There's no way around it: Lindy (Vopnfjörð)'s Suspension of Disbelief is a bland, cheesy singer-songwriter pop/rock effort, at its least tedious on Look At The Way The Wild Wind Blows. Jim McGrath's Mellotron? The strings on Important? Definite sampled flutes on regular album closer On My Mind.
Link Quartet are Italy's answer to the mainly British 'acid jazz' thing; think 'James Taylor Quartet' and you won't be a million miles off. Despite forming in 1991, Italian Playboys is only their third album, but it should keep Hammond/'60s film theme/mod types happy with its unashamed homage to the era. Almost entirely instrumental, it's hard to fault on a musical level, although fourteen tracks is possibly a little too much of a good thing, as it all starts sounding a little samey to the untrained ear after a while. Frankly, organist Paolo "Apollo" Negri's Mellotron use on the album is disappointing, with naught but a background string part towards the end of Glass Onion; in fact, given his sample use on a couple of Wicked Minds LPs, I think it's probably safe to assume that the same applies here, ditto on his solo album, 2007's A Bigger Tomorrow. As far as Italian Playboys goes, it's good at what it does, as long as you like what it does, but next to no 'Mellotron', so don't bother on that front.
Mask Behaving sits somewhere in between alt.rock and electronica, occasional hip-hop influences thrown in for (not so) good measure, at its least irritating on Every Little Inch, also the home of Reyn Ouwehand's sampled Mellotron and Chamberlin flute and string parts.
Of the several nu-metal (aargh!) bands to actually break through to some sort of commercial success, Linkin Park have always had the least credibility (strange, in a world where Limp Bizkit exist), even being accused of pseudo-'boyband' status. This seems to be an unfair allegation - the band formed in a genuine enough manner - but they're certainly at the lighter end of the mini-genre, sounding rather 'plastic', to use a particularly cutting term of which an old school friend of mine was fond. Minutes to Midnight (how many? Two?) is their third album in seven years, generally regarded to be their most diverse yet, heading even further into the rap/rock mainstream. Personal opinion? Absolute tosh. What is the point in this nonsense? Call me an old fart, but this is bloody rubbish; giving it two stars is doing it a favour. As far as I'm concerned, nobody since Faith No More has successfully combined the two genres and it seems unlikely that anyone's going to now. I've read all over the place that there's 'Mellotron' on the album; upon actually listening to it, most of the string parts are either real or sound like samples, leaving the cellos on In Between sounding like a Mellotron, but sampled. Rick Rubin may've produced some fine albums, but he doesn't appear to've found a real Mellotron for these boys to play. If you're lucky enough not to have this drivel forced upon you by your teenage children, avoid like the plague. Completely pointless.
Oskar Linnros found fame with 'alternative hip-hop' duo Snook, so all power to him for breaking away from a limiting genre with Vilja Bli. That isn't to say that the album's combination of mainstream pop, hip-hop, soul and hard rock (!) necessarily works - all too often it acts chiefly as an irritant - but at least he's trying. Very. Linnros' 'Mellotron'? Must be those generic flute samples on a couple of tracks.
The Lions (presumably as in 'the Lions of Judah') describe their musical hybrid as 'dusty reggae soul', which sounds about right. 2015's Soul Riot is actually pretty decent, largely reggae as it used to be, complete with slightly bogus Jamaican accents and several vocalists and toasters vying for attention. Top tracks? Probably At A Loss and Going Nowhere, complete with dub-like delay, but I wouldn't have said there was anything here to offend the old-school reggae fan. Producer Dan Ubick is credited with Mellotron, but if the strings on (Will You Be) My Girl? (and flutes on closer Wilder Style?) are meant to be it, we're in no danger of encountering a real machine, frankly, despite talk of real Hammond. Most likely not your thing, then, nor mine, but good at what it does.
Hope Street is an eccentric-end-of-singer-songwriter record, Carol Lipnik frequently utilising her superb voice in unexpected ways on her folk- and jazz-flavoured material. Highlights? The opening title track, Plain Gold Ring and closer In Faith, perhaps. Bradford Reed's credited with Mellotron, but I have no idea why.
Liquid Eclipse's Horizons starts off as a prime example of how to do jammed-out psych properly, then, strangely, slowly descends into the indie/psych dustbin by the end of the record. Play its first four (of six) tracks, then switch it off. Dale Pantalione's 'Mellotron' begins and ends with faint, sampled flutes on opener Summerhaze.
There was a bit of a fuss over Liquid Scarlet in the mid-2000s, if less so than for, say, Wobbler. Unjustly, it seems, as they're actually really good, with plenty of 'that Scandinavian sound' about them, without actually sounding like they're trying to rip Änglagård. Thinking about it, they're more like Anekdoten, with enough of themselves in there to deflect any major criticism. Liquid Scarlet is a fine album, not too long, nice and varied (within the genre, obviously), good playing and writing throughout. It's going to take rather longer than I've got right now to extract its highlights for general consumption, but, suffice to say, there's nothing here that's going to upset anyone into complex, symphonic progressive, with zero neo-prog influence, thankfully. On the fake Mellotron front (from Frida Lundström), Greyroom opens with strings blasting away over a jerky rhythm, most tracks featuring at least a little of the instrument, mostly strings and flutes, though the vibes on The Red Stairs could be Mellotron samples, too. Most accomplished, although it's a pity (of course) that they couldn't have sourced a real Mellotron, at least for the recording.
A whole year later, Liquid Scarlet II is a revelation, showing how dramatically a band can change in a short period of time. Far more 'progressive' than its predecessor, the album takes influences from a much broader palette, using a string section on several tracks, alongside the Mellotron samples. The nine-minute Rhododendron is one of the album's highlights, although the combination of Markus Fagervall's intimate vocal style and the band's original approach towards songwriting make pretty much every track a winner. In fact, I think it's fair to say that Liquid Scarlet II doesn't really sound like anybody much else; quite an achievement. Those Mellotron samples crop up on probably half the tracks, with new keyboard player Olle Sjögren clearly preferring to use Fender Rhodes or organ in preference.
Liquid Sound Company are a Texas-based psych outfit (no surprise there; let's face it, the state has some serious psychedelic history), led by guitarist/vocalist John Perez, better-known for playing doom with Solitude Aeturnus and the like. Their debut album, 1996's Exploring the Psychedelic, covers several different psychedelic styles, going from the shortish A Splash Of Color or Ride The Coaster Pyramid to the lengthy, jammed-out likes of Mesmerizing Eye and Sadhana Siddhi. The vaguely Neil Young-ish Golden Gate '67, with its blatant Rush lift is a bit of a surprise, as is the psych/doom crossover Swallow, just going to prove that the band have more strings to their bow than you might at first expect. Perez is credited with Mellotron, but when it finally appears, with a floaty strings part on closer Sadhana Siddhi, a combination of its 'too smooth' tone and 'too bloody long' notes gives the sample game away. Guys, PLEASE don't credit 'Mellotron' when it ain't, OK? Like that'll make any difference. Good album, anyway, but no actual Mellotron.
Make no mistake, Liquid Visions are psych with a capital 'PS' (PSych?). Active since the late '90s, it's difficult to work out exactly what they've released and when, as their discography's littered with singles, compilation appearances and all the usual ephemera that surrounds such bands, although it seems that 2002's Hypnotized is their third full-length release. It covers a gamut of psych styles over its length, from the two (relatively) fast'n'furious tracks that open the album to the slightly longer-form ones in the middle to the epics that close the disc. Morning Rain has a Wish You Were Here vibe about it; fitting, as Liquid Visions have semi-covered the Floyd on their Overstellar Interdrive single (ho ho), not to mention their cover of More's Ibiza Bar that finds its way onto the end of this album as a bonus track, leaving Paralyzed as the album's classic. Fifteen minutes long, with seven minutes of Leslie vocalled build-up before the freak-out leading into a dip in the sonic intensity, another crescendo and a slow wind-down. Classic. Dave Schmidt plays Rhodes and 'Mellotron' on top of his bass duties, but I'll be buggered if I can hear either of them. Still, looks good in the credits, dunnit? I'm such a cynic; I'm sure the samples are there somewhere, I just wish I could work out where.
2006's The Lost Recordings (recorded in 2000) is utterly bemusing; why would you not issue something this good at the time it was made? Were the recordings genuinely 'lost' for a while? The album slews between frantic psych/garage rock (opener Fragile Illusions, Phantom Child), a more pure form of lengthy, Eastern-inflected psych (Walk Like An Angel, Yellow Sunshine Paper Man) and full-blown modern, heavy psych (Nuclear War), the rest of the album sitting somewhere between those three minor variations on a theme. The overall vibe is superb, despite (because of?) the album's length, actually making it a more worthwhile release than Hypnotized. As far as that 'Mellotron' credit goes, this time round we get a slightly murky (and clearly sampled string) part in the middle of Shadow Man, so at least there's something to show for it.
Lisa Isaksson's Lisa o Piu released their second album, the beautiful Behind the Bend, in 2010, gaining instant acid folk credibility with their luminous, ethereal sound, all light-as-air vocals, zithers, glockenspiels and violas. At under half an hour, it doesn't have time to drag, but every track has its strengths, notably the twelve-minute Child Of Trees and closer Gong For Hours (Jupiter's Under The Moon), which is, er, three minutes of softly-struck solo gong. David Svedmyr is credited with Mellotron and supposedly owns a Swedish-built MkVI, but I'd love to know where it is on the album; the strings are clearly real and the flutes (two band members are credited) all sound pretty authentic, too. Svedmyr played mellophone on Roger Wootton (of Comus) and Piu's Cut the Air at Mello Club the previous year; maybe this is the cause of the confusion? Anyway, no obvious Mellotron, but a truly beautiful record, guaranteed to appeal to fans of dark folk. Excellent.
Lit's second album displays their raucous powerpop to good effect; I've seen them described as 'a cross between Nirvana and Cheap Trick', which is no bad thing. Unfortunately, the promise shown by opener Four dissipates all too soon, as much of the material is too samey to sustain an album's-worth of it, although I'm sure that's as much down to taste as anything. The overall vibe isn't helped by the whole pop-punk thing being cheapened by the likes of Green Day, Blink 182 et al, although this is nearer pop than punk, despite the fuzz pedals. Samplotron on Perfect One, from Niels Bye Nielsen, with a smattering of flutes that don't really add much to the song.
Little A (or Little a, I suppose), play by-numbers US millennial indie, at its best on Silences. Harmless enough in small doses, but dull. Joel Simches plays skronky, obviously sampled Mellotron strings on Press Return.
Miami proggers Little Atlas have improved steadily since 1998's Neverworldly, 2005's Wanderlust featuring some pretty decent material, albeit in a neo-/'modern' prog crossover vein. Highlights? Parts of Higher, the lengthyish The Prisoner and the energetic On And On. For much of the album, it's difficult to say whether the band are using Mellotron samples or generic sounds, with choirs on a couple of tracks, a near-solo flute part on Home and background strings in places, becoming wildly obvious on closer Mirror Of Life. 2007's Hollow is similar to its predecessor in its juxtapositioning of disparate elements, from the vaguely indie/metal of the opening title track through prog epic Silence, the angular Paranoiac and Special's shuffle rhythm. Several samplotron false alarms, although the strings on Orderly and choirs on Stage are definites. After a six-year break, 2013's Automatic Day was well worth the wait, featuring material of the quality of opener Oort, Apathy and Emily True, although the album takes a bit of a dip towards the end. Given its length, a little self-editing might have been an idea, but the good stuff here still gives it four stars. Samplotron strings on several tracks, notably the three named above.
Little Barrie's King of the Waves is a low-fi, vaguely ZZ Top-esque blues rock album, immediately elevating it above the tidal wave of indie shite that seems to infest this site. However, whither Barrie Cadogan's Mellotron?
Southern California's Little Days are the duo of Mini Diaz and Jorgen Carlsson (of Gov't Mule), whose debut, Pop & Tacos, sits in the no-man's land between powerpop and '70s pop/rock, better tracks including Stranger Inside, Mr. Sunshine and the epic Less Or More, although several others err on the side of 'too slick', not to mention too brassy for my tastes. Roger Manning is credited with Mellotron, but the major strings part on Less Or More's overly-consistent soft attack gives the sample game away. I think.
Sjur Lyseid appears to be Little Hands of Asphalt, a Norwegian singer-songwriter at the mainstream pop end of the spectrum, going by his debut, 2009's Leap Years. Although far better than many similar, with a distinct Dylan influence in places, too much of the album's material slips into that cheesy style so beloved of his American contemporaries, largely due to his vocal melodies, worst offenders being Bait and The Next Time We Meet. Lyseid plays samplotron, with distant strings on The Future and a flute melody on The Next Time We Meet.
The members of Little Joy met in Portugal, formed in L.A. and hail from Brazil and the US, so with so much potential cross-cultural fertilisation, it makes me wonder how they managed to come up with an album as lacklustre as their eponymous 2008 debut. Sorry, but a sort of slightly Latin/indie crossover isn't about to set the world on fire, especially when it 'features' songs as dreary as Play The Part and With Strangers. Rodrigo Amarente plays samplotron, with strings towards the end of Don't Watch Me Dancing. Sadly, Little Joy is well-named; despite the South American influence, there really is little joy in listening to this, on any level.
Little Monsters' Soulville is an album made by children, for children, although, as its subtitle says, anyone can listen. I can imagine a British version would feature a bunch of kids 'singing' tunelessly, as they usually do before learning otherwise, but this lot have excellent voices, backed by a crack team of players on a selection of soul classics. Dancing In The Street? Check. Stand By Me? Check. Mustang Sally? Check. No prizes for innovation, but that isn't the point; this is a starting-point for an appreciation of black American music over the decades and works splendidly as such. Unfortunately, Rob Arthur's Mellotron strings on Stand By Me, Lean On Me and Grandma's Hands are very obviously sampled.
Little Nemo (named for the comic character) were a French entry in the 'alt.rock' stakes, whose third (?) full album, 1992's The World is Flat, is a passable collection of material, although its diversity is its artistic downfall, its contents veering between the folk/pop of opener Railways & Roads, the pseudo-'60s pop of Rubber Hearts and Thoughts & Words and bluesy closer Bain De Minuit. The album features no fewer than three credited Mellotron players, Jean Taxis, Ronan Lesergent and Vincent le Gallo (nothing to do with tedious egomaniac Vincent Gallo), although only four obvious tracks: strings and choirs on Railways & Roads and strings on Au Milieu Du Ciel, Rumours and Thoughts & Words, samples (pre-commercially available ones, so user's own?) particularly obvious on the low notes on Rumours.
The Little Ones, as you might expect from their name, epitomise dweeby indie pop on their sole album to date, 2008's Morning Tide, their manic cheerfulness giving the impression that they always thought that The Beach Boys were genuinely carefree and happy-go-lucky. Most reviews pinpoint Everybody's Up To Something as its best track, principally due to its being the only place where any melancholy seeps through, although as mindless positivism antidotes go, it's pretty low-key. Brian William Reyes and Lee LaDouceur are credited with Mellotron, but I'm heavily unconvinced by the full-on mixed strings on the opening title track, strings on Ordinary Song and Farm Song, high cellos (?) on All Your Modern Boxes and flutes on Like A Spoke On A Wheel, plus possible choir parts here and there. Sorry, dull and (real) Mellotron-free.
Going by their Blomkraftens Frukt three-track EP, Liv på Jorden (a.k.a. Life on Earth) are yet another raucous Scandianvian psych-tinged garage band, at their loudest on the title track and their psychest on Sagan Om Harald Hårfäste Och Hassan-I Sabbah. David Svedmyr is credited with Mellotron on the latter, but the vibes and Chamberlin solo male voice (and rhythms?) are pretty blatantly sampled.
The cover image of Mark Lizotte's Soul Lost Companion (and its title) prepared me for the worst; that wistful, yearning look up at... something, that wet-as-water title... No, he's not (obviously) a God-botherer, just a terribly wussy singer-songwriter. Turns out his career's rather longer than I'd expected; he performed for years under the macho Aussie name of (Johnny) Diesel and is married to Jimmy Barnes's sister-in-law, making him almost Aussie rock royalty. For some reason, this is the only album Lizotte/Diesel's released under his own name; he's reverted to his stage moniker for subsequent releases. To be fair, I've actually heard worse in this line, but it's pretty awful, all heartfelt, faux-rootsy material, overlaid with Lizotte's high tenor, slipping into falsetto too often for comfort. Ours, not his. OK, possibly his, too. Jerry Harrison is credited with Mellotron on Burning Water, but it's actually on the reasonably rocking Lotion, with an occasional string part, fairly obviously sampled.
El Toppo was London-based outfit the Llama Farmers' (terrible name!) second album, coming across as a rather confused mess of grungy hard rock, bog-standard indie and typical British observational writing (viz Postcards & Moonrock). I'm having trouble thinking not so much of anything nice to say about this album, but anything at all; it left an almost indelible blank on my mind, although it didn't actively offend me, which is something. Vocalist/guitarist Neil "Bernie" Simpson doubles on various keyboards, including samplotron, with probable strings on You Bore Me. This didn't cost me very much, but I still feel like I've been had. Anyone want a Llama Farmers CD?
Local H are another pre-White Stripes two-man band, guitarist/vocalist Scott Lucas adding bass pickups to his guitar, though I'm not sure how that substitutes for a bass; it's all in the frequencies, I suppose. Anyway, their fifth album, 2004's Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?, references a relatively obscure American actress, for reasons best known to themselves, consisting of fourteen tracks of raw, garage rock'n'roll, going well beyond mere 'punk' for their inspiration. The album rocks, although its almost-hour length is way too long for this kind of stuff. Best tracks? Probably Buffalo Trace and the genuinely epic That's What They All Say. Zak Schneider plays samplotron on Dick Jones, with full-on pitchbent strings and possibly background flutes on one of the album's most atypical tracks, where they utilise a chord straight out of the Zep songbook.
Going by their second album, 2011's Little Me Will Start a Storm, Loch Lomond are an indie/chamber/folk outfit; in practice, this means that the album has little real content, but plenty of arrangement, with massed male/female choral voices, woodwinds and solo strings battling rather anodyne material. Better tracks include opener Blue Lead Fences, despite the irritating vocals and Earth Has Moved Again, principally due to its lovely guitar part, but the album's overall tweeness works against it, unless, of course, you like their fey approach. Dave Depper is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on opener Blue Lead Fences and flutes on Water In Astoria simply aren't. Sorry. So; more twee indie folksy stuff. Not my bag, might be yours, no Mellotron.
Chicagoan trio Locrian are the kind of post-rock outfit who release three or four albums a year, probably because their oeuvre appears to be largely improvised. You know, record yourself jamming, judiciously edit (hopefully), release. Cynical? Moi? Some of 2012's Mamiffer collaboration, Bless Them That Curse You, isn't too bad, material like Corpus Luteum and Lechatelierite invoking an audio transcript of the Floyd's 'quiet desperation', although nineteen-minute closer Metis/Amaranthine/The Emperor is an interminable grind, shifting between 'quiet but painful' and 'noisy but painful'. I expect that's the idea. Mellotron? Unsurprisingly, given Mamiffer's 'previous' on the subject, the strings on Metis/Amaranthine/The Emperor are sampled, which is probably all you need to know about the credit. Do you like noisy post-rock? No? Then I wouldn't worry, if I were you.
2013's Return to Annihilation is, to my ears, a great improvement. It takes a while to get going, but by the ominous Exiting The Hall Of Vapor And Light, the band have found their feet, ending with the fifteen-minute Obsolete Elegies, their dread power coming to a head at its finale. Exceedingly little samplotron, with naught but a few very obviously sampled high string notes a few minutes into Obsolete Elegies. Two years later, Infinite Dissolution takes the best of its predecessor and builds on it, not least in opener Arc Of Extinction, Dark Shales and An Index Of Air, with samplotron strings in Dark Shales, The Future Of Death and The Great Dying.
Locust, a.k.a. Mark Van Hoen, play a kind of laid-back electronica that shouldn't offend those of you/us that aren't into bangin' techno and the like. Mark plays a variety of instruments, making a perfectly pleasant sound, although it can rather drift by at times, which I concede may be the intention. Not being a singer, he brings in several collaborators, which (to my ears) gives the album a slightly disjointed quality, although I'm well aware that this is quite normal in his chosen field. Van Hoen plays samplotron on nine out of sixteen tracks, with light string and choir work on most, to the point of inaudibility in places. However, Summer Rain and, particularly, Some Love Will Remain Unsaid have some upfront flute, with fairly obvious choir on the latter, too.
'10,000 Light Years Ago'? Repeat after me, John: "A light year is a measure of distance, not time. A light year is a measure of distance, not time. A light year is a...". Or am I missing the joke? Somehow, I doubt it. Either way, it's Lodge's second solo album, nearly forty years after his first and, to my surprise, turns out to be more varied and rather better than I'd expected. Well, his Moodies bandmate Justin Hayward's solo albums sound just like the parent band, only even more insipid, so it's nice to hear a Moody Blue make an album that actually has a little oomph in places. To illustrate this barely-over-EP-length album's diversity, opener In My Mind sounds exactly like Pink Floyd, typical old muso 'look back fondly' effort Those Days In Birmingham could be a Hammond-fuelled Moodies, Get Me Out of Here's something of a power ballad, (You Drive Me) Crazy is plain, good ol' rock'n'roll, while Love Passed Me By is violin and accordion-led jazz. Although Lodge's old compadre Mike Pinder is credited with Mellotron on Simply Magic (along with Ray Thomas' flute), I'm sure it will come as zero surprise to any of you that it's clearly sampled (see my Pinder reviews for his quote on the subject). Well, this could've been a great deal worse; perhaps keeping it so short is the result of a ruthless cull of 'late-period Moodies MOR'-type material? In which case, thank you, Mr. Lodge.
Logic Gate (a computing term) are Steven Grace's relatively typical 'one man and his synths' EM solo project, with just two releases to his/their name. I believe 2003's From the Silence was originally released in download-only format; it opens well, utilising 'tuned' white noise to interesting effect, before slipping into the more 'standard' tricks: warbling sequencers and drifting pads. Plenty of sampled Mellotron strings, with bits of choir and flute, but very obviously not a real machine. Five years on, Grace followed up with Voyages, in 2008, before dropping the project name and reverting to his own for future releases. It's a more adventurous effort all round, some of the one-chord drones reminding me of Klaus Schulze, even if they, er, become a little tedious after a few minutes. The album's overall feel is far more mature than that of its predecessor, with less reliance on the usual EM tricks; the point in closer The Voyage Home when the predominantly minor-key chording suddenly switches to major is quite startling. Loads more samplotron this time round, including brass parts on a couple of tracks, with strings and flutes all over the place.
Despite forming in the mid-'90s, two albums appearing around the turn of the millennium, it's taken Italian progsters Logos until 2014 to release album no. 3, L'Enigma della Vita. Although it's somewhat overlong, I suppose we should let them off the hook, it being their first release in well over a decade... Nonetheless, it could probably have done with an edit; the band sometimes take the easy option, going for bland, neo-ish chord sequences, while the guitarist uses the 'when in doubt, riff it out' trick that worked twenty years ago, but has become stale with overuse. It's far from all bad news, though (well, I've given it ***½); the album's overall feel is that of an Italian band updating their country's '70s scene, particularly on material such as the title track and Pioggia In Campagna. Luca Zerman's credited with Mellotron, but quite clearly isn't playing a real one, using samples on most tracks, with various combos of strings and choirs, plus occasional flutes, in a pleasing-yet-not-over-the-top kind of way. Let's hope we don't have to wait so long for Logos' next release and, when it comes, they've fine-tuned their melodic sensibilities and sharpened their editing scissors.
LogOut play a kind of indie/synthpop crossover that, sadly, extracts the worst from both areas and sticks them together in an unwieldy fashion. Most irritating. Hristos Lainas' 'Mellotron' flutes on As If aren't.
Lombroso play a kind of Italian indie, for want of a better description, full of Latin influences. 2010's Una Vita Non Mi Basta, while a long way from a 'good listen', is perfectly acceptable within its limitations, just not very interesting to the ear attuned to something a little more dynamic. Vocalist/guitarist Dario Ciffo allegedly plays Mellotron on closer Immenso E Fragile, but what he might be doing, hidden under the track's (real) horn section, is anyone's guess. So; harmless enough, unlikely to get an awful lot of recognition outside the band's home territory. And no obvious Mellotron.
The Bane of Progress is an album of Americana-tinged singer-songwriter fare of the rather faceless variety, probably at its best on Dance With Me. Adam Selzer's credited Mellotron appears twice, with quavery flutes on Scar Showing Parade and Evidence, more obviously sampled on the latter.
The Lonesomes sit at the mournful end of the country-rock spectrum (somehow, 'Americana' doesn't seem to fit their music), highlights of their eponymous album including jangly opener Glide, the rocky Helping Hands and the lengthy Leaving Train. Dustin Dybvig's credited with Mellotron on Western Town, but the flutes (in octaves?) on the track fail to ring true.
Bobby Long is one of those current artists who've used the Internet as a springboard, in his case, iTunes' 'Unsigned' chart, apparently. 2011's A Winter Tale (his fifth album, but second on an actual label) has its moments, but its acoustic singer-songwriter/folk stylings fall rather flat due to a dearth of really good material. A handful of songs are fine, but fifty minutes'-worth had me gritting my teeth with boredom, not to mention the unpleasant Oasis influence detectable in his vocal style (particularly bad example: Who Have You Been Loving). Never a good thing. Now, although the album was recorded at London's analogue temple, Toe Rag Studios, who often hire my own M400, Joe Glossop's 'Mellotron' flutes on The Bounty Of Mary Jane don't sound a lot like a real machine, let alone mine. Or is it somewhere else? Is it mine? (Wonders whether he hired it out around that time). I'll check with the studio, but it's looking rather like a 'no' at this point.
Well, I'm pleased to report (no, not that it was my Mellotron) that Long's follow-up, Wishbone, is a far better effort all round, featuring songs of the quality of opener Devil Moon, She Won't Leave, Making You Talk and My Parade. Long's 'Mellotron' is an elusive beast; the flutes on Not Tonight? strings on closer To The Light? Quite certain it's not real, either way. Ode to Thinking is better again, but the rumoured Mellotron (sampled or otherwise) is nowhere to be heard.
I'm afraid to say that City Girl is a terribly slushy singer-songwriter effort, better than many, thus the extra half star, but desperately unexciting. Chris Horvath is credited with Mellotron, but the nearest this gets to it is a distant cello on closer Never Forget You.
Given their name, it comes as no surprise to discover that California's Long Black Veils play a particularly haunted form of Americana, in an American Recordings-era Johnny Cash vein, at its best on Rust, In Loving Memory of Carlos Santiago and Raise Your Glasses, although their more upbeat material seems to work less well. Sean Lowrie is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, with flute and string parts on opener Rust and strings and church organ on Raise Your Glasses, all sampled.
Robert Earl (previously Robby) Longley is an acoustic guitarist of what I consider to be the 'Gordon Giltrap school', a player who takes influences from anywhere and everywhere, freely mixing classical, folk, rock, jazz and world musics into his own style. 2005's Yuletide is, of course, a Christmas album, Longley freely rearranging overly-familiar seasonal favourites such as Little Drummer Boy, The First Noel and Amazing Grace, freshening them up and removing them from their tired old settings. Fakeotron everywhere you look, with various combinations of strings, flutes and choirs on most tracks. Diaspora, from two years later, is an accomplished work, its twelve tracks loosely similar, yet distinct from one another, from opener Entrada Grande and Andaluz' Spanish feel, Baraka's ethno-fusion and the mutated bossa nova of Tucumcari. Longley credits himself with Mellotron, but the strings, choirs, flutes and brass used across the album are obviously sampled.
The Loons are a Californian psych/freakbeat crossover outfit, perfectly capturing the period when mods began wearing paisley shirts and grew their hair, touchstones including '66 Stones and US practitioners like The Chocolate Watchband; fittingly, the latter reformed at an event organised by Loons mainman Mike Stax (surely his real name?). Their third album (the Loons, not the Watchband), 2010's preposterously-yet-wonderfully-titled Red Dissolving Rays of Light, is stuffed with tracks that could so easily have been written in late '66, but weren't. Highlights include opener Between Grey Slates, which kicks off with a cheeky rip from Elvis Costello's Watching The Detectives, the driving I Wanna Get You and the marvellous Diamonds, Garbage & Gold, featuring a perfect marriage of lyrics and music. Conor Riley (Silver Sunshine, Astra) is credited with the major Mellotron string part on Orphan Wing, but given those bands' sample use, the same can safely be assumed here. Overall, then, while not actually a classic, Red Dissolving Rays of Light is a most worthy effort that should appeal to lovers of their particular brand of genre crossover.
After 2000's The Geometrid, Looper's last album for over a decade was 2002's The Snare. Sad to say, Stuart David (Black) has opted to go more 'mainstream' on this release, most of Up a Tree's most appealing features being either marginalised or simply abandoned, leaving a rather hollow pop album only slightly enlivened by hammer dulcimer and Wurlitzer parts occasionally entering the fray. The nearest the band gets to their previous form is closer Fucking Around, but it's a bit 'too little, too late' for this reviewer. Two samplotron tracks, David adding background flutes to Lover's Leap and flutes and a solo cello part to Good Girls.
Horrible 'transcendent' pop from Denmark with no obvious redeeming features. One apparent samplotron part, with a string section solo opening Campari Chaser, for which there are no fewer than FOUR Mellotron players credited, Martin "Sieben" Norgreen, Klaus Bendix, Mathias Elovsson and Leiv Aasen. Is this some Danish joke?