album list


D Project  (Québec)

Shimmering Lights  (2006,  48.30)  ***
The Sagarmatha Dilemma  (2008,  48.59)  ***
Big Face  (2011,  51.00)  **½
Making Sense  (2014,  45.59)  **½

D Project are another project from the prolific Stéphane Desbiens (Sense, Red Sand, Ère G, Mélia), this time in a heavy prog vein, unfortunately crossing over into full-blown prog metal in places. Their debut album, 2006's Shimmering Lights, starts excellently - the first two minutes of the title track are superb - but the quality slackens off as it progresses, parts of closer That's Life being the album's nadir. Too much formless prog metal, too many neo-prog influences... Desbiens and The Flower Kings' Tomas Bodin both play credited 'Mellotron', but I think we know how much that's worth, don't we? Anyway, plenty of (presumably) M-Tron, with string and choir parts on most tracks, the samples being particularly evident on End Of The Recess' solo choir intro and halfway through That's Life.

I believe The Project's second album, 2008's The Sagarmatha Dilemma, is a concept effort based on an expedition to the Himalayas a few years earlier. It's more self-consciously 'modern prog' than before, actually managing to be more formless than its predecessor, although given some of the guff that clutters up the prog scene, I've heard an awful lot worse... Desbiens pulled in a few friends to play on the record, not least Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Planet X) on keys and our very own Stu Nicholson (Galahad), singing on one track. Next to no fakeotron this time round, with naught but distant choirs on Even If I Was Wrong, although it's possible there are some string parts hidden away amongst the wash of generic modern keyboards.

Thankfully, the prog metal content is greatly diminished on 2011's Big Face, giving way to a more generic 'modern prog' feel, although those riffing guitars resurface occasionally, notably on Anger Part III and parts of Conspiracy. Another unwelcome visitor is the musical theatre influence on Macondo, although the bulk of the album comes across as no more or less a generic '70s prog/Pink Floyd hybrid. Occasional samplotron, with choirs all over opener They and the title track, although the occasional string parts sound more like generic samples than Mellotron ones. 2014's Making Sense continues the project's career in a similar vein, the excellence of the Rush-like recurring guitar motif in the title track and the nicely angular part in Nothing Here Is Innocent contrasting oddly with the neo-prog horror of Dagger and several examples of unnecessary guitar wankage. Once again, very little samplotron, with choirs (and saxes??) on What Is Real and strings on Nothing Here Is Innocent.

DFA  (Italy)

Lavori in Corso  (1997,  60.15)  ****

DFA (Duty Free Area) are another recent Italian band, along with the likes of Finisterre and their offshoot, Höstsonaten, who have rejected the irritating 'modernism' of the neo-prog crowd, delving instead into their own country's musical past and taking on board influences from '70s greats such as Banco and PFM. Although jazzier than the above-named bands, DFA are firmly in the 'non-neo-' area and, as such, are worth hearing. Lavori in Corso (Work in Progress) was their debut release and the only one to date to feature Alberto Bonomi's Hammond and supposed Mellotron skills. Much of it featured re-recordings of tracks from their 1995 demo, Trip on Metrò, reminding me of various '70s bands, not least Italian jazz-rock greats Area, with hints of Gentle Giant in places. As for that 'Mellotron', the strings in Collage are modern generic samples, while the 'stabbed' chords near the end of Space Age Man sound more Mellotronic than not, although most of Bonomi's limited use is standard 8-choir, including a short burst at the end of the sixteen-minute La Via.

Dadafon  (Norway)

Visitor  (2002,  39.53)  ***

Norway's Dadafon, at least going by their third album, 2002's Visitor, play a rather Scandinavian form of melancholy pop, which isn't to say every track on the album crawls by at a pace that would make a sloth look lively. It opens with the so-slow-it's-almost-rhythmless After All, but several tracks (My Days Go On, Release Me) roll along at a fair clip, not that it makes them sound much more cheerful. There's a distinct folk influence in places; Babylon features an accordion, while several tracks have at least violin and cello, if not a full string quartet; not especially folky, but you know what I mean. I strongly suspect that Lars Lien (3rd & the Mortal, many others) has never actually used a real Mellotron, but whatever he's using is splattered all over Bygones, with quite upfront flutes and strings, although the latter have a really odd tone to them.

Ryan Dahle  (Canada)

Irrational Anthems  (2009,  46.54)  **

To my knowledge, Irrational Anthems is ex-Age of Electric/Limblifter frontman Ryan Dahle's sole solo release, for which we should all be suitably grateful. It's a woefully uninspired indie/singer-songwriter effort, seeming far longer than its three-quarter hour length, at its least dull on the raucous, brass-driven Sixes & Sevens. Dahle is credited with Mellotron, by which I can only assume he means the brazenly sampled strings on opener Chop Chop. Fail on all fronts.

Daisy  (Finland)

A Girl's Best Friend  (2003,  39.27)  ***

A Girl's Best Friend is an 'indie-end-of-powerpop' album; think: The Verve if they were any good. Best tracks? Human Race and brassy closer Main Man, maybe. Matti Ikonen's credited with Mellotron, but all we get is sampled strings on most tracks, particularly obviously fake on Can You Feel It Happening?

Dakota Suite  (UK)

This River Only Brings Poison  (2003,  51.07)  ***

Dakota Suite, maybe surprisingly, are British (Leeds, actually), although not only their name, but their sound makes the listener think of wide open prairies and other Americana. Two ex-members of American Music Club guest, another obvious reference point being the very quiet Low, with hints of country, folk and jazz all making themselves known (muted horns and pedal steel), although the end result is pretty uncategorisable. Bruce Kaphan (from AMC) supposedly plays Mellotron, with absolutely nothing audible whatsoever on Let's Be On Our Own. Why bother, chaps? Anyway, overall, an album for quiet times; literally, as it would be entirely inaudible on a long car journey or while doing the vacuuming. Apparently, the US version adds four bonus tracks, but it seems long enough as it is, I'd say, with no obvious Mellotron use.

Brody Dalle  (US)

Diploid Love  (2014,  41.41)  ***

Australian-born Bree Leslie "Brody Dalle" Pucilowski (or Robinson, or several other surnames, it seems) has worked her way through several bands, including Spinnerette, before releasing her solo debut, 2014's Diploid Love. The album veers between punk (opener Rat Race, Underworld), alt.rock (Don't Mess With Me, Meet The Foetus/Oh The Joy), odd near-electronica (Carry On) and strings-driven kind-of balladry (I Don't Need Your Love), although 'best track' award has to go to closer Parties For Prostitutes, which merges all those influences into one coherent, reasonably original whole. Given that Dalle's married to Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and has guested on several albums, it makes perfect sense that their Alain Johannes (also ex-Spinnerette) guests on samplotron here, with upfront cello and flute parts on Parties For Prostitutes.

Dalton  (Italy)

Riflessioni: Idea d'Infinito  (1973,  28.13)  ***½

Dalton's ridiculously short Riflessioni: Idea d'Infinito is a good album, although it sounds rather formative compared to what PFM were doing at the time. While none of the tracks really stand out, it's a perfectly good listen, with plenty of energy, particularly from flautist Alex Chiesa. Keys man Temistocle Reduzzi is credited with 'piano, organ, mellotron, moog, synth', but there 's not a jot of Mellotron on the album, although at least three tracks feature a string synth quite heavily.

Daltonia  (Chile)

Observator de un Uni-verso  (1999,  45.37)  **½

To be honest, this review of Daltonia's first album, 1999's Observator de un Uni-verso (they belatedly followed it with 2007's Fragmentos de un Viaje), will be less than glowing; I'm all for bands in all corners of the world trying their hand at this prog thing, but I'm afraid Daltonia simply aren't that good at it. In fairness and going by my star rating above, they're not utterly horrendous, but the album's generic and lacking in any memorable songwriting, while many tracks go on for a geological epoch or two too long. Their style is loosely 'modern prog', with a heaviness on the guitar front that has crept into the genre over the last couple of decades or so and a dollop of neo-prog stylings. The vocals are spoken, which is the one thing about this record that smacks of any sort of originality, although I suspect that it's more out of necessity than choice.

Cristian Céspedes Bascuñán plays keyboards, but apart from a short part in ¿Es Hora?, it's all digital synths, with some truly horrific sampled choir in places. The one diversion from this is in the aforementioned track, where he plays a sampled Mellotron string part for a minute or so. Do I know it's sampled? Well, Mellotrons are in pretty short supply in South America generally, never mind Chile specifically and, er, they sound like samples. Anyway, this one's more for the rabid prog completist than the casual listener; I'm not sure I'd even recommend it to the genre fetishist.

Peter Daltrey & Asteroid No. 4  (UK/US)

The Journey  (2013,  47.50)  ****

Fairfield Parlour's Peter Daltrey began making music again in the '90s, although The Journey is his first work with US psychsters Asteroid No. 4. As you'd expect, given both artists' musical propensities, it sits in the 'none more psych' category, highlights including excellent opener Wishing Well, Payment Day, the Byrds-ish Silver Sailors, the lengthy, Eastern-esque Holy... Not a bad track here, frankly. Mike Kiker's 'Mellotron'? Good try, but those pitchbent strings and flutes all over Wishing Well... too smooth. We also get strings on Payment Day, Night and Price Of Progress plus flutes on the title track, but I'm afraid it's all bogus. Great album, though.

Damaged Bug  (US)

Hubba Bubba  (2014,  36.37)  **½

Damaged Bug are Thee Oh Sees's John Dwyer's side-project, based around his recent purchase of a Realistic MG-1 synth. The MG-1? A weird, hybrid beast, built by Radio Shack for Moog, housed in a Rogue case, but featuring a cheap polyphonic 'organ' setting. It seems Dwyer fell in love with the instrument in his youth, but has only just got around to actually owning one. That explains the cheap-yet-potent, dirty analogue synth sounds to be found all over 2014's Hubba Bubba, at its best on opener Gloves For Garbage, SS Cassidinea, Catastrophobia and Sic Bay Surprise, perhaps. Never mind the synth, though, is the actual material any good? He asks, remembering that he's trying to write an album review. It reminds me of the lowest-budget end of first-time-around synthpop (think: Depeche Mode), but less catchy, with no obvious standout tracks. Dwyer adds Mellotron samples to a few tracks, with murky, massed strings on Rope Burn, Eggs At Night and Hot Swells, plus monophonic flutes on SS Cassidinea, although the album's prime instrumental feature is that lovely, squelchy, burpy MG-1. So it sounds thin in places? Live with it.

Damnwells  (US)

No One Listens to the Band Anymore  (2011,  49.29)  **

The Damnwells are a fairly appalling proposition; imagine an indie outfit who want to be Counting Crows, displaying a similar unswerving dedication towards making the blandest possible indie/Americana/powerpop crossover imaginable. Yes, that good. 2011's No One Listens to the Band Anymore (well, we can but hope) is absolute drivel, heartfelt to a T, yet simultaneously as empty as interstellar space; example: closer The Same Way strongly resembles an Oasis discard. It has no best tracks. Peter Adams is credited with Mellotron, but going by the strings on Werewolves and The Experts (although the easier-to-fake flutes on Sophia aren't so bad), all I can say is, "You have to be joking". Smooth as shite, just like the rest of their pre-digested sound. Awful.

Danava  (US)

UnonoU  (2008,  54.53)  ***½

Danava are a prog metal band who actually sound (mostly) like themselves and nothing like all the other bands, who all sound exactly the same anyway, as far as I can tell. UnonoU is their second album and probably actually fits more in to the 'epic hard rock' non-category than the prog metal one, with a distinct (and merciful) lack of screaming vocals, widdling guitars and, well, widdling everything else. I'm not saying the material's top drawer - it isn't - but it ain't bad and, I suspect, given time, they'll turn into a good little band eventually. Although there are vaguely Mellotron-like strings on several tracks, closing epic One Mind Gone Separate Ways is the only definite use and it is definite, with a horribly stretched high note at one point. The track itself is quite outrageous, too; how can you rip Zeppelin's Achilles' Last Stand so openly and get away with it?

Dandelion Wine  (UK)

Model Village  (1996,  45.22)  ***

I can't work out whether Britain's Dandelion Wine (in honour of the Ray Bradbury novel) are a genuine throwback or an elaborate parody, but I'll go for the former. Although Model Village (their sole release?) appeared in 1996, their chief influence appears to be The Kinks' ...Village Green..., the album covering similar themes of a very British childhood (the cover picture of Bekonscot model village has me coming over all nostalgic), filtered through a rather lightweight and ersatz psychedelic filter, not to mention rather too many '80s indie references for its own good. Vocally, the band are fairly terrible, Shirley Souter aside, although many of the songs almost pass as genuine period pieces, not least Coming On Fine, Dodgem, Castle Walls and Red Is The Rooftops. At the end of the day, however, this is UK psychedelia via The Charlatans and their ilk, rather than directly from source. Although producer/keys man Tim Vass is credited with Mellotron on four tracks, the various flutes and strings on Coming On Fire, Porthmeor Beach, Carry On Believing and Red Is The Rooftops are clearly bogus, to the point where even calling them Mellotron samples leaves me standing on rather thin ice. Infuriatingly, this album's potential excellence is holed beneath the waterline by its unfortunate second-hand feel.

Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse  (US)

Dark Night of the Soul  (2010,  45.45)  ***

Brian Joseph "Danger Mouse" Burton is best known for his production work and his groundbreaking The Grey Album, a witty mash-up of Jay-Z's Black Album (vocals) and The Beatles' White Album (beats), never officially released, due to a 'cease and desist' order from EMI. All this makes his 2010 collaboration with Sparklehorse, of all people, Dark Night of the Soul, his only generally available full-length release. Almost every track features an outside lyricist-cum-vocalist, including The Flaming Lips, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Suzanna Vega and Vic Chesnutt, most of them writing in their usual style, subsequently mutated by both of the featured artists. Different listeners will, of course, prefer different tracks, but The Pixies' Black Francis' Angel's Harp and Iggy Pop's Pain are probably my personal favourites.

Mr. Mouse allegedly plays Mellotron on Pain, but with absolutely nothing audible, into samples it goes. So; a reasonable, sensibly-lengthed album, although I'm fully aware I completely miss the point by saying I, er, don't especially like the distorted electronica splattered slightly needlessly over everything here. God, I'm so unhip. Incidentally, electronica or no electronica, this is a fitting eulogy for Vic Chesnutt and Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous, both, sadly, subsequently amongst the departed.

Fiona Daniel  (Switzerland)

Drowning  (2010,  35.53)  ***

I'm having trouble finding any English-language information on Fiona Daniel, so all I can really tell you is that she's a native of Zürich, Switzerland, is in her mid-twenties and has released two solo albums to date. The first of these, 2010's Drowning, has something of a gothy bent to its folky singer-songwriter feel, better tracks including string-laden opener War, the percussive Moon and Symbol Of Love, although I'm not sure what's going on with the rather out-of-place jazz/blues of Mrs. Lonelyheart. Fiona supposedly plays Mellotron on Is It OK?, although I'll be amazed if the background flute part on the track turns out to be anything other than samples. A decent enough record, then, if all a bit unexciting. Perhaps I should be listening to the lyrics or something.

Jolynn Daniel  (US)

Come Closer  (2003,  50.30)  **

Come Closer is the kind of insipid singer-songwriter album that gives the loose genre a bad name; think: a really bad Sheryl Crow. John Deaderick's credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin: what, those awful strings on Weight Of September? The flutes on My Imagination are better, but not much.

David Karsten Daniels  (US)

Sharp Teeth  (2007,  36.52)  ***½

David Karsten Daniels is a peripatetic American musician who's lived in at least three wildly differing parts of his country, which I can only assume has had an effect on his worldview and songwriting. His melancholy take on, well, life, informs an album of frequent quiet beauty in Sharp Teeth, disturbing cover image and all. It's not as if every track is taken at a funereal pace, mind; American Pastime is jaunty enough, in a slowcore kind of way, while Minnows, although slow, builds to an incredible crescendo that reminds me, for no particular reason, of late-period Cardiacs. There aren't actually any bad tracks here, but Jesus And The Devil stands out, despite its slightly hackneyed lyrics, alongside Minnows. Alex Lazara is credited with Mellotron, but the only place it can obviously be heard is the lengthyish Beasts, with quiet flutes (and possibly choir) laid over Daniels' guitar and voice, fairly obviously sampled.

Jennifer Daniels  (US)

Dive & Fly  (2001,  45.43)  **½

Dive & Fly is rather dull singer-songwriter stuff, occasionally breaking into a very mainstream kind of pop/rock, with no obvious highlights. John Rogers and Michael Winger are both credited with Mellotron, but the only obvious use is the dodgo flutes on the opening title track.

Danielson  (US)

Moment Soakers / Eagle 7"  (2010)  **½

Danielson are, effectively, Daniel Smith and whoever's around that day, as far as I can work out. Smith had a 'spiritual awakening' (a.k.a. breakdown, followed by Christian conversion?) at college, although his subsequent work has been praised by various non-'worship community' media; in fairness, he doesn't seem to align himself with the CCM crowd, which is A Good Thing. 2010 single Moment Soakers is a twee little indie number, sadly, although its flip, Eagle, is rather better, a stately, Mellotron-led track, more Americana then indie. Mellotron? Lew Rusko gets the credit, with a string part running through most of the track that's most likely sampled.

Darc  (France)

Amours Suprêmes  (2008,  39.57)  ***

Daniel "Darc" Rozoum (1959-2013) made his name in French new wave/new romantic outfit Taxi Girl in the early '80s, releasing his first solo album in 1987. 2008's Amours Suprêmes is only his fifth, an eclectic, very French record that skips between '60s-esque opener Les Remords, a synthpop feel on L.U.V. and (big surprise) the chanson of the sort-of title track, while the inclusion of two members of Elvis Costello's Attractions on La Seule Fille Sur Terre gives it a little noo wave credibility. Chief composer, arranger and musician Frédéric Lo adds credited Mellotron to one track, with what sounds like a background brass part on La Seule Fille Sur Terre, to which I say: Samples.

Darkest of the Hillside Thickets  (Canada)

Hurts Like Hell!  (1993,  23.52)  ***

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets are, uniquely, an outfit whose entire raison d'être is to promote the crazed works of H.P. Lovecraft, specifically his Cthulhu Mythos, an aim they achieve through lyrical subject matter, stage costumes and, quite possibly, other means. Perhaps we shouldn't delve too deeply. Hurts Like Hell! was their second cassette album, a low-fi '90s punk effort with extra added Great Old Ones, probably at its best on closer Worship Me Like A God, which, I believe, caused some consternation when originally released. What, in Canada? Despite various references to Mellotron use (from their website: "...Screams From R'lyeh, merely a mild Mellotron musical maelstrom..."), there's bugger-all to be heard, to no-one's great surprise.

Darkside  (US)

Psychic  (2013,  45.05)  ***

Darkside are the duo of Chilean-American composer Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington, whose Psychic veers between several different genres, not least avant-noise, ambient, lush psych/prog and funk, to name but four. Jaar's 'Mellotron', however, adds up to little more than a few seconds of samplotron strings at the beginning of the album and little bursts of choir on Freak, Go Home.

Darling  (US)

The Floating World  (2000,  41.18)  **

Darling were a self-confessed '90s 'shoegaze' outfit, whose third album, 2000's The Floating World, apparently received little distribution, the band dissolving soon after its release. I wouldn't have said it bore much comparison with the likes of My Bloody Valentine, more a rather ordinary indie outfit who, thankfully, choose to play quiet rock as against twee pop, the band rarely breaking sweat, even on the tracks where the drummer chooses to play. Seth Knappen is the possible keyboard culprit, but the flute parts on several tracks not only aren't Mellotron, I'm not even sure they're meant to be, as generic flute samples don't actually sound an awful lot different to sampled Mellotron... Anyway, I'm not even sure shoegaze fans will go for this, never mind the rest of us.

Darling  (US)

Darling  (1996,  42.46)  ***

Darling are, essentially, drummer Hal Darling's solo project, 1996's Darling being his first of (to date) two releases. It's probably best described as 'modern instrumental progressive rock written by a drummer'; highly rhythmic and percussive, mid-'90s synths programmed to within an inch of their digital lives, reminding me variously of Cardiacs and the more angular end of the jazz-rock spectrum. Best tracks? To be brutally honest, most tracks are, at least on an initial listen, pretty indistinguishable from most others; this album's more about the overall feel than individual highlights. Darling plays Mellotron string samples (as against a raft of 'real' ones) on Ether Frolic, or at least, plays generic samples in a Mellotronic way, although I suspect the former. Intriguing in its own way, this isn't exactly an album of which you could say, 'quiet beauty', but then, if mad, angular, heavily programmed instrumental prog's your bag, you'll love it.

Gérard Darmon  (France)

Dancing  (2006,  35.37)  **½

Gérard Darmon (born 1948) is a French actor who has slightly diverted into a late-flowering singing career, 2006's Dancing being his second release. As you might expect, it consists largely of French- and English-language jazz-flavoured easy-listening material, impeccably done, should you happen to like that kind of thing, better tracks including the rockabilly-lite Svalutation, the gypsy jazz of Via Con Me and knowingly sleazy closer That's Life. I shall admit to being unconvinced by Nicolas Neidhart's 'Mellotron' strings on Mes Mains: far too smooth for their own good, not to mention what sounds quite like MkII 'moving strings' on opener Mambo Italiano; if so, an absolute sample giveaway. Not really a Planet Mellotron album, is it? Difficult to actually knock, but not one most of you are going to want to hear, methinks.

Da$h  (US)

Caveman Files  (2011,  26.10)  **½

Darien "Da$h" Dash (pretty duff use of the old 'non-letter used as letter' trick, sir) is far from your average hip-hop artist, although I'm not entirely sure that makes the download-only Caveman Files any the more listenable. Saying that, you're not going to hear anything like the slowed-down voice on E = T(HC) Interlude on, say, an Eminem album, ditto what sounds like a sample of a prehistoric computer game on Apache. Sean O'Connell is credited with Mellotron, but the too-even and played-too-quickly strings on Ave., Instrumental and Jar Gang are exceedingly suspect, clinched in the sample stakes by the high choir notes on 18-0.

Alan Davey  (UK)

Eclectic Devils  (2009,  49.59)  ***

On/off Hawkwind bassist Alan Davey's Eclectic Devils is, loosely, a space-rock album, material such as excellent opener Angel Down, Waste Of Time and the title track proudly flying the flag for the genre. Simon House (Hawks, Bowie, many others) plays violin and alleged Mellotron, Davey chipping in on one track, too, but the only audible use is the choirs on Waste Of Time and strings on the title track, all sampled.

Ethan Daniel Davidson  (US)

Ring Them Bells  (2000,  52.12)  ***½
Don Quixote de Suburbia  (2003,  71.45)  ***½
Free the Ethan Daniel Davidson 5  (2004,  54.10)  ***

Ethan Daniel Davidson plays a kind of politically-aware alt.country, sometimes spilling over into 'rock'; I suppose this is more Americana than alt.country, really, not that there's a lot of difference. I wasn't expecting much of him, to be honest, but the material on these three albums is surprisingly good (why is it surprising? Why shouldn't he be good?). Ring Them Bells features a largish helping of Dylanesque talking blues, not least Always Losing, Brian Deneke and Talkin' Holy War Blues, although its best track (possibly) is the amusing Gus T.M.D.Q. (Modern Love), sung to the tune of Puff The Magic Dragon. Bob Ebeling's credited with both Mellotron and Chamberlin on closer The Way Winter Comes, but I have no idea why.

Don Quixote de Suburbia is his fourth album, opening with the authentic vinyl crackle of H, working its way through various styles during its rather overlong duration; it's good, but not seventy minutes good. Saying that, the six minutes of Ghosts Of Mississippi is completely essential; a spoken piece over a bluesy backing, recounting the night Davidson (half Jewish) and his Muslim fiancée discovered a racially mixed juke joint in the heart of Klan country. Actually, the more I listen to this, the more I realise that Davidson is a bit of a hidden treasure, particularly lyrically; the new Bob, anyone? Anyway, Jason Charboneau's credited with Mellotron on two tracks, with a high, sustained, er, something? towards the end of H and nothing obvious on Deirdre Of The Sorrows, most likely sampled.

Free the Ethan Daniel Davidson 5 is less focussed; maybe it's the full band arrangements? It's actually not bad, although I'm not sure what's with the ridiculously long titles; still good lyrically, anyway. Two credited Mellotron tracks, from Davidson, Charles Hughes and Al Sutton. Conquered Beneath A Box-Car Moon has a nice string part followed by really full-on mixed choir (from all three, shockingly), while closer (deep breath) A German Woman, An Irish Junkie, Their Three-Year-Old Daughter, And Me has a string part that fades in gently, then stays throughout the song from Hughes. Shame it's all sampled.

John Davis  (US)

John Davis  (2005,  48.29)  ***

Superdrag's John Davis split the band in the early 2000s, before reforming them a few years later. John Davis was his first solo release, almost unique in its combination of frequently Beach Boys-esque powerpop and Christianity, Davis having 'got God' a few years earlier. I can't even really call this CCM, as that sobriquet not only denotes a slew of god-bothering lyrics, but generally indicates that the music comes a very poor second, which is absolutely not the case here. Highlights include opener I Hear Your Voice, Salvation, Nothing Gets Me Down and Tear Me Apart, although the album could've been improved by the judicious removal of a couple of tracks. Davis is credited with Mellotron, but the crummy strings on The Kind Of Heart and Stained Glass Window really aren't doing it.

Dawn  (Switzerland)

Darker  (2014,  67.32)  ***½

I can only assume that line-up problems delayed Dawn's second release a whole seven years; 2014's Darker is, well, darker, I suppose, notably on the twenty-minute 8945, containing samples of various American leaders attempting (and failing) to justify the destruction of Hiroshima. Overall, the album isn't dissimilar to its predecessor, although no-one here's going to win any awards for originality, their style veering between sub-Genesis and an unfortunate '80s neo-feel here and there, chiefly on Out Of Control and closer Endless. Speaking of which, the lead synth that closes the album bears a distinct resemblance to Tony Banks' iconic part on In The Cage; come on, guys... Although the band supplied my review copy, they've sidestepped Mellotronic questioning, raising heavy sample suspicions around these parts. Anyway, we hear it on over half the tracks, with strings all over opener Yesterday's Sorrow, flutes on Cold, chordal strings and choirs on 8945 and more strings on Lost Anger and Endless, sounding more authentic in some places than others.

Steve Dawson  (Canada)

Waiting for the Lights to Come Up  (2008,  51.09)  ***½
Nightshade  (2011,  51.37)  ***

Steve Dawson (nothing, of course, to do with ex-Saxon bassist Steve "Dobby" Dawson) is a Canadian musician and producer (Kim Beggs, Jim Byrnes), working chiefly in the Americana area. 2008's Waiting for the Lights to Come Up displays the breadth of his musical imagination, veering between the western swing of opener At Arms Length, the bluesy Fire Somewhere, the waltz-time country of Hurricane and, oddly, the occasional Hawaiian influence, notably on Hard To Get Gertie. Dawson plays 'Mellotron', with chordal flutes on Room To Room, but, as with all his productions, sample use is the order of the day. His fifth solo album (ignoring collaborations), Nightshade, is an appealing Americana/blues crossover, stronger tracks including opener Torn And Frayed, the title track and the acoustic We Still Won The War. If the album has a fault, given its length, it becomes a little samey after a while; only a problem, of course, if you're prone to tiring of his sound. Dawson plays samplotron, with what sounds like background strings on Have That Chance.

The Day  (US)

Land of 1000 Chances  (2013,  43.04)  **½

The Day, a.k.a. Damien "DJ Day" Beebe's wittily-titled Land of 1000 Chances is possibly best decribed as cinematic funk or somesuch, the kind of melting-pot approach you'd expect of someone from his background. It's good at what it does... I think. Kat Ouano plays samplotron flutes on Mama Shelter and Quaalude.

Howie Day  (US)

Stop All the World Now  (2003,  52.37)  **

Howie Day's second album, Stop All the World Now, is something of a 'sleeper', apparently, taking off two years after release, tracks ending up being used on various TV shows, all of which impresses me not one jot. Yeah, it's very professional, yeah, I'm sure it's terribly heartfelt, but it all sounds a bit too much like modern U2 for comfort, while his vocal style makes me want to chew the arm of my sofa, which isn't a good thing. Oddly enough, the best track is also the last, Come Lay Down, when Day actually starts to sound like he really means it, but it's too little, too late for this listener. Les Hall plays most of the album's keyboards, including alleged Mellotron, but it's not so easy to tell where, precisely. The murky solo cellos at the end of You & A Promise? Sampled, anyway.

Spencer Day  (US)

Vagabond  (2009,  51.56)  **½

Spencer Day apparently counts as 'jazz', although I'd say 'easy listening' would be closer to the truth. You know, the kind of smooth-as-silk stuff your parents (grandparents?) listened to. All far too close to Sinatra for my tastes. Co-producer Ben Yonas' 'Mellotron' flutes on Joe are, of course, sampled.

Daytime Volume  (US)

The Day We Transposed  (2007,  40.28)  **½

The Day We Transposed is, largely, the kind of limp indie that we have to hope will gradually fade away, although, ten years later, it shows no particular signs of doing so. Matthew Morgan's credited with Mellotron on Everything Covered In Dust, but the flutes (not to mention the uncredited ones on opener Building By The Street) fail to convince.

Mark de Clive-Lowe  (New Zealand)

Renegades  (2011,  42.18)  **½

Mark de Clive-Lowe is a kiwi musician/producer operating in the soul/dance area, also throwing elements of jazz, electronica and the catch-all 'world music' genre into the mix (pun intended). Renegades is something like his twelfth album, although what counts as 'his' release or otherwise is probably rather fluid. It... seems to do what it does efficiently, but I can't honestly say it moved me any more than watching a paving slab. Not really Planet Mellotron music, frankly... Mike Feingold is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, which, given that neither is audible in any way, makes me think this is early M4000D use; you know, the digital sample player featuring both instruments' logos, while being neither.

Rob de Nijs  (Netherlands)

Eindelijk Vrij  (2010,  40.49)  **½

To my surprise, Rob de Nijs has been around practically forever, born in 1942 and starting his career in the early '60s. As a result, it's hard to say just how many albums he's released over the decades; suffice to say, 2010's Eindelijk Vrij is a perfectly acceptable collection of countryish rock'n'roll with a little folk thrown in for good measure. No, not that exciting, but given that it emanates from a man approaching his seventieth birthday, it ain't too shabby. Daniël Lohues is credited with Mellotron on Schemering, but while the (easily-sampleable) flutes pass muster, the strings are clearly the 'moving strings' from the left-hand manual of a MkII, which is pretty much a guarantee of sample use these days, as the M-Tron features loads of otherwise obscure sounds. To be honest, few outside De Nijs' fanbase are going to take any notice of this, anyway; good at what it does, but no Mellotron.

Vittorio de Scalzi  (Italy)

Gli Occhi del Mondo  (2011,  49.44)  ***

Going by the evidence presented here, Vittorio de Scalzi plays a perfectly pleasant, vaguely Beatleesque, Italian-language folk-pop that sometimes turns the guitars up a little. Samplotron 'Strawberry Fields' flutes on Isabella Eggleston.

Dead Guitars  (Germany)

Airplanes  (2007,  63.42)  **

Dead Guitars' Airplanes is your classic post-rock-end-of-indie album, displaying their utter lack of ambition: "I know, let's sound just like everyone else!" Seriously, I thought this was by an American band until I checked. Its overlong material (average song length: over six minutes) occasionally breaks through to somewhere vaguely interesting, but so rarely that it barely counts. Ralf Aussem and Guido Lucas are both credited with Mellotron, although I have no idea why it took two of them to play the sampled strings on Feels Alright.

Dead Meadow  (US)

Old Growth  (2008,  50.38)  ***

Dead Meadow would probably like people to think of them as 'guitar-driven psych', although 'slightly psychedelic indie' might be closer to the mark. OK, there are tracks on their fifth album, 2008's Old Growth, with a psychedelic edge, but more often than not, they just limp along in an aimless kind of way (The Great Deceiver is typical). It's not all bad, but it's mostly rather average, unfortunately. Mellotron owner Rob Campanella's strings open 'Till Kingdom Come, reiterating throughout the song, although with an attack like that, they have to be sampled. In fairness, they don't actually put 'Mellotron' in the credits, so we'll let 'em off. This time. Overall, then, really not that exciting, although probably OK to have playing in the background. Damning with faint praise?

Dead Texan  (US)

The Dead Texan  (2004,  46.31)  ***

The Dead Texan's eponymous (and to date, only) album falls somewhere in between 'slowcore' and 'ambient', I'd say, i.e. very slow, essentially rhythmless soundscapes of piano, guitar and sundry keyboards with the very occasional vocal. This is a very relaxing album, but as with so much 'ambient' stuff, listen too closely and you'll realise it has very little real content, which is almost certainly the point, of course. Christina Vantzos apparently plays Mellotron on Aegina Airlines and When I See Scissors, I Cannot Help But Think Of You, but all I can hear is the faintest of faint flutes on the latter, or maybe they've just decided to credit some random modern keyboard that produces string sounds as a 'Mellotron'. Who knows?. Maybe the accompanying DVD clears things up, or maybe it doesn't, since I don't have access to a copy. Anyway, a good, if very quiet album.

Deadman  (US)

Our Eternal Ghosts  (2005,  46.24)  ***½

Deadman are Texan couple Steven and Sherilyn Collins, who make suitably haunted folk/Americana, nominally country, but about as far from Nashville glitz or 'stadium country' (aren't they now one and the same?) as you can get. I believe 2005's Deadman is their second album, mostly consisting of quiet, ghostly songs (When The Music's Not Forgotten, Werewolves, almost all the rest), although Sad Ole' Geronimo ups the ante with a full band arrangement and squalls of feedback guitar. Sherilyn plays piano, Hammond, Omnichord, alleged Mellotron and 'analog keys', although the only place the 'Mellotron' even might be is the distant strings on Sad Ole' Geronimo.