Going by her second album, 2015's Create Your Own Mythology, Kristin Diable sits firmly in the country rock camp, albeit a form which allows for a little Tex-Mex guitar to spice things up. It's a decent record, without being jaw-dropping, better tracks including opener I'll Make Time For You (always open with a good'un), Bird On A Wire's superior balladry and the driving Make The Most, though nothing here offends. Mike Webb's 'Mellotron' credit's a bit on the shaky side, I'm afraid; the flutes and strings on Deepest Blue are too even and played too quickly for verisimilitude, ditto the strings on Make The Most, amongst others, so into samples it goes. Anyway, a good album of its type, but, going by the evidence here, Ms. Diable has yet to write anything truly outstanding.
Brighton's Diagonal produced one of 2008's finer albums in the shape of their eponymous debut, making me wonder where they'd gone. Well, it seems that lineup changes delayed things, 2012's The Second Mechanism being the eventual end result. This is the sound of a band coming to musical maturity, learning to shape their influences into a cohesive whole, actually sounding like a real band, as against a collection of musicians who happened to find themselves playing together (very well, as it happens; this is not a criticism). While pinpointing any 'top tracks' can really only be a job for the individual, this particular listener, perhaps surprisingly, found the album's only vocal track, Hulks (which reminds me of MkII King Crimson, as against, of course, King Crimson's MkII) to be its finest ten minutes or so.
Nicholas Richards bravely admits to playing M-Tron through some guitar pedals and an amp (thanks, Nick), with background strings on These Yellow Sands and possible flutes elsewhere, but his samplotron use is kept to a minimum, to the point where I'm not entirely sure why they even bothered. However, this is a superb album that should appeal to anyone who ever liked faintly jazzy, faintly Canterbury-esque early '70s progressive rock, although it refuses to remain locked within the constrictions that description implies. Excellent, chaps; please could we have the follow-up a little sooner next time?
A rather generic indie album, marred by its excess length; forty minutes of this stuff (indeed, most stuff) is quite enough in one hit, thank you very much. Ira Ferguson theoretically plays Mellotron, but the muted string line on Hypocrisy Free and chordal choirs on closer Star Child really aren't.
Alela Diane's About Farewell is a beautiful, yet rather one-paced gentle singer-songwriter album, highlights including the title track, Lost Land and closer Rose & Thorn. John Askew's polyphonic 'Mellotron' flutes on Rose & Thorn most likely aren't, however.
Comedian Andy Dick (his real name, fortuitously) was originally a protégé of Ben Stiller, going on to host his own show and piss audiences off across America with his gross-out style. We should probably be thankful that 2002's Andy Dick & the Bitches of the Century is his sole album to date, although, in fairness, some of it is actually funny, as long as you switch your PC detector off before listening. Musically, it defaults to a kind of mainstream rock template, shifting between acoustic opener Love Ninja (The Stalker Song), metal-lite on Hole Burns and the piano balladry of Cock & Balls, apart from closer Little Brown Ring (Remix), which is as crappily dance-orientated as you might expect, but at least pushes the total length (fnar fnar) to over half an hour. Lyrically (or the nearest this ever gets to 'lyrics'), it's as crass as the titles suggest, more amusing efforts including stalker anthem Love Ninja, all-night drug session tale Hole Burns and rehab epic 30 Days 30 Nights. Kevin Augunas and Russ Irwin both play supposed Chamberlin, with flute and string parts on Striped Sunlight, orchestrally-inclined strings on Little Brown Ring, with more strings on Stephen Hawking and Secret Garden, although I suspect samples. So; one for your sniggering teenaged nephew who splutters every time he hears someone say 'sphincter', or any other real-life Beavis or Butthead you may happen to know.
Bruce Dickinson is rock's very own renaissance man; ex-public schoolboy, singer, songwriter, musician, DJ, fencer, pilot, novelist (but for Chrissake don't buy his awful and deservedly long out of print sub-sub-sub-Tom Sharpe novels, assuming you can find them). The ridiculous Iron Maiden's vocalist from 1981 to '93, then '99 to the present, Dickinson has also had a reasonably successful solo career since 1990, beginning with that year's Tattooed Millionaire. He hooked up with guitarist/producer Roy Z of Tribe of Gypsies for its follow-up, '94's Balls to Picasso, who returned for Dickinson's fourth album 'proper', '97's Accident of Birth. I suppose I was hoping for something a little more 'epic' than the album has turned out to be; it's largely generic metal, rather reminding one (totally unsurprisingly) of... Iron Maiden, although Bruce's voice obviously aids the comparison. In fairness, Roy Z and another ex-Iron, Adrian Smith's guitar work is more contemporary than Maiden have ever managed, with several tracks featuring downtunings and almost-thrashy rhythms, though never enough to alienate Dickinson's core audience. It's difficult to pick out any highlights per se, as the album struggles to drag itself out of the bog-standard metal trap, although I'm sure many listeners will heartily disagree.
As far as Z's 'Mellotron' work is concerned, I suspect the strings on Taking The Queen and Man Of Sorrows are the credited violin and cello, although both tracks also feature rather muted choirs, while Omega's strings must be Mellotronic due to nothing else being credited. The only really overt Mellotron part is the strings on Arc Of Space, though, where they come right to the front of the mix, alongside the real ones, but I'm quite sure it's all sampled. So; if you like Maiden, you stand a fair chance of liking Accident of Birth; in fact, it does little to offend metal fans in general, which is also the album's downfall, in that it also does little to appeal to anyone outside the genre. Then again, is it trying to? I somewhat doubt it, so I suppose it could be considered a success on that level.
Tina Dickow Danielsen is known as Tina Dico in all 'territories' (aargh! Music-biz speak!) other than her home, Denmark, presumably to aid dim foreigners in their pronunciation. Her fifth album, 2008's A Beginning, a Detour, an Open Ending, is split into three fairly obviously named parts, although there are no obvious musical divisions. Most of the lengthy album's material consists of acoustic singer-songwriter fare, frequently tinged with folky touches, better tracks including the vocal-and-clean-electric-guitar In Love, Some Other Day and closer An Open Ending. Dennis Ahlgren plays samplotron, with cellos on All I See, although nothing else stands out as being Mellotronically-derived. Count to Ten descends into Insipid Ballad Hell, sad to say, possibly at its least dull on Sacre Coeur. Dennis Ahlgren is credited with Mellotron, but the various strings on Open Wide and possible pitchbent cellos on Sacre Coeur really don't cut the mustard.
Vaguely interesting fact about Dido Armstrong: she's the sister of Rollo Armstrong (what was it with names in that family?) of Faithless, 'discovered' after singing backing vocals on their Sunday 8pm opus. Almost certainly entirely uninteresting fact about Dido Armstrong: she went to school with my sister and that 'mockney' accent she affects in interviews is entirely fake; on the scale of 'common' to 'dead posh', she's an awful lot nearer the latter than the former. So there you go. I can't pretend I'm over-keen on this sort of stuff, to be brutally honest. I've got (overwhelmingly female) friends who love it to bits, but to my ears No Angel is simply thirty-somethings dinner party music; this generation's Carly Simon, if you like. Many of the songs explore the theme of lost love, which probably explains much of the album's popularity, so that'll be dinner parties and bedsitters then. The oh-so-modern programming will date it horribly within a few years, but then if Ms. Armstrong plays her cards right (and has a helping hand from Lady Luck), she'll have moved into different areas by then and can re-record the best material acoustically, or something. Dido's voice is reasonably strong and unusually high in the mix (good old pop production techniques...), with little reverb, giving an intimate feel that I'm sure has helped her rise to prominence (twelve million and counting, isn't it?). I am being slightly unfair, though. Or am I? My Lover's Gone has a genuinely desolate feel to it, until it's spoiled by more of that bloody programmed percussion. Why? Just leave the damn' songs alone, for God's sake...
No Angel's produced by a whole slew of different people, including Rick Nowels, who plays 'Chamberline' on two tracks. Notoriously difficult to spot, especially in a dense mix; I can definitely hear strings on Hunter, but I'm less sure whether the cellos and flutes on All You Want are Chamberlin or not. I'm quite sure it's all sampled, anyway. Third semi-interesting fact about this album: I see a couple of tracks are co-written with a certain 'P. Gabriel'. I've now been assured that this is actually Belgian Pascal Gabriel and nothing to do with the esteemed Peter (thanks, Kallie), which just goes to prove that I should do my research more thoroughly.
Rather than a band name, (Johnny) Diesel is actually Mark Lizotte's nom-de-plume, under which he records soulful, rootsy faux-Americana records like these. Solid State Rhyme's a decent enough record of its type, but do we really need anything of its type? Lizotte is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, but the string parts on All Come Together and Bad Seed sound terribly fake, not least due to the pitchbends towards the end of the latter. The eMu Vintage Keys module appeared the previous year, so it's entirely possible. Coathanger Antennae, from over a decade later, is a little less bombastic, but no more interesting, with a samplotron flute solo on Let You In, one of the album's better tracks.
Although born in Munich, Stefan Diestelmann is known as an East German (as was) musician, his first release being 1978's Folk Blues Band, consisting almost entirely of, er, folk/blues material. Well, at least you can't accuse him of contravening advertising standards... Stylistically, this is pretty authentic for a group of white Germans, with some great acoustic playing from Diestelmann himself, particularly on the lengthy Flamenco (which does exactly what it says on the tin) and Blues Für Memphis Slim. Wolfgang Fiedler (from the Klaus Lenz Big Band, themselves guilty of fake Mellotron creditry) allegedly plays Mellotron, but the strings on Flamenco and closer Stormy Monday Blues are quite clearly string synth.
Ani DiFranco's ¿Which Side Are You on? is full of righteous anger against the patriarchy; ironic that, a few years after its release, America should take such a sharp turn to the (far) right, with the ever-present threat of an attendant suppression of women's rights. Its songs veer between the expected singer-songwriter stylings and a more old-fashioned approach, complete with brass band in places. DiFranco's bassist, Todd Sickafoose, is credited with Mellotron, but I'm not fully convinced by the chordal flutes on Unworry and the title track. 2017's Binary is, musically, relatively similar, down to the brass. DiFranco's credited with Mellotron on Pacifist's Lament and Even More, but the strings on the tracks sound little like the real thing.
Marié Digby is yet another US singer-songwriter whose drippy, anodyne work is perfect for crummy TV show soundtracks, at least, going by her debut, 2008's Unfold. Although she already had a contract, Digby's public profile shot through the roof after she posted videos of herself playing covers on YouTube, notably Rihanna's Umbrella, the album's closing track. Am I the only person in the Western world that doesn't know this song? Probably. Anyway, I've really tried to find something positive to say about this album and the best I can come up with is 'the first few seconds are fairly harmless'. Dismal. Mike Daly plays alleged Chamberlin, with pseudo-orchestral strings on Miss Invisible, but I'm sure it's sampled.
Dennis Diken is drummer with The Smithereens, finally releasing his first solo album, Late Music, in 2009, almost thirty years after the formation of his band. Unsurprisingly, it's a concoction of various powerpop sub-styles, shifting between the mainstream powerpop of opener The Sun's Gonna Shine In The Morning and I've Been Away, through the Association-like Standing In That Line and Fall Into Your Arms to the jazzy, acoustic Lost Bird. In fact, the album's diversity is also its downfall; it's not a bad record, but it covers too much ground to have any real cohesion, although I suspect it consists of songs written by Diken over a number of years (a typical solo album approach), so maybe continuity was never going to be its strongest suit. Diken and Dave Amels both play samplotron, though not so's you'd notice, to be honest. An online interview mentions something used at the end of The Bad Merry-Go-Round; yup, there is something... The vibes? Trombones? Very hard to tell.
NYC-based Don DiLego's The Lonestar Hitchhiker, Vol. 1 is, essentially, an Americana album, albeit one with influences thrown in from electronica, 'old time' music, jazz... Pretty eclectic stuff, actually, at its best on Lonestar Hitchhiker itself, the powerpopish Nicotine Prom Queen and Ohio Fight Song. DiLego's 'Mellotron' is no more than distant choirs on Lonestar Hitchhiker and equally distant flutes on closer Goodnight, Aliens, both sampled. Sadly, Photographs of 1971, from five years later, is nowhere near as appealing, DiLego frequently slipping into that awful falsetto style utilised by so many singer-songwriters of the 2000s. Repeat offenders: Falling Into Space, Somebody Leave The Lights On. The album's also far too long for its content, while DiLego's background 'Mellotron' strings on Automatic and possibly elsewhere are, again, sampled.
It's difficult to tell just how many albums Seattle's Diminished Men have released, but 2009's Shadow Instrumentals (given its sound, clearly an Anglophile Shadows reference) is possibly their fourth, including some cassette-only efforts. Stylistically, it sits in the grey area somewhere between Ventures-style surf, the aforementioned Shadows (and Joe Meek productions) and Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks, full of heavily-reverbed twangy guitars and sound effects, not least the sample-and-hold synth on Sutures In. Steve Moore (of Earth) plays supposed Mellotron, with choirs on GG Narrows and Perro Chino, sounding, on the former, like he's using my trick of shifting a chord up and down an octave, as the male voices stay the same, giving the impression of an indefinite sustain. However, it's vastly more likely to be sampled. Anyway, one for Dick Dale and Clint Eastwood fans everywhere, showing any other pretenders to the surf crown how it should be done.
Claudia DiNatale's debut album, The Little Things, is crammed with terrible, wishy-washy singer-songwriter stuff, occasionally 'featuring' crummy modern (for 2005) production tricks, notably on I Don't Wanna Cry. There are no best tracks. Rob Arthur's credited with Mellotron. What, the strings on Love Wins Every Time?
Dinosaur Jr used a Mellotron a couple of times in the early '90s, after their supposed heyday, so I wasn't entirely surprised to read that there might be one on 1997's Hand it Over, despite the lack of any specific credit. The album seems to be Dinosaur Jr-by-numbers; perfectly competent Neil Young/Hüsker Dü-influenced tuneful post-hardcore, but despite the occasional use of unusual instrumentation (notably the solo trumpet on I'm Insane), somehow it never really catches fire, existing in a twilight world of J Mascis' own creation, where the normal rules of physics don't apply, and entropy as a concept no longer exists. Best track? Probably the lengthy, jammed-out Alone, where Mascis finally perfects his Like A Hurricane guitar tone, although his playing (intentionally?) lacks Neil's total wig-out quality.
Potential 'Mellotron' on a couple of tracks, with a repeating flute line in Never Bought It and very Mellotronic string chords in Can't We Move This, but the giveaway is in the closing seconds of the former, where the sustained flute note over the fade lasts too long, and you can actually hear the loop point. Ouch. Overall, though, a passable album which probably sounds better to non-fans than to fans, who will always compare it unfavourably with their early work.
It's difficult to know how to describe Dionysos' sixth album, La Mécanique du Cœur: its lyrical concept is based on a novel written by vocalist Mathias Malzieu, The Boy With The Cuckoo-Clock Heart, about, well, a boy given a clockwork heart and how well it does, or doesn't serve him. Musically, the album is full of mechanical-devices-as-instruments, not least a cuckoo-clock on more than one track, set to a very European kind of almost pre-rock'n'roll aesthetic which has gone down startlingly well in their home country, despite several tracks being sung in English, gaining the band a gold record. I'm not sure if a Mellotron's actually credited, but the flutes on La Berçeuse Hip Hop Du Docteur Madeleine are decidedly sampled, although, as with most sampled Mellotron flute, sounding rather better than copies of the other common sounds.
2009's Eats Music!!! (or Dionysos Eats Music!!!) is not so much a career retrospective as a mopping-up operation, collecting together demos (including tracks from a pre-first album cassette), live tracks, remixes and outtakes into a two hour-plus concoction of Dionysosness that will have their fans in raptures, or at least the ones who delve any deeper than their current hit (ouch). The rest of us will sit there, slightly bemused; an hour-long concept album about a boy with a clockwork heart is one thing, but an uncohesive trawl through their past is another one entirely. It's perfectly good, but a bit tiresome if you're not especially into their thing. The only reason this is here is a track hidden away on disc two, Neige (Mellotron Version), a slightly Morricone-esque number with a 'Mellotron' flute line running through it, recorded in 2004.
Los Arboles is your bog-standard, run-of-the-mill, dullsville indie with no outstanding features. Jimmy Cabez de Vaca's 'Mellotron' is merely sampled strings all over opener All Said & Done, with a run on You'll Get Yours.
You'll have to excuse me if I've mentioned this before, but I read an online article a while back from an acknowledged prog expert, who deconstructed the whole 'neo-prog' argument, concluding that there was actually no such thing. In which case, how is it that I can spot it the moment I hear it? Of course it exists, in this case, in the form of Québec's Direction, whose fourth album, 2008's Est, pretty much defines the sub-genre. It's all here: the cheesy, simplistic major-key chord sequences, the widdly synth lines, straight out of The Cinema Show, the overwrought vocals, the all-round lack of any real musical complexity... Yup, neo-prog. The forty-seven-minute album actually seems a lot longer and not in a good way, most tracks dragging due to their lack of variation, which is another way of saying that they're boring. Least bad track? Closer Dernière Issue, although its classically neo- repeat-till-you-puke ending riff (do I detect a faint hint of countrymen Morse Code here?) goes on a little too long even for the genre's usual standards.
Vocalist/bassist/practically everything elsist Serge Tremblay plays obvious Mellotron samples on most tracks, more notable usage including the upfront string melody on Capsule and the major string and choir parts on Dernière Issue. Neo- fans (and I know you're out there) will go ga-ga over this, but I'd imagine the rest of the progressive world will react much as I have, i.e. boredom-bordering-irritation. Come on guys, drop your slavish Marillion fandom (there, I just used the 'M' word) and start listening to and being influenced by something more original.
On 2004's Strange Generation, The Dirty Americans have caught the essence of rock'n'roll in the manner of capturing lightning in a bottle, making most of the current crop of young pretenders look rather silly in the process. It's not all great, but material of the quality of the title track, Give It Up and the sort-of AC/DC-esque Light-Headed make this the kind of straight-down-the-line '70s-influenced rock album to put on when you've grown tired of more fashionable chin-strokers or, er, any kind of intricacy. The album does outstay its welcome by a couple of tracks, but that's picking holes in an enjoyable if undemanding record. Producer Paul Ebersold is credited with Chamberlin, but I'll be buggered if I can hear where, so into 'samples' it goes.
Dirty Beaches is essentially Canadian Alex Zhang Hungtai's solo project, of the 'multiple annual releases' variety. 2010's Decadent smothers what little genuine musical content it contains under layers of noise; I'm not saying this is a bad thing, in a crapulent, old-guy 'it ain't proper music' kind of way, merely describing the album. Crummy Mellotron string samples on Folding Landscapes. 2012's Tarlabaşi 7" could be described as 'experimental indie', I suppose; a sparse, bass sax-driven dirge, probably aimed at the hipster market, I suspect, while the flip is a remarkably authentic '50s-sounding recording of Slim Harpo's I'm A King Bee, which seems slightly pointless, but there you go. Hungtai supposedly plays both Mellotron and operates a Chamberlin Rhythmate drum machine on the 'A', but I can't hear the former, in an extremely sparse mix, while the latter is more likely than not sampled. Cue: aggrieved e-mail saying it's genuine... One for avant- fans who don't actually want anything too avant-, then.
Discipline's debut album, Push & Profit, isn't bad, but seems unable to maintain any sort of stylistic consistency, although that could easily be construed as a recommendation, I suppose. Excellent tracks like Carmilla or Systems are let down by more workmanlike efforts such as Faces Of The Petty, while the album frequently sounds more like a multi-artist compilation than a cohesive piece of work. For all that, it's a decent enough listen, just not really a patch on its follow-up, Unfolded Like Staircase. If I hadn't been passed along an e-mail that band mainman Matthew Parmenter wrote to a correspondent of mine, this would've been reviewed along with their second album, probably with a 'real or sample?' comment for the 'Mellotron' flutes and strings on Carmilla. However, Parmenter says it's not even samples, just a generic string sample, played like a Mellotron and on close inspection, it really doesn't sound like the Real Deal at all, particularly the flutes. However, not a bad album, just not as good as its successor.
After two solo albums and a lot of dead space, Parmenter finally brings us the third Discipline album, To Shatter All Accord, a mere fourteen years after its predecessor. In case anyone might've been under the impression that he wasn't able to write this stuff any more, it's excellent, if just possibly not quite as jaw-dropping as before, that ol' Van der Graaf influence rearing its not unattractive head again on the hypnotic Dead City. Best tracks? It's not that kind of album, to be honest; listen to it in one sitting, then listen to it again. Criticisms? I'm really not sure about the occasional, slightly unwelcome touches of blues piano and guitar, which actually slightly subtract from the overall vibe, but that's about it. Mellotron? Parmenter adds occasional strings on When The Walls Are Down, with major parts in Dead City, When She Dreams She Dreams In Color and lengthy closer Rogue. Am I convinced by the 'Mellotron' here? I am not, which is why it's in samples. Anyway, another fine album from the Pen Of Parmenter.
Divæ (or Divae) were a one-shot mid-'90s Italian progressive outfit who, although clearly influenced by various '70s bands, had trouble converting their influences into a whole album's-worth of strong material, sometimes slipping into duff neo-progisms. Given that Determinazione is over an hour long, they could easily have edited somewhat, ending up with a stronger record in the process, although the six-part, 12-minute closer Il Ritorno Del Gigante Gentile (the return of Gentle Giant...) is an unexpected treat, being probably the best thing here, even if it sounds nothing like Kerry and the boys. Opener E Con Il Mattino Torneranno Gli Eroi cheekily quotes from Grieg's Peer Gynt and most tracks have at least something to recommend them, but overall, the album falls into an awkward '*** or ***½?' category. Enzo DiFrancesco was one of two keyboard players, not to mention the drummer, who chipped in as well, but DiFrancesco's the only one credited with Mellotron, although he didn't play it that much, with strings on Regina Delle Fate and Frammenti, clearly sampled; the weak-as-water choirs that permeate the album sound like generic samples. Oh, if you're fussed, Lino Vairetti from Osanna and Gianni Leone from Il Balletto di Bronzo guest.
Straightforward Americana from the Dixie Bee-Liners on Susanville, at its best on Truck Stop Baby, the banjo-driven Albion Road and Brake Lights. I'm really not sure why John Jorgenson's credited with Mellotron: the strings on Brake Lights?
Gabe Dixon is a pianist/vocalist; think: Ben Folds without the humour, or an updated version of various Californian '70s singer-songwriters and you won't be a million miles off. 2008's The Gabe Dixon Band is only his third studio album in nearly a decade, much of it consisting of a particularly insipid form of piano-driven pop (worst offenders: opener Disappear, Further The Sky), although it picks up slightly as the album progresses, more acceptable tracks including Find My Way and the almost-raucous Till You're Gone. Both Dixon and Neal Capellino are credited with Mellotron, but all the strings sound real (there are several strings players on the album), so it's anyone's guess as to where it might be, assuming it's even real. I suppose Ben Folds fans might go for this, but I honestly can't recommend it to what I fondly imagine are typical Planet Mellotron readers.
Djam Karet (US) see:
Shakespearean Fish was Melanie Doane's second album; I think the one word that describes it to a T is: smooth. That doesn't have to be an insult, but it is in this case. This really is bloody dullsville; she's at the exceedingly sappy end of the singer-songwriter spectrum, with one of those voices that could so easily tip over into Shania bloody Twain territory, not to mention her anodyne, gutless songs. Bedsitter/wetter stuff, I think. Well, that was a bit vicious, wasn't it? Sorry, but this sort of stuff really gets on my nerves, due to its complete adoption of one arm of the mainstream, although at least we're spared the 'sampled beats' you'll find on her more recent releases. Gack. Anyway, samplotron on Saltwater from producer Rob Friedman, with some volume-pedalled chords that stop before they get anywhere and a background flute part later in the song.
Allen Dobb couldn't be more different to countrywoman Melanie Doane (above) if he tried; rough, authentic acoustic blues-rock, with a voice that sounds like it's been there, come back, then done the round trip several more times for good measure. Bottomland was his second solo album after working in the duo Dobb and Dumela in the early '90s and while I'm not about to call it my New Favourite Album, it's perfectly listenable, with songs that will doubtless grow on me should I ever find the time to give them the chance. Two tracks of supposed tape-replay, with Dave Kershaw playing (unusually) quiet 'Mellotron' vibes on Like An Angel, and both Chamberlin and Mellotron sounds on closer Bellingham Rain, one covering the cello, one the strings, though I've no idea which is which.
Dave Dobbyn is one of a select group of 'kiwi heroes', musicians who have found themselves inserted into the country's musical DNA (think: Neil Finn). 1998's The Islander is a decent enough mainstream-end-of-singer-songwriter album, at its best on Blindman's Bend and closer Hallelujah Song. Mellotron? A quote from a prehistoric website, regarding Keep A Light On: "Then I took it to Ian Morris's place, ostensibly to get some string parts on it...some Mellotron strings that we put through a Leslie speaker. It came out like a Farfisa." Indeed it does, presumably played by Morris. Real? I don't think so. Hopetown removes most of Dobbyn's folkier edge, sadly, being more of a dullsville mainstream pop/rock effort, at its best on the folky Kingdom Come. Definitely Morris on 'Mellotron' this time, on A Bridge On Fire, with... Mellotron sax? Distant strings? Not actually a Mellotron, anyway. Finally, Available Light continues in a similar vein, with no especial standout tracks. Two supposed Mellotron appearances, from Steve Gallagher, with distant flutes? Cellos? on Let That River Go and background strings on Keeping The Flame.
Pitchfork's review of Dr. Dog's sixth album, Shame, Shame, always a reliable indicator that I won't like something, finally gets to the point and compares it to The Flaming Lips. '60s influences? Check. 'Transcendent' crescendo rock? Check. Massed vocal harmonies? Check. This is actually at its best on a handful of the iTunes version bonus tracks, notably the acoustic It and the Queenalike Oh Man, the regular release being the kind of album that almost does something good, then... doesn't. Scott McMicken, Zach Miller and Juston Stens are all credited with Mellotron, although all I can spot is a pitchbent something (random woodwind?) on opener Stranger and a clearly sequenced, unfeasibly-speedy repeating flute part on Where'd All The Time Go? Samples, then.
Simon "Dr Rubberfunk" Ward's 2010 release, Hot Stone, is his fourth full album under that name, a soul/funk/jazz/hip-hop crossover effort, guests including Roachford and Sitzka, with some decent instrumental work, not least Ben Castle's sax and bass clarinet contributions. Ward is credited with Mellotron on Theme From Hot Stone, although the only thing on the track it even might be is an otherwise uncredited vibes part towards the end. Samples, then.
Dog Named David sit at the pop end of Americana, without tipping over into full-blown Nashville, thankfully, which isn't to say that World Traveler's especially interesting; it isn't. Paul Mills is credited etc. etc., but the strings on Runaway Train tell another tale.
Remember Pete(r) Doherty? No? Good. Obnoxious shitehawk, professional smackhead, deeply unpleasant person (implicated in an 'unsolved' murder. Allegedly) and all-round chancer who, for some unknown reason, briefly collected a very large following, chiefly of indie kids mesmerised by his 'poetry'. To my surprise (who said 'disappointment'?), his first solo effort, Grace/Wastelands, isn't that bad, its on/off tiresome indie moves ameliorated by injections of folk, blues and jazz, amongst other genres, although not enough to contain any actual 'best tracks' or anything. Stephen Street is credited with Mellotron strings on New Love Grows On Trees, but, while not actually obvious samples, nor do they have that ring of authenticity about them. Anyway, please don't even think about buying this; the last thing Doherty needs is encouragement.
Lou Doillon is Jane Birkin's daughter, so no great surprise that she's gone into music, although her main career is as an actor; easy when papa's a director, eh? Anyway, 2012's Places is a passable English-language singer-songwriter effort, with a discernible French influence on most tracks. Is it any good? Good at what it does, as far as I can tell, but it probably isn't going to excite you any more than it did me. Alexis Anérilles plays distant samplotron strings on Make A Sound and Questions And Answers. Hmmm. File under 'adult pop'.
I'm struggling to find out anything much about Portugal's Doismileoito; I think their eponymous 2009 album is their debut, but only because I can't find any references to anything earlier. It's... well, it sounds like an unholy cross between modern U2 and Rage Against the Machine in an indie setting, to my ears. Unappealing? Yup. I'd be lying if I said it had a 'best track', but piano ballad SO05/SO06 might just be the worst. André Aires plays samplotron on opener O Caminho Que Fazias Ganhou Silvas E A Tua Gaveta Pó, with an undistinguished flute part that I couldn't honestly say especially enhances the song.
Don Dokken's long-running outfit are often thought of as typical '80s 'hair metal', although their roots lie at the beginning of that decade; I'm sure they 'glammed up' when everyone else did, but they remain a hard rock band, rather than heavy metal. Saying that, they're not especially interesting hard rock, although by 1999's post-post-reformation effort, Erase the Slate, they were ripping riffs and vocal harmonies from King's X with the best of 'em, sadly to little effect. It's not that it's a bad album, just a rather uninspired one, in a genre that ran out of steam a long time ago. Ex-Winger (stop laughing) guitarist Reb Beach, filling in for the departed George Lynch, does a decent enough job, but it's all a bit sub-Eddie Van Halen, as are practically all modern metal players. Bassist Jeff Pilson is credited with Mellotron, as he is on 2003's Wicked Underground, with Lynch as Lynch/Pilson. All we get here, though, is a so-so string part on In Your Honor that seems to sustain for too long in places, so that'll be 'samples'.
The Doleful Lions are a powerpop outfit in the grand tradition, albeit with an indie tinge to some of their material. Their debut, 1998's Motel Swim, is a very likeable album, if somewhat in thrall to their forebears, which is a nice way of saying they're a little unoriginal, but if the songs are good, does it matter that much? Top tracks include opener (as you'd expect) The Sound Of Cologne, Hang Around In Your Head and All Winter Long, although there are no duffers, which is quite a result in itself. Jeff Hart plays alleged Chamberlin, with strings on One Revolution (Around The World), mixed with synth, by the sound of it. Sampled, I'd say.
Dolores? An Idaho-based trio, it seems. To Die No More is, essentially, synthesized noise as music, with occasional reflective piano work to even things up a little. Ryan De La Rosa may very well be credited with Mellotron, but there's precisely fuck-all to be heard.
Alex Domschot's one-track single is, apparently, a Björk cover, tackled in a fusion power-trio style, including legendary bassist Percy Jones. Trouble is, the end result sounds like every other guitar-led fusion track I've ever heard; technically über-efficient and reasonably melodic, in its own way, but somewhat lacking in individuality. Adrian Harpham's 'Mellotron'? Vague background strings.
Cristina Donà has an Afterhours connection, which isn't exactly a recommendation and a Posies one, which is. Going by her fifth album, 2007's La Quinta Stagione, her own material veers between balladic stuff and 'alt.rock', seemingly neither better nor worse than that from the English-speaking world. Take that as you will; it's harmless enough, but makes little impression on the jaded listener (i.e. me). Lorenzo Corti plays samplotron flutes on opener Settembre, to pleasant enough effect. Its most interesting aspect? The Photoshopped sleeve image of Donà with an unfeasibly long neck. Yup, this is that good.
Manir Donaghue is a British guitarist of my acquaintance, one of the uncountable number of excellent musicians unknown to the general public. He'll probably hate me for saying so, but he and everyone else involved with his debut album, Reflections are or have been intimately associated with the UK Genesis tribute scene: Manir has managed ReGenesis and played in the short-lived Strictly Banks, amongst other projects, his friend and mine, Mark Rae, played in In the Cage (and plays in the non-Genesis related Sanctuary Rig) and flautist Tony Patterson plays with various artists (ReGenesis, Nick Magnus, John Hackett). Unsurprisingly, Donaghue's style (acoustic and electric) is occasionally redolent of Steve Hackett, without copying him slavishly like, hmmm, many others I could name. The material is pastoral and very English; think: acoustic Hackett with more variety and you won't be a million miles off, although the album holds a surprise or two in store, not least the 'drumless powerful bit' in September (For Karen) and the synths in sometimes my head feels like this, and yes, it's meant to be in all lower case.
Rae plays Mellotron samples, with strings on Frozen, Mayfly Over Pendle Water (Part Two) and Flame, with flutes on Angelus, distinct from Patterson's real one; although he used my M400 on Sanctuary Rig's Khnosti, I'd imagine the recording schedule here prevented a repeat performance, sadly. The samples are good, but... Overall, then, a fine album that should appeal to both guitarists and those looking for the kind of gentle, pastoral album suitable for the end of a busy day, if that isn't too clichéd. Recommended, and available from Manir's website.
Manir followed up three years later with Selene, not stylistically dissimilar to its predecessor. Dense, suitably-titled opener Behemoth kicks proceedings off with a jolt, almost unnerving in its intensity, although the album's other rockist piece, Moonlight Chase (part two of the 'side-long' title track) is a little more conventional. The rest of the material covers various acoustic styles, from the folky through to the classical (and did I spot some Genesis 12-string in places?), like a less noodly Ant Phillips, perhaps. Of the album's three M-Tron-enhanced tracks, it looks like Manir sequences two of them (the strings on Behemoth and Ascension), while Rae returns to add St.Paul's choir to No Memorial. On a personal note, Manir dedicates the album to the memory of Doug Boucher, bassist with Strictly Banks in the late '90s, who met an untimely end at the hands of a taser-happy policeman in his native US. "Harmless, tasers..." I did a double-take at Doug's picture on the reverse of the CD booklet; he's playing an unusual burgundy Rickenbacker bass. Mine. I'd almost forgotten lending him my bass and Taurus pedals for the gig, although seeing his picture brought back what a gentleman he was. R.I.P, Doug.
Jazz saxophonist Lou Donaldson's (born 1926, still alive at the time of writing) catchphrase, according to his website, is, 'no fusion, no confusion', which aptly sums up the soul/jazz heard on his 37th (?) album, 1976's A Different Scene, at its best on the funky High Wire and closer Keep Your Woman. Ricky West is credited with Mellotron, by which I can only imagine the creative writers of the album's musicans' credits mean the string synth on Night And Day, Temptation, Here's Lovin' At You and others.
San Diegans The Donkeys' fourth album, 2014's Ride the Black Wave, sits in a kind-of California indie/psych/Americana crossover area, possibly typified by the woozy Scissor Me Cigs. Better material includes the brief I ♥ Alabama and the even briefer Imperial Beach, although the album's let down (in my humble opinion, naturally) by overlong opener Sunny Daze and the twisted country of Brown Eyed Lady. Although uncredited, I'd imagine it's keys man Anthony Lukens adding Mellotron sounds to a handful of tracks, with skronky strings on Nothing and upfront flutes on Ride The Black Wave and Blues In The Afternoon, proven to be samples by the ten seconds-plus held flute chord at the end of the last-named. I know there's an audience for this stuff, but the inclusion of the word 'indie' in the above description damns this album to a low star rating.
Donovan (Leitch)'s first two albums, What's Bin Did & What's Bin Hid and Fairytale were distinctly Dylan-lite, but with his star in the ascendant, he recorded the innovative Sunshine Superman in '66, only to have Pye UK dick about with it for nearly a year, losing him considerable momentum at a crucial point. His US label had no such qualms, however, putting it out ahead of the psychedelic pack in late '66, ensuring in the process that most of his future success would lie in that country. It's a remarkable pot-pourri of an album, moving from the driving pop of the title track through the lengthy acoustic Legend Of A Girl Child Linda and the eastern-flavoured Three Kingfishers in the first ten or so minutes, showing nearly as much variety over the ensuing half-hour. Best track? A toss-up between Guinevere and Celeste, although the album contains two major hits in the title track and Season Of The Witch. Now, I've been under the impression that the (possible) string line on the beautiful Celeste was MkII Mellotron, but, upon another listen, it clearly isn't. Don's US follow-up was Mellow Yellow, once again unreleased in Britain, meaning that its infuriating title track would be unavailable here on album until 1969's Donovan's Greatest Hits. Pye eventually capitulated, cherry-picking twelve tracks from the two US albums for the UK Sunshine Superman, although in retrospect, they haven't all stood the test of time as well as some that were left off (although Hampstead Incident's a highlight), but at least we're spared the cheesy Mellow Yellow.
Donovan's Brain (presumably named for the 1953 film of Curt Siodmak's novel) have been around since the '80s, I believe, led by Ron Sanchez, although it seems he's more the conductor of the orchestra than musical despot, allowing contributors to guide recording sessions. I actually wish he'd guided 1999's Eclipse & Debris' sessions with a slightly firmer hand, to be honest, as the end result's something of a sprawling mess, only occasionally cohering into the kind of psychedelia that makes Planet Mellotron's pulse quicken. Sanchez' alleged Mellotron on Pollyanna Disillusioned barely even sounds like one, too, to the point where I can't tell whether it's supposed to provide the stringy sound or the flutely sound. Fail. Although 2003's The Great Leap Forward doesn't even credit anyone with Mellotron, various online mentions attest to it. The album's actually a little better than Eclipse..., better tracks including All Fall Down and closer Ocean Of Storms. That Mellotron? I'm not even sure if the strings on The Known Sea count as Mellotron samples, frankly.
Gothenburg's DoomDogs (or Doomdogs) are a classic doom outfit, right down to their name. Influences? Black Sabbath, of course. Their second album, 2011's Unleash the Truth, despite being somewhat overlong, is a solid genre release, better tracks including opener Eye For An Eye, the acoustic Legacy and the mildly psychedelic Magic Of The Black Circle, although closing the album with a lacklustre cover of the Sabs' A National Acrobat is a bit of a mistake. Look, chaps, you're not going to improve on the original, so why bother? Emil Rolof plays big, fat samplotron flutes and strings on Save Me, although the flute on Legacy is clearly real, despite one not obviously being credited.
Dora Flood seem to be mostly described as 'shoegaze', a genre whose boundaries still confuse me. Their second album, 2000's Lost on Earth, sounds like a fairly typical indie release of the era to my ears, Stone Roses drumming sitting uncomfortably alongside a distinct pre-psych '60s influence (notably on Gridlock), mostly to little effect. Michael Padilla plays samplotron, with background flutes and string stabs on closer Filling My Days With Illusion.
The Gothenburg-based Dorena fit pretty neatly into the post-rock area; you know, ambient/proggy atmospheres, rarely any vocals, most tracks building up to a peak then winding down again: 'crescendo rock'. Like so many modern genres, it hasn't really got that much to say musically; the bulk of the material that's passed through Planet Mellotron's hands has sounded pretty much like everything else and Holofon is no exception. Don't get me wrong; it's pleasant enough, completely inoffensive, in fact, but it just sort of drifts from one track to another without making any real impression. Maybe that's the point. Anders Rane plays 'Mellotron' strings on Till Våning Tretton, with a part that could quite easily have been played on anything.
Les Choses de la Vie is an album of understated French-language pop, Pascale Baehrel's breathy vocals fitting the vibe perfectly. No, I didn't like it, but no, nor can I mark it down on those grounds. Mellotron? Nothing obvious from Laurent Manganas on opener Calme Blanc and faint flutes from Laurent Marimbert on Entre Vous Et Moi, almost certainly sampled.
Giuliano Dottori is an Italian singer-songwriter of the kind that no-one outside his home country is even going to have heard of, let alone like, chiefly because Italian isn't the most widely-spoken language and 2009's Temporali e Rivoluzioni (his debut?) is the kind of album where the lyrics are clearly far more important than the anodyne music. In fairness, it's harmless enough, but mostly sounds like no more than a Mediterranean version of Coldplay, albeit with less irritating vocals, the exception being closer Le Cose Semplici, which sounds like Coldplay-goes-post-rock. Also, however platitudinous his lyrics may be (or may not; I don't know), I don't understand them, so they can't offend me with their possible awfulness. Giovanni Ferrario plays samplotron, with ample strings and flutes on opener Chiudi L'Emergenza Nello Specchio, background strings and upfront flutes on La Tua Casa è Piena, uncredited strings on Inno Nazionale Del Mio Isolato, but nothing on the credited Partenze Coincidenze.
Although I've listed Doubt as being British (well, that's what their MySpace page says), they're actually the multinational trio of Brit Alex Maguire (Hatfield & the North, keyboards), Belgian Michel Delville (guitar) and American drummer Tony Bianco, whose stock in trade is a particularly fiery brand of fusion, occasionally almost tipping over into metal. Their debut, 2010's Never Pet a Burning Dog, is not an album for the faint-hearted, which, after deceptively calm opener Corale Di San Luca, rarely lets up from the furious pace set by second track in, Laughter. Canterbury legend Richard Sinclair (Caravan, the Hatfields, Camel) guests on a few tracks, providing very distinctive vocals on Corale Di San Luca and the album's other 'quiet track', Passing Cloud, with bass on the former and Laughter. His work on the album is atypical of the whole, however, which tends towards near-atonal Rhodes-led instrumental workouts and the mad, riff-frenzy of the Gentle Giant-ripping Cosmic Surgery. The album was recorded at the also legendary Beppe Crovella (Arti & Mestieri, a host of '90s Italian neo-proggers)'s studio, utilising his collection of vintage gear, although the Mellotron sounds sampled. Anyway, Maguire sticks strings all over Passing Cloud and Cosmic Surgery, the latter possibly doubled with Farfisa.
Doves are one of those inexplicably popular bands, i.e. I'm so out of touch with the taste of 'ordinary people' that I have absolutely no idea what they see in this mainstream, part-indie, part sub-post-rock, part guitar pop stuff. Their fourth album (after a four-year gap), 2009's Kingdom of Rust, is pretty much as irritating as their earlier releases, the bulk of it consisting of the variety of mock-transcendental nonsense peddled by the kind of band who are used for incidental music on the telly (note: this is not a dig at the mostly excellent Sigur Rós). Compulsion and House Of Mirrors are about the least bad things here, with the former's vaguely '70s funk feel and the latter's marginally more rocky approach, but that shouldn't be taken as any kind of recommendation.
In an interview for Sound on Sound mag, producer Dan Austin commented, "It'd be great to have a real Mellotron, but I've had such problems with trying to record real ones in the past, I've actually ended up using the plug-in, 'cause half the notes on the real one don't work and they're noisy". Oh dear. Noisy, is it? Might spoil your super-clean stadium production, might it? Find one that works, for fuck's sake. Ironically, the only place you can definitely hear their M-Tron is on the two tracks produced by the legendary John Leckie, with an obvious flute part on Winter Hill and more of the same on 10:03. Anyway, this sucks monstrously. Avoid.
1996's The Hypocrite appears to be Ryan Downe's sole album to date, for which we should probably be grateful; its barely-acceptable mainstream pop/rock content is scuppered by his awful, whiny voice, of the 'sets your teeth on edge' variety. Less bad tracks? A little cluster of relatively inoffensive material in the middle of the record, notably Through The Window, Damned With You, Scratch and the darkly balladic I Shot You Down, although any attempt to describe them as 'highlights' brings the phrase 'clutching at straws' to mind. Bob Marlette plays alleged Mellotron, with sympathetic string parts on Through The Window and The Machine, although the strings on I Shot You Down are real.
I'm not entirely sure where Downpilot are coming from on Leaving Not Arriving; it's a sort of melancholy indie/folk kind of thing, but in that irritating modern way where 25 years of 'indie' have taken their toll on the songwriting, the drumming, the way the singer sings... I blame the bloody Smiths. And The Cure. I'm trying to think of those bands' American equivalents, but I can't, probably because, deep down, I really don't want to. I'm sure this stuff is immensely heartfelt, but to my ears, it just sounds like people moaning. With a harmonica. I mean, what possessed them to use a gob-iron on this album? You ain't Dylan you know, guys... Steve Moore is credited with Mellotron, but the only thing here that even might be one is a few seconds of strings in High Water Mark. 2006's Like You Believe it is all too similar, at its (kind of) best on A Wave. Paul Hiraga's credited with Mellotron on closer Tiny California, but the flutes and cello on the track sound little like a real machine.
Draconian are a fairly typical Scandinavian metal/goth crossover band, featuring wafty female and grunting male vocals in equal measures, at least on their fourth album, 2008's Turning Season Within. It's a perfectly acceptable example of its genre, even if the male vocals are a bit silly (how could they not be?), although no one track stands out particularly from the pack. Keyboard programmer Andreas Karlsson adds 'Mellotron' strings and occasional flutes to several tracks, all to very good effect; just a shame it's not real, eh? This kind of epic metal responds well to Mellotron sounds, particularly the strings, but so few of this type of band actually use the real thing. So; good at what it does, all assuming the usual.
The semi-legendary William D. Drake played keyboards and wrote the (very) odd track for the mighty Cardiacs during their salad days in the '80s (not often I can say that). After leaving at the beginning of the '90s, Bill has kept in close contact with the band, releasing his eponymous 2001 album on their side-project label, All My Eye & Betty Martin Music (also home to Spratleys Japs); to no-one's surprise, its varied contents sound like a cross between Cardiacs themselves, their mid-'80s Mr. & Mrs. Smith & Mr. Drake offshoot and various other projects, including Lake of Puppies. Think: somewhere between pre-war tea-dance music and Henry Cow, or '70s kids' TV programme music played by a distressed ballet lesson pianist. Possibly. Is telling you that the album sounds like it was recorded in a church hall somewhere in suburban England any use? Thought not. Although he used the Planet Mellotron M400 on his 2002 Melancholy World EP, Bill uses samples here, with strings on opener Miaow Miaow, Poor John and Freedom And Love, although they're hardly one of the album's defining features.
I haven't heard Bill's two interim albums, 2007's simultaneous releases Yew's Paw and Briny Hooves, but 2011's The Rising of the Lights is a near-masterpiece, possibly best described as far less... creaky than his earlier work. Although still a deeply eccentric album, the intervening decade seems to've smoothed out Bill's rough edges, but in a good way, resulting in an album every bit as individual as William D. Drake, but also far more listenable. Highlights include jolly opener Super Altar, the proggy, Cardiacs-esque The Mastodon, Laburnum and beautiful closer Homesweet Homestead Hideaway, but you'd be hard-pushed to find a surplus track here. Bill uses Mellotron samples here and there, notably the flutes on In An Ideal World, although the same sound seems to be hanging around in the background elsewhere, too.
Terry Draper was one third of Klaatu, not that you'd know it from their early albums, during the 'it's The Beatles!' excitement of their debut. Over fifteen years after the band's dissolution, he released his first solo effort, 1997's Light Years Later (yes, I ignored the gross scientific inaccuracy, too), a collection of classy 'intelligent pop' material, although it could easily have been trimmed by anything up to twenty minutes and been tightened up in the process, top tracks including My Girl Overseas, complete with tuned ship's foghorn, the rocky Here's To You, the balladic Fly Away and epic closer Sunset Years. Draper uses fairly obvious Mellotron samples (well, it was the '90s) on over half of the album's tracks, with string and flute parts everywhere you look, original album closer Sunset Years being its 'Mellotron' highlight. You're never going to mistake the samples here for the real thing, but Light Years Later is a mostly excellent album, well worth hearing for anyone who ever liked Klaatu.
After their excellent Metropolis Pt.2: Scenes From a Memory (****½ - probably Dream Theater's most cohesive piece of work, despite its indulgences), it's back to business as usual with their sixth full album, the lengthy double Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, which has more in common with the overblown Awake (***) than their better releases; far too many solos and far too few tunes, although it does have its moments. The Great Debate is not among them, however, being (seemingly) about embryo stem cell research, with plenty of spoken-word samples. It's difficult to tell what the band's stance actually is from the lyrics, though they seem to be sitting on the fence a little, which makes me wonder why they bothered. As many of our mothers have been known to say, "If you can't say anything pleasant, don't say anything at all".
I've been assured by Mike that the 'making of' video for the album shows their third keyboardist Jordan Rudess (ex-Dixie Dregs) plonking away at a Kurzweil K2600xs while recording 'Mellotron' parts, those being so-so strings on Misunderstood and a choir part on Disappear; this doesn't actually surprise me in the slightest, but I hadn't previously had any firm evidence to back up my suspicions. The second disc is another concept piece and I have to say, DT seem to work better in the long format; dunno why, but while this isn't as good as Scenes From a Memory, it's an awful lot better than anything on disc one. Plenty of choirs, too, though I don't think they're (pseudo-)Mellotron-generated, meaning the album has even less (fake) 'Tron than their other relevant release, Falling Into Infinity.
Despite several mistaken sightings, the only other Dream Theater fakeotron I can trace is on 2007's Systematic Chaos, which I've been told by friends (yes, I have some that like the band. OK, yes, I have some) is 'more progressive'. Hmmm. And hmmm again. If fitting eight tracks into almost eighty minutes is 'progressive', then yes, maybe it is. Otherwise, it's effectively just the same old same old, better than 2003's Train of Thought, while worse than its successor, 2009's Black Clouds & Silver Linings, which is just about all I can think of to say about it. Actually, I have to make a point here that's just occurred to me: Dream Theater's lyrics. Now, is it just me, or is their almost-autistic literalness on a level that makes, say, Iron Maiden's look like the epitome of expressionism? Oh yeah - fakeotron: a few string and choir parts on Repentance.
2007's Images & Words: 15th Anniversary Performance Live in Bonn, Germany, 6/16/07 is exactly what it says on the tin, a live performance of what many fans revere as the band's finest hour or so. Back in the day (as they say), I, too, loved Images & Words, although time and experience have taught me that combining the wrong kind of metal with the wrong kind of prog, then throwing some AOR into the mix doth not for great music make. The material still has its moments, particularly parts of opener Pull Me Under and Metropolis, although Surrounded sounds exactly like the big, cheesy, AOR ballad-with-fiddly-bits it always was, while the rest of the album is and always was, quite clearly, a great deal of arrangement in a hopeless quest for a tune. And why, pray, is there a burst of Floyd in the middle of Surrounded? Samplotron? Mr. Rudess plays a strings solo at the beginning of Surrounded, carrying on into the song, giving us a vague idea of what it may have sounded like with a real one.
Dreams So Real were yet another '80s outfit from Athens, GA, operating in the powerpop area, going by their third album (of four), Gloryline. Top tracks? Difficult to say, but there's nothing here that should disappoint genre fans. Greg Reding is credited with Mellotron, in those times of minimal tape-replay, but, assuming one's present at all, it's inaudible.
Amanda Palmer's Dresden Dolls' Yes, Virginia... is a fairly startling album; it vaguely reminds me of some awful '60s piano cabaret stuff I've heard, except it's good. Really good. The vocals/piano/bass-drums sound that informs the bulk of the record sounds like a female Brecht on speed, making a sound that I can almost guarantee you haven't heard before. If the album has a fault, it's that 55 minutes is a long time when there's little stylistic divergence, but that's nit-picking, really. Palmer plays Mellotron strings on closer Sing, but if the album's sound wasn't already so sparse, you probably wouldn't hear it at all, so I presume samples.
Phil Driscoll's been around approximately forever, although I'd never heard of him before I ran across 1996's A Different Man. Although he made his first album in 1970, in his early twenties, his career didn't take off properly for another decade, probably when the concept of CCM picked up speed. Yup, he's a Christian, titles like Road To Jerusalem, Walk With Me Jesus and Christ Remains (wouldn't that be a holy relic? Oh, sorry, that's Christ's remains...) leave you in no doubt as to where his loyalties lie. Like most CCM, the music appears to be entirely secondary to the 'message', although said 'message' is exactly the same one peddled by every other Christian album, ever, making me wonder why anyone bothers making any more (he said, hopefully). Matt Huesmann plays samplotron on The Time Of Your Life, with an almost interesting flute part in an otherwise utterly insipid song.
Drive-By Truckers are a 'Southern Rock' outfit with three guitarists, leading to inevitable comparisons with Lynyrd Skynyrd, exacerbated by their third studio album, 2001's double Southern Rock Opera, a parable based on Skynyrd's rise and (literal) fall. Their style has shifted within the Southern continuum over the years, however, bringing them, by their eighth album, 2010's The Big To-Do, to a place where, although their Southern roots are clearly visible, they sound like neither Skynyrd nor the Allmans. The album flows nicely, different band members singing lead on their own songs, highlights including opener Daddy Learned To Fly, the garagey Birthday Boy and slow-burner The Wig He Made Her Wear, making for a most satisfying listen in these days of pseudo-'retro' nonsense from musicians who've only ever experienced anything pre-'90s third-hand. The Truckers added a keyboard player, Jay Gonzalez, to their lineup not long before recording the album, who sticks to Hammond for most of the record, while adding sparse samplotron strings to You Got Another, with several pitchbends thrown in.
Ireland's Dry County have confused the issue heavily by changing their name to Alias Empire, then reissuing 2007's Unexpected Falls under that moniker. Better than Buffalo Nickel's Long Play 33⅓ (to name but one example), I suppose, which was reissued two years later under both a different artist and title... Anyway, Dry County/Alias Empire's album is an overlong, horrible indie/electronica mash-up with no, I repeat, no worthwhile tracks. No, none. Phil Porter is credited with Mellotron, but are those flutes on Another Idea really supposed to be Mellotron? Really? Yeah, right... I suppose they are at least samples, as against 'a vague flute sound we'll call a Mellotron anyway'. New name? Believe me, this wasn't worth reissuing.
Felix "Dubvisionist" Wolter's career began as drummer for Der Moderne Man, before he moved into a more studio-based role, situating himself at the heart of many dub-based projects. 2014's King Size Dub Special!!! seems to be a compilation of sorts, including (remixes of?) material from four of Wolter's past projects, not to mention the better-known TACK>>HEAD and Fettes Brot, although there's no easy way to tell that you're not listening to a single-artist release. To be perfectly honest, attempting to review music in a genre that I know little about and for which I have no affinity is something of a fool's errand. Suffice to say, while this is unlikely to ever be mistaken for genuine JA dub, it seems to do a decent enough job. Günther Janssen is credited with Mellotron, with volume-pedalled strings on The Vision's Soul Dub Evolution, but their veracity has to be called into question, frankly. I can neither recommend this nor the converse; its trippy dub explorations sound perfectly good to my ears, but what do I know?
Duck Sauce are the New York-based duo of Armand Van Helden (even I've heard of him) and Alain "A-Trak" Macklovitch (haven't heard of him, though), whose debut, 2014's Quack, is a bemusing stew of multifarious dance genres, paying homage to the likes of Daft Punk and a host of film soundtracks. Is it any good? I don't feel qualified to judge, to be honest, although it irritated me enough to give it a low star rating. Harsh? Yup. Christoph "Metatron" Fringeli allegedly plays Mellotron on aNYway (no, I'm not having trouble with my caps lock key). Really? Where? I think we can be quite certain that, whatever Mr. Fringeli used, it wasn't a real machine. I think we can also be quite certain that you, assuming you're a Planet Mellotron regular, are not going to like this album any more than I did.
The Duckworth Lewis Method are named for a notoriously obscure scoring method in cricket. What's cricket? The forerunner to baseball, sir! This most English of games has its adherents around the world, almost exclusively members of the British Commonwealth (or ex-empire, if you prefer), with a long and honourable history, bucketloads of tradition and a minor inferiority complex with regard to other bat-and-ball sports.
The reason I'm blathering on about one of my country's Great Games is The Duckworth Lewis Method, the duo's first, eponymous album. Duo? Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy (Northern Irish and thus, technically, British) and our old friend Thomas Walsh of the mighty Pugwash have collaborated on what has to be the world's first (and only) concept album about cricket, tackling many aspects of the game, although I see no obvious references to one of its greatest players, the legendary W.G. Grace. You're slacking, chaps. Musically, it's an unsurprising combination of its two members' main outfits, the baroque Gentlemen And Players and the pseudo-glam rock of The Sweet Spot merging seamlessly with the music hall of Jiggery Pokery, all held together by the ghosts of powerpop past, present and future. The occasional track works less well (The Nightwatchman springs to mind), but there's actually very little wrong with this album, making a very, very pleasant change from the landfills-full of dross that clutter up the contemporary listening environment.
Walsh and Hannon both play supposed Mellotron, with strings on opener The Coin Toss and Rain Stops Play, flutes and strings on Gentlemen And Players, suspiciously speedy strings and, er, something unidentified on Mason On The Boundary, choirs on Flatten The Hay and choir and strings on The End Of The Over, although the strings on a couple of tracks are real. However... Given the revelations regarding Pugwash's sample use, it has to be said that everything here's a little too slick, for want of a better word. Sorry, chaps, samples it is. It's quite possible that there's more samplotronic involvement here, or, in fact, that I've got some of those sightings wrong; it's almost immaterial (he said, standing on rather shaky ground), as the best reason to buy The Duckworth Lewis Method isn't its Mellotron sounds, but the great music contained therein.
Welsh girl Amie Ann Duffy shot to fame in 2007, but her career's beginning to look like it's stalled after 2010's Endlessly. It's a pre-psych '60s-influenced effort, her 'little girl' vocals too high in the mix, in true pop starlet style, the material, production and her bloody voice all universally awful. Someone adds remarkably non-Mellotronic-sounding samplotron flutes to opener My Boy and Hard For The Heart. I wish they hadn't.
Stephen Duffy, later Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy, began his career as a pre-fame co-founder of Duran Duran (oops), going on to achieve solo success (OK, maybe not oops) in the early '80s, before forming the moveable feast otherwise known as The Lilac Time. I've no idea what most of his/their output sounds like, but 2003's Keep Going is, improbably, a country record. Admittedly, country crossed with folk, but still country... The songwriting crosses between the two related genres, too, avoiding the mawkishness of many trad country albums, making for a surprisingly listenable end result. Duffy plays background samplotron strings on The Silence, although you'd barely notice if they weren't there.
Although based in the States, the Dumb Numbers collective are led by Australian Adam Harding, notable collaborators including Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh), Dale Crover (Melvins) and Murph (also Dinosaur Jr). 2016's Dumb Numbers II reminds me, perhaps unsurprisingly, of J. Mascis' outfit, in its combination of crushing guitars and fragile vocals (who said Neil Young?), typified by opener My Mantra and Essence//Existence. Bobb Bruno is credited with Mellotron on Girl On The Screen and No-One, but going by the string sound on the former, not to mention its rather-over-eight-second sustain at the end of the song, that's a 'no'. I wanted to like this more than I did; I'm afraid the album's 'noise' elements have defeated me.
Wikipedia describes Judy Dunaway as 'a conceptual sound artist, avant-garde composer, free improvisor and creator of sound installations who is primarily known for her sound works for latex balloons'. Her second album, 1993's collaboration with The Evan Gallagher Little Band, features few balloons (honourable exceptions: Squirrels and White), but plenty of mildly 'out-there' art-rock, probably at its best on the amusing PMSLSD ("PMS is my LSD") and the violin-led St. Passion. Incidentally, strange how two adjacent tracks are named Jack and White, years before anyone had heard of The White Stripes' founder. Maybe she knew something. Gallagher is credited with Mellotron. Why, I've no idea.
Dungen's debut, Stadsvandringar, while distinctly promising, largely fails to leap out at you, although the singalong title track and its reprise are probably stuck in my brain permanently. Actually, I'm being a little unfair; this is a really good album, although it pales slightly in comparison to its successor, the blinding Ta det Lugnt. Some background samplotron strings on Har Du Vart' I Stockholm? are the sum total of its Mellotronic input, only just recognisable as such. After a slew of 'Mellotron'-free records, 2015's Allas Sak reintroduces it to the band's sound. The album is (unsurprisingly) a delight, its best tracks clustered towards the end, including Åkt Dit, Flickor Och Pojkar and Sova, although I have no problem with the shorter, (slightly) poppier material earlier on. Band leader Gustav Ejstes adds samplotron to three tracks, with a major polyphonic flute part on En Gång Om Året and strings on Åkt Dit and Sova.
Peter Dunne's Guitars, Sitars & Shangri-las is a contemporary psych album that harks back to the genre's late '60s origins, while managing to sound at least vaguely modern; quite a trick, to be honest. Notable tracks include an interestingly 'lazy', loping version of Day Tripper, the folky The Wizard And The Mystery Girl (mediaeval touches singled out for recommendation) and The Ghost Of Sgt Pepper (which, unsurprisingly, owes a debt to Come Together), other highlights including a capella opener Lenora, Jackdaws and the dreamlike title track. The album's only real downside is Dunne's eclecticism; '50s rock'n'roll pastiche Rock The Ashram and mock-early '60s ballad Dreaming Of You are two of the album's weakest tracks, but that's what programmable CD players are for, isn't it? Plenty of samplotron in evidence, with 'Strawberry Fields'-esque flutes on Jackdaws, a beautifully full-on part on The Wizard And The Mystery Girl, more of the same on The Ghost Of Sgt Pepper and a melodic part on the title track. Much of Guitars, Sitars & Shangri-las is excellent, but I can't help thinking that the album would've been improved had Dunne whittled his material down to an excellent forty minutes or so, rather than a merely good hour. Either way, worth hearing for its best tracks.
Cumbrian Francis Dunnery split It Bites at the peak of their success, moving on briefly to Robert Plant's band before kicking his solo career off with '94's Fearless. Let's Go Do What Happens was his fourth release, and I've never been wholly sure about its inclusion on this site, due to its multiple credits for 'Doug Petty and his probable Mellotron'. Upon finally hearing said instrument it turns out to be, of course, samples, with the biggest giveaway coming at the end of opener My Own Reality, with an overly smooth, way over eight-second string chord that doesn't sound anywhere near as gritty as a real 'Tron. As far as the album itself's concerned, it's quite aggressive singer-songwriter fare, by and large, with Dunnery using the stage (so to speak) as a platform for him to air his many grievances about, ooh, just about everything. Mind you, it's difficult to fault the sentiments behind tracks like Revolution or Give Up Your Day Job; I did the latter a few years ago and never looked back, but not everyone can just pack it all in and still get by. So, don't buy this expecting any genuine Mellotron, but it's not a bad album, while the samples are pretty decent.
The Bright Side is an unusually bass-led indie album; sadly, its USP doesn't improve its listenability, along with the terrible vocals. Rod Slaughter plays 'Mellotron' flutes on opener Bitterman and very obviously sampled string arpeggios on Toast To The Life-Long Friends.
I'm not sure how to describe Düreforsög: experimental indie? Progressive punk? Engine Machine contains a myriad of good ideas; unfortunately, the band often use most of them at the same time, whether or not they actually work together. For seventy minutes. I'm sure it'd be possible to make a good album out of this, but someone would have to heavily wield the editing scissors. One Andreas H. is credited with Mellotron, but the choirs on opener Traffix sound sampled.
Dust Galaxy are effectively electronic outfit Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza's solo project, whose sole album to date, his/their eponymous 2007 release, contains a mildly bewildering mixture of psychedelia, indie and 'world' musics. The album (mostly recorded in the UK) features a host of guest musicians, not least several members of Primal Scream, which accounts for the indie rock content, the sitars of River Of Ever Changing Forms sitting slightly uneasily next to the driving rock of Cherubim Sing and Overhead. Brendan Lynch (Paul Weller) plays supposed Mellotron on closer Crying To The Night, with, er, something that might be phased, background choirs. Samples, I say.
Australian country, anyone? David "Slim Dusty" Kirkpatrick (already in his seventies in 2000) successfully applied C&W tropes to his Aussie heritage (or vice versa I suppose), Looking Forward Looking Back covering not only the usual timeworn subjects, but typically Australian subjects such as, well, The Bloke Who Serves The Beer. I've absolutely no idea where Matt Fell's Mellotron (real or otherwise) might be, as it's completely inaudible.
Dusty Trails are the duo of ex-Luscious Jackson (Mellotron users themselves) keyboardist Vivian Trimble and British ex-Breeder Josephine Wiggs. Their sole album to date, Dusty Trails, is faux-easy listening, with a notable South American influence in places. Various songs are sung in French by the wonderful Emmylou Harris, not at all in a European art-flick kind of way... Above all, this is an immensely mellow album, a million miles away from the protagonist's previous outfits. It could be mistaken for pastiche or irony, but it seems to me that both women mean it, although it's impossible to do this kind of stuff these days without at least a knowing, arched eyebrow. Trimble is credited with 'keyboard strings', amongst other things; going by a couple of online interviews I've seen, it appears that the strings (and presumably choir) on Fool For A Country Tune are actually Mellotron, although they sound more like samples to me.
Yves Duteil's career began in the early '70s, 2008's (fr)agiles being his twenty-somethingth album, a decent collection of very French chanson-influenced material, as you might expect from someone of Duteil's vintage. Y'know, there's something terribly appealing about this kind of folky, French-language style, especially when a little pre-war feel (you know, accordions and clarinets) is thrown in for good measure; there isn't actually a bad track here, although the album's appeal outside his middle-aged French audience is probably somewhat limited. Fabrice Ravel-Chapuis is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, although with nothing obvious on Madame Sévilla, the album's entire content is left to a few seconds of 'stabbed', most likely sampled flutes on Elle Ne Dort.
Thomas Dutronc (son of Jacques Dutronc and Françoise Hardy) has taken the jazz route, in a pretty trad (Gallic division) kind of way, singing and playing guitar in the grand tradition. Although in his mid-thirties, 2007's Comme un Manouche Sans Guitare is his first solo album, filled with the kind of late-night jazz you used to be able to hear in Parisian cafés (and maybe still can?), although his band pick up the pace in places, notably on opener Jeune, Je Ne Savais Rien and China Boy, with some frenetic guitar work on the latter. Whatever alleged Mellotron Xavier Bussy may add to Jeune, Je Ne Savais Rien and Je Les Veux Toutes, and Frédéric Jaillard to September Song will have to remain a mystery, as it's completely inaudible on all three, although Bussy's faint strings and flute solo appear on N.A.S.D.A.Q. Why is it credited? Is it actually on the other three tracks? What's the point?
If the name's unfamiliar, Judy Dyble was Fairport Convention's first (co-) singer, with Iain Matthews, leaving after one album to hook up with a pre-Crimson Ian McDonald, moving on to Trader Horne before retiring from music. She began singing again in the early 2000s, releasing several albums since 2004. 2010's Fragile three-tracker is wonderfully atmospheric folk/prog, that acts as a good sampler (excuse the pun) of her current direction. Mellotron samples on Sparkling from no less a personage than Tim Bowness, with a pretty decent string part and 'harp rolls' (a MkII sound, I believe).
Arizona's Dygmies (who appear to be synonymous with Randy Forte & the Reconstruction) released Chemistry in 2002, a minor powerpop delight, top tracks including opener Chemistry I, the balladic New Sad Song and the propulsive, vaguely Knack-esque She's The One. So why only three stars? I have to admit that I found most of the material slightly samey, while, despite the album only being around three-quarters of an hour long, with fourteen tracks, it slightly outstays its welcome. Someone called Marvin plays fairly obviously sampled Mellotron, with strings and flutes on Behemoth, upfront strings on New Sad Song and Chemistry II and background ones on Through The Door. You can (as I did) listen to the entire album on Soundcloud, but should you do so and like what you hear, I believe it's still available on CD.
Dynamo Bliss' website describes them as a 'Swedish crossover prog band', but, going by their first release of 2013, Poplar Music, they're more pseudo-'70s mainstream pop/rock, admittedly not in a bad way. Examples? Savage Minds and Panic In Their Eyes remind me of the kind of bands that would turn up on the Old Grey Whistle Test around 1977, or songs Steely Dan might bury somewhere on side two of a nonexistent album from '79, although the best material is (surprise, surprise) the proggier stuff, including Can You Hear The Sound, And Forever and the breezy Been Ostracized. Samplotron? Flutes on several tracks, especially upfront in Been Ostracized and closer In The Country. Day & Night, from a few months later, finally triggers a latent memory: Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. I knew they were reminiscent of something... The homage/pastiche reaches a climax on the instrumental Night Storm, but the influence is clear throughout. Done well, mind, but don't come here expecting full-blown prog. Samplotron flutes again, particularly overt on Evenfall and Night Storm.