Home

reviews

album list

Samples

Duncan Maitland  (Ireland)

Lullabies for the 21st Century  (2010,  47.34)  ****

Duncan Maitland used to play in Irish sensations Pugwash, so it should come as absolutely no surprise at all that his first solo album, 2010's Lullabies for the 21st Century, should be a gorgeous, sun-drenched concoction of intelligent pop and gentle psychedelia. Think late-period XTC; actually, keep thinking that as you listen to the first track, Your Century, as it sinks in that none other than XTC's Colin Moulding is playing bass. There genuinely isn't a bad track here; mind you, not everyone's going to get the 'Light Programme' whimsy of closer Insect Under The Stone, in which case they should probably go for the Beatles-esque Your Century, Terry The Toad (beautiful chorus) or Alien At Home, to name but three. I had to apply a little pressure, but Colin eventually owned up to using samples, largely because I couldn't work out how he'd tracked down a Chamberlin in Ireland. He uses Mellotron or Chamby samples on nine of the eleven tracks here, with a wider range of sounds than most real Mellotron users can manage (often a 'sample giveaway', that one), notable parts including the Mellotron flutes on Your Century and Cry Me To Sleep, the Mellotron strings on Up To You and Supermarket Dream and the Chamby sax solo on Insect Under The Stone, "So good", says Duncan, "That I credited it to a fictional player!" (Herbert Ginshell, for what it's worth).

Catherine Major  (Québec)

Rose Sang  (2008,  57.09)  **½

Catherine Major's jazzy, piano-driven, French-language chanson pop is, like so many other albums I hear, fine in small doses, yet overly hard work over the course of a full album. Alex McMahon's 'Mellotron' on Les Grands Espaces turns out to be barely-Mellotronic samplotron flutes.

Major Parkinson  (Norway)

Songs From a Solitary Home  (2010,  46.06)  ***½

Major Parkinson find themselves variously described as 'prog', 'alternative rock' and 'pop/rock', the truth, unsurprisingly, lying both somewhere in between and elsewhere. Influences on their second album, 2010's Songs From a Solitary Home, are as disparate as '77 punk, Brecht & Weil (notably the deranged Dance With The Cookie Man), French chanson (Downtown Boogie) and early '80s post-punk, while I'd be amazed to hear they'd never heard Cardiacs. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, however, so trying to nail this lot down to any one style is an utterly futile exercise. Someone plays fakeotron strings and flutes on Solitary Home and Domestic Violets, with possible background use elsewhere, but it's hardly the album's defining feature. This is a very good album that repeated plays can only make better, its eclecticism showing a million lesser outfits the way. As a result, they'll probably sell very few records.

Peter Malick Group  (US)

New York City  (2003,  30.28)  ***

Peter Malick is an LA-based jazz guitarist who had the good fortune to hook up with a pre-fame Norah Jones in 2000, recording a handful of tracks released three years later as New York City. Stylistically, we're talking bluesy jazz (or jazzy blues?), with some tasteful playing from Malick and vocals of the quality we've come to expect from Ms. Jones, although the material's hardly top-notch; this probably wouldn't even have been released were it not for the obvious. Danny McGough is credited with Mellotron on the title track and its pointless radio edit added to the end of the disc to bump it up to a paltry half hour, but if it's referring to those generic-sounding strings that crop up occasionally, it's clearly sampled. Incidentally, Malick has cashed-in as much as possible, given the small number of tracks at his disposable, releasing a double CD of the type that would fit onto one disc called The Deluxe Collection, adding entirely pointless remixes of most of the mini-album's tracks to no effect whatsoever.

Bill Mallonee  (US)

Perfumed Letter  (2003,  52.06)  ***

Bill Mallonee split The Vigilantes of Love in 2001, going on to a prolific solo career, often infusing his songs with his Christian faith (it says here). Thankfully, Perfumed Letter isn't too obviously god-bothering, although, sadly, nor is it that interesting, making his being named 'one of the 100 greatest living songwriters' by Paste magazine (who?) something of a mystery. Any better tracks? Maybe opener She's So Liquid and the powerpop of That Little Something. Someone (Mallonee?) plays samplotron flutes on She's So Liquid, Extraordinary Girl and Two Become One and strings on Shirts & Skins.

Ben Mallot  (US)

Look Good, Feel Good  (2008,  37.54)  ***

Ben Mallot(t)'s debut album, 2008's Look Good, Feel Good, completely belies his relative inexperience, Mallot sounding like a seasoned, world-weary peddler of fine Americana. Of course, there's little actual originality on display, but what do you expect from a genre that's been around this long? It's all about the songs, anyway, which are good, if not outstanding, the best ones probably being Shotgun Suzy, Leaving and closer Just Like Angels. Producer Mark Hallman allegedly plays Mellotron, although I have absolutely no idea where, as it's completely inaudible.

Michelle Malone  (US)

Beneath the Devil Moon  (1997,  46.44)  **½

Beneath the Devil Moon is a kind of soulful singer-songwriter effort, probably at its best on Blue Suede. I really don't know why David Ryan Harris is credited with Mellotron.

Heather Maloney  (US)

Making Me Break  (2015,  43.39)  ***

Heather Maloney's fifth album, 2015's Making Me Break, is a competent, country-inflected singer-songwriter effort, of the kind that often finds itself used on TV programmes like The O.C. Whatever that is. Its better tracks are generally the more acoustic ones, such as Involuntary or Hey Serena, although we could probably have done without cheesy, mainstream guff like opener Linger Longer (terrible lyric, too) or Day With You. Jimmi Wallace allegedly plays Mellotron and Chamberlin on Involuntary, by which he quite certainly means the M4000D sample player, with strings (Chamby?) and cellos (Mellotron?) and background flutes (not sure which) on Day With You.

Mamiffer  (US)

Hirror Enniffer  (2008,  34.35)  ***

Mamiffer (who have also collaborated with Locrian) are one of American guitarist Aaron Turner's multifarious projects, albeit one actually led by vocalist/pianist Faith Coloccia, whose debut, 2008's Hirror Enniffer, is probably best described as 'post-metal', whatever you take that to mean. Coloccia's piano is the lead instrument throughout the bulk of the record, although Death Shawl is essentially a slow build-up of distorted organ and closer Cyhraeth is similarly piano-free. Coloccia is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on Black Running Water sound pretty shaky from where I'm standing (OK, so I'm sitting), although whether they're actually Mellotron samples or generic strings credited as such is hard to say. So; is this any good? Good at what it does, assuming you like the sound of ambient piano overlaid with wordless vocals and distortion.

Mammoth Volume  (Sweden)

A Single Book of Songs  (2001,  55.33)  ***

Mammoth Volume are part of the 'third wave' of stoner hard rock/metal, following the late-'80s burst of activity from Trouble, Monster Magnet et al. But are they any good at it? I hear you cry. Well, I've heard better, to be honest, although they have a certain level of competence going for them and a disinterest in 'playing the game', making every track sound like every other, all of which sound like a bad amalgam of Black Sabbath and Hawkwind. You know the type. Maybe I'm just becoming incredibly jaded, but even on a second listen, I can't really warm to their second full-length effort, 2001's A Single Book of Songs, although it has its moments. The 'Mellotron' parts are fairly obviously sampled, with strings on opener To Gloria, The So Called 4th Sect and Evening Streeted, distant, phased choirs on Pleroma, strings and cranky flutes on Brave Manic Mover and more strings on closer Instead of Circles, which would've given the album something like TTT were the Mellotron genuine. There's supposed to be more 'Mellotron' on their eponymous 1999 debut, but all I can hear is some dodgy generic string samples, though I've been wrong before...

Man From RavCon  (US)

Rides Again!  (2011,  41.58)  ***
The Traveler  (2012,  36.45)  ***
Skyscraper  (2013,  46.38)  ***

After leaving (splitting?) The Ravelers, Mike Brown took a sharp left turn with The Man From RavCon, concentrating on surf/spaghetti western-style instrumentals, to reasonable effect, 2011's Rides Again! being all Duane Eddy-esque guitars and Morricone pastiches, albeit in a tuneful kind of way. The following year's The Traveler tones down Brown's surf fixation, even to the point of some proggy touches on the title track, while 2013's Skyscraper carries on in a similar vein, to the point where the title track cheekily borrows from King Crimson's Starless. Plenty of fairly obvious samplotron strings, flutes and choirs throughout.

Eleni Mandell  (US)

Miracle of Five  (2007,  39.04)  **½

2007's Miracle of Five is something of a retrograde step for Eleni Mandell, at least to my ears, filled with pseudo-late nite jazz, all swooning clarinets and Mandell's breathy tones. I wouldn't mind, but too many of its tracks sound near-identical to too many of its other tracks, making for a rather monotonous listening experience, however well-played and sung it might be. Andy Kaulkin adds a melodic samplotron flute part to Wings In His Eyes.

Mat Maneri  (US)

Pentagon  (2005,  58.11)  ***

Viola/violinist Mat Maneri's Pentagon is a full-on experimental, improvised jazz album, decidedly hard-going for those not used to the style, melody, harmony and structure going the way of all things, although I'm sure aficionados would disagree. It's quite impossible to pick out any highlights when you don't even understand what's going on, but closer America has an almost-normal (real) strings part, coming as light relief after the preceding chaos. Samplotron from Jamie Saft, with discordant flutes on W.W.P., bereft strings and flutes on Wound and ghostly choir on An Angel Passes By and the very brief title track. It sounds like pitchbent brass and strings on War Room and it's possible that it's somewhere in the mix on some other tracks, but with so much going on at once, it's rather hard to tell.

Mangala Vallis  (Italy)

Lycanthrope  (2005,  62.17)  ***

Mangala Vallis' first album, The Book of Dreams, features real Mellotron, although that's just about its only redeeming feature. However, their follow-up from three years later, Lycanthrope, proves that neo-proggers can improve, if only slightly. It starts off as a vast improvement on its predecessor, although it still opens with a Genesis steal (Watcher this time). Guest vocalist on their debut, ex-PFM man Bernardo Lanzetti, seems to've become a full member by this time, making Chocolate Kings comparisons inevitable; better than Script though, eh kids? Mangala Vallis' previous Spock's Beard influence seems to have become more dominant here, the vast bulk of the hour-long album taken up by the sort-of title track, the Werewolf Suite, replete with loads of Enzo Cattini's Hammond and fake Mellotron work. Hurrah! This isn't to say it's all good, by any means; Lycanthroparty pumps away at a mainstream rock groove for far longer than necessary, including the obligatory dullsville guitar solo. In fact, the quality dips as the album progresses, until by the end, it isn't an awful lot better than its predecessor. What a shame; if only the album had been shorter, maybe the band could've tightened up their arrangements and made for a better release all round. Mellotron samples across the board, mostly strings, with bits of flute and choir here and there, although some of the notes hold just that little bit too long. Incidentally, many thanks to my old pal Gary for extracting a sample use confession out of the band.

Mangrove  (Netherlands)

Touch Wood  (2004,  66.29)  **½
Facing the Sunset  (2005,  57.30)  **½
Coming Back to Live  (2006,  94.24)  **½
Beyond Reality  (2009,  67.39)  **

Mangrove formed in the mid-'90s under a different name, releasing their first full album (after a brace of demos), Touch Wood, in 2004. Obvious influences include 'mid-period' (i.e. post-Gabriel, pre-chart success) Genesis and, I'm sad to say, Marillion, their sound being pervaded with an unfortunate neo-prog sensibility, particularly in the vocal department. Actually, I'm reminded in places of superior Scottish neo-proggers Citizen Kane, also IQ, albeit with little of either band's sometime inventiveness, the nearest this gets to an exception being the vaguely bluesy/jazzy touches in closer City Of Darkness. This is one of those 'OK in small doses' albums, where any single track is perfectly listenable, but over an hour in one go becomes exceedingly tedious. Samplotronically speaking, obviously fake string, cello and choir parts on opener Fatal Sign, flutes on Vicious Circle and combinations of these four on most of the rest. The following year's Facing the Sunset is basically more of the same, albeit in longer form, featuring four lengthy tracks; unfortunately, the band's talents don't really extend to complexity in any great way, so they all become a bit dull after a while. Less samplotron than before, but better sounds, for what it's worth.

2006's double live (bit early for that, isn't it?), Coming Back to Live, might've gained an extra half star had it edited their live set down to its best forty minutes or so. As it is, two new tracks aside, we get large chunks of their first two albums, in a live setting, samplotron strings and choirs throughout. That's it. Sadly, 2009's Beyond Reality is, unbelievably, even worse than its predecessors. Most depressing of all, though, is that the band manage flashes of inspiration, then brutally smother them to death with endless minutes of utterly clichéd neo-prog drivel. Guys, guys... Can't you do better than this? Stop listening to Marillion; that'll help. More of the usual samplotron, not that I care any more. I had a nasty feeling that Mangrove were going to suck, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and have been comprehensively defeated. If I (or anyone) could actually be bothered, there's probably about twenty minutes of good bits spread over all three of these albums, which is vastly too little to be any use. Why do the Netherlands chuck out so many of these bands? Please stop.

Manic Street Preachers  (UK)

This is My Truth Tell Me Yours  (1998,  63.13)  ***
Postcards From a Young Man  (2010,  44.24)  ***

The Manic Street Preachers' story has been one of tragedy; their arch-propagandist, Richey James, disappeared in the mid-'90s, having almost certainly thrown himself off the Severn Bridge during a bad bout of depression; the band regrouped, recording Everything Must Go as soon as possible to try to overcome the trauma. In retrospect, Richey didn't seem to actually do an awful lot in the band, existing more as their public face/mascot than anything, so their subsequent career hasn't suddenly taken a lurch in a different direction. The Manics started off wanting to be The Clash, but quickly mutated into a stadium-rock outfit for disaffected teenagers, an area they still inhabit today.

This is My Truth Tell Me Yours does nothing to change this state of affairs; mostly mid-paced, with a great deal of rather hollow lyrical rhetoric and somewhat clichéd song structures. Session keyboardist Nick Nasmyth brought in a raft of vintage gear, principally a Hammond and a Wurlie piano, making reasonable use of them across the album, although it's interesting to note that the band's next effort featured a noticeably stripped-down sound, as they apparently felt that This is My Truth was a bit 'lush' in the production department. I've always been under the impression that the credit for 'Mellotron' meant exactly that, but going by an old online interview with producer Dave Eringa, it seems they're samples. Fakeotron on three tracks: pretentiously-titled single If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next has strings running through it, while the balladic You're Tender And You're Tired has a short arranged string part in the middle. The Manics also used a proper string section on the album, so Nasmyth was obviously going for a distinct 'feel' by using the pseudo-Mellotron here. Album closer S.Y.M.M. (South Yorkshire Mass Murderer, apparently) has a background strings wash, with a slightly more upfront part on the second verse.

I'd heard that the Manics had recorded an album of music set to unused Richey lyrics, incorrectly assuming that it was 2010's Postcards From a Young Man. Well, it'd make sense, wouldn't it? It seems that was the previous year's Journal for Plague Lovers, however, its successor apparently being, "One last shot at mass communication". To be honest, it makes a pretty good shot at it, the band's tried'n'tested stadium riffs crossed with indie vocals trick serving them well once again. Do I like it? Not especially, no, but it's difficult to deny that they do what they do rather well. Loz Williams is credited with 'Melotron', but with real strings on most track, who knows where it might be? Are those 'Melotron' strings faintly audible at the end of The Future Has Been Here 4Ever? If so, I'd swear blind they ain't real. Again.

Aimee Mann  (US)  see:

Aimee Mann

John Mann  (Canada)

Acoustic Kitty  (2002,  45.33)  **½

John Mann's Acoustic Kitty is a cheery, upbeat singer-songwriter effort, fizzing with joy. I hate it. No, seriously, this kind of light-as-air stuff has no depth, no substance and holds no interest for anyone who takes their music seriously. Chris Stringer's credited with Mellotron on Love's a Sobbing Idiot, by which I presume they mean the woodwind and brass sounds on the track. Not a fucking Mellotron.

Manna  (Finland)

Sister  (2007,  38.16)  ***
Shackles  (2011,  35.59)  ***

Manna Jäntti is a Finnish singer-songwriter, clearly aiming at the international market by singing in English. Her debut, 2007's Sister, is a surprisingly decent effort, largely steering clear of the genre's expected cheesy melodies and limp arrangements, better tracks including Lost, I Gave In and the title track. Manna's close-mic'd voice is considerably better than those of many of her transatlantic contemporaries, thankfully missing the nasal edge that so many American singers seem unable (or unwilling) to drop. Kalle Gustafsson Jerneholm is credited with Mellotron on opener Stars, but the vague strings on the track sound little like a real machine to my (admittedly jaded) ears. It's notable that probable sample users Soundtrack of Our Lives' Martin Hederos plays on the track, although whether or not he's had anything to do with the presumed fakeotron is unknown. Four years on and Shackles is more of the same, at its best on Take It Or Leave It and brief closer Unilintu. Reviewing this completes my roll-call of Alain Johannes' supposed Mellotron use, the strings on Silent and choirs on Unilintu being about as bogus as they come. Stop taking the piss, mate.

Manning  (UK)

Tall Stories for Small Children  [originally as Guy Manning]  (1999,  69.30)  ***
The Cure  (2000,  64.39)  ***
Cascade  (2001,  64.13)  **½
The Ragged Curtain  (2002,  68.06)  **½
The View From My Window  (2003,  56.14)  **½
A Matter of Life & Death (The Journal of Abel Mann)  (2004,  53.54)  **½
One Small Step...  (2005,  57.40)  **½
Anser's Tree  (2006,  63.28)  ***
Songs From the Bilston House  (2007,  67.14)  ***
Number Ten  (2009,  63.16)  ***
Charlestown  (2010,  61.30)  **½
Margaret's Children  (2011,  60.27)  ***
The Root, the Leaf & the Bone  (2013,  66.07)  ***

I can't work out what Parallel or 90 Degrees associate and Tangent member Guy Manning did before the late '90s; like many other current progressive artists, he probably spent years making music he didn't like, finally finding the freedom to follow his heart. Incidentally, some years ago, he wrote to tell me that he used Mellotron on all his albums, then didn't reply when I asked where he'd sourced a machine, although he's recently let me know that he started off using an Akai, moving on to the ubiquitous M-Tron.

He released his first solo album (and the only one credited to anything other than Manning), Tall Stories for Small Children, in 1999, falling in between the progressive and singer-songwriter genres, sounding not entirely unlike Pink Floyd in places. This is the kind of album that rewards multiple plays and much reading of the lyrics; unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of being able to give everything I review the appropriate attention, but initial listens give the impression of a reasonable, though far from classic effort, incorporating no fewer than three multi-part epics. The Last Psalm is probably the most Floyd-like thing here, The Fall And Rise Of Abel Mann? accentuates the singer-songwriter aspects of Manning's work, while Holy Ireland explores his heritage, appropriately Celtic themes cropping up here and there. As for the 'Mellotron', indeed it is sampled, given away by the pitchbend on The Last Psalm, with strings and/or choir on most tracks.

The following year's The Cure (as Manning) is, essentially, more of the same, although the Floyd references seem to have been put to bed. Its concept might possibly be explained by the brief essay in the CD booklet, 'The Effects of Partial & Total Sensory Deprivation'; suffice to say, this is music where the lyrics are at least as important as the music, à la your typical singer-songwriter. The music's perfectly good for what it is, but its rather back-seat role makes this a slightly less engaging listen than its predecessor. Less samplotron, too, although Manning gets a bit in on most tracks. 2001's Cascade is, I'm afraid, a rather weaker effort, its uneasy prog/folk/pop crossover almost designed to keep everyone unhappy; its best track is a version of Hushabye Mountain (from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), unfortunately highlighting the relative weakness of Manning's writing. Saying that, he has his fanbase, but I suspect that, like, the artist himself, they're as interested in his albums' lyrical content as the musical. Once again, fakeotron on a few tracks, but nothing startling.

2002's The Ragged Curtain seems to be the next instalment in Manning's lengthy sequence of (presumably unrelated) concept titles, the vaguely Floydish music once again more of a backdrop to the lyrics. As with his previous albums, it features the occasional really nice moment dotted amongst tens of minutes of rather forgettable ones, not to mention some quite unforgivable sax solos. Once again, samplotron on a few tracks, for what it's worth. Incidentally, spot the Mott the Hoople's All The Young Dudes quote on Where Do All The Madmen Go. Keeping up his 'one a year' workload, 2003's The View From My Window carries on a similar vein to its predecessors, which is about all I can think of to say about it. It contains a little sampled Mellotron. 2004's A Matter of Life & Death (The Journal of Abel Mann), while no more interesting musically, seems to have a more cohesive concept, giving the Tall Stories... character his own album. Is there a best track? Probably Out Of My Life, but that isn't really a recommendation. It certainly isn't the cheesy rock'n'roll of closer Midnight Sail, anyway. Y'know, my problem with Manning's albums has just come into focus, listening to this one: he's influenced by rather too much of the insipid end of prog, crossing over into '70s 'middling rock' to be able to claim any real prog credibility, much of his material sounding more like Elton John, say, or maybe The Alan Parsons Project. Manning may take the comparisons as a compliment, but they're not.

2005's One Small Step... carries on that concept thing, also bringing in the occasional new influence, notably the prog/Americana of The Mexico Line. Man Of God is probably the best thing here, Manning's influences coming together in reasonably pleasing form, avoiding cheesiness en route; shame he can't apply the technique to more of his material. The following year's Anser's Tree (go on, work it out), however, is a rather better effort, although its pseudo-historical concept is less than fully transparent. Why is this better? Not sure, it just is. Less MOR? Hard to say, but the material manages not to irritate, while the lyrical vignettes make more sense than previously. Manning keeps the (relative) quality up on 2007's Songs From the Bilston House. Now, I originally thought that this would be a live album recorded at the (semi-) legendary Robin 2 club in Bilston, in the Birmingham conurbation, but, er, it isn't. What we actually get is another hour or so of new material (regular as clockwork, this guy), which delves further back towards the very early '70s. if not the late '60s, better tracks including the really rather good Understudy and the jamming Icarus & Me, although losing rather dreary closer Inner Moment would actually improve the album.

His tenth release, 2009's Number Ten, wittily references the British prime minister's legendary residence on the sleeve, although I didn't spot any overt political references on the album, which starts well with the dynamic r'n'b of Ships, while the point at which A Road Less Travelled shifts up a gear is a highpoint. Yet again, though, the album suffers from Manning's usual 'around twenty minutes too long' issues; losing Another Lazy Sunday and lengthy closer The House On The Hill would actually have improved the end result. Sadly, the following year's Charlestown seems to be a backwards step into sort-of prog dullness, exacerbated by the thirty five-minute opening title track, despite its upfront samplotron flutes and strings. The album picks up by closer Finale, but by then, it's too little, too late. For what it's worth, all of the above that lack specific mentions have reasonable levels of sampled Mellotron, tending to shift between the 'holy trinity' of strings, flutes and choir.

I initially presumed 2011's Margaret's Children referenced our (now) unlamented ex-prime minister, although I'm not sure how that might fit the overall concept. A sequel to Anser's Tree, the lyrics cover biographical excerpts for another seven linked fictional characters, the music partially illustrating their lives, notably on Harriet Horden (1912-1955) (A Night at the Savoy, 1933). There seems to be more of a Jethro Tull vibe about this record, overblown (in a good way) flute work abounding, other highlights including the brass on Harriet Horden, which works surprisingly well, ditto the instrumental coda on Amelia Fairfax. Minimal samplotron, with naught but background strings on Harriet Horden and David Logan, plus upfront flutes on the latter. After 2012's unsurprisingly samplotron-free Akoustik, the following year's The Root, the Leaf & the Bone does that Tull thing again, often to very good effect. Infuriatingly uneven, highlights include the opening title track (with its creepy "Tick... tock" vocal interjections), the folk/metal of The Huntsman And The Poacher and the dynamic Mists Of Morning Calling To The Day, although I find myself unable to warm to several tracks. Typically sparse on the samplotron front, all we get is distant choirs and high strings on the opening title track and upfront strings on Mists Of Morning Calling To The Day.

Do you bother with Guy Manning? All of the above are essentially singer-songwriter albums, played in a proggish style, although you feel he might be more comfortable shucking off the stylistic baggage and simply making albums of linked songs, rather than overlong, pseudo-prog efforts that fall between several stools. These should all have been trimmed to a fortyish-minute length, in my humble opinion; that might mean losing some of the concepts, but the musical gains would more than compensate. Potentially decent albums mostly scuppered by excess.

Paul Manousos  (US)

For Better or Worse  (2005,  45.52)  **

For Better or Worse is a rather limp, singer-songwriter-goes-pop/rock effort, not too appalling for a few tracks, although the cumulative effect is deadening. Particularly low marks for Manousos' channeling of The Waterboys' Mike Scott's overwrought delivery on Broken and dreadful closer It's Gonna Be Alright. Manousos and known sample user Steve Fisk play samplotron, with distant choirs and flutes on Beautiful Girl and background strings on This Love and the title track.

Doug Manring  (US)

Oasis  (2000,  72.05)  ***

Guitarist/drummer Doug Manring is the elder brother of seventh dan ninja bassist Michael, whose Oasis is a strange album, like a singer-songwriter playing indie/tech metal for a new age label, if that makes any sense. It's at its best on The Wake, perhaps, although seventy minutes of this stuff is about thirty too many. Manring's credited with Mellotron; what, the strings on The Wake?

Mansion  (Finland)

The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1  (2014,  10.11)  **½

I'm not sure if Finland's Mansion could be said to continue their country's grand (?) tradition of playing sleazy cock-rock on 2014's The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1, begun by the legendary Hanoi Rocks in the early '80s. Because? Because while the 'A' side (despite its title, this isn't even EP length) fits that description, the flip is more of a stoner/doom thing, almost as if it's by a different band. Are either side any good? Not especially, no. Joona Lukala is credited with Mellotron, but the vague choirs on New Dawn are quite clearly nothing of the sort. Can I recommend this? Not especially, no, although at least it does its thing with the requisite levels of vim.

Maple Mars  (US)

Welcome to Maple Mars  (2001,  48.58)  ***

Maple Mars' 2001 debut, Welcome to Maple Mars, is a decent, if not classic powerpop album, concentrating on the psychedelic end of the genre, although, as with so many similar, you get the feeling that it would've been improved by some trimming. Top tracks include the opening title track, Souvenir and the Mott-esque Absolute Zero, but a mid-album lull loses it half a star. Rick Gallego allegedly plays Mellotron, but the 'Strawberry Fields'-esque background flute part on Fly is so muffled that if a real machine was used, I can only say that's it's long overdue an overhaul.

Maple Mountain Sunburst Triolian Orchestra  (Canada)

The Maple Mountain Sunburst Triolian Orchestra  (2010,  43.36)  **½

The Maple Mountain Sunburst Triolian Orchestra is Andy McNeill's nom de plume, working in the... the what? How to describe his eponymous album? Electronica? Sampledelica? Indie? Americana? All of the above and then some? Snippets of spoken word, some quite lengthy, glitchy laptop noise, down-home acoustic guitar... Interesting, in its own way, but I can't say it grabbed me. McNeill plays really rather bogus 'Mellotron' flutes on The Auctioneer and Boundless Blue, with more of the same and some terrible string samples on A Beautiful Walk In The Country, not to mention... something on The Ruby Yacht.

Maplewood  (US)

Maplewood  (2004,  44.31)  **½
Yeti Boombox  (2009,  41.39)  **½

Maplewood are a minor supergroup, comprising members of Nada Surf, Champale et al., formed as an homage to '70s 'canyon rock': Bread, America and the like, to the point where the current lineup of the latter have both covered and collaborated with the band. Their eponymous 2004 debut is pleasant enough, although knowledge of their source material probably helps in its appreciation; frankly, it's all a bit wet for anyone who hasn't grown up with this stuff. Geoff Sanoff plays alleged Chamberlin, literally a couple of flute notes on Darlene. It took the band five years to follow-up with Yeti Boombox, probably due to other commitments, more obviously slightly parodic than its predecessor, with titles like Moonboot Canyon and Embraceable. In all other respects, however, it's pretty similar to Maplewood, right down to only having one obvious track of supposed tape-replay, sampled Mellotron this time, from Mark Rozzo and Gerry Beckley, but did it really take two of them to play the flutes on opener Moonboot Canyon? Nothing to get too excited about, then, unless you're a member of the David Gates fan club.

Marah  (US)

A Christmas Kind of Town  (2006,  39.07)  ***

Marah followed 2005's If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry the following year with a Christmas album (!), A Christmas Kind of Town, in a vague song/sketch/song format, full of ironic jollity - or maybe not? Anyway, reasonably good fun, although I can't imagine wanting to listen to it too often, even (especially?) at Christmas. Kirk Henderson's credited with Mellotron, but I can't hear a thing; a mis-credit?

Leigh Marble  (US)

Red Tornado  (2007,  41.38)  **½

Red Tornado's one of those albums that starts reasonably well, then deteriorates, or does its downbeat Americana thing just become wearing? At its best on opener Lucky Bastards and the accordion-driven So Far, anyway. Marble's 'Mellotron'? Background flutes on Gave It All. I think not.

Marbles  (US)

Expo  (2005,  25.27)  **½

Marbles are basically the solo side-project of Apples in Stereo mainman Robert Schneider, taking less of a '60s and more of a late '70s/early '80s turn on 2005's mini-album Expo. Largely informed by synth-pop, a handful of tracks work well enough in isolation, but the overall effect, even in under half an hour, is of tedium, I'm afraid and as for Schneider's well-documented ambition to sound like ELO... Given my chariness at the Apples' Mellotronic veracity, it comes as no great surprise to report that the credited 'Mellotron' here... isn't. Some of the strings barely sound like one at all, although it's possible they're actually something else, but the supposedly definite Mellotron strings don't sound right at all, ditto the choirs, leaving only the easy-to-sample flutes sounding at all genuine. Sorry, but if you want to hear retro synth stuff, there's an awful lot better around than this. I like the Apples' albums, but I'm afraid this leaves me cold.

Marcelina  (Poland)

Marcelina  (2011,  41.04)  **

Marcelina (Stoszek) is a Polish starlet, which is about all I can tell you, given that anything about her on the 'Net is in Polish, not one of my top languages. 2011's Marcelina seems to be her debut, an odd mix of vaguely 'trad'-sounding singer-songwriter stuff and modern dance pop, the latter, sadly, largely taking precedence over the former. For future releases, she really should stick to her own language; her English diction is terrible and she's pretty unlikely to break through to the international market. Jan Smoczyński is credited with 'Mellotron' on Motyle, but the strings most certainly aren't, while the solo flute part is fairly obviously sampled.

Márcia  (Portugal)

Dá  (2010,  49.55)  **½

Márcia (Santos) seems to be a Portuguese version of those rather drippy American singer-songwriters whose anodyne songs constantly turn up on the kind of TV programmes I wouldn't watch if you paid me. The only thing that caught my ear was six-minute closer Vem, with its mournful, muted flugelhorn solo; I can't imagine Márcia would sell many records if they sounded more like this, but they'd certainly be better. Although Luís Nunes is credited with Mellotron on Céu Aberto, his flute samples (I can't imagine a real machine came anywhere near this record) are actually on O Novelo.