God Help the Girl
Robert John Godfrey
God Bless the Go-Go's (2001, 45.14) ***/T½
|La La Land
Stuck in My Car
Vision of Nowness
Here You Are
Automatic Rainy Day
Throw Me a Curve
Talking Myself Down
It's a pretty sad state of affairs when the Go-Go's (dodgy punctuation, ladies) are fêted for being the first US chart-topping all-female band who not only played their own instruments, but wrote their own songs. Shocker, eh? On the offchance you've got the wrong end of the stick, I'm not having a go at the band, but at the industry that surrounds them, not to mention the society that allows (encourages?) this situation. Whatever you may think of their music (perfectly respectable powerpop, as it turns out), Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin et al. are due kudos for battling their way through the problems women face in a male-dominated industry/world.
They only actually released three albums in the original lifetime, and God Bless the Go-Go's is the first, and to date, only, album produced by the reformed 'classic' lineup. They wear their influences on their collective sleeves, not least The Byrds' guitar jangle, the Shangri-Las' vocal harmonies and The Buzzcocks' energy - oh, and Blondie, of course. I personally prefer many other less 'commercial' powerpop acts, but they do a decent enough job of producing an album of hook-laden melodic pop/rock, although it may not necessarily appeal to those brought up on their early-'80s material.
Various tape-replay instruments from two different musicians, with Mellotron and Chamberlin on the balladic Here You Are from Rami Jaffee, with flutes from one of them, although the other's use remains a mystery, as the cellos are clearly real. Roger Manning plays Mellotron on closer Daisy Chain, with an inventive cello part plus flutes later on, making for a fairly typical minor-use album with one standout 'Tron track.
Change it All (2005, 61.55) **/½
Change it All
Love Me Right
|Find a Way
If We Knew
Battle of the Heart
Darker Side of the Moon
Goapele Mohlabane joins the ever-growing list of female performers known by their first name alone, probably, in her case, as she (correctly) ascertained that people wouldn't be able to pronounce her surname. You could say the same for Madonna too, I suppose... Change it All is Goapele's second album proper, following Even Closer, an expanded version of her first release, Closer. She sits firmly in the 'R&B' camp to my ears, although I've seen her described as 'neo soul' (yer wot?), trip hop and even jazz. Basically, melodic soul vocals over largely dull, repetitive backing tracks, although in this case, at least most of it's actually played. I'm sure the young lady is totally sincere; she's known for her human rights work, and Find A Way features a great 'phone tap' intro, where some dude calmly tells a prison worker that he wants people to be 'more rebellious', but most of this album is so... safe, it almost defies description.
Surprisingly, it does actually feature occasional moments of musical innovation, notably the unusual all-played-on-the-low-B bass notes on 4 AM and the portamento synth on Fly Away, but they're pretty few and far between. Not as few and far between as the album's Mellotron moments, played by producer Linda Perry, ex- of the horrible 4 Non Blondes, with a background string part on Darker Side Of The Moon, only properly audible right at the end of the song. There's not even really any point in my slagging this off; it's an R&B record, therefore I hate it, but Goapele has a social conscience and platform from which to exercise it, which is difficult to dismiss lightly. Tell you what, support her work, but don't bother with her records. Good compromise?
Goblin (Italy) see:
God Help the Girl (2009, 44.29) ***/½
|Act of the Apostle
God Help the Girl
Pretty Eve in the Tub
A Unified Theory
Hiding Neath My Umbrella
Funny Little Frog
If You Could Speak
Musician, Please Take Heed
|Perfection as a Hipster
Come Monday Night
The Music Room Window
I Just Want Your Jeans
I'll Have to Dance With Cassie
A Down and Dusky Blonde
God Help the Girl is Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch's side-project, apparently due to be filmed in 2010, although the soundtrack appeared the previous year. Strange... Unsurprisingly, the album's full of faux-pre-psych '60s, mostly female-vocalled material, giving next to no musical hints that it actually hails from 45 years later, making it an ideal listen for those captivated by the era of Burt Bacharach and orchestral pop. As for the rest of us... Hiding Neath My Umbrella is possibly the album's best track, bringing The Hollies' sublime Graham Gouldman-penned Bus Stop to mind, at least lyrically.
Murdoch himself plays Mellotron on one track, with a high flute part on I Just Want Your Jeans, making a welcome change from the otherwise ubiquitous orchestra. It isn't, however, anything like enough to persuade anyone not already enchanted by the project's sound to splash out the readies. Good at what it does, as long as you like what it does.
See: Belle & Sebastian
The Winterlong... (1993, 27.58/37.09) ***/TTT½
Ashes of Mourning Life
Spawn of Flesh
|[2008 reissue adds:
Consumed By Darkness
Ceased to Be
Spawn of Flesh]
God Macabre, originally known as Botten På Burken, then Macabre End, shifted to the better-known name and released the short The Winterlong... in 1993. It's apparently an early example of Swedish death metal, although I still have trouble telling the various modern(ish) metal genres apart. Is it the growly vocals that make it deathly? The music itself veers between a sludgy kind of thrash and more 'trad' stylings, more listenable to an old git like me when Per Boder stops clearing his throat down the mic. Best track? Undoubtedly gentle acoustic-guitar-and-Mellotron instrumental Lamentation.
Guitarist Jonas Stålhammar doubles on what sounds like real Mellotron (no decent samples around in '93, anyway), with single choir notes on opener Into Nowhere, a chordal choir part on Lost, appropriately doomy-sounding strings on Teardrops, pitchbent choirs on Spawn Of Flesh, layered strings and flutes on Lamentation, plus 'stabbed' choir chords and a major string part on closer In Grief. Blood Harvest's vinyl-only 2008 reissue adds the three-track Macabre End demo, although the total length is still under forty minutes; Ceased To Be features what sounds like a pseudo-Mellotron part, rectified when they re-recorded it for the album.
Well, I really hadn't expected this album to feature any Mellotron at all, real or sampled, so this comes as a nice surprise. The music's less full-on than you might expect, too. Oddly, this has to be the only record on this site originally on CD, but now only available on vinyl.
Electrical Tape (2013, 60.00) ****/TTTIs it Live or is it Memorex?
Mellotrons in the 80s
They're Not Loops
Duncan Goddard is, of course, one third of long-running UK EMers Radio Massacre International and a synth enthusiast in his own right. The band's slow geographic separation has possibly triggered Duncan's desire to write and record his own music, the end result being 2013's punning, download-only, Mellotron-heavy Electrical Tape. Does it sound like r.m.i.? To an extent, of course, but this is less Tangs, more Klaus, albeit less dark and discordant, highlights including tuneful (!) opener Is It Live Or Is It Memorex? (remember the rubbish '80s TV ad, Brit readers?), the choir-heavy Mellotrons In The 80s and They're Not Loops (old Mellotron joke, non-owners), while Elcaset and closer Time-Lag Accumulator are actually closer to the Klaus template, giving the album a more varied feel than your average r.m.i. release.
Duncan plays his own M400 (plus samples of it) on the album, of course, with watery strings on Is It Live Or Is It Memorex?, clicky flutes, choirs and strings all over Mellotrons In The 80s (although some of the choirs sound synthetic), occasional strings on Ketchup Bogie, string section on Elcaset, drifting, high-end strings and church organ on They're Not Loops and heavily phased strings on Time-Lag Accumulator. Although this isn't really a 'Mellotron showcase', not only is the music up to par, but you get at least some of that M400 on every track, making a download well worth your trouble. While you CAN pay nothing for it, try bunging Duncan a few quid while you're at it.
See: Radio Massacre International
Fall of Hyperion (1974, 41.33) ***½/TTTThe Raven
The Daemon of the World
The Arrival of the Phoenix
Across the Abyss
You want overblown? You've got it! By 1974, Robert John Godfrey was some years out of Barclay James Harvest (not that he was ever a full member, but you know what I mean), and just about to form The Enid. He's also rumoured to've been the brains behind 1972's Don Bradsham Leather opus, but I can't confirm that one way or the other. Fall of Hyperion was a solo effort he recorded for Charisma, effectively laying out his ground rules for The Enid on a major(-ish) label budget. All the elements were already in place; all he needed was a band to realise them properly. Instead, he recorded this rather odd album which was probably never really going to appeal to the record-buying public, with its operatic vocals and drumless symphonic epics. The lyrics are, frankly, ludicrous, and although Christopher Lewis is the featured vocalist, he sounds almost exactly like Robert. Hmmm.
So, you get five tracks of slightly indigestible, vaguely operatic prog (a term Robert loathes, incidentally), with a fair bit of Mellotron, mostly strings. Nothing outstanding on the 'Tron front, but better than many. Tracks two and three actually ended up (in reversed order) on an Enid fan club LP retitled 'Hyperion', which is all that most Enid fans have heard of this hard-to-find album. I believe there was a Japanese CD issue, but I've no idea whether or not the master tapes came within several thousand miles of it or not, so you're probably better off tracking down an original, if you can find one. Good, but not great.
Official Enid site
See: Barclay James Harvest | The Enid
Suite: Genesis (1976, 42.59) **½/T
|If You Are Passing By That Way
Yellow Center Line
It's Good to Be Home Again
Lover's Lament (Sacrificial Blues)
Mother and Son
Dead End (1977, 36.39) **½/½
|Millions of Years
In the City
Stop & Look Around
Dead End - Love Flowers Prophecy
The Last Hour
A Face in the Crowd
|(Crime is) the Sign of the Times
Godiego are best known outside Japan for their music for cult late '70s TV show Monkey, although it seems that was just one of the band's many, often soundtrack-themed releases of the era. It's hard to say for certain (discographies disagree heavily), but 1976's Suite: Genesis looks like it might be the band's second album. It's a pretty mainstream effort, frankly, material such as West Coast-ish opener If You Are Passing By That Way and Yellow Center Line, or the balladic It's Good To Be Home Again sounding terribly dated these days; even the side-long title track's something of a damp squib, being more of a series of musically unconnected pieces than yer actual prog epic. I presume it's Yukihide Takekawa on Mellotron, with flute and choir parts on Magic Painting (the nearest the album gets to a 'best track'), although the strings on the title track are real.
The following year's Dead End probably wasn't actually their next release, nor did it sound that much like Suite: Genesis, its mainstream pop/rock having far less of a West Coast vibe about it. Highlights (such as they are) include Beatlesesque opener Millions Of Years, the rocky intro to Panic-Images (presumably the 'Panic' part) and the punchy (Crime Is) The Sign Of The Times, despite the drum solo on the latter, but it's not really enough to add even a half star, frankly. Once again, very little of Takekawa's Mellotron, with naught but drifting choirs on closer Mikuni, although the track's strings are real.
I've been looking for these for ages, hoping I might find some almost-undiscovered prog in the process. Fail. Not only are both releases disappointingly mainstream, but we don't even get any worthwhile Mellotron use as a booby prize.
Genesis (1968, 37.44/48.54) ***½/TT
|Towards the Skies
Candles Getting Shorter
You're My Life
|I Never Know
Time and Eternity
Somewhere in the Street
Real Love Guaranteed]
To Samuel a Son (1970, 43.39/47.37) ***/TT
|To Samuel a Son
Eight o'Clock in the Morning
Sticking Wings on Flies
Long Time, Sad Time, Bad Time
Five to Three
Yes I Cry
Momma I Need
The Gods (bet that name caused some upset in the '60s) can be seen as a precursor to Uriah Heep, although that band actually metamorphosed from the earlier Spice, while their first lineup contained only one musician even briefly associated with The Gods (bassist Paul Newton). For all that, Genesis sounds like an earlier version of Heep, largely due to Ken Hensley's already distinctive-sounding Hammond, and drummer Lee Kerslake's falsetto backing vocals, although he didn't join Heep until their fourth album. The album also features later Carmen and Jethro Tull bassist John Glascock, tragically to die of a congenital heart defect before the age of thirty. Being recorded in '68, it naturally sounds more like a late-period heavy psych album than a proto-hard rock one, although it's almost a primer for seeing how one style morphed into the other, with rockier efforts like opener Towards The Skies and You're My Life reminding the listener of first three album-Deep Purple. Hensley doubled on Mellotron on a handful of tracks, with nice upfront flutes and strings on Candles Getting Shorter and beautiful strings on I Never Know, with lesser use on You're My Life and Plastic Horizon. The Repertoire CD adds both sides of their second and third singles (no 'Tron), the first obviously being deemed too atypical of their style. Either that, or someone's lost the tapes.
Their second and last album was released in early 1970, by which time the band was no more, having essentially turned into Toe Fat. Hensley jumped ship from them soon after, joining Heep, replacing Colin Wood. To Samuel a Son seems to be a concept effort, based around the life of, er, Samuel's son. Remind you of anything? The Pretty Things' groundbreaking '68 classic SF Sorrow, maybe? While The Gods' debut sounds quite forward-looking for 1968, To Samuel a Son is curiously dated, although clearly recorded only the year after. You can see why the band fell apart and most of the members moved on to pastures new, the exception being guitarist Joe Konas, who, post-Toe Fat, retired from full-time music. On the Mellotron front, Hensley adds a few string chords to the opening title track, with some rather clunky trombone on Penny Dear, although the album's standout 'Tron track is Autumn, opening with a flute part, reiterating throughout the song, with some fairly full-on strings on the chorus. More strings and possibly brass on Yes I Cry and minor flute and string use again on Momma I Need, but that's yer lot.
So; Genesis is clearly the better of these two albums, with slightly better Mellotron work, but To Samuel a Son has its moments, not least Mellotronically. For Heep fans who want everything connected to the band (hell of a task, that), or students of the late '60s.
See: Uriah Heep
(1993, 39.51) ***/T
Bad Bad Implication
Little Bit About
Everything You Give Me Breaks
Lie Down Forever
|The Brightest Star
Had the Time of My Life
Days Gone By
Every Now & Again
Sleeper was Aussie powerpop/punk outfit Godstar's stylistically diverse debut album (of two), veering schizophrenically from frenzied under-a-minute opener Ersatz to the acoustic Forgotten Night or the pure powerpop of Single. It's a reasonably appealing effort, although some of the songs lack the kind of memorability you'd expect from an album of this type and, maybe surprisingly, at all of forty minutes, it's probably a couple of tracks too long.
One of the band's two consistent members, Nic Dalton, plays Mellotron flutes on Wigram, with a rather skronky part running right through the song, which I take to be real, given the recording date. So; a decent enough powerpop-pop/punk crossover album, which may grow on me given the time I don't have, with one passable 'Tron track.
Golden Earring [a.k.a. Wall of Dolls] (1970, 38.55) ***½/TYellow and Blue
This is the Time of the Year
Big Tree, Blue Sea
The Wall of Dolls
I'm Going to Send My Pigeons to the Sky
As Long as the Wind Blows
Golden Earring have a long and honourable history, kicking off in the pre-beat era as The Golden Earrings. Two of their four members (guitarist George Kooymans and bassist/keyboard player Rinus Gerritsen) have been there ever since, while newcomers Barry Hay (vocals/flute) and Cesar Zuiderwijk (drums) joined in 1967 and 1970 respectively. Wonder what the Dutch is for 'new boy'? The band's chief strength has always been their ability to roll with the punches, their style shifting from album to album, never entirely either fashionable or unfashionable, always popular in their home country, with the occasional worldwide hit to keep their name current. Depending on your age, you may know them for Eight Miles High (1969), Twilight Zone (1982), or their deathless glam-rock era classic, 1973's Radar Love, but chances are you'll know them, which is more than you can say for most Dutch groups.
Their eponymous 1970 album, often known as 'Wall of Dolls' after the track of the same name and its cover design, was their sixth release, following 1969's successful Eight Miles High, featuring their side-long version of The Byrds' song. It's a bit of a mixture, best described as folky proggish bluesy hard rock (!), with the very Jethro Tull-ish Big Tree, Blue Sea, the straightforward 'good time' rock of Back Home, the folk/prog of Yellow And Blue and a credible blues in closer As Long As The Wind Blows. This could be seen as diversity or lack of focus (speaking of Dutch groups), depending on your viewpoint, but it gives the album the advantage that you're probably going to like something on it, although you'll probably dislike something as well. Best track? Always a matter for individual taste, particularly with The Earring, but the clumsily-lyric'd hard rock of I'm Going To Send My Pigeons To The Sky takes my personal vote. Anyway, as on so many of their records, Rinus Gerritsen sticks mainly with bass, adding keys where necessary, with organ on a couple of tracks and Mellotron on a couple of others, helped out by Cees Schrama (from Casey & the Pressure Group). Nothing to get too excited about, sadly, with a few string chords (Hilversum's Phonogram Studios' famous M300, maybe?) on opener Yellow And Blue and See See, barely tipping the album into one full T status.
Rumoured (though uncredited) Mellotron on their follow-up, Seven Tears, but the reason it's uncredited is that it isn't there; I suspect someone got a bit over-excited upon hearing Hays' double-tracked flute. Ditto 1968's Miracle Mirror, which sounds like a regular string part. As far as Golden Earring goes, it's a decent enough album, although probably not as good as its successor, with very little Mellotron. Your choice.
Down By the Old Mainstream (1995, 49.44) ***½/T
Glad and Sorry
Won't Be Coming Home
He's a Dick
Walk Where He Walked
She Don't Have to See You
Red Headed Stepchild
Weird Tales (1997, 54.55) ***½/T
|To Call My Own
Looking Forward to Seeing You
Until You Came Along
If I Only Had a Car
I Can't Keep From Talking
|Reflections on Me
White Shell Road
Please Tell My Brother
Fear of Falling
All The Same to Me
Jennifer Save Me
Another Fine Day (2006, 63.57) ***½/½
|You Make it Easy
Another Fine Day
Long Time Ago
Cure For This
Frying Pan Eyes
Never Felt Before
Think About Yourself
Blood on the Slacks (2007, 24.53) ***/TCan't Even Tie Your Own Shoes
Look at You Now
Scotch on Ice
Without a Struggle
Golden Smog (an obscure Flintstones reference) are, essentially, a pick-up alt.country supergroup, featuring, at different times, members of The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, Wilco, et al. They began in the late '80s as a covers band side-project for a group of like-minded individuals, only becoming a 'proper' band with the release of their debut album, 1995's punning Down By the Old Mainstream. As is the way with such bands, personnel come and go, sometimes due to outside commitments, sometimes not, but the lineup on the album includes The Jayhawks' Gary Louris and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, amongst others, all credited under pseudonyms for contractural reasons. It's a fine album in its genre, although at fifty minutes, it slightly outstays its welcome. Best tracks? Opener V, classic Americana, Won't Be Coming Home and the rocky Red Headed Stepchild, maybe. 'Jarret Decatur' (Jayhawks' Kraig Johnson) plays Chamberlin, with a Mellotron-soundalike string part on Yesterday Cried and less of the same on closer Radio King, to reasonable effect.
Their second album, Weird Tales, featured Louris, Tweedy and Jody Stephens of Big Star. The CD is beautifully packaged to look like a '50s pulp SF mag, complete with bad fantasy art framing the credits and adverts of the 'Charles Atlas' variety disguising the lyrics, echoing Hawkwind's Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music from two decades earlier. The album features a mixture of country-related styles, without ever sinking into mawkish Nashvilleisms; putting the 'alt.' into 'alt.country' is akin to putting the boot into the Grand Ole Opry, I'm glad to say. Strongest tracks? Hard to say, but both If I Only Had A Car and White Shell Road stand out on initial listens. Mellotron on three tracks, with cellos on Jane from Louris, and flutes on Reflections On Me from Soul Asylum's Dan Murphy, although nothing audible on Fear Of Falling, despite Murphy's credit.
After an eight-year break, Golden Smog returned with 2006's Another Fine Day, with Tweedy only appearing in a guest role. It's immediately obvious that they've shifted away from 'pure' alt.country, towards a slightly psychedelic Americana, for want of a better description, with late-'60s Kinks-ish opener You Make It Easy, pseudo-glam (Corvette), hard rock (Hurricane) and various other previously-unheard-on-a-Golden-Smog-album styles. Mellotron from Louris on closer Think About Yourself, although you'd be hard-pushed to spot what he actually does with it. My guess is the vague, background strings that waft in and out of the track, but really, who knows?
It's been pointed out that, by releasing albums in consecutive years, the band are in danger of losing their 'side-project' status. 2007's Blood on the Slacks (ho ho) is actually a mini-album, including two covers amongst its eight tracks, Bowie's Starman and Dinosaur Jr's Tarpit, nestled in between another six tracks of psychedelic Americana. Of their own material, the quirky instrumental Magician is probably the best example, some of the rest not quite coming up to previous standards, which isn't to say it's a bad release. Louris' Mellotron rears its ugly head on Starman (a string part similar to the real one on the original), although that seems to be it on the 'Tron front.
Down By the Old Mainstream and Weird Tales seem to be two of alt.country's linchpin releases, and Another Fine Day's up to the same standard, if different stylistically, although none of them are probably the best place to go for any Hot Tape-Replay Action.
See: The Jayhawks | Soul Asylum | Wilco | Big Star
Blue Swan Orchestra (2002, 38.01/44.30) **½/½
|Wild Was the Night
Sing Another Song for the Winterlong
Blue Swans of Winter
Twenty Months in a Hail Storm
Sunlight Through the Fog
Kittens of Lust
|Big City Lights
[Download-only bonus tracks:
Goldenboy, a.k.a. Shon Sullivan, are/is a classic case of how certain artists can seriously polarise opinion; one online reviewer says 'too good for a debut', I say 'dreary indie'. 2002's Blue Swan Orchestra has its moments, certainly (Twenty Months In A Hail Storm, the melancholy Summertime, with Elliott Smith on backing vocals), but the majority of its material exists in a kind of indie limbo of repetitive guitars and overly-sweet melodies. I'm not sure I'll ever understand why this stuff's so popular; born too early, I suppose. Good.
Producer/label owner Dave McConnell plays Chamberlin, although the only thing here that even might be one is the heavily-vibratoed flutes on album 'proper' closer Almost Perfect. While Elliott Smith completists may wish to track this down, they really won't find much to enjoy if they're expecting anything like their hero's own work. Flashes of listenability, but too few to be worth mentioning, sadly.
See: Elliott Smith
Orion Awakes (1973, 43.51) ***½/½Orion Awakes
Jupiter and Beyond
Golem's Orion Awakes is full-on krautrock, though in a rather more tuneful way than, say, the quite bonkers Floh de Cologne, being more an album of trippy, jammed-out psych than a wildly experimental journey of exploration into the inner reaches of the psyche. Or something. Actually, much of this record out-Hawkwinds Hawkwind, particularly the manic, driving, three-part Godhead Dance, if you can imagine the Hawks as a more controlled, instrumental ensemble, with synths exchanged for organ. The whole is probably better experienced at crushing volume in a sweaty club than in the cold light of day, but the fact that it stands up pretty well in that environment 35 years later is a testament to this record's power.
Manfred Hof plays Mellotron on the album, though not a lot, with naught but echoed flutes on Stellar Launch to prove his credentials. I can heartily recommend Orion Awakes to freak flag-flyers of all dispositions, but Mellotron nuts looking for a new fix should probably go elsewhere.
Lord Krishna von Goloka (1973, 42.45) ***½/TTDer Reigen
Die Weisse Alm
Die Hoch Zeit
Sergius Golowin, a Swiss-German esoteric writer, was drawn into the orbit of Cosmic Jokers mainman Rolf Ulrich Kaiser after the latter's Tarot project with Walter Wegmüller. Like Wegmüller, he released just the one album, Lord Krishna von Goloka, revered today as a classic example of the acid folk/krautrock crossover, featuring all the usual suspects; Witthüser and Westrupp, Klaus Schulze, and Jürgen Dollase from the more mainstream Wallenstein, the latter two on Mellotron, amongst other things. It's one of those records that was made under the influence of psychedelics, and should probably be listened to in the same way, so for me to review it accurately isn't really an option. From a clear-headed viewpoint, it's an intriguing mix of ethereal, reverbed acoustic guitars, keyboards and Golowin's hushed, spoken German-language lyrics; a great deal, in fact, like Tarot from the year before, right down to the nationality of its chief instigator.
It's impossible to know whether it's Schulze or Dollase on the Mellotron at any given point, but within two minutes of the album's opening shots, distant 'Tron choirs echo across the soundscapes of Der Reigen (The Roundelay), although the track doesn't feature them a great deal more. Shortest track Die Weisse Alm (The White Pasture?), on the other hand, is all plucked acoustic, Golowin's narrative and (sorry) ethereal choirs throughout its length. Side two's Die Hoch Zeit (The Wedding) adds strings to the everpresent choirs, although apart from on Die Weisse Alm, it would be fair to say that the Mellotron is one of the album's lesser components.
So; if you like krautrock, there's a good chance you know this album already. I personally found it slightly less engaging than Wegmüller's Tarot, but it's a perfectly good record of its type, and essential listening for those discovering the early '70s krautrock scene. Mellotronically speaking, it's not bad, but inessential, with so many more 'Tron-heavy releases out there.
See: Cosmic Jokers | Witthüser and Westrupp | Klaus Schulze | Wallenstein
Liquid Skin (1999, 55.35) ***/T
Bring it on
Blue Moon Rising
Las Vegas Dealer
We Haven't Turned Around
Fill My Cup
Rhythm & Blues Alibi
Devil Will Ride
Machismo (2000, 26.50) ***/T½Machismo
Do's and Don'ts
The Dajon Song
Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline (2000, 49.42) ***/T½
Bring Your Lovin' Back Here
Hit on the Head
78 Stone Shuffle
We Haven't Turned Around
High on Liquid Skin
The Cowboy Song
Gomez hail from the environs of Southport, near Liverpool, and have the distinction of being the only successful British band of the last few decades to play authentic swamp-blues, albeit with contemporary influences. Confused? So are they, I suspect. Their career took off after winning the prestigious (it says here) Mercury Music Prize for their debut, Bring it on, in 1998, which they followed with Liquid Skin a year later. I remember being deeply irritated by them at the time, but with a few years' distance, they actually aren't at all bad. Ian Ball's vocals (assuming it is he) bring a bit of delta blues into your living room; pity it's the Mersey delta, but there you go... The rest of the band know how to play acoustic guitars, which is a plus point, and don't use nasty digital synths, which is another one.
After saying all this, the music isn't really my bag, so I'll leave picking out highlights to those more in tune with their sound. For some strange reason, they apparently actually bought a Mellotron, although you can't say they've over-used it. Rhythm & Blues Alibi is the sole use here, with a solo string part opening the track (don't get too excited; it's only three seconds long. Watcher Of The Skies it ain't), and cellos throughout the rest. The following year's Machismo EP was business as usual, it seems, with more of that futuristic swamp music. More 'Tron, too, with flutes (and overdubbed strings?) on the title track and Do's And Don'ts, although the various strings on Touchin' Up are real. Final track The Dajon Song is Gomez' first epic to date (may there be more? Who knows?) at over 13 minutes, with an almost Neil Young flavour in places; very listenable, chaps, although they resist the temptation to stick any 'Tron on it.
Later the same year, Gomez released the odds'n'sods collection (so soon?) Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline, which is actually very palatable indeed, with Bring Your Lovin' Back Here being the second of their songs to really catch my ear. Given that these are outtakes, it's a very good collection indeed, although I'm not sure why they bothered covering Getting Better, in a style similar to the original. Two 'Tron tracks: We Haven't Turned Around (X-Ray) is a full-on 'Tron-fest, no less, opening with 'Strawberry Fields'-style flutes, before switching between flutes and cellos for the rest of the song, while High On Liquid Skin has a squeaky string part, underpinned with cellos, making this their best Mellotronic effort yet.
So; do you buy these records? Not if you're after Mellotron overkill, no, or anything resembling prog, but if you're after largely acoustic blues by a current British band, you could do a lot worse. Better than I'd remembered. Oh, and although I managed to miss it, I hear they turned up on 'Later With Jools Holland' (popular UK music show for non-Brits) with their M400, to which Jools apparently bade a fond farewell on-air. Strange... Incidentally, I've listened to Gomez' five subsequent albums (yes, they're still going), only to hear not a jot of Mellotron. Have they sold it? Is it languishing in storage somewhere, unloved and forgotten? Who knows? Well, the band, presumably, but I doubt whether anyone's actually asking.
You (1974, 44.19) ****/TTThought for Naught
A P.H.P.'s Advice
Magick Mother Invocation
A Sprinkling of Clouds
The Isle of Everywhere
You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever
Gong began as an Anglo-French-Australian collective in the late '60s, infamous for their heroic hallucinogen intake and their exceedingly strange music. Some fans believe that this is the ultimate trip, but I've known others who claim that 'tripping to this stuff just doesn't work'; I suppose it's a case of one man's meat, really. Anyway, by the early '70s, they'd concocted a strange tale of Pothead Pixies, Octave Doctors and the estimable Zero the Hero, known as the Flying Teapot Trilogy, consisting of Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg and You.
If you're at all familiar with Gong's working methods, you'll be on familiar territory with You, although it's probably the least manic of the trilogy, presaging the band's later move into jazzier realms, with more groove-based material, like A Sprinkling Of Clouds or the lengthy and excellent The Isle Of Everywhere. The only jarring note is the rather silly Perfect Mistery, but where Gong are concerned, you have to take the rough with the smooth... Anyway, for (to my knowledge) the only time in their career, the band opted to use a Mellotron on the album, amusingly credited as 'Mellowdrone', played by Hi T Moonweed (a.k.a. Tim Blake). It's used chiefly as a background wash, with a subtle string line on Master Builder and choir and string chords on A Sprinkling Of Clouds. It's hard to say, but the best use is probably on You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever, but none of it's especially overt.
So; if you like Gong, you probably already own this, but if you're new to the band, while I can't really recommend it for its Mellotron use, You is a fine album, worthy of your attention.
See: Daevid Allen & Kramer
Album of the Year (2004, 53.31) ***/½
|Album of the Year
Night and Day
Under a Honeymoon
You're No Fool
Notes in His Pocket
You're Not You
Lovers Need Lawyers
A New Friend
Two Years This Month
The Good Life grew out of Cursive's frontman Tim Kasher's solo project, their third album, 2004's Album of the Year, being an awful lot better than the parent band's Happy Hollow, at least. That isn't to say it's a great album; the opening title track has a great narrative lyric, but the bulk of the record drifts along in a folk/indie kind of way, with only the occasional burst of energy (Notes In His Pocket, Needy), to liven things up at all and did Inmates really need to be nearly ten minutes long?
Mike Mogis plays Mellotron on Lovers Need Lawyers, with a brief background flute part at the end of the song, so not what you'd call essential on that front, then. Album of the Year isn't, but it could've been so much worse. Definitely not worth it for the Mellotron, though.
See: Cursive | Tim Kasher