Monday, April 18, 2016

Mandrill - 1970 - Mandrill


01. Mandrill
02. Warning Blues
03. Symphonic Revolution
04. Rollin' On
05. Peace And Love (Amani Na Mapenzi)
  a. Movement I (Birth)
  b. Movement II (Now)
  c. Movement III (Time)
  d. Movement IV (Encounter)
  e. Movement V (Beginning)
06. Chutney

Bass, Percussion, Vocals – Bundie Cenac
Drums, Percussion, Vocals – Charles Padro
Flute, Trombone, Guitar, Vocals, Percussion – Carlos Wilson
Lead Guitar, Vocals, Percussion – Omar Mesa
Organ, Piano, Vibraphone, Percussion, Vocals – Claude Cave
Tenor Saxophone, Vocals, Percussion – Ric Wilson
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Congas, Vocals, Percussion – Lou Wilson

Mandrill may have been too good for their own good. The heart of the band were the Wilson brothers - Louis "Sweet Lou", Richard "Dr. Ric" and Carlos "Mad Dog" – who created a tasty blend of soul, blues, rock, Afro-Latin elements and jazz. It was a strongly danceable sound, but the band's often complex rhythms and lengthy solos didn't lend themselves to easily cutting a piece down to a shorter version for radio exposure. Nonetheless.

Mandrill created some great music during their decade or so of playing and writing. While the Wilsons were the clear creative force, they were ably assisted by Omar Mesa, Claude "Coffee" Cave. Charlie Padro and Bundie Cenac. Between them, they played more than 20 instruments. The Wilsons were in high school in Brooklyn. New York, when they joined the school band. After they got more proficient on their instruments, the three brothers began to play in small clubs around their neighborhood until they were drafted into the military in the '60s. One Wilson, Ric also attended medical school and v/as one of the few physicians to divide his time between medicine and music.

After meeting their military obligations, the Wilsons got more serious about their music. Placing an ad for other players in New York's "Village Voice", they got more than 200 responses. They included guitarist Mesa and the other members of the original 1968 line-up. Most of the players were experienced musicians with diverse backgrounds and musical interests that helped define the varied sound of what the Wilsons decided to call Mandrill. By 1971. Mandrill was signed to Polydor Records. Their debut album, "Mandrill" (Polydor 4050), was released in early 71.

While the album was a Top 50 seller, singles taken from it didn't sell. Things looked up with "Mandrill Is" (Polydor 5025), which came out in the spring of 1972. It sold well and so did the single "Get It AH" (Polydor 14142). which moved into the Billboard rhythm and blues Top 40 in the fall of 72. Mandrill had their biggest hit in the spring of 1973 with "Fencewalk" (Polydor 14163), a Top 30 R&B single that just missed the pop Top 50. "Composite Truth" (Polydor 5043), which spawned "Fencewalk", was a Top 30 album and would be their biggest-selling release. It also contained another hit in the Top 30 "Hang
Loose" (Polydor 14187).

Their record sales resulted in a busy touring schedule, which was fine with the guys in the band. In a 1973 interview Ric Wilson said they wanted to stay as busy as possible. Added Carlos, "Our music is for the people. If we don't keep playing we lose touch." Mandrill proved they were still in touch with a fourth best-selling album - "Just Outside Of Town" (Polydor 5059) - in the fall of 73. It contained two popular singles: "Mango Meat" (Polydor 14200) and "Love Song" (Polydor 14214). In 1974 they did better on the singles charts, especially with "Positive Thing" (Polydor 14235), which went Top 30 on the R&B charts.

While times had changed for Mandrill, when they were at their peak the band produced a tasty melange of styles that may have been a challenge for radio programmers. But anyone who saw them live or heard their albums got the message to their music. This collection of some of their best work shows how good they were.
by Mark Marymont

Mandrill's debut isn't half the album it could've been, since the band's talented musicianship and desire to experiment were often subverted -- by ambitions of pop success as well as a dry, over-serious approach to music-making. The three Wilson brothers, though masters of over a dozen instruments, still hadn't mastered the added burden of songwriting; "Warning Blues" is perfunctory (as is the vocal performance) and "Symphonic Revolution" is a bland summer-day soul song with cloying strings. The group sounds much more confident getting into a good groove and allowing room for some great playing; the band's self-titled song, "Mandrill," is the best here, featuring great solos for flute and vibraphone. Mandrill also loved playing with different musical forms: "Rollin' On" moves from an average rock song to a torrid Latin jam and climaxes with a testifying gospel session. Most ambitious of all is the five-part, 14-minute suite "Peace and Love," but the intriguing concept is negated by a few bizarre pieces, one of which sounds like a parody of a Vincent Price reading over a Santana jam. The band would soon learn that experimentation and stylistic change-ups were a means, not an end.rar

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