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Spratleys Japs
Spring
Colin Spring
Martin Springett
Rick Springfield
Springfield Park
Bruce Springsteen


Spirits Burning  (US)  see:

Spirits Burning

Spiritual Beggars  (Sweden)  see: Samples etc.

Spite Extreme Wing  (Italy)

Spite Extreme Wing, 'Vltra'

Vltra  (2008,  54.42)  ***/T

I
II
III
VI
V
VI
VII
VIII
IX
X

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

I don't think it takes too great an intellect to work out what general form of music Spite Extreme Wing play. Clue: it ain't sunshine pop. They are (or rather, were) actually an Italian black metal troupe, whose fourth and last album, Vltra (I presume that's the Roman 'V'; they didn't have a 'U'), is a surprisingly tuneful album, relatively speaking, using acoustic guitars and keyboards, although the traditional ridiculous-speed drumming and grunting 'vocals' are ever-present and correct. Track lengths vary from very brief to several near ten minutes, making this something of a black metal/prog crossover record. Black prog? There's a couple of covers here, although they're not actually listed: IV is better-known as The Misfits' Devilock, although I believe the lyrics have been changed, while X is their take on The Beatles' Helter Skelter, as revered by Charlie-boy Manson.

'Azoth' plays Mellotron, apparently a 1971 M400, if the hype's to be believed. There's also a vintage Orange amp and a Roland Space Echo on board, though rather less obviously. Given the layers of reverb (quote possibly from the space echo) under which everything's buried, it's rather hard to tell exactly where said Mellotron's to be found. V? Dunno; there's something there, but there's 'something' on several tracks. Near-definite choirs on VII and even more definite strings on VIII, plus distant choirs on X/Helter Skelter are the ones I'm highlighting, but any/all could be wrong.

Anyway, one for the metal fraternity (NEVER a sorority...) members who want something both brutal and vaguely tuneful and complex. Don't bother for the 'Tron though.

Official site

Splendor Mystic Solis  (Japan)  see: Samples etc.

Split Enz  (New Zealand)  see:

Split Enz

Splitsville  (US)

Splitsville, 'The Complete Pet Soul'

The Complete Pet Soul  (2001,  33.21)  ****/T

Overture
Forever
Aliceanna
Pretty People
Caroline Knows
Sunshiny Daydream
Tuesday Through Saturday
You Ought to Know
Popular
Love Songs of B. Douglas Wilson
I'll Never Fall in Love Again

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Splitsville began as a jokey side project from Baltimore's Greenberry Woods that took on a life of its own and outlasted its mothership. They released an EP, Pet Soul (very good, chaps...), in 1998, expanding it considerably three years later as their fourth full-length release, The Complete Pet Soul. As you might've guessed by now, it's essentially a Dukes of Stratosphear-style homage to The Beatles, The Beach Boys and anyone else they could think of who wrote great pop in the '60s and began with 'B' and, while it frequently tips over into pastiche, it's slightly less obvious than the Dukes, while at least all concerned use their real names. Not a bad track to be heard on the album, although their cover of Burt Bacharach's I'll Never Fall In Love Again, bizarrely incorporating a snatch of Buggles' Video Killed The Radio Star, is probably less than wholly essential.

Mellotron, from guitarist Matt Huseman, on (at most) two tracks, with a repeated string part actually opening the album in the brief Overture, which sort-of does what it says on the tin, with probable background strings on Popular, though I wouldn't swear to the latter. For that matter, I wouldn't swear that Overture's part is genuine, but it sounds pretty good, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

If you like your pop powerful and worship at the altar of the 'B' bands, you will almost certainly love The Complete Pet Soul. Like so many other almost-forgotten musical forms (prog, AOR for Chrissakes), powerpop has moved into a ghetto all its own, where loads of obscure bands produce relatively identikit albums in their chosen style, with an absolute gem popping up every now and again. I'm not sure if this is that gem, but it's damn' good at what it does, although its Mellotron input leaves a little to be desired. Buy anyway.

Official site

Spock's Beard  (US)  see:

Spock's Beard

Spoke of Shadows  (US)

Spoke of Shadows, 'Spoke of Shadows'

Spoke of Shadows  (2014,  48.17)  ***½/T

Dominion
Images
One Day
Harbinger
Lost One
Pain Map
Persona
Splendid Sisters
Tilting at Windmills
Accord
Dichotomy
Drama of Display

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Current progressive duo Spoke of Shadows are a collaboration between drummer Bill Bachman (Neal Morse) and Warr guitarist Mark Cook Herd of Instinct, whose eponymous debut (released on Djam Karet's Firepool label) bears a sizeable stylistic debt to various eras of King Crimson, amongst others. Top tracks include scene-setting opener Dominion, the sprightly Harbinger, the highly Crimsonesque Tilting At Windmills and the doomy Dichotomy, but nothing here disappoints, in an occasionally angular, instrumental modern prog kind of way.

Djam Karet's Gayle Ellet plays Mellotron strings on Splendid Sisters, although all other 'Mellotron' use (strings and/or choirs on most tracks) is sampled. This is a fine release that should keep Djam Karet and later period Crimso fans happy; let's hope the duo stick around for long enough to record again.

Official site

See: Djam Karet

Spontaneous Combustion  (UK)

no image available 7"  (1973)  ***/T½

Sabre Dance
And Now for Something Completely Different! - Sabre Dance

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Going by their second (and last) album, 1972's Triad (***), Spontaneous Combustion were a typical-for-the-era progressive-ish outfit (on Harvest, although to my ears they could just as easily have been on Charisma, Neon et al). A non-album single, Sabre Dance is a ripping version of the well-known Khachaturian piece, à la Dave Edmunds' Love Sculpture, backed with a slower take, strangely (and Pythonesquely) titled And Now For Something Completely Different! - Sabre Dance.

An unknown musician (guitarist Gary Margetts? Bassist brother Tris?) adds Mellotron strings to the flip in pleasing, if slightly inessential style, although it's always nice to hear one used well. You're unlikely to find the original single at an affordable price, but since both tracks have been added to the Esoteric remaster of Triad, they're worth hearing if you're going to buy it anyway.

Spooky Tooth  (UK)

Spooky Tooth, 'It's All About'

It's All About  (1968,  37.48)  ***½/T

Society's Child
Love Really Changed Me
Here I Lived So Well
Too Much of Nothing
Sunshine Help Me
It's All About a Roundabout
Tobacco Road
It Hurts You So
Forget it, I Got it
Bubbles

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Spooky Tooth are one of the many psych-ish outfits who sprang up in the UK in the late '60s, although they achieved somewhat more longevity than many, although as far as I can work out, keyboardist/singer Mike Harrison was the only member to last the course. In many ways, It's All About is very much of its time, with the whimsical Love Really Changed Me sounding like it fell out of the previous year, complete with strange 'bubbling water' effects; think 'a rockier Traffic', and you won't go too far wrong.

Uncredited Mellotron on one track only, with some nice strings work on It Hurts You So, presumably from Harrison, though it could be the band's token American, Gary Wright, who went on to a reasonably successful solo career in the '70s. The band went on to release several more albums including a collaboration with Pierre Henry, split up and reform at least once, and write a song that would get Judas Priest into very hot water in a US court in the '80s. Backwards masking; yeah, right. Anyway, not bad album, one good 'Tron track.

Official site

See: Art

Spoon  (US)

Spoon, 'Girls Can Tell'

Girls Can Tell  (2001,  36.03)  **½/T

Everything Hits at Once
Believing is Art
Me and the Bean
Lines in the Suit
The Fitted Shirt
Anything You Want
Take a Walk
1020 AM
Take the Fifth
This Book is a Movie
Chicago at Night
Spoon, 'Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga'

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga  (2007,  36.26)  **½/T½

Don't Make Me a Target
The Ghost of You Lingers
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
Don't You Evah
Rhthm & Soul
Eddie's Ragga
The Underdog
My Little Japanese Cigarette Case
Finer Feelings
Black Like Me

Current availability:

Mellotrons/Chamberlin used:

Spoon apparently named themselves after the Can song, although they're hardly what you'd call an influence; Spoon play a really average kind of indie, Texan style, of the variety that makes me wonder just what, exactly, people see in them? I suppose 'indie' as a genre relies too heavily on the 'pop' end of things for me, while missing out on joyous melodies, excitement and all the other things that make great pop. Or maybe I'm just getting old. Actually, I dreamed about telling people I was getting old last night; what the hell does that say? I'm getting old, I suppose.

Spoon's third album, Girls Can Tell, is, to my ears, indie-by-numbers, sounding like a muted version of several better things with all the life taken out. Why? Why can't they inject a bit more (any?) passion? Maybe they think they have. Maybe they actually have and it's my skewed perception that's at fault. Anyway, the album bores me greatly, but at least has the good grace to be short by modern standards. The Mellotron's played by band leader Britt Daniel and Conrad Keely, with a suspect flute melody and string chords on opener Everything Hits At Once and some admittedly very nice flutes on the grammatically nonsensically-titled 1020 AM (is that grammatically nonsensical, too?).

2007 brought Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga to Spoon fans. A good way of assessing this album is to look at the track lengths, funnily enough; six of the ten are within seventeen seconds of each other and only one of the other four is more than twenty seconds outside this range. Formulaic is the word we're looking for, I think. To be honest, after playing three Spoon albums back-to-back, I'll be more than happy if I never have to hear them again. Dull, dull indie by-numbers. The ubiquitous Jon Brion plays Chamberlin on the album, with a bonkers flute part on the oddly-titled Rhthm & Soul, with a mere few seconds of the same at the end of My Little Japanese Cigarette Case and dotted throughout closer Black Like Me, although I think the strings are real.

Official site

See: Samples etc.

Spoons  (Canada)

Spoons, 'Stick Figure Neighbourhood'

Stick Figure Neighbourhood  (1981,  41.30)  **½/T

Conventional Beliefs
Stick Figure Neighbourhood
Red Light
For Tran
Capitol Hill
Ice Age
Dropped Dishes
Friends in the Media
Only for Athletes
Annita

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Spoons were an early Canadian new wave band, breaking through with a run of singles from their second album, 1982's Arias & Symphonies. Their debut, the previous year's Stick Figure Neighbourhood (yes! Non-US spelling!), engineered by a young Daniel Lanois, shows that the band were every bit as competent as their better-known contemporaries, making it unsurprising that they went on to greater things. Better tracks include opener Conventional Beliefs, Red Light (the band's Moog Taurus at the beginning, not Lanois') and the synth-heavy Ice Age, although there's a little too much filler for comfort, losing the album a good half star.

Producer Graeme Pole worked with Hugh Syme (Rush) on Ian Thomas' Glider the previous year (thanks, Graeme) and called him when he needed a Mellotron for the recording, Syme playing his own M400 on two tracks, with distant strings on For Tran (ho ho) and more upfront ones, plus choirs on Only For Athletes. So; an interesting album that might have done better had it been British or American, although its Mellotronic input is too low to make it worth tracking down for that alone.

Sportfreunde Stiller  (Germany)  see: Samples etc.

Spotlight, Floodlight  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Billy Sprague  (US)

Billy Sprague, 'The Wind & the Wave'

The Wind & the Wave  (1993,  41.21)  **/½

Press on
Whatever Happened to Love
A Way Back
Mona Lisa Said
The Blessing (of the Fleet)
The Sacred Journey
When Nothing's Sacred
I Saw a Blind Man
Kumquat May
Mona Lisa's Encore

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Billy Sprague is a fairly typical CCM artist, although he relents on 1993's The Wind & the Wave, with some tracks not being immediately identifiable as Christian. Musically, it's all pretty anodyne stuff, as you might expect, the worst moment being on Kumquat May, which opens with a little girl talking to her dad. She's saying what she'd like to do and when he says, "And where would you go?", her reply is, "To see God". BLEURGH! Did I hear someone say 'brainwashing'? And to think I've been berated for slagging god-botherers...

John Mark Painter plays Mellotron on I Saw A Blind Man, with string chords opening the track, then reprising occasionally throughout the track. Despite its irritating jaunty feel, it's about the best of a bad bunch here, but far, far from essential.

Official site

See: Kennedy, Kirkpatrick, Madeira & Sprague

Spratleys Japs  (UK)

Spratleys Japs, 'Pony'

Pony  (1999,  50.06)  ****/TT½

Burnt
Vessel
Fanny
Pony
Sparrows
Vine
Oh
Fear
Cabinet
Pond
Don't You Ail, Flash the Sea to Steam

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Well, Spratleys Japs are the nearest I've yet come to finding my way onto my own reviews pages (until Litmus, of course), and it's not that close... The story: summer 1998, and Tim Smith from the rather wonderful Cardiacs asks me if he can borrow my Mellotron. It had just been on loan to ex-Cardiacs keyboardist Bill Drake, and had started showing signs of incipient breakdown, but I drove it down to Tim's studio anyway. Within days it started playing up very badly indeed, eventually needing a complete motor board upgrade, but Tim loved the inherent wobbliness of the sound, and while playing around with it became inspired to write an album's worth of new material. The end result was Pony, featuring Tim's girlfriend Joanne Spratley and various other luminaries of Tim's acquaintance.

Like everything he's involved with, Pony has that unmistakeable 'Tim sound', with those strange Cardiacs scales, melodies and chord sequences. This is probably nearer to earlier offshoot The Sea Nymphs than Cardiacs themselves, with less of the mother outfit's manic energy, and more female vocal, although it's instantly recognisable as being from the same 'family'. Aside from my ailing 'Tron, there's lots of piano and fucked-up synth/sampler work to be heard, with less guitar than Cardiacs usually employ. Most of the 'Tron work is high strings in the background, until you get five minutes into Vine, when the whole band takes off, and the 'Tron's pushed to the front of the mix, duetting with what sounds like slide guitar, but could be almost anything. All four 'Tron tracks are good, though one of the album's highlights is the eleven-minute Cabinet, which would definitely have benefitted from some strings. Maybe it had broken down completely by that time...

They concurrently released an EP, Hazel, the title track of which, quite bizarrely, is none other than Fear from the album, re-titled. No, I don't know why, either. Anyway, both the album and the EP are available from All My Eye and Betty Martin Music, and are fairly essential for Cardiacs fans unaware of their existence. There's enough wobbly Mellotron to keep aficionados happy, too. Buy.

See: Cardiacs

Spring  (UK)

Spring, 'Spring'

Spring  (1971,  40.16/57.56)  ****/TTTTT

The Prisoner (Eight By Ten)
Grail

Boats
Shipwrecked Soldier
Golden Fleece
Inside Out

Song to Absent Friends (the Island)
Gazing
[CD adds:
Fool's Gold
Hendre Mews
A Word Full of Whispers]
Spring, 'Spring 2' Spring, 'Second Harvest'

Spring 2  [a.k.a. Second Harvest]  (2007, recorded 1972,  57.30)  ***/TTT

Jack & Jim
Hendre Mews
Painted Ship
High Horse
Fernley Avenue
Helping the Helpless
A Word Full of Whispers
Losers
Get My Share
Hendre Mews (diff. mix)
A Word Full of Whispers (diff. version)
Fool's Gold (bonus)

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Ah - proto-prog territory again. Spring's sole LP has assumed significance beyond its actual content as a 'Mellotron album' amongst fans of early progressive rock; it certainly is stuffed with MkII; not just most tracks, but most of most tracks. Three band members are credited with playing it; vocalist Pat Moran, guitarist Ray Martinez (who went on to better-known things, I believe) and keyboard man Kips Brown, although with a single machine (even a regular dual-manual one), they can surely only have played it one at a time. This also doesn't account for how they might've played this material live; most of the way through opener The Prisoner, for example, the Mellotron strings are overdubbed with either flute or very clicky brass. Unless, of course, they'd had the left-hand tapes replaced with another set of right-hand ones, à la the Moody Blues; producer Gus Dudgeon's sleevenotes state "Everything on the album is exactly as it is on stage - with the exception of some over-dubbed acoustic guitar". Curiouser and curiouser...

Spring certainly gets some Mellotron in; apart from the two tracks where they managed to resist the temptation, the band slather it all over everything, mostly to good effect, it has to be said. The music is probably less interesting than I'd been led to believe, sadly; typical early progressive, just with Mellotron instead of organ, or indeed, anything much else, although Brown also sticks in the odd bit of organ and piano. So, to be brutally honest, a rather ordinary proto-prog album, but packed to the gills with The Beast, justifying its 'Mellotron classic' tag. The original triple fold-out sleeve is gorgeous, but you're unlikely to find one, so I'd settle for the CD, although the bonus tracks are a bit unexciting.

Trying to untangle the Gordian knot of confusion surrounding Spring 2 (a.k.a. Second Harvest) is a job worthy of Hercules, to stretch the Ancient Greek connection from their debut's Golden Fleece to breaking point. OK, it's not quite that obfuscated, but a collection of what sound like demo recordings leaked out on Far-Eastern CD a while back, possibly as early as the '90s, although their status seemed to be nearer 'bootleg' than 'official'. The Second Harvest label finally released them officially as, er, Second Harvest in 2007, giving the rest of us a chance to hear what all the fuss is about. Er, very little, if truth be told; better contributions include High Horse and the 'bonus' versions of Hendre Mews and Fool's Gold (are these the same bonus tracks as on their debut?), but the majority of the material is rather limp mainstream early '70s rock, with little real progressive input. Although their MkII crops up on several tracks, the use is well down from Spring, with naught but murky strings on Hendre Mews, a clicky sax solo and strings on High Horse, strings on A Word Full Of Whispers, vibes on Losers and another sax solo on Get My Share, although I suppose that's still an awful lot more Mellotron than you'll hear on most albums on this site.

To sum up: Spring is a so-so effort, but a Mellotron classic, while Second Harvest is a lesser album on both fronts. Worth it for the enthusiast, possibly not for the rest of you.

Colin Spring  (US)

Colin Spring, 'How I Came to Cry These Tears of Cool'

How I Came to Cry These Tears of Cool  (2005,  59.09)  ***/T

Joe McCarthy is Sweeping Off His Grave
Does She Still?
Lover, There's a Light on
Give My Regrets to Broadway
November
Let's Burn the Guitars
Chinatown
Life Out on the Fringe
Culiacan
Rosa, Rosa From Barcelona
Sistine Chapel Ceiling
Fresh Kill in Nowhereville
Artis the Spoonman (mix)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Colin Spring's fourth album, 2005's How I Came to Cry These Tears of Cool, sits at the folk end of Americana, guests including members of The Young Fresh Fellows, Screaming Trees and The Walkabouts, amongst others. Largely acoustic, highlights include opener Joe McCarthy Is Sweeping Off His Grave, Fresh Kill In Nowhereville and electric closer Artis The Spoonman, although Spring could probably have lost a handful of lesser tracks, bringing the album down to a more manageable length.

Producer Johnny Sangster (Mudhoney, The Posies) plays a high, real-sounding Mellotron string part on Give My Regrets To Broadway; as so often, it's a shame it's only used on one song. I can't actually find any evidence that Spring recorded again; a pity, as talent's pretty thinly spread out there.

Martin Springett  (UK/Canada)

Martin Springett, 'The Gardening Club'

The Gardening Club  (1983,  50.46)  ***½/½

Midnight Road
Mole Hole Blues
The Traveller
Andromeda
The Garden
Three Days at Brighton
Rebirth
The Stone That Speaks
Endersby's Ride in Three Parts
  Endersby Meets the Team
  Aerial Adventures
  Endersby Meets the Chef

Nirvana Isn't

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Although UK-born, artist Martin Springett has spent more of his life in Toronto, playing in bands on and off since the '70s. 1983's The Gardening Club (the gorgeous artwork's his, too) is a quite unique, song-based progressive rock album featuring hints of pastoral Genesis, Happy the Man and various Canterbury scene alumni, the end result being at least slightly unlike anything else you've heard. Jazzy in places, folky in others, it might just be at its best on the twelve-minute Endersby's Ride In Three Parts, although a propensity for Canterburyesque chord sequences would be a useful listening aid.

Chris Mckim plays credited Mellotron on The Stone That Speaks, with background flutes, distinct from Russ Walker's real one and a handful of not-that-Mellotronic string chords at the end of the track. Really not a Mellotron Album, then, but those nice Gonzo Multimedia people reissued this in 2017, so if you like the sound of it...

Official site

Rick Springfield  (Australia)

Rick Springfield: 'Karma'

Karma  (1999,  49.30)  **½/½

His Last Words
It's Always Something
Religion of the Heart
Beautiful Prize
Karma
Shock to My System
Free
Prayer
White Room
In Veronica's Head
Ordinary Girl
Act of Faith
Untitled ('Hey Maria')

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

These days, Rick Springfield is apparently considered the 'thinking man's AOR artist', though I'm not sure if that's a particularly enviable area to inhabit. Karma opens with an odd little piece devoted to his father, His Last Words, with various voices speaking about parental death over a muted backing, but after that, it's straight into what Mr.Springfield does best, i.e. extremely mainstream AOR for people who find Journey and Foreigner too heavy. This kind of music is loved by millions, but not me, I'm afraid. It's all done with impeccable 'taste', but its lame pop/rock glossiness is the sort of thing that makes me want to play Black Sabbath, VERY LOUD. I can't really pick out the tracks I particularly disliked, but I can say that His Last Words makes for an interesting diversion, and the untitled hidden track, usually known as Hey Maria, is slightly more interesting than the rest of the album, and also gets in a subtle reference to female masturbation.

As for the Mellotron, played by either Richard Shindell or Springfield himself (I'm not sure which), well, I can only hear it on one track, Prayer, with a brief flute part. As far as I can tell, all the rest of the strings are generic samples, although there may be more 'Tron hidden in the mix here and there. So; if you like AOR, you'll like Karma, and if you don't, you won't. That's it. Oh, and don't bother for the 'Tron, but I expect you'd already worked that out for yourself.

Official site

Springfield Park  (UK)

Springfield Park, 'A Stroll Through... Springfield Park'

A Stroll Through... Springfield Park  (2005, recorded 1967-68,  15.05)  ***/TT½

We Show You Paradise
Battle-Cry

Loud as You Can
Love's Our Thing
Halfway There
Land of Hope and Gloria

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Springfield Park? An obscure British psych/pop outfit who only ever released the one 7", '68's rather ordinary Never An Everyday Thing b/w I Can See The Sunshine, although the band heave been subject to reappraisal after the discovery of another six tracks, released on a 10" EP in 2005, A Stroll Through... Springfield Park. It starts well, with the moody (Moody?) We Show You Paradise and Battle-Cry, Love's Our Thing being another highlight, although the upbeat Loud As You Can and closer Land Of Hope And Gloria fail to match the quality of the other material.

Someone (Martin Croxford?) plays Mellotron, with distant strings on opener We Show You Paradise and more upfront ones on Battle-Cry and Love's Our Thing, non-coincidentally the EP's best tracks. Great for vinyl obsessives, but it might be nice if these tracks were made available in one digital format or another.

Bruce Springsteen  (US)

Bruce Springsteen, 'Magic'

Magic  (2007,  47.43)  ***/T

Radio Nowhere
You'll Be Comin' Down
Livin' in the Future
Your Own Worst Enemy
Gypsy Biker
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
I'll Work for Your Love
Magic
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Devil's Arcade

Terry's Song

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

After using the E Street Band for the first time in nearly twenty years on 2002's The Rising, Broooce summoned them again for 2007's Magic. Yup, it's a Bruce album... For us, the non-faithful, they all sound pretty much the same, I have to say, to the point where attempting to isolate 'best tracks' is fairly futile, but I'm sure his hardcore fans love it.

Patrick Warren is credited with 'tack piano and Chamberlin' on several tracks, but I suspect that's 'either/or', as against 'both'. In fact, all I can hear is faint background strings on Long Walk Home and a more upfront part on Devil's Arcade, although the cello on the latter is real.

Official site

See: Samples etc. | Patti Scialfa


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