Home

reviews

album list

Samples

Tom McBride  (US)

Morning in Glen Burnie  (2013,  44.55)  ***

Perfectly pleasant country-end-of-Americana, although Tom McBride struggles to say anything new. Perhaps he's not trying to. Despite a Chamberlin credit for Jamie Edwards, there's not only nothing audible, but I seriously doubt whether a real machine was involved anyway.

McBride & the Ride  (US)

Amarillo Sky  (2002,  36.20)  **½

McBride & the Ride (later Terry McBride & the Ride) were formed by producer Tony Brown in 1989 in direct competition with Alabama, who, although apparently massively successful, I have never heard of. Going by their description on Wikipedia, I don't want to, either; sounds to me like they're entirely responsible for that buffoon Garth Brooks' 'arena country' stageshows, now widely copied on the scene. Anyway, McBride and co split in the mid-'90s, reforming for one last album in 2002, Amarillo Sky. Despite being mainstream country, it manages to avoid the worst Nashville excesses, although I wouldn't actually take that as a recommendation. Is there a best track? Yes, actually, albeit pretty much by default, as covering The Who's double-entendre-laden Squeeze Box beats their own material by (wait for it) a country mile. Ho bloody ho. Good banjo solo, too. No, really. Squeeze Box is also the receptacle for the album's only audible samplotron, from Matt Rollings.

Ted McCloskey  (US)

Sixty Cycle Hum  (2004,  43.19)  **½

Sixty Cycle Hum inhabits an uneasy middle ground between 'indie rock' (opener That Much Closer To..., Misplaced Man) and country (Holding The Sun In My Hand, With A Different Name), at its least dull on Looking Good In The Coffin, maybe. Someone (McCloskey?) plays samplotron flutes on Holding The Sun In My Hand and closer The Cynic Of Sunshine Street.

Angela McCluskey  (UK)

The Things We Do  (2004,  49.06)  **½

Angela McCluskey is a Scottish vocalist who moved to the States, co-founding The Wild Colonials, amongst other projects. 2004's The Things We Do is her first solo album, full of slightly over-dramatic songs about all the things that make the world go round. Trouble is, it's a bit... boring. Of course, I'm listening more to the music than the lyrics, thus doubtless missing out on the bulk of the album's appeal, but her ever-so-slightly off-Broadway approach sets my teeth on edge after a while. Sorry. Nathan Larson plays samplotron, with faint flutes on Somebody Got Lucky and strings on Dirty Pearl. Overall, then, one for the drama queen (of either sex) in your life, I think, particularly the bonus tracks, McCluskey tackling standards like My Funny Valentine or classics such as Bowie's Lady Grinning Soul, all in a torch style. Strangely, they work rather better than most of the contents of the regular release; maybe she should concentrate more on this style? Maybe she has?

Fergus McCormick  (US)

Jumping the Gun  (2005,  45.52)  **½

Jumping the Gun is an album of straight-down-the-line country, never deviating from its Americana-lite template, probably at its least dull on The Queen Of Star 69 and closer Is It Over? I'm sure it's all in the lyrics, but the music fails to inspire. Andy Burton's credited with Mellotron; surely not the string line on Won't You Take It From Me?

Mark McCrite  (US)

Getting to the Point  (2000,  41.45)  ***

Although Mark McCrite sings for The Rocket Scientists, Getting to the Point sounds nothing like them, being more of a pop/rock effort, although McCrite keeps the best till last, for some reason, album highlights being its final three tracks, They Say..., Sad Man's Song and So Long. Samplotronically speaking, someone plays strings on Truth, then McCrite plays Chamberlin samples on Closing The Door (strings/flute), Slip Away (strings) and They Say... (strings) and Mellotron ones on closer So Long (strings and choirs). In addition, David Bryce adds faint samplotron strings to Love Is Only Sleeping and Dave Kerzner obviously sampled strings to Getting To The Point.

Shawn McDonald  (US)

Ripen  (2006,  60.30)  **

Shawn McDonald is a Christian singer-songwriter who came to his faith by one of the well-worn routes: a fragmented childhood, ending up in addiction before redemption. Quite why he felt the need to turn to a popular-yet-entirely-unprovable deity to get out of a bad situation is beyond me, but there you go. I've had the good fortune to have never been there. Anyway, his second studio album, 2006's Ripen, is a folky singer-songwriter CCM effort, dull music unenlivened by rubbish lyrics. Well, what did you expect? No, no best tracks. Chad Copelin plays samplotron, with faint flutes on Free under the real strings.

Greg McEvoy  (Canada)

Sea of Yards  (2013,  24.26)  ***

Greg McEvoy's Sea of Yards EP is a respectable rock-end-of-Americana record, at its best on opener Someone Who's Around and All This Time. Laurence Currie's Mellotron? Samplotron flutes on closer Kerouac.

Tim McGraw  (US)

Tim McGraw & the Dancehall Doctors  (2003,  66.03)  **½

Tim McGraw is proof positive that an artist can be huge in their own 'world', yet mean little to the rest of us. I'd never heard of him before adding him to this site, yet he's apparently sold over forty million records, which is quite shocking. Obviously, he's a veritable superstar in that world, married to another country superstar, Faith Hill, with whom he sometimes tours and records. His eighth album, Tim McGraw & the Dancehall Doctors, apparently bucks a Nashville trend, as McGraw gets his touring band to play on the record, rather than the usual 'A'-list Nashville sessioneers. Radical, eh? In the country world, it seems it is. As mainstream country goes, it's relatively inoffensive, having as much in common with 'roots rock' as country, so plenty of Hammond, not much pedal steel. It seems McGraw doesn't write, so while I suspect that most of the album's songs were written for it, McGraw also covers Elton John's Tiny Dancer. The samplotronist seems to be uncredited, although Jeff McMahon plays the album's keys, but the only obvious use is a few string stabs on Sleep Tonight.

Don McGreevy  (US)

Aichmophobia  (2014,  33.12)  ***½

Given that 2014's Aichmophobia (Morbid fear of sharp objects. See sleeve design) is a near-ambient, acoustic-guitar-and-keys album, I'm amazed to find that Don McGreevy's day jobs are as drummer with The Master Musicians of Bukkake and bassist with Earth. His 6- and 12-string playing here are beautiful; he admits to loving circular chord sequences and why not? There's no inherently good reason for instrumental music to go anywhere, per se; drifting along in a meditative kind of way is absolutely as valid as any other approach. Trying to identify any 'best tracks' here is slightly futile; this is an album that needs to be listened to as a whole, aided by its brevity. Given the Mellotron sample use of McGreevy's two main projects, it's hardly a surprise to find the same here, the distant choirs on Annoyances Ala Satie and high strings on Hidden Obscene Permissions (and elsewhere?) not even really trying to sound authentic. All round, a fine effort; play on 'repeat' while meditating.

Colin MacIntyre  (UK)

The Water  (2008,  50.16)  ***

Colin MacIntyre (a.k.a. The Mull Historical Society) is a Scottish indie/folky type, whose first album under his own name, The Water, is a surprisingly diverse set of songs, better moments including the title track's folky feel, the effective rhythmic changes in Stalker and the complete change of mood halfway through closer Pay Attention To The Human, complete with its cameo from legendary British Labour politician Tony Benn (RIP). Much of the remainder, sadly, is fairly generic indie, but the album's good moments just tip the balance to give it a three-star rating. MacIntyre and Nick Franglen are credited with Mellotron, but if the strings on Famous For Being Famous are anything to go by, it's sampled, a viewpoint exacerbated by a slew of pics from the recording sessions on MacIntyre's website, none of which show a Mellotron. Then again, nor do they show any other vintage keyboard, with the honourable exception of a harmonium, although several are credited, not least a (Yamaha) CS-80, which is possibly obscure enough to be genuine. Doubt it, though.

Nellie McKay  (US)

Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day  (2009,  43.22)  ***

London-born comedienne Nellie McKay grew up in the States, kicking off her musical career around 2003, 2009's Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day being her fourth release. Is she being ironic? Is she fuck. Many songs here are tackled 'straight' (as in, 'no death metal versions'), although I suspect Ms Day might've booted her arranger out if he presented her with charts like her sparse, recorder-driven take on Black Hills Of Dakota. 'Small jazz ensemble' seems to be the album's default setting, although there's enough oddness here to keep the casual listener interested. Nellie plays samplotron on two tracks, with occasional flutes on Send Me No Flowers and I Remember You.

Susan McKeown  (Ireland/US)

Bones  (1995,  52.27)  ***
Belong  (2012,  39.05)  **½

Susan McKeown emigrated from Dublin to New York in her early twenties, her musical partner in The Chanting House, John Doyle, following soon after. Her first non-cassette release, 1995's Bones, starts off in a sub-Suzanne Vega vein, bland, vaguely Celtic singer-songwriter fare, typified by the rather elongated likes of opener Cé Leis É?, Snakes/Mná Na eHireann and Heart. The overall effect is better than that sounds, however, worthwhile efforts including the haunting Salome, the a capella Gorm, the bluesy I Know I Know, the heavily Celtic Storm In A Teacup and the Weimar accordions of the closing title track. Jimi Zhivago adds samplotron to a couple of tracks, with a high, background string part on Salome and eerie flutes on Storm In A Teacup. Sadly, by 2012's Belong, McKeown's haunted singer-songwriter thing had become plain dull. Although Justin Carroll's credited with Mellotron on opener On The Bridge To Williamsburg, there's nothing audible on the sparsely-arranged track.

McKinley  (US)

McKinley  (1995,  45.19)  **½

Try as I might, I cannot tell you McKinley's full name. Is it her first name? Surname? A few biographical details are available, but not that rather central feature. Anyway, her jazz-inflected eponymous release is, apparently, an expanded six-track recording, professional to a T, but of limited interest to those who value music over lyrics, I'd say. Best track? Closer Next Feeding. Worst? Unnecessary solo vocal piece Hallucinangels. With no Mellotron credited, it seems likely that the polyphonic flutes on Matches are actually Wendy Karden's real one.

Julia Macklin  (US)

Half Wild  (2001,  31.16)  **½

Julia Macklin's Half Wild is anything but, frankly, being rather insipid singer-songwriter fare, at its best on Tea With The Dead and her version of Eleanor Rigby, although her overly-breathy vocals do her material no favours. I can only assume that Jason Lehning's Mellotron credit is for the vague flutes on Tea With The Dead.

Ian McNabb  (UK)

Ian McNabb  (2001,  59.42)  ****
Before All of This  (2005,  56.11)  ***½

Ian McNabb has used both real and sampled Mellotron on various albums, beginning with 2001's Ian McNabb. If anything, it's an improvement on its illustrious predecessor, featuring excellent, witty songwriting, viz Liverpool Girl or Rockin' For Jesus. The playing is more upfront, too, several tracks rocking out in grand style, with notable irony on Whatever It Takes, although McNabb's Neil Young fixation rears its slightly disfigured head again on Moment In The Sun. Difficult to work out exactly what is and isn't samplotron here (from McNabb and drummer Geoff Dugmore), but it sounds like strings on (If We Believe) What Love Can Do, Open Air and Moment In The Sun, the last-named featuring a repeating low F, below the instrument's range. McNabb's 2005 release, Before All of This, is a single disc laid out as a double, split into 'acoustic' and 'electric' halves. The songwriting's as good as ever, although splitting the tracks this way might not work quite as well as integrating the styles. Best tracks? Maybe Western Eyes from the acoustic half (clever lyrics, too) and The Nicest Kind Of Lie from the electric camp. McNabb plays samplotron on four tracks, with gentle strings on opener There Oughta Be A Law and The Lonely Ones (1), the latter also featuring McNabb's weird 'autotune vocals', a.k.a. how to gleefully misuse an expensive piece of studio gear. On the electric half, there's nothing audible on The Nicest Kind Of Lie, with more of those background strings on Picture Of The Moon.

Shannon McNally  (US)

Jukebox Sparrows  (2002, recorded 1997,  55.13)  ***

Shannon McNally recorded her first album, Jukebox Sparrows, in 1997, her charmless label then shelving it 'indefinitely'. Luckily for her, they finally decided to stick it out five years later, although it must have been a pretty dispiriting experience having relatively ancient material treated as if it were 'new'. It's not a bad album, in a roots-rock/alt.country vein, several tracks slightly outstaying their welcome and few really grabbing the listener by the throat yelling "Listen to me!", although the closing title track stands out by dint of sounding nothing like the rest of the record. Ron Aniello is credited with Mellotron (although the ubiquitous Patrick Warren also turns up, merely credited with 'keyboards'), although the strings on Now That I Know, It Could've Been Me and Colorado (and opener Down And Dirty?) sound sampled.

Steph MacPherson  (Canada)

Bells & Whistles  (2012,  40.28)  ***

Bells & Whistles is an acceptable, if not especially interesting Americana/singer-songwriter album, probably at its best on Summer Salute and Silver Platter. Jason Cook is credited with Mellotron on Bent & Unkind, while Ted Gowans takes the honours on This One. Really?

Linda McRae  (Canada)

Flying Jenny  (1997,  62.41)  **½

Flying Jenny is your common-or-garden modern country album, acceptable enough in small doses (he said, grudgingly), but something of a grind when over an hour long. Richard Bell's Mellotron? Presumably the distant, not-very-Mellotronic flutes on Road To Nowhere.

The Machine  (Netherlands)

Calmer Than You Are  (2012,  45.39)  ***½

Dutch heavy psychsters The Machine's fourth album, 2012's Calmer Than You Are, runs the gamut of the genre's approaches, from opener Moonward's doom, through Grain's more Sabbathesque feel to Sphere (...Or Kneiter)'s jamming and closer Repose's 'short, tuneful' take on their sound, although 5 & 4's repetition becomes a little wearing. Best track? Probably Sphere (...Or Kneiter), which seems to wrap up everything that's best about them into one twelve-minute package. Although bandleader David Eering is credited with Mellotron on Sphere (...Or Kneiter), the insubstantial strings are quite clearly nothing of the sort, ditto the uncredited background strings on Moonward. Spurious Mellotron usage is fairly irrelevant here, frankly; this is a fine album of its type and could easily do without a few seconds of sampled Mellotron.

Enrico Macias  (France)

Oranges Amères  (2003,  41.25)  **½
Voyage d'une Mélodie  (2011,  47.38)  ***

Gaston "Enrico Macias" Ghrenassia was born in Algeria in 1938, kicking off his musical career after an enforced move to France in 1961. I'm not even going to try to work out how many albums he's released; suffice to say, he barely missed a year between 1963 and 1990, at which point he only slowed down a little. Three of his 2000s albums have Mellotron credits, from his son, Jean-Claude Ghrenassia: Oranges Amères, La Vie Populaire and Voyage d'une Mélodie, of which I've heard the first and third. Oranges Amères is largely French chansons, of little interest outside his home market, although Voyage... brings in Macias' Arabic influences, amongst other world musics, being all the better for the ensuing variety. Saying that, I'm less convinced by the sampled drums utilised on a few tracks, but there you go. Mellotron? Nothing obvious, sampled or otherwise, on Oranges... and if those strings on Les Séfereades on Voyage... are supposed to be Mellotronic, well...

Mad Men & English Dogs  (UK)

Mad Men & English Dogs  (2001,  59.02)  ***

Nigel Glockler is chiefly known for his on/off retainership of the drum stool for NWoBHM survivors Saxon, although his first major job was drumming for Toyah (Wilcox) in the early '80s. Mad Men & English Dogs are his duo project with Saxon guitarist Doug Scarratt, their eponymous album being partially an excuse for the latter to shred over Nige's drum and keyboard parts, although several tracks on the album take a more 'progressive' turn than that might suggest, not least Pomporwot, Dreadnought and Snow-Capped. Despite various string and choir sounds, the latter track is the only one with actual Mellotron samples and then only the choirs that come in towards the end of the piece. Mad Men & English Dogs is an album for the guitar lover in your life, although it has far more depth than most of the one-dimensional shredding nonsense it's been my displeasure to hear. Worth the effort.

Mad Scene  (New Zealand/US)

Sealight  (1995,  53.09)  **½

New Zealanders Mad Scene (originally Monsterlight) moved to New York in 1991, releasing their debut EP, Falling Over: Spilling Over the following year. After '93's A Trip Thru Monsterland, it took them two years to produce the sort-of psychedelic Sealight, which turned out to be their last album, although they put a couple more EPs out before they folded. Sealight's one of those 'yeah, it's OK' kind of albums that has more ambition than actual talent, or so it sounds to me, although the band contained members of such Antipodean luminaries as The Go-Betweens and The Clean. West Coast heroes Love are an obvious influence, particularly the trumpet work, but the songs seem to be missing, or maybe I'm just not hearing them. Also, like so many other albums of its type, it's too long. Just because you CAN fit lots of music on a CD doesn't mean you SHOULD. Samplotron from Dean Falcone, with flutes and strings on opener Strange To Be Here and slightly skronky string and choir parts (sustaining well past the eight-second limit) on My Dreams Are Losing Their Teeth.

Bill Madden  (US)

Gone  (2006,  39.51)  **½

Gone is an infuriating album; one minute decent enough electric singer-songwriter fare (Friend, Gone), the next, irritating, indie-inspired stuff (Art Of Being, Everything And That). Frustrating. Billy Mohler plays extremely obviously sampled strings on What In The World and Art Of Being.

Madfly  (US)

White Hot in the Black  (1998,  55.34)  ***

Madfly tend to be categorised as glam rock, although what I'm hearing on White Hot in the Black is akin to old-school hard rock in many ways, chock-full of the kind of single-note riffs that you'll hear on albums by Nazareth and Aerosmith. Highlights? Join The Madness, The Fabulous Beast and Fire In The Hole, although the long, slow Flatliner seems a strange track with which to close the album. William Duvall (or DuVall) and Ted Duncan are credited with Mellotron, with multiply-pitchbent strings on Red Candles and skronky ones on Chains Around My Heart, clearly sampled.

Madison Dyke  (Germany)

Zeitmaschine  (1977,  36.53)  ***½

What appears to be Madison Dyke's sole release, Zeitmaschine (Time Machine, of course), is a bit of a mish-mash of styles, veering between hard rock, prog and ambient German stuff, often within the same track. It's difficult to pick out any one piece as particularly superior to any other, although the side-long title track may just have the edge over the rest, with some nice flute work from vocalist Burkard Rittler. Actually, a passable comparison, at least in their more drifting moments, would be Novalis, although they're by no means a clone. Now, both Rittler and guitarist Jürgen Baumann are credited with 'Mellotron', but all I can hear is swathes of string synth. Maybe it's just buried in the mix? Maybe they had some custom string synth tapes made up? Maybe they thought it would sell more records to prog fans?

Madnomad  (UK)

Tamper-Evident  (2003,  42.10)  **½

Bristol's Madnomad mix techno, metal, pop and just about anything else you can think of into a huge smörgåsbord of, er, something or other on 2003's Tamper-Evident. Does it work? Depends on your point of view, I suppose. I'd imagine they were the dog's bollocks live, but come across as slightly sterile on record, sometimes sounding like a thirteen-band compilation rather than a cohesive document of the band's sound. The sleeve design is based around food packaging, including an ingredients list, which puts Matt Sampson's Mellotron at the bottom, with '1%', alongside 'banjo' and 'child'. What we actually get is a flute melody on Direct Evidence Against Uniqueness and what sounds like string section on Love Is Sometimes Colder Than Ice, all sampled.

Audra Mae  (US)

The Happiest Lamb  (2010,  43.15)  **½

Audra Mae's debut album is great in small doses, but her relentlessly downbeat approach drags after minor exposure. Best track? Bandida, also the recipient of Frank Pedano Jr.'s sampled Mellotron flutes.

Maga  (Spain)

Maga  (2006,  41.23)  **

Maga are a Spanish pop/rock outfit who have elected, for reasons known only to themselves, to self-title their first three albums. Aping Peter Gabriel? In that only, I can assure you. Anyway, 2006's Maga is their third release of that name, a thoroughly average effort aimed at the local market, although I can't imagine these songs doing well internationally with English lyrics, but then, what do I know? Jordi Gil is credited with 'programming, Solina and Mellotron' on several tracks, none specified Mellotronically. As it happens, it's inaudible on all of them, so God alone knows whether he actually used a real one or not and if so, where. Did you need another excuse not to hear this album? You've got one.

Magenta  (UK)

Revolutions  (2001,  96.37)  **½
Seven  (2004,  76.31)  **
Home  (2005,  67.46)  **½
New York Suite  (2006,  40.02)  **½
The Twenty Seven Club  (2013,  64.15)  **½

A few years ago, I and a group of like-minded individuals who shall remain nameless stood outside the hall where Magenta were playing at a small UK prog festival. Every minute or so, someone would pipe up: "Tarkus!" "Something from Topographic!" "Something else from Topographic!", all to much laughter. It wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say that ex-Cyan multi-instrumentalist (but mainly keyboard player) Rob Reed's next venture, er, 'somewhat lacks originality'. The female-fronted Magenta, Christina Booth at the mic, play the kind of contemporary neo-prog that keeps old Marillion fans happy, without sounding like a direct copy; as a result, they outsell many more worthy bands.

They debuted with 2001's sprawling double-disc Revolutions, consisting of four lengthy, multi-part tracks, one shorter piece and two genuinely nice brief acoustic guitar instrumentals, easily the best thing about this album. The bulk of the set merely reinforces my original impression of the band; there appears to be no end to the artists Magenta are prepared to 'borrow' from, including Yes (hugely), Marillion (natch) and even The Beach Boys on part one of Man The Machine, just before they shift into a bit of Squonk-style Genesis, so close rhythmically to the original (albeit without its power) that it comes across as pastiche. In places, Magenta effectively lift whole chunks of other artists' work (spot the Heart Of The Sunrise cop on part four of Genetesis, just before the Awaken bit), to the point where I'm surprised they're not challenged on the subject more frequently. Another minus are the almost autistically-literal lyrics, particularly on Man The Machine, making Neil Peart sound like Tennyson, although the bulk of the music's enough to drive most old-school prog fans away. Rather like the aforementioned Topographic Oceans, any random, brief snippet of this album will have you screaming 'PROG ALERT!', but more than a minute or two may well leave you craving something with a little more... originality.

Reed actually underuses his Mellotron samples, which first make themselves apparent in the form of the rather murky strings on part three of Children Of The Sun, The Battle, with more of the same on the 'title track' section of The White Witch plus 'are they/aren't they?' flutes in a couple of places, notably at the beginning of part five of The White Witch, The Spell. Choirs? Hard to tell whether they're Mellotron samples or merely generic ones. I was tempted to give this a paltry two stars for its various failings listed above, but at least Reed has the taste to rip off some decent bands (and Marillion), although the lumpen way the contrasting styles are jammed together betrays a sorry lack of genuine prog talent.

2004's Seven is a concept effort based around the Biblical seven deadly sins (hang on, wasn't there a film...?), although a preponderance of sickly ballads drags the album down; not so much 'heartfelt' as 'rather too slick for their own good'. Fewer obvious cops from other artists' work, although I spotted a recreation of the ARP Pro-Soloist patch Tony Banks used on Ripples at one point, modulation and all, used in a similar setting. Overall, this loses half a star from an already fairly paltry score for its high boredom quotient, while the choirs on a few tracks might not even be Mellotron samples; it's hard to tell. Reed & Co. shamelessly rip off '70s Pink Floyd on the following year's Home, right down to the well-placed sax solo, not to mention Genesis again and solo Steve Hackett (on Demons). We also get some cod-Celtic nonsense on the title track for bad measure, although the same 'right style, wrong notes' caveat applies as before. As I said, minor samplotron, with brief string parts on Brave New Land and The Journey, but, once again, they're underused. 2006's New York Suite was marketed as an EP (and included as the second disc of the Home reissue), but in my book, forty minutes is an album, so an album it is. Conceptually, it appears to follow on from Home, assuming you're actually listening to the lyrics, which I'm not, while it sounds a lot like its predecessor musically, with a snatch of samplotron strings at one point.

After a couple of samplotron-free efforts, 2013's The Twenty Seven Club (a contemporary Amy Winehouse reference?), recorded as a trio, is slightly better than its predecessors, though not enough to actually pull an extra half star out of the Planet Mellotron hat. Stoned and The Gift are probably the best things here, but closer The Devil At The Crossroads almost loses them that half star again; suffice to say, Magenta still don't appear to be aiming for 'originality', sadly. Not a lot of that samplotron, either, with naught but a few string swells in Stoned. Magenta are the F2 label's flagship act, as far as I can work out, which probably has more to do with having a female frontperson than anything to do with the quality of the music. Go on, argue effectively with that one. Met any British prog fans lately?

Magenta  (Norway)

Little Girl Lost  (2002,  48.13)  **½

Magenta (nothing to do with the outrageously unoriginal UK 'progressive' band, above) seem to be a Norwegian goth band, for want of a better description, although their sound is rooted as much in 'traditional' indie as anything. They're an augmented trio, effectively, any number of guests joining the core of vocalist Vilde Lockert and guitarists Anders Odden and Daniel Hill, both of whom double on almost everything. Little Girl Lost is their second full release and, apart from the odd moment (the first part of Mermaid, the electronic title track), made me want to take it off immediately, I'm afraid. Bored-sounding female vocals intoning in bad English doth not a dark, scary album make, people. Andreas Bjørk and Tore Ylvizåker are credited with 'Mellotron', but none of it sounds that authentic, the real giveaway being the muted choirs on I Need My Love, which just don't cut the mustard at all. The rest of their sample use consists of strings on opener These Things, overdubbed strings and flutes on Mermaid and 'Strawberry Fields'-esque flutes on closer Green Dragon, some of which doesn't sound bad, but none of which convinces me it's real. Now, of course, I'll be proven wrong...

The Maggies  (US)

Homesick  (1998,  41.57)  ***
Cryptic Valentine  (2000,  39.32)  **½

How to desribe The Maggies? Indie/powerpop/folk? Various tracks on their debut, Homesick, could fall under any of those categories, sometimes more than one simultaneously. It's at its best on the powerpopish Star On Wheels and the folky I Miss My Life, just scraping three stars, despite some rather dreary indie stuff thrown into the mix. Philip Price's alleged Chamberlin? Inaudible. Cryptic Valentine actually takes a backwards step, allowing their 'indie' part to dominate the proceedings, at their least dull on Sara J. Price on 'Mellotron' this time round, with flutes all over opener Nature's Afternoon and Dying In My Sleep, seriously bogus choirs on Long Dark See You and really shitty strings on closer Dead Jones.

Magic Hero vs. Rock People  (US)

Magic Hero vs. Rock People  (2008,  60.56)  **½

Magic Hero vs. Rock People play a kind of indie/psych crossover on their eponymous debut, fine in small doses, but tedious in hour-long helpings. Much samplotron, not least the strident string section parts on The Close Purveyor Of Fog and Selfness Nameless Vanity, the flutes all over Astro Turf and strings on One Way Woman and World For Kings, particularly obviously sampled on the last-named.

Magic Numbers  (UK)

Undecided  (2007,  24.59)  **½
The Runaway  (2010,  54.14)  *½

The double brother/sister foursome The Magic Numbers seem to've captured critics' collective imaginations, although their 2007 EP, Undecided, gives me few clues as to why. A couple of its limp tracks aren't so bad, but six on the trot is enough to make my teeth squeak. Romeo Stodart plays samplotron strings on closer Sissy And The Silent Kid, one of the aforementioned better tracks. Listening to their third album, 2010's The Runaway, I have absolutely no idea why anyone likes this band. None. None at all. Remember soft rock? This is the same (lack of) style, updated for a new (and not obviously better) millennium, pathetically excused by said critics as 'folk influenced'. Well, if this is folk, I'm the proverbial denizen of the Orient; if it looks like soft rock and sounds like soft rock, then soft rock it bloody well is and a pretty poor example of it, too. Michele Stodart plays samplotron on Dreams Of A Revelation, with strings under real ones and a faint flute part.

Magnet  (Norway)

On Your Side  (2004,  49.36)  ***
The Tourniquet  (2005,  40.39)  **½

Norway's Magnet essentially consist of singer-songwriter Even Johansen; while On Your Side is his first album under that name, his solo debut, Quiet & Still, appeared in 2000. So, what does Mr. Johansen sound like? Melancholy intelligent pop with an Americana influence, basically, despite being Scandinavian, although I have to say, after the first few tracks I found it starting to drag. You find yourself willing him to up the pace a little, but he never does, his tedious take on Dylan's Lay Lady Lay being the album's nadir. On the samplotron front, the only 'definite' I can hear is some nice upfront flutes on Everything's Perfect. Johansen released his follow-up, The Tourniquet, a year later and, if anything, it's even more indie-schmindie than its predecessor, although he throws the odd Beach Boys harmony in to throw you off the scent. One famous guest, Jason Falkner, now long ex-of the sainted Jellyfish who, although he played guitar in that outfit, plays mostly drums here. I have to say, this didn't grab me at all, I'm afraid; too whiny, too indie, too dull. Johansen plays all the album's credited Mellotron, with flutes on Hold On, Believe, Deadlock (including a low F, out of the instrument's range) and Blow By Blow, possibly from either Falkner or Jørgen Træen instead of Johansen.

Magnetik  (Czech Republic)

Projektor  (2010,  46.22)  **½

Magnetik's Projektor sits at the synthpop end of electronica, instrumental, yet with sporadic hooks, great for two or three tracks, but with too little substance to sustain throughout an entire album. Peter van Krbetz and Moimir Papalescu are credited with Mellotron, but all we get is occasional samplotron, notably the upfront flutes on Black And White TV - Music From The Respirium.

Magnolia Electric Co.  (US)

Sojourner  [including all of 2006's Fading Trails]  (2007,  117.19)  ***½
Josephine  (2009,  46.32)  ***

2007's two-hour, four-disc Sojourner is actually a full release of the source material for Magnolia Electric Co.'s previous year's Fading Trails, four recording sessions, one (wastefully) per disc. It's a pot-pourri of Jason Molina's influences, discs one and two (Nashville Moon and Black Ram) sounding more like What Comes After the Blues, while the brief three (Sun Session) is more country and four (Shohola) pretty much solo acoustic. Alan Weatherhead is credited with Mellotron on disc two, but the only even vaguely audible use is some most likely sampled background strings on Will-O-The-Wisp, unless it's buried away in the mix elsewhere. Molina followed up with 2009's Josephine, a laid-back, countrified record with little of that Neil influence left, sadly, although it can vaguely be heard in the title track and The Handing Down. Saying that, it's a good, mournful Americana effort, better tracks including Shenandoah and Hope Dies Last, although possibly not matching up to the band's earlier work. Michael Kapinus is credited with Mellotron, but I'd love to know where, as it's completely inaudible.

Magnus  (Belgium)

The Body Gave You Everything  (2004,  47.47)  **½

Magnus are a Belgian synth-pop duo, 2000s style, so no Human League/Soft Cell-style pop sensibilities here, more a dance-influenced, sample-based approach, so contemporary that, seven years later it sounds quaintly old-fashioned. Better tracks include Jumpneedle and Rock Chick, but I can't imagine this is going to excite anyone who has a place in their heart for the first wave of synth-based pop. Peter Vermeersch adds obviously fake (yet credited) Mellotron strings and flutes to French Movies, vaguely similar sounds cropping up on a couple of other tracks. All rather dull, really, particularly on the fakeotron front.

Nick Magnus  (UK)

Straight on Till Morning  (1993,  43.09)  ***
Inhaling Green  (1999,  53.09)  ***½
Hexameron  (2004,  50.26)  ***½
Children of Another God  (2010,  50.15)  ****
N'monix  (2014,  46.49)  ***½

Nick Magnus joined The Enid as second keyboard player in 1976, staying for six months before leaving to form the Portsmouth-based Autumn, whose recordings finally appeared in 1999 as the highly-recommended, though sadly Mellotron-free Oceanworld (****). After a fortuitous mix-up with a 'musicians wanted' ad, Nick teamed up with Steve Hackett for a decade, playing on his run of albums beginning with 1979's wonderful Spectral Mornings, releasing his first solo album, Straight on Till Morning, in 1993, after contributing to the semi-legendary Rime of the Ancient Sampler: The Mellotron Album, albeit in sampled form. It seems Straight on... is actually a re-recording of a library album Nick released, titled Framework (there's a library music title if ever there were one), so it won't come as any great surprise to hear that it largely consists of music more back- than foreground, much of it with something of an '80s sheen about it; you know, all programmed drums and chiffy synth patches. Best tracks? Probably the gentle Miranda and the orchestral version of Lac Lucerne that closes the record, although, since Voiceprint allowed this to go out of print many years back, you'll be hard-pushed to find a physical copy. The album's sole samplotron use is the vague strings on Nick's contribution to the aforementioned Rime... disc, Night Of The Condor, although you'd be forgiven for missing them entirely.

1999's Inhaling Green is an album of mostly instrumental symphonic progressive rock, although the female-vocalled Cantus, maybe surprisingly, is nearer the dance end of the spectrum, while Dixon Hill is more in a swing vein and Nick's take on George Martin's Theme One (you'll know the Van der Graaf version) is slightly techno-flavoured, would you believe. Best tracks? Probably the flute-led Veil Of Sighs and the lengthy, three-part title track, part three being especially Hackett-esque. Those Mellotron samples crop up here and there, with strings on Free The Spirit, The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea and Weighing Of The Souls, although it's not the heaviest use you'll ever hear, sampled or otherwise. Five years on, 2004's Hexameron can been seen either as more cohesive or less varied, depending on your outlook (I prefer the former description), concentrating more on the progressive end of the spectrum. Nick adds vocals to the mix this time round, guest vocalists including ex-Hackett colleague Pete Hicks and ReGenesis man Tony Patterson's Gabrielesque tones, other guests including guitarist Geoff Whitehorn (If, Procol Harum) and Hacketts John (flute, of course) and Steve. The furthest the album deviates from the (loosely) symphonic template is the Celtic flavourings on Sophia's Song, most of its material sitting somewhere between Enid-style symphonics, contemporary guitar-driven prog and a touch of new age in places. On the samplotron front, we get strings and/or choir on several tracks, including Marduk, Brother Sun Sister Moon and Seven Hands Of Time, used, once again, with welcome restraint.

2010's Children of Another God ups the ante somewhat, possibly even being Nick's Big Progressive Statement, featuring repeating musical and lyrical motifs throughout in true concept album style. Top tracks include the opening title track, the Hackett-esque The Colony Is King, with its strange, chanted vocals and the slightly Spock's Beard-esque Babel Tower, while Doctor Prometheus is reminiscent of mid-'70s Rick Wakeman, albeit considerably better, leaving the female-vocalled The Others as the album's odd man out, sounding as if it belongs on another record. The 'guest list' this time round is fairly familiar, including Hicks, Patterson and both Hacketts again, plus Nick's old Enid bandmate Glenn Tollett on upright bass. Did I use the phrase 'welcome restraint' regarding Nick's sampled Mellotron use above? Am I mad? This time round he gets strings and/or choirs in on most tracks, used with considerable taste, as I'd expect, often alongside sampled Taurus pedals, using the ever-faithful Genesis template; a compliment, in case you were wondering.

2014's N'monix', while still undoubtedly 'progressive rock' (whatever you take that to mean), shifts further towards the orchestral spectrum than Nick's previous work, although opener Time is full-blown classic Hackett/Magnus. Elsewhere, Memory is a choral piece at the prog end of the musical theatre spectrum, Kombat Kid is a grimly amusing cautionary tale regarding modern technology, complete with historical references, while there's more than a little of Gentle Giant about Headcase, leaving the remainder of the album loosely 'progressive', the eccentric Eminent Victorians also reminding the listener of the odder tracks on Hackett's 'classic period' releases. Samplotron on several tracks, with strings (and brass?) on Time, block string chords on Kombat Kid and string swells on Eminent Victorians, Broken and Entropy.