Belle & Sebastian
Bedlam (1973, 38.19) ***/T½
|I Believe in You (Fire in My Body)
Sweet Sister Mary
Seven Long Years
Whisky and Wine
Looking Through Love's Eyes
|Putting on the Flesh
Set Me Free
Bedlam Anthology (1968-99/2000, 92.00) ***/T
For Your Love
Ring of Fire
At the Gateway
Candy (Rainbow Over New York)
Share With You
Dave's Ditty for Cozy
I Believe in You (live)
The Beast (live)
The Great Game (live)
|Set Me Free (live)
The Fool (live)
Cozy Powell was already über-session drummer extraordinaire when he put Bedlam together, who, to be quite honest, were a rather average early-'70s hard rock outfit, with few particularly outstanding features. The songwriting was OK, the playing was reasonably good, Francesco Aiello's vocals were fine, but there was nothing about them to set them apart from many other similar bands, unless you count Cozy's name, of course. Actually, I know exactly who they remind me of: Cream, or maybe Mountain. This is obviously no accident, as the album's produced by Felix Pappalardi, who produced the former and played in the latter, but it's got that sort of 'half-arsed hard rock' sound that seemed to be reasonably popular at the time, at least with American audiences. Pappalardi also plays most of the keys on Bedlam, which would include the Mellotron on two tracks; the balladic Sarah has some muted strings over a rather cheesy chord sequence, as does Looking Through Love's Eyes, although the song's better.
The Bedlam Anthology was released in 2000, containing material recorded between 1968 and 1999. You thought Bedlam only existed for a year or two? Technically, yes, but the Ball brothers, Dave and Denny (and later, Pete) and Cozy worked on and off over a lengthy period in Ideal Milk, Big Bertha and others. The compilation's actually better than their album proper, despite its pot-pourri of styles, highlights including its opener, 1812 Thrashed (Cozy's first stab at his later drum solo tour de force), their inventive rearrangement of Graham Gouldman/The Yardbirds' For Your Love and the live '74 (supporting Cozy's mates and future employers Black Sabbath) version of the album's closer Set Me Free. Other notable tracks are their '68 version of Cream's Swalbr, completely proving my point above, Dave's Ditty For Cozy, Dave Ball's '99 country-blues tribute to his old mate, after Cozy's senseless death the year before and the live disc's twenty-odd minute closer The Fool. Mellotron on one track, Ring Of Fire, from Ed Welch, probably recorded in 1970, with a MkII string part that works well enough without being particularly outstanding.
These are both available through the estimable Zoom Club label, so if you have a yen for strictly third-rate UK hard rock of the era, feel free. I feel rather churlish being so unkind about these, but you really can see why they didn't do better than they did and why Cozy (although he'd already played with Jeff Beck at this point) had to change outfits to realise his potential (Rainbow, The Michael Schenker Group, Whitesnake, Sabbath, a host of others). Neither album's worth it on the Mellotron front, either; all a bit disappointing, really.
Bee Gees (UK) see:
Beggars Opera (UK) see:
No No No (2015, 29.24) *½/TGibraltar
No No No
Beirut, distressingly categorised by Wikipedia as 'indie pop/Balkan folk', began as Zach Condon's solo project, morphing into a proper band with the passage of time. 2015's No No No is their fourth album, almost defining the term 'indie' with its lack of harmonic invention and dreary little songs about nothing very much, at its least tiresome on... No, there isn't anything. And don't start me on what passes for Condon's voice.
Condon plays real-sounding Mellotron on two tracks, the flutes on August Holland popping and clicking all over the place and the choir melody on Perth only really audible at the end of the song. What a terrible album. Avoid.
I am the Cosmos (1992, recorded 1973-75, 54.18) ****/T½
|I am the Cosmos
Better Save Yourself
Speed of Sound
You and Your Sister
Make a Scene
I Got Kinda Lost
|There Was a Light
Fight at the Table
I Don't Know
Though I Know She Lies
I am the Cosmos (slow version)
You and Your Sister (country version)
You and Your Sister (acoustic version)
Chris Bell left Big Star after their seminal #1 Record and, after various false starts, recorded the material that eventually became I am the Cosmos over a period of several years, in various locations worldwide, including Heureville (France), London and Memphis. Most of the songs are every bit as good as you'd expect from a Big Star songwriter, although a couple of the rockier numbers are slightly unnecessary. Highlights include the title track, the fantastic, slow-burning Better Save Yourself and Look Up, though there's very little wrong with most of the material.
Although the Mellotron isn't credited, one of the two relevant tracks was recorded at Memphis' Ardent Studio, while it seems likely that bassist/organist Ken Woodley's the guilty party. The original version of You And Your Sister (the Ardent track) has a brief Mellotron flute melody and cellos, the 'country version' added to the end of the disc has a major strings presence, while the fabulous Look Up heavily features the flutes again. As with Big Star, the Mellotron use is sparse and uncredited, but it's still well worth hearing.
Tragically, after several attempts to reform Big Star came to nothing, Bell died in a car accident in December 1978. It took his brother David nearly fourteen years to compile this album, but it was worth the wait. I wouldn't buy it for the Mellotron, but for Beach Boys/Beatles-style clever, intelligent pop, it's as essential as the first two Big Star albums. Buy.
See: Big Star
Lisa Bella Donna (US) see:
The Boy With the Arab Strap (1998, 45.21) ***/T
|It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career
Sleep the Clock Around
Is it Wicked Not to Care?
Ease Your Feet in the Sea
A Summer Wasting
A Space Boy Dream
Dirty Dream Number Two
|The Boy With the Arab Strap
The Rollercoaster Ride
Legal Man (2000, 9.27) ***/½Legal Man
Judy is a Dick Slap
Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (2000, 40.53) ***½/TT½
|I Fought in a War
Beyond This Sunrise
Waiting for the Moon to Rise
Don't Leave the Light on, Baby
The Wrong Girl
The Chalet Lines
Nice Day for a Sulk
There's Too Much Love
I'm Waking Up to Us (2000, 12.47) **½/½I'm Waking Up to Us
I Love My Car
Marx and Engels
Storytelling (2002, 35.28) ***/½
Dialogue: Conan, Early Letterman
Fuck This Shit
Dialogue: Jersey's Where it's at
Black and White Unite
Dialogue: Class Rank
I Don't Want to Play Football
Dialogue: Mandingo Cliche
Big John Shaft
Belle & Sebastian (named after a French TV cartoon) are possibly the most fey band to come out of Scotland, against pretty strong competition. I'm not sure exactly when they discovered the delights of the Mellotron, but to my knowledge, they first used one on The Boy With the Arab Strap, named in honour of their friends, fellow Scots Arab Strap, in turn named in honour of an obscure sex aid. That's nice, then. I presume it's keyboard player Chris Geddes on the Mellotron, although they don't credit it on any of their albums. All I can hear here is a nice flute part (alongside real strings, by the sound of it) on Chickfactor, but one track doth not a Mellotron album make. Incidentally, online interviews refer to Geddes' 'real Mellotron', so I think we can probably go with these.
Several singles and EPs appeared before their next album, although the only Mellotron track I've been able to trace is Winter Wooskie (aargh!), from their Legal Man EP. A short flute part in a short song; very pleasant, but rather unexceptional. However, it's all over Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (those titles!). It's just a shame it's all so unbearably twee, really; they could be a nice Nick Drake-ish outfit if they chose. As for the Mellotron, apart from the real strings, there are flute melodies on The Model and Waiting For The Moon To Rise and a chordal strings part on Beyond This Sunrise. Some marvellous chordal flutes enliven the 'how much more fey could they be?' Nice Day For A Sulk, although the solo flute on Family Tree sounds real to my ears.
2001's I'm Waking Up To Us single features a short flute part on Marx And Engels in a similar vein to Winter Wooskie. The following year's Storytelling is a sort-of film soundtrack to Todd Solondz's film of the same name, although many of the tracks never got used in the final cut; it's still recognisably Belle & Sebastian, though, adding a surreal element to the mix by incorporating several short 'dialogue' tracks, presumably from the film. There are a couple of more upbeat numbers, too, although much of the album sticks to their tried and trusted formula. This time, practically no Mellotron: the strings on Freak have to be, but I don't know about the flutes.
Mainly Mute (2009, 49.08) **½/TT
|This is Life
Spaceship, Move Slow!
Lost My Way
Swimsuit in May
Sculpt Me a Dream
All That is Beautiful
Norway's Arne Johan "Bellman" Rauan seems to be named in honour of a peculiarly Scandinavian joke-form, akin to various other worldwide forms, not least the Irish/Kerryman/Polack 'harmless idiot' variety. On his debut album, 2009's Mainly Mute, he's opted to combine dreamy, vaguely chamber pop with post-rock, which might possibly turn out not to've been a good idea; I'm sure his intention was to produce an album of transcendental beauty, or somesuch, but the end result is an overlong, dreary effort, suffused with Rauan's strange, high voice that convinced me it was female until I learned otherwise.
Pål-André Rauan plays Mellotron on three tracks, with a melodic flute part, deep in the mix, on Swimsuit In May, while Sculpt Me A Dream opens with upfront, 'wobbly enough to be real' flutes and we get another majorish flute part on All That Is Beautiful. Overall, while not terrible, this is pretty dull fare, unless, I presume, you should be into this particular brand of indie. Fairly decent Mellotron work, but that's about it.
Laughter Tracks (2003, 35.02) ***½/T
The Way it's Going to Be for the Rest of Our Lives
I Wrote a Song About Sadness
Hey Rock and Roll
Huge in Heaven
|Play Through the Rain
Under the Surface
If I didn't know better, I'd have said that Ben's Diapers were American; I'm sure experts in the genre could probably nail them down to their hometown. Music? Americana. Vocalists' accents? Pure American. Even their name. Saying that, they're really rather good at it and are probably the best American band in Finland. Stylistically, they seem to cover all bases, from the balladry of The Way It's Going To Be For The Rest Of Our Lives, the country-rock of I Wrote A Song About Sadness or the proper Americana of Happy Man.
Mellotron on one track only, played by Finnish owner Tom Hakava, with a 'classic' flute part (you know, 'Strawberry Fields') on Stockholm Sky, although that's it, it seems. Nothing on their latest release, Little Pilgrims (***½), sadly, but both albums are worth hearing if you're into the genre.
Uncreation (2006, 53.24) **½/T½
Ashes to Ashes
Heaven and Hell
|Two Steps to the Sun
The Mob Rules
Benedictum are an American metal band who have an unhealthy obsession with Ronnie James Dio and his works, it seems. Not only do several of the band double in a Dio tribute act, but two of Dio's former associates (Jimmy Bain and Craig Goldy) guest on their debut album, 2006's Uncreation, on which they cover not one, but two Dio-era Sabbath tracks to boot. OK, RJD is/was a God Of Metal, but TWO songs? And they tackled Rainbow In The Dark on an early demo... You'd barely know it from listening to this album, but Benedictum boast a female singer, Veronica Freeman, clearly not a woman of the ultra-feminist persuasion, by the looks of her stage garb. She had a whole picture gallery to herself on their website and... Yup, there it is: the obligatory near-soft porn shot [sigh].
None of which has much to do with the album. Well, it's a typical modern metal release, in that it combines 'classic' metal with relentless double-kick work, downtuning (almost everything's in C#) and near-ambient keyboard work, Chris Morgan adding lashings of tasteful synths to the album, eschewing flash for atmosphere, in a welcome move from which many of their contemporaries would do well to learn. Apparently, studio pictures on the band's website at the time featured an M400 (presumably related to Dokken's Jeff Pilson's production), although said pics are long gone, over a decade later, as, indeed, is the site. Anyway, Morgan plays high strings on Benedictum itself, background strings on #4, distant choirs on Misogyny, with an unaccompanied cello/strings duet at the end and more choirs on Wicca and Valkyrie Rising. Generic metal, kids: just say no.
|7" (1976) ***/TTT
Run Johnny (version)
Chiefly a singles artist, Lorna Bennett's best known for her Jamaican hits Breakfast In Bed and Chapel Of Love, 1976's Run Johnny being a relative failure, sadly, as it's a decent song, responding well to its reggae treatment. As with so many reggae singles, the flip is a (mostly) instrumental version of the 'A'.
An unknown studio muso plays Mellotron, with cello and string parts on both sides (which are, of course, the same backing track), the cellos more audible on the instrumental version. The 'A' appeared on a 1991 Trojan compilation, I Shall Sing, doubtless now long out of print. Bennett eventually gave up on her musical career, becoming a lawyer. Time for a retrospective, Trojan?
Mitt Ansikte (1974, 33.20) **½/T
Hjälp Oss (Helpless)
Nästa Gäng Gär Det Bättre
After singing in double Eurovision entrants Family Four, (Kajsa) Marie Bergman (Englund) began her successful solo career with 1974's Mitt Ansikte (My Face), a pretty mainstream Swedish-language set, unsurprisingly, better tracks including Hjälp Oss (a.k.a. Neil Young's Helpless), the balladic Fruset Gräs and beautiful acoustic closer Grätrian Ynkrygg.
Björn J:son Lindh (who, to my surprise, never seems to have used a Mellotron on his own recordings) plays one here, with a drifting strings part on Dom, although, sadly, that's our lot. Not terrible, just really not very interesting, probably not improved much if you can understand what she's singing.
Sexual Roulette (1990, 46.03) ***½/½
|Bound for Vegas
Bar of Pain
The Hospital Song
Dirge No. 1
Swamp Food Thing
|(She) Hit Me
More Blue Shock
Art Bergmann worked his way through several Canadian original punk-era outfits, eventually accidentally finding himself with a solo career on his hands, his second release, 1990's Sexual Roulette, being his commercial breakthrough. I had absolutely no idea what this was going to sound like before I played it: whisky-soaked singer-songwriter confessional? (That one had the best odds). Crummy '80s-hangover production slop? Sub-Springsteen? Although it has elements of my third guess, the bulk of the album consists of a surprisingly pleasing mainstream rock version of my first guess, Bergmann's excellent, clearly-written-from-experience lyrics supported by fairly sympathetic arrangements, largely avoiding the spectre of the about-to-break grunge explosion. Top tracks? Rock'n'roll opener Bound For Vegas, the energetic Bar Of Pain, the grinding Dirge No. 1 and acoustic closer Death Watch, although there isn't one song here that could easily be excised from the running order without adversely affecting the album's flow.
Jim Blair (whom I know to be an M400 owner) plays Mellotron, but as the producer clearly buried it in the mix, the only even possible part is the background choirs on Gambol. All in all, then, a good (if slightly stylistically dated) album, but not one for the Mellotron fan.
Unterwegs (1972, 34.09) **½/TJeder Tag Sieht Ganz Anders Aus
Glaub Mir, Susanne
Es Wird Morgen Vorbei Sein
Dafur Lebe ich Nur
Ich Klage An
Dutch-born Jerry Berkers comes with impeccable krautrock/German prog credentials, having sung and played guitar and/or bass on Walter Wegmüller's Tarot and Sergius Golowin's legendary Lord Krishna von Goloka, not to mention being a member of Wallenstein on their first two albums. All of which makes his sole solo album, Unterwegs, all the more of an oddity, as it mixes mainstream pop/rock (the jaunty Glaub Mir, Susanne), Hammond-driven vaguely psych/prog (opener Jeder Tag Sieht Ganz Anders Aus, Gelobtes Land) and Euro-balladry (Ich Klage An, Seltsam) into a rather unappetising stew. It isn't all bad, admittedly, but there's little here to excite the Europhile proghead or krautrocker.
Mellotron on Dafur Lebe Ich Nur, with an unexpected brass part from his Wallenstein colleague Jürgen Dollase, though that seems to be your lot. So; a pretty unexciting album, to be honest, with one fairly unusual Mellotron track, should you feel so disposed.
See: Wallenstein | Walter Wegmüller | Sergius Golowin
New American Language (2001, 60.05) ***½/T½
New American Language
God Said No
Thanksgiving Day Parade
Fleeting Days (2003, 53.24) ***/TT
|Baby Bye Bye
Closer to You
I Need You
Chain Around My Neck
|Don't Make Me Leave
My Country II (2004, 34.09) ***½/TPresident
After the Parade
My Country II
The Torn Flag
Bush Must Be Defeated
Dan Bern's been known to joke that, "Bob Dylan was the Dan Bern of the '60s"; not arrogance, humorous observation. Bern's songs and style sound a lot like Bahb's, although his voice is a lot more tuneful (despite the great man's influence), but his welcome moratorium on modern equipment and production gives his albums a timeless feel, certainly compared to many of his just-predecessors' '80s shockers.
Bern has a handful of releases under the self-deprecating, ironic name "Dan Bern & the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy", including his fourth full album, 2001's New American Language. The material's reasonable, but as with so many singer-songwriters, the lyrics are probably regarded as being more important than their vehicle, making a couple of casual listens a little unfair. Wil Masisak plays his own Mellotron, amongst other 'boards, with excellently-played flutes, strings and cellos throughout ten-minute closer Thanksgiving Day Parade, giving the album the unusual distinction of T½ for just the one track.
2003's Fleeting Days is similar, if less inspired, at its best on opener Baby Bye Bye, Jane and Crow. Masisak on Mellotron again, with strings on Superman and Closer To You, background strings on I Need You and high-speed (but authentic) ones on Jane. The following year's explicitly political My Country II is generally referred to as an EP, but over half an hour makes it a short album in my book. Remember when Dubya seemed like the worst president ever? I'm writing this in 2018, so reach your own conclusions. Musically similar to its predecessors, Bern's lyrics here are excellent, at their best on seven-minute opener President and After The Parade. Masisak's Mellotron turns up in the form of a cello line on Ostrich Town, although I'm not convinced that's an actual Mellotron we're hearing on (live?) closer Bush Must Be Defeated.
Exil (1982, 35.57) ***½/TTT½Un et Différent
Voir le Soleil
Le Lieu d'où l'on Ne Revient Pas
Les Mendiants d'Amour
Le Véritable Ami
Le Père qui Regarde
Patrick Bernard (he feels the need to say, "previously known as Bernhardt", on his site, for some reason) seems to specialise in 'devotional music', lyrically heavily influenced by his many years' study in India. It seems he was actually born in then-French colony Algeria and has lived in various places since, including France, Britain and Québec, although as he's settled in the latter, that's the nationality I shall list. Amusingly, the discography on his website lists nothing prior to 1989, after what the French Wikipedia describes (in translation) as his 'second mystical crisis'. Hmmm. So, New Age dreck, anyone? Anyway, 1982's Exil (actually his sixth album, it seems) opens with an early 'World'-type piece, Un Et Différent, before shifting into a pleasant, if undemanding kind of fairly straightforward, slightly progressive rock, with a largish dose of French chanson thrown in, particularly noticeable on closer Le Père Qui Regarde; not a million miles away from the less proggy stuff Morse Code were doing a few years earlier, I'd say.
Plenty of Mellotron, apparently played by Bernard himself, with high string notes on Voir Le Soleil, making a template for the album's Mellotron use overall; a particularly good example is the opening to Les Mendiants D'Amour (The Beggars of Love), with a well-played melodic part before the more 'standard' chordal work later in the song. Cellos, for a change, at the beginning of Le Véritable Ami, alongside the more standard strings, so with only two songs being Mellotron-free, I'd say this is a surprise 'worth getting' album, assuming you can find a copy. Unavailable on CD, as Bernard isn't even acknowledging its existence, the only way I can see anyone putting it out is if the original record company decides there's any sort of demand for it; none of the specialist prog reissue labels are likely to be interested, as it isn't 'progressive' enough. Is there a demand from Mellotron fans? Should I start 'Planet Mellotron Records'? Let's not even go there...
Heidi Berry (1993, 46.34) ***/½
The Moon and the Sun
Heart Like a Wheel
For the Rose
American-born but British-raised makes Heidi Berry effectively a Brit (this logic is reversed in other places on this site), although her confessional singer-songwriter style is probably more transatlantic than home-grown, ironically. Her music, at least on her third, eponymous album, fits loosely into 4AD's 'house style' (think: Cocteau Twins), being laid-back to the point of drifting, although it seems to have little of their appeal. Don't get me wrong; it's perfectly pleasant, but too undemanding to actually grab the listener's attention, although I'm sure there are plenty who would disagree.
Credited Mellotron on one track, Little Fox, from Robert Lord, but given that the track already features real strings, all I can hear is a faint background flute part that really wasn't worth recording. So; inoffensive but ineffectual, with next to no Mellotron. Not Mellotronically convinced by this one, but, given the release date, letting it stand for the moment.
Pain is a Megaphone (2007, 40.00) *½/T
|The Last Mile is the Longest
In the Dreaming
What if Everything Goes Right
Renting a Room
I Still Choose You
I'm pleased to tell you that 2007's Pain is a Megaphone appears to be ex-Tories Steve Bertrand's sole solo album, before he shifted his career focus and went into production. Good move, mate, as it's one of the slushiest old pieces of crap I've had the misfortune to hear for a while. 'Heartfelt'? Quite possibly, but this horrible mess of indie guitars and earnest vocals has little to recommend it. Are there any better tracks? Opener The Last Mile Is The Longest is possibly the least bad thing here, which isn't saying much.
Rami Jaffee's credited with Chamberlin; now, some of his more recent credits have sounded somewhat bogus, not to mention his cheerful admissions of sample use, at least live, but I think we might just be hearing the real thing here, with strings all over Falling Forward and, less so, on closer I Still Choose You. Pain is a Steve Bertrand album, with or without his fucking megaphone.
See: The Tories