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Pell Mell

Symphonic Prog

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Pell Mell Rhapsody album cover
3.29 | 41 ratings | 5 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Rhapsody - Frost of an alien darkness (9:24)
2. Rhapsody - Wanderer (2:31)
3. Rhapsody - Can Can (3:38)
4. Prelude (3:18)
5. Desert in your mind (6:18)
6. The riot (6:06)
7. Paris the past (8:10)

Total Time: 39:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Gotz Draeger / bass
- Cherry Hochdorfer / keyboards
- Bruno Kniesmeijer / percussion, drums
- Ralph Lipmann / guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Thomas Schmitt / flute, violin, guitar (electric), keyboards, vocals
- Rudolph Schon / percussion, vocals

Releases information

LP Venus 761PMAB (1976) / CD Spalax 97689 (1998)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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PELL MELL Rhapsody ratings distribution

(41 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(29%)
Good, but non-essential (39%)
Collectors/fans only (15%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PELL MELL Rhapsody reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars Few countries took the idea of "classical rock" more seriously than Germany in the 1970s, as anyone will tell you who was exposed at the time to the music of WALLENSTEIN, TRIUMVIRAT, or this all but forgotten outfit. PELL MELL was one of many groups following in the well-trod footsteps of Keith Emerson, updating the classics in a modern rock format, in this case the work of Rachmaninoff and Franz Liszt (both duly credited: these guys weren't grave robbers).

Unlike ELP however, the instrumentation was more traditional (for the '70s, at any rate), with a big ensemble sound divided between the sextet of musicians. Keyboards were dominant, of course: the grand piano, crunchy Hammond organ, lush string synths (no Mellotrons here) and ubiquitous clavinet were shared between three featured keyboard players, one of them also doubling on flutes and violin. Guitars are less evident, and are mostly in the classical/acoustic vein, although there's some funky electric stuff happening on the final tracks.

The highlight of this 1975 album is the 16-minute title track, a retooling of Liszt's popular "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2", with interpolated material written by the band and, like a lot of Continental Prog acts, sung in what sounds like phonetic English. There's certainly a lot of variety here: a quiet acoustic ballad with recorder accompaniment (recalling the "Stairway to Heaven" intro), a burning organ solo in a honky-tonk blues mood, and lots of playful violin, straight from a gypsy café in post- war Vienna.

The finale is a hoot: a Loony Tune Saturday morning cartoon soundtrack with everything but Daffy and Bugs, including a brief nod to the local Bavarian beer hall. So why is it called "Can Can"? There's no relation to the familiar Offenbach Folies Bergere thing, memorably covered a few years later by (of course) the crafty Krautrockers of CAN.

The original compositions that round out the rest of the disc are a little less fun and therefore less immediately attractive, but still show a flair for romantic melodies and memorable hooks.

It's not surprising that the band fell into obscurity: they were very much a product of their age, and need to be heard as such. Less forgiving listeners might dismiss the album as a time-capsule of mid '70s clichés, but in retrospect there's a genuine innocence to such lofty middle-brow ambitions toward the rarified strata of high art. Look at the cover, with its cheesy proscenium arch framing laughably amateur pencil- sketch portraits of each band member. You can't find such disarming naiveté in today's corporate controlled, mass-produced entertainment industry.

The music is still worth a listen too, and not only for nostalgia value. It's a very minor slice of unjustly forgotten pop culture, but my guess is that the album might even surprise a few jaded Progheads who think they've heard it all.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars With "Rhapsody", PELL MELL continued to pay homage to the classics, and followed the trend established by "From the New World" in which simple homage to composers turned into all out rocking affairs with plenty of jamming. Here there is a marked improvement in the sense that the group has smoothed out some of the painful edges from that predecessor. It is true that they lose direction and banish good taste when dealing with something that is already tacky like "Can Can", or original material like "Paris the Past", but "Frost of an Alien" and "Wanderer" are triumphs by any yardstick. Those who enjoy some of the more classically oriented British artists like Emerson, Wakeman, and John Tout-era Renaissance will be tickled by "Prelude". "Desert in Your Mind" hints at the ever lighter aspects that will be fully embraced on "Only a Star", and is highlighted by superb bass, melodic lead guitars and soaring harmonies along with a healthy dollop of strings. "The Riot" shows that their propensity to borrow from the likes of Rachmaninoff, Schmitt and Liszt is not a cover up for lack of songwriting inspiration. Another highly recommended effort by this relatively prolific symphonic outfit.
Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars If you have ever dreamed of a softer, less pompous, more delicate ELP, I suggest you to listen to this album.

The concept is now well know: you take a classical theme and revamp it in a progressive rock clothes. Some like it, others hate it. I would say that I can like it or not, it depends. But still, I prefer this approach to the one of a prog rock band who is playing their own music with a classical orchestra.

The music which is proposed during the suite "Rhapsody" is at time brilliant, bombastic but it also hold what is scarcely heard on an ELP song: delicacy. You'll listen to some beautiful and moving fluting passages, raving violin parts and subtle acoustic guitar breaks which are a fine counterpart to the huge organ sections that are one of the major aspects of Pell Mell's music.

This prog rock band is also playing classical music (do you still follow me), and serves a fine piano part called "Prelude" (I have already heard of such title.). But Pell Mell rocks as well and throw tons of heavy organ and electric guitar in the basket: "Desert In Your Mind" indicates this capability fairly well. Unfortunately, vocals are below average (but this is not often an asset for German bands).

To complete the picture, the band can also play some mellowish (and dull) ballad. But "The Riot" (strange title for this syrupy track) is the only flaw of this good album.

The closing and bombastic "Paris The Past" is a good and condensed version of the album: childish vocals, skilled violin play and pleasant keys, especially during the final piano part. For the very first time as well, some funky mood appears as well. To be honest, I could have lived pretty well without it.

This is an enjoyable album which fully deserves the three star rating. Voilà!

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Pell Mell´s third release follows the formula adopted on their second efford and improves it: classical themes dressed up with prog rock arrangements and little original material (and, even then, nothing very extraordinaire). It is clear that the sound is more focused and the band is playing more together than on From The New World, but I still think their best (and most interesting) stuff remains in their debut album Marburg.

Not that Rhapsody is weak per se. The musicians are outstanding and really know how to handle the difficult classical stuff very well. But I´ve seen lost of other bands do it with much more personality (Emerson Lake & Palmer, an obvious influence, springs in mind immediatly, but there are otherS like Renaissance, Trace, etc). Some moments are quite good (the 9 minute opener Frost of An Alien Darkness is a highlight), some are less, and definitly the inclusion of a number like Can Can is embarassing. Vocals are their weak spot, but so were the ones of many bands from that era.

If you like classical music set in prog arrangements, go for it. The music here is well done and has some delicate parts, with soft approaches. If you´re looking for originality or something bold, go somewhere else. Small wonder this band did not reach a wider audience at the time, the competition was tough and other groups had a lot more to give. Still, Rhapsody has good symphonic moments with fine violin parts. 3 stars.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After a rumored brief hiatus Pell Mell returned in 1975 with their third album ''Rhapsody'', which made the direction of the group pretty clear.Line-up shakes were again in the program, bassist Jorg Gotzfried and keyboardists Hans Otto Pusch and Dietrich Noll were now replaced by Gotz Draeger, Frame's Cherry Hochdorfer and Ralph Lipmann respectively.Lipmann played occasionally the guitar and offered some vocals for this album, which was recorded at the famous Dierks Tonstudios.Third album and third label move for Pell Mell, ''Rhapsody'' was released on Dieter Dierks' Venus label.

The eponymous suite dominates the album and this one is a really cool attempt by Pell Mell on Classical Prog, even if this particular style was completely out of fashion at the time.Fortunately Thomas Schmitt & co. were clever enough to present a piece full of changing climates, evolving from violin-based interludes to synth-drenched, TRIUMVIRAT-like exercises and a good bunch of romantic, Classical textures akin to NOVALIS.Even if Pell Mell borrowed some themes from the classic works of Liszt and Rachmaninoff, they refined them pretty well in their own style, which also contains beautiful acoustic preludes and nice, emotional vocals, even if these are pretty limited.The new upgraded sound becomes even more apparent on ''Prelude'', containing big symphonic synthesizers next to the bombastic acoustic piano.The second side continues in the same style.While the work on Hammond organ is again pretty notable, Pell Mell stand exactly on the thin line between TRIUMVIRAT's Baroque inspirations and frenetic keyboard pyrotechnics and NOVALIS' more laid-back stylings, where vocals play some role in the compositions and the arrangements are colored by sweet melodic themes and elaborate harmonies.Schmitt's work on violin is rather reduced and the emphasis now is on twisting keyboard textures, often displayed in a dual mode, with the synthesizer established among the leading instruments of the band.

After an uneven album, Pell Mell returned with a strong third work, basically marking how Classic Prog should sound around mid-70's.Grandiose, symphonic arrangements with pompous moves, decent melodies and quirky keyboard injections.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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