My big question is: why does Jim Reilley feel he has to vocally ape Bob Dylan, hardly the world's best singer? Admittedly, one of the most iconic, but not someone many of us would claim had anything even remotely approximating a... voice. The trouble is, if you don't like Saint Bob's dulcet tones, Reilley's spot-on impersonation might actually put you off his actually rather good songs. Anyway, with naught but inaudible samplotron, this isn't one for Planet Mellotron readers anyway.
Oh shit - another American Idol finalist (not even a winner). In fairness, some of Listen Up! is relatively harmless, but getting some hip-hop dude in on opener Oh My! does it no favours. About the best this overproduced mess manages is 'tiresomely mainstream'. Chris Seefried's 'Mellotron' on Wonderland? Isn't.
LA-based film score composer Brian Reitzell's debut album, 2014's Auto Music, features a host of collaborators, from My Morning Jacket's Jim James to My Bloody Valentine's semi-reclusive Kevin Shields and Roger Manning Jr. (Jellyfish, a host of others). The instrumental end result is, unsurprisingly, soundtracky, the only piece even featuring a recognisable hook being personal favourite Oskar (runner-up: closer Auto Music 2). Last Summer, Gaudi and Honeycomb all sit in the 'ambient' area, both parts of the title track are closer to space-rock, while Ozu is textbook post-rock, so, despite the disc being a little overlong, at least it features a variety of styles. Reitzell and Dave Palmer are credited with Mellotron, but, despite the involvement of vintage gear freak Manning, it all sounds sampled to my ears. Anyway, we get Reitzell and Palmer doing something inaudible on Last Summer, Reitzell on exceedingly background flutes on Gaudi, suspiciously-nimble echoed flute and string lines from Palmer on Auto Music 1 and upfront strings and flutes, combined and apart, on 2. More for post-rock and ambient fans than soundtrack or electronic music buffs, I'd have said, with some decent samplotron parts.
Remy Stroomer is a surprisingly young Dutch electronic musician, in a genre where the average age of 'second wave' EMers is somewhere in the late forties. 2004's Different Shades of Dust is something like his fourth release (depending on what you count), standing out from the pack by concentrating on melody as much as the genre's 'traditional' elements: rhythm, texture and improvisational ability. Opener Following Differences is eighteen minutes of well-constructed EM, possibly not definable as 'Berlin School', Shades In Darkness has a faint techno feel, while Moving Through Dust features several instances of true composition, as against the usual 'let the virtual tape run and start playing'. Samplotron on all three tracks, mainly heavily-reverbed choirs that are never going to fool even the untrained ear. 2006's Sense is a very different album, far more experimental, although, sadly, rather less listenable as a result, with considerable use of sampled dialogue and even singing, more sub-techno moves and considerable use of synths as they were originally intended: producers of sound, rather than as actual musical instruments. More samplotron this time round, with choir on most tracks and a lengthy, repeating (clearly sequenced) string part on Mortality. So; ambitious? Yes. Different? Definitely. A good listen? Hmmm...
Canadian actress Colleen Rennison's debut album, 2014's See the Sky About to Rain, is a covers collection with a difference: while the artists covered may be (partially) familiar, the songs, by and large, are not, at least to the casual observer. Leonard Cohen's Why Don't You Try (from '74's New Skin for the Old Ceremony), Joni Mitchell's Coyote ('76's Hejira), The Band's All La Glory and the title track from '70's Stage Fright, Neil Young's See The Sky About To Rain ('74's On the Beach). I should know them, but, to my chagrin, I don't. And I own a copy of the last-named... After a slew of 'heard it all before' covers albums, it's refreshing to encounter one compiled by someone with a real knowledge of and love for the covered artists, rather than the usual 'this'll do' approach. Steve Dawson does his usual 'inaudible Mellotron' trick on Coyote. The vibes? Or is that the track's Wurly piano? Quite certainly not a real Mellotron, either way, as with every other Mellotron credit of his, as far as I can ascertain. Anyway, a decent set of relatively trad.country, without the schmaltz and with an impeccable set of songs.
Rescue are a Detroit-based indie outfit, whose fourth album, 2006's Paranoid (er, hasn't somebody else already used that title? Perhaps it's in homage, eh?), might make a decent EP if you collated its best tracks together and did some serious editing, but an hour-plus album? Frankly, this goes on and on and on... Less bad tracks include We Bond (were it heavily edited) and the vaguely angular Through/Suit, but we're really clutching at straws here. Alan Scheurman and C(hris) Lazlo Koltay supposedly play Mellotron. Really? Where? The strings on We Bond? Flutes on the untitled track seven? Nah... Sorry, guys, this bored the crap out of me and I can't even hear any real Mellotron. That's a 'no', then.
Retroheads were formed by Tore Bø Bendixen, who, according to some spiel about the band that's plastered all over the 'Net, "Had been working several years as a commercial music- and sound-producer for radio and TV". Well, I'm afraid to say, it shows. Retrospective opens well enough, but before long, a mainstreamish neo-proggy feel kicks in, only letting up occasionally, with various other rock clichés rearing their ugly heads on a depressingly regular basis (see: the guitar arpeggios on opener Earthsong). That isn't to say that this is a bad album, just a rather generic and average one, that could've done with some heavy editing and total removal of the female backing vocals. Of course, you the listener may totally disagree and, in fairness, there are many good moments, although none are sustained for long enough to really hold the attention. The aforementioned spiel contains a very noticeable caveat; "They use the latest available technology and VST instruments to emulate the real thing. After all; It's not the way you create music that matters: It's the way you think". Roughly translated, this means, "We use a load of sampled sounds which don't quite cut it, rather than making the effort to sound really good". Glad that one's cleared up, then. The Mellotron samples aren't bad, as samples go, but they're far too 'smooth' to pass muster as the real thing. Strings all over the place, with a side helping of flutes, making for a decent enough (fake) Mellotron album, as long as you ignore much of the actual music.
Two years on and they follow up with Introspective (I can see this thread running out before long). It's an improvement on its predecessor (if still overlong), although most tracks still infuriatingly mix good bits with bad bits, opener Rainy Day being a prime example. A heavy bout of editing would've improved this no end, I'd say. Once again, samplotron strings and flutes on several tracks, sounding about as good as samples are going to get. To be perfectly honest, something about the whole concept of a band calling themselves Retroheads and releasing an album called Retrospective just sticks in my craw, I'm afraid. Did Änglagård need to call attention to their 'retro' tendencies in this way? I think not, although Introspective's an improvement, if no classic. Sorry to be so harsh, but their debut really is quite disappointing.
I believe 2004's Pure is German guitarist Markus Reuter and British synthesist Ian Boddy's fourth collaboration, definitely and defiantly 'ambient' as against 'Berlin School'. Its eleven relatively short tracks seem to consist largely of Boddy's manipulations of Reuter's various touch guitar excursions, the end results working better on some tracks (opener Presence, Glisten) than others (Clearing, the techno-lite of The Level). It's only one man's opinion, but had the duo chopped some of the more dance-influenced material (I use the term extremely loosely), the album might have been more concise and cohesive. Boddy is credited with sampled Mellotron, which makes a nice change from the usual fakers, adding 'infinite sustain' choir to Immersion, in a manner that's unlikely to fool even the least experienced sample-spotter. So; is this any good? In places, yes, but too much of it left me cold for me to really be able to recommend it.
Reverend & the Makers are a Sheffield-based indie outfit, led by Jon "The Reverend" McClure, whose second album, 2009's A French Kiss in the Chaos, is a strange mixture of mainstream indie, original psych and mid-'60s pre-psych. Maybe its songs take a few listens to sink in, but initial listens indicate a pretty typical indie approach, albeit one far more palatable than the likes of the 'where are they now?' Arctic Monkeys. Laura Manuel is credited with Mellotron, but the background strings on a couple of tracks and flutes on closer Hard Time For Dreamers sound somewhat inauthentic to my ears. Anyway, unless you're a fan of current UK indie, you're most unlikely to get much out of this, fake Mellotron or no fake Mellotron.
Miranda Lee Richards' third album is, sad to say, as dreary as her 2001 debut, its indie/Americana so low-key that it's almost nonexistent. She's credited with Mellotron, but I've no idea where. The strings on That Baby?
Now boyz'n'gurlz, we're going to play a guessing game. Have a look at titles such as God Of All Glory, Hallowed Father, Call To Praise and God Moves In A Mysterious Way and tell me in which genre Jeremy Riddle operates. Nope? Sure? OK, I'll let you in on a secret: Jeremy Riddle is a Christian artist. Shocking, eh? You'd never have guessed, would you? OK, enough sarcasm already. Riddle's debut album, 2007's Full Attention, crosses (pun intended) his lyrical awestruck reverence with a sub-U2 approach, which is possibly even worse than it sounds. Without his infuriating, breathy vocals and his stuck-in-a-groove subject matter, this would merely be a fairly bad modern pop/rock effort, but factor those in and it's truly, truly horrible. Fully vom-worthy, in fact. Ben West and Bob Hartry allegedly play Mellotron, but the sub-'Strawberry Fields'-esque flute part on the title track and the strings on a couple of others sound distinctly un-Mellotronlike to my untrained (but reasonably experienced) ear. In fact, I'm not even sure they're samples, but generic flute and string sounds credited as 'Mellotron', for some strange reason. Anyway, an utterly hideous album with no obvious real tape-replay. Destroy, destroy, destroy...
Ritual are probably best described as a prog/folk crossover; live, they down instruments at one point and pick up a variety of acoustic ones, including a hurdy-gurdy, so it's fair to say that they're pretty hot on the Swedish equivalent of hey-nonny-nonny. On an initial listen to their debut, Ritual, it seems at first that this side of their collective personalities comes across less well on record, although it doesn't take long for the folk influence to creep in, ending up being discernable on most tracks. Possibly the best example is the ridiculous but rather sweet faux-sea shanty Seasong For The Moominpappa, dedicated to Sweden's very own imaginary 'little people', Tove Jansson's Moomintrolls (as are at least two other tracks on the album), opening with what has to be Jansson herself reading from one of her works. Generally speaking, it's actually quite difficult to categorise Ritual's music (which has to be a good thing), as it contains elements of metal, fusion, '70s prog and other genres, as well as various folk musics, meaning either that you'll be irritated at its diversity, or that there's something here for everyone. Jon Gamble's keyboard work is exemplary throughout, although there are a few unfortunate digital synth patches in places that sit rather uneasily with the music. I'm pretty sure the album's minimal Mellotron use is sampled and as it only lasts a few seconds, it's hardly worth worrying about anyway (I mean, are you worried?). The otherwise folky The Way Of Things suddenly switches into a big symphonic section near the end, with a 'Mellotron' string crescendo, but that appears to be your lot.
Not even any fake Mellotron on 1999's disappointingly ordinary Superb Birth, although the same year's Did I Go Wrong EP gets some flutes onto the '97 demo of Breathing, to decent effect. 2003's Think Like a Mountain carries on the good work of Ritual's debut, highlights including the 'Arabian souk' intro to opener What Are You Waiting For, Infinite Justice and the acoustic workout on, er, On. The only audible Mellotron samples here are, er, something unidentified (a MkII sound?) opening Breathing, with one of the string variants (and cellos?) later on. 2006's unimaginatively-yet-accurately-titled double-disc Live is possibly the best way to hear this unusual band. It covers material from all of their three-and-a-half releases, highlights include Infinite Justice (again), Solitary Man, the superb Acoustic Medley, Mother You've Been Gone For Much Too Long and the Yes-ish Big Black Secret. Plenty of that ol' samplotron this time round, with flutes on Typhoons Decide and Once The Tree Would Bloom and strings on Humble Decision and Mother You've Been Gone For Much Too Long, although the album's excellence owes almost nothing to its inclusion. If you're going to buy one Ritual album, make it this one. Incidentally, there's no samplotron on the following year's The Hemulic Voluntary Band (****).
Johnny "Rivers" Ramistella began his career in the late '50s, while still in his teens, scoring his first hit, his take on Chuck Berry's Memphis, in 1964. He last hit the charts in 1977, but never stopped working, although album releases have become few and far between in recent decades. 2004's Reinvention Highway mixes remakes of a few of his early hits, some covers and a few new originals, the end result being a very long way from the tired old rehash you might expect. Rivers still has a great blues/soul voice in his sixties, and an excellent choice of material makes the album a reasonable prospect for those who remember him in his prime. Mike Thompson plays various keys, mostly Hammond and various pianos and, allegedly, Mellotron, but once again, I'll be stuffed if I can hear where. Certainly not the strings on closer Learning To Dance, anyway. All in all, though, a bit of a triumph for an artist generally shoved into the 'where are they now?' category. Rivers is unlikely to ever trouble the upper reaches of the hit parade again, but as long as he can make albums as real as this, he can hold his head high.
Rivulets are essentially Nathan Amundson's solo project, with him bringing in extra musicians as and when. You Are My Home is his third album and, although it's almost a cliché on this site, other reviewers have also commented that they sound quite a bit like Low, although, at least to my ears, not as good. Gentle, introspective acoustic songs with violin and cello accompaniment is the order of the day; an initial listen doesn't filter out anything outstanding, but subsequent ones may. Jessica Bailiff is credited with Mellotron, but if you can hear it, well done, as all I'm hearing is the aforementioned strings and maybe a couple of odd keyboard sounds that bear little resemblance to anything Mellotronic. Anyway, a reasonable album in a post-rock kind of way, that will probably be a grower in the unlikely event that I actually find the time to play it more often.
It's nice when artists choose a name that lets you know what you're in for; The Roadside Graves were always going to be an Americana outfit, and are. 2009's My Son's Home's a good album, if overlong, highlights including the rocky My Father Sat Me Down, Wooden Walls and the title track. Johnny Piatkowski's 'Mellotron'? Er, the strings on My Father Sat Me Down? The ones on To The Sea are little better, but not much. The following year's You Won't Be Happy With Me EP, possibly due to its brevity, is better all round, at its best on the propulsive Liv Tyler and Heart. More of Piatkowski's samplotron, too, with strings on opener Demons and Liv Tyler and flutes on Jail.
Brooklynites Robbers on High Street are a '60s-influenced indie outfit, whose third album, Hey There Golden Hair, falls into the 'harmless but a bit dull' category, probably at its best on the ELO-channelling Second Chance and All Wires Are Crossed. Dave Sherman's credited Mellotron strings on Hollow Hill, Happy Horses Always and closer Supernatural Shivers (and choirs on All Wires Are Crossed?), despite tuning issues, sound like deliberately detuned samples, rather than the real thing, especially when he hits the top F on Happy Horses Always.
Carrying the Bag of Hearts... is a rarity in the EM world; gentle, reflective synthesis at a mini-album/short EP length, brief enough to sustain the listener's interest, despite its lack of 'standard' melodic content. Robbins plays samplotron strings on two of the disc's three tracks, At The Heart Of A Spiral Galaxy (M51's Close Encounter) and In The Beginning.
Rockabye Baby? Yer wot? Baby Rock Records have released a steady stream of their 'Lullaby Renditions' albums for the last few years, kicking off with Led Zep in 2006, the unvarying format being: take a well-known artist's work, rearrange it for (doubtless sampled) glockenspiel, vibes, harps, Mellotron and anything else nice and gentle they can think of. Are they serious? Every release features a groan-worthy series of title-related puns, but I can't imagine why anyone would buy any of their titles except for their intended purpose: getting your child to sleep in a rock-friendly manner. If it's a joke, it's one that wore paper-thin after their first clutch of releases, so I think we have to assume they're for real, admittedly with collective tongues in cheeks. The label's numbering system seems slightly odd, but I suspect the one title I've heard, 2006's ...Metallica (technically credited to Michael Armstrong), is their second release. Is it funny? Yeah, kind of, although hearing it more than once a... year? Lifetime? would probably drive me nuts. It's all very clever, I'll give 'em that; not everyone could successfully rearrange this music in this fashion. It sounds like the arrangements are programmed in Cubase or whatever, hooked up to a few sound modules and recorded; I don't hear any sounds that aren't from a synth or sampler and I highly doubt that these are actually 'played' in the traditional manner, not that I'm trying to claim they should.
The most interesting thing about this album is the choice of material; going by Rondellus' marvellous Sabbatum album of some years back (Black Sabbath songs played in a medieval style and sung in Latin. Seriously), the things you might think would work don't necessarily and vice versa. Quieter songs are an obvious place to start: One, Fade To Black, Nothing Else Matters, but Battery? Master Of Puppets? (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth? A lullaby version of a fucking bass solo?... I'd imagine they felt they had to include Enter Sandman, but it's too harmonically angular to work well in the format, although Battery (sensibly rearranged as an extended version of its intro) works surprisingly well, as does Pulling Teeth, amazingly. The company's website claims Mellotron use on many titles, but the flutes on a handful of tracks here are very clearly sampled, notably on Fade To Black, Battery and ...And Justice For All. Anyway, will I review any more Rockabye Baby! releases? Probably not, no; doesn't seem much point, does there? Bugger being a completist; all their releases are essentially the same, only the tunes differ. It has to be said: this is actually pretty bloody soporific. Perhaps I'll try it myself.
Rocket Scientists (US) see:
Paul Roland is apparently one of British psych's best-kept secrets, with a discography as long as your arm, even though he made his first record as relatively late as 1979 (admittedly, he was all of twenty at the time). Apart from a seven-year gap in the late '90s to raise a family, Roland has released records continuously over a thirty-year period, many now highly collectable. 2007's Re-Animator is his first rock album since the early '90s or before and is a triumph of surreal, Victorian psych (?!), based on the writing of H.P. Lovecraft. Highlights include opener Charles Dexter Ward, the early Floydisms of Pan and ripping, jammed-out closer Cthullu, possibly the album's highpoint, but next to nothing here disappoints. Nautilus' Paul Blewitt is credited with Mellotron, but I'm reliably assured (hi, Paul) that the smooth flute and string tones used on about half the tracks are sampled; Paul says they're from eMu's Vintage Keys and he wouldn't have credited them as 'Mellotron' at all. Obvious use? The strings on Assassins are slightly munchkinised and played too fast for a real machine, although they do add to the album's atmosphere. Roland followed up with Nevermore the following year, throwing folk (Sam Hall, a.k.a. 'Damn Your Eyes', Foggy Dew), blues (Leatherface) and hard rock (Great Deceiver) into the melting-pot, although the bulk of the album sounds not dissimilar to its predecessor. Best tracks? Probably opener Edgar Allan Poe, Captain Nemo and the aforementioned grim tale of Sam Hall. Blewitt's back on samplotron, with strings and flutes on Captain Nemo, Ghost Dance and Abramelin, plus flutes on the last-named.
Espirito is a very listenable album of mostly instrumental, Spanish guitar-led Latin music, at the 'trad' end of the genre. Maybe twenty minutes too much of it, but perfectly pleasant chuntering along in the background. But why is Shahin Shahida credited with Mellotron? Nothing here, obviously sampled or otherwise.
Two-brothers-and-one-wife indie trio Roman Candle hail from that most arty of towns, Chapel Hill, N.Carolina. Their third full album, 2009's Oh Tall Tree in the Ear, is, frankly, the wettest indie imaginable, wafting along in the rhythmically-simplistic kind of way that we've come to expect of the style, its songs doing all the right indie things without making any obvious attempt to break the genre's confines. Jordan Lehning supposedly plays Mellotron, but the strings on Starting From Scratch sound as thoroughly sampled as modern Mellotron samples can. I'm sure this is good at what it does, but it bored me to tears; why, oh why has this tedious style become so ubiquitous?
The Romantics were an early-'80s outfit who reformed for 2003's 61/49, a slice of Detroit garage rock as it used to be, albeit nowhere near The Stooges' level of ferocity. To be brutally honest, it's a bit one-dimensional (is that the point?), with only a couple of tracks that stand out at all, notably the slower, orchestrated Paint The Sky, although I'm sure garage fans will love the remainder. Luis Resto is credited with Mellotron, amongst other things (the timps on Paint The Sky are him), but I'll be buggered if I can hear it anywhere; Paint The Sky? The cellos are real, so who knows?
Alexandra Roos is a French singer-songwriter, whose fourth (and, to date, most recent) album, 2007's Huit de Pique, is full of gentle, heartfelt songs, largely played in a pre-psych, '60s-influenced style. It's difficult to isolate any 'best tracks', as most of the material is pretty similar, at least to English-speakers, but the title track stands out as the nearest the album gets to 'rock', violin and distorted guitar vying for prominence in the mix. Producer Ian Caple supposedly plays Mellotron. Where, Ian, where? It may be in the mix somewhere, but with real strings on most tracks, it's effectively inaudible.
So Easy is an acceptable Americana release, easily at its best on its lone cover, a beautiful version of Jimmy Webb's deathless Wichita Lineman, just her piano and voice, without the string arrangement that mars Glen Campbell's otherwise canonical reading (heresy alert!). Brad Gordon and Will Gramley's Mellotron flutes and strings on So Easy and Already Yours? Samples.
Avi Rosenfeld is an Israeli guitarist with a serious Blackmore fetish, particularly Rainbow's early work. He's apparently released around thirty (!) albums, including six (to date) volumes of Very Heepy Very Purple, although, despite that title, 2017's VI is actually closer to that early Rainbow template. For this stuff to work, the material has to be well up to scratch to override the unoriginality of the actual sound, and it... isn't, really. There are better moments, not least the violin on The Desert And The Wind, while State Of Decay is probably the next best thing here, but too many tracks are overlong, while Dragon Slayer 'features' Jay Sager's seriously unnecessary synth vibes (credited as 'marimba') solo. Rosenfeld uses a plethora of musicians, no two tracks featuring the same lineup, so while George Barabas uses some highly unconvincing Mellotron string samples on The Desert And The Wind, Niall Temple uses slightly better ones on State Of Decay. My biggest overall complaint about this album is the blandness of the instrumental sounds, to be honest; I don't know whether the various keyboard players had access to real Hammonds, but it doesn't sound like it. This kind of stuff should have a little dirt under its fingernails, and this, sadly, doesn't. Good try, but more authenticity and originality needed.
As far as I can tell, Marina Rossell sings in Catalan, as against Spanish and, as such, is a huge star in the region. Al Gran Teatre del Liceu (edited from the ninety-minute DVD) documents a 2008 concert ('gig' really doesn't describe this properly); very Spanish (or Catalan), all big ballads and low-key flamenco guitar work. Will you like it? No, of course not, but this isn't aimed at you, nor me. It does what it does perfectly well, but is almost unreviewable without understanding both music and lyrics. Pianist/accordionist Xavi Lloses had what appears to be a Memotron on stage (right), on which he plays a handful of orchestral flute parts, possibly also some rather weird-sounding brass. Canta Moustaki tones down the melodrama, thankfully, being a cross between Rossell's usual Mediterranean balladry and a more authentic, folkier style. Eduard Iniesta plays background samplotron flutes on Hiroshima, which might provide the vibes parts on a couple of tracks, too.
I'm sure you all know 'Diamond' Dave Lee Roth's history; joined the fledgling Van Halen in the mid-'70s, helped their rise to fame and fortune, left in the mid-'80s, initially successful solo career slowly went down the pan. Roth is the consumate rock frontman, reinventing Robert Plant and Steven Tyler moves for a new generation, while adding a few of his own, although recent reports say he's well past his best, and live appearances give the impression of some old guy fronting a Van Halen tribute band. Rumours of a hair weave, or possibly just an out-and-out wig don't help, either. For all that, Diamond Dave is a good rock'n'roll album, with Roth backed by a series of Famous Friends who make all the right moves, though don't expect Van Halen Mk.2. As far as I can work out, the material is pretty much all covers, with the more obvious coverees being The Doors, Hendrix and, er, Van Halen (OK, I know Ice Cream Man isn't actually their song). Co-producer Alex Gibson also plays 'Mellotron', along with percussion and backing vox on That Beatles Tune, a.k.a. Tomorrow Never Knows, actually sounding like a standard 'Tron string sample played too low. So; if you have a soft spot for the Diamond one, you're probably going to like Diamond Dave, although hardcore VH fans probably need not apply. As for the 'Mellotron', though...
In true German style, Anthony Rother is an electronic artist, his work (going by his seventeenth album, 2014's Netzwerk der Zukunft) sitting somewhere inbetween Berlin School stuff and techno, which, strangely, doesn't make it repugnant to this listener. Despite the album's hour-plus running time, it doesn't drag, material such as Schöpfer, Medium and Technokultur utilising Rother's influences in a relatively original way, crossing genre boundaries with ease. And speaking of Technokultur, all I can say is: Kraftwerk. Obviously sampled Mellotron here and there, chiefly string and choir parts towards the end of the record. Hardly a reason to hear this, though. Recommended for EM fans tired of the usual sub-Tangs nonsense.
Josh Rouse's 2010 release, El Turista, is actually worse than its predecessors, mainly because Rouse's voice seems to've been put through some kind of 'wuss accelerator', sounding even more lame and insipid than before. The only notable things here are the handful of Spanish-language tracks (why?) and the weediest version you can imagine of the 'trad.arr' Cotton Eye Joe, probably more 'authentic', but certainly a lot less fun than Swedish faux cowboys The Rednex' take on it. Rouse supposedly plays Mellotron this time round, but... Are those MkII 'moving strings' and other fills I hear on Lemon Tree? I think so. 2015's The Embers of Time (from a lyric in closer Crystal Falls) is, thankfully, something of an improvement, although he's never going to rival anyone, er, particularly good. Better tracks include New Young and the mournful Ex-Pat Blues, while little here actually offends, which has to be a bonus. Brad Jones is credited with Mellotron, but... no. The flute line on Too Many Things On My Mind doesn't sound anywhere near authentic, while I'm sure I can hear those MkII 'moving strings' again in opener Some Days I'm Golden All Night.
Cristiano Roversi is a noted Italian Chapman Stick/keyboard player who leads Moongarden and Submarine Silence, as well as having done time in the likes of Daal, Mangala Vallis, The Watch and various Colossus Projects, not to mention recently becoming a third of Cavalli-Cocchi, Lanzetti, Roversi with Bernardo Lanzetti, ex-PFM. A busy man, then, but not too busy to release two solo albums, the second of which is 2003's The Park, a beautiful, mostly instrumental record, full of lush, Genesis-like 'Mellotron' vignettes, few over five minutes long (Roversi acknowledges his musical debt in the sleevenotes). Stolen Title is pretty much a Stick solo, but most of the material consists of combinations of piano (sounds like a Yamaha CP70), various analogue synths and/or pseudo-Mellotron, the only real variation on the theme being the longest track, closer Tripping, a piano-and-vocal piece sung by The Watch's Simone Rossetti and a dead ringer for late '70s Genesis, probably unsurprisingly.
Despite crediting himself with Mellotron (and, oddly, 'Mellotron loops'), I've had it directly from the man himself that it's all sampled; in fairness, Cristiano, you can tell: listen to the low string notes on Winter Theme or the unfeasibly-extended choir chords on Wind Rhymes... Almost every track is smothered in the thing, used tastefully throughout, making this a bit of a 'must-have' for those who love the sound, but aren't that interested in its source. Saying that, this is also a 'must' for anyone who loves rich, symphonic progressive rock, Mellotron samples or no Mellotron samples.
Although born as late as 1957, Corrado Rustici was a member of one-off Italian proggers Cervello and more successful fusionists Nova and Narada Michael Walden in the '70s, before moving into production the following decade, working with many major international names, not least his fellow countryman Zucchero. His solo debut, 1995's The Heartist, reminds me of Yes' massive-selling-yet-much-maligned 90125, in its combination of state-of-the-art production, pop hooks and jazz-inflected composition, although it is, at heart (ho ho), a mainstream pop record, albeit one where almost every track is about two minutes too long. Alongside his vocal, compositional and production roles, Rustici is clearly a whizzo guitarist, too, splattering his considerable talents all over the place, acoustically, electrically and even synthetically, utilising the now-almost-forgotten Synthaxe on several tracks. Best track? Almost certainly the instrumental Sushumna's Dance, which dispenses with the need to be 'commercial', for a brief, glorious minute.
Luciano Luisi plays supposed Mellotron on four tracks, with strings on When Every Heartbeat Glows and Let It Be You, a flute line on Dreamless Ghost and most un-Mellotronic choirs on Stand Up, although the sounds seem to bear only the vaguest resemblance to a real Mellotron, probably emanating from eMu's horrible Vintage Keys module. Ultra-professional, then, managing to extract two-and-a-half stars from your truculent reviewer, which isn't to say I can actually recommend this for anything other than its fabulous musicianship.
Matthew Ryan plays a similar kind of rootsy, Americana-informed rock to John Mellencamp, or even Bruce Springsteen, but with fewer cars. His debut album, 1997's May Day, sets his stall out nicely, with material as strong as opener Guilty, The Dead Girl and closer Certainly Never, although it rarely transcends its influences. David Ricketts plays various keyboards, mostly old, allegedly including Mellotron, although I think you'll need better ears than mine to detect it, frankly. Is that cellos on Comfort? More likely to be sustained guitar, but it's hard to tell. Anything on Lights Of The Commodore Barry? Probably not.