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Marcy Playground  (US)

Lunch, Recess & Detention  (2012, recorded 1997-2012?  61.14)  **½

Marcy Playground's debut went platinum in their home country, although I've never heard of them before. Avoiding popular culture? Job done. The indie-friendly Lunch, Recess & Detention apparently combines rarities/b-sides and new material, including a bizarrely pointless, drumless, seemingly straight take on (A) Whiter Shade Of Pale and a far better go at Leonard Cohen's deathless Hallelujah. Dylan Keefe's 'Mellotron'? What, the flutes on Special? Or on The Angel Of The Forever Sleep?

Mariha  (Germany)

Elementary Seeking  (2006,  53.33)  **½

German singer Mariha released her debut album, Elementary Seeking, in 2006, possibly best described as adult pop (isn't that an oxymoron?); it's certainly far more mature than your typical teenage fare, anyway. To be honest, unless you go for her relatively lightweight sound, you're not going to get much out of this; it hardly rivals, say, The Beach Boys for complexity, but then, it's probably not trying to. Christian Fleps plays samplotron, with flutes on opener It Hurts, Free Now and Alive, while Christian Decker adds flutes to Sir, What's Your Name?

Marillion  (UK)  see:

Marillion

Marina & the Diamonds  (UK)

The Family Jewels  (2010,  45.27)  **½
Electra Heart  (2012,  46.54)  *½

Marina Diamandis, of Welsh/Greek extraction, uses her professional nom de plume, Marina & the Diamonds, not in reference to her backing band, but her fans, apparently. Her debut album, 2010's The Family Jewels, is a not-too-appalling collection of new wave-ish pop, veering between pseudo-electro numbers and ballads, like a less irritating Lily Allen, maybe, nowhere near as bad as it might be, which isn't actually a recommendation. Liam Howe plays samplotron, with background strings on opener Are You Satisfied?, faint string parts on Obsessions and Hermit The Frog, plus flutes on the latter, with nothing obvious on I Am Not A Robot and Numb. 2012's Electra Heart is essentially more of the same, only a good deal less so; while its predecessor didn't overly appal me, this album had me reaching for the 'next' button on every track bar the relevant one. Speaking of which, Howe returns on samplotron, with naught but a couple of faint string chords on closer Fear And Loathing.

Maritime  (US)

Glass Floor  (2004,  45.02)  **

Maritime coalesced out of two other bands, then mutated again before reaching their final form. 2004's Glass Floor is their first full album, after the preceding year's Adios EP and, I have to say, you'd be hard-pushed to find a wetter record. Actually, you probably wouldn't, but I'm trying to convey the album's deep, abiding wetness; its wussy, badly-strummed guitars, its limply-sung, insipid, cliché-ridden lyrics, its fake emotion... If you're thinking, "He doesn't like this album much, does he?", you'd be absolutely right. Flaccid indie nonsense, although, in fairness, I've heard worse. Although string sounds crop up a few times, I suspect the bulk of them are the credited real violin and cello used in tandem, David Durst's samplotron strings finally appearing on Souvenirs.

Graig Markel  (US)

Verses on Venus  (1999,  43.38)  **

Graig Markel has played (usually sampled) Mellotron for several other artists and, after hearing Verses on Venus, I rather wish he'd stuck to production. This is one of the limpest indie/singer-songwriter efforts it's been my displeasure to hear recently, against stiff competition, at its least offensive on All That Glitters, maybe and at its weirdest on Better Lost Than Gone, smothered in inappropriate percussion. Markel plays a samplotron flute line on Winter Never Saw Better Light and ridiculously pitchbent strings on Pixels To Percent.

Kate Markowitz  (US)

Map of the World  (2003,  56.08)  **

Kate Markowitz' Map of the World is a soul-inflected singer-songwriter adult pop album, which is every bit as excruciating as it sounds, not helped by what sounds disturbingly like the occasional lyrical Christian reference. Tony Harrell plays background samplotron strings on These Wheels.

Jennifer Marks  (US)

My Name's Not Red  (2000,  42.08)  ***

What makes a fairly ordinary singer-songwriter album like Jennifer Marks' My Name's Not Red so much better than a thousand similar? The music? Acceptable, but unstartling. The lyrics? Definitely; Marks' wit shines out like a beacon. An overall lack of sentimentality? Ah. Got it. Sentiment has its place, but, bear in mind, the Nazis were a terribly sentimental bunch (apologies for invoking Godwin's Law...) Anyway, Jennifer Marks clearly isn't a Nazi, not even a grammar one, she's a really rather good songwriter, her album's highlights including Thick, the title track and the excellent High School Reunion, all as much for their lyrics as the accompaniment. With no Mellotron credited, it's no surprise that the vaguely Mellotronic background strings on High School Reunion are sampled.

Marlango  (Spain)

The Electrical Morning  (2007,  52.48)  **½

I've rarely heard a Spanish band sound less Spanish than Marlango; initially described as 'smooth jazz', by their third album, 2007's The Electrical Morning, 'jazzy indie with a hint of Tom Waits' might be more appropriate. It clearly does what it sets out to do, although I have no affinity with their style myself; the only track which catches my ear at all is the brief Rhodes-and-vocal Shiny Fish. Alejandro Pelayo supposedly plays Mellotron on I Do, with a background cello line that, despite being low in the mix, is almost certainly sampled. So; one for sophisticates, or at least, people who like to think they are. With no real Mellotron, how can I possibly genuinely recommend this?

Marlene Kuntz  (Italy)

Che Cosa Vedi  (2000,  60.08)  **½

Marlene Kuntz translates as... Well, suffice to say that when you hear the phrase 'Anglo-Saxon adjective', they mean it; in other words, it means pretty much what you think it does, with regard to Ms. Dietrich. Charmed, I'm sure. 2000's Che Cosa Vedi is something like their fourth studio release, a sort-of Italian-language goth/punk/noise hybrid that, frankly, is unlikely to appeal to many people outside the band's home market. Gianfranco Fornaciari is credited with Mellotron on four tracks, but the strings on opener Cara È La Fine, L'Abbraccio, Due Sogni and La Mia Promessa sound pretty fake to me. So; this isn't actually bad as such, just uninspired and dull, which is slightly different. But only slightly.

Marlowes  (US)

Sugarbursts & Thunderbolts  (2003,  38.13)  ***½

Sugarbursts & Thunderbolts is a rather splendid powerpop album, shining out like a beacon in the dark amongst the steaming heaps of insipid singer-songwriter dreck with which I'm usually faced. Highlights? All of it, really, although opener Because Of A Girl, Clown College Reunion and vocal/piano closer A New Kind Of Weather possibly have the edge. To be perfectly honest, though, I've no idea why Peter Linnane's credited with Mellotron.

Marmalade Souls  (Sweden)

Marmalade Souls  (2007,  44.31)  ***

Swedish powerpop outfit Marmalade Souls are fronted by Michael and Johanna Klemmé, whose chief influence, at least on 2007's Marmalade Souls, is clearly various eras of The Beatles in particular (notably on Mr Lemon Tea) and '60s pop in general. Other top tracks include jangly opener It Won't Be Too Long, Famous and Words Of Love, although the vaguely swing-era Goodbye and the bluesy Baby Come Back are exceptions to the stylistic rule. Michael is credited with Mellotron, but the flute part on Fall Into The Sky lacks veracity, ditto the ones on Famous and Good Days. Too murky, too background; now tell me I'm wrong (wouldn't be the first time). Not bad, then, but should be avoided by anyone allergic to jangly pop.

Edith Márquez  (Mexico)

Duele  (2009,  42.59)  **

Edith Márquez' Duele is a Latin pop album from a singing soap star. None of Armando Avila's 'Mellotron' credits are genuine, this one included.

Brian Marquis  (US)

Blood & Spirits  (2013,  45.17)  ***

Blood & Spirits sits in an area somewhere between powerpop (opener Drink You Up), acoustic punk (Paralysis By Analysis, From Boston) and Americana (I'm Still Chasing You, Highways And Heartache), amongst other genres. Diverse, but in a good way. Not sure what Doug Grean's 'Mellotron' is supposed to be doing: the flutes on I'm Still Chasing You? More likely the strings on Burn The Bridges, Swim The River. Sampled either way.

Marry Me Jane  (US)

Marry Me Jane  (1996,  49.01)  **½

Marry Me Jane, fronted by Amanda Kravat, formed in 1993, released two albums and split in '99. Their eponymous debut pretty much defines mid-'90s indie, at its least irritating (and generic) on the acoustic Positive and Ashes & Stone. Guitarist Doug Petty's 'Mellotron' credit amounts to no more than poorly-sampled strings on Candy and strings and flutes on Ashes & Stone, plus what sounds like a brief snippet of the sound FX church bells on the latter. Where they'd have sourced that sample in the mid-'90s is unknown.

J J Marsh  (Sweden)

Music From Planet Marsh  (2005,  58.47)  ***½

Kurt Joakim Ellner Juno "J J" Marsh is the guitarist with Glenn Hughes and Joe-Lynn Turner's Hughes-Turner Project, although his first solo album, 2005's Music From Planet Marsh is more Hendrix-esque old-school hard rock than AOR, thankfully. Style-wise, it shifts between the bluesy, funky likes of opener Electric Women (GREAT title!) and Is It Real and the longer-form, more progressive hard rock of Into The Light and closer The Change, highlights including Into The Light and the Hendrixy Move On. Need A Friend's a bit on the weak side, however, which brings me to a recurring point on this site: why so long? OK, so you've got an hour's-worth of material, but do people really want to hear it all in one go? Our old pal The Flower Kings' Tomas Bodin plays 'Mellotron', alongside other 'boards, with flutes and strings on It's Not Too Late and strings and choir on The Change, none of it sounding that authentic, frankly. Mainly because it isn't. Overall, this is a worthy effort, although some judicious editing would've improved things no end.

Jasun Martz  (US)

The Pillory/The Battle  (2005,  148.02)  ***½

In 2004, word started circulating of a follow-up to Jasun Martz's '78 avant-classic, The Pillory, finally released in 2005 as The Pillory/The Battle. Yours truly was asked to participate in the recording, along with many others, but sadly, didn't get his act together in time to contribute, or it may not have been necessary to put the review here. Mind you, I rather doubt whether the end result has been seriously compromised as a result... Stylistically, the album isn't a million miles away from the original Pillory, being largely dissonant modern classical, crossed with just plain 'weird'. Battle 3 lives up to its subtitle of 'Tribal/Prog Rock', with some (relatively) straightforward drumming and riffy guitar, overlaid with a killer violin solo by Benedict Brydern, while the disc-long Battle 7 is possibly the best piece on the album, including a ten-minute plus solo organ part.

Upon being asked directly, Jasun admitted that while the album featured 'Mellotron sounds'; while he has owned several Mellotrons over the years, this time round there was no actual tape-replay involved. Apart from the fact that all too many current releases feature samples (damn you, M-Tron!), my suspicions were aroused for all the usual reasons: too clean, long, sustained notes, not enough real Mellotron 'feel'. Who'd have thought it was so difficult to sample a keyboard instrument properly? Anyway, the fake Mellotron parts vary in quality, though the 8-choir on Battle 5 is good enough to fool the ear and the super-loud, distorted strings on Battle 1 (repeating on 7) are excellent. Incidentally, Jasun has expressed his intention to produce the third album in the trilogy in ANOTHER twenty-five years, which by my reckoning makes it around 2030. Now, I'll be nearly seventy by then and I'm sure Mr. Martz has a few years on me... Good luck, Jase!

La Maschera di Cera  (Italy)

In Concerto  (2004,  78.40)  ****
Le Porte del Domani  (2013,  45.18)  ****½

La Maschera di Cera's studio albums feature real Mellotron, but their 2004 live effort, In Concerto, clearly doesn't, as can be seen from the lack of anything Mellotronic in the booklet pics. The album itself is a good representation of the band live, warts'n'all; they seem to feature a 'garage prog' sound on stage, rough as hell, but very live. Bassist and bandleader Fabio Zuffanti plays the entire set through a fuzzbox, for reasons known best to himself (an attempt at a Ricky impersonation?) and what has to be a straight-from-the-desk recording has Agostino Macor's Roland monosynth (not sure which one) too high in the mix, but it's quite nice, for once, to know that what you're hearing is what was actually played on the night. Macor's 'Mellotron' work goes to some lengths to sound genuine, so credit there, with sustained chords faded quickly out and back in, as you might with a real Mellotron. Plenty of strings, with bursts of choir and flutes here and there, source unknown, though they sound as good as any samples I've heard before.

Unusually, 2013's Le Porte del Domani has also been issued in an English-language version, The Gates of Tomorrow, in the manner of, say, Maxophone's lone, mid-'70s LP, or, perhaps, Le Orme's Felona e Sorona. Speaking of which... Does that sleeve art look familiar? Think blue... This album, possibly uniquely, is intended as a continuation of the story from Felona..., which is a little... ambitious, shall we say. No reason why not, but I can't imagine trying to write the next part of Rush's Hemispheres, for example. Saying that, the band have gone all out here, producing a superb piece of work, to the point where trying to pick out individual highlights is completely futile; the album should be approached as a complete piece, rather than as a collection of tunes. Macor is credited with Mellotron, Chamberlin and Birotron. Really? Where did you source the other two, Agostino? Especially the rare-as-rocking-horse-shit Birotron? All sampled, I'd say. Anyway, we get strings, choirs and (to a lesser extent) flutes all over everything, drummer Mau di Tollo sticking his samplotronic oar in on opener Ritorno Dal Nulla. And is that a Chamberlin female voice I can hear on Ritratto Di Lei? I've no idea how effectively this tells the further story of the two warring planets, but it's a superb album. Best yet, gentlemen. Congratulations!

Willy Mason  (US)

Carry on  (2012,  37.27)  ***

Carry on displays two sides to Willy Mason: his haunted Americana side and his haunted Americana-with-extraneous-electronica side. For what it's worth, I vastly prefer the former, which, fortunately, describes the bulk of the album. Dan Carey's 'Mellotron'? The warbly flutes on opener What Is This? The flutes and strings on Pickup Truck? The vague cello-y sound towards the end of the title track? None of the above?

Pat Mastelotto  (US)

Recidivate  (2012,  150.43)  ***

Unsurprisingly, King Crimson's Pat Mastelotto's hugely lengthy Recidivate sounds a lot like the parent band across much of it, multifarious guests including other Crims, the California Guitar Trio, Steven Wilson, Terry Bozzio, BPM&M and the Reuter/Boddy combo. Personal favourites include the organ-heavy Kataklasm and the decidedly weird take on Fleetwood Mac's Green Manalishi; certainly more inventive than Judas Priest's, anyway... Samplotron on several tracks, including the strings on opener Salvaging Remix Mash, brass on Blackwell and flutes on Dig and Alpha & Omega.

Master Musicians of Bukkake  (US)

Totem One  (2009,  40.08)  ***
Totem Two  (2010,  41.23)  ***
Totem Three  (2011,  40.40)  ***½
Far West  (2013,  43.40)  **½

I had to look this one up: bukkake is a weirdly sexless sexual activity, involving several men ejaculating over someone of either sex, the practice allegedly originating in Japan. Nice. Aside from this, The Master Musicians of Bukkake reference, of course, the Brian Jones-popularised Master Musicians of Joujouka, in case you hadn't spotted it. The Seattle-based outfit feature members of Sunn O))) and Earth, their second album, 2009's Totem One, being an odd mixture of droning, er, drones and surprisingly Joujouka-like ethnic drumming and chants laid over the aforementioned drones. Don McGreevy and Randall Dunn are both credited with Mellotron, but the extended choir chords and distant strings on a couple of tracks, notably opener Bardo Chikkhai, have little to do with a real Mellotron, I strongly suspect.

The following year's Totem Two isn't dissimilar to its predecessor, better tracks including the churchy The Heresy Of Origen and Coincidentia Oppositorum. Dunn and James Davis are credited with Mellotron, but the only obvious part is the choirs on lengthy closer Patmos, quite certainly sampled. 2011's Totem Three takes the concept further by injecting more variety into the project's sound, from the Egyptian rhythms of In The Twilight Of Kali Yuga through the quietly beautiful 6000 Years Of Darkness and the '80s electronica of closer Failed Future, although despite another credit for Dunn, there's no obvious 'Mellotron'. Far West takes a turn for the less interesting, sadly, its experiments with massed vocals an acquired taste. Samplotron strings on Circular Ruins.

Masters of Reality  (US)

How High the Moon: Live at the Viper Room  (1997,  48.57)  ***½
Welcome to the Western Lodge  (1999,  38.39)  ***½
Deep in the Hole  (2001,  39.43)  ***½

Given that the Masters of Reality had only released two, widely-spaced albums, was a live release a sensible option? How High the Moon: Live at the Viper Room says 'yes', half familiar material, half new, at its possible best on its last two numbers, Ants In The Kitchen/Goin' Down and 100 Years (Of Tears On The Wind). Guest keyboard player Chris Johnson adds horrendously-sampled Mellotron strings to several tracks, notably opener How High The Moon. It took the band seven years to follow up Sunrise on the Sufferbus with 1999's Welcome to the Western Lodge and guess what - it sounds like a Masters of Reality album. Opening with the statement of intent It's Shit, the album covers several bases across its refreshingly vinyl-length, er, length, not least the largely acoustic Baby Mae and the under-a-minute Ember Day, although its most Masters-like track (i.e. the one that sounds most like their debut) is probably excellent closer Also Ran Song. This is an assumption, but the 'Mellotron' to be heard on a handful of tracks here is almost certainly sampled. What you get is a strings part on the chorus of The Great Spelunker, a repeating flute melody and phased choirs on Take A Shot At The Clown and background string chords on Ember Day, while the overly-slick string chords on Boymilk Waltz give the game away; I mean, a Mellotron played that fast and that accurately with no key-click? Yeah, right. Getting back into the studio clearly galvanised Goss, as Deep in the Hole appeared a mere two years later, a blink of an eye in Masters terms. More than its predecessor, this album rocks out, despite its occasional quieter tracks, notably Roof Of The Shed, ending on a particularly raucous note with Shotgun Son. 'Mellotronically' speaking, the brief Major Lance features strings and cello parts that sound far too clean to be real, although I'm willing (and happy) to be proven wrong, plus background strings on Corpus Scorpios Electrified.

Mastodon  (US)

Crack the Skye  (2009,  50.03)  ***½

Mastodon are one of the most ambitious of America's current crop of power/progressive metal outfits, concentrating on semi-concept albums and, amazingly, picking up an audience at the same time, which isn't a criticism, more wonder that some people still want to listen to something with even a little musical depth. They're actually pretty good at it, as long as you like/can ignore the occasional growled vocal or blastbeat and don't expect anything that progressive.

Crack the Skye is their fourth album proper; the obvious reference point (for me, at least) is Baltimore heroes Crack the Sky, although I haven't seen them mentioned anywhere else. The official line on the title is that it's a tribute to drummer Brann Dailor's sister Skye, who tragically committed suicide aged fourteen, crossed with a reference to feeling that the sky has cracked when in the depths of despair. Lyrically, the album has some bizarre concept involving astral projection and Rasputin; if you really want to know more, track down the lyrics. Musically, it's vastly more interesting than most modern metal (I had the bad luck to be subjected to Machine Head recently - quite appalling), although a long way from the best of the '70s bands, but then, that's not really where they're coming from, so it's probably not fair to judge them on those criteria. Touring keyboardist Rich Morris is credited with Mellotron, but you'll need sharper ears than myself to hear it, I suspect. Mind you, no-one's credited with the Hammond that crops up on a few tracks; maybe someone doesn't know their vintage keyboards? Actually, a really close listen unearths a few seconds of a choir sound of some description on closer The Last Baron, which has to be what we're looking for, albeit quite certainly sampled.

Matchbox Twenty  (US)

More Than You Think You Are  (2002,  50.11)  *½

I'm sorry, but what exactly is the point of this music? I know that's not a very positive way to open a review, but I'm most of the way through this thoroughly depressing album of Rock That Doesn't Rock (see: Train), beginning to wonder why I even bother. Ironically, for music that's often described as 'soulful', More Than You Think You Are has as much soul (and I don't mean stylistically) as... I dunno; I'm lost for words. Huey Lewis and the News? Actually, that's what I'm reminded of here; this is so unremittingly bland that it leaves no trace whatsoever, yet they're HUGE! That really says all I ever need to know about the taste of the general public (not you, dear reader). So; what do I hate about this? Where shall I start? Rob Thomas' infuriatingly touchy-feely voice, that makes me want to punch him out? The semi-gospel choir (is there such a thing?) on Downfall; why? To try to import some emotion into an utterly clinical effort? Oh, I give up.

Drummer Rob Doucette is supposed to play Mellotron on the album, Hand Me Down and You're So Real being the tracks most frequently referenced. Well, I'll be fucked if I can hear it, even in the 'quiet bit' in the latter. Plenty of Hammond and Rhodes for that all-important '70s credibility (read: sub-Counting Crows, in themselves not exactly an aural joy), but no audible Mellotron whatsoever. Please let me know if you can hear any, 'cos I can't. I don't think anyone has any real idea how many albums have been produced that can loosely be described as 'rock'; a couple of million? Could be way off beam; I wouldn't even know how to find out. Whatever, most of them are better than this; not necessarily more professional, not necessarily with more memorable tunes, not necessarily better played or sung. But almost certainly made with a little more passion, a little less corporate arse-sucking and more genuine SOUL. This is truly horrible and doesn't even have any audible Mellotron, despite a credit. Just don't.

Matt the Electrician  (US)

Animal Boy  (2009,  39.31)  ***

Matt "the Electrician" Sever picked up his nickname when playing coffee bars straight after work at the beginning of his career. Animal Boy is something like his sixth studio album, full of naïve little songs detailing day-to-day occurrences in a pop/folk style. Not completely my thing, but it'd be churlish to dismiss this charming album, possibly at its best on Bridge To Nowhere and the not-quite-twee College. Mark Addison plays obvious samplotron strings on Divided By 13.

Matthew  (US)

Everybody Down  (2002,  53.37)  *½

Going by their (they're a plural) debut, 2002's Everybody Down, Matthew are one of the blandest, most unoriginal guitar pop bands of the decade, which, believe me, really is saying something. Kind online reviewers compare them to The Posies and early Radiohead, to which I'd like to add sodding Coldplay, complete with that horrible, pointless falsetto utilised on almost every track. I'm completely unable to dredge up anything even approaching a 'best track' (although Streams is the only thing here that contains any actual rock), stopping for just long enough to point out that fifty-three minutes of this guff is at least fifteen minutes too long. Actually, make that fifty-three. What a waste of money and resources. Ed Ackerson guests on samplotron, with the occasional pointless high string note on In Your Car, flutes on In The Wonder (huh?) and Breathing and a faint string part on closer (at last!) Overboard, all to little effect, frankly.

Dave Matthews Band  (US)

Stand Up  (2005,  56.21)  **½

Having heard several Dave Matthews Band albums (a moniker which can be seen either as unpretentious or shatteringly unimaginative), I'm at a slight loss as to understand why they're lumped in with the jamband scene. String Cheese Incident: yes. Phish: yes, with bells on. But the DMB? Maybe they let rip on stage, but on record, they're a desperately unexciting mix of singer-songwriter and mainstream rock, with country and folk influences thrown into the pot, all fronted by Matthews' careworn voice that you'll either like or, er, won't. Stand Up is his/their sixth album, not sounding that dissimilar to the others I've heard by him and certainly no more interesting. OK, the occasional track shifts out of Matthews' comfort zone (see: the hip-hop-lite beats of Stolen Away On 55th And 3rd), but that's hardly a recommendation, more an observation. Mark Batson's credited with Mellotron, with a very brief burst of sampled strings on American Baby.

Bain Mattox  (US)

Bain Mattox  (2004,  41.34)  ***

Athens, GA native Bain Mattox sits somewhere in between powerpop and Americana on his second, eponymous album, at its best on the fuzz-guitar driven Jet Black Ash, the strings-laden Sixes And Fives and Three Days, maybe. Don McCollister's credited with Mellotron; what, the strings on Thorn?

Roger Matura  (Germany)

Time Traveller  (2005,  51.09)  **½
The Return of the CaveMan/Auf Wiedersehen Zukunft!?  (2007,  171.40)  **½
Follow Me Down to Chesil Bay  (2009,  76.51)  ***

German singer/songwriter Roger Matura has been musically active since the late '70s, although 2005's Time Traveller is only something like his twelfth studio album. Mostly acoustic guitar or piano instrumentals with added accompaniment, often hand percussion, it comes across as a kind of West Coast new age effort, fine for a handful of tracks, tedious for fifty minutes. Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock's credited with Mellotron, but I don't believe Klaus has recorded with a real machine since the '90s, backed up by the background strings on opener Far Beyond The Sun, MkII 'moving strings' (?) on Poor Gigolo Me and definite MkII rhythms and moving strings on Radio Nights. I can't work out what's going on with 2007's The Return of the CaveMan/Auf Wiedersehen Zukunft!? A triple-disc set, it features some overlap with Time Traveller; is this no more than a compilation? And I thought fifty minutes of Matura was more than enough... The only 'Mellotron' tracks are also on Time Traveller, making this even less worth the effort. I'm not sure why 2009's Follow Me Down to Chesil Bay references Dorset's Chesil Beach, although, I suppose, the album sounds a great deal more British than it does German. It's at its best on the likes of Raincoatman, Dark Times (Song For Harry) and closer Serenada A La Luz De La Luna, although the likes of the sax-driven Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star would actually improve the album by their omission. Matura's 'Mellotron' consists of obviously sampled strings on opener Kid Dragonheart And His Mariachi Angels and similarly rubbish flutes on Don't Let Me Down.

The Mavericks  (US)

The Mavericks  (2003,  44.13)  **½

This is the second eponymous album by Florida's Mavericks, but, thankfully, it's the first not to be stuffed to the gills with cheesy mainstream country'n'western. The Mavericks is more mainstream pop/rock, to be honest, with side helpings of Latin (they've been here before, apparently) and, would'ja believe, Sinatra-style crooning? Is doesn't start too badly, I Want To Know being a breezy, uptempo sort of thing, but by four or five tracks in, they've descended into MOR hell, though at least it isn't bloody country. Many reviewers have detected a strong Roy Orbison influence on mainman Raul Malo's vocals and, I have to say, Too Lonely is a seriously Orbison-lite waltz-time ballad; well, no-one else much is doing it at the moment, are they? And I think we could all have done without a faithful cover of The Air That I Breathe, thank you. Gordon Mote plays samplotron, but not a lot; the only things I can hear that it even might be are the weird, muted strings on By The Time and The bloody Air That I Breathe.

Max Mouse & the Gorillas  (Canada)

Alive  (1998,  63.32)  **½

Ontario's Max Mouse & the Gorillas were (are?) a soul/blues/r'n'b outfit, active in the late '70s and again more recently, releasing two supposedly Mellotron-containing albums, '78's Who is This Max Mouse Anyway? and the following year's Stilla Gorilla. Unfortunately, hard'n'fast info on 1998's Alive is near-impossible to find, but it doesn't sound like an archive recording to my ears, more a contemporaneous set from a late '90s club date. The material does what it does; I'm sure it was a lot more fun on the night, but falls a little flat in the cold, sober light of day. George Bertok allegedly plays Mellotron, but, along with the piano, organ and brass, the strings on Operator and Running are almost certainly sampled.

Maybe it's Reno  (US)

Maybe it's Reno  (2008,  50.53)  **½

Bridget Cross' Maybe it's Reno play a kind of sparse, haunting, (her) bass-driven indie on their eponymous album, at its least irritating on the atypical, punky Drunk Pilot. Now, I've had trouble working out what's going on here: Phil Krauth's credited with Mellotron, but the distorted flute part that kicks off Feathers And Wings, sounding like it's been recorded via an amp, somehow fails to convince. The part reiterates throughout, adding similarly distorted octave strings later on, although a super-protracted chord gives the sample game away.

John Mayer  (US)

Room for Squares  (2001,  54.14)  *½

Room for Squares was John Mayer's first major label album, after an independent EP. Although Mayer has apparently moved towards the blues in more recent years, this is a cheeso, 'acoustic rock' effort, i.e. acoustic-driven, poppy singer-songwriter stuff, like a more ballsy James Blunt. Cor, that's a bit harsh, innit? Never mind. This really is insipid stuff; Mayer's voice has that 'confessional' tone that usually only serves to irritate, at least if you take your music at all seriously. Yeah, that's what this is; to borrow a quote, 'music for people who don't like music'. Brandon Bush plays samplotron on the album's last two tracks. Well, they would be the last two, only for some bizarre reason, track thirteen is a four-second blank. Superstition? Sorry, which century/millennium are we living in? Anyway, he contributes faint flutes to Not Myself that could have come from anything, frankly and, er, something on closer St. Patrick's Day. Strings? Choir? Who knows?

David Mayfield Parade  (US)

Good Man Down  (2013,  46.49)  ***

Good Man Down is a superior Americana release, at its best on Another Year, closer Goodbye Farewell So Long and, best of all, the point in Was It Only Me when everything kicks in. Sadly, Mayfield's 'Mellotron' is no more than samplotron flutes on Was It Only Me.

Jessica Lea Mayfield  (US)

Tell Me  (2011,  37.41)  ***

Jessica Lea Mayfield was effectively discovered by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who has produced her two albums to date, 2008's With Blasphemy So Heartfelt and 2011's Tell Me. The latter combines a windswept Americana with Morricone (Our Hearts Are Wrong), cheap electronica (Grown Man) and new wave (the title track), amongst other influences, helping her to stand out from your common-or-garden countryish singer-songwriter. David Mayfield is credited with Mellotron, but are we really supposed to believe that the murky, squashed-sounding strings on Trouble are a real machine? Really? The speedily-played notes at the beginning of Tell Me are no better, so into samples this goes. Americana fans after something a little different may wish to give this a go, but it probably isn't for everyone.

Mayfield Four  (US)

Fallout  (1998,  57.27)  **

Fallout is The Mayfield Four's first full-length album, begging just one question: why? Why have you made this soulless piece of faceless 'modern rock', stuffed full of fake emotion and non-riffs? About the only difference I can hear from one track to the next is its tempo and volume, although I admit that's probably being a little unfair. Not much, though... It comes as no surprise to me that not only did the band support Creed, amongst other similar empty, stadium-rock bores, but vocalist/guitarist Myles Kennedy has gone on to form the artistically moribund Alter Bridge with most of Creed after their split with frontman Scott Stapp. I'm afraid I can't think of anything nice to say about Fallout, so as your mother probably told you, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. A largely pointless record, only marginally alleviated by their cover of Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) from his standout release, What's Going on. Kennedy is credited with Mellotron, but the only time you can even vaguely hear it is a few seconds of sampled strings on Realign. You'll probably be as pleased as me to hear that the band split after their second album, 2001's Second Skin.

Mayflies USA  (US)

Summertown  (1999,  47.42)  ***

Summertown was the Mayflies USA's second album (was there another Mayflies somewhere else, in the manner of 'The British Beat' or 'U.K. Squeeze etc?). Essentially, it's classic powerpop, although the songs just aren't quite as memorable as you might like and it just doesn't have the... oomph that one might expect from the best exponents of the genre. Perfectly pleasant, but just not quite there... Producer Chris Stamey (The DB's) allegedly plays Mellotron, but I'm afraid to say, it's not obviously audible anywhere.

Maze of Time  (Sweden)

Tales From the Maze  (2006,  62.25)  **

Maze of Time are a Swedish blatantly neo-prog outfit, clearly in thrall to Marillion and their ilk, for some unknown reason. What is it about certain musicians that makes them think that a cross between prog-lite, AOR and (ulp) musical theatre was ever a good idea? Their debut, 2006's Tales From the Maze, sounds like a combination of Spock's Beard-esque 'modern prog' and bloody Marillion, shifting seamlessly from just-about-passable verses into horrible, cheesy choruses, typified by The Maze, other downsides including the ultra-clunky lyrics and the Court Of The Crimson King rip in Lady May. Alex Jonsson plays obvious samplotron strings on Ocean Of Dreams, Daydreamer, The Maze (spot the horrendously stretched low notes) and Lady May, not that you're going to buy this for its 'Mellotron' use. To be honest, I wouldn't recommend that you buy anything by Maze of Time for any reason; their two follow-ups are equally bad (2008's Lullaby for Heroes is actually possibly worse). Avoid.

Me & My Kites  (Sweden/UK)

Like a Dream Back Then  (2013,  45.18)  ***½
The Band/Isis' Adventure  [as Me & My Kites with Tony Durant of Fuchsia]  (2013)  ***½

David Svedmyr's Me & My Kites named themselves after a song on Fuchsia's rather splendid lone 1970 release. Like a Dream Back Then contains a gentle form of psych/folk with undercurrents of something weirder and darker than that suggests; probably rather like Fuchsia, in fact. Top tracks? Through My Kaleidoscope, A Tiny Song To Lisa and the proggy All You'll Have, perhaps, but nothing stands out in an obvious 'should've been left off' kind of way. Svedmyr's credited with Mellotron, but the strings, cellos and flutes here don't even come close to convincing. Svedmyr finally went the full monty, collaborating with Fuchsia's Tony Durant on a single for the excellent Fruits der Mer label. The Band is from an archive Fuchsia release, while Isis' Adventure is a band original, both in the same vein as the album, with samplotron flutes on the flip.