Glancing back through my accumulated reviews, a pattern becomes apparent: Christian albums are routinely given some of the lowest ratings. There's a reason for this... Jason Gray's unspeakable Christmas Stories forces pop arrangements onto carols and other seasonal music. That's it. One star. Cason Cooley's 'Mellotron'? Fucked if I know. Hideous fucking rubbish.
Macy Gray made three heavy-duty tape-replay albums in the early 2000s, only (to my knowledge) returning to Planet Mellotron relevance on her eighth album (including two covers collections), 2014's The Way. While still very much in the soul/R&B field, as you'd expect, I found this far more palatable than her earlier work, highlights including suitably woozy opener Stoned, Bang Bang's dirty fuzz guitar, First Time's soul vibe and Queen Of The Big Hurt's more-acceptable-than-you-might-expect balladry. Lyrically, this is as intensely personal as anything you might care to name, too, notably on I Miss The Sex and Queen Of The Big Hurt. Chris Rob's credited Mellotron appears to be no more than one-step-up-from-generic-string-samples, going by their appearance on Hands, the title track and Queen Of The Big Hurt (and elsewhere?).
Grayscale's limper-than-limp indie moves on their debut, That Flawless Flashing Day, serve only to irritate/enrage the discerning listener, aided and abetted by the frequently overlong material, as if this sorry mess didn't go on for long enough already. Hideous. Bruce Lowe's 'Mellotron' equates to sampled strings on So Credulous I'm Blind, One More Day and, notably, on Never Again.
Great Lake Swimmers are pretty much synonymous with leader Tony Dekker, although one other member of the ensemble that recorded their first band LP, 2005's Bodies & Minds, Erik Arneson, is still present in their latest lineup. Their sixth full-lengther, 2015's A Forest of Arms, is a pleasant enough album, perhaps best described as a kind of indie-folk, better tracks including the mournful Don't Leave Me Hanging, The Great Bear and CD-only bonus Talking In Your Sleep. The band's soundman Justin Shane Nace is credited with Mellotron on Neil Young-ish closer Expecting You, but the chances of it being real are pretty remote, to be honest: reverbed to hell, distant and overly smooth, I'd put money on it being sampled.
Hailing from the same two-bit town as the legendary Lester Bangs (El Cajon), Greater California are an indie/folk/psych outfit, treading the fine line between their chosen genres on their debut, 2004's Somber Wurlitzer. The album is aptly-named, every track based on the slightly gloomy tones of their latest purchase, a Wurly piano, so much more expressive than a Rhodes. Discuss. The material's fairly decent, if a little samey; not even a Donovan cover (Jersey Thursday) particularly stands out. The uncredited keyboard player adds a samplotron cello line and a complex flute part to May Day (a run at the end gives the sample game away) and string section on the closing title track (also somewhat inauthentic).
Boris "BG" Grebenshikov (also of Aquarium) is Russia's best-known (and best-loved) rock musician, often known as "the Grandfather of Russian Rock". 2014's Salt/Соль (or The Salt) is his sixth solo album, a Russian-language mix of mainstream rock, singer-songwriter and more authentically folk styles, highlights including the folky Ne Bilo Takoy/Не Было Такой, the rockier Lyubov Vo Vremya Voyni/Любовь Во Время Войны and Esli Ya Uydu/Если Я Уйду, while seven-minute closer Stella Maris successfully pulls off the trick of being simultaneously ethereal and powerful. Boris Rubekin is credited with Mellotron on Stella Maris, but I'd love to know what it's supposed to be doing, as not only does he play flute on the track, but a string quartet's also present. Whatever it is, I think we can probably safely say 'samples', audible or not. A pretty decent effort, then, although the songs' meanings are lost to the English-speaking audience.
Accordionist Martin Green's name may be in a (considerably) larger font on the sleeve of 2014's Crows' Bones, but he's the first to admit that Becky Unthank, Inge Thomson and Niklas Roswall should all receive equal credit. The album apparently began life (ironic, given that its subject is death) as a stage show, combining new pieces in the British folk tradition with traditional material, not least the Lyke Wake Dirge, recorded by countless musicians. A haunted, ghostly album with roots deep in the country's soil, its sparse instrumentation, not least Roswall's Nyckelharpa (a violin variant), sets the scene for nine mournful songs, highlights including opener Mess Of Crows, the aforementioned Lyke Wake Dirge, the bizarre death-circus swirls of I Saw The Dead and Maklin's Bridal March/Griesly Bride. Portishead's Adrian Utley is credited with Mellotron, but, in a tediously-familiar script, with absolutely nothing audible (particularly obvious on such a sparse recording), it seems highly likely that we're looking at samples hidden way down in the mix. To be honest, I can't see how the album would've been improved by the presence of a real-or-otherwise Mellotron, anyway. Worth hearing.
Green Carnation are one of progressive metal's lesser-known acts, despite having released five studio albums to date, having been together since the early '90s. Apparently, they have become 'less heavy' with each release, 2005's The Quiet Offspring standing at a midway point between heaviness and subtlety, although the actual material is pretty much generic; think: a more tasteful Dream Theater with a more interesting vocalist. Kenneth Silden plays keys, including Mellotron flute samples on several tracks, notably When I Was You, although all string parts sound like generic samples. Stopgap EP The Burden is Mine... Alone gives a taster of their forthcoming album, although its most interesting track is a surprisingly good version of Australian Jon English's Six Ribbons, from the Against the Wind soundtrack. 'Mellotron' flutes on Six Ribbons by Kenneth Silden, but if that's a Mellotron, I'll eat my proverbial (and hopefully virtual) hat.
Their new approach sort of culminated in 2006's Acoustic Verses (clearly influenced by Opeth's Damnation), pretty much what it says on the tin. It's by no means a bad album, but lacks any real character, unlike Opeth's similar release, although I'm willing to admit that subsequent plays may reveal its charms. Silden on 'Mellotron' again, with vague string sounds on a few tracks that probably started life as Mellotron samples, but certainly didn't end it that way. Overall, then, a passable album, albeit a pretty unexciting one. Apparently Green Carnation are returning to the heavier end of things on their next album; let's see if they use any more 'Mellotron', eh?
Norway's Green Cortinas released just the one album, 1995's Sleep, a slice of prime powerpop for most of its length, highlights including sitar-driven opener I Don't Wanna Sleep Tonight, the joyous Good Today and Miss America. Stylistic outliers include the acoustic My Heart's Still Mine and the Tom Petty-esque When It Rains, while Are You Going With Me?'s folk moves recall The Waterboys, the last-named also being the recipient of Knut Bahn's alleged Mellotron work. Really? What, the vaguely string thing that pops up halfway through, reiterating at the end? I don't think so.
Green Isac are the instrumental duo of Morten Lund and Andreas Eriksen, whose third (?) album, Groundrush, sits in a kind of ethno-techno zone, it seems, more ethno than techno, I'd say. Synths vie with percussion and various effects to form a polyrhythmic stew that's beginning to sound rather 'of its time', frankly, possibly at its best on the opening title track. Lund is credited with Mellotron, but the occasional string parts near the beginning of the record aren't fooling anyone.
The grammatically-challenged Green River Ordinance (although given that they're named after a common American local by-law, maybe it's not their fault) are one of those horrible, drippy, ultra-mainstream outfits, roughly comparable to Matchbox Twenty or Third Eye Blind - you know, the sort of stuff that makes Train look authentic, not to mention dynamic. Their second full (and first major-label) album, 2009's Out of My Hands, is the kind of record that says, "Despair all ye that enter here", wussing along with wet-as-water efforts like opener Outside (probably the least offensive thing here, actually) or the vile title track. Y'know, once you get down to the level of these kind of bands, just about the only thing between them is how much they offend me, which tends to determine the album's rating, from which you can ascertain that this, while horrible, is slightly less upchuckable than some. Paul Ebersold plays samplotron, although the background strings on Out Of My Hands (only really audible at the end of the track) are the only definite sighting.
Before reading up on the album, it struck me that Tell Me That Before had a lot in common with Place of General Happiness: Lyrics By Ernest Noyes Brookings, Vol. 2. Guess what? It seems David Greenberger's the editor of The Duplex Planet, a 'zine focussing on the experiences of the elderly (not oral history, Greenberger states, quite emphatically), one of his regular contributors being... Ernest Noyes Brookings. This album features Greenberger reading over music co-written by Paul Cebar and largely played by Mark Greenberg, strange, plinky pieces, some echoing aspects of music from the contributors' childhoods before the war. Difficult to categorise, which is generally a good thing. Greenberg's credited with Mellotron, by which I presume they mean the sampled strings on Army Conditions.
Jackie Greene's fifth album, 2008's Giving Up the Ghost, maintains its predecessor's standards, better tracks including opener Shaken, the Stonesy Like A Ball And Chain, Prayer For Spanish Harlem and When You Return. Greene plays samplotron, with faint strings on Animal and more upfront ones on Follow You. Sadly, 2010's Till the Light Comes, while perfectly respectable, is also rather dull, displaying little of its predecessors' variety, although the title track is ballsy enough to make this listener prick up his ears. Greene's on samplotron again, although the only thing I can hear that even might be it is the background strings and flutes on The Holy Land.
Grégoire Boissenot, unsurprisingly, is a French singer-songwriter, whose debut, 2008's Toi + Moi (You and Me, of course), is a bland, yet inoffensive collection of mainstream material in an adult contemporary vein, the piano-and-vocal Merci being about the best example. While a long way from 'hateful' (unless you're feeling particularly vindictive), it's also a long way from 'interesting', unless confessional French-language songs happen to be your bag. Boissenot plays samplotron flutes on Sauver Le Monde. 2010's Le Même Soleil is every bit as bland as its predecessor and probably a little less inoffensive, too, despite its brevity. Cyril Taïeb is credited with Mellotron on Mon Repère and Boissenot on J'Adore, but there's not a jot to be heard on either, as if you needed any other reason not to bother to hear this.
Virginians Gregor Samsa are a band, not a person, in the grand Max Webster tradition of 'bands named after a nonexistent frontman'. Unlike the fabulous Maxes, though, they're a rather drippy post-rock band who sound a lot like, er, a lot of other post-rock bands I can't be bothered to name, with wispy female vocals for the Cocteaus fans. Their second album, Rest, even has a typical post-rock sleeve - you know, desolate, monochrome, printed on the rough side of the cardboard. Not clichéd at all, in fact. The album isn't awful by any means, but it does exude a distinct air of 'heard it all before' and that's coming from someone who doesn't listen to any more of this stuff than necessary. None of the material stands out, although First Mile, Last Mile has a certain atmosphere about its long, slow, vaguely Godspeed-like (aargh! I mentioned Godspeed!) build-up. Champ Bennett plays lots of things here, including samplotron, with nowt but some strings in the middle of Jeroen Van Aken.
NYC-based Atoosa Grey's fourth album, When the Cardinals Come, is a rather limp, singer-songwriter-plays-Americana-lite record, at its best on a surprisingly decent version of Maggie May and the quietly beautiful Radio, but too much of its material wafts along inconsequentially. Jim Mastro (Julia Greenberg) plays, quite literally, two samplotron string chords on closer Drive.
Gordon Grey's Sacred Ground is a decidedly pleasant (if slightly unengaging) album of (mostly) instrumental acoustic guitar pieces, with or without accompaniment, although The Northwest Wind/Storm builds up to a full-on electric solo at its climax. Samplotron? Flutes on Horizons (no, not that one) that aren't even especially Mellotronic.
Grey Reverend is J.D. Brown's alter-ego, a gentle, mostly acoustic project, going by A Hero's Lie, vocal and guitar accompanied by occasional strings or keyboard instruments. Surreally, Brown claims to have 'built his own Mellotron': "I was obsessed with making one after I figured out how to do it. I could have used a plugin, but none of them had the sound that I was looking for. Mellotrons are quite expensive and heavy and hard to come by. I figured I'd give it a shot and I just took the time out to create it. It's actually not that hard to do. Like putting toothpaste back into a tube..." Really? Using tapes? I'm afraid this is staying here until/if I find out what he's actually using. Whatever it is, it seems to be providing the strings on This Way and flutes on closer Fate.
Connecticut natives Greylyng's debut, Oiwa (recorded as a drumless duo), is a decidedly avant-prog effort, all Fripp-esque guitar and modular-esque synths. And, of course, no vocals. Any good? I'm afraid I don't have the time to put into finding out whether or not the material sticks with multiple plays, but it does what you'd expect of an album of this type as well as anyone else I could name. Jeff Cedrone's 'Mellotron' credit covers the background choirs on Vesper and possible other use, all sampled.
Throwing a Tempo Tantrum was The Griefs' sole release, which is a shame, as it's a better-than-average, raucous, '60s-esque effort. Think: early Kinks, or The Byrds at their rowdiest. Vocalist/guitarist Eric Stein is credited with Mellotron, but the flute line over organ chords on closer Know It True don't sound quite authentic enough for my liking. Tell me I'm wrong, chaps.
I've seen the Grifters described as 'the kings of swampy blues/rock swagger', which just goes to prove that I obviously have no rock'n'roll in my soul, as I thought they were dull US indie. Actually, I'm of the opinion that I do have a bit rock'n'roll in my soul, prog leanings notwithstanding, which may be why the Grifters' brand of mid-paced pointlessness gets me down. It's not even that Full Blown Possession is awful. It isn't; it's just... dull. Scott Taylor, one of the band's two vocalist/guitarists, allegedly plays Mellotron, but I'll be fucked if I can hear it. Extraordinarily background strings on Cigarette? Who knows. Nothing that I can pinpoint, anyway. So; dull record, no obvious Mellotron. No thanks.
The Grip Weeds are named for John Lennon's character, Private Gripweed, in 1967's How I Won the War, which probably gives you some idea where they're coming from. Actually, their chief influence on their second album (they record infrequently), 1998's The Sound is in You, is The Byrds, some of their harmonies being spot-on copies of McGuinn's mob, which isn't a criticism. Stylewise, the album's stuffed with joyous powerpop featuring all the usual shimmering 12-strings, heavenly harmonies etc., some of the best tracks being Every Minute, Games and In Waking Dreams, although, in truth, there isn't one duffer here. Just to heavily confuse the issue, the band reissued the album in 2003 with a completely rejigged tracklisting, adding three bonus tracks. Andy Burton and Rick Reil supposedly play Mellotron, along with (confusingly) Chamberlin samples, although I thoroughly distrust that 'Mellotron' credit, too. I mean, listen to those ropey pitchbends on Intro, repeated on Outro, while the high-speed strings on Better World are a real sample giveaway. Also audible: strings on In Waking Dreams, Tomorrow and Better World, plus flutes and cellos on Inca.
2001's Summer of a Thousand Years is ostensibly the same as its predecessor, only I feel the material is somehow marginally less transcendent. The album's no slouch, however, top tracks including She Surrounds Me, Love's Lost On You and Moving Circle. Andy Burton handles the samplotron chores on his own this time round, with strings on several tracks, mostly to good effect. 2004's Giant on the Beach picks up the baton again, top tracks including blistering opener Astral Man, reminding me of the much-missed Galactic Cowboys in its harmonies, Infinite Soul, complete with sitar-guitar lead, Midnight Sun and Waiting For A Sign. Burton on samplotron again, with a string part on Midnight Sun, sustaining way part the eight-second mark.
2010's sprawling two-disc Strange Change Machine is one of those lengthy albums that would've made a killer forty/fifty-minute single disc, or two reasonable shorter albums, but at eighty-odd minutes, is just too disparate for its own good. Surely a couple of lesser tracks could've been left off to make for a long single-discer? Anyway, top tracks include opener Speed Of Life, Thing Of Beauty, the gentle Sun Shower and the ultra-melodic Mistress Forest, but I could pick out several slightly lesser efforts that might've actually strengthened the album by their removal. They could always be released online, or go on an EP or something... The Reil brothers, Kurt and Rick, both play keys, with Mellotron string samples on maybe half the tracks, more obvious examples including Speed Of Life, Coming And Going and Hold Out For Tomorrow.
With 2015's How I Won the War, The Grip Weeds pay homage to the film that gave them their name; they even use a Lennon-alike's image on the cover. It's another excellent Grip Weeds album, with too many highlights to name, although Rise Up, See Yourself, Force Of Nature and Lead Me To It all stand out. Again, both Reils are credited with Mellotron, again it's sampled, with background strings on Vanish and more upfront ones on Force Of Nature, Over And Over, Truce and Lead Me To It, but, most of all, AKA Victory, where the samples can be heard for what they are at the end of the song.
Imaginings is a gentle singer-songwriter album, the occasional barbed like of About You (sadly) tempered by naïvely overly-sweet material such as Horizon or closer Save You For Last. Perfectly pleasant, but mostly unengaging. Grist and Mike Southworth are both credited with Mellotron, by which I can only imagine they mean the vague stringy things that pop up every now and again.
Not to be confused with the 'Christian rap duo' (spare us), The Grits are a British authentic '60s soul/R&B outfit, whose eponymous 2008 debut consists of slightly over half an hour of groovy instrumentals, funky Hammond to the fore. While not for everyone, I can see this stuff going down a storm in a sweaty club, even if it's been decades since people regularly went out to dance to a real, live band. Stuart Carter plays samplotron, but only just; the only place it even might be is on closer No Man's Land, with some deep cello (actually double bass) notes and a few pitchbent somethings. The Grits is a fine debut, if slightly one-dimensional. Still, better no vocals than some egotistical twat spouting nonsense all over the place, eh?
Josh Groban is a startlingly mainstream American singer of the 'multi-million sales' variety; to no-one's surprise whatsoever, I hate him. 2010's Illuminations is his fifth album, which, amazingly, starts passably well with the instrumental The Wandering Kind (Prelude), but quickly deteriorates, Groban's 'posh pub singer' vocals and the cheesy arrangements dragging the whole thing down into a mire of horrid Lloyd-Webberisms and other mock-Broadway schlock. Shockingly, this drivel's produced by the legendary Rick Rubin; hey, we all have to make a living, eh? I don't know if it was Rubin's decision to add a Mellotron (played by Andrew Scheps) to the already-cluttered arrangement on War At Home, but whatever it's doing is, unsurprisingly, completely inaudible under the layers of credited orchestra and choir. Pointless. In pact, pointless and horrible.
Emm Gryner is a Canadian singer-songwriter whose career kicked off when her second self-released album, 1996's The Original Leap Year, caught the ear of producer Warren Bruleigh. Within three years, she'd released several major-label records, toured supporting several big names and played in David Bowie's band, which isn't bad going for a newcomer. Although Stuart Brawley is credited with Mellotron on The Original Leap Year, not only is it nowhere to be heard, but I seem to recall running across a mention of a fake credit, although I can't find it now. The first of said major-label efforts, Public, appeared in 1998, overproduced to within an inch of its life, not that its insipid songs were ever going to sound particularly radical. Sadly, I struggle to find something nice to say about this record; OK, Gryner sounds like she really means it, which is more than you can say for a lot of her contemporaries and she plays a mean Wurly on several tracks, which doesn't really go that far in the 'albums I like' stakes. She also plays samplotron, with a minor flute part on The Good You Make.
Several albums on, Emm's back on her own label for 2002's Asianblue (she's half Filipina), Dead Daisy, although her style still sits firmly in the 'mainstream pop/rock' category. This time round, I can actually pick a 'best track': Christopher, nicely underproduced, just piano and voice. No, it's not a classic, but it's the least irritating thing here. More of Gryner's samplotron this time round, with strings and flutes on opener Symphonic and strings on Free and Lonestar.
2014's Americana is Guano Padano's third album, a startlingly accurate invocation of New World styles from an Italian outfit, all things considered. Best tracks? Opener The Hushed Universe sets their stall out nicely, Dago Red, featuring an excerpt from the story of the same name by legendary Italian-American author John Fante, read by his son, My City and all the bits with a spaghetti-western-style Morricone influence, although nothing here disappoints. Alessandro "Asso" Stefana is credited with Mellotron on Cacti, but the vaguely Mellotronic background strings on the track do little to convince. A pretty decent record, then, possibly more for Morricone fans than those of actual Americana.
Shaun Guerin was drummer in LA punk band The Deadbeats, fronted by his brother Scott, who released the Kill the Hippies EP in 1978, making it all the more surprising that Shaun should release a neo-prog album, The Epic Quality of Life, in 2003. To be brutally honest, it isn't a great example of a not-great style, material such as Monsters In My Room and Say Goodbye lacking a considerable something, while the synth sounds are utterly heinous. One Matt Brown is credited with Mellotron, but the background choirs on the opening title track and strings and flutes on say Goodbye, amongst other vaguely Mellotronic sounds here and there are quite clearly nothing of the sort. Sad to say, Guerin died soon after the making of this album. RIP.
The Guggenheim Grotto are an Irish folk/country/pop duo, whose 2005 debut, ...Waltzing Alone, is a decent enough effort, although my personal preference is for their folkier numbers, particularly Ozymandias, Koan and Cold Truth. They seem somehow less convincing when they get all rhythmic, sounding like they actually wanted to play acoustically, but got talked into using a drummer. Shane Power plays Chamberlin samples, identifiable by some over-eight second notes, with cellos and strings on Portmarock Beach Boy Blue and upfront flutes on Rosanna. This isn't the first time I've run into fake Mellotron/Chamberlin credits from the Emerald Isle; I believe there are maybe one or two Mellotrons in the country (if that), but absolutely no Chamberlins, so any future 'credits' shall be flung into the sample dungeon immediately.
Robert Pollard's Guided By Voices epitomised the US low-fi scene throughout the '80s and '90s, although their sound became more 'professional' in the years prior to their split in 2004. Isolation Drills is their thirteenth album, including several very limited home-made efforts, sounding to my ears like no more or less than a well-crafted powerpop album, albeit one with more originality than most in the genre. The songwriting's good throughout, highlights probably being opener Fair Touching, Twilight Campfighter and Glad Girls, the latter apparently nominated as 'pot song of the year' by notorious weed-fan mag High Times. Samplotron on Unspirited, with a decent string part, possibly from Pollard, with a couple of other is it?/isn't it? moments in the background strings on The Enemy and the flutes and strings on closer Privately. So; a good album of memorable powerpop, more distinctive than most practitioners of the Art Of Rickenbacker. I have no idea how it stands up to the rest of their catalogue, never mind Pollard's various other projects (he is alleged to have written over 1000 songs), but it seems to do pretty well on its own, if you ask me.
2009's Les Beaux Souvenirs Ne Meurent Jamais is French singer-songwriter Pierre Guimard's second album, played in something of an indie Dylan style, perhaps, where Dylanesque arrangements attach themselves to overly simplistic rhythm tracks. Listen to more music from the '60s, monsieur. Sorry Lisa stands out as probably the best thing here, but while nothing offends, nor does most of it particularly impinge, at least on this listener. Guimard supposedly plays Mellotron, but the flutes on closer Disparue Albertine sound far too clean to be real. I'm sure this album makes far more sense if you speak French, but for the rest of us, that's probably a 'no'.
Guitar Garden are the whizzy guitar duo of Pete Prown and Rich Maloof, both journalists for guitar mags. Stop! Come back! 2006's Secret Space is actually a very listenable instrumental guitar record, influences extending vastly further than the usual 'Paganini and other shredders' territory, into electronica, folk, prog and jazz, to name but several. Top tracks? The drifting War Echo, acoustic duet Waltz Of The Dead, the mandolin-driven, er, Mandolin Blue and closer The Groove Eternal, amongst others. I'd like to say Proggy Mountain Breakdown, merely for its title, but it's actually one of the album's weaker tracks. Opener Passchendaele (Song Of The Mellotronia), the following Evolution X and Waltz Of The Dead give the sample game away immediately; that's a Mellotron? No it isn't... Frankly, you're not going to listen to this eminently, well, listenable album for a few Mellotron samples; although there's plenty of keyboard work, you'll listen to this for some great guitar playing, most of which avoids the '10,000 notes a minute' trap.
Trey Gunn was a member of King Crimson for a good decade until late 2004, playing Warr Guitar (a Stick variant); his fifth album, 2000's The Joy of Molybdenum, is a strange record, instrumental, with far more 'ethnic' influence than you might expect, particularly in the percussion department. I'll freely admit it didn't really grab me, although there's nothing wrong with the music at all, so I can't really pick out highlights. Gunn credits himself with Mellotron, amongst other things, but unless my ears are heavily deceiving me, all I can hear is a quick burst of sampled background choirs on Brief Encounter. So; decent enough record, if the idea of a more ethnic and less full-on Crimson appeals to you, but don't bother for the samplotron.
For the handful of you unaware of the furore surrounding the amusingly grammatically-challenged Guns N'Roses' Chinese Democracy, the story goes something like this: recording begins in 1994, members leave, arrive, leave and arrive again, millions of dollars' worth of studio time are consumed, rock trends come and go, some leaving their mark on proceedings. The album takes over from Boston's Third Stage (for the handful who even remember that furore) as 'most anticipated album ever', making that record's mere eight years' gestation look like a drop in the ocean in comparison. Release dates start being mooted in 2006 and the album finally creeps out of its lair in November 2008, fourteen years after recording started and seventeen after the band's last album of new material, the obscenely bloated Use Your Illusion sets.
So after all that, is it any good? Well, the rock press all masturbated furiously en masse at the thought of getting their hands on the actual artefact, but then, they all seem to think Velvet Revolver had something to offer the world. As a non-Guns fan (yes, they do exist), I can say that it's... a perfectly ordinary late-'00s metal album, a bit dated, with a dearth of particularly memorable material, but then, Appetite for Destruction's the only G N'R album to feature any halfway decent songs and I didn't like that, either. For once, I can't complain at the album's seventy-minute length, as, after fourteen years, I expect at least six hours of releasable material, so I'm hoping this is the cream of the sessions, not their entire product. Basically, there's a reasonable level of diversity on the album, although the huge number of musicians contributing to each track serve only to clutter the mixes and knacker any chance the album may have at consistency. Listen, you can read hundreds of reviews of the music elsewhere on the 'Net, from people who actually like the thing and are familiar with the band's work, so I'm leaving this one here. For what it's worth, the one track that grabbed me in any way was Sorry, which has a slow-burn feel to it and a nice, bluesy guitar solo instead of the album's usual fretwank.
Chris Pitman, one of two keyboard players who seem to have lasted the course during the recording process, allegedly adds Mellotron to There Was A Time, but alongside the real and synthesized orchestrations on the track, it's impossible to tell what it might actually be doing, although doubling some of the strings seems the likeliest option. All in all, then, not what you'd call a 'Mellotron' album, although I'm sure it'll sell by the bucket(head)load to Guns fans, assuming they don't all download it for free first.
In the twelve years since their last Mellotron album, Keep it Together, I can't honestly say that Guster have improved a lot; they're still an insipid US indie outfit making drippy albums like 2015's Evermotion, their seventh in their twenty-year career. Better efforts include Gangway and Kid Dreams, but it's all pretty limp, if truth be told. Richard Swift is credited with Mellotron, but it won't come as a major surprise to learn that the strings on Lazy Love and vague choirs here and there, notably on Kid Dreams, have little of that authentic Mellotron ring about them. I found myself unable to recommend Guster's earlier albums. Nothing has changed.
The Gutter Twins are yet another Greg Dulli project, this time a collaboration with his separated-at-birth conjoined twin, Mark Lanegan. As you'd expect, 2008's Saturnalia is an intense, virtual ride on the wheel of death, tracks like opener The Stations and Each To Each beating you into submission, only slightly alleviated by the gentler (I use the term advisedly) likes of The Body and Seven Stories Underground. Dulli and co-Twilight Singer Mathias Schneeberger supposedly play Mellotron, with distant strings on The Body and Idle Hands, cellos and strings on Circle The Fringes, brass and most upfront strings on Each To Each and more of those eerie, strident strings on closer Front Street. 'Samples', says I.