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Mediæval Bæbes
Medicine Head
Brad Mehldau

Meiko
Mekanik Kommando
Paul Melançon
John Mellencamp


Maxwell's Demon  (US)

Maxwell's Demon, 'Prometheus'

Prometheus  (2001,  38.42)  ****/TT½

Prometheus
Maxwell's Demon, 'Diablo'

Diablo  (2009,  53.58)  ****/TTTT

Mirage
Comedown Seduction
Imbroglio I
Celexa
Deceptive Cadence
Crash
Imbroglio II

Arzamas Revisited
Breathe
No Jesus
Imbroglio III
225 Piece Jigsaw
Old Tapes
Mirage Immanent
Avarice Atoned
'Dante's Purgatorio: The Divine Comedy, Part II'

Dante's Purgatorio: The Divine Comedy, Part II  (2009)  **½/TT

[Maxwell's Demon contribute]
Avarice Atoned

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Maxwell's Demon's debut album, Prometheus, is not for the faint-hearted; one 38-minute track, instrumental, angular, ever-changing... This is not an easy listen, and is all the better for it. Of course, music like this generally has to be given time to sink in properly, and a single listen absolutely does not suffice to review it properly, but given time constraints, it's going to have to do for now. Anyway, the facts: Maxwell's Demon are a trio, with Craig Beebe on keyboards, John Galbraith on guitars/bass/pedals/flute and what seems to be a rotating drum stool, so to speak; Dow Draper plays on the album.

Prometheus is all-analogue; analogue synths/electro-mechanical keyboards/'proper' amps (none of that 'modelling' crap here)/tape, although being pressed on CD slightly compromises their integrity, but what's a band to do? Play very difficult music, it would seem, although this isn't as far out as Henry Cow or Univers Zero, say; more like Crimson at their most awkward, or Änglagård being pissy. This is the sort of stuff that sends non-progheads running for the hills, being almost devoid of melody in its usual sense, replacing it with dense, intense arrangements that hold the interest if you're attuned to their style. I can't imagine for the life of me how they would ever expect to play it live; they'd need at least two extra musicians, maybe more. NEARfest 2007?

Craig Beebe at the 'Tron. OK, so he's actually at the Moog

Anyway, Beebe's keyboard list (this time round) is:

I find it hard to tell which of the three polys he's using at any given time, although the other three 'boards are, of course, easy to spot. Not quite as much Mellotron as you might expect, to be honest, but it would be so easy just to drench the album in the thing that I really quite admire their restraint. The only 'solo' part occurs just before the 30-minute mark, with some stand-alone strings, including a bit of a playing glitch, which proves it's real, on the remote offchance you might not believe them (see pic).

It's taken the band (now a quartet) eight years to follow their debut with 2009's Diablo. Although still all-instrumental (hurrah!), in direct contrast to its predecessor, it consists of fifteen mostly short tracks, many enhanced by the Opabinia String Quartet, despite which, Beebe plays more Mellotron than before. Compositionally, we get the same brain-wrangling twists and turns, offbeat chordal combinations and harmonic complexity as on Prometheus, all a shade heavier this time round? On the 'Tron front, we get strings and choir on Comedown Seduction, choir on Celexa, flutes and choir on Crash, choir and strings on Imbroglio II, choir on No Jesus, strings, flutes and choir (fittingly) on Old Tapes and finally, choir and strings on closer Avarice Atoned, making for a most satisfying listen, both progressively and Mellotronically. Incidentally, the gear list this time round loses the Memorymoog, but gains a set of Taurus pedals and a modular.

So; if Maxwell's Demon's angularity sounds like it might appeal to you, go for it. Prometheus is less 'Tron-stuffed than it could be, but that's actually no bad thing, and there's plenty on Diablo, anyway. Buy.

Official site

See: Colossus Project

John Mayer  (US)

John Mayer, 'Room for Squares'

Room for Squares  (2001,  54.14)  *½/½

No Such Thing
Why Georgia
My Stupid Mouth
Your Body is a Wonderland
Neon
City Love
83
3X5
Love Song for No One
Back to You
Great Indoors
Not Myself
St. Patrick's Day

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Room for Squares was John Mayer's first major label album, after an independent EP. Although Mayer has apparently moved towards the blues in more recent years, this is a cheeso, 'acoustic rock' effort, i.e. acoustic-driven, poppy singer-songwriter stuff, like a more ballsy James Blunt. Cor, that's a bit harsh, innit? Never mind. This really is insipid stuff; Mayer's voice has that 'confessional' tone that usually only serves to irritate, at least if you take your music at all seriously. Yeah, that's what this is; to borrow a quote, 'music for people who don't like music'.

Brandon Bush plays Mellotron on the album's last two tracks. Well, they would be the last two, only for some bizarre reason, track 13 is a four-second blank. Superstition? Sorry, which century/millennium are we living in? Anyway, he contributes faint flutes to Not Myself that could have come from anything, frankly, and, er, something on closer St. Patrick's Day. Strings? Choir? Who knows? Bloody rubbish. It's a shame, as Mayer is actually a pretty good guitarist; let's hope his more recent work has upped the ante.

Official site

Jessica Lea Mayfield  (US)  see: Samples

Mayfield Four  (US)

Mayfield Four: 'Fallout'

Fallout  (1998,  57.27)  **/½

Shuddershell
Suckerpunch
Forfeit
Always
No One Nothing
12/31
Fallout
Big Verb
Realign
Don't Walk Away
Overflow
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

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Mellotron used:

Fallout is The Mayfield Four's first full-length album, and it begs just one question: why? Why have you made this soulless piece of faceless 'modern rock', stuffed full of fake emotion and non-riffs? About the only difference I can hear from one track to the next is its tempo and volume, although I admit that's probably being a little unfair. Not much, though... It comes as no surprise to me that not only did the band support Creed, amongst other similar empty, stadium-rock bores, but vocalist/guitarist Myles Kennedy has gone on to form the artistically moribund Alter Bridge with most of Creed after their split with frontman Scott Stapp.

I'm afraid I can't think of anything nice to say about Fallout, so as your mother probably told you, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. A largely pointless record, only marginally alleviated by their cover of Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) from his standout release, What's Going on. Kennedy is credited with Mellotron, but the only time you can even vaguely hear it is a few seconds of strings on Realign, so you not only don't need to hear this on musical grounds, but also Mellotronic ones. You'll probably be as pleased as me to hear that the band split after their second album, 2001's Second Skin.

Fan site (yes, they have one. Fan, that is)

Mayfields Mule  (UK)

Mayfields Mule, 'We Go Rollin'' 7"  (1970)  ***/½

We Go Rollin'
My Way of Living
Mayfields Mule, 'Mayfields Mule'

Mayfields Mule  (1970,  41.44)  ***/½

Oh Lady
Backyard
Queen of Rock'n'Roll
Down From the Country
Abracadabra
Here Comes the Rain
Rolling Down the Highway
My One for Your Two
Life's Been Good to Me
Mayfields Mule, 'Mayfields Mule'

Mayfields Mule  (2007, recorded 1969-70,  48.22)  ***/½

Oh Lady
Double Dealing Woman
My Way of Living
I See a River
Down From the Country
Drinking My Moonshine
Abracadabra
Here Comes the Rain
Rolling Down the Highway
My One for Your Two
Life's Been Good to Me

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Mellotron used:

Chris Mayfield was a participant in the London scene of the mid-to-late '60s, playing in Nirvana, amongst others, before forming Mayfields [sic] Mule in 1969. He/they released three unsuccessful singles, one of which, We Go Rollin', features the Abbey Road 'Beatles' MkII Mellotron on its B-side, My Way Of Living. Embarrassingly, I can't find the A-side anywhere, but the flip is a nice, Hammond-heavy blues-based track, sounding pretty typical for the time, with short bursts of strings from Pete Saunders that barely count as 'Mellotron use' at all.

For some obscure reason, now lost in the mists of time, their sole album, 1970's Mayfields Mule, was only released in Uruguay, of all places, making it a considerable rarity from the era. It's one of those albums that could've been really good had the band curbed their second-rate country rock tendencies, sturdy, Hammond-driven material such as opener Oh Lady and epics Here Comes The Rain and My One For Your Two sabotaged by dull country rockers (Backyard, Down From The Country), rock'n'roll pastiches (Queen Of Rock'n'Roll) and third-rate boogie (Rolling Down The Highway). Saying that, at least half of its length is worth hearing, but it's a bit of a curate's egg, in all honesty. Saunders adds more of that MkII to My One For Your Two, but so briefly and near-inaudibly that this barely even earns half a T.

Thirty-seven years later, those nice people at Night Wings resurrected the album, getting Mayfield to write some informative sleevenotes. What they don't say is that the tracklisting differs substantially from the original, its weakest tracks (Backyard and Queen Of Rock'n'Roll) replaced by four single-only efforts, including My Way Of Living. Despite the weakness of some of the material, I'm rather surprised that the label didn't insist on releasing 'the complete Mayfields Mule', so I think we can assume the one track missing from both versions (We Go Rollin') really isn't worth hearing. The end result is a slightly better album, though not really enough to gain it an extra half star, while despite containing both the band's Mellotron tracks, the use is so minimal that a full T just isn't an option.

Do you buy Mayfields Mule? If you love the era's organ-heavy, blues-based style, there's enough here to keep you happy. Bear in mind, though, that judicious use of your CD player's 'prog' button or selective saving of its contents onto iTunes will result in a shorter, but better album. Oh, and don't even think about bothering for the minimal Mellotron use.

Official Chris Mayfield site

Mayflies USA  (US)

Mayflies USA, 'Summertown'

Summertown  (1999,  47.42)  ***/0

You and Me
Just for Fun
A Change in the Weather
Ariel
Maria 1:14
NYC
The Apple
The Stepford Wives
Baby's Got Her Own Ideas
Paper Dolls
Summertown
A Quick Look Ahead
Down With Peter Green
Someday You'll Say Good-Bye

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Mellotron used:

Summertown was the Mayflies USA's second album (was there another Mayflies somewhere else, in the manner of 'The British Beat' or 'U.K. Squeeze etc?). Essentially, it's classic powerpop, although the songs just aren't quite as memorable as you might like and it just doesn't have the... oomph that one might expect from the best exponents of the genre. Perfectly pleasant, but just not quite there...

Producer Chris Stamey (the d.b.'s) allegedly plays Mellotron, but I'm afraid to say, it's not obviously audible anywhere. Buried in the mix again? Pity, as it would've sounded good on a few tracks. Anyway, a reasonable, if rather unexciting powerpop release. Not exactly Big Star, but then, few are.

Maze  (US)

Maze, 'Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly'

Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly  (1977,  42.29)  ***/TTT

Time is on My Side
Happy Feelin's
Color Blind
Lady of Magic
While I'm Alone
You
Look at California

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Mellotron used:

Maze were formed as Raw Soul by vocalist/songwriter Frankie Beverly as far back as 1970, protégés of Marvin Gaye, although that band don't seem to've released any albums. They became Maze in 1976, releasing their debut, Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly, a year later. It's a polished soul/funk album, including several jammed-out tracks, as funk bands were wont to do at the time, in keeping with that '70s ethos, I suppose. Most of the material's a little too slick for Planet Mellotron's tastes, although opener Time Is On My Side is a solid piece of mid-'70s funk and the second half of closer Look At California reminds me of Santana, percussion and all.

Mellotron on several tracks, probably from keyboard player Sam Porter, with orchestral-ish string parts on major hit Happy Feelin's and the lengthy You, with flutes and strings on Lady Of Magic and Look At California. So; perfectly respectable soul/funk, smooth as silk and utterly unsuitable for my typical reader, whoever s/he may be. A surprising amount of Mellotron, though, with well-played and arranged parts in a pseudo-orchestral kind of way.

Official site

Maze of Time  (Sweden)  see: Samples

Mazes  (US)

Mazes, 'Mazes'

Mazes  (2009,  32.16)  **/T

Manual Systems
Cat State Comity
I Have Laid in the Darkness of Doubt
Things I Threw in the Well
Love to Lay
Gas's Blacklight Village
News From Day One
Face Down on Forest Roads
Heather on Heather
Song for Helen
Song for Luke

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Mellotron used:

Mazes are a side-project of the better-known 1900s, sitting firmly in the 'waif-like indie' mould, going by their self-titled 2009 debut. A Stereolab influence makes itself apparent on several tracks, which isn't exactly the best way to this particular reviewer's heart, but probably will/has resulted in healthy sales. Best track? Has to be Gas's Blacklight Village, a brief instrumental that takes the band's sound in a relatively interesting direction; shame there isn't more like this here.

Tim Sandusky plays Mellotron, with a real-sounding strings solo towards the end of Heather On Heather, but other possible sightings seem to be chimaeras. Sadly, I can't honestly recommend Mazes, however well-meaning it may be, twenty seconds of Mellotron notwithstanding.

Official site

See: The 1900s

For Mc...  see: Mac...

David Mead  (US)

David Mead, 'Mine & Yours'

Mine & Yours  (2001,  50.16)  **/½

Flamin' Angel
Mine and Yours
Comfort
Echoes of a Heart
Standing Here in Front of Me
No One Left to Blame
Girl on the Roof
Elodie
What's on Your Mind
What I Want to Do
Venus Again
Figure of Eight
Only in the Movies

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Mellotron used:

I haven't heard David Mead's debut, 1999's The Luxury of Time (with Carl Herrgesell on Mellotron), but his follow-up, 2001's Mine & Yours, is a drippy, ballad-heavy effort, although it's not quite as bad as, say, anything by James Blunt or Daniel Powter, not that I'd take that as any kind of recommendation. There's minor respite on Girl On The Roof, but even then, it deteriorates after a minute or two. This is pretty insipid stuff, I'm afraid; modern singer-songwriter stuff with its guts removed.

Mead plays Mellotron himself, with faint strings on Figure Of Eight, though it's hardly world-beating stuff, so really not worth the effort on any front, frankly. There's a third Mead Mellotron album, 2006's Tangerine; once again, review forthcoming when I get to hear the thing (I'm not trying too hard to find it, though).

Official site

Meadow  (US)

Meadow, 'The Friend Ship'

The Friend Ship  (1973,  38.54)  **/½

In the Beginning: When You Were Young
The Illusion: Vanity Fair
The Game: See How They Run
The Street: Lawless Lady
The Question: Completely
The Dream: Artist
The Road: Cane and Able
The Celebration: Sweet Life
In the End: Everything I've Known
The Word: There's Only One Thing to Remember
In the Beginning: Home Free (The Friend Ship)

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Mellotron (Chamberlin?) used:

The obscure Meadow are remembered these days, if at all, for being Laura Branigan's first band (she was a mere sixteen at the time), although she was apparently most reluctant to talk about her involvement with them in later years. Their sole (?) album, 1973's The Friend Ship, is a rather Christian, mock-folky effort, lead vocals shared between Branigan and Chris Van Cleave, with only the occasional mock-baroque touch to liven things up at all. Best tracks? I'm not sure it really has any, although the rather silly The Illusion: Vanity Fair at least caught my attention.

An unknown musician plays Mellotron (or Chamberlin?) strings on The Dream: Artist and what might just be distant flutes on closer In The Beginning: Home Free (The Friend Ship), quite distinct from the real ones used elsewhere, although, with the Chamberlin (if such it is), who knows? You're really not going to go through the effort of tracking this down for either the music or the tape-replay, anyway.

Meat Beat Manifesto  (UK)

Meat Beat Manifesto, 'Satyricon'

Satyricon  (1992,  64.17)  **½/½

Pot Sounds
Mindstream
Drop
Original Control (version 1)
Your Mind Belongs to the State
Circles
The Sphere
Brainwashed This Way/Zombie/That Shirt
Original Control (version 2)
Euthanasia
Edge of No Control pt 1
Edge of No Control pt 2
Untold Stories
Son of Sam
Track 15
Placebo
Meat Beat Manifesto, 'Subliminal Sandwich'

Subliminal Sandwich  (1996,  69.02)  ***/T

Sound Innovation
Nuclear Bomb (trouble it mix)
Long Periods of Time
1979
Future Worlds
What's Your Name?
She's Unreal
Asbestos Lead Asbestos
Mass Producing Hate
Radio Mellotron
Assassinator
Phone Calls From the Dead
Lucid Dream
Addiction
No Purpose No Design
Cancer
Transmission
We Done

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Mellotrons used:

I'm not really sure how to best describe Meat Beat Manifesto; sort of proto-techno, maybe. They're certainly nearer to 'dance' than any other musical subdivision; I'm quite honestly not at all up on this field, and (to be honest) don't particularly wish to be, either. I'm told 1992's Satyricon and '96's Subliminal Sandwich are fairly good at what they do, and I can't deny there's some clever sample manipulation involved, it's just that I can't connect with the music well enough to accurately review it. Lazy reviews? We gottem.

As far as the Mellotron's concerned, MBM main man Jack Dangers plays what sounds like MkII on both, with left-hand manual 'moving strings' on That Shirt from Satyricon and left-hand rhythms on the minute-long Radio Mellotron on Subliminal Sandwich, and that appears to be that. If these were from just a handful of years later, I'd say, 'almost certainly samples' (as on Yes' The Ladder), but I don't believe there were any easily-available MkII rhythm samples around in '96, so Dangers probably tracked a real one down, or maybe sampled one. Anyway, try to hear the tracks for rare outings for the sounds, but I find it difficult to recommend the music one way or the other.

Official site

Mecki Mark Men  (Sweden)

Mecki Mark Men, 'Marathon'

Marathon  (1971,  37.22)  ***½/T½

I Got No Money
Ragathon (part 1)
Set on the Street
Can't Make it Without You
Got Together
Trip, Trip Toodle
Marstrand
Juana, Juana
Some Reason
Marathon
Ragathon (part 2)

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Mellotron used:

One of Sweden's first psych bands, Mecki Bodemark's Mecki Mark Men supported Hendrix (who apparently loved them) in their own country, before undertaking a mammoth US tour which ended in chaos. 1971's Marathon was their third album and the last made by the original band, before their metamorphosis into avant-proggers Kebnekaise. It's a wild, jamming psych trip of a record, starting badly with the trippy blues of I Got No Money, before heading off into the stratosphere with the likes of the flute-driven Ragathon (Part 1) or the organ-heavy Can't Make It Without You, although top marks (ho ho) have to go to the fab Got Together and Some Reason.

Bodemark plays Mellotron, with strings on Trip, Trip Toodle and Some Reason, from machine unknown: a MkII? It's a bit early for an M400, but I suppose one could've found its way across the Baltic by then. Maybe it's the same one used on Made in Sweden's Made in England? Or was that album really made in England? Whatever. Anyway, this is a fine album of its type, with a couple of decent 'Tron tracks, should you be into that jamming psych thing.

MySpace

Medeski, Martin & Wood  (US)  see:

Medeski, Martin & Wood

Mediæval Bæbes  (UK)

Mediæval Bæbes, 'Mirabilis' Mediæval Bæbes, 'Mirabilis'

Mirabilis  (2005,  58.38)  ****/T

Star of the Sea
Trovommi Amor
Temptasyon
San'c Fuy Belha Ni Prezada
All for Love of One
The Lament
Musa Venit Carmine
Kilmeny
Lhiannan Shee
Umlahi
Cittern Segue
Return of the Birds
Tam Lin
Scarborough Fayre
Come My Sweet
Märk Hur Vår Skugga
This World Fareth as a Fantasye
Away

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Mellotron used:

The Mediæval Bæbes, helmed by Katherine Blake, coalesced from the last lineup of Miranda Sex Garden, who gigged in the '90s with Cardiacs, amongst others. Following on from MSG's semi-medieval schtick, the Bæbes have gone the whole hog and sing nothing but madrigals and other early music, using both traditional and non-traditional instrumentation. Group numbers vary wildly, from six to twelve, with eight on their release that concerns us here, 2005's Mirabilis.

Singing in many languages, both living and 'dead', the ensemble, if you'll excuse the raft of clichés I'm about to land on you, spin a web of voices, harps, hand-drums, violins and all manner of non-standard instrumentation, creating music that gets into the classical charts and even my uncle likes. They do all this whilst remaining more than acceptable to anyone who appreciates the more uncommon things in life, which hopefully includes you lot out there.

Then-member Cylindra Sapphire plays Mellotron on Lhiannan Shee, with string and flute parts enhancing the song nicely, although, sadly, that seems to be it on the 'Tron front. This really is a lovely album, far better than most attempts at recreating the sound of medieval England (not you, Circulus) and far more accessible than most 'serious' early music ensembles. Not much Mellotron, but more than worthy of your purchasing power. Do it.

Official site

Medicine Head  (UK)

Medicine Head, 'One & One is One'

One & One is One  (1973,  36.05)  ***/T

Out on the Street
How Does it Feel
Instant Karma Kid
Another Lay
Blue Suede Shoes - To Train Time
One & One is One
Morning Light
I Know Why
All the Fallen Teenangels

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Mellotron used:

Medicine Head are probably best remembered these days, if at all, for being the first band to release an album called Dark Side of the Moon, a whole year before the, er, 'better known' one. They were an odd little band; a duo of vocalists John Fiddler, who played drums and guitar simultaneously (!) live, and Peter Hope-Evans, who played harmonica and other mouth implements. They were exactly the kind of outfit that appealed to the very much-missed John Peel, whose status as 'champion of the underdog' led him to sign them to his fledgling Dandelion label, named for a pet hamster of the same name. Peel released their first three albums, the final one being the aforementioned, before they moved to Polydor for another three records before splitting in 1977, Fiddler going on to front the rather dull British Lions, including members of the recently-defunct Mott the Hoople.

One & One is One was their fourth album, and first for Polydor. So; whassit sound like? I hear you cry. Well... Try to imagine a pub-rock band playing vaguely folk-rock material, infused with the ramshackle spirit of early rock'n'roll, and you might be getting close. I don't know if it sounds anything like their other albums, but I wouldn't be surprised. I can't say it's a sound that's dated especially well, to be honest, although going by the live track at the end of side one, Blue Suede Shoes - To Train Time, they were a lot of fun in a hot, sweaty club.

Tony Ashton, of just about everyone, not least Ashton, Gardner & Dyke and, briefly, Family, augments the duo here on various keyboards, including a very nice Mellotron strings part on what could be the album's best track, closer All The Fallen Teenangels, although that's your lot, sadly. So; you're unlikely to buy this for its 'Tron content, but students of arcane early-'70s British rock (are there such things?) may wish to hear this to see what people were listening to at the time when they wandered off the musical beaten track. Fiddler is still playing to this day, and still has hair (albeit white) halfway down his back, resurrecting the Medicine Head name every now and again, although I've no idea whether he still plays guitar sat behind a bass drum. We can only hope so.

Official John Fiddler site

Brad Mehldau  (US)

Brad Mehldau, 'Largo'

Largo  (2002,  65.26)  ****/T

When it Rains
You're Vibing Me
Dusty Mcnugget
Dropjes
Paranoid Android
Franklin Avenue
Sabbath
Dear Prudence
Free Willy
Alvarado
Wave/Mother Nature's Son
I Do

Current availability:

Chamberlin used:

Brad Mehldau leads a jazz piano trio, but that's where the similarity to a thousand other players end. Not completely, admittedly, as Mehldau has tackled standards, notably on his early albums in the '90s, before he started writing most of his own repertoire, but his methodology is unusual, as is his habit of covering rock and pop artists in his own style, nor least his version of Soundgarden's ubiquitous Black Hole Sun. Largo is his ninth album in six years, eschewing standards for his own compositions and a few well-known covers, notably Radiohead's Paranoid Android, quickly recognisable, despite its unfamiliar setting. He also tackles two Beatles songs, with an only slightly jazzed-up take on Dear Prudence and a vibraphone-led Mother Nature's Son. Of his own material, Free Willy features an excellent little percussive synth part, while Sabbath is probably the most impressive, mostly because its heavy synth riff sounds slightly like, er, Sabbath...

Jon Brion turns up and does his usual Chamberlin thing, with a high-end string part on Mehldau's segue of Antonio Carlos Jobim's Wave and Mother Nature's Son; at least it's actually audible, which makes a nice change. If this is the face of modern jazz piano, I have no problem with it whatsoever; sadly, most practitioners are far more conservative than this, ghettoising their music for an ageing audience. By no means all of you will like Largo, but it's an impressive piece of work, with once reasonable Chamberlin track.

Official site

Dieter Meier  (Switzerland)  see: Samples

Meiko  (US)

Meiko, 'Meiko'

Meiko  (2008,  40.35)  **/½

Reasons to Love You
How Lucky We Are
Heard it All Before
Boys With Girlfriends
Piano Song
Hiding
Sleep
Said and Done
Walk By
Under My Bed
Hawaii

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Mellotron used:

Meiko (Pronounced 'Meeko', real name unknown) is one of those American singer-songwriter types whose music ends up on several mainstream TV shows, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about her. She self-released Meiko in 2007, although it was remixed and generally messed-about with for reissue the following year, adding one track, Boys With Girlfriends. The album doesn't start off too badly, but deteriorates across its (actually very reasonable) length, until by the last few tracks, the temptation to hit the 'off' button becomes almost unbearable.

Greg Collins plays background Mellotron flutes on Boys With Girlfriends (which is why I'm only quoting the 2008 version), in a 'not sure why they bothered' kind of way, all cello parts being real. This album manages to be exceptionally dull without actually inciting fury, at least in this listener, which is NOT to be taken as any kind of recommendation.

Official site

Mekanik Kommando  (Netherlands)

Mekanik Kommando, 'Shadow of a Rose'

Shadow of a Rose  (1986,  38.33)  ***/½

River of Singers
The Blue Western Sea
Shadow of a Rose
Where the Wolf Sleeps
A Picnic in the Castlegarden
Scars
Run Rintintin Run
Wings of the Dragon
First Snow
First Reprise

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Mellotron used:

Mekanik Kommando (where did they get that name?) were a Dutch avant- outfit in the '80s, when that kind of stuff was even more marginal than it is now (hard to believe, but true). 1986's Shadow of a Rose was their fourth full album, its follow-up, The Castle of Fair Welcome, being quickly reissued under their new name, The Use of Ashes, making this the last exclusively Mekanik Kommando release. It mixes elements of folk, Velvets-inspired 'new wave', psych, even prog in places, not to mention a reasonable helping of weirdness, although it's less 'odd' than their reputation led me to believe.

Mainmen Simon and Peter van Vliet both play the band's own M400, with distant choirs on Wings Of The Dragon, although I can't quite believe it took both of them to play the part. This is available as disc one of the three-LP (yes, vinyl only) The Rosebud Years, credited to both Mekanik Kommando and The Use of Ashes, although I've no idea whether the duo are planning to release it on CD at any point.

See: Use of Ashes

Paul Melançon  (US)

Paul Melançon, 'Camera Obscura'

Camera Obscura  (2002,  45.49)  ***½/T

Overture
King Sham
Sherman
Now Wait for Last Year
Entr'acte
Jeff Lynne
Hey, California
Little Plum
Hitchcock Blonde
Finé
You're So Good to Me

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Paul Melançon is yet another well-kept powerpop secret, his music not 'indie' enough for those for whom badly-played sub-Velvets material appears to be the height of sophistication. 2002's Camera Obscura is his second solo release, supposedly a concept album concerning a fictitious amusement park in California, although it isn't immediately apparent on an initial listen. What is obvious is Melançon's impeccable raft of influences and his way with a tune, top tracks including Overture (guess what: it isn't), King Sham, ELO pastiche Jeff Lynne and the great Hitchcock Blonde, all sitting alongside more unusual efforts such as the jazzy Entr'acte and the '30s-esque Little Plum, not to mention the 'hidden' Beach Boys cover You're So Good To Me.

Melançon and Rob Gal play Mellotron, with skronky strings on King Sham and background ones on Finé, although only the former really convince. The world of powerpop seems to encompass any number of highly talented individuals, all hoping to capture lightning in a bottle and achieve fame through songwriting. Sadly, it would appear that route to stardom is long out of fashion, which shouldn't stop you from buying this fine album. Incidentally, there's some Mellotronic input on Melançon's debut, 2000's Slumberland, too. Review forthcoming when I actually get to hear a copy.

Official site

Mélia  (Québec)  see: Samples

John Mellencamp  (US)

John Mellencamp, 'Mr. Happy Go Lucky'

Mr. Happy Go Lucky  (1996,  47.42)  ***/T

Overture
Jerry
Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)
Just Another Day
This May Not Be the End of the World
Emotional Love
Mr. Bellows
The Full Catastrophe
Circling Around the Moon
Large World Turning
Jackamo Road
Life is Hard

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

It took John Mellencamp a decade to work his way from Johnny Cougar, through John Cougar and John Cougar Mellencamp to arrive at his real name, always claiming that 'Cougar' was landed on him by his manager, the legendary Tony DeFries (David Bowie). After his early-'80s burst of Springsteen-ish hits such as Jack And Diane, Mellencamp rapidly moved in a rootsier direction, particularly on 1985's seminal Scarecrow, unwittingly helping to invent what eventually became known as Americana a decade later. Mr. Happy Go Lucky, his 14th album, is allegedly more 'dance orientated', but simply sounds like a roots-rock album to yours truly, albeit one with a pretty modern sound for the mid-'90s. Good songs all round, but something about it can't compete with the likes of Wilco or, say, Beachwood Sparks.

Despite a serious complement of tape-replay players, there seems to be very little actually on the album. Mellencamp regular Mike Wanchic plays Mellotron, while co-guitarist Andy York plays both Mellotron and Chamberlin, although the only obvious parts are what sounds like 'Tron cellos on Jerry, and definite flutes on Mr. Bellows, which isn't to say there aren't more parts hiding somewhere in the mix. So; Mellencamp fans will love this, Americana fans should give it a go, everyone else should probably not bother. It's actually a pretty reasonable album, although its tape-replay's a bit thin on the ground, to be honest.

Official site


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