album list


RBD  (Mexico)

Rebels  (2006,  55.46)  **
Para Olvidarte de Mi  (2009,  44.07)  *½

What to say about RBD? A short-lived but immensely successful Latin American three boy/three girl sextet with some kind of major connection to Mexican soap Rebelde. 2006's Rebels (presumably a direct translation of the soap title) is an irritating, yet ultimately relatively harmless Latin-flavoured pop/rock release, Armando Avila's 'Mellotron', unusually audible for one of his productions, appears twice, with surprisingly obvious samplotron strings on Tu Amor and This Is Love. Although they officially split in 2008, their last album, Para Olvidarte de Mi (To Forget About Me) appeared the following year. It's... exceptionally mainstream modern Latin pop, which really is all I need to tell you about this tedious record. Avila is credited with Mellotron again, but where there might be one, real or sampled, hidden away in the brash, radio-friendly mix, really is anyone's guess; without track-by-track credits, I've no idea. Anyway, you don't want to hear this, I don't want to hear this again, no obvious Mellotron, end of story.

RPWL  (Germany)

Trying to Kiss the Sun  (2002,  59.38)  ***½
Stock  (2003,  43.46)  ***
World Through My Eyes  (2005,  70.28)  **½
Start the Fire - Live  (2005,  128.31)  **½
The RPWL Experience  (2008,  67.01)  **½
Beyond Man & Time  (2012,  73.04)  **½

RPWL (named for the four original members' initials) started as a Pink Floyd tribute, releasing their first album, God Has Failed, in 2000. By the time they released Trying to Kiss the Sun, two years later, their name was already irrelevant, but they've obviously stuck with it for simplicity's sake. There's a distinct Floyd influence apparent on several tracks, although plenty of other things also get thrown into the mix, not least a touch of Genesis, with a heavier edge in places (Sugar For The Ape). Best track? Probably the all-out symphonics of You, where their influences coalesce in a fairly pleasing manner. I'm deeply suspicious of Yogi Lang's supposed 'Mellotron', although I'd like to be proved wrong (the sampled piano is dreadful, sounding about as plasticky as it could). 'Strawberry Fields' flutes on the opening title track, with strings to the fore on Waiting For A Smile and Sugar For The Ape, although the choirs don't have that Mellotron ring about them. Saying that, the choirs on You do sound like Mellotron, while the string swells on Home Again are extremely authentic, but I'm still pretty certain they're samples.

The following year's Stock seems to be influenced more by late-'60s Floyd than its predecessor and has fewer changes in tempo, electing to do that mid-paced thing throughout much of its length, although it turns out that it's a 'odds'n'sods' album and shouldn't really be treated as a new release as such. I actually find it a little less interesting than Trying to Kiss the Sun, although anyone who attempts psychedelia in any form in the 21st century should really be given a listen. Don't get me wrong; it's perfectly listenable, just not stupendously interesting, despite its noticeably shorter length. What is certain is that there's far less 'Mellotron', with the only obvious use being more of those 'Strawberry Fields' flutes again on the almost-jaunty Who Do You Think You Are.

2005's World Through My Eyes is similar to Trying to Kiss the Sun, but without any of the qualities that made that a fairly decent album. Overlong and boring, it rarely picks up above its sluggish, Floydian pace, but without being a fraction as good as the Floyd. There aren't any highlights, really, although there are an awful lot worse albums about; it's all just so... uninspired. Plenty of 'Mellotron', which still doesn't convince me it's been anywhere near 35 strips of magnetic tape. Choirs on opener Sleep, strings on Start The Fire, more of those 'Strawberry Fields' flutes on Everything Was Not Enough, with strings on Three Lights and Wasted Land to finish off, though rarely doing anything exciting. Hmmm. Maybe spend your hard-earned on something else?

The same year's Start the Fire - Live is a pretty turgid, two-disc live effort (Roses is especially bad), particularly the first disc, which seems to go on forever. And why throw the chorus to Genesis' I Know What I Like into the middle of Day On My Pillow? The album improves on disc two, opening with the relatively dynamic World Through My Eyes; unfortunately, the improvement is mostly down to a brace of Floyd covers, Cymbaline (incorporating uncredited sections of Echoes and Atom Heart Mother) and Welcome To The Machine, simultaneously plunging the band back into their tribute act days and hauling the album, kicking and screaming, up to a whole **½ (I'm afraid it would've been ** otherwise). Did I hear someone say, "Crowd pleasers"? Samplotron on a few tracks, with strings and over-loud flutes on Start The Fire (although the choirs on Sleep aren't even Mellotron samples), strings on Day On My Pillow, The Gentle Art Of Swimming and Wasted Land, string swells in Opel. 2008's The RPWL Experience is pretty similar to its immediate predecessor, the Floyd remaining their top influence, particularly noticeable on Where Can I Go?, although an unfortunate 'alt.rock' edge creeps in later on. Minor samplotron use, the most upfront being the strings on Watch Myself, but you're unlikely to want to hear this if you don't like their earlier work.

Four years on and 2012's Beyond Man & Time shows little change in the RPWL camp, with another symphonic/Floyd crossover effort. Its first few tracks are deadly - an appallingly bad move - but the album picks up on The Ugliest Man In The World (The Ugly), snatching that extra half star that might otherwise have been denied it. The best bits of this album would make a decent half hour disc, but it's obvious why the band haven't gone down that route. Coincidentally (?), the first samplotron track is the first listenable one, with flutes and strings all over The Ugliest Man In The World, flutes on Somewhere In Between (The Dream Of Saying Yes) and major string and choir parts on the lengthy The Fisherman, which would probably be the best thing here were it a few minutes shorter.

Ra Ra Riot  (US)

The Orchard  (2010,  39.11)  *½

Ra Ra Riot's terrible, plinky indie nonsense does them no favours 'round these parts, I can tell you. Inaudible samplotron, not that it would improve matters.

Ra Rising  (UK)

Seize the Day  (2014,  69.03)  **½

Ra released two albums before becoming Ra Rising for 2014's Seize the Day. They describe themselves as 'progressive', although they're clearly doing something other than trying to recreate what Genesis did forty years earlier (see: any number of current British 'prog', yet not 'progressive' outfits). I'm trying to think of the best way to describe this. Pub-prog? Influences from folk, hard rock and rhythm'n'blues all find their way into the band's music, working well on, say, A Time That Was or Alive And Well, less so when they try to get too clever. Unfortunately, the album features some major 'issues': vocalist Richard Benjamin isn't the world's greatest rock singer and the album's budget production leaves him overly exposed at the front of the mix. The penny finally drops during Alive And Well: Mr. Benjamin needs to sing in a folk outfit, preferably with two or three other singers, as he struggles to stay in tune in places, while his voice lacks any real tone. Guitarist Brian Jones is perfectly competent, but overreaches himself on some of his solos, while the on/off pub-rock drumming merely adds to the album's slightly amateurish feel. Sorry, guys, but I have to be honest. The band feature noted synthesist Steve Hillman on keys, who apparently moved towards prog from EM some twenty years earlier. He uses Mellotron samples on several tracks (usual suspects: strings and choir), but I'm afraid his samples aren't good enough to fool the trained ear. I'm sorry; I hate to be so down on a band doing their own, self-funded thing (been there, done that), but Ra Rising need to take a serious look at themselves before entering a studio again. Keep at it, though, chaps, you'll get there.

Hugo Race & True Spirit  (Australia)

Taoist Priests  (2006,  61.51)  ***

Ex-Bad Seed singer/musician/producer Hugo Race is an ex-pat Aussie living in Europe who's recorded a slew of albums with his True Spirit. I get the impression 2006's Taoist Priests is fairly typical, featuring Race's hoarse talking blues over what has been described as 'industrial-trance-blues'. Picking standout tracks isn't easy; like many others, the album works best as a whole, specific highlights being thin on the ground. Race is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, but with nothing particularly obvious on the sort-of title track, Taoist Priest, the only even remotely audible work is the distant, background sampled strings on Into The Void.

Racoon  (Netherlands)

Liverpool Rain  (2011,  39.28)  **½

Acoustic-based Dutch pop/rock outfit Racoon are probably best described as (in Douglas Adams' immortal words) 'mostly harmless'; their fifth studio album, 2011's Liverpool Rain, wanders along in a singer-songwritery vein, almost offensive in its bland inoffensiveness. Shockingly, this actually makes Coldplay sound dynamic. Highlights? Not really, no, although closer Better Be Kind seems to do more with its source material than anything else here, particularly with regard to British veteran Andrew Powell's inventive string arrangement. Wouter van Belle adds keyboards to most of the album, with sampled Mellotron flutes (thanks, Peter) on the last three tracks, No Story To Tell, Don't Give Up The Fight and Better Be Kind, with brief yet intelligently-arranged parts on all three. No, you don't need to hear this, but at least the samplotron's used well.

Sam Rader  (US)

Goldstar Galaxy  (2007,  26.08)  **½

Sam (presumably Samantha) Rader's Goldstar Galaxy mini-album is a kind of indie/orchestral pop crossover, OK for a song or two, but irritating over even its short length. Scott Seiver's Mellotron is inaudible.

Radiant  (US)

We Hope You Win  (2006,  54.31)  *½

Radiant apparently openly admit to forming as a result of their obsession with Radiohead's medium-spiffing OK Computer, which is probably more honest than wise, frankly. The end result, at least on 2006's We Hope You Win, is an especially horrible form of 'transcendent pop' of exactly the kind that I all-too-frequently implore you to run away from. Now. Paul Williams allegedly plays Mellotron, with a major string part on the U2-esque Kid With A Knife, most likely sampled, while the strings on several other tracks sound either like they're either generic samples or real. This is not only utterly excruciating, it's utterly excruciating and nearly an hour long. Pain, pain, pain.

Radiators From Space  (Ireland)

Trouble Pilgrim  (2006,  51.05)  ***

I remember Dublin's Radiators (From Space) from the 'first time round' punk era, although they were barely more than also-rans at the time, remembered chiefly as The Pogues' Philip Chevron's first outfit. After splitting in 1981, 2006's Trouble Pilgrim was the band's third album and first since 1979, a kind of naïve pop/punk/indie crossover maybe, sounding little like my memory of the original band, unsurprisingly. Their obvious '60s influences leak through on several tracks, while it might just be at its best on the curiously affecting likes of The Dark At The Top Of The Stairs and Hinterland. Peter Holidai is credited with Mellotron, but the strings here and there, notably on Words, sound sampled.

Joshua Radin  (US)

Simple Times  (2008,  33.54)  *½
Unclear Sky  (2008,  12.34)  *½

Joshua Radin is frequently categorised as 'folk', making me wonder what poor old folk did to be saddled with this. I (thankfully) haven't heard his first album, but 2008's Simple Times is the proverbial crock of shit; utterly insipid, go-nowhere songs sung in Radin's infuriatingly 'breathy' voice, leading to his own description of his music as 'whisper rock'. Make it a little quieter please, Josh. No, quieter still. And a bit more... Great. Can't hear you at all now. That way I don't have to listen to your appalling lyrics. Representative sample: "She drives a vegetable car, diesel, Mercedes, green, two-door..." Thanks for that environmentalist insight, dude. Jason Borger supposedly plays Mellotron on Free Of Me (I wish), with strings and cello parts, although the cellos on the rest of the album are real. This really is a vile record; as limp as you can imagine - possibly limper - with no obvious saving graces. Radin's Unclear Sky EP is more of the same, with Greg Laswell on samplotron cellos on Sky and strings on Lovely Tonight.

Radio Berlin  (Canada)

Glass  (2003,  52.38)  ***

The neo-post-punk moves of Vancouver's Radio Berlin's last album, Glass, sound like New Order duelling with Ultravox, other obvious references including Joy Division and Siouxsie & the Banshees (spot the sheet metal guitar on Knives). The rather overlong end result doesn't always work (closer Bright Things), but when it does (A Suitcase, Aftermath), it conjures up the spirit of another era with aplomb. Lyndsay Sung supposedly plays Mellotron; what, the strings on The Hyphen? FFS.

Radio Knives  (US)

Cursed  (2006,  37.03)  ***

Radio Knives' garage band turn on Cursed can be heard at their best on Diggin' Out, manic closer You're So Hip and the nearest the album gets to a ballad, Son Of A Gun. Jack Younger's Mellotron credit turns out to be nothing more interesting than the heavily pitchbent samplotron strings on You're So Hip.

Raf  (Italy)

Iperbole  (2001,  42.49)  **
Ouch  (2004,  48.10)  **
Metamorfosi  (2008,  36.59)  **½

Three albums of entirely undistinguished Italian-language pop/rock, covering various 'fashionable at the time' bases, not least hip-hop-lite and a plethora of power ballads. Simone Papi has Mellotron credits on all three, although Metamorfosi's the only one that uses even vaguely authentic samples, notably the strings on L'Era Del Gigante and Il Mondo Coi Tuoi Occhi.

Jody Raffoul  (Canada)

Big Sky  (2008,  66.59)  **½

If I were to tell you that Ontarian Jody Raffoul has been lauded by Jon Bon Jovi, what would you think? Yeah, me too, so the relative inoffensiveness of his third studio album, Big Sky, is a welcome surprise. Don't get me wrong; it's a dullard of a mainstream, vaguely roots-rock release, but it could've been so much worse. Raffoul gets a Mellotron credit for the samplotron strings on Should I Have Known Better and I Told You So and flutes on closer And It Shines.

Suzi Ragsdale  (US)

Best Regards/Less of the Same  (2010,  43.32)  ***

Best Regards/Less of the Same is only Suzi Ragsdale, daughter (for her sins) of 'comedy' country star Ray "Stevens" Ragsdale's second release in fifteen years. It's a slightly odd, forty-three minute, two-disc set, so it's no great surprise to learn that it was originally released as two separate EPs. Essentially superior singer-songwriter fare, its twelve tracks have less country influence than you might expect, closer Take It Easy being the closest this gets to that genre. Tim Lauer is credited with Mellotron, but not only are most of his other credits bogus, but there isn't even anything audible this time. Mellotron fail.

Raining Pleasure  (Greece)

Reflections  (2005,  43.10)  ***

Raining Pleasure's fifth album sits somewhere in between vaguely Scott Walker-esque '60s pop, psych and modern indie, at its best on The Day, the circus-y vibe of Kemal and the slowburn Bitter Way. A bit bloody cheeky of 'Spiràl' and guitarist/vocalist Vassilikos to credit themselves with Mellotron, when it's so blatantly sampled. The flutes on The Day give the game away - played too quickly, with a too-consistent attack, while the strings on Kemal drop well below the instrument's range, amongst other samplotron crimes.

Rainmaker  (US)

Long Slow Fade  (2008,  44.15)  ***

San Franciscan's Rainmaker play a variety of low-key Americana, throwing other influences into Long Slow Fade as and when, top tracks including excellent opener The Last Record Store, the bluesy Further From The Truth and Sweetwater Has Run Dry. Jonathan Chi's Mellotron? Inaudible.

Raising Holy Sparks  (Ireland)

Beyond the Unnamed Bay  (2011,  50.50)  **

David Colohan helmed Agitated Radio Pilot (ARP, geddit?) from 1993 until 2011, at which point he began working with two new collaborators in Raising Holy Sparks. Their debut, Beyond the Unnamed Bay, consists of a kind of folky post-rock, the album's centrepiece being the near-twenty minute The Depths Of Bailey Point, an exercise in formless drifting if ever there were one. Less bad material including the harmonium-fuelled Along The Sea's Drumming and There Can Be No Loneliness In Our Singing, but the bulk of the album served only to irritate this listener. Colohan plays credited Mellotron samples (nice to see someone come clean, for once), with drifting, background choirs on The Depths Of Bailey Point and here and there elsewhere, notably on Along The Sea's Drumming. I'm quite certain this music has an audience, but I'm afraid I can not count myself among it.

Rake's Progress  (US)

Altitude  (1995,  48.26)  **½

Named for Hogarth's series of engravings (hey! Intellectual cred!), Rake's Progress released an EP, Cheese Food Prostitute in '94, following it a year later with what appears to have been their only album, Altitude. And it's... slightly punky indie-pop, with the occasional decent lyric, but not an awful lot more to recommend it, to be honest. This sort of stuff needs to be heard in bursts of thirty-five minutes, tops, so at nearly fifty, it long outstays its welcome, losing it a clear half star for its lack of much-needed brevity. Producer Nicholas Sansano is credited with Mellotron, although, unlike all the other guest credits, without mentioning where. All I can hear is a faint cello line on closer Man Overboard, almost certainly sampled.

John Ralston  (US)

Sorry Vampire  (2007,  42.21)  **½

John Ralston is the kind of modern American singer-songwriter who seems to confuse 'heartfelt' with 'wussy', so that his second album, 2007's Sorry Vampire, while containing the odd decent moment, is largely rather tedious, insipid nonsense. Ralston plays 'Mellotron' himself, although the choirs on When I Was A Bandage are not only too clean, but sustain for too long at the end of the track, while the flutes on Ghetto Tested and Where You Used To Sleep simply don't ring true. OK, OK, I've heard worse, but this is a pretty dull, dreary release.

Joey Ramone  (US)

"...Ya Know?"  (2012, recorded 2001-12,  52.10)  ***½

Jeffry "Joey Ramone" Hyman's second posthumous solo album, 2012's "...Ya Know?", is also probably his last, as I can't imagine there are many unreleased recordings left in the vaults. Go on, prove me wrong... Populated by a cast of thousands, musicians on various tracks include members of Cheap Trick, The Dictators and The Plasmatics, not to mention Joan Jett and Richie Ramone on several tracks. So, what's it sound like, then? Guess. Actually, little of it sounds exactly like The Ramones themselves, or at least their early years, but, unsurprisingly, a rock'n'roll aesthetic permeates the disc, top tracks including Going Nowhere Fast, the acoustic Waiting For That Railroad, What Did I Do To Deserve You? (which nicks its chorus from Beat On The Brat) and the Spectoralike Party Line. To be honest, although the album's a little overlong for its content, there isn't a bad track here, against the odds. Co-producer of most of the album (not to mention The Ramones' Road to Ruin and others), Ed Stasium, also adds keys to a few tracks, not least the faint, background samplotron strings on Cabin Fever. Overall, then, A fitting epitaph for a much-loved figure and a must-have for Ramones fans.

Ramp  (Germany)

Nodular  (1998,  73.11)  ***

Stephen Parsick's Ramp (or ['ramp])'s EM is very much of the Berlin School, although they also display a talent for the kind of gently shifting electronics in fashion in some circles more recently, at least on their debut, 1998's Nodular. Like so many similar, the band make the mistake of thinking that because they can put over seventy minutes of music on a CD, they should, although the disc wears out its welcome after about the first four tracks, at least for someone not highly attuned to the genre. In fairness, no-one's credited with Mellotron, so while the heavily-reverbed choirs on Intrip, Angular and Phasenverzerrung clearly originated from a Mellotron at some point, I rather doubt it was in the studio, being more likely to be when the samples were created. Klaus "Cosmic" Hoffmann(-Hoock) was involved on the production side, so he may have had something to do with them, but it all seems rather unlikely it's real. So; a decent enough electronic release, but indistinguishable from almost everything else in the field for the uninitiated, without even the bonus of any real Mellotron work.

Lee Ranaldo & the Dust  (US)

Acoustic Dust  (2014,  50.48)  ***½

Lee Ranaldo, co-founder of Sonic Youth, formed The Dust after his main band went on hiatus/bit the dust (ho ho), releasing Last Night on Earth in 2013. Acoustic Dust appeared the following year, a live-in-the-studio release, recorded in Barcelona with local musicians augmenting his band, playing a selection of tracks from their first album, presumably new material and a handful of covers, not least Neil Young's immortal Revolution Blues. Yes, it's dark, yes, it's mournful, yes, it's really rather good. Raúl Fernández Refree is credited with Mellotron, but I'm somewhat dubious about the flute line running through Key/Hole, so I'm afraid this is going here until/if I should find out any more. A fine album, however, Mellotron or no Mellotron.

Mike Randle  (US)

My Music Loves You (Even if I Don't)  (2000,  39.09)  **½

I thought the sleeve of Randle's My Music Loves You (Even if I Don't) had an air of familiarity about it, as one of my college lecturers once said, upon perusing my purloined assignment; it spoofs Leonard Cohen's Death of a Ladies' Man, as seen in a thousand second-hand shops over the years. It (Randle's album, not Smiling Len's) is reasonable enough in a laid-back, vaguely lounge/country vein, but little about it grabbed me in any way, robbing it of half a star. Opener In My Heart and closer Summer Solstice Sky are probably its best tracks, but the album constantly threatens to tip over into MOR territory, which is Not A Good Thing. Eric Carter plays samplotron, with a flute melody and strings on In My Heart, flutes on the title track and strings on Summer Solstice Sky, the latter being particularly effective. Incidentally, it seems Mike Randle is/was a member of Baby Lemonade, who were taken on hook, line and sinker by Arthur Lee to be his last lineup of the legendary Love before his death in August 2006, which is why I'm surprised not to like Randle's music more than I do.

Randone  (Italy)

Singles & Unreleased  (2013, recorded 2003-13,  67.03)  ***½

Italian progsters Randone's Singles & Unreleased doesn't quite do what it says on the tin; Sguardo Verso Il Cielo is previously unreleased, but the other four tracks here have all done time on various various-artist sets, unless by 'singles' they mean stand-alone tracks that don't belong to any group album. Either way, we get their contributions to three Colossus Project collections, The Spaghetti Epic 2: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, The Spaghetti Epic and Kalevala: A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic and Mellow Records' Family Snapshot: A Tribute To Genesis Solo Careers, all but the last-named (Father, Son, from Peter Gabriel's OVO) being the band's own compositions. Do they work, excised from their themed parent albums? Generally speaking, yes, as long as the listener accepts that this is a compilation of tracks recorded over several years. All of the band's strengths and failings are displayed here, The Good (Il Buono) probably being the best of a mixed bag. While I'm not fully convinced that every Randone album listed in their main entry features genuine Mellotron, we're definitely not hearing it here, with many parts (particularly the flutes on most tracks) being played far too fast to be real. In fairness, I haven't listed the first three tracks here as genuine on their parent albums, so it's good to know that my views have remained consistent in the years since I reviewed them. So; worth hearing? If you like what Randone do, yes, although you're only getting six minutes of genuinely previously-unheard music.

Randy & the Bloody Lovelies  (US)

Lift  (2005,  44.54)  ***

Randy Wooten and his Bloody Lovelies' Lift is an album existing in the grey area between singer-songwriter and powerpop stylings, highlights including Pop, Isabella and Under Starlight, although there's barely a bad track on the record. Wooten and Mark Plati are variously credited with Mellotron, with strings on opener Red Carpets, flutes on Wondrous Things and vibes on And I Do and Pop, but their veracity has to be in some doubt.

Rap Allstars  (Germany)

Last Christmas (video version) / Last Christmas (radio version)  12" (1998)  *

German-based hip-hop collective 2-4 Family, recording under the name Rap Allstars (why?), produced this vile version of George Michael's vile Last Christmas, completely with unnecessary, intrusive rapping (of course) in 1998, which may or may not have sold in its home country. To be honest, I neither know nor care. Steve Frame is credited with Mellotron; is that what those vague background strings are? No shit.

Dizzee Rascal  (UK)

Tongue n'Cheek  (2009,  41.31)  ***

I approached Dylan Kwabena "Dizzee Rascal" Mills' fourth album, 2009's Tongue n'Cheek, with considerable trepidation; this is, er, 'grime', isn't it? Some hip-hip spinoff, right? In a manner of speaking, yes; he mixes various related genres, anyway, so what pure grime may or may not be is slightly irrelevant. The music (as against the rapping) on the album is actually very well-constructed, with unusual juxtapositions of sounds and samples and genuinely radical synth and drum machine programming. Who'd'a thunk it? Mr. Rascal (as Brit political pundit Jeremy Paxman called him in an interview) has a talent with his rhyming, too; many of the album's couplets made me laugh out loud, not least most of opener Bonkers. Hal Ritson's credited with Mellotron on Freaky Freaky, to which I can only say, "You've gotta be kidding!" The string sound used throughout the track might have just possibly originated with a real Mellotron, several sample generations back, but certainly isn't played on one here. Well, I'm still reeling at this actually being pretty listenable, despite, on the surface, sitting fairly and squarely in a genre I normally despise. However, not only no Mellotron, but barely any samples as such. One for your disaffected nephew, then, but don't dismiss it out of hand; much better than expected.

Rascal Reporters  (US)

The Foul-Tempered Clavier  (2001,  62.12)  ***½

It would seem The Rascal Reporters have been going since the late '70s, although I hadn't encountered them before finding a 'Mellotron' credit on their sixth album, 2001's The Foul-Tempered Clavier (explanation here for those less elitist than me). It's the kind of progressive record that has fans of the more mainstream end of the genre running screaming, having as much in common with avant-garde jazz as anything, full of pops, clicks and squawks, along with the occasional tune. The band's two chief members, Steve Gore and Steve Kretzmer, are both credited with Mellotron, but all I can hear is an odd flutey sound on Efrem Cymbalist Jr. and some strings that could come from almost anything. Sorry, guys, but I'd put money on a real, live Mellotron, or even samples, having been nowhere near your recording studio. Credited, but clearly not.

Ratatat  (US)

LP4  (2010,  42.35)  ***

Although Ratatat's third album, LP3, featured a real Mellotron (and even pictured it on the sleeve), their imaginatively-titled follow-up, LP4, mixes a real string section with Mellotron samples, quite possibly from the studio machine they'd used previously. The album itself shares its predecessor's eclecticism, from the rattley electronica of opener Bilar through the pseudo-metal of Drugs and the electro of Neckbrace, while the duo summon up the ghost of the still-very-much-alive Brian May on Party With Children. Those samples crop up here and there, notably the skronky flutes and strings on Grape Juice City and closer Alps, also heard on Neckbrace, Bare Feast and Party With Children, amongst others. It's hard to know at whom, exactly, Ratatat are aiming, especially in these days of strict genre quarantine, but their pick'n'mix approach seems to be paying some kind of dividend.

Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus  (Finland)

Rajaportti  (2002,  36.09)  **½

Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus were a Finnish metal outfit who sung in their own language, also recording in German for that market, though strangely not English. I suppose if you're doing well in the large German market, you might as well stick with it... 2002's Rajaportti was their fourth album, consisting of entirely average, mostly mid-paced metal that sounds like, well, everyone else doing similar stuff, really. Apparently, the lyrics are better than many of their competitors, but they're in Finnish... Nils Ursin plays samplotron on Lumessakahlaajat, with a background string part that improves the track.

Amy Ray  (US)

Didn't it Feel Kinder  (2008,  38.50)  ***

Amy Ray is best known as half of The Indigo Girls, so it's no great surprise that her fourth solo album, 2008's Didn't it Feel Kinder (a quote from closer Rabbit Foot), contains a similar variety of impassioned indie singer-songwriter material, for better or worse. I can't say I overly identify with her style, although better tracks (at least to my ears) include opener Birds Of A Feather and SLC Radio. Zac Rae plays samplotron, with background strings on Who Sold The Gun and what sounds like a single string note on SLC Radio.

Brian Ray  (US)

Mondo Magneto  (2006,  37.52)  ***

Brian Ray is one of those 'sidemen to the stars' musicians, having played with Etta James, Johnny Hallyday, Peter Frampton and his most high-profile job, Paul McCartney, with whom he's recorded several albums. 2006's Mondo Magneto is his first album; "I guess I was just busy", he said. It's a good, bluesy rock'n'roll record from the old school, the lyrics to Vinyl raising a smile, while closer Anywhere But Home is probably its most adventurous track, reminding me of Led Zep in places. Russ Irwin and Macca's keyboard player Paul "Wix" Wickens are both credited with Mellotron, with background strings on All I Know, less background ones on If You're Leaving Me and something undeniably Mellotronic but not readily identifiable on Coming Up Roses, all most likely sampled.

Gemma Ray  (UK)

Lights Out Zoltar!  (2009,  39.22)  ***
Milk for Your Motors  (2014,  43.27)  ***

Gemma Ray has been running her post-Gemma Ray Ritual solo career for a couple of years now, 2009's Lights Out Zoltar! being (I believe) her second release under her own name. Just about any online interview you care to peruse will tell you that she takes a pretty retro stance, the album's pre-psych era feel bearing this out, material like Tough Love and (You Got Me In A) Death Roll having a fairly '50s aesthetic. Although Gemma (on Fist Of A Flower) and Mal Bruk (on 1952) are both credited with Mellotron, when I got a mutual acquaintance to ask her directly, she said she 'doesn't remember using a Mellotron, or samples', which rather confuses the issue, so with nothing obvious on the former and only a string sound that could emanate from almost anything on the latter, it wouldn't appear to be that relevant, anyway. Several albums on, 2014's Milk for Your Motors carries on in the same 'pop-noir' area, highlights including opener The Wheel, Desoto and Motorbike (featuring Suicide's Alan Vega). Although Ed Turner (hi, Ed) is credited with Mellotron on When I Kissed You and Desoto, there's nothing obvious to be heard on either track, although someone adds distant flutes to Shake Baby Shake in a 'decidedly sampled' kind of way.

Real Tuesday Weld  (UK)

I, Lucifer  (2004,  44.13)  ***
The London Book of the Dead  (2008,  48.50)  ***

The Real Tuesday Weld (in honour of the actress of the same name), led by Stephen Coates, describe their sound as 'antique beat', which, going by their third album, I, Lucifer, amounts to a straight cross between pre-war swing and modern electronica. The album was intended as a soundtrack to Glen Duncan's novel of the same name; whether it works as such shall have to remain a mystery, as I haven't read it. I'd say the album's actually more 'antique' than 'beat', few of its fourteen tracks having any real modern influence, although those contemporary riddims pop up here and there, notably on (Still) Terminally Ambivalent Over You and one of the album's best tracks, The Life And Times Of The Clerkenwell Kid. On the samplotron front, we get cellos and occasional strings all over the place, plus what sounds like the Mellotron tubular bells on closer The Pearly Gates. Four albums on, 2007's The London Book of the Dead (ho ho) is, essentially, more of the same, Coates' witty lyrical concerns brightening up what might otherwise be seen as merely a copy of his earlier work. 'Mellotronically' speaking, the album kicks off with that tubular bell sample again, also heard on Bringing The Body Back Home, while Kix gives us some full-on strings, with cellos on a handful of tracks. Do you bother with these? Do you like the sound of what they do? If so, then yes. Simple as that, although you're certainly not going to bother for a few Mellotron samples.

The Reason  (Canada)

Ravenna  (2004,  39.32)  **½

The Reason are angry. Very angry. About? Hard to say; everything? Erik Mikalaukas roars, rather than sings, on this ten-part metalcore opera, so don't bother unless you, too are very angry. Mike Borkosky plays samplotron strings on Afterparty At The Actor's Estate.

Rebekah  (US)

Remember to Breathe  (1998,  48.12)  **½

Rebekah Johnson (a.k.a. Rebekah Jordan) seems to be known more as a bit-part actor and songwriter than as a performer, having only released two albums in the last twelve years or so. The first of these is 1998's Remember to Breathe, a passable singer-songwriter effort, if somewhat unexciting, its best track probably being gentle closer Little Black Girl, Rebekah's voice backed with just a harp-like nylon-strung guitar. Matthew Wilder supposedly plays Mellotron on two tracks, with background strings on Sin So Well and, well, nothing audible on To Be Special, with more inaudible Chamberlin on the title track.

Reckless Kelly  (US)

Wicked Twisted Road  (2005,  47.45)  ****

Reckless Kelly, named in honour of Aussie outlaw Ned, almost define alt.country, shifting between acoustic American folk, balls-out (country-) rock and all points in between. Their fourth studio album, Wicked Twisted Road, showcases their talents to perfection, with barely any material dropping below their high standards, several numbers moving this jaded reviewer to stop what he's doing and actually listen. Willy Braun's voice is almost elemental in places, notably on the title track, a.k.a. a case study in how to play country-influenced material without going all Nashville on our arses, while Nobody Haunts Me Like You and Wretched Again rock like bastards. Samplotron from Braun, with some near-inaudible flute chording on the excellent Seven Nights In Eire.

Ben Rector  (US)

Into the Morning  (2010,  37.32)  *
Something Like This  (2011,  38.22)  *½

Ben Rector is yer classic 'modern singer-songwriter' type; having been to see the stupendous, incomparable Richard Thompson literally the night before writing this, all I can feel for this character is, to quote an Ian Dury lyric, 'the purity and depth of my disdain'. Into the Morning is as mainstream as it gets without being full-on, autotuned R&B, frankly; the kind of songs that get used as incidental music on brain-dead US TV shows, which is clearly the intention. If Rector had written more like approaching-acceptable closer Dance With Me Baby, this album would be less offensive. And his insipid 'Mellotron' flutes on Autumn are sampled. Something Like This is marginally less offensive; I'm not entirely sure why, although less atrocious material such as Way I Am and Home helps. Samplotron? The background flutes on Without You? (not that one).

Red Hot Chili Peppers  (US)

Stadium Arcadium  (2006,  122.17)  **½

The Chilis' Stadium Arcadium has to be one of the most flaccidly overlong albums I've had the displeasure of hearing recently; I mean, two hours of this stuff? Fifty minutes, maybe... Apparently, vocalist Anthony Kiedis has stated that the album was supposed to be 'a trilogy of albums released six months apart', but was condensed to a double disc. CONDENSED?? There's more of this? OK, although some tracks are clearly better than others, the mind-numbing effect of playing the whole bloody thing in one sitting tends to render every track effectively the same; do I notice that one's more acoustic and melodic, while another's more electric and raucous? I do not. It gets **½ for not being completely horrible; after all, a handful of tracks taken at random sound OK, at least by Chili Peppers standards, but their cumulative effect is dire, not helped by not just too many tracks, but too many tracks that are too long. Samplotron on two tracks, with strings on opener Dani California and flutes on Snow ((Hey Oh)), which cops the (admittedly very common) chord sequence from Iggy Pop's The Passenger.

Red Letter Day  (US)

Red Letter Day  (1996,  29.39)  ***

San Franciscans Red Letter Day released one, eponymous mini-album before morphing into Achievements in Sound. Red Letter Day is typical 'B band' powerpop, at its best on opener She's Varispeed, Feels Like Gulliver and closer My Song, maybe. Frontman Gino Nave is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, with flutes on She's Varispeed and strings on My Song, sadly sampled.

Red Masque  (US)

Feathers for Flesh  (2004,  54.32)  ****

The Red Masque are an American progressive band who reside in that odd, twilight world also inhabited by the likes of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and anything involving Chris Cutler. After an initial EP, 2002's Victoria & the Haruspex, 2004's Feathers for Flesh is their first full-length release, a rollercoaster-ride of vocal and instrumental angularity, reminding me variously of Magma, King Crimson (of course) and Henry Cow, classical guitars rubbing shoulders with household implements, vocal pyrotechnics and thunderous bass. Well, that's one track out of the way. Seriously, trying to single out any one piece here for praise is futile; the album works best as a whole, refusing to outstay its welcome, despite its near-hour length. Despite rumours of Mellotron use (player unknown: three members play keys), the occasional string part scattered throughout the album clearly has nothing to do with a real machine, although the band do mention 'Mellotron sounds' on their website. So; jaded prog fan? Looking for something to pique your curiosity without singeing your ears? I think The Red Masque may be what you're looking for. No Mellotron, but recommended anyway.