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Our Idiot Brother [OST]
Stay [OST]
Acquire the Fire
Canossa
Cinemix
A Fair Forgery of Pink Floyd
For a Few Guitars More
Freaked!
Give the People What We Want
If I Could Write Poetry
The Late Great Daniel Johnston
Leader of the Starry Skies
The Lotus Eaters
One Step Up/Two Steps Back

Scott Walker
Stairway to Heaven
Sweetheart
Transformers Roll Out


Our Idiot Brother

'Our Idiot Brother'

Our Idiot Brother  [OST]  (2011,  45.40)  **½

Eric D. Johnson:
  Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree
Willie Nelson:
  Wonderful Future
Nathan Larson & Eric D. Johnson:
  The Main Title
Generationals:
  When They Fight, They Fight
Fruit Bats:
  Lightning Bug
Nathan Larson:
  Mellotron Melody
Willie Nelson:
  Midnight Rider
Daniel Tashian & Mindy Smith:
  Taking You With Me
Nathan Larson & Eric D. Johnson:
  The Harvest Theme
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down:
  Cool Yourself
Willie Nelson:
  Ol' Blue
Nathan Larson & Eric D. Johnson:
  Cowboys and Hobos
Eric D. Johnson:
  2 Roadrunners
El May:
  The Things You Lost
Carole King:
  Beautiful

Current availability:

I haven't seen Our Idiot Brother, but it seems to be about a bit of a loser and his dysfunctional family. There you go - Planet Mellotron film reviews in a nutshell. The soundtrack (from Nathan Larson and Eric D. Johnson) combines what I believe are new recordings of old songs, not least Johnson's take on Dawn's cheese 'classic' Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree and several contributions from Willie Nelson. Is it any good? Suffice to say, it probably works better in its intended environment, i.e. soundtracking the film.

Johnson and Larson are both credited with Mellotron, but Larson's Mellotron Melody gives the game away in grand style, as I'm fairly certain he wasn't actually using a MkII to produce the left-hand manual rhythms on the track, ditto the vibes, although it's difficult to tell whether or not the samples are used anywhere else. Actually, do we care? Maybe not.

See: Willie Nelson

Stay

'Stay'

Stay  [OST]  (2005,  47.59)  ***

Mahlus Gardens
Opening Bridge
Dance Class
You're Real
Is That Your Voice?
Fortune Cookie
Leaving the City
Chasing Henry
Leon Sees
The World is an Illusion
Stay With Me
A Walk in the Rain
Sam and Lila
From Another Life
Forgive Me
It's Too Late
Fountain
Troubles Will Cease
I'm Never Gonna Sleep Tonight
Museum
Henry Dies

Current availability:

Mark Asche and Thad Spencer, collectively Asche and Spencer, were Minneapolis-based soundtrack composers who composed the incidental music for 2005's Stay, an eerie, downbeat work, that doubtless usefully augments the film. Whether it's a good listen in its own right is another matter, but people who regularly listen to soundtracks out of context are a breed apart, anyway.

Tommy Barbarella is credited with Mellotron, but there's little evidence of one on the album. When we finally get some choirs (on I'm Never Gonna Sleep Tonight), they're far too smooth for their own good, leading me to suspect sample use. Overall, then, good in small doses, but more than about ten minutes of this is enough to make me want to listen to something a little more energetic. Redefines 'ambient'.

Acquire the Fire

'Acquire the Fire: Unshakeable'

Acquire the Fire: Unshakeable  (2001,  52.26)  *

Superchic[k]:
  Holy Moment
Jeff Deyo:
  Fill Me
Nick Gonzales:
  I Wanna Be Clean
Ron Luce & Brad Olson:
  The Wonderful Cross
Melissa Tawlks:
  You Are My King (Amazing Love)
Ron Luce:
  Breathe
Musical Interlude: Declaration of Faith
Phil Joel:
  Unshakeable
Plumb:
  History Maker
Melissa Tawlks:
  Uncommon Love
Ron Luce & Melissa Tawlks:
  God of Wonders

Current availability:

"In your city a storm rages. Shaking walls. Rattling foundations. The trembling is unbearable. It must stop - for the sake of survival. The pummeling is not against walls or buildings but against our very souls. The quake attacks the heart of man, eroding the basics of morality. There is only One who can calm the storm. There is only One who can repair that which is broken. And it is on this One, Christ the solid rock, which we stand." Are you puking on the floor yet? No? Why not? Acquire the Fire (gah!) are an organisation who 'challenge youth to stand for their Christian faith', which can also read as 'coerce waverers into returning to the fold', a tactic which I'm reliably informed these types of groups use. Predatory Christianity, eh? Surely not etc.

Anyway, 2001's Unshakeable is stuffed to the gills with the kind of religious frenzy you'd expect, only Superchic[k]'s energetic opener Holy Moment actually managing to be not actively musically offensive, although, absolutely as you'd expect, the album's lyrically vomitorious throughout. Mellotronically speaking, Christa Joy Black supposedly adds something to Melissa Tawlks' Uncommon Love, but the cello sounds real, so I've absolutely no idea what it might be. Anyway, I can only urge you, in the strongest terms, to avoid this vile record, no matter what its credits may allege.

I refuse to provide a link to Acquire the Fire's 'Teen Mania Ministries' site, for fear of being branded abusive.

Canossa

'Canossa: A Rock Opera'

Canossa: A Rock Opera  (2006,  68.31)  ***

Gigi Cavalli Cocchi:
  Del Nascere di un Castello
Mangala Vallis:
  Pietra su Pietra
Gigi Cavalli Cocchi:
  Adelaide
Trama Sonora:
  La Regina
Gigi Cavalli Cocchi:
  Goffredo il Gobbs
Sequencer:
  Danza di Matilde e Goffredo
Gigi Cavalli Cocchi:
  Matilde ed Enrico IV
Arcanoise:
  Tre Giorni
Gigi Cavalli Cocchi:
  Del Combaterie l'Imperatore
Type:
  La Battaglia
Gigi Cavalli Cocchi:
  Irudonica Ariosto
Oltremare:
  Il Porta
Gigi Cavalli Cocchi:
  Enme Nulla Muare
Master Experience:
  Il Suo Richiamo

Current availability:

Canossa: A Rock Opera is unusual in that it's a modern, multi-artist European prog concept effort, yet it has nothing to do with either Finland's Colossus project or Italy's Mellow label. It's actually the brainchild of Mangala Vallis's drummer, Gigi Cavalli Cocchi, who also provides the narration on every other track, although Fabrizio Varchetta provides the pseudo-orchestral backing for same. Of the seven bands involved in the project, I'll come clean and say that I've only heard of one; perhaps the others are one-off projects? Mangala Vallis provide a reasonable piece in Pietra Su Pietra, better than pretty much anything from either of their albums, while Type's La Battaglia is pleasingly angular, but most of the album is fairly average prog-by-numbers, I'm afraid, while the concept (stories relating to the northern Italian castle of Canossa) is somewhat opaque to non-Italian speakers.

Mangala Vallis provide the album's only 'Mellotronic' input, with some occasional murky choirs, clearly sampled, on their contribution. I've seen rave reviews of Canossa, but I'm really not sure why; a decent enough listen, certainly, but far from outstanding.

See: Mangala Vallis

Cinemix

'Cinemix'

Cinemix  (2003,  74.23)  **

Sporto Kantes:
  Ferdinand
Readymade FC:
  Sans Mobile Apparent ("Bright Star" remix)
Troublemakers:
  L'Homme Orchestra
Rubin Steiner:
  Les Poupons (Golden Keyboards remix)
Gonzales & Taylor Savvy:
  Dernier Domicile Connu/Le Mer Est Grande/
  L'Homme Orchestre (Jean Luc Guitar remix)

Luke Vibert:
  Piti Piti Pas
Mocky:
  Trafic (Toute de Suite remix)
DJ Patife:
  Compartiment Tueurs
Zzouf:
  Trafic (Tu Entends Ce Que Je Pense?)
Sofa Surfers:
  La Horse
Howie B:
  La Horse (Howie B remix)
Swayzak:
  Fantômas (Darkfarmer Chopped it
  remix)
Carl Craig:
  Le Mer est Grande (Carl Craig remix)
Christian Morgenstern featuring Gesa:
  Le Cercle Rouge (Circle Rouge remix)
Twitch:
  Dernier Domicile Connu
Nicolas Repac:
  Dernier Domicile Connu
Benjamin Diamond vs Octet:
  Sans Mobile Apparent (No GSM remix)
Alif Tree:
  Dernier Domicile Connu

Current availability:

It seems that Universal France's 2003 various artists Cinemix project was something of an add-on to their Écoutez le Cinema! series of twenty-eight soundtracks, mostly from French films. Now, I know I'm an old git, but I genuinely fail to see the point in taking perfectly good pieces of music, cutting them up and adding unwelcome programmed beats, squelchy synths et al. Yeah, I'm that old. Are any of these eighteen tracks worth the effort? Not really, no, the best any of them manage is to be less irritating than their neighbours (honourable exception: Alif Tree's closing Dernier Domicile Connu). On the whole, all they make me want to do is hear the originals. Perhaps that's the point?

David Emmings' 'Mellotron' flutes and strings on Readymade FC's "Bright Star" remix of Sans Mobile Apparent are clearly sampled, making this even less worth hearing than it might otherwise have been. Recommended? Don't be silly.

A Fair Forgery of Pink Floyd

'A Fair Forgery of Pink Floyd'

A Fair Forgery of Pink Floyd  (2003,  146.03)  ***½

Tom Freund:
  Fearless
Sally Semrad:
  Wish You Were Here
Yortoise:
  Money
Graham Parker:
  Comfortably Numb
James Combs:
  See Emily Play
Quetzal:
  Mother
50 Cent Haircut:
  Breathe
John Law:
  Young Lust
Kelsey Wood:
  Time
Ira:
  Have a Cigar
Harvette:
  Bike
Big Lee:
  Another Brick in the Mason's Wall
Courtney Fairchild:
  Nobody Home
Jimmy Caprio:
  Paintbox
Billion Stars:
  Lucifer Sam
Dave Chapple:
  San Tropez
Becca & Pierre:
  Childhood's End
Shark'n the Smoke:
  High Hopes
Mike Keneally Band:
  Astronomy Domine
Samarin, Morgan & Hull LLP:
  Corporal Clegg
Brook Claman:
  Let There Be More Light
Tortfeasor:
  Pigs on the Wing
Which One's Pink?:
  Dogs
John Stack & Numira:
  Sheep
Shaun Guerin:
  In the Flesh
S.A.M.:
  Hey You
Tim Mayer:
  Goodbye Blue Sky
TBL with Stevie Z:
  Is There Anybody Out There?
Which One's Pink?:
  What Shall We Do Now?
North Green:
  Not Now, John
Rat Bat Blue:
  5 Minute Version of the Wall

Current availability:

2003's A Fair Forgery of Pink Floyd is yet another entrant in the growing pantheon of Pink Floyd tribute albums. Like so many similar, its contents veer wildly between pretty-much faithful recreations (Which One's Pink?'s Dogs and John Stack & Numira's Sheep, possibly proving that Animals material doesn't re-interpret well) and, er, less faithful ones, highlights including Yortoise's rockabilly Money (don't laugh, it works! Although I remain unconvinced by 50 Cent Haircut's similar take on Breathe), Ira's Have A Cigar, which brings out the full industry horror of the lyrics and Harvette's superb Bike, although Rat Bat Blue's closing 5 Minute Version Of The Wall is clever, but somehow unfulfilling. WTF's with Big Lee's Another Brick In The Mason's Wall, though? A hip-hop thing based around the expected, with new and deeply inferior lyrics? Why?

Although someone called John Would is credited with Mellotron, those are definitely string samples on Ira's Have A Cigar, while the cellos on Sally Semrad's Wish You Were Here could be anything. Overall, then, a decent tribute album, for those who enjoy such things; in fairness, there's plenty here to enjoy, especially if you like to hear much-loved material re-interpreted. No Mellotron, though.

See: Pink Floyd | Pierson, Parker, Janovitz

For a Few Guitars More

'For a Few Guitars More'

For a Few Guitars More: A Tribute to Morricone's Spaghetti Western Themes  (2002,  53.25)  ***½

The Penetrators:
  Guns Don't Argue
Bradipos IV:
  Titoli (A Fistful of Dollars)
Dave Wronksi:
  For a Fistful of Dollars
Cosmonauti:
  For a Few Dollars More
Brent J. Cooper:
  Sixty Seconds to What?
The Langhorns:
  The Vice of Killing
The Atlantics:
  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
3 Balls of Fire:
  The Ecstasy of Gold
Bambi Molesters:
  A Gun for Ringo
Pollo del Mar:
  Navajo Joe
The Irreversible Slacks:
  The Big Gundown (Seconda Caccia)
The Hellbenders:
  The Hellbenders
Kim Humphreys:
  The Great Silence
In the West:
  Once Upon a Time in the West
Bernard Yin & David Arnson:
  As a Judgment [Come una Sentenza]
Di Dollari:
  Farewell to Cheyenne
Davie Allan:
  The Loud, the Loose, and the Savage

Current availability:

For a Few Guitars More is, as its subtitle heavily suggests, a Morricone Spaghetti Western tribute, most participants tackling the material in an early '60s surf style, which, of course, in turn influenced the original soundtracks. The material covered is sourced from ten films, including the four that everyone knows (A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More/The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly/Once Upon a Time in the West, of course), although I think it'd be fair to say that the artists involved are, to a man or band, pretty damn' obscure, the only one ringing a bell with yours truly being that well-known beat combo The Bambi Molesters. Personal favourites include Canadian Brent J. Cooper's take on For a Few Dollars More's Sixty Seconds To What?, The Langhorns' trumpet-driven The Vice Of Killing (complete with musical box) and The Hellbenders' take on the piece of the same name, while In the West's Once Upon A Time In The West actually manages to sound slightly like Focus, of all bands.

'Mellotron'? Cooper plays 'faux Mellotron' on his take on Sixty Seconds To What?, with a background string part that could be almost anything, really. So; despite a couple of less essential tracks, one for fans of surf guitar or Morricone. Or both. And who isn't? Silly, but a lot of fun.

Freaked!

'Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dcTalk's "Jesus Freak"'

Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dcTalk's "Jesus Freak"  (2006,  60.10)  **½

The Showdown:
  So Help Me God
The Gotee Brothers with Ayiesha
  Woods & John Reuben:
  Colored People
4th Avenue Jones:
  Jesus Freak
Sarah Kelly:
  What if I Stumble?
House of Heroes:
  Day By Day
Grant Harrison:
  Mr. Tobin
Relient K:
  Between You and Me
Fighting Instinct:
  Like it, Love it, Need it
John Reuben & the Gotee
  Choir:
  Jesus Freak Reprise
Storyside:B:
  In the Light
Liquid:
  What Have We Become?
Family Force 5:
  Mind's Eye
The Gotee Brothers:
  The Gotee Brothers Interlude
Paul Wright & Ayiesha Woods:
  Between You and Me
Chasing Victory:
  Jesus Freak

Current availability:

For an outfit dubbed 'the most popular overtly Christian act of all time', I have to say, I've never heard of DC Talk/dc Talk/dcTalk. It seems they were a Christian hip-hop trio who slipped into a more pop/rock sound towards the end of their career. 2006's Freaked! A Gotee Tribute to dcTalk's "Jesus Freak" is what it says on the tin, a track-by-track reinterpretation of the original album, although not having actually, y'know, heard said opus, it's difficult for me to meaningfully compare the two. Actually, I have to say, going by not just the performances, but the songs themselves, I suspect it might be quite listenable, at least within its genre, although at an hour, it's considerably too long. The best tracks on the tribute disc are probably The Showdown's opener, So Help Me God, Fighting Instinct's Like It, Love It, Need It and, above all, Grant Harrison's amusing Mr. Tobin, a spoken-word piece standing in for the original album's Mrs. Morgan.

Relient K's Matthew Thiesen allegedly adds Mellotron to their take on Between You And Me, although I have no idea in what role, as it's completely inaudible. This isn't the most exciting tribute album you'll ever hear, but, despite its overtly Christian lyrics, it's actually very listenable in places, in a pop/rock kind of way. Not that good, but not awful, either, which is a nice surprise.

Give the People What We Want

'Give the People What We Want'

Give the People What We Want: Songs of the Kinks  (2001,  58.25)  ***

C Average:
  Revenge
Young Fresh Fellows:
  Gotta Get the First Plane Home
Mark Lanegan:
  Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl
Mudhoney:
  Who Will Be the Next in Line
Model Rockets:
  Ring the Bells
The Fallouts:
  This Man He Weeps Tonight
Heather Duby:
  The Way Love Used to Be
Baby Gramps:
  Sunny Afternoon
The Murder City Devils:
  Alcohol
The Congratulators:
  Session Man
Love as Laughter:
  Tin Soldier Man
The Fastbacks:
  Waterloo Sunset
Jon Auer:
  Fancy
The Pinkos:
  Brainwashed
Larry Barrett:
  Act Nice and Gentle
The Minus 5:
  Wicked Annabella
The Makers:
  Strangers
The Briefs:
  Come Dancing
Nikol Kollars:
  I Go to Sleep

Current availability:

Sub Pop's 2001 tribute disc, Give the People What We Want: Songs of the Kinks (named for the band's 1981 release Give the People What They Want) is the usual curate's egg, contributors veering between respectful copies (Model Rockets' Byrdsian Ring The Bells, The Fastbacks' Waterloo Sunset) and sometimes out-there reinterpretation (Baby Gramps' channelling of Tom Waits on Sunny Afternoon, Nikol Kollars' light, jazzy I Go to Sleep). Best tracks? Perhaps surprisingly, the usually anodyne Minus 5 have a decent stab at Wicked Annabella, helped, as are so many of the featured acts, by having excellent material as a starting point.

Although Steve Fisk is credited with Mellotron on Heather Duby's The Way Love Used To Be, he's known around these parts for using samples until more recently than 2001, although he makes the strings here sound more convincing than many. As usual, you're really not going to buy this for a few seconds of sampled Mellotron, but if you're up for a handful of interesting takes on Kinks songs, look no further.

See: The Kinks | Mark Lanegan | Murder City Devils | Jon Auer | Minus 5

If I Could Write Poetry

'If I Could Write Poetry'

If I Could Write Poetry: A Tribute to Television Personalities  (2005,  71.33)  ***

Lovejoy:
  Someone to Share My Life With
Nikki Sudden:
  If I Could Write Poetry (Texas mix)

Higher Elevations:
  The Engine Driver Song
Baskervilles:
  La Grande Illusion
The Thanes:
  World of Pauline Lewis
Bartlebees:
  And Then Suddenly
Mandervilles:
  Where's Bill Grundy Now?
Armitage Shanks:
  14th Floor (Slight Return)
Sixtynine & the Continuous People:
  The Girl Who Had Everything
Miniskirt:
  A Good & Faithful Servant
Paisley Shirts:
  Sad Mona Lisa
Spiggot V Zane:
  Salvador Dali's Garden Party
Container Drivers:
  A Picture of Dorian Gray
Woog Riots:
  TV Personalities
No Men:
  Part Time Punks
Darrell Whitbeck:
  Stop & Smell the Roses
Nick Danger & the DCR:
  Diary of a Young Man
Happy Couple:
  The Dream Inspires
The Void:
  In a Perfumed Garden
Biff Bang Pow:
  Someone to Share My Life With

Current availability:

I've heard bits and pieces of Dan Treacy's TVPs' work over the years, notably the insanely catchy Where's Bill Grundy Now?, although Part Time Punks is apparently better-known, while I still remember their seriously misplaced prank whilst supporting David Gilmour in 1984, reading Syd Barrett's address out from the stage while playing I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives (not covered here, interestingly. Forever tainted?) Clever... Possibly the ultimate cult band (serious competitor: Cardiacs), it's no surprise at all that there's a tribute album devoted to their oeuvre, 2005's If I Could Write Poetry, which, like most similar, combines reworkings (although I'm not too familiar with the material, I don't think anything here could be classed as 'radical') with slavish recreations, highlights including Higher Elevations' breezy The Engine Driver Song, the murky punk of Bartlebees' And Then Suddenly and The Mandervilles' powerpop Where's Bill Grundy Now?

The now-late Nikki Sudden (Swell Maps) supposedly plays Mellotron on his 'Texas mix' of If I Could Write Poetry itself, but, well, you're joking, surely? That vague stringy sound towards the end of the track? Doesn't even sound like a sample, frankly. Anyway, TVP fans will almost certainly get something from these reworkings, although the rest of us are probably better off with a copy of '95's Yes Darling, But is it Art? or '99 compilation Part Time Punks.

The Late Great Daniel Johnston

'The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered'

The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered  [Disc 1]  (2004,  72.39)  ***

Teenage Fanclub with Jad Fair:
  My Life is Starting Over Again
Clem Snide:
  Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievience
Gordon Gano:
  Impossible Love
Eels:
  Living Life
T.V. on the Radio:
  Walking the Cow
The Rabbit:
  Good Morning You
Calvin Johnston:
  Sorry Entertainer
Bright Eyes:
  Devil Town
Death Cab for Cutie:
  Dream Scream
Beck:
  True Love Will Find You in the End
Sparklehorse with The Flaming Lips:
  Go
Mercury Rev:
  Blue Clouds
Thistle:
  Love Not Dead
Vic Chesnutt:
  Like a Monkey in the Zoo
Starlight Mints:
  Dead Lovers Twisted Heart
M. Ward:
  Story of an Artist
Guster:
  The Sun Shines Down on Me
Tom Waits:
  King Kong

Current availability:

As far as I can ascertain, the chief purpose behind 2004's The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered is to introduce legendary lo-fi naïf Daniel Johnston to a wider audience by persuading fans of the contributing artists to buy the two-disc set. So? I hear you yawn. Another tribute album? Ah, but this one has a twist: disc one is the expected more or less reverential covers, while disc two repeats the tracklisting with the original recordings. A genuinely original idea, at least to my knowledge and absolutely in keeping with the set's presumed purpose. 'Executive production' is by Johnston's manager, Jordan N. Trachtenberg and Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous, a man who knew a thing or three about outsider artists, being a borderline one himself.

Of course, the contributors are all the usual 'alt' suspects of the early 2000s; you know, T.V. on the Radio, Eels, Bright Eyes, Beck and, of course, Tom Waits, without whom any such collection must be considered incomplete. But is it any good? I suspect you have to be a fan of both Johnston and the artists concerned to really get anything out of this; better efforts include Beck's acoustic-and-harmonica take on True Love Will Find You In The End, Sparklehorse's Flaming Lips collaboration on Go, Mercury Rev's indie-Appalachian Blue Clouds, Waits' King Kong (of course) and a handful of others, clustered together towards the end of the disc. To be honest, I think I prefer Johnston's originals in many cases, particularly his harmonium classic Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievience (note spelling and pronunciation).

Although Jeff Mercel is credited with 'Mellotron' on Mercury Rev's Blue Clouds, we can be quite certain that it's as genuine as their other usage, i.e. not. As it happens, we only get a few bursts of murky strings that were never going to convince anyway. So; do you buy this album? Yes for Daniel Johnston fans, possibly for fans of more than a handful of the contributing artists, maybe not for the rest of us.

See: Daniel Johnston | Eels | Bright Eyes | Death Cab for Cutie | Beck | Sparklehorse | Flaming Lips | Mercury Rev | Vic Chesnutt | M Ward | Guster | Tom Waits

Leader of the Starry Skies

'Leader of the Starry Skies'

Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith: Songbook 1  (2010,  73.58)  ****½

William D. Drake & His So Called Friends:
  Savour
Ultrasound:
  Big Ship
Oceansize:
  Fear
Mark Cawthra:
  Let Alone My Plastic Doll
The Trudy:
  Day is Gone
Stars in Battledress:
  Founding
Max Tundra:
  Will Bleed Amen
Julianne Regan:
  Shaping the River
Knifeworld:
  The Stench of Honey
Magic Numbers:
  A Little Man and a House
mikrokosmos:
  Is This the Life
North Sea Radio Orchestra:
  March
Robert White:
  Lilywhite's Party
Rose Kemp vs Rarg:
  Wind and Rains is Cold
Katherine Blake:
  Up in Annie's Room
Steven Wilson:
  Stoneage Dinosaurs
Scaramanga Six:
  Home of Fadeless Splendour

Current availability:

In 2008, Cardiacs' much-loved Tim Smith suffered a catastrophic heart attack/stroke combination that has left him in a parlous state; we can only be thankful for our 'socialist' NHS, which will essentially care for him for the rest of his life, if necessary, at the cost to him of precisely nothing. To think that many citizens of a rather larger country across a large body of water actually voted against a seriously watered-down version of the same system simply beggars belief. Some people really will believe anything they're told.

Anyway... Tim's short-term goal is apparently to be able to return home, obviously with a full-time carer; to this end, various fund-raising activities have been instigated, not least the 2010 release of Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith: Songbook 1. As you may've seen from other reviews on this site, I'm not always a fan of the tribute album; most of them are stuffed with either a) overly-reverent exact copies or b) underly-reverent piss-weak versions in the covering artist's own 'style', in arrangements usually designed to stroke said artist's ego, rather than to actually produce anything of musical merit. Wonderfully, Leader of the Starry Skies contains few of the former category and none of the latter, which probably has as much to do with the artists who care enough about Cardiacs to be involved as anything.

Several contributors are themselves ex-Cardiacs of various eras (William D. Drake, Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld), Christian 'Bic' Hayes (mikrokosmos) and Mark Cawthra), several others part of the band's extended 'family' (Stars in Battledress, Max Tundra, North Sea Radio Orchestra and Mediaeval Baebes' Katherine Blake). All concerned tackle their chosen material with as much or as little reverence as needed, so while Ultrasound's Big Ship is effectively a carbon-copy, mikrokosmos' Is This The Life is both completely recognisable, yet wildly different to the original, the remainder sitting somewhere between these two extremes, other highlights including William D. Drake's Savour, Knifeworld's The Stench Of Honey and Robert White (ably assisted by no lesser a personage than Andy Partridge) tackling Lilywhite's Party.

Mellotron? Well, samples: Steven Wilson's beautiful version of Stoneage Dinosaurs (you can be certain that Tim's anachronism was deliberate) adds the 'Mellotron' flute and choir parts for which the original always cried out. The best thing about Leader of the Starry Skies might just be not that it's an excellent compilation in its own right, but that it makes you want to go back and listen to the originals and in the best possible way. Please buy this album, not just for charitable reasons, but because, if you've ever liked anything by Cardiacs or its offshoots, you can't fail to enjoy it in its own right.

See: Cardiacs | William D. Drake | Ultrasound | All About Eve | Knifeworld | Magic Numbers | Andy Partridge | Rose Kemp | Mediaeval Baebes | Steven Wilson

The Lotus Eaters

'The Lotus Eaters'

The Lotus Eaters: A Tribute to Dead Can Dance  (2004,  150.02)  ***½

Arcana:
  In the Wake of Adversity
Persephone:
  Spirit
Danny Lilker & Lisa Schreib:
  Cantara
Ataraxia:
  Bylar
Faith & the Muse:
  Mesmerism
Trail of Tears:
  The Arcane
Hortus Animae:
  Windfall Introducing Summoning of the Muse
Amber Asylum:
  Cardinal Sin
Grifo:
  Oman
Daniel Cavanagh:
  How Fortunate the Man With None
Imperia:
  The Lotus Eaters
Ephemeral Sun:
  Avatar
Sarah Jezebel Deva:
  The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Black Tape for a Blue Girl:
  Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book
Jarboe & the Black Pearl Society:
  American Dreaming
Antimatter:
  Black Sun
The Gathering:
  In Power We Entrust the Love Advocated
Nightfall:
  The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
Darkwell:
  Anywhere Out of the World
Ulver:
  In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Are Kings
Akrabu:
  Desert Song
Noekk:
  How Fortunate the Man With None
Imperial Black:
  Enigma of the Absolute
Secrets of the Moon & Nostalgia:
  The Protagonist
Monumentum:
  Windfall
Subterranean Masquerade:
  Summoning of the Muse (Deconstructed)

Current availability:

Dead Can Dance are one of those ensembles that you always feel should have used a Mellotron, but didn't. Call it bad timing (the '80s, of course), although that never stopped labelmates and (very) loose reference point The Cocteau Twins. DCD's five or so album run beginning with 1986's Spleen & Ideal are classics of the genre they created, sitting somewhere inbetween art rock, goth, world music(s) and medieval church music, although many fans prefer their later, more world-influenced work. Notably, their most-covered album here is 1987's Within the Realm of a Dying Sun (goth? Us?), but only their purportedly generic goth debut and '96's Spiritchaser are completely untouched.

2004's lengthy The Lotus Eaters: A Tribute to Dead Can Dance is possibly too much of a good thing; DCD are great, but two and a half hours (and covers at that) in one sitting could be construed as a bit much. I have to say, I've heard of few of the contributors, the only familiar names being Swans' Jarboe, Holland's The Gathering, Ulver and Noekk, which probably says more about my lack of knowledge of all things darkwave than the actual obscurity of the rest. Most of the contributors stick fairly closely to the accepted template; mould-breakers include Trail of Tears' The Arcana (from DCD's goth-crossover Garden of the Arcane Delights EP), although its guitar-heavy intro soon reverts to standard DCD mode, Imperia's The Lotus Eaters pulling a similar (albeit heavier) trick, as do Nightfall and Darkwell, although top marks go to Sarah Jezebel Deva's excellent a capella take on the atmospheric The Wind That Shakes The Barley.

Noekk and Subterranean Masquerade are both credited with Mellotron, but the brass/strings mix (?) on the former is clearly sampled, while the latter features a real violin, but no obvious Mellotron, sampled or otherwise. I can't imagine anyone not already a fan of Dead Can Dance getting much out of this, but, fifteen years after their last album, they still have a sizeable fanbase, although I'd have thought hat those of them who were going to buy this have probably already done so.

See: Noekk | Swans

One Step Up/Two Steps Back

'One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen'

One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen  (1997,  117.21)  ***

Aram:
  Something in the Night
Smithereens:
  Downbound Train
Kurt Neumann:
  Atlantic City
John Wesley Harding:
  Jackson Cage
Nils Lofgren:
  Wreck on the Highway
John Hiatt:
  Johnny 99
Dave Alvin:
  Seeds
Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers:
  Light of Day
Martin Zellar:
  Darkness on the Edge of Town
Mrs. Fun, Tina & the B-Side Movement:
  Janey, Don't You Lose Heart
Marshall Crenshaw:
  All or Nothin' at All
Syd Straw:
  Meeting Across the River
Ben E. King:
  4th of July, Asbury Park [Sandy]
Paul Cebar:
  One Step Up
The Knack:
  Don't Look Back
Donna Summer:
  Protection
Joe Cocker:
  Human Touch
Elliott Murphy:
  Stolen Car
David Bowie:
  It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City
Rocking Chairs:
  Restless Nights
Robbin Thompson:
  Guilty
Sonny Burgess:
  Tiger Rose
Gary "U.S." Bonds:
  Love's on the Line
Clarence Clemons & the Red Bank:
  Savin' Up
Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes:
  The Fever
Little Bob Story:
  Seaside Bar Song
Allan Clarke:
  If I Was the Priest
Richie Havens:
  Streets of Philadelphia

Current availability:

1997's One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen is one of the 'most versions sound just like the originals'-type tribute albums, although you would've thought at least some of Bruce's songs would respond positively to rearrangement. Sadly, it's all a bit ordinary, to be honest, few of the takes here stepping too far from the sheet music, leaving it up to individual performances to stand out, as so few of the arrangements take any real chances.

Plenty of Planet Mellotron artists present here, including The Smithereens, Joe Cocker, Elliott Murphy, David Bowie and Allan Clarke, plus several more who will hopefully find their way to these pages eventually and a whole load who almost certainly never will, not least Ben E. King, Nils Lofgren and the missing-presumed-dead Little Bob Story. The contributors' collective unwillingness to stand out from the crowd means there are no real stinkers, but also no stand-outs, although John Hiatt and sometime Bruce guitarist Lofgren perform particularly impassioned takes on Johnny 99 and Wreck On The Highway respectively and, maybe surprisingly, Bowie's string-driven It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City impresses.

Mellotronically speaking, Wesley "John Wesley Harding" Stace allegedly plays the thing on his take on Jackson Cage, but all I can hear is a couple of real violins. As far as the album's content's concerned, I'm personally surprised there's so little from the iconic Born to Run (only Syd Straw's lesser-known Meeting Across The River), with a good few newer selections. Maybe that should be taken as Springsteen's contemporaries' faith in his later material, or at least its suitability for reinterpretation, not that very much here is especially reinterpreted. Anyway, probably essential for the Bruce-fan-with-everything, though not for the rest of us, and certainly not for anyone hoping to hear some Hot Mellotron Action.

See: Bruce Springsteen | Smithereens | John Wesley Harding | John Hiatt | Marshall Crenshaw | The Knack | Joe Cocker | Elliott Murphy | David Bowie | Allan Clarke

Scott Walker

'Scott Walker: 30 Century Man'

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Music Inspired By the Film)  (2009,  48.06)  ***

Peter Broderick:
  Duchess
Sally Norvell:
  Big Louise
Damon & Naomi:
  The World's Strongest Man
Saint Etienne:
  Manhattan
Laurie Anderson:
  The Electrician
Nicole Atkins:
  The Seventh Seal
Dot Allison:
  Montague Terrace (in Blue)
Bee & Flower:
  The Bridge
Stephanie Dosen:
  Rhymes of Goodbye
Ulrich Schnauss:
  It's Raining Today
Jarboe:
  A Lover Loves
Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch:
  Such a Small Love

Current availability:

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Music Inspired By the Film) could just as easily be titled Music Inspired By the Film Scott Walker: 30 Century Man; it appears to depend on your viewpoint. Stephen Kijak's acclaimed 2006 Scott documentary, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, has no soundtrack per se, the producers opting for what amounts to a tribute album instead, twelve artists mostly tackling material from Walker's first four solo albums (unsurprisingly), plus two recent tracks and one late-period Walker Brothers. As with most non-prog tribute collections, I haven't heard most of the originals, but the bulk of the contributors here treat the material (overly-?) reverently, highlights including Damon & Naomi's The World's Strongest Man (Scott 4), Saint Etienne's breathy Manhattan (Tilt) and Dot Allison's Montague Terrace (In Blue) (Scott), but, in truth, every version here is, at least, intriguing, which is more than you can usually say for tributes.

Saint Etienne use uncredited Mellotron string samples on Manhattan, while Bee & Flower's Jonathan Heine's credit on The Bridge (Scott 2) turns out, unsurprisingly, to be some form of sampled, er, something. Brass? Strings? Both? Quite certainly not a Mellotron, anyway. I'm not sure how many non-Scott fans will be interested in this release, but the more obsessive (er, most of them?) probably need to hear it.

See: Damon & Naomi | Saint Etienne | Laurie Anderson | Nicole Atkins | Dot Allison

Stairway to Heaven

'Stairway to Heaven: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin'

Stairway to Heaven: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin  (1997,  53.12)  **½

Black Dog
Communication Breakdown
Rock and Roll
Stairway to Heaven
Going to California
Heartbreaker
Immigrant Song
The Song Remains the Same
Whole Lotta Love
Good Times, Bad Times
Kashmir

Current availability:

I have to be honest here and say, 'what exactly is the point of this kind of album?' 'Tribute' albums are always going to be a bit hit-and-miss, but can someone please tell me why a group of musicians would get together to record tracks from one's band's repertoire, then release the results? I've heard a couple of appalling Rush ones, not because of the material, but its treatment, although other efforts fare better. Stairway to Heaven: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin contains contributions from the likes of Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Lita Ford, Foreigner's Lou Gramm, Def Leppard's Vivian Campbell and Slash (ex-Guns N'Roses, of course), but mostly ends up sounding like a half-arsed covers album which is, essentially, precisely what it is. Of course, the material's impeccable, but none of these versions even come close to matching the majesty of the originals (how could they?) and only Going To California strays from its original arrangement, and then only slightly.

Richard Baker is credited with Mellotron, but the anaemic flutes on (of course) Stairway To Heaven itself barely sound like the real thing, which probably means they are [sigh]. Kashmir suffers even more, with truly horrible string and 'brass' sounds that highlight just how bad modern synths can sound if employed inappropriately. Overall, only the hardest of hardcore Zep fans really needs to bother with this, and then probably only for completion's sake. Yeah, I've heard worse, but as soon as I hear Mr. 'Bach's voice, its utter pointlessness and futility come crashing down on me from a great height. Don't bother. Really.

See: Led Zeppelin | Black Label Society | Guns N'Roses

Sweetheart

'Sweetheart 2005: Love Songs'

Sweetheart 2005: Love Songs  (2005,  55.56)  **½

Rufus Wainwright:
  My Funny Valentine
M. Ward:
  Let My Love Open the Door
Neko Case:
  Buckets of Rain
Calexico:
  Love Will Tear Us Apart
Old 97's:
  She's Got Everything
Gary Jules:
  How Can I Tell You
Madeleine Peyroux:
  Give Your Mama One Smile
Sondre Lerche:
  The More I See You
Martina Topley-Bird:
  I Only Have Eyes for You
Joseph Arthur:
  There is a Light That Never Goes Out
Milton Mapes:
  Your Sweet Voice
Jim White:
  Use Me
Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips:
  Forever
Vinicius Cantuária:
  Inútil Paisagem
Mindy Smith:
  A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Current availability:

Sweetheart 2005: Love Songs is a various artists collection of exactly what it says, sold exclusively through Starbucks and clearly aimed at their typical customer, i.e. young, middle class women. Its contents range from songs from pre-war musicals (Rufus Wainwright's My Funny Valentine, Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird's original I Only Have Eyes For You) through to (relatively) modern classics (Calexico's take on Joy Division's iconic Love Will Tear Us Apart, Joseph Arthur' version of The Smiths' There Is A Light That Never Goes Out), though Dylan (Neko Case's Buckets Of Rain) and Cat Stevens (Gary Jules' How Can I Tell You. Whatever happened to Gary Jules, anyway? And who cares?). Better efforts include the aforementioned Love Will Tear Us Apart and Old 97's She's Got Everything, but the bulk of the album consists of exactly the kind of easy-listening schlock you'd expect.

Jim Waters (engineer at the studio) supposedly plays Mellotron on Love Will Tear Us Apart, but the occasional string notes that drift in and out of the mix really don't have that ring of authenticity to my ears, so, given that they've already got some sample 'previous', into samples it goes. If you spent any time in a Starbucks in the mid-2000s, you've probably heard most of this already and will know that it isn't worth the effort.

See: Rufus Wainwright | M. Ward | Calexico | Old 97's | Madeleine Peyroux | Sondre Lerche | Joseph Arthur | Jim White | Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips

Transformers Roll Out

'Transformers Roll Out'

Transformers Roll Out  (2016,  38.36)  **

Mount Holly:
  Roll Out
Bush:
  This House is on Fire
Crash Kings:
  Gigantik
MEW:
  Count to Ten
Elle Rae:
  Into the Fire
SPURS:
  Exiled
Jameson Burt:
  Just a Spark
Ours:
  Stronger
Darby:
  Modern Man
Born Cages:
  Our Revolution

Current availability:

2016's Transformers Roll Out is apparently an album of 'original tracks inspired by the franchise', so, ten songs about Transformers. Right. Unsurprisingly, it chiefly consists of stuff in an indie/metal vein (is this 'emo'? I'm seriously out of touch), all quite outstandingly dull. The nearest any of them gets to 'interesting' is Ours' Stronger, with its acoustic intro, but that's akin to clutching at straws, really.

Jimmy Gnecco and April Bauer of Ours are credited with Mellotron, but the too-fast-for-veracity strings part on Stronger give the sample game away. Is anybody above the age of sixteen interested in Transformers, anyway? The first two films were terrible; time I'll never get back. The same goes for this album.

See: Ours


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