Inner Ear Brigade
Intergalactic Touring Band
It's Me Margaret
Indianism (1993, 46.00) **½/TT
|Bed of Roses
Look Up to the Sky
Caught a Rainbow
I Love the World
|Head in the Clouds
If the Children Ask Why
It's not easy to track down information on a band called The Indians, even when they have the good grace not to name their (probably) sole album eponymously. 1993's Indianism has its moments, in a pop/rock kind of way, but by and large is a bit too wishy-washy to make any great impression, despite a handful of decent tracks, notably opener Bed Of Roses and the heavier The Key.
'John Brian' plays Mellotron; quite certainly our old friend Jon Brion, before he acquired enough of a name to get his name spelled properly. It could be on most tracks, but I'm of the opinion that you'll only hear distant flutes on opener Bed Of Roses, strings and flutes on Look Up To The Sky and Caught A Rainbow and strings on If The Children Ask Why, all excellently-played and not too low in the mix. Overall, powerpop aficionados may find parts of the album palatable, but it didn't grab this particular listener. Not bad Mellotron use, though, especially for the early '90s.
Indigo (1984, 39.31/51.10) **½/T½ (TT)
|Guardians of Life
Angels Have No Mercy
Oh, My Girl
Children of the Past
I Saw Them Fall (Magill's Story)
Man on the Run
Sunrise in the Mountains
[CD-R bonus track:
Indigo rose from the ashes of Kyrie Eleison, debuting with their eponymous 1984 release. It seems their remit was to combine their fairly lightweight take on prog with upbeat, poppy numbers, to which I can only say: job done, chaps, for better or worse. (Clue: worse). Proceedings start well enough with the near-eight minute Guardians Of Life, while the six minutes of I Saw Them Fall (Magill's Story), Man On The Run and seven-minute closer Foxhunt sound like the proggier end of Genesis' Duke era, for what that's worth. Sadly, the remainder of the record quickly slumps into a slough of despond with the crummy pop of America, Oh, My Girl, Children Of The Past and the like, although the eleven-minute Nightwatch, added to the recent CD-R/Bandcamp reissue is the proggiest thing here, as you'd expect.
Gerald Krampl plays his own M400 on most of the proggish tracks, unsurprisingly, with strings on Guardians Of Life, I Saw Them Fall (Magill's Story) and Foxhunt from the original album, plus bonus track Nightwatch. This is half-passable/half-awful, although its proggier moments are worth hearing, if some way from 'classic'.
See: Kyrie Eleison
Den Stille Gaten (1974, 41.11) **/T
|Den Stille Gaten
Han Kjente Seg Mye Eldre
Sol i Desember
Jeg Kommer Tillbake
Etter 50 År
That Gentle Touch
Jeg Har Brent Mine Lys
Rock-Ola (Jeg Savner Deg)
|Det Best Jeg Vet
You Hurt Me Again
Send Ditt Svar Med Vinden
Er det Plass for Oss Alle
Inger Lise is actually Inger Lise Rypdal, then-wife of renowned Norwegian jazzer Terje, 1974's Den Stille Gaten ('The Quiet Street') being her fourth, mostly Norwegian-language album. It's an exceedingly mainstream '70s pop record, veering between upbeat nonsense (Etter 50 År, Rock-Ola (Jeg Savner Deg)) and balladic nonsense (That Gentle Touch, Jeg Har Brent Mine Lys). Anything actually listenable? You Hurt Me Again's funky and jazzy touches make it the least tedious thing here, but that's somewhat clutching at straws, frankly.
Pete Knutsen (Popol Vuh/Ace) plays Mellotron (presumably the Popol M400), with chordal flutes on the opening title track and Sol I Desember, quite distinct from the orchestral woodwinds heard elsewhere, while the strings on That Gentle Touch and You Hurt Me Again emanate from a Solina. Seriously, don't bother.
Innaway 2 (2011, 44.37) ***½/T½Conversations in a Dream
Sitting on a Rooftop
Four More Hours Till Dawn
Black Sheep Pride
Innaway are a Californian psych outfit with links to The Brian Jonestown Massacre, amongst others. Their second album, 2011's Innaway 2, mixes various American styles into a modern psychedelic stew, the psych/blues-rock of opener Conversations In A Dream sitting next to the vaguely glammy Sitting On A Rooftop, the indie-esque The Underground, the country/blues of Four More Hours Till Dawn and even the psych/Spaghetti western of closer Honeybee. Variety? We goddit. But does it work?, I hear you cry. Yes, generally speaking, although the album could be accused of slightly lacking cohesion in places.
Jim Schwartz and Reid Black play Rob Campanella's M400 on two tracks, with a solo string part kicking the album off nicely on Conversations In A Dream, with echoed flutes and more of those strident strings later on and occasional octave strings on Four More Hours Till Dawn, although the choirs (doubling real voices) on Black Sheep Pride are samples, I'm told. All in all, a fine release, pretty much guaranteed to keep modern psych fans happy; better then the Brian Jonestown chaps, anyway.
Rock the Boat [a.k.a. Dread Reggay Hits] (1974, 46.37) ***/TT½
|You Make Me Feel Brand New
I'm Going Home
Here I am Baby
Book of Rules
Rock the Boat
|Some Guys Have All the Luck
Everything I Own
None Shall Escape the Judgement
Have Some Mercy
Unusually for a reggae outfit, Inner Circle (still active today) are a proper band, as against a featured singer with backing musicians. Their debut, 1974's Rock the Boat (issued in Jamaica with two tracks cut as Dread Reggay Hits), combines covers of US soul hits with a handful of originals, more recognisable numbers including You Make Me Feel Brand New (The Stylistics), Rock The Boat (Hues Corporation) and Everything I Own (Bread/Ken Boothe). This is mainstream reggae, with nary a hint of revolutionary activity about it, but then, so was most reggae, contrary to contemporary popular opinion.
Charlie Roberts plays Mellotron, with strings all over opener You Make Me Feel Brand New, I'm Going Home, Some Guys Have All The Luck and closer T.S.O.P., plus choirs on the last-named. Unless you're already a fan of pop-reggae, you're really not going to go for this at all, but it's perfectly good at what it does, with the added bonus of four decent Mellotron tracks.
Rainbro (2012, 52.42) ***½/TT
Missing the Train
Too Good to Be True
25 Miles to Freedom
ProgArchives label Inner Ear Brigade 'RIO [rock in opposition]/avant-prog', which pretty much sums up Rainbro. I'd be lying if I were to tell you that this is an easy listen, but, as with many 'difficult' albums, I'm sure the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term struggle. Melody Ferris' vocal melodies tend towards the angular, as does much of the music, possibly at its best on Forgotten Planet and ten-minute closer 25 Miles To Freedom, although the jazzy Knee, followed by the white-boy funk of Oom Pah, were possibly not the best two tracks with which to open the album.
Nick Peck (once of Californian proggers Episode) plays (I presume) his own M400, with strings on Missing The Train, the title track and 25 Miles To Freedom, plus flutes on Forgotten Planet. Hard work, but perseverance will undoubtedly pay off, almost certainly aided by a handful of Mellotron tracks. Possibly.
See: Nick Peck
The Gospel According to the Women in White (1983, 37.47) ***/½
Over the Edge
Top of the Stairs
The Women in White
Apocalypse of Man
I Need Love
What You've Been Doing to Me
I can tell you next to nothing about Inner Landscapes, other than that they were an American synthpop outfit, crossing over into late-period new wave, in a Flock of Seagulls kind of way. Appropriate, actually, since said outfit took their name from a Stranglers lyric, while this lot's 1983 release, The Gospel According to the Women in White, rather obviously send up Guildford's finest's The Gospel According to the Meninblack, from a couple of years earlier. At its best on Over The Edge, Top Of The Stairs and Amnesia, you'd be hard-pushed to describe this as 'classic', but it's certainly perfectly listenable.
Michael Pollack plays Mellotron on Angels, with a flute melody and chordal strings, although that would appear to be our lot. Just in case you thought otherwise, here's proof that utterly obscure albums aren't necessarily so for a reason. Worth hearing for genre fans.
Kori no Sekai (1973, 37.31) **½/T
|Akazu no Fumikiri
Kori no Sekai
Sakura Sangatsu Sanpomichi
Yosui Inoue is famous in his home country for being the first artist to sell over a million copies of one album, 1973's Kori no Sekai (World of Ice). The album was partially recorded in the UK, contributing musicians including Peter Robinson and John Gustafson from Quatermass, Ann Odell (Shawn Phillips) and arranger Nick Harrison (Rolling Stones). The material is pretty much what you'd expect of an album that sold so well; mainstream pop/rock with a Japanese folk influence on some tracks, all pretty unexciting, to be honest, although better tracks include sort-of rocking opener Akazu No Fumikiri and the memorable Machibouke.
Mellotron duties are split between Robinson and Jun Fukamachi, with a lush string part on Kaerenai Futari and flute on Chie-Chan (under real strings), with real strings on several other tracks, too. Overall, far too mainstream to be of any real interest to all but early J-pop aficionados, with one decent Mellotron track. Maybe not.
1984 Pithecanthropus (1999, recorded 1978-98, 58.06) ***½/TCollecting Net
Danzindan-Pojidon (including Meine Reflexion)
Apple Star~Glass Chaim
Inoyama Land were the duo of Makoto Inoue (from Hikashu) and Yasushi Yamashita, who have released a handful of albums over a thirty-plus-year period. 1999's 1984 Pithecanthropus is an odds'n'sods compilation of their sparse electronica, tracks 1-6 being 1984 Pithecanthropus itself, 7-8 a 1978 demo and 9 from 1998, although there's a surprising level of cohesion over the twenty-year recording period. The early '80s material is probably marginally better than the earlier and later stuff, but everything here is worthy of release.
Makoto Inoue plays Mellotron on one of the 1978 tracks, with volume-pedalled choirs on Shüffer (also recorded by Hikashu), although the string swells on Wässer sound synthesized. Interested in electronic music that sounds nothing like the Berlin School? Try Inoyama Land.
The Minor League (2000, 33.57) ***½/T
|The Minor League
Stuck in the Root
Roller Coaster Ride
Take Me There
Could You Be the One
Other People's Game
Insanity Wave are that rarest of things, a Spanish powerpop outfit, from Madrid, 2000's The Minor League being their third album; splendid sleeve art, chaps. Highlights include Lost Days, Sleepwalking and closer Rock N˚1, but, especially on such a short album, there's nothing here that doesn't belong.
Mitch Easter plays his own Chamberlin, with background string swells on Lost Days and upfront strings on Sleepwalking. The band used Easter's studio and talents on their belated follow-up, 2008's Late Night Shift; no Chamby credit, which doesn't mean it isn't there.
Colours & Lights (2004, 51.56) ****/TT½
Colours & Lights
Top of the Mountain
Under the Moonlight
She Passes By
Flowers on My Grave
Such a Slow Way Home
Will You Think of Me?
London-based Instant Flight incorporate members from all over Europe, proving the city's unasked-for role as the continent's music capital (go on, prove me wrong). Their Hammond-heavy psych comes as welcome relief to these jaded ears, proving themselves true scholars of the era with Freeway, a classic slice of (the retrospectively-dubbed) freakbeat, a sub-genre usually passed over by modern psychonauts. In truth, there isn't a bad track here, other highlights including opener Running Around (great organ solo), the proto-prog of Top Of The Mountain (even greater organ intro) and their fab cover of Simon Dupree & the Big Sound's fab Kites, with none other than Arthur Brown on vocals (he also sings on Freeway, while Sundial's Gary Ramon guests on Under The Moonlight).
Lucie Rejchrtova plays Mellotron, sounding really quite real, with Arabic-esque strings on Top Of The Mountain, flutes on Her Mystery, complete with a solo and Kites, although the background strings on Under The Moonlight and She Passes By sound rather less authentic and I haven't even highlighted Will You Think Of Me? All in all, then, a fine album, previously criminally unbeknownst to me, well worth shelling out for on musical grounds, never mind several good Mellotron tracks. Excellent. Incidentally, their follo-up, 2008's Endless Journey, appears to use samples and is reviewed here.
See: Samples etc. | Arthur Brown
Interface III (2000, 53.16) ***½/TT½
Hide and Seek (Due)
Gate of Interface Part 1
Gate of Interface Part 2
It would be fair to say that Interface, like several earlier Japanese prog outfits, have something of a King Crimson fixation, particularly in the guitar department, in this case, that of Masahiro Noda. Although you'd think it was their third album, several sources confirm that Interface III is their sole release, firmly in the tradition of Bi Kyo Ran, memorably described to me by a Kobe record shop owner as, "The Japanese King Crimson!" Well, here's another Japanese King Crimson, as good at it as you'd expect from a country where musicianship is generally top-notch, top tracks including Warae, Jaran and Ishitro.
Noda also plays Mellotron (did someone say 'Fripp'?), sounding pretty damn' real, frankly, with strings on Warae, Jaran, Hide And Seek (Due) and Gate Of Interface Part 2, played both 'straight' (Jaran) and 'weird' (Gate Of Interface). I don't know whether this is still available on CD, but, as with what appears to be the whole of Mellow's catalogue, it's available on their Bandcamp page, complete with a cover scan so bad that I couldn't use it. Worth hearing.
Intergalactic Touring Band (1977, 47.18) */T½
A Planet Called Monday/Epilogue
Keeper Keep Us
The Intergalactic Touring Band were, ironically, a studio outfit put together in 1976 consisting of a couple of members of US progressives Fireballet, synth whizz Larry Fast (a.k.a. Synergy) and a cast of thousands. The concept appears to be a science-fictional band zooming around the galaxy playing to the music-starved masses of Ursa Minor or wherever. Sadly, this has all the hallmarks of a 'vanity project', funded by a record company too out of touch to realise the futility of the whole affair; by the time of its release it was hopelessly outdated, with Wil Malone's rather cheesy orchestral arrangements dating from an earlier (and by no means better) age. I'm afraid to say that it's difficult to recommend this in any meaningful way; vocalists such as Rod Argent, Annie Haslam, Dave Cousins, Arthur Brown, Meatloaf and even Rossi and Parfitt from Status Quo (!), along with instrumentalists of the calibre of Anthony Phillips, Percy Jones and Clarence Clemons were unable to drag the leaden material up to a listenable level. Sorry to be so harsh, but Intergalactic Touring Band was not a very pleasurable listening experience. This is why punk happened.
Larry Fast's Mellotron? Flutes and choirs on album opener Approach, then choirs on Silver Lady and Robot Salesman, though it's hardly the most audible Mellotron you'll ever hear. There's a 'thanks' in the album's expensive-looking booklet to US Mellotron distributors 'Bill Eberline and Sound Sales Inc. for use of their Mellotron tape library', too. Surprising they didn't use it a little more, then.
See: Fireballet | Synergy | Rod Argent | Annie Haslam | Arthur Brown | Dave Cousins | Anthony Phillips
Intra (1998, recorded 1976-90, 71.50) ***½/T
|Soda for a Symphony Jerk
The Voice of Winter
Heroes of Ganymede
One Last View
Son of the Astronaut
Intra were one of a host of obscure US progressive outfits from the '70s, many of whom never released an album at the time, only to be rediscovered during the '90s CD reissue boom. 1998's Intra is, it seems, an incomplete record of the band's recorded history, losing two tracks from what appears to be their lone contemporaneous release, 1984's Chemical EP, also featuring a mere three tracks from a 1980 show, presumably to fill out the disc.
Given that the CD's contents span a near-fifteen-year period, it's hardly surprising that some stylistic variation is apparent, although the band kept the quality up right through the horrid '80s. Or have reissue specialists Shroom carefully curated the disc, quietly losing their less appealing material? What we get is, in many ways, typical US prog, angular in places, featuring hints of King Crimson, Yes and Gentle Giant, amongst other influences, their 1976 tracks (the first five here) featuring sax, as against the expected keys. Highlights? Hard to say; if you like your prog American and choppy, as against lush, you're unlikely to be disappointed.
Tracks 6 and 7, Son Of The Astronaut and The Machine, are the two Chemical EP excerpts, Tom Rotar's Mellotron strings clearly audible, particularly upfront on the latter, although the strings on Three's, from 1990, sound more like string samples played in a Mellotronic fashion. Should I ever track down the other two EP tracks (T I Sky and Night Of The Thunder Bees), I'll rework this review accordingly.
Se Allous Kosmous (1976, 62.09) ***½/TT
Thelo Na Taxidevo
Na Ha Ftera
Se Allous Kosmous
Tha Rthei Vrohi
Iraklis Triantafylidis' Iraklis (sometimes referred to as Hiraklis, due to an anomaly in transliteration) were a Greek progressive outfit, seemingly an offshoot of the more commercial Iraklis & Lernaia Hydra, whose 1976 double concept effort, Se Allous Kosmous ('In Other Worlds'), was reissued as a single disc in the States in 1981, making it difficult, until recently, to source the original recording. The full album is a wildly ambitious, folk-influenced effort, whose chief thrust (the concept) is entirely lost on non-Greek speakers, which shouldn't preclude most of us from enjoying the music for what is, particularly when (as on To Panigyri or Xekinisame) it heads off into skirling fiddle territory. The album's lack of overall focus can be irritating, though, as in the shift from the full-on prog of Anazitisi to the rock'n'roll of the first half of Tha Rthei Vrohi.
Someone (Nikos Sakelis?) plays Mellotron on several tracks, with strings on To Dentro, Kalesma and in the background on the title track, strings and choir on Anazitisi and more strings on Tha Rthei Vrohi, Poios Xerei and finally, Finale Chorodiako, although the use is rarely upfront, to be honest. So; do you buy this record? Probably not for the Mellotron, but to hear a unique specimen of mid-'70s Greek folk/psych/prog, that's a yes.
The Pair of Us (1977, 32.11) ***/TT½
The Irish Brigade (unfortunate name, carrying a whiff of violent republicanism about it) were the ex-pat Limerick duo of Gerry Goodwin and Mike Wallace, who relocated to the States in the mid-'70s, finding a ready audience for their entirely authentic repertoire amongst the descendants of the nineteenth-century diaspora. 1977's The Pair of Us, recorded at a studio in Illinois, is pretty much what you'd expect: an all-acoustic combination of traditional Irish ballads (Carrigfergus, Cuanla) and rebel songs (James Connelly, Old Brigade), indistinguishable from anything you'd hear in a Shannon pub of a Friday night. Do they do it well? As far as I can hear, although I could've done without the IRA references, being old enough to remember their mainland (i.e. UK) bombing campaigns. I'm not sure what's going on with the titles, either; the ones above, from the rear sleeve, appear to be edited versions, so Jamboree is actually Whip Jamboree, Greenflag is Wrap The Green Flag Round Me etc.
Stephen G. Wilcox plays Mellotron, with what sounds like high-end cellos and definite strings on Carrigfergus, lush strings on James Connelly and Rivers and a string part on closer Glenside that actually rides over the guitar and vocals. The band (now based in St Paul, Minnesota, the late Goodwin replaced by Joe Smith) are still going strong, which explains this album's availability on CD, although their website gives no more info. Do you need to hear it? Only if you go for Irish folk without the fiddles and uilleann pipes; perfectly competent, doubtless amazing in a packed Irish pub, but a bit cold on vinyl. Nice Mellotron use, though.
Sun & Steel (1975, 36.26) ***/TT½Sun and Steel
Beyond the Milky Way
Get it Out
I'm Right, I'm Wrong
Watch the World Going By
Iron Butterfly reformed in the mid-'70s, having initially split a few years after 1968's groundbreaking In-a-Gadda-da-Vida album and single. By 1975's Sun & Steel, however, they were on an unstoppable downwards trajectory, which was a shame, as instead of the washed-up career-end effort you might expect, it's actually a passable mid-'70s hard rock record. Stronger tracks included the title track, Get It Out and I'm Right, I'm Wrong, although wussy ballads like Beyond The Milky Way tended to let the side down somewhat.
Keys man Bill DeMartines (replacing Howard Reitzes, who played on the previous year's Scorching Beauty) got some Mellotron on the album, with a brief burst of flutes on the opening title track, while I'm Right, I'm Wrong has a scorching strings intro, with more flutes later in the track, oddly alongside real strings. More strings and choir on Watch The World Going By, with a final flurry of strings on what should've been the title track to their previous release, Scorching Beauty, although the strings on Beyond The Milky Way are real.
Well, while no classic, parts of Sun & Steel are fairly decent, with a surprising amount of Mellotron work, largely towards the end of the record. Could've been far worse.
Dismorphophobia (1996, recorded 1971-73, 55.36) ***½/T½
Let it Grow
Gonna Be Free
All I Really Need
Take Me Back
|Knock 'em Dead
Rock Band Blues
Real Mean Rocker
Iron Claw (2009, recorded 1970-74, 74.46) ****/T½
Let it Grow
Rock Band Blues
Gonna Be Free
All I Really Need
Knock 'em Dead
Iron Claw were a very early-'70s Scottish hard rock band, with Black Sabbath influences, amongst others, although they also had an unfortunate penchant for 'good-time boogie', or whatever you care to call it. Although they never released anything at the time, they laid down a whole load of tracks; now, this has always confused me. How is it that obscure, penniless bands can record so much material that an hour-long CD can be compiled thirty years hence, when I never managed more than a three-song demo with any of my old bands? How did they afford it in those 'studio or nothing' days?
They did, however and those excellent Audio Archives folks have given us 55 minutes of Iron Claw at various levels of clarity, with some tracks featuring fairly untenable levels of hiss, although I suppose you take what you can get, really. Incidentally, I've no idea how much say the band had in the title, but Dismorphophobia means 'a disorder where the sufferer is unhappy with aspects of their own body', or somesuch; sounds like a wider-reaching version of anorexia to me and I've zero idea what relevance it had to their music. Anyway, for the record, track 1 is from 1970, 2-9 from '71 (an aborted album project?), 11-14 from '72 and 10 from '73, although it has to be said that the first half of the album fares better than the second, with disposable efforts such as Rock Band Blues and Real Mean Rocker (ugh!) serving only to dilute the power of Claustrophobia or the Stray-like Let It Grow, although I accept that if you're going to clean up a bunch of old tapes, you should be pretty completist about it.
The band veered between four- and five-piece lineups, studio keys man Billy Lyall (later of Pilot, fact fans) adding sax and percussion to some of the keyboardless numbers. On the Mellotron front, he provides a strings intro on Pavement Artist, but goes for it properly on All I Really Need, with a strings part throughout and a cello and strings intro on Take Me Back. Three tracks, all dating from the same period looks like a studio machine to me, although given his cello use, it must've been a new M400, which only came out the previous year.
n.b. A very odd piece of information has cropped up regarding Iron Claw... Another early-'70s bunch whose work has appeared on CD in recent years, Antrobus (probably named in honour of the first man to restrict access to Stonehenge), are no more or less than the same band! Their 1992 CD, Buried Together (right), includes the four surviving tracks by the Flying Hat Band, who included a pre-Judas Priest Glenn Tipton amongst their ranks. Irritatingly, although fewer Iron Claw/Antrobus tracks are included on this version, they're better quality than on Dismorphophobia. Your choice, I suppose.
Shall we add to the confusion? Well, shall we? 2009 brought another Iron Claw retrospective, this time from the Vintage label, mostly crossing over with Dismorphophobia, albeit in better quality sound, losing three tracks (bye bye, Real Mean Rocker) and adding five, notably Skullcrusher and closer Devils. Unfortunately, one of the three 'lost in action' tracks is Take Me Back, although Devils opens with monster Mellotron flute and string parts. If you're into Iron Claw's thang, particularly when it comes to the Mellotron, you really need both albums, although you can cheerfully skip Buried Together, unless, of course, you have to have that Flying Hat Band session.
Curse of the Sky (2019, 30.48) ***/TPrelude
Reign of Thunder
Curse of the Sky
Dawn of Struggle
To the Path of Glory
Iron Griffin are Mausoleum Gate drummer's Oskari "Oscar Razanez" Räsänen's side-project, in collaboration with vocalist Maija Tiljander. They may well describe themselves as 'heavy metal', but the sound on their debut, 2019's Curse of the Sky, is more NWoBHM-flavoured '70s hard rock (not entirely dissimilar to UK outfit Saracen), with little contemporary influence. Räsänen plays almost everything and, possibly as a result, it's a peculiarly gutless release, his drumwork (ironically) too laid-back for its own good, while his material struggles to engage the listener, probably at its best on Lost Legion and closing mini-epic To The Path Of Glory. I remain unconvinced by the frequent 'viking' massed male vocals, too, if I'm going to be honest.
Räsänen plays Mausoleum Gate's M400 on To The Path Of Glory, with flute and choir parts enhancing the song nicely. If you like the parent band, you may go for this, but Räsänen needs to up his game on the playing and production front next time round.
See: Mausoleum Gate
Indian Ladder (2008, 55.49) **½/½
|This Faithless Will
Lost and Forgotten
A World Away
Rid the Earth
A Penny for Your Prayers
Death of Me
Ironweed (named for the book? More likely the film) are so clichéd they almost transcend cliché. But only almost. Their debut album, 2008's Indian Ladder, is so typically downtuned metal (seemingly every song's in C) that you pretty much know what they're going to do before they do themselves. The problem with bands who habitually downtune, I've found, is that unless they only use it for effect and have the intelligence not to let it take over (the mighty King's X spring to mind), they'll end up writing everything in whatever key they've downtuned to, making every track sound exactly the same as every other. Ironweed are no exception. As a result, the album sounds just like every other band doing the same kind of thing, somewhere between Metallica and a grotesque speeded-up perversion of Black Sabbath, although I'm sure they'd reel out reams of influences, none of whom would mean a thing to me.
The superbly-named Benny Grotto (his real name, he tells me) plays the band's own Mellotron, with murky flutes on Thorn, although other possible sightings seem more likely to be guitar. While this is a less painful listen than many cruddy indie, CCM and other vile genre albums I've ploughed through recently, that doesn't make it particularly good, I'm afraid.
Isildurs Bane [a.k.a. Sagan om den Irländska Älgen] (1982, 37.17) ***½/½Sagan om den Irländska Älgen
Saga Eller Verklighet
En Vilja Att Leva
Sea Reflections (1985, 39.25) ***/½Blizzard
Sea Reflections Part I
Sea Reflections Part II
Top Secret - UFO
The Story of Chester & Sylvester
Isildurs Bane are a decidedly strange sort of band, spending their first decade constantly changing styles, doubtless confusing the small number of people who knew who they were anyway. Of course, CDs and the Internet have made their music, like so many others', widely available, but it's difficult to know what to recommend, as they've taken several different paths in their career already. The one thing that seems to tie all their different incarnations together is their use of mallet instruments. I saw them in late '98 and they had no less than three different sets of mallets up there (presumably vibraphone, xylophone and marimba), helping to make them one of the most impressive bands of the festival.
Isildurs Bane (later available, retitled Sagan om den Irländska Älgen with Sagan om Ringen on one CD) is a neo-proggish effort, but ends up being better than that sounds. Some of it is quite pastoral, some a little jazzy (not least because of the vibes) and it ends up being really quite listenable, if not exactly wildly exciting. A little Mellotron choir, probably played by Mats Johansson, at the end of Sagen... part 3, Ove P., but not nearly enough to make it worth buying on those grounds alone.
As far as I can work out, despite recording four of Sagan om Ringen's tracks right back in '81, the next album the band actually released was '85's Sea Reflections and it's immediately obvious they'd moved in a jazzier direction, with much sax and those mallets to the fore again. A couple of Mellotron tracks this time round (I've no idea whether or not the band actually owned a Mellotron, but I rather doubt it); Batseba and Sea Reflections Part II have some faint choirs, but there's only a few seconds in each song. Barely worth mentioning, to be honest.
Isildurs Bane settled down after their mid-'80s jazz period and are still going now. If you like the sound of their jazz stuff, Sea Reflections and the album with which it's doubled-up on CD, Eight Moments of Eternity, might be your thing, but the rest of you might be better off going for some of their later stuff (Cheval: Volonté de Rocher is particularly good), or maybe the first CD. I wouldn't bother for their minimal Mellotron use, though.
Vapours (2009, 42.23) **½/½
No You Don't
Disarming the Car Bomb
Everything is Under Control
Islands formed in Montréal in 2005, working hard and releasing three albums in the space of four years. 2009's Vapours is the latest of these, a pretty ordinary indie/pop effort (actually, all indie is, at heart, pop, isn't it?), albeit with an electronica influence missing from its predecessors, enlivening a few tracks slightly, though unable to lift its overall mood of ennui and torpor.
Nick "Diamonds" Thorburn adds Mellotron flutes to the unpleasantly Autotune-ruined Heartbeat, nowhere near enough to improve the album overall, I'm afraid. So; drippy indie with one (real?) Mellotron track. Maybe not, eh?
See: Samples etc.
Go All the Way (1980, 34.56) ***/TGo All the Way (Parts 1 & 2)
Say You Will (Parts 1 & 2)
Pass it on (Parts 1 & 2)
Here We Go Again (Parts 1 & 2)
Don't Say Goodnight (it's Time for Love) (Parts 1 & 2)
The Belly Dancer (Parts 1 & 2)
The Isleys were well over twenty years into their career by the time they released 1980's Go All the Way; like almost every other soul/r'n'b record of the time, it largely sits in the Disco camp (and I mean camp), every one of its six tracks having two sections, a vocal part (editable into single form) and an instrumental outro (presumably for b-sides). The end result is completely flawless, perfectly-executed dance music, useless to anyone looking for genuine musical content, although I'm sure aficionados would argue that one at length.
Chris Jasper (an Isley brother-in-law) plays keys, presumably including the album's Mellotron work, with pseudo-orchestral strings right through the album's ballad, Don't Say Goodnight (it's Time for Love), although it's hardly worth getting hot'n'bothered about. So; a decent album of its type with one reasonable Mellotron track, assuming that's what you're after.
Hurry Up & Bleed (1999, 46.24) **½/½
|Days Like These
Wow What a Life
Doesn't Mean I'm Nothing
Kids Like Us
Don't Give Up
It's Me Margaret, clearly named for Judy Blume's 1970 YA classic Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, are a kind of indie/psych outfit, whose Hurry Up & Bleed (an obvious reference to the novel), while it has its moments, ultimately lacks focus and any particularly memorable tunes. Any better moments? Probably raucous opener Days Like These and Kids Like Us.
Josh Achziger plays a slightly watery, yet mercifully real-sounding Mellotron string line on Tina, dipping in and out of the mix. Incidentally, there seem to be two slightly different versions of the album doing the rounds, the other one including three brief vignettes, all entitled Dead Bird Lady, reportedly answerphone messages left by a crazy neighbour, adding a whole 1.25 to the album's length.
Fuyuzareta Machi [a.k.a. Live Wintry Streets] (1973, 47.41) **½/½
|Searching for You (part 2)
Both Sides Now
Medgar Evers Lullaby
You've Got a Friend
It's Too Late
Killing Me Softly With His Song
Going by this supper-club live release, Fuyuzareta Machi (also apparently known as Live Wintry Streets, although I don't know whether that's merely a translation), Mayumi Itsuwa was a very mainstream pop singer in the '70s, most of the album consisting of ballads of various hues, along with the occasional more upbeat piece, notably It's Too Late and closer Tobacco.
Jun Fukamachi plays minimal Mellotron, with a sparse string part on Killing Me Softly With His Song, in 'orchestral replacement' mode. No, this is not worth hearing for either its content or its Mellotron use.
Iviron (1981, 35.56) ***½/TTAfter the Push
Bernie the Faust
Wings of Perception
Tales of Iviron
Do you want obscure? Well, do ya, punk? Iviron are about as unknown as it gets, it seems. I'm only aware of their existence due to the kindness of one of my correspondents (thank you, Wolfgang!) - in fact, I can find precisely two 'Net mentions of it, one of which is an expired auction on Belgian eBay... I think you get the picture. So, what are they like? Well, Iviron is definitely 'progressive' - more so than a great many later 'prog' albums, as the band experiment extensively, no one track on the album really sounding like any other, which is something that just doesn't seem to happen any more. After The Push is a classical guitar/flute duet that turns into a Spanish-sounding piece with tabla backing and the occasional soprano voice, Bernie The Faust is a fiddly unison guitar/bass and vocal thing that picks up the pace halfway through, with operatic interjections, Bhairava is as Indian-influenced as you'd expect, Wings Of Perception is a slower prog thing on Part II (whither Part I?) that turns into jazz on Part III... Get the idea? And I haven't even mentioned the bonkers Irish "Madley" or Sister Magic's sad tale of a transsexual pickup...
Ingo Schleicher-Atanasov plays various guitars, sings and adds Mellotron to a handful of tracks, the only keyboard on the album aside from Robert Säbel's piano, fact fans. It's not over-used, but works well where it is heard, with distant strings on Bernie The Faust, a quiet church organ part on Wings Of Perception, Part II and string chords running right through Ode. To be honest, you're probably not going to find this very easily, unless someone does the decent thing and reissues it at some point, but if you want to hear a rare and unusual prog album with enormously diverse influences, you've come to the right place. Of course, Austria in 1981 probably wasn't a hotbed of progressive activity, so this obscure album is even more to be treasured. I'm not saying it's a classic, but it's very much worth hearing for the progressive aficionado, with some nice Mellotron work to boot.
See: Exciting Café