Corpses as Bedmates
Cotó en Pèl
Julian Cope (UK) see:
Salvation Medicine Show (1998, 53.38) ***/½
If I Ever Needed Someone
Salvation Medicine Show
Livin' in Spin
This Harsh Land
Buckets of Misery
Your Quick Demise
Eulogy for a Friend
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.
Spring (1997, 70.07) **½/T½
|The Ecchoing Green
The Garden of Love
The Chimney Sweeper
The Voice of the Ancient Bard
Holy Thursday one
Holy Thursday two
The Divine Image
The Little Boy Lost
The Little Boy Found
The Sick Rose
I Draumar Fær Du (2008, 130.13) ***/TT
|Det er den Draumen
Kom Ikkje Med Heile Sanningi
Song, Trø Lett på Hjarta Mitt
Eit Tre i Brand
Du Toler Ikkje
Eg Stoggar Under den Gamle Eiki
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
Enno er det Tid
Kor Lenge Har du Sove?
Spelemannen frå Dooney
|Var det Ikkje du?
Når Eg Vaknar
Eg Dreg Ifrå Glaset
Mitt Hjerte (2011, 76.41) ***/TT½
Mea Maxima Culpa
Et Lite Kjærlighetsdikt
Gjensyn Med en Kjærlighet
|Elegi for en Hengt Soper
Vise om Byen Hiroshima
Sten Mot Ruten: Dikt i Natten
På Jorden et Sted: Utvalge Nordiske Dikt (2015, 54.32) ****/TT
Ei Dagbok for Mitt Hjarte - X
Alle Veier Bort Fra Dig
Det är Vackrast När det Skymmer
Koma ein Kveld
På Jorden et Sted
Du Min Själ Bliv Aldrig Stilla
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.
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.
The subtitle of 2015's På Jorden et Sted: Utvalge Nordiske Dikt, 'Selecting (Selected?) Norwegian Poetry', tells us that Coren's set a raft of poets' work to music, the end result being easily his best album yet. Highlights include Innbying, Sång and Alle Veier Bort Fra Dig, but, unlike some of his previous releases, nothing here disappoints. Mellotron and Chamberlin from Frøislie again, with hesitant flutes (Mellotron?) and vibes (Chamby?) on Alle Veier Bort Fra Dig, Lengst Inne and Til Hjertene and more upfront flutes on the instrumental take of opener Salme, although there's nothing obvious on either Trolldom or Havet.
På Jorden et Sted is the best of these, although (despite its outrageous length), I Draumar Fær Du is the honourable runner-up.
See: Samples etc.
Nosferatu [as Hugh Cornwell & Robert Williams] (1979, 35.22) ***/T
Losers in a Lost Land
|Wrong Way Round
Guilty [a.k.a. Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit] (1997, 50.57/55.18) ***½/T
|One Burning Desire
Nerves of Steel
Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit
Endless Day Endless Night
Five Miles High
|Long Dead Train
House of Sorrow
[US ed. loses Five Miles High and adds:
Jesus Will Weep
Not Hungry Enough]
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.
Venus Handcuffs (1987, 35.24) ***/T
A Thought Through Shadows
Birds Fly Out
Gus Black Box
|For the Rest of the Day
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.
Galactic Supermarket (1974, 38.33) ****/TTKinder des Alls
Sternenmädchen [Cosmic Jokers feat. Gilles Zeitschiff] (1974, 47.14) ***/T
|Tim Bleibt Bei Uns
Right Hand Lover
Cosmic Courier Bon Chance
The Electronic Scene
Electronic Rock Zeitalter (suite)
The Queen of Sunshine
Meine Kosmische Musik
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
An Old Castle of Transylvania (1974, 40.41) ****½/TTTTSoundtrack
An Old Castle of Transylvania
Forest of the Death
Darkness of the World
An Old Castle of Transylvania
A Journey With the Cosmos Factory (1975, 42.56) ***½/½
The Infinite Universe of Our Mind
A Hidden Trap
Wind in the Morning (a Trip)
|Journey of No Destination
Black Hole (1976, 44.05) ****½/TTTBlack Hole
The Vague Image (intro)
The Hard Image
A Wandering Young Man
Days in the Past
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 Mellotron.
Spike (1989, 60.21) ****/TT
Let Him Dangle
Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
Tramp the Dirt Down
Pads, Paws and Claws
Baby Plays Around
Any King's Shilling
Last Boat Leaving
Mighty Like a Rose (1991, 54.29) ***½/T½
|The Other Side of Summer
Hurry Down Doomsday (the Bugs Are
How to Be Dumb
All Grown Up
Invasion Hit Parade
After the Fall
|Georgie and Her Rival
So Like Candy
Interlude: Couldn't Call it Unexpected No.2
Playboy to a Man
Couldn't Call it Unexpected No.4
Brutal Youth (1994, 57.24) ***½/T
13 Steps Lead Down
This is Hell
You Tripped at Every Step
Still Too Soon to Know
London's Brilliant Parade
My Science Fiction Twin
Rocking Horse Road
Just About Glad
All the Rage
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.
Love Letters From a Fool (2006, 39.34) **½/T
High on the Blues
Last Chance Girl
Love Letters From a Fool
Whenever You Come Around
|Love is a Gamble
An online review of Kristen Cothron describes her as 'combin[ing] cabaret and indie rock', which probably isn't too far off the mark, at least on 2006's Love Letters From a Fool. I'm afraid I'm struggling to identify any standout tracks; I'm sure her jazz-inflected indie thing is perfectly good at what it does, but it left me completely cold. Sorry.
Producer Ben Strano's credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, presumably the Chamby (flute) and Mellotron (string) parts on Your Love, sounding surprisingly real, I have to say. Sadly, they do little to enliven this rather dull record.
Holocaust (1978, 37.32) ****/TTTAura de Sons
Holocaust (Part 1)
Holocaust (Part 2)
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.