legendary Planet Mellotron Album Reviews: Samples T1


album list



The Way  (2009,  73.59)  ***½

TCP (Temporal Chaos Project) are a new US East Coast progressive trio consisting of a vocalist, a bassist doubling on keys and a guitarist doubling on drums, which must make live performance interesting. They mix-and-match styles from across the years on their debut, 2009's The Way, with nods to Gentle Giant, King Crimson (especially the Discipline lineup), with elements of neo-prog and prog metal thrown in for good measure, although they seem to've synthesized their own style out of their influences, which is always welcome. Like so many similar, the album's chief failing is its length: over seventy minutes of music is quite a stretch, especially for a new, untried outfit. I'm sure the band just wanted to record everything they'd written, but a little self-censorship might've made this a better record. The 'Mellotron' is pretty sampled-sounding, to be honest, with strings on most tracks and flutes and choirs appearing here and there (notably on I'm Me), to the point where they could actually have used it rather less and it would've made more impression (a common mistake made by bands suddenly given free rein with a sample set). Overall, then, recommended to progressive fans looking for something new, although bear in mind that TCP have a distinctly American sound to them, not least in the vocal department.

TM Network  (Japan)

Major Turn-Round  (2000,  58.21)  ***½

TM Network are mostly known as a J-pop, or synthpop outfit, although their tenth album, 2000's Major Turn-Round, has more of a progressive influence (note Roger Dean-esque lettering), especially in its three-part, half hour-plus title track, a bona-fide prog classic in its own right, although other tracks (notably closer Cube) operate in the same general area. Major Turn-Round itself is fabulous, switching between symphonic, almost prog-metal and synth-heavy sections without losing sight of the piece's overall pattern and all almost unknown to the prog community at large. Tetsuya Komuro plays 'Mellotron', although the too-even strings and murky, effected choirs on the title track are almost certainly sampled. While the album has some less essential moments, the title track and a couple of others make this well worth a purchase for the discerning prog fan looking for something new.

TYG  (Denmark)

Ud af Døren  (1998,  37.55)  **½

TYG (Thank You Girls, apparently) play mainstream Danish-language pop/rock on Ud af Døren, at its best on its rockier material, notably opener Venter På Mig and closer Imellem Linierne and its worst on the interminable Et Ganske Lille Band, which just repeats itself for five long minutes. Wili Jönsson may very well be credited with Mellotron, but the vague, background strings on Nattejagt and elsewhere really aren't.

Taake  (Norway)

Noregs Vaapen  (2011,  46.45)  ***

Taake, who appear to be synonymous with a chap calling himself Hoest, play black metal, although a reviewers' consensus seems to be that they're more 'metal' than 'black'; I mean, you can even hear the bass. What's the world coming to, eh? Actually, 2011's Noregs Vaapen is a surprisingly tuneful effort, much of its content based more on old-school metal than the less listenable varieties that have emanated from Scandinavia over the last decade or three, although Hoest's cookie monster vocals have the standard negative effect on the non-fan. As every other online review has noted, the album's chief surprise is the banjo solo in Myr, but it's far from its only notable feature, the same going for the guest spots awarded to several other 'names' from the genre. Bjoernar E. Nilsen supposedly plays Mellotron on two tracks, although the high-end solo strings part on Fra Vadested Til Vaandesmed is far too smooth to be real, while whatever's meant to be on Myr is entirely inaudible. All in all, then, a surprisingly decent release from a usually deservedly maligned genre, although that very silly sleeve will put off all but the BM faithful.

Jasmin Tabatabai  (Germany)

Only Love  (2002,  36.13)  **½

Jasmin Tabatabai is a German/Iranian actress, who wrote and sang several songs on the soundtrack of 1997's Bandits, as well as being a cast member. Although acting is still her main thing, she's recorded another couple of soundtracks and a 'proper' solo album, 2002's Only Love. It's a perfectly acceptable singer-songwriter effort, vastly better than a lot of modern British and American dross, largely due to Tabatabai's refusal to do that 'wispy girly' vocal thing, which is a bonus when you've heard as many terrible albums as I have. Tabatabai plays samplotron on Pieces of My Heart, with an occasional, yet powerful string part.

Craig Taborn  (US)

Junk Magic  (2004,  41.55)  ***

Craig Taborn is chiefly known as a jazz pianist, although he's dabbled in the ambient and techno fields, amongst others. 2004's Junk Magic is his third solo album in a decade, shifting between his preferred styles, often combining them within tracks; the opening title track is mostly manic piano, violin and beats, Shining Through is rather more relaxed, while Bodies At Rest And In Motion is a smörgåsbord of jazz, avant-garde and electronica elements, the almost rhythmless programmed percussion subverting itself beautifully. Closer The Golden Age features Taborn on very sampled 'underwater' Mellotron strings, but you're hardly going to buy this for their inclusion. Avant-garde jazzers and cut-up merchants should apply, while the rest of us should probably exercise a little caution. Incidentally, I don't know if Taborn's sample use here affects the veracity of his Mellotron work on David Torn's Prezens.

Tahiti 80  (France)

Puzzle  (1999,  45.35)  **
Wallpaper for the Soul  (2002,  46.58)  **
A Piece of Sunshine  (2004,  24.44)  **½
Fosbury  (2005,  50.43)  **

Tahiti 80 are apparently named for a holiday T-shirt worn by vocalist Xavier Boyer's dad during his youth, which is pretty appropriate for this terribly twee band. Their remit appears to be to recreate that sultry kind of '60s French pop (ye-ye?) that inexplicably seems to be popular at the moment with a modern twist, i.e. beats an'shit. Boyer's voice is a supremely irritating thing, wafting along to no real purpose in a sunny kind of way, which is all well and good if you like that kind of thing, which probably explains their success.

They debuted with 1999's Puzzle (released internationally in 2000), summed-up by opener Yellow Butterfly, one of the cheesiest songs I've had the misfortune to hear in a while. Actually, reviewing this music any further is pointless; I dislike this stuff intensely and don't feel I can say anything fair about it, although I will throw in that their use of bloody Autotune is utterly unforgivable. Samplotron on four tracks, possibly from Boyer, with flutes on I.S.A.A.C, Things Are Made To Last Forever and Revolution 80, plus faint choirs on Heartbeat. Wallpaper for the Soul is fairly appropriately-named, as listening to it is akin to looking at said wall covering, or maybe watching paint dry. It clearly has its fans, but I'm not among them. One credited Mellotron track (definitely Boyer this time), with barely-audible sax on The Other Side, although I've seen references to Sylvain Marchand chipping in, so given the Mellotronic flutes on Open Book and one of some editions' bonus tracks, Aftermath, maybe we can assume that's him.

2004's mini-album, A Piece of Sunshine is, unsurprisingly, more of the same, or maybe less? Its brevity is its strength, actually, being less annoying than its compadres due to the simple expedient of being half the length, although it's still pretty irritating. Producer Andy Chase plays samplotron flutes on Listen and Antonelli, the latter being probably the least awful thing here, also the most energetic (the two factors may be linked). The following year's Fosbury is pretty similar to their earlier efforts, probably unsurprisingly; has this band no depth whatsoever? Clearly not. Is there a least awful track? Yes: Take Me Back, a brief acoustic number. Anyway, Rémy Galichet plays high samplotron strings on King Kong, a slightly disco-inflected number that made me want to gnaw my own leg off and uncredited ones on the slightly less offensive Alloveragain.

Taigá  (US)

Twelve Sketches  (2010,  42.23)  ***½

Taigá seem to be Redmond, WA-based Jonathan Spruance's solo project, aided and abetted by several other musicians. Their/his debut, 2010's Twelve Sketches, is a beautiful, organic, turn-of-the'70s-style instrumental folk/psychedelia album, highlights including gentle, organ-driven opener Here's To Yesterday, Swift Skiis, the twelve-string of Wooden Rainbow and the real string arrangement on Restless Slumber. Faults? Its contents are slightly samey, with too little variety from track to track and an overly-consistent Hammond tone used throughout, but that's mere nitpicking. Just ignore me. Spruance plays samplotron, with polyphonic flute parts on Color The Eclipse and With The Red Sun, plus upfront solo flutes opening Feast Of Bread, complete with pitch wobble.

Juta Takahashi  (Japan)

Quiet Rain  (2009,  61.55)  ***

Juta Takahashi's sixth album almost defines modern ambient in its glacially-paced synth explorations, mournful despite their largely major-key settings. Takahashi describes it as, "beautiful, silent and tonal ambient music by analog synthesizers, flavored with Mellotron and acoustic piano", but the synths sound digital, while the 'Mellotron' is no more than the vaguest Mellotronesque string samples used on a couple of its four, lengthy tracks, which takes nothing away from the album's quiet beauty.

Billy Talbot  (US)

Alive in the Spirit World  (2004,  67.10)  ***

Billy Talbot is, of course, bassist with Neil Young's on/off backing band Crazy Horse, credentials about as near to impeccable as it's possible to get, frankly. 2004's lengthy Alive in the Spirit World is his first solo album, an unsurprisingly Neil-esque effort that, while excellent in places, rather outstays its welcome in a 'just because you can put over an hour on a CD doesn't mean you should' kind of way. I understand perfectly why Talbot wants to share his band's jammed-out desert rock with us, but nearly seventy minutes of it in one hit is maybe twenty minutes too many. The only track that actually sounds like it belongs on another album is Stress Release and then only in parts, songs like On The Horizon and the two ten minute-plus pieces, Security Girl and Dreamer, possibly working best, despite the extraneous length of the latter two. Perhaps fewer, longer tracks? Although Talbot's website states that the band drew on "an assortment of vintage gear", Matt Piucci's Mellotron sounds fake, not that it's used much, with nowt but a background flute part on Stained that neither adds to nor detracts from the track's appeal. One for Neil fans, then, despite his absence.

Michael Talbott & the Wolfkings  (US)

Freeze - Die - Come to Life  (2006,  41.42)  ***½

Although American, Michael Talbott sounds thoroughly British on Freeze - Die - Come to Life, in an early '70s dark folk kind of way, highlights including the mournful Autumn Ashes and Angel Of Light. If this has a fault, it's that the material becomes a little samey after a while, but that's just splitting hairs. Scott Hirsch's Mellotron? I've no idea.

Talk Talk  (UK)

The Colour of Spring  (1986,  45.40)  ****

The Colour of Spring was the point at which Talk Talk broke away from their '80s pop beginnings, becoming more organic and far less mainstream, while still making an album that's relatively easy on the ear and, dare I say it, commercial. Saying that, April 5th and particularly Chameleon Day are distinct pointers to the band's future, sparse and effective, with a welcome sense of space to them; definitely of the 'less is more' school. Now, the reason this has been moved to here, despite the sleevenotes' very clear 'Mellotron' credits, is an e-mail I've received from Pete Woolliscroft, one of the album's engineers, who tells me:

"For what it's worth there is no Mellotron on Life's What You Make It. As engineer on that whole album there was never any sight of it - it was a complete exercise in making synths sound (i.e. Kurzweil PC88) like analogue keyboards. (Surprising what you can do with a bit of EQ, vib and phasing!)"

Many thanks for that, Pete! I originally wrote: "Life's What You Make It, the album's surprise hit, has Tim Friese-Greene on Mellotron flutes, strings and choir at different points, along with the Hammond that starred in one of their videos from this period, while Mark Hollis (R.I.P.) gives it some more flutes and strings on the also almost-mainstream Give It Up, although to slightly lesser effect." Well, now we know better! Talk Talk went on to greater things, releasing Spirit of Eden (****½) two years later, before quietly closing their career with '91's Laughing Stock (****½).

Tamdrin  (US)

The Transitivity of Parallelism  (2009,  43.17)  **

The Transitivity of Parallelism (no, I don't know, either) is a tedious, muted indie effort, its lack of ambition typified by the off-key guitar on closer In My Thoughts You Still Remain, guitar workout A Multitude Of Misconceptions being a rare ray of sunshine. Nigel and Marlowe Harrison both get Mellotron credits, although all I can hear is samplotron flutes on Golden Moments and possible brass on On The Edge.

The Tangent  (UK)

The Music That Died Alone  (2003,  48.00)  ***½
The World That We Drive Through  (2004,  59.02)  ****
Pyramids & Stars  (2005,  77.14)  ***½
A Place in the Queue  (2006,  78.54)  ***
Going Off on One  (2007,  142.57)  ***½
Not as Good as the Book  (2008,  94.41)  ***
Down & Out in Paris & London  (2009,  64.10)  ***½
COMM  (2008,  57.39)  ****
Le Sacre du Travail  (2013,  72.30)  ****

Once upon a long time ago, Andy Tillison helmed Gold, Frankincense + Disk-Drive, a sort of avant-indie-prog band in existence during prog's darkest hour (the late '80s, natch). GFDD morphed into Parallel or 90 Degrees, a more overtly Van Der Graaf/Hammill-orientated outfit, although GFDD's final, cassette-only offering (later reissued as a Po90° album) was entitled No More Travelling Chess, a set of VdGG/Hammill covers, including the cataclysmic Ronceveaux, only ever previously available as a rough VdGG rehearsal recording. The Tangent began as a Po90° side-project, the core being Tillison and Guy Manning, although they seem to consume most of Tillison's energies, with a seven-year gap between Po90° releases.

Their first album, 2003's The Music That Died Alone, is essentially a Tillison solo album, guests including Manning, Po90°'s Sam Baine, three of The Flower Kings, including the ridiculously prolific Roine Stolt and none other than (pre-reformation) VdGG sax god David Jackson/Jaxon. The album consists of three 'suites' and a standalone piece, each with a completely different feel: In Darkest Dreams has to be one of the finest retro-prog pieces I've heard in some time, The Canterbury Sequence (unsurprisingly) is a pastiche of/tribute to Hatfield & the North and their ilk, Up-Hill From Here is a rather ordinary 'modern prog' effort, whilst the title track lets Tillison indulge his Van der Graaf fantasies to the full, Jackson blasting away on soprano sax. To be honest, however, the album slumps gently as it progresses (ho ho), despite its not outrageous length, docking it half a star. There's actually very little fakeotron on the album, with naught but choirs on the fourth part of In Darkest Dreams, In Dark Dreams and strings on part seven, A Sax In The Dark, giving it a very low 'virtual Mellotron' rating.

They followed up with 2004's even better The World That We Drive Through (surely The World Through Which We Drive, chaps? Come on, grammar, grammar!), just tipping over into four-star status. The title track's the best thing here; you know those prog tracks that you just know are going to become firm favourites? Yep, one of them, complete with a beautiful 'repeat sequence on several different instruments' bit at one point. Tillison's still overdoing the Hammillisms (particularly on A Gap In The Night), but he's been doing so for so long I doubt if he's going to stop now, so it's really hardly worth mentioning, so I shan't do so again. Speaking of grammar, I think that's quite enough 'so's in one sentence. The samplotron only crops up here and there, its main use on the original release being the flutes on the title track. Oh and if you get the bonus track version, Exponenzgesetz is a near-quarter hour electronic piece, probably not worth the effort, other than being the repository for the expanded version's chief samplotron use, with frequent choir interjections.

2005's Pyramids & Stars is their first, slightly premature live album, the band tackling some of their best epic material on stage in Germany. As far as I can work out, they stick fairly closely to the studio versions (I don't pretend to be au fait enough with their material to say for sure), deviations including a crafty organ quote from Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida on The Winning Game and a jazzy improv section in In Darkest Dreams. As with many such efforts in the prog field, live versions can actually be inferior to studio ones (the reverse tends to be true at the heavier end of the spectrum, I find), so I'd have to say that this one's not your best entrée to The Tangent, the whole not being helped by a largely pointless version of ELP's slushy Lucky Man. Very little samplotron, either, in keeping with their studio work. To be perfectly honest, I found 2006's A Place in the Queue rather less engaging than The Tangents' earlier work, although it definitely has its moments, including chunks of the album's two full-on epics, opener In Earnest and the closing title track. Less sure about the jazzy Lost In London and parts of The Sun In My Eyes, but that's merely one man's opinion. Variable levels of samplotron, although the strings near the beginning and end of Follow Your Leaders are definites, as are the strings and choir drifting in and out of the lengthy title track, with extra parts on some of the contents of the limited bonus disc, not least the choirs on Kartoffelsalat Im Unterseeboot.

2007's double live Going Off on One gives its audience exactly what it expects: a live Tangent album, tracks played pretty much as per studio versions, even if the lineup isn't the same. I would like to point out at this juncture that Tillison reminds me vaguely of Mike Scott of The Waterboys in places; I've no idea whether or not he'll be impressed by that. It's... a decent enough live album, with two encore covers stuck on the end, a too-slow 21st Century Schizoid Man and a superb America (West Side Story/The Nice, not Yes). Plenty of samplotron, sounding to me as if they're replicating all the studio parts. The following year's double-disc (why do all these albums have to be so LONG?) Not as Good as the Book is another curate's egg; mostly excellent lyrics, sometimes very good music, all too often acres of filler. It picks up on disc two's mere two tracks; Four Egos, One War is the best thing here and The Full Gamut probably the second, but (as pretty much always) the whole thing would be improved by some serious editing. Not an awful lot of that ol' samplotron, although it crops up here and there, notably on Four Egos, One War.

2009's Down & Out in Paris & London is, like much of Tillison's hero Peter Hammill's work, possibly stronger lyrically than musically, which isn't to say it's a bad album by a long chalk. Highlights include Perdu Dans Paris and the unsurprisingly Canterbury-esque Ethanol Hat Nail (Canterbury Sequence Vol. 2), although, as ever, there's rather too much music here for the album's own good. Medium levels of samplotron, notably a major flute part on The Wiki Man, but you're most unlikely to buy The Tangent's album for that reason, I'd have said. 2011's COMM is a concept piece on the subject of communication and how technology has aided it immeasurably, which means, once again, shedloads of lyrics supported by a plethora of progressive styles, from classic symphonic through Spock's Beard-esque 'modern prog' to fusion, both American and Canterbury schools. And is it just me, or is this the band's best album since The World That We Drive Through? Somehow, despite its length (their shortest in years, though) and rather clunky lyrics, the album seems to hang together better than their more recent efforts, with plenty of samplotron to boot.

2013's Le Sacre du Travail is a five-part concept based around Western capitalism's obsession with wage-slavery, replete with multiple British cultural references from the '70s and '80s (the Rush bit's a favourite 'round these parts), all wrapped up in some of the best music the band have yet written. The 'bonus' tracks consist of a radio edit of part five of the concept, a short, unrelated track and a minute-long punk blast titled Hat, from a school gig by some of the members from 1979. Purpose? Dunno, but it amused me, at least. Not that much samplotron this time round, with various string and flute parts scattered unobtrusively across the album and a major string part on Muffled Epiphany.

Taras Bulba  (Germany)

Sketches of Babel  (1993,  44.23)  ***

Taras Bulba (named for the Gogol novel and/or its 1962 film) were the German ambient duo of Tom Redecker and Robin Carrs, the latter seemingly a pseudonym for the now sadly late Volker Kahrs, better known (at least around these parts) as keys man "Mist" from Grobschnitt. To my knowledge, 1993's Sketches of Babel was their debut, a partially intriguing mix of prog, electronic, ambient and dance-lite (that's the less intriguing bit), better tracks including gentle, proggy opener Span Holovand, the orchestralish The Time Has Come (the brief first part of The Moonblood Suite) and Dance Of The Fisherman's Wife, which bears faint comparison with what The Enid were doing at the same time. Carrs/Kahrs is credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on Span Holovand and Barune (Mystic Fog) and vaguely Mellotronic strings here and there all sound sampled to my ears, despite the lack of easily-available samples in the early '90s. Are those flutes from Grobschnitt's old Novatron? Possible, but I doubt it. Overall, an album of two halves, really, the quieter stuff working better to my ears.

Tarka & Friends  (UK)

Life  (2013,  41.58)  ***

Tragedy surrounds Tarka Cordell. Son of famed producer Denny, he seems to've been the quintessential Rich Kid, mentored by the famous (Keith Richards, Evan Dando, present here), given everything, yet clearly profoundly depressed, possibly as the result of a head injury given to him by another Rich Kid (let's name names: notorious cunt Luke Weil), as he killed himself after an apparently 'perfect day out' in 2008. I can't actually trace any definitive proof that his sole album, Wide Awake in a Dream, has ever actually been properly released, bizarrely making its tribute, Tarka & Friends' Life, the more easily available version of its contents. As with all such projects, it's a mixed bag, the songs sounding like the more wasted end of the '70s West Coast singer-songwriter thing, although that could be no more than the treatment several of the contributors give them. The best? Alice Temple's Lullaby. The worst? The petulant Girls Keith, apparently written after Keef came home unexpectedly, to find Tarka in his hot tub with a 'lady friend' and had the cheek to (somewhat ironically) object. Partially produced by known samplotron user Kevin Salem, it should come as no surprise to hear that Matthew Dublin's credited Mellotron and Chamberlin on Lily Allen and Louis Eliot's Shelter You are sampled.

Tarmac Adam  (Australia)

Handheld Torch  (2003,  41.24)  ***

Tarmac Adam (ho ho) included Crowded House's rhythm section, during that outfit's interregnum, debuting with Handheld Torch, an indie/powerpop crossover record, at its best on opener Too Much Time and Vice Or Virtue. Brian Crosby's 'Mellotron'? Christ, those string samples on Sentimental Holiday are blatant!

Tater Totz  (US)

Sgt. Shonen's Exploding Plastic Eastman Band Request Mono! Stereo  (1989,  60.55)  ***

Tater Totz (fast-food reference, of course) were a Redd Kross side-project featuring Pat Smear, ex-Germ and future Nirvanaist and Foo Fighter alongside Redd Kross linchpins Jeff and Steve McDonald. It's difficult to work out if their career (such as it was) was loving homage, complete send-up, somewhere between the two or (quite possibly) both at the same time. 1989's Sgt. Shonen's Exploding Plastic Eastman Band Request Mono! Stereo, usually known as simply Mono! Stereo, was their second album, consisting wholly of covers, mostly Beatles-related, including at least three Yoko songs. Yoko crops up again on the sleeve's Help! homage (that word again) and in spirit on the solo Lennon covers, alongside two Beatles and one Paul song, assuming Lovely Linda deserves that accolade. The remaining tracks are David Essex's first hit Rock On, 1, 2, 3 Red Light, originally by bubblegum gods The 1910 Fruitgum Co., Shompton In Babylon, the only non-cover and their hysterical Who Has Seen The Wind?/Bohemian Rhapsody mash-up (to use the current vernacular), which somehow puts Yoko's words to Queen's music and works. Sort of.

Special guests abound, with The Runaways' Cherie Currie singing Instant Karma and members of the wondrous Shonen Knife and Sonic Youth (Thurston M. Miserable, anyone?) getting in on the act. As far as Smear's credited Mellotron goes, the obvious candidate is Strawberry Fields Forever, of course, although the famous intro flutes sound too synthetic to be genuine, so here it lies, even if actual samples weren't deployed. Do you need this album? If you're a Redd Kross fan (and if not, why not?), a tentative yes, though only tentative and conversely, if not, no. Fun in places and excruciating in others (Why? and Cambridge 1969 are both lengthy and teeth-grindingly irritating), this is a very mixed bag indeed, which is why it gets a lower rating that it might. Incidentally, the CD reissue adds the most bizarre bonuses I've ever heard of: two actual Os Mutantes tracks, sourced from crackly vinyl; rumour has it that they're actually the first Mutantes tracks ever to be released in the States.

Allan Taylor  (UK)

Colour to the Moon  (2000,  48.39)  ***½

Despite his forty-year career, Allan Taylor is remarkably unsung in his homeland, seemingly better known in continental Europe. Even finding a complete discography on the 'Net caused problems; thankfully, his informative website covers all bases. 2000's Colour to the Moon is a beautiful album of what I presume are typical Taylor songs, the arrangements transparent enough to make them ideal for covers (he has been covered multiple times, not least by Fairport Convention). If it has a fault, it's that its material becomes a little samey after a while, although, if you buy an album of acoustic singer-songwriter material, don't be surprised if that's what you get... Taylor's vocal style won't be to everyone's taste, either, his frequent half-spoken approach not dissimilar to Mark Knopfler's, but that's splitting hairs. Best tracks? Down to personal taste, as always, but I'm amazed Fairport haven't tackled the gorgeous Creole Girl yet. Beo Brockhausen plays samplotron on Crazy Amsterdam, with occasional flute chords that enhance the song slightly, although I doubt whether you'd notice were they not there.

Chip Taylor  (US)

The Little Prayers Trilogy  (2014,  112.00)  ****

The two Chip Taylor albums I've heard from the '70s are hokey, mainstream country of the period, making 2014's three-disc The Little Prayers Trilogy an absolute revelation. Taylor's careworn voice and sparse arrangements, allied to superb songwriting, make this the kind of country it's OK to like. Unable to decide whether to release the original demos or the full band (I use the phrase loosely) versions of the songs, all concerned decided to release everything, making for a three-disc, near-two hour set. The only downside to this manoeuvre is that nearly two hours of such mournful (if brilliant) material has a curiously depressing effect if listened to in one go, so; don't listen to it in one go. Goran Grini is credited with 'Mellotrons' (note the plural) on all three discs, but Ontario Crimes' high string note, sustained well past the eight-second limit, gives the sample game away. Strangely, some of the chordal string work sounds quite authentic, but I really doubt whether a genuine machine was used.

Chris Taylor  (US)

Down Goes the Day  (1998,  50.59)  **½

On his first album, 1998's Down Goes the Day, Chris Taylor plays a kind of Christian Americana, maybe like Tom Petty if he got God. Compared to most of the goddy guff I've heard, this is a work of genius, but judged by 'real world' standards, it's a rather dull, pseudo-Americana effort, almost every song outstaying its welcome by up to two minutes, chugging along ponderously in a 'lighters out' kind of way. There are no obvious highlights. Blair Masters plays samplotron strings on Seahorse, the samples given away by the low notes at the end of the song.

Kim Taylor  (US)

I Feel Like a Fading Light  (2006,  49.19)  **½

I Feel Like a Fading Light is a standard-model millennial singer-songwriter effort, at its best on the acoustic My Dress Is Hung, the slowburn pop/rock of Ninety-Five Things and the sparse, harmonium-driven The Room Above. Jimi Zhivago plays distant samplotron strings on People and flutes and strings on Bruise.

Maria Taylor  (US)

Lynn Teeter Flower  (2007,  38.25)  ***
LadyLuck  (2009,  37.10)  **½
Overlook  (2011,  32.27)  ***

Maria Taylor is one half of Azure Ray, who have considerable connections with Bright Eyes. As such, it comes as no great surprise that Taylor's second solo album, Lynn Teeter Flower, is a mostly melancholy effort, although it has its (relatively) jauntier moments, notably Replay and the beatbox-driven Irish Goodbye. Best track? Possibly Smile And Wave, though I promise it's not because of Andy LeMaster's 'Strawberry Fields'-esque samplotron flutes. LadyLuck is, sadly, a dullsville mainstream singer-songwriter effort, with very little to distinguish it from the vast morass of similar stuff out there, nothing standing out enough to make it worthy of comment, I'm afraid. LeMaster and Macey Taylor Sr. both play samplotron this time round, with upfront string parts on It's Time and closer Cartoons And Forever Plans. Overlook, however, is a return to form, better tracks including Happenstance, Like It Does and In A Bad Way. Two samplotron tracks, from just Taylor this time round, with occasional muted flutes on Matador and In A Bad Way.

Tea Party  (Canada)

The Interzone Mantras  (2001,  56.29)  ****½

The Tea Party's second (but first widely available) album, 1993's Splendor Solis (****) and its follow-up, '95's The Edges of Twilight (*****) are masterclasses in how to produce gripping, original, epic-yet-tuneful hard rock in the '90s, avoiding the era's clichés (grunge, bands who forgot how to riff). At its best, their early material can probably be described as Jim Morrison fronting Led Zeppelin playing Kashmir on a loop, Jeff Martin's basso profundo vocals riding over Arabesque riffs, the band's consummate musicianship and multi-instrumentality causing them to blow many a more popular act off stage (Queensrÿche spring to mind). 2001's The Interzone Mantras is the band's fifth widely-available album, following the rock/electronica of Transmission and Triptych, generally regarded as a successful cross between their two previous styles. As with everything the band ever did, there are no bad tracks, but The Master & Margarita, Lullaby, Cathartik and epic closer Mantra particularly stand out.

Although bassist/keyboardist Stuart Chatwood isn't specifically credited with Mellotron, there was a mention of one in an 'instruments used' list on one version of the band's ever-changing website, although the Mellotronic strings on The Master & Margarita and White Water Siren (and elsewhere?) sound sampled to my ears, sadly. Well, much as I hate to stick this in the effective quarantine of the 'samples' section, unless I'm given any definite information to the contrary... Great album, though, as is everything (to one extent or another) by the band. The good news is that after splitting in 2005, they're playing some Canadian dates this summer (2011). Come on, chaps, new album please...

Susan Tedeschi  (US)

Wait for Me  (2002,  44.36)  ***
Back to the River  (2008,  44.28)  ***

Susan Tedeschi (hard 'ch') plays a blues/soul mix that clearly appeals to many people, although this particular reviewer is, sadly, not among them. I have to say, she's extremely good at what she does, but you really have to be into the style... For those who aren't, the Americana-tinged In The Garden might be considered the best track on 2002's Wait for Me, unless you're a Dylan fan, keen to hear another version of Don't Think Twice, It's All Right. Noah Simon plays supposed Mellotron strings on 'Til I Found You, but only just, with naught but a few chords that could probably have been produced by almost anything, frankly. OK, not a kazoo. 2008's Back to the River is, essentially, more of the same, but with more of a spark to much of it, at least to my ears, tracks like opener Talking About and the title track working particularly well. Matt Slocum is credited with Mellotron on 700 Houses, but I can't imagine how it might be used, as it's totally inaudible. Why bother, eh?

Teeth of the Hydra  (US)

Greenland  (2006,  50.58)  ***

Teeth of the Hydra (presumably named for a scene in Jason & the Argonauts, rather than the original Greek legend) are an American stoner/doom outfit who, in my opinion, would sound a great deal better if Matt Miner stopped growling and started singing. Their debut, 2006's Greenland, is a decent enough effort, the eleven-minute The Garden Of Rotten Teeth probably being its standout moment, although a shorter, tighter record might've got their message across more clearly. Adam Smith is credited with Mellotron, but I sincerely doubt that those distant, repeated string notes on Narsaq have anything to do with a real one. Overall, then, one for stoner metal types who don't object to the vocal style to which Teeth of the Hydra subject us. And I didn't mention Black Sabbath once.

Telestrion  (US)

Telestrion  (2007,  72.58)  ****
Molecule  (2012,  32.37)  ***½

Telestrion are a psychedelic hard rock outfit from Atlanta, GA, whose eponymous 2007 debut proves that while originality may be in short supply these days, the ability to take a handful of influences (Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, many long-forgotten early '70s bands) and turn them into something undeniably their own is alive and well. Telestrion opens with what has to be a tribute to The Wall, The One To Go's riff being, er 'heavily influenced' by In The Flesh, although any other direct cops are more subtle. The overall effect is of something you might've heard before, but never really listened to properly, highlights including Blue Sunshine, Middle Of Something and thirteen-minute epic Lost In The Sky (for sheer overkill value), while their version of Astronomy Domine is only beaten in the rock stakes by Voivod's cataclysmic reading. Andy Samford plays credited M-Tron (at last! An honest band!), with strings on Hiding From Knowing, a strings/brass mix on Half and flutes on Lost In The Sky, all to reasonable effect. Somehow, Telestrion's absurd length actually works to its advantage, unlike most overlong efforts, the riffs and solos flowing past like a particularly murky, polluted river. In a good kind of way, of course.

After a long wait (partially filled by several solo Samford releases), 2012's Molecule doesn't disappoint. Although it's (just) over thirty minutes long, the band are promoting it as an EP, which shows how much things have changed; Rainbow Rising is only a minute longer. Its six tracks all conspire to sound different to each other, certainly not always the case in this genre. The opening title track's pretty much what you'd expect (also the album's possible highlight), Tunnel In The Sky and Slightly Sideways are Hawkwind-esque instrumentals, the gently stoned Time And Space is nearly as good as Molecule itself and closer The Sacred Relics is a trippy jam, although the album's most unexpected track is their cover of oft-neglected Sabbath classic A National Acrobat. Not that much samplotron, to be honest, with strings on Slightly Sideways and Time And Space, Samford showing considerable restraint, all things considered.

Sébastien Tellier  (France)

L'Incroyable Vérité  (2001,  41.08)  ***

Sébastien Tellier is a young French singer who approaches the concept of musical styles with a fluidity from which many hidebound artists could learn. 2001's L'Incroyable Vérité (The Incredible Truth) skips between genres at will, often within songs, throwing in bizarre touches like the super-distorted guitar on Kissed By You or the blood-curdling female screams on the last part of Trilogie Femme, Face Au Miroir (I'm not even going to bother translating that). Although there's 'Mellotron' strings and flutes (and a smattering of choirs) to be heard on Universe and Fantino, not only does it all sound a little too perfect, but Universe has a string note that holds not so much over the eight-second mark as nearer the minute mark. I think not. Anyway, a decent enough album at what it does, but all a bit Gallic for me, sadly.

Frank Tellina  (Italy)

Napoli Lifting  (2010,  46.17)  **½

Napoli Lifting has a kind-of generic Latin pop sound to it, rather than anything specifically Italian, which improves it not one jot. All very competent, agreed, but how badly does the world need several doses of Latin reggae? Indeed. Davide Smiraglia supposedly plays Mellotron, but the vaguely Mellotronic flutes and strings heard here and there are obviously nothing of the sort.

Témpano  (Venezuela)

Selective Memory  (2008,  67.28)  ***½

Tempano have been around since the late '70s, going away for a while, here and there, but never actually giving up. Selective Memory is only their ninth album, an eclectic set of material, much of it informed by various eras of King Crimson, to the point of almost borrowing from Epitaph at one point. Much of the album, while not actually original per se, is so far ahead of the hordes of neo-prog wannabees that it might as well be, although they might have avoided ripping Yes heavily on Argos, immediately followed by, er, IQ. It's funny how some Mellotron samples can fool the ear for a while, but are then played in such an inauthentic way that their veracity is blown clean out of the water, isn't it? I don't think they're pretending they used a real one, but use those samples a little more sympathetically next time, guys.

Il Tempio delle Clessidre  (Italy)

Il Tempio delle Clessidre  (2010,  56.58)  ***½

In 2006, two young musicians met Stefano "Lupo" Galifi, vocalist with the legendary Museo Rosenbach, naming themselves Il Tempio delle Clessidre after the final section of the side-long title track from that band's 1973 release, Zarathustra. Unsurprisingly, 2010's Il Tempio delle Clessidre isn't as good as that jaw-dropper, but what is? It's actually a very good, '70s Italian prog-influenced release, stronger tracks including Insolita Parte Di Me, the dynamic L'Attesa and the excellent, lengthy Il Centro Sottile, my only (vague) complaint being that nearly an hour of such relatively complex music is slightly exhausting. Minor editing, please? Elisa Montaldo plays keys, including fairly poor Mellotron string and/or choir samples on most tracks (and flutes on Il Centro Sottile), although they do give a more '70s air to the proceedings, so yes, they work. Overall, then, an album that only missed getting four stars by the inclusion of a couple of weak tracks. Let's hope Il Tempio delle Clessidre (who, incidentally, also have an Ianva connection) get back in the studio soon for the second round. Well worth hearing.