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PELL MELL

Symphonic Prog • Germany


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Pell Mell biography
Not to be confused with a 1980s American band of the same name, Pell Mell was a symphonic band from Marburg, Germany (Marburg is also the name of the debut album). The band was formed in 1971 by keyboard player Otto Pusch, bass player Jorg Gotzfried, Rudolf Schon on vocals, recorder, and guitar, drummer Mitch Kniesmeijer, and Thomas Schmitt on violin, guitar, and vocals.

The first album is characterized by a rough edge, especially in the vocals. Subsequent albums would smooth out the edges. However, there are aspects reminiscent of Hawkwind, HP Lovecraft, The Nice, and even ELP. Mellotron and classical themes are abundant. It also should be pleasing to fans Krautrock.

Over the next releases they would explore the realm of Mike Oldfield, and then settle into keyboard dominated symphonic. The old psychedelic sounds completely gone. Much of the music is considered some of the best German symphonic ever recorded.

The usual lineup changes occurred over time, and the band began to disintegrate after 1978's "Only a Star." Thomas Schmitt formed the '80s style rock band Skyrider, with former band mate Otto Pusch. They released one self-titled album, and then took back the name Pell Mell. This incarnation released "Moldau" in 1981. However, the old magic was gone, and that is where the Pell Mell story ends.

H.T. Riekels (bhikkhu)

Pell Mell official website

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InterstateInterstate
Geffen Records 1995
Audio CD$2.99
$0.01 (used)
Only a StarOnly a Star
Import
2006
Audio CD$59.99
$14.81 (used)
1982 It Was a Live Cassette1982 It Was a Live Cassette
Starlight Furniture 2001
Audio CD$11.40
$8.49 (used)
FlowFlow
Sst Records 1992
Audio CD$59.49
$11.75 (used)
Star CityStar City
Matador Records 1997
Audio CD$82.60
$3.45 (used)
Entire Collection LIMITED EDITION(7 Original Albums)Entire Collection LIMITED EDITION(7 Original Albums)
Limited Edition
MADE IN GERMANY MUSI 2013
Audio CD$37.77
$70.77 (used)
Bumper CropBumper Crop
Sst Records 1990
Audio CD$54.95
$29.99 (used)
Rhyming GuitarsRhyming Guitars
Sst Records 1994
Audio CD$99.99
$9.99 (used)
MarburgMarburg
Import
Bacillus Records/Bellaphon, Germany
Audio CD$23.99
$17.93 (used)
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PELL MELL discography


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PELL MELL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.51 | 48 ratings
Marburg
1972
3.01 | 28 ratings
From the New World
1973
3.22 | 21 ratings
Rhapsody
1975
3.20 | 14 ratings
Only a Star
1978
2.53 | 5 ratings
Moldau
1981

PELL MELL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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3.00 | 2 ratings
The Clown and the Queen
2005

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PELL MELL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Rhapsody by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.22 | 21 ratings

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Rhapsody
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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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 Marburg by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.51 | 48 ratings

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Marburg
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Only a Star  by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.20 | 14 ratings

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Only a Star
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by BORA

4 stars Another pleasant surprise.

I've been wanting to check out this band, practically for decades. The reality is that there are countless of - potentially - credible works, yet to find time to listen to. I choose this album ahead of higher rated ones, assuming that it'll give me an insight into the general style. If I am left less than impressed then I won't spend time on the rest of Pell Mell's albums. Conclusion of first listen? I sure will!

This is not your average Krautrock, but classic Prog, no doubt. The first impression is that the vocal harmonies are not far off Gentle Giant - and that's quite something to come even near. The classical component throughout the works is unmistakable. Partly due to the violin(s), very spirited organ works - not mentioning the compositions for starters. Well, Germany has given the world a disproportionate number of classical composers, so it's hardly surprising of a German band to pay respect to that.

No, this is not classical music, but definitely inspired by such. Comparisons with Ekseption, ELP, or rock bands trying to appear "sophisticated" would not be appropriate here. Much closer to a lost Gentle Giant album.

Pell Mell is a great, rocking band that has been able to fuse the romantic elements of classical with even the odd wah-wah pedal into quality Prog. I am left very impressed. An album tha's likely to keep growing on me. For now, I have no hesitation to offer a 4, but chances are that it'll be revised upwards - eventually.. A great find!

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 From the New World by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.01 | 28 ratings

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From the New World
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars For their second release Pell Mell were upgraded to a sextet with the addition of keyboard player Dietrich J. Noll.This way Thomas Schmidt was free to focus on his work on violin.The band changed also label, leaving Bacillus for Phillips and a chance to be wider recognized.''From the New World'' was recorded at Rhein-Main-Tonstudio in Frankfurt and released in 1973.

Pell Mell now sounded a little more ambitious, having writen down longer compositions with improved space for instrumental themes, but at moments they sounded less original than on their debut.The long title-track is the perfect example of such a description, a mix of Classical Rock and organ-driven Progressive Rock with highs and lows.It is characterized by the monstrous violin drives and solos of Classical nature by Schmidt, some nice vocal parts led by Rudolf Schön, where the band still sounds grounded in its psychedelic past, and a few nice melodies.But it also contains some non-sense organ torturing, jazzy bits and piano interludes, like if you listen again to a German-born KEITH EMERSON.I am trying to find the reason of the existence of the following ''Toccata''.It is like if the previous track is extended for four more minutes of endless, virtuosic solos.''Suite I'' from the flipside is definitely more cohesive and rewarding.Good interplays, excellent vocal lines, melodious textures, dreamy violin work and a fair dose of keybard pyrotechnics result a strong track - maybe the best of the album - which you can listen with joy.The 11-min. ''Suite II'' eventually gives some space for some nice guitar runs and solos among the rich keyboard-based ideas of the group.It also features over the top multi-vocal arrangements and the excellent combination of Schmidt's spacey flutes and crying violins in the middle of the composition.Very nice piece of music, which sounds a bit different from the rest of the album.

Pell Mell proove to be technically accomplished with each release, but compositionally the album ends up to be a bit uneven.The ''Suite'' pieces are simply beautiful but the opening pair is of questionable quality and rather unoriginal.Still recommended, especially if you prefer your Prog Rock with strong Classical overtones.

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 From the New World by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.01 | 28 ratings

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From the New World
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The second studio album from Pell Mell saw the band flying their Symphonic Rock flag a little higher, and with more confidence than on their 1972 debut. With less guitar and more violin in the mix the group was clearly in their comfort zone, embellishing even their original material with more classical ornamentation (they played suites instead of songs, so forth).

The band's debt to THE NICE was acknowledged right at the top of the album, in their adaptation of the Antonín Dvořák title track, which had figured so heavily in Keith Emerson's notorious update of Leonard Bernstein's "America". Unlike other Classical Rock copycats Pell Mell at least put some effort into their arrangements, beyond simply augmenting the usual symphonic chestnuts with a modern rhythm section. Here they added lyrics and played around with the tempo, jumpstarting the stately original with a little quintessential Prog Rock melodrama, 1970s style.

The vocals were still a liability (imagine a Teutonic Derek Shulman), and the production values remained somewhat primitive, to say the least. But the band must have been doing something right to have their LPs sold as far away as suburban Northern California, back in those halcyon days when imported vinyl was not uncommon in mainstream record emporiums like The Wherehouse and Tower Records (R.I.P.)

This one was more refined and melodic than its predecessor. But it's still a somewhat rusty museum piece, with little to recommend it today besides the charm of its nostalgia value. Pell Mell would be a hard sell in the 21st century, but honestly how can I not award at least three stars to an album that makes me feel like a teenager again?

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 Marburg by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.51 | 48 ratings

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Marburg
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

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 (apparently an aptitude for classical music is anathema even to some Prog Rock fans now...) 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.

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 Marburg by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.51 | 48 ratings

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Marburg
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by presdoug

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 insult to the group, as they were musically "too good" for the North American market, their brilliant, at times classically influenced sound more suitable to Europe.

All members of the band are exemplary musicians as evidenced by some of the most wonderful symphonic prog ever done by anybody. The band have an inimitable way of combining their playing styles, but never far from a classical base on this album. (brilliant violinist Thomas Schmidt even leads the band at one point in a rendition of Smetana's "The Moldau".) And singer Rudolf Schoen has a way of singing uniquely his own.

What i like the most about this record is the way everything fits together so well-no single member goes on an egotistical bent to drown any other musician out, and in their instrumentation (violin, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, recorder) the result is quality in all departments. All instrumentalists shine on Marburg, yet, the singer is important, as well. Something uniting Pell Mell in all this fantastic musical interplay is a definite early seventies atmosphere-you can sense that in Marburg. Everybody keeps your interest all the way through each number, whether with vocal or in instrumental passages.

I have never heard any of the other records by this band, but am convinced that Marburg was a hard act to follow, it being a winner in so many departments.

This excellent record is due five stars, no less. I can't think of another band that does things quite like this with this instrumentation-my advice is to start running pell mell to get Pell Mell's Marburg!

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 Rhapsody by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.22 | 21 ratings

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Rhapsody
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 From the New World by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.01 | 28 ratings

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From the New World
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Pell Mell´s second CD. It took me quite some time to write down what feelings this work bring to me. On one side the band did fix some vocal problems that plagued some of their debut´s excellent release. Ok, some hysterical vocals are present here and there, but they are few and when they do appear they are well palced and work within the song´s structures, believe it or not. On the other hand, their instrumental parts are not as good as on their first LP.

Most songs start off ok, with some great symphonic sounds, but most of the time they end up kind of losing direction and wasting time with long pointless solos. The arrangements seemed to be rushed and ragged, lacking a coherent whole. Nothing a good outside producer could not fix, by the way. And that´s their problem: someone should have told them to edit some of the instrumental parts and put on a more tight band playing. Besides, they attemped to adapt some classical music to the rock format instead of creating their own tunes. While this is interesting, it was nothing really groundbreaking as ELP (a very strong influence here) was doing it before and other rock bands were following this path (like Trace). And not all experiments are successful (I don´t think their version of Toccata is really convincing. Sky´s latter arrangement is much better).

it is only a pity that this album suffered from those problems, since it is obvious that the band members were consumated musicians. When they do gell, they really shine. So I guess From The New World was a disappointement after their electrifying start.

Not bad at all, but not really very good either. 2,5 stars.

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 Marburg by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.51 | 48 ratings

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Marburg
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Another band from the 70´s 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, you´ll 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 I´d 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.

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Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition. and to Joolz for the last updates

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Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — the ultimate jazz music virtual community | MetalMusicArchives.com — the ultimate metal music virtual community


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