Home
reviews
album list
Michel Zacha
Zachary Jones Band
Zajamking
Stefan Zauner
Zea Mays
Zebra
Zeep
Zello
Jac Zinder
Zach Ziskin
Zoldar & Clark
Zoltan
Zombies [UK]
Zombies [Spain]
Zomby Woof
Zone
Zoo
Zu
Zucchero
Fabio Zuffanti

Michel Zacha  (France)

Michel Zacha, 'Promesses d'Atlantides Vol.2: Le Vol d'Icare'

Promesses d'Atlantides Vol.2: Le Vol d'Icare  (1974,  36.12)  ****/T

Esquisse d'Icare
Be Here and Now
L'Enfant et la Mer
Zit
Vivez Vos Rêves
Prière Labyrinthe
Le Vol d'Icare
La Terre

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Trying to quantify Michel Zacha's work is a near-impossible task; what do you call this stuff? Progressive? Jazz? Folk? Experimental? Chanson? All of the above? His second album, Promesses d'Atlantides Vol.2: Le Vol d'Icare, is a fascinating record, of the type that will quite certainly reward repeated plays, featuring lashings of Zacha's superb, jazzy piano work, particularly fiery on L'Enfant Et La Mer, while the fantastic, jammed out semi-title track, Le Vol D'Icare, is an absolute winner.

Noted French synthesist Georges Rodi plays Mellotron on a couple of tracks, with background strings on L'Enfant Et La Mer and more upfront ones on the slow-building Vivez Vos Rêves, not to mention his fab synth work (ARP 2600?) on closer La Terre. As I've already said, this is excellent, more than worthy of your listening time, if not really for the Mellotron.

Zachary Jones Band  (US)

Zachary Jones Band, 'Homestead Deluxe'

Homestead Deluxe  (2004,  50.13)  ***½/TT

Static on Country Radio
High Sierra
Household Accessories
Shady Lane Drive
Lullaby
Pioneer's Lament

Of Dreams and Dreaming
The Ballad of Rachel Corrie
The Lesser Traveled Road
Tale of the Tall Oak
Homestead Deluxe
Letter From a Frontier Town
Driving West Virginia
Reprise

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Why are The Zachary Jones Band filed under 'Z', you may ask? Like Max Webster and others before him, the elusive Mr. Jones is nowhere to be found in the credits and, in actuality, doesn't actually exist, so 'Z' it is. They describe themselves as 'traditional American-folk harmonies converging with intense blues-rock riffs and exotic Latin/jazz percussion', which loosely translates to 'slightly countryish American folk-rock', which is no bad thing, certainly in comparison to the mush that comes out of Nashville these days. Homestead Deluxe is their debut album, and is actually a very pleasant listen, with gorgeous picked guitar work on several songs, not least excellent opener Static On Country Radio.

Electric guitarist Bill Bechtel doubles on Mellotron, laying down a highly evocative string part on Static On Country Radio, with more of the same, plus opening cellos on Shady Lane Drive and some very nice flutes indeed on Lullaby. More of those strings on Pioneer's Lament, although that's yer lot, sadly. So; a very pleasant album, with some genuinely moving moments, mostly clustered together at the beginning, although it all tails off slightly towards the end. Several decent Mellotron tracks, too; Bill tells me it's M400 #809, so if you think a couple of those string notes seem to hold just a little too long, they may have been digitally 'stretched' in the recording process...

See: My Wild Heaven

Zajamking  (Yugoslavia)

Zajamking, 'Ljubav Je Bagrem Kad Procvjeta' 7"  (1975)  ***/TTT

Ljubav Je Bagrem Kad Procvjeta
To Smo Mi

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

How can I tell you anything about Zajamking (Zdravko Ambasadori Jadranka Alma Mahir Kemal Indexi Neda Goran)? Going by the limited information I can trace, I would guess that they were a pickup outfit put together by (then) Yugoslav songwriter Slobodan A. Kovačević, but that's pure speculation, to be honest. Their 1975 single, Ljubav Je Bagrem Kad Procvjeta, is a typically folk/pop effort from the time and place, although its flip, To Smo Mi, is slightly (I did say 'slightly') darker.

Plenty of Ranko Rihtman's Mellotron on the flip, with a string part running most of the way through the song and a great, near-solo cello section towards the end, making this worth hearing if you can track it down.

Stefan Zauner  (Germany)

Stefan Zauner, 'Narziss'

Narziss  (1976,  41.07)  ***/0

Intro
Martin
Pfeffer
Zoll
Oh' Lindo (Club Euphoria)
Die Insel
Der Bewußte Vierte Morgen
Chaos
Spieglein an der Wand

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Although Stefan Zauner is best known at Planet Mellotron Towers for his late '70s membership of Amon Düül II, the most successful period in his professional life came some years later, with the huge success of his band, Münchener Freiheit and their cheeso '88 hits, including the horrible, ELO-channelling Keeping The Dream Alive.

1976's Narziss (presumably referencing Hesse's Narziß und Goldmund) was his first solo album, a collection of pop/prog material that gives the listener some idea of what he might be doing a decade hence. Saying that, it's a good deal better than that sounds, highlights including the proggy Pfeffer, with its jaw-dropping synth work and the rocky Chaos, while I'm hearing echoes of contemporaneous Genesis (Die Insel naughtily utilises the chord sequence from the end of Watcher Of The Skies), plus something not unlike how Yes would sound in a year or two on many tracks. Downsides? The mainstream boogie rock of Oh' Lindo (Club Euphoria) is a fail, while closer Spieglein An Der Wand could've been left out of the running-order without weakening the album in any way.

Now, Zauner credits himself with Mellotron (he used one on two Amon Düül II releases), so where is it? Doubling the string synth? Subliminal choirs on a track or two? Frankly, it's inaudible, making me wonder whether it's really here at all. Complete Mellotronic damp squib, in other words. And to think I've been trying to get hold of this for years... (Thanks to Simon for locating it for me, by the way). Now it can be found online, do you bother? If pop/prog's your thang, then yes, otherwise...

See: Amon Düül II

Zazie  (France)  see: Samples etc.

Zea Mays  (Spain)

Zea Mays, 'Morphina'

Morphina  (2007,  57.14)  **½/½

Abiadura Handian
Hondarretik Ondarroara
Circus
Morphina
I Just Turn Off the Lights
Gizakiak Gizakia Hil du
Garden
Astero Ostera Hastera
Bost-Hamar
Zure Zain
Zauriak
Take Me Home

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Zea Mays (the scientific name for maize) play a kind of female-fronted indie/metal, vaguely like a Spanish Nirvana, on their sixth album, 2007's Morphina. A little of this stuff goes a long way; nearly an hour is considerably too much, frankly, Aiora Renteria's rather shrill vocal style not being the easiest thing to listen to for any amount of time. Highlights? Maybe opener Abiadura Handian and the quieter Astero Ostera Hastera.

Jose Lastra plays background Mellotron cellos and string lines on Garden; difficult to tell (as so often), but I think these ones are real. Where did they source a working Mellotron? Who knows? Small doses of this album are fine, but its entirety is hard work.

Official site

Zebra  (US)

Zebra, 'Zebra'

Zebra  (1983,  38.51)  ***½/TT

Tell Me What You Want
One More Chance
Slow Down
As I Said Before
Who's Behind the Door?

When You Get There
Take Your Fingers From My Hair
Don't Walk Away
The La La Song

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Zebra were always a band out of time; too late for the 'sophisticated hard rock' crowd, and too early for the AOR brigade. Saying that, by the time of their third album, V.3, they had indeed moved in that direction, but it appeared to be too little, too late.

On replaying Zebra I was reminded how good some of the songs are, particularly Tell Me What You Want and Take Your Fingers From My Hair, although neither are among the four tracks on the album featuring Mellotron choir. I suspect that, like so many of his contemporaries, helium-voiced singer/guitarist Randy Jackson preferred string sounds from synths (why?!), but at the time there was simply no substitute for the old 'Tron 8-voice (and some would say nothing's changed...). All four of the 'Tron songs here are good, pomp-inflected US hard rock; looking at the copyright dates, most of them date from several years earlier, and it shows (in the best possible way, of course).

Zebra's follow-up, No Tellin' Lies (***) is good, though not in the same league as their debut and, sadly, 'Tron-free. The band have recently reformed and recorded their rather belated fourth album. I've no idea what they sound like these days, but I suspect they haven't re-attained the heights of their first release. So, if you like a bit of pomp, you could do worse than pick up a copy of Zebra; don't expect an all-out Mellotron classic and you won't be disappointed.

Official site

Zeep  (UK)

Zeep, 'People & Things'

People & Things  (2009,  33.24)  **½/T½

Elasticated Master Peace
Desert
Hidden Surprises
Light Your Touch
Ghost Town (Isso Não Da)
Trem Skit
Heads You Win
Know More Now
Just a Little Bit
Abstrata
Elina e o Sol
Lazy

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Zeep are the duo of Chris Franck and Nina Miranda, the latter being a veteran of the British trip-hop scene with Smoke City and Shrift. Their second album, 2009's People & Things, combines a bewildering array of genres, including the aforementioned trip-hop, samba (Miranda partially grew up in Brazil), jazz, pop and others, not to mention a strange, presumably Portuguese-language cover of The Specials' Ghost Town, Isso Não Da.

Franck and Mike Lindup both play Mellotron: a string note opens Desert, choking off at the end, plus a flute line, with string, flute and cello parts on Abstrata, all sounding comfortingly real, for a change. You're not really going to like this unless modern hipster UK pop's your thing (guess what: it isn't mine), but it actually does what it does with a bit of vim and an ear for a tune, which is more than I can say for most of the bilge I've heard lately. Two good 'Tron tracks, too.

MySpace

Zello  (Sweden)

Zello, 'Zello'

Zello  (1996,  40.58)  ****/½

Overture
Fairy Queen
Little Eve
The Children Are Crying
The Humming
Traffic Jam
Shades of the Crying Children
The Angels Have Fallen
Kelpie
Voyager
Fragments of 5 and 6
Hold on
Zello, 'Quodlibet'

Quodlibet  (1999,  53.55)  ****/TT

I Will Be the Wind
Spaken
Flag of Convenience
Prästpolskan
Zwecia
Anthem of the Long Forgotten Loss

Ekelundapolskan

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Strangely for a Swedish band, Zello's most obvious comparison are Kansas. OK, so they have a violinist, but the influence goes much deeper than that; there's some ripping Hammond playing on both these albums and although the vocals are weaker, the singing has something of Steve Walsh about it, too. Even the lyrics are in the 'Kansas metaphysical' line... Most of all, though, the similarity is in the melodies; you know, those major-key violin bits over distorted Hammond with that 'wide-screen' American prairie feel to them? Anyway, beats ripping Genesis...

The band debuted with 1996's Zello, accurately described as pretty much a lost Kansas album from their heyday. It's impossible not to make the comparison, although not in a derogatory way; this is a fine album, even if The Children Are Crying starts as if it's about to lurch into Song for America's Incomudro. There's even a track called Hold On, thankfully considerably better than Kansas' AOR horror. Violinist Lennart Glenberg Eriksson channels Robbie Steinhardt (or is it David Ragsdale?) with aplomb, too, tackling several brief solo pieces as links between longer tracks. Keys man Anders Altzarfeldt plays occasional Mellotron, although his speciality is rich, distorted Hammond in a, er, Steve Walsh style. Anyway, we get a couple of brief string parts on Overture, although all other string parts sound more like generic samples than Mellotron.

Three years on, Quodlibet appeared, essentially more of the same, although vocally, I hear a touch of John Wetton in Anthem Of The Long Forgotten Loss. The song structures this time round are rather less Kansas; Zwecia is 25 minutes long, a song length that outfit never even nearly attempted. Opener I Will Be The Wind is the most Kansas-alike track on the album, with a superb chorus melody; some bands could've turned this song into a dismal AOR effort, but in Zello's hands it works brilliantly. Actually, the only non-'Tron tracks here are three short folk-influenced violin (or should that be fiddle?) pieces, sounding strangely more English than American. There's actually very little Mellotron on Quodlibet from Altzarfeldt and Mats Olsson (haven't I seen that name somewhere else?), mostly just little bursts of choir here and there, with an occasional string chord, so it's really only used to enhance their sound, rather than being central to it. The main keyboard work on the album is the organ (with a little monosynth), with a couple of great solos thrown in, Steve Walsh style (sorry).

All in all, these are excellent albums, modern prog without any discernable neo- influence and above all, great material, despite the hefty Kansas comparisons. Not so hot on the 'Tron front, but buy anyway. Incidentally, after a several-year silence, Zello released First Chapter, Second Verse in 2004, which appears to be a re-recording (or reissue?) of Zello, losing a couple of tracks and adding a couple more, although I've no idea whether or not a Mellotron was involved.

Zen Rock & Roll  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Zero 7  (UK)  see: Samples etc.

Zhongyu  (US)

Zhongyu, 'Zhongyu'

Zhongyu  (2016,  54.41)  ****/T

Apple of My Mind's Eye 2
Torture Chambers of Commerce
Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted
Hydraulic Fracas
Tunnel at the End of the Light
Apple of My Mind's Eye 1
Half Remembered Drowning Dream
Sleepwalking the Dog
Wanderland Wonderlust
Cat Hair All Over it
MBBL
All Food Comes From China

Current availability:

Jon Davis at the MkVI

Mellotron used:

Zhongyu are a new American progressive outfit, led by multi-instrumentalist Jon Davis, who, after spending a few years working in China, developed a fascination for Chinese music. The end result of several years' hard work, Zhongyu is that rarest of things, a work of real originality in the progressive field, the Chinese influences making themselves felt throughout, both melodically and in the instrumentation.

The band are refreshingly unafraid to experiment, juxtaposing sounds from different cultures and eras, Western influences including King Crimson (sometimes overtly), Univers Zero and their ilk and the more 'difficult' end of fusion. The backing tracks were recorded live, instantly proving the musicianship on display here; most bands couldn't do this if they pieced it together a bar at a time, frankly. Like the best progressive rock, this is far from 'instant'; it should probably be listened to as a whole, although if I had to pick out 'top tracks', I'd say opener Apple Of My Mind's Eye 2, the Crimsonesque Tunnel At The End Of The Light and Sleepwalking The Dog might just be the best examples of their stylistic mash-up.

Davis plays Stick, guzheng (zither family), ARP 2600 and Mellotron, with an improvised string part throughout Sleepwalking The Dog, my only complaint being, why only the one track? Smothering an album in the thing gets tiresome, but it would've worked well elsewhere, too. Anyway, one Mellotron track isn't really much of a reason to buy an album, but this intense, difficult-yet-highly-listenable music is. Buy this album and support genuine progression.

Official site

Tucker Zimmerman  (US)

Tucker Zimmerman, 'Ten Songs'

Ten Songs  (1969,  46.51/73.14)  ***½/0 (T)

Bird Lives
October Mornings
A Face That Hasn't Sold Out
The Roadrunner
Children of Fear
The Wind Returns Into the Night
Running, Running From Moment to Moment
Upsidedown Circus World
Blue Goose
Alpha Centauri
[Extra tracks on CD:
The Red Wind (stereo)
Moondog
La Rinascente
Non c'e Niente Mai
En Memoire de Jean Genet
Les Visions de Rimbaud
The Red Wind (mono)]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

American émigré Tucker Zimmerman moved to Europe in the late '60s, spending two years in Italy before relocating to the UK, where he met Tony Visconti, recording his debut, Ten Songs, at the end of 1968. While not of any startling originality, it's an unfairly obscure singer-songwriter album, tracks such as October Mornings, The Roadrunner and Alpha Centauri standing out from the pack. RPM's expanded CD issue adds six extras, one in two different versions, generally making a welcome addition to the set.

Although there's no Mellotron on the original album, Zimmerman plays it on two previously-unreleased tracks found on the CD, with pseudo-orchestral strings and what sounds like MkII trombones on Non C'e Niente Mai, although nothing obvious on Les Visions De Rimbaud. A decent effort, then, if not a major contender, with one good Mellotron track on the reissue.

Jac Zinder  (US)

Jac Zinder, 'Chairs I Have Known'

Chairs I Have Known  (1996, recorded 1988-89,  73.04)  ***/T

Intro
Real Cool Moslems
The Dentist
What Makes Kurt Weill?
The Partial Elegance of Burnt Toast
Tango (1989)
Holiday for Mooks
It's Hot on Mondays
Pet Sounds
5/4 of a Man
Walt's World
Hawaiian Block Party
When in Rome, Stay Home
Please Don't Offend Me
Cutting an Onion
Everybody Dance With Me
Dear Hearts and Gentle People
Tango (1984)
7 Theories of Human Nature
Nirvana Breakdown
Wait
Cool
Filth
Children's Wire
Birdhouse
Pussy Boy (Motherfucker)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Bloody hell, how do I describe L.A. resident Jac Zinder's Chairs I Have Known? Jazz-klezmer? Avant-folk? Gypsy lounge punk? All of the above? The album's a compilation of low-fi recordings made over 1988-89, released two years after his tragic death in 1994 on the brave-yet-foolhardy Catasonic label. It includes several live tracks and lots of stuff that sounds like it was recorded in Zinder's garage, which it probably was, with all but the last four tracks (by Bufadora) recorded with his band Stay Home. His angular sense of humour (as in 'at an angle from most people's') permeates the album, but in a good way, as do his mittel-Europa polka-style musical sensibilities, making this an album that fans of the John Medeski school of New York oddness will probably appreciate, despite emerging from the opposite coast.

Zinder plays the Mellotron (source unknown) himself, with skronky strings on Real Cool Moslems and the odd choir chord and flutes on Holiday For Mooks, although that seems to be it. Well, Catasonic should be lauded for preserving this unique artist's work, although it quite clearly isn't for everyone. As far as its Mellotron use goes, you've heard more and better elsewhere, but if you get a chance to hear the album, the two tracks in questions are worth the effort.

Zinkl  (Germany)  see: Samples etc.

Stan Zipperman  (US)  see: Everyhead

Zach Ziskin  (US)

Zach Ziskin, 'Real as the Memory'

Real as the Memory  (2002,  43.01)  **/½

Figurine
Falling to Pieces
Waking Hour
Lift
Gravity
The Golden Age
The Jewel
Guess I Always Knew
If You Want Me to
If the World Could Talk

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Florida's Zach Ziskin seems to be as well known for his production (Hilary McRae, amongst others) as his singing career. May I suggest that he sticks to what he (probably) does best? 2002's Real as the Memory is a cheesy, faux-'70s singer-songwriter effort, infested with Ziskin's irritating, often falsetto tones and so-light-they-might-just-float-away nonsense like opener Figurine or Lift. To be honest, it barely scrapes two stars for containing vaguely Neil Young-esque songs like The Golden Age, which just might, possibly, sound good performed by someone else.

Is that meant to be Fernando Perdomo's Mellotron strings in the background on Waking Hour? Could be anything, really. The strings on The Jewel and closer If The World Could Talk are real, though. I get the feeling the Ziskin could produce a passable singer-songwriter record, but probably only in the literal sense of producing someone else; as I haven't heard any of his production work, I can't say whether he actually has. If you edited the decent bits out of this album, you'd make about two halfway decent, albeit disjointed songs, but you'd have trouble finding any audible Mellotronic contributions.

Official site

Zita Swoon  (Belgium)  see: Samples etc.

Zoldar & Clark  (US)

Zoldar & Clark, 'Zoldar & Clark'

Zoldar & Clark  (1977)  ****/TTTT

Touch the Sky
Now is the Time
To Be Alive
The Ghost of Way
Lunar Progressions
In Time
Day After Day

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

It seems there's an interesting story behind Zoldar & Clark: a dodgo tax-scam label, Dellwood, released two albums recorded by New England proggers Jasper Wrath as Arden House and Z & C, quite certainly ensuring that no-one involved made a wooden nickel from them. As a result, what I originally described as 'their lone album' is actually nothing of the sort, as Jasper Wrath also released one of the first American prog albums in 1970. Anyway, Zoldar & Clark crept out in 1977, at a time when lesser outfits were still being signed, playing in a similar, though inferior style. I suppose the best way to describe this stuff is pomp, that peculiarly American cross between prog and radio-friendly rock (as popularised by Styx, Angel, or most of all, Yes-lite crew Starcastle), that never really travelled very well, although they definitely veered towards the more progressive end of the style. Maybe that was their downfall.

Although a couple of tracks head a little too near 'very mainstream' territory (To Be Alive is a particular offender), most of Zoldar & Clark is very good indeed and deserves better than the considerable obscurity in which it finds itself. I was originally under the impression that Joe Cannata played the Mellotron, but it seeems more likely that it was actually Michael Soldan. Whatever, his 'Tron work is excellent, with strings, brass and choir all over the place and some nifty pitchbend parts cropping up here and there. To say you're not going to find this album easily is probably a bit of an understatement, but should you happen to come across a copy for less than top dollar, it's probably worth the investment.

n.b. This was reissued in 2008 as Ghost of Way, intercut with Arden House's Coming Home, although it looks like it's more a 'best of' the two records, which is a shame. More news when I manage to track down a copy.

See: Jasper Wrath

Zoltan  (UK)

Zoltan, 'First Stage Zoltan'

First Stage Zoltan  (2012,  40.58)  ****½/TT½

Pilman Radiant
Krollspell
Canali Replica
Windowless Monad
The Tall Man
Black Iron Prison
Zoltan, 'Psychomania' 12"  (2013)  ****/TTT

Psychomania
Zoltan, 'Tombs of the Blind Dead'

Tombs of the Blind Dead  (2014,  22.39)  ****/TTT½

Tombs of the Blind Dead
Return of the Blind Dead
The Ghost Galleon
Night of the Seagulls
Zoltan, 'Sixty Minute Zoom'

Sixty Minute Zoom  (2014,  41.02)  ****½/TT

Antonius Block
Uzumaki
Table of Hours
The Ossuary
The Integral

  O-90
  R-13
  S-4711
  I-330
  D-503
Zoltan, 'Phantasm/Tanz der Vampire'

Phantasm/Tanz der Vampire  (2016,  18.40)  ****/TTT

Phantasm
The Sphere
Mineshaft Chase
Tanz der Vampire
Krolock
Vampires to Crypt
'Omaggio al Maestro Ennio Morricone'

Omaggio al Maestro Ennio Morricone  (2017)  ***½/T½

[Zoltan contribute]
Pazuzu

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

For the first time in a few years, I've had an external contribution, in this case from my good friend Mark Medley, for fairly obvious reasons.

I'm being granted the privilege by Andy Thompson to write the official Planet Mellotron review of First Stage Zoltan for one reason. Andy feels uncomfortable reviewing an album that he's had a such a high amount of creative involvement in. Hopefully, this will help to make up for some of the thrift shop 'Tron- and Chamberlin-infused 70s CCM and function band shite I've sent him over the last several years (see Peggy Sineath, Murrell Ewing, Jerry Cline and Valley of Sound for particularly heinous examples).

Zoltan is the trio of Andy Thompson on keys (ex-Litmus), Matt Thompson on bass and keys (a.k.a. Rashomon) and Andrew Prestidge on drums. Crafting some of the best instrumental synth-driven prog you're likely to hear these days is their mission and with the release of First Stage Zoltan in September 2012 they've committed their statement to disc for all to hear. Upon removing the CD from the tray (or opening the vinyl edition's gatefold sleeve) you are greeted by a photo of the band's magnificent keyboard setup which includes (take a deep breath):

Keyboards used on 'First Stage'

The titles all have their origins in fact and popular culture, some of which might slip by, so here's a track-by-track reference:

Pilman Radiant: from Arkady & Boris Strugatsky's 'Roadside Picnic', filmed as 'Stalker'
Krollspell: a character in Hergé's Tintin book 'Flight 714'
Canali Replica: in 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli saw what appeared to be straight lines on the surface of Mars which he named 'canali', or 'channels' which the English-speaking press of the time mistranslated as 'canals' and the rest is history... The 'Replica' bit was added by Matt
Windowless Monad: something to do with Gottfried Leibniz's theory of pre-established harmony, so says a popular online encyclopedia substitute...
The Tall Man: the main villain from the Phantasm film series
Black Iron Prison: A concept from Philip K. Dick's VALIS novel

So, um, what does it all sound like? 40 minutes and only 40 minutes'-worth of the most amazing analog-synth driven prog to be released in recent memory. I commend Zoltan on sticking to single vinyl album length as groups of less creative resolve could make an otherwise good album such as this drag on far too long for the sake of filling an 80 minute CD. It's impossible to single out any best tracks as the entire album's top-notch. The compositions are great and synth sounds realized even more-so. Pilman Radiant was an excellent choice for the opening track. From its ominous synth and Mellotron string intro, you can tell that this is going to be a journey straight into the heart of analog-goodness without a trace of any nasty DX7-isms. I must say that I'm reminded of the US group Zombi in their pre-dance oriented phase in several spots throughout listening to this, though I'm certain that's more due to the two groups sharing many of the same influences like Rush, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, etc. rather than Zoltan being rabid Zombi-philes.

As for the Mellotron use, there really isn't as much here as you'd guess there would be at first glance. Andy opted for a less-is-more approach, allowing all the gear time to shine while resisting the temptation to overuse anything, including his M400. Only his main tape frame (strings, flute, choir) saw use for the recording of this album. We have strings and choir on Pilman Radiant and strings and flute for Windowless Monad. The Tall Man is possibly the album's strongest track where 'Tron use is concerned where all three sounds in the frame see use with a particularly effective flute part complete with a nice pitchbend halfway through it. There's also a brief pitchbent string part in Black Iron Prison.

So, First Stage Zoltan, a smorgasbord of porn for lovers of analog synths and fans of instrumental electronic prog. It goes without saying that fans of Rashomon and Zombi need this. Those into the world of horror soundtracks, Goblin, Anima Morte and Morte Macabre should check it out too. Consequently, this is not an album for Marillion fans. Is this an album for Mellotron fans? Even though it's used sparingly you'll certainly know when it shows itself and the restraint given keeps it tasteful, so I'd answer that question with a definite yes. All in all, most certainly one to buy. Yes, I said BUY! NOT download for free!

2013 sees Zoltan releasing Psychomania - A Tribute To John Cameron, limited to 350 copies on green vinyl and no CD. On the chance you're unfamiliar, Psychomania is a 1973 British horror film with a plot involving zombie bikers, frog worshipping and such. Yes, you need to see it. Rather than do a straight up cover of the score, Zoltan have elected to build on elements of it and the results make up the entirety of the record's sole proper 13-minute long track (mastered at 45RPM. I made the mistake of playing it at 33 the first time, which makes it all sound a bit more sinister even!) As with the debut, all manner of analog keys take on a prominent role and none falling into the trap of excess use. On the Mellotron front, we've got cello in the introduction, pipe organ a bit further on, strings and a rather marvellous unexpected pairing of brass with the pipe organ. Nice use of choir and organ on the ending too. For what it's worth, the B-side is made up of several entertaining locked groove samples taken from the film. As for the cover art, a Minimoog hovering over Stonehenge (or is that supposed to be the stone circle from the film?) with a frog jumping over it, flanked on both sides by zombie bikers. If ever a sleeve screamed "BUY ME!" as equally as does the music contained within...

Zoltan's Tombs of the Blind Dead EP continues the horror soundtrack tribute theme. This time around the subjects are several of Amando de Ossorio's horror films. Yes, it's another disc of splendid analog keyboard goodness and yes, you need to own it! If there's a major difference with this EP, it's that there's more in common with Matt's Rashomon albums than previous Zoltan releases with regard to composition and atmosphere. As for the Mellotron, there's strings on all four tracks and some upfront brass in Night of The Seagulls' second half. [n.b. Mark can be excused for missing some other Mellotron parts, notably the choirs and church organ on the title track, the vibes on a couple of tracks, the cellos on The Ghost Galleon and the various percussion tapes used throughout, not least the pitchbent tubular bells on Night Of The Seagulls. I've bumped Mark's 'T' rating up accordingly. The EP is also our only use of my mighty Hammond C3 to date. Ed.]

Sixty Minute Zoom is Zoltan's second release of 2014 and their second full-length album. Once again, they've stuck to single LP length. It's another album filled with glorious analog synths to the fore and top musicianship from all involved. As before, it's hard to pick out highlights as there's not a single dud moment in the 41 minutes. If there's a major difference this time, it's more polysynths and less Mellotron. Is that a problem? It's only a matter of taste in this reviewer's opinion. Technically, this sort of material probably works better with textures generated electronically, but the Mellotron never sounds intrusive.

Speaking of the Mellotron, there's some choir on Antonius Block, while Uzumaki and the John Carpenter-like Table Of Hours are both 'Tron-free. The Ossuary has some choirs and strings while the side-length The Integral features strings in the middle and quite up in the mix near the end qualifying as the album's top-'Tron moment. Once again, Zoltan have crafted an essential album of horror/sci-fi soundtrack-flavored instrumental electronically-driven analog splendor well worth your time and money!

Zoltan revisits some familiar territory with their Phantasm/Tanz der Vampire 10" EP. We've got Zoltan performing Phantasm soundtrack material on the A-side though on side-B we're treated to three tracks influenced by Roman Polanski's 1967 film Tanz Der Vampire. The sounds on deck are every bit as beautifully analog and cinematic as we've come to expect from Zoltan. It goes without saying that if you enjoyed their previous releases, prepare to also buy this one! Sadly, this turned out to be a well-timed release as Angus Scrimm who played the main villain, The Tall Man, in the Phantasm films passed away a bit less than a month after this record's debut.

On the first side, there's 'Tron strings on their version of the main theme from Phantasm and choir and strings on Mineshaft Chase. On the side comprising the Tanz der Vampire material, there's a very healthy amount of choir and strings on the Tanz Der Vampire theme which nearly lasts for the duration of the piece. Vibes and oddly EQ'd strings (or is that a woodwind, help?) played solo comprise the entirety of Krolock. The flutes, cello and even oboe appear on Vampires To Crypt as do more choir and strings. [Note: there's also some church organ on Mineshaft Chase, I think that's actually viola on Vampires To Crypt and as for Krolock, who knows? French horn? Oboe? Viola? You expect me to remember? Ed.]

Mark Medley

Well, what can I say? Thank you, Mark! No, I have not paid him to give us such glowing reviews, although our association could trigger accusations of nepotism. I'd probably knock a half star off First Stage's rating, actually, but this is his review. As a quick postscript, here's a rundown of the Mellotron use from the horse's mouth:

Matt and I (I'm not sure I can even remember who played what now) add a handful of string notes to opener Pilman Radiant's 'studio only' intro and choir chords on the 'chorus', a similar choir part on The Tall Man, with added strings in 'chorus two' and a mental pitchbent string part in Black Iron Prison, leaving the album's premier Mellotron work to the heavy flute and string parts in Windowless Monad. Watch for a more varied sound palette next time round...

As a postscript to Mark's Phantasm... review, the first tracks on each side were recorded at the same time as Psychomania, in 2013 (originally planned as a 7" that never happened), the last on each side in 2014 and the brief inbetween pieces in 2015, after deciding to release a full EP. Listening back to them, you'd really have no idea...

Facebook

See: Rashomon | Cremator | Osiris Club | Exult1 | Omaggio al Maestro Ennio Morricone

Zombi  (US)  see: Samples etc.

Zombies  (UK)

Zombies, 'Odessey & Oracle'

Odessey & Oracle  (1968,  34.58/79.58)   *****/TT½

Care of Cell 44
A Rose for Emily
Maybe After He's Gone
Beechwood Park
Brief Candles
Hung Up on a Dream
Changes

I Want Her She Wants Me
This Will Be Our Year
Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)
Friends of Mine
Time of the Season
[CD adds:
A Rose for Emily (alternate version 2)
Time of the Season (alternate mix)
Prison Song, a.k.a. Care of Cell 44 (backing track)]
The Zombies, 'Odessey & Oracle {Revisited}'

Odessey & Oracle {Revisited}: The 40th Anniversary Concert, Live at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 2008  (2008,  84.43)  ****/T

Care of Cell 44
A Rose for Emily
Maybe After He's Gone
Beechwood Park
Brief Candles
Hung Up on a Dream
Changes

I Want Her, She Wants Me
This Will Be Our Year
Butcher's Tale
Friends of Mine
Time of the Season
Tell Her No
She's Not There
I Love You
Sticks and Stones
Can't Nobody Love You
What Becomes of the Brokenhearted
Misty Roses
Her Song
Say You Don't Mind
Keep on Rolling
Hold Your Head Up
Zombies, 'Breathe Out, Breathe in'

Breathe Out, Breathe in  (2011,  38.44)  ***½/T

Breathe Out, Breathe in
Any Other Way
Play it for Real
Shine on Sunshine
Show Me the Way
A Moment in Time
Christmas for the Free
Another Day
I Do Believe
Let it Go

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

The Zombies were the intellectuals of the UK beat scene, being grammar school boys from St. Albans, just north of London. Mind you, Mick'n'Keef went to grammar school too, so there goes that argument. Anyway, after a string of hits, including the sublime She's Not There, later devastatingly covered by Santana, the band released their swansong, Odessey & Oracle, to little initial acclaim; they were so low on their label's priorities that no-one coughed up to correct the sleeve designer's idiot misspelling, so Odessey it remains. Between Colin Blunstone's distinctive vocals, Rod Argent's keyboard work and the superb songwriting, it's almost inconceivable that it could fail, but the band split soon after its release, sick of the usual industry hassles. The only reason this album has any standing in the public consciousness now is that Time Of The Season (which sounds like it was recorded at an earlier session) was released as a posthumous single in the States, becoming a massive hit; with appalling irony, the biggest of their career. They refused all entreaties to reform, with Blunstone going on to a sporadically successful solo career, and Argent going on to form, er, Argent.

Musically, Odessey is absolutely fantastic; perfect intelligent pop with a psych edge, it reminds me strongly of Fairfield Parlour's wonderful From Home to Home, consisting largely of mature, melancholy little pieces like A Rose For Emily and Beechwood Park. As for Argent's Mellotron, Care Of Cell 44 has a wonderful string part, as does Hung Up On A Dream, which adds flutes to the mix. Changes opens with a beautifully-recorded 'Tron flute part, reprising throughout the song, although Brief Candles is slightly less special. It's a shame they didn't use it more (where have you heard this before?), but three superb 'Tron tracks is three more than you can usually expect. Either way, this is an absolute late-'60s classic and an essential buy. Incidentally, Big Beat's '30th Anniversary Edition' contains not only the mono and stereo versions of the album, but finds room for three alternate versions, including A Rose For Emily with a 'Tron flute part presumably removed from the album version, although a backing track for Care Of Cell 44 removes the 'Tron strings.

Forty years on... The reconstituted band (sans guitarist Paul Atkinson, who died in 2004) played a three-night run at West London's Shepherd's Bush Empire in March 2008, playing two sets, one of which consisted of the whole of Odessey & Oracle, in sequence. The resulting album, Odessey & Oracle {Revisited} seems to've reversed the sets, as I'm quite certain that the 'odds'n'sods' one was played first, followed by Odessey... and encores. Anyway, the first set/second disc is less interesting than I remember it, although Colin Blunstone's in fine voice, better moments including an excellent version of Jimmy Ruffin's What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted and an extended Hold Your Head Up (Argent, of course). Disc one is the real reason to buy the set, a note-perfect rendering of their unheralded-then-but-classic-now album, Don Airey's session guitarist brother Keith standing in for Atkinson, plus several other extra players/singers.

I was lucky enough to be present on one of the nights, so can confirm that, sitting to Argent's right, was a regular white M400. Unfortunately, given that he played piano or organ on most Odessey... tracks, the bulk of the album's Mellotron parts (the strings on Care Of Cell 44, Brief Candles and Hung Up On A Dream) were covered by second keyboardist Darian Sahanaja (from Brian Wilson's band), using samples. However, Argent used the real thing on two tracks, the flute part in the middle of Hung Up On A Dream and the beautiful flutes throughout Changes; the latter made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on the night (quite a sight, I can tell you).

Four years on and the band, or at least, Argent and Blunstone, actually release a new album, Breathe Out, Breathe in, their sixth in, er, the better part of five decades. To be perfectly honest, it could be described as a middle-aged attempt to recreate the magic of Odessey..., the opening title track being one of the weakest tracks here, a bit too 'supper club' for its own good, although track two, Any Other Way, helps to redress the balance. Other stronger tracks include Another Day, I Do Believe (including a ripping pseudo-Hammond solo) and closer Let It Go, even if it has a certain White Shade Of Paleness about it, strangely ending the album rather inconclusively off the dominant. Argent has made comments to the effect that he used 'Mellotron and Memotron', so my guess is that the typically melodic flute part on Shine On Sunshine is the real thing, while the chordal strings on A Moment In Time are sampled, but I'll keep both highlighted until/if I should find out for sure.

So; it goes without saying that if you don't already know Odessey... inside out, you need to own a copy. ...{Revisited} is more for committed fans who'd like to hear how the band tackle the whole thing live, with brief but genuine Mellotron on a couple of tracks, while Breathe Out... is far better than you might expect, if hardly a classic.

Official site

See: Argent

Zombies  (Spain)

Zombies, 'Extraños Juegos'

Extraños Juegos  (1980,  32.29)  **½/½

Contacto en Zurich
No Puedo Perder Mi Tiempo
La Venganza de Cthulhu
Groenlandia
Extraños Juegos
Cleopatra y la Serpiente
Orquídeas Marchitas
La Energía de Plutón
Aloha (Atardece en el Pacífico)
La Rebelión de los Objetos

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

How can Spain's Zombies not have known of the British band? OK, they weren't as well-known as The Beatles or The Stones, but they're weren't exactly obscure, either. Maybe, in those days of limited information exchange, they decided that, since they were unlikely to sell anything outside their home territory, it wouldn't matter. Until now, eh? Their first album (of two), 1980's Extraños Juegos, is essentially new wave, albeit with a Mediterranean twist in places, not to mention the occasional '50s influence (notably on Groenlandia), of all things.

The Lovecraft-referencing La Venganza De Cthulhu features a short, rising Mellotron choir line from Bernardo Bonezzi, with a very background part on Aloha (Atardece En El Pacífico); it's possible another couple of tracks feature similarly background choirs, but they're so low in the mix that they could be almost anything. So; new wave fan? Think you've heard everything? No you haven't. Mellotron fan? Go elsewhere.

Zomby Woof  (Germany)

Zomby Woof, 'Riding on a Tear'

Riding on a Tear  (1977,  41.40/64.54)  ***½/T

Introduction
Suicide
Riding on a Tear
Requiem Part 1
Requiem Part 2
Dora's Drive
Mary Walking Through the Woods
Walking Through the Woods
Finale
[CD adds:
Dora's Drive (single edit)
Mary Walking Through the Woods (single edit)
Highwire Dance
Back Home]

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Zomby Woof (whom I mistakenly referred to as Zomby Wolf for ages) got their name from a Frank Zappa song (on '73's Overnite Sensation, I believe), but had no musical connection with ol' Frank whatsoever. The Bavarian outfit had been around since the early '70s, but apparently didn't consider themselves professional enough to record until 1977, when their demos were picked up by the independent Jupiter label. Riding on a Tear was released later that year, and is a typical German progressive release of the time, loosely comparable to acts such as Rousseau or Tibet, while never being in the Novalis league, never mind Grobschnitt.

The album opens with some excellent piano work on Introduction; in fact, the instrumental work is highly competent throughout, especially Matthias Zumbroich's keyboards, including a considerable amount of clavinet, not heard so often on progressive albums from the era. The composition is adequate, although nothing really leaps out at the listener, at least on an initial listen, although there's some excellent jamming on Dora's Drive. Speaking of which, whose weird idea was it to release an edited version of a jammed-out instrumental track as the album's sole single? The '70s, eh?

There's actually very little Mellotron to be heard on the album. Apparently, the band found a broken-down one in the studio, and bassist Udo Kreuß spent some considerable time and effort getting it running again, although the only 'Tron I can hear is a male voice choir part on Requiem Part 2. So; do you or don't you? Yes for progressive fans looking for something they haven't previously encountered, but no for the casual listener and no for anyone looking for some serious 'Tron use. Oh, and the second two bonus tracks are well worth hearing, though you're unlikely to find this without them anyway, I suspect.

Zone  (Japan)

Zone, 'Z'

Z  (2002,  34.05)  **½/TTT

Kaze no Hajimaru Basho
Good Days
Daibakuhatsu No.1
Sekai no Hon no Katasumi Kara

Boku no Soba ni
Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~
Orange no Yuuhi

Secret Base (Piano Version)

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Zone are one of those totally manufactured, all-female J-pop bands who mean bugger-all in the West (er, are there any who do?), despite an enormously high profile at home. 2002's Z, with its Help!-referencing sleeve, was their debut (followed by O, N and E. No, really), featuring the usual mix of uptempo, slightly rocky efforts and power ballads, of next to no interest to anyone with a jot of musical taste, frankly. I was amused by the Brian May-alike guitar work on a couple of tracks, although I can't say it noticeably increased my listening pleasure.

I've no idea who plays the Mellotron (usual transliteration difficulties), although it's all over the place, with a gentle string part opening Daibakuhatsu No.1 before it all kicks off, repeating later on, with similar on Sekai No Hon No Katasumi Kara and Orange No Yuuhi. The album's crowning Mellotronic glory, however, is their best-known song, Secret Base ~Kimi Ga Kureta Mono~ (I presume the punctuation's correct), featuring a particularly upfront and lengthy strings part plus flutes, grinding to a halt at the end in a distinctly 'this Mellotron's real' kind of way. Overall, then, musically fairly awful, but Mellotronically surprisingly good. Your choice, methinks.

Official record company site

Zone Six  (Germany)  see: Samples etc.

Zoo  (Netherlands)

Zoo, 'Change My World' 7"  (1971)  **½/T½

Change My World

Holiday
Zoo, 'Zoo'

Zoo  (1973,  37.05)  ***/T½

Cold Night
Summerday
Everybody Knows
I'm Here
Dedicated to You All

Zoo Music
Feelings
Zoo, 'Cold Night' 7"  (1973)  ***/TT

Cold Night
Naugh Moo

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Despite releasing four singles and an album over a several-year period, early Dutch progressive outfit Zoo are pretty obscure, almost certainly due to their inability/unwillingness to fully commit themselves to playing full-blown prog. Their choice, obviously, but history has proven their short-termism unwise. Their first single, 1971's Change My World b/w Holiday, is a late-period psych effort, both sides vaguely comparable to Procol Harum, albeit, er, nowhere near as good, the flip being the superior track. Keys man Eddy Meyer plays an orchestral-ish Mellotron strings/brass mix on the 'A' to passable effect, although he didn't record with one again for another two years.

Their lone album, 1973's Zoo, is pleasant enough, yet simultaneously highly undemanding, being more of a typical mainstream rock album of the era with progressive overtones than a prog album per se. Better tracks include opener Cold Night and Zoo Music (despite the drum solo), although Everybody Knows' rock'n'roll-lite and inexplicable Beatles medley Dedicated To You All are pretty inessential, frankly. Meyer adds Mellotron to a handful of tracks, with strings on Cold Night, I'm Here and the Baby, You're A Rich Man segment of Dedicated To You All, only to any great effect on the first-named.

Zoo's final single from late '73 ('74?) was a re-recording of the album's Cold Night, its new, funkier arrangement doing it no favours, although oddly-titled instrumental flip Naugh Moo is almost certainly the best thing the band ever wrote, sounding slightly like Trace before that outfit formerly existed. Meyer adds Mellotron to both sides, with nicely upfront string parts that improve even the otherwise dodgy 'A'. Zoo split in '74, bassist Bert Veldkamp going on to play with Kayak, other members forming the equally-obscure Kangaroo; none of their small catalogue is currently available, although downloads can be found. Are they worth hearing? A handful of tracks (principally Naugh Moo) are worth the effort, but, that track aside, we're not exactly talking 'lost classic' here, musically or Mellotronically.

Zoppo Trump  (Germany)  see: Samples etc.

Zu  (Italy)

Zu, 'Carboniferous'

Carboniferous  (2009,  49.11)  ***/½

Ostia
Chthonian
Carbon
Beats Viscera
Erinys
Soulympics
Axion
Mimosa Hostilis
Obsidian
Orc

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Italy's Zu, linked with both Shockabilly's Eugene Chadbourne and Guapo, have been recording for over a decade now, releasing ten or more albums in that period. Going by their latest, 2009's Carboniferous, the Guapo connection isn't misplaced, at least in reference to their pre-keyboard work from the late '90s, with jagged rhythms, frequently atonal sax and mucho distortion a speciality. Opener Ostia is possibly the best track, if only due to the novelty value, so to speak, of its introduction to their sound for the unwary.

Jacopo Battaglia plays Mellotron, with a ghostly, few-second string part on Chthonian, although that appears to be it. This isn't an album for the faint-hearted, but is so much better than the million or so identikit death metal dweebs that infest our planet. Worth hearing, but not for the Mellotron.

Official site

Zucchero  (Italy)

Zucchero, 'Spirito DiVino'

Spirito DiVino  (1995,  44.36)  **½/T½

Voodoo Voodoo
Datemi una Pompa
O.L.S.M.M.
Pane e Sale
X Colpa di Chi?
Il Volo
Senza Rimorso
Papà Perché
Così Celeste
Alleluja
Zucchero, 'Bluesugar'

Bluesugar  (1998,  51.05)  ***/TTT

U Make Me Feel Loved
Blue
Thin Air
If Not Tonight

Back 2 U
Donkey Tonkey
(Temporaneamente) X Sempre Tuo
More Than This
Karma Stai Kalma
I Wish You Love
I Tempi Cambieranno
Zucchero, 'Shake'

Shake  (2001,  47.51)  **½/TTT

Sento le Campane
Music in Me
Porca l'Oca
Ali d'Oro
Ahum

Scintille
Baila
Dindondio
Rossa Mela della Sera
Shake
Tobia
Zucchero, 'Zu & Co.'

Zu & Co.  (2004,  76.58)  **½/T

Dune Mosse
Muoio per Te
Indaco Dagli Occhi del Cielo
Il Grande Baboomba
Like the Sun (From Out of Nowhere)
Baila Morena
Ali d'Oro
Blue
Pure Love
A Wonderful World
Pippo (Nasty Guy)
Hey Man (Sing a Song)
Il Volo
Così Celeste
Diavolo in Me
Senza una Donna
Il Mare Impetuoso al Tramonto Salì Sulla Luna e Dietro una Tendina di Stelle...
Miserere
Zucchero, 'Fly'

Fly  (2006,  50.57)  **½/T

Bacco Perbacco
Un Kilo
Occhi
Quanti Anni Ho
Cuba Libre
È Delicato
L'Amore è Nell'aria
Pronto
Let it Shine
Troppa Fedeltà
Nel Cosi Blu
[Bonus tracks:
Flying Away
Shine]

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Adelmo "Zucchero" ('Sugar') Fornaciari seems to have been around for ever, releasing albums in English for the last decade or so. Going by '95's Spirito DiVino (or however it's spelt - it's a pun, for what it's worth: 'divine spirit'/'spirit of wine' - thanks, Mark...), he's in that 'adult pop' area, sitting next to U2 et al., so don't come here looking for innovation or anything. Actually, most of the material's fairly balladic and middle-aged, making U2 sound cutting edge (if you'll excuse the pun); one for people who don't want anything new. I mean, Eric bloody Clapton plays on the album... A bit of the man's Mellotron on Il Volo, with a nice pitchbent strings part with more regular chords in the chorus and what sounds like a more 'standard' string part in closer Alleluja.

Three years on, Bluesugar says 'no change', but in Italian (no cambiare? Probably not). More mainstream 'adult contemporary listening' (gack!), more teeth-grinding boredom. Four Mellotron tracks on the album, played by the man himself. Thin Air has some fairly upfront strings, while the strings on If Not Tonight sound like they could almost be real, so I'm not sure what the deal is there. More Than This has both flutes and strings, while I Tempi Cambieranno (sung partially in English) has more of those orchestrally-arranged strings. Confusingly, 2001's Shake seems to be available in two different versions, although the differences may be more in the titles than the actual tracks; rather hard to say, when most online literature is in Italian... Usual old crap, although John Lee Hooker's cameo on Ali D'Oro makes a welcome change from Zucchero's vocals. Loads of Mellotron, surprisingly, from both Zucchero and Luciano Luisi. String parts on Ali D'Oro, Ahum (possiby also known as Hasta El Fondo?), Dindondio, Rossa Mela Della Sera and Tobia, with Ahum probably being the best.

As if the issue needed confusing any further, 2004 (2005 internationally)'s Zu & Co. consists largely of songs he's released before performed with famous guests, including his Italian-language version of The Korgis' sublime Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime, Indaco Dagli Occhi Del Cielo. Not much 'Tron, with what sounds like the same version of Shake's Ali D'Oro and a (partial?) re-recording of Spirito DiVino's Il Volo, featuring the stunningly talented Ronan Keating. Ahem. 2006's Fly is spirited enough, I suppose (he said, grudgingly), but it's essentially more of the same, the only standout track being regular album closer Nel Cosi Blu, instantly recognisable as an Italian-language cover of Procol Harum's superb A Salty Dog. Yer man plays Mellotron again, with high-end cellos on Occhi, nothing on the credited Quanti Anni Ho, but uncredited strings on L'Amore è Nell'aria and credited cellos on bonus track Flying Away, a minor cheat, as it's no more than an English-language version of Occhi.

Zucchero finally gave up on the Mellotron, although whether he's replaced it with samples or just ditched the sound is unknown. Anyway, he did the decent thing and sold it to someone good, namely modern Italian prog gods The Watch, who make damn' good use of it. As for the above, Bluesugar and Shake actually have some decent 'Tron work between the, but don't blame me for the musical content...

Official site

Fabio Zuffanti  (Italy)

Fabio Zuffanti, 'Fabio Zuffanti'

Fabio Zuffanti  (2009,  41.35)  ***/TT

E' Probabile
Le Piante Sott'acqua
Dormono
Cuoci Bene
Andiamo Avanti (per il Film)
Ottobre
Sentieri Nel Ghiaccio

Domeniche Senza Tramonto
Così a Fondo...

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Fabio Zuffanti is bassist and frequently bandleader with a host of current Italian progressive and progressive-related acts, including Finisterre, Hostsonaten and Maschera di Cera, although he's been known to go out on a limb, notably with the post-rock of LaZona. I was expecting something fairly progressive from his first solo album, Fabio Zuffanti, so it's all the more surprising to be confronted with a largely instrumental post-rock-with-beats affair, progressive in spirit but a long way from 'prog' as we know it (Jim). It's almost pointless trying to pick out 'best tracks'; the whole purpose of the album is presumably to be listened to as a whole, placing it a very long way from iPod culture indeed.

Zuffanti has confirmed that he used a real Mellotron on the album, which makes it all the more surprising to hear how he uses it; I can only imagine he takes a few seconds of playing then loops it, either in a sampler or as part of the digital recording process (is there any difference any more?). A real one's in the studio, but we're not hearing it played in real time, as the eight-second rule is broken time and time again. Opener E' Probabile features two or three minutes of the same string chord, with less of the same on Andiamo Avanti (Per Il Film), choirs on Ottobre and more strings on Sentieri Nel Ghiaccio and closer Così A Fondo..., though it's all so far from 'standard use' that it's difficult to know whether or not to recommend it.

An intriguing album, then, though not necessarily one that your prog die-hard's going to like. It's probably more use as relaxing music than, say, something to play in the car; I can't really imagine anyone sitting down and listening to this intently, but I could be wrong... Plenty of Mellotron, but not in a form in which 'Tron spotters are likely to, er, like. Different.

Official site

See: Finisterre | Hostsonaten | Maschera di Cera | LaZona | Fabio Zuffanti & Victoria Heward

Fabio Zuffanti & Victoria Heward  (Italy/UK)  see: Samples etc.


previous pagenext page