Nikolaj & Piloterne
Nine Days Wonder
Nine Inch Nails
Lige på Kornet (2002, 40.03) **½/T
|Åbn Din Dør
Kun Os To
Det Gode Selskab
I Må Ku' Se
Baby Du Fader
Vil Du Vente på Mig
|Selvom Alting Går Ned
Nikolaj Christensens formed Nikolaj & Piloterne (Nikolaj & the Pilots) in the early '90s, after a brief teenybop period, Lige på Kornet being something like his seventh release. And it sounds like...? Faceless, Danish-language adult pop/rock, frankly, at its least dull on Kun Os To and Super.
Producer Frank Birch Pontoppidan plays real-sounding Mellotron, with strings on opener Åbn Din Dør and Super, nicely upfront on the latter. The album was partially recorded at Abba's Polar facility in Stockholm, but I was under the impression that their Mellotron was out of commission at that time (if not now), so hard to say where they sourced a working machine.
Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinaï (2003, 65.03) ****/TAct I
Nil are a current French progressive outfit whose mix'n'match approach to the genre is refreshingly postmodern, as they combine elements of '70s symphonic prog, '80s metal, jazz and more recent influences into a mélange of progressiveness, creating something new in the process. Their third album, Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinaï ('Forty Days on the Sinaï'), seems to be rated the most highly by online reviewers; it's a concept work involving Atlantis and ancient Egypt, consisting of two lengthy acts, each broken up into numerous shorter pieces. A great deal of the album is instrumental, although there are vocal passages, including a spoken-word piece by (presumably) Audrey Casella, which is entirely unintelligible to non-French speakers.
Although there are many acoustic instruments credited, including soprano sax, cello, bass clarinet and harp, the overriding sound of the album is that of a regular rock band, with a great deal of guitar and modern synth work, although the latter never shifts into 'cheese' territory; keys man Benjamin Croizy appears to know what he's doing, and never overuses the 'typical' digital sounds. Although it's credited, there's actually very little Mellotron (picture of a battered face-plate in the booklet) on the album; all I can hear in the first movement is a brief choir part towards the end, although there's a major strings and choir section about halfway through Act II, before the more 'standard' 'boards kick in again.
So; a good album that will almost certainly get better with repeated listening (which I shall find time for... When?). Not much Mellotron, though, so don't go buying it on those grounds. Incidentally, their follow-up, 2005's Novo Sub Sole (reviewed here), definitely uses samples.
See: Samples etc.
Nilsson Schmilsson (1971, 35.21) ***/T
|Gotta Get Up
Early in the Morning
The Moonbeam Song
Let the Good Times Roll
|Jump Into the Fire
I'll Never Leave You
Pussy Cats (1974, 37.02/56.08) **½/T
|Many Rivers to Cross
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Don't Forget Me
All My Life
Old Forgotten Soldier
Save the Last Dance for Me
Mucho Mungo/Mt. Elga
Loop De Loop
Rock Around the Clock
Down by the Sea
The Flying Saucer Song
Turn Out the Light
Save the Last Dance for Me]
Knnillssonn (1977, 37.04) **½/T½
|All I Think About is You
I Never Thought I'd Get This Lonely
Who Done it?
Lean on Me
Blanket for a Sail
What irony; fêted throughout his career as a 'classic' songwriter, Harry Nilsson remains best-known for his overwrought version of Badfinger's cheese classic Without You, although we can't hold him responsible for the appalling Mariah Carey's abominable version, I suppose. After watching his Hollywood drinking buddies die around him, Nilsson, career in freefall, hung on until 1994, before finally drinking himself to death.
Nilsson Schmilsson is a somewhat mixed bag, despite (or because of?) containing the aforementioned Without You; few of the songs strike me as being 'classic', while the supposed 'hard rock' of Jump Into The Fire, well, er, isn't really. Very tame, although I'm sure I'm heavily missing the point (The Point! Geddit? Oh, never mind...). Maybe the album made more sense at the time; listening to it thirty years later, it's impossible not to compare it with everything that's happened since. Mellotron on two tracks; Driving Along has strings and maybe brass, played by both Harry and Richard Perry, while Nilsson tackles the flutes on The Moonbeam Song alone. Hardly classic use, to be honest, although it's always nice to hear a reasonable Mellotron part.
The Moonbeam Song also turns up on 1974's Son of Dracula (soundtrack to the film of the same name), although I believe it's the same recording as on Schmilsson. Pussy Cats from the same year has one Mellotron track, too, with exceedingly smooth strings on Black Sails (a.k.a. Black Sails In The Moonlight), one of the album's least irritating efforts. Produced by the 'lost weekend' John Lennon, the album is decidedly uneven, not helped by Harry's rupturing of a vocal cord during recording, a fact he hid from Lennon (how?). Several dodgy covers do nothing to improve matters, so I think you're probably best off giving this a miss.
Nilsson's penultimate release, 1977's Knnillssonn (you'll know the sleeve, if not the contents) features his last Mellotron use (thanks, Mark). The album is pretty much what you'd expect from a terminal alcoholic, although the amusing talking blues (Nilsson style) Who Done It? caught my attention, while balladic closer Perfect Day (not that one) lends the album a hint of late-in-the-day gravitas. Someone (Nilsson himself?) plays Mellotron on two tracks, with flutes (later morphing into strings) on Old Bones and flutes running right through Blanket For A Sail, for what it's worth.
Anyway, if you like what Nilsson does, you probably already own Nilsson Schmilsson and if you don't, you won't; just don't go buying it for its Mellotron use. Conversely, while Pussy Cats is a dullard of an album, it has one excellent Mellotron track, although neither of Knnillssonn's are essential. Typical. Little-known fact about Harry Nilsson (gleaned from Wikipedia - sorry): both 'Mama' Cass Elliott and Keith Moon died in his London flat; no wonder he got rid of the place soon after the latter's demise.
We Never Lost Control (1973, 35.35) ***/TTDays in Bright Light
The Great Game
Angels Due to Arrive
We Grasp the Naked Meat
Only the Dancers (1974, 38.42) **½/TTLong Distance Line
Only the Dancers
It's Not My Fault
Time is Due
The Way I'm Living
Nine Days Wonder formed in the mid-'60s, but didn't release anything until 1971's Nine Days Wonder; that version of the band broke up, leaving vocalist Walter Seyffer to join Medusa, who became the second version of Nine Days Wonder (their countrymen The Scorpions pulled a similar stunt a couple of years later). Their second album, with an almost entirely new lineup, was We Never Lost Control, which falls into the same general area as Message, being rather middling prog-ish German rock, without any major distinguishing features. It's not a bad album, but not something to which I expect to return that often. Freddie Münster plays Mellotron on three tracks, with full-on cellos and strings on Fisherman's Dream, a brief flute line at the beginning of the oddly-titled We Grasp The Naked Meat, with a string part later on in the nine-minute track and some very background strings in closer Armaranda.
They followed up with 1974's Only the Dancers, which is, by and large, more mainstream than its predecessor, more in line with Message's later albums. The nearest the album gets to a highlight is closer Moment, which is the only progressive track here, if you use the term loosely. 'Tron strings from guest Steve Robinson (from Twenty Sixty Six & Then) on It's Not My Fault and The Way I'm Living, although the only part worth writing home about is on Moment, where he actually goes for it properly, though it's a case of too little, too late, I'm afraid.
Nine Days Wonder's fourth and last album was the fairly useless A Sonnet to Billy Frost (**), which is probably even worse than the later Message albums I've heard, to continue the comparison. Of these albums, We Never Lost Control is clearly the better of the two, but neither's a classic in any way whatsoever, so unless you're a German prog fanatic, I'd advise going elsewhere. OK, some passable Mellotron work, but nothing you couldn't live without.
Bizarre official site
The Downward Spiral (1994, 64.57) ***/½
|Mr. Self Destruct
March of the Pigs
I Do Not Want This
|Big Man With a Gun
A Warm Place
The Downward Spiral
I've never really understood why so-called 'industrial' music is so popular; I remember when the term was first used to describe bands like Einsturzende Neubauten and SPK, who were using genuine industrial machinery on stage and generally making a fine old racket. NIN and their ilk, to my ears, anyway, sound like a goth/metal crossover with 'industrial' sounding samples; not the same thing at all really, is it? NIN are not so much led by Trent Reznor as 'are essentially his solo project', with other musicians taken on board as and when they're needed, but given that Reznor runs the whole show, his/their work achieves a kind of consistency often missing when a committee (i.e. other band members) are involved.
1994's The Downward Spiral is famous for hosting possibly Reznor's best song, Hurt (as covered monstrously well by Johnny Cash), but the bulk of the record is more typical of his style, being, basically, electronic rock: sampled drums and sequenced synths paired with metallic guitars and sinister, up-close vocals, used to surprisingly good effect in places, not least the piledriving I Do Not Want This. Reznor plays skronky Mellotron flutes on the title track.
See: Samples etc.
All of Us (1968, 35.48/46.05) ***½/T
The Touchables (All of Us)
The Show Must Go on
Girl in the Park
Frankie the Great
|You Can Try
Everybody Loves the Clown
St. John's Wood Affair
Oh! What a Performance
C Side of Ocho Rios]
This is the band who took Kurt Cobain's crew to court, eventually settling the matter amicably. Alex Spyropoulos and Patrick Campbell-Lyons started working together in 1967, a few months after Cobain was born, releasing their debut, The Story of Simon Simopath, that autumn, making it possibly the first narrative 'concept' album. Despite being tagged 'psychedelic', the duo were more about well-crafted songwriting than studio trickery, although their 'classic', Rainbow Chaser, used phasing (actually ADT) extensively.
Rainbow Chaser opened their second album, 1968's All of Us, and although it's the album's best track, that's not to denigrate the rest of the material. There are a couple of slightly regrettable moments, not least the children's choir on Everybody Loves The Clown and the rhyming of 'Frankie' with 'wanky' in Frankie The Great, but overall, we're talking songs of the quality of Girl In The Park and St. John's Wood Affair, making this a solid late-'60s effort, while not up with the likes of The Zombies' deathless Odessey & Oracle or Fairfield Parlour's From Home to Home.
Very little Mellotron, to be honest (player unknown), as most of the album's strings are real, although the overlapping single string notes on You Can Try are definitely a MkII, although that seems to be it. A good album, then, without being outstanding, though one killer track in Rainbow Chaser. Try to pick up the expanded CD of the album, as most of the bonus tracks are worth the effort, unlike most.
dA dA dA (1994, 55.33) **½/TT½
|dA dA dA
What We Did on Our Holidays
Mourir Avant Quinze Ans
Whales of Tadoussac
|Day & the Night
Desert Island Song
dA dA dA was The Nits' first international release (the band have been together since the mid-'70s), sung in English, although it didn't make global superstars of the band. Listening to it, it's hardly surprising; it isn't a bad album, but its skewed take on mid-'90s pop was never going to get them that platinum disc. The title track seems to be an offbeat eulogy for someone's father, thus the childlike title, with most of the rest of the album being folk-influenced vaguely Celtic pop/rock, just that little bit too far from the mainstream to sell in large quantities, although that was clearly its intention.
Keys man Robert Jan Stips was a lynchpin of revered Dutch progsters Supersister in the early-to-mid-'70s. His association with The Nits began when he produced their 1979 effort Tents, joining the band full-time in 1983. I don't know if he's used any Mellotron on any other Nits albums, but he gets a good bit in here, with very obvious strings on Dreams, a short flute solo part and more strings on What We Did On Our Holidays, strings (over synth ones) on Mourir Avant Quinze Ans and flute stabs on Homeless Boy. It's almost as if they recorded the album, song by song, in its eventual running order and Stips could only make it for a few days, so he only contributed on tracks two to five. Odd.
Overall, then, a reasonable enough album if you like the style, inoffensive, but a bit dull for the rest of us. Genuinely good Mellotron use, though, almost to the point of me saying 'worth it for that if you see it cheap'.
RossoNoemi (2011, 37.27) **½/TUp
Vuoto a Perdere
Odio Tutti i Cantanti
Poi Inventi il Modo
Le Luci dell'Alba
Veronica "Noémi" Scopelliti broke into the mainstream due to her involvement in Italy's 2008 X-Factor, so it's a minor surprise that her second album, 2011's RossoNoemi, injects a level of rock into the expected pop. Opening with the dulcet tones of a grinding Hammond, powerchords and full-blown widdly guitar solos are all over the record, although the material will only disappoint anyone looking for anything out of the ordinary.
Roger Manning Jr. (Jellyfish, many others) plays Mellotron, with background strings on Fortunatamente and flutes on Sospesa, although all other string parts sound real. While the album has its moments, it's basically lightweight pop/rock, so don't go too far out of your way.
|7" (1972) **/TT
Akiva "Nof" Naparstek' (ףונ אביקע; male, in case you were wondering) is an Israeli 'poet and song-writer, composer, politician, lawyer and a journalist' (thanks, Wikipedia), whose 1972 single Jezebel (or Izevel; לבזיג) was a major hit. As with many other Israeli records from the era, it's a folk-influenced pop number, of next to no interest to the outside world, klezmer fans excepted.
An unknown musician plays Mellotron strings across the track; the first Mellotron in Israel? It's certainly the first track I'm aware of, for what that's worth. Anyway, if I find out anything else about this (b-side? Was it on an album?) I shall report back.
Fra Kæreste til Grin (2010, 41.31) ***/T
|Fra Kæreste til Grin
Øl på Bryggen
Alting Går i Ring
Låne Mine Øjne
Dragen på Din Ryg
En Lille Ny (Sang)
Pigen Med det Røde Telt
Rasmus Nøhr is a Danish singer-songwriter who leapt to fame with a duet with Ida Corr, Det Glade Pizzabud, in the early 2000s. After his insipid third album, 2008's I Stedet for en Tatovering, 2010's Fra Kæreste til Grin is a bit of an improvement, better tracks including På Værtshus, the slow-burn Låne Mine Øjne and En Lille Ny (Sang).
Tim Christensen plays one of his M400s on the album, with strings (combined with brass? And/or choir?) on Sød Musik and (I'm going out on a limb here) Mellotron guitar (doubled with vibes?) on På Værtshus. I can't prove the latter sighting, but it has that Mellotronic combination of attack and volume fluctuation that I've heard on other lesser-known sounds.
See: Samples etc.
I Nomadi Interpretano Guccini (1974, 37.35) ***/0Asia
Il Vecchio e il Bambino
Canzone della Bambina Portoghese
L'Isola Non Trovata
I Nomadi's fourth album, 1974's I Nomadi Interpretano Guccini (originally only released in quad, it seems), does precisely that, the band interpreting six songs written by Italian legend Francesco Guccini in their own 'orchestral progressive' style. The end result is a prog-lite release, not dissimilar to many other Italian kind-of progressive albums of the era, at its best on opener Asia, although it's all a bit insipid for my tastes.
Guitarist Chris Dennis is credited with Mellotron, but, along with the credited synths, I'd love to know where. All string parts appear to be real, as does the vibraphone on closer La Collina. Is it backing up the strings? Almost impossible to say.
Nonames [a.k.a. Ktzat Acheret] (1975, 43.15) ***½/½
The Little Prince
Nonames (or No Names, a.k.a. Ktzat Acheret) were one of a handful of Israeli progressive bands in the '70s, along with the better-known Zingale and the recently-discovered Atmosphera; they were apparently something of a 'supergroup', comprising members of other fairly well-known outfits. I believe Nonames was their sole album, and is a mixture of psych, folk and early progressive elements, jumping from one style to another in a slightly disconcerting, though refreshing way. In fact, I think it's fair to say that every track on the album sounds different to every other, but if you're fine with diversity (and why wouldn't you be?), you stand a good chance of enjoying this.
Very little Mellotron indeed, with strings on the frankly bizarre Bissalad from Shlomo Gronich, but really not enough to be worth bothering with. In fact, where the hell did they get access to a Mellotron in mid-'70s Israel? I know there's a couple in Tel Aviv now, but then? Must've been one somewhere. Anyway, a good, unusual album that covers a lot of ground in forty-odd minutes, and which will doubtless repay repeated listens. Worth the effort, though not for the Mellotron.
Response to the Birddream (2013, 41.38) ***½/T
|Response to the Birddream
I'm in Shadow
Long Since Gone
You Go Cry
As We Fall
|Will I Find a Road?
Why Are They Holding Me Back?
They Love You
The Opening Within
Emma Nordenstam combines making music of a quiet, melancholic beauty with writing children's songs. Is there something wrong in hoping that they, too, have a quiet, melancholic beauty? Her third album, 2013's Response to the Birddream, her first fully English-language record, is mostly acoustic, highlights including the brief, opening title track, Headlong, As We Fall and seven-minute closer The Opening Within, the only full band track on the album.
Anekdoten's Nicklas Barker is credited with Mellotron on The Opening Within, recorded by Mattias 'Änglagård' Olsson. I know both of them have used hardware sample players, but the flutes and strings on the track sound like they could be genuine tape-replay. Could be. Hardly the best reason to hear this lovely album, either way.