Monday, April 18, 2016

Mandrill - 1973 - Composite Truth

Composite Truth

01. Hang Loose 4:45
02. Fencewalk 5:26
03. Hagalo 2:47
04. Don't Mess With People 3:43
05. Polk Street Carnival 6:06
06. Golden Stone 7:16
07. Out With the Boys 5:10
08. Moroccan Nights 6:43

Carlos Wilson (trombone, vocals)
Lou Wilson (trumpet, vocals)
Ric Wilson (sax, vocals)
Claude "Coffee" Cave (keyboards)
Omar Mesa (guitar)
Bundie Cenas (bass)
Charlie Padro (drums)

Third album from this septet and surprisingly enough, they (albums) remain at a high standard and of much interest for progheads. Apparently from the sleeve artwork, Mandrill felt a need to grow from ape status to an ill-advised multi-racial and multi-cultural facet, but the costumes are either carnival-esque and induce into Village People masquerade or the pretentious dead-seriousness of these costumes. Maybe they went for a Composite Truth and you should be aiming in the middle of the two extremes. In either case, the album is still a very strong one with plenty of instrumental interplay space and it would manage very healthy sales. Line-up-wise, the bassist spot has been handed over to Fudgie Kaye who would be around for the next three albums.
There are the usual strong funk tracks including the two hit singles from this album, the excellent Hang Loose with its superb organ and powerful brass section, the fantastic Fencewalk with plenty of wailing guitars and beefy-bleedy brass, the outstanding Don't Mess With People and its incredible syncopation (this must be the essence of prog funk), the longer Santana-esque Golden Stone and its constantly changing climates with its orgiastic organ, the ultra-smooth closing Morroccan Nights with its amazingly well orchestrated suite of instruments following one another.

However there are the more Caribbean-Latino track the nearly instrumental Hagalo (strong trumpet and vibes) or Polk Street Carnival (almost a pastiche, but I'm not sure this was intentional and overstays its welcome badly) and the crooner-like Out With The Boys (the quietest track of the album if you can believe it), all three tracks are bringing the average down a bit.

Just as good as its predecessor and not having that ill-advised theatrical Universal Rhythm, Composite Truth is one of those AfroAmerican gems that most white people don't suspect they ever existed, along with Cymande and Osibisa.

Composite Truth is Mandrill's most successful album, commercially as well as artistically. Although the band's sense of freewheeling experimentation had been tempered, its gradual transition to a straight-ahead funk band was made perfect with two of the biggest hits of its career: "Hang Loose" and "Fencewalk." "Hang Loose" is all over the place (in a good way), moving from a grooving funk jam to mid-tempo guitar skronk and back, all part of an impassioned call to peace. "Fencewalk" also had several transitions, with a crooning chorus and an extended middle section powered by heavy brass and a screaming guitar solo. Elsewhere, Mandrill turns in a very convincing impression of a salsa band ("Hágalo"), breaks into killer loose-groove funk ("Don't Mess With People," with a splendidly undecipherable vocal), and stumbles only with the long, rasta-fied San Francisco tribute "Polk Street Carnival," featuring a bass part that would make even a student smirk. (For such a strong band, Mandrill's basslines were often uncharacteristically weak.) In the main, the songs on Composite Truth were catchier than on its first two albums, and the band never appeared subservient to the sense of experimentation that had troubled it before. Even if on Composite Truth Mandrill sounded more like other funk bands of the time, no one could argue with the fact that the results were more exciting and consistent.



  2. Thanks Drago, great band!