The Blue Van
Phillip Boa & the Voodooclub
Boeing Duveen & the Beautiful Soup
Bombs of Hades
The Art of Rolling (2005, 39.36) ***½/T½
|Word From the Bird
Product of DK
I Remember the Days
I Want You
The Remains of Sir Maison
Baby, I've Got Time
Revelation of Love
What the Young People Want
Couer de Lion
The Blue Van are only the third Danish band to be featured on this site, and one of the others (Etcetera) only uses 'Tron samples, assuming, that is, that these guys are using the Real Deal... For such a young band, they're quite astonishing, clearly refusing to acknowledge any influences later than the '60s, many years before any of them were born. It seems they grew up in quite an isolated part of the country and had few, if any contemporaries to pull them into line, thankfully, with the end result being a joyfully authentic garage band, or what the Americans would call 'British Invasion', I suppose. The Art of Rolling is their debut, following an EP or two; average track length is under three minutes, although New Slough bucks the system, being a fantastic jammed-out eight-minute effort, making full use of Steffen Westmark's vocal tics and Per M. Jørgensen's Keith Moonalike drumming, forever teetering on the edge of collapse, but never quite attaining it.
I don't seem to be the only online reviewer who thinks that Søren V. Christensen's keyboards define the band's sound, with lashings of Vox, Hammond and Wurlitzer all over the shop, plus just a dash of Mellotron, of course. Saying that, short instrumental The Bluverture starts with 'Tron flutes, and ends up smothered in the thing, with strings and doubtless unintentionally inauthentic cellos blasting away, with more flutes on the more typical What The Young People Want, although that's your lot. So; if raw, '60s-inspired pre-psych rock is your thang, you can't go too far wrong with The Art of Rolling, although originality isn't really part of the equation. One great 'Tron track, too, so try to hear it, if not the entire album.
Twilight (1999, 38.11) ***/T
Bellbottom Bike Accident
Love and Protection
Pocketbook of Love
Out of This World
|Only When I Do
Have Another Pillow (2003, 54.45) ***/T½
Le Mat (The Fool)
Off With My Head
White Flag Lullaby
Before playing these albums, I made two assumptions about Blueberry (the duo of vocalist/keyswoman Gwen Snyder and guitarist Kenny Siegal), both entirely wrong, proving the old saw about the meaning of 'assume'. Instead of being wishy-washy indie stuff, they're surprisingly full-on soul/funk releases and, rather than the expected sample use, both appear to feature real Mellotron.
Twilight is the more upfront of these, possibly at its best on non-slushy piano ballad Only When I Do. Someone (Snyder?) plays what sounds an awful lot like real Mellotron, with skronky string and flute parts on Love And Protection and flutes on Pocketbook Of Love. Have Another Pillow backs off slightly, featuring several tracks that move away from the dancefloor template, not least Honey Bee, the balladic White Flag Lullaby, the vaguely psychedelic Flaming Tendrils and Brother Love. Probably the same unknown musician on Mellotron again, with strings and cellos on Off With My Head and Chosen Land (particularly obviously at the end of the latter) and a flute part on Flaming Tendrils. It might even be elsewhere, buried in the mix, not helped by the album's real strings. Is it real? Sounds like it, making it all the more surprising that it's not credited.
Open (1970, 36.42) ***/½
|Love is the Answer
Running the Water
Ride Captain Ride
Pay My Dues
Wrath of Daisey
Blues Image were a Florida-based late '60s band, who seemed to cover quite a bit of musical ground, certainly going by their second album (of three), 1970's Open. An odd record, it shifts style pretty much every track, from the hard(-ish) rock of opener Love Is The Answer, through Clean Love's blues jam, their Latin-lite version of Ritchie Valens' La Bamba... The end result is a rather unfocussed record, albeit one with its moments, not least the excellent jam in lengthy closer Take Me.
Keyboard player Frank "Skip" Conte (subsequently of Three Dog Night) played Chamberlin (possibly the impossibly rare four-manual M4 he used with that band), although it's barely audible, providing the woodwind (oboe?) on major pop hit Ride Captain Ride. Overall, a rather average effort, with the benefit of hindsight, although it's far from offensive. 'Also-rans', I think, despite their brief prominence.
Reunion in Central Park (1973, 58.47) ***½/TTLouisiana Blues
I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes
You Can't Catch Me
Caress Me Baby
Catch the Wind
Wake Me, Shake Me
Two Trains Running
The Blues Project could only have been named in the mid-'60s - any later and the name would've been considered too clichéd, or plain too old-fashioned. Consisting of a mixture of session guys and other seasoned musos including guitarists Danny Kalb and Steve Katz, they were joined soon after their formation by session wunderkind, multi-instrumentalist Al Kooper on keys. Kooper left after three albums, only one of which was a proper studio effort, going on to Blood, Sweat & Tears, more session work and a solo career, before rejoining the band (as 'The Original Blues Project') for a one-off live album, Reunion in Central Park. Before you envisage crowds of hundreds of thousands, the gatefold shows a seated crowd of a few thousand, which was probably the setup for most gigs in the park (see: King Crimson the following year).
The album's a good document of what must've been a burning live band in their day; they ain't so bad here, as it happens. While there is some straight blues (chiefly You Can't Catch Me) to be found here, the band were always far more eclectic than that, and manage pretty much a different style on every track. Side three's cover of Donovan's Catch The Wind shows the band's folkier side, although it's almost jazz in places, and while side four's lengthy jam Two Trains Running is a blues, it goes way beyond most older blues acts' comfort zones.
Kooper brought a good-sized keyboard rig along; a B3 topped with a MiniMoog, a Clavinet that he strangely left standing on its own, demoting his M400 to his far right (why not put it on top of the 'Tron?). This pic is from the inside gatefold, and is actually reversed to get it 'right', as the original is a reflection from an above-stage mirror. The 'Tron actually gets a mention in the tracklisting, with a 'Mellotron - Al' credit after Steves Song [sic], where he lays down some decent flutes, shifting between them and strings. However, Catch The Wind is the album's standout 'Tron track, absolutely smothered in strings, played in a pleasingly orchestral manner, with the odd bit of flute thrown in for good measure.
This band's influence is clearly considerable; Lynyrd Skynyrd (funnily enough, a recent Kooper production) seemingly copped their entire sound from opener Louisiana Blues, and I spotted a bit 'borrowed' by the Blue Öyster Cult somewhere, too. So; if you want to hear where Al Kooper came from, this isn't a bad place to start, though it is essentially (surprise, surprise) a blues album. Anyway, two decent 'Tron tracks, right up in the mix; not bad for a lives blues album, eh? Incidentally, I suspect the double album is the whole set, as it's pretty short, and could easily have another twenty minutes spread across its four sides.
Official Al Kooper site
Parklife (1994, 52.55) ***½/½
|Girls & Boys
End of a Century
The Debt Collector
|To the End
Trouble in the Message Centre
Clover Over Dover
This is a Low
Blur's third album, Parklife, was the one that broke it wide open for them, although it's slightly strange in retrospect to think that for a few short months they were neck-and-neck with Oasis, before the monobrowed ones leapt ahead, at least commercially. Parklife does sound a little of its time now, and hasn't dated as well as, say, Pulp, but it's still a musical microcosm of early-'90s Britain, full of characters like the Debt Collector, or the layabout narrated by Phil Daniels in the title track. The album actually covers quite a lot of ground, musically, stepping far outside Oasis' narrow boundaries, taking in music hall and various other indigenous styles (you mean we have some?), although Damon Albarn's faux-cockernee vocals just irritate, especially when you know he's a nice middle-class boy from Essex.
An online interview alerted me to the fact that the band used a real, gen-u-wine Mellotron on one track, although it was barely worth it for the few seconds of strings we get on Badhead, presumably played by Graham Coxon. So; a good album, defining 'Britpop' better than most of their contemporaries, although absolutely not worth it for the 'Tron.
Hair (1988, 40.16) **½/T
You Sent All My Letters
Tragic Mastery of Stock Hausen
Morlocks in England
They Say Hurray
|Albert is a Headbanger
Fine Art in Silver
I Wanna Be Your Hoover
I Go Down to the Sea
Hispañola (1990, 40.09/77.40) **½/T (T½)
|This is Michael
I Don't Need Your Summer
The Day I Lost My Sleep
They Paint the Silence
|Don't Kill Me Slaughter
Eva in the Froggarden
[2006 version adds:
29th Love Affair
I'm So Phisticated
|This is Michael (original)
The Day I Lost My Sleep (original)
Blood on the Wind (demo)
Solid Gold Easy Action
Sex Mission (demo)
Don't Tell Me Why (demo)
This is Michael (Westbam Remix)]
Ernst Ulrich "Phillip Boa" Figgen is a German new wave type who has released albums regularly since the mid-'80s, 1988's Hair being his fourth. It consists of a range of new wave-inspired pop/rock styles, better examples including Morlocks In England, the faux-metal of Albert Is A Headbanger and Boleria, Boa's take on Ravel's Boléro, unfortunately all rather spoiled by Boa's non-voice. Thomas Kässens plays Mellotron, the album actually opening with a brief Mellotron flute solo, Hurray, with more of the same on Boleria, although all oboe parts are real.
Boa followed up in 1990 with Hispañola, a similar album to its predecessor, discepancies including the folky mandolin on opener This Is Michael, the accordion on I Don't Need Your Summer and the electro feel on several tracks. The original release has been almost doubled in length by a 2006 reissue, although only fans of the man have any need to get excited about this development. Kässens on Mellotron again, with instantly-recognisable background strings on Rocshee and De-Generators on the original release, plus more upfront strings on the Blood On The Wind demo on the expanded edition.
I'll be honest here and say I don't really get where the estimable Mr Boa's coming from; is his muse a dated new wave aesthetic, or has he invented a new merging of styles? Either way, I can't say these appealed to me very much, but they may be your bag, although their Mellotron quotient is fairly low.
See: Samples etc.
|7" ( 1968) ***½/T½
Which Dreamed it
The mysterious Boeing Duveen was finally outed a while back as 'rock doctor' Sam Hutt, better known as Brit-country legend Hank Wangford. He, along with The Beautiful Soup, produced just the one single, the fab psych effort Jabberwock (complete with obligatory period sound effects), basically Lewis Carroll's poem set to music, backed with the raga-rock of Which Dreamed It. Both sides of the single are available on various psych-era compilations, official and otherwise, unlike many gems from the time.
Someone plays MkII 'Tron on the a-side, with a restrained flute part and almost-distorted strings, sounding like the machine was routed through an amp. I wouldn't actually recommend spending loads of money to get hold of this, but if you're thinking of buying Bam Caruso's Waxworks Vol. 1 anyway, this will come as a nice bonus.
Chicken Little Was Right (2004, recorded 1973, 30.07) ***½/T
|I Call You My Rainbow
Out of the Dark of the Night
Rest in Peace
We're Dying (Angel City)
|You Make Me Feel So High
I've Been Wrong
She's Got the Power
Curt Boettcher is best-known for his work with The Association and The Millennium, although his career spanned twenty years, only curtailed by his untimely death in 1987. His unreleased recordings from 1973 first appeared in 2004, titled Chicken Little Was Right, reissued in truncated form as disc five of Sony's eight-disc Millennium-and-associated set, At Last, the version reviewed here. In some ways, it's an album out of time, having more in common with Boettcher's spiritual home, the late '60s, than anything from 1973, although much of it could easily pass for what it actually is, an early '70s West Coast singer-songwriter record. Highlights? Opener I Call You My Rainbow, the light-as-air (in a good way) Louise, Out Of The Dark Of The Night and 'bonus' track She's Got The Power, not on the 2004 version.
Frank "Skip" Conte (soon to be of Three Dog Night) plays Chamberlin, with flutes and strings all over I Call You My Rainbow, although that would seem to be our lot. Not the heaviest use ever, then, but worth hearing, as is the album as a whole for anyone who ever liked The Millennium.
See: The Millennium | Michael Fennelly
Safe in Sound (2005, 57.11) ***½/T½
Live the Proof
Show My Face Around
Where's the Party
Made Me So Happy
Talk About the Weather
|Let Me Believe This Lie
Rainy Day in Manayunk
Jim Boggia's Safe in Sound, while a good album in a kind-of powerpop vein, fails to match 2001's Fidelity is the Enemy for quality, which isn't to knock it. Highlights include the joyous Live The Proof, the raucous Underground, Made Me So Happy and the lengthy, atmospheric Slowly, although losing a handful of lesser tracks would have both brought the record down to a sensible length and tightened it up in one fell swoop.
Three credited tape-replay players, Mike Frank and Boggia on Mellotron, Boggia also playing Chamberlin, along with Julian Coryell. Are they real? As so often, very hard to tell, but, in this instance, I think so. Definite sightings include strings on Where's The Party and Once, plus upfront flutes on Talk About The Weather, but is that a flute part on Show My Face Around? Other 'possibles' here and there, but I'm sticking with these three, I think.
See: Samples etc.
If Only Stones Could Speak (2002, 57.26) ***½/TT½If Only Stones Could Speak
Anna From the Well
The Story of Three
The Goodnight Knight
The Bollenberg in question is Belgian music journalist John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, active on the European progressive scene for many years now. These days, he tends to write mainly for ProgressiveWorld.net, although he's written for various magazines in the past, not least US mag Progression. Apparently, he also sang in prog band Ouies in his pre-journalism days; suffice to say, although we don't always agree on who's hot and who's not, he knows what he's talking about when it comes to prog. If Only Stones Could Speak is John's first album, although he has guested on other artists' records, not least the New Grove Project's Brill. Subtitled 'A Musical Journey Through Myths and Legends of Medieval Brugge', the album has a decidedly medieval flavour to many of the tracks, although John's slightly characterless vocals sound uncomfortable with the subject matter in places. The concept, such as it is, deals with, unsurprisingly, the history of Brugge, and what stories the stones could tell, which beats the hell out of the usual rubbish peddled by many modern bands in the name of the 'concept album'.
John's years in 'the biz' have paid off handsomely, as the album's stuffed with his famous friends, including Pär Lindh, Rick Wakeman (!), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), and members of inexplicably popular current UK dullards Mostly Autumn. Unfortunately, the end result of so many guests is a slightly uncohesive sound, though far from an unpleasant one; medieval beats neo- any day round these parts. Compositionally (most of the music being written by Bollenberg's collaborator Björn Johansson), the more medieval-sounding pieces tend to work better, at least to my ears, with the straightforward rock drumming (also from Lindh, surprisingly) and William Kopecky's 5-string bass sounding rather out of place and unnecessary. Given that Lindh's forté is keyboards, maybe a more inventive progressive drummer should've been found for the project.
Both Lindh and Johansson play Mellotron, with male voice choir and flutes on the opening title track, background 8-voice on Holy Blood, and upfront flute and string parts on Ursus Bruggia, with more of the same on Anna From The Well, with a string part near the end of The Goodnight Knight to round things off nicely. A real 20-piece choir is also present, so I'm hoping I haven't confused the two anywhere.
So; do you? Well, given that many people are going to turn their noses up at an album made by 'a journalist', this is actually rather good, although not every track convinces. Reasonable Mellotron use, though maybe slightly more restraint was used than necessary, and some of the contemporary sounds grate somewhat. Oh go on, have a flutter...
See: New Grove Project | Pär Lindh Project
Into the Eternal Pit of Fire (2011, 10.25) ***/TTPrologue (the Ecstacy of Blood)
Into the Eternal Pit of Fire
The Day Man Lost
Atomic Temples (2014, 38.21) ***/TT
And Your Flesh Still Burns
Palace of Decay
Crawling Wind/The Tyrant Embryo
The Dream Death Nebula
Worm Holes/Black Holes
Worm Holes/Black Holes (Reprise)
Through the Pandemonium
The Last Gateway
Chances are you've already worked out in which genre Bombs of Hades operate: yup, death metal. Although they formed back in 2002, they've only released one album to date, 2010's Chambers of Abominations, while the following year's Into the Eternal Pit of Fire is their second EP, alternating full-on metal with surprisingly tuneful sections, making it an uneasy listen for those unattuned to its level of heaviosity. Incidentally, the two sides of the vinyl-only disc are subtitled 'Side Atomic Holocaust' and 'Side Brutal Mutilation'. Now, stop it, lads, it's neither big nor clever and you know it. Vocalist ('screams')/guitarist Jonas Stålhammar doubles (triples?) on Mellotron, with strings on the title track and The Day Man Lost (a Carnage cover, apparently), particularly upfront on the latter. Is it real? I've no idea; there are quite a few genuine machines in Sweden, but whether or not one found its way to Västerås' Sutare Studios in the April of 2011 remains an unknown.
2014's Atomic Temples shows a band who've worked on their art (no, seriously) and produced a more cohesive, if not exactly mature work, at its best on Cadaverborn and the eleven-minute, six-part title track. Yes, it's still fucking heavy, yes, Stålhammar's vocal style can still best be described as 'roaring', but the sensibly-lengthed record hangs together well, the band channelling their influences in the right direction. Stålhammar plays Mellotron again, with a brief string line opening Palace Of Decay, distant, atonal strings and choirs (sounding pretty damn' authentic, actually) on Crawling Wind/The Tyrant Embryo, choirs and strings on part one of the title track, a flute line and choirs on the acoustic part four and strings on part six and, finally, background strings on closer The Last Gateway.
Anyway, death metal fans will love these, nearly everyone else won't, although Atomic Temples is a distinct improvement over the EP.
|7" (1975?) **½/T½
Oso ki an Psachno
It seems that Greek entertainer Vlassis Bonatsos (Βλάσσης Μπονάτσος, 1949-2004) is better-known for his film and TV work than his music, although he released several singles and albums over a ten-plus-year period. An early release (his first?) is a 1975 single, Kyriaki (Κυριακή), a pretty typical ballad for its time and place, making it a less-than-fully-essential listen today.
An unknown musician plays Mellotron strings on the 'A', to reasonable effect, although, having not heard it, I can't comment on the flip, Oso Ki An Psachno (Οσο κι αν Ψάχνω). Finding a download of this doesn't seem to be an option at the moment, but it's on YouTube, for those who just can't get enough Mellotronic Greek balladry.
Graham Bond (Organization) (UK) see:
Down Here (2000, 42.03) ***/½
Behind Every Good Woman
You Don't Know Me
Cold Day in Hell
You Can't Always Not Get What You Don't Want
Give Us Something
Blink the Brightest (2005, 45.44) ***/½
I Was Born Without You
And the World Has the Nerve
to Keep Turning
Take Your Love Out on Me
Whether You Fall
Did I Sleep Through it All?
Tracy Bonham (no relation to a certain now deceased drummer) plays a kind of rock/pop/singer-songwriter hybrid that manages to be reasonably challenging in places without actually being obscure. Saying that, much of the material on her second album, 2000's Down Here is pretty mainstream pop/rock, though likeable enough, all things considered. One of the album's several producers, Mark Endert, also plays Mellotron strings on opener Freed, although you'd be hard-pushed to spot them under Bonham's violin, though not as hard-pushed as to spot whatever Mitchell Froom plays on Cold Day In Hell, which is completely inaudible.
Bonham worked with The Blue Man Group in the early '00s, presumably one of the reasons for her five-year gap between solo releases. 2005 brought Blink the Brightest, which, while not a bad record, is closer to the mainstream than its predecessor. As with so many (effectively) singer-songwriter efforts, the album's power is in the lyrics, And The World Has The Nerve To Keep Turning being a particularly strong example. If Greg Collins' Chamberlin contribution wasn't credited, you'd have absolutely no idea it was there; the few seconds of Chamby clarinet could be almost anything, up to and including a real one, though at least we get to (briefly) hear an unusual Chamberlin sound.
Tracy Bonham stands out from the pack for several reasons, not least her voice and her violin playing, heard to good effect across both these albums. There's next to no tape-replay work, though, so don't come here looking for that.
See: The Blue Man Group