Luis Emilio Batallán
Megh (1972, 38.27) ***½/T½Un po' di Burro sul Mio Pane
In Quella Città
Non Dire Mai
In Quella Città (la Leggenda)
I don't know an awful lot about Mario Barbaja (real name Barbaglia, apparently), although I've seen him described as 'progressive'. Hmmm. Megh consists of a diverse collection of slightly progressive Italian pop, but there's no way I'd describe it as 'prog', although there's the odd interesting track along the lines of the Indian-sounding Tan and the interestingly oblique In Quella Città (La Leggenda).
Franco Orlandini plays Mellotron on four tracks, with what sounds like some rather muffled strings on Tan, more overt parts on Non Dire Mai and In Quella Città and a nice flute part on Un'Armonica. However, you really couldn't call this a Mellotron Album, to be honest. Not bad, but not worth spending a great deal of time and/or money on.
Imager (2015, 40.46) ***/TT½
Barbarossa is Londoner James Mathé's nom-de-plume, his music mutating from (apparently) 'folk-tinged balladry' to 'electronic soul' over the course of a few albums. 2015's Imager is, essentially, an electronica record, albeit with Mathé's soulful vocals riding above the synths, better tracks including the mournful Home, Dark Hopes and Muted; the more rhythmless, the better, basically.
In an online interview, Mathé states that he played Home 'on an actual Mellotron'. The strings (in fifths and full chords, on at least two separate tracks) have that indefinable 'real Mellotronness' about them, which makes a very pleasant change, in these days of routine, uncredited sample use. More of the same on Dark Hopes, Silent Island and Muted, although Home is the album's Mellotronic tour de force. So; not really my bag, but good at what it does, aided by that real machine.
Comet of the Season (2001, 38.50) ***/½
|Nickel a Minute
Two Small Stones
Soft, Distant Light
Once in a While
Hot, But You Won't Blow
David Barbe has worked with many musicians, both as player and producer, fronting his own rated combo Mercyland in the '80s, although, ironically, he's probably best known for playing bass in Bob Mould's post-Hüsker Dü outfit Sugar. 2001's Comet of the Season is his sole solo album to date, and has some of that Athens, GA sound to it (Barbe is from Atlanta, but based in Athens, home to R.E.M., amongst others), with a modern psych feel in places. It's hard to say which Barbe does better: the slow, near-psych of Hot, But You Won't Blow or Medicine Takeover, or the high-octane Nickel A Minute or Once In A While; suffice to say that he knows how to construct a record that holds the listener's interest, which is more than you can say for most of his contemporaries, it seems.
Barbe is credited with Mellotron, but the only place it even might be is the flutey sound on Favorite Star, so this isn't going to go to the top of your 'Mellotron must-haves' list, I suspect. Not a bad album, most likely to appeal to your Athens Scene enthusiast, although the rest of us should be able to find something to like about it, too.
For All Time (2007, 42.02) **½/½
|Just for Now
Don't Go Easy
When I'm Making Love to You
Ashes to Ashes
For All Time
Two Brown Eyes
Starting to Show
Jill Barber is a Canadian singer-songwriter who, to be honest, breaks little new ground on her third album, 2007's For All Time. It straddles several genres, with the country of Don't Go Easy and Legacy contrasting sharply with When I'm Making Love To You's jazz/blues and the folky Hard Line, although 'countryish' seems to be the album's default setting. Barber's voice carries the material, along with a handful of decent songs, although most of them seem to be just a little too generic for their own good.
Les Cooper plays Mellotron on Ashes To Ashes, with some barely audible background flutes (the vibraphone, my first guess, is real); makes you wonder why he bothered, frankly. All in all, then, countryish singer-songwriter stuff, nothing you haven't heard before, really, with next to bugger-all Mellotron, to the point where if I could give it a quarter T, I would. Actually, I could, as it's my site and I can do what I like (within reason), but you've got to have rules, otherwise where would we be? Eh? Eh?
Barclay James Harvest (UK) see:
The Moses Lake Recordings (2002, recorded 1968, 33.51) ***½/TT
|Rainy Days I Had With You
Reluctantly and Slow
And the Light Broke
He Made the World
| Green, Green Grass
I'll Make Me a Man
Up From the Bed of the River
From Washington State, The Bards were a fairly typical mid-'60s garage outfit who, after releasing a handful of singles, fell in with the legendary Curt Boettcher (The Millennium), producing an album in 1968, unreleased at the time, which finally appeared in 2002 titled The Moses Lake Recordings. It's an odd mixture of their garage roots and mild psychedelia, its centrepiece being the fourteen-minute The Creation, a sort-of budget Electric Prunes quasi-religious mini-epic and the nearest the album gets to true psych. While no classic, it's also a world away from Boettcher's more usual sunshine pop productions, making it a worthy addition to the late '60s canon.
Mike Balzotti played Chamberlin on three parts of The Creation, with major string parts on He Made The World and I'll Make Me A Man (which sounds a little too pre-Rocky Horror for comfort), plus distant, reverbed strings on its brief closer, Amen. Overall, then, one for psych fans who think they've heard it all; given how many great recordings must've been lost over the decades, it's good to see something this worthwhile gain release, even if at least one of its creators (Boettcher himself) is long gone.
You Can't get Off With Your Shoes on (1975, 36.10) ***/TT
You Can't Get Off With Your Shoes on
West Side of Mississippi
The Measure of Your Worth
|Sinkin' in the Sea
The Nashville-based Barefoot Jerry had an Area 615 connection, which will probably only mean anything much to you if you're into the country-rock end of things already. Their fourth album, You Can't get Off With Your Shoes on, is a surprisingly appealing 'Southern'-style rock/country crossover, with plenty of dual guitar work and keyboard playing well outside Nashville orthodoxy, which has to be a good thing. Several tracks surprise with their variety; The Measure Of Your Worth starts as an average country toon, then shifts into 'Suvvern' mode before heading off on another tangent, and isn't that unusual in the context of the record. Progressive country? Don't laugh... The preposterously-titled Hero Frodo straddles the line between a soft-rock ballad and a cut-down prog epic, while Sinkin' In The Sea's guitar intro could almost be Kansas.
Warren Hartman joined for the album, playing various 'boards, including clavinet, Moog and Mellotron, the latter audible on Slowin' Down (faint strings) and the solo flute and massed strings on Hero Frodo and closer Cades Cove. So; if this unusual mix of styles sounds like it might appeal to you, this is available with its predecessor, Watching TV, on a 2-on-1 CD. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but what it does, it does well, with the added bonus of a couple of decent 'Tron tracks.
Little Voice (2007, 48.53) **½/½
Bottle it Up
One Sweet Love
Come Round Soon
Between the Lines
Love on the Rocks
Many the Miles
Sara Bareilles' second album, Little Voice, is, in many ways, a typical singer-songwriter effort, Bareilles accompanying herself on the piano in true early '70s Carole King style, for better or worse. The album actually starts reasonably well, but as with so many 'genre' records, its appeal palls after a few songs, knocking half a star from its rating. Better tracks include openers Love Song (apparently a US no.1) and Vegas, although Love On The Rocks is far too West Coast smooth for its own good (but is that title a send-up?) and slushy ballads City and Gravity don't cut the mustard at all, I'm afraid.
Eric Rosse is credited with Mellotron, but all we get is some distant, watery strings on Vegas that could emanate from almost anything, to be honest. Overall, a good EP has been made into an average album here, although fans of confessional female singer-songwriter efforts will probably love it, but with next to no Mellotronic input, I really couldn't seriously recommend this.
Burn Your Piano (1999, 48.17) ***½/T½
Burn Your Piano
Chester's Last Ride
Long Ride Home
Austin, TX quartet The Barkers (as in 'carnival barkers') released Burn Your Piano in 1999, to minor local acclaim, although its off-kilter Americana-esque stylings should've gained them far more attention. It veers between the Dylanesque title track, the sardonic, redneck-baiting Brother, the upright piano-led October Trains and a fab psychedelic guitar solo in Baytown, amongst other delights, while the lyrics are worth actually, y'know, listening to, just for once. Best of all, though, Farmer's Song sounds like it opens with blown bottles (you know, fill several bottles with differing levels of water and blow across the top). Beats a Mellotron for archaism straight off. Speaking of which...
I'm really not at all sure whether or not this should be here, to be honest; despite a reference to 'their Mellotron' in an article in The Austin Chronicle, the speedy string run in Brother doesn't sound quite right, although the consistently sharp strings in closer New Waltz sound authentic enough. Who can say? The band seem to've subsequently fallen off the map, so we'll probably never know. Americana/old-time fans really should make the effort to track this one down, though. A little-known gem.
Heat (1993, 67.07) **½/TT
|Sweat it Out
Wheels in Motion
Burn Baby Burn
Something's Got a Hold
Talking to You
|Wait for Me
Tears We Cry
Right By Your Side
A Little Bit of Love
I'd Rather Be Blind
Not the Loving Kind
Knock Me Down
Catch Your Shadow
|CDS (1993, 12.44) **½/TTT
Right By Your Side
Love Will Find a Way (rough mix)
Ex-Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes is essentially Australia's answer to Joe Cocker, as far as I can work out, though with an even bigger reputation as a hard-drinking, hard-loving etc. etc. (yawn). Like Cocker, his reputation isn't borne out by his music, which seems to be largely anodyne 'middle-of-the-road rock', the sort of thing to which middle-aged guys listen to pretend they're still 'relevant' (see: Eric Clapton. Or don't). 1993's Heat is his seventh solo album, released a decade after Cold Chisel's dissolution, fitting neatly into that 'return to the roots' sound that appeared in the early '90s, presumably in reaction to the '80s' production excesses. I'd hardly call it the most dynamic rock album I've ever heard, but it's always better to hear Hammonds and Clavinets as against crummy digital synths and sampled drums, at least as far as I'm concerned. Of course, it's vastly overlong (believe me, over an hour of this stuff has a peculiarly soporific effect), but at least's it's generally harmless.
Our old friend John Philip "Phil" Shenale (Tori Amos, Bangles, Willy DeVille) plays keys, including uncredited Mellotron (thanks, Tilo), apparently 'found in a cupboard' at the studio. As you do... We get strings (string section?) on opener Sweat It Out, cellos on Something's Got A Hold, regular strings on Love Thing and strings and flutes on Talking To You, although the strings on Stone Cold are real. Oddly, that's it for the album's 'Tron content, with nothing even on closing ballad Catch Your Shadow. One of the album's singles, Right By Your Side, features a non-album b-side, the soul-inflected Love Will Find A Way (Rough Mix), with the highest 'Tron content (strings and cellos) of anything here, making it a shame it isn't on reissues of Heat, although it can be found on disc two of 1997's imaginatively-titled The Best of Jimmy Barnes. The best thing about these releases is their Mellotron use, to be honest; the music's dull, mainstream stuff, only slightly enlivened by the 'Tron.
Primal Dream (1990, 45.58) ***½/T
|Where the Truth Lies
Before You Were Born
River to River
I Only Took What I Needed
|To the Pure...
I'll Be Your Mirror
Clouds Over Eden (1993, 47.42) ***½/TT
|Within These Walls
Nobody Knows Me
Clouds Over Eden
Waiting for the Train
|Standing in the Line
Law of the Jungle
Within These Walls (reprise)
After his first band, the Bongos, split in the mid-'80s, New Jersey native Barone's solo career kicked off with a live album, Cool Blue Halo, presaging the 'chamber pop' of the following decade, and including cellist Jane Scarpantoni of Tiny Lights. By his second solo release, 1990's Primal Dream, he was sitting fairly and squarely in singer/songwriter territory, with those chamber pop elements creeping in here and there (Scarpantoni guests again). The writing's good, though given the year of release, there seems to be a slight '80s hangover, of the kind that only the very best (or stubborn) artists managed to avoid. Highlights include Opposites Attracting and Native Tongue, while the guitarist on opener Where The Truth Lies seems to be channelling the solo from Gerry Rafferty's Baker St. Mellotron from Mr. Barone, though not all that much, with flutes on River To River and weird, stabby strings on I Only Took What I Needed.
Three years on and Clouds Over Eden appears. The songwriting really is very good, without straying into the sort of schmaltz of which so many of his contemporaries are guilty, which isn't to say that it's all great, but there's enough good material to make this a decent listen. Digital keys seem to be a no-no here (hoorah!), with a Hammond used on several tracks, along with Barone's Mellotron work. Credited on five tracks, it's only really audible on three, although I hear a couple of string chords on excellent opener Within These Walls, along with a string quartet. More strings on Forbidden (played by co-writer George Usher) and Beautiful Human, with flutes on Standing In The Line, leaving Paper Airplane as the 'OK, so where is it?' track.
As these albums progressed, I moved from 'hmmm, pretty good' to 'so what?' then back to 'OK, worth a listen', although this seems to have nothing to do with the quality of the material at any given point on the disc. Basically, if you like well-crafted singer-songwriter material, chances are you'll like both these albums, and there's enough Mellotron to be worth hearing should you find copies cheap.
Curse of the Red River (2010, 54.07) ***½/T½Curse of the Red River
The Ritual of Dawn
Ere All Perish
Cold Earth Chamber
Barren Earth are a Finnish metal supergroup (yes, it seems there can be such a thing), comprising members of Kreator, Moonsorrow and others, whose debut, 2010's Curse of the Red River, is surprisingly listenable for non-lovers of the more metallic end of the metal spectrum. It takes influences from early Priest, Metallica and doubtless other more modern outfits I haven't heard, alongside '70s prog and folk (mainly in the melody department). The end result is an unexpectedly tuneful racket, only spoiled by the on-off 'cookie monster' vocals. WHY do you do this, guys? Is it meant to be threatening? It isn't. The album's improved immeasurably when Mikko Kotamäki stops growling and starts singing, which he can do perfectly well.
Kasper Mårtenson plays either Mellotron, or exceedingly good samples, with strings on the title track, Flicker and The Ritual Of Dawn, although the background strings and choirs on most of the rest are generic samples. Overall, Curse of the Red River treads the fine line between 'traditional' and 'extreme' metal, throwing some folk-metal in for good measure. If you can ignore the silly vocals, it's not a bad listen, although I can't say it's ever going to replace, say, Stained Class or even Metallica in my affections. A little Mellotron (assuming it's real), but nothing to get too excited about.
Opel (1988, recorded 1968-70, 45.53/65.05) ****/½
Clowns and Jugglers
Wined and Dined
|Swan Lee (Silas Lang)
Lanky (Part One)
Wouldn't You Miss Me (Dark Globe)
Gigolo Aunt (Take 9)
It is Obvious (Take 3)
It is Obvious (Take 5)
Clowns and Jugglers (Take 1)
Late Night (Take 2)
Effervescing Elephant (Take 2)]
An Introduction to Syd Barrett (2010, recorded 1967-70, 59.31/79.40) ****½/T½
|Arnold Layne (remaster)
See Emily Play (remaster)
Apples and Oranges (remaster)
Matilda Mother (alt.version, new mix)
Chapter 24 (remaster)
Love You (remaster)
|Dark Globe (remaster)
Here I Go (remix)
Octopus (new mix)
She Took a Long Cool Look (new mix)
If it's in You (remaster)
Baby Lemonade (remaster)
Dominoes (new mix)
Gigolo Aunt (remaster)
|Effervescing Elephant (remaster)
Bob Dylan Blues (remaster)
[Some eds. add:
There are those who maintain that Pink Floyd's best work is to be found on their early singles and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn with Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett; a matter of opinion, clearly, but held by enough people to be impossible to ignore entirely. Of course, he bailed/was kicked out of the band in early '68, a direct result of his not-so slow descent into the fractured state of mind in which he (arguably) existed for the rest of his life. His two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett (both released 1970, though recorded across various sessions between mid-'68 and then) are treasure troves of Barrett-esque whimsy, adding many gems to his tiny canon and even with bootlegs of the album sessions in circulation, there is unceasing fan demand for more.
Opel appeared in 1988, originally on vinyl, gathering together many unreleased tracks, along with early versions and alternate takes of previously-released material, silencing the faithful for a while. Sadly, prepared versions of Floyd's Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream were pulled, presumably at the request of the by-then fragmented band, still not seeing official release to this day. What we do get are outtakes of the quality of the title track, the beautiful Word Song and Dolly Rocker, along with later-rerecorded material such as Clowns And Jugglers (later Octopus) and an early Wined And Dined. As if that wasn't enough, 1993's CD version added another half-dozen tracks, arguably to the overall detriment of the collection, with even more appearing on the same year's Crazy Diamond box set. Rather surprisingly, there's the tiniest snatch of Mellotron to be found here, with a faint, rather tuneless MkII flute part to be heard on Syd's Hiawatha-esque Swan Lee (Silas Lang), that adds precisely nothing to the track. Although the player's unknown (records don't appear to have been kept of many of Syd's solo sessions), it seems likely that Rick Wright hauled his black and gold MkII in, although the out-of-key meandering is quite unlike his normally concise style.
2010 brought the 'exactly what it says on the tin' An Introduction to Syd Barrett, an excellent overview of the few years of his recording career, all tracks remixed or remastered. The joker in the pack is the iTunes (and other versions?) bonus track, the twenty-minute Rhamadan, previously only available on bootlegs. It's no surprise it isn't on the regular version; EMI could already hear the complaints from many casual listeners at being presented with an aimless, endless studio jam, although for hardcore fans, it's (at least a piece of) Syd's holy grail. I can only presume that it's the man himself who spends most of the track messing about on a MkII, giving us, variously, some very choppy electric guitar, left-hand manual moving strings and vibes over a jammed-out backing that may well be his old bandmates.
Overall, then, both titles are a 'must' for Syd fans, although I'm sure you've already got not only these, his two official albums and Crazy Diamond, but every bootleg going, too; er, how many takes of Effervescing Elephant do you need? Answer: how many have you got? Anyway, Opel's a thoroughly worthwhile compilation, but don't bother for its utterly minimal Mellotron, while An Introduction...'s only worth it for its bonus track. For the two of you who didn't know, Syd died on 7th July 2006, never reconciling himself with his brief but mercurial musical career. R.I.P., Syd.
Barrett family trust
See: Pink Floyd
Bleu Pétrole (2008, 50.31) ***/T
|Je t'Ai Manqué
Résidents de la République
Tant de Nuits
Hier à Sousse
Comme un Légo
Sur un Trapèze
Je Tuerai la Pianiste
Le Secret des Banquises
Il Voyage en Solitaire
2008's Bleu Pétrole was Alain Bashung's last album before his untimely death the following year, from lung cancer (that'll be a lifelong Gallic 40-a-day habit, I expect). Much of it's in a folky vein, although elements of jazz, blues and French chanson are all apparent at different points. Best tracks? Probably opener Je T'Ai Manqué, Comme Un Légo and his take on Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, suitably translated.
Mark Plati plays Mellotron on Sur Un Trapèze, with a nicely overt string part, although its last, high note lasts far longer than the Mellotron's eight-second limit, meaning it's a) something else at that point, b) studio trickery or c) sampled, probably throughout. Either way, this is a good album of its type, a fitting memorial for a long and honourable career.
Voci (1976, 38.50) ****½/½Preludio
I don't really know anything about the estimable Mr. Basso, but Voci is an excellent album, overflowing with lyrical (if instrumental) Italian mid-'70s Italian prog of the highest order. Preludio is good, but Promenade I is quite superb, with some lovely harpsichord/clavinet interplay, with all keyboards played by Basso himself. The other three tracks are all excellent, too, with Echo sounding a lot like early Pink Floyd, appropriately enough. I don't know the identities of any of the other musicians, but there's a violinist and a cellist involved, adding an almost classical feel to proceedings; appropriate, since Basso's three subsequent albums are apparently pretty much in the neo-classical vein.
About the only disappointment here is the almost total lack of audible Mellotron; I keep thinking I can hear it, only to realise it's real strings, ditto the voices on Echo. I finally spotted a flute line on Echo that has to be 'Tron, but it's not exactly overt. So, although the album barely merits a review on this site, it's an absolutely fabulous record that deserves your attention at the earliest opportunity, being right up there with the best of its genre. Buy unreservedly.
Ahí Ven o Maio (1975, 40.06) **½/½
|Ahí Ven o Maio
I a Nosa Señora Detrás do Tonel
Quien Poidera Namorarla
I'm having trouble locating any information on Luis Emilio Batallán; being little-known outside his home country, pretty much all 'Net info on him is in Spanish, which (unlike in the States) isn't the first, or even the second foreign language taught in British schools. Suffice to say, at least going by 1975's Ahí Ven o Maio (I've no idea how many other albums he may've recorded), he's a lightweight, slightly folky balladeer, mainstream without being horribly gloopy. The album's perfectly harmless, also totally dull, with no standout features whatsoever.
Granada's Carlos Cárcamo plays Mellotron, with background strings on Quien Poidera Namorarla, although the other orchestral sounds on the album seem to be precisely that. This is available on CD, but the question has to be asked: why would you? It only gets as high a rating as it does due to its complete harmlessness; it didn't particularly irritate, but then, it didn't particularly do anything at all. Practically no obvious Mellotron, either, making for a resounding, all round 'no'.