D Project are another project from the prolific Stéphane Desbiens (Sense, Red Sand, Ère G, Mélia), this time in a heavy prog vein, unfortunately crossing over into full-blown prog metal in places. Their debut album, 2006's Shimmering Lights, starts excellently - the first two minutes of the title track are superb - but the quality slackens off as it progresses, parts of closer That's Life being the album's nadir. Too much formless prog metal, too many neo-prog influences... Desbiens and The Flower Kings' Tomas Bodin both play credited 'Mellotron', but I think we know how much that's worth, don't we? Anyway, plenty of (presumably) M-Tron, with string and choir parts on most tracks, the samples being particularly evident on End Of The Recess' solo choir intro and halfway through That's Life.
I believe The Project's second album, 2008's The Sagarmatha Dilemma, is a concept effort based on an expedition to the Himalayas a few years earlier. It's more self-consciously 'modern prog' than before, actually managing to be more formless than its predecessor, although given some of the guff that clutters up the prog scene, I've heard an awful lot worse... Desbiens pulled in a few friends to play on the record, not least Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Planet X) on keys and our very own Stu Nicholson (Galahad) singing on one track. Next to no fakeotron this time round, with naught but distant choirs on Even If I Was Wrong, although it's possible there are some string parts hidden away amongst the wash of generic modern keyboards.
Thankfully, the prog metal content is greatly diminished on 2011's Big Face, giving way to a more generic 'modern prog' feel, although those riffing guitars resurface occasionally, notably on Anger Part III and parts of Conspiracy. Another unwelcome visitor is the musical theatre influence on Macondo, although the bulk of the album comes across as no more or less a generic '70s prog/Pink Floyd hybrid. Occasional samplotron, with choirs all over opener They and the title track, although the occasional string parts sound more like generic samples than Mellotron ones. 2014's Making Sense continues the project's career in a similar vein, the excellence of the Rush-like recurring guitar motif in the title track and the nicely angular part in Nothing Here Is Innocent contrasting oddly with the neo-prog horror of Dagger and several examples of unnecessary guitar wankage. Once again, very little samplotron, with choirs (and saxes??) on What Is Real and strings on Nothing Here Is Innocent.
DFA (Duty Free Area) are another recent Italian band, along with the likes of Finisterre and their offshoot, Höstsonaten, who have rejected the irritating 'modernism' of the neo-prog crowd, delving instead into their own country's musical past and taking on board influences from the '70s greats such as Banco and PFM. Although jazzier than the above-named bands, DFA are firmly in the 'non-neo' area and, as such, are worth hearing. Lavori in Corso ('Work in Progress') was their debut release, and the only one to date to feature Alberto Bonomi's Hammond and supposed Mellotron skills. Much of it featured re-recordings of tracks from their 1995 demo, Trip on Metrò, reminding me of various '70s bands, not least Italian jazz-rock greats Area, with hints of Gentle Giant in places. As for that 'Mellotron', the strings in Collage are modern generic samples, while the 'stabbed' chords near the end of Space Age Man sound more Mellotronic than not, although most of Bonomi's limited use is standard 8-choir, including a short burst at the end of the 16-minute La Via.
Norway's Dadafon, at least going by their third album, 2002's Visitor, play a rather Scandinavian form of melancholy pop, which isn't to say every track on the album crawls by at a pace that would make a sloth look lively. It opens with the so-slow-it's-almost-rhythmless After All, but several tracks (My Days Go On, Release Me) roll along at a fair clip, not that it makes them sound much more cheerful. There's a distinct folk influence in places; Babylon features an accordion, while several tracks have at least violin and cello, if not a full string quartet, not that that's exactly folky, but you know what I mean. I strongly suspect that Lars Lien (3rd & the Mortal, many others) has never actually used a real Mellotron, but whatever he's using is splattered all over Bygones, with some quite upfront flutes and strings, although the latter have a really odd tone to them.
A Girl's Best Friend is an 'indie-end-of-powerpop' album; think: The Verve if they were any good. Best tracks? Human Race and brassy closer Main Man, maybe. Matti Ikonen's credited with Mellotron, but all we get is sampled strings on most tracks, particularly obviously fake on Can You Feel It Happening?
Dakota Suite, maybe surprisingly, are British (Leeds, actually), although not only their name, but their sound makes the listener think of wide open prairies and other Americana. Two ex-members of American Music Club guest, another obvious reference point being the very quiet Low, with hints of country, folk and jazz all making themselves known (muted horns and pedal steel), although the end result is pretty uncategorisable. Bruce Kaphan (from AMC) supposedly plays Mellotron, with absolutely nothing audible whatsoever on Let's Be On Our Own. Why bother, chaps? Anyway, overall, an album for quiet times; literally, as it would be entirely inaudible on a long car journey or while doing the vacuuming. Apparently, the US version adds four bonus tracks, but it seems long enough as it is, I'd say, with no obvious Mellotron use.
Australian-born Bree Leslie "Brody Dalle" Pucilowski (or Robinson, or several other surnames, it seems) has worked her way through several bands, including Spinnerette, before releasing her solo debut, 2014's Diploid Love. The album veers between punk (opener Rat Race, Underworld), alt.rock (Don't Mess With Me, Meet The Foetus/Oh The Joy), odd near-electronica (Carry On) and strings-driven kind-of balladry (I Don't Need Your Love), although 'best track' award has to go to closer Parties For Prostitutes, which merges all those influences into one coherent, reasonably original whole. Given that Dalle's married to Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and has guested on several albums, it makes perfect sense that their Alain Johannes (also ex-Spinnerette) guests on samplotron here, with upfront cello and flute parts on Parties For Prostitutes.
Dalton's ridiculously short Riflessioni: Idea d'Infinito is a pretty good little album, although it has a rather formative sound, especially when compared to what PFM were doing at the time. While none of the tracks really stand out, it's a perfectly good listen, with plenty of energy, particularly from flautist Alex Chiesa. Keys man Temistocle Reduzzi is credited with 'piano, organ, mellotron, moog, synth', but there 's not a jot of Mellotron on the album, although at least three tracks feature a string synth quite heavily.
To be honest, this review of Daltonia's first album, 1999's Observator de un Uni-verso (they belatedly followed it with 2007's Fragmentos de un Viaje), will be less than glowing; I'm all for bands in all corners of the world trying their hand at this prog thing, but I'm afraid Daltonia simply aren't that good at it. In fairness, and going by my star rating above, they're not utterly horrendous, but the album's generic and lacking in any memorable songwriting, and many of the tracks go on for a geological epoch or two too long. Their style is loosely 'modern prog', with a heaviness on the guitar front that has crept into the genre over the last couple of decades or so and a dollop of neo-prog stylings. The vocals are spoken, which is the one thing about this record that smacks of any sort of originality, although I suspect that it's more out of necessity than choice.
Cristian Céspedes Bascuñán plays keyboards, but apart from a short part in ¿Es Hora?, it's all digital synths, with some truly horrific sampled choir in places. The one diversion from this is in the aforementioned track, where he plays a sampled 'Tron string part for a minute or so. Do I know it's sampled? Well, Mellotrons are in pretty short supply in South America generally, never mind Chile specifically and, er, they sound like samples. Anyway, this one's more for the rabid prog completist than the casual listener; I'm not sure I'd even recommend it to the genre fetishist.
Fairfield Parlour's Peter Daltrey began making music again in the '90s, although The Journey is his first work with US psychsters Asteroid No. 4. As you'd expect, given both artists' musical propensities, it sits in the 'none more psych' category, highlights including excellent opener Wishing Well, Payment Day, the Byrds-ish Silver Sailors, the lengthy, Eastern-esque Holy... Not a bad track here, frankly. Mike Kiker's 'Mellotron'? Good try, but those pitchbent strings and flutes all over Wishing Well... too smooth. We also get strings on Payment Day, Night and Price Of Progress plus flutes on the title track, but I'm afraid it's all bogus. Great album, though.
Damaged Bug are Thee Oh Sees's John Dwyer's side-project, based around his recent purchase of a Realistic MG-1 synth. The MG-1? A weird, hybrid beast, built by Radio Shack for Moog, house in a Rogue case, but featuring a cheap polyphonic 'organ' setting. It seems Dwyer fell in love with the instrument in his youth, but has only just got around to actually owning one. That explains the cheap-yet-potent, dirty analogue synth sounds to be found all over 2014's Hubba Bubba, at its best on opener Gloves For Garbage, SS Cassidinea, Catastrophobia and Sic Bay Surprise, perhaps. Never mind the synth, though, is the actual material any good? He asks, remembering that he's trying to write an album review. It reminds me of the lowest-budget end of first-time-around synthpop (think: Depeche Mode), but less catchy, with no obvious standout tracks. Dwyer adds Mellotron samples to a few tracks, with murky, massed strings on Rope Burn, Eggs At Night and Hot Swells, plus monophonic flutes on SS Cassidinea, although the album's prime instrumental feature is that lovely, squelchy, burpy MG-1. So it sounds thin in places? Live with it.
The Damnwells are a fairly appalling proposition; imagine an indie outfit who want to be Counting Crows, displaying a similar unswerving dedication towards making the blandest possible indie/Americana/powerpop crossover imaginable. Yes, that good. 2011's No One Listens to the Band Anymore (well, we can but hope) is absolute drivel, heartfelt to a T yet simultaneously as empty as interstellar space; example: closer The Same Way strongly resembles an Oasis discard. It has no best tracks. Peter Adams is credited with Mellotron, but going by the strings on Werewolves and The Experts (although the easier-to-fake flutes on Sophia aren't so bad), all I can say is, "You have to be joking". Smooth as shite, just like the rest of their pre-digested sound. Awful.
Danava are a 'prog metal' band who actually sound (mostly) like themselves, and nothing like all the other bands, who all sound exactly the same anyway, as far as I can tell. UnonoU is their second album, and probably actually fits more in to the 'epic hard rock' non-category than the prog metal one, with a distinct (and merciful) lack of screaming vocals, widdling guitars and, well, widdling everything else. I'm not saying the material's top drawer - it isn't - but it ain't bad, and I suspect, given time, they'll turn into a good little band eventually. Although there are vaguely Mellotron-like strings on several tracks, closing epic One Mind Gone Separate Ways is the only definite use, and it is definite, with a horribly stretched high note at one point. The track itself is quite outrageous, too; how can you rip Zeppelin's Achilles' Last Stand so openly and get away with it?
I can't work out whether Britain's Dandelion Wine (clearly named in honour of the Ray Bradbury novel) are a genuine throwback or an elaborate parody, but I'll go for the former. Although Model Village (their sole release?) appeared in 1996, their chief influence appears to be The Kinks' ...Village Green..., the album covering similar themes of a very British childhood (the cover picture of Bekonscot model village has me coming over all nostalgic), filtered through a rather lightweight and ersatz psychedelic filter, not to mention rather too many '80s indie references for its own good. Vocally, the band are fairly terrible, Shirley Souter aside, although many of the songs almost pass as genuine period pieces, not least Coming On Fine, Dodgem, Castle Walls and Red Is The Rooftops. At the end of the day, however, this is UK psychedelia via The Charlatans and their ilk, rather than directly from source. Although producer/keys man Tim Vass is credited with Mellotron on four tracks, the various flutes and strings on Coming On Fire, Porthmeor Beach, Carry On Believing and Red Is The Rooftops are clearly bogus, to the point where even calling them Mellotron samples leaves me standing on rather thin ice. Infuriatingly, this album's potential excellence is holed beneath the waterline by its unfortunate second-hand feel.
Brian Joseph "Danger Mouse" Burton is best known for his production work and his groundbreaking The Grey Album, a witty mash-up of Jay-Z's Black Album (vocals) and The Beatles' White Album (beats), never officially released, due to a 'cease and desist' order from EMI. All this makes his 2010 collaboration with Sparklehorse, of all people, Dark Night of the Soul, his only generally available full-length release. Almost every track features an outside lyricist-cum-vocalist, including The Flaming Lips, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Suzanna Vega and Vic Chesnutt, most of them writing in their usual style, subsequently mutated by both of the featured artists. Different listeners will, of course, prefer different tracks, but The Pixies' Black Francis' Angel's Harp and Iggy Pop's Pain are probably my personal favourites.
Mr. Mouse allegedly plays Mellotron on Pain, but with absolutely nothing audible, into samples it goes. So; a reasonable, sensibly-lengthed album, although I'm fully aware I completely miss the point by saying I, er, don't especially like Mr Mouse's distorted electronica splattered slightly needlessly over everything here. God, I'm so unhip. Incidentally, electronica or no electronica, this is a fitting eulogy for Vic Chesnutt and Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous, both, sadly, subsequently amongst the departed.
I'm having trouble finding any English-language information on Fiona Daniel, so all I can really tell you is that she's a native of Zurich, Switzerland, is in her mid-twenties and has released two solo albums to date. The first of these, 2010's Drowning, has something of a gothy bent to its folky singer-songwriter feel, better tracks including string-laden opener War, the percussive Moon and Symbol Of Love, although I'm not sure what's going on with the rather out-of-place jazz/blues of Mrs. Lonelyheart. Fiona supposedly plays Mellotron on Is It OK?, although I'll be amazed if the background flute part on the track turns out to be anything other than samples. A decent enough record, then, if all a bit unexciting. Perhaps I should be listening to the lyrics or something.
Come Closer is the kind of insipid singer-songwriter album that gives the loose genre a bad name; think: a really bad Sheryl Crow. John Deaderick's credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin: what, those awful strings on Weight Of September? The flutes on My Imagination are better, but not much.
David Karsten Daniels is a peripatetic American musician who's lived in at least three wildly differing parts of his country, which I can only assume has had an effect on his worldview and songwriting. His melancholy take on, well, life, informs an album of frequent quiet beauty in Sharp Teeth, disturbing cover image and all. It's not as if every track is taken at a funereal pace, mind; American Pastime is jaunty enough, in a slowcore kind of way, while Minnows, although slow, builds to an incredible crescendo that reminds me, for no particular reason, of late-period Cardiacs. There aren't actually any bad tracks here, but Jesus And The Devil stands out, despite its slightly hackneyed lyrics, alongside Minnows. Alex Lazara is credited with Mellotron, but the only place it can obviously be heard is the lengthyish Beasts, with quiet flutes (and possibly choir) laid over Daniels' guitar and voice, fairly obviously sampled.
Dive & Fly is rather dull singer-songwriter stuff, occasionally breaking into a very mainstream kind of pop/rock, with no obvious highlights. John Rogers and Michael Winger are both credited with Mellotron, but the only obvious use is the dodgo flutes on the opening title track.
Danielson are, effectively, Daniel Smith and whoever's around that day, as far as I can work out. Smith had a 'spiritual awakening' (a.k.a. breakdown, followed by Christian conversion?) at college, although his subsequent work has been praised by various non-'worship community' media; in fairness, he doesn't seem to align himself with the CCM crowd, which is A Good Thing. 2010 single Moment Soakers is a twee little indie number, sadly, although its flip, Eagle, is rather better, a stately, Mellotron-led track, more Americana then indie. Mellotron? Lew Rusko gets the credit, with a string part running through most of the track that's most likely sampled.
Daniel "Darc" Rozoum (born 1959) made his name in French new wave/new romantic outfit Taxi Girl in the early '80s, releasing his first solo album in 1987. 2008's Amours Suprêmes is only his fifth, an eclectic, very French record that skips between '60s-esque opener Les Remords, a synthpop feel on L.U.V. and (big surprise) the chanson of the sort-of title track, while the inclusion of two members of Elvis Costello's Attractions on La Seule Fille Sur Terre gives it a little noo wave credibility. Chief composer, arranger and musician Frédéric Lo adds credited Mellotron to one track, with what sounds like a background brass part on La Seule Fille Sur Terre, to which I say: Samples.
The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets are, uniquely, an outfit whose entire raison d'être is to promote the crazed works of H.P. Lovecraft, specifically his Cthulhu Mythos, an aim they achieve through lyrical subject matter, stage costumes and, quite possibly, other means. Perhaps we shouldn't delve too deeply. Hurts Like Hell! was their second cassette album, a low-fi '90s punk effort with extra added Great Old Ones, probably at its best on closer Worship Me Like A God, which, I believe, caused some consternation when originally released. What, in Canada? Despite various references to Mellotron use (from their website: "...Screams From R'lyeh, merely a mild Mellotron musical maelstrom..."), there's bugger-all to be heard, to no-one's great surprise.
Darkside are the duo of Chilean-American composer Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington, whose Psychic veers between several different genres, not least avant-noise, ambient, lush psych/prog and funk, to name but four. Jaar's 'Mellotron', however, adds up to little more than a few seconds of samplotron strings at the beginning of the album and little bursts of choir on Freak, Go Home.
Darling were a self-confessed '90s 'shoegaze' outfit, whose third album, 2000's The Floating World, apparently received little distribution, the band dissolving soon after its release. I wouldn't have said it bore much comparison with the likes of My Bloody Valentine, more a rather ordinary indie outfit who, thankfully, choose to play quiet rock as against twee pop, the band rarely breaking sweat, even on the tracks where the drummer chooses to play. Seth Knappen is the possible keyboard culprit, but the flute parts on several tracks not only aren't Mellotron, I'm not even sure they're meant to be, as generic flute samples don't actually sound an awful lot different to sampled Mellotron... Anyway, I'm not even sure shoegaze fans will go for this, never mind the rest of us.
Darling are, essentially, drummer Hal Darling's solo project, 1996's Darling being his first of (to date) two releases. It's probably best described as 'modern instrumental progressive rock written by a drummer'; highly rhythmic and percussive, mid-'90s synths programmed to within an inch of their digital lives, reminding me variously of Cardiacs and the more angular end of the jazz-rock spectrum. Best tracks? To be brutally honest, most tracks are, at least on an initial listen, pretty indistinguishable from most others; this album's more about the overall feel than individual highlights. Darling plays Mellotron string samples (as against a raft of 'real' ones) on Ether Frolic, or at least, plays generic samples in a Mellotronic way, although I suspect the former. Intriguing in its own way, this isn't exactly an album of which you could say, 'quiet beauty', but then, if mad, angular, heavily programmed instrumental prog's your bag, you'll love it.
Gérard Darmon (born 1948) is a French actor who has slightly diverted into a late-flowering singing career, 2006's Dancing being his second release. As you might expect, it consists largely of French- and English-language jazz-flavoured easy-listening material, impeccably done, should you happen to like that kind of thing, better tracks including the rockabilly-lite Svalutation, the gypsy jazz of Via Con Me and knowingly sleazy closer That's Life. I shall admit to being unconvinced by Nicolas Neidhart's 'Mellotron' strings on Mes Mains: far too smooth for their own good, not to mention what sounds quite like MkII 'moving strings' on opener Mambo Italiano; if so, an absolute sample giveaway. Not really a Planet Mellotron album, is it? Difficult to actually knock, but not one most of you are going to want to hear, methinks.
Da$h (pretty duff use of the old 'non-letter used as letter' trick, sir) is far from your average hip-hop artist, although I'm not entirely sure that makes the download-only Caveman Files any the more listenable. Saying that, you're not going to hear anything like the slowed-down voice on E = T(HC) Interlude on, say, an Eminem album, ditto what sounds like a sample of a prehistoric computer game on Apache. Sean O'Connell (a.k.a. Da$h??) is credited with Mellotron, but the too-even and played-too-quickly strings on Ave., Instrumental and Jar Gang are exceedingly suspect, clinched in the sample stakes by the high choir notes on 18-0. OK, it's a long way from the commercial end of the genre, but Mr. Da$h still makes that irritating noise better known as 'rapping'.
On/off Hawkwind bassist Alan Davey's Eclectic Devils is, loosely, a space-rock album, material such as excellent opener Angel Down, Waste Of Time and the title track proudly flying the flag for the genre. Simon House (Hawks, Bowie, many others) plays violin and alleged Mellotron, Davey chipping in on one track, too, but the only audible use is the choirs on Waste Of Time and strings on the title track, all sampled.
Ethan Daniel Davidson plays a kind of politically-aware alt.country, sometimes spilling over into 'rock'; I suppose this is more Americana than alt.country, really, not that there's a lot of difference. I wasn't expecting much of him, to be honest, but the material on these three albums is surprisingly good (why is it surprising? Why shouldn't he be good?). Ring Them Bells features a largish helping of Dylanesque talking blues, not least Always Losing, Brian Deneke and Talkin' Holy War Blues, although its best track (possibly) is the amusing Gus T.M.D.Q. (Modern Love), sung to the tune of Puff The Magic Dragon. Bob Ebeling's credited with both Mellotron and Chamberlin on closer The Way Winter Comes, but I have no idea why.
Don Quixote de Suburbia is his fourth album, opening with the authentic vinyl crackle of H, working its way through various styles during its rather overlong duration; it's good, but not seventy minutes good. Saying that, the six minutes of Ghosts Of Mississippi is completely essential; a spoken piece over a bluesy backing, recounting the night Davidson (half Jewish) and his Muslim fiancée discovered a racially mixed juke joint in the heart of Klan country. Actually, the more I listen to this, the more I realise that Davidson is a bit of a hidden treasure, particularly lyrically; the new Bob, anyone? Anyway, Jason Charboneau's credited with Mellotron on two tracks, with a high, sustained, er, something? towards the end of H, and nothing obvious on Deirdre Of The Sorrows, most likely sampled.
Free the Ethan Daniel Davidson 5 is less focussed; maybe it's the full band arrangements? It's actually not bad, although I'm not sure what's with the ridiculously long titles; still good lyrically, anyway. Two credited Mellotron tracks, from Davidson, Charles Hughes and Al Sutton. Conquered Beneath A Box-Car Moon has a nice string part followed by really full-on mixed choir (from all three, shockingly), while closer (deep breath) A German Woman, An Irish Junkie, Their Three-Year-Old Daughter, And Me has a string part that fades in gently, then stays throughout the song from Hughes. Shame it's all sampled.
Superdrag's John Davis split the band in the early 2000s, before reforming them a few years later. John Davis was his first solo release, almost unique in its combination of frequently Beach Boys-esque powerpop and Christianity, Davis having 'got God' a few years earlier. I can't even really call this CCM, as that sobriquet not only denotes a slew of god-bothering lyrics, but generally indicates that the music comes a very poor second, which is absolutely not the case here. Highlights include opener I Hear Your Voice, Salvation, Nothing Gets Me Down and Tear Me Apart, although the album could've been improved by the judicious removal of a couple of tracks. Davis is credited with Mellotron, but the crummy strings on The Kind Of Heart and Stained Glass Window really aren't doing it.
I can only assume that line-up problems delayed Dawn's second release a whole seven years; 2014's Darker is, well, darker, I suppose, notably on the twenty-minute 8945, containing samples of various American leaders attempting (and failing) to justify the destruction of Hiroshima. Overall, the album isn't dissimilar to its predecessor, although no-one here's going to win any awards for originality, their style veering between sub-Genesis and an unfortunate '80s neo-feel here and there, chiefly on Out Of Control and closer Endless. Speaking of which, the lead synth that closes the album bears a distinct resemblance to Tony Banks' iconic part on In The Cage; come on, guys... Although the band supplied my review copy, they've sidestepped Mellotronic questioning, raising heavy sample suspicions around these parts. Anyway, we hear it on over half the tracks, with strings all over opener Yesterday's Sorrow, flutes on Cold, chordal strings and choirs on 8945 and more strings on Lost Anger and Endless, sounding more authentic in some places than others.
Steve Dawson (nothing, of course, to do with ex-Saxon bassist Steve "Dobby" Dawson) is a Canadian musician and producer (Kim Beggs, Jim Byrnes), working chiefly in the Americana area. 2008's Waiting for the Lights to Come Up displays the breadth of his musical imagination, veering between the western swing of opener At Arms Length, the bluesy Fire Somewhere, the waltz-time country of Hurricane and, oddly, the occasional Hawaiian influence, notably on Hard To Get Gertie. Dawson plays 'Mellotron', with chordal flutes on Room To Room, but, as with all his productions, sample use is the order of the day.
Dawson's fifth solo album (ignoring collaborations), 2011's Nightshade, is an appealing Americana/blues crossover, stronger tracks including opener Torn And Frayed, the title track and the acoustic We Still Won The War. If the album has a fault, given its length, it becomes a little samey after a while; only a problem, of course, if you're prone to tiring of his sound. Dawson plays samplotron, with what sounds like background strings on Have That Chance.
The Day, a.k.a. Damien "DJ Day" Beebe's wittily-titled Land of 1000 Chances is possibly best decribed as cinematic funk or somesuch, the kind of melting-pot approach you'd expect of someone from his background. It's good at what it does... I think. Kat Ouano plays samplotron flutes on Mama Shelter and Quaalude.
Howie Day's second album, Stop All the World Now, is something of a 'sleeper', apparently, taking off two years after release, with tracks ending up being used on various TV shows, all of which impresses me not one jot. Yeah, it's very professional, yeah, I'm sure it's terribly heartfelt, but it all sounds a bit too much like modern U2 for comfort, while his vocal style makes me want to chew the arm of my sofa, which isn't a good thing. Oddly enough, the best track is also the last, Come Lay Down, when Day actually starts to sound like he really means it, but it's too little, too late for this listener. Les Hall plays most of the album's keyboards, including allegedMellotron, but it's not so easy to tell where, precisely. The murky solo cellos at the end of You & A Promise? Sampled anyway.
Spencer Day apparently counts as 'jazz', although I'd say 'easy listening' would be closer to the truth. You know, the kind of smooth-as-silk stuff your parents (grandparents?) listened to. All far too close to Sinatra for my tastes. Co-producer Ben Yonas' 'Mellotron' flutes on Joe are, of course, sampled.
The Day We Transposed is, largely, the kind of limp indie that we have to hope will gradually fade away, although, ten years later, it shows no particular signs of doing so. Matthew Morgan's credited with Mellotron on Everything Covered In Dust, but the flutes (not to mention the uncredited ones on opener Building By The Street) fail to convince.
Mark de Clive-Lowe is a kiwi musician/producer operating in the soul/dance area, also throwing elements of jazz, electronica and the catch-all 'world music' genre into the mix (pun intended). Renegades is something like his twelfth album, although what counts as 'his' release or otherwise is probably rather fluid. It... seems to do what it does efficiently, but I can't honestly say it moved me any more than watching a paving slab. Not really Planet Mellotron music, frankly... Mike Feingold is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, which, given that neither is audible in any way, makes me think this is early M4000D use; you know, the digital sample player featuring both instruments' logos, while being neither.
To my surprise, Rob de Nijs has been around practically forever, born in 1942 and starting his career in the early '60s. As a result, it's hard to say just how many albums he's released over the decades; suffice to say, 2010's Eindelijk Vrij is a perfectly acceptable collection of countryish rock'n'roll with a little folk thrown in for good measure. No, not that exciting, but given that it emanates from a man approaching his 70th birthday, it ain't too shabby. Daniël Lohues is credited with Mellotron on Schemering, but while the (easily-sampleable) flutes pass muster, the strings are clearly the 'moving strings' from the left-hand manual of a MkII, which is pretty much a guarantee of sample use these days, as the M-Tron features loads of otherwise obscure sounds. To be honest, few outside De Nijs' fanbase are going to take any notice of this, anyway; good at what it does, but no Mellotron.
Going by the evidence presented here, Vittorio de Scalzi plays a perfectly pleasant, vaguely Beatleesque, Italian-language folk-pop that sometimes turns the guitars up a little. Samplotron 'Strawberry Fields' flutes on Isabella Eggleston.
Dead Guitars' Airplanes is your classic post-rock-end-of-indie album, displaying their utter lack of ambition: "I know, let's sound just like everyone else!" Seriously, I thought this was by an American band until I checked. Its overlong material (average song length: over six minutes) occasionally breaks through to somewhere vaguely interesting, but so rarely that it barely counts. Ralf Aussem and Guido Lucas are both credited with Mellotron, although I have no idea why it took two of them to play the sampled strings on Feels Alright.
Dead Meadow would probably like people to think of them as 'guitar-driven psych', although 'slightly psychedelic indie' might be closer to the mark. OK, there are tracks on their fifth album, 2008's Old Growth, with a psychedelic edge, but more often than not, they just limp along in an aimless kind of way (The Great Deceiver is typical). It's not all bad, but it's mostly rather average, unfortunately. Rob Campanella's Mellotron strings open 'Till Kingdom Come, reiterating throughout the song, although with an attack like that, they have to be sampled. In fairness, they don't actually put 'Mellotron' in the credits, so we'll let 'em off. This time. Overall, then, really not that exciting, although probably OK to have playing in the background. Damning with faint praise?
The Dead Texan's eponymous (and to date, only) album falls somewhere in between 'slowcore' and 'ambient', I'd say, i.e. very slow, essentially rhythmless soundscapes of piano, guitar and sundry keyboards with the very occasional vocal. This is a very relaxing album, but as with so much 'ambient' stuff, listen too closely and you'll realise it has very little real content, which is almost certainly the point, of course. Christina Vantzos apparently plays Mellotron on Aegina Airlines and When I See Scissors, I Cannot Help But Think Of You, but all I can hear is the faintest of faint flutes on the latter, or maybe they've just decided to credit some random modern keyboard that produces string sounds as a 'Mellotron'. Who knows?. Maybe the accompanying DVD clears things up, or maybe it doesn't, since I don't have access to a copy. Anyway, a good, if very quiet album.
Deadman are Texan couple Steven and Sherilyn Collins, who make suitably haunted folk/Americana, nominally country, but about as far from Nashville glitz or 'stadium country' (aren't they now one and the same?) as you can get. I believe 2005's Deadman is their second album, mostly consisting of quiet, ghostly songs (When The Music's Not Forgotten, Werewolves, almost all the rest), although Sad Ole' Geronimo ups the ante with a full band arrangement and squalls of feedback guitar. Sherilyn plays piano, Hammond, Omnichord, alleged Mellotron and 'analog keys', although the only place the 'Mellotron' even might be is the distant strings on Sad Ole' Geronimo.
Deal's Gone Bad play a kind of soul/reggae crossover, occasionally slipping into ska territory on the more upbeat tracks. Is it any good? I've absolutely no idea; it bored me, but it's not my area. Although Eddie Dixon is credited with banjo and Mellotron on California And 26th and Tell Yuh, his murky string samples actually turn up on closer Walkaway.
I've been directed towards The Dears in the past as supposed Mellotron users, but 2008's Missiles is the first of their albums to actually credit it. Like the one other album of theirs I've had the privilege to hear, 2003's No Cities Left, it consists largely of a bombastic kind of 'orchestral indie', succeeding in merging the band's symphonic ambitions with the one-dimensional song structures with which the indie scene is infested. As a result, it's dull as ditchwater if you don't actually think that The Velvets define popular music as we know it. Several overlong tracks on an overlong album don't help, either. Mainman Murray Lightburn and Patrick Krief are credited with Mellotron, but the string swells on Dream Job and occasional flute line on Berlin Hearts, amongst other parts, sound sampled to my ears, an impression exacerbated by what sounds like decidedly uncredited Chamberlin solo male voice on the title track.
Wikipedia describes Death Grips as 'experimental hip hop'. Um... no shit. Split into two sub-releases, Niggas on the Moon (tracks 1-8) and Jenny Death (9-18), their fourth album, 2015's The Powers That B, is one of the furthest things from 'easy listening' I've ever heard, bar none. Yes, it's good to exist a long way from the mainstream, but the bulk of this lengthy release is so extreme that it put me on edge to the point of fervently wishing to switch it off. Yet I stuck it out. Well done, me. Eighty minutes of extreme cut-up, random distortion and deranged rhythm 'patterns', all with a couple of guys rapping over the top doth not for an easy listen make. Julian Imsdahl is credited with 'Mellotron', but... Well, do you really expect to hear a real anything on an album this 'out there'? I can hear samples on at least three tracks: stabby flutes on Black Quarterback, choppy strings on Big Dipper and flutes on Why A Bitch Gotta Lie, but any of them could be something else, while the samplotron could've been used elsewhere. I strongly suspect you're not going to be interested enough to find out for yourselves, anyway.
Upon noting that Renée "Charlie Dée" van Dongen performed a Joni Mitchell tribute tour and album a couple of years ago, I had vague hopes that she might not be awful, but no, her third album, 2010's Husbands & Wives, is your typical modern singer-songwriter/pop travesty. Comparisons? Have It All sounds like Coldplay on an even worse day than usual (i.e. U2's The Joshua Tree without the good bits), while the enigmatically-titled I Love You hints at Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, albeit not in a good way. Reyn Ouwehand (Stephan Eicher, Kane) allegedy plays Mellotron on several tracks, with flutes on Heavenly, Mouse In My Kitchen and Fragile Heart, but nothing obvious on Since He's Gone, Weep For Me or Leaves, unless it's the distant cellos on the first-named, although it's all too smoothly-played to be genuine. Overall, then, a rather insipid little effort, although I'm sure a certain demographic (weepy young women. Sorry) will go for this in a big way.
As you might expect from their name, The Deep Dark Woods are a Canadian Americana outfit, concentrating on the slow, mournful, 'trad' end of the genre. Their third album, 2009's Winter Hours, is every bit as dark and uncompromising as its title suggests, songs like The Gallows and The Sun Never Shines typifying their miserablist approach. Steve Dawson allegedly plays Mellotron on the album, but given that it's entirely inaudible in a fairly transparent mix, I'd love to know where.
Two years on and The Place I Left Behind is actually an improvement on its predecessor, although, as with so many albums of its type, the music often seems to act as a mere framework on which to hang the lyrics. Top tracks include the mournful The Place I Left Behind, The Banks Of The Leopold Canal and Never Prove False, but little here will disappoint the dedicated Americana fan. Geoff Hilhorst plays alleged Mellotron this time round, with strings on Mary's Gone and flutes on The Banks Of The Leopold Canal and Dear John, which, while nice to hear, probably wouldn't be especially missed were they absent.
2013's Jubilee is rather ironically-named, as you'd be hard-pushed to find a less jubilant album; I'm not saying that this is a problem, merely commenting... Once again, an hour or so of this stuff becomes a little wearing, although better tracks include Neil Young-esque opener Miles And Miles, Pacing The Room, It's Been A Long Time and ten-minute organ-driven closer The Same Thing, while Hillhorst plays a wandering samplotron flute line on It's Been A Long Time.
Deep Purple survived Ritchie Blackmore's departure with equanimity, replacing him with the outrageously talented Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas). 2017's Infinite is his sixth album in twenty-odd years with the band, far better than it has any right to be, frankly, given their collective age. Highlights include opener Time For Bedlam and Birds Of Prey, while The Surprising comes across like prime Kansas in its middle section (that'll be Morse's influence, then). Not so sure about the rock'n'roll of Hip Boots or the 439th recorded version of Roadhouse Blues, but the best Purple albums always displayed a variety of styles. Surprisingly (sorry), Don Airey plays Mellotron string samples on The Surprising, although the string sounds on a couple of other tracks don't appear to be Mellotronic. A decent effort, then, all things considered; perhaps I should investigate the rest of Purple's later career?
This may sound weirdly anachronistic now, but when the world outside Sheffield first heard of Def Leppard, in mid-1979, they were regarded as being at the Thin Lizzy/Rush end of the NWoBHM, although, in hindsight, their future as the British Bon Jovi was hinted at almost from the off. I bought a copy of the second pressing of their self-released EP and have never quite forgiven myself for passing up a copy of the first pressing (red label, picture sleeve, lyric sheet) for a whole six quid at a record fair in 1980, now worth somewhere over three hundred. In mitigation, it was a lot of money back then... Dork. The EP was fantastic, the flip, the seven-minute amusingly-named The Overture (to what, precisely?) being their reasonably successful attempt at 'doing a Rush', with two short, Lizzy/UFO-style rockers on the 'A', Ride Into The Sun and the iconic (though not obviously ironic) Getcha Rocks Off. They were snapped up by Phonogram, their debut (1980's On Through the Night, dreadful sleeve and all) appearing with unseemly haste, featuring re-recordings of two of the EP's tracks, a couple more Rush-alikes and snappier fare such as Wasted and Hello America. Oh what a giveaway...
The following year's still passable High'n'Dry moved further towards commercial hard rock territory, then they broke through with '83's Pyromania, which set them well and truly on the path to hugeness, only matched by their glossy horribleness. Their rise to stardom was temporarily halted in 1984 after drummer Rick Allen's terrible car accident, the band watching in anguish from the sidelines as the aforementioned Bon Jovi caught up with them. Oh, fickle public... Of course, what goes up, must come down, as their early hero Philip Lynott once wrote and the mid-'90s saw their appeal becoming more selective, all the more galling for the band, as Bon Jovi's didn't, almost certainly largely due to ol' JBJ himself having kept his looks into early middle age, unlike most of the Leppards. Saying that, the Leps have had a subsequent partial career resurgence, but they shan't be playing Wembley Stadium again (if they ever did), I fear...
Er, that went on a bit, didn't it? Anyway, 2006 brought the classic 'we've run out of ideas' album, a covers set, Yeah! Unsurprisingly, it concentrates on the band members' younger days, tackling The Kinks' Waterloo Sunset passably well, plus reasonable takes on Blondie's cover of The Nerves' Hanging On The Telephone, ELO's splendid 10538 Overture, Roxy Music's Street Life, Free's Little Bit Of Love, The Faces' Stay With Me and, of course, Thin Lizzy, with Don't Believe A Word. We get a bevy of glam-era hits, too, to no-one's surprise: opener T. Rex's 20th Century Boy, David Essex's underrated Rock On, The Sweet's Hell Raiser (complete with The Darkness' resident buffoon Justin Hawkins on camp backing vocals), Bowie's Drive-In Saturday and Mott's deathless The Golden Age Of Rock'n'Roll. As with many similar sets, how can it fail? OK, the versions may not have the caché of the originals, but as long as the band in question don't completely balls them up (although they often do, don't they, Duran Duran?), the end result should be at the very least listenable, particularly to fans of the era covered.
Ronan McHugh plays Mellotron on two tracks on the main release, with a string line under the guitar on Drive-In Saturday and a more upfront (and real?) octave string part on Little Bit Of Love, making a first (and last?) for the band. There's a multitude of bonus tracks on various versions, including a whole eight-track disc attached to the Japanese version, with a Mellotron-fuelled take on Bowie's Space Oddity, amongst Queen (a crap version of Dear Friends), Tom Petty and The Stooges. I'm not sure of the point of albums like this, as anyone who's a fan of the era will own most of the originals, anyway and are younger Leppard fans interested? Are there any younger Leppard fans? Anyway, not a bad covers set, as they go, but not much Mellotron.
Lana Del Rey followed up her debut with the dark, self-loathing, largely Dan Auerbach-produced Ultraviolence (yeah, yeah, Clockwork Orange reference...), less awful contents including Money Power Glory and Old Money, but that's somewhat clutching at straws, frankly. Loads of credited Mellotron, mostly from Leon Michaels, with nothing obvious on opener Cruel World, faint chordal flutes and a string line on the title track, not-very-Mellotronic strings and cellos on Shades Of Cool (although no real strings are credited), flutes (and strings?) on Brooklyn Baby, flutes and muted choirs on Sad Girl (from Michaels and Kenny Vaughan), strings (?) on Fucked My Way Up To The Top and quite overt strings on The Other Woman. As for the bonus tracks on various editions, Rick Nowels' Mellotron and Chamberlin probably provide some kind of background strings wash on the radio mix of West Coast, Nikolaj Torp Larsen adds distant choirs to Black Beauty and nothing obvious from Michaels on Florida Kilos.
The phrase 'baroque pop' has been used to describe 2015's Honeymoon, which doesn't seem too far from the mark. Generally speaking, this rather dirgelike album is a better proposition than its predecessors, although High By The Beach is as irritating as her earlier work. Is that a recommendation? Not really, no. Nowels is credited with Mellotron on six tracks and Chamberlin on a further two, while Del Rey herself adds Mellotron to Freak. Nothing obvious on (real) strings-laden opener Honeymoon itself, distant strings on God Knows I Tried, pitchbent strings (?) on Freak, string swells on Art Deco, high strings on Religion, an upfront Chamby string line on Salvatore, background strings on 24, a melodic Chamby string line on Swan Song and nothing obvious on her somewhat haunted take on The Animals' Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.
2017's Lust for Life (yes, Lana, we've all heard Iggy Pop) is even drearier than its predecessors, almost every track dragging its heels reluctantly out of your speakers. There are no highlights, a condition exacerbated by its seventy-plus-minute running time. Most of its sixteen (!) tracks have Mellotron credited, with Sean Ono Lennon on Tomorrow Never Came (ho ho), Tim Larcombe on Cherry, Dean Reid on Coachella, Zac Rae on closer Get Free and Rick Nowels on all other highlighted tracks above. And how much is actually audible? Definite flutes on Coachella and Beautiful People Beautiful Problems, complete with radical pitchbend on the former, but as for the other ten credited tracks... Amusingly one of the most 'Mellotronic' sounds on the album is on 13 Beaches, a rare uncredited track. I suspect samples almost everywhere, if not everywhere.
Although Dutch, country artist Ilse DeLange (de Lange) relocated to the States early in her career; believe it or not, there's been a strong country influence on Dutch music for decades. Remember Pussycat? No? Count yourself lucky. Anyway, by 2003's Clean Up, DeLange's music had slowly shifted to a kind of Americana/AOR hybrid, harmless yet somewhat uninspired, better tracks including the bluesy Machine People and the title track. Tony Harrell is credited with Hammond and/or Chamberlin on four tracks, although the sampled Chamby is only apparent on Heavenless, with a background string part that adds little to the song.
Vincent Delerm's fifth album, 2008's Quinze Chansons (der, Fifteen Songs) is precisely what it says on the tin; fifteen gentle, French-language songs that somehow manage never to tip over into 'cheesy'. Maybe it's something to do with the French chanson tradition? Or the way French lyrics sound better on this kind of stuff than English? Or simply because I can't understand the bulk of them? Jean-Philippe Verdin plays supposed Mellotron flutes on opener Tous Les Acteurs S'Appellent Terence, although given that the sound (or one very like it) crops up again on Je Pense à Toi, with a credit for 'programming', I've dumped this into 'samples'. Anyway, I doubt if you'll be very interested in this, but the very fact that it wasn't a painful listen vaguely endears it to me, although I doubt if I'll ever listen to it again.
deLillos are apparently one of the 'four greats' of Norwegian pop, although I've heard of neither them nor any of the other three. After listening to something like their sixteenth album, 2012's Vi Er på Vei, Vi Kanke Snu, I can see why; largely consisting of whiny indie, its least bad tracks are probably the less contemporary-sounding Tiden Tar and Tapetser Meg I Gangen Før Du Går, featuring some nice Neil Young-esque guitar work, but that's rather clutching at straws, frankly. >Credited Mellotron on three tracks, with background strings, obviously sampled, on opener Nationaltheatret and Tapetser Meg I Gangen Før Du Går, plus what I presume are meant to be Mellotron cellos on Hei, Dumme Flue, but very clearly aren't. Do you really need me to tell you 'don't bother'?
One from Nick Hewitt
Before you take one step further, read the first paragraph of the review of The Prayer of Jabez, THEN come back here.
Well, this is a surprise - CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) that sounds nothing like CCM! If I wasn't so indifferent to all things Christian, I'd say, "More, please". Seriously, as CCM goes, this is quite acceptable to ordinary punters, provided, of course, you ignore the lyrics. There again, the reason why it's not 'pure' CCM is that they have been copying styles!
From what I can gather from the poor liner notes on the CD, Delirious? (yes, the question mark IS part of the band name) are British, and have been on the go since at least 1994, when they called themselves The Cutting Edge Band, but I suspect that there is a Canadian input to them somewhere. They have made, up to the point of the release of Deeper, 7 CDs of uncertain quantity & quality. Even having heard nothing of these 7 CDs, and knowing even less about the band, I suspect that Deeper, a double CD, is a compilation, as they re-mixed or re-recorded 4 of their previous songs, add a new song and complete the set with 20 oldies. All of their songs are self-penned, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Martin Smith [Ed: not THAT one!] contributing over 80% of the material. The CD Touch, catalogued in Andy's Album List, probably came out immediately after Deeper. I'll review it IF (and only if) my wife buys it - I won't! I've got better things to do with my money! [Ed: See below]
It's difficult to categorise how Delirious? fits into the "Rock Spectrum" (if that's possible), as it is quite varied by any standards. Not Forgotten sounds very U2-ish, but then dives off into a typically full-on, choir-like, 'happy-clappy' "We rejoice in you, Lord" (so common of CCM) before returning to the U2 style. There's even a pseudo-bluegrass track (Happy Song), and a few other tracks are clearly imitating the style of other 'rock' bands (The Doobie Brothers, Stone Roses and Sisters of Mercy can certainly be heard). The actual musicianship is quite good - they know their stuff, and the song writing is acceptable (lyrics excepted, of course). Ditch the Christian aspect, and they could make it big. (Why not? Harry Webb got away with it for 40-odd years, AND he got a bleedin' gong along the way!) However, one point off their credibility chart for the use of a didgeridoo on Did You Feel The Mountains? I know Rolf Harris did an obscene cover of Led Zep's Stairway To Heaven, but this is out of order!
Mellotron is there, though it's as rare as Satan at a revival meeting. No specific credit for the 'Tron is given, but one Tim Jupp is credited as keyboard player. There is a possibility that Chuck Zwicky plays the 'Tron, as, according to Andy (the good Mr. Thompson to you), Chuck plays 'Tron on Touch (see above) [Having said that, Mr. Zwicky does get a credit - for some of the insert photography!] I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever has got a single chord of something indefinable in the middle of the song. I've no idea what it is, but it's there - no question. Follow appears to have low pitched flutes following the song vocal melody, then is reprised a little later. Kiss Your Feet also has something at the beginning of the track, but then gets buried by a combination of a String Synth AND a string orchestra.
Overall, the music is quite varied, covering a range of styles. This won't appeal to some of you, but I don't have a problem with that. Musicianship is excellent, though a lot of work in the production must have helped. Best track is Jesus' Blood on Disc 2 - the music is VERY non-CCM. The musicians know their instruments and what to do with them. DO NOT, however, buy this CD for 'Tron. There isn't enough to make that worthwhile.
Since Nick submitted the above review, I've obtained a copy of Delirious?' follow-up, 2002's Touch, and it seems to be pretty similar to its (compilation?) predecessor, being a mix of various 'modern rock' styles. It's actually largely inoffensive; even the lyrical content isn't too oppressive, which is something you can't say too often about CCM albums, and closer Stealing Time creates a genuine atmosphere over the course of its near-eight minute length. Co-producer Chuck Zwicky allegedly plays Mellotron on three tracks, with rather un-Mellotronic strings on Love Is The Compass and fairly Mellotronic flutes on Rollercoaster, although nothing obvious on Waiting For The Summer. Samples across the board on both albums.
Italy's Delirium were one of a host of relatively short-lived '70s progressive bands from that country, releasing three albums in their original 'lifetime'. Like many others, they're back for a second (or in some cases, third) go, in a hugely different scene to the one in which they first appeared, where the idea of a 'career' is effectively redundant, progressive festivals and the Internet keeping bands alive on a project basis. Their reformation album, 2009's Il Nome del Vento, is an on/off excellent work, its best tracks (including Ogni Storia and Dopo Il Vento) mildly sabotaged by some slightly half-baked material, not least the fusion attempt on closer L'Aurora Boreale. And what exactly, chaps, is with Verso Il Naufragio? Halfway through, they suddenly launch into George Martin's Theme One, known to most of us from Van der Graaf's version, of course, for no readily apparent reason.
Although original keys man Ettore Vigo is credited with Mellotron, are we really expected to believe that we're hearing one in the polyphonic flutes on L'Acquario Delle Stelle, amongst others? Even if the credit's only referring to the Mellotronic strings on several tracks (particularly evident on Profeta Senza Profezie), they simply don't have that ring of authenticity about them, I'm afraid. Surprised? Nope. Had Delirium edited their material more efficiently, this could've gained an extra half star; as it is, it's still a fine album, with minor reservations. No real Mellotron, though.
Given that this is an English-language website, Foivos Delivorias (Φoíβoς Δεληβoριάς) presents us with something of a problem, as 2010's O Aoratos Anthrwpos (O Aóρατoς Άvθρωπoς) is clearly aimed at the Greek and only the Greek market, with no transliterations; I had to scrabble around the interweb to find anything at all. The album delivers a weird combination of Greek folk-influenced pop and electronica that may well (or may not?) go down well in Delivorias' home country, but is unlikely to make inroads anywhere else. Although George Katsanos is credited with Mellotron on Mηδέv Eισερχóμεvα, the only thing that even might be vaguely Mellotronic is the long-attack sound near the beginning of the track, which struggles to even sound like a sample. Who knows what they were actually using? Frankly, you're probably not going to want to hear it for yourself, anyway.
Deluge Grander (presumably a pun on 'delusions of grandeur') have risen from the ashes of the Maryland-based Cerebus Effect, presumably with the intention of moving away from the fusion area. I have to say that they've achieved this with aplomb, producing, in August in the Urals, a full-on progressive album, although like so many modern efforts, a little editing may have been a good move. They wear their influences on their collective sleeves, with Genesis coming high on the list, although I definitely spotted some Happy the Man in places, particularly on opener Inaugural Bash. They're at their best when playing instrumentally, which is where (say) the exceedingly long Inaugural Bash wins out over the still quite long title track. Some nice (real?) Clavinet work on A Squirrel livens the piece up, although vocals are definitely not the band's strong suit. Keyboard/guitar (and sometime vocal) man Dan Britton has told me that although they use Mellotron samples liberally, they're taken from an actual machine, rather than being third-party efforts from the M-Tron or whatever. They mostly sound very good, I have to say, with the usual strings/choirs/flutes being smeared over much of the album's length - this would probably be a TTTT effort, were it applicable.
Three years on and they're at it again, with The Form of the Good. Have they raised the bar? I think so, yes. The vocals are almost gone (hurrah!) and a Yes influence seems to have crept in from somewhere, but given some of the crud they could have been listening to... The album's intensity ratings are up all round, too, with some truly cataclysmic climaxes to be heard; makes me quite glad I'm listening to this on small speakers... Not all that much fakeotron this time round, maybe surprisingly; possibly a TT½, were it relevant. All in all, chaps, an excellent little prog album with only one completely monster track and even that doesn't outstay its welcome. Splendid.
2014's Heliotians has a slightly more American sound to it; fair enough, given that they're American... In what way? A touch of jazz, in the way that British bands so rarely did, while Megan Wheatley's vocals could never be mistaken for a European. Its three tracks all differ in style, from Ulterior's fairly typical symphonic rock, through the shorter Saruned's prog balladry to the 'side long' Reverse Solarity's aforementioned slight jazziness. Samplotronically speaking, Britton keeps it fairly minimal, with strings and occasional choirs inserted here and there, rarely swamping the mix. In direct contrast, 2017's Oceanarium is somewhat overlong, as in 'a few seconds short of maximum CD length' and could really have done with a serious edit. Saying that, material such as The Blunt Sun And The Hardened Moon and Marooned And Torn Asunder are well worth the price of entry, but there's... just too much of it. Quite a bit of samplotron strings and choir this time, heard on most tracks.
Accomplished jazz pianist Lyubomir Denev was on a fusion kick in 1980, sounding not dissimilar to other East European ensembles, albeit with more melody. Although we get some ripping Clav work on Ritual Dance, like so many similar releases, there's not only no Mellotron to be heard, but not even anything faintly resembling one.
Californian singer-songwriter Brett Dennen has one of the most infuriatingly whiny voices I've heard in a while, although Sinatra couldn't save the horrible, mainstream alt.pop of Loverboy. This is the kind of music that gets used (frequently, by the looks of it) on crummy mainstream TV programmes, the reggae-lite-lite backing on several tracks coming across as faintly offensive. Least awful track? vaguely folky/jazzy closer Walk Away, Watch Me Burn, but that shouldn't be taken as any kind of recommendation. Andreas Olsson is credited with Mellotron. Where? Where? Can't hear a fucking thing. Hateful. I am weakened. Avoid.
Andy Denton was vocalist with Christian AOR also-rans Ruscha (told you they were also-rans), then with breakaway faction Legend/Legend Seven, so we're not exactly talking 'Wembley headliners' here, unless it's the Wembley Dog & Duck (which may possibly be rhyming slang). For some reason, this gave Denton the idea that he could have a solo career, releasing the gospelly-inclined Midnight of Hope in 2000. So, let's see: Christian (I prefer 'Xian', 'cos it sounds like the aliens in a particularly schlocky SF series), AOR, ego. Not a promising mixture, eh? Correct. The album's horrible, veering between soft AOR (On These Raging Streets, As Far As My Heart Can See), vaguely funky AOR (At The Cross, Forgiveness) and the expected slushy ballads (Fifty Years From Now, Remember Me, nearly everything else). Lyrically, it's exactly what you'd expect, preaching to the converted. Oh, and me, but it's wasting its time there. The title track's especially obnoxious on this front, but they're all pretty grim.
I was hoping that the album's Mellotron sighting would prove to be erroneous, so I wouldn't have to write this guff, but there's a repeating flute part on Plastic Paradise which initially sounds like a 'Tron, but seems far too, I dunno, 'steady' to be the real thing, not to mentioned its uncredited status (most Mellotron users these days are keen to advertise the fact). All in all, then, a very nasty record with a little fake Mellotron. Please don't.
The Derailers are a trad-country outfit from Texas (where else?), whose fourth studio album, 2001's Here Come the Derailers, harks back to the genre's honky-tonk roots in places, although a good chunk of the album consists of typical country ballads, thankfully without the almost-obligatory layer of Nashville schmaltz. While largely inoffensive, this is also largely forgettable, although I'm sure fans of the genre will lap it up. Sandy Williams is credited with Mellotron, but I have absolutely no idea where, the only strings on the album sounding most un-Mellotronlike. So; generic country, no obvious tape-replay.
Only ever available on cassette, this is a pleasant instrumental album, sitting somewhere in between prog-lite and new age, Desmond playing hammered dulcimer on most tracks. I've no idea what the tape inlay might say, but Discogs credits 'Mellotron [polyphonic keyboards]', although all we get is a cheap-sounding polysynth (Roland?) on three tracks.
Vancouver-based Destroyer sound like they should be a metal band, but aren't; think: indie/singer-songwriter crossover and you might be nearer the mark. 2008's Trouble in Dreams is actually their eighth album (they formed back in '95) and despite the occasional song where it all comes together, the bulk of the record sounds, at least to my ears, like a bit of a mish-mash of influences, Neil Young sitting next to Guided By Voices, or any one of a hundred other indie darlings. In case there was any doubt over the matter, Ted Bois is credited specifically with M-Tron; the Mellotron string sounds are actually pretty good, although I doubt if they'd hold up too well if used solo. Anyway, they're used on Foam Hands, My Favorite Year and another three or four tracks, to reasonable effect, although I can't really say they improve the material.
Devadas (a person, not a band) combines several genres on the somewhat overlong Ocean: Songs for Amma, including folk, indie, post-rock, psychedelia and bhajan (traditional Indian devotional music, CD Baby tells me), the end result being something of a curate's egg, at its best on World Is An Ocean, I Travel Silent and Majnun. Devadas and Tony Jarvis are both credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on Homecoming and closer You Can Be Love If You Want To sound little like a real machine.
Over twenty years after Mink DeVille's Spanish Stroll, Willy DeVille is long-haired and unrecognisable, but Horse of a Different Color's mix of R&B, soul, rock, Cajun and about a dozen other styles have a ring of familiarity about them, along with his unique voice. This is one of those albums that I can't see myself playing too often, but which screams "I'm brilliant!" from every pore (assuming records had pores. Well, you know...). It's almost a primer in American music of the last fifty years, from the French accordion-driven Gypsy Deck Of Hearts to the folk hollers Goin' Over The Hill and 18 Hammers to the rock/soul of (Don't Want You) Hanging Around My Door. Producer Jim Dickinson (Big Star) is credited with Mellotron on DeVille's take on Needles And Pins, but the only thing it even might be is a vague, high, background string part that could be almost anything, really. Samples, then.
Between the Concrete & Clouds and Bulldozer are indie-end-of-powerpop kind of albums, at their best on the former on the slowburn 11-17 and I Used to Be Someone and on the latter on You Brushed Her Breath Aside and the energetic She Can See Me. Brian Bonz plays samplotron strings on The City Has Left You Alone on the former, while Rob Schnapf adds a background flute line to opener Now: Navigate! and a couple of string chords to the end of For Eugene on the latter.
The Occidental Taurus (riffing on The Accidental Tourist, of course) sits somewhere in between folk, indie and Americana, probably at its best on two of its slowest tracks, How The West Was Won and Even The Longest Night. Andy Burton's 'Mellotron' finally appears towards the end of lengthy closer A Call For Caroline, with some not-especially-Mellotronic choirs.
Painfully bland Italian-language pop/rock with no outstanding features. Plenty of real strings, no Mellotron. Shortest review ever?
Maurizio di Tollo has played with Höstsonaten, La Maschera di Cera, Finisterre, The Watch and many other current Italian progressive outfits. His first solo release, L'Uomo Trasparente, sounds like an amalgam of several of his old bands, modern influences rubbing shoulders with run-of-the-mill bombastic prog moves, all power-chording guitar and (fake?) Taurus pedals, although, somehow, it comes across as a cohesive whole. He credits himself with Mellotron, but not only is it extremely unlikely he used a real machine, but it's hard to tell where he even used samples. The background strings on La Curva Dei Pitosfori? Choirs on closer I Topi Saranno I Vincitori?