Hot Hot Heat
David Lee Howard
Rebecca Lynn Howard
Howell & Atkins
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Hostsonaten (Italy) see:
Elevator (2005, 36.53) **½/½
Running Out of Time
Ladies and Gentleman
You Owe Me an IOU
No Jokes - Fact
Pickin' it Up
|Island of the Honest Man
Middle of Nowhere
Soldier in a Box
Shame on You
British Columbia's Hot Hot Heat are current Noo Wave revivalist press darlings, having morphed out of a punkier phase of their existence. I'll be brutally honest here and say I can't see what all the fuss is about, but then, I'm at least double the age of their typical fan, and music that sounds like a modern and less quirky version of Elvis Costello really ain't gonna float my boat. You Owe Me An IOU seems to be the track that Those In The Know rave about, but to my ears, it's no less irritating than anything else here. Is it supposed to be about the lyrics? Probably, but my inability to hear most of them round vocalist/keyboard player Steve Bays' writhing lips rather spoils the effect.
Mellotron? Played by Bays, could be lurking in the background on several tracks, but is only actually audible during the fading seconds of Middle Of Nowhere, with a couple of seconds of choir. Don't bother. I mean, really, don't bother.
Thinks: School Stinks (1971, 43.07) ***½/½Neanderthal Man
How Many Times
Take Me Back
Um Wah, Um Woh
Run Baby Run
All God's Children
Hotlegs were a one-off project based in Manchester, consisting of Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, who, of course, after adding Graham Gouldman to their ranks, went on to become 10cc. They're chiefly remembered for their no.2 UK hit, Neanderthal Man, a bizarre effort based around, er, a rather Neanderthal drum pattern and massed acoustics, over which they chanted "I'm a Neanderthal man, you're a Neanderthal girl...(etc.)". You can actually envisage this as a 10cc single; it has the same kind of dry wit and inventiveness they used to such good effect later on - hardly surprising, really.
The trio actually dragged the concept out far enough to record an album, Thinks: School Stinks, though in the best 10cc tradition, it's a little too clever for its own good, and the best track is the single. The rest of the material sits somewhere between the Neantherthal Man silliness of Um Wah, Um Woh and the 12-minute Suite F.A. (ho ho), with most of it being good, but not that good. Someone plays a brief Mellotron flute part on Fly Away, and it sounds like a couple of string chords on Neanderthal Man itself, though it's rather hard to say, to be honest.
So; an interesting curio, though not exactly essential, unless you're a 10cc completist (are there such things?). Absolutely not worth it for the 'Tron, though.
Flying Upside Down (2007, 52.04) ***/½
|Better Than Love
I Remember (it's Happening Again)
Let Me in
The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is
Out of His Mind
Live to Be Free
|Heart of Stone
Hanging on (Tom's Song)
Flying Upside Down
When the Time is Right
Good for You
Waiting for the Rain to Come
Griffin House (who sounds like a band, but isn't) shifted his attention from sport to music in his late teens, self-releasing several albums before being picked up (as they say) by Canada's Nettwerk label. 2007's rather overproduced Flying Upside Down is his third release on the label and fifth overall, a perfectly acceptable, folk- and country-influenced singer-songwriter effort that flies a little too close to the mainstream in places for those whose taste sits at the 'authentic' end of the spectrum. Better tracks include I Remember (It's Happening Again), chiefly for its lyrics, the Wurlitzer-driven One Thing and the title track, but it's all a little anodyne, somehow.
Despite the presence on the album of two members of Tom Petty's band, including major Mellotron/Chamberlin user Benmont Tench, Jeff Trott actually plays Chamberlin here, presumably supplying the strings on the title track, although the sustained string part on Hanging On (Tom's Song) sounds generic. Flying Upside Down will appeal to a certain audience dynamic, specifically one that values lyrical content over musical, although House's melodies are memorable enough, if somewhat bland. Next to no obvious tape-replay work, however, so don't bother unless you have a yen for mainstream singer-songwriter stuff.
Marie Antoinette (1980, 35.37) **½/TMarie Antoinette
Brave the Storm
Full Circle Blues
According to the bio on his website, San Franciscan David Lee Howard has been making a living from music and touring worldwide since the '60s, with a particular affinity for Germany, recording a clutch of new age albums along the way. Since he's neglected to include a full discography on the site, there's no way of knowing whether or not 1980's Marie Antoinette was his vinyl debut, although it gets a self-deprecating mention. It's one of those rather 'out-of-time' records, sounding more like a mid-'70s release in many ways, a soft rock/singer-songwriter album of no particular originality, typified by the rather anodyne title track and closer Albatross. Best tracks? Probably guitar instrumental Spino and Full Circle Blues, a fairly ordinary take on the style, but one that seems to work in this context, while Howard's 12-string playing stands out throughout.
One David Townsend plays keys, including credited Mellotron, with a pseudo-orchestral string part on Who, although it's hardly a feature of the track. A certain Doug Rayburn (of Pavlov's Dog fame) is listed in the 'thanks' section, not least for his engineering work, so it seems more than likely that it's his M400 we're hearing. Saying that, a piece of evidence to the contrary is that the album was recorded in West Seattle (where Howard was living at the time), so it may well be a local studio or hire machine. This can still be picked up for a dollar or two, if you know where to look, but I'm afraid I can't honestly recommend it for anything much, Mellotron use included.
See: Pavlov's Dog
Forgive (2002, 45.24) **/½
|Beautiful to You
Dancin' in God's Country
It Didn't Look Like Alcohol
Life Had Other Plans
It's My Job to Fall
Jesus and Bartenders
|When Did You Ever Listen to Me
Pink Flamingo Kind of Love
Softly and Tenderly
Rebecca Lynn Howard began her career writing for other country artists before releasing her first solo album in 2000. 2002's Forgive is its follow-up, fitting neatly into the 'modern country' bracket, containing elements of both 'traditional' country and AOR, although the schmaltz begins to take precedence after the first few tracks. As so often in the country world, the lyrics are presumably given more thought than the music (God, it shows), making Pink Flamingo Kind Of Love about the best thing here, in a manner of speaking.
Tony Harrell on Mellotron, with merely a few seconds of strings at the beginning of Memorized, so not something you're going to want to track down too badly, frankly. This is half a respectable country album and half a load of old schlock, with next to no Mellotron. I rest my case.
Shine Through it (2008, 48.36) ***½/½
|Love Makes You Beautiful
Shine Through it
Mr. Johnson's Lawn
No. 1 Fan
Spanish Love Affair
I Remember When
|It's All Game
She Was Mine
If you think you've heard of Terrence Howard, but can't place him, think: Ray, Crash, Iron Man. Yup, he's another in the long list of 'actors who want to be singers'. The difference is, Howard has a terrific voice and impeccable taste, his debut album, 2008's Shine Through it, being stuffed with the kind of soulful jazz that's long out of fashion, but musically a light year or two away from generic r'n'b drivel. What's more, Howard writes all his own material, making you wonder why he hasn't done this earlier. Top tracks include the balladic title track, Mr. Johnson's Lawn and the eccentric War, but, given that this isn't exactly what you'd call my thing, not one track here disappoints.
It's difficult to work out where Kenneth Crouch adds any Mellotron under all the big band work, but I think we can hear some flutes in the background on Sanctuary. If your tastes lean towards jazz or soul to any great degree, I can wholeheartedly recommend Shine Through it, although not for its Mellotron use, sadly.
Beginnings (1975, 39.53) ***/TDoors of Sleep
The Nature of the Sea
Will o'the Wisp
Pleasure Stole the Night
Break Away From it All
Steve Howe's first solo album away from Yes was his contribution to the band's 'mass solo project' of 1975, all of which (with the possible exclusion of Alan White's Ramshackled) are worth hearing. For the record, the others are Jon Anderson's uniquely wonderful Olias of Sunhillow (****½), Chris Squire's Fish Out of Water (****) and Patrick Moraz' i (a.k.a. The Story of i). Saying that, Beginnings isn't the strongest set ever, with the guitar playing (unsurprisingly) being the best thing about it. The songs are OK, but nowhere near Howe's contributions to his alma mater, and someone should've told him not to sing.
Moraz plays a little 'Tron on Will O'The Wisp among his other credits on the album, but nothing to get steamed up about, really; a few seconds of 'Tron strings on an otherwise inconsequential song. The title track and Ram are far better pieces, but I don't feel I can give the album more than three stars overall, I'm afraid.
See: Yes | Patrick Moraz
Howell & Atkins (1979, 38.06) *½/TT½
Pictures 1 and 2
Paint the Night
Oh My Lady
We've Been Through Love
From Day to Day
|Don't Blame Me
Cry an Empty Tear
Howell & Atkins? Who? Vocalist/keyboard player Kurt Howell and guitarist Dave Atkins, that's who. What, another successful soft-soft-rock duo like Hall & Oates, perhaps, or maybe Steely Dan's Becker and Fagen? Well, have YOU heard of 'em? Point proven, methinks. 1979's Howell & Atkins (hopefully their only release) is pretty rank, frankly, possibly best described by the term the aforementioned Becker and Fagen used for their first single: 'stinko'. Its slushy balladry and not-very-soulful r'n'b-lite could actually have been a hit with suitable promotion; yes, it's that bad. Is there a best track? OK, a least worst? Catch On ups the rock quotient slightly, even featuring a groovy synth solo, so it'll have to be that.
Although John Robertson is credited with 'Mellotron string arrangements', it seems likely that Howell actually plays the thing, with pseudo-orchestral strings all over Pictures 1 And 2, Paint The Night, We've Been Through Love, Don't Blame Me and Cry An Empty Tear, plus cellos on the last-named. Given the current propensity for reclaiming '70s rubbish as 'guilty pleasures', it's almost surprising that this guff hasn't been rediscovered; I can only assume that its deserved obscurity allows it to fly unhindered under the hipster radar, for which we should all be truly thankful. Absolute tosh, albeit tosh with passable levels of Mellotron.
Exiles [as Sivert Høyem & the Volunteers] (2006, 51.45) ***/T
|Love, Leave Me Alone
Don't Pass Me By
Into the Sea
Just a Little Closer Now
I've Been Meaning to Sing You the Song
Moon Landing (2009, 52.50/70.49) ***½/T
The Light That Falls Among the Trees
What You Doin' With Him?
Going for Gold
Lost at Sea
[Deluxe ed. adds:
Return to Nothing Special
Sister Sonic Blue
The House of the Rising Sun]
Long Slow Distance (2011, 60.06) **½/½
Long Slow Distance
Give it a Whirl
Red on Maroon
Sivert Høyem (sometimes Höyem) was vocalist with Madrugada, who split after guitarist Robert Burås died in 2007, although his one album as Sivert Høyem & the Volunteers appeared the previous year. The Dylanesque Exiles is a decent enough record, albeit one in thrall to its chief influence, the original Saint Bob, heavily Zimlike opener Love, Leave Me Alone setting the tone for the rest of the record. Mikael Lindqvist plays Mellotron, with a strings solo in the middle of January 3rd, sounding nice'n'real at the end of the track and distant strings on Black Cross, rather less effectively.
2009's Moon Landing is his third solo album and the first since Madrugada's split; it improves upon that band's sound, in my opinion, largely consisting of major-key psychedelic epics with subtle nods towards Sigur Rós' elegiac mini-symphonies. Other influences become apparent: Shadows/High Meseta has more than a hint of Hawkwind about it (squiggly synths and all), while Neil Young remains a touchstone from Madrugada days, all of which adds up to the kind of album that should be able to reach out to indie and psych fans alike, maybe even some of the less dyed-in-the-wool prog types. Cato Salsa plays Mellotron, with background choirs and upfront strings on Lost At Sea; any other possible parts show themselves up as being something else, sooner or later.
Unfortunately, 2011's Long Slow Distance takes something of a backward step, losing most of its predecessor's strong points and going for the post-rock/pop jugular, presumably because it sells. Best track on this overlong effort of overlong material? Probably the intense Give It A Whirl, non-coincidentally because it sits the closest to that Neil Young influence again. Christer Knutsen plays background Mellotron flutes on Animal Child; when I say 'background', I actually mean 'audible for about a second', making this unworthy on both musical and Mellotronic fronts.
Exiles and Long Slow Distance are a bit ordinary, but Moon Landing is the kind of album that could easily gain another half star if I give it enough time (fat chance); take that as a recommendation, especially if a Nordic indie/psych crossover sounds like it might float your boat. Only one 'Tron track on his best release, but it's a good'un.
Ray Wylie Hubbard & the Cowboy Twinkies (1975, 38.35) ***/½
|West Texas Country Western Dance Band
The Lovin' of the Game
|He's the One (Who Made Me #2)
Belly of Texas
Texan country/blues artist Ray Wylie Hubbard has had a rather sporadic career, possibly due to his refusal to stick to a single genre. 1975's Ray Wylie Hubbard & the Cowboy Twinkies was his second album, of only three released across that decade, largely consisting of authentic country, of the kind far removed from Nashville schmaltz, exceptions (and probable best tracks) including the honky-tonk of $60 Ford, the funky Blackeyed Peas and excellent blues-rocking closer Belly Of Texas.
Drummer Jim Herbst also plays Mellotron, adding background strings to opener West Texas Country Western Dance Band and only slightly more upfront ones to Portales, so while this is a decent album of its type, you really aren't going to track it down for its Mellotron content. Hubbard is still playing and recording, a recent album superbly titled A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C). A maverick, in the best possible way.
Newcastle Song (1974, 49.44) ***/TT½
Livin' it Up on the Dole
R Certificate Song
Motor Car Song
Christened My Dog
|Who's Your Friend?
I Never Was Born Like Mel
The Girls in Our Town
The Newcastle Song
No More Songs
Bob Hudson was one of Australia's top comedians of the '70s, vaguely comparable to Billy Connolly or Jasper Carrott in the UK, combining music and humour in roughly equal quantities. His live recording of The Newcastle Song, his paean to the perils of growing up in that rather singular industrial city, topped the Aussie charts for four weeks in 1975, triggering demand for a long-player, sensibly also titled Newcastle Song. As you might expect, although some of Hudson's humour still works today (notably the title track), much of it isn't far off mother-in-law jokes for (non-)topicality, but then, I rather doubt whether he was keeping one eye on the future.
None other than Chris Neal, of the previous year's Winds of Isis non-fame, plays guitar and keys, including Mellotron, with strings and choirs on Motor Car Song, choir on Shangri-Las spoof Teenage Cremation (almost as tasteful as it sounds), strings and flutes on The Girls In Our Town and strings on the nearest the album gets to a serious song, closer No More Songs, along with Neal's massed synths. This isn't on CD, but is probably easy enough to find in the outback, so if you're partial to a bit of '70s Aussie humour (you'd almost have to be Australian yourself), you might wish to give this a go, particularly with its surprisingly high Mellotron content.
See: Chris Neal
Totally Out of Control (1974, 38.39) **½/TT
|Long Long Day
Be a Man
Truth of the Matter
Killer on the Road
Lover, Come Back to Me
Straight Up and Tall
If You Really Need Me
Isn't it Lovely
La La Layna
Medley: These Things We Do/Home/Out of the Rainbow/Find Me a Woman
The Hudson Brothers, Bill, Brett and Mark (actual brothers, real name Salerno), formed their first band in the late '60s, working their way through several similar names before settling on the above in 1974, in time for their second album, Totally Out of Control. By this point, they'd signed to Elton John's Rocket label, being helped out on the album by Bernie Taupin and members of Elt's band, which sort of figures, given their style. It's a surprisingly rocky effort in places, although much of it slots into that 'mid'70s pop/rock' thing, as you'd expect. Better tracks include opener Long Long Day and Killer On The Road, but it's all far from essential. Bill and Mark both play Mellotron, with strings on Be A Man, flutes and strings on Dolly Day and strings on parts of the closing Medley.
The Hudson Brothers were a pretty mainstream bunch generally; they hosted two TV series, later working in TV and film together and separately, while Bill was married to Goldie Hawn for a while, fathering the very successful Kate. Mark went on to work with Aerosmith and Ringo Starr, amongst others, playing Mellotron on three of the latter's albums and one with Chastity Bono's Ceremony. If you're hellbent on finding a copy of Totally Out of Control, it probably isn't hard to find second-hand, at least in the States, or as a download, although whether or not it's worth it is something I have to leave entirely up to you.
Free Spirit (1974, 39.39) ***/TT½Take a Little Word
I Don't Want to Be a Star
Such a Day
How Many Times
Floating in the Wind
Drummer Richard 'Hud' Hudson and bassist John Ford, maybe surprisingly, left The Strawbs in 1973 to strike out on their own, although both (together and separately) have been on/off members of the Strawberry Hill Boys in more recent years. Free Spirit was their second album of four, full of the kind of mainstream rock that went out of fashion later that decade, never really returning; don't forget, these are the guys who wrote the execrable Part Of The Union for their previous band... It's not a bad album per se, just one of considerable averageness, if there can be such a thing, with probably only the mildly proggy Silent Star's stately rising string lines and the Strawbs-ish Such A Day being really worthy of note.
Chris Parren plays Mellotron on several tracks, with a so-so string part on opener Take A Little Word and a brief, if better one on the title track, although the strings and flute on Mother Mild are real. More o' dem strings on I Don't Want To Be A Star and Silent Star, complete with pitchbends of a level of smoothness of which my own machine, a few months old when this album was released, would struggle rather badly these days. I have to say, Parren's keyboard work overall stands out; his multiple monosynth parts on otherwise unremarkable closer Floating In The Wind are excellent, and he provides some of the album's best moments.
So; a rather ordinary album with a few nice moments and quite a lot of 'Tron strings. I don't believe it's ever been available on CD, so you're restricted to finding an old vinyl copy or downloading it from somewhere, anyway. Heard worse, heard better, passable Mellotron. Damned with faint praise? Incidentally, the duo reinvented themselves in the noo wave era as The Monks, releasing the horrible Nice Legs, Shame About The Face. "Shame abaht the boat race"? Thanks, chaps.
See: The Strawbs | Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera
The Way It Is (1999, 55.38/60.54) ***/T
|The Way it is
You Kill Me
Rain on Me
The Truth Will Set Me Free
Stoned in the Temple
|Too Far Gone
Take You Down
Don't Look Away
[some versions add:
Freedom (Shagmeister mix)]
As I'm sure you all know, Glenn Hughes has a long and honourable history: Trapeze, Deep Purple, plus stints with Gary Moore, Black Sabbath etc.etc. I'm not entirely sure he has the right to label himself 'The Voice Of Rock', though, especially as he's chiefly known for his bassist/vocalist role in Purple, but that's how he seems to be billed these days, like it or not. The Way It Is is certainly rock, although only in places, with too many tracks sitting nearer the 'funk' camp (don't forget that Hughes was one of the proponents of the style in Purple). As a result, for every rockin' track, there's one that doesn't quite cut it; variety, I expect it's called, but to my ears it fatally weakens the album and makes for an inconsistent listen.
Marc Bonilla is credited with Mellotron on Curse on Hughes' own site, so although there's something somewhat Mellotronesque on the opening title track, I think we have to assume it's not. Curse opens with a nice little string part, with plenty more strings and flutes, but that does seem to be your lot. This is only really worth it if you're a big fans of Hughes, I suspect; he's in great voice throughout, although he doesn't seem to know when to hold back. Subtlety, my dear sir, subtlety.
See: Hughes Turner Project | Deep Purple
Rykestraße 68 (2007, 38.07) **½/½Berlin
The North Wind
Break My Body
Hanne Hukkelberg's third album, Rykestraße 68, is a sparse, lonely sounding Norwegian singer-songwriter effort that occasionally picks up the pace, but is largely content to trudge along, head bowed, radiating an air of mild despair. I'm quite sure that's the effect Ms. Hukkelberg is after, in which case this may be considered a success, at least on its own terms. Musically, we get gently bowed cellos, tinkling glockenspiels and wistful pianos supporting Hanne's voice, mostly in a rather unmemorable way, although I'm sure its proggiest moment on Ticking Bomb is a classical steal.
Hukkelberg plays (real?) Mellotron herself on Fourteen, albeit no more than background strings and choir, that could've emanated from almost anything, frankly. Overall, one for depressives, though probably not those of a suicidal nature.
Squire (1975, 38.21/44.15) ***/T½
Dan the Plan
Picture a Little Girl
One More Bottle of Wine
I'm Sorry Squire
|Bad Side of Town
Alan Hull was, of course, linchpin of Geordie superstars Lindisfarne, who really should be remembered for more than the tedious Fog On The Tyne. Squire was his second solo album, after 1973's Pipedream, and covers a variety of styles, with the good-time boogie of Nuthin' Shakin' and the jaunty Mr. Inbetween contrasting sharply with the gentle Picture A Little Girl and I'm Sorry Squire, with the rest of the album covering most bases in between. The end result is a little uncohesive, but we'd complain if it all sounded the same, wouldn't we? In fact, it mirrors Lindisfarne's dichotomy, where they juxtaposed something as beautiful as Lady Eleanor and the previously-mentioned Geordie anthem, so its variety and on/off lack of taste shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Mellotron on two tracks, with string swells and a flute solo in opener Squire (from Hull), and slightly Strawberry Fields-esque flutes and (excuse the cliché) ethereal choirs in the instrumental I'm Sorry Squire (from Kenny Craddock). In actuality, there aren't many more places on the album where it would've fitted, and both tracks feature a decent amount of the Great White Beast, so no complaints here. But do you need to own a copy of this album? That depends largely on whether or not you like Lindisfarne and have a high tolerance for the folk end of pub rock. Squire has several nice tracks, particularly the Mellotron ones, but doesn't really hold up that well overall. Sadly, Alan Hull died in 1995 at the age of fifty, almost certainly a victim of the folk-rock lifestyle; think: 'rock'n'roll lifestyle, but more so'. RIP.
Official Lindisfarne site
Out of the Dust (1998, 41.05) **½/T
|Read Your Mind
Make Your Light to See
I Can't Live
Hand Me Down
In the Name
Fat Man's Delicacy
By three or four tracks into Human's Out of the Dust, I knew they were Christians. I wasn't even listening to the lyrics; they just have that irritating 'Christian-ness' about their vocal melodies, that and the insipid content, given that they're supposed to be a bloody rock band. The best tracks sound like King's X-lite, the worst like any other shitty Christian 'rock' band you can think of. None of it's any good, anyway, and for what it's worth, I'd have said the same if I'd had no idea of their religious persuasions, before you start pointing your accusatory Christian fingers at me.
Blair Masters plays Mellotron, with a nicely full-on string part on In The Name, making it easily the best thing about this dull record, although I must commend the second half of Fat Man's Delicacy, the one time on the album where the band actually rock out properly. So; one reasonable 'Tron track on a flaccid, CCM/rock album. No thanks.