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A-Reefer-Derci!
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Christmas in Heaven
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City on a Hill
Cozy Powell Forever
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À Boris Vian

'À Boris Vian: On N'est Pas là Pour Se Faire Engueuler!'

À Boris Vian: On N'est Pas là Pour Se Faire Engueuler!  (2009,  120.21)  ***/T½

Collectif:
  On N'est Pas là pour Se Faire
    Engueuler

Juliette:
  Complainte du Progrès (les
    Arts Ménagers)

Katerine:
  Je Bois
Christian Olivier:
  Les Joyeux Bouchers
Lio:
  Natacha Chien-Chien
Maurane:
  Blouse du Dentiste
M:
  Cinématographe
Carmen Maria Vega & Merlot:
  Bourrée de Complexes
François Hadji-Lazaro:
  Fais-Moi Mal, Johnny
Olivia Ruiz:
  La Java des Bombes Atomiques
Emily Loizeau:
  Ses Baisers Me Grisaient

Mademoiselle K:
  Quand J'Aurai du Vent dans
    Mon Crâne

Didier Wampas:
  Rock and Roll-Mops
Thomas Fersen:
  Barcelone
Michel Delpech:
  J'Suis Snob
Lambert Wilson:
  Monsieur le Jazz
Rona Hartner:
  L'âme Slave
Dick Annegarn & Mathieu
  Boogaerts:
  Faux Frère
Juliette Gréco:
  Le Déserteur
Zebda:
  C'est Ici...
Arielle Dombasle:
  J'Suis Snob
J.P. Nataf:
  Ballade du Lapin
Carole Bouquet:
  Terre-Lune
Arthur H:
  Casserole-Sérénade

Claire Diterzi:
  Elle Serait là, Si Lourde
Antoine de Caunes:
  Cantate des Boîtes
Daphné:
  S'il Pleuvait des Larmes
Holden:
  Il est Tard
Agnès Jaoui:
  L'Année à l'Envers
Daniel Darc:
  Pas pour Moi
Jeanne Moreau:
  Que Tu es Impatiente
Edouard Baer:
  Je Voudrais Pas Crever
Jane Birkin:
  Bientôt
Kent:
  Les Isles
Carla Bruni:
  Valse des Mannequins
Jean Louis Trintignant:
  Je Mourrai d'un Cancer de la
    Colonne Vertébrale

Barbara Carlotti:
  La Neige
Jean-Claude Dreyfus:
  La Marche du Concombre

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Boris Vian (1920-1959) is a French jazz-era icon, musician, composer, writer and academic, not to mention several other disciplines, all in 39 short years. 2009's two-disc À Boris Vian: On N'est Pas là Pour Se Faire Engueuler! tribute set features some of the cream of the current French scene, not least Jane Birkin (OK, she's English), Kent and Carla Bruni (OK, she's Italian, even if she is married to the president). The discs are labelled 'Chansons Probables' and 'Chansons Improbables', respectively, although I'm not sure of the relevance. Many of its solo contributors sing together on the opening title track, including Olivia Ruiz, Mathieu Boogaerts, Barbara Carlotti and Didier Wampas, most of their individual contributions being in period style, although a handful of tracks are given a slightly more contemporary treatment.

Fred Pallem plays Chamberlin on several tracks, with a lovely string part on Emily Loizeau's Ses Baisers Me Grisaient, background strings on Carole Bouquet's Terre-Lune, a violent string part on Arthur H(igelin)'s Casserole-Sérénade and polyphonic flutes on Agnès Jaoui's L'Année À L'Envers. One for French jazz enthusiasts, I think, although the Chamby work is actually worth hearing.

See: Jane Birkin | Kent | Carla Bruni

A-Reefer-Derci!

'A-Reefer-Derci!'

A-Reefer-Derci!: Recorded Live at the Reefer Cabaret, Melbourne  (1976,  74.09)  ***/½

Renée Geyer Band:
  It's a Man's Man's World
Split Enz:
  Amy
  Lovey Dovey
  Time for a Change

Ayers Rock:
  Boogie Woogie Waltz
  Gimme Shelter

Ariel:
  I Can't Say What I Mean
  Rock'n'Roll Scars
Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band:
  Roll That Reefer
  The Prefect
  Out in the Suburbs

Skyhooks:
  Revolution
  Smut
  Saturday Night

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

A-Reefer-Derci! (ho ho), subtitled 'Recorded Live at the Reefer Cabaret, Melbourne', does exactly what it says on the tin; it's a record (literally) of the last two nights of Melbourne's infamous Reefer Cabaret nights in December '75. The Reefer Cabaret shifted venue a few times, it seems, and the police (amazingly) turned a blind eye to the, er, 'recreational activities' to be found within. Going by the sleevenotes, half the club's problems were caused by various organisers/MCs being too stoned to actually function in any significant way, although they seem to have put on some great nights anyway.

Six bands are included on this set, several of which fall into the typically Aussie good time/jamming category, with Ariel finding themselves the halfway stage between Ayers Rock's lengthy jams and the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band's jug-band style (the Antipodean Mungo Jerry?). The Renee Geyer Band are introduced by a very stoned young South African lady with an impenetrable accent, performing a version of James Brown's It's A Man's Man's World, for some reason, while the biggest band at the time and the night's surprise guests, the Skyhooks (Iron Maiden's Women In Uniform, anyone?) are actually... rather boring? Not sure where their reputation comes from, anyway.

The only relevant band here are the wondrous Split Enz, limited to a paltry three songs, two of which are (loosely) available on the impossible-to-find Oddz And Enz set, along with other rarities; ironically, the missing track is the Mellotron one... Although they're all excellent, the only one of their contributions to concern us is Time For A Change, with a few Mellotron string notes under Eddie Rayner's string synth, making this rather unnecessary for the Mellotron fan, although a 'must-have' for Split Enz aficionados. And, um, please could we have their whole set? Assuming the tapes still exist, of course...

So; you're not going to find this very easily; I stumbled across a copy in a Melbourne second-hand shop, but only because I asked the staff for Split Enz stuff and was pointed in its general direction. Maybe someone will reissue Oddz And Enz properly one day, rather than as either a) part of an enormously expensive box-set or b) a rumour-only release that I couldn't track down in several dozen shops in most major cities across the Antipodes. To be honest, most of A-Reefer-Derci!'s contents have dated badly, but it's an interesting curio, although exceedingly minimal on the Mellotron front.

See: Split Enz

Acquire the Fire  see: Samples

American Song-Poem Christmas

'The American Song-Poem Christmas'

The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, is Santa Really Six Foot Four?  (2003, recorded 196?-7?,  56.02)  **/TT

Heather Noel:
  Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile
Bobbie Boyle with The Singers:
  Santa Claus Goes Modern

Norris the Troubadour & the Seaboard Coastliners:
  Christmas Time Philosophy
Dick Kent with The Lancelots:
  A New Year's Dawning

The Sisterhood:
  Rocking Disco Santa Claus
Stan Beard & The Swinging Strings:
  Snowbows
Bobbie Boyle with The MSR Singers:
  Randy, the Lil' Elf
Rodd Rogers:
  Maury, the Christmas Mouse
Randall Reed with The Forerunners:
  The Peppermint Stick Man
The Sisterhood:
  Christmas Treat, Peppermint
Kay Brown:
  Daddy, is Santa Really Six Foot Four?
Rodd & The Librettos:
  How Do They Spend Christmas in Heaven
The Sisterhood:
  Ole Year Christmas
Gene Marshall:
  Evelyn Christmas
Rodd & Nita:
  Jolly, Jolly Santa Claus
Sonny Cash:
  Merry Christmas Polka
Rodd & Judy:
  Santa Fix My Toys for Christmas
The Sisterhood:
  Baby, it's a Cold Night in December
Rod Rogers & The Librettos:
  Santa Claus Goes Modern
Cara Stewart with The Lee Hudson Orchestra:
  The New Year Song
Teri Summers & The Librettos:
  Season's Greetings

Current availability:

Chamberlins used:

I can't imagine many of you out there are still non-conversant with the bizarre 'song-poem' genre, such as it is; anyone at a loss should probably have a quick gander at my Rodd Keith reviews. The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, is Santa Really Six Foot Four? is a 2003 compilation of twenty-one such Christmas-themed horrors from the vaults, some clearly dubbed from scratchy old vinyl, where, the churlish might add, they should probably have stayed. In fairness, some of this stuff's wet-yourself-laughing funny, not least Heather Noel singing Santa Came On A Nuclear Missile and Kay Brown's sort-of title track. Other 'highlights' include the munchkinesque vocal, tracking the regular one, on Randall Reed's The Peppermint Stick Man, The Sisterhood's highly professional-sounding disco moves, clearly from some years later than the bulk of this set and its crowning glory, Rod Rogers (i.e. Rodd Keith)'s slurred, piss-take of Santa Claus Goes Modern, also present in Bobbie Boyle's more 'pro' version. Of course, the level of schmaltz tops even the cheesiest of mainstream Christmas records, the likes of Snowbows (er, what?), Randy, The Lil' Elf, How Do They Spend Christmas In Heaven and the hilariously mawkish Santa Fix My Toys For Christmas exceeding all expectations, while the music sticks largely to a tried-and-trusted '50s/early '60s template of a kind you could still (just about) get away with today (see: Cliff Richard).

Our old pal Rodd Keith turns up, of course, as does the lesser-known Gene Marshall, although it's difficult to tell how many tracks may feature them, other than those for which they're explicitly credited. I'd imagine that's Keith playing Chamberlin strings on two Bobbie Boyle numbers, Santa Claus Goes Modern and Randy, The Lil' Elf, Dick Kent (Keith?)'s A New Year's Dawning and Stan Beard (also Keith?)'s Snowbows, which adds a clunky flute solo to the mix. Song-poem aficionados will almost certainly already own this fine disc, given that it's been available for over a decade at the time of writing, but how about the rest of us? Are you as sick as myself of the standard seasonal fare? Would you like to drive unwanted relatives from your house over the Christmas period? Do you like the idea of laughing yourself stupid while everyone else watches the Queen's speech? (Sorry, America - UK reference). Then buy a copy of The American Song-Poem Christmas. You really can't go wrong.

See: Rodd Keith | Rod Rogers | Gene Marshall

Bakersfield Rebels

'Bakersfield Rebels'

Bakersfield Rebels: Late 1960s Gems Featuring Clarence White, The Nashville West Band & Others  (2004, recorded 1965-69,  65.50) nbsp;***/T½

Kenny Vernon:
  Ain't That a Shame
Larry Daniels & the Buckshots:
  Buckshot
Dennis Payne:
  The Conscience of You
Rusty Dean:
  Saturday Satan, Sunday Saint

The Dudes:
  Let's Not Pretend Anymore
The Gosdin Brothers:
  There Must Be a Someone (I Can Turn to)
Jan Paxton:
  She's Taken Everything
Bakersfield's Big Guitars:
  Hugh's Brew
The Spencers:
  King & Queen of Fools
Gary Paxton:
  Bummer
Guilbeau & Parsons:
  Your Gentle Ways of Loving Me
Leo LeBlanc:
  Hong Kong Hillbilly
Dennis Payne:
  Who Cares What Happens

Dee Mize:
  Just Leave My World Alone
Gib & the Reasons:
  I'll Live Today
Gary Paxton:
  Half as Much

Lorene Mercer:
  Ballad of a Truck Drivers Wife
Larry Daniels & the Buckshots:
  Bakersfield Steed
The Dudes:
  What a Relief, it's All Over
Jan Paxton:
  The Half That's Mine
Dennis Payne:
  I'd Rather Live My Life Alone

Bakersfield's Big Guitars:
  El Tejon Ride
The Sanland Brothers:
  Red Roses (for My Baby)
The LeGarde Twins:
  Night Blooming Jasmine
Gary Paxton:
  Bakersfield

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Gary S. Paxton was a maverick country artist/producer in the '60s, running his Bakersfield International Productions label and studio from an old bank vault in Bakersfield, California, along with his crack team of musicians, including sometime Byrds members Clarence White and Gene Parsons. 2004's Bakersfield Rebels set collates many Bakersfield productions that received either a limited or no release at the time, despite matching (in fact, exceeding) the quality of mainstream Nashville recordings of the era, with the added bonus of a reduction in the general schmaltz factor. Several tracks are actually pretty experimental, particularly within the genre, being dubbed 'progressive country' by some rather optimistic observers. To the uninitiated, it's a reasonable enough set of early country-rock, although only a handful of tracks stand out in any real way. For the aficionado, however, this must be an absolute goldmine, providing a welcome alternative to the kind of schlock that's been labelled 'country' for the last few decades.

As far as I can ascertain, the label probably owned a Chamberlin (a Mellotron seems most unlikely at that time), Paxton playing it on a handful of tracks here, with strings on Rusty Dean's Saturday Satan, Sunday Saint, Dennis Payne's Who Cares What Happens and I'd Rather Live My Life Alone and his own Half As Much. In addition, several tracks on the set feature a vibraphone, but I suspect it's real, rather than Chamby-generated. Overall, then, good news for country-rock fans in general and Gene Parsons fans in particular, although the rest of us probably don't need to get too excited. A handful of reasonable Chamby tracks, but nothing you can't live without.

See: Clarence White

BayProg

'BayProg'

BayProg: Progressive Rock From the San Francisco Bay Area  (2002,  66.48)  ****/T

New Sun:
  Mammoth
Trap:
  Presage
Gravity Tree:
  Aim to Please
Spirits Burning:
  Clear Audient v.2.5
Metaphor:
  When it All Comes Together
Amy X, Neuburg & Men:
  Naked Puppets
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum:
  Sleep is Wrong!
Michael P.Dawson:
  The News in Farsi
Puppet Show:
  Harold Cain
Mind Furniture:
  The End of Days

Monocaine:
  Another Man's Ditch
Tesseract:
  On the Edge of an Eclipse

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

BayProg is an interesting idea, although I know it's been done before; collect together several bands from the same area, with the bonus here being that all the bands concerned fall into the same (fairly broad) stylistic area. Are there really a dozen prog outfits in the San Francisco/East Bay region? It would appear so, although they cover plenty of ground between them, to say the least. I only actually recognise four of the twelve names, three of whom I've previously heard, so full marks to the compilers for finding some lesser names to stick in with the big(ger) boys.

Of the bands I don't know, New Sun's intelligent prog-metal came as a nice surprise, compared to that sub-genre's usual lack of imagination, while Amy X, Neuburg & Men contribute a very odd track that somehow reminds me slightly of the Fibonaccis, albeit with more 'normal' vocals, and actually (just about) manage to out-weird Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Suffice to say, there isn't actually a bad track here, although a couple have trouble lifting themselves up from 'fairly average'.

Absolute, confirmed Mellotron on one track only, with Don Tillman's cellos and strings on Tesseract's On The Edge Of An Eclipse reminding me slightly of Larks' Tongues-era Crimson. However, although I can't confirm it, Mind Furniture, about whom I know nothing, have what sounds like quite authentic 'Tron on their The End Of Days, which I've highlighted, while Puppet Show's Harold Cain has what sounds more like samples (they're also in the albums list as 'unconfirmed' for their '98 release, Traumatized). A couple of vaguely-'Tronnish sounds towards the beginning of the album almost certainly aren't, and Metaphor don't even use samples this time round, so the final score is one definite, one possible and one unlikely.

I believe BayProg was only ever available with the Spring 2002 issue of Exposé magazine (no.24), so if you want this you'll have to buy the back-issue, assuming they still have copies in stock. It's worth a listen, while it seems several of the tracks are available on the relevant artists' albums, although a couple are demo versions. One definite otherwise-unavailable 'Tron track, anyway.

See: Spirits Burning | Metaphor | Tesseract

Be Yourself

'Be Yourself: A Tribute to Graham Nash's "Songs for Beginners"'

Be Yourself: A Tribute to Graham Nash's "Songs for Beginners"  (2010,  37.51)  ***½/T

Port o'Brien/Papercuts:
  Military Madness
Brendan Benson:
  Better Days
Nile Nash:
  Wounded Bird
Vetiver:
  Used to Be a King
Robin Pecknold:
  Be Yourself
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy:
  Simple Man
Moore Brothers:
  Man in the Mirror
Alela Diane:
  There's Only One
Mariee Sioux with Greg Weeks:
  Sleep Song

Sleepy Sun/Nile Nash:
  Chicago/We Can Change the World (Reprise)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Although ex-Holly Graham Nash's place in musical history should be assured, these days, his name conjures up little of the hero-worship that surrounds his on/off collaborator Neil Young. 2010's Be Yourself: A Tribute to Graham Nash's "Songs for Beginners" is an attempt by fans from the current indie/folk scene to address the problem, reinterpreting Nash's first solo album, 1971's Songs for Beginners, in sequence, for a new generation of listeners, most of its tracks sticking fairly closely to the originals. While nothing here really stands out, better tracks include Port o'Brien/Papercuts' opening Military Madness (current status: no change), Mariee Sioux and Greg Weeks' Sleep Song and Sleepy Sun's rocking Chicago, complete with Neil-style solo.

Weeks plays Mellotron on Sleep Song, with a gentle flute part that enhances the track; shame he wasn't asked to add it to a few others, too. Fans of the original album should make the effort to hear Be Yourself, ditto anyone with even a passing interest in singer-songwriters of the era or any of the artists involved. Worth hearing.

See: Greg Weeks

Below Zero

'Below Zero: Minus, Vol.1'

Below Zero: Minus, Vol.1  (2009,  78.31)  **/½

Kaya Project:
  Under the Spell
Holmes Ives:
  In the Beginning
Evolve:
  Couldn't Be More Wrong
Chris Zippel:
  Again
Under:
  Under
Track N Field:
  Someday I Will
Shine:
  In the Midlife Zone
Iëlo:
  Fluide
Samantha James:
  Rain

Ladder:
  Transmission You
Karmacoda:
  Make Like Mine
Clelia FELIX:
  Road Movie
Younger Brother:
  Ribbons on a Branch
Hawke:
  FlyFly Away
Dirtyhertz:
  I Want You to Be a Good Boy
Guts:
  And the Living is Easy!

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

As far as I can work out, Below Zero are a label and Below Zero: Minus, Vol.1 is a compilation of (previously unavailable?) tracks, all loosely in a 'dance' vein; a lack of knowledge of the genres involved makes it difficult for me to separate the R&B from the hip-hop, or the trance from the electronica. Suffice to say, you are most unlikely to like any of this unless your tastes veer in the direction of modern electronic music with an irritating rhythmic component, although Guts' Latin-flavoured/dub closer And The Living Is Easy! is the least bad thing here.

Sebastian Arocha Morton plays Mellotron (it looks like there might be the equivalent of a 'studio band' used on the record), with flutes on Samantha James' Rain, although all strings sound like generic samples. I can't honestly say I can recommend this in any way, sadly; I'm sure it does what it does well, but all it did for 78 minutes was make me want to turn it off.

Camel Tribute: Harbour of Joy  see: Samples

Canossa: A Rock Opera  see: Samples

Christmas in Heaven

'Christmas in Heaven'

Christmas in Heaven  (1996,  53.02)  **½/T

Sixpence None the Richer:
  You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Huntingtons:
  Merry Christmas, I Don't Wanna Fight
Aleixa:
  Tennessee Christmas
Thee Spivies:
  There's No Christmas on the Moon
Phantasmic/Tess Wiley & Her Orchestra:
  Come on Ring Those Bells
The Echoing Green:
  Do They Know it's Christmas?
Duraluxe (FKA Fluffy):
  Feliz Navidad
Irwin Icon/Russ Long:
  Tiffany's Christmas Tree
One 21:
  Carol of the Bells
Deitiphobia:
  She Won't Be Home
Steve Hindalong & Chris Colbert:
  Tis the Season of Excess
Backwoods/Buka:
  Christmas Wishes
Love Bucket & Slapphappy Super-Fly:
  Blue Xmas (to Whom it May Concern)
Joe Christmas:
  Christmas in Cobb Country

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Flying Tart's 1996 Christmas release, Christmas in Heaven, features a variety of artists, few well-known, performing their often rather raucous takes on various seasonal classics. It all starts well: Sixpence None the Richer display a previously-unseen sense of humour on You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch, while Huntingtons' straight Ramones cover Merry Christmas, I Don't Wanna Fight sounds like, well, The Ramones, but it's downhill all the way after that, with another twelve tracks of rather too 'alt.' for their own good efforts, The Echoing Green's take on the horrible Do They Know It's Christmas? (despite humorous intent) being particularly unlistenable.

Phil Madeira adds excellent Mellotron flute and cello parts to Sixpence None the Richer's contribution, although all other vaguely Mellotron sounds aren't. Well, this is far more listenable than your typical festive album, but then, what isn't? A few amusing tracks almost make this worth the effort, but only almost.

See: Sixpence None the Richer

Cinemix  see: Samples

Cinnamon Girl

'Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity'

Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity  (2008,  82.04)  ***½/½

Tanya Donelly:
  Heart of Gold
Britta Phillips:
  I am a Child
Kate York:
  Comes a Time
Lori McKenna:
  The Needle and the Damage Done
Jill Sobule with John Doe:
  Down By the River
Veruca Salt:
  Burned
Josie Cotton:
  Cowgirl in the Sand
Dala:
  A Man Needs a Maid
Darcie Miner:
  Ohio
Carmen Townsend:
  Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
Euro-Trash Girl:
  Cinnamon Girl
Julie Peel:
  I Believe in You

Luff:
  Tell Me Why
Dala:
  Ohio
Elk City:
  Helpless
Amilia K. Spicer:
  Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Louise Post:
  Sugar Mountain
The Watson Twins:
  Powderfinger
Kristin Hersh:
  Like a Hurricane
Cindy Wheeler:
  Old Man
Heidi Gluck:
  Walk on

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Neil Young must be the most-mentioned non-Mellotron-using artist on Planet Mellotron. So here's another. 2008's Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity is exactly what it says, despite the oddness of women singing Young's frequently male-orientated, first-person lyrics. Of course, you really can't go that far wrong with an album of Neil songs, unless they were all played by hip-hop trios, perhaps, or arranged à la Stephen Sondheim. Actually, they might even survive those treatments. The bulk of the versions here are played straight, or, in the case of some of the acoustic tracks, made even gentler, with the result that few of the versions really stand out, although The Watson Twins' Powderfinger is almost unrecognisable, the twins singing the guitar harmony themselves. The two versions of CSNY classic Ohio perfectly illustrate the versatility of Young's material (as, of course, do his own live versions), Darcie Miner's electric take contrasting sharply with Dala's acoustic one.

Julie Peel plays Mellotron on her own take on I Believe In You, with a pleasant yet brief flute part, making this a somewhat inessential purchase on the Mellotron front. If, however, you're a fan of either a) some of the artists on this compilation or b) Neil Young, you could do a lot worse than to get to hear a copy, at least. Decidedly worthwhile.

See: Tanya Donelly | Britta Phillips | Darcie Miner

City on a Hill

'City on a Hill: Sing Alleluia'

City on a Hill: Sing Alleluia  (2002,  44.14)  *½/T

Steve Hindalong et al.:
  All Creatures of Our God & King (Choral Prelude)
Jennifer Knapp & Mac Powell:
  Sing Alleluia
Bebo Norman et al.:
  Holy is Your Name
Nichole Nordeman:
  You Are Holy
Mac Powell & Fernando Ortega:
  Our Great God
Derek Webb:
  Marvelous Light
Jars of Clay:
  The Comforter Has Come
Nichole Nordeman & FFH:
  Shine Your Light

FFH:
  Hide Me in Your Heart
Jennifer Knapp:
  Hallowed
Derri Daugherty:
  Lift Up Your Hearts (Sursum Corda)
Cliff Young et al.:
  Communion
Steve Hindalong et al.:
  All Creatures of Our God & King (Choral Postlude)
'City on a Hill: It's Christmas
Time'

City on a Hill: It's Christmas Time  (2002,  40.42)  **/½

Steve Hindalong:
  I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Cliff Young et al.:
  It's Christmas Time
Sixpence None the Richer:
  Silent Night
Terry Taylor:
  Holy Emmanuel
Caedmon's Call:
  Babe in the Straw

Sara Groves:
  Child of Love
Jars of Clay:
  Bethlehem Town
Third Day et al.:
  Manger Throne
Julie Miller & Derri Daugherty:
  Away in a Manger
Out of Eden:
  Do You Hear What I Hear?
Paul Colman Trio:
  In The Bleak Midwinter
Michael Tait & Leigh Nash:
  O Holy Night

Current availability:

Mellotron/Chamberlin used:

The City on a Hill series (four albums, I believe) seems to be a 'devotional songs' project, with various CCM alumni contributing. The end results are, as I'm sure you can imagine, the gloopiest, cheesiest Christian-fest possible, of practically zero interest to anyone who doesn't yearn for a large helping of soft rock punctuated with God. I'm sure these sold loads in Christian-only shops (be warned: God strikes heathens dead on the threshold) and sod-all anywhere else. Pious drivel.

2002's Sing Alleluia was the second collection and is every bit as horrible as you can imagine, with only the occasional ray of light (ho ho) rising up from the deity-related musical murk. Contributors include Bebo Norman (aargh!), Derek Webb and Jars of Clay, on the remote offchance you're interested. Can't say I am. Mellotronist to the Christian community, Phil Madeira, plays Mellotron on Nichole Nordeman & FFH's Shine Your Light, with a decent enough flute part, but hardly enough to rescue this abomination of a record. It's Christmas Time appeared later the same year and only gets a slightly higher rating due to vague nostalgia on my part for carol services attended as a child. The treatments are mostly appalling, but the strong tunes carry the least offensive versions. Caedmon's Call use Madeira again, on Chamby this time, with a string part on Babe In The Straw that could easily be real, forcing me to ask: what's the point?

Unless you're a God-botherer, you really, really don't need to even hear, never mind own these albums. I know my 'CCM is shite' reviews are starting to get a little predictable, but why can't more artists from the bizarre genre make music that doesn't make me want to vomit? I've heard a handful of 'just about listenables', but that's pretty poor going, isn't it? Anyway, avoid like the plague.

See: Bebo Norman | Derek Webb | Jars of Clay | FFH | Sixpence None the Richer | Caedmon's Call | Third Day | Paul Colman

Cozy Powell Forever

'Cozy Powell Forever'

Cozy Powell Forever  (1998,  61.35)  ***/½

Overture 1812
Stargazer
Over the Top

Lost in Hollywood
The Score
Kill the King
Theme One
Ice Cream Cakes
All Night Long
Since You Been Gone
Slide it in
Armed and Ready
The Loner - Dedicated to Jeff Beck

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Colin "Cozy Powell" Flooks (well, you'd change it, wouldn't you?) had one of the most impressive CVs of any British drummer of his generation, playing in eight or nine major-name outfits over a thirty-year period plus innumerable others, not to mention his session work, although he remains best-known for his five-year tenure in Rainbow. He died in a motorway accident in April '98 (six separate factors were involved, which was a little careless), prematurely ending a glittering career, although, in fairness, he'd peaked over a decade earlier. Still wish he'd been more careful, mind...

Mere months later, Japanese hard rock crew Loudness' drummer, Munetaka Higuchi, put together a tribute to (presumably) his premier influence (pun intended), Cozy Powell Forever, featuring Loudness colleagues plus fellow Japanese musicians from the likes of Earthshaker, X Japan and Vow Wow, not to mention Brit bassist Tony Franklin (Jimmy Page, Whitesnake) and famed US drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge). Between them, they tackled material from a ten-year period of his career from the mid-'70s to mid-'80s, the exceptions being a couple of early '70s Jeff Beck tracks. Highlights include propulsive takes on Rainbow's Stargazer (Rainbow Rising), Kill The King (Long Live Rock'n'Roll) and Lost In Hollywood (Down to Earth), although it slumps somewhat once it moves into his '80s work towards the end of the disc. 1984 Whitesnake, anyone?

Rei Atsumi (ex-Vow Wow) played keys, mostly Hammond, with little bursts of Mellotron here and there, notably the strings on Stargazer, Over The Top and Theme One (Cozy's Over the Top), although all the choirs sound like bad samples. Saying that, I'm not 100% convinced that the strings are real, either; did Rei still own his by this point? He's credited on several other '90s albums (Sass Jordan, Nicklebag, Stevie Salas), so are those suspect, too? Either way, this is aimed chiefly at Rainbow fans and, er, drummers, so I'm not sure anyone else should really make the effort.

See: Rainbow | Vow Wow

Cyclops Samplers

'Third Cyclops Sampler'

The Third Cyclops Sampler  (1996,  72.22)  ***½/TT

Abbfinoosty:
  When the Sun Explodes (alternate)
Anekdoten:
  Book of Hours (live)

Cross:
  Heavenly (alternate)
Fruitcake:
  Lost My Way
Lands End:
  Breathing Deep
Mastermind:
  Miles to Go Before I Sleep
Mentaur:
  Chasing Time
Sinkadus:
  Manuel (alternate)
Sphere:
  Again
Still:
  Loveless
Vulgar Unicorn:
  Two Many Secrets (alternate)
V/A, 'Cyclops Sampler 5'

Cyclops Sampler 5  (2002,  143.48)  ***/½

Rob Andrews:
  Lake Vinuela 2
Flamborough Head:
  Limestone Rock
Guardians Office:
  Dark Girl
Henry Fool:
  Pills in the Afternoon

Karda Estra:
  Projected Future
Lands End:
  Coming Down in Sheets
Manning:
  A Strange Place (live)
Mostly Autumn:
  Prints in the Stone
  Noise From My Head

Mysterkah:
  Red Daylight
Nice Beaver:
  Culley on Bleaker Street
Odyssice:
  Scream (live)
Parallel or 90 Degrees:
  Blues for Leah
Pineapple Thief:
  Variations on a Dream Pt 0

Saens:
  Escaping the Hands of God Pt 2
Sphere³:
  An Unusual January [Monkyfrog Mix]
Transience:
  No Turning Back Now
Tr3nity:
  Which Way
Twelfth Night:
  Fact and Fiction
Vulgar Unicorn:
  Gliders


Current availability:

Mellotron used:

The estimable Malcolm Parker's Cyclops label (affiliated to his GFT prog mail-order company) released their first label compilation, The Cyclops Sampler, in 1994, consisting mostly of tracks from their catalogue, with the odd alternate version or genuinely unreleased effort. The Second Sampler pushed the boat out further by featuring mainly exclusive tracks, as does the imaginatively-titled The Third Cyclops Sampler.

The quality of material here is variable, but that's pretty much what you'd expect from this type of album, with such a diverse collection of artists. Actually, saying that, there are no real stinkers, although the Cross track is a bit neo-, and Still's Loveless drones on for a while without really doing anything. Of the rest, Anekdoten's live Book Of Hours is a real treat, with Malcolm freely admitting, "We have bent the rules a little", as the band have never released anything else on the label, while Mastermind's Miles To Go Before I Sleep is far subtler than their usual fare and Sphere's Again (the band were still waiting to add the ³) is excellent. The real standout track, though, is the then-new Sinkadus' gorgeous Manuel (no Spanish jokes, please), although this demo version later turned up on their Aurum Nostrum Version One. As for the Mellotron content... Both Sinkadus' and Anekdoten's tracks are loaded with the thing, although I don't think Sphere's Neil Durant had bought his machine then. Or am I wrong? Pretty sure those choirs are samples, anyway. Lands End's Breathing Deep is definitely samples, although they used the real thing on 1995's Terra Surranum and that appears to be it.

Cyclops Sampler 4 takes something of a backwards step by including mostly previously-released material, but I'd imagine squeezing often expensively-recorded exclusive tracks out of bands already on a tight budget is akin to getting the proverbial blood out of a stone, so it's pretty impressive that Malcolm managed the feat twice. On the other hand, he announces in his Cyclops Sampler 5 sleevenotes that, "All the material (bar one track) is exclusive to this release", although many of these are remixes rather than genuinely new tracks. A (re)mixed bag, as usual, with the dodgy neo- of Rob Andrews, Saens and the Lands End-related Transience and the fake-Celtic schlock of the horrible Mostly Autumn (why does anyone like this band? Oh, an attractive female vocalist) rubbing shoulders with the Taurus pedal-heavy Guardians Office, a Sphere³ remix and a previously-unheard version of Twelfth Night's seminal Fact & Fiction.

On the Mellotron front, the only (almost) definite is Henry Fool, although their album uses a mixture of real and samples, so it's impossible to say whether or not it's real here. Anyway, strings (phased and otherwise) and flutes on the non-album Pills In The Afternoon, which would fit quite nicely onto a second album, should they ever choose to make one. As for the sample users, Flamborough Head use strings and flutes on their really not bad Limestone Rock, Lands End use a brief burst of strings on Coming Down In Sheets, Pineapple Thief get the fake choirs in on Variations On A Dream Pt 0 and Transience put some strings onto No Turning Back Now.

As far as The Third Cyclops Sampler goes, Anekdoten fans need it for their blistering live track, and with several other otherwise unavailable tracks, it's worth picking up. Cyclops Sampler 5 lacks its predecessor's highlights, but has its moments, so given that Malcolm sells these cheap anyway...

See: Anekdoten | Cross | Lands End | Sinkadus | Sphere3 | Flamborough Head | Henry Fool | Manning | Odyssice | Pineapple Thief | Transience | Twelfth Night


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