Damon & Naomi
David Karsten Daniels
Lavori in Corso (1997, 60.15) ****/T½Work Machine
La Sua Anima
Trip on Metrò
Space Age Man
DFA (Duty Free Area) are another recent Italian band, along with the likes of Finisterre and their offshoot, Höstsonaten, who have rejected the irritating 'modernism' of the neo-prog crowd, delving instead into their own country's musical past and taking on board influences from the '70s greats such as Banco and PFM. Although jazzier than the above-named bands, DFA are firmly in the 'non-neo' area and, as such, are worth hearing.
Lavori in Corso ('Work in Progress') was their debut release, and the only one to date to feature Alberto Bonomi's Hammond and Mellotron skills. Much of it featured re-recordings of tracks from their 1995 demo, Trip on Metrò which, while listed on their site, is almost certainly long-deleted. The music reminds me of various '70s bands, not least Italian jazz-rock greats Area, with hints of Gentle Giant in places. Incidentally, I've listed the tracks as they are on the band's site, not as per the CD insert, making Pantera a lengthy two-part track including La Sua Anima. There's a little confusion over Bonomi's 'Tron use, as I'm certain the strings in Collage, for one, are modern generic samples, and I've only included Space Age Man because of the 'stabbed' chords near the end which sound more 'Tron than string sample. However, most of his limited use is standard 8-choir, including a short burst at the end of the 16-minute La Via, though you have to begin to wonder whether any of it's real.
DFA followed up a year later with Duty Free Area (***½), a jazzier work, then Work in Progress Live (***½) from their US NEARfest performance in 2000, although nothing seems to have been heard from the band since their appearance at Baja Prog in 2002. They haven't made a bad album yet, though (assuming they're still in existence), and Lavori in Corso is probably the best of the three. Recommended.
Zen of Logic (2006, 56.29) ***/T
|Peace Y'all (I am in the House)
9th Ward Blues
Jason "DJ Logic" Kibler is part of the New York scene that includes Medeski Martin & Wood and Scotty Hard and was mentored by Living Colour's guitarist extraordinaire Vernon Reid, giving him kudos here immediately. Zen of Logic is his fourth album, featuring his turntablist skills extensively, alongside musicians of the calibre of Medeski and Hard. Musically, it's a hip-hop/jazz cross, effectively, with elements of other styles thrown into the cauldron; not typical Planet Mellotron fare, I'll grant you, but good at what it does.
Medeski plays credited Mellotron on Rat Pack, with choir chords and a flute melody that do the usual thing for the song. Shame it's not on anything else, but there you go. A hip-hop album that has nothing to do with bling, ho's, bitches etc. etc. Makes a nice change, no? Kibler/Logic's clearly way beyond such idiocies; if only the brand leaders would take a leaf from his book. They won't, of course, as their sales would plummet, which says more about the general public's intelligence than I ever could.
See: Medeski Martin & Wood | Scotty Hard
Disorganicorigami (2009, 59.53) ***½/T½Holocaustica
The Dance of the Drastic Navels Part 1
A Saucerful of Secrets
Children of Our Dreams
Var Glad Var Dag
Destruktive Actions Affect Livings (2011, 60.10) ****/TTTRedroom
Noises From an Interlude
The Dance of the Drastic Navels part II
Destruktive Actions Affect Livings
Memories of Old Pictures
Dodecahedron (2012, 70.37) ****/TTT½
Dances of the Drastic Navels (2014, 51.25) ****/TTMalleus Maleficarum
Elektra (an Evening With...)
The Dance of the Drastic Navels
Rökstenen: A Tribute to Swedish Progressive Rock of the 70's (2010) ****/TT[Daal contribute]
Var Glad Var Dag
Dante's Paradiso: The Divine Comedy, Part III (2010) ****/TT[Daal contribute]
The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe: A SyNphonic Collection (2010) ****/TT[Daal contribute]
The Fall of the House of Usher
Daal are the brainchild of keys man Alfio Costa (Tilion, Prowlers) and drummer Davide Guidoni (Taproban), whose debut, 2009's near-unpronounceable Disorganicorigami, refreshes ears tired of the same old 'progressive' clichés. No two tracks on the essentially instrumental album sound alike, swerving violently between prog metal (Chimaira), tribal synth experimentation (Mo(o)nso(o)n), lengthy avant-prog (The Dance Of The Drastic Navels Part 1) and even out-there fusion (the title track). Top marks, though, may go to their very psychedelic take on Pink Floyd's A Saucerful Of Secrets, complete with wordless female vocals, the song only really becoming recognisable when the iconic piano part kicks in. Costa plays an assortment of real and virtual synths and vintage 'boards, including his M400 (naturally), with a flute part in Chimaira, full-on strings on Brian Melody and flutes and strings on closer Var Glad Var Dag, though none to any major degree.
2011's Destruktive Actions Affect Livings is, by and large, better all round, although I'm not so sure about the slightly formless, ten-minute title track. Top tracks include Level 6666, the sixteen-minute The Dance Of The Drastic Navels part II (the album's centrepiece and its sole vocal track) and gorgeous closer Memories Of Old Pictures, though little here is anything less than thought-provoking. More of Costa's M400 this time round, with string section on AnarChrist, strings on Level 6666, flutes on The Dance Of The Drastic Navels Part II and flutes and strings on Memories Of Old Pictures, generally used to a greater degree than on Disorganicorigami.
I haven't heard 2011's limited-edition Echoes of Falling Stars, but the following year's Dodecahedron (fittingly) is a twelve-part piece, with less obvious diversity than on their previous releases. Largely avant-prog, it also incorporates elements of contemporary and mediaeval folk, early 20th Century classical and, er, King Crimson, a recurring motif owing a debt to that band's 1974 lineup. Unless I'm missing something, Alfio plays Mellotron strings and/or flutes (as against the album's real one) on all parts except IV, VI and XI, although the strings sound slightly muffled; have they been routed through a grimy tape-delay?
2014's Dances of the Drastic Navels (that title again!), another mostly instrumental release (holdout: the female vocals on Inside You), keeps the quality up, top tracks including opener Malleus Maleficarum and the lengthy title track. Not much Mellotron, again: not sure what we're hearing at the beginning of Lilith, but I'm quite sure it's Mellotronic, plus strings about eight minutes into the title track, reiterating throughout.
If you're looking for modern prog albums that don't sound like everyone else (so; are Spock's Beard the new neo-prog? Discuss), Daal may well perk up your jaded taste buds, although be warned: some of you may find their wild genre freestyling a bit much to take. They're definitely admirable albums; only time will tell whether or not they're ones I'll return to with any regularity. More Mellotron on the second than the first and what's more, we know it's real.
See: Tilion | Colossus Project
Visitor (2002, 39.53) ***/T
My Days Go on
If He Comes
A Man's Requirements
House of Clouds
Norway's Dadafon, at least going by their third album, 2002's Visitor, play a rather Scandinavian form of melancholy pop, which isn't to say every track on the album crawls by at a pace that would make a sloth look lively. It opens with the so-slow-it's-almost-rhythmless After All, but several tracks (My Days Go On, Release Me) roll along at a fair clip, not that it makes them sound much more cheerful. There's a distinct folk influence in places; Babylon features an accordion, while several tracks have at least violin and cello, if not a full string quartet, not that that's exactly folky, but you know what I mean.
I'm still not at all sure that Lars Lien (3rd & the Mortal, many others) actually uses a real Mellotron, but whatever he's using is splattered all over Bygones, with some quite upfront flutes and strings, although the latter have a really odd tone to them. Overall, this isn't a 'Mellotron Album', but if you like the sound of the band's style, the one relevant track is worth hearing.
Ung Och Stolt (1987, 43.06) **½/T
|Jag Klär av Mig Naken
Ung Och Stolt
Lämna Mej Inte Här
|Allt för Dej
Hjärtats Ödsliga Slag
Eva Dahlgren is a successful, mainstream Swedish pop/rock artist, active since the late '70s, 1987's Ung Och Stolt being her seventh album. It's a long way from the trashy, 'typical '80s production you might expect, with a torch song/cabaret influence on several tracks, which isn't to say it's either groundbreaking or something I'd particularly recommend, but at least much of it doesn't actually offend.
Anders Glenmark plays Mellotron on Mitt Liv, with upfront choppy string, flute and cello parts on an album released in one of the lowest-Mellotron-use years since the mid-'60s. So; not terrible, one genuinely good Mellotron track.
|CDS (1997 22.26) **/½
Me Manquer (remixé par Bibi et Étienne Daho - version longue)
Me Manquer (version single)
De Bien Jolies Flammes (inédit - rough mix alternatif)
Me Manquer (remixé par Bibi et Étienne Daho - version courte)
Me Manquer (Londres en été - Air remix)
For somebody I've never heard of, Étienne Daho has been around for a surprisingly long time, having been born in the mid-'50s. 1997's five-track Me Manquer single (originally on the previous year's Eden) is a fairly typical chanson-influenced French pop song, entirely unremarkable, unless you understand French and listen to the lyrics. Thinking about it, it's probably unremarkable even then.
The only thing that interests us here is the last track, the Londres En Été - Air remix, where that outfit's Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin apparently both add a vague flute part that neither enhances nor detracts from the overall impression. Will you bother with this? Unlikely.
Sera - Mattina (1972, 35.07) ***/TT½Ogni Sera Cosi
Quando Scendevi le Scale
L'Altro Me Stesso
Le Mie Illusioni
Il Cielo e la Terra
La Grande Pianura
Gianni Dall'aglio, later drummer with Il Volo, produced a solo album, Sera - Mattina, in 1972, though it'd be difficult to classify this as particularly progressive, with most of it consisting of piano ballads in the Italian style. It isn't bad at what it does, but even at only 35 minutes, it begins to drag after a few tracks, especially when one is unable to understand the lyrics. The pace does pick up occasionally, notably on closer Per Amore, when the whole band suddenly kick off in the middle of the song, almost sounding like a rock band for a moment.
Gaetano Leandro plays organ, Moog and Mellotron throughout, although Dall'aglio himself plays all the piano and the occasional drum part. Leandro's 'Tron use is pretty upfront, particularly the first time you hear it, with some very high-in-the-mix flutes on opener Ogni Sera Cosi. From there on, it's strings all the way, although L'Altro Me Stesso quite clearly has uncredited string synth. I can't honestly say the 'Tron use is exactly innovative, though it is most pleasant, reducing the album's potential cheese factor from how it might've been had they used real strings (probably didn't have the budget).
So; a somewhat so-so record, with few progressive highlights, but a decent enough helping of Mellotron. Your choice.
Diploid Love (2014, 41.41) ***/TRat Race
Don't Mess With Me
Dressed in Dreams
Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy
I Don't Need Your Love
Blood in Gutters
Parties for Prostitutes
Australian-born Bree Leslie "Brody Dalle" Pucilowski (or Robinson, or several other surnames, it seems) has worked her way through several bands, including Spinnerette, before releasing her solo debut, 2014's Diploid Love. The album veers between punk (opener Rat Race, Underworld), alt.rock (Don't Mess With Me, Meet The Foetus/Oh The Joy), odd near-electronica (Carry On) and strings-driven kind-of balladry (I Don't Need Your Love), although 'best track' award has to go to closer Parties For Prostitutes, which merges all those influences into one coherent, reasonably original whole.
Given that Dalle's married to Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and has guested on several albums, it makes perfect sense that their Alain Johannes (also ex-Spinnerette) guests on Mellotron here, with upfront (genuine?) cello and flute parts on Parties For Prostitutes. Not the best album I'll hear all month, but one decent Mellotron track rescues it somewhat.
Where it Lands (2002, 36.49) ***½/T
|All Night Special
Quarter in the Couch
Wanna Be Your Mama
Steeple Full of Swallows
New Hope Cemetery
Tora Tora Tora
Time to Go Home
After various label hassles, The Damnations have shucked off the 'TX' appendage attached to their name for their debut, 1999's Half Mad Moon, and have gone down the independent route for Where it Lands. Probably the best description of their style is the already-wearing-thin appellation 'Americana', i.e. country-ish post-punk rock - a sort of Cash/Clash crossover, maybe, although they don't really sound like either artist. New Hope Cemetery is a good example of the Clash side of their sound, though they mostly tend towards the Cash.
Like many of their peers, the two-female/two-male outfit use quite retro equipment, where appropriate, so various elderly organs and pianos are the order of the day, not to mention one 'Tron track, Animal Children. It's a fairly typically country number, although the chord changes go in a different direction to the expected, which has to be good; guitarist Rob Bernard plays a mournful string part toward the end of the track, though it doesn't exactly fall into the 'essential 'Tron' category, to be honest.
So; a good album at what it does (which makes a nice change), with one very minor bit of 'Tron. Buy only if Americana's your bag.
The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi (1995, 41.45) **½/T½
|In the Morning
The New Historicism
Tour of the World
Forgot to Get High
Life Will Pass You By
Who am I
New York City
Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang are the two-thirds of Galaxie 500 who aren't Dean Phillips, later of Luna. After G500's split (Wareham walked out), Krukowski and Yang formed Damon & Naomi, releasing their first album, More Sad Hits, in 1992. They followed up with '95's The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi, a strange little album of rather tortured-sounding folk-influenced, downbeat indie, for want of a better description. It's one of those albums where a few tracks sound fine, but even forty minutes of it begins to drag after a while, which is a shame, as its basic premise is good, just slightly overplayed.
Producer Kramer plays Mellotron, with exceedingly full-on flute and string parts on Pandora's Box and more strings on How Long, although the rumoured 'Tron on opener In The Morning turns out to be a chimera. So; not a bad album, but one that could've been better with a little more variety. Two decent 'Tron tracks leaves the ball in your court, methinks.
Tales of the Riverbank (2001, recorded 1972, 39.08) ***½/TTTales of the Riverbank
This Change in Me
Mind the Houses
Dancer were a little-known progressive band hailing from the Isle of Wight, a rather culturally isolated island off the south coast of England, although it's only a short ferry ride from the mainland. Although they released nothing in their lifetime, luckily they had the resources to record an album's-worth of material in 1972, finally released by those nice people at Kissing Spell in 2001 as Tales of the Riverbank, and would'ja believe it, it's really very good? Its highlight is undoubtedly the lengthy title track, which is a full-on prog epic, no less, but while some of the tracks (Mac's Cafe, Mind The Houses) are a bit on the ordinary side, there's nothing here that actually offends.
One (the only?) interesting fact about Dancer is that their keyboard player was a young Anthony Minghella, now, of course, known as director of 'The English Patient' et al. Given that the album was recorded in a London studio and was produced by the Groundhogs' Tony McPhee, the band had access to some pretty good equipment, and Minghella got some 'Tron (McPhee's?) on a couple of tracks (McPhee is also rumoured to have played it at the session). Tales Of The Riverbank itself has cellos near the beginning, with a good quantity of strings scattered throughout the piece, plus a brass part on Morning, although that appears to be it, despite Internet witterings to the contrary.
So; that rarity, a good 'unreleased album' (see: Fantasy), although most of its reputation rests on its title track, to be honest. Just about worth it on the 'Tron front, too, though again, largely for its centrepiece. Top marks to Kissing Spell, anyway.
A sad footnote to this review is that Minghella died on the 18th March, 2008, of complications from a cancer operation. After such a stellar career in film, it's hardly surprising that his rump musical career hasn't been mentioned in the obituaries.
|7" (1968) ***½/TT½
Conversations (in a Station Light Refreshment Bar part 1)
Very little is known about A.P. Dangerfield, almost certainly a nom-de-plume, probably of the Carter/Lewis production team behind The Flower Pot Men. Their sole single, 1968's Conversations (in a Station Light Refreshment Bar) was a two-part effort, split over both sides of the disc, the a-side of which probably works better, although this is crying out for a professional edit of both halves. It's a typical Kinks/Beatlesesque effort, complete with station announcements; thinking about it, Manfred Mann's kitchen-sink mini-dramas are probably a better comparison. You get the idea, anyway.
The unknown Mellotron player adds some lovely flute and string parts to both sides, making it a pity this isn't more easily available, although it has turned up on a limited-edition box set, We Can Fly. Given that you may not want to splash out on an expensive set that's probably already sold out, there's a download of both sides around somewhere, too. Recommended. Incidentally, major thanks to Julian for putting me onto this and supplying the label scan.
Motor Cycle (1993, 48.18) ***/TTT
|Banquet at the World's End
Hole in the World
(What's Come) Over Me
Grace is the Smell of Rain
So Long Again
I'm surprised to find out that Daniel Amos (there's no such person, of course, also known as D.A. or Dä) have been around since 1974. While nominally CCM, they refuse to fall into the Christian music trap, at least going by 1993's Motor Cycle, which is a pleasant enough album of harmless pop/rock. OK, so little here makes me want to leap up and down in sheer joy (OK, none of it), but nor did anything actually offend, which is such a rarity for me in the Christian music industry that it's worth mentioning.
Rob Watson plays Mellotron, in those effectively pre-sample days, slathering it all over the album like there's no tomorrow, to my great surprise. What you get is a skronky flute part opening the album, with flutes and strings on Traps, Ensnares, flutes on Buffalo Hills, Motorcycle and Noelle and strings on Grace Is The Smell Of Rain. It's possible there's a little more hiding away somewhere (little of it is high in the mix), but this is certainly the main use. So; an inoffensive Christian album, Hooray! No cheeso lyrics (or none that I noticed), no vile, nursery-rhyme melodies, no horrid ballads... And plenty of Mellotron. Result!
See: Terry Scott Taylor
Sharp Teeth (2007, 36.52) ***½/T
|The Dream Before the Ring That Woke Me
Jesus and the Devil
Sharp Teeth I
Universe of No Parts
|Sharp Teeth II
We Go Right on
David Karsten Daniels is a peripatetic American musician who's lived in at least three wildly differing parts of his country, which I can only assume has had an effect on his worldview and songwriting. His melancholy take on, well, life, informs an album of frequent quiet beauty in Sharp Teeth, disturbing cover image and all. It's not as if every track is taken at a funereal pace, mind; American Pastime is jaunty enough, in a slowcore kind of way, while Minnows, although slow, builds to an incredible crescendo that reminds me, for no particular reason, of late-period Cardiacs. There aren't actually any bad tracks here, but Jesus And The Devil stands out, despite its slightly hackneyed lyrics, alongside Minnows.
Alex Lazara is credited with Mellotron, but the only place it can obviously be heard is the lengthyish Beasts, with quiet flutes (and possibly choir) laid over Daniels' guitar and voice, barely giving the album a whole T. Overall, however, this is really rather good, just not for its Mellotronic input. Buy anyway.
Incidentally, I've read that there might be more 'Tron on Daniels' subsequent release, 2008's Fear of Flying (***), but it doesn't appear to be credited and upon scrutiny, opening track Wheelchair has something flutey in the background, but it could be just about anything. In other words, it might be, it might not be, so it doesn't get on this site unless I know for definite that it's there.
|7" (2010) **½/TT
Danielson are, effectively, Daniel Smith and whoever's around that day, as far as I can work out. Smith had a 'spiritual awakening' (a.k.a. breakdown, followed by Christian conversion?) at college, although his subsequent work has been praised by various non-'worship community' media; in fairness, he doesn't seem to align himself with the CCM crowd, which is A Good Thing. 2010 single Moment Soakers is a twee little indie number, sadly, although its flip, Eagle, is rather better, a stately, Mellotron-led track, more Americana then indie.
Mellotron? Lew Rusko gets the credit, with a string part running through most of the track that might even be real, although it's becoming harder and harder to tell. I can't honestly recommend the 'A', but the 'B' is rather more listenable, with the considerable bonus of some decent Mellotron work.
Official label site
The White Album [as Danna & Clément] (1977, 24.55) ***½/TTDarkness at Noon
The People Left Behind
Watch the Clouds
Summer Last Words
Winter (Season of the Holocaust)
Elements (1979, 33.58) ***½/TFire
For the last twenty years, Mychael Danna has been known primarily as a composer of film scores, including Being Julia, Monsoon Wedding and Ride With The Devil, but he'd been making music for a good decade before his 1987 film debut (Family Viewing), with his first release, The White Album (as Danna & [Tim] Clément), dating from as early as 1977. Originally a single-sided LP, its brief 25 minutes lay out Danna's future gameplan, multi-overdubbed synth soundscapes sounding little like other electronic pioneers of the time, having more of a basis in progressive rock, if not the classical scene. Ping-Pong Parade opens with the (real or faked?) sound of a late '70s electronic ping-pong game (one of the earliest home computer games, for those too young to remember), while closer The Seasons takes up half the side, its thoughtful synth/guitar sonorities the diametric opposite of the era's wilder synthesists. Danna plays Mellotron choirs and strings on one of the album's two vocal tracks, The People Left Behind, strings on part three of The Seasons, Winter (Season Of The Holocaust) and flutes on part four, Spring, the other vocal piece, all to good effect.
1979's Elements appears to be his debut solo album proper and, rather unsurprisingly, sounds a little like a soundtrack in places, although it also has the feel of one of those 'classical music played on synths' records, but in a good way. His brother and future soundtrack collaborator Jeff and the aforementioned Tim Clément play guitar, not that there's an awful lot to be heard, ditto Larry Potvin's percussion; this is Mychael's record, make no mistake. Opener Fire is particularly orchestral sounding, with Air being more of an enhanced piano piece, with side two's pieces being more 'electronic', whatever you take that to mean. Danna uses the Mellotron pretty subtly, with ethereal ('Tron cliché alert) choirs at the beginning of Fire, sparse strings in Water and almost-unnoticeable flutes in Earth, but that would appear to be your lot, with the various synths definitely taking centre-stage across most of the album.
Amazingly, The White Album is available on CD, but Elements is sadly long out of print, although I picked an almost pristine copy up at an exceedingly reasonable 'buy it now' price on eBay, so it's not impossible to find. But do you want to? Well, if synth-heavy instrumental prog is your thing, I think you probably do. Let's just hope some label with more sense than money sees fit to reissue this at some point, assuming Mr. Danna hasn't locked the master tapes away or destroyed them or something. Not a classic, but not at all bad, although not worth it for the 'Tron. Incidentally, Canuck power trio Triumph's second album, '77's Rock & Roll Machine, features a certain 'Mike' Danna on extra keyboards, including the Mellotron on one track.
Traurig Aber Wahr (1980, 43.30) ***/½Vogelfrei/Der Schrei
Ich Will Nicht Mehr
Traurig, Aber Wahr
Der Alte Wessely (Gewidmet 140.000 Österreichern)
Ich Steig Aus
Zerschlagt die Computer/Diese Riesige Maschine
Georg Danzer was one of Austria's better-known singer-songwriters (he died in 2007), producing over forty studio and live albums in a thirty five-year career. Unsurprisingly, 1980's Traurig Aber Wahr is pretty much of its time, as is so often the case with artists whose chief raison d'être is to communicate their thoughts via song, musical style often being pushed down the priority list. The album flits between piano ballads (Deppert's Kind, Der Alte Wessely), vaguely new-wavish material (Ich Will Nicht Mehr, Ich Steig Aus) and several tracks with a vaguely progressive feel to them. Strangely, the album has not just a Pink Floyd influence, but a very specific Wish You Were Here one: opener Vogelfrei is a low-budget Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the title track kicks off in Wish You Were Here itself mode, Zerschlagt Die Computer has a faint Welcome To The Machine feel, while Diese Riesige Maschine has a more general Gilmour thing going on. Weird.
Eberhard "Bär" Wieland supposedly plays Mellotron, although the only even vaguely possible part is the distant choirs on Vogelfrei, the male voices on Der Alte Wessely appearing to be real. I'm not sure whom, other than Danzer fans, might go for this odd album; its progressiveness is too diffuse to appeal to any but the most desperate prog fan, while new wave fans will probably dislike its Floydisms. Not actually a bad record, in its own way, but not one for Mellotron fans, either.