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Sally French
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Fabio Frizzi

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Edgar Froese
Frogg Café

Mitchell Froom
Liam Frost
Frumpy


Sally French  (UK)

Sally French, 'The Other Side'

The Other Side  (1994,  43.54)  **½/T

Beyond the Sky
Inside the Tower
Ophelia
My Time Has Come
Lifting the Veil
Golden Leaves
The Last Time
The Key
Sally French, 'Destiny'

Destiny  (2002, recorded 1993?-2002?,  63.43)  ***/TT

Lifting the Veil
Alone
Lillie May
Ophelia
Golden Leaves
Slips My Mind
Beyond the Sky
Call Another Doctor
The Mist of Avalon
Remember Me
A Mermaid's Lament
Inside the Tower
The Key

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Sally French recorded an album, The Other Side, in the early '90s at my old friend Dave Etheridge's studio, released on ill-fated Dutch neo-prog label S.I., six of its eight tracks turning up on 2002's Destiny compilation. The original album's material falls into a (very) vaguely Kate Bush-esque singer-songwriter/pop/prog-lite vein, all effectively vehicles for French's excellent voice, though rather lightweight musically. The strongest performance is probably Inside The Tower, while the two tracks missing from Destiny, My Time Has Come and The Last Time, are missing for a very good reason. Dave played the Mellotron (his M400 and possibly MkII) on opener Beyond The Sky, with string and choir parts that, sadly, don't make themselves too apparent.

Destiny jumbles the original album's tracklisting, throwing seven newer recordings in amongst the older, although the new running order seems to work well enough. Stylistically, there's little to choose between the two eras, most of the newer material sounding not unlike the older and French's voice remaining consistent (we'll quietly ignore the bits where she drifts out of tune), although anyone looking for full-on symphonic prog will probably be disappointed. Sally's husband, Peter Darley (ex-Dawnwatcher), plays Mellotron on the newer tracks, with a hefty helping of M400 (his old machine?) strings on Lillie May and strings from (apparently) Barclay James Harvest's old M300 on The Mist Of Avalon and A Mermaid's Lament.

To reiterate, these are not your typical prog albums, even from the early '90s, but fans of luminous female vocals may well wish to hear Ms French's work. Only one of the four 'Tron tracks on Destiny is 'classic', but that's one 'classic' more than most albums. Many thanks to Dave Etheridge for his help with these reviews.

Official site

See: Dawnwatcher

Frida  (Sweden)  see: Samples

Gavin Friday  (Ireland)  see: Samples

Matthew Friedberger  (US)

Matthew Friedberger, 'Winter Women/Holy Ghost Language School'

Winter Women/Holy Ghost Language School  (2006,  108.39)  **½/TTTTT

Under the Hood at the Paradise
  Garage
The Pennsylvania Rock Oil
  Company Resignation Letter
Up the River
Ruth vs. Rachel
Her Chinese Typewriter
Big Bill Crib and His Ladies of the
  Desert
Don't You Remember?
Becha Don't!!!

p.s. 213 Mini-School
Theme From Never Going
  Home Again
Motorman
Quick as Cupid

I Love You Cedric
Servant in Distress
Hialeah
Wisconsin River Blues

Seventh Loop Highway
Holy Ghost Language School
The Cross and the
  Switchblade
I Started Using Alcohol at
  the Age of Eleven
Do You Like Blondes?
Azusa St.
Topeka and San Antonio
A Mystical Preparative to Lewdness
Ship Scrap Beach Business
First Day of School
Things Were Going So Well
All in Vain or the Opposite
Moral and Epilogue

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Matthew Friedberger is the musician half of brother/sister duo The Fiery Furnaces, so it comes as no surprise to hear that his solo debut, 2006's sprawling double-disc Winter Women/Holy Ghost Language School is similarly indie in intent, or at least, the first disc is. Now, most online commentators have thrown their hands up in horror at the more avant-garde second disc, so is it only me who actually prefers it? Winter Women is largely tedious, 'attempting to be experimental' indie, with few actual songs, while Holy Ghost Language School actually manages to be at least slightly 'out there', although I can't honestly say that especially increases its listenability.

Friedberger plays what I presume is a real Mellotron on almost everything on disc one and a handful of tracks on disc two, clustered together at the end (Seventh Loop Highway is the first track, in case you're still listening), with string and flute parts all over the place and occasional cellos on the second disc, although I'm ignoring the woodwindish sounds, which are probably something else. So; do you bother with this self-indulgent mess in order to hear a great deal of Mellotron? Up to you, pal; I shan't be bothering with this again in a hurry, but that doesn't mean that you can't experiment. Of course, the Mellotron may very well be sampled, in which case it's all slightly irrelevant anyway, isn't it?

MySpace

See: Fiery Furnaces

Friends  (UK)

Friends, 'Piccolo Man' 7"  (1968)  ***/TT½

Piccolo Man
Mythological Sunday

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Friends were the Flower Pot Men under another guise; amusing, since the band were a studio creation anyway. Piccolo Man is pretty awful, and was a deserved flop, but its flip, Mythological Sunday, is a fantastic, Mellotron-driven psych epic, well worth hearing. You'll be lucky to find an original, but both tracks are easily available on the Very Best of the Flowerpot Men CD, while the b-side turns up on The Flower Pot Men's The Peace album, belatedly released in 2000.

See: Flower Pot Men

Friends of Dean Martinez  (US)

Friends of Dean Martinez, 'Wichita Lineman'

Wichita Lineman  (2001,  37.37)  ***/TT

Intro
Overload
Alternate Theme
Main Theme
In the Wire

Incidental
Tennessee Waltz
Through the Whine
Wichita Lineman
For All Time
Friends of Dean Martinez, 'Under the Waves'

Under the Waves  (2003,  44.52)  ***/TT

H-Hour Minus Five
And Love to Be the Master of Hate
Time's Not Your Friend
Indian Summer
Under the Waves
On the Shore
Omaha
Cahuenga

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

Friends of Dean Martinez, 'On the Shore'

The Friends of Dean Martinez have been going since the mid-'90s, initially on Nirvana's original label, SubPop, and I suppose they loosely fit into the much-maligned 'post rock' category, although they claim to mix equal parts of lounge music and desert country, or somesuch. Wichita Lineman actually sounds not a million miles away from Unwound, with a laid-back, resigned sort of air about it, occasionally summoning up the energy to 'rock out' slightly, as on Overload, though more often they drift where the music takes them, however long that may take. Both the track titles and much of the music itself also have a 'soundtracky' feel to them, giving the impression of one of those 'soundtracks to an imaginary film' that crop up every now and again, exacerbated by the sound of a projector at the end of the last track. On the 'Tron front, Bill Elm adds chordal strings to Main Theme, In The Wire and the title track, although I'm not entirely convinced they're real.

2003's Under the Waves isn't dissimilar, albeit with less of a 'soundtrack' feel about it. Dave Lachance adds a Chamberlin string line to And Love To Be The Master Of Hate, then Mike Semple plays a chordal part on Indian Summer and a drifting (that word again) single-note string line on Cahuenga. These reviews replace my original one of 2003's double-disc On the Shore (right), a bizarre release, consisting of several tracks from Wichita Lineman, three live tracks (tape replay-free, unsurprisingly) and all of Under the Waves. Why? A 'sampler' (aargh! Don't mention samples! I did once, but I think I got away with it) for overseas markets? No idea, but you're better off with the separate releases, to be honest.

So; if you're looking for something laid-back but not totally undemanding, The Friends of Dean Martinez might be just the band you're looking for. Intelligent, well-written and played stuff, with just enough Mellotron/Chamberlin to tempt the enthusiast, although neither album's exactly a 'Tron classic. Incidentally, the following year's Random Harvest (****) is excellent, though the credited 'strings' don't appear to be 'Tron.

Official site

Friendship Time  (Sweden)

Friendship Time, 'Friendship Time'

Friendship Time  (2007, recorded 1975-76,  47.33)  ****/T½

Anonymiteten
Engine
Clouds
Martins Lilla
Ombadidilio
Watersong

Crawling Up

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Friendship Time are yet another obscure '70s progressive outfit, this time from Sweden, who recorded an album's-worth of material, yet were unable to get it released at the time, although it was apparently lined up to appear on Virgin. Thankfully, those nice Mellotronen people (via Trettioåriga Kriget's drummer) unearthed the tapes, sticking them out on CD in 2007 as Friendship Time, finally allowing us to hear the band's oeuvre.

Despite the lack of a full-time keyboard player, the two-guitar band's style bears comparison with Yes, to the point where I keep hearing little snippets of that band's catalogue leaking through into their own compositions, notably on opener Anonymiteten and closer Crawling Up. Happy the Man are also a valid comparison, making me reflect on just how much they were influenced by Yes themselves. Like most of the best prog bands, Friendship Time feature lengthy instrumental sections (and one fully instrumental track), with vocals taking a lesser role in their sound; I suspect that, were it not for 'commercial considerations', they might've dispensed with Leif Fröling's vocals altogether, which may not have been a bad thing. Although their default setting was 'lengthy and complex', Martins Lilla and Crawling Up are shorter efforts, condensing their style into a more compact (yet in no way single-orientated) setting.

Bassist Martin Cehra doubled on occasional Mellotron, with string swells on Anonymiteten, a couple of chordal string parts on Ombadidilio and choirs on Watersong, although, in an odd echo of the similarly keyboard-free Trettioåriga Kriget, given the tapes' re-emergence, it's far from a defining feature of the band's sound. Once again, kudos to Mellotronen for shining a light onto the dustier corners of Scandinavian progressive rock and making an otherwise almost completely forgotten band's work available for the first time. Not much Mellotron, but that's hardly the point, really.

MySpace

Fred Frith  (UK)

Fred Frith, 'Gravity'

Gravity  (1980,  47.04)  ***½/½

The Boy Beats the Rams (Kluk
  Tluce Berany)
Spring Any Day Now
Don't Cry for Me
The Hands of the Juggler
Norrgården Nyvla
Year of the Monkey
What a Dilemma
Crack in the Concrete
Come Across
Dancing in the Street
My Enemy is a Bad Man
Slap Dance
A Career in Real Estate
Dancing in Rockville, Maryland
Fred Frith, 'Speechless' Fred Frith, 'Speechless'

Speechless  (1981,  44.12)  ***½/½

Kick the Can (part 1)
Carnival on Wall Street
Ahead in the Sand
Laughing Matter/Esperanza
Women Speak to Men; Men
  Speak to Women
A Spit in the Ocean
Navajo
Balance
Saving Grace
Speechless
Conversations With White Arc
Domaine de Planousset
Kick the Can (part 2)
V/A, 'Place of General Happiness 2'

Place of General Happiness: Lyrics By Ernest Noyes Brookings, Vol.2  (1991)  ***½/TT½

[Fred Frith contributes]
Life of a Detective

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Fred Frith came to prominence in the mid-'70s as guitarist with art-rock supremos Henry Cow, while concurrently releasing solo albums and working with the likes of Robert Wyatt and The Residents. The Henry Cow/Slapp Happy conglomerate had folded by the end of the decade, although the related Art Bears carried on for a few more years, leaving Frith free to pursue his varied musical interests, not that being a band member seemed to stop him before. These were the days before 'solo guitarist' inevitably meant fretboard wankery of the highest order, especially if one operated at the avant-garde end of the spectrum, and while Frith isn't exactly what you'd call a superstar, he has critical acclaim a-plenty and a devoted hardcore of admirers who buy anything with his name on it.

1980's Gravity was his second solo release, with Frith backed on side one by Samla Mammas Manna and on the flip by the Muffins. He actually promoted it as a 'dance' album, in the truest sense of the word and as an antidote to the then-prevailing dumbed-down disco ethos, by incorporating all kinds of what are now described as 'world' musics. The end result is an entertaining smögåsbord of influences, many of them Central/Eastern European, some of it sounding quite Henry Cow-like, much of it sounding pretty much like nothing else you've heard. Frith plays a smattering of Mellotron, with flutes on Come Across, though that would appear to be your lot.

He followed up with 1981's Speechless, which, true to form, is full of weird, dissonant cut-up pieces like Laughing Matter/Esperanza and A Spit In The Ocean, some recorded live, or adapted from live pieces. It's pretty obvious, listening to this, that Frith has influenced a good many people, not least Cardiacs, who were shifting up a gear around this time. Frith plays Mellotron on one track, with a few seconds of strings on Ahead In The Sand, but it's not exactly what you'd call major use, so unless you're particularly into what he's doing...

So; not albums for someone whose answer to "What music do you like?" is "Oh, anything really". These are albums for the strangest person you know, although probably also the most interesting. They aren't albums for Mellotron lovers, either, but that's all a bit irrelevant, I suppose.

Official site

See: Art Bears

Fabio Frizzi  (Italy)

Fabio Frizzi, 'Zombi 2'

Zombi 2  (1979,  28.12)  ***/T

The Boat Introduction
Zombie
Eyeball
Escape From the Flesh Eaters
The Cab Ride
Menard's Duty
Matool
Ann & Peter
Voodoo Rising
Matool 2
Escape From the Flesh Eaters 2
Maggots
Fabio Frizzi, 'The Beyond'

The Beyond  [a.k.a. L'Aldilà]  (1981,  39.58)  ***/TT

Verso Lignoto
Voci dal Nulla

Suono Aperto
Sequenza Coro e Orchestra
Oltre la Soglia
Voci dal Nulla
Suono Aperto
Voci dal Nulla
Giro di Blues
Verso Lignoto
Sequenza Ritmica e Tema
Fabio Frizzi, 'Sette Note in Nero'

Sette Note in Nero  [a.k.a. The Psychic, as Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera]  (2006, recorded 1977,  53.27)  ***/T

Sucidio (Prologo)
With You (Titoli)
Tunnels
Strane Visioni
Allucinazioni
Abbatimento del Muro
7 Note (film version)
Tracce Sul Muro (film version)
Concerto alla Radio
Ritrovamento del Cadavere
Fuga
7 Note (film version #2)
Fuga Seconda
Il Ritorno di Francesco
Conversazione
La Lettera
Aggressione
Murata Viva e Salvataggio (Epilogo)
Sette Note in Nero (Finale)
With You (instrumental unused)
7 Note (single version)
Tracce Sul Muro (single version)

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

While never actually being a member of Goblin, Fabio Frizzi has worked with them (notably on the Il Reale Impero Britannico project in 1976) and, like them, is best known for his work on Italian slasher flick soundtracks. His first solo effort (to my knowledge) was for Lucio Fulci's gore-fest Zombi 2, a.k.a. Zombie, a.k.a. Island of the Living Dead, Zombie Island, Zombie Flesh Eaters and Woodoo, available in a multitude of versions, all cut differently, but all basically copping ideas from Giorgio Romero's Night of the Living Dead something rotten. However, I'm not here to review the film, which I've no interest in seeing anyway. The soundtrack (unsurprisingly) is reminiscent of some of Goblin's work, although Frizzi has his own voice, particularly on the 'ethnic' bits.

As with the film itself, the soundtrack seems to've been released in a multitude of formats, so I'm not even sure the above tracklisting is correct or complete, but it seems to cover the various themes used without repetition, so it's going to have to do. Well, it's a perfectly competent horror soundtrack, its best bits probably being the main theme, Eyeball (a notorious scene, apparently) and the synth-heavy The Cab Ride. Mellotron on one track only, but at least it's one with high visibility, Zombie itself (the main theme), with unmistakable brooding male voices on a suitably doomy piece.

Frizzi produced another two soundtracks in 1980, Contraband and City of the Living Dead, at least one of which is apparently no more or less than remixed versions of Zombie material. His next definitely all-new work was '81's The Beyond, a.k.a. ...E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore! L'Aldilà (inspiring the Black Widow label's album of almost the same name), showcasing quite a different feel to Zombi 2, with a bigger budget, with real orchestra and choir alongside the keyboards. Best tracks? Verso Lignoto (presumably the main theme), the various versions of Voci Dal Nulla and the first version of Suono Aperto, or the first three tracks, basically. More 'Tron this time round, with flutes and more of those marvellous voices on Verso Lignoto, double-tracked male voices and background strings on Voci Dal Nulla, background choir doubling the real one on the second version of Voci Dal Nulla, while the third version is strongly reminiscent of the first and the second version of Verso Lignoto repeats the parts from earlier.

2006 brought the long-awaited full release of 1977's Sette Note in Nero [a.k.a. Seven Notes In Black, a.k.a. The Psychic], originally credited to Frizzi's mid-'70s soundtrack-writing trio, Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera, with Franco Bixio and Vince Tempera. While dark, it's not quite as creepy as Zombi 2 or The Beyond, but then, that would be going it some... Mellotron choirs (presumably from Frizzi) on a handful of tracks, although most of them are minor variations on 7 Note, plus minor use on Concerto Alla Radio and Aggressione, to rather ordinary effect, to be honest.

The first two of these are probably pretty essential if you're into horror film soundtracks or Goblin, although the best bits of both these albums would fit onto an EP, to be honest. Despite Zombi 2 only having one 'Tron track, it's a good'un, although The Beyond gets rather more in. Both worth hearing, then, though not necessarily for the 'Tron.

MySpace

See: Goblin

Tobias Fröberg  (Sweden)

Tobias Fröberg, 'Turn Heads'

Turn Heads  (2008,  48.42)  **½/T½

Blissful
She is Becoming Her Mother Again
Slipping Under the Radar
Just Behind a Brickwall
Take It Easy (We're Birds of the Air
  and the Sky Is Wide Open)
Landing
You Are Someone I Can Believe in
Tomorrow
Miles to Go
Delicate Dance of Ghosts
Turn Heads
Grace (live)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Tobias Fröberg is a Swedish singer-songwriter of the 'modern, quite drippy' variety (n.b. I believe this is known as 'heartfelt' or similar by fans of the genre). 2008's Turn Heads is his third album and while it has a couple of more uptempo tracks, the bulk of it is the kind of wet and watery stuff peddled by any number of 'sensitive' male singers, albeit nowhere near as bad as the likes of James Blunt or (God help us) Daniel Powter.

Fröberg plays the Mellotron himself, with flutes and strings on Just Behind A Brickwall, clearly real, as the final chord wobbles to a conclusion, with more wobbly strings and cellos on You Are Someone I Can Believe In. Two decent 'Tron tracks, then, but a rather dreary album, I'm afraid. Nice to hear an (ostensibly) real machine used for once, though.

Official site

Edgar Froese  (Germany)

Edgar Froese, 'Aqua'

Aqua  (1974,  45.57)  ****/TT½

Aqua
Panorphelia
NGC 891
Upland
Edgar Froese, 'Epsilon in Malaysian Pale'

Epsilon in Malaysian Pale  (1975,  34.15)  *****/TTTT

Epsilon in Malaysian Pale
Maroubra Bay
Edgar Froese, 'Macula Transfer'

Macula Transfer  (1976,  35.50)  *****/TTTTT

OS-452
AF-765
PA-701
QUANTAS-611
IF-810
Edgar Froese, 'Ages'

Ages  (1978,  83.18)  ***/TT½

Metropolis
Era of the Slaves
Tropic of Capricorn
Nights of Automatic Women
Icarus
Childrens Deeper Study

Ode to Granny A.
Pizarro and Atahuallpa
Golgatha and the Circle Closes

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

While I like the Tangs' Edgar Froese's solo output, I can't pretend to understand it in the way that aficionados do, so Dave Dewdney has kindly reviewed all the relevant releases for me:

Edgar Froese's debut solo album Aqua is counted as one of his best. Here Edgar fuses running water sounds with synthetic bubbling sounds courtesy of his VCS3 synthesizer. Aqua the title track contains no Mellotron at all, quite odd for a man who honed his skill on the Mellotron on the TD album Atem. But here on this track you have effects, deep washes of organs and strange synth noises. Panorphelia, the next track, is awash with a white noise rhythmic pulse and a Mellotron, however Edgar just tends to repeat the main melody over and over again until it fades away before the boredom sets in. The other two tracks, NGC-891 and Upland, follow much the same styles, NGC-891 has the Moog by Chris Franke on it, and Upland is just Edgar improvising with his organs and some backwards tape effects. A must-have album.

Edgar's next album Epsilon in Malaysian Pale is a much better affair, I mean absolutely packed to the gunnels with Mellotrons, a Mark-V with tapes specially recorded by the BBC for him. The title track Epsilon kicks off with monkeys/birds in a sweaty tropical jungle (Inspired by TD's tour of Australia in 1975) and then in comes the constant swells and lulls of Edgar's Mellotrons, using just strings and flute, actually giving his 8-voice choirs a miss on the whole album. Here he shows just what you can do with such a marvellous instrument. He also uses a Moog synthesizer on this track for the small 4-minute rhythmic part, and ends the track with another smattering of Mellotrons. Maroubra Bay the second track begins with the Mellotron strings/brass, with Edgar playing major/minor keys to give it a more sinister feel, then adding washes of white noise from his VCS3 synth into which a tumbling Moog rhythmic pulse sets up the rest of the track. In fact, Maroubra Bay is actually the masterpiece of this album. Now, if Chris Franke and Peter Baumann had been on this track, it would have become another milestone in TD's recording history.

Froese's third solo album Macula Transfer is somewhat of a sought-after rarity since it was only made available in Germany on the Brain/Metronome Label. However, 22 years later it was re-released by Manikin Records to the disgust of Froese himself who ordered it to be stopped because he wanted to release a new version of it himself. The tracks on this album all refer to flight numbers while TD was touring in 1975 and 1976. This album was recorded in June 1976; Edgar recorded this album just for fun? Now it's highly prized amongst collectors and aficionados. Edgar again puts the Mellotrons to good use on this album. The album opens with OS-452 which is a mixture of Edgar's guitar work and Mellotron techniques. AF-765 is a bit weird with backwards effects and a ping-pong Moog rhythm sequence continuously pounding away, he adds electric guitar, his voice fed through his VCS3, sinister staccato stabs on his Mellotrons, the track then just gets faster and faster till it ends very strangely. PA-701 starts with Edgar feeding his Mellotron through his VCS3 inputs, and is probably the best track on this album, using a mixture of choirs and strings for some lovely melodies and also introduces the gorgeous Mellotron flute on which the track ends. QUANTAS-611 is five minutes of very sinister Mellotrons all the way from beginning to end. IF-810, the last track, begins with a heavy Moog rhythm-pulse once again unto which Edgar sets up the main melody and puts in some nice Mellotron strings here and there. If you don't have this album, I suggest you try and locate a copy, any Mellotron enthusiast cannot do without this one to their collection.

Ages was Edgar Froese's fourth album recorded during 1977 which was a very turbulent time, with Peter Baumann having left TD, and Edgar having to cancel concerts in America and Europe. So with the time left he recorded Ages, but having recorded so much material it ended up being a double album. People have mixed feelings about this album. Ages is okay in parts, the rest is just either repetitive and nauseating where the boredom sets in quite quickly. The album kicks off with Metropolis where Edgar adds synths and Mellotrons (strings and brass) and Klaus Kreiger just bangs away repetitively away on his drums. Era Of Slaves is much better where there is a good measure of 'Tron flutes and strings nicely in the mix on this track. The big track Tropic Of Capricorn has very little 'Tron on it all, more piano, synth and drums. The rest of the tracks are just more banal and silly, and except for Pizzaro And Atahualpa there is a good dose of 'Tron throughout the rest of the tracks. Incidentally if you get the CD re-release by Virgin you will notice that Golgatha And The Circle Closes is missing; they couldn't fit the track on the CD and left it off. Most collectors will buy this to add to their collection, but is sometimes best avoided playing altogether. If you like this album - enjoy it, it's just a matter of personal taste.

Edgar's next album Stuntman 1979 was a purely digital affair utilising the new digital synthesis technology, although he added analogue synths and a grand piano to it, but left out the Mellotron altogether (put away only to come out briefly on TD's Tangram album at the end of part-two just using the choirs). After that it was just a digital affair. A sad end to Edgar's and TD's musical instrument history.

Dave Dewdney

Andy adds: Thanks to Dave for those reviews, I just need to add that Pizarro And Atahuallpa from Ages most certainly does have Mellotron on it, a repeating string line throughout the first part of the track plus what sounds like it could well be Mellotron acoustic guitar (thanks for that, Tommy).

Official Tangerine Dream site

See: Tangerine Dream

Frog Holler  (US)  see: Samples

Frogg Café  (US)

Frogg Café, 'Creatures'

Creatures  (2003,  53.14)  ****/TTT

All This Time
Creatures

The Celestial Metal Can (In Memory of Charles Ives)
Gagutz
Waterfall Carnival

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Frogg Café apparently started life as Zappa tribute act Lumpy Gravy, releasing their first album of original material, Frogg Café, in 2001. I haven't heard that, but Creatures is, despite some of its European influences, a very 'American' progressive album, with lengthy vocal sections, reminding me of various current US outfits. Aside from Zappa, I can hear bits of Gentle Giant, quite a bit of jazz (much marimba work) and, maybe surprisingly, a hint of psychedelia in places. Actually, The Celestial Metal Can (In Memory Of Charles Ives) is full-on weirdness, as you might expect, given its title, but the rest of the album is pretty musically cohesive.

Nick Lieto sticks Mellotron all over the place, with strings and/or choirs on four out of five tracks, although he rarely overuses it. There's a heavy string presence on All This Time, but even the 20-minute+ Waterfall Carnival doesn't overdo it, with choir parts drifting pleasantly in and out of the piece. So; good album, though slightly unfocussed in places, and decent 'Tron use, so that's a recommendation, then.

Official site

Mitchell Froom  (Canada)

Mitchell Froom, 'Dopamine'

Dopamine  (1998,  31.43)  ***½/½

Tastes Good
The Bunny
Kitsum
Dopamine
Watery Eyes
Monkey Mind
Noodletown
Wave
I'd Better Not
Permanent Midnight
Overcast
Fruta Prohibida

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Mitchell Froom's career goes right back to the late '70s, and he moved into production in the '80s, with high-profile clients including Crowded House, Richard Thompson and his (then) wife, Suzanne Vega. He apparently released his first solo album in the mid-'80s, waiting until 1998 to follow it with Dopamine. Of course, Froom is known for his dedication to old and/or weird keyboards, particularly the Chamberlin, so it comes as a slight surprise that it's featured so little here. The album is basically a set of little musical vignettes, with loads of Froom's famous friends appearing (Jerry Marotta, Sheryl Crow, Ron Sexsmith etc.). Every track is different to every other, covering a broad base of musical styles, with loads of odd stuff thrown in. Froom plays (amongst others) a Marxophone, Indian harmonium, Claviola, Optigan and Orchestron... I think you get the picture.

Froom's one Chamberlin track (fear of becoming typecast?) is Monkey Mind. It's actually rather hard to tell what he's using it for: flutes? Although there's a polyphonic part, a flautist is credited. Jazzy acoustic guitar? Probably depends on which model Chamby is being used. It's almost certainly one of the above, but used so little that a half 'T' is all I really feel I can give. So; will you like this album? If you like Froom's productions in general, you may very well do, but it's an awfully long way from Crowded House's streamlined, intelligent pop. You have been warned.

Official site

See: American Music Club | Tasmin Archer | Tracy Bonham | Elvis Costello | Crowded House | Ditty Bops | Neil Finn | Los Lobos | Daniel Powter | Bonnie Raitt | Vonda Shepard | Richard Thompson | Suzanne Vega | Stay Awake

Liam Frost  (UK)

Liam Frost, 'We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain'

We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain  (2009,  37.42)  **½/½

Held Tightly in Your Fist
Good Things Are Coming Our Way
Younger Boys, Older Girls
Two Hearts
Sparks
Shipwrecks
Skylark Avenue
Your Hand in Mine
Leading Lights and Luminaries
Orchestra of Love

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Manchester's Liam "Frost" Pickering is, essentially, a singer-songwriter, although the contents of his second album, 2009's We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain (a Bukowski quote) are as much generic indie as sensitive soul-barer. Most of it's pretty bland fare, to be honest, the one-two of Shipwrecks and Skylark Avenue being the album's highpoints, the bulk of the remainder trying too hard to be commercial to have any real effect.

Matt Watson plays Mellotron flutes on Sparks, although the cellos on a couple of tracks are real. We Ain't Got... is harmless enough stuff; I've heard much, much worse, but its lack of any real personality holds the album back, so with only one marginal Mellotron track, I'm afraid a recommendation's out of the question.

Official site

Frumpy  (Germany)

Frumpy, 'All Will Be Changed'

All Will Be Changed  (1970,  41.56/48.47)  ***/½

Life Without Pain
Rosalie, part 1
Otium
Rosalie, part 2
Indian Rope Man
Morning
Floating, part 1
Baroque
Floating, part 2
[CD adds:
Roadriding
Time Makes Wise]
Frumpy, 'Frumpy 2'

Frumpy 2  (1971,  38.59)  ***½/T

Good Winds
How the Gipsy Was Born
Take Care of Illusion
Duty

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Frumpy's first album, All Will Be Changed, is one of those 'very much of its time' records, featuring loads of Hammond, quite a bit of studio jamming and (God help us) a drum solo, a sure sign of a dearth of ideas. It's by no means all bad, although repetitive opener Life Without Pain makes one lose the will to live after a few minutes, and the aforementioned drum solo (on Floating, Part 1) is deeply unnecessary. Many tracks segue into each other, with possibly the best thing here, Baroque, being sandwiched between the two parts of Floating. Next to no Mellotron from Jean Jacques Kravetz, with a few odd-sounding string chords in Baroque, but nothing you absolutely have to have, to say the least.

Their follow-up, Frumpy 2, is their most progressive album, and I have to say, particularly in comparison to its predecessor, it's really rather good. Quite a bit of Uriah Heep in their sound by this point, and when you think that Heep were yet to produce their classic Demons and Wizards in '71, Frumpy could have given them a good run for their money, had they not been stuck in a non-UK/US market. The music is full-on progressive hard rock, with shedloads of well-played Hammond, and great guitar work, with English vocals, although I don't believe it (or any of their albums) was released outside Germany. On top of his extensive organ work, Kravetz played Mellotron on a couple of tracks, although I've had trouble working out exactly what he's using, although the strings have that 'keyed' sound to them. My best guess is an M300, and the strings are neither a Mark II nor an M400, unless it's a particularly unusual strings set in the latter. Anyway, this unusual string sound crops up on 'Take Care of Illusion' and 'Duty', with the latter having some on a short classical section which I should be able to name, but can't (Bach?).

So, their debut is decidedly average, while their sophomore effort is a damn' good album, progressive without being 'symphonic', but well worth hearing. The 'Tron use is odd, to be honest, so don't go out of your way for it on those grounds alone.


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