III: Demensional Music
Movement IV: Wind and Sky Symphony/Reprise: Morning Song
Atomkraft? Nein, Danke! (1981, 46.59) ***/TT
Cafe Exit (incl.March of the
Part I: Atomkraft? Nein, Danke!
Part II: Aras
Humans Only (1982, 44.51) **½/T½Rainbow Dome
Don't You Ever Wonder?
One Flew Over the Ridge
Tip Toe Funk
Umbrey Flowing Lights
25 Arrival Pieces
Earthstar (or Earth Star) were the brainchild of American Craig Wuest, who relocated to Germany in the late '70s. There was an early, limited edition tape replay-free album in 1979, Salterbarty Tales (***), but their first release to gain any major exposure was French Skyline from later that year, on the Sky label. On the German '70s progressive scene, the best bands usually ended up on the superb Brain imprint, leaving Sky with the also-rans; Earthstar are actually one of their better bands, but while working in the same general area as Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze, they're unable to hit the same heights. This album is actually quite highly rated on the electronic scene, partly because of Schulze's co-production credit, but I'm not sure that's enough to label the album a 'classic'.
French Skyline relies heavily on drones, featuring the rare Birotron all over side one's three-part Latin Sirens Face The Wall. Wuest is credited with both Birotron and Mellotron, and it's difficult to tell which is which, although I suspect the choirs are Birotron (notes sustained far past the eight-second limit), and the strings later in the piece are Mellotron, though this is sheer guesswork, to be honest. I can't hear any tape replay stuff on side two, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. Saying that, Wuest is listed as playing nineteen different keyboard instruments, plus sundry others, so it's quite amazing that the tape stuff gets as much of a look in as it does.
Atomkraft? Nein, Danke! (that's 'Nuclear Power, No Thanks!', though I'm told the translation's a bit iffy), is slightly more laid back than its predecessor, though still firmly in EM territory. There's no Mellotron this time round, just the Birotron, so although it's only on a couple of tracks, it's an ideal opportunity to hear the rarest tape-replay instrument.
By Humans Only, Earthstar had developed a more guitar-orientated sound, and appeared to be carving their own little niche in the EM field. It wasn't the most enthralling listen, to be honest, but I'm not sure I'm really qualified to judge this stuff properly. The two 'funk' tracks on side two, er, aren't really, and Tip Toe Funk feels like it's going to go on forever, though not in a good way. The Mellotron makes a reappearance on this album, along with the ever-present Birotron, but the use is still fairly minimal, and it's still difficult to tell which is which.
So... there's some OK electronic pieces here, but nothing to really write home about, and the Mellotron/Birotron use isn't exactly innovative, or even particularly interesting. For completists only, I think.
Easter Island [a.k.a.'NowAndThen'] (1980/1990, 45.08/50.13) ****/TTTT
Face to Face
Genius of the Dance
Winds of Time
|The Alchemist's Suite
Easter Island were yet another of those US prog outfits who struggled for years, eventually throwing in the towel in the early '80s (see: Cathedral, Netherworld et al.), while managing to put one album out, usually self-financed. Originally released in early 1980 as Easter Island, the album apparently comprises various demos made over the preceding few years, but sounds reasonably cohesive, all things considered. It's also pretty good, faring well against the likes of Yezda Urfa or Mirthrandir, sounding in places like a heavier version of King Crimson (heavier?!) or a less experimental Gentle Giant. Albums of this kind are usually let down by their vocals, but the singing's not too bad, here, and the rest of the musicianship's excellent, especially considering these are basically only demos.
Ray Vogel played keys for the band at the time, and his Mellotron work is exemplary, with shedloads of strings and polyphonic flute parts all over the place, as well as his organ, piano and synth work. It's difficult to pick individual highlights, and it's the kind of album you need to have played several times to let it all really sink in; suffice to say, not only is the music excellent, but the Mellotron work alone makes the album more than worthy of purchase.
The album was originally only pressed in a ridiculously small quantity (figures of 300 are mentioned), so ten years later, ZNR Records reissued it as NowAndThen, though not without a bit of mucking about. Guitarist Mark Miceli wrote and recorded a title track for the new release, which obviously features modern synths, and added more of the same to the beginning of the album, on Wanderer's Lament, which I suppose justifies its new title (the two new tracks are italicised). In all honesty, I'd much rather he hadn't, as the different sound jars badly against the original tracks, making for a slightly disjointed feel. You can't just cut the last track off, either, what with the inappropriate intro. Oh well. Anyway, it's the only way you're going to find a copy, and it really is worth the effort, so I'll say; buy anyway.
The Shame Just Drained (1964-68/77) ***½/T
Baby I'm a Comin'
I'm on Fire
Wait a Minute
We'll Make it Together
Me and My Machine
|The Shame Just Drained
Mr.Riley of Higginbottom & Clive
Where Old Men Go
Station on Third Avenue
For those of you who haven't heard of them, the Easybeats were Australia's prime '60s group, who lived in Britain for a while and had one huge international hit in Friday On My Mind. What is less well known is that two of their members were Harry Vanda and George Young, the latter being the much older brother of Malcolm and Angus, later of the phenomenally successful AC/DC, whose first several (and best) albums were recorded at Vanda and Young's studio, produced by them and (as rumour has it) partially anonymously written by them, too. Allegedly. Finding a decent discography for the Easybeats isn't the easiest job, as (along with so many other bands of the era) their albums were released in different versions in different territories, and they weren't really much of an albums band anyway, with singles being seen as the prime method of expression (OK, way of making money) by their record company.
Anyway, in 1977, many years after their demise, über-fan and well-respected Sydney scenester Glenn A.Baker (who used to run a good little second-hand shop in the city centre) compiled an LP's-worth of unreleased or super-rare material, The Shame Just Drained, years before this became the norm. Many of the tracks are clearly demos, with even the odd dropout in places, although for 'Beats fans this is invaluable, showing another side to the band, not least their penchant for 'mini-operas', like Mr.Riley Of Higginbottom & Clive or the title track. As Glenn mentions in his exhaustive sleevenotes, several of the album's tracks are from a scrapped LP, I believe from 1967, and feature Freddie Smith on (presumably) a studio MkII, with string parts on We'll Make It Together and Where Old Men Go (although the orchestral stuff on Amanda Storey is, er, an orchestra), although nothing you'd actually describe as essential listening, to be honest.
To quote Glenn, "The Easybeats were beset by every conceivable handicap: management problems, record company disputes, legal wrangles, drug dilemmas, lack of direction, poor financial management, constant change of producers and plain bad luck", without all of which they may have been a lot more successful than they were. At least Vanda and Young eventually basked in some reflected glory, and hopefully made some decent dosh out of AC/DC, a band who couldn't be described as 'hard up' these days. As far as The Shame Just Drained goes, if you're into the period where mid-'60s beat turns into psych-pop, there are a few essential tracks here, although much of the album is for completists only, and the Mellotron is somewhat subdued.
Rather elderly fan site
Eclection (1968, 43.36) ***½/½
|In Her Mind
Will Tomorrow Be the Same
Still I Can See
In the Early Days
Another Time, Another Place
Morning of Yesterday
St.George & the Dragon
Eclection were one of the earliest examples of British folk rock (as against the US version), and it's no surprise at all that two members (drummer Gerry Conway and guitarist Trevor Lucas) went on to join Fairport Convention in the '70s. Eclection is an appealing collection of folk and folk-influenced material, with joint male/female vocals (sound familiar?), but with late-'60s mainstream production values, meaning most tracks have string section/orchestral parts, without which folk rock may have happened a little sooner. It's difficult to pinpoint the best tracks, although In Her Mind, Violet Dew and St.George & the Dragon are all excellent examples of their style.
While most of the orchestral instruments are exactly that, there's a polyphonic flute part in Betty Brown (" Betty Brown was small and round/red hair had she too") that has to be a MkII 'Tron, presumably played by some anonymous session type, although that would seem to be your lot on the Mellotron front. Anyway, if you want to hear the roots of the '70s folk rock scene, look no further; although dated, this is decidedly worth hearing. Incidentally, speaking of ex-members, Georg Hultgren (renamed Kajanus) went on to become a minor-league pop star in the '70s with the ridiculous Sailor.
The Eddie Boy Band (1975) **½/0Oh, So Hard
Say Goodbye Babe
Come on Virginia (I wanna Win Ya)
Good to Have You Back Again
Makin' Love to You, Babe
The Eddie Boy Band seem to have been one of those mid-'70s US outfits that sounded a bit like the Doobie Brothers; you know, bland, mainstream stuff, with 'soulful' vocals, funk-lite rhythm guitar and just enough 'rock' not to be considered full-on pop. All pretty unexciting stuff, if truth be told, although MCA obviously thought enough of them to release their album abroad, or at least in the UK. A couple of tracks have some balls, notably Losin' Again, with its duel-lead work, but it's largely very anodyne stuff.
Keys man John Paruolo sticks to Hammond and piano most of the time, while subsidiary session man David Wolinski (know that name from somewhere) adds 'ARP string ensemble' on one track, but despite Paruolo's 'Mellotron' credit, I can't hear a note of the thing. What's the point, eh? It's obviously either so far down in the mix (maybe doubling those synth strings?) that it's inaudible, or there's a bit of cello somewhere that's completely hidden by everything else. Anyway, dull album, no 'Tron. Avoid.
|7" (1974) ***½/TTTT
One Niter (1976, 45.11) ****/TTT
One Niter Medley
Hats of Glass (1978, 39.05) ***½/TTA Spaceman Came Travelling
Hats of Glass
Caught on the Air
(Remove Another Hat of Glass and You Could Easily Find Assorted Kinds of) Cheese
Missa Universalis (1978, 41.21) ***½/TKyrie
Credo Part I
Credo Part II
Eela Craig are possibly the only Austrian band I've reviewed on this site; not the most major country for Mellotrons, but this bunch had a go, if only for a brief time. Their debut, 1971's Eela Craig (***½) is good, if slightly perfunctory space rock, but after various lineup changes, they released the Stories 7" in '74, backed with Cheese. Stories is slightly dated for the time, but Hubert Schanuer layers the Mellotron on good'n'thick, with strings, choir and some sort of solo brass all making an appearance, while although Cheese is a lesser song, it still manages a reasonable string part. Both tracks are available on the Eela Craig CD, along with two compilation tracks from '72.
It took Eela Craig (a meaningless name, apparently) another two years before the release of their extremely belated second album, One Niter. Given that it's a fairly late entrant into the world of '70s prog, it's quite superb; it's quite likely that this material had been sitting around for a while, anyway, given the gap between releases. By this time a six-piece with three part- or full-time keyboard players (!), it's hardly surprising that One Niter is keyboard-heavy, although they also managed to rustle up two guitarists when they needed to. Multi-instrumentalists that they were, there were also two flautists in the band, so I suspect the flute harmonies are real, rather than 'Tron. Eela Craig were nothing if not gear freaks (see pic below), and must've owned one of almost everything by this point, including two different models of Hammond, so there was absolutely no shortage of keyboard sounds available, or players. Apparently, all members except the drummer played their Mellotron at one point or another at the time of the Stories single, but I believe Hubert Schnauer played it on these albums.
The four-part Circles opens the album with a massive Mellotron brass flourish, reiterated throughout the piece, followed by some distant choirs over picked guitar, before a funky clavinet-fuelled section on part two. After a more 'normal' section, with more of that 'Tron brass filling out the sound, there's another funky part towards the end, overlaid with various synths, including what looks like two VCS3s. Loner's Rhyme has more of that slightly dodgy mid-70s funk feel and a bit more 'Tron brass before the album's other epic proper, One Niter Medley. Some choirs on the semi-ecclesiastical Benedictus before what sounds like real strings, although there's none mentioned on the credits. Actually, it's interesting to note that a band who used 'Tron strings so heavily at one point (Stories) should so totally abandon the sound for the joys of the generic string synth so quickly. Oh well, there you go... Anyway, more of that funky stuff on One Niter Medley, with a little (you guessed it...) brass, with final section One Niter itself being the second-best bit of the album. A few more brass chords on Way Down, then that's it. Rarely has a prog album been loaded with more Mellotron brass than One Niter, and while it would've been nice to hear some strings here and there, the brass makes a refreshing change from the usual, to be honest.
Hats of Glass, released the following year, nearly blows it from the off by covering the godawful Chris De Burgh's A Spaceman Came Travelling, his drippy sugar-coated Christmas effort, but, in fairness, this was when De Burgh still (strangely) had a smattering of credibility, so we'll forgive them. Just. Anyway, things soon improve with the excellent title track, with some background 'Tron choirs, before (oh no, not again) more BRASS on Chances Are and Heaven Sales, not to mention the lengthy Holstenwall Fair, which at least evens things out slightly by chucking in a fair bit of choir, too. More Mellotron than I'd remembered, and a decent enough album, although Holstenwall Fair and Hats Of Glass are definitely the best things on it. Oh, and the ridiculously lengthily-titled final track is a reworking of the Stories b-side from a few years earlier.
In 1978, Eela Craig seriously overreached themselves by releasing Missa Universalis; a rock mass, no less, sung (variously) in Latin, German, English and French, and all in the year when disco and punk took over the entire world. Lunacy. Unfortunately, while it's not that bad, it's no classic, either, so you can't even say "Look what prog could still chuck up!" (unless, of course, you're referring to either The Enid or Steve Hackett). This makes One Niter's Benedictus look terribly secular, although I don't know just how Christian the band actually were; it's certainly a bit overbearing in the Latin department, but if you can handle that, it has its moments. Only one 'Tron track, Gloria with... brass.
So; everything from Eela Craig (no Mellotron, of course) to Missa Universalis is worth hearing, with the standard law of diminishing returns, of course. For the 'Tron, stick to One Niter, with Hats of Glass and the CD of Eela Craig if you just can't get enough. For a sheer 'spine-tingling prog moment', though, you'll have trouble beating the first brass chords on One Niter. Magnificent.
Beautiful Freak (1996, 43.59) ***/T
|Novocaine For the Soul
Rags to Rags
Not Ready Yet
My Beloved Monster
Your Lucky Day in Hell
Electro-Shock Blues (1998, 48.18) ***/T
|Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor
Going to Your Funeral Part I
Cancer for the Cure
My Descent Into Madness
|Going to Your Funeral Part II
Last Stop: This Town
Climbing to the Moon
Dead of Winter
The Medication is Wearing Off
P.S. You Rock My World
Daisies of the Galaxy (2000, 44.18) ***/TTT
|Grace Kelly Blues
The Sound of Fear
I Like Birds
Daises of the Galaxy
It's a Motherf#&!@r
|Tiger in My Tank
A Daisy Through Concrete
Something is Sacred
Souljacker (2001, 40.34) ***/TT
|Dog Daced Boy
That's Not Really Funny
Woman Driving, Man Sleeping
Souljacker Part I
Bus Stop Boxer
World of Shit
Souljacker Part II
What is This Note?
Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005, 93.43) ***½/TT½
|Theme From Blinking Lights
From Which I Came/A Magic World
Son of a Bitch
Blinking Lights (for Me)
Trouble With Dreams
Marie Floating Over the Backyard
In the Yard, Behind the Church
The Other Shoe
Last Time We Spoke
Theme for a Pretty Girl That
Makes You Believe God Exists
Blinking Lights (for You)
Dust of Ages
Old Shit/New Shit
Bride of Theme From Blinking Lights
Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)
I'm Going to Stop Pretending That
I Didn't Break Your Heart
|To Lick Your Boots
If You See Natalie
Sweet Li'l Thing
Dusk: a Peach in the Orchard
Whatever Happened to Soy Bomb
Last Days of My Bitter Heart
The Stars Shine in the Sky Tonight
Things the Grandchildren Should Know
I've got several friends who love The Eels to bits, and while their appeal has largely passed me by so far, I'm beginning to understand why their following is so fanatical. For those not in the know, the Eels, led by 'E', a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett, specialise in short, bittersweet, Americana-tinged quirky pop, with a fine line in terribly depressing lyrics.
Their debut, Beautiful Freak, sets out their stall with aplomb, laying down the template for most of ther future releases, particularly on the lyrical front. Its sole Chamberlin track, My Beloved Monster, is very typical, with a flute line played by the ubiquitous Jon Brion, and what sounds like 'Chamberlin noise', quite possibly produced by leaning on the keyboard on the strings patch, which is no bad thing. The track was used in Shrek, in case you think the title sounds familiar, but aren't sure why. Electro-Shock Blues is more of the same, essentially, although there's a little more experimentation musically, with the odd sampled rhythm (note: not 'beat') finding its way in here and there. Climbing To The Moon has an excellent little Chamby flute part from Brion again, but neither of these albums is actually worth it on the tape-replay front.
Third album in, Daisies of the Galaxy, is more of the same musically, but loads more 'Tron. They apparently used Chamberlin sounds on Mellotron tapes, and the 'Tron certainly sounds quite odd, so that would make sense. For example, the choirs on I Like Birds and the actually quite good Flyswatter definitely aren't standard Mellotron, but have 'that sound' about them, ditto the strings on the title track. The heavy flute use on Tiger In My Tank works really well, actually, key click to the fore, though I'm afraid I find the song a tad irritating. Jeannie's Diary mixes 'Tron flutes with real strings, and Something Is Sacred has more flutes. It's distinctly possible that some of the other tracks feature the Chamby/'Tron hybrid, but without a better knowledge of the Chamberlin sound library, it's hard for me to say for certain. By the way, there's an uncredited fifteenth track on the CD, which may also possibly contain 'Tron, but it's hard to say for certain.
No.4, 2001's Souljacker is a rather heavier proposition, while still retaining much of that Eels sound they've spent three albums refining. The only obvious 'Tron (this time clearly credited) is some flute parts on the three tracks noted above, with Souljacker Part II being almost entirely 'Tron and vocal, making it one of the band's best uses of the instrument yet. Once again, not really a Mellotron album, and less accessible than its predecessor.
After 2003's 'Tronless Shootenanny! (***), Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is indeed a revelation, as E's songs finally match his reputation (personal opinion, of course...). OK, it's a little overlong, but Everett practically redefines the word 'melancholy' on several tracks, most of which sound pretty much autobiographical. Mellotronically, opener Theme From Blinking Lights is the album's first 'Tron overload, being simply vocals and (real) strings over a lovely Mellotron flute part. More flutes on several other tracks on disc one, but nothing that matches up to the short instrumental Understanding Salesmen, effectively a 'Tron flute solo piece. No Mellotron strings until disc two, with Dust Of Ages, with the rest of the album's strings being real, but I'm not sure what's generating the female solo voices; a Chamberlin sound on Mellotron tapes? An Orchestron/Optigan? Something else entirely? Doesn't sound like a 'Tron, but you know how it is...
So; if you like the sound they make, I expect you've already got the Eels' back catalogue. As far as the Mellotron/Chamberlin/whatever's concerned, forget the first two, be wary of their fourth, but Daisies of the Galaxy and Blinking Lights are worth the effort.
Egg (1970, 43.45/50.17) ****/½
While Growing My Hair
I Will Be Absorbed
Fugue in D Minor
They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano...
The Song of McGillicudie the Pusillanimous (or
Don't Worry James, Your Socks Are Hanging
in the Coal Cellar With Thomas)
[Eclectic CD adds:
Symphony No.2, Movement 3 [before Movement 4]
Seven is a Jolly Good Time
You Are All Princes]
The Polite Force (1970, 42.59) ****/TA Visit to Newport Hospital
Long Piece No.3
Egg were a marvellously bonkers psych/prog/jazz-rock/whatever trio who coalesced from an earlier band, Uriel, including the legendary Steve Hillage (later of Gong, of course), whose only recordings were later released under the name Arzachel for contractural reasons. Egg took the guitarless route, with keyboardist Dave Stewart (NOT the Eurythmics one, as if you didn't know) providing the bulk of the chordal and melodic work, mostly in unfathomable time signatures, with strange lyrics, when anyone (OK, bassist 'Mont' Campbell) actually bothered to sing at all.
Egg is a good little album, and quite unlike anything else you'll hear from the 'Canterbury' scene, such as it was. It's difficult to pick out highlights; suffice to say, there's no dead wood on the record, and later versions with both sides of their sole 45 added (including the fantastic Seven Is A Jolly Good Time) are worth picking up. There are a couple of classical adaptations, with some (credited) Bach on Fugue In D Minor and some (uncredited) Grieg on Symphony No.2 (Movement 1), although the band's sense of humour peers through the chinks in the arrangement, in case you were about to take them too seriously. Anyway, Stewart used the studio's Mark II Mellotron on the brief Boilk, but all you get is a few seconds of a dissonant string part, so don't go buying this for its 'Tron use.
Later that same year, the mischievously-named and frequently-mispronounced The Polite Force (ho ho) appeared, featuring rather more heavily than on their debut that 'Canterbury organ sound', also heard on various Caravan albums. The material is the equal of that on their debut, although it's probably slightly less eccentric, with no obvious classical adaptations this time. Again, 'Tron on one track, which is... Boilk. For some reason, the band elected to use the same title for another improvised piece, this time nine minutes long as against the one or so of their first attempt, and it's easily the most 'difficult' piece on the album, consisting largely of strange noises and studio experimentation, including some mangled 'Tron strings near the beginning.
After they split in '72, Stewart went off to form the 'Canterbury supergroup' Hatfield & the North, although Egg reformed for a one-off release in 74, The Civil Surface (ho ho again), although it's 'Tron-free. You're probably better off sticking to their two 'proper' albums, I suspect, both of which are more than worth a listen, though not especially for their Mellotron work.
Official Dave Stewart/Barbara Gaskin site