Monday, April 18, 2016

Mandrill - 1973 - Just Outside of Town

Just Outside of Town

01. Mango Meat
02. Never Die
03. Love Song
04. Interlude
05. Fat City Strut
06. Two Sisters Of Mystery
07. Africus Retrospectus
08. She Ain't Lookin' Too Tough
09. Aspiration Flame

Carlos Wilson (trombone, vocals)
Lou Wilson (trumpet, vocals)
Ric Wilson (sax, vocals)
Claude "Coffee" Cave (keyboards)
Omar Mesa (guitar)
Fudgie Kae Solomon (bass)
Neftali Santiago (drums)

Second album of Mandrill during the year of 73, Just Outside Of Town continues in the direction that had become apparent with the previous Composite Truth, meaning delving further into ethnic music and increasing the funk into it with a solid brass section injection. Coming with a solid and stunning urban photograph artwork (better on the back cover than the front one), the largely unchanged line-up does see the drum stool handed over to Neftali Santiago, but Mandrill remain a septet.
Opening on the strong funky brassy Mango Meat and following up with the more ethnic Never Die, an unusually long-intro-ed track that started well, but end up very cobventional, the album could've reached a first climax with Love Song if it wasn't for the mushy lyrics on an otherwise great singing performance, but atrociously cheesy string arrangements smothering it up with a layer of honey thicker than Greenland glacier in the last ice age. The same can be said about the mushy string and dumb melody of She Ain't Looking Too Tough. Again the album has a chance to peak with the superb intro of Fat City Strut, but it develops in an Areas-like salsa track, which for once avoids the usual clichés.Two Sister Of Mystery is also built a bit on this principle. Two good semi-successes that gets overshadowed by the slow lengthy (almost 8 minutes) Africus Restrospektivus, a heavyweight champion that moves slow but implacably to greatness with tons of interplay between dozens of instruments (including vibes, cellos and strings), only to slowly fade out without the expected bang.

Among the other most superb track is the closing instrumental but stupendous Spanish-inspired Aspiration flame, built on an acoustic guitar slowly growing with a piano and a gentle flute (we could be on Harmonium's Fifth Season, here), the track slowly crescendo-es to full power. Most likely Mandrill's most exquisite track ever.

While JOOT is probably the weaker of the first four albums, it still contains two stunning tracks and three more that consolidate the album's content, but it's also clear that the group's peak period is just gliding by them, but this album is still part of it.

It lacked the delicious hooks and tight funk of Composite Truth, but Just Outside of Town was as solid and confident a piece of music-making as the band ever accomplished. The single "Mango Meat" is a tough Latin funk number with some inspired group harmonizing, and Mandrill stretched out with a pair of love songs, "Never Die" and the aptly titled "Love Song," the latter beginning with a few minutes of atmospheric bliss that boasted unrealized cinematic/soundtrack possibilities. "Fat City Strut" moves back and forth between blasts of brass-powered funk and the sweet seduction of Latin percussion and a vibes solo. The distorted funk monster "Two Sisters of Mystery" is another classic, one that later enticed producer Gary G-Wiz to sample it for Public Enemy's "By the Time I Get to Arizona." The last two songs were very uncharacteristic for Mandrill, one a bluesy/country song with a pop gloss, the other an ambling instrumental led by an acoustic guitar and including a few out-of-place synthesizer shadings. It certainly wasn't Mandrill going out on top (for an album, or for its period at Polydor), but it certainly summed up the promise of one of funk's most courageous bands.

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