Povl Dissing & Burnin Red Ivanhoe
Divine Baze Orchestra
Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987 [Disc 1] (2010, 46.33) ****/T
|Stand Up and Shout
Straight Through the Heart
Children of the Sea
Rainbow in the Dark
|Heaven and Hell
Man on the Silver Mountain
Man on the Silver Mountain (reprise)
Ronnie James Dio fell out with Black Sabbath in 1982 over the mixing of their double live Live Evil (er, didn't Miles Davis get there first?), going on to form Dio, releasing Holy Diver the following year and securing a slot at that summer's Monsters of Rock at Donington racecourse. The band played there again four years later, by which time Dio (the man) had become an enduring metal icon, finding himself almost above criticism, however lame his studio output had become. Another two stints with Sabbath (the latter as Heaven & Hell) were to come, H&H's career fatally interrupted by Dio's death in 2010, aged 68.
Mere months after his death, the recording of both Donington sets appeared as the clumsily-titled Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987, the '83 set, at least, reminding us of how vital the band were in their early days. Admittedly, they rely heavily on Ronnie James' Sabbath and Rainbow past, playing a mere three tracks from their debut; 'crowd pleasing', I believe it's called. From what I remember of the day (a little; it was 28 years ago...), they did precisely that; an excellent PR exercise that almost certainly boosted sales of both Holy Diver and their theatre tour that autumn.
Claude Schnell played offstage keys, including (I believe) Mellotron; Dio himself was certainly keen on the instrument, although I don't hear it on his studio albums. Anyway, we get choirs on Straight Through The Heart and Children Of The Sea, with a melodic part on the latter, although they're not obvious on Heaven And Hell, one of a handful of live Sabbath Mellotron tracks. So; do you love Ronnie James? Can you not get enough of his (admittedly huge) presence? This set's for you, then, although I wouldn't bother for its low-key Mellotron use.
See: Black Sabbath | Rainbow
Taking Chances (2007, 65.56) *½/TT
Eyes on Me
Shadow of Love
|A Song for You
A World to Believe in
Can't Fight the Feelin'
I Got Nothin' Left
Right Next to the Right One
That's Just the Woman in Me
Skies of L.A.
Celine Dion? Er, what? Yup, 'fraid so; good ol' Celine's released an album with some bloody Mellotron on it. Her 13th English-language record, Taking Chances (guess what: it doesn't), features the usual bevy of producers, programmers, musicians, technicians, hairdressers etc., not to mention the makeup artist whose career-crowning glory is no doubt her achievement in getting Celine to look almost exactly like an alabaster model of herself on the cover. So, what's the music like? I hear you cry. Well, I've done my level best to avoid her earlier product, but I believe this isn't the first time she's released a collection of perfect, soulless AOR; the Big Rock Hair on the cover gives the game away, as does the near- (but not that near) breast-exposing pose.
Her musicians are far more interesting than the lady herself; names that leap out at me include Jamie Muhoberac, Pat Thrall ('digital editing', not guitar), Pat Leonard, Lucy Woodward, Jim Keltner (just another session, no doubt) and Canadian AOR god Aldo Nova, who also wrote one song. The names that interest us here, though, are ex-4 Non Blonde Linda Perry and Danish Mellotron god and ex-Dizzy Mizz Lizzy star Tim Christensen. Both contribute material, too, as does on/off Soft Boy Kimberley Rew, and while the songwriters' names aren't familiar, second track in is her version of Heart's massive '80s hit, Alone. If this album was 35 minutes long and cut all the shitty ballads, I might just about be able to have it on in the background without writhing on the ground in pain, but it's over an hour and features several ballads, so you can probably imagine how I'm feeling right now, only just over halfway through.
Perry and Christensen both play 'Tron, amazingly, with flutes and strings on My Love, strings on Surprise Surprise and flutes on Right Next To The Right One, and while the rest of the album's strings work seems to be real, there's a slight question mark over the opening title track. Listen, despite three 'Tron tracks and the sainted Tim Christensen's involvement, I STRONGLY URGE you to go absolutely nowhere near this horrible album. Listening to it has made me a sadder but wiser person; actually I was lying about the wiser bit, as I'm quite sure I'd do exactly the same thing, given another chance. Very nasty indeed.
Before the Dinosaurs (2011, 43.54) */½
|Geronimo (Jost & Damien radio mix)
In Love With the World
What it's Like
Into the Wild
Where the Wild Roses Grow
Before the Dinosaurs
Maria Louise "Aura Dione" Joensen's background is confused, to say the least: Faroese/French mother and Swedish/Spanish father, born in New York and grew up in Denmark. Has any of this anything to do with the utter awfulness of her second album, 2011's Before the Dinosaurs, tasteful, 'empowering' sleeve and all? Probably not. It really is a dreadful record, opening with Geronimo (Jost & Damien Radio Mix), the most obnoxious piece of overproduced, autotuned mainstream shite it's been my displeasure to hear in some time. Least appalling tracks? What It's Like is marginally less horrible than its compatriots, at least until the vile chorus, er, possibly Into The Wild... It's like polishing turds, I tell you.
Patrick Warren plays Mellotron on Recipe, with a brief string part that, quite honestly could've been played on pretty much anything. OK, not a triangle. This really is as bad as my description. Just don't.
Deux (1977, 47.49) ****/T½
Le Prohète: Suite Fraternelle
Dans la Mémoire du Temps
Évocation de Rê
Nr.9 Zyklus - Für einen Schlagzeuger
Fil de Terre]
Michel-Georges Brégent formed a duo with his brother, Jacques, in the early '70s, releasing one album, Poussières des Regrets, before teaming up with percussionist Vincent Dionne, releasing two albums, 1976's schizophrenic but brilliant Et le Troisième Jour (****) and the following year's Deux. Online reviewers seem to rate the former over the latter, which only goes to prove the old adage, 'horses for courses'; Et le Troisième Jour is nearer the avant-garde, while Deux is nearer to the progressive/electronic mainstream, such as it is. The near-side long Le Prohète: Suite Fraternelle is a beautiful piece, moving through several sections, combining keyboards and percussion in a quite unique way, making the duo difficult to compare to anybody else, while Campus and Transit-Express (also the name of a French fusion outfit of the time, so there may be a connection) are more energetic, with a jazz influence on the latter. The 2006 CD adds two bonus tracks, a Stockhausen percussion piece, Nr.9 Zyklus, and the truly excellent Fil De Terre, which both appear to predate the duo's debut, but are worth hearing.
Brégent's Mellotron is fairly hard to spot, as the album's strings appear to be produced by something else, although I've no idea what. There are no string players credited, so maybe it's creative use of a string synth? Hard to say, unless it's extremely cunning synth programming (not an impossibility). Two parts of Le Prohète: Suite Fraternelle seem to feature the instrument, with cellos on Danse Françoyse and flutes on Gratte-Ciel Polyphonique, plus strings on side two's Campus, juxtaposed with a real string section, making me wonder about those 'Mellotron' cellos.
So; an inventive electronic/progressive album, most easily obtained alongside its predecessor on XXI-21's excellent 2-CD set, although hardly a 'Tron classic. Brégent made a second album with his brother in 1979, Pour Partir Ailleurs, also rumoured to contain 'Tron, although it seems it was actually an Orchestron. Sadly, he died in 1993, leaving Dionne to ensure that their work made it to CD, finally finding a worldwide audience in the process.
Vampire en Pyjama (2016, 38.09) ***/T
Guerrier de Porcelaine
Vampire de l'Amour
L'Heure des Lueurs
Skateboarding Sous Morphine
Know Your Anemy
I Follow Rivers
Le Petit Lion
Déguisé en Moi
Le Chant du Mauvais Cygne
Vampire en Pyjama
Two Dionysos albums already sit in the samples section; I'm not honestly sure I can say anything about the band I haven't already said there. Very French, very diverse, shifting seamlessly between chanson and r'n'b-inflected, groove-based material, at least on 2016's Vampire en Pyjama, their eighth album in a twenty-year career. Highlights? At least for this listener, the folkier end of their oeuvre works better, so maybe L'Heure Des Lueurs, I Follow Rivers and the ominous Dame Ocles, but little here actively offends.
Olivier Daviaud plays Mellotron, with flute parts on a handful of tracks: the closing seconds of Know Your Anemy sound clicky and wobbly enough to be real, particularly the point where the note begins to 'choke', although the repeating lines on Dame Ocles and the title track are indistinguishable from samples. Unless you're either a) already au fait with the band's catalogue or b) French, you probably aren't going to get an awful lot from this, but at least it's good at what it does.
See: Samples etc.
Strange Generation (2004, 49.14) ***/0
Burn You Down
Time in Space
Give it Up
Way to Go
We Were Young
On 2004's Strange Generation, The Dirty Americans have captured the essence of rock'n'roll like lightning in a bottle, making most of the current crop of young pretenders look rather silly in the process. It's not all great, but material of the quality of the title track, Give It Up and the sort-of AC/DC-esque Light-Headed make this the kind of straight-down-the-line '70s-influenced rock album to put on when you've grown tired of more fashionable chin-strokers or, er, any kind of intricacy. The album does outstay its welcome by a couple of tracks, but that's picking holes in an enjoyable if undemanding record.
Producer Paul Ebersold is credited with Chamberlin, but I'll be buggered if I can hear where. The album has more acoustic moments than you might expect, but none of them seem to feature any Chamby interjections, so unless I can find out exactly where it's supposed to be used, this gets a big fat '0' on the tape-replay front. Worth hearing if you want to let your mind off the hook for a while, but with no obvious Chamberlin use, I'm afraid I can't recommend this on that front.
Unfolded Like Staircase (1997, 64.54) ****½/TTT½
|Canto IV (limbo)
The Silent Mirror
Down the Hatch
Into the Dream
Chock Full o'Guts
| Drawn and Quartered
Stealing the Key
Turtles All the Way Down
Before the Storm
The slightly cheekily-named Discipline's second album, Unfolded Like Staircase (it's a lyric quote, which doesn't make it any less odd) is an excellent piece of work, although the band seem to have gently slipped away since, sadly. It's a pot pourri of progressive styles, with the sax parts lending it a slightly Van der Graaf Generator air in places, and there's a constant King Crimson thing going on, although overall, it sounds more typically American than anything. Discipline were vocal/keyboard/sax/violin man Matthew Parmenter's band, so I've no idea how they managed to recreate this material live, although a more recent live album, Into the Dream... Discipline Live, proves that they could, and did.
Parmenter has confirmed that he used real 'Tron on the album (picked up in Canada for a day's recording, with its owner, Chris Dale), and it has to be said, he uses it with admirable taste and great restraint (there's next to none on Canto IV), although some of the more in-your-face parts include the end section of Crutches and the beginning of The Storm. I can't hear anything other than standard strings on the album, which seems slightly odd, as I'm sure the choirs would have worked in a few places, but that's obviously how he wanted it. I've heard a few people say they dislike this album, but unless you're totally stuck on '70s music from the '70s', I can't see how many progressive fans would have a problem with this. Highly recommended.
Incidentally, their first album, Push & Profit, contains a smattering of pseudo-'Tron that actually isn't at all, and is reviewed here.
Official band/label site
See: Samples etc. | Matthew Parmenter
Swap Meet Seers (2004, 44.01) **½/0
Je Me Souviens
Coming of Wage
Somewhere Up There
Where Lost is Found
Dissent are (or possibly were) a San Francisco Bay Area collective, numbering at least a dozen members, whose third album, Swap Meet Seers (or Dissent 3: Swap Meet Seers) seems to be the West Coast's answer to British trip-hop, its twelve tracks moving through a series of dreamlike states, often with female French-language vocals (did I hear someone say, "Stereolab"? Or, for that matter, "Saint Etienne"?). It's perfectly harmless, but also, despite its length, exceedingly dull. I think this is music for late-nite kicking back, not rainy Wednesday afternoons, but I shan't be revisiting it later today.
Noted area producer Matt Henry Cunitz is credited with Mellotron, amongst other elderly 'boards, but it's effectively inaudible, sadly. His MySpace blog keeps track of his work (thanks, Henry), but this is one of a handful of entries labelled 'individual track info coming soon'; when/if it does, I'll amend this review. In the meantime, unless you're of a trip-hop persuasion, you're probably not going to like this: I didn't.
6 Elefantskovcikadeviser (1971, 35.33) ***/TIntroduktion V/Sigvaldi
Ta' Fri, Ta' Fri
Introduktion Til Medardus
Progressive rock's always been a bit thin on the ground in Denmark, with a mere handful of bands emanating from there, making it slightly ironic that the small scene's only representation on this site is a result of one of them, Burnin Red Ivanhoe, backing a charismatic Danish singer, Povl Dissing. Already in his thirties in the early '70s, 6 Elefantskovcikadeviser (try saying that after you've had a few) was Dissing's fifth (and BRI's fourth) album and is only 'progressive' in the loosest sense of the word, in that it goes beyond the mainstream chart music of the time. It's effectively a folky singer-songwriter record with a slightly proggy undercurrent from the band, notably on the lengthy, jammed-out Tingel-Tangelmanden and mad, experimental closer Introduktion Til Medardus, more band than singer. Think: the Danish Dylan and you can't go too far wrong.
Karsten Vogel plays Mellotron, with strings towards the end of Tingel-Tangelmanden, gradually shifting from the background to full audibility. It's hard to tell what's being used: an M300? Were there any in Denmark? The album was recorded in Copenhagen, so who knows? Anyway, Burnin Red Ivanhoe fans probably need to hear this just for Tingel-Tangelmanden, although the rest of the album will probably disappoint prog and psych fans alike.
Official Povl Dissing site
Official Burnin Red Ivanhoe site
The Dissociatives (2004, 43.49) ***½/TTTT
|We're Much Preferred Customers
Somewhere Down the Barrel
Horror With Eyeballs
Lifting the Veil From the Braille
Forever and a Day
Thinking in Reverse
Paris, Circa 2007slash08
Young Man, Old Man (You Ain't Better Than the Rest)
|Aaängry Megaphone Man
Sleep Well Tonight
The Dissociatives are a new Australian duo comprising Daniel Johns from the vastly popular Silverchair and Paul Mac, a late-period Silverchair collaborator and producer. Rather unsurprisingly, The Dissociatives sounds like a cross between Johns' 'guitar rock' (for want of a better phrase) and Mac's electronica input, making for a slightly schizophrenic, though not unpleasant record. It's actually quite eccentric in places, which has to be a good thing, as the entire music industry slowly suffocates under the weight of the identikit drivel it spews out at an unthinking public. Thinking In Reverse reminds me of the so-called 'new wave' from the end of the '70s, while Paris, Circa 2007slash08 (yes, it is spelt like that) is more like Air on steroids, but there isn't a single track here that offended me.
Whoever plays the Mellotron (presumably Mac) plays it well, and lots: the strings and flutes on Somewhere Down The Barrel are a warning shot across the bows, before the full-on, right at the front of the mix 'Tron on Horror With Eyeballs, not to mention the flute solo in Lifting The Veil From The Braille, and... Listen, this is loaded with Mellotron, which is far more than you'd ever normally expect of a new, 'pop' album. Result! And what's more, the key-click to be heard on many of the flute parts makes it almost certain that they're using a real machine, not copping out with the M-Tron or similar (modern prog outfits, TAKE NOTE!).
So; not exactly one for you progheads, but an interesting album, difficult to categorise. Loads of Mellotron, too, so if you're feeling adventurous... In the meantime, it appears that Silverchair haven't actually split up, so we can but hope that Johns and Mac decide to work together again in the future.
The Ditty Bops (2004, 40.42) ***/½
|Walk Or Ride
Ooh La La
Breeze Black Night
|Four Left Feet
There's a Girl
Mellotron (or Chamberlin) used:
The Ditty Bops are the duo of Abby DeWald and Amanda Barrett, plus whoever else is needed. They combine folk, singer-songwriterly stylings, ragtime, western swing and various other indigenous American styles into a slightly twee concoction that actually defies description. Their eponymous 2004 debut shifts through different moods over its length, from twee and bouncy (opener Walk Or Ride) through the aforementioned western swing influence (Sister Kate) to the appealing mixture of various folk styles on Four Left Feet, although nothing for anyone not into bright'n'breezy girly stuff.
Mitchell Froom plays keys, including some form of tape-replay instrument on Walk Or Ride, providing a faint flute part, only really audible during the song's dying seconds. Mellotron? Chamberlin? Who knows? You're certainly not going to buy The Ditty Bops for a couple of seconds of it in the background, anyway. Incidentally, the pair were married in California in 2008, seemingly one of the few states to (currently) recognise same-sex marriage. I can't understand why it's anyone else's business what domestic arrangements people prefer, but then, I'm not a right-wing religious bigot.
Determinazione (1995, 62.47) ***/T
|E Con il Mattino Torneranno Gli Eroi
Gargantua Bestemmia Dio e Viene Trasformato
nel Gigante di Pietra Posto a Guardia della
Tana del Drago di Altomonte...
Regina delle Fate
|Determinazioni Oggettive? Determinazioni Suggestive!
Vento Che Va
Il Ritorno del Gigante Gentile
Il Ritorno del Gigante
Un Giorno, un Amico
Divæ (or Divae) were a one-shot mid-'90s Italian progressive outfit who, although clearly influenced by various '70s bands, had trouble converting their influences into a whole album's-worth of strong material, sometimes slipping into duff neo-progisms. Given that Determinazione is over an hour long, they could easily have edited somewhat, ending up with a stronger record in the process, although the six-part, 12-minute closer Il Ritorno Del Gigante Gentile (the return of Gentle Giant...) is an unexpected treat, being probably the best thing here, even if it sounds nothing like Kerry and the boys. Opener E Con Il Mattino Torneranno Gli Eroi cheekily quotes from Grieg's Peer Gynt, and most tracks have at least something to recommend them, but overall, the album falls into an awkward '*** or ***½?' category, so I'll leave it where it is until/if it grows on me some more.
Enzo DiFrancesco was one of two keyboard players, not to mention the drummer, who chipped in as well, but DiFrancesco's the only one credited with Mellotron, although he didn't play it that much, with strings on Regina Delle Fate and Frammenti; the weak-as-water choirs that permeate the album sound like generic samples, and there are other string parts that could be 'Tron, though it seems unlikely. So; passable '90s prog, but excellent in comparison to some of the rubbish that Italy was throwing up at the time (Egoband, Theatre et al.); maybe I'm being a little harsh with my three stars? Not much 'Tron, anyway, so don't bother on that front. Oh, and if you're fussed, Lino Vairetti from Osanna and Gianni Leone from Il Balletto di Bronzo guest. Also oh, for what it's worth, track four is actually called (deep breath) Gargantua Bestemmia Dio E Viene Trasformato Nel Gigante Di Pietra Posto A Guardia Della Tana Del Drago Di Altomonte... Da Dove Il Suo Sguardo Scruta L'Orizzonte Per L'Eternità Sino Al Dorato Mare Di Sibari (!), and no, I've no idea what it means.
See: Fanfare for the Pirates
Once We Were Born... (2008, 52.52) ****/TTT½
Choose Your Green
Trota di Mare
Orange and Turquoise
The Man From My Mother's Brother
|Closing the Circle
Burned By the Sun
Rökstenen: A Tribute to Swedish Progressive Rock of the 70's (2010) ****/TT[Divine Baze Orchestra contributes]
Här Kommer Natten
The Divine Baze Orchestra are a new Swedish band who've got that retro hard rock/prog thing down to a T - appropriate, given my ratings system... Once We Were Born... is a surprisingly varied record, going by many of the band's contemporaries, with jazz and quite strong blues influences creeping in under the radar, although I'm not so sure the latter actually works in this context. Top tracks include opener Dance, with its ripping Hammond intro and Closing The Circle, although it's all good, frankly.
Daniel Karlsson plays keys, including Mellotron, with strings and/or flutes on all the highlighted tracks above. The only reason this doesn't get a higher 'T' rating is that he mostly uses it with some subtlety, to the point where some tracks only feature a few chords. All in all, then, this is a most worthwhile release, sounding wonderfully authentic for a new band. Progress? Progress schmogress.
See: Colossus Project