Omar Rodríguez López is, of course, one half of The Mars Volta, running a solo career alongside the band, not to mention artistic projects in various other media, including film. Unbelievably, 2010's Tychozorente is his seventeenth solo release in six years, ignoring the five Mars Volta albums that appeared in the same period. It's one of several avant-garde albums he's put out over this time, actually quite difficult to pin down; suffice to say, if the weirder end of his main band's sound appeals to you, you may just possibly go for this. Lopez' brother Marcel is credited with Mellotron, but the vague Mellotronnish strings on Piedras Y Ansiedad seem quite unlikely to have emanated from anything other than a piece of software to my ears. Overall, a pretty weird effort that probably reaps the 'multiple plays' dividend, assuming you can put up with hearing it that many times. Anyway, no obvious real Mellotron, so definitely not worth it on those grounds.
New Jersey's Lord Sterling are in utter thrall to the MC5, conclusively proving their devotion on 2002's Weapon of Truth. Although overlong, it's not a bad effort, a little like a low-budget Motorpsycho (also MC5 fans), better tracks including the opening title track, the trippy Dead In Orbit and Earthling, all contenders in the 'punky hard rock' stakes, although their cover of the Motor City boys' Black To Comm is unlikely to beat the original. Mike Schweigert supposedly plays Mellotron and almost gets away with it re. the repeating flute part on the title track, but the strings on Dead In Orbit and Listener sound little like a real Mellotron to my ears. Overall, then, good at what it does with a handful of really good tracks, but no Mellotron.
2009's Fear No Pain is Finnish doomsters Lord Vicar's debut long-player; seven tracks in slightly over an hour, eh? None more doom! It's a decent enough, if largely generic effort, material like eight-minute opener Down The Nails and Born Of Jackal doing all the usual stuff, albeit with rather more panache than many of their contemporaries. Best track? Fourteen-minute closer The Funeral Pyre, opening with several minutes of acoustic-and-vocal work before the riffery kicks in. Kimi "Peter Inverted" Kärki is credited with Mellotron, but I'll be amazed if the brief, distant choir part on The Last Of The Templars is genuine. So; a surprisingly good album, although trimming twenty minutes of deadish wood would possibly improve matters. Three years on, Signs of Osiris is a distinct improvement, the band showing signs of
Osiris developing their own style, at least to an extent. Highlights? The eccentric, bass-led Child Witness, the largely acoustic Endless November and lengthy, fairly unheavy closer Sign Of Osiris Risen, although even the more generic material does the job without being too formulaic. A little more samplotron this time round, with distant, murky strings on Between The Blue Temple And The North Tower, more upfront ones on Endless November and choirs on the first part of Sign Of Osiris Risen, Isis And The Needle.
Los Super Seven should probably file under S, but since they're an American (albeit mostly Spanish-language) outfit, they'll stay here until someone tells me definitively otherwise. They're a Latin supergroup, apparently, regular members including Joe Ely, Flaco Jimenez, Rick Treviño and the now-deceased Freddy Fender, playing a Tex-Mex mix of Latin and American musics, with the accent on the former. 2001's Canto is their second album (of three to date) and, while perfectly pleasant, probably isn't going to excite anyone not already into the style. David Hidalgo and Treviño both play samplotron, with a few seconds of either cellos or violas on Calle Dieceseis and Mellotron guitar on closer Baby, giving the sample game away.
Annett "Louisan" Päge is an anomaly: a German singer who sings in German, but sounds French. Huh? Well, going by her fifth album, 2011's In Meiner Mitte, her material resides more in the jazz/chanson tradition than anything more contemporary, although Louisan is only in her early thirties, making the record vastly more palatable than the pseudo-American singer-songwriter guff I'd expected. Best tracks? The opening title track, with its non-standard piano chords, the near-Americana of Würdest Du, pre-war café rave-up Pärchenallergie and sparse closer Vorsicht! Zerbrechlich, all enhanced by Louisan's pleasantly breathy voice. Friedrich Paravicini is credited with Mellotron, but the skronky strings on Schlaf (Morgen Früh Bist du Zurück) whine in all the wrong places, although the flutes sound fine; then again, it's the easiest sound to sample well. So; no actual Mellotron, but an album that, at its very least, is pleasant and inoffensive, although the highest accolade I can give it (and her) is that Annett Louisan almost succeeds in making German sound sexy.
Sadly, her follow-up, 2014's Zu Viel Information, is a massive disappointment, her 'pleasantly breathy' voice tipping over into 'faux-irritating-little-girl'. Sorry to be so negative, but material like listless opener Stars or Du Fehlst Mir So take a physical effort to endure, although she's at her best/least bad (delete as applicable) when she jazzes things up a bit (Ronny Und Johnny, Ey Na Du), or the rare occasions her balladry actually works (Dann Sag Ich's Ihr Halt, Papillon). Martin Gallop is credited with Mellotron on Stars and Besonders. Um, doing what? And where? So why even credit it? Next...
Sara Lov's fractured childhood (born American, kidnapped by her father, lived in Israel till her teens) has almost certainly informed her subsequent work, so it's unsurprising that her first full album, 2009's Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming, should be so subdued. As it happens, her main band, The Devics, are similarly quietly despairing, so it's probably fair to say that anyone who likes them will probably like Lov's solo work. Zac Rae plays alleged Chamberlin, with background strings on Frankie and Old Friends, although I suspect samples.
Chicago's Love of Everything are essentially Bobby Burg plus whoever he has around at the time, dedicated to producing low-fi vignettes about Burg's emotional life, like a less polished version of, say, Low, but more self-consciously 'indie'. Whether or not you'll like the amusingly Bonnie Tyler/Jim Steinman-referencing Total Eclipse of the Heart depends largely on your tolerance for deliberately off-key vocals delivered in an exceptionally fey manner; hey, that's indie, kids... Many of its tracks fail to reach two minutes, making a short vinyl-length fourteen-tracker, which is actually a bit of a relief. Mark Greenberg plays samplotron on two tracks, with reasonable flute parts on the adjoining Living Life Too and Porch Sleeping, the overlong final note of which gives it away.
Love Tractor are a second-division Athens, GA band; you know, R.E.M., B-52s et al.
Their reformation album, The Sky at Night, is a diverse pop/rock effort, shifting between its default 'Athens' sound, the vaguely dubby Bright and the electronica-influenced likes of Birthday Of Time, the title track and Antarctica (Widespread Panic). Armistead Wellford's Chamberlin strings on a few tracks really aren't, though. 2005's Black Hole is less appealing, straying into 'failed musical experiment' territory far too often. Billy Holmes allegedly plays Mellotron, but the fake flutes and choirs on the title track and the choirs and strings on closer Til Morning Comes tell another story. The following year's wittily Eno-referencing Before & After Christmas (title and sleeve) is a Christmas album with a difference, at its weirdest on their rather twisted version of Pink Floyd's See Emily Play, I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas and their Brian May-esque budget guitar orchestra version of Auld Lang Syne. Holmes adds samplotron strings to See Emily Play.
Lovebites' oddly-titled Nothing But Joy is one of the less joyous albums I've heard lately; perhaps I'm missing the point? It's a bland indie effort with no especially redeeming features, although a handful of its more upbeat tracks try to improve matters slightly. Eric Kupper's Mellotron? No idea. The stringy sound on Promised Land? Hard to say. Certainly not a Mellotron.
The Lovetones' Be What You Want was released in 2002 in Oz and early the following year in the States, only saved from getting an even lower rating by the fact that band leader Matthew Tow doesn't fully ape Oasis, although it's a close run thing. On the samplotron front, David Owen plays flutes on What Am I To Do and It's Always Been That Way, plus strings on the title track, although the strings on Something Good and Fairweather are real. Album's major plus point? Its brevity.
One welcome change on 2005's stodgy and overlong Meditations is the addition of a psychedelic jamming feel on a few tracks (yes, this is welcome...), with three songs over six minutes (Genius, Pictures and instrumental closer The Color And The Cut), all extended by lengthy psych workouts. These are about the album's best tracks, but too much tedious filler scuppers it as a whole and, while Tow seems to've dropped his Liamisms, the extra twenty minutes on the album's length dock it a half star from the three I was initially tempted to give it. I presume keyboard player Matthew Sigley plays the album's samplotron parts, with strings on (I Gotta) Feel, flutes on Stars, choirs on Come Home, background, er, something Mellotronic (flutes?) on Across The Sea and very obvious choirs on It's Not Over Yet and A Place For Us.
Fay "Lovsky" Luyendijk has been an integral, if fringe component of the Dutch scene for over thirty years now, specialising in a kind of pre-war popular music, heard to good effect on 1998's Numbers, complete with excellent, Hergé-esque cover art (Tintin, of course - come on, keep up!) While there isn't a bad track on the album, Funny Bizniz, the gentle Portugal and Morpheus are highlights, her Bande Dessinée's laid-back, jazzy tones complementing Lovsky's voice perfectly. Lovsky supposedly plays Mellotron, but the flute line on Late Nite Airport really isn't convincing me, I'm afraid. Numbers certainly isn't for everyone (in fairness, what is?), but anyone who ever heard and loved Richard Thompson's Al Bowlly's In Heaven and wanted to hear more without actually delving into the murky world of old 78s, might think about listening to Ms. Lovsky.
The rather wonderful Low's 1996 effort, The Curtain Hits the Cast, was produced by Steve Fisk, a man with many Mellotron credits to his name, although I'm told everything prior to 2005 (quite possibly simply everything) is of the fake persuasion. It's a good album, if not quite up to 2001's beauteous Things We Lost in the Fire, chief highlight being the fourteen-minute Do You Know How To Waltz?, one of those tracks that builds slowly to a sustained crescendo without sounding anything like post-rock. Fisk adds strings to Coattails, to reasonable effect, despite the fakery. A good album all round, then, although I'd go for their 2001 release if you're new to the band.
Samara Lubelski has worked with several major names in the avant-indie-folk scene (to quote a better-known site than mine); her third album, 2005's Spectacular of Passages, is laid-back, slightly psychedelic, slightly pre-psych, slightly folk... Slightly indescribable, actually. What it certainly isn't is anything to do with rock, which isn't a problem. Best tracks? Maybe Snowwhite Feathered Man, the strings-heavy Caravan and closer Quartered Field, though I suspect this album would be a grower, if only I were able to give it the time. Lubelski plays samplotron herself, with a polyphonic flute part on Snowwhite Feathered Man, possibly alongside real ones, although I think the flute lines on Caravan and Fired To are real, given that two flautists are credited. 2012's Wavelength is a little nearer the indie mainstream than its predecessor, yet thankfully not that near. Unfortunately, the end result is rather less appealing, at least to these ears, although several tracks, not least opener The Nice Price and Astral House, The Jokers Scene, aren't at all bad. Thilo Kuhn plays matching samplotron string and flute lines on Hang Of Summer.
Tony Lucca's in the odd position of, having already had success, both as a musician and an actor, taking part in a 'reality' show, in this case The Voice. I thought those things were for unknowns? Bizarre. Anyway, his post-Voice album, Tony Lucca, is surprisingly good, in a rock-end-of-country kind of way, at its best on storming opener Old Girl, My Confession and Cherry. Kit Karlson's Mellotron? Is that the vague cello-ish sound on one track?
I don't honestly know quite what to make of Marco Lucchi's download album, Litany: Quattro Studi. It is indeed four studies, two of which are slightly reworked, making six tracks in total. It lies somewhere between avant-garde and modern classical, to my ears, using elements of what used to be called 'systems music' (Glass, Reich et al.) and Schoenberg-style atonality to create a slightly disturbing mélange of sounds, the end result probably having less to do with 'music' and more to do with 'experimentation'. Although Lucchi plays 'Mellotron' on both versions of Studies 1 and 4, it's limited to the same repeating flute phrase on all four, sounding like the parts were sampled en masse and just inserted at relevant points.
2010's Mello(w)tron is possibly even more avant-garde than Litany, many tracks consisting of little more than structured sound, notably opener Moon-Soon, Nuvola Bimbo and Litany 1. She Kisses Me (Ode To Mellotron) is the great (deliberate?) sample giveaway, featuring Lucchi's voice in the background, running through his sample library for the benefit of a visitor: "...A keyboard with a computer inside...All the sounds I like from the Mellotron...". Those samples aside, Lucchi adds flutes and strings to another two or three tracks, for what it's worth. Preludes & Fanfares does what it says on the tin - well, kind of - with two structured pieces and two more experimental ones. Obvious samplotron strings on Prelude. 2012's Wrecks consists of one drifting, seventeen-minute ambient piece, paired with an alternate version of itself, hardly an 'album' as we usually understand the term. Vague Mellotron string samples with a long attack don't fool the ear for a second, even if we weren't already aware of the sound's source.
Shockingly, Lucifer Was formed in 1970, despite not releasing their debut album until 1997, citing no especial reason for the delay. They're heavily influenced by '70s hard rock/prog; think a Scandinavian take on Black Sabbath or Budgie being given a kicking by Jethro Tull (complete with flute) and you won't be too far off the mark. After said debut, Underground and Beyond, consisting of old material, the band released In Anadi's Bower three years later. It's a decent enough album of its type, if rather unoriginal, but, aside from the production, it sounds like it's beamed straight in from 1975; a good thing, in case you were wondering. Best track? Probably the four-part, eleven-minute Little Child, although the entirely bonkers Kill The Rats is both amusing and memorable. The 'Mellotron' work on the album, from Knut Johannessen and Jon-Willy Rydningen, appears to be fake, despite the band's website's frequent mention of the instrument; Windows Of Time is the final giveaway on the sample front, as a string chord is held for a ridiculously long time, but little of the work sounds that authentic. Strings on several tracks, plus flutes on the title track, the best work probably kept for the aforementioned Little Child.
2004's Blues From Hellah started life in the early '80s as band leader Thore Engen's solo project and is, indeed, quite blues-heavy, although some of the material sidesteps that particular musical ghetto. More than anything else, it reminds me of Tull's pre-Aqualung work, just without the songs. It's rather less arresting then its predecessor, lacking much of its epic hard rock approach, while adding some dodgy keyboards in places. Speaking of which, more fake Mellotron, this time just from Rydningen, if rather less than before, just a few flute parts scattered about, alongside real strings and brass.
Two albums on and 2010's The Crown of Creation (Jefferson Airplane, anyone?) is one of a handful of reasonably successful collaborations between a band and a full orchestra (please don't mention Deep Purple's lamentable Concerto for Group & Orchestra), albeit in song-based form. Actually, I'll tell you what this reminds me of: a cross between a 'rock opera' (a deservedly maligned genre) and a long-lost cousin to Lucifer's Friend's entirely bonkers Banquet, albeit without the longer tracks. The Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra do a good job of working alongside the band without attempting to 'rock out', or anything else that appalling, best track probably being Cabris Sans Cornes, probably because it's orchestra-free. Arne Martinussen is credited with 'Mellotron', amongst other things, although the only obvious samplotron use is the strings on Into The Blue, distinctly different to the real ones used elsewhere.
The Bubble Has Burst in Sky City could probably be loosely - very loosely - categorised as psychedelia, if only because its bewildering array of styles, sat together cheek-by-jowl, have a certain crazed element in common. Opener Moonlight Spiderbite's twisted jazz, Un Squelette Et Un Parapluie's mariachi metal, Sexxx's cinema-intermission-music-gone-wrong... Get the picture? Sadly, Brian Sweeney only plays samplotron flutes on High Heels In The Sand.
"Look, Mummy, look! Norway's Coldplay!"
"Shush, dear, they think they're being original..."
Clue: Lud (or Lu:d) are not original. Vegard Klykken's 'Mellotron' isn't, with flutes on opener Were We Situated... (?), strings on Lover Over All, flute on Pentadance and choirs on Suffocate Tomorrow. Suffocate Lud, more like, preferably now. Absolute crap.
Nova Scotian Chris "Old Man" Luedecke's fourth album, 2010's My Hands Are on Fire & Other Love Songs, is an admirably 'old tyme' folk/Americana effort, led by Luedecke's fiery banjo playing. Best track? Difficult to pinpoint, frankly, as they're all pretty much of a muchness, although sprightly opener Lass Vicious stands out, if only because it's the listener's introduction to Luedecke's sound. Steve Dawson supposedly plays Mellotron, but I'd love to know where. The vaguely vibes-ish sound on Down The Road? Assuming it's even an actual Mellotron sound, the chances of its emanating from a genuine instrument seem remote. So; Americana fans who tend towards the 'folk' as against the 'country' will almost certainly froth at the mouth over this, but don't bother for the allegeotron.
Lukas Kasha were an Oslo-based quintet, which is why they file under 'L', in case you were wondering. Their first release, 2003's 4-track You Are My Drug EP, sits firmly in the 'somewhat generic late-period alt.rock' category. Harald Værnor's 'Mellotron' strings on the closing title track are sampled.
Steve Lukather is (in)famous for his membership of possibly the most manufactured AOR act ever, Toto, whose biggest hits are audaciously, outrageously commercial, with an élan from which other half-arsed attempts at commercial rock could learn a trick or nine. I mean, just listen to the phrasing of those almost-impossible-to-sing lyrics on Africa... Simultaneously horrible and fascinating, like watching a slow-motion train wreck, that suddenly and inexplicably appears unscathed from the carnage, with extra added schmaltz. I take my hat off to you, chaps... 1997's Luke (his nickname) is Lukather's third solo album, covering ground that he might have found difficult in Toto (the band were in existence until he left in 2008), with King's X-influenced opener The Real Truth, a distinctly Hendrixesque sound on Tears Of My Own Shame and country-rock and a nicked Beatles riff on Hate Everything About U, amongst the more formulaic hard rock and/or AOR. Credited Mellotron on two tracks from Lukather himself, with something faintly audible in the background on The Real Truth and Don't Hang Me On; sampled, I'd say.
If you think Gedeon Luke & the People's debut long-player, 2014's Live Free & Love, sounds like an early '70s soul/funk record, right down to the production, it's because it was recorded as good as live, the band all playing together in the same room. My heart goes out to the engineer (separation? Wassat?), but the ends appear to justify the means, the band's obvious joie de vivre shining through, their sinfully funky grooves an art almost lost in these days of programmed orthodoxy. Best tracks? The funky ones, I'd say: opener Lend Me Your Sunshine, Standing On Top Of The World and Live Free, although the album's soul balladry (the Healing, closer I'll Be Your Friend) leaves me a little cold, I'm afraid. Ado Coker and James Poyser play samplotron, with a distant flute line on Lend Me Your Sunshine and background strings at the beginning of Hurting Kind.
Although Marie "Lulu" Lawrie's chief burst of fame was during her teens in the '60s, her career has never really faltered, so it shouldn't come as any great surprise that she released a perfectly acceptable pop/rock album, Back on Track, in 2004. A good proportion of its contents are, at worst, harmless (opener Keep Talkin'... I'm Listening, the Stonesy Yeah, Now You Love Me), Lulu's raucous tones intact, although drippy AOR balladry (All The Love In The World, Sentimental Heart) and the cod-soul of Supernatural rather let the side down. Phil Thornalley is credited with Mellotron, but the vague flutes on Could I Be More Blue? don't sound particularly authentic and please don't tell me that the woozy strings on I Love You Goodbye are supposed to be Mellotronic... I suppose this may well appeal to, er, the more mature consumer who's happy to listen to something completely mainstream, yet not 'modern' enough to offend. As I said, mostly harmless.
Lumsk are generally described as 'folk metal' and, while they display both of these styles, at one level or another, on their third album, 2007's Det Vilde Kor, the listener is as likely to pull 'progressive', or even 'pop' out of the hat. The album kicks off with Diset Kvæld, which could actually be described as folk metal, until it suddenly goes all prog on us with a rousing finale, while non-standard scales importune their way into Høstnat and the band display their true colours on the whole of the epic Svend Herlufsens Ord. Espen W(arankov) Godø is credited with Mellotron throughout, although I have such doubts as to its veracity that, mere weeks after putting it in the 'regular' section, I've quarantined it here. The gallery section on their website features several pics from the recording sessions, none of them featuring one; of course, that means nothing, as no keyboards of any description, Mellotron or otherwise, are pictured. Anyway, we get strings on Diset Kvæld, strings and flutes on Høstnat and a brass/strings mix (?) and regular strings on Se, Natten Er Livet, part four of Svend Herlufsens Ord. All in all, a definite grower, I'd have said; I look forward to having the time to play this album a few times. Well worth hearing.
1995's Penthouse is Luna's third album, the tracks that mix their various (mostly indie-related) styles with the Neil-esque stuff coming across the best, notably on Freakin' And Peakin'. Like so many albums from the CD era, it's a little overlong and could probably have lost two or three tracks without suffering overly. One samplotron track, with some silvery strings on Lost In Space. By 2002's Romantica, it seems their schtick has grown a little stale, or is it just me? The album has its strong points, not least the killer first couplet in 1995, but, overall, fails to ignite at any point, although that may well be the idea. It seems churlish to give the album a lower rating, though, as its perceived failings could be mine, not the album's. One samplotron track, with strings on Mermaid Eyes from Lee Wall, although the string part on the closing title track sounds like either a synth or samples. 2004's Rendezvous is even more fey, to be honest, although I'm sure Luna fans would argue with my assessment. It does pick up towards the end, particularly Buffalo Boots, also the nearest the album gets to a samplotron track, with some exceedingly background strings, again from Wall.
Ulf Lundell is a Swedish-language singer-songwriter, active since the mid-'70s, OK Baby OK being something like his twenty-second album. Its mainstream, vaguely Americana-esque sound is perfectly acceptable, albeit a little unexciting and, of course, incomprehensible to the non-speaker. However, it's so nice to hear an album of this type that eschews hideous over-vocalising and musical slush that I don't feel inclined to complain. Marcus Olsson plays rather un-Mellotronic samplotron strings on Hon Måste Va En Kristen Kommunist. Omaha is, essentially, more of the same - in fact, to the non-speaker, it might as well be the same. That isn't a criticism, merely an observation. Best track? Probably the sweeping Din Tid Är Ute. Olsson on samplotron again, with distant flutes on the opening title track and strings on Butiken.
Luscious Jackson's Wikipedia entry describes their thing as "a style of alternative music that combined hip hop, punk, folk and dance", which seems a fair enough summation - in case that's too ornate, 'indie' will do. Fever in Fever Out was the all-female band's second and keyboard player Vivian Trimble's last album, before defecting to Dusty Trails. I can't say it grabs me in the slightest, I'm afraid, but plenty of people seem to have liked them, so it looks like I'm out of step with popular opinion. Again. A particularly irritating facet of the album is the half-spoken vocals on most tracks, but, again, some people seem to like that sort of thing. On the samplotron front, nothing audible on opener Naked Eye, although whatever there is was played by co-producer Tony Mangurian, while Water Your Garden has flutes from Trimble, as does Soothe Yourself. It took the band three years to come up with what turned out to be their swansong, Electric Honey; at least the half-spoken vocals have disappeared in the interim. Apart from that, there seems to have been little change on the musical front, departing members notwithstanding, although the overall effect is a little less irritating than on its predecessor. Vocalist/guitarist Gabrielle Glaser plays samplotron cellos on Fly, to little effect.
Lushlife are Philadelphian Rajesh Haldar's hip-hop project, pretty much indistinguishable from most of the genre to my ears, despite Haldar's Indian sub-continent (UK: 'Asian') heritage; we're quite used to kids from Asian backgrounds playing this kind of stuff over here, but I'd imagine it's pretty unusual in the States. All of which makes it all the more disappointing that, aside from a refreshing lack of appalling sexism and cheap, trashy acquisitiveness, there's little to obviously differentiate this from the bulk of the genre's output. Maybe that's enough? The music's the same old same old, though, at least to my (thankfully) untrained ear. Incidentally, on the sample front, isn't closer Meridian Sound (Part Three) based on The Ronettes' Be My Baby? Does Phil Spector know? Given his current circumstances, would it make any difference if he did? Haldar plays alleged Chamberlin on two tracks, with a short flute part towards the end of The Songbird Athletic and similar on Meridian Sound (Part Two), almost certainly sampled. Well, at least this album isn't overlong and I've heard far more offensive and offensively bad hip-hop, most of it the stuff that sells by the multiple million, mostly to disaffected white kids. Oh, the irony.
Lydia Laska (band, not person) play a punk/metal hybrid on their We're Nothing Compared to Ourselves EP, whose most appealing quality for this listener was its merciful brevity. Bård Ingebrigtsen's 'Mellotron' strings on opener Love And Penetration really aren't.
Seeing that Lisa Lynne's Seasons of the Soul is on blander-than-bland new age label Windham Hill was enough to bring me out in a cold sweat, although the reality is better than that inauspicious introduction. Lynne is a Celtic harpist (no! Don't run away!), loosely comparable to Alan Stivell, though nowhere near his virtuosic level. Interestingly, her role on her second album is mainly supporting, giving melody lines to Sid Page's violin or George Tortorelli's recorder and other wind instruments as often as not, although she takes the occasional top line. The material is decent enough as the style goes, although, after a few tracks, the more discerning listener is likely to be desperate to hear something a little less... polite. The Scorpions spring to mind. Speaking of less polite, Jimmy Waldo (New England/Alcatrazz) is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, with a quiet strings part on Fair Wind and what sounds like a heavily-reverbed combination of strings and cellos on The Light & The Longing, possibly the best piece on the album, largely due to its lack of the cheesy drumming that dominates most of the record. More of the same on Faire Thee Well, but it all sounds sampled to my ears. I can take about two tracks of this stuff at a time before my cheeseometer kicks in; gimme Stivell any day.
The story goes something like this: the barely-out-of-school Lynyrd Skynyrd were brought to the Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama by their manager in 1971, recording several sets of demos over the course of the next year or so, some of which were re-recorded for later albums. MCA were persuaded to buy the tapes in '75, at which point the band began to ready them for commercial release, overdubbing various parts throughout '75-6, eventually lining the set up to follow '77's Street Survivors. Of course, the plane crash happened first (I remember hearing about it on the radio), tragically stopping the original band's career literally dead in its tracks. As a result, the reworked tapes appeared in '78, poignantly, as Skynyrd's First &... Last, ironically managing to be their best album since Second Helping, four years earlier.
Previously-unheard Skynyrd classics included Down South Jukin', Preacher's Daughter, Was I Right Or Wrong and Lend A Helpin' Hand, although there was nothing on the album to embarrass the band, despite the presence of a couple of rather ordinary ballads in White Dove and The Seasons, both sung by their temporary drummer, Rick(ey) Medlocke, on sabbatical from the fledgling Blackfoot. Although the album gained a CD release, the decision was taken in the late '90s to release the entire sessions (the extra tracks lacking overdubs, proving that the original tracklisting had been decided well in advance), as Skynyrd's First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album, a packed-to-the-gills disc, doubling the original version's length. But is it any better? Well, it lets us hear the original original Free Bird (as against any other 'original' version that's appeared), plus early versions of three tracks that were reworked for their debut, a couple of tracks that crept out on their early '90s box-set and a handful of previously-unavailables, the best 'newies' probably being One More Time and You Run Around. I have to say, I find the original nine-track release to be superior (but how much of that's nostalgia and familiarity?), but I heartily approve of 'complete' versions; if you don't like the extras, you don't have to play 'em...
...And the reason this is here? One Randy McCormick overdubbed 'Mellotron' onto White Dove in '76, enhancing the gentle, falsetto-led ballad nicely, except... it's a string synth. Very clearly so, too, so fuck knows why it was credited as a Mellotron. "If it makes a string sound, it must be a Mellotron", I s'pose... Idiots. Anyway, a few seconds of strings, whatever makes them, is no reason to hear this, but if you love Skynyrd and, amazingly, haven't heard this, get the reissue and marvel at their formative genius.
Lyrian are a British neo-folk/progressive outfit, consisting of John Blake (guitars/vocals), Paul W. Nash (multi-instrumentalist) and Nash's partner Alison Felstead (bass/vocals). Blake and Nash have apparently known each other for over thirty years, their first album, 2008's Nightingale Hall, incorporating material written as far back as the late '70s. The trio work in the same broad area as, say, Ant Phillips-era Genesis, Camel, or current acid folksters Circulus, faint echoes of The Enid's early work also being detectable. Thinking about it, the closest comparison that springs to mind is ex-Enid guitarist Francis Lickerish's current band Secret Green's little-known To Wake the King (2009), for what it's worth, although Lickerish's work has far more subtlety.
Nightingale Hall, apparently a concept concerning the history and eventual destruction of the titular mansion, features passages of genuine beauty, brief opener Prelude setting the band's stall out nicely, wordless female vocals riding over churchy keyboards. Unfortunately, the album's bête noir surfaces a couple of minutes into the lengthy Nightingales: awful, inappropriate, programmed drums. Surely you'd have been better simply not using any at all, guys? The most frustrating thing about this album is how its highpoints (its pastoral feel, some of the instrumentation and playing) are repeatedly sabotaged by clunky, poorly-scanning lyrics, overly-fey male vocals and an occasional neo-prog feel (the curse of '80s prog fans) to some of the arrangements. Nash is credited with Mellotron, but the string parts towards the ends of Nightingales and The Chimes don't ring even slightly true, frankly, ditto the 'Mellotron or generic?' choirs dotted around. I feel really bad about not being able to be more positive about this record; trimmed down to a sensible length and with the drum machine removed throughout, this would certainly gain a higher rating. So; top marks for ambition, rather less for the actual execution, I'm afraid.
Tom "Lyrics Born" Shimura is a Japanese-American rap artist, whose fourth solo album, 2015's Real People, showcases his unusual approach to the craft. Yes, he's rapping. No, he's not shouting, being aggressive, being a macho twat or any of the other hip-hop sins; rather, he uses actual musicians, more schooled in the ways of soul and funk than modern r'n'b, on a varied, witty album that's light years away from the hip-hop mainstream. While it's difficult to pick out better tracks musically, many of the lyrics are superb, with genuine LOL moments in Holy Matrimony and Mr D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F. Producer Robert Mercurio supposedly plays Mellotron. Are those distant choirs I hear on Good Riddance? Chordal flutes on 2nd Act (Phoenix Rising)? If so, the chances of it being genuine are minuscule, I'd say. So; a hip-hop(kind of) album that made me smile and in the right way.