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MIA (Argentina): Transparencias (Ciclo 3 CD-001, 1976)
Progressive
Liliana Vitale (occasional vocals, drums, percussion, flute)
This delicate album – four instrumentals on the first side and the title suite with wordless vocals on the second – is spare, haunting and beautiful. The five band members do not play together on any of the pieces, so there’s plenty of space between the sounds and lots of classical and jazzy references. But carefully crafted as it is, the first side feels rather passionless, with a distinctly detached and academic feel, and whilst the suite takes flight and contains superb passages it doesn’t entirely compensate. GRADE: C+.
MIA (Argentina): Mágicos Juegos Del Tiempo (Ciclo 3 C3-002, with booklet, 1977)
Folk/Progressive
Liliana Vitale (joint lead vocals, drums, percussion, flute)
Quite different from their debut, this is entirely song-based and very folky, though with lots of classical and symphonic references too. With sparse arrangements and beautiful harmonies, the results are haunting, sepulchral and uplifting. GRADE: B–.
MIA (Argentina): En Vivo (Ciclo 3 C3-003, cassette, 1977)
Folk/Progressive
Liliana Vitale (joint lead vocals, drums, flute), María Pita (joint lead vocals)
This live album, oddly issued only as a cassette, consists entirely of new material and blends the approaches of their two studio albums, opening with an 18½-minute instrumental suite followed by a number of delicate folky songs. The result is another lovely, delicate album; it’s just a pity that it’s so terminally obscure, though most of its tracks appear on the double CD compilation Archives MIA (1974-1985) (Viajero Imovil MIA034/035VIR, with oversized digibook). GRADE: B–.
MIA (Argentina): Cornonstipicum (Ciclo 3 C3-004, with booklet and insert, 1978)
Progressive
Liliana Vitale (joint lead vocals, bass, celesta, drums, percussion, flute)
Their third studio album marks a return to the format of Transparencias – all-instrumental with some wordless vocals; several short tracks followed by a very lengthy suite. It’s a better album all round, though, with some lively (yet delicate) performances and plenty of variety in the long suite. I definitely prefer them in song-based mode, however, so whilst this marginally crosses the barrier between C+ and B– it isn’t the equal of Magicos Juegos Del Tiempo. GRADE: B–.
MIA (Argentina): Conciertos (Ciclo 3 C3-005, triple, with booklet and poster, 1979)
Folk/Jazz/Progressive
Liliana Vitale (joint lead vocals, guitar, recorder)
This mammoth triple LP features contributions from 15 musicians, but don’t expect large ensemble works: the core band don’t play together as a complete unit on any of the pieces. Instead, this is effectively a collection of MIA fragments: piano solos, acapella singing, acoustic guitar duets, folk duos and minimalist pieces with choral vocals, with only the jazzy final side featuring full electric arrangements. As such, this is extremely wide-ranging but also quite ponderous, with the two keyboard improvisations taking up well over half an hour between them. As a footnote, the unusual leatherette sleeve means that almost all known copies have severely heat-marked discs, though a digital version of the album (minus the song ‘Discanto’) can be assembled from CD bonus tracks and Archives MIA (1974-1985). GRADE: C+.
See also Liliana Vitale

Mairy & Bob Miano (USA): All Those Years (Twinz TWINZ 52, 1981)
Singer/Songwriter
Mairy Miano (joint lead vocals, guitar)
This brother-and-sister duo of singer/songwriters deliver a pleasant and mellow album, with accomplished electric backing throughout. With a slight rural edge, their music is delicate and reflective, and at its best (notably on the coda to ‘Two Steps Ahead’) hints at mid-seventies Fleetwood Mac. GRADE: C+.

Mice (UK): …Because I Can (Permanent PEMCDX 35, double CD, 1996)
Pop/Psychedelic
Julianne Regan (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, autoharp)
With Andy Cousin, Mark Price and Marty Willson-Piper all involved, this is something of an All About Eve reunion, but it’s very much Julianne Regan’s project. It’s also a world away from All About Eve musically: whilst there’s a pleasant trippiness to nearly all the songs (and especially the impressionistic instrumental ‘Julie Christie’), this is largely an attempt to jump aboard the Britpop bandwagon. It’s by no means bad, with some good hooklines and nicely symphonic arrangements, but you’d have to like nineties indie music a lot more than me to love this. The first run of the album came with a bonus CD featuring four radio session tracks. GRADE: C+.

Julianne Regan & Mice (UK): New And Improved (Jam Tart aaevp3, CD, 2001)
Pop/Psychedelic
Julianne Regan (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, autoharp)
Ms Regan clearly isn’t worried by the Trade Descriptions Act, since most of this isn’t new and it’s debatable whether it’s improved. Instead, this is a reimagining of …Because I Can, containing the entire album (out of order and jumbled around) plus a number of demos and outtakes. To these ears, the original LP is tauter and more consistent, but you get more material here. GRADE: C+.

See also All About Eve, Eden House, Femme Verte, Hussey-Regan, Jules Et Jim

Michaelangelo (USA): One Voice Many (Columbia C 30686, 1971)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Angel Peterson (lead vocals, autoharp)
Bands using electric autoharp as a lead instrument are a rarity: the only other example I can think of is Bermuda Triangle. Even without that instrument’s heavenly tones, this would be a stunning soft psychedelic album, as the talented Angel Peterson (who wrote all the material and plays the autoharp too) has a voice to match her name. Whether on the mellow, gently drifting songs or on several excellent instrumentals, this sublime record blows away the vast majority of the big collectors’ pieces from the era. GRADE: B–.

Lindy Michaels (USA): Ragamuffin Child (Vault SLP 0123, 1968)
Folk/Pop
I’d always imagined this was baroque orchestrated folk; in fact, it’s lively folk/pop with electric band backing. Much of it is too jaunty for my ears (the opening ‘Bottle Of Wine’ is precisely the kind of folk I don’t like), and several tracks sound like they should be on a children’s LP. The only original song, ‘Communicable Diseases’, bizarrely has Michaels reciting a list of obscure medical conditions over a jazzy shuffle.

GRADE: D–.

Lucine Michaels (USA): Turning Point (Koinoinia KR 14626, 1970)

Pop/Folk
Lucine Michaels (lead vocals)
I always imagined this to be Christian singer/songwriter fare, but it’s actually closer to sunshine pop, with full electric band arrangements and some orchestrations. Meanwhile, the lyrics are of the philosophical and socially conscious kind; along with Michaels’s formal singing style, I suspect she came from a coffeehouse folk background. The only drawback, as with many such performers, is her tendency to be didactic and condescending, and this aspect of the LP could definitely annoy some listeners. GRADE: C.

Nancy Michaels (USA): First Impressions (Reprise RS 6370, 1969)
Singer/Songwriter
Nancy Michaels (lead vocals, guitar)
Gentle, haunting singer/songwriter sounds, in a style somewhere between Catherine Howe, Julie Covington and Ladies Of The Canyon or Blue-era Joni Mitchell. This is lovely stuff, with beautifully judged arrangements, but there’s not much variety or excitement and nothing in the way of truly killer tunes. GRADE: C.

Michele (USA): Saturn Rings (ABC S 684, 1969)
Pop/Psychedelic
Michele O’ Malley (lead vocals)
Michele O’Malley had worked with Curt Boettcher on a number of projects, and he splits the songwriting fairly evenly with her here. The album is varied, mostly consisting of pleasant but unremarkable West Coast ballads and sunshine pop pieces – but it also contains some exceptional songs, including the Eastern-tinged ‘Fallen Angel’, the countryish acid-rock jam ‘Lament Of The Astro-Cowboy’ and the gentle, trippy closer ‘Believe You’. GRADE: C+.
See also Ballroom

Microwave (UK): The World Is Still Revolving (Wolsey WR 001, 1984)
Pop/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Classic school project oddness from the pupils of Thomas Wolsey School, which catered for young people with disabilities. In this case, the ‘real people’ quotient doesn’t come from Shaggs or Pool Hayes Rock Band-style amateurishness – on the contrary, the musicianship is excellent and the singing not bad if rather hesitant – but from the curious mix of styles. The naïve teen balladry of ‘Where Are You Love?’ isn’t particularly unusual for this sort of thing, and neither are the loungy horn-fronted covers of ‘Sailing’ and ‘Summertime’, but the sinuous, mutant funk of opener ‘I Think I’m In Love’ (by some margin the standout cut) is nothing short of startling. With mostly original compositions (though a few of the riffs are clearly lifted from something else), this is a charming and unusual album and an excellent example of its style. GRADE: C+.

Middle Aging (Italy): Kingdom Of Desire (No label, CDR, 2001)
Folk/Rock
Stefania Calabrese (joint lead vocals), Claudia Uslenghi (joint lead vocals), Olga Coronetti (keyboards, trumpet), Stefania Bai (flute, piccolo)
Despite the band name, this isn’t mediaeaval folk but well-arranged electric folk/rock with mostly original compositions. There are plenty of early music references and some ornate arrangements, with the songs and instrumentals being equally accomplished, making for an impressive and very well recorded demo. They even remind me of the mighty Ougenweide and other Krautfolk luminaries at several moments. GRADE: B–.
Middle Aging (Italy): The Call (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC001, CD, 2004)
Folk/Rock
Chiara Vecchio (joint lead vocals), Claudia Uslenghi (joint lead vocals), Olga Coronetti (keyboards), Stefania Bai (flute, piccolo)
This is basically a re-recording of material from Kingdom Of Desire, although there are a couple of new numbers. Predictably, the sound quality is better, making for a fine folk/rock album. Most of the songs are in English, with one apiece in French and German, though there’s nothing in Italian – an odd decision, since the English pronunciation is occasionally a little amateurish. GRADE: B–.
Middle Aging (Italy): Autumn Dance (No label, CD, 2010)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Chiara Vecchio (principal vocals), Elena Necchi (occasional vocals)
Living up to their name for the first time, their third album is very different. There are no truly mediaeval elements, but the lyrics concern myth and minstrelsy, and the music is both more acoustic and more symphonic than before, sometimes resembling a superior Blackmore’s Night. On the downside, like that band this is sometimes a touch cheesy, and the lyrics are frequently nonsensical, indicating the group’s lack of command of English. GRADE: B–.

Midnight Flyer (UK): Midnight Flyer (Swan Song SSK 59412, with inner, 1981)
Rock
Maggie Bell (lead vocals)
Maggie Bell’s new band isn’t really a worthy successor to Stone The Crows: this is amiable but forgettable barroom rock with some hard rock tinges; the best cut by far is the ballad ‘In My Eyes’. However, the disc’s most noteworthy feature is probably its striking and funny gatefold sleeve, complete with a printed inner completing the story. GRADE: C+.
Maggie Bell & Midnight Flyer (UK): Live Montreux July 1981 (Angel Air Waves NJPDVD 629, DVD, 2007, recorded 1981)
Rock
Maggie Bell (principal vocals, tambourine)
Live, they’re considerably more dynamic than on record, but this is still basic, formulaic bluesy rock with none of the imagination or invention of Stone The Crows. Extras include a band history and an interview with Maggie Bell (which I think is identical to the one on the Stone The Crows DVD, although I haven’t watched them back-to-back). GRADE: C+.
Maggie Bell & Midnight Flyer (UK): Live Montreux July 1981 (Angel Air SJPCD246, CD, 2007, recorded 1981)
Rock
Maggie Bell (principal vocals, tambourine)
The CD version of the set confirms Midnight Flyer to have been an enjoyable, solid group with decent musicianship. But when all is said and done, this is basic barroom room, and without Maggie Bell they might never have progressed beyond playing bars. GRADE: C+.
See also Maggie Bell, British Blues Quintet, Jon Lord Blues Project, Stone The Crows

Midnight Well (Ireland): Midnight Well (Mulligan LUN 011, 1977)
Folk/Rock
Janie Cribbs (joint lead vocals)
Midnight Well was essentially the vehicle of prolific singer/songwriter Thom Moore, who manages ten lovely, mellow numbers. With a style pitched somewhere between folk/rock and country/rock and a list of backing musicians that reads like a Who’s Who of Irish session players, this is a very pleasant set that recalls Gay & Terry Woods and Loudest Whisper among other compatriots. GRADE: C+.
See also Janie Cribbs

Midwinter (UK): The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow (Kissing Spell/Erewhon KSCD 9320-F, CD, 1993, recorded 1973)
Folk/Psychedelic
Jill Child (principal vocals, recorder, autoharp)
Midwinter was a precursor to Stone Angel, and was in fact effectively the same band with a different female singer. They recorded an album’s worth of material in 1973, which remained unreleased for twenty years (opinions differ as to whether a single copy acetate was made at the time). When the specialist Kissing Spell label unearthed the tapes and issued them on CD in 1993, it was clear that The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow was a lost acid-folk masterpiece. The album is every bit the equal of the Stone Angel LP, though musically quite different, with a much less dense and mediaeval-influenced (but at times equally eerie) sound. The opener ‘Standing Stone’ resembles a more pastoral Jethro Tull, whilst elsewhere the band occasionally sounds like a more psychedelic Pentangle (notably on the superb ‘All You Maids And Gentlemen’). The 500-copy vinyl reissue on the Porcelain label features the artwork the band had designed when mooting a private release for the album back in 1973. GRADE: B.
See also Stone Angel

Might Of Coincidence (Switzerland): Why Couldn’t People Wait? (Entropia BM 0001, with booklet and poster, UK, 1971)
Psychedelic/Folk
Mimina Panata (joint lead vocals, tambourine)
This excellent Swiss acid-folk band recorded its sole album in London, which was privately pressed and then presumably exported back home. The style is somewhat similar to Comus, offering very stoned acoustic guitar and bongo-driven folk with weird vocal inflections and bizarre effects (particularly on the closing freakout ‘Mimina Into Space’, which is truly superb). However, the vibe is quite different, reflecting Might Of Coincidence’s origins within a religious community. The actual release throws up a few oddities: whilst the cover states that it is a ‘first pressing with six autographes [sic]’, only some copies are signed. Further, some are numbered and others are not (with the sleeve stating that 1500 were produced in total) and versions exist with both fully and partly laminated sleeves. Things get even more confusing with the inserts, which vary from copy to copy: mine has a poster and a small concertina-fold lyric booklet in both English and German, which is attached to the plain inner sleeve via a belly band. Others apparently came with a 100-page book detailing the commune’s activities whilst some merely had a couple of typed inserts or nothing at all. Many of the known copies are warped due to the thick booklet or the belly band. GRADE: B.

Mighty D (Germany): The Last Rise (Iron Glory IG 1030, CD, 2004)
Metal
Carmen R Schäfer (joint lead vocals, guitar)
As usual, the death vocals quickly become tiresome, but Carmen Schäfer is a gifted soprano, and the musical backing is above average – powerful and muscular, packed with tempo changes, and occasionally giving way to strong acoustic, progressive or neoclassical passages. GRADE: C+.

Mika (Japan): Jaran Jaran (For Life FLCF-3535, CD, with obi, 1994)

Pop

Mika Katoh (lead vocals)

The former Sadistic Mika Band vocalist’s solo album doesn’t start promisingly: the title track is horrible electronic pop with dance and slight industrial edges. Things eventually improve, and the album offers some moderately pleasant quasi-symphonic ballads towards the end, but this is still a pretty poor set. In fact, its biggest surprise is that she somehow got Bill Nelson involved; the second biggest is how shaky some of her singing is. GRADE: C–.

See also Sadistic Mika Band, Torvikollektiivi

Miladys (Canada): Les Miladys (DSP 16007, 1967)
Pop
Lively Quebecois pop from a female vocal trio. A couple of cuts are Simon & Garfunkel covers performed in French. They went on to issue a second and final album, Monsieur Dupont, in 1969. GRADE: C.

See also Various 'Blow Up Sur Los Vedettes', Various 'Les Miladys/Les Bises'/'Les Intrigantes'

Miles Martin Folk Group (UK): The Miles Martin Folk Group (Amber, 1971)
Folk
Lynn Miles (joint lead vocals, whistle)
This private pressing consists of basement acoustic interpretations of traditional songs, with a slight acid-folk feel in parts. Dealer lists usually compare it to a cross between Marie Celeste and Pentangle, but to these ears it’s closer to the more traditional tracks from the Hard Travellin’ album. GRADE: C+.

Milestones (Austria): Milestones (WM Produktion WM 20 012, 1970)
Pop/Folk
Beatrix Neundlinger (joint lead vocals, flute)
This Austrian folk/pop album is both rather middle-of-the-road and rather quaint, but this is par for the course for the genre. On the plus side, it avoids Seekers-style schmaltz and has some well-structured songs; even the irritating vaudevillian ‘Vorsicht Am Zug’ has an unexpected avant-garde break in the middle. GRADE: C.
Milestones (Austria): Emigration (CBS 65 739, West Germany, 1973)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Beatrix Neundlinger (joint lead vocals, flute)
Their second and final LP is a huge step forward, with a lovely dreamy opener complete with bongos and flute (‘Nachmittag Im Stadtpark’) and an ambitious side-long suite (‘Das Märchen Von Der Sonne’). The other four cuts aren’t in the same league, but there are no conspicuously weak songs. GRADE: C+.
See also 9dlinger & Die Gerinfügig Beschäfigten, Schmetterlinge

Milk Wood (USA): Another Sunday (No label JM 1001, with insert, 1979)
Folk/Rock
Jana McGuire (joint lead vocals, piano)
Not to be confused with Milkweed below or the late sixties psychedelic outfit Under Milkwood, Milk Wood were a pleasant rural folk/rock outfit; their sole album offers twelve gentle original compositions with full band backing. A good comparison for their sound might be Oasis/RJ Fox, and they were certainly talented enough to have landed a record deal. The album is notable for its minimalist white cover, featuring a simple illustration on the front and nothing at all on the rear; rather than having it shrinkwrapped, the band individually sealed each copy using three small white stickers. As a footnote, the disc was engineered by Rick Sutton (of Rick & Jean Sutton, who also released a rare private pressing) and recorded at his Sutton Sound Studio. GRADE: C+.

Milkweed (Canada): Milkweed (Checkmate Audio-Visual Productions CCL 33-114, 1978)
Progressive
Louise Caffope (oboe)
This obscure Canadian album was the project of keyboardist and composer Sergio Goncalves, who presumably hailed from somewhere in South America. Side one features shorter, more rock-oriented pieces with semi-spoken vocals, whilst side two is given over to a 33-minute instrumental suite that begins in a free jazz vein before moving in a sort of pastoral neoclassical direction with lots of oboe. With its gentle, tranquil mood, this second side is quite impressive and easily outclasses the rather anonymous first. GRADE: C+.

Millennium (USA): Millennium (Shekinah Music M-1512, with inner, 1973)
Rock/Progressive
Jayne Farrell (joint lead vocals)
Less well known than the vaguely similar Shekina Glory but musically slightly superior, this is an enjoyable album of psychedelic and progressive-tinged Christian rock. With well-written original material, the album is notable for its florid keyboard work, including a fair bit of Mellotron, and probably peaks on the excellent ballad ‘Because Of Me’. Side two is notably weaker than side one, but it’s a solid set throughout that should please any lover of Christian rock. GRADE: C+.

Milwaukee (USA): Milwaukee (Pragmatic 39356, 1981)
Rock
Sharon Smith (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
This bluesy hard rock album is patchy to say the least, with quite a few cuts being predictable barroom rock of no distinction. But elsewhere the band works in influences from both progressive rock and new wave to interesting effect, especially on the opening ‘I Don’t Know You’, which manages to be simultaneously dreamy and anthemic. GRADE: C+.

Mimesis (USA): Mimemis (No label, download, 2019)
Rock/Progressive/Metal
Jen Janet (lead vocals)
Whilst not the most substantial release at 27 minutes, this is an interesting piece of heavy prog. Focusing on knotty, metallic, jazzy riffings, it’s distinctly American but blends it all kinds of other influences, though with everything being song-based the band never really stretches out and lets rip. GRADE: C+.

Minamo (USA/Japan): Kuroi Kawa – Black River (Tzadik Oracles 20, double CD, with obi, USA, 2009)
Classical/Avant-Garde
Satoko Fujii (occasional vocals, piano, accordion), Carla Kihlstedt (occasional vocals, violin)
This album by the prolific Carla Kihlstedt and a collaborator is firmly in the realms of avant-garde classical, comprising instrumental piano and violin duets: compositions in the studio on the first disc and live improvisations on the second. The two discs actually aren’t that different, and there’s only so much you can do with this instrumental configuration, but this is a likeable album for what it is. GRADE: C+.
See also Book Of Knots, Charming Hostess, Carla Kihlstedt, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Tin Hat Trio

Mindspeak (Austria): Pictures (No label, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2014)
Progressive/Metal
Viktoria Simon (principal vocals)
With the presence of two lengthy suites – one of 30 minutes and the other of 12½ – this is a good deal more ambitious than most of what passes for progressive rock these days. The metal edges are kept under control – this is definitely progressive rock with metal stylings rather than the reverse – and the studio is used to good effect, particularly with regard to the multi-layered vocals. That said, the actual music, whilst well-crafted and catchy, isn’t particularly adventurous, so this is ultimately promising and mildly interesting rather than fully realised and truly fulfilling. GRADE: C+. 
Mindspeak (Austria): Pictures Live (No label, download, 2015)
Progressive/Metal
Viktoria Simon (principal vocals)
Since Pictures relied heavily on studio trickery, I was intrigued to hear how this live interpretation of the album – the complete LP, followed by a cover of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ – would fare. The answer is surprisingly well. Whilst this doesn’t have the same polish as the studio original, it’s a lot more energetic, and they’re wise enough not to recreate it note-for-note – the half-hour ‘The Big Sleep’, for instance, has acquired a lively drum solo. In fact, this is powerful and assertive enough that I’ll upgrade it to a B–, though my reservations about some of their material remain. GRADE: B–.
Mindspeak (Austria): Eclipse Chaser (Beamerhead, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2019)
Progressive
Viktoria Simon (lead vocals)
Mindspeak’s second studio album tones down the hard rock edges considerably and is instead – despite its considerable ambition – thick with neoprogressive clichés. In fact, this often reminds me of Magenta, though that probably sounds more pejorative than was intended. The music ebbs and soars in all the right places, with a 30-minute suite and two other cuts of 18 and 10 minutes, all very well structured, so it would be unfair to say that this represents the best album Magenta could ever make – saying it’s the album they dream of making would be nearer the mark. But ultimately, whilst Mindspeak have plenty of talent and verve, they’re still somewhat lacking in personality. As a footnote, the ‘special edition’ download adds a pleasant cover of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, providing a nice addendum to the suite about space travel. GRADE: C+.

John Miner (USA): Heaven’s Café – A Rock Opera (Tributary Music 222502-2, CD, 2006)
Progressive
Julie Meadows (occasional vocals), Miché (occasional vocals)
The words ‘Rock Opera’ might appear off-putting, but thankfully this isn’t too bombastic, with no call-and-response vocals and no attempt to construct a complicated storyline. Instead, this is pleasant song-based prog, with a wide variety of moods, some nice melodies and a few good instrumental passages where the band stretch out. GRADE: C+.
Art Rock Circus (USA): Heaven’s Café Live! (Tributary Music 1944-700003-2, CD, 1998)
Progressive
Allison Gifford (occasional vocals), Miché (occasional vocals)
This live version of the album – credited to Miner’s band Art Rock Circus – isn’t hugely different from the studio original. However, as might be expected, the vocals are rather more theatrical and arch, meaning I like this interpretation less. GRADE: C+.

John Miner’s Art Rock Circus (USA): A Passage To Clear (Tributary Music 6 1944-70005-2 0, CD, 2001)
Jazz/Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Karen Renée (joint lead vocals), Karyn Anderson (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Miner’s third album is another concept set, but vastly odder than his first two. He’s discovered a love for jazz, so this features unpredictable rhythms and slightly off-key vocals, which, coupled with a more amateurish feel, makes for an odd listening experience. At the same time, there are marked late sixties references here: this has the same cavernous sound as Surrealistic Pillow and the ostentatious drumming puts me more than a little in mind of Spencer Dryden. The end results are strange through and through, but not displeasing for all that. 

GRADE: C+.
Art Rock Circus (USA): Tell A Vision (Tributary Music 6194470000728, double CD, 2005)
Progressive
Miché (occasional vocals), Karen Wallo (occasional vocals)
This is a bit straighter than A Passage To Clear: the jazzy edges have gone, as have the late sixties references and the slight awkwardness that made the album so unusual. Instead, this is fairly straightforward song-based prog that’s solid and enjoyable without being hugely distinctive. GRADE: C+.

Ming (Hong Kong/USA): Ming (EMI Columbia S-33ESX-221, with insert, Hong Kong, 1974)
Pop
Maria Wu (joint lead vocals, drums, percussion)
Ming was the brainchild of singer, songwriter and guitarist Anders Nelsson, an American expatriate who formed a Hong Kong-based band with a number of local musicians, unusually including a singing female drummer. Their music was anachronistic pop, sounding more like 1967 than 1974; unlike contemporary European ventures like the New Seekers, this has no harmony vocals, orchestrations or MOR edges, heightening its quaint and charming feel. GRADE: C+.
Ming (Hong Kong/USA): Ming (EMI Columbia S-33ESX-223, with inner, Hong Kong, 1975)
Pop
Maria Wu (joint lead vocals, drums, percussion)
Their second album is simultaneously better and worse than their first. Losing most of the naïveté of their début, this has many of the trappings of mid-seventies commercial pop, including ostentatious key changes, cheesy synthesiser lines and orchestrations. On the plus side, ‘Keep On Crying’ is a great propulsive opener, ‘Virginia’ is a beautifully crafted pop/rocker and ‘You Use Me’ features hard rock guitars to great effect. On the downside, some of the material is quite bathetic, including ‘Taxi’, a song so facile both lyrically and musically that it sounds as though it belongs on a children’s LP or one of the ‘teach yourself English’ records released by Longman. Although a very patchy album, this should be enjoyable enough for anyone who likes bands such as Blue Mink. GRADE: C.
Ming (Hong Kong/USA): U ’N’ I (EMI Columbia S-33ESX-227, with inner, Hong Kong, 1975)
Pop
Maria Wu (occasional vocals, drums)
More than half their final album is cover versions (including familiar MOR pop fare such as ‘Laughter In The Rain’, ‘Magic’ and ‘Mandy’), suggesting that Nelsson was running out of steam. Whilst this doesn’t have quite the same lowpoints as its predecessor, it’s overall pretty mediocre stuff, recalling British acts like the New Seekers and the Brotherhood Of Man. Nonetheless, I do like the funky hard rocker ‘Evil-Hearted Woman’, the sultry ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’ and the smooth pop/rock of ‘Emma’. Meanwhile, ‘Let Me Sing It (Like They Used To)’ is an odd foray into nostalgic Dixieland territory, with what sounds like an electronically treated vocal. GRADE: C–.

Minim (UK): Wrapped In A Union Jack (Polydor 582011, 1967)
Folk
Bobbie McLean
From the title, I expected this to be Swingin’ London folk/pop but it’s straightforward folk with simple acoustic guitar backing. Most of the material is self-penned, though there are a few covers, and the feel varies between traditional and contemporary, making for a very pleasant LP. GRADE: C+.

Minimum Vital (France): Envol Triangles (No label CA 3322, cassette, 1985)
Progressive
Anne Colas (flute)
This instrumental album offers some complex and intricate music, with strong folk edges. It’s very accomplished and sometimes quite experimental, but at the same time a little short on memorable melodies or real excitement. GRADE: C+.
Minimum Vital (France): La Source (Muséa FGBG 4075.AR, CD, 1993)
Progressive
Jaki Whitren (occasional vocals)
Album number four (their second and third were cut with all-male line-ups) shows a radical change of direction. Slick and highly synthesised, it’s almost danceable, blending elements of Portuguese music with slight influences from zeuhl – a style that would really come into its own on the follow-up Esprit D’Amor. Surprisingly, early seventies singer/songwriter Jaki Whitren provides occasional vocals as a guest. GRADE: C+.
Minimum Vital (France): Les Mondes De Minimum Vital (Muséa FGBG 9005.AR, VHS, 1995)
Progressive
Sonia Nedelec (lead vocals, percussion)
This live performance, recorded with their new lead singer, is visually unspectacular, and the lack of an audience means that it’s not enormously atmospheric. But musically, this is the best thing they ever did – mixing material from La Source and the forthcoming Esprit D’Amor, the band are on fire, creating some great melodic grooves full of invention and complexity. GRADE: B.
Minimum Vital (France): Esprit D’Amor (Muséa FGBG 4209.AR, CD, 1997)
Progressive
Sonia Nedelec (principal vocals)
This is their magnum opus: an exciting and original album packed with catchy tunes based around Portuguese themes accompanied by lyrics in a fictitious language (unsurprisingly, closely based on Portuguese). Sonia Nedelec is a powerful singer and the backing is suitably energetic, complete with heavy guitar and drum work and judicious use of horns. Admittedly this isn’t the most varied disc, but it’s funky, danceable and extremely difficult to categorise. GRADE: B.
Minimum Vital (France): Au Cercle De Pierre (Muséa FGBG 4229.AR, CD, 1998)
This live album features excellent performances and a good selection of material, but it’s nowhere near as dynamic as the Les Mondes… concert. The highpoint is probably a powerful rendition of the title track from Esprit D’Amor. GRADE: B–.
Minimum Vital (France): Atlas (Muséa FGBG 4533.AR, CD, 2004)
Progressive
Sonia Nedelec (joint lead vocals)
Whilst recognisably the work of the same band as Esprit D’Amor, this is a lot folkier, a bit more complex and rather more varied and dynamic. In parts this is a very good record, with some exciting musical passages, but in others it sometimes feels like they’re treading water. GRADE: C+.
Minimum Vital (France): Capitaines (Muséa FGBG 4817 AR, CD, with digipak, 2009)
Progressive
Sonia Nedelec (occasional vocals)
This is even folkier than Atlas, with percussion replacing drums and a lot more acoustic elements. The result is a much more interesting and original album that’s largely instrumental, opening with an unusual take on the traditional ‘She Moved Through The Fair’. Overall, this is probably their best record, even if it offers another variant on the sound they had pursued since La Source. GRADE: B.
See also Jaki Whitren

Minor Birds (UK): The Minor Birds (Midas MFHR045, 1972)
Folk
Susan Waywell (occasional vocals)
This is the scarcest album on the Midas label, commanding almost the same stratospheric price as the better-known Folkal Point. The disc resembles a cross between Folkal Point themselves and Oldest Proffession, opening with the turgid pub folk singalong ‘Warrington Ale’, but quickly improving to include some haunting and beautiful traditional folk tracks. The highpoint by far is the stunning ‘The Parting Glass’, which has Susan Waywell’s only solo lead vocal – a great shame, as she’s a superb singer. GRADE: C+.

Anastasia Minster (Russian Federation): Hour Of The Wolf (Reverb Worship RW 398, CDR, with DVD case and insert, 2018)
Singer/Songwriter
Anastasia Minster (lead vocals, piano)
This Russian expatriate, who relocated to Canada but only issued her album in the UK in a run of 50 copies, offers some delicate and haunting piano-based singer/songwriter music. Double bass, guitars, drums, saxophone and cello are used sparingly to add colour, and the whole thing has a melancholic and moody feel. GRADE: C+.

Minstrel String Guild (USA): The Nightbirds Are Screaming (No label, 1976)
Folk/Rock
Renée Redeker (joint lead vocals, guitar, piano, dulcimer)
Housed in a simple paste-on sleeve, this prolific husband-and-wife duo’s debut album offers pleasant self-penned folk with bluesy influences. Occasionally a singer/songwriter feel intrudes, and with the couple providing most of the instrumentation the arrangements are fairly sparse, but several songs feature quite heavy electric guitar work so there are definite rock elements. The end result is a solid LP but also a remarkably short one: despite featuring ten tracks, all of which sound fully-formed, the whole thing runs for just 20 minutes.

GRADE: C+.
Minstrel String Guild (USA): Music Swims Back To Me (No label, 1977)
Folk/Jazz/Rock
Renée Redeker (principal vocals)
With a more normal running time, this is similar to their debut, although much jazzier and with full band backing almost throughout. Like their first, it’s mostly enjoyable rather than exceptional, but two cuts really stand out: the poignant title track and the heavy, eerie and psychedelic ‘Cock Roach’. After this album, the Redekers continued recording simply as the Guild. GRADE: C+.
See also Guild, Redeker

Minus Infinity (USA): Minus Infinity (Ventricle CD9, CD, 1999)
Avant-Garde/Ambient
Laura Sohner (lead vocals)
Another day, another oddball Mellotron excursion from the Ventricle label – this one from old hand Lee Blair plus one-off vocalist Laura Sohner. This is one of their weirder excursions, though it’s definitely at the more gothic, ambient end of their repertoire, with only a few hints of industrial music. GRADE: C+.

Mirage (France): A Secret Place (Muséa FGBG 4361.AR, CD, 2000)
Progressive
Agnès Forner (principal vocals, tambourine, flute)

The opening ‘Nothing On TV Tonight’ is far from promising, being identikit neoprog midway between Marillion and fellow French band Arrakeen, with utterly bizarre lyrics to boot. Subsequent tracks are far better, offering mellow, spacy, mildly jazzy prog with an obvious influence from Camel. This is not an ambitious record, however, and the lyrics remain quite strange, compounded by Agnès Forner’s heavily accented singing. In any case, the best number is the trippy long closing instrumental, which is frequently excellent. GRADE: C+.
Mirage (France): Tales From The Green Sofa (Muséa FGBG 4568.AR, CD, 2004)
Progressive
Agnès Forner (flute)
Album number two is a huge step up, with some lovely folky material and plenty of long instrumental sections with a moderate level of complexity and invention. This time round, Forner is credited solely as a guest and all the vocals are male; they’re once again the low point of an otherwise very enjoyable LP. GRADE: B–.
Mirage (France): Borderline (Muséa FGBG 4762, CD, 2008)
Progressive
Agnès Forner (flute, backing vocals)
With Forner back in the line-up, this is another fine album, blending relaxed, melodic songs and rich instrumentals into a lengthy suite that is constantly changing but never pretentious. Showing how far they’ve come from their patchy debut, this is easily their best work, with some amusing sleeve notes providing the finishing touch. GRADE: B–.

Miranda (USA): Miranda (Outlet STLP 1024, 1979)
Country/Pop/Rock/MOR
Miranda Weaver (lead vocals)
Doubtless sold to me as ‘female folk/psych’, this is an album of rather middle-of-the-road Christian country/rock and pop. On the upside, there are no strings and there is a certain rock strength to the arrangements, placing it well above most LPs in the genre, but it’s pretty short on excitement. From the sleeve and the sound of the opening cut ‘Hallelujah, Praise The Lord’ (the only self-written number) I’d imagine Weaver was from Hawaii, but this was recorded and released in Virginia. GRADE: C–.

Miro Miroe (UK): The Face (No label, download, 2014, recorded 1982-1983)
Pop
Berenice Nally (lead vocals)
Electronic pop duo Miro Miroe were responsible for one of the best singles of the 1980s with ‘Nights Of Arabia’ – it superficially resembles Yazoo but with a faint psychedelic edge that makes it truly distinctive. This download-only release compiles both the long and short versions of the song, two versions of another single ‘Islands’ and a host of B-sides and unreleased recordings. Nothing else here is in the same league as ‘Nights Of Arabia’, though ‘Secret Weapon’ is a surprising diversion into heavy garage-rock with a bit of a glam edge.

GRADE: C+.

Mirotz (Spain): Harrika Hildako Mitxeleta (IZ IZ-151, with booklet, 1982)
Rock
Lourdes Juugitu (joint lead vocals)
This Basque band’s rare album isn’t folk, as one might first expect, but guitar-based rock. The material ranges from soft to hard rock in style, with the powerful, assertive lead guitar work being the only constant. Only rarely do they give any hints of their Spanish origins, for the most part having a seventies West Coast sound. Whilst this is a somewhat patchy album, it has many excellent moments. GRADE: C+.

Mirror (Holland): Daybreak (No label TLP 7623, 1976)
Progressive
Paula Mennen (lead vocals, keyboards)
This superb progressive album has a mellow, spacy, folkish sound recalling early seventies Pink Floyd, and all four tracks are exceptionally well put together. The music is complex and virtuosic, yet never ostentatious or showy, and the band builds in great hooks and melodies at every stage. It’s also remarkably well recorded for a private pressing, and had the band formed a few years earlier they would have been virtually guaranteed a major label deal. Almost impossible to find and never reissued, this is possibly the greatest ‘lost’ prog album.

GRADE: B.

Mirrors (Italy): Mirrors In Motion (Acid Tapes TAB 088, cassette, UK, 1991)
Garage/Psychedelic
Rita Francios (lead vocals)
Led by the prolific Lodovico Ellena, this Italian band offers rather good lo-fi garage rock and psychedelia, with some nice tripped-out moments. For sure, it’s not the most profound set and nor is it particularly well recorded, but anybody liking acid-rock jamming is sure to find much to enjoy. GRADE: C+.
Mirrors (Italy): Out Of The Shadows (Acid Tapes TAB 105, cassette, UK, 1993)
Garage/Rock
Rita Francios (lead vocals)
Their second album (though some sources suggest they privately released another cassette Planet Mirror around the same time) is much straighter than their first, mainly offering gentle, mellow ballads with a mildly trippy edge. It’s nice stuff, and better recorded too, though on the downside they’re clearly using a drum machine rather than a live drummer this time around. GRADE: C+.
Mirrors (Italy): Ghosts In The Fog (Mellow MMFS 1000, CD, 1993)
Garage/Psychedelic
Rita Francios (principal vocals)
They might appear an odd signing for Mellow, but this was released via the ‘Fruit Salad division’, which seemingly concentrates on garage rock rather than prog. In any case, this is clearly their best: mellow, trippy and melodic, with a few progressive edges and Velvet Underground & Nico influence that underpinned their previous work much more obvious. Lodovico Ellena went on to form the not dissimilar Arcanes, who also issued an album on Fruit Salad. GRADE: C+.

Miss ng (UK): Obsession (Alice AR001, 1984?)
Rock
Maria Elek (joint lead vocals)
Given that it was recorded at White Rabbit Studios and issued on the Alice label, you’d expect this obscure band’s sole album to be psychedelic. In fact, it’s mainstream rock with good guitar work and slight neoprog edges, and would have been a strong LP had it been recorded in any decade other than the eighties (in other words, with a real rhythm section instead of keyboard bass and a drum machine). As a footnote, they really did bill themselves as ‘the Miss ng’ instead of ‘the Missing’. GRADE: C.

Mistress Of Strands (USA): Mistress Of Strands (Ventricle CD 12, CD, 2000)
Ambient
Tali Braun (lead vocals), Dana Devereaux (strings)
Another Ventricle CD; another silver foil cover (this time truly stunning); another drifting Mellotron soundscape (this time at the more ambient end of their repertoire); another C+ as whilst I like this stuff, it never really does anything or goes anywhere. GRADE: C+.

See also Blessed Oblivion

Mithras (UK): Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed (No label DT 16, 1973?)
Folk
Margaret Buckley (joint lead vocals, concertina)
This acoustic trio largely have a typical early seventies folk sound, but extensive use of flute and recorder adds a sweet, haunting vibe to much of the material. A delicate reading of ‘The Shearing’s Not For You’ and an almost symphonic instrumental take on ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ are probably the highpoints of a consistently good LP. GRADE: C+.
Mithras (UK): For We Trade In Fun (Cottage COT.801, 1976)
Folk
Margaret Buckley (joint lead vocals, concertina)
Their less sought-after second and final album is nowhere near as distinctive, being typical Northern folk in the Folk Heritage mould. Nonetheless, it’s a nice traditional folk LP and will please anyone liking the genre. GRADE: C+.

Mizuiro No Kokoro (Japan): Mizuiro No Kokoro (KML KML-1010, with insert, 1976)
Folk/Rock
One of innumerable rare and obscure Japanese private pressings from the seventies, this one is better than most, consisting of relaxed, dreamy folk/rock. With mixed acoustic and electric backing and some faint psychedelic edges, it offers definite hints of late sixties Fairport Convention and early seventies acts like Tudor Lodge and, whilst unassuming, is certainly extremely winsome. GRADE: C+.

Mizukagami (Japan): Mizukagami (Muséa FGBG 4496.AR/Poseidon PRF-005, CD, France, 2003)
Progressive
Tanaami Futaba (lead vocals, flute)
This is typical modern Japanese progressive: sumptuous, elegant and well-crafted, with swathes of lush keyboards (including some Mellotron) and flute, plus the usual high-pitched female vocals. However, that’s also the downside: this is not a record with any personality or individual vision. GRADE: C+.
Mizukagami (Japan): Yugake (Muséa FGBG 4749.AR/Poseidon PRF-045, CD, France, 2007)
Progressive
Tanaami Futaba (lead vocals, flute)
Their second and final album is in the same vein, but vastly more energetic and better textured: this is wonderfully dramatic, lushly arranged symphonic progressive. In fact, it’d probably be a B– except for the fact that Tanaami Futaba’s vocals are terrible this time round; she’s frequently out of tune, making one wonder why the band didn’t hire a competent singer or alternatively make an instrumental record. GRADE: C+.

Mizuki Da Fantasia (Japan): In Memory Of Fantasy – Genso No Ichiya (Nouverne SDTO-1702, CD, with obi, 2017)
Progressive
Mizuki Ōta (lead vocals, bass pedals, Mellotron, percussion), Anna Hardy (keyboards, flute)
This Japanese band’s debut is dominated by swathes of lush keyboards, giving it an authentically seventies sound that sets it apart from eighties and nineties Nippon neoprogressive acts like Teru’s Symphonia. The rock elements, however, do hint towards neoprog and the album as a whole is light on truly great hooks, so ultimately this is more about atmosphere than anything. As a footnote, a later release simply called Genso No Ichiya (Nouverne SDAN-3001, LP plus CD, 2018) offers a reworked version of the album, including some new material. GRADE: C+.
Mizuki Da Fantasia (Japan): Rainbow Chasers – Niji Wo Ou Hitobito (Nouverne SDTO-1801, CD, with obi, 2018)
Progressive
Mizuki Ōta (lead vocals, keyboards), Anna Hardy (keyboards)
Like their first, this is a bit short on memorable tunes and riffs – there’s nothing here you’ll remember after the album has finished. But you should thoroughly enjoy it while it’s playing, as it’s better all round than their debut: lashings of Mellotron (as you might expect from a duo made up of two keyboardists), delicate and understated singing and a few well-judged moments of rock energy that really lift the mood. GRADE: B–.
Mizuki Da Fantasia (Japan): Question 1969 – Sariyuku-Jidai-Ni (Nouverne SDTO-1901, CD, with obi, 2019)
Progressive
Mizuki Ōta (lead vocals, keyboards), Anna Hardy (keyboards)
This is considerably more robust than Rainbow Chasers and they’ve clearly paid more attention to the melodies and hooks. That’s the good news. The bad is that this is much more song-based, moving it closer to a neoprogressive sound and with much less of the rich keyboard interplay that made their second so special. GRADE: C+.
See also Anna Hardy

Mizuumi (Japan): Motion (Reverb Worship RW 081, CDR, with insert, UK, 2009)
Psychedelic
Mayuri (joint lead vocals)
Limited to 51 numbered copies, this album comes in unusual and striking packaging: a hand-sprayed disc sits inside a plastic wallet with a blue back and a clear front with the band name sprayed on. Musically, the set consists of two lengthy improvisations based around chanting, electric guitar and percussion, creating a shimmering and psychedelic atmosphere. The music is frequently stunning, but like a lot of improvised albums this simply goes on far too long; with a bit of judicious editing it would have been a B–. GRADE: C+.