Hitchcock's Regret are an Aussie indie/psych/powerpop outfit, not entirely dissimilar to The Church (a member of whom played on their next album), whose second release, Her Life in Reverse, actually improves as it progresses after a slightly ropey start, shifting between the '60s-ish All That I Think About, the dynamic, riffy Tripping On A Wire (best track?), the acoustic In The Summer and the countryish Milkwood Moon, amongst other musical diversions. Paul Grant is credited with 'Mellotron', although producer Michael Carpenter's sleevenotes explicitly refer to 'Mellotron sounds', not to mention Sampletank. Anyway, Grant plays flutes on opener How I Wish You Were Her, choirs on Alfred's Delight Etc. and what might be MkII flute phrases on the brief, untitled 'joke' track at the end of the record, while Carpenter adds vibes and background strings to She's All That I Think About (spot the Beach Boys-esque a capella intro). Their follow-up, Endless Intermission, seems to take a backwards step, sadly, at its least uninteresting on closer Last Day/End Credits. Grant on samplotron again, along with Shane Pex and Mark Moldre, with obviously sampled strings on Sparks + Rain, not least due to stretching beyond the instrument's range, with more of the same on Nothing Really Matters, The Great Escape and Last Day/End Credits.
When the Tubes Begin to Glow was Doug Hoekstra's debut, a singer-songwriter/folk/country crossover album, probably at its best on its more downbeat material, not least opener On The Interstate and Fear Of Heights. The (admittedly uncredited) 'Mellotron' on Fear Of Heights isn't even sampled, merely a generic strings patch. Over a decade on, Blooming Roses is probably more 'sophisticated', whatever you take that to mean, but Hoekstra's loss of naïevity leads to a blander end result, sadly, typified by opener Aquired Taste and the jazzy Naper Vegas Scrabble Club. Better tracks? Subway Train and closing country ballad Everywhere Is Somewhere. Barry Walsh plays dodgy 'Mellotron' strings and flutes on The Best There Ever Was.
Kelly Hogan's been around since the '80s, involved in numerous projects, musical and otherwise, not least singing b/vs for Neko Case. I Like to Keep Myself in Pain veers between mainstream country and a bluesier feel, gaining points for her darker material, then losing them for going all Nashville on us. Scott Ligon's 'Mellotron' flute notes on Sleeper Awake fail to convince before they drop to a note below the instrument's range.
Will Hoge went solo in the late '90s, producing at least an album a year since; he employed Dan Baird (ex-Georgia Satellites) early on, which has to be worth something. 2009's The Wreckage is titled in honour of Hoge's survival after an appalling road accident, consisting mainly of a slightly poppy take on Americana (the album, not the accident). He actually opens the album with its most irritating track, Hard To Love, probably because it's also (and uncoincidentally) the most 'commercial', but most of its material is worth hearing, at least within its genre. Jen Gunderman is credited with Mellotron, with a nicely full-on string part on What Could I Do, but its generally anodyne sound, combined with a final note that holds for over twelve seconds, gives the sample game away.
I'm sticking with my Mellotronic assessment of Christopher 'younger brother of Jules' Holland's 2003 album, Brother Sun Sister Moon, but all I can hear is samples on subsequent releases. 2004's Butterfly Effect EP (credited to Christopher Holland's Cosmic Harmony) is at its best on Whispering Wind's gentle grooves, with samplotron flutes on Butterfly Girl, Falling and Last Little Piece Of My Love, plus strings on Whispering Wind. 2007's Everything You Can Imagine is Real sees him finding an equilibrium between his soul, pop and rock sides, thankfully ramping the funk down in favour of his forté, mid-paced pop/rock. I have no problem with funk, incidentally, only when people do it badly. Best tracks? New Day, the '60s-esque Where Did Love Go? and heartfelt closer Believe, maybe. Samplotron flutes and/or strings on most tracks; listen to the flute chord at the end of Rhythm Of Life and the pitchbent strings at the end of the bluesy He's Got You.
2012's Corner Green would be a sensible length if you removed the raft of demos stuck on the end, which fail to enhance the album's overall appeal. It's... another Christopher Holland album, basically, probably at its best on the heartfelt Circus Comes To Town. The Mellotron samples here are, surprisingly, less good than before - a different sample set? - with the usual strings and flutes all over the place. Incidentally, the pic to the right (from his Facebook page) proves that Holland records his Memotron, which isn't to say that it's what he's always used, of course.
Deborah Holland's career kicked off on a high note as one third of late '80s supergroup Animal Logic, with Stanley Clarke and Stewart Copeland, '94's Freudian Slip being her first solo release. Sad to say, it's a somewhat anodyne pop/rock release, better efforts including Washington Square At Night and closer All My Friends Are Leaving; rather slim pickings, I'm afraid. Not awful, just bland. Holland's credited with Mellotron on House Of Volunteers, but its few seconds of choir don't sound especially authentic. The uncredited strings on Charlie Parker's Dream have a Mellotronic feel to them, too, but, despite this being early (though not that early) days for sample use, I'm calling this a 'no'.
Lars Hollmer helmed Samla Mammas Manna and their successors throughout their career(s), made several solo albums and collaborated with many noted musicians from various disciplines over the course of a near-forty year career. 2008's Viandra was his last album before his untimely death on Christmas Day of that year; it has little in common with Samla/Zamla, being largely influenced by Swedish folk music, albeit adding an atonal, dark edge to proceedings, featuring large helpings of Hollmer's excellent accordion playing. As has been observed in other reviews, much of the album sounds like it belongs on a film soundtrack, particularly the little accordion vignettes that pepper the album. Hollmer plays samplotron flutes on Viandra (Jewel), Mirror Objects and Lilla Bye (Little Bye), three of the album's folkier pieces.
Askil Holm's second EP, prior to his first long-player, Seven Days in the Sun, is a pretty decent raucous-end-of-powerpop release, at its best on the brass-driven Wonderland and Moonlanding, with its distinctive Farfisa. Sander Stedenfeldt Olsen's credited with Mellotron, with background strings on Safe Embrace and Trampoline, plus high-end cellos on the latter and flutes on lengthy closer Soundtrack In His Eyes, but... it's sampled.
David Holmes is a Northern Irish (note: not Irish) DJ who moved into making albums in the early '90s, around the same time as his contemporaries on the mainland. His style incorporates found sound, programming and film soundtracks, making for an eclectic mix that may appeal to those with an electronica bent. Lets Get Killed [sic.] was his second album, shifting from the faux-'60s-via-'90s My Mate Paul (apparently a hit), through pseudo-lounge and the James Bond theme to the near-prog of Don't Die Just Yet, all intercut with New York street sounds and dialogue. With no credited Mellotron, it's no great surprise to realise that the 'Mellotron' choirs on Don't Die Just Yet are sampled and not very well at that (maybe that's the point?). Overall, then, one for people who like to go to middling trendy clubs, or did in the late '90s, when I believe there was a brief lounge revival, for no obviously good reason.
2007's Ocean's Thirteen is his tenth soundtrack in a decade; in many ways, it's a typical modern Hollywood score, albeit one without all the tiresome pseudo-metal that any action-adventure flick deems necessary these days (admittedly, the Ocean's... franchise aren't those kind of films, but you know what I mean). Incidentally, I presume the naming of soundtrack pieces is down to the composer, in which case Fender Roads is an inexcusable (if rather witty) pun. Woody Jackson and Zac Rae are both credited with Chamberlin, with what sounds like female voices (multiply overdubbed?) on 11, 12 & 13, flutes on Caravan and strings on Suite Bergamasque, although I strongly suspect samples. His tenth 'regular' release, 2008's The Holy Pictures, is a far rockier proposition all round than Lets Get Killed, maybe surprisingly, although there's still a fair chunk of programming to be heard in its grooves, along with energetic indie (I Heard Wonders, Holy Pictures) and even (admittedly instrumental) piano balladry, with closer The Ballad Of Sarah And Jack. Three faux-replay tracks, all from different players: Jackson (again) adds some distant Chamberlin strings to The Story Of The Ink, while Leo Abrahams plays inaudible Mellotron on Theme/I.M.C. and Scott Kinsey sticks what I take to be Chamby strings on the brief Birth.
Johan Fredrik Holst apparently released an EP in 2003 entitled Jealous Morning Sky, although hard and fast information on it seems near-impossible to source. However, Holst & the Distance to Empty's Between Concrete & Steel, from five years later, contains a track of the same name, so I think it's safe to assume it's the same guy, if not actually the same release. It's a downbeat Americana-esque album, at its best on the simple, acoustic July 12th, Bedtime Story and, yes, closer Jealous Morning Sky. Sampled Mellotron flutes on several tracks, including distorted ones on opener How Can Anyone and undistorted ones on Losing You and Save Me.
Andrew Holtz' Leaving New York sits at the cheesier end of powerpop, thrilling one minute (opener Fall In Love With Me, the title track, Emily) and infuriating the next (Grace, Picasso, closer What If I'm Right), his vocal lines sometimes just the wrong side of 'aiming for popular TV show incidental music'. Ron Haney's Mellotron credit nearly had me fooled, but the strings on Picasso and What If I'm Right and flutes on I'd Give Anything don't quite have that authenticity about them.
Holy Ghost! are the New York-based duo of Alex Frankel and Nicholas Millhiser, whose eponymous 2011 debut consists of a most irritating form of electropop, almost guaranteed to infuriate anyone outside their target audience. Is there a least bad track? Possibly Static On The Wire, if only for its Clavinet work, but that's a pretty thin excuse for listenability in my book. No, this is crap. Alex Aldi is credited with various analogue keyboards (including the aforementioned Clav), but I'd love to know where the supposed Mellotron is hiding out. Is it sampled? Is it here at all? Fucked if I know, but I can only advise you to head in the opposite direction to Holy Ghost! as quickly as possible. What a difference a couple of years can make! Dynamics is a huge step up, sitting firmly in the 'neo-synthpop' category, heavily influenced by the first wave (if you ignore Kraftwerk) of synth-driven pop. Best tracks? Opener Okay, Dance A Little Closer's disco moves and Bridge And Tunnel, maybe. Are those analogue synths real? If not, they're doing a decent job of faking it, although God alone knows what Millhiser thinks a Mellotron is, as there's nothing here that even sounds like one.
Denmark's Homesick Hank's Hey is an album of downbeat Americana, at its best on the sparse A Morning and When All Things Turned Black, maybe. Jesper Andersen is credited with Chamberlin. Hmmm. Even though the album was recorded in the more tape-replay-friendly Sweden: really? The distant strings on Waiting Forever sound authentic, but the chances of them being genuine are remote.
You'd never know Honeyheads were German, going by Trivia About. It's an English-language faux-'60s pop album, fatally combining the style with current indie tropes, featuring one of the worst male vocalists I've had the displeasure to hear in quite some time. Friedrich Paravicini's credited Mellotron strings on Goodwill St. are, unsurprisingly, not, although I see no mention of the samplotron flutes on Coimbra Skyline and choirs on Out Of Marseille.
HoneyHoney are generally described as 'Americana'; going by 3, that's a fair description, although there seems to be a streak of indie-ness running through the album, in a not-especially-welcome kind of way. Better tracks include Bad People and You And I, but there are many other acts doing this stuff with rather more authenticity. Chief musician Benjamin Jaffe is credited with Mellotron on every track, but going by the vibes (?) on Big Man and the flutes on Whatchya Gonna Do Now, there's no way it's real. Other audible use includes the rather wispy strings on Numb It, You And I, Father's Daughter and Marry Rich, although what sounds may've been used on the rest of the album can only be guessed at.
Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance is a decent Americana album, nothing startling, but solid, highlights including the honky-tonk of Better Off Without, Depression Era and closer Fifteen Days (Leaving Time Again). Jay Gonzalez' Mellotron string samples on Fifteen Days are good, but they're still samples.
The Hooters formed back in 1980, apparently, two of their members being ex- of an old second-hand shop perennial, Baby Grand. There's a Cyndi Lauper connection, making it unsurprising that she guests on their fifth album, 1993's Out of Body. I've occasionally wondered, idly, what this lot sound like and now I know. A bit like an American Waterboys, that's what. Sort of faux-folk rock/pop, mandolin, accordion and fiddle thrown into the vaguely rootsy brew. To give them some credit, most of the keyboards are of the vintage variety, before they became fashionable again, but they're not really enough to save the band from 'mainstream dullards' status. Chief Hooter Rob Hyman allegedly plays Mellotron on Driftin' Away, in those mostly pre-sample days, but all I can hear is something that just might be a few background flute notes.
Hootie & the Blowfish's Looking for Lucky is reassuringly similar to its predecessors, for those reassured by such things. A handful of tracks are less dull (opener State Your Peace has some Eagles-esque harmony guitars, which is actually a good thing), but most of the album conforms to their arena-pop/rock template, although their appeal seems to have become more selective over the years. John Hobbs plays samplotron, with background flutes on the obnoxious Hey Sister Pretty and what sounds like unison flute and string chords on The Killing Stone, with a rather ordinary string part on Can I See You. What appears to be their 'comeback' album, Imperfect Circle, distills their über-mainstream appeal down into a dozen or so nuggets of what I suppose should be considered pop/rock perfection. It's horrible, possibly at its worst on the sickly Miss California, while I see the appalling Ed Sheeran gets a writing credit on one track. Say no more. Although no fewer than four musicians are credited with Mellotron (for what it's worth, which isn't much, Jeff Trott, Ian Fitchuk, Matt Rollings and Michael Webb), a faint, sample-sounding string part turns up on one track. Über-fail.
Hooverphonic interrupted their run of studio LPs to record live with an orchestra (but no audience), the end result being released as 2003's Sit Down & Listen to: The Live Theater Recordings. Most of the tracks given this treatment can be found on their earlier albums in their original versions, which may or may not sound better than their reworkings. This is entirely a matter of taste, but I find this kind of Nancy Sinatra-esque '60s orchestral pop a bit wearing, to be honest, although I'm well aware that at one point, it was considered the height of chic. Never very chic, me... I suppose it's good at what it does, but I'm having trouble finding anything very encouraging to say about it. Although there's no Mellotron on the original album, some versions feature a bonus track, the single The Last Thing I Need Is You, with a nice samplotron flute part from David Poltrock.
Hope of the States (from an obscure 1930s American paper on mental health) were a south coast-based post-rock/pop band who released two albums in the mid-'00s, 2004's The Lost Riots and Left, two years later. Frankly, this stuff is bloody awful; an over-emoting radio-friendly version of 'crescendo rock' - guess what combining two rubbish styles makes? The horrible American-accented vocals don't help, either; you're from Chichester, guys... Guitarist Anthony Theaker and vocalist Samuel J. Herlihy both doubled on keys, including alleged Mellotron, although I'll be stunned to discover that the choirs on Sing It Out, the flutes on closer The Church Choir or the generic (or real) strings on several tracks had anything to do with Mellotrons; this barely makes it into 'samples'... Anyway, the band split in 2006, so at least we're not going to be assaulted with any more of this stuff. The only reason it gets as 'high' a star rating as it does is that it didn't actually make me feel violent.
Hopewell's second album, the overlong The Curved Glass, contains a kind of psych/indie crossover, sadly of little interest to those requiring any level of innovation in their music, typified by the hugely distorted The Fish. Max Avery Lichtenstein (Camphor, Timesbold) supposedly plays Mellotron, but the strings and high-end cellos on opener The Angel Is My Watermark are quite clearly sampled. Two albums on, Beautiful Targets works well for a couple of tracks before becoming irritating. Better efforts include Tree and Over & Over, but it's all rather anodyne, if truth be told. Lichtenstein on samplotron again, the real (and sampled?) strings all over the album making it difficult to spot. Is that a brief squirt of strings at the end of Windy Day (Giant Dancers)? Who can say?
Jon Hopkins is one of those British musicians who've emerged from the '90s dance scene, still making music influenced by that, while moving into TV and general soundtrack work. As you can see, 2009's Light Through the Veins EP is as long as a short album, only with far less variety, each of the four versions of the track contained herein almost, but not quite merging seamlessly into the next. Is it any good? It's good at what it does, at least to my ears and is at least inoffensive, which makes a nice change. Track three, the David Holmes remix, the nearest any of these gets to 'rock', features Holmes collaborator Woody Jackson on alleged Chamberlin, although it's hard to tell what it might be doing: strings? The faint, background choirs?
Wildlife is a singer-songwriter-plays-pop/rock kind of album, probably at its best on the energetic If I Could, although Hornik's warm contralto is excellent throughout. Andrew Hollander's distant 'Mellotron' flutes and strings on Deep Underground are obviously sampled.
The Horrors' third album, Skying, falls between several indie-related stools, notably goth and shoegaze, with two tracks, Moving Further Away and closer Oceans Burning both heading for long-form post-rock territory. Ten tracks in over fifty minutes, however, brings up the thorny 'track length' issue: yup, several efforts here definitely exceed their optimum length, although I appreciate why the two previously-named titles are as long as they are. Either keys man Tom Furse or bassist Rhys Webb (let's face it, it doesn't matter all that much) adds fairly obvious samplotron strings to opener Changing The Rain, although any other vaguely Mellotronic sounds almost certainly aren't. Well, I've heard worse current indie-ish stuff, but that isn't really much of a recommendation, is it?
Coming Home is a very palatable album on the cusp of the singer-songwriter and powerpop genres, sometimes straying further into one territory than the other. Highlights? Maybe One More Chance, The Valley Of Antiago and amusing little closer 3 a.m. Horvath's credited Mellotron strings on opener A New Thing are obviously sampled.
John Hoskinson's debut, Miscellaneous Heathen, is an old-school powerpop album, highlights including vaguely ELO-esque opener I Hope I Die Before You Do, She Still Plays Around and über-melodic closer Time Will Tell. Someone plays samplotron... something on Going Nowhere. Three years on, Pancho Fantastico seems to lose a little of its predecessor's joie de vivre, although material such as opener Miss Rejection, She's Changing My Mind and Only One By Your Side keep standards high. Hoskinson, Joe Ongie and Brian Whelan are all credited with Mellotron, but the background strings on Guaranteed, choirs on Just Think It Over and flutes on I Am Not Surprised fail on the authenticity front.
Hostsonaten (Italy) see:
British Columbia's Hot Hot Heat are current noo wave revivalist press darlings, having morphed out of a punkier phase of their existence. I'll be brutally honest here and say I can't see what all the fuss is about, but then, I'm at least twice the age of their typical fan, while music that sounds like a modern and less quirky version of Elvis Costello really ain't gonna float my boat. You Owe Me An IOU seems to be the track that Those In The Know rave about, but, to my ears, it's no less irritating than anything else here. Is it supposed to be about the lyrics? Probably, but my inability to hear most of them round vocalist/keyboard player Steve Bays' writhing lips rather spoils the effect. 'Mellotron'? Played by Bays, could be lurking in the background on several tracks, but is only actually audible during the fading seconds of Middle Of Nowhere, with a couple of seconds of sampled choir.
The Hotel Alexis is essentially a one-man band comprising Sidney Alexis a.k.a. Sidney Lindner. His debut, The Shining Example is Lying on the Floor, could well be described as 'dusty'; its contents largely drumless, mournful vignettes overlaid by Alexis/Lindner's fragile tenor. Sometimes this kind of stuff works amazingly well; I'm not sure that this is one of those times, but maybe the album requires more detailed listening than I really have time to give it. Rumoured Mellotron, with two interweaving flute parts throughout The Season For Working that just don't sound 'real' enough, to my ears, so samples it is unless proven otherwise. The less murky Goliath, I'm on Your Side expands Alexis/Lindner's sonic palette with full-on Americana (The Devil Knows My Handle), drone rock (the enormously lengthy Hummingbird/Indian Dog) and vibraphone-driven ambient (Oh, The Loneliness), although the bulk of the album sounds like a better-produced version of his debut. After an entirely Mellotron(sample)-free sixty-two minutes, two minutes from the end of closer Our Good Captain those flutes appear again, still sounding a little bit too good to be true.
Although James House was born in 1955, releasing his first (albeit rock) album in 1983, 2014's Broken Glass Twisted Steel is only his fifth solo release. Howcum? It seems that he struggled to break into the country mainstream in the '90s as an artist, taking more of a backroom role, writing hits for other people. As no more than a distant spectator of the genre, I'm bemused as to why he hasn't been more successful; the songs here are as good as anything I've heard on the country scene and better than many, highlights including upbeat opener Train Wreck, the beautiful Ain't That Lonely Yet (more folk than country), A Broken Wing and closer Before I Run Out Of Time. House is credited with Mellotron, but I'd love to know where. Something in the background on Before I Run Out Of Time? Not a Mellotron Album, then, but a fine country release, largely schmaltz-free.
British-born Canadian Kevin House's second (and most recent) album, World of Beauty, could either be described as 'sparse and haunted' or 'dreary old nonsense'; I'm afraid I go with the latter. Anything worth hearing? Perhaps nice little guitar instrumental Lucia Zarate. John Raham supposedly plays Mellotron on closer Where I Want To Be, but the flutes under real strings fail to convince me.
Cold Hard Want is an album pulling in two separate directions, one passably good, one not. Alt.rock can be good, as on Remember The Empire or Touch This Light, or bad as in We Were Giants or Angels Of Night. A game of two halves, Brian. Although producer Paul Moak has some presence on this site, I'm afraid that none of the Mellotronalike here actually sounds, y'know, real.
On Market Street is an above-average Amercana/singer-songwriter album, highlights including breezy opener All The Way, You Reel Me In, the title track and Dead Girl, mostly as much for the lyrics as the music. Jeffrey Wood's 'Mellotron' cellos, flutes and strings on the title track are good samples, but samples nonetheless.
Rebecca Lynn Howard began her career writing for other country artists before releasing her first solo album in 2000. Forgive is its follow-up, fitting neatly into the 'modern country' bracket, containing elements of both 'traditional' country and AOR, although the schmaltz begins to take precedence after the first few tracks. As so often in the country world, the lyrics are presumably given more thought than the music (God, it shows), making Pink Flamingo Kind Of Love about the best thing here, in a manner of speaking. Tony Harrell on samplotron, with a few seconds of strings at the beginning of Memorized.
If you think you've heard of Terrence Howard, but can't place him, think: Ray, Crash, Iron Man. Yup, he's another in the long list of 'actors who want to be singers'. The difference is, Howard has a terrific voice and impeccable taste, his debut album, 2008's Shine Through it, being stuffed with the kind of soulful jazz that's long out of fashion, but musically a light year or two away from generic R&B drivel. What's more, Howard writes all his own material, making you wonder why he hasn't done this earlier. Top tracks include the balladic title track, Mr. Johnson's Lawn and the eccentric War, but, given that this isn't exactly what you'd call my thing, not one track here disappoints. It's difficult to work out where Kenneth Crouch adds any samplotron under all the big band work, but I think we can hear some flutes in the background on Sanctuary.
Unfortunately, Sivert Høyem's Long Slow Distance takes something of a backward step from his previous releases, losing most of their strong points and going for the post-rock/pop jugular, presumably because it sells. Best track on this overlong effort of overlong material? Probably the intense Give It A Whirl, non-coincidentally because it sits the closest to that Neil Young influence again. Christer Knutsen plays background samplotron flutes on Animal Child; when I say 'background', I actually mean 'audible for about a second'.
Why Men Fail is a rather insipid singer-songwriter album, not helped by Neilson Hubbard's rather wispy voice, at its least forgettable on the energetic Surrounded. Clay Jones' Mellotron strings on opener Towns and flutes on Hollywood 1995 sound sampled to my ears.
Brooke Hudd's The Way it Goes shifts between heartfelt balladry and hideous, dance-pop drivel like Over You and Never Too Late (spot the Autotune), her voice suiting the former rather better than the latter. Dave Mallen is credited with Mellotron, presumably the obviously sampled strings (and flutes?) on All These Lies.
Hue's eponymous album starts well, but quickly slumps into a kind of late-period Britpop knock-off, crossed with rather bland alt.rock; not an especially appealing combo, frankly. Any better tracks? Opener Paradise and The Hush, maybe. Neil Andrews plays rubbish Mellotron flute samples on closer Galaxy.
Iván Sevillano "Huecco" Pérez found fame with Spanish act Sugarless, going solo in the mid-2000s. Dame Vida is his third release, a kind of energetic Latin/alt.rock crossover, typified by material such as Solo Un Pokito and Krasivuye Glazha. However, Thom Russo's supposed Mellotron lacks that ring of authenticity to my ears.
Vocalist/pianist Grayson Hugh's been around since the '80s, although 2010's hugely ambitious An American Record is only his fourth release in thirty years. Hugh moves through various American musical styles (as you might guess) over its seventy minutes, although his default position is a kind of white-boy blues/soul with gospel elements. Not typical Planet Mellotron fare, but good at what it does. Hugh's credited with Mellotron, but I'd love to know where...
Another of Glenn Hughes' current projects, alongside his solo career, is his duo with ex-Rainbow (and, shockingly, Deep Purple) vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. Now, excuse me for seeming a bit dim, but why would a vocalist of the calibre of Hughes wish to duet with a singer who almost defines wishy-washy AOR vocals (or would if Steve Perry didn't exist)? Turner ruined Rainbow (in fairness, it was Blackmore's fault), then had a good stab at doing the same to Purple (Blackmore, too). Were he a lesser singer himself, I'd accuse Hughes of using Turner to look good in comparison, but since he isn't... Who knows? Maybe he thinks he can sing. OK, he can, but not with any great power and I don't think he's made a single good album in his entire career.
Hughes Turner Project could be described as 'classy hard rock', or even (wince) 'melodic rock' (sorry), although it's better than the run-of-the-mill AOR slop that usually bears that title. Saying that, it 'features' several fairly dippy numbers (mostly sung by Turner) alongside the rockier efforts (not sung by Turner). 'Jolene' is actually at his best on the album singing harmonies with Hughes, when the true wussiness of his voice is less apparent; his leads remind me why I disliked him so much in Rainbow. Anyway, keys man Vince di Cola sticks largely to (very well-played) Hammond, but sticks some obvious samplotron on a couple of tracks, with occasional flute interjections on gloopy ballad Heaven's Missing An Angel and a string part on the noticeably better On The Ledge.
In an exceedingly keen manner, the pair released their wittily-titled follow-up, Hughes Turner Project 2 a mere year later. While similar to its predecessor, the album seems to have more energy; there are certainly fewer of those awful ballads, although most of the material remains relentlessly average. Ed Roth on keys this time round, with four samplotron tracks, all strings: Losing My Head, Lost Dreams, Burning The Sky and Let's Talk About It Later. Losing My Head is the only one to do anything interesting, to be honest, with some nice pitchbends and a Kashmirish feel.
Hanne Hukkelberg's third album is a sparse, lonely sounding Norwegian singer-songwriter effort that occasionally picks up the pace, but is largely content to trudge along, head bowed, radiating an air of mild despair. I'm quite sure that's the effect Ms. Hukkelberg is after, in which case this may be considered a success, at least on its own terms. Musically, we get gently bowed cellos, tinkling glockenspiels and wistful pianos supporting Hanne's voice, mostly in a rather unmemorable way, although I'm sure its proggiest moment (on Ticking Bomb) is a classical steal. Hukkelberg plays samplotron on Fourteen, albeit no more than background strings and choir.
The Human Abstract are an L.A.-based power metal band with nu-metal aspects (largely in the mostly non-sung vocals), with all the silliness and unoriginality that entails. Saying that, I've heard far worse albums than their second, Midheaven, but it's all just so... uninspiring. High-speed twin guitar leads? Check. Mucho sweep-picking? Check. Overblown lyrical concept? Check. Originality is, sadly, at a premium. At least it's a sensible length. Credited 'Mellotron' from Sean Leonard, although it all sounds muffled and sampley, so I think it's safe to assume it's fake. Anyway, strings on several tracks, including Metanoia, The Path and A Dead World At Sunrise and choirs on Calm In The Chaos, which, along with the (fake?) Hammond, help to make the album more palatable, but this isn't exactly a classic of the genre, I'm afraid.
Jesus fucking Christ, what is this shit? Atrocious, über-glossy mainstream boyband pop, about as nasty as it gets. Highlights? Don't be silly; Deja Vu is about the least offensive thing here, which isn't saying much. Rick Nowels (yes, him again) is credited with Mellotron on When You Say You Love Me and Meant To Be. I have absolutely no idea why.
Stereo Types is a breezy pop/rock effort, bordering powerpop in places. Sadly, The Humbugs fail to write the kind of songs to make a 'B band' fan's heart sing, leaving us with the mildly turgid likes of opener Chapter Two and When The Road Disappears. Pete Sands is credited with Chamberlin, but the flutes, strings and (particularly) male and female voices on Let The Credits Roll sound sampled to my ears.
2005's L'Éternité de l'Instant is French singer-songwriter Romain Humeau's fifth studio album, slotting fairly neatly into a passable pop/rock groove, although by 'passable', what I actually mean is 'not actively offensive'. This really isn't a very exciting album at all, despite its uptempo numbers, surprising eight-minute intense closer La Mort Sifflera Trois Fois being about the best thing here. Pity he has to start intoning (rather than singing) at all, really. Humeau is credited with Mellotron, but I have serious doubts as to how genuine it might be, the handful of possible parts all sounding like, well, something else, really. We'll call it 'samples', but it could be almost anything.
'Unter's When I'm President is the usual mix of rock'n'roll, country-rock ballads and singer-songwriter material in a rock setting, highlights including Fatally Flawed, the title track, Black Tears (very Mott) and Just The Way You Look Tonight, which, between them, cover all the above bases. This man is incapable of making a bad album, it seems. Andy York (credited with Chamberlin on two releases from the 2000s) supposedly plays Mellotron on Saint. Er... That crummy little synth sound that might be the credited Farfisa? Obviously not the credited flute, which leaves... nothing.
Zachary Hunter's In Your Dreams is a slushy country album, typified by the sentimental likes of the title track; musically inoffensive, but lyrically teeth-gritting. I've no idea why producer Ed Stasium's credited with Mellotron.
Hushdrops had links with Veruca Salt and Liam Hayes/Plush, amongst others, so it's no great surprise that their debut has that 'US indie' sound down pat, for better or worse. Zack Schneider's Mellotron? Don't think so.
Yeah Okay, I Know is newcomer Christian Lee Hutson's second album, a solid Americana effort, laced with a dry, dusty authenticity that comes without a price tag. Top tracks? Playing Dead, the electronica-infused Ghost To Coast and ultra-mournful closer Monster, although most of the album should keep genre fans happy. A quick quote from an online interview: "A lot of the really beautiful fullness you hear is just sitting with like 12 different mellotron samples trying to figure out what they all wanna say." Oh, what a giveaway. Hutson's credited on three tracks, but I presume the quote means that the cellos on opener One, Two, Three, the kind-of church organ on Dirty Little Cheat and choirs on Monster are all fake, as it's difficult to tell. A decent album, then, if not one to put Hutson into the 'outstanding' bracket.
Parthenon "P. Hux" Huxley is a singer-songwriter of the highest calibre, having written major hits for other artists and worked with ex-members of ELO, amongst others. Purgatory Falls is his fourth solo album, detailing his wife's tragic struggle with and death from cancer, so those unable to cope with one man's outpouring of grief in song form should probably go elsewhere now. Far from all the lyrics are obviously grief-stricken, though, making it easy to see the album for what it is; a great powerpop/singer-songwriter record chock-full of songs of the quality of Goldmine or Red Eyeliner. Nic Peroni plays samplotron, with flutes and strings on the heart-wrenching Red Eyeliner and flute block-chords and more strings on Offer You The World, although the real sample giveaway is the cheesy MkII 'moving strings' part on closer Chordothelord.
Experimental musician Jenny Hval's fifth album, 2015's Apocalypse, Girl, sees her using members of Swans and Jaga Jazzist, amongst others, conjuring up a stew of (extremely) vaguely post-rockish drones such as White Underground or ten-minute closer Holy Land. Better tracks? I'm afraid I find myself completely unable to say. I refuse to pretend to understand this; I really have no idea where Hval's coming from or what she's trying to achieve. Jaga Jazzist's Øystein Moen is credited with Mellotron, but... guess what? The cellos on Heaven and a melody line played on the standard 8-choir on Why This? really give the sample game away. I can neither recommend this or condemn it; I simply don't understand it. One for the experimentalists amongst you.
Hypnos 69 are a Belgian psych/prog outfit who used (apparently real) Mellotron on their third album, 2004's The Intrigue of Perception. Two years on, the fittingly-titled The Eclectic Measure appeared, sounding nearly as, er, eclectic as its predecessor, highlights including the trippy title track, the gentle My Ambiguity Of Reality, Halfway To The Stars and closer Deus Ex Machina, although there's nothing here that disappoints. Tellingly, although there's a 'Mellotron' credit on The Intrigue of Perception, there's no such thing here, while the sample use is given away almost immediately with the 'infinite sustain' Mellotron strings on the title track. Strings and/or flutes on most other tracks, top marks going to the full-on strings on Halfway To The Stars. They followed up, slightly belatedly, with 2010's Legacy, an album that veers between moments of brilliance (the first two minutes of 'side-long' opener Requiem (For A Dying Creed)) to long minutes of jammed-out semi-tedium (notably the sax solo in Jerusalem). This is yet another case of 'could've done with an editor': over seventy minutes is a lot of music, even when an artist hasn't released an album for some time, while Hypnos 69 don't quite have the chops to sustain interest for that long. Reasonable levels of fakeotron strings and choir, although I'm not sure if you'd notice were they not there.