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Ralph Covert  (US)

Birthday  (1997,  42.01)  ***

Ralph Covert seems to be better known for his children's songs, although Birthday is an acceptable, if slightly lightweight Americana-tinged singer-songwriter effort, at its best on Bedtime Girl and Be So Wrong. I have genuinely no idea why he's credited with Mellotron, though.

Mike Coykendall  (US)

Hello Hello Hello  (2005,  47.43)  ***

Mike Coykendall's career began in the '80s, although he didn't release his solo debut, Hello Hello Hello, until 2005. It's a downbeat singer-songwriter album, highlights including Devil's Own Highway, If I Only Knew and the dark Altitudes, although I'm not convinced by his Mellotronic flutes on Who'll Be The Devil.

Cozumel Keith & the Ginseng Addicts  (US)

Mayan Blues  (2002,  63.14)  **½

Keith Glasspoole Jr. (clearly nicknamed in honour of the Mexican island) released a cassette album in 1990 called In Cozumel, but, sadly, the clincher in determining the identity of this somewhat obscure musician was an online obituary; he died in 2008, aged fifty-six. Mayan Blues is your classic 'cottage industry' album: rock-bottom budget, over-egged arrangements, weird production decisions, you name it. Opening with one of your weakest songs (the awful Nancy, complete with Glasspoole's best '50s vocal style) wasn't a great move and what's going on with Jasmine's Tune? A cheesy instrumental ditty played on a chiming kind of sound on a cheap synth, or the horribly sentimental Mom, or Long, Long, Longing. To be fair, much of this overlong album is, indeed, blues and of a perfectly respectable kind, while the title track even displays a sense of humour lacking elsewhere. What a shame this wasn't edited down to a solid, forty-minute blues album. Samplotron? String pitchbends in Nancy, that seems to be our lot.

Crabb Family  (US)

Blur the Lines  (2006,  58.15)  *

The Crabb Family describe themselves as 'A Southern Gospel Group from K[entuck]y that has taken the industry by storm'; the emphasis on 'industry' says it all for me; this is music designed for a purpose rather than for itself. And that purpose is... 'worship music'. Aaargh. I'd imagine 2006's Blur the Lines is fairly typical of their output, containing aggressively pro-God messages in every song, in a variety of styles, some of which might be acceptable, were it not for their single/closed-minded lyrical content. Tim Akers adds samplotron string stabs to Champion Of Love, for what it's worth. God (pun, if pun it is, intended), this is fucking awful, redefining the word 'gloop'. This is the kind of stuff used to hammer home the Christian 'message' to pliant young minds, not yet able to make them up for themselves. Brainwashing music. Mind you, their pious lives sound so fucking dull that I can't imagine why anyone would want to do the same. Peer pressure, I suppose. Some peers.

Sarah Cracknell  (UK)

Red Kite  (2015,  37.02)  ***

Saint Etienne chanteuse Sarah Cracknell's second solo album, 2015's Red Kite, comes almost twenty years after her first. Unsurprisingly, it bears some comparison with the band's work in its early '60s influences, both compositionally and instrumentally, while Cracknell's voice is less '90s indie, more Dusty Springfield. She describes the record as 'cosy', which seems to sum it up well; tracks like opener On The Swings (how's that for evoking a British childhood in three words?), In The Dark and Ragdoll come across like a visit from a distant relative of, say, Nick Drake, although direct comparisons would be a little optimistic. Carwyn Ellis is credited with Mellotron on no fewer than seven tracks, but, going by the unidentifiable Mellotronic sound in On The Swings (a woodwind instrument? viola?), or the cello on closer Favourite Chair, it's all far too smooth to be genuine. And is that too-cleanly pitchbent vibes in On The Swings? I can't honestly say this is really to my taste, but it's good at what it does and will most likely keep Saint Etienne fans happy.

Matt Craig  (US)

Take the Lead  (2007,  44.33)  *½

Take the Lead is the kind of loathsome, wet-as-water singer-songwriter guff that pollutes the airwaves, although people seem to like hearing this kind of shit in the background at Starbucks. Why? Why do they like that? It's properly, full-blown horrible. Brent Milligan plays not-very Mellotronic 'Mellotron' flutes on closer You Remain, for what it's worth, which is nothing.

Crash Test Dummies  (Canada)

Puss'n'Boots  (2003,  45.28)  **½

A few years on from Give Yourself a Hand and the Dummies (can I call them that?) stuck some more supposotron on an album, in this case, 2003's Puss'n'Boots. Musically, it's the same old same old, of course; mainstream pop/rock with several sets of lyrics fairly obviously referencing drug use (yawn). Several samplotron tracks from Chris Brown, with fairly major string parts on opener It's A Shame, Your Gun Won't Fire and If Ya Wanna Know and flutes on I'm The Man (That You Are Not), although not enough to make this boring album worth the effort.

Create  (UK)

Reflections From the Inner Light  (2004,  78.30)  ***

Create, a.k.a. Steve Humphries, is a typical British EM artist, his work, at least on his debut, 2004's Reflections From the Inner Light, sounding an awful lot like Tangerine Dream, as do the vast majority of his genre-mates. That isn't to say that the album is in any way substandard, merely unoriginal and overlong; The Tangs wrote to a more reasonable, LP-length format out of necessity. Any two or three tracks picked at random make for a good listen, but nearly eighty minutes of too-clean digital synths and too-accurate sequencers set the attention wandering, the interesting harmonic quirks in Downside Up notwithstanding. Humphries plays obviously sampled Mellotron flutes in a solo part on opener Narissa, flutes and choir on Touching The Void, choirs and strings on Medusa, flutes on Downside Up and choirs on closer Chasing The One, for what it's worth, although you're never going to mistake his samples for a real machine. EM-by-numbers, then; good at what it does, but not a jot of originality.

Creeper Lagoon  (US)

I Become Small and Go  (1998,  43.55)  **½

I'm afraid to say I can't really think of anything much to say about Creeper Lagoon. They're a US-based indie outfit, with the regulation whiny vocals (WHY do they do that? I mean, WHY??!) and the regulation dreary, half-arsed songs, with no discernable melody. OK, it isn't quite that bad, but I Become Small and Go didn't grab me by the throat and say, "Play me again!". No standout tracks, although the 'Mellotron' (player unknown) on opener Wonderful Love is really quite full-on; easily the best bit of the album, although its fakery becomes fully apparent at the end of the track, with a full-octave pitchbend.

Cesare Cremonini  (Italy)

Bagus  (2002,  76.03)  **

Let me get one thing out of the way before I begin: I worked as an extra in a Cesare Cremonini video a while back (this nonsense) and not only have not yet been paid, but am beginning to think I may never be [n.b. I wasn't]. This isn't actually Signor Cremonini's fault - the blame lies with the production company - but, as the production's public face, I feel reasonably justified in laying at least some of the blame at his feet. That aside, the averageness of his debut album, 2002's Bagus, is pretty indisputable unless you happen to be a) a fan of mainstream 'adult' pop and b) Italian. While material such as La Cameriera Dei Giorni Più Belli and the rocky PadreMadre stand out slightly, the coveted 'best track' award goes, with no serious competition, to the weird, eighteen-minute, near-instrumental jam that follows the title track and accounts for the album's considerable length. Walter "Walls" Mameli is credited with Mellotron on Jalousie and the title track, but the vague string and even vaguer choir parts on the tracks lead to the realisation that we're hearing what are, at best, Mellotron samples, assuming they're even that authentic. You really don't need to hear this, frankly, despite that electro-jam he stuck on the end. So, Ches, where's my money?

The Cribs  (UK)

Ignore the Ignorant  (2009,  47.48)  ***
In the Belly of the Brazen Bull  (2012,  47.08)  **

Yorkshire's Cribs started as the trio of the Jarman brothers, Ross and twins Gary and Ryan, adding The Smiths' Johnny Marr in 2008, in an unlikely move. His first album with the band, 2009's Ignore the Ignorant, is a surprisingly good effort by modern indie standards, combining raucous material (opener We Were Aborted - that'll go down well in the States, chaps - and Emasculate Me) with reasonably inventive arrangements (We Share The Same Skies, Hari Kari), although it pulls off the unenviable trick of doing the opposite of growing on the (or this) listener with repeated plays. Shrinking on me? Gary plays samplotron on closer Stick To Yr Guns, with a nice descending string line. In the Belly of the Brazen Bull was their first album after Marr's departure; going by this, the mystery isn't why he left, but why he ever joined in the first place. Clattering, post-Oasis British indie of the most pointless kind, while Dave Fridmann's 'Mellotron' on Like A Gift Giver is (big surprise) nonexistent.

Crippled Black Phoenix  (UK)

The Resurrectionists & Night Raider  (2009,  140.02)  ***½
200 Tons of Bad Luck  (2009,  77.08)  ***½
(Mankind) The Crafty Ape  (2012,  86.07)  ***
No Sadness or Farewell  (2012,  45.09)  **½

Crippled Black Phoenix are Britain's new great white hope in the post-rock stakes, as far as I can work out (they even boast a member of Mogwai in their ranks), although there's a healthy dose of psychedelia in what they do, too. Their second album, the double The Resurrectionists/Night Raider is an almost obscenely lengthy listen, near-impossible in a single sitting, featuring prog epics (the eighteen-minute Time Of Ye Life, the brilliantly-titled Burnt Reynolds), pokey indie rock (Rise Up And Fight, 444), acoustic whimsy (Crossing The Bar) and often all the above and more within a single 'song', for want of a better word. They suddenly morph into Tom Waits en masse on Along Where The Wind Blows, à propos of nothing at all, before lurching into a full-on Mellotron psych-out on A Lack of Common Sense, which seems to fit the band's ethos pretty well. Due to the album's inordinate length, a (still very lengthy) single disc version was released simultaneously, 200 Tons of Bad Luck, containing just one track not on the double, the thirty-five-second A Real Bronx Cheer, which isn't exactly unmissable.

Mellotron strings pop their heads up above the parapet here and there, but it seems highly likely they're sampled, although the part on A Lack Of Common Sense could almost be genuine. The other major use is on the Time Of Ye Life medley, with other, faint parts in the background on a few other tracks. Suffice to say, this sprawling effort, while impressive, is far from an easy listen and not always for the right reasons. I would say, 'buy the single disc version', but if you like what they do, it would be almost criminal not to obtain as much of it as possible and it doesn't seem that the material left off the shorter version is noticeably inferior. Impressive, yet strangely empty, with snippets of something Mellotronic on occasion.

2012's (Mankind) The Crafty Ape is merely very long, as against stupidly, unbelievably long, although it still manages to outstay its welcome once you get onto the second disc. Heavier this time round, the band still cover a fair bit of stylistic ground, not least the more eclectic disc two's acoustic sort-of blues (Dig, Bury, Deny) and the vaguely churchy We'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive. Not much samplotron this time round, principally a heavily overextended flute chord opening and closing The Heart Of Every Country, but are those Mellotron FX church bells on (In The Yonder Marsh)? This is a band who work too hard for too little artistic return. The same year's No Sadness or Farewell heads back towards more familiar post-rock/psych territory, the band turning into Pink Floyd on ironically-titled opener How We Rock. Best track? Jonestown Martin, to my ears, although I find myself unable to explain why. Credited Mellotron on One Armed Boxer, but the vague string part on the track is barely enough to even put it into this section.

A.J. Croce  (US)

Transit  (2000,  40.31)  ***

Adrian James Croce, son of Jim, went through the proverbial wringer during his early life, from losing his father to being partially blinded by his mother's new partner to a major house fire (thanks, Wikipedia). He began his solo career in the early '90s, 2000's timeless Transit being his fourth release, an exuberant pop/rock album, at its best on Turn Out The Light and Everyman. David Zemen may very well be credited with Mellotron, but the strings all over opener Maybe are fairly blatantly sampled, with other, similarly bogus parts elsewhere.

Jennifer Crook  (UK)

Merry-Go-Round  (2011,  36.57)  **½

Vocalist/harpist Jennifer Crook has been around the UK folk scene for a couple of decades, although 2011's Merry-Go-Round appears to be only her second solo release. Legendary folk scenester/songwriter Boo Hewerdine produces, giving Jennifer's airy material the transparency it demands, assuming anything so gentle could be said to demand anything. Unfortunately, said gentility is also the album's downfall, as while a few songs this light would nicely enhance a more varied release, an entire album's-worth gets a little sickly, like too many fairy cakes consumed in one sitting. Saying that, When Time Stood Still and Baltimore stand out, but, at least to this listener, a little more variety wouldn't go amiss in future. Hewerdine is credited with Mellotron, but there seems little evidence that a real one materialised in Glasgow's Kyoti Studio during the sessions, not least the extremely vaguely Mellotronic strings on opener Catching Butterflies. Am I wrong? Perhaps someone could let me know? Anyway, one for the kind of young woman who tends to wear fairy wings at any available opportunity.

Cross  (Sweden)

Secrets  (2000,  50.06)  **½
Playgrounds  (2004,  54.02)  **

Hansi Cross began working under his surname in the late '80s, writing the kind of neo-prog that was acceptable in some circles back then. I haven't heard his first few albums, but can state quite unequivocally that 1997's Dream Reality is shockingly bad neo-prog crud, to be avoided at all costs, unless, for some strange reason, you're of the opinion that later Galleon albums and the like are actually worth hearing. Actually, he makes Galleon sound good, ditto several other otherwise unworthy outfits.

His eighth album, 2000's Secrets, is a definite step up from Dream Reality, which isn't to especially praise it. The instrumental sections are a dead ringer for Trick/Wind-era Genesis, right down to the ARP sounds (maybe he's using a Pro-Soloist himself?), which is all well and good as far as it goes, but originality clearly isn't even considered an option. Then he starts singing. No. Just no. Not that his voice is that bad, but his melodies are mostly stomach-churningly twee, making him sound like a soft-rock balladeer. Y'know, thinking about it, that's what so bad about so much neo-prog: it's essentially soft-rock with fiddly bits. Anyway, Cross plays 'Mellotron' strings on Bleeding In Silence and The Core, but it's all far too regular for its own good and almost certainly sampled.

Cross' follow-up and last album to date is 2004's Playgrounds, in a similar vein to its predecessors, albeit a bit less Genesis, although that appears to be its downfall, as without the retro-sounding instrumental sections, it's unbelievably dull. The modern keyboard sounds set this reviewer's teeth on edge and the vocals are as bad as ever, ditto the material. Mellotron samples crop up occasionally, principally the choirs on Déjà Vu, but nothing to get too (or indeed, at all) excited about.

Beppe Crovella  (Italy)

What's Rattlin' on the Moon  (2010,  77.05)  ****

If Beppe Crovella isn't considered 'legendary', he should be; keyboard player and main mover'n'shaker with Italian fusioneers Arti & Mestieri and the now-defunct Vinyl Magic label boss, not to mention his multifarious projects in the '90s. He's also released a whole slew of solo projects, the latest of which, 2010's What's Rattlin' on the Moon, is an album of Crovella's interpretations of ten of The Soft Machine's Mike Ratledge's compositions, with a few of his own stuck on the end. I'll admit here to an almost complete ignorance of the source material, so how Crovella's versions shape up against Ratledge's originals is unknown, but to the untrained ear, they stand up well in their own right, in an avant-jazz kind of way. The compositions are far from unmelodious, although their harmonic content is complex enough to give all but the most jaded listener something to chew on, highlights including The Man Who Waved At Trains and Pig. Crovella's own material is good, but rather outclassed by Ratledge's, although, in fairness, he's operating in a different, less avant- idiom.

Crovella appears to slather Mellotron over every Ratledge composition, treating it as the lead instrument, with combinations of strings, choirs and flutes on most tracks and brass on several others. Less common sounds include the vibes on Chloe And The Pirates, plus what sounds like two different choir sounds, the solo sax on All White, the cello on The Man Who Waved At Trains and the MkII rhythms on the same track, which finally give the sample game away. Given how heavily Crovella features his Hammond on his website, you'd think, if he owned a Mellotron, he'd picture that too, wouldn't you? Sorry, it's sampled. This isn't the easiest listen, which should be taken as a compliment; there's enough going on here to keep your average proghead busy for a while, assuming he (yes, usually a he) doesn't tire of the unconventional writing style. Crovella's writing contributions are less essential, but are at worst ignorable and at best complimentary to the album's real meat'n'potatoes.

Sheryl Crow  (US)

Detours  (2008,  52.55/60.37)  **½

Sheryl Crow's sixth album in fifteen years, 2008's Detours, came after several upheavals in her personal life, including a relationship breakup, an adoption and surviving cancer, although her anguish only makes itself apparent on a handful of tracks, the bulk of the album being the kind of undemanding pop/rock on which she's built her career. Acoustic-and-vocal opener God Bless This Mess and closer Lullaby For Wyatt (her adoptive son) are the best things here, nearly everything else the worst (with the exception of the interesting Middle Eastern-sounding Peace Be Upon Us), although that's probably rather unfair, given that there's nothing here that's buttock-clenchingly bad, just rather dull. As for producer Bill Bottrell's samplotron, it's not the most audible use I've ever heard, frankly; all we get are the strings on Shine Over Babylon, the flute on the title track being sampled.

Crowder  (US)

Neon Steeple  (2014,  51.57)  *

(David Wallace) Crowder is described on Wikipedia as 'Christian folktronica'. And what, pray (see what I did there?), may that be? Going by his solo debut, 2014's Neon Steeple, it's a suitably unholy (see what I did there?) cross between (you guessed it) folk and electronica, at its worst on material such as Hands Of Love, cotton-pickin' banjo awkwardly stuck onto horrible, R&B-influenced electronica, like (to quote a friend of mine) an ill-fitting wig. D'you know what this crap reminds me of? Anyone remember Swedish country/eurodance novelty act Rednex? You know, major international hit Cotton Eye Joe? 'Course you do. This is like that, only without the (intentional) humour. Is there anything here that doesn't offend? Actually, yes: My Sweet Lord (not that one) is a harmless ballad, with no overt electronica influence, while a couple of other tracks manage to be not too appalling. Christian Paschall is credited with Mellotron, but I'll be fucked if I can tell you where it is. Samples, then, I think. Anyway, one of the worst albums I've heard this month, at the least. Quite, quite horrible.

Crowned in Earth  (UK)

A Vortex of Earthly Chimes  (2012,  47.20)  ***½

Crowned in Earth are effectively the duo of drummer Darin McCloskey and Kevin Lawry, who plays pretty much everything else, the pair hailing from the mundane environs of Maidstone, Kent. Their second album, 2012's A Vortex of Earthly Chimes, complete with its Deanalike sleeve, is apparently quite a departure from their 'doom by numbers' debut, incorporating all kinds of early '70s influences, not least Camel's airy prog and Atomic Rooster's more tuneful take on the style. Twelve-minute opener Ride The Storm sums the album up in a rather lengthy nutshell: a prog Black Sabbath with modern stoner metal vocals, not unlike Astra, in some respects. Although Brian J. Anthony is credited with Mellotron, the watery string and choir parts heard across the album are clearly nothing of the sort, highlighted by the heavy 'MIDI controller keyboard' pitchbend towards the end of Ride The Storm, or the unfeasibly-sustained string chords on closer Given Time. With three out of five tracks topping the ten-minute barrier, this album is quite clearly aimed at both prog and metal fans, while having sod-all in common with the horror of prog/metal. No genuine Mellotron, but cautiously recommended.

Crowsdell  (US)

Within the Curve of an Arm  (1997,  48.37)  **

Within the Curve of an Arm typifies 'yeah, whatever' '90s indie in its lack of ambition and inability to say anything meaningful. Absolute drivel. Shannon Wright plays samplotron flutes on You Want Me Dead.

Crucible  (US)

Tall Tales  (1998,  61.49)  ***½
Curtains  (2001,  42.22)  ****

Crucible are that rarest of things, a modern(-ish) progressive band neither typical neo-prog nor that overblown style beloved of Ayreon et al. Their overriding influence is '70s Genesis, albeit heavier in the guitar department, while bits of other bands can be heard, notably (good) Styx. Most of Tall Tales is excellent, although we could probably have done without the 'radio rock' feel of Find The Line, especially given that at around an hour, the album's hardly bereft of material. The sleeve design eschews modern styles, going straight for the 'fantasy art' look and, it's fair to say, that this describes the album both lyrically and musically. Keyboardist/acoustic guitarist/flautist Tim Horan isn't credited with Mellotron, for the very good reason that we're almost certainly hearing samples, with much strings and choir on most tracks, highlights being opener Over The Falls and parts of seven-part epic An Imp's Tale.

2001's Curtains is a more mature work, although their chief influences persist (listen to the middle section of Noble Rot for a textbook copy of Genesis circa A Trick of the Tail). Interestingly, they choose to cover Crack the Sky's Nuclear Apathy, sounding similar, though not identical to the original, with a nice burst of samplotron strings in the middle section. Less samplotron (this time credited as 'Melotron') all round, largely strings with the odd burst of choir, effective where used.

Eric Crugnale  (US)

Carol Was Here  (2010,  39.27)  ***

Carol Was Here is a powerpop release of variable quality, highlights including I Can't Take My Eyes Off You, Unreliable Friend and Old Enough To Know. Kevin Bents is credited with Mellotron. What, the strings on What We Deserve? Surely not?

Crumb  (US)

Romance is a Slowdance  (1996,  44.41)  **½

Crumb were essentially the duo of Mark Weinberg and Robby Cronholm plus a revolving-door rhythm section, whose second album, 1996's Romance is a Slowdance, falls into a grey area somewhere between indie, powerpop and grunge. Better tracks include opener Kid Klone, Love and the punky Celebrity Judges, but too many also-rans scupper the album's chances of greatness, or even being halfway decent. Weinberg plays samplotron, with a background string part on Conversion Scale, going on to sing with Gratitude in the mid-2000s.

Crumbox  (US)

Map of the Sky  (1998,  48.56)  ***

Map of the Sky is an indie/powerpop crossover, better tracks including Negative Type, Novocaine and closer Your Music's Dead. Caleb Southern's 'Mellotron' is nothing more exciting than the samplotron flutes on Crush The Star.

Cry of Love  (US)

Diamonds & Debris  (1997,  56.28)  ***½

I'm sure it won't come as a huge shock to you to find out that Cry of Love have a heavy Hendrix influence, notably in Audley Freed's guitar style. Freed went on to play with The Black Crowes, so a retro approach didn't hurt him... After a reasonably successful 1993 debut, Brother, the band lost their vocalist, making it four years before releasing their second and last effort, Diamonds & Debris. It's a good album without ever getting close to outstanding, which is clearly what damned it first time round; decent enough songs, lovely guitar work, but nothing to really get to grips with. John Custer plays samplotron, although you have to wait until the end of the album to hear it, with a brief string part on Garden Of Memories.

Cryptic Vision  (US)

Moments of Clarity  (2004,  56.40)  **½

Cryptic Vision are a pretty typical modern US prog band, utilising elements of symphonic, neo- and prog metal styles, albeit with only a fraction of the efficacy of, say, Spock's Beard. 2004's Moments of Clarity is their first album and it does sort-of show in its overlong lack of focus (pun possibly intended), highlighted in the four-part, twelve-minute title track. The band's vocals are sometimes a little too intrusive, too, although there are a couple of moments where the harmony parts come together beautifully, though nowhere near often enough for my taste. Although Rick Duncan is credited with Mellotron, it isn't, but nor are their samples overused, thankfully, with string and choir parts on a handful of tracks. You get the feeling that Cryptic Vision have the capacity for improvement, if only they'd learn to keep their albums down to a sensible length, although, in fairness, this could've been twenty minutes longer... Anyway, they have potential, which is more than I can say for a lot of current bands.

Crypto  (Netherlands)

Crypto  (1974,  43.38)  ***

Crypto were a Dutch one-off fusion outfit, whose eponymous 1974 effort is, well, it's a Euro-fusion album, sounding much like any other Euro-fusion album, which, frankly, sounds like just about any fusion album from anywhere. It has its moments, notably the Rhodes work towards the end of Awakening, but at the end of the day, it's just another so-so jazz-rock effort. Peter Schön might be credited with Mellotron, but the string synth on several tracks gives it the lie, proving that fake credits date as far back as this.

Christian Cuff  (US)

Chalkboard  (2010,  51.28)  ***

Christian Cuff's Chalkboard is a singer-songwriter album, variously tinged with Americana and jazz (!), at its best on Red Rum, E's Fever and closer Bessy's Wedding. Brian Coombes' 'Mellotron' adds up to no more than some insipid flutes (and are those strings real?) on the title track.

Jamie Cullum  (UK)

Twentysomething  (2004,  56.57)  ***

Jamie Cullum's the kind of artist who passes beneath my radar, due to his ubiquity with the young, smart set who throw dinner parties in the better-off areas of London and think he's 'daring' 'cos he covers Hendrix and beatboxes at gigs. As modern jazzers go, I've heard worse, but he's pretty bloody mainstream, but then, I suppose, that's the point; he's not trying to be obscure or 'arty', he's trying to make a living. Twentysomething is his third album, although it's only the second anyone's heard, as he only pressed five hundred copies of his first, independent release, making it an outrageous rarity. The songwriting here is split between standards (seven), 'modern' covers (two) and written by himself or his brother (five); it's a tribute to their writing that their material fits seamlessly in between the classics. His title track is amusing, if musically lightweight, while his takes on Hendrix's (The) Wind Cries Mary and Jeff Buckley's Lover, You Should Have Come Over are both worth hearing, although, overall, this is pretty bland fare. Cullum plays various electro-mechanical keyboards, including a Wurlitzer and a Hammond, plus a not-very-real-sounding Mellotron, although all we get is flutes on opener What A Difference A Day Made, unless it's buried in the mix elsewhere.

Ry Cuming  (Australia)

Ry Cuming  (2010,  41.09)  *

Jeff Buckley-influenced small-town Australian Ry Cuming got his break while travelling in Costa Rica, being spotted by a film producer who recognised a malleable, good-looking young man whose generic songs could be moulded into hits when he saw one. Cuming's eponymous debut appeared in 2010; a charitable description might be 'Coldplay-lite', its best feature a nice chordal turnaround on opener Some Kind Of Love, unfortunately repeated, with variations, on several other tracks, completely diluting its (admittedly limited) effect. Zac Rae plays Mellotron, although the album's real string parts tend to obscure it, to the point where the only track I'm even willing to put forward as a 'possible' is Is This Love, with a polyphonic cello part, possibly alongside a real one, most likely sampled, anyway.

Stephen Cummings  (Australia)

Skeleton Key  (2001,  47.18)  **½

Stephen Cummings' career kicked off with five years fronting iconic Aussie noo-wavers The Sports, shifting into a solo career after their dissolution (like the monasteries) in 1981. His tenth solo album, 2001's Skeleton Key, is a melancholy, country-based record, the exceptions being three bluesier efforts, New Cosmic Blues (no shit, Sherlock), the more acoustic The Truth About Love (with pedal steel) and electric closer Is It Me That You Love. Better tracks include No More Goodbye Songs, The Truth About Love and Is It Me That You Love, but too much of the material relies on its lyrical content at the expense of the by-numbers music, I'm afraid to say. Bruce Haymes plays 'Mellotron' flutes on Love Is Mighty Close To You, but both the sound's attack and sustain portions have convinced me it's sampled. So; Aussie country/blues, lyrics largely better than music. Your choice.

John Cunningham  (UK)

Happy-Go-Unlucky  (2002,  35.27)  ***

Happy-Go-Unlucky is an album of Beatlesque pop, more Paul than John, complete with George Martin-style horn and string arrangements on several tracks. Highlights? Opener Losing Myself Too, You Shine and gentle closer It Goes On. Mehdi Zannad adds occasional samplotron flutes.

The Cure  (UK)

Bloodflowers  (2000,  58.00)  ***
Hypnagogic States  (2008,  37.02)  **½

Eight years on from 1992's Wish and all of two albums later (mid-career slump, anyone?), The Cure returned to their 'roots' once again, after the (apparent) relative disappointment of 1996's Wild Mood Swings. To my ears, I'm afraid Bloodflowers is Just Another Cure Album, doing all the things The Cure tend to do, i.e. rather gothy pop/rock with the odd memorable track here and there. Top marks for making track two over eleven minutes long, mind... Anyway, faint samplotron flutes (from Robert Smith?), played in the tried'n'tested 'Strawberry Fields' manner, on opener Out Of This World, but nothing you couldn't live without, to be honest. Hypnagogic States sees the band getting all prog on our arses - well, kind of - with a 'side-long' track, Exploding Head Syndrome, moving through various indie and EDM sections. There's also a heavy dancefloor influence on one of the 'regular length' tracks, Freakshow, although the rest of the album sounds exactly as you'd expect, upfront flanged goth bass and all. Obvious samplotron strings on Sleep When I'm Dead, for what it's worth.

The Curios  (US)

Pillow Book  (2010,  61.42)  **½

The Curios seem to be, essentially, the duo of Nancy Hall and Lee Parvin, whose stock in trade, going by 2010's Pillow Book, is a rather dreary singer-songwriter style, Hall's sweet-yet-slightly-drippy voice doing their insipid material no favours. Parvin's 'Mellotron' is no more than some rather wet flutes on the appropriately-titled Empty.

Cursive  (US)

Happy Hollow  (2006,  45.26)  **½
Dorothy at Forty  7"/CDS  (2006,  8.24)  **

Cursive are one of those American indie bands who throw various styles into the mix, all of which come out sounding the same. You know what I mean? No? Never mind. Happy Hollow's their sixth album and I'm not sure what the effect was meant to be, but the brass section that's been splattered all over the record serves only to irritate after a short while and bears no relation to the cool, '60s soul vibe they were probably trying to conjure up. Apparently, the lyrics convey some sort of concept regarding small town life (the Happy Hollow of the title, no doubt), but band leader Mike Mogis shouts them loudly enough that you just stop listening after a while. Mogis is credited with Mellotron on three tracks, with nothing audible on opener Opening The Hymnal/Babies, a nice flute part on Into The Fold and less of the same on closer Hymns For The Heathen, sounding distinctly sampled to my ears. Incidentally, another 'Mellotron' track finds its way onto the Dorothy At Forty single, with a flute part on first b-side The Bitter End that finally gives the sample game away with its unfeasibly-speedy glissando runs.

Custom Blue  (UK)

All Will Be Well  (2009,  46.05)  ***

How to describe All Will Be Well? Psychedelic indie? Better tracks include opener Cobblestones, Sun Gate and Small Animals, while Mark Tucker's credited Mellotron turns out to be polyphonic samplotron flutes on So Far Away.

The Cut Off  (US)

Packaged Up for Beginners  (2008,  35.09)  **½

Packaged Up for Beginners sits at the noisy end of indie, like a budget Strokes, at its least dull on Uranius, probably due to its vaguely inventive guitar work. Salim Nourallah's credited with Mellotron, with obviously bogus strings on opener Enjoy The Weather, Big House and others, plus occasional choirs.

Cut-Out  (US)

Interlude With Fun Machine  (2003,  38.22)  **

I'll be honest, I struggled to locate the 'fun' bit in Cut-Out's Interlude With Fun Machine; a dreary, drone-based electronica album, at its worst on its longest track, Theme From Fun Machine, Part 1, which stretches a non-idea out to over ten, interminable minutes. Vague samplotron somethings on closer Fin.

Cyan  (UK)

The Creeping Vine  (1999,  55.38)  **
Echoes  (1999, recorded 1993-98,  55.30)  *½

It seems multi-instrumentalist Rob Reed originally formed Cyan as far back as 1984, clearly inspired by the previous couple of years' upsurge of interest in progressive rock, retrospectively dubbed 'neo-prog'. After the original band split, Reed formed a new lineup in 1991, releasing two albums, 1993's For King & Country and the following year's Pictures From the Other Side, both on quality-free Dutch neo-prog label SI, before the band's status dropped to being merely one of his ongoing projects. 1999 brought two releases, the former being Reed's first album of new Cyan material for several years, The Creeping Vine, a more mature work than its predecessors, although that probably shouldn't be taken as a recommendation; the composition's generally better than before, with a Celtic influence creeping (sorry) in on a few tracks, but it's still basically third-rate neo-prog, with everything that suggests. Hardly any fakeotron, with distant choirs on Goodbye World; a half-star effort were it applicable.

Echoes appeared later the same year, seven of its ten tracks seemingly being Reed's personal 'best of' his first two albums with three new recordings. All I can say is: why bother? I'm sorry to be so harsh, but this is exactly the kind of Lloyd-Webber-inspired cheeso neo-prog that gives the genre a bad name, overwrought cod-operatic vocals on several tracks and a preponderance of crummy keyboard sounds, all inserted into some of the most unimaginative 'prog' you're likely to hear. Given when most of these tracks were recorded, it's surprising there's any Mellotron, real or otherwise, in evidence, but a few muffled choir and string parts turn up, while the worst (and most obvious) example is the 'Mellotron' flute part that opens Solitary Angel. Reed put Cyan to sleep at this point, forming Magenta soon after (what is it with this man and primary printer ink colours?), for which we should probably all be grateful. Not, you understand, that Magenta are an awful lot better, but at least they're more '70s than '80s, which has to be an improvement. Do you buy either of these albums? No, you do not.