A New Generation
New Grove Project
New Riders of the Purple Sage
New Trolls Atomic System
|7" (1968) **½/½
Smokey Blue's Away
She's a Soldier Boy
A New Generation were a late '60s pop outfit led by Iain and Gavin Sutherland, later of Sutherland Brothers (& Quiver), whose last single (of three), Smokey Blue's Away, is apparently based on Dvořák's New World Symphony, although I'm afraid to say I didn't spot it. It probably works better in the classical idiom, to be honest, coming across as a little fey when turned into a rather sentimental song about a dog.
The single opens with 'Tron flutes, presumably from keyboard player Christopher Kemp, although that seems to be it for the release, despite rumours that it's also on the flip, the rather better She's A Soldier Boy. The A-side's available on Tenth Planet's The Electric Lemonade Acid Test, Volume 4 and possibly others, should you really feel the need to hear it.
The Demo's (1994, recorded 1984, 65.38) ***/TTTPrelude
Fool's Journey (1996, 48.34) ****/TTT½Prelude
Where am I Going From Here
Brill (2005, 61.35) ****/TTNeon Light Submission
Thoughts Sui Generis
The Sounding Flood
The Light Within
Cool Fool Floating
The story goes: Swedish musician Ingemar Hjertqvist wrote an album's worth of material in 1984 with his friend, keyboardist Per Sundbom, which they demoed using guitar, bass, synths, Mellotron and drum computer. As you do. Hjertqvist subsequently got married and moved to Switzerland, where he eventually dug out his old demos and released them as, er, The Demo's (sic), allegedly in a limited edition of 300, making it a minor collectable these days. Well, I have to say that I think he made a bit of a mistake in exposing them to the scrutiny of the prog world, to be honest; they sound like what they are, and while the drum programming is OK, the sounds aren't, and most of the keyboards (with one obvious exception) don't sound too hot, either. Basically, reasonable material, with a noticeable late-'70s Genesis/Yes influence, obscured by poor production values, although the rather clanky-sounding Mellotron brightens up most of the tracks, although it's used pretty sparingly.
Before releasing the demos, Hjertqvist had put together various lineups to play his old songs, but wasn't really happy with any of them. Eventually, he pulled several musicians together as a studio project, including The Flower Kings' Roine Stolt on guitars, Pär Lindh on keyboards and, startlingly, Jode Leigh of the superb England on drums. Unlike several things I've listened to lately, Fool's Journey is actually better than I remembered it, being sort-of neo-prog with a '70s feel, enhanced by the vintage instrumentation. The song structures are more interesting than many '80s outfits, with some nice key changes here and there, and an 'epic' feel to some of the material (My Uncle, for example), sadly absent in the work of the likes of Marillion. There's plenty of Lindh's Mark V to be heard, particularly on My Uncle, with stacks of strings, plus flute and choir parts, although he's a little more restrained on some of the other tracks. Fool's Overture from the demos has been retitled Where Am I Going From Here and the Mellotron use between the two recordings is pretty inconsistent, but that's what happens when you rearrange material, I suppose. Anyway, all in all, a much better album than I'd thought, although the lyrics and vocals are a little suspect in places, but there's enough Mellotron for it to be considered a 'Tron Album proper.
Nine years later, Hjertqvist released his follow-up (!), Brill. It is immediately apparent that things have changed in the interim; the style is noticeably different, with far more piano work from either Jode Leigh (back again) or Pär Lindh (ditto). About the only real criticism I would make is in the vocal department; it's not that either Hjertqvist or guest singer John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg have bad voices, but the lyrics frequently don't scan too well, and the spoken-word The Sounding Flood doesn't work at all, although I see it was actually written by the only Englishman on the project. I'm splitting hairs, though; it's actually a very good album, with considerable thought put into both composition and arrangement, knocking spots off many of their contemporaries, notably one led by another Swede who are doing considerably better. Naming no names. Lindh's Mellotron work is even sparser than on Fool's Journey, with a brief string part on Thoughts Sui Generis, choir and strings on Bollenberg's Laughternoon Dream and a fair helping of strings on Brill itself. Speaking of which, the title track is a reworking of Circles from the demos, with lyrics added, finally exhausting that source of material.
Well, both Fool's Journey and Brill are worth a listen, unless you're an extremely hardline '70s-only type, though I'd probably give The Demo's a miss, although there's the odd nice bit of Mellotron here and there.
See: Pär Lindh | England | Bollenberg Experience
Brujo (1974, 33.04) ***/T
|Old Man Noll
Ashes of Love
You Angel You
Instant Armadillo Blues
On the Amazon
New Riders of the Purple Sage started life as a country-rock Grateful Dead side-project, although no Dead members play on Brujo. They cover various country styles on the album, including a reasonable dose of humour in Singing Cowboy, although the shamelessly sentimental rural-centric Old Man Noll gets things off to a rather cheesy start.
Guest Ed Freeman plays understated Mellotron strings on Parson Brown and slightly more upfront ones on Neon Rose, but that's it on the 'Tron front. Anyway, most certainly not a Mellotron album, but despite my general dislike of the genre, a pretty good country-rock effort, especially Buddy Cage's excellent pedal steel work.
New Trolls Atomic System (1973, 40.40/44.11) ****/TLa Nuova Predica di Padre O'Brien
Ho Visto Poi
Tornere a Credere
Una Notte sul Monte Calvo
Quando l'Erbe Vestiva la Terra
New Trolls Atomic System were an offshoot of the New Trolls, one of Italy's best-known progressive outfits. A messy split between the two main members lead to an uneasy compromise where the splinter faction were known as 'N.T. Atomic System', although initial copies of the album had a sticker on the front with the full name... While the New Trolls were sporadically good, New Trolls Atomic System is a stormer of an album, radiating energy, although it's no great surprise after hearing it to discover that their sole follow-up, Tempi Dispari, was full-on fusion. Basically, there isn't a bad track here, although the band moves through various tempos and moods; in fact, I'd go as far as to say that this is possibly better than anything by their parent band, though I know many readers will disagree.
Renato Rosset played the bulk of the album's keyboards, although both guitarist Vittorio de Scalzi and saxophonist Giorgio Baiocco chipped in, too. Rosset played the minimal Mellotron on offer here, with a very audible cello part, of all things, on opener La Nuova Predica Di Padre O'Brien, with more of the same on Tornere A Credere, but that appears to be it, as the album's flute parts, even the polyphonic ones, appear to be real. Una Notte Sul Monte Calvo is that rather unusual thing, a vinyl bonus track, a single added to later pressings of the LP and carried over onto the CD version. It's actually yet another adaptation of Mussorgsky's 'Night on Bare Mountain', although somewhat shorter than the other two that spring to mind.
So; a damn' good album of high-energy Italian prog, though somewhat thin on the ground Mellotronically, which shouldn't affect your purchasing decision in the slightest. Buy.
Official New Trolls site
Faerie Symphony (1977, 31.57) ***½/T
|The Woods of...
Little Voices of the Tarans
The Seelie Court
The Spell Breaks
The Fairy Song
|Dance of Daoine Sidhe
Memories of Cúichulainn
Aillen Mac Midna
The Unseelie Court
The Woods of...
For those not in the know, Tom Newman engineered one of the biggest-selling albums of the '70s, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, at Virgin's Manor Studios, working with Oldfield on many subsequent releases. Despite (because of?) being a member of famously obscure psychsters July, Newman's solo work has never gained any real success, which hasn't stopped him releasing a good few albums over the years, of which the best-known is probably 1977's Faerie Symphony.
As with Anthony Phillips' The Geese & the Ghost or The Intergalactic Touring Band's eponymous effort, 1977 wasn't a vintage year for prog in the UK (England's mighty Garden Shed being the obvious exception), or at least, wasn't a good time to release something as intricate as Newman's magnum opus. It's actually a pretty decent album, all instrumental, utilising Celtic themes with abandon before they became de rigeur, shifting through various styles, from the relatively contemporary to Medieval, not to mention The Unseelie Court's blistering guitar solo.
Newman plays Mellotron on closer The Woods Of... himself, with a flute part that almost fools the ear into thinking it's real. Despite myself, I actually quite like Faerie Symphony, even if it's the kind of vanity project I should despise. It was clearly assembled with a lot of love and probably little expectation of great sales (I'm sure, as a producer, Newman had some idea of what was going on musically at the time) and could've been so, so much worse. Amazingly, it was actually released on CD in 2009 by those nice people at Esoteric, so you can get out there and hear it for yourself.
Not Ashamed (1992, 42.09) */T
|I Cannot Get You Out of My System
I'm Not Ashamed
Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes
Upon This Rock
|We Come Together
Love Comes True
Lost the Sky Again
The Newsboys are a truly grim proposition; not only is the Aussie-via-the-States band's music (going by 1992's Not Ashamed) the worst kind of pseudo-'modern rock' going, but they're Christians, too, meaning that the album's entire lyrical content consists of the usual, tired old single-issue tosh about their god (note small 'g'), ignoring anything as tedious as real life. Musically, they seem to've been influenced, at least at the time, by U2 and maybe Midnight Oil (well, they are Aussies), with a horrible '80s-hangover production job, full of nasty 'dance-lite' beats and crummy samples, the only plus point being reasonable Hammond use, although it's a definite case of 'too little, too late'. Particular horrors include the schlocky balladry of Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, the attempt at dancefloor rhythms in the ludicrously-titled Boycott Hell (yeah, right) and the shitty choir samples in Dear Shame, but it's all bad, really.
The reason I sat/skipped through this drivel was, of course, its Mellotron content, at a time when the 'Tron was still at a pretty low ebb, which is about the only positive thing I can think of to say about this awful record. John (Mark) Painter plays a nice flute part on Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, but I'd be lying if I said it improved the song in any meaningful way. Please don't go anywhere near this album, on the remote offchance you might have been thinking of doing so. Everything about it, from its vile sleeve through its faceless, second- (third-? Fifth-? Nineteenth-?) hand music to its pointless lyrical platitudes are only going to offend those who like well-crafted, interesting music with something to say for itself. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
See: Paul Colman
|7" (1968) ***/TT
America (Second Amendment)
Diamond-Hard Blue Apples of the Moon
Keith Emerson is noted for his deep loathing of the Mellotron, probably because you can't play honky-tonk piano on it or, in fact, show off at all, although his alleged reason is (get this) along the lines of (referring to the fact that it plays recordings of other musicians), "I don't like playing other people's music", or somesuch. I mean, what? It's quite surprising, then, that he deigned to play one on this b-side with the Nice, back in '68. Diamond-Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon is fairly typical for the period, without being particularly outstanding, with a rather cheesy brass melody (real, I think), and several Mellotron string interjections. It's available on various compilations, and, I believe, reissues of their debut, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, but I wouldn't buy anything specifically to hear it, to be honest. The a-side, America is a different matter, but that's another story...
The rumours that Emerson had one other brush with the Mellotron in his career have recently been disproved, principally by the man himself in a recent ELP bio. Allegedly, he persuaded Greg Lake to play a string line on Abaddon's Bolero, from Trilogy, although he wouldn't touch the hated instrument himself; in fact, it's a multi-overdubbed Moog line, so bang goes that theory. They apparently actually bought an M400 around the same period, loaded it with effects from either that album or Tarkus, then got Lake to trigger these onstage. This arrangement lasted exactly two gigs, until the 'Tron caught fire (!) and the experiment was abandoned. So what is it with '70s über-keyboard players and flammable Mellotrons, anyway?
See: Emerson, Lake & Palmer | Jackson Heights
12 Hits & a Bump [a.k.a. Mas Feedback] (1996, 58.22) ***/T
|Love Song (All Up in My World)
Hit it and Quit it
Turning the Other Way
Too Many Mountains (Big Daddy Mix)
Don't Know Why I Love You
Soul Search (Mother Mix)
Hots on for Nowhere (Bump Track)
Soul Search (Bonus Bump/Nicklebag Mix)/Indanée (Reprise)
Nicklebag were a one-off collaboration between Tackhead's Bernard Fowler and our old friend Stevie Salas, whose sole album, 1996's 12 Hits & a Bump, was re-released the following year, with a revised tracklisting, as Mas Feedback. Unsurprisingly, given Salas' contributions, the album straddles the modern and 'trad' hard rock areas, with a little funk thrown in for good measure, the end result sounding like an updated version of Hendrix' genre-crossing as much as anything. Top tracks include opener Love Song (All Up In My World), brief, drifting instrumental Indanée (and its uncredited reprise at the end of the album), the raucous Sweet Thang and an unusual Zeppelin cover, Presence's underrated Hots On For Nowhere.
Rei Atsumi (Vow Wow, Salas, Sass Jordan) plays Mellotron on Soul Search (Mother Mix), with some nice flute and string parts, although I suspect Jeff Bova's Mellotronish choirs on a few tracks are samples. I don't know if this is still actually available in either of its versions, but Salas fans need to track this down promptly, while anyone into that '90s trad hard rock revival thing should probably give it a go.
See: Stevie Salas
Trouble in Shangri-La (2001, 57.18) **½/T
|Trouble in Shangri-La
Planets of the Universe
Too Far From Texas
That Made Me Stronger
It's Only Love
I Miss You
Fall From Grace
Trouble in Shangri-La was Stephanie "Stevie" Nicks' sixth solo album, twenty years after the first, Bella Donna, in between several joinings and leavings of Fleetwood Mac. It is, entirely unsurprisingly, soft rock par excellence, all assuming that you consider that to be an achievement. It is, of course, impeccably played and produced, although you can hear the ravages of the Coke Years in Stevie's voice; this is probably neither the time nor the place to reiterate the scurrilous rumours (Rumours! Geddit?) concerning exactly which mucous membrane Stevie chose to use after her nasal septum started disintegrating... On a more musicianly note, Tom Petty and various Heartbreakers appear, having collaborated several times before, both in the studio and on stage, and brighten things up a little, though only a little, I'm afraid.
Heartbreaker Benmont Tench plays his Chamberlin on a couple of tracks, with a string part on Candlebright that's too clunky to be real, but too 'real' to be samples, with more of the same, plus flutes, on Everyday. Given how inaudible the Chamberlin tends to be, it's remarkably audible here, although it could easily be on two or three other tracks, too. Anyway, this is a Stevie Nicks album, which tells you more about it than I ever could; squeaky-clean AOR is the order of the day, so don't expect any surprises. A little Chamberlin, but nowhere near enough to actually make this worth hearing.
See: Fleetwood Mac
Barbara Nielsen (1975, 40.14) **/T½
Spel Zonder Plan
Het is Pas Een Begin
Quand il Pleut
Een Hand Vol Zeewind
'Tis Te Riskeren
Assuming we're talking about the same person, Barbara Nielsen is a Dutch actress, who presumably diversified into music in the '70s, releasing at least two albums, an eponymous one in '75 and Blijf Nog'n Beetje two years later. Barbara Nielsen is a pretty typical album of its time and place; mild, string-laden adult pop of the 'who on earth would wish to listen to this now?' variety. It's extremely professional, but a complete irrelevance, albeit nowhere near as bad as, say, BZN.
Unusually, Martin Agterberg's Mellotron (mostly block chords) on several tracks is generally placed next to real ones (arranged string parts), heard on opener Landschap, Elke Dag, Quand Il Pleut and 'Tis Te Riskeren, as far as I can ascertain, although it's some of the less essential use you might encounter. It's almost useless berating this album for being dull; it was aimed at a middle-aged audience nearly forty years ago, for whom lightweight MOR balladry was perfectly acceptable. In other words, this actually does what it does perfectly well, with a little Mellotron to boot, but that doesn't mean you either want or need to hear it.
(Czesław) Niemen (Poland) see:
The Night Watch (Italy) see:
The Voyage (1996, 62.31) ***/TT½
On the High Seas
|Conflict (including The Battle and March of the Dead)
The Voyage Home
The Milwaukee-based Nightales grew out of another local act, Paragone, sharing several members and apparently not sounding dissimilar, in a '90s prog kind of way. Actually, more in a laid-back, Camel-esque kind of way, had they been fully instrumental (OK, maybe they should've been), or maybe Pink Floyd. Yeah, more Floyd, I think. Unfortunately, on their sole album, 1996's The Voyage, memorable melodies seem to be at a premium, making way for the kind of cheeso synth solo heard on Endless Days (endless solos?), although comments like that do the album a disservice, as it's a perfectly pleasant listen for those used to prog's conventions (conventions? How did that happen?), just a slightly unengaging one.
Keys man Mark Walczak plays drummer Ken Lotz' Mellotron here and there, amongst his polysynth warblings and the album's guest woodwind players. Wandering Moon is essentially a 'Tron strings solo, Distant Encounter features some very upfront strings and Conflict has what sounds like 'Tron brass on its more upfront moments, making for a higher rating than I'd expected, to be honest. Most of the album's strings are generic synth, mind you, but it's nice to hear the real thing on a few tracks. Overall, then, a passable enough effort, but a bit bland for many progsters' tastes, I'll warrant, despite a few nice moments and some decent 'Tron work.
Right Back Where We Started From (1976, 46.43) **½/0
|Think I Want to Possess You
Right Back Where We Started From
In Love We Grow
Gotta Be That One
One Last Ride
If I Ever Lose This Heaven
You Got the Love
Life Has Just Begun
Everytime I See a Butterfly
By the time Maxine Nightingale was persuaded to record Right Back Where We Started From, in 1975, she had already had one career in music, between 1969 and '73 and had moved to Germany to start a family. The soul-cum-funk-cum-glam rock stomper(!) was a bit hit in the UK and even bigger in the States, prompting her record company to finance an album in '76, names (unsurprisingly) for the hit. It starts well, with the offbeat funk/pop of Think I Want To Possess You, but soon degenerates into a rather ordinary effort, shifting between uptempo numbers that aren't as catchy as the title track and generic soul ballads, although One Last Ride and You Got The Love are better than average.
Lynton Naif is credited with Mellotron on Life Has Just Begun, a mid-tempo track that doesn't really go anywhere, but I'd love to know what he actually plays, as the (credited) flute on the track is clearly real. Anyway, Right Back Where We Started From seems to've been released on CD, but isn't going to be easy to find. One for mid-'70s soul fans, I think.
Nightwinds (1991, recorded 1979, 45.52) ****/TT½We Were the Young
The Pirates of Rebecca's Choice
Sad But True
As the Crow Flies
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Nightwinds were one of the distressingly lengthy list of bands who recorded an album, then split up before they could release it; unlike other unluckier outfits, though, it finally came out a decade after their demise on US label The Laser's Edge. Although a little derivative, Nightwinds is actually well worth hearing; think a cross between Styx and Saga, with bits of UK thrown in for good measure, not to mention Genesis (As The Crow Flies) and Yes, although their influences are more wide-ranging than that. Saga were obviously particularly high on their list of fave bands (they probably played on the same bill more than once), with closer The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (from F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1921 short story) being a spot-on copy of Saga's lyrical style of the time, although Nightwinds were probably more retro, despite their 'modern' use of synths. No bad tracks here, with The Pirates Of Rebecca's Choice and Out'n'About being particularly good; the album only gets docked another half star for its lack of originality, which isn't necessarily to criticise.
Gerald O'Brien's keyboard work is excellent throughout, with Mellotron on several tracks, although what sounds like a real string section confuses the issue in places. As a result, I think that's 'Tron strings on Crude Exports, though it's difficult to tell on We Were The Young, although the choirs on the track are most definitely tape-driven. None of the highlighted tracks are exactly laden with 'Tron, though there's reasonable use on Benjamin Button, with probably as much choir as strings. Incidentally, Daniel (their machine's current owner) tells me that the third sound on their tape-frame was GC3 brass, although they don't (unsurprisingly?) appear to've used it on the album. So, although only a so-so Mellotron album, stick Nightwinds on your shopping list if US/Canadian progressive is up your street.
Something in the Air (1980, 39.15) ***½/TFantasia
Edge of a Knife
Something in the Air
Barrel of Pain
You Keep Me Hanging on
Nightwing were put together by charismatic bassist/vocalist Gordon Rowley, ex-Strife, a Liverpool-based band who toured exhaustively throughout the '70s. They released two albums over the course of the decade, '75's Rush (occasionally confused with the band of the same name) and '78's Back to Thunder, featuring what has to be one the most stupid lyrics of all time in Feel So Good. Anyway, Nightwing were obviously Rowley's stab at real success, with a more commercial sound than his previous outfit, although their debut, Something in the Air, only shows glimpses of their eventual AOR style. The material varies wildly, from the pseudo-classical Fantasia and its reprise, through the workaday hard rock of Edge Of A Knife, the balladry of the title track, the tedious blues of Boogie Woman (nice title, chaps) to the lengthy cover of Vanilla Fudge's version of the Supremes' You Keep Me Hanging On.
Although the band's regular keys man was ex-Nutz member Kenny Newton (Nutz had simplified their approach by this point, eventually becoming Rage), the mysterious Berington van Campen played extra keys, as well as writing Fantasia. As a result, I assume it's him playing the Mellotron flutes on both parts of his piece, plus occasional choirs on You Keep Me Hanging On, although all the strings appear to be real.
Nightwing went on to release several more albums, always occupying an odd, rather dead-end niche in UK hard rock circles, while finding some measure of success on the continent. I can't have played this album for 20 years, and I certainly didn't expect to find any 'Tron work on it, so thanks to Mark for alerting me to its presence. Not a classic, but fans of the genre may find something here to interest them.