Candice Monique & the Optics
Moon Seven Times
Brand New By Tomorrow (2007, 38.09) **½/T
|Color of Your Blues
Pick Up the Pieces
Pretend to Sleep
My Loss, Your Gain
Everyday I Die a Little
|Nice to Me
Eyes That Ring
Brand New By Tomorrow
"Money" Mark Ramos-Nishita is a vocalist/keyboard player/producer who has collaborated with The Beastie Boys and Beck, amongst many others. 2007's Brand New By Tomorrow seems to be typical of his output, a mostly gentle, heartfelt, soft rock/soul album. Yes, I hate it. However, it avoids the gruesome ultra-cheesiness of many of his contemporaries, making it more dull than horrible, several of its songs sounding like they could easily have been hits (only one single was actually released from the album).
Mark plays Chamberlin on Pick Up The Pieces (the single), with a nicely high-in-the-mix string part throughout, although that's your lot. Not a very interesting album for those who prefer to stand (sit, or lie) outside the mainstream, but at least it's got one good Chamby track. And a witty sleeve.
In My Soul (2010, 45.03) ***/T
|In My Soul
For All Time
Mama Don't Know
Feel the Vibe
Shave My Head
Crazy Crazy Thing
Wish I Was a Bass
Although Candice Monique's been around for a few years, 2010's In My Soul is her first album, backed by her über-funky Optics. No, of course I don't like it, but (for once) it's difficult to fully dismiss the joie de vivre running through much of the record, tracks like Feel The Vibe being sure-fire dancefloor fillers in a world where R&B isn't considered the highest form of musical expression. On the lyrical front, while Revolution irritates musically and is, essentially, white hip-hop, it says some pertinent things about Australia's attitude towards the country's original inhabitants.
Mikey Chan plays Mellotron on Shave My Head, with an orchestral-ish string part that enhances the song nicely, making it a shame it wasn't used on a couple of the other slower tracks. Anyway, doubt if this'll be your bag, but at least it's done well, with a decent Mellotron part thrown in.
Dopes to Infinity (1995, 67.54) ****/TTT
|Dopes to Infinity
Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Look to Your Orb for the Warning
All Friends and Kingdom Come
Ego, the Living Planet
Blow 'em Off
I Control, I Fly
|King of Mars
Theme From "Masterburner"
Monster Magnet are one of the chief exponents of what the press dubbed 'stoner rock' in the early '90s, otherwise known as a propensity for slowed-down Black Sabbath-alike riffs and far too many drugs. However, they aren't that easy to nail down, stylewise; they don't restrict themselves to slow tempos, don't always try to be heavier-than-thou, and band mainman Dave Wyndorf has no problem with slapping Mellotron all over the place, at least every now and again. The drugs are another matter, though I believe he's now gone (relatively) clean.
Actually, what Dopes to Infinity reminds me of most of all (apart from the Sabs, of course), is Hawkwind, particularly on I Control, I Fly; not the extended space-rock jamming end of their sound, but the repetitive riffing and almost chanted vocals. Yeah, Sabbath crossed with Hawkwind. From New Jersey. Weird. Wyndorf even looks a bit like Dave Brock. You know, I wasn't expecting to like this album, but after a few plays it's sneakily grown on me, in a retro-'70s sort of way. Probably because it sounds so uncontemporary, I suppose. Anyway, Mellotron on four tracks, mostly strings, with some cellos on Blow 'Em Off. Look To Your Orb... and All Friends And Kingdom Come both have loads of 'Tron strings running through them, in a sort-of-Hawks' Assault And Battery kind of way. Tell you wot, I'm actually going to recommend this for Mellotron fans, although it could've done with being on a couple more tracks towards the end of the album.
See: Samples etc.
|Cancelled 7" (1969) ***/TT
The Montanas were a Wolverhampton-based band, including vocalist John Jones and bassist/keyboard player Terry Rowley, both of whom went on to join the fledgling Trapeze. Their Together 45 was seemingly a cancelled single from 1969, although I can't give you the story behind it, Web info on the band being a bit thin on the ground. It's a passable psych-era ballad, although there's rather better than this around, if you're into such things.
The lush MkII Mellotron strings on the track are presumably played by Rowley, enhancing an average track nicely, despite clearly being used as an orchestral substitute. This can be found on various compilations, including Wooden Hill's Psychedelic Schlemiels 3 and Syde Trips Vol.4, although I can't verify the legality of the latter.
Paper Money (1974, 35.13) ***½/T½Underground
I Got the Fire
We're Going Home
Montrose, featuring guitar whizz Ronnie Montrose (ex-Edgar Winter Group) and vocalist Sammy Hagar, shot to prominence with their five-star debut, Montrose (***** - see, I told you so) in 1973. An absolute classic, it's an obvious influence on bands such as Van Halen later in the decade, though don't let that put you off; even Van Halen started off good... Oddly enough, Hagar ended up singing for them. Life imitating art, maybe? Possibly art imitating shite. Anyway, Montrose followed their debut with Paper Money a year later, but it has to be said that the fire was already burning out for them; it's not a bad album, but not really a patch on its predecessor.
Much of the material plods a little, unlike their previous quicksilver approach; I've Got The Fire is the only track where they still seem to have that spark (ho ho), later covered by Iron Maiden, but don't let that put you off, either. Saying that, the instrumental Starliner isn't bad, but most of the album doesn't come anywhere near the standard of Montrose. Session player Nick DeCaro is credited with Mellotron on We're Going Home, and he actually does a very nice job, with flute and string melodies weaving in and out of the song. Oddly enough, though, there's also some strings on the Stones' Connection, although only piano is credited for the song, so I've no idea whether it was DeCaro on the Mellotron again, or pianist Mark Jordan.
Paper Money's one of those albums you buy when you've already got the band's classic; the Mellotron work's OK, but not worth shelling out very much for. They actually released another two after this, but I can't be bothered to find out if they're any good or not, I'm afraid. [n.b. To my surprise, they're actually better.]
Official Ronnie Montrose site
Moody Blues (UK) see:
The Moog Cookbook (1996, 45.07) ***/T
|Black Hole Sun
Come Out and Play
Are You Gonna Go My Way?
Smells Like Teen Spirit
|The One I Love
Rockin' in the Free World
Ye Olde Space Bande (1997, 43.38) ***½/½
|Born to Be Wild
Cat Scratch Fever
Sweet Home Alabama
More Than a Feeling
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
Whole Lotta Love
25 or 6 to 4
Rock & Roll All Night
Bartell (2005, recorded 199?-199?, 73.50) ***/½
Kelly Watch the Stars
Novocaine for the Soul
Lost in Space part #1
Lost in Space part #2
Pumpernickel's Dark Ride Theme
20th Century Boy
|Deck the Halls/Sleigh Ride
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
The Moog Cookbook are/were essentially a joke band consisting of Brian Kehew and Roger Manning (Jellyfish, Beck etc.), whose schtick was to play ludicrous, cheesy versions of 'classics' on an array of vintage gear. The Moog Cookbook tackles 'modern rock covers', opening with a bizarre lounge version of Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun, carrying on in similarly silly vein; Smells Like Teen Spirit is probably a 'highlight', depending on your definition of the word. The album's chief problem is that the joke wears thin pretty quickly; I mean, how often would you really want to hear their take on Neil Young's brilliant-but-multiply-badly-covered-while-heavily-missing-the-point Rockin' In The Free World? And that's one of the more straightforward efforts here.
Anyway... Credited Mellotron on two tracks only, with choirs on Come Out And Play (The Offspring, apparently, not that I've ever knowingly heard them), in the middle of the 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' bit (no, really) and, er, more choirs on Tom Petty's Free Fallin'. Plenty of other great synth stuff, including several bits of discordant something, probably ARP 2600; actually, the sounds are far better than what the duo do with them, to be honest, though maybe better a humorous effort like this than some po-faced, self-important drivel like [insert name of your least favourite 'EM' combo here]?
The following year, the duo released their second and last 'proper' album, Ye Olde Space Bande, consisting almost entirely of '70's 'classic rock' covers, as heard interminably on US AM radio, no doubt. We don't have such things over here. Ted Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever? Boston's More Than A Feeling? Kiss' almost unrecognisable Devo-esque Rock & Roll All Night? They're all here. One of the best things about the album is the constant musical 'quoting', à la Emerson and co. The middle section of Whole Lotta Love references several synth 'classics' and they even get the unintentional echo effect from the original right, while Chicago's 25 Or 6 To 4 has Zep's All My Love solo inserted into the middle and as for the Popcorn and Telstar quotes in Hotel California... Unless I'm missing stuff, there's very little tape-replay this time round, with nowt but a few seconds of massed Chamby solo male voices in the dying seconds of Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama, although, as usual, it would've worked elsewhere, too.
2005's Bartell seems to be the last word on the Cookbook front, mopping up remixes, tracks from compilations, b-sides and the like, not to mention the Christmas EP, at its most amusing on their take on Cheap Trick's Surrender, which has to be heard to be believed, as do all of the seasonal numbers. One of the duo plays a handful of background Mellotron string notes on their version of Eels' Novocaine For The Soul; if I could give this a quarter T, I would.
For some reason, I actually prefer Ye Olde Space Bande to The Moog Cookbook; more familiarity with the source material, maybe? Anyway, you may find that the joke doesn't wear thin for you, in which case you need both these albums. On the tape-replay front, it's all fairly minimal, so I fear the choice has to be yours and yours alone.
See: Jellyfish | Mellodrama
Sunburnt (1997, 45.44) **/T
Through the Roses
What You Said
Some of Them Burn
You Look Past Me
The Moon Seven Times, or Moon 7x (or even M7x) were a pseudo-4AD outfit, apeing that label's trademark ambient sound and sleeve design aesthetic. Their last album, 1997's Sunburnt, is clearly designed to appeal to Cocteau Twins, drifting along to no great effect; Bug Collection's about the best thing here, but that isn't saying much, sadly.
Henry Frayne plays what I presume is Echo Park Studio's M400 (thanks, Chris), with a major flute part on Thirteen Days and less of the same on What You Said, although it's hardly enough to make this especially worth hearing.
See: Samples etc.
Nouvelles Vagues (1978, 39.33) **½/T
My Name is Jack
Jub Up Family
Ya no Hakushaku
Like so many Japanese acts, I really can't tell you much about The Moonriders, including even a vague (ho ho) idea of how many albums they released, although it seems they featured noted film composer Keiichi Suzuki and Andy Partridge appeared on their 1991 release. As a result, 1978's deliciously French-mangling Nouvelles Vagues may or may not be their debut; if they're considered a 'classic' Japanese band, this album won't be the reason why. It's a rather ordinary J-pop effort of the time, its only unusual feature being their Japanese-language cover of Manfred Mann's My Name Is Jack, borrowing liberally from Beethoven's Ninth in the process (is this on the original?).
Tohru Okada plays Mellotron, with quite overt choirs on Dog Song and less of the same on Ya No Hakushaku, although that would appear to be your lot. Not the most exciting effort ever, then, although at least it's fairly inoffensive, certainly compared to some of the dross that passes through Planet Mellotron HQ. Not much Mellotron, either, so don't go too far out of your way.
Every Pixie Sells a Story (1993, 51.00) ***½/TT½Consider Death
Night and Day
Angels of Death
Mines of Moria
Flux (1996, 47.19) ***½/TTTSuck
The Moor are (or more likely, were) a Swedish prog/space-rock outfit, forming in 1985, with influences including King Crimson, Gong and, above all, Hawkwind. They only released two albums 'proper', 1993's Every Pixie Sells a Story (ho ho) and '96's Flux, plus a cassette-only compilation of live and studio material, '94's Live Stupidity & Other Embarrassing Moments.
Every Pixie... is a murky, primitive psychedelic album, typified by their cover of Hawkwind's Angels Of Death; think: space rock filtered through goth, at its best on the storming Now... and lengthy closer Alien Statement. Band leader Kenneth Magnusson plays Mellotron, with chordal choirs and a string line on Candlelight, strings, choirs and a flute line on Now..., choirs on Night And Day, a flute line on Mines Of Moria (which sounds little like you might expect) and a string line on Alien Statement, although the strings on opener Consider Death are generic samples.
Flux is gratifyingly dark, like Anekdoten after partaking of the brown acid, with its single-syllable titles, muttered vocals and weird, low-fi samples. By this point, their lineup included Nik Turner, while the album features several guest players on various orchestral instruments, although the overall sound is a dark, psychedelic stew sitting somewhere in the middle of their various influences. Magnusson on Mellotron again, with strings on opener Suck, choirs on Body, more strings on Stay and Bell, while Soon opens with a solo Mellotron strings part before it goes all Pink Fairies on us, with more strings and choirs later on. Strings on closer Talk to finish things off nicely on one of the more Mellotron-heavy efforts I've heard from the '90s. Had to be Sweden, didn't it?
So; you're probably not going to find these easily, but if you like the sound of a combination of their influences, you may just go for them. Reasonable amounts of Mellotron, anyway, from a time when you could still almost guarantee that you were hearing a real one.
See: Hawkwind | Spirits Burning
The New World's Fair (1975, 42.29/56.39) ***/TT
|Candy Floss Cowboy (narration)
Candy Floss Cowboy (demo)
16 Year Old Doom
You're a Hero
Song for Marlene
|Come to the Fair
In the Name of Rock'n'Roll
Last Merry Go Round
Brothel in Rosenstrasse
Michael Moorcock, is, of course, far better known as an SF/fantasy author than a rock star, though some of his fans may be surprised at how much work he's done with bands over the years. Several sets of lyrics for the Blue Öyster Cult have given him a cult (ho ho) following with their fans, but his best known musical collaborations have been with Hawkwind, with whom he's guested on and off for many years, notably on 1975's excellent Warrior on the Edge of Time. I remember seeing him on stage with them in the early '80s, a burly, bearded man intoning mad stuff about 'sailors on the sea of fate' and the like. Superb.
Moorcock's sole solo album, recorded with his pick-up band, the Deep Fix (named for the fictional band in his Jerry Cornelius stories) The New World's Fair, is something of a mixed bag, to be honest, with rather too much pseudo-rock'n'roll for its own good. A concept LP about, er, a fairground, or something, it has weird spoken word sections between the tracks, recounting the travails of 'The Dude', but doesn't really make an awful lot of sense. Deep Fix consisted of, among others, several members of Hawkwind, including violinist/keyboard man Simon House, who adds Mellotron to a few tracks. From the original LP, Song For Marlene is a ballad, speeding up towards the end and smothered in Mellotron strings, while Ferris Wheel's a similar proposition, possibly with a dash of flutes halfway through, though the shrill strings are really upfront at the end of the track, as is the (real) cello.
The 1995 CD reissue (the original vinyl is extremely scarce) adds four bonus tracks, but dotted around the disc, rather than stuck at the end as usual, so I've italicised them for simplicity's sake. The rather better CD closer is Moorcock's 1982 single, Brothel In Rosenstrasse, named for one of his novels, but the only really relevant track here is Candy Floss Cowboy (Demo), which appears to fit into the concept at that point, as do the other bonus tracks. Once again, some Mellotron strings, sounding quite analogous to House's use with the Hawks, but nothing you absolutely have to own. Sought-after by Hawkwind collectors, The New World's Fair is OK, but not exactly a 'must-have', unless you have to own everything they've ever done. A bit of a disappointment, to be honest, after all the hype.