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Last Straw  (UK)

Last Straw, 'Alone on a Stone'

Alone on a Stone  (2001, recorded 1973-76,  54.41)  ***/½

Terence
Life Without Rules
Alone on a Stone
Fools
When August Breaks
Fly
Mirage
Kings Return
Theme From Chance

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Last Straw hailed from that very un-rock'n'roll outpost, the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England, renowned for being about twenty years behind the mainland at any given time. Kissing Spell have seen fit to exhume nearly an hour of the band's demos from the early '70s and give them a release as Alone on a Stone, although, unsurprisingly, the sound quality is rather inconsistent. Sadly, the quality of the music is also somewhat variable; there are some excellent moments, but all too often the band jammed songs out to eight or nine minutes for no especially good reason. Best tracks? Probably the first two or three, before the full-on sub-Wishbone Ash guitar work kicks in.

Keyboards on some tracks; these were recorded at several different sessions over a course of three or four years, and I doubt if the band's lineup remained consistent. I think the strings on Life Without Rules and the title track are a string synth of some description, but it's definitely 'Tron on Terence, played by musician unknown. You get a couple of string chords and a couple of choir chords, and that's it for the album, so don't go spending loads of money on this for the 'Tron.

So; not bad, not great. Probably worth putting out, although it'll only ever be a curio, really. 'Of its time', I think.

Greg Laswell  (US)

Greg Laswell, 'How the Day Sounds'

How the Day Sounds EP  (2008,  23.55)  **½/½

How the Day Sounds
Salvation Dear
Days Go on
Embrace Me
High and Low (with Edison String Section)
What a Day (2008 version)
Greg Laswell, 'Three Flights from Alto Nido'

Three Flights from Alto Nido  (2008,  39.06)  **½/T

It's Been a Year
That it Moves
The One I Love
Comes and Goes (in Waves)
How the Day Sounds
Sweet Dream
Days Go on
I'd Be Lying
Farewell
Not Out
And Then You
Greg Laswell, 'Take a Bow'

Take a Bow  (2010,  46.17)  **/T½

Take Everything
My Fight (for You)
Lie to Me
Come Clean
Around the Bend
Take a Bow
In Front of Me
You, Now
Marquee
Off I Go
Let it Ride
Goodbye

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Greg Laswell is the kind of modern, indie-esque singer-songwriter whose songs get used on TV and in films, which probably says as much about him as you need to know. Mainstream? Just ever so slightly... 2008's How the Day Sounds EP is almost his career in microcosm, featuring upbeat, vaguely U2-ish jolly efforts (the title track, Days Go On), er, downbeat, less jolly ones (Salvation Dear, Embrace Me) and a couple of alternate versions of tracks fitting one of the two aforementioned templates. Laswell plays Mellotron flutes on the title track and strings on Embrace Me (alongside real ones?), although the latter don't sound quite right, for some indefinable reason.

The EP was a precursor to that year's Three Flights from Alto Nido; effectively, more of the same, when the EP was quite long enough, thanks. Laswell on 'Tron again, with strings and flutes on It's Been A Year, flutes on How the Day Sounds (same as the EP version) and occasional strings on Not Out, with one or two other 'vaguely possibles'. 2010 brought Take a Bow; an even more drab effort than before, perfect for lovelorn young women, utterly useless for the rest of us. Laswell adds Mellotron strings and choir on My Fight (For You) (and is that a MkII Mellotron guitar I hear?), strings on Around The Bend, very obvious flutes on In Front Of Me and strings on You, Now. Once again, it could be elsewhere; these are only the 'definite' sightings. Also, I'm not entirely convinced it's real; if that guitar sound is actually 'Mellotronic', that pretty much confirms it isn't, as it's quite certain Laswell didn't use a MkII and there can't be too many M400 tapeframes about featuring that sound.

Overall, Mr. Laswell has little in common with his East Coast namesake, Bill; this Laswell couldn't be more mainstream if he tried. Three exceedingly bland releases you don't need to hear, despite a handful of 'Tron tracks, which may or may not be genuine.

Official site

Latebirds  (Finland)

Latebirds, 'Last of the Good Ol' Days'

Last of the Good Ol' Days  (2010,  53.15)  ***½/TT

Last of the Good Ol' Days
Among the Survivors
Time to Live
Summer Becomes Fall
Time Revisited
Fearless
Like Father Like Son
No.1
Kickin' Me
You Cynical You
Underwater
Last of the Good Ol' Days (reprise)
Light at the End of the Tunnel

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

Given that Norway and Sweden have both thrown up very acceptable Americana/roots rock-type outfits, it should come as no surprise to hear that Finland have entered the fray with The Latebirds. Their third album, 2010's Last of the Good Ol' Days, is a potent blast of Tom Petty-esque Americana with a punk attitude, shifting between the slow-burn opening title track through Time To Live's rock'n'roll, the summery pop of Summer Becomes Fall and the menacing Fearless (the lyrics tackle the murder of Russian journalist Ana Politkovskaja). The album's organic feel is due to most of its contents being tracked in one sitting, with surprisingly little overdubbing, a skill almost forgotten these days, it seems.

Matti Pitsinki plays Mellotron flutes on Like Father Like Son and No.1, while Petty's Benmont Tench adds Chamberlin strings to Summer Becomes Fall and Light At The End Of The Tunnel, with a solo part at the end of the former. All in all, then, a minor triumph of the kind that should get The Latebirds played on 'alt.rock' stations across the States, where absolutely no-one would have any idea they weren't listening to an American band.

Official site

Latte e Miele  (Italy)

Latte e Miele, 'Passio Secundum Mattheum'

Passio Secundum Mattheum  (1972,  34.42/39.06)  ***½/T½

Introduzione
Il Giornio Degli Azzimi
Ultima Cena
Getzemani
Il Processo
I Testimoni (1° parte)
I Testimoni (2° parte)
Il Pianto
Giuda
Il Re Dei Giudei
Il Calvario
Il Dono Della Vita
[CD adds:
Mese Di Maggio]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Latte e Miele (Milk and Honey)'s debut album, Passio Secundum Mattheum, is probably also their best, with all the invention that we've come to expect from Italian progressive of that era. It appears to be a concept album, with several pieces by Bach, and lyrics apparently taken from the gospels, which figures given the title. It veers wildly between styles in places, keeping the listener guessing as to what they'd do next (Il Pianto to Giuda is a particularly striking contrast), but without ever moving so far as to lose sight of their core sound. As with so many progressive albums, this will probably take several plays to appreciate properly, so in one playing it's difficult to pick out highlights, although the churchy Hammond on Il Calvario stands out.

Oliviero Lacagnina's Mellotron takes a bit of a back seat to his Solina, which provides all the string parts; as a result, the 'Tron seems to be (very unusually) used almost entirely for brass parts, of all things. I wasn't entirely sure that's what I was hearing until Getzemani, where a 'stabby' part reveals the sound's source, at which point I had to go back to see if I'd missed any on earlier tracks. The only other Mellotron I can hear is a polyphonic flute part on Il Dono Della Vita, despite drummer Alfio Vitanza's credit for flute. The choir, incidentally, appears to be real.

So; a strong album, well worth hearing, although odd enough on the 'Tron front to be probably not worth hearing on that front. Incidentally, the CD's bonus track is a weak single from two years later, which could well have stayed in the vaults, to be honest.

Stacy Lattisaw & Johnny Gill  (US)

Stacy Lattisaw & Johnny Gill, 'Perfect Combination'

Perfect Combination  (1984,  37.09)  **/½

Block Party
Fun'n'Games
Falling in Love Again
50/50 Love
Perfect Combination
Heartbreak Look
Baby it's You
Come Out of the Shadows

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Stacy Lattisaw's career began at the outrageous age of twelve, in 1979, making her all of seventeen when her sixth release, 1984's Perfect Combination (with Johnny Gill), appeared. Produced by Narada Michael Walden, it shifts between several then-popular r'n'b styles, including electro (opener Block Party, 50/50 Love), funk/pop (Fun'n'Games, Heartbreak Look) and 'trad' soul balladry (Falling In Love Again, the title track). Amusingly, some of the synth work reminds me in places of fab Canadian mega-pompsters Saga, although the comparison always falls flat on its face within a few bars.

Frank Martin adds occasional background Mellotron choirs to Falling In Love Again, to no great effect, to be honest. I suppose '80s soul/funk fans may go for this, but I can't see it exciting anyone else, including anyone who might wish to hear a little recorded Mellotron.

MySpace

Zak Laughed  (France)

Zak Laughed, 'The Last Memories of My Old House'

The Last Memories of My Old House  (2009,  44.51)  **/T

December Song
A Letter for Emily
Each Day
Queen or Sweet
Ballad of Celestial Railroad
Travelling Cat
Apologies Song
Wrong Clown
22 & 66
Hospital Road
Ladybird and Bob Dylan
People Are Sick in the Rain
Bad Cough
Silly Bird
Monsters in Love

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I was originally under the impression that Zak Laughed was a band, but it turns out he's a fifteen year-old French lad - his nom de plume is apparently a literal translation of his full name, Zacharie. His self-written debut, 2009's English-language The Last Memories of My Old House, is full of breezy, Gallic folk/pop and slightly fraught ballads, let down by one overriding problem: Zak's voice. Admittedly, it's not his fault that it hadn't yet broken at the time of recording - in fact, the decision was taken to record the songs written for his immature tones before it did - but it is his fault (and his record company's) that he's committed his tuneless, appallingly flat warblings to a recording medium without pushing himself into better performances. Is this deliberate? If so, why? Frankly, at its best, he sounds as if he's trying to pull off that American half-spoken effect, but as soon as he tries to carry a tune, pain ensues.

Zak and Denis Clavaizolle play (real?) Mellotron, with polyphonic flutes on opener December Song and a monophonic line on Travelling Cat, but I'd be unsurprised to discover that it's fake. Sorry to be so harsh, but I can't imagine why anyone would wish to listen to a voice this tuneless, but then, I expect this is being pushed at teenaged French girls who'll be more interested in the singer than the song, so to speak. Patronising? Moi? Oui. This could've been at least listenable, but isn't.

MySpace

Peter Laughner  (US)

Peter Laughner, 'Cinderella Backstreet' 7"  ( 1987, recorded 1973)  ***½/½

Cinderella Backstreet
White Light/White Heat
Peter Laughner & Cinderella Backstreet, 'The Last Show'

The Last Show  (200?, recorded 1973,  66.26)  ***/TTT

Sister Ray (Practice)
Sweet Jane
Rock and Roll
All Along the Watchtower
Heroin
White Light/White Heat

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Lou Reed fanatic Peter Laughner is one of those 'legendary' figures whose actual output is remarkably sparse; in this case, Laughner played in Cleveland's iconic Rocket From the Tombs, some of whose members went on to form the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu (Laughner played on the latter outfit's early singles), before dying in 1977 of drug-related causes, aged all of 24. He hardly ever entered a recording studio, so his legacy, such as it is, largely consists of live bootlegs and murky rehearsal tapes, which didn't stop Forced Exposure mag releasing a Laughner single in 1987, pairing one of his rare studio recordings, Cinderella Backstreet, with a version of the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat from a live tape, confusingly credited to Cinderella Backstreet, Laughner's band at the time.

Cinderella Backstreet (the song) is actually a really rather good vocal/acoustic number that would easily slot into a compilation of junkies' laments, available on Laughner's only CD release, Tim/Kerr's 1993 now out-of-print disc Take the Guitar Player for a Ride, while White Light/White Heat is as endearingly ramshackle as you'd expect, a skronky Mellotron string line appearing some way into the song. As it turns out, the gig from which this track was excerpted has actually been released in its own right, admittedly as a CD-R-only semi-bootleg from Handsome Productions, The Last Show, credited to Peter Laughner & Cinderella Backstreet.

If you're not into the Velvets, it probably isn't the easiest listen ever, particularly (very) low-fi opener Sister Ray, taken from a rehearsal tape, although the actual gig is at least listenable. Mostly Velvets covers, the band also tackle All Along The Watchtower, dedicating it to Hendrix (a mere three years dead at the time), although it has more in common with Dylan's original recording. Co-vocalist Cindy Black doubles on Mellotron, with string parts running through Rock And Roll, All Along The Watchtower (with a major solo part in the middle) and Heroin, plus the aforementioned brief part on White Light/White Heat, making this almost certainly the only time you'll hear a Mellotron used on Velvets songs. It has to be said that much of Black's playing consists of no more than the root note repeated ad infinitum, shifting up an down an octave as the tapes run out, although she definitely redeems herself with that Watchtower part.

Do you buy this? Depends how badly you want to hear Velvets songs played by an acolyte, badly recorded, with extra added Mellotron. The Last Show isn't a bad album, but unless you're really into this stuff, the endless versions of Lou and Co's songs are, well, endless. Nice 'Tron solo on Watchtower, though.

James Lavelle  (UK)

James Lavelle, 'Global Underground: Romania'

Global Underground: Romania #026  (2004,  140.23)  **/½

James Lavelle:
  Intro
Queens of the Stone Age:
  No One Knows (UNKLE reconstruction)
UNKLE:
  In a State
Proper Filthy Naughty:
  Flow (false prophet mix)
UNKLE:
  Eye 4 an Eye (silencer mix)
Meat Katie:
  K Hole
UNKLE:
  Have You Passed Through This Night? (eye
  for an eye Unkle variation)

DJ Shadow:
  G.D.M.F.S.O.B. (Unkle uncensored mix)
UNKLE:
  Reign
Meat Katie & Elite Force:
  Ju-Ju (hum mix)
Dylan Rhymes & Meat Katie:
  Dita Beater
Santos:
  Sabot (evil nine mix)
South:
  Colours in Waves (UNKLE reconstruction)

M83:
  Run Into Flowers (UNKLE reprise)
Plastikman:
  Ask Yourself (UNKLE edit)
Scumdolly:
  Making Ends Meet
UNKLE:
  Invasion (Medway vs. Eva coast to
  coast mix)

Peace Division:
  No More Subliminal Shit
Meat Katie meets Lee Coombs:
  Import
Meat Katie & Elite Force:
  Slagg
Ultima:
  Don't Funk
Pépé Bradock:
  4
Chemical Brothers:
  The Golden Path (Ewan's rave hell dub)
Fred Numf vs. Five Point O:
  Hong Kong Junkie (Medway remix)
Alex Dolby:
  Psiko Garden (Sasha re-edit)
UNKLE:
  In a State (Sasha remix)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

James Lavelle is half of UNKLE, going on to become an in-demand DJ, producer and remixer (it says here), while Global Underground is a series of compilations of progressive house DJ sets, initially recorded, later inspired by club nights in exotic locations. Romania #026 is Lavelle's contribution, virtually indistinguishable from any other random similar effort to the uninitiated (that'll be me); effectively a compilation, but released under Lavelle's name, which is why it's here and not in various artists. What does it sound like? It sounds like a dance album. Yes, I'm thoroughly ignorant. No, I don't care.

Dave Eringa plays Mellotron on South's Colours In Waves (UNKLE Reconstruction), with a faint, high string line that you probably wouldn't even pinpoint as Mellotron were it not credited. I'm not sure why people wish to listen to dance music at home, but it seems they do; lucky there's plenty of it about, eh? This seems to be a highly competent piece of work, but if you're not into it, it'll be as irritating as your local pirate radio station butting in when you're trying to listen to something interesting.

See: UNKLE | Sasha

Amy LaVere  (US)

Amy LaVere, 'This World is Not My Home'

This World is Not My Home  (2005,  35.21)  ***/T

Day Like Any
Nightingale
Leaving
Never Been Sadder
Innocent Girl
Take 'Em or Leave 'Em
Last Night
Set it Down
This World is Not My Home
We Went Sailing
Amy LaVere, 'Stranger Me'

Stranger Me  (2011,  45.24)  ***/T

Damn Love Song
You Can't Keep Me
Red Banks
A Great Divide
Often Happens
Lucky Boy
Tricky Heart
Stranger Me
Candle Mambo
Cry My Eyes Out
Let Yourself Go (Come on)
Amy LaVere, 'Runaway's Diary'

Runaway's Diary  (2014,  38.28)  ***½/T

Rabbit
Last Rock n Roll Boy to Dance
Big Sister
Self Made Orphan
Where I Lead Me
Snowflake
How?
Don't Go Yet John
Lousy Pretender
Dark Moon
I'll Be Home Soon
Reprise

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Amy LaVere's debut album, 2005's This World is Not My Home, straddles the folk/country divide slightly uncomfortably, tending to veer between the styles, rather than blending them in the manner of possibly her greatest forebear, Johnny Cash. It's not a bad album, but highlights like opener Day Like Any or Never Been Sadder are often overshadowed by the rather ordinary country numbers that litter the record. Paul Taylor's credited with various things, including Mellotron, which finally appears on Set It Down (although it's supposed to be on Nightingale, too), with strings wobbly enough to be real, making a nice change.

Two albums down the line, 2011's Stranger Me is even more diverse than This World is Not My Home, although not necessarily for the better, as it comes across as slightly uncohesive in places. Better tracks include opener Damn Love Song, her upright bass to the fore, the electric blues of Red Banks and the rhythmic title track, although too many songs lack the energy that might allow them to cut through. Rick Steff plays Mellotron, although all I can hear is flute chords on A Great Divide, not to be confused with the real strings on a couple of tracks, while the polyphonic flutes on Candle Mambo really don't sound very Mellotronic.

LaVere's follow-up was 2014's Runaway's Diary, a better effort all round, her country influences tempered with something more personal. Lyrically (and vocally), she takes on the persona of a small child on Big Sister, an unusual, yet effective technique, while opener Rabbit, Snowflake and the playful rockabilly of I'll Be Home Soon all stand out. Sam Shoup plays Mellotron, the distant strings and cellos on Don't Go Yet John sounding like they might even be genuine.

Overall, then, three passable efforts with a handful of decent enough tracks, but with next to no Mellotron, you're probably best off going elsewhere.

Official site

Bettye LaVette  (US)

Bettye LaVette, 'Worthy'

Worthy  (2015,  44.05)  ***½/T

Unbelievable
When I Was a Young Girl
Bless Us All

Stop
Undamned
Complicated
Where a Life Goes
Just Between You and Me and the Wall You're a Fool
Wait
Step Away
Worthy

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Bettye Lavette should be a household name, but, despite working with the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown in her youth, a run of bad luck in the '70s (thanks, Atlantic Records) diverted her career into stage shows the following decade. She was in her late fifties by the time she was rediscovered in the early 2000s, since when she's enjoyed a late-career renaissance and, going by 2015's Worthy, not before time. A gritty, heartfelt soul/blues record of the old school, it contains material of the quality of opener Unbelievable, a dirty blues takes on Dylan's song, the upbeat Complicated, the lengthy, traditional blues in three-time, Just Between You And Me And The Wall You're A Fool and the acoustic Wait.

Patrick Warren does his increasingly-rare Chamberlin thing here; despite the high-speed run in the song, that has to be Chamby strings on When I Was A Young Girl and string swells on Bless Us All, although that would appear to be it. This will by no means appeal to my 'usual' readers, but it's an excellent album within its genre.

Official site

Avril Lavigne  (US)

Avril Lavigne, 'Under My Skin'

Under My Skin  (2004,  40.52/47.03)  **½/½

Take Me Away
Together
Don't Tell Me
He Wasn't
How Does it Feel
My Happy Ending
Nobody's Home
Forgotten
Who Knows
Fall to Pieces
Freak Out
Slipped Away
['Bonus' tracks:
I Always Get What I Want
Nobody's Home (live acoustic)]

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Avril Lavigne is known mainly (to me, at least) for her irritating worldwide hit, Sk8er Boi (aaargh!), and appears to have two major, multi-million selling albums to her credit. She seems to align her self with 'punk', but is reported to have never heard of the Sex Pistols, or heard the Ramones, making her claims more than a little suspect, although, in fairness, she was born in 1984, making it all relatively ancient history to her. She's romantically linked to a member of Sum 41, a thoroughly faceless so-called 'punk' outfit, completely interchangeable with Blink 182, or any other current band with a number in their name. Above all else, she reminds me of her awful countrywoman Alanis Morissette, although I'm aware that's a lazy comparison. Tough.

Under My Skin is unlikely to appeal to many people over the age of 20, so it was a foregone conclusion I'd hate it. If it had even the tiniest sliver of originality, or just vaguely attempted to sound like nothing else, rather than everything, I might be able to cope with it. As it is, it's a thoroughly professional record, with no obvious redeeming features whatsoever, although I don't feel justified in giving it an even lower star rating. As for the 'punk' bit, half the tracks are piano ballads; not something I recall hearing from the Ramones or the Pistols. Patrick Warren plays Chamberlin on it, but all I can hear is cellos (assuming they're Chamby) on Fall To Pieces and Slipped Away, although some of the album's string parts could possibly be tape-replay, too.

So; a bloody waste of time. Avoid if you're out of your teens (or indeed, old enough to have sired one. Or anything).

Official site

Marc Lavoine  (France)

Marc Lavoine, 'Marc Lavoine'

Marc Lavoine  (2001,  51.53)  ***/T½

Le Pont Mirabeau
Passent les Nuages
J'aurai Voulu
Je Ne Veux Qu'elle
Mucho Embrasse-moi
Chère Amie (Toutes Mes Excuses)
N'oublie Jamais
Paris
Deux Guitares au Soleil
Ma Jonque est Jaune
J'ai Tout Oublié
Ma Solitude.com
Elle a les Yeux Revolver...

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Marc Lavoine is a French singer whose background is more chanson than le rock'n'roll, at least going by his eighth, eponymous album from 2001. OK, it has a few programmed beats thrown in for the sake of modernism, but take the contemporary touches away, and this could've been made in the mid-'60s. Lavoine duets with several female vocalists, although the only one I've heard of is Françoise Hardy, I'm afraid. The material's almost above criticism; it's French popular song, and it does what it does, like it or not.

Uncredited Mellotron flutes on opener Le Pont Mirabeau from Jean-François Berger, although the credited Mellotron on Ma Solitude.com is slightly confusing. Are those MkII rhythms? Is that MkII guitar? If so, is an actual MkII being used, or is it all samples, including the aforementioned flutes? I'll leave Marc Lavoine here until/if I find out otherwise, but don't put too much money on its veracity.

Record company site

Laza i Ipe  (Yugoslavia)

Laza i Ipe, 'Stižemo'

Stižemo  (1978,  35.07)  ***½/½

Noč u Paklu
Ko Sam Ja?
Intro-Mental
Poslije Svega
Top Hit Lista
Ljubav

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Laza i Ipe were keyboard player Laza Ristovski and drummer Goran Ipe Ivandic, both ex-Bijelo Dugme, who made just the one album together, Stižemo, with the help of various friends. Recorded in London, it's a late example of symphonic progressive, and could easily have been made three or four years earlier; that's a compliment, by the way. Vlatko Stefanovski's guitar work is pretty ripping, and Ivandic's sister Gordana provides a fair chunk of the vocals, along with Goran Kovacevic; in fact, the musicianship's excellent all round - particular praise must be given for Ristovski's keyboard work. There's quite a bit of variety on the album - maybe too much; the heads-down boogie of Top Hit Lista is entirely unnecessary, although given its title, it's quite possible it's meant to be a joke. The rest of the material veers between the balladic Ljubav and the almost Who-like Noč u Paklu, with most tracks erring on the side of the quiet as against the loud, making Top Hit Lista that much more of an anomaly.

Most of Ristovski's keyboard work is standard Hammond, piano and synth, with some string synth on Ko Sam Ja?, although he gets some Mellotron in on one track, the mid-paced Poslije Svega, with a string part behind the build-up in the middle of the song. So; once again, you're not going to find this too easily, but for the dedicated collector, it's actually worth the effort, although I don't hear too much local influence on the music, sadly. Worth it if you can find it. Incidentally, Ristovski also played Mellotron on a mid-'80s solo album, Roses for a General, and allegedly also on two Smak albums from the mid-'70s, though I can't verify the latter.

See: Laza Ristovski

Lazily Spun  (UK)  see: Samples etc.

LaZona  (Italy)

LaZona, 'Le Notti Difficili'

Le Notti Difficili  (2003,  44.54)  ***/T½

Solitudini
Il Babau
Il Sogno Della Scala
Equivalenza

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

LaZona are the latest Fabio Zuffanti (Finisterre, Hostsonaten, La Maschera di Cera, Zuffanti/Heward) side-project, whose sole album to date, Le Notti Difficili, is best described as post-rock, marking a distinct change in approach from his usual symphonic progressive stylings. But is it any good? Matter of opinion, I suppose; as someone who doesn't hear this kind of stuff too often, it neither excites nor utterly bores me, although it probably tends more towards the latter. Long, drifting tracks of mild instrumental dissonance, with trombone interjections, sounds like it's tailor-made for the prog fan, but the reality is rather less interesting, sadly, although I'm sure it conforms to the 'rules' laid down by Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the like. Basically, I'd have thought that if you like the style, you'll probably like this. Conversely...

Zuffanti sidekick Agostino Macor plays Mellotron on Il Sogno Della Scala and Equivalenza, largely consisting of multiple repetitions of basic string chord sequences, serving mainly to give us an idea of how Godspeed et al. might sound if they used a Mellotron. This really isn't the most exciting use you'll ever hear, but then, nor is it the most exciting music you'll ever hear, either, so it's fairly fitting. To sum up; this is post-rock, not prog, and the Mellotron use isn't exactly innovative. Up to you, really.

Official site

See: Finisterre | Hostsonaten | La Maschera di Cera | Fabio Zuffanti | Zuffanti/Heward

Maxime Le Forestier  (France)

Maxime Le Forestier, 'Restons Amants'

Restons Amants  (2008,  37.43)  ***/½

L'Ère Étrange
Grain D'Sel
Restons Amants
Tuer L'Temps
Histoire Grise
Là-Bas, la Terre
Le Juge et la Blonde
Sur Deux Tons
La Meute et le Troupeau
Tell'ment Je M'Aime
Empreintes
Hymne à la Soie

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Bruno "Maxime" Le Forestier has not only had a near-forty year career, but, unlike many of his sadder contemporaries, makes no attempt to hide his advancing years. Yes, folks, it's called dignity. 2008's Restons Amants is his umpteenth album, a perfectly good singer-songwriter effort, without especially standing out musically, which is probably to miss the point. Better tracks include opener L'Ère Étrange, which sets Le Forestier's stall out unequivocally and the inventive guitar work on La Meute Et Le Troupeau, but nothing here made this listener squirm.

Vincent Mougel plays Mellotron on Sur Deux Tons, with a nice flute part, although it's near-impossible to say whether or not a real machine was harmed during the recording. So; French singer-songwritery effort, probably rather pointless unless you speak the language, although at least it didn't offend.

Official site

Michel le François  (Québec)

Michel le François, 'Sur la Terre Comme au Ciel'

Sur la Terre Comme au Ciel  (1979,  41.10)  ***/TTT

Chevaliers de l'Univers
Être Avec Vous
Jardin de Crystal
Sur la Terre Comme au Ciel

L'Étranger
Traverser la Nuit
Entre Ciel et Terre

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Michel le François seemingly only released one album before the '90s, 1979's Sur la Terre Comme au Ciel, which comes across as a bit of a stylistic mish-mash, to be honest. It starts well enough, with Chevaliers De l'Univers, which reminded me of Starcastle, oddly enough, which must mean it sounds quite a bit like Yes, I suppose. Être Avec Vous, however, is a fairly sloppy love song sung by a female vocalist, before the album swings back to prog, then proto-AOR, balladry, hard rock... It doesn't seem to be able to decide what it wants to be; diversity's fine, but this doesn't even sound like the same band half the time, but then I suppose that's often the nature of solo projects.

Anyway, there's a fair bit of Mellotron on the album, with five out of seven tracks smothered in strings and choir, although little of the use stands out as exceptional, to be honest. So; a reasonable 'Tron album, but a bit ropey on the musical front, with only two tracks (Chevaliers De l'Univers and Jardin De Crystal) that really count as 'progressive'. Don't spend a fortune.

See: Paul-André

Leaf Rapids  (Canada)  see: Samples etc.

Dylan LeBlanc  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Led Zeppelin  (UK)  see:

Led Zeppelin

Ben Lee  (Australia)

Ben Lee, 'Ripe'

Ripe  (2007,  43.04)  *½/½

Love Me Like the World is Ending
American Television
Birds and Bees
Is This How Love's Supposed to Feel?
Blush
Numb
What Would Jay-Z Do?
Sex Without Love
Home
So Hungry
Just Say Yes
Ripe

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Ben Lee is an Aussie singer-songwriter at the 'extremely wussy' end of the spectrum, loosely comparable to, say, Pete Yorn and similar horrors. 2007's Ripe is his sixth solo album post- his early career in Noise Addict and is... well, suffice to say that it made me grind my teeth in places and you'll probably get a good idea of just how insipid this nonsense really is. I was hoping the occasional lyric might catch my ear (What Would Jay-Z Do? had potential), but no.

Nic Jones plays Mellotron, with background strings on American Television, although other string parts sound like generic samples to my ears. So; yet another crummy album with next to no Mellotron. Why do I bother? Why? Answers on the back of a used circuit diagram for a Mellotron motor speed controller to the usual address.

Official site

Byron Lee & the Dragonaires  (Jamaica)

Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, 'Carnival in Trinidad'

Carnival in Trinidad  (1974,  30.30)  ***/TT

Vero
Miss Mary
Jericho
Sprach Zarathustra 2001
My Connie
Bassman
I Come Out to Play
San Fernando Carnival
Priest
Rain-o-Rama

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Unbelievably, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires formed in 1950, although it took them the better part of a decade to release a record. Throughout their lengthy career, they have released albums in a bewildering variety of styles, including R&B, calypso, ska, reggae, soca and other Caribbean genres, which makes them either opportunists or canny, working musicians in the old 'entertainment' tradition, rather than the more recent 'artistic' one; fair enough, we all have to make a living. 1974's Carnival in Trinidad is pretty much what you'd expect; mostly instrumental Caribbean carnival music, with nary a trace of reggae to be heard, its chief downside being the constant and irritating cowbell-whacking heard throughout, although it's a minor quibble. Highlight? Possibly Sprach Zarathustra 2001, which is, as you might've guessed, a carnival rendering of Richard Strauss' finest few minutes, although the brass section struggles with the semitone shifts they're asked to produce, leading to something of a tuning issue across the section.

Neville Hinds adds all kinds of instrumental colouring, including (of course) a Mellotron, with cello, flute and string parts on Jericho, strings on Bassman and Come Out To Play and flutes on San Fernando Carnival, all depping for more expensive real ones, of course. If you're not into Caribbean carnival music, you really aren't going to like this, frankly, although it seems to be excellent at what it does. Sadly, Lee died of cancer in 2008, although his band have continued his good work as Byron Lee's Dragonaires.

Rita Lee  (Brazil)

Rita Lee, 'Atras do Porto Tem Uma Cidade'

Atras do Porto Tem Uma Cidade  (1974,  29.46)  ***½/TT½

De Pés No Chão
Yo No Creo Pero
Tratos à Bola
Menino Bonito
Pé de Meia
Mamãe Natureza
Ando Jururu

Eclipse do Cometa
Círculo Vicisio
Tem Uma Cidade

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Rita Lee was, of course, vocalist with acclaimed Tropicalia outfit Os Mutantes, although she'd moved on before their sole Mellotron album, 1973's oAeoZ. Atras do Porto Tem Uma Cidade was her third solo effort, featuring a mixture of styles, with the funky pop of opener De Pés No Chão contrasting sharply with the rock'n'roll of Tratos à Bola or the brief, heavy instrumental Tem Uma Cidade.

The album's up to the minute gearwise, with a heavy Clavinet presence, with a good helping of Hammond and Moog, plus the obvious. Lee herself plays Mellotron strings on the album, with a part drifting in and out of Yo No Creo Pero, some great volume-pedalled chords on Mamãe Natureza and more background work under real flute on Ando Jururu and on Círculo Vicisio, although the strings on Menino Bonito are real.

Atras do Porto Tem Uma Cidade is perfectly good at what it does, which isn't to say you're going to like it; just don't go expecting Os Mutantes and you shouldn't be too disappointed. Decent Mellotron use, too, as against so many albums of the era who stick it in the background on one track. Lee allegedly used Mellotron on a couple of recent releases (reviewed here), but they both appear to contain samples, to no-one's great surprise (well, are you surprised?).

See: Samples etc. | Os Mutantes


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