Barney Wilen & Dièse 440
Willard Grant Conspiracy
Andrew Thomas Wilson
Live in Paris, 8 Janvier 1983 (2007, 56.55) ***/0Défilé
Maybe surprisingly, given his rather non-Gallic name, Barney Wilen was a French jazz saxophonist, whose recording career stretched from 1957 until just before his death in 1996. He was noted for his eclectic approach to his art, discovering rock in the late '60s, punk a decade later and electronics in the early '80s. As far as I can tell, Live in Paris, 8 Janvier 1983 was released in 2007; it doesn't seem to've appeared at the time of recording. Basically, it's a collaboration between Wilen and Dièse 440, a synth trio, the end result being a largely improvised mesh of analogue electronica and Wilen's bop-era sax runs, possibly too experimental for its own good, although the disparate elements occasionally coalesce into something worthwhile.
Michel Bertier is credited with 'prepared Mellotron'; er, huh? How do you 'prepare' a Mellotron? Stick drawing pins into its felt pads or pinch-rollers? I've had this in 'Mistaken ID' for years, as it appears to be so 'prepared' that it doesn't actually exist, until I found the pic to the right. Yup, the white box behind the chap in the dark jacket. And... It's totally inaudible, which is why it went into 'Mistaken ID' in the first place. Was Bertier playing sound FX? I can't hear any of the recognisable ones, but who knows? Without knowing how the machine was 'prepared', it's impossible to say. Anyway, pretty out-there synth jazz with no obvious Mellotron. Up to you, methinks...
Mojave (1999, 62.12) ***½/½
|Another Lonely Night
Color of the Sun
The Work Song
How to Get to Heaven
Go Jimmy Go
I Miss You Best
Cat Nap in the Boom Boom Room
Love Has No Meaning
Right on Time
The Willard Grant Conspiracy are essentially Robert Fisher plus whoever, although he formed the band with Paul Austin in the mid-'90s. 1999's Mojave is their third studio album and second to be recorded at Boston's all-analogue Zippah Studios, an alt.country set crossed with what I've seen described as 'American Gothic', which sounds about right. Top tracks include opener Another Lonely Night, which sets out their stall, The Work Song and slow-burning, eight-minute closer The Visitor, which builds to a massive crescendo without ever once entering post-rock territory. Not so sure about 'odd man out' Go Jimmy Go's hardcore approach, mind...
Someone (probably studio owner Pete Weiss) plays faint Mellotron strings on I Miss You Best, although that would seem to be your lot. I first saw a reference to Weiss playing Mellotron with the band years ago, so it's good to finally nail down an otherwise uncredited performance. So; good album of its type, but next to no Mellotron.
Visions (1977, 31.02) **/T
|Time on My Hands
I'll Forgive But I'll Never Forget
I'm Getting Good at Missing You
In the Mornin'
Missing You, Missing Me
Some Broken Hearts Never Mend
Fallin' in Love Again
We Can Sing
|I'll Need Someone to Hold Me (When I Cry)
Expert at Everything
Don Williams is an old-school country singer, whose 1977 release, Visions, despite its 'traditional' sound, is rather more listenable than you might expect, although that may well depend on how much country you've been subjected to over the years. As someone from a nation where this isn't the default setting, it strikes me as harmless enough, but it's easy to understand how Williams' slightly hokey, downhome philosophy and mainstream sound could drive music-lovers to distraction/homicide. Better tracks include I'm Getting Good At Missing You and closer Cup O'Tea, but I can't imagine they'll endear this to anyone other than fans of the genre.
Probably for financial reasons, someone (more than likely Charles Cochran) plays Chamberlin strings on several tracks, notably Time On My Hands, I'll Forgive But I'll Never Forget, Some Broken Hearts Never Mend (the album's hit) and Cup O'Tea, although his use is complicated by the solo violin that crops up here and there. To be honest, most of you are going to hate this with a vengeance, so with so little obvious tape-replay use, whether or not I recommend this is a bit of a no-brainer.
Two [as Kathryn Williams & Neill MacColl] (2008, 39.34) ***½/½
Innocent When You Dream
Come With Me
Before it Goes
Holes in Your Life
After her 1999 zero-budget debut, Kathryn Williams came to the general public's attention when she was nominated for the 'prestigious' (it says here) Mercury Prize for the following year's Little Black Numbers. Five albums later, 2008's Two is a duet with Neill MacColl, a gentle, all-acoustic album of the pair's heartfelt songs, the kind of music that is often called 'folk', but isn't. Top tracks include Innocent When You Dream and Blue Fields, but there isn't anything here that should offend the discerning ear.
Williams plays clicky, clearly genuine Mellotron flutes on opener 6am Corner herself, although the strings on Shoulders are real.
Official Williams/MacColl site
See: Samples etc.
Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (2014, 103.17) ***½/½
East Side of Town
Cold Day in Hell
|Stand Right By Each Other
It's Gonna Rain
Something Wicked This Way Comes
When I Look at the World
Temporary Nature (of Any Precious Thing)
Everything But the Truth
|This Old Heartache
Stowaway in Your Heart
One More Day
I've been waiting for Lucinda Williams to turn up here for years; somehow, she's the kind of artist you feel really should use a Mellotron (or Chamberlin) at some point. And here she is, with 2014's sprawling, two-disc Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, which feels like a summary of Williams' career to date, its stylistic reach stretching from trad.country to twin-guitar southern rock and all bases in between. Highlights? West Memphis ("That's the way we do things in West Memphis"), the bluesy Foolishness, Something Wicked This Way Comes and haunted, near-ten-minute closer Magnolia. However, if I'm going to be honest (and I think I should), many of the songs feel a little... overextended; some editing would actually improve the album. Honorary exception: Magnolia.
Patrick Warren plays his Chamberlin on three tracks, with a background string part, only occasionally audible, on Burning Bridges, a flute part dipping in and out of the mix on When I Look At The World and exceedingly faint strings on Stowaway In Your Heart, subtle to the point of near-inaudibility.
See: Samples etc.
Mark Williams (1975, 36.19) **/T
|Gimme Little Sign
Get on the Right Road
Love the One You're With
Let Love Come Between Us
Sail on White Moon
Ain't No Sunshine
Jimmy Loves Marianne
Yesterday Was Just the Beginning of My Life
A Perfect Love
Mark Williams left his band, The Face, in 1973 for a solo career; the first evidence of this, 1975's Mark Williams, was apparently New Zealand's 'best selling pop/rock album of the '70s'. With the benefit of hindsight, it consists of soul-inflected mid-'70s pop, concentrating on slightly lesser-known cover versions, although Stephen Stills' Love The One You're With isn't exactly unknown. Other writers featured on the album include Todd Rundgren (Wailing Wall), the Easybeats' Vanda and Young (Yesterday Was Just The Beginning Of My Life) and Tony Ashton and Jon Lord (Celebration), all tackled in a bland, mainstream sort of way that probably wouldn't have turned anyone's head in Britain or the States, or possibly even Australia.
David Fraser plays Mellotron on a couple of tracks, with flute and string lines on Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine and a rather maudlin string part on closer A Perfect Love, but as so often with this kind of album, nothing you can't do without. On the offchance you should happen to a) be in New Zealand or b) be a New Zealander, please avoid this album. It may be perfectly professional, but so are any number of tedious mainstream efforts; I think giving it two stars is rather generous, to be honest.
Intensive Care (2005, 53.04) **½/T
Make Me Pure
Spread Your Wings
Please Don't Die
Your Gay Friend
Sin Sin Sin
|Random Acts of Kindness
The Trouble With Me
A Place to Crash
King of Bloke and Bird
After Robbie Williams left the massively successful Take That, he was widely expected to disappear into obscurity, but surprised all and sundry by becoming everyone's favourite Cheeky Chappie, notching up hit after tedious hit. The biggest, or at least the most ubiquitous of these was the irredeemable Millennium, which without the replayed sample from Bond soundtrack You Only Live Twice wouldn't even have been a song. His popularity (almost exclusively with women of seemingly all ages) refuses to wane, however, mostly due to his saturnine good looks and 'rock star' persona. Yawn.
After acres of shit, Williams' music improved slightly in the early 2000s, 2005's Intensive Care carrying on in similar vein, mixing medium-outrageous lyrics (opening couplet "Here I stand victorious/The only man who made you come") with more heartfelt stuff like the pedal steel-infused King Of Bloke And Bird. It certainly toys with mainstream drivel (A Place To Crash), but avoids that awful dance-influenced style that so many of his contemporaries seem to find it perfectly acceptable to foist on the general public. Jebin Bruni plays something unidentifiable on a Chamberlin on Spread Your Wings (what is it about this guy and re-using Queen song titles?), but Claire Worrall's Mellotron strings on King Of Bloke And Bird cut through nicely throughout the track, which ends with a genuinely beautiful minute or so of solo lap steel.
So; a man improving himself, which has to be applauded; under no circumstances, however, even think about voluntarily hearing any of Williams' early work. Very nasty. For that matter, don't go too far out of your way for his recent albums, either; just because I'm saying 'it's a lot better' isn't to actually say 'it's any good'.
Official site (should you, for some bizarre reason, wish to go there)
See: Take That
See: Samples etc.
Buy My Record (1981, 11.54) ***/TBuy My Record
Time to Dance Again
Robert Williams is probably best known as Captain Beefheart's drummer on his last couple of albums, although he was also co-credited on Hugh Cornwell's Nosferatu. Unsurprisingly, his first fully solo release, 1981's Buy My Record EP, is a fairly peculiar effort, sounding not unlike Beefheart at his most disorganised, with pretty odd vocals, if we're being generous. Of course, it's meant to sound odd; you think it'd have got three stars otherwise?
Beefheart's co-conspirator, Eric Drew Feldman, plays Mellotron here, amongst other things, with faint string and brass interjections on Black Yard, though nowhere near as upfront as on Doc at the Radar Station. Overall, then, an odd little effort that I don't believe's available anyway, although I could be wrong. Not worth it for the Mellotron, whatever.
See: Captain Beefheart | Hugh Cornwell
The Sweetest Days (1994, 52.18) **/½
The Way That You Love
The Sweetest Days
You Don't Have to Say You're Sorry
|You Can't Run
Moonlight Over Paris
Long Way Home
Vanessa Williams achieved fame early, being the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss America, although a Penthouse photo-shoot scandal outrageously forced her to resign, in true double-standards tradition. However, she fought back, becoming both an actress and a successful recording artist, which has to stand as a major blow against the (patriarchal) empire. The Sweetest Days was her third album, apparently more varied than her first two, including jazzier material such as Sister Moon alongside her usual R&B-flavoured stuff. You, the typical Planet Mellotron reader, are not going to like this album.
It's actually perfectly good at what it does and Williams has a fantastic voice, but if you don't like music variously described as 'adult contemporary' and 'smooth, sexy adult pop', you don't wanna go there... Credited Mellotron on two tracks, surprisingly, with something entirely inaudible under the real strings on Higher Ground, from Nick Moroch and a pleasant flute part on closer Long Way Home from Jeff Bova. I can only reiterate that unless you're a Vanessa Williams fan who's found their way to this site, you are MOST UNLIKLEY to like this album... One OK 'Tron track, but that really is your lot.
Musings of a Creekdipper (1998, 43.19) ***½/TTT
Train Song (the Demise of the Caboose)
Tree Song (Eucalyptus Lullabye)
Let it Be So
Grandpa in the Cornpatch
Water to Drink (2000, 48.02) **½/TT
|Grandma's Hat Pin
Gladys and Lucy
Water to Drink
Light the Lamp Freddie
Joy of Love
Until the Real Thing Comes Along
Young at Heart
A Little Bit of Love
Victoria Williams (MS sufferer and now ex-wife of Jayhawk Mark Olson) released Musings of a Creekdipper in 1998, possibly best described (by someone else, I'll admit) as sounding like 'a southern Neil Young'; her thin, high voice certainly recalls Neil's more wind-blasted moments on the album's sparse, quirky Americana. It's actually quite difficult to pinpoint highlights; this is one of those albums best consumed as a whole (take that, iTunes), most of its tracks bearing comparison with each other, the sum greater than its parts. Patrick Warren plays Chamberlin on a good half of the album, with what I take to be brass on opener Periwinkle, strings and solo male and female vocals on Kashmir's Corn, strings on Train Song (The Demise Of The Caboose), flutes, more strings and mixed voices on Last Word, flutes on Nature Boy and brass, strings and flutes on Grandpa In The Cornpatch, making this one of the more major Chamby albums to be found on this site.
Surprisingly, if not alarmingly, her follow-up, 2000's Water to Drink, sounds nothing like its predecessor, being an album of mixed-genre singer-songwriter stuff, frequently straying into light jazz, even lighter blues or even 'standards' territory, none of which seem to be particularly well-suited to her voice. In fairness, there are a couple of countryish tracks (notably closer A Little Bit Of Love), but Williams' desire to 'stretch out' seems to be removing her from her natural constituency. Phil Parlapiano plays Mellotron, with distant cellos on opener Grandma's Hat Pin, strings and cellos on Light The Lamp Freddie, flutes and cellos on Claude and a major flute part on Junk, which is rather more than I'd expected.
Musings of a Creekdipper is a prime Americana release; all alt.country/Neil Young fans who haven't already encountered it need to do so immediately, ditto anyone wishing to hear Patrick Warren's Chamberlin used audibly for once. However, I'm not quite sure who at whom Water to Drink is actually aimed; chances are, such concepts are fairly alien to Williams and she made it because she wanted to. I'm not personally sure it's a success, but that's just one man's opinion. Anyway, a passable level of Mellotron use on a sadly rather mediocre album.
The Chain Reaction [OST] (1980, 38.23) ***½/T
A Swim in the River
Once More With Feeling
The Hand at the Window
Message to a Friend
Andrew Thomas Wilson soundtracked Aussie 1980 nuclear disaster flick The Chain Reaction with an electronically-inclined score, chiefly played on Moog and Roland modulars and an Oberheim four-voice, alongside a couple of non-synth 'boards. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of its contents are best described as 'atmospheric'; as with so many soundtracks (actual incidental music and themes, as against a list of popular songs), I'm sure this is best heard in context, although it's a decent enough listen in its own right. Highlights? The cheesy, sequencer-driven The Beast (wonderfully of its time), Decontamination, the skronky Waldo and the title track, amongst others.
Wilson also plays Mellotron on a couple of tracks, with distant choirs on Decontamination and Car Chase, quite distinct from the Moog vocoder that pops up here and there, but not exactly anything you can't live without. This hasn't been issued on CD - I doubt if there's much demand for it, sadly - but it's one of the better non-Vangelis/John Carpenter electronic soundtracks about.
Fanfare (2013, 78.22) ***/T
Her Hair is Growing Long
Love to Love
All the Way Down
Jonathan Wilson appeared in the mid-2000s, seemingly from nowhere, already over thirty; his 2013 release, Fanfare, isn't wildly dissimilar to his 2005 debut, Frankie Ray, although Wilson's tightened up his songwriting in the interim, better tracks including the jammed-out Dear Friend (all very Neil Young, albeit in a more West Coast kind of way) and the acoustic Cecil Taylor (very CSN&Y). Wilson has the likes of David Crosby, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne on backing vocals, not to mention members of Tom Petty's band in attendance, all of whom add their distinctive touches.
Six credited Mellotron tracks, with Wilson playing something inaudible (strings under the real ones?) on the opening title track, strings on Dear Friend but nothing audible on Fazon or on All The Way Down, while Jason Borger is credited on Desert Trip and Omar Velasco on Lovestrong, with nothing obvious on either, although we get uncredited, authentically wobbly strings on Illumination. Once again, all very accomplished, but far too long, most of the tracks in the five-to-six minute range. Edit, please!
See: Samples etc.