Cliff & Linda Rogers
Rocket Scientists (US) see:
Do You Feel (2007, 47.17) *½/T
|Break it Out
So Much Love
Do You Feel
All I Have
High Life Scenery
A Song is Not a Business Plan
Run to You
Hold it Up
So, in This Hour...
The Rocket Summer are effectively (Stephen) Bryce Avary's solo project, whom, going by his/their third album, 2007's Do You Feel (wot, no question mark?), do that horrible 'modern rock'/singer-songwriter thing, as typified by opener Break It Out or A Song Is Not A Business Plan, with Avary's whiny voice (Kurt Kobain wannabee, no idea how) ruining everything it touches. Actually, you can't tell from the music, but it seems Avary is a full-blown God-botherer, too, so that's another reason to dislike this crummy album.
Patrick Warren's on Chamberlin again, with strings on Run To You and closer So, In This Hour..., with cellos towards the end of the latter, just scraping a single T. So; a modern rock/CCM hybrid, with minimal tape-replay: run for the hills.
Supermarket (2000, 42.37) ****½/TTT½Government
Powers (it All Comes to an End...)
She's Full of Fears
One Fantastic Day (2001, 44.38) ****/TTT
|In a Blink
Smell of Sweets
One Fantastic Day
Where the Byrds Fly
President of Me
Funny Paper/Money Maker
Memories of the Never Happened (2007, 53.33) ****/TTT½
Half & Half
Because of Damaging Words
Old Village House
It Ain't Easy (When You're Gone)
Haolam Hamufla [a.k.a. The Wonderful World] (2010, 53.56) ***½/TTT½
Ein Lach Elohim
I must admit I thought 'Rockfour' was a clever-clever pun on rocquefort, with their slightly cheesy late-'60s sound, but I'm reliably informed it means 'four people who play rock music', which is slightly less interesting. Oh well. They're that rarest of things, an Israeli psych-prog outfit (!) who released three Hebrew-language albums before switching to English for 2000's Supermarket and the following year's One Fantastic Day, with a compilation with one extra track, Another Beginning, available worldwide. Although the band don't own a Mellotron, they've used Zohar Cohen's M400 and ex-Pink Floyd black MkII.
Supermarket is absolutely excellent; great songwriting, with a sort-of updated early Floyd sound with other stuff thrown in. It's rare to hear any psych-influenced stuff these days that doesn't sound like pure pastiche, but Rockfour get the right balance between tribute and innovation, with a gift for memorable melodies that many (most?) bands would kill for. Of course, the instrumentation's spot-on, too, with a raft of Rickenbackers and various vintage guitars. And the Mellotrons. Noam Rapaport slaps female choirs and strings all over Government, with upfront flutes and strings on Superman and Wild Animals, while MkII brass mixed with M400 choirs boosts the title track, with heavily layered strings on closer She's Full Of Fears. Superb.
Their follow-up, One Fantastic Day, is almost as good as its predecessor, and may well prove to be its equal given enough plays. Rapaport sticks plenty of 'Tron on again, with considerable quantities of strings and choir on several tracks, President Of Me being the album's Mellotronic highlight, closely followed by Automatic Man, although all highlighted tracks have enough to make them worth a listen. What am I saying? The whole album's excellent, 'Tron or no 'Tron. A compilation released worldwide, Another Beginning, is pretty good, although as with any similar release, good stuff's going to get left off. The title track is exclusive to the album, and keeps up the quality, even if it's 'Tron-free.
I haven't heard 2003's odds'n'sods effort For Fans Only (one 'Tron track, apparently), and the following year's Nationwide is 'Tron-free, so we've had to wait until 2007 for another Rockfour 'Tron-fest. Memories of the Never Happened is as bloody brilliant as ever; how do they do it? Simply having the intelligence and taste not to follow trends isn't enough; I suppose it's that magic X-factor (not the appalling TV 'talent show', you fool). Listening to this really is like stumbling across a lost late-'60s gem, only with better production and less whimsy - OK, not that much less... Opener Glued is an atypical droning guitar piece, although the Mellotrons kick in quickly enough on Half & Half, with some very cool pitchbends that I suspect are from that Mark II again. 'Trons are played by Yaki Gani and Noa Hegesh, mainly strings, with a particularly overt part at the end of Because Of Damaging Words, and some flutes on Young Believer.
2010's Haolam Hamufla [a.k.a. The Wonderful World) is either an album deliberately aimed at the band's domestic market, or a retreat into it; hopefully the former. Sung entirely in Hebrew, its songs work perfectly well, although those who insist on understanding the words may have a little trouble. Rockfour seem to have moved away from the bright psych/powerpop blend of their previous albums, to a rather more downbeat approach, better tracks including Degel and closer Horef Israeli, although the overall combination of darkish psych and indie doesn't seem to work as well as their previous style, at least to my ears. Plenty of Mellotron, presumably from Yaki Gani, with strings and choir all over the title track, strings on Seret Zar and Ein Lecha Elohim, choirs on Degel, flutes on Sheva Dakot, strings and choir on Malaach, choir on Bayom Hahu, strings and choir on Manat Yeter and choir on Horef Israeli, with other string and brass parts sounding like something more modern.
I'm keen to hear the Hebrew albums, too (which translate as The Man Who Saw it All, Return to the Snail and Rockfour Live), although I get the impression that none of them have any 'Tron content. As for their English-language efforts, I can wholeheartedly recommend Supermarket, One Fantastic Day and Memories of the Never Happened, although you don't really need Another Beginning.
It's Now Winters Day (1967, 37.40) **½/½
Have Pity on Me
Sing Along With Me
Long Live Love
Cry on Crying Eyes
It's Now Winters Day
Kick Me, Charlie]
Tommy Roe is best known as an occasional hitmaker, notably for 1962's Sheila and '69's Dizzy, making It's Now Winters Day something of a minor obscurity. To be honest, its '60s pop feel had become distinctly outdated by 1967, although I've seen the record described as Roe's nod to psychedelia, chiefly due to being a Curt Boettcher (Millennium, Sagittarius) production, thus automatically falling into the same category as his other projects. It isn't a bad album as such, just a rather dull and dated one, although I can already hear Boettcher fans howling their disapproval...
Someone (probably Boettcher) plays Chamberlin flutes on the title track, although not so's you'd particularly notice. So; Boettcher fans will want this, ditto lightweight '60s pop types, but the rest of us are probably better off steering clear, I think.
Lustwandel (1981, 38.14) ***½/T½
Von Ferne Her
Die Andere Blume
Hans-Joachim Roedelius was born in 1934, making him getting on for forty when he released his first albums with Cluster, then Harmonia, putting him at the pulsating heart of what became known as Krautrock. His first solo album came in 1978, 1981's Lustwandel being his sixth, startlingly (he released no fewer than three the following year). Unlike the sinister, fake-cheery fairground feel of his second effort, '79's Jardin au Fou, Lustwandel sounds how I'd expect a Roedelius album to sound: gentle and reflective without going anywhere near New Age. Many of its tracks are effectively piano pieces, with or without embellishment, although Draussen Vorbel is all Clavinet over sequenced synths, Von Ferne Her is more percussion than anything, while Wilkommen is a twisted Mediæval jig, played out on some early form of wind instrument.
Although it isn't credited, Roedelius seems to be playing a Mellotron (producer Peter Baumann's?) on a handful of tracks, with strings, flutes and cellos on the opening title track, while Ansinnen is effectively an overdubbed 'Tron strings solo piece, with far more distant strings on Dein Antlitz. There are other 'is it/isn't it' moments, not least the cellos in Von Ferne Her, but despite a lack of any credit, they sound more real than anything. So; an intriguing album, in a class of its own, really, but one that should appeal to Krautrock enthusiasts looking for something a little gentler, or relaxation types trying to up the BPM a bit. Or, of course, anyone interested in hearing an accomplished record by a master craftsman, although don't go too far out of your way for its Mellotronic input.
Lost in His Love (197?, 31.38) */TT½
|Lost in His Love
The Next Time I See You
More Than Conquerors
The Gospel Truth
I've Been Blessed
|More of You
Medley: What Will Ya Do/Come Unto Jesus
Ah, Mark Medley's latest Christian horror... I've no idea whether the husband/wife team of Cliff & Linda Rogers made any more records - we can only hope not - but the undated Lost in His Love (sometime between the late '70s and early '80s would be my guess, going by Cliff's suit and the haircuts) is, rather predictably, the most hideous thing I've heard since, well, the last Christian horror Mark sent me. There are, of course, no high points, although the album's least unpleasant track is probably the 'funky' The Gospel Truth, while the happy-clappy opening title track and I'm Yours are at least mildly amusing. Most of the rest consists of the expected slushy, God-bothering balladry (particularly nasty examples: He's Alive and closer Medley: What Will Ya Do/Come Unto Jesus), but the record reaches its nadir on The Next Time I See You, 'sung' by the Rogers' two little girls (Amy, 4 and April, 3, pictured on the rear sleeve), an event that might just possibly redefine the word 'schmaltz'. Putrid.
Our old Pal Larry Benson (Gateway Singers) plays his Chamberlin on half the album, with vibes and strings on More Than Conquerors, strings (and real brass) on He's Alive, strings on Steeple Song and More Of You and strings and flutes on Medley: What Will Ya Do/Come Unto Jesus, although the backing vocals on several tracks sound real. Well, I've heard some stinkers, but The Next Time I See You is right up there with the best/worst of 'em, the rest of the album paling into insignificance in comparison. All I can say, somewhat appropriately, is: Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
|7" [as Rod Rogers & the Film City Orchestra] (1965) **/TTT
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy b/w The 678th is just one of presumably many, many 'song-poem' singles released by Rodd Keith (once again, many thanks to Mark Medley for this), this one under the pseudonym Rod Rogers & the Film City Orchestra, Film City being the two-bit label on which this drivel appeared. The lyrics on both sides are hysterically bad, as you might expect, literal to the point of autism, while the rhyming dictionary takes a good hammering in true 'total amateur' style.
It sounds like the entire arrangements on both sides were played on Keith's Chamberlin, with military snare, various brass, woodwind and string instruments, not least a trumpet (?) solo on the 'A' and are those overdubbed Chamby voices? Hard to tell. Only worth tracking down for the dedicated masochist.
See: Rodd Keith
Premonition (2004, 67.57) ****/TTTT½Beyond Cerberus
Falls the Shadow
Rogue Element are a new UK electronic duo comprising Jerome Ramsey (keys) and Brendan Pollard (er, keys). The proud owners of two Mellotrons, it's hardly surprising that they're splattered all over their debut, Premonition, along with a raft of other gear, both analogue and digital, the highlights of which are an ARP Odyssey, a Solina string synth and some modular equipment. Of course, the question to which you all want the answer is... do they sound like Tangerine Dream? Of COURSE they sound like Tangerine Dream, but don't let that put you off; most EM seems to sound like either the Tangs or Klaus Schulze anyway, the chief criteria being "do they do it well?" Well, I can report back to say, "Yes!", they do it excellently, thank you very much. As with all genres of the past, there's very little left to say in this kind of music, but if you can come away from the album saying "I enjoyed that", I'd say that's worth a hundred experimental outfits all producing wank of the highest order. But then, I would.
Yes, it's 'Berlin School'. Yes, each piece starts with a drone section before the step sequencer kicks in. Yes, there's a little distorted guitar lead. No, I don't care that it's all been done before. From what I've heard, Rogue Element are up there with r.m.i. in the UK electronica stakes; apologies to the other current British outfits I haven't heard. Of course, it helps that both bands a) use Mellotrons and b) seem to use very little computer equipment; I was bored to tears by some Euro EM bunch a few years ago who just stood in front of linked PCs playing digital synths along to some pre-programmed rubbish, assuming they were actually playing at all. Organic would seem to be the watchword, and the only way to achieve that is to actually play your bloody instruments in real time. You try sequencing a Mellotron. Yeah, there's loads of sequenced parts on this album, but it's all a million miles away from the kind of programmed dreck that clogs up the racks and gives the genre a bad name. Er, rant over. Anyway, it's difficult to pick out particular Mellotronic highlights here, although the heavy strings presence followed by a marvellous polyphonic flute part in the middle of Falls The Shadow may qualify.
As for the album's Mellotron use, well, how much more 'Tron could you desire? OK, they resist the temptation to play the things non-stop, but every track features dirty great slabs of the things, not only strings, choir and flutes, but brass (don't know which) and, I'm told, some original Tangs sound effects tapes (r.m.i. own at least one original Tangs frame, too). All in all, a 'Tron-lover's delight, and one of the better electronic albums I've heard in quite some time. Buy.
See: Brendan Pollard
Rohmer (2008, 61.26) ***/TTAngolo 1
V. (Moda Reale)
Wittgenstein Mon Amour 2.12
Metodiche Di Salvezza
Rohmer are essentially a Finisterre reformation, although I wasn't aware they'd split, involving that outfit's Fabio Zuffanti, Boris Valle and Agostino Macor. They've only released one, eponymous album to date, a mostly instrumental, relaxed, kind-of post-rock/prog crossover effort, although the band seem keen to be classified as jazz. Gentle piano cadences interact with flute, distant trumpet, viola and sax at different points, ambient, 22-minute closer Elimini-Enne being the album's centrepiece.
Agostino Macor (Maschera di Cera) plays Mellotron, with strings on opener Angolo 1 and Lhz, flutes and strings on V. (Moda Reale) and choirs on Wittgenstein Mon Amour 2.12, all to decent effect, without ever being overbearing. I'm not at all sure Rohmer is going to appeal to many prog fans, but, like Zuffanti's eponymous effort from the following year, post-rock types may wish to apply.
See: Fabio Zuffanti | Finisterre | Maschera di Cera
|7" (1967) ***½/TTT½
We Love You
Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967, 44.20) ****/TTTT½
|Sing This All Together
In Another Land
Sing This All Together (See What Happens)
She's a Rainbow
|2000 Light Years From Home
On With the Show
Beggar's Banquet (1968, 39.48) ***/½
|Sympathy for the Devil
Street Fighting Man
Stray Cat Blues
Salt of the Earth
1967 hit the Stones unprepared for the sea-change about to happen to the music world; they'd been refining their raw R'n'B approach for the previous couple of years, writing songs that broke away from the pack, but psychedelia would be their (temporary) undoing. Or so the history books have it. The We Love You single and Their Satanic Majesties Request album are, to my ears, their greatest achievements. Dark, fucked-up psych; the antithesis of All You Need Is Love and Sergeant Pepper, and all the better for it. The Stones were doing drugs all right; doubtless the same drugs everyone else was doing, but after the unwanted attention they got from the law and the media they really weren't going to come on all 'peace and love', were they?
I think it's safe to say that you have to take We Love You with a largish pinch of salt. Yeah, sure you do, Mick; it's written all over your snarling vocal and Brian Jones' raw Mellotron brass interjections. This is what happens when The Summer Of Love® goes evilly wrong for all concerned. Then came Satanic Majesties...
To my knowledge, the Stones were as sincere as they were about anything with the album, but in places it comes across more as dark pastiche than genuine, especially on the 'hello flowers, hello trees'-style In Another Land. Saying that, it's excellent, particularly the classic 'Tron piece 2000 Light Years From Home, featuring one of the most in-your-face pieces of solo 'Tron strings ever. Brian Jones' Mellotron work is superb, albeit rather cranky, but then rumour has it that he'd never really played keyboards before, let alone a 'Tron. Apart from the ubiquitous strings, there's flutes (Sing This All Together (See What Happens)), brass, possibly saxes, maybe even sound FX, although I think the fast-Leslie Hammond on 2000 Man is real. All in all, a great album; experimental, outrageous, killer material (OK, you get the hook to The Lantern out of your head...). Highly recommended.
Like most of their contemporaries, the Stones went back to basics in '68, releasing Beggar's Banquet to the critics' and most of their fans' relief. Personally, I find it a rather dull affair after the previous year's experimentation (see: The Beatles' White Album), and apart from the infamous Sympathy For The Devil and Street Fighting Man, I can really take or leave it. There's an almost inaudible burst of Jones' Mark II on Stray Cat Blues, but it couldn't really be said that it enhances the song very much. I've been told by various people, not least Philip Johnston, that there are another two 'Tron tracks on the album, with some near-inaudible flutes on Jig-Saw Puzzle from Jones again and mandolins on Factory Girl from Traffic's Dave Mason.
So; find We Love You on any greatest hits effort; buy Satanic Majesties immediately, for both music and 'Tron, but only bother with Beggar's Banquet if you're a fan. In my humble opinion, of course. Here's a promo for 2000 Light Years From Home with a couple of MkII closeups.
See: Mick Jagger
Battlefield (1993, 58.33) **½/TT
Open the Gates
Ode to Romantic Warriors
You're My Life
Coloured Shades of a Rainbow
|Spread Your Wings
Song to John
March of the Heartknights
Beyond the Landmarks
Romantic Warriors (named for Chick Corea's classic fusion LP, of course) appear to have been a one-off project instigated by the Italian Vinyl Magic label's mastermind, Beppe Crovella, ex-Arti e Mestieri. The cover of Batttlefield is a hoot, especially if it's not supposed to be funny, which it quite clearly isn't. Note the oxen-drawn cart carrying the B3 and Leslie, not to mention the leading knight's strap-on synth controller (oo-er missus). I'm afraid the music isn't that great, either; the analogue and digital keys sit uncomfortably together, with plenty of Hammond, overlaid with cheesy digital brass and orchestral stabs. Current progressive bands seem to've learnt to mix the two with more subtlety.
Much of the album has a faux-ELP feel to it (with Emerson obviously being Crovella's chief influence), crossed with a rather dodgy Euro-neo-prog feel, giving rise to bad pseudo-AOR stuff like The Dreambreaker. A fair chunk of the album's instrumental, which at least spares us the female chorus, but gives Crovella full rein with the brass samples. The Mellotron can be heard on a few tracks; mostly strings with the occasional flute part (chiefly on the cringeworthy Song To John), swelling above whatever else is going on at the time, at least slightly detracting from the cheap digital-ness of the rest of the album. None of the use is exactly groundbreaking, and is invariably mixed with sampled strings or brass, but at least it's there. Strangely, the album's best track is kept till last, with Beyond The Landmarks being the most successful of Crovella's old/new fusion attempts (pun intended), but he sadly resists the temptation to put any Mellotron on the track.
Batttlefield is another of those albums I haven't played in a while that has deeply disappointed me on my return; I'm afraid to say it's far cheesier than I remember it, its only real saving graces being the playing and a few (a very few!) of the keyboard sounds. Oh, and the cover. Don't go too far out of your way.
Official Beppe Crovella site
See: Beppe Crovella | Arti e Mestieri | Cantina Sociale | Secret Cinema | Tower
61/49 (2003, 36.57) ***/0
|Devil in Me
Midnight to Six Man
When Will it End
Out of My Mind (Into My Head)
When the Angels (Hear Me Callin')
New Kinda Pain
I Need You
|Paint the Sky
Still We Remain
The Romantics were an early-'80s outfit who reformed for 2003's 61/49, a slice of Detroit garage rock as it used to be, albeit nowhere near The Stooges' level of ferocity. To be brutally honest, it's a bit one-dimensional (is that the point?), with only a couple of tracks that stand out at all, notably the slower, orchestrated Paint The Sky, although I'm sure garage fans will love the remainder.
Luis Resto is credited with Mellotron, amongst other things (the timps on Paint The Sky are him), but I'll be buggered if I can hear it anywhere; Paint The Sky? The cellos are real, so who knows? Anyway, not very exciting, no obvious Mellotron.
A Wishing Well (1999, 52.47) ***/½
|Wish You Well
Drag of the Month
In the Neighborhood
Girl Cried Nico
I'm Not a Joker
Do You Have God?
Some and Others
The Rooks are lauded in some circles as 'the ultimate powerpop band' or somesuch, although there's several I've heard I'd rate above 'em, personally. Their second album, A Wishing Well, is a passable record with a handful of great moments (the trumpet riff on Drag Of The Month, the 12-string on In The Neighborhood), but overall, it fails to grab the imagination, not helped by the rather drab vocals.
Mellotron from Michael Mazzarella, although the only even slightly obvious use is the strings on Do You Have God? That isn't to say it isn't elsewhere, but if they used it anywhere else, they buried it pretty effectively in the mix. All in all, less exciting than its reputation might lead you to believe, with next to no audible Mellotron. Disappointing.
Huit de Pique (2007, 50.12) **½/0
Je Pensais...Pensais à Toi
N'as-Tu Jamais Rêvé
Tout est Fini
Les Premiers Jours d'Avril
|L'Azur des Cieux
Huit de Pique
Alexandra Roos is a French singer-songwriter, whose fourth (and, to date, most recent) album, 2007's Huit de Pique, is full of gentle, heartfelt songs, largely played in a pre-psych, '60s-influenced style. It's difficult to isolate any 'best tracks', as most of the material is pretty similar, at least to English-speakers, but the title track stands out as the nearest the album gets to 'rock', violin and distorted guitar vying for prominence in the mix.
Producer Ian Caple supposedly plays Mellotron. Where, Ian, where? It may be in the mix somewhere, but with real strings on most tracks, it's effectively inaudible. Not a bad album of its type, then, but no obvious Mellotron.
Frio (1994, 54.41) **/½
Y Que Me Inporta
Tu Tren Se Va
Casi una Diosa
Almas Diferentes/Almas Gemelas
Vagabundo (1996, 48.07) ***/T½
|Hablando del Amor
Para No Olvidar
La Flor del Frio
Amantes Hasta el Fin
Mad Love (2004, 70.54) **½/T
|Dancing in the Rain
Lie Without a Lover
My Eyes Adore You
Como Me Acuerdo
Heaven Can Wait
Never Know the Truth
Do You Remember
Mas y Mas (Crash Push)
Noche Fria (Dancing in the Rain)
Robi Rosa, a.k.a. Dräco Rosa, Robby Rosa, Robi Draco Rosa, Draco Cornelius Rosa, Draco and Tommy Leaman, amongst others (!), is one of two ex-members of infamous Puerto Rican boyband Menudo to have significant solo success, the other being the better-known Ricky Martin. Menudo? Probably the ultimate boyband, in that members leave at the age of sixteen, meaning the band have worked their through around thirty members in twenty years, although, given that most of their releases have been for the Latin market, you're forgiven for not having heard of them.
Frio is Rosa's first solo album, sounding pretty much as you'd expect: Latin pop. It has the occasional surprise, not least the rocky Pasión, but by and large, it's disposable and forgettable. Just one 'Tron track, with a 'Strawberry Fields'-esque flute part on Pasión from Chris Cameron, that barely sounds like a 'Tron at all. Strangely, his follow-up from two years later, Vagabundo, is nothing like his debut, around half the album fitting more into the metal (!) area than anything else. Weird. As a result, it's rather more listenable than its predecessor, though not something I'll want to hear too often. Peter Gordino plays Mellotron, with cello and flutes on Penelope, cellos on Para No Olvidar and (briefly) on Vertigo and flutes on the very Mexican-sounding Vivir (although the cellos on Amantes Hasta El Fin appear to be real), making this both the best Rosa album I've heard and the best for tape-replay.
Ten years on, and Rosa releases Mad Love in 2004, as Robi Draco Rosa. It's more varied than Frio, though I'd be hard-pushed to say it's a better listen, with schlocky ballads like California and Solitary Man vying with the more Latin stuff for which is likely to bore the average listener the most. Best track? The 'hidden' one, strangely, Commitment, which has a bit of a psychedelic bent to it, sounding completely unlike the rest of the album. The ubiquitous Patrick Warren (and bloody good luck to him) plays Chamberlin on the album, with what sounds like Chamby flutes on My Eyes Adore You and more definite ones on Solitary Man. It's quite possible that some of the album's strings are Chamby, too, but it's so hard to tell that I've had to leave them out.
So; Vagabundo aside, mostly Latin pop, very little tape-replay. Why, I mean why, would you bother? Why did I?