album list
Jesucristo Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar
Nia Ben Aur
Nu Ska Vi Sjunga
The Rocky Horror Show
Romantic Moog

Beatlemania  (US)


Beatlemania (Recorded Live at the Winter Garden Theatre)  (1978,  66.13)  ***/T½

I Want to Hold Your Hand
She Loves You
Can't Buy Me Love
Day Tripper
Eleanor Rigby
Nowhere Man
Strawberry Fields Forever
Penny Lane
Magical Mystery Tour
Lady Madonna
Fool on the Hill
Got to Get You Into My Life
Get Back
All You Need is Love
Hey Jude
I am the Walrus
The Long and Winding Road
Let it Be

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Mellotron used:

Beatlemania can probably be hailed as the first example of a '90s phenomenon, fifteen years early: the tribute band. Rather than a touring unit (at least initially), the ersatz Beatles took up residence in New York, originally at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre, for just over a thousand performances, taking the audience through the band's career in under ninety minutes, including (in fact, especially) their post-touring years. It's difficult to overestimate the market for anything Beatle-related, particularly in the States, so the show's popularity should come as no surprise, despite the band not actually sounding that much like The Beatles, particularly in the vocal department.

The decision was taken to record the show, most of it making its way onto '78's Beatlemania (Recorded Live at the Winter Garden Theatre), which apparently sold well at the time, almost certainly mainly to people who'd just been blown away by the show, who played it maybe twice before going back to the superior originals, in the way of most tribute act albums. The band do a decent enough job of spitting out note-for-note covers night after night, although the 'Liverpudlian' accents on display are woeful and the occasional American intonation slips through. I know there were offstage musicians involved, but I've no way of knowing whether the string, brass and woodwind parts on many tracks were live, or the band were playing along to tapes.

Les Fradkin was the show's first 'George Harrison', playing Mellotron on several tracks, with a brief string line on Eleanor Rigby, alongside the real (taped?) strings, the expected flutes on Strawberry Fields Forever (of course) and Fool On The Hill and strings on All You Need Is Love, although all other orchestral parts seem to be real or taped. It doesn't seem likely that anyone's going to reissue a tribute album of rather variable quality on CD, but I'd imagine NYC-area second-hand shops probably have a pile of them holding up the counter. Or maybe not? For all I know, this is now impossibly rare, but you'd have to be a pretty hardcore Beatles fan to want to shell out very much for this; either that, or the kind of obsessive who just has to hear how the band assimilated the Mellotron's sound into the show (ahem).

See: The Beatles | Les Fradkin

Everyhead  (US)

'Everyhead: A Rock Opera'

Everyhead: A Rock Opera  (1975,  69.24)  **½/TT

When Your Soul's Your Own
Ballad of the Fucking Trees
The Garage
Mommie Love
Saturday Night
The Dream
The Nightmare
Iffa Wanna
Hold on to Yourself
Daddie Sir
You Stole Away My Head
America is a Pig
The Ballet of the Deadly Sins
  I Get Excited (Soul Soup)
  The Office
  The Chicken Song
  Diesel Woman Blues
  Gimme Your Body
  The Exit

Last Recourse
There Could Have Been More
Everyman's Hymn
Put Away the Masks (Finale)

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It's difficult to know where to start when discussing Everyhead: A Rock Opera:

So, er, what is it, then? Pretty much what it says on the tin: a seventy-minute 'rock opera', featuring a slew of vocalists playing various roles and a largish band, the only member of whom rings any bells being Steppenwolf's Michael Monarch, one of three credited guitarists. Musically, it starts well, Overture being exactly what it says, giving us some decent prog moves; sadly, however, after a promising start, the 'opera' quickly descends into Midwest, mid-'70s boogie, like a restricted-budget Skynyrd, perhaps, much of the music clearly subservient to the story, particular low-points including the ridiculous mock-operatic female lead on Mommie Love and the messy, ten-minute opera-within-an-opera The Ballet Of The Deadly Sins. On the upside, we get some great fuzz bass on Saturday Night and excellent synth (ARP 2600?) experimentation on The Nightmare, while Overture really is very good. And, of course, the Mellotron.

Cottrell plays Mellotron here and there, with string swells and flutes on Overture, some nice string pitchbends on Iffa Wanna that remind me of Crack the Sky's subsequent work, not to mention a great flute solo, more heavily-reverbed strings on You Stole Away My Head, another flute solo on Everyman's Hymn and a flute/strings combo on closer Put Away The Masks (Finale). Top Mellotron track? Iffa Wanna, no contest. So; do you bother? It's all a bit off-Broadway, really, more Hair than Head, so to speak, although it definitely has its moments, admittedly, mostly Mellotronic ones.

Jesucristo Superstar  (Spain)

'Jesucristo Superstar'

Jesucristo Superstar  (1975,  92.15)  **/T½

Canción de Judas
Dinos Lo Que Va a Pasar
Realmente Extraño
Todo Estará en Paz
Jesús Morira
Simón Zelotes
Pobre Jerusalén
Sueño de Pilatos
Es Más Que Amor
Di Que Me No Condenaré
Última Cena
Negaciones de Pedro
Palacio de Pilatos
Canción de Herodes
Todo Ha Sido un Sueño
Muerte de Judas
Juicio Ante Pilatos
Juan Diecinueve Cuarenta y Uno

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Everyone knows something from the appalling Andrew Lloyd Webber's horrid Jesus Christ Superstar, don't they? His third rock opera/concept album/musical/whatever, it's the kind of thing that people who don't actually like rock at all listen to, telling themselves how radical they're being. It's actually 'rockier' than you might expect, especially if you've only heard Lloyd Webber's later works, which isn't to say it's actually 'rock' in the accepted sense of the word, even if Ian Gillan sang the title role on the original album. After becoming an unbelievably massive hit in the English-speaking world, it spread out across the world, including a Spanish-language version, released in 1975 as Jesucristo Superstar.

Teddy Bautista (Canarios, Taburiente) was apparently musical director of the show, playing keyboards, including Mellotron, despite the presence of both an orchestra and a choir. It's the first thing you hear on the soundtrack, providing the massive strings pitchbend that opens Obertura, with 'stabs' later on in the track, choirs on Todo Estará En Paz, strings on Sueño De Pilatos and, in its only appearance on disc two, choirs again on Crucifixión, manipulated in the studio to give a seemingly 'infinitely sustained' effect (ah, that old trick...).

Who, outside Spanish-speaking Lloyd Webber aficionados, would want to hear this album? Buggered if I know... The music's going to be pretty much the same as on the original album, albeit with Spanish lyrics and given that it's a studio creation, not the live album I'd expected, there isn't even much Mellotron on it. It's on CD, but I really, really wouldn't go out of your way to hear it. Seriously.

See: Canarios

Jesus Christ Superstar  (US)

'Jesus Christ Superstar'

Jesus Christ Superstar  (1971,  43.48)  **/TTT

Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem
Everything's Alright

Heaven on Their Minds
What's the Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying
This Jesus Must Die
Everything's Alright
King Herod's Song
Judas' Death
I Don't Know How to Love Him

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There must be literally hundreds of recordings in existence of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's iconic Jesus Christ Superstar, many released in its heady early years, when there was decent moolah to be made by any unscrupulous label who could hire a few singers, a second-rate band and a demo studio for a day. SagaPan (a.k.a. Joker in Italy) only ever bordered legality, at best, being the source of many semi-illicit recordings of contemporary artists, not least Donovan and Hendrix.

Their ...Superstar album is clearly the cheapest of cheap knock-offs, its passable sleeve art the best thing about it, its original tracklisting slashed by half, playing fast and loose with the running order for good measure. Colin Dyall (d. 2017) sings the title role well enough, although some of the other vocal performances leave more than a little to be desired, while the instrumentalists do a good job under trying circumstances, notably, there only being six of them, including Dyall on flute. Any better moments? Are you having a laugh? This release highlights just how insipid the piece always was - a 'rock opera' that doesn't rock, despite some decent guitar work on the otherwise flaccid What's The Buzz. I mean, they don't even tackle 39 Lashes (part of Trial Before Pilate), as memorably covered by The Cows in the early '90s.

One Chris Goodey plays piano (a shitty upright, by the sound of it) and Mellotron, possibly a MkII, in full-on 'string section replacement mode' on all highlighted tracks, plus brass melody lines on opener Hosanna and Simon Zealotes and a chordal part on Superstar. Should you really, really want to hear this, I found it on some cruddy download site - I expect you can do the same. Awful, but at least there's some seriously authentic Mellotron work.

Nia Ben Aur

'Nia Ben Aur'

Nia Ben Aur  (1975,  50.26)  ***/T½

Cân y Gweithwyr
Cwyngan Osian
Cwsg Osian
Pwy Yw?
Osian Yw Ei Enw ef
Tir Na N'Og
O Osian
Chi Sydd ar Fai
Nia Ben Aur

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Mellotron used:

Nia Ben Aur is a first for Planet Mellotron: an album sung in Welsh. Originally performed at 1974's annual celebration of Welsh culture, the Eisteddfod, the rock opera (for want of a better term) was recorded the following year, although I can't imagine it found much of an audience outside the (admittedly million-strong) Welsh-language market. While very much of its time, it's far better than the typical sub-Lloyd Webber guff that was so prevalent during that era, or, indeed, Lloyd Webber himself [note: not difficult]. Combining elements of choral music, folk, rock'n'roll and mainstream balladry (!), highlights include Cwyngan Osian, Croesi, Tir Na N'Og and the closing title track, although a surfeit of female choir pieces (Pwy Yw?, Osian Yw Ei Enw Ef) and bad rock'n'roll (Ri, Cwsg Osian) do the work few favours.

Hefin Elis plays Mellotron, with a flute solo during Cwyngan Osian's fade, a fabulous cello/strings solo section on Croesi and more of the same, backing some narration, on Chi Sydd Ar Fai. While difficult to fully recommend, given that you can hear this on YouTube, you might consider it worth a go, if only for the splendid Mellotron work on Croesi.

Nu Ska Vi Sjunga  (Sweden)

'Nu Ska Vi Sjunga'

Nu Ska Vi Sjunga  (2004, recorded 1972-73,  71.40)  ***½/TT

När Lillan Kom Till Jorden
Små Små Fågelungar

Trollfar i Snurreberget
Nisse Tänker Sjöman Bli
Vid en Väg På en Sten
Bonden och Kråkan
Goddag Min Fru
Raska Fötter Springa Tripp, Tripp, Tripp
När Jag Sist Gick ut att Vandra
Veva Veva Positiv
Kungens Lilla Piga
Har du Sett Herr Kantarell?
Trollmors Vaggsång
Annikas Visa
Plocka Svamp
Tomtarnas Julnatt
Om Våren, om Våren
Här är Polisen
Stinas Pepparkakssoldat
Sov du Lilla Videung
Leka Skola
Vid Kattegatt
Lasse Liten
En Sockerbagare
Fyra Små Grisar
Säg När Kommer Våren
Fjäriln Vingad
Nu Så är det Jul Igen
Tre Pepparkaksgubbar
När Olle Fick Heta Pilleman
Blåsippan ute i Backarna Står
Nu Dansar Våren
Om Jag Får en Flygmaskin
Lilla Tussilago
Litti Litti Li
Mors Lilla Olle
Blinka Lilla Stjärna
Fröken Kissekatt
Vi Går Över Daggstänkta Berg

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Nu Ska Vi Sjunga, or 'Now shall we sing', is one of the oddest records reviewed on this site, against stiff competition... Basically, it's a compilation of recordings of Swedish nursery rhymes, written by children's songwriter Alice Tegner, mostly recorded in the early '70s, provided for me by those nice people from Anekdoten. So why is it here? I'm sure you'll be completely unsurprised to hear that the instrumental accompaniment includes, alongside guitar and piano, an ARP 2600 and a Mellotron, so that answers that question. The music's very sweet, lots of short songs sung by enthusiastic-sounding people (male and female) in true school-hall style, sounding remarkably similar to many English-language equivalents. None of the melodies are familiar, with one obvious exception, proving that the Scandinavian tradition is very different to the British, although there are fewer stylistic differences than you might expect. The exception is a startlingly mournful version of Blinka Lilla Stjärna, or Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Odd.

There's actually some interesting experimentation on offer here: Veva Veva Positiv features a backwards synth part, while Tomtarnas Julnatt and Om Våren, Om Våren's ARP patch is straight out of the prog songbook. Peter Himmelstrand's Mellotron parts (thanks for the info, Martin) are quite straightforward, unsurprisingly; När Lillan Kom Till Jorden opens with synth (definitely not Mellotron) flutes, with a Mellotron string line swelling up halfway through, although Små Små Fågelungar's flutes are Mellotronic. More flutes and strings on Kungens Lilla Piga, with all the other tracks sticking to strings. My theory, given the lack of recording information, other than dates (1972/3), is that some of the songs were recorded in a studio that already had a Mellotron, since it seems to be added pretty much at random; there's no obvious reason for it to be on one track any more than another, but then, I didn't arrange them, so what do I know?

Since this is meant to be used in nurseries and for small children at home, rather than listened to by sad Mellotron-obsessives who don't even understand the language, rating it is almost superfluous; it's a children's album and works perfectly well in that context. Since it didn't make me grit my teeth even once, I think ***½ is quite fair. The Mellotron work is actually pretty good, but I'm not sure I can recommend a purchase to the average adult listener. Good at what it does.

The Rocky Horror Show  (Australia)

'The Rocky Horror Show: Original Australian Cast Album'

The Rocky Horror Show: Original Australian Cast Album  (1974,  42.11)  ***½/T

Science Fiction
Wedding Song
Over at the Frankenstein Place
Sweet Transvestite
Time Warp
The Sword of Damocles
Charles Atlas Song
Whatever Happened to Saturday Night
Touch a Touch Me
Once in a While
Eddie's Teddy
Planet Schmanet Janet
It Was Great When it All Began/I'm Going Home
Super Heroes

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Does Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror (Picture) Show really need any introduction? The stageshow reached Australia (Sydney, to be precise) in 1974, apparently the first production outside the UK and US, starring one Reg Livermore as Frank-N-Furter, the soundtrack album appearing within months. It's clearly a studio recording, although bootlegs of the stageshow exist. Unless you're a Rocky Horror obsessive, it's... well, it's just another Rocky Horror soundtrack, with minor differences to all the other Rocky Horror soundtracks (currently sixteen in total), chiefly (of course) in the shape of the cast, although the tracklisting differs slightly from the better-known versions, too.

Unsurprisingly, the musical arrangements also differ slightly from the original cast album and the film, guitarist/musical director Roy Ritchie changing the odd harmony here and lyric there. He also doubles on Mellotron, adding what sounds like background saxes to The Sword Of Damocles, a handful of string chords to I'm Going Home and a brief choir part on Super Heroes, just about scraping one 'T'. Well, Rocky Horror minutiae fans may wish to hear this, the rest of us can probably stick with the original cast album. Incidentally, the bootleg mentioned above is Mellotron-free, so the theatre band obviously didn't use one live.

Rocky Horror fan site

Romantic Moog  (UK)

'Romantic Moog'

Romantic Moog  (1974,  32.11)  **/TT

My Cherie Amour
Like Someone in Love
A Lover's Concerto
I Love You Because
Love is a Many Splendored Thing
Somewhere My Love (Lara's Theme From "Dr. Zhivago")
This Guy's in Love
Love is Here to Stay
What the World Needs Now is Love
True Love
Portrait of My Love
And I Love You So

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The Contour label's Romantic Moog is what is known as (a technical term here) a 'charity shop special' - 'thrift store' if you're from across the pond. Knocked out for next to nothing, it would've sold respectably in its day, probably from non-standard outlets (newsagents and the like), as no self-respecting record shop would've gone near this stuff. In this particular case, the producers (Chris Harding and Lionel Burdge, who, amazingly, put their name to this) obviously assembled a small ensemble of piano, (very gently played) drums, bass and synth, any of whom could've been either of those two fine gentlemen, bashing out cheeso 'Moog' arrangements of the kind of love song your aunty would've listened to back in the '70s, most of them old enough that I couldn't actually tell you who recorded them originally. Nor would I wish to. It's easy to see this as side-splittingly awful (and I do), but, in actuality, it's just awful. No wonder I found a badly scratched copy in a 'chazzer' in a particularly rough area for under a pound. I was still ripped off.

A sensibly anonymous muso adds Mellotron strings to a few tracks, with faux-orchestral parts added to Somewhere My Love (Lara's Theme From "Dr. Zhivago"), This Guy's In Love, Portrait Of My Love and (in particular) And I Love You So, which, as you might expect, add precisely nothing to the arrangements. Top marks for terribleness, by the way, go to the particularly unsuitably modulated patch on Portrait Of My Love, although it's all pretty dreadful, truth be told. Interestingly, this didn't actually have me reaching for the sick-bucket, thus the relatively high rating above; more boring than puke-inducing.

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