album list

Scott Gagner
The Galileo 7
Charly Garcia
Mark Gardener
Hirsh Gardner
Duke Garwood
Gateless Gate
Rebecca Gates
Aviv Geffen
Gentle Knife
Get Up Kids
Getaway Cruiser
Ghost (Japan)
Ghost (Sweden)
Roland Gift
Thea Gilmore

Scott Gagner  (US)

Scott Gagner, 'Rhapsody in Blonde'

Rhapsody in Blonde  (2010,  57.56)  ***½

I Hate to Say
Speak & Spell
Laura No. 1
You Can Say That Again
Right Before My Eyes
Love You More
Take Two
The Least I Can Do
Laura No. 2
Golden Mean
Sweet Child o'Mine

Current availability:

Scott Gagner moved to San Francisco from Minnesota (a good move, I suspect), playing drums for several bands from his new home town. I think 2010's Rhapsody in Blonde (ho ho) is his solo debut, an unexpectedly excellent slice of powerpop, highlights including gorgeous 12-string-fest Speak & Spell, Houdini and the drifting Laura No. 2, while closing with an acoustic version of Guns N'Roses Sweet Child O'Mine is either total genius or utter stupidity. Possibly both. It also exposes exactly how facile the lyrics are, but that's another matter. Of course, not everything here's classic; Right Before My Eyes and Between are a bit on the ordinary side and the whole album could probably do with trimming by ten or fifteen minutes, but that's splitting hairs, to be honest.

Gagner and Jonathan Chi supposedly play Mellotron, with flute and string parts on You Can Say That Again and Houdini, although the choirs on Take Two and strings on The Least I Can Do really give the sample game away. So; yet another partially brilliant powerpop release, for those of you/us who can't get enough of those faux-Beatles melodies. Well, I'm sure there are plenty yet to be written, so why shouldn't Scott Gagner have a piece of the action?

Official site

See: Electrolic

The Galileo 7  (UK)

The Galileo 7, 'Staring at the Sound'

Staring at the Sound  (2012,  37.35)  ***½

Anne Hedonia
The Only One You're Hurting (is You)
The Man Who Wasn't There
More Time
Waiting to Cross
Staring at the Sound
Hiding From the Sun
Not Gonna Miss You
Leave Me Alone
Don't Fly Too High

Current availability:

So what's sadder? Naming yourselves (either ironically or in homage) after a Star Trek episode, or knowing the reference? Eh? Eh? (exhibit A: Spock's Beard). I think my inner nerd has just become one with my outer nerd. The Galileo 7's Staring at the Sound (their second album?) is actually an excellent powerpop release, with not a hint of clueless indiedom about it, thankfully, the band's influences hailing directly from the mid-'60s without bothering to pass 'go' or collect £200. Top tracks? Opener Anne Hedonia (very witty, chaps), both for music and lyrics, the acoustic Hiding From The Sun and the storming Not Gonna Miss You, although I'm really not hearing any genuine duffers here at all.

Someone adds Mellotron samples to two tracks, with phased strings all over Waiting To Cross and obviously sampled flutes on Hiding From The Sun. All in all, a fine album only docked half a star for a lack of originality. What's that got to do with it, anyway? This is powerpop, it isn't intended to be original. Just good.

Official site

Gallery  (Norway)

Gallery, 'Jas Gripen'

Jas Gripen  (2007,  39.16)  ***

Painted Black
Jas Gripen
Sarin and Airplanes
Tell Me
Don't Blame the Pilot
The Denial

Current availability:

Gallery are a Norwegian progressive-ish outfit, whose sole album to date, 2007's Jas Gripen, starts off well enough with the dynamic Painted Black, but quickly slips into post-rock-by-numbers territory, which is rarely a good thing. Stop wanting to be Thom Yorke, guys. Any other decent tracks? The seven-minute grief takes a while to get going, but builds up (hey! Crescendo rock!) to the best part of the album, its closing seconds featuring fakeotron cellos and an unusual whole-tone run.

Vocalist Snorre Valen plays keys, including fake Mellotron, with cellos on Painted Black, Sarin And Airplanes and Grief and possibly a smidgeon of flutes somewhere, too. This could be so much worse and so much better simultaneously; the band need to nurture their strengths and kick the clichéd post-rock stuff into touch if they want to make a truly dynamic record.


Gandalf  (Austria)  see:


Charly Garcia  (Argentina)

Charly Garcia, 'Influencia'

Influencia  (2002,  43.11)  ***

Tu Vicio
I'm Not in Love
Encuentro con el Diablo
El Amor Espera
Pelicula Sordomuda
Mi Nena
Tu Vicio (gospel)
Demasiado Ego
I'm Not in Love (acoustic)
I'm Not in Love - (remix)
Happy and Real

Current availability:

Charly Garcia is the kind of Latin American artist who sells zillions of albums in his own country/continent, but is next to unknown anywhere else, leading to a culturally distinct musical approach that bears little relation to the American Hegemony. Influencia is around his 21st solo album in over 20 years, and mixes musical styles with abandon, from the mainstream pop of I'm Not In Love (not that one), complete with quotes from The Zombies' She's Not There to solo piano piece Pelicula Sordomuda and reworkings of various tracks dotted throughout. Not exactly Justin Timberlake, then.

Until very recently, it seems highly likely that the entire South American continent hosted a grand total of zero Mellotrons, and I only know of one in Ireland, so it seems rather unlikely that an Argentinean recording in Dublin would have access to one. There are several points in the album where Garcia's credited 'Tron could possibly be sitting (chiefly the strings in the English-language title track), but it really doesn't sound much like one, so it's going here until anyone can prove otherwise. You probably don't need to hear this album unless you have a burning desire to listen to mainstream Latin pop/rock, but it's perfectly good at what it does, real Mellotron or not.

Mark Gardener  (UK)

Mark Gardener, 'These Beautiful Ghosts'

These Beautiful Ghosts  (2005,  54.59)  **½

Snow in Mexico
Getting Out of Your Own Way
To Get Me Through
Magdalen Sky
Summer Turns to Fall
Beautiful Ghosts
Flaws of Perception
The Story of the Eye
Where Are You Now?
Water and Wine
Gravity Flow

Current availability:

Mark Gardener was shoegaze heroes Ride's frontman, so it shouldn't come as any great surprise to learn that his solo debut, 2005's These Beautiful Ghosts, has something of his old band about it; think: indie/shoegaze/singer-songwriter and you won't be too far off the mark (ho ho). Better tracks include the lovely Magdalen Sky and Where Are You Now?, although material like Flaws Of Perception and closer Gravity Flow are far too early '90s indie for their (or our) own good.

Someone credited as 'Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones' supposedly plays Mellotron, so I can't say I'm overly surprised that the flute parts on Rhapsody and in the distant background on a couple of other tracks sound fake as hell. Ride fans probably need this, the rest of us don't.

Official site

Hirsh Gardner  (Canada)

Hirsh Gardner, 'Wasteland for Broken Hearts'

Wasteland for Broken Hearts  (2002,  46.35)  ***

Wasteland for Broken Hearts
Don't You Steal
She is Love
Thunder in Her Heart
Bad Cowboy
When the Sky Cries
Your Love
Hold You in My Dreams
Never Love
Welcome Home
More Than You'll Ever Know
Welcome Home (reprise)

Current availability:

The outrageously-coiffed Hirsh Gardner was drummer with mighty pomp/AORsters New England, who, after twenty years and several other projects, settled down to producing a solo album, released in 2002 as Wasteland for Broken Hearts. Does that title give you some idea of what you're going to get? Yup, it's solid AOR, tending towards the heavier end of the spectrum, played by multi-instrumentalist Gardner and a cast of thousands, including a virtual New England reformation on More Than You'll Ever Know. I have to say, compared to more recent exponents of the style, there's something to be said for being there first time round; this is far more inventive than the 'by numbers' approach of the likes of Two Fires. Personal favourites include Never Love, the ridiculous Bad Cowboy and the Welcome Home/More Than You'll Ever Know segue, but nothing here actually offended, which is pretty good going for the style.

Gardner's credited with Mellotron throughout, with strings on Don't You Steal, She Is Love, Bad Cowboy and Welcome Home while his old New England cohort Jimmy Waldo adds it to More Than You'll Ever Know, but... it's all sampled. As so often, the high notes are the giveaway, as indeed are some of the low ones. So; should you love the proggier end of AOR (I use the term loosely), you'll probably love Wasteland for Broken Hearts. I mean, even I liked some of it.

Official site

See: New England

Gargamel  (Norway)

Gargamel, 'Watch for the Umbles'

Watch for the Umbles  (2006,  58.01)  ***½

Strayed Again
Below the Water
Into the Cold
Agitated Mind

Current availability:

Gargamel's first album, 2006's Watch for the Umbles, is a strange prog/psych crossover record, heavily influenced by Peter Hammill/Van der Graaf, with much tortured vocalising, which becomes a little wearing after a while, even from Hammill himself, never mind someone else. Most of the album's five tracks have a jammed-out section, albeit usually at a funereal pace, rather than Hawkwind-style space rock, making the album rather longer than it really needs to be, all of which makes it sound like I'm dismissing the record, which I'm not.

Fake 'Tron on three tracks, with choirs on Strayed Again and Below The Water and a muffled solo string part opening Into The Cold, reiterating later in the piece. To be honest, Gargamel's follow-up, 2009's Descending, is a better, less formative record (real Mellotron, too), but this isn't bad for a first effort, vastly better than most modern prog and not a whiff of a Dream Theater influence to be heard. Hurrah!

Official site

See: Gargamel

Duke Garwood  (UK)

Duke Garwood, 'Heavy Love'

Heavy Love  (2015,  41.28)  ***

Some Times
Heavy Love
Burning Seas
Disco Lights
Sweet Wine
Snake Man
Suppertime in Hell
Honey in My Ear
Hawaiian Death Ballad

Current availability:

Although British, one-time Orb collaborator Duke Garwood not only has an American-sounding name, but an American-sounding voice to go with it, at least going by 2015's Heavy Love. The adjective that might best describe this album is 'haunted'; Garwood's half-spoken delivery over sparse instrumental backing recalls the most despairing end of the blues spectrum. This is what I'd hoped Robert Johnson might actually sound like, before discovering that he sounded nothing like it at all. Best tracks? Heavy Love, Sweet Wine and six-minute closer Hawaiian Death Ballad, possibly.

Alain Johannes is credited with Mellotron, amongst other things, but the distant flutes on Hawaiian Death Ballad do little to convince, frankly. Death-blues, anyone? This does what it does rather well, but even a mere forty minutes are hard-going for the non-fan.

Official site

Gateless Gate  (Canada)

Gateless Gate, 'Xinjiang'

Xinjiang  (2012,  46.35)  ***

Tian Shan
Lop Nur
Dandan Uiliq
Gateless Gate, 'Near North'

Near North  (2014,  68.07)  ***

Ode to Joy J
Ottawa River
Snow and Lake
Misery Bay
First Nation
Ken's Eagle
For Avril (Far From Home)
Our Forest Walk
Stars Over Nipissing

Current availability:

The Gateless Gate (named, it seems, for a 13th Century collection of Chinese koans) are Allister Thompson's ambient solo project, bridging the gap between Eno-esque ambient and modern post-rock. His first release, 2012's Xinjiang, is, unsurprisingly, influenced by the same ancient Chinese traditions as his moniker, its material bearing various Occidental motifs, from the synthesized ambiences of opener Tian Shan and Taklamakan through the mutated acoustic guitar work of Bezeklik and Karakoram to the electric guitar/'Mellotron' duet of Dunhuang and Lop Nur's fractured fuzz bass. Thompson uses sampled Mellotron on several tracks, notably the string lines on Dunhuang and Lop Nur and the chordal part on Dandan Uiliq, although you wouldn't call it a central feature of the album.

Four releases and two years on, 2014's Near North channels Thompson's native Canadian wilderness, a pastoral feel evident across much of its length, highpoints including the reverby piano of Snow And Lake and Ken's Eagle. Less samplotron this time round, with muted strings on several tracks and an upfront flute line on Ottawa River, but once again, it's hardly a defining feature.

Official site

Rebecca Gates  (US)

Rebecca Gates, 'Ruby Series'

Ruby Series  (2001,  31.02)  **½

The Seldom Scene
Lure and Cast
In a Star Orbit
The Colonel's Circle
I Received a Levitation

Current availability:

Rebecca Gates was frontwoman for The Spinanes, releasing her first solo album, Ruby Series, in 2001, the year after the band's last release. It's actually one of those 'neither fish nor fowl' releases, too long to be an EP, too short for an album, leading to that awkward 'mini-album' designation. Musically, it falls neatly into the 'wispy indie' bracket, seven slow, quiet tracks where the lyrics are almost certainly more important than the music. Would it be rude of me to say that it shows? Probably.

Noel Kupersmith is credited with Mellotron, but the smooth, speedy flute line on In A Star Orbit sounds distinctly sampled to my ears, frankly. So; another gentle indie release, not even a real Mellotron.

Official site

See: The Spinanes

Gazpacho  (Norway)

Gazpacho, 'Get it While it's Cold (37°)'

Get it While it's Cold (37°)  (2002,  34.30)  **½

Sea of Tranquility
Delete Home
Sun God
The Secret

Current availability:

Norwegians Gazpacho are often compared to the likes of Radiohead, Hogarth's Marillion (all of the original band were, horribly, involved with their fan club) and, God help us, Coldplay, none of which are designed to lighten Planet Mellotron's heart; Radiohead are a good band, but a hopeless influence, it seems. Anyway, 2002's oddly-titled Get it While it's Cold (37°) is, essentially, a demo for their debut proper, the following year's Bravo (er, Brave?); its first incarnation was as a four-song promo handed out at a Marillion convention (aargh!), subsequently becoming the seven-song CD/download we have here, dropping one track from the original version. Six of this version's tracks went on to be included on Bravo. Confused? Good. The version we have here consists of several rather lightweight compositions in a sub-Radiohead vein that are usually bearable for a minute or two before the teeth-grinding sets in, which is about the nicest thing I can think of to say about it. Sorry.

Thomas Andersen adds exceedingly murky 'Mellotron' strings to opener Sea Of Tranquility, with a solo part opening Delete Home, alongside flutes, although that appears to be it. Is there any more fakeotron on Bravo? Or any of the band's later releases? I hope not, as it'll save me tracking copies down and listening to them.

Official site

Aviv Geffen  (Israel)

Aviv Geffen, 'Im Hazman'

Im Hazman  [a.k.a. As Time Goes By]  (2006,  38.41)  **

Im Hazman (With The Time)
Machar (Tomorrow)
Alfei Anashim (Thousands of People)
Ze Rak Halev Shekoev Lach (Only the Heart Hurts)
Magefa (Epidemic)
Haolam Hatachton Shel Ha'ahava (Underground of Love)
Zoharim (Glowing)
Bishvilech (For You)
At Hakelev Veani (You, Me and the Dog)
En Zman Tachat Hashemesh (No Time Under the Sun)

Current availability:

Aviv Geffen is a superstar in Israel, largely known outside his home country (if at all) due to his collaborations with Steven Wilson, not least their albums together as Blackfield. 2006's Im Hazman [a.k.a. As Time Goes By] is a Hebrew-language singer-songwriter album, musical influences including the likes of U2 and Coldplay, alongside very traditional-sounding ballads, so don't get too excited. The albums has its moments, but frankly, this is pretty turgid stuff, its meaning lost on all but Geffen's home crowd due to language issues.

Geffen is credited with Mellotron, but the occasional string part either sounds real or even less authentic than Wilson's ropier samples. Sorry, I'd hoped for something a little more interesting than this, but, like most singer-songwriter efforts, it's all about the lyrics, not a single one of which I understand.

Official site

See: Blackfield

Gentle Knife  (Norway)

Gentle Knife, 'Gentle Knife'

Gentle Knife  (2015,  58.45)  ***½

Our Quiet Footsteps
Remnants of Pride
Tear Away The Chords That Bind
Beneath the Waning Moon
The Gentle Knife
Epilogue: Locus Amoenus
Coda: Impetus
Gentle Knife, 'Clock Unwound'

Clock Unwound  (2017,  55.03)  ***½

Prelude: Incipit
The Clock Unwound
Fade Away
Plans Askew

Current availability:

At first glance, Gentle Knife look like Norway's latest entrant in the 'symphonic progressive rock' stakes, although, as their eponymous debut progresses, it becomes obvious that the band's influences are more wide-ranging than that relatively narrow field. With no fewer than ten members on board, they have a wide instrumental palette to pick from, members of the woodwind and brass families adding an unexpected jazziness to proceedings at random intervals, while several flavours of prog, hard rock, jazz, folk and other styles worm their way into the compositions, to the point where no one track sounds particularly like any other. The upside? Variety is the spice of life. The downside? Just when you think they've slotted into a groove, they take a left turn, not always for the better.

As for specific influences, Our Quiet Footsteps is reminiscent of ...Poseidon-era closer King Crimson, closer Coda: Impetus is nearer to the early '80s version of that band, complete with some proto-hard rock riffery, while, in places, I'm also reminded of Anekdoten, themselves Crimso-influenced, particularly in the vocal melody department. Highlights include opener Eventide, Beneath The Waning Moon and the appropriately gentle, synth-drenched, Epilogue: Locus Amoenus. If I have a criticism, the band sometimes throw too many ideas into occasionally overlong material, but the pros generally outweigh the cons. They've been refreshingly honest regarding their Mellotron sample use, with flutes on opener Eventide and Coda: Impetus, distant strings on Tear Away The Chords That Bind and more upfront ones on Beneath The Waning Moon and the title track, although you'd rarely call it a major component of their sound.

2017's Clock Unwound (which appears to be subtitled 'Gentle Knife II') seems to be a vague concept work based around (to quote from the press release) 'the relentless passage of time...delves into lives overshadows by longing and disappointment'. Starting to feel the effects of advancing age, are we? Join the club. The music is every bit as diverse as on their debut, from short, beautiful French horn/piano opener Prelude: Incipit, to classic (heavyish) prog epic The Clock Unwound itself, through the strange, mid-'70s soft funk-influenced Fade Away, the gentler Plans Askew and the suitably darker Resignation. Very little samplotron this time round, the chief use being the distant strings on Fade Away.

Official site

Gerard  (Japan)  see:


Germinale  (Italy)

Germinale, '...E il Suo Respiro Ancora Agitata le Onde...'

...E il Suo Respiro Ancora Agitata le Onde...  (1996,  56.45/64.28)  ***½

Il "Gia Sentito" e il "Non Ancora"
1° Maggio
D'Ombra, Vapori e Sabbia
Le Onde, Respiro del Mare
Dioniso Inquieto
Avant - Grado
In Aeternum Veritas
[Bonus track:
Meurglys III (the Songwriters Guild)]
Germinale, 'Cielo e Terra'

Cielo e Terra  (2001,  60.54)  ***

In Aeternum Veritas
A Mio Figlio
Il Lento Risveglio
Chi Vola Vale
Cielo e Terra
Lettera d'Amore No 7
Trombe, Scale
La Danza del Velo
Lucciole per Lanterne (Si Vendono)

Current availability:

Having not released a new studio album in a decade at the time of writing, Italian progressives Germinale appear to be a spent force, which is a shame, as their '70s-influenced sound stands out sharply in contrast to the contemporaneous work of many of their countrymen. Their second album, 1996's rather overlong ...E il Suo Respiro Ancora Agitata le Onde..., swings between excellent, angular prog with plenty of (sampled) piano work and undistinguished modern guitar riffery. Edit, edit, edit... Many of its tracks feature both good and mediocre parts, better efforts including brief opener Il "Gia Sentito" e il "Non Ancora" and Avant - Grado, while the 'bonus' version of Van der Graaf's Meurglys III (The Songwriters Guild) is excellent, albeit largely due to the compositional quality. Although Marco Masoni is credited with Mellotron, it's quite clearly nothing of the sort. To be honest, his use is pretty unsubtle, lurching straight in with big block string chords at the beginning of Il "Gia Sentito" e il "Non Ancora" and great slabs of flute on Le Onde, Respiro Del Mare, although the strings on D'Io are more tasteful.

They followed up with 2001's Cielo e Terra, notable for a preponderance of shorter material (with two exceptions) and the duelling male/female vocals featured on several tracks. To be honest, the material doesn't particularly enthral this listener; maybe, like many prog albums, it needs multiple plays? The problem with that is, you can find the time to play something twenty times (how?) and find that it still doesn't grab you. It has its inventive moments, not least the accordion on Balera and the spoken-word parts, but too much of the overlong album passes by without anything happening of note. Andrea Moretti's credited 'Mellotron' turns out to be no more than a few sampled string chords on Atleta; no surprise as the 'Hammond' on several tracks (notably closer Lucciole Per Lanterne (Si Vendono)) is an emulation, too.

Despite my reservations, I still feel compelled to give ...E il Suo Respiro... a decent rating, although Cielo e Terra's too far from 'excellent' to be worth splashing out too much money for, I'm afraid.


Get Up Kids  (US)

Get Up Kids, 'On a Wire'

On a Wire  (2002,  43.19)  **

Stay Gone
Let the Reigns Go Loose
Fall From Grace
Grunge Pig
High as the Moon
All That I Know
Walking on a Wire
Wish You Were Here
Campfire Kansas
The Worst Idea
Hannah Hold on

Current availability:

The Get Up Kids are some kind of indie/emo crossover band from Kansas City (confusingly in Missouri), which probably isn't going to endear them to you any more than it has to me (the indie/emo bit, not Kansas City). Their third album, 2002's On a Wire, is, frankly, a dullard of a record; this clearly appeals to someone, but that someone isn't me. It's deeply unoriginal, too; the vocal melody on opener Overdue sounds like bloody Oasis, while Let The Reigns Go Loose starts like a poor outtake from Television's seminal Marquee Moon, quickly taking a left turn into 'mush' territory.

James Dewees plays a sampled Mellotron (?) flute part on All That I Know, to no great effect and despite a couple of 'are those fakeotron strings?' parts, that appears to be it. I think you know what (not) to do.

Official site

See: Gratitude

Getaway Cruiser  (US)

Getaway Cruiser, 'Getaway Cruiser'

Getaway Cruiser  (1998,  47.27)  **

I'm Fine (I Find)
Not Yet Gone
Strung Over, Hung Out
Come to Stay
Something About You
No More Blue
Let's Get Down
Wasting Away
Bad Time
Growing Out
Out of Control

Current availability:

Brothers Chris and Drew Peters formed 9th division grungers whirlingRoad in the early '90s, jumping ship after one album to hitch a ride on the latest bandwagon, electro-rock/pop. Getaway Cruiser's eponymous second album sounds (clearly quite deliberately) not unlike Garbage; female vocals? Check. Programmed drums? Check. Processed distorted guitars? Check. Skronky samples? Check. They even get a couple of hip-hop dudes to do their thing on a couple of tracks, although their recent grunge past keeps coming back to haunt them, notably in the riffage on Something About You and No More Blue.

Both brothers are credited with Mellotron; the string line and flute chords on Come To Stay and flutes on No More Blue almost convinced me, but the wonky, pitchbent strings on Bad Time, particularly the sustained chord at the end have left me with no choice but to bung this into Mellotronic quarantine. Getaway Cruiser's pretty bloody dull, frankly, not to mention badly dated. I get the impression that the Peters brothers' desperation to 'make it' led them in whichever direction made sense at that moment; unsurprisingly, they remain non-megastars to this day.


Ghost  (Japan)

Ghost, 'In Stormy Nights'

In Stormy Nights  (2007,  62.27)  ***

Motherly Bluster
Hemicyclic Anthelion
Water Door Yellow Gate
Gareki No Toshi

Current availability:

I reviewed Ghost's Hypnotic Underworld several years ago, but have just had 2007's In Stormy Nights brought to my attention (thanks, Mark). As other reviewers have pointed out, it's almost a microcosm of their career, veering between the acoustic psych of opener Motherly Bluster, the insane, near-half hour improv Hemicyclic Anthelion, Caledonia's (possibly unsurprising) attempt to replicate a Scots pipe marching band crossed with Magma and a distortion pedal and closer Grisaille's haunted, epic dark folk.

Despite a lack of any keyboard credits, someone plays the pseudotron strings on Grisaille and the choir part running right through Water Door Yellow Gate, a chord at the end held for long enough to give the sample game away. Is this any good? Well, parts of it are good, which parts depending on your taste, I suppose. I prefer the prog/folk end of their sound, but some of you will go for the tripped-out stuff.

See: Ghost

Ghost  (Sweden)

Ghost, 'Meliora'

Meliora  (2015,  41.23/47.29)  ****

From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Spöksonat (Ghost Sonata)
He is
Mummy Dust
Devil Church
Deus in Absentia
[Bonus track:

Current availability:

Ghost, looking suitably satanic'

If you've managed to avoid Sweden's Ghost up until now, you must be even more disconnected from the media than your humble writer; their ridiculous image, cunningly crossed (see what I did there?) with a superb ear for a melody, has seen them rise through the metal firmament like a mitre-shaped rocket. Y'know, ludicrous though their image undoubtedly is, I can't fault their dedication to the cause; not only is it both faultless and consistent, but they've succeeded in keeping all their identities secret across a three-album (and counting) career. 'Current' vocalist Papa Emeritus III (it's generally believed that his two 'predecessors' are actually the same guy) shares the stage with five totally anonymous musicians merely known as 'Nameless Ghouls', some of whom are reputed to have changed over the years, while their image subtly shifts from tour to tour. Impressive, in its own way. Beat that, Kiss.

2015's Meliora is their third album, its contents possibly best described as a mock-satanic, melodic-yet-heavy take on Metallica schmoozing with Queensrÿche, while fellow Swedes Europe and the Blue Öyster Cult look on from the sidelines, although I'm sure their influences range far further afield. Highlights include opener Spirit, complete with mock-gothic intro, the super-catchy Cirice and Majesty, but there really isn't anything on this LP-length release that could easily be discarded. Any wrong moves? Near-fatally, closer Deus In Absentia sounds like a death metal-lite take on Madness' House Of Fun, ever-so-slightly reducing its devilish impact, but it's a minor quibble. 'Ang on, I've suddenly realised who Ghost remind me of more than anyone: NWoBHM act Demon, who quickly outgrew the genre's limitations to become unsung heroes of interesting-yet-tuneful hard rock in the musical wasteland of the '80s. There you go, an updated Demon, possibly appropriately.

Despite warbling on about using 'Mellotron' on the album, the choirs on several tracks and occasional strings (notably on He Is) are very clearly sampled, to no-one's great surprise. Four stars? I wasn't going to, but a second listen affirmed the obvious: Ghost might be rather silly, but when you've listened to as much awful music as I have, something this well-constructed is a blessed relief. Did I just use a religious term there? Sorry, guys.

Official site

Roland Gift  (UK)

Roland Gift, 'Roland Gift'

Roland Gift  (2002,  44.59)  **

Tell Me You Want Me Back
Looking for a Friend
It's Only Money
Wish You Were Here
A Girl Like You
Fairy Tale
Lady DJ
Say it Ain't So
If We Ain't Got Love
What Do You Mean

Current availability:

Roland Gift was, of course, vocalist for the Fine Young Cannibals, a band as ubiquitous in late-'80s Britain as shoulder pads and hair gel (and that's just the men). For those of us for whom the mainstream held only horrors, their records were the worst kind of lightweight schlock you can imagine; fittingly, they now clog up charity shops and probably landfills across the length and breadth of the country. Gift took many years out of 'The Biz' (and who can blame him?), returning with an eponymous solo album in 2002. It's pretty much as you'd expect from a mainstream album from the time; a bit dancey, a bit retro, a bit Take That, a bit, er, crap. Yeah, yeah, it's impeccably done, but this kind of bland dross clogs up not only chazzers and landfill, but the airwaves, too, making it more offensive than it would be if it were only to be found in the homes of his fans. There aren't any best tracks.

Although Mellotron use is rumoured, the only obvious parts appear to be samples, to no-one's great surprise, with an obvious flute part on the album's hit, It's Only Money and what could be strings on A Girl Like You. Overall, then, the kind of music that drifts out of clothes shops that cater for the slightly older customer. I try to avoid such shops and thus such music. I can only recommend that you do the same.

Official site

Thea Gilmore  (UK)

Thea Gilmore, 'The Lipstick Conspiracies'

The Lipstick Conspiracies  (2000,  51.53)  ***

Generation Y?
The Resurrection Men
See if They Applaud
Exit Route
My Own Private Riot
Edge of My Seat
Bulletin Britain
Night Driving
Lidocaine Baby
Land of the Free
My Beautiful Defence
Thea Gilmore, 'Liejacker'

Liejacker  (2008,  53.50)  ***½

Old Soul
Black Letter
Dance in New York
Roll on
Icarus Wind
Wrong Side
Slow Journey
And You Shall Know No Other God
When I Get Back to Shore
Lower Road
You Spin Me Round

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Thea Gilmore is one of those artists who is invariably lumped in with 'folk', due to her acousticity, but who would be better described as a singer-songwriter who just happens to play acoustic guitar (see: Joni Mitchell, a million others). Her second album, 2000's The Lipstick Conspiracies, is a decent collection of songs arranged in a variety of folk and pop/rock styles, top tracks including sprightly opener Generation Y?, the haunted My Own Private Riot and Bulletin Britain. Gilmore's husband and musical collaborator Nigel Stonier is credited with Mellotron, but the barely-audible strings on The Resurrection Men triggered my 'querulous face' (yes, I have one); is that really a genuine, two-man lifting job Mellotron we're hearing? I think not, sadly.

2008's Liejacker (a lie hijacker, basically) is her eighth album in a decade, and her first full independent release (albeit distributed by Universal). It's a searingly honest collection of songs of the quality of opener Old Soul, Icarus Wind and Breathe, fully justifying Gilmore's increasing success, the occasional subtle use of sampled rhythms enhancing rather than detracting from the music, which makes a pleasant change. Stonier on 'Mellotron' again, though not a lot, with naught but faint flutes on opener Old Soul, by the sound of it. This is one of those records that will almost certainly grow on me with time; amusingly, one of its highlights is the 'bonus' (can you buy a disc without it?) acoustic version of Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), proving the quality of the original songwriting.

All in all, then, one good and one very good album, but not ones for Mellotron enthusiasts.

Official site

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