Monday, April 18, 2016

Mandrill - 1974 - Mandrilland


01. Positive Thing #1
02. Positive Thing #2
03. Skying Upward
04. The Road To Love
05. Armadillo
06. The Reason I Sing
07. Bro' Weevil & The Swallow
08. Khidja
09. House Of Wood
10. 'Drill In The Bush
11. El Funko
12. Love Is Sunshine
13. Folks On A Hill
14. Mini-Suite For Duke
15. Cal-Ipso
16. After The Race
17. Lady Jane

- Claude Coffee Cave / Organ, Vibes, Piano, Arp, Fender Rhodes
- Lou Wilson / Trumpet, Congas, Percussion, Vocals
- Ric Wilson M.D. / Tenor Sax, Percussion, Vocals
- Carlos Wilson / Bass Flute, Trombone, Alto Sax, Flute, Timbales, Percussion, Vocals
- Fudgie Kae / Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
- Neftali Santiago / Drums, Percussion, Vocals
- Doug Rodrigues / Lead Guitar, Percussion, Vocals

With four superb and nearly flawless albums under their belt, it was no surprise to anyone when raves began pouring in for Mandrill's ambitious August 1974 double LP Mandrilland. Recorded in the swampy, seething backwater of Bogalusa, LA, the album proved by far to be the band's most sophisticated set of jams to date, thankfully in spite of the replacement of guitarist Doug Rodrigues for the departing Omar Mesa. Although the set is packed with deliciously smooth grooves, it's clear that the band was continuing to experiment with bright clatters and brash beats one spin through "Road to Love" provides a map through some of the best jazz-funk-Latin fusion, as notes tumble down into empty spaces before being lifted up by the hush of the vocals. It's an eclectic vibe, and one that plays beautifully off the quiet soul hook of "Khlida," a song that uses Carlos Wilson's flute and various vibes and synths to add Mandrill sparkle to what could otherwise have become a bland instrumental. Elsewhere, of course, Mandrill kick up classic, brassy funk on "Positive Thing" an R&B Top 30 hit while inflecting a little bayou blues into the often overlooked "Folks on a Hill."

Like most early Mandrill albums, Mandrilland contains an unbelievable variety of music, Latin pop, epic African soundtracks, funky jazz, pseudo-classical passages, commercial soul music, Carribean and psychedelic rock are just some of the styles that get heartfelt and authentic workouts from this eclectic band.
A lot of the progressive stuff goes down on side four where keyboardist Claude Cave's tribute to Duke Ellington sounds more like a tribute to Jon Lord and Keith Emmerson with his swirling distorted B-3 playing gothic classical preludes to the band's loungey big band groove. Other songs on side four find the band mixing psychedelic jazz-rock with African grooves for some excellent highly original jams that sound like a cross between Mahavishnu and Fela Kuti.

Side three isn't bad and features more African jams, as well as some jokey avant-funk that sounds like mid-70s Zappa or Funkadelic. Side two is mostly ballads, one Beatlesque, a couple more in a Latin rock style and a few that sound like classic uplifting early 70s orchestrated soul music. All of these songs are nice and well written, but a bit commercial for the most part.

Working our way backwards we finally get to side one which is an excellent five part African psychedelic funk jazz jam that goes through many changes and moods and is never boring during it's twenty minute odyssey. I love late 60s-early 70s psychedelic 'African hippie music', it seems like bands like this were always around in the early rock scene, but unfortunately most were swept aside as rock became more corporate and homogenized in the mid-70s.



  2. Many thanks! Great stuff!