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Sam Brown
Duncan Browne
Severin Browne
Jack Bruce

Michael Bruce
Brunettes
Carla Bruni


Brooks & Dunn  (US)  see: Samples

Brookville  (US)  see: Samples

Bröselmaschine  (Germany)

Bröselmaschine, 'Bröselmaschine'

Bröselmaschine  (1971,  35.46)  ***½/½

Gedanken
Lassic
Gitarrenstück
The Old Man's Song
Schmetterling
Nossa Bova

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The sole Bröselmaschine album is a bit of an oddity; for the first few tracks, I was convinced that a mispressing had delivered an English folk record to me by mistake. The style was correct, the English-language vocals were unaccented; Schmetterling even borrows from the same source as Jimmy Page's White Summer. In fact, the only obviously Germanic influence anywhere on Bröselmaschine is the muttered German narration on the track, in amongst the sitars and open-tuned acoustics.

There's hardly any Mellotron on the album at all; a few string chords from Mike Hellbach in Schmetterling and that's it, as the flute parts are real. This is obviously a stoner's delight, like quite a few German albums of the era (Wind's Morning and Witthüser & Westrupp's Der Jesuspilz/Musik Vom Evangelium spring to mind) and is actually a very good record, but don't bother for the 'Tron.

Cary Brothers  (US)

Cary Brothers, 'Who You Are'

Who You Are  (2007,  43.56/44.56)  *½/T

Jealousy
Ride
Who You Are
The Glass Parade

Honestly
The Last One
Loneliest Girl in the World
If You Were Here
Think Awhile
All the Rage
Precious Lie
[Bonus track:
Blue Eyes]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Cary Brothers (an individual, not siblings) is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who doesn't play country, which you may take to be an advantage until you hear him. His debut, 2007's Who You Are, is one of those horrible, insipid modern indie/singer-songwriter efforts, like the wettest end of Daniel Powter, say; even when it picks up the pace (the title track, The Last One), it just sounds sub-U2, which is never a good thing.

Greg Collins plays Mellotron strings on the title track and flutes on The Glass Parade, while Chad Fischer adds flutes to Loneliest Girl In The World, none of it to any great effect, though it's nice to hear these sounds in the mainstream sometimes. Anyway, I don't think you really need any kind of postscript to sum this album up, do you?

Official site

Brothers Keeper  (US)  see: Samples

Lelia Broussard  (US)

Lelia Broussard, 'Masquerade'

Masquerade  (2010,  38.05)  **/T½

Masquerade
Satellite
Shoot for the Moon
Spiderwebs
Armor on My Heart
You're Not Fooling Anyone
Heart Collectors
Rosey
Something True
Hipster Bitch

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

Lelia Broussard's third album, 2010's Masquerade, is a pretty typical pop-end-of-singer/songwriter effort, making for a fairly unpalatable listen to those accustomed to music with a little more... substance. Admittedly, the mournful brass on Armor On My Heart and You're Not Fooling Anyone stands out, but most of the album's contents are run-of-the-mill, slightly countryish pop/rock that's really only going to appeal to a 'background listening' audience dynamic. Given that the lyrics in this kind of stuff assume a high level of importance, are any of them actually worth hearing? Maybe closer Hipster Bitch, which is at least vaguely amusing, not to mention one of the album's more listenable tracks, but otherwise, it's the usual run of love lost/love won, I'm afraid.

Dan Romer plays Mellotron and Chamberlin, with what sounds like a Chamby string line on opener Masquerade and Mellotron flutes on Rosey, although all brass parts appear to be real. Do you want or need to hear this? I don't think so, no.

Official site

Marc Broussard  (US)

Marc Broussard, 'Keep Coming Back'

Keep Coming Back  (2008,  46.57)  **/½

Keep Coming Back
Hard Knocks
Real Good Thing
Why Should She Wait
Power's in the People
Evil Things
When it's Good
Man for Life
Another Night Alone
Saying I Love You
Going Home
[Hidden track]
Marc Broussard, 'Marc Broussard'

Marc Broussard  (2011,  43.16)  **/½

Lucky
Only Everything
Cruel
Yes Man
Let it All Out
Emily
Our Big Mistake
Bleeding Heart
Eye on the Prize
Let Me Do it Over
Gibby's Song

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Although Marc Broussard's style is supposed to reference funk, soul, blues and other genres, his fourth album, 2008's Keep Coming Back, is a spot-on copy (or pastiche?) of '70s pop/soul, sounding like all those cheeso artists you hoped you'd never hear, or even hear of again. You know, England Dan & John Ford Coley and their horrid ilk. To be brutally honest, I really can't think of anything nicer to say about this than that, other than its rating is as high as it is due to its sheer professionalism and nothing else. I really hope I never have to hear this again, though. Calvin Turner plays Mellotron, with a chordal flute part on Why Should She Wait, although all the album's strings appear to be real.

2011's Marc Broussard is, essentially, a re-run of Keep Coming Back, its best track being 'hidden' acoustic closer Gibby's Song, although it's not even given its own track on the disc. Jamie Kenney plays vague Mellotron flutes on Let Me Do It Over, but that seems to be your lot.

So; super-professional lightweight pop/soul. Why? Why? Because people like it, I suppose, including Broussard himself. Each to their own an' all that, but t'ain't for me. Not much Mellotron, either.

Official site

Arthur Brown  (UK)  see:

Arthur Brown

Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come  (UK)  see:

Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come

Findlay Brown  (UK)

Findlay Brown, 'Love Will Find You'

Love Will Find You  (2009,  34.51)  ***/T½

Love Will Find You
Nobody Cared
All That I Have
Everybody Needs Love
That's Right
Teardrops Lost in the Rain
Holding Back the Night

If I Could Do it Again
I Still Want You
I Had a Dream

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Findlay Brown is a contemporary British singer following in the footsteps of, say, Richard Hawley, in his veneration of the pre-psych '60s and Scott Walker in particular. His debut album, 2009's Love Will Find You (strangely listed as 2010 on his website) is a lush, epic, romantic album, stuffed with ballads such as Teardrops Lost In The Rain and closer I Had A Dream sitting alongside the more uptempo All That I Have and That's Right. But is it any good? Depends whether you like Scott-esque material, I suppose; Brown sounds nothing like Mr. Engels vocally, but the material's spot-on.

Richard Norris adds Mellotron choirs to All That I Have and strings to Teardrops Lost In The Rain and Holding Back The Night, all to passable, if not classic effect. If you just can't get enough of pompadours, orchestras and overblown ballads, there's a good chance you'll love Findlay Brown, although there really isn't enough Mellotron on offer here for the hardened enthusiast.

Official site

Ian Brown  (UK)

Ian Brown, 'Golden Greats'

Golden Greats  (1999,  44.58/55.33)  ***/T½

Gettin' High
Love Like a Fountain
Free My Way
Set My Baby Free
So Many Soldiers

Golden Gaze
Dolphins Were Monkeys
Neptune
First World
Babasonicos
[US version adds:
Love Like a Fountain (US Version)
Dolphins Were Monkeys (U.N.K.L.E. Vs South Remix)]
Ian Brown, 'Music of the Spheres'

Music of the Spheres  (2001,  41.09)  **½/TT

F.E.A.R.
Stardust
The Gravy Train
Bubbles
Hear No See No
Northern Lights
Whispers
El Mundo Pequeño
Forever and a Day
Shadow of a Saint

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Ian Brown's amusingly-titled second solo album, Golden Greats, seems to be attempting to carry on the sound pioneered by The Stone Roses, most of the album's material having a psychedelic dance/rock feel to it, not a million miles away from the band that made him famous. Opener Gettin' High sets Brown's stall out well, with its programmed drums, psych riffing and sitar, while Love Like A Fountain is more straightforward rave/rock, with most of the other tracks veering somewhere between these two styles, taken at a faster or slower pace. The bonus tracks on the US version aren't worth the effort: a 'yeah, whatever' version of Love Like A Fountain and a dance remix of Dolphins Were Monkeys, involving two Brown collaborators, U.N.K.L.E. and South. Tim Wills plays Mellotron, with nicely up-in-the-mix string and flute parts on Set My Baby Free and strings on So Many Soldiers. Given Brown's considerable Oasis connection, might it be one of their machines? Who knows.

Brown followed up, two years later, with Music of the Spheres (cue 'load of old balls' joke...). To be honest, it's less engaging than its predecessor, as if Brown had used up his best ideas (let's face it, it happens...). More Mellotron than before, though, player unknown, as it could be any of Dave McCracken, Mark Sayfritz or Robin Taylor-Firth. Anyway, phased strings on Stardust, regular ones on Northern Lights and wavery, echoed flutes on Forever And A Day, all nice to hear if slightly inessential.

Well, Ian Brown's taken a very different solo route to his old mucker John Squire's '60s thing, but given that they're barely speaking, that's hardly surprising. As far as these two go, they both have some passable 'Tron use, while Golden Greats is probably a little more listenable than Music of the Spheres.

Official site

See: John Squire

Pete Brown & Piblokto!  (UK)

Pete Brown & Piblokto!, 'Things May Come & Things May Go...'

Things May Come & Things May Go, But the Art School Dance Goes on Forever  (1970,  43.30/69.34)  ***/T

Things May Come & Things May Go, But
  the Art School Dance Goes on Forever
High Flying Electric Bird
Someone Like You
Walk for Charity, Run for Money
Then I Must Go and Can I Keep
My Love's Gone Far Away
Golden Country Kingdom
Firesong
Country Morning
[CD adds:
Prophet
Country Morning (alternate)
Living Life Backwards
High Sorrow
Raining Pins and Needles]
Pete Brown & Piblokto!, 'Thousands on a Raft'

Thousands on a Raft  (1970,  52.10/88.20)  ***½/T

Aeroplane Head Woman
Station Song Platform Two
Highland Song
If They Could Only See Me Now parts I & II
Got a Letter From a Computer
Thousands on a Raft
[CD adds:
Broken Magic
Can't Get Off the Planet
Flying Hero Sandwich
My Last Band
Dawn of a Night Wasp
Aeroplane Head Woman]

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Pete Brown is known chiefly as sometime lyricist for Cream, putting words into Jack Bruce's mouth on I Feel Free, White Room etc. After their split, he got his own outfit together, Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments, recording one album with them, A Meal You Can Shake Hands With in the Dark, before the rest of the band sacked him just before they played Hyde Park with the Stones (and, of course, King Crimson). Wasting no time, he formed Piblokto! releasing (deep breath) Things May Come & Things May Go, But the Art School Dance Goes on Forever within the year. Despite being optimistically described as 'one of the finest of the progressive era', it's a fairly typical slice of organ-driven proto-prog, with Pete's mad vocals as a bonus. While not bad, it'd be stretching it a little (OK, a lot) to call it a 'classic'; it certainly doesn't stand out from the pack, going by the contemporaries of the band that I've heard. One Mellotron track (from organist Dave Thompson?), with some orchestrally-inclined strings on High Flying Electric Bird (also the b-side of their first single, Living Life Backwards).

Later the same year, their second and final album, Thousands on a Raft, appeared, breaking Brown's run of ridiculously lengthily-titled albums. In case you're wondering, aside from the Titanic and Concorde, the sleeve depicts several slices of beans on toast floating in a pond (not sure how they managed that), the album title apparently being cockney (non-rhyming) slang for the aforementioned culinary delicacy. Several band members had changed in the months between the two records, the fresh blood making their presence felt immediately, as opener Aeroplane Head Woman's Cream-like tones assault your speakers. After a piano ballad, Station Song Platform Two, the album goes completely bonkers, with the 17-minute semi-improvised Highland Song, followed on side two by If They Could Only See Me Now Parts I & II, which is almost as long. Mellotron (definitely Dave Thompson this time round) on Station Song Platform Two, with some pleasant background MkII strings.

Do you buy these albums? Well, the over 2½ hour set is worth the dosh if you're into lesser-known UK bands of the era, and some of the music's well worth hearing. The two 'Tron tracks are less than essential, though both quite nice. Up to you. Incidentally, BGO's 2-CD set of these albums confuses the issue greatly by adding a total of 11 bonus tracks, spread over both discs, but as Pete requested, puts them in chronological order. Disc 1 starts with three bonus tracks, including their first single, with more between the two albums (Thousands... is irritatingly split between the discs), finishing with several more at the end, although this makes the expanded album timings somewhat irrelevant. As a result, I've added them after each regular tracklisting above, and none contain any 'Tron anyway. Pete is occasionally to be seen wandering around Crouch End in north London, sometimes muttering to himself, though surely his royalty cheque for the inevitable live album from the recent Cream reformation should boost his bank balance slightly?

See: Cream | Jack Bruce

Sam Brown  (UK)

Sam Brown, '43 Minutes...'

43 Minutes...  (1993,  43.38)  ***½/½

Come Into My World
Into the Night
In the Rain
Fear of Life
Morning Song
You Are the World
See This Evil
Your Time is Your Own
One Candle
Letting Go
Sleep Like a Baby

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Sam Brown is a part of what could probably be described as 'UK rock dynasty no.2' (no.1 being the Marty/Kim/Ricki Wilde axis), her parents being original '50s Larry Parnes-era rocker Joe and session singer Vicki Brown. Sam apparently first sung professionally at the age of twelve, and was recording regularly by the early '80s, kicking her solo career off with her most commercially successful album, 1988's Stop! 1993's 43 Minutes... was her third release, informed by her mother's death from cancer and deemed 'uncommercial' by her record company, eventually self-released by Brown on her own Pod Music imprint (later reissued on A&M).

By the standards of mainstream female singer-songwriter territory, it's a pretty uncompromising effort, bearing comparison with both Kate Bush and Heart, the latter chiefly in the vocal department (lazy comparisons, eh - don'cha just love 'em?). Most tracks feature massed Bush-like backing vocals and Brown's piano work, skipping between styles with abandon, touching on pop, balladry, jazz and more interesting territory. Best track? Maybe opener Come Into My World, although little here made me cringe. Brown plays 'Melotron' on one track, with indistinct background flutes on the dying seconds of Fear Of Life, really only notable for being an early British example of the instrument's resurgence in the '90s.

43 Minutes... is an awful lot better than I'd expected, although much of it's not especially to my taste. Sam Brown went on to sing live with Pink Floyd and release several more solo albums alongside sessions and working with her dad, although her hardcore fans tend to rate this as her best work. Next to no Mellotron, mind, but that isn't why you might want to hear this record. A quick odd fact regarding Brown's album titles: rather in the way that the Kings of Leon's album titles all contain five syllables, the initial letter of Sam Brown's spell out her name (up to 'O' so far). She claims to have been unaware of the oddity until after her fifth release, but now seems keen to complete the set.

Fan club site

See: Pink Floyd

Zac Brown Band  (US)  see: Samples

Duncan Browne  (UK)

Duncan Browne, 'Duncan Browne'

Duncan Browne  (1973,  42.37/58.52)  ****/T½

Ragged Rain Life
Country Song
The Martlet

My Only Son
Babe Rainbow
Journey
Cast No Shadow
Over the Reef
My Old Friends
Last Time Around
[CD adds:
In a Mist
Send Me the Bill for Your Friendship
Guitar Piece
Mignon]
Duncan Browne, 'The Wild Places'

The Wild Places  (1978,  41.26)  ***/T

The Wild Places
Roman Véce
Camino Real (parts 1, 2 & 3)
Samurai
Kisarazu
The Crash
Planet Earth

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Duncan Browne appeared in the mid-'60s, releasing his debut, Give Me Take You (****), in 1968, taking several years to follow it with 1973's Duncan Browne, largely due to his somewhat uncommercial stance and hassles with his label, Immediate. It's an excellent little album, fitting pretty well into the folky singer-songwriter area prevalent at the time; comparisons with Al Stewart and possibly Gordon Giltrap aren't too far off the mark, maybe even Richard Thompson in places. Browne's classically-based guitar work, as much as his songs are what makes him stand out from the pack, along with the occasional unusual arrangement, such as the synth part on Last Time Around. As for the album's Mellotron use (from ubiquitous sessioneer John "Rabbit" Bundrick), the various strings on Ragged Rain Life sound real, but that's full-on 'Tron strings on Country Song, with less of the same on The Martlet. I think Babe Rainbow's strings are, again, real, but he sticks some more 'Tron in amongst the synth swoops and proto-bass pedalisms of Last Time Around. All in all, this is a very good album indeed; I can't believe it's taken me this long to discover it (thanks, Joe!).

After another several-year gap, Browne released The Wild Places in 1978 on small UK label Logo, alongside concurrent releases from his almost-successful band, Metro. I've seen it unpromisingly described as 'new-wave melodic'; a better description would be 'slightly fusionesque late-'70s singer-songwriter' - snappy, eh? It's not a bad album, although Browne's songs are frequently subsumed under unsympathetic arrangements of the type fashionable at the time amongst studio pros; I can imagine the title track done in the style of his previous album and it would be a lot better. Of his three supporting musicians, two were Metro members (bassist John Giblin and über-drummer Simon Phillips), with another major session dude, Tony Hymas, on keys, including a smattering of Mellotron, with background choirs on the title track and an obviously-Mellotronic flute line on Kisarazu, complete with pitchbend. Overall, the material's OK, but compared to his earlier work, this is something of a disappointment. The cringeworthy cover pic's the giveaway here; I mean, would YOU buy this album? Mind you, I picked it up at the same time as a James Last LP (you sick man!), making it appear quite tasteful in comparison.

I think Duncan Browne will be a grower and his debut's excellent, too. After a lengthy period working in the film scoring business, Browne had just finished recording a new album, Songs of Love and War, in 1993 (sampled Mellotron on a couple of tracks), with help from Steve Hackett's old keyboard player, Nick Magnus, when tragically, he died of cancer. As for Duncan Browne, pick it up if you see it; the bonus tracks are good, though 'Tron-free. The Wild Places has its moments, as does its follow-up, '79's Streets of Fire (***), but don't go too far out of your way for them.

MySpace

See: Samples

Severin Browne  (US)

Severin Browne, 'New Improved Severin Browne'

New Improved Severin Browne  (1974,  32.54)  **½/T

Love Notes From Denver
Tickle My Lips
Romance
More Dreams in the Sea
Confessions of a Madman
Love Song
The Sweet Sound of Your Song
Do, Magnolia, Do
Cooking School
Beginning to Believe

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

German-born, American-raised Severin Browne is probably best known as the elder brother of the slightly better-known Jackson, although both he and their father are/were songwriters in their own right. As one of the first white artists signed to Motown, Browne found himself slightly adrift, eventually making two albums for the label, who were more interested in him as a writer, anyway. The second and last was 1974's New Improved Severin Browne, a fairly typical-for-the-era poppy singer-songwriter effort, which means it hasn't dated too well, lowpoints including the cod-calypso of Romance and most of the balladry.

Alan Lindgren plays Mellotron, with strings on Cooking School and possibly Love Song, the rest of the album's strings being real. The best this album gets is sounding slightly like CSN&Y, although John Denver might be a better comparison. Harmless, but all rather unexciting.

Official site

Jack Bruce (Band)  (UK)

Jack Bruce, 'How's Tricks'

How's Tricks  (1977,  41.12)  ***½/TT

Without a Word
Johnny B '77
Times
Baby Jane
Lost Inside a Song
How's Tricks
Madhouse
Waiting for the Call
Outsiders
Something to Live for
Jack Bruce Band, 'Live '75'

Live '75  (2003,  111.08)  ***½/TT½

Can You Follow?
Morning Story
Keep it Down
Pieces of Mind
Tickets to Waterfalls/Weird of Hermiston/Post War
Spirit
One/You Burned the Tables on Me
Smiles and Grins

Sunshine of Your Love
Jack Bruce, 'Spirit: Live at the BBC 1971-1978'

Spirit: Live at the BBC 1971-1978  (2008,  216.47)  ***½/TT½

You Burned the Tables on Me
Smiles and Grins
Folk Song
A Letter of Thanks
We're Going Wrong
The Clearout
Have You Ever Loved a Woman?
Powerhouse Sod
You Sure Look Good to Me
Jack's Gone
Clearway
Powerhouse Sod
Can You Follow?
Morning Story
Keep it Down
Pieces of Mind
One
Spirit
Without a Word
Smiles and Grins

Fifteen Minutes Past Three
Ten to Four
Madhouse
Without a Word
Times
Baby Jane
Born Under a Bad Sign
Lost Inside a Song
Something to Live for

How's Tricks
Spirit
Out Into the Fields
You Burned the Tables on Me
Twenty Past Four
Jack Bruce, 'Silver Rails'

Silver Rails  (2014,  47.30)  ***/½

Candlelight
Reach for the Night
Fields of Forever
Hidden Cities
Don't Look Now
Rusty Lady
Industrial Child
Drone
Keep it Down
No Surrender!

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

I'm sure you all know exactly who Jack Bruce is and who he's played with (Cream, West, Bruce & Laing et al.), so I won't insult you by going over it all again. Er... Anyway, 1977's How's Tricks was Bruce's fifth solo album, mixing jazz (and lots of it), blues and rock together into a not entirely unappealing stew, although the pure blues of Waiting For The Call is probably slightly unnecessary. Highlights include one of the rockier efforts here, Madhouse and the mad funk/fusion of Outsiders. Tony Hymas on Mellotron, with a superbly-played string part on opener Without A Word and more strings on Lost Inside A Song and closer Something To Live For, although not enough to make this essential on that front.

2003's Live '75 apparently fills a gap in his discography, being a document of an excellent band that never made it to the studio, making it invaluable to hardcore fans of the man. To the rest of us, it's actually quite difficult to pigeonhole, which is probably a good thing, although it doesn't make the reviewer's job any easier. 'Jazzy mid-'70s rock' sort of covers it, though without really describing it very well at all; maybe 'middling rock with jazz, blues and soul influences' would do? Suffice to say, it's the sort of music that was comprehensively wiped out by punk's Year Zero, for better or worse (delete according to taste). Bruce was in good voice in Manchester that night, his band including names such as recently ex-Stone Mick Taylor and celebrated jazzer Carla Bley, playing mostly material from the three solo albums he'd released up to that point, with only one from his Cream days. The playing is excellent throughout (no surprise there, then), although some of the arrangements are drawn out beyond the point of undivided attention, particularly the 23 minutes of Smiles And Grins.

Along with Hammond, Rhodes, clavinet and Moog, Bley provides all the album's Mellotron work (all string section substitutes, I suspect), although I'm unaware of her having used one before or since. The excellent Morning Story has a delicate 'Tron part that lifts an already good song, while Tickets To Waterfalls has little bursts of it amongst her organ work, leaving a few chords here and there on the One/You Burned The Tables On Me medley, and a fairly lengthy part on the even more lengthy Smiles And Grins. While a goldmine for Bruce fans, the rest of us may find much of Live '75 hard going, although it's introduced me to several good songs of which I'd previously been unaware. Bley's 'Tron work is never less than tasteful and, by and large, quite minimalist.

2008 brought a mammoth three-CD set, Spirit: Live at the BBC 1971-1978, containing no fewer than five separate recordings with as many different bands in several different styles. Disc one comprises two different 1971 broadcasts, one with Jon Hiseman (Colosseum) on drums, one with Bruce's old mucker Graham Bond on organ, sax and vocals, though sadly, not Mellotron. Disc three's '77 concert has a similar lineup to How's Tricks, with three lengthy (and very jazzy) improvs from a '78 set spread over discs two and three that are, to be frank, a bit of an endurance test. That leaves the '75 Old Grey Whistle Test set that comprises the bulk of disc two, recorded with (I think) the same lineup as Live '75 - certainly with Carla Bley on keys, anyway. It's not a dissimilar set to that album, albeit with far less jamming (thankfully), only adding one Mellotronic track, Without A Word, with strings throughout. Bley adds the strings to another four tracks, Morning Story, One, Spirit and Smiles, though none to the same degree. Tony Hymas adds 'Tron strings to the same three tracks on disc three's set as he does to the studio versions, so nothing you haven't heard before, but nice to hear them done live.

2014's Silver Rails brings Bruce's first studio Mellotron use in well over three decades, on an album that's... typically Jack Bruce in its mix of soulful, jazzy rock and more eclectic material. Guests include Robin Trower, Bernie Marsden (obvious on Keep It Down), ex-Scorpion Uli Jon Roth, drummer Cindy Blackman Santana and our old friend John Medeski, plus a slew of the expected top sessioneers. Although most of the album falls into the above description, exceptions include the dark Hidden Cities, featuring Roth's unmistakeable guitar tones, the growling Drone (in 11/8, time signature fans) and Cream-esque closer No Surrender! Best tracks? My vote is for affecting ballad Industrial Child, but the variety on offer will most probably lead to there being as many fêted tracks as there are on the record. Bruce plays most of the Mellotron work here, with background strings on Reach For The Night and No Surrender! (although nothing obvious on Keep It Down), while Medeski (who also plays Hammond on several tracks) gets in on the act with, er, more background strings on Don't Look Now.

Solo Jack Bruce seems to be a fairly jazzy proposition, although he's never made it into the top league of UK jazzers, probably due to his varied past and his eclecticism. Who wants to be part of that rarified, snobbish world anyway? These albums certainly aren't for all tastes, but How's Tricks is a nice, concise studio album, and if you have a taste for jamming, you may well go for the live outings. Buy according to taste, I think.

Here's a YouTube clip from The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Official site

See: Cream | Spectrum Road

Michael Bruce  (US)

Michael Bruce, 'In My Own Way'

In My Own Way: The Complete Sessions  (2002, recorded 1974-5,  125.31)  ***/T½

King of America
Lucky Break
Friday on My Mind
In My Own Way
As Rock Rolls on
If the Sky Should Fall
So Far So Good
Gotta Get Hold
Seems Like I Only Fool Myself
[Complete Sessions adds:
Morning Song
As Rock Rolls on (alt.)
If I Was King
Oh My Love
Nothing on Earth
As the World Turns on
Love's Opened Up My Heart
I Kicked Da Blues
Someone Like You
I Can't Leave You
No-One Knows the Stranger
In My Own Way (alt.)
Got to Get Hold
Love Love Love
Morning Song
Feeling Like I'm Somebody Else
Something in This Life
When You're on the Outside
Ain't That Just Life
Life Will Be Our Music
So Far So Good
Lucky Break]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Michael Bruce was, of course, one of the two guitarists in the original Alice Cooper, before the name became Vince Furnier's nom-de-plume. It's difficult to work out exactly what happened to the band in 1974, after the disastrous Muscle of Love (**), but one report I've read states that various members made solo albums, their erstwhile vocalist's Welcome to My Nightmare being, unsurprisingly, the most successful. Bruce recorded a handful of tracks with noted producer Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, a million others), going on to record a complete album the following year, which crept out in a couple of overseas territories as In My Own Way (tracks 1-9 here), only gaining a full(-ish) release some twenty years later.

2002 brought a much-expanded reissue, In My Own Way: The Complete Sessions, giving us all a chance to hear what Bruce had laid down nearly thirty years previously. And... it's a rather dull, mid-'70s mainstream rock album, to be brutally honest. I know this kind of stuff was big at the time, but after the excellent (if a tad off-Broadway) work Bruce made with the Cooper group, this is, frankly, a bit limp, material such as King Of America, Lucky Break and If The Sky Should Fall sounding more like, say, Elton John's contemporaneous work than anything more potent. Any highlights? The energetic As Rock Rolls On (featuring a guest spot from Alice himself) and a passable version of Slade's So Far So Good are decent enough; rather slim pickings, to be honest. On top of the original nine tracks, disc one adds the four Douglas recordings, while the second disc gives us the band's Lake Tahoe sessions, recorded between the Douglas tracks and the official release. While it might be pushing it to say that the cornucopia of extra material especially enhances the original album, disc two gives us rockier efforts such as Got To Get Hold, Love Love Love and Something In This Life, while the seven-minute No-One Knows The Stranger at least manages to be slightly epic.

Although there's no Mellotron to be heard on the original album, someone (most likely Bob Dolin, also live keys man with the Cooper group) plays it on Oh My Love, one of the band's four Douglas recordings, with string and cello parts dipping in and out of the mix, ending with a lovely flute coda. Disc two brings more (admittedly rather murky) Mellotron, with string parts enhancing the demo version of the title track and When You're On The Outside. Hardly enough to make a purchase worthwhile on those grounds alone, but nice to hear should you be enough of an Alice fan to feel you need to own this.

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See: Alice Cooper | Ant-Bee

Brunettes  (New Zealand)

Brunettes, 'Mars Loves Venus'

Mars Loves Venus  (2004,  36.06)  **½/T

Mars Loves Venus
Loopy Loopy Love
Polyester Meets Acetate
Too Big for Gidget
Whale in the Sand
You Beautiful Militant
The Record Store
These Things Take Time
Best Friend Envy
No Regrets
Leonard Says
Your Heart Dies

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Chamberlin used:

On their second album, 2004's Mars Loves Venus, New Zealand duo (plus drummer) The Brunettes' style of choice was pre-psych '60s-influenced indie, their male/female vocal interplay and occasionally witty lyrics their strongest suits. Best tracks? Probably the waltz-time Too Big For Gidget and closer Your Heart Dies, while The Record Store might just be the album's best lyric.

James Milne plays Chamberlin, with a string line and a handful of chords on You Beautiful Militant, although other string parts sound like, er, something else. Their follow-up, 2007's Structure & Cosmetics, credits Mellotron, although it fairly obviously isn't. Can we trust the Chamby use here? Who knows? Not that interesting, then, if truth be told, but better than its successor.

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Carla Bruni  (Italy)

Carla Bruni, 'Quelqu'un M'a Dit'

Quelqu'un M'a Dit  (2003,  37.16)  **½/½

Quelqu'un M'a Dit
Raphaël
Tout le Monde
La Noyée
Le Toi du Moi
Le Ciel Dans une Chambre (il Cielo
  in Una Stanza)
J'en Connais
Le Plus Beau du Quartier
Chanson Triste
L'Excessive
L'Amour
La Dernière Minute
Carla Bruni, 'No Promises'

No Promises  (2007,  34.40)  ***/T½

Those Dancing Days Are Gone
Before the World Was Made
Lady Weeping at the Crossroads
I Felt My Life With Both My Hands
Promises Like Pie-Crust
Autumn
If You Were Coming in the Fall
I Went to Heaven
Afternoon
Ballade at Thirty-Five
At Last the Secret is Out

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Mellotrons used:

Is this the same Italian-born virtual Frenchwoman Carla Bruni who is currently cavorting with (OK, now married to) a certain far-right French politician? 'Fraid so... We all know what he's getting out of the deal, but what about her? I doubt if it's anything to do with his pleasant nature, liberal ideals or riveting personality, that's for sure...

2003's Quelqu'un M'a Dit (Someone Told Me) is a heavily chanson-influenced album, making it fairly impenetrable to non-French speakers, but then, that's who it's made for, so fair enough, really. My problem with the album doesn't lie in its chosen language, but in its tedium; I'm sure it's perfectly good if you're into the style, but I found it utterly tedious, not to mention wearing, almost entirely due to Ms. Bruni's vocals being so high in the mix that you sometimes have trouble hearing the acoustic instruments accompanying her. Louis Bertignac plays Mellotron on L'Excessive, but only just... Vague background flutes seem to be the extent of his use and with so little going on in the mix, it should be difficult to miss.

On 2007's No Promises, Ms Bruni sings in English, principally because the lyrics are all English-language poems set to music, authors including Yeats, Auden, Rossetti, De La Mare and Emily Dickinson. Although the album finds her deep in the clutches of the French political system, it's made no obvious difference to her music. Her voice, however, is starting to show the effects of years of Gitanes abuse; why do some people find cigarette-ravaged tones sexy? Bizarre. This could actually be a lot worse; a lot lot worse, actually, which is why it gets a rather surprising three stars. Bertignac on Mellotron again, with quiet, yet pervasive flute parts on the title-influencing Promises Like Pie-Crust and closer At Last The Secret Is Out, plus an uncredited part on Before The World Was Made, making this a better proposition all round than its predecessor.

So; unless you love French chanson, you are really not going to want to hear Quelqu'un M'a Dit, especially with next to no Mellotron, although No Promises is a distinct improvement.

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