Maestros of the Mellotron-10 Majestic Mellotron Albums

Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie released on DVD

You can hear a podcast of our interview with Dianna Dilworth

Last year I wrote about the Mellotron and Dianna Dilworth’s documentary, Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie.  Now that it’s been released on DVD I thought I’d re-post that blog with some updates, including a replacement in the Top Ten Mellotron Albums list.

Echoes will re-run an interview Dianna Dilworth tonight, Wednesday,  February 3.  It documents the history of the Mellotron and its forerunner, the Chamberlin. It’s a good documentary with lots of key interviews and some very funny archival footage with an insiders view of the history of the Chamberlin and Mellotron, which isn’t always pretty. Dilworth got Mellotron giants like King Crimson‘s Ian MacDonald, the Moody BluesMike Pinder, and producer and film composer Jon Brion to comment. Brion & producer Mitchell Froom are especially cogent.Dianna Dilworth
Among the interesting facets revealed are that the original Chamberlin and Mellotron tapes were recorded by musicians from the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. Who’d have thought that progrock opuses from King Crimson, Tangerine Dream and the Genesis were born in the sounds of the maestro of shlocky kitsch.

The taste and aesthetics of of the Mellotron and Chamberlin’s creators weren’t much higher, than Welk’s. Check out this hilarious YouTube promo film for the Mellotron from the early 1960s.


Magical Mystery Tour The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour The Beatles use of Mellotron flutes on “Strawberry Fields” helped pave the way for this instrument and revealed that the Mellotron wasn’t a replacement for the orchestra, but a whole new sound world unto itself.

The Moody Blues Days of Future Passed
Like The Beatles, the charm of the Mellotron in The Moody’s music was that it didn’t sound like an orchestra. In fact, their actual orchestral arrangements sound sappier now than they did 40 years ago, but the Mellotron arrangements sound timeless.

PhaedraTangerine Dream Phaedra The Mellotron is all over this album and other TD releases from this era. They took the Mellotron out of the orchestral mode and sent it to textural space. “Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares”is pure mellotron majesty.

King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King What can you saw about this quintessential Mellotron recording, creating the orchestra of doom on the title track and pastoral fantasies on “I Talk to the Wind” and “Moonchild”

AguirrePopol Vuh Aguire I can’t tell you how many musicians I’ve talked to who cite the opening of Werner Herzog‘s Aguire-The Wrathe of God with the conquistadors descending into the mist shrouded Amazon valley to the strains of Popol Vuh’s haunting score. There is some dispute about whether the choirs are actually a Mellotron or something else.

The Isness Future Sound of London The Isness I suspect they used samples off of lots of other records with Mellotrons, but this trip into post-electronica psychedelia resounds with flutes and strings redolent of a great acid trip, courtesy of the Mellotron.

Richard Burmer Mosaic Richard actually used a Chamberlin on much of his debut album, a masterpiece of sampled orchestral exotica where the smokey, atmospheric sound of the Chamberlin adorned lovely tunes like “Ave Plaedelio” and fever dreams like “The Serum.”
The Zombies Odessey & Oracle
I don’t how this got left off the first list.  Rod Argent coaxes some beautiful orchestrations out of the Mellotron on this classic psychedelic pop album, yielding a nostalgic, quaint sound that surrounds Colin Blunstone‘s breathless vocals.

For more information and Mellotron/Chamberlin albums than you could ever absorb, go to the site. It’s a blast.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

  1 comment for “Maestros of the Mellotron-10 Majestic Mellotron Albums

  1. Maestros of the Mellotron, the interview with Dianna Dilworth and the Top 10 Mellotron and Chamberlin Albums

    ***** 5 Stars (IMHO) *****

    I first became aware of electronic music in the early 1960’s. Milton Babbitt (or one of his students) gave a concert at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Several of my college classmates were EE majors and tried to explain to me what was happening.

    Very gradually I got more and more interested – enjoyed more different artists and the endless variety of new ideas.

    On and off, I studied the history of the synthesizer, and the history of electronic music in general, back to the Theremin, and even earlier.

    This episode of echoes filled in many missing pieces for me. It is leading me to even more history and more contributing musicians than ever.

    Can’t express enough appreciation to John Diliberto and Echoes for spanning such a huge range of music – old and new!

    I listen to Echoes mostly via Echoes on Line. I also catch episodes of Echoes on internet streaming radio when I can. I listen to WMFE in Orlando, FL and WSHU in Fairfield, CT. I catch about 6 other FM classical radio streaming stations from time to time.

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