Tina Dickow Danielsen is known as Tina Dico in all 'territories' (aargh! Music-biz speak!) other than her home, Denmark, presumably to aid dim foreigners in their pronunciation. Her fifth album, 2008's A Beginning, a Detour, an Open Ending, is split into three fairly obviously named parts, although there are no obvious musical divisions. Most of the lengthy album's material consists of acoustic singer-songwriter fare, frequently tinged with folky touches, better tracks including the vocal-and-clean-electric-guitar In Love, Some Other Day and closer An Open Ending. Dennis Ahlgren plays samplotron, with cellos on All I See, although nothing else stands out as being Mellotronically-derived. Count to Ten descends into Insipid Ballad Hell, sad to say, possibly at its least dull on Sacre Coeur. Dennis Ahlgren is credited with Mellotron, but the various strings on Open Wide and possible pitchbent cellos on Sacre Coeur really don't cut the mustard.
Vaguely interesting fact about Dido Armstrong: she's the sister of Rollo Armstrong (what was it with names in that family?) of Faithless, 'discovered' after singing backing vocals on their Sunday 8pm opus. Almost certainly entirely uninteresting fact about Dido Armstrong: she went to school with my sister and that 'mockney' accent she affects in interviews is entirely fake; on the scale of 'common' to 'dead posh', she's an awful lot nearer the latter than the former. So there you go. I can't pretend I'm over-keen on this sort of stuff, to be brutally honest. I've got (overwhelmingly female) friends who love it to bits, but to my ears No Angel is simply thirty-somethings dinner party music; this generation's Carly Simon, if you like. Many of the songs explore the theme of lost love, which probably explains much of the album's popularity, so that'll be dinner parties and bedsitters then. The oh-so-modern programming will date it horribly within a few years, but then if Ms. Armstrong plays her cards right (and has a helping hand from Lady Luck), she'll have moved into different areas by then and can re-record the best material acoustically, or something. Dido's voice is reasonably strong and unusually high in the mix (good old pop production techniques...), with little reverb, giving an intimate feel that I'm sure has helped her rise to prominence (twelve million and counting, isn't it?). I am being slightly unfair, though. Or am I? My Lover's Gone has a genuinely desolate feel to it, until it's spoiled by more of that bloody programmed percussion. Why? Just leave the damn' songs alone, for God's sake...
No Angel's produced by a whole slew of different people, including Rick Nowels, who plays 'Chamberline' on two tracks. Notoriously difficult to spot, especially in a dense mix; I can definitely hear strings on Hunter, but I'm less sure whether the cellos and flutes on All You Want are Chamberlin or not. I'm quite sure it's all sampled, anyway. Third semi-interesting fact about this album: I see a couple of tracks are co-written with a certain 'P. Gabriel'. I've now been assured that this is actually Belgian Pascal Gabriel and nothing to do with the esteemed Peter (thanks, Kallie), which just goes to prove that I should do my research more thoroughly.
Rather than a band name, (Johnny) Diesel is actually Mark Lizotte's nom-de-plume, under which he records soulful, rootsy faux-Americana records like these. Solid State Rhyme's a decent enough record of its type, but do we really need anything of its type? Lizotte is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, but the string parts on All Come Together and Bad Seed sound terribly fake, not least due to the pitchbends towards the end of the latter. The eMu Vintage Keys module appeared the previous year, so it's entirely possible. Coathanger Antennae, from over a decade later, is a little less bombastic, but no more interesting, with a samplotron flute solo on Let You In, one of the album's better tracks.
Although born in Munich, Stefan Diestelmann is known as an East German (as was) musician, his first release being 1978's Folk Blues Band, consisting almost entirely of, er, folk/blues material. Well, at least you can't accuse him of contravening advertising standards... Stylistically, this is pretty authentic for a group of white Germans, with some great acoustic playing from Diestelmann himself, particularly on the lengthy Flamenco (which does exactly what it says on the tin) and Blues Für Memphis Slim. Wolfgang Fiedler (from the Klaus Lenz Big Band, themselves guilty of fake Mellotron creditry) allegedly plays Mellotron, but the strings on Flamenco and closer Stormy Monday Blues are quite clearly string synth.
Ani DiFranco's ¿Which Side Are You on? is full of righteous anger against the patriarchy; ironic that, a few years after its release, America should take such a sharp turn to the (far) right, with the ever-present threat of an attendant suppression of women's rights. Its songs veer between the expected singer-songwriter stylings and a more old-fashioned approach, complete with brass band in places. DiFranco's bassist, Todd Sickafoose, is credited with Mellotron, but I'm not fully convinced by the chordal flutes on Unworry and the title track. 2017's Binary is, musically, relatively similar, down to the brass. DiFranco's credited with Mellotron on Pacifist's Lament and Even More, but the strings on the tracks sound little like the real thing.
Marié Digby is yet another US singer-songwriter whose drippy, anodyne work is perfect for crummy TV show soundtracks, at least, going by her debut, 2008's Unfold. Although she already had a contract, Digby's public profile shot through the roof after she posted videos of herself playing covers on YouTube, notably Rihanna's Umbrella, the album's closing track. Am I the only person in the Western world that doesn't know this song? Probably. Anyway, I've really tried to find something positive to say about this album and the best I can come up with is 'the first few seconds are fairly harmless'. Dismal. Mike Daly plays alleged Chamberlin, with pseudo-orchestral strings on Miss Invisible, but I'm sure it's sampled.
Dennis Diken is drummer with The Smithereens, finally releasing his first solo album, Late Music, in 2009, almost thirty years after the formation of his band. Unsurprisingly, it's a concoction of various powerpop sub-styles, shifting between the mainstream powerpop of opener The Sun's Gonna Shine In The Morning and I've Been Away, through the Association-like Standing In That Line and Fall Into Your Arms to the jazzy, acoustic Lost Bird. In fact, the album's diversity is also its downfall; it's not a bad record, but it covers too much ground to have any real cohesion, although I suspect it consists of songs written by Diken over a number of years (a typical solo album approach), so maybe continuity was never going to be its strongest suit. Diken and Dave Amels both play samplotron, though not so's you'd notice, to be honest. An online interview mentions something used at the end of The Bad Merry-Go-Round; yup, there is something... The vibes? Trombones? Very hard to tell.
NYC-based Don DiLego's The Lonestar Hitchhiker, Vol. 1 is, essentially, an Americana album, albeit one with influences thrown in from electronica, 'old time' music, jazz... Pretty eclectic stuff, actually, at its best on Lonestar Hitchhiker itself, the powerpopish Nicotine Prom Queen and Ohio Fight Song. DiLego's 'Mellotron' is no more than distant choirs on Lonestar Hitchhiker and equally distant flutes on closer Goodnight, Aliens, both sampled. Sadly, Photographs of 1971, from five years later, is nowhere near as appealing, DiLego frequently slipping into that awful falsetto style utilised by so many singer-songwriters of the 2000s. Repeat offenders: Falling Into Space, Somebody Leave The Lights On. The album's also far too long for its content, while DiLego's background 'Mellotron' strings on Automatic and possibly elsewhere are, again, sampled.
It's difficult to tell just how many albums Seattle's Diminished Men have released, but 2009's Shadow Instrumentals (given its sound, clearly an Anglophile Shadows reference) is possibly their fourth, including some cassette-only efforts. Stylistically, it sits in the grey area somewhere between Ventures-style surf, the aforementioned Shadows (and Joe Meek productions) and Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks, full of heavily-reverbed twangy guitars and sound effects, not least the sample-and-hold synth on Sutures In. Steve Moore (of Earth) plays supposed Mellotron, with choirs on GG Narrows and Perro Chino, sounding, on the former, like he's using my trick of shifting a chord up and down an octave, as the male voices stay the same, giving the impression of an indefinite sustain. However, it's vastly more likely to be sampled. Anyway, one for Dick Dale and Clint Eastwood fans everywhere, showing any other pretenders to the surf crown how it should be done.
Claudia DiNatale's debut album, The Little Things, is crammed with terrible, wishy-washy singer-songwriter stuff, occasionally 'featuring' crummy modern (for 2005) production tricks, notably on I Don't Wanna Cry. There are no best tracks. Rob Arthur's credited with Mellotron. What, the strings on Love Wins Every Time?
Dinosaur Jr used a Mellotron a couple of times in the early '90s, after their supposed heyday, so I wasn't entirely surprised to read that there might be one on 1997's Hand it Over, despite the lack of any specific credit. The album seems to be Dinosaur Jr-by-numbers; perfectly competent Neil Young/Hüsker Dü-influenced tuneful post-hardcore, but despite the occasional use of unusual instrumentation (notably the solo trumpet on I'm Insane), somehow it never really catches fire, existing in a twilight world of J Mascis' own creation, where the normal rules of physics don't apply and entropy as a concept no longer exists. Best track? Probably the lengthy, jammed-out Alone, where Mascis finally perfects his Like A Hurricane guitar tone, although his playing (intentionally?) lacks Neil's total wig-out quality.
Potential 'Mellotron' on a couple of tracks, with a repeating flute line in Never Bought It and very Mellotronic string chords in Can't We Move This, but the giveaway is in the closing seconds of the former, where the sustained flute note over the fade lasts too long and you can actually hear the loop point. Ouch. Overall, though, a passable album which probably sounds better to non-fans than to fans, who will always compare it unfavourably with their early work.
It's difficult to know how to describe Dionysos' sixth album, La Mécanique du Cœur: its lyrical concept is based on a novel written by vocalist Mathias Malzieu, The Boy With The Cuckoo-Clock Heart, about, well, a boy given a clockwork heart and how well it does, or doesn't serve him. Musically, the album is full of mechanical-devices-as-instruments, not least a cuckoo-clock on more than one track, set to a very European kind of almost pre-rock'n'roll aesthetic which has gone down startlingly well in their home country, despite several tracks being sung in English, gaining the band a gold record. I'm not sure if a Mellotron's actually credited, but the flutes on La Berçeuse Hip Hop Du Docteur Madeleine are decidedly sampled, although, as with most sampled Mellotron flute, sounding rather better than copies of the other common sounds.
2009's Eats Music!!! (or Dionysos Eats Music!!!) is not so much a career retrospective as a mopping-up operation, collecting together demos (including tracks from a pre-first album cassette), live tracks, remixes and outtakes into a two hour-plus concoction of Dionysosness that will have their fans in raptures, or at least the ones who delve any deeper than their current hit (ouch). The rest of us will sit there, slightly bemused; an hour-long concept album about a boy with a clockwork heart is one thing, but an uncohesive trawl through their past is another one entirely. It's perfectly good, but a bit tiresome if you're not especially into their thing. The only reason this is here is a track hidden away on disc two, Neige (Mellotron Version), a slightly Morricone-esque number with a 'Mellotron' flute line running through it, recorded in 2004.
Los Arboles is your bog-standard, run-of-the-mill, dullsville indie with no outstanding features. Jimmy Cabez de Vaca's 'Mellotron' is merely sampled strings all over opener All Said & Done, with a run on You'll Get Yours.
You'll have to excuse me if I've mentioned this before, but I read an online article a while back from an acknowledged prog expert, who deconstructed the whole 'neo-prog' argument, concluding that there was actually no such thing. In which case, how is it that I can spot it the moment I hear it? Of course it exists, in this case, in the form of Québec's Direction, whose fourth album, 2008's Est, pretty much defines the sub-genre. It's all here: the cheesy, simplistic major-key chord sequences, the widdly synth lines, straight out of The Cinema Show, the overwrought vocals, the all-round lack of any real musical complexity... Yup, neo-prog. The forty-seven-minute album actually seems a lot longer and not in a good way, most tracks dragging due to their lack of variation, which is another way of saying that they're boring. Least bad track? Closer Dernière Issue, although its classically neo- repeat-till-you-puke ending riff (do I detect a faint hint of countrymen Morse Code here?) goes on a little too long even for the genre's usual standards.
Vocalist/bassist/practically everything elsist Serge Tremblay plays obvious Mellotron samples on most tracks, more notable usage including the upfront string melody on Capsule and the major string and choir parts on Dernière Issue. Neo- fans (and I know you're out there) will go ga-ga over this, but I'd imagine the rest of the progressive world will react much as I have, i.e. boredom-bordering-irritation. Come on guys, drop your slavish Marillion fandom (there, I just used the 'M' word) and start listening to and being influenced by something more original.
On 2004's Strange Generation, The Dirty Americans have caught the essence of rock'n'roll in the manner of capturing lightning in a bottle, making most of the current crop of young pretenders look rather silly in the process. It's not all great, but material of the quality of the title track, Give It Up and the sort-of AC/DC-esque Light-Headed make this the kind of straight-down-the-line '70s-influenced rock album to put on when you've grown tired of more fashionable chin-strokers or, er, any kind of intricacy. The album does outstay its welcome by a couple of tracks, but that's picking holes in an enjoyable if undemanding record. Producer Paul Ebersold is credited with Chamberlin, but I'll be buggered if I can hear where, so into 'samples' it goes.
Dirty Beaches is essentially Canadian Alex Zhang Hungtai's solo project, of the 'multiple annual releases' variety. 2010's Decadent smothers what little genuine musical content it contains under layers of noise; I'm not saying this is a bad thing, in an old-guy 'it ain't proper music' kind of way, merely describing the album. Crummy Mellotron string samples on Folding Landscapes. 2012's Tarlabaşi 7" could be described as 'experimental indie', I suppose; a sparse, bass sax-driven dirge, probably aimed at the hipster market, I suspect, while the flip is a remarkably authentic '50s-sounding recording of Slim Harpo's I'm A King Bee, which seems slightly pointless, but there you go. Hungtai supposedly plays both Mellotron and operates a Chamberlin Rhythmate drum machine on the 'A', but I can't hear the former, in an extremely sparse mix, while the latter is more likely than not sampled. Cue: aggrieved e-mail saying it's genuine... One for avant- fans who don't actually want anything too avant-, then.
Discipline's debut album, Push & Profit, isn't bad, but seems unable to maintain any sort of stylistic consistency, although that could easily be construed as a recommendation, I suppose. Excellent tracks like Carmilla or Systems are let down by more workmanlike efforts such as Faces Of The Petty, while the album frequently sounds more like a multi-artist compilation than a cohesive piece of work. For all that, it's a decent enough listen, just not really a patch on its follow-up, Unfolded Like Staircase. If I hadn't been passed along an e-mail that band mainman Matthew Parmenter wrote to a correspondent of mine, this would've been reviewed along with their second album, probably with a 'real or sample?' comment for the 'Mellotron' flutes and strings on Carmilla. However, Parmenter says it's not even samples, just a generic string sample, played like a Mellotron and, on close inspection, it really doesn't sound like the Real Deal at all, particularly the flutes. However, not a bad album, just not as good as its successor.
After two solo albums and a lot of dead space, Parmenter finally brings us the third Discipline album, To Shatter All Accord, a mere fourteen years after its predecessor. In case anyone might've been under the impression that he wasn't able to write this stuff any more, it's excellent, if just possibly not quite as jaw-dropping as before, that ol' Van der Graaf influence rearing its not unattractive head again on the hypnotic Dead City. Best tracks? It's not that kind of album, to be honest; listen to it in one sitting, then listen to it again. Criticisms? I'm really not sure about the occasional, slightly unwelcome touches of blues piano and guitar, which actually slightly subtract from the overall vibe, but that's about it. Mellotron? Parmenter adds occasional strings on When The Walls Are Down, with major parts in Dead City, When She Dreams She Dreams In Color and lengthy closer Rogue. Am I convinced by the 'Mellotron' here? I am not, which is why it's in samples. Anyway, another fine album from the Pen Of Parmenter.
Divæ (or Divae) were a one-shot mid-'90s Italian progressive outfit who, although clearly influenced by various '70s bands, had trouble converting their influences into a whole album's-worth of strong material, sometimes slipping into duff neo-progisms. Given that Determinazione is over an hour long, they could easily have edited somewhat, ending up with a stronger record in the process, although six-part, twelve-minute closer Il Ritorno Del Gigante Gentile (The Return Of Gentle Giant...) is an unexpected treat, being probably the best thing here, even if it sounds nothing like Kerry and the boys. Opener E Con Il Mattino Torneranno Gli Eroi cheekily quotes from Grieg's Peer Gynt and most tracks have at least something to recommend them, but overall, the album falls into an awkward '*** or ***½?' category. Enzo DiFrancesco was one of two keyboard players, not to mention the drummer, who chipped in as well, but DiFrancesco's the only one credited with Mellotron, although he didn't play it that much, with strings on Regina Delle Fate and Frammenti, clearly sampled; the weak-as-water choirs that permeate the album sound like generic samples. Oh, if you're fussed, Lino Vairetti from Osanna and Gianni Leone from Il Balletto di Bronzo guest.
Neil Hannon's twelfth Divine Comedy release, Office Politics, combines his usual chamber pop moves with a more synthesized feel on a kind-of concept album based around... well, guess. Top tracks? The beautifully-observed Norman And Norma, I'm A Stranger Here and 'Opportunity' Knox, perhaps, while Philip And Steve's Furniture Removal Company pastiches Glass and Reich splendidly, leaving the album's 'oddest track' award to the witty The Synthesizer Service Centre Super Summer Sale. Eleven of the album's sixteen tracks credit Hannon (and, once, guitarist Tosh Flood) with Mellotron, but, not only is nothing obviously Mellotronic audible, but the band use an M4000D live, so I rather suspect we're hearing that. Possibly not Hannon's best, but a fine album nonetheless.
Formed in 1977, Bosnia's Divlje Jagode, probably the region's most successful hard rock band, are still a going concern, after over forty years. Their eponymous debut album, released in 1978, is decent enough, but very much a 'locals album', a lot like better-known international acts, but... local. Highlights? The balladic Jedina Moja, Čekam Da Sunce Zađe and the vaguely proggy Sjećanja, maybe. Mustafa Ismailovski is credited with playing Jugoton Studios' Mellotron (used on other albums), alongside Hammond, Rhodes and the like, but, given that it's entirely inaudible throughout, I don't feel I can put this in the 'regular' reviews. Passable, but unexciting.
Straightforward Americana from the Dixie Bee-Liners on Susanville, at its best on Truck Stop Baby, the banjo-driven Albion Road and Brake Lights. I'm really not sure why John Jorgenson's credited with Mellotron: the strings on Brake Lights?
Gabe Dixon is a pianist/vocalist; think: Ben Folds without the humour, or an updated version of various Californian '70s singer-songwriters and you won't be a million miles off. 2008's The Gabe Dixon Band is only his third studio album in nearly a decade, much of it consisting of a particularly insipid form of piano-driven pop (worst offenders: opener Disappear, Further The Sky), although it picks up slightly as the album progresses, more acceptable tracks including Find My Way and the almost-raucous Till You're Gone. Both Dixon and Neal Capellino are credited with Mellotron, but all the strings sound real (there are several strings players on the album), so it's anyone's guess as to where it might be, assuming it's even real. I suppose Ben Folds fans might go for this, but I honestly can't recommend it to what I fondly imagine are typical Planet Mellotron readers.
Djam Karet (US) see:
Shakespearean Fish was Melanie Doane's second album; I think the one word that describes it to a T is: smooth. That doesn't have to be an insult, but it is in this case. This really is bloody dullsville; she's at the exceedingly sappy end of the singer-songwriter spectrum, with one of those voices that could so easily tip over into Shania bloody Twain territory, not to mention her anodyne, gutless songs. Bedsitter/wetter stuff, I think. Well, that was a bit vicious, wasn't it? Sorry, but this sort of stuff really gets on my nerves, due to its complete adoption of one arm of the mainstream, although at least we're spared the 'sampled beats' you'll find on her more recent releases. Gack. Anyway, samplotron on Saltwater from producer Rob Friedman, with some volume-pedalled chords that stop before they get anywhere and a background flute part later in the song.
Allen Dobb couldn't be more different to countrywoman Melanie Doane (above) if he tried; rough, authentic acoustic blues-rock, with a voice that sounds like it's been there, come back, then done the round trip several more times for good measure. Bottomland was his second solo album after working in the duo Dobb and Dumela in the early '90s and, while I'm not about to call it my New Favourite Album, it's perfectly listenable, with songs that will doubtless grow on me should I ever find the time to give them the chance. Two tracks of supposed tape-replay, with Dave Kershaw playing (unusually) quiet 'Mellotron' vibes on Like An Angel and both Chamberlin and Mellotron sounds on closer Bellingham Rain, one covering the cello, one the strings, though I've no idea which is which.
Dave Dobbyn is one of a select group of 'kiwi heroes', musicians who have found themselves inserted into the country's musical DNA (think: Neil Finn). 1998's The Islander is a decent enough mainstream-end-of-singer-songwriter album, at its best on Blindman's Bend and closer Hallelujah Song. Mellotron? A quote from a prehistoric website, regarding Keep A Light On: "Then I took it to Ian Morris's place, ostensibly to get some string parts on it...some Mellotron strings that we put through a Leslie speaker. It came out like a Farfisa." Indeed it does, presumably played by Morris. Real? I don't think so. Hopetown removes most of Dobbyn's folkier edge, sadly, being more of a dullsville mainstream pop/rock effort, at its best on the folky Kingdom Come. Definitely Morris on 'Mellotron' this time, on A Bridge On Fire, with... Mellotron sax? Distant strings? Not actually a Mellotron, anyway. Finally, Available Light continues in a similar vein, with no especial standout tracks. Two supposed Mellotron appearances, from Steve Gallagher, with distant flutes? Cellos? on Let That River Go and background strings on Keeping The Flame.
Pitchfork's review of Dr. Dog's sixth album, Shame, Shame, always a reliable indicator that I won't like something, finally gets to the point and compares it to The Flaming Lips. '60s influences? Check. 'Transcendent' crescendo rock? Check. Massed vocal harmonies? Check. This is actually at its best on a handful of the iTunes version bonus tracks, notably the acoustic It and the Queenalike Oh Man, the regular release being the kind of album that almost does something good, then... doesn't. Scott McMicken, Zach Miller and Juston Stens are all credited with Mellotron, although all I can spot is a pitchbent something (random woodwind?) on opener Stranger and a clearly sequenced, unfeasibly-speedy repeating flute part on Where'd All The Time Go? Samples, then.
Simon "Dr Rubberfunk" Ward's 2010 release, Hot Stone, is his fourth full album under that name, a soul/funk/jazz/hip-hop crossover effort, guests including Roachford and Sitzka, with some decent instrumental work, not least Ben Castle's sax and bass clarinet contributions. Ward is credited with Mellotron on Theme From Hot Stone, although the only thing on the track it even might be is an otherwise uncredited vibes part towards the end. Samples, then.
Dog Named David sit at the pop end of Americana, without tipping over into full-blown Nashville, thankfully, which isn't to say that World Traveler's especially interesting; it isn't. Paul Mills is credited etc. etc., but the strings on Runaway Train tell another tale.
Remember Pete(r) Doherty? No? Good. Obnoxious shitehawk, professional smackhead, deeply unpleasant person (implicated in an 'unsolved' murder. Allegedly) and all-round chancer who, for some unknown reason, briefly collected a very large following, chiefly of indie kids mesmerised by his 'poetry'. To my surprise (who said 'disappointment'?), his first solo effort, Grace/Wastelands, isn't that bad, its on/off tiresome indie moves ameliorated by injections of folk, blues and jazz, amongst other genres, although not enough to contain any actual 'best tracks' or anything. Stephen Street is credited with Mellotron strings on New Love Grows On Trees, but, while not actually obvious samples, nor do they have that ring of authenticity about them. Anyway, please don't even think about buying this; the last thing Doherty needs is encouragement.
Lou Doillon is Jane Birkin's daughter, so no great surprise that she's gone into music, although her main career is as an actor; easy when papa's a director, eh? Anyway, 2012's Places is a passable English-language singer-songwriter effort, with a discernible French influence on most tracks. Is it any good? Good at what it does, as far as I can tell, but it probably isn't going to excite you any more than it did me. Alexis Anérilles plays distant samplotron strings on Make A Sound and Questions And Answers. Hmmm. File under 'adult pop'.
I'm struggling to find out anything much about Portugal's Doismileoito; I think their eponymous 2009 album is their debut, but only because I can't find any references to anything earlier. It's... well, it sounds like an unholy cross between modern U2 and Rage Against the Machine in an indie setting, to my ears. Unappealing? Yup. I'd be lying if I said it had a 'best track', but piano ballad SO05/SO06 might just be the worst. André Aires plays samplotron on opener O Caminho Que Fazias Ganhou Silvas E A Tua Gaveta Pó, with an undistinguished flute part that I couldn't honestly say especially enhances the song.
Don Dokken's long-running outfit are often thought of as typical '80s 'hair metal', although their roots lie at the beginning of that decade; I'm sure they 'glammed up' when everyone else did, but they remain a hard rock band, rather than heavy metal. Saying that, they're not especially interesting hard rock, although by 1999's post-post-reformation effort, Erase the Slate, they were ripping riffs and vocal harmonies from King's X with the best of 'em, sadly to little effect. It's not that it's a bad album, just a rather uninspired one, in a genre that ran out of steam a long time ago. Ex-Winger (stop laughing) guitarist Reb Beach, filling in for the departed George Lynch, does a decent enough job, but it's all a bit sub-Eddie Van Halen, as are practically all modern metal players. Bassist Jeff Pilson is credited with Mellotron, as he is on 2003's Wicked Underground, with Lynch as Lynch/Pilson. All we get here, though, is a so-so string part on In Your Honor that seems to sustain for too long in places, so that'll be 'samples'.
The Doleful Lions are a powerpop outfit in the grand tradition, albeit with an indie tinge to some of their material. Their debut, 1998's Motel Swim, is a very likeable album, if somewhat in thrall to their forebears, which is a nice way of saying they're a little unoriginal, but if the songs are good, does it matter that much? Top tracks include opener (as you'd expect) The Sound Of Cologne, Hang Around In Your Head and All Winter Long, although there are no duffers, which is quite a result in itself. Jeff Hart plays alleged Chamberlin, with strings on One Revolution (Around The World), mixed with synth, by the sound of it. Sampled, I'd say.
Dolores? An Idaho-based trio, it seems. To Die No More is, essentially, synthesized noise as music, with occasional reflective piano work to even things up a little. Ryan De La Rosa may very well be credited with Mellotron, but there's precisely fuck-all to be heard.
Alex Domschot's one-track single is, apparently, a Björk cover, tackled in a fusion power-trio style, including legendary bassist Percy Jones. Trouble is, the end result sounds like every other guitar-led fusion track I've ever heard; technically über-efficient and reasonably melodic, in its own way, but somewhat lacking in individuality. Adrian Harpham's 'Mellotron'? Vague background strings.
Cristina Donà has an Afterhours connection, which isn't exactly a recommendation and a Posies one, which is. Going by her fifth album, 2007's La Quinta Stagione, her own material veers between balladic stuff and 'alt.rock', seemingly neither better nor worse than that from the English-speaking world. Take that as you will; it's harmless enough, but makes little impression on the jaded listener (i.e. me). Lorenzo Corti plays samplotron flutes on opener Settembre, to pleasant enough effect. Its most interesting aspect? The Photoshopped sleeve image of Donà with an unfeasibly long neck. Yup, this is that good.
Manir Donaghue is a British guitarist of my acquaintance, one of the uncountable number of excellent musicians unknown to the general public. He'll probably hate me for saying so, but he and everyone else involved with his debut album, Reflections, are or have been intimately associated with the UK Genesis tribute scene: Manir has managed ReGenesis and played in the short-lived Strictly Banks, amongst other projects, his friend and mine, Mark Rae, played in In the Cage (and the non-Genesis related Sanctuary Rig) and flautist Tony Patterson plays with various artists (ReGenesis, Nick Magnus, John Hackett). Unsurprisingly, Donaghue's style (acoustic and electric) is occasionally redolent of Steve Hackett, without copying him slavishly like, hmmm, many others I could name. The material is pastoral and very English; think: acoustic Hackett with more variety and you won't be a million miles off, although the album holds a surprise or two in store, not least the 'drumless powerful bit' in September (For Karen) and the synths in sometimes my head feels like this and yes, it's meant to be in all lower case.
Rae plays Mellotron samples, with strings on Frozen, Mayfly Over Pendle Water (Part Two) and Flame, with flutes on Angelus, distinct from Patterson's real one; although he used my M400 on Sanctuary Rig's Khnosti, I'd imagine the recording schedule here prevented a repeat performance, sadly. The samples are good, but... Overall, then, a fine album that should appeal to both guitarists and those looking for the kind of gentle, pastoral album suitable for the end of a busy day, if that isn't too clichéd. Recommended and available from Manir's website.
Manir followed up three years later with Selene, not stylistically dissimilar to its predecessor. Dense, suitably-titled opener Behemoth kicks proceedings off with a jolt, almost unnerving in its intensity, although the album's other rockist piece, Moonlight Chase (part two of the 'side-long' title track) is a little more conventional. The rest of the material covers various acoustic styles, from the folky through to the classical (and did I spot some Genesis 12-string in places?), like a less noodly Ant Phillips, perhaps. Of the album's three M-Tron-enhanced tracks, it looks like Manir sequences two of them (the strings on Behemoth and Ascension), while Rae returns to add St. Paul's choir to No Memorial. On a personal note, Manir dedicates the album to the memory of Doug Boucher, bassist with Strictly Banks in the late '90s, who met an untimely end at the hands of a taser-happy policeman in his native US. "Harmless, tasers..." I did a double-take at Doug's picture on the reverse of the CD booklet; he's playing an unusual burgundy Rickenbacker bass. Mine. I'd almost forgotten lending him my bass and Taurus pedals for the gig, although seeing his picture brought back what a gentleman he was. RIP, Doug.
Jazz saxophonist Lou Donaldson's (born 1926, still alive at the time of writing) catchphrase, according to his website, is, 'no fusion, no confusion', which aptly sums up the soul/jazz heard on his 37th (?) album, 1976's A Different Scene, at its best on the funky High Wire and closer Keep Your Woman. Ricky West is credited with Mellotron, by which I can only imagine the creative writers of the album's musicans' credits mean the string synth on Night And Day, Temptation, Here's Lovin' At You and others.
San Diegans The Donkeys' fourth album, 2014's Ride the Black Wave, sits in a kind-of California indie/psych/Americana crossover area, possibly typified by the woozy Scissor Me Cigs. Better material includes the brief I ♥ Alabama and the even briefer Imperial Beach, although the album's let down (in my humble opinion, naturally) by overlong opener Sunny Daze and the twisted country of Brown Eyed Lady. Although uncredited, I'd imagine it's keys man Anthony Lukens adding Mellotron sounds to a handful of tracks, with skronky strings on Nothing and upfront flutes on Ride The Black Wave and Blues In The Afternoon, proven to be samples by the ten seconds-plus held flute chord at the end of the last-named. I know there's an audience for this stuff, but the inclusion of the word 'indie' in the above description damns this album to a low star rating.
Donner are a (one-off?) project from White Willow's Jacob Holm-Lupo, in a kind-of contemporary electronica vein. Escape the Gaze might just be at its best on opener Drive 'Til Dawn, 4 Transmissions From Kepler 22-b and In Blue Rooms, although I'm really not so sure about the R&B influence on The Gaze, but there you go. Jacob plays samplotron choirs on 4 Transmissions From Kepler 22-b.
Donovan Leitch's first two albums, What's Bin Did & What's Bin Hid and Fairytale were distinctly Dylan-lite, but with his star in the ascendant, he recorded the innovative Sunshine Superman in '66, only to have Pye UK dick about with it for nearly a year, losing him considerable momentum at a crucial point. His US label had no such qualms, however, putting it out ahead of the psychedelic pack in late '66, ensuring in the process that most of his future success would lie in that country. It's a remarkable pot-pourri of an album, moving from the driving pop of the title track through the lengthy acoustic Legend Of A Girl Child Linda and the eastern-flavoured Three Kingfishers in the first ten or so minutes, showing nearly as much variety over the ensuing half-hour. Best track? A toss-up between Guinevere and Celeste, although the album contains two major hits in the title track and Season Of The Witch. Now, I've been under the impression that the (possible) string line on the beautiful Celeste was MkII Mellotron, but, upon another listen, it clearly isn't. Don's US follow-up was Mellow Yellow, once again unreleased in Britain, meaning that its infuriating title track would be unavailable here on album until 1969's Donovan's Greatest Hits. Pye eventually capitulated, cherry-picking twelve tracks from the two US albums for the UK Sunshine Superman, although in retrospect, they haven't all stood the test of time as well as some that were left off (although Hampstead Incident's a highlight), but at least we're spared the cheesy Mellow Yellow.