Various Artists

Rime of the Ancient Sampler

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Subtitled "The Mellotron Album," this is a unique collection -- a tribute to the Mellotron, that keyboard instrument originally developed in the late 1950s as a rival to the Hammond organ, whose sound (often compared to massed flutes, brass, or strings) embellished several psychedelic Beatles songs and made it possible for art-rock groups such as the Moody Blues, King Crimson, Yes, the Strawbs, and Genesis to sound larger than life with only four or five members. The participants here include BeBop Deluxe's Bill Nelson, ex-Moody Blues Michael Pinder and Patrick Moraz, the Strawbs' Blue Weaver, King Crimson's Davis Cross, and Barclay James Harvest's Wooly Wolstenholme, all showing off their respective sounds on this instrument, which all but fell into obsolescence through a series of corporate financing difficulties in the 1980s. The sounds are alternately progressive and poppish, and evoke echoes of everything from late 1960s progressive rock to early 1980s dance-rock, with Blue Weaver's contribution incorporating some very effective blues riffs, while Derek Holt conjures spook-house impressions. Pinder's "Waters Beneath The Bridge" and Gordon Reid's "Julia" are the prettiest pieces here, but all of it is fascinating as a showcase for an instrument that was oft-mentioned but little understood by the public. David Etheridge's "Mighty Tron" may be the funniest piece, recreating some famous bridge sequences in a few major hit songs -- but not the songs themselves -- associated with the Mellotron. The other surprise is how little some of these players, such as Weaver and Moraz, sound anything like the groups (the Strawbs, the Moody Blues) they were most closely associated with. (Voiceprint, P.O. Box 5, Derwentside, Co. Durham DH9 7HR, England).