I've seen Pilot Balloon's Ghastly Good Cheer described as 'the best hip hop record that has nothing to do with hip hop'; the jury's out on the 'best' bit, but otherwise, that fits. Strictly speaking, if it's possible to categorise the album at all, 'electronica' might be nearer the mark; the duo's magpie sensibilities lead them to throw a bit of everything into the pot, from 'typical' hip-hop influences through jazz, various world musics, classical and, er, prog. Huh? Well, I've no idea where they first heard King Crimson's immortal Starless, but not only do samples from it end up on several tracks, but they even play mutated versions of its iconic opening chord sequence on others. Has Fripp sued yet? And if not, why not? This is now the second album on this site to be reviewed for the use of samples of a Mellotron track, as against playing Mellotron samples. So which is more authentic? Either? Maybe they're equally inauthentic, just in different ways. Anyway, we get what sounds like played Mellotron string samples and bits of the actual track, faded in gently, then whipped away again before they become established, in a form of Mellotronic prick-tease. Maybe that's how they've got round the sample issue? Anyway, most of the album's well constructed and surprisingly listenable, although I could've done without the occasional crummy rapping. Different.
Since becoming the UK's hottest young jazzer in the '80s, the ferociously-talented Courtney Pine has gone on to combine just about every extant style with jazz, 2005's Resistance seeing him tackle rock, funk (Right On! sounds a lot like The Average White Band's Pick Up The Pieces), soul (Soul Power U!) and straight '40s jazz on 'hidden track' I Can't Say Goodbye, complete with vinyl crackle. Highlights include the rock'n'roll of And Then The World Stood Still And Prayed, the vaguely Kinks-esque On The Down Low and the 'jazzier than the rest of the album' title track. Pine supposedly plays Mellotron on the album, although the 'Strawberry Fields' flutes on Joan Of Arc and (more tellingly) at the end of On The Down Low give the sample game away, I think. Anyone expecting smooth lounge jazz should probably look elsewhere (no Kenny G horrors here, thank you very much), but if you're after genre-bending, sax-driven fusion (in the widest sense of the word), you could do a lot worse.
The Pine Valley Cosmonauts are a Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers) side-project, bringing in whoever's needed to realise his punk/alt.country vision. A covers outfit, The Executioner's Last Songs, Volume 2 & 3 is their fourth (or maybe fourth and fifth) album, with all proceeds going to anti-death penalty causes. Interesting how it takes an ex-pat Brit to curate an album dedicated to such a noble cause, eh? Every song on both volumes is about death in one form or another, frequently judicial (Green Green Grass of Home, Death Row), always grim, even when they do it cheerfully. The two volumes together are quite a listen when taken in one hit, although that possibly intensifies the message, even if ninety minutes of alt.country might be a bit much for some of you. Pat Brennan plays samplotron strings on his own Death Where Is Thy Sting, while Ken Sluiter adds credited but very un-Mellotronic strings to Mark Eitzel's God's Eternal Love.
It seems Pineapple Thief started life as a Vulgar Unicorn side-project, lead by VU man Adrian Soord's brother Bruce; VU are supposed to have used Mellotron on a couple of later albums, although I've only heard their first two and it's quite certainly sampled anyway. It seems that PT's second and third releases, 137 and Variations on a Dream, both contain Mellotron samples, despite the sleeve credits for 'Mellotron'. So, are the credited Rhodes and Prophet 5 samples too? Anyway, both albums remind me strongly of that strand of modern British progressive that seems to emanate from the No-Man/Porcupine Tree axis and, specifically, Henry Fool. Moody, introverted music with more than a hint of Radiohead about it, PT disguise their uneasy listening with deceptively smooth tones, allowing the inherent edginess of their sound to creep up on the listener, unnerving them before they've realised what's happened. Variations on a Dream is probably the better of the two albums, as Soord develops his own style, which isn't to denigrate 137 in any way. I suspect the best track over both albums is Variations' closing 16-minute epic, Remember Us, although there's no such thing as a 'bad' track on either release.
Adrian Soord's 'Mellotron' can be heard on several tracks on each album; surely it can't have been that difficult to source a real one for recording? You get the impression that many of these bands couldn't actually care less; as long as an approximation of the sound's there, it's immaterial how it's produced. Perhaps they have a point. However, samples always seem to lose something in translation and are just that little bit too... perfect. However much of an arse-pain a real Mellotron can be to maintain, or even play, 'that' sound just doesn't sound right coming from anything else, especially when it's had its rough edges rounded off, not to mention being looped...
What's happened in such a short space of time? Admittedly, the reviews from here on are being written some years on from the two above, but has my taste changed so much in the meantime? Maybe it has. Anyway, 2005's 12 Stories Down (apparently a 'pre-release version), quickly reissued with a revised tracklisting as 10 Stories Down, is a dreary dirge of an album, the band's previous ability to captivate with their mournful Radioheadisms converted into an ability to bore the listener to distraction. Are there any plus points? Energetic opener (on both versions), the punning Prey For Me, while 12...'s Catch The Jumping Fool has its moments, as does 10...'s Light Up Your Eyes Part II, but as for the rest... Poor Mellotron string and choir samples on a couple of tracks, notably on Light Up Your Eyes Part II, but you really don't need to hear them. Early editions of 10... add a whole extra album, 8 Days Later (8 Days was an earlier bonus release), which might actually be better than its parent album. A couple of notable fakeotron tracks, with choirs and strings on Monday - Sleep and strings on Thursday - Fifty Four.
Little Man isn't any better, frankly, with next to no samplotron, merely some choppy strings on God Bless The Children. For some indefinable reason, 2007's What We Have Sown is a bit of an improvement, strangely, as it's effectively an odds'n'sods collection, rather than an album 'proper'. So why is it (marginally) better? Less heart-rending/breast-beating vocalising? Longer tracks (particularly the twenty minute-plus closing title track)? (Stop raising your eyebrows like that; sometimes longer IS better. So to speak). Anyway, an extra half star. Loads of fakeotron this time round, a major string part opening All You Need To Know, with more of the same on other tracks. 2008's Tightly Unwound is, well, it's another Pineapple Thief album, frankly. If you don't know what they sound like by now, you probably aren't going to bother. Some fakeotron work on a few tracks, but only the most cloth-eared would mistake it for the real thing.
By 2010's Someone Here is Missing, it seems that Pineapple Thief have honed their 'Scott Walker goes prog' style to a keen edge, particularly on closer So We Row, very much the album's best track. String parts on a few tracks are samplotronically inconclusive, although 3000 Days definitely features that familiar sound. 2012's All the Wars is a slight improvement on its predecessor, although nine-minute closer Reaching Out contains both the best and worst elements of the band's sound. Again, one lone samplotron track, with strings on Give It Back, standing out from the real strings on several other tracks. 2014's Magnolia sees the band settling into their prog-end-of-post-rock groove, for better or worse, chiefly the latter, sadly. It's at its best when the band up the volume levels - opener Simple As That, bits of Breathe, Sense Of Fear - but too much of the album's content drifts along a well-worn groove that we've already heard too many times. Possible samplotron strings on the title track, for what it's worth.
Pinkroom are a newish Polish progressive metal outfit, although thankfully, their influences on 2009 debut Psychosolstice wander further afield than the average. Yes, the ghost of Dream Theater is ever-present, but I hear a lot of Discipline-era King Crimson, particularly in the complex, interlocking clean guitar parts that run through most tracks, while they could almost be mistaken for a goth outfit in places. Best tracks? Opener Path Of Dying Truth, if only because it perfectly lays the band's cards out on the table and possibly Days Which Should Not Be, nicely enhanced by Anna Szczygiel's cello. Band mainman Mariusz Boniecki plays Mellotron string samples here and there, notably on Path Of Dying Truth and Stonegarden, although I think they crop up elsewhere, too. All in all, then, considerably better than your average prog-metal-by-numbers nonsense, if no classic.
Norwegian hip-hop duo Pistol & Bart rap in their own language and their (lone?) album, ...Rir Igjen, is certainly more musical than the average in their genre. You know, people actually playing real instruments an' shit. Sadly, the only bits that might appeal to me are inevitably ruined by one of the lads spouting nonsense over them. Well, I presume it's nonsense, working on the basis that most hip-hop is full of macho braggadocio. Maybe they're saying something erudite. Who knows? Er, Norwegians, actually. Rudi Nikolaisen and Cato Salsa play samplotron, with distant choirs on Det Gamle Huset and strings on Konsentrasjon and Kilometerteller.
Plackband's history has already been précised in my review of the original '70s band's lone archive release, 2000's 1981 live recording The Lost Tapes. Twenty years on, that album and 2002's After the Battle bear some comparison, the bulk of the new release being average, uninventive, limp neo-prog, notably closer Remember Forever, the lengthy 'modern prog' title track being about the best thing here. The whole affair could've been much improved by judicious wielding of an editing knife, but at an interminable hour long, it's all a bit dull, frankly. Obviously sampled Mellotron all round, with a major string part on the title track, along with an overextended choir chord that gives the sample game away, just in case, plus choirs and strings on End Of The Line and a couple of other tracks. I can't in all honesty recommend this album, much as I applaud the band's tenacity. Listen to someone other than Pink Floyd, Camel and (ahem) Marillion please, chaps.
Home Brewed does what it says on the tin, being a self-financed album in an indie/psych/powerpop vein, at its best on opener People Get Up, Streamlined and The Grape Ape (Retires At The Thanksgiving Day Parade) and its least good on Mascara and Midnight. Suspect there's a lot of samplotron in the mix, but it's only occasionally overt, notably the obviously sampled flutes on Streamlined.
As I've said in my review of Plasticsoul's genuine Chamberlin-heavy debut, 2005's Pictures From the Long Ago, they sit somewhere in between Americana and powerpop, the two genres being more closely related than you might think. The band have followed up with 2009's Peacock Swagger, a slightly more laid-back, countryish effort, highlights including opener You Sentimental Fucks/Life On Other Planets and the acoustic What Do You Know About Rock & Roll? Band mainman Steven Wilson (no...) has admitted to me that all the 'Chamberlin' here is sampled; the band clearly fell in love with the sound while recording their debut and couldn't bear to let it go, just because of a lack of access to a real one again. Anyway, we get that peculiarly raucous string sound on half of the tracks here, plus that oh-so-distinctive solo male voice on Cancer, occasional flute use and a whole strings phrase on My Three Friends sounding not dissimilar to the MkII Mellotron 'moving strings'. Despite the differences between their two releases, anyone into the band's debut will find things to like here, while of the two, Americana fans will probably prefer this.
Platinum Weird were a long-lost early '70s outfit, helmed by a young Dave Stewart (Eurythmics, not Egg/Hatfields) and legendary vocalist Erin Grace, who recorded an album's-worth of material... OK, they're not. In the grand tradition of The Rutles, The Dukes of Stratosphear, Spinal Tap and others, they're an elaborate fake, although Stewart went all-out to create a backstory for the band, including fake websites, one amusingly claiming to've existed since 1987 (yeah, like CDs signed by Hendrix). They're supposed to've influenced Fleetwood Mac just before their Americanisation and indeed, 2006's Make Believe sounds a lot like a less catchy version of the Rumours-era band. So; who is Erin Grace? Kara DioGuardi, as it happens, a performer/writer/general industry mover'n'shaker who was attempting to write material for The Pussycat Dolls with Stewart when they diverged into this project.
But is it any good? I hear you ask (possibly). Er, faux-mid-'70s soft rock? Whadd'ya reckon? It's sort-of amusing for its accuracy and commitment to 'getting it right', but only once. Actually, it's so easy to forget you're listening to a fake that it quickly just becomes dull, full of slushy ballads and spot-on half-arsed attempts at 'rock', like If You Believe In Love or closer Goodbye My Love. Someone called Noel Chambers is credited with Mellotron, but the veracity of both is a bit suspect, frankly. Given that he's working with Stewart, Chambers seems to have no online presence whatsoever, while the 'Mellotron' is not only too smooth (M-Tron! M-Tron!), but Love Can Kill The Blues features a string chord holding rather over the maximum eight seconds. Hardly surprising, given that a) Stewart's never been known to use one before (please correct me if I'm wrong) and b) the whole thing's a fake, anyway. The samples crop up on most tracks, with strings across the board and the occasional flute part, although by the time we get to the strings on Goodbye My Love, the fakery is fairly apparent.
Amused by fake bands? You'll love Platinum Weird. Love Rumours-era Mac? You might find this an amusing diversion. I did say 'might'. Everyone else? I rather doubt that you'll get much from this, but you never know. Plenty of fakeotron, but I can't really say it improves the material overmuch.
Ernesto "Ego Plum" Guerrero's influences include film music, cartoons, '80s American post-punk and The Residents, amongst others. The Rat King is his (and his Ebola Music Orchestra's) debut, a crazed melange of all of the above, the end result sounding like a twisted circus, or a soundtrack to a freakshow, possibly at its best on the lengthyish title track. Aaron Cohen plays fakeotron flutes on Something To Hide, Hansel And Gretel and the title track and strings on Funeral Dirge.
Plumb's strangely-titled Candycoatedwaterdrops starts by sounding like it's channelling Zeppelin's Kashmir in a contemporary style, but quickly sinks into a pit of horrors, not least due to the revelation (ha ha) that they're bloody Christians. Well, I should've realised, shouldn't I, with titles like God-Shaped Hole and Drugstore Jesus? Not to mention the 'thanks section: "We want to thank most importantly Christ, our Savior, in whom this album is in honor" Er, 'in whom this album is in honor'? Is their faith so overwhelming that their grammar goes to shit? Obviously. That looks a lot like someone trying to write 'proper' English without actually knowing how. Anyway, this album is lyrically offensive to anyone who would once upon a time have been known as a 'free-thinker' and it's musically offensive to anyone who likes anything outside the mainstream. Yes, even a little bit. Co-producer Glenn Rosenstein allegedly plays Mellotron on Stranded, but given that both he and Mike Purcell are credited with 'programming', it's safe to say that it's lost somewhere in the glossy, superficial mix. Exactly the same goes for Matt Stanfield's supposed Mellotron work on Solace. Oh well, at least I didn't waste a whole 43 mins 55 secs listening to this dreck; when Mellotron tracks are credited and the music's awful, I freely admit that I reach for the 'skip' button with some frequency. Drivel. And I haven't even mentioned the ludicrously-named Tiffany Arbuckle's horrid, 'confessional' vocal style. After listening to this, I feel defiled. Avoid, with urgency.
Mike Plume sits somewhere in between two closely-related genres, Americana and 'roots rock', coming across like a cross between, say, Steve Earle and Tom Petty, or maybe John Mellencamp. 1997's wittily-titled Song & Dance, Man was his band's fourth release, although their third recording, as they recorded another album's-worth of material at the end of the sessions, releasing it first. It's the kind of album that does a job and does it well, with little fuss or bother, notable tracks including opener Rattle The Cage (yup, always start with a strong one), the countryish If There Was Ever A Fool and Take Me With You, largely for its pseudo-mariachi trumpet arrangement. Producer Marek (nothing to do with my pal in Litmus, I hasten to add) is credited with Mellotron, but if the vaguely flutey sound on Oblivion is a genuine machine, I'll be stunned. So; a good album of its type, but not one obviously containing any Mellotron.
Bloody hell, how to describe Resurrecting the Magus? German jamband funk? Eight tracks in over seventy minutes means a lot of jamming, at least in this case, although much of the guitar work is funky, rather than psychedelic. I can't honestly say this stuff floats my boat, although I might find an abbreviated version of the album more listenable, which is quite certainly missing the point massively. Oh well. Pofter (whoever he may be; ludicrous nickname, too) plays samplotron strings on Dig This.
The Pogo Pops played a form of mainstream guitar pop on Crash, occasionally slipping into the 'power' variety, notably on Jennifer Peach and Just Like You. Yngve L. Sætre's credited Mellotron on Jennifer Peach and Veronica Says is very clearly nothing of the sort. Fail.
Paulina "Pola" Pospieszalska's Wbrew, despite its Polish title (Against), is an English-language pop/rock album, generally inoffensive, probably at its best on the jaunty, '60s-influenced Brackenberry Lane, strangely deprecated to 'bonus track' status. One Robin Millar is credited with Mellotron, but, although his samples aren't bad, an overlong note in Stolen gives the game away.
Polifemo are one of several Argentinian '70s outfits who credited 'Mellotron' when the album quite clearly contains nothing of the sort. I'm not at all sure what was going on there, but having listenend to several of these efforts and been rewarded with nothing more than Ciro Fogliata's string synth every time, I've completely given up on music from that country/era. Saying that, Polifemo II is actually a pretty good album, just not one that really belongs on a website celebrating the Mellotron. They did that mix'n'match thing with their sound, veering from hard rock through fusion to a fairly straight prog sound on different tracks, which could be seen either as diversity or not knowing what they wanted to do; your decision, really. Their self-titled debut apparently credits Fogliata with Mellotron again, but I think it's safe to assume it's as non-existent as here. Fogliata previously played with Espiritu, so the same goes for their albums, as it does for Gustavo Montesano of Crucis.
Polytechnic worked their way through several other names before arriving at their final, uninspired moniker. Fitting, really, as their music's no more inspiring than their name, being a slightly-more-melodic-than-usual variety of indie, at least on their sole full-lengther, 2007's Down Til Dawn. Vocalist Dylan Giles' style veers between Tom Verlaine and his more famous namesake, possibly to disguise an inability to carry a tune in a bucket. Cynical? Moi? A couple of tracks rise slightly above the mire, but overall, it's all pretty dull, albeit largely inoffensive. Giles, Peet Earnshaw (the actual keyboard player) and Yuri Caul are all credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on Won't You Come Around and Quay Street are unable to convince, a speedy run at the end of the latter being the definite sample giveaway. So; not very exciting, really, is it? As the band found their limited level of fame through live work, I'll be charitable and assume that the material worked better on stage.
Steve Poltz' singer-songwriter thing incorporates a large helping of '70s-style soft rock, which doesn't, to be brutally honest, improve it a great deal. I've no idea why Billy Harvey is credited with Mellotron.
Lola Ponce (pronounced 'Pon-che') is an Argentinian singer/actress type who broke through internationally in Italy (her website has a '.it' suffix); 2008's Il Diario di Lola is her fourth album, combining Italian, Spanish and English lyrics in a probably successful attempt to appeal to the widest possible audience. It's pretty much as you'd expect; pop of various hues, from the glossy AOR of opener Colpo Di Fulmine through the balladry of Mi Heroe to the dance-pop of Devorame Otra Vez, making for the kind of album that you, dear reader, are unlikely to go for. Rick Nowels (Dido, Ronan Keating, a host of other mainstream pop acts) plays samplotron, with little repeating string stabs on It Goes Down and flutes on Use Your Imagination.
Pony Harvest play a form of '60s-influenced electronica, if that makes any sense, possibly at its best on Brain Medicine. Richard Bradley slaps samplotron choirs and flutes all over Medieval Hairdo.
Norway's Poor Rich Ones have a post-rock-inflected indie sound on the wildly overlong Happy Happy Happy, with no obvious highlights. Someone (Cato Salsa?) plays samplotron strings on the title track, Drown and several others, with flutes elsewhere, notably the way-over-eight-seconds pitchbends on New Lullaby.
2004's Poorfolk is something of a '90s indie hangover, with no obvious highlights. I've no idea why regular Canadian samplotron user Dave Draves even gets a Mellotron credit.
I've had Belgium's Pop Machine (or Popmachine) listed for some time, but upon finally hearing 1999's Love Me and the following year's Sage singles, not only do their faux-pre-psych '60s moves only serve to irritate, but the nearest either of them gets to the credited 'Mellotron' is a spectacularly bad attempt at flutes on Sage. Fail.
Florian Fricke's Popol Vuh (nothing to do with the later Norwegian band, of course) soundtracked Werner Herzog's iconic Aguirre, the Wrath of God in 1972, although it took three years for any kind of soundtrack album to appear. 1975's Aguirre actually only contains two tracks from the film, Aguirres I and II, the rest of the material dating from various studio sessions between '72 and '74, two of which (Morgengruß II and Agnus Dei) are alternate versions of tracks from '74's Einsjäger und Siebenjäger. Fricke largely gave up on electronics after '72, preferring ethnic musics or his beloved piano, making this one of their more varied releases, also covering acoustic (Morgengruß II and Vergegenwärtigung) and psychedelic (Agnus Dei) areas, the only tracks with any real connection to each other being the ones from the film.
Aguirre is one of the commonest Mellotronic 'mistaken identity' albums, due to Fricke's use of the legendary 'choir-organ' (see: Amon Düül II). It can be heard on both parts of Aguirre itself (and the CD-only third part), providing ethereal choral washes, backdropping tribal drumming and volume-pedalled guitar on Aguirre III. Although slightly (and understandably) disjointed, this is an excellent album and the best way to hear the rarely-recorded choir-organ, but don't come here expecting to hear any Mellotron.
Porcupine Tree (UK) see:
Willy Porter's seventh album, 2009's How to Rob a Bank, is a reasonably appealing concoction of folk/roots/Americana, the chief exceptions to the rule being the mildly funky Colored Lights and the jazzy Psychic Vampire. Best tracks? Probably the mildly raunchy Hard Place (great guitar sound) and gentle closer Barefoot Reel, but nothing here offends. Dave Adler supposedly plays Mellotron, but the fakeness of the pleasant, overly-smooth flute part on I Didn't Bring it Up is pretty much verified by the long flute note at the end of Wide Open Mind, while the cello on a few tracks is real. A decent enough record, then, if somewhat unexciting, with a little sampled Mellotron.
Porter Block are the NYC-based duo of Peter Block and Caleb Sherman, The Gowanus Yacht Club (named for Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal) being their fourth album. I want to like this more than I actually do; they're great when they play powerpop (opener Youth's Magic Horn, Moving Around The Sun), but their West Coast influences keep creeping in (Your Heart Is A Broken Thing, Down And Sinking), trying to spoil things. Still, the former outweigh the latter, so think of it as a two-thirds decent record. Andy Baldwin's credited with Mellotron, given the lie by the obviously sampled flutes on Moving Around The Sun.
Poseidotica's debut album, 2005's Intramundo, is possibly best described as instrumental, psychedelic stoner metal with prog influences, although Las Cuatro Estaciones taps into a trad jazz zone. Highlights include the Floyd-esque Aquatalan, Tantra and closer Mantra, although, unfortunately, some of its material falls into the trap of sounding like songs waiting for lyrics and a vocal line, in the way of many formative instrumental outfits. Pablo Catania is credited with Moog bass on Aquatalan and Moog and Mellotron on Mantra, but I'd love to know where the latter (it's pretty much a given that it's sampled) might be: the brassy/stringy thing in the background towards the end of the track? Hmmm. Anyway, it's an extremely minor player on the album overall; listen to this because it's worth hearing, not because of a spurious Mellotron credit.
Athens, GA's Possibilities play a kind-of psychedelic powerpop on their second album, Way Out, at its best on Now And Then You Appear, Braintree (named for the Essex town?) and the raucous Coming In Waves. Downsides? Whoever sings the flat-as-a-pancake lead on Starlight should never be allowed near a mic again. I'm really not sure why Jason Gonzalez is credited with Mellotron.
Grace Potter and her inimitable Nocturnals are a classic case of genre-blending, mixing soul, blues, country and a smidgeon of arena rock into a radio-friendly stew that should appeal to, say, Dave Matthews fans (Potter & Co. supported Matthews in 2008). Her/their third studio album, 2007's This is Somewhere, efficiently blends their various influences without actually coming up with anything particularly memorable, although better moments include the mildly raunchy blues-rock of Stop The Bus and Grace's Plant-esque wails on Here's To The Meantime, sitting happily alongside some Page-esque slide, the whole thing just scraping three stars. Potter plays samplotron herself, while Mike Daly adds pseudo-Chamberlin, with a muted flute line on You May See Me and background strings on Falling Or Flying. Although The Lion the Beast the Beat (with or without punctuation) is a better album, I'm not sure it's better enough to garner an extra half star. Better tracks include the ripping opening title track, the catchy Turntable and the slow-burn of The Divide, while One Heart Missing is about the best of several slow numbers. Potter plays samplotron flutes, with a nicely pitchbent line on Never Go Back and an echoed part on Runaway plus credited strings on four tracks.
Although 2015's Midnight is credited as a solo album, various members of her band play on it, so she doesn't seem to have split the band. Unfortunately, the album takes influences from the current r'n'b scene, coming across as a poor attempt to make a mainstream pop record. Are there any high points? Low isn't so bad, ditto Nobody's Born With A Broken Heart, although, like the rest of the album, the irritating production intrudes, inserting unwanted effects to what could've been perfectly good songs. Potter and Eric Valentine are credited with Mellotron, but I've no idea where; several tracks contain string-ish sounds, but none sound like they emanate from a Mellotron. Even if we are hearing anything, it's almost certain to be a sample, so that's where this is going. I can't even slightly recommend it, anyway; let's hope Potter gets back to her usual area as soon as possible.
Jack Potter is a drummer with a mission, viz, a concept album concerning the dreams of a chap called Duke (wonder where he got his inspiration for the name?), the end result being 2013's Celestial Adventures. At least he didn't name it after its protagonist... Potter's influences range across the progressive spectrum, from prog-metal, through the 'modern prog' of Spock's Beard et al. to the '70s variety, specifics including a little burst of Styx crossed with Van der Graaf sax in Streets Of Gold, a sudden 'Genesis moment' in Quiet Conversations With Duke, vaguely Gentle Giant-esque pseudo-marimbas on Sunday Morning and a terrible Watcher Of The Skies rip in Faithful Witness, Pt. 3. Sadly, the album is marred by frequent, sometimes lengthy sections of narration (mostly English-accented, interestingly) that I have seen laughably described as 'non-obtrusive'; OK, the concept may well be incomprehensible without (and with?), but I'm not sure that's any excuse. Just when you think that it can't get any worse, the last (American-accented) piece of narration includes the line, "It was in the hands of my lord. My lord, my saviour". Nooooo!!!!
Two musicians are credited with Mellotron: Andreas Diemann on Prison Walls and The Dreamer and Davie Marschall on Faithful Witness, Pt. 4, but if the choirs on the first-named are anything to go by (which, in fact, they are), we are, to absolutely no-one's surprise, looking at samples. The Dreamer features more watery choirs and passable strings, with slightly better choirs on the final track, but you really aren't going to buy this for a few Mellotron samples, frankly. Concept album fans may well go for this, but I'm afraid to say, at least for this reviewer, its failings heavily outweigh its strengths.
8 Circles is a rather wet singer-songwriter/Americana effort, at its least dull on a capella closer You Won't See Me Cry. Fernando Perdomo plays samplotron strings on Together and strings and flutes on Seduction.
Jim Rigberg's first Samples review, folks...
Don't you just love it when a release grabs you by the ass from the first note? Merlin Laughed, track 1 of Doug Powell's The Lost Chord, opens with sputtering (sampled) Mellotron choir and strings leading into a great harmony vocal singing the song's motif. Things just get better from there. Stylistically, The Lost Chord is going to flat-out appeal to Jellyfish fans; it would be hard to get away from Jellyfish comparisons because Powell's voice is very similar to Andy Sturmer's. Melodically speaking, Powell's work is every bit as strong as anything Jellyfish ever released and easily stands up in its own right.
The Mellotron apparently is the product of samples from the EMU Vintage Keys Plus module. Mr.Powell has advised that he removed the effects that had been included with the presets and used a 'dry sample'. The results are impressive - none of the Mellotron sounds fake nor are there any dead giveaways (e.g. infinite sustains). The Lost Chord also does NOT engage in Thompson's pet peeve (crediting anyone, anywhere with 'Mellotron' where no actual Mellotron is used). The sampled Mellotron, moreover, pops up all over the place. Any Jellyfish fans, those who like pop/prog crossovers, excellent songwriting, etc. as well as those who like hearing a lot of Mellotron - regardless of whether its sampled or real - will want to add this CD to their collection.
The pretentiously-named The Prayers & Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers' pretentiously-titled second album The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia is, in many ways, yer typical indie effort, although it throws in elements from metal and electronica, amongst other unrelated genres. If I'm going to be honest, while a track or two of this exceedingly dull, pseudo-haunted stuff is just about OK, fifty minutes of it is a thorough bore, leaving the non-indie fan willing it to end. Soon. I believe it's Alex Lazara who adds sampled Mellotron strings and flutes to a few tracks, notably on closer The Sad Lives Of The Hollywood Lovers, to no great effect, if truth be told. I know this stuff's popular, presumably with people who identify with the 'meaningful' lyrics and simplistic music (or aren't bothered about the latter), but to anyone steeped in genres where keeping it interesting is considered a prerequisite, this is going to come across as very tame indeed.