Heinz Rudolf Kunze
December Makes Me Feel This Way (1997, 47.35) **½/TT½
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting
on an Open Fire)
I'll Be Home for Christmas
|Little Drummer Boy
December Makes Me Feel This Way
Eight Candles (a Song for Hanukkah)
O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree)
Auld Lang Syne
Dave Koz is a saxophonist, although don't go to him looking for Charlie Parker comparisons. Saying that, he's far better than the horrible Kenny G, too, though I wouldn't go to his catalogue looking for anything especially interesting. Going by 1997's December Makes Me Feel This Way, Koz is in the mainstream entertainment business; he has also had radio and TV shows, and I'm sure he knows his stuff. Looking at the track titles here tells you everything you need to know about this album; it's a Christmas record, with the obligatory American Chanukah/Hannukah song. Mostly instrumental, Koz emotes his way through familiar material, actually having a go at a jazz arrangement on Auld Lang Syne, just to show he can do it.
Phil Parlapiano plays Mellotron, although, strangely enough, only on the second half of the album. He kicks off with string and flute parts weaving their way through I'll Be Home For Christmas and the title track, with more strings on Little Drummer Boy and O Tannenbaum and more flutes on Silver Bells. So; a surprising amount of Mellotron on a festive album that no sane person should even consider owning, although knowing you lot, I wouldn't be surprised if a few of you are tempted by those five highlighted tracks... I can warn you off all I like; there's nothing I can do to stop you.
Splash (2012, 64.02) ***½/TTT
Can't Live Without You
Coming Up for Air
Into the Vortex Harvest
|Footsteps in the Snow
Never Walk Away
Simple Man (2012 remix)
Kracked Earth seem to be essentially the duo of vocalist Tim Lynk and keys man Andy Kinch (Manasseh, 11.59 - hi, Andy), with major help from four others (notably Saxon guitarist Doug Scarratt), plus several guest spots, including Iona's Troy Donockley (once, briefly, a member of The Enid). Their debut, 2012's Splash, falls fairly and squarely into the 'melodic rock' category, a.k.a. AOR. Now, regular readers of this site will know that the genre is no favourite of mine, but I have to say, Kracked Earth do a vastly better job than many of their contemporaries, despite a heavy whiff of the '80s about much of the disc. Better tracks include the rocky Run, the ever-so-slightly Latin shuffle of Unconditional, the folky feel (Donockley's Uillean pipes to the fore) on The Promise and the vaguely Boston-like guitar solo on closer Simple Man, although a proportion of the album is a little by-numbers.
Kinch plays his own M400 throughout, with string pads on every track except Can't Live Without You, 'Strawberry Fields' fields on Coming Up For Air, choirs (are those real, Andy?) on Into The Vortex Harvest and what sound like mandolins on Footsteps In The Snow. Highlights include the nice string swells in Run and the occasional upfront string part, but if I have a complaint, the Mellotron is always somewhere at the back of the mix, providing supporting string pads rather than featuring as an instrument in its own right. Given that the bulk of this album neatly sidesteps my personal taste (because it, y'know, isn't actually aimed at me), I find myself unable to evaluate the larger part of its contents with any pretence at impartiality. However, AOR fans will absolutely lap this up, although Mellotron aficionados may, like me, wish that it were a little more upfront.
Trans Europa Express [a.k.a. Trans Europe Express] (1977, 42.46) ****½/TTEuropa Endlos (Europe Endless)
Spiegelsaal (The Hall of Mirrors)
Schaufensterpuppen (Showroom Dummies)
Trans Europa Express (Trans Europe Express)
Metall auf Metall
Abzug (combined as Metal on Metal)
Endlos Endlos (Endless Endless)
Kraftwerk's sixth album (under that name, anyway), continued the work of its two predecessors in its retro-futurism, combining state-of-the-art electronics with 1930s haircuts and suits, not to mention their ironic 'Brave New World' lyrics (sample from previous album: "Radioactivity, it's in the air for you and me"). Actually, that's not how it went at all, originally; Kraftwerk's four albums after the seminal Autobahn (****) were all released in German- and English-language versions, and possibly French, too, creating some discographical confusion, not least with this release. Relatively few people outside Germany have heard the originals, but Showroom Dummies sounds so much more, well, sinister as Schaufensterpuppen, doesn't it? Maybe you'll just have to take my word for it.
Trans Europa/e Express is an absolute classic, and far more 'progressive' than you might expect, with the nine-minute opener Europa Endlos and the title track suite, occupying most of side two. Incidentally, the German version lists eight tracks, while there are only seven on the English; Metal On Metal comprises both Metall Auf Metall and Abzug, which is essentially a reprise of the title track. There's a shedload of humour to be found within the grooves, especially on Schaufensterpuppen, which when heard in English is utterly deadpan, though not quite as much as The Model from the following year's Die Mensch Machine (The Man Machine) (****½). The band had been making heavy use of the Orchestron, a 'pro' version of Mattel's Optigan, since Autobahn, and most of the strings and choir here are from that, but the various parts of Trans Europa Express feature a reiterating Mellotron string melody, sounding noticeably different from the rising Orchestron string line.
So; a classic, helping to unleash a new, ultra-modern sound into the world, for better or worse. Highly amusingly, early-'80s New York rap star Afrika Bambaataa, who remixed Trans Europe Express, initially refused to believe they weren't black; I mean, how much more whiter-than-white Teutonic do you want, for God's sake? Anyway, you need to own this album, whatever your listening preferences. Apart from the albums mentioned above, I'd also recommend Radio-Aktivitat (Radio-Activity) (****½) and Computer Welt (Computer World) (****).
The Guilt Trip (1993, 127.34) ***/T½
Got What I Deserved
Wish I Were in Heaven
The Drowning Heart
|Swallow Up Jonah
The Murder of God
You Don't Know
The Wall of Sleep
The Guilt Trip
Wait for the Hate
Big of You
|My Friend Daniel
The Maximus Poems
The Seven Seizures
Thank You Music
Kathleen, I'm Sorry
God Will See You
I'm Your Fan
The Bosom Friend
I Love You
|Next Time, Try Compassion
Mudd Hutt Four
The Well Hung Jury
Won't Get Far Without Me
She Won't Let Go
I've Seen The End
The Secret of Comedy (1994, 52.29) ***/TT
|Nine Minus Seven is Two
The Secret of Suicide
The Secret of Philosophy
I Can Watch
Who Are You Today?
|The Secret of the Band
Songs From the Pink Death (1998, 47.10) ***/T
|The Funny Scene
Buddy Holly Will Never Die
The Opium Wars Have Long Ceased
Don't Come Around
The Parasite Song
The Pink Death Song of Love
It Never Stops Being Absurd
Eddie Called Back on the Carphone
|You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
The Hot Dog Song
It's Alright if She Don't Love You Right
(Mark) Kramer is a renowned NYC-based producer/musician/studio and label owner whose production work and side-projects are legendary amongst fans of low-fi US noise/indie crossover stuff. After playing for Shockabilly, The Butthole Surfers, Bongwater and others, Kramer opened his Noise New York studio in the mid-'80s, using it for his own multifarious projects alongside his commercial work (I use the term loosely), including Galaxie 500, Low and White Zombie.
1993's sprawling double-disc The Guilt Trip was the first album released under his own name, although Who's Afraid?, his collaboration with Gong's Daevid Allen, appeared the same year. It's a bewildering mix of styles, encompassing psychedelia, low-fi, post-rock, drone-rock and probably several dozen other sub-genres of the strange, not to mention the good old guitar wig-out hard rock of Mudd Hutt Four and Ball Five. Hugely ambitious, it's almost true to say there's something here for everyone, or at least, everyone who loves alternative rock from the '60s to the '90s. Kramer plays obviously real Mellotron on three definite tracks, with strings on Overture, You Don't Know and the title track; it could be hidden away elsewhere, but it doesn't seem that likely.
The following year's The Secret of Comedy might just be Kramer's best album, at least of the ones reviewed here, more appealing tracks include Midnight, I Can Watch, with its heart-rending lyrics and the rather rude Wishing Well, a Je T'aime for the modern era. Maybe. Kramer on Mellotron again, with wavery strings on The Secret Of Suicide and The Secret Of The Band, melodic flute and string parts on I Can Watch and echoey flutes on closer Second Coda.
1998's more sensibly-lengthed Songs From the Pink Death takes Kramer's psych sensibilities and hones them into an under-fifty minute resumé of his take on the style, shucking off the experimentation of The Guilt Trip. It's certainly an easier listen, if only because it's so much shorter, but expunging the longer effort's flights of fancy leaves the album a little more predictable, at least by Kramer's standards. He plays Mellotron again, with wonky flutes on opener The Funny Scene and nothing else obvious, unless that's background flutes on The Hot Dog Song.
So; a handful of albums for the sonically reasonably adventurous, The Guilt Trip giving better value for money, if you can work your way through over two hours of it. The Secret of Comedy's the best on the Mellotron front, but none of the use on these is exactly jaw-dropping.
See: Daevid Allen & Kramer | Dot Allison | Damon & Naomi | Dogbowl | Linda Draper | Hugh Hopper & Kramer | King Missile | Little Aida | Low
Lenny Kravitz (US) see:
Alle Mann an Deck (1978, 37.54) **/½
|Sie ist Immer Noch Allein
Ich Will ihr Mann Sein
Du Hast Mein Wort
Gib Dich Nie Auf
Alle Mann an Deck
Ich War der 5. Beatle
|Wir Spielten Mann und Frau
Kreis' second album, 1978's Alle Mann an Deck, is quite typically East German (as was) in that it tries (and, of course, fails) to be all things to all men; I don't blame the band, just the horrible system they lived under, where 'equality' seemed to be a synonym for 'equally shit'. Stylistically, it shifts between the admittedly halfway decent folk/pop of opener Sie Ist Immer Noch Allein and the less-decent title track through the female-vocalled prog/pop (no, really) of Du Hast Mein Wort to the horrible sub-disco of Ich Will Ihr Mann Sein, Gib Dich Nie Auf and (especially) Fremder Mann. To be honest, I'm really struggling to say anything nice about this crummy effort, but its nonsensical mix of styles has defeated me.
Bassist Helmut Sickel is credited with organ and Mellotron, but since pretty much all of the strings sound real and even the slow flute part on closer Nachtvogel, Flieg is eventually revealed to be genuine, the only place I think it even might be is a few string chords on Sie Ist Immer Noch Allein. This is available (ahem) as a download, but I really can't recommend it in any way whatsoever, particularly with next to no audible Mellotron. Rubbish.
Topical Harvest (1976, 39.50) ***/½
Bahia Next Year
|Let's Say Windmill
German jazz guitarist Volker Kriegel (1943-2003) was one of West German fusion's leading figures, playing on dozens of albums over his career and collaborating with many of his peers, not least Passport's Klaus Doldinger. Topical Harvest, from 1976 (some sources say '75), is a pleasingly melodic fusion album, certainly in comparison to many of its contemporaries, mostly lacking the fiery instrumental interplay of many American outfits, although opener Hypnotic Pignose features some ripping Rhodes work.
Bassist Hans Peter Ströer doubles on Mellotron on two tracks, with background strings on Hallo Albert and Let's Say Windmill (almost inaudible on the former), although there's nothing audible on the credited Circus Gambet. A mistake? If you're looking for something to sit next to your Mahavishnu Orchestra collection, Volker Kriegel probably isn't your man, but if you prefer tasteful, tuneful fusion, you could do a lot worse than this.
An Invisible World Revealed (1971, 43.43/70.36) ***½/TTT½
|Lady of Attraction
With Little Miss Trimmings
Odyssey in Om
Looking at Time
Krokodil's third album is reputedly their only progressive effort, and probably the only one worth hearing. You can tell that they're coming from a folk background, to which they've added some wigged-out psych and what sounds like a Mark II Mellotron, which figures, given the date. Some of the material slightly outstays its welcome, if I'm going to be honest, but the overall vibe is pretty good, with the folk stuff colliding head-on with some dark, distorted guitar work straight out of the Edgar Broughton Band songbook. Probably.
As for Terry Stevens' 'Tron, Lady Of Attraction has a few brass chords, with some superb pitchbend work, far smoother than even the best set-up M400, plus a quick burst of strings, while Green Fly has some nice upfront strings. The druggy Odyssey In Om is the album's 'Tron highlight, though, with a rich, almost unaccompanied Mellotron strings part with some stoned-out narration over it, in the obligatory German accent. More of the same later in the song, this time underpinned by flutes, with a strings melody tagged on, making for a very worthwhile 'Tron effort.
I get the impression that the version of the album I've reviewed is a mid-'90s German bootleg, and it's since received a proper release. This version has three bonus tracks, two of which (Sessions 1 and 2) are tedious studio jams; there seem to be two further extras on the official release, but I've no idea whether or not they're any better than these. Either way, cautiously recommended on the 'Tron front.
Frontierland (1996, 40.31) ***/T½All of These Things
The Weepin' Willow
How Would You Plead?
Pushin' Fear II
Rough Neck Blues
Someone Told Me
Back in the mid-'70s, Ed Kuepper was one of the founding members of Brisbane's greatest export, The Saints, leaving the band in 1978; since then, he's operated under a variety of band names, has rejoined The Saints on various occasions and even worked with Nick Cave. 1996's Frontierland is something like his thirteenth solo album, excluding his work with The Laughing Clowns, The Aints (ho ho) and other outfits. Stylistically, the album's all over the place, from the Appalachian folk-influenced Fireman Joe through the synth/brass-driven The Weepin' Willow, seemingly aimed at the dancefloor, while incorporating elements of singer-songwriterness and, er, Hawkwind, the low-fi acoustic Rough Neck Blues, the '60s-influenced organ and brass-heavy Someone Told Me... Variety's fine, but the end result lacks cohesion, sounding more like a various artists compilation than a band album.
Charlie Cole plays clearly very real Mellotron; All Of These Things is absolutely stuffed with the thing, strings, flute and a repeating low cello (actually double bass) note sparring with each for supremacy in the mix, with more strings on How Would You Plead?, although the strings on M.D.D.P. Limited seem to be real. Overall, then, not bad, but could hang together slightly better, with one classic Mellotron track in All Of These Things.
|CDS (1996, 14.19) ***½/TTT
Dance in Your Shadow
Tattva (Lucky 13 Mix)
K (1996, 61.35) ****/TTT
Knight on the Town
Temple of Everlasting Light
Into the Deep
Grateful When You're Dead/Jerry Was There
Start All Over
Kula Shaker burst onto the UK scene in 1995, heralding a wave of late-'60s influenced bands without Oasis' terminal plagiarism problem. As the son of actress Hayley Mills, singer/guitarist/chief writer Crispian Mills was never going to be short of a bob or two, which instantly rose hackles with the notorious snobbery-reversal of the British music press, as did his rather unwise comments concerning the religious use of the swastika (perfectly true; the Nazis reversed an ancient Hindu symbol. Just don't say so in interviews).
For all that, K is a glorious technicolour blast of an album; vibrant, uplifting pop/rock with some great keyboards (not a synth in sight). The album's best track (and major hit), opener Hey Dude doesn't feature any Mellotron, but the three tracks that do are all worthy of attention, especially lesser hit Tattva, with some great overdubbed flutes and strings and a superbly creaky pitch-bend at the end (can't fake that effect!). The album's only real letdown is that they didn't use the Mellotron more; several other tracks would probably have benefitted from its use. Saying that, it's easy to reach 'Mellotron overload'; maybe they were right to hold back a bit.
Kula Shaker also stuck their Mellotron onto the odd b-side track; the Tattva CD single, along with the track itself and the 'Lucky 13 Mix' (originally their first single, in late '95), also features Dance In Your Shadow and Moonshine, both loaded with strings. In fairness, you can see why neither track made the album, though they're both reasonably good, but Dance In Your Shadow rips Norwegian Wood fairly heavily, and Moonshine just doesn't have quite enough of 'it', whatever you take 'it' to be. Their version of Deep Purple's version of Joe South's Hush has a live version of Govinda on it, and to my surprise, you can hear Mellotron strings quite clearly on it, although it seems they're samples (reviewed here). There are several other single-only tracks from their first album period; I reckon there's at least fourteen other tracks I haven't yet heard. Excluding live, radio session versions and remixes, that still leaves four of five new unheard songs; now I'm aware of the band's extensive singles catalogue, I'll pick the others up when I see them. Kula Shaker released one more album before imploding, '99s Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts (**½), but it isn't a patch on their debut, and what's worse, they don't use the Mellotron. Avoid.
Anyway, buy? Not if doomier-than-thou is your bag; K is a fun album and a worthwhile effort. Buy.
See: Samples etc.
Kunze: Macht Musik (1994, 56.07) **½/T½
|Was Willst Du
Sex Mit Hitler
Leg Nicht Auf
Fetter Alter Hippie
Keine Umkehr Mehr
|Du Gehörst Zu Jemand Andrem
Der Mann der Zu Atmen Vergass
Heinz Rudolf Kunze is one of those artists who mean zilch outside their home market, often because they (quite rightly) sing in their native language. Kunze might have become known in the English-speaking world had he sung in translation, but with a potential German-language audience topping ninety million over three countries, why bother? Better to be a big fish, maybe... Born in the mid-'50s, he released his first album in 1981, keeping up a consistent workload ever since, 1994's Kunze: Macht Musik being something like his thirteenth album, although I don't know how many of its predecessors might be compilations or live. To be honest, it's a pretty average '90s German-language pop/rock effort, the only track that stands out in any way being the brooding Goethes Banjo, the rest of the overlong album drifting past this listener without making any real impression.
Thomas Bauer plays Mellotron, with background strings on Keine Umkehr Mehr and Freier Fall (with its Rush-like guitar part) and a more upfront part on Goethes Banjo. It might be on a couple of other tracks, but you know how it is...
See: Samples etc.
Sunset Notes (2005, 42.29) ***/T½Time to Go
Do Deep-Sea Fish Dream of Electric Moles?
Pendulum on a G-String ~The Last Cicada
Cannon in "C" (C is for Cicada)
Twilight Mystery of a Russian Cowboy
The Wind's Twelve Quarters
The Old Man and the Evening Star
A Boat of Courage
Michio Kurihara (Ghost, White Heaven) is a Tokyo-based psychedelic guitarist, who released his first solo album, Sunset Notes, in 2005. Influences include various progressive and psych outfits, but to my ears, it's chiefly a post-rock album, although opener Time To Go is almost indie, with a similar guitar-heaviness to several other tracks, while the mad 'spaghetti eastern' of Twilight Mystery Of A Russian Cowboy translates that surf/Morricone thing into the Japanese idiom.
Two obvious Mellotron tracks, with a nice string part from Soichiro Nakamura on Do Deep-Sea Fish Dream Of Electric Moles? (ho ho) and some very upfront strings towards the end of The Wind's Twelve Quarters from Kurihara. Overall then, slightly disappointing, given Kurihara's history, although it has its moments, not least the Mellotronic ones.
A Giant's Lullaby (2005, 64.27) ****/TTT
|Flight of Shamash
Chair of Life
Black Hole I
Dreams of Butterflies
Black Hole II
Spirit of Time
|A Giant's Lullaby
Kvazar are a prog act who've been around since the late '90s, although 2005's A Giant's Lullaby is only their second album (the problems of truly independent music, folks). While clearly (and admittedly) influenced by the Swedish '90s wave (you know, Änglagård et al.), they also throw in all kinds of other stuff, including Celtic folk (opener Flight Of Shamash), jazz (several tracks) and a near-ambient feel in a few places. If the album has a fault, it might be fair to say it's a little overlong; music this intense and varied usually comes better in small packages, but that's looking for something to complain about, to be honest.
Mellotron (real? Who knows?) from Anders Jensen Deaya and Ronny Johansen, with strings and choir on Chair Of Life and Dreams Of Butterflies, strings on Spirit Of Time and Sometimes and choirs on the title track, never overused, always tasteful. Thank you, Kvazar. This is a surprisingly original album in a genre riddled with third-rate copyists (and they're the good ones), well worth your time and money, with a reasonable amount of Mellotron to boot. Most worthwhile.
The Fountain Beyond the Sunrise (1977, 49.32/60.43) ***/TTT½Out of Dimension
The Fountain Beyond the Sunrise
The Last Reign
Mounting the Eternal Spiral]
Complete Recordings, 1974-1978 (2002)
The Blind Windows SuiteOuverture
Live 1975A Pane of Glass
The Fountain Beyond the SunriseOut of Dimension
The Fountain Beyond the Sunrise
The Last Reign
Mounting the Eternal Spiral
Despite actually being Austrian, Kyrie Eleison were a fairly typical German mid-'70s prog outfit, with a sound not dissimilar to Grobschnitt, maybe, though far less accomplished. Their first recordings, The Blind Windows Suite, were finally made available in the mid-'90s and are, frankly, hopeless. It's not so much the rehearsal room-quality sound (which was, in fact, where it was recorded), but the complete dearth of decent musical ideas that scuppers the record, along with Wolfgang Wessely's quite awful vocals. There's really no point laying into the record, but I honestly wouldn't bother unless you're an utterly fanatical prog collector.
Their one album released in their lifetime, The Fountain Beyond the Sunrise, was a considerable improvement on their earlier effort, although it's not going to win any awards for originality. New vocalist Michael Schubert was only a slight improvement on his predecessor, with some extremely dodgy English pronunciation, but the standard of playing and composition was up all round. Keyboard player, main man and chief writer Gerald Krampl plays Mellotron on most tracks, although he sensibly doesn't overuse it, making it all the more effective when he does. Strings, with occasional flutes and cellos are the order of the day, played with a Tony Banks feel in places (Lenny), with admirable restraint. The bonus track, Mounting The Eternal Spiral only has a few string chords, and is probably the expanded album's weakest track, or maybe it just seems that way after an hour.
In 2002, a 3-CD set was released by the estimable MIO Records, Complete Recordings, 1974-1978, containing both the above albums and a previously-unheard live recording from 1975, er, Live 1975. I was expecting this to be as dodgy as their first recordings, but the band had obviously pulled their socks up in a serious way in the intervening few months, and the material's actually not at all bad, though not exactly classic. I was also surprised that Krampl had bought his Mellotron by this point, which spices the material up nicely. Near-30 minute opener A Pane Of Glass is possibly the album's best track, but all except the clearly ELP-inspired Get Ready Eddy, a studio demo stuck on the end, are worth hearing.
So; the easiest way to get any of Kyrie Eleison's material is to buy the 3-disc set, but I'm not sure if the overall quality is high enough to make it really worth the effort. There's certainly some nice Mellotron work to be heard on two of the three discs, but much of the songwriting falls into the 'make it as long as possible 'cos it's prog' trap, although there are quite a few nice ideas scattered across discs two and three. More Ts than *s, I think.