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Corpses as Bedmates
Cosmic Jokers
Cosmic Rough Riders
Cosmos Factory
Nikka Costa

Elvis Costello
Cotó en Pèl


The Coral  (UK)  see: Samples

Lanny Cordola  (US)

Lanny Cordola, 'Salvation Medicine Show'

Salvation Medicine Show  (1998,  53.38)  ***/½

Last Call
If I Ever Needed Someone
Confessions
Salvation Medicine Show
Livin' in Spin
Mrs. O'Neal
This Harsh Land
God's Trombone
Blue
Buckets of Misery
Pathetic
Infirmary
Lowville
Your Quick Demise
Eulogy for a Friend

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Lanny Cordola seems to be best known as a guitar shredder who's worked with hair-gods Giuffria and House of Lords (Gregg Giuffria of both outfits is ex-Angel), so his eclectic 1998 solo effort, Salvation Medicine Show, comes as quite a surprise. Influences include country, folk, blues and the more desolate end of the singer-songwriter spectrum, with considerable use of muted brass across the album, better tracks including Livin' In Spin, This Harsh Land, Your Quick Demise and the nearest the album gets to 'rock' in any form, closer Eulogy For A Friend.

Gary Thomas Griffin plays Mellotron, but only just, with a brief string part on Eulogy For A Friend, although a couple of other string parts sound more generic. So; interestingly unexpected, with several decent tracks, although the overall vibe is a bit too downbeat to be sustained over the better part of an hour. Next to no Mellotron, but it's hardly the album's defining feature, anyway.

Finn Coren (The Blake Project)  (Norway)

Finn Coren/The Blake Project, 'Spring'

Spring  (1997,  70.07)  **½/T½

The Ecchoing Green
The Garden of Love
Spring
The Fly
The Tyger
London
The Chimney Sweeper
The Voice of the Ancient Bard
Holy Thursday one
Holy Thursday two
Silent Melancholy
The Divine Image
The Little Boy Lost
The Little Boy Found
Infant Sorrow
Cradle Song
A Dream
To Tirzah
Jerusalem
The Sick Rose
Finn Coren, 'Lovecloud'

Lovecloud  (1999,  58.50)  ***/TTT

In the Trenches
Tears of Joy
The Smile

Blind Little Girl
Poison Girl
The Countess Cathleen in Paradise
Chasing the Rainbow
Shake Up the World
Dwarfman
Hostile Sea
Darling Downs '99
Riverboatman
Everything and More
Worn at the Edges
Grow Old With Me
Finn Coren, 'I Draumar Fær Du'

I Draumar Fær Du  (2008,  130.13)  ***/TT

Det er den Draumen
Sju Vindar
Kom Ikkje Med Heile Sanningi
Song, Trø Lett på Hjarta Mitt
Eit Tre i Brand
Kirsebærtreet
Vårkjenning I
William Blake
Du Toler Ikkje
Steinguden
Eg Stoggar Under den Gamle Eiki
  ein Regnvêrsdag
Det er Kaldt i Store Hus
Eg Stend Her No
Mange Års Røynsle Med Pil og Boge
Seint Gjeng Sanningi Upp
Tåre, du Tarv Ikkje Falla
Det er den Draumen - Epilog
Dette Lyt du Bera
Din Veg
Enno er det Tid
Under Bergfallet
Kor Lenge Har du Sove?
T'ao Ch'ien
Spelemannen frå Dooney
Kirsebærtreet
Vårkjenning II
Var det Ikkje du?
Når Eg Vaknar
Ofelia
Paul Celan
Dødsfuge
Under Stjernone
Vinternatt
Eg Dreg Ifrå Glaset
Svevn
Finn Coren, 'Mitt Hjerte'

Mitt Hjerte  (2011,  76.41)  ***/TT½

Mitt Hjerte
Mea Maxima Culpa
Et Lite Kjærlighetsdikt
Gjensyn Med en Kjærlighet
Besøk
Ynglingen

Spurven
Du Våkner
Likskjorten
Rosa-Sangen
Ischariot
Vinter
De Fruktbare
Natten
Søstrene
Modning
Elegi for en Hengt Soper
Vise om Byen Hiroshima
Kjærlighetssang
Sten Mot Ruten: Dikt i Natten

Current availability:

Mellotrons/Chamberlin used:

Despite having a name as Irish as a leprechaun sitting on a shamrock in a peat bog near Tipperary, Finn Coren is actually Norwegian, as his accent duly confirms. The Blake Project: Spring is beautifully packaged, and after finding it in the 'folk' section of a central London record shop, I was looking forward to giving it a spin. Hmmm. Well, it ain't 'folk' and it certainly isn't even remotely 'progressive' in any way. Try 'third-rate 'modern rock', with far too many percussion loops and naff guitar sounds for its own good', or 'U2 on a particularly bad day'. The album's concept is excellent; take twenty poems by noted British mystic William Blake and set them to music, ignoring any previous settings they may have had. Unfortunately, the music rarely matches the lyrics in any meaningful way; I suspect Blake would've been horrified by some of the maulings to which his work has been subjected here.

Coren's frequently half-spoken, half-whispered vocals irritate after a while, too, although they're nowhere near as bad as his regular 'singing' voice. There are a few tracks that made me stop and listen, including Spring, London, The Voice Of The Ancient Bard and The Sick Rose (probably the best thing here), i.e. the quiet ones, although most of it had me reaching for the 'next' button, I'm afraid. Tyger (as in 'Tyger, burning bright') is awful, and his take on Women's Institute fave Jerusalem is very poor. If only he'd stop trying to be quite so 'contemporary', stuck to writing, playing and producing and got in a decent singer, he might make a halfway decent record. I'm sorry to be so down on this, as it looked so promising, but I'm having trouble finding anything positive to say about it at all. Oh, you noticed? However... Coren's Mellotron work isn't bad, with some decent enough flutes on Spring, and various flute and string parts on the other highlighted tracks, but despite various rave reviews I've found on the 'Net, I can't honestly recommend this to anyone at all. Very disappointing.

1999's Lovecloud is a distinct improvement, losing many of Spring's cheesy 'contemporary' touches, better tracks including atmospheric opener In The Trenches, the string-led The Countess Cathleen In Paradise, the gloomy Dwarfman and closer Grow Old With Me, although the vocals are still a sticking-point. Coren plays Mellotron on most credited tracks, with flutes and cellos on In The Trenches, an upfront flute part opening Tears Of Joy (with one artificially-extended note: surely not a sample?), upfront flutes and strings (plus real ones) on The Smile, more background flutes on Poison Girl, rather screechy (again, sampled?) strings on Shake Up The World and Jon-Willy Rydningen's (too?) deep flutes opening Dwarfman. Are we hearing samples on this album? I'm really not sure, so this stays here until I find otherwise.

2008's hugely ambitious double-disc, I Draumar Fær Du, is a big improvement on Spring, I'm glad to say, although I have to be honest and say it didn't floor me with its genius. Ironically, it's the folk-influenced album I'd been hoping for first time round, although Coren runs through a whole gamut of styles over its two hours-plus length, including relatively contemporary indie, near-prog spoken-word material and even hints of pre-war jazz. I suspect you need to understand Norwegian to really get the most out of this album, as I haven't got the faintest idea what he's writing about, although a track entitled William Blake shows that his interest in/obsession with the great man hasn't diminished in the intervening decade.

Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler, White Willow, a host of others) has become Norway's premier vintage keys man over the last few years, so it's no great surprise he plays Mellotron here. Now, I'm far from convinced I've spotted every last background chord, but on disc one I can hear strings on Sju Vindar, Eg Stend Her No and possible strings (alongside real ones) plus cellos and maybe even brass on Tåre, Du Tarv Ikkje Falla. Disc two has flutes on Dette Lyt Du Bera and one of the MkII 'moving strings' phrases on Enno Er Det Tid that would've fooled me into thinking it was real were it not for the drastic pitchbends, plus flutes on Var Det Ikkje Du? and Vinternatt. Those moving strings could well be used elsewhere, but given how close they sound to the real thing, it's very difficult to tell.

2011's Mitt Hjerte is every bit as sparse as (and, thankfully, rather shorter than) its predecessor, highlights including the opening title track, Besøk, the breathy Spurven and Ischariot, amongst others. By and large, the quieter tracks work better to my ears, but you may disagree. Frøislie plays Mellotron and Chamberlin this time round, with a mix of strings from both instruments on the title track, Chamby cellos, strings and flutes on Besøk, Mellotron flutes and strings on Ynglingen, Chamby strings on Rosa-Sangen and overt flutes on Vinter, Mellotron strings on Søstrene and distant choirs on Modning and, finally, Chamby flutes on Kjærlighetssang.

So; despite its outrageous length (no wonder it took him so long to finish it), I Draumar Fær Du is the better of these by some way, with Mitt Hjerte and Lovecloud as honourable runners-up, which isn't to say I'm necessarily recommending them. I'm sure I look like a complete philistine for saying so, as it'd slash the concept to pieces, but I'd cut the former down to a 40/50-minute single disc of the best material, including the several Mellotron tracks. I really wouldn't bother with Spring, however, unless you see it dirt cheap and simply have to hear its limited Mellotron work.

Official site

Hugh Cornwell  (UK)

Hugh Cornwell & Robert Williams, 'Nosferatu'

Nosferatu  [as Hugh Cornwell & Robert Williams]  (1979,  35.22)  ***/T

Nosferatu
Losers in a Lost Land
White Room
Irate Caterpillar
Rhythmic Itch
Wired
Big Bug
Mothra
Wrong Way Round
Puppets
Hugh Cornwell, 'Guilty' Hugh Cornwell, 'Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit'

Guilty  [a.k.a. Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit]  (1997,  50.57/55.18)  ***½/T

One Burning Desire
Snapper
Nerves of Steel
Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit
Hot Head
Endless Day Endless Night
Five Miles High
Sravandrabellagola
Long Dead Train
Torture Garden
House of Sorrow
[US ed. loses Five Miles High and adds:
Jesus Will Weep
Not Hungry Enough]

Current availability:

Chamberlin/Mellotron used:

Hugh Cornwell was, of course, The Stranglers' vocalist/guitarist from the mid-'70s until around 1990, which means he co-wrote and played on all their best material, not to mention a lot of their later cack. Robert Williams had been Captain Beefheart's drummer for the previous two years, so was no stranger to odd music, which all in all was a rather good thing, all things considered. Nosferatu consists of the various bits'n'pieces that Hugh didn't consider suitable for the Stranglers and, frankly, you can see why. The title track is plain bizarre, as is Irate Caterpillar, consisting largely of scraping noises and extremely peculiar lyrics. Cream's White Room is the sole Mellotron track here (played by Hugh), or rather, 'Chamberlin mellotron' (sic), so presumably it's a Chamberlin; it certainly doesn't sound like standard Mellotron strings, so that makes sense. It was mostly recorded in LA, so there was far more likely to have been a Chamberlin about than in Britain, where they're almost unknown.

I heard rumours of Hugh using a Mellotron on a contemporaneous album at the end of the '90s, although it's taken me over a decade to track down the offending item, which turns out to be 1997's Guilty (retitled Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit in the States, with a revised tracklisting, which has been throwing me for some years). By and large, it's a fine singer-songwriter album, operating in an inoffensive mainstream rock setting, strangely not unlike Hugh's school bandmate Richard Thompson, albeit without the folky touches. Highlights include Snapper, Nerves Of Steel and Sravandrabellagola (a short organ solo, surprisingly), although I'm not sure why his US label deemed the original album unworthy of release in that form. As credited keyboard player, I presume it's Phil Andrews playing the (presumably real) Mellotron, with a rising flute melody on Nerves Of Steel and chordal flutes on closer House Of Sorrow and the US-only Jesus Will Weep.

I think it's safe to say that Nosferatu falls into the 'experimental' category, so don't buy it expecting anything like the Stranglers; saying that, it's good at what it does (I think), but it's no Chamberlin classic. Buy at your discretion. Guilty/Black Hair... is far more mainstream, but showcases Cornwell's excellent writing, although it really isn't worth it for the Mellotron.

Official site

Corpses as Bedmates  (US)

Corpses as Bedmates, 'Venus Handcuffs' Venus Handcuffs, 'Venus Handcuffs'

Venus Handcuffs  (1987,  35.24)  ***/T

Venus Handcuffs
Haebsibah
A Thought Through Shadows
Fur Man
Birds Fly Out
Dear Dear
Gus Black Box
Phantom
For the Rest of the Day
Rest Home

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Corpses as Bedmates sound like an early project from future Ventricle label stalwarts Mauve Sideshow, although I don't believe there's any connection. Basically, this is darkwave before the term was coined; dense, often dissonant soundscapes of tortured synths, twisted samples and atonal female vocals from Susanne Lewis, aided and abetted by Bob Drake. Suffice to say, this probably falls into the overused 'love 'em or hate 'em' category; half measures don't appear to be an option. Venus Handcuffs does have some sonic variety; amongst the clanking lunacy are to be found gems of dark, orchestral beauty such as A Thought Through Shadows and Birds Fly Out, though the bulk of the album sounds more like an accident in a foundry involving several women and a harmonium.

Definite Mellotron (from Lewis) on Birds Fly Out, with harsh, almost distorted flutes, and while Phantom is swamped in keyboard-sourced choirs, they just don't sound enough like a 'Tron to count here. Samples? Who knows. Anyway, an early example of the sound that Ventricle would go on to make their own. One for the goth in your life, assuming they have the imagination to listen to anything more challenging than Marilyn Manson. Incidentally, the CD reissue has no mention of the band's original name, crediting it to simply Venus Handcuffs.

Zacardi Cortez  (US)  see: Samples

La Coscienza di Zeno  (Italy)  see: Samples

Cosmic Ground  (Germany)  see: Samples

Cosmic Jokers  (Germany)

Cosmic Jokers: 'Galactic Supermarket'

Galactic Supermarket  (1974,  38.33)  ****/TT

Kinder des Alls
Galactic Supermarket
Cosmic Jokers, 'Sternenmädchen'

Sternenmädchen  [Cosmic Jokers feat. Gilles Zeitschiff]  (1974,  47.14)  ***/T

Tim Bleibt Bei Uns
Downtown
Lord Krishna
Power Drive
Bei Tim
Right Hand Lover
Cosmic Courier Bon Chance
Swiss High-Lands
Der Magier
The Electronic Scene
Electronic Rock Zeitalter (suite)
So Beautiful
The Queen of Sunshine
Meine Kosmische Musik

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

The Cosmic Jokers were a project consisting of members of various German outfits, including Klaus Schulze, Manuel Göttsching and Harald Großkopf from Ash Ra Tempel, Dieter Dierks and Jürgen Dollase from Wallenstein. Their remit on Galactic Supermarket seemed to be to make a seriously trippy, jammed-out full-on Krautrock album, totally free from any commercial considerations, in which I have to say they succeeded admirably. This isn't the easiest music to listen to, especially, er, 'unassisted', but there's some pretty cool grooves in places, and playing's top-notch, as you'd expect from such a stellar lineup. Dollase plays 'Tron choirs on side one, Kinder Des Alls, with several minutes of a four-chord repeating cycle that reminds me of early Pink Floyd, as does much of the Kraut stuff, then a more random part dipping in and out of the mix over the rest of the track. Nice Mellotron work, although I wouldn't describe this as a Mellotron Album per se.

Later the same year, the collective released Sternenmädchen, often mis-titled Gilles Zeitschiff, who is actually the young lady guesting on the record. You thought Galactic Supermarket was a difficult listen? You ain't heard nuthin' yet, baby... This is completely bonkers; proper krautrock, trippy as you like, with practically nothing on which to get a handle. Not all that much Mellotron, played either by Dollase again, or possibly Schulze, with distant choirs on Lord Krishna, and what sound like wildly pitchbent strings in the background on Der Magier. Several other tracks feature some sort of background voices, but they're as likely to be real ones as tape-generated; they don't actually sound particularly Mellotronic.

So; two resolutely nuts albums, possibly (or possibly not?) best appreciated while chemically assisted. The former is definitely the better 'Tron album of the two, although no classic.

See: Klaus Schulze | Ash Ra Tempel | Wallenstein

Cosmic Rough Riders  (UK)

Cosmic Rough Riders, 'Too Close to See Far'

Too Close to See Far  (2003,  45.52)  ***½/½

Justify the Rain
For a Smile
Because You
There's Nothing Wrong
Life in Wartime
Sunrise
Tomorrow May Never Come
She's Never Around
Kill the Time
Blind
The Need to Fly
Now That You Know
Stupid You
Smile

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The Cosmic Rough Riders seem to be mining a rich seam of Scottish pop dating back at least to the '79/'80 Postcard label explosion (Aztec Camera, Orange Juice et al.), with their West Coast-ish sound, not a million miles away from Teenage Fanclub's Byrds-esque jangle. Too Close to See Far is their third album 'proper', after 1999's Deliverance and 2000's Panorama, ignoring Poptones' Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine compilation, and is a cornucopia of retro powerpop, referencing all the Bs; Byrds, Beach Boys (the harmonies on Tomorrow May Never Come are pure Our Prayer), Beatles, Big Star, along with their Caledonian predecessors and contemporaries. Unfortunately, there's the odd nod towards Oasis, too, though that's as likely to be a second-hand Beatles lift as anything.

Fairly minimal Mellotron, to be honest, from guest player Andrew Phillips, with a typical 'Tron flute part (you know, Strawberry Fields) on Because You, alongside various Hammond, Rhodes and what sound like genuine monosynth parts scattered across the album. The vintage kit quotient isn't why you should pick this up, however, but the songwriting is; a pleasant surprise. Recommended.

Official site

Cosmograf  (UK)  see: Samples

Cosmos Factory  (Japan)

Cosmos Factory, 'An Old Castle of Transylvania'

An Old Castle of Transylvania  (1974,  40.41)  ****½/TTTT

Soundtrack
Maybe

Soft Focus
Fantastic Mirror
Poltergeist
An Old Castle of Transylvania
  Forest of the Death
  The Cursed
  Darkness of the World
  An Old Castle of Transylvania
Cosmos Factory, 'A Journey With the Cosmos Factory'

A Journey With the Cosmos Factory  (1975,  42.56)  ***½/½

Sunday's Happening
Daydream
Hiver
Confusion
The Infinite Universe of Our Mind
The Sea
A Hidden Trap
Wind in the Morning (a Trip)
Journey of No Destination
The Cosmogram
Cosmos Factory, 'Black Hole'

Black Hole  (1976,  44.05)  ****½/TTT

Black Hole
The Vague Image (intro)
The Hard Image
Crystal Solitaire
A Wandering Young Man
Days in the Past
Mirror Freak
Magic Window

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Cosmos Factory (named after the Creedence Clearwater Revival LP) were a fantastic Japanese heavy psych/prog crossover outfit; dated for the mid-'70s, but Japan were several years behind at this stage and probably sounded pretty contemporary to their audience. They were enormously energetic, with mad frenetic organ and guitar solos peppering their work, along with rather incomprehensible Japanese-language vocals. The material on An Old Castle of Transylvania is pretty good, if not actually top-notch; plenty of excellent instrumental work, and some great Mellotron from Tsutomu Izumi on the opening two tracks and the bulk of side 2's title track.

However, A Journey With the Cosmos Factory takes a complete left-turn from its predecessor, with experimental tracks like The Infinite Universe Of Our Mind, all discordant avant-garde piano, with most of the material fitting more in the 'psych' than 'prog' categories. Excellent Moog work throughout, but next to no Mellotron (although loads of string synth), all I can hear being background choirs on beautiful opener Sunday's Happening. Black Hole (sensibly) returns to the style of their debut, though with a little more sophistication, and a little less Mellotron. I don't hear any other sounds than the ubiquitous strings, but they make nice use of them, so I should worry.

I think these (or at least one of them) might just be available on CD, so if you ever spot copies, I strongly advise you to pick 'em up pronto, and not just because they're presumably as rare as rocking-horse shit. Excellent music, great 'Tron.

Nikka Costa  (US)

Nikka Costa, 'Everybody Got Their Something'

Everybody Got Their Something  (2001,  45.33)  ***/½

Like a Feather
So Have I for You
Tug of War
Everybody Got Their Something
Nothing
Nikka What?
Hope it Felt Good
Some Kind of Beautiful
Nikka Who?
Just Because
Push & Pull
Corners of My Mind
Nikka Costa, 'Can'tneverdidnothin''

Can'tneverdidnothin'  (2005,  45.20)  **½/½

Till I Get to You
Can'tneverdidnothin'
Fooled Ya Baby
I Gotta Know
Around the World
Swing it Around
Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter
On & on
Happy in the Morning
Hey Love
Fatherless Child
Nikka Costa, 'Pebble to a Pearl'

Pebble to a Pearl  (2008,  55.58)  ***/½

Stuck to You
Can't Please Everybody
Pebble to a Pearl
Someone for Everyone
Cry Baby
Keep Wanting More
Keep Pushin'
Love to Love You Less
Without Love
Damn I Said it First
Loving You
Bullets in the Sky

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Daughter of Sinatra arranger Don Costa, Nikka Costa was a child prodigy, releasing her first album at the age of nine, although she was nearly thirty before her first release in her own country (after an early 'second career' in Australia) and fifth overall, 2001's Everybody Got Their Something. I don't know if it's got something to do with being the offspring of a genius arranger, but this really is one of the strangest supposedly mainstream albums I've heard in a long time; it technically lies somewhere in the middle ground between rock, funk and R&B, although it doesn't really sound like anything else at all. Most tracks feature weird instrumental juxtapositions and unusual samples, although the more straightforward tracks (Corners Of My Mind is typical) are relatively commercial, I suppose. It's actually most refreshing to hear such an individual album in a morass of conformity, although we're not exactly talking The Residents here, before you get too excited. Justin Stanley plays various instruments, including clavinet, MiniMoog and Mellotron, the latter supposedly on Push & Pull, although you'll need sharper ears than mine to hear what he's actually doing with it. The skronky high strings near the end? Don't sound very Mellotronic to me, but I can't imagine what else it might be.

The first version of 2005's Can'tneverdidnothin' is, to my ears, superior to the released one, its best track, I'm Gonna Leave You, conspicuous by its absence on the eventual disc. Said album is generally regarded as a disappointing follow-up, so who am I to disagree? It has its moments (Till I Get To You, Fatherless Child), but is, overall, a poor rehash of her debut, without all the things that made that album (vaguely) interesting. Stanley's credited with Mellotron, but the only place it even might be is on the mournful Fatherless Child (apparently an elegy for her father), with a few seconds of high strings in the deep background. To add insult to injury regarding the unreleased version, it sounds like Mellotron strings on another deleted track, The Last Time.

2008's Pebble to a Pearl is a rather less eccentric and rather more mainstream funk/pop album, smothered in über-funky clavinet work, although towards the end, it displays a tendency to descend into funk/soul by numbers, almost losing it half a star in the process. Stanley on Mellotron again, with background choirs on Keep Wanting More and distant high strings on Without Love, although you really wouldn't notice if they weren't there.

So; Everybody Got Their Something's a record that, while not being exactly avant-garde, certainly stands out from the (rat) pack, which isn't to say you're going to like it. No obvious 'Tron, though, so don't get too worked up about that credit, while Pebble to a Pearl is more mainstream, with barely any more Mellotron and Can'tneverdidnothin' is just plain ordinary.

Official site

Elvis Costello  (UK)

Elvis Costello, 'Spike'

Spike  (1989,  60.21)  ****/TT

...This Town...
Let Him Dangle
Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
Veronica
God's Comic

Chewing Gum
Tramp the Dirt Down
Stalin Malone
Satellite
Pads, Paws and Claws
Baby Plays Around
Miss Macbeth
Any King's Shilling
Last Boat Leaving
Elvis Costello, 'Mighty Like a Rose'

Mighty Like a Rose  (1991,  54.29)  ***½/T½

The Other Side of Summer
Hurry Down Doomsday (the Bugs Are
  Taking Over)
How to Be Dumb
All Grown Up
Invasion Hit Parade

Harpies Bizarre
After the Fall
Georgie and Her Rival
So Like Candy

Interlude: Couldn't Call it Unexpected No.2
Playboy to a Man
Sweet Pear
Broken
Couldn't Call it Unexpected No.4
Elvis Costello, 'Brutal Youth'

Brutal Youth  (1994,  57.24)  ***½/T

Pony St.
Kinder Murder
13 Steps Lead Down
This is Hell
Clown Strike
You Tripped at Every Step

Still Too Soon to Know
20% Amnesia
Sulky Girl
London's Brilliant Parade
My Science Fiction Twin
Rocking Horse Road
Just About Glad
All the Rage
Favourite Hour

Current availability:

Chamberlins/Mellotron used:

Declan McManus renamed himself Elvis Costello in the late '70s and helped to invent what became known as 'New Wave', a term he's always despised, sardonically commenting that he couldn't understand why people compared his work to early-'60s French cinema. A master songwriter, the only thing that seems to stop him being compared to the likes of the godlike Richard Thompson more often would appear to be fashion, with Elvis winning over Thompson every time. His twelfth album, Spike, is stuffed with his usual themes, with wry commentary on modern life (...This Town..., the gorgeous Tramp The Dirt Down), Thompson-like takes on relationships (Pads, Paws And Claws, Baby Plays Around) and even history lessons (Let Him Dangle). All in all, a triumph of intelligent, erudite songwriting, the likes of which we hear all too seldom.

Produced by Mitchell Froom, Spike falls right into the middle of his most prolific period as producer for hire, having also worked with Richard Thompson, Crowded House etc. Most of his standard production quirks are here, with not a synth to be heard, even of the analogue variety, with the album standing or falling on the standard of the actual playing (remember that?), with contributions from Paul McCartney, Roger McGuinn, Benmont Tench, Allen Toussaint and a cast of thousands. Froom's Chamberlin is all over the highlighted tracks above, with strings and woodwind (clarinet?) on Veronica, flutes and muted brass on God's Comic, a minor string part on Satellite and, finally, what sounds like high-end cellos on Miss Macbeth.

While '91's Mighty Like a Rose is perfectly good, I somehow feel it doesn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor, although After The Fall is easily the equal of anything on that album, and Broken is superbly melancholy. Costello's lyrical barbs are as sharp as ever, with Harpies Bizarre (ho ho) getting the knives out in no uncertain terms. Froom produces again, although his Chamberlin work is far more muted this time round, in fact, inaudible on some of the credited tracks. Just to confuse the issue further, that's clearly a Chamby string line in How To Be Dumb, with no mention in the booklet. About the best part on the album is actually Mellotron, with an excellent flute arrangement on So Like Candy, drowning out the Chamby cellos (?), which do their usual trick of disappearing in the mix. Other than that, just when you think you've spotted the thing, it turns out to be one of the string/brass/woodwind instruments scattered across the album.

'94's Brutal Youth regains some of the ground lost on Mighty Like a Rose for its first half, but unfortunately ends up slightly outstaying its welcome, partially falling prey to the infamous 'fill that CD' syndrome. There are some excellent tracks on the album, particularly Kinder Murder and Clown Strike, but more average fair such as Just About Glad or All The Rage rather let the side down. The album is notable for being a partial reunion of the Attractions, despite Costello's long-running feud with bassist Bruce Thomas, whose vicious lampooning of his erstwhile boss as 'the singer' in his semi-autobiographical novel 'The Big Wheel' only served to exacerbate the situation. It is, however, extremely funny...

Anyway, the album's co-produced by Mitchell Froom (again) and Costello, and only keyboard credits are for Costello (piano) and Steve Naïve/Nieve/Nason (piano/organ/harmonium), so who exactly plays everything else? Almost certainly Froom, of course, with organ on several tracks and three fairly overt Chamberlin tracks towards the beginning if the album; This Is Hell features muted brass, with more of the same, but less so, on Clown Strike, while You Tripped At Every Step has a nice little flute run. So, not really a Chamby album (again), but a good record in its own right, nevertheless.

Costello is one of those artists to whom I've been meaning to take a closer listen for years, so now I've taken the plunge there seems no reason not to carry on. It's rumoured that Costello has used Mellotron (or possibly Chamberlin?) on several other albums; as I tend to say, more news when I get to hear more of his back catalogue. As for the above, they're all worth hearing if you value quality songwriting, although Spike is probably the best of the three, and it's the only one where the Chamberlin input's really worth hearing, too.

Official site

Cotó en Pèl  (Spain)

Cotó en Pèl, 'Holocaust'

Holocaust  (1978,  37.32)  ****/TTT

Aura de Sons
Lamentacions
Holocaust (Part 1)
Holocaust (Part 2)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Coto-en-Pel were another of those one-shot late '70s Spanish progressive bands that, sadly, appeared and disappeared before anyone really noticed. Their sole legacy, Holocaust is a fine album, maybe a little less obviously 'Spanish' than many of their contemporaries, with guitar work that recalls Steve Howe in places. The album is mostly instrumental, with just the occasional vocal part cropping up; keyboards are the usual suspects, with quite a lot of string synth, at least on Aura De Sons.

Pep Llopis' Mellotron finally turns up on the two-part title track; just strings on Part 1, but their (borrowed?) machine's full complement of strings, flute and choir on Part 2. While not as full-on as some, there's a fair bit of 'Tron to be heard here, and the album's bloody good into the bargain. Top marks, once again, to The Laser's Edge for digging up a worthy rarity. Buy.


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