Liquid Sound Company are a Texas-based psych outfit (no surprise there; let's face it, the state has some serious psychedelic history), led by guitarist/vocalist John Perez, better-known for playing doom with Solitude Aeturnus and the like. Their debut album, 1996's Exploring the Psychedelic, covers several different psychedelic styles, going from the shortish A Splash Of Color or Ride The Coaster Pyramid to the lengthy, jammed-out likes of Mesmerizing Eye and Sadhana Siddhi. The vaguely Neil Young-ish Golden Gate '67, with its blatant Rush lift is a bit of a surprise, as is the psych/doom crossover Swallow, just going to prove that the band have more strings to their bow than you might at first expect. Perez is credited with Mellotron, but when it finally appears, with a floaty strings part on closer Sadhana Siddhi, a combination of its 'too smooth' tone and 'too bloody long' notes gives the sample game away. Guys, PLEASE don't credit 'Mellotron' when it ain't, OK? Like that'll make any difference. Good album, anyway, but no actual Mellotron.
Make no mistake, Liquid Visions are psych with a capital 'PS' (PSych?). Active since the late '90s, it's difficult to work out exactly what they've released and when, as their discography's littered with singles, compilation appearances and all the usual ephemera that surrounds such bands, although it seems that 2002's Hypnotized (shame about the US spelling, guys) is their third full-length release. It covers a gamut of psych styles over its length, from the two (relatively) fast'n'furious tracks that open the album to the slightly longer-form ones in the middle to the epics that close the disc. Morning Rain has a Wish You Were Here vibe about it; fitting, as Liquid Visions have semi-covered the Floyd on their Overstellar Interdrive single (ho ho), not to mention their cover of More's Ibiza Bar that finds its way onto the end of this album as a bonus track, leaving Paralyzed as the album's classic. Fifteen minutes long, with seven minutes of Leslie vocalled build-up before the freak-out leading into a dip in the sonic intensity, another crescendo and a slow wind-down. Classic. Dave Schmidt plays Rhodes and 'Mellotron' on top of his bass duties, but I'll be buggered if I can hear either of them. Still, looks good in the credits, dunnit? I'm such a cynic; I'm sure the samples are there somewhere, I just wish I could work out where.
2006's The Lost Recordings (recorded in 2000) is utterly bemusing; why would you not issue something this good at the time it was made? Were the recordings genuinely 'lost' for a while? The album slews between frantic psych/garage rock (opener Fragile Illusions, Phantom Child), a more pure form of lengthy, Eastern-inflected psych (Walk Like An Angel, Yellow Sunshine Paper Man) and full-blown modern, heavy psych (Nuclear War), the rest of the album sitting somewhere between those three minor variations on a theme. The overall vibe is superb, despite (because of?) the album's length, actually making it a more worthwhile release than Hypnotized. As far as that 'Mellotron' credit goes, this time round we get a slightly murky (and clearly sampled string) part in the middle of Shadow Man, so at least there's something to show for it.
Lisa Isaksson's Lisa o Piu released their second album, the beautiful Behind the Bend, in 2010, gaining instant acid folk credibility with their luminous, ethereal sound, all light-as-air vocals, zithers, glockenspiels and violas. At under half an hour, it doesn't have time to drag, but every track has its strengths, notably the twelve-minute Child Of Trees and closer Gong For Hours (Jupiter's Under The Moon), which is, er, three minutes of softly-struck solo gong. David Svedmyr is credited with Mellotron and supposedly owns a Swedish-built MkVI, but I'd love to know where it is on the album; the strings are clearly real and the flutes (two band members are credited) all sound pretty authentic, too. Svedmyr played mellophone on Roger Wootton (of Comus) and Piu's Cut the Air at Mello Club the previous year; maybe this is the cause of the confusion? Anyway, no obvious Mellotron, but a truly beautiful record, guaranteed to appeal to fans of dark folk. Excellent.
Lit's second album displays their raucous powerpop to good effect; I've seen them described as 'a cross between Nirvana and Cheap Trick', which is no bad thing. Unfortunately, the promise shown by opener Four dissipates all too soon, as much of the material is too samey to sustain an album's-worth of it, although I'm sure that's as much down to taste as anything. The overall vibe isn't helped by the whole pop-punk thing being cheapened by the likes of Green Day, Blink 182 et al, although this is nearer pop than punk, despite the fuzz pedals. Samplotron on Perfect One, from Niels Bye Nielsen, with a smattering of flutes that don't really add much to the song.
Little A (or Little a, I suppose), play by-numbers US millennial indie, at its best on Silences. Harmless enough in small doses, but dull. Joel Simches plays skronky, obviously sampled Mellotron strings on Press Return.
Miami proggers Little Atlas have improved steadily since 1998's Neverworldly, 2005's Wanderlust featuring some pretty decent material, albeit in a neo-/'modern' prog crossover vein. Highlights? Parts of Higher, the lengthyish The Prisoner and the energetic On And On. For much of the album, it's difficult to say whether the band are using Mellotron samples or generic sounds, with choirs on a couple of tracks, a near-solo flute part on Home and background strings in places, becoming wildly obvious on closer Mirror Of Life. 2007's Hollow is similar to its predecessor in its juxtapositioning of disparate elements, from the vaguely indie/metal of the opening title track through prog epic Silence, the angular Paranoiac and Special's shuffle rhythm. Several samplotron false alarms, although the strings on Orderly and choirs on Stage are definites. After a six-year break, 2013's Automatic Day was well worth the wait, featuring material of the quality of opener Oort, Apathy and Emily True, although the album takes a bit of a dip towards the end. Given its length, a little self-editing might have been an idea, but the good stuff here still gives it four stars. Samplotron strings on several tracks, notably the three named above.
Little Barrie's King of the Waves is a low-fi, vaguely ZZ Top-esque blues rock album, immediately elevating it above the tidal wave of indie shite that seems to infest this site. However, whither Barrie Cadogan's Mellotron?
Sjur Lyseid appears to be Little Hands of Asphalt, a Norwegian singer-songwriter at the mainstream pop end of the spectrum, going by his debut, 2009's Leap Years. Although far better than many similar, with a distinct Dylan influence in places, too much of the album's material slips into that cheesy style so beloved of his American contemporaries, largely due to his vocal melodies, worst offenders being Bait and The Next Time We Meet. Lyseid plays samplotron, with distant strings on The Future and a flute melody on The Next Time We Meet.
The members of Little Joy met in Portugal, formed in L.A. and hail from Brazil and the US, so with so much potential cross-cultural fertilisation, it makes me wonder how they managed to come up with an album as lacklustre as their eponymous 2008 debut. Sorry, but a sort of slightly Latin/indie crossover isn't about to set the world on fire, especially when it 'features' songs as dreary as Play The Part and With Strangers. Rodrigo Amarente plays samplotron, with strings towards the end of Don't Watch Me Dancing. Sadly, Little Joy is well-named; despite the South American influence, there really is little joy in listening to this, on any level.
Little Monsters' Soulville is an album made by children, for children, although, as its subtitle says, anyone can listen. I can imagine a British version would feature a bunch of kids 'singing' tunelessly, as they usually do before learning otherwise, but this lot have excellent voices, backed by a crack team of players on a selection of soul classics. Dancing In The Street? Check. Stand By Me? Check. Mustang Sally? Check. No prizes for innovation, but that isn't the point; this is a starting-point for an appreciation of black American music over the decades and works splendidly as such. Unfortunately, Rob Arthur's Mellotron strings on Stand By Me, Lean On Me and Grandma's Hands are very obviously sampled.
Little Nemo (named for the comic character) were a French entry in the 'alt.rock' stakes, whose third (?) full album, 1992's The World is Flat, is a passable collection of material, although its diversity is its artistic downfall, its contents veering between the folk/pop of opener Railways & Roads, the pseudo-'60s pop of Rubber Hearts and Thoughts & Words and bluesy closer Bain De Minuit. The album features no fewer than three credited Mellotron players, Jean Taxis, Ronan Lesergent and Vincent le Gallo (nothing to do with tedious egomaniac Vincent Gallo), although only four obvious tracks: strings and choirs on Railways & Roads and strings on Au Milieu Du Ciel, Rumours and Thoughts & Words, samples (pre-commercially available ones, so user's own?) particularly obvious on the low notes on Rumours.
The Little Ones, as you might expect from their name, epitomise dweeby indie pop on their sole album to date, 2008's Morning Tide, their manic cheerfulness giving the impression that they always thought that The Beach Boys were genuinely carefree and happy-go-lucky. Most reviews pinpoint Everybody's Up To Something as its best track, principally due to its being the only place where any melancholy seeps through, although as mindless positivism antidotes go, it's pretty low-key. Brian William Reyes and Lee LaDouceur are credited with Mellotron, but I'm heavily unconvinced by the full-on mixed strings on the opening title track, strings on Ordinary Song and Farm Song, high cellos (?) on All Your Modern Boxes and flutes on Like A Spoke On A Wheel, plus possible choir parts here and there. Sorry, dull and (real) Mellotron-free.
Going by their Blomkraftens Frukt three-track EP, Liv på Jorden (a.k.a. Life on Earth) are yet another raucous Scandianvian psych-tinged garage band, at their loudest on the title track and their psychest on Sagan Om Harald Hårfäste Och Hassan-I Sabbah. David Svedmyr is credited with Mellotron on the latter, but the vibes and Chamberlin solo male voice (and rhythms?) are pretty blatantly sampled.
The cover image of Mark Lizotte's Soul Lost Companion (and its title) prepared me for the worst; that wistful, yearning look up at... something, that wet-as-water title... No, he's not (obviously) a God-botherer, just a terribly wussy singer-songwriter. Turns out his career's rather longer than I'd expected; he performed for years under the macho Aussie name of (Johnny) Diesel and is married to Jimmy Barnes's sister-in-law, making him almost Aussie rock royalty. For some reason, this is the only album Lizotte/Diesel's released under his own name; he's reverted to his stage moniker for subsequent releases. To be fair, I've actually heard worse in this line, but it's pretty awful, all heartfelt, faux-rootsy material, overlaid with Lizotte's high tenor, slipping into falsetto too often for comfort. Ours, not his. OK, possibly his, too. Jerry Harrison is credited with Mellotron on Burning Water, but it's actually on the reasonably rocking Lotion, with an occasional string part, fairly obviously sampled.
El Toppo was London-based outfit the Llama Farmers' (terrible name!) second album, coming across as a rather confused mess of grungy hard rock, bog-standard indie and typical British observational writing (viz Postcards & Moonrock). I'm having trouble thinking not so much of anything nice to say about this album, but anything at all; it left an almost indelible blank on my mind, although it didn't actively offend me, which is something. Vocalist/guitarist Neil "Bernie" Simpson doubles on various keyboards, including samplotron, with probable strings on You Bore Me. This didn't cost me very much, but I still feel like I've been had. Anyone want a Llama Farmers CD?
Local H are another pre-White Stripes two-man band, guitarist/vocalist Scott Lucas adding bass pickups to his guitar, though I'm not sure how that substitutes for a bass; it's all in the frequencies, I suppose. Anyway, their fifth album, 2004's Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?, references a relatively obscure American actress, for reasons best known to themselves and consists of fourteen tracks of raw, garage rock'n'roll, going well beyond mere 'punk' for their inspiration. The album rocks, although its almost-hour length is way too long for this kind of stuff. Best tracks? Probably Buffalo Trace and the genuinely epic That's What They All Say. Zak Schneider plays samplotron on Dick Jones, with full-on pitchbent strings and possibly background flutes on one of the album's most atypical tracks, where they utilise a chord straight out of the Zep songbook.
Going by their second album, 2011's Little Me Will Start a Storm, Loch Lomond are an indie/chamber/folk outfit; in practice, this means that the album has little real content, but plenty of arrangement, with massed male/female choral voices, woodwinds and solo strings battling rather anodyne material. Better tracks include opener Blue Lead Fences, despite the irritating vocals and Earth Has Moved Again, principally due to its lovely guitar part, but the album's overall tweeness works against it, unless, of course, you like their fey approach. Dave Depper is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on opener Blue Lead Fences and flutes on Water In Astoria simply aren't. Sorry. So; more twee indie folksy stuff. Not my bag, might be yours, no Mellotron.
Chicagoan trio Locrian are the kind of post-rock outfit who release three or four albums a year, probably because their oeuvre appears to be largely improvised. You know, record yourself jamming, judiciously edit (hopefully), release. Cynical? Moi? Some of 2012's Mamiffer collaboration, Bless Them That Curse You, isn't too bad, material like Corpus Luteum and Lechatelierite invoking an audio transcript of the Floyd's 'quiet desperation', although nineteen-minute closer Metis/Amaranthine/The Emperor is an interminable grind, shifting between 'quiet but painful' and 'noisy but painful'. I expect that's the idea. Mellotron? Unsurprisingly, given Mamiffer's 'previous' on the subject, the strings on Metis/Amaranthine/The Emperor are sampled, which is probably all you need to know about the credit. Do you like noisy post-rock? No? Then I wouldn't worry, if I were you.
2013's Return to Annihilation is, to my ears, a great improvement. It takes a while to get going, but by the ominous Exiting The Hall Of Vapor And Light, the band have found their feet, ending with the fifteen-minute Obsolete Elegies, their dread power coming to a head at its finale. Exceedingly little samplotron, with naught but a few very obviously sampled high string notes a few minutes into Obsolete Elegies. Two years later, Infinite Dissolution takes the best of its predecessor and builds on it, not least in opener Arc Of Extinction, Dark Shales and An Index Of Air, with samplotron strings in Dark Shales, The Future Of Death and The Great Dying.
Locust, a.k.a. Mark Van Hoen, play a kind of laid-back electronica that shouldn't offend those of you/us that aren't into bangin' techno and the like. Mark plays a variety of instruments, making a perfectly pleasant sound, although it can rather drift by at times, which I concede may be the intention. Not being a singer, he brings in several collaborators, which (to my ears) gives the album a slightly disjointed quality, although I'm well aware that this is quite normal in his chosen field. Van Hoen plays samplotron on nine out of sixteen tracks, with light string and choir work on most, to the point of inaudibility in places. However, Summer Rain and, particularly, Some Love Will Remain Unsaid have some upfront flute, with fairly obvious choir on the latter, too.
'10,000 Light Years Ago'? Repeat after me, John: "A light year is a measure of distance, not time. A light year is a measure of distance, not time. A light year is a...". Or am I missing the joke? Somehow, I doubt it. Either way, it's Lodge's second solo album, nearly forty years after his first and, to my surprise, turns out to be more varied and rather better than I'd expected. Well, his Moodies bandmate Justin Hayward's solo albums sound just like the parent band, only even more insipid, so it's nice to hear a Moody Blue make an album that actually has a little oomph in places. To illustrate this barely-over-EP-length album's diversity, opener In My Mind sounds exactly like Pink Floyd, typical old muso 'look back fondly' effort Those Days In Birmingham could be a Hammond-fuelled Moodies, Get Me Out of Here's something of a power ballad, (You Drive Me) Crazy is plain, good ol' rock'n'roll, while Love Passed Me By is violin and accordion-led jazz. Although Lodge's old compadre Mike Pinder is credited with Mellotron on Simply Magic (along with Ray Thomas' flute), I'm sure it will come as zero surprise to any of you that it's clearly sampled (see my Pinder reviews for his quote on the subject). Well, this could've been a great deal worse; perhaps keeping it so short is the result of a ruthless cull of 'late-period Moodies MOR'-type material? In which case, thank you, Mr. Lodge.
Logic Gate (a computing term) are Steven Grace's relatively typical 'one man and his synths' EM solo project, with just two releases to his/their name. I believe 2003's From the Silence was originally released in download-only format; it opens well, utilising 'tuned' white noise to interesting effect, before slipping into the more 'standard' tricks: warbling sequencers and drifting pads. Plenty of sampled Mellotron strings, with bits of choir and flute, but very obviously not a real machine. Five years on, Grace followed up with Voyages, in 2008, before dropping the project name and reverting to his own for future releases. It's a more adventurous effort all round, some of the one-chord drones reminding me of Klaus Schulze, even if they, er, become a little tedious after a few minutes. The album's overall feel is far more mature than that of its predecessor, with less reliance on the usual EM tricks; the point in closer The Voyage Home when the predominantly minor-key chording suddenly switches to major is quite startling. Loads more samplotron this time round, including brass parts on a couple of tracks, with strings and flutes all over the place.
Despite forming in the mid-'90s, two albums appearing around the turn of the millennium, it's taken Italian progsters Logos until 2014 to release album no.3, L'Enigma della Vita. Although it's somewhat overlong, I suppose we should let them off the hook, it being their first release in well over a decade... Nonetheless, it could probably have done with an edit; the band sometimes take the easy option, going for bland, neo-ish chord sequences, while the guitarist uses the 'when in doubt, riff it out' trick that worked twenty years ago, but has become stale with overuse. It's far from all bad news, though (well, I've given it ***½); the album's overall feel is that of an Italian band updating their country's '70s scene, particularly on material such as the title track and Pioggia In Campagna. Luca Zerman's credited with Mellotron, but quite clearly isn't playing a real one, using his samples on most tracks, with various combos of strings and choirs, plus occasional flutes, in a pleasing-yet-not-over-the-top kind of way. Let's hope we don't have to wait so long for Logos' next release and, when it comes, they've fine-tuned their melodic sensibilities and sharpened their editing scissors.
LogOut play a kind of indie/synthpop crossover that, sadly, extracts the worst from both areas and sticks them together in an unwieldy fashion. Most irritating. Hristos Lainas' 'Mellotron' flutes on As If aren't.
Lombroso play a kind of Italian indie, for want of a better description, full of Latin influences. 2010's Una Vita Non Mi Basta, while a long way from a 'good listen', is perfectly acceptable within its limitations, just not very interesting to the ear attuned to something a little more dynamic. Vocalist/guitarist Dario Ciffo allegedly plays Mellotron on closer Immenso E Fragile, but what he might be doing, hidden under the track's (real) horn section, is anyone's guess. So; harmless enough, unlikely to get an awful lot of recognition outside the band's home territory. And no obvious Mellotron.
The Bane of Progress is an album of Americana-tinged singer-songwriter fare of the rather faceless variety, probably at its best on Dance With Me. Adam Selzer's credited Mellotron appears twice, with quavery flutes on Scar Showing Parade and Evidence, more obviously sampled on the latter.
The Lonesomes sit at the mournful end of the country-rock spectrum (somehow, 'Americana' doesn't seem to fit their music), highlights of their eponymous album including jangly opener Glide, the rocky Helping Hands and the lengthy Leaving Train. Dustin Dybvig's credited with Mellotron on Western Town, but the flutes (in octaves?) on the track fail to ring true.
Bobby Long is one of those current artists who've used the Internet as a springboard, in his case, iTunes 'Unsigned' chart, apparently. 2011's A Winter Tale (his fifth album, but second on an actual label) has its moments, but its acoustic singer-songwriter/folk stylings fall rather flat due to a dearth of really good material. A handful of songs are fine, but fifty minutes'-worth had me gritting my teeth with boredom, not to mention an unpleasant Oasis influence detectable in his vocal style (particularly bad example: Who Have You Been Loving). Never a good thing. Now, although the album was recorded at London's analogue temple, Toe Rag Studios, who often hire my own M400, Joe Glossop's 'Mellotron' flutes on The Bounty Of Mary Jane don't sound a lot like a real machine, let alone mine. Or is it somewhere else? Is it mine? (Wonders whether he hired it out around that time). I'll check with the studio, but it's looking rather like a 'no' at this point.
Well, I'm pleased to report (no, not that it was my Mellotron) that Long's follow-up, Wishbone, is a far better effort all round, featuring songs of the quality of opener Devil Moon, She Won't Leave, Making You Talk and My Parade. Long's 'Mellotron' is an elusive beast; the flutes on Not Tonight? strings on closer To The Light? Quite certain it's not real, either way. Ode to Thinking is better again, but the rumoured Mellotron (sampled or otherwise) is nowhere to be heard.
I'm afraid to say that City Girl is a terribly slushy singer-songwriter effort, better than many, thus the extra half star, but desperately unexciting. Chris Horvath is credited with Mellotron, but the nearest this gets to it is a distant cello on closer Never Forget You.
Robert Earl (previously Robby) Longley is an acoustic guitarist of what I consider to be the 'Gordon Giltrap school', a player who takes influences from anywhere and everywhere, freely mixing classical, folk, rock, jazz and world musics into his own style. 2005's Yuletide is, of course, a Christmas album, Longley freely rearranging overly-familiar seasonal favourites such as Little Drummer Boy, The First Noel and Amazing Grace, freshening them up and removing them from their tired old settings. Fakeotron everywhere you look, with various combinations of strings, flutes and choirs on most tracks. Diaspora, from two years later, is an accomplished work, its twelve tracks loosely similar, yet distinct from one another, from opener Entrada Grande and Andaluz' Spanish feel, Baraka's ethno-fusion and the mutated bossa nova of Tucumcari. Longley credits himself with Mellotron, but the strings, choirs, flutes and brass used across the album are obviously sampled.
The Loons are a Californian psych/freakbeat crossover outfit, perfectly capturing the period when mods began wearing paisley shirts and grew their hair, touchstones including the '66 Stones and US practitioners like The Chocolate Watchband; fittingly, the latter reformed at an event organised by Loons mainman Mike Stax (surely his real name?). Their third album (the Loons, not the Watchband), 2010's preposterously-yet-wonderfully-titled Red Dissolving Rays of Light, is stuffed with tracks that could so easily have been written in late '66, but weren't. Highlights include opener Between Grey Slates, which kicks off with a cheeky rip from Elvis Costello's Watching The Detectives, the driving I Wanna Get You and the marvellous Diamonds, Garbage & Gold, featuring a perfect marriage of lyrics and music. Conor Riley (Silver Sunshine, Astra) is credited with the major Mellotron string part on Orphan Wing, but given those bands' sample use, the same can safely be assumed here. Overall, then, while not actually a classic, Red Dissolving Rays of Light is a most worthy effort that should appeal to lovers of their particular brand of genre crossover.
After 2000's The Geometrid, Looper's last album to date is 2002's The Snare. Sad to say, Stuart David has opted to go more 'mainstream' on this release, with most of Up a Tree's most appealing features being either marginalised or simply abandoned, leaving a rather hollow pop album only slightly enlivened by hammer dulcimer and Wurlitzer parts occasionally entering the fray. The nearest the band gets to their previous form is closer Fucking Around, but it's a bit 'too little, too late' for this reviewer. Two samplotron tracks, David adding background flutes to Lover's Leap and flutes and a solo cello part to Good Girls.
Horrible 'transcendent' pop from Denmark with no obvious redeeming features. One apparent samplotron part, with a string section solo opening Campari Chaser, for which there are no fewer than FOUR Mellotron players credited, Martin "Sieben" Norgreen, Klaus Bendix, Mathias Elovsson and Leiv Aasen. Is this some Danish joke?
Omar Rodríguez López is, of course, one half of The Mars Volta, running a solo career alongside the band, not to mention artistic projects in various other media, including film. Unbelievably, 2010's Tychozorente is his seventeenth solo release in six years, ignoring the five Mars Volta albums that appeared in the same period. It's one of several avant-garde albums he's put out over this time, actually quite difficult to pin down; suffice to say, if the weirder end of his main band's sound appeals to you, you may just possibly go for this. Lopez' brother Marcel is credited with Mellotron, but the vague 'Tronnish strings on Piedras Y Ansiedad seem quite unlikely to have emanated from anything other than a piece of software to my ears. Overall, a pretty weird effort that probably reaps the 'multiple plays' dividend, assuming you can put up with hearing it that many times. Anyway, no obvious real Mellotron, so definitely not worth it on those grounds.
New Jersey's Lord Sterling are in utter thrall to the MC5, conclusively proving their devotion on 2002's Weapon of Truth. Although overlong, it's not a bad effort, a little like a low-budget Motorpsycho (also MC5 fans), better tracks including the opening title track, the trippy Dead In Orbit and Earthling, all contenders in the 'punky hard rock' stakes, although their cover of the Motor City boys' Black To Comm is unlikely to beat the original. Mike Schweigert supposedly plays Mellotron and almost gets away with it re. the repeating flute part on the title track, but the strings on Dead In Orbit and Listener sound little like a real Mellotron to my ears. Overall, then, good at what it does with a handful of really good tracks, but no Mellotron.
2009's Fear No Pain is Finnish doomsters Lord Vicar's debut long-player; seven tracks in slightly over an hour, eh? None more doom! It's a decent enough, if largely generic effort, material like eight-minute opener Down The Nails and Born Of Jackal doing all the usual stuff, albeit with rather more panache than many of their contemporaries. Best track? Fourteen-minute closer The Funeral Pyre, opening with several minutes of acoustic-and-vocal work before the riffery kicks in. Kimi "Peter Inverted" Kärki is credited with Mellotron, but I'll be amazed if the brief, distant choir part on The Last Of The Templars is genuine. So; a surprisingly good album, although trimming twenty minutes of deadish wood would possibly improve matters. Three years on, Signs of Osiris is a distinct improvement, the band showing signs of
Osiris developing their own style, at least to an extent. Highlights? The eccentric, bass-led Child Witness, the largely acoustic Endless November and lengthy, fairly unheavy closer Sign Of Osiris Risen, although even the more generic material does the job without being too formulaic. A little more samplotron this time round, with distant, murky strings on Between The Blue Temple And The North Tower, more upfront ones on Endless November and choirs on the first part of Sign Of Osiris Risen, Isis And The Needle.
Los Super Seven should probably file under S, but since they're an American (albeit mostly Spanish-language) outfit, they'll stay here until someone tells me definitively otherwise. They're a Latin supergroup, apparently, regular members including Joe Ely, Flaco Jimenez, Rick Treviño and the now-deceased Freddy Fender, playing a Tex-Mex mix of Latin and American musics, with the accent on the former. 2001's Canto is their second album (of three to date), and while perfectly pleasant, isn't really going to excite anyone not already into the style, I suspect. David Hidalgo and Treviño both play samplotron, with a few seconds of either cellos or violas on Calle Dieceseis and Mellotron guitar on closer Baby, giving the sample game away.
Annett "Louisan" Päge is an anomaly: a German singer who sings in German, but sounds French. Huh? Well, going by her fifth album, 2011's In Meiner Mitte, her material resides more in the jazz/chanson tradition than anything more contemporary, although Louisan is only in her early thirties, making the record vastly more palatable than the pseudo-American singer-songwriter guff I'd expected. Best tracks? The opening title track, with its non-standard piano chords, the near-Americana of Würdest Du, pre-war café rave-up Pärchenallergie and sparse closer Vorsicht! Zerbrechlich, all enhanced by Louisan's pleasantly breathy voice. Friedrich Paravicini is credited with Mellotron, but the skronky strings on Schlaf (Morgen Früh Bist du Zurück) whine in all the wrong places, although the flutes sound fine; then again, it's the easiest sound to sample well. So; no actual Mellotron, but an album that, at its very least, is pleasant and inoffensive, although the highest accolade I can give it (and her) is that Annett Louisan almost succeeds in making German sound sexy.
Sadly, her follow-up, 2014's Zu Viel Information, is a massive disappointment, her 'pleasantly breathy' voice tipping over into 'faux-irritating-little-girl'. Sorry to be so negative, but material like listless opener Stars or Du Fehlst Mir So take a physical effort to endure, although she's at her best/least bad (delete as applicable) when she jazzes things up a bit (Ronny Und Johnny, Ey Na Du), or the rare occasions her balladry actually works (Dann Sag Ich's Ihr Halt, Papillon). Martin Gallop is credited with Mellotron on Stars and Besonders. Um, doing what? And where? So why even credit it? Next...
Sara Lov's fractured childhood (born American, kidnapped by her father, lived in Israel till her teens) has almost certainly informed her subsequent work, so it's unsurprising that her first full album, 2009's Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming, should be so subdued. As it happens, her main band, The Devics, are similarly quietly despairing, so it's probably fair to say that anyone who likes them will probably like Lov's solo work. Zac Rae plays alleged Chamberlin, with background strings on Frankie and Old Friends, although I suspect samples.
Chicago's Love of Everything are essentially Bobby Burg plus whoever he has around at the time, dedicated to producing low-fi vignettes about Burg's emotional life, like a less polished version of, say, Low, but more self-consciously 'indie'. Whether or not you'll like the amusingly Bonnie Tyler/Jim Steinman-referencing Total Eclipse of the Heart depends largely on your tolerance for deliberately off-key vocals delivered in an exceptionally fey manner; hey, that's indie, kids... Many of its tracks fail to reach two minutes, making a short vinyl-length fourteen-tracker, which is actually a bit of a relief. Mark Greenberg plays samplotron on two tracks, with reasonable flute parts on the adjoining Living Life Too and Porch Sleeping, the overlong final note of which gives it away.
Love Tractor are a second-division Athens, GA band; you know, R.E.M., B-52s et al.
Their reformation album, The Sky at Night, is a diverse pop/rock effort, shifting between its default 'Athens' sound, the vaguely dubby Bright and the electronica-influenced likes of Birthday Of Time, the title track and Antarctica (Widespread Panic). Armistead Wellford's Chamberlin strings on a few tracks really aren't, though. 2005's Black Hole is less appealing, straying into 'failed musical experiment' territory far too often. Billy Holmes allegedly plays Mellotron, but the fake flutes and choirs on the title track and the choirs and strings on closer Til Morning Comes tell another story. The following year's wittily Eno-referencing Before & After Christmas (title and sleeve) is a Christmas album with a difference, at its weirdest on their rather twisted version of Pink Floyd's See Emily Play, I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas and their Brian May-esque budget guitar orchestra version of Auld Lang Syne. Holmes adds samplotron strings to See Emily Play.
Lovebites' oddly-titled Nothing But Joy is one of the less joyous albums I've heard lately; perhaps I'm missing the point? It's a bland indie effort with no especially redeeming features, although a handful of its more upbeat tracks try to improve matters slightly. Eric Kupper's Mellotron? No idea. The stringy sound on Promised Land? Hard to say. Certainly not a Mellotron.
The Lovetones' Be What You Want was released in 2002 in Oz and early the following year in the States, only saved from getting an even lower rating by the fact that band leader Matthew Tow doesn't fully ape Oasis, although it's a close run thing. On the samplotron front, David Owen plays flutes on What Am I To Do and It's Always Been That Way, plus strings on the title track, although the strings on Something Good and Fairweather are real. Album's major plus point? Its brevity.
One welcome change on 2005's stodgy and overlong Meditations is the addition of a psychedelic jamming feel on a few tracks (yes, this is welcome...), with three songs over six minutes (Genius, Pictures and instrumental closer The Color And The Cut), all extended by lengthy psych workouts. These are about the album's best tracks, but too much tedious filler scuppers it as a whole and while Tow seems to've dropped his Liamisms, the extra twenty minutes on the album's length dock it a half star from the three I was initially tempted to give it. I presume keyboard player Matthew Sigley plays the album's samplotron parts, with strings on (I Gotta) Feel, flutes on Stars, choirs on Come Home, background, er, something Mellotronic (flutes?) on Across The Sea and very obvious choirs on It's Not Over Yet and A Place For Us.
Fay "Lovsky" Luyendijk has been an integral, if fringe component of the Dutch scene for over thirty years now, specialising in a kind of pre-war popular music, heard to good effect on 1998's Numbers, complete with excellent, Hergé-esque cover art (Tintin, of course - come on, keep up!) While there isn't a bad track on the album, Funny Bizniz, the gentle Portugal and Morpheus are highlights, her Bande Dessinée's laid-back, jazzy tones complementing Lovsky's voice perfectly. Lovsky supposedly plays Mellotron, but the flute line on Late Nite Airport really isn't convincing me, I'm afraid. Numbers certainly isn't for everyone (in fairness, what is?), but anyone who ever heard and loved Richard Thompson's Al Bowlly's In Heaven and wanted to hear more without actually delving into the murky world of old 78s, might think about listening to Ms. Lovsky.
The rather wonderful Low's 1996 effort, The Curtain Hits the Cast, was produced by Steve Fisk, a man with many Mellotron credits to his name, although I'm told everything prior to 2005 is of the fake persuasion. It's a good album, if not quite up to 2001's beauteous Things We Lost in the Fire, chief highlight being the 14-minute Do You Know How To Waltz?, one of those tracks that builds slowly to a sustained crescendo without sounding anything like post-rock. Fisk adds strings to Coattails, to reasonable effect, despite the fakery. A good album all round, then, although I'd go for their 2001 release if you're new to the band.
Samara Lubelski has worked with several major names in the avant-indie-folk scene (to copy a line from a better-known site than mine); her third album, 2005's Spectacular of Passages, is laid-back, slightly psychedelic, slightly pre-psych, slightly folk... Slightly indescribable, actually. What it certainly isn't is anything to do with rock, which isn't a problem. Best tracks? Maybe Snowwhite Feathered Man, the strings-heavy Caravan and closer Quartered Field, though I suspect this album would be a grower, if only I were able to give it the time. Lubelski plays samplotron herself, with a polyphonic flute part on Snowwhite Feathered Man, possibly alongside real ones, although I think the flute lines on Caravan and Fired To are real, given that two flautists are credited. 2012's Wavelength is a little nearer the indie mainstream than its predecessor, yet thankfully not that near. Unfortunately, the end result is rather less appealing, at least to these ears, although several tracks, not least opener The Nice Price and Astral House, The Jokers Scene, aren't at all bad. Thilo Kuhn plays matching samplotron string and flute lines on Hang Of Summer.
Tony Lucca's in the odd position of, having already had success, both as a musician and an actor, taking part in a 'reality' show, in this case The Voice. I thought those things were for unknowns? Bizarre. Anyway, his post-Voice album, Tony Lucca, is surprisingly good, in a rock-end-of-country kind of way, at its best on storming opener Old Girl, My Confession and Cherry. Kit Karlson's Mellotron? Is that the vague cello-ish sound on one track?
I don't honestly know quite what to make of Marco Lucchi's download album, Litany: Quattro Studi. It is indeed four studies, two of which are slightly reworked, making six tracks in total. It lies somewhere between avant-garde and modern classical, to my ears, using elements of what used to be called 'systems music' (Glass, Reich et al.) and Schoenberg-style atonality to create a slightly disturbing mélange of sounds, the end result probably having less to do with 'music' and more to do with 'experimentation'. Although Lucchi plays 'Mellotron' on both versions of Studies 1 and 4, it's limited to the same repeating flute phrase on all four, sounding like the parts were sampled en masse and just inserted at relevant points.
2010's Mello(w)tron is possibly even more avant-garde than Litany, many tracks consisting of little more than structured sound, notably opener Moon-Soon, Nuvola Bimbo and Litany 1. She Kisses Me (Ode To Mellotron) is the great (deliberate?) sample giveaway, featuring Lucchi's voice in the background, running through his sample library for the benefit of a visitor: "...A keyboard with a computer inside...All the sounds I like from the Mellotron...". Those samples aside, Lucchi adds flutes and strings to another two or three tracks, for what it's worth. Preludes & Fanfares does what it says on the tin - well, kind of - with two structured pieces and two more experimental ones. Obvious samplotron strings on Prelude. 2012's Wrecks consists of one drifting, seventeen-minute ambient piece, paired with an alternate version of itself, so it's hardly an 'album' as we usually understand the term. Vague Mellotron string samples with a long attack don't fool the ear for a second, even if we weren't already aware of the sound's source.
Shockingly, Lucifer Was formed in 1970, despite not releasing their debut album until 1997, citing no especial reason for the delay. They're heavily influenced by '70s hard rock/prog; think a Scandinavian take on Black Sabbath or Budgie being given a kicking by Jethro Tull (complete with flute) and you won't be too far off the mark. After said debut, Underground and Beyond, consisting of old material, the band released In Anadi's Bower three years later. It's a decent enough album of its type, if rather unoriginal, but, aside from the production, it sounds like it's beamed straight in from 1975; a good thing, in case you were wondering. Best track? Probably the four-part, eleven-minute Little Child, although the entirely bonkers Kill The Rats is both amusing and memorable. The 'Mellotron' work on the album, from Knut Johannessen and Jon-Willy Rydningen, appears to be fake, despite the band's website's frequent mention of the instrument; Windows Of Time is the final giveaway on the sample front, as a string chord is held for a ridiculously long time, but little of the work sounds that authentic. Strings on several tracks, plus flutes on the title track, with the best work probably kept for the aforementioned Little Child.
2004's Blues From Hellah started life in the early '80s as band leader Thore Engen's solo project and is indeed quite blues-heavy, although some of the material sidesteps that particular musical ghetto. More than anything else, it reminds me of Tull's pre-Aqualung work, but without the songs. It's rather less arresting then its predecessor, lacking much of its epic hard rock approach, while adding some dodgy keyboards in places. Speaking of which, more fake 'Tron, this time just from Rydningen, though rather less than before, with just a few flute parts scattered about, alongside real strings and brass.
Two albums on and 2010's The Crown of Creation (Jefferson Airplane, anyone?) is one of a handful of reasonably successful collaborations between a band and a full orchestra (please don't mention Deep Purple's lamentable Concerto for Group & Orchestra), albeit in song-based form. Actually, I'll tell you what this reminds me of: a cross between a 'rock opera' (a deservedly maligned genre) and a long-lost cousin to Lucifer's Friend's entirely bonkers Banquet, albeit without the longer tracks. The Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra do a good job of working alongside the band without attempting to 'rock out', or anything else that appalling, best track probably being Cabris Sans Cornes, probably because it's orchestra-free. Arne Martinussen is credited with 'Mellotron', amongst other things, although the only obvious samplotron use is the strings on Into The Blue, distinct against the real ones used elsewhere.
The Bubble Has Burst in Sky City could probably be loosely - very loosely - categorised as psychedelia, if only because its bewildering array of styles, sat together cheek-by-jowl, have a certain crazed element in common. Opener Moonlight Spiderbite's twisted jazz, Un Squelette Et Un Parapluie's mariachi metal, Sexxx's cinema-intermission-music-gone-wrong... Get the picture? Sadly, Brian Sweeney only plays samplotron flutes on High Heels In The Sand.
"Look, Mummy, look! Norway's Coldplay!"
"Shush, dear, they think they're being original..."
Clue: Lud (or Lu:d) are not original. Vegard Klykken's 'Mellotron' isn't, with flutes on opener Were We Situated... (?), strings on Lover Over All, flute on Pentadance and choirs on Suffocate Tomorrow. Suffocate Lud, more like, preferably now. Absolute crap.
Nova Scotian Chris "Old Man" Luedecke's fourth album, 2010's My Hands Are on Fire & Other Love Songs, is an admirably 'old tyme' folk/Americana effort, led by Luedecke's fiery banjo playing. Best track? Difficult to pinpoint, frankly, as they're all pretty much of a muchness, although sprightly opener Lass Vicious stands out, if only because it's the listener's introduction to Luedecke's sound. Steve Dawson supposedly plays Mellotron, but I'd love to know where. The vaguely vibes-ish sound on Down The Road? Assuming it's even an actual Mellotron sound, the chances of its emanating from a genuine instrument seem remote. So; Americana fans who tend towards the 'folk' as against the 'country' will almost certainly froth at the mouth over this, but don't bother for the alleged Mellotron.
Steve Lukather is (in)famous for his membership of possibly the most manufactured AOR act ever, Toto, whose biggest hits are audaciously, outrageously commercial, with an élan from which other half-arsed attempts at commercial rock could learn a trick or nine. I mean, just listen to the phrasing of those almost-impossible-to-sing lyrics on Africa... Simultaneously horrible and fascinating, like watching a slow-motion train wreck, that suddenly and inexplicably appears unscathed from the carnage, with extra added schmaltz. I take my hat off to you, chaps... 1997's Luke (his nickname) is Lukather's third solo album, covering ground that he might have found difficult in Toto (the band were in existence until he left in 2008), with King's X-influenced opener The Real Truth, a distinctly Hendrixesque sound on Tears Of My Own Shame and country-rock and a nicked Beatles riff on Hate Everything About U, amongst the more formulaic hard rock and/or AOR. Credited Mellotron on two tracks from Lukather himself, with something faintly audible in the background on The Real Truth and Don't Hang Me On; sampled, I'd say.
If you think Gedeon Luke & the People's debut long-player, 2014's Live Free & Love, sounds like an early '70s soul/funk record, right down to the production, it's because it was recorded as good as live, the band all playing together in the same room. My heart goes out to the engineer (separation? Wassat?), but the ends appear to justify the means, the band's obvious joie de vivre shining through, their sinfully funky grooves an art almost lost in these days of programmed orthodoxy. Best tracks? The funky ones, I'd say: opener Lend Me Your Sunshine, Standing On Top Of The World and Live Free, although the album's soul balladry (the Healing, closer I'll Be Your Friend) leaves me a little cold, I'm afraid. Ado Coker and James Poyser play samplotron, with a distant flute line on Lend Me Your Sunshine and background strings at the beginning of Hurting Kind.
Although Marie "Lulu" Lawrie's chief burst of fame was during her teens in the '60s, her career has never really faltered, so it shouldn't come as any great surprise that she released a perfectly acceptable pop/rock album, Back on Track, in 2004. A good proportion of its contents are, at worst, harmless (opener Keep Talkin'... I'm Listening, the Stonesy Yeah, Now You Love Me), Lulu's raucous tones intact, although drippy AOR balladry (All The Love In The World, Sentimental Heart) and the cod-soul of Supernatural rather let the side down. Phil Thornalley is credited with Mellotron, but the vague flutes on Could I Be More Blue? don't sound particularly authentic and please don't tell me that the woozy strings on I Love You Goodbye are supposed to be a Mellotron... I suppose this may well appeal to, er, the more mature consumer who's happy to listen to something completely mainstream, yet not 'modern' enough to offend. As I said, mostly harmless.
Lumsk are generally described as 'folk metal' and while they display both of these styles, at one level or another, on their third album, 2007's Det Vilde Kor, the listener is as likely to pull 'progressive', or even 'pop' out of the hat. The album kicks off with Diset Kvæld, which could actually be described as folk metal, until it suddenly goes all prog on us with a rousing finale, while non-standard scales importune their way into Høstnat and the band display their true colours on the whole of the epic Svend Herlufsens Ord. Espen W(arankov) Godø is credited with Mellotron throughout, although I have such doubts as to its veracity that, mere weeks after putting it in the 'regular' section, I've quarantined it here. The gallery section on their website features several pics from the recording sessions, none of them featuring one; of course, that means nothing, as no keyboards of any description, Mellotron or otherwise, are pictured. Anyway, we get strings on Diset Kvæld, strings and flutes on Høstnat and a brass/strings mix (?) and regular strings on Se, Natten Er Livet, part four of Svend Herlufsens Ord. All in all, a definite grower, I'd have said; I look forward to having the time to play this album a few times. Well worth hearing.
1995's Penthouse is Luna's third album, the tracks that mix their various (mostly indie-related) styles with the Neil-esque stuff coming across the best, notably on Freakin' And Peakin'. Like so many albums from the CD era, it's a little overlong and could probably have lost two or three tracks without suffering overly. One samplotron track, with some silvery strings on Lost In Space. By 2002's Romantica, it seems their schtick has grown a little stale, or is it just me? The album has its strong points, not least the killer first couplet in 1995, but overall, fails to ignite at any point, although that may well be the idea. It seems churlish to give the album a lower rating, though, as its perceived failings could be mine, not the album's. One sampltron track, with strings on Mermaid Eyes from Lee Wall, although I believe the string part on the closing title track is either a synth or samples. 2004's Rendezvous is even more fey, to be honest, although I'm sure Luna fans would argue with my assessment. It does pick up towards the end, particularly Buffalo Boots, also the nearest the album gets to a samplotron track, with some exceedingly background strings, again from Wall.
Ulf Lundell is a Swedish-language singer-songwriter, active since the mid-'70s, OK Baby OK being something like his 22nd album. Its mainstream, vaguely Americana-esque sound is perfectly acceptable, albeit a little unexciting and, of course, incomprehensible to the non-speaker, but it's so nice to hear an album of this type that eschews hideous over-vocalising and musical slush that I don't feel inclined to complain. Marcus Olsson plays rather un-Mellotronic samplotron strings on Hon Måste Va En Kristen Kommunist. Omaha is, essentially, more of the same - in fact, to the non-speaker, it might as well be the same. That isn't a criticism, merely an observation. Best track? Probably the sweeping Din Tid Är Ute. Olsson on samplotron again, with distant flutes on the opening title track and strings on Butiken.
Luscious Jackson's Wikipedia entry describes their thing as "a style of alternative music that combined hip hop, punk, folk and dance", which seems a fair enough summation - in case that's too ornate, 'indie' will do. Fever in Fever Out was the all-female band's second and keyboard player Vivian Trimble's last album, before defecting to Dusty Trails. I can't say it grabs me in the slightest, I'm afraid, but plenty of people seem to have liked them, so looks like I'm out of step with popular opinion. Again. A particularly irritating facet of the album is the half-spoken vocals on most tracks, but again, some people seem to like that sort of thing. On the samplotron front, nothing audible on opener Naked Eye, although whatever there is was played by co-producer Tony Mangurian, while Water Your Garden has flutes from Trimble, as does Soothe Yourself. It took the band three years to come up with what turned out to be their swansong, Electric Honey; at least the half-spoken vocals have disappeared in the interim. Apart from that, there seems to have been little change on the musical front, departing members notwithstanding, although the overall effect is a little less irritating than on its predecessor. Vocalist/guitarist Gabrielle Glaser plays samplotron cellos on Fly, to little effect.
Lushlife are Philadelphian Rajesh Haldar's hip-hop project, pretty much indistinguishable from most of the genre to my ears, despite Haldar's Indian sub-continent (UK: 'Asian') heritage; we're quite used to kids from Asian backgrounds playing this kind of stuff over here, but I'd imagine it's pretty unusual in the States. All of which makes it all the more disappointing that, aside from a refreshing lack of appalling sexism and cheap, trashy acquisitiveness, there's little to obviously differentiate this from the bulk of the genre's output. Maybe that's enough? The music's the same old same old, though, at least to my (thankfully) untrained ear. Incidentally, on the sample front, isn't closer Meridian Sound (Part Three) based on The Ronettes' Be My Baby? Does Phil Spector know? Given his current circumstances, would it make any difference if he did? Haldar plays alleged Chamberlin on two tracks, with a short flute part towards the end of The Songbird Athletic and similar on Meridian Sound (Part Two), almost certainly sampled. Well, at least this album isn't overlong and I've heard far more offensive and offensively bad hip-hop, most of it the stuff that sells by the multiple million, mostly to disaffected white kids. Oh, the irony.
Lydia Laska (band, not person) play a punk/metal hybrid on their We're Nothing Compared to Ourselves EP, whose most appealing quality for this listener was its merciful brevity. Bård Ingebrigtsen's 'Mellotron' strings on opener Love And Penetration really aren't.
Seeing that Lisa Lynne's Seasons of the Soul is on blander-than-bland new age label Windham Hill was enough to bring me out in a cold sweat, although the reality is better than that inauspicious introduction. Lynne is a Celtic harpist (no! Don't run away!), loosely comparable to Alan Stivell, though nowhere near his virtuosic level. Interestingly, her role on her second album is mainly supporting, giving melody lines to Sid Page's violin or George Tortorelli's recorder and other wind instruments as often as not, although she takes the occasional top line. The material is decent enough as the style goes, although after a few tracks, the more discerning listener is likely to be desperate to hear something a little less... polite. The Scorpions spring to mind. Speaking of less polite, Jimmy Waldo (New England/Alcatrazz) is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, with a quiet strings part on Fair Wind and what sounds like a heavily-reverbed combination of strings and cellos on The Light & The Longing, possibly the best piece on the album, largely due to its lack of the cheesy drumming that dominates most of the record. More of the same on Faire Thee Well, but it all sounds sampled to my ears. I can take about two tracks of this stuff at a time before my cheeseometer kicks in; gimme Stivell any day.
The story goes something like this: the barely-out-of-school Lynyrd Skynyrd were brought to the Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama by their manager in 1971, recording several sets of demos over the course of the next year or so, some of which were re-recorded for later albums. MCA were persuaded to buy the tapes in '75, at which point the band began to ready them for commercial release, overdubbing various parts throughout '75-6, eventually lining the set up to follow '77's Street Survivors. Of course, the plane crash happened first (I remember hearing about it on the radio), tragically halting the original band's career literally dead in its tracks. As a result, the reworked tapes appeared in '78, poignantly, as Skynyrd's First &... Last, ironically managing to be their best album since Second Helping, four years earlier.
Previously-unheard Skynyrd classics included Down South Jukin', Preacher's Daughter, Was I Right Or Wrong and Lend A Helpin' Hand, although there was nothing on the album to embarrass the band, despite the presence of a couple of rather ordinary ballads in White Dove and The Seasons, both sung by their temporary drummer, Rick(ey) Medlocke, on sabbatical from the fledgling Blackfoot. Although the album gained a CD release, the decision was taken in the late '90s to release the entire sessions (the extra tracks lacking overdubs, proving that the original tracklisting had been decided well in advance), as Skynyrd's First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album, a packed-to-the-gills disc, doubling the original version's length. But is it any better? Well, it lets us hear the original original Free Bird (as against any other 'original' version that's appeared), plus early versions of three tracks that were reworked for their debut, a couple of tracks that crept out on the early '90s box-set and a handful of previously-unavailables, the best 'newies' probably being One More Time and You Run Around. I have to say, I find the original nine-track release to be superior (but how much of that's nostalgia and familiarity?), but I heartily approve of 'complete' versions; if you don't like the extras, you don't have to play 'em...
...And the reason this is here? One Randy McCormick overdubbed 'Mellotron' onto White Dove in '76, enhancing the gentle, falsetto-led ballad nicely, except... it's a string synth. Very clearly so, too, so fuck knows why it was credited as a Mellotron. "If it makes a string sound, it must be a Mellotron", I s'pose... Idiots. Anyway, a few seconds of strings, whatever makes them, is no reason to hear this, but if you love Skynyrd and, amazingly, haven't heard this, get the reissue and marvel at their formative genius.
Lyrian are a British neo-folk/progressive outfit, consisting of John Blake (guitars/vocals), Paul W. Nash (multi-instrumentalist) and Nash's partner Alison Felstead (bass/vocals). Blake and Nash have apparently known each other for over thirty years, their first album, 2008's Nightingale Hall, incorporating material written as far back as the late '70s. The trio work in the same broad area as, say, Ant Phillips-era Genesis, Camel, or current acid folksters Circulus, faint echoes of The Enid's early work also being detectable. Thinking about it, the closest comparison that springs to mind is ex-Enid guitarist Francis Lickerish's current band Secret Green's little-known To Wake the King (2009), for what it's worth, although Lickerish's work has far more subtlety.
Nightingale Hall, apparently a concept concerning the history and eventual destruction of the titular mansion, features passages of genuine beauty, brief opener Prelude setting the band's stall out nicely, wordless female vocals riding over churchy keyboards. Unfortunately, the album's bête noir surfaces a couple of minutes into the lengthy Nightingales: awful, inappropriate, programmed drums. Surely you'd have been better simply not using any at all, guys? The most frustrating thing about this album is how its highpoints (its pastoral feel, some of the instrumentation and playing) are repeatedly sabotaged by clunky, poorly-scanning lyrics, overly-fey male vocals and an occasional neo-prog feel (the curse of '80s prog fans) to some of the arrangements. Nash is credited with Mellotron, but the string parts towards the ends of Nightingales and The Chimes don't ring even slightly true, frankly, ditto the 'Mellotron or generic?' choirs dotted around. I feel really bad about not being able to be more positive about this record; trimmed down to a sensible length and with the drum machine removed throughout, this would certainly gain a higher rating. So; top marks for ambition, rather less for the actual execution, I'm afraid.
Tom "Lyrics Born" Shimura is a Japanese-American rap artist, whose fourth solo album, 2015's Real People, showcases his unusual approach to the craft. Yes, he's rapping. No, he's not shouting, being aggressive, being a macho twat or any of the other hip-hop sins; rather, he uses actual musicians, more schooled in the ways of soul and funk than modern r'n'b, on a varied, witty album that's light years away from the hip-hop mainstream. While it's difficult to pick out better tracks musically, many of the lyrics are superb, with genuine LOL moments in Holy Matrimony and Mr D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F. Producer Robert Mercurio supposedly plays Mellotron. Are those distant choirs I hear on Good Riddance? Chordal flutes on 2nd Act (Phoenix Rising)? If so, the chances of it being genuine are minuscule, I'd say. So; a hip-hop(kind of) album that made me smile, and in the right way.