Ocean Colour Scene
Michael Oliver & Go, Dog, Go!
OHO (US) see:
Oak (1979, 36.40) ***/½
|Let it All Begin
Going Nowhere Fast
Listen to Your Heart
And You Win
King of the Hill
Draw the Line
Song to Sing
This is Love
The Maine-based Oak (originally Pinette) were the brainchild of Rick Pinette, releasing two albums on Mercury before morphing into The Rick Pinette Band in the '80s. 1979's Oak is something of a lost pomp classic, all Styx song structures and Queen harmonies, sounding not unlike Styx's contemporaneous Cornerstone in places, top tracks including opener Let It All Begin, And You Win and mighty Queenalike Friends, although a couple of the gloopier ballads rather stick in the craw, frankly. And as for that sleeve, perhaps no more should be said...
Keys man David Stone (fresh out of Rainbow) supposedly plays Chamberlin, although I can no longer find any online references to the fact. As it happens, most of the album's string work (Listen To Your Heart, King Of The Hill, Song To Sing) sounds real, despite the Chamby's legendary ability to fool the ear, although I could be wrong... As a result, the only even possible use is the background strings on Friends, but I'm not actually convinced by any of it, to be honest. Anyone allergic to pomp's hard rock/prog/AOR mashup should avoid Oak at all costs, but I suspect I'll be playing at least a few of its tracks for some time to come. A quick thanks to Mark Medley (again!) for sourcing this rarity for me.
Oasis (UK) see:
Melody (1981, 39.14) ****½/TT½Ocean
7 to 8 Melody
Slow & Chromatic
Ocean were a deeply obscure outfit, nothing to do with the French metal crew (whose eponymous '81 debut looks like it was made by a bunch of nineteen-year-olds). The German version produced a mini-masterpiece in Melody; entirely instrumental, it's (funnily enough) intensely melodic, slight ELP and Focus influences apparent, with much piano, although they suddenly lurch into a jazz feel on Melody Bass, sounding slightly out of place. Their, er, 'theme song', Ocean, is an absolutely fabulous classically-inspired piece that'll have all you '70s prog fiends salivating like rabid dogs, the rest of the album being almost as good. Why is this so bloody obscure?
Their Mellotron use (from Mike Hoffman) is slightly odd, as they seem to use synth strings, except for a high string melody line on Wild Pig. Otherwise, it's choirs (Katrin, Wild Pig and Slow & Chromatic) and flutes (7 To 8 Melody), with especially good use on Slow & Chromatic. Although the Mellotron use isn't its best feature (while not being at all bad), if you see a copy of this, BUY. Incidentally, mucho thanks to my long-time info-finder Joe Ellis for providing the pics.
The Circle (1996, 13.13) ***/TThe Circle
Cool Cool Water
Top of the World
One From the Modern (1999, 43.28) **½/T
|Profit in Peace
I am the News
No One at All
Step By Step
Jane She Got Excavated
I Won't Get Grazed
Ocean Colour Scene are, to my ears, one of the many wannabes Oasis have thrown up in their wake; I mean, they'd (almost) file next to them on this page, were Oasis still here... The music is very much in the same area, which should tell you all you need to know about OCS; mostly mid-paced modern indie stuff with rather overwrought vocals and terrible lyrics. Sorry, not my bag at all. Saying that, The Circle (from their second full-lengther, '96's Mosely Shoals) and its attendant b-sides aren't too bad, not least Top Of The World, with a nice little Mellotron strings part from someone (producer Brendan Lynch playing Paul Weller's machine?), to reasonable effect.
One From the Modern is their fourth album and, in keeping with their mentors, they elected to use a Mellotron on a couple of tracks. Profit In Peace has a tiny burst of flutes, definitely played by producer Lynch this time, while Families has some more overt strings, uncredited, but probably played by Steve Cradock. That's it, really; if you like UK indie you'll probably like it and if you don't, you won't. One plus point for the album is its length; rather than try to fill the CD up, OCS have recorded a 'regular' length record, possibly so that it could also be released on vinyl without the usual messing about. Anyhow, don't buy for its Mellotron content.
See: Samples etc.
For the Boatman (2008, 55.53) ***½/TTT½Landing
Freedom of Mind
A Wayfarer's Travel
The Warning Light Stays on
The Big Sky
Oceana Company seem to've got themselves labelled 'prog', but to my ears, they're more 'modern rock' than anything; you know, that hard rock/indie crossover that's so popular at the moment. Think Oceansize, but better. Their debut, 2008's For the Boatman, isn't a bad album by any means, better tracks including opener Landing and lengthy, trance-like closer The Big Sky. I'm not sure what's going on with the weird science fiction stuff on The Warning Light Stays On/Boatman, mind, but that's obviously how the band want it...
Vocalist/guitarist Matthijs Herder doubles on (genuine) Mellotron, to the point where it's pretty much his main instrument. The album opens with, essentially, the same Mellotron string chord that starts Crimson's Starless, carrying on throughout the track, with choirs and flutes on Freedom Of Mind, strings and flutes on Imaginary Time and Silent, a brief burst of choirs on The Warning Light Stays On and considerably more so on Boatman. Overall, then, not one for your symph enthusiast, but enough prog moments to just about make it worth hearing for the aficionado, with plenty of Mellotron.
Power to Love (1975, 38.30) */TT½
When You Believe
Lift Up Your Voices
Power to Love
Thank You Lord
|You Don't Really Have to Hide
Jesus Come Be My Lord
What can I tell you about James O'Connell? Effectively nothing; I don't even know whether or not he made more than the one album, 1975's Power to Love and, to be perfectly honest, even if he did, I suspect most of us would be better off had we never heard it. This is an absolute stinker; think: slushy mid-'70s Christian country/folk/pop with extra added cheese. Oh, you'd rather not think about that? Me neither, but, unlike you, dear reader, I've just sat through this crud. It has no redeeming features (pun intended).
An unknown musician plays Mellotron, with a background string part on opener Spiritual Gold, more background strings and choirs on Lift Up Your Voices, flutes on Thank You Lord (distinct from the real one utilised elsewhere), cellos and really quite upfront strings on Rainbow Hill and choirs on You Don't Really Have To Hide (who's hiding, botherer?). Does it improve matters? Nope. This is properly, good old-fashionedly horrible. Let us thank the Lord that it's out of print. Er...
The Boat of Thoughts (1977, 35.29) **½/TThe First Flight of the Owl
Kill Your Murderer
If You Ask Me
The Delayable Rise of Glib
We're Losing Touch
The Boat of Thoughts
I should've known, as soon as I saw the Sky label. Sky appear to be the haven for second-division German prog outfits (so how come Eloy got a major deal?), i.e. the ones Brain didn't want. I've listened to The Boat of Thoughts several times and it resolutely fails to impinge itself onto my consciousness in any way whatsoever; the compositions are poor, the playing merely competent, while the production is probably best described as 'budget'. Jennifer Hensel's vocals are too high in the mix and, frankly, pretty awful, while Pit Hensel's guitar work is utterly generic and average. It picks up slightly on the title track, which at least has a bit of energy to it, but it's hardly inspired.
Werner Littau uses a (presumably borrowed/hired) Mellotron on a couple of tracks, to no particular effect; Kill Your Murderer has a few ungainly slabs of strings, although The Boat Of Thoughts itself is slightly better, with some decent enough string block chords, but this is a very long way from 'classic' status. You know, I really hate having to be so harsh to a well-meaning progressive outfit, but Octopus are just so mediocre that I don't feel I can recommend this at all. Saying that, the following year's An Ocean of Rocks (**½) is even worse. However, if you're big on the 'German prog sound', you may get something from these albums; just because I've failed to doesn't mean that you will. Just don't go spending loads of money on them.
Another Rosie Christmas (2000, 50.00) **/T
|Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
Nuttin' for Christmas
Merry Christmas From the Family
Face of Love
Ay Ay Ay it's Christmas
Spread a Little Love on Christmas Day
The Bells of St. Paul
I'm Gonna E-Mail Santa
Christmas Auld Lang Syne
The Prince of Peace
Because it's Christmas (for All the Children)
Rosie O'Donnell is one of those US comedians (or comediennes, if you insist) who mean diddly-squat on the other side of the Atlantic, but are household names in their own country. She's actually a bit of a liberal star, being outspoken on the kinds of issues that make American conservatives see red, if you'll pardon the pun, which doesn't excuse Another Rosie Christmas. I'm glad to say I don't need to listen to its predecessor, as one was bad enough, thank you very much. OK, it has its amusing moments, not least the Dixie Chicks and O'Donnell collaborating on a trailer-trash piss-take, but generally speaking, it's awful. You want details? It's a Christmas album. I rest my case.
Patrick Warren does his usual Chamberlin thing; I'm not under the slightest illusion that the estimable Mr. Warren actually enjoys most of his sessions. Or maybe he does? It's easy to focus on your part of the jigsaw without feeling the need to pass judgement on the whole picture. Anyway, he adds strings and flutes to Winter Wonderland and strings to the bizarre Christmas Auld Lang Syne (can you hear The Bard spinning in his grave?), but that appears to be it. No, you don't want or need to hear this album. End of story.
False Priest (2010, 53.41) **½/TT½
|I Feel Ya' Strutter
Our Riotous Defects
Like a Tourist
|Girl Named Hello
Casualty of You
Around the Way
You Do Mutilate?
Athens, GA, Elephant Six psychsters of Montreal (note lower case 'of') turned towards '70s soul on 2008's Skeletal Lamping, for reasons best known to themselves, 2010's False Priest mostly carrying on in a similar vein. Better tracks include Coquet Coquette, with its deranged sitar (guitar) intro, the skronky Around The Way and nuts closer You Do Mutilate?, but I'm afraid the bulk of the album left this listener rather nonplussed. The band are, of course, making music to please themselves (and rightly so), but I'm not quite sure if this is going to please anyone else.
If the band's two previous releases are in samples, why is this here? Because, dear reader, this time round, the band have utilised the justly famed Jon Brion in a joint production/session capacity, openly stating that he persuaded them to replace their already-recorded Mellotron samples with his real Chamberlin. As so often with the Chamby, it's not always easy to tell where it might've been used, but we get definite flutes and cellos and possible brass on I Feel Ya' Strutter, more flutes on Our Riotous Defects and Enemy Gene (particularly upfront on the latter) and strings, what sounds like Chamby rhythm tapes on Sex Karma and strings on You Do Mutilate? Is that it? Who knows? I can't hear it anywhere else, but it could be on several other tracks, too.
See: Samples etc. | Jon Brion
Wine no Nioi (1975, 38.27) **/½
Kinō e no Tegami
Are Kara Kimi wa
Shōnen no yō ni
|Ame yo Hageshiku
Ai no Uta
Rōjin no Tsubuyaki
I can't tell you an awful lot about Off Course, although 1975's Wine no Nioi (Bouquet of a Wine) is apparently their third album. Frankly, it's a rather drippy effort, largely consisting of wet balladry, to the point where the more energetic Nemurenuyoru and Ame Yo Hageshiku sound better than they actually are.
Kazumasa Oda plays background chordal Mellotron flutes on Shiawase Nante, to no great effect. Feel the need? It's on YouTube.
La Follia del Mimo di Fuoco (2007, recorded 1973-77, 59.32) ***/½Suite Bambini Innocenti
Via Non Esiste
Insieme Al Sole
Nel Grattacielo delle Idee il Pensiero Più Alto e' la Pazzia
Amanti di Ieri
Il Viaggio di un Uomo Non Più Uomo Nella Valle del Tempo
How many more 'unreleased albums' from the '70s are languishing in attics everywhere? Officina Meccanica released a handful of singles at the time, but never managed an album, so here it is, thirty years on. La Follia del Mimo di Fuoco is less prog, more jazz-rock, frankly, probably at its most interesting to the progressive fan on opener Suite Bambini Innocenti.
Pierrot Lunaire's Gaio Chiocchio plays Mellotron and Moog on Suite Bambini Innocenti, with what I presume are the most distant of distant strings at one, brief point in the track. Certainly not a lost Mellotron classic, nor, really, a progressive one.
Skin Tight (1974, 41.03) ***/T½Skin Tight
Streakin' Cheek to Cheek
It's Your Night/Words of Love
Heaven Must Be Like This
Is Anybody Gonna Be Saved?
Skin Tight was the Ohio Players' seventh album and their breakthrough into the mainstream. Their fat funk sound had been making waves for years, but it took a label change to Mercury to give them that all-important hit album. As with many funk outfits in the pre-disco mid-'70s, the Players allowed themselves to stretch out a bit on vinyl, all six tracks on the album jammed out to one extent or another. I really don't feel qualified to comment on the music, as it seriously isn't my bag, but it seems to be good at what it does, particularly on the funkier, more uptempo tracks.
Although he isn't credited with it, vocalist/keyboardist Billy Beck plays Mellotron on a couple of tracks, with a pseudo-string section-style part on It's Your Night/Words Of Love, leaving the album's Major Mellotronic Moment for Heaven Must Be Like This, with string, flute and cello parts, all heavily reverbed and doing their best not to sound like a Mellotron. So; another unexpected Mellotron album from the funkier end of the spectrum, if not the heaviest use of the machine you'll ever hear.
O2 (1997, 43.32) ***/TTTUntitled No. 1
Untitled No. 2
Untitled No. 3
Untitled No. 4
Untitled No. 5
Raw Ohm (2001, recorded 1997-98, 58.54) ***/TTT½Melodica Festival, May '98, Austin
Ohm Practice, Summer '97, Ft Worth
Club Nowhere, 11-29-97, Ft Worth
Club Nowhere, 11-29-97, Ft Worth
The Argo, 6-26-97, Denton
Ohm were a space-rock/psych outfit, featuring analogue keys enthusiast Doug Ferguson (also of Yeti). The first of their three albums, 1997's O2, is a fairly startling piece of work, full of the kind of sonic exploration that so many late '60s bands promised, but were ultimately unable to deliver (did I hear anyone say Jefferson Airplane?). Its two chief instrumental components seem to be synths and woodwind; not the commonest combination, but not the commonest band, either. None of the tracks are actually titled, which, while slightly irritating, at least dispenses with the 'what do we call instrumentals?' problem. This is far from easy listening, but isn't that a good thing? Ferguson's first Mellotronic outing on the album comes several minutes into the first track, with a relatively lush string part underpinning the real violin, with massively pitchbent strings on track two. The choirs make their entry well into track three, reiterating on five, while four features some serious flute, string and choir action, although it's the most major use on the album. I'd vaguely expected more Mellotron than we actually get, but this is still pretty good on that particular front, although more for track four than anything else.
I haven't heard 1999's Voices, but 2001's Raw Ohm is a slightly-above-bootleg-quality live recording from gigs in '97 and '98, none of them actually titled per se, once again, although the Bandcamp release titles them after their recording venue and date. All five tracks sound improvised, shifting from relatively ethereal passages through brooding menace to all-out lunacy; this is what 'space rock' should ACTUALLY sound like. Ferguson plays full-on Mellotron flute and string parts, plus choirs later on, on the first Club Nowhere track, pitchbent strings and brief, distorted bursts of choir on the second and strings and choppy choirs on the recording from The Argo that closes the set. Tragically, Ferguson died in early 2002, signalling the end of the project, although Yeti have carried on.
So Long Harry Truman (1975, 34.40) **½/T½
|So Long, Harry Truman
The Delta Queen
The Kid/The Last Days
It's Been a Good Day
Danny O'Keefe seems to be known more for his songwriting than as an artist in his own right, having had his songs recorded by a pantheon of major names, not least Judy Collins, Willie Nelson and Elvis. His fourth solo album, 1975's So Long Harry Truman, features most of the then-lineup of The Eagles on a few tracks, just prior to their massive breakthrough with Hotel California, along with Linda Ronstadt, which probably gives you some idea of what it sounds like. Yup, country-lite, although Covered Wagon and Steel Guitar are more rock'n'roll and The Delta Queen is a sort-of Sinatra-era ballad, leaving closer Hard Times (ironically Eagle-free) as the kind of country-rock epic that band had already made their own (think: The Last Resort).
John Boylan plays most full-on Mellotron strings on Rainbow Girl, plus an uncredited part on The Kid/The Last Days to actually pretty good effect. You're unlikely to want to hear this too badly unless you're already a fan of O'Keefe and/or his songwriting, although it has its moments, principally Hard Times and the Mellotron work.
Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See (2002, 46.09) ***½/TRed
My Bad Days
Dead Dog Song
Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas
Okkervil River Song
Down the River of Golden Dreams (2003, 45.57) ***½/T½
|Down the River of Golden Dreams
It Ends With a Fall
For the Enemy
Blanket and Crib
The War Criminal Rises and Speaks
The Velocity of Saul at the Time of His Conversion
Maine Island Lovers
|Song About a Star
Seas Too Far to Reach
Black Sheep Boy Appendix (2005, 24.41) ***½/TTMissing Children
No Key, No Plan
Black Sheep Boy #4
Another Radio Song
Last Love Song for Now
Okkervil River are a newish Americana band, originating in New England but based in Austin, Texas. They seem to have had multiple lineup changes in the decade they've been together, leaving just one original member, chief songwriter etc. Will Sheff. Where they win out over the likes of Ryan Adams is in their authenticity and their wind-blasted sound, all picked banjos and ghostly keyboards and strings. Something that might put some listeners off is Sheff's voice, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a slightly less hysterical Waterboys mainman Mike Scott at times, although he knows how to tone it down when he has to.
Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See is their first full album, defining their sound nicely, Kansas City's pedal steel contrasting nicely with the wonky brass of Lady Liberty and Westfall's mandolin. The material covers a wide variety of country-related styles sympathetically and without dipping into the Nashville schmaltz barrel at any point. Just one Mellotron track (from Sheff), with some wonderfully out-of-tune flutes on opener Red that almost sound like recorders. Down the River of Golden Dreams is, somehow, slightly less appealing than its predecessor, though not enough to dock it any stars. One instrumental feature of note is Sheff's increasing use of the Wurlitzer, with several tracks featuring its percussive tones. New keyboard player Jonathan Meiburg adds Mellotron flutes to It Ends With A Fall and the wonderfully-titled The Velocity Of Saul At The Time Of His Conversion, although with credited cello and viola, I suspect all string parts are real. Black Sheep Boy Appendix is a follow-up EP to the Mellotron-free Black Sheep Boy, showcasing a broadening of the band's sound, the almost-ambient Missing Children and the rocky No Key, No Plan standing out. Mellotron from Alice Spencer this time round, with flutes on No Key, No Plan and, for the first definite time, strings on Black Sheep Boy #4, although other string parts sound real.
See: Samples etc. | Roky Erickson
29 (1995, 48.55) ***/T
Kore wa Utada
On'na ni Naritai
30 Years Old
Okuda Tamio ai no Tēma
E (2002, 62.21) ***/T
Hananinaru (Tasogaren No Theme)
Hana to Flower
Hana to Flower Sansei
Senshuu No Getsuyoubi
Custom (Japan version)
When Japanese singer-songwriter Tamio Okuda isn't recording his own material, he's been known to write for other artists, not least Puffy. His debut, 1995's 29 (although he followed it up with 30, he seems to have refrained from any further age-related album titles), is a perfectly listenable, stylistically varied Japanese-language pop/rock effort, highlights including Rūto 2, displaying Okuda's understanding of rock'n'roll tropes, not least by quoting from Johnny Kidd's Please Don't Touch at one point and stomping closer Okuda Tamio Ai No Tēma. Parliament/Funkadelic's Bernie Worrell is credited with Mellotron on three tracks, but two of them (Kore Wa Utada and Ningen) are complete duds, leaving just the (real-sounding) string part running through Musuko (Son).
I don't know whether Okuda used a Mellotron on any of his intervening releases (sorry, I simply can't be arsed to play them all to find out), but it appears again on 2002's E, a not dissimilar album to 29, in many ways, although it breaks up the 'regular' material with a series of brief, frequently instrumental vignettes, not least the under-a-minute new wave/synthpop Senshuu No Getsuyoubi. Best tracks? The bluesy, propulsive Manwojishite features some very Page-esque slide work, Gomen Rider's worth hearing and spot the Europe quote (The Final Countdown, obviously) on closer Dousuru. An unknown musician (Okuda himself?) plays Mellotron flutes on two tracks, with a surprisingly speedy solo, complete with key-click, on Yakyuudeiuto and a chordal part on The Standard, plus possible background strings.
Other Eras...Such as Witchcraft (1997, 46.25) ***/T
|Drain the Lake
Cross the State
Flames Grow Tall
Diamonds or Coffeecake
Old Hickory are a classic Mellotronic case of 'if I'm not told, I'll never know'; no tape-replay credit in the CD booklet, no (previous) online references... Actually, I was not only told by one of the band, but sent a copy for review, despite their non-existence for over a decade, which is above and beyond the call of duty. In the words of contemporaneous reviewers, every song on 1997's Other Eras...Such as Witchcraft sounds different to every other, or in the band's words, 'Flaming Lips meets Pavement with a bit of Nirvana', if that helps at all. Going by their name, they sound like they should've played prime Americana, but Pontiac's probably the only track that even partially fits that description. Common threads running through the album include songs with melodic intros that switch into a kind of post-grunge after about thirty seconds (Three Rings, Cross The State, Flames Grow Tall), occasional Neil Young-influenced guitar parts (notably on Broken) and (presumably) Jason Coile's overly 'rock'n'roll' vocals, which probably don't help to describe the music either.
Michael Marqueson played producer Sylvia Massy's Chamberlin (M1?), with flutes and cellos on Selopan, cellos on Flames Grow Tall and strings on Pontiac, although I wouldn't call it a defining feature of the album's sound. As you can see, I've found it rather difficult to convey the band's sound in cold print, but if the influences to which they admit appeal, you stand a good chance of liking this, too. Not much Chamby, but nice to hear it used on a non-mainstream pop album, for once. Incidentally, thanks to Scott Matz for going to so much trouble to provide this for review.
First Album (1976, 56.12) ***/½Pierrot
Kuro no Miwaku
Toki Wa Kaze No Youni
Unsurprisingly, I can't tell you much about Olive, other than that they were an early Japanese progressive outfit, in a country whose main scene was in the '80s. 1976's First Album freely mixes mellow post-psych stuff with heavier material, occasionally spilling over into near-symphonic territory, although, sadly, the bulk of the record passes by without really impinging itself on the listener. Even when they do something good, like the first half of Kuro No Miwaku, they slip into a rather pointless blues groove halfway through, while the female vocals are definitely an acquired taste.
The album opens with Ken Miyazawa's solo Mellotron cello, with distant chordal strings on Densetsu, although that would appear to be our lot. This isn't as bad as I'm making it sound, but it's no classic.
Pop & Circumstances (1999, 45.20) ***/T½
|Anyone But You
Tell Me What You Want
There Goes My Heart Again
All You Wanted
Father's Day in NYC
I've Got a Secret
|What Took You So Long?
Vamp and Fade
Buffalo, NY's Michael Oliver and his Dr. Seuss-referencing Go, Dog, Go! were a middling powerpop outfit, whose second album, 1999's Pop & Circumstances (ho ho) is decent enough, if a little unexciting. Highlights include the jangly Wailing Wall and What Took You So Long?, although opener Anyone But You is a dead ringer for Alice Cooper's Be My Lover and the overlong Americana of It's Alright begins to drag after it enters its fifth minute.
Oliver plays Mellotron on two tracks; a little 'Net research tells me that he played 'the two Kens' M400s; New Englanders Ken Leonard's and Ken Merbler's, as mentioned on the former's site. Anyway, we get nicely upfront flutes, cellos and strings on All You Wanted and flutes and wobbly strings on What Took You So Long?, the parts on the latter reminding me of Aimee Mann, which is no bad thing, although the flutes on closer Vamp And Fade sound somewhat unMellotronic. To my knowledge, Oliver has continued to make music, although no longer with Go, Dog, Go!