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Erik Norlander  (US)  see:

Erik Norlander

Bebo Norman  (US)

Bebo Norman, 'Myself When I am Real'

Myself When I am Real  (2002,  49.14)  *½/½

Our Mystery
Beautiful You
Falling Down
Great Light of the World
Where the Trees Stand Still
Everything
Just to Look at You
Long Way Home
Under the Sun
So Afraid
My Love
Back to Me
Bebo Norman, 'Try'

Try  (2004,  44.19)  **/T

Finding You
Nothing Without You
Disappear
Try
Standing in Your Silence
Other Side of Day
Soldier
Drifting
How You Love Me
Yes I Will
Borrow Mine
Nothing Without You

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Bebo Norman (where the hell do these people get their names?) is a pretty typical modern Christian artist, or 'Xian' as I sometimes see it written to my great amusement, as it looks like the kind of name given to the aliens in a particularly dodgy SF effort, probably written by L. Ron Hubbard or someone. Did I say L. Ron Hubbard in a CCM review? Whoops... He rose to prominence with noted CCM act Caedmon's Call (Derek Webb is another ex-member), who also used a smattering of Mellotron on 1999's 40 Acres.

Myself When I am Real is his fourth solo album, and apparently most successful to date. Why? Why is it his most successful? Why did anyone buy it at all? It's horrible, in that utterly insipid way that seemingly only committed Christians (maybe they should be) can manage, although, to give him some vague credit, at least he doesn't whine on about his god incessantly, or at least, not as overtly as many of his god-bothering peers. It's still pretty awful, with the handful of less terrible tracks (Where The Trees Stand Still, My Love) being almost-palatable were it not for his over-emoting vocals, which grate within seconds of first hearing them. Carl Hergesell plays (credited) Mellotron on one track, Just To Look At You; while the flutes are unconvincing, I suspect they're something else entirely, as you can hear a 'Tron cello at the end of the track, as everything else dies away. As, indeed, you would wish the album to.

Norman followed up with 2004's Try, and while I know it's a falling-off-a-log-easy target, wouldn't it be nice if he had? Instead, we get more utterly formulaic CCM, excepting his continuing (and thankful) refusal to make every track a 'worship song', for which I thank the god (small 'g') he believes in and I don't. Somehow, though, it's a gnat's less infuriating than its predecessor, giving it an extra half star. Like he cares. Mellotron from Matt Bronleewe this time, with a major string part on Soldier, although nothing obvious on Drifting, despite rumours.

So; bad (i.e. typical) CCM, very little Mellotron. Don't. Even. Think. About. It.

Official site

See: Caedmon's Call | City on a Hill

Larry Norman  (US)

Larry Norman, 'So Long Ago the Garden'

So Long Ago the Garden  (1973,  35.46)  **/T

Meet Me at the Airport (Fly, Fly, Fly)
It's the Same Old Story
Lonely By Myself
Be Careful What You Sign
Baroquen Spirits
Christmas Time
She's a Dancer
Soul Survivor
Nightmare #71

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

If you can believe the insane hagiography of Larry Norman's Wikipedia entry, he was a leading light in the pre-CCM Jesus Rock movement, releasing his best-known work between the late '60s and mid-'70s. Said entry claims that he released over a hundred albums in his lifetime (he died in 2008 at the age of sixty), but going by the list, many of those are compilations, bootlegs and other 'don't counts'. 1973's So Long Ago the Garden was apparently his favourite, but to the secular ear, it's no more than a dullsville soft-rock singer-songwriter effort with tedious, Goddy lyrics, the nearest it gets to a highpoint being the Dylanesque talking blues Nightmare #71.

Again, according to Wikipedia, Lonely By Myself, "...was recorded using the same Mellotron The Beatles used on Strawberry Fields Forever while Paul McCartney was in the next room recording Live And Let Die", to which I say: bullshit. Because? Because the track contains Mellotron choirs, not available on the (Abbey Road) MkII used for Strawberry Fields. It may well be one of Macca's M400s, but this one 'fact' displays the level of accuracy and pathetic hero-worship of his Wiki entry. Believe at your peril. Anyway, an exceedingly dull album with one passable 'Tron track. Maybe not.

Official site

North Mississippi Allstars  (US)

North Mississippi Allstars, 'Polaris'

Polaris  (2003,  45.04)  ***/T

Eyes
Meet Me in the City
Conan
All Along
Otay
Kids These Daze
One to Grow on
Never in All My Days
Bad Bad Pain
Polaris
Time For the Sun to Rise
Be So Glad

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The North Mississippi Allstars are fronted by legendary (and now late) producer Jim Dickinson (Big Star)'s sons Luther and Cody, whose remit appears to be 'sound as much like a '70s band as possible'. Do I have a problem with this? No I don't. However, their third album, 2003's Polaris, is good, yet not great; the songs aren't bad, but there's a faint air of second-handness about it all, I'm afraid. Better tracks include Otay and Kids These Daze, but their southern soul influences spoil many a halfway decent track (personal opinion, obviously). And, er, what's with the bloke rapping on Be So Glad? Doesn't work at all, guys. Throwing a quick version of The Allmans' Jessica in at the end of the album is reasonably witty, though.

Dad plays Mellotron; is this the M400 pictured on one of Big Star's Third issues? Anyway, we get strings and flutes on All Along, and while it could be elsewhere, that appears to be it for definite. So; not bad, but a little disappointing, with far less Mellotron than there might've been.

Official site

Northern Pikes  (Canada)

Northern Pikes, 'Neptune'

Neptune  (1992,  66.12)  **/T

Twister
Believe
All This Man Can Do
Worlds Away
Why Cry
Somedays
Crocodile Tears
What it's Really About
Hold on
Chain of Flowers
Françesca
Everything
Straight Line
Black Cat
The Way You Are

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

It's impossible to tell from the sleeve of the Northern Pikes' Neptune what it's going to sound like, although there are several things I would've guessed before a Springsteen/Bryan bloody Adams crossover thing. Opening with the barroom boogie of Twister is not designed to appeal to my good self, not that I'd imagine they give a shit. Least offensive tracks? Françesca and Straight Line. And why exactly does closer The Way You Are start with a quick orchestral sample of a snatch of Mussorgsky's Night On Bare Mountain?

Mellotronically speaking, credited choirs on Believe from Greg Johns, and uncredited strings on Chain Of Flowers, including a 'Tron solo on the intro, and Straight Line, which may or may not be from Ross Nykiforuk, who gets a generic 'keyboards' credit in the booklet. So; an overlong album, especially for the straightforward style the band peddled, with very little 'Tron. Next...

Official site

NoSound  (Italy)  see: Samples

Notwist  (Germany)

Notwist, 'Neon Golden'

Neon Golden  (2002,  41.28)  **½/T½

One Step Inside Doesn't Mean
  You Understand
Pilot
Pick Up the Phone

Trashing Days
This Room
Solitaire
One With the Freaks
Neon Golden
Off the Rails
Consequence

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The Notwist are a German English-language indie band, who sound like... pretty much any other English-language indie band, frankly. OK, they have a specifically German electronica aspect to their sound, but not enough to actually place them geographically, which I'm sure is the point. Although a handful of tracks have interesting elements (One Step Inside Doesn't Mean You Understand, the banjo on Trashing Days), most of them drone on for a while before finishing, which isn't really a very encouraging thing to say about anything much, is it?

The exceedingly Germanically-named Roberto di Gioia plays Mellotron, with strings on Pilot, while Pick Up The Phone opens with a solo flute part, carrying on through the track, although with real strings and woodwind, the issue is confused in places. Overall, then, a rather dull album with a couple of decent Mellotronic moments. Maybe not, eh?

Official site

Salim Nourallah  (US)

Salim Nourallah, 'Snowing in My Heart'

Snowing in My Heart  (2007,  42.43)  ***/TTT

Hang on
So Down
The Wicked Are Winning

Days Disappear
This Soft Existence
It's Okay to Be Sad

Erased
I Miss You
Don't Be Afraid
It's Lonely When You're All Alone
Snowing in My Heart
The Terror
Salim Nourallah, 'Hit Parade'

Hit Parade  (2012,  46.31)  ****/T

38 Rue de Sévigné
Unstoppable
Channel 5
Hit Parade

Never Felt Better
The Shootist
Goddamn Life
Warriors of Love
Travolta
The Quitter
Warrior Boy
Friends for Life
Everybody Knows
Miette
Salim Nourallah, 'Skeleton Closet'

Skeleton Closet  (2015,  39.57)  ***/T

Dead Man's Stare
This Town

The Bullies Are Back
Terlingua
Permanent Holiday
Tokens of Your Cruelty
Andalucia in the Spring
Two Years
Crocodiles
Two Lizards
To the Desert
Prisoner

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

I haven't heard Salim Nourallah's first Mellotron album, 2005's Beautiful Noise, but its follow-up from two years later, Snowing in My Heart, is a decent enough indie/singer-songwriter effort, avoiding most of the modern clichés, although its downside is a preponderance of rather mournful ballads, particularly closer The Terror, which ends the album in an unnecessarily downbeat mode. Nonetheless, better tracks include The Wicked Are Winning, It's Okay To Be Sad and the '60s-ish Erased, hauling the album up to a respectable three star rating. Mellotron from Nourallah, Rip Rowan and Chris Holt, with flutes and upfront strings on opener Hang On and The Wicked Are Winning, flutes on So Down, flutes and MkII 'moving strings' on This Soft Existence (is this a sample use giveaway?), flutes on It's Okay To Be Sad and I Miss You, oboe (?), brass and flutes on It's Lonely When You're All Alone, flutes and strings on the title track and strings on closer The Terror. I have to say, I'm not convinced real tapes an'stuff are involved here, given the number of Mellotron sounds used, but I could well be wrong, so this stays until until/if I find out any more.

The difference a few years can make... 2012's Hit Parade is a vast improvement, sitting somewhere between powerpop and singer-songwriter territory, with a total dearth of indieness, thankfully. Best tracks? I don't believe there's a single duffer on the record, but its highlights are probably Never Felt Better, Goddamn Life, Travolta and The Quitter, which is to ignore material of the quality of Everybody Knows and Miette. Perhaps surprisingly, three Mellotron players are credited: Nourallah, Rip Rowan again and Richard Martin, making it strange that it's only obviously audible on two tracks, with chordal strings on Channel 5 and a high string part on the title track. Hardly a reason to buy this rather good album, anyway.

I don't know if it's just me, but 2015's Skeleton Closet sounds like something of a backwards step. Saying that, songs such as Permanent Holiday, Tokens Of Your Cruelty and the white reggae of Two Years keep the standard up, but too much of the album slips back into the rather clunky kind of early 2000s indie that I thought he'd put behind him. Just Nourallah on Mellotron this time round, with something (high-end cellos?) in the background on Dead Man's Stare and This Town and a major string part on To The Desert, although, this time, I'm not 100% convinced it's real.

Official site

Heather Nova  (Bermuda)

Heather Nova, 'Siren'

Siren  (1998,  60.50)  **/T

London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do)
Blood of Me
Heart and Shoulder
What a Feeling
Valley of Sound
I'm the Girl
Winterblue
I'm Alive
Widescreen
Paper Cup
Avalanche
Make You Mine
Ruby Red
Not Only Human

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Heather "Nova" Frith was born in Bermuda and grew up all over the place, before settling in the States, meaning that calling her 'Bermudan' is probably a bit of a misnomer, if technically correct. 1998's Siren is her fourth album, fitting firmly into the 'poppy female singer-songwriter' niche, making it all but unlistenable to those of us who prefer a little substance in our music; this is about as drippy as it gets, fake emotion spilling out of the speakers and staining your carpet. I'm sure it's all about the words, as usual, but so what? So what if she sings about love in all its guises? So what? So what? Sowhatsowhatsowhat, you boring little... And regarding track five, you don't think she's heard these guys, do you? She's only a step or two away from them...

Guy Fletcher (Robbie Williams)'s Mellotron finally kicks in on Widescreen, with a vaguely 'Strawberry Fields' flute part, although that seems to be it, as all the strings appear to be real. There are so many, many better Mellotron tracks than the one contained herein that you really would have to be either a) someone who likes this kind of drivel, or b) mad, to actually shell out good money for this dross. Just don't.

Official site

Nova Social  (US)

Nova Social, 'The Jefferson Fracture'

The Jefferson Fracture  (2002,  55.32)  ****/T

Fingerprints
Sailor
There There
I Got Lucky
Hey Carol
Caravan of Kindness
The Mechanic
Horse Song Part 1
One Table Over
Horse Song Part 2
You Don't Have to Go to Bed Early Anymore
Hardware Store

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Nova Social are a new US band who fall pretty much into the 'intelligent pop' vein of Jellyfish et al., although they add enough of a contemporary touch to not be considered copyists in any way. The band use a variety of instrumental colouring, both old and new, so The Mechanic, for example, features MiniMoog next to a drum machine and a sampler, whereas Caravan Of Kindness is all-traditional, complete with string quartet. The songwriting is excellent, with some particularly insightful and witty lyrics, like this snippet from 'Hey Carol':

'Hey Carol, did someone make you cry?
Well maybe I can kick his ass for you,
Or maybe I can get my brother to'
(reprising later as)
'Or maybe I can get my mother to'.

Superb! And all this to a Moog line to die for. There isn't actually an awful lot of Mellotron on the album, the only really audible moment being a few bars of strings in the middle of Sailor. There's also some flutes on I Got Lucky, but they're way down in the mix.

So; not a 'Tron classic, but a great album, perfect for summer listening (all assuming we get a decent summer this year). If you like this area of music, buy instantly.

Official site

Novalis  (Germany)

Novalis, 'Banished Bridge'

Banished Bridge  (1973,  37.35)  ***½/½

Banished Bridge
High Evolution

Laughing
Inside of Me (Inside of You)
Novalis, 'Konzerte'

Konzerte  (1977,  61.28)  ****/T½

Bolero
Dronsz
Es Färbte Sich die Wiese Grün
Impressionen
Wer Schmetterlinge Lachen Hört
Wunderschätze
Sommerabend
  Wetterleuchten
  Am Strand
  Der Traum
  Ein Neuer Tag
  Ins Licht
Novalis, 'Brandung'

Brandung  (1977,  33.00)  ***½/T½

Irgendwo, Irgendwann
Wenn Nicht Mehr Zahlen und Figuren
Astralis
Sonnenwende
  Brandung
  Feuer Bricht in die Zeit
  Sonnenfinsternis
  Dämmerung
Novalis, 'Vielleicht Bist du ein Clown?'

Vielleicht Bist du ein Clown?  (1978,  34.43)  ***/T½

Der Geigenspieler
Zingaresca
Manchmal Fällt der Regen Eben Lang
Vielleicht Bist du ein Clown
City Nord
Die Welt Wird Alt und Wieder Jung
Novalis, 'Flossenengel'

Flossenengel  (1979,  45.14)  ***/T

Atlanto
Im Brunnen der Erde
Brennende Freiheit
Im Netz
Flossenengel
Walzer für Einen Verlorenen
  Traum

Sklavenzoo
Alle Wollen Leben
Rückkehr
Ob Tier, ob Mensch, ob Baum

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Novalis are one of those odd, frequently German bands who owned a Mellotron (an EMI M400 in this case, fact fans), then either barely used it, or buried it below layers of other stuff (see: Mythos). Why? I keep thinking I can hear it on their records, only to realise it's real flute, or string synth, so it's quite possible it was also used on their two best albums, 1975's Novalis (****) and the following year's Sommerabend (****), although it's not specifically credited on either. For some reason, apart from the enormously dull Eloy, who were on German EMI, the best German prog bands seemed to end up on Brain, the next rung down were on Pilz, with the also-rans on Sky; Novalis were on Brain for much of their history, and seem to me to be the country's third most popular home-grown prog outfit, after Eloy and another Brain band, the wonderful Grobschnitt.

Banished Bridge is a pleasant, if slightly ineffectual album, with side two being unable to match the side-long title track in the quality stakes. The English-language vocals are a bit of a distraction, to be honest, which the band quickly rectified by ditching them, but the music's not bad, in a drifting sort of way. None of Grobschnitt's dynamics here; Novalis were defiantly laid-back, almost to the point of being laid-out in places. Lutz Rahn is credited with the usual organ/piano/Mellotron/synth, but as I said above, it's pretty hard to spot the 'Tron. The choirs on Banished Bridge itself don't sound like any of the standard sounds, but with only one band member credited with vocals, they're unlikely to be massed backing vox. Some faint strings on High Evolution may be 'Tron, too, as could the solo trumpet sound on Inside Of Me (Inside Of You), but it really is hard to tell.

1977's Konzerte is incredibly long for a single LP (I own shorter doubles), and the sound does suffer on vinyl, though I'm sure the CD would sound a load better, if only it were available. It effectively consists of the bulk of their two previous albums, with only one track missing from each, and nothing from Banished Bridge, though to be fair, they had changed their sound considerably in the interim. After the presumed non-'Tronness of Novalis and Sommerabend, you would've thought that a live album with an M400 specifically credited would finally feature the instrument a little more prominently. But no. Rahn's over-reliance on his Solina smothers the sound in long, sustained string parts, although the 'Tron does turn up in places. Impressionen and Wunderschätze feature flute parts from new member Fred Mühlböck, doubled on 'Tron flutes, and I think it's 'Tron flutes, and maybe choir, on the excellent Wer Schmetterlinge Lachen Hört, but Rahn obviously believed in hiding its light under a bushel, for reasons best known to himself. I still can't decide which keyboard makes the pitchbent string sounds on Sommerabend; it sounds more like string synth than 'Tron, but I wasn't aware you could pitchbend a Solina, so who knows? The flute melody on its opening and closing parts (Wetterleuchten and Ins Licht) sound Mellotronic, too, with a final note below the range of the regular flute, but within the Mellotron's.

Recorded and released later the same year, Brandung has a more upbeat sound, presumably in keeping with the times, although the material is generally of a lower standard than on their previous two albums. Irgendwo, Irgendwann starts the album off nicely enough, and Wenn Nicht Mehr Zahlen Und Figuren is a pleasant enough ballad, but the side-long Sonnenwende is nowhere near as good as Sommerabend, for example. Rahn's Mellotron is limited to a few string notes on Irgendwo, Irgendwann, flutes (alongside the real one) on the first part of Sonnenwende, Brandung itself and choir on part three, Sonnenfinsternis (thanks for those, Tommy).

Novalis' last even remotely 'progressive' album, Vielleicht Bist du ein Clown?, actually features more Mellotron than anything else in their catalogue, for some odd reason, although that Solina's as high in the mix as ever. Der Geigenspieler has some quite upfront strings, and Die Welt Wird Alt Und Wieder Jung has both cellos and strings, so although the album's no better than 'average', there's more 'Tron here than on anything else they recorded. Oh, and the inner sleeve pic is exactly the same as the one inside Brandung's gatefold, which was shatteringly lazy of someone in Brain's art department. They make up for it slightly by having a Hipgnosis sleeve, but it's not exactly one of their classics, either. Their last 'Tron album was '79's Flossenengel, which is as good as its predecessor, maybe (surprisingly) marginally better. Novalis seemed to tap into a Pink Floyd vein on some tracks, notably side one's eight-minute Im Netz. It's a bit of a cheek calling this a 'Tron album at all, although the strings on Walzer Für Einen Verlorenen Traum are quite upfront, but there's nothing else to be heard.

So; hmmm. Not a bad band, but generally a little uninspired, to be brutally honest. If you're going to buy one album, make it Konzerte, since it covers most of their best material, while also being their 'best' Mellotron album, although that's not saying much. For the enthusiast, all the above are just about worth hearing, plus Novalis and Sommerabend, although Flossenengel's follow-up, Augenblicke (**½) is pretty average fare, and anything after that's a waste of time. One other related release that's actually worth the effort is Lutz Rahn's solo album from '78, Solo Trip, which probably features about as much Mellotron as in Novalis' entire career. Odd.

See: Lutz Rahn

Apollo Nove  (Brazil)

Apollo Nove, 'Res Inexplicata Volans'

Res Inexplicata Volans  (2006,  48.45)  **½/TT

Mr Right Now
Traz Um Alivio
Inexplicata
Ensaboar Você
Children of the Sun
86
War
Fruta Vermelha
I'm a Rocker
Yage Cameras
Capoeira
Entre eu e Você

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Apollo Nove (nine) is a big-name Brazilian producer, apparently, who also either owns a Mellotron (one of a single-figure number on the continent) or uses samples well enough to fool my (admittedly blasted) ears. I go for the former, for what it's worth. He's also added it to other artists' work, notably Cibelle and Otto; now it's time to use it himself.

Res Inexplicata Volans is, in many ways, a typical modern Latin record, keeping one foot in the past (the rhythms) and one in the present and future (the sounds), which isn't going to especially endear it to most of you, I'd imagine, although it does what it does perfectly well. He uses different vocalists on most tracks, male and female, which at least adds some variety to the largely mid-paced material. Best moment? Without a doubt, it's I'm A Rocker, better known as Rocker by AC/DC, turned into a smooth, female-fronted Latin number, with the line, "I'm a wicked woman stealer" switched to "boyfriend". And it's got a Mellotron on it.

Nove plays the 'Tron himself, of course, with strings on Mr Right Now, Ensaboar Você, the aforementioned I'm A Rocker and Entre Eu E Você, with strings and flutes on 86 and cellos on Capoeira, although the only part with any real guts is on (you guessed it) I'm A Rocker. You're most unlikely to like this, but I can't slate it for doing what it does, and at least it gets a reasonable dose of Mellotron into the proceedings.

MySpace

See: AfroReggae | Cibelle | Otto | Freezone

Novela  (Japan)

Novela, 'La Songerie'

La Songerie  (1980,  45.00)  ***½/TT½

Illusion
Night With No Name
Unbelieving Words
Letticia
The Boyhood - The Cliff
La Songerie
Novela, 'Requiem'

Requiem  (1981,  30.09)  ***/T½

Requiem
  Part 1
  Part 2

  Part 3

Metamatic Lady Dance
Nightmare
Secret Love
Ready to Fantasy

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Novela seem to be regarded as one of the leading lights in Japan's progressive scene of the early '80s, although to my ears, they have more in common with the epic hard rock approach of, say, the Japanese-American Mariner. Their standing could have as much to do with their influence as anything else; guitarist Terutsugu Hirayama went on to form the highly-regarded Teru's Symphonia, while keyboard player Toshio Egawa formed Gerard, still active today.

Their debut, 1980's La Songerie, divides its running length between shorter, heavier songs (Illusion, Night With No Name) and longer, more progressive outings (Letticia, The Boyhood - The Cliff), where Egawa really comes into his own. Like so much Japanese prog, there is little here that could be described as original, although the second half of the record has some lovely moments, not least the acoustic guitars halfway through the title track. Egawa's credited with Mellotron, but the bulk of the album's string sounds come from or appear to come from a string- or polysynth, the chief exception being a burst of 'Tronness in the middle of Letticia and a mix of Mellotron and synth strings running through the title track. Apart from some 'Tron choirs on The Boyhood - The Cliff, the album's other main 'Tron use is an excellent flute part and some 'are they/aren't they?' choirs, also in La Songerie itself, making this by far and away the album's top 'Tron track. I haven't heard the CD version, but it adds a shorter track at the end, Shoot A Burning Arrow, 'Tron content unknown.

The following year's Requiem seems to be a stopgap release, a half-hour mini-album, two of whose tracks are repeated on their full-length release later the same year. Its centrepiece and highlight, unsurprisingly, is the 14-minute, three-part title track, although it doesn't match the best material on La Songerie. The rest of the album is a distinctly mixed bag, with the balls-out metal of Metamatic Lady Dance contrasting sharply with the more mainstream proggy hard rock of the final three tracks, leaving the title track as the only even close to essential track here. A couple of tracks of obvious Mellotron from Egawa this time, with full-on string parts in the first two sections of Requiem itself, with overdubbed background choirs, although that's it for the release.

There's supposed to be more 'Tron on the same year's full release, Sanctuary, but all I can hear is choirs from maybe a Roland VP-330 vocoder; definitely not Mellotron, anyway. Both the above albums are worth hearing, although neither are exactly groundbreaking, with better Mellotron use on La Songerie than on Requiem. They're not exactly easy to find, anyway, although Syn-Phonic have them in stock at the time of writing.

See: Gerard

Novox  (Netherlands)  see: Samples

Nowy  (Germany)

Nowy, 'Escalation'

Escalation  (1974,  35.58)  ***½/T½

Blue Silver
Manomolela
News From the Chicken Farm
Sixteen Flutes
I'd Rather Sell My Life, Than My Guitar
Escalation

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Flautist/saxophonist Ralf Nowy (born 1940) had a long and honourable career as frontman, session player, arranger and producer, working with Giorgio Moroder in the latter's pre-disco era. To my knowledge, 1974's Escalation (credited to merely Nowy) was his second solo album, eschewing his debut, the previous year's Lucifer's Dream's krautrock grooves for his natural home, fusion, although the album contains a good helping of progressive stylings. The five short tracks on side one switch between jazz (opener Blue Silver, News From the Chicken Farm), a Latin/hard rock hybrid (Manomolela), massed flute jazz (Sixteen Flutes) and off-kilter blues rock (I'd Rather Sell My Life, Than My Guitar), but the album's centrepiece is its side-long title track, a jazz/classical/rock tour de force, not devoid of humour: note the guitarist's Glenn Miller quote towards the end. I think it's safe to say that you've probably never heard anything quite like this before; its component parts are nothing new, but their combination produces a unique piece, although I'll admit it might be slightly overlong.

Thor Baldursson plays Mellotron, with choirs (including a nice solo sequence), alongside real voices on the title track, although I suspect that all the flutes on, er, Sixteen Flutes are real. I don't believe this is on CD, but now it's turned up on download sites, make the effort to track it down; you'll thank me when you hear Escalation itself. Maybe.

Ñu  (Spain)

Ñu, 'Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy'

Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy  (1978,  37.31/40.38)  ***½/T½

Profecía
Preparan
Algunos Músicos Fueron Nosotros
Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy
El Juglar
Paraíso de Flautas

[CD adds:
La Explosion del Universo]
Ñu, 'A Golpe de Látigo'

A Golpe de Látigo  (1979,  41.11)  ***½/T

Entrada al Reino
A Golpe de Látigo
A la Caza de Ñu
El Flautista
La Galería
Velocidad
La Ilegada de los Dioses
El Expreso

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Mellotrons used:

Ñu were surprisingly heavy for a Spanish progressive outfit, to the point where they could be said to be more of a hard rock band with progressive tendencies, despite the flute and violin they utilised in places. Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy and A Golpe de Látigo were their first two albums and, in fact, the only ones for some years, before they restarted in the mid-'80s. It may be a cliché to refer to rocking prog outfits with a flute as 'Tull-influenced', but Ñu really were, with José Carlos Molina's flute playing being more than a little reminiscent of Mr. Anderson's, but it's easy to overlook the influence and just take the band on their own merits.

It's difficult to pinpoint highlights on Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy, with most of the tracks being pretty much on a level, although original LP closer Paraíso De Flautas is pretty good. Not sure who plays the Mellotron, with one source claiming Jose M. Garcia and another one José Carlos Molina, but it isn't that ubiquitous, anyway. I'm not so sure about the strings on Profecía and El Juglar, although they're probably Mellotron under real violin, but the strings and flute on Paraíso de Flautas are most definitely 'Tron, making the other two tracks more likely, I suppose.

A Golpe de Látigo is essentially more of the same, with no obvious stylistic changes and again, the album's final tracks are probably its best. The first sound you hear on the album is the Mellotron brass that opens Entrada Al Reino (this time round definitely credited to Molina and Jorge Calvo), although there's not a lot more to be heard, with some strings under the violin on La Ilegada De Los Dioses and a few upfront string chords at the end of El Expreso.

So; Spanish hard rock in a Tull vein, with a small Mellotronic presence. Good, but not outstanding, so while you probably shouldn't put them at the top of your 'wants' list, nor should you delete them. Reasonably worthwhile.

Nuno  (US)  see: Samples

Nuova Idea  (Italy)

Nuova Idea, 'Mr. E Jones'

Mr. E Jones  (1972,  42.29)  ***½/T

Sveglati Edgar
Mr. E Jones
Viaggio Nel Mondo dei Sogni
Un'Ora del Tuo Tempo
Fumo di una Sigaretta
Illusione da Poco
Premio di una Vita
Un Altro Giorno

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Although PFM's first two, Italian-language albums are frequently thought of as the 'first' Italian prog albums, this is blatantly not the case; ask Le Orme, amongst others. Mr. E Jones was Nuova Idea's second album, and fits into the 'early Italian prog' category without a murmur, featuring inventive, varied, symphonic material without the 'pastoral' feel that PFM would memorably bring to the scene later the same year. There's a blues base to some of the tracks (notably Premio Di Una Vita) that would be expunged from the more purist outfits before long, although its inclusion here reminds the listener that Italian prog wasn't always (mistakenly) characterised by acoustic guitars and flutes.

There's very little of Giorgio Usai's Mellotron work to be heard, with nowt but a short combined string/brass part on Illusione Da Poco, although a couple of keyboard parts earlier in the album could just possibly be 'Tron brass or cellos, although an odd organ patch seems just as likely. Nuova Idea signed off with '73's 'Tron-free Clowns, finishing a short but inventive career. So; should you buy Mr. E Jones? Not for the Mellotron, no, but as a good example of early Italian progressive, this is better than anything by the better-known (OK, relatively) Quella Vecchia Locanda, and vastly better than the overrated The Trip. Worth a flutter.

See: Underground Set

Paolo Nutini  (UK)

Paolo Nutini, 'Sunny Side Up'

Sunny Side Up  (2009,  38.31)  **/½

10/10
Coming Up Easy
Growing Up Beside You
Candy
Tricks of the Trade
Pencil Full of Lead
No Other Way
High Hopes
Chamber Music
Simple Things
Worried Man
Keep Rolling

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Mellotron used:

I don't know what his public profile's like in other parts of the world, but if you live in the UK, it's impossible to be unaware of Italian/Scot Paolo Nutini's questionable charms, although at least his presence is largely confined to large advertising billboards, informing you in breathless tones of his latest release.

When I put on his second album, 2009's Sunny Side Up, I was expecting your typical slushy singer-songwriter nonsense, so was surprised to be confronted with a varied effort, taking its influences from soul, reggae, folk, blues and other forms. Unfortunately, I can't say that Nutini does any of them any particular justice, his 'soulful' (read: ravaged at 22) voice irritates rather than entertains; the country/blues of Simple Things, sounding as if it's being sung by a guy in his sixties, which some may like. Can't say I do.

Producer Ethan Johns plays Mellotron, with what I presume is a high flute part on Candy, although you'd be forgiven for not recognising it (the strings on Worried Man are real). All in all, efficient and diverse, but ultimately tedious, with next to no Mellotron.

Official site

Katharina Nuttall  (Norway)  see: Samples

Nuvole di Paglia  (Italy)  see: Samples


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