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Pell Mell

Symphonic Prog

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Pell Mell Marburg album cover
3.58 | 85 ratings | 13 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Clown and the Queen (8:37)
2. Moldau (5:24)
3. Friend (7:04)
4. City Monster (8:42)
5. Alone (9:24)

Total Time 39:11

Line-up / Musicians

- Jorg Gotzfried / bass, vocals
- Andy Kirnberger / guitar
- Bruno Kniesmeijer / percussion, drums
- Hans Otto Pusch / keyboards
- Thomas Schmitt / flute, violin, keyboards, vocals
- Rudolph Schon / percussion, vocals

Releases information

LP Bacillus #BLPS 19090

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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PELL MELL Marburg ratings distribution

(85 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (24%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

PELL MELL Marburg reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Pell Mell's debut album, named after their home city Marburg, this sextet (violins, mellotrons, flutes and solid all-around musicianship) developed a symphonic rock that owed much to the classical masters, but mixed them with a solid dose of Hammond-driven heavy rock, providing a sometimes exhilarating sound that approaches Rooster, Purple and Heep, but at the same time progging it out a bit in the same register as Quartermass (with more options since there is double the musicians) and Kansas (partly due to the violin, but the vocals as well), I'll bet Kansas heard this album during their Proto-Kaw days. Released on the collectible Bacillus label and graced with a fantasy psyched-nightmarish artwork, this first album does live a bit to its reputation as a minor gem, but certainly will not over-shake your certainties either.

Aside from the Smetana's Moldau piece, the borrowings many people accuse the band are not that obvious. While the first side of the album is good but no more, clearly the flipside is were the band was keeping its trump cards. Indeed the almost 9-min City Monster has great drama and lengthy interplay, but it represents their best songwriting effort of the album. The 9 min+ Alone starts out on a violin/piano duo and develops slowly its crescendo with the organ coming in than stopping dead to start in a dissonant percussion/keyboards improv, before the drums takes control and send us in Black Sabbath (the group/album/track) territory, before veering into the usual Hammond-driven heavy prog then veering into an early Saucerful Floyd and finishing as Pell Mell.

Although some people might want to compare early PM to Ekseption or Trace, I find that with the debut Marburg, it is only partially relevant, but with their next one From the New World, this remark rings truer. While I wouldn't call any of Pell Mell's albums essential, this one is their better one and the ideal intro.

Review by Progbear
2 stars One of the first albums I ever bought on CD, and one of the first big prog disappointments for me. Back in the old days of the Gibraltar newsletter, this was being hyped as some sort of "lost classic", Needless to say, it's not.

Kind of an attempt to marry symphonic rock (a la ELP) with hard rock (a la Led Zeppelin), it falls flat on its face more often than not. The playing is fine, a pleasant mix of violin and flute blended in with the usual suspects. The vocals tend toward the shrill and grating, and are definitely not the band's strong suit.

There's an interpretation of Smetana's "The Moldau" which, contrary to my expectations, is actually one of the nicer moments of the album. Not much to write Mom about here, though. Heavy rock with proggish trappings, for the most part.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars

Pell Mell's debut is the one that should appeal most to people here. While later albums might have been more airy, fluffy, and even silly, while still being very worthwhile, Marburg is dominated by heavy organ, at times screeching vocals, some blistering lead guitars, and a more gritty violin sound than would appear just a few short years later. While blatantly symphonic and employing some recognizable classical themes, this most impressive first album is more Krautrock sounding if you will. Still, their penchant for juxtaposing moods and skillfully shifting tempo was clearly intact from day 1, and if you like a good melody you will find more than a few here. Hence, something for everybody, but a special dollop for those, like me, who think no one did progressive rock like the Germans did in the 1970s.

To dispense with the obvious, the vocals can be quite obnoxious at times, no more so than in the closer "Alone", but if you give it time, even there you will be impressed with its musicality and its suitability for the undeniably skilled playing. Sure, the faux scat of "Friend" wears thin after the first 5 innovative seconds, but its first part is brilliant, and "City Monster" is a master epic. "The Clown and the Queen" carries a delightfully nostalgic vibe. Even if you can't get past the vocals at any price, the flute, organ and mad fiddling of the souped up classical instrumental "Moldau" justifies seeking out this CD.

One can hear the influence of this album in the works of endearing bands like JANE, far lesser artists like STREETMARK, who knew not what to do with their inspiration, or the brilliant one-off ZOMBY WOOF, and probably a lengthy list of even more obscure bands who barely published during the golden era. But for the source, start with Marburg, one of the keystones of German symphonic prog and a must have release from this period.

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars The debut album from this German band is an ode to the heavy sounds not alien to Atomic Rooster. While you discover the opener The Clown And The Queen, you should be blown away by the power of the Hammond organ and the wild vocals. Almost nine minutes of frenzy which have some ELP accents as well. It is already a highlight.

A much more symphonic (even pastoral) piece is following, maybe to cool down. The very melodic Moldau is a sweet instrumental track, full of mellotron and violin. It's melancholy is premonitory of the brilliant Swedish scene of the nineties. In a totally different register, this is the second highlight already.

Friend almost starts as Easy Livin from the Heep with high pitched vocals. An ocean of strong organ are surging but all of a sudden, the sweetest flute enters the scene and introduces a short and multi vocal part which is quite close to Gentle Giant. Then, the listener is brought into the crazy and grotesque world of Grobschnitt. To loop the loop, the closing section is just a furious and heavy organ party. Another very good song to tell the truth.

The long City Monster is only shining during the second half: the lovely violin solo has surely inspired some Kansas ones.ELP is on the rendezvous as well for the bombastic finale.

When I listened to Alone, after the chaotic intro, one comparison came to my mind (at least for about forty seconds): this doom metal sound was fully in line with the early Sabbath. Imposing, scary and heavy. The rest of this song is more traditional with the other pieces of this debut album (which is quite different from their later works). Again, the listener is passing through many theme changes: from heavy to subtle and passionate violin solo. This is quite a nice treat. Needless to say that Alone is another excellent track.

Fans of Jane, ELP and Atomic Rooster you should watch out: this album might well be very interesting for you. Four stars for this mostly heavy album.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Another band from the 70s that only recently I had the opportunity to hear. Marburg is their first release and a very strong one, by the way. Named after their hometown in Germany, it shows a maturity and confidence rarely seeing by most groups at the time. They already were delivering something of their own, although not all the experiments were successful. Instrumentallly speaking is very hard to find any flaw on this album: fantastic Hammond organ runs, fine guitar lines, very melodic flute and violin solos, a very good rhythm section.

The vocal deparmentt is a story apart: while those guys have good voices they also tried some falsettos and hamony experiences that almost ruined an otherwise almost perfect debut. Fortunatly those shrill, hysterical moments even if were present on most tracks, were used in small doses. If you can pass those few ridiculous moments, youll find an excellent symphonic rock that every prog fan will relish on. Production is very good for the time. Highlights are the opener The Clown And The Queen, the beautiful instrumental Moldau and the epic City Monster.

A very interesting CD, no doubt about it. A great mixture of heavy rock (a la Atomic Rooster, for exemple) and a more symphonic approach (ELP, PFM and Eloy spring in mind). If were not for the sometimes very annoying vocals Id give it easily 4 or even 4.5 stars. As it is I can only give it 3,5 stars. Very good overall, maybe excellent, but not really essential. There were some edges to round up.

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars Germany's Pell Mell was another talented band that fell through the cracks at the end of the 1970s and disappeared as if they had never existed. Hardly surprising, considering the style of Classical Rock they played, and how quickly it became unfashionable in the latter half of that decade.

But maybe another reason the band faded away so fast was because their original hard rock material never measured up to the quality of their classical adaptations. You can hear the difference on the band's 1972 debut album, in their interpretation of "The Moldau", which believe or not compares favorably to the 19th century Bedřich Smetana original.

Here and elsewhere the group took its cues from Keith Emerson and THE NICE, but employed twice the number of players to give the music far more depth. A simple recorder melody performed over the sound of birdsong and running water sets the mood, and by partially transposing the main theme to a minor key they achieve an attractive melancholy missing from the more heroic orchestral version. Add some graceful violin and a homeopathic dose of early PINK FLOYD organ atmospherics and the song becomes a textbook slice of European Prog circa 1972.

Pell Mell might have found success as a highbrow covers band, but this first album downplayed their more refined ambitions, which in retrospect dates it less than later efforts, but not by much. You won't hear anything like the wacky scat singing and mock chanting of the song "Friend" on subsequent albums, but you also won't hear anything near the same level of energy or aggression displayed here, possibly explaining the album's higher overall rating on these pages. The typically crude, almost amateur early '70s production can't entirely hide the ace musicianship. But the lead vocals (all in English) remain an acquired taste, on more than one song reaching levels of horrific, hide-your-pet shrieking well beyond the singer's natural range.

Don't expect to find any hidden treasures after forty years (and counting). "Marburg" is hardly a diamond in the rough, more like a slightly tarnished piece of musical pyrite: not worth much on close inspection, but still attractive when held at arm's length.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. I really wanted to love this album but I just have too many issues with it including the vocals which are the biggest negative for me. These guys were from Marburg, Germany and this is their debut released in 1972.

"Clown And The Queen" is such a good track where everything falls into place perfectly. This song is proof that he can sing well, just not when he tries to sing out of his zone. The beginning is so good with the guitar and organ standing out on this catchy track. The instrumental sections are heavenly. Man this song just hooked me in but it's all downhill from here folks. "Moldau" opens with the sound of running water and the birds singing as the flute comes in. The flute stops as the organ and drums come in and build slowly. Violin is added around 2 minutes in and it will dominate the sound here. It's okay and i'm not big into classical music which is the direction it takes late.

"Friend" might be my least favourite with those vocals that seem to be double tracked and yelling the words. The last 2 minutes are the best part of the song as we get a powerful instrumental section with ripping guitar. "City Monster" is vocal and violin led and it's okay. "Alone" ends it with an almost avant intro with each member seemingly playing whatever they feel like. It's a cool section, then they settle in with a fairly intense section but the vocals aren't the best that's for sure. It settles in with the violin leading before 2 minutes and the vocals settle back too thankfully.

Most feel that this is PELL MELL's best and while I am impressed with the music for the most part, I would like this much more if the vocals and violin were both scaled way back.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Review #80 "Marburg" by PELL MELL was one of the first Progressive Rock albums I've ever heard and back in those days (I was only sixteen years old) it completely blew my mind out; I've never listen to anything similar to this album before (now I could mention a dozen of similar bands) but not th ... (read more)

Report this review (#2487524) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Thursday, December 24, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I have been passionately in love with the debut album Marburg by German Symphonic Prog band Pell Mell ever since i discovered it in a used record shop in 1988. A rarity for my native Canada, the band being virtually unknown in North America even back in the day. Not surprising, really, and no i ... (read more)

Report this review (#607308) | Posted by presdoug | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The debut album of the 1971 German band Pell Mell has an interesting tone, and as general characteristic of the group, heavily incorporates Classical themes to their sound, mostly oriented by the Keyboards and the Violin, creating a very interesting sound that is notably a product of an assembly o ... (read more)

Report this review (#200830) | Posted by EMLonergan | Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars How can this album has only 3.17 average points? This is one of the best german progressive rock album ever. Simply excellent, imaginative, crazy, heavy progressive, NOT symphonic and NOT totally kraut like. The mix of styles here represents the best part of the german progressive history. Marbu ... (read more)

Report this review (#164262) | Posted by Grobsch | Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album IS a masterpiece of heavy, complex, unusual, highly imaginative, and powerful organ dominated heavy symphonic progressive rock. Unlike what some write ups say this is not at all mostly instrumental. The vocalist (Rudolph Schon) is prominent on every track except the lovely instrumen ... (read more)

Report this review (#45951) | Posted by | Wednesday, September 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This is an interesting album but I didn't find much originality in it.The lyrics are awful but the level of musicianship is good. A few tracks are blatant rip-offs that make you cringe when you hear then but they are still well executed. ( side one, track 3, Saucerful of Secrets ? ) Not essen ... (read more)

Report this review (#36654) | Posted by Danny | Thursday, June 16, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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