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Sarah Blasko  (Australia)

Sarah Blasko, 'What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have'

What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have  (2006,  48.20)  ***/T

For You
The Garden's End
{Explain}
The Albatross
Planet New Year
Amazing Things
Always on This Line
The Woman By the Well
Hammer
Queen of Apology
Showstopper
I Could Never Belong to You

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Sarah Blasko is an Australian of East European heritage, echoes of which can be found in her work. Her second album, 2006's What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have, contains an eclectic mixture of styles, veering between creepy (in a good way) opener For You, the touching-on-goth The Garden's End, the is it/isn't it upbeat pop of Planet New Year and the sad, wind-blasted balladry of closer I Could Never Belong To You, although in actuality, no one track really sounds like any other.

Jim Moginie (of Midnight Oil and Fuzz Face fame) and Robert F. Cranny both play Mellotron, with a strange male vocal sound that must be Mellotronically-produced on {Explain}, very obvious flutes on Always On This Line and what sounds like a single flute chord on Hammer, although it's quite possible it appears elsewhere, too. Sarah Blasko's far more original than most current female singer-songwriters, although comparisons with all the usual suspects stand up; What the Sea Wants... isn't a bad record at all, although I imagine it will take some listens to really appreciate. Not much obvious Mellotron, but that's hardly why you'd buy this, anyway.

Official site

See: Samples etc.

Bleach  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Peter Blegvad  (US)

Peter Blegvad, 'The Naked Shakespeare'

The Naked Shakespeare  (1983,  40.37/43.48)  ***/½

How Beautiful You Are
Weird Monkeys
Naked Shakespeare
Irma
Like a Baby
Powers in the Air
You Can't Miss it
Karen
Vermont
Lonely Too
Blue Eyed William
First Blow Struck
[CD adds:
Major Minor]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

American guitarist Peter Blegvad was a member of German/British avant trio Slapp Happy, subsequently merging with Henry Cow, moving on to a solo career (including various collaborations) by the beginning of the '80s. 1983's The Naked Shakespeare was his first solo effort, showing a rather clear XTC influence; hardly surprising, as that outfit's Andy Partridge produced almost throughout. Unfortunately, its recording coincided with the rise of nasty '80s production (XTC were far from exempt themselves), giving the impression that the album possibly wasn't quite what Blegvad was actually after; you can imagine tracks like opener How Beautiful You Are and Vermont easily slotting onto contemporaneous XTC albums.

Partridge plays (presumably) XTC's Mellotron on Powers In The Air, with a descending choir part, well in the background, so you're really not going to track this one down for its Mellotron content. Overall, then, a quirky, post-'noo wave' effort from someone whose work is mostly less mainstream (I use the term advisedly). Has its moments, but generally speaking, a slightly unsuccessful experiment.

Fan site

See: XTC | Andy Partridge

Bleu  (US)

Bleu, 'Redhead'

Redhead  (2003/04,  54.30)  ***½/T

Get Up
I Won't Go Hollywood
That's When I Crash
We'll Do it All Again
Searchin' for the Satellites
Could Be Worse
Watchin' You Sleep
Somethin's Gotta Give
Somebody Else
You Know, I Know, You Know
Trust Me
3's a Charm
Feet Don't Fail
Dance Dance Babydoll Dance

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

William James "Bleu" McAuley III's third album, Redhead, has been confusingly released in two different versions, the easiest to find being its 2004 major-label issue, following the indie version the previous year. Two tracks from the first version are replaced for the reissue, notably by new album opener, the sublime Get Up, but I've no way of judging whether the surplus tracks should have been replaced or not. Bleu was/is part of the L.E.O. project, so the occasional E.L.O. influence (listen to You Know, I Know, You Know) shouldn't come as that much of a surprise, although his chief influences tend to be the more standard 'B' bands and earlier US powerpop heroes.

Bleu plays Mellotron himself, along with loads of other stuff, although about all I can hear for definite are some iffy flutes and strings on You Know, I Know, You Know, and I'm by no means convinced they're real; L.E.O.'s certainly aren't... I think the orchestrations on We'll Do It All Again are either real or sample-based; the strings on closer Dance Dance Babydoll Dance are real, so it's quite possible they were used elsewhere, too. So; a decent enough powerpop effort, although I've heard better in the genre, and it's a little overlong, given its style. File under 'reasonable'.

Official site

See: L.E.O.

Blind Melon  (US)

Blind Melon, 'Nico'

Nico  (1996, recorded 1991-95,  38.37)  **½/T

The Pusher
Hell
Soup
No Rain (Ripped Away Version)
Soul One
John Sinclair
All That I Need
Glitch
Life Ain't So Shitty
Swallowed
Pull
St. Andrew's Hall
Letters From a Porcupine

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Blind Melon were supposedly the 'Seattle' band of the early '90s (actually based in L.A.) who were more influenced by what has irritatingly come to be known as 'classic rock' than their contemporaries. After a slow start, a memorable video propelled their debut, Blind Melon, to multi-million selling status, despite its (to my ears, anyway) relative lack of musical content. The darker Soup fared less well, after which their charismatic but heavily substance-abusive singer, Shannon Hoon, died on their tour bus. Probably not his greatest career move. Or maybe it was.

The largely acoustic Nico (named for Hoon's young daughter, named for...) seems to be the final word on the band, pieced together after Hoon's death from various unfinished sessions, demos etc., and is about as 'bitty' as you'd expect from such a project, although all power to the band for making this stuff available for their fans. I'd forgotten just how much Hoon's squeaky voice irritates me; at least track-by-track credits means I can skip most of most tracks, only listening to the 'Tron ones in full. No Rain (Ripped Away Version) is a different version of the hit-with-that-video-with-its-title-bizarrely-inspired-by-a-crowd-chant-at-Woodstock, and has a few seconds of high-pitched 'Tron strings from drummer Glen Graham, while the conga-heavy Glitch has strings and cellos, played by Graham and guitarist Christopher Thorn.

Well, if you like Blind Melon, you'll probably like Nico, but then you've probably got it already. If you don't, you won't and you probably haven't. I don't, I don't and I haven't, which rather proves my point, I think. A couple of listenable tracks (Glitch and possibly the more electric Swallowed), one with a decent 'Tron part, doth not a decent album make. Buy strictly only according to taste.

Official site

Blink-182  (US)

Blink-182, 'Blink-182'

Blink-182  (2003,  47.52)  **½/T½

Feeling This
Obvious
I Miss You
Violence
Stockholm Syndrome
Down
The Fallen Interlude
Go
Asthenia
Always
Easy Target
All of This
Here's Your Letter
I'm Lost Without You

Current availability:

Blink-182 began in the early '90s as a pop-punk outfit, ending up rivalling Green Day and No Doubt for record sales; Blink-182 is their fifth album and last before the band took a several-year hiatus. Dropping their previous penchant for toilet humour, the album showcased a 'new, mature' Blink and as a result, is rather on the dull side. I think you've got to be in your teens to really get this stuff, which locks me out in no uncertain terms; it seems to be OK at what it does, but what it does isn't very interesting...

Roger Manning (Jellyfish, Moog Cookbook) guests on keys, including an interesting backwards piano on Stockholm Syndrome. He plays (uncredited) Mellotron on two tracks, with volume-pedalled strings on The Fallen Interlude and a nice polyphonic cello part on All Of This, though not enough to make the album any more riveting, sadly. So; music for young people with a couple of reasonable 'Tron tracks. Not really, no.

Official site

Bliss  (UK)

Bliss, 'A Change in the Weather'

A Change in the Weather  (1991,  52.13)  **/½

Crash Into the Ocean
I Don't Want to Hurry
Only You
Gotta Give Up
Spirit of the Man
Keep Me in Mind
Watching Over Me
Ain't That Just the Way
Open Up the Skies
Inviting My Soul
Life Don't Let Me Down
Be Together

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

What can I tell you about Bliss? Hailing from Coventry, a small, depressed city near Birmingham in the South Midlands, going by their second (and last, for nearly two decades) album, A Change in the Weather, they played mainstream female-fronted pop/rock, of the kind that requires a fourteen-piece band to play it live, although I can't actually confirm the latter. For some unknown reason, it didn't do well in either Britain or the US, although mainland Europe and some other 'territories' welcomed them and their 'grown-up dinner-party' vibe with open arms. Basically, we're looking at largely mid-paced adult pop here; it's no surprise that Mike & the Mechanics' Paul Carrack and Hothouse Flowers' Liam Ó Maonlaí guest, as all three bands were aiming for the same, thirty-somethings target audience.

The distressingly overlong album was produced by the legendary Rupert Hine, who also played keys, adding Mellotron strings to Inviting My Soul, mostly in the background, with a few seconds of more upfront use in the middle of the song. I have to say, Hine was well ahead of the game, as few British artists used Mellotrons again for some years to come. I'm quite surprised I've never encountered this lot before, but I can't say I feel I've missed out. I have no intention of ever playing this album again, not even for its minor Mellotron use.

Official site

Blocco Mentale  (Italy)

Blocco Mentale, 'IIOA'

Πoa  (1973,  39.15/46.36)  ****/TT½

Capita
Aria e Mele
Impressioni
Io e Me
La Nuova Forza

Ritorno
Verde
[CD adds:
L'Amore Muore a Vent'Anni
Lei è Musica]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

In the oddly-titled Πoa (it means 'grass', apparently), Blocco Mentale produced a rated early-'70s Italian album, although it's not quite up there with the classics. The opening bars of Capita (which repeat on Verde) are probably the oddest part of the record, sounding rather like the band had heard King Crimson play The Great Deceiver live, and had attempted to replicate it from memory. Which, in fact, isn't an impossibility, as Starless & Bible Black came out the same year. Anyway, the album quickly settles down into a fairly typical feel, although that isn't to denigrate it in any way; it just lacks either the originality of a PFM or the sheer power and excitement of a Museo Rosenbach, although it does make up for it to an extent by dint of sheer tunefulness.

Filippo Lazzari plays Mellotron on four tracks, using it fairly sparingly, with only a few string chords in both Io e Me and La Nuova Forza, although Impressioni and Verde are smothered in strings, in most pleasing fashion. Irritatingly, the Mellow CD seems to have been mastered from vinyl, with a few minor clicks and pops clearly evident, but I suppose if the tapes have disappeared... The two bonus tracks are from a single released later the same year, and veer further towards the pop influenced displayed on a couple of the album's tracks.

So, while not a classic, Πoa has many memorable moments, and enough complexity to keep the full-on symph fan interested. Buy. Incidentally, apparently the Vinyl Magic issue is better quality (from tapes?), but has neither the bonus tracks nor the accurate reproduction of the original's die-cut sleeve, so as I believe both are still available, the choice is yours.

Blonde on Blonde  (UK)

Blonde on Blonde, 'Reflections on a Life'

Reflections on a Life  (1971,  45.20)  ***/T

Gene Machine
I Don't Care
Love Song
Bar Room Blues
Sad Song for an Easy Lady
Ain't it Sad Too
The Bargain
The Rut
Happy Families
No.2 Psychological Decontamination Unit
Chorale (Forever)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Named, of course, for the Dylan record, Wales' own Blonde on Blonde's third and last album, Reflections on a Life, is a bit of a hotch-potch of styles, which may have contributed to their eventual failure. Listening in the cold light of day, 37 years later, it's a decent enough post-psych record, mixing heavier (Happy Families) and lighter (Ain't It Sad Too) material, including unusual elements, such as the banjo in Bar Room Blues. The problem with the album, which also goes for their '69 debut, Contrasts, is inconsistency; great ideas sat cheek-by-jowl with, er, less great ones, not least the frankly bonkers No.2 Psychological Decontamination Unit.

Saying that, this isn't a bad album, but I'm not sure how much replaying it will stand. I wouldn't normally suggest this, but maybe a compilation of their finest moments would serve the casual listener better than all three of their regular LPs? Anyway, Mellotron on just one track here, from the mysterious Kip - maybe Kips Brown of Spring? - with a block chord-type string'n'brass part on closer Chorale (Forever), with the brass swelling up just before the fade. So; not bad, not great, you can see why this didn't take off at the time, really. File under 'OK'.

Guitarist Dave Thomas' site

Blonde Redhead  (US)

Blonde Redhead, 'Barragán'

Barragán  (2014,  41.51)  ***/TT

Barragán
Lady M

Dripping
Cat on Tin Roof
The One I Love
No More Honey
Mind to Be Had
Defeatist Anthem (Harry and I)
Penultimo
Seven Two

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

Although Blonde Redhead's three members were born in (respectively) Japan and Italy, the two factions (Kazu Makino and twin brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace) met while living in New York, so New York it is. 2014's Barragán is their ninth album, its forty-odd minutes combining dream pop, very light psychedelia, shoegaze and other slightly wispy genres into a unified whole, best heard on, say, Lady M or No More Honey, although, at least to my ears, the eight-minute Mind To Be Had takes it all a little bit too far.

Producer Drew Brown apparently 'forced the band to use analogue instruments' (what, at gunpoint?), the end result being that he played Chamberlin, Amedeo played Mellotron and Makino played both. Impossible to say who played what, but we get what I presume to be Chamberlin flute on the opening title track, muted Mellotron flutes on Lady M, The One I Love, right at the end of Penultimo and, in a pleasingly wavery fashion, on closer Seven Two and some choppily-played cellos (probably Chamby) on Defeatist Anthem, under a didgeridoo, of all things. Not the most dynamic album you'll ever hear, then, but perfectly listenable, with some genuine tape-replay into the bargain.

Official site

Blood Ceremony  (Canada)

Blood Ceremony, 'Lord of Misrule'

Lord of Misrule  (2016,  44.13)  ****/T½

The Devil's Widow
Loreley
The Rogue's Lot
Lord of Misrule
Half Moon Street
The Weird of Finistère
Flower Phantoms

Old Fires
Things Present, Things Past

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Toronto's Blood Ceremony formed in the mid-2000s, 2016's Lord of Misrule being their fourth release. Stylistically, the band sit somewhere between a female-fronted Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and countless lesser-known early '70s psych, prog and folk outfits; 'a folkier Sabbath', according to guitarist Sean Kennedy. Alia O'Brien's powerful contralto and flute work set them apart from their contemporaries, while the rest of the band refuse to do the 'standard doom thing', often turning the distortion down to 1972 levels. Highlights? Opener The Devil's Widow, the heavier The Rogue's Lot, the bit in Half Moon Street where they suddenly kick into double-time and the folky The Weird Of Finistère, although the album remains cohesive despite its (welcome) variety.

The band's British label, Rise Above, flew them in to record at East London all-analogue heaven Toe Rag; proprietor Liam Watson gave me a call to say 'Mellotron needed', so up from Kent it came. Played by Alia, yet strangely uncredited, it turns up on a few tracks, with beautiful full-on flute and string parts on Loreley, a clicky flute line opening The Weird Of Finistère, with haunting single notes throughout and vibes on Flower Phantoms, so hardly overused. All in all, an excellent effort, although little enough Mellotron to be worth it for that alone.

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Bloodrock  (US)

Bloodrock, 'Triptych'

Unspoken Words  (2000, recorded 1974,  27.27)  ***/T½

Gonna Help You
The Right Time
Unspoken Words
Afternoon

Chicken Fried
Pogo Stick
For the Ladies
Cerberus
Follow

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Bloodrock started off as ex-Grand Funk Railroad manager Terry Knight's new acquisition, despite having been together in one form or another since the early '60s. Their proto-metal proved popular amongst the kind of rock fans who worshipped at the altar of Grand Funk, leaving such tedious concepts as subtlety far behind. After six studio albums and various lineup changes, the band recorded Unspoken Words in 1974, although Capitol refused to release it as the band's appeal became more selective.

A double-CD set, Triptych, appeared in 2000, adding the unreleased sessions to their last two released albums, '72's Passage and the following year's Whirlwind Tongues. Was it worth it? Well, it's a bit of a stylistic mess, to be honest; opener Gonna Help You is horrid, funky pop, Chicken Fried is as backyard blues as you'd expect, while the title track and Pogo Stick are vaguely prog-lite. Maybe Capitol were right after all. The whole thing's under half an hour, anyway, making me think that recording hadn't even been completed by the time the label pulled the plug. Funnily enough, that analogy links straight back to the band's only hit, 1970's DOA...

Keys man Stevie Hill adds Mellotron to a handful of tracks, with strings on the title track, the slightly jazzy Afternoon and closer Follow, although I couldn't honestly say it adds much to the proceedings, except possibly on the last-named. I'd imagine Bloodrock obsessives probably need this for completion's sake, although the rest of us should approach with caution. It definitely has its moments, but only just enough to scrape three stars, and it's probably not worth it for the Mellotron.

Official site

Mike Bloom  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Bloque  (Spain)

Bloque, 'Hombre, Tierra y Alma'

Hombre, Tierra y Alma  (1979,  36.25)  ***½/TT½

Humanidad Indefensa
Ya No Hay Nada en la Calle
El Llanto del Poeta

¿El Infierno Esta Aqui? - Parte I/Una Posibilidad/¿El Infierno Esta Aqui? - Parte II
Meditacion - Parte I/Descubrir el Sentido Terrible de la Vida/Meditacion - Parte II
El Verdadero Silencio - Parte I/La Muerte Renacida/El Verdadero Silencio - Parte II
Por Fin He Vuelto a Ti
Bloque, 'El Hijo del Alba'

El Hijo del Alba  (1980,  37.32)  ***½/T

Poemas de Soledad
Alquimista Soy
La Danza del Agua
El Hijo del Alba
Quimérica Laxitud
El Silencio de las Esferas I
La Razón Natural/El Silencio
  de las Esferas II
La Elipse/El Silencio de las Esferas III
Fin y Principio/El Silencio de las Esferas IV
Un Hombre Nuevo
Bloque, 'Música Para la Libertad'

Música Para la Libertad  (1981,  36.51)  ***½/TTT

Pesadilla de Vivir
El Poder de la Libertad
Añoranza

Camino del Universo
Tau Ceti
Detenidos en la Materia
Sólo Sentimiento
Mágico y Salvaje

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Bloque were a Spanish progressive/hard rock outfit, with rather variable album quality, with their last release often quoted as being their best. Despite apparently being credited, I can hear no Mellotron on their debut, Bloque (***), at all, and in fact, the album isn't particularly progressive, being more twin lead guitar-driven hard rock. Hombre, Tierra y Alma ('men, earth and soul') was the follow-up, and despite the variable quality of composition, is worth hearing, although it's not the best the country had to offer. As you can see, several of the tracks are actually composites, although I can only actually hear six pieces, which should explain the slightly confusing listing above.

As usual with Spanish bands, the strings largely emanate from a string synth (why??!), although there appears to be some of Juan C. Gutiérrez' 'Tron strings on Meditacion/Descubrir el Sentido Terrible de la Vida, along with a large helping of choir, including a lengthy solo section at the end. More choirs on the last two tracks, and although the flutes on the Ya No Hay Nada en la Calle/El Llanto del Poeta sound real, I presume they're 'Tron, too, although the cello on ¿El Infierno Esta Aqui? has to be real. And those church bells sound an awful lot like 'Tron FX tapes...

Their third album, El Hijo del Alba ('son of the sunrise') has a more 'progressive' sound on its first side, but the flip has more of the duelling guitars you can hear on their first two releases. There seems to be an actual string section (and some brass) on several tracks, particularly the linked parts of El Silencio de las Esferas, although opener Poemas de Soledad features considerable quantities of string synth and some murky Mellotron choir. The album probably isn't quite as good as its predecessor, but still an improvement on their debut.

The following year's Música Para la Libertad is, unsurprisingly, a more mainstream effort, in line with whatever progressive scene still existed in Europe in the early '80s. For all that, it's still fairly good, with the band's usual hard rock influences cropping up here and there, and some halfway decent material. Gutiérrez had obviously realised just how good those 'Tron choirs sounded by this point, and slapped them all over the record, with particularly effective use on the balladic Añoranza and the instrumental Tau Ceti.

So; all of these come into the 'not bad, but not classic either' category. For the 'Tron, stick to Hombre, Tierra y Alma and Música Para la Libertad.

Blossom Toes  (UK)

Blossom Toes, 'We Are Ever So Clean'

We Are Ever So Clean  (1967,  39.55/70.00)  ****/0 (T)

Look at Me I'm You
I'll Be Late for Tea
The Remarkable Saga of the
  Frozen Dog
Telegram Tuesday
Love is
What's it for
People of the Royal Parks
What on Earth
Mrs Murphy's Budgerigar
I Will Bring You This and That
Mister Watchmaker
When the Alarm Clock Rings
The Intrepid Balloonist's Handbook,
  Volume One
You
Track for Speedy Freaks (or
  Instant LP Digest)
[CD adds:
Everybody's Talking
Look at Me I'm You (instrumental)
I'll Be Late for Tea (instrumental)
Mister Watchmaker (live)
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Jim Cregan interview
Love is (live)
Collects Little Girls (demo)
Hometime (demo)
Looking Up & Looking Back (demo)]
Blossom Toes, 'Postcard' 7"  (1968)  ***½/½

Postcard

Everyone's Leaving Me Now
Blossom Toes, 'If Only for a Moment'

If Only for a Moment  (1969,  43.33)  ***½/½

Peace Loving Man
Kiss of Confusion
Listen to the Silence
Love Bomb
Billy Boo the Gunman
Indian Summer
Just Above My Hobby Horse's Head
Wait a Minute

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Blossom Toes' debut, 1967's We Are Ever So Clean, is a wonderful slice of UK psych (albeit Mellotron-free), tracks such as Look At Me I'm You, People Of The Royal Parks and Mister Watchmaker almost defining a certain kind of English musical whimsy, helped along by its sometimes impossibly baroque orchestral overdubs. Sunbeam's extended reissue adds a whole ten tracks, a couple of them live, including a version of the album's Love Is, complete with Mellotron strings, presumably played by Brian Godding, although how they came to have an expensive MkII on stage is unknown. An excellent single from the following year, Postcard, features a little MkII strings in the background, although that's it for Mellotron use in their psych period.

The album's follow-up, If Only for a Moment, is a darker effort all round. It actually sounds like exactly what it is; a psych group moving into heavier and more progressive territory, although in places (notably Listen To The Silence), they hark back to something more akin to their earlier sound, while the sitar on Just Above My Hobby Horse's Head is pure '67. The material is good (especially the excellent Peace Loving Man), though not classic, although I know many aficionados of the era would disagree with me; maybe repeated listens will fully reveal the album's charms.

There's very little keyboard of any description to be heard on the album, and the only obvious Mellotron is a few seconds at the beginning of Peace Loving Man, probably from guitarist Brian Godding, making this about as un-Mellotronic as it's possible to be without, er, not using one at all. As a result, while this is worth hearing, and is a decent document of a transitionary period in British rock, don't even think about it if you're looking for Mellotron classics, the same going for the Postcard single. Incidentally, after the band's untimely split (they'd simply 'had enough'), some of them went on to form BB Blunder, whose lone album, Workers' Playtime, was reissued, for some odd reason, as New Day, with the band renamed Blossom Toes '70, and is Mellotronically-challenged, despite rumours to the contrary.

Official Brian Godding site

Blue Cow Kent  (Sweden)

Blue Cow Kent, 'Phantom Cathedral'

Phantom Cathedral  (2014,  46.00)  **½/T

Phantom Cathedral (intro)
Clown Eraser A.D.
Thunder is Coming
Alias Lincoln Bravo
Torah of Efva
In Case of Emergency
Orange Air
Ancient Continents
No Condolences for Uncle Ben
Last Hurrah

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Blue Cow Kent play what is generally known these days as 'melodic rock', an amalgam of cheesy AOR, its slightly rockier '80s cousins and, sometimes, a smattering of progressive metal. Not something that your humble reviewer has a lot of time for, frankly, which isn't to say the AOR genre didn't throw up a handful of classics in its day. Their debut, 2014's Phantom Cathedral, is that oddest of things, a melodic rock concept album, although genre fans can enjoy this without referring to the concept at any point. Best tracks? Probably In Case Of Emergency and Ancient Continents, despite its intro sounding like the theme tune to a third-rate HBO science fiction series, but the bulk of the album does that heavy-yet-not thing, with acres of squealing guitar solos for no especially good reason.

Catweazle's Michael Thörne plays what sounds like real Mellotron (his own?) on Thunder Is Coming, mostly choirs, with a burst of strings towards the end. So; genre fans should enjoy, the rest of us won't, not worth it for the Mellotron.

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Blue Giant  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Blue Magic  (US)

Blue Magic, 'Thirteen Blue Magic Lane'

Thirteen Blue Magic Lane  (1975,  37.41)  **½/½

The Loneliest House on the Block
Chasing Rainbows
Born on Halloween
Haunted (By Your Love)
I Like You
Magic of the Blue
We're on the Right Track
Stop and Get a Hold of Yourself
What's Come Over Me

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Thirteen Blue Magic Lane was Blue Magic's third album, carrying on their smooth Philly soul tradition, incorporating members of the city's legendary MFSB, which, despite their public protestations, didn't stand for 'Mother Father Sister Brother', although the 'Mother' bit was right. While the album's an efficient example of the style (least gruesome track: Magic Of The Blue), if you loathe smooth soul as much as I do, you're really, really, not going to get anything from this. Amusing note: Born On Halloween starts with what sounds like exactly the same wolf howl as the Blue Öyster Cult's Baby Ice Dog, from 1973's Tyranny & Mutation, although it probably isn't.

For some reason, one of the album's four keyboard players, Ron "Have Mercy" Kersey, Carlton Kent, Dexter Wansel or Ted Mills, plays Mellotron string stabs on Stop And Get A Hold Of Yourself, rather than the string section who play on the rest of the record. Is it to any great effect? Not really, no; not sure why they bothered. Anyway, a perfectly acceptable record of its type, assuming you like its type. I don't.

MySpace

Blue Man Group  (US)

Blue Man Group, 'The Complex'

The Complex  (2003,  54.05)  ***/T

Above
Time to Start
Sing Along
Up to the Roof
Your Attention
Persona
Piano Smasher
White Rabbit
The Current
Shadows, Pt. 2
What is Rock
The Complex
I Feel Love
Exhibit 13

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The Blue Man Group, on the offchance that you haven't encountered them, are more of a franchise than a band and more of a theatrical presentation than a 'proper' gigging outfit. Created by three New Yorkers, the 'Blue Men' are three anonymous actors/musicians who 'play' various seemingly-improvised equipment made from plastic tubing and the like, backed by a regular band. As you might expect, the whole shebang is highly visual, making recordings slightly redundant, although their 2003 DVD, The Complex Rock Tour Live, makes perfect sense. In the way that a stage show involving three people (not always men, apparently) in bright blue makeup and latex bald wigs can be said to make sense, of course.

The Complex is a slightly bewildering mixture of rock, comedy and percussive overkill that works vastly better with the visuals, at its best when utilising some of the instruments created for the show. Time To Start opens with a rhythmic pipework part, before Todd Perlmutter's ironic narration on 'rock concert movement' kicks in, with similar on Up To The Roof and their rather strange version of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, amongst others. Speaking of covers, I suppose it was an obvious one to tackle, but their version of Donna Summer's iconic I Feel Love is pretty decent, fitting their remit well. The album also features various guest singers, including Tracy Bonham, Dave Matthews and Gavin Rossdale. You know, from Bush. Bush? UK grunge-lite merchants who made it big in the States? Oh, never mind.

Mellotron cellos are credited merely to 'Blue Man' and, given that it's an unusual sound to use sampled, I suppose there's a chance it's real. It's only obvious on a couple of tracks, with the higher registers coming into play on Persona and a part on Exhibit 13 that I can only describe as 'dusty'. So; a rather odd album that falls a bit flat without its accompanying visuals, but at least you get to hear their music without all the brouhaha that goes with the live version. Little 'Tron cello and no guarantee it's real, but worth hearing if you're buying the album anyway.

Official site

See: Tracy Bonham

Blue Öyster Cult  (US)

BÖC, 'Spectres'

Spectres  (1977,  40.35)  ***½/T

Godzilla
Golden Age of Leather
Death Valley Nights
Searchin' for Celine
Fireworks
R.U. Ready 2 Rock
Celestial the Queen
Goin' Through the Motions
I Love the Night
Nosferatu
[Remastered CD adds:
Night Flyer
Dial M for Murder
Please Hold
Be My Baby]

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the amazing BLUE ÖYSTER CULT!" BÖC's fifth studio outing is in the same ballpark as the previous year's Agents of Fortune, usually (and erroneously) described as their 'best album' due to the inclusion of FM staple (Don't Fear) the Reaper; I'm sorry, but since when did one total classic and a handful of other good tracks make an album an artist's 'best'? Anyway, Spectres features three killer tracks, several 'good', and a couple of 'so-so' ones, with the deathless Godzilla, biker-gang death-match narrative The Golden Age Of Leather and the creepy Nosferatu being the classics.

According to an article in fan club magazine Morning Final, the band 'found' a Chamberlin in the studio (probably the Record Plant in New York) during the recording of the album and bassist Joe Bouchard, an accomplished pianist on the quiet, laid down swathes of Chamberlin violins on his own composition, closer Nosferatu. A mock-horror shlock-gothic masterpiece, it's the last of the album's three 'vampire songs', being a fairly straight retelling of Bram Stoker's original tale. This track highlights the difficulty in spotting the difference between Mellotron and Chamberlin strings; I had it down as a 'Mellotron track' for years until learning otherwise and it's difficult to tell even now, although the sound has a certain quality that doesn't ring true for the Mellotron. Whatever, it's a great piece of music and a superb example of the Chamberlin in action.

I'd cautiously recommend the album, but for beginners to the band, go for '73's Tyranny & Mutation (*****) or the following year's stunning Secret Treaties (*****) instead.

Official site

Killer unofficial site

Blue Planet  (Netherlands)

Blue Planet, 'I'm Going Man, I'm Going' Blue Planet, 'I'm Going Man, I'm Going' 7"  (1970)  ***½/TTT

I'm Going Man, I'm Going

Nothing in the World

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Mellotron used:

Blue Planet are one of those bands who appeared in the late '60s/early '70s, released a handful of singles and disappeared, seemingly without trace, although I'm sure someone out there will let me know if this isn't the case. I'm Going Man, I'm Going was the second of their three seven-inchers, and is, rather surprisingly, a hard rock number in that 'heavy pop' style that was briefly popular at the time, vaguely comparable to Frijid Pink's version of House Of The Rising Sun, or The Rattles' The Witch, both released the same year.

Possibly due to an inability to afford a string section, an unknown musician slaps a huge chunk of raw Mellotron strings all over the track, improving something that wasn't at all bad to start with. Can you get hold of this? Odd tracks like this are notoriously hard to track down, but it's available on a double CD of Dutch hits released in 1999, titled Pop Van Eigen Bodem, although I don't believe any of the band's other five known tracks are available.

Blue Rodeo  (Canada)

Blue Rodeo, 'Tremolo'

Tremolo  (1997,  63.29)  **½/T

Moon & Tree
Shed My Skin
No Miracle, No Dazzle
Falling Down Blue
I Could Never Be That Man
Beautiful Blue
Fallen From Grace
Me & Baz
Disappear
It Could Happen to You
Dragging on

Brother André's Heart
Frogs' Lullaby
Graveyard
Blue Rodeo, 'The Things We Left Behind'

The Things We Left Behind  (2009,  84.35)  ***½/T

All the Things That Are Left Behind
One More Night
Waiting for the World
Never Look Back
Sheba
One Light Left in Heaven
Million Miles
Gossip
Don't Let the Darkness in Your Head
Arizona Dust
In My Bones
Candice
Wasted
You Said
And When You Wake Up
Venus Rising

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Mellotrons/Chamberlin used:

Blue Rodeo are one of Canada's biggest country outfits (not much 'alt' here, to be honest), although they've never managed to break through internationally, i.e. in America. Tremolo (note correct spelling) is their seventh album in a decade - pretty good going by modern standards - and is best described as lightweight modern country-rock, tracks like opener Moon & Tree, the slightly rockier No Miracle, No Dazzle and the rootsy I Could Never Be That Man defining the record, although vaguely punky closer Graveyard is well out of character. James Gray plays Mellotron and Chamberlin, with what sound like Chamby strings on Fallen From Grace, while something tells me the pedal steel on It Could Happen To You's also from the Chamberlin. The strings on Dragging On sound real, although there's something else in there (muted brass?) which has to be tape-replay, although the voices on Beautiful Blue are real, as are the violins on Disappear and several other tracks. Mellotron? No idea, squire.

Twelve years on and we could almost be listening to a different band. 2009's The Things We Left Behind, their twelfth, is an excellent Americana album, top tracks including the Wurlitzer-driven One More Night, the rocky Never Look Back, the mournful One Light Left In Heaven and piano-and-strings ballad Gossip, although the album is possibly defined by its two epics: the upbeat, nine-minute Million Miles and the sprawling, ten-minute country rock epic that closes the set, Venus Rising. Genius or stupidity? Heaven or hell? All of the above, all at once? Quite possibly. If the album has one major fault, it's in the length department: eighty-five minutes is an awful lot of American roots music to sit through, however good it might be, not to mention a little self-indulgent, when your fans have to cough up more for a double-disc, when with a little judicious editing, it would fit onto one. Greg Keelor plays Mellotron, with a high cello line and distant flutes on haunted, Neil Young-esque opening sort-of title track, All The Things That Are Left Behind, although all other flute parts sound real.

Overall, Tremolo is a pretty bland release, with little obvious tape-replay work, although The Things We Left Behind is a vast improvement, if not for the Mellotron.

Official site

Blue Seeds  (Québec)  see: Samples etc.

The Blue Ship  (UK)

The Blue Ship, 'The Executioner's Lover'

The Executioner's Lover  (2014,  85.53)  ****/½

Half Life
Love Everlasting
The Breathing World
Out of the Stars and Into the Sand
The Parting of the Ways
The Horror
Something to Hide From Each Other
Blood and Guts
Aging Madonna
They Know Not What They Do
An Impossible Task
The Executioner's Lover
  What Boiling Arms of Whales and Babes
  The Victim
  The Winds That Drug the Farm
  The Moon Stops Speaking

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Mellotron used:

Glaswegians The Blue Ship's 2014 debut, The Executioner's Lover, is far from easy to describe. Brecht & Weill meet Sparks? Jacques Brel gets duffed up by Cardiacs? Imagine (if you can) a Parisian between-the-wars ensemble, complete with string section and accordion, playing a wonderfully overwrought version of what Schoenberg might have attempted had he been forced to write showtunes. Er... Not really capturing it, am I? They actually remind me of an utterly obscure mid-'90s band fantastically called Ennui, who hovered around the London circuit for a while, all camp theatrics and arch grimaces, but that isn't likely to help, either. This is what YouTube's for, folks.

Highlights? Opener Half Life gives you some idea of what you're letting yourself in for, Out Of The Stars And Into The Sand's near-nine minutes possibly defines the ensemble's sound, while Something To Hide From Each Other is a personal favourite, possibly due to band leader Paul Napier's rare use of guitar, although I have no issues with the album's chief instrumentation. Incidentally, disc two consists of nineteen minutes of borderline-atonal music for a small string section. Excellent composition, but, unless you've been exposed to twentieth-century classical music, approach at your peril.

Napier is credited with Mellotron, but all I can hear is a distant flute part at the end of The Horror that, er, challenges conventional tonality, shall we say. Real? Sounds like it might be, but, as so often these days, who knows? The Executioner's Lover is not an album for the faint-hearted, let alone Marillion fans. Italian label AltrOck should be lauded for releasing a record as far out on the margins as this; let's hope their faith in their audience pays off. Worth your time and hard-earned.

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