Saturday Looks Good to Me
Julian Jay Savarin
Saves the Day
Scars on Broadway
Satellite Soul (1997, 49.32) **/T
Equal to the Fall
Say I am
A casual listen to Satellite Soul's eponymous 1997 debut tells you that they're an entirely average '90s alt./roots outfit, but it's only on closer inspection that you realise they're Christians, too. In fairness, although they subsequently recorded a 'live worship album' (pass the sickbag), the lyrics aren't so overtly god-bothering that it's a real problem. Unfortunately, the music itself is bland and predictable, triggering boredom and frustration in approximately equal measures, frontman Tim Suttle's voice irritating in the way that only a whiny American Christian's can.
I believe Suttle plays Mellotron, with background flutes and strings on Pieces, both sounds more upfront on Soul. I suppose Christian Wallflowers fans might go for this stuff, but I can't imagine who else might. Dull, dull, dull.
All Your Summer Songs (2003, 39.04) ***/T
Meet Me By the Water
The Sun Doesn't Want to Shine
All Our Summer Songs
No Good With Secrets
You Work All Weekend
Fill Up the Room (2007, 40.39) **/½
(Even if You Die on the) Ocean
When I Lose My Eyes
Make a Plan
Money in the Afterlife
|Hands in the Snow
Come With Your Arms
The, er, 'quirkily'-named Saturday Looks Good to Me tend to be described as 'experimental indie'. They actually sound a bit like an indie take on '60s soul and '50s rock'n'roll, at least on 2003's All Your Summer Songs, which is probably unlikely to appeal to anyone who doesn't already subscribe to the indie aesthetic. Alcohol is the only track that caught my ear in any way, largely because it's the rockiest, but while the album's perfectly good at what it does, it left me a little cold, I'm afraid. Mellotron from Dave Shettler, with a really quite full-on string part in Ambulance, sounding quite authentic, although the flutey thing on Typing sounds more like a badly-played recorder than Mellotron flutes.
2007's Fill Up the Room is much more generic indie than its predecessor and, frankly, bored the tits off me. It's noticeably less interesting than All Your Summer Songs, to the point where trying to find any 'best tracks' is a bit of a waste of time. Fred Thomas plays Chamberlin, with an upfront string part on Edison Girls, though no other definite sightings, although, as ever, there are several other 'possibles'.
So; competent, but very indie, albeit with one good 'Tron track each.
The Glitter Odd (2001, 47.31) **½/TChrysolis
A Trick of the Light
The Glitter Odd
Hydrophonic Gardening (2003, 51.27) **½/THydrophonic Gardening
Portugal's Saturnia fall into the same grey area as several other bands re. sample use: they've 'used' a real Mellotron, belonging to a friend, and admit sampling it, but don't state explicitly whether or not they actually put the real thing onto their records. Their second album, 2001's The Glitter Odd, barely even sounds like they used it, but an online interview assures me the 'flutes are all Mellotron', so I have to assume they're simply very heavily effected.
The album itself is a bit of a letdown, to be honest; a sort of psych/drone/prog/raga thing with some contemporary touches in the rhythm department that sounds like it should be better than it is. OK, it's not terrible, but the programmed beats are offputting and most of its musical content drifts past without ever really impinging itself on your consciousness. Maybe that's the idea? Plenty of early Floyd vocals and organ drones, plenty of sound FX and twirly synths and vaguely Porcupine Tree-esque atmospherics, although little actual substance, sadly. On the Mellotron front, there are rather tuneless (sometimes completely out of key) flute warblings on all the highlighted tracks above, with the exception of a brief string part on (presumably) the 'Menadel' part of Ozimuth/Menadel. The claustrophobic mix doesn't help matters any, to be honest; most of the keyboards are buried away under layers of real and programmed percussion and reverb, making accurate 'Tron-spotting a Thing Of Difficulty.
Saturnia followed up with 2003's Hydrophonic Gardening, essentially more of the same; seriously, if you like The Glitter Odd, you'll like this and, of course, vice versa. There's actually less Mellotron (or whatever it is) than before, with merely flutes on Sunflower and strings on Planetarium and Omnia, the latter sounding particularly dodgy. Please could we have the truth about the Mellotron, chaps? Overall, then, two rather dull albums, to be honest, with 'Mellotron' flutes that actually sound more like real ones and strings that sound more like samples. Your choice.
Waiters on the Dance (1973, 32.47) ***½/TT½Child of the Night 1 and 2
The Death of Alda
Dance of the Golden Flamingoes
Soldiers of Time
Julian Jay Savarin was/is a science fiction writer, still active today, but in the late '60s he formed a band to try to realise his ambitions in the musical field as well as the literary. Julian's Treatment recorded one album, the proto-prog A Time Before This in 1970, utilising themes from his Lemmus trilogy, although the band split up soon after. Undeterred, Savarin released its logical follow-up, Waiters on a Dance (sharing a title with the first Lemmus book), under his own name in '73, in a broadly similar musical vein, which unfortunately rather dates it these days. The material, sung by Jo Meek (the first album's vocalist, Cathy Pruden, had returned to Australia by this time), is good, though not outstanding, although the album succeeds in not really sounding much like anyone else, which has to be a bonus. Best track? Probably the longest, Dance Of The Golden Flamingoes.
A Time Before This is sometimes quoted as a Mellotron album, the confusion arising from the See For Miles CD, which adds all but one track from Waiters on a Dance (the exception being Dance Of The Golden Flamingoes, typically), although Bevis Frond (Nick Saloman)'s sleevenotes obfuscate the issue slightly. Anyway, Savarin certainly does play Mellotron on the latter release: Child Of The Night 1 And 2 has a 'Tron flute part that dips in and out of the track, before some mental, full-on strings come crashing in near the end, with strings and what I presume is 'Tron brass on The Death Of Alda and just about everything on the album's longest and best track, Dance Of The Golden Flamingoes. I suspect this will take a good few listens to assimilate properly, and at least it's now available properly, albeit only on the Italian Akarma label (or is that 'Akarama', Shane and co?). Worth hearing.
In Reverie (2003, 33.56) ***/T
|Anywhere With You
What Went Wrong
Driving in the Dark
Morning in the Moonlight
In My Waking Life
Where Are You?
Wednesday the Third
Tomorrow Too Late
In Reverie marked the point at which everything went tits-up for Saves the Day, as their new label, Dreamworks, stopped supporting the album days after its release (allegedly), dropping the band soon after, as many of their fans concurrently decided they didn't like the band's new 'mainstream' sound. To an outside pair of ears, it's a melodic, punkish pop record, complete with the sort of halfway decent songwriting that makes it stand out in a sea of similar-sounding dross. Not that it's a classic, you understand, but how many albums are? It seems to be good at what it does, which is often enough.
Reed Black guests on Mellotron on two credited tracks, although there's also a very obvious string part at the end of What Went Wrong, presumably also played by Black. Of the two credited tracks, Wednesday The Third is decidedly better on the 'Tron front, with a cool string part, sounding nice'n'cranky, with a rather lesser cello line on She. So; while most of you are unlikely to like this album, it manages to be reasonably good in a fairly poor genre, which has to be applauded, as does its brevity, in a world of overlong CDs, 'because we can'. Two OK 'Tron parts, worth hearing, but not really buying.
Reasons to Stay Indoors (2001, 54.03) **½/TT½
|Reasons to Stay Indoors
If You Won't Come to the Party
Half of the Time
Once Upon a Year
I Would Not Change a Thing
|The One That Got Away
Against the Sun
Five Million Years
Savoy is essentially the trio of A-Ha keys man Paul (originally Pål) Waaktaar-Savoy, his wife, Lauren and drummer Frode Unneland, whose fourth album, 2001's Reasons to Stay Indoors, veers between very listenable pop and the kind of overwrought nonsense that gives the mainstream a bad (OK, badder) name. Best tracks? Fear List brings A-Ha's original electro-pop stylings to mind, Paramount is about the rockiest thing here and Against The Sun's a passable ballad, but nothing really leaps out and grabs you by the throat, I'm afraid.
Waaktaar-Savoy uses his MkVI on several tracks, with strings on If You Won't Come To The Party, an electric harpsichord/celeste mix on the intro to Half Of The Time (no, I didn't know anyone had recorded those sounds, either), reiterated later in the song, with background strings on Fear List. I Would Not Change A Thing sounds like it features another rare-as-rocking-horse-shit sounds, the Mellotron guitar (very plinky, actually), plus cellos on The One That Got Away, although I believe the rest of the album's strings are real. Incidentally, thanks to MkVI developer Markus Resch for his unwitting Mellotron info here, rescued from an ancient saved e-mail.
So; a fairly mainstream 'adult pop' album with a decent chunk of Mellotron, including some unusual sounds. Enough to make it worth buying? Only if seen very cheap indeed, I'd have to say. Nice to hear something a bit different on the 'Tron front for once, though.
Jack the Toad (1973, 46.19) ***/½Coming Down Your Way
Ride on Babe
Hold Your Fire
If I Want to
Casting My Spell
Just Cos' You Got the Blues Don't Mean You Gotta Sing
Jack the Toad
Savoy Brown (previously the Savoy Brown Blues Band) formed during the mid-'60s UK blues boom, and are still going today, led by the one remaining original member, guitarist Kim Simmonds. They survived most of their lineup jumping ship in 1969 to form the equally-successful-in-the-US Foghat, going on to lose members to fellow blues-boomers Fleetwood Mac, before Simmonds recruited the members who would play on what I believe was their tenth album in six years, Jack the Toad. The album is... blues. I'm not quite sure what I can say about this; it's a blues album, and the band plays blues. They don't appear to play it with any great originality, although they by no means stick rigidly to the 12-bar blueprint, but ZZ Top they ain't. There are better tracks; Endless Sleep has a nice feel to it, but it's largely pretty much blues by numbers, to be honest.
One notable feature of the album for me personally is the inclusion of future UFO member Paul Raymond on keyboards, not to mention 'friend of the Quo' Jackie Lynton on vocals (I supported his band once in the late '80s - talk about a mismatch...). Admittedly, Raymond mostly plays piano, but he's also credited with Mellotron, with a slightly pointless cello part on the closing title track.
Personally, I find the appeal of this kind of workaday blues-rock utterly mystifying, although I'm a big fan of those artists who took the blues somewhere (ZZ, the much-missed Rory Gallagher). Plenty of people, particularly in the States, seem to love this stuff though, so who am I to argue? Don't bother with Jack the Toad for its Mellotron use, though.
Endless Flight (1976, 37.02) */½
|Hold on to My Love
You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
When I Need You
No Business Like Love Business
I Hear the Laughter
How Much Love
|I Think We Fell in Love Too Fast
The diminutive Gerard "Leo" Sayer's career began with him writing songs for other artists, notably Roger Daltrey, whose very un-Who like debut album, Daltrey, featured several of his compositions. Sayer's own singing career kicked off with 1973's The Show Must Go On, providing the template for his next few hits, being very mainstream pop, nowadays bizarrely sometimes referred to as 'guilty pleasures'. Nothing pleasurable about this, mate... Spitting out an album a year, Endless Flight was Sayer's fourth, catching him at the point where he discovered the delights of disco (with the horrid falsetto-driven You Make Me Feel Like Dancing), and the extra moolah playing it would bring him. It also contains one of the cheesiest sloppy love songs ever, in When I Need You; I'd actually forgotten that this existed, so no thanks to this album whatsoever for reminding me. The rest of the album consists of what passed for singer-songwriter material in the pop world at the time, veering between nasty and nastier; well, just one look at that cover tells you everything you need to know about this, I think.
Mellotron on one track, with flutes (of course) on Magdalena, one of the less offensive tracks, by Jimmy Phillips, presumably the same guy who slapped shitloads of 'Tron strings all over Small Wonder's debut album the same year (this was recorded in LA). Unsurprisingly, they're not exactly enough to drag the album up from the considerable depths it inhabits, so it rather goes without saying (although I'm going to say it anyway) that you really, REALLY don't need a copy of this dreck within spitting distance of your town, never mind your stereo. Avoid with prejudice. Oh, and according to the pics on his website, although the little git is now almost unrecognisable from his '70s heyday, he's still got that bloody hair. And he's still a shortarse.
Official site (why, why?)
|7" (1982) ***/½
What is This Thing
|7" (1983) ***/T
Eyes of Ice
Scarlet Party? Who? I hear you cry. Well, I'd never heard of them until about half an hour before I wrote this, but it seems they were one of the legions of 'unlucky' bands who signed to a major, then found themselves sidelined before they could release an album. In Scarlet Party's case, the album was even recorded, but when Parlophone nixed it, that was, essentially, their lot. And all this despite featuring David Gilmour's brother Mark in their lineup...
Based around the Dye brothers, Graham and Steven, they sat firmly in the 'classy early '80s pop/rock' camp, not obviously any less potentially commercial than many others and a lot more than some. Nonetheless, two obscure singles are their sole legacy, until/if that lost album should ever surface. First release 101 Dam-Nations is my personal favourite of their four tracks, its breezy, upbeat feel reminiscent of an updated 10cc, say, while Eyes Of Ice is more 'McCartney plays Floyd', though decent enough for all that.
Mellotron? Surprisingly, yes, with distant strings (clearly audible at the end) on the heavily McCartneyesque b-side What Is This Thing, with polyphonic cellos on Eyes Of Ice, but nothing you can't live without, frankly. I'm not sure who would actually buy it 35 years on, but it would be nice if that album, Scarlet Skies, finally gained a release. who knows, there might actually be a bit more Mellotron on it.
Scars on Broadway (2008, 44.57) ***/TT½
World Long Gone
Kill Each Other/Live Forever
Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan are half of the currently-on-hiatus System of a Down, Scars on Broadway being their on/off side-project. Their eponymous 2008 album has features in common with their parent band, not least the downtuned, riffy stuff, although there's a high concentration of relatively thoughtful material here, but then, given System's strong political stance, I really shouldn't be surprised. Better tracks include opener Serious, Kill Each Other/Live Forever and Chemicals, although the frequently witty, even insightful lyrics on most tracks carry some of the lesser tunes.
Malakian plays Mellotron, with some near-dissonant chords at the beginning of Exploding/Reloading, a pump organ-esque flute part on Kill Each Other/Live Forever and strings on Babylon, Chemicals, Universe, 3005 and Cute Machines, choking off on the last-named, making me think it's the real deal. Of course, System used one on two albums (to my knowledge), so although I shouldn't be surprised that it crops up here, I am surprised at how much it's been used. Anyone who likes System of a Down stands a very good chance of liking Scars on Broadway, too, the reasonable Mellotron use merely being a bonus.
See: System of a Down
Brother (2010, 48.00) */½
|Why Don't We Try
Beauty in the Breakdown
Never Gonna Let This Go
My Humility, You Are
Talk About Love
8 Years of Silence
|Katy (Give Me a Shot)
If You're a Bird
Landon's Summer Diary
Walk This Town
The Scene Aesthetic are the Seattle-based duo of Andrew de Torres (of Danger Radio, whoever they are) and Eric Bowley, who took a break in 2008 for the latter to travel to Argentina as a Mormon missionary. Does that tell you everything you need to know about them? Their third album, 2010's Brother (also issued with the companion Sister EP as Brother & Sister, predictably), is the blandest heap of dross to land on my desk since, well, the last album I reviewed actually, but it hasn't been a good day. Every song vies with every other to outdo its companions in the wet stakes, replete with insipid twin-lead vocals, lighter-than-helium melodies and offensive-in-their-inoffensiveness, happy-clappy (though not noticeably religiously so) backing tracks.
Zac Rae plays Mellotron, with background flutes and strings on Humans and strings on Katy (Give Me A Shot), although all other strings appear to be real. Christ, this is nasty; each member of the duo, rather like their songs, compete to sound wetter and more fragile (and not in a good way) than each other. No, there are no 'best tracks', or even vaguely listenable ones. Vile.
Acquatica (1996, 70.38) ***/T½
|The Tones of Peloponnesus
All Fish Go to Heaven
The Isle of Caldra
The Ionic Curve
Sidereal Hands at the Temple of Omphalos
Et Tu, Dronius?
The Acid Gospel Experience (2002, 73.12) **½/T½Year of the Rat
The Acid Gospel
Under a Wing
A Journey Through the Outer Reaches of Inner Space
How to describe Scenic? Maybe their name gives the game away. 1996's Acquatica is a widescreen, cinematic travelogue through their influences, with the traditional Velvets-style guitar drone juxtaposed with ambient keys and vaguely prog leanings. An instrumental safari? "Look! There's Mt. Kilimanjaro!" Scenic are capable of rocking out, too (Angelica), but their default setting seems to be vaguely psychedelic drone rock, heavy on the atmosphere. Patrick Warren turns up to do his usual Chamberlin thing, and also as usual, you can't always spot where it's used. Probable Chamby strings on Ionia, the lengthy Modula Raga and Et Tu, Dronius?, although what sound like slides between notes on the latter two tracks make you wonder. Incidentally, there are several minutes of silence after Et Tu, Dronius? before an untitled piece, so they've been removed from the timing above.
2002 brought The Acid Gospel Experience, which probably tells you even more about where the band are coming from than their name. If I'm going to be brutally honest, these hour-plus albums of ambient whatever bore the crap out of me after a while; no doubt I'm not doing the right (or any) drugs. It seems to be good at what it does, but please don't ever make me listen to this again. Wrong generation, I think. Chamberlin from Robert Loveless and James Brenner this time, with strings on opener Year Of The Rat and occasional choirs and strings on (deep breath) A Journey Through The Outer Reaches Of Inner Space, although the strings on Lightspeed and others seem to carry on far too long to be tape-driven.
So; space-rock, anyone? These albums are certainly psychedelic, but altered states are probably recommended all round. Very little obvious Chamby use on either, so I'd only delve in if their mind-altering thang sounds like it might be yours, too.
Feel Who I am (2010, 45.26) **½/½
|Feel Who I am
Picture in a Puzzle
Take on Me
Breathe & Reboot
Leave Me Alone
Look at Me
Graziella Schazad is a German English-language singer-songwriter, whose second album, 2010's Feel Who I am, is far less appalling than I'd been expecting, which isn't to say that it doesn't largely consist of mainstream fare; it does. Somehow, though, it mostly manages not to offend, although I feel the country material (Everybody, Miracle, Désolé) is a bit of a mistake. Top track? Probably her radical reworking of A-Ha's Take On Me, preserving all the song's elements while making it her own.
Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams) plays Mellotron, although the only possible use is the background flutes on Miracle. Well, I've heard a great deal worse in this area, which is why this doesn't get a proper pasting, although it's not exactly dynamic.
Le Carnaval des Animaux (1978, 34.53) ***½/½
|Introduction - Marche Royale du Lion
Poules et Coq
|Le Coucou au Fond du Bois
Personnages à Longues Oreilles
Le Carnaval des Animaux - Finale
Ton Scherpenzeel was/is keyboard player and joint chief songwriter with one of the Netherlands' top progressive outfits, Kayak, but he chose a classical adaptation for his first solo album, some years into his band's career. Le Carnaval des Animaux (I really hope I don't need to translate that...) is Scherpenzeel's version of one of noted French composer Saint-Saëns' best-known pieces and is, for the most part, extremely well executed. The narrow gap between classical and progressive is rarely more clearly illustrated than on this album, as it's quite possible to listen to it believing you're hearing Scherpenzeel's own compositions. While not knowing the history behind the piece, it's obvious that the music is meant to represent a dream of, well, a carnival of animals, as the sleeve design makes quite clear.
The individual pieces, all named after animals, oddly enough, are all short; none more than four minutes long. The instrumentation is typically progressive; instrumental, with guitar/bass/drums and loads of keyboards, including a largely inaudible Mellotron. In fact, the only place I can even faintly hear it is at the end of side one, where some strings become apparent at the end of Hémiones. It's interesting to note that although the original 'song' titles are in French, they're also printed on the sleeve in Dutch and English, but not German, although my copy originates from that country.
Not being terrifically au fait with the original work (although I have heard it), I find it difficult to tell just how well Scherpenzeel has adapted it, particularly with regard to the drum parts; it's very noticeable how most drum parts added to classical adaptations sound very 'tacked on', as the pieces weren't written with strict rhythm in mind. As a result, some of the rhythm tracks here (by Kayak percussionist and sometime Mellotron player Max Werner) sound a little awkward, but others fit perfectly. The original composition, as you'd expect from any 'known' classical composer, is quite faultless, with a dollop of humour frequently missing from the classical oeuvre, notably the lengthy quote from The Can-Can, taken at an amusingly slothlike pace in the middle of Tortues; Tortoises - what else?
So, all in all, not a bad album at all, with a sound vaguely akin to Kayak's. The Mellotron use is almost nonexistent, but if you're into symphonic progressive or adaptations of classical works, you could do worse than pick this up.
Official Kayak site
Schicke Führs Fröhling (SFF) (Germany) see:
Eberhard Schoener (Germany) see:
Lieder aus dem Kinderland (1982, 42.18) ***/½
Der Riese Glombatsch
Schmusen Muß Sein
Der Traummann Fidibus
|Der Meeresbezwinger Thomas
Alle Deine Namen
Jule Wäscht Sich Nie
Kalle, Heiner, Peter
Der Zauberer Von Zirkus Luft
Augen, Ohren und Herz
Gerhard Schöne's second release, 1982's Lieder aus dem Kinderland, is a children's album, apparently telling a story in time-honoured tradition, although my lack of German leaves me unable to tell you anything about it, other than that the phrase 'mother and father' crops up at one point. It's far better than you might expect, although the children's chorus on a few tracks is slightly unnecessary. Or is it? This is an album for kids, not discerning adults and as such, is almost unjudgeable by adult standards.
Michael Schubert plays various instruments, including a few seconds of Mellotron strings on Raxli Faxli, although that appears to be it for the instrument, sadly. This is actually on CD, but unless your kids speak German, I really couldn't recommend it. Good at what it does.
Evenfall (2009, 47.34) **½/½
High Green Grass
Sébastien Schuller is a French singer-songwriter, working mainly in English, who's been involved in film soundtracks alongside his solo career. 2009's Evenfall is only his second full album in a decade, ignoring several EPs, an unfortunately typical-sounding modern effort within its genre, crossing over into that rather tedious 'transcendent indie' sound, only successfully translated onto record by Sigur Rós. Better tracks include opener Morning Mist and New York, but that isn't saying that much, I'm sorry to say.
Schuller plays credited Mellotron himself, with strings and inaudible choir on Balançoire, including a heavy pitchbend at the end of the song, background flutes on Awakening and maybe faint flutes on Battle, although there's nothing that obvious on the track. Overall, we're not talking something to gladden the hearts of those who find most modern music a bit of a waste of space, I'm afraid, mostly boring material and very little Mellotron making this a bit of a dud.