Ritual are probably best described as a prog/folk crossover; live, they down instruments at one point and pick up a variety of acoustic ones, including a hurdy-gurdy, so it's fair to say that they're pretty hot on the Swedish equivalent of hey-nonny-nonny. On an initial listen to their debut, Ritual, it seems at first that this side of their collective personalities comes across less well on record, although it doesn't take long for the folk influence to creep in, ending up being discernable on most tracks. Possibly the best example is the ridiculous but rather sweet faux-sea shanty Seasong For The Moominpappa, dedicated to Sweden's very own imaginary 'little people', Tove Jansson's Moomintrolls (as are at least two other tracks on the album), opening with what has to be Jansson herself reading from one of her works. Generally speaking, it's actually quite difficult to categorise Ritual's music (which has to be a good thing), as it contains elements of metal, fusion, '70s prog and other genres, as well as various folk musics, meaning either that you'll be irritated at its diversity, or that there's something here for everyone. Jon Gamble's keyboard work is exemplary throughout, although there are a few unfortunate digital synth patches in places that sit rather uneasily with the music. I'm pretty sure the album's minimal Mellotron use is sampled and as it only lasts a few seconds, it's hardly worth worrying about anyway (I mean, are you worried?). The otherwise folky The Way Of Things suddenly switches into a big symphonic section near the end, with a 'Mellotron' string crescendo, but that appears to be your lot.
Not even any fake Mellotron on 1999's disappointingly ordinary Superb Birth, although the same year's Did I Go Wrong EP gets some flutes onto the '97 demo of Breathing, to decent effect. 2003's Think Like a Mountain carries on the good work of Ritual's debut, highlights including the 'Arabian souk' intro to opener What Are You Waiting For, Infinite Justice and the acoustic workout on, er, On. The only audible Mellotron samples here are, er, something unidentified (a MkII sound?) opening Breathing, with one of the string variants (and cellos?) later on. 2006's unimaginatively-yet-accurately-titled double-disc Live is possibly the best way to hear this unusual band. It covers material from all of their three-and-a-half releases, highlights include Infinite Justice (again), Solitary Man, the superb Acoustic Medley, Mother You've Been Gone For Much Too Long and the Yes-ish Big Black Secret. Plenty of that ol' samplotron this time round, with flutes on Typhoons Decide and Once The Tree Would Bloom and strings on Humble Decision and Mother You've Been Gone For Much Too Long, although the album's excellence owes almost nothing to its inclusion. If you're going to buy one Ritual album, make it this one. Incidentally, there's no samplotron on the following year's The Hemulic Voluntary Band (****).
Johnny "Rivers" Ramistella began his career in the late '50s, while still in his teens, scoring his first hit, his take on Chuck Berry's Memphis, in 1964. He last hit the charts in 1977, but never stopped working, although album releases have become few and far between in recent decades. 2004's Reinvention Highway mixes remakes of a few of his early hits, some covers and a few new originals, the end result being a very long way from the tired old rehash you might expect. Rivers still has a great blues/soul voice in his sixties and an excellent choice of material makes the album a reasonable prospect for those who remember him in his prime. Mike Thompson plays various keys, mostly Hammond and various pianos and, allegedly, Mellotron, but once again, I'll be stuffed if I can hear where. Certainly not the strings on closer Learning To Dance, anyway. All in all, though, a bit of a triumph for an artist generally shoved into the 'where are they now?' category. Rivers is unlikely to ever trouble the upper reaches of the hit parade again, but as long as he can make albums as real as this, he can hold his head high.
Rivulets are essentially Nathan Amundson's solo project, with him bringing in extra musicians as and when. You Are My Home is his third album and, although it's almost a cliché on this site, other reviewers have also commented that they sound quite a bit like Low, although, at least to my ears, not as good. Gentle, introspective acoustic songs with violin and cello accompaniment is the order of the day; an initial listen doesn't filter out anything outstanding, but subsequent ones may. Jessica Bailiff is credited with Mellotron, but if you can hear it, well done, as all I'm hearing is the aforementioned strings and maybe a couple of odd keyboard sounds that bear little resemblance to anything Mellotronic. Anyway, a reasonable album in a post-rock kind of way, that will probably be a grower in the unlikely event that I actually find the time to play it more often.
It's nice when artists choose a name that lets you know what you're in for; The Roadside Graves were always going to be an Americana outfit and are. 2009's My Son's Home's a good album, if overlong, highlights including the rocky My Father Sat Me Down, Wooden Walls and the title track. Johnny Piatkowski's 'Mellotron'? Er, the strings on My Father Sat Me Down? The ones on To The Sea are little better, but not much. The following year's You Won't Be Happy With Me EP, possibly due to its brevity, is better all round, at its best on the propulsive Liv Tyler and Heart. More of Piatkowski's samplotron, too, with strings on opener Demons and Liv Tyler and flutes on Jail.
San Francisco's Missy Roback's Just Like Breathing sits in somewhat-insipid-singer-songwriter-with-a-dash-of-Americana territory, at its least dull on Lady Don and Nearest Star, maybe. Producer husband Steven's credited with Mellotron, presumably the not-very-Mellotronic cellos on closer Sleep With The Mermaid.
Brooklynites Robbers on High Street are a '60s-influenced indie outfit, whose third album, Hey There Golden Hair, falls into the 'harmless but a bit dull' category, probably at its best on the ELO-channelling Second Chance and All Wires Are Crossed. Dave Sherman's credited Mellotron strings on Hollow Hill, Happy Horses Always and closer Supernatural Shivers (and choirs on All Wires Are Crossed?), despite tuning issues, sound like deliberately detuned samples, rather than the real thing, especially when he hits the top F on Happy Horses Always.
Carrying the Bag of Hearts... is a rarity in the EM world; gentle, reflective synthesis at a mini-album/short EP length, brief enough to sustain the listener's interest, despite its lack of 'standard' melodic content. Robbins plays samplotron strings on two of the disc's three tracks, At The Heart Of A Spiral Galaxy (M51's Close Encounter) and In The Beginning.
Meltdown! is an album of children's songs, played in an indie/folk style, highlights including My Brother Did It, Get Me Some Glasses and the title track. Justin Roberts seems to've found an invisible wormhole into childhood and how kids actually think, while retaining an adult perspective; quite a trick. Liam Davis plays obvious samplotron flutes on Koala Bear Diner and flutes and strings on It's Your Birthday.
Given that he's written a book about them, it seems Anthony Robustelli's a Steely Dan expert, which is no bad thing, also explaining why Grown Tired of the Con, despite consisting of elements I often don't like, is so good. Its jazz/soul/pop/rock mélange certainly brings Becker & Fagen to mind, although The Dan would never have recorded anything as sonically experimental (or long) as the eleven-minute Mistaken Charm. Highlights? It's pretty much all good, although opener Taste and Work That Hustle might just have the edge. Robustelli's credited with Mellotron; a bit bloody cheeky, frankly, as the string swells on Work That Hustle, strings and flutes on Even and flutes on Feel The Fall are decidedly bogus.
Robin Miriam "Robyn" Carlsson was a Swedish child star, shifting seamlessly into her 'adult' career in her mid-teens. 2010's Body Talk, Pt. 1 is the first of 2010's three themed releases and Robyn's fifth album proper, best described as electro, I think; some of it reminds me of the original, early '80s wave of synth outfits, although newer influences keep creeping in. As a result, the album actually sounds pretty contemporary, doubtless the idea, although the more techno-influenced tracks mostly irritate, to be honest. Although it's only specifically credited on one track, Klas Åhlund also plays samplotron strings on opener Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do, with a credited vibe part on closer Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa, the mini-album's best track (my opinion, naturally) and only Swedish lyric.
Brisa Roché's second album, 2006's The Chase, sits in a slightly uncomfortable niche between indie, Californian singer-songwriter and pre-war jazz (!), a combination that really isn't for everyone, frankly. Better tracks include Billionaire, the rock'n'roll-ish (very -ish, as it happens) Dial Me Up and Helmet Ray, but I suspect this is the kind of album that has to be worked at, frequently failing to grab the listener even then. Michael Leonhart is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, with no obvious Mellotron on Mystery Man (the strings are real), background Chamby flutes on Billionaire, Mellotron strings on Torchlight, Mellotron cello (?) on A Luxury (also played by one Yvinek, apparently) and background chordal Mellotron flutes on At The Shore, all sampled.
It isn't hard to deduce, looking at the tracklisting of their fourth album, A Beautiful Glow, that the Rock'n'Roll Worship Circus are that most grisly of things, a Christian rock band. I was actually expecting something far more insipid than I got, although a handful of tracks are fairly barfworthy; the bulk of the album's your typical modern US indie record, with quite a punky edge, surprisingly, though we ain't exactly talking The Ramones... The worst thing about the record, as you might expect, is the putrid God-bothering lyrics; I mean, how many times can you keep repeating the same few meaningless platitudes and have them mean anything? It's all so... one-dimensional. Anyway, tell me something: if they all believe this stuff so implicitly, why do they need to keep reaffirming it? Aren't they sure? Anyway, getting away from the lyrical content (please...), boss man Gabriel Wilson plays samplotron, amongst other things, with a cello part on Blessed Tune (We Will Sing Forever... One Day) and what I presume is a phased string line in Loveliest Bride, after the real string part earlier in the song.
The following year's The Listening EP catches the band at the cusp of becoming The Listening, having had some lineup changes and a shift in musical style. The punky edge has gone, to be replaced by more ambient textures, although in practice, that means they now sound a bit like Pink Floyd, notably on the guitar solo in I Love The Rain. No specific Mellotron credit for keys man Josiah Sherman, but definite sampled strings in Like I Do. Incidentally, have you seen 'Christian' spelt 'Xian'? Makes 'em sound like some ET species from a recent SF novel - 'bout right, really...
Rockabye Baby? Yer wot? Baby Rock Records have released a steady stream of their 'Lullaby Renditions' albums for the last few years, kicking off with Led Zep in 2006, the unvarying format being: take a well-known artist's work, rearrange it for (doubtless sampled) glockenspiel, vibes, harps, Mellotron and anything else nice and gentle they can think of. Are they serious? Every release features a groan-worthy series of title-related puns, but I can't imagine why anyone would buy any of their titles except for their intended purpose: getting your child to sleep in a rock-friendly manner. If it's a joke, it's one that wore paper-thin after their first clutch of releases, so I think we have to assume they're for real, admittedly with collective tongues in cheeks. The label's numbering system seems slightly odd, but I suspect the one title I've heard, 2006's ...Metallica (technically credited to Michael Armstrong), is their second release. Is it funny? Yeah, kind of, although hearing it more than once a... year? Lifetime? would probably drive me nuts. It's all very clever, I'll give 'em that; not everyone could successfully rearrange this music in this fashion. It sounds like the arrangements are programmed in Cubase or whatever, hooked up to a few sound modules and recorded; I don't hear any sounds that aren't from a synth or sampler and I highly doubt that these are actually 'played' in the traditional manner, not that I'm trying to claim they should.
The most interesting thing about this album is the choice of material; going by Rondellus' marvellous Sabbatum album of some years back (Black Sabbath songs played in a medieval style and sung in Latin. Seriously), the things you might think would work don't necessarily and vice versa. Quieter songs are an obvious place to start: One, Fade To Black, Nothing Else Matters, but Battery? Master Of Puppets? (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth? A lullaby version of a fucking bass solo?... I'd imagine they felt they had to include Enter Sandman, but it's too harmonically angular to work well in the format, although Battery (sensibly rearranged as an extended version of its intro) works surprisingly well, as does Pulling Teeth, amazingly. The company's website claims Mellotron use on many titles, but the flutes on a handful of tracks here are very clearly sampled, notably on Fade To Black, Battery and ...And Justice For All. Anyway, will I review any more Rockabye Baby! releases? Probably not, no; doesn't seem much point, does there? Bugger being a completist; all their releases are essentially the same, only the tunes differ. It has to be said: this is actually pretty bloody soporific. Perhaps I'll try it myself.
Rocket Scientists (US) see:
Paul Roland is apparently one of British psych's best-kept secrets, with a discography as long as your arm, even though he made his first record as relatively late as 1979 (admittedly, he was all of twenty at the time). Apart from a seven-year gap in the late '90s to raise a family, Roland has released records continuously over a thirty-year period, many now highly collectable. 2007's Re-Animator is his first rock album since the early '90s or before and is a triumph of surreal, Victorian psych (?!), based on the writing of H.P. Lovecraft. Highlights include opener Charles Dexter Ward, the early Floydisms of Pan and ripping, jammed-out closer Cthullu, possibly the album's highpoint, but next to nothing here disappoints. Nautilus' Paul Blewitt is credited with Mellotron, but I'm reliably assured (hi, Paul) that the smooth flute and string tones used on about half the tracks are sampled; Paul says they're from eMu's Vintage Keys and he wouldn't have credited them as 'Mellotron' at all. Obvious use? The strings on Assassins are slightly munchkinised and played too fast for a real machine, although they do add to the album's atmosphere. Roland followed up with Nevermore the following year, throwing folk (Sam Hall, a.k.a. 'Damn Your Eyes', Foggy Dew), blues (Leatherface) and hard rock (Great Deceiver) into the melting-pot, although the bulk of the album sounds not dissimilar to its predecessor. Best tracks? Probably opener Edgar Allan Poe, Captain Nemo and the aforementioned grim tale of Sam Hall. Blewitt's back on samplotron, with strings and flutes on Captain Nemo, Ghost Dance and Abramelin, plus flutes on the last-named.
Espirito is a very listenable album of mostly instrumental, Spanish guitar-led Latin music, at the 'trad' end of the genre. Maybe twenty minutes too much of it, but perfectly pleasant chuntering along in the background. But why is Shahin Shahida credited with Mellotron? Nothing here, obviously sampled or otherwise.
Two-brothers-and-one-wife indie trio Roman Candle hail from that most arty of towns, Chapel Hill, N.Carolina. Their third full album, 2009's Oh Tall Tree in the Ear, is, frankly, the wettest indie imaginable, wafting along in the rhythmically-simplistic kind of way that we've come to expect of the style, its songs doing all the right indie things without making any obvious attempt to break the genre's confines. Jordan Lehning supposedly plays Mellotron, but the strings on Starting From Scratch sound as thoroughly sampled as modern Mellotron samples can. I'm sure this is good at what it does, but it bored me to tears; why, oh why has this tedious style become so ubiquitous?
The Romantics were an early-'80s outfit who reformed for 2003's 61/49, a slice of Detroit garage rock as it used to be, albeit nowhere near The Stooges' level of ferocity. To be brutally honest, it's a bit one-dimensional (is that the point?), with only a couple of tracks that stand out at all, notably the slower, orchestrated Paint The Sky, although I'm sure garage fans will love the remainder. Luis Resto is credited with Mellotron, amongst other things (the timps on Paint The Sky are him), but I'll be buggered if I can hear it anywhere; Paint The Sky? The cellos are real, so who knows?
The Rooks are lauded in some circles as 'the ultimate powerpop band' or somesuch, although there's several I've heard I'd rate above 'em, personally. Their second album, A Wishing Well, is a passable record with a handful of great moments (the trumpet riff on Drag Of The Month, the 12-string on In The Neighborhood), but overall, it fails to grab the imagination, not helped by the rather drab vocals. Samplotron from Michael Mazzarella, although the only even slightly obvious use is the strings on Do You Have God?
Alexandra Roos is a French singer-songwriter, whose fourth (and, to date, most recent) album, 2007's Huit de Pique, is full of gentle, heartfelt songs, largely played in a pre-psych, '60s-influenced style. It's difficult to isolate any 'best tracks', as most of the material is pretty similar, at least to English-speakers, but the title track stands out as the nearest the album gets to 'rock', violin and distorted guitar vying for prominence in the mix. Producer Ian Caple supposedly plays Mellotron. Where, Ian, where? It may be in the mix somewhere, but with real strings on most tracks, it's effectively inaudible.
Robi Rosa, a.k.a. Dräco Rosa and many other noms de plume, is an ex-member of Puerto Rican boyband Menudo, Frio being his first solo album, sounding pretty much as you'd expect: Latin pop. It has the occasional surprise, not least the rocky Pasión, but by and large, it's disposable and forgettable. Just one credited Mellotron track, with a 'Strawberry Fields'-esque flute part on Pasión from Chris Cameron, clearly sampled. Strangely, his follow-up from two years later, Vagabundo, is nothing like his debut, around half the album fitting more into the metal (!) area than anything else. Weird. As a result, it's rather more listenable than its predecessor, though not something I'll want to hear too often. Peter Gordino plays samplotron, with cello and flutes on Penelope, cellos on Para No Olvidar and (briefly) on Vertigo and flutes on the very Mexican-sounding Vivir (although the cellos on Amantes Hasta El Fin appear to be real).
So Easy is an acceptable Americana release, easily at its best on its lone cover, a beautiful version of Jimmy Webb's deathless Wichita Lineman, just her piano and voice, without the string arrangement that mars Glen Campbell's otherwise canonical reading (heresy alert!). Brad Gordon and Will Gramley's Mellotron flutes and strings on So Easy and Already Yours? Samples.
Mark Rose worked his way through a couple of 'alternative' bands before starting a sporadic solo career, kicking off with Wonderful Trouble, a pretty appalling record, heavily soul-influenced, but not in a good way. Any better tracks? No. This is utter slush. Wilco's Pat Sansone plays Mellotronic strings on How Strong We Are and flutes on How Can You Believe In Me, but not only was this not recorded at the band's studio, but they don't even sound that authentic. Pass.
NYC-based New Jerseyite Stacie Rose's songs have been used in several TV shows, which probably gives you a good idea of how she sounds. Bland, mainstream singer-songwriter pop, of course, as its least offensive on This is Mine's acoustic closer We Got Love and Shadow & Splendor's Okay and U2 cover New Year's Day. Andrew Hollander's credited with Mellotron on both albums, with obvious samplotron strings on opener Checkin' Out and flutes on Mine and Put You On from This is Mine and flutes on Getting Stronger, strings on Sad But Blue and Guru and strings and cellos on Unbreakable from Shadow & Splendor.
Avi Rosenfeld is an Israeli guitarist with a serious Blackmore fetish, particularly Rainbow's early work. He's apparently released around thirty (!) albums, including six (to date) volumes of Very Heepy Very Purple, although, despite that title, 2017's VI is actually closer to that early Rainbow template. For this stuff to work, the material has to be well up to scratch to override the unoriginality of the actual sound and it... isn't, really. There are better moments, not least the violin on The Desert And The Wind, while State Of Decay is probably the next best thing here, but too many tracks are overlong, while Dragon Slayer 'features' Jay Sager's seriously unnecessary synth vibes (credited as 'marimba') solo. Rosenfeld uses a plethora of musicians, no two tracks featuring the same lineup, so while George Barabas uses some highly unconvincing Mellotron string samples on The Desert And The Wind, Niall Temple uses slightly better ones on State Of Decay. My biggest overall complaint about this album is the blandness of the instrumental sounds, to be honest; I don't know whether the various keyboard players had access to real Hammonds, but it doesn't sound like it. This kind of stuff should have a little dirt under its fingernails and this, sadly, doesn't. Good try, but more authenticity and originality needed.
Once Upon a Time is a decent enough powerpop release, short but sweet, possibly at its best on punchy opener Neverland. J.A. Ross and Alfonso Schwarz are both credited with Mellotron but, although the string and flute samples on the title track are good, they're still samples.
As far as I can tell, Marina Rossell sings in Catalan, as against Spanish and, as such, is a huge star in the region. Al Gran Teatre del Liceu (edited from the ninety-minute DVD) documents a 2008 concert ('gig' really doesn't describe this properly); very Spanish (or Catalan), all big ballads and low-key flamenco guitar work. Will you like it? No, of course not, but this isn't aimed at you, nor me. It does what it does perfectly well, but is almost unreviewable without understanding both music and lyrics. Pianist/accordionist Xavi Lloses had what appears to be a Memotron on stage (right), on which he plays a handful of orchestral flute parts, possibly also some rather weird-sounding brass. Canta Moustaki tones down the melodrama, thankfully, being a cross between Rossell's usual Mediterranean balladry and a more authentic, folkier style. Eduard Iniesta plays background samplotron flutes on Hiroshima, which might provide the vibes parts on a couple of tracks, too.
Rotary Downs play the more-acceptable-end-of-indie on the well-named Long After the Thrill, as, despite not being awful, nor is it actually very exciting. Best track? Probably opener Reunite Over Ice (70's Movie). One T. Gillespie is credited with Mellotron, although the strings on Rev. Percy really aren't.
I'm sure you all know 'Diamond' Dave Lee Roth's history; joined the fledgling Van Halen in the mid-'70s, aided their rise to fame and fortune, left in the mid-'80s, initially successful solo career slowly went down the pan. Roth is the consumate rock frontman, reinventing Robert Plant and Steven Tyler moves for a new generation, while adding a few of his own, although recent reports say he's well past his best and live appearances give the impression of some old guy fronting a Van Halen tribute band. Rumours of a hair weave, or possibly just an out-and-out wig don't help, either. For all that, Diamond Dave is a good rock'n'roll album, Roth backed by a series of Famous Friends who make all the right moves, though don't expect Van Halen Mk.2. As far as I can work out, the material is pretty much all covers, with the more obvious coverees being The Doors, Hendrix and, er, Van Halen (OK, I know Ice Cream Man isn't actually their song). Co-producer Alex Gibson also plays 'Mellotron', along with percussion and backing vox on That Beatles Tune, a.k.a. Tomorrow Never Knows, actually sounding like a standard Mellotron string sample played too low.
The bemusingly-titled Invitation, the Final One is a bland singer-songwriter effort of the American school, at its least tiresome when J.D. (Jean-Daniel) Roth impersonates Bob Dylan. His 'Mellotron' credit is for the crummy samplotron strings on On My Way, Gimme Sweets and closer Beautiful.
Well, I don't quite know what to say about this one, really; I've read that it's the first in a five-album series, based on the 'Discordian law of fives'. OK, I'm lost already, proving that Andrew Douglas Rothbard is probably better educated than me. Said law apparently consists of the thesis, antithesis, synthesis, parenthesis and paralysis; I'm beginning to suspect a wind-up here, but I'm just not sure... Anyway, Abandoned Meander is his first solo album after spending the '90s playing in Slaves and Pleasure Forever (no, I don't know them either) and is a truly bonkers concoction of acid folk, twisted psych and general all-round insanity. I honestly can't find anything particularly useful to say about this, although other online reviewers have made a better job of it, so I think I'll just stick to its alleged Mellotron content. Play safe. As it happens, the flutes at the end of Emerald Tendrils (and the album) sound pretty good, but the high-speed string part earlier in the song just screams 'sample!'. Elsewhere, there's some subdued strings on Bull In The Dell and Paraxute, with a more overt part on Indigo.
Double Standards is an Americana/pop/rock effort, at its least dull on the punchy Retrograde and the punky Get Away With It. Steven Bakur's Mellotron credit? Fucked if I know.
In true German style, Anthony Rother is an electronic artist, his work (going by his seventeenth album, 2014's Netzwerk der Zukunft) sitting somewhere in between Berlin School stuff and techno, which, strangely, doesn't make it repugnant to this listener. Despite the album's hour-plus running time, it doesn't drag, material such as Schöpfer, Medium and Technokultur utilising Rother's influences in a relatively original way, crossing genre boundaries with ease. And speaking of Technokultur, all I can say is: Kraftwerk. Obviously sampled Mellotron here and there, chiefly string and choir parts towards the end of the record. Hardly a reason to hear this, though. Recommended for EM fans tired of the usual sub-Tangs nonsense.
Oft-compared to P.J. Harvey, Carina Round actually claims to be influenced by Patti Smith, but going by her third album, 2006's Slow Motion Addict, I'd say a cross-section of the current UK indie scene might be more accurate. Sorry, but this kind of stuff makes me reach repeatedly for the 'next' button, although I resisted this time. Utterly unoriginal. Someone with the slightly unlikely name Gary Go plays samplotron, with a chordal flute part on Come To You, with possible faint string stabs on How Many Times and flutes on Down Slow.
Josh Rouse's 2010 release, El Turista, is actually worse than its predecessors, mainly because Rouse's voice seems to've been put through some kind of 'wuss accelerator', sounding even more lame and insipid than before. The only notable things here are the handful of Spanish-language tracks (why?) and the weediest version you can imagine of the 'trad.arr' Cotton Eye Joe, probably more 'authentic', but certainly a lot less fun than Swedish faux cowboys The Rednex' take on it. Rouse supposedly plays Mellotron this time round, but... Are those MkII 'moving strings' and other fills I hear on Lemon Tree? I think so. 2015's The Embers of Time (from a lyric in closer Crystal Falls) is, thankfully, something of an improvement, although he's never going to rival anyone, er, particularly good. Better tracks include New Young and the mournful Ex-Pat Blues, while little here actually offends, which has to be a bonus. Brad Jones is credited with Mellotron, but... no. The flute line on Too Many Things On My Mind doesn't sound anywhere near authentic, while I'm sure I can hear those MkII 'moving strings' again in opener Some Days I'm Golden All Night.
Cristiano Roversi is a noted Italian Chapman Stick/keyboard player who leads Moongarden and Submarine Silence, as well as having done time in the likes of Daal, Mangala Vallis, The Watch and various Colossus Projects, not to mention recently becoming a third of Cavalli-Cocchi, Lanzetti, Roversi with Bernardo Lanzetti, ex-PFM. A busy man, then, but not too busy to release two solo albums, the second of which is 2003's The Park, a beautiful, mostly instrumental record, full of lush, Genesis-like 'Mellotron' vignettes, few over five minutes long (Roversi acknowledges his musical debt in the sleevenotes). Stolen Title is pretty much a Stick solo, but most of the material consists of combinations of piano (sounds like a Yamaha CP70), various analogue synths and/or pseudo-Mellotron, the only real variation on the theme being the longest track, closer Tripping, a piano-and-vocal piece sung by The Watch's Simone Rossetti and a dead ringer for late '70s Genesis, probably unsurprisingly.
Despite crediting himself with Mellotron (and, oddly, 'Mellotron loops'), I've had it directly from the man himself that it's all sampled; in fairness, Cristiano, you can tell: listen to the low string notes on Winter Theme or the unfeasibly-extended choir chords on Wind Rhymes... Almost every track is smothered in the thing, used tastefully throughout, making this a bit of a 'must-have' for those who love the sound, but aren't that interested in its source. Saying that, this is also a 'must' for anyone who loves rich, symphonic progressive rock, Mellotron samples or no Mellotron samples.
Roxette, a.k.a. Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle and named for the Dr. Feelgood song (thought so!), formed in 1986, breaking through two years later with Look Sharp! In case you've never heard them (unlikely, I know) they play a really mainstream kind of pop/rock, short on innovation but long on catchy hooks. Have a Nice Day is their sixth original album, ignoring the album of Spanish-language ballads (get the picture?) and sounds like... a late-'90s pop album, complete with occasional techno influences, as was de rigeur at the time. While desperately unexciting, it's also not entirely appalling, much of it drifting by harmlessly, although it's not something with which the discerning listener may wish to spend any time, to be honest. Clarence Öfwerman plays all kinds of devices, as he has on Gessle's solo albums, including alleged Mellotron. Now, I've read that it's on Fredriksson's Waiting For The Rain, but all I can hear there is regular strings, so the only place I can even possibly hear it is a high flute line on opener Crush On You, probably also the album's best track.
Olivia Ruiz' music is generally described as nouvelle chanson, it seems. Going by her fourth studio release, 2012's Le Calme et la Tempête, I have to concur; timeless, French folk-influenced music, albeit with modern production values. It may not be your bag (I won't pretend it's mine), but it's exceedingly good at what it does, deserving the accolades it collects. Top tracks? Opener My Lomo And Me sets her stall out neatly and Volver's pseudo-spaghetti westernisms are a nice touch, while Question De Pudeur is undeniably the closest the set gets to 'rock', although the jury's out on whether or not that's a good thing. Credited Mellotron on two tracks: obvious flutes from Tony Berg on the title track and cellos (or are they real?) from Johane Myran on Ironic Rainbow, most likely sampled.
Y'know, I really want to like Bic Runga's music; she's a Kiwi (I have family there) and she sounds pretty sorted and independent. Unfortunately, her debut, Drive, is a dullsville girly singer-songwriter album, like an Antipodean Dido, though without the irritating production (and admittedly, several years earlier). It starts OK, with the sparse title track, but as soon as the band come in, my attention begins wandering and after a few tracks, I have to physically stop myself from hitting the 'stop' button. The sole samplotron track (played by Miss Runga herself), Suddenly Strange, is as dull as the rest of the album, with a brief 'Strawberry Fields'-style flute part before the (real) strings come in.
Having not listened to Runrig in twenty years or more, it comes as a nice surprise to report that The Stamping Ground is actually a pretty decent album, albeit in a Celtic/stadium rock kind of way. To be fair, they've actually toned down most of the bombast, making for a reasonably listenable record, rather against the odds, still throwing in the occasional Gaelic title for good measure. Michael Bannister is credited with Mellotron on An Sabhal Aig Neill (sorry, my Scots Gaelic is a bit rusty), but the only thing it even might be doing is background cellos, though, which makes me wonder why they bothered.
Although born as late as 1957, Corrado Rustici was a member of one-off Italian proggers Cervello and more successful fusionists Nova and Narada Michael Walden in the '70s, before moving into production the following decade, working with many major international names, not least his fellow countryman Zucchero. His solo debut, 1995's The Heartist, reminds me of Yes' massive-selling-yet-much-maligned 90125, in its combination of state-of-the-art production, pop hooks and jazz-inflected composition, although it is, at heart (ho ho), a mainstream pop record, albeit one where almost every track is about two minutes too long. Alongside his vocal, compositional and production roles, Rustici is clearly a whizzo guitarist, too, splattering his considerable talents all over the place, acoustically, electrically and even synthetically, utilising the now-almost-forgotten Synthaxe on several tracks. Best track? Almost certainly the instrumental Sushumna's Dance, which dispenses with the need to be 'commercial', for a brief, glorious minute.
Luciano Luisi plays supposed Mellotron on four tracks, with strings on When Every Heartbeat Glows and Let It Be You, a flute line on Dreamless Ghost and most un-Mellotronic choirs on Stand Up, although the sounds seem to bear only the vaguest resemblance to a real Mellotron, probably emanating from eMu's horrible Vintage Keys module. Ultra-professional, then, managing to extract two-and-a-half stars from your truculent reviewer, which isn't to say I can actually recommend this for anything other than its fabulous musicianship.
Matthew Ryan plays a similar kind of rootsy, Americana-informed rock to John Mellencamp, or even Bruce Springsteen, but with fewer cars. His debut album, 1997's May Day, sets his stall out nicely, with material as strong as opener Guilty, The Dead Girl and closer Certainly Never, although it rarely transcends its influences. David Ricketts plays various keyboards, mostly old, allegedly including Mellotron, although I think you'll need better ears than mine to detect it, frankly. Is that cellos on Comfort? More likely to be sustained guitar, but it's hard to tell. Anything on Lights Of The Commodore Barry? Probably not.
The Rye Coalition are a New Jersey-based hardcore band who spent the first several years of their career tarred with the 'emo' brush, despite all insistences to the contrary. 1999's The Lipstick Game is their second album, a shouty-yet-intricate effort, better moments including the angular guitar work on opener The Prosthetic Aesthetic, the deranged seven minutes-plus of Thanksgiving and the acoustic Tangiers. John Forsdahl plays supposotron on Amplification Of The Queen Bee, with a muffled octave string part opening the track, sounding exactly like samples of, well, Mellotron strings played in octaves, cropping up again on closer Through The Years.
There's no Mellotron on Terje Rypdal's 1975's reflective double album Odyssey (****), but 2012's three-disc reissue includes over an hour of a live set recorded with a large ensemble the following year at Estrad, Södertälje, subtitled Unfinished Highballs. You've really got to be into Rypdal's brass-driven, orchestral-ish jazz to listen to this without finding yourself catapulted back into a bizarre pre-/post-rock'n'roll crossover era that never actually existed, early '60s brass co-existing with mid-'70s fusion. Bengt Hallberg is credited with Mellotron, but the only possible use is the background choirs on The Golden Eye, so, on balance, it's a no.