Floh de Cologne
Flower Pot Men
Food for Worms
Flight (1975, 42.05) ***½/TT½In Flight
Make a Miracle
Let's Fly Away
Latin Dippy Do
Rhapsody to You
Falling in Love
Ease of Confusion
Theme to the Stratosphere
Incredible Journey (1976, 37.05) ***½/½Music is
Visions of a Dream
The Sands of Time
Excursion Beyond (1981, 30.09) ***/TExcursions Beyond
A Thing for Julie
Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)
Face to Face
Flight were a most peculiar mixture of musical styles; sort of easy listening Latin jazz prog (!), smooth vocals sitting alongside a brass section and prog keys. For a major label outfit, information about them is surprisingly difficult to find; I mean, try Googling 'Flight'... 1975's Flight is best when the vocalist shuts up and lets the band do their brass-fuelled prog/fusion thing, as on fiery, jazz-inflected opener In Flight and the vastly-better-than-its-title-would-suggest Latin Dippy Do. On the keyboard front, Jim Yaeger sticks mainly to Moog, string synth and Mellotron, frequently using the latter two in the same song, sensibly concentrating on their different strengths. All credited tracks above have reasonable amounts of Mellotron strings, with choir on a couple of tracks, though the album's outstanding keys work is to be found in the red hot synth playing, with ripping solos on several tracks in true fusion style.
There's little stylistic change on the following year's Incredible Journey, although the album is possibly slightly less manic than its predecessor. I'm not sure if there's some sort of concept thing going on here, but two of the album's highlights are 1929 and 2003, with particularly good guitar work on the latter. Yaeger plays mainly string synth this time round, although he whips out a blistering piano solo at the end of 1929; the same track features the album's only Mellotron work, with a handful of string chords, sounding particularly rich compared to his considerably greater use on Flight, making it ironic how little it's used here.
Splits and bad luck made for a five-year gap before Flight's last album, 1981's Excursion Beyond. Although the trumpet is still present and correct, just about all of the band's Latin influences are gone, leaving a largely instrumental mainstream fusion sound with just one vocal track, Face To Face. To be honest, nothing particularly stands out and I can't really imagine this appealing to anybody but early-'80s fusion fans; there's certainly none of the groundbreaking genre-splicing of their first two albums. Yaeger's Mellotron is used a surprising amount, with background strings on the first three tracks and Jett Lagg, with a similar flute part on The Rumble.
Flint (1978, 40.05) **½/T½
|Back in My Arms Again
You Got it All Wrong
Too Soon to Tell
Love Me Like You Used to
For Your Love
Keep Me Warm
One of Me
Better You Than Me
You'll Never Be the Same
Flint (named for their Michigan hometown) were the bedraggled, war-weary remains of Grand Funk Railroad, after losing frontman Mark Farner and his wild, shirtless lyrics. Mel Schacher's bone-rattling bass, Don Brewer's competent drumwork (and more than competent vocals) and, unmentioned by Homer Simpson, keys man Craig Frost licked their wounds, regrouped and renamed, releasing their sole, eponymous album in 1978. It doesn't actually sound much like The Funk at all, being far, er, funkier than that band ever managed, if not in an especially good way, sounding more like long-forgotten white funk/soul acts like Rare Earth than, say, The Family Stone.
Most of Flint's material is pretty anodyne stuff, to be honest, occasionally letting rip (chiefly on Better You Than Me), but too often coasting along, letting the brass section and girly backing singers take the strain, guest guitarists including Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa, both former Grand Funk producers. Frost plays Mellotron on two tracks, with rather limited string use on their misguided cover of the Graham Gouldman-penned Yardbirds hit, For Your Love and more upfront strings on closer You'll Never Be The Same, the album's one proper Mellotron track.
See: Grand Funk Railroad
Geyer-Symphonie (1973, 42.46) ***/½La Grande Tristresse (Requiem)
Danse Macabre (Totentanz)
Serenade des Bautours (Leichenschmaus)
Floh de Cologne sit fairly and squarely in the krautrock genre, as much as anything that diverse could be styled a 'genre' in the first place. Gloomy orchestral backing? Check. Mad German-language narration? Check. Genre-hopping side-long 'songs'? Check. Despite having relatively little in common with the likes of Can, Faust or pre-commercial success Kraftwerk, never mind the druggy cosmic folk-rock of Witthüser & Westrupp, Geyer-Symphonie's bonkers mélange of styles is going to appeal more to fans of those bands than anyone else and many of them will probably balk at its oddness. Actually, one quite mainstream German band who do spring to mind as having possibly been influenced by the madness on display here are Grobschnitt and their resident nutter, drummer Eroc, a man not unused to yelling meaninglessly in German.
Markus Schmidt plays Mellotron on Danse Macabre (Totentanz), which features a brief burst of queasy, seasick pitchbent strings, although that would appear to be it on the Mellotron front. Geyer-Symphonie is an album for those who feel that The Dream by Gracious! is boringly normal and La Dusseldorf and Neu! are maybe a little passé these days. It's difficult to say whether it's good, bad or indifferent, unless you're doing the same drugs as the band and even then, it's probably rather inconclusive. An interesting curio, then, but not worth it for the Mellotron.
The Flower Kings (Sweden) see:
|7" (1967) ****½/TTT½
Let's Go to San Francisco, Part 1
Let's Go to San Francisco, Part 2
|7" (1967) ***½/TT
A Walk in the Sky
Am I Losing You
|7" (1968) ***½/TT½
A Man Without a Woman
You Can Never Be Wrong
Listen to the Flowers Grow (2007, recorded 1966-69, 59.49) ***½/TTT½
|What's the Matter With Juliet
(John Carter/Ken Lewis demo)
Waiting Here for Someone (Neil Landon)
I Couldn't Spend Another Day
Rain Rain Rain (Ministry of Sound)
Let's Go to San Francisco, Pt. 1
Let's Go to San Francisco, Pt. 2
|A Walk in the Sky
Am I Losing You
A Man Without a Woman
You Can Never Be Wrong
Hello Hello Hello (John Carter demo)
Piccolo Man (Friends)
Life is Living (Ministry of Sound)
Mythological Sunday (Friends)
|Letter to Josephine (Haystack)
Pantomime People (Haystack)
A Night to Be Remembered (Dawn Chorus)
Let's Go Back to San Francisco, Pt. 1
Let's Go Back to San Francisco, Pt. 2
The Flower Pot Men (named after the BBC's Bill and Ben children's programme, for non-UK readers) were a studio-based outfit, formed by the writing team of John Carter and Ken Lewis, revolving around the vocal talents of session singer Tony Burrows, later to be the voice of similar studio outfits Edison Lighthouse, White Plains et al. Many musicians can lay claim to being members at one time or another, but most of them (including Nick Simper and Jon Lord, later of Deep Purple) were only in the touring outfit, hastily assembled to cash in on the success of their debut single.
Said single, Let's Go To San Francisco, has gone down as a classic of the era, although the writers laughingly admitted that they'd never been there and were quite blatantly jumping on the flower power bandwagon. Apart from a 'lodge in your brain' melody, the track features a beautiful Mellotron flute line running through the whole thing, plus faint string and brass parts. The b-side was a continuation of the flip, the complete track available on various compilations. Absolutely essential. Second single, A Walk In The Sky, follows a similar psych-pop path, though without being remotely as iconic as 'San Francisco'. It's a good song, nonetheless, featuring a nice Mellotron string line, though less overtly than the flutes on its predecessor, a brief Mellotron trumpet solo on its b-side. Nothing on single no. 3, A Man Without A Woman, but it sounds like both strings and an unidentified solo brass sound on its flip, You Can Never Be Wrong. Now, to confuse the issue considerably, the fourth single by the 'band', Piccolo Man, was released under the name Friends, but has been (sensibly) anthologised along with the Flower Pot Men material. Although it's Mellotron-free, its flip, Mythological Sunday, opens with a flute line, adding strings later on.
2007's Listen to the Flowers Grow is a good overview of Carter and Lewis' work of the period, including the Flower Pot Men and Friends singles, various demo tracks and tracks from their other projects, including The Ministry of Sound (decades before the name was reused) and others. Wonderfully, we also get both parts of the cash-in on the cash-in, Let's Go Back To San Francisco, recorded in 1969, yet, bizarrely, released at the height of the psychedelic revival in, er, 1981. It even uses the original song's descending chord sequence, but gets some nice Mellotron in, so all is forgiven. One 'new' Mellotron track is The Haystack's Pantomime People, flutes and strings splattered liberally across its length. Previous compilations have included rather weak non-single tracks, some being far too close to the middle of the road for comfort, as are a handful included here, not least Am I Losing You, but the bulk of the set shines a welcome light on a neglected corner of UK '60s pop.
So, Listen to the Flowers Grow's a good starting place for the Flower Pot Men (who said "And a good finishing one, too?"). They may have been a bit cheesy and decidedly 'inauthentic', but they produced a handful of great psych/pop singles, so I'll let them off the hook. Just this time, you understand... Incidentally, in 2000, a previously-unreleased selection of tracks was released as The Peace Album, but the only Mellotron track is Friends' Mythological Sunday, so I shan't bother reviewing.
See: John Carter | Friends | Beautiful People | The Haystack | Ministry of Sound
Hex (2000, 39.21) ***/½On the Hill
I believe Hex is yoga practitioner Suzy Flowers' sole album to date, a gentle singer-songwriter record, highlighting her pure voice and way with a tune, at its best on Yellow Afternoon and So Easy. This is a case-study in how to work in this genre without producing the kind of cheesy nonsense churned out by about a million other practitioners.
Midnight Oil's Jim Moginie produces and plays (his?) Mellotron on Goodbye, if only just, with what sounds like background strings on the track. Not a reason to buy this album, then, although Flowers' songs are.
...On! [a.k.a. Cock on!] (1972, 35.06) ***½/TTT
Always Be Thinking of You
Down! Down! Down!
Ticket to Nowhere
Can You Be Easy
|All Sing Together
Great Expectations (1975, 33.17) **½/½
|What an Animal!
How's Life Breaking?
The Way You Get Around Me
My Old Man
I Held Out
Dance Gypsy Dance
Brother and Me
|Too Good Tonite
|7" ( 1976) ***/TT
I'm on My Way
Fludd were a Canadian glam rock band, although, like many such from the time, with hindsight, their music mostly sounds like yer average early '70s mainstream rock, once the glitter and stackheels are out of sight. 1972's ...On! was originally meant to be called Cock on!, but label execs got cold feet over the idea and nixed it, leaving the album with a rather meaningless title. It's a perfectly respectable effort, shifting between the glam-rock of opener C'mon C'mon, the good-time Yes! and the blues-rock of Home-Made Lady, although the oddest track is the straight country of Cousin Mary, which picked up loads of airplay after being stuck on the flip of a single, thus finding its way to record stations. Keys man Peter Csanky tells me he owned no fewer than three Mellotrons at the time, a MkII, an M300 and an SFX console. I know he used the M300 on Cousin Mary, but it's hard to say if that's the same machine used on the other highlighted tracks above. Anyway, strings all round, although I suppose there could be other Mellotronically-generated orchestral sounds used, too.
Csanky was replaced by future Saga chap Peter Rochon (Saga were originally a Fludd spin-off), who played keys for the rest of their career, including an apparently Mellotron-heavy b-side, the unheard-by-me Piece Of Alright, in '74 (flip of Brother And Me). The following year's Great Expectations is a pretty dullsville effort with no obvious highlights, veering between tired, mainstream pop/rock and tedious rock'n'roll pastiches, its nadir being the brief barroom boogie Smile On!, most likely a reference to the mangled title of their debut. Is there a best track? Not really, although opener What An Animal! is almost a carbon-copy of the lighter end of Styx, right down to the vocal style (let's ignore the out-of-place brass section). Rochon definitely adds background Mellotron choirs to What An Animal! (although the backing vocals later in the track are real), with more of the same on The Way You Get Around Me, although the background something heard on the closing title track could be just about anything. The only other Fludd Mellotron is an early '76 single, I'm On My Way, a passable enough pop/rock effort featuring a nice Mellotron strings part (doubtless M400 by this time), compiled onto From the Attic.
Fluid Vol. 4 (1974, 45.13) ***/T
|Fluid Vol. 4
Kumano Jinsha o Kayotte
Shiki no Uta
According to Discogs, Fluid were a 'folk duo', active throughout the '70s. I strongly suspect that 1974's Fluid Vol. 4 wasn't named in honour of Black Sabbath's opus of a couple of years earlier, being light pop/folk, at its least dull on the upright bass-fuelled jazz/blues of Sentoruisuburūsu and the violin-led Love Song.
John Yamazaki plays Mellotron on Shiki No Uta, with a lush string accompaniment running through the song. Like most Japanese releases, this will be a bugger to track down anywhere else, but it's on YouTube, should you feel the need to hear the track.
Dawn Dancer (1979, 39.54) ***½/TTT½Woman
Heavy, Like a Child
You're Free, I Guess
Aim at the Head
Your Breath Enjoyer
King of Clouds
Flyte were a Dutch/Belgian conglomerate, influenced by Camel and Kayak, amongst others, using a melodic, short-ish song format that shouldn't tax the average listener too much. To be honest, I find Lu Rousseau's vocals on Dawn Dancer quite hard to take, with the result that I prefer the album's instrumental sections. The song titles and lyrics leave quite a bit to be desired, too, but I presume, like most progressive bands from their respective countries, they didn't wish to sing in their own language.
Musical quality aside, there's loads of Leo Cornelissens' Mellotron for your listening pleasure, five of the eight tracks featuring fair amounts of strings and choir. Woman and Your Breath Enjoyer are probably the best Mellotron tracks, though they all feature enough to be worth hearing. To be honest, though, without the Mellotron, Dawn Dancer would be a decidedly average album, although better than, say, Womega's.
|7" ( 1968) ***/T½
Love You Forever
First Bite of the Apple: The Complete Recordings, 1967-68 (2005, 59.38) ***½/T
Far Away From Forever
Love You Forever
Tales From the GPO Files
|Mckinley Morgan the Deep Sea Diver
Falling Out of Friends
Girl on the Corner
This Time She's Leaving
Miss Sinclair (demo)
Miss Sinclair (alt.version)
|Hassle Castle (demo)
Never Never (alt.version)
The Liverpool-based Focal Point made their way to London in 1967, as did so many music biz hopefuls; unlike most, however, they attracted the attention of The Beatles' Apple label, eventually releasing their sole single, Love You Forever, on Decca's new Deram imprint in 1968. It's a decent enough psych/pop effort, although it lacks the weirdness that characterises the era's best work, which may or may not have worked against it, as it wasn't a hit. They headed back to Liverpool, finally splitting the following year, despite having recorded a slew of demos in various studios, pretty much the last anyone heard of the band for several decades.
Thirty-six years on... Those nice Kissing Spell people released First Bite of the Apple: The Complete Recordings, 1967-68 in 2005, containing every existing recording of the band, most seemingly dug out from mouldering heaps of junk in attics across the land. The end result is a very pleasant, light psych offering, that's never in any real danger of overtaking the brand leaders in popularity, although several of its tracks (not least the already-available Sycamore Sid, the jaunty Mckinley Morgan The Deep Sea Diver and the gentle Girl On The Corner) are worth hearing for fans of lesser-known UK psych. Keyboard player Tim Wells adds Mellotron to a couple of tracks, with strings (and flutes?) on Never Never and strings and vibes on Love You Forever, although most of the band's output was recorded in Mellotron-free studios, sadly.
Focus (Netherlands) see:
Simple Gifts (1972, 40.31) ***/TT½
She's Far Away
Let it Be
I Wasn't Born to Follow
|Was it Only Yesterday
How Come the Sun
The Very First Time
Take Your Time
Old Moot Hall
Foggy (originally Foggy Dew-o) were the duo of Danny Clarke and Lennie Wesley, who had a strong Strawbs connection over the course of their three-album career. Future Strawb Brian Willoughby played with them briefly, they covered no fewer than four Strawbs songs on Foggy Dew-o's second album, Born to Take the Highway and half of them guested on the sole Foggy album, 1972's Simple Gifts.
It's a reasonable enough folk-rock release, if nowhere near the level of Fairport and Steeleye, or even the better lesser-known acts (Trees, Mellow Candle). Much of the album has a faint country flavour, which doesn't do it many favours with the benefit of hindsight, while ill-advised covers (The Byrds' I Wasn't Born To Follow, The Beatles' Let It Be) would have been better left quietly on the shelf. The occasional song stands out, notably the Eastern-flavoured She's Far Away and the opening and closing versions of the title track, an old Shaker hymn whose tune was annexed for Sydney Carter's Lord Of The Dance, but I'm afraid there's far too much filler here for this to be regarded as in any way a lost classic.
Like most of The Strawbs' contemporaneous releases, there's some Mellotronic input here. Then-Strawb Blue Weaver plays full-on strings on My Song and Kitty Starr, plus flutes (under a real one) on Old Moot Hall, although they don't always enhance the material in quite the way you might expect. Top playing from Blue, though, with a high-speed flute run in the last-named that you'd have trouble doing on a well-gigged machine. All in all, then, a passable album with some nice Mellotron work, but nothing you desperately need, unless you have to a) own every British folk-rock album from the early '70s, or b) have to own every album containing Mellotron. Who said, "Me"?
Foghat (1972, 37.44) ***½/TI Just Want to Make Love to You
Leavin' Again (Again!)
Fool's Hall of Fame
Highway (Killing Me)
A Hole to Hide in
Gotta Get to Know You
It may surprise some of you to learn that Foghat were actually British, formed by three ex-members of Savoy Brown, obviously feeling, from the evidence here, that their parent band were lacking a little in the energy stakes. On their eponymous debut, vocalist/guitarist 'Lonesome' Dave Peverett (very British...) led his crew through a rocking set; short on originality, it rocks far harder than the band they'd just left, with a cool twin-guitar attack, Peverett and Rod Price trading 'licks' with abandon. Dave Edmunds' production helps things along, too, stopping just the right side of pastiche.
No-one's credited with keyboards (was it Edmunds?), although their version of Chuck Berry's Maybelline has some ferocious piano playing and a more straightforward part on lengthy closer Gotta Get To Know You, along with some Wurly and subtle Mellotron strings.
See: Savoy Brown
Learning to Lean (197?, 30.29) *½/TT½
|Learning to Lean
One Day at a Time
Peace in the Valley
Meet Me Over on the Other Side
Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul
Jesus How I Love You
Heaven's Sounding Sweeter All the Time
Gonna Shout All Over Heaven
|He Was There All the Time
Whatever it Takes
Family group The Followers (well, they're clearly not leaders) were yet another in a seemingly inexhaustible seam of midwest Christian acts who felt the urge, not only to record some of their horrid oeuvre, but to actually foist it on the general public. I sometimes feel there should be laws against such things. Call it... I dunno. Anything. Just make them stop. Learning to Lean is a half-hour paean to refusing to take responsibility for one's own actions, or is that merely my interpretation of the idea that it's good to 'lean', rather than stand on your own two feet? This particular bunch of besuited (and evening-dressed, in Mona Sinclair's case) creeps can, at least, sing in tune, which puts them several notches above some of their competitors, but their church-hall-piano-and-close-harmony sound could easily be from twenty years earlier than this effort's unstated '70s release date. Most of its contents are standards, although there seem to be a couple of originals thrown in for good measure. Just what the world needs.
One Tom Smith is credited with and, indeed, plays Mellotron, with strings on Peace In The Valley that don't even do a particularly good job of pretending to be real ones, with more of the same on Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul and closer Whatever It Takes, plus strings and cello on He Was There All The Time. As a closing salvo, indulge me for a moment and allow me to quote from the sleeve notes, on the subject of group member Larry Sinclair: "Not only does he sing in the group, but also shares his testimony and does scriptural, lighted chalk drawings". Bless. Borderline special school stuff, isn't it? What? I'm not allowed to say that?
There is Nothing Left to Lose (1999, 50.09) ***/½
Learn to Fly
Ain't it the Life
Godzilla: The Album (1998) ***/T[Foo Fighters contribute]
If Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters are the living legacy of Nirvana, then I'm a Chinaman, as the saying goes. Their third album, There is Nothing Left to Lose, is a commercial pop-rock record with slight punky overtones, which is probably why they're as huge as they are; you can sing along to everything here, should you feel so inclined, even more than you could with Nirvana. It's not actually a bad record, but it's not a particularly good one, either, being just too bland and mainstream to really make an impact. Er, except that it did, but you know what I mean. Mellotron flutes on Next Year from Grohl, with an understated flute part running under most of the song, though I can't say it especially enhances it.
Now we have a little conundrum. The Foos released a double-disc set in 2005, In Your Honor, split between electric and acoustic discs, on which no less a personage than John Paul Jones supposedly plays Mellotron. Various online sources quote Jones as playing the Great White Beast on Miracle (nope: piano), Another Round (mandolin?) and something called Oh Yeah, which isn't on the tracklisting. It turns out that it didn't make the cut, so unless it appears on an outtakes album at some point in the future, we may never know whether JPJ, given his notorious antipathy to the Mellotron, actually dusted one off for the session or not.
See: Samples etc. | Godzilla
The Ultimate Diet (2000, recorded 1981-84, 74.00) ***½/½
|All You Need is Jazz
Cream Always Rises
We Represent the Symbol
The Worm is the Word
|Out of True
Another Still Nite
Diet of Worms
No One Said it'd Be Easy
Weather is Permanent
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
|It Needs a Haircut
It Takes a Summer Job
Primal Bridal Passion
Kiss of Death
This odd little item came free with an issue of US prog mag Progression, turning out to be the entire collected works of an early-'80s outfit that grew out of mental Baltimore proggers OHO, all tracks recorded between 1981-84. The band tell me that the first thirteen tracks were lined up for release at the time, but it never happened.
Fittingly, given when they were active, Food for Worms have that quirky 'new wave' sound about them: short but action-packed songs, vocals that owe a not-so-minor debt to Talking Heads et al. and the then-fashionable Farfisa organ. Plenty of squelchy synths, jagged rhythms and general weirdness, but the only Mellotron (from Mark O'Connor) is the faint background choirs on opener All You Need Is Jazz, doubled with real voices (thanks, Jay). This is currently available through the The Orchard label, in case you're trying to find a copy.
See: OHO | Dark Side