Anita Lipnicka & John Porter
Little Free Rock
Limelight (UK) see:
Pär Lindh Project (Sweden) see:
Pär Lindh & Björn Johansson (Sweden) see:
buzzy [a.k.a. Buzzy's buzzy] (1969, 44.46) ***/TTYellow Cab
Step Into My Wildest Dreams
Wish I Could Find
Buzz(y) Linhart was originally known for his mallet skills, becoming a vibraphone virtuoso at a young age. After spells backing noted Greenwich Village doyen Fred Neil and others, he recorded his first solo album, buzzy [sic], in London in late 1968, released the following year. The album is dominated by side two's 18-minute raga-rock Sing Joy, encapsulating Linhart's multiple influences in one long-form piece and featuring what sounds suspiciously like a hurdy-gurdy. The rest of the record consists of bluesy acoustic material like Tim Hardin's Yellow Cab and Wish I Could Find and the lengthy, vaguely psychedelic Willie Jean.
MkII 'Tron strings from Phil Ryan (Eyes of Blue) on Willie Jean, sounding not unlike a Mellotron-soaked version of Python Lee Jackson's In A Broken Dream and End Song, which doesn't. buzzy is a bit of a mixed bag, with a couple of the shorter tracks failing to hold the attention and the epic, while groundbreaking, does go on a bit, if we're going to be honest here. Two decent 'Tron tracks, particularly Willie Jean, so you might want to hear those even if the rest of the album doesn't appeal. Linhart has reissued the album as Buzzy's buzzy, seemingly changing the track order, which makes a slight mockery of End Song, but I'm sure he knows what he's doing.
Goodbye (2008, 41.22) ***/½
|Run for Your Love
Down By the Lake
Good to See You (Bill's Song)
Old Time Radio
Lover Turn Around
|You're Not the Only One
How You Doin' Today
Stone Cold Morning
Anita Lipnicka moved to London from her native Poland in 1996, teaming up with John Porter (who has major connections with the country himself) five years later. They made three albums together, after which, although remaining a couple, they opted to work separately. Unsurprisingly, 2088's Goodbye is the last of these, a largely acoustic record with a slightly American folk vibe about it, although as with so many similar, the music seems to be largely a vehicle for the lyrics, having relatively little intrinsic value of its own, which isn't to say it's bad, just generic.
Chris Eckman plays Mellotron, with a real-sounding string part on Old Time Radio that dips in and out of the piece, although the cello on How You Doin' Today is real. Overall, then, a reasonable album, but unless you're heavily into the style, even its forty minutes can pall. One Mellotron track, but even that's fairly minor.
Official Anita Lipnicka site
Pour in the Sky (1991, 49.43) ****/T
Finding My Way
On My Way
Better or Worse
|The Colorful Ones
Faith to Believe
When the current trend for 'stoner' bands is mentioned, everyone remembers the Masters of Reality (who are still around), but Liquid Jesus are the forgotten men of the proto-genre. Maybe they just weren't heavy enough. Anyway, after the US-only Live (***½), Pour in the Sky appeared, refusing to adhere to any of the then-current received wisdom about how rock albums should sound. Dirty, bluesy and retro, it was an album both out of and before its time, but sadly, the rivers of musical change seem to have left them stranded on a sandbank somewhere, rather than at the forefront of the burgeoning aforementioned movement.
Various 'authentic' keys are used on the album, including producer Michael Beinhorn's Mellotron, though on two tracks only, with some almost-inaudible strings on No Secret, and rather more upfront cellos/strings/flutes on the acoustic Zeppelinesque Faith To Believe. These hardly qualify the album as a 'Mellotron Record', but for fans of retro hard rock, this is a more than worthwhile purchase.
You Are Here (2004, 62.04) ****/TTTT½
Dreams of Space
You Are Here
Rays of Sonic Light
(Theta Wave) Inductor
I Can't Be Sane
Stone Oscillator (Static Ritual)
Planetfall (2007, 76.34) ***/TTT
|Destroy the Mothership
Under the Sign
|Expanding Universe (Twinstar pt.2)
The Machine Age
Aurora (2009, 65.31) ****/TTTTBeyond the Sun
In the Burning Light
Kings of Infinite Space
Slaughterbahn (2012, 47.13) ***½/TTT½
Last Man Standing
Daze öf the Undergröund: a Tribute tö Hawkwind (2003) ***½/T[Litmus contribute]
Er... am I allowed to review myself? Whatever. I joined Litmus in spring 2001, but it's taken us until late '03 to record anything other than demos; You Are Here is a full-length, non-CD-R release and the first to utilise my elderly keyboard arsenal properly. What do we sound like? The tribute album to which we contributed should give you a clue; while we're not a Hawkwind clone, we are, to quote 'The Secret Policeman's Ball', 'fucking close'. Actually, that's not fair; there's a more metal edge to our sound; our version of Paradox (from The Hall of the Mountain Grill), on Daze öf the Undergröund: a Tribute to Hawkwind (umlauts optional), has more bite than the original and every bit as much Mellotron (recorded in my front room, fact fans), although I wouldn't try to claim it was superior. How many covers are? It rocks, though and in my humble opinion ends up being one of the better tracks on the album.
You Are Here itself is a mixture of material we've been playing for a year or two and brand-new stuff, plus several 'interludes' that aren't designed to be played live. Infinity Drive kicks things off in grand style, complete with a ropey Hammond solo by yours truly, followed by Dreams Of Space, in a similar, though slightly more progressive style. The title track is a laid-back acoustic thing and from then on, every track has a different feel, from the almost-poppiness of Sonic Light (don't ask) through the trippy dronefest that is (Theta Wave) Inductor to the monstrous, 21-minute stoner space-rock epic of Stone Oscillator (Static Ritual).
As you can see, my Mellotron gets in on most tracks, with only Sonic Light and two short interludes being spared. And before you accuse me of instrumental nepotism, much of it was insisted upon by our bassist, Martin, who did a grand job of recording the whole thing on his hard disc system. OK... a high string line on Infinity Drive doubles the top note of the string synth riff, although the rising string line in the verse on Dreams Of Space ended up too low in the mix, for some reason. You Are Here itself has strings, flutes and cello all going at once, sounding authentically cranky in places (must sort those pinch rollers out...), while my own little contribution to the album, Rays Of Sonic Light, is a short, Mellotron/Moog-drenched instrumental based on the synth melody from Sonic Light. Inductor is mostly laid-back Moog until it all kicks in near the end and a 'Tron string part takes over, with a weird part during the gradual slow-down at the end which is Martin's sonic trickery with something I'd played earlier. The manic I Can't Be Sane (what happens when you let your drummer write a song...) has some strings and choir buried in the mix, while Stone Oscillator features a polyphonic flute part (my idea, folks) over an initial quiet verse, before some upfront strings later on. The choirs were my idea, again, although they're fairly low in the mix.
I know it's a bloody cheek reviewing my own work, but I make the rules up around here, usually as I'm going along. So there. It's taken me over twenty years of playing in bands to finally get an album out and I'm glad to say that my eventual debut is pretty much an unqualified success. Of course I recommend it and not just to Hawkwind fans, but you'll just have to make your own minds up, OK?
For reasons too irksome to go into here, it's taken us nearly three years to release our follow-up, Planetfall, although it should've been finished in time for autumn 2006 [sigh]. Well, it would be fair to say that it's a mixed bag; too long for a 'proper' label debut, with various tracks of which no-one (myself included) would let go (and let's not even go there re. the closing seconds of the record...), although it would probably have been better having a good fifteen minutes chopped off somewhere down the line. Suffice to say, my personal version of the album will be shorter and tighter... A real disappointment for me, after having such a great time at the residential studio in Wales that we used (hi, Dave), was hearing the final mix and realising how much of my Mellotron and Moog work has been mixed either low or completely out while I wasn't looking. In other words, despite the seemingly high number of 'Tron tracks listed above, many of them 'feature' parts mixed down so far that all that remains is a ghostly high string note washing around in the background somewhere, usually at the end of the song as everything else dies down.
Destroy The Mothership, The Tempest, Psychic Projection and Far Beyond all fall into this category, several of them losing Moog lines, too, although the whole-tone scale strings in Singularity and the choirs under the solo in my contribution, The Machine Age, have just about survived. The massive string swells in Helios have ended up reverbed to death and quieter than some contributions by other members that were only designed to be 'add-ons', although a genius idea of laptop guru Anton's is quite high in the mix; he mic'd up the inside of the M400 while I was playing and its mechanical noise, including the tapes snapping back are clearly audible, along with the only obvious (albeit overly quiet) bit of Moog Taurus on the album. That leaves three tracks: the mighty Under The Sign loses about half of what was recorded, although what's left sounds pretty good (watch for the pitchbend before the 'slow bit'), while Lost Stations has a full-on part which survived the cull, particularly on the chorus. Finally, the album's classic (in my humble etc. etc.): Expanding Universe (Twinstar Pt.2). Not only is this a monster track, fitting vaguely into the same category as our debut's Stone Oscillator, but it features wall-to-wall Mellotron, with my patented 'infinite sustain' choirs over the intro (as on You Are Here's Inductor), a poly flute part on the chorus, repeated multiple times on the outro (and all played for real), plus shitloads of strings, both on the verses and during the massive 'tension/release' section in the middle, which builds up to an almost unbearable peak before finally breaking. Oh, and watch for the almost dissonant choir chords after the second chorus; if only I'd written them...
For what it's worth, as you read this, I am no longer a member of the band; the time-honoured 'musical differences' have reared their ugly heads again, which is hardly surprising after this review... We're all still mates, but after six years, I feel it's time to go and do something I want to do. 'Nuff said. I've told Martin he can use my 'Tron (and anything else from my collection, if he so desires) whenever he likes, so expect future Litmus 'Tron albums, only not played by my good self.
Well, after all that, the band's first post-me album is 2009's Aurora. Given how unimpressed I was with the material at early writing sessions, I have to say, it's an absolute triumph. Gone are the near-prog epics, gone are the punky thrashes, replaced by solid, melodic songwriting, albeit in an unmistakably space-rock style. Some things never change... It contains a mere eight tracks, although it's still over an hour long, with three of them jammed into infinity and another two not exactly brief, but the vocal work all round is dramatically improved, at least melodically and harmonically, while the whole thing just seems more... focussed, for want of a better word. Saying that, it has its faults; there's still too much noodling and a couple of the songs are too long for their content, not to mention the usual 'it's too bloody long' problem, but all in all, it's fantastic. Highpoints? Kings Of Infinite Space takes forever to reach its peak, but when it does, it's worth it, while Ma:55°N Rift (band in-jokes: don'cha love 'em?) is as trippy as anything we/they ever tackled.
Mellotronically speaking, all the time my M400 sat at Martin's has obviously been beneficial. Unlike last time, he's stuck it all over the place here, mostly strings, well-played and mixed, with interesting lines thrown in, sometimes echoing vocal parts. They use my 'infinite choir' trick not once but twice, to the point where it's starting to look like a 'Litmus trick'. Expect it next time round... Basically, loads of Mellotron, only marked down for its relative lack of ambition, repeating the same 'octave strings' trick from their two previous efforts. Am I sorry not to be on it? Not in the slightest. It's an excellent piece of work, but my days of providing octave strings are over, I hope.
Another lengthy delay presages the band's fourth album, 2012's amusingly-titled Slaughterbahn, their shortest yet, both in overall and individual song length. A cassette is inserted into a deck and a low-fi drum track begins, suddenly replaced by the band blasting away on Deeper, a typical shorter, punchier Litmus number, like many here. Deviations include the punky Breakout, the pop/punk of Streamers and the trippy closing title track, although 'best track' award probably goes to mini-epic Sleepless, Eastern scales and all. Martin plays Mellotron, with the standard octave string lines on all highlighted tracks plus flutes on Deeper's chorus, occasionally branching out into more inventive parts before the inevitable Return Of The Octaves.
So; what do I recommend? You Are Here and Aurora, chiefly, although Slaughterbahn's decent enough and there's a killer 40-50 minute album to be made from Planetfall, too, so that's a very cautious recommendation. Basically, the very best space-rock band around today, including the obvious.
See: Daze of the Underground | Sonic Shamen
Mad Country (2007, 42.03) **½/T
|Like it Was Before
The Dam is Broken
|No Reason at the Hollywood Hotel
Shadow in the Sand
Australians Little Aida appear to be led by sisters Susannah and Tessa Rubinstein, the latter singing lead across their second album, 2007's Kramer-produced Mad Country, released a startling eleven years after their debut. It's a downbeat, folk-inspired record, falling somewhere inbetween the slowest end of the indie spectrum and early '70s singer-songwriter territory, the sisters' vocals habitually being fed through washes of reverb, along with most of the instrumentation.
Kramer plays (presumably) his M400, with wavery flutes on opener Like It Was Before and distant strings on Ten Walls, neither to any great effect, sadly. This is one of those 'good for two or three tracks' albums, but even at sensible vinyl length, it rather outstays its welcome, so with so little Mellotron, I feel unable to especially recommend it.
Little Free Rock (1969, 40.44) ***/T½Roman Summer Nights
Castles in the Sky
Age of Chivalry
Little Free Rock, despite their American-sounding name, were a Lancashire-based trio whose name, unusually (uniquely?), is comprised of the meanings behind each member's names. They started as covers band Purple Haze, morphing into the proto-hard rock Little Free Rock in 1969, and after the usual label hassles, recorded their sole, eponymous album. Like so many other bands of the day, they found themselves, through no fault of their own, unable to translate their live sound onto tape, and ended up most unsatisfied with the end result. Before long, they started using African percussionists at gigs (including guys who played with Ginger Baker, and a couple who ended up in Osibisa), and although they were playing the same songs live, they were apparently almost unrecognisable from their studio versions. Guitarist Peter Illingworth's site (link below) details their story in full; all I can say is, it's a wonder anyone ever made any money out of playing music, then or now, and the high attrition rate doesn't surprise me in the slightest.
Little Free Rock isn't a bad album, loosely comparable to the likes of May Blitz, Clear Blue Sky or maybe Stray, but it isn't a sound that's dated well, although had the band been able to record their live sound, maybe things would have been different. Closer Making Time, at around ten minutes, is the only jammed-out piece on the record, with the rest of the material being in the usual 3-5 minute bracket, and while nothing especially stands out writing-wise, the whole is a pleasant enough listen. Tim Hinckley, from Jody Grind (whose chief claim to fame was an album called Far Canal; say it out loud in a London accent...), played Mellotron on three tracks, with rather unadventurous string parts on Roman Summer Nights, Blud (with a nice upward pitchbend) and Castles In The Sky, and although it enhances the album, it's nothing you can't live without.
So; OK album, of its time, bit of 'Tron. I'm not really selling this to you, am I? Seriously, if you like that '69-'71 period in British rock, chances are you'll like this, but I wouldn't bother for its Mellotron use.
Birds of Pray (2003, 44.29) **½/½
The Sanctity of Dreams
Life Marches on
Like I Do
Everytime I See Your Face
Out to Dry
Bring the People Together
What Are We Fighting for?
To my surprise, the appallingly-named Live have been around in one form or another since the early '80s, releasing their first album under this name, Mental Jewelry, in 1991. Their major breakthrough came with '94's multi-million selling Throwing Copper, since when they seem to've struggled slightly to maintain their momentum. 2003's Birds of Pray was album no.6 and I don't seem to be alone in saying that it was clearly a water-treading exercise, full of the sort of bland, mainstream rock peddled by the likes of Train, or even the horrible Matchbox Twenty, although, in fairness, nowhere near as bad as the latter. I've seen them described as 'post-U2 arena rock', which is about as close as you're going to get, to be honest, Christian-lite lyrics and all. Best tracks? I could listen to this a dozen times (although I'd much rather not) and still be unable to answer that question, due to the anodyne nature of their vaguely anthemic, hollow songs. Oh well, at least it's relatively short.
The ubiquitous Patrick Warren was brought in on Chamberlin, along with a small string section, but guess what? It's as near-as-dammit inaudible, as always. Why do producers do this? What is the point in bringing in a keyboard as distinctive as the Chamberlin, then burying it in the mix? There's something completely unidentifiable on Run Away, and an extremely brief burst of strings on Out To Dry, which may be the string quartet anyway, with nothing else even slightly Chamby-like. Pointless. Ugly sleeve, too. So; if you like hollow, anthemic rock, you'll like Live. As for the rest of us, shall we go somewhere else?